Category: US Foreign Policy (page 2 of 6)

Is the Liberal World Order Finished?

This is a guest post by Dillon Stone Tatum, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Geography at Francis Marion University.

If the liberal world order isn’t dead, commentators have killed it. The recent explosion in analysis focusing on what Donald Trump, or broader populist movements, mean for the future of world order have already written both the eulogy and the obituary for liberal internationalism. Robert Kagan makes this argument most bluntly in suggesting “the collapse of the world order, with all that entails, may not be far off.” Kagan is not alone. Others like Stephen Walt express concern with the decline of a liberal order. And, John Ikenberry argues that this new order is already upon us—that “in this new age of international order, the United States will not be able to rule. But it can still lead.”

Rest in Peace, liberalism.

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Wait, what? Or, Trump through the looking glass

The Trump Administration’s foreign policy, if we can call it a policy, has certainly injected a degree of excitement into the foreign policy commentariat and IR classrooms around the world. Reading all the output is a full time job. But it is fair to say that most of the coverage has been, shall we say, less than favorable. Recently, Dani Nedal and Dan Nexon tackled the problems with Trump’s foreign policy unpredictability. Stephen Walt argued that Trump does not really care whether his foreign policy is successful. And the list goes on.

 

Which is why Matthew Kroenig’s recent piece in Foreign Affairs caught me by surprise. Continue reading

Why Trump Won’t Write the Next American National Security Narrative — But Why You Should Still Be Very Worried


This is a guest post from Ronald R. Krebs, who is the Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. His most recent book is Narrative and the Making of US National Security.

At times, in recent years, it has seemed that Republicans and Democrats occupied different narrative universes with respect to national security. Republicans generally continued to live in the world of the War on Terror. Democrats gave voice to a more balanced understanding of the threats and opportunities facing the United States. Even when concrete policy differences were muted, the narrative gaps seemed large and enduring.

Then, along came Donald Trump—imagining ISIS to be 500 feet tall, cozying up to Russia, casting doubt on America’s alliances, suggesting that nuclear proliferation might be a good thing, attacking free trade, and more generally undermining the postwar liberal order. Trump seemed determined to lay waste to the establishment. His efforts have so far borne little fruit. But they have done something valuable. They have reminded us how much Republican and Democratic foreign policy elites shared and still share. They have reminded us that—despite the constant battles and the Beltway blame game—there is still a bipartisan establishment whose vociferous and sometimes vituperative debates take place on a deeper, common narrative terrain. Continue reading

Making the Real: The Interplay of Reasons, Rhetoric, Evidence, and Action

This guest post is by Joseph O’Mahoney, currently a Stanton Fellow at MIT and an Assistant Professor in Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

In the US, support for President Donald Trump’s executive order, which restricts travel to the US by citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, has been mixed. Perhaps surprisingly, the Islamic State or ISIS is wildly in favor of the so-called “Muslim ban.”. Postings to pro-ISIS social media accounts called the proposed order a “blessed ban” and hailed Trump as “the best caller to Islam”. Why? Because it “clearly revealed the truth and harsh reality behind the American government’s hatred toward Muslims”. General Michael Hayden, former Director of the NSA and CIA, is worried that the ban makes the claim that “there is undying enmity between Islam and the West” more believable to “Muslims out there who are not part of the jihadist movement”. By contrast, a visibly compassionate and welcoming response to Syrian refugees by Western countries “has been incredibly damaging to this jihadist narrative”. Continue reading

Donald Trump and the Narrative of US National Security

Following his prescient piece from last year, Tom Wright has a provocative new essay on Donald Trump’s foreign policy in Politico. He suggests that Trump foreign policy has Jeckyll and Hyde qualities. While Trump (and Bannon) are committed to a radical vision to upend establishment foreign policy, they hold a minority view in the government. To staff his administration, Trump has largely turned to establishments folks like Mattis, Kelly, McMaster, among others. This means that there isn’t really anyone to implement that radical vision, leaving Trump’s views to express themselves on a few issues like Islam and trade where they have wider currency.

Dan Drezner has an interesting rejoinder and notes that one way the Bannonites are able to overcome and enhance their power is by vetoing appointments and through budget cuts. With few political appointees and agencies cash-strapped to do international work, the U.S. government won’t have the capacity to respond to global emergencies when they arise. For the America First and Only crowd, this is exactly as they want it.

Trumpism/Bannonism may currently be self-limited by having few adherents, but as Drezner argues, it is still able to do tremendous harm through personnel and budget processes. A third possibility is more worrisome still. What would happen to U.S. foreign policy if this strain of nationalism were to take root in the Republican party and crowd out establishment thinking?

(To be fair: the foreign policy “blob” has made its share of mistakes [witness Iraq], but as Frank Gavin and Jim Steinberg argue in a recent War on the Rocks podcast, the establishment has much to commend it. Ending and winning the Cold War peacefully anyone?).

Here, Ron Krebs’ important book Narrative and the Making of US National Security may be instructive. Krebs’ reminds us that presidents, particularly during unsettled narrative moments, have tremendous power of the bully pulpit to recast the dominant narrative underpinning U.S. foreign policy. If Trump succeeds in building a coterie of followers and adherents to his vision of the world, it could last well beyond the current moment.

One of my side ventures is serving as one of the editors of International Politics Reviews. In our latest issue, we feature a reviews exchange on Krebs’ book. The exchange includes reviews from Michelle Murray, Dan Drezner, and me, along with a response from Krebs. (All are available open access through the ReadCube platform on the links above).

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WPTPN: Defining the Trumpist Insurgency

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Simon Frankel Pratt, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. His research is on institutional politics, international norms, and the US’s security apparatus. For further information, see his website or find him on Twitter (@simon_the_pratt)

Unlike other contributions to this essay series, mine will be somewhat more informal in tone. I am going to share some concepts (and neologisms) that I find helpful for making sense of ‘Trumpism’—by which I mean Trump, his rogues’ gallery (or carnival), and the broader coalition of right-wing movements that support him. Specifically, I am going to try to sell you on the following points:

  • That Trumpism is best understood as an insurgency—as a sort of ‘cold civil war’;
  • That Trumpism is largely motivated by ‘way of life’ anxiety;
  • That Trump’s policies are often not attempts at institutional retooling but are ‘potency performances’—self-affirming displays of provocation, revenge, and dominance;
  • That the response of scholars should be to seek ‘polity relevance’.[1]

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Ethical Robots on the Battlefield?

Every day it seems we hear more about the advancements of artificial intelligence (AI), the amazing progress in robotics, and the need for greater technological improvements in defense to “offset” potential adversaries.   When all three of these arguments get put together, there appears to be some sort of magic alchemy that results in widely fallacious, and I would say pernicious, claims about the future of war.  Much of this has to do, ultimately, with a misunderstanding about the limitations of technology as well as an underestimation of human capacities.   The prompt for this round of techno-optimism debunking is yet another specious claim about how robotic soldiers will be “more ethical” and thus “not commit rape […] on the battlefield.”

There are actually three lines of thought here that need unpacking.   The first involves the capabilities of AI with relation to “judgment.”  As our above philosopher contends, “I don’t think it would take that much for robot soldiers to be more ethical.  They can make judgements more quickly, they’re not fearful like human beings and fear often leads people making less than optional decisions, morally speaking [sic].”  This sentiment about speed and human emotion (or lack thereof) has underpinned much of the debate about autonomous weapons for the last decade (if not more).  Dr. Hemmingsen’s views are not original.  However, such views are not grounded in reality.

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Sending Iran Back Out into the Cold

Since the U.S. election Iranian-American relations have gone into a rapid tailspin, with Iran reacting to the triumphalist tenor of the Trump campaign and the improvised response of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn that sought to “put Iran on notice.” The arrival of his replacement in General H.R. McMaster offers the U.S. a fresh opportunity to tone down its approach to Iran, beginning with guarding against any dramatic escalation of the stakes.

For unless the Administration is actually willing to go to war with Iran, this confrontation actually won’t get the U.S. anywhere useful. What it will do, which is already under way, is strengthen the hardliners in Tehran and undermine moderates like President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif at a precipitous moment less than three months ahead of the Iranian election.

The Trump team does not have a strategic plan in place, regarding Iran or any other region/country of the world for that matter. But this matters most regarding countries currently in crisis accretion mode vis-à-vis the U.S., specifically Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China (in descending order). The danger of rapid escalation with Iran that could easily slip into spiraling conflict is acute. Therefore the first order of business for NSA McMaster is to get the U.S. on a more strategic track that militates against a burgeoning conflict with Iran. Continue reading

We Have Studied the World. President Trump Should Too.

This is an open letter signed by US international affairs scholars to their fellow citizens. If you hold a PhD in international relations or an extant field and wish to add your name to the list, please tweet #StudytheWorld with your name and institutional affiliation or send this information in an email to ir.scholars.openletter@gmail.com.

Dear Fellow Americans,

Recently, President Trump tweeted that people should “Study the world!” to understand his foreign policy. As scholars of international relations, we have studied the world, and we are concerned that the actions of the President undermine rather than enhance America’s national security.

We agree it is important for any President to protect US citizens from extremist violence, ensure America is respected abroad, and prioritize American interests. But our knowledge of global affairs, based on history, scientific fact and experience, tells us that many of the policies Trump has undertaken thus far do not advance these goals. Instead, they have made Americans less safe.

First, the President presented his temporary travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations (and all refugees) as a measure to protect the US homeland from terrorist attacks. Yet this move will make our country less safe, not more. First, the vast majority of terrorist attacks on US citizens come from “home-grown” terrorism and are carried out by non-Muslims: the ban does nothing to address this. Second, countering transnational terrorism requires transnational coordination, and this ban impedes our ability to coordinate with our allies abroad. Finally, studies show terrorists are strengthened when governments over-react: indiscriminate intolerance feeds radicalization by driving moderates into the arms of radicals. We are confident the travel ban will likely reinforce anti-American sentiment and strengthen terror networks while weakening US intelligence capacity.

Trump also indicates he wants America to be more respected by the world. But fear is not the same as respect. The President’s “go-it-alone” policy and disregard for international law and diplomatic relationships have confused and frightened those allies upon whose cooperation we rely to bolster our national security. Trump’s contradictory, ambiguous, and vague statements – about the U.S.’s commitment to NATO, arms control treaties, and friendly relations with Mexico, Australia, and other important partners – mean that foreign governments are now more likely to misperceive U.S. intentions. Unable to rely on us, our current friends might start looking for other allies – a situation that rival powers like Russia and China could easily exploit. This weakens our position in the global order.

The President has stated that he wishes to prioritize the home-front and reduce entangling commitments abroad. Yet America already spends only a tiny fraction of a fraction of our budget on foreign aid, and international economic cooperation benefits us far more than it costs. Global engagement has solved many other problems that threaten Americans, like stemming epidemics and closing the cancer-causing hole in the ozone layer. By contrast, periods of great power isolationism have led to global financial upheaval, instability, and war. When Americans ignore global economic, environmental, or social forces, they often entangle us in precisely the way Trump hopes to avoid.

Trump claims America should stay out of reckless wars. Yet several of his actions make war more likely, not less. Since the establishment of United Nations, the world has seen the lowest incidence of major war between states in centuries. On the other hand, research has shown nations that disregard the rights of women, minorities, political dissidents, and journalists are more likely to end up at war with their neighbors. By de-funding global organizations that keep the peace and weakening the domestic rule of law, Americans are far likelier to see catastrophic war at home during our children’s lifetimes.

We agree it is imperative that American citizens and leaders study the world and pay attention to facts, history, and scientific evidence. We have been heartened to see our fellow Americans – even many who voted for Trump – opposing these policies on fact-based grounds. New research shows that nonviolent resistance of this type works: when as few as 3.5% of a domestic population actively resist, it is possible to keep democracies strong and leaders in check. We strongly encourage our fellow citizens to hold our government accountable for creating evidence-based foreign policies that will promote rather than threaten America’s security.

This means pressing our leaders to avoid unnecessary wars and create the conditions for stability by supporting and improving institutions like the United Nations. We should encourage them to protect us by addressing extremist violence by all actors – including white supremacist terrorists, who have carried out a significant percentage of all attacks against Americans in recent decades. We should encourage leaders to study the world as the President enjoins, and consider the advice and knowledge of experts and scientists who understand global history, risk analysis, and national security processes. And, because history has shown it is in our national interest, we should urge the Trump administration to support global engagement where it is likely to reinforce our alliances, strengthen global institutions, and promote world peace.

