I hope anyone reading this is having a great holiday season. In that spirit, I want to offer belated thanks to Monica Toft, associate professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Several years ago I presented some of the first work on my then-dissertation at a seminar at Harvard. She suggested that I consider applying my theory of the diffusion of military innovations, adoption capacity theory, to a case involving non-state actors, suicide terrorism. I looked into the issue and what came out of it was Chapter 6 of my book and the beginnings of an article eventually published in International Organization on the topic.
In addition to demonstrating that Monica is a tremendously helpful scholar (she also read my work at other points in the process), I think it illustrates four important things about the dissertation writing process. First, getting out there and presenting your work early in the process helps. If I had not done that, I never would have gotten that feedback. Second, be willing to accept new suggestions and critiques from your colleagues. I had previously focused mostly on carrier warfare and battlefleet warfare in my research, but I took Monica’s very excellent advice. Third, part of the process is serendipity. What if Monica had not shown up to the Olin Seminar that day? Or what if she had not thought to make that suggestion? Fourth, and most important, pay these things forward. I often think about Monica’s suggestion when I go to seminars and see talks. Whether my advice and ideas are as useful as Monica’s is a different story, but it seems to me a vital part of the process that more senior scholars actively read and give feedback to younger scholars.
So happy holidays and a very special “thank you” to Monica Toft! Make sure to check out her new book, co-authored with Daniel Philpott and Timothy Shah, God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics