Classroom Activity: Issuing Ultimata

by on 2014-03-24- Leave a reply

This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) introducing the second big puzzle of the course: why states sometimes burn what they want in order to get more of it—that is, why wars occur despite the inefficiency their costly nature implies.

Over the course of the next few lectures, I'll be taking them through the main arguments of Fearon 1995 (see also this blog post) step by step. But before we turn to the explanations for war, we first need to understand the inefficiency argument so as to fully appreciate why common explanations fail.

Today's activity was simpler than many
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Russia, Ukraine, and a New Era of International Relations

by on 2014-03-23- 7 Comments



The U.S. and Russia are not engaged in a new Cold War, but Russia is clearly playing the geopolitical menace du jour. The U.S. and Europe are going to need to up their game to keep Vladimir Putin’s hands off the rest of Ukraine. Beyond this crisis the West needs a new defense posture, as the world just entered a new era of international relations.

Just weeks ago numerous observers dubbed the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi “Putin’s Triumph,” when it was anything but that. Russia may have barely edged the U.S. in total medals, but the price for Putin’s orderly Olympics was serious repression, severe environmental damage, and seismic corruption. Then came Ukraine.
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Friday Nerd Blogging: Delayed Yet Anticipating Edition

by on 2014-03-22- Leave a reply

This fan-made combo of the old Benson show with Mad Men was mentioned by Jon Hamm at the Paleyfest panel.

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The ISA Survival Guide: Everyone needs some Crack Pie

by on 2014-03-21- 2 Comments

bday duckISA is coming, like winter for the Starks; it’s always just around the bend.  Luckily, I almost have nothing but fond memories of ISA.  It was my first conference and will be the one I remain loyal to for as long as I remain able.  The key though is to maximize your experience.  I know too many academics who never leave the hotel, never leave panels, and don't see the world.  And please, take off your badge if you do leave the conference.

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2014 OAIS Blogging Awards and Reception, Thursday, March 27!

by on 2014-03-20- Leave a reply

Mark your calendars for one week from tonight! Please join us for the second annual IR blogging awards and reception at ISA next week: Thursday, March 27 from 7:15pm to 8:30pm in Sheraton Ballroom C at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto. The reception and awards are co-sponsored by SAGE Publications and Duck of Minerva. We packed the reception venue last year so we've moved up to a ballroom -- help us pack it. Charli has put together a couple of great ignite-style talks and we'll be announcing the winners of the 2014 OAIS Awards. If you are heading to Toronto for ISA, come help us acknowledge the impressive contributions of IR blogging and celebrate with the winners. We hope to see you there.

We will be announcing the winners from these groups of finalists:
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Are We Russophobes?

by on 2014-03-20- 6 Comments

Lots of words have been spilled on this Crimea thing, and so it is reasonable to ask whether our opposition to Crimean self-determination might be more about our feelings about Russia than about secession/irredentism.

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What’s the Status of the Decline of War?

by on 2014-03-20- 3 Comments

In light of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Josh raised the question this morning about how we are all feeling about the war decline thesis. Also in reaction to Russia's actions, Mlada Bukovansky issued a strong call to end the complacency regarding the acceptance and influence of global liberal norms and institutions. These comments appear to contrast with John Mueller's post last week on the profound differences between attitudes on war today from a century ago and this week's release of the 2013 Human Security Report which notes the continuation of the decline of conflict.

So, what to make of it all? Do Russia's actions this week suggest we are returning to a more "normal" history -- one in which interstate war is more likley, more frequent and common? Are we headed toward some kind of major interstate conflict between Russia its neighbors? How does this fit in the broader context of the overall trends in interstate war and the decline of war thesis?

These are some of the questions we'll be looking at next week at ISA. My colleague, Kavita Khory, and I are coordinating an ISA Working Group in Toronto next week that will examine the global trends on war, conflict, and political violence. This June marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. Over the past century, we've witnessed episodes of extreme interstate and intrastate violence as well as a more recent period of relative stability. This more recent trend -- the dramatic decline in interstate war -- is striking. The Working Group will bring together a great line-up of scholars from a diverse set of theoretical, methodological and geographical approaches to look at the broad trends in interstate war, intrastate war, and political violence over the past century, where we are today, and what the future trends might look like.

