Michaela Mattes, Professor

Closed (1) Program on Security Institutions and Violent Instability

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

(This is a collaborative project of Professors Arriola, Matanock, and Mattes.)
Countries around the world are increasingly confronting violent irregular threats such as insurgencies and terrorism. Yet, many countries have proven unable to effectively deploy their security institutions (including regular militaries, paramilitaries, and police) when responding to such threats even if they have sufficient resources at their disposal. For example, while resource-poor Ethiopia has managed to mobilize its forces to successfully prevent most attacks within its borders by Al-Shabaab, the Somali jihadist terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, oil-rich Nigeria has repeatedly failed to coordinate its forces in preventing further attacks from a comparable threat, Boko Haram, the Islamist group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Our project, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, is designed to explain why some states’ security institutions are more effective than others. To shed light on this question we will collect a dataset on the design of domestic security institutions across 102 developing countries and conduct detailed comparative case studies on six paired countries: Colombia and Mexico; Ethiopia and Nigeria; and Myanmar and the Philippines.

Undergraduate research apprentices will contribute to the project in two ways:
1) Using existing data sets, secondary materials, and online sources, they will gather information on how developing countries have designed their security institutions. The goal will be to produce an extensive data set that codes information about such factors as the number of distinct security institutions in the state (including military forces, reserve forces, paramilitaries, state-run militias, police forces, and other specialized units), the size of their personnel, recruitment practices, training protocols, coordination among branches, and foreign training and support, etc. 

2) Using primary documents, secondary materials, and online sources, they will gather detailed information on the set-up of the security apparatuses of the six paired case study countries and the performance of these countries in fighting domestic rebels and terrorists. The goal will be a detailed write-up of how differences in security institutions across these countries explain variance in performance against domestic rebels and terrorists.

Qualifications: These tasks will entail extensive online and library research. Preferably research assistants will be familiar with web-scraping or other techniques that allow them to take full advantage of the vast information that can be found online. Also desirable would be familiarity with the six country cases and their languages. At minimum research apprentices should be familiar with how to use library and electronic resources, and possess tenacity in tracking down specific information about particular cases. Strong writing skills are desirable as well.

Weekly Hours: 9-12 hrs

Closed (2) Peace Deals as Counterinsurgency: Explaining Variation in Military Power- Sharing

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

Peace agreements signed to end civil wars often include provisions for former combatants to be integrated into the country’s national military. In some cases, this military power-sharing requires the ex-rebel forces to be accountable to the central command structures of the army, disarm prior to training, and disperse geographically throughout the country. In other cases, such as the Cordillera People's Liberation Army in the Philippines and the National Congress for the Defense of the People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rebels are allowed to operate under a parallel structure of command, keep their arms, and largely remain in their traditional territorial strongholds. This variation in type and level of military integration is currently unexplained by the field of political science.

While peace agreements are often seen as tools to bring an end to the violence of civil conflict, this research project examines an understudied phenomenon: peace agreements as a means for the state to strengthen counterinsurgency operations. This project theorizes that peace agreements are more likely to give these forms of organizational autonomy to ex-combatants to facilitate their deployment into counterinsurgency campaign against the other insurgent groups. This project will test this hypothesis using an original cross-national dataset on programs for the military integration of former rebel combatants.

Using the text of peace agreements, news sources, and existing scholarly work, undergraduate research apprentices gather information on how military power-sharing is structured in the text of a peace agreement, as well as how the programs are implemented after the peace agreement is signed. The undergraduate research apprentice will use this research to contribute to the project in two ways. First, the student will help to produce an in-depth dataset by coding variables about military power-sharing in a peace agreement such as: does the peace agreement require that ex-combatants disarm prior to integration? Do ex-combatants serve in units separated from the rest of the national military? After integration, are integrated ex-combatants deployed to fight other rebel groups? Second, students will write summaries of how conflict dynamics influenced the structure of military power-sharing. These narratives will also outline how a peace agreement was implemented and the role that ex-combatants played in counterinsurgency campaigns.

Undergraduate research assistants will learn about a wide diversity of civil conflicts and intrastate peace processes, and how the threats that the state faces guides decisions on the design and implementation of peace agreements. One of the objectives of the apprenticeship is to expose undergraduate students to research methodologies used to develop rigorous empirical examinations of social science theories. Students will learn how to translate qualitative research material into quantitative data that can be used in statistical tests, as well as gain in-depth experience with the structures and systems social science researchers use to negate bias and ensure consistency in data collection.

Applicants will have weekly reviews of the cases they have examined with Caroline Brandt. Applicants will have an opportunity meet with Dr. Mattes to explain how peace agreements function within the context of counterinsurgency and to discuss related research questions worth exploring.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Caroline Brandt, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: This project will require undergraduate researchers to conduct extensive archival research, using both online and library resources. Information collected about conflict and peace processes will often be complex and contradictory, students will require excellent critical thinking skills to parse contradictory information and assess the credibility of differing sources. Specific pieces of information will often be difficult to come by and students will need to be both patient and persistent in their research. Students should have strong writing skills. Applicants with reading fluency in French or Arabic are encouraged to apply, but foreign language proficiency is not a requirement for the position.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Closed (3) Apologies in International Politics

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

Throughout history countries have done terrible things to one another: genocide, war crimes, forced displacements etc. Apologizing for past wrongs was very rare before the 1990s and has become only slightly more common. Interestingly, there is a lot of variation in whether a country apologizes, when it does so, the form the apology takes, and how the apology is received. Germany’s first significant public gesture of remorse after World War II came in 1970 and was focused on Poland; the German government only apologized to the Czech Republic in 1997 and only in the context of a reciprocal statement by the Czechs; and Germany never apologized to Britain for the bombing of London. While Germany’s apologies are considered sincere by most, Japan’s statements have been viewed with skepticism by its victims. Many other countries have uttered either no apology for past wrongs (e.g. Turkey for the Armenian Genocide or Russia for the occupation of the Baltic states) or have done so late and only reluctantly (e.g. France for crimes in Algeria).

This project seeks to investigate who apologizes to whom, when, and how as well as when victims demand apologies or do not do so. While there is significant research on individual cases of apologies and reparations, we currently do not have a good understanding of the determinants and consequences of international apologies more broadly. In order to develop a systematic theoretical and empirical model of international apologies, this project collects data on the timing, wording, and context of apologies for atrocities committed between 1900-2015.

Undergraduate research apprentices will contribute to the project in two ways:

1) Develop a list of crimes that countries might apologize for. This list represents the population of possible apology cases and is the starting point of our search for whether, when, and how apologies were issued.

2) Collect and code information on the context, timing, and nature of international apologies. Important details include the rank of the official who offered the apology, the specificity of the apology (whether crimes and victims are clearly mentioned), and the depth of the apology (clear admission of guilt, remorse, and promise to never do this again).

Undergraduate research assistants will learn more about historical atrocities and the ways that states, both aggressors and victims, have dealt (or not dealt) with the past and how this affects their current relations. Students will also learn about how to collect and process observational data that can then be used for statistical analysis.

Qualifications: These tasks will entail reading through newspaper articles on possible apology cases and assessing quickly and accurately whether the article discusses an event of interest to the project. Online and library research of apology cases will also form a big part of the project so undergraduate research assistants should be familiar with how to use library and electronic resources. They should not be averse to visiting the library physically and they should be willing to show some tenacity in tracking down very specific information about particular historical cases. Strong writing skills are desirable as well, but even more important is an interest in reading historical material and learning more about international apologies.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs