Rational deterrence theory and comparative case studies

TitleRational deterrence theory and comparative case studies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsAchen, CH, Snidal, D
JournalWorld Politics: A Quarterly Journal of International Relations

In this paper, we examine the claims of the case study critics of rational deterrence. We believe that these studies have been enormously valuable for what they contribute -- historical wisdom about the limits of current theory, and empirical generalization to be explained by future theory. But case studies have failed when used to two tasks for which they are not suited--theory construction and theory verification. The failures derive not from perculiarities of the deterrence problem, but from the nature of the methods of case study. The logic of comparative case studies inherently provides too little logical constraints to generate dependable theory and too little inferential constraint to permit trustworthy theory testing. Only when yoked to deductive theory and to statistical inference, and made to serve their ends, can case studies provide genuine contributions.

'Mid-range theory' is crap.

Case studies on deterrence select on dependent variable.

Rational deterrence theory accounts for failure and will predict some failure and does not depend on individual decision-makers memories or thought processes.