Charli Carpenter

charli.carpenter@gmail.com

Charli Carpenter

Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.

What Daenerys’ Error Teaches Us About American Tolerance for War Crimes

Alex Montgomery I have a new post up at Foreign Policy arguing that “The Bells” – and audience reactions to it – tell us something about American attitudes toward just war theory. A relevant topic with rising tensions w/ Iran, a debate over whether to pardon war criminals, and the stated willingness of our own rulers to violate war law.

The underlying reason for the outcry went unspoken: The deliberate targeting of civilians from the air, using incendiary weapons that are impossible to escape, is rightly recognized by Americans as a terrible crime—something good actors just don’t do. Our research confirms the evidence from reactions to the show’s finale. Americans would have wanted Daenerys to use air power but only against military targets such as the Iron Fleet. They would have wanted her to limit its use inside the city walls to avoid collateral damage. They would have wanted her to target the Red Keep, if needed, but not the streets of Flea Bottom. They would have chosen to let boots on the ground do the work of breaching the Red Keep and capturing Cersei Lannister and expected the Unsullied, Dothraki, and Northmen to fight soldiers rather than massacre civilians. All of these arguments show a clear and consistent understanding of, and sensitivity to, the international laws of war.

If public opinion can indeed constrain the executive – and there is evidence it can – this matters for foreign policy.

The article, I hope, does three other unstated things:

  1. Demonstrates the kind of analysis Paul Musgrave mentions IR scholars could and should be engaging in vis-a-vis pop-culture artifacts.
  2. Develops a testable hypothesis: that audience reception of pop culture artifacts could be as reliable a source of information on public opinion as fictionalized survey experiments, if only we start paying closer attention.
  3. Reminds us that American concern for the protection of civilians is a fragile thing, and not a historical inevitability.

Read the whole thing here.

What Game of Thrones Got Wrong About Firebombing

Much ink has been spilled since last Sunday about the massacre at King’s Landing. Why did Dany carpet-bomb a civilian population after a city had surrendered? Was this a sign of her growing madness? Or a rational strategy to cement the legitimacy of her claim? Why didn’t the showrunners build it up better? Did they compromise Dany’s story arc as a civilian-protection advocate or were her actions always foreshadowed by her worst “fire and blood” tantrums?

In the handwringing over what Daenerys did, scant analysis has focused on how she did it. This is important since audiences draw inferences from popular culture about causal effects in real world foreign policy scenarios – such as a looming conflict with Iran. Since dragons represent air power, we should understand the historical analogy for the firebombing of King’s Landing not as the sack of medieval cities in a feudal era, but rather the saturation bombings of World War II, where undefended cities were systematically incinerated from the air.

Viewed this way, “The Bells” badly missed the mark in accurately portraying the humanitarian, operational and strategic costs of such campaigns, which the US has used before and Republican politicians have threatened to use again. In so doing, the showrunners missed an opportunity to educate its audience on the true horror of firebombing, and the way in which political actors use it at their own peril.

Fire Is Not a Precision Weapon. When Drogon begins his assault on King’s Landing, he begins with military targets – the Greyjoy naval fleet. Conceivably, fire on the ocean could be contained from spread to the civilian population on land. But once the burning of the city perimeter from the interior begins, it already beggars belief that the city’s inhabitants could be protected from the fire’s spread. This is because fire is notoriously uncontrollable – one in a category of weapons banned under international law in the real world, when civilian populations are nearby, due to its ability to spread once deployed. In short, contrary to its portrayal in the episode, Dany’s use of dragonfire already threatened the civilian population even before she targeted them directly.

When Drogon began targeting the city inhabitants directly, the showrunners portrayed the fires burning where they were ignited: in city streets, largely contained by the surrounding structures. But in reality, fire engulfs structures. Cities burn in sheets, not rivers. Fire eats air, creating windstorms, which feed and speed the fire. The Tokyo firebombing created walls of fire, ripping through closely packed, mostly wooden homes. In Dresden, a city where many of the buildings were reinforced with concrete, the Allied firestorm still destroyed over half the structures in the city with hurricane-speed winds.

Rather than seeing civilians running away down streets and hiding around protected corners, audiences should have seen them facing ever-growing, shifting, enveloping tsunamis of fire once the first few streets were lit. Rather than Cersei watching ribbons of flame from the distance, she should have seen whole neighborhoods swallowed up progressively. The ignition of wildfire would have only exacerbated this trend.

For this reason alone, it seems incomprehensible that Dany would unleash this holocaust in an area where her own troops were present – or that her soldiers would have any chance at a protected route of retreat. Historically, the strategic bombing of civilians from the air is not a method used in areas where ground troops are already engaging the enemy on foot – for good reason. Dany’s willingness to sacrifice her own remaining men to an indiscriminate firestorm – not her willingness to punish civilians, an act often undertaken during the siege of medieval cities – is actually the best indicator that she was acting irrationally. That the showrunners allowed us to believe that a large portion of her military survived the siege only underscores the cinematic sleight of hand at play.

Fire Kills Loudly and Slowly. Through a number of cinematic choices, the creators of “The Bells” also led audiences to think that death by firebombing is quicker, less painful, less terrifying and less certain than it actually would be.

In real life, a city under incendiary siege is a noisy place. Survivors of the firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo refer back above all to the screaming. Of course, there were panicked shouts and screams of fear in King’s Landing last week, but we did not hear the shrieks of the dying, as the showrunners chose to include in previous episodes.

Think of the screams of Mirri Maz Dur in Season One, or the cries of Shireen Barratheon in Season Five: the sounds of only one person at a time dying slowly by fire. When the Sept fell in Season Six, only a handful of political elites and surrounding civilians died in the resulting blaze, but their shrieks could be heard by King Tommen from his window at the Red Keep. Multiply that by tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians burning slowly to death in ongoing waves – what Cersei should have been listening to from the same window – and suddenly the episode we saw becomes eerily, unjustifiably quiet.

Visually, instead of choosing to portray fire’s lethal heat effects, and the full fury of their humanitarian consequences, the showrunners instead gave us primarily fast-killing blast effects. We see civilians overrun by bursts of flame and incinerated quickly and soundlessly – disappearing from sight into the flame, instead of convulsing before our eyes. We see civilians panicking and running from the fire, but we do not see mothers running away while listening as the babies on their backs actually catch fire and begin burning alive. We do not see people pile up in desperation at the end of city blocks as the flames overtake them.

