Category: US Foreign Policy (page 2 of 7)

The emperor has no clothes moment for realism

Earlier this month the Washington Post ran a piece detailing increased efforts by Charles Koch’s eponymous foundation (hereafter CKF) to fund foreign policy programs in the United States (h/t to Josh for posting to Twitter). Notwithstanding one’s perspective on the Koch brothers’ politics, increased money for academia is a good thing, right? And all the CKF wants is to “ask questions about America’s proper role in the world and how we move forward”…to ‘broaden the debate’ about US foreign policy. All noble aims, and so I am sure the CKF is distributing money to institutions large and small to give faculty opportunities to take students on study abroad programs, bring in policymakers and thinkers to foster discussion, and other mechanisms to provoke reflection and debate.

Except, by all appearances, the CKF is not doing these things. Continue reading

The Water’s Edge is Muddier Than You Think

Today’s post is from Bridging the Gap Co-Director Jordan Tama, Associate Professor at American University’s School of International Service. He is working on a book tentatively entitled Bipartisanship in a Polarized Age: When Democrats and Republicans Cooperate on U.S. Foreign Policy.

Partisan polarization represents one of the dominant frames through which scholars and journalists see American politics today. Indeed, such polarization has increased significantly in the United States since the 1970s. A number of studies have found that this trend spans domestic and foreign policy, though scholars have disagreed about the extent to which American divisions over foreign policy are growing. Congressional voting patterns also suggest that bipartisanship is more prevalent on international than on domestic issues.

Scholars and journalists have given much less attention, though, to variation in types of bipartisanship. Analysts of American politics typically conceive of bipartisanship as a situation in which the two parties cooperate with each other or adopt the same position on a policy issue. Analysts of U.S. foreign policy often further associate bipartisanship with both parties in Congress supporting a position of the president – as in the adage, frequently invoked during wartime or when the president travels overseas, that politics stops “at the water’s edge.” In either conception, bipartisanship is usually seen in binary terms: an issue is either characterized by bipartisanship or it is not. Conversely, writing about partisan polarization typically sees bipartisanship simply as the opposite of polarization.

These binary images overlook important distinctions in the alignments of elected officials across different issues, particularly on foreign policy. Continue reading

Free Access and the Future of Gated Publishing

I am just back from the launch of the Texas National Security Review (TNSR), a new partnership with War on the Rocks and underwritten by my home institution. Forgive the quasi-promotional qualities of this post, as I think the new journal raises fundamental questions about the gated publishing model.

TNSR promises to be disruptive to the traditional game of academic publishing in the security space in a few ways. First, all their content will be available for free.

Second, the journal will include both peer-reviewed and straight-up policy pieces, sort of International Security meets Foreign Affairs. The journal’s main aim is for policy relevant scholarship, to bridge the gap by soliciting contributions from scholars and practitioners in the same pages. The inaugural issue thus features more academic pieces like Jon Bew’s on grand strategy and Rose McDermott and co-authors on the psychological origins of deterrence alongside policy pieces by Kathleen Hicks,  John McCain,  and Jim Steinberg.

Third, even as it has legacy print editions, it will take advantage of new media with an attractive web design, accompanied by podcasts and other content that War on the Rocks has popularized in the security space. Certainly, existing journals like ISQ have made efforts in this direction but it is more baked in to the DNA of TNSR.

Fourth, with the involvement of my colleague Will Inboden and my former colleague Frank Gavin, the journal also promises to be more inter-disciplinary, providing a home for diplomatic historians and international relations scholars alike.

It is an open question whether the journal can become a place that academics feel is a desirable outlet to publish their peer-reviewed work. We have seen in recent years the proliferation of new journals like the Journal of Global Security Studies and International Theory, and I don’t have a feel for how they fit in the existing landscape of security-oriented journals like IS, Security Studies, Journal of Peace Research, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution.  But, it does feel like the landscape is shifting in important ways.

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Liberal World Order, Redux

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Duck regarding “declinist” arguments about liberal world order under Trump. I don’t think these arguments are going away, and in fact—just this week—they are in the news, and on our blog/twitter feeds (including a great piece posted just last week here on Duck).

I want to reiterate, and elaborate on some earlier points I have raised about these kinds of arguments. In the first place, they deserve reiterating and elaborating. In the second place, I just got back earlier this week from an illuminating conference at University College Dublin called “John Dewey and Critical Philosophy for Critical Political Times” which touched on many issues related to the problems for democracy around the world in a time of right wing populism.

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Entering the Global Multilogue – A Replique to the German ZEIT Manifesto

This is a guest post, written by Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science, especially Global Governance, University of Hamburg (Germany) and By-Fellow, Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Sassan Gholiagha, postdoctoral research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Germany); Jan Wilkens, Lecturer and PhD Candidate at the Chair of Political Science, especially Global Governance, University of Hamburg (Germany); and Amitav Acharya UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and Distinguished Professor of International Relations, American University, Washington, D.C (United States of America).

On 11 October 2017, the New York Times  quoted from a manifesto, titled “In Spite of It All, America”  written by a group of ‘German foreign policy experts’ saying that the ‘liberal world order’ is “in danger” from the Trump administration because of its “America First” credo. It aims to preserve its assumed foundation in multilateralism, global norms and values, open societies and markets.’ As the group’s manifesto claims, it “is exactly this order on which Germany’s freedom and prosperity depends.” Hence the call for prolonged transatlantic relations.

While we do not see any reason to doubt the role of strong transatlantic relations, we do take issue with the “German Manifesto”. We believe that the current crisis calls for a more drastic rethinking of the liberal order and developing an inclusive approach to global challenges. Interventions from scholars around the globe have criticized the perception of a ‘liberal community’ and the performance of the “liberal world order” that firmly stands on common fundamental values long before President Trump moved into the White House.

The “liberal world order” and the idea of a “liberal community” that underpins it built around its elements such as free trade, liberal democracy, and US-built and dominated global institutions, was really never a truly global order, but functioned more as a selective transatlantic club built and managed by the US with West European countries playing a supporting role. Major nations of the world such as China and India, but also many developing countries, were marginal to its creation and functioning. They remained outliers, not allowed to reform its core institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank to make their voices heard. Hence the emerging powers have turned to developing their own regional and international institutions, such as ASEAN, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS; New Development Bank. Moreover, the liberal order was selective in promoting human rights and democracy, as well as regional integration in the developing world. When it did, especially the EU, it often sought to impose its own “model” and values at the expense of locally-prevalent institutions and practices. In the meantime, the liberal order accentuated global inequality and remained fundamentally coercive in its approach to the world’s conflicts. Continue reading

Mr. Trump, Choose Your Own Adventure

This post comes to us from Rupal N. Mehta, Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an alumna of Bridging the Gap’s New Era Workshop and International Policy Summer Institute (Twitter @Rupal_N_Mehta); and Rachel Elizabeth Whitlark, Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Bridging the Gap associate and alumna of the New Era Workshop (Twitter @RachelWhitlark).

In the coming days, President Trump is tasked with recertifying the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Obama Administration brokered this landmark agreement between Iran and core members of the international community (the P-5 plus Germany) to limit Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act mandates the U.S. president with recertifying Iranian compliance with the JPCOA every 90 days.

This week marks the two-year anniversary of implementation day, and it is not at all clear what course of action Trump is going to take. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve heard rumors from in and around the administration about what action is forthcoming, including an eerie warning about “the calm before the storm.” Domestic and international sources have said that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement and that the JCPOA should therefore be recertified. Conversely, foreign policy hawks and the President himself have argued for its unilateral rejection for reasons largely outside the scope of the JCPOA.

In what follows, we envision two possible worlds emerging from Trump’s decision point. In the first, Trump recertifies the JCPOA and the U.S. continues to uphold its end of the bargain. In the second, Trump decertifies and Congress re-imposes sanctions on Iran and effectively withdraws U.S. participation, thereby abrogating the deal. It’s worth thinking through the consequences of each of these worlds for international security, even as we will soon know which is most likely to transpire.

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Want to build support for ‘America First’? Try the UN.

Today’s Bridging the Gap contribution comes from Theo Milonopoulos, PhD Candidate at Columbia University and alumnus of our 2017 New Era Workshop

In an often combative speech before the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Trump at times praised, and other times disparaged, an institution he once dismissed via tweet as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Although few doubt the need for reform of an increasingly sclerotic institution, President Trump’s evident disdain for the United Nations is misplaced, not least because of its ability to bolster perhaps his most coveted asset: his popularity.

An original survey experiment I conducted just after the 2016 election shows Trump might actually benefit from working through the very institution he so frequently ridicules, particularly in galvanizing support for his policies among members of his own Republican Party.

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The Rise of the Trauma State: Afghanistan and America’s Unwinnable War

This is a guest post by Erik Goepner, a visiting research fellow at the Cato Institute. During his earlier military career, he commanded units in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is currently a doctoral candidate at George Mason University, and his main research interests include civil war, trauma, and terrorism.

Post-traumatic stress disorder afflicts 11 to 20 percent of U.S. military members after they serve in Afghanistan or Iraq. The military expends significant effort to provide them with needed care. Commanders move the psychologically injured out of the combat zone. Medical and mental health providers deliver needed aid. And, commanders may temporarily suspend individuals’ authority to bear firearms to minimize any threat they pose to themselves or others. For good reason: studies indicate that combat veteran status and PTSD associate with a two to three times increase in the risk of violence against others.

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Magic Lines and Escalate Ladders

A colleague asked me if there will be war between the US and North Korea.  I said maybe, which is pretty damned scary, given the likely consequences.  Why am I worried?  Basically for two reasons that intersect in bad ways, besides the Trumpiness and KJU-ness factors:

  1. the US seems awfully confident that they knew where the line is between what North Korea will perceive as an exercise and what NK will perceive as the start of an attack
  2. Escalation Ladders are finite.

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The Book Nook: The CIA and the Politics of US Intelligence Reform

Today we begin the Bridging the Gap “Book Nook,” a series of short videos describing new books by scholars in the BTG network. For the first entry, our very own Brent Durbin discusses his book, The CIA and the Politics of US Intelligence Reform (Cambridge, 2017).

(We hope to do a bunch of these, and we would welcome any thoughts on how to improve the format!)

Bridging the Gap at the Duck

This inaugural post from our partners at Bridging the Gap is written by Naazneen Barma and Brent Durbin, who will be coordinating contributions from BTG’s network of scholars.

Take a moment to think back to college – or whenever you decided to pursue the path that has brought you here, reading about world politics and sundry related topics on the Duck of Minerva. What set you on this path? What made you want to devote years of your life to studying politics, perhaps even through formal graduate training? If you’re like us, you looked out and saw a puzzling and imperfect world, and you wanted to develop the tools to understand it more clearly. Perhaps, in the heady confidence of your youth, you even wanted to make it a better place.

As graduate students in political science at UC Berkeley in the early 2000s, we found ourselves hungry for opportunities to tie our studies to policymaking and the “real world.” Both of us had come to Berkeley from Washington, DC, and we wanted to find ways to connect to our old networks, as well as to parlay our research into new policy opportunities. In the first few years of our PhD studies, it wasn’t obvious that this would be possible.

Then two things happened.First, we discovered a group of like-minded students at Berkeley who, under the guidance of Steve Weber, would begin the work that has evolved into the Bridging the Gap project. And second, we found that there were many in the discipline who felt the same way – even if they couldn’t always tell their colleagues or advisors about it. One important marker of this community was the emergence of the Duck of Minerva in 2005, which introduced a new channel for conversation among others like ourselves.

We’re thrilled to join the Duck this fall as editors of a new “Bridging the Gap” channel. (Special thanks to Josh Busby for proposing this idea, and to the other editors for welcoming us aboard.) As Josh mentioned in his introductory post, Bridging the Gap (BTG) is an effort to build stronger connections between scholars and the policy world, both by providing professional development and networking opportunities, and by generating policy-relevant research. Continue reading

Basic Rules of US Civil-Military Relations and Trump’s Afghanistan Policy

Trump’s speech has something for everyone … to criticize.  I will not focus here on how icky the first part on loyalty was.  Instead, I focus on the rules of US Civil-Military Relations:

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The Transgender Ban and Politics of Exclusion

The following is a guest post from Jennifer Spindel and Robert Ralston, Ph.D. Candidates in Political Science at the University of Minnesota.

On 26 July 2017, Donald Trump announced, via Twitter, that the US Government would “not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military.”[1] Notably, the tweets were sent exactly 69 years after President Harry Truman issued the order to integrate the US military. Even if Trump’s tweets do not lead to formal policies, they exemplify the narrative that “others” would disrupt cohesion, thus would negatively affect the military’s ability to win “decisive and overwhelming victory.”

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The Trump Administration at 6 months

The following is a guest post from Jeff Colgan, the Richard Holbrooke Associate Professor at Brown Universit. Colgan is  a Bridging the Gap Policy Engagement Fellow. Follow him on Twitter at  @JeffDColgan  This publication was made possible (in part) by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

July 20 marks six months into the Donald J. Trump administration. Now seems like a good time to step back from the daily headlines and take stock of the situation. To what extent is the United States experiencing democratic erosion?

Let me give credit where credit is due. I am a political scientist but democratic erosion is not my area of expertise. Since Trump was elected, I have been drawing on others’ expertise and published research. Steve Walt, Timothy Snyder, Sam Wang, and others have put together useful thoughts on creeping authoritarianism. I’ve learned a lot from Brendan Nyhan, Erica Chenoweth, Norm Ornstein, Shana Gadarian, the Bright Line Watch group, the Authoritarian Warning Survey, and others.

What follows is not fully systematic, which makes me uncomfortable as a social scientist. The United States is a fast-moving political environment and it is hard to know what impact various events and developments will have in the long run. So I will limit myself to putting events from the last six months into three basic categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Continue reading

Trump and the Russian Money Trail

This is a guest post from Seva Gunitsky, an associate professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His book Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms in the Twentieth Century was recently published by Princeton University Press.

To understand the roots of the collusion, set aside Putin and follow the money.

In the endless pursuit of the Russia-Trump collusion story, we sometimes forget a key element: this whole mess began with money, not with election interference. The connections between Trump and Russia were forged years ago, well before he developed any serious political inspirations, and were focused on the shady schemes of Russian oligarchs and their dealings with Trump. Understanding the roots of the collusion means setting aside the usual narrative – Putin wants to destroy American democracy – and following the money first.

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Climate Change is remaking American Foreign Policy

We all know the traditional narrative in International Relations of the state as a unitary act. Despite substantial volumes of work in the foreign policy analysis subdiscipline as well as in IR theory, the common shorthand in IR scholarship is to say ‘China’ did X or ‘Britain’ bombed Y. At least in the case of the United States, climate change is going to force scholars and analysts to seriously reconsider those assumptions. Continue reading

Gauging Public Opinion in the Age of Trump

This a guest post from Robert M. Eisinger, a political science professor at Roger Williams University. He is the author of The Evolution of Presidential Polling (Cambridge University Press).

Many of us recall reading the website 538 just prior to election day, and noted that there was a 71.4% probability that Hillary Clinton would garner more than 270 Electoral College votes than Donald Trump. Despite Secretary Clinton’s amassing 2.9 million more popular votes, Mr. Trump won the Electoral College and the presidency.

The liberals and progressives’ zeitgeist had been disrupted and dislocated. The world as they knew it was no longer. Perhaps it never was.

The AAPOR [American Association of Public Opinion Research] and WAPOR [World Association of Public Opinion Research] members do not question public opinion can be measured, observed and explained to a larger polity. We are, after all, in the business of survey research, so no one should be surprised at our belief that poll data bring with it a certain degree of precision and value. Just last month, AAPOR held its annual meeting in New Orleans. Many of the papers, posters and panels concerned polling methods – especially how to improve and increase their accuracy.

But something is amiss, and what is askew significantly will affect U.S. foreign policy in the next few years and beyond. Fewer people own telephone land lines, or respond to poll queries, making it harder and arguably more expensive to conduct polls, and more uncertain if those sampled who do respond are indeed representative of larger populations (see, e.g. Pew Research Center). That the AAPOR and WAPOR cognoscenti recognize these foreboding trends is a tribute to their professional and intellectual integrity.

But different questions linking public opinion to foreign affairs also deserve interrogation. Namely, are some opinions irrationally conceived, amorphous or un-crystallized, and therefore unworthy of advancing, or even polling? What role should both elite and mass opinion, play in shaping U.S. foreign policies? How susceptible are we to elite cues, and if different citizens perceive elites differently, how will those differences affect how we govern? Continue reading

Emancipation through Song: What Can We Learn from Rock Music?

This is a guest post from Sean Kay, Robson Professor of Politics and Government, and Director of International Studies, at Ohio Wesleyan University. The interview quotes appear in his new book Rockin’ the Free World! How the Rock & Roll Revolution Changed America and the World (2017).

There is power in rock and roll – an art form that has modernized American values and helped them to ripple around the world – advancing freedom, equality, human rights, and peace. Over the last several years I was fortunate to interview about sixty major rock and roll artists, songwriters, producers, managers, non-profit heads and activists as part of a new book project. The interviews led me to the central case – that rock and roll advances progress in America and the world.

The Ethos of Rock & Roll

More than a music form – rock and roll is also an attitude and an ethic. As Joan Jett said in her 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

I come from a place where rock and roll means something. It means more than music, more than fashion, more than a good pose. It’s a language of a subculture that’s made eternal teenagers of all who follow it. It’s a subculture of integrity, rebellion, frustration, alienation, and the glue that set several generations free from unnatural societal and self-suppression. Rock and roll is political. It is a meaningful way to express dissent, upset the status quo, stir up revolution, and fight for human rights. Think I’m making it sound more important and serious than it is? ‘It’s only rock and roll,’ right? Rock and roll is an idea, and an ideal. Sometimes, because we love the music and we make the music, we forget the political impact it has on people around the world. There are Pussy Riots wherever there is political agitation.

The modern world has been shaped by rockers – even if not being overtly “political.” According to Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, rock and roll can be a shared expression of freedom, Wenner says: “Like Chuck Berry, just writing about how boring school was, ‘ring ring goes the bell’ – can’t wait to get out of there!” Billy Bragg, who was inspired to his career at a Rock Against Racism concert put on by the Clash, says: “You challenge your audience. Sometimes you are confirming the things that they support. I don’t like the phrase ‘preaching to the choir’ – but you are ‘recharging their batteries’ – by reminding them; they’re standing in the room and everybody in the room sees there’s power in union together.” George Clinton, of Parliament-Funkadelic tells me it was the kind of freedom you: “…could get at church, or any kind of ritual, but especially to do it on your own terms – not to get psyched into it, because you’re still opening yourself up.” Continue reading

Trump’s Unpopularity and What It Means for NATO

In the aftermath of Trump’s visit to Brussels one dynamic has been overlooked.  It starts with a basic reality of NATO: when there is a mission, countries are not obligated to hand over military units for the effort.  Instead, what happens is this (see chapter two of Dave and Steve’s book), as one officer told us that “force generation is begging:”

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This is not fine.

The perhaps apocryphal story is that in the wake of the 2016 election, submissions to top journals in political science declined by 15% or more. While this sabbatical year has been productive in many respects, I have not made as much progress on a book project as I would have liked. I wonder why? Last week’s events — the dramatic firing of FBI Director James Comey and the series of justifications and admissions by the president and his team — have underscored the challenge for all of us in terms of allocating our time and attention.

This is an academic blog informed by our sensibilities and expertise, mostly comprised of political scientists of international relations. It is not a partisan outlet, but as Donald Trump and those who enable him have emerged as perhaps the greatest threats to our democratic institutions in my lifetime, I have been a vocal critic of policies and moves that undermine our system of government.

Over the weekend, I participated in a non-partisan mock Town Hall for Texas Congressional District 25 (where I live) organized by the pop-up citizen advocacy group Indivisibles. 400 people turned out. Our Representative Roger Williams (R), though invited, did not attend.  I was one of a dozen experts on a panel to respond to constituent questions.

My remit was foreign policy and also environmental policy. I prepared some written remarks which I tried to weave in to answers to questions and post them below. While I have a specific critique  of the Trump Administration and Congress’ enabling of some of his worst tendencies, I tried to be fair. You be the judge.

The event started off with a rendition of America the Beautiful and was cast as a cross-ideological citizen-led effort to hold our leaders accountable and resist authoritarianism. We all have to find our way, but I needed to do more than blog and vent on Twitter. Continue reading

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