The Olympics of Returning to Work After a Baby

I had no idea what to expect when I became a parent (who does?), but I was somehow even more baffled by the balancing act/sh@t show involved in transitioning back to work after parental leave. I’m sure my experience isn’t unique, and I don’t think I was any worse off than other parents or carers, but I was not prepared. Looking back, I realize there are a few key olymic-worthy skills I needed- and attained to make this transition possible. In no particular order, here they are:

Hotel Hallway Shuffle: Pacing conference hotel halls with a jet-lagged baby in flannel pj’s and trying not to make eye contact with anyone coming off the elevator.

Day Care Dash: Dashing to childcare with grapes, elmo, child, bag, rain cover, and shoes perfectly balanced…only to discover that your kid has fallen asleep in transit. The second phase of this event requires you to try to answer emails in a coffee shop while your child sleeps because you feel too guilty to wake them up and drop them off.

10 Minute Prep Sprint: Putting a 10 minute cartoon on in the morning and trying to shower, get dressed, stuff toast in your mouth, and brush your teeth before the credits roll.

Pumpathon: Using a breast pump at your desk while you try to watch youtube videos of Jimmy Fallon.

Cold Pretzel: Taking power naps on the office floor with a yoga mat as a blanket because you’ve been up since 4am.

Big Mistake: Taking a child solo on an international flight to a conference- against everyone’s good advice- and trying to attend your panels with clean clothes, no tears, and something reasonably coherent to say (this is perhaps the hardest event).

In the end I have new skills, thicker skin, and better time management skills…and a healthy kid that finally sleeps longer than 2 hours at a time. Gold Medal!! What were/are your parenting events?

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Thinking about Responsibilities of Co-Authors and Mentors

Political science exploded in the news as a grad student and senior prof wrote a piece that made big news and then was revealed (allegedly, apparently, insert legal modifier here) to be fradulent.*

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Museum of Science Fiction To Open in DC

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Here is a project worthy of interest by those Duck readers who are simultaneously politics and science fiction nerds: a non-profit effort to build a Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC.

The mission of the Museum of Science Fiction is to create a center of gravity where art and science are powered by imagination. Science fiction is the story of humanity: who we were, who we are, and who we dream to be. The Museum will present this story through displays, interactivity, and programs in ways that excite, educate, entertain, and create a new generation of dreamers.

Even more exciting is the holistic approach to science and society studies envisioned by the project:

Education is central to our mission. We believe that the science fiction presents an ideal device for sparking interest and spurring proficiency in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). But we’d like to go beyond STEM and broaden our focus to include the arts. We call it STEAM. We want to give teachers new tools. Cool tools that kids will love to use. Combined with inspiration and imagination, and creativity fueled by science fiction, our prospects look bright.

More exciting yet: a call for involvement by experts in all fields:

We have assembled a very talented team, but we can’t do it alone.

We welcome your involvement and support. To receive a copy of the museum’s planning document, please donateand download our prospectus. This document explains the who, what, where, when, how, and why behind the project.

If you have ideas to share or would like to volunteer, visit our contact page. Meanwhile, please have a look around our site and watch us evolve. With your help, we will make this happen.

Find out more here.

And speaking of social / science / fiction: only a few more days to submit your abstracts for the Star Wars and International Security panel at next year’s ISA Conference!

Online Media Caucus Call for Papers for ISA 2016 Reminder

Our new caucus seeks to promote the use of online media in our teaching, research, policy engagement and service. We have a broad imagination both about what we mean by online media and what kinds of papers/panels would be of interest. Online media include social media such as twitter, blogging, facebook, tumblr, and the like, but also the use of the internet for surveys, simulations, data repositories, virtual meetings, and more. We are in interested in papers/panels that are research-oriented (using the internet in one’s research), pedagogical (internet in the classroom, online simulations, the value of MOOC’s, etc.) and/or analytical (what impact has twitter made on dissent?).

Given our small allotment of panels (3), we suggest that those aspiring to be on the ISA program submit not just to us but to relevant sections such as, but not exclusive to, Active Learning in International Affairs, Comparative Interdisciplinary Studies, International Communication, International Education, Science, Technology and Art in IR.

