Saturday, September 14, 2013

Confused by Schelling Some More

Let me get this straight:
  1. The US spends much time waffling;
  2. Obama goes to Congress to get support and finds damn near none, which means that whatever threats he was issuing become less credible (although not incredible).  Indeed, the audience costs might work in the opposite direction, as defying Congress would be costly.
  3. Russia and Assad offer up a deal that acknowledges that Syria has chemical weapons and will hand them (or some of them) over through a process that will require a fair amount of intrusive verification.  Amidst a civil war... Ok, that last part complicates things just a bit.

The key here is this: the US did its best to signal that it was irresolute and then got a deal that would allow it to declare victory (not an end to the war, not a guarantee that Assad will not keep some stuff for a rainy day--although I think chemical weapons work best when it is not raining).

How does Schelling's work make sense of this?  Irresolution should not lead to coercive diplomacy success.  It could be, as @dhnexon is tweeting me right now, that Assad and Putin don't really understand American politics, but, jeez, how much clearer could it be?

Maybe, maybe. But sure as hell does not sound like Schelling and all that I remember about coercive diplomacy.

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