Pondering Planet Politics: A Response to Peltonen

I was fascinated by a brilliantly written, and well-thought out, guest post here on Duck, by Hannes Peltonen, posted over the weekend. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you won’t be disappointed. Peltonen presents an argument that digs into recent debates about the seemingly ubiquitous “anthropocene” and its relationship to world politics—and particularly the ways that IR theory should approach issues relating to humankind’s interconnectedness with natural/planetary processes.

I’d like to take the opportunity to engage with Peltonen’s argument, with an eye toward extending the discussion into a few new directions. Specifically, I think the issue of the anthropocene paints an even grimmer picture for the future of IR.

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Are Potential Peer Reviewers Overwhelmed Altruists or Free-Riders? New data reveal great inequality in peer reviewing in the social sciences.

This is a guest post submitted by Paul A. Djupe, Denison University Political Science, who is an affiliated scholar with PRRI ; Amy Erica Smith, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University; and Anand Edward Sokhey, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, as well as the associate director of the American Politics Research Lab and the incoming director of the LeRoy Keller Center for the Study of the First Amendment.

Google “peer review crisis,” and you will find dozens of pieces — some dating back to the 1990s —lamenting the state of peer reviewing. While these pieces focus in part on research replicability and quality, one major concern has been shortages in academic labor. In one representative article, Fox and Petchey (2010) argue that peer reviewing is characterized by a “tragedy of the commons” that is “increasingly dominated by ‘cheats’ (individuals who submit papers without doing proportionate reviewing).” Other commentators describe the burden faced by “generous peer reviewers” who feel “overwhelmed.”

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Can the EU regain its international climate policy leadership lost in Copenhagen?

This is a guest post from Axel Michaelowa  from the University of Zurich. He is also the lead author of the chapter on international agreements in the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is the second in the series from our Bonn panel on leadership in the climate regime. 

For over a decade, the EU was the undisputed leader of the international climate policy process. It had a grand vision for a universal international climate policy agreement modelled on the Kyoto Protocol. This was to be “crowned” during COP 15 in Copenhagen 2009. So the shock was the greater when the EU was ignominously sidelined by an alliance of Barack Obama and the leaders of the large emerging economies. They did not like grand designs and instead embarked on a road towards a “bottom up” climate policy system.

Almost a decade later, the US has abandoned international climate policy leadership after it played a crucial role in helping France in the runup to the Paris Agreement. Can the EU now again lead? The answer unfortunately is “No”. Continue reading

Leadership in the Climate Regime without the US Federal Government

I am just back from the climate negotiations in Bonn where I organized a side event at the German Development Institute (DIE). The event was co-sponsored  by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

These are my opening and closing  remarks from the session. In subsequent days, I’ll post additional interventions from some of the other panelists.  Panelists included Aimee Barnes, Senior Adviser to Governor Brown of California; Sander Chan of DIE; Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW, one of India’s leading think tanks on energy and climate; Angel Hsu, of Yale-NUS campus; and Axel Michaelowa of the University of Zurich.

Opening Remarks
I want to thank you all for coming today to this side event. I’m Josh Busby and an Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. When Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th president of the United States, I knew that the climate regime was in for a difficult period after the heady optimism coming out of Paris in 2015.

I started a new research project, “Leadership in the Climate Regime without the US Federal Government.” When I heard about the DIE Interconnections side events, I thought this would be a tremendous opportunity to assemble some of the smartest professionals who work on this every day.

I thought it was important to get different perspectives on the role of different actors, not just folks knowledgeable about the actions of the world’s most important polities but also those of sub-national and non-state actors. Continue reading

Planet Politics and International Relations

This is a guest post from Hannes Peltonen, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Tampere

The State of the Discipline

International Politics/Relations (IR) has allegedly failed, a claim publicized periodically. Barry Buzan and Richard Little began this millennium by highlighting the discipline’s intellectual failure in the journal Millennium. More recently, an influential 2013 forum in EJIR on IR theory, edited by Tim Dunne, Lene Hansen, and Colin Wight, concludes something similar.

IR theorists seem to consider that IR has failed, because it has a one-way relationship with other disciplines and fields. IR research borrows from other disciplines, but other disciplines seem uninterested in what IR has to offer.