To be fair, audiences were permitted to see the aftermath of death by fire: charred bodies appropriately reminiscent of images from the aftermath of Dresden, Tokyo and the countless other Asian and European cities targeted from the air in that period. But we are allow to imagine the inhabitants of King’s Landing died quickly, their corpses blackening in the aftermath. Just as we do not hear them, we do not see civilians slowly burning.

We also do not see civilians suffocate. In real firebombing campaigns of the 1940s, many civilians took shelter in cellars or other structures. But the heat of an inferno sucks away oxygen, dooming even those who escape the flames. In World War II, families were found huddled in blast shelters after suffocating together – a lingering death which can take up to three minutes.

Instead of capturing this reality, “The Bells” portrays interiors as vulnerable primarily to demolition and explosive violence. Civilians are seen sheltering inside buildings from the flames and melee. Cersei and Jaime find temporary respite in the catacombs. When Arya encourages a group to flee instead of sheltering in place, they are quickly killed, suggesting they would have been safer inside. In reality, they would likely have traded one death for another. The Lannister twins would likely have asphyxiated long before being buried alive. 

As Tyrion says, “I do not want to hear the sound of children screaming as they burn alive.” Perhaps, the showrunners decided, audiences would also not wish to hear that sound. It is, as Qyburn reminds us, “not pleasant.” Yet by sanitizing the sound of the siege, by sanitizing the sight of it, by limiting its complexity, the showrunners dulled audiences’ senses to the reality of firebombing. By making the intolerable slightly more tolerable, they deadened our understanding of what massacre by air truly entails.

Firebombing Civilians is Strategically Ineffective. Though Dany may yet atone for her sins, by all appearances thus far the following episode depicts a successful claim to the throne, her army victorious, the remaining inhabitants (and her own people) cowed. Yet in the real world, there is no instance where a firebombing campaign yielded the result sought by its perpetrator – and often, it has yielded retaliation in kind. 

Strategic bombing proponents in World War II believed terrorizing civilians from the air would induce surrender. But even the most oft-cited argument – that the atomic bomb forced a Japanese surrender – is historically disputed. The Hiroshima bombing took place on August 6th, 1945, but for three days the Japanese continued to refuse surrender and did not even meet to discuss the bombing. What convinced Japan to surrender was a different event occurring days later: Stalin entered the war, invading Japan from the north. Burning civilians with nuclear fire was little more effective than using regular incendiary bombs.

Which is to say, ineffective: there is no case in history where conventional firebombing produced the desired effect. When Nazi Germany tried it against Britain between 1941-1940, hoping to shock British civilians into demanding surrender, the Blitz only galvanized Brits and made them blood-hungry. Yet the British firebombing of German cities was equally counter-productive: German industrial production went up the more ordnance Britain dropped, and the age range for men and boys enlisting in the Wehrmacht expanded. Firebombing civilians has domestic blowback effects as well. In Vietnam, the use of napalm and carpet-bombing galvanized the peace movement at home and delegitimized the war. Recent use in Syria has led to renewed international efforts to more comprehensively outlaw incendiary weapons.

If the Game of Thrones finale is at all true to life, history will punish Dany for her crimes. Yet just as the show produced a devastatingly sanitized depiction of incendiary warfare, it is equally plausible that tonight’s finale will portray saturation bombing as an effective way to bolster a ruler’s legitimate claim to the throne. This would be a dangerously unrealistic portrayal of the political consequences of indiscriminate air power.

Why It Matters. It is now well known by social scientists that pop culture influences attitudes about real-world events. Audiences easily learn false lessons about history and causation through narrative storytelling loosely based on historical analogy. Depictions of political violence can sensitize or desensitize. They can influence political beliefs and public opinion. The messages audiences take from a show like Game of Thrones have political consequences.

While fans were obsessing over whether Dany had gone mad or whether Arya’s horse symbolized death or peace, the Trump Administration quietly began inching closer toward war with Iran. US public opinion polls have already been fielded testing American support for a saturation bombing strike on an Iranian civilian city in the event that the US finds itself in an intractable ground war unable to induce a surrender.

Pop culture can convey cautionary tales, and Game of Thrones has often done so. But the most popular show in history, known for its soberingly grisly portrayals of political violence, just whitewashed the implications of firebombing a civilian population. In so doing, it missed its chance to show American how terrible such an act would be for civilians on the other side and – if the enemy retaliated in kind – here at home.

[cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]

What’s a War Crime Gotta Do To Get Some Attention?

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose and Alessa Sänger. Jose is currently a Fellow in the Cluster of Excellence: Formation of Normative Orders at Goethe University. Sänger is pursuing a Master Degree in Curatorial Studies at Goethe Universität and Städelschule and is a collection assistant in the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

In a speech at UNESCO just days after a horrific terrorist attack in Paris for which DAESH claimed responsibility, French President Hollande declared, “the right to asylum applies to people… but asylum also applies to works, world heritage.”  In that same speech, Hollande vowed to advance a legal framework in the Parliament that would aid in the safekeeping of threatened cultural heritage.  DAESH has notoriously destroyed priceless cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq or sold it on the black market to fund its activities, much to the horror and despair of the global community. 

Article 53 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions (API) states that it is a crime to “to commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples.”  Various segments of the global community have condemned DAESH’s actions and called for efforts to stop it or temporarily safeguard these objects until they can be safely returned.  France’s pledge to offer safe haven to these valuable treasures was in response to these efforts and warmly welcomed by many activists who had long pressed for more attention to this vital issue with limited success.

What’s interesting about this speech is why France chose to make such a strong and public statement on this war crime and not another one that’s also been long neglected: the destruction of the environment during the Syrian war. 

Continue reading

Political Science Association Draws Ire for Honoring Condoleeza Rice

In the run-up to the American Political Science Association Conference in Boston this week, some political scientists are protesting the award of the Hubert Humphrey prize to former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. The award, which includes a cash prize of $1,000, is given each year “in recognition of notable public service by a political scientist.”

Rice earned her PhD in political science from University of Denver and  served in the diplomatic corps and national security establishment under Presidents Carter, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. – notably, as National Security Advisor during George W. Bush’s first term and Secretary of State during his second. A press release from APSA published on PSNow states that “Dr. Rice’s career exemplifies the contributions that political scientists can make to public as well as academic life.”

The choice of Rice for this award is controversial because of her association with the Bush Administration’s human rights violations in the early war on terror. Continue reading

Civilian Self-Protection: What Civilians Do in War When Help is Hard to Find

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose and Peace Media. Betcy Jose is Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver.  She tweets @betcyj.  Peace A. Medie is a Research Fellow in the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy at the University of Ghana. She tweets @PeaceMedie.  Their work on civilian self-protection can be found here and here.

On July 25, 2018, DAESH launched a surprising and brutal 12 hour offensive in Sweida, Syria, killing more than 200 people through a series of suicide attacks and door-to-door raids. The attack was notable not only because this predominantly Druze area had largely been spared much of the Syrian war’s violence, but also because it signaled that DAESH still had some fight left in it despite the relentless effort by the United States and others to decimate its ranks.

Initial reports largely focused their analyses on whether the Sweida attack indicated a resurgence of DAESH and what impact it would have on the region’s geopolitics and the Syrian war.  Receiving less attention was how the residents of Sweida valiantly tried to protect themselves during this onslaught.  As the attack unfolded, some of the local youth and militia took up arms to defend their villages.  Local writer Osama Abu Dikar recounted, “In the beginning, the attack took us by surprise, but the heroic youth of Sweida rallied quickly in the centre of town and the villages that Daesh had attacked.  These local fighters with basic capabilities fought real battles against [DAESH].”

These wartime civilian-driven protection efforts are examples of civilian self-protection (CSP).  CSP is not unique to Sweida.  As long as war has raged, civilians have sought to protect themselves.  Often this is because their own governments or humanitarian actors cannot or will not protect them.  For example, in the case of Sweida, no government troops were around to protect the locals; hence the need for them to take up arms in self-defense.  And far too many times, the very actors charged with protecting civilians are the ones who perpetrate harms against them. Continue reading

What is Happening to the Non-Intervention Norm?

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose, Assistant Professor at University of Colorado-Denver and author of Norm Contestation: Insights into Non-Conformity with Armed Conflict Norms. Follow her on Twitter.

After the recent strikes in Syria, Germany’s Angela Merkel stated the intervention was, “necessary and appropriate, to ensure the effectiveness of the international ban of chemical weapons use and to warn the Syrian regime of further violations.”   UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked,  “A lack of accountability emboldens those who would use such weapons by providing them with the reassurance of impunity.”   However, some members of the international community felt differently about the strikes.  Russia sponsored a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning the strikes as a violation of the non-intervention norm which was rejected.

Did the missile strikes violate the non-intervention norm?   Article 2(4) of the UN Charter essentially permits two exceptions to the non-intervention norm, considered norms in their own right: violations occurring with UNSC approval and for self-defense.  None of the participating states made a self-defense argument. Neither did the intervention receive UNSC authorization. Thus, one could conclude that the intervention was inconsistent with the non-intervention norm and its exceptions.  So what then are we to make of statements like Merkel’s or the rejection of the above UNSC resolution?

Norms scholars would tell us that acceptance of norm violations or silence to them suggests weakening norms.  And if the violation engenders approval, it may also set the stage for new norm emergence. Support for the strikes suggests shifts in intersubjective agreement, shared and accepted understandings of the appropriate ways actors ought to behave.  The endorsements above suggest some in the international community may be willing to loosen their commitment to the UNSC normative exception under specific circumstances.  And in doing so, they may weaken it and the non-intervention norm, enabling new avenues for permissibly violating state sovereignty. Continue reading

Heroes Aren’t Born, They’re Made.

This is a guest post by Ari Kohen, Associate Professor of Political Philosophy at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and author of Untangling Heroism. Follow him on Twitter here.

As someone who researches heroism, I can say without a second’s hesitation that President Trump absolutely would not have rushed into an active shooter situation in a high school and neither would 99% of the people to whom he made the comment on Monday. No chance.

I’m not saying this because I think Trump is a coward and I’m not saying it to get in another dig at him. I’m saying this because the vast, vast, vast majority of people won’t run toward gunfire; they’ll run away. And that number of people who’ll run toward gunfire goes down the more people are around.

Most people aren’t heroes. Most people would like to think that they would be heroic if the situation calls for it, as Trump did when he spoke to a group of governors at the beginning of this week. But wishing it doesn’t make it so. Training makes it so. And Trump doesn’t have any of the training that would make heroism more likely.

 

Even people with training didn’t rush in. That’s the lesson we ought to be learning from the Parkland mass shooting. Armed sheriff’s deputies who were there to protect the kids in that school didn’t rush in. Not because they’re bad or weak but because heroism is risky and situations requiring heroes are very scary.

We’ve spent the past week and a half (at least) with some percentage of our country pretending that heroism takes nothing more than a gun and psyching yourself up to go take out the bad guy. That’s why it seems acceptable to arm teachers and take potshots at the sheriff’s deputies for their inaction.

But that’s not how heroism works. I published a book about heroism a few years ago  I’m working on a new book in which my colleagues and I are interviewing actual, awarded heroes. I’ve spent time with heroes. My colleagues and I just published a paper on how ordinary people can train themselves so they’re more likely to be heroes.

Saying “I’m sure I’d be a hero” isn’t one of the things that makes you more likely to be a hero. 99% of people think they’ll do the heroic thing. But most don’t. Part of it is the Bystander Effect  part is the obvious risk; and part of it is the split-second nature of the choice.

One of the major reasons that some people do the dangerous, heroic thing is that they have specialized training. Trump doesn’t have it. Another reason is that they have a profound sense of empathy that includes people who might be considered unlike them. Trump doesn’t have that  Another predictor is having heroic role models. Trump has been asked about this. He doesn’t have it. Another predictor is having a heroic imagination, which some people refer to as experience-taking. You might read a novel, for example, and put yourself in the hero’s place, thinking about exactly what you’d do in that situation. From what we know about Trump, he doesn’t have that.

Heroes have to make a split-second choice and basically every one of them reports not even thinking about making a decision, just acting. The reason is they’re primed to act because of the factors mentioned just above. If you’re spending time thinking about what to do, it’s too late.

It’s easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback, as Trump is doing. But most people won’t do it because most aren’t wired like him. Most people will recognize that the sheriff’s deputies had an opportunity to be heroic and failed, and they’ll acknowledge it could happen to any of us.

