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Institutional Aspects of the Iran Deal

I woke up this morning to read (a few hours behind most of you…one of the few downsides to living in the Pacific Northwest is living behind the news cycle!) about the finalizing of a nuclear deal between the E3/EU+3 and Iran. I’ll leave it to others to analyze whether the deal is a good one and whether it will indeed limit the ability of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Charles Krauthammer hates it. Joe Cirincione loves it. Jeffery Goldberg isn’t quite sure what he thinks of it.  My own thinking tends towards agreeing that the agreement isn’t spectacular, but that it might be the least worst option of military strikes (unlikely to have a meaningful, lasting impact and almost certain to increase Iran’s resolve to develop an extant weapon) and indefinite sanctions (a degrading commodity that have limited impact).

Still, rather than focus on the efficacy of the agreement and its details, I’d like to talk about a different aspect: what we can learn about Iran’s intentions to comply with the agreement or build a nuclear weapon. My first published work, “Institutional Signaling and the Origins of the Cold War,” addressed the ability of states to use international agreements and organizations to force other states to reveal privately held information about their preferences and intentions (as my institution has a subscription to Taylor and Francis, I’m not sure if the article is behind a paywall. If it is, you can also find it here or e-mail me and I’ll send it to you). To make a long article short, I argue that:

the process of negotiating and creating international institutions plays a critical role in enabling states to send and evoke credible statements of preference. Institutions, by virtue of their ability to impose costs on states as a result of compliance with the rules and obligations,provide a means of generating signals that will be accepted as credible by the policymakers of a given state. Those signals will be interpreted as revealing vital information about the true nature and interests of other states.

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Civilian Casualties and Operation Protective Edge

Waking up the other day to discover that I was a duck was a rather disconcerting experience. They say the condition is only temporary, but there is a danger that I will forever be seen as a bit of a quack. Nevertheless, the opportunity to blog at the Duck of Minerva is a great privilege and a great honour… and I am nervous as hell!

I have spent much of my time over the past few weeks trying to digest the United Nations report on Operation Protective Edge, which accuses both the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Hamas of committing war crimes during the conflict in Gaza last summer. Much of the media coverage has focused on the large numbers of civilians who were killed. Palestinian groups stand accused of firing approximately 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars at Israel, killing six civilians and injuring more than 1,600 people in the process. The report also expresses particular concern at the high casualty rate in Gaza, confirming that 2,251 Palestinians – including 1,462 civilians, 551 children – were killed in just 51 days of conflict. What has been overlooked in most of the coverage, however, is what the report has to say about the way in which the IDF sought to reclassify civilians as combatants by creating ‘sterile combat zones’ through the use of warnings. The assumption being that anyone who remained within a specific area after receiving a warning would qualify as a legitimate target.   Continue reading

Sexism in Political Science, part II: The Very Least One Can Do

Last night, I posted this about sexism in political science.  It has gotten a pretty strong response getting 10x as many hits (so far) as my usual post, lots of retweets by female political scientists, and some sharing on facebook.  The sharing on facebook came with props as my female political science friends were happy to see a senior male political scientist talk bluntly about this.  

These props/kudos made me feel squishy because it is not that hard to blog and notice on occasion that there is sexism in the poli sci business (as it is everywhere as one FB friend noted).  My female friends and former students (who I also consider to be friends) have put up with all kinds of crap over the years.  Indeed, the conversations sparked by last night’s post as revealed a bit more of that stuff.  

So, besides from regularly posting about this stuff, which is pretty much the definition of the least one can do (unless one is doing nothing at all), what can a male political scientist do? 

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You Are Doing It Wrong

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (also a former colleague) has compared Greece’s situation to “fiscal waterboarding” at the hands of its creditors. Thomas Piketty has accused Germany of forgetting its own post-World War II experience with debt relief. When I read some of the appeals to Germany and the European Union on Greece’s debt situation,  I thought as an act of strategic framing that Greece/Syriza (and to a lesser extent those of its supporters like Piketty) might be going about it wrong.

