"The Character and Origins of Military Attitudes on the Use of Force" (accepted at International Studies Quarterly)
with Kaine Meshkin and Robert Schub
Do military and civilian attitudes on the use of force differ and, if so, why? Past scholarship is divided not only on whether decision-makers with military experience are more hawkish but also in whether differences stem from organizational selection or socialization. We contribute to these debates through a unique opportunity to survey incoming military officers at the US Military Academy before and after basic training – and pair the results with simultaneous surveys of a nationally representative sample. We find that future military elites are more hawkish than civilians, the gap is evident upon arrival, and initial socializing experiences cannot explain the gap. Numerous tests addressing potential socialization effects over a longer period reveal that experience may attenuate hawkishness but that it is insufficient to offset initial differences. The results indicate that preexisting attitudes shape the groups into which elites select as much as experiences in those groups shape attitudes.
"Authoritarian Advisers: Institutional Origins of Miscalculation in Chinese Foreign Policy" (under review - available upon request)
When is China prone to miscalculate in its foreign policy? As China continues to rise, its strategic choices will have enormous consequences for the world. Many claim that authoritarian countries, such as China, blunder more frequently when personalist dictators amass absolute control but exhibit better judgment when party elites share power. This conventional wisdom, rooted in the idea that accountability among elites produces better decisions, does not explain China’s past pattern of miscalculation. Instead, I argue that China’s propensity for blunder hinges on the institutional relationship between political leaders who make decisions and bureaucratic advisers who inform those decisions. When authoritarian leaders face acute power struggles within the party or lack experience managing national security affairs, political-bureaucratic relationships break down and deprive leaders of the information they need to properly evaluate which strategies will work. These findings have implications for the study of foreign policy decision-making broadly and for the prospects for future miscalculation in Chinese foreign policy specifically.
"Decision by Design: How Bureaucracy Shapes Interstate Crisis Behavior" (available upon request)
Scholars and policymakers have long suggested that bureaucracy can draw states into interstate conflicts they are unlikely to win because bureaucrats follow organizational routines and lobby for policies that suit their parochial interests. Drawing on literature from group decision-making, I instead argue that states are better able to avoid these pathologies when they adopt institutions that increase capacity for information search and force competition between bureaucrats to provide more accurate information to political leaders. To test this argument, I introduce an original cross-national data set that measures bureaucratic participation in decision-making and coordination bodies, such as national security councils, across the globe from 1946 to 2012. The analysis finds that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, more inclusive and routinized institutions are associated with improved performance during interstate crisis. A case study on India's decision-making prior to the 1962 Sino-Indian Border War illustrates the theorized institutional mechanism.
"Advisers and Aggregation in Foreign Policy Decision-Making" (under review)
with Josh Kertzer, Eric Min and Robert Schub
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 towards the use of force shape state behavior through participation in deliberations. We test our argument by introducing an original dataset of 2,881 foreign policy deliberations between US presidents and their advisers from 1947 to 1988. Applying a novel machine learning approach to estimate the hawkishness of 1,073 Cold War-era foreign policy decision-makers, we show that adviser-level hawkishness has consistently large effects on foreign policy decisions. Conflictual policy choices grow more likely as hawks increasingly dominate the debate, even when accounting for leader dispositions. These results enrich our understanding of international conflict by demonstrating that advisers' dispositions, which aggregate via deliberation, systematically shape foreign policy.
"Armies and Influence: Public Deference to Foreign Policy Elites" (under review)
with Josh Kertzer
When is the public more likely to defer to elites on foreign policy? Existing research suggests the public takes its cues from co-partisans, but what happens when co-partisans disagree? We argue that the public defers to elites whose prior experiences signal expertise and favorable intentions. Not all types of experience, however, are created equal in the eyes of the public. The public is especially deferential to elites with backgrounds in socially-esteemed institutions, even when the core competencies of those institutions are not directly related to the issue at hand. We test our argument using two conjoint experiments that capture the information-rich environment in which the public must discriminate between cues from many types of elites. We find that the American public defers to more experienced elites generally, but is especially deferential towards elites with experience in trusted institutions. Specifically, our results show that the public defers more to elites with military backgrounds, even when considering non-military issues. The results have important implications for the study of public opinion, bureaucratic politics, and civil-military relations.
Works in Progress
The Military Origins of Civilian Power in China
with Dan Mattingly
Foreign Policy Information in Authoritarian Regimes: Evidence from China
with Eric Min
Dictatorship and Diplomacy: The Rise (and Fall?) of Professionalism in China's Foreign Ministry
Regime Type, Threat Perception, and Interstate Competition
Supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation
Chinese Diplomatic Exchange Dataset, 1949-2015
with Austin Jordan
Chinese Military Diplomacy
with Austin Strange
"Autocratic Institutions and Actors," Oxford Handbook of Foreign Policy Analysis (draft - available upon request)
Image: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Beijing - 2017