Patricia Lynne Sullivan

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department of Public Policy

Abernethy Hall 117
Campus Box 3435
Chapel Hill, NC
United States
27599-3435 |  Visit Personal Website

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Dr. Sullivan’s research explores the utility of military force as a policy instrument, the determinants of war outcomes, and the factors that affect leaders’ decisions to initiate, escalate, or terminate foreign military operations. She was recently named a 2015 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. Her book, Who Wins? Predicting Strategic Success and Failure in Armed Conflict, was published by Oxford University Press. She has published articles on the determinants of conflict outcomes in the Journal of Conflict Resolution and International Interactions and articles on the duration of major power military interventions in the Journal of Politics and Conflict Management and Peace Science. Her research, which combines rigorous quantitative and qualitative research methodology, has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and the Office of Naval Research. Dr. Sullivan’s dissertation, which explores why militarily strong states frequently fail to achieve their political objectives when they use military force, received both the 2004-2006 Walter Isard Dissertation Award, given every two years by the Peace Science Society International, and the 2005 Dissertation Award from the Committee on the Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy (CAMOS), a group affiliated with the American Political Science Association.

Sullivan, Patricia. 2008. "Sustaining the Fight: A Cross-Sectional Time-Series Analysis of Public Support for Ongoing Military Interventions." Conflict Management and Peace Science 25 no. 2: 30-45.
Abstract: Demonstrates that concern about the costs of withdrawing from a conflict can be a more important determinant of the public’s willingness to persevere than sensitivity to the costs of war-fighting. Pre-war, individuals are more likely to support the use of force when the military intervention would not involve ground troops and when it would be undertaken with the support of allies. Once an actual military intervention has been initiated, the public is significantly more likely to support sustaining the operation if it is unilateral and more than ten thousand ground troops have been deployed.
Sullivan, Patricia L., Brock F. Tessman, and Xiaojun Li. 2011. "Us Military Aid and Recipient State Cooperation." Foreign Policy Analysis 7, no. 3: 275-94.
Abstract: What can states expect to receive in return for the military aid they provide to other states? Can military aid buy recipient state compliance with donor objectives? In this study, we systematically investigate the effects of US military assistance on recipient state behavior toward the United States. We find that, with limited exceptions, increasing levels of US military aid significantly reduce cooperative foreign policy behavior with the United States. US reaction to recipient state behavior is also counterintuitive; instead of using a carrot-and-stick approach to military aid allocations, our results show that recipient state cooperation is likely to lead to subsequent reductions in US military assistance.
URL: http://
Sullivan, Patricia. 2012. Who Wins? Predicting Strategic Success and Failure in Armed Conflict. New York: Oxford University Press.
Abstract: Despite their immense war-fighting capacity, the five most powerful states in the international system have failed to attain their primary political objective in almost 40% of their military operations against weak state and non-state targets since 1945. Why are states with tremendous military might so often unable to attain their objectives when they use force against weaker adversaries? More broadly, under what conditions can states use military force to attain their political objectives and what conditions limit the utility of military force as a policy instrument? Can we predict the outcome of a war before the fighting begins? Sullivan finds that the nature of the belligerents’ war aims determines whether military strength or tolerance for costs will be the most important determinant of a war’s outcome. Militarily strong states almost always succeed when they engage their ground forces in direct attempts to seize territory or overthrow foreign regimes, but the weak become more likely to prevail when their strong adversaries have less tangible political objectives.

Substantive Focus:
Defense and Security SECONDARY
International Relations PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Analysis and Evaluation PRIMARY
Public Opinion SECONDARY