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Research

I am interested in intrastate peace processes, including how multi-party conflict influences government strategy, the bargaining power of insurgent groups, and civilian perceptions of violence and state legitimacy. Please read below for information about my current book project, as well as other works in progress.

Book Project

Combatting more than one rebel group strains governments’ military abilities by dividing resources across multiple wars. Governments that would otherwise be able to defeat a rebel group may be unable to do so when tied down by multiple insurgencies.  Peace agreements are heralded as tools for ending civil war. I am currently working on a book manuscript that looks at exclusive “peace” agreements—those agreements governments that exclude at least one warring party in the conflict— and argues that these settlements function as a part of states’ counterinsurgency strategy.

Chapter 1 – Introduction.
Chapter 2 - A theory of peace agreements as a counterinsurgency strategy.
Chapter 3 - Cross-national quantitative test: Do warring parties sign exclusive peace agreements in response to the threat posed by other rebel groups?
Chapter 4 - In multiparty conflicts, can a rebel group leverage the threat posed by other rebel groups to achieve a better bargain?
Chapter 5: Does the threat posed by other rebel groups serve as an effective commitment device, creating durable peace between signatories?
Chapter 6: Do exclusive peace agreements change reputations in the eyes of domestic and international audiences?
Chapter 7: A case study of civil conflict in the Southern Philippines.
Chapter 8: Conclusion.

Published Research

You've Got a Friend in Me: How International Governmental Organizations Influence Organizations' Participation in Elections as Ethnic Parties in Eastern Europe (with Victor Asal)

Accepted at Democratization

Which ethnopolitical organizations run for office? An extensive literature studies when ethnic parties emerge. We explore an understudied dimension that distinguishes various ethnopolitical organizations: the support of international governmental organizations (IGOs). IGOs can encourage ethnopolitical organizations to participate in elections by lowering an organization’s campaign costs or the price of internal restructuring. IGOs can also increase the expected benefits of running for office. Ties with an IGO communicate to voters that an organization will effectively represent the ethnic group domestically and internationally. We explore the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the international community’s hand is highly visible, to illustrate the mechanisms that link IGO support and organizations’ participation in elections. We then use a large-N cross-national analysis, relying on original data of hundreds of ethnopolitical organizations from 1991–2006 throughout Eastern Europe, to assess the theory’s generalizability. We use a recursive bivariate probit model to incorporate an estimate of which organizations IGOs are most likely to support into our analysis. Our results show that IGO support strongly correlates with an ethnopolitical organization running for office. This research contributes to our understanding of how ethnopolitical organizations with differing ideologies, competitive dynamics, and international ties come to represent an ethnic minority.

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Papers Under Review

Divide and Conquer: Exclusive Peace Agreements as a Counterinsurgency Strategy in Multiparty Civil Conflicts

How does war between a government and rebel group influence the incentives for a government to enter into peace negotiations with other rebel groups? When fighting a civil war involving multiple rebel groups, signing a peace agreement that excludes one or more rebel groups allows a government to redirect previously encumbered weapons and troops to more effectively wage war against the remaining rebel forces. Given this interdependence between a government’s war with one rebel group and peace process with another, I theorize that a government is more likely to sign an exclusive peace agreement with a given rebel group when other insurgent forces are extremely threatening. I present two sets of evidence to evaluate this argument. First, using a large cross-national dataset I find that the threat posed by other rebel groups, measured by both the strength and number of other active rebel groups, is positively correlated with the likelihood that a government and rebel group sign an exclusive settlement. Second, I use a case study of civil war in the Southern Philippines to identify the mechanisms behind these correlations. In line with the theory, the evidence shows that the threat posed by other rebel groups can motivate peace talks. While exclusive peace agreements are often thought of as tools of peace, I show that these agreements can be counterinsurgency strategies.

