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Sunrise over the Leonid Bykov memorial statue in Kyiv, Ukraine.










I am an Associate Professor of Political Science at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California at San Diego.  My main area of research is comparative state-building dynamics.  I have a secondary interest in developing ethical best practices for collecting data from human subjects residing in active war zones.  



My CV can be downloaded here.

Academic Research


My book, Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States, was published in 2015 by Cambridge University Press in the Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics series.  The book was honored by the Central Eurasian Studies Society with the Best Book Award in the Social Sciences and also honored with the Furniss Award from the Mershon Center at The Ohio State University. To read reviews and published excerpts, click here.


Peer-Reviewed Articles

"Calling Mogadishu: How Reminders of Anarchy Bias Survey Participation" (with E. Denny), Journal of Experimental Political Science, Forthcoming.

"Spies Like Us" (with C. Schuster), Ethnography, Forthcoming, Available Online As Of June 2017.

"With Friends Like These: Brinkmanship and Chain-Ganging in Russia's Near Abroad" (with D. Maliniak), Security Studies, Summer/Fall 2016, Vol. 25, No. 4, 1-23.  Replication data.

"Did Georgian Voters Desire Military Escalation in 2008?  Experiments & Observations" (with D. Maliniak), Journal of Politics, January 2016, Volume 78, No. 1, 265-280.  Replication data.

"Language Hierarchies in Georgia: An Experimental Approach" (with T. Blauvelt and C. Berglund), Caucasus Survey, February 2016, Vol. 4, Issue 1, 44-62.  Replication data.

"Representative Surveys in Insecure Environments: A Case Study of Mogadishu, Somalia" (with N. Lidow), Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology, 2014, Vol. 2, No. 1, 78-95. 

"Intended and Unintended Consequences of Democracy Promotion Assistance to Georgia After The Rose Revolution" (with D. Hidalgo), Research and Politics, April-June 2014, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1-13.  Replication data.

"Commitment Problems or Bidding Wars?  Rebel Fragmentation as Peace-Building", Journal of Conflict Resolution, April-June 2012, Vol. 56, No. 1, 118-149.  Replication data.


Book Chapters

"Hobbesian Neopatrimonialism," in Tajikistan on the Move: Statebuilding and Societal Transformations, 2018, Lexington Press.

"Consolidating a Weak State After Civil War: A Tajik Fable" in J. Heathershaw and E. Schatz, Paradox of Power: Logics of State Weakness in Eurasia, 2017, University of Pittsburgh Press.

"Prison States and Games of Chicken" in S. Desposato, Ethics and Experiments: Problems and Solutions for Social Scientists and Policy Professionals, 2015, Taylor and Francis.


Research Agenda

  Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States, the first major product of my research program, treats the breakup of the Soviet Union as laboratory for the comparison of modern civil war settlements.  In the early 1990s, against a backdrop of Russian state failure, there was no third-party capable of providing credible security guarantees to losing factions in the post-Soviet space.  Predictably, then, there was no real disarmament by militias.  How were wars settled, then?

While acknowledging a role for inherited institutions and geopolitics, my multi-method investigation, combining simple game theory with ethnographic observation, suggests that non-liberal, bottom-up mechanisms designed to remain invisible to Russian and Western donors -- side-switching, extortion, and bribery -- were the basis of the political order that endures in Georgia and Tajikistan today.  Read more.

Next I oversaw the first representative survey of Somalia's capital city, Mogadishu, in 25 years.  Nicholai Lidow and I open-sourced our  methodology in The Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology hoping it would be useful to other evidence-based humanitarian missions (for reasons described here).  We followed the face-to-face survey up a longitudinal panel telephone survey conducted by Somali-language enumerators in San Diego via Skype

My third major project is a book about contemporary Ukraine.  The empirical question that will motivate my second book is whether large inflows of Western aid to Ukraine, combined with OSCE security guarantees in the Donbas region, could deescalate the war and facilitate a "full incorporation" equilibrium.  Research for the book, including documenting militia mobilization and subsequent integration into the Ukrainian state, as well as electoral dynamics and political re-alignment in the Ukrainian polity, is underway.  I discuss the project, and show some data, in this video.


I teach at the School for Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California at San Diego.  Substantive classes focus on topics relevant to international security for future practitioners and citizens.  Rather than cherry-pick favorable comments, here is the full set of my anonymized course evaluations for  solo-taught courses over the last few years.  My teaching philosophy is summarized here

I have served as the Academic Chair of the Global Leadership Initiative at UCSD since 2014.

I have advised two political science seniors who received high honors in the major.  I have also been an advisor for eight successfully-defended Ph.D. dissertations in both political science and economics:

  The Security Studies Group Mess, 2016.  I have been twice honored with an Academic Mentor Award from this student-led group. 

The Security Studies Group Mess, 2016.  I have been twice honored with an Academic Mentor Award from this student-led group. 

Tiffany Chou, Economics, UCSD (2011), U.S. Department of Treasury

Christopher Fariss, Political Science, UCSD (2013).  Assistant Professor, University of Michigan. 

Cameron Brown, Political Science, UCSD (2014).  AIPAC (Jerusalem)

Blake McMahon, Political Science, UCSD (2015).  U.S. Air Force Research Institute. 

Kara Downey, Political Science, Stanford University (2015).  Bay Area Private Sector

Will Hobbs, Political Science, UCSD (2016).  Postdoctoral Fellowship, Northeastern-Harvard.

David Lindsey, Political Science, UCSD (2016).  Assistant Professor, Baruch College (CUNY). 

Zachary Breig, Economics, UCSD (2017). Assistant Professor, School of Economics at the University of Queensland.


If you want to reach me, email: jdriscoll@ucsd.edu.


Mailing Address:


Jesse Driscoll

C/O School of Global Policy and Strategy (UCSD)

9500 Gilman Drive

La Jolla, CA, 92093



  Sunrise over the Black Sea in Sukhumi, Abkhazia.

Sunrise over the Black Sea in Sukhumi, Abkhazia.