SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Dr Michael A. Innes

  • Overview
  • Research
  • Publications


Michael Innes
Department of Politics and International Studies

Teaching Fellow

Dr Michael A. Innes
Email address:
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Monday 3:00-4:30pm


Michael A. Innes a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics at SOAS. where he completed his PhD on wartime sanctuary discourses in American foreign policy. Before this he obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in history at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where he focused on ethnic conflict, nationalism, genocide, war crimes and armed intervention.  He is a graduate of the doctoral methods course at the Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) on qualitative case study methods and process tracing in the study of civil wars.

His research interests focus broadly on comparative institutions, rebel self-governance, policy-oriented research and forensic political inquiry. He has published articles and essays in both scholarly and popular outlets, including Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Civil Wars, Small Wars and Insurgencies, SAIS Review, Cultural Survival Quarterly, Jane’s Intelligence Review, the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor, and the online editions of CNN, Foreign Policy and Wired magazines. 

His first book, Streets Without Joy: A Political History of Sanctuary and War, 1959-2009, based in part on his doctoral work at SOAS, is forthcoming in 2020 from C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. Further research and publication plans include an investigation of the forensic turn in international security, and a second book, provisionally entitled Harbors in the Storm, which explores competitive systems of governance and control in Cold War era foreign policy crises.   

Prior to academia, he served briefly in the army. He subsequently spent six years as a civilian analyst and advisor at a series of NATO headquarters, first in the Balkans and last at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in Casteau, Belgium. He maintains an active consulting practice, a portfolio that covers a range of desk and field research activities. A scholar-practitioner and regional generalist, his work has taken him as far afield as Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Kosovo, Lebanon, and most recently, northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin area of West Africa.

PhD Research

My research focuses on US foreign policy framing between 2001 and 2011 and its impact on armed intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. It deals specifically with a discursive context in which the management of insecurity was portrayed in terms of two master frames, military force and civilian policing. Within this setting, the dominant policy logic was that opposition militants benefit from and must therefore be denied opportunities for refuge, politically and on the battlefield.

The research problem that I contend with is that this approach was prominently portrayed in metaphorical terms refractory to a commonly held definition or policy response. Previous lines of scholarly inquiry have explored analogical distortion and threat inflation in US foreign policy. This project contributes to the literature by establishing a rigorously periodised and empirically rich account, and by investigating the causes of misalignment between stated policy intentions and ultimate policy outcomes.

In attempting to shed light on the myths and realities of Al Qaeda basing operations and their influence on US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, I explore the special role of analogical explanation, and in particular the work done by specific types of framing devices (in this case, historical analogies and spatial metaphors).  I operationalize this in two principal sections, using a constructivist approach, mixed qualitative methods, and a wide range of primary sources.

The first section consists of content analysis, in three mutually reinforcing parts: coding and analysis of a large (6000+ items) New York Times dataset using qualitative data analysis software (MAXQDA); a review of key US policy documents, including the Report of the 9/11 Commission and subsequent State Department “7120 Reports”; and a survey of contemporary sources on guerrilla “havens” and “sanctuaries”, including public responses to US policy and the intellectual output of key Al Qaeda figures.

The second section consists of case study analysis of periods of invasion and occupation that took place in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I use historical process tracing to identify within-case instances and cross-case transfer of analogical explanations and their effects. The approach achieves three things. It provides evidence of a narrative, cumulative ‘analogical cascade’; it clarifies the role of historical and spatial proxies as causal mechanisms; and it highlights their influence on dominant discursive frames.


