Day: June 30, 2011

Stuff Political Scientists Like to Obsess About

 Not to step on Brian‘s territory, but I just wanted to cross-post here something that I wanted to propose.
One of the recurring themes on my blog and at the Poli Sci Job Rumor site is that of rankings.  See here, here, and here for a taste of my fixation.

Anyhow, I am always reminded of a simple fact when I see any political science ranking of journals, presses, departments whatever: that whenever a ranking is suggested or revised, it is always suggested by someone who benefits from the new ranking.  Nobody ever proposes a ranking that puts their department lower.  So, Godwin’s Law–that the longer any internet discussion, the probability of Hitler/Nazis/Holocaust being mentioned approaches one–has inspired me to propose a new law.

What would we name the following law: Any ranking of any aspect of the academic enterprise will produce revised rankings that improve the standing of the folks who produce the revised rankings?  In honor of a semi-anonymous person who published amusing pieces at PS (see here for an example if you can–gated),* so how about Wuffle’s Law?
* A scholar.google search of Wuffle will produce many more contributions than I had remembered.
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Who Will Arrest Gaddafi? Not It!


On June 27th the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, and chief of military intelligence Abdualla Al-Senussi for:

crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) allegedly committed across Libya from 15 February 2011 until at least 28 February 2011, through the State apparatus and Security Forces.

The judges believe there is “reasonable grounds” to attribute criminal responsibility to these three individuals for the deaths of (at least) hundreds of civilians during the protests. There are no allegations of the mass rapes Ocampo publicly suspected were being fueled by the distribution of Viagra, and human rights groups claim there is no evidence to support such claims yet. Ocampo indicated it’s possible that, upon further investigation, allegations of widespread sexual violence could be added to the charges.

So far there are a few issues related to the arrests warrants that are generating debate.

Skeptics of international justice claim that the ICC has complicated peace negotiations, that Gaddafi cannot be deterred, and therefore that the arrest warrants will leave him no option but to dig in his heels. For a typical articulation of this argument see Marc Thiessen’s post here – where he argues that the arrest warrants foreclose the possibility of Gaddafi’s vertical (voluntary) departure. Another variant of the skeptic position questions the timing of this judicial intervention, as Richard Falk criticizes here. He argues there is a political calculus behind the timing of the arrest warrant and essentially suggests that NATO and the ICC are colluding to wage lawfare (i’m not going to stoke the lawfare fire in this post).

Others, like Stewart M. Patrick at the Council on Foreign Relations, contend that these types of arguments present a false tradeoff of peace and justice. Human Rights Watch made a similar statement, which is consistent with their advocacy on international justice. David Scheffer makes the case at Foreign Policy to call of the missiles and send in special ops – to delink military and judicial intervention. Certainly there was never any indication that Gaddafi would negotiate and in that sense the ICC has a null effect. Realistic idealists (yeah – i just made that label up) would argue that no one expects Gaddafi to turn himself in or be deterred. But it is hoped that the ICC’s intervention will delegitimize his leadership and encourage and/or obligate other parties to arrest him. This is the real practical challenge….
States Parties to the Rome Statute are, of course, obligated to arrest Gaddafi if he enters their territory. President Bashir’s worldly travels tell that this option is unlikely. Ocampo’s statement made the most likely options for arrest very clear:

Libya has the primary responsibility to implement the arrest warrants. Libya is not a State Party of the Rome Statute, but it is a member of the United Nations since 1955. Libya has to comply with UN Security Resolution 1970…Gaddafi’s inner circle is the first option: they can be part of the problem and be prosecuted, or they can be part of the solution, work together and with other Libyans and stop the crimes.

Second option, the Interim National Council has expressed its will to implement the arrest warrants…International forces operating under UN Security Council Resolution 1973 have no specific mandate to implement arrest warrants and the Court is not asking for that…”

So there we have it. Except the rebel forces do not have the capacity and Gaddafi’s “inner circle” does not have any incentive (short of assured amnesties) to carry out these arrests. And while NATO diplomatically supports the arrest warrants, its mandate remains only to protect civilians and not to be contracted out as the ICC’s global police force. Maybe this will go the way it did for Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire, whereby the opposing rebel forces can grab Gaddafi with the logistical support of foreign forces and avoid a taboo form of regime change.

(Cross-posted at Global Transitional Justice)

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Partisanship vs. Policy: the Housing Bubble Debate

Morgensen’s and Rosner’s new book appears to have breathed new life into claims that responsibility for the housing bubble can be laid at the feet of Democrats, ACORN, and Fannie and Freddie. Given that buyers of the book at Amazon are also snatching up works by Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Andrew Breitbart, I’m pretty sure that it is on its way to becoming the housing-bubble bible for all those who also are learning how Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and the Battle of Poitiers were key “tipping points” in the history of human freedom.

It strikes me as unlikely that a closer chronicle of the shady political dealings surrounding housing policy in the 1990s tells us very much new about the causes of the bubble. But I find it interesting that conservatives are so gleeful about their account because it implicates a lot of Democrats. As a partisan matter, that’s obviously of interest. But as a policy matter? It seems odd that conservatives would be so eager to swallow a story ultimately more consonant with progressive goals than their own.


The underlying problems here center around deregulation (including the loosening of lending standards), a federal reserve that refused to exercise oversight or take steps to deal with a growing bubble, and the influence of moneyed interests on policy. The drive to extend homeownership to poor minorities who had, because of discriminatory practices, been excluded from access to housing equity, certainly played a role here, e.g., it led to some well-intentioned policies that soon became co-opted by housing lenders.

But without those other mechanisms we can’t really get from the “progressive” policy (more homeownership for poor minorities) to the current economic crisis, and those mechanisms are overwhelmingly ones that progressives, rather than conservatives, want to address. Indeed, can overwhelming proportion of the failures attributed to the Clinton administration stem from its tack rightward on financial and regulatory policy. The bad behavior of Democrats largely centers around their pursuit of corporate cash.

However desperately folks like Mead may try to link this to a general criticism of third way politics, the core “problems” have little to do with the progressive elements of that fusion.* Conservative policies aren’t designed to rectify these failures, but to entrench them in American politics and policy.

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*The giveaway? One of Mead’s examples of a “third way scheme” discredited by Morgensen’s and Rosner’s account of the housing bubble is the “cap-and-trade” approach to reducing carbon emissions. But the cap-and-trade approach was embraced by progressives in an attempt to find common ground with conservatives, who generally supported the approach until Obama proposed it.**


**While I’m on the subject of Mead, I remember how every “economic collapse” scenario from when I debated in high school (c. 1991) culminated with a quotation from him about how a major economic slump would lead to outbreaks of interstate conflict around the globe. As it obviously did. Just look at all those interstate wars in, er, well, uh….

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