Month: July 2013 (Page 1 of 4)

What Caused the Iraq War? David Lake Replies to Debs and Monteiro

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Lake, who is the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. It responds to an article published in International Organization by Alex Debs and Nuno Monteiro. Their post on the subject appeared yesterday. The article will be ungated for approximately two weeks.

Known Unknowns,” by Alex Debs and Nuno Monteiro (DM), newly released electronically by International Organization in advance of its publication this fall, is an important addition to the bargaining theory of war and adds new insights to the causes of the Iraq War of 2003. Since DM challenge several points in my International Security article (PDF) on bargaining theory and the Iraq War, let me respond briefly.

The key innovation in the model is that investments in military capabilities by the Target (T, Iraq in the case) produce changes in the probability of military victory only with some lag, thus openning a window for the Deterer (D, the U.S.) to launch a preventive war. The lower the costs of war, the more uncertain D is about T’s program, and the more effective the war is likely to be in eliminating the threat to D, the greater the chance of preventive war and the greater the likelihood that the war will be mistaken. This is a nice addition to the basic bargaining model with important implications that go beyond the Iraq case on which the theory is based.

From the outset, I want to clarify that we agree far more than we disagree, including about the central tension between Iraq and the U.S., the effects of 9/11 on the timing of the Iraq War, and the difference between Iraq and North Korea. Debs and Monteiro engage in the product differentiation usual in academic scholarship — highlighting differences rather than commonalities — but the latter are large and overwhelm the points of disagreement, in my view. Continue reading


Time to Put “Dying to Win” out to Pasture?

This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter received his PhD from Georgetown University in May 2013, and was a Fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia during 2012-2013; he is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. His research focuses on religion and foreign policy; he has also written on terrorism and religious conflict.

In his latest blog post on Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt calls for a re-evaluation of the United States’ approach to counter-terrorism. One statement–really a quick aside–caught my attention.

Walt claims that “opposition to foreign occupation and interference is one of the prime motivations behind terrorist activities.” Well he actually says: “Given that opposition to foreign occupation” causes terrorism, and then uses this assertion to justify calling for a reduction in US forces in Muslim countries. And then he specifically mentions “suicide bombing,” and links to Dying to Win, by Robert Pape.

Dying to Win is the book version of an article by Pape in the American Political Science Review, in which he argues that suicide bombing is a rational response to occupation. As I detailed in a blog post a few years ago, there are numerous problems with this argument: Continue reading


Déjà Vu in Zimbabwe

Polling stations are opening in Zimbabwe, and, if one’s Facebook feed is to be believed, some enthusiastic voters have already spent a few hours queueing (and winter mornings in Zimbabwe are *cold*). Today’s elections are notable for a few reasons: they’re the first elections since extensive state-sponsored violence in 2008; they mark the formal end of the coalition government inaugurated in the aftermath of that violence; and they are the first elections to occur under a brand-spanking-new constitution.  Comparisons to Kenya’s March elections have flown fast and furious.

So what’s new?  Very little.  Indeed, elections in Zimbabwe seem to have taken on an almost eerily repetitive quality.  Once again, opposition leader and former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai is facing off against Robert Mugabe, now 89 and with 33 years in power under his belt (as well as some great quotes).  Once again, the ruling party, ZANU-PF, has instituted a campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition activists and office-holders. Once again, there is evidence of planned electoral manipulation.  Concerns center on the flawed voter registration exercise, which may have left hundreds of thousands of ghost voters on the voting rolls.  And once again, conversation within Zimbabwe tends to find its way back to the interminable Mnangagwa-Mujuru succession struggle within ZANU-PF, now over a decade old.

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Guantanamo in the Rearview Mirror

Here at the Duck and elsewhere, there has been much discussion of the gaps between academia and the policy world.  I took part in a program that seeks to bridge that gap–the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship–which I have mentioned here before.   One thing I did not discuss here before is that such experiences can put one in morally challenging situations.   Whenever Guantanamo comes up in the news, I am reminded of this.  Why, see my tale belowe:

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What Caused the Iraq War? A Debate. Part 1 of 2

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro, both of Yale University. In it, they discuss the causes of the Iraq War, a subject of some recent discussion at The Duck of Minerva. This post discusses their forthcoming International Organization article, which is now available as an “online first” piece and will be free to download for the next two weeks. Tomorrow we will run a response by David Lake [now available here].

