Book Project

Ideology and International Conflict

Abstract: In recent years, the world has increasingly witnessed international conflict along ideological fault lines. Western policymakers warn that authoritarian countries like Russia and China are seeking to exploit divisions within democratic societies to promote autocratic tendencies, while for decades, authoritarian countries have accused the West of doing the same-- of manufacturing domestic uprisings as a way to force liberalism upon them. Of course, these dynamics herald back to the Cold War, where international conflict was defined by ideological competition between capitalist and communist regimes, and before the Cold War, to the Concert of Europe, where conflict often involved clashes between republican and absolutist regimes. And yet, despite numerous historical examples to the contrary, ​there is little consensus in the existing literature about whether ideological cleavages have any effect on relations between states. 

This book project advances our understanding of the relationship between ideology and international conflict by exploring how it affects a specific aspect of modern interstate conflict: that is, disputes over the leadership and institutions of other countries. I argue that ideological cleavages increase the risk of these regime disputes in two ways. First, leaders sometimes have normative preferences for promoting their ideology abroad, which introduces uncertainty among ideologically-dissimilar states over whether the other has regime-revisionist preferences. Second, dissimilar states may resort to subversion to prevent political contagion from the success of alternative regimes. By contrast, ideologically-similar states face incentives to prop each other up against domestic threats and to refrain from using subversion to pursue their other foreign policy conflicts. 

I employ a variety of research techniques to provide evidence of these arguments, including cross-national statistical analyses, multi-country archival research, and automated text analysis of foreign propaganda. Using large-N quantitative data, I show that pairs of ideologically similar states are less likely to have policy and regime disputes, more likely to aid to each other in periods of domestic unrest, and have overall more cooperative relations than pairs of ideologically dissimilar countries. Focused case studies provide additional evidence of the theoretical mechanisms. Taken together, the results illustrate the shortcomings of "black boxing" the types of disputes states have, and they suggest that ideological ties between states are a major driver of patterns of international cooperation and competition. 


For my job market paper which is adapted from this book project, click here


The Shadow of the Future and Bargaining Delay: An Experimental Approach. Forthcoming. Journal of Politics. [download]


Abstract: Can the shadow of the future undermine international cooperation? While Fearon (1998) proposes that long time horizons incentivize states to prolong costly negotiations,the results in the empirical literature testing this model have been mixed. Using a laboratory experiment, I estimate the causal effect of the shadow of the future on bargaining delay and examine its welfare consequences. In particular, I show that while parties do take longer to reach agreements when the shadow of the future is long, there are no significant efficiency losses compared to agreements made under shorter time horizons. These findings suggest an important caveat to policy recommendations that call for the use of finite duration provisions to shorten international negotiations. These provisions are unlikely to resolve the underlying inefficiency of the bargaining period and may inadvertently decrease states’ welfare by shrinking the potential gains from cooperation.

What Pivot? International Relations Scholarship and the Rise of China. With Benjamin Kenzer and Susan Peterson. 2015. International Studies Perspectives 16(3): 286-301. [download]

Abstract: Scholars of international relations (IR) simultaneously believe that their work is policy-relevant and that a gap exists between the academic and policy worlds of IR. Using data from the 2011 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey and the TRIP journal article database, we explore this disjuncture in one specific area, research on East Asia. If US scholars' work addresses policy-relevant issues, as they believe, we would expect academic work to provide insights on a region that US policy makers have long thought to be growing in strategic importance. We find that academics recognize the strategic significance of East Asia, but comparatively few scholars teach about or do research on the region. Compared with the IR discipline more broadly, published research on East Asia is more paradigmatic, qualitative, and oriented toward the study of international political economy. The neglect of East Asia and the systematic differences in the way it is studied have potentially important consequences for the study and practice of IR.

