Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Political Science

First Advisor

Lai, Brian H

First Committee Member

Mitchell, Sara McLaughlin

Second Committee Member

Boehmke, Frederick

Third Committee Member

Thies, Cameron

Fourth Committee Member

Hoenicke Moore, Michaela


When do foreign influence attempts succeed in obtaining concessions from targeted states, and why do they so often fail? Powerful states employ a broad range of foreign policy tools in their dealings with other countries, but their ability to successfully exert power varies. This project seeks an explanation for the patchy record of foreign aid and economic sanctions in the political incentives of targeted leaders. Understanding the process of foreign policy success and failure requires considering both the effect of intervention on leader survival and the domestic cost of providing concessions. In both respects, the type of sanction interacts with targets' domestic context. Dynamic trends in leadership experience and political support, strength of political opposition, and regime type condition both the probability of sanctions' effectively tapping into target incentives and the difficulty of providing concessions.

My framework and analyses push beyond standard conceptualizations of leader incentives and foreign policy in several ways. The theory unites positive and negative strategies rather than treating them as divergent phenomena. I also break the traditional dichotomy of democratic and autocratic regimes, modeling dynamic political processes and explicitly incorporating the political opposition. I pursue a multi-stage modeling technique which more faithfully represents the strategic encounters between sending and targeted states and furthers our understanding of the interplay between external demands and domestic political incentives.

The findings suggest many strategies utilized for targeting aid and economic sanctions may be faulty. Sending states' best bet for achieving concession may be to target leaders whose place in office is very secure, yet empirically they pursue the opposite strategy. Contrary to much theory in the literature, I also find that even ineffective negative sanctions can achieve success provided the target faces few domestic challenges. The probability of concession also increases when states demand concessions of a diffuse and symbolic nature, rather than changes to the status quo which would hurt a private domestic interest. A strong political opposition magnifies the relative ease of public-costs concessions, suggesting that challenging parties compete for the favor of elites rather than championing the public interest.


economic sanctions, foreign aid, foreign policy, influence, leader survival, power


xiii, 422 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 406-422).


Copyright 2010 Amanda Abigail Licht