Tag: Guest Posts

Networking at Conferences: Not Just for Graduate Students and Junior Faculty

NetworkingEditor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Lake, who is the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego.

I want to weigh in on “networking at conferences” debate here on the Duck (and elsewhere), some of which has been lost in subsequent controversy.

I agree with the prior posts by Saideman, Nexon, Sjoberg, and others, available here, that networking is less important than good research, and that networking among peers is far more valuable than networking with senior scholars. The most valuable thing you, as a junior scholar, can do at a conference is cultivate a group of peers who share your intellectual interests, who come from sufficiently different intellectual backgrounds (e.g., graduate programs) that you can learn lots of new things from them, and with whom you are personally comfortable and compatible.

Some of my closest and most trusted colleagues are those I met at the first few APSAs I attended. We started off as competitors for “attention” on panels, and ended up as collaborators, commiserators, sometimes colleagues, and in the end, good personal friends. These are the people who will keep you sane in the profession. They will read and comment on your work, share your professional worries and fears, understand the frustrations of balancing career and family, applaud your successes and, yes, cry with you at your failures (I remember one devastatingly bad presentation at an NBER conference from which I would not have recovered were it not for a couple of these good friends also attending and even more bottles of wine). You can’t plan these relationships, nor randomly roam the halls of the hotel looking for them, but be open to possibilities and take risks: ask a fellow panelist to coffee at the conference, follow up on an interesting discussion, and most important collaborate in organizing a panel on your mutual interests for a future conference.

But let me offer a slightly different perspective on networking from the other posts on this topic. Yes, approaching senior scholars is hard. I have done my share of approaching over the years, and recognize the courage it takes to introduce yourself to someone you know only through their writings. Now, more often than not, I’m the senior scholar– at least by age, if not yet self-image – who is being approached. Having been on both sides of these interactions, I recognize they can often (always?) be awkward. You will sometimes get shot down, as I was on numerous occasions. Not every overture will be reciprocated. But some will — and truly rewarding interactions and mutually beneficial intellectual relationships can follow. Continue reading

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Social Media Before Conference Networking

This is a guest post by Brent Sasley. Sasley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He blogs at Mideast Matrix and Open Zion. Follow him on Twitter.

The political science/IR blogosphere has been engaged in an interesting discussion in recent days: whether and how junior scholars should network at academic conferences (just follow the links from this piece to get them all or scroll down through Duck of Minerva’s main page).

My own two cents is that it depends on the conference, on the specific sub-field, and on the individual academic. Some conferences—like APSA and ISA—are so big that giants in the field are always going to know they’re in demand, especially if they’ve been established for awhile. They will choose according to their own criteria whether and how to respond to people clamoring for their interest, and that doesn’t bode well for most of us.

Some sub-fields, though, are small enough that you can contact the big names and you’ll likely get a positive response and—even more importantly—genuine interest in meeting. The same goes for smaller conferences: The Association for Israel Studies is really small compared to APSA and ISA, and there is a much more intimate feel to its annual conventions. You can pretty much go up to anybody there and expect some engagement—although like at the bigger ones, you can (I know from experience) still get scholars who treat you like you’re a first-year undergrad excited simply to be in the same room as them, regardless of your own standing. Ego isn’t field-specific.

And, of course, some people are simply better at networking in person than others. Some people are more outgoing, charismatic, and insistent. Others, not so much. Continue reading

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Are Weapons Inspections about Information or Inconvenience?

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by William Spaniel, a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester.  See this previous Duck post describing some of his work, and this post at his own blog providing more information about the research discussed here.

Spurred by a new International Organization article by Alexandre Debs and Nuno Monteiro (DM), the Duck of Minerva has recently hosted a debate on the cause of the Iraq War (see here, here, and here). To sum, DM argue that the United States’ imperfect knowledge of Iraq’s weapons programs led to a rational war. In contrast, speaking strictly from a unitary actor standpoint, this post argues that imperfect information cannot explain the conflict. Just prior to the start of the fighting, Saddam took credible steps to reopen negotiations with the United States. The Bush administration outright ignored these efforts. War began soon thereafter.

