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Michael Gabbay

Senior Principal Physicist






Dr. Gabbay's current research involves the development of mathematical models and computational simulations of network dynamics, focusing on social and political systems. He has also conducted research in the areas of nonequilibrium pattern formation, coupled oscillator dynamics, sensor development, and data analysis algorithms. His work has appeared in physics, engineering, biology, and political science publications. Dr. Gabbay received a B.A. in physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago with a specialization in nonlinear dynamics.


B.A. Physics, Cornell University, 1985

M.S. Physics, University of Chicago, 1987

Ph.D. Physics, University of Chicago, 1997


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Transitions between peace and systemic war as bifurcations in a signed network dynamical system

Morrison, M., J.N. Kutz, and M. Gabbay, "Transitions between peace and systemic war as bifurcations in a signed network dynamical system," Network Sci., EOR, doi:10.1017/nws.2023.10, 2023.

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21 Jun 2023

We investigate structural features and processes associated with the onset of systemic conflict using an approach which integrates complex systems theory with network modeling and analysis. We present a signed network model of cooperation and conflict dynamics in the context of international relations between states. The model evolves ties between nodes under the influence of a structural balance force and a dyad-specific force. Model simulations exhibit a sharp bifurcation from peace to systemic war as structural balance pressures increase, a bistable regime in which both peace and war stable equilibria exist, and a hysteretic reverse bifurcation from war to peace. We show how the analytical expression we derive for the peace-to-war bifurcation condition implies that polarized network structure increases susceptibility to systemic war. We develop a framework for identifying patterns of relationship perturbations that are most destabilizing and apply it to the network of European great powers before World War I. We also show that the model exhibits critical slowing down, in which perturbations to the peace equilibrium take longer to decay as the system draws closer to the bifurcation. We discuss how our results relate to international relations theories on the causes and catalysts of systemic war.

Strategies of armed group consolidation in the Afghan civil war (1989–2001)

Erickson, M., and M. Gabbay, "Strategies of armed group consolidation in the Afghan civil war (1989–2001)," Stud. Conflict Terror., EOR, doi:10.1080/1057610X.2021.2013752, 2021.

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20 Dec 2021

What explains the variation in the strategies of consolidation among armed groups? We examine three conditions that can explain the modes of militant consolidation — territorial control, organizational structure, and external support. We test these theoretical conjectures using unique time series data on armed group consolidation in Afghanistan from 1989 to 2001. Using a linear probability model, we find that territorial control, organizational structure, and fungible forms of external support have the most significant impact on explaining consolidation. This article contributes to the study of armed group dynamics by drawing on existing theory and leveraging original data to explain variation in strategies of militant consolidation.

Consolidation of nonstate armed actors in fragmented conflicts: Introducing an emerging research program

Hafez, M.M., M. Gabbay, and E.K. Gade, "Consolidation of nonstate armed actors in fragmented conflicts: Introducing an emerging research program," Stud. Conflict Terror., EOR, doi:10.1080/1057610X.2021.2013751, 2021.

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16 Dec 2021

How do armed groups consolidate power in conflict landscapes packed with rival factions, paramilitary militias, and local warlords? Extant scholarship has studied the causes and consequences of rebel fragmentation, but the reverse process in which power that is dispersed among many armed actors becomes concentrated among a handful of factions is underexplored. In this special issue, we bring together eight case studies to illustrate at least three pathways to militant consolidation. Cooperative consolidation involves organizations growing consensually through alliance formation and mergers. Competitive consolidation entails a gradual process of increasing political and military power by outcompeting rival groups for fighters, popular support, and international sponsors. Coercive consolidation occurs when militant organizations violently eliminate rivals. This framing article considers several factors that may explain the choice of consolidation mode, including the role of territorial control, permeability of group boundaries, and state sponsorship. By investigating this under-examined aspect of civil conflict, we forge fundamentally new theoretical ground in the study of internal wars and weakly-governed societies.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center