My work thus far has spanned three major areas: the internal politics of non-state armed groups, recruitment and conscription by state militaries, and the political effects of migration for sending countries.
Internal Politics of Armed Groups, in and out of Conflict
What happens to rebels when the government allows rebels to gather resources and recruits freely for years or decades? With innovative evidence from five active conflict regions in Northeast India, I show that long-term truces actually undermine rebel organizations in the long run by attracting selfish, opportunistic recruits who are prone to desert in battle and abuse civilian supporters. First, I show experimentally that the benefits of truce disproportionately attract low-commitment recruits. My survey uses novel sampling methods and a conjoint survey to test the motivations and behavior of likely rebel recruits. Second, I demonstrate that these motivations shape rebel organizations’ recruitment and discipline behavior over time, drawing from 56 in-depth semi-structured interviews in and around nearly a dozen rebel organizations.
The Market for Moderate Militancy: Experiments on Recruitment and Support in Northeast India. Job Market Paper. [Paper]
When do potential recruits and supporters back extremist armed groups, and when do they back moderate militants instead? Despite long-standing debates over extremism and conflict, there is little direct, causally-identified evidence of how recruit and supporters decide between armed groups. With novel conjoint survey experiments in Northeast India, I explore the factors that sway how likely militant recruits decide which group to join and how civilian elders decide which group to support. I argue that when states offer to accommodate and coexist with militants with ceasefire offers, it empowers moderate armed leaders by encouraging recruits and supporters to turn out and to favor moderates over extremists. These results run counter to the two dominant views of conflict and terrorism: grievance-based theories, which argue that state accommodation should dampen militant participation and support, and law-and-order theories, which argue that state accommodation should embolden recruits and supporters to back extremists.
Scholars and policymakers generally assume that opposing forces in a civil conflict cannot simply “agree to disagree:” in order to have peace, one side must collapse, disarm, or concede. With an original worldwide dataset of civil conflict downturns 1989-2015, I show that this assumption is only true of center-seeking / governmental civil conflicts. Separatist conflicts, by contrast, can be more easily contained, allowing government and rebels to halt fighting for years or decades without either side disarming or conceding – an equilibrium I refer to as long-term truce.
Hardliners, Moderates, and Reciprocity: Selecting Leaders During Civil Conflict. [Available on Request]
How do state and rebel constituents (voters or potential recruits) decide whether to support hardliners or moderates to represent their interests in civil conflict negotiations? I argue that, against their short-term interests, constituents select leaders reciprocally: they prefer moderates to negotiate with enemy moderates, and hardliners with enemy hardliners. Evidence from survey experiments among Indian voters and potential recruits in Northeast India.
Rebel or Nuisance? Public Perceptions of Armed Groups in India. [Available on Request]
States often have dozens of armed organizations within their borders, yet while some are treated as dangerous rebels, others are treated as mere nuisances. How do voters decide which armed groups are threatening? With evidence from a survey of Indian voters, I show that voters respond to elites’ ideologies about which groups are threatening to the national project and which are benign.
The Politics of State Military Recruitment
Non-Citizen Soldiers: Explaining Foreign Recruitment by Modern State Militaries. Security Studies, Spring 2019. With Erik Lin-Greenberg. [Paper]
Nearly two centuries after the widespread adoption of citizen soldier norms, more than two dozen states around the world allow foreigners to serve in their militaries, often explicitly advertising military service to foreign populations. Using cross-national and interview evidence, we explain why states take on the normative and practical challenges of doing so. These states use foreigners to provide expertise when they face new technological threats, to fill ranks when they lack a large and loyal population, or to bolster ties to ethnic or former colonial populations.
Are there Long-term Effects of the Vietnam Draft on Political Attitudes or Behavior? Apparently not. Journal of Experimental Political Science, Spring 2019. With Tiffany C. Davenport and Donald P. Green. [Paper]
The Vietnam Draft was among the most contentious political events of the 20th century and randomly selected hundreds of thousands of men for transformative life experiences in Vietnam (serving in war-time military) or in the United States (evading service). Yet our investigation shows that there are no lingering effects of draft status visible today on political outcomes, either in massive voter registration files (N>4 million) or in a wide-ranging survey on domestic and international issues (N>900).
Political Effects of Migration
How Overseas Opportunities Shape Political Preferences: A Field Experiment on International Migration. Working paper. With Nikhar Gaikwad and Aliz Tóth.
International labor migration provides new avenues of economic advancement for many in low-income countries. How do these opportunities shape policy preferences? As part of a larger field experiment, we explore the economic and political effects of labor migration on the migrants themselves. We find that individuals selected for migration opportunities become significantly less supportive to state-led taxation and redistribution — starting even before they realize the economic benefits of migration. The results provide strong evidence that migration plays an important role in the politics of sending communities and that political preferences are driven both by economic resources and the mere prospect of upward mobility.
The Political Effects of South-South Labor Migration. Ongoing field experiment. With Nikhar Gaikwad and Aliz Tóth.
Millions of people migrate for work, experiencing new institutions and new international forces, often returning home with new political views and behaviors. In this innovative field experiment, we randomly select young adults from a marginalized group in India (the conflict-affected Northeast Indian state of Mizoram) for a job-training and recruitment program for the Gulf region’s hospitality industry. Two years later, we assess how these experiences have affected economic prospects, perceptions of Indian institutions, political participation, and political identity and priorities. The project is pre-registered with Experiments in Governance and Politics.