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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Randall Schweller

Since 1945, American foreign policy has been captured by liberal hegemony — a doctrine of deep engagement with the rest of the world that sees multilateral regimes, democratic institutions, economic interdependence, and the export of American values and norms as the most effective and appropriate means to advance U.S. interests and to get others to do and want what Americans want. In contrast, much of the American body politic has, for decades now, embraced a more Realist understanding of world politics, especially regarding the use of force and foreign economic policies. They want a grand strategy of global restraint, retrenchment, and a return to realist principles rooted in narrow self-interest, not one that embraces democracy promotion, humanitarian intervention, R2P, and nation building.

President Trump’s victory may signal a long overdue sea change in American foreign policy and national security priorities. Now more than ever we need a Program for the Study of Realist Foreign Policy to explore three dimensions of the politics, policy making, and statecraft of U.S. national security issues:

1. Goals: What are the goals of various competing grand strategies? How does each propose to advance: (i) the security and physical survival of the state; (ii) the sovereign independence of the state (including the freedom of its inhabitants to choose their own way of life and type of government); and (iii) the economic security of the state and the prosperity of its populace?

2. Assessment: How do we score competing foreign policies and, more broadly, grand strategies? Realism itself offers three competing grand strategies: off-shore balancing, selective engagement, and primacy. How do they differ? How can we best assess their costs and benefits?

3. Implementation: Good policies are important, but they are not sufficient. They must be put into practice. Yet, even the best policies can encounter implementation challenges. Consider, for instance, the grand strategy of “Off-shore Balancing.” Can the United States retreat from deep engagement without triggering intense regional security dilemmas and arms races in East Asia? In other words, can Washington avoid a hard landing as it weans the world off American military power? Moreover, once U.S. military forces go “over the horizon,” how difficult — if possible at all — would it be to bring them back on-shore should a threatening situation arise that cannot be handled solely by America’s regional allies?

More information about the Program for the Study of Realist Foreign Policy, directed by Randall Schweller, can be found at http://u.osu.edu/psrfp





Olga Kamenchuk

The Eurasian Security and Governance Program (ESGP) at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies recognizes the growing salience of the greater Eurasian region, including the rising roles of China and Russia, in shaping international security. At the same time, the availability of empirical social science and humanities research that informs our understanding of governance and security policy in this dynamic region has been insufficient in recent years.

The program’s mission is to build and convey policy-informing knowledge and expertise on security and governance in the greater Eurasian region -- both at the Ohio State University and partner organizations -- through a combination of basic research, professional education, networking, and exchange. The program especially aims to support scholarship on Eurasian security and governance among graduate students and early career scholars.

Erik Nisbet

Topics of special interest to the program include state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, cybersecurity, democratization, mass mobilization, online activism, corruption, great power (e.g. Russia, China, United States) competition in Central Asia and any other topics greatly impacting the international security and quality of governance in the region.

The program is led by founding co-directors and Mershon faculty affiliates Olga Kamenchuk, associate professor (clinical) in the School of Communication and Department of Slavic and Eastern European Languages and Cultures (by courtesy), and Erik Nisbet, associate professor in the School of Communication and Department of Political Science (by courtesy).

Mershon officially launched the Eurasian Security and Governance Program on October 11, 2018, at a public workshop in Moscow entitled “Diplomatic Dialogue: Public opinion and public diplomacy in international relations.” Organized by ESGP, in collaboration with the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund and the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), the workshop featured mixed panels of top international and Russian experts discussing and cutting-edge research on the intersections of public diplomacy, public opinion, and foreign policy in each country and their relevance to U.S.-Russian foreign relations.

For any inquires or interest in the program, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Climate change is widely recognized as a national security threat because it could cause widespread displacement of people fleeing areas ransacked by extreme weather events.

Bangladesh is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries, with more than 150 million people, many living in poverty in low-lying regions subject to floods, droughts, and storms. Up to 15 million people could become climate refugees by 2050, the United Nations estimates.

To address this issue, an interdisciplinary team of researchers funded in part by the Mershon Center are piloting a flood and drought early warning system in three regions of the country. The purpose is to help people adapt and plan for extreme weather events so they can stay in place rather than flee the country. Researchers include:

  • Craig Jenkins, former director and professor emeritus of sociology
  • C.K. Shum, Distinguished University Scholar, School of Earth Sciences
  • Joyce Chen, associate professor of agricultural, environmental, and development economics

Working with leaders of the Flood Early Warning project at the Department of Hydrology, Bangladesh Water Development Board, researchers are using multi-platform, multi-sensor, and near-real time satellite data to monitor floods, droughts, and severe river bank erosion.

The project includes a partnership with Planet Labs, a private company with satellites that can provide high-resolution images of the entire globe 24 hours day. Data from climate and weather satellites operated by NASA, European Space Agency, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will also be used to create early warnings of floods, drought, and severe river erosion.

