Arjun Chowdhury

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Patriotic sex: fertility, fear and power (2016)

Decades of research has shown the relative futility of government efforts to manipulate the fertility rate of their citizens and that there is a distinct lack of correlation between population growth and indicators of state power. However, over 145 states currently have ongoing and costly efforts to shape the reproductive behavior of individuals to achieve an idealized rate of aggregate population growth. These states differ culturally, economically, and politically, but their population control policies have ever only followed four models. Why do states pursue population policies that have robust histories of failure and invest scarce resources in programs which show little promise of advancing state interests? Why do states that differ on many objective metrics maintain population policies that are broadly similar and have proven historically ineffective? In this dissertation I find that states do not react to the objective facts of their situations but instead respond to an enduring set of ideas that are generated at the international level. I demonstrate this by tracing the evolution of thinking on population growth and how competing models of the effects of population have driven state policies. Through the use case studies, including France, Germany, Russia, India and China, I illustrate how these competing ideas motivate state intervention in the private reproductive lives of millions of individuals.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Unclear but present danger : assessing the impact of private military contractors on civil war severity (2023)

Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner Group’s ‘March for Justice’ has been the greatest threat thus far to Vladimir Putin’s regime. Months prior to Wagner’s March for Justice, Wagner was a key part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and was a key factor in Russian foreign policy on the African continent. As private military contractors (PMCs) continue to gain continued media exposure through Wagner’s headline-grabbing actions, the effect of PMCs continues to be an under-analyzed facet of research. Through quantitative analyses, this paper examines the effect of PMCs on conflict severity (measured in battle-related deaths) in civil wars from 1989-2016. The origin and the type of civil war a PMC is involved in have real implications for the level of violence associated with PMCs in a civil conflict. Through my findings, I build on the conventional wisdom of the PMC and civil war literature, as well as provide a future research agenda in this blossoming vein of scholarship.

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The Six-Party Talks, effective or not? A qualitative analysis on the independent effect of multilateral diplomacy (2019)

The purpose of this paper is to examine the causal process of how the Six-Party Talksaffected the ROK government’s position towards North Korea and the nuclear problem. Inorder to examine the causal effect and process of the Six-Party Talks to a state’s (Republic ofKorea) position and perception towards another state (North Korea), an analysis thatcompares the position of a government ex ante (independent variable) and its post-Talksposition (dependent variable) is necessary. The baseline in this case would be, the perception,intentions, understanding of the ROK government and leadership regarding North Koreaprior to the Six-Party Talks’ inception. To examine the theory’s validity, the research attemptsto lay out the causal linkages of Six-Party Talks starting from ROK’s initial view on NorthKorea before any indications of the Talks, the process of the Talks of leading ROK to enterthe multilateral forum, the Talks’ role as a venue for states to exchange, share, and exposeinformation, and the resulting perspective of ROK in comparison with its initial positionbefore the Talks. The research objective is to extract the Talks’ systematic effect on inter-Korean relations and establish the role of the multilateral negotiation in the Korean context.

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When do democracies prefer coups to peace? The cost of domestic-accountability in interdemocratic policy disuputes (2017)

Democratic Peace theorists argue a democracy’s elected-leader will not impose the costs of war upon their citizens out of fear those citizens will retaliate by voting them out of office. This domestic-accountability mechanism (DAM) promotes peace by imposing constraints on elected leaders. However, I argue Democratic Peace theorists have paid insufficient attention to a major implication of the DAM, namely, that for the very same reason an elected leader will not declare war, an elected leader cannot accept domestically-unpopular demands imposed by a more powerful democracy when important policy disputes arise within democratic dyads. In such cases, the DAM which prevents war also facilitates lower-cost conflict such as coups. I examine declassified records from the National Security Archives and the U.S. Department of State Archives pertaining to the British and American coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) – two cases Democratic Peace Theory has ill prepared us to understand. I show how the coups were conducted to nullify the DAM in Iran and Guatemala (by replacing elected leaders with dictators), thus paving the way for a dispute settlement more favorable to British and American interests. This study implies that the benefits of democratization are not as significant at lower levels of conflict.

