Precommitment

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For the concept in cryptography, see commitment scheme.
For the campaign to reduce self-harm by gamblers, see Andrew Wilkie.

Precommitment is a strategy in which a party to a conflict uses a commitment device to strengthen its position by cutting off some of its options to make its threats more credible. This may involve using a form of commitment that can be detected at a great distance. For instance, an army can burn a bridge behind it, making retreat evidently impossible. A famous example of this tactic is when Hernán Cortés had his men scuttle the ships in order to eliminate any means of desertion.

This strategy was discussed in detail by Thomas Schelling. It was important in 20th century deterrence theory, as a threat must be credible to have deterrent power. Commitment devices used include tripwire forces waiting for a trigger event.

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