Legal Context and Government Defendants: Some Thoughts from Travel Bans, Patents, and Aircraft Subsidy Cases

This guest post is by Todd Tucker, PhD, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a research think tank connected to the FDR Presidential Library. He was previously a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on judicial politics, international political economy, and qualitative methods, and has been featured in Journal of International Dispute Settlement, International Studies Perspectives, and elsewhere. Follow him @toddntucker.

How much does the broader socioeconomic context matter in legal determinations involving sovereign defendants? Recent decisions from the Ninth Circuit of U.S. federal courts, World Bank arbitration arm, and World Trade Organization (WTO) illustrate a variety of approaches, with differing implications for policymaking.

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The Trump Syllabus: Duck Input Needed!

Even though ISA provided some much-needed group therapy, in the end we still need to grapple with and teach about #45. I was inspired by some ideas in syllabi 1, 2, and 3, but I also needed some background information and topics that are geared towards a non-American audience. On top of it, I left the theme of one session open for the students to decide on.

So below is roughly what my students are  in for at the University of Bremen.  Any ideas how to improve it?

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Perhaps Our Incentives Are Not as Perverse as Believed: Are Citation Counts the Devil?

I have regularly seen stuff online or in academic publications complaining about professionalization and what it has meant for Political Science.  The basic idea is that things were great before people became focused on stuff like citation counts, which has led to all kinds of perverse incentives.  The main complaint, it seems, is that scholars will try to game citations and this will force them into bad habits and away from good work, like thinking big thoughts (grand theory).

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Friday Nerd Blogging Tribute to An Old Duck-ster

Robert Kelly used to blog here before he made the big-time on the BBC, so here’s a salute via Friday nerd-blogging.

 

 

Fighting for Sustainability in a Post (national) Regulation Era

This is a guest post from Matthew Hoffmann, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto

The environmental policy pronouncements and orders emanating from the Trump administration are tracking the worst fears and expectations of those concerned by the scorched earth, anti-environmental rhetoric of the Trump campaign. The list of egregious (e.g. defunding Great Lakes restoration), just plain weird (e.g. rolling back the ban on lead ammunition and fishing gear in national parks), and inexplicable (e.g. getting rid of the energy star program) decisions and announcements is staggering.

Latest on the chopping block are federal fuel standards for automobiles as a key step in rolling back Obama’s climate policies. On March 15 The New York Times reported that , “granting the automakers their top wish, Mr. Trump halted an initiative by the Obama administration to impose stringent fuel-economy standards by 2025” re-opening a review of the standards.

Fully stemming the tide of the assault on environmental protection will probably require election (or two), but studies of environmental politics show that there are strategies for pursuing sustainability in the face of federal dismantling of environmental policies—go local (or state) and use rhetorical and economic leverage points to target corporations directly. The fuel economy standards fight is a potentially attractive area for environmental activists to use such strategies. Continue reading

First Thoughts on the Trump Budget and Global Health

I’m not going to lie. When I heard that the Trump Administration was going to release its budget blueprint, I didn’t have high hopes for global health. The new administration’s commitment to global health has been ambiguous at best, and early word was that medical and scientific research was in for some massive cuts.

So what does the budget blueprint tell us about the future the US’ commitment to global health? It’s not all bad. In fact, for a budget that goes so far as to zero out funding for Meals on Wheels, global health comes out relatively well in some very specific ways, but the cuts in medical and scientific research and support are likely to have ripple effects that will ultimately work against the US’ interests in global health. This is a budget that may allow the US to react once crises happen, but it’s not one that will help the US prevent future crises from occurring.

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Donald Trump and the Narrative of US National Security

Following his prescient piece from last year, Tom Wright has a provocative new essay on Donald Trump’s foreign policy in Politico. He suggests that Trump foreign policy has Jeckyll and Hyde qualities. While Trump (and Bannon) are committed to a radical vision to upend establishment foreign policy, they hold a minority view in the government. To staff his administration, Trump has largely turned to establishments folks like Mattis, Kelly, McMaster, among others. This means that there isn’t really anyone to implement that radical vision, leaving Trump’s views to express themselves on a few issues like Islam and trade where they have wider currency.

Dan Drezner has an interesting rejoinder and notes that one way the Bannonites are able to overcome and enhance their power is by vetoing appointments and through budget cuts. With few political appointees and agencies cash-strapped to do international work, the U.S. government won’t have the capacity to respond to global emergencies when they arise. For the America First and Only crowd, this is exactly as they want it.