I divide this post into three parts, based on work from my dissertation. First, I review DM’s main theoretical contribution. Second, I briefly run down the logic of nuclear negotiations. And third, I argue that weapons inspections increase the cost burden on a potential proliferator, which in turn makes nonproliferation commitments credible. I then trace this logic in the lead up to the Iraq War.

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What Caused the Iraq War? Debs and Monteiro reply to Lake

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro, both of Yale University. In it, they discuss the causes of the Iraq War, a subject of some recent discussion at The Duck of Minerva. This (surprise) third installment responds to David Lake’s post, which itself was an engagement with Debs’ and Monteiro’s article–and its summary post at The Duck of Minerva.

We thank David Lake for writing a thoughtful response, Daniel Nexon for offering a platform to discuss this important issue, and readers of The Duck of Minerva and The Monkey Cage for engaging our argument.

As Lake mentions in his response, we share many views. Here, we’ll just focus on our differences, which also seem to underlie several reactions by readers in the comments to our initial post. We would also like to offer some points of clarification. We’ll center on three topics, from the most empirical to the most theoretical: how much of the Iraq War our theory explains; our contribution to the ‘rationalist’ framework; and the status of ‘rationality’ in IR theory more generally. Let us address these in turn.

The causes of the Iraq War

The first point on which we’d like to elaborate is to clarify what our theory does and does not do about Iraq. Is it a complete account of the run-up to the Iraq War? Of course not. In claiming that the Iraq war can be explained within the rationalist framework (i.e., without requiring that actors act in non-rational ways), we do not claim to capture all the features of the case. No theory — no useful theory — can provide a complete explanation of a phenomenon as complex as a war. Theories are useful when they highlight important aspects of a certain phenomenon, shedding light on dynamics that were previously in the dark and allowing for comparisons between different cases.

Like all social scientists, we constantly have to decide the proper balance between close description of a case and applicability to other (“out-of-sample”) cases. There is no magical solution to this, and reasonable people can reasonably disagree. We strove to find what was, in our view, the minimally sufficient description of the case that had the potential to generate generalizable claims about the causes of war.

Our theoretical view is that, first, as states become less certain of detecting other states’ militarization attempts, war becomes more likely; and, second, for any given level of uncertainty about this, as the cost of a preventive war lowers relative to the shift in the balance of power it is meant to avoid, war becomes more likely.

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Pragmatism and Game Theory, Part 1

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Eric Grynaviski, who is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. 

The recurring debate on this blog has centered on some of the bigger themes about the relationship between rational choice theory and game theory. I argued in an earlier post that when one focuses in on the specific logic of rational choice theory and/or game theory, getting away from its abstract characterizations, there are some similarities about the way it understands society with alternative approaches.

In this post, I want to focus on a more specific issue, which is how to understand the relationship between pragmatism and rational choice theory. Pragmatism has recently been used in IR in two ways. On the one hand, pragmatism has been invoked to justify a particular image of science, usually (but not always) one that is post-paradigmatic or pluralistic. Others have concentrated on the pragmatist contributions to IR theory or ethics.

This post concentrates on pragmatism as social theory. The early pragmatists—Dewey and Mead in particular—were very interested in questions such as logics of action that are at the heart of modern-day IR theory. I want to argue that there are a lot of similarities between pragmatism and rational choice theory, providing at least one via media between sociological and economic approaches that has been unexplored to date.Untitled

There are significant differences though between the ways rational choice theory and pragmatism tend to model learning and reasoning. The nub of the problem that this post concentrates on is uncertainty. Rational choice theorists tend to describe some set of possible worlds (a state space) over which agents assign probabilities. Reasoning and learning usually involves agents changing those probabilities in response to new information. Pragmatists tend to be interested in why possibilities become possible or become impossible; they are interested in how states enter and leave the state space and not how probabilities are assigned.

This post concentrates on two issues. Conceptually, is a rational model of action compatible with a pragmatist theory of action? And second, what are the differences in their treatments of certainty. Continue reading

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What Should You Read on Cyber Security?

https://www.duckwranglers.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/duck_pc.jpgEditor’s Note: This is a guest post by Brandon Valeriano of the University of Glasgow and Ryan C. Manes of the University of Chicago, Illinois. Brandon asked if we could run a bibliography on Cyber Security, and we happily agreed. If anyone else is interested in submitting bibliographies to be archived at the Duck of Minerva, drop us an email.

It is that time of the year again – that time when everyone considers updating their syllabus. So you have an interest in cyber security but have not taken the time to develop a reading list. Well here it is, I have, unfortunately, dived into the topic. The following includes a one day-version and then a more detailed list to can be used to develop a class, graduate seminar day, or to prep for a debate.

(Thanks to Hans-Inge Langø for asking the original question that promoted this post and suggesting a few things I was missing)

Of course I may have left some things out. This is a developing literature so we will update as time goes on. Feel free to  tweet suggestions to @drbvaler. We attach many of our own writings here, mainly because we are a glutton like that but also because our book on Cyber Conflict is not out yet. The premium here, at least for us, is on social-scientific and peer-reviewed articles and books rather than popular speculation. Our goal is to present the entire range of the field, from the cyber threat hype folks, to the more measured reactions, to the cyber skeptics. Continue reading

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What Caused the Iraq War? David Lake Replies to Debs and Monteiro

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Lake, who is the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. It responds to an article published in International Organization by Alex Debs and Nuno Monteiro. Their post on the subject appeared yesterday. The article will be ungated for approximately two weeks.

Known Unknowns,” by Alex Debs and Nuno Monteiro (DM), newly released electronically by International Organization in advance of its publication this fall, is an important addition to the bargaining theory of war and adds new insights to the causes of the Iraq War of 2003. Since DM challenge several points in my International Security article (PDF) on bargaining theory and the Iraq War, let me respond briefly.

The key innovation in the model is that investments in military capabilities by the Target (T, Iraq in the case) produce changes in the probability of military victory only with some lag, thus openning a window for the Deterer (D, the U.S.) to launch a preventive war. The lower the costs of war, the more uncertain D is about T’s program, and the more effective the war is likely to be in eliminating the threat to D, the greater the chance of preventive war and the greater the likelihood that the war will be mistaken. This is a nice addition to the basic bargaining model with important implications that go beyond the Iraq case on which the theory is based.

From the outset, I want to clarify that we agree far more than we disagree, including about the central tension between Iraq and the U.S., the effects of 9/11 on the timing of the Iraq War, and the difference between Iraq and North Korea. Debs and Monteiro engage in the product differentiation usual in academic scholarship — highlighting differences rather than commonalities — but the latter are large and overwhelm the points of disagreement, in my view. Continue reading

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Time to Put “Dying to Win” out to Pasture?

This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter received his PhD from Georgetown University in May 2013, and was a Fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia during 2012-2013; he is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. His research focuses on religion and foreign policy; he has also written on terrorism and religious conflict.

In his latest blog post on Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt calls for a re-evaluation of the United States’ approach to counter-terrorism. One statement–really a quick aside–caught my attention.

Walt claims that “opposition to foreign occupation and interference is one of the prime motivations behind terrorist activities.” Well he actually says: “Given that opposition to foreign occupation” causes terrorism, and then uses this assertion to justify calling for a reduction in US forces in Muslim countries. And then he specifically mentions “suicide bombing,” and links to Dying to Win, by Robert Pape.

Dying to Win is the book version of an article by Pape in the American Political Science Review, in which he argues that suicide bombing is a rational response to occupation. As I detailed in a blog post a few years ago, there are numerous problems with this argument: Continue reading

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What Caused the Iraq War? A Debate. Part 1 of 2

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro, both of Yale University. In it, they discuss the causes of the Iraq War, a subject of some recent discussion at The Duck of Minerva. This post discusses their forthcoming International Organization article, which is now available as an “online first” piece and will be free to download for the next two weeks. Tomorrow we will run a response by David Lake [now available here].

In a forthcoming article in International Organization,Known Unknowns: Power Shifts, Uncertainty, and War,” we introduce a new theory connecting power shifts to war. Out theory provides novel answers to these questions on Iraq. Contrary to widely shared views according to which the war was caused by misperceptions and other irrational behaviors on the part of Saddam Hussein and the Bush Administration, we argue that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq can be accounted for strictly within a rationalist framework.

Below we make four specific points on the causes of the Iraq War and then contrast our view with David Lake’s International Security article “Two Cheers for Bargaining Theory: Assessing Rationalist Explanations of the Iraq War” (PDF), where he argues that the Iraq War should prompt a behavioral revolution in the study of the causes of war. We conclude with brief implications for theory and policy.

Our Argument

Our first point is that the United States’ main motivation for invading Iraq on March 20, 2003, was to prevent suspected Iraqi nuclearization, which Washington thought would bring about a large and rapid shift in the balance of power in favor of Iraq. During the run-up to the invasion, the U.S. government’s casus belli rested on suspicion that Saddam was developing WMD — including nuclear weapons — thus presenting an imminent threat. Iraq’s nuclear acquisition would represent a large and rapid power shift that would make Saddam immune to any externally-driven regime-change efforts, ending his vulnerability to U.S. military action. The cost of war against a non-nuclear Iraq, in contrast, was expected to be relatively low, as U.S. forces would, given the precedent of the 1991 Gulf War, no doubt prevail. Specifically, the cost of a preventive counter-proliferation war against Iraq was expected to be orders of magnitude smaller than the expected cost of deterring, not to mention deposing a nuclear-armed Saddam. This difference accounts for U.S. insistence in guaranteeing Iraqi non-nuclear status, if necessary by force. Continue reading

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Tobias Gibson Reviews The Thistle and the Drone

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tobias Gibson of Westminster College.

In recent days, there have been reports of U.S. drone strikes in North Waziristan, Pakistan. According to the New York Times article, these strikes killed at least two people. This remote area of Pakistan has long been subject to U.S. drone strikes.

The Times also reports that U.S. anti-terrorism efforts are shifting theaters from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Africa. This shift includes the expansion of the use of surveillance drones in Mali, flown from a new drone base in Niger. According to the story, the U.S. is partnering with France “to track fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda and other militants” (my emphasis). One of the points of the article is that the U.S. needs to acquire knowledge about local conditions. According to Michael R. Shurkin, a former CIA analyst who is now at RAND, “Effective responses… require excellent knowledge about local populations and their politics, the sort of understanding that too often eludes the U.S. government and military.” Without understanding local conditions, the author contends, the introduction of drones “runs the risk of creating the type of backlash that has undermined American efforts in Pakistan.”

In a post this week, Charli Carpenter discusses evidence that the civilian death count from drones has been drastically underestimated. She argues that if the death counts are higher than publicly estimated, any humanitarian argument about the use of drone as “precision” weapons “goes out the window.” (Side note: those interested in drones and the continued mechanization of war and security should read her (gated) article “Beware the Killer Robots.”)

All of these recent stories should lead to a more profound appreciation of Akbar Ahmed’s recent book The Thistle and the Drone. Ahmed has a simple, yet profound thesis: “it is the conflict between the center and the periphery and the involvement of the United States that has fueled the war on terror.” According to Ahmed, this conflict has played itself out for centuries, as evidenced by European efforts to “civilize” tribes throughout the world in their colonies, the U.S. efforts to in the west to pacify and relocate indigenous tribes, and current efforts by Russia to end separtist violence in Chechnya… and, Ahmed would argue, those discussed above in Pakistan and Mali. The drone is merely the newest weapon in the center’s arsenal.

