This is a guest post by former Duck of Minerva blogger Dan Nexon. It is cross-posted at his personal blog, Hylaean Flow.
One of the ongoing rationales for The Monkey Cage is that journalists do a poor job of covering US electoral politics. They focus on personality and style. They downplay the role of fundamentals, such as economic forces and the nature of the electoral system. The same is too often true in foreign-affairs reporting. Consider a recent piece by multi-award-winning reporter, Scott Wilson: "Ukraine crisis tests Obama’s foreign policy focus on diplomacy over military force."
What is Wilson's argument? A sample:
Now Ukraine has emerged as a test of Obama’s argument that, far from weakening American power, he has enhanced it through smarter diplomacy, stronger alliances and a realism untainted by the ideology that guided his predecessor....
“If you are effectively taking the stick option off the table, then what are you left with?” said Andrew C. Kuchins, who heads the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that Obama and his people really understand how others in the world are viewing his policies.”
The signal Obama has sent — popular among his domestic political base, unsettling at times to U.S. allies — has been one of deep reluctance to use the heavily burdened American military, even when doing so would meet the criteria he has laid out. He did so most notably in the aftermath of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya nearly three years ago.
But Obama’s rejection of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war, in which 140,000 people have died since he first called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, is the leading example of his second term. So, too, is the Pentagon budget proposal outlined this past week that would cut the size of the army to pre-2001 levels.
Let's consider a bit of history.
- In April of 2008, President George W. Bush pushed hard for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Georgia and Ukraine at the Bucharest NATO summit. Germany and France balked, for both self-interested and prescient reasons.
- In August of 2008, Russia baited Georgia into invading South Ossetia. At the key principals meeting in Washington, no one was willing to risk war with Russia over Georgia.
- In 2009, Yanukovich and his Party of Regions wrested power from the unruly and ineffectual Orange coalition that had ousted him in 2004. Yanukovich adopted a pro-Russian tilt. Although he was more than happy to leverage Moscow against Brussels, under no circumstances was he going to make a serious push to bring Ukraine into NATO.
- While Georgia is a small country on the Russian Federation's periphery; Ukraine is a large country of significant affective and geo-strategic significance to Russia.
See the problem? There's no obvious counterfactual set of Obama policies that would better position the United States to handle Russia's gambit in Ukraine.
Yesterday, I suggested that there is little the US/NATO could do about the Russian intervention in Ukraine. That still is very much true. Obama's statement referred to costs--that this would cost Russia and it will (trade, the G8 summit, etc). But that is not a redline or a serious effort at deterrence--just a statement of reality. Russia's relations with the US, EU, NATO and others will be "taxed" by this event--Russia will get less in the near future because of what it does here.
*this is a guest post by Konstantinos Travlos, currently a Visiting Assistant at Georgia Southern, who writes on international conflict and history. The arguments presented below are based on past research.
Russian policy towards Ukraine is partly driven by short term political reasons such as protecting an investment in the form of Yanukovych, the Russian view of Ukraine as a “little brother”, a legitimate worry over the future of the Russian minority in Ukraine, and a very real opposition to what is seen by the Kremlin elite as the meddling of Western powers in its Near Abroad. However, I argue that the most intractable issue driving Russia is control of access to the Crimean Peninsula as a naval base, an indivisible territorial issue. This has less to do with geopolitical and strategic reasons and more to do with the identity of the Russian state as a great power which makes Crimea a transcendental and thus difficult to negotiate over. This is why the recent and quick escalation is not surprising, in counter to some arguments made.
The only thing scarier than Godzilla? A scared Walter White (Bryan Cranston). This preview is most exciting trailer in a while
It’s been a big and extremely depressing week for the rights of sexual minorities. Despite some minor victories in Texas and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto, anti-gay bills remain on the agenda in many US states. Things continue to get worse in Uganda and Russia. What can be done to help stop the abuse?
In what I suspect is the least auspicious debut ever made by a Duck guest blogger, six months after being welcomed by the Duck team, I'm finally posting. It turns out that starting a new job, prepping a new course, learning how to shovel snow, and attempting to finish a book manuscript all at once is not particularly conducive to being a good guest blogger. I'd like to thank the Duck team for their patience, and for their completely unwarranted confidence in still welcoming me to blog here. And I promise to do better from here on out.
As Charli noted, my area of interest is in questions at the intersection of conflict and development in Africa. I'm particularly fascinated these days by African states, how they (and their international relations) contrast with traditional understandings of what states are and what they do, and how people in conflict situations organize themselves to provide for community needs, with or without outside help. So it's likely that most of my posts at the Duck will focus on these questions one way or another, as well as on general debates in the study of politics in Africa.
The biggest African story right now is the increasing criminalization of homosexuality and homosexual behavior in places like Uganda and Nigeria. Uganda's new anti-homosexuality law has drawn the greatest amount of attention due to its extremely harsh penalties. Though the worst excesses of the bill's original language (including the death penalty for those caught committing multiple homosexual acts) were amended out, the bill still provides for jail time for persons who engage in any form of physical content with "intent" to engage in homosexual acts as well as imprisonment for those who help or counsel GLBTQ Ugandans.
