Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
David H. Bearce
International actors face a dilemma. While agreements with other states can yield substantial benefits, actors are often left uncertain as to whether their potential partners will follow-through on their commitments. Actors attempt to reduce this uncertainty by assessing their partners reputation. Scholars characterize a states reputation with an international actor as the outcome of a specific sequence of events wherein the state (1) joins an agreement (2) demonstrates compliance or non-compliance with its obligations under the agreement (3) is observed demonstrating compliance/non-compliance by the international actor and (4) comes to have a reputation for reliability with that actor.
But what happens when step 2 never occurs? For example, if a state is in a collective security agreement that effectively deters aggression: without the occurrence of conflict, a state has few opportunities to demonstrate its commitment to the agreement. In this case, outcomes are ambiguous. I call this membership in untested agreements.
Contrary to extant models, membership in untested agreements is actually beneficial to a states reputation. The benefit of membership in an untested agreement comes from the signal provided by the states entry into the agreement. When a state enters an agreement, the other members of that agreement implicitly endorse the reliability of the state. I call this entry-endorsement. The benefit of entry endorsement depends on a variety of factors. Characteristics of the endorser influence the reputational benefit felt by the state, specifically, relationship between the endorser and subsequent actors. The role of the reputation observer's recent history also plays a role.
I test the implications of this argument as they apply to two distinct issue areas: international investment and security agreements. Through this, I am able to compare how entry endorsements effects differ depending on the relationship between the endorser and subsequent state actors. When the subsequent actor is another state, then the influence of entry endorsement is substantial, but moderated by the similarity between the actor and the endorser. When the subsequent actor is a sub-state actor, then the influence of entry endorsement is conditioned by the endorsing states vulnerability to making a bad endorsement (i.e. entering into agreements that later fail).
Cook, Thomas Richard, "Untested Membership: Reputation, Ambiguity and International Relations" (2016). Political Science Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 46.