Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Robert J. Pauly, Jr.

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Tom Lansford

Committee Member 2 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 3

Joseph St. Marie

Committee Member 3 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 4

Loch Johnson


This research explores the unique relationship between covert action and leader survivability, in particular, how leadership styles and personality traits influence this relationship. The life of a ruler is ephemeral. For those who are lucky, their exit from office is through retirement or old age. For most, their tenure is short, often ending through violent means. The overthrow of rulers by their rivals is a common theme throughout world history, and the strategy remains a popular choice in contemporary warfare. However, despite the frequency of regime change, very little is discussed in international relations about covert regime change and its effects on leader survival. The research methodology of fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) will be used to empirically test the hypothesis that the extent of a leader’s survivability following US covert action event, is influenced by his or her respective personality trait and leadership style. The dependent variable is survival—whether leaders live or die—and the independent variables are: leader characteristics, public dissent, global instability, internal conflict, and regime type. Case studies will focus on eight covert action events that were both successful and unsuccessful, which include: Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Republic of Vietnam, and Chile in order to answer the research question: to what extent, if any, can leader survival be predicted based on analyses of US-sanctioned covert action events during the Cold War era?