Zachary Shirkey

Position: Associate 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.


  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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