Author: Josh Busby (page 1 of 18)

It’s Duckies time!

This is a guest post from Kindred Winecoff, current Chair of the Online Media Caucus for ISA.

The Online Achievement in International Studies Reception and Awarding of the Duckies will take place on Wednesday, March 25th at 7:30pm. As always we’ll feature three speakers in the Ignite series and enjoy honoring our winners together.  The ISA Online Media Caucus (OMC) appreciates the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation, the Mortara Center for International Studies of Georgetown University, and the Canadian Defence and Security Network of Carleton University.

Now is the time to submit your nominations for the 2020 Duckies. Please send these nominations to onlinemediacaucus@gmail.com by February 15, 2020. Self-nominations are encouraged! Note that the OMC decided last year to change the award categories, in order to reflect the evolution of the online media environment. We now award Duckies in the following categories:

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Opening the Envelope of Oman’s Succession

The following is a guest post by Andrew Leber, a PhD candidate in Government at Harvard University.

The death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and the succession of Haitham bin Tariq as the country’s new ruler, was yet one more high-profile news item this year amid the back-and-forth attacks and tragic consequences of events further up the Gulf.

Yet for the world of political science, this transition calls to mind important questions for comparativists about authoritarian successions in particular and authoritarian institutions more general.

Thinking about Authoritarian Succession
When are authoritarian successions relatively uneventful? What kinds of policy change can they induce – or preclude? What can outgoing rulers do to shape the course of transition processes, and when do they choose to do so?

Let’s take just the first of these questions. Orderly successions are a clear problem for autocratic regimes. Autocrats face what John Herz identified as the “crown-prince problem” back in 1952:

  • Choose a successor, live in fear that they lead a coup against you (see Sultan Qaboos c. 1970)
  • Delay too, risk elite in-fighting during the transition (see Death of Stalin)

Herz also suggests “institutional frameworks” for the transfer of authority, and political scientists have had some success in showing that presence of written or unwritten rules of succession among political parties and extended royal families can help predict the manner and success of authoritarian transitions.We know less about why these institutions sometimes work and sometimes fail, however—-or why they are sometimes honored and sometimes not.

Saudi Arabia’s Allegiance Council (made up of senior royals) was once held as preserving “democracy at the top” in governing the Saudi succession. Yet the late King Abdullah repeatedly bypassed the Council rearrange the line of succession – a practice that continued under King Salman. 

By contrast, Sultan Qaboos dominated the Omani government and the succession process, with choice of successor left to the ruling family (if they could choose a successor within three days) or Qaboos’s personal preference – written on a letter and hidden within a sealed envelope.

Much could have already gone wrong, as commentators have wondered over the years whether the regime could survive a transition from Sultan Qaboos’ personalized rule.

The royal family might have drawn the decision process out beyond the supposed three-day limit – rumors of a coming succession have swirled for weeks. Sidelined royal family members with close ties to the military might have tried to alter the succession through force of arms. The letter could have been tampered with, or disregarded altogether.

Yet the smooth transition (so far) suggests that the Omani monarchy has survived this initial political test. In a brisk and orderly process, Sultan Qaboos’s choice was announced before the family by the military and documented via photographs shared on social and broadcast media.

Why did the succession rules work in Oman?
Assuming that the public story at all reflects what unfolded behind the scenes (a strong assumption given how little we know about the politics of Oman), we are still left with several potential explanations for why the written rules worked in this case.

Maybe careful design can imbue written words with political power even in autocracies (Frantz and Stein, also the entire literature on authoritarian constitutionalism) – institutions of succession can bind successors at the point of transition. The letter designates a successor, the successor becomes a focal point for coalition bandwagoning among other royals and elite allies eager to secure the status quo, and any disappointed members of the family view an extra-constitutional challenge as too risky.

  • Open-the-envelope works as a succession strategy.

Or perhaps (Abramson and Rivera) Sultan Qaboos’ lengthy tenure in office ultimately set the stage for a peaceful transfer of power. Even if unobservable to outsiders, ruling elites might have interacted with a Qaboos-endorsed successor long enough to trust that he will uphold the political status quo..

