Joining The Club?

ducksoup Dan Nexon argues that efforts to have Ukraine join NATO could be self defeating:

Moscow’s greatest fear is that Ukraine winds up a member of NATO. The more that NATO suggests it views Ukraine as worthy of military confrontation, the more Moscow will become convinced that an autonomous Ukraine — rump or otherwise — will someday become a member of the NATO alliance. The net result: escalating efforts by NATO at military deterrence actually increase the pressure on Moscow to take decisive action in the near term.

The whole post is worth reading, and those few Duck readers who don’t follow Dan’s blog should do so as soon as possible.

But there’s still something puzzling me about Russia’s adventurism in its near abroad: Who cares who joins NATO? Or, to be more precise, what role should NATO membership have in international relations theory?
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Nuclear weapons wouldn’t have fixed what was wrong with Ukraine

stranglovebombrideTyler Cowen discovers John Mearsheimer’s seminal 1993 Foreign Affairs article “The Case for a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent”. Since I know I won’t be alone in teaching this piece the next time I put together an Intro to IR reading list, let’s take a moment to see whether, as Cowen wrote earlier, “the expected rate of return from denuclearization has fallen”.

International relations scholars disagree about a lot when it comes to nuclear weapons, and the belief, which I mostly share, that nuclear weapons mitigate the outbreak of interstate wars is not the only view. Even Mearsheimer in his article points out that “nuclear proliferation does not axiomatically promote peace and can in some cases even cause war.” But more than a few IR scholars would agree that nuclear weapons are not in themselves causes of war and may even pacific effects on the international system. Sometimes, of course, pacific properties aren’t desirable from a Washington-centric point of view. I suspect that the lesson quite a few leaders that American officials find to be distasteful or threatening took away from the examples of Iraq and Libya was that nuclear weapons can deter U.S. intervention. We should also be mindful that the more nuclear weapons exist the likelier it is that one of them will be used inadvertently. Nevertheless, although I have great respect for the work that Scott Sagan has done on nuclear accidents, the fact that Pakistan and India have been able to coexist since their declarations of nuclear arsenals has gone a long way toward convincing me that the risks are more remote than the pessimists have feared. (As a friend reminds me via email, the non-nuclear Kargil War is an important piece of process evidence in this regard.)

Instead of asking whether nuclear weapons matter in general, as Cowen does, we should ask whether they matter for Ukraine in its current situation. The answer is almost certainly not.

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Cutting arms and tying hands?

Prometheus Bound? DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler.

Prometheus Bound? DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler.

Post by Steven Ward and Paul Musgrave

The Obama administration’s plans to shrink the U.S. military attracted intense media attention yesterday. The plan is being described as a maneuver to shift the United States’s defense posture away from protracted occupations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and toward a more conventional deterrence role.

It’s easy to exaggerate the scale of the changes to the military budget. In particular, the soundbite that the post-cut U.S. Army will be the smallest since before the Second World War is seriously misleading. According to the Historical Statistics of the United States database, in 1940, the U.S. Army had 269,023 personnel–but that total included the Army Air Corps. On December 31, 2013, the U.S. Air Force by itself had 325,952 active duty personnel. Under any plausible scenario, the USAF will continue to outnumber the prewar U.S. Army handily. Similarly, after the force cuts, the U.S. Army will have about 440,000 active duty personnel, while the Marines will have nearly 10 times their 1939 active-duty personnel level. (And none of these figures, of course, include the reserves, the National Guard, civilian personnel, contractors, or any other part of the post-Second World War U.S. military establishment.) The smallest-since-1940 number, like Mitt Romney’s campaign charge that the U.S. Navy was “smaller than it’s been since 1917”, is technically true but hardly informative. Perhaps more important, given the vast increases in U.S. military expenditures over the past fifteen years, the U.S. can make significant cuts to its military spending while remaining the world’s leading military power by any meaningful metric.

Nevertheless, whenever a great power decides to reshape its military, IR scholars should wonder what’s going on.
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Why I Left Academia

Victor_von_Doom_(Earth-616)_from_Thor_Vol_1_600I left academia because I wanted to make a difference.

I went to graduate school for the normal reasons: I’d done well in school, I didn’t really want to get a job, and I needed to learn how to free my mother from the eternal torments of the demon Mephisto.

For a while, everything was great. I slept in, worked late, and made excellent ramen. I loved being a part of the laboratory: running experiments, writing up results, and especially making charts. (Someone lent me a copy of Tufte’s book on data visualization–it changed my life!)

I even liked teaching, unlike a lot of researchers. Part of the appeal was seeing all of those young, idealistic faces (although a lot of the students in my lab sections were pre-med, and they were just anxious little grade-grubbers). But in every section I also got to work with at least two or three students who shared my love for pure research as well as my goal of changing the world by instituting an absolutist monarchy.

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The Greeks Had a Word For It

How do you spell heteros*edasticity? Economist Alfredo R. Paloyo surveys the evidence and shows that the variant “heteroskedasticity” overtook its rival, “heteroscedasticity”, several years ago. Oddly, “homoscedastic”, “heteroscedastic”, and “homoscedasticity” continue to trump their k-variants. (Clearly, I am in the copy-editing phase of revising a paper, and this blog post must be part of the revision process, since it would be procrastination otherwise.)

Orthographic purists will insist on heteroskedastic because it is closer to the Greek root. Seizing on yet another opportunity to be sado-pedantic, I will join them. But I will go one further on Paloyo and others. I insist that his fellow oikonomists embrace a rather more radical orthographic reform.

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Wednesday Addams Linkage

  • Brief but important interview with Andrew Gelman.

    Here’s one thing regarding “great applied work”: Ask yourself the question: What makes a statistician look like a hero? You might think that the answer would be, Extracting a small faint signal from noise. But I don’t think so. I think that a statistician looks like a hero by studying large effects.

  • A history of the firebomb:

    The effects testing, done very carefully by both universities (Harvard again, along with the University of Chicago), corporations (Standard Oil, Texas Company), and the military (Ordnance Department) are also pretty grim. These involved mock bedrooms, with beds and boudoirs and even vanity mirrors, to simulate how effect these weapons would be against “Central German structures,” “experimental Japanese rooms,” and other models of homes. Just in case there was any lingering doubt as to what these weapons were meant to accomplish, and to put to rest the lingering misconception that the destruction of civilian life was an inadvertent consequence imprecise weaponry.

  • When replication isn’t:

    We were easily able to replicate Rauchhaus’ key findings in Stata, but couldn’t get it to work in R. It took us a long while to work out why, but the reason turned out to be an error in Stata: Stata was finding a solution when it shouldn’t have (because of separation in the data). This solution, as we show in the paper, was wrong – and led Rauchhaus’ paper to overestimate the effect of nuclear weapons on conflict by a factor of several million.

    Via the excellent Political Science Replication Blog.

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Wednesday Addams Linkage

cute-duckThere’s linkage!

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Wednesday Addams Linkage

I guess most folks are on the way to APSA. Have fun in Chicago if you’re going–and if you’re a member of the APSA council, please consider moving the convention to some weekend besides the first week of school. (Also, #SeattleEveryYear. Just saying! Especially if it’s going to be in August.)

Here’s some links:

  • Dani Nedal is also skeptical of Syria.
  • Also BLTN: great post from Kristen Coopie Allen on how where you raise funds influences election outcomes. Plot twist: in-district support is less effective than out-district support.
  • Might be a repeat, but Jay Ulfelder’s post on the G-DELT protest visualization is a great story of Popularization Gone Wild.

    So now we get a version that ignores both the caveat about GDELT’s coverage not being exhaustive or perfect and the related one about the apparent increase in protest volume over time being at least in part an artifact of “changes in reporting and the digital recording of news stories.” What started out as a simple proof-of-concept exercise—”The areas that are ‘bright’ are those that would generally be expected to be so,” John wrote in his initial post—had been twisted into a definitive visual record of protest activity around the world in the past 35 years.

  • Have you noticed lethargy or depression among your graduate students recently? That could be because the number of job openings has fallen again, with the shortfall especially pronounced in IR.
  • Dan Drezner recommends Mark Blyth’s Austerity among others. As they say on Reddit, “Can confirm.”
  • BLTN: Stephen Few explains why you shouldn’t use dual axes. (Hadley Wickham took that option away in ggplot2.)

