From 1997 to 1999, I served in the Peace Corps in the Andean country of Ecuador. Ecuador is rich with contrasts. With the Galapagos, the Andes, and parts of the Amazon, the country possesses stunning natural beauty. The people have an incredible generosity of spirit, yet the country is riven by racial and regional differences. Until recently, high oil prices papered over some of these differences, but the president, Rafael Correa, is a left wing populist in the tradition of Hugo Chavez. He has taken to castigating his domestic on-line critics through television naming and shaming efforts that are unbecoming for a head of state. John Oliver has a wildly funny take-down of Correa’s pompous self-importance, which prompted a vigorous response from Correa (some calling it an “international incident”) and another round of humor from Oliver. The original video is hilarious and worth a watch (I’m not sure if embedding worked on this video so here is the link here though I think clicking on the screenshot below will work).
John Oliver’s take-down of Ecuador’s mercurial president is hysterical, but the next video by Peace Corps volunteer Kyle King is extraordinary. Kyle created this video with Peace Corps Week approaching as a way to honor his counterpart host family, capturing their tremendous grace and humor but also the hardships and tragedies that families endure. It’s hard to talk about the video without sounding maudlin, but I found it to be really powerful film-making and brought back so many memories of my own Peace Corps experience.
We gave out the Online Achievement in International Studies (OAIS) a.k.a. the Duckies, Thursday night, in a wonderful reception sponsored by SAGE. Given that this is Oscar night, we should say that there are no winners, just that the Duckies went to:
Yesterday at ISA, I participated on a panel on technology and international security. One of the topics addressed was the “successfulness” of the Obama administration’s decapitation/targeted killing strategy of terrorist leaders through unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones.” The question of success, however, got me to thinking. Success was described as the military effectiveness of the strikes, but this to me seems rather wrongheaded. For if something is militarily effective, then is so in relation to a military objective.
What is a military objective? Shortly, those objects that “by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to the military action and whose partial or total destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.” One may only target legitimate military objectives with permissible means. But even this requires knowing what the military advantage will be, and as such, requires a clear and identifiable strategy.
Welcome to sunny and warm New Orleans (or at least sunnier and warmer than wherever most of us have come from!). If you are stepping away from conferencing for a bit, here are a few good reads on the security front. I’ll likely come back in the new few days with one on energy/environment and health. Here I link to work from Alan Kuperman, Jay Ulfelder, Phil Hazlewood, Paul Staniland, and Graeme Wood, covering Libya, body counts, insurgencies, and ISIS. Enjoy. Continue reading
Yesterday, the Governing Council met for 17 days and nights …. or about six hours to discuss the various issues on the agenda. I will not get into the details of the meeting (I live-tweeted the highlights). The key bits of news are this:
I learned how to do emoji on my Ipad.
The blogging issue from last year produced a report by the Professional Responsibilities committee, and the recommendations which became policy essentially said that we ought to expect everyone to be professional and treat each other with respect and dignity.
This applies to not just ISA journal editors who were the focus last year.
They deliberately chose not to ask bloggers to put disclaimers on their blogs since everyone would have to be disclaiming pretty much everything they do.
A clear win for the social media folks.
The Online Media Caucus sailed through. Through a clever bit of agenda-setting that I had nothing to do with, it was the penultimate issue considered and exhaustion was our friend. So, come to the business meeting on Saturday at 12:30 in the Hilton’s Elmwood room as well as the Duckies Thursday night at 7:30pm at the Quarterdeck rooms in the Hilton
This is a guest post from Brian J. Phillips who is a research professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City.
A number of studies in recent years have systematically examined terrorist groups, exploring lethality, longevity, and other outcomes. However, much of this research does not explicitly indicate what it means by a “terrorist group.” When definitions are offered, they differ considerably. These differences have empirical implications and matter for how we think about terrorism. Continue reading
The annual meeting of the International Studies Association kicks off on Tuesday and runs through Saturday, Feb 17th-21st. The program is chock full of all kinds of IR. Of course, there is much to do and see during and after Mardi Gras in New Orleans beyond the panels. Using my power here as Duck-ster, let me point out a few ones that you might want to consider attending/joining:
In an effort to work smarter, I’ve been looking into different time management techniques and tips. Most of the tips you can find in the literature or from self-help gurus seem to be things I think a lot of academics are doing anyway: prioritize your day, limit distractions, set a word count goal, beware of perfection-seeking (“the only good dissertation is a done dissertation”). Unfortunately, these techniques were not good enough for me this semester – I was still feeling like I was drowning, either in (a) mom guilt or (b) work guilt, at all times.
