A short time from now, at a conference venue far, far away (at least from Amherst, MA…):
This is a guest post by Dan Nexon, Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University and Stacie Goddard, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science of Wellesley College.
In the wake of the Russian Federation’s intervention in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that, “You just don’t in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.” Indeed, a number of analysts see the return of traditional realpolitik, that “old-fashioned power plays are back in international relations.” Others express skepticism. They view international relations as more peaceful and less marked by realpolitik than ever before.
We think this debate encapsulates enduring problems with the way that many think about power politics. Scholars on both sides associate realpolitik primarily with the machinations of military power. They insist that states remain the core practitioners of power politics. And they often treat the institutions of liberal order not as changing the dynamics of power politics, but somehow supplanting them entirely. When taken as a whole, such terms of debate reproduce a misleading baseline assumption still found in international-relations scholarship: that the nature and salience of global power politics—‘old-fashioned’ or otherwise—stems from the states-under-anarchy framework associated with contemporary realist theory.
We argue that it is time for security studies to abandon this debate, to stop equating realpolitik with contemporary realism, and to set down the parameters of a research program that we term “the dynamics of power politics.” In this, we draw inspiration from the field of contentious politics.
What binds the research program together is its focus on realpolitik as the politics of collective mobilization in the context of the struggle for influence among political communities, broadly understood. In particular, the study of the dynamics—the mechanisms and processes—of collective mobilization—the causal and constitutive pathways linking efforts at mobilization with enhanced power—brings disparate approaches to security studies together in a shared study of power politics. Some readers will note that our approach—and quite deliberately—finds kinship with calls to take practices, transactions, and relations themselves as basic building blocks of analysis, and thus implicates emerging divisions in the field.
We detail specific analytical content in our article, “The Dynamics of Global Power Politics,” published in the inaugral issue of the the newest ISA journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies. But, as we note there, consider Moscow’s activities in Russia’s near abroad. For structural realists, Russia’s actions herald a return to power politics as usual, and provide clear evidence that states will continue to balance power under conditions of anarchy. We agree that Russia’s actions should not be dismissed as mere “spoiler” behavior: the last vestiges of brutish power politics in the liberal world order. But the “Russia is balancing” causal story is not particularly convincing either. Putin’s actions have infuriated Western opponents precisely because they are seen as threatening a liberal institutional order. To treat this as balancing under anarchy, as Cooley shows, misses the rich institutional context of contemporary power politics. Russia’s strategy, moreover, relies less upon the mobilization of other great powers, and more on specific tactics aimed at other actors. From a dynamics-of-power-politics perspective, the question is not whether or not Russia is “balancing,” which, as the debate over soft balancing illustrates, some realists take as the threshold for significant power-political activity. Instead, it concerns what mechanisms of power politics operating in the Russian case; what instruments are being deployed and why; and how structure shapes the interaction and outcomes of these mechanisms.
Ultimately the goal of this research program involves finding common ground between realist and heterodox approaches. More important, it aims to ensure that power politics remains central to the global analysis of security studies. Despite the decline in major power wars and the use of international force by states, despite the growth of international institutions, despite the supposed increased importance of economic and symbolic instruments, the struggle for power constitutes an immutable feature of international relations. In essence, we agree with the founders of the field of Security Studies: to ignore the dynamics of power politics is to miss an essential feature of international security, let alone global politics.
This is a guest post by Luke M. Perez, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin where he studies religion, ethics, and foreign policy. Luke is also a graduate fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Empire apologists are making their case, and it is convincing. Perhaps we were wrong all along to support the Rebellion. But that doesn’t mean we should let the Empire off the hook entirely.
