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Keywords:

  • balance-of-risk theory;
  • escalation of commitment;
  • loss aversion;
  • expectation levels;
  • prospect theory;
  • defensive realism;
  • periphery

Great powers frequently initiate risky diplomatic and military interventions in the periphery—regions that do not directly threaten the security of a great power's homeland. Such risky interventions are driven by leaders’ aversion to losses in their state's relative power, international status, or prestige. These leaders often persist in such courses of action even when they incur mounting political, economic, and military costs. More surprisingly, they undertake risky strategies toward other great powers in an effort to continue these failing interventions. Hypotheses concerning such interventions are derived from the prospect theory and defensive realist literatures.