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Sandeep Baliga, associate professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School and conference organizer, said the Conflict and Cooperation Conference brought together interdisciplinary ideas from economists, policymakers and political scientists.

Experts at Kellogg summit fight terrorism with analysis

Government leadership among topics discussed at Conflict and Cooperation Conference; Nobel Prize winner among scholars in attendance

By Amy Trang

11/12/2008 - Exchanging ideas and critiques in animated conversations, about 15 professors from universities across the United States attended the Kellogg School’s Conflict and Cooperation Conference held Nov. 7-8 at the James L. Allen Center. Thought leaders, including a 2007 Nobel laureate, presented nine papers on various topics related to national security, terrorism and insurgency.

Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, associate professor at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, was among the scholars who presented papers during the Nov. 7-8 Conflict and Cooperation Conference, hosted by the Kellogg School of Management. In all, nine papers were presented at the event, which was held at the James L. Allen Center. Topics addressed issues such as political regime change, the foundations of state and the laws of war.
Photo © Chris Guillen
At the Nov. 7-8 Conflict and Cooperation Conference, Tomas Sjöström, a Rutgers University professor of economics, presented a paper that he co-wrote with Kellogg School Associate Professor Sandeep Baliga. The two researched the signals of terrorism.
Photo © Chris Guillen
One contribution came from Sandeep Baliga, Kellogg associate professor of managerial economics and decision sciences, and Tomas Sjöström, Rutgers University professor of economics. In examining the strategic logic of terrorism, the researchers determined that terrorists plan within the framework of their perceptions about their own country’s leadership as well as perceptions about what an opposing country’s leadership would likely do in response to an attack.

Baliga and Sjöström found that when an opposing country’s leader is driven by fear and the terrorist’s own leader tends to hold moderate views, terrorists provoke aggression by the opposition — thus spurring their country’s leader to respond with aggression. When the opposing leader is driven by greed, however, terrorists and moderates work together to deter aggression. The professors used game theoretical models to demonstrate their conclusions.

On the conference’s second day, Roger Myerson, the 2007 Nobel Prize winner in economic sciences and a University of Chicago professor of economics, presented his paper “Foundations of the State in Theory and Practice: Reading Bremer and the Counterinsurgency Field Manual.” Myerson, who earned the Nobel honor for research conducted during his 25-year tenure at the Kellogg School, argued that “essential building blocks of the state can be found in the personal reputations of its political leaders.”

His paper counteracted theories in L. Paul Bremer’s My Year in Iraq and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps's Counterinsurgency Field Manual. The former said that implementing a national constitution is key for the success of a democratic nation while the latter believes in “local security operations and effective governance to establish the government's legitimacy.”

Myerson contended that establishing a successful state is done mostly by its political leaders and their networks of trusted supporters. He writes: “The first step in a project of democratic state-building should have been to encourage individual politicians to develop independent reputations for responsible and tolerant governance. To build effective government against violent opposition, the problem is not to provide a clean administration without favoritism but to make sure that favoritism is effectively managed by political leaders whose judgments are trusted by their supporters.”

At the conference, Nolan Miller ’99, a Harvard University associate professor of public policy presented his paper, “Outcome Commitments in Third-Party Intervention: Theory and Application to U.S. Policy in Iraq.” Miller, who holds a doctorate in managerial economics and decision sciences from Kellogg, explored the strategies of a third party who intervenes on behalf of a government in its conflict with insurgents. Miller examined the conflict’s outcome based on whether the third party has an “input-based strategy,” where the third party specifies the total resources it will spend on the cause, or an “outcome-based strategy,” where the third party specifies a goal it wants to achieve. One example of an input-based strategy is a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. An example of an output-based strategy is committing to stay in Iraq till victory.

Miller concluded that the best solution was a system of benchmarks that outperforms both input-based and outcome-based strategies.

Baliga, who organized the conference under the auspices of the Ford Center for Global Citizenship, said the event is a way to share ideas and show that traditional tools that are familiar to business strategy can be transferred to public policy.

“This conference helps create interdisciplinary connections among economists, political scientists and policymakers,” said Baliga, also the director on the Ford Center’s Initiative on Conflict and Cooperation. “We hope import these ideas into MBA teaching and to impact policy through our students.”

The Ford Center’s mission is to address through research and teaching the challenges faced by corporations who have become the main agents of global social and political change. This year marked the fourth Conflict and Cooperation Conference.