Month: April 2013 (Page 1 of 3)

Arms transfers to Africa: Hold the phone!….China is the good guy?

This week’s topic for both my grad and undergrad human rights courses is “foreign policy and human rights promotion.”  On the list of readings-not-on-last-year’s-syllabus is this little gem: “Enter the Dragon!  An Empirical Analysis of Chinese versus US Arms Transfers to Autocrats and Violators of Human Rights, 1989-2006” by Indra de Soysa and Paul Midford.  It appeared in last December’s issue of ISQ.  Drop what you are doing now and read it!  Seriously.  It is thought -provoking, made me want to download their replication dataset and play with it before class, and made my students argue aggressively with each other in class.[1]

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Replacing Nuclear Weapons

B2This is a guest post by Jarrod Hayes. He is Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. He received his PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Southern California in 2009. His research broadly focuses on the social construction of foreign and security policy. 

They are complex weapons.  They are expensive.  They require high levels of engineering expertise to develop, maintain and operate.  They are the purview of the most advanced developed economies in the world.  Nuclear weapons?  Nope, modern major conventional weapons systems.

The title of this post exaggerates of course, but I think there might be something to it.  My thinking on this subject is prompted by a recent story on quiet pressure being applied by policymakers the United States to their colleagues in the United Kingdom.  The Americans want the Brits to scrap their submarine deployed nuclear weapons in favor, one assumes, of more conventional military capabilities.

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Monday Morning Linkage

The_Evil_Rubber_DuckyGood morning Duckaroos, here’s some stuff I think is actually worth reading…

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15 Must-Read Books (And 2 Must-Watch Movies) For Political Science Students

nixonlandConsider this a prompt for an open thread.

I’m looking for books to recommend to students to both give them a hint of what academic political science is “really” like but also to get them excited about the systematic study of politics. No single book can do it all, but a summer reading list can at least prod people to look in the right areas. So here’s my list; additions welcome.

  • Putnam and Campbell, American Grace: Fascinating survey of religion and politics in American life
  • Cohen, Karol, Noel, and Zaller, The Party Decides: Who makes presidents and why?
  • Gelman, Park, Bafumi, and Shor, Red State, Blue State: Why do people vote the way they do? Why are some states red and some states blue?
  • James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How do ideas constitute and guide state policy?
  • James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: Taking anarchism seriously.
  • Acemoglu and Robinson, Why Nations Fail
  • Hendrik Spruyt, The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: The states system we take for granted wasn’t the inevitable or even the only conclusion of European state-making
  • Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: Sweeping descriptions of how politics made and unmade American society–and a reminder that political contestation isn’t teleological.
  • BDM and Smith, The Dictator’s Handbook: Thinking like a bad guy.
  • John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics: Few scholars have written such an approachable, provocative, and erudite book.
  • Richard Ben Cramer, What It Takes: Gripping.
  • Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and War: Worth re-reading. Most successful comps outline in the history of academia.
  • Michael Ross, The Oil Curse. The definitive statement of a generation of the resource curse research project.
  • Please Vote For Me: School politics with a twist. Is ‘picky eating’ a valid decision rule?
  • Street Fight. I think this was supposed to make me like Cory Booker, but I had the opposite reaction.

And: Continue reading

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The End of Austerity…It’s Death is No Great Exaggeration

John_Maynard_Keynes

Something extraordinary happened in Europe this week.  Enrico Letta, Italy’s Prime Minister nominee, upon being tapped to form the next government made a bold press conference announcement that his primary objective upon taking office will be to end Italy’s austerity program and join other leaders calling for an end to austerity across Europe.  Presto!  The bond markets did not go berserk.  Contrary to wide expectations, instead of punishing Italy investors remained calm and did not proceed to increase its borrowing costs.  And voila, the euro crisis has come to an end.

News also spread like wildfire this week about the notorious austerity paper scandal.  An academic paper by the well regarded economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, which has been used by policymakers far and wide to justify their fiscal retrenchment, has been discredited.  Among other high profile examples, EU Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn gave several prominent speeches in the early stages of the crisis explicitly basing European austerity programs on their work.

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Defying Gravity: Seeking Political Balance in ICC Prosecutions

Reuters

Reuters

The International Criminal Court is often accused of being “political” or “politicized” in its selection of situations and cases. What has become most problematic for the Court’s credibility and impartiality in this regard are the situations and cases that have not been selected, and the criteria and discourse used to justify such omissions and imbalanced prosecutions. Specifically, the “gravity threshold,” which the OTP uses to justify who is prosecuted and who isn’t, is politically problematic for the ICC. Prosecutorial strategies that target only one side of a conflict are frequently justified in terms of gravity – that the crimes of some individuals are graver than their opposing parties,.

I suggest there are two political problems with the gravity threshold in case selection.

1)     Assessing the gravity of one party’s or individual’s crimes relative to their opponents is ethically and politically problematic. This approach ultimately results in the ICC’s de facto support of one side of the conflict over another and perpetuates impunity gaps at the international and domestic level.

