Under Review: Cite This!

by on 2014-10-18- Leave a reply

The boon and bane of our academic enterprise is that we get feedback all the time on our work.  Our work is better for it--that the hack-iest stuff I read is always stuff that is not submitted to any kind of refereeing process and relies instead on editors who seem to be blind to the hack-ness.   The bane is that, well, rejection and criticism can not only delay publication but also hurt feelings.  When well done, reviews further the enterprise.  However, sometimes, reviews seem to make the authors dance in relatively unproductive ways.  There have been lots of tweets and posts complaining about robustness checks--that reviewers have been asking authors to submit dozens (sometimes hundreds) of additional analyses.

My grievance du jour is something else--reviews that focus on stuff that one "should have cited."

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Climate and Security Revisited

Climate and Security Revisited

by on 2014-10-17- Leave a reply

I made two presentations yesterday at Colorado College where I first talked about climate and security and then spoke about global climate governance. I'll post about each issue in turn. With the Pentagon this week releasing its new strategy on climate change adaptation, this is a timely moment to revisit how far we have come with climate and security (slides from my presentation here).

In the mid-2000s, climate activists began casting about for new ways to frame climate change as a way to broaden their coalition. One way was to frame climate change as a security threat. Tom Friedman and others were some of the early proponents of this framing, linking fossil fuel dependence on unsavory regimes and also highlighting the connections between climate change and security outcomes at home and abroad.
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Cyber Letters of Marque and Reprisal: “Hacking Back”

Cyber Letters of Marque and Reprisal: “Hacking Back”

by on 2014-10-15- Leave a reply

In the thirteenth century, before the rise of the “modern” state, private enforcement mechanisms reigned supreme. In fact, because monarchs of the time had difficulties enforcing laws within their jurisdictions, the practice of private individuals enforcing their rights was so widespread that for the sovereign to be able to “reign supreme” while his subjects simultaneously acted as judge, jury and executioner, the practice of issuing “letters of marque and reprisal” arose. Merchants traveling from town to town or even on the high seas often became the victims of pirates, brigands and thieves. Yet these merchants had no means of redress,
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Networking “Toxic Remnants of War” on the Disarmament Agenda

by on 2014-10-15- 11 Comments

With the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament and International Security convening in New York this month, one point of debate will be the potential health risks of depleted uranium weapons in post-conflict zones. And rightly so: depleted uranium is a byproduct of nuclear enrichment processes used in armor-piercing incendiary projectiles to penetrate tanks, and correspondingly to harden armor against attack. Since the Gulf War, veterans groups, doctors and civil society groups have raised concerns about the possible health effects on humans of radioactive DU dust left in the environment. Now, A10 gunships are headed back to Iraq, a nation that has already absorbed 400,000kg of DU contamination, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons.  This month's discussion at the UN follows a UNGA report released earlier this year, in which Iraq, not so surprisingly, joined a handful of other nations in calling for an outright ban of these weapons.

Early in my research for my new book 'Lost' Causes, I considered depleted uranium as an interesting case of agenda-vetting in the humanitarian disarmament NGO arena. A far-flung network of organizations has been lobbying for a ban since 2003, and language has been percolating in General Assembly First Committee resolutions since 2007, culminating most recently in the Secretary-General's report on the topic this summer. In short, the issue is gaining momentum in non-binding "soft law." But the DU issue has not been as prominent to date in disarmament circles of NGOs pushing treaty prohibitions on weapons in general, and major organizations like the International Committee for the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch have not prioritized the issue of DU on their formal agendas. Instead the most prominent issues on the NGO disarmament agenda since 2005 have included cluster munitions, small arms, autonomous weapons and, to a more limited degree, incendiary and explosive weapons. As this graph of NGO campaign affiliations from 2012 shows, organizations associated with the ICBUW are relatively disconnected from other disarmament campaigns, with more ties to the nuclear and environmental movements than to the humanitarian disarmament mainstream.*

