The New Blitzkrieg, Part II

by on 2014-07-09- 1 Comment

isis convoyAs I wrote a few days ago, a new pattern of warfare is emerging in the Middle East and Africa. This “new blitzkrieg” isn’t really new, but it is asymmetric warfare at its best, pitting swarms of fast-moving, lightly armed fighters operating as a network against hidebound hierarchies of Western-trained and equipped “professional soldiers”. These state forces have a bad track record of crumbling under the tempo of swarming, networked attackers; and the only thing that has proven capable of stemming the tide is early airstrikes followed with a robust military “prop-up and mop-up” campaign, as demonstrated by French and African Union forces in Mali. The outcomes aren’t that great in any of the recent cases – but it’s much, much worse when any regional government has fallen to the non-state forces.
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Nearing the End of the World Cup Linkage

Nearing the End of the World Cup Linkage

by on 2014-07-09- Leave a reply

This might be might last football related post, what with the World Cup coming to a close and host country Brazil departing ignominiously from the competition by a margin of 7 to 1 in the semifinal against Germany. I've got a few football/Brazil related links for this week. I'm sitting on a goodly number of climate change and conservation related themes that I'll come back to in coming weeks.

I'm also aiming to write about restive criticism of President Obama's foreign policy, both by the usual suspects as well as some more unlikely folks like Peter Beinart. I'll leave that to a later post. In the meantime, what does Brazil's loss mean for Dilma Rousseff's re-election prospects? Why is that almost all the Brazil fans at the games appear to be white? Brazil's got a ton of water but Sao Paulo doesn't, what gives? At the end of the day, this is just a game, and with the deterioration of the situation in Israel, among other calamities, there are certainly some bigger issues looming.
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Obama’s New Landmine Policy: Change I Can Believe In, Tentatively

by on 2014-07-09- Leave a reply

This is a guest post by Matthew Bolton, Assistant professor of political science at Pace University and author of 
Foreign Aid and Landmine Clearance. He blogs at Political Minefields.

landmine-victimImagine never knowing whether your next step will be your last, whether your children are safe in the fields around your house, whether objects they find in the street are toys or deadly explosives. For people living where landmines lie in wait long after wars end, such frightening thoughts are daily realities.

“The humanitarian impact is heartbreaking,” said Kiman Lucas of Clear Path International, which assists landmine survivors. For almost two decades, US landmine policy has been at odds with NATO allies and in the uncomfortable company of Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Syria. “Everywhere I go,” Lucas told me, “people question why the US has not already joined the landmine ban treaty.”

But without much fanfare last week, representatives of the State Department announced subtle but crucial changes to the US government’s stance, distancing itself from the unilateral tone of Bush-era policy.
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The Collapse of the Status Quo in Israel.

by on 2014-07-09- 2 Comments

Just over a week ago – two days before the discovery of the bodies of the three abducted Israeli teenagers and four days before the abduction and revenge killing of Muhammed Abu Khdeir -- I sat in the family quarters of a young Palestinian shop owner in Jersusalem’s Old City sipping mint tea with two colleagues.  We met the young shop owner and his two cousins while bargaining over some textiles in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.  At the conclusion of the sale, they thanked us for a rigorous negotiation and invited us to their family quarters where they had a museum style display of textiles, rugs, and other artifacts that their family had collected in their 150+ years as shop owners in the Old City bazaar.

As we sat drinking our tea, we asked the young men about the political situation.
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Attempt to Depose University of Texas President

Attempt to Depose University of Texas President

by on 2014-07-07- Leave a reply

Over the July 4th weekend, UT System Chancellor Cigarroa demanded that UT President Bill Powers resign or be fired by July 10th. Bill Powers refused but offered a timetable to step-down. Supporters of the embattled president have launched a petition drive that now has nearly 8500 signatures. At stake is the future of higher education in the state of Texas and whether or not Texas values tier 1 research institutions. 
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The Politics of the Human Security Agenda

by on 2014-07-07- 1 Comment

lostcausesJust in time for you to head to the beach with a copy, my new book is now available from Cornell University Press.* As many of you know, this is the culmination of a my 6-year NSF-funded research project on why some human security problems get on the global agenda and others don't. The answer in a nutshell: it's all about what's going on within the advocacy networks. A teaser of the first chapter is here. A nice write-up by the Chronicle of Higher Education is here.

The book includes a longer version of the argument in this article, and three case studies on human security campaigns that I've followed and occasionally written about at the Duck - causes long championed by norm entrepreneurs but varying in their ability to gain traction on the global agenda:

  • 1) The campaign for a new norm providing compensation to collateral damage victims. This idea that civilian war victims should be compensated by the militaries that harm them was the brainchild of humanitarian legend Marla Ruzicka, and has been cultivated over the years by the Center for Civilian Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) since Marla's untimely death. Starting in 2007 I followed this group, documenting their efforts to get governments, generals, diplomats and humanitarian "gatekeepers" to take seriously the idea of "amends" for the lawful victims of military operations. Chapter Four tells that story up to 2011.
  • 2) The campaign to ban autonomous weapons. Roboticist Noel Sharkey, and his colleagues, have been promoting this idea since 2007, but it gained salience on the international stage in 2012 when Human Rights Watch picked up the issue and launched a report on the topic. Now it is a full-fledged global campaign. Chapter Five tells the story of how norm entrepreneurs sold this concept to humanitarian disarmament elites despite opposition from counter-norm-entrepreneurs, and learned the art of transnational advocacy unexpectedly along the way.
  • 3) The campaign to stop infant male circumcision. Although nearly three million baby boys are circumcised annually worldwide, often without anesthetic and primarily for cultural reasons, the practice has long been opposed by a grassroots transnational movement of health care practitioners, families, and children's rights advocates. The cause has nonetheless received short shrift from the human rights movement, as Deb DeLaet has documented. Chapter Six examines "intactivist" efforts and agenda-vetting by human rights organizations and explores reasons for inattention to this bodily integrity rights issue by powerful actors in the human rights network.

Each of these cases illustrates the broader argument: that norm entrepreneurs must market their causes through human security "hubs" in order to succeed, and that their chances of doing so depend on social ties between actors, issues and subcultures within global issue networks. But each also tells a fascinating story of social change agents on the global front-lines, and the work they do each day to make our world a better place, often against great odds.
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Welcome Ducklings!

by on 2014-07-05- 3 Comments

ducksOur periodic rotation of guest bloggers is underway. This season's newcomers:

1) Jarrod Hayes is Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and is the author of Constructing National Security: US Relations With India and China.  You may have seen his IO article on securitization, and his guest posts on nuclear policy, Crimea, the Arab Spring and other topics; and you probably know him as a long-time Duck reader and commenter as well. Jarrod is keen to blog on security, US / Asian foreign policy and climate change in between hiking, kayaking, and working on his house.

2) Tim Luecke is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at Ohio State University and the managing editor for International Theory. Tim's current research focuses on the concept of ‘political generations’ and its applications and explanatory value in International Relations. Other areas of expertise include German foreign policy, qualitative methods, and raising nine-year-old daughters. In his free time, he rock-climbs and is a Reggae and Drum and Bass DJ under the pseudonym “Troublemaka.”

3) Heather Roff-Perkins is Visiting Associate Professor at the Denver's Korbel School of International Studies and the author of Global Justice, Kant and the Responsibility to Protect. She specializes in just war theory, military technology, and has a particular interest in cyber-warfare. She blogs at Kantemplation and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. She also has expertise in raising toddlers and training dolphins for the US Navy.

4) Cynthia Weber is Professor of International Relations at University of Sussex in the UK and author of numerous book including Simulating Sovereignty and Faking It: US Hegemony in a Post Phallic Era.  She has written for OpenDemocracy and readers may recall her popular "PoliSciJobRumors" guest post at the Duck. She also directs.

Please issue them a warm welcome.
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Mental health of detained immigrant children

by on 2014-07-05- Leave a reply

sanantonioThe news of unaccompanied children and teens crossing the U.S. southern border circulated about two weeks ago, causing serious concern to many. The Obama administration announced that more family detention centers will be opened to detain the minors. Family detention centers have long been criticized on legal grounds, as Paul W. Schmidt’s excellent review outlines. Law scholar Anil Kalhan identifies, coercion, due processes violations, mandatory custody, and limited counsel as the most critical issues. An Amnesty International report tracing violations of human rights associated with immigration detention echoes these points.

The administration’s plan to open new facilities lead to a surge in criticism. A Human Rights Watch researcher, Clara Long, noted that immigrant detention facilities are prohibited under international law because they cause harm to children ranging “from anxiety and depression, to long-term cognitive damage.”

