photo: Alexander Downes

Alexander B. Downes

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs
Room 605 B
Address: Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street, N.W.
Phone: 202-994-7859
Fax: 202-994-7761

Areas of Expertise

International security, civilian victimization and civilian casualties in war, foreign-imposed regime change.


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On Leave, Fall 2014

Alexander B. Downes (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2004) is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University. Downes has broad interests in international security and the study of political violence both between and within states, including the causes and effectiveness of civilian victimization in warfare; the consequences of foreign-imposed regime change for achieving states' goals, as well as the effects of foreign-imposed regime change on target states; the determinants of military effectiveness; and potential solutions to civil wars. Downes's book Targeting Civilians in War was published by Cornell University Press in 2008 and won the Joseph Lepgold Prize awarded by Georgetown University for best book in international relations published in that year. The book argues that civilian victimization is a function of desperation to win and to conserve on military casualties in costly and protracted wars of attrition, and the desire to eliminate actual or potential threats to control over territory in wars of territorial annexation. Targeting Civilians in War previously won the Helen Dwight Reid Award for best dissertation in international relations, law, and politics in 2006 from the American Political Science Association.

Downes has held fellowships at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University (2007/08); the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University (2003/04); and the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University (2002/03). His work has also been funded by the Eisenhower Institute, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research. Before joining the GW faculty, he was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University from 2004-2011.


Ph.D., University of Chicago

Classes Taught

IAFF 6186 Special Topics in Security Policy Studies

  • Civil War, Insurgency, and Terrorism