Welcome to sunny and warm New Orleans (or at least sunnier and warmer than wherever most of us have come from!). If you are stepping away from conferencing for a bit, here are a few good reads on the security front. I’ll likely come back in the new few days with one on energy/environment and health. Here I link to work from Alan Kuperman, Jay Ulfelder, Phil Hazlewood, Paul Staniland, and Graeme Wood, covering Libya, body counts, insurgencies, and ISIS. Enjoy.
In the wake of ISIS’s emergence in Libya, my colleague Alan Kuperman weighs in on the debacle that is Libya in Foreign Affairs:
This grim math leads to a depressing but unavoidable conclusion. Before NATO’s intervention, Libya’s civil war was on the verge of ending, at the cost of barely 1,000 lives. Since then, however, Libya has suffered at least 10,000 additional deaths from conflict. In other words, NATO’s intervention appears to have increased the violent death toll more than tenfold.
COUNTING CASUALTIES IN WAR ZONES
Jay Ulfelder, following on AFP reporter Phil Hazlewood’s blog post below, on the challenges of counting casualties in war zones:
I do not doubt the basic truth of the gulags’ existence and the horrible things done there, but as a social scientist, I have to consider how those selection processes and motivations shape what we think we know.
Phil Hazlewood – how can we know of Boko Haram’s atrocities?
No one can travel there, not even AFP’s local Nigerian staff. Telecommunications are destroyed. The only option is for survivors of Boko Haram raids to make it to an area still under government control – like the Borno state capital, Maiduguri – or over the border into Chad to tell their stories. Sometimes that can take weeks.
Photos and video, the proof that seems to be increasingly required to establish beyond doubt that an attack took place? Forget it….
There’s been a lot of attention paid to what happened in Baga – and rightly so. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have published satellite images indicating the level of destruction. But even that couldn’t give an accurate figure of the dead.
“No one stayed back to count the bodies,” one Baga resident told HRW. “We were still running to get out of town.”
KINDS OF INSURGENCIES
Paul Staniland in The New York Times expounds on his typology of insurgencies, suggesting that different strategies are needed for different kinds of insurgencies, distinguishing between “integrated,” “vanguard,” and “parochial” insurgents:
But unless they quickly embed themselves in local communities, vanguards are vulnerable to dissent and disobedience from below. That’s why Al Qaeda in Iraq was so susceptible to the Sunni Awakening in 2007. Similarly, the Islamic State has been able to rapidly expand as a vanguard, but its major weakness remains the possibility of counterrevolt by wary local allies.
Vanguard groups are also vulnerable to a wider range of government strategies than integrated groups. If their leadership is quickly eliminated or politically co-opted, the organization crumbles. The key to counterinsurgency against them, then, is to quickly target leaders while preventing these groups from rebuilding.
WHAT ISIS WANTS?
Graeme Wood with a long essay in The Atlantic on what ISIS wants:
We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it….
We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature….
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
I don’t mean this in a combative way, but just a note that the last two “morning linkages” featured no work by women. Lots of interesting stuff—but is there really no recent interesting work being done in the areas profiled (health, security, rights, environment, etc) by women? Especially as the recent TRIPS report only highlighted one woman in the top 10 “most influential” political scientists (only 1? seriously?), it seems reasonable to be careful to not overlook their contributions when flagging recent work/developments in the field.
Sue, thanks for bringing that to my attention. Last couple of posts were a little thematic, where I tried to group common work that I came across, but I need to be more careful if I’m just reifying patterns of inattention and overlook of material from women. I’ve got some in mind for the next post including this one by Heather Hurlbert on the politics of fear, which I missed the first time. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/the-fear-playbook-112489.html
It connected with a piece my wife and Shana Gadarian wrote in the Monkey Cage in the fall on Ebola and fear so I’m looking to connect the two pieces in a forthcoming post.
Let me know if you think there is some other security work I’ve missed. There were several Duckies nominees from Political Violence at a Glance that I would commend, including several of the nominees for best new blogger, including Alison Beth Hodkins and Vera Mironova.
I’ll be a little more mindful of widening the optic for sources beyond the usual suspects.
Thanks, Josh. Though, of course, I’d note, that it would be odd for “the usual suspects” to be only men. “Usual suspects to whom?” might be the question here. But I appreciate the engagement. My hope is it’s no extra effort to see female accomplishments and innovative ideas than male ones. If it IS extra effort, that’d be a concern. Thanks again.
Sue, I think there may be variation by topic within the sub-field, but in the area of international security, I would say that it isn’t a stretch to say that the field has traditionally been male-dominated. That has started to change, and I know that organizations like WIIS have tried to change that. Still, as Maliniak, Powers, and Walter found, women tend to be cited less than men in IR journals, controlling for other factors. They argue it is a function of 1) women citing themselves less than men and 2) men (who are far more numerous in the discipline) citing men more than women.
So, I think some self-conscious effort by men is warranted and does require extra effort, for people to break out of their comfort zones of citing people they are familiar with and for men to be conscious of the problem of a tendency for men to cite other men.