Author’s Response. H-Diplo Roundtable Forum 20.22. Jan 2019.
My immense thanks to David Edelstein and Kyle Lascurettes for their extremely thoughtful comments, and to Susan Hyde for chairing the roundtable. Completing a book is both liberating and constraining—constraining because the finished text cannot help but remain mute about its tensions and complications. Continuing this conversation through close critical engagement is the best outcome an author can hope for, and I thank H-Diplo for providing me the opportunity to do so. [PDF]
A Country Illegible Even to Itself. (Review of The Future Is History by Masha Gessen.) Inroads 44. Dec 2018.
There is a sense of cultural essentialism in claiming that Homo Sovieticus never died, in fact cannot be killed, and now trudges golem-like, with the aid of Putin's government, into an illiberal dystopia. But despite its flaws, the book is a serious, honest attempt at national reckoning through individual self-reflection. [PDF]
Seva Gunitsky and Andrei Tsygankov. The Wilsonian Bias in the Study of US Foreign Policy. Problems of Post-Communism 65.6:385-393. Dec 2018
We examine some common and in our view flawed assumptions about Russian foreign policy. We argue that it's a mistake to reduce Russia's motivations to Putin's pathologies or the country's domestic autocracy. Russian foreign policy is driven largely by pragmatism and geopolitical paranoia, focusing on two related goals of regional hegemony and peer recognition as a great power. [PDF]
Democratic Waves in Historical Perspective. Perspectives on Politics 16.3:634-651. Sep 2018
There have been a number of distinct bursts of democratization since the late 18th century (thirteen, by my count). How do we compare them to each other, and what lessons can they offer about the evolution of democracy? [PDF]
Democracy’s Future: Riding the Hegemonic Wave. The Washington Quarterly 41.2:115-135. July 2018.
Fears of democratic decline wax and wane; and each time the threats seem unprecedented. The rise of China, the Trump presidency, the use of social media to subvert elections — today these appear to be new challenges with few historical parallels. But the anxieties they evoke find close parallels in the debates over democracy’s fate for over a century. [PDF]
One Word to Improve US Russia Policy. The New Republic, April 27, 2018.
Russia’s drive for regaining regional hegemony runs deeper than the changing qualities of its regime or the motivations of its rulers. Putin is himself a symptom of broader forces that have dominated US-Russian relations since the Soviet collapse — and will continue to do so regardless of who succeeds him.
The False Dawn of International Law. (Review of The Internationalists by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro). War on the Rocks, January 15, 2018.
Is the book an enjoyable and worthwhile read? Yes. Is it convincing in its main argument? Not at all. In the end, the book provides astonishingly thin evidence for an astonishingly strong conclusion.
Defining the State: It’s a Family Affair. In Comparing International Systems in World History, ISQ Online Symposium, November 28, 2017
My response to Butcher and Griffiths (2017) looks at their attempt to provide a universal definition of the state and argues that a family resemblance approach may be the only solution. [PDF]
The Lost Leviathan. (Review of The H-Word by Perry Anderson). The American Interest, August 24, 2017.
In his contempt for hegemony, Anderson sometimes turns the story into a polemical genealogy. In his view, there can be no demand for hegemony. It is something to be imposed from the outside. For those who experience it, hegemony cannot bring relief, only resistance or weary acquiescence. [PDF]
These are the three reasons fascism spread in 1930s America – and might spread again today. The Monkey Cage (Washington Post), August 12, 2017.
The last time fascism was brazenly embraced was in the 1930s. The lessons of that crucial decade have increasing relevance for modern American life. The three big factors that drove the spread of American fascism at that time are still relevant for the US today.
Trump and the Russian Money Trail. Duck of Minerva, July 14, 2017.
In the endless pursuit of the Russia-Trump collusion story, we sometimes forget a key element: this whole mess began with money, not with election interference. To understand the roots of the collusion, set aside Putin and follow the money.
What Monday’s subway bombings mean for Putin’s Russia. The Monkey Cage (Washington Post), April 6, 2017
On Russian social media, residents offered car rides to strangers when the city’s subway came to a halt. But the resilience of the Russian people is unlikely to be matched by the strength of Russian laws that protect civil freedoms in the wake of such attacks.
