Writing Wednesdays: write to a deadline by any means necessary

Scholarly work is often written to deadline—the contribution to an edited volume, the essay for a journal’s special issue, and the book review are all going to be fit into someone else’s bigger schedule. … Living with—thriving on—deadlines makes professionals professional.

—William Germano

During my early days in graduate school, I was often struck by the contrast in how academics thought about writing and how journalists do. Before starting my program, I worked at a non-profit and had spent 12 years in the Air National Guard, including stints on active duty. In both capacities, writing regular copy was a regular part of my duties. And yet, while in school, many of my classmates had or developed an aversion to writing. At least that is what we all told each other to avoid sharing our work.

It is true that writing scholarship is different. Working with data, archives, and formal models are time intensive processes, even for the best of us. Doing those well necessarily slows down the writing process.

Or does it? As Steven Pressfield as described it, writing is war against one’s self. According to him, writer’s block, even the most justified “I’m working on my data analysis” kind is nothing more than procrastination. Overcoming procrastination is as simple as building a habit to write regularly, perhaps even daily. Yes, simple does not mean easy.

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Peacekeeping’s Perverse Effects: Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Remilitarized Politics

In under two weeks, Brazil will have the second round of its presidential election. Former military officer and fan of fascists Jair Bolsonaro looks set after a strong first-round showing to defeat Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad. If he wins, Bolsonaro will have strong party backing in Congress, though he does not care much for the legislature—in 1999, Bolsonaro said Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship “should have killed 30,000 people more, starting with Congress and [then-President] Fernando Henrique Cardoso.” Bolsonaro’s running mate is retired General Hamilton Mourão, his planning adviser and likely Minister of Transport is General Oswaldo Ferreira, an anti-environmentalist who looks for inspiration to infrastructure projects enacted by Brazil’s military government, and Bolsonaro has promised to stack his cabinet with generals. Current and retired military officers have been prominent backers of Bolsonaro, and Bolsonaro announced that he would not accept any result other than victory, menacingly saying “I cannot speak for military” but that there “could be a reaction by the Armed Forces” if he lost and deemed it due to PT fraud (never mind that the PT is not currently in power).

As Michael Albertus highlighted, the military is returning to Brazilian politics in a big way. While the military in Argentina was punished for its dictatorial Dirty War, elites with ties to dictatorship never faced sanctions or fully left the political scene in countries like Brazil and Chile. In Brazil, civilian leaders managed to weaken the military during the transition to democracy, but it retained a broad scope of activities, including internal security and development, especially in combating the drug trade, a mission with which current President Michel Temer tasked the military earlier this year in Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro spent his time as a representative in Congress “interested in helping the military above all else,” and his message that he will restore law and order both resonates with a Brazilian public fed up with high rates of violent crime and with a military keen to reassert itself. Continue reading

Do we need to teach the IR paradigms at all?

Over the weekend, fellow guest contributor Luke Perez had an interesting post on whether we need to include the grand paradigms of international relations  (realism, liberalism, and constructivism) in foreign policy classes. He makes some good points on how to customize courses for foreign policy students; be sure to read it if you haven’t. I’d like to go further and ask whether we need to teach these paradigms at all.

I’m coming at this from a different perspective than Perez. I teach at an undergraduate focused institution. So I’m preparing students for a broad array of potential political science careers. But the issue with the paradigms’ importance transcends any single realm of higher education.

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Syllabus Musing—can we teach foreign policy without paradigms?

As a new postdoc to the Kinder Insitute, I have the good fortune not to be teaching this semester. In addition to working on my book manuscript—more on that later—I have been spending a good deal of time thinking through my class on U.S. foreign policy. This has been a good experience even at this early stage because it has forced me to think about what students really need to know about foreign policy, and it has provided me the spurring I needed to begin distilling my graduate training into a systematic framework.

Writing a syllabus poses several challenges, not least of which are what the students should learn. Although it would be nice to have some aggregate data, at this time I am unaware of anything like the GRaduate Assignments Data Set (GRADS) on graduate readings in IR. And although it would be nice to have data on what approaches work best, I have a hunch that most of what we do does not actually train students to think about foreign policy in a serious way.

My own survey of syllabi, both from GRADS and my own smaller collection, suggest that the plurality of courses in foreign policy begin with a brief survey of the paradigms, maybe some introductory concepts like the agent-structure problem, research programs, some methods, and then finally about half way through a semester or later, finally get into the meat of specific issues and themes. And sure, maybe its an exaggeration to characterize foreign policy and IR courses this way. But my growing hunch is that a lot of the explanation for teaching foreign policy this way stems from the tension between foreign policy and IR. The former, I think, looks at international politics from the vantage point of the state or politician’s view of the international system; the later looking at states like the old familiar billiard ball. There are strengths to each, and there are great ways of teaching foreign policy without relying on IR approaches as the primary lens through we introduce students to foreign policy.

Can foreign policy be taught without reference to the paradigms of realism, liberalism, and constructivism? Can be taught without weeks of theoretical and conceptual throat clearing? If so, how so? Continue reading

With Arms Sales, “It’s Not Just the Economy, Stupid”

This post comes from Jennifer Spindel, Assistant Professor in the Department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma and a 2018 participant in Bridging the Gap’s New Era Workshop

The disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi this month has led to calls for the US to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Trump has ignored these calls, saying “it would not be acceptable to me” to cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia because doing so would hurt the US economy. Arms sales have been a remarkably consistent news topic, from discussions about US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, to the recent grounding of the F-35 fleet, to disputes with Turkey about its arms purchases. This is, on the one hand, unsurprising: the United States sold $55.6 billion in weapons in the 2018 fiscal year, a 33 percent jump from the previous year. Yet the way the Trump administration talks about arms sales in terms of their sheer market and economic value reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about the political stakes of arms sales.

The issues surrounding the F-35 are instructive. From potentially decapitating pilots to recognized hardware issues, the F-35 has become a favorite (if too easy) punching bag in the defense community. Despite issues with the F-35’s capabilities, the plane is still a sought-after weapon – and not just because states have already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into developing and producing it.

The recent fighting between the US and Turkey over Turkey’s F-35 procurement illustrates the political stakes of such deals. Turkish companies produce components for the F-35, and Turkey is supposed to receive at least 20 of the planes. But in December 2017 Turkey purchased the Russian-produced S-400 missile defense system and, in response, the US Senate wanted to prohibit Turkey from acquiring the F-35. There is some concern that the S-400 will be able to collect intelligence about the F-35’s capabilities – and send this information back to Russia.

Yet much of the debate concerns the broader political problems of Turkey buying the S-400. States treat arms transfers as signals of foreign policy alignment: Turkey’s deal with Russia drove home its deteriorating relationship with the US and European States.

This political salience is reflected in statements by US and other policy-makers about the arms sale. US Assistant Secretary of State Weiss Mitchell said, “We can’t be any clearer in saying, both privately and publicly: a decision on S-400s will qualitatively change the US-Turkish relationship in a way that would be very difficult to repair.” Similarly, US Senator James Lankford said, “Turkey has gone a long way from being a NATO ally and an important partner in working against terrorism, to the situation today.” US allies are taking Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 as a symbol of rift between Turkey and the West, with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute calling it “meltdown in relations between Turkey and the US.” Israel has repeatedly expressed its concern about Turkey to the United States, arguing that allowing Turkey to get the F-35 would reward its bad behavior, and that Turkey should no longer be considered a “real” NATO member.

The political effects of the plane on the U.S.–Turkey relationship are independent of its military capabilities and will not change even though the entire F-35 fleet was grounded yesterday. The F-35 is, if nothing else, a status symbol that reflects the strength of political ties between states that have it.

As a signal of alignment, arms sales have wide-ranging consequences. Turkey’s simultaneous pursuit of the F-35 and the S-400 has emboldened other US friends to do the same. What was once unthinkable – US-friendly states actively courting Russian weapon systems – is becoming increasingly common. India, which was recently designated a Major Defense Partner by the United States, also signed a deal to get the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, a US ally, has hinted its interest in getting the S-400 as well.

Arms deals are much more than the transfer of military capability. Nor can they be thought of purely in economic terms. But – in responding to calls to suspend arms transfers to Saudi Arabia for its air campaigns in Yemen or, this week, for its supposed murder of Jamal Khashoggi – Trump has chosen to emphasize the economic consequences of halting arms transfers: “We have jobs, we have a lot of things happening in this country,” he said. “Part of that is what we’re doing with our defense systems and everybody’s wanting them. And frankly I think that that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country.”

Even if Saudi Arabia proved the crucial market to keeping US production lines open, Trump is overlooking the foreign policy signal that the arms sales send. By continuing to supply Saudi Arabia with arms, the US is tacitly endorsing Saudi actions. Congress should, at the very least, suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The State Department approved $1 billion worth of sales to the kingdom in March – delaying the transfer of TOW anti-tank missiles would be one clear way to signal US displeasure with Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, why should Saudi Arabia cooperate with investigations into the disappearance of Khashoggi, or modify its policy in Yemen? In the realm of international politics, talk is cheap; actions matter. Cutting off arms sales or switching suppliers is one way states can signal their dissatisfaction with partners, as Turkey so clearly did by purchasing the S-400. The political stakes of arms sales are high – and it is crucial that policymakers consider that political significance in their arms sales decision calculus along with economic and military considerations.

 

This Blog Post is About Conference Program Selection

This is a guest post from Jonathan D. Caverley, Associate Professor at the Naval War College and Research Scientist at MIT, and Monica Duffy Toft, Professor at Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The program for the 2019 International Studies Association (ISA) meeting has been released, and International Relations Twitter has feelings about it. The stakes of inclusion on the program are not small. Presenting a paper at ISA is frequently an essential step towards publication in the field’s refereed journals, these meetings provide valuable networking space, travel funds are often predicated on a paper being accepted, and ISA often takes place in great cities…as well as Atlanta (we kid!). Because of the value of these slots and their growing scarcity, we believe a little more transparency about how decisions are made in accepting participants onto the program is helpful. We therefore write this post to share lessons we have learned as the co-chairs of the ISA’s International Security Studies Section (ISSS) program for the 2019 Annual Conference.

We do not think we have the last word on how to do this, which is one of the reasons we are writing this. Since both of us have, like most program chairs, vowed to never (ever!) do this again, this blog post seeks to lay out some ideas for future chairs. We write this with the understanding that so much of the knowledge of how the process works is unavailable to many scholars, particularly junior ones. We realize our fortune in having received great mentorship at a top American PhD program, and having had jobs at well-resourced and networked departments since. Collectively we have been in this business for several decades. And yet we still came to the process with little idea of the many elements of conference program selection and management we actually encountered.

What follows are ten facts and lessons that jumped out at us. We hope that this will trigger a discussion and the generation of other lessons. Continue reading

Reflections on a Hoax

Last week, an article published in the online outlet Areo revealed a hoax that involved ideologically motivated academics writing fake papers in the realms of what they characterized as “grievance studies,” and trying to place them in humanities journals—the idea being to demonstrate that such research is meaningless and not rigorous. Besides the fact that the hoaxsters were mostly unsuccessful in this endeavor—only four papers out of the twenty authored were published—the fact that this endeavor has been used as a tool to discredit a wide-range of scholarship in the realms of , inter alia, gender, race, and sexuality studies has caused a stir in academic circles.

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MbS made USCIRF smile: Gatekeepers and Norm Erosion

For many, Saudi Arabia finally went too far. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul; reports suggest he may be dead. Pundits who gave Mohammed bin Salman—Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, also known as MbS—a chance to prove his reformist credentials have become critical. In the midst of all this, a commissioner of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom—(USCIRF) a government-affiliated human rights watchdog—announced…that Saudi Arabia is making great progress on protecting religious freedom? At first glance, this is confusing, but it may be an indication of the powerful role of strategic framing and policy gatekeepers in eroding international norms.

In “Bono made Jesse Helms cry,” international relations scholar (and permanent Duck of Minerva contributor) Joshua Busby discussed the dynamics through which activists can influence states’ foreign policy; his article also inspired the title for this post. Activists can intensify the appeal of their moral arguments by strategically framing their campaigns to match the cultural value of targets. And when they specifically target “policy gatekeepers,” who provide direct access to the relevant policymaking tools, their appeals can change states’ behavior.

Most assume this dynamic is a positive one, a way for activists to spread altruistic ideas and get states to adopt them. But what if it could be used by states themselves to undermine human rights norms?

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Is faith-specific aid the best way to help Iraq’s Christians?

Vice President Pence recently pressured the US agency for international development (USAID) to appoint a special liaison to Iraqi Christians. This may not capture the same headlines as the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination fight or the new NAFTA, but it could have significant—and unexpected—implications for Middle East stability. Pence’s move was part of a year-long fight over US aid policy towards Iraq’s religious minorities, with several conservatives voices claiming USAID and the United Nations were failing to help groups persecuted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In response, Pence has pressured USAID to change its approach. While helping persecuted people is a good thing, I’m worried these policies may actually cause more harm then they prevent.

Last October, Vice President Pence said the United States would redirect aid from the United Nations and directly help Iraqi Christians. He followed this up with an announcement that the United States is dedicating aid to charities trying to help Iraqi Christians. The recent appointment of a liaison to work “directly” with Iraqi churches on reconstruction efforts is the latest development in this process.

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Welcome New Ducks

The school year is off to a great start, and we wanted to thank our previous slate of guest Ducks and welcome some new guests. Thanks to all of our guests from last year.

Lisa Gaufman and Dillon Tatum are staying on as guests, and we are delighted that our partnership with Bridging the Gap will continue with the BtG channel.

We also have a fantastic slate of new guests Ducks including Jill Hazelton, Peter Henne, Sahar Khan,  Luke Perez, and Kai Thaler.  We have a strong slate of security-minded guests this year. They cover a range of topics from counterinsurgency to religion and the Middle East to civil-military relations and South Asia to grand strategy to civil conflict and state building.  Short bios and links to professional webpages and Twitter handles are below.

We also invite folks who want to write individual guest posts for us on other topics and geographic areas to send posts to any of the permanent contributors. Continue reading

What’s in a Name? Developing Countries and Security Cooperation

This post comes from Dr. Fabiana Sofia Perera, Assistant Research Fellow at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies and a 2016 alumna of Bridging the Gap’s New Era Workshop.

Defense Secretaries from the countries of the western hemisphere will convene in Cancun, Mexico next month to talk about the most pressing issues facing defense and security institutions in the Americas. The biannual meeting presents an important opportunity for the US to engage with Latin America as the hemisphere continues to try to work together to address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and other challenges. After the underwhelming Summit of the Americas, defense seems like a promising avenue for cooperation. Secretary Mattis already met with a number of his counterparts during his first trip to the region in August promising a closer relationship between the US and Latin America.

Security cooperation between the US and Latin America, however, faces one important obstacle: the definition of developing country. Though scholars think of the region as part of the developing world (studies of Latin American countries are routinely featured in journals and conferences focusing on development), most countries in the hemisphere are middle income. Trinidad and Tobago, and Estonia, for example, have about the same GDP per capita; Uruguay is nearly on par with Croatia; Costa Rica and China are within a few dollars of each other. This is where the US runs into difficulties for carrying out cooperation activities.

US Code, Title 10, Section 312 provides that security cooperation money “may be used only for the payment of expenses of, and special compensation for, personnel from developing countries.” US Code further stipulates that the term “developing country” “has the meaning prescribed by the Secretary of Defense [in] the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” The current iteration of that meaning is that countries are considered “developing” if they are not “high income” on the World Bank classification of countries. Argentina, Barbados, Chile, and Trinidad and Tobago are all “high income” this year.

