Working Projects

Dancing in the Dark: Information Challenges and State Allocation of Force in Civil Conflict” 

Governments can use a variety of armed forces in civil war, including devolving violence to local unregulated actors even when they have regular armed forces available. To under- stand why states develop these risky security arrangements, I disaggregate the information challenges governments confront in civil conflict and explore the advantages of different types of security forces. I argue that how the central government allocates security is influenced by the challenges it faces, from monitoring its own security forces to collecting information on rebel activities and the local environment. Governments confronted with isolated subpopulations will rely more on localized and unregulated armed forces, who are better positioned to collect information on rebels within their communities. When needing to deploy troops far afield, governments mobilize more nationalized and regulated forces. I use novel panel data on internal security forces in civil conflict to evaluate these claims; my findings show that countries with greater populations in autonomous territories are associated with less regulated armed forces, whereas more regulated and more nationalized armed forces increase with conflict’s distance from the capital. This project describes previously unacknowledged but critical variation in the information environment of the state. The information environment, in turn, explains under what conditions governments rely on less regulated security arrangements.

Political Regime Type and Warfare: Evidence from 600 Years of European History,” with Mark Dincecco and Yuri Zhukov.

Under Review. We provide the first quantitative analysis of political regime type and warfare in the pre-modern era. We show that early parliamentary regimes — the institutional predecessors of modern democracies — were disproportionately more likely to experience armed conflict than their absolutist counterparts. By way of empirical evidence, we examine a new database of interstate conflict and political regime type for all sovereign polities in Europe between 1200 and 1800. We employ two complementary empirical strategies: a traditional dyadic analysis of conflict initiation, and a dynamic network analysis that accounts for interdependence between dyads. Our analyses show that early parliamentary regimes fought significantly more than non-parliamentary regimes, both overall and against each other. These regimes, we argue, had a relatively large capacity to make war, but — unlike modern democracies — not enough constraints to reduce its frequency.

“Deadly, Destructive and Decentralized: Security Organizations and State Repression,” with Christian Davenport and Ernesto Verdeja.

R&R’ed. State repression in the twenty-first century remains prominent despite political democratization, economic globalization, and legal commitments to end human rights violations. What contributes to this continuing trend of systematic human rights abuse? While previous scholarship has focused on structural characteristics of the state that encourage abuse, we argue that institutional characteristics of the “agents of atrocity” contribute to repressive behavior – a topic woefully underexamined. Expanding on previous theories regarding the impact of decentralized wielders of violence, we suggest that the degree of decentralization within the state’s security apparatus encourages repressive practices but note that this impact likely decreases over time. We test this argument using original cross-national data on state security organizations from 1993 and 2002, finding that security organizations with greater decentralization are associated with higher levels of repressive activity. Our results suggest that certain characteristics of the state security force influence government coercive behavior and thus that future research should investigate the institutions surrounding agents of atrocity.

“Strategies of Intervention: Changing the Calculus of Civilian Killings,”  with Isaac Jenkins.

Under Review.  We explore the tactics of foreign military interventions in curbing government abuse. Drawing on the logic of the principal- agent framework, we argue that interventions that directly punish abusive leaders are potentially more effective at curbing civilian causalities than other tactics. In cases where leaders are directly punished, they are less able or less willing to direct security forces to commit atrocities. Findings from our statistical analysis are consistent with this claim, suggesting that hostile international interventions can decrease government mass killings when they target and punish repressive leaders.