Research and Fieldwork

Our students conduct amazing research projects during the MAIR program, often drawing from their direct observations from the program’s international study trips. Our academic program culminates in a final, semester-long capstone research project that graduating students present at a public symposium.  The summaries and links below highlight the final research papers submitted by our MAIR Capstone students. 

Abdulrhman Alkhuziem

The Saudi-Iranian Power Struggle and Its Effect on Yemen

This paper aims to analyze the Saudi-Iranian diplomatic relations and its effect on the stability of the Middle East. Since 2011, the two countries started to intensify their competition in gaining primacy in the Middle East by increasing their influence in weaker states in the region. The two countries involvement in the new Middle Eastern proxy war have a direct effect on the ongoing conflicts and worsened situation in many countries in the region. Moreover, the two countries increased the use of sectarian conflicts which created an additional obstacle in solving the region’s issues. This paper will be studying the connections of the worsening diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran in connection to the increasing instability in some Middle Eastern countries, by analyzing the two countries engagement and support for opposite actors in specific weaker states in the region as a case study.


Maureen Dunn

Following The Siren’s Call: ISIS Luring America’s Youth

The Islamic State is mobilizing teens at an increasing and alarming rate both inside the caliphate and internationally.  The tactic of exploiting teens is not new for terrorist organizations, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Taliban have all recruited minors to carry out attacks.  Across Europe, Canada, Australia, and the United States teenagers from diverse backgrounds including even Jews, Christians, and atheists have joined ISIS.  American teens are among the key recruits.  There are many benefits of targeting youth, and ISIS is displaying increased capability to enlist them.  ISIS employs a gradual process of indoctrination, and creates targeted propaganda to lure teens to their cause.  Often radicalized youth are at risk for feeling isolated and marginalized in society.  This paper examines why there has been an increase in teens joining ISIS in the United States.  The United States needs an improved preemptive counterterrorism strategy that utilizes community engagement from schools, teachers, mentors, and law enforcement to help detect and prevent radicalization.


Braden Harris

The Beginning of a Post-Kemalist Era for Turkish Politics?

Turkish national identity is incredibly unique, multi-faceted, and at times seemingly paradoxical. What’s more, that identity has been in a state of flux over the past few decades, as a resurgent current of Islamist populism has risen to challenge the foundational secular and ‘modernist’ tenets the state was founded on. Drawing heavily from the literature on social identity and collective memory, this paper traces the historical development of Atatürk’s nation-building ideology—Kemalism—and the near century-long hold it had over Turkish politics. It then sets out to demonstrate Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to reshape Turkish nationalism, beginning a “post-Kemalist” era and discusses what implications that might have on the country’s foreign and domestic relations.


Marcia Harrison

Building an International Anti-Trafficking Regime

Based on academic and independent research, reports from active anti-trafficking organizations, and official government reports, human trafficking is a crisis that is surpassing arms and drug trafficking due to the high demand and the potential to obtain repeat profits. Proponents fighting against human trafficking include prominent organizations such the United Nations and the United States Department of State. This paper examines the international legal and policy regime that has emerged to prevent, combat, and punish human trafficking. For international law, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) created the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two related protocols: The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, which entered force in 2003-2004. Regional mechanisms include: The United States Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (2000), the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (2008), and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Right and Fundamental Freedoms (1950). Other advocates working domestically and internationally through agencies and organizations claim that human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. The difference these advocates identify with historical slavery is that it was mandated by law whereas today, slavery is not legal anywhere in the world. Critics of this perspective claim that there is not a clear definition between trafficking and prostitution (which is legal in many countries such as Brazil, New Zealand, Germany, United Kingdom and in the state of Nevada in the United States). Critics also want further evidence that sex trafficking is an epidemic in comparison to labor trafficking.


Erica Illingworth

Violence in El Salvador: The Effects of Gangs and Anti-Gang Legislation

This paper will examine the prison system in El Salvador and how that has affected gang growth which has contributed to the increased violence in the country. It will argue that structure of the Salvadorian prison system and the policies put forth by the government and through the foreign aid it has received, has aggravated the problem. This has global implications which comes in the forms of threats to the United Sates and surrounding countries. The three major threats is that the increase in gang membership will contribute to illicit transnational networks, including the drug trade and human trafficking. The second threat is an increase in violence in El Salvador and the countries surrounding it. The increase in violence is a result of the illicit transnational networks, in which the surrounding countries and the U.S. are tied to will suffer. The last threat comes in the form of illegal migration. The increase in violence affects the daily lives of people in El Salvador and the surrounding countries. This will cause people to flee their homes in search of a better life. This paper will close with policy recommendations that will help fix the gang problem in El Salvador.


