Jon Western

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 Policy.com thinking?
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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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An East-West Bridge for Ukraine

by on 2014-04-02- Leave a reply

[Note: This is a guest post by Joshua B. Spero, Associate Professor of International Politics and Coordinator of International Studies at Fitchburg State University.]

Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis accelerated with Russia’s territorial consolidation in Ukraine, Europe is back on the radar screen as great powers and international institutions struggle to de-escalate this security dilemma. After President Obama’s European trip and coordination with European Union (EU) and NATO leaders on 26 March, the international community should pause to consider that, unlike classic power politics regarding heartland Europe, there might still be ways to avoid zero-sum decisions. Virtually lost in the Russia-Ukraine crisis remains the post-Cold War partnership in the heart of Central-East Europe – the Poland-Germany bridge for East and West. Given the U.S. President’s admonition in Brussels that Russia’s actions in Ukraine underscore its “regional power” status and illustrate its “weakness” toward its neighbors not its “strength,” the quarter century-old Poland-Germany crisis management mechanism anchors heartland Europe’s integration, promotes key consultation with Russia and Ukraine, and helps reduce America’s European role while still tying the U.S. to Europe.
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And the Winners Are…..

by on 2014-03-28- 1 Comment

It was a great night for Political Violence @ a Glance winning awards in two of the four of categories at this year's OAIS Blogging Awards held at ISA last night. They were the winners of the 2014 Award for Best Blog (Group) -- narrowly defeating The Monkey Cage. Christian Davenport won Best Blog Post of the Year for his post "Researching While Black, Why Conflict Research Needs More African Americans (Maybe)" at Political Violence @ a Glance last April. Barb Walter's "The Four Things We Know About How Civil Wars End (and what this tells us about Syria)" also at Political Violence @ a Glance was a close second.
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2014 OAIS Blogging Awards and Reception, Thursday, March 27!

by on 2014-03-20- Leave a reply

Mark your calendars for one week from tonight! Please join us for the second annual IR blogging awards and reception at ISA next week: Thursday, March 27 from 7:15pm to 8:30pm in Sheraton Ballroom C at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto. The reception and awards are co-sponsored by SAGE Publications and Duck of Minerva. We packed the reception venue last year so we've moved up to a ballroom -- help us pack it. Charli has put together a couple of great ignite-style talks and we'll be announcing the winners of the 2014 OAIS Awards. If you are heading to Toronto for ISA, come help us acknowledge the impressive contributions of IR blogging and celebrate with the winners. We hope to see you there.

We will be announcing the winners from these groups of finalists:
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What’s the Status of the Decline of War?

by on 2014-03-20- 3 Comments

In light of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Josh raised the question this morning about how we are all feeling about the war decline thesis. Also in reaction to Russia's actions, Mlada Bukovansky issued a strong call to end the complacency regarding the acceptance and influence of global liberal norms and institutions. These comments appear to contrast with John Mueller's post last week on the profound differences between attitudes on war today from a century ago and this week's release of the 2013 Human Security Report which notes the continuation of the decline of conflict.

So, what to make of it all? Do Russia's actions this week suggest we are returning to a more "normal" history -- one in which interstate war is more likley, more frequent and common? Are we headed toward some kind of major interstate conflict between Russia its neighbors? How does this fit in the broader context of the overall trends in interstate war and the decline of war thesis?

These are some of the questions we'll be looking at next week at ISA. My colleague, Kavita Khory, and I are coordinating an ISA Working Group in Toronto next week that will examine the global trends on war, conflict, and political violence. This June marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. Over the past century, we've witnessed episodes of extreme interstate and intrastate violence as well as a more recent period of relative stability. This more recent trend -- the dramatic decline in interstate war -- is striking. The Working Group will bring together a great line-up of scholars from a diverse set of theoretical, methodological and geographical approaches to look at the broad trends in interstate war, intrastate war, and political violence over the past century, where we are today, and what the future trends might look like.

We'll be focusing on four broad areas:
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Not Just Another Word (for nothing left to lose)

by on 2014-03-19- 13 Comments

Russian soldiers in Crimea

Note: The following is a guest post from Mlada Bukovansky, Professor of Government at Smith College.

The word freedom has to come into it, when speaking of the Ukraine crisis. It has become exceptionally difficult to use that term without wincing in the post-Bush era, but still I think it needs to be said. I was speaking to my mother about Ukraine and inevitably Czechoslovakia 1968 came up. I could hear in her voice the urgency and echoes of the passion that accompanied our fleeing Prague in August of that year. There would be no more freedom there. She said those who stayed behind were “doomed.” That included her own father, and many other family members besides. My initial reaction to her use of the term – doomed – was to dismiss it as hyperbolic, and that it may be, but I know what she means.

