from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

You Might Have Missed: Recent Academic Journal Findings II

July 2, 2015

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Six months ago, I published the first blog in this series, highlighting earlier academic findings.

Jeffrey Stamp, “Aero-Static Warfare: A Brief Survey of Ballooning in Mid-nineteenth-century Siege Warfare,” The Journal of Military History, 79(3), July 2015, pp. 767-782.

Several nations experimented with military ballooning in the mid-nineteenth century, despite limitations such as lack of controllability. The key factor in whether or not the belligerents perceived ballooning as valuable was the type of warfare involved. When balloons were used in static warfare, such as siege conditions, their usefulness usually encouraged further experimentation. The American Civil War draws some stark contrasts between what balloons could do during static warfare, such as the siege of Island No. 10, and what they could not do in fluid combat, as in the failure at First Bull Run. Later, Brazil employed former Union aeronauts during the siege of Humaita in Paraguay, following which the French pioneered balloon “air mail” from besieged Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Enemy efforts to defeat ballooning included Prussian invention of what may be the world’s first purpose-built anti-aircraft gun, making the point that if an enemy thinks an innovation is valuable, then it is.


Deniz Aksoy, David B. Carter, and Joseph Wright, “Terrorism and the Fate of Dictators,” World Politics, 67(3), July 2015.

The authors study the influence of domestic political dissent and violence on incumbent dictators and their regimes. They argue that elite with an interest in preserving the regime hold dictators accountable when there is a significant increase in terrorism. To pinpoint the accountability of dictators to elite who are strongly invested in the current regime, the authors make a novel theoretical distinction between reshuffling coups that change the leader but leave the regime intact and regime-change coups that completely change the set of elites atop the regime. Using a new data set that distinguishes between these two coup types, the authors provide robust evidence that terrorism is a consistent predictor of reshuffling coups, whereas forms of dissent that require broader public participation and support, such as protests and insurgencies, are associated with regime-change coup attempts. This article is the first to show that incumbent dictators are held accountable for terrorist campaigns that occur on their watch.


Dursun Peksen, “Economic Coercion and Currency Crises in Target Countries,” Journal of Peace Research, June 8, 2015, pp. 1-15.

Despite significant research on the efficacy and inadvertent humanitarian and political effects of economic sanctions, surprisingly little is known about the possible economic and financial consequences of sanctions for target economies. Synthesizing insights from the currency crisis literature with sanctions scholarship, we argue that economic sanctions are likely to trigger currency collapses, a major form of financial crisis that impedes economic growth and prosperity. We assert that economic coercion instigates currency crises by weakening the economy and creating political risks conducive to speculative attacks by currency traders. To substantiate the theoretical claims, we use time-series cross-national data for the 1970–2005 period. The results from the data analysis lend support for the hypothesis that sanctions undermine the financial stability of target countries. The findings also indicate that the adverse effect of economic coercion on the financial stability of target economies is likely to be conditioned by the severity of the coercion and the type of actors involved in the implementation of sanctions. The findings of this article add to the sanctions literature demonstrating how economic coercion could be detrimental to the target economy beyond the immediate effect on trade and investment. It also complements and adds to the literature on political economy of currency crises that has so far overlooked the significant role that economic coercion plays in financial crises.


Virginia Page Fortna, “Do Terrorists Win? Rebels’ Use of Terrorism and Civil War Outcomes,” International Organization, June 2015, pp. 1-38.

I argue that when it comes to achieving a rebel group’s political goals, the disadvantages of terrorism generally outweigh its advantages. It is a cheap way to inflict pain on the other side, and terrorist groups are hard to eliminate completely, but it is useless for taking or holding territory. It may help signal commitment to a cause, but because it is cheap, it signals weakness rather than strength. It may be useful for provoking an overreaction by the government, but it also helps justify draconian measures to crush the rebellion. Its outrageous nature may help bring attention to a cause, but it also undermines legitimacy and alienates potential supporters. Terrorism may help achieve tactical results, but these apparently do not translate into strategic success. It may also be useful at lower levels of conflict or for groups that do not have the ability to wage full-scale war (a question I cannot yet address with available data). Empirically, I find much more support for the argument that terrorism is likely to backfire than for the notion that it is effective. Rebels who use terrorism do not win outright, and they are less likely to achieve concessions in a negotiated outcome. This negative effect may be somewhat attenuated when rebels fight against democracies rather than autocracies. But even in democratic states, terrorist rebels groups do not achieve victory and are unlikely to obtain concessions at the negotiating table. The short answer to the question “Do terrorist rebels win?” is “No.”

If terrorism is so ineffective, one might reasonably ask why rebel groups use it, especially rebels who are not fighting democratic governments. The answer may lie in the finding that civil wars in which terrorism is used last significantly longer than others. The use of terrorism contributes to rebels’ organizational survival. Rebels thus appear to face a dilemma—using terrorism as a tactic is good for the immediate goal of survival, but comes at the expense of the long-term political goals for which they are, ultimately (or ostensibly) fighting.

This study begins to shed light on the causes of terrorism, as well as its effects. I examine this question only briefly in this article, focusing on variables that might also affect war outcomes, to avoid spurious results. The results are intriguing, however. They cast doubt on the conventional wisdom that terrorism is a “weapon of the weak.” Among rebels fighting full-fledged civil wars, there is surprisingly little evidence that weaker groups are more likely to use terrorism than stronger ones. Nor is terrorism more likely, again contrary to conventional wisdom, in secessionist wars, or when rebels profess extreme aims. Terrorism is more likely, however, in civil wars in democracies, as many have argued, and where religion divides rebels from the government they fight. It is much less likely to be used in Africa, a finding that remains to be explained theoretically.


