Yay, pointless self-inflicted global catastrophe avoided. In between all the gnashing of teeth about whether the United States Congress would act to forestall a default on the country’s national debt and actually reopen the government, some other things were happening around the world. I’ve been meaning to write about the energy and environment front for weeks, but my attention has been captured by the awful spectacle that was the U.S. Congress, namely the machinations of the radical Tea Party right. Before I delve into links about energy and environment, let me give conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat the last word on the government shutdown:
It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.
The U.S. had two dramatic efforts to capture high priority terrorist targets, one in Libya and another in Somalia. The snatch and grab operation in Libya was a seeming success (though I’m wondering if last night’s kidnapping of the Libyan Prime Minister was retaliation). The Somalia mission, coming one day after the 20th anniversary of the Black Hawk Down episode, was aborted when the team recognized that there was no way they could take their target alive, given heavy resistance and potential civilian casualties.
The question that emerges from all this is: what the hell is the United States doing? Ok, maybe I phrased this badly, but I’m wondering if our strategy of drone and/or grab is a winning strategy in the long-run? If a fractured Somali or Libyan state is the heart of these countries’ problems, do our efforts hinder or help national reconciliation? From what I’m reading about Somalia, I worry that the United States once again has a military solution for a problem that ultimately requires considerable finesse and diplomacy. This week’s links speak to the errors and issues with the Somalia mission and what it all means… Continue reading
We continue to degrade the U.S. brand, weakening America’s ability to serve as a force for attraction around the world. Why would anyone want to emulate this particular crappy model of democracy? In terms of security, 70% of our intelligence community at the NSA and CIA have been furloughed (James Clapper and the WaPo raised the specter of a possible increased threat from terrorism and depending on your view of how active plotters are against America and its interests, you might find this logic persuasive). In terms of doing the nation’s international business, staff at U.S. government agencies and federally funded institutions of higher education are furloughed. They are not able to do the nation’s business and serve U.S. interests. Continue reading
I was transfixed this week by the week’s events in Kenya, the attacks by Al-Shabaab on the Westgate shopping center that resulted in the deaths of at least 60 people. With friends just a stone’s throw away from that mall, it was hard to turn away from that unfolding set of events. So, this week, to give you some context, I’ve linked a number of stories that try to explain how the attack could have happened, why al-Shabaab appears intent on this kind of action, and what this means for security in East Africa.
At the same time as we have witnessed this horrific tragedy, there appears a positive opening between the United States and Iran, led by its interesting new president Rouhani. While no meeting occurred between the U.S. and Iran occurred at this week’s United Nations annual gathering of heads of state in New York, the prospects for progress in this space are better than they have been in a long time.
Beyond this, I link to additional stories on global health, including a new UNAIDS report that shows continued progress on stemming new infections as well a new £1bn pledge from the British government to the Global Fund. Oh, and The Monkey Cage went live on the Washington Post site. Continue reading
After last week’s diplomatic overtures on Syria, we’ve entered a period of relative calm and back to our mixed bag of stories of interest. NPR is running a fabulous series on Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup, which is also timely since the Brazilian president cancelled her plans to visit the United States as a result of U.S. spying on her and other Brazilians, a revelation that came out of the Snowden affair.
In other news, I’m going to link to stories on Chinese extraordinary measures to address pollution, how much
energy electricity your average refrigerator uses, Nathan Jensen’s cautionary tale on the peer review process, a story on poverty tourists in South Africa, and more from international politics and academia!
It’s late Friday afternoon — here are a few things worth reading:
If you are like me, you have been transfixed by the unfolding story on Syria, the diplomatic gambit that has forestalled an imminent military strike. Alongside this important news has been the more picayune question of a Syria intervention advocate falsely claiming her academic credentials from my alma mater. Lost in the midst of all this Syria drama is the fact that the United States Men’s National Team qualified for the World Cup. In my one vaguely nationalist refrain, we are going to Brazil! Read on about all of these things… Continue reading
It’s morning somewhere right? With military action possibly pending in Syria amidst a horrible ongoing civil war, I needed a more hopeful photo to accompany this post of news links (hence the duck and the kitten). But, the news out there is pretty grim so here are some links on Syria, the links between drought and the war in Syria, climate change and violence, and what happened to Al Gore on climate change.
Aaron David Miller makes the case that Obama had to go to Congress and made a virtue out of necessity
Under these circumstances, Obama has been risk-averse not because he’s flawed, morally obtuse, weak, or traumatized. It’s because he sees no real options and refuses to buy into the happy talk about this terrific military option or that. We couldn’t fix Iraq with hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground and trillions expended; and we can’t fix Syria from the air.
The president knows this, and that going to Congress and making it a partner and party to the uncertainties of the Syria situation will help distribute some of the risk of limited action. If strikes go badly, Obama will take the hit. But it would be much worse if he plunged ahead without public or congressional support.
It’s Syria week. Post use of chemical weapons, some sort of intervention looks more likely than not. We are conflicted. Here to help us make sense of this:
- The intel that suggests the Syrian regime did it, but unclear command and control
- George Packer on our inner dialogue about why intervention is necessary but folly
- James Fallows on the folly part
- Erica Chenoweth on the history of interventions, again emphasizing folly, here and here
- Jon Western says not so fast, what is this case of? Bosnia or Iraq? Or something else?
- Eric Voeten concurs
- Ian Hurd and Charli Carpenter on breaking international law, Hurd says bomb Syria even if illegal (or make the case for a new legal rule) and Charli reminds us of the high hurdles for an intervention to be considered legal
- Jonathan Mercer on credibility and reputation and why doing something on that basis would be dumb, David Ignatius thinks otherwise
- Great Syria thread on Facebook Conflict Research group, mostly against intervention Continue reading
I guess most folks are on the way to APSA. Have fun in Chicago if you’re going–and if you’re a member of the APSA council, please consider moving the convention to some weekend besides the first week of school. (Also, #SeattleEveryYear. Just saying! Especially if it’s going to be in August.)
Here’s some links:
- Dani Nedal is also skeptical of Syria.
- Also BLTN: great post from Kristen Coopie Allen on how where you raise funds influences election outcomes. Plot twist: in-district support is less effective than out-district support.
- Might be a repeat, but Jay Ulfelder’s post on the G-DELT protest visualization is a great story of Popularization Gone Wild.
So now we get a version that ignores both the caveat about GDELT’s coverage not being exhaustive or perfect and the related one about the apparent increase in protest volume over time being at least in part an artifact of “changes in reporting and the digital recording of news stories.” What started out as a simple proof-of-concept exercise—”The areas that are ‘bright’ are those that would generally be expected to be so,” John wrote in his initial post—had been twisted into a definitive visual record of protest activity around the world in the past 35 years.
- Have you noticed lethargy or depression among your graduate students recently? That could be because the number of job openings has fallen again, with the shortfall especially pronounced in IR.
- Dan Drezner recommends Mark Blyth’s Austerity among others. As they say on Reddit, “Can confirm.”
- BLTN: Stephen Few explains why you shouldn’t use dual axes. (Hadley Wickham took that option away in ggplot2.)