Category: Featured (page 1 of 133)

The Book Nook: The CIA and the Politics of US Intelligence Reform

Today we begin the Bridging the Gap “Book Nook,” a series of short videos describing new books by scholars in the BTG network. For the first entry, our very own Brent Durbin discusses his book, The CIA and the Politics of US Intelligence Reform (Cambridge, 2017).

(We hope to do a bunch of these, and we would welcome any thoughts on how to improve the format!)

The Case Against “The Case For Colonialism”

This is a guest post by Sahar Khan, a visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and Foreign Policy Department. Sahar holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Irvine. Follow her at @khansahar1.

The Third World Quarterly (TWQ), a reputable academic journal in international studies, is currently under fire by academics including Ducks. In its latest issue, it published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism” by Dr. Bruce Gilley of Portland State University. In this article, Gilley calls for a return of colonialism, citing the benefits of a “colonial governance” agenda over the “good governance” agenda, which would involve overtaking state bureaucracies, recolonizing some areas, and creating new colonies “from scratch.” He argues that this new colonialism will be: 1) beneficial because it will be chosen by “the colonized,” and hence, will be legitimate; 2) attractive to Western conservatives because they are financially low-risk, and to liberals, because they will be just; and 3) effective because they will be designed like charter cities, which have proven to be efficient and effective at governance.

At first glance, the article seems like a bad joke. Can someone, a scholar no less, actually make a case for colonialism? And advocate for its return? Also, considering that the TWQ is jointly involved in creating an award named after Edward Said, the founder of postcolonial studies, it is especially surprising that the journal would publish a poor quality article on the subject of colonialism. The response has been swift. Though there are some apologists, social media has exploded with criticism against the author and the journal, even sparking a petition calling for the article’s retraction. Within a day, the petition gathered over 1500 signatures, with more signing on.

The problem is not that the article is offensive (which it is). The problem is that it is empirically and historically inaccurate, misuses existing postcolonial scholarship, and largely ignores interdisciplinary approaches to the study of colonial legacies. There are at least five blatant examples of this. Continue reading

Responsibility to Protect the Rohingya?

This is a guest post (begun as a series of tweets) by Phil Orchard, Senior Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations at the University of Queensland and the Research Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. He is the author of A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation, the forthcoming Protecting the Internally Displaced: Rhetoric and Reality and, with Alexander Betts, the co-editor of Implementation and World Politics: How International Norms Change Practice. He tweets @p_orchard.

The past three weeks have seen remarkable violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. On 25 August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a series of coordinated attacks on police posts and a military base which killed twelve government officials. The ARSA, an armed insurgency organization which began its first attacks in October, claims that their goal is have the Rohingya be “a recognized ethnic group within Myanmar.”  While many Rohingya can trace their roots back centuries in Myanmar, the government considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It does not recognize the term Rohingya, and has refused to grant them citizenship; as a result “the vast majority of the group’s members have no legal documentation, effectively making them stateless” and face significant discrimination and government restrictions.

The Myanmar government has responded to the ARSA by branding it a terrorist organization and claiming that the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces of Myanmar, is using “clearance operations” to target militants. Even Aung San Suu Kyi has “blamed ‘terrorists’ for ‘a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different countries.’” The government has also claimed that the Rohingya are burning their own villages, however reporters from the AFP and BBC have documented several incidents being staged. The government has also denied requests for UN humanitarian agencies and US government officials to access the area.

The violence has led an estimated 391,000 Rohingya refugees to flee across the border into Bangladesh. There is also evidence that the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces of Myanmar, have been laying mines along the border with Bangladesh to deliberately target Rohingya refugees crossing the border. And the government has suggested that any civilians seeking to return from Bangladesh will need to show “proof of nationality.”

Over the past week, and following a significant upsurge in reporting on the crisis, the UN system has begun to respond. Continue reading

Why Americans Never Forget to Remember 9/11

As you know, the footage appeared live, as bodies began falling from the flaming and smoke-filled North Tower, as US Airlines Flight 175 was flown into the frame and South Tower at 0903, and as the South and North Towers collapsed at 0959 and 1028 respectively. You know this, because you were watching. You can remember it. Indeed, with Jean Baudrillard referring to ‘the unforgettable incandescence of the images,’ they would be forever burned into the retina of America’s public eye. However, as a visual spectacle consumed in common by the population of bodies comprising the American body politic, 9/11 was also extremely traumatising and it is due to this that 9/11’s memory is particularly vital.

To be traumatised is to be disrupted or damaged, and in disrupting  and damaging American bodies and things, 9/11 not only shocked markets and led to the declaration of a state of emergency, it turned 2,996 people into dust and profoundly affected those comprising the body politic (the American viewing public) who consumed the disturbing news, images, and footage together, in real time. As such, the common experience of trauma produced a ‘felt community’ and began working on 9/11, to move, stick, and bind the population of bodies comprising the American body politic together (hence Sara Ahmed’s comment that ‘the images are repeated, and the repetition seems binding’). However, the communal consumption of 9/11  was not limited to the day itself. Quite the opposite, the American consumption – of the traumatic footage of the flaming and smoking Towers, suicidal jumpers, and buildings’ collapse became habitual and ritual, as the footage and story were repeated again and again, and again. In this way, Americans were (re)traumatised every few minutes for the first few days, every few hours for months afterwards, then every six months and annually. 

Monday was 9/11’s 16th anniversary, meaning no-one under the age of 18 will really be able to remember their experience of the day itself. But they don’t have to. As I was flitting between tasks, by just being on Twitter I was reminded to re-view, re-count, re-read – re-member (the opposite of dis-member) – September 11th 2001, minute by minute. I was reminded by @Sept11Memorial to remember the moments Flight 11 struck the North Tower, Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville,  Flight 175 struck the South Tower, Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, the moment the South Tower fell, and then the moment the North Tower fell. In addition, @DHSGov (Homeland Security) reminded me to remember the first responders who perished in the Towers and, as the day drew to a close, @NYPDNews reminded me that silence was required for the remembrance of their fallen heroes, not to mention the civilian victims so highly valorized and commemorated throughout the day.

To return to the title of this post, Americans never forget to remember 9/11 because, in the declaration that ‘none of us will ever forget,’ President Bush not only willed Americans to perpetually ‘encircle the trauma’ but engendered a politics wherein  American being in itself became dependant upon remembering 9/11. The ones who will never forget 9/11 will be American and the ones who forget will not. Remembering or forgetting 9/11 therefore becomes not only a mechanism for setting bodies apart from and/or against one another but an ontological security issue for the American body politic to which the periodic (re)traumatisation of the parts comprising it is so vital.

Trolling Me Softly

While the Russia probe is expanding to include naïve 36-year old Harvard graduates, pundits all over the world have been worried about elections in other countries. The massive WikiLeaks dump (pun intended) on Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in France did not work, so the next troublesome case seems to be Germany (the UK is fine, they are already leaving the EU).

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Will Moore: A Fierce Friend

Will Moore decided to punch out, as he put it.  He left behind devastated friends, co-authors and students as well as family. I have been trying to put into words how I feel today.

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The Trump Syllabus: Duck Input Needed!

Even though ISA provided some much-needed group therapy, in the end we still need to grapple with and teach about #45. I was inspired by some ideas in syllabi 1, 2, and 3, but I also needed some background information and topics that are geared towards a non-American audience. On top of it, I left the theme of one session open for the students to decide on.

So below is roughly what my students are  in for at the University of Bremen.  Any ideas how to improve it?

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Perhaps Our Incentives Are Not as Perverse as Believed: Are Citation Counts the Devil?

I have regularly seen stuff online or in academic publications complaining about professionalization and what it has meant for Political Science.  The basic idea is that things were great before people became focused on stuff like citation counts, which has led to all kinds of perverse incentives.  The main complaint, it seems, is that scholars will try to game citations and this will force them into bad habits and away from good work, like thinking big thoughts (grand theory).

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Friday Nerd Blogging Tribute to An Old Duck-ster

Robert Kelly used to blog here before he made the big-time on the BBC, so here’s a salute via Friday nerd-blogging.

 

 

Girl Power

Women in academia do not enjoy an easy ride. Even though “manel” count at this year’s ISA was much lower, there is still work to be done. Not to mention the recent scandal about the epidemic levels of  sexual harassment at the UK universities. But let’s rejoice at the thought that a mere hundred years ago things were much worse. My university campus in Bremen has a Lise-Meitner-Strasse and the International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to share her story. In short,  Hidden Figures needs to have a German prequel.

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Trump Reminded Me Why I Am An Academic

This is a guest post by Idean Salehyan. Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Texas at Dallas

“Why did you become an academic?” is a question that I’m frequently asked.  For me, my path into this profession is pretty clear.  I was about fourteen and a freshman in high school in the early 1990s.  A few of my friends joined the school chapter of Amnesty International, and I figured I’d go along.  My world was changed.   I learned of people being slaughtered because their ethnicity; political activists imprisoned for their beliefs; widespread torture and sexual assault; and refugees flooding across borders in search of safety.  This was the era of massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda.  CNN broadcast murder while the world just watched.  The comfortable space of my childhood ended, and I began on a journey of human rights activism.

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Black History Month

Do you think this person is white?

If you are from Europe or North America, you might have said yes. If you are from Russia, you might have described this person as black. Most IR peeps are familiar with the fluid perceptions of whiteness and blackness that exist in the word: Sandor Gilman wrote, for instance, how Irish immigrants in the US in the beginning of the century were often considered black. The irony of blackness could not be more poignant in Russia: the famous Russian Armenian actor Frunzik Mkrtchan whose picture I put above is literally Caucasian, because he comes from the South Caucasus region in the European South of Russia. The ones who would describe him as black would also very likely to adhere to “Russia for [ethnic] Russians” slogan and in worst case scenarios would have tried to kill him because he “doesn’t look Slavic enough”.

Derogatory terms like ‘kavkazcy’ (Caucasians), and ‘chyornye’ (blacks) have become ubiquitous in everyday speech in Russia, while Russian mass media employs euphemisms such as ‘litsa neslavyanskoy vneshnoti’ (non-Slavic looking people) when it comes to the identification of crime suspects. A xenophobic discursive representation applies to non-Slavic looking individuals irrespective of their citizenship, even though former USSR citizens can seek Russian nationality under a simplified naturalisation procedure, according to the Federal Law on Citizenship. Apart from “Caucasians” who are often discursively connected to terrorism and ethnic criminality, there isn’t much love for former Soviet citizens from Central Asia. If you are not Ivan Drago or Natasha, you might have a lot of trouble even renting an apartment.

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Fighting, Dancing and Thumb-Biting: Developing a typology of citations

This is a guest post by Paul Beaumont, PhD Candidate at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). Previously, he worked as an academic writing advisor at NMBU and as a Junior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).

Some time ago, back when Duckpods still happened, Nicholas Onuf talked to Dan Nexon about the impact of World of Our Making (WOOM). Onuf’s masterpiece is rightly credited with founding Constructivism in International Relations. Yet as the two reflected upon the course 1990s constructivism embarked upon, Onuf acknowledged that his linguistic constructivism had not quite fostered the sort of research he had envisioned. While glad of the recognition he received for WOOM, Nick jokingly laments that his book had become “widely cited but never read”. Victim of “drive by citations”, Nexon remarked, “we could do a whole podcast on those alone.”

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Congress is Trying to Remove Bannon from the National Security Council. Here’s Why It Matters.

While national security lawyers argue over whether Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council is legal or not, members of Congress are pushing back to close whatever statutory loophole even might render legal what is clearly a violation of long-standing national security norms.

In one of last week’s most under-reported stories in the major press, bills were introduced into both the House of Representatives and the US Senate this past week, each designed to clarify the composition of the NSC and Principals Committee, ensure Senate oversight over appointments, and, in the case of HR 804, “To Protect the National Security Council from Political Interference.” As of today, the House bill has 85 co-sponsors.

So far co-sponsors are all Democrats, but Congressional opposition to Bannon’s appointment is bi-partisan, with concern about the dangers of politicizing the NSC expressed on both sides of the aisle.  As of today, a MoveOn petition is collecting signatures for the Senate Bill, and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security is taking calls from Americans about Steve Bannon’s role on the NSC. People are taking notice.

Neither of these bills is simply about removing Bannon, however. Each aims to close what some observers perceive as a loophole not just for Trump but for future Presidents. Both would codify the role of the Director of National Intelligence and Joint Chiefs of Staff on the NSC. In this Administration that move, coupled with Bannon’s departure, could moderate the behavior of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose hard-line views against Islam and unwillingness to rule out torture or the killing of terrorists’ families have been criticized by human rights groups.

Passing such a bill will be a tall order even with bipartisan support in a Republican-held Congress. Even it if passes Trump would likely veto. Still,  long-shot efforts to pass legislation can become important sites for political agenda-setting. As scholars of legislative agenda-setting have found, even a “dead on arrival” bill that garners sufficient media coverage can educate the public about issues and institutions, and galvanize interest group support for wider issues and future elections.

In short, even fighting for a lost cause can have an important norm-setting effect. It elevates the importance of an issue in the public discourse. In this case, that issue is the principle that national security decisions be subject to expert input and insulated from domestic political maneuvering. And turning up the volume on those messages is useful not only for potentially changing policy but for communicating to third parties, including outside US borders, that Trump is not acting on the will of the people.

What’s worse, looking jealous or crazy?

When President Trump and Press Secretary Spicer started to insist that the protest against Muslim ban [that is not a ban] was paid for, it rang a bell. This kind of rhetoric is a textbook reaction from an autocratic ruler who cannot believe that people would care enough about human rights to go out on the streets on their own. Unfortunately for all the autocrats in the world, people would. The success of the protest is hard to predict, especially in a democratic country, but if people are protesting against you, the first thing to do is to try and delegitimize it. Here is how.

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A Drinking Person’s Guide to the Resistance

A guest post by Layna Mosley,* Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

(*with contributions from Jeff Colgan, Beth Copelovitch, Mark Copelovitch, Artie G, Anna Grzymala-Busse, Roger Halchin, Andrew Herring , Steph Jeffries, Julia Lynch, Jon Pevehouse, Milada Vachudova, Erik Voeten and Christopher Zorn)

 

President Trump’s proposed economic policies may be bad news for some businesses, like US firms with international supply chains, but if my behavior is any indication of broader trends, Trump has generated a boom for the beverage industry. While I’ve so far stuck to whatever happens to be on hand at home – IPA, stout, rosé, lighter fluid – it promises to be a long four years (hopefully, the 21st Amendment will endure, even if the rest of the Constitution does not).  It’s time to diversify one’s drink choices.

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Talk Intel To Me

I remember laughing about an article in The Medium about a TV Sitcom that triggered the downfall of Western Civilization. In case you were wondering, it’s Friends with its “tragic hero” Ross Geller. The author lamented the awful mistreatment of the most cerebral character on the show that signified the harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America in the early 2000s. For instance, most of Ross’s academic stories were cut off by his bored friends and audience laughter. Why? Maybe some people would like to know more about sediment flow rate?!