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How Would Al Gore Have Fought the Iraq War?

imagesEditor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Saunders who is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University.

In this year of Iraq-related anniversaries, this summer marks the 10-year anniversary of the emergence of the insurgency, when many Americans realized the Iraq War would not be over any time soon. Would things have been different had Al Gore been president? The latest issue of Perspectives on Politics has a symposium that considers this question in light of Frank P. Harvey’s book Explaining the Iraq War: Counterfactual Theory, Logic and Evidence. Harvey makes the provocative argument that Gore would have initiated the war had he won the 2000 election, highlighting structural factors that would have been no different under Gore than Bush. The symposium includes responses from myself, Adeed Dawisha, John Ehrenberg, Bruce Gilley, and Stephen Walt [Editor’s Note: Cambridge has agreed to make the contributions freely available through 29 July 2013; you can access the html version via each contributor’s name or through the abstract page].  I encourage readers to look at the entire symposium, which presents both supportive and skeptical takes on Harvey’s argument.

My own contribution highlights one aspect of the Gore counterfactual that Harvey neglects – what kind of war would Gore have considered fighting in Iraq, and how would that strategy, in turn, affect the likelihood of his administration going to war in the first place? Continue reading

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Guest Post – Dave Kang: "International Relations Theory and East Asian History"

AHN_HOUSEIt’s always a pleasure to guest-post my good friend Dave Kang. Dave teaches at the University of Southern California and runs their Korean Studies Institute (the pic). Here are some previous guest posts he’s written (one, two, three).

Here is his encouragement to actually apply international relations theory to East Asia. I can’t agree more. There is far too much superficial, think-tank wonkery about East Asia (how many nukes does China have? will Pyongyang test another missile? and so on), and not nearly enough real theory. Dave does that, and you should too. So instead of yet another, I’ve-read-this-all-before policy essay about the South China Sea or China’s aircraft carrier, the essays referenced below should be good encouragement that we write something richer.

“Thanks to Bob and DoM for letting me guest-post yet again. I have an article on “International Relations Theory and East Asian History” that appears in the current issue of the Journal of East Asian Studies, edited by Stephan Haggard. In conjunction with this post, Lynne Rienner will make the article freely available to all for the next 30 days; you can download it here until October 1.

The entire issue is devoted to the international relations of historical East Asia. The special issue features essays by James Anderson, Kirk Larsen, Jiyoung Lee, Seohyun Park, Kenneth Robinson, and Yuan-kang Wang, all exploring different aspects of IR and East Asia in many disparate epochs and areas.

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Jarrod Hayes on “Bridging the Gap”

Across the GapEditor’s Note: This is a guest blog by Jarrod Hayes, who is is an assistant professor of International Relations at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research broadly focuses on the social construction of foreign and security policy. It deals with the International Policy Summer Institute, which has also received coverage at The Monkey Cage.

I have had the great pleasure and honor to attend the Bridging the Gap/International Policy Summer Institute hosted by (the very impressive) American University School of International Service.  The experience has been a rich one, with an amazing cohort and substantial depth and scope from the speakers.  Out of that depth and scope, a point really caught my attention.  A few of the speakers have anecdotally noted that policymakers often think using the concepts and logics of theory, but they are unaware that is what they are doing.  This is a really fascinating point, and potentially one of the ways that scholars might be able to ‘bridge the gap’ between academics an policymakers without writing explicitly policy oriented scholarship (although we should do that too).

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Taking Liberalism on Intervention Seriously: a 12-Step Program

500px-Coalition_action_against_Libya.svgEditor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tim Dunne. He is Research Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect at the University of Queensland and the past editor of the European Journal of International Relations. tl;dr warning: ~2400 words.