Thanks to my friend and co-author, Susanna Campbell at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, I’ve recently become aware of the Pomodoro Technique. I’ve been using this technique this semester and it’s been a life-saver. Here’s the scoop:
Steve Walt weighs in on Ukraine, suggests spiral model more appropriate than deterrence model and therefore arming risks escalation
Mearsheimer (he of one name now) makes a similar case and calls for Ukraine to become a buffer state like Austria to which Dan Drezner and Steve Saideman note that Ukrainians may not be all that happy about being buffered
National Security Strategy
Tom Wright weighs in on the Obama Administration’s new national security strategy and contending views on how bad the international situation is
The Policy-Academy Gap – Once More Unto the Breach
Frank Gavin and Steven Van Evera revisit bridging the policy-academy divide on War on the Rocks: let’s get interdisciplinary and practical
Will Inboden – Why won’t the academy show George Schultz some love?
In advance of this year’s ISA convention and the OAIS awards, we’re happy to launch a new and improved Duck of Minerva with a revamped look and feel. You will notice automatically a direct link to duckofminerva.com which should make access more straightforward. The new site is also responsive so will resize automatically on your phone or tablet. We’ve also added a new set of topics to classify posts by subject so you can find them easily. The Twitter feed and blogroll have been updated.
We wanted to thank permanent contributors Robert Kelly and Vikash Yadav who have decided to step down. In addition, we wanted to thank a number of guest contributors, Edward Carpenter, Adrienne Le Bas, Burcu Bayram, PM, and Cynthia Weber who are cycling off. We will be bringing some new guest contributors on so be on the lookout for more news on that front. Special thanks to Lori Lacy from mod.girl.designs for carrying out the web redesign.
Thanks again for your readership and contributions to the blog, which we hope continues to provide an eclectic source of analysis on all things international and political and beyond in 2015.
This is a guest post by Grant Dawson, assistant professor of social science and international politics at The University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China and Cyrus Janssen is an American expat based in Asia.
The global order established by the West and led by the US since 1945 is gradually changing. China and the ‘rising Rest’ are catching-up to the US and the West in terms of economic and political power. Unfortunately, as was clear during the Hong Kong protests, the West’s ideas and attitudes about China are not keeping pace, and may lead to misunderstandings that undermine political relations during a crucial transitional period for everyone.
With Russia’s incursions into Ukraine becoming more aggressive, there has been a lot of chatter about whether or not the U.S. government should arm Ukraine with lethal weapons. Defense Secretary Nominee Ash Carter has signaled his openness to such a move. Ivo Daalder, Strobe Talbott, Steven Pifer, and collaborators have issued a call for such support. There has been push back from Sean Kay and Jeremy Shapiro, other establishment foreign policy types. (With Talbott, Shapiro, and other folks from Brookings weighing in on opposing sides, there has been interesting discussion of this being an internal food fight there).
What are their arguments? How can we adjudicate who is right? In other words, what kinds of empirical and theoretical arguments can we draw on to assess these differences in judgment? Continue reading
We hear every day that technology is changing rapidly, and that we are at risk of others violating our rights through digital means. We hear about cyber attacks that steal data, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, names, incomes, or addresses. We hear about attacks that steal intellectual property, from movies to plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Indeed, we face a continual onslaught from not only the cyber criminals, but from the media as well. One of the lesser-reported issues in the US, however, has been a different discussion about data and rights protection: the right to be forgotten.
Last year, The European Court of Justice ruled in Google vs. Costeja that European citizens have the right, under certain circumstances, to request search engines like Google, to remove links that contain personal information about them. The Court held that in instances where data is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” individuals may request the information to be erased and delinked from the search engines. This “right to be forgotten” is a right that is intended to support and complement an individual’s privacy rights. It is not absolute, but must be balanced “against other fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and of the media” (paragraph 85 of the ruling). In the case of Costeja, he asked that a 1998 article in a Spanish newspaper be delinked from his name, for in that article, information pertaining to an auction of his foreclosed home appeared. Mr. Costeja subsequently paid the debt, and so on these grounds, the Court ruled that the link to his information was no longer relevant. The case did not state that information regarding Mr. Costeja has to be erased, or that the newspaper article eliminated, merely that the search engine result did not need to make this particular information “ubiquitous.” The idea is that in an age of instantaneous and ubiquitous information about private details, individuals have a right to try to balance their personal privacy against other rights, such as freedom of speech. Continue reading
*This is a guest post by Cynthia Weber, Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex
As the International Studies Association gears up for its 2015 annual convention in New Orleans, USA, an email announcing its Sapphire Series of panels was sent to ISA members. The email reads: ‘Introducing ISA’s new initiative THE SAPPHIRE SERIES. Covering key issues in the field and in international affairs, these talks will feature scholars discussing current world events, trends in academic research, and new challenges in teaching and learning’.
