Shite in All the Mother Fucking Languages: 7 Years too Late/8 More Years

(Mother fuckers told us what they were going to do before they even released the AF document 2016. It’s not like we would have been able to do much about it anyway, NAVY is blowing apart the brains of whales w/ nuclear sonic boom-Ed.)


Calhoun: The NPS Institutional Archive
Faculty and Researcher Publications
Faculty and Researcher Publications Collection
Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced
Displacement as an Instrument of Coercion;
Strategic Insights, v. 9, issue 1
(Spring-Summer 2010)
Greenhill, Kelly M.
Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School
Strategic Insights, v.9, issue 1 (Spring-Summer 2010

Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement as an
Instrument of Coercion
Kelly M. Greenhill[1]
Coercion is generally understood to refer to the practice of inducing or preventing changes in
political behavior through the use of threats, intimidation, or some other form of pressure—most
commonly, military force. This article focuses on a very particular nonmilitary method of
applying coercive pressure—the use of migration and refugee crises as instruments of
persuasion. Conventional wisdom suggests this kind of coercion is rare at best.[2]   Traditional
international relations theory avers that it should rarely succeed. In fact, given the asymmetry in
capabilities that tends to exist between would be coercers and their generally more powerful
targets, it should rarely even be attempted.[3]   However, as this article demonstrates, not only is
this kind of coercion attempted far more frequently than the accepted wisdom would suggest but
that it also tends to succeed far more often than capabilities-based theories would predict.
The article is organized as follows: I begin by outlining the logic behind the coercive use of
purposefully created migration and refugee crises and discuss its relative—if under-recognized—
prevalence.[4]   In the second section, I briefly describe the kind of actors who resort to the use of
this unconventional weapon as well as highlight the diverse array of objectives sought by those
who employ it. I also show that this kind of coercion has proven relatively successful, at least as
compared to more traditional methods of persuasion, particularly against (generally more
powerful) liberal democratic targets. In the third section, I propose an explanation for why
democracies appear to have been most frequently (and most successfully) targeted. I also
advance my broader theory about the nature of migration-driven coercion, including how, why,
and under what conditions it can prove efficacious. I conclude with a brief discussion of   broader
implications and further applications of the theory.
Defining, Measuring, and Identifying Coercive Engineered Migration
Coercive engineered migrations (or coercion-driven migrations) are “those cross-border
population movements that are deliberately created or manipulated in order to induce political,
military and/or economic concessions from a target state or states.”[5] The instruments employed
to affect this kind of coercion are myriad and diverse. They run the gamut from compulsory to
permissive, from the employment of hostile threats and the use of military force (as were used
during the 1967-1970 Biafran and 1992-1995 Bosnian civil wars) through the offer of positive
inducements and provision of financial incentives (as were offered to North Vietnamese by the
United States in 1954-1955, following the First Indochina War) to the straightforward opening of
normally sealed borders (as was done by President Erich Honecker of East Germany in the early117     Strategic Insights

Coercive engineered migration is frequently, but not always, undertaken in the context of
population outflows strategically generated for other reasons. In fact, it represents just one subset
of a broader class of events that all rely on the creation and exploitation of such crises as means
to political and military ends—a phenomenon I call strategic engineered migration.[7] Coercive
engineered migration is often embedded within mass migrations strategically engineered for
dispossessive, exportive, or militarized reasons. It is likely, at least in part as a consequence of its
embedded and often camouflaged nature, that its prevalence has also been generally under-
recognized and its significance, underappreciated. Indeed, it is a phenomenon that for many
observers has been hiding in plain sight. For instance, it is widely known that in 1972 Idi Amin
expelled most Asians from Uganda in what has been commonly interpreted as a naked attempt at
economic asset expropriation.[8] Far less well understood, however, is the fact that
approximately 50,000 of those expelled were British passport-holders, and that these expulsions
happened at the same time that Amin was trying to convince the British to halt their drawdown
of military assistance to his country. In short, Amin announced his intention to foist 50,000
refugees on the British, but did so with a convenient ninety-day grace period to give the British
an opportunity to rescind their decision regarding aid.[9] And Amin was far from unique.
Measuring Incidence
In fact, well over forty groups of displaced people have been used as pawns in at least fifty-six
discrete attempts at coercive engineered migration since the advent of the 1951 United Nations
Refugee Convention alone. An additional eight cases are suggestive but inconclusive or
“indeterminate.”[10] (See Table 1) Employment of this kind of coercion predates the post-World
War II era.[11] However, I focus on the post-1951 period because it was only after World War
II—and particularly after ratification of the 1951 Refugee Convention—that international rules
and norms regarding the protection of those fleeing violence and persecution were codified.[12]
It was likewise only then that migration and refugees “became a question of high politics” and
that, for reasons discussed later in this article, the potential efficacy of this unconventional
strategy really began to blossom.[13]
To put the prevalence of coercive engineered migration in perspective, at a rate of at least 1.0
cases/year (between 1951 and 2006), it is significantly less common than interstate territorial
disputes (approximately 4.82 cases/year). But, at the same time, it appears to be markedly more
prevalent than both intrastate wars (approximately 0.68 cases/year) and extended intermediate
deterrence crises (approximately 0.58/year). At a minimum, this suggests that the conventional
wisdom about the relative infrequency of coercive engineered migration (my operative null
hypothesis) requires reconsideration. More ambitiously, it suggests that what we think we know
about the size and nature of the policy toolbox available to, and used by, state and non-state
actors may too require reconsideration. A failure to appreciate the relative pervasiveness of a
frequently employed policy weapon can actively impede the ability of both scholars and
policymakers to understand, combat, and respond to potential threats, as well as to protect those
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 118     Strategic Insights

victimized by its use.
The imperative to pay greater attention to this phenomenon is underlined by the recognition that
the actual number of cases since 1951 may in fact be larger than the fifty-six to sixty-four I have
heretofore identified. In addition to the aforementioned fact that this kind of coercion is
sometimes embedded within outflows also engineered for other reasons, identification of cases
tends to be further impeded by two other mutually reinforcing tendencies. On one side of the
equation, states that have been successfully targeted in the past are often reluctant to advertise
that fact, even within their own foreign policy establishments. Consider, for instance, that the
now infamous 1980 Mariel boatlift had been underway for close to ten days before Victor
Palmieri, then U.S. coordinator for refugee affairs, discovered that 1980 was not the first time
Cuban President Fidel Castro had attempted to use a mass migration to force concessions by the
United States; nor, moreover, did it prove to be the last.[14]
Failing to share such critical information can prove highly problematic in the context of crisis
decision-making. Nevertheless, such reticence is not wholly surprising. Not only may publicizing
past vulnerabilities make a target more susceptible to future predation, but it may also heighten
the political costs to be paid within the state’s own polity. After all, what leader wants to
voluntarily admit having been forced to offer concessions to actors who are commonly portrayed
in the media and public fora not as formidable adversaries but, rather, as pathetic foes worthy of
derision—for instance, a “tin-pot dictator” like Fidel Castro or an “obsequious” “tyrant” like
Erich Honecker?[15] On the other side of the equation, some would-be coercers issue their
threats and demands only privately. For virtually every obvious challenger, such as Belarussian
President Lukashenko, who in 2002 and 2004 publicly proclaimed that, “if the Europeans don’t
pay, we will not protect Europe from these flows,”[16] one can identify a far less visible
counterexample. After the Six Day War, for instance, King Hussein of Jordan privately made
clear to U.S. diplomats that it was well within his power to turn the ongoing Palestinian refugee
crisis into a major embarrassment for both the United States and Israel if the United States failed
to exert sufficient diplomatic pressure on the Israelis to take back those displaced by the war—a
case I discovered simply by chance while in the archives perusing previously classified
documents on Vietnam.[17] To go from the particular to the general, one can only wonder how
many other such cases might remain unrecognized. In short, irrespective of whether coercion
succeeds or fails, cases in which threats were issued only privately can be difficult to identify.
Moreover, issued threats may be not only private but also conspicuously ambiguous. Consider,
for example, the suggestive reply of then Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping to U.S. President
Jimmy Carter during their historic 1979 meeting. After Carter asserted that the United States
could not trade freely with China until its record on human rights improved and Chinese were
allowed to emigrate freely, Deng smilingly retorted, “Okay. Well then, exactly how many
Chinese would you like, Mr. President? One million? Ten million? Thirty million?”[18] Whether
Deng actually intended to influence U.S. behavior remains unclear, but, in point of fact, his
rejoinder reportedly stopped Carter cold and summarily ended their discussion of human rights
in China. [19] The ambiguity of intent inherent in the Carter-Deng exchange—coupled with the
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 119     Strategic Insights

fact that the migration crisis in question was merely hypothetical—effectively excludes it (and
all similarly murky events) from inclusion in my database of cases. Nevertheless, as I illustrate in
the next section, even excluding all such cases, there has still been on average at least one
attempt at coercive engineered migration per year since the Refugee Convention came into
force.[20] In short, whether publicly announced or privately implied, by threatening (or actually
creating or catalyzing) migration crises oneself, or by pleading an inability or unwillingness to
control crises generated by others, if conditions are right, these unnatural disasters can be
effectively exploited and manipulated in ways that allow a variety of would-be coercers to
extract political and economic concessions from their targets.
Types of Coercers, Their Objectives and Rates of Success
Coercive engineered migration can be exercised by three distinct types of challengers:
generators, agents provocateurs, and opportunists. Generators directly create or threaten to create
cross-border population movements unless targets concede to their demands. Agents
provocateurs by contrast do not create crises directly, but rather deliberately act in ways
designed to incite others to generate outflows. Many see themselves as engaging in a kind of
altruistic Machiavellianism, whereby the ends (e.g., autonomy, independence, or the restoration
of democracy) justify the employment of these rather unconventional means. Finally,
opportunists play no direct role in the creation of migration crises, but simply exploit for their
own gain the existence of outflows generated or catalyzed by others. So, when these would-be
coercers—be they opportunists, generators, or agents provocateurs—employ coercive
engineered migration, what do they seek, and how effective have past attempts been in helping
these challengers achieve their aims?
Just as is the case with traditional military coercion, the demands of challengers who engage in
migration-driven coercion have been highly varied in scope, content, and magnitude. Demands
have been both concrete and symbolic and have comprised entreaties both to undertake actions
and to cease undertaking them. They have run the gamut from the simple provision of financial
aid to the termination of insurgent funding to full-scale military intervention and even regime
change (see Table 1). And, despite the fact that the majority of challengers have been markedly
weaker than their targets (in 54/64 total possible cases, and 49/56 determinate cases), they have
been relatively successful; in fact, they have been more successful than their more powerful
Success in this context is defined as persuading a target to change a previously articulated policy,
stop or reverse an action already undertaken, or disburse side payments, in line with a
challenger’s demands; in other words, most of a challenger’s demands were met. A case is coded
as a “Success” if the challenger achieved most or all of its known objectives and as a “Partial
Success” if the challenger achieved a significant fraction, but not all, of its aims. A case is coded
as a “Failure” if the challenger achieved few or none of its objectives, or achieved its objectives
for what appear to be exogenous reasons. Finally, a case is coded as “Indeterminate” if (1) the
challenger achieved at least some of its objectives but causality is unclear; (2) there is
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 120     Strategic Insights

insufficient evidence to conclude that coercion was in the end actually attempted; or (3) threats
were issued but a crisis never materialized, and it remains unclear, as of this writing, whether the
challenger’s demands were met. (Indeterminate cases are excluded from aggregate assessments
of coercive success and failure.)
Table 1: Challengers’ Objectives, Relative Strengths and Coercive Outcomes*
1967 Challenger/Coercer (Principal) Target(s)
Principal Objective(s)
West Germany (O)
United States
Financial aid, political support
S. Vietnam & the US
North Vietnam
Defer/cancel reunification elections
Convince allies to pressure France to
Algerian insurgents
French allies, esp. the
relinquish Algeria; political-military
United States
Austria (O)
United States
Aid and resettlement
United States (AP/O) Soviet Union
Deterrence re: Berlin
Cuba (G)
United States
Regularized immigration
Biafran insurgents
Aid; intervention; political and
United States
diplomatic support
Israel (G)
Bilateral negotiations/peace talks
1967 Jordan (O)
United States
Pressure Israel re: Palestinian return
1971 Pakistan (G)
1972 Uganda (G)
United Kingdom
1978-82 Bangladesh (G/O)
ASEAN, Hong Kong
Vietnam (G/O)
Western great
powers, esp. the US
Cease support for Bengali rebels
Rescind decision re: military
Halt outflow of Burmese Muslims
Thailand (O)
United States; China
Haiti (G)
NGO activists
Pakistan (O)
Partial Success
Partial Success
Partial Success
Partial Success
SR Success;
LR Failure**
Resettlement and financial aid Success
United States
United States; Haiti
United States Aid, diplomatic recognition, credit
An alliance; political-military
Financial and military aid
End support for regime; undermine it
Alliance; political-military support Soviet Union (G) Pakistan Cease support for insurgents Failure
Exiled insurgents (O) Pakistan Control over peace settlement Success
1980 Cuba (G) United States End hijacking; normalize migration,
etc. Partial Success
1981-82 Austria (O) Refugee resettlement and aid Success
1985 Thailand (O) W. Europe; United
United States; France Financial aid Success
Honduras (O) United States Military aid, training; security pact Success
Bangladesh (G) India East Germany (AP)
East Germany (AP)
Libya (G)
Hong Kong, ASEAN
(O) West Germany
TEM*** End Shanti Bahini (insurgent)
Aid; tech assistance; border fixity
Financial aid
Shift diplomatic alliances/positions US; W. Europe Aid and resettlement Success
Vietnam (O) EC, United States Political-diplomatic recognition; aid Success
late 80s
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 121     Strategic Insights

