Everyone’s a Critic

There’s been a lot of discussion about the Movies and IR, and I couldn’t resist a list. Plus, there’s a Bond movie on TCM—Goldfinger and now Thunderball—and I think Walt is crazy for leaving out war and spy movies, as that’s as much the stuff of IR as anything else.

I’m not a film critic. A lot of the movies I love aren’t “brilliant” by film critic standards but are nonetheless fun to watch, and are very illustrative of particular concepts or moments that make them tremendous fodder for moments such as in-class discussion.

This is a very incomplete list. Its an off-the top of the head list, overly influenced by what I’ve seen on TV recently or talked to people about. Given all that, here goes…

The Hunt For Red October
Read Schelling, Fierke, and then watch this movie. Its all about understanding the Cold War as an elaborate game with rules that allow for a sophisticated signaling process. The two subs know the game, play it to perfection (flood tubes 1 and 2, but do not open outer doors!), and in doing so, recreate the rules of deterrence and the Cold War.

War Games
I have yet to find a better and easier way to explain deterrence and the madness of MAD. Interesting game. The only way to win is not to play.

Red Dawn
Such an insane movie. And yet, look how many of its cast members would go on to further success! The key to understanding this movie is to realize that it is, explicitly, neoconservative propaganda. Its what they fear—more so from weak kneed, cowardly liberals who would not stand up to communists. Really—the Cubans and Nicaraguans parachuting into Colorado? No grasp of reality. But then again, the fears of Red Dawn drove US policy in Central America for the entirety of the 1980’s.
Rodger had a similar reason for teaching this movie.

From Russia With Love
I love James Bond movies. Possibly the two things I on which I feel most comfortable asserting real, legitimate expertise are the Cleveland Indians major league roster and the James Bond films. I think this is perhaps the best of the Bond films. A fantastic job of exploring Cold War tensions in Europe, but also revolutionary for the introduction of SPECTER. An international terrorist organization playing great powers off one another? Not so far fetched, now is it? I find the parallel amusing…

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
A nice exploration of the difficulties for Cold Warriors in dealing with the end of the Cold War. No wonder we stuck with the “Post-Cold War” era for so long, unable to let go of that which had defined us for so long. No wonder the military is still looking to replace the USSR in its procurement plans….

Top Gun
The myth of invincible American air power really begins here.

The Transformers (2007 version, although the 86 animated version was fun at the time…)
Perhaps better than any contemporary movie, shows how incredibly powerful and deadly the post-Iraq US military has become. The scenes of the special forces team attacking the Decepticon, calling in fire support, are just awesome, as its vastly underappreciated how much devastation the modern combined arms force can unleash.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Some days, I really think that it could happen, with a nod to PW Singer.

I largely agree with the consensus picks of Strangelove, Casablanca, and Wag the Dog and for pretty much the same reasons—I have nothing new to say about that.

Walt, Walt, don’t tell me….

At one time, I kinda almost liked some of Stephen Walt’s work. At another point, I found works such as Origins of Alliances useful pivots in making an argument to move from explanations based on realism to explanations based on constructivism. But to still call Walt a “good” or “eminent” IR theorist worthy of a job at Harvard…

Walt thought it would be fun to list the top ten IR films. Outsourced to Fred Kaplan:

The most jaw-dropping pick of all, though, is Independence Day, which “makes my list,” Walt writes, “because it is balance-of-power theory in action: an external threat (giant alien spaceships) gets the world to join forces against the common foe.” Here’s the thing. Walt is a classic International Realist, the author of such gravitas-beaming books as The Origins of Alliances, Taming American Power, and Revolution and War. Yet this is his view of “balance-of-power theory in action”—the one-worlder’s wet-dream cliché about how all the nations join forces to beat back monsters from outer space? A much more cogent portrait of balance-of-power theory is the scene in The Godfather where the five families agree to get into the heroin business and divvy up the territory. (That’s nearly a metaphor for the Congress of Vienna.) Better still is the scene in The Godfather Part II in which Hyman Roth, Michael Corleone, and the chiefs of various U.S. corporations, standing on a hotel balcony in Havana, slice up a birthday cake that’s decorated with the map of Cuba.

I’ll leave the film commentary to Rodger. I’ll just say that Kaplan is dead on–if Independence Day is what counts as “Realism” these days, then Realism and Realists are in Real trouble. To call Walt’s Independence Day realism a degenerative research program might be too kind!

Perpetual Hiring Difficulties II: Academageddon

To continue a thread I started some weeks ago: If you’re thinking about getting a Ph.D., think again. Its a dysfunctional industry. From today’s NY Times op-ed pages, Mark Taylor writes:

GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

The Academy is not a healthy industry. Higher Education is doing well, as an increasing number of people are going to college and seeking graduate degrees. Despite this fact, the Academy itself is in trouble. Applied research is doing well, professional schools are doing well, but the Academy as we like to idealize as our home is rapidly going the way of the newspaper.

Future PhD students, do appreciate how you will be used and abused by this system:

The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations. That’s one of the main reasons we still encourage people to enroll in doctoral programs. It is simply cheaper to provide graduate students with modest stipends and adjuncts with as little as $5,000 a course — with no benefits — than it is to hire full-time professors.

In other words, young people enroll in graduate programs, work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens, all because of the illusory promise of faculty appointments. But their economical presence, coupled with the intransigence of tenure, ensures that there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.

When Taylor has to pick a field to throw under the bus to demonstrate the poor state of scholarship, he of course turns to Political Science and IR.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a meeting of political scientists who had gathered to discuss why international relations theory had never considered the role of religion in society. Given the state of the world today, this is a significant oversight. There can be no adequate understanding of the most important issues we face when disciplines are cloistered from one another and operate on their own premises.

Its our field that is again singled out as particularly useless. Now, granted, this isn’t all IR scholars, I’m sure that there are many out there doing interesting and valuable work on religion and politics, but the point is these people were marginalized by the field (considered not important enough) such that they weren’t invited to the meeting that Taylor attended.

One of Taylor’s suggestions I find particularly interesting:

Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible. (The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.

This echos, in part, some of Charli’s and my comments on the growth of digital media, Web 2.0 and the benefits of it as a potential outlet for knowledge beyond the traditional journal.

Can you see the day when a blog replaces a journal, or a digital video replaces a university press book? The Duck of Minerva as a ticket to tenure…. The utter absurdity of that statement is perhaps part of the problem.

Again, this isn’t to say that no one should get a Ph.D. However, it should serve as a wake-up call both to students and academics. Students: Know what you are getting into and go in with your eyes wide open. Academics: Don’t let the academy become the next Detroit Free Press–a dying industry covering a dying industry.

