Alliance Value and Status Enhancement: Canada’s Disproportionate Military Burden Sharing in Afghanistan

Massie, Justin

With Benjamin Zyla


In choosing not to free ride while the United States was in Afghanistan, second‐tier powers like Canada challenge conventional accounts of military burden sharing. To elucidate the puzzle posed by excessive military contributions, the article considers two explanatory factors: alliance value and status seeking. We pair them with insights on elite consensus to explain Canada’s desire to have a large role in the war in Afghanistan. We argue that it is expected to support U.S.‐led military operations and contributes more than its relative power if it seeks recognition of an elevated status by valued alliance members. Absent elite consensus, however, state executives may have difficulty implementing their status enhancement objectives. We further demonstrate the value of our reasoning by confronting it with the ever‐increasing factor of threat perceptions. We conclude by stressing that ideational motivations for intra‐alliance burden sharing pose a serious challenge to conventional accounts of state contributions to U.S.‐led military interventions.


Massie, J., Zyla, B. (2018). « Alliance Value and Status Enhancement: Explaining Canada’s Disproportionate Military Burdensharing in Afghanistan », Politics & Policy, vol. 46, no 2, p. 320-344.

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