Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Crisis Bargaining and Nuclear Blackmail

  • Todd S. Sechser (a1) and Matthew Fuhrmann (a2)
Abstract

Do nuclear weapons offer coercive advantages in international crisis bargaining? Almost seventy years into the nuclear age, we still lack a complete answer to this question. While scholars have devoted significant attention to questions about nuclear deterrence, we know comparatively little about whether nuclear weapons can help compel states to change their behavior. This study argues that, despite their extraordinary power, nuclear weapons are uniquely poor instruments of compellence. Compellent threats are more likely to be effective under two conditions: first, if a challenger can credibly threaten to seize the item in dispute; and second, if enacting the threat would entail few costs to the challenger. Nuclear weapons, however, meet neither of these conditions. They are neither useful tools of conquest nor low-cost tools of punishment. Using a new dataset of more than 200 militarized compellent threats from 1918 to 2001, we find strong support for our theory: compellent threats from nuclear states are no more likely to succeed, even after accounting for possible selection effects in the data. While nuclear weapons may carry coercive weight as instruments of deterrence, it appears that these effects do not extend to compellence.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Alperovitz, Gar. 1994. Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam. 2d ed. New York: Pluto Press.
Art, Robert J. 1980. To What Ends Military Power? International Security 4 (4):335.
Art, Robert J. 2003. Coercive Diplomacy: What Do We Know? In The United States and Coercive Diplomacy, edited by Art, Robert J. and Cronin, Patrick M., 359420. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace.
Beardsley, Kyle, and Asal, Victor. 2009. Winning with the Bomb. Journal of Conflict Resolution 53 (2):278301.
Betts, Richard K. 1987. Nuclear Blackmail and Nuclear Balance. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.
Black, Samuel. 2010. The Changing Political Utility of Nuclear Weapons: Nuclear Threats from 1970 to 2010. Washington, D.C.: Stimson Center.
Brecher, Michael, and Wilkenfeld, Jonathan. 1997. A Study of Crisis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Bundy, McGeorge. 1984. The Unimpressive Record of Atomic Diplomacy. In The Choice: Nuclear Weapons Versus Security, edited by Prins, Gwyn, 4254. London: Chatto and Windus.
Bush, George W. 2002. Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union, 29 January, Washington, D.C.
Downes, Alexander B., and Sechser, Todd S.. 2012. The Illusion of Democratic Credibility. International Organization 66 (3):457–89.
Fearon, James D. 1994. Signaling Versus the Balance of Power and Interests: An Empirical Test of a Crisis Bargaining Model. Journal of Conflict Resolution 38 (2):236–69.
Fearon, James D. 2002. Selection Effects and Deterrence. International Interactions 28 (1):529.
Finer, Herman. 1964. Dulles over Suez: The Theory and Practice of His Diplomacy. Chicago: Quadrangle.
Foot, Rosemary J. 1988. Nuclear Coercion and the Ending of the Korean Conflict. International Security 13 (3):92112.
Fuhrmann, Matthew, and Kreps, Sarah E.. 2010. Targeting Nuclear Programs in War and Peace: A Quantitative Empirical Analysis, 1941–2000. Journal of Conflict Resolution 54 (6):831–59.
Fuhrmann, Matthew, and Sechser, Todd S.. 2012. Signaling Alliance Commitments: Hand-Tying and Sunk Costs in Extended Nuclear Deterrence. Presented at the 53d Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, April, San Diego, Calif.
Gaddis, John Lewis. 1987. The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gavin, Francis J. 2004. Blasts from the Past: Proliferation Lessons from the 1960s. International Security 29 (3):100–35.
Gelpi, Christopher, and Griesdorf, Michael. 2001. Winners or Losers? Democracies in International Crisis, 1918–94. American Political Science Review 95 (3):633–47.
Halperin, Morton H. 1987. Nuclear Fallacy: Dispelling the Myth of Nuclear Strategy. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger.
Heckman, James J. 1979. Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error. Econometrica 47 (1):153–62.
