Sword or Sheath? The Benefits of Imperfect Containment (Tate to Hoko Toshiteno Hujikome Seisaku No Koyo)
Japanese Journal of International Security, Vol. 39, No. 4 (March 2012), pp. 35-49
36 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2012
Date Written: October 18, 2011
In a world characterized by complexity and connectedness, transnational threats – such as terrorism, cyber attack, environmental disaster, and disease – are virtually impossible to contain completely. But, how perfect does containment have to be to accomplish its core objective of limiting the reach and intensity of such threats? Using insights from a social exchange perspective on power in world politics, we argue that strategies of containment against many contemporary security threats do not need to be perfect to be effective. While critics of containment strategies are correct that containment structures often leak and typically fail to achieve some objectives fully, we argue that pursuing partial containment may be more cost effective than full containment as part of a strategy to alter threatening behavior and decrease the potency of extant or potential threats.
Keywords: containment, North Korea, transnational threat, cyber attack, environmental disaster, disease
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