The World Bank’s definition is not the only option, and may not be the best one for US purposes.  Continue reading

Take Me to Church

There is a spat of ecumenical proportions brewing in the Eastern hemisphere: Patriarch Krill of Russia stopped praying for the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The reason for that is simple: the patriarch of Constantinople is rumored to consider granting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church an autocephalous status that would potentially carve out a third of Russian Orthodox Church curacies  severely damaging Moscow’s status as the third Rome* not to mention financial repercussions.

Kirill has not been a big fan of Bartholomew at least since 2016 when the latter led an Orthodox Council on Crete where the issue of autocephaly was discussed in the first place. To put it simply, the Russian Orthodox Church is Beyoncé and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is Taylor Swift and Kirill (Kanye) does not want the MTV best music video award (autocephaly) to go to Taylor. Kanye has always thought that Taylor was inferior to Beyoncé, but now he is also alienating Jay-Z (Bartholomew) through his concert jabs. And Jay-Z feeling as a higher-ranking patriarch – Kanye did start under his label just like Moscow adopted Christianity from Constantinople back in the day – is contemplating the split in part because of Moscow’s patriarchy’s position on the war in Ukraine.

Jokes aside, Kirill’s stance on the war in Ukraine has been dubious to say the least. Even though the Patriarch seemed to have been instrumental in prisoner exchange between the separatists and the Ukrainian government, he also likes to talk about brotherly relationship between the two peoples and how joining the official Kyiv policy would affect the spiritual (after)lives of the believers. Just as Putin, he does not seem to distinguish between Russia and Ukraine as entities:

For me, Ukraine is the same as Russia. My people and my Church are there […] This is a reason for sleepless nights and for great enthusiasm that I feel when I think about the people who are so fiercely fighting for their beliefs, for their right to stay Orthodox.

Patriarch’s re-framing of the armed conflict in South-East Ukraine is curious. In his interview, he does not really mention the previously dominant ‘fascism’ narrative that was ubiquitous on Russian mainstream media. Instead, he frames the conflict in completely religious terms, arguing that a ‘European way’ precludes people from being Orthodox. This argument is far from unusual: this kind of construction is also linked to a much older discussion on the role of Orthodoxy in Russian identity dating back to the Middle Ages.

Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church largely ignore discussions on Russian intervention in the east of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea blaming the crisis in the “brotherly” country on nationalists and “external forces”. Many Ukrainians who resent Russia’s role in the conflict want to leave the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate for other autonomous Orthodox Churches or (horror) for an Orthodox branch responsible to the Pope. If Ukrainian Orthodox Church is no longer dependent on the Moscow Patriarchate, it would mean both prestige and financial losses for the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia, and Patriarch Kirill personally. But by the looks of it, Taylor doesn’t want Kanye to tell her what to do.

 

*Moscow as a third Rome is a diss track written in (surprise) Moscow in 15-16thcenturies that argued that Moscow is the ultimate successor to the legacy of the ancient Rome, including Christianity, because previous Romes (Rome and Constantinople) fell.

Ignorance of the Ivory Tower: What Do the Profs Know About the Military

I woke up to find a piece that castigates the academic world for being ignorant about the armed forces.  My reaction was:

Tom Ricks, who posted this questionable piece, pushed back:

I will try to be concise, but it will be hard.  I will first address Professor Adrian Lewis’s claims about the state of the military these days.  I will then address the larger problem–that this generalization about academics and their expertise about the military is so very flawed.

