Machelling's Theory Of Coercion

1985 Words 8 Pages
According to Thomas C. Schelling, the thing that sets coercion apart from mere brute force is diplomacy.
It is the difference between the unilateral, “undiplomatic” recourse to strength, and the coercive diplomacy based on the power to hurt. (Schelling, 3)
In other words, brute force is simply taking what you want, whereas coercion is making your enemy either want to give it to you, or have no other choice but to give it to you. Another unique factor of coercive diplomacy is that, unlike brute force, which can only work when it is used, it is more effective when it is held back. Schelling goes into more detail about how and when coercion succeeds in the second chapter of his infamous work, Arms and Influence. He outlines several key principles
…show more content…
Schelling’s theories of coercion focus mainly on the second one, which implies that if the opponent does X you’ll do Y. Essentially, it’s a fancy term for a bargain. Within this strategic move, there are two paths to choose from. The course of deterrence, or the course of compellence. A deterrent threat will always involve a prevention of action by fear of consequence and often requires one to leave the ball in the opponent’s court. Schelling provides an excellent example of this in the following quote:
I can block your car by placing mine in the way; my deterrent threat is passive, the decision to collide is up to you. But if you find me in your way and threaten to collide unless I move, you enjoy no such advantage; the decision to collide is still yours, and I still enjoy deterrence. You have to arrange to have to collide unless I move, and that is a degree more complicated. (Schelling, 70)
This way of coercion is more passive and defensive than compellence, and therefore requires patience.
Deterrence involves setting the stage – by announcement, by rigging the trip-wire, by incurring the obligation – and waiting. (Schelling,
…show more content…
This strategy consists of the creation and deployment of a probabilistic threat and a deliberate loss of control.
If “brinkmanship” means anything, it means manipulating the shared risk of war. It means exploiting the danger that somebody may inadvertently go over the brink, dragging the other with him. (Schelling, 99)
Schelling also compares brinkmanship, in relation to deterrent threats, to a trip wire. The commitment is laying the trip wire that could only be crossed on purpose and, if crossed, would immediately result in war. If both sides were clear of uncertainty about each other’s motives, this trip wire would, in theory, be effective. Unfortunately, a world free from uncertainty is simply a daydream and reality is a harsh wake up call. This is why Schelling, along with numerous other scholars, argues that the art of deterrence is much easier to master than that of compellence. In addition to this, since the very nature of this principle is the manipulation of risks, it does come with a price of risks for the one who applies it. The risks of these types of threats are that you may have to follow up with the threat in order to keep your credibility and this may cause things to get out of control and wind up worse than

Related Documents