Does Electoral Proximity Affect Security Policy?

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The Journal of Politics 77(3): 762-773

How do approaching elections affect the security policy states conduct? We build on classic political economy arguments and theorize that one problem likely faced by democratic policy makers near elections is that of time inconsistency. The time-inconsistency problem arises when the costs and benefits of policy are not realized at the same time. We develop an application of the argument to the case of allied troop contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan. In that case, we argue that the expectation should be one of fewer troops committed close to elections. The exogenous timing of elections allows us to identify the effects of approaching elections on troop levels. Our finding of significantly lower troop contributions near elections is arguably the first identified effect of electoral proximity on security policy.