Author: Bridging the Gap (page 1 of 2)

The Book Nook: Diversity, Violence, and Recognition

This entry in the Bridging the Gap Book Nook series comes from Elisabeth King and Cyrus Samii of New York University. In their new book, Diversity, Violence, and Recognition (Oxford, 2020), they address key questions for peace-building in multi-ethnic societies: Under what conditions do governments manage internal violent conflicts by formally recognizing different ethnic identities? And what are the implications for peace?

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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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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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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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What Is . . . and Isn’t . . . a Norm?

The Norm Concept

This post, part of the Bridging the Gap channel at the Duck, comes from Michelle Jurkovich, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a 2019-2020 Public Engagement Fellow with Bridging the Gap and an alumna of BTG’s International Policy Summer Institute. During 2017-2018, she was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology fellow working in the Office of Food for Peace at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

We talk about norms a great deal in international relations (IR) scholarship — but what are the edges of this crucial concept? In a recent article in International Studies Review (“What isn’t a norm?” – ungated until September 21), I argue that in using the term in increasingly flexible ways, scholars have blurred important differences between norms, supererogatory standards, moral principles, and formal law.

Understanding differences among these concepts enables us to better analyze the social and normative environment in which important international actors are working. Enhancing the conceptual toolkit we use to make sense of the social world to encompass more than just the “norm” also helps to highlight potential areas of conceptual stretching, which, as Sartori (1970) warned, may lead to false equivalence. 

The article is a conceptual piece, but it was driven by a desire to understand some important real world challenges. Why is it so difficult to effectively use shaming strategies around some global problems (like hunger or homelessness) that everyone agrees are morally repugnant? While many human rights are codified in law, are all human rights codified in law also governed by norms? And if they aren’t, how can we make sense of the social environment around them? (My forthcoming book Feeding the Hungry: Blame Diffusion in International Anti-Hunger Advocacy with Cornell University Press tackles these issues with greater depth.)

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The Politics of Reform in the Middle East: A Conversation with Erin Snider

Each Spring, Bridging the Gap (BTG) announces the recipients of our annual Policy Engagement Fellowships (PEF), the purpose of which is to support efforts by scholars to connect their research on international issues to the policy community. One of our 2018–19 PEFs is Dr. Erin Snider, Assistant Professor of International Affairs at Texas A&M University’s George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service and a Fellow with the New America Foundation in Washington, DC.

[Learn more about Bridging the Gap, including the Policy Engagement Fellowship program, at our ISA reception on Friday March 29, in Toronto.]

Erin’s research focuses broadly on Middle Eastern political economy. She has conducted extensive research in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and beyond on the politics of foreign economic and democracy assistance programs and the question of how international actors might promote reform in authoritarian states. Erin is using her PEF to help disseminate her research through policy-oriented writing and is planning to organize an event with policy-makers and other practitioners to reflect on the economic dimensions and consequences of the 2011 Arab Spring.

BTG recently asked Erin some questions about how she came to her current research agenda and how it has evolved, what her research has to say about the contemporary US democracy promotion approach in the Middle East, and how her extensive policy experience has informed her scholarly work.

BTG: What initially motivated your decision to study Arabic and conduct research on the Middle East?  

ES: I’ve been interested in the Middle East since I was a kid—I became fascinated with Turkish history and politics after my father spent several years working in Izmir. My interest shifted from Turkey to the Arab world when I was in college. Arabic wasn’t offered at my university when I was an undergrad and there was little interest in it then—that would all change, of course, a few years later post-9/11. I jumped at the chance to study the language through night programs while working in DC and New York and continued throughout graduate school in different immersion programs in the Middle East.

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Congress, Trump, and Internationalism in U.S. Foreign Policy

This post comes from Bridging the Gap co-director Jordan Tama, Associate Professor at the School of International Service at American University. 

American presidents have typically been more internationalist than the average member of Congress. For instance, many presidents have struggled to persuade Congress to approve important international agreements or increase spending on diplomacy and foreign assistance. Scholars of U.S. foreign policy have provided a compelling explanation for this pattern: since voters hold presidents more accountable than members of Congress for the country’s overall welfare and security, presidents have a stronger incentive than lawmakers to advance broad national interests through overseas engagement.

Under Donald Trump, however, this pattern has been stood on its head. As Trump has sought to advance his “America first” agenda by pulling back from international commitments, Congress has at times become the country’s strongest voice for maintaining and deepening overseas ties. This has been evident in the rejection by Congress of Trump’s proposals to cut the State Department’s budget by one-third, the reaffirmation by Congress of the U.S. commitment to NATO, and the restriction by Congress of the president’s ability to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea.

Yet simply labeling elected officials as internationalist or the term’s opposite (nationalist or isolationist) fails to capture a lot of the nuance in their foreign policy positions. In a terrific new Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report, Beyond the Water’s Edge: Measuring the Internationalism of Congress, a team led by Kathleen Hicks, Louis Lauter, and Colin McElhinny looks under the surface of recent foreign policy debates to explore congressional internationalism in depth. The report is based on an impressive set of original research, including case studies of recent congressional activity in several foreign policy issue areas and detailed profiles of a representative sample of 50 members of Congress.

Importantly, the study finds that internationalism is more widespread in Congress than one might think.  Continue reading

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With Arms Sales, “It’s Not Just the Economy, Stupid”

This post comes from Jennifer Spindel, Assistant Professor in the Department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma and a 2018 participant in Bridging the Gap’s New Era Workshop

The disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi this month has led to calls for the US to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Trump has ignored these calls, saying “it would not be acceptable to me” to cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia because doing so would hurt the US economy. Arms sales have been a remarkably consistent news topic, from discussions about US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, to the recent grounding of the F-35 fleet, to disputes with Turkey about its arms purchases. This is, on the one hand, unsurprising: the United States sold $55.6 billion in weapons in the 2018 fiscal year, a 33 percent jump from the previous year. Yet the way the Trump administration talks about arms sales in terms of their sheer market and economic value reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about the political stakes of arms sales.

The issues surrounding the F-35 are instructive. From potentially decapitating pilots to recognized hardware issues, the F-35 has become a favorite (if too easy) punching bag in the defense community. Despite issues with the F-35’s capabilities, the plane is still a sought-after weapon – and not just because states have already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into developing and producing it.

The recent fighting between the US and Turkey over Turkey’s F-35 procurement illustrates the political stakes of such deals. Turkish companies produce components for the F-35, and Turkey is supposed to receive at least 20 of the planes. But in December 2017 Turkey purchased the Russian-produced S-400 missile defense system and, in response, the US Senate wanted to prohibit Turkey from acquiring the F-35. There is some concern that the S-400 will be able to collect intelligence about the F-35’s capabilities – and send this information back to Russia.

Yet much of the debate concerns the broader political problems of Turkey buying the S-400. States treat arms transfers as signals of foreign policy alignment: Turkey’s deal with Russia drove home its deteriorating relationship with the US and European States.

This political salience is reflected in statements by US and other policy-makers about the arms sale. US Assistant Secretary of State Weiss Mitchell said, “We can’t be any clearer in saying, both privately and publicly: a decision on S-400s will qualitatively change the US-Turkish relationship in a way that would be very difficult to repair.” Similarly, US Senator James Lankford said, “Turkey has gone a long way from being a NATO ally and an important partner in working against terrorism, to the situation today.” US allies are taking Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 as a symbol of rift between Turkey and the West, with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute calling it “meltdown in relations between Turkey and the US.” Israel has repeatedly expressed its concern about Turkey to the United States, arguing that allowing Turkey to get the F-35 would reward its bad behavior, and that Turkey should no longer be considered a “real” NATO member.

The political effects of the plane on the U.S.–Turkey relationship are independent of its military capabilities and will not change even though the entire F-35 fleet was grounded yesterday. The F-35 is, if nothing else, a status symbol that reflects the strength of political ties between states that have it.

As a signal of alignment, arms sales have wide-ranging consequences. Turkey’s simultaneous pursuit of the F-35 and the S-400 has emboldened other US friends to do the same. What was once unthinkable – US-friendly states actively courting Russian weapon systems – is becoming increasingly common. India, which was recently designated a Major Defense Partner by the United States, also signed a deal to get the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, a US ally, has hinted its interest in getting the S-400 as well.

Arms deals are much more than the transfer of military capability. Nor can they be thought of purely in economic terms. But – in responding to calls to suspend arms transfers to Saudi Arabia for its air campaigns in Yemen or, this week, for its supposed murder of Jamal Khashoggi – Trump has chosen to emphasize the economic consequences of halting arms transfers: “We have jobs, we have a lot of things happening in this country,” he said. “Part of that is what we’re doing with our defense systems and everybody’s wanting them. And frankly I think that that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country.”

Even if Saudi Arabia proved the crucial market to keeping US production lines open, Trump is overlooking the foreign policy signal that the arms sales send. By continuing to supply Saudi Arabia with arms, the US is tacitly endorsing Saudi actions. Congress should, at the very least, suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The State Department approved $1 billion worth of sales to the kingdom in March – delaying the transfer of TOW anti-tank missiles would be one clear way to signal US displeasure with Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, why should Saudi Arabia cooperate with investigations into the disappearance of Khashoggi, or modify its policy in Yemen? In the realm of international politics, talk is cheap; actions matter. Cutting off arms sales or switching suppliers is one way states can signal their dissatisfaction with partners, as Turkey so clearly did by purchasing the S-400. The political stakes of arms sales are high – and it is crucial that policymakers consider that political significance in their arms sales decision calculus along with economic and military considerations.

 

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What’s in a Name? Developing Countries and Security Cooperation

This post comes from Dr. Fabiana Sofia Perera, Assistant Research Fellow at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies and a 2016 alumna of Bridging the Gap’s New Era Workshop.

Defense Secretaries from the countries of the western hemisphere will convene in Cancun, Mexico next month to talk about the most pressing issues facing defense and security institutions in the Americas. The biannual meeting presents an important opportunity for the US to engage with Latin America as the hemisphere continues to try to work together to address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and other challenges. After the underwhelming Summit of the Americas, defense seems like a promising avenue for cooperation. Secretary Mattis already met with a number of his counterparts during his first trip to the region in August promising a closer relationship between the US and Latin America.

Security cooperation between the US and Latin America, however, faces one important obstacle: the definition of developing country. Though scholars think of the region as part of the developing world (studies of Latin American countries are routinely featured in journals and conferences focusing on development), most countries in the hemisphere are middle income. Trinidad and Tobago, and Estonia, for example, have about the same GDP per capita; Uruguay is nearly on par with Croatia; Costa Rica and China are within a few dollars of each other. This is where the US runs into difficulties for carrying out cooperation activities.

US Code, Title 10, Section 312 provides that security cooperation money “may be used only for the payment of expenses of, and special compensation for, personnel from developing countries.” US Code further stipulates that the term “developing country” “has the meaning prescribed by the Secretary of Defense [in] the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” The current iteration of that meaning is that countries are considered “developing” if they are not “high income” on the World Bank classification of countries. Argentina, Barbados, Chile, and Trinidad and Tobago are all “high income” this year.

The World Bank’s definition is not the only option, and may not be the best one for US purposes.  Continue reading

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The U.S. Versus China . . . Versus the Rest?

This post comes from Steve Weber, Professor at the I-School and Department of Political Science and Director of the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-director of the Bridging the Gap project.

It has become common in 2018 to hear that the United States and China are locking themselves into an Artificial Intelligence ‘arms race’. While global politics will certainly change in the machine learning era, the supposed ‘arms race’ between the US and China may turn out to be less interesting and relevant in this world than the relationships between the two machine learning superpowers and everyone else.

Which race will prove more relevant depends upon the long-term economic and security consequences of general purpose technologies, as well as the distinctive characteristics of the technologies that fall under the AI umbrella. (I prefer the term ‘machine learning’ because it carries fewer science-fiction connotations.) General purpose technologies are technologies that sweep across the economy and impact what is possible in many sectors, shaking up how companies and governments do what they do in the broadest sense. Steam locomotion is the obvious 19th century example. Machine learning is a 21st century general purpose technology because it can (and will) be applied in just about every economic production process you can imagine, from retail management to autonomous driving to drug discovery and beyond.

An even more important characteristic of machine learning as a technology is that it has strong first mover advantages and positive feedback loops. In simple terms, the better you are at machine learning at any given moment, the faster you are likely to improve relative to those ‘behind’ you. A firm that has excellent machine learning products (say, a great map application) will find that its products have greater success in the market. The more people who use the product, the more data are created for the firm to work with, which should lead to faster improvement in the underlying algorithms. In turn, that means the next iteration of the product will be even better. This positive feedback cycle can run on a very fast cadence, since data products can be updated far more frequently than any physical product (some are updated daily or even more frequently than that). All of this implies that the leader should speed away from competitors at an ever-accelerating pace. Michael Horowitz recently examined in the Texas National Security Review the potential military implications of such first-mover advantages in AI.

This simple model has a few limitations and caveats. Continue reading

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Tackling Climate Change: A Conversation with Josh Busby

Readers of the Duck will be very familiar with Duck editor Josh Busby’s commentary on climate change and security, U.S. foreign policy, and a host of other topics. Earlier this year, Bridging the Gap (BTG) awarded Josh a Policy Engagement Fellowship (PEF). The purpose of this fellowship is to support efforts by scholars to connect their research on international issues to the policy community. Josh is using his PEF to write policy-oriented pieces and organize events with practitioners on the role of actors other than the U.S. federal government in combating climate change. This work builds on Josh’s prior research on various dimensions of climate change and is particularly timely as the United States under Donald Trump retreats from a leadership role – or even a constructive role – on this critical global challenge.

BTG recently asked Josh some questions about his overall research agenda, his climate change work, and engaging with policy communities and the public. In addition to the work highlighted below, keep an eye out for a forthcoming Atlantic Council report by Josh and Nigel Purvis on leadership in the climate regime, which will draw on a memo Josh wrote for a BTG workshop on public goods last fall.

BTG: Your work has examined issues ranging from climate change to global health to U.S. foreign policy. What’s motivated your choices of particular research topics?

JB: I was an anti-apartheid activist in high school and an environment and development campaigner in college so I’ve been drawn to big global issues since I was young. My first two books were on social movements and whether and how they could exercise influence on foreign policy. As an American, it was a natural fit for me to focus my energies on my home country. My goals were mostly normative. That is, these were big issues I cared about and wanted to write about in my scholarly work.  Continue reading

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Building Policy Networks

This post comes from James Goldgeier, professor of international relations at American University, Visiting Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a co-director of the Bridging the Gap project. You can follow him on Twitter @JimGoldgeier.

Earlier this month, we held our annual Bridging the Gap (BtG) International Policy Summer Institute (IPSI) for faculty and postdocs who want to be more publicly engaged and policy relevant. Scholars who want to pursue this type of work need to keep in mind a point Duke professor and BtG co-director Bruce Jentleson always makes: Faculty members, particularly those on the tenure-track, should view these efforts as “in addition to” not “instead of” their core academic research. Any professor who wants to bridge the gap successfully needs to develop the scholarly expertise that provides credibility among policy and public audiences.

One issue that we discuss at length in our programs is how to build networks among the Washington, D.C., policy community. Your job doesn’t have to be located in DC to do this, but you have to learn how to navigate the different think tank and policy communities if you want to extend your reach. (Parallel principles apply for scholars interested in building networks in their state and local communities.) Networking is a long-term endeavor that never ends if you want to remain actively engaged in the debates. Here are three of the key takeaways from nearly fifteen years of conversations with policy insiders and influencers during our BtG training programs.  Continue reading

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Yes, the UN Human Rights Council Helps Dictators . . . and the US Withdrawal Will Make It Worse

This post in the Bridging the Gap series comes from Peter Henne, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont and a 2017 participant in BTG’s International Policy Summer Institute

Earlier this week, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, announced the United States was leaving the UN’s Human Rights Council. Haley pointed to the body’s disproportionate focus on Israel and its inaction on human rights abusers. While some cheered this move due to problems with the council, others worried this would decrease America’s ability to fight human rights abuses. My research suggests both views are accurate. The UN Human Rights Council is flawed, and repressive states can use the body to deflect criticism of their record, particularly on religious repression. At the same time, the fact that they can do this suggests that the Council and its activities matter. America should try to help the council live up to its name, not write it off as a lost cause.  Continue reading

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What We Learned at the Future Strategy Forum

This post in the Bridging the Gap series come from Sara Plana and Rachel Tecott, doctoral candidates in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Sara is also an alumna of BtG’s New Era Workshop.) They are the founders of the Future Strategy Forum and co-organized the Future of Force conference held in May 2018. Follow them on Twitter @saracplana and @racheltecott.

Last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kissinger Center at John Hopkins SAIS hosted a conference on the “Future of Force,” inaugurating a new series called the Future Strategy Forum. Like many DC conferences, the line-up featured a mix of preeminent academics, practitioners, and pracademics on discussion panels – but in this case, all of them were women. These experts discussed the implications of rising great and regional powers, non-state actors, and emerging technologies, and the approaches and challenges to crafting an integrated approach to US foreign policy. The final, keynote panel brought together women scholars (including us!) who have worked in both policymaking and academia, to investigate the academic-policy divide.

We left the day with much to think about, but four main themes struck us especially. Continue reading

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Cabinet Reshuffling and the Patrimonial Presidency: Lessons from Tunisia

This post marks the return of the Bridging the Gap channel at the Duck after a short hiatus. It comes from Gregory White, Professor of Government at Smith College, who will be attending our International Policy Summer Institute this June.  

How can we understand the Trump administration’s ongoing reshuffles of top tier staff and cabinet officials? Recent changes at the State Department, the National Security Council, the White House Communications Office, Veterans Affairs, and the National Economic Council – and that’s just the last several weeks – are unprecedented in US politics. Some people have been brought down by scandal or near scandal, with others dismissed for no clear reason.

Scholars have sought to understand this turnover as the result of a preference of loyalty over experience, the insurgent nature of the campaign (with inexperienced or no staff), or the chaos of Trump’s policy whims. I propose a different lens for thinking creatively and comparatively about Trump’s behavior as a way of understanding its potential implications.

Throughout all of the cabinet and staff reshuffling I have often thought of Tunisia – in particular its post-independence presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. One might think that comparing the United States to Tunisia is like comparing an apple to a steak – or even an apple to a stop sign. It is hard to think of two countries with more dissimilar political histories and systems. But constant cabinet and staff turnover and (re-)cycling characterized Bourguiba and his successor Ben Ali’s governments, and it had and continues to have profound implications for the North African country.  Continue reading

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The Water’s Edge is Muddier Than You Think

Today’s post is from Bridging the Gap Co-Director Jordan Tama, Associate Professor at American University’s School of International Service. He is working on a book tentatively entitled Bipartisanship in a Polarized Age: When Democrats and Republicans Cooperate on U.S. Foreign Policy.

Partisan polarization represents one of the dominant frames through which scholars and journalists see American politics today. Indeed, such polarization has increased significantly in the United States since the 1970s. A number of studies have found that this trend spans domestic and foreign policy, though scholars have disagreed about the extent to which American divisions over foreign policy are growing. Congressional voting patterns also suggest that bipartisanship is more prevalent on international than on domestic issues.

Scholars and journalists have given much less attention, though, to variation in types of bipartisanship. Analysts of American politics typically conceive of bipartisanship as a situation in which the two parties cooperate with each other or adopt the same position on a policy issue. Analysts of U.S. foreign policy often further associate bipartisanship with both parties in Congress supporting a position of the president – as in the adage, frequently invoked during wartime or when the president travels overseas, that politics stops “at the water’s edge.” In either conception, bipartisanship is usually seen in binary terms: an issue is either characterized by bipartisanship or it is not. Conversely, writing about partisan polarization typically sees bipartisanship simply as the opposite of polarization.

These binary images overlook important distinctions in the alignments of elected officials across different issues, particularly on foreign policy. Continue reading

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