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

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Preventing Further Russian Aggression

by on 2014-04-15- 10 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.
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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.
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ForeignPolicy.Com Fail

by on 2014-04-14- 5 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?
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An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Self-Promotion

by on 2014-04-14- 3 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?

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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.

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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."

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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.
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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. 
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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:
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Why I Participate At Political Science Rumors

by on 2014-04-10- 8 Comments

The first rule of the internet is not to read the comments for any op-ed one posts.  Why?  Because the cover of anonymity allows people to say awful stuff.  Of course, Twitter amply demonstrates that people will say awful things on the internet even when one can be clearly identified.  Anyhow, over the past several years, a series of websites have been gathering spots for both aspiring and experienced political scientists to exchange in rumors and opinions about the profession (to be clear, anyone can post so it might be economist students seeking to troll or other folks entirely).  Given yesterday's post about PSR, I thought I would explain my presence there.

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Thursday Linkage

Thursday Linkage

by on 2014-04-10- 1 Comment

As we hurtle to the end of the semester, here are some stories for the week that caught my eye:

  • Felix Salmon on why wonk bloggery is the future of journalism
  • From Kyle Dropp and co-authors, Americans who can't find Ukraine on the map are more likely to support intervention there. What does this say about low information voters?
  • Kim Yi Dionne and coauthor review the strange raid of a US-funded AIDS effort by Ugandan authorities as part of the emergent state-backed homophobia campaign
  • Rich Cincotta pours cold water on the idea that food prices drove the Arab Spring: local prices didn't increase that much
  • Seymour Hersh suggests that Turkey might have been behind the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, as an attempt to draw the U.S. in

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Number Crunching the ISA Twittersphere

by on 2014-04-09- 5 Comments

Felix Haas has written a monster blog post over at Bretterblog with interesting descriptive statistics from the #ISA2014 hashtag. Among other fascinating points:

  • 11% of IR scholars at the conference tweet, compared to only 2% of the global population
  • The most popular tweet of the conference contained the Sheraton lobby wifi password
  • Most prolific tweeter: Annick Wibben
  • Number of tweets sent by Laura Seay while simultaneously participating on the Twitter roundtable: 61

Haas also details how he gathered and coded the tweets, which itself is interesting methodologically in terms of how social scientists can leverage Twitter for content analysis. (His data is non-exhaustive for example, but that is partly due to the limitations of the Twitter API.) And last but not least, Haas reveals his position in the Great "What is Star Wars?" Twitter Battle of 2014.
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An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Professor vs. Teacher and Dr. vs. Mrs.

by on 2014-04-09- 8 Comments

Like any good protestant preacher, I’ve decided to start a multi-week series where we can examine a topic in depth from multiple angles.[1]  My chosen topic: women in academia.  This is a topic that has been written on extensively in peer-reviewed articles and on the blogosphere (see The Monkey Cage's wonderful discussion for a recent summary).  However, to my knowledge, most of those writing on the topic have been senior: the perspective of a woman “in the trenches” (ie junior) has been somewhat missing in the discussion.  I want to add my two-cents to the discussion and I’ve purposely decided to make the tone of this discussion somewhat light.  Yet, make no mistake, I’m very aware that there are some very nasty, horrible, and life-altering components to this topic.  Maybe one day I’ll talk about those aspects as well.

Anywho –  with an eye towards making the tone somewhat light, I’ve decided to title this series “An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week” – this is a nod to Jo Dee Messina’s song “A Woman’s Rant,” which I love. My first rant:  academic titles and gendered (mis)perceptions.

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You Make My Work (Im)Possible: Reflections on Professional Conduct in the Discipline of International Relations

by on 2014-04-09- 32 Comments

This is a guest post by Professor Cynthia Weber, Department of International Relations at the University of Sussex

Five months ago, ‘Michaela’ posted this query on the website Political Science Rumors in a thread called ‘a good place to study queer IR?’

  • am currently a MA student looking to move into a PhD program in the next 2 years. I am interested in studying queer IR and was wondering if you can recommend some good programs. I'm more interested in systemic theorizing than individual level (1st image) type of stuff. Thanks.

