Day: October 25, 2013

The power of mentorship: a reflection

In the Monkey Cage’s recent symposium on gender and political science,  David Lake writes how important it is that our scholarly networks become less gendered, how male scholars must make an effort to mentor women in the field.  In my view, the importance of mentorship cannot be understated.  Without the support of several scholars in security studies, not all but many of them men, I may have indeed decided that this field was not for someone like me.

In my first year of graduate school, I was beginning to see myself as more of an “IR theory” than a “security studies” student (yes, whatever that means).  But in May of 1997, our department administrator called me into her office to talk teaching assistant assignments.  “We’d like you to be a T.A. for Warner Schilling’s class,” she said.  I was thrilled, but terrified.  The course was “Weapons, Strategy, and War,” and if there was one thing I was absolutely certain about, it was that I did not know enough about weapons, or strategy, or war to be teaching anyone anything about those topics.  And, having taken this course with Schilling, I knew that this was not for the faint of heart.  I would have to guide undergraduates through the basics of shot and pike, of column and line, of counterforce and McNamara curves.  I very simply was not qualified.

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Engineering Peace

Can third parties do more than foster temporary, unstable ceasefires? Without perpetually holding the belligerents at arms’ length via heavily militarized buffer zones? Is it possible to make peace self-enforcing at a reasonably low cost?

Recent work on conflict management suggests not. Less intrusive approaches to mediation, such as information provision, fail to solve the problem that poses an obstacle to efficient negotiate between the belligerents in the first place. More intrusive approaches such as deploying armed peacekeepers are often successful, at least if they come after a conflict ends, but entail great costs. You want lasting peace on the cheap? Good luck with that.

Writing with Anna Pechenkina, I have argued that the consensus view may be too negative. Third parties can raise the effective cost of war by promising to provide subsidies if and only if war is avoided. But even that does not solve the underlying problem. Subsidized peace may persist, provided the provision of the subsidies persists, but it is not self-enforcing.

In a fascinating paper, Rob Carroll offers some optimism. He demonstrates formally that third parties can remove the risk of war, in a fundamental sense, by engineering transfers of economic and military resources in such a way that the natural outcome of trade will reflect the expected outcome of war. Thus, neither side will stand to gain from fighting and will not be expected to do so. In equilibrium, the two sides make their own peace—but they would not have done in the absence of mediation.

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