This week for example, Sonny Bunch argues in the Washington Post that the destruction of Alderaan in Episode IV of Star Wars was completely justified. This article is interesting, thought provoking, and wrong – seeking to excuse what is, by any measure, a gross and tragic violation of just war principles. Whatever merits the Empire, whatever flaws the Rebellion, any truly reflective and honest empirical assessment of the Empire’s action at Alderaan will admit that its destruction was a tragic moral failing. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Philip Baxter, Ph.D. Candidate in International Affairs, Science, and Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Senior Research Associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. His research focuses on international security issues, in particular nuclear proliferation, deterrence, strategic stability, illicit trafficking, and nuclear safeguards. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A recent article in the National Interest by Hans Rühle, former Head of the Planning Staff in the German Ministry of Defense, argues that Turkey is positioning itself similarly to Iran in its leveraging of civilian nuclear power for potential nuclear weapons breakout capability. His argument, meant largely to justify German spying on the NATO-ally, posits that since Turkey is developing nuclear power plants, potentially developing its own nuclear fuel production capacity, and does not have a provision for spent nuclear fuel to be return to suppliers (a provision not necessary if producing fuel domestically), it is obviously shadowing the Iranian proliferation formula. These arguments are significantly flawed. While the Turkish movement into the nuclear arena could be afforded more clarity, particularly on the heels of a decade of efforts to corral the Iranian program, nefarious purposes should not be assumed; nor, are they immediately apparent.
Rühle argues that the size of the nuclear industry that Turkey is planning, as well as the amount of fuel that would be needed to supply that industry, would provide ample material for a nuclear weapon. From a purely technical perspective, nuclear fuel from most civilian power reactors is not ideal for a weapons program. Turkey plans to construct four light-water pressurized reactors. These light-water reactors make breeding the type of plutonium necessary for nuclear weapons difficult – as purity is key in having a safe and reliable arsenal. Rühle dismisses the point that the less-pure plutonium from a civilian power reactor would not be used for military program. Rather, Ruhle argues that regardless of plutonium purity, a state will seek to acquire any form of nuclear material and use it for a nuclear arsenal. However, the quality of plutonium is a critical factor in understanding and forecasting proliferation strategies. Continue reading
The video above is the YouTube presentation of my remarks this week at University of Toronto’s Davey Forum, whose theme this year was “Is Canada Doing Enough to Promote Human Rights?” I attended at the kind invitation of Duck blogger Wendy Wong and her colleagues Lou Pauly and Rod Haddow, and my remarks followed those of former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy.
When it was time for the audience to ask questions, the very first question was:
“What can Canada contribute to the Syrian refugee crisis?”
It’s exactly the right kind of question. My answer, in one word: AIRPLANES.
This is a guest post by Leila Kawar, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Contesting Immigration Policy in Court: Legal Activism and Its Radiating Effects in the United States and France (Cambridge University Press 2015) and a cofounder of the Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association. In 2000-2001, she spent a year in residence at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Damascus, Syria.
This summer, the ramparts of “Fortress Europe” were breached by a mass exodus undertaken by young Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans. News coverage has described them as “migrants.” But I would argue that this term is a misnomer; rather than “migration,” what we are witnessing is a collective act of “protest” against the current governance regime that quarantines conflict outside of Europe’s borders. Continue reading
The following is a guest post by Margaret Peters, who teaches political economy and migration at Yale University. She is currently finishing her book project When Business Abandoned Immigration: Firms and the Remaking of Globalization.”
Recent pictures of Syrian refugee crisis from 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey to migrants sitting in camps in Hungary have increased the calls for the West to “do something.” Instead of doing the easiest, most effective, and least expensive thing to protect Syrians (and other refugees) – allowing them to enter and stay in wealthy countries as refugees – there has been much buck passing about whose responsibility it is to protect these refugees.
Increasing anti-immigrant sentiment has been blamed for most of the unwillingness on the part of both the OECD countries and wealthy autocracy to resettle the refugees. Yet, the problem is not an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment – as Judith Goldstein and I show, anti-immigrant sentiment, even towards low-skill immigrants, has fallen since the Great Recession in the US and probably in Europe as well – instead, the problem is the lack of a powerful, pro-immigration lobby.
While refugee and asylum policy have, at least since World War II, been used to reward allies and humiliate adversaries, these policies are not solely determined by foreign policy concerns. Instead, they are part and parcel of the larger immigration policy debate, determined by competing domestic demands. On the side of greater openness have stood business, immigrants themselves, and humanitarians and cosmopolitans. On the side of more restrictions have been native labor (although not all unions), fiscal conservatives worried about the impact of immigration.
What has changed the balance of power between these two sides? Why do the nativists seem to be winning? Continue reading
I don’t attend the American Political Science Conference these days (I explained why in this post last year). But many of my colleagues do, so every year at this time I participate vicariously by watching what is going on in my Facebook feed.
Yesterday, I was surprised by Page Fortna’s status update which read as follows:
A new mom attending APSA was denied entry to the book room today because she had her 9 week old with her. They claimed insurance doesn’t cover babies. WTF APSA? Family-unfriendly much
That’s right: as if it’s not enough already to face childhood as a “polisci brat,” now nine-week-old babies are being banned from the book room by conference staff.
Why am I surprised? Aside from the date of the conference, I have always thought of APSA as one of the more family friendly professional venues I’ve had the pleasure to spend time in. I raised my kids on the conference circuit and have been grateful to APSA and other political science conferences for providing some of the best childcare facilities and benefits imaginable. When my children were small, I never had any problem accessing the entire conference with them in tow if I liked. At APSA and at other conference in the profession, my toddlers followed me to exhibit halls, rode the hotel escalators, and played at my feet at panels. Conference-goers and staff were unfailingly pleasant and accommodating, even welcoming of my children. I have long thought of APSA’s childcare policy as enlightened and supportive of parents.
Well, my surprise turned to SHOCK this morning after APSA issued this statement justifying its behavior:
APSA makes great efforts to be as welcoming and open to all attendees as possible. Conventions of our size require event insurance to secure contracts and use space at any hotels or convention centers. Event insurance does not cover children in an Exhibit Hall due to liability. We are committed to making the Annual Meeting as convenient as we can, but, unfortunately, this is not an area where we have flexibility.
We are pleased to continue offering onsite Child Care and a Mother’s Room for nursing and pumping.
We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause members or attendees, but, unfortunately, we are not able to allow children into the Exhibit Hall. We invite you to leave your comments here for discussion.
OK, first of all, if the insurance company is the problem APSA needs a new insurance carrier. Any insurance policy that covers drunken political scientists but not their sober children is not worth its salt.
Secondly, a “Mother’s Room”? Let’s not pretend this is a women’s issue only or that setting aside space for breastfeeding moms will do the trick. Fathers also attend APSA with their children: single fathers, spouses supporting their career wives, dual-career spouses tag-teaming between panels and events, and two-father households. A pumping room is certainly important, but the idea that this is constitutes sufficient child-friendly space, rather than allowing parents of both sexes and their children access to the entire event, is retrograde and non-family-friendly. It rolls back the sense of progress that families were feeling they were making in the profession – progress that was especially helpful to women and whose rollback will especially hurt women, but which affects all professional parents. And based on APSA’s and ISA’s of yore, it is wholly unnecessary.
If you agree, please click this link and leave comments to the APSA leadership in support of children and families in our profession. Seriously, these kids are being raised by political scientists! They need all the support they can get.
Here is a project worthy of interest by those Duck readers who are simultaneously politics and science fiction nerds: a non-profit effort to build a Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC.
The mission of the Museum of Science Fiction is to create a center of gravity where art and science are powered by imagination. Science fiction is the story of humanity: who we were, who we are, and who we dream to be. The Museum will present this story through displays, interactivity, and programs in ways that excite, educate, entertain, and create a new generation of dreamers.
Even more exciting is the holistic approach to science and society studies envisioned by the project:
Education is central to our mission. We believe that the science fiction presents an ideal device for sparking interest and spurring proficiency in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). But we’d like to go beyond STEM and broaden our focus to include the arts. We call it STEAM. We want to give teachers new tools. Cool tools that kids will love to use. Combined with inspiration and imagination, and creativity fueled by science fiction, our prospects look bright.
More exciting yet: a call for involvement by experts in all fields:
We have assembled a very talented team, but we can’t do it alone.
We welcome your involvement and support. To receive a copy of the museum’s planning document, please donateand download our prospectus. This document explains the who, what, where, when, how, and why behind the project.
If you have ideas to share or would like to volunteer, visit our contact page. Meanwhile, please have a look around our site and watch us evolve. With your help, we will make this happen.
Find out more here.
And speaking of social / science / fiction: only a few more days to submit your abstracts for the Star Wars and International Security panel at next year’s ISA Conference!
Last Monday, on May the 4th, citizens around the globe celebrated International Star Wars Day. In honor of this important event, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and I are pleased to announce an International Studies Association 2016 Conference panel on Star Wars for next year’s meeting.