FRIDAY NERD BLOGGING: Call for ISA Proposals on “Star Wars and International Security”

darth

Last Monday, on May the 4th, citizens around the globe celebrated International Star Wars Day. In honor of this important event, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and I are pleased to announce an International Studies Association 2016 Conference panel on Star Wars for next year’s meeting.

We seek paper abstracts examining the relationship between the Star Wars franchise and socio-political dynamics in the area of international security, broadly defined. In other words, this panel focuses specifically on the inter-relationship between pop culture ideas and “real-world” security-seeking processes and practices.*

As such (following up on Dan Drezner’s and my Game of Thrones initiative from last year) PTJ and I are not seeking papers that critically analyze the franchise as a political text itself, or that apply pedagogical lessons from the show to the real world national security policy, or that treat the popular cultural artifacts or their fandom as a primary object of study.

Rather, we are interested in research notes that take seriously popular culture (in this case Star Wars) as implicated in real-world political phenomena in the area of international security, broadly defined. All methodological approaches are welcome, but authors should reflect on or empirically investigate connections between Star Wars’ fictional memes, concepts or allegories and the real-world security-seeking practices of states or other actors – and reflect on those connections. Continue reading

Iconic Wildlife Species Threatened With Extinction

I’ve been MIA of late on the blog, mostly a function of end-of-term obligations. I’ve led a year-long graduate course on global wildlife conservation (course blog here). If you haven’t followed the news of late, iconic wildlife species like rhinos and elephants are threatened with extinction, mostly because rising incomes in China and Vietnam in particular are allowing more people to satisfy their desires for wildlife products.

Since the late 2000s, there has been a surge in demand for wildlife products. For example, poaching of rhinos, most of which survive in South Africa, have increased from negligible levels in 2007 to in excess of 1000 animals slaughtered per year. Much of the demand comes from Vietnam where ground rhino horn is erroneously thought to be a cure for a cancer, a hangover cure, and other maladies.

We recently presented our findings in Washington, DC before different audiences, and in the coming posts, I’ll be highlighting the key findings from six different areas – consumer demand, security, multilateral approaches, sport hunting, ecotourism, and public-private partnerships. I invite you to watch a video of our findings below or to review a powerpoint of the key issues here.

The planet is set to experience an extraordinarily tragic loss of species. This is inherently a political problem – weak range states in Africa, strong states in Asia with populations that lack an ethos of care for wildlife, and Western states with vibrant conservation communities but where other issues take center stage. I encourage bright minds in the Duck audience to bring their talents to bear on this issue. Can incentives be aligned? Can global, bilateral, and minilateral processes change outcomes in range and demand states? Can publics in Asia be persuaded to change their behavior? Time is running out.

The “Future” of “Global” “Security” “Studies”

cybersecurityrsaLast Friday, I had the great pleasure to attend a workshop on “The Future of Global Security Studies” at University of Denver’s Sie Center for International Security and Diplomacy.

The event brought together authors for the inaugral special issue of ISA’s new journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies, which promises to showcase new research and new thinking in security studies, but also to bring diverse perspectives into dialogue. As such, the workshop was one of the most engaging I’ve ever attended: realists, big data proponents, feminists, and securitization scholars all in the same room for a day is (no pun of any sort intended) a blast.

My role was to discuss papers, and as one of several discussants I’ll be participating in the first JOGSS “Forum“* along with Stephen Walt, Joshua Goldstein, Jon Western and Alex Montgomery.  Our job in the “Forum” will be to pontificate on the special issue theme.

In an effort to both get my ideas moving for this contribution and crowdsource ideas and feedback, here are my initial thoughts / observations after the discussions I heard Friday. I’ll organize them by thinking about the thematic buzzwords “Future” “Global” “Security” and “Studies” in reverse order:  Continue reading

Development and Security

For a range of reasons, I have been thinking lately about the relationship between development and security. At one level, the relationship is obvious, if somewhat banal: resources allocated for security (e.g. guns) cannot be used for development purposes (butter). I suspect that for many American IR scholars, and certainly most Americans in security studies, that is the limit of their thinking on the relationship.

If we think about security in material terms, then perhaps those limits make sense. But what if we think about security in social terms—as a socio-political logic—that organizes social/political activity, gives meaning to events in the world, and binds society together. After all, Tilly tells us in The Formation of National States in Western Europe that war made the state and the state made war. This point on security as a social logic emerges in Grand Duck Dan Nexon’s enlightening discussion of Tilly a couple years ago: Tilly’s work can be understood as an effort to introduce “different explanatory accounts of variation in the European topography within which bargaining around warfare and the mobilization for warfare took place.” Continue reading

It’s the Biggest National Threat and We Can’t Help You

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) new Cyber Strategy is a refinement of past attempts at codifying and understanding the “new terrain” of cybersecurity threats to the United States.   While I actually applaud many of the acknowledgements in the new Strategy, I am still highly skeptical of the DoD’s ability to translate words to deeds. In particular, I am so because the entire Strategy is premised on the fact that the “DoD cannot defend every network and system against every kind of intrusion” because the “total network attack surface is too large to defend against all threats and too vast to close all vulnerabilities (13).

Juxtapose this fact to the statement that “from 2013-2015, the Director of National Intelligence named the cyber threat as the number one strategic threat to the United States, placing it ahead of terrorism for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001.” (9).   What we have, then, is the admission that the cyber threat is the top “strategic” –not private, individual or criminal—threat to the United States, and it cannot defend against it. The Strategy thus requires partnerships with the private sector and key allies to aid in the DoD’s fight. Here is the rub though: private industry is skeptical of the US government’s attempt to court it and many of the US’s key allies do not trust much of what Washington says. Moreover, my skepticism is furthered by the simple fact that one cannot read the Strategy in isolation. Rather, one must take it in conjunction with other policies and measures, in particular Presidential Policy Directive 20 (PPD 20), H.R. 1560 “Protecting Cyber Networks Act”, and the sometimes forgotten Patriot Act.

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Not All Alarms are False

This piece raises the question I have been asking for the past week in Brussels: can we credibly commit to the defense of the Baltics?  Without a permanent NATO (or at least American) presence, is our Article V commitment (an attack upon one is an attack upon all) believable?

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The New Mineshaft Gap: Killer Robots and the UN

This past week I was invited to speak as an expert at the United Nations Informal Meeting of Experts under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The CCW’s purpose is to limit or prohibit certain conventional weapons that are excessively injurious or have indiscriminate effects. The Convention has five additional protocols banning particular weapons, such as blinding lasers and cluster bombs. Last week’s meetings was focused on whether the member states ought to consider a possible sixth additional protocol on lethal autonomous weapons or “killer robots.”

My role in the meeting was to discuss the military rationale for the development and deployment of autonomous weapons. My remarks here reflect what I said to the state delegates and are my own opinions on the matter. They reflect what I think to be the central tenet of the debate about killer robots: whether states are engaging in an old debate about relative gains in power and capabilities and arms races. In 1964, the political satire Dr. Strangelove finds comedy in that even in the face of certain nuclear annihilation between the US and the former Soviet Union, the US strategic leaders were still concerned with relative disparity of power: the mineshaft gap. The US could not allow the Soviets to gain any advantage in “mineshaft space” – those deep underground spaces where the world’s inhabitants would be forced to relocate to keep the human race alive – because the Soviets would certainly continue an expansionist policy to take out the US’s capability once humanity could emerge safely from nuclear contamination.

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The Freedom to Speak Up As Academics: The Right to Make An “Ass” of Myself Personally

On Thursday, I became part of a growing group of academics that has had a letter like this written about them:

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Comparing World Crises

On my second day in Belgium, the Atlantik-Brücke conference, a Canada-Germany conversation, got underway and was immediately quite interesting.  The opening session had two speakers that provided broad surveys of the world’s crises, and I was struck that there seemed to be some comparisons that did not work for me.  Why? Because some crises are harder than others and that we can focus on three dimensions of each crisis so that we can compare apples and oranges: the degree of difficulty of the actual policy problem, the stakes, and the level of consensus among the key players.

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There is No Lone Wolf Terrorism: but there is anxiety about brown men, loneliness, and mental illness


There’s something about ‘lone wolf terrorism’ debates that stinks. I can’t quite find a singular source of the smell, but after further investigation, it seems the relatively recent surge in the use of  the category ‘lone wolf’ to describe individual acts of political violence draws on extremely rank racist, sexist, and alarmist logic. When you compare the sparse literature on lone wolf terrorism and the slough of articles on the topic, one thing is clear: definitions of lone wolf terrorism are “fuzzy”, disparate, and often rely on contradiction and assumptions about mental health and motivation. The defining feature of the lone wolf terrorist is his or her (actually it is almost always a male) lack of wolf pack (I can’t get past the Hangover reference either, but stay with me). They are loners, committing political violence. Below, I raise several questions about the literature and discussion on lone wolf terrorism in the hopes of inviting dialogue and debate about why this term has such political purchase.

