Erik Lin-Greenberg Receives the 2020 Merze Tate Award

The Merze Tate Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best doctoral dissertation in the field of international relations, law, and politics.

Erik Lin-Greenberg is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at MIT.  He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and his M.S. and B.S. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Erik’s research examines how emerging military technology affects conflict dynamics and the use of force.  His current book project studies how remote warfighting technologies – like drones and cyber warfare – shape crisis escalation.  In other ongoing projects, he explores how technology influences alliance relationships and public attitudes toward the use of force. He is also interested in the role of food in international politics.

Erik’s work has appeared in academic and policy outlets including Security Studies, Journal of Peace ResearchInternational Peacekeeping, the Washington Post, and Foreign Policy.  His research has been supported by the Eisenhower Institute, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.  Previously, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House and a Carnegie Pre-doctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.  Erik also serves as an officer in the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the Joint Staff.

Citation from the Award Committee:

Erik Lin-Greenberg’s dissertation, “Remote Controlled Restraint: The Effect of Remote Warfighting Technology on Crisis Escalation” is an impressive look at the age-old question of how changes in technology affect the risks and conduct of war.  Lin-Greenberg’s focus is on the innovation of drones, and whether that technology makes it more or less likely for tensions to escalate into war.  Theory points in many different directions.  Many scholars and policy makers have thought that technologies that make war easier will also lubricate the process of crisis escalation.  Lin-Greenberg takes a fresh look at this issue – building new theory and testing those theoretical ideas with diverse methods.  On the substance, the dissertation stands out for novelty.  Lin-Greenberg argues that easier war-making does indeed escalate the use of force.  But, the lack of humans on the platforms means that when shots are fired the need for reprisals is greater.  Warfighting goes up and down, but it is also easier for militaries to keep things in check.  Notably, this dissertation offers a model that can be replicated by scholars looking at other technologies and with other empirical tools.  That is a gold standard for political science scholarship – new directions in theory, clever combinations of methods well aligned to testing theory, and transparent writing so that others can learn and build upon.

This dissertation was selected for the award on its own merits of relevance, importance, and quality.  The Award Committee also notes that the topic reflects Merze Tate’s interest in the role of weapons and peace – topics she wrote about in the late 1940s as the world grappled with the need to cap the volcano of armaments and the impacts of new weapons on the risks of war.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: David G. Victor (chair), University of California at San Diego and The Brookings Institution; Jennifer Hunt, Australian National University; and Kathy Powers, University of New Mexico.