Works in Progress

Military Integration, Co-optation & Rebel Group Participation in Counterinsurgency

Intrastate peace agreements often include provisions for rebel soldiers to become members of the national armed forces. These programs for military integration are theorized as mechanisms to reduce rebel groups’ vulnerability during the implementation of a peace accord. I posit that military integration serves an additional function: to enhance governments’ counterinsurgency capabilities. By bringing rebel soldiers into their armed forces, a government secures additional troops, gains access to local intelligence, and can undermine public support for other insurgent groups. In agreeing to participate in governments’ counterinsurgency campaigns, rebel groups gain confidence that government won’t renege on a deal. By incorporating rebel soldiers into government counterinsurgency offensives, peace agreements in one conflict function as warfighting tools for another. This article presents data that is a corrective to current data collection practices that obscure both the multiparty nature of many civil wars as well as a primary mechanism by which rebel groups switch sides in civil war.

Who Cares? Atrocities and the Marketplace for International Social Media Attention

Some violence against civilians, from mass killings to sexual violence, garner widespread international social media attention. Others do not. How do the global public’s perceptions of mass atrocities form, develop, and grow? We use over 100 million Twitter postings on violence against civilians in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria to answer this question. We examine what types of language and images used by activists, NGOs, and IGOs are most likely to be widely shared and which are likely to be adopted by Western social media users. Insight into which atrocities and narratives capture international attention is crucial to understanding why great powers and IGOs execute shaming campaigns, impose sanctions, and deploy peacekeepers.

#CivilWar: Using Social Media Data to Predict Conflict Onset and Intensity (with Håvard Hegre)

Observational civil war data often fails to capture important on-the-ground variables. Examples include: the opposition’s dedication to the cause, the public’s perceptions of injustice, and levels of civilian fear. These can be important weathervanes for predicting the course of political violence but are difficult to measure using traditional methods. This paper uses social media data to capture these variables by drawing on a sample of 1% of all Twitter posts geolocated in Africa. Topic modeling and sentiment analysis allow us to produce cross-national measures of these intangible variables that account for precise physical and temporal location. By analyzing this data, we examine whether the tone or topics of social media posts can predict civil war escalation at a specific place and/or time. We evaluate the value of social-media data for this purpose by incorporating them in the ViEWS forecasting model of organized political violence and assess the extent to which they improve the model’s ability to forecast the onset, escalation, and de-escalation of violence.

Terrorist Organizations, Reputation, and Transnational Affiliation with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State

Jihadist terror organizations have undergone a profound restructuring in the 21st century. Al- Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State (ISIS) have adopted a transnational organizational structure, incorporating terror groups across the globe into their fold. Scholars have theorized that AQ and ISIS do so to burnish their global reputations. Attacks by affiliate groups provide the central organization a veneer of momentum and omnipresence. Limited work has examined how joining a transnational organization affects a terror group’s reputation. I argue that pledging allegiance to a transnational organization gives terror groups a strategic advantage, enhancing both their reputation and their reach. To test this theory, I examine media coverage of six terror groups before and after the group became a transnational affiliate. I find that Western media gives terror groups more exposure and describes the group with more severe language, even when accounting for the number and severity of the group’s terror attacks.

Action or Reaction: Violence Dynamics in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (with Karsten Donnay and Ravi Bhavnani)

Building on studies of reactive or “retaliatory” violence in Gaza/Israel (Jaeger and Paserman 2006, Jaeger and Paserman 2008, Haushofer et al. 2010), as well as research that analyzes the use of selective vs. indiscriminate violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Bhavnani et al. 2011), we analyze the reactive nature of violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the period from 2000-2014. Our analysis is based on detailed geo-coded event data of deadly violence and Palestinian rocket/mortar launches. Using a novel computational technique for robust causal inference in spatio-temporal event data (Schutte and Donnay 2014), we find that violence perpetrated by a group tends to increase as a result of previous violence targeting the same group. Our preliminary analysis suggests that these effects depend on geographical location: for example, reactive signatures differ if we only consider incidents in the Palestinian territories under incomplete Palestinian control versus the full conflict dynamics in Israel and the occupied territories. The analysis further shows that reactive signatures differ depending on the conflict period, illustrated here for the Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-2005) as compared to the post-Intifada period (2005-2008).