What we need to do is get over pretending we’re all one bad guy with a gun away from being heroes. We’re not. We need, instead, to work on minimizing the chances that we’ll need to be heroes at all while maximizing the chances that more of us will be heroes if the need arises. That means enacting policies that actually make us all safer, not nonsense like arming teachers or making sure everyone is carrying concealed weapons at all times. It means commonsense gun regulations and it means not gutting programs that help people who need help in our society.

And it means talking to experts on heroism about giving you some hero training which is good for people even if heroism is never needed from them. Check out The Hero Construction Company if you want someone to come to your school, business, or organization to train you to be a hero. It’s worldwide. Can’t afford that? Just bring in someone to teach you CPR. That’s a great first step.

If you live in California, we’re putting on a conference in San Francisco in April. We’ve got another one in Michigan in October. Check out The Hero Round Table for more information. You don’t have to be Donald Trump to attend, and attending will make it more likely you’ll be the hero you hope you’ll be.

Continue reading

The Case Against “The Case For Colonialism”

This is a guest post by Sahar Khan, a visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and Foreign Policy Department. Sahar holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Irvine. Follow her at @khansahar1.

The Third World Quarterly (TWQ), a reputable academic journal in international studies, is currently under fire by academics including Ducks. In its latest issue, it published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism” by Dr. Bruce Gilley of Portland State University. In this article, Gilley calls for a return of colonialism, citing the benefits of a “colonial governance” agenda over the “good governance” agenda, which would involve overtaking state bureaucracies, recolonizing some areas, and creating new colonies “from scratch.” He argues that this new colonialism will be: 1) beneficial because it will be chosen by “the colonized,” and hence, will be legitimate; 2) attractive to Western conservatives because they are financially low-risk, and to liberals, because they will be just; and 3) effective because they will be designed like charter cities, which have proven to be efficient and effective at governance.

At first glance, the article seems like a bad joke. Can someone, a scholar no less, actually make a case for colonialism? And advocate for its return? Also, considering that the TWQ is jointly involved in creating an award named after Edward Said, the founder of postcolonial studies, it is especially surprising that the journal would publish a poor quality article on the subject of colonialism. The response has been swift. Though there are some apologists, social media has exploded with criticism against the author and the journal, even sparking a petition calling for the article’s retraction. Within a day, the petition gathered over 1500 signatures, with more signing on.

The problem is not that the article is offensive (which it is). The problem is that it is empirically and historically inaccurate, misuses existing postcolonial scholarship, and largely ignores interdisciplinary approaches to the study of colonial legacies. There are at least five blatant examples of this. Continue reading

Responsibility to Protect the Rohingya?

This is a guest post (begun as a series of tweets) by Phil Orchard, Senior Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations at the University of Queensland and the Research Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. He is the author of A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation, the forthcoming Protecting the Internally Displaced: Rhetoric and Reality and, with Alexander Betts, the co-editor of Implementation and World Politics: How International Norms Change Practice. He tweets @p_orchard.

The past three weeks have seen remarkable violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. On 25 August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a series of coordinated attacks on police posts and a military base which killed twelve government officials. The ARSA, an armed insurgency organization which began its first attacks in October, claims that their goal is have the Rohingya be “a recognized ethnic group within Myanmar.”  While many Rohingya can trace their roots back centuries in Myanmar, the government considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It does not recognize the term Rohingya, and has refused to grant them citizenship; as a result “the vast majority of the group’s members have no legal documentation, effectively making them stateless” and face significant discrimination and government restrictions.

The Myanmar government has responded to the ARSA by branding it a terrorist organization and claiming that the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces of Myanmar, is using “clearance operations” to target militants. Even Aung San Suu Kyi has “blamed ‘terrorists’ for ‘a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different countries.’” The government has also claimed that the Rohingya are burning their own villages, however reporters from the AFP and BBC have documented several incidents being staged. The government has also denied requests for UN humanitarian agencies and US government officials to access the area.

The violence has led an estimated 391,000 Rohingya refugees to flee across the border into Bangladesh. There is also evidence that the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces of Myanmar, have been laying mines along the border with Bangladesh to deliberately target Rohingya refugees crossing the border. And the government has suggested that any civilians seeking to return from Bangladesh will need to show “proof of nationality.”

Over the past week, and following a significant upsurge in reporting on the crisis, the UN system has begun to respond. Continue reading

A Treaty to End All (Most?) Wars?

This is a guest post by Ardeshir Pezeshk, a PhD Candidate at University of Massachusetts specializing in civil wars, conflict-affected civilians and international law. Follow him on Twitter here

In an op-ed published in the NY Times over the weekend, Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro argue that the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928… worked. While they concede that the Pact did not succeed in its aim to end all war, the Pact was “highly effective in ending the main reason countries had gone to war: conquest.” But was it? According to International Relations Twitter, not really:

Continue reading

Minding Climate Change: Presidential Power and the US National Interest

This is a guest post by Manjana Milkoreit, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University. Her research integrates international relations scholarship and cognitive theory to study actor motivations and policy design in global climate change politics. She is the author of Mindmade Politics: the Cognitive Roots of International Climate Governance (The MIT Press 2017).

If Harvey’s unprecedented battering of Houston can even partly be linked to climate change, you might wonder if the President’s visit to Texas this week made him rethink his current foreign (and domestic) policies. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and his apparent misunderstanding of its content stand in stark contrast to his predecessor’s sustained diplomatic effort to create the agreement, join it, and ensure that the US would get global leadership credit for its diplomatic efforts to “save the planet.” How is possible for one President to oppose the agreement and for another to support it if both – presumably – acted in “the national interest?”

An objective, rationally determined national interest would have to be independent of the individual holding the presidency. Any person with the relevant information would end up making the same determination concerning the policy choice that is most beneficial for the survival and success of the US, weighing the costs and benefits of the available options. If that is the nature of the national interest – objective, rational, calculable – either Trump or Obama must be wrong. Alternatively, we might have to rethink the notion of the national interest. From a social constructivist position, the national interest is not objective, but ‘intersubjective’: the constantly changing result of social interactions and contestation among different political actors, who can assign different meanings to the same set of facts.

