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Patricia Sullivan

Professor of Public Policy and Peace, War and Defense

Patricia Sullivan earned her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Davis, in 2004, with a concentration in international relations, comparative politics, and research methodology. She teaches courses in foreign policy analysis, international conflict, national security policy, and research design and is the Diversity Liaison for the College.

Sullivan’s research focuses on the utility and limitations of military force as a policy instrument. She has also published research about factors that lower the odds that an international conflict will escalate to violence, the effects of U.S. military aid on other countries’ behavior toward the United States, the conditions under which democratic leaders end foreign military operations, and domestic public support for sustaining military operations abroad.

Sullivan’s research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. She has been invited to present her research to academic audiences as well as units under the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense and officers at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Professor Sullivan is on the Executive Board of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and the advisory board for the Correlates of War Project.

Scholar’s Strategy Network Key Findings Policy Brief
Is Military Aid an Effective Tool for U.S. Foreign Policy?

Key Publications

Who Wins? Predicting Strategic Success and Failure in Armed Conflict, Oxford University Press, 2012.
Finds that the nature of the belligerents’ war aims determines whether military strength or tolerance for costs will be the most important determinant of a war’s outcome. Militarily strong states almost always succeed when they engage their ground forces in direct attempts to seize territory or overthrow foreign regimes, but the weak become more likely to prevail when their strong adversaries have less tangible political objectives.

U.S. Military Aid and Recipient State Cooperation, with Brock F. Tessman and Xiaojun Li. Foreign Policy Analysis, 7, no. 3, 2011, 275-294.
Demonstrates that, with limited exceptions, increasing U.S. military aid significantly reduces other countries’ level of foreign policy cooperation with the United States. U.S. reaction to recipient state behavior is also counter-intuitive: our results show that recipient state cooperation is likely to lead to subsequent reductions in U.S. military assistance.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Partisanship, Approval, and the Duration of Major Power Democratic Military Interventions, with Michael T. Koch. The Journal of Politics 72, no. 3, 2010, 616-629.
Shows that the effect of public approval on the duration of military operations initiated by powerful democratic countries varies based on which party is in power. As public support for the chief executive declines, governments on the right of the political spectrum are inclined to continue to fight, while left-leaning executives become more likely to bring the troops home.

Sustaining the Fight: A Cross-Sectional Time-Series Analysis of Public Support for Ongoing Military Interventions, Conflict Management and Peace Science, 25, no. 2, 2008, 30-45.
Demonstrates that concern about the costs of withdrawing from a conflict can be a more important determinant of the public’s willingness to persevere than concern for the costs of fighting the war. Pre-war, individuals are more likely to support the use of force when the military intervention would not involve ground troops and when it would be undertaken with the support of allies. Once an actual military intervention has been initiated, the public is significantly more likely to support sustaining the operation if it is unilateral and more than ten thousand ground troops have been deployed.

Patricia Sullivan