Category: Featured (page 1 of 136)

Aid and Diplomacy, Not Tear Gas: How to Address the Central American Migrant Crisis

On Sunday, the US Border Patrol fired tear gas into Mexico at migrants, including children, attempting to enter the US near the San Ysidro border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego. The use of a chemical weapon banned in war against families rightly provoked widespread condemnation (Border Patrol agents also used pepper spray against migrants in 2013, fired tear gas and pepper spray into Mexico in 2007, and have killed rock throwers at the border in the past). Migrants attempting to enter the US are frustrated by the Trump administration’s restriction of the process of seeking asylum, a legal right under US and international law, a situation that won’t be solved by processing asylum seekers on Mexican soil.

Most of those who attempted to scale the border fence were reportedly from Honduras, the country with the world’s second-highest homicide rate. Young people there are caught between murderous gangs, violent and corrupt police, and paramilitary ‘social cleansing’ squads who target young men, while gender-based violence rates are also high. There are similar, if slightly less violent, dynamics in El Salvador and Guatemala, and increasing state repression in Nicaragua. Despite changes in US immigration policy and enforcement under the Trump administration, the US remains for many Central Americans a place of hope for a better, more secure life.

In this environment, deterrence efforts will have limited effectiveness. Continue reading

Writing Wednesday: a tense dilemma

Yesterday I avoided Twitter almost entirely. I went to bed early last, and am only now looking at the key results in the pre-dawn hours. But since it may have been a late night for most readers of the Duck, we’ll keep things short today.

I am heading off to the ISSS-IS conference at Purdue this weekend. If any readers are attending, feel free to contact me and maybe we can grab a coffee. You can Tweet at me (@lukemperez) either publicly, or privately (I will open direct messages on Thursday evening.).

In the meantime, I wanted to talk about writing in tenses. It turns out, writing about writing sometimes poses interesting challenges. Solvable, to be sure, but ones that do not normally arise during gradaute school.

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Academic Smothering. Part II.

To illustrate this post, I would love to put that cute stock photo of a woman dressed in a taupe formal suit holding an adorable baby in a diaper, but it is just wildly unrealistic. For starters, the baby is horribly underdressed and the suit would have been covered in drool/spit-up/mysterious orange food rests in mere seconds. FYI, stock photo editors, working on a computer with a baby on your lap is also not an option, because in the end there will be one, and it will not be your computer.

Guilt ridden and severely sleep deprived (and by “severely” I mean no sleep stretches longer than 3 hours at a time for the past year) you are back at work. You have secured a coveted day care place for your adorable baby boy who now has to navigate about 3-4 languages in his head because as an academic you often do not live in your home country and you drag your better foreign half with you wherever the job market takes you. You are excited to be back… until you realize that daycare is great, but it also means germs and your baby getting sick and you taking sick leave to make sure the little one recovers. Hello, sleep stretches of one hour and carrying the baby upright for most of the day because the stuffed nose would not let him breathe properly. While we are on the subject of carrying, why does nobody tell you that the best preparation for having babies is heavy-weight lifting? German pre-war housing is sure lovely until you have to carry a 9-kg baby, a diaper bag, a laptop and a couple of books on everyday nationalism 4 flights of stairs.

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Writing Wednesday: Roadblock

I am at roadbloack in my book proposal. This is normal, insofar as most writing projects will hit roadblocks from time to time. But I wanted to take a quick moment and unpack what it is, and note that a roadblock is different than writer’s block. Writer’s block is a condition of not being able to think of what to write. We are all familiar with writer’s block, even the kind that is really just procrastination masquerading as writer’s block. But the genuine species occurs when the mind—because of fatigue, lack of preparation, distraction from life or politics—cannot focus on the immediate task of generating new words to write down. A roadblock is kind of the mirror opposite of a writer’s block. I know what needs to be written, but I do not have the materials, citations, and resources to get there. As it happens, solving a roadblock is a lot like crafting national security strategy. It begins first and foremost with a definition of objectives, and then proceeds to devise the means-end logic chain of tasks and smaller objectives which will advance toward the final objective.

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What makes international order, liberal?

Over the weekend IR Twitter was abuzz with both the Red Sox winning the world series and a multi-threaded discussion on liberal international order. Regarding the former I have very little to say except that I think Boston baseball might be overrepresented in academe (not just in political science), and that this over representation likely tracks with the clustering of elite schools in New England. But on the latter, there is much more still to be said about international order. Paul Post (@profpaulpoast) has the master summary for the twitter scholars. While I enjoyed reading up on the debate this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice something unsatisfying about too.

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Writing Wednesday: embracing criticism for book revisions

Many a postdoc are likely in my position this year, dissertation defense safely in the review mirror and settling into the groove of their research. Those who, like me, are fortunately enough to have the very civilized two-year appointment rather than the barbaric one-year, time and attention can be allocated more judiciously. Still, that does not mean the last few months has been easy. In many ways it is more difficult than before because the only guidance for my project comes from what I can discover and the only deadlines are those which I set. Writing a proposal is a protracted process, but worth doing sooner rather than later.

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Writing Wednesdays: write to a deadline by any means necessary

Scholarly work is often written to deadline—the contribution to an edited volume, the essay for a journal’s special issue, and the book review are all going to be fit into someone else’s bigger schedule. … Living with—thriving on—deadlines makes professionals professional.

—William Germano

During my early days in graduate school, I was often struck by the contrast in how academics thought about writing and how journalists do. Before starting my program, I worked at a non-profit and had spent 12 years in the Air National Guard, including stints on active duty. In both capacities, writing regular copy was a regular part of my duties. And yet, while in school, many of my classmates had or developed an aversion to writing. At least that is what we all told each other to avoid sharing our work.

It is true that writing scholarship is different. Working with data, archives, and formal models are time intensive processes, even for the best of us. Doing those well necessarily slows down the writing process.

Or does it? As Steven Pressfield as described it, writing is war against one’s self. According to him, writer’s block, even the most justified “I’m working on my data analysis” kind is nothing more than procrastination. Overcoming procrastination is as simple as building a habit to write regularly, perhaps even daily. Yes, simple does not mean easy.

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Peacekeeping’s Perverse Effects: Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Remilitarized Politics

In under two weeks, Brazil will have the second round of its presidential election. Former military officer and fan of fascists Jair Bolsonaro looks set after a strong first-round showing to defeat Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad. If he wins, Bolsonaro will have strong party backing in Congress, though he does not care much for the legislature—in 1999, Bolsonaro said Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship “should have killed 30,000 people more, starting with Congress and [then-President] Fernando Henrique Cardoso.” Bolsonaro’s running mate is retired General Hamilton Mourão, his planning adviser and likely Minister of Transport is General Oswaldo Ferreira, an anti-environmentalist who looks for inspiration to infrastructure projects enacted by Brazil’s military government, and Bolsonaro has promised to stack his cabinet with generals. Current and retired military officers have been prominent backers of Bolsonaro, and Bolsonaro announced that he would not accept any result other than victory, menacingly saying “I cannot speak for military” but that there “could be a reaction by the Armed Forces” if he lost and deemed it due to PT fraud (never mind that the PT is not currently in power).

As Michael Albertus highlighted, the military is returning to Brazilian politics in a big way. While the military in Argentina was punished for its dictatorial Dirty War, elites with ties to dictatorship never faced sanctions or fully left the political scene in countries like Brazil and Chile. In Brazil, civilian leaders managed to weaken the military during the transition to democracy, but it retained a broad scope of activities, including internal security and development, especially in combating the drug trade, a mission with which current President Michel Temer tasked the military earlier this year in Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro spent his time as a representative in Congress “interested in helping the military above all else,” and his message that he will restore law and order both resonates with a Brazilian public fed up with high rates of violent crime and with a military keen to reassert itself. Continue reading

Take Me to Church

There is a spat of ecumenical proportions brewing in the Eastern hemisphere: Patriarch Krill of Russia stopped praying for the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The reason for that is simple: the patriarch of Constantinople is rumored to consider granting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church an autocephalous status that would potentially carve out a third of Russian Orthodox Church curacies  severely damaging Moscow’s status as the third Rome* not to mention financial repercussions.

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Mentorship as Activism – Remembering Dr. Lee Ann Fujii

This is a guest post by Lahoma Thomas, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She was a doctoral student and research assistant of Dr. Lee Ann Fujii. Lahoma’s research examines the relational dynamics between criminal organizations and the residents subject to their authority. Follow her on Twitter at @LAHOMAthomas.

Dr. Lee Ann Fujii was my doctoral supervisor, mentor and friend. It has taken me one hundred and sixty-eight days to write about her. There are still moments when I instinctively reach for my phone to engage Lee Ann in a discussion about an experience I had or to laugh over a silly video about cats. Speaking about Lee Ann in the past tense is difficult. Moreover, committing her life and passing to text feels definitive.

Lee Ann’s colleagues have written about her prowess as a scholar. They are correct. She possessed a brilliant, sharp and inquisitive mind. Anyone who spoke with her for two minutes could deduce that she was an exceptional thinker. For her students and junior colleagues, what stood out along with her impressive intellect was her generosity, skill and compassion as a mentor. Continue reading

Political Science Association Draws Ire for Honoring Condoleeza Rice

In the run-up to the American Political Science Association Conference in Boston this week, some political scientists are protesting the award of the Hubert Humphrey prize to former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. The award, which includes a cash prize of $1,000, is given each year “in recognition of notable public service by a political scientist.”

Rice earned her PhD in political science from University of Denver and  served in the diplomatic corps and national security establishment under Presidents Carter, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. – notably, as National Security Advisor during George W. Bush’s first term and Secretary of State during his second. A press release from APSA published on PSNow states that “Dr. Rice’s career exemplifies the contributions that political scientists can make to public as well as academic life.”

The choice of Rice for this award is controversial because of her association with the Bush Administration’s human rights violations in the early war on terror. Continue reading

Civilian Self-Protection: What Civilians Do in War When Help is Hard to Find

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose and Peace Media. Betcy Jose is Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver.  She tweets @betcyj.  Peace A. Medie is a Research Fellow in the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy at the University of Ghana. She tweets @PeaceMedie.  Their work on civilian self-protection can be found here and here.

On July 25, 2018, DAESH launched a surprising and brutal 12 hour offensive in Sweida, Syria, killing more than 200 people through a series of suicide attacks and door-to-door raids. The attack was notable not only because this predominantly Druze area had largely been spared much of the Syrian war’s violence, but also because it signaled that DAESH still had some fight left in it despite the relentless effort by the United States and others to decimate its ranks.

Initial reports largely focused their analyses on whether the Sweida attack indicated a resurgence of DAESH and what impact it would have on the region’s geopolitics and the Syrian war.  Receiving less attention was how the residents of Sweida valiantly tried to protect themselves during this onslaught.  As the attack unfolded, some of the local youth and militia took up arms to defend their villages.  Local writer Osama Abu Dikar recounted, “In the beginning, the attack took us by surprise, but the heroic youth of Sweida rallied quickly in the centre of town and the villages that Daesh had attacked.  These local fighters with basic capabilities fought real battles against [DAESH].”

These wartime civilian-driven protection efforts are examples of civilian self-protection (CSP).  CSP is not unique to Sweida.  As long as war has raged, civilians have sought to protect themselves.  Often this is because their own governments or humanitarian actors cannot or will not protect them.  For example, in the case of Sweida, no government troops were around to protect the locals; hence the need for them to take up arms in self-defense.  And far too many times, the very actors charged with protecting civilians are the ones who perpetrate harms against them. Continue reading

What Makes a Good Book Review: Some Editorial Advice

The following is a guest post by Andrew Owsiak, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia and Book Editor for International Studies Review. 

The race to push scholarly research into the world carries a few consequences, perhaps the most notable being that it proves challenging to stay up-to-date with what is published. To help with this, some journals, for example International Studies Review[1], publish reviews of recently released, scholarly books. These reviews offer great sources of information–to those wishing to remain abreast of current trends, seeking to incorporate relevant work into their own research output, and wanting to incorporate the latest studies into their classrooms. The value of this information, however, depends largely on how the reviewer writes his review. A reader who finds herself mired in jargon has no context in which to understand the review, while one facing only a series of generalities loses grasp of what the book is about.[2]

Mindful of the reader’s plight, I will offer some advice for those writing book reviews. I do this for two reasons. First, book review authors are often—although not exclusively—junior scholars with less publishing experience. As an editor, I enjoy seeing this. Book reviews can be a great, low-stakes (~1,000 words), point-of-entry into the publishing world. It familiarizes authors with the submission, editorial, and decision process, often without introducing the peer-review component. It also allows them to enter a dialogue with more established scholars (i.e., the book authors). Yet if we are to be fair to those writing the books, to the review authors, and to the readers of book reviews, it behooves us to offer review authors guidance about what a book review should and (probably) should not contain. How will they know otherwise? And this leads to my second motivation: nobody, to my knowledge, provides this advice comprehensively elsewhere.[3]

Before I continue, let me offer a couple caveats. First and foremost, I do not pretend to hold all the answers about what journals want book reviews to contain. I have, however, solicited, monitored, read, and issued decisions on a fair number of book reviews in conjunction with other members of our editorial team. This experience allows me to see some general trends, and I wish to speak to and about those—to increase the chances that a submitting author’s book review will be accepted (ultimately) for publication. I necessarily assume that the trends I see—and therefore, the advice I offer—remain applicable at other journals who publish book reviews, although I do not speak for them. Second, following the advice below will, I expect, increase an author’s chances of successfully publishing a book review, but it will not guarantee it. The stochastic component of the publication process always operates. In addition, different authors will succeed at following the advice to varying degrees. All this is to say that I want to be held blameless for individual publication results.

Having said all this, here is my advice:

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(The ultimate) Trump Tweet Bingo

Following the Trump administration is really tiring. And I’m not talking about the last two years — it’s a challenge to survive single weeks of their news cycle. Hell, a Friday afternoon is already taxing. That is why over here in Europe we’re very careful about checking headlines and Twitter Friday night. The outrage at the next fecal storm would keep you up better than a crying baby/ thoughts on the upcoming semester/deadline [insert your trigger]. The White House scandal diapering, however, is extremely predictable. No collusion, Hillary, fake news, Fox and friends, random capitalization and an abundance of grammatical mistakes, which are the typical ingredients making up the diarrhea stream, which flows unabated from the presidential Twitter account. Back in April, Morning Joe even came up with the presidential Twitter bingo but they didn’t do so well. So here is the ultimate Trump tweet bingo card that is based on his last 3000 tweets, which – from his regal, gold-plated porcelain throne – he unceremoniously defecated onto the global public space.

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Tackling Climate Change: A Conversation with Josh Busby

Readers of the Duck will be very familiar with Duck editor Josh Busby’s commentary on climate change and security, U.S. foreign policy, and a host of other topics. Earlier this year, Bridging the Gap (BTG) awarded Josh a Policy Engagement Fellowship (PEF). The purpose of this fellowship is to support efforts by scholars to connect their research on international issues to the policy community. Josh is using his PEF to write policy-oriented pieces and organize events with practitioners on the role of actors other than the U.S. federal government in combating climate change. This work builds on Josh’s prior research on various dimensions of climate change and is particularly timely as the United States under Donald Trump retreats from a leadership role – or even a constructive role – on this critical global challenge.

BTG recently asked Josh some questions about his overall research agenda, his climate change work, and engaging with policy communities and the public. In addition to the work highlighted below, keep an eye out for a forthcoming Atlantic Council report by Josh and Nigel Purvis on leadership in the climate regime, which will draw on a memo Josh wrote for a BTG workshop on public goods last fall.

