GRADUATE STUDENT | NATHAN BLACK
Nathan Black completed his PhD in international relations and security studies, and is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. His dissertation, "The Spread of Violent Civil Conflict: Rare, State-Driven, and Preventable," seeks to explain why substate conflicts – violent anti-regime coup attempts or insurgencies – sometimes spread across borders and contribute to the onset of civil wars in other states. In the dissertation, he builds and tests the argument that "substate conflict contagion" can generally only occur when sovereign state governments take one of three deliberate actions: the sponsorship of a rebel group abroad by a revolutionary regime, the expulsion of combatants across borders, or the meddling in the affairs of a state in conflict that subsequently "boomerangs" back to the meddling state. In the absence of at least one of these three state actions, the various nonstate and structural factors that the conventional wisdom suggests cause contagion – transnational rebel networks, arms and refugee flows, poverty, non-democracy, etc. – may be necessary but are by themselves insufficient conditions for the spread of conflict. This is good news for great power policymakers, because it means that substate conflict contagion is more state-driven, and hence more preventable, than they think. Interstate coercive methods such as economic sanctions can be leveraged to dissuade other states from these three specific actions; while such coercion is not easy, it is easier than trying to keep rebel groups from talking to each other or interdicting the transnational small arms market. The argument is based on a medium-N study of 84 identified cases of substate conflict contagion from 1946 to 2007, and is tested using regional case studies of Central America (1978-1996) and Southeast Asia (1959-1980).
Chapter 1: The Puzzle of Substate Conflict Contagion. Dissertation. (pdf).
Chapter 2: State Action Theory. Dissertation. (pdf)
Chapter 3: Explaining Actual Cases of Substate Conflict Contagion. Dissertation. (pdf)
Chapter 4: Testing the State Action Explanation in Central America, 1978-1996 (pdf)
Chapter 5: Testing the State Action Explanation in Southeast Asia, 1959-1980 (pdf)
Chapter 6: Conclusion, Policy Implications, and Next Steps (pdf)
Chapter 7: Dissertation Appendix (pdf)