In the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, scholars of international relations debated how to best characterize the rising tide of global opposition. The concept of “soft balancing” emerged as an influential, though contested, explanation of a new phenomenon in a unipolar world: states seeking to constrain the ability of the United States to deploy military force by using multinational organizations, international law, and coalition building. Soft balancing can also be observed in regional unipolar systems. Multinational archival research reveals how Argentina, Mexico, and other Latin American countries responded to expanding U.S. power and military assertiveness in the early twentieth century through coordinated diplomatic maneuvering that provides a strong example of soft balancing. Examination of this earlier case makes an empirical contribution to the emerging soft-balancing literature and suggests that soft balancing need not lead to hard balancing or open conflict.

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