Alexander B. Downes

Headshot of Alex Downes

Alexander B. Downes

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs; Director, Institute for Security and Conflict Studies

Full-time Faculty

School: Elliott School of International Affairs

Department: Institute for Security and Conflict Studies


Office Phone: 202-994-7859
Fax: 202-994-7761
1957 E St. NW, Office #605B Washington, D.C. 20052

Alexander B. Downes (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2004) is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University. 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 the best book in international relations published in that year. 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 published on a variety of subjects in international security, including civilian victimization, foreign-imposed regime change, military effectiveness, democracy, coercion, and solutions to civil wars. His work can be found in the British Journal of Political ScienceCivil WarsInternational OrganizationInternational SecurityJournal of Conflict ResolutionSAIS Review, and Security Studies, as well as multiple edited volumes. Downes was recently named the winner of the inaugural Emerging Scholar Award, given by the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association to recognize scholars under the age of 45, or within fifteen years of receiving a Ph.D., who are judged to have made (through the body of their publications) the most significant contribution to the field of security studies.

Downes has held fellowships at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (2007/08) and Olin Institute for Strategic Studies (2002/03), and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (2003/04) at Stanford University. His work has been funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Eisenhower Institute, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and Office of Naval Research. Before joining the GW faculty, Downes was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University from 2004-2011. He holds a B.A. in Music (magna cum laude) from Brown University and an M.A. in International Relations (with honors) from the University of Chicago.

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

Ph.D., University of Chicago

IAFF 6186 Special Topics in Security Policy Studies

  • Civil War, Insurgency, and Terrorism

No Business Like FIRC Business: Foreign-Imposed Regime Change and Bilateral Trade,” British Journal of Political Science (published online, August 3, 2015; with Paul Zachary and Kathleen Deloughery).

Forced to Be Free: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Rarely Leads to Democratization,” International Security 37, no. 4 (Spring 2013): 90-131 (with Jonathan Monten).

The Illusion of Democratic Credibility,” International Organization 66, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 457-489 (with Todd S. Sechser).

Regime Change Doesn’t Work,” Boston Review 36, no. 5 (September/October 2011): 16-22.

How Smart and Tough Are Democracies? Reassessing Theories of Democratic Victory in War,” International Security 33, no. 4 (Spring 2009): 9-51. Reprinted in Do Democracies Win Their Wars? An International Security Reader, ed. Michael E. Brown, Owen R. Coté, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011).

Targeting Civilians in War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2008).