Month: November 2013 (Page 1 of 3)

4 Quick Hypotheses on Why China Suddenly Declared this New Air Defense Zone


If you haven’t yet seen the zone’s geography, here it is to the left, complete with its overlap with the Korean and Japanese zones. The most important conflict of course is over Senkaku, but Korea watchers will also note that the Ieodo submerged reef, which Korea claims, is also in the zone. Gotta wonder what the Chinese were thinking by giving Korea and Japan common cause over anything. Foolish.

Dan Drezner asked the question I think pretty much everyone is wondering now: did the PRC really expect the US, Japan, and SK to just accept this out of the blue? Obviously they’re not, and it’s hard to find anyone besides the Fox News of Asia Global Times who thinks they should. The following are some quick ideas for where this suddenly came from. Each is more-or-less tied to a level of analysis, but the prose is laymen-style because it was originally written for media

1. Belligerence (anarchy, straight-up realism): the Chinese really are picking a fight with Japan. This is the worst possible reason. They may figure that the Hagel visit to Japan a couple months ago has made Japan into an open challenger to China now. And that is kinda true. America is hedging China, ducking and weaving, trying hard to avoid an open confrontation with it. But Japan is increasingly unabashed that is it balancing China directly as a threat. Abe is increasingly willing to call out China openly. So Asia is becoming a serious bipolar contest, and maybe the Chinese are thinking: ‘to hell with it; Abe’s playing tough; we have too also.’ Certainly my Japanese colleagues in this area increasingly talk about China this way.

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Belated Thanksgiving Linkage – Iran Nuclear Deal Edition

This was a momentous week with the announcement of an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program. There were some critics to be sure of this effort, but I for one am hopeful that the six month effort to halt or at least pause some aspects of Iran’s nuclear program will eventually lead to a permanent reduction of tensions between Iran and the West.

It’s obviously too soon to say but as we give thanks this holiday season for our families and friends, we can only hope that the diplomatic overtures will ultimately bear fruit. With the past decade plus having yielded relentless military campaigns (some of them necessary but wars without seeming end nonetheless), we can only wish for pragmatic leaders to seize moments of opportunity to avoid yet another war. I know some people don’t see it that way, so here’s a set of links describing the deal, providing some links and commentary from critics, and some links to defenders of the agreement. Continue reading


Academia, Drug Cartels, and Inappropriate Analogies

gangsta duckGiven the intricacies of our job and the cushy lifestyle most academics live in, it disconcerting when academics use improper and incorrect analogies to describe the intricacies of their job. The latest is the idea that drug cartels and academia are similar enterprises. While I understand the spirit of the idea, the basic assumptions are insensitive and damaging. They represent the the pondering of a privileged academic stuck in the ivory tower.

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Tuesday Linkage

duckdroneHuman Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
Rights groups criticize incendiary attacks in Syria.
Important new report on Syrian child casualties.
On corpse-counting in former war zones.
“Terminator ethics” discussions among autonomous weapons proponents.
Momentum among humanitarian stakeholders how to curb explosive violence.
972 Mag on tensions between animal rights and human rights movements. Time on how trauma journalism worsens relief efforts in the Phillipines. Killer Apps on US military basing and humanitarianism.

Drone Wars
Obama Administration is under fire again on drones after drones hit a Pakistani seminary. Opposition forces in Pakistan are calling for the government to start shooting drones on sight. Former drone sensor operator Brandon Bryant on what’s being a drone co-pilot is like. Meanwhile weaponized drones are proliferating: WAPO on Pakistan’s new domestic drones; BBC on China’s emerging drone arsenal.

via PolsciRumors: is scholarship broken?
Academia according to The Onion.
Berkeley professor’s viral email on why he will not be canceling class tomorrow.
Maya Mikdashi on Thanksgiving as a teaching moment.

NASA: Comet Ison may hit a solar storm.
Humans can now touch things far away by reaching through their computer screens.
Short film portraying the other side of Ryan Stone’s Gravity distress call is in running for an Oscar nomination. Continue reading


Monday Linkages: ugly women are more competent?

