Current Projects

On this site you find a selection of my current projects. My CV might list additional working projects. If you want any more information on any of the projects listed here or in my CV, please feel free to reach out to me.

Shadowland Strategy: How Armed Groups Navigate Between National and International Laws (with Hyeran Jo). In Fortin, Katherine, and Heffes, Ezequiel (Eds.), Armed Groups and International Law: In A Shadowland of Legality and Illegality. Invited Chapter Submission, under contract with Edward Elgar Publishing.

Shadowland is the realm where legality and illegality co-exist in terms of international and national laws. Many non-state armed groups and individual members therein live in the legal shadowland. The non-state armed actors (NSAAs) are legal subjects of international law but are considered outlaws in the national legal realm. This tension in legal ambits creates diverse strategies by NSAAs. Some challenge existing laws while others remain silent. Among the challengers, some, such as Polisario in Western Sahara or the MeK (Mujahedin-e Khalq) from Iraq, contest within the existing international legal system. Others, such as the Taliban from Afghanistan or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, reject existing international laws and try to legitimize their own rules. Another set of NSAAs choose to remain silent while others are silenced. Groups such as the AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) in Mali and broader Sahel area, purposefully choose to remain silent about international and national laws, often flaunting and evading laws, with growing criminal enterprises. Other groups, such as the ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) in Myanmar, are often silenced by their host government and locked in the legal shadowland. The analysis on the variety of shadowland strategies has implications for how international community engages NSAAs.

Deciding How to Govern: Inter-Rebel Competition and Rebels’ Institutional Choices of Governance.

During conflict rebel groups do not only have the opportunity for state-building but also the choice on how to build the administration. While many rebel groups establish extensive systems of governance and others forgo the creation of such institutions entirely, rebel groups differ greatly in their institutional choices when creating governance institutions. What are the motivations underlying rebels’ institutional choices? I argue that rebels’ institutional choices are the result of the degree of inter-rebel competition, which affects rebel groups’ needs for material resources and non-material support. To test my argument I use the Rebel Quasi-State Institutions dataset, leveraging data on rebels’ annual governance provision to examine rebels’ institutional choices of rebel governance. I nd that higher degrees of competition make it less likely that rebel groups provide any kind of governance. However, when rebels provide governance they are more likely to create governance institutions with immediate benefits to the group, e.g. healthcare, as inter-rebel competition increases. Greater inter-rebel competition reduces the likelihood that rebel groups create governance that is only potentially beneficial to the group, e.g. establishing diplomatic missions abroad. It is important to understand the motivations underlying rebels’ institutional choices as rebel governance has short- and long-term effects.

Intended and Unintended Consequences of International Interventions: Patterns of Militant Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (with Hyeran Jo, Yohan Park, and Yewon Kwon).

The international community has tried various intervention methods to reduce conflicts around the world, including mediation, peacekeeping and sanctions. What works and does not work in terms of reducing civilian targeting brought about militant groups? We argue that external interventions in internal conflicts alter political, military, and economic balance among militant groups, with the consequences on the civilian lives in conflict zones. The consequences will
differ depending on the militant characteristics such as adaptability, co-optation and rivalry. By altering political balance among militant groups, non-inclusive mediation increases the violence of excluded militant group, while decreasing the violence of included militant group. By altering military balance among militant groups, forceful peacekeeping decreases the violence of the targeted group, but at the same time, the security vacuum increases the violence of the rival group, particularly when the rival group is co-opted with host government forces. By altering
economic balance, sanctions decrease the violence of the militant group that fails to adjust, but inadvertently increase the violence of adaptable groups that can easily shift their resource bases to other lucrative sources of funding. We test these arguments using the interrupted time-series intervention analysis in the context of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the longest running civil wars featuring multiple militant groups. We find the differential impacts of international intervention measures across militant groups, some intended and others unintended. Our findings have implications for external intervention in internal conflicts, highlighting the limits and opportunities for global security governance.

Institutional Constraints and Coercive Diplomacy in International Relations.

Coercive diplomacy is an important tool in states’ foreign policy toolbox. Yet, not a lot of work has been dedicated to the characteristics that influence the likelihood of being exposed to coercive diplomacy. This paper argues that the executive’s ex-ante constraint and its ex-post accountability affect the executive’s likelihood of experiencing a threat. The ex-post accountability hypothesis is extended to different types of autocracies. More constrained leaders with a civilian background are argued to have a different likelihood of experiencing a threat than less constrained military leaders. The analysis finds partial support for the constraints and accountability hypotheses: while targets’ ex ante constraints and ex post accountability affect the likelihood of a threat in a directed dyad, only the challenger’s audience cost affects its accountability. Furthermore, only one type of autocracy is found to be statistically different from democracies and other autocratic types in its likelihood to experience coercive diplomacy. It is the more constrained autocracy with a civilian executive. This type is found to be even less likely to experience threats than democracy.

Escalation Game: Coercive Diplomacy on the World Stage

In this project, I examine states’ use of various coercive strategies. I argue that states will use the most appropriate, meaning the coercive strategy that promises to be most successful, when engaging in coercive diplomacy. I conceptualize coercive strategies on different stages. Using a formal model, I illustrate that each type of coercive diplomacy requires states to be between certain economic and geographic distance thresholds.

Perspective-Taking and Attitudes Towards Slavery Reparations Policy (with Saron Araya and Brittany N. Perry).

Perspective-taking is when an individual takes the point of view of a different, marginalized, or negatively viewed group in order to facilitate an understanding towards their situation and improve the marginalized group’s social standing. Many have shown that perspective-taking can reduce ethnic prejudice, but this existing work mainly focuses on the beliefs and feelings towards an out group. This study will expand on existing work by examining how perspective-taking can work to change, not only the negative attitudes towards descendants of slaves, but also attitudes toward reparations as a public policy initiative. We find a positive effect of exposure to slaves on support for reparations policies but do not find support for the effect of perspective-taking.

Two-Way Causality: Theoretical Mechanisms Linking Trade/Investment and Interstate Conflict (with Quan Li, Erica Owen, and Rena Sung).

A large body of research examines whether and how trade and investment affect interstate military conflict. Meanwhile, another large body of literature investigates whether and how interstate conflict influences trade and investment. While each body of literature proposes various causal mechanisms, almost all extant theoretical work focuses on one of the two causal directions and thus, mechanisms proposed to explain one causal flow are rarely incorporated into those constructed to explain the other. We lack a unified theoretical framework for explaining both sets of questions. We argue that one can not truly understand the effect of trade and investment on conflict without incorporating the effect of conflict on trade and investment, and vice versa. In this review essay, we discuss the different theoretical mechanisms linking trade and investment to conflict, and vice versa. Our goal is to review both bodies of literature in the same article so that we can start to draw theoretical connections and insights that help us understand both causal flows better.