Trumpism/Bannonism may currently be self-limited by having few adherents, but as Drezner argues, it is still able to do tremendous harm through personnel and budget processes. A third possibility is more worrisome still. What would happen to U.S. foreign policy if this strain of nationalism were to take root in the Republican party and crowd out establishment thinking?

(To be fair: the foreign policy “blob” has made its share of mistakes [witness Iraq], but as Frank Gavin and Jim Steinberg argue in a recent War on the Rocks podcast, the establishment has much to commend it. Ending and winning the Cold War peacefully anyone?).

Here, Ron Krebs’ important book Narrative and the Making of US National Security may be instructive. Krebs’ reminds us that presidents, particularly during unsettled narrative moments, have tremendous power of the bully pulpit to recast the dominant narrative underpinning U.S. foreign policy. If Trump succeeds in building a coterie of followers and adherents to his vision of the world, it could last well beyond the current moment.

One of my side ventures is serving as one of the editors of International Politics Reviews. In our latest issue, we feature a reviews exchange on Krebs’ book. The exchange includes reviews from Michelle Murray, Dan Drezner, and me, along with a response from Krebs. (All are available open access through the ReadCube platform on the links above).

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Revisiting Trump’s Challenges to Doctoral Students: A Round of Trump Bingo

This is a guest post from Ariya Hagh, Andrew Szarejko, and Laila Wahedi. All three authors are doctoral students in Georgetown University’s Department of Government. Author order is alphabetical by last name.

In a December 2016 post here at the Duck of Minerva, we considered how a Trump presidency might affect doctoral students within our discipline. We necessarily relied upon statements that Donald Trump and his advisors made before the inauguration. Now that we are more than a month into the presidency, it is worth revisiting our claims to see what we got right and what we missed, while addressing what you can do about it.

We argued that a Trump administration would likely yield reduced access to government data, less federal funding, a tougher job market, obstacles to activism and teaching, and greater insecurity for international students. Unfortunately, many of these predictions are already coming true. To keep track of what has and hasn’t happened, you can use the handy bingo card attached here. When you win, everyone loses. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Contingency (Part 2)

In my previous post, I started a discussion about full-time contingent faculty in the profession. Given that contingent faculty work is very much gendered, I wanted to continue that discussion today with a focus on how the discipline at large can better serve the growing ranks of faculty working off the tenure track.

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Girl Power

Women in academia do not enjoy an easy ride. Even though “manel” count at this year’s ISA was much lower, there is still work to be done. Not to mention the recent scandal about the epidemic levels of  sexual harassment at the UK universities. But let’s rejoice at the thought that a mere hundred years ago things were much worse. My university campus in Bremen has a Lise-Meitner-Strasse and the International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to share her story. In short,  Hidden Figures needs to have a German prequel.

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WPTPN: Defining the Trumpist Insurgency

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Simon Frankel Pratt, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. His research is on institutional politics, international norms, and the US’s security apparatus. For further information, see his website or find him on Twitter (@simon_the_pratt)

Unlike other contributions to this essay series, mine will be somewhat more informal in tone. I am going to share some concepts (and neologisms) that I find helpful for making sense of ‘Trumpism’—by which I mean Trump, his rogues’ gallery (or carnival), and the broader coalition of right-wing movements that support him. Specifically, I am going to try to sell you on the following points:

  • That Trumpism is best understood as an insurgency—as a sort of ‘cold civil war’;
  • That Trumpism is largely motivated by ‘way of life’ anxiety;
  • That Trump’s policies are often not attempts at institutional retooling but are ‘potency performances’—self-affirming displays of provocation, revenge, and dominance;
  • That the response of scholars should be to seek ‘polity relevance’.[1]

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Wanted: A New Executive Director for the Global Fund

There’s a lot of turmoil in global health governance these days, and it looks like it’s only getting more chaotic. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is hitting the reset button in its quest to identify a new leader “due to issues in the recruitment process”—precisely at a moment when there are real fears about the future of funding for global health initiatives.

What’s happening within the Global Fund may at first glance speak to dysfunction within that specific organization, but it’s better to think of the problems as emblematic of larger questions about legitimacy and the future of multilateralism under the Trump Administration.

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For Accuracy, Consequences, and Truth. A Personal Manifesto.