*Post written with my coauthor Ryan Maness. We are currently rounding the corner and almost ready to submit the final version of our Cyber Conflict book. This post represents ongoing research as we fill out unanswered questions in our text.
My coauthor and I have dissected the contemporary nature of cyber conflict in many ways, from cataloging all actual cyber incidents and disputes between states, to examining cyber espionage, and finally, examining the impact of cyber incidents on the conflict-cooperation nexus of states. What we have not done until now is examine the nature of what we call cyber spillover.
Cyber spillover is when cyber conflicts seep and bleed into traditional arena of militarized and foreign policy conflict. While it is dubious to claim that the cyber domain is disconnected from the physical domain given that cyber technology has to be housed somewhere, it is also true that there are very few incidents of cyber actions causing physical damage (the only case being Stuxnet). Our question is not about the transition from cyber to physical, but when cyber disagreements lead directly to conventional foreign policy disputes between states, thus altering how international interactions work.
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.
Will this morning's links betray my grumpiness? I hope not but today's meme that the US and the West are in danger of losing Ukraine drives me a bit crazy. It wasn't in my pocket... was it in yours?
Why are we late with Friday Nerd Blogging? Because we were too busy celebrating all that is awesome:
Editor's note: this post previously appeared on my personal blog.
This fourth activity comes after students are to have listened (slides) to a lecture on how states are currently leaving a lot of money lying on the ground by failing to cooperate more fully. The examples I used all concern economic cooperation—specifically, how there'd be a whole lot more stuff to go around if states changed their trade, exchange rate, and immigration policies—though I discuss other areas where states fail to reap all the available benefits of cooperation in other lectures. Look below the fold for details.
I arrived in Geneva yesterday morning to give a couple of talks, and I pulled up Twitter on my phone to see events in the Ukraine exploding. I can't say I fully understand what's going on and the implications. Reflexively, I'm supportive of the protesters and their desire for tighter ties to the European Union. But, as one person said on Twitter, the Ukrainian president may be taking a page from Assad on this one. All I know is that this could get even more nasty without some diplomacy to negotiate a softer landing. I'm curious what Erica Chenoweth might have to say about this. Increased radicalization by the opposition threatens to remove the glow of legitimacy that non-violent protest often confers, but a determined autocrat may be able to use force to crush the protest if he really wants to. What tilts the balance might be the calculations of the cost of violent reprisals. It's unclear if the West's sanctions are enough to alter Yanukovych's perspective on this.
It's kind of amazing that this is all happening in the shadow of the nearby Olympics. Kind of casts a pall over the proceedings...In any case, here are some fragments of news that I followed to try to make sense of this, but mostly the imagery was what struck me.
International Politics Reviews is a new reviews journal bundled by Palgrave with International Politics. Michael J. Williams of Royal Holloway is the editor, and I’m an associate editor. I recently curated a recent roundtable exchange on Michael Levi’s book The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future with contributions by me, Jesse Jenkins, Emily Meierding, regular Guest Duck Johannes Urpelainen, and a response from CFR's Levi himself. Palgrave has granted us ungated access to the reviews (right here), which will be up for several months. I wanted to continue the conversation here on the Duck, and my fellow contributors may also weigh in.
Prominent academic Stephen Hawking has weighed in on a public debate.
Chicago PhD Candidate John Stevenson writes in Slate about why ceasefires don't protect civilians.
Momentum last week towards a treaty abolishing nuclear weapons: Mexico leads charge.
Anti-killer-robot campaigners on the new Robocop.
Human Rights and Armed Conflict
UNHCHR's report on North Korea denounces human rights condition in country.
Mark Kersten on whether DPRK could be referred to the ICC.
Guernica on death and resistance in Camp X-Ray.
Want your loved ones to know you survived the latest suicide bombing? There's an app for that.
Dear Mr. Kristof,
Since you're getting so much hate mail from political scientists this week, I thought I'd send you a fan letter. I teach international relations at University of Massachusetts. I am an avid reader of your columns, especially on human rights advocacy. You have put issues like fistula on the global agenda. You put privileged young people in touch with global issues. You are a master at boiling down complex issues to accessible human interest stories.
What I have admired most about your work is that you so rarely limit yourself to complaining. So many pundits write atrocity porn, decrying human rights abuses with little context as to how to change them. But you typically write not about victims but about social change agents trying to make the situation better - like your column "How Brave Girls Helped Break a Taboo" about domestic rape in Kenya. In every story of dysfunction and oppression, intrepid individuals swimming against the tide exist, and through their efforts, successes and setbacks, we come to both understand problems and engage with solutions. Through chronicling these successes, you inspire readers to do more of what's working instead of giving up.
Precisely because of the high standard I've come to expect from you in chronicling social change, I felt your Sunday op-ed this week missed the mark. It's not just because I'm a political scientist who works hard to incorporate public outreach into research, teaching and service, who felt unjustly snubbed by your sweeping language. Mostly I felt like this column just wasn't up to your usual standards and worse, missed an opportunity to showcase the effervescent and positive changes in academia generally, and political science in particular. This is, exactly as you say, a significant issue in our time - especially in an era where policymakers are prone to be dismissive of science and scientists.