Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 75
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Blagden, David 2016. Induction and Deduction in International Relations: Squaring the Circle Between Theory and Evidence. International Studies Review, Vol. 18, Issue. 2, p. 195.

    Hazelton, Jacqueline L. 2016. Drone Strikes and Grand Strategy: Toward a Political Understanding of the Uses of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Attacks in US Security Policy. Journal of Strategic Studies, p. 1.

    Lindemann, Thomas 2014. Interest, passion, (non)recognition, and wars: a conceptual essay. Global Discourse, Vol. 4, Issue. 4, p. 483.

    Nsia-Pepra, Kofi 2014. UN Robust Peacekeeping.

    Zagare, Frank 2014. A Game-Theoretic History of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Economies, Vol. 2, Issue. 1, p. 20.

    Zarnett, David 2014. What Does Realist Foreign Policy Activism Tell Us About Realist Theory?. Foreign Policy Analysis, p. n/a.

    Ji-Hae Kang, 2013. On Empirical Research and the Case Study Method in Translation Studies. The Journal of Translation Studies, Vol. 14, Issue. 2, p. 7.

    Goodson, Donald L. R. 2012. Catalytic Deterrence? Apartheid South Africa's Nuclear Weapons Strategy. Politikon, Vol. 39, Issue. 2, p. 209.

    Carter, David B. and Goemans, H. E. 2011. The Making of the Territorial Order: New Borders and the Emergence of Interstate Conflict. International Organization, Vol. 65, Issue. 02, p. 275.

    Jakobsen, Peter Viggo 2011. Pushing the Limits of Military Coercion Theory. International Studies Perspectives, Vol. 12, Issue. 2, p. 153.

    Lindemann, Thomas 2011. Peace Through Recognition: An Interactionist Interpretation of International Crises. International Political Sociology, Vol. 5, Issue. 1, p. 68.

    QUACKENBUSH, STEPHEN L. 2011. Deterrence theory: where do we stand?. Review of International Studies, Vol. 37, Issue. 02, p. 741.

    Lieberman, Evan S. 2010. Bridging the Qualitative-Quantitative Divide: Best Practices in the Development of Historically Oriented Replication Databases. Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 13, Issue. 1, p. 37.

    Kornprobst, Markus 2009. International Relations as Rhetorical Discipline: Toward (Re-)Newing Horizons. International Studies Review, Vol. 11, Issue. 1, p. 87.

    KROENIG, MATTHEW 2009. Exporting the Bomb: Why States Provide Sensitive Nuclear Assistance. American Political Science Review, Vol. 103, Issue. 01, p. 113.

    Seliktar, Ofira and Dutter, Lee E. 2009. Assessing the Rationality of Autocrats: The Case of Saddam Hussein. International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Vol. 22, Issue. 2, p. 275.

    BRAUMOELLER, BEAR F. 2008. Systemic Politics and the Origins of Great Power Conflict. American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, Issue. 01,

    Gerring, John and McDermott, Rose 2007. An Experimental Template for Case Study Research. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, Issue. 3, p. 688.

    Souva, Mark 2007. Fostering Theoretical Thinking in Undergraduate Classes. PS: Political Science & Politics, Vol. 40, Issue. 03, p. 557.

    Blake, Charles H and Klemm, Noah 2006. Reconsidering the Effectiveness of International Economic Sanctions: An Examination of Selection Bias. International Politics, Vol. 43, Issue. 1, p. 133.


Rational Deterrence Theory and Comparative Case Studies

  • Christopher H. Achen and Duncan Snidal (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2011

Several recent books have argued that comparative case studies of crises demonstrate the failure of rational-deterrence theory; they have offered certain empirical generalizations as substitutes. This paper shows that such contentions are unwarranted. First, the empirical generalizations are impressive as historical insights, but they do not meet the standards for theory set out by the most sophisticated case-study analysts themselves. Second, the “tests” of rational deterrence used in the case studies violate standard principles of inference, and the ensuing procedures are so biased as to be useless. Rational deterrence, then, is a more successful theory than portrayed in this literature, and it remains the only intellectually powerful alternative available.

Case studies are essential to theory building: more efficiently than any other methods, they find suitable variables, suggest middle-range generalizations for theory to explain, and provide the prior knowledge that statistical tests require. Their loose constraints on admissible propositions and suitable evidence are appropriate and even necessary for these tasks. These same characteristics, however, inevitably undermine all attempts to construe case-study generalizations as bodies of theory or tests of hypotheses.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

“Windows of Opportunity: Do States Jump through Them?” International Security 9 (Summer 1984), 147

Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein , “Beyond Deterrence-Building Better Theory,” Journal ofSocial Issues 43 (1987), 571

Arend Lijphart , “Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method,” American Political Science Review 65 (September 1971), 682

Albert Wohlstetter , “The Delicate Balance of Terror,” Foreign Affairs 37 (January 1959), 209

Glenn H. Snyder , Deterrence and Defense (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1961

Bruce Russett , “The Calculus ofDeterrence,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 7 (June 1963), 97109

Terry M. Moe , “On the Scientific Status of Rational Models,” American Journal of Political Science 23 (February 1979), 215

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita , “Toward a Scientific Understanding of International Conflict: A Personal View,” International Studies Quarterly 29 (June 1985), 121

Paul Huth and Bruce Russett , “What Makes Deterrence Work? Cases from 1900 to 1980,” World Politics 36 (July 1984), 496526

James Heckman , “Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error,” Econometrica 47 (January 1979), 153

Harvey Starr and Benjamin A. Most , “A Return Journey: Richardson, ‘Frontiers’ and Wars in the 1946–1965 Era,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 22 (September 1978), 441

Erich Weede , “Extended Deterrence by Superpower Alliance,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 27 (June 1983), 231

Jack L. Snyder , “Richness, Rigor, and Relevance in the Study of Soviet Foreign Policy,” International Security 9 (Winter 1984–85), 89108

Recommend this journal

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

World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *