Nation Building Through Foreign Intervention: Evidence from Discontinuities in Military Strategies
This study uses discontinuities in U.S. strategies employed during the Vietnam War to estimate their causal impacts. It identifies the effects of bombing by exploiting rounding thresholds in an algorithm used to target air strikes. Bombing increased the military and political activities of the communist insurgency, weakened local governance, and reduced non-communist civic engagement. The study also exploits a spatial discontinuity across neighboring military regions, which pursued different counterinsurgency strategies. A strategy emphasizing overwhelming firepower plausibly increased insurgent attacks and worsened attitudes towards the U.S. and South Vietnamese government, relative to a hearts and minds oriented approach.
Katherine Chen, Peter Hickman, Luis Felipe Jaramillo, Nhung Le, Phan Ngoc, and Minh Trinh provided excellent research assistance. We thank Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, Benjamin Crost, Nathan Hendren, Jesse Shapiro, and seminar participants at Berkeley, the Becker Friedman Institute, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Cornell, ITAM, the NBER Political Economy program meeting, Northwestern, NYU, Stanford, and UBC for helpful comments. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Melissa Dell & Pablo Querubin, 2018. "Nation Building Through Foreign Intervention: Evidence from Discontinuities in Military Strategies*," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol 133(2), pages 701-764.