My research engages the fields of international relations and comparative politics. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, I investigate questions relating to civil war, armed non-state actors, terrorism, human security, and political violence. My work often focuses on these topics in sub-Saharan Africa. Taken together, my research provides insight into the micro-foundations of armed conflict and human security.
Dissertation Project: "Rebel Leaders and the Management of Rebel Organizations in Armed Intrastate Conflict"
How do rebel leaders influence the behavior of their organizations within the constraints of the conflict environment? In this project, Rebel Leaders and the Management of Rebel Organizations in Armed Intrastate Conflict, I speak directly to this theoretical and empirical puzzle. This project, which is supported by multiple research grants from the University of Georgia, highlights the prewar political and military experiences of rebel leaders as well as their motives for conflict to explain how they shape three important wartime dynamics: group mobilization, organizational structure, and the risk of fragmentation. In doing so, I demonstrate that accounting for variation in rebel leadership provides important leverage over the microfoundations of insurgent decision-making.
Evidence for the dissertation comes from a mixed-methodological research design. In the first stage, I test the generalizability of my argument in a series of statistical models, all of which use an original cross-national dataset featuring over 200 rebel leaders from 1989 to 2014. In the second stage, I describe the organizational structures and norms of command that characterized the UNITA insurgency in the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002). To supplement existing accounts, I acquired data from a series of semi-structured interviews and focus groups with former UNITA subcommanders and fighters, state military leaders, and non-combatants. This fieldwork research was conducted in various research sites throughout Angola in Summer 2018.
2017. “Immigration Politics and Partisan Realignment: California, Texas, and the 1994 Election,” State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 17(1), 3-23. With James E. Monogan III. [article]
Papers Under Review
"A Motion of No Confidence? Leadership and Rebel Fragmentation." (Revise & Resubmit)
Why do rebel organizations splinter into competing factions during civil war? I contend that rebel leaders draw on their pre-war experiences to lead their organizations during conflict and, thus, that the risk of group fragmentation will correspond with variation in rebel leader type. Specifically, I leverage rebel leaders’ pre-war military and political experiences as well as their motives for conflict to explain the probability and timing of group fragmentation. Empirical evidence comes from a two-stage research design and original data featuring over 200 rebel leaders from 1989 to 2014. In the first stage, I estimate the probability of group fragmentation with a series of logistic regression models. In the second stage, I use Cox Proportional Hazards models to estimate leadership effects on the timing of group fragmentation. Results indicate that variation in rebel leadership corresponds with unique risks of rebel fragmentation. This study offers a novel approach to rebel leadership and important insight into the processes by which rebel groups splinter into armed factions.
"Risky Business: Foreign Direct Investment and the Economic Consequences of Electoral Violence." With Stephen M. Bagwell. (Revise & Resubmit)
Multiparty elections sometimes provide a flash point for violent unrest, evidenced by recent events of electoral violence in Benin, Zimbabwe, Angola, Kenya, and others. While the social and political consequences of electoral violence are widely discussed in the literature, less is known about the economic consequences of electoral violence. In this study, we investigate this dynamic, asking: how do episodes of electoral violence affect levels of incoming foreign direct investment? We argue that, when investing in foreign enterprises, multinational firms weigh the expected gains of investment with the probability that the host economy experiences significant lapses in political stability—or even devolves into violent conflict. Electoral violence signals a greater risk in both of these undesirable outcomes and, thus, constitutes an especially severe form of political risk. As such, we expect the probability of foreign direct investment to be negatively associated with recent events of electoral violence. Using firm-level data, we investigate the investment behavior of multinational firms in Sub-Saharan African countries from 1995 to 2008 with a series of multinomial logistic regression models. By directly modeling the unique choices that firms make with respect to yearly changes in investment, we demonstrate that firms are more likely to reduce the size of their investment in host countries following events of electoral violence. Conversely, electoral violence has no effect on a firm’s decision to increase levels of FDI.
“Sexual Violence Against Civilians and Rebel Fragmentation.” With Robert Nagel.
