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/

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

Long-form Writing for Policy Audiences: Part III of a Series

This is the third in a series of posts about bridging the gap between policy and academia. The first focused on principles for engagement. The second on short-form writing, including blogging.  

Another way to engage the policy world is writing long-form papers for think tanks. I’ve written for a number of think tanks and held fellowship positions at several (I’m currently a non-resident fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs). Most of them fell in my lap where a think tank approached me because they were already familiar with my work or I knew folks who were there.

Think tank writing can be an interesting complement to your peer reviewed publications and can occasionally provide some money. Again, it is not a substitute for peer-reviewed publications and will not get you tenure, but you can develop expertise and a reputation in the policy community as a serious person on a topic through long-form writing.

Can I Retain Credibility in Academia and Write for Policy Audiences?

Writing for think tanks is challenging in a couple of respects. First, there is always the need to sharpen your argument to explain why the readers should care, which could be U.S. foreign policy practitioners or some other target audience such as multilateral donors, what have you. In so doing, there is always the temptation to make more dramatic or clearer claims than the evidence suggests.

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Short-Form Writing for the Public: Part II of a Series

This is part II of a series on bridging the gap between policy and academia.

In my last post, I laid out some principles for thinking policy engagement as an academic. In this post, I’ll talk about one such strategy — short-form writing for the public — which includes blogging, Twitter, and other social media. In subsequent posts, I’ll review some others.

I’ve been blogging on and off since the mid-2000s and since 2011 here on the Duck of Minerva. I’ve also contributed to the Monkey Cage a fair amount in recent years, among other outlets, and have a pretty active social media presence on Twitter and Facebook.

All of these things take time and energy so you have to ask yourself, what purposes are served by engaging in those activities? Are you merely doing this because you get some gratification from having a bunch of pageviews, retweets, or likes? It’s easy to fall in to your self-esteem being driven by these metrics, but unlike citation counts, you won’t get tenure based on retweets.

In its early days, blogging provided a number of folks with more visibility for their work. I often think of blogging as akin to a public platform for a rough draft of my work, where I’m puzzling through new ideas and topics. I’ve often seen blogging as a way to better understand a topic through the act of writing and engaging with readers.  Continue reading

Principles and Strategies for Bridging the Gap: Part I

At the recent ISA meeting, I had the good fortune to participate in a roundtable on bridging the policy-academic divide organized by Jim Goldgeier, the Dean of the School of International Service at American University. Fellow panelists included Bruce Jentleson and a powerhouse trio from American University, including Susanna Campbell, Nora Bensahel, and Jordan Tama. All of us in some capacity have participated in the Bridging the Gap project over the years.

I wrote my remarks up in a long form but I thought I’d roll them out in a series of six blog posts beginning with this one. I’ll come back and hyperlink to the others in this piece when I’ve finished the series. I may come back and film them as short videocasts in the coming weeks.

In the series, I talk about five different approaches that I have engaged in to make my work relevant to policy (and the world of practitioners including but not limited to governments). Those five approaches include: short-form writing for the public, long-form writing for policy audiences, policy-oriented courses, grants and consulting, and actual policy practice.

In this post, I want to back out for a moment and have us ask and answer some more fundamental questions.

What’s your theory or understanding of how policy changes? We live in a period described by Tom Nichols as the “death of expertise.” The transmission belt of information to decision-makers who read things and are persuaded by argument and data has been upended. Who are we writing for and what influence do we hope to have? Continue reading

Are You Ready for Some ISA?

Many of us are Baltimore bound for ISA, and other than the Duckies this Thursday night, what are you looking forward to? What panels, receptions, events, new books have caught your attention?

Mike Horowitz winning the Karl Deutsch prize? PRIO folks, Ida Rudolfsen and runner-up Jonas Nordkvell,  winning the Jacek Kugler paper award on demography and geography for work on food price shocks and unrest and rainfall and conflict? Exciting stuff.

(I mostly want to use this post to test our new Facebook auto-post image, but serious responses, including self-nominations most welcome).

I’ve got an 8:15 bridging the gap panel on Thursday morning led by Jim Goldgeier that includes Nora Bensahel, Susanna Campbell, Bruce Jentleson, and Jordan Tama.

I’m also excited about being on a Saturday 1:45 panel on the strategic use of norms that has been organized by Jennifer Dixon and Jennifer Erickson. Fellow panelists include Adam Quinn, David Capie, Courtney Fung, and John Gentry.  I’ll be presenting updated research on shaming from my long-time joint project with Kelly Greenhill.

What are you excited about?

Academic Freedom

President Trump tweeted this on Friday. Even before he issued this egregious tweet, I had prepared a thread on Twitter of my observations from a recent trip to DC. This builds on my post from earlier in the week on how to defend democracy from the perch of the Ivory Tower.

After my trip to DC, it occurred to me that academics, particularly tenured ones, have the freedom to resist this administration and speak out in a way that many NGOs and think tank folks cannot. We should exercise our liberty while we can.

I was really inspired to write this thread when I read a series of tweets from Paul Musgrave on how liberalism has embraced data and facts as the way forward  when it is not at all clear that is the moment we are living in (says the guy writing a blog post). Storify below after the jump.

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Trump’s Randian Foreign Policy

This is a guest post by Zachary C. Shirkey, an Associate Professor of Political Science, Hunter College, CUNY.

Attempts by observers to give Trump’s foreign policy some coherence by finding an underlying ideology that motivates it have largely focused on Jacksonianism. Certainly, aspects of Trump’s outlook and those of a number of his advisers fit the description of Jacksonianism. Jacksonians see US interests in white ethno-nationalist terms and they emphasize strength, unilateralism, self-reliance, and coercion. Jacksonians also seize upon simple solutions for complex problems. Early Trump policies and goals such as protectionism, the proposed border wall with Mexico, and the Muslim immigration ban fit into this worldview.

While such a description of Trump’s worldview has much to recommend it, focusing solely on Jacksonianism risks missing another important influence on him and his advisers: that of Ayn Rand. Many current Republican officials cite Rand as a major influence on their thinking. Trump himself has spoken favorably of Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, and its hero Howard Roark. Likewise, both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have spoken highly of Rand. This is not to claim that all of Trump’s key advisers admire Rand’s works. Steve Bannon—the adviser whose views perhaps most closely align with the white ethno-nationalist component of Jacksonianism and who has cited influences as diverse as Lenin and the Italian reactionary Julius Evola—is strongly averse to Randianism. Still, enough members of the Trump administration admire Randianism that it needs to be taken into account when thinking about Trump’s likely foreign policy. Continue reading

Defending Democracy from the Ivory Tower

What is the role of the academic in defending democracy at a moment like this? I am 46 years old and have lived through some politically searing times in U.S. and world history, but the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States feels different. It feels like an existential threat to world order and American democracy like nothing else.

It has turned all of us in to news junkies hanging on every inflammatory, norms-busting tweet from POTUS at the expense of productivity and mental health. This is not about partisanship. It is about country (if you are American) over party. It is about the fate of the world (which sounds overblown but I mean it). How the hell are we supposed to function as normal human beings, as professionals when the world is on fire?

The inclination is to do or say something. Anything. And, I think we are all struggling to figure out what is right for each of us in terms of public engagement. My colleague Charli Carpenter has started with her entrepreneurial flare the hashtag “#StudytheWorld!” in reaction to Donald Trump’s comments about how having studied the world he’s lead to make certain choices.

What is Our Theory of Change?

That said, I think there is a broader need to think through our theory of change. The times seem to require popular mobilization that is converted into electoral victories and it appears that name recognition and celebrity are more valuable commodities than expertise. How then do experts have influence (a question animating Chris Hayes‘ and Tom Nichols‘ work)? Continue reading

Understanding Trump’s Worldview

Over the weekend, Donald Trump gave an interview with Michael Gove of The Times of London and Kai Diekmann, a former editor of the German newspaper Bild. (The interview is behind a paywall, but you can register for free for access to two articles a week from The Times.)

There has been ample coverage in the press (see here, here), focusing on Trump’s ambivalence to NATO (“obsolete” “very important”), hostility to the European Union (“Personally, I don’t think it matters much for the United States”), and equal regard for Angela Merkel and Putin (“Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.”)

A friend on Facebook said she was struggling with explaining Trump’s foreign policy strategy. A number of people weighed in with suppositions about his business relationships in Russia, whether or not he is subject to blackmail from compromising information.

Leaving that aside, even in the absence of some specific connection between Trump and Russia, what might explain his coziness to Russia, his disdain for NATO, the EU, traditional allies? Or, put a little differently, since first-level analysis of individuals and agency is in vogue again, how can we understand Donald Trump’s worldview?

Tom Wright’s Politico piece from a year ago January 2016 is seen as one of the most accurate and helpful depictions of Trump’s worldview, and his forthcoming book will anchor Trump’s rise in the wider geo-strategic context. Wright focuses on Trump’s mercantilism and perception that the U.S. has gotten a raw deal from the liberal order and that alliances are sapping the country of resources. On Russia, Wright attributes Trump’s views to his general appreciation for authoritarians.

I think that’s generally right, but another idea woke me up at 2am last night and led me to some bleary-eyed tweets. Here is what I said.

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