Fighting for Credibility: US Reputation and International Politics

By Frank P. Harvey and John Mitton

© 2017

When Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people in Syria, he clearly crossed President Barack Obama’s "red line." At the time, many argued that the president had to bomb in order to protect America's reputation for toughness, and therefore its credibility, abroad; others countered that concerns regarding reputation were overblown, and that reputations are irrelevant for coercive diplomacy.

Whether international reputations matter is the question at the heart of Fighting for Credibility. For skeptics, past actions and reputations have no bearing on an adversary’s assessment of credibility; power and interests alone determine whether a threat is believed. Using a nuanced and sophisticated theory of rational deterrence, Frank P. Harvey and John Mitton argue the opposite: ignoring reputations sidesteps important factors about how adversaries perceive threats. Focusing on cases of asymmetric US encounters with smaller powers since the end of the Cold War including Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Syria, Harvey and Mitton reveal that reputations matter for credibility in international politics. This dynamic and deeply documented study successfully brings reputation back to the table of foreign diplomacy.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 312 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.8in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Focusing on cases of asymmetric US encounters with smaller powers since the end of the Cold War, Harvey and Mitton reveal that reputations matter for credibility in international politics. This dynamic and deeply documented study successfully brings reputation back to the table of foreign diplomacy.

Fighting for Credibility: US Reputation and International Politics

By Frank P. Harvey and John Mitton

© 2017

When Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people in Syria, he clearly crossed President Barack Obama’s "red line." At the time, many argued that the president had to bomb in order to protect America's reputation for toughness, and therefore its credibility, abroad; others countered that concerns regarding reputation were overblown, and that reputations are irrelevant for coercive diplomacy.

Whether international reputations matter is the question at the heart of Fighting for Credibility. For skeptics, past actions and reputations have no bearing on an adversary’s assessment of credibility; power and interests alone determine whether a threat is believed. Using a nuanced and sophisticated theory of rational deterrence, Frank P. Harvey and John Mitton argue the opposite: ignoring reputations sidesteps important factors about how adversaries perceive threats. Focusing on cases of asymmetric US encounters with smaller powers since the end of the Cold War including Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Syria, Harvey and Mitton reveal that reputations matter for credibility in international politics. This dynamic and deeply documented study successfully brings reputation back to the table of foreign diplomacy.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 312 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.8in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    ‘This book is a necessary addition to the bookshelf of any scholar or practitioner interested in reputation, deterrence and compellence, or American foreign policy.’


    Danielle L. Lupton
    ISSF Roundtable December 1, 2017

    ‘This detailed, technical study will be of special interest chiefly to the scholars of international relations and foreign policy.’


    M. Amstutz
    Choice Magazine vol 54:10:2017

    "Fighting for Credibility is a useful corrective for the all-too-convenient argument that reputations do not matter. Harvey and Mitton present a highly nuanced, well researched, and deeply documented counter-argument that clearly demonstrates that credibility does matter. They make a compelling case that there are indeed conditions under which a state’s reputation may be worth fighting for."


    Frank Zagare, UB Distinguished Professor, State University of New York, Buffalo

     "Fighting for Credibility is an excellent piece of scholarly research. Frank P. Harvey and John Mitton’s arguments are both in-depth and devastating. Their study provides a useful and timely policy corrective in the debate over coercive diplomacy."
    James Fergusson, Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, University of Manitoba
  • Author Information

    Frank P. Harvey is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Dalhousie University where he also holds the Eric Dennis Chair of Government and Politics.


    John Mitton is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Dalhousie University and a Fulbright Visiting Researcher at the University of Southern California.
  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    Chapter 1: Reputations Research and Premature Closure of Inquiry

    Chapter 2: Reputations Matter: Rational Deterrence Theory and Credibility Reconsidered

    Chapter 3: US Reputation Building in Deterrence Encounters, 1991–2003

    Chapter 4: The Strategic Logic of US Coercion: Explaining Failures and Successes in Syria, 2011- 2013

    Chapter 5: RDT, Domestic Politics, and Audience Costs

    Chapter 6: Reputations, Credibility, and Transferability – Reconsidering Syria’s Relevance to Iran, North Korea, and Beyond

    Chapter 7: Responding to Critics: Alternative Explanations and Competing Policy Recommendations

    Chapter 8: Expanding Theory-Policy Gaps in International Relations

    Appendix 1

    Glossary of Terms

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