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Deterrence and Coercive Diplomacy: The Contributions of Alexander George



Alexander George was a towering figure who made path breaking and enduring contributions to political psychology, international relations, and social science methodology. I focus on George's closely related research programs on deterrence and coercive diplomacy, with special attention to the importance of the asymmetry of motivation, strategies for “designing around” a deterrent threat, the controllability of risks, images of the adversary, signaling, the sequential failure of deterrence, the role of positive inducements along with coercive threats, and the need for actor-specific models of the adversary. In the process, I highlight other elements of George's theoretically and methodologically integrated research program: his conceptions of the proper role of theory; his emphasis on the infeasibility of a universal theory and the need for conditional generalizations that are historically grounded, sensitive to context, bounded by scope conditions, and useful for policy makers; and the indispensability of process tracing in theoretically driven case studies.