  • Open-the-envelope works if the rival contenders trust each other and the successor to uphold the status quo through long experience (most of the leading contenders had served in various branches of the government for decades, albeit largely behind the scenes).

Or international factors may have come into play, ruling elites concerned that a leadership vacuum in turbulent times could invite foreign intrigue or social unrest – threatening their collective access to power and privilege. War or even the threat of war therein (Piplani and Talmadge) might make the risks of seizing power by force even greater than normal.

  • Open-the-envelope works if external threats suggest the cost of disagreement might be immediately catastrophic (though this might equally explain why a palace coup could be presented as a fait accompli to a skittish elite and public).

Or perhaps, per Gerschewski, we can take seriously questions of legitimacy and legitimation in authoritarian regimes. The members of the ruling family know that they will never be as popular  with the public as Sultan Qaboos was, and their best route to “legitimacy”  is to abide by the terms of the Qaboos’ last letter (as successor or supporter). The family’s decision to honor Qaboos’ wish for a small, military funeral (perhaps not the first choice of the public) similarly suggests that Qaboos’ wishes are serving as a safe roadmap for the transition.

  • Open-the-envelope works when a prior, popular ruler can confer legitimacy on a successor and those who abide by the terms of succession (this could perhaps explain why the family reportedly skipped straight to opening the letter).

Of course, it is hard to distinguish between these scenarios (all four could be happening at once!) without a lot more data – hard to come by in autocratic regimes in general, and especially the longstanding yet opaque monarchies of the Arabian peninsula (with the partial exception of Kuwait).

How to Study Succession
Data isn’t the only problem, though – part of the challenge lies in asking the right questions about the right outcomes of interest. It has taken political scientists quite a while to get back to asking the kind of questions that animated a debate on the policy effects of Soviet leadership transitions (between Valerie Bunce and Philip Roeder in the APSR, 1986).

Insights from more transparent cases can shed some light on what to look for when politics are shrouded in the black boxes of authoritarian rule.

Efforts to prolong the Franquist regime after the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco quickly led to a full-fledged transition to democracy – revisiting the plan for continued dictatorship, and examining what went wrong, might yield some answers.

Likewise, the informal institution of Presidents selecting their successors in authoritarian Mexico (the “dedazo,” or “tap of the finger”) has outlived the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s hegemonic hold on power (at least within the Party) – figuring out the staying power of this practice might yield some answers.

In contemporary Russia, the recent resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suggests that President Vladimir Putin might be strategizing how best to hand off a modicum of formal power to a successor while retaining considerable influence behind the scenes. Yet some Russia analysts already saw the potential for a “Medvedev succession” back in 2008, when Medvedev briefly held the Russian presidency, raising questions as to whether this represented a failed attempt at Putin stepping back.

For the Middle East (or West Asia) and North Africa, scholars are unlikely to find archival data on the order of the Iraqi Ba‘ath Party records housed at the Hoover Institution (though note the extensive ethical arguments over the status of these documents, captured by U.S. forces in Iraq and unilaterally relocated to the United States).

Still, contested (and more visible) successions are not unknown in the region – even among the Gulf monarchies – and scholars equipped with the right questions might obtain new insights by triangulating between:

In all, political science is far from a complete understanding of authoritarian successions, but we certainly have the building blocks to further theorize the determinants of success in these transitions and their impact (great or nil) on domestic and foreign policies alike.

In the case of Oman, the significance of this smooth transition goes far beyond domestic politics, defying concerns that Sultan Qaboos’s passing might immediately rob the Middle East and North Africa of a key source of moderation and mediation in international relations. Still, the years ahead will tell how much of the Sultanate’s diplomatic heft will outlast the passing of the man who served as head of state, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Foreign Affairs for a half-century.

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Is Domestic Violence a Security Issue?

This post is cross-posted at Climate Security in Oceania.

For my course on climate security in Oceania, we read a post on the New Security Beat from Volker Boege from the Toda Institute. The piece is based on a wider report on climate and conflict in Oceania. He writes:

In overcrowded squatter settlements in the few urban centers in the Pacific Islands, domestic violence is increasing. These settlements are also often the sites of violent, sometimes deadly, conflicts between communities from different islands, many of whose members left their home islands because of the effects of climate change.

In the class, we had a vigorous conversation about whether domestic violence constitutes a security threat. Because violent conflict is relatively rare in the region in the contemporary era (the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are exceptions), efforts to think through the connections have led to a more expansive emphasis on other links between climate and security. Here, Boege writes in the wider report:

In Oceania today violent conflict is mostly inter-group in the local context, usually at a relatively low level of intensity, or it is everyday dispersed violence, such as domestic violence against women and children. This everyday violence and these local low-intensity violent conflicts can often be linked to the social effects of climate change, in particular to climate migration.

The conversation about the boundaries of the field of security studies led me to have some further thoughts that I wanted to explore here.

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Exploring Obstacles to Social Cohesion in the Aftermath of Violent Conflict: A Scholar-Practitioner Symposium

This is a guest post by Kara Hooser and Austin Knuppe, Conflict to Peace Lab, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, The Ohio State University

Rebuilding social cohesion—restoring bonds of social trust that bind people together in communities and enable them to peacefully coexist—commonly serves as a central goal for peacebuilders engaging in communities fractured by political violence. Despite a growing consensus about the necessity of promoting social cohesion in the aftermath of widespread violence, questions remain about how scholars, practitioners, and donors can collaborate to implement effective peacebuilding practices.

To address these challenges, we brought together sixteen scholars and practitioners for the inaugural peacebuilding symposium of the Conflict 2 Peace Lab at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at The Ohio State University.  Drawing on lessons learned from similar “bridging the gap” initiatives, we designed a workshop to facilitate exchange and find spaces for building community and mutual learning. Our time together focused on three themes: concepts and theories of social cohesion, effective peacebuilding practices, and monitoring, evaluation, and learning.

Finding Common Cause: Peacebuilding in Research and Practice

Over two days of structured discussion and information conversations, several commonalities emerged.

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On Being a Scholar-Activist

This is a guest post from Prof. M. Victoria Pérez-Ríos. Pérez-Ríos holds a PhD in Political Science from The Graduate Center, CUNY (City University of New York); and graduated from the Law School of Saragossa, Spain. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and at the Social Science Department at LaGuardia Community College. Her research interests include civil rights, accountability & counterterrorism. She is currently writing a manuscript on memorials. Follow her at @victoriahhrr.

This post is based on an ISA 2019 panel on scholar-activism. We invite others to contribute to what we hope will be a wider series of blog posts on what it means to different faculty. Why do you think it is important to be both a scholar and activist (or do you disagree)? Look for the series with the hashtag #ScholarActivism

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A SCHOLAR-ACTIVIST?

This question made me think about what I understand by being a scholar. In my case scholarship has to seek the truth but not in a vacuum; it has to be transmitted to others and this is done through our peers and our students. As a result, I consider myself, foremost, a teacher. And, can I, as a teacher, not worry about, examine, and try to find solutions to unfairness in the world? As Paolo Freire explains, “[P]roblem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality… strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.” Read: Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Moreover, in order to excel as a teacher, I need to be a life-long student.

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Even More Assholery: Is Seeking Payment for Protection New?

This is a guest post from Paul Poast, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

Earlier this spring, Poast wrote a post about the Asshole Theory of US Foreign Policy and the structural conditions that may facilitate the United States playing the role of a jerk on the international stage. In part 2, we embedded Poast’s thread on President Trump’s gauche offer to buy Greenland from Denmark.

In part 3, Poast reflects on President Trump’s talk about extracting payment from Saudi Arabia for protection in light of previous burden-sharing episodes such as the first Gulf War. This is another embedded thread so you may have to click on the image to read the whole thread.

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Can researchers be both scholars and activists?

This is a call for a new series that grows out of a panel held at ISA earlier this spring. We have a few posts in process that come from participants on that panel, but we want to open it up to other contributors under the hashtag #ScholarActivism.

