CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS

Financing Repression: Foreign Assistance, Coercive Capacity and Patterns of State Violence

This study examines the effects of US bilateral foreign aid policy on the internal security dynamics of aid recipient states. I draw upon the international security and contentious politics literatures to develop a theory of the coercive effect of foreign aid. I analyze how US foreign assistance affects the state capacity of recipient countries and, as a consequence, the government’s ability to employ violence as a tool for ensuring its continued tenure. I argue that as a consequence of fungibility—the ability to use foreign aid as a general government resource—foreign aid may increase the likelihood of state coercion by funding increases in the state’s coercive capacity, including changes in military expenditure, force structure and arms acquisitions.

I test this argument through a statistical analysis of a cross-sectional time-series dataset of annual US bilateral foreign aid for 132 developing countries during the period of 1976 to 2005. This analysis is complemented by an in-depth case study of Indonesia and shorter analyses of El Salvador and South Korea. I find that the coercive effect of foreign aid is conditioned by the recipient country’s political institutions and conflict history. This research links the study of political violence with the changing nature of international relations and provides considerable insight into international influences on intrastate conflict. The research further suggests that foreign aid undermines aid donor goals by creating conditions propitious to increased political violence in recipient countries.

Fighting for the Heart of Borneo: Ethnic Violence and Nation-Building in Malaysia and Indonesia
With Reo Matsuzaki
This study addresses the role of ethnic conflict in post-colonial nation-state building through a comparative case study of Indonesian Borneo and Malaysian Borneo. We address an important puzzle in the history of political violence in the region: why did violent ethnic tensions emerge in Kalimantan (Indonesia) while Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia) have avoided such conflict? The island of Borneo is a unique environment in which to study political violence as the peoples and territory of Borneo are divided between the states of Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia as well as by regional borders within the latter two countries. These divisions resulted from the colonization of the island by the British and Dutch, as well as state policies in the post-independence period. The emergence of ethnic violence on Borneo is surprising given that both Malaysia and Indonesia had the resources to create viable and inclusive nation-states on their territory in the post-independence period. The objective of this study is therefore to examine the interaction between colonial and post-colonial state- and nation-building with the type and level of ethnic violence on Borneo. This study utilizes and builds upon the expertise of both authors. Prof. Trisko’s most recent research examines the domestic and international factors contributing to political violence in post-independence Indonesia, while Prof. Matsuzaki’s research addresses the impact of colonial legacies on state-building in Asia. The objective of this study is to bridge these bodies of knowledge to come up with a more complete account of the historical determinants of ethnic conflict in Southeast Asia.

"Aid, Arms and Atrocities: Lessons from Foreign Assistance to Indonesia, 1949-2010"
The Indonesian armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) have traditionally been seen as a central part of the political process and a guarantor of internal stability. This paper argues that the interaction between the TNI’s expansion and increasing foreign assistance under Sukarno and during the early years of the Suharto administration had major implications for the future exercise of violence by the TNI. Using archival material and data on aid and arms transfers, I document the close connection between bilateral foreign assistance and state violence against civilians throughout post-independence Indonesian history. In particular, I demonstrate how foreign aid was instrumental not only in the invasion and occupation of East Timor, but how foreign assistance affected the nature of state-society relations throughout the archipelago by supporting state coercion. Despite constraints imposed by Congress and the oil crises, the sustained level of both military and economic aid provided by the United States to Indonesia created an enduring capacity for violence in the inward-oriented TNI, which in turn allowed the central government to consistently use violence as a tool of governance.

"Cash or Combat? America's Asian Allies during the War in Afghanistan"
With Stefanie von Hlatky
When do states choose to compensate their allies, instead of opting out of military cooperation altogether? A basic trade-off in military cooperation exists: states must respond to the dominant ally’s demands and act as a reliable partner while simultaneously making a decision that is acceptable to domestic audiences. We argue that compensatory burden-sharing strategies are imperfect but dependable solutions to overcome this trade-off and manage foreign policy decisions at both the domestic and alliance levels. Our theoretical expectations are tested using a case study of US-Japan and US-Republic of Korea bilateral alliances during the 2000’s and in particular the contribution of each country to the war in Afghanistan. We find that foreign aid commitments to third parties are made as a form of compensation when alliance expectations are substantial but the secondary ally’s ability to contribute militarily is highly constrained by domestic political considerations. Foreign aid policy has thus served as an alliance management tool among these countries.