One explanation for this one-way relationship could be that IR remains in the shadow of Political Science. According to Justin Rosenberg, IR has failed to develop its own disciplinary “big idea.” Such ideas are based on some characteristic of the social world through which a discipline might define and delineate itself. In Geography, it is space; in History it is time; in Sociology it is the structures of social relations.

Rosenberg’s claim seems to be that without such a big idea, other disciplines are not really interested in IR as independent from Political Science and Political Thought. Much of IR discussions may be of interest to IR scholars, but not to scholars in other disciplines. Other disciplines, however, are of interest to IR scholars exactly because they have their own big ideas which communicate across disciplines, thus being also of interest to IR.

Rosenberg’s own suggestion (“uneven and combined development”) for IR’s disciplinary big idea is promising, but it has also encountered criticism, whether justified or not.

In addition to criticisms presented by others, Rosenberg’s suggestion suffers from its implication, namely that it strengthens disciplinary division at a time, when there is a clear call for innovative interdisciplinarity. Moreover, Rosenberg’s suggestion seems to look back in time while neglecting the future and partially also the contemporary world. Thus, it ignores a rather large detail: the Anthropocene/Capitalocene. Continue reading

The ultimate guide to stop procrastination

I must confess. I have not been very productive this last month in the Duck of Minerva. I have been thinking about the topic for my next post and postponing it “till tomorrow”.  I have been procrastinating. Procrastination comes from the Latin pro, meaning “forward, forth, or in favor of,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as a postponement, “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable,” or as “defer[ing] action, especially without good reason.” According to psychologist Pychyl, procrastination is fundamentally a visceral, emotional reaction to what you have to do and that you consider hard, boring or overwhelming. Continue reading

America’s Gun Crisis and the Politics of Securitization

It is not easy waking up in America these days. Sunday morning I woke up from a lazy weekend morning to see that a shooter had committed mass murder at a church in Sutherland Springs, TX. The shooter killed 26 people, including several children; the youngest victim was just fourteen months old (for latest updates, see here).

Besides my outrage as a citizen, as a social scientist I want to understand how we can explain why gun violence in the United States is not being taken as seriously as it should by both politicians and the broader public. Here are some stats on the scope of the problem in the US (sourced from here and here):

  • On average, 93 Americans are killed each day by guns.
  • There are nearly 12,000 gun homicides per year.
  • Guns, on average, kill seven children/teens each day.
  • Each month, 50 women on average are shot to death by intimate partners.
  • African-American men are 14 times more likely than white men to be killed by a gun.
  • The US has nearly 6 times as many gun homicides than Canada (per capita!) and 16 times as many as Germany each year.
  • There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012.

These numbers should shock each-and-every American citizen.

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Democratic Weakness and the Secessionist Impulse

This is a guest post from Katy Collin, who is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Brookings Institution and an adjunct instructor at American University’s School of International Service. Her research is on the use of referendums in peace processes.

In the last few weeks, international borders have been challenged around the world. Secessionists and great powers are undermining the norm of territorial integrity, or border fixity. In the Middle East, East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and in Europe, international boundaries are being pushed from within and between states.

Respect for international boundaries has been one of the primary sources of stability in the post-World War II world. It has not been legitimate to conquer neighboring states and seize territory as a mechanism for dispute resolution or payment of international debt since the end of that war. Border fixity has contributed to the sharp decline in wars between states.

On the other hand, defending arbitrary international borders, particularly following de-colonization, may be one of the primary drivers of wars within states. Strong borders may protect weak states and promote fragility. Since World War II, about half of the wars and most of the violence globally have been associated in some way with struggles to alter borders. As much as the post-War international order has been built on border fixity, it has also established a normative case for the self-determination of peoples. Continue reading

The Water’s Edge is Muddier Than You Think

Today’s post is from Bridging the Gap Co-Director Jordan Tama, Associate Professor at American University’s School of International Service. He is working on a book tentatively entitled Bipartisanship in a Polarized Age: When Democrats and Republicans Cooperate on U.S. Foreign Policy.

Partisan polarization represents one of the dominant frames through which scholars and journalists see American politics today. Indeed, such polarization has increased significantly in the United States since the 1970s. A number of studies have found that this trend spans domestic and foreign policy, though scholars have disagreed about the extent to which American divisions over foreign policy are growing. Congressional voting patterns also suggest that bipartisanship is more prevalent on international than on domestic issues.