Theory and Policy

Joe Nye has an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post decrying the gap between theory and policy in political science. You should read it, in part because its the most press our discipline is likely to get this year, which almost proves his point. I am largely sympathetic to his view, and I lament the fact that our profession, which professes to understand how the world works, has seemingly so little to offer in terms of useful insight to those who might benefit from it. One would think, given all our collective study of foreign policies and state interactions, we might have something helpful that would construct better foreign policies and better state interactions. I recognize that, per Weber, politics and academics are two different vocations, but that doesn’t preclude the study of one from assisting in the practice of the other.

That said, I want to take issues with two of Nye’s points.

First, Nye says: “Yet too often scholars teach theory and methods that are relevant to other academics but not to the majority of the students sitting in the classroom before them.” While I want to agree with Nye here, I refrain because to do so, I will end up denigrating the IR theories I don’t like. Now, there are plenty of IR theories out there not to like, but one of the marks of a good theory is that it has some larger lesson for its adherents. All theories have this, when well taught. What bothers me about Nye’s assertion is that it can too easily be read as a back-door critique of all theories “post”—the typical slam against post-positivist, post-structural, and thicker construstivist theories is that they are too “impenetrable” and need to be more relevant to the real world. Now, as a card-carrying constructivist, I think that my approach to the analysis of world politics has plenty to offer policy makers, students, and other academics. There is a barrier to entry, though, in that you have to learn some terminology and a few foundational concepts from basic social theory. It’s the same way with a lot of the quantitative and formal theory. That stuff is not my cup of tea, but the good versions of it do hold powerful lessons for policymakers and academics alike. Don’t denigrate the theory for being difficult, sophisticated, or challenging. Denigrate a theory for being useless, offering empty ideas and unsupported conclusions.

The lack of theory speaking to policy is the Academy’s own fault. Nye is correct in identifying the most significant mechanism for change: “Departments should give greater weight to real-world relevance and impact in hiring and promoting young scholars.” Graduate Students and Junior faculty are driven by what they are told they will need for hiring and tenure. That is academic oriented work. The oft-repeated advice is wait until after tenure to dabble in policy. Unfortunately, this is not something that Joe Nye, scholar / practitioner can remedy. Rather, it takes Dean Joe Nye to offer a job to a policy-relevant, young scholars and provide tenure to that scholar for a portfolio of policy-relevant work.

Second, I do want to disagree with Nye on one major point. While much of the academy is at fault for marginalizing itself, policymakers deserve some share of the blame. In particular, I think that policy makers need to promote a greater appreciation for theory and method that the academy brings to its work and preparing its analysis. What passes for analysis, reasoning, and research in many government briefings is anecdotal analysis, poorly deployed historical analogies, and assertions. Policymakers should perhaps expect more rigor in their analytical work. Far too many line-officers in key national security agencies lack the methodological training to produce solid analysis. There is a culture to drafting cables and writing reports, but that culture doesn’t include some of the basics I teach in my undergraduate research methods class. A better appreciation of theory and method, and demanding that in new hires might help policy makers receive the better advice they seek.

Moreover, the policy world similarly needs to reward the type of work Nye seeks from academics. Nye calls for more regional expertise, and yet, the government policy making structure is designed to mute regional expertise. Foreign Service officers are expected to be generalists, regularly rotated in and out of assignments. Foreign Area Officers in the military are rarely (never?) promoted to flag rank. Making a career as a regional expert in the government service is not rewarded. There is substantial regional expertise, but all too often, policymakers are reluctant to tap into it, let alone create the institutional incentives to promote those individuals to positions of senior authority. While some areas of federal service have a highly educated workforce, replete with Ph.D.’s, there is rampant anti-intellectualism, particularly in the military, that dissuades the deployment of more sophisticated, academic arguments based on theoretical insights, researched conclusions, and sound methodological investigation. Read Tom Ricks’ account of the Army War College essentially blackballing authors who disagree with them.

Theory and Policy exist on a two way street. Theory informs policy, policy decisions and implementation form the material that we scholars study to generate our theories. For academics to be policy relevant, they must, as Nye suggests, emerge from self-imposed isolation. But policymakers need to meet them half way and be willing and able to listen.

Who will buy the movie rights?

The dramatic conclusion of the Maersk Alabama Pirate encounter is now a wrap, and this screams for a movie. My only question is who will buy the rights to Capt. Phillip’s story? NBC? Lifetime? I happen to think its bigger than a made-for-tv production, worthy of like Michael Bay or John Woo. Staring Bruce Willis as Captain Richard Phillips, Mark Wahlberg as first officer Shane Murphy, Keifer Sutherland as Special Operations commander Jack Bauer, and of course Johnny Depp as a Pirate.

Updated: It looks like SPIKE has made the first move, green-lighting the docu-series “Pirate Hunters: USN.”
H/T to the Roguish Commonwealth crew for this treasure!

One “Meta” note here, though…

The incredible level of detail we’re getting on how the Navy SEALS carried out the rescue isn’t by accident. Its not that reporters are unearthing special sources revealing juicy morsels of information. Rather senior officials want us to know 3 things (as in image building enterprise going on here):

1–This was in fact a dramatic rescue and the technical expertise of the SEALS to make those 3 shots involves quite a lot of skill. To fire from a moving platform (bobbing up and down on the high seas) and hit a target on another platform, also bobbing about, but not in the same way, is certainly not easy.

2–The Navy, and Administration in general, feel vindicated for how they handled things, slowly and deliberately. Buying time through attempts at negotiations did work. They managed to get 1 pirate off the lifeboat and into US control, they managed to get a tow-line attached, and they had the entire plan all ready to go.

3–Obama was a decisive, effective commander in chief. He was briefed, and he issued a standing order to use force (twice) at the discretion of the on-the-scene Captain. He made a key, life and death decision, he trusted his commanders.

Scribbles in My Notebook…

I have a mental queue of about 3 or 5 post that I’ve been meaning to get up in the past couple of days, but the demands of a new baby in the house are leaving me sleep deprived and somehow unable to find time to construct the posts I want to write (go figure…). So, in lieu of that, a couple of scribbles from my mental notebook that merit your attention and our discussion.

–SecDef Gates unveiled his defense budget. This could be one the most significant policy undertakings of the Obama administration and lead to some real, meaningful reforms with profound consequences on both domestic and international politics. This issue is being covered quite well elsewhere, so I will only give a couple of quick points that I hope you keep in mind.

Stop talking about this as budget cuts. Its not. It still represents an overall increase in US defense spending. Rather, its a reallocation of funds and priorities, away from some things and toward other things.

This shows how backasswards defense policy is. The vehicle for a major reorientation of defense policy is the budget. Not a policy document, not a strategic review, but procurement. Procurement and budgets drive defense policy more than ‘policy’ does, in that going to war with the military you have, not the one you want is the product of weapons requirements from 20 years ago. The F-22, the fighter jet at the center of all this, originated with a set of requirements in the late 1980’s during the cold war. Sure, they’ve updated and reaffirmed a new set of requirements to keep the plane alive. But, current AF strategy and policy discussions surrounding this plane are still captive to budget cycles from a decade ago.

I like the go-for-broke strategy that Gates is employing, as it makes it more likely, I think, to overcome Congressional opposition to any weapons system cuts. He’s shown with his comments that he’s ready to take on the defense spending as jobs argument head on.

Check out this story on how closely the US is studying Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah and how that discussion is serving as a proxy for the larger debate on the future shape of the US military.

–Obama was in Europe, had a major NATO summit, and called for nuclear disarmament. Foolish critics called him naive. Reagan also wanted disarmament, he offered to give up all our nuclear weapons if the Soviets would do the same. Obama’s going to try again to get the CTBT ratified. I think these are important steps. Proliferation is one of those global, multilateral problems that no one country can address alone. Reaching any nuclear deal ultimately runs into the fundamental bargain of the NPT that leaves some states nuclear and others not. That bargain requires the nuclear states to work towards disarmament. Obama’s call for nuclear arms reduction gives him major cred in seeking further arms control agreements with new and potential nuclear powers, as he can now claim with some credibility that he is interested in matching the disarmament that he is asking others to undertake.

–North Korea launched a missile / satellite that failed miserably, crashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The interesting question, I think, is how this impacts their credibility–they continually threaten war, testing, and proliferation, but then continually fail when they try to make good. And yet, within the DPRK, this is a reaffirmation of North Korean resistance and US surrender. To the rest of the world, well, I don’t think it helps North Korea make any friends.

Obama invoked the UNSC, which was nice, but (predictably?), no one could agree on anything. Russia and China were not happy with the test, but it seems there’s a difference between not liking the test and allowing the SC to sanction a state for violation of a resolution. We shall see how much more fun this makes Stephen Bosworth’s job.

–Pirates take a US cargo ship. Charli has that covered, but as I mentioned to a couple of students we’re working with on a Pirate project this summer, Now things might start to get interesting. Which is to say, we’ll see if the US changes its tune at all when US interests / persons / items are at risk.

–Opening day for baseball, lets go Cleveland!!!


The G-20 is wrapping up in London, and they seem to have successfully issued a communique that is actually more than straight boilerplate non-commitment.

My hope is that the reforms discussed for the IMF begin a re-fastening of the embedded-liberalism that has served as the foundation of the international order and an institutionalization of this new compact.

The global economic turmoil is revealing two key structural facets of the international order. First, the US remains the Hegemon. In the end, the world is looking to the US for leadership, and its clear that only the US can provide the economic and political leadership to pull the world out of the current crisis. Second, and conversely, while the US is probably as powerful as its ever been, the price of hegemony is skyrocketing, and other actors are rapidly accruing power as it diffuses away from the US. Quite simply, the current US trajectory seems unsustainable, and it requires a new grand-bargain it is to reach a new sustainability. Immediate evidence of this new structure: the G-20 as the forum for rescuing the world’s economy.

As the NYT reports:

the leaders of nearly two dozen of the world’s largest economies agreed Thursday to a broad array of new fiscal and regulatory steps, in a desperate effort to revive the paralyzed global economy.

At the conclusion of the first economic summit meeting to rivet world attention in decades, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain announced that the leaders had committed to $1.1 trillion in additional loans and guarantees to finance trade and bail out troubled countries….

Among the steps Mr. Brown detailed are strict new regulations on hedge funds and rating agencies, as well as a crackdown on tax havens, which will be publicly named and subject to sanctions if they do not agree to share tax information with the authorities of other countries.

The Group of 20 also agreed on new global rules to cap the pay and bonuses of bankers, as well as a common approach to dealing with the toxic assets on the balance sheets of the world’s banks. That is an issue that has bedeviled the Obama administration and other governments.

Giving teeth to an endorsement of free trade at the last summit in Washington, the countries agreed to “name and shame” countries that erected trade barriers. They also pledged $250 billion in financing for trade.

The most concrete measures relate to support for the International Monetary Fund, which has emerged as a “first responder” in this global crisis, making emergency loans to dozens of countries.

The Group of 20 pledged to triple the resources of the Fund to $750 billion — through a mix of $500 billion in loans from countries, and a one-time issuance of $250 billion in Special Drawing Rights, the synthetic currency of the Fund, which will be parceled out to all its 185 members.

The BBC details the reforms to the IMF:

The IMF is also set to have a bigger role in preventing future crises, by developing an early warning system for financial problems, and taking a larger role in looking at the problems of the financial sector as a whole, in conjunction with a new global regulator, the Financial Services Board.

But the biggest changes in the IMF will come after 2011, when it has been agreed that there will be a review of the voting structure. That could lead to the US losing its veto power, while China and other emerging countries get a bigger voice.

It has already been agreed that in future, the convention that the World Bank and IMF must be headed by an American and a European respectively will be abandoned.

In return, China will be asked to lend some of its reserves to the IMF – and will continue to push for the idea that the SDR will become a real reserve currency, ultimately replacing the dollar.

The changes to the resources and the role of the IMF are historic and perhaps the most important outcome of the G20 summit.

But it must be borne in mind that providing more resources for the IMF can be only a short-term solution to the immediate crisis now engulfing developing countries.

While full reform remains more of a fantasy than reality, this is certainly more than a nod in that direction.

Shadow War comes to light

Another mysterious air strike has come to light. Via the NYT, we have links to reports that in January, a “major power” conducted a significant air strike in Sudan on a convoy of trucks supposedly transporting weapons from Sudan to Hamas in Gaza. CBS reports that while Sudanese officials have accused the US of carrying out the strike, US officials hint that Israel was behind the attack. Haaretz reports that Israeli officials, while not confirming the report, certainly are denying it. According to CBS:

In the airstrike in Sudan – said to have been “in a desert area northwest of Port Sudan city, near Mount al-Sha’anoon,” according to – 39 people riding in 17 trucks were reportedly killed….

If Israeli airplanes carried out the attack in Sudan, it would suggest that there is a shadow war against Hamas and its weapons sources that is wider than the Israeli or U.S. government has revealed.

