Laws of War

I am writing a book on the consequences of the proliferation of the laws of war over the past two centuries. The first argument of the book is that belligerents in both interstate and civil war use the laws of war strategically. The second argument of the book is that the nature of this strategic relationship varies tremendously between states engaged in interstate war and rebel groups engaged in civil war. For example, I argue that the proliferation of codified law of war provides an explanation for the declining use of declarations of war to begin interstate war and peace treaties to conclude these wars. Secessionist rebel groups engaged in civil war, on the other hand, behave quite differently when it comes to the laws of war. For these groups, engaging positively with international law is a means to signal their willingness and capacity to be good citizens of the international community.

Two other projects on the laws of war include an analysis of Islamic humanitarian law, with Emilia Powell, and a study of why some rebel groups commit to abide by the laws of war, while others do not, with Margarita Konaev.


I have been working on several projects related to secessionism. Ryan Griffiths and I argue that the benefits of becoming a state have increased over time, and that this increase has translated into the rise of secessionism we observe today. With Erica Chenoweth, I am working on a paper that tries to reconcile the international community’s preference for nonviolent secessionism with its low success. I am also examining the timing and location of civilian targeting by secessionist rebel groups.

Medical Care in Conflict Zones

In a 2014 article in International Security, I argue that scholars suggesting that war is on the decline have overstated their case. The strongest empirical basis for the “declinist theory of war” is a decline in battle deaths. But over the same time period that battle deaths have declined, there have been dramatic improvements in military medicine. I plan to extend this research to collect additional data on the battle wounded, conduct survey experiments on casualty aversion that take explicit account of the wounded, and examine the long-term societal costs of addressing the host of issues that accompany the returned wounded.

Working Papers

“Homelands vs. Minelands: When and Why do Rebel Groups Commit to Adhere to International Humanitarian Law?” With Margarita Konaev.

“Life and Limb: New Estimates of Casualty Aversion in the US.”

“Islamic Humanitarian Law and Islamic Insurgent Groups.” With Emilia Powell.

“Interstate War Initiation and Termination (WIT), 1816-2000.” With Page Fortna, Jessica Stanton, and Alex Weisiger.

“Guerrillas in the Mist: The Use and Misuse of Insurgency in Civil War.” With Page Fortna.

"#sorrynotsorry: Cyber Attacks and the Logic of Non-Denial Denials." With Joseph Brown.