The Trump Administration’s proclamation of “alternative facts” to suit the arguments they wish to make, and the branding of journalistic outlets that demonstrate the inaccuracy of the President’s statements as “FAKE NEWS!!!” have prompted me to do something I am not normally inclined to do: to actively campaign for the value and integrity of a broadly scientific approach as an important input to public deliberation. It’s not at all that I needed to be convinced of the value of such an approach; rather, it’s that I was somewhat blissfully unaware of the extent to which the current wave of populist politics was almost completely untroubled by notions of factuality. Sure, I had known that there was a hard core of anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism that felt that scientific results and verifiable pieces of information were matters of opinion or belief — anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, people who worried about the U.N.’s supposed fleet of black helicopters that were waiting to swoop in and destroy national sovereignty — but I guess I always believed that such a minority would be held in check by the good sense of the rest of the electorate, even those with whose policy positions I disagreed. Apparently not. Apparently significant numbers of people in the U.S. were willing to vote for a demonstrated purveyor of convenient falsehoods — convenient in the sense that they support his, and their, preferred positions on a whole slew of issues. Welcome to the post-truth era.

Or: welcome to an era in which truth, and the earnest seeking after truth, is under assault, and under assault not for anything like defensible reasons. Instead, the political order of the day seems to be to make up whatever claims support one’s conclusions and then pass them off as “facts.” In my view what has changed is not politicians; politics was never about seeking truth, and frankly, shouldn’t be about truth but should instead be about making compromises and balancing priorities in order to make our common lives together work as well as they can. Believing that you and you alone have the truth makes you a poor politician, because you can’t compromise, and if you had the truth, why would you even want to? Politics is messy and imperfect, so we should never expect it to conform to ideal standards for the production of factual knowledge. Indeed, I suspect that most politicians would lie about and misrepresent situations as much as they could get away with doing so in pursuit of their agendas, because the central virtue in politics is effectiveness rather than integrity — and in the first instance that means effectiveness and gaining and retaining political power and influence.

All of which means that if we the people want our elected officials to make policy that engages facts instead of just making stuff up, we cannot rely on politicians or on the political process to defend that stance. We have to instead actively advocate and diligently defend the proper role of facts and factual explanations in relation to political contestation. Continue reading

Ethical Robots on the Battlefield?

Every day it seems we hear more about the advancements of artificial intelligence (AI), the amazing progress in robotics, and the need for greater technological improvements in defense to “offset” potential adversaries.   When all three of these arguments get put together, there appears to be some sort of magic alchemy that results in widely fallacious, and I would say pernicious, claims about the future of war.  Much of this has to do, ultimately, with a misunderstanding about the limitations of technology as well as an underestimation of human capacities.   The prompt for this round of techno-optimism debunking is yet another specious claim about how robotic soldiers will be “more ethical” and thus “not commit rape […] on the battlefield.”

There are actually three lines of thought here that need unpacking.   The first involves the capabilities of AI with relation to “judgment.”  As our above philosopher contends, “I don’t think it would take that much for robot soldiers to be more ethical.  They can make judgements more quickly, they’re not fearful like human beings and fear often leads people making less than optional decisions, morally speaking [sic].”  This sentiment about speed and human emotion (or lack thereof) has underpinned much of the debate about autonomous weapons for the last decade (if not more).  Dr. Hemmingsen’s views are not original.  However, such views are not grounded in reality.

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Public Service: Part VI of VI in a Series

This is the final post in my series on bridging the policy-academic divide.In my first post, I laid out some principles for academic-policy engagement. In the second, I talked about short-form writing, and in the third, Iong-form writing. In the fourth, I discussed policy-relevant courses and speakers’ series. In my fifth, I wrote about grants and consulting. 

A final step that may be attractive is actual policy service, if only for a short stint. While proximity to decision-making does not necessarily equate to influence, many of us might like to be in the room where some decisions are made, if only for a while.

Here, this can be a stint in the U.S. government like those sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship (IAF) for younger scholars and their new fellowship for tenured scholars (TIRS). The APSA Congressional fellowship is another. You might also find other ways to serve by working for another government, an intergovernmental organization, or an NGO. For example, Hans Rosling, the famous Swedish health expert who pioneered data analytics on development, spent some time advising the Liberian government in the midst of the Ebola crisis.

You may also be in a position volunteer for a political campaign. And, there is, for as long as we have functioning democracies, the option of running for office. Many of the people who are serving are not better informed, more conscientious, or hard-working. I would urge readers, especially women, to consider running for office, because we are going to need talented people in power to defend democracy and stand up for pluralism, tolerance, and decency.

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Grants and Consulting: Part V in a Series

This is part V in a series of making your work relevant for policy. In my first post, I laid out some principles for academic-policy engagement. In the second, I talked about short-form writing, and in the third, Iong-form writing. In the fourth, I discussed policy-relevant courses and speakers’ series.

