Canadian soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stand guard during a press conference on a prison attacked by Taliban militants in Kandahar province, June 15, 2008.
"When Does the Mission Determine the Coalition? The Logic of Multilateral Intervention and the Case of Afghanistan"
Journal Article, Security Studies, volume 17, issue 3, pages 531-567
Author: Sarah Kreps, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2007–2008
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
Using the debate between the logic of appropriateness and consequences as a theoretical backdrop, I argue that neither is able to explain the United States' choices between unilateralism and multilateralism in post-Cold War military interventions. The logic of appropriateness is theoretically flawed because states are ultimately unwilling to compromise operational effectiveness on behalf of "oughtness," and the logic of consequences has until now been insufficiently specified for the purposes of explaining military cooperation behavior. In this article, I suggest that "consequences" are best specified according to time horizon, which creates intertemporal tradeoffs between the long-term benefits of multilateralism and immediate payoffs of unilateralism, and the nature of the intervention, which affects the operational payoffs of multilateralism. I test this argument and the existing explanations against the case of Afghanistan. Its within-case variation — largely unilateral in combat operations and robustly multilateral in post-conflict phases — lends strong support to the logic of consequences as specified according to time horizon and operational payoff.
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