Scholars and journalists have given much less attention, though, to variation in types of bipartisanship. Analysts of American politics typically conceive of bipartisanship as a situation in which the two parties cooperate with each other or adopt the same position on a policy issue. Analysts of U.S. foreign policy often further associate bipartisanship with both parties in Congress supporting a position of the president – as in the adage, frequently invoked during wartime or when the president travels overseas, that politics stops “at the water’s edge.” In either conception, bipartisanship is usually seen in binary terms: an issue is either characterized by bipartisanship or it is not. Conversely, writing about partisan polarization typically sees bipartisanship simply as the opposite of polarization.

These binary images overlook important distinctions in the alignments of elected officials across different issues, particularly on foreign policy. Continue reading

The hills are alive…with malaria?

When I was 16, I went to Switzerland. It was my first time outside of the US, and I worried about the normal things that a worry-wart teenager might fret about—Where is my passport? (In my handy-dandy passport holder.) Did I remember to get gifts for all of my family members? (Yes, and you’re welcome.) How much fondue can I possibly eat? (Lots, and yet somehow not enough.)

Here’s one thing I didn’t worry about: Am I going to get malaria?

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Free Access and the Future of Gated Publishing

I am just back from the launch of the Texas National Security Review (TNSR), a new partnership with War on the Rocks and underwritten by my home institution. Forgive the quasi-promotional qualities of this post, as I think the new journal raises fundamental questions about the gated publishing model.

TNSR promises to be disruptive to the traditional game of academic publishing in the security space in a few ways. First, all their content will be available for free.

Second, the journal will include both peer-reviewed and straight-up policy pieces, sort of International Security meets Foreign Affairs. The journal’s main aim is for policy relevant scholarship, to bridge the gap by soliciting contributions from scholars and practitioners in the same pages. The inaugural issue thus features more academic pieces like Jon Bew’s on grand strategy and Rose McDermott and co-authors on the psychological origins of deterrence alongside policy pieces by Kathleen Hicks,  John McCain,  and Jim Steinberg.

Third, even as it has legacy print editions, it will take advantage of new media with an attractive web design, accompanied by podcasts and other content that War on the Rocks has popularized in the security space. Certainly, existing journals like ISQ have made efforts in this direction but it is more baked in to the DNA of TNSR.

Fourth, with the involvement of my colleague Will Inboden and my former colleague Frank Gavin, the journal also promises to be more inter-disciplinary, providing a home for diplomatic historians and international relations scholars alike.

It is an open question whether the journal can become a place that academics feel is a desirable outlet to publish their peer-reviewed work. We have seen in recent years the proliferation of new journals like the Journal of Global Security Studies and International Theory, and I don’t have a feel for how they fit in the existing landscape of security-oriented journals like IS, Security Studies, Journal of Peace Research, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution.  But, it does feel like the landscape is shifting in important ways.

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Liberal World Order, Redux

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Duck regarding “declinist” arguments about liberal world order under Trump. I don’t think these arguments are going away, and in fact—just this week—they are in the news, and on our blog/twitter feeds (including a great piece posted just last week here on Duck).

I want to reiterate, and elaborate on some earlier points I have raised about these kinds of arguments. In the first place, they deserve reiterating and elaborating. In the second place, I just got back earlier this week from an illuminating conference at University College Dublin called “John Dewey and Critical Philosophy for Critical Political Times” which touched on many issues related to the problems for democracy around the world in a time of right wing populism.

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Iraqi Kurds vote for independence: What does this mean for Iraq’s neighbors, and especially for Turkey?

This is a guest post, written by Margarita Konaev, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Strategic Studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Kirstin J.H. Brathwaite, Assistant Professor in the James Madison College at Michigan State University.

