I am an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at George Washington University. I am interested in the relationship between theories developed in sociology and social theory to contemporary debates in International Relations. My first book, Constructive Illusions, argues that the emphasis on intersubjectivity or common knowledge for international cooperation may be misguided. Often, understanding others may reveal intractable conflicts of interest or deep seated ideological conflicts. Wrongly believing that parties understand one another, in contrast, may enhance cooperation in the cases where cooperation is most needed. To demonstrate this argument, I examine the role of misperception in U.S.-Soviet cooperation in the 1970s, showing that a false confidence that there was a “meeting of the minds” helped the superpowers cooperate during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and at the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
My second book project, America's Middlemen, asks whether the focus on “great men,” “great wars,” and “great allies” in studies of American Foreign policy is justified. The manuscript articulates a “pericentric” view of American foreign policy (a view that emphasizes action on the periphery instead of the center) to make sense of the ways that agents with marginal institutional power broker cooperation across societies. Building on social network theory, I argue that agents who lack the standard tools of political power often make a difference in promoting international cooperation if their social position between societies allows them to identify partners for cooperation, helps them build trust between cooperation partners, and aids them in mitigating cultural conflict. To show the variety of ways that these agents (including traders, preachers, and adventurers) matter, I examine their role in recruiting non-state allies, such as partisans in the Second World War and Native Americans in the Apache wars. The first piece of this project is forthcoming in the European Journal of International Relations.