Day: October 16, 2013

What’s Wrong with FETs? Thoughts from Gendering Global Conflict

(Note: This post is cross-posted at the Columbia University Press Authors’ Blog

Over the last couple of years, the US military has begun to employ FETs (Female Engagement Teams) in Afghanistan, characterizing their purpose as “to engage the female populace” of the country. The mission of these groups of female soldiers seems to be divided between victim services, trust building, influence seeking, and intelligence gathering. Many feminist scholars (e.g., Keally McBride and Annick T. R. Wibben) have expressed their deep concerns about both the effectiveness of FETs and the ideas about sex, gender, and warfare that their deployments suggest the US military holds.

My recent book, Gendering Global Conflict, is not about FETs specifically, but it does provide insight into this (and hopefully a number of other) problems of sex, gender, and war. It argues that, in order to understand fully how something like an FET became possible, we have to be able to see gender subordination and war-fighing as mutually constituted. Understanding that, it argues, provides insight into a number of other policy choices and theoretical assumptions in the security sector that might initially appear paradoxical when approached from a feminist perspective. The rest of this post discusses that with regard to FETs.

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Duck Forum on Teaching US Foreign Policy

replace-a-us-passport-main_FullDuck of Minerva is pleased to announce the start of a four-part series of posts on teaching US Foreign Policy.  The forum includes contributions from the authors of major undergraduate textbooks on U.S. foreign policy:  Bruce Jentleson (Duke University), Steven Hook  (Kent State), Jim McCormick (Iowa State), and James Scott (Texas Christian) and Jerel Rosati (University of South Carolina).

Bruce Jentleson initiated and coordinated the forum — as you can see below he has also set up a Twitter hashtag #TeachForPol to continue this discussion.  In setting up the forum, Continue reading


Duck Forum on Teaching US Foreign Policy #1

replace-a-us-passport-main_Full[Note:  This is a guest post by Bruce Jentleson from Duke University.  It is the first in a four-part forum on teaching US Foreign Policy.]

Six Concepts in Teaching American Foreign Policy by Bruce Jentleson

As the Cold War went on, among scholars and teachers of American foreign policy there was some settling in to a sense that we knew the questions – containment? nuclear deterrence? Bretton Woods stability? —- and were mostly debating the answers. Since the end of the Cold War there’s been renewed debate over what the questions themselves are. While this bears broadly on IR, it has been especially true for American foreign policy – making the subject as intellectually invigorating as it has been policy challenging.

This was the context in which I wrote the first edition of my American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century (W.W. Norton, 5th edition 2013). The intent has been to serve courses which are more focused on U.S. foreign policy than Intro to IR ones, and broader than ones with regional foci. While the world is not as US-centric as it used to be, how the US handles its 21st century transition has been having and will continue to have broad impact on the rest of IR. And while courses like US-China relations and US-Middle East delve into depth on particular areas, general survey AFP courses provide broad context and framework.

I characterize my AFP teaching approach in six respects: Continue reading


Creative Rebranding? Human Rights vs. Human Security

I had a boy break up with me once by saying “we’re not breaking up, we’re taking a break.”  I guess the boy assumed that “taking a break” would be easier for me to accept than “breaking up.”  He was right: it took me a while[1] to actually figure out that “taking a break” was really synonymous with “breaking up.”  For my teenage-girl angst, “taking a break” just sounded better.  For the boy, “taking a break” was probably the safer option.

In both advocacy and research concerning of how people are treated by governmental and non-governmental actors, I think the same type of linguistic gymnastics occurs between the terms “human rights” and “human security.” However, I think the strategic use of the terms could have ramifications for both our research and advocacy.

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Review of Braumoeller’s The Great Powers and the International System

The following is an all too common path through graduate school:

  1. spend 3-9 months wondering what the heck you signed up for and why
  2. realize that every topic you’re interested in has been written on and assume there’s nothing left to say
  3. gain a little confidence and criticize everything you read for leaving something (inconsequential) out
  4. begin doing your own research and realize it’s not so easy
  5. write a dissertation about a very small, very timely, very answerable question
  6. convince your committee that your answer is profound, timeless, and required extraordinary insight
  7. cry when the first submission gets rejected because you left something (inconsequential) out.

One of the many tragedies of this cycle is that the important questions in international relations get ignored. It’s much easier to hit pitches the greats never even swung at—can you believe how little guidance extant lit offers when it comes to piracy off the coast of Somalia? Or the use of Twitter bots to sway public opinion regarding immigration?—than to score runs off curveballs they were lucky to catch a piece of.

Yet, every once in a while, someone swings for the fences.* A wonderful example of this is Bear Braumoeller’s The Great Powers and the International System, which tackles the old bearquestion of whether the structure of the international system constrains, or is shaped by, state behavior. Unsurprisingly, his answer is “Both.” But more interesting than the answer are its implications—or, put differently, the biggest contribution of the book is not in resolving the agent-structure debate, but in delineating when dramatic changes in the structure of the international system are expected to occur and how (and when) states will react to them.

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