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Josef Korbel School of International StudiesSié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy

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Student and Alumni Publications

Student and Alumni Publications

 Students who do research with the Sié Center are encouraged to develop practical and professional writing skills. Beyond academic works, students have the opportunity to translate research into relevant pieces for policy and practitioner audiences. Recent student and alumni publications are listed below.

Seizing Symbolic Targets is Crucial to Coup Success

Written by William Akoto, Joint Sié Center and One Secure Future Postdoctoral Research Fellow

April 15, 2020

Medium - To pull off a successful coup, conspirators must displace the incumbent leader by capturing or incapacitating him or her in some way. Once a leader is under their control, conspirators can force the leader to cede power or simply announce they are now in charge. To achieve this, all that coup makers need to do is capture the leader — taking control of the presidential palace, where the incumbent likely spends most of his or her time, should suffice.

Indian Ocean By-catch Claims Millions of Dolphins

Featuring Isigi Kadagi, Joint Sié Center and Secure Fisheries Postdoctoral Fellow

April 9, 2020

Hakai Magazine - In fisheries management, "dolphin-safe tuna" is an oft-repeated success story. Signed into US law in 1990, the certification program imposed strict regulations on purse seine tuna fisheries in the eastern tropical Pacific, bringing to an end a string of deaths that saw millions of dolphins accidentally caught and killed in just a few decades.

Hackers could shut down satellites and turn them into weapons

An interview with William Akoto, Joint Sié Center and One Secure Future Postdoctoral Research Fellow

March 1, 2020 

Radio New Zealand - Satellites have the potential to revolutionize many aspects of everyday life, but there is also a very real risk that these same satellites could be shut down by hackers, who could then turn them into weapons. Dr. William Akoto is a cyber conflict commentator with the University of Denver. He says all it takes is a highly motivated and skilled hacker to shut down a satellite.

This Kenyan Marine Biologist Grew Up 17 Hours Away From The Ocean

Featuring Isigi Kadagi, Joint Sié Center and Secure Fisheries Postdoctoral Fellow

February 27, 2020

Forbes - Kenyan marine biologist Nelly Isigi Kadagi grew up a rough, 17-hour drive away from the sea, but now she is one of the key figures in the conservation of some of the biggest, most mysterious fish in the sea: Billfish like marlin, swordfish and their close relatives. Kadagi says that despite these big game fish being associated with sport fishing all over the world, very little is known in the western Indian Ocean about their numbers, range and reproductive habits – let alone what impacts climate change will have on all of those factors.

"Growing up as a young girl, I was mesmerized by images of divers and sinking submarines underwater in our family television," she said, "I wanted to do something similar when I grew up, but there was no way of knowing that it was related to the ocean."

Hackers Could Shut Down Satellites - or Turn Them Into Weapons

Written by William Akoto, Joint Sié Center and One Secure Future Postdoctoral Research Fellow

February 12, 2020 

The Conversation - Last month, SpaceX became the operator of the world's largest active satellite constellation. As of the end of January, the company had 242 satellites orbiting the planet with plans to launch 42,000 over the next decade. This is part of its ambitious project to provide internet access across the globe. The race to put satellites in space is on, with Amazon, U.K.-based OneWeb and other companies chomping at the bit to place thousands of satellites in orbit in the coming months.

Fisheries Management: A Possible Venue for Navigating Fisheries Conflicts in the Indian Ocean

Co-Authored by Sié Postdoctoral Fellow, Isigi Kadagi, Sié Fellow Zachary Lien, and Cullen Hendrix

February 10, 2020 

New Security Beat - A significant increase in fisheries-related conflicts in the Indian Ocean since 2000 is heightening regional tensions. These conflicts have ranged from purely verbal and diplomatic disputes to armed attacks on fishing vessels by coast guards and navies. These disputes are most often low-intensity, but constitute true "wild card" scenarios in which competing powers' navies reach the brink of engagement due to the actions of third parties that they neither command nor control.

Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding: Contradictory or Complementary?

Co-Authored by Sié Fellow alum, Jonathan Pinckney 

January 31, 2020

United States Institute of Peace - Since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last week, the nonviolent action team here at USIP has been reflecting on what Dr. King's life and legacy teach us about the deep links between nonviolent action and peacebuilding. As we watch protesters in Hong Kong, Iraq, or Lebanon directly confront their governments, there may not seem to be much connection between people hitting the streets and building lasting peace. But for King, the connection was inevitable and inseparable, and practitioners of both disciplines have much to offer one another.

Rough Seas: The Causes and Consequences of Fisheries Conflict in Somali Waters

Co-Authored by Sié Fellow alum, Tasia Poinsatte

January 28, 2020

Secure Fisheries - As competition for finite fisheries resources increases, the risks of violent conflict over fisheries also rise. Where and when can we expect fisheries conflict to occur? Which actors are most likely to participate in fisheries conflict? What are the most frequent causes of fisheries conflict? How often does conflict result in arrests, property damage, or death? What can be done to mitigate fisheries conflict? Rough Seas: The Causes and Consequences of Fisheries Conflict in Somali Waters explores the frequency, intensity, and drivers of fisheries conflict in Somali waters between 1990 and 2018.

By analyzing event-level conflict data collected from public news reports, we expanded upon our Fisheries Conflict Database. This database contains 186 discrete instances of fisheries conflict, called Fisheries Dispute Events (FDE), in Somali waters. Each entry contains information on the date, location, actors, drivers, and consequences of the FDE. Furthermore, we derived scores measuring the intensity of fisheries conflict, on a scale of 0 to 3, for each Somali region and each year of coverage.

Violence Is Sometimes the Answer

Written by Postdoctoral Fellow alum, Kai Thaler

December 9, 2019 

Foreign Policy - Whenever protesters fight with police, burn vehicles, or smash windows, a familiar chorus rings out, from a safe distance: Why can't they be nonviolent, like Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or Martin Luther King Jr.? With anti-government protests raging around the world since the summer, this common refrain has returned. Even United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, while reminding governments to allow free assembly and expression, said protesters must "follow the examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and other champions of nonviolent change."

Military service was once a fast track to U.S. citizenship. The Trump administration keeps narrowing that possibility.

Written including Sié Fellow alum, Kyleanne Hunter

September 6, 2019 

Washington Post - Last week the Trump administration announced that it would make it harder for children born to U.S. servicemembers serving abroad to claim U.S. citizenship. Many were outraged, even as the Trump administration argued that the policy would affect only servicemembers who are naturalized citizens and deployed before establishing U.S. residency.

But what's more important than this particular change is how the new policy fits a trend. Just as the Trump administration has sought to limit both legal and illegal immigration generally, it has tried to make it harder to gain U.S. citizenship by serving in the military. That's a sharp break from the past.

Migration Governance in Countries of Transit: Assessing the Effects of Irregular Migration on State Sovereignty

International Security Master's Thesis by Brittany Van Soest

Brittany is a 2nd-year graduate student in Korbel's International Security program. Her master's thesis addresses and studies the relationships between states across the Mediterranean after the migration 'crisis' in 2015 to understand how the strain of mass irregular cross-border movement across North Africa (transit countries) has impacted concepts of sovereignty, both Westphalian and Interdependence Sovereignty as defined by Krasner. Her case study will assess Algeria's concept of sovereignty in relation to EU and Sub-Saharan pressures as migrants transit through Algerian territory. By analyzing state policy (both official and unofficial) and expert opinions (survey) against the International Organization for Migration [IOM] Migration Governance Framework [MiGOF], she hopes to uncover ways in which political solutions may be crafted which meet the needs of all states along long migration chains (origin, transit, and destination countries). As Europe seeks to control irregular maritime entry by negotiating with North African states, security continues to be a salient topic in the debate. Indeed, political solutions must be obtained to ensure not only the human security of those crossing the Mediterranean but also to secure the individual sovereignty of receiving nations. Furthermore, these must be accomplished while upholding the unity of the European Union which has struggled under the weight of disparate migratory pressures between coastal and inland states.

Additional Alumni Publications

What's at Stake for Syrian Returnees

By Postdoctoral Fellow alum Kelsey Norman 

November 20, 2018 

Political Violence at a Glance - In February 2018 the UN divided its support of the repatriation of Syrian refugees into three phases. In Phase 1 conditions are not conducive to mass return, and the UN's engagement is limited to counseling, monitoring cross border movements, analysis of return trends, and advocacy. In order to shift to a more proactive Phase 2, specific protection thresholds must be met, including a guarantee of full amnesty in Syria for returnees, including for those who evaded or resisted compulsory military service. Phase 3—whereby the UN would actually promote voluntary return—is nowhere in sight.

Do Military Defections Help or Hinder Pro-Democracy Civil Resistance?

By PhD Research Fellow Kara Kigma Neu

October 4, 2018 

International Center for Nonviolent Conflict - When activists start mobilizing to pursue a transition from dictatorship to democracy in their country, they face real risks—perhaps the most serious being lethal repression at the hands of state security forces. If feeling especially threatened, the dictator may choose to deploy the military and order it to throw its weight behind ending the popular challenge.

