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Coercive Cooperation: Explaining Multilateral Economic Sanctions.

Lisa Martin's Coercive Cooperation: Explaining Multilateral Economic Sanctions is an ambitious book that will be of great interest to both theorists and practitioners of international relations. The subject of economic sanctions, of course, is hardly an understudied topic. Within the last decade alone two classic books have been published on the subject: David Baldwin's Economic State-craft and Gary Hufbauer and Jeffrey Schott's Economic Sanctions Reconsidered.(1) As Martin points out, however, economic sanctions now merit even greater study because the end of the Cold War will probably increase the relevance of sanctions in world politics. As seen by both the debate over the utility of sanctions before the Persian Gulf War and the more recent conflict over how the international community should respond to Serbian aggression, it is clear that the issue of sanctions remains highly contentious among both scholars and policy makers.

Most studies of economic sanctions are concerned with the issue of whether the target of the efforts to impose sanctions changes its behavior as a result of national or international pressure. Instead of exploring this question, Coercive Cooperation focuses on the prior but no less important, question of how cooperation is achieved among the nations imposing sanctions. This focus adds greatly to the book's value, because Martin's hypotheses and evidence can be extended far beyond the specific issue area of economic sanctions. Even scholars uninterested in sanctions will find this book useful in that it adds empirical insights into some of the more enduring theoretical debates in the field.

A good example of how Coercive Cooperation contributes to other theoretical debates lies in Martin's test of the declining hegemony thesis. Contrary to what one would expect from the arguments of hegemonic stability theorists, Martin shows that the United States has actually received more international support for its efforts to impose sanctions in recent years than it did in the immediate postwar period. Leaving aside the contentious debates over whether U.S. power has actually declined, Martin's evidence provides some empirical support for the counterintuitive theoretical arguments of scholars who have suggested that a declining hegemon might actually gain more cooperation from other states than it did during the era when its preponderance of power was unquestioned.

Martin advances two major arguments about the utility of economic sanctions. First, she emphasizes the role of credibility and self-inflicted costs in explaining why some efforts to impose sanctions succeed and others fail. While this conclusion will surely be of little surprise to students of security affairs, Martin's findings should help to bridge the gap that still divides the sub-fields of security and international political economy. Second, she provides strong evidence to support the claim that international institutions play an important role in establishing and facilitating cooperation among nations.

Martin argues that in explaining the success or failure of international sanctions, "considerations of credibility provide the most explanatory leverage." She posits that a state that demonstrates a strong willingness to absorb costs to impose sanctions against another state is far more likely to gain the cooperation of others. Her evidence on this point is largely derived from the case studies on the sanctions imposed on the Soviet Union after the invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, and the Western response to Poland's imposition of martial law in 1982. Martin convincingly argues that President Carter's willingness to impose a grain embargo in 1980 was instrumental in encouraging the Europeans to implement sanctions in the former case; President Reagan's unwillingness to do so contributed to the inadequate response by the Europeans in the latter case. The only problem with Martin's argument about the importance of credibility is that it has been made before, most notably by Baldwin in Economic Statecraft. While this does not diminish the importance of the argument, readers familiar with the literature on sanctions might wonder why Martin did not choose to examine the importance of credibility in other, less well-known cases.

A far more controversial argument concerns the role of institutions in explaining state cooperation. Coercive Cooperation goes beyond most of the vast literature on conflict and cooperation in seeking to determine whether institutions actually help to explain cooperation, or whether they are simply epiphenomenal. To her credit, Martin is unwilling to rely simply on the positive statistical correlation between the involvement of institutions and the success of efforts to impose sanctions. Furthermore, she readily acknowledges that, despite the statistical evidence, a skeptic "could make a case that states make their decisions on sanctions without regard to any organizational constraints and then turn to institutions to ratify or justify these decisions."

Unfortunately, Martin seems to go too far in seeking to establish that such skepticism about the importance of institutions is unwarranted. In her chapter on European Community sanctions against Argentina during the Falklands War, she attributes a great deal of importance to Ireland's decision to support the Community despite Great Britain's major role in the conflict. To be sure, Ireland's leaders were indeed wary of jeopardizing the substantial farm subsidies it received from the European Community by refusing to go along with the decision to impose sanctions. However, the crucial role played by the existence of the farm subsidies and the negligible economic costs of the sanctions to Ireland cast serious doubt on how important purely institutional considerations were in Ireland's decision. While Martin considers it very important to demonstrate how institutional solidarity played a key role in Ireland's early decisions, she glosses over the fact that this solidarity was evidently not deep enough to make Ireland go along with the E.C. decision to continue sanctions after the original deadline expired.

With regard to the book's methodology, Coercive Cooperation is one of the more sophisticated books to be published in recent memory. Martin starts out by developing a game-theoretic model of cooperation, which rightly points out that any model of cooperation must take into account different types of problems related to collective action. After presenting her theoretical model, Martin effectively uses the data collected by Hufbauer and Schott in order to test some relevant hypotheses. Unlike many scholars who employ statistical models in international relations, Martin is well aware of the limitations inherent in the approach. She goes to great lengths to explain the way in which her variables are operationalized and measured. In order to assure the reader that she is actually measuring her dependent variable, cooperation, she employs several different measures and models. By explicitly testing the relationships from the statistical analysis in her case studies, Martin overcomes the major weakness of purely quantitative studies; she effectively demonstrates that correlation is not the same as causation. Even readers who are usually skeptical of statistical analyses will be impressed by the way in which Martin has designed her analysis.

Martin's focus in the case studies on the same variables employed in her statistical analysis provides a useful structure for the book, though some readers might wish that she had deviated from this structure in certain chapters. For example, her chapter on the failure of the Carter administration's attempt to gain European support for sanctions against human rights abusers in Latin America during the late 1970s raises some very interesting questions and hypotheses about the domestic politics of economic sanctions. Martin convincingly argues that Carter's focus on human rights, often portrayed as the height of idealism, was motivated to a great extent by his need to reconcile competing factions within the Democratic party. She speculates that there may be a relationship between sanctions attempts that are domestically motivated and a subsequent failure to obtain international support. Instead of simply laying out this possibility as a topic for future research, Martin might have taken the opportunity to explain this hypothesis throughout her case studies.

The problems with Coercive Cooperation, however, are greatly outweighed by its substantial virtues. Future researchers would do well to follow Martin's example and concentrate on empirical tests of competing theories rather than on attacking so-called straw-man arguments about either the primacy of power or the role of institutions. Martin has clearly raised the standards by which future theoretical and empirical work in the area of cooperation and conflict will be evaluated.
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Author:McAllister, James
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:1356
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