Chapter 2, “International Alliances”

Chapter 2, “International Alliances,” by Dan Reiter

This chapter covers international alliances, the most important institutions in all of international relations.  This chapter moves beyond traditional treatments of alliances focusing on balance of power and polarity.  Instead, the chapter builds on contemporary alliance research, focusing on alliances as institutions, and on the central question of why states comply with alliance treaty requirements even under anarchy.  The chapter tackles the critical questions of alliances, such as how alliances aggregate military power, how alliances deter, the role of international and domestic audience costs in encouraging compliance, the importance of variations in alliance types, and more. The chapter demonstrates these ideas with a case study of the onset of World War I, and a summary of a quantitative study evaluating how alliance commitments shape decisions to enter wars.

Most appropriate for classes on war and politics, international institutions, and international relations theory.

Why this chapter is different:

●Only review of alliances on the market that is appropriate for undergraduate readers and reflects current scholarly understanding of alliances
●Case study applying alliance insights to the onset of World War I
●Application to contemporary policy debates, including debates in the Trump administration about American’s commitments to NATO and other alliances

Dr. Dan Reiter is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Political Science at Emory University. He is the award-winning author of several articles on alliances and NATO in particular, as well as Crucible of Beliefs: Learning, Alliances, and World Wars (Cornell, 1996).

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