Catastrophic Success: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Goes Wrong

Headshots of Alexander Downes, Alyssa Ayres and David Edelstein, and the cover of the book "Catastrophic Success"

Join us for a virtual talk on the pitfalls of foreign-imposed regime change based on all such instances in the past 200 years.

About this event

In Catastrophic Success, Alexander B. Downes argues that although foreign-imposed regime change may be easy for powerful interveners to carry out, the aftermath from their perspective is often disappointing—and is sometimes downright disastrous for the target. Drawing on a data set of all regime changes over the past two centuries, Downes finds that intervening states generally fail to improve relations with their targets through regime change and the leaders they install are likely to be violently overthrown. Regime change also tends to trigger destructive civil wars in targeted states. Interveners must recognize that, absent a rare set of promising preconditions, regime change often instigates instability and conflict rather than stability and peace.

The Elliott School Book Launch Series is proud to present a virtual discussion of the book featuring the author. The talk will begin with an introduction by Dean Alyssa Ayres of the Elliott School and end with a Q&A with the audience moderated by Vice Dean of Faculty David Edelstein of Georgetown College. The event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Security and Conflict studies.

About the Author

Alexander B. Downes is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and co-Director of the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at The George Washington University. His previous book, Targeting Civilians in War, won the Joseph Lepgold Prize from Georgetown University. He specializes in international security with research interests in civilian victimization, foreign-imposed regime change, military effectiveness, democracy and international conflict, and coercion. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago.

About the Moderator

David Edelstein is Vice Dean of Faculty in Georgetown College and a professor in the Department of Government, the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, and the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University. He is a scholar of great power politics, military intervention, and the causes of war and peace. His most recent book, Over the Horizon: Time, Uncertainty, and the Rise of Great Powers examines how states have responded to the rise of new great powers. He is currently researching the implications of the rise of China for the prospects of peace and security, the ways in which states exit unsuccessful military interventions, and alliance dynamics in contemporary international politics.

About the Dean

Alyssa Ayres is the Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Her work focuses primarily on India’s role in the world and on U.S. relations with South Asia in the larger Indo-Pacific. Before joining the Elliott School, she was a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia under the Obama administration. Her most recent book, Our Time Has Come: How India Is Making Its Place in the World covers key debates on the country in the 21st-century. She holds a Ph.D. in South Asian Languages and Literatures from the University of Chicago.