Centralized command and coalition victory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Building upon research that found that coalitions are more likely to win wars, recent work has sought to differentiate effective from ineffective coalitions. Much of this work focuses on characteristics of member states and not the coalition itself. This paper takes a first step in exploring how the structure of a coalition contributes to its performance. Specifically, coalitions vary in how much control members must transfer to the coalition. Some coalitions form weak command structures with states maintaining primary control while other coalitions form a strong centralized command. The impact of command structure on coalition performance is vital to understanding the success and failure of coalitions. Highly centralized command structures allow states to overcome the problems associated with coalition warfare and achieve victory. Empirical evidence supports this claim; the odds of victory increase as states surrender more control to the coalition. These findings provide direct advice to policy makers considering forming a coalition. The implications of this research extend to the alliance literature and the war bargaining literature, which tend to assume either that wars are dyadic or that states can seamlessly aggregate military capabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)716-734
Number of pages19
JournalConflict Management and Peace Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank Frederick Boehmke, Doug Gibler, Brian Lai, Stephen Long, Jonathan Markowitz, Dan Reiter, Alex Weisiger, and two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions. This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Coalition warfare
  • command structure
  • command types
  • military coalitions
  • war outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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