The power politics and legitimacy of the interests involved, the hypocritical orientation to international law by all sides, the lack of will by the U.S., the EU, and NATO to do anything painful in response to the annexation of the Crimea, as well as the assignation of blame for what triggered the violence in Ukraine has been well covered in many threads, from many angles. What is pressing me to write now, though, is the sense that not enough attention has gone to what will happen, and what has already happened, as in Georgia, to the people coming into Putin’s orbit. They are losing their freedom, and by that I mean something very specific. They are losing what can be called republican freedom (again, take your mind off Bush, please) – the freedom from arbitrary power. Because that is what Putin is exercising: arbitrary power with little restraint (I won’t say no restraint). He is of course not alone in this in our world, and there are arguably far worse villains operating with impunity, but he is operating so in Europe, and as tired and elitist a cliché as that may sound, this makes a difference. Because presumably European institutions, as so the American institutions which share their core ideals, are designed to restrain arbitrary power – that is arguably the central and most critical mechanism from which many of our other advantages and capacities emanate.
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Economic interdependence as a facilitator of war?

by on 2014-03-13- 2 Comments

Note: This is a guest post by John Mueller of Ohio State University.

The ongoing crisis/standoff in the Ukraine relates in some ways to a long-standing debate about the potential connection between economic interdependence and war. The debate is over the idea that the decline in interstate war has been caused by the fact that countries closely linked economically are unlikely to go to war with each other.

On the one hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foray in an area of deep economic interdependence doesn’t seem to have been waylaid by potential economic cost considerations. On the other hand, as the value of the ruble tumbles, economic considerations could play a role in keeping the crisis from escalating to a more direct military confrontation. Meanwhile, those contemplating sanctions on Russia, particularly in Western Europe, have been musing about the pain they might themselves might bear if they applied economic punishment to a country they depend on for so much of their energy resources.
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America’s Strategic Dilemma in Ukraine

by on 2014-03-02- 16 Comments

images-1[Note: This is a guest post by Sean Kay, Robson Professor of Politics at Ohio Wesleyan University and Mershon Associate at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at the Ohio State University. He has long-researched and written on NATO policy and worked in the US Department of Defense during the first round of NATO enlargement planning. His forthcoming book is America’s Search for Security: The Triumph of Idealism and the Return of Realism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014).]

Russia’s incursion into Ukraine presents the United States with a dilemma. The cries to “do something” are loud. The situation in Ukraine is, nonetheless, complicated and there is as much possibility that our efforts to do something can be well-intended but inadvertently make the situation worse.

Political scientists and historians have warned for over 20 years, since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, of the deep ties that Russia has to its relationship to Crimea. Scholars and significant policy figures like George Kennan and former Sen. Sam Nunn repeatedly warned against the risks of NATO enlargement – especially expanding too proximate to vital Russian interests. No less a Cold War hawk than former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, writes in his recent memoir:
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OAIS Blogging Awards: And the Finalists Are….

by on 2014-02-10- 1 Comment

Thanks to all of you who voted over the past month for this year's OAIS Blogging Awards finalists. And a very special thanks to all of the nominees for transforming this platform into a strong and vital part of the IR intellectual community. We had an outstanding class of nominees this year -- a real testimony to the impressive talent and intellectual contribution that blogging makes to the IR profession. We had a great turn-out and some very close votes, and we're pleased to announce this year's finalists. Finalists will now be reviewed by a panel of judges that includes last year's winners and Duck of Minerva permanent contributors. We will announce the winners at the OAIS Blogging Awards and Reception on March 27, at the ISA Conference in Toronto. Congratulations to the finalists!

2014 OAIS Blogging Award Finalists
(Listed in alphabetic order)

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OAIS Blogging Awards: Last Call to Vote

by on 2014-02-06- Leave a reply

Voting closes tomorrow at 5pm EST for this year's OAIS Blogging Awards. If you haven't already done so, now is the time to cast your ballot. You can review the nominees and get more information here. Once the votes are in, we'll identify the finalists for each category and turn the process over to our panel of judges. We'll announce the winners at the OAIS Blogging Awards and Reception at ISA Annual Convention on Thursday, March 27.
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Vote Now! Demonstrate the Blogging Contributions to IR Scholarship

by on 2014-01-30- Leave a reply

One of the best ways to respond to the ISA Executive Committee proposal is to demonstrate the professionalism and the significant intellectual and scholarly contribution that blogging makes to the IR profession. We've assembled a slate of impressive nominees in four categories for outstanding On-line Achievements in International Studies (OAIS) Awards for this year. If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to cast your ballot. If you haven't received one or would like one, please email us for a ballot. We've had an impressive response thus far and we'd like to do better.

We ask voters to choose three (3) finalists for the Best Blog category, six (6) for the Best Individual Blog category, (2) for the Most Promising New Blog, and five (5) for Best Post. As with last year, we will use a Borda-count process to create a list of finalists and then proceed to a second round in which a panel of judges (last year's winners and Duck permanent contributors) will determine the winners in each category.

Voting closes on February 7. We will be announcing (and celebrating) this year's winners at the ISA Annual Convention in Toronto at reception sponsored by SAGE on Thursday, March 27 at 7:15pm. Charli is lining up a great program featuring a number of Ignite talks. More details to follow.

images-1
Here are the final nominees by category:
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Blogging and Teaching — and the Wrongheaded ISA Proposal

by on 2014-01-28- 2 Comments

Steve has a nice roundup of many of the central concerns with ISA's misguided policy proposal to limit those involved in editing ISA journals from blogging.   I'd like to focus on one additional element.

