COVID-19 Policy Response in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico: Three Different National-Subnational Approaches

This is a guest post from Julie VanDusky-Allen, Olga Shvestova, and Andrei Zhirnov. Julie VanDusky-Allen is an assistant professor at Boise State University. Her research focuses on both formal and informal institutions, legislative organization, political parties, political participation, and support for and satisfaction with democracy. Olga Shvestova is Professor of Political Science and Economics at Binghamton University (SUNY). Professor Shvetsova’s research focuses on determinants of political strategy in the political process. Broadly stated, these include political institutions that define the “rule of the game” and societal characteristics that shape goals and opportunities of the participant players. Andrei Zhirnov is Associate Lecturer in Quantitative Methods in Social Science at the University of Exeter. He received his PhD in Political Science in 2019 from Binghamton University and studies political institutions and electoral systems.

As Latin America has become one of the hot spots for the spread of COVID-19 cases, political leaders are being scrutinized for their responses to the pandemic. While the federal government of Argentina has been praised for its quick and comprehensive response, the Brazilian federal government and the Mexican federal government have been criticized for their lackluster responses.

Yet, to fully understand the COVID-19 policy responses in these countries, we need to look at responses not just at the national level, but also at state level, as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are all federal systems.

To compare the governments’ responses to COVID-19 at the national and subnational levels, we use data from the Global COVID-19 Protective Policy Index (PPI) project at Binghamton University, State University of New York. The PPI measures public health government responses to COVID-19 at all levels of government throughout the world.

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Mentoring Yourself as a Woman in Academia

This post, part of the Bridging the Gap channel, is written by Rosella Cappella Zielinski, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University and non-resident fellow at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University. She is  an alumna of BTG’s International Policy Summer Institute

For those of us figuring out how to navigate our identities in the classroom, on the job market, and in the wider world of academia, mentoring often plays a crucial role. Yet, often, our institutional advisors, as immensely supportive as they can be, do not reflect our gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, or other personally identifying attributes. 

The Future Strategy Forum (FSF) — an annual event designed to connect scholars of national security issues with leading practitioners to showcase female talent in the field and build vertical and horizontal networks across the policy-academic gap, organized by CSIS in partnership with Bridging the Gap, the Kissinger Center at SAIS, and the MIT Security Studies Program — recently asked me to offer some remarks regarding the effect of COVID-19 on financing grand strategy and to also share some career-related advice for the FSF–BTG grad student cohort that was part of the event. It turns out that the former was easy — while the latter, not so much.

I was stunned to realize, in preparing my remarks, that in all my time as an undergraduate and graduate student studying international relations, I never had one professor that was a woman or Hispanic. Not one. 

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How Unpopular is Bolsonaro? Polling Amid Chaos in Brazil

This is a guest post by Ryan Lloyd, a Visiting Assistant Professor of International Studies at Centre College. His research focuses on comparative political behavior and vote buying, particularly in Brazil. He can be reached at lloydr418@gmail.com, and on Twitter at @Lloyder2323.

Public health and political crises

The numbers were disastrous. After months of denialism, Brazil had just passed Italy into third place for official deaths related to COVID, and was hot on the UK’s tail, with 35,930–more than 1,000 were dying per day. And despite massive undercounting of cases, it was already in second place with 672,846.

So on June 7, President Jair Bolsonaro took drastic action. He told his health ministry to stop counting.

Since then, the Supreme Court has ordered the federal government to release coronavirus data again, and a consortium of media outlets has banded together to release their own figures, collected directly from state health agencies. Brazil has now passed 1 million cases and 50,000 deaths with no end in sight, two health ministers sacked.

The true number, however, is far worse, with the number of cases being underestimated at least sevenfold, and 2.6% of the population having COVID antibodies, with the percentage in some Northern and Northeastern cities reaching 15%-25%, according to a nationwide study conducted by the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. A military officer is the interim health minister, and he has attributed the North and Northeast’s coronavirus woes to the Northern hemisphere’s winter (they are unequivocally not, not least because the North and Northeast are in the Southern hemisphere and the Northern hemisphere is not in winter).

