Between Mao and Gandhi: Strategies of Violence and Nonviolence in Revolutionary Movements

My dissertation seeks to examine how revolutionary movements come to adopt strategies of either armed insurgency or civil resistance in their efforts to overthrow a political regime.  For more on my dissertation research, please click here.



“A Step Short of the Bomb” in Journal of Public and International Affairs (2011).

The global spread of technology will inevitably result in more states acquiring the scientific and technical means to create a nuclear weapon. In order to confront this reality, policymakers and analysts must develop a better understanding of why some states feel compelled to conduct overt nuclear tests while others are content to pursue a strategy of hedging: developing the capability but not actually testing or deploying nuclear weapons. Using case studies from Japan and South Asia, this article seeks to explain nuclear policy through a combination of two factors. First, states attempt to maximize their relative security vis-à-vis their rivals by balancing the value of deterrence with the risk of proliferation. Secondly, domestic political sentiment and the balance of power amongst competing bureaucratic factions may either enable restraint or push a state toward conducting a nuclear test. By applying these two factors to the case of Iran, this article will evaluate the drivers of Iranian nuclear behavior and offer policy recommendations to increase the odds that Iran will pursue a latent, rather than an overt, nuclear capability.

“From Coexistence to Cleansing: Ethnic Violence in Baghdad, 2003-2007″ in al-Nakhlah: Online Journal of Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization (Spring 2011)

Between 2003 and 2006, the nature of conflict and violence in Iraq transformed from an insurgency against the new U.S. imposed leadership into a sectarian civil war, pitting the country’s minority Sunni population against the majority Shias and centering primarily in the capital city of Baghdad.  Some scholars have seen this as the predictable, if not inevitable, result of an identity conflict that dates back centuries.  However, this interpretation runs counter to the sentiments of many Iraqis, especially among Baghdad’s middle class, that sectarian identity had not been a source of interpersonal conflict before the U.S. invasion.  Using first-person accounts gathered from journalists, non-governmental organizations, web log diaries, and interviews, this paper argues that sectarian violence in Baghdad appears to be less a result of any primordial religious hatred than a collective defensive reaction to the fear and vulnerability created in a time of war and political upheaval.  Specific policy decisions made by the United States as well as the terrorist campaign of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were instrumental in exacerbating this feeling of vulnerability and sparking a chain reaction of violence.



Militias as Sociopolitical Movements: Iraq’s Armed Shia Groups (2010)

The rise to power of Iraq’s Shia militias not only caught U.S. policymakers off-guard, it also revealed a broader lack of understanding of militias as a type of non-state armed group.  While considerable research has been conducted on terrorist networks and insurgencies, the literature on militias is relatively weak. Furthermore, the Iraq case suggests that the frameworks that do exist for analyzing militias need to be expanded. Through a review of the existing literature on militias followed by a case study of the two largest Shia militias in Iraq—the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army—this paper seeks to differentiate the Iraqi groups from previous characterizations of the militia based on their degree of popular legitimacy, pursuit of a social and political agenda, and participation in the institutions of the state. Far more than just warlords, Iraq’s Shia militias are complex sociopolitical movements who are actively seeking to fill the gaps left by the weakness of the state in a bid to win the support of the people and consequently gain political influence. The use of force is but one element, along with the provision of social services and participation in formal politics, that these groups use as instruments to gain influence and realize their social and political agendas.