The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots secured an important victory last week when delegates of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) voted unanimously to take up the issue as part of their work to oversee the implementation and further development of the 1980 treaty, which regulates weapons causing inhuman injuries to combatants or civilians.
The CCW process, which includes yearly meetings of state parties as well as review conferences every five years, have become a periodic forum for discussions not only of how to enforce existing rules, but of norm-building around the humanitarian effects of conventional weapons broadly. Norms around landmines, cluster munitions, blinding lasers and incendiary weapons have been incubated in this forum in the past, so it is no surprise that anti-AWS campaigners used this year's meeting in Geneva as an opportunity to press their cause regarding the dangers of autonomous weapons.
As Matthew Bolton writes, that governments voted to "mandate" the CCW process to examine AWS means the issue is decisively on not just the humanitarian disarmament advocacy agenda but also on the international agenda. This "mandate" to consider the issue will include a
threefour-day meeting next year, and a report by the Chair to the States Parties. A single veto could have prevented this international body from further consideration of the issue, and the fact that important stakeholders like Russia and the US did not forestall a larger discussion signals the salience of the issue and the tremendous agenda-setting success enjoyed by the campaign so far.
[Note: This is a guest post from Mira Sucharov and Brent E. Sasley. Mira Sucharov is Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She blogs at Haaretz.com and at Open Zion. Follow her on Twitter. Brent Sasley is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He blogs at Mideast Matrix. Follow him on Twitter.]
Changes to our technology and to our scholarly norms present new challenges to scholars who engage in the public sphere. More and more academics in Political Science, and especially International Relations, are blogging, tweeting, and writing for online magazines like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and The National Interest, while many with specialization in a specific region or issue-area contribute to region- or issue-specific media.
There is a small but expanding literature on how these changes do and should affect the scholarly enterprise. Often hidden beneath such discussions is how all this affects the scholar herself. There is an inherent assumption that scholars are just that—dispassionate analysts who can look at a set of evidence and draw objective conclusions from it.
This is what happens when you write in the area of Japanese-Korean relations. Pretty much everybody hates you, because you don’t tell them what they want to hear, and then maximalists come out of the woodwork to, as Robert Farley aptly put it, “explore Japanese-Korean animosity one angry e-mail at a time.” As I’ve argued before, there’s little domestic cost to the either party for the most outrageous rhetoric, so this just goes on and on. Given that intractability, the Obama administration’s big idea to untangle this - sending embarrassingly unqualified socialite donor Caroline Kennedy to be ambassador to Japan – is cringe-worthy. So why not call Tina Turner? She’s a celebrity too. And Aunty Entity is the kind of no-nonsense external ref this conflict needs. (Bad 80s references can fix everything!) Anyway…
The other day I posted how the Korean government leaned on me to alter the nomenclature in my writing – from the ‘Sea of Japan’ to the ‘East Sea.’ I don’t exactly stand on this point. I can’t actually say for sure if I use the expression ‘Sea of Japan’ much. But now, I wouldn’t change just to oppose the highly inappropriate arm-twisting of academics by the state. And then a few days ago, I got one my most creative hate-mails (from a Japanese) in awhile. Both letters follow the jump.
This week Dan Drezner hosted a guest post on the politics of Miss Universe and I responded by pointing out the lack of/and the need for a gender analysis in his post. In his response, Drezner asks an important question: "Why on God's green earth would I want to venture out from my professional comfort zone of American foreign policy and global political economy to blog about the politics of gender -- just so I can be told by experts on gender politics that I'm doing it wrong?"
I think we should discuss this. I assume there are many others in the field who feel the same way. Writing about anything political can evoke a shit-storm of responses- sometimes even more so when writing about issues we are less comfortable with and less confident about. Not to belabor the point, but I thought Drezner missed the gender politics- not that he got it wrong. But the question he raises deserves some attention. So why should non gender experts bother? Why deal with the possibility of offending, misrepresenting, omitting in a gender post- or when using gender in one's larger body of work? Is it easier to just ignore gender? First, it is important to separate engaging with gender from writing sexist remarks about women. I think any post that writes about women in a sexist way doesn't count as engaging with gender and certainly deserves the blasts it inevitably will get in the comments section. But feminists and gender scholars should think seriously about how best to engage those who make a genuine effort to think through gender- even when we think they didn't do a great job.
On one hand, the point is that gender should not be seen a sub-set 'expertise' that one has or doesn't have. If you are an expert on American foreign policy, you should already be confident in thinking through and writing about the gender aspects of foreign policy. On the other hand, that just isn't the reality of IR and I don't want my critiques to make someone feel like they should give up trying to engage. And I can empathize. I feel much less comfortable writing about race, LGBTQA and queer issues (amongst many others) and sometimes when I try I get blasted to the point that I wish I hadn't bothered. That's not useful is it? So how do we move forward?
