Kenwick, Vasquez, and Powers question whether empirical evidence supports the claim that defense pacts deter conflict as our prior research has concluded. We review the theoretical argument for why defense pacts should deter conflict and consider the challenges inherent in evaluating deterrence using observational data. We then consider whether the research design choices of Kenwick et al. improve upon our research design. We demonstrate that claims that defense pacts deter conflict are robust to many of these changes in research design, and we argue that the consequential difference, while perhaps appropriate for testing the Steps-to-War argument, is not appropriate for testing the deterrent effect of defense pacts. We conclude by noting that a deterrence effect of defense pacts is not necessarily incompatible with aspects of the Steps-to-War argument, and we suggest profitable new directions for testing the Steps-to-War approach.

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Published in The Journal of Politics, v. 79, no. 1.

© 2016 by the Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

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Data and supporting materials necessary to reproduce the numerical results in the paper are available in the JOP Dataverse (https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/jop).

An online appendix with supplementary material is available at https://doi.org/10.1086/687285. It is also available as the additional file listed at the end of this record.