For many of us located principally in the teaching side of the profession, we realize and appreciate the significance and utility of blogs for pedagogical purposes.  Here in the Five Colleges, a key part of communicating with students is through various forms of social media.  My department has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page that features a fantastic daily blog by my colleague Vinnie Ferraro. Vinnie's blog provides daily content and opinion to support his courses in World Politics and American Foreign Policy.  I have a blog for my course on International Human Rights Advocacy in Theory and Practice and I routinely assign a number of readings from IR and human rights blogs as a key part of the course.  I do this because there is some fantastic content out there that presents and synthesizes materials quickly and more effectively than many peer-reviewed journals can.  This semester my students will watch Kony 2012 and then read several blog posts on Opinio-Juris debating multiple angles of the video.  These posts are an excellent format for undergraduate students -- there are multiple views expressed with links to a variety of academic and advocacy literatures.  Given the natural 18-month to two-year delay from an event to peer-review publication, I'm still waiting for some decent peer-reviewed content that provides the range views and analysis conveyed in these posts.
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OAIS Blogging Awards Voting Begins

by on 2014-01-17- 1 Comment

We're a week behind, but the nominees are in and voting is now open. We sent out ballots today to those who registered for voting. If you did not receive one or if you haven't registered yet, please email us for a ballot. Voting runs through February 7.

As with last year, we will use a Borda-count process to create a list of finalists and then proceed to a second round in which a panel of judges (last year's winners and Duck permanent contributors) will determine the winners in each category.

We ask voters to choose three (3) finalists for the Best Blog category, six (6) for the Best Individual Blog category, (2) for the Most Promising New Blog, and five (5) for Best Post.

Here are the final nominees by category:
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Penultimate Call for Blogging Awards Nominations

by on 2013-12-30- 5 Comments

One week left for nominations.  Please send us your nominations -- you can email us a nomination directly or post in the Comments thread below. Here's what we have so far for each category:
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Happy, Merry, and Peace

by on 2013-12-24- Leave a reply

Duck-Face-BR11011

The semester is over, the papers are graded, and the departmental meetings are over (for a while). The shopping is done, the house is clean, the presents are wrapped, the relatives are here, and the kids are bouncing off the walls. All that is left to do is relax, reflect, and enjoy. Wishing all of you a very happy, restful, and peaceful holiday season.
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In Defense of Teaching (and Grading) the Long Research Paper

by on 2013-12-19- 4 Comments

procedure-for-writing-term-paper

There's a Slate article titled "The End of the College Essay" circulating in various Facebook and Twitter circles critical of assigning long essays to undergraduates. The gist of the complaint mirrors the complaints I've heard over the years from students and colleagues (and others outside the academy) about assigning long research papers. Last summer, I attended a conference in Toronto on the future of liberal education in which a number of participants criticized the long-form research paper by noting that, unless students go into Ph.D programs, most will never write a long paper again in their lives. I heard from quite a few people who argued that faculty should give students assignments that reflect the new communication technologies and skills associated with those technologies -- and, failure to do so, will only exacerbate the increasing irrelevance of the liberal arts.

I really disagree with all of this.
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Blogging Awards Nomination Update

by on 2013-12-17- 2 Comments

Duckies

The nominations are trickling in, but there's more work to be done.  We had some major IR blogging events this year -- Snowden, Egypt, Syria, Russia, etc....  and we're looking for nominations for the best work out there in 2013.  We're still taking nominations through the end of the month.  Sage is co-sponsoring the Awards and the Awards Reception at ISA in Toronto in March -- here's their press release. 

Here's what we have so far for each category -- we don't have a single nomination for best new IR blog and only a handful of nominations for best blog post.  Please send us your nominations -- you can email us a nomination directly or post in the Comments thread below.

Best Blog (Individual)

Best Blog (Group)

Best Blog Post

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2014 OAIS Blogging Awards: Call for Nominations

by on 2013-12-09- 1 Comment

Egypt Duck
We're a few weeks into the call for nominations for the 2014 OAIS Awards.  It's time to get serious.  We've had a number of impressive nominations, but given the excellent content out there, we're looking for a much larger pool of nominees.  We want to hear your suggestions. Post your nominations in the comments section below -- you may also email us a nomination directly. Please specify the award in the body of the text, provide the name of the blog, and a URL. Nominations close on 1 January 2014.

Remember, finalists will be selected by popular vote, which will run from 5 January-31 January 2014. We will conduct the vote via online survey. In order to register as a voter, email us. Last year's winners will judge the finalists and select the winners. We want to make this as difficult as possible for them. Winners will be announced at the ISA Blogging Awards Reception co-sponsored by our friends SAGE at ISA in Toronto next March.

Here are the categories again:

  • Best Blog (Group) in International Studies;
  • Best Blog (Individual) in International Studies;
  • Best Blog Post in International Studies; and
  • Most Promising New Blog (Group or Individual) in International Studies

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