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No Alarm: Hypersonic Weapons Development and the Shifting Logics of Arms Control (2016)

Why has the development of hypersonic weapons systems provoked such little concern among arms control organizations relative to that raised by the development of autonomous weapons systems and soldier-enhancing technologies, on one hand, and past weapons research programs with similar strategic implications, like Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, on the other? This thesis employs social network analysis and case comparisons to argue that a historical shift in arms control imperatives has shifted attention from weapons systems of interstate strategic consequence to weapons systems of individual consequence. Specifically, the shift from the Cold War arms control paradigm to a humanitarian arms control agenda after 1991 has led to the prioritization of efforts to limit or ban weapons that indiscriminately or disproportionally harm individual human lives. As a result, weapons systems that threaten to upset the military balance between the leading global military powers—like hypersonic weapons systems—no longer cause as much concern as was the case for most of the past century and a half.

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Three types of wartime sexual violence: recruitment and retention of armed combatants in civil war (2014)

Most mainstream studies of violence in civil war have focused almost exclusively on lethal forms of violence against civilians, emphasizing the dilemmas of initiating and sustaining an insurgency from the perspective of an armed group’s leadership. Consequently, little research has been conducted to account for what kinds of insurgent organizations will engage in what ‘types’ of wartime sexual violence. By ‘type’ of wartime sexual violence, this paper refers to its purposes as: i.) a reward for foot soldiers and tool of opportunism; ii.) a weapon of war for threatening and intimidating a population; and iii.) a mechanism for facilitating in-group cohesion and discipline. It argues that by extending and elaborating on the logics used to explain lethal violence against civilians, i.e. the recruitment and retention of armed combatants in civil war, analyses can predict the ‘type’ of sexual violence a given armed group is likely to engage in during combat. Focusing on a typology of sexual violence constructed around armed group objectives not only offers a more detailed analytical account of insurgent behavior, but also advances the already limited study of sexual violence beyond subsets, such as rape or gang rape. After presenting this typology, the paper offers a theoretical framework and preliminary set of hypotheses with respect to what kinds of armed groups will commit which of these three types of wartime sexual violence. It concludes with a discussion of mixed method micro-comparative research designs and geographic information systems (GIS) as possible ways for researchers to distinguish between different outcomes of sexual violence in armed conflict.

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A study of recruitment: the making of the ideal islamist extremist in Pakistan (2013)

Insurgency has become unmanageable for the Pakistani government during the last decade, increasing the concern over Al Qaeda’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism, and leading to a series of ineffective counter-terror policies as a result. This paper seeks to investigate what tactics are currently employed as militant recruitment strategies to verify what individuals and groups are desired as potential candidates for enlistment. An identification and analysis of the requisite qualifications will therefore confirm Al Qaeda’s potential for expansion and the threat level this generates within Pakistan. Upon an assessment of Al Qaeda’s goals and the type of skills they require to achieve them, this paper formulates a model of recruitment for Al Qaeda and affiliated organizations operating within Pakistan. This model finds the ideal recruit will be male, characterized by a high level of education or experience related to the assigned undertaking. In addition, some element of political dissatisfaction and evidence of support for Al Qaeda’s intention to substitute Pakistan’s secularism for its universal system of Islam must be exhibited. Through an analysis of descriptive statistics, existing literature, and the methods of recruitment pursued by religious extremists, this paper concludes that the availability of Al Qaeda’s ideal recruit is extremely limited, which results in a lowering of standards and consideration of less sophisticated volunteers. This imbalance of supply and demand in combination with a set of contradictory objectives will continue to hinder Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist operations from gaining anything more than a narrow support base.

