Research

Soldiers and Societies in Revolt: The Arab Uprisings in Comparative Perspective (Dissertation Project)
This dissertation explores civil-military relations in democratizing contexts, specifically how the historical relationship between the military and the broader public shapes responses to political crises such as riots and revolutions. I develop a novel theory, rooted in civil-military relations literature from political science and sociology, for how an army’s historical linkages with the population generate organizational culture and practices toward the population, which in turn influence the military’s response to a popular uprising. I provide interview, documentary, and survey experimental evidence of this process from Tunisia, where the historical development of positive military-society relations was critical in making possible the “revolution of dignity” of 14 January 2011.

Biting the Hand that Feeds: Rebel Funding Sources and the Use of Terrorism in Civil Wars, with V. Page Fortna and Michael A. Rubin (Revise & Resubmit, International Studies Quarterly)
Why do some rebel groups resort to terrorism tactics, while others refrain from doing so? This paper argues that rebel organizations pay attention to the legitimacy costs associated with terrorism and that how rebel organizations finance their rebellion creates variation in their vulnerability to these legitimacy costs. Organizations that rely primarily on civilian support, and to a lesser extent on foreign support, are most constrained in their use of terrorism. Rebels who finance their fight with lootable resources such as gems or drugs pay the lowest legitimacy costs and so are more likely to resort to terrorism and to employ more of it. The paper develops legitimacy cost and tests it using new data on Terrorism in Armed Conflict from 1970 to 2007. We find robust support for the hypothesis that groups who finance their fight with natural resources are significantly more likely to employ terrorism (though not necessarily to conduct more deadly attacks) relative to those who rely on local civilian support. We find that groups with external sources of financing, such as foreign state support, may be more likely to engage in terrorism than those who rely on local civilians, but not significantly so.
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Security Reform during Democratic Transitions: Experimental Evidence from Tunisia
The “Arab Spring” of 2010-2011 demonstrated that authoritarian collapse does not guarantee a transition to democracy. After revolutions, newly elected governments face a dilemma: they must rely on existing security institutions to restore order and stability, but they also must reform these potentially counterrevolutionary forces. In addition, these governments are now responsible to newly enfranchised populations. This paper offers a tradeoff hypothesis to explain the success or failure of transitional reforms, and points to elites’ framing of public debates as a primary factor leading public opinion, which either demands or neglects difficult reforms during moments of transition. The theory is tested with an original survey of Tunisian adults conducted in January 2017. An embedded vignette experiment asks respondents to adjudicate between investments in security sector reform versus economic or political reform, the exact types of tradeoffs countries face during the transition from authoritarian rule. An additional treatment tests whether citizens perceive a tradeoff between providing national security – i.e. against terrorist threats – and reforming the military to protect civil liberties, a question that has been debated since Tunisia’s 2011 uprising. I find that public opinion can be swayed by the framing of tradeoffs. Economic development is strongly preferred over other reforms. This finding has important implications for the success of both security sector reform and democratic consolidation.
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