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On The Dynamics of Global Power Politics

This is a guest post by Dan Nexon, Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University and Stacie Goddard, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science of Wellesley College

In the wake of the Russian Federation’s intervention in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that, “You just don’t in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.” Indeed, a number of analysts see the return of traditional realpolitik, that “old-fashioned power plays are back in international relations.” Others express skepticism. They view international relations as more peaceful and less marked by realpolitik than ever before.

We think this debate encapsulates enduring problems with the way that many think about power politics. Scholars on both sides associate realpolitik primarily with the machinations of military power. They insist that states remain the core practitioners of power politics.  And they often treat the institutions of liberal order not as changing the dynamics of power politics, but somehow supplanting them entirely. When taken as a whole, such terms of debate reproduce a misleading baseline assumption still found in international-relations scholarship: that the nature and salience of global power politics—‘old-fashioned’ or otherwise—stems from the states-under-anarchy framework associated with contemporary realist theory.

We argue that it is time for security studies to abandon this debate, to stop equating realpolitik with contemporary realism, and to set down the parameters of a research program that we term “the dynamics of power politics.” In this, we draw inspiration from the field of contentious politics.

What binds the research program together is its focus on realpolitik as the politics of collective mobilization in the context of the struggle for influence among political communities, broadly understood. In particular, the study of the dynamics—the mechanisms and processes—of collective mobilization—the causal and constitutive pathways linking efforts at mobilization with enhanced power—brings disparate approaches to security studies together in a shared study of power politics. Some readers will note that our approach—and quite deliberately—finds kinship with calls to take practices, transactions, and relations themselves as basic building blocks of analysis, and thus implicates emerging divisions in the field.

We detail specific analytical content in our article, “The Dynamics of Global Power Politics,” published in the inaugral issue of the the newest ISA journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies. But, as we note there, consider Moscow’s activities in Russia’s near abroad.  For structural realists, Russia’s actions herald a return to power politics as usual, and provide clear evidence that states will continue to balance power under conditions of anarchy. We agree that Russia’s actions should not be dismissed as mere “spoiler” behavior: the last vestiges of brutish power politics in the liberal world order. But the “Russia is balancing” causal story is not particularly convincing either. Putin’s actions have infuriated Western opponents precisely because they are seen as threatening a liberal institutional order.  To treat this as balancing under anarchy, as Cooley shows, misses the rich institutional context of contemporary power politics. Russia’s strategy, moreover, relies less upon the mobilization of other great powers, and more on specific tactics aimed at other actors. From a dynamics-of-power-politics perspective, the question is not whether or not Russia is “balancing,” which, as the debate over soft balancing illustrates, some realists take as the threshold for significant power-political activity. Instead, it concerns what mechanisms of power politics operating in the Russian case; what instruments are being deployed and why; and how structure shapes the interaction and outcomes of these mechanisms.

Ultimately the goal of this research program involves finding common ground between realist and heterodox approaches. More important, it aims to ensure that power politics remains central to the global analysis of security studies. Despite the decline in major power wars and the use of international force by states, despite the growth of international institutions, despite the supposed increased importance of economic and symbolic instruments, the struggle for power constitutes an immutable feature of international relations. In essence, we agree with the founders of the field of Security Studies: to ignore the dynamics of power politics is to miss an essential feature of international security, let alone global politics.

 

 

 

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PhD-in-Hand? Why?

Inside Higher Ed must be having a slow news week.[1] Today, they are reporting on the APSA 2014-2015 Graduate Placement Survey as if it’s brand new.  The report actually came out in early December.  Oh, well. When I read the report – and shared it with my grad students –in December, I was struck by something that the Inside Higher Ed editor highlighted today:

“More ABDs are starting full job searches, and fewer of those in the expanded pool are landing faculty positions, study finds.”

That finding is technically true.  About 32% of ABDs[2] were “not placed” in any job – tenure-track, non-tenure track, postdoc, nonacademic – in the 2014-2015 academic job cycle.  Of those with a PhD-in-Hand, only about 10% were not placed.

Upon reading the Inside Higher Ed story and some of the story’s comments[3], one could be left with the impression that all a student needs to do to get a job in political science is actually finish their PhD.  I mean, right?  Once it’s in hand, you are way more hirable!  I don’t think so.   I don’t think the correct conclusion is to advise students to finish their PhDs before going on the market.

Here’s what I think is happening:

  • The academic market is clogged. Lots of people are not placed or underplaced.
  • Universities are getting by with fewer tenure-track faculty.
  • ABDs are having trouble getting positions, of any type, but especially tenure-track positions in the current environment. While our advisors-advisors used to be able to get a position with just a phone call and a letter about how great a dissertation is, it now takes multiple top-tier publications to even make it to the long list.[4]
  • ABDs thus have to fight for a few VAP[5] or post-doc positions. The ones that get the positions then file their dissertations (receiving their PhD) and then go back on the market the next year with their PhD-in-Hand.  Hopefully, these individuals get (a) more things that make it through the peer-review process and/or (b) more teaching experience during this time period.
  • It’s the added stuff during this year – the added peer-reviewed publications and, for some positions, the added teaching – that makes those with a PhD-in-Hand way more likely to be hired than their ABD counterparts.

So, if my thoughts are correct, the PhD-in-Hand isn’t really making that much of a difference on the market.  It’s just the fact that the PhD-in-Hand is correlated with someone having more experience as a researcher/teacher. It isn’t that ABDs with experience as researchers/teachers are being ignored in favor of someone with a PhD-in-Hand that isn’t a proven researcher/teacher. And, letters of recommendation can definitely indicate that the dissertation is fully drafted but just not filed – I have seen it on multiple searches.

All of this brings me to an important point that I’ve repeatedly had to make to ABDs in my time as DGS:

In most circumstances, don’t file your PhD until you have to.

Of course, if you strike out on the market a couple of times and just need to have it to be done with the whole affair, then file.  But, if you plan on going back on the market in the next year and have no prospects for a job during that year, I don’t think you should file your PhD.  I don’t think it’s going to boost your job prospects in any real way. Instead, in many instances, it’s just going to make you an unaffiliated scholar, with limited access to any university library and with no chance of getting continued graduate assistant positions.  It also could make your student loan repayment countdown start.

I’m interested what others think.  I posed this question on Facebook[6] this morning and got a lot of interesting responses.  One of my colleagues remarked that it’s not “’degree-in-hand” that matters so much as “publications-on-the-CV.””  Another colleague, this one from a small liberal arts college, remarked that they “care more about pubs than done [dissertation] assuming good progress and likely completion by start of the job. Oh, and the person should have actual (demonstrably good) solo teaching experience.”

Of course, my colleagues mentioned that getting a PhD and leaving graduate school can help one’s scholarship, like would happen if you had a postdoc or a research position and interacted with new colleagues with new ideas.  Key in this, however, is the availability of the postdoc or research position.

As one colleague summed it up, in this environment, “publication is king.”  That should be the most important thing you focus on, not on whether or not you file graduation paperwork this spring.

All else equal, I contend that a published ABD is going to beat out a non-published PhD at most colleges or universities in this country.  I wish APSA’s report had provided more information on publications and the likelihood of placement.

[1] What? No Mizzou stories today?  You could really do a special issue on us this year!

[2] Mom, that stands for “All But Dissertation.” It’s the last stage in the process to a PhD; it’s after classes, after comps, and typically after a whole committee of professors have approved your dissertation outline or prospectus. But, wait, seriously, Mom – why are you reading this blog?  Don’t you have something better to do in retirement? Aren’t there squirrels in the attic?

[3] This is something I need to learn not to do.  Reading comments about the Mizzou disaster this year has really made me question the sanity of my neighbors.  I had to step away.  And, join the adult coloring book craze.

[4] Mom, the “long list” is the list of about 10-15 possible candidates that a search committee wants to look it.  They’ll invite only 3-4 from this list for on-campus interviews.  That’s the “short list.”

[5] Visiting Assistant Professor.  Or adjunct.  Basically academic hell. There are a lot of people to blame for this.

[6] Friend me!  You’ll see cute animal pictures.  At least 30 a day.

Interested in critical international politics?

GregynogThe Gregynog Ideas Lab, a thinking space for scholars interested in studying global politics from a range of critical, postcolonial, feminist, post-structural and psychoanalytic traditions, takes place every summer at Gregynog Hall in mid-Wales (UK).

This unusual summer school offers a set of seminars & workshops, an artist-in-residence, methods training and one-on-one consultations to allow graduate students and established scholars to re-examine their own work, participate in ongoing conversations and meet new people who share an interest in critical international politics. Participants – both guest professors and students – come from various corners of the world and it is above all the informal and open atmosphere that is valued by all.

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Bringing Iran in From the Cold

Iran

Even as western sanctions are lifted in response to Iran’s dismantling crucial, large-scale elements of its nuclear facilities, critics continue to believe that Iran is preparing to cheat on the nuclear deal, is increasing its support of proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, and is bent on achieving regional hegemony. But instead of taking Khamenei at his word, observers should focus on concrete actions rather than rhetoric that is meant largely for domestic consumption. This is especially critical in light of Iran’s upcoming elections, which will likely bring even more revolutionary rhetoric and hardline behavior.

We are at truly historic crossroads. Iran has complied with the nuclear deal in full up to this point, sooner and more comprehensively than expected. A number of Americans unlawfully detained by Iran are now home. And just when it appeared that Iranian hardliners would try to turn the perfect storm of U.S. swift boats errantly breaching Iranian territory into a deal breaker, Iran set the crews free in less than a day (and with all their gear intact). This action bodes well, even as Iran continues adhering to a pattern of “covering” its cooperative actions with seemingly harsh actions.

Why is Iran doing this, in particular when so many experts predicted that after the deal Iran would do the opposite of moderating its behavior? Far from black and white, Iran’s post-deal behavior has been a solid gray. And appearances can be deceiving, such as the large vocal demonstration at the old U.S. Embassy on the 36th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis—not to mention the Supreme Leader telling his people that “Death to America” is a pillar of Iranian culture. However, the evidence demonstrates that Iran in fact has gradually been tacking in a more positive direction in terms of its net contribution to international order. Upon closer examination, Iran has been deftly balancing its cooperative behavior with a fair dose of uncooperative behavior, though the latter tends to be less consequential than the former. Frequently, a planned positive move is preempted with a negative red herring move, all by specific intention. Continue reading

Duckies 2016: Vote To Select the Finalists

cmc-viking-toy-duck_listinglargeThe Duckies have moved from Duck of Minerva to the ISA’s Online Media Caucus, but the process is mostly the same.  Vote for your favorite examples of outstanding Online Achievement in International Studies here.

Words Mean Things: The Beginnings of De-Gendering Democratic Citizenship

This is a guest post by Kyleanne Hunter, PhD Student and Research Fellow at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Yesterday it was discovered that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has ordered the Marine Corps to both integrate their enlisted training and to create gender-neutral job titles.  This news comes on the heels of a passionate battle of words surrounding the integration of women into all Military Occupational Specialties (MOS).  This latest victory for those who recognize the value of women’s service is not limited to those in the service.  It is a large step forward for all women in America.

Democratic citizenship has long been tied to military service.[1]  Even as we have moved to an all-volunteer force, the rhetorical power of the citizen-solder has maintained its prominence in political debates.  This power has been instrumental in minority groups gaining full citizenship rights.  Yet there has been one group unable to harness this power – women.  Even as women have made great strides in military service, the hyper-masculinity of military culture and speech has made achieving parity very difficult for women.   While, on paper, in the USA women have equal rights as their male citizen counterparts, the reality is that women remain underrepresented economically, professionally, and politically.  In short, they aren’t able to realize the full benefits of citizenship in a liberal democracy.

While not a complete panacea, the move of opening all MOS’ to women, and requiring gender-neutral job titles is a big step in rectifying some of the challenges to complete citizenship women face.  One of the explanations for male-preference in citizenship can be traced to the positive association between masculinity and military service.[2]  If the best a citizen can be is a soldier, and the best a soldier can be is “manly,” clearly men are our best citizens.  This cognitive heuristic is reinforced by military language: infantry man, fly boy, armor man, “A Few Good Men.”  These words, so engrained in our sociopolitical lexicon that we hardly give them a second thought, have reinforced the patriarchal system of male-privileged citizenship.

It has been argued that removing the formal barriers to women’s service in all aspects of the military, including the Selective Service, is important for fulfilling the social contract between the citizen and the states.  Removing the informal ones is just as important. De-gendering the language of military service is a large step towards changing the culture that has created them.  Sociopolitical rhetoric doesn’t change overnight, but words means things.  By using gender-neutral terms we will begin to recognize the importance of all citizens contributions to our security.  The small act of removing “man” as a qualifier for military jobs as the power to change the citizenship dynamics for half the population.

[1] See: Krebs, Ronald R. Fighting for rights: military service and the politics of citizenship. Cornell University Press, 2006; Morgan, Matthew J. “The reconstruction of culture, citizenship, and military service.” Armed Forces & Society 29.3 (2003): 373-391; Salyer, Lucy E. “Baptism by Fire: Race, Military Service, and US Citizenship Policy, 1918–1935.” The Journal of American History 91.3 (2004): 847-876

[2] See: Arkin, William, and Lynne R. Dobrofsky. “Military socialization and masculinity.” Journal of Social Issues 34.1 (1978): 151-168; Hinojosa, Ramon. “Doing hegemony: Military, men, and constructing a hegemonic masculinity.” The Journal of Men’s Studies 18.2 (2010): 179-194; Snyder, R. Claire. Citizen-Soldiers and Manly Warriors: Military Service and Gender in the Civic Republican Tradition. Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.

 

*Kyleanne Hunter is currently a PhD Student at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.  She spent more than a decade as a United States Marine Corps Officer, serving as a AH-1W “Super Cobra” pilot on multiple combat deployments, and the Marine Corps’ Liaison Officer to the House of Representatives. 

Duckies, nomination period extended

The new deadline is January 11th, so nominate away!

The Rule of Three

While it is hard to do and particularly hard to do while starting out, the general conventional wisdom (and wise it is) is that one should try to have three pieces under review at most/all times.  Why? Because academic review is a capricious enterprise that often takes much time.

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How stories matter: Thoughts on contextuality, temporality, reflexivity & certainty

In early September, the circulation of the now iconic picture of Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian Kurdish boy who drowned along with his mother and brother in the attempt to cross the Aegean Sea, prompted me to write a post reflecting on what ‘we’ as academics might do. I argued that we could, possibly, use “our knowledge of global affairs to connect the dots and lay bare how Alan’s story” is emblematic of so many themes we touch upon in our research – and indeed, the moment created by the (ethically difficult) circulation of the picture became an opening to provide depth and nuance for those willing to listen.

Screenshot 2015-12-29 16.25.39I suggested that, if academics wanted to do ‘something’ in response, this something might include telling “the stories of all the children who died crossing the Mediterranean – and their parents and grandparents, and aunts, and uncles.” Now, it would be presumptuous to think that Anne Barnard of the New York Times read my post (and she is not an academic either), but imagine my delight to see her piece on the Kurdi family’s journeys published yesterday.

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Duck, Duck, Nominate!

The Duckies have moved from here to the Online Media Caucus, but that does not mean that readers of the Duck should not participate.  Indeed, it means that the DoM is now eligible for nominations.  So, wander over to the OMC and nominate for a variety of categories, including best blog, best visual post, best podcast, best twitter account and more!

Men’s Unexpected Erections are a Liability on the Battlefield (and other ways men’s bodies put female soldiers at risk)


In the follow up to Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s  recent announcement that all combat jobs will be open to women, there have been several articles highlighting men’s fears about working with women on the frontline. In particular, a survey of Special Operations men found that the majority would prefer not to work with women, and that some held serious “fears” and “concerns”- especially in relation to women’s apparently unpredictable bodies. That’s right, the Special Forces-  the tip of the spear, the elite of the US military- are scared about the three P’s: periods, pregnancy and PMS. Most of these discussions pit women’s unpredictable, leaky, and fragile bodies against men’s stable, solid, and predictable ones. But is that true? Well, if folks want to take the debate to this level, its worth considering what science tells us about  men’s creaky, leaky, fluctuating and hormonal bodies and how this might impact their combat readiness.
So, I’ve compiles a list of 3 ways men’s bodies might be a liability in combat. It starts with- you guessed it- unexpected erections (bet you didn’t expect to see that arrangement of words in an IR blog post today).

