Page semi-protected

Gambling for resurrection

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gambling for resurrection is a situation in international relations when a leader weakened domestically is willing to risk war or prolong war to maintain office.


Leaders who are weakened domestically often undertake risky policies to avoid undesirable developments for them personally. The fear of removal from office due to poor performance or bad luck may prompt a leader to instigate a diversionary war he or she might not rationally have started, in the hope that should it go well he or she would stay in power, or at least receiving a surge in personal popularity and patriotism to sustain them in power. Gambling for resurrection can also consist of a leader prolonging an existing war that should rationally be ended, fearing removal from office or punishment (imprisonment, exile, or death)[1] . The leader thus continues the war against the country's interest, adopting risky military strategies in the hope of a dramatic reversal of fortune in the war's outcome.[2] In this situation, escalation is more attractive than peace because the losses are below the removal threshold for the leader's constituency. Once the constituency seem determined to remove the leader from office, it has no other sanction to apply to the leader. The executive, then, has nothing to risk in further escalation, but may win his right to stay in office should the gamble be successful.[3]


It is seldom possible to provide conclusive proof that a leader's decision to go to war or prolong war is motivated by personal or domestic political issues. However, some conflicts may be seen as Gambles for Resurrection, including:

Pop culture influence

Gambling for resurrection is often referred to in the mainstream media as "Wag the dog," a reference to a 1997 film by the same name in which a fictional President of the United States starts a fake diversionary war to distract the American public from a sex scandal.


  1. ^ Goemans, H. E. (2000). War and Punishment; The Causes of War Termination and the First World War. Princeton University Press.
  2. ^ Downs, George W.; David M. Rocke (1995). Optimal Imperfection? Domestic Uncertainty and Institutions in International Relations. Princeton University Press.
  3. ^ Downs, George W.; David M. Rocke (May 1994). "Conflict, Agency, and Gambling for Resurrection: The Principal-Agent Problem Goes to War". American Journal of Political Science (Text) |format= requires |url= (help). Midwest Political Science Association. 38 (2): 362–380. doi:10.2307/2111408. ISSN 0092-5853. JSTOR 2111408.
  4. ^ Bruni, Frank (1998-08-21). "Is Life Imitating Art? 'Wag the Dog' Springs to Many Minds" (text). New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-07.

External links