Works in Progress

A Violated Taboo: The US Responses to Chemical Warfarewith Dr. Güneş Murat Tezcür 

  • Under what conditions does the US take action against using chemical weapons (CW)? The international norm against CW has a long history going back to the early 20th century and is enshrined in a near universal convention in 1997. Yet, CW attacks continue to take place in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. While the scholarship offers valuable and critical insights about the rise of CW taboo, the dynamics characterizing the US responses when this taboo is violated remain to be explained. In reaction to CW attacks by the Syrian regime, President Obama decided for a diplomatic approach after setting a red line; President Donald Trump opted for limited military strikes. Developing a comparative case study of chemical weapons attacks on Ghouta, Khan Shaykhun, Douma, and Halabja and during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Japanese-Chinese disputes in 1930s, and other conflicts, this paper aims to explain different US foreign policy responses. Employing process-tracing based on archival research and in-depth interviews with policy-makers, the paper argues that the target of the CW attacks is a key explanatory variable. The nature and scope of he response depends on whether the initiator of the attack and targets are perceived as civilized or uncivilized.

Introducing Pro-Nuclear Leaders: A New Global Data Set of Leaders’ Positions on Nuclear Weapons

  • What domestic and international factor affect a leader’s attitude towards nuclear weapons? Scholars have theorized about leaders’ decisions on nuclear proliferation since the first atomic bomb was developed. However, literature to date has focused primarily on this decision-making process by investigating the internal political dynamics of countries that pursued the route of nuclear proliferation. This paper overcomes this limitation by introducing a new cross-national dataset-the Pro-Nuclear Leaders dataset-on all leaders’ positions on nuclear weapons annually between 1945 and 2015. This dataset considers the variance in a leader’s propensity to support or disapprove of nuclear weapons in a given year. Utilizing the newly gathered data, the paper suggests that leaders’ political ideology can assist in explaining nuclear-positions. The quantitative results suggest that leftist leaders are more likely to support nuclear weapons than those leaders who subscribe to a rightist or centrist ideology. That is because leftist leaders are more tolerant of ambiguity and motivated by sensation, novelty, and curiosity. The finding points out the importance of dynamics and characteristics of domestic politics for proliferation.

Dissertation: Keeping Calm under Close Enmity: How Threat Proximity Changes Public Opinion on the Use of Nuclear Weapons (Committee: Dr. Güneş Murat Tezcur  Dr. Andrew Boutton, Dr. Konstantin Ash)