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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 and civil war settlement dynamics.  I am also very interested in methodologies for the safe and transparent collection of data in war zones and authoritarian states.  I have lived and worked extensively in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, written about Somalia from an off-shore vantage point, and am currently researching a book on Ukraine's civil war. 



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.  In 2016 the book was honored by the Central Eurasian Studies Society with the Best Book Award in the Social Sciences in 2017. 


Peer-Reviewed Articles

"Spies Like Us" (with C. Schuster), Ethnography, Accepted & Forthcoming 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: Approaches, Fieldworks, and Topics, Lexington Press (Accepted and Forthcoming 2018).

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

"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.



Working Papers

"Russian Hegemony in the Russki Mir? A War of Position on Ukrainian Social Media"

"Ukraine's Civil War"

"Acute Fear & Survey Behaviors: A Mogadishu Case Study"

Research Agenda

Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States, which is 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 and 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. 

The book is available in paperback.  To read reviews and published excerpts, click here.

A number of separate articles related to Georgia's social structure, social perceptions of democracy promotion assistance in the South Caucasus, Tajikistan's peace settlement, and the August War of 2008, have been published in journals such as Security Studies and the Journal of Conflict Resolution.  Daniel Maliniak and I used my Georgia data to publish a programmatic critique of the influx of survey experiments in IR in the Journal of Politics, and are in the process of coauthoring a book on the 2008 war.

I was responsible for overseeing the first representative survey of Somalia's capital city, Mogadishu, in 25 years, followed by a longitudinal panel telephone survey conducted by Somali-language enumerators in San Diego via Skype over multiple rounds.  Making inferences from survey data collected against a backdrop of extreme violence -- where survey subjects infer that the data is going to be used to justify aid flows to assist state consolidation -- requires that the research team be attuned to the possibility that fear is altering survey participation and/or survey behaviors by subjects.  My colleague Nicholai Lidow and I opted to open-source our sampling methodology in The Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology, so that it might be of immediate assistance to other evidence-based humanitarian missions.  I was invited to speak on the project at the Joint Meeting of the American Statistical Association in Seattle, Washington in 2015 (described here).  Working papers are still in the pipeline, and the project is discussed in a reflective chapter on research ethics published in an edited volume on the subject by my colleague Scott Desposato

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 for MA students focus on topics relevant to international security for future practitioners and citizens. I am currently developing a course for Ph.D. students on field research strategies in conflict zones.

Students exit my courses with an unusually high sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  Rather than cherry-pick favorable comments, here is the full set of my anonymized course evaluations for all solo-taught courses for the last few years.

My teaching philosophy is summarized here

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

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



The Security Studies Group Mess, 2016.  I have been twice honored with an Academic Mentor Award from this student-led group.  I was also voted "Favorite Professor On Campus For Military Students" by the UCSD Veterans Association in 2016.

The Security Studies Group Mess, 2016.  I have been twice honored with an Academic Mentor Award from this student-led group.  I was also voted "Favorite Professor On Campus For Military Students" by the UCSD Veterans Association in 2016.

Served On PhD Committees For...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


These students produce extremely high-caliber work and I am very proud of them.  Follow the links to see what I mean.


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.