We are looking for you! The fall 2019 semester is upon us, and we’d like to bring on a new cohort of guest Ducks.
The Duck remains a unique blog in terms of our ability to cover a wide variety of topics from IPE to the environment to health to human rights as well as traditional IR topics such as security. We also have freedom to do more academic introspection on the discipline and higher education writ large.
As a guest blogger, you have the freedom to find your voice and the format and length that suits you without an editor. You are free to muse and use the platform to try out new ideas.
We want to privilege new voices and approaches. We would especially welcome more diversity on the blog, including gender, ethnic, and non-North American perspectives.
I love this tweet as it puts the usual dynamics on their head:
for students going off to college: study 80s/90s pop culture.
Particularly Ferris Beuller, Princess Bride, Simpsons seasons 2-5. Your
gen x/early millennial profs will try to connect with you through these,
and will be confused/sad when you stare blankly at them. Not joking.
Johannes Urpelainen, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (@jurpelai)
Climate change is arguably the
most urgent problem facing
humankind. It is not a single policy problem, but rather pervades all aspects
of state and society – affecting everything from geopolitics to local planning.
Yet, one is hard pressed to reach this conclusion given the current landscape
of political science.
Excellent work appears occasionally in
premier journals on the variety of political questions that climate change
raises. But given the centrality of
politics in contributing and responding to the climate change problem, there is
not enough of this work and — critically — much of it occurs outside the central discourses and journals
of our discipline. Some political scientists are instead engaging climate
change debates in policymaking, assessment and public venues. For example, Science and Nature seem to value contributions by political scientists. But
what of our discipline? How is it responding to climate change?
Ah, the sweet time your baby becomes a toddler and maybe lets you sleep for more than 5 hours a night. Your teaching is sort of kind of on track, your scant article submissions get a steady number of rejections so why not try to venture back into the world of academic conferencing? Something not too far away and not too expensive, because as a parent you are too responsible to spend your hard-earned money on conference fees and hotel “discount rates”. So, you dust off your formal clothing (all carefully selected in accordance with the misogynist ideals of appropriate female academic attire) and click with a trembling finger on the “submit” button for your abstract. Lo and behold, the program chair deemed the submission passable, so you double check with partner, in-laws and daycare and soon fly towards your first time away from the baby for more than 9 hours.
When you have babies no one really tells you that you might have separation anxiety as well. So, you are grateful to the technological progress that allows you to obsessively watch your baby sleep on a monitor or even get him to smile to you on FaceTime for a second because their attention span hasn’t evolved beyond half a minute. You revel in discussions on post-structuralism and post-positivism, delight in the opportunity to discuss that latest methodological article that you managed to read at 3 am, and enjoy not carrying a single wet wipe in your bag. In a whirlwind of presentations and round tables you see your friends whom you haven’t seen since your last conference two years ago (because that’s how you see people), but no late-night cocktails – you cherish your opportunity to actually sleep through the night for the first time in a year and a half too much.
After abysmal (not the Joey kind) anxiety over your child you start to choose the conferencing opportunities careful:
Do I need a visa? Because an extra trip to the consulate can make it or break the desire to enjoy “more of a comment than a question”.
How far away is it? I bet Honolulu is nice, but travelling for almost 24 hours adds extra away days that your partner may not be able to do without you.
Can you or your department afford it? These days you can’t shamefully justify the out of pocket expenses for a conference as “investments into your career”. Nope, your mommy brain does not buy it anymore and would rather put it away into the baby college fund.
How helpful is this conference for your career and how much of a guilt trip on top of the conference trip the escapade will involve? I don’t know whether it’s the same for all moms, but pretty much every activity is weighed against “I could be spending this time with my child and instead I am doing this” scale.
Another option is, of course, taking the baby with you. But as I learned the hard way, most toddlers can’t sit still for more than 10 min and most academic presentations last longer than that. Usually only the bigger conferences offer on-site daycare (thanks, ISA!), but given (1) they require a visa and (2) that they are far away and most often (3) very expensive, there is no way I would go there in the foreseeable future. Thus, it’s really hard to get back to jet-setting times of pre-baby.
But let’s finish on a brighter note. Thank you, people who live-tweet the panels and snap photos of the slides! I love you all very much and I will see you back in 2 to 3 years!
This is a guest post from Jeremy Youde, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyyoude.
Anyone who studies global health security has a copy of Andrew
Price-Smith’s 2001 book, The Health of
Nations, on their shelf. It’s a staple of course
syllabi in global health politics, and its argument helped to cement the
importance of recognizing the complex interplay between international security
and infectious disease. Sadly, Price-Smith, the
David Packard Professor of International Relations at Colorado College and
leader of its Global Health Initiative, died July 11, 2019. He
is survived by his wife Janell, their two kids, and scores of scholars around
the world whose work was profoundly influenced by his research.
It’s hard to catalog all of the contributions Drew, as he was known to his friends, made during his career, but let me highlight a few. First, Drew helped to make global health security a legitimate area of academic research. His first writings on the topic appeared in the late 1990s, years before the United Nations Security Council held its special session on the security implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic–the first time it had ever devoted such attention to a public health issue.
A key part of the tenure process is for outside experts to evaluate
the candidate’s research (hard to evaluate their teaching and service
from outside). These letters can be quite handy for getting a less
biased perspective that a department might have (in either direction).
It is especially useful for providing insights in cases where the
candidate’s subfield is under or unrepresented among the senior faculty
evaluating tenure (a real life example: no tenured political theorists
and the candidate is a theorist).
Today, I learned that I am out of touch. Ok, that is old news. I got into a twitter conversation about embargoed dissertations. A friend was trying to access and then cite a dissertation that has been out for a few years, and she could not because the dissertation was embargoed. I then raised this on twitter, and got a whole lot of push back. So, let’s take a look at this.
This is a guest post from Cullen Hendrix, Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy and Professor at the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.
As Jon Vreede and I argue in our contribution to the special issue, this is undoubtedly numerically true: the United States receives much more attention than other cases. We ultimately conclude there are very practical reasons for this outsized emphasis: the United States has played an incredibly outsized role in international affairs in the 20th and 21st centuries.
This is a guest post by Linda Monsees who works as a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Goethe University Frankfurt and is the author of Crypto-Politics.
After wars on drugs, Christmas and everything in between, it seems that we people tend to call everything a war – everything despite a real war. But really, we are now in a ‘war on truth’? Politicians, companies, and countries start disinformation campaigns and lots of stories are shared that do not qualify as journalism. And this spread of fake news got us in a ‘war’? I get it, we are still in the process of overcoming the shocks of certain elections that did not end the way many of us would have liked. Combine this shock with a natural technology-angst and this thing called fake news becomes a real threat.
But isn’t the task of a social scientist to take some distance, anaylse, explain and – dare I say? – even give guidance? So what about the ancient wisdom of ‘Don’t Panic’? I get the feeling that much of the academic debate reproduces assumptions about the impact on fake news rather than investigating them. A closer look at empirical research shows that the impact of fake news isn’t that big – fake news do not really seem to change people’s voting behaviour. And well, do I need to tell you that spreading false information for political or economic gains isn’t such a new phenomenon either? If you think about it, fake news are a form of propaganda. Of course, networked technology makes it possible that these news items spread faster than ever before. I am not denying that fake news are a thing, the public discourse might just overrate its impact. So, fake news are widely shared and it certainly shapes current political debates – but maybe not in the way most people think?
Research on fake news has shown that people really do not seem to care too much about the veracity of the stories that they share. In the UK, more than a third of people sharing news admit sharing inaccurate or false news, an insight corobroated by other sociological research. While it surely is a problem when people (and I include myself here) cannot distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ news, people seem also be fine with sharing non-true stories. Acknowledging these insights then also means that ‘media literacy’ is not really a solution to the problem. danah boyd actually made this argument in a much nicer way, so check out her article over here. Focusing on media literacy does not acknowledge the underlying political and social problems that might be the source for the spread of fake news. Media literacy is considered to be the right tool to educate people about which kind of news they need to read. But this focus on education makes the problem of fake news one of young and uneducated people. According to this view, media literacy will help people who cannot distinguish between fake and non-fake news to become more educated. Fake news is thus only a problem of ‘them’ – the young and uneducated. The underlying political economy, the importance of clickbait and legitimate political protest are covered up by such a focus on media literacy.
Fake news, post-truth, disinformation will probably just become part of our political vocabulary. This reflects changes in technology and the media culture and even though we feel uncomfortable about this we should maybe listen more to people who have actually done empirical research on this rather than repeating panicked judgements.
