Worse Than a Monolith

Worse Than a Monolith: Alliance Politics and Problems of Coercive Diplomacy in Asia

Thomas J. Christensen
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 318
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rrjz
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  • Book Info
    Worse Than a Monolith
    Book Description:

    In brute-force struggles for survival, such as the two World Wars, disorganization and divisions within an enemy alliance are to one's own advantage. However, most international security politics involve coercive diplomacy and negotiations short of all-out war.Worse Than a Monolithdemonstrates that when states are engaged in coercive diplomacy--combining threats and assurances to influence the behavior of real or potential adversaries--divisions, rivalries, and lack of coordination within the opposing camp often make it more difficult to prevent the onset of conflict, to prevent existing conflicts from escalating, and to negotiate the end to those conflicts promptly. Focusing on relations between the Communist and anti-Communist alliances in Asia during the Cold War, Thomas Christensen explores how internal divisions and lack of cohesion in the two alliances complicated and undercut coercive diplomacy by sending confusing signals about strength, resolve, and intent. In the case of the Communist camp, internal mistrust and rivalries catalyzed the movement's aggressiveness in ways that we would not have expected from a more cohesive movement under Moscow's clear control.

    Reviewing newly available archival material, Christensen examines the instability in relations across the Asian Cold War divide, and sheds new light on the Korean and Vietnam wars.

    While recognizing clear differences between the Cold War and post-Cold War environments, he investigates how efforts to adjust burden-sharing roles among the United States and its Asian security partners have complicated U.S.-China security relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3881-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-27)

    It should seem obvious that the more united and organized one’s enemies, the worse one’s own lot. This book makes the counterintuitive assertion that this need not always be the case. Poor coordination, internal mistrust, and intramural rivalry in enemy alliances can be dangerous for one’s own side because such internal divisions make engaging in successful coercive diplomacy with those enemies more difficult. During all-out war—pure competitions of brute force—internal divisions and lack of coordination within the enemy camp are clearly to one’s advantage. But such wars are the exception, not the rule, in international security politics. More...

  5. Chapter 2 GROWING PAINS: ALLIANCE FORMATION AND THE ROAD TO CONFLICT IN KOREA
    (pp. 28-62)

    George Kennan’s strongpoint containment strategy was a creative exercise of prudent realpolitik. It reflected a recognition of the limits of U.S. military power and the large number of security concerns that the Truman administration faced in the early–Cold War era. The strategy focused U.S. efforts on the defense and reconstruction of friendly, anti-Soviet centers of industrial power and the prevention of these and other resource-rich or geographically significant areas from falling under Soviet control. By logical association, it eschewed hard-and-fast defense commitments to areas considered to be peripheral to the Cold War effort for either economic or geographic reasons.¹...

  6. Chapter 3 ALLIANCE PROBLEMS, SIGNALING, AND ESCALATION OF ASIAN CONFLICT
    (pp. 63-108)

    After the United States entered the war in late June 1950 and broke out of the Pusan perimeter in mid-September 1950 with MacArthur’s brilliantly executed Inchon landing, President Truman and his advisors had a difficult decision: should the initial war aims in Korea to restore the Republic of Korea in the South expand to include the destruction of the aggressive North Korean regime and unification of the peninsula under a friendly, anticommunist government? In Korea itself, various factors contributed to the Truman administration’s late September decision to expand the war effort and to attempt to unify the peninsula by force,...

  7. Chapter 4 THE BENEFITS OF COMMUNIST ALLIANCE COORDINATION AND THE CONTINUING COSTS OF U.S. ALLIANCE FORMATION, 1951–56
    (pp. 109-145)

    By the first half of 1951, political and military conditions in the Korean War had become much clearer than they were in the summer and fall of 1950. The Chinese communists were in the war very deeply, as were U.S. and allied forces fighting under the UN flag. Although alliance coordination problems in the communist camp remained, particularly between Chinese military and political leaders and their North Korean counterparts, the level of coordination between the three communist governments had improved quickly and significantly after fall 1950. In particular the Sino-Soviet relationship was very tight and very cooperative once Beijing decided...

  8. Chapter 5 THE SINO-SOVIET SPLIT AND PROBLEMS FOR THE UNITED STATES IN ASIA, EUROPE, AND THE AMERICAS, 1956–64
    (pp. 146-180)

    Mao had become increasingly concerned about the Sino-Soviet relationship since Khrushchev’s February 1956 de-Stalinization speech. In both form and content, the speech was unwelcome to Mao. The speech was made without prior consultation with Beijing, something Mao believed to be entitled to as the longest ruling Communist Party chief in the international communist movement. Mao had often praised Stalin in China publicly. Khrushchev’s criticism of Stalin’s “cult of personality” could easily be turned on Mao himself in the CCP context. Khrushchev’s push for peaceful transformation to socialism and peaceful coexistence with the West and his mismanagement (according to Mao) of...

  9. Chapter 6 FROM ESCALATION IN VIETNAM TO SINO-AMERICAN RAPPROCHEMENT, 1964–72
    (pp. 181-220)

    Despite some efforts to keep Moscow’s foot in the door in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s, Soviet attention would not turn firmly toward Southeast Asia until after the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the U.S. escalation that followed. In February 1964 Le Duan criticized the Soviets for being too passive in supporting revolution. The Soviets’ initial response was to limit further material aid and to supply merely rhetorical support for Hanoi.¹ But Moscow would discover that this strategy only weakened Soviet influence in Vietnam, especially when compared to the relationship that Beijing enjoyed with Hanoi. After the...

  10. Chapter 7 THE FALL AND REVIVAL OF COERCIVE DIPLOMACY: SECURITY PARTNERSHIPS AND SINO-AMERICAN SECURITY RELATIONS, 1972–2009
    (pp. 221-259)

    Following Sino-American rapprochement in 1972, and especially after normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations in 1979, many of the problems discussed in the first six chapters of this book dissipated, at least for the remainder of the Cold War. Despite some public pronouncements in China regarding “an independent line” between the superpowers in the early 1980s, for the remainder of the Cold War the People’s Republic of China remained firmly aligned, though not allied, with the United States in an anti-Soviet coalition. Moreover, the PRC underwent a major domestic transformation beginning in the late 1970s. Deng Xiaoping consolidated his power after...

  11. Chapter 8 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 260-276)

    Disorganization and discord in alliance politics has made the maintenance of peace through coercive diplomacy in Asia very difficult. In fact, the Cold War likely would have been less hot if the U.S.-led alliance and the Soviet-led alliance had consistently been more closely coordinated and better organized and, therefore, had sent clearer and more coherent signals in their security policies. In the case of the communist alliance in particular, Cold War stability in Asia and beyond would likely have been greater had the alliance been more tightly controlled by the more moderate and globally oriented revisionist state, the Soviet Union,...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-296)
  13. Index
    (pp. 297-306)