Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Diversity vs Merit? Storifying a Strong Criticism of a Weak Critique

Andrew Coyne wrote a fairly lame piece about the Liberal promise to have a diverse cabinet--that 50% of the ministers would be women.  Well, I am glad I didn't take it on, as Lauren Dobson-Hughes took it apart nicely so we don't have to do so:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Next Fights

My previous post was on focusing on the policy victory and not the games down the road.  But there are other fights to be had.  This map from the NYT illustrates the challenge:

It did not translate that well, but the idea here is where there are "laws protecting against sexual orientation- and gender-identity based discrimination" in public sector employment, private sector employment, housing and public accommodations  respectively.  The pattern is obvious--best to be in the Northeast or West or mid-midwest (Min, Wis, Iowa, Illinois).

Much room to perfect the union.... alas.

It's About the Policies, Stupid!

Bill Clinton famously had the line "It's About the Economy, Stupid!" from James Carville when he ran for President.  I am reminded of that as I see tweets and stories about people wondering whether this last week of great victories for various progressive causes--the lowering of the Confederate flag, the decision that keeps Obamacare intact, the fair housing decision, and the Marriage Equality decision--might hurt the Democrats in the next elections.  The idea is that the disgruntled Conservatives can mobilize their base better with all of these accumulated grievances whereas the left may not show up because they got what they wanted.

And I just want to yell "FFS!!!"  Why?  Because we choose politicians and parties to get the policies we want that affect people's lives.  This past week, in the shadows of the awful event in Charleston and subsequent arsons of black churches elsewhere, was a great week for the policies people have been fighting for.  So, these are wins that affect people's lives and not pyrrhic victories.  Embrace and enjoy the progress.

Oh, and, by the way, one of the points I made a few days ago is that winning some battles can give us hope.  That it may actually encourage some more activism since victory is now seen as being possible.  The union is far short of being perfect, that the task of perfecting the union goes on and on. 

Again, I think the next fight is to reverse #voterfraudfraud as well as to do something to improve the quality of policing and confidence in the police, which probably means focusing on restraint.  Is the glass half full or half empty?  The answer, as always, is yes.  But let's enjoy this week and use it to think about making improvements rather than worrying that better policy might undermine a smidge the political strategies of tomorrow.

Learning the Art of Having No Shame

Twitter folks were surprised last night to find that two of the actors behind the Iraq war are going to be teaching a course: "The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making".  The two "profs": are Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz.  Libby was convicted of perjury as he was partially responsible for outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent since her husband, Joseph Wilson, did not rubber stamp some of the more than questionable evidence that Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons.  Wolfowitz was the number two guy at the Pentagon and chief cheerleader of the Iraq war.  While I am appalled at the hubris involved in this "course," I am not surprised since these folks have long demonstrated that they lack self-awareness and lack shame.  

So, I asked what would folks ask if they were in this class?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Footie FTW!

Today was my first time at a real soccer game: Women's World Cup in Ottawa Quarter-Finals with USA vs China.  I wanted to see one game over the course of this series, and gambled that the quarterfinals would provide me with the best chance to see the USA or Canada.  And it worked out.  I went to the game with my niece, a colleague and his wife.  We had a great time as the US won!!  Not a bad way to celebrate marriage equality day.  The highlights are here.

Anthem Time to Start
Despite the 1-0 score, the game was  dominated by the American women.  They kept the ball in the Chinese side of the field.  They could not finish, as they kicked and headed many chances over the cross bar.  This was very frustrating, but it seemed inevitable that the US would score.  And they did on a great cross and header.

Another frustrating header

I am not a soccer expert as I don't even watch much on TV except for the years where the World Cup (Men and Women) and occasionally the Olympics are on.  But the one thing I did notice that was seconded by my more knowledgeable colleague, David Long, is that the American forward was out of position nearly the entire game.  She was almost always offsides which helped to stifle more than a few attacks.

End of game handshake line
Julie Johnston stuck out, dominating on defense and making many good plays on offense, including the cross that produced the goal.  Indeed, the American defense lived up to its billing.  It will be interesting to see if they can handle the German attack.

Besides some soccer lessons, I also learned that standing up at a game is forbidden, more or less.  I got poked by the woman behind me whenever I stood up.  And I only stood up when the folks in front of me stood up.  Very strange. 

My wife, my niece and I spent the afternoon walking around downtown Ottawa as I played tour guide to them.  Twas a fun day, and I did enjoy standing in front of a Supreme Court today even if it was not the right one.  Great day for the USA with greater justice and equal protection for all and then a nice win to put some icing on the cake.

A Method By Any Other Name

One of my big pet peeves is when a person using quantitative methods refers to their stuff as "empirical", suggesting that other methods are not empirical but somehow imaginary.  This is an oldie but a goodie in the olde methods wars because empirical means:
Empirical evidence (also empirical data, sense experience, empirical knowledge, or the a posteriori) is a source of knowledge acquired by means of observation or experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience... Notice there is nothing in there about counting and using math.  There are folks in my school who do this, but it is not their fault--they are economists (we cannot hold such folks responsible for their social skills [just teasing]).  In political science, this still happens, and mostly because of old habits, I think.  

There is work in political science that is not empirical: game theory, formal modeling, political theory.  But most of the work published is empirical in one way or another.  Similarly, some folks will use the word systematic as if to suggest all quantitative work is systematic and all non-quant is not.  Believe me, as I have reviewed much quant stuff (and written some), not all of it is that systematic.  And much work using comparative case studies is quite systematic and some not.  Systematic is a variable, not a constant, for any method.  Same goes for rigorous (thanks to @alb202) for reminding me of that one.

This is, of course, mostly a debate for grad students, as mature political scientists realize that each method has strengths and weaknesses, and that the best work often involves mixing methods.  Indeed, the one trend I noticed over the past ten years or so of the job market is that many of the most successful candidates are those that use multiple methods.  

My career path has crossed the supposed quant/qual barrier, as my early work was entirely qualitative (comparative case studies) and then I found a handy dataset for asking a variety of questions, producing some of my most cited work, and then I found myself doing more qualitative work as I interviewed military officers, government officials and others about their country's Afghanistan operations.  My current projects, as I ramp up the next big qualitative project, include a bunch of different quant projects of varying degrees of complexity (the heavy lifting of the quant techniques is being done by younger, savvier co-authors).

Maybe I am too dismissive, perhaps the quant/qual wars are taking place somewhere outside of the PSR threads.  There are probably departments where the fight still resonates quite a bit.   From my vantage point, where I see glimpses of the job market, and where jobs are the most precious resource in our business, the mixed methods folks doing so well is very suggestive to me.  It is certainly the case that journals have certain tendencies (that the very scarce resource that is an APSR article is still distributed in a particular way).   The good news is that the quant and qual people can join together in being threatened by the experiment zealots.... or they could until a few weeks ago.