Recently I highlighted Korbel’s new Responsible Engagement Institute, an important innovation in our profession. I shouted this out in the context of my own concerns with survey experiments that (perhaps irresponsibly) inflate the appearance of American support for targeting civilians abroad. However make no mistake: just as humane treatment involves more than providing toothbrushes and soap, protecting civilians involves much more than forebearance from reigning fire upon their cities.
I just came back from eight days in Israel and Palestine, as I participated in a program, Academic Exchange, that has already taken something like 600 scholars (mostly IR but also other political scientists, lawyers [including my brother-in-law], and some economists) to learn more about the place, the conflict and the politics. The experience was pretty intense, so I blogged my daily experiences at saideman.blogspot.com starting with this one (go to my blog for pics since blogspot is cludgy for pics but wordpress–the system here–is far worse). I am blogging here to write about the larger issues–what was the purpose of this trip, what are the take home lessons, and what can we make of this very problematic place.
This is a guest post from Shana Gadarian and Dan McDowell, both Associate Professors at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
Earlier this month, after Chinese authorities reportedly backtracked
on a set of economic reform promises as part of ongoing trade discussions, President
Trump announced that existing tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods would
increase from 10% to 25%. China responded
with new tariff hikes of its own on American products.
The costs of the escalating trade war are most acute in rural
areas where Trump has enjoyed strong political support. While it
is possible that economic pain from the dispute will erode the president’s
popularity among his base, our research suggests that Republican support for
the trade war depends less on how much pain the US endures and more on how much
it hurts China.
One theme we discussed that bears emphasizing are questions of why we do the survey research we do, and how we decide what findings to publicize, where, how and for whom. Do we truly need poll data on the precise conditions under which Americans would tolerate war crimes? Is this truly a public good? Who does this serve? Who does it enable? When the results come out (if they include clues as to what policymakers must do to drum up support for war crimes), who is served or enabled by allowing journalists to run with findings, legitimized by major univeristies, that Americans would support terror bombing of foreign innocents? Who bears the risk of harm if such findings are misinterpreted – those in power or without it? Would it not be better to study the conditions under which Americans can be best inoculated from willingness to go along with terrible war crimes than to provide a recipe book for the powerful on how to chip that resistance away?
We plan to move beyond the mechanics of engagement to address the following types of questions: How and when should knowledge be shared with policy actors of different types, if at all? What are the promises and pitfalls of such policy engagement—for the academic, but also the policy community and other affected populations? What are the different ethical dilemmas that arise from engaging with government, versus civil society, versus private sector actors? How can scholars communicate findings most effectively (and what does that mean)? How might these findings be used by policy makers? Who has ownership over final research products? How do differing institutional pressures shape the types of engagement and the challenges that might arise? And many more.
We plan to start tackling these types of questions through activities that build both a knowledge base and network that can assist policy-interested academics when engaging with both governmental and nongovernmental policy actors. A key component of the program will be an “Issues in Responsible Engagement Institute” to help early career scholars navigate the challenges of engaging with different sets of policy actors at all stages of the research and dissemination process. Recognizing that PhD students and early career academics receive little formal mentorship on professional ethics and have few places to turn for advice, this multi-day institute will serve as a complement to existing Bridging the Gap training programs and provide a forum to discuss issues around responsible policy engagement as well as a support network for participants. Just last week the Sié Center faculty were fortunate enough to work alongside a group of invited scholars and practitioners with experience in this field to start planning the curriculum for the workshop. Stay tuned for more on the application process next year.
This looks like just the type of initiative our discipline needs, particularly with so many scholars conducting research that not only measures but interfaces with citizen attitudes just as our democracy is most fragile. I wish this had been around early in my career, and I commend the organizers.
Last week, Dina Smeltz, Jordan Tama, and I had a piece in the Monkey Cage on the results of our 2018 survey of 588 foreign policy opinion leaders. We found that these opinion leaders misestimated public attitudes on (1) US engagement in the world, (2) support for trade, (3) support for military intervention, and (4) support for immigration.
I did a thread on the results, which I’ll summarize below, but I wanted to follow up with some thoughts based on a thoughtful critique from Ken Schultz that focused on our finding that elites thought the public less supportive of military intervention than our public survey results suggested.
