The theory of diversionary war posits that domestic turmoil creates incentives for leaders to distract their publics by initiating conflict abroad. The canonical example of such behavior is the Falklands/Malvinas War of 1982 between Argentina and England, a conflict initiated by Argentina’s military junta while in the grip of an economic crisis, and which ultimately resulted in the junta’s demise when England defeated Argentina. The foundations of diversionary war theory rest on the conflict-cohesion hypothesis in sociology, which states that conflict with an outside group can promote cohesiveness within a group and increase support for the group’s leader. Aware of this phenomenon, insecure leaders can stir up these feelings by initiating conflict in order to preserve their reign. As the sixteenth-century political philosopher Jean Bodin put it, “[T]he best way of preserving a state and guaranteeing it against sedition, rebellion, and civil war is to keep the subjects in amity with one another, and to this end, to find an enemy against whom they can make common cause.”[1]

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