Bargaining in public : resolve and publicity in international crises




Wu, Xuanxuan

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How actors credibly signal resolve has been an enduring question for both scholars and policy makers. The existing literature disagrees on the effects of public threats on signaling resolve and the effects of political constraints on crisis outcomes. This dissertation examines how leaders use public threats to signal resolve from two new perspectives. First, citizens are concerned both about national prestige and about crisis outcomes, the latter of which are shaped by their resolve. Second, leaders adjust their vulnerability to political punishment by controlling the publicity of their threats.

By locating resolve in the public and allowing leaders to choose the level of publicity during a crisis, the dissertation offers an integrated framework to understand the apparently disparate strategies of leaders under different levels of political accountability. Moderately accountable leaders increase the level of publicity to signal the public's resolve, whereas highly accountable leaders lower publicity to signal the public's resolve. I also identify the conditional effects of political accountability on the risks of war with statistical support. Finally, assuming that leaders know their citizens' resolve no better than foreign targets, I find that dovish citizens may pretend to be supportive of war if leaders tend to increase publicity in any crisis.

This project reconciles the conventional audience costs theory and its critics. It specifies the linkage between a leader's choice of publicity and signaling resolve. It also suggests that political accountability may produce perverse outcomes costly to the public. Finally, I discuss the implication of this project to U.S. foreign policy and mass mobilization in international crisis.



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