Classroom Activity: When Silence Says a Lot

by on 2014-04-23- Leave a reply

This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on international institutions, specifically the impact they have on patterns of armed conflict. The first half focused on peacekeeping, which works better (under some conditions) than many appreciate, while the latter focused on how international institutions can deter bad behavior even if they lack enforcement power. The argument, which I previously laid out (in a somewhat different form) here, is that international institutions need not have the power to punish so long as the statements they make have an impact on the likelihood that someone else will do so.

If institutions issue reports condemning bad behavior, which they don't always catch, but never go out of their way to praise good behavior, then one might think that they only influence beliefs when they issue reports. But that's not correct, at least if governments are even weakly Bayesian. Every time a report is not issued about a given state violating international law or otherwise misbehaving, a little more information is revealed.

Continue reading

Zucotti Park Redux: An Earth Day Field Report

by on 2014-04-22- Leave a reply

"Frack Wall Street, Not Our Water"

"The People Are Rising, No More Compromising"

"Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Fossil Fuels Have to Go"

It's Earth Day, and I am in Zucotti Park holding some parsley given to me by an unknown activist, chanting "oceans are rising, no more compromising!" with about 200 other people. It's the beginning of Global Climate Convergence, and I decided to do some field research on the status of the grassroots climate movement. We started in the park, did a little tour of Wall Street and other notable locations, such as the office of the New York
Continue reading

Tuesday Linkage

by on 2014-04-22- Leave a reply

Editor's note: this post previously appeared on my personal blog. I've been doing links posts on Tuesdays over there for a while now, so I guess I might as well start cross-listing them.

Continue reading

Can Research Inform Climate Policy? A Columbia University Workshop

by on 2014-04-19- 2 Comments

For me, yesterday's main activity was a home game workshop on the policy implications of research on climate policy. I co-organized the workshop with Alex Ovodenko and Scott Barrett, both of whom are active in the climate policy research community. We had a group of about 30 people, both academics and practitioners. The six presentations focused on climate negotiations, carbon clubs,  and carbon markets.

Why such a workshop? As some of you may have noticed, one of my frustrations has been the disconnect between climate policy research and practice. While the fieldwork that I do on renewable energy in India
Continue reading

Sanction Threats, Imposition, and Protest

by on 2014-04-18- Leave a reply

Editor's note: a more detailed version of this post previously appeared on my personal blog.

If sanctions are to succeed as a tool of coercive diplomacy, they must impose real costs on the target. Yet, in most cases, they fail to do this—at least, directly. The economic costs tend to fall disproportionately on the average person, while the regime and its elite supports often find ways to benefit from newly emergent black markets. But might sanctions put pressure on the regime through some other channel? Say, by increasing protests?

There have been many attempts at answer this question, all of
Continue reading

Friday Nerd Blogging: Exceptional That Proves the Rule

by on 2014-04-18- Leave a reply

I stopped collecting Spider-man long ago when it got all clone-tastic.  I tend to hate TV/movies/comic books that use clones in their plots.  However, there is one exception

Continue reading

Classroom Activity: Gambling Over War

by on 2014-04-18- Leave a reply

This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on information problems as an explanation for war—which I'd say is the most useful explanation we've got. The broad contours of the argument are pretty straightforward, but the full implications are not. (That's something of an understatement. As I've discussed a few times before, a lot of very smart people have made incorrect statements about what this argument implies. In fact, while I'll gladly admit we've hit the point of diminishing marginal returns, I still think there's a lot we've yet to learn from this way of thinking.)
This activity was designed to illustrate
Continue reading

Thursday Linkage: Get the Duck out of this Semester

Thursday Linkage: Get the Duck out of this Semester

by on 2014-04-18- 1 Comment

With the tale end of this semester bearing down on me, this Duck is barely keeping his head above water. Fortunately, time has stopped and nothing has happened in the world. Ukraine is fine (no more Russian incursions). The global environment has put the threat of major disruption from climate change on pause. It's clear skies in Beijing. All the poachers of wildlife around the world have dropped dead. I wish. Read on for what's really happening.

Continue reading

Call for Proposals: ISA Midwest 2014

by on 2014-04-17- Leave a reply

Dear all,

I'm currently the program chair for ISA Midwest 2014.  The conference will take place from November 7th to 9th at the Hilton Ballpark in St. Louis.  This is a fabulous conference - one I'd really recommend for all scholars but one that is especially inviting for junior scholars.  Here is the call for proposals:

Continue reading

Joining The Club?

by on 2014-04-16- 5 Comments

ducksoup Dan Nexon argues that efforts to have Ukraine join NATO could be self defeating:

Moscow’s greatest fear is that Ukraine winds up a member of NATO. The more that NATO suggests it views Ukraine as worthy of military confrontation, the more Moscow will become convinced that an autonomous Ukraine — rump or otherwise — will someday become a member of the NATO alliance. The net result: escalating efforts by NATO at military deterrence actually increase the pressure on Moscow to take decisive action in the near term.

The whole post is worth reading, and those few Duck readers who don't follow Dan's blog should do so as soon as possible.

But there's still something puzzling me about Russia's adventurism in its near abroad: Who cares who joins NATO? Or, to be more precise, what role should NATO membership have in international relations theory?

Continue reading

John Vasquez, Territoriality, and Staying Ahead of the Game

by on 2014-04-15- Leave a reply

by Brandon Valeriano and Andy Owsiak

What follows is a dialog between us on John Vasquez’s contributions to the field of IR based on a recent roundtable honoring his work at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association in Toronto in March, 2014.  Our remarks are cribbed from our statements on the panel.  vasquez

Continue reading

Preventing Further Russian Aggression

by on 2014-04-15- 16 Comments


 "The hour is getting late...all along the watchtower, princes kept the view...two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl."

Bob Dylan

America and Russia are not engaged in a new Cold War, but Russia is playing the global menace du jour. The U.S. and Europe need to take more aggressive action to prevent the annexation of eastern Ukraine, and time is short. Beyond this crisis the West needs an updated defense posture, but for now the road ahead is clear.

Russia will take as much of Ukraine as the West allows, nothing more, nothing less. Yet few in Washington and Brussels seem to understand this. In recent weeks the view among the cognoscenti was that the crisis over Ukraine was largely over.  Yet little in the U.S.-European response has changed. Hence, the incentive structure that failed to prevent the Crimea annexation is not likely to prevent further dismemberment. President Putin views the West as weak, which has kept him emboldened.
Continue reading

The IPCC Working Group III Report on Climate Mitigation in 11 Tweets

The IPCC Working Group III Report on Climate Mitigation in 11 Tweets

by on 2014-04-15- 1 Comment

The IPCC released the Working Group III summary report for policymakers on Sunday. I wrote about the Working Group II report on impacts on The Monkey CageWorking Group III covers climate mitigation, that is the challenges of reducing greenhouse gases. Tonight, I read through the report and tweeted my sense of the main findings in an 11 part series that I embed below. My short take: there is not nearly enough in the 33 page document on barriers to implementation and international cooperation. I'm really looking forward to the release of the longer chapters. In the meantime, I encourage interested readers to take a look at five sectoral reports from my research group on the Major Economies and Climate Change.
Continue reading

ForeignPolicy.Com Fail

by on 2014-04-14- 8 Comments

As I noted last week, for the final project in my linked seminar this year, my students have to design and launch a website to promote their fictitious human rights NGO. In prepping for the course and in developing the grading rubrics, I've spent quite a bit of time reading the literature on what makes for a strong and effective website and how to integrate design, functionality, and content. My students' websites are evaluated on all of these aspects. The content and text should match the sophistication of the targeted audience -- generally it should be smart and focused. The aesthetic should include visual appeal, professional appearance, color harmonies with elegant and clear and easy to use design functions to visually guide readers through the content.

All of this makes me wonder what the hell are the folks at Foreign thinking?
Continue reading

An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Self-Promotion

by on 2014-04-14- 4 Comments

This week’s installment of An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week concerns self-promotion and self-citation differences between men and women.

The idea for this installment came to me while I was having a celebratory drink with K. Chad Clay and Jim Piazza at ISA.  We were celebrating our recent Political Research Quarterly article (also coauthored with Sam Bell).[1]  Chad had just presented a new Bell, Clay, Murdie paper[2] at a panel that I wasn’t able to attend.  When I asked Chad if he had any questions from the floor, Chad said that he did get some questions but that he was able to answer them with reference to our forthcoming International Studies Quarterly article (coauthored also with Colin Barry, Sam Bell, and Mike Flynn).[3]

“Doesn’t that make you feel bad?” I said, “It always embarrasses me to have to reference one of my other pieces.”

“No,” Chad replied, “Given all of the recent stuff about the citation gap, I think that's a gendered-thing.”

A gendered-thing?  Really?

Continue reading

Why I Don’t Participate at Political Science Rumors

by on 2014-04-12- 5 Comments

Over the last week we've had an excellent post by Cynthia Weber on queer theory and the forms of academic disciplining and bullying that take place on the website Political Science Rumors, as well as a interesting (and surprisingly convincing) piece by Steve Saidman on why he participates on the website. At first thought, the question of whether to participate on PLSI rumors or not seems pretty simple to me. In fact, a better question might be, 'why would anyone bother with such a largely negative shit-storm, make-you-feel-bad-about-humanity and the field zone?' However, on second thought, there are a few specific reasons why I avoid the site:

1. I think I know who the average 'user' is, and I don't think I have much to learn from them. With the exception of Steve Saidman and a few other visitors- who have a genuine intention of a positive exchange with others in the field- based on the types of comments I have read, I assume (like others) that the average poster on this site is an unemployed/underemployed graduate student from an elite university who is pissed off that people like me (with my 'terrible pedigree' and my poor choice of feminism as a 'specialization') have jobs and a voice in the field (cue the trash comments). Why would I want to listen to this cohort speculate on job candidates, or my work (or anything else)?

