Nation-Building in Iraq

Global Societies Journal (2016)

In spring 2016, I published "'We Must Help Them Build Free Institutions': Neoliberal Modernization and American Nation-Building in Iraq" in the Global Societies Journal. In my work on this article, I drew on my studies in international political economy and the public rhetoric of George W. Bush to examine the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

I argue that the nation-building efforts in Iraq represented an unexpected synthesis between modernization theory and neoliberal ideologies. As more attention was given to governance and the rule of law for development in the 1990s, neoliberal hawks in the Bush administration embraced the goals of liberating the Iraqi people from economic constraints. Viewing that the Iraqi people were "held captive" by Saddam Hussein's regime, Bush argued that "we must help them build free institutions."

Sex Trade in Southeast Asia

Columbia East Asia Review (2016)

From 2014 to 2016, I researched the historical context of the Southeast Asian sex trade and its connection with U.S. foreign relations since the Vietnam War. My article was published in the Columbia East Asia Review, titled "Sexual Legacy: American Influence and the Southeast Asian Sex Trade since the Vietnam War."

The article argues that the United States was instrumental in building the infrastructure for a sex industry in Southeast Asia during and after the military intervention from the 1960s to the '70s. Ultimately, I argue that although the U.S. has led various efforts to thwart sex trafficking since the Bush administration, an understanding of its historical role in various sex trade 'hot spots' like Southeast Asia should lead to accountability-minded policies. Sources for the article included scholarship on U.S. foreign relations and trafficking, journalism, government documents, and an interview with a former Department of State officer.

The article was written with funding from the Center on Civility and Democratic Engagement of the Goldman School of Public Policy and the UC Washington Center. In April 2016, I presented the article at the Multicultural Community Center's Research Symposium.

National Security and Computer Science

Institute of Governmental Studies (forthcoming 2017)

From 2014 to 2016, I researched the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) of the 1980s. My senior thesis was titled "Programming Strategy: National Security, Computer Science, and the Strategic Defense Initiative, 1983-89." I explored the debates that took place within and between the traditional strategy establishment—those in foreign and defense policy as practitioners and scholars—and the newly institutionalized field of computer science, whose researchers and professionals found themselves in these conversations, much like the physics community did in the early part of the Cold War.

The paper is currently under review for publication as a working paper of the Institute of Governmental Studies. This project was funded by fellowships and grants from the Center on Civility and Democratic Engagement of the Goldman School of Public Policy, the UC Washington Center, and the Center for the Study of Representation at the Institute of Governmental Studies. In May 2016, I presented my findings to the Department of History at Berkeley.

Enforced Disappearances in Mexico

In 2015, as a Washington fellow of the Goldman School of Public Policy's Center on Civility and Democratic Engagement, I served in the Americas program at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in Washington, DC. During this time, I conducted extensive research on various situations in Latin America as they were unfolding, especially the Ayotzinapa case in Mexico, and Guatemala's genocide trial of Efraín Ríos Montt and the continuation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

My final report for my time in DC was a comparative report on accountability for enforced disappearance in Mexico. Source material for the report included scholarship on human rights, local and international coverage of the covered events, relevant international and regional law, attendance at the 154th session of hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, conversations with Mexican policymakers and family members of the disappeared Ayotzinapa students.

Essentially, I found that in the context of neighboring accountability to international commitments, Mexico could look to the U.S. disregard to humanitarian law on torture or Guatemala's adherence to genocide accountability and transitional processes. My most significant recommendation was for a CICIG-like structure in Mexico to address not only enforced disappearances, but statewide corruption.

Upon my return from DC, I presented my findings at Berkeley Law's Legal Studies Undergraduate Research Conference. In addition to the Washington fellowship, the report was funded by the UC Washington Center.


Five months after I completed my report, Jorge Ramos, regarded by Politico as "the most popular [Latino] news anchor in America," asserted:

If Mexico wants to follow Guatemala's great example—and it should—it is necessary to put aside absurd nationalism and the legal excuses in order to allow independent, international experts to investigate corruption and impunity. That is the only way to recover the confidence of the Mexican people. (Read in Spanish here.)

Then, in June 2016 Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), in partnership with five other organizations, published Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico, a comprehensive report that relies on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court for its analysis. In its recommendations, OSJI argued:

Central to these [bold steps for an end to Mexico's ongoing crisis of atrocity and impunity] must be the creation of an internationalized investigative body, based inside Mexico, which is empowered to independently investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes as well as cases of grand corruption.* (p. 18)
*Mexico could draw on important lessons from relevant existing or former entities, such as the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) (p. 160n30)

I plan to continue research on this issue in the near future.

Human Rights and Black America

Since 2013, I have worked with Waldo E. Martin, Jr., Morrison Professor of American History & Citizenship at Berkeley, to research the international human rights history of the black freedom struggle in the United States. We are currently writing an article that will also be reprinted as a chapter for his forthcoming "A Change is Gonna Come": The Cultural Politics of the Black Freedom Struggle and the Making of Modern America (University of North Carolina Press). The article analyzes the ebb and flow of international human rights rhetoric by leaders of the black freedom struggle from the post-World War II era to the 1970s, with a discussion on the relevance to the contemporary black freedom struggle (i.e., Black Lives Matter).

We argue that the postwar "civil rights" movement was initially a human rights movement that ended with black power leaders reexamining the human rights imperatives to the freedom struggle. Leaders explored include W.E.B. Du Bois and Walter White, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Black Panther Party, among others.

International history, international security, national security decision-making, U.S. foreign and defense policy, grand strategy, political economy, economic history, monetary policy, development, human rights, modernization theory, public international law, international criminal justice, transitional justice, atrocity crimes (i.e., crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes), open source intelligence-based (OSINT) atrocity-verification as admissible evidence

Research interests

The general topics you can find me reading and writing on.