In the age of an amazing accessibility of knowledge, America was conned by a man who disregards the value of science and whose surrogates do not see the difference between facts and feelings. Richard Hofstadter warned about the tendency for anti-intellectualism in the US back in the 60-s, but things seem to have gotten much worse. These days, there is a whole field and a term for deliberate politics of ignorance –  agnotology. It was already obvious on presidential campaign trail: Hillary Clinton was made fun of because she was preparing for debates instead of “winging” them. Academics and professional journalists were scolded (says who?) and college students were derided as snowflakes out of touch with real America. Gagging of scientists and professionals has followed: yes, lock them up in their ivory towers. Agnotology has even born its long-awaited fruit — the by now infamous “alternative facts” euphemism (or is it “euphenism”?).  As one of American bookstores has put it:

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Mind the Power Gap

I have new online piece, co-authored with Dani Nedal, at Foreign Affairs:

President Donald Trump believes that America makes terrible deals—from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Why, according to Trump, do other countries take such advantage of the United States? Because our leaders and officials are stupid and incompetent and are terrible negotiators.  “Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid,” said Trump when he announced his decision to run for president. On immigration, he was similarly blunt: “the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning.” And during the negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal, he claimed that “we are making a terrible deal” because “we have the wrong people negotiating for us.” He added that “the Persians are great negotiators” and that “they are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear.”

If the Trump Doctrine is to put “America First” by focusing on bilateral bargains—understood in terms of short-term winners and losers—then its corollary is the “Good Negotiator Policy.” In the president’s world, bad people make bad deals.  The best, smartest people—most notably, Trump himself—always get the best bargains. He is right that personal attributes and interpersonal dynamics can make an important difference in international negotiations. But Trump’s focus on individual skill overlooks the most important factor that shapes political agreements in general and international ones in particular: the relative leverage of the parties involved.

The problem is that when the Washington locked in most of its bargains and arrangements, America was much more powerful, in relative terms, than it is now.

It takes a rather naïve negotiator to attempt to overhaul relatively favorable deals from a position of comparative weakness. The United States will not get better bargains than it achieved when it controlled more than twice as much of global power as it currently holds. If Trump abandons long-standing practices of American-led liberal order for bilateral, transactional, and zero-sum relations, other states have little reason to prefer dealing with Washington to China, Russia, or any other country.

When it comes to stiffing contractors, he’s shown a very good understanding of how power asymmetries shape bargaining outcomes. But, overall, Trump’s rhetoric is in keeping with a man who was born on third base and thinks staying there is a testament to his mad business skillz.

Anyway, go read the whole thing, if you’re so inclined. You may need to register to get access.

(cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money)

Tempo, Protest, and Emergency Ethnography in the Trump Moment

This is a guest post by Dr. Sherrill Stroschein, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Politics, Department of Political Science, University College London

We have all been driven to understand what is going on over the past few days. Some of these discussions would be improved with lesser-used tools to think more systematically about events. There are three approaches that can help to do this that have had less exposure than they should.

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Party Trumped Policy in 2016

This is a guest post by Christopher Gelpi and Elias Assaf.  Christopher Gelpi is Chair of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and Professor of Political Science and Elias Assaf is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at The Ohio State University, both at The Ohio State University

President Donald Trump adopted a variety of controversial and unorthodox foreign policy stances during the 2016 presidential campaign.  Since taking office, Mr. Trump has moved quickly to begin implementing many of these policies – including a border wall with Mexico, a ban on immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries, and withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  While Mr. Trump was very clear about his intentions during the campaign, public reaction to his implementation of these policies has nonetheless been quite negative.  Protests among left-leaning progressives in response to the anti-Muslim travel restriction are not surprising, but even prominent Republican leaders have been critical of Trump’s foreign policy actions since taking office. Moreover, according to Gallup’s tracking poll, President Trump’s disapproval rating rose sharply during his first week in office.  Within eight days of taking office, a majority of the public already disapproved of the job he was doing as President.

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