CISAC Honors Program Presentations | Sophia Boyer, Samantha Feuer, and Elena Crespo



Sophia Boyer, Samantha Feuer, and Elena Crespo

Date and Time

May 7, 2020 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM


RSVP Required.


Virtual Seminar

Seminar Recording:


About this Event:

Sophia Boyer

1:30 PM - 2:15 PM 

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: AK-47s, Tanks, and F-16s: Understanding Shifts in Pakistan's Conventional Military Strategy in the post-Cold war era

Abstract: The United States has navigated a complex relationship with Pakistan since the country’s inception in 1947. The behavior of the Pakistan Army has been a central factor in that relationship. This thesis analyzes when, how and why the Pakistan Army has shifted its conventional military strategy in the post-Cold war era. An investigation of the Pakistan Army’s capabilities, doctrines, rhetoric and force distribution suggests that Pakistan shifted its conventional military strategy four times since 1989: a ‘Post-Cold war Strategy’ from 1989-1994, a ‘Defense Minimal strategy’ from 1994-2001, a ‘Two-Front Commitment Strategy’ from 2001-2010, and a ‘Three-Front Commitment Strategy’ from 2010-2019. Based on existing literature and interviews, this thesis argues that external threats, specifically those emanating from India and the U.S., and bureaucratic politics driven by leadership changes have impacted shifts in Pakistan’s conventional military strategy substantially. These findings can inform a calibrated US South Asia policy comprising the management of conventional military balance in nuclear South Asia.



Samantha Feuer

2:15 PM - 2:50 PM

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: From the Shadows to the Front Page: State Use of Proxies for Cyber Operations.

Abstract: Why do some states delegate cyber operations to proxies while others rely on central commands? This thesis explores state use of cyber proxies in light of principal-agent problems. In particular, this work examines cyber proxies allegedly acting at the behest of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea by considering three variables: cost, skills and specialization, and plausible deniability. The use of case studies and process tracing analyses evaluate their explanatory power in the cyber realm. The data suggest that states may use cyber proxies to differing degrees and with differing motivations depending upon the type of mission or strategic aim, as well as their ability to pose credible threats to misbehaving proxies. Although cyber operations are comparatively “cheap” relative to physical missions - hence their appeal - some evidence suggests that using cyber proxies may provide additional cost savings compared to the use of their central commands for certain missions. States’ need for skills and specializations, not immediately attainable through central commands, may also lead them to use cyber proxies. Based on available evidence, it remains inconclusive whether states’ potential desire for plausible deniability influences their use of cyber proxies. During a period of global uncertainty in which our everyday lives have been forced online, critical infrastructure, the public sector and private industry are increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks from adverse actors. As data in this field improves, this thesis hopes to serve as a framework for future researchers to test, with more certainty, the causal links between these explanations and the use of cyber proxies within these four states.



Elena Crespo

2:50 PM - 3:20 PM

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: Blood and Treasure, but Mostly Blood: U.S. Electoral Accountability and the All-Volunteer Force

Abstract: In the wake of the American military’s transition to an all-volunteer force (AVF), scholars and military leaders alike cautioned that the Armed Forces defending the nation would come to disproportionately draw from the least advantaged and least politically powerful populations. Should that be the case, certain communities would pay higher costs of war while others would be relatively untouched, leaving the Executive free to command with little public accountability. This thesis adopts an experimental statistical counterfactual approach to examine the geographic casualty distribution across states during the Iraq War had there been a conscripted force. The data presented suggest that the conventional logic is partially correct: an all-volunteer force is not egalitarian. It disproportionately burdened certain states—predominantly in the South and Midwest—with higher casualty rates than would have a conscripted force. However, many of the states that shouldered the costs of war under an AVF also carry disproportionate political gravity as electoral swing states. These findings suggest that a President who chooses to use force is more likely to face electoral backlash for his or her decisions under an all-volunteer force than under a conscripted force. Ultimately, the thesis proposes that President George W. Bush may have increased the margin of his victory in the 2004 Presidential election and contributed to greater Republican victories in the 2006 Senate election had the Iraq War been fought with a conscripted force that more equally distributed casualties. This finding runs contrary to the popular contention that a conscripted force is inherently more democratic and will lead to better electoral accountability for use of force.