Month: October 2017 (page 1 of 2)

The hills are alive…with malaria?

When I was 16, I went to Switzerland. It was my first time outside of the US, and I worried about the normal things that a worry-wart teenager might fret about—Where is my passport? (In my handy-dandy passport holder.) Did I remember to get gifts for all of my family members? (Yes, and you’re welcome.) How much fondue can I possibly eat? (Lots, and yet somehow not enough.)

Here’s one thing I didn’t worry about: Am I going to get malaria?

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Free Access and the Future of Gated Publishing

I am just back from the launch of the Texas National Security Review (TNSR), a new partnership with War on the Rocks and underwritten by my home institution. Forgive the quasi-promotional qualities of this post, as I think the new journal raises fundamental questions about the gated publishing model.

TNSR promises to be disruptive to the traditional game of academic publishing in the security space in a few ways. First, all their content will be available for free.

Second, the journal will include both peer-reviewed and straight-up policy pieces, sort of International Security meets Foreign Affairs. The journal’s main aim is for policy relevant scholarship, to bridge the gap by soliciting contributions from scholars and practitioners in the same pages. The inaugural issue thus features more academic pieces like Jon Bew’s on grand strategy and Rose McDermott and co-authors on the psychological origins of deterrence alongside policy pieces by Kathleen Hicks,  John McCain,  and Jim Steinberg.

Third, even as it has legacy print editions, it will take advantage of new media with an attractive web design, accompanied by podcasts and other content that War on the Rocks has popularized in the security space. Certainly, existing journals like ISQ have made efforts in this direction but it is more baked in to the DNA of TNSR.

Fourth, with the involvement of my colleague Will Inboden and my former colleague Frank Gavin, the journal also promises to be more inter-disciplinary, providing a home for diplomatic historians and international relations scholars alike.

It is an open question whether the journal can become a place that academics feel is a desirable outlet to publish their peer-reviewed work. We have seen in recent years the proliferation of new journals like the Journal of Global Security Studies and International Theory, and I don’t have a feel for how they fit in the existing landscape of security-oriented journals like IS, Security Studies, Journal of Peace Research, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution.  But, it does feel like the landscape is shifting in important ways.

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Liberal World Order, Redux

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Duck regarding “declinist” arguments about liberal world order under Trump. I don’t think these arguments are going away, and in fact—just this week—they are in the news, and on our blog/twitter feeds (including a great piece posted just last week here on Duck).

I want to reiterate, and elaborate on some earlier points I have raised about these kinds of arguments. In the first place, they deserve reiterating and elaborating. In the second place, I just got back earlier this week from an illuminating conference at University College Dublin called “John Dewey and Critical Philosophy for Critical Political Times” which touched on many issues related to the problems for democracy around the world in a time of right wing populism.

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Iraqi Kurds vote for independence: What does this mean for Iraq’s neighbors, and especially for Turkey?

This is a guest post, written by Margarita Konaev, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Strategic Studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Kirstin J.H. Brathwaite, Assistant Professor in the James Madison College at Michigan State University.

The referendum on independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and subsequent military clashes between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad are setting off alarm bells across the Middle East. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to cut off the flow of Kurdish oil exports, warning that the Kurds could “go hungry” as a result of economic sanctions. Military options, he added, were also on the table. The Syrians are refusing to recognize the results of the referendum. And at the request of the central government in Baghdad, Iran has closed the airspace to the Iraqi Kurdish area. The United States, United Nations, and even Russia have all expressed their disapproval of this “unilateral” move. In fact, the only country that welcomed the independence vote is Israel. Continue reading

Entering the Global Multilogue – A Replique to the German ZEIT Manifesto

This is a guest post, written by Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science, especially Global Governance, University of Hamburg (Germany) and By-Fellow, Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Sassan Gholiagha, postdoctoral research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Germany); Jan Wilkens, Lecturer and PhD Candidate at the Chair of Political Science, especially Global Governance, University of Hamburg (Germany); and Amitav Acharya UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and Distinguished Professor of International Relations, American University, Washington, D.C (United States of America).

On 11 October 2017, the New York Times  quoted from a manifesto, titled “In Spite of It All, America”  written by a group of ‘German foreign policy experts’ saying that the ‘liberal world order’ is “in danger” from the Trump administration because of its “America First” credo. It aims to preserve its assumed foundation in multilateralism, global norms and values, open societies and markets.’ As the group’s manifesto claims, it “is exactly this order on which Germany’s freedom and prosperity depends.” Hence the call for prolonged transatlantic relations.

