Statecraft and the Delegation of Power Politics

What strategies do states employ to advance their interests in the world? How do states get partners (agents) to behave in advantageous ways?

The Trouble with Carrots and Sticks: Domestic and International Constraints on Policy Responses

To advance their interests in the world, states often try to induce favorable outcomes through carrots and sticks that reward prescribed behavior and/or punish proscribed behavior. To make carrots and sticks effective, a target must believe that the sender will be able to recognize behavior and respond appropriately with punishment or reward. But typical features of international and domestic politics create challenges for both recognition and response. Recognition problems arise because the complex and noisy nature of international relations inhibits the use of outcome-based arrangements in two ways. First, complexity inhibits the formation of consensus about the relationship between effort and outcome. Second, even when agreement can be found, it may require the use of prohibitively expensive inducements because randomness means that behavior might not be reflected in outcomes (a “risk premium”). Response problems arise in two situations. The first occurs when actors within the bureaucracy or polity develop a vested interest in the status-quo relationship between sender and target and, thus, erect roadblocks to monitoring for and responding appropriately to target behavior. The second occurs when the target government is so vulnerable that punishment threatens to hasten its downfall and empower an unfriendly actor in its place. Leveraging case studies on U.S. arms transfers, this paper shows evidence of recognition and response challenges to the effective use of carrots and sticks. (Status: Expect to submit to International Organization in Summer 2020)

Manipulating the Balance of Power: Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge” and U.S. Middle East Strategy

How do states prevent misuse when building the military capacity of military partners? This paper argues that states sometimes prevent misuse by manipulating the balance of power between a partner and its adversaries. They do this through, what I call, counterbalancing transfers of military power and defense assurances to the partner's adversaries. Counterbalancing prevents misuse by preemptively undermining the reasons that the partner and its adversaries might have to employ military power against one another. (Status: Expect to submit to International Security in Spring 2019)

The Causes and Consequences of International Arms Transfers

Why do states transfer military power through arms transfers and military training? Who transfers military power to whom? What are the effects of arms transfers on the political development of recipients?
Visualization by  Will Geary

Visualization by Will Geary

Lost Opportunities: Military Capacity Building and the Problem of Misuse [Download paper]

States frequently transfer coercive power to their military partners. This military capacity building is risky because partners can redirect transferred capability to their own priorities. In existing accounts, states are thought to take steps to mitigate misuse, through partner selection and inducements, but to accept some misuse (``agency loss'') as an inevitable cost of delegation. This paper develops new arguments about why these typical solutions are insufficient and argues that misuse creates a second kind of inefficiency (``lost opportunities'') by preventing military partnerships from forming in the first place. Building on policymaker interviews, I argue that states manage misuse through upfront risk assessment and I demonstrate empirically that concerns about misuse inhibit arms transfers even to allies. Examining panel data on post-World War II interstate arms transfers, I find that becoming what I call a ``well-positioned agent'' -- a state that is contiguous to, or shares, an adversary of the supplier -- increases arms transfers substantially but not if there is a high risk of misuse due to either alternative adversaries, corruption or military government. This research has implications for study of statecraft, principal-agent problems and arms transfers, and highlights the potential for using data to test the complex, multi-actor theories that are common in international relations. (Status: Submitted to Journal of Politics)

“If We Don’t Sell "Them Weapons, Someone Else Will”: Market Structure and the Global Trade in Arms

How do we explain broad patterns in the international trade in arms? Existing accounts of the arms trade are largely monadic: they explain why producers export and why consumers import but not to/from whom. This paper tests an original formal model about how the structure of markets for weapons -- from competitive to monopolistic -- and foreign policy preferences interact to shape dyadic patterns and prices in the arms trade. When markets are monopolistic, suppliers restrict transfers so as not to empower their enemies; but when markets are competitive, because most recipients will be able to find a willing supplier, producers are willing to sell to pretty much anyone. In competitive markets, then, dyadic patterns are shaped primarily by importer concerns about becoming dependent on unfriendly suppliers. Counter-intuitively, concerns about dependency give suppliers the power to collect economic rents by charging their friends more. (Status: Work in Progress)

The Unintended Effects of Arms Transfers on Recipient Countries

What are the consequences of arms transfers for economic and political development (e.g. growth, rule of law, civil-military relations) and military conflict in recipient countries? Existing research finds contradictory effects due to severe inferential challenges. This paper leverages empirically validated models of arms transfers from my other research projects to compute propensity scores and match on comparable cases in order to mitigate selection bias. (Status: Work in Progress)

Ideas and Institutions

How do institutions help states solve strategic problems and promote cooperation? How do policymakers decide which strategies to implement among alternatives?

The Strategic Foundations of the Liberal Order

The liberal order — characterized by strategic restraint through rule-based institutions — is often presented as a sort of quid-pro-quo, grand bargain in which the leading state (the U.S.) and secondary states (Western Europe and Japan) agree to mutually operate through rules-based institutions that limit returns to power in order to limit the costs of power politics. This paper argues that strategic restraint actually solves two distinct challenges: one that rising, secondary states face; and a second that leading states confront. Specifically, restraint by secondary states helps to disincentivize domination by a leading, but declining, power; and restraint by the leading state helps to disincentivize secondary states from balancing against it. Under certain conditions, that plausibly obtained after World War II, these decisions represent self-enforcing equilibria separate from one another. (Status: Expect to submit for publication in Spring 2020)

I Think Therefore I Act: Causal Beliefs in the Making of Europe [Working paper]

How do states select among the alternative strategies available to them? Challenging the conventional claim that international or domestic structure predetermines state behavior, I argue that policymakers use causal beliefs – ideas about cause and effect in international relations – to mitigate uncertainty and identify optimal foreign policy strategies. As evidence, I present disaggregated case studies, based on extensive archival research, of the decisions by Italy and the United Kingdom to pursue European integration. (Status: Expect to submit for publication in Spring 2020)

Political Science and Foreign Policy

What is the role of social-scientific theory and evidence in foreign policy design? How can political scientists produce knowledge that is useful to foreign policy practitioners? How should we train practitioners to make evidence-based foreign policy?