1. Unexpected Erections: Did you know that men, on average, get 11 erections a day? That can be a serious physical liability in an intense combat situation. If we are going to talk about unexpected pregnancy or women’s PMS, we should talk about men’s boners too. Sounds silly? Well, it is actually a serious consideration. It should be noted that erections aren’t just about sexual arousal, many men experience “reflex erections, which can happen when a man is nervous, scared, angry, or under stress.” Sounds like a definite combat liability- particularly with younger male troops. Also, men can get unexpected erections due to the need to urinate, which can be a reality for soldiers travelling or in action in the field. All these fears about women ‘holding it’ and getting bladder infections in combat  might be nothing compared to the risk of men ‘holding it’ and getting an erection. I’ll spare you all the jokes about negligent discharge (ok I won’t), but in all seriousness, we need to ask if men’s unexpected erections put troops at risk.

2. Testosterone is unpredictable and fathers loose it rapidly: Continue reading

The Practice Turn in International Relations Theory

Thanks to PTJ, ISQ Online is running a debate about the scope and nature of the ‘practice turn’ in the study of world politics. The symposium centers around a recent International Studies Quarterly article by Christian Bueger and Frank Gadinger, “The Play of International Practice.”*

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Thoughts on DA-RT

For background on DA-RT, see Jarod Hayes’ post at the Duck of Minerva, as well as John Patty’s response to the petition to delay implementation (as well as its related website) and Jeffrey Isaac’s response to Patty and Isaac’s latest postRoundups and responses abound.

I drafted a longer piece on DA-RT, but now realize that I will probably never finish it. So, instead, some brief comments:

  • I have neither signed the DA-RT Journal Editors’ Statement (JETS), nor the acronym-challenged petition to delay it’s implementation. My basic reasons are straightforward. The journal that I edit, International Studies Quarterly,  is a publication of the International Studies Association (ISA). Given the structure of the ISA, I do not believe that I enjoy the authority to make this kind of decision—although I should note that my view is not universally shared among ISA journal editors. ISA does have a replication policy that ISQ follows, but it currently only extends to the archiving of statistical materials. ISQ will follow whatever transparency policy the ISA deems appropriate for its journals.
  • The dynamics of the DA-RT dispute share some similarity to those associated with “wedge issues.” That is, it “divide[s] [political scientists] through code words [and] labeling” in ways I find deeply troubling.

  • Participants in the debate over DA-RT need to make sure that they cultivate, or continue to display, intellectual empathy. In other words, opposition to DA-RT standards does not make you an opponent of social science understood correctly. Support for DA-RT standards does not make you a methodological puritan.
  • But the controversy does provide some people who hold these beliefs the opportunity to express them in unhelpful ways (cf. “wedge issue”).

  • This is particularly problematic, because there’s nothing wrong with agonistic and intense exchange on the issues.

Beyond “Rejection”

The following is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Isaac, who is James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University and editor in chief of Perspectives on Politics: A Political Science Public Sphere.

“I reject this paper.”

“I recommend that this paper be rejected.”

“I am sorry to inform you that your paper has been rejected for publication.”

Social practices are constituted in large part by the words we regularly use and the meanings these words typically convey. Political science is a social practice. And variations of the sentences above are commonly employed by political scientists in ways that shape what we do and who we are.

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Duckies Keep Quacking But In A Different Nest: Nominate

The new ISA caucus, the Online Media Caucus, has taken over the Duckies, and it is now nomination season (much safer than Duck Season).  So, head over to the new OMC blog and nominate your favorite blogs, posts, tweets, and other online media for the next round of the Duckies, to be awarded in Atlanta in March at the next ISA meeting.    As always, the Duckies will be sponsored by SAGE.  The big difference for Duck of Minerva fans is that now that the DoM is not running it, it will now be eligible for the competition (officers of the OMC are not eligible).

 

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 lukemperez@gmail.com.

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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

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