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Bandwagoning vs. Balancing Alliances in Regional Security Systems
Unformatted Document Text:  Licht 9 states, the pattern is not quite reversed. Smaller states stand to gain both specific and general security through alliance with a dominant state that can promise them protection against rivals as well as maintenance of a stable system. [Table 1 about here] The theoretical stability of bandwagoning alliances, then, can be attributed to fulfillment of asymmetric preferences as well as maintenance of a mutually desirable stable system of interstate relations. The discussion of asymmetrical alliances as a conscious tool for managing satisfaction and fostering order in international communities conflicts with the old image of the “bandwagon”. No longer are smaller states scrambling to get “on board” with a rising power as the wagon rattles across the smoking battlefield. Instead the dominant power, whether ascendant or battle-proven, must approach the smaller states as potential carpoolers, demonstrate its intent to follow the rules of the road, and guarantee a smooth ride for polite passengers. The alliance structure no longer results from deterministic reactions to shifts in power, threat or the tides of war, but processes of bargaining in which all players stand to gain from stable relationships. This study will thus adopt a definition of “bandwagoning” and “balancing” which operates at the system level. Bandwagon alliances are those formal, non-offensive alliances involving one dominant power and one minor state. Balancing alliances are struck between two minor states. These definitions are not necessarily more neutral than those employed by previous studies, but they do entertain the possibility that choosing to ally with a strong state is a sign of prudence rather than a character flaw. 8 Rather, if the 8 Character flaws such as those implied by Schweller’s characterization of bandwagoning states as greedy “wolves”, opportunistic “jackals”, or insipid “lambs”

Authors: Licht, Amanda.
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Licht 9
states, the pattern is not quite reversed. Smaller states stand to gain both specific and
general security through alliance with a dominant state that can promise them protection
against rivals as well as maintenance of a stable system.
[Table 1 about here]
The theoretical stability of bandwagoning alliances, then, can be attributed to
fulfillment of asymmetric preferences as well as maintenance of a mutually desirable
stable system of interstate relations. The discussion of asymmetrical alliances as a
conscious tool for managing satisfaction and fostering order in international communities
conflicts with the old image of the “bandwagon”. No longer are smaller states
scrambling to get “on board” with a rising power as the wagon rattles across the smoking
battlefield. Instead the dominant power, whether ascendant or battle-proven, must
approach the smaller states as potential carpoolers, demonstrate its intent to follow the
rules of the road, and guarantee a smooth ride for polite passengers. The alliance
structure no longer results from deterministic reactions to shifts in power, threat or the
tides of war, but processes of bargaining in which all players stand to gain from stable
relationships.
This study will thus adopt a definition of “bandwagoning” and “balancing” which
operates at the system level. Bandwagon alliances are those formal, non-offensive
alliances involving one dominant power and one minor state. Balancing alliances are
struck between two minor states. These definitions are not necessarily more neutral than
those employed by previous studies, but they do entertain the possibility that choosing to
ally with a strong state is a sign of prudence rather than a character flaw.
Rather, if the
8
Character flaws such as those implied by Schweller’s characterization of bandwagoning states as greedy
“wolves”, opportunistic “jackals”, or insipid “lambs”


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