We are pleased to share that Oriana Skylar Mastro, FSI Center Fellow at APARC, has won the 2020 International Security Section of the American Political Science Association Best Book by an Untenured Faculty Member Award for her book The Costs of Conversation: Obstacles to Peace Talks in Wartime (Cornell University Press, 2019).
Each year, APSA recognizes excellence in the political science profession and its various subfields. Mastro has won the Association’s award for an untenured scholar who has published the highest quality book in Security Studies in the previous calendar year.
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Mastro is an international security expert with a focus on Chinese military and security policy issues, Asia-Pacific security, war termination, and coercive diplomacy. Her research addresses critical questions at the intersection of interstate conflict, great power relations, and the challenge of rising powers. In The Costs of Conversation, she argues that states are primarily concerned with the strategic costs of conversation, and these costs need to be low before combatants are willing to engage in direct talks with their enemy. She examines two factors leaders look to when determining the strategic costs of demonstrating a willingness to talk: the likelihood the enemy will interpret openness to diplomacy as a sign of weakness, and how the enemy may change its strategy in response to such an interpretation. A state will be open to talking with the enemy only if it thinks it has demonstrated adequate strength and resiliency to avoid the inference of weakness and if it believes that its enemy has limited capacity to escalate or intensify the war.
Mastro uses four primary case studies — North Vietnamese diplomatic decisions during the Vietnam War, those of China in the Korean War and Sino-Indian War, and Indian diplomatic decision making in the latter conflict — to demonstrate that the costly conversations thesis best explains the timing and nature of countries' approach to wartime talks, and therefore when peace talks begin. Her findings have significant theoretical and practical implications for war duration and termination, as well as for military strategy, diplomacy, and mediation.