Category: Featured (page 1 of 126)

Rejection Is The Name of the Game

Much discussion lately about how much rejection is in this academic game.  I had a conversation yesterday with a pal who was finding it much harder, it seemed, to get work published after tenure than before. “I thought I knew how to do this.”

Folks have been calling for the true CVs of people–where rejections would be listed.  Not sure that is going to happen.  However, in this week where I received news of receiving a fellowship to supplement my sabbatical, I thought I would list many of the rejections of my work along the way (my spreadsheet for tracking my work is pretty good but incomplete, just like my training in the Force):*

*  I have already enumerated my many rejections in the academic job market.

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What Happened at Subi Reef?

Following on my last point which tried to understand the logic of ISIS’s role (if indeed it is responsible) in the bombing of a Russian charter plane int he Sinai, let’s turn our attention to the confusion surrounding the recent activity in the South China Sea. In an (alleged…more on this later) effort to counter China’s claims of expanded territorial waters and recent island building in the South China Sea, the US Navy sent the destroyer USS Lassen within 12 miles of Subi Reef, a part of the Spratley archipelgo claimed by several regional actors. China responded by asserting its “indisputable sovereignty” over the reef and accused the US of violating Chinese territorial waters. At the time, that seemed to be the end of it: the US conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP), China responded with predictable rhetoric, and that’s the end of that.

Not so fast.

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The problem of authority

Josh’s excellent tripartite (1, 2, 3) discussion of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy record in conjunction with with the narratives of Putin’s strategic leadership accompanying Russian military involvement in Syria have me thinking about the concept of authority. Specifically, I do not think we as academics (and as a result, policymakers) have a very good set of tools for thinking about leadership and authority in the international system. In large part I suspect the materialist foundations of much of IR theory are central to this gap, and indeed are reflected in the narratives surrounding Putin’s action.

As the story goes, Putin is exhibiting global leadership and building international authority by dint of the fact that he is doing something in a very specific way—bringing to bear Russia’s military capabilities to bomb the enemies of the Assad regime. This produces very optical and material action and as such seems to satisfy an assumption that leadership and global authority are based on military, material impact (with healthy dose of masculinity). Remarkably absent, however, are feasible claims about how Putin’s actions will produce global authority and with whom. How does bombing Bashar al-Assad’s enemies produce a collective shift in how Russia is understood vis-à-vis the hierarchy of the international system? Continue reading

The Destruction of Alderaan Was Not Justified

This is a guest post by Luke M. Perez, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin where he studies religion, ethics, and foreign policy. Luke is also a graduate fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas. He can be reached at


The Empire apologists are making their case, and it is convincing. Perhaps we were wrong all along to support the Rebellion.  But that doesn’t mean we should let the Empire off the hook entirely.

This week for example, Sonny Bunch argues in the Washington Post that the destruction of Alderaan in Episode IV of Star Wars was completely justified. This article is interesting, thought provoking, and wrong – seeking to excuse what is, by any measure, a gross and tragic violation of just war principles. Whatever merits the Empire, whatever flaws the Rebellion, any truly reflective and honest empirical assessment of the Empire’s action at Alderaan will admit that its destruction was a tragic moral failing. Continue reading

Killing the Occupation Analogy

I have spent much time here at the Spew discussing various analogies and kinds of analogies, including how IR can be like tacos and how to make a good IR pop culture analogy.  I love using analogies, and have often used them in my teaching, even as I know that they have their limits (thanks, Robert Jervis).

But if I had to nominate one analogy to kill, to kill with fire, to destroy utterly, it would be the use of the occupations of Germany and Japan to discuss 21st century state-building/nation-building/post-war reconstruction.  I was inspired/depressed by this chain of tweets: Continue reading

Gearing Up for the Academic Job Market: Getting THE CALL

Mid-October is a beautiful time of year – leaves are changing, the air is getting crisp, and there are a variety of outdoor activities to partake in.  All of the wonderfulness of October is meaningless, however, to a special group of individuals: those on the academic job market that are worried about employment in the next academic year.  For this group, mid-October is typically the beginning of the horrible downward spiral of (a) hitting refresh on your inbox[1], (b) double checking that your phone is on and charged, (c) trying to have the willpower to avoid checking job rumor websites, (d) reassuring yourself that Manuscript Central still says your manuscript is “under review” instead of “awaiting decision.”[2] In other words, October is a time of worry.

For many, however, October is also a magical time when the unthinkable happens:  you get THE CALL.[3]  THE CALL can be defined as the awkward 5-10 minute conversation scheduling an in-person interview with a potential academic employer. THE CALL can sometimes come out of the blue, from a school that you sent a packet of information to months before.  THE CALL can also be somewhat anticipated, coming after an email inquiry for more information, a Skype interview, or a rumor you hear from your advisor.  Most definitely, though, THE CALL is reason to celebrate.  And, it’s reason to get to work.  Here is a smattering of advice on what to do during and after THE CALL.

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Turkey’s Nuclear Move: Deciphering the Developments

This is a guest post by Philip Baxter,  Ph.D. Candidate in International Affairs, Science, and Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Senior Research Associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. His research focuses on international security issues, in particular nuclear proliferation, deterrence, strategic stability, illicit trafficking, and nuclear safeguards. He can be reached at

A recent article in the National Interest by Hans Rühle, former Head of the Planning Staff in the German Ministry of Defense, argues that Turkey is positioning itself similarly to Iran in its leveraging of civilian nuclear power for potential nuclear weapons breakout capability. His argument, meant largely to justify German spying on the NATO-ally, posits that since Turkey is developing nuclear power plants, potentially developing its own nuclear fuel production capacity, and does not have a provision for spent nuclear fuel to be return to suppliers (a provision not necessary if producing fuel domestically), it is obviously shadowing the Iranian proliferation formula. These arguments are significantly flawed. While the Turkish movement into the nuclear arena could be afforded more clarity, particularly on the heels of a decade of efforts to corral the Iranian program, nefarious purposes should not be assumed; nor, are they immediately apparent.

Rühle argues that the size of the nuclear industry that Turkey is planning, as well as the amount of fuel that would be needed to supply that industry, would provide ample material for a nuclear weapon. From a purely technical perspective, nuclear fuel from most civilian power reactors is not ideal for a weapons program. Turkey plans to construct four light-water pressurized reactors. These light-water reactors make breeding the type of plutonium necessary for nuclear weapons difficult – as purity is key in having a safe and reliable arsenal. Rühle dismisses the point that the less-pure plutonium from a civilian power reactor would not be used for military program. Rather, Ruhle argues that regardless of plutonium purity, a state will seek to acquire any form of nuclear material and use it for a nuclear arsenal. However, the quality of plutonium is a critical factor in understanding and forecasting proliferation strategies. Continue reading

The Duck Civil War over Russia…

…has escalated. First, Jeff took his argument to Foreign Affairs.  Now I’ve retaliated—and brought in Alex Cooley in an attempt at establishing escalation dominance.

These interpretations dangerously misread contemporary geopolitics, however. Putin’s appearance of strength is, in reality, a function of Russia’s relatively weak international position. Russia lacks a global network of allies and partners and denounces the United States’ leadership. But Moscow cannot decisively influence the rules, institutions, and norms of the international order. By contrast, what many diagnose as U.S. weakness is a symptom of its exorbitant geostrategic privilege. Prudent foreign policy requires Washington to manage its extensive and heterogeneous security commitments and global relationships carefully. This makes Putin’s style of boldness not only less difficult to pursue but also often reckless—sacrificing longer-term position for short-term gain.

Go check it out (paywalled).

Academic Freedom Has a (mostly) Good Day

Today, the Hon. Lynn Smith issued her report on the UBC academic freedom controversy that I discussed here.  Jennifer Berdahl issued her response at her blog.

The key pieces of the report are: Continue reading

Civilian? Not an Insult

Over the past week, in reaction to the reports about the gender-integrated Marine study, I have seen plenty of pushback mostly against women who tweet but also some male tweeps that basically say: “civ? Of course.”  Which basically says that if you are civilian, you will have dumb opinions about the military.  Kind of like today’s NYPD message to the media that they cannot understand policing because they are not police.

This is so wrong in so many ways.  I will focus on the military side of things, but the problem is the same for police and other folks who think that only members of the particular profession can understand their profession:

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Guts, God and Mystery: how the women and combat debate is all about emotion

War on the Rocks published an exceptionally written piece by Lieutenant General (ret.) Gregory Newbold called “What Tempers the Steel of an Infantry Unit” that has gone viral. Here, Newbold eloquently draws out an argument that has tended to only be implied- or lurking behind much of the debate on women in combat for decades. The argument is simple: infantry units require a special, indescribable bond and dynamic that women spoil. Certainly this argument is not unique, but the beauty of Newbold’s piece that he boldly puts the emotional arguments- rather than physical ones– front and center. Newbold’s piece is somewhat enticing and romantic to read because he is recreating a familiar narrative and myth- that of the band of brothers. The band of brothers myths stems back to Shakespeare, Darwin and Freud, who all used the myth to help make broader arguments about male superiority and relationships. The myth has evolved through time and popular culture, but the general message of the myth remains the same: men form unique, mysterious bonds that render them superior warriors. What cannot be forgotten about this myth is that women’s exclusion is key to sustaining the mystery, bonds, and superiority.

In my recent book, Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can’t Fight, I argue that it is emotion- not logic, research, or evidence of women’s performance- that has always driven debates on women in combat. I summarize the common emotional reactions against women in combat in terms of their reference to guts, God and mystery. Continue reading

On doing ‘something’ … as academics

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 11.31.35 AM

Yesterday the picture of little Alan (previously identified as Aylan), lying dead in the sand on the shores of the Mediterranean, circled the world. It provoked strong reactions from those who ‘witnessed’ his death in this manner and, not unlike the debates following some of the images shared after 9/11 (I wrote about that then), people questioned the ethics of sharing the images particularly without warning (see replies by some who shared here, here & here and note that his father wants the image to be shared if it can provoke action).

Indeed, it was  this tweet Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 11.35.40 AMfrom fellow Duck Megan MacKenzie that prompted today’s post (you can read our full exchange here). Her concerns are echoed, and expanded, in this piece (which also links to issues I discuss in a previous post on the #BBOG campaign). Of course there are things that we can do, even from the comfort of our own homes: We can sign petitions, such as this one from Avaaz or this one to force a debate in the UK parliament. We can share lists of things to do such as this one – and maybe get involved locally in Greece, Germany, or Italy (no matter where you are you can get involved locally – there are needs in San Francisco, where I am, and Sydney, where Megan is. If you have information for your local area, feel free to share them in the comments).

But …

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#BringBackOurGirls, Feminist Solidarity & Intervention – Part Two

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 12.52.27 PMMy first post on the Duck focused on the emergence of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag and campaign, pointing also to the ease with which hashtags can get appropriated and campaigns derailed. Yesterday, #BringBackOurGirls Nigeria (@BBOG_Nigeria on twitter) started a one week campaign to mark 500 days since the abduction.

Given the continuation of the campaign, in today’s post I want to dig a bit deeper in examining the urge to do “something”: Why do some events capture our attention while others fail to produce any kind of reaction? What kind of reactions are helpful? And – for whom?

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Challenges to Academic Freedom Above the Wall

Why Worry About Online Media and Academic Freedom?  Um, because academic administrations have lousy instincts?  I have gotten involved in this whole online media intersecting with academic freedom mostly by accident–the ISA mess last year.  I am not an expert on academic freedom, nor am I an expert on the use of online media.  So, I could imagine a university representative being upset at me as an employee trashing their academic freedom/social media politicies and it not being entirely illegitimate (however, I would still do it and expect to be tolerated…).

On the other hand, observing a university that hired someone who specializes in the organizational dynamics of diversity and gender that then tried to silence that person who happened to comment on that university’s organizational dynamics of diversity and gender does make me want to comment about academic freedom and be glad that I am involved in an organized effort (the ISA’s Online Media Caucus) that aims to improve the climate for those who use online media.

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Academia isn’t Baseball


PTJ’s Essential Player Statistics

This is a guest post by both Nexon and Patrick Thaddeus Jackson. Standard disclaimers apply.

Cullen Hendrix’s guest post is a must read for anyone interested in citation metrics and international-relations scholarship. Among other things, Hendrix provides critical benchmark data for those interested in assessing performance using Google Scholar.

We love the post, but we worry about an issue that it raises. Hendrix opens with a powerful analogy: sabermetrics is to baseball as the h-index is to academia.  We can build better international-relations departments. With science! Continue reading

Foreign Policy and the First GOP Debate

Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. From left are:  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie;  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio;  retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; real estate magnate Donald Trump; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.  AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

So, with the conclusion of last  night’s first GOP debate, it’s worth a look back at the foreign policy claims made by the candidates for the Republican nomination for president. The focus was, as much of the election race will be, focused on domestic policy, but there’s still some stuff worth analyzing. I’ll be working off of the debate transcript posted by Time.

The first foreign policy question was directed at Senator Rand Paul:

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The Duck-Cat of Minerva

I want readers to know that I would never, ever link to a Buzzfeed video. Unless, of course, the video included footage of Ifrit. He receives about three seconds of fame — starting at about a minute in.

PETA’s Shock Tactics: Irresponsible Advocacy or Strategy and Positioning?

[As two fellow NGO researchers, Wendy and Maryam are going to collaborate on some posts to provide contrasting views on hot-button issues related to NGOs. Think of us as the Siskel and Ebert of
NGOs – we definitely agree on certain things, but clearly not on others (and don’t ask who’s who). Our points of view will not always reflect what we personally think of an issue–we need drama and suspense!–but we will always provide food for thought.]

By now everyone is well aware of the recent tragic killing of Cecil the lion by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Josh shared a post about this incident here on the Duck, as have countless others. One opinion from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA), no stranger to controversial statement, has caught plenty of attention:

“If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”

Needless to say, calling for Palmer to be hanged has generated a public outcry of its own.  We weigh in here.

It’s All About Strategy and Positioning

PETA calls for Walter Palmer to be hanged.  Offensive?  Yes.  But it is doing what we expect groups like PETA to do.  The PETAs of the world play a very important role in the world of global activism and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) – they make some outlandish statements, they embark on ambitious (perhaps even wacky) projects, but these actions mark clear distinctions between types of INGOs: even if INGOs are a class of actor, they often adopt very different means to approach the same concern.  PETA’s role is to stay outside of the mainstream, to do what other INGOs won’t do. Continue reading

#BringBackOurGirls, Feminist Solidarity and Intervention – Part One

As a new Duck, who (like Cai & Tom) took a while to consider what to blog about, I finally decided – long-winded academic that I am – to write a series of posts on the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign. To this end, I draw on materials for a keynote I  just delivered at the University of Surrey’s Center for International Intervention‘s conference on “Narratives of Intervention: Perspectives from North and South” (#cii2015). Here I go:

Screenshot 2015-07-23 23.32.57

On April 14, 2014, 276 girls between the ages of 15-18 years were abducted from a school in Chibok, Northern Nigeria, days before they were set to take their final exams. A group named Jama’atu ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, better known as Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the abduction. The girls’ kidnapping, despite its spectacular scale, initially received sparse attention in the media. However, after local activists took to twitter with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on April 23, within a matter of days (by May 1, 2014), the hashtag was trending globally and the mainstream media began to cover the event putting increased pressure on the Nigerian (but also the U.S.) government to ‘do something.’

The impulse to demand that ‘something’ be done is of interest in the context of campaigns of global feminist solidarity in particular, because presumably well-meaning efforts often have adverse effects. The attention provided by global campaigns, such as the hashtag campaign for #BringBackOurGirls, brings greater awareness to the plight of women and girls around the world, but at what cost? Is awareness, even if it is based on simplistic narratives and promotes ‘solutions’ disconnected from the reality on the ground, helpful? Does it matter when celebrities hold a #BringBackOurGirls sign – or do we need a more critical stance, as Ilan Kapoor has argued? What does it mean for the first lady of the U.S. to remark on the abduction during her 2014 Mother’s Day address and to call for action?

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Thoughts on Subjectivity in Writing about Israel

This is a guest post from Mira Sucharov, an  Associate Professor at Carleton University. 

Particularly in areas of contested politics — controversial policy issues, protracted conflict, clashing narratives, and the like — how much responsibility do authors have to remain unbiased? It’s a problematic word, bias. It’s almost always used either in the context of accusation or in ingratiating self-deprecation. But what if we shift from the term bias to the more encompassing — and less value-laden term — subjectivity?

I recently reviewed four books on Israel and Israeli-Palestinian relations for International Politics Reviews (ungated access here). Each book deploys what some would call bias — and others would call subjectivity — in varying ways. Partly because of the respective narrative voice of the authors and partly because of the differing goals of each work, the effectiveness of the subjectivity tool varies in the hands of each writer. And if I’m going to take subjectivity seriously, I would be obfuscating if I didn’t say that their effects on me, as a reader, are no doubt partly a function of my own values and viewpoint — in short, both my own subjectivity and my subjective preference to see it used in the hands of my peers. Continue reading

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