Meanwhile, a political crisis is adding to the country’s woes. After months of brinkmanship with Congress and the Supreme Court, tensions within Bolsonaro’s own cabinet came to a head with the resignation of his popular Minister of Justice, Sérgio Moro. Moro accused Bolsonaro of meddling in an investigation into his family in Rio de Janeiro, which led to investigations by the Supreme Court and the public release of the videotape of a foul-mouthed meeting in which Bolsonaro threatened to replace him if he did not interfere in the investigation.

This has led to protests and counter-protests despite the pandemic, both against Bolsonaro and against the Supreme Court. In the past week, tensions have risen even further, with Fabrício Queiroz, a family friend who has been implicated in a corruption scheme involving Bolsonaro’s son and criminal militias in Rio de Janeiro, being arrested in a dramatic police raid on Bolsonaro’s lawyer’s home.

Bolsonaro’s Popularity

Amid all the excitement, as a president with weak democratic commitments encourages confrontations with the other branches of government, one question rises to the forefront: how much support does Bolsonaro have?

One might imagine that the mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and the economy would have hurt him, much less the political conflicts. But if so, how badly? This is an especially important question given the collision course between Bolsonaro and his rivals: if Bolsonaro disobeys a ruling from the Supreme Court, for instance, will he find support in the streets?

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The United States: Not a Failed State, but a Failing Society

Note: This post began life as an op-ed; I have amended it slightly from the version shared on Facebook to add more social scientific perspective.

The United States set new single-day record for new COVID cases on June 24th through 26th, surpassing what had been hoped would the highest point of the curve on April 24. The United States is now in a two-horse race with Brazil to be the epicenter of the COVID pandemic. The economic and social sacrifices made to attempt to flatten the curve—sacrifices that include the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and school closures that will have lifelong consequences for student outcomes—from March to May have essentially been rendered completely moot.

This has many observers saying the United States is a failed state. George Packer argued this in the Atlantic. Chinese state media has leveled similar claims. 

The United States is not a failed state. It is something much more disturbing: it is a society that has the means but has decided not to try.

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Domination As a Vocation: Leadership and Covid-19 in India

This is a guest post by Manali Kumar, incoming Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). Her research focuses on prudence in statecraft, and India’s national identities and interests as a rising power. She can be found on Twitter @manalikumar.

Despite one of the strictest nationwide lockdowns in the world, which lasted for 68 days before the government started easing restrictions on 8 June, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to spread in India. Although the country’s international borders remain closed, domestic travel has resumed and shopping malls, restaurants, and places of worship have re-opened. Yet, the number of infections has continued to increase and India now has the fourth-largest number of confirmed cases in the world.

Three major cities – Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai – are the worst affected and together account for more than half of all cases in the country. None of these cities is believed to have reached its peak yet. Meanwhile, stories of people being denied treatment are becoming more common, even as doctors have been warning that the country is on the brink of running out of hospital beds. The central government has devised a policy of patchwork quarantine zones to contain particular outbreak clusters, but many of India’s political leaders have come out strongly in favor of opening up the economy.

Covid Cases in India through July 3, 2020
Source: Government of India

How did India’s situation flip from an initial sense of hope due to quick and decisive action early at the start of the outbreak to one of an impending sense of doom as the pandemic seems all but out of control? As we evaluate outcomes so far and consider how things may evolve in the coming weeks, leadership looms large as an important variable. Here, I draw on Weber’s ‘Politics as a Vocation’ lecture, delivered a hundred years ago, to explore Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership of the coronavirus pandemic in India.

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Race, Racism, and International Relations

This is a guest post by J.P. Singh–Professor of International Commerce and Policy at the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow with the Robert Bosch Academy, Berlin. He specializes in culture and political economy.  Singh has authored or edited ten books, published over 100 scholarly articles, and worked with international organizations such as UNESCO, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.  Twitter: @Prof_JPSingh

Issues of race and racism are intense subjects of scrutiny in our global everyday lives and international politics.  As we examine our social and intellectual suppositions, how does the academic discipline of international relations fare in analysing racism across borders? The short answer: hesitatingly, and only recently. The long answer: with a few blindspots.  

Racism is a set of social beliefs that holds groups of people as inferior and facilitates discriminatory practices.  Racism in international interactions may be overt or latent: beliefs that assign superiority to the Western world may result in security, economic, or human rights practices ranging from overt condemnation and discrimination to being paternalistic and infantilizing developing countries while appearing to be charitable. U.S. led international events with racial dimensions include building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the trade war with China, and the President speaking disparagingly of Africa or calling COVID-19 ‘China virus’ or ‘Kung Flu’.  While these politics are critiqued and analyzed, the discipline’s history also shows oversights entailing the hesitance and inability to address race issues.  Reckoning with the shortcomings and the strengths of current perspectives is instructive toward presenting analyses and solutions.

Ironically, a history of the discipline provides a remarkable obsession with race questions at the beginning of the 20th century to their near absence at the end it. Intellectual histories note that until the early 20th century, international relations meant international race relations.  Most scientific studies in Europe assigned an inferior status to colonized people, believing racial differences to have a biological basis, and the dominant strain in international governance was of civilizing the colonized. A predecessor to Foreign Affairs was known as Journal of Race Development between 1910-19, though it did feature anti-racism contributors such as W.E.B. Du Bois. 

During the interwar period, academic writings in international relations did not address racism, interestingly at a time when the word ‘racism’ entered the English vocabulary reflecting Nazi judenrein policies of exterminating Jews.  While solitary voices such as Ralph Bunche spoke to racism, the general blindspot reflected the budding discipline’s focus toward describing international interactions on a pendulum between power and idealism and a bias against noticing racial dimensions. Foreign policy practitioners also delivered.  Cordell Hull, FDR’s Secretary of State and a chief architect of the post-war liberal international order, offers a glimpse in his memoirs: the two volumes hardly mention the nationalist movements in the colonies, and Hull may have privately believed that civilization belongs to the Europeans. Meanwhile other biological and social sciences debated race.  These carried over into organizations such as UNESCO in the post-war era. Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss led the UNESCO studies on the race question.

In the post-war era, international relations also overlooked notable public scholarship on race from leaders such as Steve Biko, Amílcar Cabral, Aimé Césaire, Franz Fanon, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.  The practice of U.S. foreign policy borrowed its vocabulary from realism that ‘transcended’ racism.  While many intellectual architects of U.S. foreign policy had fled Nazi Germany, they viewed containment and power as the response to horrors like Nazism (or, later, the Soviet Union) and were disillusioned with Enlightenment idealism.  Nevertheless, an exhumation of the post-war liberal international order also reveals some racialized fissures. Historian Eric Mazower explains that many creators of the post-war liberal order, including Jan Smuts of South Africa, were well-known racists and created the United Nations to continue the work of “civilizing inferior races”.  UNESCO was not an outlier: its first Director-General Julian Huxley was a eugenicist.

International institutions with racialized origins need not continue to be racist, but international relations needs to show how these organizations overcame racism (counterfact is the bedrock of sound reasoning).  Three decades after World War II, the main axes of international relations models were power and interdependence.

Sociological traditions, as they spilled into international relations in the 1980s, began to examine the meanings and centrality of global racism in issues of identity, difference, and othering in international interactions. President Trump’s words are illustrative of the kinds of subjects being studied.  A contrasting perspective, examining international humanitarianism, argues that global paternalism has outgrown its racist origins: “Love it or hate it, paternalism is an enduring feature of global life.”  Many international development efforts could also fit here, albeit not without the charge that global paternalism has not overcome its racial origins.  More generally, the work of race and racism in international relations, remained marginal to the discipline’s major concerns, including professional venues. The 2015 Annual Convention of the APSA on the theme “Diversities Reconsidered” did not feature a single paper in its international relations sections that was on race or racism.  

