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"Resolve in Military Interventions"

CIS Seminar Series

CIS welcomes Joshua D. Kertzer from Dartmouth College and Harvard University.

ABSTRACT: Why do some leaders and publics display remarkable persistence in war, while others “cut and run” at the first sign of trouble? Although resolve is one of the most frequently used independent variables in International Relations, used to explain everything from developments on the battlefield to deliberations at the bargaining table to decisions at the ballot box,  we have very little sense of why some actors are more resolved than others. I argue that resolve is an interaction between situational stakes and dispositional traits; by pointing to a series of dispositional characteristics frequently studied in a growing body of research on willpower in behavioral economics and social psychology (time and risk preferences, honor orientations, and trait self-control),  I disaggregate the costs of war and explain why certain types of actors are more sensitive to the costs of fighting, while others are more sensitive to the costs of backing down. I test this argument at the micro-level with laboratory and survey experiments, and at the macro-level with Boolean statistical analyses of great power military interventions from 1946-2003.

Kertzer bio:

Guest Chair/Discussant: Brian Rathbun, USC