image295Book: Leaders at War: How Presidents Shape Military Interventions (Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2011)

2012 Jervis-Schroeder Best Book Award, APSA International History & Politics Section

Why do some military interventions explicitly try to transform the domestic institutions of the states they target, while others do not, instead attempting only to reverse foreign policies or resolve disputes without trying to reshape the internal landscape of the target state?  This book provides a framework for understanding when and why great powers seek to transform foreign institutions and societies through military interventions.  In doing so, it highlights a crucial but often-overlooked factor in international relations: the role of individual leaders.  The book develops and tests a theory that explains how different leaders shape both the decision to intervene and the choice of intervention strategy, especially the degree to which intervention seeks to interfere in the domestic institutions of target states.  Since the role of leaders can be difficult to separate from the influence of international and domestic factors, I test the theory on United States military interventions during the Cold War – a single country within a single international system – using archival and historical sources.  Focusing on the administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, I examine cases of both intervention and non-intervention.  After demonstrating the importance of leaders in this period, I illustrate the theory’s applicability to other historical and contemporary settings, including the early twentieth century, the post-Cold War period, and the Iraq War.

Journal Articles & Book Chapters

“Mapping the Boundaries of Elite Cues: How Elites Shape Mass Opinion Across International Issues” (with Alexandra Guisinger), International Studies Quarterly, Forthcoming (2015 Best Paper Award, APSA Foreign Policy Section, for paper from 2014 meeting)

“No Substitute for Experience: Presidents, Advisers, and Information in Group Decision-Making,” International Organization, Forthcoming.

“The Diplomatic Core: The Determinants of High-Level US Diplomatic Visits, 1946-2010” (with James Lebovic), International Studies Quarterly 60(1): 107–123 (2016).

“War and the Inner Circle: Democratic Elites and the Politics of Using Force,” Security Studies 24(3): 466-501 (2015).

“Transparency without Tears: A Pragmatic Approach to Transparent Security Studies Research,” Security Studies 23(4): 689-698 (2014) (contribution to peer-reviewed symposium).

“Good Democratic Leadership in Foreign Affairs: An Elite-Centered Approach,” In Good Democratic Leadership, eds. John Kane and Haig Patapan.  Oxford University Press, Forthcoming (2014).

“The Army You Have: The Determinants of Military Mechanization, 1979-2001” (with Todd S. Sechser), International Studies Quarterly 54(2): 481-511 (June 2010).

“Transformative Choices: Leaders and the Origins of Intervention Strategy,” International Security 34(2): 119-161 (Fall 2009).

“A New Electorate?  Comparing Preferences and Partisanship between Immigrants and Natives” (with Rafaela Dancygier), American Journal of Political Science 50(4): 962-981 (October 2006).

“Setting Boundaries: Can International Society Exclude ‘Rogue States’?” International Studies Review 8(1): 23-53 (March 2006).

Work in Progress

Book Project: The Insiders’ Game: Elites, Democracies, and War

This book aims to better understand how democracies conduct their international relations in light of the public’s tendency to ignore foreign policy. Its immediate focus is on the use of force by the United States, where we might expect public opinion to be particularly engaged. I argue that it is elites, rather than voters, who serve as the first line of accountability in democracies and the proximate audience for decisions to use force. The project aims to explore how the process of forging an elite consensus changes foreign policy outcomes in important ways. In doing so, it challenges prevailing voter-driven theories of how democracies operate in the international system.  An article drawn from the book was published in Security Studies.

Articles in Progress

“Leaders, Advisers, and the Political Origins of Elite Support for War” (formerly titled “The Electoral Disconnection in US Foreign Policy”)

“Elites, Voters, and Democracies and War” (with Scott Wolford, under review; formerly titled “Intra-Elite Bargains and the Character of Democratic Foreign Policy”)

“The Ratification Premium: Hawks, Doves, and Arms Control” (with Sarah Kreps and Kenneth Schultz)

Media and Commentary


“Mitch McConnell thinks you don’t need experience to be president.  Here’s why he’s wrong” (The Monkey Cage, Washington Post, July 27, 2016)

“Obama’s symbolic visit to Cuba is the exception. What’s the real history of presidents and international travel?” with James Lebovic (The Monkey Cage, Washington Post, March 23, 2016)

“Will foreign policy be a major issue in the 2016 election? Heres what we know” (The Monkey Cage, Washington Post, January 26, 2016)

“The new defense budget may change less than you think” with Todd Sechser (The Monkey Cage, Washington Post, February 27, 2014)

Selected Interviews

Panelist on The Diane Rehm Show, “The Presidential Candidates and Their Foreign Policy Positions,” March 21, 2016

“Bernie Sanders Looks at Foreign Policy through an Economic Lens” (NPR’s All Things Considered, April 14, 2016)

“4 Things to Know About Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy” (NPR’s All Things Considered, May 17, 2016)