Benjamin Mueller is the International Relations Stonex PhD Scholar at LSE IDEAS. Ben previously attended the University of Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Keble College. He subsequently took the MSc in International Relations Theory at the LSE, before spending a year working for several political think-tanks, as a researcher in the House of Commons, and for the Boston Consulting Group. Whilst at LSE, Ben has taught IR100 ('The Structure of International Society') and has worked for the School's Directorate on the Strategic Review. He speaks fluent English and German and conversational French.
His thesis, entitled ‘Lessons from the Cold War's Endgame: Causes, Counterfactuals and Complexity,’ looks at how Presidents Reagan and Bush made foreign policy decisions, interacted with Soviet leaders, and handled domestic stakeholders when they brought the East-West nuclear standoff to a peaceful conclusion.
Ben’s research draws on counterfactual analysis, that is, the construction of ‘What If’ scenarios. Using the menu of choices available to leaders at the time, Ben investigates how events could—or could not—have unfolded differently. This process re-opens the alternatives of the past, re-visiting what are now facts but were once unresolved problems. Focusing on the options that policymakers faced and tracing their eventual decisions sheds light on how different choices could have brought about different outcomes.
Hugh Trevor-Roper argued that only by looking at the political dilemmas of yesterday and restoring ‘to the past its lost uncertainties, to reopen, if only for an instant, the doors which the fait accompli has closed,’ can we draw useful lessons from history. Ben’s thesis attempts to bring to the fore how political leaders dealt with complexity in the 1980s, the degree to which their choices changed the international system, and what—if any—lessons can be learnt from this tumultuous decade.
Areas of Expertise
The end of the Cold War
US Presidency & Foreign Policy
Decision-making and strategy-formulation in International Relations
IR Theory (methodologies of IR; uses of counterfactual research)