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On Syria And Politician’s Logic

As a callow undergraduate, I kind of supported the Iraq War for all of the normal reasons; see The Republic of Fear and The Threatening Storm. (I say “kind of” because I was in college and, frankly, tuned out in favor of studying.) A little while ago, it struck me in one of those blinding moments of self-awareness that not only had I been wrong but that Get Your War On (probably NSFW, but basically R-rated) was more accurate than my quasi-sophisticated arguments (or the analysis in the New York Times).

Given that support for intervention in Syria hangs somewhere in the single digits, it’s at times like these that I wish that I wasn’t so convinced that the presidency is largely unresponsive to the public in terms of foreign policy. I do wish, however, that political science took the presidency a little more seriously and therefore had something a little more conclusive than the extant literature about why bombing Syria now seems more likely than not. As it is, the Yes Minister quip about “politician’s logic” (“we must do something, this is something, therefore we must do it”) seems like a pretty good working hypothesis.
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Popular Culture Can Crowd Out International Relations

Daniel Drezner writes that Meghan McCain’s proposition that attention paid to Miley Cyrus can crowd out attention paid to Syria is bunk.

With all due regard to Drezner, let me debunk the bunk claim—or, at least, show that the “Twerking Kills” hypothesis is plausible:

This paper studies the influence of mass media on U. S. government response to approximately 5,000 natural disasters occurring between 1968 and 2002. These disasters took nearly 63,000 lives and affected 125 million people per year. We show that U. S. relief depends on whether the disaster occurs at the same time as other newsworthy events, such as the Olympic Games, which are obviously unrelated to need. We argue that the only plausible explanation of this is that relief decisions are driven by news coverage of disasters and that the other newsworthy material crowds out this news coverage.

That’s the abstract to an important paper by Eisensee and Stromberg.
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Marketing in Everything: Economics Edition

kissKrugman writes:

But neither I nor most economists are going to make the effort of puzzling through difficult writings unless we’re given some sort of proof of concept — a motivating example, a simple and effective summary, something to indicate that the effort will be worthwhile. Sorry, but I won’t commit to sitting through your two-hour movie if you can’t show me an interesting three-minute trailer.


Krugman concludes with the admonition that “nobody has to read what you write.” I wish this were more generally understood. I’ve read articles in Political Analysis about things I don’t care about using methods I’ll never master that were nevertheless riveting, and I’ve slogged through articles on topics I care passionately about in allegedly substantive journals that I never understood. There’s one article, which my co-author on a long-term project and I have read a half-dozen times, that completely escapes our ability to summarize. Adopting a useful frame and engaging with readers is always good.

I get the sense that some folks believe that engaging with readers means dumbing down their argument. Far from it! Engaging with readers means presenting a complex argument smartly. That’s much more challenging than making a complex argument obscure. Anyone can be recondite; only geniuses can be understood.
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The Other Dimensions of Inclusion (and Exclusion) in Political Science

Dan’s post on his self-experiment in raising citations to female scholars has drawn a critical comment from someone who wonders about whether similar patterns exist with reference to minority scholars and scholars from outside North America. The issues of gender, race, and national (regional) origin are distinct, but if we’re going to have a wide-ranging discussion about inclusion and exclusion in the field then we ought to address these issues squarely.

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Wednesday Addams Linkage: Special Andragogy Edition

Sorry for the lack of Wednesday linkage posts recently. Bizarrely, on a day when I undertake an intercontinental move, I finally have time to catch up on linking. To commemorate the end of summer teaching and the brief respite between summer school and real school (hey, didn’t I join academia so I could have summers off?), here’s some links about teaching.

