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.
Tomorrow, my great friend and coauthor Dursun Peksen and I will collect our $200 for winning the best paper award at the annual meeting of ISA-Midwest in St. Louis. The paper, which I’ve talked about a little bit before at the Duck, is actually forthcoming now at the Journal of Politics. Dursun has won quite a few prizes before but this is my first time winning any sort of best paper award. The award information says the prize is supposed to be in cash. I’m hoping it is because this will probably be the first time I’ve had access to cash with my name on it since I was a kid. I’m unsure what to do with my take of the winnings but I know the money has to be spent while I’m at the conference – otherwise, I’m sure I’ll rethink my plan of action and want to do something sensible with it. Here are my ideas:
It is shocking how little attention Iran’s recent efforts to satisfy the international community’s demands on nuclear question have received in the news media and academic discourse. As I write this, there are 1182 related news stories on news.google.com related to Rob Ford’s struggles with the crack cocaine and only 85 related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Two pieces got emailed to me in the last few days that nicely illustrate just how entrenched semi-imperial thinking has become in Washington, how wildly disconnected from the reality of US security our foreign policy community’s threat assessments have become, and the hysteria that greets serious debate on DoD’s size in this post-Great Recession era of high unemployment and large deficits. This, by good-journalist-turned-disturbing-militarist Robert Kaplan, and this, by the ‘Iraq was a victory’ crowd at AEI. Here’s Kaplan:
“The bottom may be starting to fall out of the U.S. defense budget. I do not refer to numbers when I say this. I am not interested in numbers. I am only interested in public support for those numbers…. Actually, we might need a big army for an occupation of part of North Korea… The public, in short, wants protection on the cheap. It may not necessarily be willing to police the world with a big navy and a big air force at least to the degree that it has in the past -- that is, unless a clear and demonstrable conventional threat can be identified.”
The rest basically follows the depressing, well-established neocon pattern: the (invariably hawkish and hegemony-loving) Washington foreign policy community knows America’s interests, while the public is annoyingly ‘isolationist.’ If only they believed in the US globocop, (cue grave headshaking at our ignorance), then we wouldn’t have to write these sanctimonious, tsk-tsk op-eds. The AEI brief is even more predictable: throwaway boilerplate about the need for a strong defense in a world of unpredictable and diverse threats and all that. Got it already. Neocons and DC hawks have been saying that sorta stuff now for so long, that I really don’t even need to read this stuff anymore. And of course, any cuts automatically ‘reduce our readiness,’ the all-time favorite cliché of hawks everywhere as if somehow ‘only’ $680+ billion would leave us unable to defend ourselves. Come on, neocons! I thought you were supposed to be intellectuals. Stop recycling 1990s ‘indispensible nation’ bromides, and try a little harder. Zack Beauchamp and Daniel Drezner’s correctives are very useful here. But here’s mine:
Lionel Beehner and Joseph Young write in The National Interest that while targeted killing by drone strike is increasingly denounced (and decreasingly used by states), cross-border incursions by counter-terror ground troops are an increasingly accepted practice – despite the fact that both violate state sovereignty.
Citing the capture of Abu Anas Al-Libi by US special ops in Libya, drug kingpins by Brazil in Bolivia and Peru, and the frequency of cross-border incursions in Africa, they express surprise that not all violations of sovereignty are equally frowned upon, and explain this based on the idea of credible commitment:
“It is precisely because these commando missions are more serious and risky that they have become more legitimized in the eyes of the international community than drone strikes. Such missions signal a greater seriousness and commitment to the mission. They require states to have more ‘skin in the game.’”
That’s an interesting hypothesis. Still, I don’t think the piece makes much conceptual or empirical sense and actually clouds a couple of important issues.
First, the relevant distinction is not between ground troops and drones. It is between hunt and kill missions, which can be accomplished on the ground or by air, and raid-and-snatch missions which require ground troops. The greater acceptability the authors point to, is not for commando missions per se, but for raid-and-snatch missions specifically, as an alternative to the far more morally dubious targeted killing policy increasingly decried by human rights groups. This should not be confused, as the authors do, with the emergence of a blanket international acceptance of unilateral sovereignty violations by special ops: ground troops, after all, can also commit extrajudicial executions and/or use disproportionate violence and if they do so I cannot imagine this would be considered any less opprobrious than drone attacks – indeed, as the authors suspect, it might be considered moreso. Such missions also probably shouldn't be conflated with multilaterally-sanctioned humanitarian interventions, which are the kinds of missions primarily referred to in the article on Africa the authors cite.
Secondly, the authors’ focus on sovereignty and military risk-taking rather than due process and civilian harm mitigation leads the authors to some wildly unsupportable conclusions about international norms.
The year 2014 is nearly on us, and reflections on World War One are already weighing down bookshop shelves. In my own research, I've stumbled across an odd tendency: that whereas in Britain the cause of World War One, if not its conduct, attracts strong supporters as well as critics, the first Gulf War is remembered as a bit of a disappointment.
Consider the difference with one of history's archetypal 'limited' wars, which few seem keen to defend.
The term “shadow wars” aptly describes the U.S. approach to the war on terror. Policymakers perceive they are fighting an enemy composed of shadow and dust, one hidden in and facilitated by the dark underworld of global politics. But to prosecute this campaign, the U.S. has itself, to borrow a term from the writer J.R.R. Tolkien, “fallen into shadow”: Its moral high ground and once-principled politics have been replaced by a recourse to policies such as arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings that have tarnished its reputation and bolstered its enemies.
The blowback from these policies demonstrates that a just war cannot be fought using unjust means—indeed their use erodes the moral authority to fight truly just wars when the need arises. Winding down this “war” both necessitates and provides a window for stepping out of the shadows and adhering to basic standards of international law and human rights.
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.