Signed (in alphabetical order)

Deborah Avant, University of Denver
Gordon Adams, American University
Fiona Adamson, University of London
Rachel Anderson Paul, Western Washington University
Peter Andreas, Brown University
Bentley Allan, John Hopkins University
William Ayres, Wright State University
Michael Barnett, George Washington University
Taylor Benjamin-Britton, Lehigh University
Andrew Bennett, Georgetown University
Nora Bensahel, American University
Michele Betsill, Colorado State University
Phillipp Bleek, Middlebury Institute of International Studies
Mia Bloom, Georgia State University
Matthew Bolton, Pace University
Daniel Braaten, Texas Lutheran University
AC Budabin, University of Dayton
Joshua Busby, University of Texas-Austin
Sarah Bush, Temple University
Daniel Byman, Georgetown University
Ami Carpenter, University of San Diego
Charli Carpenter, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Austin Carson, University of Chicago
Ralph Carter, Texas Christian University
Chuck Call, American University
Rosella Capella, Boston University
Daniel Chong, Rollins College
Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver
Jeff Colgan, Brown University
Patrick Cottrell, Linfield College
Mark Copelovitch, University of Wisconsin
Jesse Crane-Seeber, North Carolina State University
Timothy Crawford, Boston College
Renee De Nevers, Syracuse University
Thomas Doyle, Texas State University
Brent Durbin, Smith College
Daniel Drezner, Tufts University
Thomas Doyle II, Texas State University
Amy Eckert, Metropolitan State University
Ali Erol, American University
Tanisha Fazal, Notre Dame University
Laura Field, American University
Martha Finnemore, George Washington University
Page Fortna, Columbia University
Rosemary Kelanic, Williams College
Volker Franke, Kennesaw State University
Louis Furmaski, University of Central Oklahoma
Chip Gagnon, Ithaca College
Nick Garcia, Otterbein University
Stacie Goddard, Wellesley College
James Goldgeier, American University
Ryan Grauer, University of Pittsburgh
Ryan Griffiths, University of Sydney
Alan Gross, New York University
Tamar Gutner, American University
Maia Hallward, Kennesaw State University
Ron Krebs, University of Minnesota
Jarrod Hayes, Georgia Institute of Technology
Virginia Haufler, University of Maryland
Denise Horn, Simmons College
Natalie Hudson, University of Dayton
Glenn Hunter, Pennsylvania State University
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, American University
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Juliet Johnson, McGill University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Margaret Keck, Johns Hopkins University
Khavita Khory, Mt. Holyoke College
Sarah Kreps, Cornell University
David Kinsella, Portland State University
Barbara Elias Klenner, Bowdoin College
Sarah Cleveland Knight, American University
Ari Kohen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
James Lebovic, George Washington University
Ned Lebow, University of Minnesota
Daniel Levine, University of Alabama
Meredith Loken, University of Denver
Tom Long, University of Reading
Andrea Lopez,  International Studies Susquehanna University
Julia MacDonald, University of Denver
Paul MacDonald, Wellesley College
Joseph Mahoney, Seton Hall University
Daniel McIntosh, Slippery Rock University
Marijana Milkoreit, Purdue University
Katherine Millar, London School of Economics
Ronald Mitchell, University of Oregon
Alexander Montgomery, Reed College
Sara Bjerg Moller, Seton Hall University
Layne Mosley, UNC Chapel Hill
Will Moore, Arizona State University
Daniel Nexon, Georgetown University
Julie Norman, American University
Joel Oestreich, Drexel University
Joseph Parent, University of Notre Dame
Susan Peterson, College of William and Mary
MJ Peterson, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Maggie Peters, University of California-LA
Evan Perkoski, University of Denver
Manuela Picq, Amherst College
Michael Pozansky, University of Pittsburgh
Susan Raines, Kennesaw State University
Andy Reiter, Mt. Holyoke College
Laura Reed, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Hilde Restad, Bjorkes College
Maria Rost-Rublee, Monash University
Molly Ruhlman, Towson University
Heather Roff, Arizona State University
Joseph Roberts, Roger Williams University
Stephen Saideman, Carleton University
Thania Sanchez, Yale University
Wayne Sandholtz, University of Southern California
Brent Sasley, UT Arlington
Todd Sechser, University of Virginia
Cathy Schneider, American University
Ami Shah, Pacific Lutheran University
Jack Snyder, Columbia University
Jelena Subotic, Georgia State University
Megan Stewart, American University
Jennifer Sterling-Folker, University of Connectict
Sarah Stroup, Middlebury College
Michael Struett, North Carolina State University
Brian Taylor, Syracuse University
Peter Trumbore, Oakland University
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Barbara Walter, University of California-San Diego
Jason Weidner, Universidad de Monterey
Jon Western, Mt. Holyoke College
Meredith Wilf, University of Pittsburgh
Robert Williams, Pepperdine University
Wendy Wong, University of Toronto
Amanda Wooden, Bucknell University
Brandon Valeriano, Niskanen Center

To sign this letter, tweet this link to @charlicarpenter #StudytheWorld with your name and institutional affiliation or send that information in an email to ir.scholars.openletter@gmail.com.

International Affairs Scholars Talk Back to Trump at #Duckies2017

Trump told us we should study the world.  IR scholars had something to say about that. Earlier I promised to turn some of these quips into a special blog post, which also happens to be my Ignite talk at this year’s Duckies’ Awards in Baltimore. Happy #ISA2017.

The Downsides of Burden-Sharing

Abe Newman and I have a piece in Vox on Trump’s attempt to pressure allies into spending more on defense. You should ignore the title. The gist of the argument is that, first, there are upsides to having wealthy and technologically advanced allies dependent on the US for their security needs; second, while it would be great to get NATO allies to spend more on defense, this is a very dangerous way to go about doing it; and, third, the benefits of burden-sharing are likely overblown.

Since it went live, I’ve had a few interesting exchanges. One of the claims that we make is that Trump’s calls for burden-sharing are a bit odd. If we want to derive economic benefits from burden-sharing, we need to reallocate defense savings into more productive sectors. Trump’s own plans for military spending suggest he has no intention of doing this. But Raymond Pritchett points out that the alliance has major recapitalization needs—including the SSBN-leg of the nuclear triad—and so some in the Pentagon might hope that burden-sharing allows reallocation.

Regardless, please give it a read.

Trump’s Randian Foreign Policy

This is a guest post by Zachary C. Shirkey, an Associate Professor of Political Science, Hunter College, CUNY.

Attempts by observers to give Trump’s foreign policy some coherence by finding an underlying ideology that motivates it have largely focused on Jacksonianism. Certainly, aspects of Trump’s outlook and those of a number of his advisers fit the description of Jacksonianism. Jacksonians see US interests in white ethno-nationalist terms and they emphasize strength, unilateralism, self-reliance, and coercion. Jacksonians also seize upon simple solutions for complex problems. Early Trump policies and goals such as protectionism, the proposed border wall with Mexico, and the Muslim immigration ban fit into this worldview.

While such a description of Trump’s worldview has much to recommend it, focusing solely on Jacksonianism risks missing another important influence on him and his advisers: that of Ayn Rand. Many current Republican officials cite Rand as a major influence on their thinking. Trump himself has spoken favorably of Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, and its hero Howard Roark. Likewise, both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have spoken highly of Rand. This is not to claim that all of Trump’s key advisers admire Rand’s works. Steve Bannon—the adviser whose views perhaps most closely align with the white ethno-nationalist component of Jacksonianism and who has cited influences as diverse as Lenin and the Italian reactionary Julius Evola—is strongly averse to Randianism. Still, enough members of the Trump administration admire Randianism that it needs to be taken into account when thinking about Trump’s likely foreign policy. Continue reading

Trump Wants People to “Study the World!” IR Scholars Can Jump All over This.

Study the world!” brayed Trump on Twitter last week, in defense of his travel ban. Dan Drezner, who studies the world for a living, shot back:

“I have studied it, and I can tell you with some certainty that your words and actions have harmed US national security.”