Dongil Kim

Understanding the Security Paradigm on the 38th Parallel

The division of the Korean Peninsula was not merely the result of the conflict between South and North Korea. It was heavily influenced by the Cold War, so the reunification should be discussed among South Korea, North Korea, and neighboring countries of the Korean Peninsula. Among them, the United States had played the most important role in the security environment of North East Asia by the Mutual Defense Agreements with South Korea and Japan. However, under the slogan of “America First Foreign Policy,” the new Trump administration implied the change of previous U.S. foreign policies, for example, Strategic Patience against North Korea. In a point of the South Korean Government, the shift of U.S. Foreign policy is the most important factor for its unification policy. Therefore, this paper will examine the role of U.S. Foreign policy on the Korean Peninsula, the expected direction and effect of U.S. Foreign policy.


Noemi Ochoa-Luna

Testing the Economic Kuznets Curve: Mexico after 20 years of NAFTA

The Kuznets curve hypothesis postulates economic that economic development leads to a decrease in inequality, which leads the new and growing middle class begins to demand better environmental policies. This hypothesis is based mainly on the assumptions of a traditional economy where development will lead to higher wages. In order to test this hypothesis, I looked at the case of Mexico, which followed a path similar to other developing nations by liberalizing its economy in the late 20th century. Mexico’s experience over the last few decades seem to contradict the assumptions of the Kuznets hypothesis, given that there are many ongoing environmental problems in the country.  Specifically, this paper will examine the effects of economic development in northern Mexican states along the U.S.-Mexican border region, with attention to wages (adjusted for inflation and purchasing power) to determine if the expected positive results of the Kuznets curve hypothesis can be detected with regard to curbing inequality of strengthening the middle class in one of Mexico’s most economically prosperous regions.   I pay special attention to the quality of air and water and its effect on the health of the maquiladora workers in the northern states in Mexico, who suffer from many of the worst environmental consequences of development in Mexico. This research provides valuable information regarding the role of trade, growth, and environmental damage and human health. My findings illustrate that the predictors of the Kuznets curve hypothesis fall short in the Mexican case, and I offer some analysis of the possible reasons for this outcome.


Ray Taves

Bolivia’s Resource Nationalism/Neosocialism: Growth and Success

Much of Bolivia’s history has consisted of turbulent political infighting consisting of over 200 coups and countercoups. When democratic rules were finally established in 1982, Bolivian leaders faced critical problems such as endemic poverty, illicit drug production and mass social unrest due in large part to neoliberal government policies. By the mid-1980s, Bolivia’s neoliberal government began pursuing policies such as privatization, closure of marginal industries, promoting direct investment by transnational corporations and rearranging the Bolivian state in accordance with neoliberal economic strategies. Immediately after assuming office as Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales followed through with one of his key election promises when he nationalized Bolivia’s huge natural gas reserves and thus met a historic demand of the Bolivian people to take Bolivia’s resources out of the hands of transnational corporations. Morales began instituting democratic socialism (neosocialism) reforms to deal with Bolivia’s decades long endemic poverty and chronic unemployment. This study examines the Morales administration’s governmental tactics to determine if Bolivia’s rejection of neoliberalism and adoption of neosocialism was beneficial and/or detrimental to the masses. There is extensive literature which will be used in my examination, analysis and critique of Bolivia’s venture into neosocialism.

Cheri Baloun

The Perfect Storm: Explaining the Rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Al Qaeda changed the terrorism game with aspirations of a global jihad. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, al Qaeda rose to the top of America’s threat list. After the invasion of Iraq, al Qaeda responded by expanding their influence and the organization we now know as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born. ISIS quickly became an insurgency, establishing a caliphate and capturing key cities in northern Iraq and Syria. The withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq left the Iraqi government weak and unable to support or protect their people. The civil war in Syria also facilitated the spread of ISIS into Syria. ISIS has become the strongest and richest terrorist organization. They have managed to recruit globally, especially foreign fighters, showcasing the effectiveness of their technological capabilities and skills. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and explain the factors that led to the rise of ISIS. (Resources: Annotated Bibliography; Presentation).


Colby Branch

Central American Energy Integration

Throughout the late twentieth century, Central America grappled with military governments, debt, revolutionary movements, civil war, extreme inequality, and authoritarianism, all in the ‘backyard’ of the United States. Following the rise of democracy in in 1990s, and the rise of globalization in the early 21st century, Central America is at a crossroad in development. Facing extreme violence, corruption, poverty, and emigration, Central America has chosen to integrate their energy sectors and fight these common enemies that preclude many underdeveloped countries around the world from achieving economic prosperity—together. After signing a framework treaty in 196 and successfully ratifying it by 1998, Central America began construction on an above-ground electricity transmission line (SIEPAC), spanning 1,800km from Guatemala in the north to Panama in the south. Created as a result of the infrastructural projects, and under the framework treaty, is a seventh supranatural regional market (MER) that connects each country’s existing market to one another. The regional market is designed to increase access to electricity (coverage), increase electricity security (independence) through the growth of diverse renewable electricity generators, and decrease consumer electricity prices by increase supply through an attractive foreign investment market. MER because fully-functional in 2013, following the construction of SIEPAC in Costa Rica, the last country to connect the interconnection line. (Resources: Annotated Bibliography; Presentation).


Kaitlin Girton

Looting the Past to Destroy the Future

In 2015 the world’s attention turned to ancient stones in the middle of the desert. The desert was in Syria, and the stones was Palmyra – an ancient city which commonly found itself at the bordering different civilizations. This time it found itself as the target of the newest. This paper examines the unique change in armed conflict in the regions of the Middle East and North Africa. These conflicts are not just about war but instead a form of cultural war by attacking cultural heritage through iconoclastic destruction and systematic looting. It is the greatest resurgence of cultural heritage attacks since WWII and the factors are because of a central breakdown of authority and the rise and presence of extremist groups who use this interconnected age of the internet for their global audience. (Resources: Annotated Bibliography; Presentation).


Igor Harris

Misinformation Disorder: Assessing Russia’s Soft Power Potential

In 2012, President V. Putin accused western media of employing soft power to distort Russia’s image in the international arena. He declared that it was time for Russia to fight back by using similar tactics. Thusly, the concept of Russian soft power was established. Soft power in international relations, as advanced by Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, is the ability of a state to shape preferences of other states by means of appeal and attraction. The problem is that the Kremlin’s definition of soft power is reduced to a strict amalgamation of government crafted public diplomacy and a heavy dose of USSR style propaganda. All other variables that make a country attractive to the international community and increase soft power potential are simply omitted. The intent of this paper is to analyze the Kremlin’s interpretation of soft power and examine how it utilizes this concept to influence American and Western European policy toward Russia while simultaneously increasing public opinion of Russia within western democracies. (Resources: Annotated Bibliography; Presentation).


Capt. Jessamyn Jempson

Belgium’s Returning Foreign Fighters: How European State Declarative Strategies Influence Domestic Terror Incidents  [Award for Outstanding Paper]

According to The Soufan Group – a strategic security consulting and research organization – as of December 2015 between 27,000 and 31,000 people from at least 86 countries travelled to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups. Given the probability that the Syrian conflict is unlikely to cease any time soon, the question of foreign fighter prevention and reintegration will remain extant for years to come. In Europe, the majority of fighters originate from just four countries: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium. Experts estimate that roughly 30% of foreign fighters will attempt returning to their country of origin and that 11% of returnees pose a security threat. My research examines available quantitative and qualitative data on the topic of returning foreign fighters in order to evaluate the relationship between eight Western European states’ declarative strategies and the frequency of domestic terror attacks between 2010 and 2015. In addition to the aforementioned countries, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, and Sweden are included to provide a well-rounded assessment of regional practices. This study contributes to the growing dialogue concerning returning foreign fighters by making policy recommendations for the prevention of future domestic terror incidents through the implementation of a comprehensive reintegration strategy specifically as they apply to Belgium. (Resources: Annotated Bibliography; Presentation).


Irina Kalmykova

Strategies for Maximizing State Participation in International Environmental Agreements

The environment is the essential underpinning of all human societies and their economic activities. Societies are dependent on their environment to provide clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and healthy food to eat. Humans depend on healthy, productive ecosystems and their regulating natural cycles for sustenance and disease prevention, recreation, education, and mental and physical enrichment. Economies, meanwhile, rely on natural and human resources to produce marketable goods and services. However, humans are collectively exploiting the Earth’s resources to an extent that its systems cannot neutralize the adverse effects on the environment. The cumulative effect of human activities on the global environment have only become apparent in the last few decades. These threats to the Earth have led scientists and policymakers to work collaboratively to confront global challenges. The result has been an ever-increasing number of international environmental agreements (IEAs). Even though they enjoy widespread popularity as a means for addressing global environmental challenges, there is little evidence that these IEAs are successful in achieving the improvements sought. Much literature has been devoted to the analysis of why IEAs, despite extensive support for their underlying purposes, are not more effective in achieving their goals. (Resources: Annotated Bibliography; Presentation).


Perla Mora

Refugees Welcome?: An International Imbalance of Refugee Support in the Developing World

According to The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) there are currently 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. This statistic represents the highest level of displaced people ever recorded and one of the worst humanitarian crises in human history. In 2015, the global refugee crisis generated mass media coverage and international attention when thousands of Syrian refugees risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean in makeshift rafts in order to reach Europe. A record number of 1.2 million first time asylees were registered by the European Union that year. Arguably, the generosity of countries like Germany who by the end of 2015 had admitted over 1 million refugees and asylum seekers has contributed to the belief that Western and industrialized nations are doing more than enough in support of refugees worldwide. However, this is a grave misconception. Currently, developing nations host over 86% of the world’s refugees and have on average historically admitted more refugees than any other Western-industrialized nation for the time period 1960-2015. In this paper, I provide a comparative analysis of historical refugee trends in order to identify the reasons why the developing world has supported a disproportionate share of refugees and what problems does this rise. Furthermore, based on my findings I will provide recommendations regarding what needs to be improved on an international scale in order to better address the humanitarian needs of refugees worldwide. (Resources: Annotated Bibliography; Presentation).

Michael Bruno

Hezbollah and the Crime-Terror Nexus

In recent years, the Lebanon-based and Iranian-backed international terrorist group Hezbollah has become involved in global crime. This paper will investigate the conditions Hezbollah needed to transcend their previous Shiite-militant based stronghold in the Middle East to create cooperative relationships with Mexican and South American criminal cartels (among Hezbollah’s worldwide criminal activities). I argue Hezbollah’s path to combine crime, drugs, and terror was deliberate; and the convergence between these variables is observable. Two hypotheses are tested to substantiate Hezbollah’s crime-terror nexus trend. Future international terrorist organizations, not just Hezbollah, may take a similar course-of-action to guarantee their survival, influence, and execution of terrorist attacks.


Dan Gray

On a Mission from God: Do Religious Insurgents Have a Special Advantage?

Insurgencies are historically predisposed to fail. There are, however, some characteristics that can increase the likelihood of their success. The presence of these characteristics does not ensure an insurgency’s success, but one or more must be present for an insurgency to succeed. The four requisite characteristics are 1) Will/determination 2) Local support 3) External assistance 4) Flexible strategic and tactical organization. Given a perceived rise in religiously based insurgencies, this paper examines religion’s role in outcomes. By quantitatively analyzing 106 insurgencies, it is determined that religion does not have a noteworthy impact on an insurgency’s outcome. This paper then focuses on the probable outcome of the ongoing Islamic State (IS) insurgency. The IS has some degree of each characteristic for a successful insurgency, but appears to be slowly declining in all four categories. Continuing along its current trajectory, all indicators suggest that IS will not have a successful outcome. In order to hasten the decline of IS, this paper provides policy recommendations to serve as the starting point for future operations.


Andrew Helige

Foreign Investment and Societal Violence in Latin America

Latin America is the most dangerous continent in the world outside a war zone. Drug trafficking has intensified and contributed to an increase in violence caused by organized crime groups vying for control. Violence does not only negatively affect social order and security but there are also economic implications that can reduce a country’s business appeal to attract foreign investment. Although it would be assumed societal violence would lessen foreign investment due to perceived risks, Latin America continues to attract billions in foreign investment. This paper uses lag regression and correlation models to determine the impact societal violence has on inward FDI to the Latin American region. This paper then delves into five industries that violence would impact in Honduras, Mexico, and Chile. This paper determined that at the regional level, violence in not a strong determinant affecting FDI. Violence will, however, affect the distribution of inward FDI across industries.


Ann Cathrin-Howard

Back to the Roots: The Revival of Nationalism in Europe

In 2015, the pictures of hundreds of thousands of people migrating from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia to Europe went around the world. Ever since, the tsunami of refugees and migrants has been called the European refugee and migrant crisis. The continent has not experienced a comparable wave of migration since the aftermath of World War II. At first, the newcomers were welcomed with open arms. However, the welcoming culture of the summer months slowed down in a matter of weeks and has since turned into a culture of rejection. All over Europe, nationalist protesters went on the streets demonstrating against the overwhelming influx of migrants and refugees. From Hungary to Germany and from Greece to Sweden, right-wing protesters and parties have stormed the mainstream of European politics with voters rebelling against years of predominantly socialist rule. Not since the 1930s has nationalism enjoyed comparable political influence and traction in Europe. What exactly has caused the surge of so-called right-wing parties in Europe? This paper seeks to answer this question by examining the drivers and contributing factors of the revival of nationalism in contemporary Europe focusing on the influence of the immigrant population, the unemployment rate, the European Union disapproval rate, and the Muslim population.


Maynard Malixi

Dollar Diplomacy When Do Sanctions Work?

Economic sanctions are widely believed to be effective no greater than thirty percent of the time. So how can we increase this rate of effectiveness? Under what conditions are economic sanctions most likely to be effective? There is an abundant literature discussing exactly these questions. Authors hone in on different variables asking, for example, whether unilateral or multilateral sanctions are more effective against target states. Bapat et al. provide an important analysis of several variables, but I take issue with the method they use to analyze the importance of an issue or “High Issue Saliency.” In this paper I reexamine the variable of saliency from the perspective of the target rather than the coercer state. I seek to explain the difference in High Issue Saliency between the results of Bapat et al. and the dissimilar results from the literature. More specifically, I argue that it is not only the saliency of the issue that is important but rather the saliency of the issue to the target state that is most relevant. I expect to find that the more the target state fears for its existence, the lower the probability of success of economic sanctions.


Zachary Mellon

From Terrorism to Legitimacy? Lessons from Turkey’s Kurdish Problem

The purpose of this article is to analyze the relationship between the Turkish government and its Kurdish citizens in order to better understand the armed struggle that has taken place since 1984 which has claimed over 40,000 lives. In order to do so, it will try to identify and understand the changes in strategy of Kurdish activists, specifically the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which have led to potential openings in meaningful dialogue between the Kurds and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The first section of the paper will examine the historical relationship between the Turks and the Kurds in order to understand the climate which created the PKK. The second section will analyze statistical data on PKK attacks from 1992-2016 in order to try and identify trends or shifts in policy. The third section will seek to understand the shift in PKK’s policy which took place in 1999, leading them to almost totally abandon terror tactics and attacks on noncombatants and reduce their use of violence overall. The final section will draw conclusions based on the data analysis and attempt to make recommendations about what actions can be taken to prevent further violence.


Laura Supanich

Understanding Central America’s Migrant Crisis

With the 2016 presidential election fast approaching, immigration in the United States has become a controversial topic. Many candidates focus their attention on the factors pulling immigrants to the United States, such as what they consider easily attainable immigration benefits, amnesty programs, or an easily penetrable border with Mexico. However, little attention is given to the factors pushing the immigrants from their home countries. Examining and comparing specific factors in Latin America with immigration trends in the U.S. will show where the U.S. should focus its foreign policy efforts in order to best curb migration from the region. I have two major hypotheses regarding this study: first, I predict that there will be no increase in migration from Latin America to the United States after the implementation of DACA; and second, I predict that there is a strong correlation between both corruption and violence and migration to the United States from Latin America.


Danielle Tackoor

Does Social Media Use Reflect Political Preferences and Voting?

Before the 2008 U.S. presidential election, most citizens throughout the globe received their news from traditional media outlets such as print (newspapers), television and radio.  The advent of social media channels like Twitter is changing the landscape of citizenry and democracy. Instead of voters being told about a candidate’s position, Twitter creates a platform where candidates can discuss their views and citizens can voice their opinions on those views, thus fostering a back and forth conversation.  While scholars have looked at elections in their own countries, this paper seeks to use the existing research that is out there and apply those findings to some of the most talked about international elections to confirm or deny if social media conversations can predict the outcome of elections. By looking at tweets, hashtags and mentions of certain political candidates I compare what is said online to public opinion polls conducted during the election and the final election result. and how microblogging how social media platform.


Geoffrey Waller

Donetsk to Damascus: Russian Foreign Policy in Syria After the Ukraine Crisis

On September 30, 2015, Russia unexpectedly announced the beginning of an airstrike campaign in Syria, to be targeted at Islamic State and al-Nusra, the two major terrorist groups operating in Syria. Experts in the US and Europe immediately began accusing Russia of attacking non-terrorist rebel groups to support the Assad regime and keep Bashar al-Assad in power. These experts believed Syria was becoming a sort of proxy war between Russia and the West, continuing a trend they termed the ‘New Cold War’. This paper looks to theories of international relations to explain why Russia would want to get involved in the Syrian Civil War at all, as well as why they would want to support the Assad regime. After consideration of the theories, the best explanation for Russian intervention in Syria is a structural realist approach that says Russia wanted to stabilize Syria, since no other international intervention was making a difference. It seems as though Putin determines his country’s foreign policy based on the goal of increasing Russian power and status internationally, while protecting Russian allies and economic interests abroad, even if this comes into direct conflict with what the United States and its allies are doing in a country or region, though this is not the overarching goal as the ‘New Cold War’ proponents suggest.

Hind Alghamedi

Female Political Empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa

The generally low level of female political empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa may be the result of certain cultural similarities between the countries in the region, such as the prevalence of Islamic ideology and its many interpretations, for example. However, there are obvious differences among the countries in the region, where women may hold from zero to third of the seats in national parliaments. Such differences cannot explain the major disparity between female political empowerment in the region by religious or cultural background alone. Instead, there are likely to be other factors which may influence the variations of female political empowerment in the region. This leads to my research question and that is “what are the factors that hinder female participation and representation in politics in the Middle East and North Africa?”. To answer this question I looked at various factors including voting and elections, education, economic factors, cultural and social norms and gathered data to help see the bigger picture and come up with recommendations. The limitations in this research is that some of the factors related to social norms cannot be operationalized like religion.


Hector Garza

Mando único-Centralizing Public Insecurity-An Analysis of Mexico’s Police Reforms

The research question posed in this paper examines the possible factors that reduce or improve police effectiveness and considers possible consequences of the application of mando único in Mexico. I first consider several prevailing theories on how to improve police performance and efficiency in Mexico. After evaluating statistics on crime and policing, surveys on public safety, scholarly articles and books from regional experts, these data suggest that the real problem of police is not structural but one of institutional process. If Mexico wants to improve the performance and image of law enforcement, the government should consider transitioning from an emphasis on structural organization and instead focus solely on addressing institutional processes and procedures. I analyze institutional variables that include: police pay, recruitment, promotion, and hours worked and compare them to the most recent statistics of crime for each of the thirty-one states and federal district. My aim with is to determine whether there is any correlation between enhancing these institutional factors and better policing. I find that the factors that seem most closely related to positive police performance have to do with institutional processes, rather than structural organization.


Jamie Lenio

The Refugee Crisis in Europe

While the flow of refugees to Europe this year already denotes the greatest influx from outside the continent in modern history, many experts caution that the mass movement will most likely continue and could even increase — possibly for years. Almost simultaneously, electoral support for nationalistic, xenophobic parties has climbed steadily across Western Europe. How does this rise in anti-immigration platforms affect the plight of refugees trying to enter Europe? The tension between individual national identities and one supranational identity is problematic but, the refugee crisis, could potentially act as a catalyst that leads the EU towards stronger integration, and cooperation, proving itself as a strong international, supranational institution that places EU functionality above domestic political leanings. This paper will demonstrate through past examples that ‘crisis’ in the EU has again and again meant greater interdependence and multilateralism in the region despite repeated claims of it’s probable collapse. Although many headlines and political pundits throughout the years have often equated crisis in the region with its impeding failure, historically, crisis has on the contrary, facilitated cooperation and greater reliance among member states.


Thomas Mallon

The Future of Nuclear Power: Lessons from China and India

The purpose of this paper is to examine the various nuclear power projections for China and India; identify both the potential motivations and barriers each country faces in their quest for large-scale expansion; assess these variables in the context of the country forecasts; and finally, make a judgement about the potential reality of meeting the targets set for each country. Based on diligent analysis of each country, despite finding similar motivations for increasing nuclear power capacity, I argue that India will be more constrained than China in its attempts to build nuclear capacity mostly because of its democratic status and because of certain regulatory issues.


Gavin Veeder

The Age Old Problem of Pirates: Piracy in Southeast Asia

Piracy is an age-old problem for trade at sea.  It cost companies and countries millions of dollars in lost trade, higher insurances, increased fuel cost, and in time conducting counter-piracy efforts every year. This paper aims to examine the problem of a surge in piracy attacks in Southeast Asia over the last ten years. This increasing problem persists even in the wake of tremendous counter piracy success off the Horn of Africa. I will outline the history of piracy to provide context to the increasing problem. I will also look at Southeast Asia in context to the previous Horn of Africa crisis by reviewing the economics, geography, the nature of the attacks, and geopolitical concerns in the region. By reviewing against the Somali piracy I seek to understand why some tactics have been helpful and others have not yielded the same results in Southeast Asia, and I offer new solutions that could help curb the violence.

Benjamin Collings

Searching For Economic Freedom in the Middle East

This paper focuses on the Middle East and attempt to answer the question of why the Middle East lacks economic freedom. There are many definitions of economic freedom, but it can generally be considered the degree to which individuals are able to pursue economic activity without interference from the government. Supporters of free markets argue that society benefits in numerous ways when policies are implemented that increase economic freedom. Though these are not universally accepted and despite these claims facing strong critiques, the overall economic freedom of the world has gradually increased since the first report was released in 1996. Nonetheless, increases in economic freedom have not been steady or equal across the globe. Why has the Middle East lagged in economic freedom? In an attempt to answer this question, this paper will focus on the legacy of Islam in shaping the institutions and policy preferences in the Middle East. This Islamic legacy has made the region hostile to the free market by constraining the desire for reform as well ensuring that attempted reforms are destined to fail.


Nancy Cortes

The Drug War and the Resurgence of Mexico’s Heroin Trade [Award for Outstanding Paper]

This paper examines the factors that contributed to the increase in heroin consumption in the United States by focusing on the role played by foreign drug supply networks. Based on a careful review of recent events and the available data on heroin and cocaine trafficking, I argue that the break down of Mexico’s cartels resulting from the war on drugs led to the weakening of cocaine supply networks and the proliferation of smaller criminal organizations that are more adept to participate in the heroin trade. The paper includes an examination of the association between heroin and opioid prescription drugs; evidence supporting an increase in heroin availability and consumption in the United States; the restructuring of the Mexican drug trade comprised by fragmentation, decentralization, and diversification; the structure of the U.S. heroin market; and the trends and available evidence in the trafficking of Mexican heroin.


Kelsey Duckstad

Ballistic Missile Defense in the 21st Century

Since the 1970s, several countries have invested billions of dollars into ballistic missile defense (BMD). Tactical missile defense has had limited success on the battlefield. Interception percentages are low and friendly fire incidents have been costly. There have been vast improvements to US tactical missile defense since the Gulf War, but the costs are still very high. Strategic missile defense has never been successfully tested under battlefield conditions. Technology has advanced since the 1980s and the Strategic Defense Initiative, but it is unclear whether strategic BMD would be able to stop a long range missile from hitting its intended target. Additionally, BMD has a high cost-to-kill ratio, making it a very expensive defense program. Despite these limitations, the US and several of its allies in NATO have been actively pursuing BMD in times of austerity. In early 2015, the Pentagon authorized $1.6 billion to be spent on missile defense. Missile defense also antagonizes Russia, making the implementation of BMD risky, especially in Eastern Europe. Overall, missile defense is expensive and the technology is still in its early stages. With all these drawbacks, why do states pursue BMD? This paper examines the logic and trends of BMD proliferation today.


Chris Issel

The Rise and Success of Boko Haram [Award for Outstanding Paper]

Boko Haram, a terrorist group that operates mainly in northeastern Nigeria, was able to carry out nearly 750 attacks between the years 2009 and 2013. What drives Boko Haram to carry out these attacks and what factors within Nigeria facilitated these incidents are a matter of debate. This paper will examine three common narratives concerning Nigeria and the rise and existence of Boko Haram: religion and culture, corruption and weak institutions, and socioeconomics. The paper then correlates state-by-state data on these three topics with data from the Global Terrorism Database on 748 Boko Haram attacks between 2009 and 2013. Using statistics brought about by using Pearson correlations to correlate attack data with state-by-state Nigerian statistics, the paper will argue that Boko Haram has been able to carry out a much higher number of attacks in poorer, less developed, northern Muslim states. Issues related to institutions were not shown to have a significant relationship to the number of Boko Haram attacks, which indicates that the roots of the Boko Haram insurgency are primarily socioeconomic and cultural, and not related to issues with Nigerian institutions or state weakness.