All I know is that when I hear empirical, it makes me think of the key move the Realists made in IR, as they try to define everything as as Idealist.  There are lots of names in this game, and lots of gaming of names.  Which means I can invoke Omar.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Slipping Down that Slippery Slope

Of course, we now see people saying that taking the Confederate flag down is starting us down a slippery slope.  My response: slippery slope is a dumb argument.  How so?

First, while there are waves and momentum in politics, there are plenty of discrete decisions to be had.  That making one decision does not make anything else automatic.  Even precedent-setting Supreme Court decisions do not necessarily knock down all dominoes, as there can (and always is) resistance to implementation, varied interpretations, the possibility of new legislation, and, of course, new SC decisions that modify or reverse the precedent. 

So, anyone saying that taking down the confederate flag will lead to its banishment is simply wrong.  The 1st amendment will stand in the way, big time.  And rightly so.  People can say what they want, even if it is stuff we find offensive.  We can ban the confederate flag from public spaces in a limited way--that governments should not hoist a symbol of slavery.  But people will still be able to carry their personal flags, their confederate fanny packs and belt buckles and whatever wherever they go (the Nazis can march in Skokie, etc). Oh, and people can point at them and say "traitors" as that is there right, too.  Oh, and the Fox stuff of the next step being the American flag is just so silly.  Just count how many candidates for President do not wear a flag pin.  Exactly.

Second, sometimes sliding down a slippery slope can be fun.  I mean, have you seen my skiing pictures?  If this week's events lead to the renaming of military bases away from Confederate generals and towards Medal of Honor winners or other American heroes, that is a win.  If we take down busts of KKK leaders from State Houses (Tennessee seems to be in the act of doing that), that is a win. If we stop venerating those who led the fight to uphold slavery, that is a win

None of this solves or fixes racism either in the South or the North, but one aspect of institutional racism has been the whitewashing of history, making heroes out of those who engaged in treason in support of one of the most awful "technologies" or "strategies" or economic processes or whatever you want to call slavery.  Slavery has been and always will be America's original sin. 

When folks like Lincoln and Obama say that we need to keep striving to perfect the union, it means both that the country will never be perfect but that the effort to improve it must always continue.  I have gotten into arguments with Mrs. Spew and College Spew about "progress"--that things are better.  To be clear, they have also gotten worse--mass incarceration to name the most egregious regression.  But I harp on progress because things have gotten better, not to say that the effort needs to stop but that the fight can and should go on since it is not hopeless.  That improvements can be made.  No single decision, vote, or law will be the one that means the fight is over, that the war is won.  But those individual wins not only can improve the conditions of those who have been oppressed and discriminated against but also might just give some momentum for the next battle.

For instance, I hope this week's progress can provide some energy as we need to fight #voterfraudfraud both because it is evil and because it gets in the way of making yet more progress.  Better representation is fundamental as politicians do respond to voters and not just big interest groups and big lobbies, as we have seen this past week.

We shall see how much of what has changed this week will stick.  But if we can put the Confederate stuff where it belongs, in a museum, and revise the revised histories, then this momentum (a.k.a. slippery slope) will be not only a fun ride but an important dynamic in the longer struggle.  You can call it a slippery slope, but I will call it progress.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Frisking Trends

Lately, it seems like every time I fly, I get that extra special attention--the very hands on frisking of, um, everything.  I have always looked vaguely semitic, and so I am used to patterns like getting my bag checked more during some periods of my time at the Pentagon than others--certain MP units seemed to give me more attention than other units.

But why get frisked more now?  I have not become more clearly mideastern.  Indeed, I am aging out of the group of likely terrorists.  But the news of the day gave me an aha! moment:

Or it may just be that the security folks found this old photo (sorry for the lousy scan but the frame is hard to open up):

Everything in Moderation Including Anger

There is a lot of discussion in the aftermath of Charleston about forgiveness.  The relatives of the victims immediately forgave the perpetrator, which was most impressive.  My friend, Bill Ayres, wrote a sharp piece on forgiveness.  Much of the arguments here tend to that anger is destructive to those who have been victimized, and that it is better to let go then let anger poison oneself.  Indeed, the classic saying (by Buddha or not):

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

There is much to that.  I am a big fan of this particular view:

But I want to push back just a bit.  Alcohol can be a poison if too much is imbibed, but is not so bad in moderation.  How about the same for anger?  Might anger be useful?  Might it be a potentially positive force?  I am thinking of political mobilization (not that I have read much of that literature)--that being outraged and offended gets people off of their couches and out in the streets.

I have not seen Inside Out yet, but I think I am comfortable with the idea that emotions can co-exist. That Anger might co-exist with Love, so that one can be motivated to engage in peaceful dissent, maybe?  There are other ways to motivate action, and anger can, of course, lead to the dark side, but passion can be directed towards turning out the vote, for getting folks to ignore the costs of collective action and ignore the logic of free-riding.

Maybe this is all rationalization since I suck at letting go.  I am trying to let go of a key long held resent since the subject has reflected and admitted much remorse even if the behavior has not entirely changed.  I am reaching the point of being able to forgive and let go the anger towards this person.  On the other hand, I still feel anger and will refuse to forgive former colleagues who continue to act in the same old ways.  For me, I guess, forgiveness requires that there is learning and remorse... (and I am not alone) which means I am not able to forgive the murderer of nine people last week.  So, perhaps I can only think of focusing my anger in positive ways since I cannot let go.

Just like the U.S. is a work in progress, so am I...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Symbol Change is More Than Symbolic Change

Now that we see some real momentum in people pulling down the confederate flag (and yes, pedants, it has another name, but if this annoys one racists, woot!) we have people pooh-poohing this sea change.

It is just a symbol, they say.  This is not real change.  Well, if it is so trivial why do people think it is so important?  Politics is just like symbols--intersubjective.  That is, we as a society give meaning to stuff, and that meaning resonates.  It shapes perceptions of what is permissible, what is impermissible.  Tomorrow, African Americans will still be overrepresented in our prisons, and more African American men will be killed by cops in the days and months ahead.  Taking down the flag does not remove guns from any racist, nor is Walmart ceasing to sell guns.

BUT this really is a learning moment--that norms of society are shifting, recognizing that racism still exists in a big way, that a key symbol of racism is not to be tolerated, that the myths about the Civil War are to be busted again and again until people get it.  This will not eliminate racism nor the racists, but it is creating political mobilization and not just among the haters who have been mobilized since a multiracial man with a foreign name became President. 

While we can debate how much progress has or has not been made and what needs to be done next, removing the symbols of hate helps remove the signal sent that it is ok to discriminate, that it is ok to exclude, that it is ok to hate openly.  The metaphor I am struggling with is one of insurgency--that the insurgents need a sea in which to swim.  That they need support from the populace.  Changing attitudes and providing a clearer view of what is acceptable may make more transparent the sea in which white supremacists swim, making it harder to hide.  Maybe the next time a friend obsesses about race, his friends might say--you know, he might hurt someone, I should tell someone, instead of saying, well, we all make racist jokes.  Maybe not. 

This gets to something I have been thinking about. This murderer's friends knew he was a flaming racist, but thought that making jokes and threats was no big deal.  My hope is that the sea change in attitudes (not of everyone but of opinion leaders, corporations, and media coverage) makes it just a bit harder for white supremacists to be comfortable.  Because I do believe the US is fighting a counter-insurgency against white supremacists who have killed far more Americans since 1995 than Muslim Americans have. UPDATE: See NYT piece that makes this last point

Winning a counter-insurgency requires identifying the enemy and discriminating in the use of coercion against those who are aiming to do violence.  The reactions to the events of last week have been real and substantial even if they seem symbolic.  There is far more to be done, but far more has happened in the last few days than I expected.  South Carolina may fail to move the confederate flag, but Sears, Walmart and others have changed policies that will be very hard to change back.  Yes, white supremacists can find confederate flag suppliers elsewhere, but the message is being sent.  That the South needs to figure out how to celebrate its heritage, whatever that is, without the hate that is inherent in the confederate flag.  It is awful that it took the loss of nine lives to make a dent in the complacency.  No doubt about it, but it would be worse if the complacency continued after the nine murders.

I am not sure this post is all that coherent, but I am pretty stirred up these days. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Jazzed About Footie!

I always root for USA in World Cup games, and have watched probably more USWNT (the women) than the men ... because I am a sucker for a winning team, I guess.  Anyhow, I am mighty jazzed as my gamble has played out.

This year's Women's World Cup is in Canada with games in Montreal, Moncton, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and ... Ottawa.  The semis and finals are elsewhere, but one of the quarterfinals would be in Ottawa, so when I was choosing to buy tickets, I went with the quarters rather than the round that is playing today/yesterday/tomorrow.  I figured with four games, the chances of getting US or Canada would be pretty good. 

And thanks to tonight's effort, I get to go the game with a relative and friends to see USA vs China: to determine whether the declining hegemon or the rising power have what it takes to go further. 

The rest of the games also have fun IR implications:
  • England vs Canada: see who gets to wear the Crown and gets to keep the corgis for four years!
  • German vs. France: obviously, WWI, WWII and a bunch of other conflicts.  I only wish that they could join together to play Greece.
  • Australia vs. Netherlands: partners in Uruzgan, combatants in Canada  OR
  • Australia vs. Japan: WWII Redux.
Still much fun ahead.  The world has caught up to the best teams, so the teams that could romp before have tough games ahead.  I will enjoy the game on Friday, Win or Lose Win!

USA! USA!!  USA!!!

Partition Rant-A-Thon

Apparently, people are advocating partition of Iraq.  Maybe.  But before we do that, we need to consider some stuff, like the logic of partition:


I have said much of this before, so here are the key links: the quick partition anti-pitch; my take on it being bad for Iraq; and Kelsey's storify.

Great Moments in the US Supreme Court

I don't study the US Supreme Court, but so tempted now:


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Calling It What It Is

The NYT addresses the GOP's problems with the Confederate Flag*:
The carefully calibrated answers were a vivid illustration of the challenge Republicans face in attempting, simultaneously, to broaden their party’s appeal to minorities while also energizing those white conservatives who are uneasy about what they see as bowing to political correctness.
Bowing to political correctness?  Hmmmm.  How about wanting to have its cake and eat it too?  That is, the GOP has long relied on racists to gain and stay in office.  The problem the party faces is the demographic decline of white people in the country.  I have said since 2008 that I am happy with Sarah Palin's desire to represent Real America since that means appealing to declining group.  So, how does the GOP deal with losing the demographic battle?  Obvious, #voterfraudfraud is a key strategy--try to make sure that the folks who are less likely to vote Republican are not allowed to vote.

How about appealing to minorities?  Well, that risks losing one's base.  Who are some of these people in this base that might flee a more open GOP?  Those who are "uneasy about what they see as bowing to political correctness."  Those who are comfortable with symbols drenched in racism and violence.  The safer (gut-less) strategy is to demure and to focus on the "religious" nature of the crime rather than the roles played by racism, misogyny, and guns. 

The Democrats have long been guilty of taking the votes of African-Americans for granted, as they should have done more again and again.  But as long as the GOP continues to be more concerned with "white conservatives who are uneasy," African-Americans know where they must vote.  As do other minorities.  Florida has been up for grabs precisely because the GOP has lost its grip on Cuban-Americans. 

The political science I know tells me that it is easier to be the homogeneous party that uses ethnic appeals to outbid the multi-ethnic party.  But it also tells me that numbers matter, and the numbers are not in the GOP's favor.  Their grip on local and state-level governments is a problem, but they are going to have significant problems at the national level until they face the reality that the math is against them and also that their own values (if they are as "Christian" as they say they are) are against them. 

So, until the GOP stops pandering to the racists, I am going to be comfortable considering them to be the party of racists, just as I consider them the party of misogyny.... even if the Democrats do not cover themselves in glory on this stuff.  There are differences between the parties, real ones, on these issues. 

* Pedants like to say that the flag in question is not the Confederate Flag but the Battle Flag of the Army of Virginia or whatever.  Sorry, but we live in an intersubjective world--and this flag has become to be known as the Confederate Flag by both its fans and its haters. Otherwise, why would it be THE flag to fly over Confederate Memorials and Cemeteries?  So, don't bother correcting me on this.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Echo Chamber or Just Unified Disgust?

While I have largely failed to develop a distinct twitter voice from my blogging voice from my facebook voice, I have tried to avoid creating an echo chamber on twitter.  I follow people who often/always see things differently.  On facebook, I have muted or unfollowed people as it is a space where I don't mind having an echo chamber--I don't want to get into emotional and potentially angry debates there.

In the past few days, I have to say I am pretty pleased with the echo chambers in both spots.  I have seen no critical updates/comments on facebook and no negative reactions to my various comments/tweets about Charleston and all that.  Indeed, my tweets have gotten far more retweeted/favorited on this stuff than on anything since the week Canada's parliament was attacked last October.

 I am not surprised that my friends and family on facebook are fairly unified in their disgust of what happened and the view that we need to challenge the symbols and actions of racism.  I am a bit surprised at my twitter followers since I don't curate/block to create homogeneity.  I do block some people and do mute others, but it is not aimed at creating an homogenous feed/audience, but to keep things respectful. 

Maybe it is just that acts these are so far beyond the pale of what can be debated that the only people on the other side are so far away that I don't hear them or see them.  During days like this, I am ok with the echo chamber, as I have nothing to say to those who might excuse the actions of racist murderers or who suggest that there is nothing we can do. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

History of Hate

I am not a scholar of American racial politics, but when there is something obvious to point out, I point it out.  Today it was a lesson about hate:

The additional flag flying over the capital of South Carolina--known as the Confederate flag despite the best efforts of pedants--was not always there.  I pointed out that this flag had gone away but came back in the 1950s and 1960s, that it was put on the flags of many southern states and was popularized deliberately as a symbol of opposition to the civil rights movement (my tweet of this has gone viral... well, viral for me: more than 160 RTs, 100 favorites so far).

Of course, then this leads to the question of: why would one oppose equal rights for African-Americans?  Hmmmm.  Why should those of a different color be denied the front of the bus, to be denied to eat at restaurants and stay at hotels of their choosing?  To be denied the right to vote?  The only answer, of course, is racism.  Sure, it is easy to look back from 2015 to 1955 or 1965 and call those who opposed civil rights racists, but other than hate/fear of African Americans, what can motivate the denial of equal rights?

So, yes, it is pretty easy to see how the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism.  Not just because it was a symbol of a government founded on the defense of slavery, but because its return was part of a process of attempting to fight the civil rights movement.

Whenever anyone contests this and argues that the Confederate flag is a part of southern heritage, I was wonder why they would want to venerate that part of the South's heritage that is defined by hate and racism.  The answer, of course, is that they are racists denying that they are racists.  Otherwise, they would pick other symbols of the South as defining their heritage.  

Putin and White Supremacists

What do Putin and white supremacists have in common?  A shared belief that using threats and force will cause others to be bullied, to flee, to go away.  I was struck by this as I was reading this piece on the Charleston murders.  Apparently, white supremacists have always attacked black churches in part because they were/are centers of mobilization/organization of African-Americans as they sought civil rights and justice.  The belief is that if you attack these churches, it would dispel or diminish the energy mobilizing the protests.

History, of course, proved this to be wrong and dramatically so.  That attacks on the African-American community mobilized the community as well as whites and pressured white politicians to support the civil rights legislation. 

As Waltz and Walt have argued, it is a balancing world and not a bandwagoning one.  People respond to threats by mobilizing against them more than by caving in.  NATO is demonstrating a fair bit of unity (perhaps less than desired) as Russia attempts to break the alliance.  But the threats made by Russia to Sweden and Finland about their potential effort to join the alliance are likely to increase support and encourage greater coordination between these partners of NATO and the alliance.

So, today, we see threats and violence made by the bullies who are on the losing side of history precisely because their strategies are self-defeating.  Well, that and their ideologies are awful.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Meanings of America

Last weekend, I got to see Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  I had been to the latter before but not to the former.  What struck me most of all?  How incredibly diverse the people visiting these places were.  I am not a huge fan of ELF--ethnolinguistic fractionalization score as a variable in quantitative work on ethnic conflict and civil war--but I cannot imagine any place getting a higher value than those two places. ELF--essentially measures the odds of whether you bump into someone in your ethnic group--was close to one, indicating that nearly everyone there seemed to be from a distinct ethnic group/nationality. 

And I felt real good about that--that these two locations represent a key part of what it means to be an American--that being American is not about where one comes from or the color of one's skin or the language they speak but something else.  What that else is may change over time.  It is freighted with the tragic mistakes and problems of the past (slavery, what was done to the native Americans) and of the present.

Others see America as a place for white people, maybe white Christians (narrowly defined).  That seems to be the story of today (again) as a white guy shot up a Black church.  This crime is not one thing--it is not a hate crime or terrorism or spree shooting--it is all of these things.  And apparently the guy said that he viewed Blacks as taking over and they "need to go."  This hate is deeply ingrained in American history, but it is not the America that I saw at Ellis Island and at Liberty Island. 

So, we have dueling conceptions of America, and this conflict is not going to go away.  We will see stuff like this happen again and again as it has happened many times before.  I'd like to focus on the positive side, but that is easy for me since I never had to worry much about the personal consequences of Driving While Black, Walking While Black, Hanging Out in My House While Black....

All I know is that what happened is awful and that we will probably not learn that much from it because it is really not anything new.  What a depressing thought after an uplifting weekend a week ago.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Mediocre Day for Women and Their Allies

Three events occurred yesterday that do not advance the cause of women at least in the short run:
  • Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign
  • Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson said that the sex assault problem in the Canadian Forces was due in part to biology
  • I saw Jurassic World.
Spoilers (of the movie, not of Trump, who comes pre-spoiled) below:

Working with Neo-Nazis? Nyet

Congresspeople have imposed restrictions on training Ukrainian soldiers--that those associated with a Neo-Nazi unit would be prohibited from engaging in mil to mil efforts.  This raises questions in Canada where members of parliament have limited means to slap amendments onto bills that would impose such restrictions. 

This is causing some deja vu for me, as this kind of legislation is old news in the US.  In my year on the Joint Staff, whenever we worked on the possibility of engaging the local militaries in Bosnia, which we did as a major effort to try to build a single Bosnian military from three militaries (Bosniak, Serb, Croatian) we had to consider whether our efforts met the requirements set forth by the Leahy Amendment.  Senator Leahy of Vermont added an amendment that required any US funding for training to be conditional on vetting--that those who engaged in human rights abuses would be excluded. 

Since most of the Ukrainian army is not in the unit that is getting heaps of attention, it is unlikely that the small Canadian training effort will end up working with the Neo-Nazis.  Moreover, if the Canadians train at the same place as the Americans and train mostly the same people, it is likely that the American attention to this challenge will do the work for the Canadians--that the relevant unit will be left out of all of the reindeer games Western training.

One could call the US restriction a caveat, which goes to show that not all caveats are really so problematic.  Some are actually lined up well with the intent of policies and might actually foster the national interest.  Something to think about.

A Liberal in Canada? A Self-Centered Voter's Evaluation

Ever since I moved to Canada, I wondered how I would vote.  I still don't have a vote, as my citizenship application is probably two years from being fully processed (and assuming I pass the test), but yesterday provided a bit of clarity. 

Let's quickly summarize some of the Liberal promises made yesterday:
  • More accessible information by improving the Access to Information Act.  That would be wonderful given that my current ATIP request appeal is more than two years old (which, I believe, means that the actual request is more than three years old).
  • Open data
  • Stronger parliamentary committees.  This would be good for the Steve/Dave/Phil project as we could then have variation on our independent variables, so this is good for our project!
  • More free votes.  I am not a fan of superstrict party discipline.  Canada's parties are about as strict as they get.
  • Improving question period.  Anything that makes this less of a joke would be a good thing.
  • More clarity on budget stuff.  The budget might actually have real numbers?  Real independence to Parliamentary Budget Officer!
  • Stronger national security oversight by creating an all-party national security committee to monitor and oversee operations of every department and agency with national security responsibilities?  Oh my, yet more variation for our project.  Woot!
  • First past the post goes away?  Only if they cite my stuff to justify it!  I am, of course, not sure this is that important for ameliorating ethnic conflict in Canada since federalism does a handy job of providing the key minority with political access.  It would depend on the alternative chosen, but more discussion of electoral rules is good for poli sci business.
  • Ban partisan government ads.  This does truly annoy me.
  • Unmuzzle scientists.  I have been a harsh critic of the message management efforts of the current government.  So, this would be a big improvement.
  • Bring back the long form census and make Statscan independent.  Much love for social science here.
  • Data-driven decision making?  Oh, this sounds good, but I am not that naive.
Lots of promises, many likely to be unrealized or implemented in ways that are less revolutionary.  But there is much for this social scientist to love in this, both because it is relevant for my current project (yes, I am a narcissist) and because it is good for social science write large.  None of this is about taxes or spending priorities, but given the traps set by the Conservatives, I am not sure we can expect much from the Liberals or NDP in those areas.

So, yeah, I guess I would vote Liberal and not even hold my nose or anything, even if Justin Trudeau always says one thing too much when talking about Canadian defence stuff.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Recognize The Tainted Legitimacy

A list caught my eye this morning: those countries that recognized Crimea's union with Russia:

What do these folks have in common?  Democracy?  Not so much. Friends of the U.S.?  Definitely not so much.  Indeed, hostility to US is a great unifier except there are some folks who might be hostile to the US who are not on this list including Iran. 

How about irredentists?  We have a few: Afghanistan (Pashtuns do not like the Durand line), Armenia, Russia, North Korea (both as supporting irredentism and potential target of irredentism, depending on who rules a united Korea), and Sudan (if it ever tries to bring back the secessionist hunks).

My quick snark was basically suggesting that with friends like these, this particular annexation is not legitimate.  Not only is the list small, but they include mostly countries that are hostile to self-determination if one includes the ability to select one's government in that concept. 

I got some pushback from folks who said this is really about power relations--that Kosovo's recognizers are allies of the US.... And, of course, Kosovo ain't Crimea, but the point is almost valid.  Who has recognized Kosovo other than FacebookOver a hundred countries, including many who are not seen as neatly in the American camp.  This list includes many non-democratic states, but includes many democracies, so it does not read quite like a list of countries hostile to democracy, minority rights and the like.

The Crimean Referendum was a sham and remains so.  The list of recognizers, mostly experts on the art of fake elections, underlines the fraud that Russia has been perpetuating.  The implausible denials still work well enough, I guess, but if something quacks like a fraud, walks like a fraud, well, it is a fraud. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

It Was In Front of Us All Along, GoT Edition

Thanks to a commenter on Gawker, the Barratheon destiny was obvious all the time:

Surveys and Realities of NATO's Past and Future: Fun with Numbers

I got into a fun conversation with Roland Paris (@rolandparis) on twitter today about the survey that came out last week that raised questions about the commitment of much of NATO to the heart of NATO: an attack upon one is equal to an attack upon all.
 Despite my post last week where I concurred with the survey that NATO has a weenie problem, I pushed back a bit.  Why?  Partly because of Dan Nexon's excellent post raising doubts about the survey--that if people were asked more directly whether they would want to help an ally if attacked by Russia, they might have answered differently.  And partly because I have been thinking of the lessons of Afghanistan--that every NATO ally (and then some) showed up even though no one cared about the place and nearly all stuck around until 2013-14 (Canada and the Netherlands as notable exceptions). 

What really got me going was Roland's assertion that public opinion and willingness to fight in Afghanistan were correlated.  Really?  Because I have been saying otherwise for years.  I invoked both Sarah Krep's work and the Dave and Steve project plus this handy slide:
Sarah Kreps argued in her article that elite consensus kept the alliance together despite public opinion--that the elites of the various parties shared an interest in supporting NATO and were mutually implicated in the mission so that it could not be a campaign issue.  My take (with Dave) is that institutions mediate this stuff, so that public opinion only matters indirectly. I also mentioned that countries actually became more willing to fight as time went on and as public support fell. 

What does "more willing to fight" mean?  In my view, it refers mostly to the restrictions/discretion granted to the troops.  If troops could fight in the south or east, which were far more "kinetic" than north or west of Afghanistan, then their country is "more willing to fight."  The other potential caveat we focus on in the article and book is offensive operations--some countries would not do such stuff, some did.  Together, "loose" caveats, coded by willingness to fight in dangerous areas and by willingness to engage in offensive ops, is my quick and dirty way to code willingness to fight.  Medium is a mix--Norway was based in the north but was more willing to engage in offensive operations and fudged the lines of its area of operations.  Germany was always in the less violent north, but changed its rules to engage in offensive ops in 2009. 

The basic pattern of the slide above is that there is no correlation between public support of the mission and what the troops were doing. 

Roland pushed back with a few slides of his own:

Troops as % of Active Military

France is hinky in the chart, but let's focus on a few key things here.  First, what drives this is mostly the denominator as most countries had roughly similar numbers of troops (500-3000) with Italy, Germany, and the UK being above that and the US way above that.  Canada, the Dutch, the Danes, etc all have smaller militaries.  So, any effort they commit will be a larger % of their capabilities.  This speaks more to population size and % of GDP spent on defense.  Public opinion is not correlated much with this as UK had roughly the same percentage of support as Italy and Germany.  Moreover, the idea that size of contingent measures willingness to fight is strange in this case.  For most countries, each sent as small a continent as possible (to save money) and then reinforced once they found that their zones were hotter than expected, especially those in the south and east.  So, size of force is actually not just a function of will but of the risks chosen (that which shaped caveats also shapes size, more or less). 

His next slide was of fatalities per population:

And, yes, the Danes led (well, once you discount the small Estonians) in how much they bled, with Canada second, UK third, US fourth.  What do they share in common?  Willingness to serve in south/east.  To repeat, casualties were a function of where one was willing to serve and how they served--caveat variance is what shaped the fatalities outcomes.