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Issue indivisibility as an explanatory model for the Arab Spring (2013)

This thesis examines the Arab Awakening in four countries—Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria—and argues that Ron Hassner’s model of issue indivisibility (2009) rather than James Fearon’s model of the commitment problem (2004) provides the best explanation for these uprisings. In each case, the presidency and control of the nation is best described as a super-valuable good, which was considered to be essentially indivisible by state and non-state actors. The presidential incumbents rejected the public’s demands for their resignation and democratic transition and sanctioned military violence to maintain the status quo. The public, maintaining their resolve to oust their president from office, rejected power sharing, fearing the deposed leaders would renege on any negotiated agreement in the future (Fearon, 2004). The second contribution of this thesis, albeit not a new discovery, is that the survival of these dictators was critically dependent on military support. In Tunisia and Egypt, the military’s shift of support to the protestors resulted in the sudden fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak from power. In Libya, sanctioned intervention by a UN military coalition resulted in Gaddafi’s elimination, whereas the Syrian military’s support of the regime ensures the continuation of Assad’s presidency. The third contribution of this thesis is that the Assad regime’s use of recombinant authoritarianism—the adaption of its policies following events in its neighbouring Arab countries—has strengthened its prospects for survival.

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Learning to live with a nuclear North Korea: strategies & likelihoods (2013)

By identifying three key variables – international aid, international acceptance, and credible threat – that are significant in North Korean negotiations, this paper identifies several policy alternatives that present viable American concessions for a more secure Korean nuclear environment. Manipulation of these policy levers by the United States is intended to compel North Korea into concessions that will ultimately lessen the country’s humanitarian burden, improve bilateral relations, and create a more stable region by curtailing nuclear proliferation. For the United States to effectively extract concessions from North Korea, it must create incentives for compliance by changing the North Korea’s calculation of the three bargaining variables away from the equilibrium position. This paper finds that maintenance of the status quo is the most strategically secure policy for the United States if denuclearization by North Korea is improbable. Alteration of the status quo will result in a stronger North Korea (or at the very least, a strategically weaker United States), something that is both domestically unpalatable and not in their direct interest. Unless the United States can accept North Korea as a nuclear state and grant it the corresponding concessions needed to stabilize the region, it is unlikely that a new nuclearized direction will occur. Continuation of the current American foreign policy reflects the incompatibility of the two countries’ preferences and demands; it is a rationalist explanation for what seems an arbitrary strategy. In examining the United States’ current relationship with North Korea as a rational response to the regime’s noncompliance rather than a policy failure, this paper draws on bargaining theory and strategies of nuclear deterrence to consider the strategies available to engage other emerging nuclear powers.

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Engagement, partnership, or security? Clarifying the role of community policing in Afghanistan's counterinsurgency (2012)

Current counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine in Afghanistan portrays community engagement and ‘winning over’ local villages as the key to COIN success. With the ongoing withdrawal of Coalition troops, strategy has increasingly emphasized the training of local security forces capable of engaging and gaining the support of Afghan communities while protecting them from the insurgent threat. This strategy draws on the principles of community policing but neither articulates them clearly nor implements them in accordance with policing experience. COIN is inherently ‘outcome-driven’ and thus is difficult to reconcile with the ‘process-oriented’ community policing approach. If community policing is to be utilized as an effective COIN engagement strategy, policing lessons must be integrated into COIN doctrine to overcome the challenges and conflicting priorities common to both efforts. I argue that three community policing lessons are particularly relevant to current COIN policy in Afghanistan. The militarization of the Afghan National Police, the ‘localizing’ of community policing arrangements, and the COIN approach to Afghan youth and children should be reconsidered in light of the experiences and research of community policing. I use a comparative case study of the COIN during the Troubles in Northern Ireland to highlight how these policies interfere with community engagement and require a clearer division of labour when pursuing COIN and community policing priorities. Community policing does not offer a solution to the challenges of community engagement during insurgency but integrating the two fields allows strategic expectations to align with the realistic limitations and possibilities of engaging communities through policing.