While we do not see any reason to doubt the role of strong transatlantic relations, we do take issue with the “German Manifesto”. We believe that the current crisis calls for a more drastic rethinking of the liberal order and developing an inclusive approach to global challenges. Interventions from scholars around the globe have criticized the perception of a ‘liberal community’ and the performance of the “liberal world order” that firmly stands on common fundamental values long before President Trump moved into the White House.

The “liberal world order” and the idea of a “liberal community” that underpins it built around its elements such as free trade, liberal democracy, and US-built and dominated global institutions, was really never a truly global order, but functioned more as a selective transatlantic club built and managed by the US with West European countries playing a supporting role. Major nations of the world such as China and India, but also many developing countries, were marginal to its creation and functioning. They remained outliers, not allowed to reform its core institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank to make their voices heard. Hence the emerging powers have turned to developing their own regional and international institutions, such as ASEAN, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS; New Development Bank. Moreover, the liberal order was selective in promoting human rights and democracy, as well as regional integration in the developing world. When it did, especially the EU, it often sought to impose its own “model” and values at the expense of locally-prevalent institutions and practices. In the meantime, the liberal order accentuated global inequality and remained fundamentally coercive in its approach to the world’s conflicts. Continue reading

The Politics of Grief and the Forever War: Who Speaks for the Fallen?

Dead American soldiers became the objects of highly visible and ongoing contest this week – over the ways and means of grieving America’s fallen.  In fact, the events discussed in this short post mark only the latest phase and an escalation in tensions between dominant and challenging bodies over the (in)visibility of suffering and dead American soldiers that have featured throughout the Global War on Terror (GWoT). Such tensions demonstrate not only the competing logics and agendas leading to the blacking out of American repatriations via the 2003 Dover Ban (a DoD Directive prohibiting the publication and broadcast of images and videos capturing any part of the repatriation process) but the value of soldier grief claims and speaking for the dead within contemporary American politics and international relations.

This latest round of contest began on Monday, when President Trump  responded to criticism over the Administration’s two week wait to make contact with the families of four soldiers killed in action (KIA) in Niger by claiming that predecessors “didn’t make calls” at all. It then came to light that, in an eventual condolence call to  Myeshia Johnson made just moments before the above photograph was taken,  Trump explained the deceased Sgt. La David Johnson  “knew what he signed up for.” Accused of insensitivity by Sgt. Johnson’s Mother,  for widowed Myeshia the worst of it was however that “he [Trump] didn’t even know his [Sgt. Johnson’s] name.” To Myeshia and the ones who knew him in life, Sgt. Johnson was a uniquely grievable human being – the ‘Wheelie King‘ from South Florida, who married his high-school sweetheart.  However, draped in the flag and conflated into the fallen, such characteristics – those comprising what Jenny Edkins describes as “personhood” – go unseen and uncounted by bodies reliant upon the continuation of conflict for their geo-political, financial, and ontological security.  Such bodies (government and military in kind) “don’t do body counts” and regard American soldiers on mass as a “most precious resource” with which to fuel the GWoT.

Captured at Dover Air Force Base (AFB) as pregnant Myeshia wept over the flag-draped coffin carrying her dead husband’s body, the above, touching and moving image is one of a kind hotly contested throughout the GWoT. Indeed, in March 2003 (on the eve of Iraq’s invasion), the Bush Administration extended and enforced the Dover Ban which was originally issued in 1991 (during the Gulf War). However, as the GWoT went on (and I have discussed here and forthcoming) public contests over the (in)visibility of the KIA and the right to publicly count and account for the human cost of America’s ‘forever’ (and everywhere) war rose in the forms of challenges including a protest march against the Ban by Military Families Speak Out, works of art exaggerating the lack of dead American soldiers  from the American visual landscape, and the publication of banned images by bodies including The Seattle Times and Associated Press ahead of the ban’s partial revoke in 2009 by then Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

As civilians with close military ties and bonds American military – Gold Star – families comprise a vital yet liminal part of the body politic and are subject to intense pressures from dominant bodies. For example, military families provide vital support to serving soldiers and veterans alike while their sensitivities are invoked by government and military bodies as justification for various (in)actions and policies. Military families are as such are elevated to a pivotal position: “the top one percent” according to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly – himself a Gold Star father – this week. Khizir Khan demonstrated this well with his  protest speech against Trump on American patriotism and values at the DNC last year. Crucially, all this goes on while military families are exposed to the excessive violence of war via their soldier kin, and of course, when soldiers are injured and KIA it is military families who see and feel (let alone count) the human cost of war and as such become part of the toll themselves.  However, as the events discussed here illustrate, when made visible military families may use their pivotal position to (re)define American values and move other, dominant bodies (as well as the public) towards counting and accounting for the human cost of even a forever war.

Health promotion & Mugabe. For real.

When you think great diplomats—the sorts of folks who can inspire large numbers of people, bring together disparate groups, and raise public awareness of key international issues—Robert Mugabe probably isn’t the first person who springs to mind.

And yet…guess who the World Health Organization just announced as its new goodwill ambassador for noncommunicable diseases in Africa?

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New Girl

Today’s headlines in several international newspapers had to struggle with too many possessive male noun forms: Putin’s mentor’s daughter Ksenia Sobchak announced that she would run for Russian Presidency next year. Russia’s Got Talent!

Not that the Kremlin thought that the upcoming ‘Putin referendum’ is in Jeopardy! The main contender Navalny is currently contemplating whether orange is the new black and will probably not get on the ballot anyway. The usual suspects (such as Zyuganov and Yavlinsky) have been trying to get that rose from the Russian population for too many seasons. Given that next year’s elections are scheduled on “Crimea Re-Unification Day”, there is no way anybody will be able to keep up with the Kardashian.

Sobchak’s bid looks very, very much improbable in this game of thrones. For starters, rumors about her being the ‘spoiler’ candidate that would split the opposition vote have been circulating for months, and even URL about her announcement in Vedomosti Newspaper is backdated to September 30th. Also, her mass media career might sort of arrest this development. To most Russians she is not really familiar as an oppositional journalist, but more so as a reality show host. Sobchak used to help ‘build love’ on a Russian reality TV show ‘Dom-2’ [House-2], where male and female contestants are supposed to build couples and an actual house that the best couple won at the end. The show includes numerous scenes of conflicts, fist fighting, swearing, masturbation and other delightful hallmarks of reality TV.

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The Book Nook: The Authority Trap: Strategic Choices of International NGOs

Our second Bridging the Gap Book Nook entry comes from Sarah Stroup of Middlebury College and Wendy Wong of the University of Toronto, who discuss their new book The Authority Trap: Strategic Choices of International NGOs (Cornell, 2017).

Emotions, Unconscious Bias, and Publishing

This is a guest post by Jana von Stein, Senior Lecturer, Political Science and International Relations Programme, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand)

The recent scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual abuse and harassment of dozens of women has gotten me thinking about an experience I had not too long ago. To be sure, there are differences: what happened to me was not sexual, my suffering was short-lived, and I sought justice. But there were at least two important similarities: my experience was deeply gendered and offensive, and I didn’t tell many people. Why? Because I worried about the career implications. I didn’t want the many good and decent men in my field to perceive me as a male-basher. Continue reading

#MeToo

“The women who accused Harvey Weinstein did not act as women. Because sexual harassment – well, that’s great, honestly. And if you have a role, what difference does it make how you got it. […] In general, how can a man be accused of sexual harassment, is it not what he exists in this world for? If he has the power that he uses in this way, that’s good. It’s wonderful when a man who has so much power is sexually harassing you, isn’t it?”

No, it isn’t. But that is what a relatively famous Russian actress Lyubov Tolkalina had to say about the Hollywood scandal. Even though in the same article about Russian movie industry attitudes to Harvey Weinstein there were other opinions, including from men who sympathized with the victims of sexual assault and derided the hypocrisy of the movie industry in Russia and the US, so far the response to the Hollywood revelations in Russia have not necessarily been #MeToo. The underlying issue here is not just the patriarchal culture, but also the internalized misogyny and victim blaming that go with it, or, as Lyubov Tolkalina puts it, “A woman is always guilty in male sexual assault”. Being a part of a macho patriarchal culture is hard, so a lot of women side with the desirable and hierarchically higher in-group – men – and re-affirm female objectification and disparagement. Moreover, this kind of responses mirror the pushback against the social media campaign #IamNotAfraidtoSayIt (#янебоюсьсказать) initiated by a Ukrainian activist in 2016 where women in Post-Soviet space shared the horrifying stories of sexual abuse.

The stories under those Russian and Ukrainian hashtags showed that sexual assault and violence against women are, unfortunately, everyday and underreported phenomena. Statistics on domestic violence in Russia are disturbing: around 600,000 women suffer annually of domestic abuse, while approximately 60-70% of incidents of domestic abuse never even get reported. This was sarcastically captured in the headline of an article on domestic violence in Rossiyskaya Gazeta: ‘If he kills you, then report it’. In other words, law enforcement officials routinely discard the claims of domestic assault brought forward by women or claim that the women brought the violence on themselves. Apart from the physical violence, there is a general discursive tolerance towards violence against women.  Even women who suffered from domestic violence usually tend to justify it or reconcile with their offenders and continue to tolerate the abuse. Continue reading

Writing in Exile: A Belated Birthday Card

“In the first place, we don’t like to be called ‘refugees’.” ~Hannah Arendt

This past weekend was a weekend full of birthdays. Hannah Arendt’s 111th birthday fell on Saturday (October 14th), and—in an interesting coincidence—Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche share a birthday (October 15th). I teach and write about Foucault and Arendt, and there is a Nietzschean spirit in both, though Arendt’s engagement with his work ended abruptly with her death.

In honor of all three, I want to make some notes—sketches really—of what it means to write in exile, and, by extension, to teach in exile. I take this term from an excellent edited volume put together by the dramaturgist Marc Robinson titled Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile, in which Arendt’s obscure 1943 article, “We Refugees” was reprinted. The volume collects essays from a variety of expatriate authors writing about the experience of writing about the trials, joys, and oddities of writing from a place “altogether elsewhere.”

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Americans Don’t Think Much of Trump’s “America First.” That’s Good, But …

This post comes from Bridging the Gap co-director Bruce W. Jentleson[*], Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University.

“Not much” and “less and less” is What Americans Think About America First, as documented in the latest Chicago Council on Global Affairs public opinion report.[†]  That’s somewhat reassuring. But only somewhat.

On one America First issue after another, the data show limited and declining support. On the general issue of maintaining alliances, 49% support compared to 38% who oppose. On NATO, 69% see it as essential to American security and 53% say it benefits the United States as well as the allies, while only 27% see it as mostly benefiting the allies. 59% agree there should be more burden sharing, but only 38% say the U.S. should make our security commitment contingent on that.

Some of these spreads are even greater than a year ago. The 69% support for NATO is up from 65% in 2016. On the general issue of maintaining alliances, the 47% support among Independents is higher than the 34% in 2016 and 26% in 2015, and the 43% among Republicans is up from 40% (2016) and 37% (2014).

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Where’s the Charlie’s Angels of global health?

Does the international community need a Charlie’s Angels of global health?

You remember Charlie’s Angels. Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith were three detectives in Los Angeles who worked for a never-seen Charlie. Charlie would call the Angels whenever there was some sort of emergency, and they would go wherever in the world in order to take care of the problem. They were highly competent and glamorous, though we can rightfully criticize the show for emphasizing the Angels’ sex appeal over their crime-fighting skills. I mostly remember the show for being on WGN in the afternoon when it wasn’t pre-empted by the Cubs. (Cubs baseball also frequently pre-empted Super Friends, leading to my distaste for the Cubs to this day…but that’s neither here nor there.)

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Mr. Trump, Choose Your Own Adventure

This post comes to us from Rupal N. Mehta, Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an alumna of Bridging the Gap’s New Era Workshop and International Policy Summer Institute (Twitter @Rupal_N_Mehta); and Rachel Elizabeth Whitlark, Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Bridging the Gap associate and alumna of the New Era Workshop (Twitter @RachelWhitlark).

In the coming days, President Trump is tasked with recertifying the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Obama Administration brokered this landmark agreement between Iran and core members of the international community (the P-5 plus Germany) to limit Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act mandates the U.S. president with recertifying Iranian compliance with the JPCOA every 90 days.

This week marks the two-year anniversary of implementation day, and it is not at all clear what course of action Trump is going to take. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve heard rumors from in and around the administration about what action is forthcoming, including an eerie warning about “the calm before the storm.” Domestic and international sources have said that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement and that the JCPOA should therefore be recertified. Conversely, foreign policy hawks and the President himself have argued for its unilateral rejection for reasons largely outside the scope of the JCPOA.

In what follows, we envision two possible worlds emerging from Trump’s decision point. In the first, Trump recertifies the JCPOA and the U.S. continues to uphold its end of the bargain. In the second, Trump decertifies and Congress re-imposes sanctions on Iran and effectively withdraws U.S. participation, thereby abrogating the deal. It’s worth thinking through the consequences of each of these worlds for international security, even as we will soon know which is most likely to transpire.

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National Security Generalists and Learning the Lessons From Lost Wars

A friend posted this piece on facebook: “Why Nerds Should Not Be In Charge of War.”  It draws from the new PBS Vietnam War documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick to argue that it happened because of the prominent role played by “generalists.”  Yes, Robert McNamara and his gang of Whiz Kids are mighty arrogant, and they have much blame to share for the war.  Indeed, McNamara, unlike certain other arrogant former SecDefs, has spent the time since trying to grapple with what he had wrought.  There is something to the idea that we need folks involved who are regional experts.  Indeed, there has been much debate about whether we political scientists did area studies wrong by insisting on generalizable theory and advanced methods.

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You Are Fake News!

Yes, you have heard a lot about it. A German version of the ISA just featured a roundtable entitled: ‘Reclaiming the facts: analysis of international politics in the age of fake news and post-facts’. There has been a lot of panic over the new era of alternative facts.  Let me assure you: fake news and post facts are not new. Social networks are not new. We all have seen and read about them before. And they are not only as American as George Washington’s cherry tree. They are old and they are universal.

Here’s an example.

Once upon a time, there was a bankrupt opportunist from a notable family who urgently needed cash to pay his financier. No, he didn’t run to the Russian oligarchs (they were hard to reach at that point in time); instead, he decided to avoid the debt by killing his banker in the middle of 5th  avenue. When he was brought to court, his lawyer thought of a brilliant defense: instead of claiming that the accused was innocent, he went all the way to acknowledge the guilt of the criminal. The reason he killed the banker was allegedly his way to take revenge on the banker’s own nefarious deed of a child’s murder. The court was so baffled by this defense that the opportunist turned murderer walked free and the fake news about the boy’s murder assumed a life of its own. The year was 1150 and I am talking about the murder of William of Norwich, one of the first recorded accusations of ritual murder that still serves as an inspiration to Neo-Nazis and Anti-Semites around the world.

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Want to build support for ‘America First’? Try the UN.

Today’s Bridging the Gap contribution comes from Theo Milonopoulos, PhD Candidate at Columbia University and alumnus of our 2017 New Era Workshop

In an often combative speech before the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Trump at times praised, and other times disparaged, an institution he once dismissed via tweet as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Although few doubt the need for reform of an increasingly sclerotic institution, President Trump’s evident disdain for the United Nations is misplaced, not least because of its ability to bolster perhaps his most coveted asset: his popularity.

An original survey experiment I conducted just after the 2016 election shows Trump might actually benefit from working through the very institution he so frequently ridicules, particularly in galvanizing support for his policies among members of his own Republican Party.

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Teaching about Death and Violence: Thoughts from a Professor Who Calls Nevada Home

After the horrific attack in Las Vegas on Sunday, 1 October, the question of knowledge should be key to our understanding of this event. What do we know? What can we recall? The first thing that comes to mind is likely numbers, statistics, values attributed to life. We know now that the death toll is at 59. The injured number 527. The killer had 18 guns at his home. He shot from the 32nd floor at a rate of 400-800 rounds per minute (6-13 rounds per second). We know numbers.

Surely, this quantification of death gives us important information, but what does it do in regards to the way we relate to violence? Does it make us conceptualize mass shootings as just another data point, as a blip on a graph? Does it help us establish trends? My own experience with this shooting is different than most. I grew up in Las Vegas; I lived there for twenty years. My closest friends live there. Half of my family still lives there. Monday was a day of terror for me. Much of the day was spent texting or calling friends to make sure they were safe, seeing frantic posts on social media from friends trying to locate family that had not checked in yet.

My heart sank at seeing the news that someone I knew from my high school class was killed in the shooting.

Numbers could not capture my experience, or my friends’ experiences, or the experiences of the victims, the families, and onlookers. In a broader way, this raises an important question about how scholars in the fields of political studies, international studies, and cognate fields teach about death and violence.

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