Josh Busby

busbyj@utexas.edu

Joshua Busby is an Associate Professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin. He is the author of Moral Movements and Foreign Policy (Cambridge, 2010) and the co-author, with Ethan Kapstein, of AIDS Drugs for All: Social Movements and Market Transformations (Cambridge, 2013). His main research interests include transnational advocacy and social movements, international security and climate change, global public health and HIV/ AIDS, energy and environmental policy, and U.S. foreign policy. He also tends to blog about global wildlife conservation.

http://lbjschool.austin.utexas.edu/busby/

The Return of Geopolitics

Geopolitics has returned with a vengeance. The end of the Cold War wrought a moment in which there was no credible alternative to liberal democratic capitalism. Russia was seemingly fatally weakened, and China was not yet the economic powerhouse it would become.

By the late 2000’s, Russia, with power and resources concentrated  in the hands of Vladimir Putin, was newly assertive in its near abroad and attempted to restore its authority over Georgia and Ukraine. It would seek influence over events further afield by supporting the Assad regime in Syria and through vigorous efforts to destabilize elections in the United States and elsewhere.

For its part, China finally asserted suspected regional ambitions and began robust efforts to build physical infrastructure on contested islands in the South China Sea. Together,these moves suggested a return of great power politics and that the play for global convergence to liberal democratic capitalism had not succeeded. With China, there was now a plausible competitor in authoritarian capitalism.

This is the scene captured in Tom Wright’s important 2017 bookAll Measures Short of War. Wright, now of the Brookings Institution, attempts to explain why American policymakers embraced and failed with convergence and what to do about it.

In a reviews exchange in the journal International Politics Reviews, Kori Schake, Chris Preble, and Nuno Monteiro weigh in on Wright’s book. Wright responds in turn. It’s a terrific exchange. Here are the key take-aways, but give them a read yourself. (BTW, I’m an associate editor at IPR so if you have a book and would like to be part of an exchange, let me know). Continue reading

Turning the Lights Out on American Leadership

What a time to be alive. By some accounts, we are witnessing a power transition between the United States and China, with the United States voluntarily relinquishing its claim of global leadership despite having a sizable advantage in hard power over all of its rivals.

Evan Osnos, who spent many years in China writing for the New Yorker, has a provocative piece that sums up his view of Trump’s foreign policy one year in, “Making China Great Again.”

The Chinese, he writes, have a clear-eyed assessment of what the Trump administration has become:

After the summit, the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing think tank, published an analysis of the Trump Administration, describing it as a den of warring “cliques,” the most influential of which was the “Trump family clan.” The Trump clan appears to “directly influence final decisions” on business and diplomacy in a way that “has rarely been seen in the political history of the United States,” the analyst wrote. He summed it up using an obscure phrase from feudal China: jiatianxia—“to treat the state as your possession.”

The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership gives China an opportunity to define trade rules in the Asia Pacific. The intended withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement allows China to reap diplomatic kudos by staying in. These moves among others are gifting China an opening to exercise greater influence than ever before. Continue reading

ICAN’s Road to the Nobel Peace Prize

This is a guest post from Rebecca Gibbons, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bowdoin College. 

On Sunday, December 10, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for calling attention to the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of nuclear use and for promoting the recently adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

This movement grew out of great frustration with a lack of progress on nuclear disarmament through traditional channels such as the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament. After nuclear weapons possessors in the NPT failed in 2005 to re-commit to disarmament promises they had agreed to previously, a leader from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War—itself a Nobel Peace Prize winner—sought to found a new umbrella organization devoted to developing a convention against nuclear weapons. He envisioned an international campaign that would operate similar to the one that had banned landmines and suggested calling this new organization the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons with the acronym ICAN. ICAN began in Australia in 2006 and was launched internationally in 2007. In a decade’s time, this group succeeded in pushing forward a multilateral treaty banning nuclear weapons and winning a Nobel Peace Prize. In my research on ICAN, I have identified five reasons for this movement’s success in achieving a nuclear prohibition treaty earlier this year. Continue reading

Philosophy of Law and the Decline of War

This is a guest post from Simon Cotton, Australian National University, where he is a Visitor in Philosophy, and the University of New South Wales, Canberra, where he teaches in Humanities and Social Sciences.

Much of the commentary on Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro’s recent book, The Internationalists, including at Duck of Minerva, has focused on the empirical basis for their controversial thesis. Hathaway and Shapiro do not just claim that much of the decline in major interstate war that we have seen since the Second World War is down to mere reformulation of black-letter law, but that the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, which appeared an embarrassment in its immediate aftermath, was pivotal to this transformation.

It is unsurprising, then, that political scientists have taken issue with their claim. In contrast, The Internationalists’ philosophical presuppositions have attracted less attention. This is a pity, because this work represents an invaluable opportunity to demonstrate the practical relevance of philosophy of law, an area that hard-headed social scientists are apt to dismiss. Continue reading

2018 Duckies

This is a guest post from Laura Seay, among other things chair of the Online Media Caucus for ISA.

It’s Duckies time! ISA 2018 is right around the corner.

The Online Achievement in International Studies Reception and Awarding of the Duckies will take place on Friday, April 6 at 7:30pm.  We’ll feature three speakers in the ever-popular Ignite series and enjoy honoring our winners together.  The ISA Online Media Caucus (OMC) appreciates the generous support of SAGE Publishing in sponsoring the awards.

Now is the time to submit your nominations for the 2018 Duckies.  Send your nominations to onlinemediacaucus@gmail.com by December 15, 2017.  We award Duckies in the following categories:

Best Blog (Group) in International Studies

Best Blog (Individual) in International Studies

Best Blog Post in International Studies

Best Twitter Account

Special Achievement in International Studies Online Media

As is our custom, these awards go to English-language international studies blogs and bloggers whose online output has significant scholarly content.  Award nominees or their designated representatives MUST be present at the Duckies.

Once the nominations deadline has passed, the Online Media Caucus will judge the nominations and determine finalists for public voting.  Self-nominations are encouraged. If you have any questions, please contact 2017-18 Online Media Caucus Chair Laura Seay.

Can the EU regain its international climate policy leadership lost in Copenhagen?

This is a guest post from Axel Michaelowa  from the University of Zurich. He is also the lead author of the chapter on international agreements in the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is the second in the series from our Bonn panel on leadership in the climate regime. 

For over a decade, the EU was the undisputed leader of the international climate policy process. It had a grand vision for a universal international climate policy agreement modelled on the Kyoto Protocol. This was to be “crowned” during COP 15 in Copenhagen 2009. So the shock was the greater when the EU was ignominously sidelined by an alliance of Barack Obama and the leaders of the large emerging economies. They did not like grand designs and instead embarked on a road towards a “bottom up” climate policy system.

Almost a decade later, the US has abandoned international climate policy leadership after it played a crucial role in helping France in the runup to the Paris Agreement. Can the EU now again lead? The answer unfortunately is “No”. Continue reading

Leadership in the Climate Regime without the US Federal Government

I am just back from the climate negotiations in Bonn where I organized a side event at the German Development Institute (DIE). The event was co-sponsored  by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

These are my opening and closing  remarks from the session. In subsequent days, I’ll post additional interventions from some of the other panelists.  Panelists included Aimee Barnes, Senior Adviser to Governor Brown of California; Sander Chan of DIE; Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW, one of India’s leading think tanks on energy and climate; Angel Hsu, of Yale-NUS campus; and Axel Michaelowa of the University of Zurich.

Opening Remarks
I want to thank you all for coming today to this side event. I’m Josh Busby and an Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. When Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th president of the United States, I knew that the climate regime was in for a difficult period after the heady optimism coming out of Paris in 2015.

I started a new research project, “Leadership in the Climate Regime without the US Federal Government.” When I heard about the DIE Interconnections side events, I thought this would be a tremendous opportunity to assemble some of the smartest professionals who work on this every day.

I thought it was important to get different perspectives on the role of different actors, not just folks knowledgeable about the actions of the world’s most important polities but also those of sub-national and non-state actors. Continue reading

Planet Politics and International Relations

This is a guest post from Hannes Peltonen, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Tampere

The State of the Discipline

International Politics/Relations (IR) has allegedly failed, a claim publicized periodically. Barry Buzan and Richard Little began this millennium by highlighting the discipline’s intellectual failure in the journal Millennium. More recently, an influential 2013 forum in EJIR on IR theory, edited by Tim Dunne, Lene Hansen, and Colin Wight, concludes something similar.

IR theorists seem to consider that IR has failed, because it has a one-way relationship with other disciplines and fields. IR research borrows from other disciplines, but other disciplines seem uninterested in what IR has to offer.

One explanation for this one-way relationship could be that IR remains in the shadow of Political Science. According to Justin Rosenberg, IR has failed to develop its own disciplinary “big idea.” Such ideas are based on some characteristic of the social world through which a discipline might define and delineate itself. In Geography, it is space; in History it is time; in Sociology it is the structures of social relations.

Rosenberg’s claim seems to be that without such a big idea, other disciplines are not really interested in IR as independent from Political Science and Political Thought. Much of IR discussions may be of interest to IR scholars, but not to scholars in other disciplines. Other disciplines, however, are of interest to IR scholars exactly because they have their own big ideas which communicate across disciplines, thus being also of interest to IR.

Rosenberg’s own suggestion (“uneven and combined development”) for IR’s disciplinary big idea is promising, but it has also encountered criticism, whether justified or not.

In addition to criticisms presented by others, Rosenberg’s suggestion suffers from its implication, namely that it strengthens disciplinary division at a time, when there is a clear call for innovative interdisciplinarity. Moreover, Rosenberg’s suggestion seems to look back in time while neglecting the future and partially also the contemporary world. Thus, it ignores a rather large detail: the Anthropocene/Capitalocene. Continue reading

Democratic Weakness and the Secessionist Impulse

This is a guest post from Katy Collin, who is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Brookings Institution and an adjunct instructor at American University’s School of International Service. Her research is on the use of referendums in peace processes.

In the last few weeks, international borders have been challenged around the world. Secessionists and great powers are undermining the norm of territorial integrity, or border fixity. In the Middle East, East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and in Europe, international boundaries are being pushed from within and between states.

Respect for international boundaries has been one of the primary sources of stability in the post-World War II world. It has not been legitimate to conquer neighboring states and seize territory as a mechanism for dispute resolution or payment of international debt since the end of that war. Border fixity has contributed to the sharp decline in wars between states.

On the other hand, defending arbitrary international borders, particularly following de-colonization, may be one of the primary drivers of wars within states. Strong borders may protect weak states and promote fragility. Since World War II, about half of the wars and most of the violence globally have been associated in some way with struggles to alter borders. As much as the post-War international order has been built on border fixity, it has also established a normative case for the self-determination of peoples. Continue reading

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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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

Puerto Rico: What did the delay in the response to Hurricane Maria mean?

Last night, I tried to dig in and understand whether and how the response to Hurricane Maria was delayed. I wrote a Tweetstorm that I Storify-ed below. I wanted to see what evidence if any supported those claims and in what ways a swifter and larger response potentially could have addressed some of the specific problems that buffeted and continue to confront Puerto Rico.

In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen news reports from the Washington Post that criticized the president’s desultory response along with a plea for help from the Mayor of San Juan. President Trump, of course, responded in kind by attacking FakeNews and the Mayor of San Juan (because he’s an asshole). Leaving aside the president’s crass punching down, I think it’s a fair question to try to nail down what could and should have been done sooner. Former Obama disaster official Jeremy Konyndyk wrote a similar tweet thread as well.

Giving the administration the benefit of the doubt, it is true that coordinating logistics for Puerto Rico are harder than for the mainland for hurricanes Harvey and Irma given the distance. It’s also true that Puerto Rico occurred in the wake of those two storms in which FEMA resources were already stretched. It is also true that the extent of the devastation made distribution of aid on the island a real problem since many roads were impassable.

That said, Maria wasn’t a surprise. People knew well in advance that Puerto Rico was going to be hit by Maria and so decisions in the first days in terms of mobilizing ships, including the hospital ship Comfort and other naval assets that could have ferried troops and helicopters, were delayed by days. I think all of that has been consequential for speed of the response, especially compared to the mobilization after Harvey, Irma, Katrina, and the Haitian earthquake. Read on for more detail.

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Myanmar: The Responsibility to Protect is Working Exactly As It Was Supposed To

This is a guest post from Aidan Hehir, a Reader in International Relations at the University of Westminster. He has published widely in a number of academic journals including International Security, The Journal of Peace Research, Ethics and International Affairs, and Cooperation and Conflict. He is author/editor of a number of books including, Protecting Human Rights in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2017); Libya, The Responsibility to Protect, and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); The Responsibility to Protect: Rhetoric, Reality and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

In recent weeks, the desperate plight of the Rohingya fleeing from the Rakhine province into Bangladesh, has received sustained international media coverage. Many reports from inside Myanmar have attested to the brutality of the national military and their commission of egregious atrocities; indeed the UN Secretary General recently declared that “ethnic cleansing” was underway.

These scenes have, naturally, led to expressions of outrage and revulsion. In particular, some have claimed that the situation, and particularly the paltry international response, constitutes a violation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as agreed by states at the 2005 World Summit. In fact, the situation is a textbook case of R2P working exactly as it was supposed to; it is not that states or the UN Security Council have failed to apply R2P, it is simply that once again R2P has proved to be a failure. Continue reading

Duck Forum on extreme weather events and climate change

This forum was edited by Jessica Green, an assistant professor in Environmental Studies Department at New York University.

The one-two punch of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has revived the conversation about the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events.   Views from the media and politicians range from calls for better climate and adaptation policies to skilled deflection. To provide some insights from political science, I asked experts Josh Busby, David Konisky, Neil Malholtra, Matto Mildenberger, Leah Stokes and Stacy VanDeveer to provide their thoughts on three questions:

1) What are the most important political consequences of Harvey and Irma?  Are they a “game changer” for US climate discourse?

2) What is the role of scientific agencies and organizations is in this “post fact” era?

3) What are the most promising levers for promoting better adaptation policies?

All are skeptical that the recent hurricanes and the associated damage will change the tenor of politics around climate change. The issue is too polarized, and memories of disaster fade quickly. While crises such as these natural disasters can create the opportunity for policy change, it is clear that Republican elites must change their tune if any changes are to be implemented.

The role for scientists is a difficult one to navigate. Stacy VanDeveer suggests that scientists need to be more proactive and strategic about communicating their findings. But Neal Malhotra worries that the politicization of science will further erode trust in these institutions. Long term, the best approach is to “re-establish norms that people who work professionally on topics related to science ought to have seats at the table for decision-making” says Josh Busby. Post-fact era or not, Matto Mildenberger and Leah Stokes remind us that “denying climate change does not change the material facts at hand.”

As for how to effect change, the experts have a variety of helpful suggestions. They all share a common thread: don’t focus on climate change. Switch the emphasis to other issues and benefits, and the likelihood of success grows dramatically.

  • Focus on tailoring adaptation strategies to specific place; this need not require reinventing the wheel, states Konisky. There are already ample resources about best practices available to communities seeking to enhance their resilience to climate change.
  • Emphasize the non-climate benefits of adaptation. To the extent that policies are able to improve resilience and create jobs, expand green spaces, redirect investments into communities or create other tangible local benefits, they will be better received by the electorate.
  • Find ways to help politicians capture the benefits of preparation. If adaptation can, say, help lower insurance rates, then politicians will reap more of the rewards of being proactive about future disasters.
  • Change land use policies to expand natural buffers and make building codes more stringent as a way to reduce the most devastating impacts of storms.

Of course, while adaptation policies become increasingly necessary, and will surely prevent some future damage and hardship, without mitigation, they become a prohibitively expensive proposition. At this point, we have already locked in some degree of climate change, so adaptation must be part of the game plan. But we cannot adapt our way out of climate change. Mitigation may be the more controversial approach, but in the long term, it will lessen the amount of adaptation needed, and reduce its overall costs.

Their more detailed thoughts follow after the jump. Continue reading

Welcome to New Guest Ducks!

We are pleased to welcome some new guest Ducks, including an exciting new partnership.  We also are pleased that guest bloggers, Lisa Gaufman,  Jeff Stacey, Jeremy Youde, and Will Winecoff will continue to blog for the Duck. We wanted to thank all the guest bloggers who contributed last year including Maryam Deloffre, Alexis Henshaw, Charles Martel, Raul Pacheco-Vega, and Mira Sucharov.

Our first guest is a little different than the others. We are excited to partner with Bridging the Gap to leverage their network of policy-relevant scholars to write for the Duck periodically. So, under the mantle and icon of Bridging the Gap, you will see posts from a variety of authors this fall. Naazneen Barma and Brent Durbin will take the lead on the column on behalf of the Bridging the Gap directorship, which also includes Jim Goldgeier, Bruce Jentleson, Jordan Tama, and Steve Weber.  Jim by the way wrote a fabulous post for us last week with guidance for junior scholars on tenure track.

For those unfamiliar with their training workshops for faculty and graduate students, Bridging the Gap promotes scholarly contributions to public debate and decision making on global challenges and U.S. foreign policy. BtG equips professors and doctoral students with the skills they need to produce influential policy-relevant research and theoretically grounded policy work. They also spearhead cutting-edge research on problems of concrete importance to governments, think tanks, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, and global firms. Within the academy, BtG is driving changes in university culture and processes designed to incentivize public and policy engagement.

We also have  a fantastic line of individual guest contributors to announce. These include:

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Should APSA and ISA have a “No Manels” Rule?

The Financial Times just announced guidance that there will no longer be all male panels — manels — at any FT or partner events. It made me think whether APSA or ISA should adopt a similar policy.

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Calling New Ducks

As the fall semester approaches, we’re looking for a few good Ducks. We’d like to bring on a new slate of guest Duck bloggers to continue to bring IR-related insights to bear on important real world problems, to explore important debates in the academy, and to do some professional introspection.

We’re especially keen on having gender balance and increasing representation of voices from beyond North America and other important perspectives.

Here is the general policy for guests and our wider set of policies (such as they are).

Guest Bloggers: Guest Bloggers get posting privileges for a period and a temporary place on the masthead. We invite IR specialists with a PhD, some active policy or area studies interests, and a penchant for online writing to apply for regular guest blogging stints at the Duck. Guest bloggers should be prepared to post at least 200-500 words, at least once a week, in their area of expertise. Stints generally rotate after a semester or so, but are renewable if we like your work! If you are past graduate school and would like to join us for awhile, send any of the permanent contributors a letter of interest and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Some folks might post a little less frequently but write a bit more per post. Please email me or any of the other permanent members with a note of interest. If you have some creative ideas for new content or multi-media/podcasts, we’re open to new ventures to build in to the blog as well.

The Trump Administration at 6 months

The following is a guest post from Jeff Colgan, the Richard Holbrooke Associate Professor at Brown Universit. Colgan is  a Bridging the Gap Policy Engagement Fellow. Follow him on Twitter at  @JeffDColgan  This publication was made possible (in part) by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

July 20 marks six months into the Donald J. Trump administration. Now seems like a good time to step back from the daily headlines and take stock of the situation. To what extent is the United States experiencing democratic erosion?

Let me give credit where credit is due. I am a political scientist but democratic erosion is not my area of expertise. Since Trump was elected, I have been drawing on others’ expertise and published research. Steve Walt, Timothy Snyder, Sam Wang, and others have put together useful thoughts on creeping authoritarianism. I’ve learned a lot from Brendan Nyhan, Erica Chenoweth, Norm Ornstein, Shana Gadarian, the Bright Line Watch group, the Authoritarian Warning Survey, and others.

What follows is not fully systematic, which makes me uncomfortable as a social scientist. The United States is a fast-moving political environment and it is hard to know what impact various events and developments will have in the long run. So I will limit myself to putting events from the last six months into three basic categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Continue reading

Gauging Public Opinion in the Age of Trump

This a guest post from Robert M. Eisinger, a political science professor at Roger Williams University. He is the author of The Evolution of Presidential Polling (Cambridge University Press).

Many of us recall reading the website 538 just prior to election day, and noted that there was a 71.4% probability that Hillary Clinton would garner more than 270 Electoral College votes than Donald Trump. Despite Secretary Clinton’s amassing 2.9 million more popular votes, Mr. Trump won the Electoral College and the presidency.

The liberals and progressives’ zeitgeist had been disrupted and dislocated. The world as they knew it was no longer. Perhaps it never was.

The AAPOR [American Association of Public Opinion Research] and WAPOR [World Association of Public Opinion Research] members do not question public opinion can be measured, observed and explained to a larger polity. We are, after all, in the business of survey research, so no one should be surprised at our belief that poll data bring with it a certain degree of precision and value. Just last month, AAPOR held its annual meeting in New Orleans. Many of the papers, posters and panels concerned polling methods – especially how to improve and increase their accuracy.

But something is amiss, and what is askew significantly will affect U.S. foreign policy in the next few years and beyond. Fewer people own telephone land lines, or respond to poll queries, making it harder and arguably more expensive to conduct polls, and more uncertain if those sampled who do respond are indeed representative of larger populations (see, e.g. Pew Research Center). That the AAPOR and WAPOR cognoscenti recognize these foreboding trends is a tribute to their professional and intellectual integrity.

But different questions linking public opinion to foreign affairs also deserve interrogation. Namely, are some opinions irrationally conceived, amorphous or un-crystallized, and therefore unworthy of advancing, or even polling? What role should both elite and mass opinion, play in shaping U.S. foreign policies? How susceptible are we to elite cues, and if different citizens perceive elites differently, how will those differences affect how we govern? Continue reading

Duck Forum on Paris Withdrawal

With the news that the Trump Administration has signaled its intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, I reached out to a number of leading experts on global climate governance and U.S. climate policy for advanced comment. Contributors include Jessica Green, Jennifer Hadden, Thomas Hale, Matthew Hoffmann, Angel HsuJoanna LewisJohannes Urpelainen, and Stacy VanDeveer. 

I asked all of them to reflect on the following three questions. 1) What do you think the the consequences of U.S. withdrawal will be for the agreement? (2) How do you think other actors will respond to U.S. withdrawal in terms of their own commitments and actions? (3) What affect will this move have on U.S. standing in the world?

What follows is my synthetic take on people’s answers, my own editorializing, and then each scholars’ full comments unedited. I also have a piece this afternoon on the decision on The Monkey Cage.

Contributors to the forum are sanguine that the agreement will survive and indeed that withdrawal may in the short-run spur a commitment by leading countries, sub-national governments, and private actors to up their efforts. On some level, U.S. withdrawal could be good for the agreement if staying in meant that it sucked up all the energy and time by seeking to renegotiate the terms. Since withdrawal is not immediate, what role the U.S. will play in the interim remains to be seen. If recent discussions in Bonn are an indication, that may mean sending a skeletal crew of junior people to sit on the margins.

U.S. withdrawal creates space for the EU and China to position themselves as they have already done as global climate leaders. Over the longer-run, however, it may be harder to sustain a “race to the top” when other countries observe the United States’ backsliding in the domestic sphere. We should have a better sense in 2018 when progress to date and the rules for how to track and review pledges are set to be finalized. The loss of U.S. contributions on global climate finance appears highly likely, which may, in turn, dampen other contributions, a very bad omen for international efforts to support adaptation and resilience.

While the agreement can survive four years without the United States, eight years of a hostile Trump administration would pose a more significant challenge since the world needs U.S. participation (namely, domestic action) for the agreement to be effective. The commitments made in Paris in 2015 were a down payment on what is required to have an even outside chance of keeping temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If we cannot ratchet up ambition in 2020, then we are in for a world of even more significant warming and weird weather than any of us are prepared for.

All of the contributors agree that this is a major unforced error by the United States, which was totally unnecessary given the flexibility of the agreement. After having exercised 8 years of leadership to remove the stigma of previous inaction, the United States has reversed course and punched itself in the face at a moment when the rest of the world is poised to move on to next generation clean energy that will protect the planet and be the source of jobs and wealth in the future. The best case scenario at this point is that United States elects a new president in 2020 who reverses course and promptly re-joins the agreement in January 2021. Until then, we’ve got some work to do.

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