As I wrote about in my first book Moral Movements and Foreign Policy, in the late 1990s, the Jubilee 2000 campaign galvanized a global movement to write-off the debts of the world’s poorest countries. That movement succeeded in persuading key creditors, including Germany, as well as the World Bank and IMF to embrace (or at least grudgingly implement) debt relief.

Now, the stakes in the current situation are very different. Then, Germany was only owed about $6 billion by developing countries, and unlike Greece with the common currency, Germany’s own economic situation was scarcely implicated in the economies of the developing world. That said, there are some parallels here that I think are potentially relevant, the traditional reluctance by the German finance ministry and elites, particularly among Christian Democrats, to write-off debt being among them.  Continue reading

Civil(ian) Military Integration & The Coming Problem for International Law

In late May, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) released a white paper on China’s Military Strategy. This public release is the first of its kind, and it has received relatively little attention in the broader media.   While much of the strategy is of no big surprise (broad and sweeping claims to reunification of Taiwan with mainland China, China’s rights to territorial integrity, self-defense of “China’s reefs and islands,” a nod to “provocative actions” by some of its “offshore neighbors” (read Japan)), there was one part of the strategy that calls for a little more scrutiny: civil-military integration (CMI).

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Sexism in Political Science

There is a discussion on PSR about sexism in political science, with most folks concurring that it is still an issue with some deniers pointing out that support groups for women are exclusive, too.  Um, yeah.  How to address such discussions?  I go to my standard operating procedure: what have I seen over the years?  The answer: a heap of sexism which has not gone away.

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Why Piketty Is Wrong about Debt Forgiveness

[UPDATE: This provides more detail and context than I do. Read it instead of, or at least in addition to, my post.]

Thomas Piketty has decided that because Germany was the beneficiary of debt relief in 1953 that they should extend the same privilege to Greece today:

When I hear the Germans say that they maintain a very moral stance about debt and strongly believe that debts must be repaid, then I think: What a huge joke! Germany is the country that has never repaid its debts. It has no standing to lecture other nations.

Before explaining why this is both normatively and positively misguided I would like to clear some brush by mentioning two things. First, everyone (including me!) agrees that Greece’s debt must be written down. In fact, a gradual disposal of Greece’s debt has been a part of bailout program since 2010 and more of it will be discharged in the future. Greece has not paid back a single cent on net. In the meantime the debt is being financed through rollovers whose interest is mostly being paid by the rest of Europe while Greece has received fiscal transfers equivalent to more than 100% of GDP. So it is not an accurate characterization of the situation to say that the Greek economy is being squeezed in order to pay back debt; it is being squeezed because its level of spending was not matched by its level of productivity. And in some ways it still is not, although it is now quite close.

Second, while it would be very nice to have an international bankruptcy mechanism that would allow us to discharge debt and reorganize national economies in an orderly fashion, governments are unlikely to cede sovereignty over this issue for understandable reasons. So ad hoc bargaining is what we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future.

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An American in Canada – Thoughts on Going Abroad for a Job

I never thought that when I started grad school I’d be relocating to another country. Then again, when I got the job in Canada, it did not really occur to me that I was “really” leaving the US – on my previous visits to Toronto, everything felt pretty familiar. Plus, as a scholar of transnational activism, borders were supposed to be made increasingly irrelevant. I still remember the moment the border agent stamped my passport and glued the work permit into its folds.  I had actually crossed a border for my job – politically, socially, and culturally.

While many things are the same, functionally, between the US and Canada in terms of academic life, here are a few things that I’ve noticed in my time in Toronto, some of which perhaps resonate with other abroad-Americans here and elsewhere. Continue reading

Greece: a Shakespearean Tragedy

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In the Greek bailout episode the Greek government has been behaving much like the self-pitying Antonio from “The Merchant of Venice,” while the EU has been posing as a rather heavy-handed Shylock. Despite being aware of the damaging consequences of a Greek default and potential exit from the Eurozone, the EU seems intent of having its pound of flesh. By subjecting Greece to additional austerity provisions, it may be risking the revival of the Euro financial crisis—this time with serious geostrategic implications.

For five years the Greek people have been dealing with a series of austerity measures that have crippled their economic prospects. The Greek economy has contracted a jaw-dropping 25% during this period, forcing Greece into a deep recession that now borders on depression, with a 26% unemployment rate and a debt level of 180% of GDP. The resulting loss of jobs and livelihoods has been staggering; tens of thousands of Greeks are barely getting by.

But on the eve of its default this week the Greek government capitulated and at the 11th hour informed the EU it would accept additional austerity after all, only to be told by the EU that its offer had expired. Adding insult to injury, a senior EU official stated “The previous program has expired. So now we need to start new negotiations as regards a new program.” Tragically, Greece may no longer be in the Eurozone by then. Continue reading

Organizing Collaborative Research Projects: Where Do I Begin?

The following is a guest post by Andrew Yeo at Catholic University of America.

Collaborating with friends, colleagues, and other scholars is a great motivator for research. But if you’re at a small research university with limited institutional resources, the hurdles to do collaborative research beyond co-authoring is higher. Small departments, limited budgets, the absence of relevant research centers/programs, and few ongoing sponsored research activities ultimately makes it harder for junior scholars to learn how to organize larger collaborative research projects.  If this sounds like your dilemma, read on!

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NGO Power Shift 2.0

In her seminal 1997 article, Power Shift, Jessica Mathews argued that a power shift was underway in international politics marked by a redistribution of power from states to non-state actors—mostly businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Almost two decades later, NGOs are trying to foster a new sort of power shift, this time transferring power from the global north to the global south. This power shift was one of the substantive topics of discussion at the BISA NGO Working Group workshop I wrote about last week. The BOND report and subsequent presentations by academics, Amnesty International and Family for Every Child elaborated various perspectives on the nature and perceived extent of the power shift.

From the practitioner’s point of view, the perceived power shift is occurring as humanitarian, development and advocacy NGOs, often founded and headquartered in the global North, commit to four primary activities: (1) relocating their headquarters and operations to the global South; (2) supporting capacity development in the global South by transferring skills, knowledge and resources; (3) gradually withdrawing from service delivery to permit local actors to take over these roles; and (4) where Northern NGOs (NNGOs) remain primary actors, enhancing participation in all stages of program planning, implementation and evaluation. Continue reading

You Never Give Me Your Money/ You Only Give Me Your Funny Paper

I would like to cut through a lot of the rhetoric and discuss where we are with the Greece crisis and where we are likely to be quite soon. I will conclude with some thoughts as to why this has been an enormous failure on the part of Syriza and the intellectual left that has supported it, and it will come with a very high cost. TL;DR: Wishful thinking is no substitute for real analysis. The European North made its position on indefinite financing of the South (and East) clear before the euro came into being. In fact, that was a condition for the euro to come into being. It has not changed. The deal was fundamentally the same in 1997 as it is today and will be tomorrow.

Here’s where we are:

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Free Data, Get Your Data Here

For the past two years, Jon Monten, Jordan Tama, and I have been working with the survey team at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (Dina Smeltz and Craig Kafura) to revive the leader surveys that the Council used to run alongside their  foreign policy opinion surveys of the American public. Because of the expense and the difficulties of getting responses, the Council discontinued those surveys in 2004, leaving academics with really limited options for comparing public and elite attitudes. With the release of a Council report and a  recent piece ($, DM me for a PDF) in Foreign Affairs, we are happy to announce the return of the surveys and release of the public and leader data (currently SPSS format but other file types to be uploaded). In light of the Lacour scandal, we wanted to make that data widely available to scholars as soon as possible. I thought I’d use this post to talk about the challenges of reinvigorating those surveys. Continue reading

Submit your proposal – ISA-Midwest 2015!

After you have seen the fall foliage at ISS-ISAC, why not see beautiful St. Louis, MO in November?  ISA-Midwest – my FAVORITE conference – is November 19th – 22nd.  Deadline for submissions is July 1st.  This is a great conference for those interested in foreign policy or human rights themes.  It’s also a very inviting conference for junior scholars with lots of professional development opportunities.  Hope to see you there – I’ll join you for a drink at the amazing Three Sixty Bar.

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Submit your proposals!!! 2015 ISSS-ISAC Conference: Global Trends on War, Conflict and Political Violence

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Charli and I, along with a few other colleagues here in the Five Colleges are hosting this year’s joint annual conference of the International Security Studies Section and International Security and Arms Control Section of ISA and APSA. The conference will be held Oct. 8 – 10 — fall break weekend and peak fall foliage in New England!

The conference theme is Global Trends in War and Political Violence. Over the past century, we have witnessed episodes of extreme interstate and intrastate violence as well as periods of relative stability and decline in war and armed conflict. We’re looking for proposals from diverse theoretical, methodological, epistemological, and geographical approaches to examine the broad trends in interstate war, intrastate war, and political violence over the past century, the current state of these issues, and what future trends might look like. In particular, we’d love to see proposals that address the following sets of questions: What are the long-term trends on war, conflict, and political violence? What explains these long-term trends and how are these patterns changing? How effective are the norms, institutions, and practices designed to control and mitigate war and political violence? What are the likely future trends, and in particular, how will violence manifest itself in an era that seems likely to be characterized by further globalization, urbanization, civil war, and the emergence of new and varied non-state actors? And, how are factors such as climate change, resource scarcity, demographic stress, ethnic and religious strife, social and economic inequality, and environmental degradation, affecting, and likely to affect, longer-term trends in war and political violence?

Of course, we’re also accepting proposals on a wider range of international security issues as well.

The submission deadline is July 1. All submissions should be made through the conference website portal.

Deterrence in Cyberspace and the OPM Hack

I have yet to weigh in on the recent hack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).   Mostly this is due to two reasons.  First is the obvious one for an academic: it is summer! But the second, well, that is due to the fact that as most cyber events go, this one continues to unfold. When we learned of the OPM hack earlier this month, the initial figures were 4 million records. That is, 4 million present and former government employees’ personal records were compromised. This week, we’ve learned that it is more like 18 million.   While some argue that this hack is not something to be worried about, others are less sanguine.   The truth of the matter is, we really don’t know. Coming out on one side or the other is a bit premature.   The hack could be state-sponsored, where the data is squirreled away in a foreign intelligence agency. Or it could be state-sponsored, but the data could be sold off to high bidders on the darknet. Right now, it is too early to tell.

What I would like to discuss, however, is what the OPM hack—and many recent others like the Anthem hack—show in relation to thinking about cybersecurity and cyber “deterrence.”     Deterrence as any IR scholar knows is about getting one’s adversary to not undertake some action or behavior.   It’s about keeping the status quo. When it comes to cyber-deterrence, though, we are left with serious questions about this simple concept. Foremost amongst them is: Deterrence from what? All hacking? Data theft? Infrastructure damage? Critical infrastructure damage? What is the status quo? The new cybersecurity strategy released by the DoD in April is of little help. It merely states that the DoD wants to deter states and non-state actors from conducting “cyberattacks against U.S. interests” (10).   Yet this is pretty vague. What counts as a U.S. interest?

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Fostering partnerships between academics and NGOs

Last week, this duck crossed the pond to attend the British International Studies Association (BISA) NGO Working Group workshop on Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Global Governance. The workshop convened scholars of NGOs as well as NGO practitioners to consider the practice and changing landscape of global governance as well as the role of NGOs therein. A highlight was an interactive session during which we discussed the recent BOND–the UK membership body for organizations working in international development–report Fast Forward: The Changing Role of UK-based INGOs. The rich discussion generated plenty of ideas to talk about, but today I focus on just one: How can academics support and strengthen data collection and research methodology in NGOs?

