Why do presidents gain so little domestic benefit from their sweeping foreign policy prerogatives? My dissertation project proposes that the nature of interbranch relationships advantage Congress (and constrain the White House) more than theories of an “imperial presidency” might suggest. Unlocking the solution to that riddle also explains the course of some famous and some not-so-famous foreign policy quarrels in U.S. history, from how Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy affected the U.S. nuclear arsenal on Okinawa to four presidents’ surprising reluctance to annex a newly-independent Texas.
In separate projects with Yu-Ming Liou, I investigate how countries with substantial endowments of natural resources (principally oil and natural gas) work differently from countries that don’t have such endowments. In our first published paper, currently forthcoming at Comparative Political Studies, we use the 1973 OPEC oil embargo’s sudden bestowal of windfall gains on seven countries to evaluate whether there is evidence for a “resource curse” in these countries. Using the method of synthetic controls to create precisely estimated counterfactuals of those countries’ political development in the absence of resource income, we argue that the evidence for a curse is mixed outside of the Arabian Peninsula region. In a working paper, we reevaluate the mechanisms by which petroleum might perpetuate patriarchy, and demonstrate that resource income is more compatible with a political, rather than an economic, explanation for the genesis of women’s lower status in oil-rich states compared to developed countries with similar incomes.