Secrecy has long been central to international politics. For decades, however, serious scholarly work on secrecy-related topics was rare. Even as theoretical models drawing on “private information” and “incentives to misrepresent” changed the field, scholars of International Relations (IR) did not feature much dedicated research and novel theorization about how states misrepresent, what they keep private, and why image manipulation is an ever-present feature of international politics. My work seeks to change this. It begins with the basic insight that governments care about, and therefore strategically manage, wider impressions of themselves and their interactions. Optics often trump practical and operational considerations. In two book-length research projects, I develop secrecy’s role in controlling the size and scope of war and in helping international organizations better address transnational problems.

This research falls into two specific areas of interest: 
1.  Secrecy, war, and escalation
2. Secrecy and global governance

Secrecy, war, and escalation

Secret Wars: Covert Conflict in International PoliticsForthcoming (Sept 2018), Princeton University Press, Princeton Studies in International History and Politics.

The book analyzes the covert side of five major 20th century conflicts, introducing a new theory of secrecy linking its use to states’ efforts to limit the scale and scope of conflict in an age of industrialized warfare and nuclear weaponry.  The theory is built, in part, on adapted insights from Erving Goffman about secrecy and the “back stage collusion” we use in everyday life to define our social encounters and avoid crises.  I analyze covert military intervention before, during, and after the Cold War. The book builds on the award winning article "Facing Off and Saving Face" (IO, 2016) and features case studies of the Spanish Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War, the 1980s war in Afghanistan, and Iraq after 2003.  

Associated articles and manuscripts

Facing Off and Saving Face: Covert Intervention and Escalation Management in the Korean War, International Organization, 70 (1), 2016, pp. 103-131. [PDF]  
*Winner, Best Security Article Award, International Security Studies Section, International Studies Association 2018.

Covert Communication: The Intelligibility and Credibility of Signaling in Secret (with Keren Yarhi-Milo), Security Studies, Vol 26, No 1, 2017, pp. 124-156. [PDF]

Hidden in Plain Sight: Escalation Control and the Covert Side of the Vietnam War (revise & resubmit, International Studies Quarterly)

Amity Lines and Escalation Ladders:  Schmitt, Schelling, and the Limited War Tradition (with Eric Grynaviski

Secrecy and global governance

Secrets in Global Governance: Disclosure Dilemmas and the Challenge of International Cooperation. Book manuscript. With Allison Carnegie. (Under review)

The book addresses the basic question:  how do international organizations (IOs) help states cooperate?  Scholars have long argued that they do so by improving states' poor information environment via increased transparency. We introduce a distinct class of information problems – which we call “disclosure dilemmas” – that endanger cooperative goals through a distinct mechanism. We then argue that, to address such problems, IOs must develop the capacity to securely handle sensitive information shared by states. In short, IOs need to keep secrets. The book builds on our article "The Spotlight's Harsh Glare" (IO, 2018) and will feature empirical chapters that span security, economic, and human rights domains:  war crimes (ICTY/ICTR), international trade (WTO), nuclear proliferation (IAEA), and foreign direct investment (ICSID). 

Associated articles and manuscripts

The Spotlight’s Harsh Glare:  Rethinking Publicity and International Order (with Allison Carnegie), International Organization, 72 (3), 2018, pp. 627-657. [PDF] [Appendix]

The Disclosure Dilemma: Nuclear Intelligence and International Organization (with Allison Carnegie) (revise & resubmit, American Journal of Political Science)  [SSRN]

Trading Secrets: Disclosure Dilemmas in International Trade (with Allison Carnegie)

The Power in Opacity: Rethinking Information in International Organizations  (with Alexander Thompson)