Why do small powers go to big wars?: the Colombian participation in the Korean conﬂict (1950-1953)
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This work addresses the determinants of the decisions made by small powers to ﬁght alongside great powers in major conﬂicts. When faced with the request from a great power to participate in wars, some peripheral countries abide and others remain uninvolved. To explain this variation, the case study of the Colombian participation in the Korean War is used, comparing the country to other Latin American cases. Building on rational choice models of leaders’ behavior, I expect that leaders decide to go to war when the rewards for this action increase their likelihood of remaining in power. I use explicit process tracing to investigate the causes for the Colombian decision and organize them into necessary and suﬃcient conditions. Evidence suggests that the causes for the Colombian participation in Korea were an attempt from the president to improve his relationship with the United States in order to obtain more foreign aid, the Colombian authoritarian regime, and an attempt from the president to please the armed forces, which had the power to keep him in oﬃce. I also use synthetic control method to test whether the Colombian decision increased the foreign aid received by the country from the United States. Results show a signiﬁcant increase in received aid. These ﬁndings corroborate the expectation that leaders of small powers will go to war in order to receive more aid and to make policy concessions for those who hold the power to keep them in oﬃce, and that they are rewarded from the great power for this decision under certain conditions.