The discipline has changed fast, especially after the 2016 political outcomes. When I began studying the effects of racism in international trade, many colleagues (and staff at the World Trade Organization) were incredulous toward my research agenda.  My book Sweet Talk provides mixed-methods evidence – including quantitative models, case studies, and historical process tracing — for the negative effects of racism on trade concessions to the developing world across (and within) trade in agriculture, manufacturing, intellectual property, and services (summary here).  Colleagues are no longer incredulous, one review called the book “sweeping and ambitious”, but also push for further rigorous evidence. Critiques are important as is the need to provide sound evidence.  However, asking for evidence must not be an exercise in ignoring race. For my part, I was relieved that the reviewer noting my work to be sweeping and asking for evidence has also conducted rigorous and foundational work on paternalism and race.  

Our debates on race need to concentrate on ontological blind spots, methods, and evidence.  Realism got around race issues in a peculiar way, as explained above, and that was a shortcoming.  It can no longer overlook its shortcoming or not question the Western civilizational codes that are embedded in its understandings.  Reflexively speaking, I had to do that as a scholar: how could I call out the racism inherent in trade relations without offering a critique of neoliberalism as racist as many critical scholars do?  

My book offers a critique of critical studies scholarship while ideologically favoring cultural values such as exchange and reciprocity that are embedded in a liberal order.  It may not convince critical studies scholars but intellectual honesty is important, and the title of my essay pays homage to a notable study on race in critical studies.  Similarly, I would argue that securitization scholars who have recently been attacked for ignoring race need to account for the broad context of the issue of race and international relations. While academics are not racist for not working on race issues, we can no longer ignore significant scholarship critiquing the racism of Western civilizational codes. Further the ethical foundations of this security school, or of realism as above, need to be questioned.

International relations is no longer tone deaf to racism, especially as it examines the intersection of domestic and international politics, and racism is not exclusive to the Western world. As racism dominates politics in Western and non-Western worlds (such as Brazil, India or Turkey), the discipline is beginning to re-examine its models of preference formation to include cultural factors such as race. Empirical examples analyze the backlash against migration in Europe (here and here) or how ethnocentrism and xenophobia affect preferences toward trade (here and here). The long answer entails an exhumation of the blindspots since World War II that kept issues of race and culture out of mainstream explanations and foreign policy endeavors. 

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Five Myths About Publishing International Relations Articles at the American Journal of Political Science

The following is a guest post by Dr. Dan Reiter. Dr. Reiter is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Political Science at Emory University.  He is the author, coauthor, or editor of Crucible of Beliefs: Learning, Alliances, and World Wars (Cornell, 1996), Democracies at War (Princeton, 2002, with Allan C. Stam), How Wars End (Princeton, 2009), and The Sword’s Other Edge: Tradeoffs in the Pursuit of Military Effectiveness (Cambridge 2017), as well as dozens of scholarly articles.

I am the new associate editor for international relations (IR) at the American Journal of Political Science, and I would like to issue all of you a cordial, engraved, red carpet invitation to submit your IR manuscripts to AJPS.  The AJPS has an outstanding reputation within IR and political science, and publishing there will ensure your work will get a close look by scholars and students around the world.  Speaking personally, some of my “favorite” IR articles, papers that really reshaped the way I thought about IR or that I simply thought were very cool, have appeared at the AJPS.

Some of you may be thinking, “Yes, I would like to publish my work in AJPS, but…”  Here I would like to present and attempt to dispel five myths about publishing IR work at AJPS.

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Decentralization and Pakistan’s response to COVID-19

This is a guest post from Hina Khalid and Ashley Fox. Hina Khalid, PhD, MPP is an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Information Technology University, Lahore, Pakistan. Her work focusses on health policy with a special interest in health system performance and health inequities. She can be found on Twitter @HinaaaKh. Ashley Fox, PhD, MA, is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Policy at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, SUNY, who researches the politics of health policy and population health.  She can be found on Twitter @ashfoxly.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic soars to 4.1 million cases, the search to identify the ingredients of a “successful” national response has already begun in earnest. This yearning to categorize and make predictions forces us to assess our priors about what characteristics of states might be likely to produce better or worse than anticipated outcomes. This includes revisiting classical debates around whether more centralized “command and control” states may be better at epidemic control versus more decentralized, flexible forms of governance.