A Google search for Political Science Rumors describes the site as ‘The forum for Political Scientists to discuss Political Science and rumors in the profession’.  Others describe it more harshly: ‘Caffeinated’  describes it as ‘that nest of vipers’ that should not be listened to by anyone ‘unless you are a therapist and then please do!’.  The site seems to be directed at ABDs, recent PhDs, and others just starting out in the field who are looking for information about educational programs, conferencing, publishing, and landing a job.  But, as Caffeinated points out, it can have a nasty edge to it, which is something an MA student like Michaela would not necessarily know.

Michaela’s post generated four types of responses.  One was to query what Queer IR is.  A second was to answer her question with concrete suggests for where to study.  A third was to warn her that studying Queer IR would never get her a job.  A fourth was to be gleefully homophobic in ridiculing queers, Queer IR and specific pieces of Queer IR scholarship as well as OPs (Oppressed Peoples) and ‘our current crop of gender/ethnic/sexual “studies” departments’ that OPs apparently work in and support.  A large number of posts – which I will not repeat here – were in this fourth category of responses. The website – which posts comments anonymously and refers to posters through randomly-generated pseudonyms – allows readers to vote ‘Yea’ in favor of posted comments or ‘Nay’ against posted comments.  Leaving out comments that were ambiguous, this is how the votes tallied as of April 5, 2014:

  • Openly Hostile and/or Overtly Homophobic posts: Yea – 210       Ney – 18
  • Supportive/Constructive posts that answered Michaela’s question: Yea – 41         Ney – 3
  • Fight-back posts against the Hostility and/or Homophobia: Yea – 9           Ney – 16
  • Michaela’s original post asking where to study Queer IR was also voted on:  Yea – 4; Ney – 8.

A colleague brought this feed to my attention because the Queer IR scholarship attacked in the feed was authored by me.  After nearly three decades of doing poststructuralist, feminist and queer scholarship, such attacks are old news.   What is deeply troubling to me about this feed is not what these attacks mean for me personally or for my scholarship but what the gleefully hostile and/or homophobic posts and their endorsements by the site’s community of readers do in and to (those in) the discipline of IR.  Among the things they do are:
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Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement: Some Analytical Questions*

by on 2014-04-07- 8 Comments

(This is a solicited guest post by University of Chicago's Eric Hundman, who is currently conducting fieldwork in Taiwan. Also follow him on Twitter.)

sunflowersAt around 7:30pm on Tuesday, March 18, around 300 protesters scaled the fence around Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (Taiwan’s equivalent of a parliament) and occupied the building. The protesters then barricaded themselves inside the legislative chamber and began organizing, with the help of opposition legislators and the acquiescence of “patient, though confused police.” The executive branch in Taiwan probably* does not* have the authority to send police inside the legislature, so when Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) refused President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) request to evict the occupiers, they gained a certain measure of security.

By the following day, the protest leadership had elaborated its demands, while the streets outside the building had filled with sympathetic protesters, advocacy groups, volunteer staff, academics leading discussions, and stages for speeches and musical performances. This core protest organization developed very quickly and persisted – despite the trials of March 24, when riot police used force to decisively end an attempt to occupy the Executive Yuan, and even after April 2, when notorious “former” gangster Chang An-le (張安樂) raised a counter-protest. What became the “Sunflower Movement” organization also led a massive rally last Sunday, March 30 outside the Presidential Palace that drew close to 500,000 people; the coordination of this event was so thorough that by two hours after the rally ended, the streets were entirely clear of both people and detritus. The protest continues today, though the leadership has just announced they will leave the Legislative Yuan on Thursday, April 10.

To many, the spark motivating this protest was oddly obscure. On July 3, 2013, Taiwan and China signed the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA), which would, for example, allow greater Chinese investment in Taiwan’s banking and telecom sectors. After working its way though a series of widely criticized consultations, on March 17 the chair of the relevant review committee, in violation of an agreement with opposition lawmakers, announced the CSSTA had cleared committee (timeline here*). This amounted to legislative approval of the bill, since the ruling KMT party has enough votes to pass it. The protesters moved to block passage, and demanded that a new oversight structure be put in place governing agreements with China. They also demanded that the CSSTA bill be carefully reviewed after implementation of oversight.