A recent IR Twitter flare-up occurred on a seemingly innocuous topic illustrated by the flow-chart above: what should I call my professor? A PSA from Prof. Megan L. Cook recommended students to address their professors as Professors or Dr., avoiding references to their marital status or first names. Prof. Raul Pacheco-Vega tweeted the following:
I also delete every email that first-persons me on a first email. Them’s the rules. You can decide how you want to be addressed, but I’m the one who decides how *I* want to be addressed.
Dr. Jenny Thatcher and several others disagreed, pointing out that taking offence at an “improper” address is elitist, disrupts collegiality and can potentially push out first-gen scholars or people from backgrounds that do not share the same culture of academic etiquette. For that intervention, Dr. Thatcher endured insults, digs at dyslexia, and threats of getting reported to the police by random Tweeps.
The following is a guest post by K. Anne Watson, a PhD candidate in Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs.
The academic job market is incredibly stressful. This is at least partly because so much of the process tends to be opaque. (The rest, of course, is because you will be asked to handle all of it while juggling your day-to-day life and feeling a vague—or not-so-vague—sense of existential dread settling in around you.)
Leading up to my first applications, I asked question after question of my committee members, other graduate students, and Google. I really struggled to get a complete picture of the market. With that year behind me, I decided to gather together the resources and advice that most helped me prepare for the market and some of the experiences my peers and I had on the market, in the hope that graduate students coming after me will be able to find the answers to their most pressing questions in one place.
I was in the car when the Dallas radio station KERA came on with an interview with the journalist Katherine Eban, author of the new book Bottle of Lies, in which she claims that the generic pharmaceutical industry faces widespread problems of quality.
A high percentage of generic drugs come from India and most of the chemical ingredients or raw materials come from China. Generic drugs constitute according to Eban about 90% of the drugs that Americans consume, and about 40% of those generic drugs come from India.
For me, this was particularly concerning since Indian drug makers provide more than 80% of the AIDS treatment drugs that keep millions alive around the world. If these drugs are not safe, then surely this should be showing up in increased mortality of people with HIV on generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. If true, the claims of the author could be really worrisome.
This is a guest post from Erika Weinthal, a Professor at Duke University and Jeannie Sowers, an Associate Professor at the University of New Hampshire
What is often referred to as environmental peacebuilding – the process of governing and leveraging the use of the environment and natural resources for building a sustainable peace through improving livelihoods, strengthening the economy, rebuilding trust, and fostering cooperation – has been a core component of US-supported projects in Israel and Palestine.
part of the US government strategy to promote a two-state solution in the
aftermath of the 1993 Oslo Peace Process, all US administrations until the most
recent have provided economic and security assistance to the Palestinian
National Authority (PNA) and Palestinian civil society. This assistance was always dwarfed by the
military and economic assistance provided by the US to Israel, but nevertheless
was an important component in supporting Palestinian civil society and human
projects included scientific exchanges through USAID’s Middle
East Regional Cooperation program and support
for regional NGOs like EcoPeace
Middle East, which sought to build a peace park in the
Jordan River basin and create dialogue among local mayors on both sides of the
Jordan River. Most importantly, the US was the single largest donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for
Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which runs
schools, health clinics, social services, and infrastructure projects for 5
million Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria,
Gaza, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
last two years of the Trump administration have, however, cemented the loss of
US credibility in mediating the conflict between Israel and Palestine. There
are no shortages of key moments, but the most notable include the
administration’s decision to move the embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in
December 2017, the elimination of all funding to UNRWA in late 2018, the
cessation of development assistance to the Palestinian people in early 2019,
and the US Ambassador to Israel taking a hammer to break ground in a tunnel in
occupied East Jerusalem in June 2019.
Awhile back, when cross-posted here and at Lawyers, Guns and Money to harp on the Game of Thrones denouement, LGM Commenter “Dogboy” clicked a link in that post to this article by Stanford researcher Scott Sagan (with Benjamin Valentino), purporting to show (via survey experiment) that Americans would be fine carpet-bombing civilians in Iran. Dogboy’s rightful reaction: “WTF, WHY DID I CLICK THE LINK?” To which I was happily able to reply, “Don’t worry, I’ve studied this data and the authors are wrong. Stay tuned for my follow-up essay in the next few days.”
It has taken many days to issue my follow-up, partly because, while I was busy completing replications on the Iran study and preparing a rebuttal for publication, Sagan and his team published another similar study on North Korea just before Trump headed over there.
