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Dissertation Project: Carrots or Sticks? Positive Inducements and Sanctions in International Relations


My dissertation aims to bridge the policy-academy gap by translating a perennial policy-level problem of “carrots vs. sticks” to an academic question assessing the utility and relative efficacy of inducements versus sanctions as foreign policy tools. Specifically, I examine how U.S. positive inducements and sanctions are perceived by the people in target states (China, India, and South Korea), and how those perceptions are translated to state behavior in the domain of nuclear proliferation. If we think of foreign policy tools as on a spectrum, “positive inducements” being on one end and “military force” at the other extreme, “doing nothing” should lie somewhere in between. In short, inducements can be thought of as “carrots,” while sanctions and military force as “sticks.” Dominant works on risk-taking and decision-making—like Prospect Theory – have shown that people are more sensitive to potential losses than gains, which would suggest that sanctions should be utilized more in order to achieve preferred outcomes. I argue, however, that inducement policies that require concessions from the target state can be framed to gain the target state’s public support and allow target state leaders to “save face”. In contrast, I find that sanctions provoke nationalism, creating a rally around the flag effect, resulting in negative consequences for the United States. Using survey experimental methods to study the micro-foundations of inducement and sanction perceptions, I demonstrate that the United States can successfully induce target states to change their behaviors.

Applying my work on inducements within the security domain, I examine whether U.S. economic aid can inhibit a target state's nuclear proliferation ambition at the latency stage, before the state becomes a full-fledged nuclear weapons state. While the causes and consequences of nuclear proliferation have long been studied, an important follow-up question has not been undertaken with as much rigor: What can we do to roll back nuclear proliferation desires before states acquire the bomb? More specifically, are inducements effective strategies in nuclear nonproliferation? While I find that U.S. bilateral aid can indeed positively induce potential proliferators to curb its nuclear ambitions, the statistical analysis does not sufficiently explain the variation in when and to whom U.S. aid is given to as a form of positive inducement. Thus, I develop an imperfect information model to distinguish between different types of potential proliferators' (deterrable vs. committed) and their public willingness to proliferate weapons through its strategic interaction with the United States. The project has important implications for how inducements could help further the global nonproliferation regime's agenda and contribute to a more secure international community.

International Security, Foreign Policy, and Economic Statecraft

"Domestic Support for Economic Sanctions: Legitimacy vs. Efficacy" [Research design stage]

(with Pei-Yu Wei)

"Signaling Credibility and the Problems of Authenticity and Attentions" [Research design stage]

(with Andrew Kenealy and Trent Ollerenshaw)

Conflict Studies

"Network Dependence and the Diffusion of Territorial Disputes" [Working paper]

(with Chong Chen and David A. Siegel)

"A Theoretically-driven Approach to Measurement" [Paper write up stage]

(with Marco Morucci, Margaret J. Foster, Kaitlyn Webster, and David A. Siegel)

"Bayesian Integrated Theoretical-empirical Model of Conflict in Africa" [Data analysis stage]

(with Kaitlyn Webster, Margaret J. Foster, Marco Morucci, David A. Siegel, Elizabeth Carlson, and Will H. Moore)

Civil-Military Studies

"Perceptions of U.S. Elite Civil-Military Cues, Credibility, and Deterrence in the Philippines" [Data collection stage]

(with Andrew Kenealy)

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