Author: Burcu Bayram

Groupthink and the Turkish Government

fearThe Turkish government’s unwillingness to intervene in Kobani has led to renewed violence across the country, claiming more than 30 lives. Turkey’s own Kurds demanded action, Ankara bulked, people died. The peace process between Ankara and the Kurds might now be in jeopardy. And the government is drafting a suspicious bill that, if passed, can restrict the civil rights and liberties of Turkish citizens and violate their fundamental human rights.

I was working on a post on the UN climate change summit (next post, promise) but the violence that erupted in Turkey hit home. Growing up in Turkey in the 80s and early 90s meant hearing news of bloodshed everyday. The thirty-year conflict between the government and the PKK claimed more than 40,000 lives, marring everybody… child and adult…Turkish and Kurdish.

Turkey is finally helping the Kurdish fighters in Kobani. But the government missed the historic opportunity to be the pivot of the fight against ISIS and to straighten its domestic affairs. Grupthink seems to be haunting the Turkish ruling elite.

Fearful of an autonomous Kurdish entity in Syria, the government failed to sensibly evaluate the short and long-term political repercussions of its Kobani policy and consider alternative courses of action. Turkey could have played a leading role in the fight against ISIS and revive its strategic importance in the Middle East.

Fearful of its own Kurdish population, the government failed to understand the normative implications of not helping the Kobani Kurds and grasp how its inaction would actually play into the hands of the PKK. The government could have used its assistance to the Kobani Kurds as a symbol of good faith to reach to the moderate Kurdish base in Turkey in the in the ongoing peace talks.

Fearful of conspiracies, the government stereotyped all opposition as weak-willed and disloyal to Turkey, rationalizing the anti-democratic draft defense bill.

As I reluctantly watch Turkish politics from the metroplex of Dallas-Forth Worth now, I am reconnected with the sadness I used to feel as a child as the prolonged conflict claimed many lives.

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Doubts on Doubts: Part Two


In part one, I shared my views on whether international law is really law. As promised, this post cuts into the conversation on whether international law matters.

Violations of international law lead many to question its effectiveness. Non-compliance especially by powerful states reinforces the instrumentalist view which characterizes international law as a strategic instrument of statecraft. States make laws that serve their material interests. Compliance takes place as long as it is convenient.

I am not going to downplay the negative implications of non-compliance for the international social order. But violations are only part of the picture. There are also cases of costly compliance.  IL scholars Jutta Brunnee and Stephen Toope’s book, for example, shows that compliance also takes place because states feel an internalized sense of legal obligation to comply. My own work demonstrates that while some politicians are instrumental compliers calculating the costs and benefits of compliance, others are dutiful compliers motivated by a sense of legal obligation. Derek Beach shows that some EU members have complied with the rulings of the ECJ even though compliance was costly. Of course, Thomas Frank and others have long pointed to instances of costly compliance. Violations of international law make the news. Costly compliance often doesn’t. To have a fuller picture on the effectiveness of international law, we should also look at the “dog that didn’t bark in the night.”

Further, it is critical to appreciate those functions of international law other than the binding function.  Focusing on the binding function of law alone impedes a full understanding of the ways in which international law shapes state behavior. International law also has an expressive function. The expressive function of law refers to its ability to change the social meaning of a given behavior. International law expresses what is expected of “good members” of the international community or of a “good partner” in a bilateral relationship. It communicates which norms and values are  that tied to a virtuous state identity. There are at least three ways in which the expressive function of international law can affect state behavior. By expressing what is right and what is wrong, international law can reconstitute state preferences. By articulating what good members of the international community should do, the law can increase the social and reputational costs of violating shared norms. And finally, the expressive function of law allows state and non-state actors to punish violators or at least forcefully demand an explanation. Drawing insights from domestic theories of expressive law, Michael Stein and Alex Geisinger have offered a theory of expressive international law that is worth exploring.

