Force Projections

Kevin Lewis

March 20, 2024

Advisers and Aggregation in Foreign Policy Decision Making
Tyler Jost et al.
International Organization, Winter 2024, Pages 1-37 


Do advisers affect foreign policy and, if so, how? Recent scholarship on elite decision making prioritizes leaders and the institutions that surround them, rather than the dispositions of advisers themselves. We argue that despite the hierarchical nature of foreign policy decision making, advisers’ predispositions regarding the use of force shape state behavior through the counsel advisers provide in deliberations. To test our argument, we introduce an original data set of 2,685 foreign policy deliberations between US presidents and their advisers from 1947 to 1988. Applying a novel machine learning approach to estimate the hawkishness of 1,134 Cold War-era foreign policy decision makers, we show that adviser-level hawkishness affects both the counsel that advisers provide in deliberations and the decisions leaders make: conflictual policy choices grow more likely as hawks increasingly dominate the debate, even when accounting for leader dispositions. The theory and findings enrich our understanding of international conflict by demonstrating how advisers’ dispositions, which aggregate through the counsel advisers provide, systematically shape foreign policy behavior.

Whose critique matters? The effects of critic identity and audience on public opinion
Yehonatan Abramson, Anil Menon & Abir Gitlin American
Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


When evaluating the impact of naming and shaming on public opinion regarding human rights, existing scholarship focuses on messages coming from ingroup or outgroup critics. Diaspora critics, increasingly vocal and visible in recent years, occupy an in-between identity. What, if any, is the impact of criticism coming from such critics? We address this question by fielding a pre-registered survey experiment in Israel, a country that routinely faces diasporic criticism. We find that exposure to criticism from both diaspora and foreign critics (but not from domestic critics) triggered a backlash response on the criticized issue (human rights) compared to a no-criticism condition. However, diaspora critics have a slight advantage over foreigners -- their intentions for criticizing the state are perceived as more positive. Despite limited direct impact on public opinion, our findings suggest that the human rights regime could benefit from involving diasporic and domestic actors in their efforts.

How cyber operations can reduce escalation pressures: Evidence from an experimental wargame study
Benjamin Jensen, Brandon Valeriano & Sam Whitt
Journal of Peace Research, January 2024, Pages 119-133 


Cyber operations ranging from deception and espionage to disruption and high-end degradation have become a central feature of modern statecraft in the digital age, yet we lack a clear understanding of how decision-makers employ and respond to cyber operations in times of crisis. Our research provides theoretical mechanisms and empirical evidence for understanding how decision-makers react to cyber triggers and utilize cyber responses during crises. Specifically, we argue that the availability of cyber response creates off-ramps for non-escalatory engagement. Based on experimental wargames involving rival states with power parity in militarized disputes and randomized cyber triggers and response options, we find the availability of cyber response options reduces escalatory behavior via a substitution mechanism. In the absence of cyber response options, however, participants pursue more conventional, escalatory actions, regardless of the triggering mechanism. Our findings underscore how enhancing the availability of cyber response options might reduce strategic escalation risks and offer the space to bargain during periods of conflict.

War power through restraint: The politics of unilateral military action after 1945
Katherine Irajpanah
Presidential Studies Quarterly, forthcoming 


From a historical perspective, presidents have frequently directed the use of military force without explicit permission from Congress. Yet, presidents still court legislative approval on select occasions. Why do presidents sometimes seek congressional authorization and other times do not? I explain authorization-seeking behavior according to variations in presidential bargaining strength. I argue that both weak and strong presidents prefer authorization-seeking; by obtaining congressional backing, weak presidents conceal a lack of national resolve from international audiences, while strong ones use approval to enhance their coercive authority. Presidents with mid-level bargaining strength, however, prefer unilateral action; on the one hand, unilateral action may demonstrate resolve in the face of potential legislative resistance, while on the other, it avoids contentious debate that risks “muddying” the diplomatic waters. I illustrate these arguments by revisiting four prominent historical cases: the Korean War, the Gulf of Tonkin crisis, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Persian Gulf War.

