Coercive Threats and Reputation-Building in International Crises

38 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2013

Date Written: August 31, 2013


When do states defend their reputations? States sometimes pay heavy costs to protect their reputations, but other times willingly take actions that could tarnish them. What accounts for the difference? This paper investigates the sources of reputation-building behavior in the context of coercive diplomacy. It argues that states are more likely to resist aggressors that pose a high risk of initiating further challenges. Specifically, states confronting adversaries which are geographically close, have a history of aggression, or possess the ability to project power -- all risk factors for future challenges -- are more likely to invest in their reputations by resisting coercive threats. Using a dataset of more than 200 coercive threats, empirical tests find support for this logic. The results shed new light on the causes of reputation-building behavior and add an important element to our understanding of coercion in international politics.

Keywords: coercion, compellence, reputations, threats, war

Suggested Citation

Sechser, Todd S., Coercive Threats and Reputation-Building in International Crises (August 31, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Todd S. Sechser (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

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