We'll be focusing on four broad areas:
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Thursday Linkage

Thursday Linkage

by on 2014-03-20- Leave a reply

With Crimea's secession and accession drama still unfolding, we wait with baited breath about whether we will bear witness to yet another war (Kimberly Marten's post on the Monkey Cage is sobering). Sure hard to believe that Steven Pinker is right with Syria blazing, the Central Africa Republic aflame, and Ukraine and Russia poised for conflict.

More parochially, I've been reading the story, perhaps apocryphal of the female job candidate whose negotiations for a job led to the school rescinding the offer. I've also been followed additional debates about underrepresentation of women in foreign policy and whether academics have anything to say. Krugman had some choice words for Nate Silver's new enterprise, reminding us of the importance of theory. 
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Not Just Another Word (for nothing left to lose)

by on 2014-03-19- 13 Comments

Russian soldiers in Crimea

Note: The following is a guest post from Mlada Bukovansky, Professor of Government at Smith College.

The word freedom has to come into it, when speaking of the Ukraine crisis. It has become exceptionally difficult to use that term without wincing in the post-Bush era, but still I think it needs to be said. I was speaking to my mother about Ukraine and inevitably Czechoslovakia 1968 came up. I could hear in her voice the urgency and echoes of the passion that accompanied our fleeing Prague in August of that year. There would be no more freedom there. She said those who stayed behind were “doomed.” That included her own father, and many other family members besides. My initial reaction to her use of the term – doomed – was to dismiss it as hyperbolic, and that it may be, but I know what she means.

The power politics and legitimacy of the interests involved, the hypocritical orientation to international law by all sides, the lack of will by the U.S., the EU, and NATO to do anything painful in response to the annexation of the Crimea, as well as the assignation of blame for what triggered the violence in Ukraine has been well covered in many threads, from many angles. What is pressing me to write now, though, is the sense that not enough attention has gone to what will happen, and what has already happened, as in Georgia, to the people coming into Putin’s orbit. They are losing their freedom, and by that I mean something very specific. They are losing what can be called republican freedom (again, take your mind off Bush, please) – the freedom from arbitrary power. Because that is what Putin is exercising: arbitrary power with little restraint (I won’t say no restraint). He is of course not alone in this in our world, and there are arguably far worse villains operating with impunity, but he is operating so in Europe, and as tired and elitist a cliché as that may sound, this makes a difference. Because presumably European institutions, as so the American institutions which share their core ideals, are designed to restrain arbitrary power – that is arguably the central and most critical mechanism from which many of our other advantages and capacities emanate.
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Pop Quiz, Hotshot, Elections edition

by on 2014-03-17- 2 Comments

I have a question for all those folks who study elections: any democracy hold an election within a week or two of being announced?


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How ISA is Like a Kansas Family Reunion

by on 2014-03-14- 3 Comments

As Megan noted, ISA is coming up.  I hope to see all of you at the blogging reception on Thursday evening, March 27th.

As I’ve been preparing for the conference these last couple of weeks, I’m also preparing to be “blessed” with an unexpected visit from my grandparents in-laws today.[1] One of the "bonuses" of having them in my life has been their annual family reunion, held on a hot summer’s day outside of a town of 500 in Kansas.  There are many similarities between this event and ISA (or other major academic conferences).  Let me give you a few:

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Countdown to ISA: heal the world, make the ISA a better place

by on 2014-03-13- 9 Comments

It's that time of year again. IR freaks, geeks, superstars, and fans flock to the International Studies Association Annual Conference (except those wimps that avoid the cold Canadian destinations).
Over the next week I'm going to write a few short, fun posts as we countdown to the jet lag, red-eyed check in (red carpet arrival show), the boot camp style pre-ISA workshops (pre-show analysis), and our blogging reception on Thursday (the main event). The topic for today? 5 steps that would change your ISA world for the better...feel free to share your own healing steps!

