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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!)

The Case Against “The Case For Colonialism”

This is a guest post by Sahar Khan, a visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and Foreign Policy Department. Sahar holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Irvine. Follow her at @khansahar1.

The Third World Quarterly (TWQ), a reputable academic journal in international studies, is currently under fire by academics including Ducks. In its latest issue, it published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism” by Dr. Bruce Gilley of Portland State University. In this article, Gilley calls for a return of colonialism, citing the benefits of a “colonial governance” agenda over the “good governance” agenda, which would involve overtaking state bureaucracies, recolonizing some areas, and creating new colonies “from scratch.” He argues that this new colonialism will be: 1) beneficial because it will be chosen by “the colonized,” and hence, will be legitimate; 2) attractive to Western conservatives because they are financially low-risk, and to liberals, because they will be just; and 3) effective because they will be designed like charter cities, which have proven to be efficient and effective at governance.

At first glance, the article seems like a bad joke. Can someone, a scholar no less, actually make a case for colonialism? And advocate for its return? Also, considering that the TWQ is jointly involved in creating an award named after Edward Said, the founder of postcolonial studies, it is especially surprising that the journal would publish a poor quality article on the subject of colonialism. The response has been swift. Though there are some apologists, social media has exploded with criticism against the author and the journal, even sparking a petition calling for the article’s retraction. Within a day, the petition gathered over 1500 signatures, with more signing on.

The problem is not that the article is offensive (which it is). The problem is that it is empirically and historically inaccurate, misuses existing postcolonial scholarship, and largely ignores interdisciplinary approaches to the study of colonial legacies. There are at least five blatant examples of this. Continue reading

Decolonizing IR: A Response to Gilley

The past week has seen a boiling-over of controversy regarding a publication by Bruce Gilley entitled “The Case for Colonialism,” appearing in the journal Third World Quarterly, leading some to even begin petitions to the journal to retract. As of the writing of this post, the journal has not retracted the article.

In this post, I would like to reflect on this piece as both a part of a scholarly conversation: showing how its claims are the result of poor methodology, a bad reading of the existing literature on colonialism in political science and other fields, and a general glossing-over of a wide literature on post-colonial theory. If I had reviewed this piece, it would have received a hard “reject” recommendation. Perhaps more importantly, I’d like to reflect briefly at the end of this post on what this piece as a textual artifact tells us about political science’s—and particularly IR’s—colonial present. This is certainly, in my view, the most disturbing aspect of the article.

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Responsibility to Protect the Rohingya?

This is a guest post (begun as a series of tweets) by Phil Orchard, Senior Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations at the University of Queensland and the Research Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. He is the author of A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation, the forthcoming Protecting the Internally Displaced: Rhetoric and Reality and, with Alexander Betts, the co-editor of Implementation and World Politics: How International Norms Change Practice. He tweets @p_orchard.

The past three weeks have seen remarkable violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. On 25 August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a series of coordinated attacks on police posts and a military base which killed twelve government officials. The ARSA, an armed insurgency organization which began its first attacks in October, claims that their goal is have the Rohingya be “a recognized ethnic group within Myanmar.”  While many Rohingya can trace their roots back centuries in Myanmar, the government considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It does not recognize the term Rohingya, and has refused to grant them citizenship; as a result “the vast majority of the group’s members have no legal documentation, effectively making them stateless” and face significant discrimination and government restrictions.

The Myanmar government has responded to the ARSA by branding it a terrorist organization and claiming that the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces of Myanmar, is using “clearance operations” to target militants. Even Aung San Suu Kyi has “blamed ‘terrorists’ for ‘a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different countries.’” The government has also claimed that the Rohingya are burning their own villages, however reporters from the AFP and BBC have documented several incidents being staged. The government has also denied requests for UN humanitarian agencies and US government officials to access the area.

The violence has led an estimated 391,000 Rohingya refugees to flee across the border into Bangladesh. There is also evidence that the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces of Myanmar, have been laying mines along the border with Bangladesh to deliberately target Rohingya refugees crossing the border. And the government has suggested that any civilians seeking to return from Bangladesh will need to show “proof of nationality.”

Over the past week, and following a significant upsurge in reporting on the crisis, the UN system has begun to respond. Continue reading

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

Duck Forum on extreme weather events and climate change

This forum was edited by Jessica Green, an assistant professor in Environmental Studies Department at New York University.

