Many of the conflicts involving the United States in a non-peace-keeping role have involved the United States threatening military action if some demand (either made by the US or a multi-national organisation) was not met, that demand not being met, and then the United States following through on that threat. Afghanistan involved the Taliban failing to hand over Bin Laden, and the first gulf war involved Iraq failing to withdraw from Kuwait. The second gulf war may be more debatable, but there was an ultimatum demanding that Saddam and his two sons leave the country, which the Iraqi government rejected.

Does the threat of military force by the United States have much of an influence on other countries' actions?

  • 12
    How would you measure it?
    – user1873
    Oct 5, 2014 at 17:15
  • 2
    Political science is not Natural science. Not everything is measurable.
    – jawo
    Feb 17, 2015 at 9:11
  • @user1873 Sometimes a vague "yes" or "no" is good enough, or at least better than nothing. (One doesn't need a photometer to know if it's night or day. )
    – agc
    Jun 21, 2018 at 15:16
  • Re "a non-peace-keeping role": Perhaps some rephrasing that describes actions rather that roles would be more definite. (Pretty much every aggressor nation claims that they're the ones really keeping the peace, and that it's only the sins of the insolent defender which are to blame. )
    – agc
    Jun 21, 2018 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


I'd say it depends who you are and comes down to 'what's stopping the US carrying their threat out'. That splits nations down roughly into these groups:

Member of NATO: not really applicable. The U.S. would risk the rest of the alliance turning on it and, although not as strong individually, the non-US NATO countries together would still pack a hefty punch. Besides which, the NATO countries are America's closest allies, so they are unlikely to be threatened, never mind actually attacked. Also applies to a lesser extent to other U.S. allies.

Other nuclear states: India, for one, but mainly Russia and China... These are too much of a threat if they responded using nuclear weapons. Again, the U.S. isn't going to seriously attack them during anything less than a global breakdown, so there's little use in trying to idly use a threat of force. They wouldn't care particularly; they know it's hugely unlikely it would be carried out.

Friends of the above... North Korea, Iran predominantly, but note that even in Syria the U.S. is only attacking ISIS, not the government. They're probably more concerned about losing the support of their patron than the threat itself, as they are sheltered under the umbrella of the above states.

Anyone else? I'd say they take it fairly seriously: the US has proven in the past it isn't afraid to intervene when it feels its national interests or security are at play, and if you aren't in the above listed groups you are very unlikely to be able to defend yourself effectively. In fact, without nuclear weapons, I doubt anyone other than the rest of NATO as a bloc could seriously hope to prevent the US from doing what they wanted militarily. Russia and China would be the only other ones with a fighting chance.

As such, any nation outside those groups would likely take the threat very seriously, although they also know that public pressure in America has a large impact and so would weigh the threat against the reasons it was made.

  • 2
    The US in fact several times attacked allies of Russia and/or China: North Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia. But in Korea and Vietnam with active support of Russia and China (in case of Korea) it turned out not to be that victorious.
    – Anixx
    Nov 12, 2014 at 15:22
  • Most of those were relatively early in the Cold War (ie less nuclear threat) and were either peripheral allies or there were other factors at play (Yugoslavia took advantage of Russian instability at the end of the Cold War)
    – Jon Story
    Nov 12, 2014 at 15:30
  • 2
    -1 When I read an answer, the expectation is that I come away with some new insight or information that I might not have had before. This answer looks like it is mostly guessing, and you're not giving me much of a reason to trust your guesses more than guesses that I might come up with Nov 12, 2014 at 18:12
  • Unless you're a nation state yourself, any answer is subjective - that's the nature of the question
    – Jon Story
    Nov 12, 2014 at 18:23
  • I wonder what remains in the last group. The most of gulf is in De facto protection of India and Russia. African countries are pretty well united under China. And you can't just ignore economical relations and interdependence of US with other countries. Feb 16, 2015 at 5:19

It all depends upon who the U.S. is threatening with military force. For 35 years, in an area termed the Greater Middle East, we've been involved militarily in 14 countries. Oil is a common theme. We haven't gotten involved in Central or South America since 1989. We don't go into South or Central Africa, only those areas close to "The Oil Zone". We're careful not to intrude too close to areas that are too close to either China or Russia.

  • Good answer. Wherever there is American presence, there is infighting. Dec 17, 2014 at 9:26
  • 1
    This does not answer the question - or do you claim that countries in the middle east bow before the US more than other countries with little US military presence in the vicinity? Because I'd contest that.
    – user45891
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:03
  • I don't understand your question. I in no way implied that countries in any region "bow before the US", whatever that means. I stated, based upon recent experience, that it is more likely for the US to become involved in military action in the Greater Middle East. Any leader or faction would certainly be aware of this, and it would be a factor that would be included in the "calculus" of determining whether the US would become involved militarily.
    – Kennah
    Dec 18, 2014 at 4:22

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