Theses Doctoral

Credible to Whom? The Organizational Politics of Credibility in International Relations

Casler, Donald

Why do foreign policy decision makers care about the credibility of their own state’s commitments? How does organizational identity shape policymakers’ concern for credibility, and in turn, their willingness to use force during crises? While much previous research examines how decision makers assess others’ credibility, only recently have scholars questioned when and why leaders or their advisers prioritize their own state’s credibility.

Building on classic scholarship in bureaucratic politics, I argue that organizational identity affects the dimensions of credibility that national security officials value, and ultimately, their policy advocacy around the use of force. Particular differences arise between military and diplomatic organizations; while military officials equate credibility with hard military capabilities, diplomats view credibility in terms of reputation, or demonstrating reliability and resolve to external parties.

During crises, military officials confine their advice on the use of force to what can be achieved given current capabilities, while diplomats exhibit higher willingness to use force as a signal of a strong commitment. I test these propositions using text analysis of archival records from two collections of U.S. national security policy documents, eight case studies of American, British, and French crisis decision making, and an original survey experiment involving more than 400 current or former U.S. national security officials. I demonstrate that credibility concerns affect the balance of hawkishness in advice that diplomats and military officials deliver to leaders as a function of organizational identity.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Yarhi-Milo, Keren
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 27, 2022