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Political Science Diplomacy

Fighting for Credibility

US Reputation and International Politics

by (author) Frank P. Harvey & John Mitton

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 2016
Diplomacy, General, General, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2017
    List Price

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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.

About the authors

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.

Frank P. Harvey's profile page

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.

John Mitton's profile page

Editorial 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.’

ISSF Roundtable December 1, 2017

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

Choice Magazine vol 54:10:2017

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