Charli Carpenter

charli.carpenter@gmail.com

Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.

Drones Kill More Civilians than Manned Aircraft Do. That’s Because of How We Use Them.


At Foreign Policy, CFR’s Micah Zenko has examined the best civilian casualty data available for both manned airstrikes and drone strikes between 2009-2015 and concluded, pretty damningly, that “Drones Kill More Civilians Than Pilots Do.”

According to the best publicly available evidence, drone strikes in non-battlefield settings — Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia — result in 35 times more civilian fatalities than airstrikes by manned weapons systems in conventional battlefields, such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. There are sound arguments that can be made in favor of U.S. drone strikes, but their supposed precision should not be one of them.

As Zenko notes, this is an important corrective to the Obama Administration’s frequent claim that “drones are precise weapons.” But the article begs the question of how to explain this finding. And Zenko (or more likely the FP editors) make a few important mistakes here that, if attended, to, might lead to some potential answers to that “why” question. Continue reading

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Bernie Sanders’ Foreign Policy is Neither Realist, Pacifist, nor Liberal. He’s a Foreign Policy Progressive.


I have a new article up this morning at Washington Post’s Monkey Cage,  responding to those who have previously tried to classify Bernie Sanders as a “pacifist” (Krauthammer who calls his view “part swords-into-plowshares utopianism, part get-thee-gone isolationism”) or alternatively as a “realist” (Katrina vanden Heuvel , likening Sanders’ to Obama vis a vis Clinton’s more hawkish liberal internationalism).  Many have argued he actually doesn’t have a foreign policy position.

I argue Sanders’ vision has been hard to understand and articulate because it defies conventional labels. And it’s hard to categorize because it combines elements of several foreign policy perspectives: a realist aversion to unnecessary wars, a liberal concern with human rights and diplomacy, and a constructivist emphasis on the pragmatic value of international morality and soft power, and a critical theorist’s rejection of arbitrary distinctions such as the domestic v. the international.

Yet far from being a purely academic exercise, this is a distinctive policy perspective best understood as “progressive”:

Sanders did not invent this vision. He is channeling an alternative viewpoint on foreign affairs articulated by many on the progressive left for decades and outlined in Foreign Affairs magazine last summer by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the article, U.S. Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.) lay out concrete and specific policy proposals. These include increased funding for foreign aid; efforts to protect human rights and gender equality at home and abroad; renewed support for multilateral institutions; restrictions on the executive branch’s expanded power to wage war; and a strengthened socioeconomic base at home to more effectively project U.S. power.

I argue that by triangulating these positions, we can infer three distinct thematic pillars of “progressive foreign policy” thought that are particularly reflected in the Sanders campaign: evidence-based threat assessment, the dependence of American national security on human security for those beyond our borders (achieved by addressing root causes through non-kinetic means); and the impact of dynamics – militarism, corruption, environmental issues, economic inequality – that cut across borders and bridge the domestic with the global.  Read the whole thing here.

The math obviously favors Clinton for the  nomination, especially after her big win in yesterday’s primary. But if Sanders has done nothing else, its greatest legacy may ultimately be  the reshaping of Washington foreign policy discourse, and the opening of space  across the political spectrum to rethink the foundations of American and global security.

 

“Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Know ‘Enough’ About Foreign Policy”? Who Does, Really?

bernieOn April Fool’s Day, Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders did an interview with the New York Daily News, perceived by many to have been a botched performance.  Yesterday, the New York Daily News followed up with a piece entitled “Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Know Enough About Foreign Policy, Pros Say.”  (The ‘pros’ cited  were not some representative sample of beltway illuminatis but rather various Clinton foreign policy advisers who will reportedly be circulating a letter saying as much in the next days.) As an IR educator I’m delighted that foreign affairs is looming large in a national primary – for once! But this also raises fascinating questions about how we evaluate Presidential candidates.

The need to do more homework on foreign affairs is a fair critique of Sanders, even if you’re not a Clinton endorser. But then again, it’s a fair critique of anybody seeking national office. None of us “knows enough” about foreign policy, not even the experts. Heck, I’m a Full Professor of International Relations and still consider myself only a true expert in a few areas, where I constantly work, like any specialist, to stay caught up with a rapidly changing world. If I were running for Commander-in-Chief I would surround myself, as all the candidates including Sanders have, with formal and informal advisers,* with different expertise, on different intersecting issues, to help weigh multiple foreign policy options and formulate agendas.

So on balance, I think it’s amusing that Sanders is taking such heat from foreign policy “pros” on his lack of early policy detail, for two reasons. First, the New York Daily News itself got a lot of details wrong, both in the way it reported on Sanders’ critics and the way it asked questions in the original interview. Second, Sanders’ answers – even on Gaza – were more appropriate and discerning than has been widely acknowledged, precisely because they hinge not on details but on the clarity of his wider principles and vision.

And that’s not a surprise: at an early stage of a Presidential campaign few candidates have sorted out all the details of their future policies. As James Joyner points out, it is unreasonable to expect a commitment to too much nuance too early on from Presidential candidates, due to the nature of the US electoral process and political system. President Bartlett may have played well on TV, but a US President in real-life does not need to be a walking encyclopedia of facts. In fact, voters don’t much like a know-it-all.

What matters more – and what should matter for any candidate in my mind – is a consistent and appropriate overall vision, and (crucially) a willingness to seek out and listen to her/his advisers about how to execute.  Sanders consistently demonstrated both these qualities in his NYDN interview.  Overall, this moment tells us more about his foreign policy chops than critics admit: that Sanders thinks before he decides, is not afraid to ask for information he doesn’t have, and sees foreign policy through a consistent lens of his core principles: restraint, diplomacy and shared humanity. Continue reading

Speed Kills: Why we Need to Hit the Brakes on “Killer Robots”

 

This is a guest post by Juergen Altmann and Frank Sauer. Juergen Altmann is a Researcher and Lecturer at Technische Universität Dortmund, a specialist in military technology and preventive arms control and among the first scholars to study the military uses of nanotechnologyFrank Sauer is a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer, Bundeswehr University Munich, a specialist in international security, and is the author of Atomic Anxiety: Deterrence, Taboo and the Non-Use of U.S. Nuclear Weapons.

Autonomous weapon systems: rarely has an issue gained the attention of the international arms control community as quickly as these so-called killer robots. “Once activated, they can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator“, according to the Pentagon. They are, judging from the skepticism prevalent in epistemic communities and public opinion alike, a controversial development.

Come next Monday, the United Nations in Geneva will begin its third informal experts meeting on this emerging arms technology. For the third year in a row, various technical, legal and ethical questions surrounding autonomous weapons will be discussed at the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW): Where does autonomy begin, where does meaningful human control end? Can these systems function in compliance with international humanitarian law? Who is accountable if things go awry? Can “outsourcing” kill-decisions to machines be morally acceptable in the first place?

Depending on how CCW States Parties answer these questions, the still nascent social taboo that forbids the use of machines autonomously making kill-decisions might spawn a human security regime and be codified in a CCW protocol. In short, a ban might be in the cards for killer robots.

And in fact, there is an additional set of compelling reasons for preventive arms control that received comparably less attention so far (with notable exceptions, of course): the impact of killer robots on peace and stability.

Stability: not a Cold War relic

Stability became a key notion in Cold War international thought for two reasons. First, the arms race. Arms competition instability exists if the classic dynamic of one side deploying systems which lead adversaries to respond in kind and vice versa goes unchecked, with horizontal and vertical proliferation in tow. Crises were the second reason. Crisis instability exists if there are significant incentives to initiate an attack quickly. These can also arise when (conventional) war is already underway; hastening the escalation to higher levels of conflict, potentially even across the nuclear threshold due to a “use them or lose them”-situation.

The vicious cycle of an uncurbed arms race as well as the dangers of overboiling crises and deterrence failure – backed up by the accidental nuclear war scares caused by early-warning slipups and human error – provided cautionary tales and fueled the strive for stability via arms control during the Cold War, not only in the nuclear but also in the conventional realm with the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. IR and arms control literature documents these lessons. They carry over to the dawning age of autonomous weapons.

Proliferation and arms race instability

Strictly speaking, autonomous weapons do not exist yet. They are not to be confused with automatic defense systems capable of “firing without a human in the loop”. These are stationary or fixed on ships or trailers and mostly fire at inanimate targets such as incoming munitions. More importantly, they just repeatedly perform pre-programmed actions and operate in a comparably structured and controlled environment.

