Featured Author: Michael T. Koch

PSQ prides itself on publishing scholarship created by the best and brightest in their respective fields. To highlight some of these exciting contributors and provide an in-depth look at the broader work our authors do, we bring you our Featured Author interview series.

 

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Michael T. Koch is an associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University. His research focuses on the intersection of domestic and international politics. He examines how domestic political competition and the institutions that structure it affect the foreign policy behavior of states and the reciprocal relationship of how foreign policy outcomes affect democratic political competition. He is also principal co-investigator of the MIPS (Military Interventions by Powerful States) data project with Patricia Sullivan.

Professor Koch can be reached at mtkoch@tamu.edu

What initially sparked your interest in exploring how variations in election systems affect conflict behavior?

Early in my graduate career, a great deal of scholarship emerged about democracies being more peaceful than other types of countries but this research treated all democracies as the same. Since I was also interested in political institutions and how these shape politicians’ behaviors, I started to examine how variation in electoral rules and political institutions shapes the choice for conflict. But not just whether different arrangement made the choice of conflict more likely, but when in the election cycle were states more or less likely to start or terminate a conflict.

 

What are some of the key questions in the study of conflict behavior?

Within the study of democratic conflict behavior, the key questions revolve around how partisan politics shapes preferences and how institutions constrain or create incentives for the use of force.  More broadly, important questions focus on the role of credibility and commitment in explaining choices between conflict and cooperation.  Moreover, while we know a great deal about conflict onset, we know much less about why some conflicts endure and some end.

 

What kind of response do you hope your work elicits from your readers? Ideally, what kind of critical thought do you hope your article inspires?

I hope that readers think critically about how foreign policy is truly affected by domestic political concerns and how the rules and institutions of governments shape these concerns.  I also hope that more scholars continue to examine how the choices we make, usually with domestic politics is mind, influences foreign policy. For example, many new democracies that have diverse populations have chosen majoritarian institutions to ensure majority outcomes, but by doing so, this may lead to less than optimal decisions in foreign policy.