  1. Sure, the US armed forces are smaller than during the Cold War. I can’t insta-survey professors who study International Relations, but my guess is that most would already know that.  The real question is: do we have the right force at this moment?  Do we need to be spending ever so much more money on the US military?  There are good and reasonable arguments to be had on both sides of this question.
  2. War is awful, sure. Deterrence is far better than war.  But what does it take to deter American adversaries?  It could cost less than we spend given how much money is wasted in defense procurement, that the money spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not produced lasting outcomes, etc.  So, saying that our current force is cheaper than war says nothing about whether we are spending the right amount now.
  3. Ah, the spinoff argument. An oldie but a goodie. The question is not whether there are great spinoffs from military research, but whether money invested elsewhere might be as or more productive.  I have no idea since I am not a technology prof, but, again, I am sure we can find studies on either side.
  4. Who is arguing that military stuff doesn’t wear out and/or become obsolete?
  5. Defense industries employ lots of Americans and? I would like to think that the US spends money on defense to defend the US and its allies and not as a jobs program.  I have expressed elsewhere my annoyance about justifying Canadian defence spending via jobs.  Lots of ways for governments to create jobs–military spending just sells better politically.  It is not necessarily better.
  6. Sea lanes.  Sure, who is arguing that the US do away with a blue navy?
  7. Lewis mentions that the allies have “outsourced their security to the US”, which I think is a particularly biased and relatively ignorant way to put it.  Do most spend less than the US?  Sure. Is it in American interests to foster stability in Europe and East Asia? Yeah.  Have the NATO allies bled and died for American causes? Hell yeah.

Lewis concludes by saying that the his school and some of its faculty greatly support the armed forces, so #notallacademics.  So, let’s start there: is it the job of academics to support the armed forces?  I don’t think so.  Indeed, one of the big challenges of the past 20 years or so is that the mantra of “support our troops” has perhaps prevented us from asking critical questions about the performance of the US military (and the same applies to the Canadian armed forces and those of many democracies).  Only very recently have people started raising questions about the annual declaration made by the general exiting Afghanistan about how well that war is going.

Are academics ignorant of the US armed forces?  Well, which academics?  I would not expect chemistry professors and creative writing professors to know much.  But how about those who study International Relations?  How about those who study Civil-Military Relations? One of the things to note is that Lewis is a Professor of History, which is significant as military and diplomatic history has been on retreat for quite sometime in the History discipline, so that might be a source of his frustration.  In Political Science and International Relations, however, civil-military relations and the study of security is on the rise. The last few conferences have seen more and more panels on civ-mil, and the last two decades have seen a big growth in the number of journals focusing on security issues, which means more people studying military stuff.

Almost two years ago, I was pushed by Tom Ricks to list good, relevant work that should be of interest to those who read military history, and I came up with a short list easily.  There is plenty of expertise on the US armed forces and those of other countries.  To give a related example, I am currently working on a major grant application that would fund a network that would bring together Canadian scholars who study defence (c for Canada) and security issues with the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, research centres across Canada, think tanks, and other actors.  It involves over 100 professors, and, yes, Canada is 1/10th the size of the US.  Can we extrapolate to suggest that a similar network in the US might have 1000?  Is there more interest in the US military in the US than the Canadian military in Canada?  Probably since, as Professor Lewis argued, there is a hell of lot of money and activity involving the US military.

My twitter feed has already gotten the usual pushback that privilege veterans as having exclusive or superior expertise to academics who have never served in the armed forces.  Now that is an ignorant argument, as it denies the expertise that can be generated through extensive study and analysis. A tree might have a really great understanding of itself and its immediate neighbors, but it will not have a great understanding of the forest or of other forests.

While veterans on twitter complain about academics not having military experience, I have met (anecdotal data!) many senior officers who search out for academic expertise because they know that knowing more is better than knowing less.  When Admiral (ret.) Stavridis was SACEUR, he passed around the PDF of the Dave and Steve NATO book because it shed light on what his officers were experiencing in Afghanistan.  Officers have this obsession with reading lists, including the retired general who was known as the Warrior Monk, because they understand that repeating old mistakes is a bad idea.

Which leads to the big question: who has the time and the incentive to systematically study the armed forces?  Not military folks who have day jobs.  Retired veterans may have the time, but do they have sufficient experience beyond their MOS and sufficient training to think and research rigorously?  Academics have the time, the training, and the curiosity to study the US (and other) armed forces. But not all academics, just those who are focused on this stuff.  It is a great tragedy that military history may be devalued these days, but, after meeting so many young civ-mil scholars over the past couple of years (check out the Naval War College for a secret stash), I can say that the present and future of the political science of the armed forces is in great shape.

Mentorship as Activism – Remembering Dr. Lee Ann Fujii

This is a guest post by Lahoma Thomas, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She was a doctoral student and research assistant of Dr. Lee Ann Fujii. Lahoma’s research examines the relational dynamics between criminal organizations and the residents subject to their authority. Follow her on Twitter at @LAHOMAthomas.

Dr. Lee Ann Fujii was my doctoral supervisor, mentor and friend. It has taken me one hundred and sixty-eight days to write about her. There are still moments when I instinctively reach for my phone to engage Lee Ann in a discussion about an experience I had or to laugh over a silly video about cats. Speaking about Lee Ann in the past tense is difficult. Moreover, committing her life and passing to text feels definitive.

Lee Ann’s colleagues have written about her prowess as a scholar. They are correct. She possessed a brilliant, sharp and inquisitive mind. Anyone who spoke with her for two minutes could deduce that she was an exceptional thinker. For her students and junior colleagues, what stood out along with her impressive intellect was her generosity, skill and compassion as a mentor. Continue reading

Quack! Quack! Quack! A Call for New Guest Ducks

The fall semester is upon us, and with APSA in the rear view window, we’d like to bring on a new slate of guest Duck bloggers to continue to bring IR-related insights to bear on important real world problems, to explore important debates in the academy, and to do some professional introspection.

We’re especially keen on having gender balance and increasing representation of voices from beyond North America and other important perspectives.

Here is the general policy for guests and our wider set of policies (such as they are).

Guest Bloggers: Guest Bloggers get posting privileges for a period and a temporary place on the masthead. We invite IR specialists with a PhD, some active policy or area studies interests, and a penchant for online writing to apply for regular guest blogging stints at the Duck. Guest bloggers should be prepared to post at least 200-500 words, at least once a week, in their area of expertise. Stints generally rotate after a semester or so, but are renewable if we like your work! If you are past graduate school and would like to join us for awhile, send any of the permanent contributors a letter of interest and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Some folks might post a little less frequently but write a bit more per post. Please email me or any of the other permanent members with a note of interest, specifying your general area of expertise. If you have some creative ideas for new content or multi-media/podcasts, we’re open to new ventures to build in to the blog as well.

Institutional transitions and the Paris Agreement’s rulebook

This is a guest post by Nicholas Chan, a lecturer at the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia. Follow him on Twitter at @nickdotchan

Three years after the Paris Agreement (PA) was agreed, 2018 has been termed the year where “it’s time to figure out the fine print.” The ‘Paris Agreement Work Programme’, due to be finalized at December’s COP24 climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, requires that a range of guidance and procedures (otherwise known as the ‘rulebook’) be agreed on how the Paris Agreement will be operationalized – especially on how states will report on the content and progress of their national contributions, as well as the financial support provided for developing countries to implement their contributions.

It is an important moment in the life of the PA because the ‘nationally-determined’ character of contributions –that is, each country determining for itself what actions it will take to reduce pollution — means that transparency about these contributions is vital to being able to assess progress towards meeting the goal to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, let alone the aspirational 1.5 degree Celsius one.

While the metric of transparency towards these long term temperature goals provides one guiding element of finalizing this rulebook, this post interprets negotiations over the rulebook as a process of institutional development, and especially as a process of institutional transition. The ongoing negotiations on the Paris Agreement rulebook are a still-unfolding example of the type of case of institutional continuity and change that historical institutionalism in IR is particularly interested in explaining, including through the core historical institutionalist concept of path dependency and its emphasis on processes of increasing returns. Continue reading

Political Science Association Draws Ire for Honoring Condoleeza Rice

In the run-up to the American Political Science Association Conference in Boston this week, some political scientists are protesting the award of the Hubert Humphrey prize to former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. The award, which includes a cash prize of $1,000, is given each year “in recognition of notable public service by a political scientist.”