Integrating the rational-choice approach and social constructivist accounts of the national interest with a little bit of cognitive theory, I argue that two Presidents of the United States can take opposing policy positions on a specific issue, and both act in the national interest. When it comes to foreign policy, the US President holds the prerogative over the interpretation of the national interest. As the vocal responses to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement have demonstrated, his definition of the national interest can be out of sync with the majority of the American voters, major states and cities and a large portion of the business community and academic observes (“a major unforced error”). As Jarrod Hayes writes, these sub-national actors challenge Trump’s foreign policy on climate change and potentially undermine the authority (and credibility, influence and effectiveness) of the US government in international affairs. Yet, they cannot change the President’s mind or foreign policy. Hence, when it comes to the national interest, much depends on what individual presidents believe, and who or what influences those beliefs (see Elizabeth Saunder’s post on Trump’s decision-making process and Steve Saideman’s comments on the Great Men theory IR scholarship). In essence, the national interest comes down to one person’s brain functions. Continue reading

On Race, Nationalism and “White Pride” in America

This is a guest post (begun as a set of hasty scribbles on Facebook in the wake of Charlottesville) by Sean Parson, Assistant Professor in the  Departments of Politics and International Affairs and the MA program in Sustainable Communities at Northern Arizona University. He is the author of Cooking up a Revolution: Food Not Bombs, Anarchist Homeless Activism and the Politics of Space (forthcoming).

So the modern racial system is a result of early colonial American history. In the mid to late 1600s (see Abolition of White Democracy or The Invention of the White Race) early southern colonies, in the middle of riots and work slow downs and a growing coalition between indentured servants and slaves “freed” white people from bondage and defined that black=slave, white= free labor. This approach spread throughout all the slave colonies because, well it worked, at quelling revolt and led to an interesting fact: poor, newly defined, whites began policing the race line.

That equation of black=slave and white = free was the guiding logic of the US democracy (nation wide due to laws about slave catching even in the north, see 12 Years a Slave) and the American political conceptions of citizenship were defined in this equation.* Every new group that entered the US were put into this spectrum: were they white or non-white? And every new “ethnicity” was original positioned as “not white,” because whiteness meant benefits and you do not just give away benefits to new immigrants if you are in power.

So the Irish came and were originally “non-white” after a few decades of intentionally devised actions to make them more white via being the most racist immigrants around, they were given access to the space of whiteness (see How the Irish Became White). This became the model of expanding whiteness from then on and the German, the Italian, the Greek, the Northern Europeans, and lastly the Jews (in the 1960s) were granted legal and social status of whiteness (see both Working Towards Whiteness and Black Face, White Noise. With that they gain, what is called “the wages of whiteness” which are small (but meaningful) social, economic, and political benefits that subsidize the working class or middle class wages (see Wages of Whiteness).

From 1776 to 1964, these wages were directly paid for via the state. So the New Deal, for instance, exempted from Social Security jobs that were primarily non-white and funded jobs that were white. This meant that only white folks, for the most part, got the first generation (and second) of social security benefits. Similarly the US government would redline neighborhoods and that allowed them to not provide the support for home ownership to non-white people (until 1964) and even the first round of the GI bill there were ways to remove the benefits for black soldiers (See When Affirmative Action Was White). In effect this led to a cascading wave of problems. I can look at many but here is just one -“the racial wealth gap” – which is slowly decreasing but at this rate they expect it would take over 300 years for that to balance out.

So now back to contemporary race. What is race? Race is a political filtering of people within certain categories for social, political, and economic reasons. What does that mean for the “white race”? Continue reading

Uniting for Peace in Syria: Radical Move or Modest Proposal?

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose, Assistant Professor of Political Science at University of Colorado-Denver and Lucy McGuffey, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at University of Colorado-Denver.

In season 3 of House of Cards, the US Ambassador to the UN introduces a “Uniting for Peace” resolution in the General Assembly to deploy peacekeepers to the Jordan Valley, bypassing a Russian Security Council veto on a similar measure.  The Russian Ambassador’s response? “Going around the Security Council is a radical move.”

Could the UN consider such a “radical” move to overcome Security Council paralysis when it comes to the Syrian conflict?  After all, the Security Council has failed to pass resolutions condemning the use of banned chemical weapons there, let alone authorizing a peacekeeping mission.  Its inability to respond to the numerous atrocities has resurrected doubts about its effectiveness and reignited debates about Council reform.  Furthermore, growing frustration with it may have contributed to the US unilaterally launching missile strikes, potentially undermining norms ensuring global stability and peace.  Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, told the Council before the strikes, “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.” Yet unilateral action has its own drawbacks. A Uniting for Peace process could provide a third way. Continue reading

We Have Studied the World. President Trump Should Too.

This is an open letter signed by US international affairs scholars to their fellow citizens. If you hold a PhD in international relations or an extant field and wish to add your name to the list, please tweet #StudytheWorld with your name and institutional affiliation or send this information in an email to ir.scholars.openletter@gmail.com.

Dear Fellow Americans,

Recently, President Trump tweeted that people should “Study the world!” to understand his foreign policy. As scholars of international relations, we have studied the world, and we are concerned that the actions of the President undermine rather than enhance America’s national security.

We agree it is important for any President to protect US citizens from extremist violence, ensure America is respected abroad, and prioritize American interests. But our knowledge of global affairs, based on history, scientific fact and experience, tells us that many of the policies Trump has undertaken thus far do not advance these goals. Instead, they have made Americans less safe.

First, the President presented his temporary travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations (and all refugees) as a measure to protect the US homeland from terrorist attacks. Yet this move will make our country less safe, not more. First, the vast majority of terrorist attacks on US citizens come from “home-grown” terrorism and are carried out by non-Muslims: the ban does nothing to address this. Second, countering transnational terrorism requires transnational coordination, and this ban impedes our ability to coordinate with our allies abroad. Finally, studies show terrorists are strengthened when governments over-react: indiscriminate intolerance feeds radicalization by driving moderates into the arms of radicals. We are confident the travel ban will likely reinforce anti-American sentiment and strengthen terror networks while weakening US intelligence capacity.

Trump also indicates he wants America to be more respected by the world. But fear is not the same as respect. The President’s “go-it-alone” policy and disregard for international law and diplomatic relationships have confused and frightened those allies upon whose cooperation we rely to bolster our national security. Trump’s contradictory, ambiguous, and vague statements – about the U.S.’s commitment to NATO, arms control treaties, and friendly relations with Mexico, Australia, and other important partners – mean that foreign governments are now more likely to misperceive U.S. intentions. Unable to rely on us, our current friends might start looking for other allies – a situation that rival powers like Russia and China could easily exploit. This weakens our position in the global order.