When Civil Resistance Succeeds: Building Democracy After Popular Nonviolent Uprisings

By PhD Research Fellow Jonathon Pinckney

October 2018 

International Center for Nonviolent Conflict - Why do some nonviolent revolutions lead to successful democratization while others fail to consolidate democratic change? And what can activists do to push toward a victory over dictatorship that results in long-term political freedom?

Why the Decolonizing Education Movement Matters for Peacebuilding and Democracy: Lessons from Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Postdoctal Fellow alum, Maja Halilovic-Pastuovic

August 14, 2018 

Political Violence at a Glance - It has been three and a half years since the 'decolonizing education'movement began. On March 9th, 2015, Chumani Maxwele traveled by minibus to Khayelitsha—a black township just outside Cape Town—and picked up a plastic box full of human feces. Maxwele brought the box to the University of Cape Town campus, where he enrolled as political science student a few years prior and threw its contents onto the statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes. This act kick-started the Rhodes Must Fall Movement, which morphed into a much wider movement to decolonize education, first nationally then internationally.

How America Has Become a Theater of War

By Sié Fellow Tom Zolot

August 1, 2018 

The National Interest - It appears prudent for the United States to reduce military involvement on foreign soil, in a number of regions, given eight hundred overseas bases and involvement in seventy-sixnations . One critical area of military involvement rarely discussedhowever is American territory itself. Domestic police increasingly use the military's hardware and orientations, and, as surveillance efforts merge, the military increasingly performs domestic law enforcement functions. These shifts prove dangerous, disproportionately harming marginalized groups and fracturing American communities. Our nation absolutely must challenge military involvement here on the homefront, as domestic policing steadily resembles theaters of war.

Five Nonviolent Resistance Movements to Watch in 2018

By PhD Research Fellow Jonathon Pinckney

January 12th, 2018

Political Violence @ a Glance — Where are we likely to see major nonviolent resistance movements in 2018? The question is difficult to answer because major nonviolent resistance campaigns Just ask analysts of Middle Eastern politics in the years prior to 2011, or the regimes of Eastern Europe in the days leading up to the revolutions of 1989. They do not have similar preconditions to civil wars, and even complex models incorporating the best of multiple theoretical approaches have limited predictive power. Scholars of civil resistance tend to point to this fact as evidence for the importance of agency in nonviolent action, and the ability of nonviolent resistance to achieve major political transformation even in highly unfavorable conditions, while others point to the crucial role played by hidden preferences that are only revealed when the revolution has already begun. In many cases, what is more important than the external conditions themselves is how activists perceive and frame conditions, as scholars have argued was the case in Iran in the lead-up to the 1979 revolution and partially for the civil rights movement in the United States.

Can the OAS Respond to Constitutional Coups and Democratic Erosion?

By Sié Fellow Adam Ratzlaff

October 24, 2016

Southern Pulse  — Rather than viewing OAS actions as an attempt to pursue U.S. interests or as hypocritical, it is better to critique the challenges the OAS has in invoking the Democratic Charter. Despite the challenges facing the OAS in promoting democracy in the Americas, it remains the most legitimate actor in pursuing the democracy agenda in the region. In order for the OAS to effectively defend democracy in Latin America against evolving threats, the Democratic Charter must permit the organization to evolve to meet these challenges.

It is Essential that America's Word Be Good

By Sié Fellow Adam Ratzlaff

October 17, 2016

Charged Affairs — While open debate and dissent are important and identifying characteristics of the U.S. political process, politicians need to understand the implications of their actions on the standing of their country on the international stage.

Making or Breaking Nonviolent Discipline in Civil Resistance Movements

By PhD Research Fellow Jonathan Pinckney

October 17, 2016

A central question in the study and practice of civil resistance is how nonviolent movements can maintain nonviolent discipline among their members. What factors encourage and sustain nonviolent discipline, particularly in the face of violent repression? While several scholars have suggested answers to these questions to date, the answers have largely remained ad hoc and have not been systematically tested. This monograph addresses these deficits in the literature by offering a unified theory of nonviolent discipline. This theory provides a helpful tool for better understanding how nonviolent discipline is created, sustained and shaped by repression. Following the theory, the monograph presents two tests of the effects of several influences on nonviolent discipline. The first is on the impact of patterns of repression, history of civil resistance, and campaign leadership and structure on nonviolent discipline. The second is a comparison of three civil resistance campaigns from the post-Communist "Color Revolutions" in Serbia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.


