Reckless Rhetoric? Compliance Pessimism and International Order in the Age of Trump
The Journal of Politics
Allison Carnegie, Austin Carson | March 5, 2019
How do leaders react to other states’ apparent violations of international laws and norms? Existing scholarship focuses on protective actions that help preserve institutional health, whether through punishment or information manipulation. However, we argue that leaders like Donald Trump who do not strongly support existing rules and laws may highlight rule violations, which can create pessimism about overall compliance and lead to additional defections. We first show how our argument follows from a simple adaptation of an extant formal model, and then we evaluate observable implications in the international trade domain. We analyze President Trump’s rhetoric regarding trade discrimination compared to past presidents, finding that he has fostered perceptions of discriminatory foreign trade practices despite fewer actual violations. We conclude with implications for the future of the international order, explaining why these actions likely reduce regime resilience.