These events raise a host of fascinating puzzles, but I will limit my discussion here to two that draw on the social movements literature. First, how did anger at an ostensibly minor procedural violation explode into what some continue to call a “constitutional crisis”? Second, what are the likely outcomes of the protest?
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Political Science without a Net

by on 2014-04-07- 2 Comments

Marc Maron, on his popular WTF Podcast, made an offhand remark that he does not prepare for his comedy performances.  He feels that preparing is for cowards, that you need to be ready and willing to fail in your work since there is a fine line between a unique achievement and total failure. Skirting this line led him to ruin many times in his career, but it has also led him to the transcendent place he is at now.  He has reached the heights of his field by putting it all on the line and risking total devastation by focusing on his Podcast, a new and untested medium at the time.  Now he has one of the most popular podcasts, a TV show, and is more popular than ever on the comedy circuit.  duck net

Maron’s path to success reminds us that we need to think a bit about this frame in our own work in Political Science.   Are we really willing to fail?  Are we cowards?  Do we skirt that fine line between success and ruin?

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Sunday Linkage: Rwanda at 20 Years

by on 2014-04-06- 2 Comments

Today, April 6, 2014, marks twenty years since the day someone shot down a plane on approach to the Kigali, Rwanda airport, killing everyone on board. That plane was carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, who had just returned from Arusha, Tanzania-based negotiations over a power-sharing arrangement intended to put an end to Rwanda's civil war. All hopes of a peaceful settlement ended with the plane's destruction. Overnight, roadblocks went up around the capital as some extremist Hutu leaders (who opposed the power sharing arrangement and thus had a strong incentive to want Rwandan President Habyarimana dead) directed their
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Accountability in Public Service Provision: Lessons from a Film Festival

by on 2014-04-05- 1 Comment

This Saturday's highlight was the screening of the film Powerless at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale, where I was honored with the opportunity to participate in a panel on the film. Begin with the trailer, and then go see the entire film. It's excellent.

The film depicts the desperate situation of the Kanpur Electricity Supply Company (KESCO) in Uttar Pradesh, India. Due to widespread electricity theft, the company incurs heavy losses and is unable to invest in power generation capacity to deal with daily power cuts. The urban poor refuse to pay their bills because of low incomes and
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Post-ISA Blogging: Does “Star Wars” Count as Science Fiction?

by on 2014-04-04- 16 Comments

Many Ducks are posting about their highlights from #ISA2014. Mine - aside from the Bloggers' Reception and the many smart junior scholars I met in the lobby - was a meta-theoretical twitter conversation with former Duck Patrick Thaddeus Jackson occurring as I was headed to the airport.

First the context. Just before departing, I live-tweeted Chris Tenove's "Representations Beyond Borders" panel (description here) after my presentation on same. There were many terrific papers: Wendy Wong and Ron Levi on "money as representation"; Chris on who gets to represent the aggrieved at the ICC; Hans-Peter Schmitz on how representations of acoholics prevent alcohol from being taken seriously as a global problem despite its global health burden.

My paper was on science fiction representations in advocacy campaigns (here is the YouTube trailer). While discussing my paper, Sarah Stroup observed that scholars of the sci-fi/IR intertext have largely (and surprisingly) neglected Star Wars. When I tweeted thus, the great PTJ (from somewhere else at the conference) replied with:

The rest of the conversation is below the fold, but suffice to say even if I accept PTJ's definitions of science fiction and high fantasy (and I'm not at all sure I do) I am unconvinced that Star Wars is

  • a) pure theology and no science/naturalism*
  • b) a morally ordered rather than contingent universe** or
  • c) that either of these claims would render Star Wars apolitical if true.***

Indeed as an empirical if not interpretive "fact," (though let it be noted that PTJ and I also disagree on the definition of 'facts'), Star Wars is understood as and increasingly invoked in ways that are extremely political and subversive.

See? Also: this and this.

Now I don't know exactly what is going on here - the Sith Lord has been barred from the ballot in Ukraine - but I do (tentatively) think PTJ and I agree on three things:

  • 1) We need a stronger research agenda linking the interpretation of sci-fi artifacts to the study of their circulation in our world
  • 2) Sarah Stroup is right that the Star Wars gap in the IR/sci-fi literature is interesting and puzzling and
  • 3) there is much-greater-than-zero chance of a Star Wars roundtable at ISA in New Orleans in which PTJ will show up in costume.

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