Something extraordinary happened in Europe this week. Enrico Letta, Italy's Prime Minister nominee, upon being tapped to form the next government made a bold press conference announcement that his primary objective upon taking office will be to end Italy's austerity program and join other leaders calling for an end to austerity across Europe. Presto! The bond markets did not go berserk. Contrary to wide expectations, instead of punishing Italy investors remained calm and did not proceed to increase its borrowing costs. And voila, the euro crisis has come to an end.
News also spread like wildfire this week about the notorious austerity paper scandal. An academic paper by the well regarded economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, which has been used by policymakers far and wide to justify their fiscal retrenchment, has been discredited. Among other high profile examples, EU Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn gave several prominent speeches in the early stages of the crisis explicitly basing European austerity programs on their work.
The International Criminal Court is often accused of being “political” or “politicized” in its selection of situations and cases. What has become most problematic for the Court’s credibility and impartiality in this regard are the situations and cases that have not been selected, and the criteria and discourse used to justify such omissions and imbalanced prosecutions. Specifically, the “gravity threshold,” which the OTP uses to justify who is prosecuted and who isn’t, is politically problematic for the ICC. Prosecutorial strategies that target only one side of a conflict are frequently justified in terms of gravity – that the crimes of some individuals are graver than their opposing parties,.
I suggest there are two political problems with the gravity threshold in case selection.
1) Assessing the gravity of one party’s or individual’s crimes relative to their opponents is ethically and politically problematic. This approach ultimately results in the ICC's de facto support of one side of the conflict over another and perpetuates impunity gaps at the international and domestic level.
2) While atrocity crimes can be ranked, scaled, and compared across parties and perpetrators, no victim can be considered less victimized or less deserving of justice than another. To date, the manner in which the gravity threshold has been operationalized is an affront to victims and is likely to erode the ICC’s legitimacy among this important constituency.
It has been a week or two since we have FNB-ed. After last week's events, we could use some extra silliness:
There is so much criticism of the academic enterprise these days, asserting that professors are too focused on research and not enough on teaching and not enough on relevance to the policy world. These critiques are hardly new, but bear more weight in a time of austerity. It is easy to point to some work that seems hardly relevant and some professors who seem least interested in engaging the “real world,” but I am constantly reminded of the opposite—professors who become deeply engaged in policy-making one way or another.
If last's week Thursday morning linkage was Africa-themed, this week's links are China-related and inevitably harken back to the events in Boston:
- Laurie Garrett, as she is wont to do, wonders if this recent bird flu outbreak in China is "the big one"
- Beijing air is so bad they are canceling recess, kids at grave risk
- Oh, and Shanghai air sucks too
- China's shale gas revolution has yet to begin (Armond Cohen thinks it will take too long to take off)
- Japanese tree die-off blamed on air pollution from China
- New bilateral effort between U.S. and China to address climate change
- Chinese demand for fish bladder for soup
Note: this is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts opening up issues relating to journal process for general discussion by the international-studies community.
Although many readers already know the relevant information, let me preface this post with some context. I am the incoming lead editor of International Studies Quarterly (ISQ), which is one of the journals in the International Studies Association family of publications. We are planning, with PTJ leading the effort, some interesting steps with respect to online content, social media, and e-journal integration--but those will be the subject of a later post. I have also been rather critical of the peer-review process and of the fact that we don't study it very much in International Relations.
The fact is that ISQ by itself--let alone the collection of ISA journals and the broader community of cognate peer-reviewed publications--is sitting on a great deal of data about the process. Some of this data, such as the categories of submissions, is already in the electronic submission systems--but it isn't terribly standardized. Many journals now collect information about whether a piece includes a female author. Given some indications of subtle, and consequential, gender bias, we have strong incentives to collect this kind of data.
But what, exactly, should we be collecting?
