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1 1 THE FAILURES OF EXTERNAL COERCION In this book I aim to improve our understanding of the methods by which foreign policy objectives may be pursued, especially those that involve core national interests. I focus, in particular, on the value of positive inducements directed at regimes regarded as adversaries by the United States and as renegades by significant parts of the international community. Positive inducements are not expressions of beneficence, nor are they instruments of “soft” power, meant to entice others to identify with one’s policies by virtue of the moral authority one enjoys (Nye 2004). Positive inducements are tools of external leverage, designed to advance the nation’s interests, and a grasp of their promise and limitations implies a fuller understanding of the range of foreign policy options. My interest stems from the disappointing record of a predominantly coercive U.S. approach to dealing with those nations whose interests and values clash with its own. It is deemed appropriate to deal with friends via rewards and engagement ; by contrast, we expect to confront foreign adversaries with punitive pressures . When positive incentives, on occasion, do find their way into the mix of policies, they tend to be a weak adjunct to a core coercive thrust; and often they are resorted to both tepidly and late in the game, after the failures of established policy have been extensively absorbed. The assumption in favor of negative pressures rarely is challenged from within the academic community, and international relations scholars have invested little effort in examining alternative policy strategies. (This academic indifference is hard to account for given that other social science disciplines, especially sociology and social psychology, have exhibited roughly equal interest in rewards and 2 THE LOGIC OF POSITIVE ENGAGEMENT punishments as means of behavior modification.) This theoretical indifference is reflected in empirical research. Extensive datasets of military activities and economic sanctions are readily available, but one searches in vain for anything comparable with regard to rewards and incentives. A dominant lack of interest notwithstanding, isolated instances of positive inducements have occasionally appeared in a few interstices of scholarship. The psychologists Thomas Milburn and Daniel Christie have observed, with respect to international rivalries, that“in contrast to rewards, threats and punishments supply less information about what behavior is desired, lead to a narrower range of performance (involving less innovation between the parties), lead often to the appearance of older, earlier learned, more primitive behavior, and lead to more dislike of each party by the other, thus hindering the development of cooperation ” (Milburn and Christie 1989, 626). There has been a limited awareness that in interactive situations mutual cooperation can be encouraged by strategies of positive reinforcement. At the height of the cold war, Charles Osgood (1962, chap. 5) argued that such reinforcements would produce de-escalatory Soviet behavior, and he urged limited unilateral initiatives in that spirit. Robert Axelrod (1984) demonstrated that stable cooperation among adversaries linked by a “shadow of the future” is best promoted by a tit-for-tat strategy: noncooperative moves should evoke a response in kind, but so should cooperative gestures. In this vein, Alexander George has advocated combining rewards and punishments as a way of extracting concessions from “outlaw” states (George 1993, chap. 4). The cupboard is not entirely bare, but, for reasons dealt with in the following chapter, recognition of a potential role for positive incentives is rare within both academic and policymaking communities. An entire segment of foreign policy strategies has thus escaped careful scrutiny. Since the incentive to contemplate alternative paths is inversely proportionate to the value of those one is accustomed to tread,we begin by asking how effective have been the traditional tools of negative pressure at achieving their purpose. Do they habitually solve the problems they are meant to address and attain the policy objectives for which they are intended? Negative pressures can be arrayed along a continuum, ranging from diplomatic criticism to military force and including, between the extremes, subversive intervention and economic sanctions. The effectiveness of a foreign policy tool cannot be clearly assessed in all cases. Diplomatic criticism can be public or not, and it may be couched in terms that muddy its import. Subversion, if successful , is covertly conducted, while failures are more likely to become known than are instances of success. In any case, the two most widely used means of negative pressure against adversaries in U.S. foreign policy, and those on which the highest hopes apparently are placed, are economic and...


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