Book

Leaders, Perceptions, and Reputations for Resolve 

In my book manuscript, which is under contract with Cornell University Press (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs), I investigate the process by which individual leaders establish reputations for resolve. 

I theorize that leadership transitions create conditions that substantively impact how leader-specific reputations form and change across interactions. I predict that both the statements and behavior of leaders are critical to establishing these reputation, but that there are also conditions under which different reputational cues will be more or less influential to these reputations. More specifically, reputational cues that emerge from early interactions will be particularly influential to the formation of  perceptions of resolve. These leader-specific reputations may also be constrained by the context in which leaders interact with each other, including a pre-existing state reputation for resolve, a state's communicated interest in an issue under dispute, a state's relative military capability, and the state's regime type.

To test my theory against alternative explanations, I employ two distinct survey experiments as well as historical case studies of Soviet-American foreign policy using process tracing methods. My findings show that the processes by which leaders establish their reputations for resolve are more complicated than one would initially assume, as certain types of reputations are stickier than others and specific signals of resolve vary in their influence over time. Most notably, early interactions are highly influential to reputation development. In this regard, early statements of resolve create expectations of future action. Leaders who fail to meet these expectations face harsh reputational consequences. Furthermore, inconsistency in one's statements of resolve can damage a leader's reputation and lead adversaries to believe you are indecisive and unwilling to commit the resources necessary to see through a course of action. 

As a whole, my book challenges current approaches to reputation for resolve by shifting the focus away from the state to the individual. It challenges the contention of reputation skeptics that reputations for resolve do not matter for international politics. Instead, I show that what leaders say, how they say it, and how they follow up their statements with concrete action critically influences what type of reputation they acquire. In short, my book illuminates how a leader's rhetoric and behavior contribute to these reputations as well as how these reputations change across interactions to influence the strategies leaders pursue during diplomatic interactions and crisis bargaining.