Category: US Foreign Policy (page 2 of 4)

Trump and the Fall of Númenor—a comment from a sad political scientist

sauraonThis is a guest post by Eric Grynaviski, an Associate Professor of Political Science at International Affairs at George Washington University. He is the author of Constructive Illusions (Cornell, 2014) .He studies sociological approaches to cooperation and conflict, and international ethics.

Over the last few days, protestors have taken to the streets to combat what they believe is an evil power that will soon occupy the White House. The problem of evil has featured in rhetoric about this election, in fact, for months, as featured in the Washington Post commentary on the election. The tropes “politics is evil,” “Hillary is evil,” and “Trump is evil” have a new significance when people are confused and disoriented by Trump’s surprising win.

Continue reading

What does Trump mean for global health?

Well, that was unexpected.

But it’s happened. The question now is, how will the election of Donald Trump change international relations?

Continue reading

Analogies in War: Marine Mammal Systems and Autonomous Weapons

Last week I was able to host and facilitate a multi-stakeholder meeting of governments, industry and academia to discuss the notions of “meaningful human control” and “appropriate human judgment” as they pertain to the development, deployment and use of autonomous weapons systems (AWS).  These two concepts presently dominate discussion over whether to regulate or ban AWS, but neither concept is fully endorsed internationally, despite work from governments, academia and NGOs.  On one side many prefer the notion of “control,” and on the other “judgment.”

Yet what has become apparent from many of these discussions, my workshop included, is that there is a need for an appropriate analogy to help policy makers understand the complexities of autonomous systems and how humans may still exert control over them.   While some argue that there is no analogy to AWS, and that thinking in this manner is unhelpful, I disagree.  There is one unique example that can help us to understand the nuance of AWS, as well how meaningful human control places limits on their use: marine mammal systems .

Continue reading

In Cheese We Trust

Mass media in the US often portray Donald Trump as an American version of Putin, if not his puppet. But it makes sense to take a closer look at the essence of Trump’s and Putin’s appeal to their respective populations. Let’s recap three broad topics: foreign policy, domestic policy, and the economy.

Both Putin and Trump focus on ‘foreign policy populism’ trying to sell the idea of great power resurgence. Showing the West “Kuzma’s Mother” has been Russia’s operative battle cry since Khrushchev didn’t slam his shoe at the UN General Assembly in 1960. Russia’s current leadership is carefully executing this master plan, starting with cyber-attacks and finishing with nuclear missile deployment In Kaliningrad.

On the other side of the pond, apart from “we’re gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning” and the whole “make America great again” rhetoric, the Trump campaign has voiced admiration for Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad and Kim Jong-un, complaining that Obama failed to show real leadership. I guess, “bombing the shit out of ISIS” as well as praising genocidal maniacs is his way of showing Kuzma’s mother to the rest of the world. Why this is necessary is a whole other question.

Continue reading

Jokes Aside

Russia has been one of the spectres haunting the US presidential election. President Obama’s latest press conference is a case in point:

Mr. Trump’s continued flattery of Mr. Putin, and the degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin, is unprecedented in American politics and is out of step with not just what Democrats think but out of step with what up until the last few months almost every Republican thought, including some of the ones who are now endorsing Mr. Trump

It is rather bewildering for a Russian observer: the party that gave birth to McCarthyism is now overwhelmingly endorsing a candidate who embraces Putin who is ‘a leader far more than our President’. Hillary Clinton, despite having pressed the ‘reset’ button back in 2009, has called Russia a dictatorship on a number of occasions, showing that it is easy to revert to Cold War era clichés to perpetuate American exceptionalism in comparison to Russia’s un-American autocratic Otherness. No wonder there has been a lot of angst and conspiracy theorizing on the (American) left that Trump is the Manchurian candidate, whose arrival has been anticipated from the Pavlov Institute since 1959.

Continue reading

Why don’t you like me?

We’re not so different, you and I. We both dislike Hillary. It doesn’t really matter that she was among key players in the Russian reset policy back in 2009, we really don’t trust her – just like you! We also like a strong leader. Our leader is much better at doing business than yours though.

You have a misogynist pig for a presidential candidate? We’ll take that and raise you a foreign minister who jokes about female journalists on their knees. Not to mention a former children’s ombudsman who thinks that after 27 women shrivel up, and that it’s ok for a teenager to be married off as a second wife to a man 30 years her senior. We might be a bit behind on anti-abortion legislation, but we’re working on it.

What about the whole homophobic thing? One of your running mates, as well as numerous senators and governors believe in gay-conversion therapy, adopt anti-gay legislation, and force people to use bathrooms corresponding to the sex specified on their birth certificate. And you’re criticizing me for some ‘harmless’ gay propaganda law? As Russian people say in this kind of situation, and who are you to tell me not to pick my nose (it’s a real expression, unlike the one about a hibernating bear)?

So we broke into the DNC, big deal. For starters, it could have been that 400-pound guy in his bedroom. Or the Chinese. But what were we supposed to do when you were giving State Department’s cookies left and right, trying to start a revolution in 2011-2012? It’s not like people would go protesting electoral fraud on their own.  Continue reading

Remembering 9/11: Open Thread

What were you doing 15 years ago on 9/11? What do you remember? How should we remember that day, given the momentous impact the event had on the direction of U.S. foreign policy and global politics?

I woke up in my Adams Morgan basement room in the house where I was living to the sound on the radio of a hip hop station. Suddenly, they broke into news about the attack of the first plane on the World Trade Center. And, given that this station’s morning programming was kind of joke-y programming, I was at first incredulous. I think I soon after turned on the TV and then woke up one of my roommates.

I don’t have specific memories of watching the towers fall. I have a faint sense that I was watching television when the second plane crashed into tower two, which confirmed that this wasn’t some kind of accident.

Even after I’d heard about the attack on the Pentagon, I don’t think the gravity of the events really sunk in. I was still in graduate school, and I was getting ready for the 2pm class I had at Georgetown with John Ikenberry on the Logic of the West. For some reason, I thought classes would go on that afternoon, and I got ready to ride my my bike to campus, which I think I did. Classes of course were cancelled. Continue reading

Trump, Brexit, and nationalist authority

In this, the first of a sequence of posts addressing Brexit in one way or another, I want to take a look at the shifting systems of authority in the current political climate and comment on how they might impact international relations into the future.

At the time of the Brexit vote, commentators and news reports drew parallels between the British decision to the leave the EU and the tumult of the US elections, particularly the rise of Donald Trump. Many pointed to the resurgence of nationalism, but here I want to argue that while the concept of nationalism as a practice of identity certainly sheds light on both Brexit and the rise of Trump, it also obscures some importance differences. In particular, part of nationalism is an aspect of governance, and in particular an embodied system of authority. In the case of Brexit, authority remained at the institutional level but shifted in aggregation, from the supernational to the national level. Continue reading

Trump on Policy: Consistently Self-Serving

In my last post, I lamented that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, despite his outrageous series of slurs against different groups, his lies, and unscrupulous business practices. Before exploring what arguments might persuade Republicans and undecideds to vote against Trump, what other substantive objections are there to Trump?

Trump has policy stances and utterances, based on some gut check about what outrageous thing might rile a receptive audience and keep him in the news so that he doesn’t have to pay for TV ads. His style is based on improvisation and pandering, so he flip-flops as needed. It’s unclear that there is a core belief other than Trump will do or say what he thinks is necessary to benefit Trump. There are signs on foreign policy that he has a consistent take on the world which is America is a sucker and should stick it to the other guys. Continue reading

Kill Webs: The Wicked Problem of Future Warfighting

The common understanding in military circles is that the more data one has, the more information one possess.  More information leads to better intelligence, and better intelligence produces greater situational awareness.  Sun Tzu rightly understood this cycle two millennia ago: “Intelligence is the essence in warfare—it is what the armies depend upon in their every move.” Of course, for him, intelligence could only come from people, not from various types of sensor data, such as radar signatures or ship’s pings.

Pursuing the data-information-intelligence chain is the intuition behind the newly espoused “Kill Web” concept.  Unfortunately, however, there is scant discussion about what the Kill Web actually is or entails.  We have glimpses of the technologies that will comprise it, such as integrating sensors and weapons systems, but we do not know how it will function or the scope of its vulnerabilities.

Continue reading

Foreign Policy Salience and the 2016 Election: Evidence from the ANES Survey

With each passing week, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, makes statements that challenge the basic operating assumptions of U.S. foreign policy, whether it be through his nonchalance about a trade war with China, repudiation of alliance commitments to NATO and Japan, or honoring the countries’ debts. The question that emerges from this: does the American electorate care?

While presidential candidates have to pass some semblance of a commander in chief test of credibility with the electorate, the conventional wisdom is that foreign policy rarely matters much in U.S. presidential elections, outside of moments of crisis. See my blog post here, as well as posts by Dan Drezner and Elizabeth Saunders.

A recent example comes from the recent kerfuffle over Ben Rhodes’ New York Times interview. Drezner argues efforts on both sides of the Iran Deal debate last year failed to move the public,  mostly because the issue did not resonate with the American people.

This, however, is an unusual year, where we have a Republican candidate in Donald Trump with no government experience who will likely face a Democratic nominee in Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.  One or more San Bernadino, Brussels, or Paris-type attacks might make foreign policy more important. Do we have any evidence though to assess this claim or concern?

Recently, Bethany Albertson, Shana Gadarian, and I explored some of these issues on The Monkey Cage using pilot data from the 2016 American National Election Studies (ANES) survey nationally representative sample of 1200 Americans. The pilot was internet-based and fielded in January of this year with data collected by YouGov.

Our piece, written in the wake of the Brussels attacks, examined whether and how anxiety about terrorism might affect political attitudes and vote choices this fall. We found that those who were more anxious about terrorism evaluated Trump more favorably, though other polls suggest that people might rally around the candidate with more experience.

That said, we didn’t analyze the question of the relative salience of foreign policy compared to domestic issues. ANES data also allows us to explore issue salience and whether people care about foreign policy in the first place. Here is what I found.

Continue reading

Kristof and Political Scientists Agree!!!: Congress is playing with fire by avoiding Zika

Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed in the New York Times today, Congress to America: Drop Dead, laments Congress’ inaction on appropriating funding requested by the White House for proactive public health measures intended to stem the expected spread of the Zika virus in the United States. In April, I raised similar concerns here on the Duck, Chasing our Tails, where I asked:

It is puzzling why Zika has not garnered the same policy attention from Congress as the Ebola outbreak. Viewed through a security lens, the Zika outbreak more readily meets the attributes of a “threat” in its proximity to the U.S., in its pervasiveness, and in the fact that it poses a high risk for global transmission. Moreover, mobilization in response to humanitarian crises is generally more likely to occur when it strikes communities in close proximity to us (i.e. South America) or with whom we can identify (i.e. Americans).

[The fact that my blog post preceded Kristof’s by almost three weeks is particularly satisfying given Kristof’s frequent critiques that political scientists do not anticipate or contribute to real-world policy problems. Checkmate!] Continue reading

Adaptability or Compliance? Modular Weapons and the Rules of International Law

 

As many who read this blog will note, I am often concerned with the impact of weapons development on international security, human rights and international law.   I’ve spent much time considering whether autonomous weapons violate international law, or will run us head long into arms races, or will give some incentives to oppress their peoples.   Recently, however, I’ve started to think a bit less about future (autonomous) weapons and a bit more about new configurations of existing (semi-autonomous) weapons, and what those new configurations may portend.   One article that came out this week in Defense One really piqued my interest in this regard: “Why the US Needs More Weapons that can be Quickly and Easily Modified.”

Continue reading

Is it possible to be a realist?

Some weeks ago, Stephen Walt lamented the absence of realist commentators in the American media space. What was striking to me at the time was Walt’s claim that realism is a ‘well-known approach to foreign policy.’ That claim—that realism is a foreign policy approach—makes sense in the context of Walt’s dirge, which focuses on the role of policy makers and media in shaping state behavior. But putting realism into a foreign policy context does not come without theoretical costs. Indeed, the grandee of modern realism in IR Kenneth Waltz rejected the idea that realism was a foreign policy framework.

By taking analysis down to the policymaker level, Walt (and others) introduce a tension into analysis that is irreconcilable. The problem lies in the objectivist foundations of realism. For Waltz, the strictures of the system were independent of human perception, beliefs, or ideas. Waltz is never quite clear how systemic forces actually produce state behavior—he discusses socialization, but who is socialized, how that socialization is carried through time, and how it translates into actual policy outcomes is never very clear (in modern parlance, his microfoundations needed work). But, for the objectivist ontology and epistemology that formed the lynchpin of a now ‘scientific’ realism (e.g. balance of power as a timeless law governing international politics), Waltz’s neglect of microfoundations was useful for reasons that I hope are clear by the end of this post.

Continue reading

Interventionism and Restraint in Democratic Foreign Policy

At War on the Rocks, Mieke Eoyong intervenes in the Sanders-Clinton foreign-policy debate. Although the case made for Sanders’ foreign policy by those she critiques—including Sean Kay—is much broader, she focuses on three arguments: that “Sanders has superior judgment because he opposed the Iraq War and Clinton didn’t; Sanders would exercise restraint in intervention, where Clinton is on record supporting U.S. intervention in a number of cases; [and] Sanders would restrain defense spending.”

I’m going to respond to the first two. I do so as a recovering liberal hawk. In the 1990s, my views on foreign policy were profoundly shaped by the pages of The New Republic. But over the last fifteen years, I’ve moved further and further away from liberal interventionism. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still more of a ‘strong defense’ type than most people on the left. But the problems that I see with Eoyong’s case reflect the reasons for my own evolution.

Indeed, Eoyong’s first argument is that the real test of judgment is learning from mistakes. As she writes:

A candidate’s ability to admit he or she has made a mistake and take corrective action is far more important in the world where imperfect information and changed circumstance may render initial judgments as poor decisions. No one gets it right all the time. How do candidates cope when they get it wrong? What lessons do they learn? What steps do they take to address the problems?

Fair enough. And this is one reason why I don’t worry about a possible Clinton presidency the way that many on the Democratic left do (indeed, if and when Clinton wins the nomination my pocketbook will open up to her campaign and I will do everything I can to support it). But I think it telling that Eoyong has nothing to say about the actual lessons learned by liberal interventionists from Iraq. Continue reading

Speaking Truth to Power: A Response to Walt’s Lamentations

This is a guest post from Eric Van Rythoven and Ty Solomon. Eric Van Rythoven is a PhD candidate at Carleton University studying emotion, world politics, and securitization. His work is published in Security Dialogue and European Journal of International Relations. Ty Solomon is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of The Politics of Subjectivity in American Foreign Policy Discourses (2015, University of Michigan Press), and articles in International Studies Quarterly, European Journal of International Relations, and Review of International Studies, among others.

Two weeks ago, one of IR’s most respected and publicly visible intellectuals wrote a piece lamenting the absence of realist voices in American foreign policy discourse. In case you missed it Stephen Walt’s piece is worth reading in full, but here’s the money quote:

why is a distinguished and well-known approach to foreign policy confined to the margins of public discourse, especially in the pages of our leading newspapers, when its recent track record is arguably superior to the main alternatives?

Most of the praise (and snark) has sunk to the bottom of Twitter, but you can still see some of the popular responses here and here. As two academics who study realist political advocacy and American foreign policy discourse, we agree with Walt that realism is marginalized in public debates, at least in comparison to liberal internationalism or neoconservatism. But we’re also struck by how this discussion has missed the one of the most obvious answers as to why.

Realist discourse is marginalized because it’s not powerful.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of High Tech War

 

In fall of 2014, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced his plan to maintain US superiority against rising powers (i.e. Russia and China). His claim was that the US cannot lose its technological edge – and thus superiority – against a modernizing Russia and a rapidly militarizing China. To ensure this edge, he called for the “third Offset Strategy.”

Continue reading

Donald Trump Is a Racist (Part 100)

In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting and President Obama’s address to the nation, Donald Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States.

This is counterproductive racist and awful. We need a credible candidate from the Republicans in 2016, not a reality television star who is a disgrace to the nation and its founding principles. Let’s leave aside the morality here, which on its face is terrible, but recall what ISIS wants us to do which is turn this a religious war between the West and Muslims.

ISIS wants us in our response to their provocations to eliminate the gray zone, making Muslims have to choose between their faith and where they live. A small fraction of Muslims have been radicalized, but ISIS wants us to treat the Muslims community with such disdain and hatred that the world they see — of Muslims being discriminated against — becomes a reality.

This is something George W. Bush resisted during his tenure as president, and Republicans and Americans of good will have to reject this cancer publicly and repeatedly, as Donald Trump’s populist xenophobia is a greater threat to the republic than ISIS.

ISIS and the Future of Counter-Terrorism

[I’ve been debating whether to post this…it’s a “transcript” of a talk I gave yesterday here at the University of Puget Sound. It’s a bit basic as it was intended for a general audience of, primarily, undergraduate students. I wrote this up for friends who wanted to hear the talk but were unable to attend. It’s a bit disorganized too. So be warned it’s kind of ramble-y and general. Also, I haven’t provided source information or links. If you want any, please ask!]

It’s been a few days since the Paris bombings, and we have some more information about what happened, which has prompted me to reflect on what the attacks—along with those in Ankara, Beirut, and the Sinai—tell us about what ISIS is doing and why, and what these attacks mean for counter-terrorism efforts.

First, it’s important to note that these attacks are occurring in the context of an increase in mass casualty attacks (defined as terrorist attacks causing more than 100 deaths). Between 1978 and 2013, there was an average of 4.6 mass casualty attacks per year. In 2014, there were 26 while to date in 2015 there have been 15. While this is indeed a small n in terms of both number of events and time, it’s interesting to note that there might be a trend among terrorists towards soft target mass casualty attacks.

While we still don’t know for sure the degree to which the ISIS leadership in Syria was involved in any of these attacks, it’s looking increasingly likely that they played a role in at least three of the attacks (the Sinai bombing is the most likely to have been done by some other organization, with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula being the leading candidate). But, if we assume that ISIS is responsible for these attacks, it would represent a shift in their tactics and overturn many of the analytic assumptions about the group’s strategy.

Continue reading

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 Duck of Minerva

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