The Obama Administration and Syrian Chemical Weapons: Deterrence, Compellence, and the Limits of the “Resolve Plus Bombs” Formula

Wyn Bowen, Matthew Moran, Jeffrey Knopf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This article examines responses to the Syrian government’s possession and eventual use of chemical weapons (CW) in that country’s civil war in the period 2012-2013. During this time, the United States and other outside powers applied coercive strategies, in both a deterrent and compellent mode. Outcomes varied: compellence in the form of coercive diplomacy achieved a partial success in getting Syria to give up much of its chemical stockpile, but there were multiple deterrence failures culminating in a large-scale sarin gas attack in August 2013. We examine this record to draw lessons about factors associated with the effectiveness of coercion. Our analysis draws on insights from existing research on both deterrence and coercive diplomacy to develop an integrated analytical framework involving the interplay of three factors – credibility, motivations, and assurance. We find that the typical default approach to coercion, based on demonstrating toughness and threatening to impose costs using airpower – an approach we call the “resolve plus bombs” formula – was not sufficient to change Syria’s calculations regarding chemical use.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSECURITY STUDIES
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Syria
  • chemical weapons
  • coercion
  • deterrence
  • coercive diplomacy
  • compellence

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The Obama Administration and Syrian Chemical Weapons: Deterrence, Compellence, and the Limits of the “Resolve Plus Bombs” Formula'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this