International law also has a communicative function as Kratochwill, among others, has observed. International law provides a normative framework that serves as a point of reference for states, conditioning their communication. It shapes the “public talk”, in Jennifer Mitzen’s words, among states, international organizations, and publics, and therefore is a crucial part of the international public sphere. Law creates a common language and a set of procedures that structure interstate diplomacy.

Is all this an effort to “save” international law to echo Andrew Guzman? I don’t think so. But is an effort to be fair to international law. More on international law coming soon…


Image source: Thinkstock



Doubts on Doubts: Part One


Dear Readers, apologies for the radio silence. The last few months have been eventful. But I am back in the saddle and getting ready for my graduate seminar on the politics of international law. Skepticism about international law is old but it seems to me Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, and other events deepened the cynicism. “International law isn’t even law in the proper sense. It doesn’t really matter.” I heard statements like this from my students already in our first class last week, at APSA, at the airport bar, and on the flight back home. It is encouraging to see people become more interested in international law regardless of where they stand. Let me contribute to the dialogue by trying to cast doubts on some of the recurring doubts.

‘International law isn’t law because it isn’t centrally enforced.’ This is the John Austin logic. Because international law lacks centralized enforcement, it isn’t law but “positive morality.” What is wrong with this view? A lot, actually. And here is the main problem potently explained by H.L.A. Hart and Michael Barkun. Equating law with sanctions reduces the law to a “gunman” (Hart) and relegates a legal order to system of punishing “social pathologies” (Barkun). Legal systems are not gunmen. International law is no exception.

‘But even H.L.A. Hart called international law as “immature”.’ True but perhaps it is time to revisit his conclusion. Hart defines law as the “union of primary and secondary rules.” Primary rules are those that impose duties either by prescribing or proscribing certain actions. Secondary rules are those that specify the rules and procedures through which primary rules can be created, changed, adjudicated, and enforced. The rule of recognition is the crucial one for Hart (see e.g. Scott Shapiro’s article)  It is the secondary rule that specifies the criteria for the legal validity of primary rules. It is similar to Hans Kelsen’s Grundnorm. Hart did not see international law as the proper union of primary and secondary rules. For him, international law is a system of primary rules but lacks the necessary secondary rules. He rejects pacta sunt servanda as a substitute rule of recognition because treaties are contractual. He is concerned that there is no supranational legislature and/or judiciary in the international system. International law is surely different from domestic law in many ways but a lot has changed since Hart’s Concept of Law. I agree with Mehrdad Payandeh that the contemporary international legal system includes “legislative, executive, and judicative structures which are able to perform the same functions as the legal order of a nation state.”

In my view, Hart’s commitment to a rigid form of positivism also contributes to his doubts about international law. Hart looks for a formal and self-referential “essence” that defines and delineates the concept of law. He neglects that law is not just institutional but also social. Adopting a socio-legal perspective helps us move away from reified accounts of law and see international law in a different light. Brian Tamanaha defines law as “whatever people in the social group conventionally recognize as legal norms through their social practices.” If so, the absence of conventional secondary rules and an orthodox rule of recognition such as a constitution in the international legal system does’t constitute a paradox of authority. International law is what states collectively identify and recognize as law in their practices.
‘If international law is “what states make of” then it is not distinct from non-legal rules.’ Both legal and non-legal rules are normative. Violations of both forms of rules could be subject to punishment. And non-legal ones can sometimes inspire in a stronger sense of obligation than legal ones. So, what is the value added of calling something law? A great group of IR and IL scholars wrestled with this question a couple of years ago at ISA, using Martha Finnemore’s Are Legal Norms Distinctive? as a backdrop. I am very happy I had the opportunity to participate and would be remiss if I didn’t thank Ian Hurd and Alex Wendt for facilitating my last-minute admission to the working group and the participants, especially Charli, for welcoming me.  I think we aren’t likely to find the magic bullet that differentiates legal rules from non-legal ones if we look at the form and behavioral functions of international law alone. The distinctiveness is in the effect of international law on state practice. When a norm is legalized, it is no longer a good idea but the law (see Kenneth Anderson‘s gravity joke on this point). States need to justify their behavior in terms of the law. State discourse need to be anchored in the law, and legal procedures need to be followed. Bargaining, arguing, excuse-making, finger-pointing, and sanctioning all operate differently in the shadow of law.
‘International law doesn’t really matter.’ International law does a lot of hard work. Stay tuned for part two on this point.
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Mental health of detained immigrant children

