Wedge strategies can be used defensively to weaken threatening coalitions, or offensively to isolate targets before coercing or conquering them. Either way, when they work, wedge strategies can yield considerable benefits to states that use them. By the same token, wedge strategy failures contribute to the major offensive and defensive pathologies of power politics — self-encirclement and under-balancing. So it is important to understand why states may sometimes miss chances to employ the wedge option, or fail when they do try to employ it (make bad bets). The paper presented will lay out a number of generalizations concerning (1) why leaders may consciously decide not to pursue wedge strategies when opportunities to use them beckon; (2) how wedge strategies can backfire when they are attempted; and (3) the extent to which anticipation of bad bets can lead to missed chances.

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