On Facebook, I’ve seen friends and colleagues with PhDs in international relations post their own versions of Dan’s tweet:

Andrew Moravcsik: “I have studied the world, and people who say they are going to change history generally repeat it.”
Richard Price: “Those who seek power by dividing ultimately succumb to those who unite to oppose.”
Tanisha Faizal: “I have studied the world, and international norms don’t last forever. Proceed with caution.”
Deborah Avant: “I have studied the world, and extremism toward an external other often turns inward.”
Steve Saideman: “The international order has been good to the US. We shouldn’t break it.”
Peter Andreas: “Building walls and imposing bans is a good way to make enemies, not friends.”
Sarah Parkinson: “I have studied the world and learned that protest matters for visibility and solidarity.”
Joel Oestreich: “When countries want to do bad things, there’s nothing they like more than saying ‘see, the US does it too!’
Patrick Jackson: “Human identities are not facts, they are political strategies.”
Heather Roff: “I have studied the world, and learned that the failure to see people in other countries as fellow humans makes people do terrible things.”
Stephanie Carvin: “In America terrorists are usually homegrown, rarely immigrants and almost never refugees.”
Paul Musgrave: “I have studied the world and learned dramatic departures in US foreign policy have effects that can last for decades.”

As you can see, with these three little words Trump has handed IR scholars both a challenge and a natural rallying cry in the run-up to #ISA2017 and the March for Science on April 22. If IR scholars are good at anything, it’s studying the world, and if a President ever needed our advice from IR scholars, it’s this one who doesn’t seem to know nuclear weapons from climate change.

So today, I propose the following social media challenge to my fellow IR scholars: condense the most useful finding, fact, or causal truth YOU’VE learned by “studying the world” into a pithy remark of no more than 125 characters. Tweet it to @realDonaldTrump with the hashtag #StudytheWorld! Then go on Facebook and post it on your wall with this message:

IR Scholars #StudytheWorld! Facebook Contest: Duck of Minerva is crowd-sourcing pithy IR knowledge to share with Trump today. Leave a simple, policy-relevant causal truth or evidence-based claim about global politics on your wall with the hashtag #StudytheWorld! Tag three friends who are professors of global affairs or comparative politics and ask them to do the same. If you like, add a link to a book or study President Trump should read. The best replies will be featured in a special future post.

 

Does Bannon’s Appointment to the NSC/PC Require Senate Confirmation? Perhaps A Judge Should Decide.

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen published an op-ed in today’s New York Times calling for the removal of Steve Bannon from the National Security Council Principals Committee, a position he apparently obtained without Trump being fully briefed.

According to Mullen:

“Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the Principals Committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be a candid, nonpartisan deliberation. I fear that it will have a chilling effect on deliberations and, potentially diminish the authority and prerogatives to which Senate-confirmed Cabinet officials are entitled. They, unlike Mr. Bannon, are accountable for the advice they give and the policies they execute.”

A point Mullen didn’t raise, and side-steps in this passage, is that Bannon’s presence on the NSC/PC without prior Senate confirmation is not only politically but legally controversial. As Fred Kaplan noted last week, citing an interview with Yale law scholar Eugene Fidell, according to Paragraph A(6) of the 1947 statute creating the NSC, appointment of members to the NSC beyond those stipulated in the statute requires confirmation by the United States Senate. This argument was made by Jonathan Alter in a tweet citing the 1947 statute echoed in a few places last week.

Other legal scholars aren’t sure this interpretation is correct.  Jordan Brunner, a National Security intern at Brookings, argued at Lawfare Blog that because Bannon was made a member of the Principals Committee, but only an invitee to the NSC itself, this circumvented the need for Senate Confirmation. In a back and forth with Kaplan on Twitter, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith tweeted: “Principals committee analytically separate from NSC, which is all that statute regulates.” This was also the expressed view of Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe last week, who tweeted the law “doesn’t require Senate confirmation to serve on the Principals Committee, which isn’t part of NSC as such.” Based on these arguments, and an interview with Tribe (but not Fidell), Snopes.com weighed in on January 31 to say the claim that Senate confirmation was needed for Bannon is “unproven.” This does not, of course, mean it could not be proven. But such a point of dispute among legal observers could only be settled by a court of law through a suit brought by a plaintiff with standing (in this case most likely someone associated with the US Senate).

As a non-lawyer who follows national security law, I’d like to see a a more nuanced consideration of whether the US Senate might have a case to make that its prerogative to provide advice and consent has been circumvented here. My reading of the 1947 NSC statute and other primary documents suggest to me that the PC’s relationship to the NSC is not as clear and unambiguous as suggested in these exchanges. So to the extent that Senate confirmation indeed hinges on that distinction, there might well be an interpretive basis for a confirmation hearing – or at least for judicial review to settle the matter.  Continue reading

Trump and the move away from the sitcom approach to foreign policy

If the United States is Blossom, then Australia is Six.

If the United States is Alex P. Keaton, then Australia is Skippy (not this Skippy).

Continue reading

Travel Ban Lifted in Early Victory for Non-Violent-Resistance to Trump

My colleague Erica Chenoweth has a great article in The Guardian today on the power of non-violent resistance:

Many people across the United States are despondent about the new president – and the threat to democracy his rise could represent. But they shouldn’t be. At no time in recorded history have people been more equipped to effectively resist injustice using civil resistance… Historical studies suggest that it takes 3.5% of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance to topple brutal dictatorships. If that can be true in Chile under Gen Pinochet and Serbia under Milosevic, a few million Americans could prevent their elected government from adopting inhumane, unfair, destructive or oppressive policies.

Erica’s point was proven late yesterday when after weeks of non-violent resistance by citizens, academics, journalists, lawyers, civil society organizations, and the diplomatic and national security corps, a federal judge in Seattle  blocked the order, quickly reinstating the free movement of travelers. This is a heartening sign not only for tens of thousands of affected travelers, their families, and their colleagues/friends/co-workers, but also for American institutions, as it suggests that non-violent resistance has a real chance at blunting the damage the Trump administration can do to civil liberties.

Whether it will continue to work, however, depends on whether Americans can keep it up. The White House is already pushing back on this ruling, and, predictably, on the judge himself,  a pattern which can be interpreted as an attack on judiciary as an institution. As Chenoweth notes, 3.5% of the US population actively resisting means at least 11 million US citizens need to continuing to call their representatives, writing op-eds, pumping money into civil liberties organizations, defending science, defending the press, and engaging in informed, deliberative, non-violent dialogue with our fellow citizens.

Chenoweth goes on to provide a smorgasbord of fact-based information on how to do just that:

Today, those seeking knowledge about the theory and practice of civil resistance can find a wealth of information at their fingertips. In virtually any language, one can find training manuals, strategy-building tools, facilitation guides and documentation about successes and mistakes of past nonviolent campaigns.

Material is available in many formats, including graphic novels, e-classes, films and documentaries, scholarly books, novels, websites, research monographs, research inventories, and children’s books. And of course, the world is full of experienced activists with wisdom to share.

Scientists Will March on Washington on April, 22. International Relations Scholars Should Join Them.

As became clear earlier this week in the discussion around how academic associations should respond to Trump’s travel ban in organizing their annual meetings, President Trump’s policy does not only affect national and religious minorities; it does not only affect scientists from Muslim-majority countries. In the case of the travel ban, it is also an existential attack on scientific inquiry – inhibiting scholarly collaboration and exchange on which all scientists rely.  Excluding individuals from freedom to share scientific ideas based on their nationality or faith from is discriminatory and contrary to the US constitution and to human rights law, but it is also an impediment to science itself.

Indeed, a pillar of Trump’s vision appears to be his hostility to science.  Within days of taking office the Administration had issued gag orders and funding freezes for government science agencies and reversed science based policies.  An unrepentant plagiarist who believes evolution should not be taught in schools is close to being confirmed as Education Secretary. The situation is so bad that Dan Drezner  encourages political scientists to assume National Science Foundation grants will be on the chopping block in the next months. And he is probably right.

 

The good news: as with many other issues, the opposition response has been quick and swift, with a March for Science now being organized for Earth Day, April 22:

The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

Social scientists concerned with international relations have good reason to support, publicize and join this effort. Evidence-based foreign policy has never been more vital, and the authority of scientists and experts never more fragile in the “post-truth” era. Nuclear security and climate change adaptation depend on both physical and social science. Risk analysis is critical to a sensible approach to counter-terrorism and a measured response to media fixation on outlying events. Social scientists have a role to play in slowing or blunting policies based on fear, misinformation, propaganda or logical fallacy.

Of course there is scientific debate about the political significance of marches as a tool for influencing policy change.  Social scientists can and should be and are engaged in many other forms of activism, Weberian and civic at this time: holding the media accountable, writing Monkey-Cage style op-eds, running for office, using our connections and expert authority to visit our Senators in collective delegations, protecting our colleagues, working through our institutions to protect the scientific process and through our social media accounts to correct conspiracy theories, alternative facts and racist logical fallacies circulating in our networks.

