Diversionary war theory holds that insecure leaders are more likely to pursue aggressive foreign policies than their more secure counterparts. This hypothesis rests on the premise that interstate dispute involvement helps leaders deter potential challenges against their rule. We offer strong support for this premise by looking at coup attempts. Cross-national time-series evidence from interstate dispute participation over the period 1960–2000 indicates that a country in a militarized confrontation with another state is about 60% less likely to experience a coup attempt in the subsequent year. Consistent with our hypothesis, we establish that it is mainly militarized involvement in disputes, rather than non-militarized involvement, that is associated with lower coup likelihood. The results are robust to controlling for a wide set of potential correlates of coups and remain qualitatively intact when we focus entirely on within-country variations in coup attempts and interstate disputes.
Focusing on Muslim populations in five Muslim-majority countries and four Western European countries, we examine the correlates of popular support for terrorist violence. In both samples, support for terrorism is stronger among those who see democracy as a Western political system that is not suitable for Muslim societies. Perceived Western economic dominance is related to more support for terrorism among Muslims in Western Europe. In the Muslim countries, blaming the West for negative international relations is associated with greater support for terrorism. The associations found are remarkably similar across the Western European countries but vary considerably across the Muslim countries, preventing generalized interpretations. Nevertheless, our findings indicate that perceptions about world politics represent an important factor of pro-terrorist views among Muslims. Therefore, we suggest that improvement of the relationships between the West and the Muslim world can reduce support for terrorism.