Graduate Student Forum

Leader Preferences and Alliance Formation

Tuesday, 13 July 2021 | 9:00 - 9:45 (JST)
Zoom Webinar
  • Mina Pollmann Visiting Research Fellow at ISS, The University of Tokyo/PhD Candidate at Department of Political Science, MIT
  • Kenneth McElwain Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo

Existing theories of alliance formation explain alliances as being caused by a changing balance of power, balance of threat, or balance of interests. These structural theories do not account for the role of leaders’ agency in alliance formation. By contrast, she analyzes the causal role of leaders in alliance formation. She develops a new method—probabilistic counterfactual analysis—to identify alliances in which a leader caused the alliance, and alliances in which leaders did not cause the alliance. Her primary cases are Japan in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902), in the Tripartite Pact (1940), and in the renewal of the US-Japan Alliance (1960). In her presentation, she will introduce probabilistic counterfactual analysis as a method, demonstrate the application of this method in the case of Japan in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and provide a summary of her preliminary conclusions from additional cases.


Mina Pollmann is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Political Science Department at MIT, currently a Visiting Research Fellow at ISS, University of Tokyo. Her research interests focus on Japan’s security and diplomacy, US foreign policy in East Asia, and international relations in the Asia-Pacific. After graduating Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service summa cum laude with a BS in Foreign Service, she worked for TV Tokyo-America and a DC-based risk consulting start up. She is a recipient of the Walter A. Rosenblith Presidential Graduate Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.