Domino Theory in Scientific Discourse


The article is devoted to the study of the international political and academic discourse concerning the origins, nature, and implications of domino theory in U.S. foreign policy. It presents the game-theoretic and rational foundations of domino theory, the cases of its use as a tool for rationalizing U.S. foreign policy throughout the past fifty years, as well as the criticism of the representatives of the global academic community regarding its application. In the course of the study a conclusion is made about the simplicity and high effectiveness of domino theory that earned it popularity among the American foreign policy elite. Domino theory acquired the most recognition due to the fact that its effectiveness could only be determined by the hypothetical possibility of U.S. intervention. In contrast to the balance of power principle taking into account the strategic behavior of a large number of actors and the current state of the international environment, domino theory suggested only two possible behavior options for the U.S. in resolving internal political conflicts in other states. Domino theory eventually became ideologized, which made it extremely controversial. Its controversial nature led to the emergence within the political and academic community of several groups offering their own vision of the meaning and significance of this conceptual framework. The largest group comprises “universalists”, who believe that the domino effect is a universal theory similar to the balance of power principle, while the “historicists” see the theory as only a local U.S. foreign policy strategy of the Cold War era.


domino theory; domino effect; balance of power; game theory; American intervention; strategy of deterrence.

Authors: Alexei Zobnin

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