The power to blame as a source of leverage: international mediation and ‘dead cat diplomacy’

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This article addresses a gap in the literature on international mediation by proposing the power to blame as an additional source of mediation leverage that had been hitherto largely ignored. The power to blame is framed here as ‘dead cat diplomacy’, a term originally coined by US Secretary of State James Baker to describe his threats to lay a figurative dead cat at the doorstep of a disputant to publicly signal its intransigence and thus force its acquiescence during the Middle East negotiations following the 1991 Gulf War. Drawing on the case studies of Baker and presidents Obama and Trump, the article presents three conditions necessary for the successful leveraging of the power to blame in international mediation: it must be used as a last resort, be perceived as credible by the targeted disputant and take place at a time when the targeted disputant’s
bargaining capacity is limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-247
Number of pages32
JournalThe Hague Journal of Diplomacy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Asaf Siniver, 2022


  • Mediation
  • mediation theory
  • Diplomacy
  • diplomacy and international relations
  • conflict settlement


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