1. Coffee. I'm serious, there are approximately 3000 academics and the coffee options are one jammed Starbucks, the stale tea-bag coffees in your room, or a snake line from 3 mysteriously placed coffee carafes throughout the hotel. Please ISA exec, I will pay $10 more in my fees if you provide coffee at all 8am panels. Doing so will also mean that people will actually attend the first panels ON TIME and stay awake. Everyone wins (except Starbucks). Oh, and please bring your reusable coffee cups people.
2. This one is going to be more controversial, but I'm going to just throw it out there: we need less panels. I don't think the ISA needs to be exclusive or anything, but I think there is a conference 'tail' of about 20% of panels that are beyond non-cohesive, and/or end up with 3 presenters- or less- or no discussant at the last minute (we've all been on one). Cut the tail off. Are we really doing academics or grad students a favor by reassigning their paper to a panel that has nothing to do with their topic after the original panel dissolves (which happens all the time!)? Or by assigning a discussant a the last minute who has absolutely no expertise or knowledge of the majority of the topics on the panel?
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Economic interdependence as a facilitator of war?

by on 2014-03-13- 2 Comments

Note: This is a guest post by John Mueller of Ohio State University.

The ongoing crisis/standoff in the Ukraine relates in some ways to a long-standing debate about the potential connection between economic interdependence and war. The debate is over the idea that the decline in interstate war has been caused by the fact that countries closely linked economically are unlikely to go to war with each other.

On the one hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foray in an area of deep economic interdependence doesn’t seem to have been waylaid by potential economic cost considerations. On the other hand, as the value of the ruble tumbles, economic considerations could play a role in keeping the crisis from escalating to a more direct military confrontation. Meanwhile, those contemplating sanctions on Russia, particularly in Western Europe, have been musing about the pain they might themselves might bear if they applied economic punishment to a country they depend on for so much of their energy resources.
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Thursday Linkage

by on 2014-03-13- 1 Comment

We're on spring break here in Austin, Texas so this will be a short post as I'm just back from some SXSW events (trying to steer clear of the drunk drivers). Mostly, I'll link to some news from the blogosphere, including changes at the Monkey Cage (4 new additions) and Foreign Policy (Drezner and Lynch depart). I also link to some good exchange on RCTs and Bill Easterly's new book on experts and development. Oh, and Les Gelb goes off on all parties with respect to Ukraine (Crimea secession/join Russia referendum this weekend!). I'm also including a playlist of the bands I've seen at SXSW which I hope to add to.

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Failing at Football Diplomacy

by on 2014-03-13- Leave a reply

clean fun soccerThere has been a bit of recent news lately suggesting international football* considerations are making the divisions between states greater, supporting the idea that sports might not be the path to peace and reconciliation.  While a few cases cannot disprove an idea, recent moves point in a troubling direction for the theory that we can settle differences between states on the football pitch.  Relating back to early theories of functionalism, any form of cooperation, even on the sports pitch, might be beneficial to countries at odds with each other.  The communication provided through spectacular sporting events might provide pathways for peace.  Others might argue that fighting it out on the pitch is better than fighting with guns and bullets.  While these ideas might be true in the abstract, it is tough to consider the viability of such proposals if states fail to even meet on the pitch in the first place.

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Classroom Activity: Globalization and Inequality Within and Between Countries

by on 2014-03-12- 3 Comments

This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on political economy, a considerable focus of which was on identifying the winners and losers from economic cooperation.

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Monday Linkage

by on 2014-03-10- Leave a reply

Okay Ducks, here are your links from South Asia and Beyond!

  • Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the Vice President of Afghanistan, has died of natural causes at age 57.  Marshal Fahim fought along side the Lion of Panjshir, Ahmad Shah Massoud, during the Soviet Occupation.  After Massoud's assassination, Fahim led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban during the American invasion in 2001.  He became the Defense Minister in the transitional Afghan government under Karzai.  Human rights advocates frequently labeled him as a "notorious warlord," but the Government of India at least viewed him as a close friend and ally.
  • Swapan Dasgupta asks, "Will Narendra Modi be painted as India's Putin?" (The post itself is rather stupid but provides some insights into Hindu nationalist thinking/fantasizing.)
  • India, the world's biggest arms importer, is still talking about creating its own weapons systems. Oy vey!  Didn't they read Cohen and Dasgupta?
  • Despite starting from a very low base, Japan is looking to increase its bilateral trade and investment in India.
  • The anti-corruption Aam Admi Party (AAP) of India has inspired a party by the same name in Pakistan.  (Of course, neither party will actually make much dent in corruption, which (to paraphrase Akhil Gupta) is the force that binds the branches of the state and bureaucracy together.)

