My research interests are in comparative politics and international relations, focusing on civil conflict, peacebuilding, and post-conflict state consolidation. In my substantive research, I seek to contribute to our understanding of two central and interrelated problems hindering post-conflict peace: weak state institutions and failure of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs. My research on political methodology is broadly on the study of causal inference in natural experiments, quantifying complex concepts, and employing machine learning algorithms in modeling data with low number of observations.
Can the Rebel Body Function without its Visible Heads? The Role of Mid-Level Commanders in Peacebuilding
International Peacekeeping (2022)
Mid-level commanders are commonly considered the visible heads of the rebel body: as leaders of combat operations, they are often targeted in counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations. This paper argues that transitions from conflict involve fraying of wartime bonds and rebel command-and-control structures, which is counterproductive to peace when rebels demobilize collectively. In peacetime and in the absence of wartime command, social groups formed through military logic – such as ex-combatant collectivities – struggle to redefine individual roles. Read more: https://doi.org/10.1080/13533312.2022.2128337. Pre-print here.
How Wartime Bonds Affect Ex-Combatant Political Attitudes: A Natural Experiment with the FARC
Terrorism and Political Violence (2022)
What determines political attitudes of ex-combatant after conflict, specifically the inclination towards rearmament? And to what extent do these attitudes depend on ex-combatants’ individual profiles? I argue that ex-combatant political attitudes are determined by whether wartime bonds are maintained after conflict. The argument indirectly implies that the impact of individual characteristics, such as gender, age, education, time in conflict, and family relations, fade in the face of group-level factors determined both during and after conflict.
Read more: https://doi.org/10.1080/09546553.2021.2017895.
Predicting the End of the Syrian Conflict: From Theory to the Reality of a Civil War
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (2021)
The Syrian civil war has confounded all predictions on its end date and is still ongoing. Valuable explicative work has been done on civil war duration; however, scholars have failed to reliably predict the end of ongoing conflicts. This article argues that faulty predictions on termination date of the Syrian conflict did not necessarily result from statistical errors in modeling civil wars data and better models might not necessarily mitigate the prediction problem. Rather, three factors contributed to the misperceptions: the conflict’s cartography problem, the splintering of the opposition, and the multi-partner foreign intervention in the conflict.
Read more: https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2018.1538153.
Agents with Principles? Preventing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence with Human Rights Laws and Norms (with Kathryn Overton)
Human Rights Quarterly (2023)
Do human rights norms affect the wartime behavior of state actors? Focusing on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), we posit that behavioral expectations in the form of norms and laws have a visible impact on government militaries. Principal-agent arguments and gender dynamics have contributed substantially to our understanding of CRSV. In this project, we present a constructivist theory of CRSV to explain variation in sexual violence committed by state militaries. Using data from over 2,000 actor-incidents between 1989 and 2015, we find a robust negative relationship between physical integrity norms and CRSV.
A Critical Review of Evidence from Ex-Combatant Re-Integration Programs
London School of Economics (2018)
This paper critically reviews the conceptual literature on DDR/DDRRR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement) as well as practitioner/donor publications on DDR approaches and lessons learned. The review focuses mainly on programs in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, specifically the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, and the Central African Republic (CAR). Reviewing a large number of works between 1990 and 2017, the paper draws conclusions on the conditions that contribute to endemic violence in the post-conflict period and the factors that make social repair possible among and within communities that have undergone acute social stress.
Read more: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/90890/.
Maintaining Rebel Cohesion for the Purpose of Peace?
Explaining Subnational Variation in Peacebuilding in Colombia
Post-conflict peacebuilding initially involves Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs, designed to ensure ex-combatants have little incentive for returning to armed conflict. While some DDR programs focus on disbanding rebel groups, others have employed former military networks towards building peace. What explains variation within a country case in keeping ex-combatants together and creating economically viable projects for their reintegration? This paper offers a subnational analysis of post conflict peacebuilding efforts, arguing that maintaining the command-and-control structure of rebel groups after war ensures success in demobilization and collective reintegration of ex-combatants. Abstract here.
When are Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) Programs Successful? The DDR-40 Dataset (1980-2020)
This project introduces DDR-40, a pioneer global dataset of all Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs, starting in 1980 and ending in 2020. Seventy-three programs are identified and presented as counting process data with yearly time-varying covariates and discontinuous risk intervals. DDR-40 covers three phases of every program: pre-DDR, DDR, and post-DDR. The pre-DDR phase focuses on characteristics of the conflict and groups; the DDR phase measures the extent to which peace program components are implemented; and post-DDR indicates country and group profiles five years after DDR termination. APSA poster here.
Protoinsurgencies, Repression-Driven Contagion and Escalation to Civil War Onset (with Jason M. Quinn, T. David Mason, and Mustafa Kirisci)
Peace and Defense Economics (2023)
The escalation of militarized interstate disputes or MIDs into interstate wars has been extensively studied using opportunity and willingness frameworks that focus on how macro environmental possibilities and constraints influence micro level choices and decisions. In this article, we conceptualize and operationalize protoinsurgency formation as a civil war equivalent to MIDs. Our theoretical focus is on how repression creates contagion effects that push proto-insurgencies into making these tactical transitions. Using a simultaneous equations approach, we find that the unobservable variables influencing protoinsurgency formation and escalation to civil war onset are significantly correlated.
When does Civil War Recur after Rebel Victory? (with Madhav Joshi)
Invited to revise and resubmit
Rebel victors of civil wars face existential threats both internally and externally. How do rebel victors respond to domestic armed challengers? Do such decisions determine civil war recurrence? We argue in this paper that rebel victors can manage domestic risk and consolidate state power by either repressing or coopting challengers. While the repression strategy can be costly both domestically and internationally, a rebel government can coopt new or existing insurgencies through a variety of strategies, ranging from (1) unilateral changes to the constitution, (2) elite pacts for powersharing, (3) peace agreements, or (4) negotiated constitutional reform. Abstract here.