Caught Between Giants: Hostage Negotiation Strategy for Middle Powers (with Gaëlle Rivard Piché)
Semi-finalist for the 2021 Janne Nolan Prize for the Best Article on National Security/ International Affairs.
What is hostage diplomacy, and how can U.S. allies respond to China’s use of this coercive tool of foreign policy? We conceptualize “hostage diplomacy” — the taking of hostages under the guise of law for use as foreign policy leverage — to explain an underexamined form of international coercion. Exploring an international crisis over three prisoners — China’s Meng Wanzhou and Canada’s Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — we illustrate the turn toward hostage diplomacy by China and other authoritarian states. Drawing on the principles of negotiation, we analyze the creative negotiation strategies that middle powers might adopt to bring their captive citizens home. In doing so, we show how the fate of these three individuals had implications for policy concerns ranging from Iran’s nuclear program, to the adoption of 5G technology, to the future of the liberal international order.
Published in Texas National Security Review, Vol 5, Issue 1 (Winter 2021/2022). Paper available here | PDF available here | Coverage in The New York Times here.
"Prisoner Dilemmas: Conceptualizing Hostage-Taking Violence" (in progress)
Hostage taking is a global, costly, and underexplored problem for international and domestic politics. Across decades, regions, tactical innovations, and perpetrators from criminal gangs to autocratic states, hostage taking remains a devastating asymmetric tool, in which weaker actors use sustained human captivity to coerce leverage from their stronger opponents. Despite its colloquial use as the epitome of coercion, hostage taking itself is seldom explicitly studied. In this paper, I address that lacuna, arguing that research on hostage-taking violence offers insights on credibility, assurances, deterrence, and the conditions under which coercion succeeds and fails. To do so, I first define hostage taking as coercive detention and situate hostage taking in relation to other forms of coercion, abduction, and captivity. Then, I introduce a conceptual typology of hostage taking, illustrating how varying aspects of coercion and detention—where and why captives are held—condition the dynamics of violence and possibility of release. Finally, I conclude by proposing promising new avenues for a research agenda on captivity in conflict, examining the causes, consequences, and responses to hostage taking, crucial for scholarly exploration and policymakers’ response.