McGill-Queen's University Press (forthcoming 2022)

A timely assessment of why democracy promotion sometimes fails and how bad actors use indiscriminate violence against civilians to defeat an insurgency.

There is a common assumption that the promotion of democracy and economic development are the most effective means of quelling widespread political unrest within a country. Many believe that free and fair elections, health care, education, and employment will help secure the hearts and minds of citizens. By contrast, the violation of human rights and international law is presumed to be counterproductive, engendering political protest and violent rebellion. 

When Bad States Win challenges the belief that democratic institutions and economic growth are effectual tools in countering insurgencies. Jeffrey Treistman uses a mixed-methods approach to examine the conditions in which governments have violated human rights and attacked civilians to effectively suppress political dissent. His research suggests that moderate levels of violence against civilians tend to backfire and only provoke widespread resentment that lead to the overthrow of a central government; however, when pursued to extremes, brutal repression and indiscriminate violence against civilians can effectively defeat a rebellion. As a result, bad states may sometimes win.


As the number of democratic states in the world continues to decline, violence and authoritarian rule are on the rise. A thought-provoking and timely analysis, When Bad States Win offers important insight into how democratic states can respond to human rights violations in regions in crisis. 

Journal of Critical Infrastructure Policy 2, no. 2 (2021): 157-188.

(co-authors: Julian LoRusso, Mariama Yakubu, Wayne Sandford, Ed Goldberg, and Matt Van Benschoten)

Abstract: A vulnerability exists in the U.S. to an attack from a nuclear weapon of mass destruction (WMD) optimized to generate a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) with potential for widespread damage to electrical components in the critical infrastructure, a concern in national security forums. The purpose of this study was to develop a framework to better understand the hazard risks from a HEMP attack on non-military (non-MIL), electronics-heavy, automotive ground vehicles that will lead to an effective emergency management response and recovery plan. A hybrid emergency management and engineering hazards risk analysis utilizing a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) format helped visualize the critical vehicle electronics sub- systems and components, and their respective potential failure modes. A design of experiments test plan was developed to quantify the risks, and to develop a pathway to validate cost-effective mitigation countermeasures based on present-day best practices for HEMP hardening. The proposed emergency management plan emphasized a strategic implementation of HEMP mitigation countermeasures to support continuity in emergency services and delivery of community lifelines to the public. The results of this study will serve as a foundation for future HEMP projects with automotive ground vehicles that will support the FEMA National Preparedness Goal, Presidential Executive Order 13865, and the recent FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legislation. The methodologies can also apply to other segments of the critical infrastructure.

Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (2021).

Abstract: Research on the causes of terrorism tends to focus on broad national-level trends without examining how such factors influence individuals and their propensity for political violence. Meanwhile, theories of radicalization have yielded important insight on how individuals embrace terrorism, but the transformation does not occur within a vacuum divorced from contextual factors. This article is therefore an attempt to bridge macro-micro linkages to better understand the causes of terrorism, and focuses on levels of socio-political exclusion within a country. Using multilevel analysis, the article finds a consistently positive relationship between levels of social exclusion and individual support for terrorism. The results help capture the multidimensional nature of the causes of terrorism and better informs counterterrorism policymaking.

Conflict, Security, & Development 21, no. 3 (2021): 337-370.

(co-author: Charles Gomez)

Abstract: The security debate concerning the recent wave of migrants into Europe has been contentious. This article examines the impact of recent migration flows into Europe and assesses the veracity of political rhetoric that migrants from Muslim states were reputedly responsible for the uptick in terrorist attacks. After conducting a series of quantitative tests that control for a variety of factors, we find little evidence that the increase in the number of migrants corresponded to an increase in terrorism during the European crisis. Our findings, therefore, contain important implications in terms of migration policy and counterterrorism tactics.

Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism 16, no. 2 (2021): 192-201.

Abstract: Deriving a definition of terrorism has long been a focus of both academics and policymakers, but there have been few attempts to establish a clear definition of right-wing terrorism and its relationship to other variants of political violence. This brief forum article surveys the extant literature to better understand how right-wing terrorism is conceptualised and highlights the necessity of establishing a coherent definition in order to more effectively inform counterterrorism policymaking.

Defence and Peace Economics 26, no. 5 (2015): 465-490.

(co-authors: Ying Deng, Chris Rohlfs, and Ryan Sullivan)

Abstract: This study investigates the effect that US medical personnel deaths in combat have on other unit deaths and ‘military success,’ which we measure using commendation medals as a proxy. We use a difference-in-differences identification strategy, measuring the changes over time in these outcomes following the combat loss of a medic or doctor and comparing it to the changes following the combat loss of a soldier who is not a medic or doctor. We find that overall unit deaths decrease in the five or ten days following the deaths of medical personnel in Vietnam, Korea, and the Pacific theater in World War II (WWII). In contrast, the WWII European and North African results indicate that overall unit deaths rise following medical personnel deaths. We find no relationship between medical personnel deaths and other unit deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Korea and the Pacific theater of WWII, our
estimates suggest unit commendation medals decrease following the deaths of medical personnel. This pattern of evidence is consistent with a model in which units often halted aggressive tactical maneuvers and reduced pursuit of their military objectives until deceased medical personnel were replaced. The results for the other conflicts are mixed and show little connection between medical personnel deaths and commendation medals.

African Security Review 21, no. 3 (2012): 68-74.

Abstract: The Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974 toppled the authoritarian regime in Lisbon. It is fallacious to conclude, however, that the 1974 coup d’état signaled Portugal’s defeat in the Colonial War. The status of each conflict on the eve of the Carnation Revolution varied, and it was by no means inevitable that Portugal would have been defeated in all three theatres had the coup not occurred. This brief research note therefore advances a novel approach to examining the Colonial War by assessing the outcomes prior to the 1974 coup. In particular, the author proposes that Portugal achieved military victory in Angola and Mozambique, but was defeated in Guinea-Bissau.

Comparative Strategy 31, no. 3 (2012): 235-252.

Abstract: The aim of this article is to obtain a better understanding of the outcomes of counterin- surgency warfare. It advances the hypothesis that the combined presence of a unified revolutionary force and external sanctuary will significantly increase the chances of victory for insurgents. The variables are tested against Portugal’s involvement in the Colonial War, accounting for Portuguese defeat in Guinea-Bissau. The article concludes by extending the hypothesis to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, determining that the ability of the United States to succeed in Afghanistan is limited unless it seals the border with Pakistan and weakens the unity of insurgent forces.

Joint Force Quarterly 53 (2009): 110-115.

Abstract: Beginning in early 2007, President Bush announced a 'surge' of American military forces into Iraq to stabilize the security environment in order to facilitate economic development and political reconciliation. A major component of the strategy entailed the delivery of essential services to the civilian population. This article highlights the importance of essential services as a counterinsurgency strategy and chronicles intergovernmental efforts that sought to improve social conditions in Baghdad.