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Roseanne W. McManus (Baruch College, City University of New York): “The Logic of ‘Backstage’ Signaling: Domestic Politics, Regime Type, and Major Power-Protégé Relations.”


Roseanne McManus is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Baruch College, City University of New York. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. McManus’s main research and teaching interests are in international security and US foreign policy, with a particular focus on how countries can communicate their intentions credibly in the context of anarchy and distrust. Prior to completing her PhD, McManus was Senior Intelligence Analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. She is author of “Fighting Words: The Effectiveness of Statements of Resolve in International Conflict” (Journal of Peace Research, 2014), “Threats and Assurances in Conflict Bargaining” (with Andrew Kydd, forthcoming in The Journal of Conflict Resolution), and “The Impact of Context on the Ability of Leaders to Signal Resolve” (forthcoming in International Interactions). McManus’s book manuscript “Statements of Resolve in International Conflict” is under contract with Cambridge University Press.


This paper explores the question of how major powers signal support for their protégés. We develop a theory that explains why major powers show support for some protégés using highly visible “frontstage” signals of support, while supporting other protégés through less visible, but nonetheless costly, “backstage” signals. From an international strategic perspective, it is puzzling that major powers do not always send the most visible signal possible, but we argue that this can be explained by considering the domestic environments in which the leaders of major powers and protégés operate. Focusing particularly on the United States as we develop our theory, we argue that the US will prefer to send backstage signals of support for more autocratic protégés for several reasons. First, sending frontstage signals of support for autocracies would expose US leaders to charges of hypocrisy. Second, frontstage signals of support for autocracies face an impediment to credibility because of the public backlash in the United States that overt support for dictators could generate. Third, many autocratic protégés would be reluctant to accept a frontstage signal of support from the US because it could undermine their regime stability. We test our theory in a dataset that records various support signals sent by the United States for other countries between 1950 and 2008, finding strong support for our expectations. We also find evidence of the causal mechanisms posited by our theory in a case study of relations between the US and the Shah’s Iran.

Location Sigel Lounge, Hickman Hall
The talk is sponsored by the Emerging Trends (ET) Speaker Series

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