Here’s some of my research:
Accepted for publication, Journal of Conflict Resolution
Pre-Print, Online Appendix, Replication Files,
Why would an insurgent group turn away foreign fighters who volunteered to fight for its cause? To explain variation in foreign fighter usage, I present a novel perspective on what foreign fighters offer to militant groups. Because foreign fighters possess a different set of preferences from local fighters, integrated teams of foreign and local fighters can self-manage and mitigate the agency problems that are ubiquitous to insurgent groups. However, to create self-managing teams, insurgent leadership must oversee the teams’ formation. When counterinsurgency pressure prevents this oversight, foreign fighters are less useful and the leadership may exclude them. This theory explains variation in foreign fighter use and agency problems within al Qaeda in Iraq (2004-2010) and the Haqqani Network (2001-2018). Analysis of the targeting of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda in Iraq’s former leader, further supports the theory, suggesting that leadership targeting inhibited oversight and aggravated agency problems within the group.
Low-level military operations outside of war are a pervasive feature of the international system. To date, academics and policymakers have identified these activities as destabilizing, bringing states to the threshold of war where miscalculation or missteps risk escalation. I show the opposite can be true, and that these operations can prevent an escalation to a greater war. I present a theory that incorporates a specific type of low-level conflict that I call “hassling” into the common framework of bargaining and war. I find that when a rising power rules out feasible peaceful bargains, hassling can prevent a preventive war. This intuition is formalized in a dynamic model of conflict and is explored through examinations of Israel’s Operation Outside the Box in 2007, the United States’ involvement in Iraq from 1991-2003, and Russia’s involvement in Ukraine 2014-present.
I examine a principal-agents model of subversion with externalities to illustrate a novel reason for why diversity can be valuable: teams of diverse agents can self-manage their agency problems. In contrast to “ally-principle” results, I find that integrating more extreme agents can result in better-behaved teams. The model describes Islamist terror groups where, because foreign and domestic fighters have conflicting preferences over how they want to subvert, integrated teams may self-manage with efficiency gains for the principal. This model explains variation in agency problems and foreign fighter usage in al Qaeda in Iraq, the Haqqani Network, and the Islamic State.