Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Simon Serfaty

Committee Member

Jie Chen

Committee Member

Shaomin Li


This dissertation presents a model of pivotal deterrence—a version the author loosely terms holistic pivotal deterrence—based on the model originally presented in Crawford's Pivotal Deterrence: Third-Party Statecraft and the Pursuit of Peace, and applies it to a regional case study of U.S. security policy in the Taiwan Strait; placing particular emphasis on the crisis junctures of 1954-55, 1958, 1962, and 1995-96. By contrasting this with other models of deterrence, it provides an alternative perspective with which to consider the empirical data on the United States-China-Taiwan relationship and developments in the Strait. By viewing the data through this lens, this research presents an assessment as to the validity of the holistic pivotal deterrence model in preventing an escalation in conflict, and also tests four hypotheses: (H1) If either China or Taiwan had wished to engage in behavior contrary to the interests of the United States, they would have been more likely to do so if the United States had insured them against the risks of that behavior. (H2) Deterrence was more likely to succeed when China's and Taiwan's alignment options were scarce. (H3) With the United States as a preponderant-power pivot, holistic pivotal deterrence was more likely to be applicable when interests in the Strait were secondary. (H4) Holistic pivotal deterrence was likely to succeed when China and Taiwan each wanted to get or keep what benefits the United States could give or take away more than what they wanted to take from their rival.

The first two hypotheses reflect Crawford's original model, addressing the roles of insurance and alignment options. The third hypothesis contradicts the original model's views on the role of interests, and the fourth hypothesis goes beyond the original model—which focuses on elements of military power as a primary factor—to incorporate the role and effect of non-military power.

By examining these hypotheses in the full context of the political, military, social, and economic dynamics present in the Strait throughout the second half of the 20th century, this research identifies the strengths, weaknesses, and conditional factors of this modified pivotal deterrence model.