foreign policy

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
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Germany: Beyond Its History, Again

by on 2014-07-19- 1 Comment

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Germany won the World Cup in soccer, demonstrating to all that its team truly is the best in the world. The German players and coaches were dominant, dispatching a succession of opponents with near masterly strategy and skill—including a historic drubbing of the overwhelming local favorite Brazil, expected by many to emerge with a symbolic victory for the host country. Instead, the Germans beat them handily at home, before going on to prevent Argentina from denying them from an even more symbolic victory of their own.

A massive celebration immediately ensued across Germany, among Germans the world over, and vast throngs that were cheering them on for the World Cup victory they achieved in grand style. Strangely however, not all Germans were among the jubilant. In fact, a sizable minority of Germans remain uncomfortable with such a widespread and vibrant display of patriotism. The weight of history remains staunch, so much so that some of this ilk have publicly called for banning the display of German flags in public. It is an odd phenomenon, to say the least.

For don’t Germans deserve at long last to be proud, and unreservedly so; in fact, doesn’t Germany deserve to be treated like—and become again—a normal country? After all, the horrors of World War II took place more than half a century ago. Successive German generations have grown up in a culture of collective guilt, in which the vestiges of pride and patriotism were purposely kept out of reach. But Germany long ago has paid its debts, with memorials to the holocaust strewn across the country and decade after decade of responsibility displayed on the European and world stages by every Chancellor since Konrad Adenauer in the name of everyone that elected them.
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Will the markets tame Russia?

Will the markets tame Russia?

by on 2014-03-03- 2 Comments

I don't have an answer for this, as I'm not sure how globally integrated Russia is in to the world economy at this juncture or vulnerable given its fossil fuel resources, but I see that the Russian stockmarket declined this morning as has the value of the ruble.

I know Russia experienced significant economic crises in the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union that made it dependent on IMF support, but my sense is that the resurgence of the country's petro economy bolstered its international economic position. That said, I wonder if the markets can tame Putin in a way that politicians can't. My bet is that if Putin is willing to tolerate high costs, then no, but I'd welcome our readers with more regional knowledge to weigh in. 
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Cyber Spillover: The Transition from Cyber Incident to Conventional Foreign Policy Dispute

by on 2014-02-27- Leave a reply

*Post written with my coauthor Ryan Maness.  We are currently rounding the corner and almost ready to submit the final version of our Cyber Conflict book.  This post represents ongoing research as we fill out unanswered questions in our text.

My coauthor and I have dissected the contemporary nature of cyber conflict in many ways, from cataloging all actual cyber incidents and disputes between states, to examining cyber espionage, and finally, examining the impact of cyber incidents on the conflict-cooperation nexus of states.  What we have not done until now is examine the nature of what we call cyber spillover.  duck read 2

Cyber spillover is when cyber conflicts seep and bleed into traditional arena of militarized and foreign policy conflict.  While it is dubious to claim that the cyber domain is disconnected from the physical domain given that cyber technology has to be housed somewhere, it is also true that there are very few incidents of cyber actions causing physical damage (the only case being Stuxnet).  Our question is not about the transition from cyber to physical, but when cyber disagreements lead directly to conventional foreign policy disputes between states, thus altering how international interactions work.

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Cutting arms and tying hands?

by on 2014-02-25- 5 Comments

Post by Steven Ward and Paul Musgrave

The Obama administration’s plans to shrink the U.S. military attracted intense media attention yesterday. The plan is being described as a maneuver to shift the United States’s defense posture away from protracted occupations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and toward a more conventional deterrence role.

It’s easy to exaggerate the scale of the changes to the military budget. In particular, the soundbite that the post-cut U.S. Army will be the smallest since before the Second World War is seriously misleading. According to the Historical Statistics of the United States database, in 1940, the U.S. Army had 269,023 personnel--but that total included the Army Air Corps. On December 31, 2013, the U.S. Air Force by itself had 325,952 active duty personnel. Under any plausible scenario, the USAF will continue to outnumber the prewar U.S. Army handily. Similarly, after the force cuts, the U.S. Army will have about 440,000 active duty personnel, while the Marines will have nearly 10 times their 1939 active-duty personnel level. (And none of these figures, of course, include the reserves, the National Guard, civilian personnel, contractors, or any other part of the post-Second World War U.S. military establishment.) The smallest-since-1940 number, like Mitt Romney’s campaign charge that the U.S. Navy was “smaller than it’s been since 1917”, is technically true but hardly informative. Perhaps more important, given the vast increases in U.S. military expenditures over the past fifteen years, the U.S. can make significant cuts to its military spending while remaining the world’s leading military power by any meaningful metric.

