Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations
Ivan Arreguín-Toft

Ivan Arreguín-Toft

+1 401 863 5329
111 Thayer Street, Room 222


Downloadable CV

Ivan Arreguín-Toft

Security Track Director, Undergraduate International and Public Affairs Concentration
Director, International Relations Concentration
Lecturer in International and Public Affairs

Areas of Interest: International security, international relations theory, asymmetric conflict theory, insurgency/counterinsurgency, military intervention, cyber security strategy and policy, sex (gender) and war. Regional areas of expertise include: the Russian Federation (foreign policy, grand strategy, military), Afghanistan, and Norwegian and British defense and foreign policy.


Ivan Arreguín-Toft (Ph.D., The University of Chicago), is a U.S. Army electronic warfare and signals intelligence veteran, Oxford Martin Fellow, and Associate Director, Dimension 1 (Cyber Defense Policy and Resilience) at the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre at Oxford University. He has taught international relations, security studies and strategy to undergraduates and graduate students with an emphasis on asymmetric conflict (insurgency-counterinsurgency, small wars, sex and war, and cyber security strategy and policy) at The University of Chicago, Wellesley College, Harvard University, Boston University, and the University of Oxford; where along with his work for the UK government on cyber security policy, he oversaw the strategy and policy component of the University of Oxford’s cyber doctoral training program. While at Oxford, he also served as co-principal investigator on a Norwegian Ministry of Defense project on the future of war (with an emphasis on non-linear implications of shifts in military and cyber (robotics, and machine learning) technologies). He most recently completed a year-long research fellowship with the Cyber Security Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School, where he worked to complete research for his forthcoming book on cyber strategy and policy for W.W. Norton. Professor Arreguín-Toft lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife Monica, and his two children (Sam, aged 17; Ingrid, aged 15).


Current research includes (1) the political impact of the harm of noncombatants in war or military occupations; and (2) cyber security strategy and policy (including cyber harm, cyber harm as military intervention, and societal resilience).

In The [F]utility of Barbarism (under review), Professor Arreguín-Toft unpacks the unexpected consequences of the use of violence against noncombatants in war or in military occupations; a strategy he calls “barbarism.” His research shows that although in very limited circumstances, harming noncombatants can reduce the costs of coercion, most often (and more often over time), it is counterproductive: it’s not only wrong, but stupid. His research therefore stands as the first to support an interest-based argument for compliance with international humanitarian law.

Professor Arreguín-Toft’s current research on cyber security focuses on strategy and policy; and shows why current cyber security strategies can’t work. Because cyber “security” is impossible, and real harm from our dependence on cyber—ranging from damage to financial, energy and communications infrastructures; to loss of trust in government, the press, and the financial system; immigration and anti-immigration populism; and cognitive, emotional, and psychological injury—is increasing, Arreguín-Toft argues that just like climate change, we need to shift our focus from prevention of harm, to mitigation of harm. It’s a policy he refers to as “enhanced societal resilience.”


  1. 2016: Essentials of International Relations, 7th Ed., with Karen A. Mingst (New York: W.W. Norton & Co.).
  2. 2014: “The Country as a Hole: Imagined States and the Failure of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan,” in War and State-Building in Modern Afghanistan, Scott Gates and Kaushik Roy, Eds. (New York: Bloomsbury).
  3. 2012: “The Meaning of State Failure”: Public Service, Public Servants, and the Contemporary Afghan State,” International Area Studies Review, Vol. 15, No. 3.
  4. 2012: “Asymmetric Conflict Theory in Historical Perspective,” Terrorism & Political Violence, Vol. 24, No. 4.
  5. 2005: How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict (New York: Cambridge University Press).
  6. 2002: “Tunnel at the End of the Light: A Critique of U.S. Counter-terrorist Grand Strategy,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 15, No. 3.


Past courses:

Cyber Security

Gender & War

Introduction to International Relations/World Politics

International Security

Research Methods for International Relations Practitioners

Cyber Security as a Major Policy Challenge

Introduction to Political Science

Russian Politics and Foreign Policy

Small Wars in Theory and Practice

Forthcoming at Brown:

Fall 2019: Cyber Security: Strategy & Policy

Sex & War

Spring 2020: Introduction to War