Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Literature Review: Balancing, Bandwagoning and Walt

  • Walt, Stephen M. 1985. "Alliance Formation and the Balance of Power." International Security 9: 3-43.
  • Walt, Stephen M. 1987. The Origins of Alliances. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Walt (1985, 1987) draws a contrast between balancing (allying against a threat) and bandwagoning (allying with the threat). He contends that balancing should be more common than bandwagoning and supports his contention with a survey of alliances in the Middle East. This conclusion is not surprising from the perspective of the argument here. Threats arise from differences in position on issues on which the threatening nation pursues change. Because alliances require agreement between the allies over some set of issues, nations will generally not ally with nations that threaten them for the lack of areas of agreement. Balancing alliances have the common interest in resisting the threatening nation to bring the allies together.

Bandwagoning alliances could form for two reasons: (1) because both parties face a common threat from a third nation or (2) because the threatening nation receives concessions to deactivate the threat. The former leads to a symmetric alliance; the latter, to an asymmetric alliance. An example of the former from Walt's 1987 cases would be Jordan's alignment with Egypt on the eve of the Six Day War. Balancing alliances can also be either symmetric or asymmetric. NATO is an example of an asymmetric balancing alliance.

From: Morrow, James D. 1991. "Alliances and Asymmetry: An Alternative to the Capability Aggregation Model of Alliances." American Journal of Political Science 35(4): 904-933.

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