Friday Nerd Blogging: NATO Week!

by on 2014-09-05- Leave a reply

I have been lax in my Friday Nerd Blogging duties lately.  Partly because I have been so obsessed with NATO and its summit.  Now that the communiques are launched, it is time to relax and embrace that fave NATO song:

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Human Rights Research and Researchers in IR: Are We REALLY that Odd?

by on 2014-09-05- 3 Comments

Before APSA last week, I had the privilege of attending a small conference put on the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project at William and Mary.  The conference was a chance for researchers in different research areas to write about the policy-relevance of their issue area and compare research and researchers in their area to the larger IR community.  It relates to the discussion going on the last couple of weeks on ISQ's blog.  All of the participants had the opportunity to use the TRIP project data on journal articles in top-IR journals and survey data from IR researchers around the world.  I learned lot about how interactions with the policy/practitioner community differ across issue areas.

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Once more unto the (climate) breach

Once more unto the (climate) breach

by on 2014-09-04- Leave a reply

I just happened upon a Foreign Policy piece from May 6 of this year framing climate change as a ‘Clear and Present Danger’. To summarize, the author argues that Obama’s plans to address climate change are a political non-starter in the US: Republicans are generally more opposed to carbon control policy than ever and the public is out to lunch on the subject. The solution, according to the author, is to invoke national security and get the military—a key Republican constituency—talking about how much climate change imperils national security. As a scholar of international security who does research on climate change (in collaboration with Janelle Knox-Hayes), my interest was immediately piqued.

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ISIS and Biological Weapons: Black Flag, But Not the Black Death

by on 2014-09-03- Leave a reply

This is a guest post by Frank L. Smith III, lecturer at the University of Sydney and author of the new book, American Biodefense: How Dangerous Ideas About Biological Weapons Shape National Security.

The 2003 Iraq War aimed to stop rogue states from using weapons of mass destruction or giving these weapons to terrorists. Now we face ISIS, a terrorist organization that also claims to be a state. But what about WMD? Last week, Foreign Policy reported the discovery of an ISIS laptop that contained a jihadi fatwa on how “it is permissible to use weapons of mass destruction,” and, far more troubling, instructions on how to use biological weapons. So has the Islamic State become the triple threat that we supposedly invaded Iraq to prevent?

The laptop in question was captured in Syria earlier this year. Its previous owner was a Tunisian-turned-ISIS fighter who studied chemistry and physics at university. Along with a variety of other material on conducting jihad, “the ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals.”

This is clearly not good news. ISIS is bad enough already, and an Islamic State armed with biological weapons would be even worse. As the document on this laptop suggests, “the advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge.” Plague is certainly contagious enough and infamous enough to fuel fear. Moreover, the spectre of WMD often creates considerable confusion to the detriment of sound policy – confusion that I explain in my book about “WMD” and other dangerously inaccurate stereotypes.
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The Academic Arrogant Self-Important Snooty Quiz

by on 2014-09-02- 2 Comments

As I was traveling back from APSA on Sunday, I completed all of the journal reviews that I had on my desk, ran some regressions for new projects, and then completed all the revisions my coauthors are requesting from me currently.[1]  With the remaining few hours I had on the flight, I noticed a Cosmo magazine[2] in the seat-pocket next to me and quickly went to work finding out what kind of female I am and how much I really know about Beyonce.  The quizzes got me thinking: we don’t have a lot of personality quizzes for us as academics but – based on my participant observations at this past APSA - we really need some.

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Why John J. Mearsheimer is Wrong on Ukraine

Why John J. Mearsheimer is Wrong on Ukraine

by on 2014-09-01- 10 Comments

When I arrived as an incoming graduate student at Ohio State University, I was labeled a realist since I studied extensively under John J. Mearsheimer at the University of Chicago. And despite the fact that I find such labeling exercises rather silly (plus, my advisor at both Chicago and OSU was actually Alex Wendt), there was, and still is, some truth to it. Power does matter in international politics and contrary to many others in our field I think that Mearsheimer’s theory of great power politics does make a lot of sense, and it explains large swaths of international politics throughout history.

