Rodger A. Payne is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and chairs its Administration, Finance, and Outreach committee. He is also on the Steering Committee for the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on a project exploring the role of comedy and satire in international politics.

Power and Negotiation: A Geopolitical Waltz

The following is a guest post submitted by Valentina Amuso and Kyle McNally

Is the US in an inevitable spiral of decline? Is China rising as the new hegemon? These are a few of the new dinner table topics of the 21st century. The latest iteration of such questions can be found in the discourse surrounding current economic negotiations. In this area most attention is focused squarely on the US and China; however, it must be recognised that these two countries are only two of the participants in a highly complex dance of geopolitics. The US and China are significant actors, to be sure, but their strategies should be understood in a broader context.

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Clans

Rutgers University law professor (and bloggerMark S. Weiner has been awarded the 2015 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for ideas set forth in his 2013 book, The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom. The award includes a $100,000 cash prize and is administered by the University of Louisville.

The book makes a fairly complicated argument about clans, identity groups, liberal democracy, states, and national security. The press release ostensibly explains the highly readable book’s main argument:  Continue reading

Iraq's Chemical Arsenal: Justification for War?

Yesterday, a student asked me about the recent news reports indicating that Iraq did, in fact, have “weapons of mass destruction” back in 2002 and 2003 when the U.S. was attempting to justify a “preemptive” war. The New York Times reported that American soldiers were injured in the past decade by chemically-armed munitions found in Iraq.

Already, a slew of articles in the media have debunked the claim that this vindicates George W. Bush and his Iraq misadventure. This Washington Post piece is perhaps the best since it primarily quotes Bush administration claims from the pre-war period.

The Times piece certainly does not try to claim that Bush is vindicated:

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Tweets of the week #4

This was another busy week in global politics and I’m going to highlight some of the best tweets in my Twitter feed. Before starting, however, I will acknowledge that this post is late.

I believe my excuse is pretty good as it involves lots of late night baseball. I grew up in Kansas rooting for the local team — and the Kansas City Royals are in the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, the Royals won three consecutive extra inning games. All ended after 1 am Eastern Time. I then had to read for 30 to 45 minutes after the long and exciting games just to unwind enough to sleep.

None of those victories featured  the longest game of the week. As DC residents know, the Washington Nationals lost to the San Francisco Giants 2-1 in the 18th inning. I caught a bit of that contest:

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Tweets of the Week #3

Twitter HQ: Logo artwork

It’s the weekend, so it’s time for the third edition of “Tweets of the Week.” My twitter feed was again filled with some interesting micro-blogging.

By the way, I apologize for the way last week’s home page post looked. Obviously, I’m doing something wrong with the images, though it seems to be fine once the reader clicks the link to Continue Reading. I hope readers can see the image at the top of this page. Continue reading

Tweets of the Week #2

09_2013_47

Welcome to the second edition of “Tweets of the Week.” It was a busy seven days for news and my twitter feed provided much useful information — in micro-form.

The Scottish independence referendum featured especially prominently in my feed. This was perhaps my favorite tweet about the final result:

Prior to the vote, my feed was filled with some great tweets about the #indyref. Here are a few of the shorter ones that I found especially helpful:

https://twitter.com/ZiggyRoswell/status/510153980144787457

The Scottish referendum, of course, was not the only interesting issue in global politics this week. And, over the long haul, it almost assuredly wasn’t the most important either.

For example, the continuing spread of Ebola might be the biggest near-term threat to international security — depending upon how we define “security.”

No matter how depressed you might be about the prospect of new war in the Middle East, this tweet helps provide context:

But read this too, on ISIS/ISIL:

It also seems appropriate to be worried about Ukraine:

Finally, here’s a blast from the past that might be quite helpful in a class that is discussing renewed war in Iraq:

Tweets of the Week

Though I’ve been blogging at the Duck of Minerva for more than 9 years, I haven’t posted much content for several years. My last post here was in mid-February. You can find maybe half a dozen posts in 2013 and 2014. It’s a terrible record. Embarrassingly, I had to look up my username just to log in.

There are multiple explanations for my silence: the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, which was my original blogging muse. I became department chair. My hair is turning very gray. Blah, blah, blah.

However, in my own defense, I should note that I am a much more frequent contributor to the Tweets sidebar here at the Duck. In fact, I can only conclude that I’m now a “microblogger,” at least primarily. Is that worthwhile?

With that question in mind, I’m going to try to post a regular “Tweets of the week” piece. This will mostly be retweets from my Twitter feed, though I may slip in one or two of my own original tweets. I’ll try to highlight major issues of the week.

Re: Ebola

Re: Upcoming Scottish Independence Vote (which captured my attention while traveling there in August)

Re: ISIS (this is a parking ticket issued by ISIL):

https://twitter.com/acoyne/status/508642960851079168

Re: AU department chair:

Academic Family Tree

Untitled

Almost exactly three years ago, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson blogged “Who’s Your Grand-Advisor? Crowdsourcing an IR lineage map” at the Duck. Patrick was searching for an academic family tree website with a focus on international relations:

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Nuland: Comic misunderstanding?

Have Duck readers been following the latest glitch in U.S.-European relations? Josh mentioned it in his recent roundup. Here’s how the Washington Post explained the story:

On Thursday, a video was posted on YouTube in which Victoria Nuland,, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, disparagingly dismissed European Union efforts to mediate the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine by bluntly saying, “F— the E.U.”

On Friday, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, through press attache Christiane Wirtz, described the gaffe as “absolutely unacceptable,” and defended the efforts of Catherine Ashton, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief. Continue reading

2014 Grawemeyer Award Winner

Congratulations to Jacques E.C. Hymans for winning the 2014 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. The award is administered by the University of Louisville’s Department of Political Science. Disclosure: I’m currently the Department chair and for 17 years I directed the award (1994-2011). There’s more on the local angle at the end of this post.

Hymans won the $100,000 prize for his 2012 book Achieving Nuclear Ambitions; Scientists, Politicians, and Proliferation. Here’s a brief description from the Cambridge University Press webpage: Continue reading

Update: UWE Response to My Letter

I have an update for those interested in the decision by the University of the West of England to shutter its Politics and IR programs.

Help Wanted...

Last night, I sent the following message to UWE Vice Chancellor Steven West:

19 February 2013

Dear Vice Chancellor West,

I learned today that the University of the West of England is seriously considering a decision to close its Politics and International Relations programs. I believe that would be a serious mistake and would urge you not to make it.

From what I understand, the decision will be part of a university effort to refocus coursework around skills and vocational training.

In the United States, some excellent recent scholarship demonstrates that liberal arts education is actually much more valuable than vocational and professional education. In the book Academically Adrift (University of Chicago, 2010), scholars Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa find that liberal arts students receive a far superior education compared to students enrolled in other degree program — and this is later reflected in the job market. The reason for the far better performance is academic rigor. Students pursuing traditional liberal arts majors showed “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills over time.” Students pursuing practical and applied fields — business, education, social work, and communications — were more likely to be at the bottom of their rankings.

Data on the Politics and IR webpage at UWE seem to confirm this US data by revealing that the overwhelming majority (over 90%) of IR students at your university are either employed or enrolled in additional courses of study six months after they complete the program.

None of this data speak to the field-dependent reasons for saving Politics and IR. Many of the world’s most important problems will require concerted political action in order to prevent disaster. The current policy stagnation on climate change, for example, has much more to do with international politics than it does natural or physical science. Similarly, the world continues to confront the tremendous problems of war, weapons proliferation, poverty, and hunger. In all these areas, the world needs people trained in politics and international relations to help understand the global issues, frame potential solutions, and build winning coalitions. Nation-states, nongovernmental organizations, international institutions, and global businesses will have to come together around these problem areas. Today’s Politics and IR students funnel into jobs in all of those entities.

Again, I urge you not to close Politics and IR at UWE.

Sincerely,

Continue reading

Save IR and Politics at University of the West of England

Earlier today, I received an email alerting me to the fact that the University of the West of England’s Academic Board supported a recommendation from the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group to close all international relations and politics programs.

Apparently, the plan is to refocus the university (one of the ten largest in England) on skills-based learning and vocational courses, which essentially means that arts and social sciences have no place in future plans. As long-time Duck readers know, I think this is a very bad idea — and some much-discussed research strongly supports the value of liberal arts education. Indeed, this research suggests that liberal arts students even out-perform vocationally trained students in the job market. In IR at UWE, 95% of “Students [are] in work / study six months after finishing” their course.

Unsurprisingly, students are very happy with the education they receive at UWE:

In the last five National Student Surveys History at UWE has consistently scored over 90 per cent in the overall satisfaction ratings and Politics at UWE has scored close to 90 per cent. In the 2011 Guardian University League Tables Politics at UWE scored 91 per cent for overall course satisfaction.

Indeed, the students are campaigning  to save their programs. They have set up an online petition. They also have a Facebook page. An especially resourceful Politics/IR student at UWE made the following video about the pending decision and the value of the programs: Continue reading

Get the Lead Out?

Lead bullets

Yesterday, Dan Drezner’s “one post about American gun violence” explicitly linked the post-Newtown debate about gun violence to Kevin Drum’s interesting and provocative Mother Jones article on the disturbing relationship between lead (Pb) in the environment and criminal violence. “If the White House is smart, they will take, verbatim, Kevin Drum’s suggested policy proposals for eliminating lead from our nation’s homes and topsoil.”

