Category: Featured (page 1 of 126)

US, Canada, and Humanitarian Flights for Syria’s Refugees

The video above is the YouTube presentation of my remarks this week at University of Toronto’s Davey Forum, whose theme this year was “Is Canada Doing Enough to Promote Human Rights?” I attended at the kind invitation of Duck blogger Wendy Wong and her colleagues Lou Pauly and Rod Haddow, and my remarks followed those of former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy.

When it was time for the audience to ask questions, the very first question was:

“What can Canada contribute to the Syrian refugee crisis?”

It’s exactly the right kind of question. My answer, in one word: AIRPLANES.

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Is Russia a Paper Tiger?

Jeff Stacey has a new piece at Foreign Affairs that is basically a re-skinned version of his post at the Duck of Minerva. It should come as little surprise that I don’t find either piece particularly persuasive.

Overall, I agree with Jeff’s basic assessment of Russian moves as destabilizing. In Syria, where Moscow seeks to save the Assad regime, Russian intervention in a country that the US and its allies are already mounting military operations carries with it significant risks. Also, as Jeff writes:

Indeed, Russia has been playing a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with allied planes and ships across Eurasia for many months now. Among other things, it has been both flying in the flight paths of Western commercial and military aircraft and using ships and submarines to intermittently sail into Western countries’ territorial waters. In addition, Russia has staged a series of large-scale military exercises just across the border of Poland and several Baltic states, and its intelligence service actually seized an Estonian agent during last year’s NATO Summit and held him for several days.

I see this ‘muscle flexing’ as a mixture of ham-handed coercive diplomacy and reversion to Cold War great-power repertoires. It would obviously be better for everyone if Moscow stopped, insofar as they increase the risk of military and diplomatic incidents. But, as I noted a few days ago, these efforts have generally backfiredContinue reading

Where is our collective action on campus gun violence?

By now the academy is well aware of the latest mass shooting that occurred yesterday at Umpqua Community College in Oregon and claimed ten lives as of reporting this morning. While my social media has exploded with outrage by colleagues, professors, and academics that fear for their safety and the safety of their students, the “academy” has remained silent. I checked the websites of the professional associations that are supposed to advocate for me and my profession—the American Association of University Professors (AAUP); American Political Science Association (APSA); Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA); and the American Association of University Women (AAUW)—not one of them has made a public statement on the shooting in Oregon, not one of them has issued a call for action, not one of them has launched an advocacy campaign. You might think that it is too early, the bureaucratic machines have not yet had the time to carefully craft a political statement, but my research assistants and I looked through the on-line archives of these professional organizations, there have been no statements issued in response to any of the following campus shootings as far as we can tell from the on-line archives (timeline data compiled from here, here and here) [1]. Continue reading

Russia, Russia Burning Bright? (Spoiler: Not So Much)

Russia Comp GDP

GDP (PPP) for US, Russian Federation, and Major European Economies

The Russian Federation covers more territory than any other country. It has a large nuclear arsenal, skilled weapons designers, and the world’s fourth largest military budget—after the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia. But it maintains that budget—which comes it at roughly 12% of US military expenditures—by spending a larger percentage of its GDP on defense than does the United States, China, Britain, France, Japan, or Germany. Indeed, if the major European economies boosted defense spending to 3% of GDP—still short of Russia—they would each have larger military budgets.

Of course, military spending is a poor proxy for capabilities. Russia has a larger population than any other European state, along with a big army, extensive air-defense network, and other indicators of martial prowess. But it also has a smaller economy than the state of California, and still cannot indigenously produce much of the high-tech accruement of modern warfare. Moscow can certainly overwhelm many of its neighbors, but it isn’t a political-military juggernaut.

I consider such remarks necessary in light of the current freakout over Moscow’s intervention in Syria, including here at the Duck of Minerva.

Thankfully, a wave of cooler heads have started to push back against the hyperventilations of #resolvefairy acolytes. But the whole notion that Putin is a master strategist, and that whatever goes down in Syria is a result of his outmaneuvering the West in Ukraine, needs a reality check.

Let’s review. Continue reading

Making Sense of Afghanistan

This is a guest post by Erik Goepner, a Phd student at George Mason University.  He commanded units in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

American and international expertise, money, and blood have flowed into Afghanistan for 14 years, yet stability appears more elusive today than it did in 2002. High rates of civil conflict continue with record numbers of civilian deaths, corruption that plagues the government, and transnational terror groups such as the Islamic State appearing to grab power.

The first stop in America’s war on terror has not gone as planned.

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Migration as Protest

This is a guest post by Leila Kawar, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Contesting Immigration Policy in Court: Legal Activism and Its Radiating Effects in the United States and France (Cambridge University Press 2015) and a cofounder of the Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association. In 2000-2001, she spent a year in residence at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Damascus, Syria.

migrantsThis summer, the ramparts of “Fortress Europe” were breached by a mass exodus undertaken by young Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans. News coverage has described them as “migrants.” But I would argue that this term is a misnomer; rather than “migration,” what we are witnessing is a collective act of “protest” against the current governance regime that quarantines conflict outside of Europe’s borders. Continue reading

Securitization Forum: Three challenges to securitization theory in the U.S.

This is the fifth contribution in our forum on securitization theory in the U.S.  Sirin Duygulu recently got her PhD in political science from UMass, Amherst and currently teaches at Okan University, Istanbul. Her research focuses on the use of security language by transnational advocacy campaigns.

I believe when questioning the reasons behind the limited traction that securitization literature has so far had in American IR, three set of factors worth consideration. These factors are: the historical development of IR scholarship; the relatively close ties between the policy world and the academic world in the US; and the limited dialogue between framing and securitization literatures. Continue reading

Securitization Forum: Are they just not that into it?

