Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Félix E. Martín

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kyle Mattes

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

John Oates

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Terrence G. Peterson

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Robert Jervis

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Deterrence, Nuclear Weapons, Feasibility of Punishment, Belief Updating, Rhineland Crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, Sino-Soviet Border Dispute, Yom Kippur War, Falklands War

Date of Defense



Despite a plethora of research on the conditions of successful deterrence, the literature has been remarkably silent on the aftermath of its possible failure. Especially in the situation of direct deterrence where the defender’s people and territory are at stake, the defender experiences tremendous pressure and stress when a challenger defies the former’s threat. Due to the high interest at stake, direct deterrent threat is regarded as the most credible type of deterrence and, according to the literature, is most likely successful. How could an intrinsically credible threat fail? What should the defender do when direct deterrence fails and its reputation is decisively in jeopardy? What happens next when the defender chooses a certain policy after the failure?

This dissertation addresses the question by emphasizing the significance of the feasibility of punishment and belief updating. It highlights that challengers would consider even the most determined defender’s threat non-credible if it is militarily and politically infeasible for the defender to implement the punishment. Also, the challenger’s defiance against the defender’s credible deterrent threat would lead the defender to identify the challenger as a determined aggressor. This belief updating will encourage the defender to modify its level of resolve accordingly and will, thus, choose less aggressive policies fearing a war that may ensue. In this regard, direct deterrence failure would not result in war in numerous instances of direct deterrence failure.

This research uses a mixed-methods approach by incorporating regression analysis and process tracing. The research hypotheses are tested first against the population of direct deterrence failure, a total of 192 cases. This study uses logistic and ordered logistic regression techniques as dependent variables are either binary or ordinal. Case studies, then, follow to determine the most decisive factor among explanatory variables in deciding short- and long-term outcomes of the five selected crises: the 1936 Rhineland Crisis, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1969 Sino-USSR Border Dispute, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the 1982 Falklands War.





Crisis_07-19-2019.dta (128 kB)
Direct Defensive Deterrence Cases, 1918-2015

Regression Analysis (6 kB)
Regression Models_DO-files



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