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Chapter IV TAILORING POLICIES TO INTENTIONS: PROBLEMATICS AND HAZARDS STATES DIFFER enormously in the range of their aggressive-defensive intentions . Intentions are the most immediate, if not also the most fundamental , explanation of their hostile to benign behavior. The success of any security strategy is heavily dependent upon its addressing the other side’s actual intentions. There is no doubting the validity of these tenets. But it does not follow that it is necessary or advisable to act on them. In chapter 2 it was seen that strategic internationalism recognizes their full import and shapes its hawkish or dovish policies accordingly. A national strategy also appreciates the fundamentals of intentions, without however expressing them in activist policies or modulating the latter in accordance with intentions. It assumes an agnostic position—atheism is out of the question—toward an understanding of the contender’s short- and long-term aims, concomitantly adopting largely invariant policies in addressing them. To do otherwise is unnecessary. In explicating America’s strategic immunity not a single reference was made to the intentions lying behind the rival’s actual and possible expansive and unacceptable actions. Taken together, the following three chapters show that national policies can more fully and consistently address the opponent’s intentions than any set of internationalist policies—and this even if the latter were to match up with the contender’s actual intentions. This chapter considers the problematics and hazards of trying to tailor policies to those intentions. According to the second doctrinal proposition, the identification of the opponent’s intentions regularly lies somewhere between the unreliably known and the inherently unknowable; mistaken interpretations are at least as common as those that come reasonably close to the mark. Faulty understandings generate policies that consistently detract from the nation ’s security. Tailoring policies to intentions is thus a problematic and hazardous security exercise. Nor is it possible for any activist strategy to escape from the interpretative problematics. To shape activist policies solely in accordance with the opponent’s capabilities or behavior more broadly is unworkable, hazardous, or both. Although this chapter is exclusively devoted to a critique of strategic internationalism, it is no less significant in making the case for a national TAILORING POLICIES TO INTENTIONS 93 strategy. The second doctrinal tenet elaborates upon what is the central, most consequential debility of strategic internationalism. Since security policies can only be premised upon intentions or capabilities writ large, to show that the former focus is decidedly problematic goes a long way in supporting the latter. Given the heavy dependence of adversarial and conciliatory engagement upon a reasonably accurate understanding of intentions , the security deflations brought on by faulty ones highlight nonengagement ’s relative effectiveness. To demonstrate the unmanageability and dangers of an activist strategy based entirely upon the challenger’s capabilities and behavior (the reciprocated responsiveness of the tit-fortat strategy), closes out the one other alternative to strategic nonengagement —that of an activist strategy that is not focused upon intentions. I Activist policies premised upon mistaken understandings of the other side’s intentions regularly eventuate in security deflations. This claim need not be much elaborated. It has been most extensively developed and documented in Robert Jervis’s analysis of the characteristic risks entailed by deterrence theory and the spiral model, somewhat modulated by Charles Glaser’s refinements. The claim was also set out and systematically tested in the comparison of hard-liners and soft-liners by Glenn Snyder and Paul Diesing.1 In fact, hawks and doves themselves are agreed that policies based upon faulty interpretations of the challenger’s aggressively ambitious or defensive aims are thoroughly counterproductive. Advocates of adversarial activism highlight the dangers of policies that are overly flexible or accommodating; proponents of conciliatory activism underscore the risks of overly demanding or firm ones. During the Cold War the former frequently alluded to the coming of World War II while the latter singled out World War I in making the same point: To base policies upon a misreading of the rival’s intentions is to court disaster.2 According to adversarial doctrine, overly accommodating policies that are not congruent with the challenger’s actual aims make for perceived and actual weaknesses. The opponent’s expansionist ventures and direct challenges are not just permitted, but encouraged and facilitated by a decline in the credibility of deterrent threats and the defensive capabilities for meeting them. The contender comes to expect that he is not about to be (fully) opposed by the guardian state, and...


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