Sanctions, signals, and militarized conflict

David J. Lektzian, Christopher M. Sprecher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Economic sanctions are frequently used as a tool of foreign policy, described by some as falling between diplomacy and military force. An important question regarding the use of sanctions is whether they can function as an alternative to military force by demonstrating the sender's resolve and making military force unnecessary, or if their use tends to result in an increased probability that military force will be used. Based on a theory of sanctions as costly signals, the authors develop and test hypotheses regarding the relationship between sanctions and military force. The results show that after a sanction occurs, there is a significantly increased probability of a use of military force. Democracies, because of their propensity to tie their hands with audience costs, while at the same time facing domestic pressure to devise sanctions to be costless to the sender, are highly likely to be involved in a militarized dispute after using sanctions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-431
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007


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