In a recent lively and provocative post, Stephen Walt argues that liberal imperialists are like ‘neocons’ only more human rights-friendly. They are alike in the sense that both ‘are eager proponents for using American hard power’. And combined, these two sets of protagonists have been responsible for bad foreign policy decisions ‘to intervene in Iraq or nation-build in Afghanistan, and today’s drumbeat to do the same in Syria’.

To help cleanse the US policy community of liberal imperialist tendencies, Walt offers ’10 warning signs that you are a Liberal Imperialist’. If you fail the test, as I did, then you have the option of (1) coming out as an interventionist (2) engaging in a form of realist immersion therapy by reading texts about why interventions fail. ‘And if that doesn’t work, maybe we need some sort of 12-step program’.

The question I want to pose is whether failing the test commits you to being a liberal imperialist? Or does the particular identity construction creak and crack under scrutiny, such that it is possible to adopt a liberal position on intervention that does not ascribe to the folly and naiveté that is attributed to it?

To help address this question I’m going to offer an alternative 12-step program that critics of liberal thinking on intervention may want to enroll in. My principle reasoning is that Walt’s ‘warning signs’ lump together – and obfuscate – critical debates and distinctions within liberalism, which is why many liberals opposed the 2003 Iraq War just as they oppose a military escalation in Syria today. Some even plausibly argue that Libya came dangerously close to an illiberal intervention on the grounds that the mandate of protecting civilians morphed into the goal of regime change. Yet what no liberal countenances is ‘another Rwanda’ in which the great powers (individually and collectively) failed to take the decisive action that was being called for by the UN force commander on the ground in Kigali. Avoiding the twin problems of indifference and recklessness has been the driver of the intervention agenda that the UN has embarked upon since the turn of the new century. And this agenda has been drive forward by the search for an effective capacity to respond to mass atrocities that is anti-imperialist. I develop this point in stages 9-11 of the recovery plan. Continue reading

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How To Interact With Your Instructor: A Guide for Undergrads

RateMyProfessors gave me two chili peppers and a rating of … horrible.

I’m passing along some ideas from Brian Matzke, a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of Michigan. Making social rules and expectations explicit is a big part of contemporary classroom management, and this document is a good starting point for other instructors developing their own syllabi or cataloguing their own expectations. This version has been very lightly edited; you can see the original (with comic strip!) here.

Etiquette Guidelines for Students Interacting with Instructors

Success in any college course is determined by your performance on the graded material—the exams, the papers, the other assignments—but it is also determined by the relationship that you cultivate with your instructor. This might not seem intuitive, but making a good impression on your instructor and cultivating a positive relationship with them can lead to many tangible benefits. It can mean that the instructor will be more likely to excuse an absence or provide you with an extension on an assignment. It can make them more inclined to bump up a borderline final grade. It can turn them into a source for a letter of recommendation. And it can determine how harsh or lenient they are when they evaluate the more subjective components of your grade, like essays or participation. Cultivating a positive relationship with an instructor requires following certain etiquette rules. Some of these may seem obvious, but they are all important:

DISCUSSING COURSE POLICIES

  • DO read the syllabus closely and consult it for answers to questions about course policies.
  • DON’T ask your instructor questions about the course that are answered on the syllabus.
  • DO ask for clarification about course policies or assignments as soon as possible.
  • DON’T wait until right before the due date to ask questions about the assignment.

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Perceptions and Opinions of the Cyber Threat

This is a guest post by Brandon Valeriano and Ryan Maness.

Cyberwar is a pressing international security problem. The news media breathlessly covers any potential attack before the facts are in. Policy briefs and reports are produced on all levels of government and private industry. It would then behoove us to take a step back and examine opinions about the cyber security threat according to perceptions among policymakers, academics, and cyber security experts in order to understand how the threat emanating from the cyber security realm is constructed in the public discourse. Each constituency has its own view on the issue and how these views manifest is critical to perceptions about the wider societal threat coming from cyberspace.

