Rob Farley works his way through the Georgia-Russia quagmire

by on 2008-08-09- Leave a reply

Rob Farley writes a very thoughtful post where he lays out his take, for the moment, on the Russia-Georgia conflict. Indeed, he leaves me feeling a bit embarrassed, as my own writing this afternoon was pretty inelegant.To be a bit less muddled, I am less sympathetic to the Georgian case because I think that escalating the war (and providing an excuse for Russian counter-escalation) was a damn stupid thing for Saakashvili to do, and a remarkably damn stupid thing for him to do absent an extremely compelling cause. Small, weak states living next to abrasive, unpredictable great powers need to
Continue reading

Olympic Dreams

by on 2008-08-09- Leave a reply

The 2008 Summer Olympic games kicked off today in Beijing, on the same day as Russia and Georgia go to war. Correlation? Causation?John Hoberman's "Think Again" article in the most recent issue of Foreign Policy would have us believe that the Olympics are not only irrelevant to, but actually bad for world order and international cooperation: "The real genius of the IOC is its ability to create and sustain the myth that it promotes peace. In reality... trapped by its grandiose goal of embracing the entire 'human family' at whatever cost, the IOC has repeatedly caved in and awarded the
Continue reading

Guest Stint at Complex Terrain Lab

by on 2008-08-09- Leave a reply

This semester, I will be ocassionally cross-posting / guest blogging on laws of war-related topics at Complex Terrain Lab, and wanted to encourage readers of The Duck to take a good hard look at these folks. From the mission statement: "The Complex Terrain Laboratory (CTLab) is an independent, interdisciplinary project focused on problems of international relations, international law, and political violence. Founded in the School of Public Policy at University College London, CTLab concerns itself with the conceptual and social science dimensions of legal and policy challenges in current affairs. Drawing on university-wide strengths in spatial research and analysis, it
Continue reading

Developments on the Georgia front

by on 2008-08-09- Leave a reply

The first official U.S. statement on the escalating conflict backs Georgia and calls for cease fire:"We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia's territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.Rice issued her statement as Georgia, a former Soviet state that now wants to join NATO, said it would declare martial law and battled to get control of the rebel enclave, which was fortified by Russian forces.Georgia said Russian fighter jets bombed container tankers and a shipbuilding plant in the
Continue reading

Georgia-Russia: an alternative perspective

by on 2008-08-08- Leave a reply

I just received today's Eurasia Daily Monitor from the Jamestown Foundation. Its writers and editorial staff are unabashedly pro-Georgia and anti-Russia. Unsurprisingly, their analysts see things a bit differently. Pavel Felgenhauer warned recently that South Ossetia was trying to provoke Russian intervention. Today, Vladimir Socor writes:As anticipated (see EDM, July 11, August 4) Moscow has initiated an offensive military operation by proxy against Georgia in South Ossetia. Although the blow had been expected in upper Abkhazia and may yet materialize there, Russia shifted the direction of attack to the South Ossetian front.The brazen attacks during the night of August 7
Continue reading

Saakashvili: Georgia and Russia at war

by on 2008-08-08- Leave a reply

As I noted below, the situation is developing fast.[UPDATE: Bloomberg reports:Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said ``war has started'' over the breakaway region of South Ossetia as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili accused its neighbor of a ``well-planned invasion.''Saakashvili said in a Bloomberg Television interview that his nation of 4.6 million people is ``fighting to secure its borders'' amid a ``full-blown military aggression'' involving thousands of Russian troops. Aerial bombings and wide-spread fighting in and around the region killed an unknown number of civilians and wounded ``scores'' more, Saakashvili said.Putin earlier today told U.S. President George W. Bush in Beijing that
Continue reading

War in the Caucasus: not whether, but how long and among whom

by on 2008-08-08- Leave a reply

Over a year ago MG wrote: "if you want to put money on a hot war somewhere in the near-abroad, I'd advise you to give considerably more attention to relations between Russia and Georgia."After the Georgian attack on South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia are at, or already over, the precipice.Anne Barnard and Andrew Kramer of The New York Times: Russia sent troops rolling into South Ossetia on Friday, after Georgian troops attacked the capital of the breakaway enclave and shot at Russian planes, in a sharp escalation of the conflict.Georgian officials said their military had fired on Russian planes —
Continue reading

Geek Humor

by on 2008-08-07- Leave a reply

Continue reading

Back to the Future IV

by on 2008-08-07- Leave a reply

Do you have secret longings for the cold war? Vladimir Putin apparently does. Here's the AP lede from 2 days ago: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is calling for Russia to regain its influential position in former Cold War ally Cuba, Russian news reports said Monday.The statement comes amid persistent speculation about whether Russia is seeking a military presence in a country just 90 miles (150 kilometers) from the United States in response to U.S. plans to place missile-defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic."We should restore our position in Cuba and other countries," Putin was quoted as saying by
Continue reading

Cleveland’s Global Icon

by on 2008-08-06- Leave a reply

Nothing quite says Hegemon In Decline like: "LeBron would consider European offers."
Continue reading

Truthy or Dare

by on 2008-08-06- Leave a reply

If you've not done so, open up your Political Science & Politics and read James Fowler's article "The Colbert Bump in Campaign Donations: More Truthful than Truthy." In this brilliant piece, Fowler empirically tests whether support exists for Stephen Colbert's claim that Congresspersons who appear on his late-night comedy show receive a "bump" in their approval ratings.Now I need to go back through my video archive to make sure I'm correct in thinking the correct indicator of approval ratings, according to Colbert, is opinion polls (Fowler uses donations to Congressional campaigns as a proxy). That notwithstanding, I think this article
Continue reading