The Jevons Paradox and the Economy of Drone Strikes

By PhD Research Fellow Christopher Shay

June 24, 2016

Political Violence @ a Glance — The killing in May of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the late leader of the Afghani Taliban, surprised observers. The US drone strike that killed Mansour occurred in the province of Balochistan, well outside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in which the US has previously operated with the tacit consent of the Pakistani government. Besides killing the Taliban commander, the strike also killed his civilian taxi driver, Mohammad Azam, whose family has angrily demanded "justice" from the American and Pakistani government. This incident signals that the American drone program continues to expand into new areas of operation, and that these expansions will continue to take a toll on civilian populations. It remains to be seen whether this development will enhance or detract from American counter-insurgency efforts. The Jevons Dilemma, a paradox theorized during Britain's Industrial Revolution, illustrates how the drone program's greatest advantage – its precision – might lead policymakers into an inadvertent blunder. 


Burundi on the Brink?

By Sié Fellow Patrick Pierson

June 3, 2016

Political Violence @ a Glance —   Back in November, Barbara Walter shared a powerful post on the potential for another mass atrocity in Burundi. Since then, an ongoing debate has surfaced as to whether or not the violence in Burundi is headed towards genocide (some say yes, others no). While this debate may possess a certain degree of merit, I would like to suggest that it is the wrong question to be asking at present. Here's a few reasons why. 


Expansion of mining risks a Naxalite resurgence in India’s Red Corridor

By PhD Research Fellow Christopher Shay

May 4, 2016

IISS Voices — The mining of bauxite, iron and other minerals in India has become a contentious issue. The village of Jerrela in Visakhapatnam district, Andhra Pradesh, became a flash point in January 2016, when militants of the Communist Party of India–Maoist (henceforth, CPI–Maoist) killed a sarpanch (village headman) for supporting the local government’s efforts to open a bauxite mine. The killing triggered a wave of repression by state security forces, which allegedly illegally detained civilian anti-mining activists from the area. CPI–Maoist quickly seized on the actions of the security forces as fodder for its recruitment propaganda. India’s Maoist (Naxalite) insurgency may therefore benefit from increased influence not only in the Jerrela area, but in other tribal communities that oppose mining concerns. These events could be replicated throughout the ‘Red Corridor’ in east India, meaning that attempts to reap the economic benefits of mineral reserves by opening new mines may reignite the Naxalite insurgency in other communities where anti-mining sentiments are prevalent.


Modeling Piracy: A Bridge Between the Academic and Policy Communities

By Sié Fellow Andrew Scott

March 1, 2016

Denver Dialogues —   This January, the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy hosted the local non-profit organization Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) as a part of the Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded effort to "bridge the gap" between policy and academics. Based in Colorado, OBP works with public and private stakeholders to find solutions to global maritime piracy. The OBP team is developing an agent-based model to accurately forecast the resources and commitments needed from international stakeholders to continue combating piracy off the Somali Coast for the foreseeable future.


A Role for the Warrior-Scholar?

By PhD student Sarah Bakhtiari

January 12, 2016

Denver Dialogues—Last Tuesday, Celestino "Tino" Perez made the case that the U.S. Army's first responsibility may be ground combat, but fulfilling that mission ethically requires military members to understand the causal relations of political violence (like these from Erica Chenoweth, Barbara Walter, Stathis Kalyvas, Monica Duffy Toft). I couldn't agree more—and would suggest that this applies service-wide, to the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and anyone, really (including contractors) who participate in U.S. war efforts. Developing a force that understands the nexus between political violence and political objectives would undoubtedly improve America's capacity for careful, intentional military strategy—the type that is considerate of the battlefield effects at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war, and how those three feed into and interactively inform near-, mid-, and long-term political outcomes. 

Best Defense

Why Leadership Will Either Make or Break Combat Integration in the Marine Corps

By Sié Fellow alumnus and PhD student Kyleanne Hunter, with Kate Germano and Jeannette Haynie

January 11, 2016

The Best Defense, Foreign Policy—Kyleanne Hunter showed up to Officer Candidate School eager to become a Marine. She had been training for months, honing her physical skill and tactical knowledge. After running the first physical fitness test, clocking in at under 17-minutes for the 3-mile run, she was proud of her accomplishments. However, upon returning to her barracks, she was met with a ton of "just who do you think you are? You know the female standards is 21 minutes!" from her platoon commander. From that moment forward, rather than being encouraged to excel and reach her personal potential, Kyleanne was reminded that there are lower expectations for women, and that a Marine is in no place to question those expectations.