BTG: Your work has examined issues ranging from climate change to global health to U.S. foreign policy. What’s motivated your choices of particular research topics?

JB: I was an anti-apartheid activist in high school and an environment and development campaigner in college so I’ve been drawn to big global issues since I was young. My first two books were on social movements and whether and how they could exercise influence on foreign policy. As an American, it was a natural fit for me to focus my energies on my home country. My goals were mostly normative. That is, these were big issues I cared about and wanted to write about in my scholarly work.  Continue reading

The Trump-Kim Nuclear Summit By: Dr. Seuss

The following is a guest post by Mason Richey, an associate professor of international studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

 

I am Trump; I am Trump.

 

Trump I am.

 

That Trump I am, that Trump I am, I do not like that Trump I am.

 

Would you like CVID[1]?

 

I do not like it, don’t you see? I do not like CVID.

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Yes, the UN Human Rights Council Helps Dictators . . . and the US Withdrawal Will Make It Worse

This post in the Bridging the Gap series comes from Peter Henne, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont and a 2017 participant in BTG’s International Policy Summer Institute

Earlier this week, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, announced the United States was leaving the UN’s Human Rights Council. Haley pointed to the body’s disproportionate focus on Israel and its inaction on human rights abusers. While some cheered this move due to problems with the council, others worried this would decrease America’s ability to fight human rights abuses. My research suggests both views are accurate. The UN Human Rights Council is flawed, and repressive states can use the body to deflect criticism of their record, particularly on religious repression. At the same time, the fact that they can do this suggests that the Council and its activities matter. America should try to help the council live up to its name, not write it off as a lost cause.  Continue reading

Babies R Us

While in the US children are being separated from their parents seeking political asylum and taken to a Walmart prison, some Russian lawmakers are concerned that illegal aliens can enter the country through its citizens’ vaginas during the FIFA World Cup that starts today.

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What We Learned at the Future Strategy Forum

This post in the Bridging the Gap series come from Sara Plana and Rachel Tecott, doctoral candidates in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Sara is also an alumna of BtG’s New Era Workshop.) They are the founders of the Future Strategy Forum and co-organized the Future of Force conference held in May 2018. Follow them on Twitter @saracplana and @racheltecott.

Last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kissinger Center at John Hopkins SAIS hosted a conference on the “Future of Force,” inaugurating a new series called the Future Strategy Forum. Like many DC conferences, the line-up featured a mix of preeminent academics, practitioners, and pracademics on discussion panels – but in this case, all of them were women. These experts discussed the implications of rising great and regional powers, non-state actors, and emerging technologies, and the approaches and challenges to crafting an integrated approach to US foreign policy. The final, keynote panel brought together women scholars (including us!) who have worked in both policymaking and academia, to investigate the academic-policy divide.

We left the day with much to think about, but four main themes struck us especially. Continue reading

We are Groot

Today is President Putin’s inauguration day and even Avengers couldn’t stop it, as evidenced by the arrested raccoon in the center of Moscow on Saturday during the unsanctioned rally ““He’s No Tsar to Us.” For Russia watchers, the Saturday protests probably created a sense of déjà vu of May 2012 when much larger protests erupted in Moscow and around Russia. They displayed a high degree of social mobilization around the fair elections narrative, but the protesters paid a high price for it: over 30 were criminally charged and 17 were sentenced to several years in prison, some fled the country.

The scale of the protest in May 2012 was so large that a new legislation on rallies was enacted on 9 June 2012. It increased the fines for the violation of public rallies law to up to a million rubles. One of the authors of the rally law – ‘Just Russia’ member Sidyakin – at first stated that the law was supposed to prevent the ‘Ukrainian scenario’ in Russia . Communist Party and Liberal Democratic party members warned President Putin about the ‘orange plague’ and that nobody ‘wants to go back to the 90s’ and the President should not let an ‘orange revolution’ take place in Russia.

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