1990s- Bangladesh (G)
Saudi Arabia (G)
Israel (AP/O) Burma
Palestinians 1991-92 United States (O) Israel 1990-91 Albania (G) Italy 1991
1991 Italy, EC
EC, United States
United States 1992-95
1994 Albania (G)
Albania (G)
Poland (G,/AP)
Ethiopia (G)
Turkey (O)
Aristide (AP)
Bosniaks (G/AP)
Poland (O)
Cuba (G) mid 90s Zaire (O) 1995 Libya (AP/O) Egypt mid 90s
1998 North Korea (G)
Albania (G)
Turkey (G)
Kosovar Albanians
(AP) China
Italy Lifting of sanctions; shift in policy
towards Palestinians
Financial aid, political support
Military intervention
Support/Punishment re: EU bid NATO Military aid, intervention Success
1998-99 FRY (G)
2002 Macedonia I (O)
Macedonia II (O)
Nauru (O)
Belarus (AP)
network (AP)
network (AP)
North Korea (NK)
Nauru (O)
Haiti (G)
Belarus (AP)
Libya (AP)
Chad (G)
Libya (AP/O)
United States
UN Security Council
United States
Largely US, France,
and Belgium
Halt outflow of Burmese Muslims
Change position on Gulf War/Iraq
Relinquish claims on Jerusalem
Stop settlements in Occupied
Food aid, financial credits & other
Financial aid
Financial aid
Debt relief; financial aid
Monetary payoff
Humanitarian-military intervention
Return to power; US military
Troop presence; air evacuation
Monetary payoff
Regularized immigration, etc.
Failure (so far)
Partial Success
Political-diplomatic recognition, aid Success
Partial Success
NATO, esp.
Germany, Greece and
EU Deterrence, then compellence Failure
Financial aid
Financial aid
Financial aid
Diplomatic recognition; aid Success
China Policy shift on NK; regime collapse Failure
South Korea Same as above Failure
China Continued diplomatic support & aid Success
United States
UN Security Council
EU Financial aid
Military assistance
Financial aid
Lifting of sanctions
Military/political intervention
Financial aid Success
Partial Success
Challenger (and Type) (Generator (G), Agent(s) Provocateurs (AP), Opportunist (O)];* Where discernable, the more
powerful actor (challenger v. target) is shown in grey; ** SR=short run, LR=long run; ***Tunisia, Egypt and
In the fifty-six determinate cases, challengers achieved at least some of their objectives
approximately 73 percent of the time (in forty-one cases). If one imposes a stricter measure of
success and excludes partial successes, coercers got more or less everything they reportedly
sought 57 percent of the time (in thirty-two cases). Although rather more modest, this more
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 122     Strategic Insights

restrictive rate is comparable to some of the best-case estimates of deterrence success (also 57
percent) and substantially greater than best estimates of the success of economic sanctions
(approximately 33 percent) or U.S. coercive diplomacy efforts (between 19 and 37.5
percent).[21] As Table 1 also intimates, this kind of coercion has been attempted in all types of
crises—humanitarian disasters, low-intensity conflicts, and full-scale wars—as well as in cases
in which crises have been latent or only threatened.
This discussion notwithstanding, one might still conclude that selection effects-related issues mean
that this kind of coercion is still a pretty poor method of persuasion, undertaken only by highly
resolved challengers and only when they believe there is a relatively high probability of
success.[22] To be sure, for a variety of reasons, coercive engineered migration is a blunt
instrument that is rarely a weapon of first resort. First, challengers may ultimately catalyze larger
crises than they anticipate or desire, and massive outflows can destabilize both states of origin and
destination.[23] Fears of just such a collapse, for instance, led to the construction of the Berlin
Wall in the early 1960s.[24]
Second, once crises have been initiated, challengers often lose (some degree of) control over
them, in no small part because engineered migration-related “cleansing” operations may be
carried out by irregulars, or even bands of thugs, who lack discipline and whose objectives may
not be synonymous with those who instigated the outflows.[25] Likewise, once migrants and
refugees find themselves outside their states of origin, they are often capable of autonomous
actions—they might move in different directions and do so in smaller or larger numbers than
challengers desire. When this happens, outflows can become more like unguided missiles than
smart bombs, making coercing particular targets more difficult.
Third, as Thomas Schelling has argued, “the ideal compellent action would be one that, once
initiated, causes minimal harm if compliance is forthcoming and great harm if compliance is not
forthcoming.”[26] Nevertheless, although migration and refugee movements, once initiated, can
be stopped, under certain conditions they can be difficult to undo. As such, threats of further
escalation can be quite persuasive, but promises of minimal harm in the face of compliance can
be difficult to keep, thereby potentially reducing the value of concession for targets. Indeed,
evidence suggests that both China and South Korea viewed concession to the activists trying to
compel them to embrace and admit North Korean migrants as likely to stimulate greater future
harm by encouraging more individuals to follow in their footsteps. Not surprisingly, coercion in
this case failed.[27]
Fourth, the potential for blowback can be great and the intended consequences quite costly. For
instance, not only did the U.S.-instigated mass migration of North Vietnamese southward
following the First Indochina War fail to achieve its stated objective of deterring Ho Chi Minh
from pushing for reunification elections, but it also inadvertently further weakened the sitting
regime in South Vietnam while simultaneously increasing the U.S. commitment to propping it
up.[28] And although Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire benefited significantly from the concessions he
was granted in exchange for his agreement to host Rwandan refugees in the mid-1990s, the
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 123     Strategic Insights

decision to allow said refugees to use the camps as bases to launch attacks back across the border
provoked enough ire within Rwanda that its government helped engineer his ouster.[29]
Nevertheless, given its apparent success rate of 57-73 percent, for highly committed actors with
few other options coercive engineered migration can still appear to be a strategy worth pursuing.
This is particularly true for challengers seeking to influence the behavior of potentially
vulnerable targets disinclined to accede to their demands under normal circumstances—powerful
advanced liberal democracies. From the perspective of traditional international relations theory,
this in and of itself represents something of a puzzle. Weak actors should only rarely challenge
more powerful ones. So what makes the world’s most powerful democracies such attractive
marks? Why should they—particularly, the United States—be most often and most successfully
targeted? And, more generally, how and why does using human beings as coercive weapons ever
How, When, and Why Does It Succeed and Fail?
Coercers typically employ a variety of overlapping mechanisms when trying to manipulate the
decision making of their targets, including the following five most common mechanisms: (1)
power-base erosion—threatening a regime’s relationship with its core supporters; (2) unrest—
creating popular dissatisfaction with a regime; (3) decapitation—jeopardizing the regime
leadership’s personal security; (4) weakening—debilitating a country as a whole; and (5)
denial—preventing battlefield success (or political victories via military aggression).[30]
Because coercive engineered migration relies on nonmilitary means of persuasion, the
mechanisms of decapitation and denial are for all intents and purposes off the table. But such is
not the case for power-base erosion, unrest, and weakening. Each of these mechanisms relies to
varying degrees on affecting the behavior of a target’s leadership by manipulating the opinions
and attitudes of its civilian population. The success of each in turn is predicated on the effective
manipulation of the costs or risks imposed on that same population. In other words, operationally
speaking, these three mechanisms rely on what are commonly known as coercion by punishment
strategies. Challengers aim to create domestic conflict or public dissatisfaction within a target
state in an attempt to convince its leadership to concede to the demands of the challenger rather
than incur the anticipated (domestic and/or international) political costs of resistance. In short,
challengers try to inflict costs on the population that are higher than the stakes in dispute.[31]
There are two distinct, but non-mutually exclusive, pathways by which migration-driven
coercion can be effected using punishment strategies; loosely speaking, they might be thought of
as “capacity swamping” and “political agitating.” Simply put, capacity swamping focuses on
manipulating the ability of targets to accept/accommodate/assimilate a given group of migrants
or refugees, whereas political agitating focuses on the manipulating the willingness of targets to
do so. In both swamping and agitating, coercion is effectively a dynamic two-level game, in
which the responses of the target on the international level to threats issued or actions taken by
challenger tend to be driven by simultaneous (or subsequent) actions taken by actors within the
target state.[32]
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 124     Strategic Insights

Thus, as Daniel Byman and Matthew Waxman suggest, “although there is obvious analytic
appeal to treating coercion as singular and discrete events that follow a straightforward, linear
logic,” coercive engineered migration is more appropriately viewed as “series of moves and
countermoves in which each side acts not only based on and in anticipation of the other side’s
moves, but also based on other changes” in the prevailing environment.[33] Somewhat
paradoxically, evidence suggests the objective dangers posed to targets tend to be greater in the
case of swamping but that the probability of coercive success tends to be greater in the case of
In the developing world, coercive attempts most often focus on swamping and comprise threats
to severely tax or overwhelm a target’s physical and/or economic capacity to cope with an
influx—thereby effectively debilitating it—if it fails to concede to the coercer’s demands.[34] As
previously suggested, although weakening is the primary coercive mechanism in play, such cases
often also rely to some degree on the mechanisms of power-base erosion and/or general unrest.
In locations where ethnic tensions may already be elevated, where the extension of central
government control may be compromised even at the best of times, and where essential
resources are limited and consensus on the legitimacy of the political regime is shaky at best, a
large influx can present a real and persuasive threat.[35] Such was the case in late 1990, for
instance, when Saudi Arabia expelled over 650,000 Yemenis in an attempt to compel the
government of Yemen to rethink its “Saddam Hussein-friendly position” and policies in the lead-
up to (and during) the First Gulf War.[36] Because Yemeni citizens were highly dependent on
remittances from guestworkers employed in Saudi Arabia, the Saudis believed the expulsions
would engender sufficient dissatisfaction within the Yemeni population to impel them to
pressure their government to shift allegiance.[37]
Capacity swamping can also be an effective strategy in the West. This is particularly true if the
incipient crisis is large and sudden, because even highly industrialized states need time to gear up
to effectively deal with disasters, be they natural or manufactured.[38] That said, advanced
industrial societies tend to have greater resources to bring to bear in a crisis, making threats to
fundamentally overwhelm their physical ability to cope harder—although far from impossible—
to accomplish. Furthermore, whereas in most cases migration-driven coercion consists of threats
to initiate an outflow unless the coercer is assuaged, in the developed world threats not to allow
people to leave may also be successfully employed. Under such conditions, however, capacity
swamping is obviously a moot point.[39]
In the developed world, therefore, political agitating often supplants capacity swamping as the
lynchpin of this kind of coercion. Specifically, challengers on the international level seek to
influence target behavior on the domestic level by engaging in a kind of norms-enhanced
political blackmail that relies on exploiting and exacerbating what Robert Putnam has called the
“heterogeneity” of political and social interests within polities.[40] Exploitation of heterogeneity
within Western states is possible because population influxes, such as those created in migration
and refugee crises, tend to engender diverse and highly divisive responses within the societies
expected to bear the brunt of their consequences. As Marc Rosenblum puts it: “efforts to bend
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 125     Strategic Insights

immigration policy to the national interest compete with pluralistic policy demands originating at
the party, sub-national (local and state), and sector- or class-specific levels.”[41] Like
immigration and refugee policy more generally, real and threatened migration crises tend to split
societies into (at least) two mutually antagonistic and often highly mobilized groups: the pro-
refugee/migrant camp and anti-refugee/migrant camp. What it means to be pro- or anti-
refugee/migrant varies depending on the target and the crisis. Pro-refugee/migrant camps may
call for relatively limited, short-term responses, such as accepting financial responsibility for
settling the migrant or refugee group in a third country, or far more significant (even permanent)
commitments, such as offering the group asylum or citizenship. On the other side, anti-
refugee/migrant groups may demand that requests for financial assistance be rejected or, more
radically, that migrants be interdicted, refugees be refused asylum or, in extreme cases, forcibly
repatriated. The bottom line is that, because targets cannot simultaneous satisfy demands both to
accept and reject a given group of migrants or refugees, leaders facing highly mobilized and
highly polarized interests can find themselves on the horns of a real dilemma—whereby it may
be impossible to satisfy the demands of one camp without alienating the other.
Thus, it is not heterogeneity per se that make targets vulnerable. Instead, the crux of agitation-
based coercion rests on the fact that pro- and anti-camps tend to have mutually incompatible
interests—which both camps are highly committed to defending—while at the same time target
leaderships may have compelling political, legal, and moral reasons to avoid running afoul of
either camp. Under such conditions, leaders may face strong domestic-level incentives to
concede to coercers’ international-level demands. This is particularly true in those cases when
concession is likely to make a real or threatened migration crisis cease or disappear, thereby
freeing the besieged leader from the proverbial trap between a rock and a hard place.
The existence of this two-level dynamic, and the potential vulnerability to which it can give rise,
is to a certain extent not particularly surprising. Despite rhetorical pronouncements to the
contrary, most Western liberal democracies have long had schizophrenic relationships with
migrants and refugees. For instance, as Rogers Smith has noted, aside the liberal tradition of the
United States and its self-identification as a “nation of immigrants,” there has been an illiberal
tradition of “ascriptive Americanism” that envisions an ethnic core of Protestant Anglo-Saxons
that must be protected from “external dilution.”[42] In other words, the American “romance with
the Statue of Liberty has always been a hot and cold affair.”[42]
The situation is not markedly different in either Europe or Asia. Germany, for example, is
officially a no-immigration country. Nevertheless, anti-immigration rhetoric has long “been
counteracted by extensive rights and protections for foreigners granted by the legal system, . . .
[which] tames sovereign state power with a catalogue of universal human rights.”[44] Likewise,
although less than 2 percent of the Japanese population is made up of foreigners—none of whom
are Japanese citizens—the idea of a monoethnic Japan is somewhat farcical given that many
Japanese, including the emperor, have Korean roots.[45] Nor is this Janus-faced attitude a new
phenomenon. For example, as the authors of Refugees in an Age of Genocide note, “Of all the
groups in the 20th century, refugees from Nazism are now widely and popularly perceived as
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 126     Strategic Insights

