Research

Research Topics

The Institute for Security and Conflict Studies pursues research in traditional and emerging areas of international security policy. Below is a list of research topics that ISCS faculty are currently exploring.

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Policy Toward China:
The project will address U.S. nuclear strategy and forces; U.S. missile defense requirements and their implications for U.S. strategy and arms control; the implications of U.S. strategic nuclear choices for the U.S.-Japan alliance and for the nuclear proliferation decisions of Japan and South Korea; U.S. conventional strategy in East Asia and its relationship to U.S. nuclear strategy and capabilities; and, the possible escalatory dangers that could be generated by U.S. conventional operations.

Spheres of Influence, Regional Orders, and China's Rise:
The project will begin with an exploration of the basic concepts: What is a sphere of influence? Via what mechanisms do military capabilities, military alliances and economic cooperation create a sphere of influence? In the specific case of a rising China, what special challenges does a declining state face when striving to preserve its sphere of influence? The project will then explore a range of means (military, international institutions, economic policy, diaspora relations) that a state can employ in support of a sphere of influence or a regional order, or both.

Energy and International Conflict:
The ISCS Energy Security Project supports research that examines the links between energy and international conflict from a traditional security studies perspective. Our collaborative book project, Crude Calculus: Reexamining the Energy Security Logic of America's Military Presence in the Persian Gulf, brings together energy experts at GW and other leading institutions to explore the key rationales underpinning U.S. force posture in the Gulf and consider strategic alternatives. Faculty members currently researching this topic include Charles Glaser, Rose Kelanic, Llewelyn Hughes, Marcus King, Caitlin Talmadge, and Rob Weiner.

Military Effectiveness and Doctrine:
What explains variation in battlefield performance? ISCS experts investigate the origins of military success and failure. Faculty members currently researching military effectiveness and doctrine include Caitlin Talmadge, Steve Biddle, Charles Glaser, Jo Spear, and Elizabeth Saunders.

U.S. National Security:
ISCS faculty members study all aspects of American national security, from the foreign policy-making process to the determinants U.S. grand strategy. There is a wide range of faculty that specialize in U.S. national security issues, including Rose Kelanic, Michael Brown, Eric Grynaviski, James Lebovic, Stephen Biddle, Henry Nau, Elizabeth Saunders, Caitlin Talmadge, Doug Shaw, and Joanna Spear.

Conflict Resolution:
Under what conditions can nations peacefully settle disputes? Conflict resolution research at ISCS examines the role of international organizations and norms for promoting cooperative, negotiated outcomes. Faculty members currently researching and specializing in conflict resolution include Michael Barnett, Michael Brown, Martha Finnemore, Paul Williams, Joanna Spear, and James Lebovic.

Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation:
ISCS experts address fundamental questions about whether nuclear weapons promote peace or conflict, why some countries want them, and how the international community might stop their spread.Researching faculty include Charles Glaser, George Quester, Doug Shaw, Caitlin Talmadge, James Lebovic, and Michael Brown.

China and East Asian Security:
China's staggering economic growth is changing the balance of power in Asia, with implications for longtime U.S. allies such as Japan and South Korea. Faculty members who are currently researching this topic include Charles Glaser, Llewelyn Hughes, and Mike Mochizuki.

The Middle East:
ISCS experts provide insight on this turbulent region and the broader security implications of political unrest since the Arab Spring. Michael Barnett and Marc Lynch research this topic extensively.

Ethnic Conflict and Civilian Victimization:
At ISCS, experts pursue cutting-edge research at the intersection of identity politics, nationalism, and the ethics of war. Alex Downes, Harris Mylonas, and Paul Williams have contributed to current research on this topic.

Humanitarian Governance:
The Humanitarian Governance Program (HGP) examines the evolution of a global architecture dedicated to the goal of protecting human life, reducing human suffering, and improving global welfare. There exists a plethora of norms, informal institutions, laws, and discourses that legitimate and compel various kinds of interventions with "humanitarianism" as their governing logic. There are now a surfeit of conventions and treaties that are designed to protect the fundamental right of all peoples — the right to life. This ethical revolution in global affairs has been produced and nurtured by a growing metropolis of states, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and networks of committed cosmopolitans. In short, there is now a global governance of humanity? How did humanitarian governance evolve? What are its characteristics? Who governs? How is governance accomplished? What aspects are to be governed? Has humanitarian governance delivered on its promise? Michael Barnett is currently developing research on this topic.

Domestic Politics of Military Intervention:
How do domestic political institutions shape foreign policy choices? ISCS researchers examine regime type and the role of the public in government decisions to employ military force. Faculty members who are currently researching this topic include Alex Downes, Elizabeth Saunders, Rachel Stein, and Stephen Biddle.

Security Institutions:
From formal alliances to collective security, international organizations influence the likelihood of war and the conduct of military operations. Martha Finnemore, Michael Barnett, James Lebovic, Joanna Spear, and Harris Mylonas contribute to research on this topic.

Regional Security Studies:
ISCS faculty members explain the politics of regional security in Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond. Marc Lynch, Michael Barnett, Charles Glaser, Lleweyln Hughes, Mike Mochizuki, Paul Williams, and Harris Mylonas each specialize in a specific country or region and contribute to research on regional security issues.

 

Spotlight

Video: Stephen Biddle's Talk on U.S. Policy Against the Islamic State

December 14, 2015

On Monday, December 4 Professor Stephen Biddle unpacked the problems with the U.S. military approach against the Islamic State and presented three options that the U.S. military can choose. If you missed the talk or would like to share it, the video is now available! 

SPS Program Awarded FAO Regional Skill Sustainment Initiative Contract

June 10, 2015

The Security Policy Studies program, led by Joanna Spear, associate professor of international affairs, was awarded a competitive contract for the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Regional Skill Sustainment Initiative. This program, beginning in July 2015, will provide FAOs with advanced understanding and analysis of the most current regional security affairs, and the impact of regional activities on interagency and joint operations.

Enhancing U.S. Support for Peace Operations in Africa

May 14, 2015

In this Council on Foreign Relations Special Report, Paul D. Williams argues that greater U.S. involvement is necessary to enhance the quality and success of peacekeeping missions.