(bc.sas.upenn.edu) Our analysis of the US-Georgia relationship has a number of implications for internationalrelations scholarship in general, and the new hierarchy studies in particular. Tbilisi’s accumulation of symbolic and social capital led Washington to overvalue Georgia’s strategic importance and downplay the risk of US entrapment into a peripheral conflict. This suggests that international-relations scholars sometimes overemphasize “objective” sources of credibility—such as regime type—at the expense of (rarely examined) interpersonal and interagency relations shape assessments of credibility in international politics. Indeed, US-Georgian relations provide a compelling case for this claim precisely because hindsight makes clear that key US and Georgian officials placed too much trust in Georgian officials and that Georgian officials believed Washington would take a harder line on their behalf.
Our study suggests that work on hierarchy needs to move further away from state-centrism and the structure of relational governance among states toward analyzing the character of relations among sub-state actors, including regimes and individuals. It provides additional evidence that the dynamics of asymmetric relationships are far more complicated than simply the degree to which weaker states accept the legitimate domination of stronger ones. Leaders of subordinate states, for example, have proven capable of deploying the very basis of that authoritative relationship to influence the policies of great powers.108 We hope, furthermore, that this study advances attempts to recognize the strategic dimensions of symbolic politics and recover a broader understanding of power politics.