We seek paper abstracts examining the relationship between the Star Wars franchise and socio-political dynamics in the area of international security, broadly defined. In other words, this panel focuses specifically on the inter-relationship between pop culture ideas and “real-world” security-seeking processes and practices.*
As such (following up on Dan Drezner’s and my Game of Thrones initiative from last year) PTJ and I are not seeking papers that critically analyze the franchise as a political text itself, or that apply pedagogical lessons from the show to the real world national security policy, or that treat the popular cultural artifacts or their fandom as a primary object of study.
Rather, we are interested in research notes that take seriously popular culture (in this case Star Wars) as implicated in real-world political phenomena in the area of international security, broadly defined. All methodological approaches are welcome, but authors should reflect on or empirically investigate connections between Star Wars’ fictional memes, concepts or allegories and the real-world security-seeking practices of states or other actors – and reflect on those connections. Continue reading
Last Friday, I had the great pleasure to attend a workshop on “The Future of Global Security Studies” at University of Denver’s Sie Center for International Security and Diplomacy.
The event brought together authors for the inaugral special issue of ISA’s new journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies, which promises to showcase new research and new thinking in security studies, but also to bring diverse perspectives into dialogue. As such, the workshop was one of the most engaging I’ve ever attended: realists, big data proponents, feminists, and securitization scholars all in the same room for a day is (no pun of any sort intended) a blast.
My role was to discuss papers, and as one of several discussants I’ll be participating in the first JOGSS “Forum“* along with Stephen Walt, Joshua Goldstein, Jon Western and Alex Montgomery. Our job in the “Forum” will be to pontificate on the special issue theme.
In an effort to both get my ideas moving for this contribution and crowdsource ideas and feedback, here are my initial thoughts / observations after the discussions I heard Friday. I’ll organize them by thinking about the thematic buzzwords “Future” “Global” “Security” and “Studies” in reverse order: Continue reading
So I’m a wee bit late to the post-International Studies Association Annual Conference blogging ritual, but better than never right? Continue reading
In about a month, High Contracting Parties to the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons will again consider the humanitarian and ethical problems posed by fully autonomous lethal weapons. As I’ve written before, this issue in on the UN agenda due to a savvy and well-organized network of “humanitarian disarmament” NGOs. This coalition is keen to reconstruct governments’ interpretation of how to balance military utility with humanitarian concerns when it comes to emerging technologies of violence. Yet with the landmine and cluster munitions campaigns considered some of the landmark successes in global civil society advocacy, it is fascinating how little of the transnational advocacy networks scholarly literature focuses in empirical or theoretical terms on the humanitarian disarmament sector.
Nothing throws this into sharper relief than teaching a graduate seminar in human security, and attempting to blend “transnational advocacy” week with a humanitarian disarmament focus. Aside from seminal articles by Richard Price and Nina Tannenwald, plus my own now-very-dated piece and a scattering of analyses by Clifford Bob and Noha Shawki, one is hard pressed to find good theory-driven treatments of TAN politics that utilize empirics from the area of disarmament rather than human rights, development, humanitarian affairs or the environment. And I have yet to see TAN articles that address the reconstituted nuclear ban campaign, or developments around incendiary weapons or explosive violence.*
Thankfully, two recently published articles offer both an up-to-date overview of this advocacy landscape and suggestions for how to fill this analytical gap. Continue reading
As part of the new Duck, we have revamped our guest blogging policy.
The old policy, dating from way back when Dan and Patrick were slowly expanding the blog:
The procedure for bringing on guest bloggers is one of those “salami factory” things… and strangers just aren’t very likely to make it through the process.
In other words, guest blogging happened by invitation only.
At first it happened sort of ad hoc and accidentally. We would scout new talent in the blogosphere and offer upcoming bloggers a place to build a profile. Or we would reach out to those in our social networks we wanted to encourage to blog, especially women and minorities; or offer a place to others who were interested in giving it a try but unready to launch their own blog (as Dan and Patrick once did for me). As we institutionalized it, we came up with internal norms for recruitment and rotation, and sought to increasingly diversify our recruitment pool.
It’s worked well, but we have realized that no matter how hard we try, our social networks are an insufficiently diverse representation of the discipline and so yield insufficiently diverse results. We think we’re missing a lot of important talent not able to access us through social ties. Plus it’s a lot of work to constantly recruit and we want to find time to blog ourselves.
So here’s the new policy: anyone with a PhD in IR, plus some expertise in some substantive global policy issue area, and a willingness to post at least 200-500 words, at least once a week, can apply to become a guest for a six-month rotation. If you’re interested in a guest spot, send one of us a letter of interest (just as if you were proposing a one-off guest post) and we’ll consider you for our next rotation. Cheers!
I thought of this incredible eco-ad campaign, NatureisSpeaking.org, when I read Bronwyn Leebaw’s fascinating article “Scorched Earth: Environmental War Crimes and International Justice” in Perspectives on Politics. This is a much-overdue analysis of the place of the earth and environmental damage in the laws of armed conflict – two issues areas rarely studied by political scientists.
Leebaw examines representations of the natural environment in laws of war as they have evolved in four stages:
Reading this, and enjoying the many theoretical directions Leebaw maps out for scholars rethinking boundaries between national, global, human and planetary security, I was brought back to the NatureisSpeaking.org movement and the distinctively gaialogical way I Am the Ocean frames the planet – as fundamentally indifferent to the human race. Continue reading
It’s always nice to read good news. And it’s nice to read evidence-based arguments in the popular press. Over the holiday, Andrew Mack and Steven Pinker offered a little of each over the holidays in their article “The World Is Not Falling Apart.” Therein, they marshal of human security indicators upon indicators – number of rapes reported, number of civilians killed, number of wars breaking out, number of homicides – to argue that at the global level the trendlines are mostly pointing downward. In championing “an evidence-based mindset on the state of the world,” the authors place the blame for our current misconceptions on “a misleading formula of journalistic narration”:
“Reporters give lavish coverage to gun bursts, explosions and viral videos, oblivious to how representative they are and apparently innocent of the fact that many were contrived as journalistic bait… News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen… The only sound way to appraise the state of the world is to count. How many violent acts has the world seen compared with the number of opportunities?”
This seemingly sensible argument does contain one fundamental paradox, however: some of the data-sets on which Mack and Pinker rely are themselves based on news reports. Continue reading
Among the various things I’ve read in the run-up to Veterans Day / Remembrance Day is this article by University of Auckland’s Tom Gregory, entitled, “Body Counts Disguise The True Horror of What Wars Do to Bodies”:
“Relying on these statistics alone may provide us with a brief glimpse at the suffering of those affected, but it ends up concealing the violence it is supposed to expose. When dealing only with numbers, we tend to lose sight of the bodies that are left broken by the machinery of war, along with the individuals who are busy living and dying on the battlefield.”
This is an important perspective. As much as numbers illuminate war’s costs, they can hide its grim realities. Still, I would argue that this is not such a zero-sum game and that on balance the construction of casualty metrics helps rather than harms the cause of reducing and mitigating war’s impact. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Wendy Wong, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Toronto, Director of the Trudeau Center for Peace, Conflict and Justice, and author of Internal Affairs: How the Structure of NGOs Transforms Human Rights.
When the great fall from grace (especially those who have built their reputations on being high-minded and altruistic), it makes a great story. And that’s exactly the view of the expose written by NPR and ProPublica that hits us with the punchline: the American Red Cross (ARC) is mismanaged, somewhat incompetent at its job, and misguided in its priorities!
In their lengthy story, the reporters document missteps in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac and make the case that the ARC has diverted funds that should be used for disaster relief for its own brand-promoting purposes. They use some ARC documents, but mostly base their claims on a handful interviews with external critics of the organization (current ARC representatives make cameo appearances).
To be frank, the ARC has had more than its fair share of high profile mess-ups, starting with 9/11 in the 2000s and more recently, with. There are real problems the ARC should deal with that the article does a good job pointing out: resource waste, sex offenders mingling with children in relief centers, slow response time unbecoming of the reputation of the organizations that was founded in 1881. But … is this really an expose, or are nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) at the forefront of trying to ameliorate overwhelming disaster conditions that no one, or even group, of actors could hope to address effectively?
Let’s put the report in perspective. Continue reading