Nationalism and Conflict: Lessons from International Sports

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Authors Andrew Douglas Bertoli
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Does nationalism make interstate conflict more likely? Many believe so, arguing that it led to such conflicts as the Spanish-American War, the two World Wars, and Russia’s recent intervention in the Ukraine. However, others contend that strategic constraints greatly limit nationalism’s effects on state behavior. Resolving this debate has proven difficult because of endogeneity and measurement issues. I address these problems by analyzing one of the most powerful sources of nationalism in the modern era– international sports. I first investigate several cases where surges of nationalism from sporting events led to military or political conflict between countries. I then analyze a regression discontinuity created by the format of the World Cup qualification process from 1958 to 2010. The results provide strong evidence that World Cup nationalism increases state aggression, especially for countries where association football (soccer) is the most popular sport. I also explore a case from the dataset–Senegal in 2002–to illustrate how World Cup nationalism led to a specific dispute in my sample. Scholars view nationalism as a cause of international conflicts ranging from the Napoleonic Wars to the U.S. invasion of Iraq following September 11 (McCartney 2004, 400; Cederman, Warren, and Sornette 2011, 606). Researchers argue that it can increase enmity between countries (Schrock-Jacobson 2010, 25-8), undermine international cooperation (Walt 2011, 15), motivate societies to fight costly wars (Posen 1993, 81), and cause governments to overestimate their relative military power (Snyder 2000, 67). Moreover, the The data and replication code for this project are available on my GitHub page. I am very grateful to everyone who helped me develop this project, especially Jasjeet Sekhon, Allan Dafoe, Ron Hassner, Aila Matanock, Thad Dunning, Michaela Mattes, David Broockman, Vinod Aggarwal, Robert Trager, Steven Weber, John Henderson, David Broockman, Robert Trager, John Henderson, David Kang, Brian Rathbun, Patrick James, Gerardo Munck, Benjamin Graham, Andrew Coe, Jonathan Markowitz, Brett Carter, Erin Baggott Carter, James Lo, Pablo Barberá, Cali Ellis, Jason Lyall, Kelly Greenhill, Nicholas Sambanis, Hein Goemans, Keir Lieber, Michael Desch, Neil Malhotra, Andrei Markovits, Andrew Eggers, Nathaniel Beck, Cali Ellis, Thomas Zeitzoff, Maya Sen, Rocio Titiunik, Paul Avey, Edward Miguel, Ernesto Dal Bó, Daniel Sargent, Alexander Theodoridis, Evangeline Reynolds, Benjamin Buch, Daniel Altman, Baobao Zhang, Jason Klocek, Benjamin Bartlett, Rochelle Terman, Caroline Brandt, Shinhye Choi, Alice Ciciora, Tara Buss, Bonnie Chan, the members of USC’s Center for International Studies, and the participants of workshops at UC Berkeley and Stanford.
Date of publication 2017
Code Programming Language R

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