So far, the countries with the seemingly most “successful” responses that have kept the virus contained appear to be more centralized regimes including a number of East Asian countries, Iceland and New Zealand. Certainly, in the case of the US, the decentralized federal structure does not appear to be acting as an asset in this pandemic.  The differential timing of lockdowns and re-opening of the economy will undoubtedly allow the virus to continue to spread even when it has been contained in one locale, especially with the failure to bring testing to scale.  Rather than acting as a unified force, states are being made to compete against each other for emergency resources.

Finding appropriate responses, given resource constraints, is especially important in low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan, which are often described as weak or lacking capacity. Pakistan instituted devolution in 2011, including devolving health policy formation, coordination, and implementation to the country’s four provinces. In this post we examine Pakistan’s response to COVID-19 to date, placing it in the perspective of past infectious disease responses and use this to re-examine the question of whether decentralization strengthens or weakens states’ ability to respond to infectious disease threats.

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Reflections from an “Accidental” Mentor

This piece is written by Kathleen R. McNamara, Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University. It is the coda to a mini-forum honoring Kate as recipient of the Society for Women in International Political Economy (SWIPE) 2020 Mentor Award and follows posts written by Naazneen BarmaDiana KimJi-Young Lee, and Tana Johnson on the Bridging the Gap channel.

Last spring, when I got an out-of-the-blue email from Cindy Cheng informing me that I had won the 2020 SWIPE Mentor award, I was delighted—but also rather surprised. Reading through the extraordinarily moving nominations, I remembering thinking to myself: “Really? I am getting an award for simply acting like a human being?”  

I embrace the honor whole-heartedly—but here’s the thing: I rarely consciously think about mentoring (which makes this piece rather challenging to write). The activities and attributes that the nominators described were simply the things that provide me with happiness and ultimately make life meaningful to me. Mentoring is not a separate activity, or career box to check off. Instead, it is something inherently satisfying as part of my everyday life: a chance to connect in a deep way, to learn from others who come from a different perspective, and to observe people rising to their awe-inspiring potential. It honestly gives me as much as it seems to have given others—so, I am doubly grateful for this recognition, as it is so unnecessary.

Reflecting on my experience over the past couple of decades, I realized that there might be a couple lessons from my life as an “accidental mentor.” I have no illusions that there is a one size fits all way to mentor—or be mentored. Yet I hope that these lessons can create the space for all our colleagues and students to flourish. In so doing, we will take one step further toward a more inclusive and diverse scholarly community. In addition to being normatively necessary, diversity also means our knowledge will encompass all the dynamics of political life, not just those obvious within our own narrow worlds. Ultimately, for me, this produces a professional experience that is inherently more interesting and enjoyable, as well as being much more likely to provide us with the full range of theories and tools we need to address the challenges we face.

So, two modest proposals for how to mentor: model who you really are, and celebrate the commonality across all of us.

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From Political Science to Public Policy: Three Lessons

This post, part of the Bridging the Gap channel, is written by Tana Johnson, Associate Professor of Public Affairs and Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previously, she was an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University and a Research Fellow at Princeton University. She earned her doctorate in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

This piece is part of a short forum on mentoring in academic careers in international affairs, written to honor Kathleen R. McNamara, Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, as recipient of the Society for Women in International Political Economy (SWIPE) 2020 Mentor Award. Others posts in this series can be viewed herehere, and here.

Recent events make it clear: whether loved or loathed, government policies are central to our lives. That’s why public policy schools are devoted to understanding the causes, design, implementation, and effects of government policies. And it’s why some political scientists (including me) feel the pull to work in both a political science department and a policy school. 