In other words, the focus now should be on the Tsarnaevs as homegrown terrorists, not on the ethnic or regional origins of their family. Journalists’ initial conversations with family members in Dagestan amplify that point: a sense of shock that two nice boys who had gone to America for their education could have been involved in such a brutal act. Dzhokhar, for example, was reportedly a successful student and championship wrestler in Cambridge, Massachusetts—hardly the typical foreign jihadist. People with family roots in the Caucasus are often perceived in Russia and elsewhere as inherently rebellious and conflict-prone, a line of thinking that has deep roots in Russian culture. That imagery still affects how street crime is reported in Moscow, how Russian security services target people they believe to be potential terrorists, and how Russia’s own often brutal “anti-terrorist operations” play out in the towns and villages of places such as Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, and other republics of the north Caucasus that are little known in the West. The sad truth is that the scenes in Boston early this morning—with SWAT teams in full battle gear, a shootout on the street, and an alleged suspect perhaps wearing an explosive vest or other suicide device—are all too typical in the north Caucasus itself. The difference is that in Russia, these operations are sometimes little more than assassination missions, designed to target alleged terrorists on only the flimsiest of evidence. That is obviously not the case in Boston. But speculating about the brothers’ ethnic origins plays into the worst stereotypes that have bedeviled attempts to bring peace, stability, and good governance to Russia’s southern borderlands.
Boston on lockdown. One suspect dead. One--apparently a CRLS graduate--still at large. The fact is that we still don't have adequate information for much in the way of meaningful speculation. But I do think it useful to call attention to three related issues:
The Yale H. Ferguson Book Award
The Yale H. Ferguson award, presented by International Studies Association-Northeast, recognizes the book that most advances the vibrancy of international studies as a pluralist discipline. Any book or edited volume published within the field of international studies in the previous calendar year is eligible for consideration. The award winner is selected based on two criteria: (1) that it makes an outstanding contributions to concept-formation, theoretical analysis, or methodological issues in the study of world politics; and (2) that it contributes to the status of international studies as an intellectually pluralist field.
Nominations should be emailed to the committee chair accompanied by a brief letter explaining why a work deserves consideration for the award. Authors may nominate themselves. A copy of each book must be sent to each member of the committee, with the line “Yale H. Ferguson Award, c/o” at the top of each address. Nominations are due by May 15, 2013 and books must be received by May 31, 2013.
Members of the award committee, as well as the current program chair for ISA-NE, are ineligible for the award.
With the increased likelihood that Assad will fall, even were he to hang on until a Gaddafi-style bitter end, pressure is mounting on the U.S., Europe, and Turkey inter alia to come up with a game plan for the post-endgame. The good news is progress is rapidly being made: stepped up aid from the U.S., aid from Europe, intelligence sharing among Turkey-Jordan-US-Europe, and direct training of Syrian opposition forces.
All of this may be enough to tip the balance against the Assad regime, leading to its end sooner rather than later. But it is not nearly enough to handle the widely expected chaos once the endgame is reached. What about playing the Russia card? The greatest fear is that extremist al-Qaeda affiliated groups will get their hands on a variety of weapons caches in the capital and elsewhere, let alone a full-blown civil war that would seriously destabilize the entire region. Special forces from the aforementioned countries will be needed, but they will likely be operating in an incredibly volatile if not thoroughly unstable environment.
Because we don't know enough to engage in anything resembling responsible commentary.
And those things that we can say something worthwhile about--including comparisons with other terrorist attacks past and present, such as what happened on the same day in Iraq; and the socio-political dynamics of the US response so far--don't exactly demand my input.
I think my toaster has more computing power than that guidance system…
I think one of the most interesting findings in all of international relations scholarship is that the disproportionate share of conflict in the international system is comprised of a few dyads fighting over and over, what are known as “enduring rivalries.” These are highly emotional conflicts in which countries are found to fight because they have fought before, not because of the presence of some tangible and intractable conflict of interest.
I avoided this work for a long, long time for a number of reasons. First, “rivalries” is a terrible, terrible moniker for what is being described and it made me not take it seriously. Rivalries sounds like Yankees-Red Sox. In reality these are at the very least like Manchester City/Manchester United in which fans actually hurt each other. Second, the enduring rivalries crowd does a really bad job drawing the consequences of their findings for international relations theory, I suspect due to the research tradition’s roots in peace research in which numbers and pushing the research agenda step by step are favored over grand theoretical statements. That is unfortunate because there is an enormous implication here. The international system is not conflict-prone due to anarchy. The international system does not really have a character at all. If it does it is mostly peaceful. Realists draw excessive conclusions from micro-level conflicts that have their own unique origins.
I think readers will be sad to hear, therefore, that I think I am in enduring rivalry with my next-door neighbors. Or if they do rational choice work or study Africa, perhaps they will be happy. Either way, let me explain.