In a forthcoming article in International Organization,Known Unknowns: Power Shifts, Uncertainty, and War,” we introduce a new theory connecting power shifts to war. Out theory provides novel answers to these questions on Iraq. Contrary to widely shared views according to which the war was caused by misperceptions and other irrational behaviors on the part of Saddam Hussein and the Bush Administration, we argue that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq can be accounted for strictly within a rationalist framework.

Below we make four specific points on the causes of the Iraq War and then contrast our view with David Lake’s International Security article “Two Cheers for Bargaining Theory: Assessing Rationalist Explanations of the Iraq War” (PDF), where he argues that the Iraq War should prompt a behavioral revolution in the study of the causes of war. We conclude with brief implications for theory and policy.

Our Argument

Our first point is that the United States’ main motivation for invading Iraq on March 20, 2003, was to prevent suspected Iraqi nuclearization, which Washington thought would bring about a large and rapid shift in the balance of power in favor of Iraq. During the run-up to the invasion, the U.S. government’s casus belli rested on suspicion that Saddam was developing WMD — including nuclear weapons — thus presenting an imminent threat. Iraq’s nuclear acquisition would represent a large and rapid power shift that would make Saddam immune to any externally-driven regime-change efforts, ending his vulnerability to U.S. military action. The cost of war against a non-nuclear Iraq, in contrast, was expected to be relatively low, as U.S. forces would, given the precedent of the 1991 Gulf War, no doubt prevail. Specifically, the cost of a preventive counter-proliferation war against Iraq was expected to be orders of magnitude smaller than the expected cost of deterring, not to mention deposing a nuclear-armed Saddam. This difference accounts for U.S. insistence in guaranteeing Iraqi non-nuclear status, if necessary by force. Continue reading


Tiwesdæg: the Left-hand of Linkage

Viking Duck

  • Discussion has picked up again on Elizabeth Saunders’ guest post, “How Would Al Gore Have Fought the Iraq War.” I think it worth clarifying that Elizabeth’s piece does, as I read it, two things. First, it extends the debate by asking, in essence, “if we believe that parallel-universe President Gore would have launched an attack against Iraq, what would that war have been like?” She concludes that it might have been better prosecuted than the real-world Bush version. Second, she undercuts the thesis of the book by pointing to ex ante evidence that Gore would have engaged in different cost-benefit calculations abou the war itself.
  • I agree, however, that the “Gore invades Iraq” argument is very difficult to sustain, as I discussed in comments at The Glittering Eye way back in 2007. The politics of this debate are interesting, though. In essence, now that everyone pretty much agrees that invading Iraq was a bad idea for the United States, the argument shifts from “look at how superior the Bush Administration is because it is willing to confront the threat posed by Saddam Hussein” to “but Democrats would have done it as well.”
  • Reza Aslan’s interview with Fox News anchor Lauren Green has gotten a lot of discussion along the lines of ‘Aslan pwnd Green’ and ‘Fox News looks terrible,’ although right-wing new media continues to howl about aspects of the book. As an aside, claims such as “Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem” are pretty standard fare in debates about the historicity of the Gospels, and pretty widely accepted by a wide variety of scholars. So the issues here really do seem to be that (1) Aslan is a Muslim and that (2) because he’s a Muslim, people who otherwise ignore much of the relevant scholarly debate are suddenly confronting a popularization of it and freaking out. Regardless, PTJ has it right that the interview supports the importance of drawing a distinction between science and politics as vocations.

