The Scope of Conflict & the Policymaker’s Dilemma

A significant literature treats international crises as two or more states bargaining over a policy position where a failure to reach an agreement results in war. This dichotomous treatment of the world as either being at peace or at war misses some nuance. For example, from 1991-2003, the United States was heavily involved in Iraq and took the following actions: implementing such severe sanctions that Iraq was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis; bombing Iraqi weapons facilities; supporting anti-governmental militants within Iraq; and issuing a no-fly zone in Northern and Southern Iraq. Moving to a different region of the world, Russia’s handling of post-Euromaidan Ukraine combined an array of policy technologies including cyberattacks, sanctions, information operations, supporting militants, and assassination campaigns, despite, for some time, Russia and Ukraine not officially being at war. In these cases, and in many other instances, the observed international interactions were neither peaceful (they were costly and inefficient) nor could they be traditionally classified as war (there was ample room for escalation on both sides). These cases illustrate an important point: when states are in a crisis, policymakers choose from a vast array of possible policy-levers that fall outside of the dichotomous choice between war and peace. In my research, I examine how this “policymaker’s dilemma” changes our understanding of when and how all forms of conflict arise and how this conflict plays out.

Hassling: How States Prevent a Preventive War
Schram, Peter. “Hassling: How States Prevent a Preventive War.” American Journal of Political Science 65, no. 2 (2021): 294-308.
Online Appendix, Pre-Print Copy

When Capabilities Backfire: How Improved Hassling Capabilities Produce Worse Outcomes
Schram, Peter. The Journal of Politics 84, no. 4 (2022): 2246-2260.
Online Appendix, slides, Pre-print

The Shadow of Deterrence: Why capable actors engage in conflict short of war
Journal of Conflict Resolution 68, no. 2-3 (2024): 230-268.
With Andres Gannon, Erik Gartzke, & Jon Lindsay

Uncertainty in Crisis Bargaining with Multiple Policy Levers
Forthcoming at the American Journal of Political Science,
With Brenton Kenkel
Slides, AJPS Pre-Print

Conflicts that Leave Something to Chance: Establishing Brinkmanship through Conventional Wars
Revise and resubmit, International Organization
Appendix, Slides

Mechanism Design Goes to Nuclear War
With Brenton Kenkel

Putting Yourself Out There: Designing Credible Assurances Through Endogenous Power Shifts
With Brandon Yoder

Some of this research has policy implications: I’ve also written some short policy pieces on at E-IR and Lawfare.

Organization and Agency in Insurgent Groups

Being a successful insurgent group is hard. Consider the Haqqani Network, a jihadist militant group in Afghanistan and Pakistan that has operated since the 1980s. The Haqqani Network has withstood and challenged two global superpowers (the U.S.S.R. and U.S.), has established a vast international donor network, has facilitated global terrorism by supporting, among other individuals, Mullah Omar (of the Taliban) and Osama bin Laden (of al Qaeda), has conducted large and complex attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and managed a lucrative timber import/export business. The Haqqani Network is a successful, vast, multi-national organization, despite historically facing oppressive counterinsurgency pressure from global superpowers and operating in an area that would traditionally be viewed as having low human capital and few successful organizations. In my research, I examine how, despite these challenges, groups like the Haqqani Network organize and operate, and how counterinsurgency and international policies can undermine the organizational functioning of these groups.

Managing Insurgency
Schram, Peter. “Managing Insurgency.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 63, no. 10 (2019): 2319-2353.
Pre-Print, Online Appendix, Replication Files.

Self-Managing Terror: Resolving Agency Problems with Diverse Teams
Schram, Peter. “Games and Economic Behavior,” Volume 130, November 2021:240-257
Online Appendix

Terrorism Works, For Its Supporters
Revise and resubmit, Journal of Conflict Resolution
With Andrew Coe and Heesun Yoo
Slides, Appendix