The Sugar High of Unipolarity: Why U.S. Military Interventions Increased after the Cold War

Of the approximately 400 military interventions the U.S. has conducted since 1776, half occurred between 1950-2019, and more than 25 percent occurred in the post-Cold War period. This startling statistic is according to a “new, comprehensive dataset of all U.S. military interventions since the country’s founding” that Sidita Kushi and Monica Duffy Toft unveiled in a recent article published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. This dataset contains “over 200 variables that allow scholars to evaluate theoretical propositions on drivers and outcomes of intervention…[and] doubles the universe of cases, integrates a range of military intervention definitions and sources, expands the timeline of analysis, and offers more transparency of sourcing through historically-documented case narratives of every U.S. military intervention included in the dataset.” Why did the frequency of U.S. military interventions increase after it had defeated the Soviet Union and American safety was at its height during the “unipolar moment?” Do we intervene because we have to — or because we can? Can this militaristic American grand strategy continue as the international system shifts to multipolarity? Join our conversation with Monica Duffy Toft, Professor of International Politics at Tufts University, and Sidita Kushi, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bridgewater State University, and John Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. QI Executive Vice President Trita Parsi will moderate.


Monica Duffy Toft

Monica Duffy Toft is a professor of international politics and director of the Center for Strategic Studies at The Fletcher School of Tufts University and currently serves as a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Before joining Fletcher, Professor Monica Duffy Toft taught at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. While at Harvard, she directed the Initiative on Religion in International Affairs and was the assistant director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. In addition she has published numerous scholarly articles and editorials on civil wars, territory and nationalism, demography, and religion in global politics.

Sidita Kushi

Sidita Kushi is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bridgewater State University. She also recently served as the Research Director of the Military Intervention Project (MIP) within the Center for Strategic Studies, The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Her research on violent intrastate conflict, humanitarian military interventions, and the gendered effects of economic crises has been published or forthcoming in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Comparative European Politics, European Security, International Labour Review, Mediterranean Quarterly, the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, openDemocracy, and more.

John Mearsheimer

John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1982. Professor Mearsheimer also currently serves as a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He graduated from West Point in 1970 and then served five years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He then started graduate school in political science at Cornell University in 1975. He received his Ph.D. in 1980. He spent the 1979-1980 academic year as a research fellow at the Brookings Institution, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs from 1980 to 1982. During the 1998-1999 academic year, he was the Whitney H. Shepardson Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Trita Parsi (Moderator)

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 U.S.-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.