No Paradox Here? Testing the Nuclear Stability-Instability Paradox with Synthetic Control Method

Citation: Bailo, F. & Goldsmith B. (2016). No Paradox Here? Testing the Nuclear Stability-Instability Paradox with Synthetic Control Method. In preparation, 0(0), .

Keywords: Interstate Conflict; Nuclear Weapons; Synthetic Control; Stability-Instability Paradox


To overcome obstacles to causal inference in observational and qualitative studies, we use synthetic control method to assess whether acquisition of nuclear weapons by security rivals might increase their level of conventional militarized conflict. Recent theoretical (Powell 2015) and quantitative (Rauchhaus 2009) work has supported the “stability-instability paradox,” the proposition that while nuclear weapons deter nuclear war, they may also provide the conditions for nuclear-armed rivals to increase conventional military conflict with each other (Snyder 1965; Jervis 1984; Zagare 1992). However, qualitative case studies for India and Pakistan have delivered more equivocal assessments (Kapur 2005; Kapur 2007 & 2008; Ganguly and Haggerty 2006; Ganguly 2008). Other apparently relevant dyads such as China and India have not received as much attention. Empirical tests of the stability-instability paradox are vulnerable to a number of problems that might greatly reduce their validity, including endogeneity and extrapolation to irrelevant cases. A promising method for valid controlled comparison when the number of relevant potential control cases is small (or zero) is synthetic control (Abadie and Gardeazabal 2003; Abadie, Diamond, Heinmuller 2010 & 2015). In this paper we apply it to international conflict between India and Pakistan, and India and China, before and after nuclearization. We conclude that the theory’s scope conditions must be better defined before claims of empirical support can be made.

Synthetic India–Pakistan Donor Dyads