The pilot project will cover three regions of Bangladesh:

  • the coastal area, which contains 45 million people, one-third of whom are below the poverty line, vulnerable to monsoons, storm surges, flooding, salt-water intrusion, severe river erosion, land subsidence, and sea-level rise
  • the northwest, prone to flash floods driven by heavy monsoonal rains and ice melt from the Himalayas, as well as drought during the dry season
  • the central region, prone to severe river erosion during heavy monsoonal floods, which can elevate river levels 15 to 20 feet.

These challenges greatly affect agricultural production, with 15 percent of crops nationwide lost to flooding, the same amount lost to drought, more than 30,000 people displaced from their homes, and more than a third of the country’s land area flooded during monsoons each year. Severe river erosion can erode 500 to 1000 meters of land in just a few weeks.

Making matters worse, Bangladesh is vulnerable to severe storm surges with at least one or two cyclones per year and a high-category storm at least once a decade. Such storms can take a long time to recover from: At least 1.2 million people are still internally displaced by Cyclone Aila, a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 km/hr that occurred in May 2009.

During the pilot project, researchers will work with 15 to 20 water management organizations and local governments to test the utility of warning signals. To be effective, the system must provide accurate information distributed widely in time for people to respond.

The time frame can differ depending on the risk. For example, households in low-lying areas need about a week to prepare for a major flood. Typically they can move farm animals and household goods to higher ground while sending children and the elderly to stay with relatives.

Severe river erosion, by contrast, requires warning of several weeks so people can reinforce points of vulnerability or plan for evacuation, while drought requires notification months in advance so people know where to plant crops and what areas may require irrigation.

The early warning system will use the internet and cell phones to distribute information. Eighty percent of households in Bangladesh have access to cell phones, and all government agencies have access to the internet.

If the pilot succeeds, researchers will pursue further funding from USAID, the Global Resilience Challenge, from which Jenkins previously received a $200,000 grant, and NASA.

Democratization has been a consistent theme of activities at the Mershon Center, through both events or research. The showcase project in this initiative, long supported by the center, is the Comparative National Elections Project, one of the largest and longest-running projects of its kind in the world.

The Comparative National Elections Project (CNEP) is a partnership among scholars who have conducted election surveys across the democratic world. Founded in the late 1980s, it now includes 52 surveys from 1990 to 2017 in 27 different countries on 5 continents, with multiple election surveys in 15 countries. Additional CNEP-based surveys are currently under way.

In addition to including standard demographic and voting behavior variables, the CNEP surveys include items dealing with the following research topics: personal discussion networks, use of the mass media (television, newspapers, radio, and various electronic sites), political information from associations, contacts by political parties, socio-political values, attitudes towards democracy, civic participation, the integrity of the electoral process, and voting behavior in the most recent election.

As the project has evolved over time, new question modules have been added to capture important aspects of elections and democratic support in the new member countries, as well as new developments -- such as the emergence of populism and the electoral impact of "fake news" -- in older democracies as well.

At present, CNEP includes surveys in the following places (and elections):

  • Argentina (2007)
  • Bulgaria (1996)
  • Chile (1993, 2000, 2017)
  • China, local elections (2008)
  • Colombia (2014)
  • Dominican Republic (2010)
  • France (2017)
  • Germany (1990, 2017)
  • Great Britain (1992, 2017)
  • Greece (1996, 2004, 2015)
  • Hong Kong (1998, 2015)
  • Hungary (1998, 2006)
  • Indonesia (1999, 2004, 2009, 2014)
  • Iran (2016)
  • Italy (1996, 2006, 2013)
  • Japan (1993)
  • Kenya (2013)
  • Mexico (2006, 2012)
  • Mozambique (2004)
  • Portugal (2005, 2015)
  • Russia (2016)
  • South Africa (2004, 2009, 2014)
  • Spain (1993, 2004, 2011, 2015)
  • Taiwan (2004, 2016)
  • Turkey (2014)
  • United States (1992, 2004, 2012, 2016)
  • Uruguay (1994, 2004

The Ohio State University is the host for the CNEP website, and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies has generously sponsored some of these surveys and research conferences focused on them. The website contains each of the original country surveys and questionnaires; two data sets that merge the common questions from the individual-country data sets; and various descriptions of the project and its partners.

The website also lists numerous publications that have resulted from the individual country studies and from cross-national analyses of their data. Two edited books have been produced by CNEP partners: Gunther, Montero, and Puhle (eds.), Democracy, Intermediation, and Voting on Four Continents, edited by Richard Gunther, Hans-Jürgen Puhle and José Ramón Montero (Oxford, 2007); and Voting in Old and New Democracies, edited by Richard Gunther, Paul A. Beck, Pedro C. Magalhães and Alejandro Moreno (Routledge, 2016).

