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 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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Writing Women Back In

This is a guest post from Anjali K. Dayal (Assistant Professor, Fordham University), Madison V. Schramm (PhD Candidate, Georgetown University), Alexandra M. Stark (PhD Candidate, Georgetown University)

The gender citation gap in international relations is an important part of today’s disciplinary conversations about diversity: research indicates that scholarship by women is less cited in academic articles; less likely to be cited by men; less likely to appear on graduate course syllabi, especially in courses with male instructors; and less likely to appear in media reports about politics. And in today’s Monkey Cage, Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen draw on their research to demonstrate that top journals publish women at disproportionately lower rates. As scholars have made the problem more visible, editors have worked to actively correct citation bias, professors have striven to gender-balance their syllabi, and Women Also Know Stuff has built a remarkable roster of female experts for those seeking to consult a diverse group of experts.

Our focus here is on the instructional dimensions of the gender imbalance, where awareness of the problem alone cannot mitigate structural biases that leave scholarship by women and people of color less likely to be cited. This is particularly the case with introductory courses, which focus on “canonical” texts.  As Robert Vitalis’ work demonstrates, what constitutes the scholarly canon itself is established by processes of contestation and marginalization endogenous to larger structures of power and representation.

Accordingly, the work of women IR scholars and practitioners, from Merze Tate and Emily Greene Balch to Susan Strange, Annette Baker Fox, Elise Boulding, and many, many others, have been systematically written out of how we teach IR and its intellectual history to young scholars—much of these scholars’ work is considered marginal to “core” contemporary international relations theory, but we ought to understand it as systematically marginalized within the canon that’s reified for generations of students, both graduate and undergraduate. Today, even the most well-intentioned instructor may be concerned that adding too many women to their syllabi will lead their students to learn less about core IR theory than a syllabus with more traditionally “canonical” texts.

This problem is amplified by the tendency of young scholars to teach as their mentors taught—reproducing theoretical narratives and ways of teaching that neglect women’s scholarly contributions in the service of teaching students what young scholars themselves know, what they have been taught to value as central and important to the discipline, and what is easy for them to teach given the nearly profession-wide imperative to privilege research over innovative course design in the early years of one’s career. Add to this the prevalence of course readers, which excerpt and reproduce canonical texts in easily-usable formats, and the tendency of some professors to make only small adjustments to syllabi over decades of teaching, and it is possible that many students’ introductions to international relations will include little to no scholarship by women and people of color at all.

As such, scholars who want to reconfigure their syllabi to be more gender representative might need additional resources to begin this process, and they may even need alternative, model visions of what constitutes a gender-equal version of introductory international relations theory.

We have created a bibliography composed entirely of articles, chapters, and books written or co-authored by women. The bibliography is organized around topics frequently taught in introduction to international relations. We are also working on a curated syllabus drawn from the bibliography in conjunction with a paper that explores how the canonical in IR became and continues to become gendered. Continue reading

Emancipation through Song: What Can We Learn from Rock Music?

This is a guest post from Sean Kay, Robson Professor of Politics and Government, and Director of International Studies, at Ohio Wesleyan University. The interview quotes appear in his new book Rockin’ the Free World! How the Rock & Roll Revolution Changed America and the World (2017).

There is power in rock and roll – an art form that has modernized American values and helped them to ripple around the world – advancing freedom, equality, human rights, and peace. Over the last several years I was fortunate to interview about sixty major rock and roll artists, songwriters, producers, managers, non-profit heads and activists as part of a new book project. The interviews led me to the central case – that rock and roll advances progress in America and the world.

The Ethos of Rock & Roll

More than a music form – rock and roll is also an attitude and an ethic. As Joan Jett said in her 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

I come from a place where rock and roll means something. It means more than music, more than fashion, more than a good pose. It’s a language of a subculture that’s made eternal teenagers of all who follow it. It’s a subculture of integrity, rebellion, frustration, alienation, and the glue that set several generations free from unnatural societal and self-suppression. Rock and roll is political. It is a meaningful way to express dissent, upset the status quo, stir up revolution, and fight for human rights. Think I’m making it sound more important and serious than it is? ‘It’s only rock and roll,’ right? Rock and roll is an idea, and an ideal. Sometimes, because we love the music and we make the music, we forget the political impact it has on people around the world. There are Pussy Riots wherever there is political agitation.

The modern world has been shaped by rockers – even if not being overtly “political.” According to Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, rock and roll can be a shared expression of freedom, Wenner says: “Like Chuck Berry, just writing about how boring school was, ‘ring ring goes the bell’ – can’t wait to get out of there!” Billy Bragg, who was inspired to his career at a Rock Against Racism concert put on by the Clash, says: “You challenge your audience. Sometimes you are confirming the things that they support. I don’t like the phrase ‘preaching to the choir’ – but you are ‘recharging their batteries’ – by reminding them; they’re standing in the room and everybody in the room sees there’s power in union together.” George Clinton, of Parliament-Funkadelic tells me it was the kind of freedom you: “…could get at church, or any kind of ritual, but especially to do it on your own terms – not to get psyched into it, because you’re still opening yourself up.” Continue reading

This is not fine.

The perhaps apocryphal story is that in the wake of the 2016 election, submissions to top journals in political science declined by 15% or more. While this sabbatical year has been productive in many respects, I have not made as much progress on a book project as I would have liked. I wonder why? Last week’s events — the dramatic firing of FBI Director James Comey and the series of justifications and admissions by the president and his team — have underscored the challenge for all of us in terms of allocating our time and attention.

This is an academic blog informed by our sensibilities and expertise, mostly comprised of political scientists of international relations. It is not a partisan outlet, but as Donald Trump and those who enable him have emerged as perhaps the greatest threats to our democratic institutions in my lifetime, I have been a vocal critic of policies and moves that undermine our system of government.

Over the weekend, I participated in a non-partisan mock Town Hall for Texas Congressional District 25 (where I live) organized by the pop-up citizen advocacy group Indivisibles. 400 people turned out. Our Representative Roger Williams (R), though invited, did not attend.  I was one of a dozen experts on a panel to respond to constituent questions.

My remit was foreign policy and also environmental policy. I prepared some written remarks which I tried to weave in to answers to questions and post them below. While I have a specific critique  of the Trump Administration and Congress’ enabling of some of his worst tendencies, I tried to be fair. You be the judge.

The event started off with a rendition of America the Beautiful and was cast as a cross-ideological citizen-led effort to hold our leaders accountable and resist authoritarianism. We all have to find our way, but I needed to do more than blog and vent on Twitter. Continue reading

Should we try to convince Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement?

This is a guest post from Matthew Hoffmann, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double (The Clash)

The Trump administration is nearing a decision about whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. A number of commentaries are urging Trump to stay in and my underlying predilection is to join this chorus. Cards on the table, I am a fan of the Paris Agreement—it certainly has flaws, but it is the best thing to happen to the multilateral response to climate change … perhaps ever. I agree with just about every reason for staying in the Agreement I’ve seen:

Under normal circumstances, staying in the Paris Agreement is a no-brainer for the U.S. But circumstances are not normal. What these commentaries have in common (besides being right and well-argued) is that the force of their arguments for the U.S. staying in depends on the U.S. being, at worst, ambivalent about taking action on climate change. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. I am therefore, uncomfortably, suggesting the need for serious conversation about whether it is better for action on climate change if the U.S. withdraws from the Paris Agreement. Continue reading

Further Thoughts on Austism in Academia

This is a guest post from Brendan Szendro, a PhD Student in Political Science, Binghamton University and follows a previous post on the topic of autism 

On April 19, William H. Moore, a Political Science professor with what he termed “borderline Autism,” committed suicide after writing a lengthy note on his blog. In it, he detailed his frustrations with his perennial outsider status, his inability to communicate his talents professionally, accusations of arrogance by those around him and the fact that he had a strong desire to produce more than he consumed, but no longer found joy in producing. In other words, he exhausted himself through years of failed attempts at communication, until his abilities became obligations and his work a prison.

Outside of meeting him on one occasion, and reading much of his work, I did not know Moore well. As a Political Science graduate student with Autism Spectrum Disorder, however, the incident resonated with me. In his note, Moore perfectly articulated a litany of emotions that I’ve struggled to explain since childhood. The fact is, if he had not put them in a suicide note, I probably would have shared it as an explanation to others. Friends on the Spectrum have agreed with me that Moore’s writing described us well.

I haven’t in the slightest ever conceived of doing anything like what he did. But, in his note, Moore outlined so many of the pressures, that have weighed on me, as I struggle to gain professional recognition for my talents which seem to me to be incredible – perhaps better than professional – but just not quite what people want. These are Autistic traits, for sure, but they’re also the traits of a certain personality type that feels it has something to say, but doesn’t know how to say it. Academia draws this type of personality because it provides an avenue for communication. The pressure to succeed, however, can exacerbate the negative aspects of this kind of personality.

It reflects a feeling academics face, when confronting the pressures of their field. It seems natural for me, and people in my position, to deal with these things. Most of us don’t have any professional success, yet. We feel a need to communicate because we’re afraid of bouncing our ideas off themselves in perpetuity. We also feel a need prove our self-worth because our social environments are all competitive. Academia provides an opportunity for the former attribute, while inflaming the latter.

It’s worth noting, however, that Moore didn’t have any reason to feel that way. Moore had a family, a respected position at Arizona State University, a litany of publications to his name and a high-paying job doing something he loved. His production was recognized as valuable. It still couldn’t convince him that he was missing something integral. When his children grew up, and he felt they no longer needed him, he left his wife. He imposed his own sense of detachment on himself, as a security blanket, because it was more familiar to him than the alternative. He wrote his note in a casual, humorous tone as though describing quitting a job, trying to frame his life in a way that it didn’t matter. Conditioned to see himself as solitary, from childhood, he decided to actually become solitary. He portrayed it as a natural process, and it wasn’t.

Security is not happiness; Moore’s note shows that he found solace in self-imposed misery.

Academia draws the type of personality that values its skills but struggles to share them, because it promises a means of utilizing and communicating your abilities; often times, however, it exacerbates the negative symptoms. And so, in the wake of pressure to prove your creative and intellectual abilities, the environment can lend itself to isolation, to suspicion of acquaintances as competitors and to a whole slew of negative feelings that can lead people to ignore their victories and focus on their failures. Often times, it feels impossible to get a foothold into a seemingly ironclad world of professional success; new ideas can be hard to introduce, and the path to gaining recognition can require a great deal of exhaustion and self-questioning.

In the nineteenth century, sociologist Emile Durkheim posited four kinds of suicide. The first, “egoistic suicide,” refers to people who find themselves alienated from social groups. They take their lives due to a sense of detachment. Durkheim came to this conclusion based on the notion that a person could adequately tell whether or not they were detached. It’s clear, however, that this isn’t always the case. People like Moore, who on the surface had no logical reason to feel this way, do so perhaps because they grapple with a general sense of melancholy. It seems more common, however, that Moore and people like him – neurodiverse people – feel detached because we are conditioned to feel that way from childhood. It feels safer to us, because it’s familiar, and even when we have social successes, when we have relationships, when we have the things we want, we fight the urge to get away from them because they seem unnatural.

It can seem, then, like real connection and real success are impossible. It’s not true, of course, and it’s important that in an environment as cutthroat and intensive as academia, people are reminded of their worth from time to time. Academics need to be careful not to delve so deeply into their work that it becomes inseparable from identity, something that political theorist Hannah Arendt outlined as one of the primary causes of isolation. The need to produce, and to succeed, can ultimately strip activities of their joy and interest if taken too far, which in turn can damage people’s sense of self. This becomes an especially potent danger when faced with constant criticism, as academics often are.

There’s a few steps academics can take to mitigate these negative feelings, for both themselves and for others:

1) To recognize that you are not your work, and make sure to retain an independent identity.

2) Not to dehumanize people who don’t meet your expectations; critiques should be of work, not of people, and should be aimed at facilitating dialogue, not shutting it down.

3) To be honest about your experiences, emotions and struggles with your peers, so as to foster a communicative environment, rather than a competitive one.

4) To recognize that it will never be possible to communicate all of your ideas, and that having goals you haven’t achieved gives you something to strive for rather than agonize over.

Will’s death took its toll on the Political Science community, and academia writ large. His note resonated with a number of people due to the pressures of the field and the personalities it can draw. Many throughout academia deal with neurodiversity, not just in terms of Autism but a whole host of mental conditions that may struggle to deal with the professional world. And, in such a small world, the event managed to touch a large amount of disparate people. The interconnected nature of the discipline allows for major shockwaves such as this to reverberate over a long distance. Nevertheless, it has also opened a major dialogue on issues that effect a wide array of academics.

Hopefully, the dialogue remains open.

Bret Stephens and Climate Change

The former Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens has a column today to kick off his new digs at the New York Times that meanders into climate change territory and has raised some hackles. In the piece, he talks about how public opinion on climate change is soft, which some folks have complained doesn’t capture public opinion accurately. Both are true in my view and miss the point. As the Storify thread of tweets below talks about, Republican elites and the fossil fuel industry have poisoned the well so that many Republicans think climate change is a hoax. So, public opinion is soft. Stephens goes on to write about scientific uncertainty, but that’s really irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is the extreme politicization of this issue in a decade which has made bipartisan action on this topic unlikely for the foreseeable future. That leads me to conclude something intemperate in tweet 22!

The Real Problem with Diversity in Political Science

This is a guest post by Lee Ann Fujii, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, and currently a Member Scholar of the Institute for Advanced Study. This post is based on the keynote address she gave at ISA-NE in November 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.

These days most political science department are discussing the need for greater diversity in their ranks. These conversations tend to follow a well-worn path. They never start at Step 1—as in “what do I need to learn to understand this problem?”—but with Step Minus 5, that is, the rash of myths that people assert as fact or common sense. This is whitesplaining academic-style.

A typical move, for example, is to claim that we should be careful not to sacrifice quality for diversity. Another is to invoke a single bad experience as “evidence” that pursuing diversity does not necessarily lead to good outcomes. Never is there any acknowledgement of the myriad ways that race already imbues and shapes hiring and promotion practices from start to finish. Rarely is there mention of the power of white privilege to obstruct meaningful conversation and action. Rarer still is there any effort to understand why this topic is deeply personal to many of us, precisely because it is borne out of a lifetime of being raced (and gendered).

These interactions never feel like “micro-aggressions;” they feel like highly entrenched macro-aggressions. The concrete pillars of white privilege loom large. Many colleagues would deny that such privilege exists or that they benefit from it. Instead, they couch their reservations about meaningful action in tropes of “merit” and “experience.” Our discipline is not unique in its hostility to the radical notion that nearly all-white faculties are, by definition, expressions of white supremacy. We are the norm.

Until last fall, I never talked publicly about this issue. When I received an invitation to give the luncheon keynote address at ISA-NE, I said yes, thinking it would be a good opportunity to give air time to an issue that affects all of us. In the edited version below, I argue that the abhorrent lack of diversity in our discipline keeps us collectively deaf, dumb, and blind to the larger world around us, the very world we purport to analyze and explain.

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Let’s talk about mental health

There have been some high profile deaths in the profession among younger scholars, not just in IR but also comparative/American politics. Two notable examples of late include Will Moore and Mark Sawyer. I did not know either of them personally but through friends and social media, I was aware of them in life and death.

Moore’s death struck many in the IR community especially hard, as he was known to be a dedicated mentor to others, particularly junior scholars, in ways that go above and beyond just befriending and reading someone’s work. His loss has shaken many of them profoundly, and I think many of us on social media feel the loss in ways that are deeper than we care to realize. Continue reading

Why IR needs the environment and the environment needs IR

This is a guest post from Jessica F. Green and Thomas N. Hale. Green is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University. She can be reached at Jessica.green@nyu.eduHale is Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University. He can be reached at thomas.hale@bsg.ox.ac.uk.

The state of the global environment is terrible—and deteriorating. The globalization of industrial production and the consumptive habits of 7 billion people have created the Anthropocene—a geologic age in which the actions of humans are the primary determinant of the Earth’s natural systems. This shift creates a profound new form of environmental interdependence, of which climate change is only the most salient example. Other “planetary boundaries” include biodiversity; the nitrogen cycle on which plant life and agriculture depend, fresh water; and the world’s oceans and forests. Human activity is putting all of these systems into a state of crisis. Each of them is essential for economic production and human welfare. One does not have to be a political scientist to infer that the implications for politics are profound, even catastrophic.

What do international relations scholars have to say about these looming political and economic crises? Not much.

In a new study (ungated access) published in PS: Political Science & Politics, we use the Teaching and Research in International Policy (TRIP) data to identify and understand what we describe as the “marginalization” of environmental politics in international relations. The results shocked us.

Though IR scholars in the United States see climate change, along with conflict in the Middle East, to be the greatest global threat in the years to come, just 7% of them describe their primary or even secondary research field as environmental politics. More damning, fewer than 2% of the articles published in the top disciplinary journals (defined by impact factor) are on environmental subjects. Continue reading

Why Trump Won’t Write the Next American National Security Narrative — But Why You Should Still Be Very Worried


This is a guest post from Ronald R. Krebs, who is the Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. His most recent book is Narrative and the Making of US National Security.

At times, in recent years, it has seemed that Republicans and Democrats occupied different narrative universes with respect to national security. Republicans generally continued to live in the world of the War on Terror. Democrats gave voice to a more balanced understanding of the threats and opportunities facing the United States. Even when concrete policy differences were muted, the narrative gaps seemed large and enduring.

Then, along came Donald Trump—imagining ISIS to be 500 feet tall, cozying up to Russia, casting doubt on America’s alliances, suggesting that nuclear proliferation might be a good thing, attacking free trade, and more generally undermining the postwar liberal order. Trump seemed determined to lay waste to the establishment. His efforts have so far borne little fruit. But they have done something valuable. They have reminded us how much Republican and Democratic foreign policy elites shared and still share. They have reminded us that—despite the constant battles and the Beltway blame game—there is still a bipartisan establishment whose vociferous and sometimes vituperative debates take place on a deeper, common narrative terrain. Continue reading

Fighting for Sustainability in a Post (national) Regulation Era

This is a guest post from Matthew Hoffmann, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto

The environmental policy pronouncements and orders emanating from the Trump administration are tracking the worst fears and expectations of those concerned by the scorched earth, anti-environmental rhetoric of the Trump campaign. The list of egregious (e.g. defunding Great Lakes restoration), just plain weird (e.g. rolling back the ban on lead ammunition and fishing gear in national parks), and inexplicable (e.g. getting rid of the energy star program) decisions and announcements is staggering.

Latest on the chopping block are federal fuel standards for automobiles as a key step in rolling back Obama’s climate policies. On March 15 The New York Times reported that , “granting the automakers their top wish, Mr. Trump halted an initiative by the Obama administration to impose stringent fuel-economy standards by 2025” re-opening a review of the standards.

Fully stemming the tide of the assault on environmental protection will probably require election (or two), but studies of environmental politics show that there are strategies for pursuing sustainability in the face of federal dismantling of environmental policies—go local (or state) and use rhetorical and economic leverage points to target corporations directly. The fuel economy standards fight is a potentially attractive area for environmental activists to use such strategies. Continue reading

Donald Trump and the Narrative of US National Security

Following his prescient piece from last year, Tom Wright has a provocative new essay on Donald Trump’s foreign policy in Politico. He suggests that Trump foreign policy has Jeckyll and Hyde qualities. While Trump (and Bannon) are committed to a radical vision to upend establishment foreign policy, they hold a minority view in the government. To staff his administration, Trump has largely turned to establishments folks like Mattis, Kelly, McMaster, among others. This means that there isn’t really anyone to implement that radical vision, leaving Trump’s views to express themselves on a few issues like Islam and trade where they have wider currency.

Dan Drezner has an interesting rejoinder and notes that one way the Bannonites are able to overcome and enhance their power is by vetoing appointments and through budget cuts. With few political appointees and agencies cash-strapped to do international work, the U.S. government won’t have the capacity to respond to global emergencies when they arise. For the America First and Only crowd, this is exactly as they want it.

Trumpism/Bannonism may currently be self-limited by having few adherents, but as Drezner argues, it is still able to do tremendous harm through personnel and budget processes. A third possibility is more worrisome still. What would happen to U.S. foreign policy if this strain of nationalism were to take root in the Republican party and crowd out establishment thinking?

(To be fair: the foreign policy “blob” has made its share of mistakes [witness Iraq], but as Frank Gavin and Jim Steinberg argue in a recent War on the Rocks podcast, the establishment has much to commend it. Ending and winning the Cold War peacefully anyone?).

Here, Ron Krebs’ important book Narrative and the Making of US National Security may be instructive. Krebs’ reminds us that presidents, particularly during unsettled narrative moments, have tremendous power of the bully pulpit to recast the dominant narrative underpinning U.S. foreign policy. If Trump succeeds in building a coterie of followers and adherents to his vision of the world, it could last well beyond the current moment.

One of my side ventures is serving as one of the editors of International Politics Reviews. In our latest issue, we feature a reviews exchange on Krebs’ book. The exchange includes reviews from Michelle Murray, Dan Drezner, and me, along with a response from Krebs. (All are available open access through the ReadCube platform on the links above).

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Revisiting Trump’s Challenges to Doctoral Students: A Round of Trump Bingo

This is a guest post from Ariya Hagh, Andrew Szarejko, and Laila Wahedi. All three authors are doctoral students in Georgetown University’s Department of Government. Author order is alphabetical by last name.

In a December 2016 post here at the Duck of Minerva, we considered how a Trump presidency might affect doctoral students within our discipline. We necessarily relied upon statements that Donald Trump and his advisors made before the inauguration. Now that we are more than a month into the presidency, it is worth revisiting our claims to see what we got right and what we missed, while addressing what you can do about it.

We argued that a Trump administration would likely yield reduced access to government data, less federal funding, a tougher job market, obstacles to activism and teaching, and greater insecurity for international students. Unfortunately, many of these predictions are already coming true. To keep track of what has and hasn’t happened, you can use the handy bingo card attached here. When you win, everyone loses. Continue reading

Public Service: Part VI of VI in a Series

This is the final post in my series on bridging the policy-academic divide.In my first post, I laid out some principles for academic-policy engagement. In the second, I talked about short-form writing, and in the third, Iong-form writing. In the fourth, I discussed policy-relevant courses and speakers’ series. In my fifth, I wrote about grants and consulting. 

A final step that may be attractive is actual policy service, if only for a short stint. While proximity to decision-making does not necessarily equate to influence, many of us might like to be in the room where some decisions are made, if only for a while.

Here, this can be a stint in the U.S. government like those sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship (IAF) for younger scholars and their new fellowship for tenured scholars (TIRS). The APSA Congressional fellowship is another. You might also find other ways to serve by working for another government, an intergovernmental organization, or an NGO. For example, Hans Rosling, the famous Swedish health expert who pioneered data analytics on development, spent some time advising the Liberian government in the midst of the Ebola crisis.

You may also be in a position volunteer for a political campaign. And, there is, for as long as we have functioning democracies, the option of running for office. Many of the people who are serving are not better informed, more conscientious, or hard-working. I would urge readers, especially women, to consider running for office, because we are going to need talented people in power to defend democracy and stand up for pluralism, tolerance, and decency.

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Grants and Consulting: Part V in a Series

This is part V in a series of making your work relevant for policy. In my first post, I laid out some principles for academic-policy engagement. In the second, I talked about short-form writing, and in the third, Iong-form writing. In the fourth, I discussed policy-relevant courses and speakers’ series.

Beyond these other ways to engage public and policy audiences are grants and consultancies, two paths possibly proximate to policy.

I have had the good fortune to be part of a couple of multi-million grants through the Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative , a $7.6 million 5-year grant from on climate change and Africa (CCAPS) and another 3-year nearly $2 million grant on complex emergencies in south and southeast Asia (CEPSA). I’ve also done smaller scale consultancies for USAID, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR),  and other outlets.

Here are some lessons learned: Continue reading

Policy-Relevant Courses and Speakers’ Series: Part IV of a Series

This is part IV in a series on bridging the gap between policy and academia. In part I, I wrote about principles of engagement. In part II, I wrote about short-form writing and in part III long-form writing. In this post, I turn to teaching and speakers’ series.

You may also be able to organize policy-relevant courses and host outside speakers, both of which can bring you in closer contact to the policy world and give you an opportunity to develop policy-relevant work for them.

Policy-Relevant Courses

I teach at a school of public affairs. We regularly have year-long courses for MA students on a policy topic where a client provides us resources to support student travel and other costs. After tenure, I decided that I wanted to work on issues that I cared passionately about. Several years ago, I ran a year long course on climate mitigation in the major economies. Continue reading

Teaching Democratic Erosion

This is a guest post from Rob Blair and Jeff Colgan of Brown University.

Since Donald Trump was elected last November, there has been no shortage of commentary warning that he represents a unique threat to the quality and longevity of democracy in America. (For just a few examples, see recent articles in the New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Times, and NPR.) Like many scholars and concerned citizens, we have been asking ourselves what we can or ought to do to help prevent this threat from materializing.

Although we do not wish to professionally engage in partisan politics, as scholars we are alarmed by Trump’s willingness to transgress long-standing norms of democracy, tolerance and civility. We find reflections on defending democracy by fellow social scientists Josh Busby, Timothy Snyder, and Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stepan very helpful.

We want to push a little bit further, especially as we think about our obligations in the classroom as political scientists. We have noticed historians and scholars from other disciplines creating mock syllabi, including Trump 101 or Trump Syllabus 2.0. We applaud these efforts, but believe political science has something distinctive to offer.

For us, the ball got rolling when Jeff publicly shared a reading list he was developing to inform himself about democratic erosion. Rob suggested that we teach an actual course on the topic, collaborating with scholars at other universities who were interested in doing the same. We brainstormed about how to design the course and make it happen, and Rob is now leading the effort. His work has begun to gather steam, with over a dozen (tentatively) participating institutions so far, including Brown, Penn, Stanford, Boston University, American University and UCLA, among others. Our initial syllabus, still a draft at this stage, is posted here, and the version Rob submitted to Brown (before the collaboration took shape) is here.

We are very excited about this fantastic group of institutions. We are also hoping to recruit a few more, which is why we are writing now. We include more details on the course below; please contact us if you are interested in joining. (Most of the participating faculty are comparativists, which makes sense given the nature of the course, but we strongly encourage faculty from other subfields to join.) We also provide some resources on democratic erosion that professors can incorporate into their own courses, regardless of whether or not they participate in the collaboration. Continue reading

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