The one-two punch of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has revived the conversation about the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events.   Views from the media and politicians range from calls for better climate and adaptation policies to skilled deflection. To provide some insights from political science, I asked experts Josh Busby, David Konisky, Neil Malholtra, Matto Mildenberger, Leah Stokes and Stacy VanDeveer to provide their thoughts on three questions:

1) What are the most important political consequences of Harvey and Irma?  Are they a “game changer” for US climate discourse?

2) What is the role of scientific agencies and organizations is in this “post fact” era?

3) What are the most promising levers for promoting better adaptation policies?

All are skeptical that the recent hurricanes and the associated damage will change the tenor of politics around climate change. The issue is too polarized, and memories of disaster fade quickly. While crises such as these natural disasters can create the opportunity for policy change, it is clear that Republican elites must change their tune if any changes are to be implemented.

The role for scientists is a difficult one to navigate. Stacy VanDeveer suggests that scientists need to be more proactive and strategic about communicating their findings. But Neal Malhotra worries that the politicization of science will further erode trust in these institutions. Long term, the best approach is to “re-establish norms that people who work professionally on topics related to science ought to have seats at the table for decision-making” says Josh Busby. Post-fact era or not, Matto Mildenberger and Leah Stokes remind us that “denying climate change does not change the material facts at hand.”

As for how to effect change, the experts have a variety of helpful suggestions. They all share a common thread: don’t focus on climate change. Switch the emphasis to other issues and benefits, and the likelihood of success grows dramatically.

  • Focus on tailoring adaptation strategies to specific place; this need not require reinventing the wheel, states Konisky. There are already ample resources about best practices available to communities seeking to enhance their resilience to climate change.
  • Emphasize the non-climate benefits of adaptation. To the extent that policies are able to improve resilience and create jobs, expand green spaces, redirect investments into communities or create other tangible local benefits, they will be better received by the electorate.
  • Find ways to help politicians capture the benefits of preparation. If adaptation can, say, help lower insurance rates, then politicians will reap more of the rewards of being proactive about future disasters.
  • Change land use policies to expand natural buffers and make building codes more stringent as a way to reduce the most devastating impacts of storms.

Of course, while adaptation policies become increasingly necessary, and will surely prevent some future damage and hardship, without mitigation, they become a prohibitively expensive proposition. At this point, we have already locked in some degree of climate change, so adaptation must be part of the game plan. But we cannot adapt our way out of climate change. Mitigation may be the more controversial approach, but in the long term, it will lessen the amount of adaptation needed, and reduce its overall costs.

Their more detailed thoughts follow after the jump. Continue reading

Why Americans Never Forget to Remember 9/11

As you know, the footage appeared live, as bodies began falling from the flaming and smoke-filled North Tower, as US Airlines Flight 175 was flown into the frame and South Tower at 0903, and as the South and North Towers collapsed at 0959 and 1028 respectively. You know this, because you were watching. You can remember it. Indeed, with Jean Baudrillard referring to ‘the unforgettable incandescence of the images,’ they would be forever burned into the retina of America’s public eye. However, as a visual spectacle consumed in common by the population of bodies comprising the American body politic, 9/11 was also extremely traumatising and it is due to this that 9/11’s memory is particularly vital.

To be traumatised is to be disrupted or damaged, and in disrupting  and damaging American bodies and things, 9/11 not only shocked markets and led to the declaration of a state of emergency, it turned 2,996 people into dust and profoundly affected those comprising the body politic (the American viewing public) who consumed the disturbing news, images, and footage together, in real time. As such, the common experience of trauma produced a ‘felt community’ and began working on 9/11, to move, stick, and bind the population of bodies comprising the American body politic together (hence Sara Ahmed’s comment that ‘the images are repeated, and the repetition seems binding’). However, the communal consumption of 9/11  was not limited to the day itself. Quite the opposite, the American consumption – of the traumatic footage of the flaming and smoking Towers, suicidal jumpers, and buildings’ collapse became habitual and ritual, as the footage and story were repeated again and again, and again. In this way, Americans were (re)traumatised every few minutes for the first few days, every few hours for months afterwards, then every six months and annually. 

Monday was 9/11’s 16th anniversary, meaning no-one under the age of 18 will really be able to remember their experience of the day itself. But they don’t have to. As I was flitting between tasks, by just being on Twitter I was reminded to re-view, re-count, re-read – re-member (the opposite of dis-member) – September 11th 2001, minute by minute. I was reminded by @Sept11Memorial to remember the moments Flight 11 struck the North Tower, Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville,  Flight 175 struck the South Tower, Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, the moment the South Tower fell, and then the moment the North Tower fell. In addition, @DHSGov (Homeland Security) reminded me to remember the first responders who perished in the Towers and, as the day drew to a close, @NYPDNews reminded me that silence was required for the remembrance of their fallen heroes, not to mention the civilian victims so highly valorized and commemorated throughout the day.

To return to the title of this post, Americans never forget to remember 9/11 because, in the declaration that ‘none of us will ever forget,’ President Bush not only willed Americans to perpetually ‘encircle the trauma’ but engendered a politics wherein  American being in itself became dependant upon remembering 9/11. The ones who will never forget 9/11 will be American and the ones who forget will not. Remembering or forgetting 9/11 therefore becomes not only a mechanism for setting bodies apart from and/or against one another but an ontological security issue for the American body politic to which the periodic (re)traumatisation of the parts comprising it is so vital.

Resolve to Save Lives has a lot of money. Does it have the authority to lead?

What happens when three major philanthropies come together to form some sort of global health Voltron?

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Michael Bloomberg are among the world’s most accomplished people. Zuckerberg is one of the founders of Facebook, the social media site we all love to hate. Gates not only has one of the nerdiest mugshots in history, but he’s also the man who unleashed Clippy on the world as the cofounder of Microsoft. Bloomberg  created a financial services and technology company, served three terms of mayor of New York City, and even had a cameo on “30 Rock.” They’re also loaded, with a combined net worth of roughly $210 billion.

It’s that wealth that makes them central to the politics of global health. All three have created foundations that have made health central to their missions. The Gates Foundation is the world’s wealthiest foundation, with an endowment of more than $40 billion and spending more than $1 billion annually on global health programs. Bloomberg Philanthropies has made public health one of its five key areas, focusing on issues like tobacco control, improving health-related data, and addressing the unique health challenges in urban areas. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, started less than two years ago, is structured less like a traditional charity and more like a tech start-up as it tries to address ambitious goals in health and education.

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A Treaty to End All (Most?) Wars?

This is a guest post by Ardeshir Pezeshk, a PhD Candidate at University of Massachusetts specializing in civil wars, conflict-affected civilians and international law. Follow him on Twitter here

In an op-ed published in the NY Times over the weekend, Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro argue that the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928… worked. While they concede that the Pact did not succeed in its aim to end all war, the Pact was “highly effective in ending the main reason countries had gone to war: conquest.” But was it? According to International Relations Twitter, not really:

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Swan Song – For Now

In some sense, it is with a heavy heart that I write my last permanent contributor blog post at the Duck.  I’ve loved being with the Ducks these past years, and I’ve appreciated being able to write weird, often off the track from mainstream political science, blogs.   If any of you have followed my work over the years, you will know that I sit at an often-uncomfortable division between scholarship and advocacy.  I’ve been one of the leading voices on lethal autonomous weapon systems, both at home in academia, but also abroad at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and advising various states’ governments and militaries.  I’ve also been thinking very deeply over the last few years about how the rise, acceptance and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in both peacetime and wartime will change our lives.  For these reasons, I’ve decided to leave academia “proper” and work in the private sector for one of the leading AI companies in the world.  This decision means that I will no longer be able to blog as freely as I have in the past.   As I leave, I’ve been asked to give a sort of “swan song” for the Duck and those who read my posts.  Here is what I can say going forward for the discipline, as well as for our responsibilities as social scientists and human beings.

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I can’t identify as a woman! Political discourse and Germany’s general elections campaign

The next US presidential elections are around the corner and the Democrat US President has already announced that he will not run for the Presidency again. He defines himself as pro-choice, and it is now up to the Vice President, a woman, to position herself – and fast – on the issue of women’s rights to abortion. She also needs to propose the maximum number of weeks up to which it is acceptable to have an abortion. Because she is the only woman candidate to the Presidency, her team believes her opinion will be taken seriously by the electorate. The team encourages Selina to start her sentences by “As a woman…” However, the Vice-President knows that focusing too much on gender issues could be a risky strategy:  “No, no, no, I can’t identify as a woman! People can’t know that. Men hate that. And women who hate women hate that, which, I believe, is most women.”

This sequence of the series Veep brilliantly illustrates the challenges of being a woman in politics. You have to do both, to defend your political ideas and to eliminate possible disadvantages you might have derived from the plain fact of being a woman. Selina is not the only example we have about the difficulties of being a woman in politics. In House of Cards, Claire has been labelled as warrior, feminist and anti-heroine for using a national TV interview in which she was questioned about her childless marriage to fight for the causes more dear to her: sexual assault and abortion. But these women have to be careful not only about the words they use. They also need to pay attention to the non-verbal elements of their performance, such as the way they dress or the make-up they wear. Take for example Birgitte Nyborg, from Borgen, who fears that her neckline can make her look frivolous and curvy. All these three scenes explore different angles of the same reality: women in politics are trapped in a sort of bipolarity that makes them resilient and versatile, although it sometimes forces them to operate out of a system of discursive and cognitive frames attached to political parties and ideas.

According to Klenke, the typical masculine leadership style is instrumental and autocratic, as well as task oriented, while the feminine is more interpersonal-oriented, charismatic and democratic. This resonates with Campbell’s research on political communication that identifies a feminine style of discourse characterized by a more personal tone of communication, reliance on personal experiences and anecdotes; inductive structure; prone to invite audiences to participate and to address the audience as peers. In contrast, the masculine style is deductive and uses examples that are not directly related to its listeners. As Dolan demonstrates, stereotypical masculine traits are however still regarded by the public as more important in politics that female traits. Female political leaders then tend to adapt in order to gain voters. For example, a study found that Clinton’s political power grew when she spoke in an increasingly masculine way. Nevertheless, the same study also found that the Democratic partisan stereotypes encouraged different and sometimes conflicting self-representation strategies and therefore, it is fair to wonder whether the discursive strategies for attaining and maintaining power are different for right-wing and left-wing female candidates. As one could conclude from this study and this one, the candidates from conservative parties have it easier to adopt a masculine style. Nevertheless, the majority of these studies have the USA as an example.

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Five Things Everyone Should Know about Totalitarianism

It seems that “totalitarianism” is everywhere these days. I suppose that is the point of totalitarianism. Nonetheless, the buzzword has seen a remarkable resurgence in popular usage and misusage in the context of domestic and international politics. The number of articles comparing Trump to a totalitarian ruler are not easily countable (though here and here are some examples). Some, have attributed current US foreign policy issues related to North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons as relating to a battle against a totalitarian regime. And others—notably from the conservative side of the political spectrum—have characterized certain political movements such as calls to remove Confederate statues and the so-called “Antifa” movement, forms of totalitarian ideology.

Totalitarianism is a part of political discourse in 2017. This raises several questions, one of which is the obvious: What does this term mean? And, related: How can this term be mobilized to condemn a wide variety of different political acts—from protests for social justice, to the Trump administration, to North Korea?

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The Borg are bad. Antimicrobial resistance is worse.

Microbes are turning into the Borg; our resistance is becoming futile. As any Star Trek: The Next Generation nerd knows (and this is an IR-related blog, so I’m guessing the Venn diagram of DoM readers and ST:TNG fans shows quite a bit of overlap), this is incredibly worrisome for humanity and threatens to give all of us the life expectancies of a red shirt. The international community may yet have a chance to fight back, but it will require both forward thinking and a willingness to cooperate.

The basic problem is the growth of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). An antimicrobial is something like an antibiotic—it kills or inhibits a microorganism like a virus or bacteria, but doesn’t harm the host. When you take penicillin to treat an infection, the penicillin goes after the bacteria causing the infection, but it generally doesn’t cause side effects or do damage to the rest of you. This is what makes antimicrobials so powerful and useful. They gave humanity a fighting chance against infections that had once been a death sentence. With Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928, health professionals had a powerful tool on their arsenal. Between 1944 and 1972, life expectancy increased by eight years—an increase largely attributed to antibiotics and other antimicrobials.