Edited Books
  • Innes, Michael A. ed. (2012) Making Sense of Proxy Wars: States, Surrogates and the Use of Force. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books.
  • Innes, Michael A. ed. (2007) Denial of Sanctuary: Understanding Terrorist Safe Havens. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Innes, Michael A. ed. (2006) Bosnian Security After Dayton: New Perspectives. London: Routledge. Paperback edition published 2012.
Book Chapters
  • Innes, Michael A. (2012) ‘Framing Militant Sanctuary Practices in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2001-2011.’ In Randy Lippert and Sean Vrehaag, eds., Sanctuary Practices in International Perspectives: Migration, Citizenship and Social Movements. London: Routledge. Pp. 245-257
  • Innes, Michael A. (2012) ‘Preface.’ in Making Sense of Proxy Wars: States, Surrogates and the Use of Force. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books. Pp. xiii-xvi.
  • Innes, Michael A. (2007) ‘Cracks in the System: Sanctuary and Terrorism After 9/11.’ in Denial of Sanctuary: Understanding Terrorist Safe Havens. Westport: Praeger. Pp. 1-20.
  • Innes, Michael A. (2006) ‘Security in Between.’ Introduction to Bosnian Security After Dayton: New Perspectives. London: Routledge. Pp. 1-5.
Journal Articles (Peer Reviewed)
  • Innes, Michael A. (Spring 2008) 'Deconstructing Political Orthodoxies on Insurgent and Terrorist Sanctuaries.' Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Vol. 31, No. 3: 251-267.
  • Innes, Michael A. (2008) 'Protected Status, Sacred Sites, Black Holes, and Human Agents: System, Sanctuary, and Terrain Complexity.' Civil Wars Vol. 10, No. 1: 1-6.
  • Innes, Michael A. (Autumn 2005) 'Denial-of-Resource Operations and NPFL Radio Dominance in the Liberian Civil War.' Civil Wars Vol. 7, No. 3: 94-115.
  • Innes, Michael A. (Jul-Aug 2005) 'Terrorist Sanctuaries and Bosnia-Herzegovina: Challenging Conventional Assumptions.' Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Vol. 28, No. 4: 295-305.
Trade Journals
  • Innes, Michael A. (February 2012) 'After the Storm: Côte d’Ivoire in the wake of the 2010-2011 conflict.' Jane's Intelligence Review: 31-36.
  • Innes, Michael A. (August 2010) ‘Afghanistan’s “Militia” Problem: Can Local Defense Forces Replace Private Security Firms?’ Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor Vol. 8, No. 32: 6-9.  
  • Innes, Michael A. (June 2010) ‘Perceptions of Success and Failure in ISAF Operations in Marjah, Afghanistan.’ Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor Vol. 8, No, 24: 4-8.  
Essays & Reviews
  • Innes, Michael A. (19 Nov 2010) “Budgeting NATO’s Future.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (22 Jun 2010) “Runaway General, Or Runaway Reporter?” CNN Opinion
  • Innes, Michael A. (6 May 2010) “COIN Confusion.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (18 Mar 2010) “A New Command Structure in Afghanistan.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (17 Nov 2009) “The War of Leaks.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (9 Nov 2009) “Nearly Anywhere Terrorists Operate.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (12 Oct 2009) “The Sound of Silence.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (12 October 2009).  “The Safe Haven Myth.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (2 Oct 2009) “Ground Truths.”
  • Innes, Michael A. (13 Jan 2009) “How Tech Changes Our Thinking About War.”   
  • Innes, Michael A. (2005) 'Reading Guerrilla Radio In Wartime Liberia.' Small Wars and Insurgencies Vol. 16, No. 2: 241-251.
  • Innes, Michael A. (Winter/Spring 2003) 'The Policy Hole.' SAIS Review Vol. 23, No. 1: 257-271
  • Innes, Michael A. (Summer/Fall 2002) 'Ordinary Bystanders.' SAIS Review Vol. 22, No. 2: 361-366.
  • Innes, Michael A. (17 Feb 2002) “In the Countries of the Dead.” Transitions Online
  • Innes, Michael A. (Winter 2001) ‘Genocide, Ethnocide, Or Hyperbole? Australia's "Stolen Generation" and Canada's "Hidden Holocaust”.’ Cultural Survival Quarterly Vol. 15, No. 4. 54-56.


  • Fellow, Royal Geographical Society
  • Visiting Research Fellow, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds
  • Research and Practice Associate, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, Syracuse University


Guerrilla warfare, political communication, historical methods, spatial analysis, information


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