  • Nineteen observations about teaching by Andrew Joseph Pegoda, especially 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, and 18, but not 17. [Inside Higher Ed]
  • Today’s Word Power is andragogy, which refers to how to teach adults–an enterprise many Duck writers and readers are engaged in–as opposed to the more familiar “pedagogy”, which is of course the teaching of larvae. [Wikipedia]
  • My thoughts on teaching IR (in rough form). [PM’s Question Time]
  • Two books that have changed how I approach the classroom, think about my research, and argue against MOOCs (but also against contemporary university practices): Clueless Academe by Gerald Graff and Our Underachieving Colleges by Derek Bok. Taken together, the two books amount to a call to have students learn more by writing extensively in conversation with the questions that motivate scholars and the interested public–a notion so superficially unoriginal but profoundly radical that it amounts to a rejection of how we teach almost all undergrads, even at the most selective schools.
  • I’d heard of the five-paragraph essay before, but I’d never had to write one (or if I did I never bothered to learn the specific rhythm, since it looks like the topoi I learned when I was a high school foreign extempore). This summer, students asked whether their essays should be in five-paragraph formats. Apparently, American high schools have evolved their own version of the eight-legged essay. Tim Burke has suggestions on how to get students beyond the format; Kevin Drum has more thoughts (and, and).

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Wednesday Linkage

imgres-4Welcome to Wednesday’s linkage. We’ve delayed posting until the situation of one major world leader and head of state was resolved, and we can now definitely confirm: King Albert of the Belgians has abdicated. He joins Queen Beatrix and target=”_blank”>Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani in this year’s parade of former crowned heads.

Why? Did something else happen today?

In more substantive news, Jay Ulfelder makes an obvious but important point: Today’s events do constitute a coup, whether they were “polite” or not.

In the APSA Comparative Democratization section newsletter, Ben Smith lays out what we know and don’t know (see page 2 and 17) about the resource curse and teases a new measure to supersede incumbent ones. Smith is a distinguished researcher on the topic and more precise measurements are always devoutly to be wished (and I for one welcome the new measure), but one wonders whether it is not measurement but theory that lies at the heart of the issue. (Indeed, Smith’s characterization of the difference of the marginal effect of an oil-derived dollar at different levels of overall income suggests that we ought to be just operationalizing our measures exponentially anyway.

Other links:
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Wednesday Linkage

TrumanYesterday was an exciting day in American politics, featuring legislative time-traveling, a Supreme Court turning back the clock on voting rights, and of course the invalidation of DOMA and the death-by-default of California’s Prop 8.

But I assume you have Facebook and that you already knew all that.

Here’s some items you might have missed:

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Welcome Changes in America’s Funemployment Rate

QMAs the Great Slump continues to grind down Western twenty-somethings, some welcome news: America’s funemployment rate is slowing.

Funemployment, as the Los Angeles Times put it, is the trend by which twenty- and thirty-somethings, finding themselves cast aside from their temporary and entry-level jobs, turn instead toward self-improvement.

Of course, this information might be unwelcome: perhaps Generation Y is merely discovering that there’s nothing fun about unemployment. That turn toward bitterness might explain the rising popularity of Old Economy Steve.

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Wednesday Addams Linkage


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Wednesday Addams Linkage

Wedneday Happy Wednesday, everyone!

And higher ed news:
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Wednesday Addams Linkage

Wedneday A handful of links today, but with content.

Dan Drezner discusses China, Thucydides, and the limit of metaphor. It strikes me that Dan’s buried the lede here. The question isn’t whether Thucydides is applicable to the Sino-American relationship, or whether Tuchman is better, but rather why even Chinese IR professors have adopted the tropes of the Western professoriate. After all, China has its very own history from which to draw analogies, as smart scholars like Victoria Tin-bor Hui and David Kang have reminded Western audiences. The history of the Warring States period seems at least as likely to offer more appropriate analogies for struggles between rising and falling powers as the Hellenistic period. Then again, perhaps nineteenth-century Prussia is an even better example.

Jonathan Zasloff brings news of a new mayor of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles and his somewhat quirkly, somewhat endearing choice of second-person pronoun.

And one final link, for quanty-duckies, below the fold:

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Wednesday Addams Linkage

It’s so disorienting to be posting on a Wednesday!

I’d like to begin with a bleg: I’m in the market for a platform that allows for easy screencasting. In other words, if you wanted to have 6 to 10 users simultaneously viewing a series of slides, but you thought that Google Hangout was just a little too laggy, what would you use? Comment below or email rpm47 atsign georgetown period edu.

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