Yet a Million-Scientist-March with an army of fact-loving citizens at our backs should be thought of as more than one among many efforts to communicate to the government. Mass marches are a signaling tactic for audiences within and beyond our borders, and a way to influence the national political narrative. Large crowds in the streets on April 22 will affirm to the world that particularly around pressing global issues not all Americans are willing to deal in “post-truth.” And the march will be a focusing event in a discursive effort to inoculate American citizenry against the idea that there exist “alternative facts.”

Earth Day is a moment to think in global terms about our planetary security. I hope scholars of international security will be front and center.

 

Talk Intel To Me

I remember laughing about an article in The Medium about a TV Sitcom that triggered the downfall of Western Civilization. In case you were wondering, it’s Friends with its “tragic hero” Ross Geller. The author lamented the awful mistreatment of the most cerebral character on the show that signified the harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America in the early 2000s. For instance, most of Ross’s academic stories were cut off by his bored friends and audience laughter. Why? Maybe some people would like to know more about sediment flow rate?!

In the age of an amazing accessibility of knowledge, America was conned by a man who disregards the value of science and whose surrogates do not see the difference between facts and feelings. Richard Hofstadter warned about the tendency for anti-intellectualism in the US back in the 60-s, but things seem to have gotten much worse. These days, there is a whole field and a term for deliberate politics of ignorance –  agnotology. It was already obvious on presidential campaign trail: Hillary Clinton was made fun of because she was preparing for debates instead of “winging” them. Academics and professional journalists were scolded (says who?) and college students were derided as snowflakes out of touch with real America. Gagging of scientists and professionals has followed: yes, lock them up in their ivory towers. Agnotology has even born its long-awaited fruit — the by now infamous “alternative facts” euphemism (or is it “euphenism”?).  As one of American bookstores has put it:

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Party Trumped Policy in 2016

This is a guest post by Christopher Gelpi and Elias Assaf.  Christopher Gelpi is Chair of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and Professor of Political Science and Elias Assaf is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at The Ohio State University, both at The Ohio State University

President Donald Trump adopted a variety of controversial and unorthodox foreign policy stances during the 2016 presidential campaign.  Since taking office, Mr. Trump has moved quickly to begin implementing many of these policies – including a border wall with Mexico, a ban on immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries, and withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  While Mr. Trump was very clear about his intentions during the campaign, public reaction to his implementation of these policies has nonetheless been quite negative.  Protests among left-leaning progressives in response to the anti-Muslim travel restriction are not surprising, but even prominent Republican leaders have been critical of Trump’s foreign policy actions since taking office. Moreover, according to Gallup’s tracking poll, President Trump’s disapproval rating rose sharply during his first week in office.  Within eight days of taking office, a majority of the public already disapproved of the job he was doing as President.

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Understanding Trump’s Worldview

Over the weekend, Donald Trump gave an interview with Michael Gove of The Times of London and Kai Diekmann, a former editor of the German newspaper Bild. (The interview is behind a paywall, but you can register for free for access to two articles a week from The Times.)

There has been ample coverage in the press (see here, here), focusing on Trump’s ambivalence to NATO (“obsolete” “very important”), hostility to the European Union (“Personally, I don’t think it matters much for the United States”), and equal regard for Angela Merkel and Putin (“Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.”)

A friend on Facebook said she was struggling with explaining Trump’s foreign policy strategy. A number of people weighed in with suppositions about his business relationships in Russia, whether or not he is subject to blackmail from compromising information.

Leaving that aside, even in the absence of some specific connection between Trump and Russia, what might explain his coziness to Russia, his disdain for NATO, the EU, traditional allies? Or, put a little differently, since first-level analysis of individuals and agency is in vogue again, how can we understand Donald Trump’s worldview?

Tom Wright’s Politico piece from a year ago January 2016 is seen as one of the most accurate and helpful depictions of Trump’s worldview, and his forthcoming book will anchor Trump’s rise in the wider geo-strategic context. Wright focuses on Trump’s mercantilism and perception that the U.S. has gotten a raw deal from the liberal order and that alliances are sapping the country of resources. On Russia, Wright attributes Trump’s views to his general appreciation for authoritarians.

I think that’s generally right, but another idea woke me up at 2am last night and led me to some bleary-eyed tweets. Here is what I said.

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