The Party (Still) Decides

I have a new blog post over at The Hill, which name checks the 2008 book The Party Decides by Marty Cohen, Hans Noel and John Zaller.  Read it here.

Although Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) formal announcement that he will run for the presidency means that he is the first official candidate to declare his 2016 ambitions, anybody with a television set knows that the contest for who will next occupy the White House is well underway.  For months—in some cases, years—contenders from both parties have been jostling for money, backers, advisers and foot soldiers ahead of next year’s primaries and general election.

During this “invisible primary,” candidates do their utmost to shape the parties to which they belong: articulating visions, staking positions, proposing policies.  Each wants to lead to victory in 2016 a party that reflects their image.  Cruz’s homily at Liberty University showcased this: an attempt to convince the Republican Party that his brand of conservatism represents the best bet for reclaiming the White House and rebuilding America.

But the invisible primary is also a process whereby the parties themselves get to mould the field of candidates…


U.S. Naval Base Is Under Threat…And It’s Britain’s Fault

In a stunning ruling last week, the permanent court of arbitration – or, more specifically, a tribunal constituted under its auspices – ruled that the Chagos Marine Protected Area (a huge marine reserve in the British Indian Ocean Territory) was created illegally by Britain in April 2010.  In my latest blog for The National Interest, I give some early thoughts on the international security implications of this decision.  Read it here.

The naval base on Diego Garcia in the central Indian Ocean is one of the most strategically important U.S. military installations in the world. But the base’s future might just have been thrown into question by a seemingly unrelated international ruling that the British government, which is sovereign over Diego Garcia, acted illegally by unilaterally announcing the creation of an environmental protection zone in the territory back in 2010…

I plan to write more on the ruling in the coming weeks.  I’m particularly interested in how the tribunal’s decision will affect the political climate in Britain, especially when it comes to restoring the indigenous islanders’ right to resettle the territory.  For more of my work on Diego Garcia, the Chagos Marine Protected Area and the Chagossians, see my publications page.

Can Greece Escape Germany’s Golden Straitjacket?

My latest blog post for The National Interest looks at the Greek government’s attempt to fight off the excesses of austerity.  Read it here.

Syriza’s electoral triumph in Greece earlier this year was dramatic evidence of ordinary Greeks’ exasperation with the politics of austerity. But since taking office, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has found it difficult to deliver on his campaign pledges to improve Greece’s lot. Popular at home, Tsipras has run into roadblocks abroad—particularly in Brussels and Berlin. His torrid time parlaying domestic success into an international agreement on Greece’s future reveals a lot about the limits of democratic decision making in an integrated Europe…

Militarism in Environmental Disguise: The Greenwashing of an Overseas Military Base

My article, “Militarism in Environmental Disguise: The Greenwashing of an Overseas Military Base,” is now available in the latest issue of International Political Sociology. You can access the full article via the IPS website.


What is the relationship between militarized landscapes, especially overseas military bases, and the natural environment? Scholars have noticed that militarized spaces—permanent bases, demilitarized zones, live fire ranges, training areas, historical battlefields and so forth—are often accompanied by de facto nature reserves. Thus, the unparalleled seclusion that militarization imposes upon delineated geographic spaces can create safe havens for plants and animals that would otherwise suffer from human encroachment. Others retort that military activities cause severe damage to the natural environment. In this article, I problematize attempts to evaluate the environmental impact of militarized spaces in a way that divorces the natural environment from the broader web of social and political relations to which military activities belong. In particular, I argue that environmental issues often serve as “greenwash” to distract attention—lay, scholarly, and official—from the negative aspects of militarism, including instances of environmental degradation, the mistreatment of human subjects, and the perpetuation of colonial forms of government. To illustrate and buttress my argument, I present a detailed case study of the US military base on Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

When States Appease

My article with Peter Trubowitz (“When States Appease: British Appeasement in the 1930s”) is available in the latest issue of Review of International Studies.  View the full article on the RIS website.


When do states appease their foes? In this article, we argue that governments are most likely to favour appeasing a foreign threat when their top leaders are severely cross–pressured: when the demands for increased security conflict sharply with their domestic political priorities. We develop the deductive argument through a detailed analysis of British appeasement in the 1930s. We show that Neville Chamberlain grappled with a classic dilemma of statecraft: how to reduce the risk of German expansionism while facing acute partisan and electoral incentives to invest resources at home. For Chamberlain, appeasement was a means to reconcile the demands for increased security with what he and his co-partisans were trying to achieve domestically. We conclude by discussing implications of the analysis for theorising about appeasement and about how leaders make grand strategy more generally.

Putin’s Gambit

My latest blog post for The National Interest looks at the diplomatic challenges that will face Russia if Moscow tries to convert its temporary bargaining position over Ukraine into lasting geopolitical achievements.  I argue that Putin is doing a poor job of building international support for any long-term revisions he might want to make to the European security architecture.  That’s good news for those who would like to see Russia’s influence curtailed, but the west shouldn’t be complacent. Read the full post here.

With the ceasefire in Ukraine showing early signs of holding, international attention will now intensify towards finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis facing the country. For Kiev and its Western backers, prospects are bleak for bringing about their desired settlement. But it will also not be easy for Vladimir Putin to convert his considerable short-term bargaining power into lasting strategic gains…