My research agenda focuses primarily on the systemic, dyadic, and conflict-specific factors that contribute to third-party states' decisions to join ongoing militarized interstate disputes. While there is no shortage of work on system-level influences that increase or diminish the probability of conflict onset, conflict expansion is a relatively under-studied phenomenon. A revival of interest in complex, multiparty disputes has occurred in the literature recently, with the publication of articles by Valeriano and Vasquez (2010) and Vasquez and Valeriano (2010).
The focus on these potential "contagion" or diffusion patterns the in spread of international conflict are important for a variety of reasons. Of utmost importance is the consideration that conflicts increase in severity by one of two primary mechanisms: first, a dispute can deepen vertically, through an escalation of hostilities between the original combatants. Second - and the focus of my research - horizontally, through the accumulation of new disputants after the conflict has begun. There has been no shortage of empirical work on the former mechanism, but by comparison, the literature largely fails to distinguish the processes that may be unique to the latter.
My current arc of research focuses on bilateral trade dependence between a third party and a disputant state. Do states intervene into ongoing MIDs to protect their economic relationships? This forms the overarching research question I seek to answer in my dissertation, and specifically my first article submission from that dissertation. This article is similar to Aydin's (2008) paper, however, I interact trade dependence with an index measuring trade concentration to capture the conditioning effect of the global economic environment. I find that the impact of economic interdependence on the probability of joining actually declines as the economy becomes more diffuse and less concentrated.
Two additional working papers were born out of these findings. In the first, I examine one of the implications of my conclusions above. Namely, if it becomes less likely that states intervene on the basis of economic interests, are those states choosing abstention hurt economically by their decision not to intervene? In this paper, I examine the impact of a trade partner's conflict involvement on bilateral trade volume, as well as changes in the third-party state's trade volume with other (non) disputant states. In the second paper, I question not only whether third-party states are willing to circumvent international conflict by changing their trade patterns, but also whether they can. Even in situations where monetary volumes of trade are equal, the nature - and relative importance - of the commodities being traded between states may differ. This difference is most apparent in the distinction between natural/primary resources and manufactured goods. The former are decidedly less amenable to market substitution than the latter, and thus, the greater a third-party state's dependence on a disputant's primary resources, the more likely it is to join a conflict involving that state. A negative relationship should follow from a dependence on consumer durable manufactured goods.
While the above are all articles developed out of my dissertation, I am interested in other influences on third-party states' conflict-joining propensities as well. I am currently working on projects testing the impact of joint and pan-conflict democracy on conflict expansion, the diversionary incentives generated by joining for the United States, and the impact of mediation attempts on the probability of joining.
Papers in Progress
“Interstate Conflict in a World of Options: Trade Diffusion as a Disincentive for Conflict Expansion” (under review)
“International Trade and Conflict Avoidance: The Circumvention Hypothesis” (in progress)
“Trade Substitution and Conflict Expansion: Are There Resources Worth Fighting For?” (in progress)
“In Defense of Democracy? Regime Type and Ongoing Dispute Intervention” (in progress)
Diversionary Incentives in the US
“A Crisis of Opportunity: The Diversionary Implications of Conflict Diffusion” (with Marissa Wilson) (in progress)
“Mediation and Conflict Diffusion: Is Diplomatic Intervention a Step Toward Military Intervention?” (with James P. Todhunter) (under review)