Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.

Gender in IR, Now at the Cutting Edge

[Note: The following is a guest post by Prof. Dan Reiter of Emory University]

Joshua Goldstein wrote in the preface to his award-winning, 2001 book War and Gender that while finishing his book he “discovered a list of unfinished research projects, which I had made fifteen years ago at the end of graduate school. About ten lines down is ‘gender and war,’ with the notation ‘most interesting of all; will ruin career—wait until tenure.’” This was probably not a completely inaccurate assessment, at the time. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the study of gender and international relations was viewed by many as outside the mainstream of IR, lending itself only to post-modern and critical methods of inquiry. Fortunately, during this period scholars such as Cynthia Enloe, Ann Tickner, Spike Peterson, and others sloughed off this marginalization, producing path-breaking work on gender and IR, asking new questions, posing new theoretical answers, and crafting entirely new agendas.

The status of the study of gender and IR could not be more different today than what it was when Goldstein wrote those words in the mid-1980s, as I describe in a forthcoming Journal of Conflict Resolution article. Continue reading

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OAIS Blogging Awards: And the Finalists Are….

Thanks to all of you who voted for this year’s OAIS Blogging Awards finalists. We had an amazing pool of nominees again this year in all four categories. We had a record voter turnout — it’s exciting to see the growth in interest in the Duckies in the past three years. It is even more exciting to see and read all of the incredible intellectual contributions made by all of the bloggers in the IR field.

We are pleased to announce this year’s finalists. Continue reading

Only Two Days Left to Vote

Get your ballots in soon. We are in the home stretch for the voting for the 2015 OAIS Blogging Awards (The Duckies). Voting closes on Friday, Jan. 30 at 5:00pm EST. All ballots must be submitted by then. We’ve had a record number of votes and all four categories are very tight. Once all the votes are in, we will tally them and announce the finalists for each category. At that point, a panel of judges will select the winners from among the finalists. For more information on the list of nominees and all the details and rules on voting, check out our earlier post. Continue reading

Vote Now for the 2015 (The Duckies) IR Blogging Awards

It’s time to vote! We are asking readers to vote for the finalists in each category. ONce we have finalists for each category, a panel of judges that includes previous years’ winners and permanent contributors at Duck of Minerva will select this year’s award winners in each category. The winners will be announced at the OAIS Blogging Awards and Reception at the ISA annual convention in New Orleans on Thursday, February 20, 2015.

Here’s what you need to do. Send us an email at duckofminerva2015 at gmail.com and we will send you a ballot. Simply fill out the ballot and submit it. Voting ends on Friday, January 30. Complete rules can be found here.

Here is the list of nominees for this year’s OAIS Blogging Awards. Continue reading

Last Call for Blogging Awards Nominations!

This is the last call for nominations for the best IR-related blogging of 2014. The “Duckies” will be awarded at ISA-New Orleans on Thursday, Feb. 20 at the third annual Duck of Minerva and Sage Blogging Awards and Reception. We need your help and nominations for the best blogging of 2014 in these categories:
1. Best Blog (Group) in IR
2. Best Blog (Individual) in IR
3. Best Blog Post in IR
4. Best New Blogger (Individual) in IR — this can be anyone new blogging in an individual or group blog.

We’ve got a great list so far, but we’re looking for more. Please send us your nominations via email by January 15, 2015. Thank you!

Is There a Santa Claus?

[NOTE: To spice up the discussion started by Tenacity’s guest post, we bring you this throw-back post. One of Patrick Thadeus Jackson’s greatest hits (of which there were many) originally posted on December 25, 2007.]

Ever since the invention of the InterNet, not a December goes by without some version of this making the rounds of listservs and e-mail chains and the like. I must have received it a dozen times from various sources. It’s cute and funny and all, but I must say that I’ve never been entirely happy with its conclusions. So in the spirit of the season, I present the first known social constructionist investigation in the the existence of Santa Claus. I mean, why should the natural sciences get to have all the fun — and why should they get to corner the market on looking into such matters?

The first thing to point out is that a social constructionist would not necessarily consider the existence of Santa Claus to be the same thing as the existence of a man in a red suit who flies around the world in one evening in a sleigh pulled by eight or nine flying reindeer and delivers toys to all of the good children of the world. Continue reading

Best IR Blogging of 2014? Send us your nominations.

Just a reminder that we accepting nominations for the best IR-related blogging of 2014. The “Duckies” will be awarded at ISA-New Orleans on Thursday, Feb. 20 at the third annual Duck of Minerva and Sage Blogging Awards and Reception. We need your help and nominations for the best blogging of 2014 in these categories:
1. Best Blog (Group) in IR
2. Best Blog (Individual) in IR
3. Best Blog Post in IR
4. Best New Blogger (Individual) in IR — this can be anyone new blogging in an individual or group blog.

Please send us your nominations via email by January 10, 2015. Thank you!

2015 OAIS Blogging Awards: Call for Nominations!

Duckies

It’s that time of year folks. We are now receiving nominations for the third annual Online Achievement in International Studies (OAIS) Blogging Awards — aka the Duckie Awards.

We are asking Duck readers to reflect back over the past year to consider the best blogging contributions to the field of International Studies and to submit nominations for the awards. Post your nominations in the comments thread or drop us a note at duckofminerva2015 @ gmail.com. We will later ask readers to vote for the three finalists in each category. Last year’s winners have generously agreed to judge the finalists and select the 2015 winners.

Also, once again we are thrilled that with the support of SAGE, Duck of Minerva and SAGE will be co-hosting the third annual IR Blogging Awards and Reception at the ISA Annual Conference to be held in New Orleans.    The reception is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, February 19, 2015.   Charli is again coordinating the program for the Awards ceremony and we’ll have details on the program soon.

At this point, we need Duck readers to submit nominations — we’ll ask you all to vote on the finalists in January. Here are the rules and nomination and judging procedures for the 2015 awards: Continue reading

Are We Finally Ousting the World’s Last Dictators? Sadly, No.

[Note: This is a guest post by Andrew G. Reiter, Assistant Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College.]

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Following massive public protests challenging his attempt to amend the constitution and extend his 27-year rule; Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore announced his resignation Friday, bringing an end to one of the world’s longest standing dictatorships. In his influential 2003 book, Breaking the Real Axis of Evil, Mark Palmer argued that the days of the dictator were numbered. The wave of democracy that had washed over the world in the last decades of the twentieth-century was making this form of government increasingly obsolete. Moreover, Palmer contended, if Western democracies made democracy promotion a priority, by calling for dictators to step down and applying targeted economic sanctions and military force when necessary, the dictator’s demise could be accelerated and the world could be free of them by 2025. Now at the halfway mark and in the wake of the latest dictator, Compaore, to fall from power, it is ripe to ask: are we finally ousting the last dictators? The answer, sadly, is no. The dictator is not going away anytime soon.

At first glance, it might seem as though we are making great progress. Saddam Hussein was ousted from power, tried, and hanged following a US-led military invasion in 2003. Liberia’s Charles Taylor was forced out, exiled, then captured and tried in The Hague. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who had ruled for over 40 years, was captured and killed by rebel forces in 2011. The popular protests at the heart of the Arab Spring movement removed long-time Tunisian and Egyptian dictators Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak from power, and Yemen leader Ali Abdullah Saleh fled to Saudi Arabia. Continue reading

Israel in Gaza: What’s the Plan?

10557671_684954708219777_6909228407805769384_o(Photo by Oliver Weiken—EPA)

What’s the Israeli plan with all of this? According to the Israeli Defense Forces statement, “The IDF’s objective as defined by the Israeli government (in the ground offensive) is to establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”

Despite the somewhat ambiguous language here, what this apparently means is that the Israeli government wants to return to some kind of status-quo ante — albeit one with a weakened Hamas stockpile of rockets and tunnels. It doesn’t want to return to full-scale occupation in Gaza and it doesn’t want to defeat Hamas. Both would be too costly. As Aaron David Miller writes : Continue reading

Meanwhile in Cambodia: The Detention of Mu Sochua

Mu Sochua a leading member of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was arrested on Tuesday along with five others after a demonstration to gain access to Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park turned violent in clashes between police and some of the protesters. Sochua was elected to the Cambodian parliament in 2013 and is a leading human rights and non-violence advocate in Cambodia. Despite their calls on the protesters to remain calm and non-violent, Sochua and the five others have been charged with insurrection and incitement and have been detained in Phnem Penh’s maximum security prison.  If convicted, they could be sentenced to 30 years in prison. The US State Department, and others, including my home institution Mount Holyoke College have already called on the government for their release. Human Rights Watch called the government to investigate and prosecute those opposition supporters who committed violence, but is also called the insurrection charges “absurd” and yet another “pretext for threatening opposition leaders with prison.”

