Dissertation Project

The Historical Legacies of Wartime Experience: Evidence from the American Way of War

How do the lessons individuals draw from their exposure to war shape community understandings about the nation’s role in the world? More generally, how does variation in local exposure to war impact a state’s ability to mobilize and wage war in the future? My dissertation aims to make advances in both our theoretical knowledge of the political consequences of war and the empirical basis of that knowledge in the American case.

Theoretically, my dissertation will conceptualize the variety of wartime experiences – understood as one’s exposure to war and the lessons they draw from that exposure – and the degree to which they generate detectable, persistent community level political outcomes. Specifically, I trace the U.S.’s involvement in World War II to draw insights about the political legacies of democratic states’ involvement in foreign wars. Empirically, I use underexplored microlevel data on military service to connect the experiences of veterans deployed abroad to their home communities. Drawing on data from the National Archives ranging from US Army enlistments, casualties, POWs, and infantry combat unit rosters, my dissertation aims to provide systematic coverage of the various ways in which American communities were impacted by the war effort.

Image from the “scrapbook” of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Scanned and made available by

This research matters for our broader theoretical understanding of the effects of conflict and its relevance to contemporary policy debates. A conventional wisdom is that major wars unify the nation, whereby collective sacrifice can instill new political attitudes or inspire new coalitional dynamics. In the US context, however, it is unclear how long these effects might last, the mechanisms by which they are transmitted, and how different types of wartime experience translates into different political outcomes. By attending to the historical roots of America’s engaged international posture, my dissertation sheds light on how the foreign policy of powerful states is informed by the lessons its people formed about past conflicts.  

Additional Research

Co-Optation at the Creation: Leaders, Elite Consensus, and Postwar International Order

(with Austin Carson)
Security Studies 31, no. 4 (2022): 634-666 (link)

This article analyzes how democratic leaders cultivate an elite consensus in favor of participating in international institutions. We theorize two tactics to prevent elite dissent. Delegating early policy development to technocratic and nonpartisan experts can set a depoliticized tone. Later integration of opposition elites into the process can create powerful advocates that expand support to a consensus. We assess contrasting fates of the United Nations (UN) and International Trade Organization (ITO). Haunted by Woodrow Wilson’s failure to win approval for the League of Nations, leaders outsourced early planning for a UN to the Council on Foreign Relations. Later, Franklin D. Roosevelt and top aides tapped moderate Republicans for the US delegation to San Francisco, creating powerful Republican advocates. In contrast, leaders developed the ITO in-house and excluded legislative elites in final negotiations, provoking elite dissent. These tactics shed new light on leaders, elites, and the domestic politics of international order and hegemony.