Two steps forward, two steps back. Just as three women completed training in the Marines for the first time- and as the US Military works to integrate women in to the combat arms, a top female US Colonel has lost her job because she asked for “average looking women” to be used in communications.
Col. Lynette Arnhart had been leading the effort to open more infantry roles for women in the army by January 1 2016. Politico first broke this story, noting that Arnhart had recommended avoiding using attractive women in communications because: “In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.” She dug herself deeper went on to say “There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person). It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy. For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty),”
After numerous media reports on the gaffe, Col. Arnhart was removed from her post and replaced.
Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, weighed in on this….wait what?…ok she is also a National Guard soldier- declaring that the comments about attractiveness are “the unfortunate reality.” Continue reading


Are you for or against compliance?

Ducks window capecodLast week, I finally had the opportunity to read Lisa Martin’s recent piece on compliance entitled Against Compliance. Prof. Martin meticulously evaluates the literature on compliance and concludes that compliance is the wrong dependent variable to uncover the causal effect of international law on state behavior. Martin’s review of compliance studies is comprehensive and her analysis is sound. She correctly identifies the conceptual and empirical problems that continue to trouble compliance research. Against Compliance prompted me to rethink long and hard about compliance, and stars aligned to make me consider Martin’s arguments all week along. Lisa Martin makes an important contribution, and I do agree with some of her points. But I am not ready to give up on compliance.

Martin argues that compliance tells us nothing about treaty implementation or effectiveness.  Soon after I read this criticism, I got hit with the early syllabi posting requirement. Faculty are required to post representative syllabi on the first day of the registration period. I complied. But what does compliance mean? My impression is that have a good number of folks put TBAs on their early syllabi because they have yet to figure out the readings and assignments. Incomplete syllabi indicate poor implementation. Students at best get a vague idea about the course. I am also skeptical about the effectiveness of this rule. Which plays a larger role in students’ decision-making? Early syllabi or online professor reviews? And don’t many students just take the courses their advisors recommend. I fully agree with Martin. We should not confuse compliance with implementation and effectiveness, and we need to be careful about what we causally attribute to international law. Yet I am still for compliance. I think throwing away compliance could do more harm than good. Compliance does indicate a particular kind of causal effect. In a nontrivial number of cases, compliance is the pivot in the behavioral chain. If our goal is to examine conformity of state behavior to what is prescribed, following Oran Young’s (1979:104) definition, compliance is the first step in assessing the effect of international law on state behavior. Outliers aside, doesn’t implementation usually rest on compliance? And if compliance is not followed by good implementation, don’t we want to know when and why this happens?

Prof. Martin diligently discusses the known challenges that plague the empirical study of compliance. How can we infer the causal effect of international law on state behavior if states create laws that reflect their interests? What does compliance tell us if parties to a treaty have no intention of violating it? The universe clearly wanted me reflect upon these questions in the busiest time of the semester. I got hit with the university’s yearly compliance training. As any “good” assistant professor would do, I conscientiously completed my training and agreed anew to abide by many university policies. But so what? Compliance with these rules is my default position. For instance, it is in my interest to comply with tenure and promotion policies. In the same vein, I would never abuse human subjects, embezzle money or harass anyone whether university policies instruct me or not. I agree with Lisa Martin that the study of compliance could benefit from “the direct measurement of the policies states implement and from counterfactual analysis.” I also recognize her concerns about the limitations of statistical solutions. Yet I am still for compliance. Though imperfect, statistical specifications do address some of the problems we face in causal inference. I am not entirely convinced that the techniques that help us identify whether treaties “constrain or screen” are always ineffective (von Stein, 2005). And other creative solutions also exist. Grieco, Gelpi and Warren (2009), for example, explore what happens to compliance when government preferences change, operationalizing change by partisan shifts. Some who study compliance with EU law have long examined  inconvenient compliance  to get valid inferences (e.g. Boerzel). My own work experimentally manipulates compliance costs and assesses politicians’ support for compliance when compliance requires significant deviation in behavior. Similarly, Michael Findley, Michael Tomz and Dustin Tingley use experiments to tackle the inference problem. Scholars at USCD-ILAR also rigorously tackle selection effects and endogeneity problems.

There are works that do convincingly demonstrate the causal effect of international treaties and conventions. Instead of moving away from compliance, I think it is important to broaden our understanding of causal effects and theorize different kinds of effects. Compliance, when properly conceptualized, measured, and analyzed, does indicate a particular kind of behavioral effect. To understand the different effects international law and institutions can have on state behavior, I think it is important to keep compliance alive.

I cannot possibly do justice here to Martin’s and others’ contributions. Neither can I capture the essence of the Opinio Juris symposium on law and compliance. And I now have to comply with the faculty profile update requirement to get my name off the blacklist. I have been defecting on this for months. I am still for compliance. How about you?




