In the international system, states have preferences over the policies other states pursue. Sometimes those preferences are about their foreign and security policies, as when the United States opposed Japanese expansion in the Western Pacific in the 1930s, when it opposed Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, and currently as the United States opposes Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. Sometimes those preferences are about the internal policies of other countries, as when the United States and other countries opposed the internal South African policy of apartheid and as they currently object to Sudan’s policy in Darfur.
Governments have an array of policy instruments with which to influence, that is change, the policies of others. Most basically they can threaten adverse consequences or they can promise benefits. They can actually punish or reward. Scholars thus talk of both positive and negative inducements, and positive and negative sanctions.
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