My research primarily focuses on international security and conflict. My current research centers around my dissertation, entitled “Coalition of the Ending: Why States Withdraw from Military Coalitions”. I study the causes and conditions motivating states to discontinue supporting an ongoing military coalition operation and prematurely abandon their partners. In exploring coalition defection, I advance three separate theoretical arguments focusing on three levels of analysis. First, drawing on rationalist approaches to leadership survival and international conflict, I argue that major episodes of civil discontent such as severe civil wars and coups cause leaders to defect from international coalitions to bolster their security at home. Second, I posit that mixed regimes are more reliable coalition partners because the threat of severe domestic punishment for failure in foreign policy and reliance on external support motivate mixed regime leaders not to abandon coalition partners. Finally, I claim that states unsatisfied with their current levels of alliance and political embeddedness with a coalition leader will not defect from coalition operations. I rely on a mixed-method approach that combines quantitative and qualitative analyses to evaluate my arguments using original and existing data. The quantitative component of my dissertation includes maximum likelihood estimations (e.g., probate and logistic regressions) and duration analysis models.
WORKING/UNDER REVIEW PAPERS
Mehrabi, Weiss “When Acquaintances Make Better War Partners: Alliance Potential & Coalition Abandonment”
Why do states abandon their wartime coalition partners? To explain defection, existing research focuses on domestic politics, intra-coalition challenges, and battlefield circumstances. I argue that states unsatisfied with their current levels of security and political embeddedness with a coalition leader will not defect from ongoing coalition operations. A state’s sustained engagement in coalition operations serves as a costly signal of reliability and commitment as well as a desire for improved relations with the coalition leader that is not yet realized despite greater alignment of its security interests with the coalition leader. Using newly compiled data on cases of defection from the US-led coalition in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, I demonstrate that states are less likely to defect in the face of growing costs and domestic pressures when their potential for an alliance with the United States is not fulfilled. This research contributes to the literature by bringing together two lines of research on coalitions and alliances and has important policy implications.
Mehrabi, Weiss “The Impact of Leadership Insecurity on Coalition Defection"
This paper considers the impact of leadership insecurity on early withdrawal from multinational military missions. Prior research focuses on domestic politics, intra-coalition challenges, and battlefield circumstances to explain defection. I build on this work by arguing that domestically insecure leaders are constrained in their capabilities to maintain military engagement overseas and are highly likely to defect from coalitions. Rebellion and coups are serious domestic threats to political leaders’ survival. Therefore, coups and severe civil wars will cause state leaders to prematurely withdraw from coalition operations to bolster their security at home. An empirical analysis of coalition defections from 1950 to 2001 lends support to the expectation that vulnerable leaders are more likely to discontinue their contribution to coalition operations and redirect capabilities inward to consolidate their hold on power. This research contributes to the literature by linking domestic conflict and leadership insecurity to coalition defection and has important policy implications. Understanding factors driving defection helps policymakers gauge their allies’ degrees of reliability.
Mehrabi, Weiss “Loyalty in the Middle: Regime Type and Withdrawal from Military Coalition Operations”
This paper contributes to the literature by investigating the effects of political regime type on coalition abandonment during interstate war. I argue that anocracies are dependable wartime partners and will not abandon coalition warfare earlier than autocracies and democracies. I advance two arguments for the theory of anocratic reliability. First, leaders of mixed regimes expect severe post-defeat punishment from the opposition and regime elites, disincentivizing premature withdrawal. Second, anocratic leaders rely on a combination of repression and the provision of public and private goods to remain in power, which incurs substantial costs. The expected gains from victory and side payments from coalition partners motivate leaders in mixed regimes to persist in the coalition war effort. An empirical analysis of interstate wars from 1816 to 2003 lends support to the central argument that mixed regimes exhibit greater reliability as wartime partners compared to their fully autocratic and democratic counterparts.
Mehrabi, Weiss "Rebel International Legitimacy and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence"
Despite of the longstanding international norm against wartime sexual violence and its subsequent criminalization by the international community, conflict-related sexual violence persists with dramatic variation across perpetrators and conflicts. This paper explores the relationship between rebels’ aims and their propensity to engage in acts of sexual violence. Rebel groups vary drastically in how they are perceived in the international community. These perceptions are rooted in questions about groups’ wartime behavior and legitimacy. I argue that secessionist groups are less likely to commit wartime sexual violence because they need to secure external support to gain the international recognition necessary for achieving statehood. I test this expectation using data on civilian victimization from Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict (SVAC) from 1989 to 2009. The results support the argument that secessionist rebels show compliance with international humanitarian laws and are less likely to engage in systematic acts of sexual violence. The findings of this research present significant policy implications for the prevention of gender-based violence during conflicts.
Mehrabi, Weiss "The impact of International Migration on Political Behavior and Attitudes"
Economic remittances, money sent home by migrants, and social remittances–the transmission of ideas, behaviors, norms, and knowledge–influence the political attitudes and behaviors of recipients. I argue that recipients of social and economic remittances have higher political participation and satisfaction with democracy compared to non-recipients. An empirical analysis of public opinion data in Afghanistan from 2016 to 2019 supports this argument, which has important policy implications for democratization and immigration.
Mehrabi, W. (2018). Politics of International Recognition: The Case of Aspirant States [Master's thesis, Wright State University]. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=wright1546318678351285
Separatist polities that have managed to break away from their parent states and meet the basic criteria for statehood seek other states’ formal recognition to achieve full statehood and membership in the international society. There is no established pattern to empirically and theoretically explain the external recognition of statehood. Kosovo declared independence and attained widespread recognition, while Somaliland has not, despite its successful separation from Somalia. What factors explain states’ recognition decisions, or the selective conferring of recognition? The existing literature indicates that national interests, domestic politics, systematic level factors, international legal and normative standards, regime type, and identity politics shape recognition decisions. This thesis attempted to enhance the literature by focusing on less-explored factors through a Large-N cross-national quantitative analysis of ten cases. This study argues that when all other potential explanations are constant or absent, the susceptibility of states to domestic separatism, regime type, and religious affinities influence states’ recognition decisions.