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8 Unanswered Political Questions from the Oscars

by on 2014-03-09- 1 Comment

I know it has already been a week, but I'm still thinking about the Oscars. Not the fashion (boring!! predictable!!), or the hostess (boring!! predictable!!) or the winners (boring!! predictable!!), or the speeches (ok you get my point)- but rather a short list of questions I still need help with. Answers welcome.

1. Was bell hooks right? Was 12 Years a Slave "sentimental clap-trap" that "negated the female voice?" What were the politics of white washing, white guilt, and white erasure at the awards?

2. How the hell did Joaquin Phoenix NOT get nominated for 'Her' and how DID Leonardo DiCaprio get nominated for 'WOWS'? Does this tell us anything about hegemonic masculinity....or more about pity for Leo?

3. Why were so many of the best pic nominations fixated on some distorted nostalgia (about slavery, HIV, they 'golden era' of American history/finance) and what does this tell us about our (in)ability to cope with the present?

4. Are strapless peplum dresses and backward necklaces ironic now?

5. If Mathhew Mcconaghey hadn't lost weight, would we care about his performance? Would he have won the Oscar? As Ted Kerr noted in his excellent post 47 Things I Talk about When I talk about the Dallas Buyers Club, "It is interesting how Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto get rewarded for losing weight, and acting sick, while people living with HIV have to fight to be well, appear well and be recognized. #everydaysurvival"
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Of Polls and Public Engagement in International Relations

Of Polls and Public Engagement in International Relations

by on 2014-03-08- Leave a reply

This is a guest post by Idean Salehyan.

There has been a lot of hand-wringing and debate lately as to whether or not academics are engaged enough with important policy questions (See Nicholas Kristof’s article in the New York Times and just a few responses, here and here).  As this conversation was circling around the blogosphere, there was an impressive initiative to poll International Relations (IR) scholars about their views and predictions regarding foreign affairs.   Such surveys have the potential to make a big splash inside and outside of academia.

For several years, scholars at the College of William and Mary have conducted the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey, which gauges IR scholars’ views of the discipline, including department and journal rankings, epistemology, and so on.  This endeavor was largely inward-looking.  Yet for the first time, the folks at TRIP conducted a “snap poll” of IR scholars to measure the collective wisdom of the field regarding current international events.  The results of the first snap poll were recently released at Foreign Policy.  It included questions on Syria, the crisis in Ukraine, and the U.S. Defense Budget.  Key findings include that IR scholars do not think that Syria will comply on time (if at all) with plans to eliminate its chemical weapons; very few correctly predicted that Russia would send troops to Ukraine; and most do not believe that proposed cuts to the U.S. military budget will negatively effect national security.  Additional polls are being planned, providing an extremely important tool for engaging policy makers and the general public.
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Pakistan’s Democratic Progression and the Impending Changes in Afghanistan

by on 2014-03-08- 1 Comment

This is guest post by Professor T.V. Paul*

On March 5, 2014, the Nawaz Sharif government completed nine months in office, despite Pakistan’s continued economic crisis, chronic power shortages, and escalating sectarian violence. The military and the ISI are yet to show any inclination to wrest control of power from the civilians. In November, 2013 Sharif was able to  appoint General Raheel Sharif , who is known to be politically less ambitious, as the army chief and General Rashad Mahmood as the chairman of the less powerful joint chiefs of staff. This has given him a space to deal with internal problems as the army headed by General Sharif  is expected to go along with civilian wishes. But this harmony with the military may not last for the government’s full term, as in 1999 also Sharif had a few months of honeymoon period with his then army chief, General Pervez Musharraf.

Early indications are that the military’s approach this time around is to allow the democratic process to continue without its intervention. This is largely because the military knows it will not be able to fix Pakistan’s lingering economic and internal security problems if it takes over power and that it will lose whatever legitimacy it has left in the eyes of the Pakistani people. Pakistan’s judiciary and the media have helped to solidify the democratic forces up to a point.

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