Blog math: tire-pressure edition

by on 2008-08-05- Leave a reply

Wander around the political blogsphere and chances are, at any given moment, you'll find partisans of all stripes bravely stripping away the deceit of their rivals. Indeed, despite the best efforts of the "MSM" to mislead us all, the bloggers will uncover the facts. In 2004 they poured over maps of the Mekong Delta to prove Kerry's falsehoods. They blustered about partisan weighting to prove that Bush was really behind in the polls. They continue their efforts in this cycle. Even as we speak (to take but one example), fearless keyboard detectives will reveal the frightening truth about Obama's ineligibility
Continue reading

No-nothing politics

by on 2008-08-05- Leave a reply

What should we consider the limits of responsible campaigning? Like many people, my ideal campaign would focus on policy issues rather than attacks on character. A President's character matters, of course, and I see no ethical reason why attacks on character should be "out of bounds" in a Presidential campaign (but the qualities that make someone a good leader of the Executive Branch are, I would argue, quite different than those the electorate fixates upon). We can all agree, I imagine, that dishonest attacks--those predicated on clear cut falsehoods--have no place in an ethical political campaign. But what are the
Continue reading

UFOs

by on 2008-08-04- Leave a reply

Because I shouldn't assume that all of our readers also read The Monkey Cage, I note the debate between, on the one hand, Raymond "Bud" Duvall and Alex Wendt, and, on the other hand, Henry Farrell, about Bud and Alex's Political Theory article, "Sovereignty and the UFO." Round I: Henry engages (with special guest appearance from PTJ).Round Ia: Henry taunts?Round II: Bud and Alex respond.That's all, for now.
Continue reading

Some of the people, some of the time

by on 2008-08-03- Leave a reply

Rasmussen:Sixty-nine percent (69%) of voters have seen or heard news coverage of McCain’s ad including Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Just 22% believe the ad was racist. But, most say Obama’s comment about not looking like other Presidents on the dollar bill was racist.If I understand this correctly--and Rasmussen does not produce numbers, nor the wording of the question, for the second finding--then a majority of the American public is right about McCain's ad, and wrong about Obama's comment. What all of this suggests is that the McCain's embrace of Rove's (brilliant) tactics creates real dangers for Obama. They got
Continue reading

Eggheads Requested

by on 2008-08-03- Leave a reply

I wonder what readers of the Duck (and my co-bloggers) think about the DoD's "Minerva" social science initiative. Short story is, the Pentagon plans to fund $8 million worth of social science research through the National Science Foundation this year. The NSF program solicitation is to be found here.Today, the Washington Post reported that one "Network of Concerned Anthropologists" has expressed concern with the initiative: "The Pentagon's Minerva Research Initiative, named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and warriors, will fund social science research deemed crucial to national security. Initial proposals were due July 25, and the first grants are
Continue reading

The Central Front Front and Center

by on 2008-08-01- Leave a reply

What is the "central front" in the war on terrorism?According to Obama, its Afghanistan. According to McCain, its Iraq. Bush--still president--has long asserted that its Iraq.A pair of articles in the NYT yesterday and today suggest otherwise--Pakistan should perhaps be at the center of the discussion.While Obama may in fact be closer to the mark with is focus on Afghanistan, the source of NATO's troubles in Afghanistan seems to be emerging from Pakistan. The resurgent Taliban uses Pakistan as a safe haven to rest, re-arm, and retreat as needed. Now, we learn, much of this seems to be happening with
Continue reading

Obama and the end of Hegemonic Declinism

by on 2008-07-31- 1 Comment

Its hard to miss the prevailing idea that American hegemony is in a precipitous decline. Earlier this year, Parag Khanna was “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony” in a New York Times Magazine cover story. In Foreign Affairs, Fareed Zakaria recently argued that America needs fundamental reform if it is to avoid a precipitous fall from grace. There have been countless discussions of the “rise of China,” and a resurgent Europe and the loss of America’s edge—even NBA stars are crossing the pond for more lucrative deals in Euros!In the current World Affairs, Robert Lieber attacks the current phase of “American Declinism,”
Continue reading

Cluster@*#! to the Boston Marriott

by on 2008-07-30- Leave a reply

Jon Stewart's guest last night, Bill Bishop, makes an argument about US political culture in his book The Big Sort: both about our tendency to "cluster" with those who think as we do, and its detrimental effects. I concur with Bishop, hence I am writing to express my displeasure with this year's Preliminary Program for the American Political Science Association Annual Conference. (At least, with the paper version.) The program used to be organized chronologically. Panels of whatever topic were clustered by time block. If you had an open time block in your schedule, you could browse the program and
Continue reading

Confessions of a Scrabulous Addict Afficionado

by on 2008-07-29- Leave a reply

The big news story of the day seems to be the "demise" of Scrabulous. "Scrabulous is dead," claims Slashdot. "Scrabulous No More," begins the equivalent post at Digital Savant. Well no, Scrabulous is not dead (not yet anyway), no matter how many laments may appear on Facebook status messages. You can still play Scrabulous, for pity's sake, just not on Facebook. Instead, you must create an account on the regular Scrabulous site, and play there. (Or, try out Facebook's new Hasbro-owned application, boringly named "Scrabble.")While Facebook users are bemoaning the loss of a popular application, some commentators are claiming this
Continue reading