Josh Busby

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.

Foreign Policy Salience and the 2016 Election: Evidence from the ANES Survey

With each passing week, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, makes statements that challenge the basic operating assumptions of U.S. foreign policy, whether it be through his nonchalance about a trade war with China, repudiation of alliance commitments to NATO and Japan, or honoring the countries’ debts. The question that emerges from this: does the American electorate care?

While presidential candidates have to pass some semblance of a commander in chief test of credibility with the electorate, the conventional wisdom is that foreign policy rarely matters much in U.S. presidential elections, outside of moments of crisis. See my blog post here, as well as posts by Dan Drezner and Elizabeth Saunders.

A recent example comes from the recent kerfuffle over Ben Rhodes’ New York Times interview. Drezner argues efforts on both sides of the Iran Deal debate last year failed to move the public,  mostly because the issue did not resonate with the American people.

This, however, is an unusual year, where we have a Republican candidate in Donald Trump with no government experience who will likely face a Democratic nominee in Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.  One or more San Bernadino, Brussels, or Paris-type attacks might make foreign policy more important. Do we have any evidence though to assess this claim or concern?

Recently, Bethany Albertson, Shana Gadarian, and I explored some of these issues on The Monkey Cage using pilot data from the 2016 American National Election Studies (ANES) survey nationally representative sample of 1200 Americans. The pilot was internet-based and fielded in January of this year with data collected by YouGov.

Our piece, written in the wake of the Brussels attacks, examined whether and how anxiety about terrorism might affect political attitudes and vote choices this fall. We found that those who were more anxious about terrorism evaluated Trump more favorably, though other polls suggest that people might rally around the candidate with more experience.

That said, we didn’t analyze the question of the relative salience of foreign policy compared to domestic issues. ANES data also allows us to explore issue salience and whether people care about foreign policy in the first place. Here is what I found.

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The Paris Agreement: When is a treaty not a treaty?

Tomorrow is Earth Day, and there is a push in the climate community to encourage states to sign and ultimately ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change. With each of the last 11 months having been the hottest months on record and 93% of Australia’s Great Barrier reef experiencing “coral bleaching” from record-breaking hot ocean temperatures, the stakes for the world are high.

April 22 is the first day the Paris Agreement is open for signatures. In late March, on the margins of the recent nuclear security summit in DC, President Obama and President Xi of China  pledged publicly to sign the accord on April 22nd, upping the pressure on other states to do the same. Now, 150 countries are slated to sign the agreement tomorrow in a ceremony. That said, the agreement won’t enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions ratify it.

This raises some interesting questions about what kind of accord the Paris Agreement is. Is it a new treaty? Don’t treaties have to go to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent? Continue reading

Building social science knowledge on public attitudes and autonomous weapons

This is a guest post from Michael C. Horowitz (@mchorowitz), Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Director of Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania

Last week, Charli Carpenter published an important piece advancing the conversation about public attitudes, public conscience, and autonomous weapons. Her post critiqued my recent article in Research & Politics on public opinion and autonomous weapons. As a former Duck contributor, I am excited to return and further the dialogue (for a longer version of this post that contains more detailed responses to some other parts of Carpenter’s piece, go here).

Carpenter’s path-breaking survey on public opinion and autonomous weapons was the departure point for my Research & Politics article. She persuasively showed widespread public opposition to autonomous weapon systems (AWS), in principle. My research builds on hers, as I seek to find out how likely political frames would affect public opposition to autonomous weapons. Carpenter and I actually agree on a lot about public attitudes concerning autonomous weapons, and even about what my own research shows, though we have some disagreements about survey methodology.

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The Anthropocene and the End of Large Fauna? Will Political Scientists Show Up?

Geologists now say that humans have had such an impact on the earth that we have entered in to a new age, what has been termed the Anthropocene. On some level, this is a political statement, but on another level, it could be an observable layer in the physical surface of the earth that future generations will excavate to find plastics and garbage.

This era, and soon, may also spell the end of large fauna. Elephants. Rhinos. Giraffes. Vultures. Lions. Tigers. Leopards. Polar bears. These could be all be extinct before I die. And that would be an unimaginable travesty against nature.

I’ve written about this topic before on this blog, but in this post, I want to lay down a marker for why this is an important area for political science that extends well beyond scholars of environmental politics. Continue reading

Transforming Markets and Social Movements

Why do some transnational advocacy movements have more success transforming global markets than others? Can we look to look to differences in market structure for a preliminary account? Why were AIDS advocates able to achieve extended access to antiretroviral medications for millions of people while climate campaigners have struggled to achieve comparable gains?

This week, International Studies Quarterly published an early access and ungated version of my article with Ethan Kapstein where we examine how the structure of markets shaped the differential scope for climate and AIDS advocacy. (This is an extension of our 2013 book AIDS Drugs for All which had a broader focus on movement organization and agency.)

In brief, we argue that four factors of the industry opportunity structure facilitate market transformation: (1) the number of product markets, (2) the degree of global integration (3) market concentration and (4) the source of rents. In this post, I thought I’d walk through the logic we develop in the article and some of the issues that I think merit further research. (I developed some of these themes in my remarks at last fall’s APSA pre-conference workshop on markets and politics).  Continue reading

Speaking Truth to Power: A Response to Walt’s Lamentations

This is a guest post from Eric Van Rythoven and Ty Solomon. Eric Van Rythoven is a PhD candidate at Carleton University studying emotion, world politics, and securitization. His work is published in Security Dialogue and European Journal of International Relations. Ty Solomon is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of The Politics of Subjectivity in American Foreign Policy Discourses (2015, University of Michigan Press), and articles in International Studies Quarterly, European Journal of International Relations, and Review of International Studies, among others.

Two weeks ago, one of IR’s most respected and publicly visible intellectuals wrote a piece lamenting the absence of realist voices in American foreign policy discourse. In case you missed it Stephen Walt’s piece is worth reading in full, but here’s the money quote:

why is a distinguished and well-known approach to foreign policy confined to the margins of public discourse, especially in the pages of our leading newspapers, when its recent track record is arguably superior to the main alternatives?

Most of the praise (and snark) has sunk to the bottom of Twitter, but you can still see some of the popular responses here and here. As two academics who study realist political advocacy and American foreign policy discourse, we agree with Walt that realism is marginalized in public debates, at least in comparison to liberal internationalism or neoconservatism. But we’re also struck by how this discussion has missed the one of the most obvious answers as to why.

Realist discourse is marginalized because it’s not powerful.

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India, Air Pollution, and Climate Change

Over the winter break, I spent ten days in India, in the capital New Delhi and Mumbai. I was immediately struck by the awful air quality as I walked out of the airport in New Delhi. Delhi’s air quality is as bad or worse than Beijing’s, though perhaps that fact isn’t as widely known.

The air was visible and thick. I thought my glasses were dirty but then I realized that it was the haze which crept in to the interior halls of the hotel. I couldn’t capture the air quality in a photo but I found a perfect encapsulation reading Tom Hale’s fine book on global governance policy gridlock. I was struck by an excerpt he and his co-authors quoted from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House on 19th century London and the remarkable similarity of its acrid air to India’s:

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

The air pollution in Delhi was like this and underscored for me that the strongest impetus for action to deliver climate benefits will come because people in major cities across India such as Delhi, Lucknow, and Ahmedabad demand cleaner air.  Continue reading

What Role for Non-State Actors in the New Climate Governance?

This is a guest post from Jennifer Hadden, an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Government and Politics. I had the pleasure of editing a reviews exchange on her new book,  Networks in Contention. The exchange just came out in the latest issue of International Politics Reviews  and features reviews from me (Josh), Thomas Hale, and Johannes Urpelainen, as well as a response from Hadden herself. Ungated access here.  

World leaders adopted a global agreement on climate change in Paris last month, as was widely reported. Less well know is that in parallel to the inter-state negotiations, the Paris conference included a high-level “Action Agenda” to recognize the commitments of non-state actors to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Action Agenda raised the profile of non-state actors within the UNFCCC, highlighting the critical role of cities, regions, businesses, faith groups, and NGOs in raising ambition, building knowledge, and supporting implementation.

The warm reception for non-state actors in Paris differs dramatically from the highly contentious environment of the Copenhagen climate summit, which I describe in my recent book Networks in Contention: The Divisive Politics of Climate Change. How has the role of non-state actors in climate governance evolved from Copenhagen to Paris? Continue reading

The Agency of Multilateral Organizations

This is a guest post from Tana Johnson, an Assistant Professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. I had the pleasure of editing a reviews exchange on her important new book, Organizational Progeny. The exchange just came out in the latest issue of International Politics Reviews and features reviews from me (Josh), Tanisha Fazal, and Alexandru Grigorescu, as well as a response from Johnson herself. Ungated access here.  

I’ve recently returned from Geneva, home to scores of international intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). It’s an intriguing place: unlike New York, which is overrun by international politics for a just a few weeks each autumn,  in Geneva international politics play out on every corner, on every day. The city is a hub for international policymaking in health, trade, human rightslabor, and countless other issue areas. So, can the IGOs that operate there, and elsewhere, act independently of their members? Or are they simply robots, mechanically doing what states want? Continue reading

Donald Trump Is a Racist (Part 100)

In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting and President Obama’s address to the nation, Donald Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States.

This is counterproductive racist and awful. We need a credible candidate from the Republicans in 2016, not a reality television star who is a disgrace to the nation and its founding principles. Let’s leave aside the morality here, which on its face is terrible, but recall what ISIS wants us to do which is turn this a religious war between the West and Muslims.

ISIS wants us in our response to their provocations to eliminate the gray zone, making Muslims have to choose between their faith and where they live. A small fraction of Muslims have been radicalized, but ISIS wants us to treat the Muslims community with such disdain and hatred that the world they see — of Muslims being discriminated against — becomes a reality.

This is something George W. Bush resisted during his tenure as president, and Republicans and Americans of good will have to reject this cancer publicly and repeatedly, as Donald Trump’s populist xenophobia is a greater threat to the republic than ISIS.

Get a Grip America: Stop the Anti-Refugee Hysteria

So, I started yesterday with news that Republican governors, including my own here in Texas, were seeking to deny Syrian refugees in to the state. By the end of the day, more than 25 governors, including one Democrat, had joined in the hysteria. I think a lot of us see this as a betrayal of American values and completely idiotic from the perspective of grand strategy.

We are basically telling millions of refugees, most of them Muslim, that we don’t care about them. ISIS thanks us for that recruitment message. If only we were Scotland and showed the Syrian refugees that we could be magnanimous. I hope some more Republicans and Christians of conscious like Michael Gerson emerge to repudiate the shameful farce that transpired yesterday. Here is my Storify day of tweets and retweets on this topic in reverse, from the most recent to the first ones of the day.

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Terrorism and the 2016 Campaign

The Paris terror attacks have brought the issue to the fore in awful, dramatic fashion. It’s inevitable that the topic will feature in tonight’s Democratic debate and the wider campaign. With world leaders set to convene in Paris in a few weeks time for the global climate negotiations, French vulnerability to terrorism has taken on added significance.

While ISIS does not pose an existential threat to the United States, attacks on civilians are a more tangible security threat than potential peer competitors that politicians ignore at their peril. The attacks, which claimed the lives of more than 100 people, could have been much worse. One attacker purportedly tried to enter the soccer game and was turned back when security discovered his suicide bomb. He was only able to exact limited damage when he detonated outside the gates.

Over-reaction and retribution are distinct possibilities going forward. The scale of the French attacks will likely change the political calculus in France and here at home in ways that the Charlie Hebdo ones did not. Continue reading

Defending Obama’s Foreign Policy Part 3

So, this is third installment of my series on defending Obama’s foreign policy, part of an extended set of remarks for a debate with Colin Dueck that one day, weather permitting, we shall have. In part 1, I laid out the legacy of the Bush years and in part 2, I identified the Obama administration’s strategic inclinations and achievements. Here, in part 3, I try to identify lines of critique from Dueck and other folks critical of the Obama administration’s policies.

On Russia, Defense Spending, and US Standing

Finally, let me say three things about Russia, US defense spending, and US standing in the world.


On Russia, critics of the Administration will fault it for acquiescence in the face of a resurgent revisionist Russia in Ukraine (and beyond in Syria). We shouldn’t blithely embrace the notion that we’re acquiescing too readily to Putin in Ukraine and Syria, that we’re somehow rewarding him by not arming the Ukranians or by not taking him on directly in Syria.

