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.
I’ve wrote a post today with Bethany Albertson for The Monkey Cage. The post reports the findings from a recent article we wrote for the relatively new academic journal Research and Politics. The article includes a survey experiment we conducted to assess what messages, if any, the American public finds persuasive on climate change. Both represent interesting departures in the academic blogosphere and publishing. Continue reading
Last night, John Oliver (the comedian no less!) had a terrific interview with Edward Snowden, which was much more introspective and challenging than the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour. Oliver sought to grapple with the necessity for secrecy in intelligence and the moral responsibility Snowden faces for trusting journalists to properly vet what materials to release and subsequent errant release of sensitive material (like anti-ISIS operations in Iraq):
He continued, “So The New York Timestook a slide, didn’t redact it properly, and in the end it was possible for people to see that something was being used in Mosul on al Qaeda.”
“That is a problem,” Snowden replied.
“Well, that’s a fuckup,” said Oliver.
Oliver had a fantastic set-up on how the American public isn’t concerned about what surveillance capabilities the U.S. government has and can use against American citizens, involving an entertaining exchange about pictures of his genitalia. The whole interview is a worth a watch. All of this is part of a interesting gambit for Oliver as swashbuckling comedian/journalist/advocate that he has advanced on a series of issues in his short time on the air. Open comment thread follows on surveillance, Snowden, infotainment, etc.
I’ve been reading some interesting exchanges on Facebook about the pros and cons of the Iran deal, and though I’ve been snowed under by grading to have much bandwidth for blogging of late, I thought I would start an open thread here.
Fareed Zakaria laid out the case for a deal before it happened in this post, seeing a deal (but presumably not just any deal) as better than the alternatives, continued sanctions and airstrikes, which to him had too many disadvantages and could lead to catastrophic outcomes in the region. David Ignatius had a quick take that suggested the deal was better than expected. David Rothkopf also was also generally warm to the deal on Twitter.
If both the U.S. and Iran think they got a win, can they both be right? Those worried about Israel’s security seemed to think that this was a bad deal and the answer is no, that there is some zero-sum element here. Others worry about what the Gulf states will do and whether or not those states will see this deal as a reason to move forward on their own nuclear programs, given that the deal allows Iran to continue some, albeit reduced, enrichment.
My own view is that much remains to be nailed down, the U.S. and international community should get more time, more transparency if and when Iran decides to break out and pursue nuclear weapons in earnest. In exchange, Iran will get the prospect of removal of sanctions (though not immediate). That’s not a zero-sum outcome, though for the Israelis and Gulf states worried about Iranian influence in the region (and the prospects for what Iran might do with extra revenue from an unsanctioned, more vibrant economy) that may be cold comfort.
What do you think? (Some choices quotes from observers after the jump).
Loyal, even devout, readers of the Duck may have noted somewhere along the way that comment streams of yore seemingly disappeared. That could be frustrating if you wanted to go back to an exchange you had with Duck contributors and enthusiasts. I’m happy to report that with the help of our web designer support extraordinaire Lori Lacy of mod.girl.designs that our comments history is restored. For example, here is a post that had lost comments that are now back.
Let us know if you see any missing ones on other posts. We hope you are enjoying the functionality of the new and improved Duck, and keep letting us have it with your comments, guest posts, and inquiries. We are also, as Charli noted, looking for a few good new guest Ducks who are prepared to blog regularly.
Each time her sex is butchered with the pretext of purity…three million of our sisters face this violence each year…
In his new song “Tomber la Lame” or “Drop the Blade,” Burkina Faso hip-hop artist Smockey has an amazing call to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), a procedure that remains widespread in parts of Africa and the Middle East that removes a piece of a girl’s genitals with a knife so that she won’t experience sexual pleasure as an adult and, so the logic goes, be less likely to stray from her husband. It’s a horrifying practice, but one that foreign groups fought with limited success until local change agents and organizations like Senegal’s Tostan took up the mantle.
Smockey is a middle-aged married guy so having a man advocate an end to FGM makes for an interesting messenger. He himself argues in this PRI interview that woman are the main bearers of the tradition, which I’m not sure is exactly true or indeed an artifact of him speaking in his non-native tongue.
One of the most important observations of the transnational social movements literature over the past couple of decades is the importance of locally resonant messages and messengers (here Amitav Acharya’s 2004 IO pieceWhose Norms Matter is an exemplar). Having foreign actors champion norms is often a recipe for a local backlash, though certainly history is rife with foreign actors trying to change local beliefs, whether it be through proselytizing religion or related campaigns to stop cultural practices like female footbinding (documented in Keck and Sikkink’s masterful Activists Beyond Borders).
Thus, the success of Tostan, documented in Molly Melching’s autobiography, and future success of efforts like Smockey’s is a function of local actors with deep roots in their communities persuading their peers to change practices and outside actors, where they are involved in such struggles for cultural change, finding local interlocutors to carry the message forward.
Today is World Wildlife Day, and species we think of as part of the fundamental awesome creatures of the natural world – elephants, rhinos, and sharks – face unprecedented risks of extinction, particularly as a result of rising demand from Asia and China in particular. I’m currently teaching a year-long class on Global Wildlife Conservation for which my students have been writing some excellent posts on the poaching crisis and what can be done. If you are not familiar with this problem, this brief post provides a bit of background.
Over the past couple of years, news of the global poaching crisis of iconic species like elephants and rhinos has spread. Elephant tusks are prized for ivory for carvings and trinkets, with increased purchasing power and greater China-Africa commerce and ties leading to surges in demand. Countries in Central Africa have experienced steep declines in elephant populations due to poaching, losing by one estimate 64% of their elephants in the past decade. Late last year, this culminated in news of involvement by China’s presidential delegation in ivory smuggling in diplomatic bags out of Tanzania in 2013. This week, China announced a one-year ban on imported ivory, which is welcome news, but this is a critical time for the global community to put pressure on the Chinese government to rein in domestic demand forever. Even as China announced this positive move, elsewhere aging Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe celebrated his 94th birthday by treating his guests to baby elephant. Continue reading
From 1997 to 1999, I served in the Peace Corps in the Andean country of Ecuador. Ecuador is rich with contrasts. With the Galapagos, the Andes, and parts of the Amazon, the country possesses stunning natural beauty. The people have an incredible generosity of spirit, yet the country is riven by racial and regional differences. Until recently, high oil prices papered over some of these differences, but the president, Rafael Correa, is a left wing populist in the tradition of Hugo Chavez. He has taken to castigating his domestic on-line critics through television naming and shaming efforts that are unbecoming for a head of state. John Oliver has a wildly funny take-down of Correa’s pompous self-importance, which prompted a vigorous response from Correa (some calling it an “international incident”) and another round of humor from Oliver. The original video is hilarious and worth a watch (I’m not sure if embedding worked on this video so here is the link here though I think clicking on the screenshot below will work).
John Oliver’s take-down of Ecuador’s mercurial president is hysterical, but the next video by Peace Corps volunteer Kyle King is extraordinary. Kyle created this video with Peace Corps Week approaching as a way to honor his counterpart host family, capturing their tremendous grace and humor but also the hardships and tragedies that families endure. It’s hard to talk about the video without sounding maudlin, but I found it to be really powerful film-making and brought back so many memories of my own Peace Corps experience.
Welcome to sunny and warm New Orleans (or at least sunnier and warmer than wherever most of us have come from!). If you are stepping away from conferencing for a bit, here are a few good reads on the security front. I’ll likely come back in the new few days with one on energy/environment and health. Here I link to work from Alan Kuperman, Jay Ulfelder, Phil Hazlewood, Paul Staniland, and Graeme Wood, covering Libya, body counts, insurgencies, and ISIS. Enjoy. Continue reading
This is a guest post from Brian J. Phillips who is a research professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City.
A number of studies in recent years have systematically examined terrorist groups, exploring lethality, longevity, and other outcomes. However, much of this research does not explicitly indicate what it means by a “terrorist group.” When definitions are offered, they differ considerably. These differences have empirical implications and matter for how we think about terrorism. Continue reading
Steve Walt weighs in on Ukraine, suggests spiral model more appropriate than deterrence model and therefore arming risks escalation
Mearsheimer (he of one name now) makes a similar case and calls for Ukraine to become a buffer state like Austria to which Dan Drezner and Steve Saideman note that Ukrainians may not be all that happy about being buffered
National Security Strategy
Tom Wright weighs in on the Obama Administration’s new national security strategy and contending views on how bad the international situation is
The Policy-Academy Gap – Once More Unto the Breach
Frank Gavin and Steven Van Evera revisit bridging the policy-academy divide on War on the Rocks: let’s get interdisciplinary and practical
Will Inboden – Why won’t the academy show George Schultz some love?
In advance of this year’s ISA convention and the OAIS awards, we’re happy to launch a new and improved Duck of Minerva with a revamped look and feel. You will notice automatically a direct link to duckofminerva.com which should make access more straightforward. The new site is also responsive so will resize automatically on your phone or tablet. We’ve also added a new set of topics to classify posts by subject so you can find them easily. The Twitter feed and blogroll have been updated.
We wanted to thank permanent contributors Robert Kelly and Vikash Yadav who have decided to step down. In addition, we wanted to thank a number of guest contributors, Edward Carpenter, Adrienne Le Bas, Burcu Bayram, PM, and Cynthia Weber who are cycling off. We will be bringing some new guest contributors on so be on the lookout for more news on that front. Special thanks to Lori Lacy from mod.girl.designs for carrying out the web redesign.
Thanks again for your readership and contributions to the blog, which we hope continues to provide an eclectic source of analysis on all things international and political and beyond in 2015.
With Russia’s incursions into Ukraine becoming more aggressive, there has been a lot of chatter about whether or not the U.S. government should arm Ukraine with lethal weapons. Defense Secretary Nominee Ash Carter has signaled his openness to such a move. Ivo Daalder, Strobe Talbott, Steven Pifer, and collaborators have issued a call for such support. There has been push back from Sean Kay and Jeremy Shapiro, other establishment foreign policy types. (With Talbott, Shapiro, and other folks from Brookings weighing in on opposing sides, there has been interesting discussion of this being an internal food fight there).
What are their arguments? How can we adjudicate who is right? In other words, what kinds of empirical and theoretical arguments can we draw on to assess these differences in judgment? Continue reading
Nathan Paxton has a provocative post on The Monkey Cage where he suggests, among other things that the World Health Organization (WHO) is not to blame for the Ebola crisis. Rather, he lays the blame squarely on donor countries.
He rightly notes that the WHO’s budget and staff was cut after the financial crisis, but I think he lets WHO off too lightly. With many ideas circulating about the future of the WHO in advance of the upcoming WHO Executive Board meeting beginning January 26th, understanding the various factors that contributed to the failed response to Ebola is all the more critical. Continue reading
Last fall, I wrote about how the U.S. government was insisting that any climate mitigation commitments agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate negotiations be non-binding political pledges. I argued that was appropriate because the high bar for treaty ratification in the U.S. Senate made legally binding commitments unlikely.
This kind of soft “pledge and review” approach to climate change first emerged at the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations, often derided by observers as an unsuccessful meeting. Quite the contrary, as I argued in a 2010 piece for the Council on Foreign Relations, Copenhagen actually set the stage for main emitters finally to make more credible commitments to take action. This is the tenor of a number of recent articles and interviews with David Victor, Andrew Revkin, Eric Voeten, among others. One thing that all these authors underscore is the importance of domestic politics going forward. Recent experiences in Australia, South Korea, and Brazil, as well as the United States, all demonstrate the fragility of domestic climate policies. Continue reading
The annual climate negotiations are wrapping up in Lima, Peru tonight or likely tomorrow. Negotiators are working through the night in overtime as they seek to hammer out a blueprint that will serve as the negotiating template for next year. This is the meeting before next year’s big meeting in Paris when expectations are high for a new climate agreement that will establish the targets and actions countries are willing to make for the 2020 period and beyond. So, what’s going on? What’s at stake? What are the key outcomes? Points of dissensus and consensus? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Here is one live negotiation tracker and what I believe is the proposed text that the chair proposed just as I went to bed.
Looks like we are going to have another long night at #COP20-sadly this has become the norm (hope they don’t shut down the food)
Today is World AIDS Day, an annual day of remembrance and reflection on the global AIDS crisis held since 1988. Overshadowed this year by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we should keep in mind that this problem is not over even if it has receded from news coverage in recent years. Here are 5 facts and 4 news items about the state of the current epidemic to keep in mind, and 3 recent films – How to Survive a Plague, Fire in the Blood, and the Dallas Buyers Club, which help bring some context to understanding grassroots mobilization in the U.S. and internationally to combat the AIDS epidemic. Continue reading
The Ebola crisis isn’t over. In the absence of new infections in the United States, Americans have moved on to other preoccupations (Ferguson anyone?), but the problem hasn’t gone away even if Google searches have plunged. There has been some positive news out of Liberia with a decline in the rate of new infections from 80 new cases per day to about 20 to 30, but the news from Sierra Leone suggests the problem is far from under control, with the end of the rainy season potentially making transit easier and facilitating the spread of the virus further. More troubling still is the new hot spot of infections coming out of Mali, eight confirmed cases in all, 7 of them related to a single Guinean imam who died in diagnosed in Mali and whose body was not handled properly as one would a deceased Ebola patient. Continue reading
If you went to bed early on Tuesday night, you might have missed some very big news out of Obama-Xi meeting in Beijing, other than announcements on trade and regional security. I’m talking about the potentially momentous bilateral agreement on climate change where China announced for the first time a date — “around 2030″ — for peak greenhouse gas emissions and the United States announced a 2025 emissions reduction target. This is big news, potentially changing the entire international dynamic going in to next year’s climate negotiations in Paris (and interim negotiations in Lima later this year).
With the two countries responsible for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions making a significant joint push, the pressure will be on other big emitting countries, namely India, Canada, Japan, and Australia to fall in to line and be constructive players themselves. It will be interesting to see how this changes the domestic context for the United States where President Obama may use existing regulatory authority and executive action to press the policy agenda, but it’s unclear if that will be enough to meet the ambitious 2025 goals. China for its part may be on track anyway to meet that 2030 peak target, but the real question is, as I’ve written before (here and here), how far it can go to move away from coal. Read on for full linkages to press coverage, Kerry’s op-ed in the New York Times, reflections from Brad Plumer, and the White House announcement that includes more detail on expanded technical cooperation. Continue reading
In the lead up to the APEC summit about to start this week in Beijing, China’s leadership undertook a series of emergency measures to avoid the continued embarrassment of a string of poor air quality days that had bedeviled the country over the previous year. The government reinstated the familiar practice of restricting car travel to certain days of the week based on license plate numbers. Government workers and schools were closed for an “APEC holiday” to reduce traffic. Factories have been ordered to shut down during the summit. Interestingly, those plans seemingly backfired as companies anticipated the later forced work stoppages by working overtime in advance of the later down hours they would be offline during the summit.
Thus, in October when Beijing often enjoys clear skies and cool weather, the city was cloaked in a devastating haze. Some of the world’s best soccer players from Argentina and Brazil were in town for a friendly, only to be confined to their hotel rooms for most of their visit, save for training sessions that left them gasping for breath. Later in the month, photos (see above) captured the spectacle of the Beijing Marathon being run amidst this foul air, with many participants clad in elaborate gas masks as they ran the course. Of course, while foreign visitors are exposed to this pollution during short stays, this is the air quality the people of China experience all the time. A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) concluded that seventy percent of the country’s population live in areas that exceed air pollution levels recommended by the World Health Organization. That pollution was estimated to be responsible for 670,000 premature deaths in 2012 from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and pulmonary disease.
At this point, China’s bad air isn’t news (see my earlier posts here and here). However, China’s unfolding “war on pollution” is news and may ultimately improve both air quality and address climate change. Continue reading