My book manuscript, Fighting Friends: Institutional Cooperation in Multinational War, analyzes the institutional design and effectiveness of multinational fighting arrangements in wartime. In contrast to existing theories in international relations, which pit cooperation and conflict against each other, I argue that cooperation and conflict often coexist. The occurrence of cooperation in conflict is most prominently evidenced by instances of what I call multinational war, wars involving more than two combatant states.
My project answers two main questions: First, what accounts for the varied multinational security relationships states adopt in wartime? Second, how do the choices states make about institutional design affect the combat performance of the fighting arrangements?
I argue that institutional attributes and not institutional type (i.e. whether the multinational arrangement is a formal alliance or a coalition,) are the prime explanatory factors driving the success or failure of multinational military operations. Specifically, I argue that the main variable driving the observed variation in the military performance of alliances and coalitions is the presence or absence of centralized command and control.
To evaluate the effect of command and control structures on the performance of alliances and coalitions during war, I rely on quantitative and qualitative evidence from three case studies. The first of these is a paired comparison of with-in case analyses of the Central Powers and Entente in World War I. My second empirical chapter is a case study of the Korean War. My third case study, for which I conducted interviews at NATO headquarters, traces the evolution of command and its effect on battlefield developments during the war in Afghanistan.
My book makes a contribution to a number of literatures in political science, including those on the rational design of international institutions, alliances, and conflict processes. Moreover, by focusing on the conduct of multinational military operations, my research also marks an important departure from the wider international security literature’s emphasis on the causes and consequences of conflict. Interdisciplinary in design and scope, my project also speaks to other fields, such as military and diplomatic history.
Finally, understanding when and under what conditions alliances and coalitions succeed in wartime is not only a worthwhile academic endeavor but is also policy relevant. Given the prevalence of alliances and coalitions in the international system throughout history and America’s continuing reliance upon these security relationships in recent military conflicts like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, it is worth examining their wartime performance and asking how they fare. Yet despite the frequency with which countries go to war together today, multinational war remains under-theorized and under-studied. My book remedies this omission.