Articles and Essays

McFaul in the Quad

The following are selected academic articles and policy essays.

October 1, 2005

Iran's peculiar election: Chinese Dreams, Persian Realities

Journal of Democracy

The mid-2005 election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as Iran's new president left those committed to democratic change in the country feeling shocked and disappointed. At first glance, his victory seemed to signal not only the consolidation of Iran's ruling Islamist autocracy, but also the rejection in principle of democracy and the revival of the ideas and goals of the revolutionary Islamic Republic. (...) Ahmedinejad seemed worse than expected—not merely a Khamenei crony, but a true believer in the antidemocratic and antiliberal dictates of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

July 1, 2005

Transitions from Postcommunism

Journal of Democracy

The years since 2000 have seen a surprising new wave of democratic breakthroughs in the postcommunist countries of Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine. This article compares and contrasts these three cases, naming seven common factors: 1) a semi-autocratic rather than fully autocratic; 2) an unpopular incumbent; 3) a united and organized opposition; 4) an ability quickly to drive home the point that voting results were falsified, 5) enough independent media 6) a political opposition capable of mobilizing, 7) divisions among the regime's coercive forces.

April 1, 2002

The Liberty Doctrine: Reclaiming the Purpose of American Power

Policy Review

The immediate response of President Bush and his administration to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States was superb, both purposeful and principled - a military, political, and diplomatic success. But what comes next? In his State of the Union address, Bush suggested specific targets of future phases of the war - the "axis of evil" of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. But what has been missing in the discussion of the second stage (and perhaps the third, fourth, and fifth stages) of the war on terrorism is an articulation of the general principles.

January 1, 2002

The Fourth Wave of Democracy and Dictatorship: Noncooperative Transitions in the Postcommunist World

World Politics

The transition from communism in Europe and the former Soviet Union has only sometimes led to democracy. Since the crumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, twenty-eight mostly new states have abandoned communism. (...) The remaining majority of the new-post communist states are various shades of dictatorships or unconsolidated transitional regimes. 

March 1, 2000

Yeltsin's Legacy

The Wilson Quarterly

Days after staring down the August 1991 coup attempt, Russian President Boris Yeltsin boasted a 90 percent approval rating at home, adorned the cover of every international weekly in the world (...). When he suddenly resigned as president on December 31, 1999, Yeltsin enjoyed an eight percent approval rating at home (...). With the exception of Bill Clinton and a few others, Yeltsin had almost no friends in high places left. 

March 1, 1999

Institutional Design, Uncertainty, and Path Dependency during Transitions: Cases from Russia

Constitutional Political Economy

During transitional moments, new leaders must design political institutions. Some of these designs succeed in establishing lasting rules of the game. Others do not. This paper analyzes those factors which either facilitate or undermine institutional persistence during transitions, focusing particularly on the role that uncertainty and path dependency play in these processes. The empirical section of the paper examines three cases of institutional design in the Soviet/Russian transition.

March 1, 1999

Lessons from Russia's Protracted Transition from Communist Rule

Political Science Quarterly

Despite the recent explosion of regime transitions throughout the world, social scientists have yet to develop a comprehensive theory of transition. Some transitions from authoritarian rule lead to the create of liberal democracy. Other descend into civil war or end with the recreation of an authoritarian regime. (...) How can we explain this variation?

June 1, 1998

Russia's "Privatized' State as an Impediment to Democratic Consolidation (Part II)

Security Dialogue

Yeltsin's decisions or non-decisions regarding the construction of a new Russian polity and a market economy after the abrupt collapse of the Soviet Union greatly influenced the reorganization of societal interest groups. The transition to a market economy based on private property stimulated the emergence of a whole new set of economic interests. In parallel, the economic hardship and disorientation that followed from reform initiatives combined to demobilize mass-based political groups. 

March 1, 1998

Russia's "Privatized" State as an Impediment to Democratic Consolidation (Part I)

Security Dialogue

Russia appears to have made tremendous progress in becoming a democracy in recent years. In December 1995, Russian citizens voted in parliamentary elections. In two rounds of voting in June and July in 1996, they then elected a president the first time ever that Russian voters directly selected their head of state. Despite calls for delay and postponement, these two elections were held on time and under law. 

December 27, 1997

The Precarious Peace: Domestic Politics in the Making of Russian Foreign Policy

International Security

Throughout the history of the modern world, domestic regime change - be it democratization, autocratization, decolonization, decommunization, federal dissolution, coups, or revolutions - has often triggered international conflict and war. (...) The protracted regime transformation under way in Russia seems like a probably precipitant of international conflict.