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Monday Morning Linkage

cute-duckGood morning!  Here’s your linkage…

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Friday Morning Linkage

Mad scientist duck


Bayes, Stereotyping, and Rare Events

Sadly, many people do not realize that even if the majority of those who engage in behavior X belong to category Y, that does not mean that the majority of people in category Y engage in X.  This point is often made, rightly, with respect to race and violent crime and religion and terror.  But most treatments I’ve seen either imply that anyone who doesn’t understand is a moron, or manage to scare away the target audience by throwing in a pile of math without explaining it.  In this post, I’ll try to actually explain why we can’t conclude that most members of Y are prone to acts of X even if most acts of X are committed by members of Y.  This post won’t insult anyone for being unfamiliar with Bayes’ Theorem, nor will you find much algebra herein.  I’m just going to try to explain, with a relative minimum of technical detail, why we can’t assume that most members of Y engage in behavior X just because most people who engage in X are members of Y.

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Thursday Morning Linkage

Here is your mid-morning linkage for this Thursday. Three strands this week: one on higher education and social science, another on conservation, and a third on global health. Oh, and CFR’s International Affairs Fellowship is taking applications.

Higher Education and Social Science

You all saw the story by the Harvard prof (now tenured I might add!) who mused on treating her tenure-track position as a 7-year postdoc (and Steve’s commentary). You probably also saw the broadside about shaking up the social sciences (and Dan’s post). Here are some other social science-y and higher ed. stories you might have missed:

  • History association calls for 6 year embargo on digital dissertations in mistaken fear digital diss will undermine first time book publication (please don’t read us!)
  • San Jose State struggles with low pass rates for its on-line courses, admittedly remedial students taking math
  • Are MOOCs (those online courses thingys) a passing fad (Dan Drezner wonders)?
  • Careful with those snarky, mean manuscript reviews (that means you Dan!)

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Cyber Events Data and Foreign Policy Reactions

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ryan C. Maness of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Brandon Valeriano of the University of Glasgow.

In the rush to note the changing face of the battlefield, few scholars have actually examined the impact of cyber conflict on foreign policy dynamics. Instead most studies are of a hyperbolic nature that suggests the wide ranging impact of cyber conflict on daily social and military life. Here we attempt to cut through the bluff and bluster to examine exactly what happens between countries when cyber conflict is utilized as a foreign policy choice using week events data.

In our previous work we noted that while cyber conflict is proliferating, the level of attacks remains minimal when compared to actual state capabilities and general expectations. Using our dataset of cyber incidents and disputes, we measure the level of conflict and cooperation observed after a cyber incident and dispute to understand the true impact of this new tactic on foreign policy dynamics.

Our work on cyber conflict focuses on rivals which are basically active and historic enemies. It would be thought that during a rivalry, a situation of constant and historic animosity exists, a state will do all it can to harm the other side. If a rival uses a cyber operation to harm its enemy, the likely response should be characterized by further conflictual relations. We therefore expect that cyber incidents and disputes will lead to an escalation of hostility between rivals. Continue reading


New Subnational African Education and Infrastructure Dataset

Todd Smith, Anustubh Agnihotri, and I have put together a new resource of subnational education and infrastructure access indicators for Africa, released as part of the Climate Change and Africa Political Stability (CCAPS) program at the University of Texas. This dataset provides data on literacy rates, primary and secondary school attendance rates, access to improved water and sanitation, household access to electricity, and household ownership of radio and television. The new CCAPS dataset includes data for 38 countries, covering 471 of Africa’s 699 first-level administrative districts.  Continue reading


What are the “Big Issues” of International Politics, and How Should Journals Address Them?

A common complaint among international-relations scholars is that our journals don’t sufficiently engage with big, new, and pressing issues of world politics. Those that do, on the other hand, often get criticized for a lack of rigor. I’ve made this complaint before, in the context of the financial crisis, and Kate Weaver offered some thoughts about “what’s wrong” with IPE. But the problem extends far beyond the financial crisis and IPE.

Standard explanations for this state of affairs include:

  • the length of the publication cycle: it can take years to get from paper, to submission, to making it through peer review, to showing up in a journal;
  • disciplinary incentives to tackle narrow topics and to squeeze incremental findings out of those topics; and
  • the general parochialism of academic international relations.

