Abstract: Why do interstate crises occur? Existing scholarship posits that states use crises to reveal information about capabilities, resolve, and preferences. This book project instead argues that interstate crisis propensity is in part a function of the design of national security institutions, defined as the rules and procedures for deciding and executing national security strategy. When states design national security institutions that integrate defense, diplomatic, and intelligence bureaucracies into a dedicated forum for deliberation and information sharing—such as the U.S. National Security Council—domestic capacity to reveal information absent a high-stakes crisis improves. However, when states design weak or exclusionary institutions, states are prone to inadvertently miss vital intelligence or send contradictory messages. Institutional inefficiencies in signal reception and transmission increase the probability that states select into interstate crisis.

The book project tests the argument first through statistical analyses that introduce and employ an original cross-national time series dataset on national security institutions across the world from 1946 to 2012. These data include 857 unique decision-making and coordination bodies, as well as 5,339 chief executives, defense ministers, foreign ministers, and senior intelligence advisers. Critically, they describe all known instances of national security councils across the world since World War II. The findings demonstrate a strong, negative relationship between the strength of national security institutions and propensity for interstate crisis. Complementary qualitative analysis illustrates the proposed signaling mechanisms of the theory, leveraging a wealth of new archival and interview evidence from China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States.


Bio: Tyler Jost (江泰乐) is a postdoctoral research associate in the China and the World Program and a postdoctoral research fellow in the International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. His research focuses on national security decision-making, bureaucratic politics, and Chinese foreign policy. Dr. Jost completed his doctoral degree in the Department of Government at Harvard University in 2018. His book project examines domestic institutions designed to decide and coordinate national security policy, such as the U.S. National Security Council. Dr. Jost’s research has been supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. He completed his undergraduate studies at West Point and served as an intelligence officer with assignments to Afghanistan, U.S. Cyber Command, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Dr. Jost will join the Brown University Department of Political Science and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs as an assistant professor in July 2019.