The President has stated that he wishes to prioritize the home-front and reduce entangling commitments abroad. Yet America already spends only a tiny fraction of a fraction of our budget on foreign aid, and international economic cooperation benefits us far more than it costs. Global engagement has solved many other problems that threaten Americans, like stemming epidemics and closing the cancer-causing hole in the ozone layer. By contrast, periods of great power isolationism have led to global financial upheaval, instability, and war. When Americans ignore global economic, environmental, or social forces, they often entangle us in precisely the way Trump hopes to avoid.

Trump claims America should stay out of reckless wars. Yet several of his actions make war more likely, not less. Since the establishment of United Nations, the world has seen the lowest incidence of major war between states in centuries. On the other hand, research has shown nations that disregard the rights of women, minorities, political dissidents, and journalists are more likely to end up at war with their neighbors. By de-funding global organizations that keep the peace and weakening the domestic rule of law, Americans are far likelier to see catastrophic war at home during our children’s lifetimes.

We agree it is imperative that American citizens and leaders study the world and pay attention to facts, history, and scientific evidence. We have been heartened to see our fellow Americans – even many who voted for Trump – opposing these policies on fact-based grounds. New research shows that nonviolent resistance of this type works: when as few as 3.5% of a domestic population actively resist, it is possible to keep democracies strong and leaders in check. We strongly encourage our fellow citizens to hold our government accountable for creating evidence-based foreign policies that will promote rather than threaten America’s security.

This means pressing our leaders to avoid unnecessary wars and create the conditions for stability by supporting and improving institutions like the United Nations. We should encourage them to protect us by addressing extremist violence by all actors – including white supremacist terrorists, who have carried out a significant percentage of all attacks against Americans in recent decades. We should encourage leaders to study the world as the President enjoins, and consider the advice and knowledge of experts and scientists who understand global history, risk analysis, and national security processes. And, because history has shown it is in our national interest, we should urge the Trump administration to support global engagement where it is likely to reinforce our alliances, strengthen global institutions, and promote world peace.

Signed (in alphabetical order)

Deborah Avant, University of Denver
Gordon Adams, American University
Fiona Adamson, University of London
Rachel Anderson Paul, Western Washington University
Peter Andreas, Brown University
Bentley Allan, John Hopkins University
William Ayres, Wright State University
Michael Barnett, George Washington University
Taylor Benjamin-Britton, Lehigh University
Andrew Bennett, Georgetown University
Nora Bensahel, American University
Michele Betsill, Colorado State University
Phillipp Bleek, Middlebury Institute of International Studies
Mia Bloom, Georgia State University
Matthew Bolton, Pace University
Daniel Braaten, Texas Lutheran University
AC Budabin, University of Dayton
Joshua Busby, University of Texas-Austin
Sarah Bush, Temple University
Daniel Byman, Georgetown University
Ami Carpenter, University of San Diego
Charli Carpenter, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Austin Carson, University of Chicago
Ralph Carter, Texas Christian University
Chuck Call, American University
Rosella Capella, Boston University
Daniel Chong, Rollins College
Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver
Jeff Colgan, Brown University
Patrick Cottrell, Linfield College
Mark Copelovitch, University of Wisconsin
Jesse Crane-Seeber, North Carolina State University
Timothy Crawford, Boston College
Renee De Nevers, Syracuse University
Thomas Doyle, Texas State University
Brent Durbin, Smith College
Daniel Drezner, Tufts University
Thomas Doyle II, Texas State University
Amy Eckert, Metropolitan State University
Ali Erol, American University
Tanisha Fazal, Notre Dame University
Laura Field, American University
Martha Finnemore, George Washington University
Page Fortna, Columbia University
Rosemary Kelanic, Williams College
Volker Franke, Kennesaw State University
Louis Furmaski, University of Central Oklahoma
Chip Gagnon, Ithaca College
Nick Garcia, Otterbein University
Stacie Goddard, Wellesley College
James Goldgeier, American University
Ryan Grauer, University of Pittsburgh
Ryan Griffiths, University of Sydney
Alan Gross, New York University
Tamar Gutner, American University
Maia Hallward, Kennesaw State University
Ron Krebs, University of Minnesota
Jarrod Hayes, Georgia Institute of Technology
Virginia Haufler, University of Maryland
Denise Horn, Simmons College
Natalie Hudson, University of Dayton
Glenn Hunter, Pennsylvania State University
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, American University
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Juliet Johnson, McGill University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Margaret Keck, Johns Hopkins University
Khavita Khory, Mt. Holyoke College
Sarah Kreps, Cornell University
David Kinsella, Portland State University
Barbara Elias Klenner, Bowdoin College
Sarah Cleveland Knight, American University
Ari Kohen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
James Lebovic, George Washington University
Ned Lebow, University of Minnesota
Daniel Levine, University of Alabama
Meredith Loken, University of Denver
Tom Long, University of Reading
Andrea Lopez,  International Studies Susquehanna University
Julia MacDonald, University of Denver
Paul MacDonald, Wellesley College
Joseph Mahoney, Seton Hall University
Daniel McIntosh, Slippery Rock University
Marijana Milkoreit, Purdue University
Katherine Millar, London School of Economics
Ronald Mitchell, University of Oregon
Alexander Montgomery, Reed College
Sara Bjerg Moller, Seton Hall University
Layne Mosley, UNC Chapel Hill
Will Moore, Arizona State University
Daniel Nexon, Georgetown University
Julie Norman, American University
Joel Oestreich, Drexel University
Joseph Parent, University of Notre Dame
Susan Peterson, College of William and Mary
MJ Peterson, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Maggie Peters, University of California-LA
Evan Perkoski, University of Denver
Manuela Picq, Amherst College
Michael Pozansky, University of Pittsburgh
Susan Raines, Kennesaw State University
Andy Reiter, Mt. Holyoke College
Laura Reed, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Hilde Restad, Bjorkes College
Maria Rost-Rublee, Monash University
Molly Ruhlman, Towson University
Heather Roff, Arizona State University
Joseph Roberts, Roger Williams University
Stephen Saideman, Carleton University
Thania Sanchez, Yale University
Wayne Sandholtz, University of Southern California
Brent Sasley, UT Arlington
Todd Sechser, University of Virginia
Cathy Schneider, American University
Ami Shah, Pacific Lutheran University
Jack Snyder, Columbia University
Jelena Subotic, Georgia State University
Megan Stewart, American University
Jennifer Sterling-Folker, University of Connectict
Sarah Stroup, Middlebury College
Michael Struett, North Carolina State University
Brian Taylor, Syracuse University
Peter Trumbore, Oakland University
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Barbara Walter, University of California-San Diego
Jason Weidner, Universidad de Monterey
Jon Western, Mt. Holyoke College
Meredith Wilf, University of Pittsburgh
Robert Williams, Pepperdine University
Wendy Wong, University of Toronto
Amanda Wooden, Bucknell University
Brandon Valeriano, Niskanen Center

To sign this letter, tweet this link to @charlicarpenter #StudytheWorld with your name and institutional affiliation or send that information in an email to ir.scholars.openletter@gmail.com.

International Affairs Scholars Talk Back to Trump at #Duckies2017

Trump told us we should study the world.  IR scholars had something to say about that. Earlier I promised to turn some of these quips into a special blog post, which also happens to be my Ignite talk at this year’s Duckies’ Awards in Baltimore. Happy #ISA2017.

Trump Wants People to “Study the World!” IR Scholars Can Jump All over This.

Study the world!” brayed Trump on Twitter last week, in defense of his travel ban. Dan Drezner, who studies the world for a living, shot back:

“I have studied it, and I can tell you with some certainty that your words and actions have harmed US national security.”

On Facebook, I’ve seen friends and colleagues with PhDs in international relations post their own versions of Dan’s tweet:

Andrew Moravcsik: “I have studied the world, and people who say they are going to change history generally repeat it.”
Richard Price: “Those who seek power by dividing ultimately succumb to those who unite to oppose.”
Tanisha Faizal: “I have studied the world, and international norms don’t last forever. Proceed with caution.”
Deborah Avant: “I have studied the world, and extremism toward an external other often turns inward.”
Steve Saideman: “The international order has been good to the US. We shouldn’t break it.”
Peter Andreas: “Building walls and imposing bans is a good way to make enemies, not friends.”
Sarah Parkinson: “I have studied the world and learned that protest matters for visibility and solidarity.”
Joel Oestreich: “When countries want to do bad things, there’s nothing they like more than saying ‘see, the US does it too!’
Patrick Jackson: “Human identities are not facts, they are political strategies.”
Heather Roff: “I have studied the world, and learned that the failure to see people in other countries as fellow humans makes people do terrible things.”
Stephanie Carvin: “In America terrorists are usually homegrown, rarely immigrants and almost never refugees.”
Paul Musgrave: “I have studied the world and learned dramatic departures in US foreign policy have effects that can last for decades.”

As you can see, with these three little words Trump has handed IR scholars both a challenge and a natural rallying cry in the run-up to #ISA2017 and the March for Science on April 22. If IR scholars are good at anything, it’s studying the world, and if a President ever needed our advice from IR scholars, it’s this one who doesn’t seem to know nuclear weapons from climate change.

So today, I propose the following social media challenge to my fellow IR scholars: condense the most useful finding, fact, or causal truth YOU’VE learned by “studying the world” into a pithy remark of no more than 125 characters. Tweet it to @realDonaldTrump with the hashtag #StudytheWorld! Then go on Facebook and post it on your wall with this message:

IR Scholars #StudytheWorld! Facebook Contest: Duck of Minerva is crowd-sourcing pithy IR knowledge to share with Trump today. Leave a simple, policy-relevant causal truth or evidence-based claim about global politics on your wall with the hashtag #StudytheWorld! Tag three friends who are professors of global affairs or comparative politics and ask them to do the same. If you like, add a link to a book or study President Trump should read. The best replies will be featured in a special future post.

 

Congress is Trying to Remove Bannon from the National Security Council. Here’s Why It Matters.

While national security lawyers argue over whether Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council is legal or not, members of Congress are pushing back to close whatever statutory loophole even might render legal what is clearly a violation of long-standing national security norms.

In one of last week’s most under-reported stories in the major press, bills were introduced into both the House of Representatives and the US Senate this past week, each designed to clarify the composition of the NSC and Principals Committee, ensure Senate oversight over appointments, and, in the case of HR 804, “To Protect the National Security Council from Political Interference.” As of today, the House bill has 85 co-sponsors.

So far co-sponsors are all Democrats, but Congressional opposition to Bannon’s appointment is bi-partisan, with concern about the dangers of politicizing the NSC expressed on both sides of the aisle.  As of today, a MoveOn petition is collecting signatures for the Senate Bill, and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security is taking calls from Americans about Steve Bannon’s role on the NSC. People are taking notice.

Neither of these bills is simply about removing Bannon, however. Each aims to close what some observers perceive as a loophole not just for Trump but for future Presidents. Both would codify the role of the Director of National Intelligence and Joint Chiefs of Staff on the NSC. In this Administration that move, coupled with Bannon’s departure, could moderate the behavior of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose hard-line views against Islam and unwillingness to rule out torture or the killing of terrorists’ families have been criticized by human rights groups.

Passing such a bill will be a tall order even with bipartisan support in a Republican-held Congress. Even it if passes Trump would likely veto. Still,  long-shot efforts to pass legislation can become important sites for political agenda-setting. As scholars of legislative agenda-setting have found, even a “dead on arrival” bill that garners sufficient media coverage can educate the public about issues and institutions, and galvanize interest group support for wider issues and future elections.

In short, even fighting for a lost cause can have an important norm-setting effect. It elevates the importance of an issue in the public discourse. In this case, that issue is the principle that national security decisions be subject to expert input and insulated from domestic political maneuvering. And turning up the volume on those messages is useful not only for potentially changing policy but for communicating to third parties, including outside US borders, that Trump is not acting on the will of the people.

Does Bannon’s Appointment to the NSC/PC Require Senate Confirmation? Perhaps A Judge Should Decide.

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen published an op-ed in today’s New York Times calling for the removal of Steve Bannon from the National Security Council Principals Committee, a position he apparently obtained without Trump being fully briefed.

According to Mullen:

“Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the Principals Committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be a candid, nonpartisan deliberation. I fear that it will have a chilling effect on deliberations and, potentially diminish the authority and prerogatives to which Senate-confirmed Cabinet officials are entitled. They, unlike Mr. Bannon, are accountable for the advice they give and the policies they execute.”

A point Mullen didn’t raise, and side-steps in this passage, is that Bannon’s presence on the NSC/PC without prior Senate confirmation is not only politically but legally controversial. As Fred Kaplan noted last week, citing an interview with Yale law scholar Eugene Fidell, according to Paragraph A(6) of the 1947 statute creating the NSC, appointment of members to the NSC beyond those stipulated in the statute requires confirmation by the United States Senate. This argument was made by Jonathan Alter in a tweet citing the 1947 statute echoed in a few places last week.

Other legal scholars aren’t sure this interpretation is correct.  Jordan Brunner, a National Security intern at Brookings, argued at Lawfare Blog that because Bannon was made a member of the Principals Committee, but only an invitee to the NSC itself, this circumvented the need for Senate Confirmation. In a back and forth with Kaplan on Twitter, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith tweeted: “Principals committee analytically separate from NSC, which is all that statute regulates.” This was also the expressed view of Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe last week, who tweeted the law “doesn’t require Senate confirmation to serve on the Principals Committee, which isn’t part of NSC as such.” Based on these arguments, and an interview with Tribe (but not Fidell), Snopes.com weighed in on January 31 to say the claim that Senate confirmation was needed for Bannon is “unproven.” This does not, of course, mean it could not be proven. But such a point of dispute among legal observers could only be settled by a court of law through a suit brought by a plaintiff with standing (in this case most likely someone associated with the US Senate).

As a non-lawyer who follows national security law, I’d like to see a a more nuanced consideration of whether the US Senate might have a case to make that its prerogative to provide advice and consent has been circumvented here. My reading of the 1947 NSC statute and other primary documents suggest to me that the PC’s relationship to the NSC is not as clear and unambiguous as suggested in these exchanges. So to the extent that Senate confirmation indeed hinges on that distinction, there might well be an interpretive basis for a confirmation hearing – or at least for judicial review to settle the matter.  Continue reading

Travel Ban Lifted in Early Victory for Non-Violent-Resistance to Trump

My colleague Erica Chenoweth has a great article in The Guardian today on the power of non-violent resistance:

Many people across the United States are despondent about the new president – and the threat to democracy his rise could represent. But they shouldn’t be. At no time in recorded history have people been more equipped to effectively resist injustice using civil resistance… Historical studies suggest that it takes 3.5% of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance to topple brutal dictatorships. If that can be true in Chile under Gen Pinochet and Serbia under Milosevic, a few million Americans could prevent their elected government from adopting inhumane, unfair, destructive or oppressive policies.

Erica’s point was proven late yesterday when after weeks of non-violent resistance by citizens, academics, journalists, lawyers, civil society organizations, and the diplomatic and national security corps, a federal judge in Seattle  blocked the order, quickly reinstating the free movement of travelers. This is a heartening sign not only for tens of thousands of affected travelers, their families, and their colleagues/friends/co-workers, but also for American institutions, as it suggests that non-violent resistance has a real chance at blunting the damage the Trump administration can do to civil liberties.

Whether it will continue to work, however, depends on whether Americans can keep it up. The White House is already pushing back on this ruling, and, predictably, on the judge himself,  a pattern which can be interpreted as an attack on judiciary as an institution. As Chenoweth notes, 3.5% of the US population actively resisting means at least 11 million US citizens need to continuing to call their representatives, writing op-eds, pumping money into civil liberties organizations, defending science, defending the press, and engaging in informed, deliberative, non-violent dialogue with our fellow citizens.

Chenoweth goes on to provide a smorgasbord of fact-based information on how to do just that:

Today, those seeking knowledge about the theory and practice of civil resistance can find a wealth of information at their fingertips. In virtually any language, one can find training manuals, strategy-building tools, facilitation guides and documentation about successes and mistakes of past nonviolent campaigns.

Material is available in many formats, including graphic novels, e-classes, films and documentaries, scholarly books, novels, websites, research monographs, research inventories, and children’s books. And of course, the world is full of experienced activists with wisdom to share.

Scientists Will March on Washington on April, 22. International Relations Scholars Should Join Them.

As became clear earlier this week in the discussion around how academic associations should respond to Trump’s travel ban in organizing their annual meetings, President Trump’s policy does not only affect national and religious minorities; it does not only affect scientists from Muslim-majority countries. In the case of the travel ban, it is also an existential attack on scientific inquiry – inhibiting scholarly collaboration and exchange on which all scientists rely.  Excluding individuals from freedom to share scientific ideas based on their nationality or faith from is discriminatory and contrary to the US constitution and to human rights law, but it is also an impediment to science itself.

Indeed, a pillar of Trump’s vision appears to be his hostility to science.  Within days of taking office the Administration had issued gag orders and funding freezes for government science agencies and reversed science based policies.  An unrepentant plagiarist who believes evolution should not be taught in schools is close to being confirmed as Education Secretary. The situation is so bad that Dan Drezner  encourages political scientists to assume National Science Foundation grants will be on the chopping block in the next months. And he is probably right.

 

The good news: as with many other issues, the opposition response has been quick and swift, with a March for Science now being organized for Earth Day, April 22:

The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

Social scientists concerned with international relations have good reason to support, publicize and join this effort. Evidence-based foreign policy has never been more vital, and the authority of scientists and experts never more fragile in the “post-truth” era. Nuclear security and climate change adaptation depend on both physical and social science. Risk analysis is critical to a sensible approach to counter-terrorism and a measured response to media fixation on outlying events. Social scientists have a role to play in slowing or blunting policies based on fear, misinformation, propaganda or logical fallacy.

Of course there is scientific debate about the political significance of marches as a tool for influencing policy change.  Social scientists can and should be and are engaged in many other forms of activism, Weberian and civic at this time: holding the media accountable, writing Monkey-Cage style op-eds, running for office, using our connections and expert authority to visit our Senators in collective delegations, protecting our colleagues, working through our institutions to protect the scientific process and through our social media accounts to correct conspiracy theories, alternative facts and racist logical fallacies circulating in our networks.

Yet a Million-Scientist-March with an army of fact-loving citizens at our backs should be thought of as more than one among many efforts to communicate to the government. Mass marches are a signaling tactic for audiences within and beyond our borders, and a way to influence the national political narrative. Large crowds in the streets on April 22 will affirm to the world that particularly around pressing global issues not all Americans are willing to deal in “post-truth.” And the march will be a focusing event in a discursive effort to inoculate American citizenry against the idea that there exist “alternative facts.”

Earth Day is a moment to think in global terms about our planetary security. I hope scholars of international security will be front and center.

 

Older posts

© 2019 Duck of Minerva

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