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Improvised Explosive Robots

A common argument made in favor of the use of robotics to deliver (lethal) force is that the violence used is mediated in such a way that it naturally de-escalates a situation.  In some versions, this is due to the fact that the “robot doesn’t feel emotions,” and so is not subject to fear or anger.  In other strands, the argument is that due to distance in time and space, human operators are able to take in more information and make better judgments, including to use less than lethal or nonlethal force.  These debates have, up until now, mostly occurred with regards to armed conflict.  However, with the Dallas police chief’s decision to use a bomb disposal robot to deliver lethal force to the Dallas gunman, we are now at a new dimension of this discussion: domestic policing.

Now, I am not privy to all of the details of the Dallas police force, nor am I going to argue that the decision to use lethal force against Micah Johnson was not justified.  The ethics of self- and other-defense would argue that the Mr. Johnson’s actions and continued posturing of a lethal and imminent threat meant that officers were justified in using lethal force to protect themselves and the wider community.   Moreover, state and federal law allows officers to use “reasonable” amounts of force, and not merely the minimal amount of force to carry out their duties.   Thus I am not going to argue the ethics or the legality of the use of a robot to deliver a lethal blast to an imminent threat.

What is of concern, however, is how the arguments used in favor of increased use of robotics in situations of policing (or war) fail to take into consideration psychological and empirical facts.  If we take these into account, what we might glean is that the trend actually goes in the other direction: that the availability and use of robotics may actually escalate the level of force used by officers.

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NATO Summit Ahead!

Tomorrow, the NATO summit in Warsaw starts.   What do we expect, other than jet-lagged Steve being more incoherent than usual?

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Persuading Republicans to Dump Trump

I have one more Trump post I have to write. My first bemoaned how Trump could possibly be competitive in the presidential race and the second lambasted Trump’s positions on domestic and foreign policy. I have no illusions that I’m convincing anyone who isn’t already convinced he is a danger to the republic. However, should you read this and have friends in your orbit who are flirting with supporting Trump, here is some ammunition for your Facebook feed, dinner conversation, passenger pigeon, what have you.

Basically, my hunch is that people will listen to you because they know you, but they also might listen to you if they trust the information sources you rely on. Republicans might only listen to other Republicans so I’m going to pull together the most persuasive quotes from prominent Republicans who have said never Trump.

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Trump on Policy: Consistently Self-Serving

In my last post, I lamented that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, despite his outrageous series of slurs against different groups, his lies, and unscrupulous business practices. Before exploring what arguments might persuade Republicans and undecideds to vote against Trump, what other substantive objections are there to Trump?

Trump has policy stances and utterances, based on some gut check about what outrageous thing might rile a receptive audience and keep him in the news so that he doesn’t have to pay for TV ads. His style is based on improvisation and pandering, so he flip-flops as needed. It’s unclear that there is a core belief other than Trump will do or say what he thinks is necessary to benefit Trump. There are signs on foreign policy that he has a consistent take on the world which is America is a sucker and should stick it to the other guys. Continue reading

Emotionally Trumped

Is there such a thing as blogger’s block? I suppose there must be. I’ve found the whole Donald Trump saga to be emotionally exhausting. It’s hard to write more than 140 characters about this presidential race. How is it possible that he could or will be the nominee of a major party?

Which groups has he not offended?

This weekend it was the Jewish community’s turn after Trump retweeted an anti-Hillary picture that featured a six-sided star and a background of dollars. A news organization tracked down the origins of the image on a neo-Nazi thread on a message board.  This is not the first time. On Facebook, we debated whether it was incompetence or anti-Semitism. Probably both. Continue reading

The True Costs of Brexit

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British elites have been wondering for decades whether the UK still had clout on the global stage, and now they know:  indeed, the country has an outsized influence on world affairs. But what a way to find out, sowing instability far and wide and suffering a never ending series of self-inflicted wounds. It is tragedy bordering on farce. And none other than Vladimir Putin is having the last laugh.

The UK is counting the costs of this fateful vote: in the plummeting value of the pound and large-scale stock market losses. Foreign direct investment in the UK will dramatically dwindle; multinational companies will move their headquarters; and a brain drain will ensue. British banks are likely to lose their “passport” to the rest of Europe. All of this will lead to less growth, higher unemployment, and reduced living standards. Prime Minister Cameron’s even worse sin was to subject Britons to several rounds of harsh austerity policies–they had to vote the UK out of the EU to get rid of him.

The major long term loss for Britain, however, will be its reduced influence as a world leader–its military capability being one of the chief casualties of unnecessary austerity. It has long punched above its weight globally speaking, remaining a fairly major world player long after Britain lost its empire, with the special relationship with the U.S., impressive military capabilities, financial leadership, and first-rate diplomatic skills. The UK was also an EU leader, one of the top three along with France and Germany. England could be left alone, with Scotland leading the way by leaving the UK and rejoining the EU. Continue reading

Brexit Hottake

We will have much, much time to ponder and study what happened yesterday… whether it was the weather that made the difference in London, why Cameron was such an idiot, and on and on.  I have a few quick reactions guided by and due to my faith in confirmation bias!

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The UK and the EU Referendum

The UK’s vote on whether to remain in the European Union is tomorrow. I’m having trouble squaring a fearful nativist UK with the country I knew when I lived there from 1993 to 1995 completing a second undergraduate degree in international development.

The UK I knew was eclectic and increasingly multicultural, with its cultural scene perhaps even more comfortable than the United States in drawing on diverse influences to produce fantastic art. This was pre-Cool Britannia and pre-Tony Blair (and also before the Iraq War and the global recession), and there was an undercurrent of optimism that something great and better was in store for the country.

The UK had turned the country’s imperial history in to a source of advantage, with immigrants from former colonies bringing new influences in music, literature, food, and more to enrich the country. The willingness to mash-up, fuse, and experiment traditions of old with new tastes struck me as such a positive approach to life in a globalized world.

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Kill Webs: The Wicked Problem of Future Warfighting

The common understanding in military circles is that the more data one has, the more information one possess.  More information leads to better intelligence, and better intelligence produces greater situational awareness.  Sun Tzu rightly understood this cycle two millennia ago: “Intelligence is the essence in warfare—it is what the armies depend upon in their every move.” Of course, for him, intelligence could only come from people, not from various types of sensor data, such as radar signatures or ship’s pings.

Pursuing the data-information-intelligence chain is the intuition behind the newly espoused “Kill Web” concept.  Unfortunately, however, there is scant discussion about what the Kill Web actually is or entails.  We have glimpses of the technologies that will comprise it, such as integrating sensors and weapons systems, but we do not know how it will function or the scope of its vulnerabilities.

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Keep Your Political Interference to Yourself: A Case for Academic Freedom and Shared Governance

Hi, Ducks!  It’s me, Amanda.  It’s been a long time.  I’ve not blogged in awhile. There were many reasons for the break.  First, it was a busy spring: I finished up being the ISA Program Chair, got a new position I am excited about, and continued working on projects that I love.

It’s also been a very sad spring.  In fact, it was a pretty sad year at the University of Missouri, where I’ve worked for the past 4 years.

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Lame Counterfactuals and American Politics

This has been going around:

Why is this such a dumb counterfactual?  Let me count the ways:

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China’s Great Contradiction

This is a guest post from Barry Buzan, Emeritus Professor at the LSE

For the past decade or so, China has been in the grip of a growing contradiction (in the classical Marxist sense) between a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still deeply Leninist in its outlook, and the increasingly capitalist society that the CCP’s highly successful economic reforms have created. As Jonathan Fenby has argued, the CCP remains unbendingly committed to remaining in power in perpetuity. Yet as knowledge, wealth, organization, information and connectivity spread through Chinese society, that society becomes increasingly diverse, opinionated, and able and willing to mobilise in its own interests.

The CCP increasingly, and correctly, feels threatened by this society, which it does not understand, and does not like. As a consequence, China’s domestic and foreign policies are extremely closely linked, with the insecurity of the CCP as the central concern (see work by Susan Shirk and David Shambaugh). Its paranoia is indicated by the increasing resources it devotes to domestic security, now outweighing what it spends on national defence (Jian Zhang makes this argument; see also Wang and Minzner and Bader).

This contradiction was set up by Deng Xiaoping’s reforms from the late 1970s, which were aimed at saving the country from poverty and the Party from self-destruction. Having abandoned the core of Marxist political economy, these reforms necessitated that the CCP base its legitimacy on spreading prosperity to the masses and cultivating a backward-looking nationalism that constructed the CCP as necessary for the ‘New China’. Prosperity could only be spread to the masses by adopting market economics, and that in turn quickly generated what Michael Witt argued is the Chinese variety of capitalism that is now obvious in any major Chinese city.

This contradiction has now ripened to breaking point. Given the lack of alternatives to the CCP, and the deep conservatism of Chinese society about wanting to avoid any return to revolution, national division, and weakness in the face of foreigners, there were always only two possible dialectical resolutions to it. Continue reading

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

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As the summer is heating up, all the world’s eyes are on Britain. And that really is saying something for us Americans, what with the wild ride that Donald Trump is taking us all on. But even here, eyes are rapidly averting to the mother country and the high stakes of the debate as to whether it should remain a valued member of the European Union (EU) or leave. And now with this tragedy, the stakes are even higher.

Apparently the eyes of the British were fully on the presidential campaign here as well, til recently. Not only did the UK Parliament debate whether to bar Mr. Trump from entering the UK, but in addition he apparently had an outsized influence on the campaign for mayor of London. It appears Mr. Trump deserves credit for motivating a majority of Londoners to vote by wide margins in favor of the first Muslim mayor of Britain’s capital city.

It is the election of Sadiq Khan that gives foreign friends of Britain a little hope, as fears of immigration and alleged shenanigans in Brussels have heightened and thereby tempted Britons to exit from the most successful large-scale political experiment in history, aka Brexit. But the success of Mayor Khan bodes well for the British people keeping in mind the global leadership role the UK plays, and remaining forward-looking in voting to do what is best for Britain and stay engaged as a leading member of the EU. Continue reading

NATO Ministerial FAQ

This week is another NATO ministerial.  What is that?  Here’s a handy guide to the basics and why NATO is run like an academic conference.

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Drones, Mansour and Policy Problems

This is a guest post by Tobias T. Gibson,  Associate Professor of Political Science and Security Studies at Westminster College, in Fulton, MO.

Late last month, a U.S. military “drone” killed Mullah Mansour, the leader of the Taliban. Because the drone was operated by the Department of Defense, the Obama administration was quick to claim the death of such an internationally contentious figure. Publicly, the administration commented that Mansour offered a “continuing, imminent threat” to United States soldiers in the region, and specifically targeted U.S. and allied soldiers. Killing Mansour, then, was about as non-controversial targeted killing as one can expect.

And yet, there is controversy. To see why, it might help to note that to date, the Obama Administration has yet to fully disclose the legal reasoning behind the decision to place an individual on the so-called “kill list,” nor fully explained the process by which a specific individual is targeted in a drone strike. Moreover, the legal justifications the US has given for the broader drone program have been rejected by many international experts. That said, it is not clear whether this strike met even the Obama Administration’s own stated standards.  Continue reading

Brexit Epiphany

As I was chatting with my dissertation adviser yesterday while in DC (yes, my dissertation was completed in 1993 but the relationship goes on), I had an epiphany that had been on the edges of my thinking but finally popped: the Brexit folks are secessionists.

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Friday Nerd Blogging: Attack of the Ads

For this week’s FNB, something that is well timed:

Jolie-Pitt, Trump and Bono Walk Into a LSE Classroom: why dedication and commitment isn’t expertise

Oh man, I really didn’t want to write about Angelina Jolie Pitt  (AJP) and her damn LSE appointment. When I heard the news it just made me feel tired. But there has been an interesting/frustrating  debate emerging and I just can’t keep my yap shut- even on maternity leave. In his post on the topic, Dan Drezner asks us to all calm the F down; he assures us that policy schools have always been opportunistic and brought in pretty unqualified but interesting folks to teach (well, he sort of says that). The Aidnography post, Why you should be critical of Professor Angelina Jolie Pitt’s LSE gig does a great job of putting the appointment into the broader context of hollywood obsession with poverty/global race relations/the corporate university. Just today, Laura Shepherd brings much more nuance to the debate in her Disorder of Things post. She acknowledges a loooong list of reasons we might hate the idea of Jolie Pitt as Professor, but argues that ultimately its not fair to focus on her beauty/celebrity and bypass her experience and cred.