This time, their survey
respondents were not asked to saturation bomb an Iranian city (a flagrant
violation of the Geneva Conventions), but to violate the UN Charter through a
preventive strike on North Korea, with nuclear or conventional weapons
depending on your treatment group, weighing the strategic gains against various
game-theoretic likelihoods of various levels of civilian casualties in both North
and South Korea, ranging from 15,000 to 1.5 million.
Naturally, of course, the mediareported on
this study, published in the Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists and titled “What Do Americans Really Think
About Conflict With Nuclear North Korea? The Answer is Both Reassuring and
Disturbing” by focusing on the DISTURBING: the quote from the article most
frequently mentioned in the media is this one:
“As we have previously found, the U.S. public exhibits only
limited aversion to nuclear weapons use and a shocking willingness to support
the killing of enemy civilians.”
Well, having just
replicated the original Iran study,* and also looked closely at this new North
Korea one, I can tell Dogboy and everyone else that
we can (mostly) relax. Here’s why: what Sagan’s team calls “disturbing” is not
really that disturbing, and even if it is, the “Reassuring” way outranks the
“Disturbing” in statistical terms. Below are three reasons why you shouldn’t
worry too much about the blood-thirstiness of your fellow Americans.
“A Large Hawkish Minority
Lurks.” Basically, Sagan’s team found Trump supporters are happy
to bomb foreigners. Why the authors want to focus on (or have the media focus
on) the minority of voters who would support war crimes over the large majority
of Americans that don’t is unclear. But what they find “disturbing” is these
voters also appear “appear insensitive to informational cues that most security
experts would expect to reduce such levels of support.”
Voters may ‘appear’ that way, however, because
Sagan and his team did not include ‘informational cues’ on knowledge or
exposure to the Geneva Conventions in their experiment – something lots of
‘security experts’ including my co-author and I found matters tremendously in
such matters. Indeed, when we replicated the original Iran Study we found that
providing these cues reverses the result on saturation bombing:
What this means is that in real life, where
international and domestic human rights groups (plus generals) would invoke the
Geneva Conventions or UN Charter, support for these acts would be much lower
than a carefully controlled survey experiment might suggest.
“A Shocking Willingness to
Support Killing Civilians.” No. Absolutely not. What they found is
that a large majority of Americans (77%) opposed killing civilians, whether or
not this was done through conventional bombing or nuclear weapons. Again, this
is “reassuring” not “disturbing” and it is also entirely consistent with the
Geneva Conventions, which prohibit killing civilians no matter what weapons you
This new North Korea
finding is actually consistent with what Alex Montgomery and I found on our
replication of the original Iran study, as reported in this companion piece in Foreign Policy on audience
reactions to the firebombing of King’s Landing: the vast majority of Americans
believe it’s wrong to target civilians under any circumstances.
“A Strong Retributive Streak?” Sagan and his team also write that, even though “the majority of Americans do not want President Trump to return to threats to attack North Korea,” there is a “strong retributive streak in US public opinion.”
This is a stretch. On the original Iran study, the authors developed this claim, because they found that among those willing to bomb the city, some Americans used a sort of “they deserve what they get” or “bomb them all” kind of explanation. On our replication, we found that only a minority of Americans really preferred to target civilians once you control for framing effects embedded in the original prompt, and of those that only a tiny minority (12%) evinced this sort of mentality when we studied the open-ended comments explaining the answers. This dropped to 6% if we gave an open-ended version of the question itself, rather than forcing respondents to choose between terrible options:
Now that’s an augmented
replication of the original Iran study. In the new North Korea study, Sagan and
his team argue death penalty support predicts retributive attitudes toward
civilians and maybe so (we haven’t explored that), but this is hardly a
“disturbing” finding about Americans, since death penalty support is at
The Media Does Like
Whether these findings
are legitimately disturbing or not, the media sure latched on to the claim that
they were, and circulated the erroneous conclusion that this means Americans
are happy to kill civilians – just as they did when the original (and flawed)
Iran study came out.
This is a shame because
what Americans think about what other Americans think can actually influence
what Americans think – and that can influence what policymakers do. If the
media’s misappropriation of this survey finding, due to a carelessly worded
title in a research paper, leads Americans to think many of their countrymen
are fine disregarding the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, that
really is terrifying. Because research shows those rules are sometimes
the thin red line encouraging restraint in war.