But if we make this choice, what goes from optional to required?  For answers, look at Georgetown University faculty member Kate McNamara, the 2020 recipient of a prominent mentoring award from the International Studies Association. Kate exemplifies three requirements for political scientists in policy schools: 1) track down the policy insight, 2) learn from other disciplines, and 3) learn from practitioners.

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Becoming and Living as a Happy Academic

This post, part of the Bridging the Gap channel, is written by Ji-Young Lee, Associate Professor of International Relations at the School of International Service, American University, where she holds the C. W. Lim and Korea Foundation Professorship of Korean Studies.

This piece is part of a short forum on mentoring in academic careers in international affairs, written to honor Kathleen R. McNamara, Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, as recipient of the Society for Women in International Political Economy (SWIPE) 2020 Mentor Award. Others posts in this series can be viewed here and here.

In this era of COVID-19, teaching is done online. As universities ponder whether students would come back for virtual classes if campuses were to remain closed in the fall, a question came to my mind. If pursuing a PhD had been all about online classes and virtual experiences, would I still be an academic today? Maybe. But, most likely, no.

In any profession, mentoring is regarded as important. But in academia, this is particularly so. One’s ability to independently produce knowledge is gained in and through the social interactions with others who have been walking the path in pursuit of inquiry. When I first met Kate in 2004 as a first year PhD student, I was an international student who had just come to the United States two years earlier and had very little knowledge of the American academic environment. I was still training myself to express ideas in English, trying to make sense of how things worked in a new social, cultural setting. Looking back, it is due to those conversations and one-on-one interactions I have had with Kate during all these 16 years that I am leading a life as an academic now, mentoring my own students. 

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On Mentorship and Diversity: A Favorite Voice in the Room

This post, part of the Bridging the Gap channel, is written by Diana S. Kim, Assistant Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a core faculty member of the Asian Studies Program. Her first book, Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition across Southeast Asia was recently published with Princeton University Press. 

This piece is part of a short forum on mentoring in academic careers in international affairs, written to honor Kathleen R. McNamara, Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, as recipient of the Society for Women in International Political Economy (SWIPE) 2020 Mentor Award. The first post can be viewed here.

The photograph above captures a panel of experts discussing the results of the Dutch general election in March 2017, at the American Enterprise Institute. Kate McNamara is the woman speaking.  

I’d like you to imagine Kate’s voice. She has a clear, eloquent, and unhurried way of speaking. 

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Mentoring Is What You Make Of It

This post is written by Bridging the Gap co-Director Naazneen H. Barma, Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School.

This piece kicks off a short forum on mentoring in academic careers in international affairs, written to honor Kathleen R. McNamara, Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, as recipient of the Society for Women in International Political Economy (SWIPE) 2020 Mentor Award. Kate was due to receive this award, which pays tribute to excellent mentors who have invested in the professional success of women in the IPE field, at a roundtable in her honor at the 2020 International Studies Association Annual Convention in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The contributions to this forum reflect remarks originally prepared to celebrate Kate’s award and her noteworthy contributions to mentoring in the profession. Four more pieces, written by Diana KimJi-Young LeeTana Johnson, and Kate McNamara will follow on this channel over the next week.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Skywalker twins, separated at birth, each rose through a series of tribulations to the top of their chosen pathways. The notion of mentoring in the ways of the Jedi is central to the Star Wars saga and, in this narrative, Luke Skywalker is the archetypal hero. Nurtured and trained one-on-one by Obi Wan Kenobi and then Yoda, Luke succeeds on his Jedi path and vanquishes the bad guys. He then joins the Jedi pantheon and it becomes his turn to offer sage training and guidance to the next generation. His twin Leia Organa — a wise ruler, diplomat, and, eventually, leader of the rebel alliance — is an equal success by any measure, yet it does not appear that she was traditionally mentored like her brother. Instead, at key turning points, she sought and was offered advice, help, and encouragement from a whole range of different supporters. In turn, that is the model of mentorship she pays forward as she becomes a source of widespread inspiration herself.

