The Politics of Victimhood: The Benefit of Playing Victim in International Relations and How the U.S. Can Enhance the Effectiveness of its Coercive Threats

James, Connor, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Potter, Philip, AS-Dept of Politics, University of Virginia

Could there be a benefit to appearing as a victim in international relations? Conventional logic notes that stronger states should prevail in conflict. If this is the case, then why aren’t threats from the United States more successful? Literature addressing the failure of threats focuses on information and reputation problems, without acknowledging the role that threats have in the domestic populace of the target state. The purpose of this research is to identify whether U.S. threats serve a counteracting purpose by strengthening domestic support in the target state, thereby propping up the struggling regime and mobilizing regional and global opinion against the coercer. It is found that when compellent threats are issued in a region where the United States has a reputation for interventionism, it allows target states to rally their populations around the flag, resulting in an ineffective threat. The implications of this research offer guidance for policymakers, who can more effectively adjust their issuing of threats to prevent deadly and costly conflicts.

MA (Master of Arts)
coercive threats, threat-making, intervention, coercion, compellence, policy, foreign policy, national security
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