Jervis, Robert. 1989. The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
King, Gary, Keohane, Robert O., and Verba, Sidney. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Kirshner, Jonathan. 1995. Currency and Coercion: The Political Economy of International Monetary Power. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Kissinger, Henry A. 1956. Force and Diplomacy in the Nuclear Age. Foreign Affairs 34 (3):349–66.
Kroenig, Matthew H. 2009. Nuclear Superiority and the Balance of Resolve: Explaining Nuclear Crisis Outcomes. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, September, Toronto.
Lewis, Jeffrey G. 2007. The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China's Search for Security in the Nuclear Age. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Lilienthal, David E. 1964. The Journals of David E. Lilienthal. Vol. 2, . New York: Harper and Row.
Lyall, Jason, and Wilson, Isaiah. 2009. Rage Against the Machines: Explaining Outcomes in Counterinsurgency Wars. International Organization 63 (1):67106.
Maoz, Zeev. 2005. Dyadic MID Dataset, Version 2.0.
McNamara, Robert S. 1983. The Military Role of Nuclear Weapons: Perceptions and Misperceptions. Foreign Affairs 62 (1):5980.
Mueller, John. 2009. Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to al-Qaeda. New York: Oxford University Press.
Narang, Vipin. 2009. Posturing for Peace: Pakistan's Nuclear Postures and South Asian Stability. International Security 34 (3):3878.
Narang, Vipin. Forthcoming. What Does It Take to Deter? Regional Power Nuclear Postures and International Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Norris, Robert S., and Kristensen, Hans M.. 2006. Global Nuclear Stockpiles, 1945–2006. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 62 (4):6466.
Pape, Robert A. 1996. Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Pape, Robert A. 1997. Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work. International Security 22 (2):90136.
Paul, T.V. 2009. The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons. Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Petersen, Walter J. 1986. Deterrence and Compellence: A Critical Assessment of Conventional Wisdom. International Studies Quarterly 30 (3):269–94.
Podhoretz, Norman. 2007. The Case for Bombing Iran. Commentary (June):17–23.
Rusk, Dean, McNamara, Robert, Ball, George W., Gilpatric, Roswell, Sorensen, Theodore, and Bundy, McGeorge. 1982. The Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Time, 27 September:89–92.
Sagan, Scott D. 1994. The Perils of Proliferation: Organization Theory, Deterrence Theory, and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons. International Security 18 (4):66107.
Sagan, Scott D. 2004. Realist Perspectives on Ethical Norms and Weapons of Mass Destruction. In Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Religious and Secular Perspectives, edited by Hashmi, Sohail H., 7395. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Schelling, Thomas C. 1960. The Strategy of Conflict. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Schelling, Thomas C. 1966. Arms and Influence. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Sechser, Todd S. 2010. Goliath's Curse: Coercive Threats and Asymmetric Power. International Organization 64 (4):627–60.
Sechser, Todd S. 2011. Militarized Compellent Threats, 1918–2001. Conflict Management and Peace Science 28 (4):377401.
Singer, J. David, Bremer, Stuart A., and Stuckey, John. 1972. Capability Distribution, Uncertainty, and Major Power War. In Peace, War, and Numbers, edited by Russett, Bruce M., 1948. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Singh, Sonali, and Way, Christopher R.. 2004. The Correlates of Nuclear Proliferation: A Quantitative Test. Journal of Conflict Resolution 48 (6):859–85.
Snyder, Glenn H., and Diesing, Paul. 1977. Conflict Among Nations: Bargaining, Decision Making, and System Structure in International Crises. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Tannenwald, Nina. 2007. The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Nonuse of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Trachtenberg, Marc. 1991. History and Strategy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Truman, Harry S. 1955. Memoirs by Harry S. Truman. Vol. 1: . Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
Walt, Stephen M. 2000. Containing Rogues and Renegades: Coalition Strategies and Counterproliferation. In The Coming Crisis: Nuclear Proliferation, U.S. Interests, and World Order, edited by Utgoff, Victor A., 189226. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed