Category: Featured (page 1 of 135)

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.

Kirill has not been a big fan of Bartholomew at least since 2016 when the latter led an Orthodox Council on Crete where the issue of autocephaly was discussed in the first place. To put it simply, the Russian Orthodox Church is Beyoncé and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is Taylor Swift and Kirill (Kanye) does not want the MTV best music video award (autocephaly) to go to Taylor. Kanye has always thought that Taylor was inferior to Beyoncé, but now he is also alienating Jay-Z (Bartholomew) through his concert jabs. And Jay-Z feeling as a higher-ranking patriarch – Kanye did start under his label just like Moscow adopted Christianity from Constantinople back in the day – is contemplating the split in part because of Moscow’s patriarchy’s position on the war in Ukraine.

Jokes aside, Kirill’s stance on the war in Ukraine has been dubious to say the least. Even though the Patriarch seemed to have been instrumental in prisoner exchange between the separatists and the Ukrainian government, he also likes to talk about brotherly relationship between the two peoples and how joining the official Kyiv policy would affect the spiritual (after)lives of the believers. Just as Putin, he does not seem to distinguish between Russia and Ukraine as entities:

For me, Ukraine is the same as Russia. My people and my Church are there […] This is a reason for sleepless nights and for great enthusiasm that I feel when I think about the people who are so fiercely fighting for their beliefs, for their right to stay Orthodox.

Patriarch’s re-framing of the armed conflict in South-East Ukraine is curious. In his interview, he does not really mention the previously dominant ‘fascism’ narrative that was ubiquitous on Russian mainstream media. Instead, he frames the conflict in completely religious terms, arguing that a ‘European way’ precludes people from being Orthodox. This argument is far from unusual: this kind of construction is also linked to a much older discussion on the role of Orthodoxy in Russian identity dating back to the Middle Ages.

Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church largely ignore discussions on Russian intervention in the east of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea blaming the crisis in the “brotherly” country on nationalists and “external forces”. Many Ukrainians who resent Russia’s role in the conflict want to leave the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate for other autonomous Orthodox Churches or (horror) for an Orthodox branch responsible to the Pope. If Ukrainian Orthodox Church is no longer dependent on the Moscow Patriarchate, it would mean both prestige and financial losses for the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia, and Patriarch Kirill personally. But by the looks of it, Taylor doesn’t want Kanye to tell her what to do.

 

*Moscow as a third Rome is a diss track written in (surprise) Moscow in 15-16thcenturies that argued that Moscow is the ultimate successor to the legacy of the ancient Rome, including Christianity, because previous Romes (Rome and Constantinople) fell.

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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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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