Theses Doctoral

Security Exchange Theory

Chamberlain, Robert

Security Exchange Theory is a novel approach to alliance behaviors in which a great power gives scarce security goods to a small state. This behavior is a puzzle for two reasons. First, it seems unlikely that a rational state would give away valuable resources without getting something in return, yet small states seem to have nothing to offer. Second, small states sometimes refuse great power offers, which would seem to indicate that "free" security goods impose some sort of cost. This theory addresses both of these puzzles. First, it argues that great powers evaluate small states on their ability to contribute to the great power's security agenda. The extent to which a small state can do so is its Perceived Strategic Value (PSV) in the eyes of the great power. Ceteris paribus, small states with higher PSV receive larger security exchanges. Second, it argues that small states face a wider array of threats than do great powers and array their forces to meet the greatest threat facing the regime. To the extent that the small state's security perspective mirrors the great power's, the level of security exchanges will be higher. However, because security exchanges impose costs on both parties, there are many cases in which either low PSV or an incompatible small state strategic agenda makes a security exchange unlikely. I test the theory using great power - small state interactions in the Middle East between 1952 and 1961 using qualitative methods and from 1952 to 1979 using statistical analysis. I find Security Exchange Theory is a powerful and parsimonious solution to the puzzle of great power - small state exchange behavior.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Snyder, Jack Lewis
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014