Nevertheless, whenever a great power decides to reshape its military, IR scholars should wonder what’s going on.

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Cyber Events Data and Foreign Policy Reactions

by on 2013-07-24- 3 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ryan C. Maness of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Brandon Valeriano of the University of Glasgow.

In the rush to note the changing face of the battlefield, few scholars have actually examined the impact of cyber conflict on foreign policy dynamics. Instead most studies are of a hyperbolic nature that suggests the wide ranging impact of cyber conflict on daily social and military life. Here we attempt to cut through the bluff and bluster to examine exactly what happens between countries when cyber conflict is utilized as a foreign policy choice using week events data.

In our previous work we noted that while cyber conflict is proliferating, the level of attacks remains minimal when compared to actual state capabilities and general expectations. Using our dataset of cyber incidents and disputes, we measure the level of conflict and cooperation observed after a cyber incident and dispute to understand the true impact of this new tactic on foreign policy dynamics.

Our work on cyber conflict focuses on rivals which are basically active and historic enemies. It would be thought that during a rivalry, a situation of constant and historic animosity exists, a state will do all it can to harm the other side. If a rival uses a cyber operation to harm its enemy, the likely response should be characterized by further conflictual relations. We therefore expect that cyber incidents and disputes will lead to an escalation of hostility between rivals.
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Magical Thinking in the Sahel

by on 2013-01-16- Leave a reply

This time last week, international intervention plans in Mali consisted of a rather under-powered African (ECOWAS) force, which was expected to arrive no earlier than September.  This force was not backed by overpowering consensus. Nigeria and Mauritania, the two best-equipped militaries in the region, were reluctant to pledge serious troops. The United States insisted that free and fair presidential elections must precede any international intervention, even after a December coup rendered this unrealistic.  And the Malian government itself seemed an obstacle.  The December coup signaled the resurgence of hardliners within the junta, who claimed that the Malian military – broken and demoralized as it was – could deal with northern insurgents on its own.  Tweets out of Mali (and even statements in the press) took a nationalist turn, and international intervention, even by an African force, began to seem fraught.

And now, seven days later, we’re in a brand new world.*

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Nobody cares about foreign policy

by on 2013-01-15- 8 Comments

It bears repeating that nobody votes on foreign policy, and most folks don't know anything about it anyway (remember that a nontrivial number of Americans think South Korea is our greatest enemy). I'll quote myself:

[N]obody gives a damn about foreign policy. Theories of democratic responsiveness and empirical models of foreign policy choice need to begin with this fact. Nobody cares! That thing we do? The international relations bit? It's somewhat less important than professional bowling or HGTV. [Americans] only care about security--and their understanding of that is about as sophisticated as the Toby Keith song about the Statue of Liberty. ...

[O]ur brilliant little theories about how voters express their desires over foreign policy rest on the idea that voters have some utility over foreign-policy choices. That, in turn, may also be flatly wrong. When voters vote, their choices are likely wholly driven by domestic factors. If that's the case, there's no residual term--foreign-policy voting is in the error term. This means that foreign policy should be relatively unconstrained, both ideologically (except among a very few elites) and in its implementation (because nobody cares).

I make the same point more diplomatically and, at much greater length, in my dissertation. I should note that the professional bowling jest was an exaggeration, but foreign affairs is demonstrably less important to voting behavior than college football (e.g., e.g.. I also point out that sometimes it's okay to exaggerate for rhetorical effect.

Below the fold, I adduce new evidence that even the Council on Foreign Relations is somewhat ambivalent about foreign policy.

