Journal Article: Buy now, pay later: American military intervention and the strategic cost paradox

In this article, Waldman (2019) discusses what he calls the strategic cost paradox: the efforts to avoid short term political costs of war increase political and security costs over time. Underlying cost-aversion efforts is the broader societal trend of increasing cost-aversion regarding warfare, while at the same time contemporary foreign policy witnesses intense and costly military activism brought about by the fear of political costs from inaction, as well as by optimism and (technological) over-confidence. The imperative to limit political costs interferes with the demands of military necessity regarding strategy, operational and tactical methods, such as covert action or light footprint approaches. This so-called politization of war leads to counterproductive outcomes and blowback: cost-averse strategies, operations and tactics, of course, do have consequences for the civilians on the receiving end and might foster discontent, radicalization, continued resistance and revenge.


Waldman, T. 2019. ‘Buy Now, Pay Later: American Military Intervention and the Strategic Cost Paradox’. Defence Studies 19 (1): 85–105.