Long ago, Dan Drezner posted about the imposter syndrome. The basic idea is that many folks feel as if they will be found out, that there are other folks out there that are smarter, more informed and that one is just getting away with being less than that until eventually getting found out.
It was a great night for Political Violence @ a Glance winning awards in two of the four of categories at this year's OAIS Blogging Awards held at ISA last night. They were the winners of the 2014 Award for Best Blog (Group) -- narrowly defeating The Monkey Cage. Christian Davenport won Best Blog Post of the Year for his post "Researching While Black, Why Conflict Research Needs More African Americans (Maybe)" at Political Violence @ a Glance last April. Barb Walter's "The Four Things We Know About How Civil Wars End (and what this tells us about Syria)" also at Political Violence @ a Glance was a close second.
One of the consequences of the ISA 2014 conference here in Toronto is that my extended blogging hiatus is coming to an end. Thanks to some experimental research in India, I haven't had a lot of time to share my thoughts in the past few months. In fact, I haven't had too many thoughts during this period either. However, now I have one.
On Wednesday, I was honored to participate in a roundtable on climate policy organized by Detlef Sprinz from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. My participation notwithstanding, the roundtable featured a great group of scholars: Detlef,
As the gods of the International Studies Association have seen fit to place my panel at 8:15 on a Saturday morning, I decided to advertise my talk in the blogosphere in hopes of drumming up some attendees. Below please see the teaser trailer for my working paper this year, which explores the impact of science fiction on global policy making in the area of autonomous weapons.
The paper itself is not yet ready for distribution (research is still in progress), but I should be able to circulate later this year and feedback at the panel will help me refine my conceptual framework - so if you are interested in these matters please come join us in the Richmond Room at the Toronto Hilton this Saturday! The panel, organized by UBC's Chris Tenove, is entitled "Representation Across Borders": Richard Price is chairing and other speakers include Wendy Wong, Sirin Duygulu and Hans-Peter Schmitz. Panel abstract is below the fold.
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
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.
This fan-made combo of the old Benson show with Mad Men was mentioned by Jon Hamm at the Paleyfest panel.
ISA 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
I have a question for all those folks who study elections: any democracy hold an election within a week or two of being announced?
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. 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:
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?
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.
There 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.