Ryan Grauer, “Moderating Diffusion: Military Bureaucratic Politics and the Implementation of German Doctrine in South America, 1885–1914,” World Politics, 67(2), April 2015.

In this article, I seek to deepen our understanding of the peacetime spread of military ideas by focusing on the implementation phase of the diffusion process. That is, I assume that states not currently at war have made the decision to adopt an innovative military doctrine developed abroad and I explore the reasons why they are more or less likely to succeed in effecting their desired changes. Drawing on current research on military innovation and the diffusion of civilian organizational practices, I argue that the nature of bureaucratic politics within the adopting military is likely to condition the selection and capacity of the communications channels used to transmit information about innovative foreign military doctrines, and therefore to affect the likelihood of success or failure in implementing new methods of fighting. Specifically, I contend that when a large or influential group of actors within the armed forces strongly supports the adoption of a foreign military’s doctrine, states are more likely to contract missions— collections of advisers and instructors drawn from originating states— to facilitate the transfer of essential information about the new way of fighting. However, when a large or influential group within the military opposes some aspect of the doctrinal change, the group is likely to use its political and bureaucratic power to circumscribe the purview of a contracted mission or force reliance on less effective means of information transfer. We should therefore expect the greatest degree of implementation—and the highest levels of diffusion—when there is minimal resistance from the military to the adoption of a foreign doctrine.


Alex Braithwaite, “Transnational Terrorism as an Unintended Consequence of a Military Footprint,” Security Studies, 24(2), 2015, pp. 349-375.

The key task of this article is to specify a logic in which the deployment of troops overseas results in the employment of terrorism against the global interests of the deploying state...(p. 352)

My attrition-based theoretical logic implies that countries are likely to experience terrorist violence against their global interests emanating from those countries to which they deploy troops…(p. 362)

In some of the notable cases of territorial terrorism outlined in the early portions of this article, it is clear that terrorist violence has been employed on a large scale (alongside more expansive forms of insurgency) against the military assets of the deploying state. This is certainly true of recent US and Coalition deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance. However, my theoretical logic suggests that territorially motivated terrorism ought to manifest itself not only in the form of attacks against the military but also against the wider set of global interests of the deploying state. Accordingly, it is important to demonstrate that the arrival of troops on the ground does not only provide additional suitable targets for terrorist violence but also has the effect of increasing the likelihood of attacks against the nonmilitary interests of the deploying state. Accordingly, I next present the results of a test in which attacks against military targets—as defined by the GTD—are excluded from the dependent variable…In other words, it is apparent that troops on the ground do not exclusively provide additional targets; rather, troops on the ground also motivate the use of violence against the non-military interests and assets of the deploying state…(pp. 371-373)

This article has presented significant evidence to support the central logic of territorial terrorism: the deployment of troops overseas increases the likelihood of transnational terrorist attacks against the global interests of the deploying state. It appears as if terrorist groups encourage and exploit public territorial responses to the arrival of “foreign” troops on “home” territories by employing attrition-based strategies against deploying states. The effect of deploying troops is slightly larger for democratic states—suggesting that the use of violence in such circumstances is viewed as being efficient and legitimate…(p. 374)


Alex Bellamy, “When States Go Bad: The Termination of State Perpetrated Mass Killing,” Journal of Peace Research, 2015, pp. 1-12.

Almost three-quarters of all the mass killing endings produced by regime change were achieved by principally domestic opponents through one of these pathways.

This means that regime change brought about by foreign military intervention endings is among the rarest of ways in which mass killing perpetrated by states against their own population ends. Overall, since 1945 fewer than one in ten episodes of state perpetrated mass killing have been terminated by foreign armed intervention. What is more, the frequency of foreign induced regime change has not changed significantly in line with the general decline of perpetrator-induced endings since the end of the Cold War, described earlier. In the post-Cold War era, mass atrocities are still more likely to end when the perpetrators choose to end them or at the hand of domestic opponents than they are to be ended by foreign armed intervention. If, as proponents of the moral hazard approach to humanitarian intervention (e.g. Kuperman, 2008) suggest, rebel groups believe that they can secure foreign intervention on their behalf by provoking governments into perpetrating mass atrocities, the historical record suggests they are deeply misguided…(p. 7)

Understandably, the duration of an episode seems to be important in influencing the overall number of estimated casualties. From the data presented here, it appears that episodes that end with regime change (and remember that most of these are produced by domestic forces) tend to be much longer in duration (more than twice as long based on a simple average of years) than those ended voluntarily by the perpetrating regime. Episodes that end with regime change tend also to be more deadly (based on simple averages of the clustered cases in the online appendix). This seems to be primarily a function of their longer duration because there is little discernible difference in the average intensity of the killing (i.e. average rate of killing over time) associated with different types of endings. The most likely explanation for the longer average duration associated with regime change endings is that determined domestic opposition prevents a state perpetrator from achieving its goals quickly and pushes it into a protracted campaign of mass killing. Only quite rarely are domestic armed opponents able to defeat regimes quickly. This suggests that the worst of all worlds in terms of an episode’s duration and lethality is not when the state perpetrators are confronted by armed opposition per se but when they are confronted by forces incapable of inflicting a decisive defeat upon them…(p. 8)

More on:

United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

Political Transitions

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

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