So what does the literature tells us about effects of detention on children’s mental health? Research on the mental health of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers appears relatively young, as Derrick Silove, Zach Steel and Charles Watters explain in a study  published in 2000. Yet there is increasing evidence that detention takes a toll on the mental health of adult and child immigrants. Porter and Haslam’s (2005) cross-national meta analysis showed that asylum seekers and displaced people experience a host of mental health problems and trauma, controlling for exposure to pre-migration trauma. In a 2006 study conducted with refugees in Australia, Steel et al. have observed that detention increased the risk of PTSD, depression, and mental-health related disability, [and] longer detention was associated with more severe mental disturbance.”
Studies indicate that detention has adverse short and long-term effects on the mental health of children. Steel and colleagues (2004) found that children’s likelihood of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and inability to cope increased ten times following detention. Mares et al. (2002) documented that children in detention experienced “dehumanization” and suffered from depression. And because their parents are often traumatized, detained children also lacked proper parental care and protection. Studies examining the mental health of immigrant children in Denmark, Britain, Canada, and the U.S. support these findings. As Robjant, Hassan, and Katona (2009)'s review shows detention not only harmed children’s mental health but also compromised their mental and physical development. Paralleling Lustig et al.’s (2004) findings on child and adolescence refugee mental health, Fazel, Reed, Panter-Brick, and Stein (2012) concluded that psychological and behavioral problems are likely to continue even after immigrant children resettle in the receiving country.
Whether  or not detaining the children crossing our southern border is a necessary evil to address the current crisis, it is critical to extend them a “helping hand.” Importantly, we need to provide them access to clinical care and give them their agency back as Christopher Nugent argues. These children after all are “not a sack of potatoes” to quote Jacqueline Bhadba.

image: Breitbart Texas

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Friday Nerd Blogging: Independence Day Edition

by on 2014-07-04- Leave a reply

Silly sci-fi covered in patriotism sauce?  There can be only one speech we can post here:

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The New Blitzkrieg

by on 2014-07-03- 3 Comments

A new version of maneuver warfare is being utilized mainly by Islamic fundamentalist forces to seize territory from government forces trained, equipped and organized along the Western model.

This “new blitzkrieg” relies on lightly armed fighters mounted on “technicals” – 4x4 trucks with heavy machine-guns, light cannons, or automatic grenade launchers mounted on the vehicle. Here are some key factors we should be thinking about in order to potentially combat these forces in the future.
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An Open Letter from the New DGS

by on 2014-07-02- 11 Comments

Greetings, PhD Class of 2019.  Welcome.   We are excited for your arrival on campus later this summer.  As you enjoy your summer, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write you with some advice for your next adventure.  My comments are just based on my personal experiences but I thought maybe they would be of use to you as you start your PhD.

My first set of comments all revolve around one basic point: this isn’t an extension of undergrad.  The early course work you do in preparation for your PhD should be thought of as something completely different from your past experiences.  Even though the campus might look like your undergrad institution, even though there might be a football team and drink specials on Thursday nights – your days as a high-achieving undergrad are over.  For some of you, you might be 10 or 20 years post-undergrad. You might have multiple master’s degrees and real-world experience.  For others, you might have graduated just this summer.  For everyone, however, graduate school - at this program – is just beginning.  There are going to be lots of differences from your past experiences.  Let me highlight a few:

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Call For Proposals on “The Future of Global Security (Studies)”

by on 2014-07-02- Leave a reply

Last Spring the International Studies Association approved a new ISA journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies. I am normally pretty sanguine about new journals in the discipline but in this case I feel genuine excitement. Why? Because JOGSS is not just another outlet for scholarship but is actively positioning itself institutionally to cultivate much-needed bridges and conversation across divides within the sub-field:

"The mission of JOGSS is to publish first-rate work from across the entire range of methodological, epistemological, theoretical, normative, and empirical concerns reflected in the field of global security studies and, more importantly, encourage dialogue, engagement, and conversation across different parts of the field."

This is important because security studies scholarship has long been siloed in a number of blocs, all largely ignoring one another. By contrast, JOGSS would put these different takes on "security" in dialogue, bringing together conventional rationalist approaches on great power politics with critical human security studies and everything in between.

This effort is reflected in the journal's first call for proposals, which was released today to the ISA membership and is excerpted below the fold. An early special issue on "The Future of Security Studies" is envisioned, with papers cultivated through a workshop process. It's a great opportunity for students or more advanced scholars interested in the direction in which our sub-field is headed. I hope many Duck readers will consider submitting!
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Putin is Losing the Current Round of the Ukraine Crisis

by on 2014-07-01- Leave a reply


If only present day global competition were confined to the World Cup. But while eyes have turned back to a new crisis in Iraq—something I’m not exactly proud of predicting here—at least there has been progress on the Ukraine crisis, which has gone from boil to simmer in recent weeks. At this stage it has become clear that Russia has blinked, and thus will not be swallowing eastern Ukraine whole. Just as important, we now have clear as day evidence that President Putin’s gambit has failed:  Ukraine has not only signed the EU trade agreement that former President Yanukovych walked away from—sparking the crisis in the first place—newly elected President Petro Poroshenko formally asked the EU to open membership negotiations with his government. In other words Msr. Putin may have purloined Crimea, but he has lost Ukraine proper.

Strategically speaking, it matters less that the EU is no longer as rosy about bringing Ukraine fully into its membership fold. After all, previously doing so was one of the major causes of the now receding crisis. It is more important that the EU signed precisely the same trade deal, with the very ink pen that Yanukovych would have used had he gone through with it last year. More important still is the fact that Ukraine continues to tilt west not east, and in landslide public opinion terms. Not only did Poroshenko achieve an electoral landslide, but there even remains a majority of citizens in eastern Ukraine that do not want to be part of Russia.

But the EU has also done something it previously had not:  it threatened that a new round of much more punitive sanctions would be levied against Russia if it did not stop destabilizing eastern Ukraine by sending in mercenaries, ammunition, and major military equipment in continual violation of Ukraine’s porous border—this time with a deadline.  Defying a host of predictions both in Europe and back in the U.S., German Chancellor Merkel has actually stepped up to begin providing forceful strategic leadership. The U.S. is also preparing a new more punitive round of sanctions. And Putin has foresworn any direct use of force after—blink—pulling the 40,000 Russian troops back from the border.

Predictably, however, at present the negotiations that were underway to extend the ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia—brokered by France, Germany, and the OSCE—have broken down. Poroshenko has rescinded the ceasefire, claiming rightfully that the Russofile separatists have not adhered to it (despite surprising analysts by agreeing to it in the first place). If the Ukrainian military were to make any gains in the fighting, this would lead to additional leverage at the negotiating table—which Russia is already calling for a return to. More importantly, the failure of the ceasefire at this precise point may in fact be good thing. For it will compel the EU and the U.S. to follow through on their sanctions threat, which they may have backed away from had the ceasefire lasted. More spine stiffening in the West is a good thing, something this entire crisis has in fact been good for.
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ISA – Midwest: Please consider submitting to this conference!

by on 2014-06-30- 1 Comment

Please consider putting in a round-table, paper, or panel submission for the 2014 International Studies Association -Midwest Conference, to be held November 7th through the 9th at the Hilton-Ballpark in St. Louis.  The deadline for proposals is July 1st.

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Belabored Belated Thursday Football Linkage

Belabored Belated Thursday Football Linkage

by on 2014-06-27- 1 Comment

I'm back from Brazil and resurfacing with many story ideas from my recent adventures. In the meantime, if you are like me, you have soccer on the brain and are getting your head around yesterday's winning loss to Germany by the U.S. team.

I'll make a tangential attempt to make a linkage to international politics, which is rather easy when you see the scope of money involved in building the stadiums in Brazil, the threats of player work stoppages, particularly by African teams, for failure to pay appearance fees, and the outlandish price of Neymar's new shoes for Nike. Here is what I've been reading that connects soccer to international politics:

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Intervention and the Prospects for Power-Sharing in Iraq

by on 2014-06-27- Leave a reply

This is a guest post by Philip Martin, PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, columnist David Brooks advises a U.S. approach to Iraq which uses military force to arm-twist Iraqi elites into forming an inclusive new government, since “if you get the political elites behaving decently, you can avoid the worst.” At Political Violence @ a Glance, Barbara Walter also argues in favor of a negotiated settlement based on power-sharing as the optimal solution to Iraq’s current political fragmentation, an outcome that will supposedly “become increasingly attractive to everyone as the costs and risks of war increase.”

It is true that if moderate elites had more power in Iraq this would reduce the intensity of the country’s domestic political violence; it is less clear, however, that another power-sharing coalition government brokered by foreign interveners is an effective means to this end. For the last decade or more, scholars and practitioners have advocated for inclusivity, integration and power-sharing as the principal solution to the problem of civil war termination, expecting that these arrangements can reassure combatant groups of their participation in the post-war distribution of power, and eventually establish a cooperative model of governance which builds trust and moderation. Yet empirical research on foreign-imposed regimes and the determinants of peace agreement success provides little optimism about the likely effectiveness of these institutional arrangements.
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Friday Nerd Blogging

by on 2014-06-27- Leave a reply

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Sex, Bugs and Violence on Game of Thrones’ Epic Fourth Season

by on 2014-06-25- 2 Comments

aryasailsIn the same weekend that parents around the nation watched their high-school and college students graduate and spread their wings for brighter shores, Game of Thrones served us up a season finale that was both about passages out of childhood, and about the shadow of parent-child relationships that follow people into their young-adulthoods.