The upshot is that there are many different ways we can and should think about what a mentor is, how to seek one, and how to be one. A mentor can be a guru-type senior person in your field who charts a trajectory that you want to follow and who helps guide you along a similar path in your own work, someone to whom you can always turn for professional advice and access to opportunities. Or a mentor could be someone you encounter more sporadically and yet still plays a crucial role on your mentoring map as one of many who serve as a specific type of resource, source of encouragement, or sponsorship at different points in your career.

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Beware the “Outside Agitator” Dog Whistle

This is a guest post from Kimberly Turner, a doctoral candidate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Her research focuses on contentious politics, political economy, and street protests.

After a blustery show of force and threat to deploy the military onto American street, President Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric by calling protestors terrorists. For many the past week has been a dizzying escalation in the scope of the protests and the response by governmental officials. This scenario is more akin to what we assume is the response of an authoritarian state and not on the streets of a democracy.

There they would be very wrong. While unusually elevated, the characterization of protestors as criminals and resulting escalation of force is a common tactic deployed by officials in democracies and authoritarian states alike. And it often starts from a common inflection point, when officials begin to depersonalize protestors as outside agitators rather than constituents they are duty bound to serve and protect.

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Borders, Blinders, and Mental Maps: Assessing Scenario Analysis in Light of Covid-19

This post is part of the Bridging the Gap channel at the Duck. Danielle Gilbert is a PhD candidate in political science and a fellow with the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at the George Washington University. She serves as a New Era Fellow with the Bridging the Gap Project. Rachel Whitlark is an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She serves as a New Era Fellow with the Bridging the Gap Project.

In 1701, a cartographer named Herman Moll produced a map entitled “The Isle of California: New Mexico: Louisiane: The River Misisipi: and the Lakes of Canada.” Glance at this image, and you will notice the exaggerated size of Florida, condensed Great Plains, and presence of a Gulf of California fully separating the state from the rest of the country. How might such a map have been drawn?

The apocryphal story goes something like this: In the 1600s, a first set of explorers arrived in California via Baja. Trekking north, they soon encountered non-navigable waters. A second set of explorers started at the north end of the territory, journeying south through the Straits of Juan de Fuca; they too encountered water they could not pass. Putting together the explorers’ reports, the mapmakers in Amsterdam connected the dots, and the Island of California appeared.

Years later, a third group of explorers sought to cross the Gulf and explore the land beyond. They arrived, fully prepared with long boats in tow. But of course, instead of water, they encountered the Sierra Nevada mountains. The crossing was merciless, and most of the explorers died. Those who survived shared their discovery with the mapmaker. “Well,” he replied, “the map can’t be wrong; you must have been in the wrong place!”

This tale illustrates our very human blinders. We have outsized confidence in what’s familiar (Florida) and pay less attention to what isn’t (the Plains); we extrapolate from existing knowledge to project into the unknown. And when faced with contradictory evidence, our entrenched models and maps remain difficult to overturn.

For the last 15 years, we at the Bridging the Gap Project (BTG) have used this story to introduce scenario analysis as a central piece of our New Era Workshop for PhD students. During the workshop, two dozen graduate students in political science, history, and related disciplines are presented with thematic, global scenarios, unfolding five to ten years in the future. Through analyzing these scenarios and probing the challenges and opportunities presented by plausible future worlds, our participants shed their “mental maps” to pose questions about future-oriented policy and research questions. BTG directors and fellows have previously written about this exercise—an innovative method for generating novel, policy-relevant research questions.

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Dear Civ-Mil Community: The (Retired) Generals Are Speaking & We Should Listen

This is a guest post by Carrie A. Lee, an Assistant Professor at the US Air War College. The opinions and recommendations offered in this piece are those of the author do not represent the official policy or positions of the U.S. Government, U.S. Air Force, or Air War College.

On the first evening of June 2020, President Donald Trump used National Guard military police units to fire tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful demonstrators in front of St. John’s Episcopal church in Washington, DC. The move, which was largely perceived to be an intentional and excessive show of force to clear the way for a photo-op, sparked outcry amongst observers from across the political spectrum, including those of us who study civil-military relations and remain concerned about the increasing use of the military for partisan political purposes.