Domino Theory Through the Lens of Human Evolutionary Ecology
Michael Woodley of Menie, Mateo Peñaherrera-Aguirre & Matthew Sarraf
Evolutionary Psychological Science, March 2024, Pages 19-32


Domino Theory posits that Communism spreads via emulation or force between nations as a function of geographic adjacency, the theory being so named because this dynamic is often likened to the toppling of dominoes. Using the 1917 Russian Revolution (RR) as a starting point, it is found that geographic distance between Moscow and the capital cities of countries that at one point were or are (either in part or in whole) Communist states strongly predicts the lag (in years) between the RR and the year in which these countries first experienced Communism in some form (r = 0.778, 95% CI = 0.628 to 0.872, n = 45 countries). In a subsample of 36 countries, the pair-wise genetic distance between the population of Russia and the populations of the other countries strongly mediates this relationship. A cladogram based on genetic distance between these national populations indicates strong lambda and kappa signals, meaning that Communism-uptake lag is inversely proportional to the degree of shared ancestry between populations, and that it spreads rapidly among populations once introduced into new regions. Controlling for lambda in regression revealed significant positive influences of historical disease prevalence and GDP per capita on the lag variable. These results suggest that the process that Domino Theory specifies may principally be a function of cultural transmission biased by genetic distance (relative to the population of Russia). Controlling for genetic distance, countries with higher relative wealth and historical disease prevalence experienced Communism later, possibly due to the buffering effects of historical reductions in poverty and of forms of evoked culture that are incompatible with (basic) communist ideology (e.g. strong xenophobia and religiosity, and other cultural expressions of the behavioral immune system). These two terms also interact positively, meaning that among countries exhibiting high historical disease burdens, increased relative wealth inhibited the development of Communism to the greatest degree.

Mediation, Military, and Money: The Promises and Pitfalls of Outside Interventions to End Armed Conflicts
Dominic Rohner
Journal of Economic Literature, March 2024, Pages 155-195 


Wars impose tremendous costs on societies and the question of how to end them is of foremost importance. Several hundred books and scientific articles have been written on peace agreements and third-party interventions. In this article I provide a critical literature survey on what policies foreign countries have at their disposal if they wish to foster peace abroad. Ranging from pure (nonmilitarized) mediation, over a range of military options to economic policies, the promises and pitfalls of these types of interventions are critically assessed in the light of cutting-edge theoretical and empirical literature. A series of take-home messages emerge: (i) establishing a causal effect of mediation has proven difficult; (ii) military peacekeeping operations can play a key role, to the extent that security guarantees, the sharing of political and military power, and trust-building measures are well coordinated; and (iii) money matters -- fostering human capital and economic opportunities contributes to fertile ground for lasting peace.

Ambivalence and perceptions of China: Two list experiments
Chung-li Wu & Alex Min-Wei Lin
Research & Politics, February 2024


Do citizens reveal their valid preferences when asked about a potential foreign threat? This study presents the results of two list experiments implemented in Taiwan, a democratic and independently ruled island that leaders in China have long vowed to reunify with the mainland. Our two experiments -- conducted in March 2019 and September 2021 -- focus on the percentage of Taiwanese who perceive China as a “friend” and those who regard China as an “enemy.” The findings reveal that, first, the proportion of Taiwanese citizens who harbored hostile feelings toward China grew by 30% points between the two dates. In comparison, those with a more friendly perception of China declined by 18% points. Second, we detected significant misreporting or preference falsification when comparing the list experiment estimates with answers to a direct question. Third, we found evidence that the hypothesized China-ambivalent respondents are most likely to have switched their perceptions of China.

The importance of immigrants on American intervention in international crises
Tyler Kustra & Patrick James
Conflict Management and Peace Science, forthcoming 


Immigrants have a substantial impact on US foreign policy: doubling the proportion of the American voters who were born in a country yields a 4% increase in the probability that the United States will intervene in a crisis involving that country. This result is significant at the 1% level. Moreover, the immigrants’ level of education and income do not affect this result. Apart from unemployment and real gross domestic product growth, other quantifiable domestic and international variables, from presidential approval to trade dependency and defense pacts, do not have a statistically significant impact on American intervention.

International virtue signaling: How female combatants shape state support for armed rebellion
Lindsey Goldberg
Conflict Management and Peace Science, forthcoming 


International audiences view rebel groups with female combatants as more virtuous and legitimate because of gender norms regarding women and war. As actors who care about their international reputation, states often virtue-signal their support for popular humanitarian norms -- norms such as promoting gender inclusivity in political processes. I argue that this performative dynamic motivates states to signal support for rebellions that include female combatants because doing so offers these states a pathway for signaling support for this international norm without requiring stronger commitments to gender equality and women's rights. I thus hypothesize that the inclusion of female combatants in rebel organizations positively corresponds with the quantity of external state support rebels receive. Specifically, I expect that these virtue-signaling motives render less costly forms of external state support more common for these groups. I statistically evaluate these claims and contribute new insights on gendered, transnational civil war dynamics.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.