Similarly, it is safe to say Game of Thrones as a series came of age this season in its richness and complexity (while making mistakes along the way and learning from them). I don't only mean the characters: Sansa Stark, who mid-season vaulted unexpectedly from girlish frailty to saucy, empowered womanhood; Daenerys Targaryen, who has gone from single-minded teen mother-of-cute-baby-dragons to a seasoned parent setting painful boundaries with her children (albeit inexpertly), and ejecting her surrogate father along the way; boy-king Tommen Barratheon, who has lost a brother, secured a fiance and assumed the throne all in a few weeks; Tyrion Lannister, who finally closed the door on his Daddy-issues; Arya Stark, who abandoned her de facto and would-be keepers and put the rudder to home and hearth in the majestic final moments of the season. And I don't only refer to the way whatever leftover innocence we may have had as an audience has been increasingly shaken this season by the show-runners' tricking us into cheering at the death of children or forcing us to confront the fact that honorable men can also be rapists.

Mostly what I mean is that the sprawling arc of the show is gradually, inexorably fulfilling the germ of its promise in the series' opening scenes, maturing into the story it was born to be: a story of climate insecurity overlooked by the machinations of state-centric power politics. This was the tale Martin always meant to spin, this was where the series has been heading, and this arc has been intentionally dormant amidst the childish dramas of Westeros and Essos. In the season finale, the wildlings emerge as climate refugees; we are introduced to the Children of the Forest (synechdoche for indigenous populations and deep ecology); we are reminded that here be giants. If Game of Thrones is a metaphor for real-world politics, and if the metaphor is about global affairs instead of domestic politics, then it seems less like a story about Westphalian statebuilding and more like a 21st century metaphor for our frog civilization boiling in its hot, carbon-baked planetary pot. But I also refer to a few key moments in the show that tell us something about how the show is maturing, albeit imperfectly.

I have not blogged episode-by-episode about GoT this Spring (for that you can always follow Scott Eric Kaufman, Alyssa Rosenberg or Laura Hudson). But with the season now wrapped up, I do want to offer my take for what it's worth on three of the season's biggest moments. By big, I don't mean best (though one tops my list) nor most controversial (though one probably counts) nor most important to the plot (really, how can we pick among twists? [non-book-fan SPOILER alert: the last twist from Storm of Swords at that link has not yet been revealed on the show.) Rather these are the scenes that made me, as a book fan, along with a significant portion of the Internet, stop and go some combination of "huh" and "um..." Here are my readings on what they meant and why they matter:
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Is All of This Focus on Transitional Justice Really Worth It?

by on 2014-06-23- 2 Comments

[Note:  This is a guest post by Geoffrey Dancy, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Tulane University]

Nearly every civil war negotiation or democratic revolution is now accompanied by a consideration of how to publicly address previous human rights abuses—what practitioners refer to as transitional justice.

Over the last week, Juan Manuel Santos was narrowly reelected president in Colombia on a peace platform. His government must now move forward with a fourth round of negotiations with FARC rebels. Having already tackled land reform, political rights, and the drug trade, this round will involve discussion over the “transitional justice framework,” and must resolve a series of thorny issues like victims’ rights to reparation. Most importantly, the government and rebels will have to address the controversy over whether individual combatants will receive prison time for the many human rights violations they committed during the 50-year-long war. The issue of justice is especially salient following the recent ‘false positives’ scandal--where it was discovered that government security forces over the last decade rounded up and murdered thousands of young men from slums, dressed them as guerillas, and presented their kills to authorities for reward.

Colombia is not an isolated case. 
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Obama and ISIL

by on 2014-06-21- Leave a reply

President Obama announced that the U.S. will send up to 300 military advisors to assist the Iraqis in the fight against the Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, but there will be no American troops on the ground and no air strikes for now. “Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis” said Obama, urging Iraqi leaders to find a solution. Since the Iraqi foreign minister formally asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes against ISIL, analysts have been debating what airstrikes may and may not accomplish. On the lawfare, just security,
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