The study of international relations rests on the premise that there is always a sensible way of explaining a nation’s grand strategy, for they would not survive otherwise. From the Classical Period to the Middle Ages, from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century, historians, statesman, and political theorists have attempted to provide reason and understanding behind the decisions made by nation-states. More often than not, whether through realism or liberalism, through social constructivism or even Marxism, the theories of international relations have been able to define the guidelines for decision-making. Yet, there are times when those choices are rather questionable, and a new explanation may be called for, one that looks inward. One such justification may be necessary to understand why a democratic state would engage an emerging threat, rather than opt for a bevy of other available policies. Those who side with the international determinants may argue that the decision to engage a threat is a carefully crafted plan, one that aims to diffuse the target state’s power without having to oppose it militarily. My objective is to offer an alternative: that following a policy of engagement toward the emerging threat is not an intentional objective, but rather an unintended consequence of a domestic collective-action problem which does not allow for the formation of a more assertive, coherent strategy.
Defining the Puzzle
The dependent variable in the puzzle is the level of engagement. Being a relatively newer strategy in the study of international relations, it is important to understand what engagement exactly entails. Alastair Iain Johnston and Robert Ross define engagement as “the use of non-coercive methods to a...
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