POLI 304 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Bandwagoning, Stephen Walt, Walter Lippmann
Course CodePOLI 304
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Explaining Alliance Formation (17-49)
In this chapter, Walt proposes five general explanations for international alliances: balancing,
bandwagoning, ideology, foreign aid, and transnational penetration. He explores the logic of the
various hypotheses, presents illustrative examples, and outline the conditions under which the
behavior predicted by each should be expected.
1) Alliances As a Response to Threat: Balancing and Bandwagoning (17-33)
When confronted by a significant threat, states may either balance or bandwagon.
oBalancing is defined as allying with others against the prevailing threat.
H1: Balancing is more common than bandwagoning.
If this is true, states are more secure because aggressors
will face combined opposition.
oBandwagoning refers to alignment with the source of danger.
H2: Bandwagoning is more common than balancing.
If this is true, security is scarce because successful
aggressors will attract additional allies, enhancing their
power while reducing that of their opponents.
These are two distinct hypotheses about how states will select their alliance
A) Balancing Behavior
The belief that states form alliances in order to prevent stronger powers from
oTo protect themselves from states or coalitions who’s superior
resources could pose a threat.
States choose to balance for two reasons:
1. They place their survival at risk if they fail to curb a potential
hegemon before it becomes too strong.
To ally with the dominant power means placing trust in its
continued benevolence (which I don’t think I need to say, is
The safer strategy is to join with those who cannot dominate
their allies, in order to avoid being dominated by those who
2. Joining the weaker side increases the new member’s influence within
the alliance, because the weaker side has greater need for assistance.
To ally with the stronger side gives the new member little
influence (because it adds relatively less to the coalition) and
leaves it vulnerable to the whims of its partners.
B) Bandwagoning Behavior
The bandwagoning hypothesis is especially popular with statesman seeking to
justify overseas involvements or increased military budgets.
Recurring theme throughout the Cold War
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oUSSR intimidated both Norway and Turkey into not joining NATO.
oUSA also used the bandwagoning hypothesis.
To increase US military capabilities in the 50s.
Argued that if they didn’t, “our friends will become
more than a liability to us, they will become a positive
increment to Soviet power.”
JFK also said “if the United States were to falter, the whole
world…would inevitably begin to move towards the
Kissinger also believed US allies were likely to bandwagon.
A common theme: states are attracted to strength.
oThe more powerful a state, the more likely others are to ally with it.
States choose to bandwagon for two reason:
oBandwagoning may be a form of appeasement. By aligning with the
stronger power, the bandwagoner may hope to avoid an attack by
diverting it elsewhere.
oBandwagoners also ally with the dominant side in order to share the
spoils of victory.
C) Different Sources of Threat
Balancing and bandwagoning is not necessarily allying with the ‘weaker’ or
‘stronger’ side, by with or against the foreign power that poses the greatest
oStates may balance by allying with other strong states if a weaker
power is more dangerous.
i) Aggregate Power:
All else being equal, the greater a state’s total resources (e.g., population,
industrial and military capability, and technological prowess), the greater a
potential threat it can pose to others, and the greater a reward it can give to
oBecause of this, Walter Lippmann and George Kennan defined the aim
of U.S. grand strategy as that of preventing any single state from
controlling more industrial resources than the U.S. did.
oA state’s aggregate power may provide a motive for balancing and
ii) Geographic Proximity
Because the ability to project power declines with distance, states that are
nearby pose a greater threat than those that are far away.
All else being equal, states are more likely to make their alliance choices in
response to nearby powers than in response to those that are distant.
iii) Offensive Power
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