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From pyrrhic victory to combating an unknown quantity : materiel's qualified utility during the Second Iraq War (2012)

Lost in the Second Iraq War’s rancorous run-up was the reality that matériel primacy and a preponderance of personnel are beneficial for employing force effectively only insofar as they can be viably exploited via an appropriate doctrine and apposite tactics. U.S.-led Coalition forces lacked the requisite capacity to adopt these methods, however, and thus employ force efficaciously subsequent to Operation Iraqi Freedom’s (O.I.F.’s) conclusion on April 9, 2003. Securing the postwar peace after the Second Iraq War's initial phase formally ended required the calibrated use of military might to shore up a host-nation’s government and win over the local population. Doing so became impossible in large part due to pre-invasion complacency and post-invasion confusion. Moreover, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki had, contrary to popular belief, countenanced then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s invasion strategy for the Second Iraq War in its run-up. The two had, I argue, merely disagreed over how to secure the peace and with what size footprint, not over the invasion strategy, despite the former being what really required a great deal of modifications. Distracted by prewar saber rattling over the war’s merits or lack thereof, the fact that Messrs. Shinseki and Rumsfeld each possessed flawed postwar strategies in the absence of a population-centric counterinsurgency element became papered over. Bureaucratic feuding also gave way to a closed and faulty assumption driven war-planning process, which, followed as it was by maladroit and ad hoc efforts post-O.I.F., further constrained U.S. Coalition forces’ efforts. Thus, a tenfold troop increase of conventionally trained soldiers, as suggested by Gen. Shinseki for pacifying postwar Iraq, would not have beneficially altered the war’s outcome. Absent knowledge of opponents’ methods and an applicable counterinsurgency doctrine, ceteris paribus, a troop augmentation of conventional forces would not have enabled a superior outcome.

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The enemy of my enemy is not my friend: a theory of rebel alliance patterns in civil war (2012)

Civil wars are rarely two-player affairs. Indeed, civil wars often feature several distinct rebel organizations contesting an incumbent’s territorial control, and while it would seem efficient for these rebel groups to ally with one another against the incumbent, the opposite occurs with surprising frequency: distinct rebel groups regularly fight one another even as they fight the same incumbent. I offer a simple theory that aims to explain why insurgent groups fighting the same incumbent will ally in some instances, but not in others. I argue that when an incumbent boasts military capability sufficient to credibly threaten the elimination of the opposition, rebel groups will be more likely to ally with each other in order to avoid destruction. However, when rebel groups do not fear elimination, they are less likely to ally and more likely to fight amongst themselves, even as they continue their campaigns against the incumbent. There are two reasons that these groups will fight each other: (1) in order to decrease the number of potential bargaining partners for the incumbent or a key sector of the civilian population, and (2) to avoid being disadvantaged when it comes time to divide valuable war spoils, especially when those spoils are won by supplanting the incumbent. I demonstrate the empirical plausibility of this theory with three well-documented cases, and conclude with suggestions for future research on the topic of internecine targeting between rebel groups.

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Preventing the accidental guerilla syndrome: reintegration and reconciliation as tools of war and control (2011)

Conventional evaluations of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs suggest that the disappointing policy outcomes of DDR are largely the result of shortcomings in their design, and overcome through technical, apolitical, and ostensibly ‘developmental’ solutions. This perspective, however, overlooks the profoundly politicized nature of the post-conflict environment, in which political actors attempt to secure patronage networks and rents and reinforce or alter the balance of power in their favour. This paper will argue that, within this context, reintegration and reconciliation programs can be strategically introduced by the dominant faction in a conflict in order to further pacify its rivals and reinforce its control over the post-war environment. With specific reference to the war in northern Uganda, it will reveal how the amnesty and reintegration programs implemented became tools of the broader counterinsurgency effort, as they were designed to gain leverage over ex-combatants and prevent their return to the war as “accidental guerrillas.” In the process, the government of Uganda secured its monopoly over the means of violence in this region, thereby expanding its control over a historically “unruly” population. Reintegration and reconciliation were largely secondary to these underlying legacies of exploitation and structural violence, presenting numerous implications for post-conflict reconstruction and the international donors that continue to fund these initiatives. By locating the outcomes of peace-building initiatives within the broader historical processes of social conflict, this paper offers an alternative theoretical framework for considering the limitations of reintegration and reconciliation initiatives.

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