Adam V. Link

The Al Huthi Rebellion [Award for Outstanding Paper]

This paper examines the Al-Huthi rebellion in Yemen, tracing from its origins to the present day in order to explore the ways in which the al-Huthi’s have been able to achieve “success” against the Yemeni state. Since the removal of President Saleh in 2011 following a deal brokered by the GCC states, Yemen has faced a renewed activism and rebellion from the al-Huthi’s and their supporters. The al-Huthi’s have captured and control larger portions of the north and west of the country, including the capital of Saana, and have removed the transitional government from power. The question is why has the movement been granted legitimacy by large portions of the population in northern Yemen, and how will this continue to play out in the face of both internal and external opposition to potential al-Huthi rule. The paper explores the al-Huthi movement in contrast with other indigenous rebellions in the region in order to illuminate the strategies which have brought the most success, and also to examine how the al-Huthi movement has differed from others regionally.


Ruben Orosco

Arming Germany and Japan for a New Century?

The history of Germany and Japan continues to haunt them to this day because of World War II. It is a legacy that their people carry with a heavy burden and one that they continue to struggle to reconcile. In the case of Germany, they have come to terms with the barbaric, state sponsored brutality they inflicted on their neighbors in Europe. Japan on the other hand, has been slow to recognize and apologize for the atrocities they inflicted on their neighbors. It comes as no surprise that after seventy years since the end of World War II, both countries are viewed with suspicion and apprehension as they both engage in magnifying their military capability and the scope of operations. This paper will further demonstrate that both Germany and Japan are vastly different countries than they were when they waged their destructive, imperialistic campaign that led to World War II. They have maintained sustainable democratic societies that are not only accountable to their pacifist electorates but mindful of the rules and norms of the international community. They are not acting independently nor rashly despite the emerging threats and conflicts in their regions that call for their leadership beyond economic and financial terms.


Alex Perez

Counter-Insurgency in Nigeria: A New Approach?

The prolonged existence of insurgent groups in Nigeria suggests that there are foundational aspects that have inhibited the government’s ability to respond to insurgent violence in an effective manner. Indeed, corruption, lack of equipment, and deficient counterinsurgency training have undermined not only the military and police responses to the insurgencies, but also the advisory boards created by the state to address socio-economic problems within the insurgent regions. Despite these misgivings however, Nigeria has seen a reduction in Delta and Boko Haram insurgent violence with one, albeit morally questionable response; giving the insurgents money. As this paper demonstrates, state payments have profoundly reduced the number of insurgent attacks in the Delta, and have negated Boko Haram attacks within certain states. While this policy has yet to serve as a comprehensive resolution to Nigeria’s insurgent problem, with further action by Nigeria, it has the ability to do so.


Amanda Strobel

Crimean Crisis: Russia’s Annexation of Crimea

In 2014 Russia broke the establishment of sovereign borders by resorting to military intervention in annexing an area of Ukraine known as Crimea. This sequence of events ultimately concluded with President Putin signing a bill to absorb Crimea into the Russian Federation. That was later confirmed by a vote of Crimean citizens, with 97% of voters agreeing to Crimea’s secession referendum on joining Russia. This vote has been condemned by the West as a sham due to Russian pressure in the area. Many experts now wonder what Russia’s motivation was in the use of annexation, which is thought to be an outdated practice by the international community. This paper explores the sequence of events and the logic of Russia’s decision to annex Crimea.


James Thomas

Nationalism in the European Community: Lessons from the Scottish and Catalan Independence Movements

This paper examines the Scottish Independence referendum that was held in September of 2014 in order to document the underlying reasons causal to the decision by the majority of Scottish voters to reject a split with the United Kingdom. The paper employs polling data and direct referendum results to identify demographic and geographic trends, as well as election material produced by both the “Yes” and “No” campaigns, editorials, news accounts of public statements by campaign leaders, and other media content to examine the context for the arguments on each side of the debate. The paper focuses especially on the economic factors including European Union (EU) membership and security factors including North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership for an independent Scotland. This information is important to the general public as similar debates over independence continue in places such as Catalonia and Quebec. The comparison with Catalonia is particularly apt, as that region would break away from Spain and, like Scotland, place both future EU and NATO membership of a newly independent state in question.