I recently wrote about an article I published over at War on the Rocks explaining my research on the United States’ use of threats and how it demonstrates that a fixation on American “credibility” is unnecessary. Alex Weisiger and Keren Yarhi-Milo wrote a response criticizing my argument and citing their own research on the role of reputation. You can read why I think they are wrong here. In a nutshell, their study does not actually measure what they claim to be (“reputation”) and thus their findings are invalid.
In my response, I also outline why it is so important for us to talk about the concept of “resolve” in a consistent manner. Scholars, practitioners, generals, and pundits all use the word “resolve” in relation to the United States’ foreign policy, but they aren’t all talking about the same thing. This matters. When we don’t specify exactly what we mean when we talk about “the United States’ resolve,” it makes it impossible to evaluate claims about why and how credibility and reputation matter (or don’t) in international politics. I know that we political scientists like to get all wrapped up in our definitions and concepts, but this is an area in which the failure to clarify what we mean has a major impact on the conclusions and arguments we can make about the United States’ role in the world and its ability to influence the behavior of other states.