Like many of us at the Duck, Drezner is an IR scholar who frequently blogs about foreign policy. However, as a group, we are somewhat hesitant about entering into debates about domestic political issues that are remote from our primary areas of expertise. In this case, however, Drezner quite laudably attempts to find seemingly reasonable common ground between the anti-gun left and the gun lobby. Specifically, he plausibly asserts that a wide array of interest and identity groups should support a proposal to reduce lead in the environment: Continue reading

Africa for Norway

This video from Africa for Norway provides a humorous way to think about foreign aid:

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2013 Grawemeyer Award Winner

Congratulations to Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan for winning the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World. As readers may recall, Chenoweth is a Duck of Minerva guest blogger.

Chenoweth and Stephan won the $100,000 prize for their 2011 book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press). This is a succinct description from the press website: Continue reading

Thinking the Unthinkable?

Yesterday, climate activist and environmental writer Bill McKibben tweeted a link to this eye-opening graphic:

In many ways, this chart is merely another disturbing bit of information about weather in a year of shocking weather news. Continue reading

“Get the Big Idea Right”

This morning, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville hosted CIA Director David H. Petraeus.  The event was not publicized and required a ticket for admission. As chair of the Political Science Department, I was invited to hear the talk — and had a seat very near the front and center of the stage, less than 25 feet from the speakers. Unfortunately, very few students outside of the (approximately 40) McConnell Scholars were invited to the event.

The lecture hall was instead filled with older guests, including many veterans and some active duty servicemen (and women, though I didn’t see many), local elites important to the University and Center, faculty, administrators, etc. I sat between a veteran and a banker with a famous local name. Senator McConnell was on the stage with the scholars, as was his spouse, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, University President James Ramsey, and Center Director Gary Gregg.

Petraeus spoke on the subject of leadership, a central concern for the McConnell Center and its students. Unfortunately, the former four star General gave a half hour talk that began with a very long introduction thanking his various hosts (and a couple of jokes) and ended with many platitudes that were not especially provocative. 

In between that long intro and weak conclusion, the body of the speech addressed 4 main points (Petraeus called them tasks of leadership) and employed primarily examples from the 2007 Iraq surge “success” to illustrate them:

  1. Get the big idea right (in this case, counterinsurgency strategy)
  2. Communicate effectively throughout the organization
  3. Implement the ideas
  4. Capture the lessons: refine and repeat

Petraeus did not take questions at the end.

That last fact was especially disappointing to me since it seemed like Petraeus ignored the elephant in the room. After all, the Iraq war started in March 2003 and the insurgency was a fairly significant problem not long after the successful U.S. capture of Baghdad. Why did it take so many years to “get the big idea right”? More importantly, how was Petraeus able to convince political leaders of the need for his favored strategy in a context that so obviously started by getting the big ideas WRONG?

In some ways, I think the problems I had with this particular speech and event parallel many of the most common criticisms levied against the CIA.

Why was the event secret? Guests were asked not to publicize the event because of security, but the CIA is frequently accused of excessive secrecy in the name of security. The McConnell Center has often hosted serving Secretaries of State, Ambassadors, Senators,and other political dignataries. Most were advertised in advance and the events were milked for PR purposes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s address was so highly anticipated that people on campus could watch a live-stream of the event. Does a former first lady, President’s spouse, prominent presidential candidate, and serving Secretary of State face lower security threats?

I suspect that the visit of the CIA Director was not advertised because someone feared that left-leaning members of the campus community might organize a distracting protest outside the facility. Even if this is CIA policy, I challenge the rationale behind the policy.

The failure to invite a larger sample of the general student population, the decision to invite dozens of local elites, and the lack of questioning suggests another problem with the CIA. It has a reputation for not being especially accountable to various constituencies.

I’m sure organizers felt as if the event went off well, like an uncontested slam dunk. 

Plagiarism 2.0

The internet has exploded this afternoon with the revelation that Fareed Zakaria (a Harvard Government PhD 1993) apparently plagiarized significant elements of his Time magazine op-ed this week. As many in the media have noted, including Politico, several paragraphs in his piece about gun control are “remarkably similar” to paragraphs originally published by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker on April 22, 2012. Zakaria almost immediately owned up to the deed:

“Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 22nd issue of The New Yorker. They are right,” Zakaria said in a statement to The Atlantic Wire. “I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.”

As a result, Zakaria has been suspended by Time for one month, pending further review. CNN has also suspended Zakaria from his Sunday television program.

On Twitter, a number of people have speculated that a careless intern, research assistant, or even a ghostwriter might be the guilty party at the root of the plagiarism. For example, journalist Chantal McLaughlin just tweeted:

The buck stops with Fareed Zakaria yet I can’t help but think that an #intern may be involved #DontOutsource

Earlier, neocon writer John Podhoretz tweeted,

“The irony: Fareed could never admit that he had an intern write the column….worse than plagiarism perhaps…”

The potential carelessness of a third party does not make Zakaria less responsible for the words published in his name, but it certainly adds an interesting twist to the incident. Indeed, the entire affair has reminded me about an odd exchange during an interview I watched on “The Daily Show” back on July 23. Host Jon Stewart asked Zakaria if he wrote the latest edition of his own book. Check out this video at about the 1 minute mark:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Fareed Zakaria
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Bear cam

Have you wasted any time viewing Bear cam? This Wired story explains:

Media company Explore has teamed up with Alaska’s Katmai National Park to install webcams that will deliver live video feeds of brown bears catching salmon in a popular feeding ground.

Each year, around a hundred bears travel to a stretch of Brooks River to fill their bellies with salmon. Now anyone with an internet connection can witness this gathering thanks to four high-definition cameras that have been set up in this remote part of Alaska. 

One camera is positioned at Brook Falls, where the larger male bears fight it out for salmon that are desperately trying to leap their way upstream.

This is the link to that camera: Brown Bear & Salmon Cam – Brooks Falls – Bears – explore

Warning: this is highly addictive.

Compare that to this 1980 Reagan campaign commercial to see how far we’ve progressed in our tolerance for bears (right?):

Yesterday, I watched as two bears postured somewhat violently towards one another. Meanwhile, a nearby bear was dining on salmon. This demonstrated that the two in the foreground learned nothing from the 2012 Republican primaries.

Baseball and American Foreign Policy

Not long ago, Robert Elias, a Professor of Politics at University of San Francisco (and editor of Peace Review), published The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy & Promoted the American Way Abroad (The New Press, 2010). Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to obtain a copy of the book — or read it. However, thanks to my SABR membership, I learned this week of his related article “Baseball and American Foreign Policy,” which came out in Transatlantica in 2011 (but was just published on-line this month).

As both a baseball fan and an academic who has taught a course on “Globalization (And Baseball),” I am certainly interested in the thesis Elias develops:

In America’s efforts to expand its frontiers, it soon looked overseas. Baseball was enlisted in America’s imperial quests and it helped colonize other lands, from the Caribbean to Asia to the Pacific. The game was regularly part of U.S. “civilizing missions” launched abroad, either militarily or economically, and sometimes bolstered by the forces of “muscular Christianity.” Baseball was used to sell and export the American way. It took its place in the globalization of the world, even if Americanization was more so the objective. In America’s foreign diplomacy, baseball was often regarded as the nation’s “moral equivalent of war.” And at home, baseball was used to promote patriotism and nationalism.

In the article, for example, Elias reviews the role baseball has played in America’s various wars and military interventions. Generally, in fact, Elias argues that baseball has long “promoted nationalism and patriotism, and closely associated itself with American militarism.”
Specifically, he argues that organized baseball played an important role in overcoming the Vietnam syndrome by helping to promote jingoism during the first Persian Gulf War. This fall 2001 video may help explain the author’s point in the context of September 11:

Elias claims that Bush “later reported the pitch as the highlight of his presidency.” In the text, of course, Elias makes a much richer argument about the interplay between baseball and post-9/11 America:

After the terrorist attacks, [Baseball Commissioner Bud] Selig ordered all baseball games postponed. Yet he also invoked [Franklin] Roosevelt’s “green light” for baseball, claiming the sport was too central to the national fabric to stop the games completely. Instead, MLB embraced the flag and led the call to “support the troops.” Having the games soon proceed indicated, symbolically, that America was functioning and would be fighting back…

Virtually every major league ballpark was awash with patriotic gestures. Moments of silence were religiously observed, and patriotic music punctuated games. Fields and stands were blanketed with red, white and blue. Silent auctions were held and benefit games were played for the Red Cross. Players wore caps honoring New York’s police, firefighters and emergency crews, and visited shelters and fire houses. Fans held candles, prayed and sang, and chanted “USA! USA!” Yankee Stadium held a memorial service, Mets players raised money for the Twin Towers Relief Fund, and Diamondback players visited “ground zero.” The terrorist attacks immediately politicized baseball. President Bush “used baseball as a major patriotic statement” at the World Series and elsewhere. Maverick Media, the President’s image maker, later repackaged footage from Bush’s baseball appearances, playing them repeatedly during his reelection campaign.

Much of the rest of the article discusses the role baseball played in other dimensions of American foreign policy — espionage, diplomacy, globalization, etc. He also devotes some attention to the way baseball has dealt with dissent.

Référence électronique
Robert Elias, « Baseball and American Foreign Policy », Transatlantica [En ligne], 2 | 2011, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2012, Consulté le 16 juin 2012. URL : http://transatlantica.revues.org/5478.

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