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Podcast No. 17: Interview with Iver Neumann

by on 2013-01-04- 1 Comment

Iver NeumannThe seventeenth Duck of Minerva podcast features Iver Neumann of the London School of Economics. Professor Neumann discusses his intellectual and educational background and a small part of his copious academic output. Topics incude post-structuralism, policy engagement, the practice turn, popular culture and politics, and the Mongols.

I should reiterate important change to procedures. From now on, the Minervacast feed will host mp3 versions of the podcasts. The whiteoliphaunt feed will host m4a versions of the podcast. Unless I hear otherwise, we will continue this approach into the foreseeable future. I've heard of output problems on the mp3 versions, but I can't reproduce

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Why Does John McCain Hate Susan Rice? Republicans and Benghazi

by on 2012-11-22- 6 Comments

I've been curious why John McCain is pursuing Susan Rice with such a vengeance for her inopportune remarks on Sunday talk shows in September about the not-so spontaneous attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. As I think about other prospective nominees to lead the State Department like John Kerry, John McCain actually has more in common with Ambassador Rice.

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The Difference Parties Don’t Make?

by on 2012-10-21- 5 Comments

To the best of my knowledge, no prominent peer-reviewed article in political science has reported a difference in the frequency with which the United States
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VP Debate once again tells the World that all We care about is the Middle East

by on 2012-10-16- 1 Comment


Yes, it’s partisan, but it’s a somewhat useful deconstruction

First, I included the above video to reference a point I tried to make earlier – that Romney flip-flopped so much in the first debate that I no longer have any idea what he thinks about the big issues of campaign. I just wish I knew wth Romney wants to do with the presidency. There has to be some purpose, some reason to vote for him, and I can’t find it. Someone tell me in a few coherent, specifics-laden paragraphs why I should vote for him? Not why Obama is a bad president – I know that already – but why Romney should be president. Honestly, I don’t know, which makes his presidential run look like a vanity project or something.

Second, did anyone else think that the vice-presidential debate once again broadcast to the world that our foreign policy is dominated by the Middle East? It was all about Iran, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan. Obviously, these are all important places and issues. But it doesn’t take a lot of foreign policy training to know that Russia’s ever-more erratic course under Czar Putin, a possible euro-EU meltdown, or China are a lot more important to the US’ future than a bunch of small, poor fractured states in the Middle East. But no, let’s argue once again about Israel, Iran, terrorism, Iraq…  Good grief. There are other issues out there…

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How did he screw this up so badly?

by on 2012-09-13- 9 Comments

I don't really want to pile on, but the question for me is: how does a major presidential candidate in the 21st century (and a
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Why Ferguson’s Newsweek Blather was Even Dumber than you Realized

by on 2012-08-22- Leave a reply

Most of the attention paid to Ferguson's anti-Obama Newsweek cover story has focused on his mendacious and unprofessional discussion of the administration's domestic policies --
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Should Romney Talk More About Foreign Policy?

by on 2012-07-14- Leave a reply

In these summer months while we wait for the Olympics to start and for Romney to pick his VP candidate, the foreign policy cognoscenti has
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Let’s (Keep) Talking About Sex

by on 2012-06-19- Leave a reply

Foreign Policy just published its latest issue online. The letters section includes a response that expands on my earlier blog post calling the recent "Sex"
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America’s ‘Exorbitant Privilege’ means it can Borrow to Sustain Hegemony Longer than Anyone Ever Expected

by on 2012-06-07- Leave a reply

Two of my posts this week (one, two) on hypothetical retrenchment under Ron Paul got a lot of traffic and comments. (H/t to Stephen Walt
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FP Issue is More Teenage Pop Mag than ‘Sex’ Issue

by on 2012-04-27- 2 Comments

After reading the FP special 'sex' issue this week I had the strangest feeling. It was like I woke up and it was 1991 and
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“Seriously, Guys!”: How (Not) to Write About Gender and Foreign Affairs

by on 2012-04-26- 6 Comments

Photo courtesy of Conflict CupcakeTo be fair, despite all the criticism, Foreign Policy's "Sex Issue" got a few things right. For an all-too rare moment,
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The US will not ‘Pivot’ much to Asia (3): We can’t afford it

by on 2012-03-15- 2 Comments

Here are parts one and two, where I argued that there is no constituency in the US for the pivot, and that Asia is so
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