The cult of reputation: deterrent or a cause of war?
Zapryanov, Ivan Astanosov
Lober, George W.
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A reputation for resolve, used to predict an actor’s future intentions with reasonable accuracy based on his past actions, is central to many deterrence theories. The assumption is that states use other actors’ past behavior as a learning schema for generating expectations, and act according to such expectations. However, there are other powerful determinants in international politics—military capabilities, distribution of power, and interests at stake, etc.—that shape states’ policies. Nonetheless, decision makers assign to their states’ reputation the status of symbolic capital, in order to add credibility to their future threats and commitments, or to credibly deter adversaries’ future threats. They generally believe that their allies and adversaries infer the state’s resolve from its past behavior. In this paper we analyze how this belief and the consequent quest for building, preserving, and/or restoring reputation can push decision-makers into the vortex of conflicts.
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