Major- International Relations
I am a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with the Project on Managing the Atom and International Security Program within the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. I am also a visiting scholar in the Political Science Department at Boston College. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from George Washington University in August 2014. I have been a Pre-Doctoral Fellow here at Harvard (2013 – 2014) and also a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program (2012 – 2013). I am also a fellow with the Bridging the Gap Project and co-chair of the New Era Conference on Foreign Policy. My interests lie within international security and foreign policy decision-making, with a focus on the role of the individual executive in foreign and security policy, as well as on nuclear proliferation, counter-proliferation, and military intervention. I have regional interests in the Middle East and East Asia.
Interests: International security, international relations, foreign policy decision-making, nuclear proliferation, military intervention, and grand strategy.
Overview: My book manuscript, titled “All Options on the Table? Nuclear Proliferation, Preventive War, and a Leader’s Decision to Intervene,” explores how leaders’ beliefs influence the decision to use preventive military force as a counter-proliferation strategy against adversarial nuclear weapons programs. Using comparative and historical analysis, I conduct qualitative and archival case research to investigate the sources of American counter-proliferation decision-making against a variety of adversaries from 1945 to 2007. Beyond the book, additional projects investigate the impact of nuclear weapons on the international system, including how nuclear latency can both benefit and burden states that pursue it and how beliefs about the coercive value of nuclear weapons influence leaders’ intervention decisions. Elsewhere, article projects scrutinize the behavior of the superpower in both the provision of public goods in the cyber arena, and in foreign military interventions over time.
Ph.D. Political Science, George Washington University
M.A. International Policy Studies, Stanford University
B.A. magna cum laude, International Affairs and French, George Washington University
Title: “All Options on the Table? Nuclear Proliferation, Preventive War, and a Leader’s Decision to Intervene”
Committee: Charles Glaser (Chair), James Goldgeier (American University), Elizabeth Saunders
Under what conditions do states use preventive military force to forestall or destroy an adversary’s nuclear weapons program? If nuclear weapons are so dangerous, why do leaders disagree about the magnitude of the threat posed by specific nuclear programs? Despite the fact that nuclear proliferation has been a growing source of concern, counter-proliferation decision-making remains poorly understood. In addition, though the logic of preventive war pervades the international relations literature as one state response to a relative decline in power, after five decades of scholarship it remains unclear when this leads to war and when it does not. In the nuclear arena, a preventive war may occur when one state, facing another state in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons, attacks the nuclear program in an attempt to destroy or forestall it and remove the future possibility of fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.
My manuscript demonstrates that the decision to use preventive military force rests not only on structural factors, such as power differentials and military feasibility, but critically on a leader’s prior beliefs about the consequences of nuclear proliferation and the likelihood of deterring a particular nuclear adversary. Included in the universe are 23 cases between 1945 and 2007 that demonstrate the phenomenon in question. From within the larger universe, and to test my argument against competing hypotheses from the existing literature, I conduct comparative and historical analysis using archival research and process tracing to examine American decision-making against the Chinese, Iraqi, and North Korean nuclear programs.
I offer a leader-centric argument for understanding use of force decisions, where cost-benefit analyses by various leaders differ because of disagreement over the requirements of deterrence and the dangers of nuclear proliferation, as well as competing threat assessments of the state attempting to proliferate. In contrast to purely rational models that would not expect much rational variation in this calculation, I argue that leaders possess divergent prior or pre-presidential beliefs about the nature and dangers of proliferation, as well as threat perceptions of specific other states. My research and existing research on the Cold War suggests that leaders have patterned, entrenched, and divergent beliefs on these topics fundamental to intervention decisions. Leaders therefore have different expected utility calculations when confronting the same estimates of the situation they confront that lead to different strategy selections.
This project advances the literatures on foreign policy decision-making, counter-proliferation, and preventive war. Using archival material, it demonstrates the key role individuals play in nuclear policy and the existence of divergent beliefs about deterrence and proliferation. It offers a novel explanation for variation in counter-proliferation behavior and recommendations to improve the policy process by highlighting an oft-overlooked source of information vital to non-proliferation policy: the essential role of individual beliefs.
“‘Imagine a World in Which’: Using Scenarios in Political Science.” International Studies Perspectives. With Naazneen Barma, Brent Durbin, and Eric Lorber. Forthcoming May 2016, Vol. 17, No. 2.
2012. "The Battle Over America's Foreign Policy Doctrine." Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 54(5): 45-66. (With Amir Stepak) (link to article)
“Political Scientists and the Military.” 2015. War on the Rocks, August 10, 2015. With Paula Thornhill.
“Nuclear Beliefs: A Leader-focused Theory of Counter-Proliferation.” Under Review.
"Assessing the Benefits and Burdens of Nuclear Latency." (With Gene Gerzhoy and Rupal Mehta)
“Putting the ‘Public’ in Global Goods: An Empirical Investigation of Global Public Goods Provision.” (With Naazneen Barma)
“Nuclear Weapons and the End of the Nation State.” (With James Goldgeier)
“Unconventional Ties? States, Non-State Actors, and Weapons of Mass Destruction.” (With Amir Stepak)
“Discourses of Legitimation: Power, Identity, and Humanitarian Intervention.” (With Shannon Elizabeth Powers)
International Affairs Cornerstone (graduate), Professor Charles Glaser, George Washington University (Fall 2011 & 2010)
Introduction to International Politics (undergraduate), Professor Chad Rector, George Washington University, (Spring 2011, Spring 2010, Spring 2009, & Fall 2007)
“An Introduction to Nuclear Weapons,” for “Introduction to International Politics” course (Spring 2011)
“21st Century Deterrence: Confronting Rogue States and International Terrorists,” for “Introduction to International Politics” courses (Spring 2010 & Spring 2011)
*Teaching evaluations are available upon request.