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Steven R. David
Education B.A. from Union College (1972); M.A.s from Stanford University (1975) and Harvard University (1977); Ph.D. from Harvard University (1980)
Employer Johns Hopkins University
Known for Expert in international relations, security studies, and the developing world
Notable works Catastrophic consequences: civil wars and American interests (2008)
Title Professor of International Relations & Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education

Steven R. David is Professor of International Relations and Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education at Johns Hopkins University.[1] He specializes in international politics and security issues.[1][2]


Education and positions

David earned his B.A. in political science from Union College in 1972. In 1975, he completed his M.A. in East Asian studies from Stanford University, and in 1977 received a M.A. from Harvard University in political science. In 1980, David earned his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.[3][4] He was a post-doctoral fellow in Harvard's National Security Program for the following year.[3]

In 1981, David came to Johns Hopkins University as an Assistant Professor of political science. In 1987 he became as Associate Professor, and became a full professor in 1991.[3] From 1983–2007, David was director of the International Studies Program at JHU; he held the Chair of JHU's Political Science Department. From 1998–2003, Steven David was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and from 2003–04 he served as Special Assistant to the Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.[3]

In 2005, David became the Vice Dean for Centers and Programs at JHU, providing oversight for ten centers and programs,[4] and in 2007 he became the director of Jewish Studies at JHU. David served in that role until 2010,[3] when he was named Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education at JHU.[2]

Areas of Expertise

David's areas of expertise include: International Relations with emphasis on theories of alignment, defining American interests, and third world politics[3]; International Security with emphasis on third world security issues and low intensity conflict [3]; Comparative Government with emphasis on the Middle East and the People’s Republic of China [3]; and American Government with emphasis on foreign policy[3]

Teaching Philosophy

Steven David is regarded as an effective, enthusiastic Professor. In 1989, David became the first member of the Johns Hopkins faculty to receive the George E. Owen teaching award twice. He won the award for a third time in 1998. In an interview with a University newspaper following his receipt of the award, David said, "I like the students...Someone once asked me, 'Do you want to spend your life with 18- to 22-year-olds?' and I kinda do. They're enthusiastic, they're fun and they're open-minded. I like that."[5]




Catastrophic Consequences: Civil Wars and American Interests

"In the post-Cold War world, war between states has been extraordinarily rare, but civil war and armed conflict within states has been widespread. Indeed, in the last two decades, fully one-third of all countries have endured some form of civil conflict. In this sobering study, David argues that domestic upheaval and state collapse are replacing rising states and great-power rivalry as the chief threats to U.S. interests and global security. In one sense, this book offers an eloquent statement of a widely shared view—namely, that in the age of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, it is the weakness of states, rather than their strength, that is most threatening. What is distinctive about David's book is its focus on four critical states—China, Mexico, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia—in which civil war or political upheaval could "unleash catastrophic harms that transform global politics and endanger vital American interests." In each case, David sketches a portrait of regime breakdown and ensuing chaos. Blazing oil fields, loose nuclear weapons, refugee floods, and great-power collapse are catastrophes that could upend global stability and bring peddlers of violence to the United States' doorstep. Provocatively, David argues that spreading democracy or intervening to build better states are not good options. Rather, civil war must be seen as a problem akin to natural disasters: you assume disasters will occur and prepare for the worst. "[6]

-Professor G. John Ikenberry, Princeton University

Foreign Affairs, May/June 2009

Choosing Sides: Alignment and Realignment in the Third World

"A book that seeks to explain why third world leaders change alignment between the USA and the USSR may well seem redundant in the post-Cold War world. In fact, this welcome and stimulating study remains highly relevant to the analysis of third world foreign policies. David's central argument is that alliance decisions must be considered in relation, not merely to a classical 'balance of power' theory concerned only with national security, but rather to the overall balance of political forces with which the leader has to contend, including domestic threats which are often more important than external ones. Given this perspective, which he awkwardly entitles 'omnibalancing', David concludes that changes in alliance can generally be explained as a rational response to the ruler's personal security needs. Though much of the argument is slanted to appeal to US policymakers operating in a bipolar framework, this theme remains as relevant as ever, and could equally be applied to third world states' reactions to IMF structural adjustment policies or demands for democratization. The case studies, taken from northeast Africa in the 1970s, are also convincingly handled."

-Professor Christopher Clapham, Professor of Politics and International Relations, Lancaster University

Political Studies, June 1994

  • David, Steven (1991). Choosing Sides: Alignment and Realignment in the Third World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801841224. 

Third World Coups d'État and International Security

"Coups provide a cheap and inviting means to promote external interests in Third World states, where foreign policy-making is generally the preserve of a small governing elite which is sometimes easy to topple. So cheap they are, indeed, that this means is available not only to the major powers but even to a tiny state like Libya, which would be quite unable to exercise similar influence through conventional military methods. Since all this is obvious enough, and external involvement in coups is frequently alleged, it is surprising that no one has apparently thought to look in any systematic way at the international factor in Third World coups. This is a gap which Steven David has now filled.

One of the problems, of course, is data. David wisely confines himself to cases where there is reasonably firm public evidence of external involvement. On this basis, out of a total of 183 successful and 174 attempted coups between 1945 and 1985 he identifies a significant foreign role in backing twenty-four and suppressing fourteen – a total of just over 10 per cent. This is a minimum figure, but the overwhelming majority of coups are evidently internal affairs – though even so they may have significant foreign policy implications. The ‘external’ coups nonetheless include some important cases, such as the Anglo-American-orchestrated overthrow of Mossadeq in Iran in 1953 or the US involvement in the Brazilian coup of 1964. One finding that may well be due to the availability of data is that nine coups have been backed by the United States, Britain, and France and only two by the Soviet Union, the remaining thirteen cases involving mercenaries, or other Third World states. Surprisingly, the most recent coup for which David can find good evidence of US involvement is Cambodia in 1970, and he shows convincingly (by a comparison of Iran in 1953 and 1979, and of Guatemala in 1954 with Sandinista Nicaragua) that US capacity to promote coups has significantly declined. Nor has the United States been notably successful in protecting its allies against coups, though it has been better at deterring right-wing than left-wing ones. The Soviet Union has only been able to foment coups in states where it already has a strong presence, but has been extremely effecting in protecting its allies, at any rate against anti-Soviet coups. No Third World state with a Soviet-style vanguard party has yet been overthrown by a right-wing coup, though states with regimes which already lean towards the Soviet Union of Marxism-Leninism may be subject to coup attempts intended to put a move reliably pro-Soviet regime in power.

Workmanlike rather than outstanding, this study also exemplifies the most exclusive concern of American academics with subjects of interest to US policy-makers. Three of the six chapters are explicitly about the American role, one is about the Soviet Union, and even the other two are couched on the whole in East-West terms. The role of the Third World states in destabilizing their neighbours is largely neglected. But within these limits the book is fair and well presented, and a useful contribution to the literature."

-Professor Christopher Clapham, Professor of Politics and International Relations, Lancaster University

International Affairs, 1987

  • David, Steven (1987). Third World Coups d’Etat and International Security. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801833078. 

Articles and monographs


External links


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