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Monday Morning Linkage

As one of the new Ducks, I’m linking to bits and pieces catching my eye/getting me thinking for the first time this morning. Enjoy!

Academia

Handy guidance on ‘how to get rid of your fake academic self’ supplied by David Berliner.

APSA

I wasn’t at APSA but John Yoo put in a controversial appearance along with the iconic orange jumpsuit and a barrage of protesters. See APSA members’ letter against the appearance and APSA’s response (and let’s never forget the Torture Memos).

.. & the award for the best #APSA2017 tweet goes to @mia_iris_costa!

Cuba-US Relations

New kind of attack alert: this time it’s sonic and 19 US Diplomats ‘suffered mild brain injuries and permanent hearing loss.’

Fake News: Mayanmar 

Aid donors withdraw as distressing images from other conflicts and disasters are used to intensify violence against Rohingyas in Rakhine state. (via Jessica Auchter)

High Heels, Heroes, and Hurricane Harvey

We’ve seen the pictures but this from  is by far the most thought provoking analysis I’ve read. Seriously considering using it as a teaching material/discussion article during post-structuralism week (students: you have been warned).

‘…instead of being a supporting presence in the president’s trip to survey flood damage, Melania became the star and the trip morphed into a simulacrum, a kind of Vogue shoot “simulating” a president’s trip. In other words, the realness of everyone and everything else (including hurricane victims) faded and the evacuated blankness of the commercial overtook the scene.’

In other Harvey news, this image went viral – working to reproduce, reinforce, and for some ‘prove’ so called truths about gender. Even Save the Children – renowned for their commitment to gender equality – appropriated the image for the purpose of promoting their Harvey fundraising efforts. Such are the power and value of gender normativity.

Hot off the press 

What’s the point of International Relations? Good question/title Synne Dyvik, Jan Selby, and Rorden Wilkison!

‘Merica

Is T. Swift a product and embodiment of Trump-era politics? Mark Harris thinks so, and I’m inclined to agree. After all, as Paul Kirby argues in Sept 2017’s International Studies Review , ‘politics is found in cultural artefacts.’

Oops I almost forgot to mention, DPRK have carried out the sixth test of what is claimed to have been a thermonuclear device  (although,according to David Walsh, it might actually just (!) have been a boosted-fission weapon). Measuring 6.3 in magnitude and with tremors felt as far away as Vladivostok, the device tested was of the variety capable of being mounted on to an ICBM, had an expected yield of 100 kilotons (9.8 times bigger than the one tested last year/4-5 times bigger than Fat Man), and I’m going to have to stop now and link to the ever relevant Carol Cohn.

Have a great day!

Law and the Post-Conflict Protection of Women from Violence

The following is a guest post by Dr. Jillienne Haglund, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Haglund is a contributor to a forthcoming special issue in Conflict Management and Peace Science on gender and political violence. All of the articles in the special issue are now available on Online First and several are currently available to download for free.

 

In her 2015 statement, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bungura noted that conflict-related sexual violence is “not about sex; it is about violence and power,” further noting that the effect of such crimes is to silence victims. If one effect of sexual violence during conflict is to silence women victims, what efforts can states make to break the silence and address this devastating crime? After her 2015 mission to Colombia, Bungura released a statement detailing progress made in Colombia’s response to nearly 50 years of civil conflict plagued by widespread sexual violence. Particularly notable is Colombia’s adoption of groundbreaking legislation, including Law 1719, aimed at enhancing the status of sexual violence survivors so they can receive reparations, psychosocial support, and free medical care, as well as explicitly recognizing that sexual violence constitutes a crime against humanity. While challenges still remain, including the consistent implementation of laws and policies on the ground, legal reforms represent an important step in addressing conflict-related sexual violence against women.

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Fall of Giants

Footage of toppled Confederate statues all over cities in the US reminded me of the events my homeland went through a couple of decades ago and might go through again in some years. Some experts already compared the toppling of Confederate statues with “Leninopad” – razing of Lenin statues in Ukraine, but renaming streets and bringing down monuments was a la mode in newly independent Russia as well. Most Westerners might be familiar with the iconic footage of Felix Dzerzhinsky’s downfall in 1991 among the jubilant crowds gathered in front of the KGB building. The infamous founder of NKVD lost his base and never came back to the square in front of the now FSB. For the record though, my music school still has the Dzerzhinsky street address and his monument nearby sports fresh flowers every now and then. But I am from the Deep South that consistently voted for the Communist Party after the collapse of the Soviet Union until Putin managed to sway the electorate his way. That Dzerzhinsky is not going anywhere.

