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Secret Wars$
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Austin Carson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181769

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181769.001.0001

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A Limited-War Theory of Secrecy

A Limited-War Theory of Secrecy

(p.26) 2 A Limited-War Theory of Secrecy
Secret Wars

Austin Carson

Princeton University Press

This chapter defines and takes stock of the challenge of war escalation and the practice of limited war. It develops a logic for secrecy based on shared fears of large-scale conflict escalation. The theory is anchored in the nature of escalation dynamics in modern war and the difficulty of bounding conflict. The chapter argues that secrecy generally addresses two common pathways for unwanted escalation: political constraints and miscommunication. The heart of the chapter argues that covert forms of military intervention can simultaneously insulate leaders from outside audience reactions and communicate to adversaries one's interest in maintaining a limited-war framework. The chapter then connects these themes to two puzzles mentioned in the previous chapter by showing that limited-war dynamics make sense of collusion by an adversary and the continued value of widely exposed interventions. The chapter ends by explaining how the severity of escalation dangers influences the choice between frontstage and backstage and identifies process-related observable implications.

Keywords:   secrecy, large-scale conflict, conflict escalation, escalation dynamics, modern war, military intervention, limited-war framework, limited-war dynamics, escalation dangers, political constraints, miscommunication

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