Brian Rathbun

Dear Readers

by on 2013-08-20- Leave a reply

I have decided, following the controversy surrounding my post on networking, to remove myself as one of the permanent contributors to the Duck of Minerva.
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Why I Pulled the Post

by on 2013-08-15- 69 Comments

Some of you have asked why I pulled the post, “Intellectual Jailbait: Networking at APSA,” which I put up last night.

First, a lot of people were obviously hurt by the post. Those of us who blog of course want to be read, and I try to use humor to get my points across. I think that most humor, or at least mine, tries to go up to the edge of inappropriateness without crossing it. You don’t know until you cross it until you do, however. I would have never posted this if I thought that it would hurt a lot of feelings.

Second, I felt that people were missing the main message, which was to focus less on self-promotion with senior scholars and more on having exciting intellectual exchanges, which I generally found to be more likely among younger scholars even if they are less influential.  In the short-term, this will make you feel less cheap. Hence my use of the word “slutty,” still an accurate depiction of how I felt when I tried to attract the attention of those big wigs who were not interested. In the long-term, I think it is better actually for one’s scholarly ambitions as interactions with the most interesting if not the most powerful people will make you do better work. And those interesting young people will eventually themselves be in positions of influence.

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My Enduring Rivalry Endures: What is a Credible Signal Anyhow?

by on 2013-08-06- 1 Comment

Previously, on Rathbun’s Enduring Rivalry: Brian is locked in an enduring rivalry with this neighbors in which he does not really understand why they are mad at him and why they won’t take yes for an answer, which makes him really, really mad and inclined to do anything possible to drive them crazy and make them look stupid. As it always does, this takes the form of ridiculing their behavior through the construction of yard tableaus that mock the triviality of their complaints. Another neighbor calls it the “best public art installation in the history of Stratford Avenue.” Brian appreciates the compliment.

To bring everyone up to speed, there have been a couple of new developments in my enduring rivalry. A couple of months ago, tired of having the police called on me every time I played the drums, which I only did during the weekdays during work hours, I did some amateur soundproofing. At the advice of someone at Home Depot (Yes, I recognize that seems like a paradoxical statement), I bought some styrofoam insulation boards, and suspended them around the drum set to create a kind of box that would muffle the sound. I did this on a Saturday and tested it out for a minute, with my wife inside to tell me if it worked.
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Friday Anti-Nerd Blogging: Matthew Kroenig Meme

by on 2013-05-10- 1 Comment


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Oh crap, I think I am in an enduring rivalry

by on 2013-04-15- 14 Comments

IMG_20130301_110922I think one of the most interesting findings in all of international relations scholarship is that the disproportionate share of conflict in the international system is comprised of a few dyads fighting over and over, what are known as “enduring rivalries.” These are highly emotional conflicts in which countries are found to fight because they have fought before, not because of the presence of some tangible and intractable conflict of interest.

I avoided this work for a long, long time for a number of reasons. First, “rivalries” is a terrible, terrible moniker for what is being described and it made me not take it seriously. Rivalries sounds like Yankees-Red Sox. In reality these are at the very least like Manchester City/Manchester United in which fans actually hurt each other. Second, the enduring rivalries crowd does a really bad job drawing the consequences of their findings for international relations theory, I suspect due to the research tradition’s roots in peace research in which numbers and pushing the research agenda step by step are favored over grand theoretical statements. That is unfortunate because there is an enormous implication here. The international system is not conflict-prone due to anarchy. The international system does not really have a character at all. If it does it is mostly peaceful. Realists draw excessive conclusions from micro-level conflicts that have their own unique origins.

I think readers will be sad to hear, therefore, that I think I am in enduring rivalry with my next-door neighbors. Or if they do rational choice work or study Africa, perhaps they will be happy. Either way, let me explain.
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Nation’s international relations reference librarians despondent as Game of Thrones returns

by on 2013-03-31- Leave a reply

The Canard

"All the fake news that's fit to print"

The long awaited return of tumblr_mabxezBZhb1r0jcrzo1_500HBO’s wildly popular fantasy series, the Game of Thrones, has not generated enthusiasm on the part of at least one group. The nation’s international relations reference librarians, those who help students and members of the public  research the complicated dynamics of world politics, are sighing collectively as they anticipate the coming months of boredom. During the airing of the show, they have noticed a marked decline in visits to the reference desk, as the nation’s public draws inferences about the intricacies of international relations from these fictional characters on television, rather than through the classic vehicle – books.

“No one bothers to read Machiavelli in the original Italian anymore,” said Myrtle, a reference librarian who refused to give her last name. “They just listen to Littlefinger and think that they know everything they need to know about Realpolitik. It is really sad.” She asked plaintively, “What I am here for? Who will I scold?”

The nation’s international relations reference librarians have been hard hit in recent years with the growing popularity of online search engines. A librarian known simply as Priscilla complained that “at least with Harry Potter my readers checked out the books when that Nexon guy told them they could learn international relations from it. Lazy sods.” She worries about the future. "If Drezner writes a zombie IR sequel, we are finished."

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Six Degrees of Securitization (F*@k you, Senator Coburn!)

by on 2013-03-22- 12 Comments

Yesterday the Senate passed the Coburn amendment cutting off funds for political science research through the National Science Foundation. It was by a voice vote, which is another way of saying that it was so unanimous that no one bothered to even count hands. So that doesn’t bode well. I heard on NPR that the money will instead go to cancer research, which is a pretty clever move. Needless to say, APSA didn’t mention that in the press release. I must say that I would rather that the government spend money to help find a cure for the disease killing Aunt Millie than help Bueno de Mesquita advance selectorate theory.

But………  Coburn, who has probably trying to be too clever, left a weakness in the system as there is an exception for research that promotes “national security or the economic interests of the United States.” Dumbass, this is our bread and butter. We can “securitize” anything. In fact we learned how from you bozos. The bad news for large-N researchers compiling big datasets is that they are going to have to read a lot of Ole Weaver, which is going to be very hard for them. But if th at is the difference between a million dollars in grant money or rerunning the Correlates of War, I think I know what they will choose.

Let’s show you how easy this is by playing six degrees of securitization. You can take any political science problem and justify it on the basis of national security in six steps or fewer.

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Cat Fancy, Parent Company of Duck of Minerva, Subject of Takeover Bid by Nerd Pornography Site

by on 2013-02-18- Leave a reply

The Canard

“All the Fake News that is Fit to Print”

Cat Fancy, Inc. is the target of an aggressive takeover bid by Battlestar Galacitcum, an upstart nerd pornography site. The Duck of Minerva, purchased by Cat Fancy earlier in the year, would be the prize in the acquisition. A mainstay among international relations blogs, it has increasingly veered into the academic analysis of science fiction and fantasy and seen its readership sosvedka-vodka-robot-fembotar. “We believe there is significant growth potential here,” said CEO Bob Guccione.

Guccione first noticed the pattern in which symposia on esoteric nerd debates such as the strategic errors of the Rebel Alliance or the insights into international relations provided by the Walking Dead attract far more clicks than trenchant analyses of East Asian alliance politics or the difficulty coming to terms on a global climate regime. “Let’s be honest here,” he said. “These readers really just want to see robots have sex with one another. This hasn’t been an IR blog for quite some time.”


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Citing academic literature, NRA calls for proliferation of weapons for children of all ages

by on 2013-01-16- Leave a reply

The Canard

"All the fake news that's fit to print"

I feel the need to makdraft_lens18664231module161805212photo_1347906993a--e a disclaimer here. If you think I am trying to get a tasteless laugh out of a tragic situation, you are incorrect. I have made my views about the gun lobby known here. In light of recent NRA proposals to place armed guards in every school in the country, real life is more farcical than this issue of the Canard. The point, it should be clear, is to illluminate the absurdity of the group’s position.

In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association is advocating a new alternative policy for prevent gun violence – the arming of children of all ages. Wayne LaPierre, spokesperson for the NRA, issued a statement declaring: “Bad guys will think twice about entering a school to hurt kids if they know the kids are packing too. I know America’s youth. They are not going down without a fight. Even kindergartners need to know the price of liberty. This is about the future of American democracy.”

The NRA is citing studies by prominent international relations academics who argue that the proliferation of weapons actually makes all safer. The absence of weapons, it is argued, invites aggression, whereas the presence of weapons serves to deter. They cite the profound peace and stability that currently exists in the Indian subcontinent as an example.

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International Relations Fetish on the Rise

by on 2013-01-09- 2 Comments

The Canard

"All the fake news that fit to print"


A new report issued Tuesday by the American Political Science Association reveals that compared to their counterparts in American politics, comparative politics and political theory, international relations scholars are twenty times likelier to have a belly button fetish. “There is an epidemic of navel-gazing among today’s great experts in foreign affairs and something must navel gazingbe done,” said Jane Mansbridge, Harvard University professor and President of APSA.

The news comes amid the newest surge in button-peeping, a hot new spread published by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer in the European Journal of International Relations lamenting the current state of international relations research. The piece has produced fevered introspection and self-analysis on professional blogs, not only in the fetid quarters of reprobates such as Political Science Job Rumors but even on esteemed sites such as the Duck of Minerva. “This is a mainstream problem,” declared Mansbridge. “This is not back alley. It is Main Street. People are doing this in the light of day without internet handles. It is perverse.” The most recent spike in umbilical-gandering was just a few months ago with the publication of the results of the 2011 Teaching, Research and International Policy survey.

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F*&k Freedom.

by on 2012-12-17- 17 Comments

In the wake of the Connecticut shootings and in light of the hints dropped by Obama at the vigil for the victims, it seems we should be prepared for a debate in the coming weeks and months between those who advocate greater gun control to protect innocent lives and those who make a competing moral claim that such regulations infringe on the more important right to bear arms, which is supposed to be part of a general value of freedom. But that's bullshit. Human beings with a  moral compass who live in any kind of society do not have total freedom. Never have and never will. Total freedom is incompatible with any notion of morality, whether liberal or conservative, and makes collective living impossible.