Who could have undertaken such an attack? Its a pretty limited group consisting of mainly the US and Israel and perhaps Egypt, given the proximity to the Egyptian border. Conceding that Egypt is a stretch at best, the likely suspects include the US and Israel. Israel’s F-15I, a long range ground attack aircraft, is designed for just such missions–long range precision attack. The US has bases in Djibouti as well as carrier-based aircraft that could launch any number of platforms. The scope of the attack (17 trucks) suggest a multiple-plane strike package, probably ruling out attack by US drones.

The most significant element in this strike is the actionable intelligence that produced it. The attacking power must know that this particular convoy is carrying arms, and know where the convoy is and where its heading. That type of intelligence suggests either a very robust HUMINT capability on the ground in Sudan, or, more likely, a robust satellite surveillance capability that could identify the convoy and follow it, pinpointing its exact location at the time of the strike.

The wider implications of this strike could be significant. It shows the depth and difficulty of the Israeli – Hamas conflict. Hamas has a robust global supply network and cooperative governments willing to allow such a network to exist. It also shows the depth of involvement by Sudan and Iran in the issue. It also is a clear signal from Israel to Iran–we are monitoring your actions and have the ability to strike your activities. The F-15I’s range includes Port Sudan, and thus a good chunk of Iran as well.


Replace the Dollar?

A friend writes,* “What the end of hegemony looks like…”

In another indication that China is growing increasingly concerned about holding huge dollar reserves, the head of its central bank has called for the eventual creation of a new international currency reserve to replace the dollar.

In a paper released Monday, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, said a new currency reserve system controlled by the International Monetary Fund could prove more stable and economically viable.

A new system is necessary, he said, because the global economic crisis has revealed the “inherent vulnerabilities and systemic risks in the existing international monetary system.”

On the one hand, true. China’s over $1 trillion in dollar-denominated reserves aren’t as safe as they once were, and a devaluation of that asset through inflation would not be good for China. But, where else are they going to go?

While few analysts believe that the dollar will be replaced as the world’s dominant foreign exchange reserve anytime soon, the proposal suggests that China is preparing to assume a more influential role in the world. Russia recently made a similar proposal.

Lets look at this more closely. The Dollar has its privileged position in the world economy because a) many economists believe that the world economy needs some sort of stable reserve currency, b) the US is willing and can afford to maintain such a strong currency, and c) the rest of the world has left this arrangement unchallenged and benefits from it. Much of this is classic Kindleberger–the world economy needs a stabilizer, one stabilizer, to stabilize the global economy as market, currency, and lender of last resort. The US is that stabilizer.

The third of those reasons–acceptance by other world powers–is now under some degree of threat as China starts to fret about its dollar position. However, absent another actor willing and able to play the role of stabilizer, everyone–China included–risks putting themselves in a significantly worse position should the dollar lose its pride of place in the international economic system.

China suggests that the IMF’s SDR form a new reserve currency. This indicates they really aren’t all that serious about actually doing anything to dislodge the dollar. For one, to have a currency able to act as a reserve currency requires backing of a stable, authoritative, empowered entity that can manipulate fiscal and monetary policy as needed to protect the value of its currency. We call this a sovereign state. To give the IMF such rights would make the IMF a de-facto global economic sovereign. China has no demonstrated desire to create supra-national authority, not at the UN, nor the IMF. Moreover, there is a significant and real cost to maintaining a strong reserve currency. The strength of the dollar makes the US a great destination for products–we can afford to buy others’ cheap stuff. A significantly de-valued dollar (coupled with an increased value of other currencies like the Yuan or Yen or Won) would be a disaster to economies that rely on exports. China would need to show that it is willing and able to take on a stabilizing role in the global economy, which just doesn’t seem in the cards as of yet.

Perhaps, though, this might be read as an attempt to gain leverage:

The timing of the Chinese announcement, analysts said, could also be aimed at giving Beijing more leverage to negotiate with the United States and other nations in London on trade and on proposals about how to stabilize the global economy.

All that said, it would be foolish for US policy planners to simply ignore China’s (and others) growing dissatisfaction with the Bretton Woods legacy system that now constitutes the global economy. The fundamental bargains that made such a hegemonic system possible (cf Ikenberry) have become frayed, and while neither China nor the EU (nor India, for that matter) are poised to overthrow US hegemony in the short term, they can clearly erode US hegemony by driving up the cost of acting as a stabilizer. In the medium term, this imposes a cost on everyone, as the global economy (and security order) falters without a clear stabilizer, but from a realist perspective, the relative gains (or in this case declines) could benefit the challengers to US hegemony–at least that’s what they are betting on.

*as in, a friend of mine forwarded me a link to that article with the caption. I have never met David Barboza, the author of the NYT article.

Those were the days

Yesterday as I drove to work, two stories on NPR caught my attention with how completely out of touch the interviewees sounded about their particular fields. These are people who are highly trained, performing what used to be important–if not vital–services, and well rewarded professionally for their accomplishments. And yet, listening to them talk about the importance of preserving the culture, practices, and institutional arrangements that enabled their profession, their claims rang so hollow, so 20th century, that I was struck that they would even say such things on radio.

The culprits? Bankers and Fighter Pilots. The Bankers were all upset about the “strings attached” to the TARP bail-out money they had received. Of particular concern was the limits on executive pay, and how this was going to cause a talent drain in the financial sector. All I could think was how tone-deaf the bankers sounded–while some of these guys may have had talent, it was a talent for destruction, not necessarily talent that you want to keep around. And, have they tried looking for jobs lately? There are quite literally thousands of finance professionals out of work, ready to step in to the jobs these supposed talents are vacating.

The Fighter Pilots were not quite as egregious, but still sounded like relics of a day gone bye. Morning edition has a nice 2 part story (yesterday and today) about fighter pilots and the changing fighter pilot culture. I’m not quite going to give the full Farley here, but listening to these guys, who sound as if they stepped off the set of Top Gun and into the story, you wonder if they are living in a bygone era (yes, I know one is AF and the other USN, but half of the first NPR segment is all about Top Gun, check it out, they even have the great music).

So why is there such an emphasis on training fighter pilots?

“None of us, I think, can really say with certainty who it is that we may end up having to fight next or what their capabilities are or what weapons systems they’ll have,” [Lt. Col. Dan “Digger” Hawkins, the deputy commander at Red Flag] says. “And so that’s why we keep our skills honed with exercises like Red Flag — so that we can be ready to defend the country at a moment’s notice against whoever it is who may try to attack us.”

No one who is currently training at Red Flag has ever been in a dogfight, but the training they receive is what Hawkins calls “very realistic dogfights.”

“As far as actual live combat, I’ll believe that some of the last air-to-air kills that the U.S. Air Force had was in Bosnia back in the 1990s.”

That was before these students were even pilots.

It sounds like such a valiant culture, much like the Pony Express was a valiant way to deliver cross-country mail in its day. For the past SIX years, the US has been engaged in two wars, actual ongoing combat operations, in one case against a real enemy that had actually attacked the United States, and fighter pilots have had no place to operationalize all that wonderful training at Red Flag. Instead, they have been pushed aside by robots. These days, Drones are the US weapon of choice in fighting Al Qaeda:

Pentagon officials say the remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours, have done more than any other weapons system to track down insurgents and save American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The planes have become one of the military’s favorite weapons despite many shortcomings resulting from the rush to get them into the field.

There is a near insatiable demand for more Predators and Reapers, but none of the “pilots” don’t want to actually fly them. Its just not the same–pulling 9Gs vs sitting in a small room playing video games–they say.

Bankers and Fighter Pilots. Heroes of the 80’s and 90’s. Sounding like relics of bygone era. It would be cute, if it wasn’t so darn expensive to maintain the institutions that facilitate their cultures.

Perpetual Hiring Difficulties

For any students out there who aspire to graduate education to launch a career in this discipline, allow me to offer the one bit of advice that no one wants to tell you: Don’t. I really hate to be the one who rains on the parade, but the stark reality is that the Academy is a collapsing profession–while we seem to be producing more and more PhD’s, the academy has fewer and fewer jobs to ply the trade of “academic.” We don’t appreciate or really recognize the contributions of those operating outside the university / peer reviewed journal realm, and yet that’s where more and more of our students are going to end up.

The economy’s collapse hasn’t helped things at all. The NYT reports today that graduating PhD’s are facing incredibly tough times:

“This is a year of no jobs,” said Catherine Stimpson, the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University. Ph.D.s are stacked up, she said, “like planes hovering over La Guardia.”

They may find a post-doc here or a temporary / adjunct position there, but I can pretty much guarantee you that these disappearing jobs won’t come back as fast as we can flood the market with more graduates.

Andrew Delbanco, the chairman of the American studies program at Columbia University, said that the system producing graduate students was increasingly out of sync with the system hiring them.

“It’s been obvious for some time — witness the unionization movement — that graduate students are caught between the old model of apprentice scholars and the new reality of insecure laborers with uncertain employment prospects,” Mr. Delbanco said. “Among the effects of the financial crisis will clearly be shrinkage both in graduate fellowships and in entry-level academic positions, so the prospects for aspiring Ph.D.’s are getting even bleaker….”

Many students now finishing their doctorates began working on them when the economy was in much better shape. It often takes about nine years to complete a dissertation in English, said Louis Menand, an English professor at Harvard, explaining that students have to devote so many hours to teaching and making money that they don’t have time left over to write.

William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College in Holland, Mich., who writes a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education under the name Thomas Benton, has frequently tried to dissuade undergraduates from pursuing a graduate degree in the humanities. He is convinced that the recession will push universities to trim the number of tenure-track jobs further.

“It’s hard to tell young people that universities recognize that their idealism and energy — and lack of information — are an exploitable resource,” he wrote in a recent column. “If you cannot find a tenure-track position, your university will no longer court you; it will pretend you do not exist and will act as if your unemployability is entirely your fault.”

Unless you are independently wealthy or really well connected, don’t apply, he advised.

At ISA this year, much of the conversation was about how the budge crunch was impacting everyone’s department. I heard about departments where they let go all the non-tenure line faculty, departments where people had to take pay-cuts, departments where classes were cut, job searches canceled, and candidates going on interviews only to have searches canceled before an offer could be made. In IR, we’re about to have a glut of 2 to 3 year’s worth of top graduates on the market unable to find jobs. They aren’t there.

As a profession, we need to really reflect on our place in the world and perhaps find a way to get these people the jobs they need to survive, while at the same time not alienating them from the profession.

So, if you’re thinking about getting a PhD– don’t. And after all that, if you still want to, be forewarned, this is what you’re up against.


Its winter wonderland blogging from DC! It looks like we’ve got about 6 inches of snow on the ground so far, and its still falling. The University is on a delayed opening, so my morning class is canceled, leaving some time for NSC blogging.

Late last week, the Obama NSC released NSPD-1, the traditional presidential order structuring the National Security Council membership, committees, and operating procedures. As was promised, Obama has significantly expanded the NSC membership, inviting the Attorney General, secretaries of Energy and Homeland Security, and Ambassador to the UN as standing members. The directive also reformulates the inter-agency committees / working groups that serve to formulate and coordinate policy at the working level, leaving the NSC in charge of these. The net effect is further centralization of the policy process through the White House, continuing a longstanding trend in the management of US foreign policy. Presidents since Kennedy have used the NSC to try to tame the bureaucracy, with varying results. The NSC, however, has always ended up accruing power at the expense of the agencies.

You can read the full NSPD-1 as a PDF here.

The big winners? Jim Jones is now in the catbird seat, poised to become one of the most consequential National Security Advisers in a generation. The White House policy coordinating apparatus is strengthened. The WH Counselor can attend any meeting. The US Ambassador to the UN gets a significantly increased profile—from sub-cabinet to full cabinet—and the Energy Department has a new-found seat at the table. The NEC, as if he didn’t have enough to deal with already, also gets a prominent seat at the table.

The losers? State, which had been the default chair department for working-level groups loses that privilege to the NSC. The Homeland Security apparatus also loses, as many of its responsibilities are folded into the NSC.

Again, as I argued earlier, this matters significantly in that all our decision-making theories of foreign policy clearly show that the decision-making process a president uses significantly shapes policy. As SecDef Gates said over the weekend, Obama already has a markedly different style from Bush, he’s much more “analytical,” and calls on people to make sure all views are heard in a meeting. Obama’s emerging style might prevent the breakdown of the inter-agency process under Bush, where one agency could end-run another, and dissenting views vanished into the ether. Obviously its unwise to make concrete predictions based on one document (as events have a way of overtaking the best-laid plans), but this key document does give a powerful glimpse into the inner-workings of the Obama Administration.

Monkeys do not make good pets (or you’re no man in a yellow hat)

After the Animal Revolution, monkeys will take revenge on us for attempting to domesticate them. Monkeys do not make good pets. There are very sensible arguments for this–Hilzoy makes them most eloquently–and there are the times when it is self-evident that one must be a bit crazy to keep a monkey as a pet:

On one occasion, they got in a wrestling match, and Higgins [the baboon] put one of his “steel-like fingernails” through Bob’s scrotum….