‘genuine’, but at the time German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews were treated with
ambivalence and outright hostility as well as sympathy.”[46]
Moreover, although there are significant legal and normative distinctions that can be drawn
between refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, “Just as in spring 1940, when German Jews
were interned on the Isle of Man, British newspapers blurred the distinctions between refugee,
alien and enemy, so today, according to Alasdair Mackenzie, coordinator of [UK] Asylum Aid,
‘There’s general confusion in many newspapers between an asylum seeker and someone from
abroad—everyone gets tarred with the same brush.’”[47] In point of fact, the burden borne by
Western liberal democracies represents but a small share of the world’s total displaced
population, yet flows into the West are considered disproportionately threatening relative to their
size.[48] Within these states, pundits, politicians, and even some policymakers argue that
migrants who are from different religious, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds than the majority in
their newly adopted homelands are a danger to societal security. Popular discourses that draw on
traditional nationalistic sentiments and xenophobic assertions, such as Samuel Huntington’s
Clash of Civilizations and Who Are We? and Robert Kaplan’s “The Coming Anarchy,” assert
that current waves of migrants and refugees reduce national living standards by siphoning away
social resources from “real” citizens, taking employment away from more qualified applicants,
bringing tensions from their home state with them, and committing a disproportionate amount of
Resistors and Restrictionists
Consequently, although most Western states are normatively, if not legally, bound to offer refuge
and protection for those fleeing persecution, violence, and, in some cases, privation, at least
some segment of most target states’ populations is usually unwilling to bear the real or perceived
domestic economic and social costs and security risks of doing so. This resistance offers coercers
a potential wedge through which they can inflict pain that can endanger a leader’s relationship
with his or her core supporters or even stimulate general unrest within a target state. Indeed, in
contrast to most foreign policy issues, refugees and immigration have engaged Western publics
like few others, especially in regions that have been host to the largest numbers of illegal
migrants and asylum seekers.[50]
In one 2004 survey, 52 percent of Americans polled claimed that the present level of
immigration represented a “critical threat to the vital interests of the United States,” and 76
percent favored “restricting immigration as a means of combating terrorism.”[51] In a separate
2008 survey, 61 percent said that “controlling and reducing illegal immigration” should be a very
important U.S. foreign policy goal, a larger percentage than believed “maintaining superior
military power worldwide” was similarly critical (57 percent).[52] The situation is analogous in
Western Europe, where an EU-wide survey uncovered a disturbing level of racism and
xenophobia within its member states, with nearly 33 percent of those interviewed openly
describing themselves as “quite racist” or “very racist.”[53] More than 71 percent of those
interviewed claimed, “There was a limit to the number of people of other races, religions, or
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 127     Strategic Insights

cultures that a society can accept,” and 65 percent of interviewees said that this limit had already
been reached in their country.[54] In 2007, Europeans ranked immigration behind only fighting
crime as the most important policy issue facing the EU in coming years.[55] Even the
historically welcoming Swedes and Dutch have grown more restrictionist. In one 2003 poll, for
example, 50 percent of Swedes polled said they were opposed to accepting large numbers of
refugees, up from 44 percent in 2001; only 25 percent favored acceptance.[56]
By 2007, a majority said they favored tighter restrictions on immigration as well.[57] In the
Netherlands, 48 percent of the country’s immigrants believe there are too many migrants in the
country, an opinion shared by 65 percent of native Dutch.[58] These sentiments are echoed
throughout much of Asia. A 2007 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that 89 percent of
Indonesians and Malaysians, 84 percent of Indians, 77 percent of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis,
and 52 percent of Chinese agreed with the statement, “We should further restrict and control
immigration.”[59] Likewise, despite being the subject of repeated rounds of domestic and
international opprobrium because of his government’s treatment of would-be asylum seekers,
Australian (Liberal Party) Prime Minister John Howard handily won reelection in fall 2004.
Howard was eventually voted out of office in fall 2007, but few ascribe this loss to his tough
stance on refugees and migrants.[60] In neighboring New Zealand, the (Labor Party) prime
minister was able to retain power in October 2005 only after agreeing to name a politician who
was openly hostile to refugees and migrants to the position of foreign minister.[61]
As Oliver Cromwell Cox sums it up, the “true democratic principle” is that the people “‘shall not
be made to do what [they do] not like.’ . . . It is only necessary that the dominant group believes
in the menace of the cultural tenets and practices of the other group; whether or not they are
actually harmful or not is not the crucial circumstance.”[62] Thus, whether refugees and migrants
represent a real threat is beside the point; if they are perceived as fundamentally threatening to
their security, culture, or livelihood, anxious and motivated individuals and groups will mobilize
to oppose their acceptance.[62]
Depending on the location, composition, and magnitude of any given mass migration as well as,
to a limited extent, the stage of the business cycle, the size and nature of the objecting group(s)
will change. In general, the most vociferous opposition tends to follow an Olsonian logic—that
is, groups that feel threatened by the (anticipated) magnitude, speed, or endurance of an inflow
and anticipate having to bear concentrated costs associated with said inflow will be strongly
motivated to raise vocal objections to accepting, assimilating, or simply shouldering the burdens
associated with the migrants or refugees.[64] In contrast to those anticipating more diffuse costs,
such individuals and groups will have intensely held interests and strong incentives to mobilize
against the refugees or migrants in question. Directly affected populations are frequently joined
by nationalistic groups that favor restrictive immigration policies more generally. They tend to
represent segments of society that expect to lose some of their social, cultural or political
dominance to the group in question. Sometimes, however, these actors are simply political
entrepreneurs, trying to cash in on public hostility to immigrants (and thereby derive some
personal benefit from opposing their admittance). Indeed, such groups have grown large and
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 128     Strategic Insights

powerful enough within the European Union that they have created a formal caucus, which
offers both more political clout and eligibility for EU funding.[65]
Whatever the complexion of the anti-refugee/migrant camp in a given crisis, if rejectionists
mobilize against the group in question, pressure is likely to grow for the target’s leadership to
rebuff the group, close the state’s border(s), engage in interdiction and repatriation, or even
undertake military action to forestall or stop the outflow at its source. Therefore, ceteris paribus,
as mobilization increases, so will pressure on the target leadership to take steps to reject or resist
accepting responsibility for the relevant migrants or refugees.
That said, although leader(s) within target states may experience moral qualms about adopting
rejectionist responses, such responses need pose no significant political problems for said
leader(s) if the majority of its population concurs with them.[66] No significant unrest will result,
and the leadership’s support base will remain intact. Tragically, such was the case for European
Jews trying to escape the Nazis by fleeing to the United States during the early part of World
War II. Most would-be émigrés were rejected, and for a long time, few Americans objected.[67]
Protectors and Promoters
However, states hostile to migrants or refugees generally do not operate in a vacuum—nor do
their leaderships. More commonly in societies marked by heterogeneous and competing
interests, while the members of anti-refugee/migrant camps are lobbying for rejection, other
equally motivated pro-refugee/migrant groups concomitantly labor to ensure that targets cannot
eschew their normative and legal obligations to those seeking refuge from violence, persecution,
or privation. As is true of their restrictionist counterparts, the composition, strength, and
visibility of pro-refugee/-migrant camps varies from crisis to crisis depending on the race and
ethnicity of the refugees/migrants in question and the expected material and/or psychic benefits
to be derived from supporting them.[68] Pro-camps tend to be smaller than anti-camps, however,
their members also tend to be extremely vocal, publicly savvy, and rhetorically skillful actors
such as lawyers and activists. Given their cohesion, focus, and intensely held preferences, pro-
refugee/migrant camps may thus make up in political efficacy what they lack in numbers.
More importantly, the relative strength of pro-refugee/migrant camps tends to be bolstered by
their members’ connections with a variety of domestic and international NGOs and advocacy
groups, whose raison d’etre is the protection and expansion of human rights generally and of
migrant and refugee rights more specifically. Since the end of World War II, both refugee
advocacy and human rights groups have increasingly joined hands with philanthropic
organizations, concerned individuals, churches, concerned ethnic lobbies, and others to create
transnational human rights networks that span the globe. As the Irish rock star and activist Bono
has observed, “The administration isn’t afraid of rock stars and activists—they are used to us.
But they are nervous of soccer moms and church folk. Now when soccer moms and church folk
start hanging around with rock stars and activists, then they really start paying attention.”[69]
Although these networks have been growing in strength since the signing of the 1948 Universal
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 129     Strategic Insights

Declaration on Human Rights, they really began to blossom after 1961—with the founding of
Amnesty International—and to proliferate, diversify, and grow in robustness after 1970.[70]
Indeed, the number of human rights-related NGOs doubled between 1973 and 1983, and many of
these organizations have been growing in size and efficacy ever since, in no small part due to an
enhanced ability to identify causes with “well-institutionalized international norms.”[71]
These networks and their allies—members of the media, academia, legislature, and ethnic and
political interest groups—rely on two factors in particular to exercise domestic influence over
leaders in support of international norms.[72] The first is leaders’ desires to remain popular,
either due to short-term electoral considerations or because of longer-term concerns about how
they will appear in the context of history. The second is policy legitimacy.[73] Policies that
prescribe strategies or tactics that violate norms can threaten policy legitimacy and thereby
severely limit support for those policies in the legislature or parliament, in the media, or in the
public at large.[74] Although the nature and scope of migration-related legal and normative
commitments vary across states, generally speaking the human rights regime has put two major
limits on state discretion as it pertains to policy legitimacy: the right of asylum and the principle
of racial nondiscrimination, both of which have matured into customary international law that is
binding on states.[75]
The most broadly recognized manifestations of these norms can be found in the 1948 Human
Rights Declaration, the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees, and the 1967 Protocol
Relating to the Status of Refugees.[76] As legal scholar David Martin put it, “Before the
development of these international instruments, opponents of a government practice might have
been able to argue only that the measure was a bad idea. Since the adoption of such statements,
those opponents are often able to wield a more powerful weapon in the debate, for they may then
claim the government practice is not merely bad policy but rather violates international law.”[77]
The need for legitimacy, particularly when coupled with a desire to remain popular or get
reelected, can create a conduit from norms to norms-adherent behavior. [78]
As mobilization within a pro-refugee/migrant camp grows, targets will be placed under greater
pressure to admit, assimilate, or simply accept responsibility for a given group of refugees or
migrants. To be clear, as is true of the converse situation, if a particular group is relatively
popular or viewed as innocuous—such as was the case during the first exodus of Cubans to the
United States soon after Castro took power in 1959—such pressure may prove unproblematic for
a potential target.[79] Public opinion may remain generally favorable, making admitting,
assimilating, or simply assuming the financial burden for a particular group of migrants or
refugees relatively costless. Domestic unrest will not be a significant issue, nor will the target’s
power base be threatened.
When Rejection Collides with Protection, Vulnerability Results
But in societies marked by disparate and competing interests and unevenly distributed costs and
benefits—material, psychic, or both—associated with mass migrations, situations in which only
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 130     Strategic Insights