Great idea, it seems to me, so I click on the link to ‘Find Out More.’ This is where things get troubling. For the more I find out, the more troubled I become. On the ISA Sapphire Series page, I find descriptions of four up-coming panels – Epistemology in IR, The State of IR Theory: Questions Big and Small, Topics in Teaching and Professional Development, and Commentary on Breaking Current Events. So far, so good. Each panel is composed of prestigious members of the discipline, men and women. Again, so far, so good. Then things start getting weird.
Every IR scholar is from the Global North, which seems strange to me given the conference theme of ‘Global IR, Regional Worlds’ and given the post-colonial expertise and commitments to post-colonial scholarship of this year’s ISA Program Chairs. Then I see the profile pictures of each speaker embedded next to their description, and here I audibly go ‘huh?’ Because every one of the 17 Sapphire participants appears to be white. Again, I’m confused. For at ISA 2015 in particular – with its two Program Chairs who are variously racialized against standards of normalized whiteness and who contest racialized IR knowledges – how is it that seemingly superior Sapphire Series knowledge appears to be universally white? Continue reading
I can still remember my first ISA conference. I was a PhD student eager to present early work at the freezing Montreal conference (not the last Montreal, the one before that). I remember being gobsmacked hearing academics talking about how they were booked up with meetings and hadn’t attended a single panel. I thought: What did that mean?; What was this ‘other’ conference or set of meetings happening and why was it happening at the same time as the ISA?; How was it possible to attend the ISA, but not attend any panels? But several years later, as I look at my ‘ISA Schedule’ I’m struggling to carve out time to attend panels that aren’t my own. Don’t get me wrong- this isn’t going to be a post about how important I am, or how busy I am: I’m not, and I’m not. And, don’t get me wrong, I love attending panels. For me, there is no greater conference satisfaction than folding over pages, highlighting panels, and placing stars beside ‘must see’ roundtables. But conference creep happens! With four days of conference, and 4 panels a day, there are exactly 16 opportunities to attend a panel…in theory. Here’s how to loose those opportunities, one at a time.
1. Your own presentations. This is a no brainer- the average ISA-er is on 2-3 panels (based on my total guestimation- note that participants are technically only supposed to be on 4, but there are a whole host of ways that gets ignored…a good topic for another post). Let’s round up to 3. That means you only have 13 possible panels to attend.
Thanks to all of you who voted for this year’s OAIS Blogging Awards finalists. We had an amazing pool of nominees again this year in all four categories. We had a record voter turnout — it’s exciting to see the growth in interest in the Duckies in the past three years. It is even more exciting to see and read all of the incredible intellectual contributions made by all of the bloggers in the IR field.
About a week ago I published a piece with the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) on the analytical and political utility (or lack thereof) of the concept of terrorism. I cannot reproduce it here in full for Duck readers because the ISN owns it. But, since I think the topic might be of interest to readers, here is a taste of what I argue in hopes of prompting a discussion:
With high-profile incidents of political violence continuing to make headlines, the time has come to question the labeling of these events as ‘terrorism.’ While politically or ideologically motivated violence remains all too real, approaching events such as these through the framework of ‘terrorism’ does little to help academics or policymakers understand or prevent them. Fourteen years into the Global War on Terror, the political and security baggage that accompanies the label ‘terrorism’ may even undermine such efforts. This is because the term terrorism creates the false impression that the actions it describes represent a special or unique phenomenon. Because this confusion impedes our ability to understand politically motivated violence as part of broader social and political systems, the costs of continuing to use the concept of terrorism outweigh the benefits. The simplest solution to this problem would be for scholars and policymakers alike to jettison the term…
I am hoping that there will be enough space and too few drunken folks on the playing field at Woldenberg Park at 10am on Saturday of ISA week. It is just up the river (if you look at a map, it looks is up and to the right of the Hilton along the waterfront). Bring a dark shirt and a light shirt. Cleats are optional. I will bring the cones and the disks.