Tyler Cowen discovers John Mearsheimer's seminal 1993 Foreign Affairs article "The Case for a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent". Since I know I won't be alone in teaching this piece the next time I put together an Intro to IR reading list, let's take a moment to see whether, as Cowen wrote earlier, "the expected rate of return from denuclearization has fallen".
International relations scholars disagree about a lot when it comes to nuclear weapons, and the belief, which I mostly share, that nuclear weapons mitigate the outbreak of interstate wars is not the only view. Even Mearsheimer in his article points out that "nuclear proliferation does not axiomatically promote peace and can in some cases even cause war." But more than a few IR scholars would agree that nuclear weapons are not in themselves causes of war and may even pacific effects on the international system. Sometimes, of course, pacific properties aren't desirable from a Washington-centric point of view. I suspect that the lesson quite a few leaders that American officials find to be distasteful or threatening took away from the examples of Iraq and Libya was that nuclear weapons can deter U.S. intervention. We should also be mindful that the more nuclear weapons exist the likelier it is that one of them will be used inadvertently. Nevertheless, although I have great respect for the work that Scott Sagan has done on nuclear accidents, the fact that Pakistan and India have been able to coexist since their declarations of nuclear arsenals has gone a long way toward convincing me that the risks are more remote than the pessimists have feared. (As a friend reminds me via email, the non-nuclear Kargil War is an important piece of process evidence in this regard.)
Instead of asking whether nuclear weapons matter in general, as Cowen does, we should ask whether they matter for Ukraine in its current situation. The answer is almost certainly not.
Post by Steven Ward and Paul Musgrave
The Obama administration’s plans to shrink the U.S. military attracted intense media attention yesterday. The plan is being described as a maneuver to shift the United States’s defense posture away from protracted occupations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and toward a more conventional deterrence role.
It’s easy to exaggerate the scale of the changes to the military budget. In particular, the soundbite that the post-cut U.S. Army will be the smallest since before the Second World War is seriously misleading. According to the Historical Statistics of the United States database, in 1940, the U.S. Army had 269,023 personnel--but that total included the Army Air Corps. On December 31, 2013, the U.S. Air Force by itself had 325,952 active duty personnel. Under any plausible scenario, the USAF will continue to outnumber the prewar U.S. Army handily. Similarly, after the force cuts, the U.S. Army will have about 440,000 active duty personnel, while the Marines will have nearly 10 times their 1939 active-duty personnel level. (And none of these figures, of course, include the reserves, the National Guard, civilian personnel, contractors, or any other part of the post-Second World War U.S. military establishment.) The smallest-since-1940 number, like Mitt Romney’s campaign charge that the U.S. Navy was “smaller than it’s been since 1917”, is technically true but hardly informative. Perhaps more important, given the vast increases in U.S. military expenditures over the past fifteen years, the U.S. can make significant cuts to its military spending while remaining the world’s leading military power by any meaningful metric.
Nevertheless, whenever a great power decides to reshape its military, IR scholars should wonder what’s going on.
I went to graduate school for the normal reasons: I’d done well in school, I didn’t really want to get a job, and I needed to learn how to free my mother from the eternal torments of the demon Mephisto.
For a while, everything was great. I slept in, worked late, and made excellent ramen. I loved being a part of the laboratory: running experiments, writing up results, and especially making charts. (Someone lent me a copy of Tufte’s book on data visualization--it changed my life!)
I even liked teaching, unlike a lot of researchers. Part of the appeal was seeing all of those young, idealistic faces (although a lot of the students in my lab sections were pre-med, and they were just anxious little grade-grubbers). But in every section I also got to work with at least two or three students who shared my love for pure research as well as my goal of changing the world by instituting an absolutist monarchy.
How do you spell heteros*edasticity? Economist Alfredo R. Paloyo surveys the evidence and shows that the variant "heteroskedasticity" overtook its rival, "heteroscedasticity", several years ago. Oddly, "homoscedastic", "heteroscedastic", and "homoscedasticity" continue to trump their k-variants. (Clearly, I am in the copy-editing phase of revising a paper, and this blog post must be part of the revision process, since it would be procrastination otherwise.)
Orthographic purists will insist on heteroskedastic because it is closer to the Greek root. Seizing on yet another opportunity to be sado-pedantic, I will join them. But I will go one further on Paloyo and others. I insist that his fellow oikonomists embrace a rather more radical orthographic reform.
- Brief but important interview with Andrew Gelman.
Here's one thing regarding "great applied work": Ask yourself the question: What makes a statistician look like a hero? You might think that the answer would be, Extracting a small faint signal from noise. But I don't think so. I think that a statistician looks like a hero by studying large effects.
- A history of the firebomb:
The effects testing, done very carefully by both universities (Harvard again, along with the University of Chicago), corporations (Standard Oil, Texas Company), and the military (Ordnance Department) are also pretty grim. These involved mock bedrooms, with beds and boudoirs and even vanity mirrors, to simulate how effect these weapons would be against “Central German structures,” “experimental Japanese rooms,” and other models of homes. Just in case there was any lingering doubt as to what these weapons were meant to accomplish, and to put to rest the lingering misconception that the destruction of civilian life was an inadvertent consequence imprecise weaponry.
