Brandon Valeriano

Ducking Out…

Am I the first to use the pun “ducking out”?  I can’t be, someone has to have used that to describe leaving the Duck of Minerva before.  Regardless, this brings up two key problems with blogging, the quick move towards the cheap pun and to the tendency to do no actual background research on before a post.  I am probably prone to both.  deflated duck

In any case, I am moving on from the Duck.  I will be moving over to RelationsInternational to help build a new blog.  I think blogging is an increasingly important part of our academic jobs and we need more voices in this community.  Therefore it is in our interest to encourage and nurture new blogging outlets by professional scholars.

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A Tale of Three Cyber Security Articles

Cyber security has been on the general security agenda for some time now, but it is only recently that Political Scientists have really engaged the topic in a serious manner befitting of the theoretical and empirical advances in the field.  In general, we have ceded this ground to those who either have a vested interest in the question (the cyber security industry) or to those who seek to inflate the threat based on imagined fears.  This blog will review some recent work in the field and evaluate the state of knowledge plus future directions.arguing duck

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The War against Neologisms:  Calling Out “New” Types of War

It seems that every pundit, scholar, and borderline academic publishing online has developed a new term to describe the state of war in the system.  I can’t browse the pages of Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, or even the New York Times without someone making up a new term to articulate basic and common features of modern warfare. roboduck

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Things to do after finishing a book

I just finished my cyber security book, provisionally titled Cyber Hype versus Cyber Reality.  The feeling of loss has set in.  I don’t know what to do with myself now, I am sleeping more than normal (but that could just be jet lag).  Working on articles seems like too small a task. Starting a new project seems too big.  How to get over this hump?

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John Vasquez, Territoriality, and Staying Ahead of the Game

by Brandon Valeriano and Andy Owsiak

What follows is a dialog between us on John Vasquez’s contributions to the field of IR based on a recent roundtable honoring his work at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association in Toronto in March, 2014.  Our remarks are cribbed from our statements on the panel.  vasquez

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Political Science without a Net

Marc Maron, on his popular WTF Podcast, made an offhand remark that he does not prepare for his comedy performances.  He feels that preparing is for cowards, that you need to be ready and willing to fail in your work since there is a fine line between a unique achievement and total failure. Skirting this line led him to ruin many times in his career, but it has also led him to the transcendent place he is at now.  He has reached the heights of his field by putting it all on the line and risking total devastation by focusing on his Podcast, a new and untested medium at the time.  Now he has one of the most popular podcasts, a TV show, and is more popular than ever on the comedy circuit.  duck net

Maron’s path to success reminds us that we need to think a bit about this frame in our own work in Political Science.   Are we really willing to fail?  Are we cowards?  Do we skirt that fine line between success and ruin?

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The ISA Survival Guide: Everyone needs some Crack Pie

bday duckISA is coming, like winter for the Starks; it’s always just around the bend.  Luckily, I almost have nothing but fond memories of ISA.  It was my first conference and will be the one I remain loyal to for as long as I remain able.  The key though is to maximize your experience.  I know too many academics who never leave the hotel, never leave panels, and don’t see the world.  And please, take off your badge if you do leave the conference.

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Failing at Football Diplomacy

clean fun soccerThere has been a bit of recent news lately suggesting international football* considerations are making the divisions between states greater, supporting the idea that sports might not be the path to peace and reconciliation.  While a few cases cannot disprove an idea, recent moves point in a troubling direction for the theory that we can settle differences between states on the football pitch.  Relating back to early theories of functionalism, any form of cooperation, even on the sports pitch, might be beneficial to countries at odds with each other.  The communication provided through spectacular sporting events might provide pathways for peace.  Others might argue that fighting it out on the pitch is better than fighting with guns and bullets.  While these ideas might be true in the abstract, it is tough to consider the viability of such proposals if states fail to even meet on the pitch in the first place.

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Ukraine – Cyber Speculation Run Rampant (Updated)

*I was a bit too quick to post last week and had to add quite a few recent events. Nothing changed my original analysis (BV 3/10/2014)

With my most of research right now heavily focused on cyber conflict, it might be useful to review all the news on the cyber situation between Ukraine and Russia.  There have been many posts on the Duck and elsewhere (Monkey Cage macro post) covering the conflict (here, here, here, here, here), so I will refrain from summarizing the basics.  The cyber situation on the other hand has shown a remarkable amount of restraint, defying conventional wisdom but also following directly in line with my soon to be completed book on Cyber Conflict and forthcoming Journal of Peace Research article (both with Ryan Maness).  The restraint point was made early by Mark Clayton at the Christian Science Monitor.

bbc urkaine

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Russia’s Coercive Diplomacy against Ukraine: The Power Politics Story

*The following post is written by Ryan Maness and myself.

Events are in motion that many thought were past us, part of a bygone era where conventional war still had a prominent place in deciding the course of nations.  Having done a great amount of work on Russia’s strategic behavior and use of power (we have a book on the topic under review), we were a bit caught off guard too.  Not by the course of events, but that our vision was focused on cyber conflict and thus were distracted from the real world developments.  duck russia 2

The events in Ukraine fit a recent pattern of Russia’s coercive diplomacy directed toward the states of its former Soviet empire, more commonly known by Russians as the Near Abroad. Since the Soviet fall in 1991, Russia has been going through an identity crisis. Always regarded as a major power, it found itself weak after the end of the Soviet era, unable to even quell violence in Chechnya. It lost nearly half of its territory and population as the Soviet Union broke up into 15 independent states. Since then, Russia has been attempting to regain its status as a world power, or at least a regional power. Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has used power politics strategies, mainly in post-Soviet space, to carve out its place and dominate a specific sphere of influence.

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Why the Crimea is the Third Rail of International Politics

*this is a guest post by Konstantinos Travlos, currently a Visiting Assistant at Georgia Southern, who writes on international conflict and history.  The arguments presented below are based on past research.

Russian policy towards Ukraine is partly driven by short term political reasons such as protecting an investment in the form of Yanukovych, the Russian view of Ukraine as a “little brother”, a legitimate worry over the future of the Russian minority in Ukraine, and a very real opposition to what is seen by the Kremlin elite as the meddling of Western powers in its Near Abroad. However, I argue that the most intractable issue driving Russia is control of access to the Crimean Peninsula as a naval base, an indivisible territorial issue.  This has less to do with geopolitical and strategic reasons and more to do with the identity of the Russian state as a great power which makes Crimea a transcendental and thus difficult to negotiate over. This is why the recent and quick escalation is not surprising, in counter to some arguments madeLight Brigade2

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Cyber Spillover: The Transition from Cyber Incident to Conventional Foreign Policy Dispute

*Post written with my coauthor Ryan Maness.  We are currently rounding the corner and almost ready to submit the final version of our Cyber Conflict book.  This post represents ongoing research as we fill out unanswered questions in our text.

My coauthor and I have dissected the contemporary nature of cyber conflict in many ways, from cataloging all actual cyber incidents and disputes between states, to examining cyber espionage, and finally, examining the impact of cyber incidents on the conflict-cooperation nexus of states.  What we have not done until now is examine the nature of what we call cyber spillover.  duck read 2

Cyber spillover is when cyber conflicts seep and bleed into traditional arena of militarized and foreign policy conflict.  While it is dubious to claim that the cyber domain is disconnected from the physical domain given that cyber technology has to be housed somewhere, it is also true that there are very few incidents of cyber actions causing physical damage (the only case being Stuxnet).  Our question is not about the transition from cyber to physical, but when cyber disagreements lead directly to conventional foreign policy disputes between states, thus altering how international interactions work.

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You Think You Have a Facebook Problem? The IDF and Social Media

Dan Levine sent on this great write up of the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) problems with social media.  A few highlights:

“In 2010, a soldier in the artillery corps posted this status: “Cleaning up Katana and home on Thursday.” Katana is a village in the West Bank. The status revealed the time of the planned raid and the unit involved. The other soldiers in the unit, also apparently glued to their screens, saw the update and, feeling imperiled, let the authorities know.” cute duck

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Denying Tenure and Moving On

For some people this has been a very good month, for others, no so much.  Tenure (and by proxy promotion) is the thing most American Professors strive for, desire, believe is the crowning moment in their careers.* daffy professor

I will say for one, tenure denials, whether justified or outrageous – happen.  Our careers are determined by many things but tenure is not one of them.  It is a process filled with problems, but important nonetheless.  For me, there was some liberation in having the process go poorly.  Who I am kidding, I relished being denied.  It freed me, allowed me to work on things I was too cautious to do before.  In hindsight, I am glad the way my career has developed and what happened.  I am glad that I can even say that I have a “career.”  It is no longer about my portfolio, my CV, “my package.”  There is certainly life after tenure and tenure denial.

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What is Cyber Hygiene?

Super bowl security wifiI was struck this morning to read a post on a Cyber Security forum with a link stating the “Super Bowl was Hacked!”  Clicking on the link lead to this write up and picture.  I can’t think of better visualization of the need for basic cyber hygiene.  The cyber security industry kills many trees and wastes much bandwidth on discussions of cyber offensive and defensive strategies.  Yet, if we can’t practice basic cyber hygiene, what is the point?

The UK Cabinet estimated that as much of 80 percent of cyber crime can be prevented with basic cyber hygiene.  While that figure is pretty much a wild guess, its also likely very much accurate.  We know very little about the basics of computer protection.  Ask yourself, when is the last time you changed your password?  Do you know what you are agreeing to when you given an app permission for access?  Have you checked to see what programs are draining power on your laptop and communicating with external computers?  The answer is likely no to all these questions.

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Can You Pass the Cricket (errr.. Soccer) Test?

Its World Cup season again.  That time a year when I start getting interview requests about soccer/football, fandom, and loyalty.  The assumption for many seems to be if you are a citizen of a state, you must give a certain amount of loyalty to said state.  Fixed nationalism for many is an assumption.  With global immigration patterns and international connectivity, these sorts of ideas can no longer be assumptions.

This leads us back to the mythical test of national loyalties.  Can you pass your local cricket test? It’s a simple proposition, basically, do you support your national team above all others. Developed due to Lord Tebbit’s famous cricket test, the contention by the politician wasduck soccer that new British immigrants were disloyal to the country and evidence for this was that the immigrants support their former home’s national team over the English cricket team.  The claim continues to be made especially in light of the influx of those of Latin American decent into the United States.

Loyalty is a difficult question.  American audiences are always amazed to see Latin American teams descend on American cities by the tens of thousands to see the Mexican National Team, Bolivian, or any other prominent Latin American team play in the US.  The reason these teams do so is simple, they are ready avenues to revenue given the relative affluence of the market and the loyalty of the audience to the nation of their birth.

For some this is shocking.  For someone like me, it is certainly understandable.  Why is it that we do not question loyalties developed at birth to political parties, religions, or even cars, yet we question it when Latinos continue to express an attachment to the teams of their birth.  This development makes a lot sense from the perspective of a political protest.  Rooting for a sports team can be a safe place to protest.  It is an allowed expression of nationality.  This practice is not necessarily a challenge to the state, just an expression of pride.

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Public Opinion in the Midst of the Syrian Civil War

I have been an admirer of Sam Whitt’s work for some time.  He has always done interesting research, being one of the first to study and publish on Katrina and run surveys/experiments on divided post conflict societies.   Whitt and his colleague Vera Mironova, conducted a survey of civilians and rebels in Syria during the Civil War.  assad duck

This fascinating study points out many problems and issues the international community will face as it tries to push for a peaceful solution to the Syrian Civil War.  Moving beyond the civil-military gap and also the more modern socio-military gap, Mironova and Whitt identify what might be called the civilian-rebel gap.  In Syria, most rebels are focused on revenge and removing Assad from power while the civilians are tired of the fighting, starving, and want the conflict to end now.  These growing divisions are important to understand as the international community pushes for a solution to the violence.  Often scholars fail to investigate the within group preferences of a domestic population and avoid examining active war zones, Moronova and Whitt attempt to do both.

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Digital Video Games and International Interactions

It has been an interesting week, I have been at a small conference in the US on cyber security and the question frequently asked is what are you working on?  I think the assumption was that I would reply with something in the realm of cyber security, but that would be too clichéd for me.  This week my research focus has been video games (we prefer to use the digital games since it encompasses all forms of the gaming industry).images

Digital games have surpassed movies as the most profitable dimension of the entertainment industry.  Due to this shift, an interesting question is if there are international relations implications for this development.  Along with my co-author Phillip Habel, we argue that there are some key considerations that can be examined by focusing on games as a transmission and framing device for enemy images.  Our paper for the Southern Political Science Association investigates enemy images in digital games.  To this end, we coded 37 first person shooters (FPS) from 2001 to 2013 along many dimensions to investigate this question (sorry, we did not code Duck Hunt).

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In Cyber Security, it is the little things that matter… really like the point of this brief little article on a “cyber attack” against a power plant.  The money quote highlighted from the Foreign Policy article, “A shooter could get 200 yards away with a .22 rifle and take the whole thing out…A metal sheet that would block the transformer from view…[is] a lot cheaper than billions the administration has spent in the past four years beefing up cyber security of critical infrastructure.”

A quick and dirty point can be made about waiting for the facts to come in before jumping to conclusions, but this tact is evident every time there is a terrorist or mass murder incident.  This event brings to mind more important security concerns in light of how we protect vulnerable locations.

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The Scottish Threat Environment: Insecurity, Fears and Independence

This article is cross posted from the Scottish Global Forum.  In this form it is slightly modified and hyperlinked.

The Nature of Threats to Scotland

In March of 2015, a cry goes out in the town centre, everyone reacts quickly.  Valuables are hidden underground; women and children are stored in hideaways to be kept safe until the danger is over.  The sacred and expensive items in the church are removed and the priests flee – they are often the first targeted.  The town moves to the defenses, but there is little that they can do to counter the oncoming scourge.  The Vikings are off the coast of Scotland, again.  Scrooge_mc_Duck_full_color_by_MacOneill

The scenario described above is obviously an absurd fiction; however, there is little disconnect between this scenario and the context of the current debate surrounding the security of an independent Scotland.  I have followed the debate on Scottish independence with great interest and have done so through the eyes of a ‘new immigrant’ to Scotland, one who studies war and conflict as a profession.  One of the most troubling aspects of this debate is the continued reference to ‘external threat’ to Scotland.  The narrative is framed in a way which suggests that Scotland cannot become independent because it cannot afford to secure its own international environment and borders.  It is almost if the Vikings remain a rational fear in 2013.

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