After I said that I had done some correlation tests and found none for caveats and public opinion, Roland's big move is to follow my instructions and build a two by two:
He chose to add the percentages of fatalities/population and Afghan commitment/size of military to get high or low on one dimension and public support on the other.  And it looks good for his argument--that UK and Poland were outliers with low/low and high/high serving as the primary axis of the relationship.  So, should I submit to Roland's argument?  Nah, that would make for a boring post.  I think there are a few key things to say about this two by two:
  1. I still have no idea what size of contingent/size of military says about willingness to fight..  Again, Italy and Germany and Spain did not need to reinforce and send more troops since they were not as pressured as other places.  The first two still had the third and fourth largest contingents and agreed to lead 1/4 of the country each (RC-W and RC-N).  They committed a whole lot despite weak support at home.  The denominator may also be deceptive because size of military and what is actually deployable are two different things.  Every country had to sustain their force, and a larger force would be harder to sustain.  Italy and Germany stayed the entire time unlike the Canadians and Dutch who look good in these figures but left combat before everyone else.   Finally, I am also not sure adding the two %'s make sense (reviewer #3 would hate it).
  2. Again, the basic reality was that most countries reduced their restrictions and became more willing to fight as the conflict continued and as public opinion went down.  It is hard to square that dynamic reality with the idea that public opinion served as a major brake.  France's willingness to fight changed dramatically in 2007 when a bitter Chirac (still miffed due to the US invasion of Iraq) was replaced by the NATO fan Sarkozy.  So, I would code France differently depending on the time frame.
  3. Roland set high and low of public opinion at 40% which is a mighty low threshold for "high public support."  Set it five points lower and nearly everyone is high.  Set it five points higher, and Canada is in the wrong box.  More importantly, what Roland considers to be high is actually mostly lower than the public opinion on the Pew survey that started this conversation.  That is, using Roland's standards, the "weenies" include only one country below 40%: Germany.  Which is a bit of a problem.  Still, Germany's attitude about using force to defend an ally that is attacked (however it is worded) is actually pretty damn close to what its attitude was during the Afghanistan war--where the Germans remained even after nearly everyone has left.  
The point again is that NATO countries were willing to fight and die in a place that no one cared about, where Article V was only loosely attached.  NATO's history shows that its members dig in and stay resolved when the alliance itself is threatened--Bosnia 1995, Kosovo 1999.  If an ally were attacked by Russia (well, maybe not Turkey), it would compel each leader to ponder whether they want to break NATO and face a revanchist Russia alone.  Their publics might not be enthusiastic, but as Sarah Kreps would point out, the political vulnerability would be low if politicians across the spectrum agreed to the same stance.  Still, I have been and will continue to ask for real commitments of real troops and not just bases and based materials to demonstrate to both Russia and the allies that an attack on the Baltics would mean war between NATO and Russia. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is Setting a Summer Goal Late Cheating?

For most folks, summer starts either with Memorial Day Weekend or with the end of the kids' classes.  My summer is about 1/3 over, as classes end in early April, and grading is done before May.  Which means that my summer is four to four and a half months long.  Yes, I am boasting.  But the reason I raise this is that I had a realization today that this is my first summer really between books in a while.

The Steve and Dave and Phil book project is only getting underway, with much of the work to take place in the years ahead.  I have cleared my schedule of travel with one family vacation ahead and my Euro trips behind me.  Yes, I have a couple of grant/fellowship applications to work on, but I also have an R&R, a contribution to a special issue, another contribution to a different special issue, AND an APSA paper that is going to be submittable by the APSA.  I might even be able to finish a TRIP paper I have been sitting on for more than a year.

So, I am posting this to taunt the reviewer gods:

My goal is to have four articles under review by the end of the summer.  Some folks manage to do that in most years.  I don't think I have had that many pieces in circulation since .... hmmm .... maybe in the year or two before tenure and maybe not even then.

Of course, this may all collapse, and the stuff may all end up burning in the fiery pit known as reviewer #2.  But I am setting my goal today, a bit late, which might be cheating.  But what the heck, there is no rule book as far as I can tell.  And any excuse to post a Queen song works.  

New Thinking or Old Thinking: US Miltary Demures

This piece suggests that the US generals are now less optimistic about the use of force than the Obama administration.  That they are not as willing to push for escalating in Iraq.  The piece cites McChrystal's desire for more troops in Afghanistan, which paints much of this as a shift.  But more of this is actually continuity.  People forget but most of the American military was not all that enthused about many of the past conflicts, and wanted heaps more troops either to mitigate risk or to prevent the use of force in the first place (see Deborah Avant's piece on this).

I never liked the Powell doctrine (here is a piece by someone who has changed their views)--that one could only use force if one was willing to give the military whatever it needed to fight only those battles that have wide support and have easy goals to reach.  That might be a slightly unfair characterization, but the idea was to have only Iraq 1991's and not Bosnia (Powell pushed against that rather successfully for some time).*
* To be clear, one can violate this doctrine in a number of ways--but mostly by not having clear goals and/or by not using decisive force.  Rumsfeld and Franks violated the second part by sending as small a force as possible to Iraq in 2003.

The problem with the Powell doctrine was how it defined the goal of the use of force to achieve military and not political ends.  I am a Clausewitzian, so there is no use of force without politics.  The question is, rather, how can the use of military force affect the politics of a situation.  The surges in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrated this quite well: the idea was to use more force to create a bit of momentum and a breathing space in which politics might be able to work out BUT that the surges themselves would not provide a political outcome that resolved the conflict.

Which gets us back to Iraq today: how does providing more force get us to a desirable outcome?  So far, giving more help to Iraq has not made it less dependent on Iran and has not made it any more willing to credibly commit to providing political access to the Sunnis.  Without that, there is no victory.  As long as the political calculations of elites in Baghdad conflict with what the US wants, adding more troops or escalating is not going to improve things much.

The funny thing is that the place where politics is supposed to be taken most seriously, the State Department, seems to be the one where sunk costs logics are overwhelming reason:
The key is to figure out what American goals are and then figure out how force can or cannot play a role.  If it is about degrading and containing ISIS, then maybe more force could be useful.  But if it is about defeating it, well, that requires political changes in Iraq, which American soldiers simply cannot foster.  Getting the politics right is the key, and it is why the last couple of wars have been so endlessly frustrating.  The local actors simply do not have the same interests as the external ones.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Kosovo Ain't Crimea, Crimea Ain't Kosovo

The standard line for Putin apologists and Russophiles is that Crimea is just Kosovo but a bit to the east.  This is lousy comparative politics, so let's list how they are different:
  • The US and its friends took a decade to intervene in Kosovo (one can start the clock anytime, but I choose to start the revocation of Kosovo's autonomy within Serbia) after years of both massacres and negotiations.  Crimea happened immediately after Russia's stooge fled Kiev.  Russia moved before any effort could be made to bargain, to send a peace keeping mission or preventative mission.  this really is the key
  • US and its friends did not conquer Kosovo and annex it.  Russia did hold a sham referendum and annexed Crimea.  
  • Oh yeah, we could compare how the decisions were made.  Kosovo's parliament voted for independence years after the local populace demanded it.  Crimea's referendum happened shortly after Russia de facto occupied Crimea, the opponents were roughed up and/or arrested, and it is pretty clear that the results were just a bit fraudulent.
  • Kosovo was after ... Bosnia, where the west had dithered while genocide happened.  Oh, and Kosovo was also after Transnistria, where a Russian military unit essentially seceded from Moldova and after Russia's support for Armenian irredentism, and other Russian efforts in the former Soviet Union.  Crimea was after ... Georgia where Russia did a nice job of playing Georgia and then created not one but two de facto independent states/failed states from territory carved out of Georgia. 
  • US and its friends did not use nuclear threats during the crisis or afterwards, although SACEUR Gen. Wesley Clark was determined to confront Russia's moves to Pristina.  Russia has been making nuclear threats in many directions.
  • The aftermath of American and Russian intervention tends to create failed states.  In the former, this is mostly not intentional.  In the latter, it is entirely intentional.
  • After Kosovo, the US and its allies stopped.  There was no more armed intervention in the Balkans but the US (ok, one minor effort to stop Macedonia from imploding in 2001).  After Crimea, Russia launched a war in Ukraine, not just supporting separatists but sending its own forces, prolonging the conflict and violating ceasefires.  
Of course, the US is not blameless in the world, as one could criticize the invasion of Iraq (which I have done repeatedly since it happened).  But that does not legitimate or excuse what Russia is doing now.  Russia's behavior threatens European security in ways that Kosovo never did precisely because there was never a threat that the US/NATO would be invading anywhere else.  Russia?   It is not done with Ukraine--the conflict goes on because Russia wants it to go on.  And Russia has been making provocative moves towards the Baltics ever since.  Where is that Estonian officer that got grabbedStill in Russia.