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Brian and Phil Hug it Out

by on 2012-12-14- 21 Comments

Many of you seem to have read my earlier post knocking the use of assumptions in theory-building, particularly rationalism, and Phil Arena's defense of it. My earlier post was a little over the top and insulting, which led him to take umbrage. I called him a dick;  he called me a dick. We were both right, although I guess I started it.  When we are thinking about who to ask in as guest contributors, my main criteria was theoretical and epistemological diversity. Then I pulled this. Now we are going to hug it out. Come here, buddy. Give me some sugar. Wait, wait.... No tongue. You are still just a guest contributor. Only over the shirt action.

But........!  I read Phil's rebuttal and I still don't get it. His position seems to rest on two points. First, that everyone uses assumptions in theory building, even in their daily lives. So that means rationalists are no different than others. And second that assumptions, even those that don't reflect reality, are still useful in getting us somewhere.

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Assume Nothing!

by on 2012-12-13- 6 Comments

I got some snippy responses, well one in particular, to my post on the future of international relations theory based on a reading of the tea leaves over the last year or so. And it made me realize that there is a fundamental divide between me (and I hope others) and rationalists on the issue of assumptions. I thought I’d write about and get some feedback. I’m sure that there is a literature and debate on this somewhere else, but I blog about things that I don’t really have time to look into. Isn’t that the point? (Although I would appreciate it more responsible people pointed me in the right directions…..).

It seems for rationalists that assumptions are statements that one makes to make the building of theoretical models easier.  It does not matter if they are true, only if they are useful. Assumptions in rationalism are just things you don’t touch. It is a synonym for elements of an argument that are not subjected to empirical analysis or testing. I guess this is a necessary evil to make formal models in particular work. Otherwise one can’t find equilibria and generate expectations of outcomes.

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In the year 2000….

by on 2012-12-05- 6 Comments

Hi everyone. I haven’t been around much lately as I’ve been furiously writing a book. But it is almost done and I’m feeling reflective. Have you missed me? I’ve missed you. What’s that you say? Why yes, this is a new shirt. Thank you for noticing.

I thought that I would offer some thoughts about where I think international relations research is heading in the near to medium-term future, based on what I’ve noticed about the job market, what friends are writing, and the sometimes surprising reactions to what I am doing on the part of others. Obviously this is all anecdotal and unsystematic, as a good blog post should be.

First, we all know that the field is becoming more quantitative, but I don’t think that this is driven by a methodological fetish (at least on the part of those who are doing the work. I think the fetishists are the ones who don’t do this type of work but think it is necessary to have in their department irrespective of its content). I think it owes to a frustration with the inability of previous generations of international relations scholarship to say anything precise and with confidence. Well, let me put that differently. We are looking to say something precise and with accuracy. Some people might have said that states always maximize power but we all knew that was never true. And what does that even mean? What will that proverbial state do on Tuesday? Those arguments are essentially non-falsifiable. They are simply too elastic and too sweeping.

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Duck of Minerva Target of Hostile Takeover from Cat Fancy Magazine

by on 2012-11-17- 1 Comment

The Canard
“All the Fake News that is Fit to Print”
The Duck of Minerva, considered one of the nation’s top international relations blogs, has
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Stuff Political Scientists Like #17: Outside Offers, or Stuff Other Political Scientists Like

by on 2012-10-05- 1 Comment

Political scientists like to complain about how little they are paid, which tends to be irritating to any number of other groups, most notably anyone who has a job other than that of a political scientist and has to be into the office say, before noon.

Part of the reason that political scientists are so poorly compensated for their great contribution to humankind is that they are only rewarded when others from outside their organization value their work. This is because political scientists most like what other political scientists like.

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For First Time APSA Annual Convention to be Held in Africa

by on 2012-09-04- Leave a reply

THE CANARD"All the fake news that's fit to print" --Washington, DCThe valets at the Kinchasa Hilton will be happy to take your bags.The American Political Science
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God of Tolerance Seeks Vengeance as APSA Short Courses Cancelled

by on 2012-08-27- Leave a reply

THE CANARD "All the fake news that's fit to print." --New Orleans The god of tolerance struck down with fury yesterday, unleashing a mighty hurricane headed
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Area Political Scientist Armed Only with Words Thwarts Robbery

by on 2012-07-02- Leave a reply

THE CANARD"All the fake news that's fit to print."--South BostonPhotograph by Matt GratiasArea political scientist Joseph Nye of Harvard University emerged Sunday as a hero,
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Stuff Political Scientists Like #16 — Summer Break

by on 2012-06-22- Leave a reply

Political scientists love summer break. They do not sail, as they have no money for a boat. They do not sun bathe, as they would
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