Alexander B. Downes (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2004) is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and co-Director of the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at The George Washington University. Downes's book Targeting Civilians in War was published by Cornell University Press in 2008 and won the Joseph Lepgold Prize awarded by Georgetown University for the best book in international relations published in that year. Targeting Civilians in War previously won the Helen Dwight Reid Award for best dissertation in international relations, law, and politics in 2006 from the American Political Science Association. His second book, Catastrophic Success: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Goes Wrong was published, also by Cornell, in 2021. Downes has written on a variety of subjects in international security, including civilian victimization, foreign-imposed regime change, military effectiveness, democracy, coercion, alliances, and solutions to civil wars. His work can be found in journals like the British Journal of Political Science, Civil Wars, International Organization, International Security, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Strategic Studies, and Security Studies, as well as multiple edited volumes.
In 2016, Downes was named the winner of the inaugural Emerging Scholar Award, given by the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association to recognize scholars under the age of 45, or within fifteen years of receiving the Ph.D., who are judged to have made (through the body of their publications) the most significant contribution to the field of security studies. Downes has held fellowships at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (2007/08) and Olin Institute for Strategic Studies (2002/03), and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (2003/04) at Stanford University. His work has been funded by the Department of Defense Minerva Initiative, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Eisenhower Institute, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and Office of Naval Research.
Downes teaches a variety of courses on IR and international security for undergraduates, M.A. students at the Elliott School, and Ph.D. students in Political Science. In recognition of his efforts in the classroom, Downes received the 2020 Harry Harding Teaching Prize from the Elliott School.
Before joining the GW faculty, Downes was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University from 2004-2011. He holds a B.A. in Music (magna cum laude) from Brown University and an M.A. in International Relations (with honors) from the University of Chicago.