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Arguments Against Legalizing the Rhino Horn Trade Pt. 2

In my last post, I reacted to a Foreign Affairs piece that suggested lifting the ban on rhino horn, as South Africa has toyed with in the lead up to the 2016 CITES meeting it will host. Whether or not this would be a one-off sale like the one for ivory in 2008 or more of a permanent lifting of the trade ban is uncertain. A committee in South Africa is currently reviewing evidence and accepting testimony on the topic. Though South Africa is home to nearly 3/4  of the world’s remaining rhinos, lifting the ban in some capacity  would require 2/3 of the voting members at CITES’ approval. In this post, I review some of the main arguments advocates have mustered to oppose legalization of the trade, with which I largely concur.

I admit that the current situation is untenable, but I’m not convinced that the legalization argument is politically or substantively wise.

What is the political argument against lifting the ban?

It’s not going to  happen. Getting 2/3 of the countries in the world to approve lifting the ban in 2016 is a heavy lift. Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation makes a pretty strong case that this legalization discussion is a non-starter and counter-productive:

“Let’s say SA does put through its proposal, and that it has a central selling organisation as part of its proposal with lots of safeguards built in. Perhaps there’s even some designated trading partners. That has to be approved by 66 percent or more of the attending parties to COP17. In total, there are 180 parties to Cites. But let’s say 160 parties turn up at the meeting.

“That means SA will have to get 107 votes for that to fly. At the moment, my understanding is the EU is against trade. That’s 28 votes. I don’t think the US is going to take it. Australia is going to say no. Kenya too. There’s a whole raft of countries against. We only have to tip up to 55 votes against, and the blocking minority prevents it.

“You know what I’d say to SA? ‘Don’t bother. Don’t do it.’ It’s hugely embarrassing to go to the conference and get 30 votes on the table. It’s happened in the past where people walk out sweating and feeling ill. And you’re the host country.

What are the substantive arguments against lifting the ban? Continue reading

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Legalizing the Rhino Horn Trade: A Terrible Idea? Pt. 1

Two weeks ago, I came cross a provocative piece  (paywall, free version here) Foreign Affairs published earlier this year by Alexander Kasterine from the UN/WTO International Trade Center on legalizing the trade in wildlife, namely for rhino horn, but conceivably for other species that are currently illegal to trade under the Convention on the International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES). Indeed, South Africa, host to the 2016 CITES meeting and home of the majority of the world’s remaining rhinos, is angling to legalize the trade in rhino horn in the face of an unprecedented onslaught of poaching that the current is facing. Is legalization of the trade in these species a good idea? In the first of several posts, I’m going to begin to analyze this question. My initial take on this question is that legalizing the trade is not a good idea, but I’m using these posts to try to work through the arguments for and against the idea, beginning with rhinos but then I’ll assess some other species.

Kasterine’s main argument is that the ban is failing Africa’s wildlife:

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NSA Reform or Foreign Policy Signaling? Maritime Provisions in Title VIII of the USA Freedom Act

With much attention being given to the passage of the 2015 USA Freedom Act, there is some odd silence about what the bill actually contains. Pundits from every corner identify the demise of section 215 of the Patriot Act (the section that permits the government to acquire and obtain bulk telephony meta data). While the bill does in fact do this, now requiring a “specific selection term” to be utilized instead of bulk general trolling, and it hands over the holding of such data to the agents who hold it anyway (the private companies).   Indeed, the new Freedom Act even “permits” amicus curiae for the Foreign Surveillance and Intelligence Court, though the judges of the court are not required to have the curiae present and can block their participation if they deem it reasonable.   In any event, while some ring in the “win” for Edward Snowden and privacy rights, another interesting piece of this bill has passed virtually unnoticed: extending “maritime safety” rights and enacting specific provisions against nuclear terrorism.

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How do we know?

In her review of my 2012 IO article on identity and security in democracy, Charli asked a very important question: how do we know other states are democracies? I think this question, writ more broadly, is something IR scholars overlook to a detrimental degree. Perhaps because of the objectivist ontology that underlies much of IR scholarship (and is perhaps an extension of human psychology) I think there is a general reluctance to problematize collectively held knowledge of the world.* But, as events playing out today show, the question of ‘how do we know’ in the context of states and societies is crucially important.

