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Kelly M. Greenhill

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One Brattle Square 509
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Mailbox 134
Cambridge, MA, 02138

Downloadable CV

Kelly M. Greenhill

Research Fellow, International Security Program

Telephone: 617-384-8065



Kelly M. Greenhill is a research fellow in the Belfer Center's International Security Program and an Associate Professor (with tenure) at Tufts University. Much of Greenhill's research focuses on the use of military force and what are frequently called "new security challenges," including civil wars; the use of forced migration as a weapon; intervention and (counter-) insurgency; and international crime as a challenge to domestic governance. She also holds a Ph.D. and an S.M. from M.I.T., a C.S.S. from Harvard University, and a B.A. (with distinction and highest honors) in Political Economy and in Scandinavian Studies (double major) from the University of California at Berkeley. She has previous held teaching appointments at Wesleyan, Stanford, and Columbia and pre- and/or post-doctoral fellowships at Stanford's Center for Security and Cooperation, Harvard's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Columbia’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and the Belfer Center.

Professor Greenhill is author of Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion and Foreign Policy (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs), which is recipient of the 2011 International Studies Association's Best Book of the Year Award; and co-author and co-editor (with Peter Andreas) of Sex, Drugs and Body Counts: The Politics of Numbers in Global Crime and Conflict (Cornell University Press.) Greenhill's research has also appeared in a variety of other venues, including in the journals International Security, Security Studies, Civil Wars, and International Migration, in media outlets such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, and the British Broadcasting Company, and in briefs prepared for the U.S. Supreme Court and other organs of the U.S. government. She is currently at work on a new book, a cross-national study that explores why, when, and under what conditions, contested sources of political information—such as rumors, conspiracy theories, myths, and propaganda—materially influence the development and conduct of states' foreign and defense policy.

Greenhill's research has been supported in part by the Social Science Research Council, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Eisenhower Foundation, and the Neubauer Foundation. She also currently serves as Chair of the International Security Program's Conflict, Security, and Public Policy Working Group at the Belfer Center. Outside of academia, Greenhill has served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as a defense program analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense, and as an economic policy intern in the Office of Senator John F. Kerry.



By Date



Creative Commons

November 16, 2015

"Europe Must Deal With the Breeding of Terrorism Within Its Borders"

Op-Ed, The New York Times

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

"...[T]ightening migration policies would do nothing to address the fundamental underlying causes of terrorist attacks: namely, the appeal of radicalization to a small, but committed, segment of the marginalized and disaffected already living within the European Union, many of whom are citizens. While tragically misguided, participation in such attacks can give psychologically disenfranchised individuals a sense of power and belonging. However effective and proactive law enforcement and counterterrorism units may be, until the sources of alienation and discontent are vanquished, more homegrown terrorists are likely to emerge."



February 9, 2015

"Nigeria's Countless Casualties"

Op-Ed, Foreign Affairs

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

"...[W]e should consider divorcing the significance of an issue from its reported or purported size. Instead, we could use alternative criteria to judge the merits of how to deal with conflict, such as applying collective values and societal norms. A focus on deterring mass atrocities, for instance, might be a better use of limited resources than either waiting for a death toll to escalate in order to justify intervention, or artificially inflating numbers to justify taking actions actually driven by other, more strategically-oriented rationales."



AP Photo

February 10, 2012

"Dead Reckoning: Challenges in Measuring the Human Costs of Conflict"


By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

Determining what is "old" and "new" about conflicts demands attention to how we know what we know. Despite increasing demands for conflict data, as Kelly Greenhill argues in this post, "accurately assessing the human costs of conflict can be difficult at best."



AP Photo

April 21, 2011

"Using Refugees as Weapons"

Op-Ed, International Herald Tribune

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

"In 2006, and again in 2008, Qaddafi extracted from the E.U. additional financial aid and equipment (such as boats) that could be used for migration enforcement. In late 2010, the E.U. and Libya concluded a further £500 million accord, which succeeded in stopping, or at least demonstrably slowing, the flow of people across the Mediterranean — until the outbreak of unrest in Tunisia."



March 2010

Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy


By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

In Weapons of Mass Migration, Kelly M. Greenhill offers the first systematic examination of this widely deployed but largely unrecognized instrument of state influence. She shows both how often this unorthodox brand of coercion has been attempted (more than fifty times in the last half century) and how successful it has been (well over half the time). She also tackles the questions of who employs this policy tool, to what ends, and how and why it ever works. Coercers aim to affect target states' behavior by exploiting the existence of competing political interests and groups, Greenhill argues, and by manipulating the costs or risks imposed on target state populations.



AP Photo

March 2008

"Strategic Engineered Migration as a Weapon of War"

Journal Article, Civil Wars, issue 1, volume 10

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

In recent years, it has been widely argued that a new and different armament — i.e., the refugee as weapon — has entered the world's arsenals. But just how new and different is this weapon? Can it only be used in wartime? And just how successful has been its exploitation?



December 2007

"Ten Ways to Lose at Counterinsurgency"

Journal Article, Civil Wars, The Origins and Effectiveness of Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Strategies, issue 4, volume 9

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program and Paul Staniland, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program/Intrastate Conflict Program, 2008–2009

Counterinsurgency is one of the most important topics facing policymakers and scholars. Existing studies of counterinsurgency are very valuable, but sometimes adhere too strictly to sweeping dichotomies and paradigms. This article discusses ten specific mechanisms that lead counterinsurgent governments to squander their generally overwhelming power advantages. This mechanism-based approach can improve both policy and scholarly analysis.




May 28, 2007

"'24' on the Brain"

Op-Ed, Los Angeles Times

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

Torture is a staple on the popular show. Are Americans able to separate fact from fiction?



May 14, 2007

Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling: New Perspectives on an Old Problem

Policy Brief

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

To cope with the pernicious problem of human trafficking and smuggling, Washington and its global allies need fundamentally to rethink their assumptions about the nature and size and the scope of the problem, and also how to combat it. Imperative is better information sharing among countries, agencies, and among those battling the trade in illicit goods, not just trade in humans. Only by embracing sucrecommendations can we possibly hope to replicate and build on the successes—and avoid repeating the failures—of past anti-trafficking efforts. Click here to read further about the above recommendations.



Winter 2006/07

"The Perils of Profiling: Civil War Spoilers and the Collapse of Intrastate Peace Accords"

Journal Article, International Security, issue 3, volume 31

By Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program and Solomon Major

When civil wars are settled through negotiations, some of the parties to the settlement often emerge as "spoilers" and prevent implementation of the accords, thereby plunging a country back into civil war.   Potential spoilers will seize upon any opportunity to destroy peace if they find it in their best interest to do so. The key to deterring and defeating spoilers lies in the possession and exercise of the material power to coerce or co-opt them, rather than in the capacity to discern their true character or personality type.  By preserving the conditions present at the signing of the accord, by minimizing incentives for spoilers to emerge, and by monopolizing material power, peacemakers can defeat would-be spoilers and maintain the precarious peace in countries torn by civil war.

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We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.