Global gatekeeping : domestic politics, grand strategy, and power transition theory

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2013-05

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Abstract

Which grand strategies do Great Powers adopt towards rising challengers? When do Great Powers conciliate their potential rivals, and when do they opt for strategies of containment? In this master’s report, I outline an argument to answer these and related questions. I add to the existing literatures on grand strategy and power transitions in several key respects. First, I model power shifts between Great Powers as contests over access to externally located benefits rather than as contests over power for its own sake. Second, I emphasize the weight of domestic politics in shaping states’ preferences over the apportionment of these benefits. Third, I highlight the role of diplomacy in determining whether established Great Powers choose to conciliate or else contain potential rivals. Empirically, I provide four vignettes of Great Power responses to rising states: the United States’ strategy towards Japan during the Cold War; Britain’s appeasement of the United States, 1890-1914; the United States’ containment of the Soviet Union under Ronald Reagan; and Britain’s containment of Wilhelmine Germany.

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