one (either the pro- or anti-) camp mobilizes in the face of a crisis will tend to be the exception
rather than the rule. This is especially true because of the existence of concomitant splits between
elites and the general public. In fact, recent polls suggest that there is no other foreign policy-
related issue, including controversial issues such as globalization and the importance of the UN,
on which the U.S. public and its elites disagree more profoundly. For example, one Chicago
Council on Foreign Relations poll found that 59 percent of the U.S. public identified reducing
illegal immigration as a “very important” foreign policy goal, compared with only 21 percent of
those in the elite.[80] Thus, in the face of an incipient or ongoing crisis, targets will often find
themselves facing highly polarized factions with mutually incompatible interests and, thus,
facing a fundamental political dilemma.
Challengers who engage in this kind of coercion recognize the existence of these political
conundrums and purposefully aim to exploit them for their own political ends; again, this is the
crux of the political agitating strategy. In summer 1994, for instance, boats were “being prepared
in nearly every village along the southern coast of Haiti” in an explicit attempt to “put more
pressure on the US to hasten the return of Aristide.” As one villager noted at the time: “We
cannot get arms to fight. . . . The only way to fight is to get the Americans to keep their promises.
The only way to do that is to do what they fear most [have us come to America]” (author’s
emphasis).[81] Likewise, when East German officials quipped in the mid-1980s that their West
German counterparts “claim they have a liberal society over there. [We will] let them prove it!,”
they fully anticipated that loosing South Asian asylum seekers on West Germany would cause
widespread discontent and persuade the previously reluctant West German government to
concede to their demands.[82] And they were right.[83]
In fact, would-be coercers often do more than simply exploit extant heterogeneity within target
states. They may also aim to increase target vulnerability over time by acting in ways designed to
directly or indirectly catalyze greater mobilization, heighten the degree of polarization between
groups, and thereby reduce the available policy options open to targets. They may do so by
increasing the size, scale, and scope of an existing outflow, shifting its character (e.g., by adding
more members of either “undesirable” or particularly sympathetic groups), making escalatory
threats, or simply directly lobbying members of pro- and anti- refugee/migrant camps.
In short, challengers aim to influence targets by what is, in traditional coercion, known as force
majeure, a choice dictated by overwhelming circumstances. Targets, of course, always have a
choice, but one that is skewed if they believe the consequences of non-compliance will be a
denial of future choice.[84] Thus, coercers seek to narrow a target’s set of domestic policy
responses to an outflow—in game theory terms, to narrow the target’s win set—such that
concession to their demands begins to appear more attractive, at least as compared to the
possibility that the future will hold fewer, still less auspicious choices.[85] This is simply
because, with fewer policy options available, the target’s capacity to reconcile internal political
conflicts and satisfy competing domestic interests becomes far more circumscribed.[86] As
Andrew Mack puts it, costs may “steadily escalate without the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’
becoming more visible. . . . [In which case], the divisions generated within the metropolis
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 131     Strategic Insights

become in themselves one of the political costs for the leadership. . . . Any attempt to resolve one
contradiction will magnify the other.”[87] This can create a particularly nettlesome dilemma for
a target’s leadership, as well as significantly narrow its room for maneuver.[88] Under such
conditions, concession—to avoid general unrest, to avoid powerbase erosion, or to simply make
a crisis disappear—can become increasingly appealing, which is of course exactly the coercer’s
intent. This is not to suggest that concession in such cases is cost-free, only that in the face of a
threatened or mounting crisis the anticipation of future pain and mounting costs has to be
weighted against the costs and opportunities associated with ending the crisis now, by conceding
to the challenger’s demands.
Predicting and Measuring Coercive Success and Failure
Consequently, targets will be most vulnerable not when their publics and/or elites are unified but
rather when there is broad and intense disagreement about the way in which a target should
respond to an incipient or ongoing migration crisis. Again, in Olsonian terms, targets will be
most vulnerable when a crisis is widely expected to engender both concentrated costs (CC) and
concentrated benefits (CB)—albeit by different segments of society—leading to high levels of
mobilization both by those in favor of the refugee/migrant group and those opposed to the same
group (Figure 1, Quadrant 4).[89] Conversely, in cases in which a crisis is anticipated to
produce low or diffuse costs (DC) and only diffuse benefits (DB)—and, consequently, neither
camp is mobilized and opinion is less polarized—targets will be least vulnerable, and coercion
will be least likely to succeed (Quadrant 2). Indeed, in most such cases, coercion is unlikely
even to be attempted. In cases in which only the pro-refugee/migrant camp is highly mobilized
(Quadrant 1: DC, CB), target vulnerability will be relatively low because assimilating or
accepting the group in question should be relatively easy. Likewise, in cases in which only the
anti-refugee/migrant camp is mobilized (Quadrant 3: CC, DB), targets should also be relatively
less vulnerable because the options of interdiction, border closure, or simple rejection should be
easier to implement. That said, vulnerability in Quadrants 1 and 3 will be greater than in
Quadrant 2 because, from those starting points, only one camp’s expectations about the relative
size and distribution of costs and benefits needs to shift upward to move the potentially target
into Quadrant 4 (CC, CB).[90]
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 132     Strategic Insights

Figure I: Vulnerability to Coercion
Intensity of
Quadrant 1 Quadrant 4
Vulnerable Somewhat
Quadrant 2
Quadrant 3
Intensity of Anti-Camp Interest(s)
The Force Multiplier of Hypocrisy Costs
A factor that can further enhance challengers’ probability of coercive success is target
susceptibility to a special class of political reputational (or audience) costs that I call hypocrisy
costs. Political hypocrisy entails the exaggeration by political actors of their state’s commitment
to morality.[91] As I define them, therefore, hypocrisy costs are “symbolic political costs that
can be imposed when there exists a real (or perceived) disparity between a professed
commitment to liberal values and/or international norms, and demonstrated state actions that
contravene such a commitment.” Hypocrisy costs are operationalized in a manner akin to what
human rights network advocates call “accountability politics,” which is to say “once a
government has publicly committed itself to a principle. . . networks can use those positions, and
their command of information, to expose the distance between discourse and practice. This is
embarrassing to many governments, which may try to save face by closing that distance” or by
making the gap disappear altogether by ending the crisis through concession.[92]
Political scientists and international legal scholars have traditionally focused on the normatively
positive potential consequences of accountability politics.[93] But hypocrisy-exposing gaps
between word and deed can equally well be exploited by actors driven by less benevolent
motivations; in fact, the creation of such gaps can even be purposefully instigated or catalyzed by
self-serving actors. In the context of this kind of unconventional coercion specifically, having
failed to achieve their objectives through traditional channels of influence, challengers may
resort to the creation or exploitation of refugee or migration crises. The existence of said crises
may encourage targets to behave in norms-violating ways as they attempt to avoid bearing the
burdens and incurring costs associated with running afoul of anti-refugee/migrant groups within
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 133     Strategic Insights

their societies.
Then, if normative violations do in fact follow, hypocrisy costs can be imposed by domestic and
international pro-refugee/migrant groups seeking to protect those under threat, or even by
challengers themselves. For instance, in the middle of the aforementioned attempt by East
Germany to coerce West Germany in the mid-1980s, an observer on the western side
acknowledged, “As West Germans become angry and start to say rude things about all these
black and brown abusers of the right of asylum, it enables West Germany to be depicted as
‘racialist’”—and in violation of its own constitution.[94] Such charges, particularly when
coupled with the threat of future and escalating costs, can make concession more attractive,
which again is precisely the intent![95]
In other words, would-be coercers can effectively engage—with the (often unintentional)
assistance of the pro-refugee/migrant camp—in a kind of norms-aided entrapment, whereby
humanitarian norms are used as coercive cudgels by actors with selfish, self-serving motives as
well as those with more altruistic aims, often simultaneously.[96] One might usefully conceive
of this mechanism as a perverse manifestation of what Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink call a
boomerang pattern—but one that operates in reverse of the normatively positive mechanism
Keck and Sikkink describe. Instead of costs being imposed by norms-adherent actors on those
who routinely violate them, in the case of coercive engineered migration, norms-violating actors
seek to impose costs on those who left to their own devices generally aim to adhere to them.[97]
The susceptibility of targets to hypocrisy costs can also be self-inflicted. But why would leaders
make rhetorical commitments that could come back to haunt them? One reason is to expand their
political options at home. Actors may hope their words will generate votes or offer them other
political advantages during a campaign or at some other moment. To quote Michael Ignatieff,
academic, activist, and Canadian Liberal Party politician, in the midst of his own attempt to
impose hypocrisy costs on the British government:
That is exactly what makes this cooked up indignation about bogus asylum-seekers so
absurdly hypocritical. For after manfully attempting to whip up xenophobia against the alien
horde of liars and cheats at our gates, both the Daily Mail and the Home Secretary piously
profess their attachment to our “liberal traditions” in relation to right of asylum. Come off it.
Liberalism means something. It commits you to protecting the rights of asylum-seekers to a
hearing, legal counsel and a right of appeal. Either you treat asylum-seekers as rights-bearing
subjects, or as an alien horde. You can’t have it both ways. When British liberal tradition has
[Home Secretary Kenneth] Baker and the Daily Mail as its friends, it needs no enemies.[98]
As Ignatieff’s invective suggests, potential targets can make themselves vulnerable by declaring
certain groups of (actual or potential) migrants “victims” who are worthy of protection or
refuge—for instance, by referring to members of a particular group as refugees whether or not
they would appear to fit the legal definition—but then failing to uphold the normative and legal
commitments such a normatively exalted designation engenders.[99]
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 134     Strategic Insights

Such norms-enhanced designations may be applied to a broad group for ideological reasons, as
was the case when Western leaders promised to welcome all those “fleeing with their feet” from
communism during the Cold War, all the while hoping few would come. According to Cheryl
Benard, these states very much wanted to “contrast favorably with the communist countries” and
to “present life in the West in the best possible light.” On the other hand, they did “not want to
encourage more refugees to come” because they “would never be genuinely welcomed.”[100] In
trying to have it both ways, Western countries routinely placed themselves in rhetorical and
normative binds.
These tendencies did not die with the end of the Cold War. Aspiring and incumbent political
leaders sometimes also apply normatively privileged designations more narrowly to particular
ethnic, religious, or national groups.[101] They may do so to broaden their popularity with new
segments of their electorates, to shore up their traditional power bases, or—in the midst of active
electoral competitions—to draw distinctions between themselves and their competitors,
distinctions for which they may be later held to account.
Sometimes actors employ migration-related, normatively enhanced rhetoric with the aim of
obtaining not just domestic but also international approval and praise—which may be of value in
and of itself, especially for actors concerned about their status and reputation. For example, the
1997 Italian decision to launch Operation Alba was driven not solely by Albanian President Sali
Berisha’s promise that the flow of Albanians across the Adriatic would end if Italy delivered aid
and military assistance, but also by the Italian imperative “to take into account both Italian
popular opinion regarding Albanians,” [which was, to put it mildly, not positive][102] and
“Italy’s aspirations in joining the EMU.” At the time, Romano Prodi’s government justified the
intervention “in terms of how the Europeans would see them” and “the impression on Europe
that its politics would make.”[103]
Even if individual politicians have not personally made rhetorically problematic statements, they
may nevertheless find themselves vulnerable to hypocrisy costs based on the actions (or
historical positions) of their predecessors and, in particular, as a result of long-standing national
commitments to a specific group or groups. (The U.S.’s relationship with Cubans is but one
obvious example.) As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has quipped, “standards solemnly declared, even if
unobserved, live on to supply ammunition to those who thereafter demand observance.”[104]
Whether leaders resort to the use of normatively exalted rhetoric for instrumental reasons or
actually espouse the values they articulate is immaterial. In either case, leaders who employ such
rhetoric may set the stage for having to make good on those rhetorical claims or face the political
costs of failing to do so, if their actions fail to comport with their articulated commitments.[105]
Norms need not even be what Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink call “socialized” to be
effective cudgels; they need only be recognized as being important to a segment of society that
can inflict costly punishment on the target.[106] Hence, to the extent that politically costly
charges of hypocrisy can be leveled against a target, its vulnerability to coercion will
increase.[107] That said, hypocrisy costs are not a necessary condition; polarized and mobilized
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 135     Strategic Insights

interests can be independently sufficient to persuade leaders to concede. Neither is the imposition
of hypocrisy costs a guarantee of coercive success.[108] Nevertheless, in the face of acute
heterogeneity and high pro- and anti-camp mobilization, hypocrisy costs can serve as effective
force multipliers that enhance the vulnerability of certain leaders and certain targets to migration-
driven coercion.
Target Defenses and Evasive Actions
To be sure, coercion is not a one-sided game, and targets are not without recourse. Although, due
to their generally liberal democratic nature, the majority of targets are constrained from
responding in kind (by initiating outflows of their own), many do find ways to fight back and to
resist, sometimes successfully. Three responses in particular warrant mention. First, under
certain conditions, targets can externalize, outsource, or simply buck-pass the visible (and
politically costly) consequences of migration crises onto others, thereby skirting successful
coercion by persuading third parties to warehouse, host, or even assimilate an undesirable
group.[109] Transferring responsibility is not always an option, however, particularly if the
displaced are already inside the target state or if other potential host or asylum states themselves
fear destabilizing consequences associated with an influx.
Second, some target governments manage to navigate the political shoals represented by their
constituents’ mutually incompatible interests, by assuaging one or another camp through the use
of side-payments or by changing mobilized actors’ minds about the desirability of a given
migrant or refugee group through issue redefinition. In other words, leaders may succeed in
shifting domestic perceptions of the expected costs or benefits associated with a particular
influx.[110] Third, targets may successfully launch military action—or threaten to do so—to
forestall or stop outflows at the source. Indeed, sometimes targets even use the threat of
hypothetical outflows to justify military actions they wish to take for other reasons. In a 1982
speech before the National Governor’s Association, for instance, former U.S. Secretary of State
Alexander Haig sought to raise support for U.S. interventions in Latin America with reference to
the potential migration-generating consequences of failing to act.[111] President Ronald Reagan
used similarly inflammatory language in a speech the following year, claiming that a failure to
forestall the installation of Marxist regimes in the region could result in “a tidal wave of
refugees—and this time they’ll be feet people, not boat people—swarming into our country
seeking a safe haven from Communist repression to our south.”[112] Sometimes targets simply
convincingly threaten other actions that persuade challengers to back down or staunch an
outflow. When evasion succeeds, coercion will fail, or at least be less successful than challengers
may have hoped or anticipated.
Coercion can also fail because of miscalculations by challengers themselves. For instance,
although such cases appear to be relatively unusual, attempted migration-driven coercion may—
like strategic bombing—unify the target’s population rather than polarize it. Similarly, if a group
of migrants or refugees—previously viewed with skepticism or hostility—is effectively recast as
the victim of gross human rights abuses and worthy of protection, mobilized opposition may
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 136     Strategic Insights

