Shawn L. Ramirez

I am an assistant professor of political science at Emory University.

My research uses game theoretic models, statistical methods and field work to present new perspectives on conflict and peace studies. Recent projects focus on the influence of domestic politics, the use of diplomacy, and incentives for secrecy.


Lingering Interests


Other Involvement


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Current Projects

Interstate Diplomacy Project

How is a broad multilateral consensus achieved? How are bilateral agreements formed? And what is the role of face-to-face communication and private messages in forging those agreements? To explore these questions and more, students at Emory University and Morehouse College will simulate negotiations for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in April 2014. Using real-world data, new technology (RFID tokens), and social media, this research takes a first step in identifying the value of face-time and secret diplomatic cables in multilateral negotiations. Project Website


Mediation as a Dynamic Causal Process: Peace and War Recurrence.
Studies show that mediators can make peace more likely, but also that mediated settlements can be quite fragile. This paper argues that both effects can be explained once we consider a mediation as a dynamic causal process: warring parties use mediated ceasefires to rearm, rebuild and recruit, and mediators fail to lock in enforcement, sanctions, and commitment devices. Since warring parties adjust their strategies dynamically in light of the opportunities provided by mediation, I use a dynamic causal inference statistical model to simultaneously account for a mediation's effects on both peace and war recurrence. Drawing on a new data set of mediation between 1945 and 2010, I show how conflict and mediation dynamics affect why mediation is pursued, when settlements are upheld, and which aspects of conflict and mediation make war more likely to recur.

Diplomatic Effects of Mediation: Do Mediators Deepen the Peace?
Current literature examines only tip of the iceberg of what a mediator does by defining success as one-shot agreements or reduced violence. Mediators do far more: they work to set in motion a myriad of cooperative agreements to be developed over the longer term. While a mediator's mechanical tools -- such as peacekeepers, carrots and sticks, and private information -- are well-understood, a mediator's diplomatic tools -- the myriad of agreements that mediators set in motion -- are not. Using a new dataset that codes explicitly for a mediator's mechanic and diplomatic tools, I show that mediators since 1945 have deepened the peace by making human rights, economic, and other treaties and agreements more likely.

Diplomatic Flexibility in the Shadow of an Audience: The Benefits of Private Mediation.
Since leaders will not sign peace agreements if they expect domestic backlash for painful concessions, political cover may be key in determining mediation success. To see how, I contrast two models: public negotiation and private mediation. The models reveal that through a new mechanism of audience uncertainty – domestic uncertainty about the origins of offers – leaders are granted the diplomatic flexibility to offer added concessions while avoiding punishment. Through this, mediation makes peace more likely, and the leader and his public gain a contingency: victory is more likely in any ensuing war should mediation fail. Statistically, I show that audience uncertainty affects mediation occurrence, success, and a leader's post-mediation fate. Drawing from field work, I highlight how audience uncertainty helped foster a mediated peace between Ecuador and Peru in 1998, and not in previous years. This theory explains when leaders enter mediation, when agreements are likely to be supported by the public, and how transparency can lead to war. PDF


Secrecy, Risk, and Interstate War.
Why do leaders use back door channels for peace? Should the public be suspicious of terms brokered secretly? Using a formal model, I show how secret diplomacy affects bargaining behavior, the propensity for peace, and public welfare. Secrecy can promote peace, but not because leaders at-risk of domestic accountability use secret channels to back down: in fact, leaders always stand firm. This hawkish stance encourages risk-taking when enemies are weak, and makes peace more likely when risk is not worth the gamble – if the enemy is strong, war is costly, or stakes are high. The results give conditions for public support of secret agreements, and hold implications for bilateral bargaining and the effect of transparency on peace. I draw support using an online experiment in which players face off, and in examining the history of secret and public Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from 1993 to 2013. PDF

Leaders, the Elite, and Domestic Politics

Leaders, Regime Type and War: The Role of Implicit Assumptions of Elite Culpability.
The study of domestic politics and war relies heavily on two premises: that the effect of domestic pressure hinges on regime type, and that this effect runs primarily through leaders. Using a formal model and statistical analysis, I explore the systematic role of those who hold positions of power in dictatorships and democracies who are not the political leader -- Congress, Parliament, the military, religious leaders, royal family members, etc. -- and how institutionalized aspects such as power sharing affect whether these elite will be held culpable for foreign policy outcomes. I show that elite culpability -- whether the elite will share credit or blame for foreign policy outcomes -- structures incentives for horizontal accountability between the elite and leader, whihc in turn shapes the interaction between leaders and their domestic publics. I find that elite culpability provides a conherent explanation underlying theories of war initiation even across regime type. PDF

Lingering Interests


Influence in Terrorist Networks: From Undirected to Directed Graphs with Steven J. Brams and Hande Mutlu, 2006.
We develop an algorithm based in graph theory to organize terrorist networks into hierarchies using limited information on network contacts. PDF

Leaders and Learning

The Rationality of Audience Costs: A Formal Model of National Honor.
I model a rational domestic public that is concerned for its international reputation in crisis bargaining. While audience costs do allow for credible signals of resolve at times, the model shows that audience costs may also be deceptive -- misleading an enemy about the leader's intentions. PDF

Learning in Repeated Crises: Adaptive Belief Formation and WWI with Jeremy Kedziora.


Other Involvement