2. It sets low career goals. I know not everyone in political science dreams of contributing to world peace (more on this in a forthcoming post), but surely there is more to our careers than journal rankings and how we 'rate' against others? In the comments sections to Weber's recent post, there is discussion about the damage we might do to students if we are not honest about their career prospects if they choose 'sub-fields' like queer theory. Obviously, most PhD students don't want to end up unemployed, and providing realistic information about the job market is essential- but individuals should be encouraged to choose their research topics because they are interested in answering questions they deem important, or that will make some sort of contribution (the fact that it sounds corny to want to contribute positively to society/our field is depressing). 

3. It is not an effective source of information. If you want to know who has been short listed for a job, where to publish an article, which university to go to for particular specializations etc THIS IS NOT THE BEST PLACE TO GET THE INFO.

Continue reading

Classroom Activity: Commitment Problems

by on 2014-04-11- Leave a reply

This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on commitment problems. The lecture focused in particular on how the anticipation of future shifts in power can create incentives for preventive war. After walking them through a formal model fleshing out the argument, I then discussed the role of preventive motives in the US Civil War and showed them that interstate wars have occurred more often historically when there was reason to believe that war in the current year would have a significant impact on the distribution of military capabilities in the subsequent year. This activity applies that same argument to a slightly different setting: the problem of rebel demobilization, which Walter has called "the critical barrier to civil war settlement."

Continue reading

So You Want to be a Liberal Arts College Professor: Is there a Future for the Liberal Arts?

by on 2014-04-11- 8 Comments

Last year I wrote a post titled “So You Want to be a Liberal Arts Professor.” At the time, I promised a series of pieces on the subject, but then my job as a liberal arts college professor got in the way…. Oh well. Among other things, I got mired in a faculty committee examining the future of the liberal arts, developing our college learning goals, and revamping the college’s distribution and graduation requirements.

Throughout the process, we spent a lot of time looking at the literature and debates on question of the relevance of the liberal arts in the 21st century – and especially on the instrumentalization of knowledge and the concerns about the practical turn in higher education.

And, while I’m concerned about many of the trends in higher ed – the corporatization of the academy and the emergence of a new managerial class -- one thing that has struck me about much of this debate about the relevance of the liberal arts is how divorced the discussion tends to be from what many of us actually do in the classroom.
Continue reading

Crimea is not a Realist story

by on 2014-04-10- 4 Comments

[Note:  This is a guest post by Jarrod Hayes, assistant professor of international relations at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  His first book, Constructing National Relations: US Relations with India and China was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.]

Jeffrey Stacey has already discussed the issue in Crimea with alacrity, as have his interlocutors in the comments section.  My agenda here is to argue that what is going on in Crimea is not a story about which Realist theory in international relations has much to say.  My specific foil here (probably at some professional peril) is John Mearsheimer.  Mearsheimer is perhaps most known for his forceful support of Realist IR theory (there is that Israel thing too), specifically a variant called offensive realism.  According to that theory, great powers are constantly predatory, seeking to boost their power (military capability and economic capability that boosts military capability) whenever benefits exceed the costs.  It is a materialist and rationalist approach to international security, grounded in a logic of power and appealing in its simplicity.  And Mearsheimer has not been shy about commenting on the crisis in Crimea, arguing that Ukraine should have kept its nuclear weapons after the end of the Cold War and that Russia’s annexation of Crimea makes perfect sense as the actions of an insecure state seeking to prevent immediate neighbors from falling into the orbit of the West.

The story is an appealing one, and on the surface it looks compelling. 
Continue reading

Report: US Drone Casualty Estimates Are Likely Too Low

by on 2014-04-10- 1 Comment

Defense analyst Lawrence Lewis has authored an unclassified report critically analyzing the metrics used to estimate civilian casualties from drone strikes.* Lewis is an analyst and field representative for the Center for Naval Analysis, which published the report today. He has led numerous projects on operational effectiveness for DOD, including the Joint Civilian Casualty Study in support of General Petraeus, and knows of what he speaks. He is also the author of a classified study of casualties from manned and unmanned air attacks in Afghanistan.

dronestatsThis remarkably balanced analysis begins with the observation that US casualty statistics are significantly lower than NGO counts, and provides an explanation of how institutional cultures and estimation techniques can result in such a gap. The report argues that this can be explained by three factors: the irregular nature of the enemy that makes it difficult to distinguish civilians from combatants, misidentifications that often occur as a result, and the fact that the US uses air surveillance rather than ground surveillance to conduct battle damage assessments.**

Although the report primarily serves as context on the production of casualty estimates, Lewis also uses his analysis to make at least two other important conceptual points that are generally lost in the debate over drone casualties:
Continue reading