The referendum on independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and subsequent military clashes between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad are setting off alarm bells across the Middle East. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to cut off the flow of Kurdish oil exports, warning that the Kurds could “go hungry” as a result of economic sanctions. Military options, he added, were also on the table. The Syrians are refusing to recognize the results of the referendum. And at the request of the central government in Baghdad, Iran has closed the airspace to the Iraqi Kurdish area. The United States, United Nations, and even Russia have all expressed their disapproval of this “unilateral” move. In fact, the only country that welcomed the independence vote is Israel. Continue reading

Entering the Global Multilogue – A Replique to the German ZEIT Manifesto

This is a guest post, written by Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science, especially Global Governance, University of Hamburg (Germany) and By-Fellow, Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Sassan Gholiagha, postdoctoral research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Germany); Jan Wilkens, Lecturer and PhD Candidate at the Chair of Political Science, especially Global Governance, University of Hamburg (Germany); and Amitav Acharya UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and Distinguished Professor of International Relations, American University, Washington, D.C (United States of America).

On 11 October 2017, the New York Times  quoted from a manifesto, titled “In Spite of It All, America”  written by a group of ‘German foreign policy experts’ saying that the ‘liberal world order’ is “in danger” from the Trump administration because of its “America First” credo. It aims to preserve its assumed foundation in multilateralism, global norms and values, open societies and markets.’ As the group’s manifesto claims, it “is exactly this order on which Germany’s freedom and prosperity depends.” Hence the call for prolonged transatlantic relations.

While we do not see any reason to doubt the role of strong transatlantic relations, we do take issue with the “German Manifesto”. We believe that the current crisis calls for a more drastic rethinking of the liberal order and developing an inclusive approach to global challenges. Interventions from scholars around the globe have criticized the perception of a ‘liberal community’ and the performance of the “liberal world order” that firmly stands on common fundamental values long before President Trump moved into the White House.

The “liberal world order” and the idea of a “liberal community” that underpins it built around its elements such as free trade, liberal democracy, and US-built and dominated global institutions, was really never a truly global order, but functioned more as a selective transatlantic club built and managed by the US with West European countries playing a supporting role. Major nations of the world such as China and India, but also many developing countries, were marginal to its creation and functioning. They remained outliers, not allowed to reform its core institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank to make their voices heard. Hence the emerging powers have turned to developing their own regional and international institutions, such as ASEAN, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS; New Development Bank. Moreover, the liberal order was selective in promoting human rights and democracy, as well as regional integration in the developing world. When it did, especially the EU, it often sought to impose its own “model” and values at the expense of locally-prevalent institutions and practices. In the meantime, the liberal order accentuated global inequality and remained fundamentally coercive in its approach to the world’s conflicts. Continue reading

The Politics of Grief and the Forever War: Who Speaks for the Fallen?

Dead American soldiers became the objects of highly visible and ongoing contest this week – over the ways and means of grieving America’s fallen.  In fact, the events discussed in this short post mark only the latest phase and an escalation in tensions between dominant and challenging bodies over the (in)visibility of suffering and dead American soldiers that have featured throughout the Global War on Terror (GWoT). Such tensions demonstrate not only the competing logics and agendas leading to the blacking out of American repatriations via the 2003 Dover Ban (a DoD Directive prohibiting the publication and broadcast of images and videos capturing any part of the repatriation process) but the value of soldier grief claims and speaking for the dead within contemporary American politics and international relations.

This latest round of contest began on Monday, when President Trump  responded to criticism over the Administration’s two week wait to make contact with the families of four soldiers killed in action (KIA) in Niger by claiming that predecessors “didn’t make calls” at all. It then came to light that, in an eventual condolence call to  Myeshia Johnson made just moments before the above photograph was taken,  Trump explained the deceased Sgt. La David Johnson  “knew what he signed up for.” Accused of insensitivity by Sgt. Johnson’s Mother,  for widowed Myeshia the worst of it was however that “he [Trump] didn’t even know his [Sgt. Johnson’s] name.” To Myeshia and the ones who knew him in life, Sgt. Johnson was a uniquely grievable human being – the ‘Wheelie King‘ from South Florida, who married his high-school sweetheart.  However, draped in the flag and conflated into the fallen, such characteristics – those comprising what Jenny Edkins describes as “personhood” – go unseen and uncounted by bodies reliant upon the continuation of conflict for their geo-political, financial, and ontological security.  Such bodies (government and military in kind) “don’t do body counts” and regard American soldiers on mass as a “most precious resource” with which to fuel the GWoT.