However, despite the fact that his recent analysis in Foreign Affairs of the causes of the Ukrainian crisis makes a number of good points, most importantly, that Putin’s actions do not necessarily signal an attempt to build a greater Russian empire and that realpolitik matters, it is at the same time wrong.
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Doubts on Doubts: Part One

by on 2014-08-31- Leave a reply

Dear Readers, apologies for the radio silence. The last few months have been eventful. But I am back in the saddle and getting ready for my graduate seminar on the politics of international law. Skepticism about international law is old but it seems to me Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, and other events deepened the cynicism. “International law isn’t even law in the proper sense. It doesn’t really matter.” I heard statements like this from my students already in our first class last week, at APSA, at the airport bar, and on the flight back home. It is encouraging to see people become more
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Obama’s “Lack” of Strategy Towards ISIS

Obama’s “Lack” of Strategy Towards ISIS

by on 2014-08-30- Leave a reply

The last two days have seen a maelstrom of media attention to President Obama’s admission that he currently does not have a strategy for attacking or containing ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Syria.   It is no surprise that those on the right criticized Obama’s candid remarks, and it is equally not surprising that the left is attempting some sort of damage control, noting that perhaps the “no strategy” comment is really Obama holding his cards close to his chest.   What seems to be missing from any of the discussion is what exactly he meant by “strategy,”
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APSA Fire Update

APSA Fire Update

by on 2014-08-30- 1 Comment

Well, the main APSA hotel at the Marriott last night caught fire last night in what might be an act of arson, but we really don't know. For those of us staying at the Marriott, we awoke at 1am to alarms and recorded messages to evacuate the building. We stayed outside until around 4:30 or 5am when we were allowed to go back in to the lobby. Sheets were handed out, and people splayed out as you see in the picture above. Looked like we were going to be able to go back to the rooms at 6am but we
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In Exile at Home: Impressions from Europe

by on 2014-08-29- Leave a reply

I have been able to avoid this fate for almost 12 years now, but they finally got me. Being a citizen of Germany, I have been studying in the U.S. on student visas for the last decade and even though it has always been a bureaucratic nightmare, associated with significant financial costs, I usually managed to obtain the necessary documents to enter the United States. Until this summer, when the application for my work visa got delayed for reasons that I don’t need to get into here. Long story short, I had to leave the U.S. for three months, organize someone to sublet my apartment on very short notice, find an alternative source of income, new health insurance, cancel my attendance at APSA, etc. I had promised my daughter, who is staying with her mom in Ohio, that we would take at least two road trips during the summer (she wanted to go to New York City. “Why?” I asked. “Lady Liberty” she answered). Canceled. But hey, things could be worse. So, I decided to make the best of it and travel through Europe with Lise Herman, a Ph.D. candidate at LSE. In the next couple of posts I will report from our journey, tell you a bit about the mood in Europe, and touch some of the issues that the people, and especially the younger generation, are concerned or not concerned about.
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Why I’m Not At APSA This Labor Day

by on 2014-08-28- 9 Comments

changethedateEvery year at this time I receive several queries a day from colleagues, would-be colleagues and students asking me if I'll be "at APSA" - the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association - and when we could meet up for a coffee.

Every year I reply several times a day:

"Sadly, I won't be at APSA this year because it conflicts with the start of school for my children."

This is more or less the truth but I confess it's not the complete truth. First, I've realized this canned response implies I might be there next year, whereas I've actually been AWOL from Labor-Day-Weekend APSAs pretty much since my second child hit grade school and it's time I admit that's not changing. Second, the "conflict" I described is less of a conflict every year as my kids get older, yet I'm still not coming back to APSA, so that's less and less the real reason for my absence.

The truer response to the question is that I skip APSA every year not because my son needs me desperately on the first day of school, but because I'm boycotting. I'm boycotting my professional organization for scheduling a conference so as to inhibit work-life-balance and pose an undue burden on parents in the profession, especially mothers. I'm boycotting APSA because they have done this year by year over the protest of their members. What began as an irreconcilable personal conflict for a parent of grade schoolers and partner to a dual-career spouse - what began, that is, as a simple work-life balance choice - has turned over the years into a political statement that I'll continue to make until APSA's policy changes.
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Thursday APSA Linkage

Thursday APSA Linkage

by on 2014-08-28- Leave a reply

Many of your Ducks are descending upon DC for the annual APSA conference which is appropriately timed at the beginning of the academic year and the school year.  I know I have been looking forward to starting the semester completely shattered from slogging through revisions on papers. It's all the more pleasing when my two panels are scheduled at the exact same time in buildings that are miles apart! The fate of the petition to move APSA to another more reasonable date will apparently be discussed so we shall see.

While considerable international news is being made (Russia's new incursions into Ukraine, Obama's efforts to get a climate agreement without a treaty), in the spirit of APSA, we have a far more important task before us: academic navel-gazing. So, here are some links from around the web about how to annoy political scientists, how not to annoy your professors, the many mistakes people make in titling papers, and the Steven Salaita pre-emptive firing at Illinois.