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Welcome to New Guest Ducks!

We are pleased to welcome some new guest Ducks, including an exciting new partnership.  We also are pleased that guest bloggers, Lisa Gaufman,  Jeff Stacey, Jeremy Youde, and Will Winecoff will continue to blog for the Duck. We wanted to thank all the guest bloggers who contributed last year including Maryam Deloffre, Alexis Henshaw, Charles Martel, Raul Pacheco-Vega, and Mira Sucharov.

Our first guest is a little different than the others. We are excited to partner with Bridging the Gap to leverage their network of policy-relevant scholars to write for the Duck periodically. So, under the mantle and icon of Bridging the Gap, you will see posts from a variety of authors this fall. Naazneen Barma and Brent Durbin will take the lead on the column on behalf of the Bridging the Gap directorship, which also includes Jim Goldgeier, Bruce Jentleson, Jordan Tama, and Steve Weber.  Jim by the way wrote a fabulous post for us last week with guidance for junior scholars on tenure track.

For those unfamiliar with their training workshops for faculty and graduate students, Bridging the Gap promotes scholarly contributions to public debate and decision making on global challenges and U.S. foreign policy. BtG equips professors and doctoral students with the skills they need to produce influential policy-relevant research and theoretically grounded policy work. They also spearhead cutting-edge research on problems of concrete importance to governments, think tanks, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, and global firms. Within the academy, BtG is driving changes in university culture and processes designed to incentivize public and policy engagement.

We also have  a fantastic line of individual guest contributors to announce. These include:

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Minding Climate Change: Presidential Power and the US National Interest

This is a guest post by Manjana Milkoreit, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University. Her research integrates international relations scholarship and cognitive theory to study actor motivations and policy design in global climate change politics. She is the author of Mindmade Politics: the Cognitive Roots of International Climate Governance (The MIT Press 2017).

If Harvey’s unprecedented battering of Houston can even partly be linked to climate change, you might wonder if the President’s visit to Texas this week made him rethink his current foreign (and domestic) policies. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and his apparent misunderstanding of its content stand in stark contrast to his predecessor’s sustained diplomatic effort to create the agreement, join it, and ensure that the US would get global leadership credit for its diplomatic efforts to “save the planet.” How is possible for one President to oppose the agreement and for another to support it if both – presumably – acted in “the national interest?”

An objective, rationally determined national interest would have to be independent of the individual holding the presidency. Any person with the relevant information would end up making the same determination concerning the policy choice that is most beneficial for the survival and success of the US, weighing the costs and benefits of the available options. If that is the nature of the national interest – objective, rational, calculable – either Trump or Obama must be wrong. Alternatively, we might have to rethink the notion of the national interest. From a social constructivist position, the national interest is not objective, but ‘intersubjective’: the constantly changing result of social interactions and contestation among different political actors, who can assign different meanings to the same set of facts.

Integrating the rational-choice approach and social constructivist accounts of the national interest with a little bit of cognitive theory, I argue that two Presidents of the United States can take opposing policy positions on a specific issue, and both act in the national interest. When it comes to foreign policy, the US President holds the prerogative over the interpretation of the national interest. As the vocal responses to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement have demonstrated, his definition of the national interest can be out of sync with the majority of the American voters, major states and cities and a large portion of the business community and academic observes (“a major unforced error”). As Jarrod Hayes writes, these sub-national actors challenge Trump’s foreign policy on climate change and potentially undermine the authority (and credibility, influence and effectiveness) of the US government in international affairs. Yet, they cannot change the President’s mind or foreign policy. Hence, when it comes to the national interest, much depends on what individual presidents believe, and who or what influences those beliefs (see Elizabeth Saunder’s post on Trump’s decision-making process and Steve Saideman’s comments on the Great Men theory IR scholarship). In essence, the national interest comes down to one person’s brain functions. Continue reading

Should APSA and ISA have a “No Manels” Rule?

The Financial Times just announced guidance that there will no longer be all male panels — manels — at any FT or partner events. It made me think whether APSA or ISA should adopt a similar policy.

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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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