Daniel Altman is the Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow at CISAC for the 2013-2014 academic year. He is a doctoral candidate in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Political Science Department and a member of the MIT Security Studies Program.
His dissertation, “Red Lines and Faits Accomplis in Interstate Coercion and Crisis,” offers a framework for explaining crisis behavior and outcomes that differs from the conventional wisdom. The traditional way to understand crises is to suppose that policymakers think primarily in the form of the question, “How can we convince the other side that we are willing to fight in order to get them to back down?” This dissertation instead approaches crises as if states ask themselves, “What can we get away with unilaterally taking without starting a war?” The result is a theory of coercive conflict that explains why “vulnerable” red lines with any of four characteristics elicit faits accomplis, result in crisis defeats for the states setting them, and make war more likely. It tests this theory against the conventional wisdom with case studies of the 1948-1949 Berlin Blockade Crisis and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as a quantitative analysis of interstate crises from 1918 to 2007 which makes use of original data on red lines and faits accomplis.
Daniel is working on several additional research projects on topics which include misperception as a cause of war, trade as a cause of peace, and the use of preventive force against nuclear programs.