sanantonioThe news of unaccompanied children and teens crossing the U.S. southern border circulated about two weeks ago, causing serious concern to many. The Obama administration announced that more family detention centers will be opened to detain the minors. Family detention centers have long been criticized on legal grounds, as Paul W. Schmidt’s excellent review outlines. Law scholar Anil Kalhan identifies, coercion, due processes violations, mandatory custody, and limited counsel as the most critical issues. An Amnesty International report tracing violations of human rights associated with immigration detention echoes these points.

The administration’s plan to open new facilities lead to a surge in criticism. A Human Rights Watch researcher, Clara Long, noted that immigrant detention facilities are prohibited under international law because they cause harm to children ranging “from anxiety and depression, to long-term cognitive damage.”

So what does the literature tells us about effects of detention on children’s mental health? Research on the mental health of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers appears relatively young, as Derrick Silove, Zach Steel and Charles Watters explain in a study  published in 2000. Yet there is increasing evidence that detention takes a toll on the mental health of adult and child immigrants. Porter and Haslam’s (2005) cross-national meta analysis showed that asylum seekers and displaced people experience a host of mental health problems and trauma, controlling for exposure to pre-migration trauma. In a 2006 study conducted with refugees in Australia, Steel et al. have observed that detention increased the risk of PTSD, depression, and mental-health related disability, [and] longer detention was associated with more severe mental disturbance.”
Studies indicate that detention has adverse short and long-term effects on the mental health of children. Steel and colleagues (2004) found that children’s likelihood of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and inability to cope increased ten times following detention. Mares et al. (2002) documented that children in detention experienced “dehumanization” and suffered from depression. And because their parents are often traumatized, detained children also lacked proper parental care and protection. Studies examining the mental health of immigrant children in Denmark, Britain, Canada, and the U.S. support these findings. As Robjant, Hassan, and Katona (2009)’s review shows detention not only harmed children’s mental health but also compromised their mental and physical development. Paralleling Lustig et al.’s (2004) findings on child and adolescence refugee mental health, Fazel, Reed, Panter-Brick, and Stein (2012) concluded that psychological and behavioral problems are likely to continue even after immigrant children resettle in the receiving country.
Whether  or not detaining the children crossing our southern border is a necessary evil to address the current crisis, it is critical to extend them a “helping hand.” Importantly, we need to provide them access to clinical care and give them their agency back as Christopher Nugent argues. These children after all are “not a sack of potatoes” to quote Jacqueline Bhadba.

image: Breitbart Texas

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Obama and ISIL

barack-obamaPresident Obama announced that the U.S. will send up to 300 military advisors to assist the Iraqis in the fight against the Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, but there will be no American troops on the ground and no air strikes for now. “Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis” said Obama, urging Iraqi leaders to find a solution. Since the Iraqi foreign minister formally asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes against ISIL, analysts have been debating what airstrikes may and may not accomplish. On the lawfare, just security, and opinio juris, law scholars have been discussing whether the President has the domestic legal authority to order airstrikes, and whether a military action would violate international law. Obama’s decision to send advisors rather than re-enter the war in Iraq is likely to add ammunition to ongoing debates about his leadership style? Is Obama’s leadership in foreign policy correctly “disciplined” or passive? While acknowledging that the turmoil in Iraq presents the President with a dilemma, critics are already calling for a more assertive American response. Get rid of Maliki! Hit ISIL with drones! Re-establish the U.S. presence! The administration might very well shift gears and order military strikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. But I think Obama’s decision to first assist Iraq rather than immediately take over the crisis is an example of good leadership. When the U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, the President maintained that we were “leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government.” Well, maybe not stable and sufficiently self-reliant, but for better or worse, Iraq is a sovereign state, and the Iraqis themselves have to devise a political solution -with or without Malak’i- to end the sectarian conflict. I do not like every aspect of Obama’s foreign policy, but he is treating Iraq as a sovereign ally rather than a child. I think this is good leadership. Image: Msnbc, the grio