Autonomous weapon systems, in contrast, would have their own means of propulsion and be able to operate without human control or supervision in dynamic, unstructured, open environments over an extended period of time, potentially learning and adapting their behavior on the go. The military advantages – compared to today’s remotely piloted systems – are obvious. Think future autonomous combat drone sent off to seek, identify, track and attack targets on its own, and you’re spot on. They are called killer robots for a reason.

The drone sector gives an indication of what to expect. Between 2001 and 2015, the number of countries with armed drones has increased from two to ten (add Hamas and Hezbollah to that), and at least 11 countries are currently developing them.

Meanwhile, everything points toward weapon autonomy as the next logical step. The US, with its newly stated third offset strategy explicitly embraces autonomy to achieve military-technological superiority and is consequently leading the way in the air, on the ground, on the sea and below it. And while the US is the only country to have introduced a doctrine for the deployment and use of autonomous weapon systems, claiming restraint, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work just recently stated that the delegation of lethal authority will inexorably happen.

Absent an international ban, one would expect others to follow that lead. After all, who would allow a “killer robot gap”? Especially considering that implementing autonomy in already existing systems in a vibrant ecosystem of unmanned vehicles in various shapes and sizes is not the equivalent of starting a nuclear program from scratch – it’s a technical challenge, yes, but doable, particularly with significant portions of the hard- and software being dual-use. And we are not even considering technology export yet. In short, an unchecked robotics arms race is in the making – with weapons potentially proliferating to everyone, including oppressive regimes and non-state actors.

Crisis escalation and instability

Autonomous weapons are commonly projected as systems of systems operating in swarms. With that in mind, imagine a severe crisis, the swarms of adversaries operating in close proximity of each other. A coordinated attack of one could wipe out the other within missile flight time – that is seconds. The control software would have to react fast in order to use its weapons before they are lost. Sun glint in visual data misinterpreted as a rocket flame, sudden, unforeseen moves of the enemy swarm, a simple software bug could trigger an erroneous “counter”-attack. And while this could happen on a small scale at first, the sequence of events developing from two autonomous systems of systems interacting at rapid speed could never be trained nor tested nor, really, foreseen. The stock market provides cautionary tales of such unforeseeable algorithm interactions. Introducing algorithms in conflict bears an enormous risk of uncontrolled escalation from crisis to war.

In addition, swarms of autonomous weapons would generate new possibilities for disarming surprise attacks. Small, stealthy or extremely low-flying systems are difficult to detect, the absence of a remote-control radio link makes detection even harder. Russia already was not very amused when the idea of using stealthy drones for missile defense was floated in the US. It’s easy to see why. When nuclear weapons or strategic command-and-control systems are, or are perceived to be, put at risk by undetectable swarms that are hard to defend against, autonomous conventional capabilities end up causing instability at the strategic level.

Hitting the brakes

The case of autonomous weapon systems is not one of “we need them because they have them”. After all, no one has them – yet. We would be well-advised to keep it this way. Preventive arms control is prudent. Not only would it curb the looming arms race, a ban would prevent the excessive acceleration of battle that threatens to escape human understanding and the possibility of staying in control during crises. Sometimes humans make mistakes, and humans are slower than machines. But when things threaten to get out of hand, slow is good. That is why we need to hit the brakes now.

 

 

Friday Nerd Blogging: Does Cosplay at Conference Panels Render Pop-Culture Research Less Serious?

Star Wars
An argument broke out about this question after the “Star Wars and International Security” panel at ISA this month. A few people on Twitter and PSRM (or so rumors have it) say dressing up renders pop culture research more marginal than it already is. I suppose a TRIP survey could more conclusively answer the question about trends in the discipline.

Personally, I’d love to see that survey, since my new article in Perspectives is all about science fiction and global politics, so I have skin in the game of “taking pop culture research seriously.” In fact, perhaps we can conduct a natural experiment on this question by simply tracking citations / responses to this piece, which is the exact same piece I presented on the Star Wars panel while dressed as Princess Leia, and comparing them to my other work. If doubters are right, this will be one of my most marginalized papers ever and in fact will adversely affect my standing in the discipline (and perhaps the standing of pop culture research generally).