The diplomatic dustup over Syria brought Russia in from the cold but simultaneously froze any notion that western allies were getting their strategic act together. Nonetheless, although the mistakes in the U.S. and UK’s approach to building support at home and abroad for an intervention in Syria confused leaders and citizens alike, these mistakes should not be interpreted as an abrupt turn-around in their and their allies' strategic thinking.
In fact the Europeans, even under a prolonged condition of austerity, are making progress filling in the capability gaps made clear in the course of the Libyan operation. Recent history has demonstrated that arguing the U.S. should keep its security blanket in place despite the end of the Cold War—out of fear that Europeans would not increase their own defense capabilities in kind—was mistaken. Still, austerity has prevented sufficient progress to avoid the joint security trap.
Were the Arab Awakening to go awry and were an al-Qaeda affiliate to begin setting up training camps and operating somewhere such as Yemen, the U.S. or possibly NATO would no doubt heed the call once more to deal with the threat. But any future crisis in Europe’s direct neighborhood, somewhere like Tunisia, will require Europe to take the lead as the U.S. is likely to take a pass. It is therefore in the joint interests of the U.S. and Europe not to reduce their mutual security at this critical juncture.
However Europe has yet to develop its own integrated, deployable, expeditionary military capability; instead a number of European allies à la the U.S. have been slashing their defense budgets under austerity. But akin to the classic prisoner’s dilemma, if the U.S. and European allies do not coordinate their cuts and agree to begin “combining” what is left, both will become worse off and experience a mutual loss of security in lieu of cooperating. In fact, at this juncture western allies are actually on the verge of becoming ensnared in the joint security trap.
Last week Dan Drezner asked What Does Miss Universe Tell us About World Politics in 2013? The post starts off on a positive note- that one can find politics anywhere- before it descends into one of the most classic examples of gender-avoidance/oblivion I've read in ages. Drezner swiftly calls on "the most qualified person on earth" to
outsource engaging on a lady topic write the remaining post. I felt like I was back at uni and my male professor had brought in a female body (any female body) to teach the week on gender. Sure she has a PhD and was Miss Earth- and she does have a unique perspective on pageants; however, since when do we need an insider to write about the politics of an issue (Drezner didn't rely on a Russian, for example, to substantiate his earlier comments about Putin and Russia).
- Do we still need ladies to comment on lady issues Drezner?
The post descends further into the gender abyss as Jessica Trisko Darden tells us that pageants are sort of like other international political events and that the organization itself is similar to familiar international organizations: "The decision-making process is opaque, often contested, and in many ways reflect the underlying power relations and interests of the dominant countries." Sure, I'm with you. Miss Universe is like the Olympics, or the Rugby World Cup- there is entertainment and politics happening at the same time. Got it. The post then mentions some slight problems with the organization, including institutional racism vis a vis excluding African delegates from a fashion show. And then, the post ends. That's it. Like my professors over a decade ago, Drezner doesn't come back in at the end of the lecture to engage with the content and he certainly doesn't address the
half-naked ladies elephant in the room: that pageants are different from other entertainment/political events in that they involve (largely men) judging the esthetics of one WOMAN who is meant to embody each country. Good lord, if you can't find and name the gender and race politics of Miss Universe where will you ever be able to find them? Skinny, straight, long-haired women parading in romantic, caricature costumes of their nation (you will never see Miss Canada wearing a replica uniform from the Indigenous residential schools- but you might see them in some phony universalized Native-American costume, for example)....and you don't think to write about gender and race? You missed the politics completely Drezner (and I'm holding you accountable, not your guest lecturer). Let's drop the useless comparison to other international organizations and talk about a few ways the pageant is political:
Given the low salaries many of us start out at, we probably overly identify with the crisis contained within this trailer (no significant spoilers):
Today's thought experiment: A foreign national is killed in your state, igniting emotional protests and a road blockade by members of his community. Your state is almost entirely economically dependent on tourism. There's standard boilerplate for these events, right? You express regret, you pledge to investigate the murder, you vow that locals who violently attacked protesters will also be brought to justice.
Now imagine that it was a Nigerian national who had been killed. And the death may have been linked to rival drug gangs fighting over territory. Does the picture change? Recent events in BJP-governed Goa seem to suggest that it does. Within a few days, one Goan state minister had referred to Nigerians as "a cancer," one MP stated that Nigerians were "wild animals" who were hopped up on drugs, and another pointed out that Nigerians misuse educational schemes, overstay their visas, and "try to boss over Goans." The Goan Chief Minister referred to Nigerians as "huge and aggressive" and "seven feet tall." The state government started a campaign to round up and evict Nigerians without proper documentation, a dragnet that also caught legal immigrants in its wake. Some Goan villages began to ban the rental of housing to "foreigners" (read: Nigerians). Of course, this sparked a nasty diplomatic row, as Nigerian consular officials made unsubtle remarks about the security of Indians resident in Nigeria. Late last week, the Goan Chief Minister doubled down, saying that it was not racism since "you will see that more Nigerians are involved in drugs."
How might we look at this from an international relations perspective? How many incidents of "we wouldn't want anything to happen to those pretty nationals of yours" occur between states? How much does being Colombian or Albanian or Nigerian increase one's risk of xenophobic targeting? And have we adequately recognized the implications of transnational crime networks for the treatment of co-national minorities?
The Pop 5 is a new 'test' series of posts touching on events in pop culture and linking them back (briefly, hopefully, and sometimes loosely) to IR and politics. The posts are meant to be LIGHT, but also to take seriously the influence of popular culture on how we understand the world. It is, after all, one of the dominant lenses through which our students frame IR. I'm a self diagnosed pop culture addict with a list of shameful (and juicy) fixes (one of my most shameful pop culture habits will be revealed later in the post).
The focus today is on five recent pop culture events and what they might/might not tell us about the state of feminism.
Here's the list of some of the most popular/talked about pop culture recent events related to feminism (let's hope it was just a bad sample). More about each after the tab.
1. Melissa Harris Perry and bell hooks
2. Miley Cyrus
3. Miss Universe
4. Kaye West
5. Short hair/Bachelor Australia
As captured in the final images of this important new documentary, there seem to be at least three different debates going on about drones:
The first is reflected in a recent op-ed titled "Five Ways Obama Could Fix Drones Right Now." Here, Sarah Holewinski of CIVIC and Larry Lewis, a Center for Naval Analyses researcher whose classified data on drone deaths made headlines a few months back, argue that the US' drone strike policy is ok on its merits but could be far more humane, both in measures taken to reduce collateral damage and restorative justice for civilians harmed in drone attacks. First, by taking drones out of CIA hands, and letting war-law-trained DOD folks handle the program, the US increases the chances of hitting militants instead of the civilians. Second, in cases where civilians are harmed, the US government could do far more to acknowledge, atone for and make amends for that harm. (Condolence payments would be helpful, but so would mere acknowledgement: the fact that only five Congresspersons showed up to hearing of drone strike survivors who had traveled from Pakistan to brief US policymakers is an embarrassing example of how far the US has to go in this regard.)
This is in stark contrast to a view reflected in this new report co-authored by two human rights heavyweights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which suggests that the US drone strike policy itself is probably unethical and illegal irrespective of the collateral damage problem. Even if the US hit only the targets it is aiming for - high-value targets and their associated 'suspected militants' - this violates international rules against the arbitrary deprivation of life when undertaken outside a conventional battlefield. The issue here is extrajudicial executions - an issue bigger than Pakistan and bigger than drones.
In even greater contrast to Holewinski/Lewis' argument is a consortium of NGOs who argue weaponized drones should be banned altogether - whether or not they are used for targeted killings or for lawful military operations. This argument draws on a frame soup of arguments having to do with the psychological costs of "joystick warrioring," the fear that drones make war easier, the slippery slope toward automated killing, the civilian body count problem, and the general public fear of "flying killer robots," on top of the opprobrium against targeted killings that this movement shares with the mainstream human rights community. While I do not see this as a campaign that is likely to pick up speed among international elites and result in an actual drone ban anytime soon for several reasons, it is notable that for a large number of civil society organizations the key policy solution is to ban drones altogether rather than use them more lawfully.
In my view, all these arguments have some merit but the most important thing to focus on is the issue of extrajudicial killing, rather than the means used to do it, for two reasons.
Killer Robot Blogging:
This week, NGOs are massing in Geneva to encourage states party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons to consider banning autonomous weapons under the auspices of this treaty. This follows the UN Disarmament Committee meetings in New York in October, where multiple countries expressed concern about this issue. As in New York, NGO campaigners will be holding side events and briefings in Geneva to press their claim that these weapons should be banned.
A report form the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University outlines the complicity of US medical professionals in Bush-era "enhanced interrogations" at Camp X-Ray.
OpenGlobalRights kicks off a series on human rights funding.
Swedish cinemas have introduced a new rating for gender bias based on the "Bechtel system."
After several years of urging by scientists, the United Nations has finally adopted an asteroid defense policy.
Don Howard on the moral imperative of driverless cars.
Iron Man will soon be a reality.
Invisible bike helmets already are.
I am so burned out on this issue, I’m ready to say we should just nuke the Liancourt Rocks (left) to end this whole thing. But it’s everywhere now in the regional media. Park pointedly won’t meet Abe, which the Japanese media is reading as a huge snub. She even said she’d talk to Pyongyang before Tokyo (yikes!). The Japanese are getting more open in expressing loathing for Korea. The Americans are livid. And the Chinese and Norks are loving it all, I have no doubt. So here’s yet another essay on this topic. This is the English version of a long-form essay I wrote for Newsweek Korea last week.
The short, IR-ish version is that: a) S Korea is a middle power that risks ‘overplaying its hand’ against Japan, as a think-tanker friend put it, because of the ‘moral hazard’ facilitated by the American alliance (as Katzenstein noted long ago, Japan is the US anchor state in Asia, and Koreans can’t change that no matter how much they resent that special relationship); b) the Americans believe in the democratic peace and simply don’t accept that Japan is some kind of proto-fascist state (this is a real breakpoint with the Americans); and c) Korean geography basically traps it in a ‘balance of threat’ quandary: even though it is small, its proximity means it will get pulled into the Sino-US/Japan stand-off whether it likes it or not. The only possible way out I can think of for Korea is unilateral nuclearization (more yikes). Also, my continuing skepticism of the pivot pops up. I still don’t think Americans actually care enough about Asia to really get pulled into a major competition with China. Here’s that essay…
I found two pieces that asked similar questions to my earlier post on why this typhoon appeared to be so destructive and why similar storms in Asia are especially deadly. Both raise interesting questions for scholars of security studies and environmental politics.
Max Fisher raises a similar set of concerns in the Washington Post asking why the Philippines wasn't more ready. Beyond the sheer size of the storm and the country's poverty, he also addresses the governance challenges, writing:
Blogging is an exercise of academic freedom, like writing journal articles or books. Blogging is something that has evolving norms and rules, like writing journal articles or books. However, given its nature, the evolution of the field, and the evolution of technology, the norms of blogging are, for better or worse, unique. It is the question of what those norms are and what they demand of us that has dominated the significant discussion about who is accountable for, and who should hold culpability for, the controversy around Brian Rathbun's post and departure from the Duck.
The Duck, like most group blogs, has author accountability, but we do not have reviewers, editors, or publishers. Our authors are their own reviewers, their own editors, and their own publishers - we do not edit or censor each other. It is our readers and commenters who hold us responsible for our words - not our editors, reviewers, or publishers. This is not a stubbornness looking not to take responsibility. It is a political, political-economic, and academic freedom decision driven by the media of blogging. It is not only a good norm but one essential to the continued development of blogging in the discipline. That said, sometimes those norms and other political, political-economic, and academic freedom issues collide, as they did here in August. This post reflects, both looking back and looking forward, on those conundrums, and how they relate to the end of my tenure at the Duck.
You probably saw the horrific photos and video of Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) that made landfall over the weekend in the Philippines, with winds nearing 200 miles an hour and an immense 13 foot storm surge that decimated infrastructure, leading to wide-scale loss of life due to drowning and collapsed buildings.
According to reports, the storm left perhaps as many as 10,000 dead in the city of Tacloban alone and displaced hundreds of thousands. Even as domestic and international aid efforts ramp up, there have been
isolated widespread reports of looting, as people who lost everything have no water, food, or shelter are desperate for supplies. No doubt some unscrupulous others have taken advantage of the chaos as well.
First of all, if you have the resources, I'd encourage you to donate to Oxfam or the Red Cross. I'd also encourage you to volunteer with the Standby Task Force and Micro Mappers to lend your time to support volunteer relief efforts remotely.
In this post, I want to raise the question about what makes Asia particularly susceptible to such devastating climate-related hazards.
I am traveling this week for the 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Center for the Study of Women in Society at University of Oregon, where I completed my doctoral work ten years ago next month. CSWS was kind enough to fund field travel for my dissertation back then, which became my first book, and it's a pleasure to be back to present at their event. In a few hours I'll present a short talk on "War and Civilian Security," tying together my earlier work on gender and civilian immunity with emerging and very urgent trends in human security norm development. The YouTube version is here:
I'm going to try it out this spring with my Introduction to International Relations class. (I'll also post my lectures online, which I believe will make mine the second Intro IR course available to the general public---though if you know of others, please provide links in the comments.) Have any of you tried it? If so, I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments.
Below the fold are some thoughts on why I think it will help some students get more out of my class.