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Opportunities and Presidential Uses of Force


  • David J. Brulé

    (University of Tennessee)

  • Bryan W. Marshall

    (Miami University)

  • Brandon C. Prins

    (University of Tennessee)


Political vulnerability is thought to influence the opportunities available to the US president to engage in uses of force abroad. Conventional theories linking economic misfortune and partisan opposition to presidential uses of force detail the incentives and constraints facing the president in decisions to use force. In contrast, these theories’ strategic counterparts focus on the ability of US adversaries to respond to the president’s vulnerability through either avoidance or exploitation. The behavior of US adversaries is thought to critically affect the president’s opportunities to use force. Conventional and strategic accounts of the linkage between domestic political vulnerability and the use of force provide contradictory expectations. To assess these theories we identify hypotheses related to four dependent and selection variables corresponding to dispute initiation and reciprocation involving the US. These hypotheses are tested with a two-stage Heckman Probit model to account for selection effects due to strategic interaction. The results are most supportive of orthodox diversionary theory. Our findings challenge the other perspectives evaluated—the strategic conflict avoidance (SCA) perspective, Howell and Pevehouse’s party cover approach, and Schultz’s signaling model.

Suggested Citation

  • David J. Brulé & Bryan W. Marshall & Brandon C. Prins, 2010. "Opportunities and Presidential Uses of Force," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 27(5), pages 486-510, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:compsc:v:27:y:2010:i:5:p:486-510

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