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Of Sultans and Soap Operas


This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. He formerly worked as a national security consultant. His research focuses on terrorism and religious conflict; he has also written on the role of faith in US foreign policy. During 2012-2013 he will be a fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Last December, I was in Doha to attend the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations conference. While fighting off jet lag in my apartment–the 13 hour flight is a killer–I saw a commercial for ‘Hareem al Sultan’ (the Arabic version of the original Turkish name, ‘The Magnificent Century’), a racy-looking soap opera on a UAE TV station. The show depicts the life of Suleiman the Magnificent–one of the greatest Ottoman Sultans–focusing specifically on the women in his life. I was a little surprised to see something that would shock my rural PA hometown’s sensibilities on Middle Eastern TV, but that was the last I thought of the show.

Until this week, when I saw a report that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has publicly attacked the show. Erdogan was upset by its depiction of the Sultan–whom he claimed spent more time on horseback than in the palace–and conservative sentiment in Turkey was angered by the show’s risque nature. Continue reading

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“Dangerous Neighborhood:” Operation ‘Defensive Pillar’ and its Interpreters

This is a guest post by Daniel J. Levine (University of Alabama) and Daniel Bertrand Monk (Colgate University). Daniel J. Levine is author of Recovering International Relations: The Promise of Sustainable Critique. Daniel Bertrand Monk  is the co-editor, with Jacob Mundy, of the forthcoming: The Post-Conflict Environment: Intervention and Critique (University of Michigan, 2013). The authors’ names for this essay have been listed alphabetically. 

tl;dr notice: ~2600 words.

“As Ambassador Gillerman has said many times on our show, ‘Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood.” —  Fox News, 16 November 2012

“As he was asking instructions…a man in his early 20’s came up, stuck the point of a knife against his back and ordered him into the lobby of adjacent building….The youth was…ordered to surrender his money. He explained that the only reason he was there at all was that he had no money…. The man closed his knife and said: “Look, this is a very dangerous neighborhood.  You should never come to this part of the city.”  Then he instructed him to his destination via the safest route, patted him on the back and sent him on his way.” — New York Times, Metropolitan Diary, Lawrence Van Gelder

The Arab Middle East may have undergone significant political transformations in the period between Israel’s 2008 ‘Cast Lead’ Operation against Gaza and the recent ‘Defensive Pillar’ campaign, but no one in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv appears to think that a review of Israel’s ‘grand strategy’ is warranted. If anything, seasoned observers suggest, the Arab Spring seems to have driven Israelis to assume out of resignation a position which Zionist nationalists like Vladimir Jabotinsky once held with fervor. Writing in 1923, Jabotinsky evocatively described a metaphorical “iron wall” that would protect Zion from the ire of its neighbors; for their part, contemporary Israelis (we are told) can only imagine a future in which they will be perpetually enclosed within a (quasi-literal) Iron Dome. Hence, Ethan Bronner  reports: Israelis have concluded that “their dangerous neighborhood is growing still more dangerous…”’ To them “that means not concessions, but being tougher in pursuit of deterrence, and abandoning illusions that a Jewish state will ever be broadly accepted” in the region.

Interpreters of the Israel-Palestine conflict in the ‘Anglosphere’ and seasoned Middle East watchers often resort to the same curious euphemism: seeking to make the region’s unique patterns of violence intelligible to American audiences and to themselves, they explain Israel’s impatience with diplomacy, and its reliance on disproportionate use of force, by referring to the “dangerous neighborhood” in which it finds itself. Bolstered by an “ideology of the offensive” that has been present in Israeli strategic/operational thought since the 1950s (see here, here, and here), and by the ostensible ‘lessons’ of the Shoah for Jewish self-defense, this euphemism evokes positions so pragmatically self-explanatory that no further justification is felt to be needed. The IDF Spokesman’s Unit even released a meme (see the opening image) with the intention of rendering this logic visually explicit.

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