Day: October 3, 2013

The American Civil War as an Illustration of War to Forestall Adverse Shifts in Power

A prominent “rationalist” explanation for war concerns commitment problems created by the anticipation of rapid shifts in power (see also here and here). When a state expects that the civil-war-soldiersmere passage of time will lead it to fare worse in a potential future war against its rival, the rival’s inability to credibly promise not to exploit its future power by demanding a revision of the status quo can lead tempt the first state to attack so as to forestall (or at least slow down) the shift in power.

The canonical example of this was provided by Thucydides, who wrote in History of the Peloponnesian War “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that it inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.” But today’s international relations students, alas, have little interest in antiquity. Nor are they particularly impressed by systematic evidence that wars occurred more frequently between 1816 and 2001 in the presence of observable indicators that a substantial shift in the bilateral distribution of capabilities was on the horizon (which I nonetheless provide in class). For better or worse, our students view as immediately suspect any theoretical claim that cannot be illustrated with an example they’ve actually heard of.

For that reason, I now discuss the American Civil War after explaining the general logic of commitment problems induced by an anticipation of a future shift in power.

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Gender and Inclusion in the Profession

duckThe Monkey Cage has launched a symposium on the gender gap in academia. Jane Mansbridge, Barbara Walter, Sara Mitchell, Lisa Martin, Ryan Powers, Daniel Maliniak, Rick Wilson, Ashley Leeds, Beth Simmons, and David Lake will explore a range of issues over the course of this week.

I know that this symposium will lead to a productive discussion that will move us forward. My political psychologist side would like to see this as well as other conversations about diversity and equality also touch upon perceptions of inclusion. Social and organizational psychologists have long highlighted the importance perceived inclusion-exclusion. Institutional safeguards to prevent discrimination, for example, may not always help minorities “feel” included. “Women and minorities are especially welcome to apply” is a boilerplate we see in job ads in our discipline. Does this really make women feel included? And sometimes inclusion can feel like exclusion. A female scholar may feel like she is being included to fill a quota. Research indicates that female graduate students are more likely to drop out. What is the role of individual beliefs about exclusion in their decision-making? These are not easy questions, but I think confronting explicit and implicit exclusion requires taking perception seriously. Continue reading

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ICC Victory over Immunity in Recent Clash with al-Bashir

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[Note:  This is a guest post by Andrew G. Reiter, Assistant Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College]

In 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur and expanded those charges to include genocide in 2010.  Yet al-Bashir recently claimed immunity as a head of state and requested a visa from the United States to travel freely to New York to participate in the UN General Assembly and return safely to the comfort of his palace in Khartoum.  In a “Marbury v. Madison” moment for the ICC, the battle between immunity and the reach of international criminal law was in the hands of the US.  A strong position by the US that it could not guarantee al-Bashir would not be arrested forced him to cancel his trip; a move that significantly advances international justice and helps the ICC come of age. Continue reading

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America Being Driven Into a Ditch: Thursday Morning Linkage

We continue to degrade the U.S. brand, weakening America’s ability to serve as a force for attraction around the world. Why would anyone want to emulate this particular crappy model of democracy? In terms of security, 70% of our intelligence community at the NSA and CIA have been furloughed (James Clapper and the WaPo raised the specter of a possible increased threat from terrorism and depending on your view of how active plotters are against America and its interests, you might find this logic persuasive). In terms of doing the nation’s international business, staff at U.S. government agencies and federally funded institutions of higher education are furloughed. They are not able to do the nation’s business and serve U.S. interests. Continue reading

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