1. Is it possible that ‘lone wolves’ are neither lone nor wolves? The problems with definition:
The US Government defines terrorism as “premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” The overarching argument is lone wolf terrorism differs from ‘regular’ terrorism in that it is orchestrated by an individual. Yet the existing definition of terrorism seems to include agents as well as groups. So what purpose does ‘lone wolf’ serve? If ‘lone wolves’ are defined as acting politically, doesn’t this assume- by definition- the affiliation, or at least association, with a larger group? Recent research into 119 lone-actor terrorists in the United States and Europe, concluded that the individuals clearly expressed their beliefs and grievances to others, primarily family, friends, or an online community. This seems to indicate that ‘lone wolves’ aren’t that lonely. Continue reading

Friday Nerd Blogging: Game of Thrones Returns

To celebrate the return of Game of Thrones, which is chock full of IR, I am posting a cartoon and a video (spoilers and NSFW language lurk below the break):

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Gender in IR, Now at the Cutting Edge

[Note: The following is a guest post by Prof. Dan Reiter of Emory University]

Joshua Goldstein wrote in the preface to his award-winning, 2001 book War and Gender that while finishing his book he “discovered a list of unfinished research projects, which I had made fifteen years ago at the end of graduate school. About ten lines down is ‘gender and war,’ with the notation ‘most interesting of all; will ruin career—wait until tenure.’” This was probably not a completely inaccurate assessment, at the time. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the study of gender and international relations was viewed by many as outside the mainstream of IR, lending itself only to post-modern and critical methods of inquiry. Fortunately, during this period scholars such as Cynthia Enloe, Ann Tickner, Spike Peterson, and others sloughed off this marginalization, producing path-breaking work on gender and IR, asking new questions, posing new theoretical answers, and crafting entirely new agendas.

The status of the study of gender and IR could not be more different today than what it was when Goldstein wrote those words in the mid-1980s, as I describe in a forthcoming Journal of Conflict Resolution article. Continue reading

New directions in academic publishing

I’ve wrote a post today with Bethany Albertson for The Monkey Cage. The post reports the findings from a recent article we wrote for the relatively new academic journal Research and Politics. The article includes a survey experiment we conducted to assess what messages, if any, the American public finds persuasive on climate change. Both represent interesting departures in the academic blogosphere and publishing. Continue reading

Thinking about the intellectual future of higher education

Recently, articles have emerged in both the United States and the United Kingdom concerned over the current politico-intellectual trend toward diminishing the importance and funding of the humanities and social sciences (HSS). For all the reasons the authors indicate, this trend is problematic. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines are of course incredibly important. But they are only part of the collective agenda of intellectual inquiry, and cannot be made to dominate universities without intellectual, economic, and political costs. In this short post, I will leave aside arguments about the intrinsic or societal value of HSS, not because they are trivial (they are not) but because the current wave of humanities and social sciences demotion speaks in terms of global competitiveness and economic productivity. I don’t accept that these arguments should define the boundaries of the debate, but if a case can be made on those or related grounds, then at least parties to the ‘debate’ will not be talking past each other. Continue reading

Memories of Rumsfeld’s Snowflakes

I have written before about my Rummy experiences, but wanted tor revisit after seeing this post yesterday at vox.  I was able to dig through Rummy’s website and found the document that spawned a heap of paperwork at my desk on the Joint Staff.

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Power and Negotiation: A Geopolitical Waltz

The following is a guest post submitted by Valentina Amuso and Kyle McNally

Is the US in an inevitable spiral of decline? Is China rising as the new hegemon? These are a few of the new dinner table topics of the 21st century. The latest iteration of such questions can be found in the discourse surrounding current economic negotiations. In this area most attention is focused squarely on the US and China; however, it must be recognised that these two countries are only two of the participants in a highly complex dance of geopolitics. The US and China are significant actors, to be sure, but their strategies should be understood in a broader context.

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