Secretary of the NavyWords Mean Things: The Beginnings of De-Gendering Democratic Citizenship

By Sié Fellow alumnus and PhD student Kyleanne Hunter

January 7, 2016

Duck of Minerva —Yesterday it was discovered that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has ordered the Marine Corps to both integrate their enlisted training and to create gender-neutral job titles. This news comes on the heels of a passionate battle of words surrounding the integration of women into all Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). This latest victory for those who recognize the value of women's service is not limited to those in the service. It is a large step forward for all women in America. 

Peshmerga womenA Woman Did That? Thoughts on Women Perpetrators of Violence

By Sié Fellow Trishna Rana with Marie Berry

December 17, 2015

Political Violence @ a Glance—When news of another mass shooting, this time in San Bernardino, California, began trickling into social media on the morning of December 2nd, we had two immediate reactions. First, an all too common, remorseful afterthought: how many more lives will be lost before ordinary citizens and policymakers in this country finally address the problem of gun violence? The second reaction was anxiety about the identities of the shooters. While roughly two-thirds of mass shooters are white men, we worried that if Muslim men had carried out the killings there would likely be an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric, which would drown out any space for inward reflection.

What we weren’t prepared to discover, however, was a 29-year-old woman leading the carnage—a mother who left her six-month old baby with relatives while she orchestrated a massacre with her American husband.

San Bernadino vigil, AP Images

Did ISIS Plan or Just "Inspire" the San Bernardino attacks? The Difference is Important

By Sié Fellow alumna Jennifer Williams

December 9, 2015

Vox —Sometime on Wednesday, December 2, a woman named Tashfeen Malik posted a message to Facebook announcing her allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Shortly after that, she and her husband, Syed Farook, began their attack in the California town of San Bernardino where they lived, ultimately killing 14. Her online pledge is one of several signs that the San Bernardino shooters had been inspired by ISIS's jihadist propaganda. While it is possible that evidence will emerge showing that ISIS had directly ordered or facilitated the attack, so far it has not. It appears that this may have been an attack by so-called "lone wolves" inspired but not directed by ISIS. 

Mexico CartelMapping the Network Effects of a Militarized Policy in Mexico

By Research Assistant Lee Cotton and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Cassy Dorff

December 8, 2015

Political Violence @ a Glance—Drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) have long been active throughout Latin America. A rise in cocaine and marijuana production shifted critical foci of power into regions of Colombia during the 1970s and then into Mexico during the 1990s. It was during the early 2000s, however, that US-Mexican policy towards drug trafficking took a dramatic turn from previous decades. In an upcoming policy brief soon to be released by the Sié Center, we use actor-coded event data to map the effects of this policy change on the dynamics of violence between DTOs and government actors. 

Forced Marriage To End Forced Marriage, We Must Work with the Whole Community

By Sié Fellow alumnus Kate Castenson and faculty member Oliver Kaplan

November 2, 2015

CNN—With the rise of violent extremist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in the Middle East, horrific descriptions of young girls being kidnapped and forced to marry militants have made headlines. But the problem of forced marriage is far more widespread. As a persistent form of modern day slavery, forced marriage is an embedded cultural practice that is found in a variety of countries. Forced marriage even occurs among immigrant groups in the United States and Europe. Fortunately, new approaches offer hope for putting an end this practice.

WallsWalls as a Nonviolent Strategy in Armed Conflict

By Sié Fellow alumna Natalie Southwick and faculty member Oliver Kaplan

October 2015

Korbel Policy Brief—This brief examines the use of walls by nonviolent community activists to protect themselves during armed conflicts. Thinking of walls in conflicts may summon images of the West Bank, but the use of walls extends far beyond the Middle East. Whether constructed and enforced by state institutions, international organizations, or civilian groups, walls are more than physical barriers. Their social significance reinforces their physical presence and they can therefore be powerful symbols that demarcate physical, political, social, and humanitarian boundaries. While they can keep populations safe, they can also reinforce divisions between them.

Burkina FasoWhy This Week's Coup in Burkina Faso Might Not Last

By Sié Fellow alumnus and current PhD research fellow Jonathan Pinckney

September 18, 2015

Foreign Policy—On September 16, during a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, soldiers with the elite Presidential Guard unit (known by its French initials RSP) broke into the room and placed interim President Michael Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida under arrest. After several hours of uncertainty, an RSP spokesman announced that it had overthrown the administration and assumed control of the country.