Causal Inference Beyond the Water’s Edge: Challenges — and Solutions — to the Causal Identification of Foreign Policy Effects [Working draft available on request]

Scholars of international relations increasingly engage in, what is commonly referred to as, program or policy evaluation. Leveraging quasi-experimental tools for causal identification, this research seeks to understand the effect that some policy intervention has on outcomes of interest. This paper argues that the study of foreign policy effects requires special care because typical features of foreign policy are likely to make it so that observational analyses violate all three of the assumptions necessary for group comparisons to have a causal interpretation: unconfoundedness, non-interference and uniform treatment. The problem arises because foreign policy responses generally combine multiple instruments of statecraft into strategies that are designed for the specific circumstances that states confront and because actors in international relations learn from and adapt their behavior in response to past policy implementations. I show that these problems threaten many findings in the literature and propose data and research-design solutions to mitigate identification problems. (Status: Expect to submit for publication in Spring 2020)

A Gully or a Gap? Policy-Relevant Analysis of Foreign Policy Effects? [Working draft available on request]

Many of us study international relations because we hope to improve our country's foreign policy or to make some positive impact on the world. And yet, the gap between the study of international relations and the practice of foreign policy seems as wide as ever. This paper offers one reason: political scientists are simply not producing the sorts of information that policymakers need. Average treatment effects -- the finding that comes out of most policy evaluation -- are of little use to foreign policymakers, who generally have the luxury of personalizing specific policy responses to each of the situations they confront. While average treatment effects tell us about the overall effect of a treatment on a group as a whole -- information that is useful when policymakers must implement a single policy over many units -- they tell us nothing about the likely effect of a treatment on a specific unit. In the context of personalized policymaking, average treatment effects do not provide foreign policymakers with the information that they need. Bridging the gap, then, requires that academics ask the sorts of questions that policymakers need answered and design their research to provide answers appropriate to the personalized context of foreign policymaking. (Status: Expect to submit for publication in Spring 2020)

Evidence-Based Foreign Policy Design

Based on a course I have taught to Stanford undergraduates and International Policy Studies Master’s students, I am in the early stages of compiling a short “guidebook” on how to teach practitioners to leverage the knowledge developed in the social sciences to improve foreign policy design. (Status: Work in progress)

Distributive Justice (Political Philosophy)

I have a secondary interest in analytic political philosophy. These papers resolve important challenges to a popular idea, known as choice sensitivity, according to which the justice of a distribution should depend on the degree to which it is the product of choices by relevant individuals.

There is No Justice in Equality Among Slaves: Rescuing Egalitarianism from the Problem of the Tamed Housewife [Full abstract] [Working paper]

A powerful critique of a wide range of popular principles of distributive justice is that they treat those with adaptive preferences unfairly, for example, by requiring that Amartya Sen’s “tamed housewife” receive relative few resources. This paper argues that adaptive preferences are a problem not only for welfarist conceptions of distributive justice but for any choice-sensitive principle. It shows that the problem from choice-sensitivity is not that the tamed housewife receives too few resources but that, because her preferences are non-autonomous, her just distribution is indeterminate. Rescuing choice-sensitivity from the problem of the tamed housewife, then, requires that distributive justice has a prerequisite: equality is only possible against a background of autonomous preferences. Advancing distributive justice, then, requires first promoting personal autonomy. (Status: Expect to submit for publication in Winter 2020)

Choice-Sensitive Egalitarianism: A Conceptual Analysis [Full abstract] [Working paper]

What is choice-sensitive egalitarianism? This paper argues that any determinate choice-sensitive egalitarian principle must be specified along two egalitarian and two choice-sensitive dimensions. Alternative accounts of choice-sensitive egalitarianism — including resource egalitarian, luck egalitarian, luck prioritarian, capabilitarian and certain left-libertarian principles — are shown to emerge by answering these questions in different ways. (Status: Expect to submit for publication in Winter 2020)

Future Projects (Collaborators Wanted!)

Some other projects I have been exploring. If you are interested in collaborating, let me know!

Sticky Like Honey or Sticky Like Glue: On the Costs of Institutional Change

Why do institutions become sticky in that it is costly to operate outside of them? The existing literature offers numerous hypotheses -- focal points, domestic political spillover, bureaucratic restructuring -- but little empirical testing. This paper would test alternative mechanisms for institutional stickiness by leveraging plausibly exogenous within- and between-country variation in the degree to which different institutions are embedded in bureaucratic processes, bilateral relations and the domestic economy.

Generating Ideology: How the Formative Experiences of Generational Cohorts Shape Worldviews

Major political, economic, social and cultural events are thought to provide a common coming-of-age experience for generational cohorts and shape its unique characteristics. These experiences are understood to be “life defining” because they occur at a young age, when personality and beliefs are still malleable. This paper leverages survey experiments to understand whether and how life-defining events shape the foreign policy worldviews of generational cohorts.