Strong Horse or Paper Tiger? Assessing the Reputational Effects of War Fighting
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This dissertation examines whether war has reputational consequences by analyzing the conditions under which third party actors are more or less likely to challenge combatants after the war is over. I develop a theory of reputational effects that emphasizes how information generated during wartime interacts with expectations and the characteristics of third party states to determine when war outcomes influence the decision making of potential challengers. I test this theory against competing explanations using three methodological approaches. First, I analyze the effect that the outcomes of conventional wars have on the initiation of militarized disputes using cross-national time series data from 1816-2004. Second, I use process tracing to assess whether the decision making by Japan and Germany after the Winter War and the Soviet Union, Egypt, and Cuba after Vietnam is consistent with the causal logic of my theory. Finally, I combine qualitative historiography with time series intervention analysis to assess whether the Vietnam War increased or decreased the number of challenges initiated against the United States. I find that the reputational effects of revealed effectiveness are quite broad, but are most pronounced when the fighting environment is similar. Combatants that perform poorly on the battlefield are more likely to be challenged by their potential adversaries, especially when those adversaries expect to fight them in an environment that is similar to the past war. On the other hand, the reputational effects of revealed cost tolerance are much more limited. The statistical analysis found that information about the combatant's willingness to suffer costs only influenced very weak challengers, while the case studies found that it only influenced the behavior of states that were concerned about issues that were similar to those over which the past was fought. When the issues at stake were similar, weak challengers were more emboldened than strong challengers but weak challengers with different issues at stake did not alter their behavior.
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