How to unfreeze Canada’s strategy in Ukraine. The Globe and Mail, March 20, 2017.
Much like the conflict itself, Canadian strategy in Ukraine has become frozen. The best way for Canada to match Russia's influence in the region is by ensuring a stable and democratic Ukraine.
With Tanisha Fazal. How Norms Die. Political Violence @ A Glance, March 13, 2017.
Even accepted global norms can quickly disappear when powerful states no longer find them useful. That doesn't make norms weak, but it does make them brittle.
Review of Expect Us: Online Communities and Political Mobilization by Jessica L. Beyer, Perspectives on Politics 13.3:878-9. Oct 2015.
The book is a voyage into a strange land, with the author acting as an online anthropologist—exploring the true meaning of “lulz,” decamping on dragon raids, and deciphering profanity-laden message boards like ancient hieroglyphics.
How do you measure ‘democracy’? The Monkey Cage (Washington Post), June 24, 2015.
Measures of democracy can mislead as much as they clarify. This is a problem not just for academics, but for policy-makers and anyone who cares about democracy more generally.
Social media helps dictators, not just protestors. The Monkey Cage (Washington Post), March 30, 2015.
Social media is increasingly being used to boost autocratic stability and strength, transforming it from an obstacle to government rule into another potential tool of regime resilience.
Lost in the Grey Zone: Competing Measures of Democracy in the Former Soviet Republics. In Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance, edited by Alexander Cooley and Jack Snyder. Cambridge University Press, 2015
I examine measures of democracy in the former Soviet republics and find that indices often disagree about particular countries, even drawing contradictory conclusions from the same event. Measures of hybrid regimes are particularly unreliable. These differences, I argue, arise not only from incorrect specification but from the inherent tradeoffs involved in defining a highly contested concept. [PDF]
Corrupting the Cyber-Commons: Social Media as a Tool of Autocratic Resilience. Perspectives on Politics 13.1:42-54. March 2015
Autocrats have increasingly moved beyond censoring social media to co-opting it for their own purposes. Namely, social media is increasingly being used to undermine the opposition, to shape the contours of public discussion, and to cheaply gather information about falsified public preferences. I detail the recent use of these tactics in mixed and autocratic regimes, with a focus on Russia, China, and the Middle East. [PDF]
From Shocks to Waves: Hegemonic Transitions and Democratization in the Twentieth Century. International Organization 68.3:561-97. July 2014
What causes democratic waves? I argue that abrupt shifts in the distribution of power among leading states create unique and powerful incentives for sweeping cascades of domestic reforms. These “hegemonic shocks” produce windows of opportunity for external regime imposition, enable rising powers to quickly expand networks of patronage, and inspire imitators by revealing hidden information about regime effectiveness to foreign audiences. [PDF]
Complexity and Theories of Change in International Politics. International Theory 5.1:35-63. March 2013.
I examine how principles of complex systems can explain change in theories of international relations. I apply the logic of complex systems to two puzzles in international politics — the absence of change in structural realism, and failures of democratic diffusion. In both cases, complex systems serve a limited but useful role. Though not conducive to theory creation, the approach provides a useful analytical prism for studying patterns of change in global processes. [PDF]
Review of How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace by Charles A. Kupchan, H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable 4.4, October 25, 2012.
An Arab Spring in Moscow? The Monkey Cage (Washington Post), June 13, 2012
Security Dilemma. In The Encyclopedia of Power, ed. by Keith Dowding. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press, 2011.
Review of The Right to Rule: How States Win and Lose Legitimacy by Bruce Gilley. Political Science Quarterly 125.1, Spring 2010, p. 163-5.878-9.
On Thin Ice: Water Rights and Resource Disputes in the Arctic Ocean. Journal of International Affairs 61.2, Spring 2008, p. 261-271.
From Guns to Briefcases: The Evolution of Russian Organized Crime. World Policy Journal 21.1, Spring 2004, p. 68-74.
The Lessons of Chechnya in Iraq: A Realist Approach to Civilian Warfare. The National Interest, November 19, 2003.