Book Talk: ‘Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Goes Wrong’

In his new book, Catastrophic Success: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Goes Wrong, Alexander Downes compiles all instances of regime change around the world over the past two centuries to show that regime change increases the likelihood of civil war and violent leader removal in target states, while failing to reduce the probability of conflict between intervening states and their targets. As Downes demonstrates, when a state confronts an obstinate or dangerous adversary, the lure of toppling its government and establishing a friendly administration is strong. The historical record, however, indicates that foreign-imposed regime change is not, in the long term, cheap, easy, or consistently successful. Join Professor Downes in a discussion of his book with Quincy Institute Research Fellow Annelle Sheline and Executive Vice President Trita Parsi, focusing on why U.S. policymakers persist in the belief that overt or covert regime change supports U.S. interests, when so frequently the opposite has proven true. The discussion will take place on Thursday, January 13, 2 – 3pm ET. REGISTER FOR EVENT


Alexander Downes

Alexander B. Downes, PhD, is an Associate Professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is also co-director of the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies. Downes has written on a variety of subjects in international security, including civilian victimization, foreign-imposed regime change, military effectiveness, democracy, coercion, alliances, and solutions to civil wars. Downes's first 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. His work can be found in journals like the British Journal of Political Science, Civil Wars, International Organization, International Security, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Strategic Studies, and Security Studies.

Annelle Sheline

Annelle Sheline, PhD, is the Research Fellow in the Middle East program at the Quincy Institute and an expert on religious and political authority in the Middle East and North Africa. Sheline is completing a book manuscript on the strategic use of religious authority in the Arab monarchies since 9/11, focusing on the cases of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman. Her non-academic writing has appeared in The Nation, Politico, and Foreign Policy. She earned her PhD in political science from George Washington University and is a non-resident fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi, PhD, is an award-winning author and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He has authored three books on US foreign policy in the Middle East, with a particular focus on Iran and Israel. He is the co-founder and former President of the National Iranian American Council. He received his PhD in foreign policy at Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies, a Master's Degree in International Relations from Uppsala University, and a Master's Degree in Economics from the Stockholm School of Economics.