Continue reading

The Collapse of the Status Quo in Israel.

Just over a week ago – two days before the discovery of the bodies of the three abducted Israeli teenagers and four days before the abduction and revenge killing of Muhammed Abu Khdeir — I sat in the family quarters of a young Palestinian shop owner in Jersusalem’s Old City sipping mint tea with two colleagues.  We met the young shop owner and his two cousins while bargaining over some textiles in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.  At the conclusion of the sale, they thanked us for a rigorous negotiation and invited us to their family quarters where they had a museum style display of textiles, rugs, and other artifacts that their family had collected in their 150+ years as shop owners in the Old City bazaar.

As we sat drinking our tea, we asked the young men about the political situation. Continue reading

Is All of This Focus on Transitional Justice Really Worth It?

[Note:  This is a guest post by Geoffrey Dancy, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Tulane University]

Nearly every civil war negotiation or democratic revolution is now accompanied by a consideration of how to publicly address previous human rights abuses—what practitioners refer to as transitional justice.

Over the last week, Juan Manuel Santos was narrowly reelected president in Colombia on a peace platform. His government must now move forward with a fourth round of negotiations with FARC rebels. Having already tackled land reform, political rights, and the drug trade, this round will involve discussion over the “transitional justice framework,” and must resolve a series of thorny issues like victims’ rights to reparation. Most importantly, the government and rebels will have to address the controversy over whether individual combatants will receive prison time for the many human rights violations they committed during the 50-year-long war. The issue of justice is especially salient following the recent ‘false positives’ scandal–where it was discovered that government security forces over the last decade rounded up and murdered thousands of young men from slums, dressed them as guerillas, and presented their kills to authorities for reward.

Colombia is not an isolated case.  Continue reading

Note to Controversial Commencement Speakers — Don’t Quit!

Let’s face it, most commencement speakers aren’t really all that inspiring. Every spring, tens of thousands of graduating seniors, proud parents, faculty, and others sit through seemingly endless speeches filled with those insipid “inspiring life lessons,” those essential “kernels of wisdom that will guide graduates through life’s challenges,” and the hopeful “ten ways this year’s class of graduating seniors will change the world.”

Humor sometimes — but only sometimes — helps.

And, then occasionally the stars align and we get that memorable commencement — with a speaker whose presence and message provokes students to think about their core values, their beliefs, their relationship to the broader world; the speaker who gets the students to reflect on their courses and their intellectual growth over the past four years; someone who gets students and faculty talking, debating, and if we are really lucky engaged, riled up, and even impassioned.

That’s what makes this whole recent dust-up over a number of commencement speakers bailing on their invitations so unfortunate. These are the commencement speakers who need to show up. Continue reading

Pitching Your Article?

Dan Nexon has instituted a new Ask the Editors feature on his editor’s blog on the newly revamped ISQ website. If you haven’t seen it yet, PTJ has done a great job developing the site and Dan hasn’t missed a step in the transition from his great blogging here at Duck to his new role at ISQ.

In the first installment of Ask the Editors Dan responds to a reader’s question on what information should be conveyed in the dreaded cover letter included with an article submission. The reader referred to the cover letter as that “mystical piece of the peer review process.”

Dan’s response is insightful and certainly a must read for anyone considering submitting a piece to ISQ, but one of his major conclusions strikes me as curious. He writes:

In short, a manuscript’s cover letter bears almost no resemblance to what accompanies an application for a job or for a grant. You should not use the cover letter as place to “pitch” the manuscript to us.

Continue reading

The Bloody Secession of Eastern Ukraine

[Note: This is a guest post by Branislav L. Slantchev, professor of Political Science at the University of California-San Diego]

Anna Pechenkina has written an insightful response to my opinion that if the West cares about Ukraine’s pro-Western orientation and integrity (at least what remains after Crimea), then we and the Ukrainians need to brace ourselves for a risky confrontation with Putin’s Russia: Kiev must ask for, and we must agree to, NATO troops on the ground in the Eastern provinces. Since the question then becomes whether we care enough about Ukraine to run such a risk, I argued that it is in our interest to protect Ukraine.

Pechenkina – who, like I, wants to see Ukraine emerge whole and independent from this imbroglio – but she does not think we have important interests there.  In the end, this means Ukraine will be dismembered. But, and this is important, she says that this will hurt Russia in the long run. She also takes issue with my claims that Putin’s domestic legitimacy is based on promoting foreign policies that must confront Western influence in the Eurasian basin where Russia has traditionally been dominant, that our failure to act in Ukraine will encourage Russia’s neighbors to become more accommodating to Putin, and that Russia itself will be encouraged to pursue more adventurous policies. Continue reading

ForeignPolicy.Com Fail

As I noted last week, for the final project in my linked seminar this year, my students have to design and launch a website to promote their fictitious human rights NGO. In prepping for the course and in developing the grading rubrics, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading the literature on what makes for a strong and effective website and how to integrate design, functionality, and content. My students’ websites are evaluated on all of these aspects. The content and text should match the sophistication of the targeted audience — generally it should be smart and focused. The aesthetic should include visual appeal, professional appearance, color harmonies with elegant and clear and easy to use design functions to visually guide readers through the content.

All of this makes me wonder what the hell are the folks at Foreign Policy.com thinking? Continue reading

So You Want to be a Liberal Arts College Professor: Is there a Future for the Liberal Arts?

Last year I wrote a post titled “So You Want to be a Liberal Arts Professor.” At the time, I promised a series of pieces on the subject, but then my job as a liberal arts college professor got in the way…. Oh well. Among other things, I got mired in a faculty committee examining the future of the liberal arts, developing our college learning goals, and revamping the college’s distribution and graduation requirements.

Throughout the process, we spent a lot of time looking at the literature and debates on question of the relevance of the liberal arts in the 21st century – and especially on the instrumentalization of knowledge and the concerns about the practical turn in higher education.

And, while I’m concerned about many of the trends in higher ed – the corporatization of the academy and the emergence of a new managerial class — one thing that has struck me about much of this debate about the relevance of the liberal arts is how divorced the discussion tends to be from what many of us actually do in the classroom. Continue reading

Crimea is not a Realist story

[Note:  This is a guest post by Jarrod Hayes, assistant professor of international relations at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  His first book, Constructing National Relations: US Relations with India and China was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.]

Jeffrey Stacey has already discussed the issue in Crimea with alacrity, as have his interlocutors in the comments section.  My agenda here is to argue that what is going on in Crimea is not a story about which Realist theory in international relations has much to say.  My specific foil here (probably at some professional peril) is John Mearsheimer.  Mearsheimer is perhaps most known for his forceful support of Realist IR theory (there is that Israel thing too), specifically a variant called offensive realism.  According to that theory, great powers are constantly predatory, seeking to boost their power (military capability and economic capability that boosts military capability) whenever benefits exceed the costs.  It is a materialist and rationalist approach to international security, grounded in a logic of power and appealing in its simplicity.  And Mearsheimer has not been shy about commenting on the crisis in Crimea, arguing that Ukraine should have kept its nuclear weapons after the end of the Cold War and that Russia’s annexation of Crimea makes perfect sense as the actions of an insecure state seeking to prevent immediate neighbors from falling into the orbit of the West.

The story is an appealing one, and on the surface it looks compelling.  Continue reading

An East-West Bridge for Ukraine

[Note: This is a guest post by Joshua B. Spero, Associate Professor of International Politics and Coordinator of International Studies at Fitchburg State University.]

Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis accelerated with Russia’s territorial consolidation in Ukraine, Europe is back on the radar screen as great powers and international institutions struggle to de-escalate this security dilemma. After President Obama’s European trip and coordination with European Union (EU) and NATO leaders on 26 March, the international community should pause to consider that, unlike classic power politics regarding heartland Europe, there might still be ways to avoid zero-sum decisions. Virtually lost in the Russia-Ukraine crisis remains the post-Cold War partnership in the heart of Central-East Europe – the Poland-Germany bridge for East and West. Given the U.S. President’s admonition in Brussels that Russia’s actions in Ukraine underscore its “regional power” status and illustrate its “weakness” toward its neighbors not its “strength,” the quarter century-old Poland-Germany crisis management mechanism anchors heartland Europe’s integration, promotes key consultation with Russia and Ukraine, and helps reduce America’s European role while still tying the U.S. to Europe. Continue reading

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