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NATO: Silly Proposals and Enduring Realities

by on 2014-08-23- 2 Comments

I was going to post about my talk in Toronto on NATO , but now I have a slightly different NATO post to write: a response to this piece by Anne Applebaum proposing that Obama magically fix NATO.  Given that the title of my talk was “The Present and Future of NATO: More of the Same,” it is inevitable that I would be a skeptic of Applebaum's piece.  

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Meaningful Punishment

by on 2014-08-22- 4 Comments

Seeing reports in the New York Times today on further Russian aggression in Ukraine has me thinking about Ely Ratner and Elizabeth Rosenberg’s recent article entitled “Pointless Punishment?" where they argue that Western sanctions on Russia are at best pointless and at worst counterproductive. I think Ratner and Rosenberg (R&R henceforth) have a valid point in looking at the ways in which sanctions might produce unexpected negative consequences for the US. But also I think the events being reported today, and some other lines of analysis that they do not include in their article, suggest that not only is the
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Thursday Linkage

Thursday Linkage

by on 2014-08-21- 2 Comments

I saw this image on Twitter tonight and it kind of summarized how I feel about the news this summer which has been awful. I've been reading posts from thoughtful commentators like Steve Walt, Micah Zenko, and Jay Ulfelder who remind us that it's not all bad or at least it's not as bad as has been in the past (anybody remember World War II? [anyone] or perhaps even the early post-Cold War was as bad as it right now).

Still, from Ukraine to Ferguson to ISIS in Iraq/Syria to Gaza to Ebola, this has been one shitty summer for news and also nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing. I think the current security threats are making many IR security folks feel as uneasy as the IPE folks felt during the 2008 recession. Since I kind of straddle different worlds, I worried then and I worry now.

In the midst of all this, we've at least had a ray of lightness and kindness which is the viral "IceBucket Challenge." I know some have scoffed at this act of slacktivism, but awareness and fundraising for ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) has gone way up. So, I say go out and dump ice on your head and donate money to a good cause. Relax, hug and kiss your kids, and let's hope cooler heads around the world prevail. F--k bad news. Some links below that capture some of the rough news.
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Ferguson and American Foreign Policy

by on 2014-08-16- Leave a reply

I see a connection between what is happening in Ferguson, the now roiling suburb of St. Louis, and American security policy. An odd connection to make at first glance, but stay with me. In the context of the important questions of institutionalized violence and race relations, it can be easy to overlook the ways in which how the US thinks about security policy are shaping the events on the ground. Let us start first with the most concrete or optical of influences, the equipment the police are using. As dozens of news outlets have reported, it is no coincidence that
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Thursday Linkage

Thursday Linkage

by on 2014-08-14- Leave a reply

Potpourri this week with Micah Zenko on the tendency for mission creep in humanitarian interventions and other U.S. military missions, Marc Lynch pushing back on whether arming the Syria rebels would have worked, story on ISIS' capture of the Mosul Dam and an interesting twist on water and security challenges, bad air in China (I'm shocked) and the challenges the country is finding tapping its shale gas reserves, and, finally, why the lead Sierra Leone doctor fighting Ebola didn't get the experiment treatment.
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Thinking About Governments and Violence

by on 2014-08-14- 1 Comment

I got into an extended twitter discussion about the 1992 LA riots.  Why?  Because that event helped to inform much of my thinking about ethnic conflict and because I see in Ferguson some key similarities despite the on-going events being about police aout of control rather than riots.  How so?

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Monstermind or the Doomsday Machine? Autonomous Cyberwarfare

Monstermind or the Doomsday Machine? Autonomous Cyberwarfare

by on 2014-08-13- Leave a reply

Today in Wired magazine, James Bamford published a seven-page story and interview with Edward Snowden. The interview is another unique look into the life and motivations of one of America’s most (in)famous whistleblowers; it is also another step in revealing the depth and technological capacity of the National Security Agency (NSA) to wage cyberwar. What is most disturbing about today’s revelations is not merely what it entails from a privacy perspective, which is certainly important, but from an international legal and moral perspective.   Snowden tells us that the NSA is utilizing a program called “Monstermind.” Monstermind automatically hunts “for the
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Friday Nerd Blogging: Stata and Death

by on 2014-08-08- Leave a reply

Fun post that sorts the patterns of life and death in Westeros and beyond.

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