One can argue that all interventions are illegal, although responsibility to protect may suggest otherwise.  Kosovo, whatever its flaws, was an effort to prevent further massacres after all other efforts had failed.  Crimea and now Donbass are efforts by Russia to destabilize a neighbor after Russia lost its grip.  Yes, we can compare the two, but the comparison reveals significant differences and only superficial similarities.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Future Olympic Sports

The International Olympic Committee (less corrupt than FIFA)™ has a list of 26 sports that will be considered to be part of the 2020 games in Tokyo.  Deadspin came up with a ranking, but I will provide my own.  

1.  Ultimate.  

Ok, done.  Ok, to be fair, I will go through the list provided by Deadspin and comments (in red or blue) ... which will lead to the same outcome as the aforementioned ranking:

  1. Tug of war     Really?  Really!  Sure, good enough for the Battle of the Network Stars but Olympics?
  2. Baseball & softball  Solid choices although only a few countries play these sports well enough to be competitive.  A problem ultimate also has, to be sure.  Baseball has enough competitions, but softball would be a strong addition.
  3. Bowls (curling on turf, basically)  We already have curling, so no thanks.
  4. Sumo  Um, who has competitors other than Japan?  This would be like having American football as an Olympic game.
  5. American football  Exactly.  Who can put winning teams together?
  6. Flying disc (Ultimate frisbee)   The US does not win every single international competition of ultimate (just most of them).
  7. Underwater sports (a whole bunch of things, including underwater football and underwater hockey)  Really?
  8. Roller sports (races, hockey, and roller derby)  Not enough skating?  Roller derby? Ok.
  9. Floorball (a hockey thing)  We have hockey. Thanks.
  10. Korfball (some sort of basketball/handball/Ultimate hybrid)  Originals first, ultimate before hybrid.
  11. Netball (like basketball but worse)  Basketball is already in the games, thanks.
  12. Chess   I think sweating is a key ingredient in an Olympic sport.  Indeed, shouldn't the game be a sport in order to be an Olympic sport?
  13. Waterski and wakeboard  Racing?  Maybe, but we have enough judging stuff already.
  14. Bowling  Bowling before bowls
  15. Karate  What is another martial art?  Might as well.
  16. Wushu  ????
  17. Snooker  Bar sports are at the back of the line.
  18. Surfing     The Summer Games needs more bikinis and dudes in bathing suits.  Also, surfing is the one sport that is still sporty even if judged.
  19. Sport climbing  More x games, I guess
  20. Polo  No.  Enough horse events for rich people already.
  21. Air sports (paragliding)   Only if combined with the skeet shooting (or javelin competition)
  22. Raquetball   Sure.
  23. Squash   Lamer version of racqueball, but sure.
  24. Orienteering    Getting lost and found?  No.
  25. Bridge     A game, not a sport.  And poker before bridge.
  26. Dance sport (ballroom dancing)   Already enough of that on TV.
 Which potential options do you favor?

NATO Realities 101

One of my favorite government twitter accounts said something this morning and I had to push back:

But I then had to modify this, as I have no doubt that the US will respond to any attack on a NATO ally as if it is an attack on the US because ... it would be.  American credibility and interests are inextricably tied to the members of NATO, which is why the other category "major non-NATO ally" is so fuzzy by comparison.  Of course, the opt out clause in Article V--as each deems necessary--was written so that the treaty would get past the US Senate.  However, much has changed since then--that NATO has come to define the US commitment to defend its allies.  Since the formation of NATO, the US has done a great deal to defend that commitment, to reassure those allies, that the US will show up, even when the stakes are defined as "Chicago for Bonn."

One could argue that Vietnam was mostly about NATO, as the US was trying to demonstrate that it would not abandon allies.  If the US is willing to sacrifice 57k lives for some place that it does not really care about, then the commitment to the places that are central to American foreign policy and definitions of American national interests is about as solid as it can be.

Over the past year plus since Putin/Russia aggressed against Ukraine and upset the post-Helsinki order, the US has repeatedly sought to demonstrate its resolve and commitment to NATO.  Any American President will continue to do the same.  The pivot, now overcome by events, was all about relying on Europe to carry more of its share so that the US could shift resources to deal with the rising challenge in the Pacific.  Europe has been a mix with some allies increasing defense budgets and making credible commitments and others not so much.  Some of these countries could opt out (as flawed opinion polls might suggest), but even those are likely to act if a NATO country is attacked by Russia. 

So, I was largely being pedantic and self-promoting when I tweeted back at @USNATO.  Article V does have a key loophole, but it is not likely to be that relevant if "the balloon goes up" as most of NATO will show up, and who needs the Greeks anyway?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Canadian Political Reform is Looking in the Wrong Place

How are advocates of reforming the Canadian senate like the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Art?  They are looking in the wrong place (and, no, I am not calling them Nazis).  Let a friend of mine rant for me via my storifying of his tweets.

I cannot disagree....  The big challenge in Canada is that any significant reform runs into the same problem--constitutional reform might stir up Quebec separatism, so let's leave things along. And, to be fair, things in Canada are not awful, so doing nothing might be better than trying to fix it.  On the other hand, complacency is not usually a winning strategy either. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blogging the Gap

Yesterday, I had the chance to participate in the Bridging the Gap workshop led by Bruce Jentleson.  It is an effort every summer to help younger scholars figure out how to engage the policy world in a variety of ways, including figuring out how to write and publish op-eds, how to get into government for short periods of time (like the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship that changed my career/life), how to engage think tanks and more.

I arrived the day before and watched other folks (Michael Horowitz, Emily Goldman, Peter Feaver) talk about their government experiences, and then heard some editors talk about writing for magazines (Jacob Heilbrunn of the National Interest [we knew each other long ago at Oberlin], Ben Pauker of Foreignpolicy.com, Steve Clemons of The Atlantic).   I found both panels quite interesting and really enjoyed the deja vu from the first one as Mike and Peter, in particular, had experiences and reactions that were ones with which I heavily identified.

Anyhow, my job was, along with Ryan Evans of War on the Rocks and Kim Yi Dionne of the Monkey Cage, was to talk about blogging and other social media as well as the Online Media Caucus.  What did I say?