I’d like some lemonade with my advice, please

lemonadeAs a junior faculty member, I am not in a position to turn down advice. Fortunately, I receive good advice from mentors, colleagues, and friends.  I am very thankful. Lately, I have also been getting advice from a few organizations for faculty development. They provide free tips on writing and productivity, navigating the job market, and balancing responsibilities as well as seek to debunk some of the myths about success in the academia. On average, their advice has been fairly useful (I have not signed up for paid services, and I certainly do not have a representative sample here).

But based on my experience, I take issue with the advice industry’s focus on mistakes. A laundry of list of mistakes junior faculty must avoid seems ubiquitous: taking on service, supervising theses, investing too much into your current institution, working on multiple projects at once, not eating healthy, not seeking out mentors, not having work-life balance… Avoid these mistakes!

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Do Not Despair: Russian Intervention and International Law

UnknownRussia’s military intervention in Ukraine naturally prompted a lot talk about the limits of international law. Eric Posner noted: “ 1. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine violates international law. 2. No one is going to do anything about it.” Julian Ku argued: “International law can be, and often is, a very important tool for facilitating international and transnational cooperation. But it is not doing much to resolve to Ukraine crisis, and international lawyers need to admit that.” For Ku, the current crisis supports the claims of Rationalist law-skeptics, international law works when legal requirements align with self-interest. Many others, including a good portion of my students see the failure of international law in Ukraine. Continue reading


How the Blogosphere Helps Junior Scholars?


Dear Readers,

In this post, I would like to focus on the few ways in which the blogosphere and social media more generally help junior scholars. I will use myself as an example.

It is not easy for me to reach out to senior colleagues and start a dialogue. I find it much easier to respond to a blog post they publish than to email them out of the blue. Right before last ISA, I contacted a senior scholar about his guest post on the Duck. He replied in the kindest manner possible. And I had the privilege to have lunch with him at ISA. I am very thankful.

I am interested in meeting new colleagues, finding collaborators, and making new friends. But networking is not my forte. Even though I have only contributed a handful of posts to the Duck thus far, I had the opportunity to get acquainted with a few contemporaries. I look forward to meeting them in person at upcoming conferences.

Remember the times you had to dine alone at conferences because you didn’t know anyone other than your graduate school friends. I had my fair share of isolated nights. I didn’t enjoy eating alone in my hotel room.  I and many others, I think, will have pleasant dinners at conferences thanks to the social media.

Academic blogs also help me stay connected to the field. I have heavy teaching responsibilities. I admit that I am not always on top of what is hot in all the subfields during the academic year. Blogs give me an idea of what I should read during the summer months. And as Jon mentioned, blog posts make good reading materials in some courses.

Facilitating a sense of community is another contribution of the blogosphere. A few people told me that they appreciated the simple post I wrote about letter of recommendation requests. The post signaled to them that they weren’t alone. Their feedback signaled to me that I wasn’t out there.

Academic blogs also offer a great opportunity to junior scholars to figure out how things work. Colleagues generously share their experiences on social media. Some offer advice. I continue to learn from them. I am glad I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

I think junior faculty and grad students have a lot of reason to support the ISA “Online Media Caucus.” Thank you Steve and others for coming up with this proposal.