I haven’t actually read many critiques that focus on AJP’s beauty or celebrity- or at least not exclusively. For me, the frustrating thing has been the undue focus on whether AJP is sincere/dedicated enough. Those that support AJP argue that her long-standing dedication and commitment is currency for expertise, while those who oppose AJP try to undercut her ‘true’ dedication, arguing that her likely narcissistic motivations make her unqualified to teach gender and war. The arguments boil down to: ‘she’s sooo amazing and how could anyone do such difficult and important work and not have some expertise to offer’ VERSUS ‘these roles satisfy her own ego/image and she probably doesn’t even recycle.’  To be honest, I could give a flying F about AJP’s dedication. Donald Trump believes he is dedicated to securing America; clearly, dedication does not equal expertise. So let’s move on to experience.

Shepherd reminds readers that AJP has been special envoy and ambassador and been on 50+ field trips. I’m sure there is a whole host of other honors, roles, trips, and experiences AJP has had; however, offering these details as evidence that she deserves more credit and that she is, indeed, some form of expert is an epic stretch.  Here are 3 reasons why we cannot read AJP’s cv as relevant Professorial experience and 1 argument about why, ultimately, the ‘real’ argument is about whether enlightenment, neocolonial, patronising awareness raising looks better when done by AJP, Bono, or Trump.  Continue reading

The Most Important Corpses: Eastern Front Edition

I was on twitter NATO symbol movingtalking with some folks about what Canada might promise at the Warsaw Summit, with the focus on who is going to provide the troops for the four battalions that will be based in the Baltics and Poland.  The conversation went into a bunch of directions, so I had an epiphany while shopping–it is not about proximity or folks who have ties to the Baltics–it is about whose corpses would have the greatest international political relevance.


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Foreign Policy Salience and the 2016 Election: Evidence from the ANES Survey

With each passing week, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, makes statements that challenge the basic operating assumptions of U.S. foreign policy, whether it be through his nonchalance about a trade war with China, repudiation of alliance commitments to NATO and Japan, or honoring the countries’ debts. The question that emerges from this: does the American electorate care?

While presidential candidates have to pass some semblance of a commander in chief test of credibility with the electorate, the conventional wisdom is that foreign policy rarely matters much in U.S. presidential elections, outside of moments of crisis. See my blog post here, as well as posts by Dan Drezner and Elizabeth Saunders.

A recent example comes from the recent kerfuffle over Ben Rhodes’ New York Times interview. Drezner argues efforts on both sides of the Iran Deal debate last year failed to move the public,  mostly because the issue did not resonate with the American people.

This, however, is an unusual year, where we have a Republican candidate in Donald Trump with no government experience who will likely face a Democratic nominee in Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.  One or more San Bernadino, Brussels, or Paris-type attacks might make foreign policy more important. Do we have any evidence though to assess this claim or concern?

Recently, Bethany Albertson, Shana Gadarian, and I explored some of these issues on The Monkey Cage using pilot data from the 2016 American National Election Studies (ANES) survey nationally representative sample of 1200 Americans. The pilot was internet-based and fielded in January of this year with data collected by YouGov.

Our piece, written in the wake of the Brussels attacks, examined whether and how anxiety about terrorism might affect political attitudes and vote choices this fall. We found that those who were more anxious about terrorism evaluated Trump more favorably, though other polls suggest that people might rally around the candidate with more experience.

That said, we didn’t analyze the question of the relative salience of foreign policy compared to domestic issues. ANES data also allows us to explore issue salience and whether people care about foreign policy in the first place. Here is what I found.

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