Working Papers

Local Partners for Local Problems: When Does Foreign Intervention Trigger Local Blowback? (under review)

Under what conditions does foreign intervention trigger blowback in the target state? Despite doctrinal shifts in the way great powers approach external statebuilding, the risk of blowback — or the negative, unintended consequences of military intervention against foreign regimes — remains a chief concern for foreign policy elites. This paper provides conceptual clarification to the logic of blowback by outlining a theory through which foreign intervention triggers local retaliation against the incumbent regime and its foreign patrons. It tests the theory’s hypotheses on original survey data from Baghdad, Iraq. I find that popular support for the anti-ISIS coalition is a function of the interactive relationships between foreign patrons, local clients, and specific forms of security assistance. Contrary to what the logic of blowback would suggest, more "invasive" forms of intervention — including airpower and the presence of foreign combat troops — do not alienate local civilians if foreign assets work in support of local combatants who enjoy ex ante support.

Choosing Sides: Recruitment Patterns of Pro-Regime Combatants in Civil War (with Matthew Nanes)

In civil wars, why do individuals join pro-government militias rather than official state security forces? States frequently delegate some portion of their monopoly on violence to unofficial militias which operate outside the state’s chain of command but fight against the same opponents. Individuals who wish to participate in hostilities must choose not only on which side of the conflict to fight but also with which force to fight. Given that a combatant sides with the regime, why would he not join the state security forces (SSF)? We argue that the decision depends on an individual’s reasons for fighting. Individuals motivated by the outcome of the conflict and survival of the incumbent regime will join the SSF, while those seeking to profit from the fighting itself will join a pro-government militia (PGM). We test this argument using a survey of approximately 3,000 police officers and pro-government militia members in Iraq.

The New Shia Revolt in Iraq (with Karl Kaltenthaler and Munqith al-Dagher)

Iraq is witnessing a sea change in its politics since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. After the fall the Saddam regime, Shia Iraqis were positive about politics in the country while Arab Sunnis were very negative and pessimistic about the course of politics in Iraq. Within the last two years, this trajectory of public attitudes has become reversed, where Shia Iraqis are deeply negative and pessimistic about politics in Iraq, whereas Iraqi Sunni Arabs have become much more positive and optimistic about the political status quo. This disillusionment among Shia Iraqis has had a tremendous impact on politics in the country, leading to the election of anti-establishment candidates and parties into the parliament in 2018 and protests and even riots by Shia demonstrators, particularly in the Shia heartland of Iraq.

Why are Shia Iraqis increasingly dissatisfied with the political status quo in the country? This paper uses data from a series of quarterly country-wide surveys conducted in Iraq by IIACSS running from 2005 to 2018 using stratified proportional sampling techniques, with an average sample size around 2,000 respondents.

The paper argues that the Shia Iraqi disillusionment with the political status quo can best be explained using a relative deprivation framework. In other words, with the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of a Shia ruling-class, Shia Iraqis expected things in Iraq to get better for them in terms of tangible matters such as economic conditions, security, and fairness in the political process. They would also expect that they would be viewed with more respect by the new Shia ruling class. We contend that Shia Iraqis view the Shia ruling-class as not delivering on expectations to such an extent that large swathes of the Shia Iraqi population view the political status quo in the country as unacceptable and in need of replacement by a new political order.

This study seeks to test this contention and determine which factors are most important in driving Shia dissatisfaction with the political status quo. The research will determine if the Shia discontent is driven primarily by concerns with the economy, security, corruption, Iran’s intervention in Iraqi politics, or a sense that Iraqi politicians do not care about the masses. Using multiple regression modeling and first difference analysis, the data will provide insights into what is shaping this new course in Iraqi politics. The answer those these questions is very important to understanding what will drive politics in one of the most important countries in the region, in a time of profound Shia-Sunni rivalry.


Peer-Reviewed Articles

Rosenberg, Andrew S., Knuppe, Austin J., and Bear F. Braumoeller “Unifying the Study of Asymmetric Hypotheses,” Political Analysis, Volume 25, Issue 3 (July 2017): 381-401, DOI: 10.1057/pan.2017.16

Wu, Joshua Su-Ya and Austin J. Knuppe, “My Brother’s Keeper: Religious Cues and Support for Foreign Military Intervention,” Politics and Religion, Volume 9, Issue 3 (September 2016): 537-565, DOI: 10.1017/S1755048316000390

Knuppe, Austin J., “Handcuffing the hegemon: the paradox of state power under unipolarity,” International Politics Reviews, Volume 2, Issue 2 (October 2014): 61-71, DOI: 10.1057/ipr.2014.22


Non Peer-Reviewed Work

Oliver, Timothy L. and Austin J. Knuppe, “Britain’s Strategic Culture in Context: A Typology of National Security Strategies,” in British Foreign Policy and the National Interest: Identity, Strategy and Security, ed. Timothy Edmund, Jamie Gaskarth, and Robin Porter (London: Palgrave MacMillian, 2014), DOI:10.1057/ 9781137392350_12