Resolve in International Politics



Joshua D. Kertzer, Harvard University

Date and Time

February 23, 2017 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Encina Hall, 2nd floor

Abstract: Why do some actors in international politics display remarkable persistence in wartime, while others “cut and run” at the first sign of trouble? IR scholars tend to explain this variation by positing that some leaders and publics are more resolved — or less sensitive to the costs of war — than others, and thus more willing to continue to fight. Yet although resolve is one of the most commonly used independent variables in IR, we have relatively little conceptual sense of what it is, or where it comes from. I offer a behavioral theory of resolve, suggesting that variation in time preferences, risk preferences, honor orientation, and trait self-control can help explain why some actors display more resolve than others. In this portion of the project, I test the theory experimentally in the context of public opinion about military interventions. The results not only help explain why certain types of costs of war loom larger for certain types of actors, but also shed light onto some of the contributions of the "behavioral revolution" in the international relations more broadly.
About the Speaker: Joshua D. Kertzer is an Assistant Professor of Government at Harvard University, and a Visiting Associate Research Scholar at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Global Governance at Princeton University. His research explores the intersection of international security, foreign policy, political psychology, and experimental methods.  He is the author of Resolve in International Politics (Princeton University Press, 2016) along articles appearing in a variety of outlets, including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, and World Politics. He is the recipient of the American Political Science Association’s Helen Dwight Reid and Kenneth N. Waltz awards, as well as recognitions from the Peace Science Society, International Society of Political Psychology, and Council of Graduate Schools.