Bob has been bitten several times by Higgins, who now weighs 50 pounds and has large incisors. Once, when Bob was leading him from an outdoor enclosure back to his cage in the house, Higgins exploded and the two got into a battle so ferocious that despite the steel mesh glove Bob was wearing, he screamed for Carlie to get his .22 rifle and put a bullet in Higgins’s head. She got Higgins a slice of raisin bread instead, quickly defusing the fight.

Personally, I blame the discursive representations of Monkeys and Chimps as appropriate in-house pets. The biggest culprit here is H. A. Rey and Curious George. Unfortunately, too many contemporary Monkey as Pet people misread Rey (1941). While current literature–particularly the “New Adventure” school–tends to portray George as a lovable, curious 4-year old (cf Vipa Interactive, 1999) they have overlooked the warnings of Monkey-As-Pet deep in the text of Rey’s original work.

The New Adventures approach silences the narrative of oppressive Man in Yellow Hat and George’s simian rebellion. Recall that Yellow Hat abducts George from Africa in a yellow sack, echoing the colonial practices of the times. On the ship back to the big city, George, after an attempted escape re-narrated as an attempt to fly like a seagull, is disciplined into a Stockholm-syndrome like relationship with the Man in the Yellow Hat, now his “friend.” This friendship includes taking George home, giving him a pipe to smoke after dinner, and then putting him to bed. George’s rebellion of calling the fire department, results in discipline and punishment by the state, as George is sent to prison. He escapes prison by walking on telephone wires, and holding onto balloons. The recidivist George is finally directed to the zoo, where he can become a spectacle for passers-by.

As generations have grown up with the innocuous images of George, they too think that monkeys might make good pets. This is not the case. Monkeys cause trouble. George is always in trouble, and clearly present in all of Rey’s work is the Man with the Yellow Hat paying for all of George’s destruction, mayhem, and misplaced curiosity. Perhaps if such an intervention was attempted earlier, we might not have these tragic incidents of people thinking it would be a good idea to take a monkey home as a pet.

*in the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that my 2-year old son is completely enamored with Curious George, and we probably read him 5-10 curious George stories a day. Right now, he’s in a “George Cow” phase.

More ISA reflections: Technology, IR, and the study of IR

To continue the theme of ISA follow-up, I wanted to mix in a few observations about the way the massive technical shift of stuff like Web 2.0 seems to be changing that which we study, how we study it, and how we conceive of what it means to study what we study. Of all, it feels as if our professional norms of what it means to study IR and how we ought to do so are the most lagging.

I attended several panels on discourse analysis. One panel focused on the study of images as discourse and featured two innovative graduate student papers investigating the discourse of photographs of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The two papers revealed just how powerful these images have been world-wide, impacting the understanding of the US occupation of Iraq and War on Terrorism. Gitmo, in part, has become such a powerful international symbol because of the images the world has seen of prisoners there. As a field, we have historically focused on discourse as text, privileging the primary discourses of speeches and archival records. As a discipline, we ask researchers to publish papers and present without access to LCD displays. The presenter of the Gitmo paper managed to put up some color overheads, which made her presentation significantly more effective. And my question to them was–why are you writing a paper about pictures?

It would seem to me that there is room in the field for us to innovate beyond the 10,000 word journal article and engage the Web and digital media. James DerDerian, who was discussant on one of these panels, is doing some remarkable work with documentary film. The two papers on images would be so much more powerful as multi-media enterprises but the field has no way to recognize that. And, ISA has no way to present that to a panel.

I was at another panel on Diplomacy (also with DerDerian…). Of note there was the way in which the military, especially in the US, is taking over traditional diplomacy. Counter-insurgency operations only serve to magnify this trend. And yet, I asked, why is it that the pragmatism of the military is willing to embrace these new forms of diplomacy while diplomacy looks so much as it did 30 years ago? Of all the agencies within the US government, the Pentagon is far and away the most innovative in using information technology resources. Imagine the State Department embedding journalists in the 6 party talks. Imagine the State Department’s public diplomacy program with the resources of the Pentagon’s information operations. Imagine the State Department with a website filled with cool photos like any of the .mil sites. Imagine a first-person interactive negotiating game on the state department’s website (like the Army’s first person shooter games).

Information technology is changing the stuff that we study. Information technology is changing the way we conduct our craft. And yet, some institutions seem slow to catch up. Alas, our own profession seems to be one of them.

For crying out loud, how hard would it be for ISA to just buy some wireless access for everyone already!!!

And, for crying out loud, how hard would it be to get a truly transformational diplomacy?

ISA not live blogging

Its been somewhat quiet around here for the past few days, as many of us are attending the annual meeting of the International Studies Association in New York. Internet access at the convention hotel is spotty–there is wireless available in the rooms and expansive main lobby but it costs something like $10-$15 / day, which is far more than any of us on limited travel budgets can afford, hence no live updates.

I think, though, that blogging and its complex relationship to the academy in our field may be turning a corner with this ISA. I was in a panel on “Waltz’s World” which was one of those high-profile panels with big names in a large ballroom that was packed with participants eager to hear reflections on the 30th anniversary of the publication of what is perhaps the single most significant book in our field. In her introductory remarks, one of the panelists mentioned Herz and his contributions to the field, referencing Stephen Walt’s recent comments that he’s perhaps one of IR’s underrated scholars.

Note the link there–that’s right, its to Walt’s blog. She revealed that 1) she reads (or read) his blog, 2) that she assumes we, the large audience, were also familiar with Walt’s blog, and 3) that this is a meaningful way for us to hold some of our professional discussions.

In the “old days” the word on the street was don’t let your department know you blog because you’ll end up like Drezner and get denied tenure. Now it seems the conversation is a little different, as Drezner is doing just fine in his new job with his new blog, and a number of other blogs by IR scholars have surfaced offering a rich discussion of the substance of our field. We (and the others) have a nice blog-role of such sites. We (and others) do talk about fun stuff, offer commentary on current events, but we all also post research notes, insights from our scholarship, and reminders of what the theories and findings of our discipline say about unfolding international events.

Maybe fodder for an “innovative panel” in New Orleans….

(why the big to-do over Walt? Because he’s Stephen Walt. Lots of people have been discussing his Valentine’s Day post, everything from I thought it was cute to that just proves that the Feminists were right and realism is completely gendered. He’s at Harvard. Origins of Alliances. And, he’s got a 17 on influence and 8 on most interesting scholarship in the TRIPS report (pdf) which is to say he’s a big deal in the field in a sabr-metric kind of way)

Obama’s NSC

I want to call attention to a WaPo article from Sunday on the emerging structure of Obama’s national security council–it was front page, but largely lost among the coverage of the Stimulus package. Indeed, only Rozen really seems to have picked up on it. While largely an interview with new National Security Adviser James Jones about organizational charts and workflows, it nevertheless offers a substantial insight into the new Administration’s ability to deal with foreign policy–both crises and long-term issues.