Questions that you could explore include:

  • What’s your idea of the appropriate balance between scholarship and activism?
  • What’s been your experience?
  • Does one’s activism potentially serve as grist for critiques that academics are indoctrinating students?
  • Is activism different from policy engagement?

We welcome your thoughts on these questions and others.

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Changing the discipline through political economy, bodies, and Open Educational Resources

This is a guest post from Matt Evans (mevans8@nwacc.edu), who is Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwest Arkansas Community College. His words represent his own opinions as an individual, and not (necessarily) his employer. This is the fifth in the series on changing the field. #IRChange [i]

The answer for change is simple:

Political Scientists should consider how our ideas, practices, and institutions (dis)able our students financially; and then address these problems through our politics without retreat.

The Problem

At my first in-person teaching job, the department chair chose the books (before I was hired for the job). When I taught the first class, I told students to return the books and get refunds from the bookstore. Anything students needed, they would get as PDFs in the course shell. Other jobs have compelled me (through various institutional constraints) to use and keep the same for-profit textbook as the other full-time teacher of the course.

In these classes, students frequently tell me that they cannot buy the textbook immediately (because they are waiting on a paycheck or more financial aid disbursement) and ask for an extension on the first assignment. At other times, students drop the course (and sometimes tell me about it after the fact). To be fair, whether I control the textbook choice or not, students find themselves in a series of difficult economic situations – that the book is one ingredient in their retention, advancement, and intellectual growth – and I help them find resources to help them eat, not be evicted from their home, or to prevent homeless (because critical theory compels me so).

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What’s in a Wink? The Case for Thick Description

This is a guest post from James Guild who is a PhD candidate in political economy at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. His research interest is economic growth and infrastructure development in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, and his work has appeared in The Diplomat, Jakarta Post and New Mandala. Follow him on Twitter @jamesjguild

This is the fourth in the series on changing the field. #IRChange

The dominance of rational-positivist approaches to modern social science, particularly in the United States, has tended to privilege research designs featuring deductive hypotheses that can be rigorously tested, typically with large-n datasets. This means the role of culture, society and history is often situated lower on the methodological hierarchy. I think many would agree that culture and socially constructed meaning are important variables in understanding political and economic outcomes; but there is little consensus on how to define or measure them, which makes them tricky analytical concepts.

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Further Reflections on Assholery: How Important is Denmark to NATO?

This is a guest post from Paul Poast, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

Earlier this spring, Poast wrote a post about the Asshole Theory of US Foreign Policy and the structural conditions that may facilitate the United States playing the role of a jerk on the international stage.

In light of President Trump’s overtures to buy Greenland from Denmark, Poast wrote a thread on Twitter about Denmark’s importance to NATO, suggesting why President Trump’s suggestion might be considered an asshole move.

What follows is an embedded thread using ThreaderApp. This is part II in the occasional #AssholeUSFP series. [Note: If full thread isn’t visible to you, click on the first thread and it will open in a new window. Full thread should be visible if you have a Threaderapp account. We’ll experiment with embedding features…]

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Announcing Our New Guest Ducks

We are pleased to announce our slate of new guest Ducks for the fall semester and beyond. We are also delighted to announce that longtime guest blogger Lisa Gaufman has joined us on a permanent basis.

We have two terrific guests from last year, Peter Henne and Luke Perez, who are staying on for the year. Luke has moved to Arizona State where he has started as an Assistant Professor so kudos to him!

We are also extending our partnership with the Bridging the Gap project which will periodically have folks from their academic network post here on a dedicated channel. Bridging the Gap is a terrific initiative for academics interesting policy and practice. They host annual workshops for graduate students and faculty to learn about how to make academic work relevant to policy audiences. Apply to participate if you haven’t already!

Our new guests include Evren Eken, Meg Guliford, Anne Harrington, Cullen Hendrix, Alexandra Stark, and Ajay Verghese. Read more about them below!

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Bringing Indigenous Experiences into International Relations

This is a guest post from Andrew A. Szarejko who is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government at Georgetown University, where his research focuses on the origins of U.S. wars with Native nations. You may reach him at andrewszarejko@gmail.com or on Twitter @Szarejko.