Richard Gunther and Paul Beck, both emeritus professors in the Department of Political Science and Mershon Center at Ohio State, are the co-directors of CNEP. Find out more on the project website at https://u.osu.edu/cnep

The Mershon Center for International Security Studies is the research home for the Peace Studies Program at The Ohio State University. This program has three central areas of emphasis: Teaching, Community Outreach, and Research.


Teaching Peace Studies at Ohio State focuses on both the theory and practice of peace work. It aims to prepare students to work for peace and justice in a variety of local, transnational and international contexts. 

Peace Studies Minor - Undergraduate courses in peace studies are delivered through the International Studies Program. Four Peace Studies courses including a popular introductory course and upper level theory and practice courses are currently offered on an annual basis through International Studies. We are in the process of developing additional courses that can be offered annually and identifying existing courses across various departments that may count for credit toward a Peace Studies focus. See the Peace Studies Minor handout

Graduate Certificate in Peace Studies – Following the completion of the Peace Studies undergraduate minor curriculum, we will begin work on an online Graduate Certificate in Peace Studies. Coursework in this certificate program will focus on applied skills in managing Peace Studies activities and organizations.  

Peace Education and Training Repository (PETR) – The Peace Program has received external funding to develop an online peace education archive.The repository will house peace education and training materials from around the world in an easily accessible and flexibly searchable format. The educational materials will be made freely available via the Internet in order to support peace education efforts across both local and global communities. PETR will also facilitate international collaboration among peace educators and trainers. 

Community Outreach

Community outreach will occur primarily through events and activities hosted at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies. While some of our teaching and research activities also involve community outreach components (such as the PETR and the NVC experimental studies), our primary community outreach activities are:

Conferences – An international conference was held in November 2012 commemorated the 20th anniversary of the UN’s An Agenda for Peace. An edited volume on the same topic is being prepared for publication. The Peace Initiative also co-hosted the 10th and 11th International Conferences on Conflict Resolution Education in 2016 and 2017. The Peace Initiative also partnered with the Mershon Center in 2017 to host a conference focused on media representations of war and violence in 2017, which brought together academics, journalists, and peace activists to discuss how editorial decisions on war reporting influence popular attitudes toward conflict. 

Student Engagement – In spring 2013 the newly established Ohio State University Student Peace Studies Society awarded the first Student Peace Prizes to two Ohio State students. The Mershon Center provided financial and logistical support to the event. Building upon the success of the 2013 event, The Peace Studies Society hosted a student peace conference and award event in January 2014. The program for this event included a peace-building workshop conducted by Compassionate Communication of Columbus, and a roundtable discussion on peace building by academics and practitioners. The event attracted Ohio State students, faculty, and members of the Columbus community. 

Business Engagement – The Business for Peace Initiative was started in September 2013. Recognizing that businesses do better in peaceful and stable societies, and that businesses can play an important role in building peace the Initiative is being set up with the long-term goal of establishing an Ohio State Business for Peace Center. In the short to medium-term the initiative will focus on developing a network of likeminded business leaders who will meet regularly with researchers, practitioners and policy makers to share ideas and knowledge. Engagement by the business community is vital to the relevance, sustainability and overall success of this initiative. 

The Business for Peace Initiative held its inaugural events in March and April of 2014. In March we convened the Business for Peace Collaborative: Panel Discussion, hosted by Ann Fisher of WOSU. The panel brought faculty from Ohio State, University of Nebraska, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem together with Ohio State students and community members to discuss the role of business engagement with the peace process. In April we met with a group of interested business leaders from the Columbus area to discuss the development of practical initiatives through with the Mershon Center can foster and promote peace both at the local and international levels. We are continuing to develop our engagement with the business community in fostering peace education and peace building. 


Chair of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution – The Chair of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution enables Ohio State to pursue in-depth studies of nonviolent resolutions to conflict. The current chair holder, Christopher Gelpi, is engaged in a variety of peace research activities. He is currently engaged in research on American public opinion and the use of military force, the role of trade and economic exchange in promoting peace, and on statistical models for forecasting military conflict and transnational terrorist violence.

Experimental Evaluation of Non-Violent Communication – The Chair of Peace Studies, Christopher Gelpi, and graduate associate Kara Hooser are developing a research project that will evaluate the effectiveness of Non-Violent Communication training on the attitudes of ethnic diaspora groups in the Columbus area toward competing diaspora groups. The research will begin with a focus on the impact of NVC training on attitudes toward clan rivalries in the Somali diaspora community.

Peace Research Fellowships – The Chair of Peace Studies grants research fellowships each year to graduate students who are conducting research on peace related topics.  These fellowships are used to support Ohio State graduate students in launching their own peace research agendas.

Program Development

We would like to secure long-term support for our project on the experimental evaluation of peace education curricula.  We believe that this project has the potential to provide critical knowledge about the consequences and effectiveness of peace education both to academics and to practitioners of peace. Moreover, we believe that this project provides an unusual opportunity to extend the work and contributions of the Mershon Center and the Ohio State University outward into our community and the world.