A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a political entity or any group of people outside the borders of the punishing state or union. It is usually undertaken in response to perceived disobedient or morally wrong behavior by miscreants, as revenge or corrective action, or to apply strong diplomatic pressure without a formal declaration of war (e.g. surgical strike). In the 19th century, punitive expeditions were used more commonly as pretexts for colonial adventures that resulted in annexations, regime changes or changes in policies of the affected state to favour one or more colonial powers.
Stowell (1921) provides the following definition:
When the territorial sovereign is too weak or is unwilling to enforce respect for international law, a state which is wronged may find it necessary to invade the territory and to chastise the individuals who violate its rights and threaten its security.
The Daily News will to-morrow say that the Government has ordered that an expedition be formed to punish the murderers of the Benin City expedition. The punitive expedition, which will be prepared at Old Calaber, will be made up of men from the forces of the Niger Coast Protectorate and a contingent of sailors from the British West African squadron.
The first Carranza General to exchange formal courtesies with General John J. Pershing, leader of the punitive expedition after Pancho Villa, came riding into camp this afternoon on a pacing gray horse and, seated on an empty hardtack tin, paid his respects, and inquired after the health of the American forces
The United States also faces two other problems that the United Kingdom did not 85 years ago. The British were able to be ruthless: they used air raids and punitive expeditions to inflict harsh collective punishments on villages that supported the insurgents.
Children who don't listen have to be spanked.