To what extent does sexual violence influence rebel group fragmentation? A substantial body of research explores wartime rape as a cohesion building mechanism following forced recruitment. However, the relationship between sexual violence and broader organizational cohesiveness has not been systematically tested. In this paper we provide this test with a study on the effects of sexual violence on the event of rebel group fragmentation. We argue that rebel sexual violence increases cohesion at the battalion level, but increases the risk of fragmentation of the broader organization. Specifically, we contend that rebel lieutenants are more likely to split from the organization if they are confident that their subordinate battalions are cohesive and will follow them rather than remain with the organization. We test this argument on a global sample of 105 rebel organizations active between 1989 and 2014. The results provide robust support for the argument showing that sexual violence increases the risk of fragmentation by a factor of four. This presents a crucial contribution to our understanding of both rebel group fragmentation and sexual violence and has important policy implications.
“Foreign Fighters & Anti-Civilian Violence in Civil War: Rouge Agents or Agents of Atrocity?” With John D. Willingham.
Does the presence of foreign fighters drive higher levels of anti-civilian violence in armed intrastate conflict? If so, under what conditions? Evidence from recent conflict cases indicates that foreign fighters may be used intentionally by local rebel commanders to carry out abusive operations against non-combatants. Other cases, however, suggest that foreign fighters possess greater capacity for independent agency in war, stepping outside the chain of command to inflict harm against local non-combatants. We argue that variation in rebel group command structure—specifically, their degrees of centralization—offers a point of leverage with which to adjudicate these competing mechanisms. We investigate this issue with an analysis of 69 rebel groups active in 53 armed intrastate conflicts between 1989 and 2015. First, we find that the presence of foreign fighters is associated with higher levels of rebel-inflicted anti-civilian violence. Second, a subsequent analysis reveals that this effect is conditional: foreign fighters are associated with greater levels of anti-civilian violence only when active in groups with centralized command structures. This finding offers strong support for the hypothesis that the presence of foreign fighters allows rebel leaders to be less reliant on local populations for material support. The study contributes to the nascent literature on foreign fighters and offers generalizable evidence for how these actors step into the pre-existing command structures of local rebel organizations. Moreover, this study contributes to organizational theories of anti-civilian violence, further demonstrating that the abuse of civilians in civil war can be explained effectively based on the internal characteristics of armed parties.
“Follow the Leader: Rebel Leaders and Anti-Civilian Violence in Civil War.” With John D. Willingham.
Intrastate war produces a variety of personalities in leadership roles. Policymakers emphasize the individuals that manage rebel campaigns. Scholars, however, know relatively little about the processes by which rebel leaders shape the behavior of rebel groups in intrastate conflict—in particular, how they influence levels of rebel-inflicted anti-civilian violence. Civilians overwhelmingly bear the brunt of conflict violence. Yet this dynamic varies both by conflict and by armed groups within conflict spaces. This variation suggests that while all intrastate conflicts are violent, comparatively speaking, certain actors inflict higher levels of abuse against civilians than others. We explain the observed variation in anti-civilian violence as a function of leader type. Toward this end, we conceptualize the roles of rebel leaders in warfare and offer a typology based on their motivation for conflict and military experience. Using original data, we find support for our argument. Results suggest that a leader's prior military experience has a moderating effect on the use of violence against civilians, while leaders motivated by personal profit are far more likely to engage in civilian targeting. These results encourage further efforts to bring leaders back into analyses of intrastate war, with important implications for both scholars and policymakers.
Other Working Papers
“‘The Victory is the Mindset’: Jonas Savimbi and Cohesion in the UNITA Insurgency.”
“Elections and the Proliferation of Rebel Groups in Civil War.” With Travis Curtice.
"Next Door or Next of Kin? Disaggregating Contagious Conflict & Preemptive Repression.” With Chad Clay.
“Warlords, Complicit Publics, and Civil Conflict.” With Scott Gates, Kaare Strøm, and John D. Willingham.