Research

Publications

“The Domestic Sources of International Reputation” (with Michael Joseph and Roseanne McManus). 2022. American Political Science Review. Article, pre-publication version, and appendix.

Abstract Existing research finds that leaders develop international reputations based on their past behavior on the international stage. We argue that leaders' domestic choices can also influence their international reputations, perhaps as much as their past foreign policy decisions do. Using formal theory and intuitive argumentation, we develop an overarching framework to predict how much any domestic choice will affect a leader's international reputation. We theorize that certain domestic choices can inform expectations about future international crisis behavior based on the extent to which (1) the costs at state are similar to those of an international crisis and (2) the domestic issue is salient relative to foreign policy. We use conjoint experiments and other evidence to show that many domestic choices have significant international reputational effects. There is some evidence that the reputational effect of certain domestic choices may equal that of fighting in a previous international crisis.

“Public Opinion and Nuclear Use: Evidence from Factorial Experiments” (with Tyler Bowen and Matt Graham). Forthcoming, The Journal of Politics. Paper and appendix.

Abstract Does the public oppose nuclear use? Survey experimental research varying either the advantages or disadvantages of nuclear use has produced a wide range of results. Yet no study has examined how the military advantages and strategic and moral disadvantages of nuclear weapons interact. We explore this interaction and uncover a pattern that unifies the literature's seemingly disparate results: the persuasive power of nuclear weapons' military advantages is conditional on their disadvantages. We demonstrate this by independently randomizing both the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear use in (1) a 2x2 factorial version of an influential design and (2) a novel adaptation of conjoint experiments that focuses on the most plausible comparisons between nuclear and conventional strikes. Our results support a new explanation for why the public can appear rigidly opposed to nuclear strikes in some circumstances and highly permissive in others.

“Perceptions of Leader Importance in Conflict and Diplomacy: Evidence from the CIA’s President’s Daily Brief” (with Michael Joseph). Forthcoming, Security Studies.

Abstract Are leaders perceived as important actors during conflict, or are they discounted because of domestic institutions and international structure? We exploit the recently declassified CIA President's Daily Briefs to construct a cross-national, weekly measure of how intelligence analysts perceive a foreign leader's importance. We estimate perceptions of leader importance at crisis onset, escalation, war, and war termination in over 16,000 statistical models that overcome selection and endogeneity concerns common in existing studies of leadership and conflict. Leaders are not perceived to matter equally at every stage of conflict. They are seen to matter the most during crisis negotiations when conflicts can either deescalate to peace or escalate to war. But they are not perceived to matter during war. We find leaders of heavily constrained regimes are seen as no more important at any stage of the conflict process than they are in peacetime. But leaders of moderately constrained regimes are perceived to matter for crisis escalation. Our findings suggest that even if leaders are perceived to matter for conflict on average, domestic institutions and structure plausibly constrain leaders more at some stages of the conflict process such that leaders are seen as less important at those stages. We contribute to the quantification of historical documents by illustrating how to combine data selection, historiography, measurement and statistical modeling to draw stronger inferences.

Working Papers

“Just Patronage? Affinity and the Diplomatic Value of Non-Career Ambassadors.” Revise and resubmit at the Journal of Conflict Resolution. Available on request.

Abstract Career diplomats have expertise and experience. Why, then, do U.S. presidents appoint political allies and novices to key diplomatic posts? Conventional wisdom points to patronage. Yet this explanation overlooks the benefits of a diplomat's affinity with political superiors. Inherent in delegated diplomacy is uncertainty over diplomats' ability to "deliver" on understandings reached at the negotiating table. Non-career diplomats can more credibly speak for political superiors, creating an incentive for foreign counterparts to engage in diplomacy. I formalize the tradeoff between expertise and affinity to generate predictions for optimal diplomat selection. A surprising outcome is that presidents often sacrifice professional expertise to delegate important diplomatic assignments to relative amateurs, even when such assignments have limited patronage value. I find empirical support for the argument using a dataset on U.S. ambassadorial appointments from 1981 to 2020.

“Hawks, Doves, and Regime Type in International Rivalry and Rapprochement.” Available on request.

Abstract Existing scholarship emphasizes hawks' advantages in making peace but is squarely focused on democratic leaders, even though most prominent international rivalries feature at least one autocracy. I argue that regime type mediates the relationship between foreign policy orientation and peace: doves should be more successful peacemakers in autocracies than democracies. In low-accountability autocracies where domestic audiences struggle to punish leaders, the credibility problem doves face in selling peace at home becomes less salient relative to doves' motivation to cooperate internationally. I demonstrate that the predicted patterns holds in a large-N set of post-World War II cases. I conclude by examining two key cases of rapprochement that demonstrate the theorized mechanisms: the U.S.-Soviet and Egypt-Israel rivalries. The theory explains why it could take a hawk like Nixon to go to Beijing, but a dove like Gorbachev to go to Washington.

“When Do Leader Attributes Matter? Evidence from the President’s Daily Brief” (with Michael Joseph and Dan Krcmaric). Available on request.

Abstract A wave of recent scholarship shows that the backgrounds of political leaders shape their behavior once in office. This paper shifts the literature in a new direction by investigating the conditions under which foreign observers think a leader's background is relevant. We argue that pre-tenure biographical attributes are most informative to outsiders during leadership transitions---unique periods where the new ruler does not yet have a track record---because a leader's background provides clues about how that leader might govern. But as time passes, foreign observers quickly discount the leader's biography and instead evaluate the leader's observable behavior. We test our theory by creating a systematic daily measure of attention to foreign leader backgrounds derived from the President's Daily Brief, a novel data source of 4,991 recently declassified reports from the Central Intelligence Agency to the American president.

In Progress

“The National Security Council, Diplomacy, and the Bureaucratic Politics of U.S. Foreign Policy Shifts.” Available on request.

Abstract Why don't the diplomats make America's diplomatic breakthroughs? Presidents face two obstacles to implementing foreign policy shifts: (1) veto players and (2) coordination with foreign counterparts. I argue that the structure of America's national security institutions position the White House-based National Security Council (NSC) Staff---not the State Department and its professional diplomatic service---to overcome these obstacles. While leaders at State must contend with Congress and an entrenched bureaucracy, the NSC's sole constituent is the president. As a result, the NSC's senior staff is responsive to presidential initiatives, eludes veto players through secrecy, and credibly `speaks for' the White House abroad. I test this argument by examining a particularly consequential universe of policy shifts: diplomatic engagement with adversaries. Using a novel dataset, I show that national security advisors play an outsized role in U.S. diplomacy with rivals. Case studies of National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger's opening to China and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes' normalization talks with Cuba demonstrate the theorized mechanism.

“Domestic Politics, Reassurance, and the End of Enduring Rivalries” (with Michael Joseph and Roseanne McManus). Early stage.

“One Action, Many Reputations: Multidimensional Learning in International Relations.” Early stage.