Category: Featured (page 3 of 134)

El Salvador’s Restless Peace at 25

Banners

FMLN banners at the 24th Anniversary celebration, 2016

Amidst all the political drama this week, one could be forgiven for not noting the 25th anniversary of the Chapultepec Peace Agreement. Chapultepec was the agreement that brought a negotiated end to El Salvador’s civil war, a 12-year conflict between a repressive military government and leftist rebels united under the banner of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The Salvadoran conflict was notable for its tremendous human cost. By the conflict’s end, over a million people had been internally displaced or fled abroad and an estimated 75,000 Salvadorans were killed, many of them civilians. All this, in a country whose territory is slightly smaller than New Hampshire. Continue reading

We Shall Overcome

Happy Birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King!

In his honor here is his favorite singer, the majestic Mahalia Jackson, singing the theme song for the civil rights movement–“We Shall Overcome.” After that I’ve posted Dr. King’s soul shaking spoken word reflection on that song. All together they’re five minutes long and well worth a listen.

Mahalia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTyKJjj2oC0
Martin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=130J-FdZDtY

UNITED STATES - APRIL 15:  Martin Luther King Jr. marching in Vietnam protest parade.  (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – APRIL 15: Martin Luther King Jr. marching in Vietnam protest parade. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Trump and IR Theory: Did We Forget Great Men?

I was reminded on twitter that international relations professors have trained students for generations to focus on the third and second levels of analysis and dismiss the first–that individuals and their characteristics matter much less than the constraining impact of institutions and the incentives provided by the international system.

So, should we just apologize as Trump sells out the postWWII order and ends American hegemony by whim or fiat?  No, we need to drink heavily.  Seriously, there are a few real responses to this question of agency and structure.

Continue reading

Thoughts (for “both sides”) on the academic boycott

In the wake of the failed attempt at passing a boycott resolution (of Israeli academic institutions) at the recent MLA conference, here are some thoughts. (Readers of the Duck might be aware that last year’s ISA conference saw a modest attempt at bringing a discussion on BDS forward. That proposal was also voted down.)

Let’s talk (past each other)!

The debate over the academic boycott is often frustratingly unproductive.

On one hand, some anti-boycotters accuse boycott proponents of being antisemitic. While some boycotters may be antisemitic (just as some anti-boycotters may be antisemitic!), the accusation is ill-conceived and distracting. One claim I often hear — that since roughly half the world’s Jews live in Israel, then BDS must be antisemitic — simply doesn’t hold up. BDS is a tool to coerce Israel to comply with international law and adhere to human rights imperatives, not a boycott of Judaism or Jews.

On the other side, some boycott proponents accuse boycott opponents of being chained to other allegiances. “The bad conscience of liberal Zionism,” David Lloyd, English professor at UC-Riverside, wrote in Mondoweiss in describing the deliberations at the MLA, “forced to defend the indefensible, was on full display.” This too, is a bad-faith response. While some boycott opponents may be motivated by fealty to the State of Israel or to Zionism, there are enough good arguments against academic boycotts as a tactic to demand a fair consideration of the ethics writ large. More on this, below.

About the MLA deliberations, Lital Levy, a comparative literature professor at Princeton who followed the proceedings and later the responses from colleagues on both sides, says she “felt caught in the middle.” Rather than “digging in our heels,” Levy says, we should “actually talk to each other (and not just at these emotionally laden public hearings at MLA), but throughout the year, directly.” (Levy has more to say about the fraught nature of dialogue, though, below.) Continue reading

Twenty-Five (or so) Questions for Senate Hearings on Trump National Security Appointees

I used to be a Senate staffer, and one of the most interesting parts of my job was helping Senators prepare for hearings.  If I were a Senate staffer now, here’s hearing questions I’d recommend for President-Elect Trump’s national security nominees, Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State), General James Mattis (Secretary of Defense), and General John Kelly (Secretary of Homeland Security). These questions would serve as starting points for dialogue during the hearings and I’m sure would lead to other questions.

On Whether War Works:

  1. Over the past 15 years, we have used military force (or, as we used to call it, gone to war) in at least six nations in the Middle East and South Asia—Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. As to the uses of force in each of those nations:
  • In what ways was it a success?
  • In what ways was it a failure?
  • What conclusions do you draw from your assessments of successes and failures?
  • What recommendations will you make to the President and Congress about U.S. strategy, including but not limited to use of force, in each of these nations?
  • What should our goals be in each nation?

Continue reading

Never Too Early for a Crisis in Civil-Military Relations

To be clear, the latest news is “intra-civilian” but is likely to cross over given the stakes.

Continue reading

ISA Conferences in Trump’s America

In conversations with friends, I quickly realized that the International Studies Association faces some significant problems ahead.  The advent of the Trump administration is likely to lead to two kinds of complications:

  • it may be hard for foreign scholars to get visas to attend the conference
  • that scholars may want to boycott conferences that take place in the US if Trump follows through on a variety of things he promised/threatened/tweeted during the campaign.

Continue reading

A Plea for Cease Fire in the New American Civil War, Part II—The Case for Civility and a Changed Tone of Debate

Consider these two presidential statements:

“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”—President-Elect Donald Trump’s New Year’s Twitter greeting

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of our affection.”—President Abraham Lincoln, from his first inaugural address

Both Lincoln and Trump wrote their words after heated and divisive elections. Both won their elections though they lost the popular vote.  Lincoln spoke to a nation that had been violently divided over slavery and was on the brink of civil war following the secession of several states. And as that war came and took the lives of half a million Americans, Lincoln stayed true to the virtue of civility. His language reflected his goal of uniting the nation after the fighting ended, culminating with his elegiac second inaugural speech where he urged the nation to heal “with malice towards none and charity for all.”

In this second of three essays on our contemporary American divisions, I’ll explain why Trump (and all of us) would do well to emulate Lincoln’s graceful example of public discourse. It’s important to be realistic—Trump has succeeded by being brash and confrontational his entire life, and Lincoln sets a standard for honorable public discourse that few can reach.  That said, the nation will be far better off if Trump, and all of us, address each other with respect and civility. Continue reading

#RussiansDidit

Putin’s annual press conference is a chance for regular citizens to spend 3 hours in a great and rich Russia, where everything is in order and Putin is capable of installing presidents in foreign countries (according to one journalist). In general, the press conference strived to paint a picture of a great power facing some economic problems and who is constantly challenged by other countries (they are probably jealous and/or Russophobic). For me it was also a chance to wonder at Putin’s stamina. He might not be Superman, as one of the posters brought by the journalists stipulated, but his bladder is definitely made of steel.

As always, Putin demonstrated his ability to juggle all kinds of statistics in response to questions about economics, including Russia’s successful export of IT. One may wonder if he included hacking, because that was definitely a very successful export. As a female journalist called for abolishing juvenile justice in Russia, because ‘slapping children is a traditional Russian [sic] pedagogical method’, Putin emphasized that there was a slim line between slapping and beating up, but still warned against interfering into family matters. In comparison to the rhetoric of some of the questions, Putin did make an impression of a more liberal and reasonable politician, very much fitting into the narrative of ‘without Putin it could be much worse’ .

Continue reading

Explaining the Obvious in the Age of Trump

The President-Elect has called for expanding the US nuclear arsenal, not just modernizing it (old warheads may not be good warheads).  And when asked about whether this might lead to an arms race, he said woot!

Who wins arms races?

  1. Arms manufacturers and their stockholders
  2. Maybe Ken Waltz (who is already dead)

Yeah, that’s about it.  How about who loses?

Continue reading

Before you leave for the holiday season: Nominate your friends for The Duckies!

Grades are in, reviews submitted, and I’m headed out for the holiday season.  I hope you are wrapping up the semester and/or enjoying a well-deserved break.  Please remember to submit your nominations for the 2017 Duckies before the end of the year.

Continue reading

The Passing of a Global Health Giant

Halfdan Mahler, the Danish physician who served three five-year terms as Director-General of the World Health Organization, died last week in Geneva. Mahler may not be a household name, but he helped to fundamentally transform our collective notions of what global health is and should be. In this moment where WHO is undergoing its own re-examination of its priorities and programs, Mahler’s vision reminds us what could be. He also shows how global health is inextricably linked to international relations and politics.

Mahler’s career mirrors the World Health Organization itself in many ways. He joined WHO in 1951, just three years after it started operations, at a time when it focused largely on disease-specific interventions. His first position was with National Tuberculosis Program in India, where he worked for nearly a decade. From there, he moved to Geneva to oversee WHO’s tuberculosis program and eventually became an assistant director-general.

Continue reading

Duck Retirement: what 7 years of blogging has given me

It’s time. I’m signing off as permanent member of the Duck of Minerva after seven (7!?!) years of blogging. The experience has helped shape me as a professional, writer, and member of the IR and online communities. I began blogging during my first nervous year as an academic and continued through to the current realisation that I’m now a *youthful* mid-career scholar. My posts have covered a very wide range of topics, including ebola, Anthony Weiner’s first set of dick picks, women and combat in the US military, and the parallels between police and military racism and brutal tactics. I’m most proud of my posts on feminism, sexism, and surviving academia as a woman and as a parent. I’m grateful that Charli Carpenter asked me to be part of the Duck team in 2009 and for the many exchanges with fellow bloggers and readers over the years. Through it all, blogging has given me a few things. In no particular order:

  1. Blogging made me realise I’m not alone: I often blog about aspects of the profession I find bamboozling, including conferences, hiring processes, the casualisation of teaching, and finishing a damn book. The response to several posts- particularly about early career, parenting, and work/life balance- made me realise I wasn’t the only one sitting in on hiring processes thinking ‘oh, mediocre men really do beat out successful women…a lot.’ I wasn’t the only one attending conferences with a baby strapped to me, leaky boobs, and sleep deprivation so wild I would have amputated a leg for three straight hours of sleep. And I wasn’t the only one wondering when I would be taken seriously as an expert in international relations. This sense of community has changed my experience of being an academic entirely for the better.
  2. Blogging made me a better writer: Oh the agony of writing! The way that I wrote my PhD was so excruciating that it often felt like there were IV lines attached from my body to the computer: each day of writing drained me until I had nothing left, and I submitted. That’s not exactly a sustainable approach, is it? Blogging has taught me to have fun with writing. To be light, to make editing errors (many), and to just get an idea OUT THERE and not agonise over it. What freedom!! My enjoyment of writing has increased exponentially because of blogging. I let go of being perfect, I laugh at old posts that I now disagree with or that I could have written better.
  3. Blogging has given me thick skin: It goes without saying, but blogging requires think skin. To be fair, my experience has largely been positive and most people reading the Duck leave interesting or positive comments. And, frankly, sometimes I have written things that readers had every right to question or push me on. But, trolling, anonymous jabs, and a boat-load of mansplaining have been a part of blogging. I remember the first couple of times I received negative or trolling comments to a post in the early days. Some comments would literally keep me up at night. I’d think about how best to respond or how I could have done a better job getting my point across. But after seven years of pretty regular critique and trolling, it just doesn’t stick anymore (mostly). This has translated into the rest of my life. I lump negative comments with nasty (unfair) reviewers, twitter trolls, and that guy in the ISA audience who said I just didn’t understand how the military works. These are folks who aren’t trying to provide critical feedback, they are trying to say: ‘hey, it’s not that I disagree with what you are saying, I just don’t like how you are saying it, or the fact that you are saying it with such confidence.’ I do like a good back and forth with trolls once in a while (who doesn’t?), but mostly I’ve learned that online, and in person, the best way to deal with mansplaining, or other efforts to put me in my place is the smile emoji. :) I heard once that Katy Perry signed her divorce papers with the smile emoji and it changed how I felt about her entirely.
  4. Blogging made me realise the value of being nice: Academia is a small world and, more importantly, life is just to short to get nasty, to gossip, or to deliberately try to undermine someone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve often loved a good gossip session, and I’ve said and written things I wish I could take back. But over time and through my interactions and writing I’ve realised A) most gossip is toxic for everyone, and it only makes the gossiper look like an ass B) everyone is usually trying their best, and you never know what’s going on in someone’s private life- so go easy at conferences, in the comments section, in the hallways, and on twitter C) keeping my head above petty debates (online and in the office) and producing ideas and work that are interesting and mean something to me is the only sustainable academic strategy I’ve found.

I’m sure I’ll pop in as a guest from time to time. For now, thank you and farewell!

Learning to Live with Militias in America

This is a guest post by Ariel I. Ahram (@arielahram). Ahram is an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs and is the author of Proxy Warriors: The Rise and Fall of State Sponsored Militias (Stanford, 2011).

A few years ago the possibility that an American president would be complicit as armed supporters attacked members of opposition would have seemed far-fetched. Yet the alliance between president-elect Donald Trump and the so-called ‘alt-right’, a protean alignment of nativists, xenophobes, Christian identarians, and white supremacists, raises this distinct fear. Right-wing militias are among Trump’s most vociferous supporters. Jay Ulfelder, a leading researcher on political violence, after the election opined that

American civil liberties are values-blind. We live in a society that tolerates the overt organization of armed groups committed to fighting the state and hurting other people. In some places, the lines between those groups and the state blur. Under those conditions, it seems sensible to prepare against the worst. Continue reading

When Hell Freezes Over—Will Generals (and Admirals) Stop Global Warming and Bring Peace and Human Rights to the Trump White House?

Continue reading

The Russians Are Coming (for your language too)

Gone are the good old days when I had to explain what the word ‘yarki’ means to my friends and colleagues (for the record, ‘colorful’, not ‘brilliant’). Now I will have to clarify the complexities of planting child pornography into the computers of oppositional leaders thanks to the re-emergence of ‘kompromat’.

Why did kompromat, arguably a KGB-developed practice of mining compromising material on politicians and blackmailing them with it, surface again in the media? As Fabian Burkhardt noticed, the word first appeared in the English language with the information wars of the 90s. Moreover, the term ‘kompromat’ is inextricably linked in Russia with the former Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov – or, rather, with ‘a man who looked like the prosecutor general’…

Continue reading

No More Vietnams? Reforming the Selective Service

Vietnam protestWhen I was young, I dreamed of Italy. Once in a while, my father would pull out the slide projector and show us pictures from his life on a mountain near Colle Isarco, not far from Italy’s border with Austria. He taught me to speak a little in both Italian and German, which I loved. My father, though, is not Italian, and his sojourn at a mountaintop telecom site (still the only time he’s ever been outside North America) came all-expenses-paid courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, which he joined after being drafted during the Vietnam War. Continue reading

Why Do People Buy #Pizzagate?

Pizzagate, the conspiracy theory started by alt-right Twitter which alleged that John Podesta‘s emails exposed some members of the Democratic party as being part of a DC pizzeria-based child-sex ring, has made its way into Russian social networks. Now some people are convinced of the existence of pedophile lobby that ‘rules’ the US, and believe that both ‘lamestream’ media and elites are trying to hush it up. As one Russian LiveJournal user puts it: its’ ‘American internet community versus pedophiles in politics’. Why do people believe that debunked conspiracy theory? Two reasons: the blood libel trope and a pattern of misinformation.

As children are viewed as a universal symbol of the future, the attack on them can be viewed as an existential threat to a nation. This is the way homophobic fears are stocked as well: in the US and most recently in Russia homosexuality was constantly discursively linked to pedophilia. This is the mechanism borne out of ‘blood libel’ cases, which were pretexts for organizing Jewish pogroms: the ‘killing of babies’ and the ‘use of their blood’ during Passover is a perfect way to incite hatred. Hillary ‘nasty woman’ Clinton is also present in the blood libel narrative.

Continue reading

A Plea for Cease Fire in the New American Civil War, Part I—A Trump Unity Agenda

Before the election, I offered that I would write three posts on bridging the sharp divides that have us in warring camps–one on a unity agenda, the second on changes in the tone of our public discourse, and the third on increased civic engagement. Honesty is the best policy so I’ll start by saying that I did not think President-elect Trump would win. While I’m being honest, I’ll add that I’m a liberal democrat who found Trump’s victory deeply and personally devastating.

To make all of this honesty even worse, what I will propose as a Trump unity agenda is largely what most would consider a progressive one. So why in the world would the President-elect humor a Bernie Sanders supporter (me) by implementing any of these proposals? Here’s why.

First, I’m leaving out a huge range of issues on which agreement between Trump, Republicans and Democrats is not possible—taxes, financial regulation, gun restrictions, judicial appointments, climate change protection, much of national security policy, to name just a few. I’m not going to suggest that any of this should be part of a unity agenda because I don’t believe there’s a possibility of unity on these issues. Trump, the GOP (and I list them separately on purpose because I don’t think Trump is wholly aligned with his erstwhile party) and the Democrats are going to fight these out.

Second, my recommendations will help Trump solve his not-so-long-term political problem—how does he keep the base that elected him while adding new supporters who opposed him. And he’ll have to do this to keep Congress in 2018 and get re-elected in 2020. Why’s that? Because he won less than 47% of the vote, because a switch of 80,000 votes in three key states would have beat him, and because there will be more of his opponents than supporters in future elections than there were this time. This means he’ll have to get more votes from blacks, Latinos, women, and younger voters than he did this time. And in 2018 and 2020, Trump will be on the ballot not as an idea but as an incumbent. He won’t be a blank slate on which angry voters can write what they want and vote for as a protest. He’ll be a real live office holder with successes, failures, unfulfilled promises, and unanticipated crises to which he’ll respond either well or poorly. He will lose friends he has now and need friends he does not have now.

Third, and most important, these proposals are the right thing to do. They will all reduce human suffering and heal deep divisions in our country—divisions of gender, race, ethnicity, and economic opportunity. Here they are. Continue reading

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 Duck of Minerva

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