Students of foreign policy analysis focus on the decision-making process that Administrations use to make foreign policy. At the heart of that process is the NSC. Since the Kennedy Administration (remember Ex-Comm?), the NSC has largely taken over from the cabinet agencies as the President’s main source for foreign policy management, planning, and coordination. Any introductory foreign policy course covers the evolution of the NSC (as Daalder and Destler do in the most recent Foreign Affairs), noting how the organization and function of the NSC reflect the President’s decision-making style. JFK had a collegial group, Nixon a rigid hierarchy, Bush I an well organized coordinating system, and so on.

Jones tells the Post that:

President Obama plans to order a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Council, expanding its membership and increasing its authority to set strategy across a wide spectrum of international and domestic issues.

The result will be a “dramatically different” NSC from that of the Bush administration or any of its predecessors since the forum was established after World War II to advise the president on diplomatic and military matters, according to national security adviser James L. Jones, who described the changes in an interview. “The world that we live in has changed so dramatically in this decade that organizations that were created to meet a certain set of criteria no longer are terribly useful,” he said.

A couple changes are worth pointing out.

1. Obama plans to radically alter membership. By law, the only standing members of the NSC are the President, VP, SecState, and SecDef. The CJCS is the military adviser and DNI intelligence advisor. By design, its a flexible structure, allowing the President to add members as he sees fit. Traditionally other agencies have attended as required–Justice, Treasury, etc. Jones plans to draw in members from across the executive branch, involving any agency relevant to an issue. In part, this reflects the increasing role that other agencies, from law enforcement to energy to agriculture play in foreign policy. The potential pay-off is greater coordination and a greater ability to focus the government’s actions on a topic. The downside, of course, is that more people in the room always makes for a more difficult meeting.

2. Jones will assert greater control over access to the President and Presidential involvement in decision-making. Largely, this is a reaction to the Bush II NSC, where back-channels and unilateral action, especially among State, Defense, and the Vice President’s office, undermined effective coordination. (Do note the comparison between Bush Administrations–largely composed of the same cast of characters. Bush I is widely regarded as having had a model NSC, while Bush II is widely regarded as having had a highly dysfunctional NSC).

3. He plans to re-draw agency maps. Yes, maps. Each department divides the world into region–State has its regional bureaus, DoD has its Unified Command Plan, and the NSC has its Senior Directors. These regional division, however, reflect Agency-specific needs and do not correspond in any way to each other. State’s South Asia bureau includes Afghanistan and India, while in DoD, CENTCOM runs the show in Afghanistan while PACOM has jurisdiction over India. His goal is to have parallelism within agencies, creating peers who oversee policy with the same group of countries. It would certainly make it easier to know who to pick up the phone and call.

The point here is that, from a foreign policy analysis perspective, this stuff really matters. A significant chunk of foreign policy theory asserts that the decision-making process has a substantial influence in the quality of decision made, and thus effectiveness of US foreign policy.

The NSC is how Presidents do this. A functional NSC can provide the President with options, information, and advice to make the best possible decision when faced with a foreign policy choice. A functional NSC can make sure that government agencies work in concert to carry out the President’s chosen course of action. A dysfunctional NSC process can rapidly reproduce its dysfunction across the government and embed itself within US foreign policy.

So, take note of Jone’s comments, as his success in creating the working NSC structure he describes will be a sizable indicator of the Administration’s ability to handle the myriad of critical foreign policy issues it faces.

Rally from war to election?

The rally effect, where public opinion surges in favor of an incumbent government in the face of a foreign policy crisis or military action, is well documented in studies of US foreign policy. Similarly, diversionary theories of war posit that leaders will engage in military adventurism to distract a public from economic troubles or electoral difficulties.

Israel goes to the polls tomorrow. The recent Gaza war is front and center in the campaign. Barak and labor were poised to lose seats, and the conventional wisdom was that a good showing in Gaza could help Barak, Defense Minister, and bolster Labor’s vote share. Same with Livni and Kadima, the current ruling party. And yet, the initial benefactor seemed to be Likud and Netanyahu–as a growing sector of Israeli public opinion seems to think that perhaps the war did not go far enough.

And yet, the most recent reports have seen the right wing (yet secular) party of Lieberman, Israel is our Home, as the real story, gaining seats at the expense of Likud and others. Governing Kadima and Labor don’t seem to be making a significant showing, though the final results tomorrow will tell the full story.

This was not the first time that Israel has launched a military operation right before an election. In 1996, Shimon Peres launched an attack into Lebanon near the election, and subsequently lost to Netanyahu.

Does any of this suggest that these theories might not apply?

Metaphors of War: Superbowl Edition

Football and War have long been metaphors for each other, with players famously (and infamously in some cases) referring to themselves as “warriors” who will “do battle” on the gridiron led by “field generals” at quarterbacks, throwing “long bombs” to score, and Generals “calling an audible” to launch a “blitz” or a “hail-marry pass.” Indeed, those seeking to inject greater tolerance into American culture have long counseled that we do away with such metaphors, as they trivialize war on both sides of the equation. George Carlin saw this years ago. (Updatedrepaired link to Carlin’s baseball vs. football routine).

Today’s Superbowl between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers provides a rare moment reflection on this seemingly inescapable current in American popular culture. The Cardinals offer a unique mechanism for this, as until this year, they were probably best know for being the team of Pat Tillman, the former Cards player who joined the Army and was killed in Afghanistan.

It also provides a moment to notice, as the Washington Post reports, that the NFL seems to have re-thought its role in this process:

In a little-discussed shift in recent years, the NFL has moved away from depicting its games in military terms. While the league continues to embrace the military as an entity, inviting Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of Central Command, to make the Super Bowl’s opening coin toss and having the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a pregame flyover at Raymond James Stadium, the NFL no longer endorses using military terminology to describe its contests.

It is inappropriate, league officials say, to do so at a time when American forces are fighting two wars halfway around the globe.

“It’s a matter of common sense,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as he stood outside the stadium the other day.

The same is true at NFL Films, an arm of the league that perpetuated for decades the image of football as controlled warfare by producing movies glorifying the game’s violence with phrases like “linebacker search and destroy.” In recent years the company’s president, Steve Sabol, ordered all allusions to war be removed from its new films.

“I don’t think you will ever see those references coming back,” he said. “They won’t be back in our scripts, certainly not in my lifetime.”