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The Latest in the Data Fraud Scandal

This blog mostly focuses on IR, but this story has implications for all doing social science, as the accuser at the center of the conversation asserts quite clearly.    So, I am posting the latest and most thorough account of how this played out thus far here.

There are many questions to ask, but the one asked directly in the piece is: how does one deal with flawed work?  Attacking the quality of research is one thing–that is what lit reviews are all about–but the integrity of scholars?  As the piece suggests, that is tricky business indeed.

This is not the end of the story by any means, but I think it is a bit clearer now.

your thoughts?

What We Really Need is a Slice of Humble Pie

This is a guest post by former Duck of Minerva blogger Daniel Nexon. The views that he expresses here should not be construed as representing those of the International Studies Association, International Studies Quarterly, or anyone with an ounce of sanity.

We now have a lot of different meta-narratives about alleged fraud in “When Contact Changes Minds: An Experiment in the Transmission of Support for Gay Equality.”  These reflect not only different dimensions of the story, but the different interests at stake.

One set concerns confirmation bias and the left-leaning orientations of a majority of political scientists. At First Things, for example. Matthew J. Franck contrasts the reception of the LaCour and Green study (positive) with that of Mark Regnerus’ finding of inferior outcomes for children of gay parents (negative). There’s some truth here.  Regnerus’ study was terminally flawed. LaCour and Green’s study derived, most likely, from fraudulent data. Still, one comported with widespread ideological  priors in the field, while the other did not. That surely shaped their differential reception. But so did the startling strength of the latter’s findings, as well as the way they cut against conventional wisdom on the determinants of successful persuasion.

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Female Service Members Need Easier Access to Abortion, Not a Wider Range of Birth Control

Pregnancy has consistently been treated by the US military as a costly inconvenience, and proof of women’s weak, unreliable and unpredictable bodies. In particular, there are concerns about the exceptionally high rates of unplanned pregnancies amongst service members, and the logistics and costs associated with such pregnancies (research indicated service women may be 50% more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy). In an attempt to address these issues, the current defense policy bill that was passed by the House on Friday includes a provision that would force military clinics and hospitals to carry the full array of contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  Regardless of whether the bill passes (it’s not looking good), this birth control provision misses the mark when it comes to addressing pregnancy- and unplanned pregnancy in particular- within the US forces. The elephant in the room in this conversation is the way in which service women’s access to abortion has been whittled away over the past years- to the point at which even those women who are pregnant as a result of rape have difficulty attaining an abortion at a military facility.

But first, let’s get through some facts about military pregnancies. Continue reading

After Tenure

While the lead up to tenure is often terrifyingly stressful, even attaining that goal is a bit daunting as it raises the question, “Now what?” I suppose on some level one can then set one’s sights on the next thing, Full Professor, but that obviously doesn’t have the same significance in terms of career and life trajectory that tenure does. Getting tenure raises all sorts of questions about what you want to be when you grow up, if a life in the academy makes you happy, or if the kind of life you are leading in the academy is what you want to be doing.

When I first started graduate school, I had no intention of going in to academia, though it is the family business. No, as I told my designated mentor on the first day of graduate school, the veteran comparativist Sam Barnes, “I want to run for Congress and if that doesn’t work out, I will teach.” Pretty clueless. As Dan Drezner has pointed out, the gravitational pull of universities is strong for those pursuing a PhD, and I succumbekd to the temptation to go into academia with the continuation of the same kinds of incentive structures I was familiar with from before, get publications out replaced get good grades. Aim for a top 3 journal! Try to get the citation count up! I had the nagging suspicion that there is more to life than that and more out of this episode experience that I had to have if I wanted to stick with it.

I made the decision upon getting tenure that I wanted to teach and work on issues that I cared about. While that was always true before,  I had less flexibility in terms of teaching choices. I was a price-taker: we need you to teach a writing class so here you go. After tenure, I made the choice that I wanted to teach a mix of classes, one that obviously the school needed and others that I needed. I was an environmental activist and development campaigner twenty years ago in college (and indeed knowledge of that space greatly informs my scholarly interests in social movements). I often ask myself, would my 20-something self be proud of the person I have become? Sometimes, in the slog for tenure, publications, and provincial university politics, you can lose track of what is important.

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The Olympics of Returning to Work After a Baby

I had no idea what to expect when I became a parent (who does?), but I was somehow even more baffled by the balancing act/sh@t show involved in transitioning back to work after parental leave. I’m sure my experience isn’t unique, and I don’t think I was any worse off than other parents or carers, but I was not prepared. Looking back, I realize there are a few key olympic-worthy skills I needed- and attained to make this transition possible. In no particular order, here they are:

Hotel Hallway Shuffle: Pacing conference hotel halls with a jet-lagged baby in flannel pj’s and trying not to make eye contact with anyone coming off the elevator.

Day Care Dash: Dashing to childcare with grapes, elmo, child, bag, rain cover, and shoes perfectly balanced…only to discover that your kid has fallen asleep in transit. The second phase of this event requires you to try to answer emails in a coffee shop while your child sleeps because you feel too guilty to wake them up and drop them off.

10 Minute Prep Sprint: Putting a 10 minute cartoon on in the morning and trying to shower, get dressed, stuff toast in your mouth, and brush your teeth before the credits roll.

Pumpathon: Using a breast pump at your desk while you try to watch youtube videos of Jimmy Fallon.

Cold Pretzel: Taking power naps on the office floor with a yoga mat as a blanket because you’ve been up since 4am.

Big Mistake: Taking a child solo on an international flight to a conference- against everyone’s good advice- and trying to attend your panels with clean clothes, no tears, and something reasonably coherent to say (this is perhaps the hardest event).

In the end I have new skills, thicker skin, and better time management skills…and a healthy kid that finally sleeps longer than 2 hours at a time. Gold Medal!! What were/are your parenting events?

Thinking about Responsibilities of Co-Authors and Mentors

Political science exploded in the news as a grad student and senior prof wrote a piece that made big news and then was revealed (allegedly, apparently, insert legal modifier here) to be fradulent.*

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Museum of Science Fiction To Open in DC

scifi

Here is a project worthy of interest by those Duck readers who are simultaneously politics and science fiction nerds: a non-profit effort to build a Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC.

The mission of the Museum of Science Fiction is to create a center of gravity where art and science are powered by imagination. Science fiction is the story of humanity: who we were, who we are, and who we dream to be. The Museum will present this story through displays, interactivity, and programs in ways that excite, educate, entertain, and create a new generation of dreamers.

Even more exciting is the holistic approach to science and society studies envisioned by the project:

Education is central to our mission. We believe that the science fiction presents an ideal device for sparking interest and spurring proficiency in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). But we’d like to go beyond STEM and broaden our focus to include the arts. We call it STEAM. We want to give teachers new tools. Cool tools that kids will love to use. Combined with inspiration and imagination, and creativity fueled by science fiction, our prospects look bright.

More exciting yet: a call for involvement by experts in all fields:

We have assembled a very talented team, but we can’t do it alone.

We welcome your involvement and support. To receive a copy of the museum’s planning document, please donateand download our prospectus. This document explains the who, what, where, when, how, and why behind the project.

If you have ideas to share or would like to volunteer, visit our contact page. Meanwhile, please have a look around our site and watch us evolve. With your help, we will make this happen.

Find out more here.

And speaking of social / science / fiction: only a few more days to submit your abstracts for the Star Wars and International Security panel at next year’s ISA Conference!

Online Media Caucus Call for Papers for ISA 2016 Reminder

Our new caucus seeks to promote the use of online media in our teaching, research, policy engagement and service. We have a broad imagination both about what we mean by online media and what kinds of papers/panels would be of interest. Online media include social media such as twitter, blogging, facebook, tumblr, and the like, but also the use of the internet for surveys, simulations, data repositories, virtual meetings, and more. We are in interested in papers/panels that are research-oriented (using the internet in one’s research), pedagogical (internet in the classroom, online simulations, the value of MOOC’s, etc.) and/or analytical (what impact has twitter made on dissent?).

Given our small allotment of panels (3), we suggest that those aspiring to be on the ISA program submit not just to us but to relevant sections such as, but not exclusive to, Active Learning in International Affairs, Comparative Interdisciplinary Studies, International Communication, International Education, Science, Technology and Art in IR.

FRIDAY NERD BLOGGING: Call for ISA Proposals on “Star Wars and International Security”

darth

Last Monday, on May the 4th, citizens around the globe celebrated International Star Wars Day. In honor of this important event, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and I are pleased to announce an International Studies Association 2016 Conference panel on Star Wars for next year’s meeting.

We seek paper abstracts examining the relationship between the Star Wars franchise and socio-political dynamics in the area of international security, broadly defined. In other words, this panel focuses specifically on the inter-relationship between pop culture ideas and “real-world” security-seeking processes and practices.*

As such (following up on Dan Drezner’s and my Game of Thrones initiative from last year) PTJ and I are not seeking papers that critically analyze the franchise as a political text itself, or that apply pedagogical lessons from the show to the real world national security policy, or that treat the popular cultural artifacts or their fandom as a primary object of study.

Rather, we are interested in research notes that take seriously popular culture (in this case Star Wars) as implicated in real-world political phenomena in the area of international security, broadly defined. All methodological approaches are welcome, but authors should reflect on or empirically investigate connections between Star Wars’ fictional memes, concepts or allegories and the real-world security-seeking practices of states or other actors – and reflect on those connections. Continue reading

Iconic Wildlife Species Threatened With Extinction

I’ve been MIA of late on the blog, mostly a function of end-of-term obligations. I’ve led a year-long graduate course on global wildlife conservation (course blog here). If you haven’t followed the news of late, iconic wildlife species like rhinos and elephants are threatened with extinction, mostly because rising incomes in China and Vietnam in particular are allowing more people to satisfy their desires for wildlife products.

Since the late 2000s, there has been a surge in demand for wildlife products. For example, poaching of rhinos, most of which survive in South Africa, have increased from negligible levels in 2007 to in excess of 1000 animals slaughtered per year. Much of the demand comes from Vietnam where ground rhino horn is erroneously thought to be a cure for a cancer, a hangover cure, and other maladies.

We recently presented our findings in Washington, DC before different audiences, and in the coming posts, I’ll be highlighting the key findings from six different areas – consumer demand, security, multilateral approaches, sport hunting, ecotourism, and public-private partnerships. I invite you to watch a video of our findings below or to review a powerpoint of the key issues here.

The planet is set to experience an extraordinarily tragic loss of species. This is inherently a political problem – weak range states in Africa, strong states in Asia with populations that lack an ethos of care for wildlife, and Western states with vibrant conservation communities but where other issues take center stage. I encourage bright minds in the Duck audience to bring their talents to bear on this issue. Can incentives be aligned? Can global, bilateral, and minilateral processes change outcomes in range and demand states? Can publics in Asia be persuaded to change their behavior? Time is running out.

The “Future” of “Global” “Security” “Studies”

cybersecurityrsaLast Friday, I had the great pleasure to attend a workshop on “The Future of Global Security Studies” at University of Denver’s Sie Center for International Security and Diplomacy.

The event brought together authors for the inaugral special issue of ISA’s new journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies, which promises to showcase new research and new thinking in security studies, but also to bring diverse perspectives into dialogue. As such, the workshop was one of the most engaging I’ve ever attended: realists, big data proponents, feminists, and securitization scholars all in the same room for a day is (no pun of any sort intended) a blast.

My role was to discuss papers, and as one of several discussants I’ll be participating in the first JOGSS “Forum“* along with Stephen Walt, Joshua Goldstein, Jon Western and Alex Montgomery.  Our job in the “Forum” will be to pontificate on the special issue theme.

In an effort to both get my ideas moving for this contribution and crowdsource ideas and feedback, here are my initial thoughts / observations after the discussions I heard Friday. I’ll organize them by thinking about the thematic buzzwords “Future” “Global” “Security” and “Studies” in reverse order:  Continue reading

Development and Security

For a range of reasons, I have been thinking lately about the relationship between development and security. At one level, the relationship is obvious, if somewhat banal: resources allocated for security (e.g. guns) cannot be used for development purposes (butter). I suspect that for many American IR scholars, and certainly most Americans in security studies, that is the limit of their thinking on the relationship.

If we think about security in material terms, then perhaps those limits make sense. But what if we think about security in social terms—as a socio-political logic—that organizes social/political activity, gives meaning to events in the world, and binds society together. After all, Tilly tells us in The Formation of National States in Western Europe that war made the state and the state made war. This point on security as a social logic emerges in Grand Duck Dan Nexon’s enlightening discussion of Tilly a couple years ago: Tilly’s work can be understood as an effort to introduce “different explanatory accounts of variation in the European topography within which bargaining around warfare and the mobilization for warfare took place.” Continue reading

It’s the Biggest National Threat and We Can’t Help You

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) new Cyber Strategy is a refinement of past attempts at codifying and understanding the “new terrain” of cybersecurity threats to the United States.   While I actually applaud many of the acknowledgements in the new Strategy, I am still highly skeptical of the DoD’s ability to translate words to deeds. In particular, I am so because the entire Strategy is premised on the fact that the “DoD cannot defend every network and system against every kind of intrusion” because the “total network attack surface is too large to defend against all threats and too vast to close all vulnerabilities (13).

Juxtapose this fact to the statement that “from 2013-2015, the Director of National Intelligence named the cyber threat as the number one strategic threat to the United States, placing it ahead of terrorism for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001.” (9).   What we have, then, is the admission that the cyber threat is the top “strategic” –not private, individual or criminal—threat to the United States, and it cannot defend against it. The Strategy thus requires partnerships with the private sector and key allies to aid in the DoD’s fight. Here is the rub though: private industry is skeptical of the US government’s attempt to court it and many of the US’s key allies do not trust much of what Washington says. Moreover, my skepticism is furthered by the simple fact that one cannot read the Strategy in isolation. Rather, one must take it in conjunction with other policies and measures, in particular Presidential Policy Directive 20 (PPD 20), H.R. 1560 “Protecting Cyber Networks Act”, and the sometimes forgotten Patriot Act.

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Not All Alarms are False

This piece raises the question I have been asking for the past week in Brussels: can we credibly commit to the defense of the Baltics?  Without a permanent NATO (or at least American) presence, is our Article V commitment (an attack upon one is an attack upon all) believable?

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The New Mineshaft Gap: Killer Robots and the UN

This past week I was invited to speak as an expert at the United Nations Informal Meeting of Experts under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The CCW’s purpose is to limit or prohibit certain conventional weapons that are excessively injurious or have indiscriminate effects. The Convention has five additional protocols banning particular weapons, such as blinding lasers and cluster bombs. Last week’s meetings was focused on whether the member states ought to consider a possible sixth additional protocol on lethal autonomous weapons or “killer robots.”

My role in the meeting was to discuss the military rationale for the development and deployment of autonomous weapons. My remarks here reflect what I said to the state delegates and are my own opinions on the matter. They reflect what I think to be the central tenet of the debate about killer robots: whether states are engaging in an old debate about relative gains in power and capabilities and arms races. In 1964, the political satire Dr. Strangelove finds comedy in that even in the face of certain nuclear annihilation between the US and the former Soviet Union, the US strategic leaders were still concerned with relative disparity of power: the mineshaft gap. The US could not allow the Soviets to gain any advantage in “mineshaft space” – those deep underground spaces where the world’s inhabitants would be forced to relocate to keep the human race alive – because the Soviets would certainly continue an expansionist policy to take out the US’s capability once humanity could emerge safely from nuclear contamination.

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The Freedom to Speak Up As Academics: The Right to Make An “Ass” of Myself Personally

On Thursday, I became part of a growing group of academics that has had a letter like this written about them:

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