Repression and international conflict
Scholars suspect that violence at home is linked to violence abroad but few studies theorize or test any relationship between them. Under what conditions does repression lead to international conflict? I extend the logic of why leaders repress to suggest that repression can alter states' power internationally. I argue that leaders can repress to prepare for a possible international conflict, but the act of repressing alters their international bargaining power through a signaling mechanism. The argument implies that governments continue to use repression because it can increase their power vis-a-vis both domestic and international opponents. With a global dataset on torture, death, disappearance, arbitrary arrests and international conflict, I find that--even after controlling for regime type, civil war, and military capabilities--states that repress are more likely to initiate conflict the following year than states that respect basic human rights. Simultaneously, engaging in extreme repression virtually guarantees that no state will target the repressor.