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In many respects, this is not at all surprising given the nature of the DU issue, which cuts across health, environment and arms control. My research has found that highly inter-sectional issues often have the hardest time finding a foothold in existing advocacy terrain. Also, elite advocacy NGOs gravitate for strategic reasons toward campaigns where they can a) combine testimonial and statistical evidence, and b) identify a clear causal link between the cause and effect of a humanitarian problem. Testimonial evidence is abundant here - much anecdotal evidence points to carcinogenic effects, including increased birth defects in areas exposed to DU. But generalizable scientific evidence is less so: few large-scale epidemiological studies have been carried out.  "We know without a doubt that DU in humans is harmful and that contamination needs to be cleaned-up," ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir told me. "The main question is to what extent are civilians being exposed to it."

Despite these obstacles, in recent years the ICBUW has made some noticeable strides in messaging and networking its issue in transnational civil society.  
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Experiencing the Ebola Crisis: a perspective from inside Sierra Leone

by on 2014-10-13- Leave a reply

This is a guest post by Dehunge Shiaka, Researcher and gender expert in Freetown Sierra Leone

There has been increased international attention to the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) and its spread in West Africa. However, for those living in the region, the reports, meetings, and fears associated with the virus seem to have come too late. The international community should send aid, supplies, and experts, but it should also listen to the experiences, advice, and wisdom of locals. Those living amidst the epidemic have a first-hand view of why the disease has spreading so quickly, and how it can be managed and contained. This post contains my own view about the current Ebola outbreak. Overall, the disease has slowed down much of our activities and movement and this is bound to spread hardship among the population, most of whom are poor already. Here, I focus on what I see as the number one reason as to why the outbreak has been difficult to contain, as well as a host of practical (and easy) mechanisms for halting the virus.

To start, it is useful to know that EVD first attacked some residents of Kailahun District in May this year. This is the same district where the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone began in the early 1990s, along the border with Liberia. Today, the disease is present in 13 out of the 14 districts in the country (only Koinadugu District has yet to record any infected case). While the first hit districts of Kailahun and Kenema (the district I hail from) are recording diminishing infection rates, rather unfortunately, the districts of Bombali, Port Loko and the Western Area (where the capital, Freetown, is located) have increasing infection rates. This is because our health system appears to be buckling.

One of the greatest contributors to the spread of the virus has been misinformation and miseducation about the virus.
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U.S. Options Limited Due to Will and Not Lack of Drones

U.S. Options Limited Due to Will and Not Lack of Drones

by on 2014-10-08- Leave a reply

Today, Kate Brannen’s piece in Foreign Policy sent mixed messages with regard to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS).  She reports that the US is balancing demands “For intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets across Iraq and Syria with keeping an eye on Afghanistan”. The implication, which the title of her piece implies, is that if the US just had more “drones” over Syria, it would be able to fight IS more adeptly.   The problem, however, is that her argument is not only misleading, it is also dismissive of the Arab allies’ human intelligence contributions.

While Brannen is
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Tweets of the week #4

Tweets of the week #4

by on 2014-10-06- Leave a reply

This was another busy week in global politics and I'm going to highlight some of the best tweets in my Twitter feed. Before starting, however, I will acknowledge that this post is late.

I believe my excuse is pretty good as it involves lots of late night baseball. I grew up in Kansas rooting for the local team -- and the Kansas City Royals are in the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, the Royals won three consecutive extra inning games. All ended after 1 am Eastern Time. I then had to read for 30 to 45 minutes after the long and exciting games just to unwind enough to sleep.

None of those victories featured  the longest game of the week. As DC residents know, the Washington Nationals lost to the San Francisco Giants 2-1 in the 18th inning. I caught a bit of that contest:

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The Strange Death of Liberal Zionism

The Strange Death of Liberal Zionism

by on 2014-10-03- 1 Comment

This is a guest post from Ariel I. Ahram (@ariel_ahram), an assistant professor of government and international affairs in Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs in Alexandria, Va. He is the author of Proxy Warriors: The Rise and Fall of State Sponsored Militias (Stanford University Press, 2011).

Laments over the state of Israel have become increasingly common. Especially in the midst of this summer’s war in Gaza, Israel’s erstwhile sympathizers and supporters have come forward questioning the Jewish state’s viability and morality. Israel, they claim, has lost the pretense of liberal democracy and is careening toward a kind of Jewish ethnocracy, an apartheid state ruling over millions of Arabs between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Though this discourse often takes a tone of Jewish ritual atonement, it has ramifications far beyond the Diaspora-Israel relations. A common commitment to liberal democratic principles is a key component of the cultural linkages underpinning the special U.S.-Israel relationship. Israel’s perceived rightward seems to have dire implications for the possibilities of peace as well. Many believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has effectively ruled out the possibility of relinquishing territory to a Palestinian state. But the problem is deeper that leadership. Ugly displays of racism, such as when right-wing Jewish thugs abducted and murdered a sixteen year old Palestinian boy in Jerusalem this July, seem to indict Israeli society as a whole. Liberal Zionism is, in a word, dead.
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Thursday Ebola Linkage

Thursday Ebola Linkage

by on 2014-10-02- Leave a reply

Well, this has been a very difficult period to watch as we see the unfolding tragedy of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We have seen dire warnings for the region, with a dramatic uptick in reported infections and some heartbreaking (and problematic) images from hospitals. There have been credible projections that left unchecked Ebola could have as many 1.4 million infections by early 2015 in Liberia and Sierra Leone, which would amount to more than 10% of the population of those two countries. With President Obama's announcement of $500 million (perhaps up to $1 billion) and the deployment of 3000 soldiers, help may be arriving and more on the way, but it is unclear if this belated scale-up of attention and resources will arrive to stave off the worst in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Fortunately, the spread in neighboring Nigeria seems very well-contained.

We have also seen the first diagnosed Ebola patient outside the continent, in my own state of Texas, by a Liberian who travelled here and became symptomatic upon arrival. The situation appears to be under control but questions remain, as the patient was initially sent home after his first visit to the hospital. Here are some news and comments from around the web. I had some exchanges with WSJ and NYT reporters about airport fever monitoring as well as the ethics of the images the NYT had of suffering children on their pages. Read on for more.
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A Strategy of Appeasement: Winning the Revise and Resubmit

by on 2014-10-02- 8 Comments

You hear the “ping” of an incoming email and quickly check the subject – oh, crap, it’s from a journal![1]  This could make or break your day.  You open the  email and quickly scan for the word “reject.”  Wait? What!? No “reject”?  No “Unfortunately, their assessments do not provide us with sufficient support to continue the review process”?  Does this mean what you think it means?  You now read the letter closely, your pulse starting to rise.  It is!  A revise and resubmit!

I remember when I started sending things out for review – I didn’t actually realize that the goal of a first round submission was not an “accept” but a “revise and resubmit” – an “R&R” in professor-speak.  Acceptances on the first round are extremely rare.  An R&R is the decision you should be hoping for; it’s the first step – and the hardest step – in the process to a peer-reviewed publication in our discipline.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a step we talk about much or actively advise graduate students on.  I’ve been shocked to find out that some of my students have resubmitted things without their advisor’s input at all.  An R&R is not just an intermittent stop on the road to a publication.  It’s a crucial junction: a misstep can cost you years of further anguish at getting the manuscript published.

After dealing with almost 30 R&Rs[2], I think there is a method or a strategy that works for revise and resubmits: appeasement.  The goal of the R&R stage is to make at least two reviewers 100% convinced that the manuscript is worthy of publication while not angering the other reviewer(s).  I know this advice is unsolicited – however, I thought I’d share 5 tips to ease in converting R&Rs into acceptances.

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“and Elinor?”: when winning a Nobel Prize isn’t enough…

“and Elinor?”: when winning a Nobel Prize isn’t enough…

by on 2014-10-01- 7 Comments

This is a guest post from Leslie Johns, an Assistant Professor of political science at UCLA. 

The Public Choice Society---an academic organization of scholars who study the interaction of politics and economics---recently announced that it has created a new award for scholarly research: the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Prize.  The announcement of this prize is provoking an intense reaction because of its name: “The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Prize”?

Elinor Ostrom was well-known to political scientists, policy analysts, and economists.  As a graduate student during the 1960s in the Political Science Department at UCLA, where I work, Ostrom overcame tremendous odds and blatant discrimination to earn her Ph.D.  Her reward for this work was being offered a job as a secretary.  After decades of climbing the academic ladder and publishing path-breaking scholarship on the regulation of shared resources, it seemed as though Ostrom had finally been recognized for her courage and intellect.  Despite the fact that she never received a degree from or a faculty appointment in an economics department, Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009. She was the first, and remains the only, woman to win this prize.
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Tweets of the Week #3

by on 2014-09-28- Leave a reply

It's the weekend, so it's time for the third edition of “Tweets of the Week.” My twitter feed was again filled with some interesting micro-blogging.

By the way, I apologize for the way last week's home page post looked. Obviously, I'm doing something wrong with the images, though it seems to be fine once the reader clicks the link to Continue Reading. I hope readers can see the image at the top of this page.
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Ready for the Weekend Quasi-Linkage: Are Political Scientists Useless?

Ready for the Weekend Quasi-Linkage: Are Political Scientists Useless?

by on 2014-09-26- 2 Comments

Steve and I had a good Twitter exchange with Tom Ricks about whether or not political science is useless to policymakers, particularly quantitative work and modeling. I thought this exchange was funny because today I saw that Colin Kahl, friend and more importantly, a damn good political scientist, was just appointed as Vice President Biden's National Security Advisor.

Ricks' broadside has provoked a few choice blog posts from Steve, Paul Staniland, Tom Pepinsky, and Henry Farrell. (Dan Drezner also had a good one on the topic from 2012). I also thought Ezra Klein's column from a week or so ago on why
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Neoliberalizing the academy

Neoliberalizing the academy

by on 2014-09-26- 4 Comments

Josh’s post on his experience with course evaluations has gotten me thinking about the practice of using course evaluations. Because my personal circumstances differ from Josh’s (e.g. I do not have children), I have been able to avoid some of the painful tradeoffs he discusses and have not yet had to confront ‘bad’ evaluations. Reading his post, however, prompted me to connect some dots that have been floating around in my head regarding the ideological underpinnings of practices in the academy with recent pieces I have seen in the media—specifically a NYTimes report on the release of the follow-up to
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ISIS, Syria, the Rebels and the US-Led Coalition: What Governs Who?

ISIS, Syria, the Rebels and the US-Led Coalition: What Governs Who?

by on 2014-09-24- 3 Comments

In a phone call today with a friend working on issues pertaining to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), an interesting question arose. In particular, what types of conflict are going on with the fight against ISIS? My friend wanted to draw attention to the R2P aspects of the crisis, and whether the “intervention” on the side of the US was just according to these standards. While this is certainly an interesting question, I think it points us in the direction of a larger set of questions regarding the nature of the conflict itself. That is, what are the existing laws
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Bad Evals: Further Thoughts on Having it All

Bad Evals: Further Thoughts on Having it All

by on 2014-09-24- 4 Comments

So, I got some bad teaching evaluations from last semester (bad by my standards at least. Hell, by anybody's standards). It's kind of thrown me for a loop because I pride myself on being a good scholar, a good teacher, and a good husband/father. But, sometimes it may not be possible to pull off all three of these things well simultaneously, especially if you've got an ambitious research agenda, equally challenging and risky courses, and a toddler at home. That wasn't my immediate reaction when I read the students comments, but I've kind of gravitated to that conclusion, if only to stave off admissions of being a lousy professor or thinking ill of my students.

I've written before about Anne-Marie Slaughter's powerful essay and the problematic label of "having it all." Coming back to the idea here doesn't make it any easier to think about what to do about it.

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What’s Next for the Global Climate Movement?

What’s Next for the Global Climate Movement?

by on 2014-09-23- 4 Comments

This is a guest post from Jennifer Hadden, who is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. She guest blogged on the Duck before on global climate negotiations. She also has a forthcoming book from Cambridge on climate advocacy called Networks in Contention: The Divisive Politics of Climate Change.

The largest climate change demonstration in history took place on Sunday. According to organizers of the People’s Climate March, an estimated 400,000 people participated in the protest in New York. For comparison, the size of the march was comparable to the scale of the February 15 anti-war demonstration in 2003. The demonstration at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 mobilized about 100,000 people, but US demonstrations at that time generally mobilized fewer than 1,000 people. The People’s Climate March was also a transnational event: during the march a giant video screen outside Times Square projected images of demonstrations all over the world, totaling 2,808 events in 166 countries.

How does a protest on this scale come about? And what does it mean for the future of the global climate movement?
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The Short-Termist Cost of Security

The Short-Termist Cost of Security

by on 2014-09-21- 6 Comments

It is no secret in the academic IR community that securitization theory, an approach developed in Europe as part of the Copenhagen School of security studies, has struggled to get traction here in the United States. While the approach is widely used elsewhere in the world, from Europe to Asia, American IR scholars have been very reticent reluctant to accept the merits of the approach. Which is a shame because the approach has the potential to offer significant insights. One possible objection to securitization theory might be that, since it argues threats are political and intersubjective rather than objective, the
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Tweets of the Week #2

by on 2014-09-20- Leave a reply

Welcome to the second edition of "Tweets of the Week." It was a busy seven days for news and my twitter feed provided much useful information -- in micro-form.

The Scottish independence referendum featured especially prominently in my feed. This was perhaps my favorite tweet about the final result:

Prior to the vote, my feed was filled with some great tweets about the #indyref. Here are a few of the shorter ones that I found especially helpful:

https://twitter.com/johnpmcdermott/status/512346430908805120

https://twitter.com/ZiggyRoswell/status/510153980144787457

The Scottish referendum, of course, was not the only interesting issue in global politics this week. And, over the long
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Second Thoughts About the West’s (Weak) Opposition to the Putin Doctrine

by on 2014-09-20- 2 Comments

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Russia may have agreed to a ceasefire with Ukraine the week before last, but in addition to regular violations of it by both Russian forces and pro-Russian rebels, it is important to understand that what not long ago was considered an irregular conflict has transitioned into open warfare between Russia and Ukraine. Most of the fighting ended in a ceasefire when President Poroshenko -- weakened by the West's refusal to provide lethal equipment and the failure of the NATO summit to address the Kremlin threat in a fully comprehensive fashion -- accepted Putin's terms.

This ceasefire is unlikely to hold, however, as Putin is feeling his oats. Not only did he ignore NATO warnings not to send regular troops into Ukraine, he undermined President Obama and NATO's efforts to reassure its Eastern members by abducting an Estonian intelligence officer the day the summit ended. With his regular troops, Putin has expanded and reinforced his position in the Donbass and has approached the port city of Mariupol. There are credible reports that Russian agents are at work in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, and Odessa.

If the West continues to react slowly and weakly to Kremlin aggression, Putin will face no serious obstacles to moving further west in Ukraine to Odessa and even the border with Moldova. Doing so would provide a land bridge to Crimea and Transnistria, the frozen conflict in Moldova that Moscow has nourished since the fall of the Soviet Union.
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