Catherine Harrison

John G. Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics
Associate Professor, Southern Methodist University (SMU)

Professor of International Politics, with a focus on military intervention and security multilateralism

My research and teaching interests center on the politics and ethics of military intervention, multilateral cooperation in security affairs, and U.S. foreign policy and transatlantic relations.

My new book, Strategies for Approval: Building Support for Military Intervention at the United Nations Security Council, is forthcoming with Yale University Press. The book explores how the United States and other Western powers can obtain UN Security Council (UNSC) approval for their military interventions when veto-wielding permanent members such as Russia and China are at first opposed. Drawing on original interviews with senior diplomats and declassified documents in various languages, I show that in the three decades after the end of the Cold War, obtaining UNSC approval in the face of stiff initial opposition required not only leverage from side payments, as scholars have argued, but also determined efforts to reassure deeply reluctant member states about the proposed intervention’s purpose, consequences, and normative appropriateness. This frequently necessitated costly concessions by the intervener, involving the acceptance of stringent constraints embedded in the proposed resolution of approval. Such concessions, I argue, will be all the more critical in the future if the United States and its allies wish to continue to obtain UNSC approval for their armed interventions under circumstances of increased great-power competition.

My first book, Reassuring the Reluctant Warriors: U.S. Civil-Military Relations and Multilateral Intervention, was published in 2015 as part of the Studies in Security Affairs series at Cornell University Press. The book argues that America’s uniformed leaders, who are predominantly reluctant warriors when no vital national interests are threatened, play an underappreciated role in steering U.S. military intervention policy toward engagement with multilateral institutions such as the UN and NATO. The reason, I suggest, is that the uniformed top brass, adept at influencing policy regarding the use of force, views a stamp of approval from multilateral institutions as valuable to lock in support from allies and partners, and thus to share burdens and liabilities especially on post-combat stabilization. 

I have also published many articles in leading scholarly journals, including International Studies Quarterly, International Theory, the Journal of Politics, Journal of Strategic Studies, Review of International Studies, and Security Studies. My journal articles deal with a variety of issues, including whether public opinion influences the preferences of national security decision-makers, how international alliance relations can shape military intervention decisions, how multilateral endorsements from the UN and the African Union facilitate military coalition building, and the limitations of civilian protection efforts by outside powers in ethnic civil wars. Finally, I have co-edited three books, French Interventions in Africa (Routledge, 2021), Just and Unjust Military Intervention (Cambridge, 2013), and A Cosmopolitanism of Nations (Princeton, 2009).

I received a PhD in political science from Columbia University (with distinction) and hold a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. I have been awarded fellowships and grants in support of my research from the Brookings Institution, Dickey Center at Dartmouth College, European Commission, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Fulbright Commission, Rotary Foundation, and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Before joining SMU, I was a tenured faculty member at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. I was born and raised in the Southern Tyrol in the Italian Alps (my sister is a former Olympic skier), speak several languages fluently, and enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities with my wife and two children.

My name is pronounced as /stɛ́fəno /rɛ́kiə/

Recently published

SMU - Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs
SMU - Department of Political Science