Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity
Chain-gang: Each state feels its own security is integrally intertwined with the security of its alliance partners. Any nation that marches to war inexorably drags its alliance partners with it. No state can sit out the conflict, since the former’s demise would cripple its own security.
Buck-passing: Balancing alignments fail to form in a timely fashion because some states try to ride free on other states’ balancing efforts. They wish to avoid unnecessary costs or to strengthen their relative position by standing aloof.
They contend that varying perceptions of the offense-defense balance constitute a sufficient explanation for the differing alliance partners.
The authors argue that given Europe’s multipolar checkboard geography, the perception of offensive military advantages gave rise to alliances chain-gang before 1914, whereas the perception of defensive advantages gave rise to buck-passing before 1939.
States seek balancing alliances when they believe that they are the next target on the aggressor’s list, but they try to pass the buck when they believe that others will be attacked first.