Rice earned her PhD in political science from University of Denver and  served in the diplomatic corps and national security establishment under Presidents Carter, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. – notably, as National Security Advisor during George W. Bush’s first term and Secretary of State during his second. A press release from APSA published on PSNow states that “Dr. Rice’s career exemplifies the contributions that political scientists can make to public as well as academic life.”

The choice of Rice for this award is controversial because of her association with the Bush Administration’s human rights violations in the early war on terror. Continue reading

The most frequently used ranking of IR journals is heterogeneous

This is a guest post by Andreas Pacher who initiated the Observatory of International Relations (OOIR), a website which tracks Political Science and IR journals to continually list their latest papers. Follow OOIR on Twitter: @ObserveIR.

You may have noticed that the Impact Factors of IR journals are sometimes followed by a statement that it ranks “nth out of 85 journals in the category ‘International Relations’”. For instance, International Organization ranks “1st out of 85 journals in the category ‘International Relations’”, while Alternatives ranks “76 out of 85 journals in the category ‘International Relations’” (in 2017 rankings).

The ranking and categorization are based on Web of Science’s Journal Citation Reports. Now, have you ever wondered about the composition of this category which allegedly comprises 85 IR journals? At a closer look, one finds a club of scholarly journals from various issue areas – from a multitude of academic disciplines whose cultures follow different publication paces and citation patterns, making them qualitatively distinct entities. In other words, the ranking is heterogeneous. Does it not raise the question whether it compares the incomparable? Continue reading

Civilian Self-Protection: What Civilians Do in War When Help is Hard to Find

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose and Peace Media. Betcy Jose is Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver.  She tweets @betcyj.  Peace A. Medie is a Research Fellow in the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy at the University of Ghana. She tweets @PeaceMedie.  Their work on civilian self-protection can be found here and here.

On July 25, 2018, DAESH launched a surprising and brutal 12 hour offensive in Sweida, Syria, killing more than 200 people through a series of suicide attacks and door-to-door raids. The attack was notable not only because this predominantly Druze area had largely been spared much of the Syrian war’s violence, but also because it signaled that DAESH still had some fight left in it despite the relentless effort by the United States and others to decimate its ranks.

Initial reports largely focused their analyses on whether the Sweida attack indicated a resurgence of DAESH and what impact it would have on the region’s geopolitics and the Syrian war.  Receiving less attention was how the residents of Sweida valiantly tried to protect themselves during this onslaught.  As the attack unfolded, some of the local youth and militia took up arms to defend their villages.  Local writer Osama Abu Dikar recounted, “In the beginning, the attack took us by surprise, but the heroic youth of Sweida rallied quickly in the centre of town and the villages that Daesh had attacked.  These local fighters with basic capabilities fought real battles against [DAESH].”

These wartime civilian-driven protection efforts are examples of civilian self-protection (CSP).  CSP is not unique to Sweida.  As long as war has raged, civilians have sought to protect themselves.  Often this is because their own governments or humanitarian actors cannot or will not protect them.  For example, in the case of Sweida, no government troops were around to protect the locals; hence the need for them to take up arms in self-defense.  And far too many times, the very actors charged with protecting civilians are the ones who perpetrate harms against them. Continue reading

The Academic’s Dilemma: Being a Good Citizen and Managing Time

Tis the season for academic navel gazing so here are some things I’ve learned the hard way. This is primarily a piece for folks on the tenure track. I know that I come at this from a position of immense privilege as a tenured professor at an R1, layered by being a white guy. I know that some of the advice I’m going to give won’t be all that helpful to folks in more vulnerable positions as adjunct faculty, but I still think this advice needs to be said for new tenure track faculty. I hope others find it useful.

Jealously Guard Your Time
You are low man or woman on the totem pole. There will be many demands on your time. New course preps. Departmental meetings, committees. Hopefully, senior faculty will be looking out for you and try to shield you from more onerous tasks, but don’t count on it. You might need to say no, though might not feel like you are in a position to say no. Continue reading

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