This question, posed by BOND, is not unlike the heated debates currently occurring in the discipline on the policy relevance and public value of political science. Yet, to date, we have mostly debated how to be more policy relevant for policy-makers (who often fund our research), rather than how to work with less powerful groups like NGOs. What the Working Group discussion made clear though was that NGOs need us! The challenge is to figure out how to transfer capacities and skills to enable and support the work of NGOs. Here’s the NGO practitioner wish list: Continue reading

Why It Matters Whether the Charleston Attack Was Terrorism

As a professor of international relations, I often have to radically adjust my syllabi from semester to semester. International politics changes so frequently that last year’s hot button issue is often no longer relevant the next time I teach a class. I offer my course on Terrorism every other year and it’s on the agenda for this coming fall. The last time I taught this class was Spring 2014. ISIS had just emerged on to the scene (the closest thing to a formal announcement of ISIS’s existence was April 2013, and only announced the establishment of the caliphate in July 2014, after the class had concluded) and the split between al Qaeda and ISIS occurred during the semester. So, one of the things I’m doing this summer is preparing my syllabus and refocusing it to deal more with ISIS. However, last week’s tragic and disgusting massacre in Charleston has given me something else to incorporate into the class. I already spend a day on domestic terrorism, but given all the reporting on whether Dylann Roof’s heinous act should be considered terrorism, I’m probably going to work that question directly into the class.

There’s been enough written about whether the attack should be classified as terrorism. I tend to think it should–it’s clear that Roof was not simply trying to kill a select group of people but rather send a message (he left one person alive to ensure his “message” would get out) in an attempt to create political change. To me and many others, that’s terrorism. But I’m more interested in why it matters what we call it. Nine people’s lives have been horrifically cut short, so why should  we dicker over terminology?

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Much Ado About Nothing (Very Intellectually or Politically Important)?

The following is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Isaac, the James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington.  

 

What constitutes important political science research? This question has been much discussed lately in connection with “When Contact Changes Minds: An Experiment on Transmission of Support for Gay Equality,” an article by Michael J. LaCour and Donald P. Green published in Science magazine.

The reason for the attention is straightforward: because the piece was apparently based on fraudulent data, the article has become a veritable scandal. In the face of strong evidence that the article’s lead author had engaged in repeated and willful misrepresentations, co-author Donald Green, a distinguished senior scholar, issued a retraction and dissociated himself from the piece, and Science magazine itself later followed with a retraction of its own.

Fraud is almost always a serious ethical infraction and in some cases it constitutes a crime. In social science, and in the scholarly disciplines more generally, fraud, plagiarism, and other forms of deliberate misrepresentation are particularly egregious.

Commentary on the scandal has centered on three questions: (1) how could LaCour behave in such an unprofessional manner, get away with it, persuade a senior scholar to sign on to tainted research, and have the work published in a top peer-reviewed scientific journal, without being exposed until after publication? (2) what kinds of collaborative research processes are involved in situations like this, involving scholars on opposite sides of a continent who are not well acquainted with one another, how common are such practices, and how common should they be? (3) what does this episode say about political science as a serious science that possesses the resources to critically evaluate and judge scientific contributions, to expose error much less fraud, and to credibly distinguish valid from invalid, and important from unimportant, knowledge claims?

Each of these questions is important. But I would like here to press a fourth: what is political science, such that its practitioners might believe themselves to have something interesting to say about politics?

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What’s at Stake in TPP?

President Obama’s difficulty in convincing Congress to grant him authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership without legislative amendment is a serious setback for his foreign policy agenda. Most commentary on the subject has focused on the trade deal’s likely economic impact — which are not negligible, most importantly for Asian partners like Vietnam, but likely won’t impact the US in discernable ways. Others discuss its geopolitical significance in breathless, but vague, tones. Take this recent NY Times article:

“If this collapses, Pacific Rim countries will be aghast,” said Shunpei Takemori, a professor at Keio University in Japan, the largest economy in the would-be trade zone after the United States. “China is pushing, and if the U.S. just stands aside, it would be a tragedy.” …

“If you don’t do this deal, what are your levers of power?” Singapore’s foreign minister, K. Shanmugam, asked in Washington on Monday. “The choice is a very stark one: Do you want to be part of the region, or do you want to be out of the region?”

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