I wish I could quote Marry Poppins

Duck-Face-BR11011When you do not know what to say, “summon up this word and then you’ve got a lot to say! Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” says Marry Poppins.  I wish I could quote her when I do not know what to say to an MA student who wants to get a Ph.D. but perhaps should not. I think I am not alone. Engaging a student who may be better served by a non-academic career must be difficult for anyone. Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be harder for junior faculty.

A new leaf has been turned, graduation is around the corner. Students begin to request letters of recommendation right around this time. True only a handful of MA students are interested in the academic life, but those who are seem determined. Almost having a masters degree under their belt probably contributes to their tenacity. Supporting those with potential is very rewarding.  Engaging others, however, could be stressful.

Imagine the AP directs the student to the facts candidly covered in writings on the Duck and elsewhere. But the student bounces back. While applauding the student’s resilience, the AP questions her/his calibration. Still, the student’s letter of recommendation request awaits a response. What should the AP do? Here are a few observations extracted from conversations with friends and colleagues.

Being cruel to be kind … Honesty may be the best policy, but a veto is a negative judgment on the student’s abilities no matter how kindly it is pitched.  It will upset the student. Students talk among themselves. The word will spread horizontally. It may also spread vertically. The AP is a dream-crusher. Not a good reputation.

Being busy… Playing the busy card also seems suspect. Perpetually failing to respond to the student’s emails or carve out a time to meet will eventually be interpreted as lack of commitment to students and possibly to the department. The AP is apathetic.

Being vague…  A polite unequivocal no is at least graceful. Promising to get back to the student but not following through, telling the student to ask later or otherwise leaving the student in limbo only prolongs the student’s anxiety. And ambiguity is unfair if the final answer is going to be no. The AP is not student-friendly. Also not good.

Let’s look at a few alternatives.

Let others speak… The AP could to consult with senior colleagues, raise her/his concerns, and ask for guidance. Colleagues will provide words of wisdom. They will also enlighten the AP about what is appropriate in the department’s academic culture. Some might even offer to meet with the student. The AP is humble. A good reputation.

Let the data speak…The AP could construct a rating scheme and provide an estimate of how the student will be ranked relative to others in the comparison sample. If categorized as average, the student will most likely withdraw her/his request. Systematization also reduces the likelihood of partiality. The AP is analytical.

Let psychology speak…This is my personal favorite. The AP could help the student to reevaluate the Ph.D. option by addressing a few decision-making pathologies such as wishful thinking, risk denial, and overconfidence. For instance, the facts about academia may not be terribly depressing to the student because statistics and risk are construed subjectively. It is the “but, this won’t be me” effect that smokers fall when they think they are less  likely than non-smokers to develop smoking-related conditions. The AP could share stories of actual people to alleviate risk denial or optimism bias. Experiential learning will also contribute to better self-awareness. The AP could encourage the student to transform a class paper into a rigorous research paper that produces new knowledge and supply honest feedback. The AP is empathetic. Also good.

I may be over-thinking this, but I believe I am not the only person who wants to quote Marry Poppins. There are too many moving parts… professional standards, personal principles, regard for the student, structural constraints etc. And, of course, the AP could also be wrong. This seems like  a tough one.





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?




Halloween in Turkey

UnknownHalloween is not celebrated in Turkey. Yet if they were celebrating Halloween, Turks who support democracy, secularism, human rights, and the rule of law would not have a hard time finding a haunted house. The country seems like a haunted house. This group of Turks, “modern bandits” in the eyes of the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, have long been fearful of Turkey’s future. Now they are even more alarmed. And there is good reason for that. A glance at few of the scary things that have happened since spring/summer 2013 explains why.