Ha! I doubt that will happen. I have no TRIP surveys under my belt, but my anecdotal experience says the opposite is true: dressing up to present pop culture research has no negative effect on people’s impression of pop culture research or researchers in IR. Rather, the ability to do so is an indicator of the reverse: pop culture scholarship has hit the IR mainstream.

Here’s what I’ve observed over the past several years of doing this: Continue reading

On The Terror and Feeding of Trolls: Or, Why I Aim to be an Equal-Opportunity Non-Reporter of DAESH-Inspired Terrorist Incidents

solidarityI was among those last week, after hearing about the events in Brussels, who tweeted or Facebooked in solidarity with Belgium… but also in solidarity with civilians killed in Ankara, Baghdad, Yemen, later that week Cote d’Ivoire and (as of yesterday) in Lahore, Pakistan. I took some flak for this on Twitter and in my personal email. Why can’t we just focus on Belgium on a week like this? some people ask? Don’t you care about this country and its allies? they say. I do, of course, but I also care about accuracy in my contributions to the media discourse, and about not helping the terrorists.

The problem with an over-focus on European victims of DAESH-inspired terrorism is that DAESH then looms larger as a threat to the West than it actually is to anyone. The attacks in Belgium weren’t Muslims against the West: they were DAESH against the world – as evidenced by the fact that DAESH targets more Muslims, and more people in Muslim majority countries, than Westerners. Victims of indiscriminate violence everywhere deserve our sympathy, solidarity and support – whether killed by suicide vests or aerial bombs.

But, does this mean we should be tweeting / posting about DAESH-sponsored attacks in Pakistan, Ankara, Baghdad, Grand Bassam, as often as we in the West post about Belgium? At first I think I was buying that, but after more thought actually I would say the opposite: we should tweet about Belgium, or attacks here in the West, about as often as we post/tweet about specific terror attacks in Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Cote d’Ivoire: That is, sparingly.

And the reason we should do this is so as not to feed the trolls. That is, the terrorists.

Terrorism is all about media attention. To work, terrorism must generate fear beyond its targets, and fear is amplified when it goes viral. And that viral media attention (including social media attention) makes terrorism look a lot more prevalent than it really is – as Nicholas Kristof reminds us – in the scheme of things. When we fill our feeds with a constant barrage of terror attack news – which will only be exponentially greater if we seek to be more inclusive – we highlight terrorist activity to the exclusion of far more important trends happening in the world.

That’s not a popular view. “Easy for you to say,” some people will write me, “Your town wasn’t just attacked.” So let me be clear: I have as much skin in the “protection from terrorists” game as anybody – because the aim of terrorists is not just to kill people but to terrorise those watching.

And I am terrified. I am mother to an elite soccer player who travels internationally. I just put him on a plane this weekend to a soccer tournament abroad, and he’ll be traveling again – to Europe – with his team in just a few weeks; then again, this summer; and constantly, really for the rest of his childhood. I think about my child all the time right now when I read stories of terror abroad. That the attacks in Belgium targeted airports did nothing to make me, as a mother, feel safe packing my child off unaccompanied on an international flight no matter where he’s headed.

But it was the news out of Baghdad this week that hit me the hardest: a suicide bomb killed 60 and wounded over 100 at the end of a soccer match, in a stadium, as trophies were being handed out. I can picture myself there. I can picture my son, receiving his trophy one minute and obliterated or worse the next. My heart aches for those families as surely as they ache for those who lost loved ones in Brussels. I cringe at the pointlessness of it all.

Am I afraid? Absolutely. I’m also angry. But instead of acting on those feelings, I choose to remind myself that they are both natural and overblown, and that giving in to them means DAESH wins.

What helps me do that is to keep my mind on the odds:

  • According to the US State Department, my son’s greatest risk of death when traveling abroad isn’t from terrorists, it’s by far from car accidents.
  • According to the Global Terrorist Database, my son’s greatest risk of death from terrorists in Europe, even in the age of DAESH, is down significantly from what it was in 1988.
  • According to the Economist (crunching Interpol numbers), my son’s greatest risk of death from terrorists in Europe doesn’t come from DAESH or any other so-called “jihadist” terrorist group, rather it comes from secular separatist terrorism.
  • BUT, according to Snopes.com, fact-checker of Internet memes, my son is still far likelier to be shot by a toddler here in the US – or crushed by furniture – than he is to be killed by a terrorist here, traveling in Europe to a soccer game, or anywhere else in the world. And that is what I remind my son when he watches the news. Terrorism is scary, but unlikely in any given place and time.

You know what probably does increase the risk of  DAESH-sponsored terrorism? Strengthening DAESH by over-reporting DAESH-inspired incidents, thus fanning the flames of terror. Continue reading

How (Not) to Measure the “Public Conscience”

A couple of years ago, Human Rights Watch launched a report arguing for a treaty ban on fully autonomous weapons, claiming military robots who target and kill human beings would violate international law. Among other arguments, the report Losing Humanity cited the Marten’s Clause of the Hague Convention, which encourages states to consider the “dictates of the public conscience” in determining whether as-yet-ungoverned activities were morally permissible among civilized nations.

Intrigued by this advocacy claim, I conducted a survey in 2013 to test whether public revulsion at the idea of “killer robots” was as widespread as Human Rights Watch claimed. I found that indeed a majority of Americans – include a majority of military personnel – oppose the idea of such weapons. And those who were “not sure” how they felt also leaned in favor of a precautionary principle.

In Research and Politics this month, Michael Horowitz presents new survey data purporting to prove that public opinion is not quite so “against” the idea of fully autonomous weapons as it first appeared. In his paper, “Public Opinion and the Killer Robot Debate,” he replicates a version of my earlier question but also adds a couple of experimental conditions, prompting users to assume that US troops will be protected from attack, and to assume that autonomous weapons would more effective than other alternatives in such a scenario. After priming the respondents in this way, Horowitz reports that in fact, “rather than being widespread, public opposition to autonomous weapons is contextual, as with nuclear weapons”: that is, respondents who were “primed” were somewhat less averse to killer robots. From this rather unsurprising finding, he then infers that the “public conscience” is less opposed to autonomous weapons than believed and therefore the Martens clause argument may not apply: “It is too early,” Horowitz pronounces, “to argue that AWS violate the public conscience provision of the Martens clause because of public opposition.”

I’m delighted to see folks taking replication seriously, and building on my earlier and very preliminary study.  But in my view Horowitz’ finding does not support his wider claim, for three reasons.  Continue reading

Why is Paypal Blocking Aid to Syrian Refugees?

Our prize winning creation, on left.*

Last December, on “Giving Tuesday,” I encouraged friends and family to send donations to three of my favorite charitable causes in lieu of birthday presents: low-income housing, domestic violence, and Syrian refugee relief. My son and I had signed up to compete that week in the Habitat for Humanity Gingerbread Build (see our prize-winning creation in the photo!),* the Safe Passage 5K run, and a UMass benefit dinner for Syrian refugees being organized by the student Amnesty International chapter.

Safe Passage had an online portal for collecting donations, but for the two other organizations we collected money directly from neighbors, family and friends, and turned it in to the non-profits directly. And of course, since many of our family and friends don’t live in Amherst, we also used Paypal as a crowd-funding portal.

A few days later, one of my sisters received a sinister note from Paypal, demanding to know about the transaction labeled “for Syria.” (Paypal did not question any family members who sent donations through the site to support Habitat for Humanity.)

My sister answered all of Paypal’s questions politely and referred Lawrence, the Compliance Officer to me. I immediately explained to Paypal all the relevant information about my sister’s gift to me, and where the money had gone, mentioning not just the student organization at UMass but also the humanitarian organization, Jusoor Syria, a US-registered non-profit based in Michigan, to whom the student group had said they would pass our donation.

Nonetheless, Paypal has suspended my account and seized my sister’s $50 gift to me, pending my “cooperation” with their “investigation” into whether I may be “buying or selling goods or services that are regulated or prohibited by the U.S. government.” What they have said they want me to do is track down an official letter from Jusoor Syria, stating that I am authorized to collect money on their behalf (even though I was technically collecting money on my own behalf, and gave it to a student group, not to Jusoor Syria directly).

Currently, as documented over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, I am refusing to cooperate with this request – it seems unethical to demand that a humanitarian NGO divert its attention from assisting war-affected civilians to accommodate a policy that appears to be based on racial profiling, and I won’t be part of that. Instead I have asked Paypal to justify its intrusive behavior on the basis of some “reasonableness” criteria governing its right to review user transactions. To date, I have not yet received any kind of answer to my questions from Paypal’s Resolution Centre, nor has Dan Schulman, Paypal’s CEO, replied to my tweet.

Based on their official correspondence plus some online research, here is my best and most charitable sense of what is going on – all of which raises some very fascinating questions in terms of contract law, administrative law and national security law. Continue reading

The ISA Awakens

A short time from now, at a conference venue far, far away (at least from Amherst, MA…):

Continue reading

On The Dynamics of Global Power Politics

This is a guest post by Dan Nexon, Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University and Stacie Goddard, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science of Wellesley College

In the wake of the Russian Federation’s intervention in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that, “You just don’t in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.” Indeed, a number of analysts see the return of traditional realpolitik, that “old-fashioned power plays are back in international relations.” Others express skepticism. They view international relations as more peaceful and less marked by realpolitik than ever before.

We think this debate encapsulates enduring problems with the way that many think about power politics. Scholars on both sides associate realpolitik primarily with the machinations of military power. They insist that states remain the core practitioners of power politics.  And they often treat the institutions of liberal order not as changing the dynamics of power politics, but somehow supplanting them entirely. When taken as a whole, such terms of debate reproduce a misleading baseline assumption still found in international-relations scholarship: that the nature and salience of global power politics—‘old-fashioned’ or otherwise—stems from the states-under-anarchy framework associated with contemporary realist theory.

We argue that it is time for security studies to abandon this debate, to stop equating realpolitik with contemporary realism, and to set down the parameters of a research program that we term “the dynamics of power politics.” In this, we draw inspiration from the field of contentious politics.

What binds the research program together is its focus on realpolitik as the politics of collective mobilization in the context of the struggle for influence among political communities, broadly understood. In particular, the study of the dynamics—the mechanisms and processes—of collective mobilization—the causal and constitutive pathways linking efforts at mobilization with enhanced power—brings disparate approaches to security studies together in a shared study of power politics. Some readers will note that our approach—and quite deliberately—finds kinship with calls to take practices, transactions, and relations themselves as basic building blocks of analysis, and thus implicates emerging divisions in the field.

We detail specific analytical content in our article, “The Dynamics of Global Power Politics,” published in the inaugral issue of the the newest ISA journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies. But, as we note there, consider Moscow’s activities in Russia’s near abroad.  For structural realists, Russia’s actions herald a return to power politics as usual, and provide clear evidence that states will continue to balance power under conditions of anarchy. We agree that Russia’s actions should not be dismissed as mere “spoiler” behavior: the last vestiges of brutish power politics in the liberal world order. But the “Russia is balancing” causal story is not particularly convincing either. Putin’s actions have infuriated Western opponents precisely because they are seen as threatening a liberal institutional order.  To treat this as balancing under anarchy, as Cooley shows, misses the rich institutional context of contemporary power politics. Russia’s strategy, moreover, relies less upon the mobilization of other great powers, and more on specific tactics aimed at other actors. From a dynamics-of-power-politics perspective, the question is not whether or not Russia is “balancing,” which, as the debate over soft balancing illustrates, some realists take as the threshold for significant power-political activity. Instead, it concerns what mechanisms of power politics operating in the Russian case; what instruments are being deployed and why; and how structure shapes the interaction and outcomes of these mechanisms.

Ultimately the goal of this research program involves finding common ground between realist and heterodox approaches. More important, it aims to ensure that power politics remains central to the global analysis of security studies. Despite the decline in major power wars and the use of international force by states, despite the growth of international institutions, despite the supposed increased importance of economic and symbolic instruments, the struggle for power constitutes an immutable feature of international relations. In essence, we agree with the founders of the field of Security Studies: to ignore the dynamics of power politics is to miss an essential feature of international security, let alone global politics.

 

 

 

The Destruction of Alderaan Was Not Justified

This is a guest post by Luke M. Perez, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin where he studies religion, ethics, and foreign policy. Luke is also a graduate fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas. He can be reached at lukemperez@gmail.com.

__________________

The Empire apologists are making their case, and it is convincing. Perhaps we were wrong all along to support the Rebellion.  But that doesn’t mean we should let the Empire off the hook entirely.

This week for example, Sonny Bunch argues in the Washington Post that the destruction of Alderaan in Episode IV of Star Wars was completely justified. This article is interesting, thought provoking, and wrong – seeking to excuse what is, by any measure, a gross and tragic violation of just war principles. Whatever merits the Empire, whatever flaws the Rebellion, any truly reflective and honest empirical assessment of the Empire’s action at Alderaan will admit that its destruction was a tragic moral failing. Continue reading

Turkey’s Nuclear Move: Deciphering the Developments

This is a guest post by Philip Baxter,  Ph.D. Candidate in International Affairs, Science, and Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Senior Research Associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. His research focuses on international security issues, in particular nuclear proliferation, deterrence, strategic stability, illicit trafficking, and nuclear safeguards. He can be reached at pbaxter@miis.edu.

A recent article in the National Interest by Hans Rühle, former Head of the Planning Staff in the German Ministry of Defense, argues that Turkey is positioning itself similarly to Iran in its leveraging of civilian nuclear power for potential nuclear weapons breakout capability. His argument, meant largely to justify German spying on the NATO-ally, posits that since Turkey is developing nuclear power plants, potentially developing its own nuclear fuel production capacity, and does not have a provision for spent nuclear fuel to be return to suppliers (a provision not necessary if producing fuel domestically), it is obviously shadowing the Iranian proliferation formula. These arguments are significantly flawed. While the Turkish movement into the nuclear arena could be afforded more clarity, particularly on the heels of a decade of efforts to corral the Iranian program, nefarious purposes should not be assumed; nor, are they immediately apparent.

Rühle argues that the size of the nuclear industry that Turkey is planning, as well as the amount of fuel that would be needed to supply that industry, would provide ample material for a nuclear weapon. From a purely technical perspective, nuclear fuel from most civilian power reactors is not ideal for a weapons program. Turkey plans to construct four light-water pressurized reactors. These light-water reactors make breeding the type of plutonium necessary for nuclear weapons difficult – as purity is key in having a safe and reliable arsenal. Rühle dismisses the point that the less-pure plutonium from a civilian power reactor would not be used for military program. Rather, Ruhle argues that regardless of plutonium purity, a state will seek to acquire any form of nuclear material and use it for a nuclear arsenal. However, the quality of plutonium is a critical factor in understanding and forecasting proliferation strategies. Continue reading

US, Canada, and Humanitarian Flights for Syria’s Refugees

The video above is the YouTube presentation of my remarks this week at University of Toronto’s Davey Forum, whose theme this year was “Is Canada Doing Enough to Promote Human Rights?” I attended at the kind invitation of Duck blogger Wendy Wong and her colleagues Lou Pauly and Rod Haddow, and my remarks followed those of former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy.

When it was time for the audience to ask questions, the very first question was:

“What can Canada contribute to the Syrian refugee crisis?”

It’s exactly the right kind of question. My answer, in one word: AIRPLANES.

Continue reading

Migration as Protest

This is a guest post by Leila Kawar, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Contesting Immigration Policy in Court: Legal Activism and Its Radiating Effects in the United States and France (Cambridge University Press 2015) and a cofounder of the Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association. In 2000-2001, she spent a year in residence at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Damascus, Syria.

 
migrantsThis summer, the ramparts of “Fortress Europe” were breached by a mass exodus undertaken by young Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans. News coverage has described them as “migrants.” But I would argue that this term is a misnomer; rather than “migration,” what we are witnessing is a collective act of “protest” against the current governance regime that quarantines conflict outside of Europe’s borders. Continue reading

Want to Help the Refugees? Teach Migration as Part of IR

The following is a guest post by Margaret Peters, who teaches political economy and migration at Yale University.    She is currently finishing her book project When Business Abandoned Immigration: Firms and the Remaking of Globalization.”

Recent pictures of Syrian refugee crisis from 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey to migrants sitting in camps in Hungary have increased the calls for the West to “do something.” Instead of doing the easiest, most effective, and least expensive thing to protect Syrians (and other refugees) – allowing them to enter and stay in wealthy countries as refugees – there has been much buck passing about whose responsibility it is to protect these refugees.