evaporate and with it the possibility of successful coercion.[113] This is a key point that
reinforces the fact of the dynamic nature of this coercive, two-level game. More broadly,
whenever there are significant downward shifts in the level of mobilization of (and degree of
polarization between) pro- and anti-camps over time, coercion is likely to fail.
The ability to effect successful coercion in the migration realm is further inhibited, in part, by the
fact that relatively few of these crises ever reach the desk of target state executive(s). Instead,
most remain within Quadrant 2 (of Figure 1) and off the radar screen of the country’s executive
branch. As Morton Halperin, former National Security Council (NSC) member, has noted vis-à-
vis the U.S. context, leaders “lack the time or inclination to concern themselves with such issues.
A president might link a particular policy with a particular disaster, but the bottom line is that the
president is just too busy to focus upon anything but the larger strategic issues.”[114] Thus,
whatever its normative repercussions, a migration crisis will become an issue of executive-level
concern only when a failure to make it disappear promises to inflict tangible political costs on the
target’s leader(s)—in short, only when a crisis moves toward the danger zone of Quadrant 4.
Nevertheless, as we have now seen, migration-driven coercive attempts happen at least once a
year. Moreover, when attempted, coercive engineered migration has succeeded at least in part
almost three-quarters of the time, most often against relatively powerful, advanced liberal
democracies. In light of all we know about international politics, coupled with all the
aforementioned potential obstacles to success, why should this be the case?
Why Liberal Democracies are Particularly Vulnerable
Advanced liberal democracies are particularly susceptible to the imposition of hypocrisy costs
(and to coercive engineered migration, more generally) for two interrelated and self-reinforcing
reasons, each of which reflects a distinct conception of what are traditionally viewed as liberal
values and virtues. The first factor—a consequence of what is often referred to as normative or
embedded liberalism—is that the majority of liberal democracies have codified commitments to
human rights and refugee protection through instruments such as the 1948 Human Rights
Declaration, the 1951 Convention, and the 1967 Protocol.[115] These international conventions
and associated domestic laws not only provide a set of normative standards against which the
actions of actors can be judged but also place certain legal obligations on states to meet the
responsibilities they impose.
On the one hand, such codified commitments provide certain protections and guarantees for
those forced to leave their home countries in times of crisis and under duress. On the other hand,
however, these same safeguards constrain the ability of states to control their borders and so
afford other actors bargaining leverage over signatory states through the employment of norms-
enabled (political and legal) entrapment. As James Hampshire observes (albeit only with actors
with beneficent intentions in mind), “International law plays a role, not so much as an external
constraint upon national sovereignty . . . but as a source of liberal norms, which can be mobilized
by domestic [and international] political actors including judiciaries and nongovernmental
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 137     Strategic Insights

organizations.”[116] Simply put, norms do, as many argue, “provide incentives and disincentives
for different kinds of actions” for those who embrace them.
They also, however, provide incentives and disincentives for exploitation of these same norms—
sometimes with the indirect assistance of well-meaning activists and jurists.[117] Hence, as the
adoption and codification of relevant norms grows, and the extent to which individual rights are
constitutionally protected increases—and, by extension, what we might refer to as normative
liberalization rises—susceptibility to hypocrisy costs likewise grows, and vulnerability to
coercion concomitantly increases.
The second source of particular liberal democratic vulnerability lies in the transparent and
inherently conflictual nature of political decision making within these states. This political
liberalism manifests itself, among other ways, in a wide variety of domestic political
arrangements that provide access points for societal groups to influence governmental policy. As
I discuss further below, there is great variation in the nature and scope of these arrangements, as
well as in their level of transparency. Thus the degree to which this factor constrains the policy
options available to target leaderships facing real or threatened crises varies significantly, even
among liberal democracies. Nevertheless, politically liberal states share certain vulnerability-
enhancing tendencies in common. For one thing, not only do opposition parties in democracies
tend to have strong incentives to criticize and publicize missteps by sitting governments, but they
also face powerful political incentives to adopt positions that run counter to those embraced by
incumbents, whether or not those policies are currently viewed as problematic.[118] Thus,
opposition leaders may add the handling of an ongoing migration or refugee crisis to their list of
grievances, and the position adopted could be either in favor or opposed to the displaced. For
instance, the opposition may contend that the government is “betraying a just cause and
sabotaging the political rights” of a group of migrants or refugees or they may equally well claim
the government “has sold out to the refugees [or migrants] at the expense of the nation
Consequently, bold assertions by the leaders of target states that they can withstand the
competing, often intense domestic political pressures exerted by a migration or refugee crisis—
and thus will not ultimately concede to coercers’ demands—may ring hollow to challengers, who
can readily observe the sometimes hostile and escalatory push and pull of democratic political
battles.[120] In short, this particular (political liberalism-motivated) vulnerability arises from the
fact that liberal democracies espouse what are supposed to be absolutist principles, but cross-
cutting cleavages and the inherently conflictual nature of pluralistic politics make them anything
but absolute. As Alexis de Tocqueville long ago:
Foreign politics demand scarcely any of those qualities which are peculiar to a democracy;
they require, on the contrary, the perfect use of almost all those in which it is deficient. . . . a
democracy can only with great difficulty regulate the details of an important undertaking,
persevere in a fixed design, and work out its execution in spite of serious obstacles. It cannot
combine its measures with secrecy or await their consequences with patience.[121]
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 138     Strategic Insights

In other words, just as credibility can be a major problem for weak actors trying to convince
more powerful ones to comply with their demands, credibility can prove equally problematic for
powerful states if they are liberal democracies.
Of course, states (liberal and otherwise) do differ significantly in their capacities to shape—and
be shaped—by their societies. The structural position of a state in relation to its society can be
viewed as varying along a continuum from decentralized and constrained by societal groups to
centralized and insulated from society.
Analytically speaking, we can distinguish between “soft” (decentralized and constrained) and
“hard” (centralized and autonomous) states.[122] “Soft” states tend to be characterized by a high
number of policy inputs and actors and relatively low levels of policy autonomy. Because they
are most exposed to the vagaries of pluralism, we consequently expect the most highly
liberalized and decentralized soft states (such as the United States) to be the most vulnerable of
all.[123] Although further research is necessary to confirm the preliminary findings offered here,
the data in Table 1, which demonstrates that the United States appears to have been the single
most popular target of migration-driven coercion between 1951 and 2006, support this
In sum, codified commitments to protect human rights and pluralistic politics can interact in such a
way as to offer would-be coercers powerful bargaining leverage via exploitation of what liberal
targets rightly view as their virtues and, in effect, transform liberal democratic virtues into
international bargaining vices.[124] To reiterate, this represents the converse of traditional two-
level games logic: Whereas in traditional two-level games, domestic actors seek to convince their
international counterparts that they face significant constraints on their autonomy, in the coercive
context, they seek to convey the precisely the opposite impression. But due to the independent and
joint effects of normative and political liberalism within liberal democracies, this can prove
onerous at best.
Moving beyond Liberal Democracies
Although liberal democracies are particularly vulnerable to this unconventional brand of
coercion, they are not equally vulnerable; nor are they exclusively so. For one thing, variation
exists in levels of political and normative liberalization across liberal states. For another, many
illiberal states possess some liberal characteristics and exhibit some measure of political and
normative liberalization—sometimes more than their supposedly liberal counterparts.
We can conceptualize variation in the two sources of target vulnerability in a 2 X 2 matrix as a
function of: on one axis, variation in the degree to which the target has adopted and codified
norms that provide rights and protections for refugees and migrants, specifically, and human
rights, more generally (normative liberalism); and, on the other, the level of decision-making and
policy-making autonomy within the target state (political liberalism) (see Figure 2).[125]
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 139     Strategic Insights

Figure II: Vulnerability Across Regime
Normative Liberalization
Least Vulnerable Somewhat Vulnerable
Somewhat Vulnerable Most Vulnerable
(Hard Dictatorships)
(So ft Democracies)
Although both factors are significant, the existence of the hypocrisy cost force multiplier
suggests the degree of normative liberalism might be ultimately more influential than the degree
of policymaking autonomy (political liberalism) in determining target vulnerability ex ante. On
the other hand, politicians naturally care more about domestic politics than international
influences, so the degree of political liberalism might be expected to offer more predictive value
in terms of ultimate outcomes. In any case, as levels of normative and political liberalism rise
(and policy autonomy declines) the aggregate vulnerability of a state also rises—consequently
making “soft” liberal democracies particularly vulnerable.
Conversely, ceteris paribus, personalistic authoritarian or totalitarian governments should be
least vulnerable to this kind of coercion. By definition, such states are less politically liberalized
than their democratic counterparts. They are consequently also “harder”, more centralized, and
characterized by relatively high degrees of policy autonomy, thereby granting their leaderships
greater latitude in responding to potential migration crises. In the aggregate, illiberal,
authoritarian states tend to be less normatively liberalized than their democratic counterparts and
correspondingly subject to fewer constraints on this dimension, too. As Table 1 illustrates, few
such states appear to have been targeted, and still fewer successfully so.
That said, only rarely are all other things equal. For one thing, not all autocracies are alike. Like
democracies, they too differ in the level, degree, and scope of policy autonomy afforded to their
leaderships.[126] Moreover, few leaders, even in illiberal states, can operate for long without the
consent of at least a significant subset of their people. The size of the so-called “selectorate”—
the group of individuals formally responsible for determining the fate of the leadership of a
state—also varies across states.[127] What is key, however, is that illiberal leaders too must
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 140     Strategic Insights

answer to some subset of their constituents, so domestic discord can exercise some (albeit
weaker) effects within these states.
Moreover, in an era of increasing globalization, it is widely assumed that most states (illiberal or
otherwise) want to be a part of what is often referred to as the “international community of
states” and to reap the political and economic benefits enjoyed by its members. As Victor Cha
puts it, illiberal regimes in the post-Cold War era have no choice but to open up simply in order
to survive.[128] (Although the global economic crisis that began in 2008 may have dampened
the enthusiasm of some for the global project, the sentiment largely remains.) Thus, although
their domestic constraints are fewer, the behavior of most illiberal states is still subject to
potentially costly, external scrutiny. Non-democracies are therefore also vulnerable to the
imposition of hypocrisy costs by other states and by international and domestic political actors,
albeit rather less so than their liberal democratic counterparts.
Alternative Explanations
Might there be other explanations that can better account for or explain the decisions of targets—
liberal or otherwise— to concede or resist? Three obvious alternatives are worth considering: (1)
geographic proximity, (2) size of a (threatened) mass migration, and (3) prior target affinity or
hostility toward a particular migrant/refugee group (as manifested in part by preexisting policies
directed at relevant migrant/refugee groups).
The first two alternatives are premised on the idea that a target’s propensity to resist or concede
is predicated on its ability to stop or to absorb an influx. By extension, the smaller the distance
from the source of the outflow and/or the larger the size of the outflow, the lower the probability
that a target can independently combat or absorb the group in question, the higher the credibility
of the threat to inflict the promised punishment on the target, and thus the greater the probability
of coercive success. Although geographic proximity between the source of an outflow and the
target undoubtedly increases the vulnerability of that target, propinquity is neither a necessary
nor a sufficient condition for success. As the data in Table 2 and Table 3 illustrate, history has
been characterized by myriad non-proximate successes and by numerous proximate failures. In
short, geography has been far less important than the degree to which targets are held responsible
for, and thus are compelled to respond to, particular crises—whether for historical, domestic
constituency-driven, or geopolitical reasons. For example, given the root culpability of the
United States for what ultimately became known as the Vietnamese boatpeople crises, it twice
found itself vulnerable to coercion from afar by Hong Kong and a core group of ASEAN
member states.[129]
In terms of evaluating the second alternative explanation—real or threatened migrant outflow
size—obtaining reliable numbers on the precise size of outflows is difficult at best. Nonetheless,
it is reasonably easy to distinguish among orders of magnitude, from hundreds to millions.
Again, although larger outflows assuredly place greater stress on the carrying capacities of states
and affect their susceptibility to both swamping and agitation, the data demonstrate that overall
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 141     Strategic Insights

outcomes are not correlated with the scale of the unnatural disasters in question. For example,
both Ethiopia and Poland successfully convinced Israel and Germany, respectively, to make
concessions over groups that were small (even by per capita standards), whereas India did not
alter its behavior to comport with Pakistani desires, despite an inflow of 10 million Bengalis who
were relatively unwelcome for reasons other than pure numbers.[130]
Table 2: Examining Alternatives: (Threatened) Outflow Size and Geographical Proximity
1 Challenger(s)
West Germany
2 SVN & the US
4 Alg. insurgents
6 United States
ee Group
East Germans
E. Germans
(Principal) Target(s)
United States (US) Outcome?
Partial Success
North Vietnam
French Allies, esp.
United States
United States Failure
Soviet Union
United States
W. Europe, United
Partial Success
Partial Success
United States
India Partial Success
SR Success;
LR Failure***
United Kingdom
Western GPs, esp. US
Euro. Cmty. (EC), US
United States; China
United States
United States; Haiti
United States
Pakistan Failure
United States
W. Europe, US
United States; France
United States Success
Partial Success
East Germany
East Germany Afghans
Mostly Contras
Mixed India
West Germany
Sweden Indeterminate
28 Libya TEM guest
workers. 29
Bangladesh Viet. boatpeople
Rohingyas Tunisia, Egypt,
Western great powers,
esp. United States
Burma 9
10 Jordan
19 20
24 Uganda
NGO activists
Soviet Union
Size of the
East Pakistanis
UK passport
Large Is Target
Proximate to
Large No
Med-Large No
Large Yes
Large Yes
Medium Yes
Large Yes
No; Yes
Medium Yes
Med-Large Large Yes
Yes; and
Medium No
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 142     Strategic Insights