On the other hand, not a few people argue that the whole point of academic international-relations work is to avoid faddishness and overly speculative claims about unfolding events. Anyone who has ever head “journalism” used as an insult knows one version of this line of argument. Still, the fact that international-relations articles usually genuflect in the direction of policy relevance suggests that even those in this camp think journals should have contemporary salience.

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Tiwesdæg: the Left-hand of Linkage

Viking Duck
Just a handful of things today….

And also: Continue reading


About Those Israel Academic Study Trips…

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Kavita Khory, Professor of Political Science at Mount Holyoke College.

Last spring the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) of Boston invited me to participate in a weeklong study tour to Israel.   Designed for scholars of international relations, political science, and public policy, the purpose of the educational tour was to provide an “in-depth firsthand exposure” to Israel and promote a “deeper understanding” of its politics and society.  The faculty study tour, now in its fourth or fifth iteration, is billed as the cornerstone of the organization’s public diplomacy initiative and its program for Israel advocacy.  I never made it to Israel, but I quickly developed a profound understanding of the Israeli government’s double standards and the limits of an American passport.

I was excited at the prospect of visiting Israel for the first time and yet skeptical about the value of a politically motivated program.  I wondered whether my participation would be seen as an endorsement, as some colleagues argued, of the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians.  If I did not go on the trip, would I be passing up a unique opportunity to learn about Israel in the company of exceptional scholars and teachers?  Conversations with colleagues, including past participants in CJP tours, convinced me of the educational benefits of the program, despite its obvious drawbacks.  So I set aside my reservations and signed up.

A week before our departure, the CJP informed me that I (the only member of the group and a US citizen) would need to carry a separate identification document at all times—a “card” certifying that I had been “prescreened” by the Israeli Consulate in Boston.  While “technically traveling with a U.S. passport is sufficient in Israel,” additional documentation, I was told, would ensure a “smooth” trip. Continue reading


Mechanical Turk and Experiments in the Social Sciences

Amazon created a platform called Mechanical Turk that allows Requesters to create small tasks (Human Intelligence Tasks or HITs) that Workers can perform for an extremely modest fee such as 25 or 50 cents per task.* Because the site can be used to collect survey data, it has become a boon for social scientists interested in an experimental design to test causal mechanisms of interest (see Adam Berinsky’s short description here). The advantage of Mechanical Turk is the cost. For a fraction of the expense it costs to field a survey with Knowledge Networks/GfK, Qualtrics, or other survey companies, one can field a survey with an experimental component. Combined with other low-cost survey design platforms like SurveyGizmo, a graduate student or faculty member without a huge research budget might be able to collect data for a couple of hundred dollars (or less) instead of several thousand. But, storm clouds loom: in recent weeks, critics like Andrew Gelman and Dan Kahan have weighed in and warned that Mechanical Turk’s problems make it an inappropriate tool, particularly for politically contentious topics. Are these criticisms fair? Should Mechanical Turk be off limits to scholars?

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Thinking About the Seven Year Post-Doc

This piece is really interesting.  It is written by Radhika Nagpal who was on the tenure track at Harvard but treated the experience like a seven year post-doc.  That is, she didn’t focus on what it took to get tenure there, because, well, most folks don’t get tenure.  Instead, Nagpal focused on pursuing the most fulfilling seven years so that she would be in a good position at the end of the “post-doc.”  This led her to some conclusions, which I consider below.

But before I do so, it is important to note that this advice of hers applies everywhere but to greater or lesser degrees.  There are some places where tenure is going to be highly unlikely, so her advice applies the best at those places (although it seems that she got tenure at Harvard).  There are many, many places where tenure is most likely, so Nagpal’s advice applies but only with some adjustments.  And there are places in the middle where tenure is up for grabs.  In those cases, I am not sure if this post-doc view is any good.  As I go through her list, this might begin to make sense.

Seven things I did during my first seven years at Harvard. Or, how I loved being a tenure-track faculty member, by deliberately trying not to be one.

  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a “feelgood” email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun “now”.

