Fighting words: The effectiveness of statements of resolve in international conflict

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This article examines the effectiveness of public statements of resolve in international conflict. Several prominent theories, including domestic audience cost theory and theories regarding international reputation, suggest that issuing resolved statements can help a leader achieve a more favorable outcome in conflict bargaining. Because they entail costs for backing down, these statements are believed to credibly convey resolve to an adversary. This can help to alleviate the uncertainty created by private information about resolve and persuade the adversary to back down. Despite the prevalence of this theoretical logic, the effectiveness of statements of resolve at influencing conflict outcomes has rarely been subjected to direct tests, and some recent empirical work has raised doubts about statements’ effectiveness. This article is the first to directly examine the effect of resolved statements on conflict outcomes using large-N analysis. It introduces original data, created using content analysis, which directly measure the level of resolved statements made by US presidents during militarized interstate disputes (MIDs). Analysis of these data demonstrates that a higher level of resolved statements is indeed associated with a greater chance of prevailing in disputes. This finding is substantively significant and robust, providing support for the argument that public statements play an important role in international conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-740
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 12 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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