36 Saudi Arabia
United States
44 Albania
49 Zaire
North Korea
50 KLA
52 Macedonia I
53 Macedonia II
55 57
61 Nauru
North Korea
62 Libya
63 Chad
64 Libya
Soviet Jews
Soviet Jews
Poles; Mixed
Large Yes
Medium Yes
Large Yes; No
Large Yes
Large Mixed
Large Mixed
Large Mixed
Small No
Large Yes
Italy, EC Failure
Failure (so far)
Partial Success
Success Greece
United States
United States
UN Security Council
United States
Largely US, France and
Italy Success
Partial Success
Success NATO Success NATO, esp. G,G, I**** Failure NATO Success NATO Success Australia
EU Success
Failure North Koreans China Failure Small-Med
North Koreans
North Koreans
African South Korea
United States
EU Failure
Failure Small-Med
EU Success Darfurians
African UN Security Council Indeterminate EU Partial Success
North Koreans
* Small outflows:  15,000+/-, Medium outflows: 15,000-500,000+/- and Large outflows: 500,000 and up; **
Geographically proximate refers to those states that are directly adjacent to, or whose borders lie within several
hundred miles of, the source of the outflow; *** SR=short run, LR=long run; and **** Germany, Greece, Italy
This leaves us with the final alternative, prior affinity or hostility toward a particular
refugee/migrant group. It has been hypothesized that a prior affinity or historical (e.g., colonial)
relationship with a particular group might affect the response of a target to attempted coercion.
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 143     Strategic Insights

But in which direction? In favor of the group or against it? On the one hand, it is widely
understood that target countries in which particular immigrant communities have become well
established can have significant influence over their leaders, which would lead to enhanced
support and heightened mobilization within the pro-refugee/migrant camp.[131] And it is
certainly true that asylum burdens are strongly (positively) correlated with historical links
between countries of origin and countries of destination.[132]
Table III: Why Alternative Explanations Are Insufficient
Geographically Proximate?
No. of
(out of a
total of 56)
Y N Y N S 1 3 0 3 7
M 14 7 2 1 24
L 9 8 8 0 25
On the other hand, however, research has also shown that, historically, hostility and envy have
not been highest vis-à-vis entirely foreign groups but, rather, groups “who have some ethnic or
other affinity to that host country—such as Algerian pied noir forced to return to France in the
1960s after the war of independence, displaced Germans resettling in West Germany after World
War II, Ugandan Asians with British passports admitted to England, and Afghan Pathans moving
into ethnically-related areas of Pakistan.”[133] Thus, it could equally well be true that prior
relationships with migrant groups enhance the strength and size of the anti-refugee/migrant
Likewise, both situations—highly developed affinity in one segment of society and highly
developed hostility in another—could simultaneously obtain, making coercive success still more
likely. As Robert Art rightly noted, “previous immigration into a target state and its immigration
policies [toward that group can] play an important role, [however] that role only has significant
effects for its disruptive (as opposed to absorptive) effects for democracies.”[135] In short,
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 144     Strategic Insights

existing relationships with particular migrant/refugee groups can and often do play a measurable
role in determining outcomes, but whether those effects make coercive success more or less
probable is case-specific, rather than systematically correlated (either directly or inversely) with
the nature of the preexisting relationship or policies. More to the point, prior relationships will
indeed heighten potential effects in cases in which crises become salient to pro- or anti-camps (or
to both). However, neither the existence of previous policies nor the nature of extant
relationships is independently determinative, i.e., neither one is a necessary nor a sufficient
condition for determining outcomes.
Broader Implications and Further Applications
This proposed theory and analysis offered in this article have clear policy implications in today’s
immigration anxiety-ridden environment. Long before September 11 galvanized a new
preoccupation with border security, issues surrounding refugees and illegal migrants had
transmuted in many countries from a matter of low politics to high politics, involving a shift in
the definition of national security threats and in the practice of security policy. And while the
potential significance of this kind of coercion has been underappreciated by many migration
scholars, the same cannot necessarily be said for potential target states.[136] For example, U.S.
National Intelligence Estimates have included warnings of U.S. vulnerability to this kind of
coercion and have recommended taking steps to guard against future predation.[137] Similarly,
in 2007 Australia shut down the Pacific Solution in no small part to guard itself against future
coercive attempts by the tiny island of Nauru. Likewise, in 2003 alone the European Union
committed to spending 400 million euros to increase border security, at least in part to deter
future migration-driven coercion; and in 2006, China constructed a fence along part of its border
with North Korea to impede cross-border movements.[138] Some states have even conducted
military exercises designed to leave them better prepared to respond to potential massive influxes
across their borders.[139]
Moreover, the related political and national security implications extend far beyond the
politically charged realms of immigration, asylum, and border security policy. Indeed, it has
been suggested that the non-spontaneous “flood of refugees from East to West Germany in 1989
. . . helped to bring down the Berlin Wall, expedited the unification of the two German states,
and generated the most significant transformation in international relations since World War
II.”[140] Migration and refugee flows have likewise been identified as one of the most
significant causes of armed conflict in the post-Cold War period.[141] Since 2004 alone, we
have witnessed the consequences of coercive engineered migration in arenas as significant and
diverse as economic sanctions and arms embargoes (the EU lifted the last remaining sanctions
against Libya in exchange for assistance in staunching the flow of North Africans into western
Europe);[142] ethnic conflict, military intervention, and interstate war (between Sudan and Chad,
over refugees from Darfur); and nuclear proliferation and regime change (in that China’s fears of
a mass influx of North Koreans have tempered its posture toward, and dealings with, both North
Korea and the United States over the North Korean nuclear program).[143]
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 145     Strategic Insights

At the same time, although the analysis herein focused specifically on migration, the theory it
develops regarding the leverage weak actors can exercise through skillful exploitation of political
heterogeneity and normative inconsistencies (the instrumental use of norms) is more broadly
generalizable. Indeed, the theory may be applied to any issue area in which the rhetorical
pronouncements and/or juridical and normative commitments of actors and governments come
into conflict with their observed behavior.[144] Additional potential applications include
humanitarian intervention; wartime rules of engagement; and policies regarding sanctions,
embargoes, and other non-lethal instruments of persuasion. Furthermore, states and their
leaderships are also not the only targets of hypocrisy-based political pressure. Norms, just like
human beings, can be wielded as coercive weapons, and they can be wielded in the service of
beneficent and altruistic goals, as well as self-serving and immoral ones. While further research
is necessary to better understand how, where, and how successfully this unconventional method
of influence can be employed outside the migration realm, the significance of this kind of norms-
driven, two-level coercion should be neither underestimated nor ignored.
1. This article is drawn from Kelly M. Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced
Displacement, Coercion and Foreign Policy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs,
Cornell University Press, 2010) with our great appreciation to the author and publisher. For
further details or to purchase a copy, please visit the Weapons of Mass Migration web page on
the website of Cornell University Press:
2. In a recent volume that functions as a survey of state of the field of migration, for instance, it
was not even mentioned as a possible driver of forced migration. See Heaven Crawley,
“Refugees, Asylum-Seekers and Internally Displaced: The Politics of Forced Migration,” in The
Politics of Migration: A Survey, ed. Barbara Marshall (London: Routledge, 2006), 60-62.
Likewise, at a conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in January 2003, an internationally known
migration scholar told me, “Your theory is all very logical, very persuasive and everything; I just
don’t believe this ever happens.”
3. For a pithy discussion of traditional views on crisis initiation by weaker powers, see T. V.
Paul, Asymmetric Conflicts: War Initiation by Weaker Powers (Cambridge University Press,
1994), chaps. 1-2.
4. Because the accepted wisdom suggests this kind of coercion is rare at best, it serves as my
operative null hypothesis.
5. Because the focus is on strategically generated population movements, I have excluded from
this definition externalities-driven inflows and outflows—that is, those inadvertently generated
as a consequence of other policies (e.g., people displaced by the construction of the Three
Gorges Dam in China) or of conflict (e.g., the Belgian and French refugees who fled the German
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 146     Strategic Insights

offensive in World War I). Also excluded are migrations that result from policies of neglect (e.g.,
people fleeing the famine in Ethiopia in the early 1980s). Included, however, is strategic
repatriation. Also included is the unusual, but sometimes potent, situation in which the
movement of people into a challenger’s territory is encouraged for strategic reasons. (See the
appendix for several coercion-related examples.)
6. See Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration, Appendix for details.
7. In addition to the coercive variant, these purposeful crises can be usefully divided by the
objectives for which they are undertaken into three distinct categories: dispossessive, exportive,
and militarized engineered migrations. Dispossessive engineered migrations are those in which
the principal objective is the appropriation of the territory or property of another group or groups,
or the elimination of said group(s) as a threat to the ethnopolitical or economic dominance of
those engineering the (out-)migration—including what is commonly known as ethnic cleansing.
Exportive engineered migrations are those migrations engineered either to fortify a domestic
political position (by expelling political dissidents and other domestic adversaries) or to
discomfit or destabilize foreign government(s). Finally, militarized engineered migrations are
those conducted, usually during armed conflict, to gain military advantage against an
adversary—via the disruption or destruction of an opponent’s command and control, logistics,
or movement capabilities—or to enhance one’s own force structure, via the acquisition of
additional personnel or resources. For a detailed examination of the other categories and their
uses, see Kelly M. Greenhill, Strategic Engineered Migration as a Weapon of War,” Civil Wars
10 (2008): 6-21.
8. At the time, Asians owned most of the big businesses in Uganda.
9. Phares Mutibwa, Uganda since Independence: A Story of Unfulfilled Hopes (Trenton, N.J.:
Africa World Press, 1992); Marc Curtis, Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses
(London: Vintage Books, 2004).
10. The numbers of migrants and refugees affected by these coercive attempts have been both
large and small, ranging from several thousand to upward of 10 million. The displaced groups
exploited have comprised both coercers’ co-nationals and migrants and asylum seekers from the
other side of the globe. There have been dozens of distinct challengers and at least as many
discrete targets. However, for reasons I explore in detail below, advanced liberal democracies
appear to be particularly attractive targets; indeed, the United States has been the most popular
target of all, with its Western European liberal democratic counterparts coming in a strong
second. (See Table 2.)
11. During World War II, for instance, the Polish government-in-exile attempted to gain greater
leverage over the postwar distribution of spoils by directing people fleeing the Nazi onslaught to
England—obviously not the most direct path of escape—where they were enlisted in the Allied
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 147     Strategic Insights

war effort. See, for instance, Anita Prazmowska, “Polish Refugees as Military Potential: Policy
Objectives of the Polish Government in Exile,” in Refugees in the Age of Total War, ed. Anna C.
Bramwell (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988), 219-32. See also Michael R. Marrus, The Unwanted:
European Refugees from the First World War through the Cold War (Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 2002), 284.
12. I employ Legro’s definition of norms as “collective understandings of the proper behavior of
actors.” Jeffery Legro, “Which Norms Matter? Revisiting the ‘Failure’ of Internationalism in
World War II,” International Organization 51 (1997): 33.
13. Arthur Helton, refugee and migration expert, quoted in Barbara Crossette, “The Century of
Refugees Ends. And Continues,” New York Times, December 31, 2000.
14. David Wells Engstrom, Presidential Decision Making Adrift: The Carter Administration and
the Mariel Boatlift (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998), 189.
15. See, for instance, Joe Klein, “Why Not Kill Dictators with Kindness?” Time, March 3, 2003;
Stephen Kinzer, “Germans Remember Little Good of Honecker, and Much Evil,” New York
Times, May 31, 1994.
The irony, of course, is that the failure of a target to take past behavior into account can
materially undermine its ability to thwart or circumvent future coercion.
16. Quoted in Robin Shepherd, “Belarus Issues Threat to EU over Summit,” Times, November
14, 2002.
17. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library (LBJL), National Security Files of the Special Committee of
National Security Council, Box 11, 12, 13, Refugees Folder: “(Secret) Telegram from
Ambassador to Jordan, Burns to the Secretary of State,” (circa) July 31, 1967. As the appendix
illustrates, such cases are far from unusual. It is possible that I have by chance discovered all of
them; however, the law of probability suggests this is unlikely.
18. Quoted in George Borjas, Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 3.
19. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser (New
York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983), 407.
20. See also Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration, Chapter 1 for a discussion of coding rules.
21. See Paul K. Huth, “Deterrence and International Conflict: Empirical Findings and
Theoretical Debates,” Annual Review of Political Science 2 (1999): 25-48; Gary Clyde Hufbauer,
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 148     Strategic Insights