The sport that once saw itself as the closest thing in athletics to the military no longer holds to this once-cherished notion.

“We’re not going to fight no war, man,” Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Nick Eason said….

“They were basically cliches anyway,” Sabol said. “Just like you would hear coaches say, ‘That’s a guy I want to be in a foxhole with,’ they’ve never been in a foxhole and they’re trying to articulate that to a player who has no idea what a foxhole is.”

At the extreme, these metaphors were always silly, at their worst, they devalued the true sacrifices of soldiers and dehumanized the true destruction and human devastation wrought by actual war. Its a good thing that the NFL is moving in this direction.


Almost live Panel Blogging:

I’m sitting (or at least was, when I started this post) in a rather interesting panel that’s running at AU right now: The Obama Administration and the Palestinian / Israeli Conflict. It’s a pretty intense, thoughtful, and insightful discussion, featuring Aaron Miller, Yoram Peri, Amjad Atallah, and moderated by our own Boaz Atzili. On the schedule but not able to make it today was Joshua Muravchick.

Aaron Miller has quite a lot on his mind and is very talkative and is quite passionate about his points. Its clear that he has a lot that he wants to say—not just here, but in his recent writings, his book, and his other recent commentary. Its the I worked at this for 24 years and got nowhere because you crazy people can’t get over your inane mythology and appreciate the world as it is, not how you want it to be (he didn’t actually say the crazy people part, but he did drop the realism line at one point in his remarks).

Two-plus points, reacting to what I heard.

1. Both Atallah and Miller prefaced their remarks: “Speaking as an American…” Aside from the obvious use of this rhetorical device to preface remarks about the status of the negotiations, the frame also allows them to raise a very critical issue that has been absent from the recent dialogue of US involvement in the Middle East Peace Process. Both noted that the US has very vital National Interests at stake in resolving this conflict. The Obama administration has some major items on its plate: withdraw from Iraq, deal with Iran, the war in Afghanistan and the situation in Pakistan, and terrorist networks who might seek to attack the US directly. The Israeli / Palestinian conflict is connect to all of these and as it degrades, it further complicates the US’s ability to resolve its most vital interests in the region. Resolving the Israeli – Palestinian issue, beyond any Israeli or Palestinian interests, beyond any alliance with Israel, is important to the US achieving key goals on its own. Atallah recalled the way the US dealt with Bosnia—for a while, it was a horrible problem but one where the deep, ancient hatred and longstanding conflict rendered it impossible for the US to do anything. Then, at a certain point, the Clinton Administration decided that resolving the conflict was in the US interest, and they got involved and pushed a resolution (not that the Balkans is the Middle East, his point being that when the US decides its in its interest to act, it can and will take action).

The new “reality”* of the situation might now be an American National Interest in ending the conflict—not solving it to the liking of any one side, but ending it so that it is no longer a problem to the US advancing its other key interests in the region. At this point, the US decides what it needs, and what its worth, in terms of willingness to invest / pay, to get these needs, and makes it happen. Now this is not to capitulate to the inane Walt argument that Israel is somehow dragging down the US in the region (interestingly, Miller referenced the Walt / Mearshiemer book, trashed it, and then called for a more realistic understanding of the US – Israeli relationship, both by the general public and by American Jews that moves beyond some sort of mythology of fear.)

The difference here is that the subtle change of role for the US that they suggest—no longer protector of any one side, no longer “honest broker” but rather concerned great power able to see a workable solution that is good for the US and apply appropriate pressure to both sides to get there.

2. Its very interesting to hear the different analyses of what the barriers are to peace. On the one hand, Miller says the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is large, while Atallah and Peri say that these gaps are less substantive and more process-oriented. The one thing that is clear from this (and, honestly, any discussion you ever listen to by anyone with any familiarity with the issue) is that the basic issues are still the same basic issues, the general terms of an agreement have a straight genealogy from the Roadmap to the Mitchell Plan, to Camp David, to Oslo, to Madrid, to Camp David. Its essentially the same plan, the same issues. So where’s the problem? Miller says that nothing will happen until there is a unified Palestinian political order, one organization controlling violence over its territory. Now, that’s a state (cue Weber), and as Atallah points out, they aren’t a state yet. Peri says the problem is a lack of trust and leadership on both sides. Miller also faults poor leadership. Peri notes the interesting dynamic in Israeli public opinion: he references surveys that show the Israeli public as more supportive of trading land for peace and closing settlements, but also shifting to the right politically, with Likud expected to win the upcoming elections. No trust in the leadership to actually deliver these long term goals.

Other interesting tidbits:

Atzili noted a new word making its way around Israeli slang: Condoleezation, to work long and hard and accomplish nothing.

There was general consensus that the idea that the Bush Administration was in any way good for this region or this conflict, or any of the parties, is mythology. To say you support a 2 state solution and then do nothing about it is no help to the Palestinians. To say you support Israel and then disengage from the peace process is no help to the Israelis. No one had much nice to say about the Bush Administration. Muravchik might have altered that dynamic, but he was apparently sick or something.

There was also general consensus that a peace deal with Syria was perhaps more likely than anything else. Its doable, its easy—no existential issues, it has support from the Israeli military (Peri reported), and it would actually help a bit with the other tracks.

Atallah noted that Arab leaders now feel they can engage the US again. The Bush Administration, with Iraq, Abu Gharib, Gitmo, and the like, was impossible to talk to. Obama offers a fresh chance. This holds out the promise that the Obama administration could engage and bring about the regional support necessary for an Israeli – Palestinian process.

Overall, a very interesting panel. There was audio and video taken, I’m told there might be a podcast, and if there is, I’ll try to link to it.

*MEPP commentators always like to talk about “realities” the changing realities, the new realities, the realities on the ground. Sorta makes you wonder how “real” they are, and if they are so real, how they keep changing all the time.

Justify your existence

Stephen Walt, fresh off his compendium contribution, muses about the IR Hall of Fame. His criteria: over two tape-measure home run publications, which is to say, more than two articles or books that continue to show up on syllabi and citation lists for over a decade.

His initial list: Waltz, Huntington, Jervis

His comments generate a slightly more interesting list, adding folks like Keohane, Ruggie, Wendt, Gilpin, Fearon, Katzenstein, Bull, and such.

Farley laments that “My discipline sucks” and he might be onto something…

Who’s on your ballot?

And, like the real HOF, only on-field contributions count, so you can’t ding someone for character. Ricky is still waiting for Ricky to get the call… Will be interesting to see how the voters handle the steroid era.

Guys like EH Carr and Mortenthau will probably be admitted by the veterans committee….

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