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Politics and Policy in the Crucible of Interstate Coercion

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Technical Report

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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Coercion remains a significant element of US foreign policy despite a mixed record of success and persistent questions about how the US can apply it to solve contemporary problems. Policymakers are drawn to coercion, the threat or actual use of force to influence an adversarys behavior, primarily because it offers hope of achieving aims at lower costs than imposing solutions unilaterally by brute force. Coercions endurance in war and close link to politics is prominent in Clausewitzs dual dictums that war is thus an act of force to compel the enemy to do our will and that war is merely the continuation of policy by other means. Despite the close association of war, coercion and politics, however, the study of coercion has traditionally treated states as unitary actors, largely disregarding domestic political considerations. This legacy undermines both policy making and analysis of coercion today. To gain greater insight into leaders decisions, it is critical to understand how leaders respond to domestic and international pressures as they choose strategies in coercion. Interstate coercion can be better explained by integrating leaders efforts to manage both political risks associated with the desire to retain political authority and policy risks associated with the successful implementation of the coercive strategy to achieve international goals.

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  • Government and Political Science

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