An ExPat Academic Thanksgiving

duck-thanksgivingIt is time for an academic Thanksgiving (at least it is for me, flew home early because it was Reading Week in the UK), that time of year when we give thanks for when our ancestral academic Deans fed us when we were hungry. Something like that…cornucopia with grants, laptops, and travel funds.  Who knows how it all started. 

Still, it is that time of year we all reflect on what we are thankful for.  So what am I thankful for, as an academic?

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Friday Nerd Blogging: Gun Control, Dragon Control, and Star(Buck) Power

I realize I am putting my Twitter standings at great risk by potentially appearing to make light of an important social issue.* But when I found this treatise on the importance of tighter regulations for dragons I couldn’t resist sharing. Happy Friday!

Game of Thrones – Dragon Control by TheShortsShow

*Though I hate to disagree with anyone whose work I admire so greatly, and though no one can really argue with Katee Sakhoff’s call for gun safety, as a political scientist I must say that Sakhoff is wrong on gun control. First, there is important evidence from experimental studies that on average, children (especially boys) cannot be trained in gun safety reliably enough to prevent the sort of accidents in the article to which her tweet referred, so the idea that training children in gun safety will solve these problems is mistaken. Second, her claim that tighter gun laws can “never happen in the US” flies in the face of much evidence to the contrary. US history is replete with norms – civil rights, women’s suffrage, etc – pushed through by the federal government against the vocal opposition of a conservative minority, and eventually accepted. Comparative examples (like Australia) suggest the same could ultimately be true for guns, and the lynchpin would be conservative leadership in favor of stricter rules. Given Sakhoff’s new standing with the gun lobby on the basis of her tweet and star(buck) power, she herself could exercise a positive or negative influence on this debate. Continue reading


Equity in Global Climate Governance: An Update From Warsaw

Following on my round of links on Thursday, this is a guest post from Jennifer Hadden from the University of Maryland who is in Warsaw at the global climate negotiations (follow her on Twitter here).

Yeb Saño, Climate Change Commissioner of the Philippines, opened the annual negotiations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change last week by making an emotional appeal to delegates to “stop the madness” and act decisively on climate change. As of Thursday evening, there have been two three walkouts by the G77/China on the issue of ‘loss and damage’ and a substantial and broad-based civil society walkout over the general lack of progress in the talks.

Skeptical observers might wonder if this is not just the usual COP drama. Are these meetings becoming nothing more than a symbolic opportunity for developing countries to air their grievances while developed countries listen politely (or in the Australian case, impolitely)? Don’t NGOs always behave theatrically in order to draw attention to themselves? Does anything even really happen at these meetings anymore?  Continue reading


Thursday Morning Linkage – Special Climate Negotiations Edition

The annual climate negotiations are going on at the moment in Warsaw, Poland. For long-time observers of the process, they have a Groundhog Day-esque quality to them. Every year the same issues seem to come up again and again, and it’s unclear if there has been any meaningful progress or if each negotiation is more or less a replay of what transpired the previous year, with divisions between developed and developing countries almost always ever-present.

Rich countries aren’t doing enough while poor countries and environmental activists are demanding greater action because there is a climate crisis. Somehow, 10,000+ activists descending upon delegates of nearly 200 nations doesn’t seem to do much, yet the annual dance. This year is no different, though it is an interim meeting before a new and improved climate agreement with some legal form set to be negotiated in 2015. In the meantime, here is what’s going down this year…

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Tactical Concessions or a Kiss Off? Understanding Recent Changes in Chinese Human Rights Policies

As has been widely reported in the Western media, on Friday, China’s state media finally officially announced two changes in human rights policies: (a) an end of the “Laojiao” policy of “re-education through labor” and (b) a change in the one-child policy in China, allowing two children per family if at least one of the parents was a single child (before both parents had to be only children).   Other, somewhat underreported, changes coming from the same official media report about the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China included a reduction of crimes punishable by death and efforts “to ban extorting confessions through torture and physical abuse.” Also in the news last week concerning Chinese human rights: China will have a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in the New Year.

What do these changes mean for the human rights situation in China?  Are they a sign of things to come or are these changes just “window dressing,” meant to divert attention away from the very pressing human rights problems within the state?  Many experts have highlighted that it is the latter: for example, Steve Tsang, although saying that the steps are an “important step forward,” said that it would be “naive to think this effort will seriously address the human rights problems in China.”  The famously negative NGO UN Watch also indicated that it was a “black day for human rights” when China and other human rights offenders were elected to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

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Announcing the 2014 Blogging Awards and Reception at ISA


Duck of Minerva is pleased to announce the second annual Online Achievement in International Studies (OAIS) Blogging Awards — better known as the Duckie Awards — and the second annual International Studies Blogging Reception at ISA in Toronto.

We are asking Duck readers to submit nominations for the awards and later to vote for the three finalists in each category. Last year’s winners have generously agreed to judge the finalists and select the 2014 winners.

Once again, we are thrilled that with the support of SAGE and the efforts of SAGE editor David Mainwaring and the Sage staff, we will be hosting an IR Blogging Reception at the 2014 International Studies Association Annual Convention in Toronto.   The reception is scheduled for the night of Thursday, March 27, 2014.   Charli is again coordinating the program for the Awards ceremony and we’ll have details on the program soon.

At this point, we need Duck readers to submit nominations — we’ll ask you all to vote on the finalists in January. Here are the rules and nomination and judging procedures for the 2014 awards: Continue reading


Hard to Say I’m Sorry

The reports about the bilateral agreement between the US and Afghanistan that would allow American troops (and other western countries essentially) have suggested that President Hamid Karzai would support the agreement if President Obama apologized or admitted mistakes in the conduct of the war.

This, of course, has produced a reaction or two, given that President Karzai might have a lot of gall to be asking of this given that more than three thousand outsiders (Americans, Danes, Canadians, etc) gave their lives to help the Afghan government.  On the other hand, Obama just apologized for Obamacare’s rollout which has yet to produce any real collateral damage, unlike the American and ISAF efforts in Afghanistan.

So, should Obama admit the US made mistakes in Afghanistan?  Well, did the US make mistakes in Afghanistan?  Here are some that might come up?

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Campaigners Set International Agenda on Autonomous Weapons

ccw2The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots secured an important victory last week when delegates of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) voted unanimously to take up the issue as part of their work to oversee the implementation and further development of the 1980 treaty, which regulates weapons causing inhuman injuries to combatants or civilians.

The CCW process, which includes yearly meetings of state parties as well as review conferences every five years, have become a periodic forum for discussions not only of how to enforce existing rules, but of norm-building around the humanitarian effects of conventional weapons broadly. Norms around landmines, cluster munitions, blinding lasers and incendiary weapons have been incubated in this forum in the past, so it is no surprise that anti-AWS campaigners used this year’s meeting in Geneva as an opportunity to press their cause regarding the dangers of autonomous weapons.

As Matthew Bolton writes, that governments voted to “mandate” the CCW process to examine AWS means the issue is decisively on not just the humanitarian disarmament advocacy agenda but also on the international agenda. This “mandate” to consider the issue will include a threefour-day meeting next year, and a report by the Chair to the States Parties. A single veto could have prevented this international body from further consideration of the issue, and the fact that important stakeholders like Russia and the US did not forestall a larger discussion signals the salience of the issue and the tremendous agenda-setting success enjoyed by the campaign so far. Continue reading


Mixing Scholarly with Blogging Identities

[Note:  This is a guest post from Mira Sucharov and Brent E. Sasley.  Mira Sucharov is Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She blogs at and at Open Zion. Follow her on Twitter.  Brent Sasley is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He blogs at Mideast Matrix. Follow him on Twitter.]

Changes to our technology and to our scholarly norms present new challenges to scholars who engage in the public sphere. More and more academics in Political Science, and especially International Relations, are blogging, tweeting, and writing for online magazines like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and The National Interest, while many with specialization in a specific region or issue-area contribute to region- or issue-specific media.

There is a small but expanding literature on how these changes do and should affect the scholarly enterprise. Often hidden beneath such discussions is how all this affects the scholar herself. There is an inherent assumption that scholars are just that—dispassionate analysts who can look at a set of evidence and draw objective conclusions from it. Continue reading


My Japanese Hate-Mail Tells I am a ‘S— Kimchi Propagandist’ (Hah!) …Where’s Thunderdome When You Need it?

Hollywood’s solution to intractable interstate conflicts

This is what happens when you write in the area of Japanese-Korean relations. Pretty much everybody hates you, because you don’t tell them what they want to hear, and then maximalists come out of the woodwork to, as Robert Farley aptly put it, “explore Japanese-Korean animosity one angry e-mail at a time.” As I’ve argued before, there’s little domestic cost to the either party for the most outrageous rhetoric, so this just goes on and on. Given that intractability,  the Obama administration’s big idea to untangle this – sending embarrassingly unqualified socialite donor Caroline Kennedy  to be ambassador to Japan – is cringe-worthy. So why not call Tina Turner? She’s a celebrity too. And Aunty Entity is the kind of no-nonsense external ref this conflict needs. (Bad 80s references can fix everything!) Anyway…

The other day I posted how the Korean government leaned on me to alter the nomenclature in my writing – from the ‘Sea of Japan’ to the ‘East Sea.’ I don’t exactly stand on this point. I can’t actually say for sure if I use the expression ‘Sea of Japan’ much. But now, I wouldn’t change just to oppose the highly inappropriate arm-twisting of academics by the state. And then a few days ago, I got one my most creative hate-mails (from a Japanese) in awhile. Both letters follow the jump.

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Why Write About Gender if You are Going to Get Blasted for it: diplomacy lessons from Miss Universe?

This week Dan Drezner hosted a guest post on the politics of Miss Universe and I responded by pointing out the lack of/and the need for a gender analysis in his post. In his response, Drezner asks an important question: “Why on God’s green earth would I want to venture out from my professional comfort zone of American foreign policy and global political economy to blog about the politics of gender — just so I can be told by experts on gender politics that I’m doing it wrong?
I think we should discuss this. I assume there are many others in the field who feel the same way. Writing about anything political can evoke a shit-storm of responses- sometimes even more so when writing about issues we are less comfortable with and less confident about. Not to belabor the point, but I thought Drezner missed the gender politics- not that he got it wrong. But the question he raises deserves some attention. So why should non gender experts bother? Why deal with the possibility of offending, misrepresenting, omitting in a gender post- or when using gender in one’s larger body of work? Is it easier to just ignore gender? First, it is important to separate engaging with gender from writing sexist remarks about women. I think any post that writes about women in a sexist way doesn’t count as engaging with gender and certainly deserves the blasts it inevitably will get in the comments section. But feminists and gender scholars should think seriously about how best to engage those who make a genuine effort to think through gender- even when we think they didn’t do a great job.

On one hand, the point is that gender should not be seen a sub-set ‘expertise’ that one has or doesn’t have. If you are an expert on American foreign policy, you should already be confident in thinking through and writing about the gender aspects of foreign policy. On the other hand, that just isn’t the reality of IR and I don’t want my critiques to make someone feel like they should give up trying to engage. And I can empathize. I feel much less comfortable writing about race, LGBTQA and queer issues (amongst many others) and sometimes when I try I get blasted to the point that I wish I hadn’t bothered. That’s not useful is it? So how do we move forward? Continue reading


Avoiding the Joint Security Trap (and Countering Conventional Wisdom)


The diplomatic dustup over Syria brought Russia in from the cold but simultaneously froze any notion that western allies were getting their strategic act together. Nonetheless, although the mistakes in the U.S. and UK’s approach to building support at home and abroad for an intervention in Syria confused leaders and citizens alike, these mistakes should not be interpreted as an abrupt turn-around in their and their allies’ strategic thinking.

In fact the Europeans, even under a prolonged condition of austerity, are making progress filling in the capability gaps made clear in the course of the Libyan operation. Recent history has demonstrated that arguing the U.S. should keep its security blanket in place despite the end of the Cold War—out of fear that Europeans would not increase their own defense capabilities in kind—was mistaken. Still, austerity has prevented sufficient progress to avoid the joint security trap.

Were the Arab Awakening to go awry and were an al-Qaeda affiliate to begin setting up training camps and operating somewhere such as Yemen, the U.S. or possibly NATO would no doubt heed the call once more to deal with the threat.  But any future crisis in Europe’s direct neighborhood, somewhere like Tunisia, will require Europe to take the lead as the U.S. is likely to take a pass.  It is therefore in the joint interests of the U.S. and Europe not to reduce their mutual security at this critical juncture.

However Europe has yet to develop its own integrated, deployable, expeditionary military capability; instead a number of European allies à la the U.S. have been slashing their defense budgets under austerity.  But akin to the classic prisoner’s dilemma, if the U.S. and European allies do not coordinate their cuts and agree to begin “combining” what is left, both will become worse off and experience a mutual loss of security in lieu of cooperating.  In fact, at this juncture western allies are actually on the verge of becoming ensnared in the joint security trap. Continue reading

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