Keren Yarhi-Milo

Keren Yarhi-Milo

Research Interest

Keren Yarhi-Milo is the dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Relations. An expert in international security, crisis decision making, and political psychology, Dean Yarhi-Milo is also an award-winning scholar with an extensive record of leadership and service at SIPA and Columbia, where she holds a professorship of political science and public and international affairs.

As a scholar and teacher, Yarhi-Milo bridges the academic and policy worlds, focusing predominantly on how leaders make foreign-policy decisions regarding the use of force. Her work draws on cutting-edge insights from psychology, organizational theory, and behavioral economics to explore the complicated contexts that surround decision making, signaling, and perception in international relations. Yarhi-Milo’s research also delves into the complexities of intelligence, the role of secrecy and deception in foreign policy, and the use of face-to-face diplomacy. All of her scholarship is grounded in an ongoing dialogue with policymakers, in which ideas and approaches are challenged and refined. She is known for coining selective attention theory and was a student of Robert Jervis, who became a deep personal mentor to her.

In 2022, Yarhi-Milo won the International Studies Association’s Emerging Scholar Award, which recognizes “scholars who have made through their body of publications the most significant contribution to the field of security studies.” Her most recent book, Who Fights for Reputation? The Psychology of Leaders in International Conflict (Princeton, 2018), was recognized by the American Political Science Association as the best book in foreign policy and by the ISA as the biennial outstanding book in foreign policy. Her previous book, Knowing The Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence Organizations, and Assessments of Intentions in International Relations (Princeton, 2014), received the Mershon Center for International Security’s Furnnis Award, given annually to an author whose first book makes an exceptional contribution to the study of national and international security, and was also cowinner of the ISA’s biennial book award in diplomatic studies.

Yarhi-Milo is a series editor of Princeton Studies in International History and Politics from Princeton University Press. She has also published extensively in academic journals, receiving honors from the American Political Science Association, the International Studies Association, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution. In 2010, her doctoral dissertation earned APSA’s Kenneth Waltz Award as best in the field of international security and arms control.

Yarhi-Milo joined the Columbia faculty in 2019 after a decade at Princeton University. Before becoming dean in July 2022, Yarhi-Milo served for two years as director of SIPA’s Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and as Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of War and Peace Studies. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A., summa cum laude, from Columbia University in 2003. She previously worked with several NGOs promoting peace in the Middle East, including the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

Yarhi-Milo grew up in Israel, where she served as an intelligence officer while completing mandatory military service. She lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, New York with her husband and two sons.

Who Fights for Reputation? The Psychology of Leaders in International Conflict. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018. Print.

Yarhi-Milo, Keren. Knowing The Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence Organizations, and Assessments of Intentions in International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014. Print.

Public Opinion and Decisions about Military Force in Democracies, (with Mike Tomz and Jesssica Weeks).” International Organization (Forthcoming). Print.

How Do Observers Assess Resolve? (with Josh Kertzer and Jonathan Renshon).” British Journal of Political Science (Forthcoming). Print. how_do_observers.pdf

Tying Hands, Sinking Costs, and Leader Attributes (with Josh Kertzer and Jonathan Renshon).” Journal of Conflict Resolution 62.10 (2018): , 62, 10, 2150-2179. Print. Abstract jcr_piece.pdf

The Logic of "Offstage" Signaling: Domestic Politics, Regime Type, and Major Power-Protégé Relations (with Roseanne McManus).” International Organization (2017): 1-33. Print. the_logic_of_offstage.pdf

Covert Communication: The Intelligibility and Credibility of Signaling in Secret (with Austin Carson).” Security Studies 26.1 (2017): 26:1, 124-156. Print. Abstract covert_communication_ss_2017.pdf

To Arm or to Ally? The Patron's Dilemma and the Strategic Logic of Arms Transfers and Alliances (with Alex Lanoszka and Zack Cooper).” International Security 41.2 (2016): 41:2, 90-139. Print. to_arm_or_to_ally.pdf

The Psychological Logic of Peace Summits: How Empathy Shapes Outcomes of Diplomatic Negotiations (with Marcus Holmes)." International Studies Quarterly (2016): 1-16. Print. the_psychological_logic_of_peace_summits.pdf

Revisiting Reputation: How do past actions matter in International Politics (with Alex Weisiger).” International Organization 69.2 (2015): 69:2, 473-495. Print. revisiting_reputation.pdf

Tying Hands behind Closed Doors: The Logic and Practice of Secret Reassurance.” Security Studies 22.3 (2013): 22:3, 405-435. Print. Tying Hands Behind Closed Doors.pdf

In the Eye of the Beholder: How Leaders and Intelligence Organizations Assess Intentions.” International Security 38.1 (2013): 38:1, 7-51. Print.Abstract IntheEyeoftheBeholder-KYM.pdf

The Personal Touch: Leaders' Impressions, Costly Signaling, and Assessments of Sincerity in International Affairs (with Todd Hall).” International Studies Quarterly 56.3 (2012): 56:3, 560-573. Print. ISQ-KerenYarhiMilo&ToddHall-Sept2012.pdf

Working Papers/Under Review

"Redefining the Debate over Credibility and Reputation: Promises and Limits of New Scholarship," with Robert Jervis and Don Casler (Under Review)

"A Not-So-Open Book: Secret Information and Military Cooperation Between Allies," with Mindy Haas (Under Review)

"Democratic Peace and Covert Military Force," with Allison Carnegie and Josh Kertzer (Under Review)

“Democratic Leaders, Crises and War: Evidence from Elites and Public Survey Experiments in the US and Israel," with Josh Kertzer and Jonathan Renshon. (Under Review)

"Are Red Lines Red Herrings? with Joshua Kertzer and Jonathan Renshon (Under Review)

June 11, 2018
So Trump's meeting Kim Jong Un after all. Here's why face-to-face diplomacy matters.
The Washington Post. Marcus Holmes and Keren Yarhi-Milo

January/February 2018
After Credibility: American Foreign Policy in the Trump Era
Foreign Affairs. Keren Yarhi-Milo

April 26, 2017
Trump is trying to send North Korea a message. He's got a long way to go.
The Washington Post, " Monkey Cage." Danielle Lupton, Roseanne McManus, and Keren Yarhi-Milo

January 13, 2017
How can Donald Trump reassure nervous U.S. allies? By giving them weapons.
The Washington Post. Keren Yarhi-Milo, Alexander Lanoszka, and Zack Cooper

October 4, 2016
What American Credibility Myth? How and Why Reputation Matters
War on the Rocks. Alex Weisiger and Keren Yarhi-Milo 


Courses Taught