Beyond these other ways to engage public and policy audiences are grants and consultancies, two paths possibly proximate to policy.

I have had the good fortune to be part of a couple of multi-million grants through the Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative , a $7.6 million 5-year grant from on climate change and Africa (CCAPS) and another 3-year nearly $2 million grant on complex emergencies in south and southeast Asia (CEPSA). I’ve also done smaller scale consultancies for USAID, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR),  and other outlets.

Here are some lessons learned: Continue reading

Sending Iran Back Out into the Cold

Since the U.S. election Iranian-American relations have gone into a rapid tailspin, with Iran reacting to the triumphalist tenor of the Trump campaign and the improvised response of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn that sought to “put Iran on notice.” The arrival of his replacement in General H.R. McMaster offers the U.S. a fresh opportunity to tone down its approach to Iran, beginning with guarding against any dramatic escalation of the stakes.

For unless the Administration is actually willing to go to war with Iran, this confrontation actually won’t get the U.S. anywhere useful. What it will do, which is already under way, is strengthen the hardliners in Tehran and undermine moderates like President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif at a precipitous moment less than three months ahead of the Iranian election.

The Trump team does not have a strategic plan in place, regarding Iran or any other region/country of the world for that matter. But this matters most regarding countries currently in crisis accretion mode vis-à-vis the U.S., specifically Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China (in descending order). The danger of rapid escalation with Iran that could easily slip into spiraling conflict is acute. Therefore the first order of business for NSA McMaster is to get the U.S. on a more strategic track that militates against a burgeoning conflict with Iran. Continue reading

Trump Reminded Me Why I Am An Academic

This is a guest post by Idean Salehyan. Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Texas at Dallas

“Why did you become an academic?” is a question that I’m frequently asked.  For me, my path into this profession is pretty clear.  I was about fourteen and a freshman in high school in the early 1990s.  A few of my friends joined the school chapter of Amnesty International, and I figured I’d go along.  My world was changed.   I learned of people being slaughtered because their ethnicity; political activists imprisoned for their beliefs; widespread torture and sexual assault; and refugees flooding across borders in search of safety.  This was the era of massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda.  CNN broadcast murder while the world just watched.  The comfortable space of my childhood ended, and I began on a journey of human rights activism.

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Policy-Relevant Courses and Speakers’ Series: Part IV of a Series

This is part IV in a series on bridging the gap between policy and academia. In part I, I wrote about principles of engagement. In part II, I wrote about short-form writing and in part III long-form writing. In this post, I turn to teaching and speakers’ series.

You may also be able to organize policy-relevant courses and host outside speakers, both of which can bring you in closer contact to the policy world and give you an opportunity to develop policy-relevant work for them.

Policy-Relevant Courses

I teach at a school of public affairs. We regularly have year-long courses for MA students on a policy topic where a client provides us resources to support student travel and other costs. After tenure, I decided that I wanted to work on issues that I cared passionately about. Several years ago, I ran a year long course on climate mitigation in the major economies. Continue reading

Black History Month

Do you think this person is white?

If you are from Europe or North America, you might have said yes. If you are from Russia, you might have described this person as black. Most IR peeps are familiar with the fluid perceptions of whiteness and blackness that exist in the word: Sandor Gilman wrote, for instance, how Irish immigrants in the US in the beginning of the century were often considered black. The irony of blackness could not be more poignant in Russia: the famous Russian Armenian actor Frunzik Mkrtchan whose picture I put above is literally Caucasian, because he comes from the South Caucasus region in the European South of Russia. The ones who would describe him as black would also very likely to adhere to “Russia for [ethnic] Russians” slogan and in worst case scenarios would have tried to kill him because he “doesn’t look Slavic enough”.

Derogatory terms like ‘kavkazcy’ (Caucasians), and ‘chyornye’ (blacks) have become ubiquitous in everyday speech in Russia, while Russian mass media employs euphemisms such as ‘litsa neslavyanskoy vneshnoti’ (non-Slavic looking people) when it comes to the identification of crime suspects. A xenophobic discursive representation applies to non-Slavic looking individuals irrespective of their citizenship, even though former USSR citizens can seek Russian nationality under a simplified naturalisation procedure, according to the Federal Law on Citizenship. Apart from “Caucasians” who are often discursively connected to terrorism and ethnic criminality, there isn’t much love for former Soviet citizens from Central Asia. If you are not Ivan Drago or Natasha, you might have a lot of trouble even renting an apartment.

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