Stephen M. Walt

Playing hard to get

Building on Robert Farley, Matt Yglesias has a smart post about the value of playing "hard to get" in American diplomacy. The basic idea is simple: the United States is very powerful and fairly secure, and so our allies usually need our support more than we need theirs. If we understand that fact, we gain ...

Building on Robert Farley, Matt Yglesias has a smart post about the value of playing "hard to get" in American diplomacy. The basic idea is simple: the United States is very powerful and fairly secure, and so our allies usually need our support more than we need theirs. If we understand that fact, we gain a lot of leverage over their conduct by making it clear that our support depends on their cooperation. If we forget that fact, or we start obsessing about our own credibility and need to demonstrate "toughness," we lose that leverage and others start taking advantage of us.

Of course, I think this point is smart because I made the same argument in the conclusion of Taming American Power. Check out pp. 240-243. And I’m glad Robert and Matt are resurrecting this line of argument, because new ideas don’t catch on unless people repeating them over and over and over …

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola