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Research



BOOK:

My book asks timely and underexplored questions: When do leaders fear the domestic repercussions of revolutions abroad? How does the prospect of such revolutionary waves affect international affairs? I argue that fears of contagion are largely driven by the characteristics of the host country (whether states have a significant preexisting revolutionary movement) rather than the infecting agent (whether the revolutionary state is actively trying to foment revolution abroad). I contend that the fear of revolutionary spillover effects drive policies of hostility toward the revolutionary state and cooperation among states with similar movements, creating patterns of cooperation and conflict that are not otherwise explained by existing international relations theories.

I test my argument through a detailed qualitative analysis of the response to revolutions in the four dominant ideological revolutionary movements of the last two hundred years: the European response to liberal revolutions before and after the French Revolution, communist and fascist revolutions during interwar Europe, and the Iranian Islamic revolution's impact on Middle East relations. My findings point to the strength as well as the weakness of these ideological factors in particular circumstances. This analysis elucidates the question of when and to what extent ideological differences between states affect international politics, as well as the relationship between domestic and international order.

Articles:

  • There are two main motives ascribed to Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Iran in 1980. One motive is that he invaded for geopolitical gain when international factors worked in his favor. The other is that he invaded to prevent Iran from fomenting revolution in Iraq. I argue that the decision to invade Iran was primarily due to the fear of spillover effects from the Iranian Revolution, and consider the implications for why revolutions can sometimes lead to war. See full article

  • Prominent theories of international relations argue that states try to prevent the rise of regional hegemons elsewhere. How then did the United States rise to become not only a regional hegemon, but the most powerful country in the world today? I analyze the response of the major powers to the rise of the United States in the 19th century in three critical junctures: the Louisiana Purchase, the Manifest Destiny expansions of the 1840s, and the American Civil War. I show that opportunities existed to arrest it, but that these opportunities were not taken. The evidence further shows the reason why foreign leaders had much shorter political time horizons than those assumed in several realist theories. See full article

  • Is there a growing norm against violence towards civilians that constrains how the United States deals with its client states? This paper examines two similar cases that suggest there is. The United States faced in Iran in 1978 and in Egypt in 2011 a possible revolution by a democratic/Islamist opposition, yet American policy makers gave their major regional ally opposite advice. In 1978, the White House urged the Shah to crack down on the opposition, and in 2011 it pressed the Mubarak regime, as well as other regimes, to refrain from violence. This indicates is that in situations where the American government is culpable for a potential bloodbath, policy makers are loath to take on that responsibility, which significantly shapes their policy toward revolution in a way that it did not when President Carter called the commitment to human rights "absolute." See full article

  • Revolutions provide a new domestic order, and sometimes destabilize the international order by threatening to spread abroad. But these ideological implications attenuate as a function both of compromises by the revolutionary state and political stabilization in other countries. Eventually a modus vivendi is reached. Iran is a case in point. The Iranian Revolution established a theocratic state, and attempts were made to export revolution abroad at the same time as the new regime served as a beacon for opposition movements in other Arab states. But that revolutionary period is over. Iranian foreign policy is no longer revolutionary. Iran no longer serves as a model for opposition groups elsewhere, and although it still has a revisionist anti-Israel and anti-US policy, it no longer attempts to spread revolution abroad. Recent fears of Iran are driven by the threat of an expansion of Iranian power, rather than its challenge to the legitimacy of existing regimes. See full article


  • “American Exceptionalism and American Foreign Policy: A Geographical Perspective.”

    “Fears of Revolution and International Cooperation: The Concert of Europe and the Transformation of European Politics.”

    “Changing the Game: Transformative Escalation and War Termination in the Iran-Iraq War” (with Tom Dolan).

    “War to Preserve Internal Order or Undermine it? Rethinking the Relationship between Domestic Instability and International Conflict” (with Drew Horne).

    “Structural-Materialist Theories, their Rivals, and the Iranian Revolution.”