2)     While atrocity crimes can be ranked, scaled, and compared across parties and perpetrators, no victim can be considered less victimized or less deserving of justice than another.  To date, the manner in which the gravity threshold has been operationalized is an affront to victims and is likely to erode the ICC’s legitimacy among this important constituency.
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Friday morning linkage

Mad scientist duck

 

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Professing and the Policy World

There is so much criticism of the academic enterprise these days, asserting that professors are too focused on research and not enough on teaching and not enough on relevance to the policy world. These critiques are hardly new, but bear more weight in a time of austerity. It is easy to point to some work that seems hardly relevant and some professors who seem least interested in engaging the “real world,” but I am constantly reminded of the opposite—professors who become deeply engaged in policy-making one way or another.

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Thursday Morning Linkage

If last’s week Thursday morning linkage was Africa-themed, this week’s links are China-related and inevitably harken back to the events in Boston:

  • Laurie Garrett, as she is wont to do, wonders if this recent bird flu outbreak in China is “the big one
  • Beijing air is so bad they are canceling recess, kids at grave risk
  • Oh, and Shanghai air sucks too
  • China’s shale gas revolution has yet to begin (Armond Cohen thinks it will take too long to take off)
  • Japanese tree die-off blamed on air pollution from China
  • New bilateral effort between U.S. and China to address climate change
  • Chinese demand for fish bladder for soup  Continue reading
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Nerd-Inflected Wednesday Linkage

sitting ducks

  • The difference between pets in Diablo III and Torchlight II.
  • Blah blah blah Game of Thrones blah blah credible commitments blah blah blah prisoners’ dilemma.
  • Taylor Fravel says that China hasn’t abandoned no-first use.
  • Pavel Podvig demolishes “SDI ended the Cold War” claptrap. Key graf: “The evolution of the Soviet attitudes toward SDI suggests that the main factor that contributed to the ending the confrontation of the Cold War was the willingness of the United States and the Soviet Union to engage in a dialogue on reduction of their nuclear forces. The only result that the SDI program was able to achieve in the context of confrontation was to embolden those in the Soviet Union who defined security in confrontational terms and benefited from this kind of understanding.”

And also: Continue reading

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Talking Academic Journals: Collecting Data

Note: this is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts opening up issues relating to journal process for general discussion by the international-studies community.

Although many readers already know the relevant information, let me preface this post with some context. I am the incoming lead editor of International Studies Quarterly (ISQ), which is one of the journals in the International Studies Association family of publications. We are planning, with PTJ leading the effort, some interesting steps with respect to online content, social media, and e-journal integration–but those will be the subject of a later post. I have also been rather critical of the peer-review process and of the fact that we don’t study it very much in International Relations.

The fact is that ISQ by itself–let alone the collection of ISA journals and the broader community of cognate peer-reviewed publications–is sitting on a great deal of data about the process. Some of this data, such as the categories of submissions, is already in the electronic submission systems–but it isn’t terribly standardized. Many journals now collect information about whether a piece includes a female author. Given some indications of subtle, and consequential, gender bias, we have strong incentives to collect this kind of data.

But what, exactly, should we be collecting?
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Monday Morning Linkage

The_10_Greatest_Slacker_Duos_On_Film_08Good morning…  These aren’t the linkages you’re looking for…

  • Owen Jones reviews the hierarchy of death in the wake of the Boston bombing or what Judith Butler, in Frames of War, might call (un)grievable lives.
  • Deepak Sarma at Racialicious writes about “Being Brown After the Boston Bomb Blast.” (Hey the dudes who did it turned out to be white.  Brown and black people can chill now right? right?? Those false early reports about “dark skinned” suspects were just an honest mistake… Yeah, let’s move on…)
  • Tom Scocca at the Gawker asks, “Is the New York Post Edited by a Bigoted Drunk who Fucks Pigs?”  (I dunno… but while we’re talking about racism in America…)
  • Why does the one with the most melanin always seem to die first in American horror flicks?  And if that’s the case, why are these movies apparently popular with minority audiences?  Joshua Alston at the Feminist Wire explains why the American horror genre typified by Evil Dead is a race-reversed minstrel show.
  • Speaking of minstrel shows, has the desi coolie evolved into the nebbish and accentless “American” who fills the minority quota on ‘Merican tee-vee? Is “the most successful minority in US history” the beneficiary of pervasive anti-black racism?  Have DuBois’ fears of Indians’ allegiances come true? And is this new found “acceptance” being translated into refashioning US foreign policy?  In other words is IACPA becoming the new AIPAC? (Not quite…)
  • Spencer Kornhaber trashes Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi flick, Oblivionfor failing to ask any serious moral or ethical questions, particularly about weaponized drone warfare.  (By the way, when did the Pakistani tribal belt become our vision of the future?)
  • Nobel Prize winner, Muhammed Yunnus, asks why there isn’t social fiction to imagine a ways to end poverty.  (Isn’t that what micro-credit was?)
  • Anil Kapoor will be the new Jack Bauer in the Indian version of 24.  (Maybe instead of chasing terrorists they could chase a more immediate threat to human security in India: gang and child rapists?)