Captured at Dover Air Force Base (AFB) as pregnant Myeshia wept over the flag-draped coffin carrying her dead husband’s body, the above, touching and moving image is one of a kind hotly contested throughout the GWoT. Indeed, in March 2003 (on the eve of Iraq’s invasion), the Bush Administration extended and enforced the Dover Ban which was originally issued in 1991 (during the Gulf War). However, as the GWoT went on (and I have discussed here and forthcoming) public contests over the (in)visibility of the KIA and the right to publicly count and account for the human cost of America’s ‘forever’ (and everywhere) war rose in the forms of challenges including a protest march against the Ban by Military Families Speak Out, works of art exaggerating the lack of dead American soldiers  from the American visual landscape, and the publication of banned images by bodies including The Seattle Times and Associated Press ahead of the ban’s partial revoke in 2009 by then Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

As civilians with close military ties and bonds American military – Gold Star – families comprise a vital yet liminal part of the body politic and are subject to intense pressures from dominant bodies. For example, military families provide vital support to serving soldiers and veterans alike while their sensitivities are invoked by government and military bodies as justification for various (in)actions and policies. Military families are as such are elevated to a pivotal position: “the top one percent” according to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly – himself a Gold Star father – this week. Khizir Khan demonstrated this well with his  protest speech against Trump on American patriotism and values at the DNC last year. Crucially, all this goes on while military families are exposed to the excessive violence of war via their soldier kin, and of course, when soldiers are injured and KIA it is military families who see and feel (let alone count) the human cost of war and as such become part of the toll themselves.  However, as the events discussed here illustrate, when made visible military families may use their pivotal position to (re)define American values and move other, dominant bodies (as well as the public) towards counting and accounting for the human cost of even a forever war.

Health promotion & Mugabe. For real.

When you think great diplomats—the sorts of folks who can inspire large numbers of people, bring together disparate groups, and raise public awareness of key international issues—Robert Mugabe probably isn’t the first person who springs to mind.

And yet…guess who the World Health Organization just announced as its new goodwill ambassador for noncommunicable diseases in Africa?

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New Girl

Today’s headlines in several international newspapers had to struggle with too many possessive male noun forms: Putin’s mentor’s daughter Ksenia Sobchak announced that she would run for Russian Presidency next year. Russia’s Got Talent!

Not that the Kremlin thought that the upcoming ‘Putin referendum’ is in Jeopardy! The main contender Navalny is currently contemplating whether orange is the new black and will probably not get on the ballot anyway. The usual suspects (such as Zyuganov and Yavlinsky) have been trying to get that rose from the Russian population for too many seasons. Given that next year’s elections are scheduled on “Crimea Re-Unification Day”, there is no way anybody will be able to keep up with the Kardashian.

Sobchak’s bid looks very, very much improbable in this game of thrones. For starters, rumors about her being the ‘spoiler’ candidate that would split the opposition vote have been circulating for months, and even URL about her announcement in Vedomosti Newspaper is backdated to September 30th. Also, her mass media career might sort of arrest this development. To most Russians she is not really familiar as an oppositional journalist, but more so as a reality show host. Sobchak used to help ‘build love’ on a Russian reality TV show ‘Dom-2’ [House-2], where male and female contestants are supposed to build couples and an actual house that the best couple won at the end. The show includes numerous scenes of conflicts, fist fighting, swearing, masturbation and other delightful hallmarks of reality TV.

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The Book Nook: The Authority Trap: Strategic Choices of International NGOs

Our second Bridging the Gap Book Nook entry comes from Sarah Stroup of Middlebury College and Wendy Wong of the University of Toronto, who discuss their new book The Authority Trap: Strategic Choices of International NGOs (Cornell, 2017).

Emotions, Unconscious Bias, and Publishing

This is a guest post by Jana von Stein, Senior Lecturer, Political Science and International Relations Programme, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand)

The recent scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual abuse and harassment of dozens of women has gotten me thinking about an experience I had not too long ago. To be sure, there are differences: what happened to me was not sexual, my suffering was short-lived, and I sought justice. But there were at least two important similarities: my experience was deeply gendered and offensive, and I didn’t tell many people. Why? Because I worried about the career implications. I didn’t want the many good and decent men in my field to perceive me as a male-basher. Continue reading

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