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Taming the Evil: US Non-proliferation Coercive Diplomacy and the Counter-strategies of Iran and North Korea after the Cold War

PAIK, SEUNGHOON (2017) Taming the Evil: US Non-proliferation Coercive Diplomacy and the Counter-strategies of Iran and North Korea after the Cold War. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In the 40 years since the end of World War II, the most critical strategic problem for the US was containment of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, scholars and experts focused on building deterrence theories on how to confront communist aggression. In comparison, the theory of diplomatic coercion, which tries to use threats or a limited amount of force to influence the behaviour of another by making it choose to comply, was popular neither among decision-makers nor scholars. Since a favourable international environment for applying coercive diplomacy began after the Cold War finished in the 1990s, coercive diplomacy and the coercion literature have proved to be less rich and less cumulative than that of other political theories.

However, regardless of this weak enthusiasm for it, the concept of coercion was adopted as state foreign policy and diplomatic coercion was executed as a strategy. The US administrations after the fall of the Soviet Union have implemented coercive diplomacy to influence their adversaries. The non-proliferation policy of the US was no exception. Regardless of the differences in the doctrines and policies of each administration, Clinton, Bush and Obama had a consistent policy on nuclear non-proliferation. Having become the hegemonic state of unipolar system with the ability to conduct a war in any place in the world, the execution of coercion was the most convenient policy strategy for the US among the other alternatives. From a basis of dominant military strength and economic power, the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations attempted to dismantle the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea by every conceivable means, utilizing hard power, soft power and smart power. The coercive, non-coercive and persuasive inducements of coercive diplomacy were applied to stop these nuclear programmes.

None of the administrations allowed the full fledge nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea. Instead, they labelled Iran and North Korea rogue states or ‘axis of evil’ during the span of the three presidents. Admittedly, the Obama administration showed differences in terms of rhetoric, but the ‘strategic patience’ which it applied to Iran and North Korea during its first term was not much different from the policy of its predecessors. Moreover, Obama applied the most severe economic sanctions, which even prohibited the Iranian oil trade. However, the coercive diplomacy of the US administrations did not have tangible success in disarming these states of their nuclear programmes; instead, they increased their nuclear capabilities. Although a nuclear deal has recently been reached in the Iranian case, it will take a process lasting 15 years to complete the settlement. It seems that US coercive diplomacy is most likely to be maintained during this period. This study focuses on the non-proliferation coercive diplomacy of the US against the ‘axis of evil’ of Iran and North Korea and their counterstrategies in order to examine the dispute process as a whole and to provide more efficient policy proposals regarding the subject.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Aug 2017 09:54

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