This is the third in our series on changing the field. Parts 1 and 2 are linked here. More submissions welcome! #IRChange

Many scholars of International Relations (IR), especially in the past couple decades, have sought to study and teach about a more diverse set of political actors to counter-act the biases of a relatively homogeneous professoriate. In a word, this has been described as an effort to decolonize IR. As was noted in a 2016 symposium in Perspectives on Politics, however, political scientists still all too frequently ignore indigenous groups—including Native nations in the United States, on which I will tend to focus here (for a note on terminology, see the Native American Journalists Association’s reporting guidelines).

This neglect has been especially evident in International Relations. In this post, I will make the case that IR as a subfield currently lags behind other subfields in examining indigenous experiences and that IR scholars ought to be doing more of this, and I will describe how one might bring such actors into research and teaching alike. 

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Changing the Atmosphere in Political Science: Ten Key Political Questions about Climate Change

We’re re-upping this guest post as part of our series on changing the field. #IRChange. This is the second post (the first is here).

This is a guest post from several authors including:

Climate change is arguably the most urgent problem facing humankind. It is not a single policy problem, but rather pervades all aspects of state and society – affecting everything from geopolitics to local planning. Yet, one is hard pressed to reach this conclusion given the current landscape of political science.

Excellent work appears occasionally in premier journals on the variety of political questions that climate change raises.  But given the centrality of politics in contributing and responding to the climate change problem, there is not enough of this work and — critically — much of it occurs outside the central discourses and journals of our discipline. Some political scientists are instead engaging climate change debates in policymaking, assessment and public venues. For example, Science and Nature seem to value contributions by political scientists. But what of our discipline? How is it responding to climate change?

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Why Audiences (Mostly) Don’t Care about Reputation in Foreign Policy

This is a guest post from William G. Nomikos, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Follow him on Twitter @wnomikos.

Recent relations between North Korea and the United States suggest a puzzle for International Relations. The Trump administration has relied on what it has called a “maximum pressure” campaign—a set of sections and threats of military escalation—to prevent North Korean nuclear missile tests and to roll back North Korean nuclear proliferation.

According to the prominent theory of International Relations known as “audience costs,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should take maximum pressure threats seriously. President Donald Trump is facing a challenging re-election campaign and voters should punish him if he makes a threat but subsequently backs down. Yet North Korea has shown very little signs of taking these threats seriously. If anything, North Korea has advanced its nuclear weapons program.

What explains this divergence between a well-established theory, a robust set of empirical evidence and North Korea-U.S. relations? Do audiences care about reputation in foreign policy? Probably not. In my recently published research with Nicholas Sambanis, we find that domestic audiences care more about a leader’s perceived competence than their ability to manage the nation’s reputation. In this study, we identify a new mechanism by which audiences evaluate leaders in foreign policy crises and find that existing research overestimates “audience costs.”

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Call for Guest Posts: How Should the Discipline Change?

We are going to begin calls for contributions to thematic series. The Monkey Cage for example had a terrific series on the gender gap in political science.

The first in our call for contributions is for guest posts on how the discipline–broadly understood as international relations–should change. We will be using the hashtag #IRchange. This can be in terms of publishing, teaching, research, methods, whatever changes you think are needed. We have run a number of posts on the need for more environmental and climate change research, including this recent multi-author post on how the wider field could explore important questions related to climate change.

How should international relations research be conducted, taught, researched? What are the important and understudied areas or questions? Are there methods that the field isn’t deploying or not nearly enough? Whose work merits more attention? How should syllabi change? How should we think about hiring? What is our relevance to practice and wider world? What kinds of work should count towards tenure? Lots of these kinds of questions and more.

We are certain many of you have outstanding ideas. Send me or any of the permanent contributors a pitch or post. We are looking in the 800-1500 word range. Hyperlink your sources. If you haven’t written a blog post before, take a look at a few just to get a handle on the format.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Choosing a Cover For Your New Book

This is a guest post from Bear Braumoeller, Professor of Political Science at The Ohio State University. Follow him on Twitter @Prof_BearB

Graduate study in the social sciences is overwhelmingly oriented toward the process of researching and writing a dissertation that will become a book. We very rarely talk about any other aspect of publishing—how to approach an editor, how to design a book with a specific audience in mind, or how to (gasp!) market a book.

