We analyze conflict between a citizenry and an insurgent group over a fixed resource such as land. The citizenry has an elected leader who proposes a division such that, the lower the land ceded to the insurgents, the higher the cost of conflict. Leaders differ in ability and ideology such that the higher the leader’s ability, the lower the cost of conflict, and the more hawkish the leader, the higher his utility from retaining land. We show that the conflict arises from the political process with re-election motives causing leaders to choose to cede too little land to signal their ability. We also show that when the rents of office are high, the political equilibrium and the second best diverge; in particular, the policy under the political equilibrium is more hawkish compared to the second best. When both ideology and ability are unknown, we provide a plausible condition under which the probability of re-election increases in the leader’s hawkishness, thereby providing an explanation for why hawkish politicians may have a natural advantage under the electoral process.
Bibliographical note© 2022 Bandyopadhyay et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.