Cover: Framing Compellent Strategies

Framing Compellent Strategies

Published 2000

by Gregory F. Treverton


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In simple, overarching terms, compellent strategies involve efforts to compel states or groups to adopt certain policies, postures, or courses of action. But the real targets of compellent strategies are individuals — leaders who are able to make decisions and carry them out, and its challenge is to threaten or hold at risk what those individuals care most about. Compellence is becoming an increasingly important tool as the United States seeks ways to prevail in conflicts without using force and without necessarily defeating adversaries in a military sense. This report focuses on three U.S. efforts to compel foreign leaders: the effort to compel Saddam Hussein to desist from both regional and domestic aggression the effort to discourage India from testing nuclear weapons the effort to force Cedras to step down and the Haitian military to allow Aristide to return to power. The report outlines important factors that policymakers need to bear in mind as they consider a compellent campaign. Among other things, U.S. policymakers need to understand and define whom they are trying to compel, the degree to which the stakes are important to the United States, the array of threats and/or inducements that might be most relevant, and the party or parties that will conduct the campaign (i.e., the United States unilaterally or a coalition).

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's National Security Research Division.

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