The latter topic came to mind recently when Professor Matthew Shugart complimented the cover of my forthcoming book and asked what the story was behind it. That question prompted enough discussion that Josh Busby asked me to go into in more detail in a post for Duck of Minerva, in case the answers are of use to other authors who are facing this question.

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Israel’s Un-Machiavellian Prince

This is a guest post from Ben-zion Telefus. He holds a Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University (2015), where he researched the war on drugs in the US and the EU foreign and security policies. Follow him on Twitter @BenzionTelefus

When Israelis vote in the coming September 17th re-run elections the issue on the ballot will remain the same: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political and legal future. Netanyahu’s control over Israel for the past decade led many to describe him as a sophisticated “Machiavellian” politician who mastered every available means to ensure his political power. Yet using the term “Machiavellian” to describe Netanyahu is an injustice to Machiavelli’s political thought and creates a misleading portrait of Netanyahu, who is anything but the prince Machiavelli envisioned.

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A Call for New Guest Ducks

We are looking for you! The fall 2019 semester is upon us, and we’d like to bring on a new cohort of guest Ducks.

The Duck remains a unique blog in terms of our ability to cover a wide variety of topics from IPE to the environment to health to human rights as well as traditional IR topics such as security. We also have freedom to do more academic introspection on the discipline and higher education writ large.

As a guest blogger, you have the freedom to find your voice and the format and length that suits you without an editor. You are free to muse and use the platform to try out new ideas.

We want to privilege new voices and approaches. We would especially welcome more diversity on the blog, including gender, ethnic, and non-North American perspectives.

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Remembering Andrew Price-Smith

This is a guest post from Jeremy Youde, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyyoude.

Anyone who studies global health security has a copy of Andrew Price-Smith’s 2001 book, The Health of Nations, on their shelf. It’s a staple of course syllabi in global health politics, and its argument helped to cement the importance of recognizing the complex interplay between international security and infectious disease. Sadly, Price-Smith, the David Packard Professor of International Relations at Colorado College and leader of its Global Health Initiative, died July 11, 2019. He is survived by his wife Janell, their two kids, and scores of scholars around the world whose work was profoundly influenced by his research.

It’s hard to catalog all of the contributions Drew, as he was known to his friends, made during his career, but let me highlight a few. First, Drew helped to make global health security a legitimate area of academic research. His first writings on the topic appeared in the late 1990s, years before the United Nations Security Council held its special session on the security implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic–the first time it had ever devoted such attention to a public health issue.

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Forget the 800-pound gorilla: the United States is the 300,000-pound blue whale of IR scholarship

This is a guest post from Cullen Hendrix, Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy and Professor at the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.

International relations and international security scholarship have a U.S. bias problem—or so we are told. Ido Oren has argued the modern discipline of political science generally—and international relations specifically—was shaped by U.S. economic and security interests during the World Wars and the Cold War.

Writing in the 1970s, E.H. Carr went so far as to say “the study of international relations in English-speaking countries is simply a study of the best way to run the world from positions of strength.” And we can certainly add to these criticisms a host of critiques from non-Western scholars, especially those from the Global South who approach and critique IR through a postcolonial lens.

In a new special issue of Journal of Global Security Studies edited by Jeff Colgan, we interrogate this bias and what it means for both the conceptual frameworks and worldviews held by IR scholars to widely used datasets used by IR scholars. One seeming manifestation of this bias: IR scholarship can look an awful lot like “mesearch” as conducted by US-based academics, with the United States being the most oft-discussed case.

As Jon Vreede and I argue in our contribution to the special issue, this is undoubtedly numerically true: the United States receives much more attention than other cases. We ultimately conclude there are very practical reasons for this outsized emphasis: the United States has played an incredibly outsized role in international affairs in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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