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Dr. Scott Fitzsimmons



Scott Fitzsimmons, B.P.A.P.M., M.A., (Carleton), Ph.D. (Calgary), specializes in the behaviour of armed forces and the use of force in contemporary conflicts. Before joining the University of Limerick's Department of Politics and Public Administration in 2013, he was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He has also taught at the Universities of Victoria and Calgary. His primary research interests include developing and testing theories of how armed forces behave in conflict zones, combat operations involving mercenaries and private security companies, psychological approaches to foreign policy decision-making, public attitudes toward defence spending and the use of force by the Government of Canada, government responses to terrorism, and the sources of combat stress experienced by the operators of remotely piloted combat vehicles.

Research Interests

Fitzsimmons' most recent book, Private Security Companies during the Iraq War (Routledge, 2015), focuses on and compares the activities of the US companies Blackwater and Dyncorp. Despite sharing several important characteristics, such as working for the same client (the US State Department) during the same time period, the employees of Blackwater fired their weapons far more often, and killed and seriously injured far more people in Iraq than their counterparts in DynCorp. In order to explain this disparity, the book undertakes the most comprehensive analysis ever attempted on the use of violence by the employees of these firms. Based on extensive empirical research, it offers a credible explanation for this difference: Blackwater maintained a relatively bellicose military culture that placed strong emphasis on norms encouraging its personnel to exercise personal initiative, proactive use of force, and an exclusive approach to security, which, together, motivated its personnel to use violence quite freely against anyone they suspected of posing a threat. Specifically, Blackwater's military culture motivated its personnel to fire upon suspected threats more quickly, at greater distances, and with a greater quantity of bullets, and to more readily abandon the people they shot at when compared to DynCorp's personnel, who maintained a military culture that encouraged far less violent behaviour. Utilizing the Private Security Company Violent Incident Dataset (PSCVID), created by the author in 2012, the book draws upon data on hundreds of violent incidents involving private security personnel in Iraq to identify trends in the behaviour exhibited by the employees of different firms. Based on this rich and original empirical data, the book provides the definitive study of contemporary private security personnel in the Iraq War.

His previous book, Mercenaries in Asymmetric Conflicts (Cambridge University Press, 2012), argues that small mercenary groups must maintain a superior military culture to successfully engage and defeat more numerous and better-equipped opponents. By developing and applying competing constructivist and neorealist theories of military performance to four asymmetric wars in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, he demonstrates how mercenary groups that strongly emphasize behavioral norms encouraging their personnel to think creatively, make decisions on their own, take personal initiative, communicate accurate information within the group, enhance their technical proficiency, and develop a sense of loyalty to their fellow fighters will exhibit vastly superior tactical capabilities than other mercenary groups. He also demonstrates that, although the victorious mercenary groups occasionally had access to weapon systems unavailable to their opponents, the balance of material capabilities fielded by the opposing military forces had far less influence on the outcome of these asymmetric conflicts than the culturally determined tactical behavior exhibited by their personnel.

In collaboration with Allan Craigie (UBC) and Marc Andre Bodet (Laval), he has recently published an article examining public attitudes toward defence spending and the use of force by the Government of Canada.

In collaboration with Arjun Chowdhury (UBC), he has recently published an article explaining why many states tend to react excessively to terrorist attacks, and why these excessive reactions tend to be highly inefficient.

Finally, he is currently undertaking empirical research into how well private security companies adhere to the tenets of just war theory as well as psychological approaches to foreign policy decision making.

Teaching Interests

PO4018 Introduction to International Politics
PO4027 International Organisations and Global Governance

PO4048 Issues in World Politics
PO5013 Conflict Analysis

Professional Activities


  • 2011 - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2007 - Izaak Killam Doctoral Scholarship
  • 2005 - Journal of Military and Strategic Studies Society for Military and Strategic Studies Award of Excellence
  • 2004 - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canadian Graduate Scholarship
  • 2004 - Doctoral Scholarship
  • 2004 - Faculty of Graduate Studies' Dean's Entrance Scholarship
  • 2004 - Dean's Research Excellence Award
  • 2004 - Ontario Graduate Scholarship
  • 2003 - Graduate Entrance Scholarship
  • 2003 - Prince Memorial Prize for Academic Excellence from Department of Public Affairs and Policy Management
  • 2003 - University Medal in Public Affairs and Policy Management
  • 2003 - Joubin-Selig Scholarship
  • 2003 - Dean of Graduate Studies Entrance Scholarship for Academic Excellence
  • 2003 - Ontario Graduate Scholarship
  • 2002 - 'Dean's List' for Undergraduate Academic Achievement
  • 2002 - President's Scholarship
  • 2001 - 'Dean's List' for Undergraduate Academic Achievement
  • 2001 - President's Scholarship
  • 2000 - 'Dean's List' for Undergraduate Academic Achievement
  • 2000 - President's Scholarship
  • 1999 - 'Dean's List' for Undergraduate Academic Achievement
  • 1999 - President's Scholarship


  • 2006 Member, International Studies Association
  • 2006 Member, Canadian Political Science Association
  • Member, British International Studies Association


  • Reviewed Articles for:
    International Journal
    Conflict Management and Peace Science
    The Journal of Military and Strategic Studies
    The UBC Journal of International Affairs
    Innovations: A Journal of Politics
  • For access to the latest iteration of the Private Security Company Violent Incident Dataset (PSCVID), please contact me at
  • As ISA Canada Co-organizer of the International Relations Section of the 2019 Canadian Political Science Association Annual Conference, I reviewed approximately 100 paper proposals and assembled 36 panels.


  • Interview on the Election of Donald Trump and the Future of Irish International Relations. Limerick Today. Limerick Live95FM. November 17, 2016.