My research examines the role of external factors, the complexities of the environment that actors face, on conflict management and resolution among warring parties in international conflicts and civil wars. The theme of complexity, specifically the intersection of local, national, and global dynamics, is also found in my work that focuses on ways in which social networks affect individuals' attitude formation on critical policies. My regional expertise includes Sub-Saharan Africa and Poland.
I have been exploring the role of external factors in shaping decisions about conflict management and resolution among international rivals or states with history of militarized disputes. As such, I have considered the role of exogenous shocks such as natural disasters to understand when such disasters are able to create an opportunity for rapprochement among enduring rivals. Natural disasters have the potential to create transition points in rivalry dynamic by stimulating societal change toward the rivals. In the absence of communal violence, such openings free the leaders from audience costs, thereby creating an opportunity for disaster diplomacy to work. Another line of research examines interdependencies among rivalries, and shows that when a state faces a threat from an enemy it often considers its other rivalries before deciding on the course of action. Contrary to the realist expectations, this research shows that states often accommodate either the threat-issuing rival or another rival as part of their broader strategy to manage multiple rivalries simultaneously. This work demonstrates that for states with multiple rivals managing conflict with one of its enemies is rarely a dyadic phenomenon.
- “Avalanches and Olive Branches: A Multi-Method Analysis of Disasters and Peacemaking in Interstate Rivalries,” 2011, with Seden Akcinaroglu and Jon DiCicco, Political Research Quarterly, disastersprq.pdf
-“The Effects of Rivalry on Rivalry: Confrontations and the Management of Threats,” 2014, with Seden Akcinaroglu and Paul F. Diehl, Foreign Policy Analysis, rivalries.pdf
-“Web of Links: Rival Connectedness and the Management of Threats,” with Seden Akcinaroglu, under review, paper7-2015.docx
In the context of civil wars, I have been exploring the role of external interventions, first by states and more recently by non-state actors, in shaping conflict dynamics. My focus has been on the less apparent but significant ways in which external interventions make a difference in prolonging or terminating conflicts. For example, how do rebels form expectations about external interventions and how do such expectations affect conflict duration? My research shows that rebel groups are more likely to assume that states will intervene if they are the rivals of the central government. It is this expectation of rival interventions that increases the rebels’ desire to fight and prolongs the termination of civil wars. Knowing what we know about the rebels’ expectations regarding interventions, how do strategic third parties exploit this to their advantage? In a follow up project I investigate how third parties benefit from bluffing, how long it takes the combatants to uncover it, and with what implications for conflict duration and termination.
- “Expectations, Rivalries, and Civil War Duration,” International Interactions, 2005, with Seden Akcinaroglu, expectations-II.pdf
-“Third-Party Interventions: Bluffing and Adaptive Expectations in Civil Wars,” with Seden Akcinaroglu and Sebnem Bora, under review, bluffingpaper.pdf
Current Book Manuscript
Building on the work that focuses on ways in which interventions by states can affect conflict duration, I am currently exploring the impact of interventions by non-state actors on civil war termination. Most research in this area focuses on international organizations, especially the United Nations. My work moves beyond IOs to address the impact of private military companies (PMCs) whose presence in conflict zones around the world has grown considerably in the past 25 years. What are the conditions under which these transnational actors can help with conflict termination and the survival of peace? The book's central argument is that variation in market pressure faced by security providers explains different approaches to self regulation among PMCs, which in turn, yield varying levels of accountability. When companies face more accountability, their presence is not only associated with shorter wars but with more durable peace. I created a data set on PMCs' interventions into civil wars from 1984 to 2008 to test the argument and rely on interviews with industry employees and NGOs to build a rich narrative.
-Competition, Accountability, and Private Military Industry in Civil Wars, book manuscript, with Seden Akcinaroglu, under review, sample chapter, chapter1.pdf
-Book-related talk, The Institute for World Politics, Spring 2014
-"Private Military Companies, Opportunities, and Termination of Civil Wars in Africa," 2013, with Seden Akcinaroglu, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, JCRfinalpaperversion.pdf
Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
How do informal political discussions affect attitude formation on foreign policy? What is the role of local communities in shaping ideas about the costs and benefits of supporting or opposing specific policies? Instead of focusing on the impact of elites/media and individuals' socio-economic characteristics, I explore the role of local environments in mobilizing support/opposition toward critical policies. I bring the idea of complexity into the study of attitude formation by focusing on different types of mechanisms through which social networks, relationships with family, friends, and community, influence people's ideas about policies and by showing the effect of such processes on the durability of views. Thus, I focus less on the individual's background and more on the impact of social environments in molding political attitudes.
- "Interpersonal Discussions and Attitude Formation on Foreign Policy: the Case of Polish Involvement in the Iraq War," 2013, Foreign Policy Analysis, FPAiraqfinal.pdf
My book, Social Networks and Public Support for the European Union (Routledge 2013), examines the impact of social interactions, specifically interpersonal and informal discussions, on shaping individuals' views on European integration. Including original survey data, insights from field research in Poland and interviews with local leaders, national elites, and ordinary citizens, the book identifies three processes through which informal discussions could affect views on integration. It shows that well- connected leaders in small communities can use informal talks to ensure the spread of local ideas, such as opposition to the EU, even when such ideas are unpopular at the national level. The book demonstrates that people who engage in informal talks about politics form their views differently from those who are excluded from such interactions. Thus, political leaders interested in securing support of key communities would benefit more from tapping into local networks instead of relying on media advertising to garner support.
-Sample Chapter, socialnetworksbookchapter.pdf
-Book-related talks, see videos: European Union Center, University of Illinois, Fall 2011 & at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, Fall 2013