Working Papers

Rethinking Electoral Interventions. [download]

Abstract: Why do states intervene in some foreign elections but not others? Existing research suggests that the decision to intervene depends crucially on two features: first, that the intervention could swing the outcome of the election and second, that competing candidates have significant, divergent foreign policy preferences. Using the PEIG data set of U.S. and Russian electoral interventions between 1945 and 2000, this paper examines the extent to which electoral interventions were motivated by these factors. My analysis supports a surprising answer: not much. Not only do electoral interventions frequently occur in contests where the intervention could not plausibly have been pivotal, failed incumbent-side interventions and successful challenger-side interventions do not produce any significant shifts in the foreign policy disposition of targeted states as measured by UNGA roll call votes. These results challenge our existing models of foreign intervention and underscore the need to theorize more about the causes of foreign meddling in the domestic politics of other states.

Measuring Rhetoric in Thucydides’ Speeches. [download]

Abstract: To assess the potential utility of automated text methods in studies of political thought, this article revisits major topics in the scholarly literature on Thucydides' speeches: the distinction between speech & narrative text, the contrast between speeches given to Athenian versus Spartan audiences, and how the rhetorical styles of Pericles & Nicias differ. My analysis yields three insights. First, the language Thucydides uses in the speeches differs dramatically from the narrative text, and there is significant variation in the type of language used in the speeches themselves. Second, when speaking to different audiences, orators would tailor their speeches to reflect their audiences' underlying values. For Athenian audiences, emphasizing prospects for glory and other materials gains tended to be a successful rhetorical strategy. Focusing on the consequences of inaction resonated more with Spartan audiences. Finally, Pericles was not only more resolute than Nicias in his speeches, but he was also able to invoke a proto-nationalism to persuade the public to prioritize common interests over private ones. These results largely replicate the scholarly consensus about the speeches in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, and in doing so, they demonstrate the promise of automated text analysis for the study of rhetoric in classical philosophical texts.


Estimated Coefficients on Shared Ideology  

OLS Regressions of Foreign  Intervention, MID Onset, and Peace Scale ,
Nontrivial Dyads, 1946-2010. Shaded area represents  direction
of predicted effects.

Differences in Aggregate Welfare and Relative Efficiency Across Treatment Groups

In Progress

Disentangling Dynamics of Civil Conflict Contagion. With Iris Malone.

Abstract: Under what conditions, do political uprisings in one country cause revolution elsewhere and why? Despite some evidence of contagion effects from the Arab Spring and the Color Revolutions, scholars still disagree over how and even whether revolutions spread. We argue this debate exists, in part, because of a lack of fine-grained data about lower-level rebellions, which had the potential to escalate into national revolutions. This paper develops a new theory to explain both when and why political uprisings spillover by disaggregating along two dimensions: conflict intensity and conflict type. First, we argue that contagion effects increase the likelihood of that groups mobilize to challenge the state, but state policies minimize the escalation of these conflicts. Second, we suggest that neighboring uprisings have heterogeneous contagion effects depending on the conflict’s character (e.g. aim, ideology, or ethnicity). The paper derives a series of observable predictions about under what conditions contagion effects are most likely to cause revolution and test these hypotheses on an unprecedented, cross-national dataset of approximately 1,000 militant campaigns between 1970-2012. 

The Sources of Spirals of Suspicion in the Security Dilemma. With James Fearon. 

Abstract: Under what conditions do upward spirals of suspicion occur in the security dilemma? In his seminal article, Jervis (1976) outlined the spiral model of conflict, whereby two defensive or status quo states could inadvertently end up at war.  This model depends crucially upon a state updating its belief that it is facing a "greedy" or "aggressive" state after observing the other arm, but it is unclear why such an upward spiral of suspicion should occur. Since both defensive and aggressive states have incentives to arm under the security dilemma, arming should convey no new information to either side. In this paper, we use a laboratory experiment to test  whether these spirals of suspicion occur, and if so, their rational and behavioral sources. In doing so, this research investigates the ways policymakers can break out of the security dilemma, perhaps by signaling through restraint.