The first–to treat the seven years as a post-doc–makes a heap of sense at the schools that tend not to tenure.  The essence of this means getting work done, focusing less on sucking up/appeasing the powers that be, and not stressing too much.  So far, so good.   This can also work fine at those places where tenure is relatively straightforward if you hit some kind of clear and relatively not-impossible criteria.  You will not do much harm to your chances.  On the other hand, if you do not invest in the place and then you get tenured, well, you might be at a disadvantage post-tenure as others have figured how the place and have invested well.  Also, you may burn a bridge or too if you ruthlessly demonstrate that you think of it as a way-station.  At places where one has a good chance at tenure if one plays one’s cards right, this outlook might come off very poorly.  If you are near the razor’s edge, sending signals that you are not committed might be self-defeating.

Stopped taking advice?  Don’t follow all advice you receive?  Certainly.  But do listen and then figure out what works for you.  If you think you understand your department, your university and/or discipline sufficiently that you don’t need advice, you probably need more advice.  The author’s point should be clearer–do not follow advice without thinking seriously, and don’t take all advice seriously.  But do listen and then decide. This kind of like becoming a new parent–you get bombarded with heaps of advice, much unsolicited, and then you do what is right for yourself, your partner and the baby/career.

Feelgood email folder?  Absolutely.  Nagpal is right that there is so much rejection in this business that we must keep track of the positive feedback.  I keep the most entertainingly positive teaching evals on my bulletin board, for example.

Working fixed hours and in fixed amounts. I think this makes a great deal of sense especially for one with young kids. But it really depends on one’s style.  Some people can get more out of less hours and some need more hours.  I never burned the midnight oil.  I will work on weekends a bit–grading, reviewing stuff for journals or for tenure letters–but my writing and reading for my writing is a weekday thing.   But I do think I am more productive when I work finite hours.

  • Fixed travel schedule.  Nagpal travels 5 times a year maximum.  I probably average that, depending on the project in play and what I get invited to.  I do not mind going over five (a higher level of frequent flyer status, please).  Again, it depends on the personal situation.  I traveled less when my daughter was young.  Teenagers don’t want parents around that much ;)  It is also easier to limit travel if you work at a place that is pretty active–like a Harvard.  But if you are someplace off the beaten path, you may want to travel more to be connected.  Less important in the 21st century but not entirely irrelevant either.
  • Quotas for service stuff.  Absolutely.  One has to and should do service, such as media appearances, reviewing articles, etc.  No one gets tenure or many units of joy for doing such stuff.
  • Weekly hard/fun quota.  Making sure one does just one hard thing a week (grant report, letter of recommendations) and one fun thing.  Indeed, I try for more than one fun thing a week when ultimate is in season.  Plus if I don’t go to the movies and watch too much TV, I might run out of pop culture references.
  • Managing the parenting.  See her piece on this–quite well stated and developed.  I don’t think we managed 50-50, but we have done pretty well.  Every parenting partnership is different, and there are no perfect answers for how to handle it.  Fairness is very much like Obi-Wan’s truth–it is all about point of view.

Try to be the best whole person I can. No arguing with that.

Find real friends. Indeed. I have been lucky that I have found great friends everywhere I have worked.  Which is why conferences increase in importance–to see old friends when we all left the old place.

Have fun now.  Yes.  It was easier for me since my first tenure track job was at a place that had quite feasible criteria for tenure, that there were only short commutes and few distractions.  But absolutely, have fun now.

A faculty member once told me that when people are miserable and pushed to their limits, they do their best work. I told them that they were welcome to poke out their own eyes or shoot a bullet through their own leg. That would definitely cause huge misery and might even improve their research. Ok, yeah, I only thought about saying that.


The funny part is that Nagpal says not to take advice but then provides some pretty useful advice, but that which depends on where you are at.  Figuring out the tenure dynamics is really key, and some folks do not pay attention enough to figure out what game they are playing and what the rules might be.  As a friend suggested to me, spending your time backwards inducting from what is required at tenure may or may not be a good idea.  There is no perfect answer to that.  Awareness of what is necessary at the end is something that should not be ignored although it should also not dominate everything you do.


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