Jeffrey J. Schott, Kimberly Ann Elliott, and Barbara Oegg, Economic Sanctions Reconsidered,
3rd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Peterson Institute, 2008). See also the introduction, note 3.
22. See James Fearon, “Selection Effects and Deterrence,” International Interactions 28 (2000):
23. Although just such an outcome will be as a good thing if the challenger is, for instance, an
NGO trying to bring down a dictatorship, it is a highly undesirable outcome in most cases.
24. “The Construction of the Berlin Wall,” Berlin website, available at:
25. As one Yugoslav journalist put it when discussing the 1999 Yugoslavian offensive in
Kosovo: “there were differences between the police and the army. The police were in favour of
expulsions because they could steal money from people. The intelligence guys were against it
because they said it was bad for us.” Quoted in Tim Judah, Kosovo: War and Revenge (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 241-42. See also John Mueller, “The Banality of ‘Ethnic
War,’<hr>” International Security 25 (2000): 42-70.
26. Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), 89.
27. See Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration, Chapter 5 for details.
28. As one U.S. serviceman who helped transport Vietnamese south put it, “What would happen
if southern Vietnam fell? . . . Be it right or wrong, we have declared ourselves to these people
and to the world as encouraging their flight to freedom, and, participating in it. We have
therefore, morally married a long-term responsibility. Even politically, we must not lose face in
the Far East by selling these people short.” Quoted in Ronald B. Frankum Jr., Operation Passage
to Freedom: The United States Navy in Vietnam, 1954-1955 (Lubbock: Texas Tech University
Press, 2007), 207. See also Kathryn C. Statler, Replacing France: The Origins of American
Intervention in Vietnam (Lexington: Kentucky University Press, 2007), 152.
29. See Sarah Kenyon Lischer, Dangerous Sanctuaries: Refugee Camps, Civil War and the
Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005), chap. 4.
30. Byman and Waxman, Dynamics of Coercion, 50.
31. “The hope is that the government will concede or the population will revolt.” Robert A. Pape,
Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 21.
32. See Robert Putnam, “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-level Games,”
International Organization 42 (1988): 427-60; John S. Odell, “International Threats and Internal
Politics: Brazil, the European Community and the United States, 1985-1987,” in Double Edged
Diplomacy: International Bargaining and Domestic Politics, ed. Peter B. Evans, Harold K.
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 149     Strategic Insights

Jacobson, and Robert D. Putnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
33. Byman and Waxman, Dynamics of Coercion, 37-38.
34. See, for instance, Karen Jacobsen, “Factors Influencing the Policy Responses of Host
Governments to Mass Refugee Influxes,” International Migration Review 30 (1996): 655-78.
35. Cheryl Benard, “Politics and the Refugee Experience,” Political Science Quarterly 101
(1986): 623-24.
36. William Drozdiak, “UN Force Resolution Dangerous, Yemen Says; Bush Urged to Send
Envoy to Meet Iraqis,” Washington Post, November 26, 1990.
37. As one expellee reported, Saudi police asked: “Are you for or against us?’<hr>” When he
replied that he did not know much about the Gulf crisis, they said, “Go to your country and,
when you have found out which side you are on, come back and tell us.” Patrick Cockburn,
“Crisis in the Gulf: Immigrant Yemenis Incur Saudis’ Wrath,” Independent, November 24, 1990.
38. Consider, for instance, the tragically underwhelming initial U.S. response to Hurricane
39. In one such example, Israel reportedly paid $2,000 for each of the 16,000 Falashas it
evacuated from Ethiopia after the fall of Mengistu in 1991. See the Appendix, case 39, in
Weapons of Mass Migration.
40. Putnam, “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics,” 444.
41. Marc R. Rosenblum, “Immigration and U.S. National Interests,” in Immigration Policy and
Security: U.S., European and Commonwealth Perspectives, ed. Terry E. Givens, Gary P.
Freeman, and David L. Leal (London: Routledge, 2008), 15.
42. See Rogers Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in US History (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 101 and chap. 11, passim.
43. Victor H. Palmieri, former Ambassador-at-large and U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs,
quoted in Mary M. Kritz, ed., US Immigration and Refugee Policy, Global and Domestic Issues
(Toronto: D. C. Heath and Company, 1983), xi.
44. Christian Joppke, Immigration and the Nation State: The United States, Germany and Great
Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 64; see also, Hermann Kurthen, “Germany at
the Crossroads: National Identity and the Challenges of Immigration,” International Migration
Review 29 (1995); Philip Martin, “Germany: Reluctant Land of Immigration,” in Controlling
Immigration: A Global Perspective, ed. Wayne Cornelius, Philip Martin, and James Hollifield
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 189-226.
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 150     Strategic Insights

45. Doug Struck, “In Japan, U.S. Expat Fights the Yankee Way,” Washington Post, July 5, 2003.
46. Tony Kushner and Katherine Knox, Refugees in an Age of Genocide: Global, National and
Local Responses (London: Routledge, 1999), 408. See also Rosenblum, “Immigration and U.S.
National Interests,” 16-18.
47. Anne Karpf, “We’ve Been Here Before,” Guardian, June 8, 2002, Weekend Pages.
48. Mark Mazower, The Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (New York: Knopf,
1998), 346. See also Robert Mandel, “Perceived Security Threat and the Global Refugee Crisis,”
Armed Forces and Society 24 (1997): 77-103; Human Rights Watch, “Stemming the Flow:
Abuses against Migrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees,” 2006, available at:
49. Kyle Grayson and David Dewitt, “Global Demography and Foreign Policy: A Literature
Brief and Call for Research,” York Centre for International and Security Studies Working Paper
no. 24, York University, Toronto, 2003, 9. See also Samuel Huntington, The Clash of
Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996);
Huntington, Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity (New York: Simon
and Schuster, 2004); Robert Kaplan, “The Coming Anarchy,” Atlantic Monthly (February 1994).
50. Ole Holsti, Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1996), 193-94; Joppke, Immigration and the Nation State, chaps. 5-7.
51. Chicago Council on Foreign Relations “2004 Global Views Survey,” Chicago, 2004, chap. 4,
52. Chicago Council on Global Affairs, “American Attitudes on US Foreign Policy,” September
22, 2008, available at:
53. Eurobarometer, “Racism and Xenophobia in Europe,” Opinion Poll 47.1, special report no.
113, Luxembourg, December 18-19 1997,
54. Ibid., 5-6.
55. European Commission, “National Report, Executive Summary: Germany,” Standard
Eurobaromenter 68, 2007, available at:
56. Tommy Grandell, “In Sweden, A Growing Tide against Admitting More Refugees,”
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 151     Strategic Insights

Associated Press, June 13, 2003.
57. Pew Global Attitudes Project, “World Publics Welcome Global Trade—But Not
Immigration,” October 2007, available at:
58. “Even Migrants Say Netherlands Is Full,” Expatica, October 24, 2003, available at:,18,&item_id=35222.
59. Only South Koreans strongly disagreed (78 percent); Pew Global Attitudes Project, “World
Publics Welcome Global Trade.”
60. In fact, for his own part, the former prime minister views his stringent migration and refugee
policies as one of the things that made him popular and kept him in office for more than eleven
years. Personal conversation with John Howard, former prime minister of Australia, March 2008.
61. Winston Peters, the politician chosen, warned of an “immigrant invasion which would turn
New Zealand into an ‘Asian colony’<hr>” and “complained [that] Muslim extremists were being
allowed in the country.” “Peters Is NZ’s New Foreign Minister,” Sydney Morning Herald,
October 17, 2005.
62. Oliver Cromwell Cox, Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics (Garden City,
N.Y.: Doubleday, 1948), quoted in Andrew Bell-Fialkoff, Ethnic Cleansing (New York: St.
Martin’s Griffin Press, 1999), 48.
63. As Robert Jervis makes clear, what constitutes a threat lies in its perception. Even though
what Klaus Knorr termed an “anticipation of harm” may or may not be warranted, the effects of
a perception of threat may be the same. Perception and Misperception in International Politics
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 28-31, 372-78. For the definition of a threat as the
“anticipation of harm,” see Klaus Knorr ed., Historical Dimensions of National Security
Problems (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1976).
64. Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Good and the Theory of Groups
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971). See also Jeannette Money, Fences and
Neighbors: The Political Geography of Immigration Control (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
2001); Deutsche Bank Research, “Rise in Antiimmigration Sentiments in the United States,”
Frankfurt Voice Demography Special, July 30, 2002, 1-8; Peter H. Schuck, “Immigration Law
and the Problem of Community,” in Clamor at the Gates: The New American Immigration, ed.
Nathan Glazer (San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1985), 285-307.
65. Jumana Farouky, “The Many Faces of Europe,” Time, February 15, 2007.
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 152     Strategic Insights

66. Although legal challenges to such responses may be mounted.
67. Kushner and Knox, Refugees in an Age of Genocide; Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million
Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (New York: Random House, 1967), 41; Herbert Druks,
The Failure to Rescue (New York: Robert Speller and Sons, 1977), chap. 1.
68. See, for instance, Martin Baldwin-Edwards and Martin A. Schain, “The Politics of
Immigration in Western Europe: Introduction,” West European Politics 17 (1994): 1-16;
Loescher, “Refugee Movements and International Security”; Tony Smith, Foreign Attachments:
The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 2000); Joppke, Immigration and the Nation State. Joppke persuasively
demonstrates how the differing “moral obligations” of states toward particular immigrant groups
have profound and varying effects on their policies toward members of these and other groups.
69. Quoted in Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Getting Religion on AIDS,” New York Times, February 2,
70. See Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy in
International Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998), chap. 4.
71. Darren Hawkins, “Human Rights Norms and Networks in Authoritarian Chile,” in
Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks, and Norms, ed.
Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2002), 47.
72. Robert W. McElroy, Morality and American Foreign Policy (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1992).
73. See William Quandt, “The Electoral Cycle and the Conduct of Foreign Policy,” Political
Science Quarterly 101 (1986): 826-37; John H. Aldrich and John L. Sullivan, “Foreign Affairs
and Issue Voting: Do Presidential Candidates ‘Waltz before a Blind Audience?’” American
Political Science Review 83 (1989): 123-41; Alexander George, “Domestic Constraints on
Regime Change in US Foreign Policy: The Need for Policy Legitimacy,” in Change in the
International System, ed. Ole Holsti (Boulder: Westview Press, 1980), 235.
74. McElroy, Morality and American Foreign Policy, 44-45.
75. David Martin, “Effects of International Law on Migration Policy and Practice: The Uses of
Hypocrisy,” International Migration Review 23 (1989): 553-54.
76. The right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution is enshrined in Article 14 of the 1948
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of
Refugees and the 1967 Protocol define who refugees are and establish their rights in their
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 153     Strategic Insights

country of refuge. The strongest limit on state discretion is the principle of non-refoulement
(enshrined in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention), which stipulates that, save in certain limited
and exceptional cases, refugees must not be returned in any manner whatsoever to territories
where their “lives or freedom” might be endangered.
77. Martin, “Effects of International Law,” 554-55.
78. McElroy, Morality and American Foreign Policy, 45.
79. See, for instance, Silvia Pedraza, Political Disaffection in Cuba’s Revolution and Exodus
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
80. Chicago Council on Foreign Relations “2004 Global Views Survey,” chap., 49-50. See also
MORI Social Research Institute for Migration Watch UK, “British Views on Immigration,”
report, February 10, 2003, available at:
81. “Incident at Baie du Mesle,” Time, July 11, 1994.
82. Frank Johnson, “East Germans’ Refugee Ploy Upsets the West,” Times, July 26, 1986;
Rupert Cornwell, “Bonn Takes Steps to Stem Flood Of Refugees,” Financial Times, August 28,
83. “Bonn, Feeling Pressure of Voters, Is Trying to Curb Refugee Influx,” New York Times,
August 24, 1986.
84. Lawrence Freedman, “Strategic Coercion,” in Strategic Coercion: Concepts and Cases, ed.
Lawrence Freedman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 29.
85. See, for instance, Kenneth Shepsle and Barry Weingast, “Uncovered Sets and Sophisticated
Voting Outcomes with Implications for Agenda Institutions,” American Journal of Political
Science 28 (1984): 49-74.
86. See, for instance, Byman and Waxman, Dynamics of Coercion.
87. Andrew Mack, “Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars: The Politics of Asymmetric Conflict,”
World Politics 27 (1975): 187.
88. See, for instance, Judith Kelley, “Who Keeps International Commitments and Why?: The
International Criminal Court and Bilateral Non-surrender Agreements,” American Political
Science Review 101 (2007): 573-89.
89. Olson, Logic of Collective Action, chap. 1. See also (although it focuses on more long-term
policy-making processes rather than crisis responses), Gary P. Freeman, “National Models,
Policy Types, and the Politics of Immigration in Liberal Democracies,” West European Politics
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 154     Strategic Insights

