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APSA Blogging

September 3, 2005

This is the first year I’ve actually enjoyed APSA. The quality of the international-relations panels I attended was higher than I’m used to. The conference organizers did a great job of making sure that related panels were close together. I didn’t have to do a lot of hopping between distant hotels.

We had the usual SNAFUs. A number of panels with similar target audiences ran at the same time, making for hard choices about what to attend. The organizers also made a number of mistakes about what size room to assign to panels. I chaired a (very good) panel on event analysis which was highly technical; the room was enormous and the audience, although decently sized and enthusiastic, didn’t need to be in an auditorium. On the other hand, this panel was in a room that looked like it could seat about twenty people:

43-9 Roundtable on John Lewis Gaddis’ Surprise, Security, and the American Experience

Chair: Colin Elman,, Arizona State University

Robert Jervis, Columbia University
G. John Ikenberry, Princeton University
Deborah Welch Larson, University of California, Los Angeles
William Kristol, The Weekly Standard

To APSA’s credit, they were able to move the panel to a room that could accommodate the crowd that was gathered in the hallway. I overheard someone discussing the issue later on that night: apparently roundtables are always given small rooms. A silly rule.

John Ikenberry and Bill Kristol really went at it. Kristol started needling Ikenberry almost from the beginning of the discussion. Ikenberry mentioned – in a lighthearted way – that he was having dinner with Condi Rice; Kristol used the “dinner with Condi” comment as ammunition for a number of shots at Ikenberry that fell in the gray zone between being personal attacks and substantive points.

Kristol also took plenty of swipes at “professors at elite universities,” some of which were pretty gratuitous. He flat out accused an un-named majority of professors for being unpatriotic because of bans on military recruitment and ROTC at a number of schools (to my knowledge, most of these bans are protest against homophobic military policy rather than a reflection of some sort of antipathy towards the military as an institution).

In his most bitter exchange with Ikenberry, he scored some points on the question of just how significantly the Bush administration has departed from its predecessors in its commitment (or lack thereof) to multilateralism. Yet he also mishandled Ikenberry’s key argument: that the “logic” of protecting the US against non-state mass terrorism and nuclear proliferation will require a far more robust, intrusive, and sovereignty-eroding multilateral order than neconservatives are willing to contemplate.

Everyone agreed that the US doesn’t have enough troops. Kristol stood alone in arguing that effective leadership could overcome domestic political opposition to expanding US forces – even, if necessary, by reinstituting the draft. Perhaps, but I took this as more evidence that it is neoconservatives, rather than realists, who don’t pay enough attention to the political, social, and contextual constraints that can prevent the realization of desired ends in international and domestic relations.

Oh, and I had an interesting lunch with Henry Farrell the first day of the conference. Before I left for Ohio, Henry and I would email repeatedly about getting together, but nothing ever came of it.

For those of you who don’t know Henry, he is as erudite and nice as he seems from his posts on Crooked Timber.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.