Increasing anti-immigrant sentiment has been blamed for most of the unwillingness on the part of both the OECD countries and wealthy autocracy to resettle the refugees.  Yet, the problem is not an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment – as Judith Goldstein and I show, anti-immigrant sentiment, even towards low-skill immigrants, has fallen since the Great Recession in the US and probably in Europe as well – instead, the problem is the lack of a powerful, pro-immigration lobby.

While refugee and asylum policy have, at least since World War II, been used to reward allies and humiliate adversaries, these policies are not solely determined by foreign policy concerns. Instead, they are part and parcel of the larger immigration policy debate, determined by competing domestic demands.  On the side of greater openness have stood business, immigrants themselves, and humanitarians and cosmopolitans.  On the side of more restrictions have been native labor (although not all unions), fiscal conservatives worried about the impact of immigration.

What has changed the balance of power between these two sides? Why do the nativists seem to be winning? Continue reading

Some Thoughts on the Great APSA Baby Ban of 2015

I don’t attend the American Political Science  Conference these days (I explained why in this post last year). But many of my colleagues do, so every year at this time I participate vicariously by watching what is going on in my Facebook feed.

Yesterday, I was surprised by Page Fortna’s status update which read as follows:

A new mom attending APSA was denied entry to the book room today because she had her 9 week old with her. They claimed insurance doesn’t cover babies. WTF APSA? Family-unfriendly much

That’s right: as if it’s not enough already to face childhood as a “polisci brat,” now nine-week-old babies are being banned from the book room by conference staff.

Why am I surprised? Aside from the date of the conference, I have always thought of APSA as one of the more family friendly professional venues I’ve had the pleasure to spend time in. I raised my kids on the conference circuit and have been grateful to APSA and other political science conferences for providing some of the best childcare facilities and benefits imaginable. When my children were small, I never had any problem accessing the entire conference with them in tow if I liked. At APSA and at other conference in the profession, my toddlers followed me to exhibit halls, rode the hotel escalators, and played at my feet at panels. Conference-goers and staff were unfailingly pleasant and accommodating, even welcoming of my children. I have long thought of APSA’s childcare policy as enlightened and supportive of parents.

Well, my surprise turned to SHOCK this morning after APSA issued this statement justifying its behavior:

APSA makes great efforts to be as welcoming and open to all attendees as possible. Conventions of our size require event insurance to secure contracts and use space at any hotels or convention centers. Event insurance does not cover children in an Exhibit Hall due to liability. We are committed to making the Annual Meeting as convenient as we can, but, unfortunately, this is not an area where we have flexibility.

We are pleased to continue offering onsite Child Care and a Mother’s Room for nursing and pumping.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause members or attendees, but, unfortunately, we are not able to allow children into the Exhibit Hall. We invite you to leave your comments here for discussion.

OK,  first of all, if the insurance company is the problem APSA needs a new insurance carrier. Any insurance policy that covers drunken political scientists but not their sober children is not worth its salt.

Secondly, a “Mother’s Room”? Let’s not pretend this is a women’s issue only or that setting aside space for breastfeeding moms will do the trick. Fathers also attend APSA with their children: single fathers, spouses supporting their career wives, dual-career spouses tag-teaming between panels and events, and two-father households. A pumping room is certainly important, but the idea that this is constitutes sufficient child-friendly space, rather than allowing parents of both sexes and their children access to the entire event, is retrograde and non-family-friendly. It rolls back the sense of progress that families were feeling they were making in the profession – progress that was especially helpful to women and whose rollback will especially hurt women, but which affects all professional parents. And based on APSA’s and ISA’s of yore,  it is wholly unnecessary.

If you agree, please click this link and leave comments to the APSA leadership in support of children and families in our profession. Seriously, these kids are being raised by political scientists! They need all the support they can get.

 

Museum of Science Fiction To Open in DC

scifi

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!

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

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

Friday Nerd Blogging

What? No “pirates?” Ironic, since the Season 4 finale set a new piracy record and now at 18.5 million viewers is the second most watched HBO show in history. What does this mean for mass understandings of foreign policy? Maybe nothing. Maybe something.

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