- When replication isn't:
We were easily able to replicate Rauchhaus’ key findings in Stata, but couldn’t get it to work in R. It took us a long while to work out why, but the reason turned out to be an error in Stata: Stata was finding a solution when it shouldn’t have (because of separation in the data). This solution, as we show in the paper, was wrong – and led Rauchhaus’ paper to overestimate the effect of nuclear weapons on conflict by a factor of several million.
Via the excellent Political Science Replication Blog.
As a callow undergraduate, I kind of supported the Iraq War for all of the normal reasons; see The Republic of Fear and The Threatening Storm. (I say "kind of" because I was in college and, frankly, tuned out in favor of studying.) A little while ago, it struck me in one of those blinding moments of self-awareness that not only had I been wrong but that Get Your War On (probably NSFW, but basically R-rated) was more accurate than my quasi-sophisticated arguments (or the analysis in the New York Times).
Given that support for intervention in Syria hangs somewhere in the single digits, it's at times like these that I wish that I wasn't so convinced that the presidency is largely unresponsive to the public in terms of foreign policy. I do wish, however, that political science took the presidency a little more seriously and therefore had something a little more conclusive than the extant literature about why bombing Syria now seems more likely than not. As it is, the Yes Minister quip about "politician's logic" ("we must do something, this is something, therefore we must do it") seems like a pretty good working hypothesis.
Daniel Drezner writes that Meghan McCain's proposition that attention paid to Miley Cyrus can crowd out attention paid to Syria is bunk.
With all due regard to Drezner, let me debunk the bunk claim---or, at least, show that the "Twerking Kills" hypothesis is plausible:
This paper studies the influence of mass media on U. S. government response to approximately 5,000 natural disasters occurring between 1968 and 2002. These disasters took nearly 63,000 lives and affected 125 million people per year. We show that U. S. relief depends on whether the disaster occurs at the same time as other newsworthy events, such as the Olympic Games, which are obviously unrelated to need. We argue that the only plausible explanation of this is that relief decisions are driven by news coverage of disasters and that the other newsworthy material crowds out this news coverage.
But neither I nor most economists are going to make the effort of puzzling through difficult writings unless we’re given some sort of proof of concept — a motivating example, a simple and effective summary, something to indicate that the effort will be worthwhile. Sorry, but I won’t commit to sitting through your two-hour movie if you can’t show me an interesting three-minute trailer.
Krugman concludes with the admonition that "nobody has to read what you write." I wish this were more generally understood. I've read articles in Political Analysis about things I don't care about using methods I'll never master that were nevertheless riveting, and I've slogged through articles on topics I care passionately about in allegedly substantive journals that I never understood. There's one article, which my co-author on a long-term project and I have read a half-dozen times, that completely escapes our ability to summarize. Adopting a useful frame and engaging with readers is always good.
I get the sense that some folks believe that engaging with readers means dumbing down their argument. Far from it! Engaging with readers means presenting a complex argument smartly. That's much more challenging than making a complex argument obscure. Anyone can be recondite; only geniuses can be understood.
Dan's post on his self-experiment in raising citations to female scholars has drawn a critical comment from someone who wonders about whether similar patterns exist with reference to minority scholars and scholars from outside North America. The issues of gender, race, and national (regional) origin are distinct, but if we're going to have a wide-ranging discussion about inclusion and exclusion in the field then we ought to address these issues squarely.
Yesterday was an exciting day in American politics, featuring legislative time-traveling, a Supreme Court turning back the clock on voting rights, and of course the invalidation of DOMA and the death-by-default of California's Prop 8.
But I assume you have Facebook and that you already knew all that.
Here's some items you might have missed:
- Former PM Kevin Rudd ousted Australian PM Julia Gillard as Labor Party leader but not (yet?) as prime minister. Question for our antipodean readers: Why isn't it the "Labour" Party? [The Diplomat]
- U.S. CEO held captive by PRC workers. I blame nobody in this confrontation--morally at least--but I do have to think that the PRC government (at some level) should be much more concerned about this.
- Qatar has a new emir, prime minister, and government. The new emir pledges a humble foreign policy and continuity, but It Remains To Be Seen.
Funemployment, as the Los Angeles Times put it, is the trend by which twenty- and thirty-somethings, finding themselves cast aside from their temporary and entry-level jobs, turn instead toward self-improvement.
Of course, this information might be unwelcome: perhaps Generation Y is merely discovering that there's nothing fun about unemployment. That turn toward bitterness might explain the rising popularity of Old Economy Steve.
It's so disorienting to be posting on a Wednesday!
I'd like to begin with a bleg: I'm in the market for a platform that allows for easy screencasting. In other words, if you wanted to have 6 to 10 users simultaneously viewing a series of slides, but you thought that Google Hangout was just a little too laggy, what would you use? Comment below or email rpm47 atsign georgetown period edu.
- Via Inside Higher Ed, cell biologists slam the impact factor.
- Did a Fox News reporter hurt U.S. security by disclosing that Washington had a high-level DPRK mole? I thought this was the sort of thing conservatives believed was an exception to the First Amendment. (Also TPM, Jack Shafer) [Kevin Drum]
- China is preparing for war on the high seas; the U.S. Navy is prepared to bomb the Taliban, not men-o'-war [The Diplomat]
- Jay Ulfelder marks his beliefs to market and talks about how he got Syria wrong.
- Rafsanjani disqualified from running for Iranian presidency [Suffragio]