29 (2006): 227-47.
90. Conversely, of course, in such cases only one camp needs to be assuaged to move the target
into the relative security of quadrant 2.
91. Suzanne Dovi, “Making the World Safe for Hypocrisy,” Polity 34 (2001): 10.
92. Keck and Sikkink, Activists beyond Borders, 24.
93. See, for instance, Martin, “Effects of International Law,” 547-78; Keck and Sikkink, Activists
beyond Borders; Frank Schimmelfennig, “The Community Trap: Norms, Rhetorical Action, and
the Eastern Enlargement of the European Union,” International Organization 55 (2001): 47-80.
94. Quoted in Johnson, “East Germans’ Ploy Upsets the West.”
95. In fact, leaders who anticipate vulnerability to claims of hypocrisy may make preemptive
concessions to forestall crises before they arise. For example, soon after taking office in 1981,
President Ronald Reagan—who had previously criticized Jimmy Carter’s handling of
uncontrolled migration from Haiti—offered concessions to Baby Doc Duvalier of Haiti to
circumvent the possibility that similar criticisms might be levied against him (see chap. 4).
96. Entrapment is traditionally defined as the act of a law enforcement agent that induces a
person to commit an offense that the person would not have, or was unlikely to have, otherwise
97. This is because, if norms-violators block redress to domestic NGOs, these organizations can
activate transnational networks, whose members then pressure their own states and (if relevant)
third-party organizations, which in turn place pressure on targets. Keck and Sikkink, Activists
beyond Borders, 13.
98. Michael Ignatieff, “Mythical Hordes in a Lurid Fantasyland,” Observer, October 13, 1991.
99. On the political significance of defining groups as legitimate or illegitimate migrants, see
Lina Newton, “‘It’s Not a Question of Being Anti-Immigration’: Categories of Deservedness in
Immigration Policy Making,” in Deserving and Entitled: Social Constructions and Public
Policy, ed. Anne L. Schneider and Helen M. Ingram (Albany: SUNY Press, 2005), esp. 147-67.
100. Benard, “Politics and the Refugee Experience,” 621.
101. See, for instance, Lina Newton, Illegal, Alien or Immigrant: The Politics of Immigration
Reform (New York: New York University Press, 2008); Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D.
Jones, Agendas and Instability in American Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 155     Strategic Insights

102. Jessika ter Wal. “Racism and Cultural Diversity in the Mass Media,” 2002, available at:
103. Ted Permutter, “The Politics of Proximity: The Italian Response to the Albanian Crisis,”
International Migration Review 32 (1998): 211, 203. See also John Morrison, The Trafficking
and Smuggling of Refugees: The Endgame of European Asylum Policy? (Geneva: UNHCR
Policy and Evaluation Unit, 2000), 31.
104. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., “Human Rights and the American Tradition,” in The American
Encounter: The United States and the Making of the Modern World, ed. James F. Hoge and
Fareed Zakaria (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 389.
105. See, for instance, Gil Loescher, “The European Community and Refugees,” International
Affairs 65 (1989): 631. Such situations are analogous to the blowback that leaders sometimes
face when they inflate the nature of security threats for the purposes of securing domestic
support. Having aroused the passions of their domestic polities, they find that backing down can
prove difficult at best. See also Brian Rathbun, Partisan Interventions: European Party Politics
and Peace Enforcement in the Balkans (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), for a compelling
set of examples of how European politicians and parties use their fellow politicians’ rhetoric
against them.
106. Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink, “The Socialization of International Human Rights
Norms into Domestic Practices: Introduction,” in The Power of Human Rights: International
Norms and Domestic Change, ed. Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp, and Kathryn Sikkink
(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999). See also Ian Hurd, “Legitimacy and
Authority in International Politics,” International Organization 53 (1999): 379-408.
107. For an argument that suggests leaders differ in their susceptibility to charges of hypocrisy,
see Vaughn P. Shannon and Jonathan W. Keller, “Leadership Style and International Norm
Violation: The Case of the Iraq War,” Foreign Policy Analysis 3 (2007): 79-104.
108. See, for instance, Human Rights Watch, Stemming the Flow, chap. 10, in which Human
Rights Watch notes, “Despite rhetoric about making the ‘extent and development’ of cooperation
on migration matters contingent on Libya’s commitment to fundamental refugee and human
rights, the EU is moving forward with Libya, particularly on migration enforcement.”
109. See, ibid. Nevertheless, as became clear in the midst of the Indochinese boatpeople crisis in
the late 1970s, attempted buck-passing can also backfire, inadvertently permitting further—and
more successful—coercion by enterprising opportunists.
110. See H. Richard Friman, “Side-Payments versus Security Cards: Domestic Bargaining
Tactics in International Economic Negotiations,” International Organization 47 (1993): 387-
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 156     Strategic Insights

409. On their specific application to the migration realm, see Marrus, Unwanted.
111. Haig asked his audience to “just think what the level might be if the radicalization of this
hemisphere continues. . . . why it would make the Cuban influx [referring to the Mariel boatlift
of 125,000 people two years before] look like child’s play.” Quoted in “Haig Fears Exiles from
Latin Areas May Flood the US,” New York Times, February 23, 1982.
112. Quoted in Teitelbaum, “Immigration, Refugees, and Policy,” 435.
113. See Friman, “Side-Payments versus Security Cards.” Of course, the converse is also true
should coercers aim to galvanize action within the pro-camp. That said, research suggests that, at
least in the U.S. context, changing the prevailing frame in policy debates is a difficult task. See,
for instance, Jeffrey M. Berry, Frank R. Baumgartner, Marie Hojnacki, David C. Kimball, and
Beth L. Leech, “Washington: The Real No-Spin Zone,” in Lobbying and Policy Change: Who
Wins, Who Loses, and Why, ed. Frank R. Baumgartner, Jeffrey M. Berry, Marie Hojnacki, David
C. Kimball, and Beth L. Leech (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), passim.
114. Morton Halperin, quoted in Joshua Rovner, “Pathologies of Intelligence-Policy Relations,”
unpublished paper (2005), 40.
115. See, for instance, James Hollifield, “Migration and International Relations: Cooperation and
Control in the European Community,” International Migration Review 26 (1992): 568-95.
116. James Hampshire, “Disembedding Liberalism?: Immigration Policies and Security in
Britain since 9/11,” in Immigration Policy and Security: US, European and Commonwealth
Perspectives, ed. Terri E. Givens, Gary P. Freeman, and David L. Leal (London: Routledge,
2009), 116-17.
117. Ward Thomas, The Ethics of Destruction: Norms and Force in International Relations
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 195. See also Jeffery Legro, “Which Norms Matter?”
118. See Kenneth A. Schultz, “Do Democratic Institutions Constrain or Inform?: Contrasting
Two Institutional Perspectives on Democracy and War,” International Organization 53 (1999):
119. Benard, “Politics and the Refugee Experience,” 624.
120. For an analogous argument, see Bernard Finel and Kristen Lord, “The Surprising Logic of
Transparency,” in Power and Conflict in the Age of Transparency, ed. Bernard Finel and Kristen
Lord (New York: Palgrave, 2000), 137-80. See also Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson,
Democracy and Disagreement (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996).
121. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, eds. and trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 157     Strategic Insights

Delba Winthrop (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 219.
122. Michael Mastanduno, David A. Lake, and John Ikenberry, “Towards a Realist Theory of
Foreign Policy,” International Studies Quarterly 33 (1989): 467-69.
123. This proposition is consistent with an argument made by Myron Weiner and Michael
Teitelbaum about variability in the abilities of states to restrict immigration. See Political
Demography, Demographic Engineering (London: Berghahn Books, 2001), 101-2.
124. Susan Peterson, Crisis Bargaining and the State: The Domestic Politics of International
Conflict (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996); Ronald Rogowski, “Institutions as
Constraints,” in Strategic Choice and International Relations, ed. David A. Lake and Robert
Powell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 125-26.
125. The proposition that the level of domestic autonomy is a key variable comports with Idean
Salehyan and Marc Rosenblum’s empirical (U.S.-focused) findings with respect to asylum
admissions. See “International Relations, Domestic Politics and Asylum Admissions in the
United States,” Policy Research Quarterly 61 (2008): 104-21.
126. Brandon J. Kinne, “Decision Making in Autocratic Regimes: A Poliheuristic Perspective,”
International Studies Perspectives 6 (2005): 114-28.
127. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith, Randolph M. Siverson, and James D. Morrow,
The Logic of Political Survival (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003).
128. Victor D. Cha, “Korea’s Place in the Axis,” Foreign Affairs 81 (2002): 79-92.
129. See, for instance, W. Courtland Robinson, Terms of Refuge: The Indochinese Exodus and
the International Response (London: Zed Books, 1998).
130. See Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration, Appendix.
131. See, for instance, Smith, Foreign Attachments.
132. Eiko Thielemann, “Towards a Common European Asylum Policy: Forced Migration,
CollectiveSecurity and Burden Sharing,” in Immigration Policy and Security: U.S., European
and Commonwealth Perspectives, ed. Terry E. Givens, Gary P. Freeman, and David L. Leal
(London: Routledge, 2008), 173.
133. Benard, “Politics and the Refugee Experience,” 622.
134. See, for instance, Noora Lori, “The Institutionalization of Un-assimilation: Second-
Generation North African Immigrants in France,” Columbia University Journal of Politics and
Society 17 (2006): 95-116.
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 158     Strategic Insights

135. Email communication with author, March 2009.
136. There have been a few noteworthy exceptions. See, for instance, Gil Loescher, “Refugee
Movements and International Security,” Adelphi Paper 268 (London, International Institute for
Strategic Studies, 1992); Michael Teitelbaum, “Immigration, Refugees, and Foreign Policy,”
International Organization 38 (1984): 429-450; Myron Weiner, The Global Migration Crisis:
Challenge to States and to Human Rights (New York: Harper Collins, 1995). Nevertheless, no
one has followed up or expanded on these important but largely atheoretical works (and others
like them published by these scholars).
137. See, for instance, National Intelligence Council, “Growing Global Migration and Its
Implications for the United States,” National Intelligence Estimate 2001-02D, March 2001,
which warns that the United States remains vulnerable to attempts by foreign governments to use
the threat of mass migration as leverage in bilateral relations or to relieve domestic pressures.
See also Central Intelligence Agency, Long-Term Global Demographic Trends: Reshaping the
Geopolitical Landscape (Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, 2001).
138. On the Pacific Solution’s demise, see Connie Levett, “Pacific Solution Cost $1 Billion,”
Sydney Morning Herald, August 25, 2007. On the European Union and Belarus, see Volker ter
Haseborg, “Radioactive Refuge: Offering Asylum in Chernobyl’s No Man’s Land,” Der Spiegel,
October 14, 2005. On the Chinese border fence and North Korea, see Norimitsu Onishi,
“Tension, Desperation: The China-North Korean Border,” New York Times, October 22, 2006.
139. James Brooke, “North Korea Lashes Out at Neighbors and US,” New York Times, August
19, 2003; personal conversations with U.S. military officials, U.S. Southern Command
(SOUTHCOM) Miami, Fla., April 2000, and MIT, Cambridge, Mass., October and November
2001; Sam Dillon, “US Tests Border Plan in Event of Mexico Crisis,” New York Times,
December 8, 1995.
140. Gil Loescher, “Refugee Movements and International Security,” Adelphi Paper 268,
(London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1992), 3.
141. Idean Salehyan and Kristian Gleditsch, “Refugees and the Spread of Civil War,”
International   Organization 60 (2006): 335-66.
142. Author’s communication with EU officials, February 2005 (in Frankfurt, Germany); and
June 2005 (at United Nations headquarters). See also Sara Hamood, “EU-Libya Cooperation on
Migration: A Raw Deal for Refugees and Migrants?” Journal of Refugee Studies 21 (2008): 19-
42; Afrol News, November 3, 2004; “Immigration: EU to Assist Libya,” AKI (Italy), June 3,
2005; and (Report from the) Third European Parliament/Libya Interparliamentary Meeting
(April 2005).
143. Moreover, the Economist reported in August 2006 that Gaddafi was likely again attempting
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010 159     Strategic Insights

to coerce the EU through the use of migrants. See “Sunk: More Boats, More Drownings—and
Suspicions about Libya’s Role,” Economist, August 24, 2006. On Darfur, see “Chad: President
Threatens to Expel Darfur Refugees as Attacks Surge in Lawless East,” IRIN, April 14, 2006.
On North Korea, see “Kim Jong Il Goes Ballistic,” Economist, July 6, 2006; Jayshree Bajoria,
“The China-North Korea Relationship,” Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder, June 18,
2008, available at:
144. See, for instance, Jeffrey Taliaferro, “A Pact with the Devil Roundtable,” H-Diplo/H-Net:
Social Sciences On-line, 2007, available at: http://www.h-
Vol. 9 (1) Spring/Summer 2010


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s