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Zachary Shirkey

Position: Professor
Campus Affiliation: Graduate Center|Hunter College
Phone: 212-772-5503
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D. Columbia University
Research Interests: Military intervention, war duration and causes of war, terrorism and counterterrorism

Zachary C. Shirkey teaches courses on international security, foreign policy, and international relations theory. His research focuses on military intervention, terrorism and counterterrorism, state alignment strategies, and war duration. He has published in the Journal of Peace Research, the International Studies Review, and the Journal of Theoretical Politics. He has two books: Is This a Private Fight or Can Anybody Join? and Joining the Fray. They examine the causes and timing of military intervention in interstate and civil wars respectively. Both are published with Ashgate. He is currently working on a book that examines how states respond militarily and diplomatically to perceived threats.

Books

American Dove: US Foreign Policy and the Failure of Force (2020 – University of Michigan Press).

Zachary C. Shirkey argues that the United States is overly reliant on the active use of force and should employ more peaceful foreign policy tools. Force often fails to achieve its desired ends for both tactical and strategic reasons and is relatively infungible, making it an inappropriate tool for many US foreign policy goals. Rather than relying on loose analogies or common sense as many books on US grand strategy do, American Dove bases its argument directly on an eclectic mix of academic literature, including realist, liberal, and constructivist theory as well as psychology. Shirkey also argues against retrenchment strategies, such as offshore balancing and strategic restraint as lacking a moral component that leaves them vulnerable to hawkish policies that employ moral arguments in favor of action. US withdrawal would weaken the existing liberal international security, economic, and legal orders—orders that benefit the United States. Rather, the book argues the United States needs an energetic foreign policy that employs passive uses of force such as deterrence and nonmilitary tools such as economic statecraft, international institutions, international law, and soft power. Such a policy leaves room for a moral component, which is necessary for mobilizing the American public and would uphold the existing international order. Last, Shirkey argues that to be successful, doves must frame their arguments in terms of strategy rather than in terms of costs and must show that dovish policies are consistent with national honor and a broad range of American values. American Dove offers a framework for US grand strategy and a plan for persuading the public to adopt it.

  Uncertainty, Threat, and International Security: Implications for Southeast Asia (2017 – Routledge).

The rise of China is changing the strategic landscape globally and regionally. How states respond to potential threats posed by this new power arrangement will be crucial to international relations for the coming decades. This book builds on existing realist and rationalist concepts of balancing, bandwagoning, commitment problems, and asymmetric information to craft explanations about how states respond when faced with potential threats. Specifically, the book explores the role different types of uncertainty play in potential balancing situations. Particular focus is given to the nature of the rising state’s actions, the balance of forces, and the value of delay. These concepts are analysed and illustrated through a series of case studies on Europe in the 1930s as well as the present-day Southeast Asia, looking at great powers such as Britain and France, but also a wide range of smaller powers including Poland, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Joining the Fray: Outside Military Intervention in Civil Wars (London: Ashgate, 2012).

National leaders often worry that civil wars might spread, but also seem to have little grasp on which civil wars will in fact draw in other states. An ability to understand which civil wars are most likely to draw in outside powers and when this is likely to happen has important policy implications as well as simply answering a scholarly question. Joining the Fray takes existing explanations about which outside states are likely to intervene militarily in civil wars and adds to them explanations about when states join and why. Building on his earlier volume, Is this a Private Fight or Can Anybody Join?, Zachary C. Shirkey looks at how the decision to join a civil war can be intuitively understood as follows: given that remaining neutral was wise when a war began something must change in order for a country to change its beliefs about the benefits of fighting and join the war. This book studies what these changes are, focusing in particular on revealed information and commitment problems.

Is This a Private Fight or Can Anybody Join?: The Spread of Interstate War (London: Ashgate, 2009).

Some countries join interstate wars well after the war has begun, waiting months and often years, and thus changing their beliefs about the wisdom of entering a war. This volume examines why this might be so, focusing on unforeseen events in wars which cause neutral players to update their expectations about the trajectory of the war, therefore explaining why some wars spread while others do not. The author uses a combination of case studies and statistical analysis to test this theory: the Crimean War, the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and a study of the spread of war since World War II. Designed for courses on and research into war and other international security issues, this book is a must read.

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