I see the situation rather differently that the US has led an effective countervailing coalition that has imposed through sanctions deep costs on a weak Russian regime that now finds itself saddled with Crimea and an economy in tatters. The United States has also sought to reassure NATO members and send appropriate signals to Russia that an expansionist policy outside of its area of its near abroad in to areas strategically important to the US would be unwise. Neither Ukraine nor Syria are central battlefields of strategic interest to the United States so the appropriate strategy is one of punishing Russia for adventurism in Ukraine and channeling Russia’s intervention in Syria to help bring about a political solution in Syria.

Russia may be revisionist but it isn’t a rising power (see Dan Nexon here on the Duck). It’s a nasty actor with nuclear weapons, so we have to treat them with some caution but I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be fooled by Putin’s adventurism (in either Ukraine or Syria) to embrace it as a sign of strength. China, by contrast, is a rising power, with a large population, a growing (albeit creaky) economy, and increased military capability that will only get stronger.

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Defending the Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy – Part 2

Yesterday, I posted about my canceled debate with Colin Dueck on the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. In part 1, I reflected on the Bush administration’s legacy. Here is part 2 of what would have been my defense of the administration’s achievements.  Again, it was a debate, where each of us were tasked to assume a side, and I wrote this to be delivered as oral remarks with attempts to dramatize things for a live audience. My thinking is in keeping with a number of recent evaluations of the administration’s foreign policy, notably essays that appeared in Foreign Affairs by Gideon Rose, Tom Christensen (on China) and Marc Lynch (on the Middle East).

Strategic Inclinations

The legacy of the Bush years informed the Obama administration’s strategic inclinations, including:

  • Rescue the global economy and shore up America’s position because America can’t lead if its domestic economic house is not in order.
  • End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and restore America’s reputation in the world through multilateral engagement, closing Guantanamo, and stopping torture.
  • Kill Bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda.
  • Find a diplomatic solution to the deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Reorient U.S. foreign policy to address and hedge China’s rising power.
  • Begin to address the problem of climate change.

Now, on these terms, let’s ask how did the Obama Administration do? Are we better off today than we were before he took office? Continue reading

Defending the Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Pt. 1

Well, I was supposed to be debating Colin Dueck on the Obama administration’s foreign policy tomorrow, but the residue of last week’s weather took much of the Austin airport out of commission, leaving his flight to be canceled. So, I’m going to be posting my prepared remarks in a series of posts as well as my quick take on Dueck’s 2015 book The Obama Doctrine which sought to critique the administration’s grand strategy and offer up an alternative of “conservative American realism.”

The debate may get rescheduled for the spring, but in the meantime, I thought I’d get my thoughts out there. It’s deliberately somewhat polemical, but I hope in posting it, people are willing to weigh in on my more contentious assertions. I’ll be peppering in some of my sources and inspiration as I go.

Part I: Setting the Stage

I’m here to defend the Obama Administration’s foreign policy achievements in the main, though not every corner. What I thought I’d do is remind us of the terrain when the president took office in order to recognize what has changed during his tenure.

The Inheritance

First, President Obama inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression that left millions out of work in the U.S., with major sectors and firms like the auto industry on life support, and a global economy teetering on the verge of collapse.

Second, President Obama took office after possibly the most significant strategic mistake in the nation’s history, a war of choice in Iraq that cost in excess of $2 trillion dollars, that led to squandered blood and treasure, a war that caused the international outpouring of goodwill that the U.S. enjoyed after 9/11 to evaporate, that tore a whole in the unity of the American people, and that left the perpetrator of the attacks of 9/11 on the loose still capable of inciting and possibly directing additional attacks on the US and its allies. Continue reading

Recap of the Foreign Policy Content in 3rd GOP Debate


Here is the transcript. You can scour it for an odd line from Christie about “isolationism” or “ISIS.” There was a question about climate change which lasted for all of a minute where Christie fumbled something about investing in clean energy but not through the government.

There was a bit more in undercard debate, mostly introduced by Lindsey Graham who wanted to talk about defense spending, terrorism, and tie Secretary Clinton to Obama’s foreign policy. As usual, Senator Graham was hyping threats “I’ve never seen so many threats to our homeland than I do today.” There was actually a more useful discussion on a pollution tax on Chinese imports and how to deal with cyber threats. The answers weren’t satisfactory (Santorum diverted to his stump speech on trade when asked about taxing the pollution content of Chinese imports). Still, it was a relative bonanza compared to the later debate where foreign policy by my read was absent, neither something that the moderators cared to ask about or that the candidates brought up. Given that previous debates had a lot of foreign policy content, I’m not sure if this debate is at all informative about what role foreign policy will play in the election. It’s not as if the financial network CNBC asked a ton of questions about the global economy.

Does Grand Strategy Matter?

I just read David Edelstein and Ron Krebs’ provocative piece ($) in Foreign Affairs on how the practice of grand strategy leads to threat inflation. One section struck me as somewhat problematic in that it seemed to derive little influence for ideational factors in the construction of the liberal order, as if the United States was materially driven to choose that path. They write:

Indeed, the United States has acted as a liberal hegemon, more or less coherently, ever since World War II. But this is less the product of a formal grand strategy than the result of enduring structural features of the international and domestic landscape: the United States’ material preponderance, the powerful corporate interests that profit from global integration, the dominance of core liberal tenets in American political culture.

Yes, liberal tenets are in their list, but everything we’ve read about U.S. decisions in the midst/wake of WWII (Ruggie, Ikenberry) suggest some leaders drew lessons of the Depression and the war to conclude that the U.S. needed to step up as architect of a new liberal order. Maybe that’s just self-serving justification for policies that the U.S. fell into after the war through pragmatic trial and error. Continue reading

APSA Statement on Campus Carry

In response to demand for a statement on recent gun shootings on college campuses, prompted in small part on the Duck by Maryam Deloffre, APSA has issued a short statement on campus carry, the new Texas law that will potentially allow students to bring concealed weapons in to classrooms:

The American Political Science Association is deeply concerned about the impact of Texas’s new Campus Carry law on freedom of expression in Texas universities. The law, which was passed earlier this year and takes effect in 2016, allows licensed handgun carriers to bring concealed handguns into buildings on Texas campuses. The APSA is concerned that the Campus Carry law and similar laws in other states introduce serious safety threats on college campuses with a resulting harmful effect on professors and students.

Campus carry, slated to go into effect next year, is generating plenty of controversy on campus here at the University of Texas. Already, other states may be willing to emulate Texas, including Wisconsin (a previous campus carry law allowed universities an opt out but some Wisconsin Republicans want to get rid of the prohibition). Continue reading

Food is a Human Right

This is a guest post from Michelle Jurkovich, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

As the lunch hour approaches in Washington, a woman sits at the edge of Farragut Square holding a cardboard sign with three simple words: “I am hungry.” Some passersby are noticeably uncomfortable as they walk by her, averting their eyes and quickening their pace. A few people hand her the spare coins in their pockets. Most people ignore her completely.

Had this woman expressed a violation of a different human right (for ultimately, that is what her sign is expressing), perhaps people would react differently. Had she said she had been forcibly disappeared, or her access to any primary education had been violated, or she had been tortured, people might take notice.   But on this World Food Day it is worthwhile to pause and examine the puzzling way in which any human right to food is understood both in the United States and in many other countries around the world.

Many readers might be surprised to know there is such a thing as a human right to food in the first place. The right to food was included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 with surprisingly little controversy and reiterated in international law in 1976 with the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), in 2004 with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food (which the United States signed), as well as included in numerous other international conventions and agreements. And yet, while responsibility is ascribed in international law to national governments for the protection and fulfillment of this basic human right, many continue to see food or hunger as an issue for charity, but certainly not a basic human entitlement. Continue reading

What Are U.S. Interests in Syria?

What are U.S. interests in Syria? As I wrote in a previous post,  I’m not moved by arguments that suggest reputational losses should drive U.S. policy in Syria. The costs of backing  down in Syria over Assad’s use of chemical weapons (and the likely costs of backing down in insisting that Assad must go before negotiations can begin) seem to me to be mostly domestic and political and smaller compared to the potentially high costs of U.S. deep military engagement in Syria. That said, I worry that restraintists, that is those who counsel restraint with respect to U.S. use of force, undersell U.S. interests in Syria and the region. For me, Turkish stability has to be a major concern going forward.

Cheryl Rofer has an interesting summary comparing U.S. and Russian interests in Syria, with the implicit recognition that Russian interests in Syria are larger. This asymmetry of interest partially explains different levels of engagement in the conflict. Continue reading

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