Gezi protests of last summer were not about a park. People rebelled against the years-long AKP reign that wreaked democracy and secularism in Turkey. The government’s plan to destroy the park in Taksim, Istanbul was simply the last drop.  Then came the attack on Middle East Technical University (Metu). A little over a week ago, Major Melih Gokcek’s “friends”–allegedly without his knowledge– “surprised” him by destroying 3000 trees on campus for the construction of a controversial highway project. To add to insult to injury, friends of Gokcek bulldozed through Metu’s forest in the middle of the night on a holiday. Just a few days later, clouds of tear gas again pervaded Metu’s campus.  Peaceful activists gathered  to replant trees were attacked. Civil society lost again.
And on October 22, democratic secular Turks got boo-ed by the European Union.  EU governments agreed to re-open accession talks with Turkey in early November. The timing of this decision is very unfortunate. Erdogan will claim this decision as his big victory. He will most likely portray the new round of negotiations as the EU’s endorsement of his government’s successful policies and reforms. Emboldened by this decision, he will become more daring.  Germany could have done a big favor to the frightened anti-AKP minority in Turkey by maintaining its opposition to the re-opening of talks.
Turkish politics is not my area; I do not claim any expertise. But I think  second-image reversed approaches will become increasingly more useful for understanding Erdogan’s future policies towards the opposition.



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


The Scarcity of Politics in Cosmopolitan Theory: Part I


Syria has raised several questions that pertain to morality, legality, and strategy in international relations.  Discussed extensively on the DuckOpinio Juris, The Monkey Cage, and elsewhere the situation in Syria has sparked a valuable debate on critical issues, both old and new. I would like to touch upon the implications of Syria for Cosmopolitanism. I think Syria has again highlighted the core dilemma of Cosmopolitan theory: the scarcity of politics. Protecting inalienable human rights requires applying normative cosmopolitan principles in practice. Application necessitates a departure from cosmopolitan normative theory towards cosmopolitan practice. And practice is inevitably political. Questions about when and how R2P applies, when intervention without Security Council authorization may be justified, and when a state looses its sovereign privileges when the government attacks its own people are about applied normativity. Cosmopolitan theory still offers relatively little on the politics of norm implementation.

At its, core, Cosmopolitanism asserts that there are “moral obligations owed to all human beings based solely on our humanity alone, without reference to race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, political affiliation, state citizenship, or other communal particularities (Brown and Held).”  Taking the inherent moral worth of the individual as its starting point, Legal Cosmopolitanism calls for the institutionalization of key cosmopolitan normative principles. Versions of Cosmopolitanism abound. I bracket these debates for the time being and recommend Catherine Lu’s article for a useful and critically-informed review. But there is consensus among scholars that honoring and protecting the individual is the core principle shared by Cosmopolitans of all stripes.

From Cicero to Kant, Pogge to Taylor, a lot has been said about the promises as well as perils of Legal Cosmopolitanism. But as As Garrett Wallace Brown notes in a recent article, we still have not moved “from cosmopolitan normative theory to cosmopolitan legal practice.” I think this is one reason why Cosmopolitanism seems to have little to say on the implementation of R2P. Thou shalt not kill may indeed be a universal norm. Yet how it is applied in practice by people and institutions varies. Shibley Telhami noted that the U.S. should not expect a “thank you” from the Arab world for intervening. This does not mean the Arab public opinion supports the use of chemical weapons on civilian populations. But it does suggest that the Arab world has a different understanding of how civilians need to be protected and criminal actions punished.

Cosmopolitan theory generally has a hard time tackling normativity in practice. It talks about our obligations towards global compatriots and calls for reforming existing international organizations to institutionalize cosmopolitan ideals. Yet it does not always tell us what our obligations are in practice and how they relate to our other moral duties, including those to the nation. It also gives us little policy guidance on institutional reform and on the role of the state in cosmopolitics. And the political implications of applied cosmopolitanism for democracy, moral diversity, and individual autonomy, to name a few important issues, sometimes remain unexplored. Of course, progress has been made and there is growing interest in applied global normativity. But I think IR scholars could offer additional insights that will inform theory and facilitate empirical research. I will sketch out some of my thoughts in Part II of this discussion. (Image source: Roberts)


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