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Linkage Week in Review

Our readers may have noticed the lack of Saturday linkage. I was at the MD/PA/WV/VA combined state Tumbling and Trampoline state championships, in a facility with Faraday-cage properties. I am pleased to say that my daughter qualified for National Junior Olympics in her two main events — trampoline and double-mini trampoline. Along the way she took first place and fourth place, for Maryland, in her age-group and level. Below is video for her Level 6 tramp routine.

 

Although most Americans’ attention was focused on the dramatic apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, quite a lot of significant events happened around the world. For example:

There’s also been a lot of interesting commentary and stuff, including: Continue reading

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An Actual Expert on the Caucasus….

Charles King at The Daily Beast:

In other words, the focus now should be on the Tsarnaevs as homegrown terrorists, not on the ethnic or regional origins of their family. Journalists’ initial conversations with family members in Dagestan amplify that point: a sense of shock that two nice boys who had gone to America for their education could have been involved in such a brutal act. Dzhokhar, for example, was reportedly a successful student and championship wrestler in Cambridge, Massachusetts—hardly the typical foreign jihadist. People with family roots in the Caucasus are often perceived in Russia and elsewhere as inherently rebellious and conflict-prone, a line of thinking that has deep roots in Russian culture. That imagery still affects how street crime is reported in Moscow, how Russian security services target people they believe to be potential terrorists, and how Russia’s own often brutal “anti-terrorist operations” play out in the towns and villages of places such as Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, and other republics of the north Caucasus that are little known in the West. The sad truth is that the scenes in Boston early this morning—with SWAT teams in full battle gear, a shootout on the street, and an alleged suspect perhaps wearing an explosive vest or other suicide device—are all too typical in the north Caucasus itself. The difference is that in Russia, these operations are sometimes little more than assassination missions, designed to target alleged terrorists on only the flimsiest of evidence. That is obviously not the case in Boston. But speculating about the brothers’ ethnic origins plays into the worst stereotypes that have bedeviled attempts to bring peace, stability, and good governance to Russia’s southern borderlands.

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Thursday Morning Linkage

On this awful news week, I’m feeling like some Thursday Morning Linkage needs a little opening joy before launching into the useful reads of the week:

Here are some useful Africa-centric readings on this awful, awful news week:

  • Cullen Hendrix examines the links between food price rises, regime type, and subsidy policies in Africa80140100751810M
  • Jennifer Bussell researches why some African governments are more able to prepare for and respond to potential natural disasters
  • Jennifer Hazen’s new book What Rebels Want drawing from substantial fieldwork in West Africa explains how rebel movements that lose their options for obtaining weapons and other resources may turn to negotiation
  • Caitriona Dowd examines the rise of Islamist rebel and milita movements across Africa
  • Idean Salehyan and Christopher Linebarger find that elections increase the risk of conflict during civil wars and under authoritarian systems Continue reading
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2013 Yale Ferguson Award: Call for Nominations

The Yale H. Ferguson Book Award

The Yale H. Ferguson award, presented by International Studies Association-Northeast, recognizes the book that most advances the vibrancy of international studies as a pluralist discipline. Any book or edited volume published within the field of international studies in the previous calendar year is eligible for consideration. The award winner is selected based on two criteria: (1) that it makes an outstanding contributions to concept-formation, theoretical analysis, or methodological issues in the study of world politics; and (2) that it contributes to the status of international studies as an intellectually pluralist field.

Nominations should be emailed to the committee chair accompanied by a brief letter explaining why a work deserves consideration for the award. Authors may nominate themselves. A copy of each book must be sent to each member of the committee, with the line “Yale H. Ferguson Award, c/o” at the top of each address. Nominations  are due by May 15, 2013 and books must be received by May 31, 2013.

Members of the award committee, as well as the current program chair for ISA-NE, are ineligible for the award.

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The Syria Endgame: A Way Forward

syrian-flag  Russia

With the increased likelihood that Assad will fall, even were he to hang on until a Gaddafi-style bitter end, pressure is mounting on the U.S., Europe, and Turkey inter alia to come up with a game plan for the post-endgame.   The good news is progress is rapidly being made:  stepped up aid from the U.S., aid from Europe, intelligence sharing among Turkey-Jordan-US-Europe, and direct training of Syrian opposition forces.

All of this may be enough to tip the balance against the Assad regime, leading to its end sooner rather than later.  But it is not nearly enough to handle the widely expected chaos once the endgame is reached.  What about playing the Russia card?  The greatest fear is that extremist al-Qaeda affiliated groups will get their hands on a variety of weapons caches in the capital and elsewhere, let alone a full-blown civil war that would seriously destabilize the entire region.  Special forces from the aforementioned countries will be needed, but they will likely be operating in an incredibly volatile if not thoroughly unstable environment.

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