That blogging is now in its third generation--from random folks having small audiences and mostly talking to each other, to more prominent folks engaging wider audiences, to now a proliferation not just of blogs but of blogging collectives (Monkey Cage, Duck of Minerva, Political Violence at a Glance, etc) where the challenge is now getting one's blog noticed in the crowded space.

I discussed some of the pro's and con's of blogging (which mostly also apply to twitter):
 While there is some danger, I think even very modest restraint (I am not able to be more than just a bit restrained) is sufficient to allow one to partake of the benefits.

Should blogging/social media just be for tenured folks?  No, because we all should be disseminating our knowledge.  And blogging/twitter do lead to things like more citations, more engagement, more networking and this can actually help one get tenure as long as one does not see one's blog as a publication.  It does not count as a pub but as service.  Perhaps the easiest/least taxing/least risky way to blog as a junior faculty member or even student is to guest post.  This allows one to stake claims and gain visibility without appearing to be wasting time on non-pubs (old attitudes linger among the dinosaurs who have tenure).  For an engaging example of such a guest post, see this.

I also discussed twitter since I had heard they wanted more info on it.  I did admit that twitter can be a time suck if one gets engaged in long conversations or watches one's feed too much.  I insisted that not everyone should tweet but all scholars should be on twitter.  Huh?  That one can lurk and follow other researchers to learn about new research (I cited Jason Lyall as example) as well as follow key actors such as the NATO Secretary General (or my fave: @CanadaNATO and @USNATO) in one's research area, as well as the muse of the National Security twitter community (@morgfair).  One can find out lots of stuff without ever tweeting.

But if you want to make connections to journalists, experts, government folks and the like, then engage on twitter.  Ask them questions, retweet them if they say stuff that is interesting, offer one's views.  It is because of my engagement of the aforementioned NATO folks that when I was in Brussels, I ended up having real contact with real people and talked about the current dynamics within NATO regarding Ukraine and Russia.  I got in this business due to my curiosity--I want to know more about much--and twitter allows me to engage my curiosity in ways that foster my research and teaching and in ways that just entertain me.

How much can one say in 140 characters?  This central mystery deters many people from twitter: I can barely say something in 8000 words, so 140c?  My answer is that the 140 c constraint is a myth--as one can include links in tweets (to blog posts or whatever), that if pictures are a thousand words, then tweets can be a thousand words with the right pic attached, that one can have a series of tweets to make a point), and that conversations of 140c's back and forth add up to engagement. 

I concluded by plugging the Online Media Caucus, as both an advocate for those who use online media and as a focal point for talking about research, teaching, service and engagement via online media--how to do it better, how to understand it better.

Despite recent events, I think that we need to engage beyond academia more, not less, and the Bridging the Gap effort is an excellent way to help those who are interested in doing so.  I was glad I was able to attend and participate.  Not a bad way to spend a hot week in DC.

Public Opinion and NATO: Some Europeans Are ... Weenies

This NYT piece reports on a survey that is causing much angina--that the populations of the big European countries are divided on "an attack upon one is an attack upon all."  I have many reactions to this, so let me just bullet them:
  • We cannot rely on the Germans, the Italians or the French?  Really?  Well, aside from the French, well, yeah, of course.  I have already argued that having the Italians and the Germans be among the first contributors to the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is quite problematic.
  • Other publics are more NATO supportive: US, Canada (not entirely sure how the PM feels, but as long as there are diasporic votes in it), UK (with what military, given the deep, thoughtless cuts?), Poland (of course), and Spain (maybe this might mean less caveats).
  • Seems like German reunification comes at a cost as much of the opposition comes from East Germany.  Verrrrry interesting.*
  • Putin's stances continue to play well among Russians even as the costs rise.  Well, sanctions are not an instant fix.  But the moves to hide the costs (banning reporting of the Russians killed in this adventure) suggests some vulnerability.  Still, I don't expect Putin to make real peace in Ukraine.
    • Which raises a question related to the "how implausible can plausible deniability be and still be useful"--how many violations of a ceasefire agreement can happen and still consider the agreement to be operative.
Maybe it is confirmation bias, but this survey just reinforces my belief that we need to put bodies in the way.  That the US with or without its allies needs to forward deploy in the Baltics so that politicians' hands are tied if Russia attacks.  A tripwire is most necessary when domestic audiences are unenthusiastic as credibility must be created and not just asserted.  How to create credibility? By making response more automatic.  What would make a response more automatic?  Dead Americans, Germans, Italians, etc on Day 1 of a Russian attack.  Yes, the old playbook applies once again.  

 *  About the oldest pop culture reference I could make here.

UPDATE: See Dan Nexon's post on the limitations of the survey

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Starting Points Visited and Re-visited

Manhattan looked great from the other side
Mrs. Spew and I were footless and fancy-free yesterday as we were in northern New Jersey for a family event the day before (the last Bar Mitzvah of my sibling's kids), so what did we do?  Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  This seemed like a good way to spend a day, especially after the past few years have taken me to the beginnings of the U.S.A.: Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, Yorktown, Leiden (where the Pilgrims left Europe for Massachusetts).

Twas a very modular main room--reconfigured
again and again over the years.
There was so much that was so striking but what impressed me most about Ellis Island was the composition of the tourists.  It was one of the most diverse collections of humanity I have ever been among (the ELF score was pretty much at its max).   I have been to many tourist sites around the world, and I cannot remember one that had so many people from so many backgrounds.  Which makes sense, partly because NYC brings tourists from all over the world and partly because much of the world went through Ellis Island during its three decades as primary destination for immigrants headed to the US.

Of course, the history of the US and its immigration is not all peaches and creme.  I was glad to see several displays featuring the backlashes against immigration.  No, I am not a fan of xenophobia even if it played a key role in the Bill and Steve book (being re-printed as a paperback this August thanks to our pal Putin).

The timing was particularly apt as I recently got into an argument with a Canadian journalist who insisted that the US needed to make Spanish an official language of the US.  Given that English is not an official language, this seemed strange to me.  Indeed, after ten years in Quebec, I am more firmly convinced that the American strategy is the better one: rather than forcing folks to learn English, the US government lets the market and the society induce people to learn English.  The great consistency over the centuries has been this: the first generation may not learn English but the second one will pick up enough and the third will be fluent.  Which is why the picture to the right struck me: the many languages people spoke and wrote when they came over.  Again, American history is chock full of conflict and the union still needs to be perfected, but there are some good reasons why people still want to move to the United States.  I don't think Russia or China have the same pressures caused by people wanting to immigrate.  People do indeed vote with their feet.

 Maybe I am being overly patriotic because I found this while walking around Ellis Island:

 We learned that these panels were not of all immigrants who went through, but those immigrants who entered somewhere and had family members recognize them (pay $, I suppose).  Still, the idea that I was standing near where my ancestor came across more than a century ago gave me some chills.

And, of course, maybe it has to do with how beautiful the Lady was yesterday: