Category: Featured (page 1 of 135)

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Rumor, Social Media, and the Question of Knowledge

Some time ago, Charli reviewed an article I published in International Organization. In that review, Charli asked how do we know what we ‘know’ about the nature of external states. At the time, I thought the question an important one. In only a few years, the question has gone from important to absolutely critical. As the politics surrounding Trump’s election and administration, including the now pervasive claim of ‘fake news’ demonstrate, knowledge—and faith therein—is under strain. While knowledge has never been as objective or robust as most international relations (IR) scholars assume, the phenomenon of social media has shifted the ground. Continue reading

What is Happening to the Non-Intervention Norm?

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose, Assistant Professor at University of Colorado-Denver and author of Norm Contestation: Insights into Non-Conformity with Armed Conflict Norms. Follow her on Twitter.

After the recent strikes in Syria, Germany’s Angela Merkel stated the intervention was, “necessary and appropriate, to ensure the effectiveness of the international ban of chemical weapons use and to warn the Syrian regime of further violations.”   UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked,  “A lack of accountability emboldens those who would use such weapons by providing them with the reassurance of impunity.”   However, some members of the international community felt differently about the strikes.  Russia sponsored a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning the strikes as a violation of the non-intervention norm which was rejected.

Did the missile strikes violate the non-intervention norm?   Article 2(4) of the UN Charter essentially permits two exceptions to the non-intervention norm, considered norms in their own right: violations occurring with UNSC approval and for self-defense.  None of the participating states made a self-defense argument. Neither did the intervention receive UNSC authorization. Thus, one could conclude that the intervention was inconsistent with the non-intervention norm and its exceptions.  So what then are we to make of statements like Merkel’s or the rejection of the above UNSC resolution?

Norms scholars would tell us that acceptance of norm violations or silence to them suggests weakening norms.  And if the violation engenders approval, it may also set the stage for new norm emergence. Support for the strikes suggests shifts in intersubjective agreement, shared and accepted understandings of the appropriate ways actors ought to behave.  The endorsements above suggest some in the international community may be willing to loosen their commitment to the UNSC normative exception under specific circumstances.  And in doing so, they may weaken it and the non-intervention norm, enabling new avenues for permissibly violating state sovereignty. Continue reading

Cabinet Reshuffling and the Patrimonial Presidency: Lessons from Tunisia

This post marks the return of the Bridging the Gap channel at the Duck after a short hiatus. It comes from Gregory White, Professor of Government at Smith College, who will be attending our International Policy Summer Institute this June.  

How can we understand the Trump administration’s ongoing reshuffles of top tier staff and cabinet officials? Recent changes at the State Department, the National Security Council, the White House Communications Office, Veterans Affairs, and the National Economic Council – and that’s just the last several weeks – are unprecedented in US politics. Some people have been brought down by scandal or near scandal, with others dismissed for no clear reason.

Scholars have sought to understand this turnover as the result of a preference of loyalty over experience, the insurgent nature of the campaign (with inexperienced or no staff), or the chaos of Trump’s policy whims. I propose a different lens for thinking creatively and comparatively about Trump’s behavior as a way of understanding its potential implications.

Throughout all of the cabinet and staff reshuffling I have often thought of Tunisia – in particular its post-independence presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. One might think that comparing the United States to Tunisia is like comparing an apple to a steak – or even an apple to a stop sign. It is hard to think of two countries with more dissimilar political histories and systems. But constant cabinet and staff turnover and (re-)cycling characterized Bourguiba and his successor Ben Ali’s governments, and it had and continues to have profound implications for the North African country.  Continue reading

Why Trump Won

In the academic community, the equivalent to ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ is ‘peer-review or it doesn’t count’. That’s why I decided to wait until I get some validation on the hypothesis about the Trump win that I was working on. The full paper is coming out in International Relations journal and this a (relatively) short teaser. Don’t worry, there is a Russian angle, just probably not the one you would expect. Continue reading

Does the U.S. Have a North Korea Strategy?

A Presidential summit in May is not a high risk / high reward scenario. It is Russian roulette.

Last November the media poked fun when inclement weather kept Trump from getting his opportunity to stare down the enemy at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. While Trump was reportedly frustrated with being denied this photo-op, it is regrettable for us all that he never made it. Despite the pageantry that comes with these visits, I know from experience that there is something visceral about standing at the world’s most heavily militarized border. There is a certain tension that cannot be faked. And for a moment, you cannot help but think of the consequences if this precarious peace was broken. While no one can claim to know what Trump is thinking at any given moment, I would like to believe that such an experience would inform his decision to either stare down or embrace North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un in a possible meeting between the two leaders.

Continue reading

Academic (S)mothering 

As a new mother of a baby boy I am enjoying a slightly different kind of golden shower than Donald Trump. So, between the 3 AM feeding and 4 AM diaper change I was scrolling through Twitter and stumbled on news about the Stanford white sausage fest that somehow qualified as a conference on applied history. Niall Ferguson managed to organize a conference and not feature a single woman or person of color. Let me walk you through some thoughts about why there aren’t more women in (political) science.

Continue reading

Heroes Aren’t Born, They’re Made.

This is a guest post by Ari Kohen, Associate Professor of Political Philosophy at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and author of Untangling Heroism. Follow him on Twitter here.

As someone who researches heroism, I can say without a second’s hesitation that President Trump absolutely would not have rushed into an active shooter situation in a high school and neither would 99% of the people to whom he made the comment on Monday. No chance.

I’m not saying this because I think Trump is a coward and I’m not saying it to get in another dig at him. I’m saying this because the vast, vast, vast majority of people won’t run toward gunfire; they’ll run away. And that number of people who’ll run toward gunfire goes down the more people are around.

Most people aren’t heroes. Most people would like to think that they would be heroic if the situation calls for it, as Trump did when he spoke to a group of governors at the beginning of this week. But wishing it doesn’t make it so. Training makes it so. And Trump doesn’t have any of the training that would make heroism more likely.

 

Even people with training didn’t rush in. That’s the lesson we ought to be learning from the Parkland mass shooting. Armed sheriff’s deputies who were there to protect the kids in that school didn’t rush in. Not because they’re bad or weak but because heroism is risky and situations requiring heroes are very scary.

We’ve spent the past week and a half (at least) with some percentage of our country pretending that heroism takes nothing more than a gun and psyching yourself up to go take out the bad guy. That’s why it seems acceptable to arm teachers and take potshots at the sheriff’s deputies for their inaction.

But that’s not how heroism works. I published a book about heroism a few years ago  I’m working on a new book in which my colleagues and I are interviewing actual, awarded heroes. I’ve spent time with heroes. My colleagues and I just published a paper on how ordinary people can train themselves so they’re more likely to be heroes.

Saying “I’m sure I’d be a hero” isn’t one of the things that makes you more likely to be a hero. 99% of people think they’ll do the heroic thing. But most don’t. Part of it is the Bystander Effect  part is the obvious risk; and part of it is the split-second nature of the choice.

One of the major reasons that some people do the dangerous, heroic thing is that they have specialized training. Trump doesn’t have it. Another reason is that they have a profound sense of empathy that includes people who might be considered unlike them. Trump doesn’t have that  Another predictor is having heroic role models. Trump has been asked about this. He doesn’t have it. Another predictor is having a heroic imagination, which some people refer to as experience-taking. You might read a novel, for example, and put yourself in the hero’s place, thinking about exactly what you’d do in that situation. From what we know about Trump, he doesn’t have that.

Heroes have to make a split-second choice and basically every one of them reports not even thinking about making a decision, just acting. The reason is they’re primed to act because of the factors mentioned just above. If you’re spending time thinking about what to do, it’s too late.

It’s easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback, as Trump is doing. But most people won’t do it because most aren’t wired like him. Most people will recognize that the sheriff’s deputies had an opportunity to be heroic and failed, and they’ll acknowledge it could happen to any of us.

What we need to do is get over pretending we’re all one bad guy with a gun away from being heroes. We’re not. We need, instead, to work on minimizing the chances that we’ll need to be heroes at all while maximizing the chances that more of us will be heroes if the need arises. That means enacting policies that actually make us all safer, not nonsense like arming teachers or making sure everyone is carrying concealed weapons at all times. It means commonsense gun regulations and it means not gutting programs that help people who need help in our society.

And it means talking to experts on heroism about giving you some hero training which is good for people even if heroism is never needed from them. Check out The Hero Construction Company if you want someone to come to your school, business, or organization to train you to be a hero. It’s worldwide. Can’t afford that? Just bring in someone to teach you CPR. That’s a great first step.

If you live in California, we’re putting on a conference in San Francisco in April. We’ve got another one in Michigan in October. Check out The Hero Round Table for more information. You don’t have to be Donald Trump to attend, and attending will make it more likely you’ll be the hero you hope you’ll be.

Continue reading

A solid investment if you know what you’re getting: Why continued support for UN peacekeeping is good policy for the US

The following is a guest post by Jay Benson and Eric Keels.  Jay Benson is a Researcher at One Earth Future (OEF), with research focusing on issues of peacekeeping, civilian protection and intrastate conflict.  Eric Keels is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Global Security at the Howard H. Baker Center and a Contractor with the OEF Research. His research focuses on international conflict management and democracy in post-war countries. 

During the first year of the Trump administration, the United States government has initiated numerous changes to the United States’ foreign policy. Since his first year in office, this new administration has signaled a 2020 withdrawal from Paris Climate Accords, backtracked on international efforts to sustain democracy, antagonized traditional US allies, and proposed a 23 percent cut in funding for the State Department. In addition to these radical shifts, the new administration has also been highly critical of international peacekeeping. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has consistently questioned the efficacy of international peacebuilding efforts in fragile countries such as Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.S. is not alone in this criticism, as new allegations of peacekeeper misconduct has drawn criticism of the management of UN peacekeeping operations. Given these critiques of international peacekeeping and peacebuilding, it is important to understand what benefits, if any, are provided by sponsoring these missions.

Given the current political climate’s increasing hostility to peacekeeping, what do we know about its efficacy in containing conflicts and protecting civilians? Continue reading

Re-Branded and Expanded: Visual Politics and the Implications of Guantanamo’s Make-Over

There is a certain theatre to the Global War on Terror (GWoT). From the opening sequence of 9/11 to the shock and awe campaigns projection of American sovereign power through the broadcast of the initial ariel bombardment of Iraq, to the dramatic headline declarations that we got him! after an elderly and disheveled Saddam Hussein was caught like a rat…in the bottom of a hole in Iraq in December 2003, the GWoT has played out as a highly dramatic production. As a part of the GWoT, Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Delta has featured too – making both dramatic appearances and disappearances from the frame since its 2002 inception. The most recent of these is the big reveal of the Camp’s make-over under the Trump Administration. Having canceled Obama’s 2009 Executive Order to close the Camp in January,  a selection of journalists were provided new ‘Media Ground Rules for JTF-GTMO‘, re-admitted to the Camp, and given a tour of detainee areas and quarters this month for the first time since a media black out was enforced in 2014 during powerful hunger strikes written about by both myself and Lauren Wilcox. In this short post I provide an overview of the Camp’s visual politics and some very initial analysis of reports and images emerging from Camp Delta this week. I argue that updated policy and practices, and new photographs emerging reveal dominant American bodies (Government and military in kind) becoming increasingly un-concerned with the maintenance and projection of a Liberal, biopolitical (life-centred and affirming) facade into the eyes of the international community and are therefore in the process of re-making America’s identity on the world stage.

On their 2002 arrival at Camp X-Ray, detainees – shackled, gagged, and clad in bright orange jumpsuits, mittens, blacked out goggles, and noise cancelling headphones – were paraded and photographed by their new captors, Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). 

The Orange Series (2002)

These photographs – officially captured, sanctioned, and named the orange series – saturated the global media, burned into the public eye’s retina, made Camp X-Ray and its orange-clad detainees became hypervisible. In its boastful display of America’s subdued captives, the orange series speaks of retribution and revenge and in this way its 2002 global circulation worked (along with the broadcast of the shock and awe campaign) to reassert American sovereign power, project global American dominance, and as a means of global intimidation. The enemy had been captured and rendered powerless, at the mercy of the mighty American military. At the same time the orange jumpsuit itself became iconic as Elspeth Van Veeren so astutely noticed. Indeed, the orange jumpsuit in which detainees were paraded and photographed became iconic material objects that, imbued with American power, intimidation, and violence, went on in the years following 2002 to make several high profile appearances – un-sanctioned by dominant contemporary American bodies – to the American public eye and wider audience. Most notably, the orange jumpsuit clothed James Wright-Foley, an American journalist and video reporter, as he was filmed and beheaded by ISL in August 2014. 

In stark contrast to the orange series, the next time Camp Delta was made visible was in what is known as the white series. In these 2007 released photographs detainees remain effaced as their faces are never shown (See Van Veeren, 2011). Thus, opposed to demonstrating and projecting the sovereign power and violence of a dominant American body (JTF-GTMO) keen to appear supremely powerful over its captives (of which the orange series is exemplary), through the white series JTF-GTMO projects instead its biopolitical façade. The white series does this through capturing detainees at rest, play, and prayer. Moreover, the detainees featured appear to be free from pain and suffering; healthy and cared for. Thus, through the white series, dominant contemporary American bodies are seen to be acting in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and in line with JTF-GTMOs  biopolitical aim to protect, preserve, and promote life.

The White Series (2007)

Camp Deltas detainees were then moved decidedly out of the sight of the American public eye and wider global audience through the media black-out imposed in the wake of the 2013 – 2015 hunger strikes. Thus, this week’s press tours are the first time a glimpse of life inside Camp Delta has been made visible under the Trump Administration.

With the Miami Herald’s Carole Rosenberg and NPR’s David Welna reporting similarly on the obvious signs of expansion, what is striking about the JTF-GTMO sanctioned images coming out of the Camp this year is their lack of polish and any overt staging.  In contrast to both the orange and white series’, the aesthetic projected is one of everyday banality. Moreover, featuring a distinct lack of detainees (there are currently 1,700 troops and contractors responsible for 41 detainees)  these most recent images suggests a detention Camp ready and waiting to be filled with fresh meat.

Any hunger strikers? “Not that I’m aware of,” replies the food operation’s officer in charge, though he adds, “there’s a couple that enteral feed occasionally.” (Welna, 20/02/2018)

Camp Delta, 2018

Finally, with Trump removing ‘legal’ and ‘transparent’ from Camp Delta’s Bush era imposed mission statement to provide safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detained enemy combatants and  the above cited conversation between Welna and JFT-GTMO’s food operations officer revealing the normalisation of the ongoing torturous practise of force-feeding hunger striking detentions under Trump, future policy and practice at Camp Delta is likely to further undermine and degrade the Liberal, biopolitical,  facade now somewhat half-heartedly and feeble projected by dominant contemporary American bodies to the outside world under the present leadership. However, this goes on to the detriment of America’s historically carefully guarded and fastidiously maintained image as beacon of democracy and leader of the free world. The knock-on political, economic, diplomatic, and other effects of this American (re)invention in normative, ‘soft power’, ideational terms will surely be profound and therefore present themselves as important areas for future research along with the marked aesthetic shift discussed in this post.

Crimea River

One of the most predictable elections is just around the corner: even Google has already proclaimed Putin the winner of the presidential race of March 18th 2018 in Russia. The only marginal hiccup for the authorities might be a low turnout, but a couple of viral videos are already scaring the bejesus out of the electorate: if they don’t show up and vote for you-know-who, somebody else will be elected and they will make each family house a gay man in pink pajamas in their apartment!

Surprisingly enough, Putin will have a wee bit of competition on the ballot after all. Pavel Grudinin [I am very tempted to translate his name as ‘boobilicious’], a candidate from the Communist Party, has managed to gain an unexpected amount of support – around 10%. With other candidates polling between a margin of error and about 5%, Grudinin’s rating seems unexpected. The head of the company “Lenin’s Sovkhoz” is popular not just with Russia’s pre-baby-boomers, but also with millennials! And if the Kremlin wants to blame somebody for this, they should be kicking themselves for Grudinin’s success. Millennials like the communist candidate because of governmental idealization of the Soviet past.

Continue reading

Women Also Know, International Relations Edition

Layna Mosley is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research investigates the politics of sovereign debt, and the effects of global supply chains on worker rights. She joined the WAKS Editorial Board in November 2017. Website: laynamosley.web.unc.edu/ or find her on Twitter at @thwillow.

Duck of Minerva readers may have noticed Max Fisher’s recent New York Times Interpreter piece, addressing Taliban attacks against Afghan civilians. On Twitter, Fischer reported that he “made an effort to quote only women in this.” Six of the seven experts quoted were women; Fischer’s conclusion was that this “made the piece stronger.” He encouraged other writers to make similar efforts.

A couple weeks later, Fisher and Amanda Taub noted, in a piece on the Times’ op-ed page, that quoting women was only the tip of the iceberg: that the challenge of locating women experts in the fields of international politics, national security and foreign policy reflected deeper structural biases, ones that required much more than journalists diversifying their sources.

Fisher and Taub mentioned several studies that have become familiar to those involved in conversations about implicit bias in academic settings – for instance, that women’s research is cited less often than that of their male counterparts; and that women are asked to assume greater service responsibilities in their departments and in the profession. To these, they might add that women are often underrepresented in course syllabi, at the graduate as well as undergraduate level, and that women receive less professional credit for co-authored work.

These problems are not limited to women in international relations (or, more broadly, to women in political science). Indeed, we might comfort ourselves in the knowledge that things may be worse in other disciplines.  And problems of bias, implicit or otherwise, affect not only women, but also persons of color and LGBTQ-identified individuals.  Indeed, in this current moment, it is hard not to be discouraged by problems that numerous, deeply rooted and very difficult to rectify.

But here’s one thing all of us in international relations can do: promote and publicize the research and expertise of women-identified scholars. This is the mission of Women Also Know Stuff: the initiative, launched in February 2016, seeks to promote women’s work, both in the academy and in the media (for links to news coverage of WAKS, see https://womenalsoknowstuff.com/news).

Continue reading

NATO and the Classic Problem of Measuring Inputs vs. Outcomes

I tend to complain a lot about the NATO 2% expectation–that members are supposed to spend 2% of their GDP on defense stuff, which probably makes more more Canadian than anything else I do (I don’t skate or watch hockey much).  This is aspirational and countries are supposed to reach it by 2024.  I have written much about why this is problematic (it tends to make Greece look good, which is a clue; doing is more important than spending, etc), but today I want to focus on the heart of the matter: 2% is a measure of input and nothing else.

Continue reading

Donald Trump is trying to refute my new book before it’s even come out.

The past week has not been a good one for global health. What gives? I can only come up with one explanation: the Trump Administration is doing its darnedest to disprove the argument in my new book.

In Global Health Governance and International Society (out on the 8th! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!), I argue that the emergence, growth, and ‘stickiness’ of global health politics reflects a shift in an international consensus about our collective obligations to address health concerns in other countries. We’re moving from a largely state-based system that only sporadically considers health matters to one that embraces a wider range of actors in addressing health issues even in the absence of security threats. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s getting better—and it’s increasingly taking root within international society.

And then the Trump Administration has another one of its terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weeks on the global health front.

First, we have the resignation of Brenda Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking office in July 2017. This is perhaps the most prominent public health position in the United States government and has been filled by such luminaries as Tom Frieden, Julie Gerberding, David Satcher, and William H. Foege. If they ever make Public Health Hero trading cards, these folks would be in that pack. (Side note: I’d totally buy Public Health Hero trading cards.) Fitzgerald is unlikely to join that illustrious list. Why? Because Politico reported that Fitzgerald bought thousands of dollars in stocks from tobacco and health insurance companies—while she was the CDC director. Continue reading

Has Sunshine Returned to the Korean Peninsula?

Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the media has become fascinated with a common narrative that the erstwhile “bitter enemies,” North and South Korea, will march under one flag. The identity and political relations of the Koreas are more complicated than the “enemy” rhetoric conveys. Emblematic of this complexity are the families that are separated by the border, with living siblings that pre-date the division of the peninsula. The current thaw in inter-Korean relations is rooted in the late 1990’s “Sunshine Policy” of the former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. Yet, the question remains as to whether direct engagement between North and South Korea has the possibility to fundamentally alter the political situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Continue reading

Size Doesn’t Matter

Any woman would tell you that. What matters is what you do with it and whether you know how to use it. Whatever Brobdingnagian thing you’ve got going on there, it’s way more important to have a game plan and understand the sweet spots you need to target. Otherwise, both parties may come away less than satisfied from the encounter.

I am talking, of course, about the nuclear arsenal size and the ever-lasting dick-measuring contest that is international politics. After the ridiculous Trump tweet that Kim John Un’s nuclear button is smaller and less powerful than that of #45, IR Twitter was quick to point out Carol Cohn’s seminal “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals” article that discussed exactly that. That the world of arms race is essentially a world of phallic worship and missile envy, replete with “penetration aids”, “thrust capabilities” and “vertical erector launchers”.  Who knew that a presidential candidate who mentions the size of his penis during a primary debate would actually bring it up during an international nuclear stand-off?!