This is the third contribution in our forum on securitization theory in the U.S.  Amir Lupovici is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. His book The Power of Deterrence is forthcoming in Cambridge University Press. His previous publications appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Review of International Studies, International Studies Review, International Studies, Perspectives and Foreign Policy Analysis. His research interests include constructivism, cyberspace, securitization, and deterrence.

In their preamble, Hayes and Van Rythoven clearly justify the need to address why securitization theory has had little traction in American IR—a tendency that is puzzling not only given this theory’s prominence outside the US (e.g., in Europe), but also when we consider its important implications for so many fields of research and relevance to policy making. I address this puzzle here by comparing it to a similar case—that is, the curious absence of Israel from the study of securitization. While the comparison doesn’t fully explain the scant use of the theory in the US, it lets us place it in a larger context and elaborate on what exactly it means. In other words, although (and maybe because) the two cases are significantly different, we can contrast key characteristics of Israel’s absence in securitization studies with characteristics of the American case. Continue reading

Stanley Hoffmann’s approach to studying politics: in memoriam 1928-2015 .

[Note: This is a guest post by Peter Gourevitch, Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Watson Institute, Brown University.]

Stanley Hoffmann influenced the study of international relations greatly. From the 1960s on, generations of professors in training read his work. All were affected by doing so. Some reacted negatively, some positively, some indirectly, but all were affected because of its clarity and utility. He laid out argumentation in the sharpest way — stereotypical of the best part of French analytic training — defining all the variables, categories, dimensions, and their combinations. It was perfect for preparing comprehensive exams, or defining issues for a thesis prospectus or an article. Contemporary Theory in International Relations, (Prentice-Hall, 1960) and The State of War: Essays on the Theory and Practice of International Politics, (Praeger, 1965) were the most notable examples.

At the same time, Hoffmann did not like the trend toward social scientific theorizing of international relations. He believed in his French mentor Raymond Aron’s comparative historical sociology: the rich systematic comparison of situations in historical context, a kind of Weberian construction and comparison of ideal types. Some books were written following Aron’s approach, but not many. The field was moving against Hoffmann. Mostly the study of international relations went the way of most social science in those days, ever sharper definition of dependent and independent variables and their testing, or careful construction of deductive reasoning (think, game theory , Schelling, Waltz. ) That was not Hoffmann’s approach, so while he was widely read, he was not widely followed in a self conscious way. Continue reading

Foreign Policy in the Second GOP Presidential Candidate Debate

Last night was the second debate between the GOP presidential candidates. So, as I did with the first one, let’s take a look back at the foreign policy aspects, shall we? I’ll be working off of the debate transcript published by the Washington Post. And, like last time, I won’t be considering immigration as a foreign policy issue because a) the candidates are dealing with it as a domestic policy issue and b) I don’t know much about the politics of immigration. I also won’t engage the question of whether Donald Trump can be trusted with access to the US nuclear arsenal.

(I apologize for the lateness of the post…teaching tends to get in the way of blogging)

The first serious foreign policy question was to Trump concerning Russia:

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Bottom’s Up: Exploring the Resource Mobilization of Local Human Rights Organizations

James Ron, Archana Pandya, and David Crow’s article investigates the resource mobilization of local human rights organizations (LHROs) in India, Mexico, Morocco and Nigeria. Having theorized the transnational networks, strategies, politics and influence of NGOs, Ron, Pandya and Crow now turn the attention of international relations scholars to the local contexts in which NGOs work. Drawing on original data including 263 semi-structured interviews with key informants and LHRO staff in 60 countries as well as public perceptions surveys in each of the four cases (n= 6,180), they find that although there is widespread public support of human rights and trust in LHROs, domestic publics do not donate to LHROs. They call this the “resource-rights” puzzle.

One nagging implicit normative assumption in the article is that somehow the resource-rights puzzle has negative or adverse effects on the work and impacts of LHROs. One obvious reason why LHROs might want to raise funds locally is the sense that Northern donors push Northern agendas and raising funds from local communities would empower LHROs to better represent local interests (Bradshaw 2006). Ron, Pandya and Crow’s public perceptions data however, show that the surveyed publics in the four cases generally support the broader human rights agenda. So while the funding might come from the global North, substantial local support for human rights principles and groups exists. Continue reading

Civilian? Not an Insult

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

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

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Excluding Women from the Band of Brothers: the False Flag of Small Unit Cohesion

The following is a guest post by Kirstin J.H. Brathwaite, Postdoctoral Fellow at James Madison College, Michigan State University.

The graduation of two women from Army Ranger school last month along with the apparent intention of the Marine Corps to request an exemption to the Department of Defense’s plan to lift the combat exclusion policy has led to an outpouring of opinion pieces regarding the advisability of allowing women to participate in combat operations. Some argue that Capt. Greist and Lt. Haver’s success in one of the most demanding military training courses in the world proves that women are physically able to do the job. Others suggest that a few exceptions should not overthrow the rule. But a large number of those arguing against the inclusion of women in combat units accept that while some women may be physically capable of combat, their sex is a disruption to the most sacred of military institutions – the socially cohesive Band of Brothers.

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

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

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

On doing ‘something’ … as academics

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 11.31.35 AM

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

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

But …

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#BringBackOurGirls, Feminist Solidarity & Intervention – Part Two

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

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

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Challenges to Academic Freedom Above the Wall

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

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

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Academia isn’t Baseball


PTJ’s Essential Player Statistics

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

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

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

Foreign Policy and the First GOP Debate

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

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

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

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The Duck-Cat of Minerva

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

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