Works in Progress


An Illusional Nuclear Taboo: Mechanisms of Domestic Attitudinal Patterns for Extreme Methods of War

(Committee: Dr. Güneş Murat TezcurDr. Andrew Boutton, Dr. Konstantin Ash)

My dissertation studies public and political elite attitudes toward nuclear weapons. Situated in the intersection of international relations, comparative politics, and social psychology, it offers an understanding of the political conditions and individual characteristics that lead to support for the usage of nuclear weapons. Influential strands of scholarship argue that both the public and political elites have internalized anti-nuclear norms. The critics, however, assert that the moral nuclear taboo lacks robustness. Employing original survey experiments of the Israeli and US adult populations, this research identifies the factors influencing why some individuals are less willing to subscribe to a nuclear taboo than others. It builds on insights from the terror management theory to explore why the public is more likely to support the use of conventional and nuclear force during times of crises. Additionally, the work examines the conditions that explain leaders’ attitudinal patterns and tests factors that influence such. Overall, this research advances current understanding of why nuclear weapons disarmament, elimination, and non-proliferation is deeply challenging.


A Conditional Norm: Chemical Warfare from Colonialism to Contemporary Civil Wars, with Dr. Güneş Murat Tezcür

R&R in Third World Quarterly (resubmitted)

ABSTRACT: The norm against chemical weapons (CW) is considered to be a strong and universal restraint against extreme methods of warfare. Yet the repeated CW attacks during the Syrian civil war have raised questions about the robustness of this international norm. Adopting a historical approach, we analyze the discursive and contextual dynamics characterizing the CW attacks since the early 20th century. Employing process tracing, we consult a variety of rich archival resources including primary language documents to study a number of historical cases including late colonial wars during the interwar period, and Middle Eastern civil wars since the late 20th century. We argue that the anti-CW norm has never had universal status and remains conditional on a hierarchy of victims. CW attacks targeting certain groups have been more readily justifiable and generated relatively ineffective and inconsistent international reactions. Consequently, CW attacks have been more permissible and feasible against certain groups, who were implicitly or explicitly perceived to be outside the pale of civilized order, than others.

Introducing CWAD –The Chemical Weapons Attacks Dataset

Undergoing data collection

ABSTRACT: Chemical weapons (CW) have been used in countless attacks in the 20th and 21st century. Although they have been used widely since and heavily in Syrian Civil War, empirical research has been limited due to the lack of a systematic collection of CW events. CWAD provides a data collection effort for chemical weapons attacks 1899-2020. I illustrate the utility of the dataset by providing characteristics of attacks and emphasize patterns of targets and perpetrators. CWAD bears considerable promise in providing answers to new and old research questions and opens up new avenues for research on the use of CW. This dataset reveals interesting trends, showing how it can contribute to our understanding of the use of CW in conflict. It empirically supports qualitative works that argue that a CWs norm is ambiguous and its interpretation and implementation context-dependent.

Free Riding in Nuclear Counterproliferation

Manuscript in preparation of submission

ABSTRACT: Under what conditions does the international community condone aggressive counterproliferation efforts? The vast majority of the international community agrees to a policy of nuclear nonproliferation. Most states have signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and oppose the development of new nuclear states. In contrast to non-proliferation, few countries have openly admitted to using aggressive counterproliferation tools, including intelligence operations, cyber-attacks, assassinations and conventional military strikes. However, when they successfully do, the international response is largely limited to verbal condemnation. The article develops insights into this seemingly reluctant response by third-party states to counterproliferation. Employing process tracing, I consult a variety of rich archival resources including official documents to study the international responses to counterproliferation. An in-depth analysis of Operation Opera and Operation Desert Fox demonstrate that international consent is largely limited to verbal condemnation to aggressive nuclear counterproliferation. The majority of International actors is free riding on other states’ aggressive tactics and efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. States condone aggressive methods if they prevent rogue states from nuclear proliferation, especially when nonproliferation had limited success. This work will advance an understanding of international behaviour in response to selected military actions. It further provides a framework of strategic reasoning for preventive counterproliferation strikes.