Constructing International Security helps policy makers and students recognize effective third-party strategies for balancing deterrence and restraint in security relationships. Brett V. Benson shows that there are systematic differences among types of security commitments. Understanding these commitments is key, because commitments, such as formal military alliances and extended deterrence threats, form the basis of international security order. Benson argues that sometimes the optimal commitment conditions military assistance on specific hostile actions the adversary might take. At other times, he finds, it is best to be ambiguous by leaving an ally and adversary uncertain about whether the third party will intervene. Such uncertainty transfers risk to the ally, thereby reducing the ally's motivation to behave too aggressively. The choice of security commitment depends on how well defenders can observe hostilities leading to war and on their evaluations of dispute settlements, their ally's security and the relative strength of the defender.
Brett V. Benson is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies at Vanderbilt University. His research concentrates on alliances, deterrence, nuclear disarmament and international arms sales. He also studies Chinese politics and East Asia relations. His articles have been published in the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Peace Research, Security Studies and the Journal of East Asian Studies.
1. Understanding the design of security commitments; 2. A typology of third-party commitments; 3. Time consistency and entrapment; 4. Evidence of moral hazard in military alliances; 5. A theory of commitment design; 6. Testing the implications for alliance design; 7. Deterrent commitments in East Asia; 8. Constructing security in today's world.