Another piece that comes to (my) mind is the book by Stephen Ducat “The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity”. As he observed, the ‘wimp factor’, i.e., the possibility of coming off as too feminine in politics is a major fear in many cultures, spanning from ancient Greece to modern United States. In a culture with a generalized ethos that equates penetration with domination, political hierarchy is often built along the same lines that glorifies ‘real men’ ‘with balls’ hence denigrating femininity and non-cis-gendered males and females. The wimp factor is especially relevant for global politics built on notions of hierarchy, and is often expressed in terms of gender, which favors the male, dominant position.

Continue reading

The top 5 issues in International Politics for 2018

2017 was not a great year for international politics. The sentence I heard the most during conferences and other academic gatherings was that “the global order is in crisis.” Granted. It all started in 2016 with the victory of Trump, Brexit and the No to the Peace Agreement in Colombia. Nationalist ideologies have nothing but grown in 2017, when the victories of Marine Le Pen in France and of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands all of a sudden seemed plausible. Luckily, they did not materialise. We also had auto-proclaimed nations that demanded independence, such as Catalonia or Kurdistan. To top it all, the far right did win elections in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. This nationalist move is having consequences across the world. In the Libyan costs migrants are being sold as slaves by smugglers or are locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic needs, after the European Union’s enactment of its policy of helping Libyan authorities intercept people trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to prison. Continue reading

Happy New Year

If anybody is planning to collude with some Russians for New Year’s (but not in order to swing an election), I compiled a brief checklist. Originally, I wanted to take apart an article from a prestigious newspaper that described “a Christmas encounter with a Russian soul”, but then I decided against it. After all, if you don’t buy “the case for colonialism”, then you probably also won’t think that “Russians do not share the ethical heritage of the West, but moral intuition exists everywhere, and is able to be inspired”. But enough with the narcissistic white bigotry, let’s learn about Russia!
  • In good ol’ orientalist tradition let’s start with drinking. No self-respecting Russian ever says “na zdorovie” while toasting. Ever. You drink for something – “za”.  Want to impress some Russians, say either “vashe zdorovie” or “budem!” – both are correct equivalents to “Cheers”.
  • Another important thing, New Year is THE winter holiday in Russia. Not Christmas. You prepare for it in advance, buy presents, decorate a tree, have a massive meal and get together with the family. Atheist Soviet traditions have stuck pretty well and the reflex of cutting an Olivier salad on December 31st is hard to suppress.
  • What the hell is an Olivier salad I anticipate you’d ask. It’s a Russian New Year staple food that originally included hazel grouse, crayfish, and a bunch of other expensive ingredients concocted by a French chef in mid 19th century, but gradually became a potato, pea and mayonnaise based delight that you enjoy by the ton.
  • So what about Christmas (you might wonder)? Most Russians celebrate Christmas (if they do) on January 7th thanks to the power squabbles with the Catholic Church back in the Middle Ages. While after the Revolution Russia moved almost two weeks ahead (hence the Great October Revolution celebration on November 7th), the Russian Orthodox Church stayed behind and insists on celebrating all Christian holidays based on the Julian calendar. Some even celebrate Old New Year on January 13th!
  • Also, Christmas trees. Again, in a post-Soviet mind – a fir tree is a totally secular New Year tradition that has nothing to do with Christmas. To be fair, they have much more to do with Saturnalia than with Christmas anyway. You know how in America people make fun of those who take down their Christmas lights in February? Try keeping your tree until March!  
  • Last but not least. Russians also have a type of Santa – his name is Father Frost (Ded Moroz), he brings presents, rides a sleigh and he is assisted by his granddaughter Snowmaiden (Snegurochka). Despite his somewhat dubious origin story and unclear family tree (where is his wife? Or Children?!), his is still a far cry from the controversy caused every year by Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands.

I am off to cut the Oliver and obsessively check the statuses of submitted manuscripts. Remember, despite the condescending orientalist horse crap that you might read in the Wall Street Journal, Russians are like everybody else. They just want acceptance with minor revisions.

Happy New Year!

Older posts

© 2018 Duck of Minerva

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