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“We are not okay. And you shouldn’t be either.”

Sadly, it took the extrajudicial killing of yet another unarmed black man at the hands of the police for me to find my voice about finishing a dissertation under quarantine during a pandemic. I have considered whether or not I should write something every day since my quarantine began on March 16th but could never nail down what that would actually accomplish. It wasn’t important or noteworthy that I was neither mentally prepared nor had the infrastructure in place to write extensively and exclusively from home. It wasn’t important or noteworthy that I was under veritable house arrest because contracting COVID-19 with a compromised immune system could kill me.

And yet, the environment in which the expectations of academia are entirely divorced from the realities in which so many students exist is both important and noteworthy.

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It isn’t just about Wæver and Buzan

In case you missed it, quite the IR controversy has broken out. In August 2019, Alison Howell and Melanie Richter-Montpetit (hereafter H&RM) published “Is securitization theory racist? Civilizationism, methodological whiteness, and antiblack thought in the Copenhagen School” in Security Dialogue (SD) OnlineFirst. The authors conclude, after a tendentious (my assessment) reading of Security: A New Framework for Analysis(1998) and Regions and Powers (2003) that securitization theory is fundamentally racist and, deemed unsalvageable, should be ejected from security studies—and this would include the word securitization. 

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Revisiting the Fear-Apathy Cycle in Global Health in Light of COVID-19

This is a guest post from Ashley Fox, an Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Policy at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, SUNY.  who researches the politics of health policy and population health.  She can be found on Twitter @ashfoxly.

Since the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, it has spread to nearly every country on the globe, culminating in more than 5.5 million confirmed cases and nearly 350,000 deaths (and counting). Moreover, the epicenter of the outbreak has now migrated from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim to Western Europe and the United States and increasingly now Latin America.

The draconian social distancing measures utilized to bring China’s outbreak under control that many speculated would not be possible to use effectively in the West are now being undertaken under the threat of a health system tsunami. Moreover, the global economy is in a complete tailspin threatening to tack on a global economic crisis to what is already a public health crisis. 

It is now painfully clear that the world collectively underestimated this pathogen and its pandemic potential and that, once again, our containment efforts have been reactive rather than proactive, with deadly consequences. How did an emergent pathogen with a (likely?) 1% case fatality rate manage to bring civilization to its knees in a matter of months? What happened to the lessons learned from SARS, MERS, Ebola, and other recent pandemics that had resulted in promising reforms to pandemic preparedness?

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Democracy (still) on the Edge: An Analysis of Brazil’s Political Response to the Covid-19 Crisis

This is a guest post from Matthew B. Flynn, André Pereira Neto, and Letícia Barbosa.

Matthew B. Flynn is an Associate Professor of International Studies and Sociology at Georgia Southern University. His work focuses on pharmaceutical policies in Brazil, the immigration detention complex throughout the world, and the intersections between globalization and global health.

André Pereira Neto is a full professor at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil, where he coordinates the Internet, Health and Society Laboratory (LaISS) and teaches at the graduate program in Information and Communication in Health. Most recently, he co-edited an anthology Internet and Health in Brazil: Trends and Challenges with Matthew B. Flynn.

Letícia Barbosa is a PhD candidate at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. Her thesis aims to identify how health information circulates among breast cancer patients in online and offline settings. She also has experience researching the emergence of the expert patient, online health information and patient empowerment and virtual ethnography in online health communities.

Brazil’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic ranks as the worst of all the countries around the world. This is surprising, especially given its past experiences in fighting infectious disease and in light of the existence of a national public health system, known as the Unified Public Health System, or SUS in Portuguese, that provides public and free health services from preventive care to medical assistance. Why has Brazil fallen so far behind in confronting the novel coronavirus?

Any discussion about Brazil’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic must start with the country’s far-right populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, including his worldview and rise to power amidst increasing political polarization.

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