Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PSR Diaries, Continued

It has been a particularly combative few days at Political Science Rumors.  Folks are not pleased that some ISA goers engaged in a bit of fun as they cosplay-ed a panel on Game of Thrones and IR.  They think it hurts the profession, and got especially upset when I defended (perhaps not articulately) those who engaged in the supposedly shameful behavior. This devolved into accusations that I hurt the profession by lending legitimacy to PSR because I mod and post there under my own name (nearly everyone else is anonymous). 

I have gotten that from time to time--that I am just an attention seeking hound and that my participation at PSR is bring shame upon me and the profession.  The former is true, the latter is not.  Of course, I don't participate at PSR for the attention or for the strange and disturbing cult of Sadie that pops up.  I get plenty of attention via blogging and twitter, thanks. 

I started because people were being incredibly wrong about the job search where I was employed.  Denying the rumors didn't work so well from a position of anonymity.  After that, people asked me questions, and I felt like being a voice of reason was not a bad thing, even though it was occurring online at a place where there was much unpleasantness.  I eventually started moderating at the old site (PSJR) and then the new (PSR) so that I could delete attacks on my students as well as students elsewhere (I leave nearly all of the attacks against me alone--I post there so I accept the consequences). 

This led to some attacks upon me on the site, and when I asked the community whether I should stay or go, I got much support to stay.  So, I have stuck around.  I now get emails from people who ask for particular items to be deleted, and I do so.  So, perhaps some folks in the profession view me negatively because I am active at PSR, but others are thankful that I am there, the only moderator that is not anonymous, that can be reached.

Someone today raised the possibility that I make the place worse, that trolls are there because I moderate and post there.  My response?  Well, the place had much negativity before I started, so unless the place has a Benjamin Button kind of dynamic, the person has a bad grasp of social science.  Plus PSR is hardly alone on the internet in producing some toxicity from the brew of anonymity and a lousy job market/anxious graduate students.

I try to be myself there--a combination of earnest desire to help (which probably annoys the hell out of some folks), a weakness to trolls (I have a hard time not responding when folks poke at me or at things I care about), and a tendency to snark.  Indeed, I have been tempted to post this in response to all of the concern that cosplay at the ISA might be damaging to the profession:

Image result for why so serious

I actually don't think that PSR does much damage to the profession either, although it certainly is more problematic than a handful of people dressing up at the ISA.  Any accusation that I am hurting the political science profession is giving me far more influence than I actually have.  I would argue that the Putin apologists in the NYT are doing far more damage to our kind.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Fave Oscars 2015 Moment?

While the singing of Glory was incredibly moving, my favorite moment of the night was when the forces behind the song discussed #voterfraudfraud.  The frustrating thing with seeing Selma was to be aware that the Voting Rights Act that Martin Luther King Jr. fought for, as depicted in the film, is under attack now.  So, nice for Common and John Legend to call it out on their big night.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Extreme This!

Extremism in the pursuit of liberty or security blah blah blah (flying means tired blogger).
This says it better:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Declaring Success at the ISA

Twas a wonderful week in New Orleans for the International Studies Association meeting.  I will follow the example of a wise general and declare success:
  • The ISA approved the committee's report on blogging--folks should just be responsible, blogger or not, editor or President or whatever.  
  • The Online Media Caucus is was approved.
  • The governing council meeting also demonstrated that the future will be interesting...
  • I didn't break any bones slipping on the beads on Bourbon Street.  
  • I greatly enjoyed an hour of craps with Sara Mitchell.  We didn't profit, alas, but we successfully had fun.
  • I had two wonderful dinners that helped to launch two new journals--Journal of Global Security Studies and the European Journal of International Security.  I am on both editorial boards. 
  • I was interviewed by Sage press as they are seeking to build a library of discussions of key literatures and debates--twas fun.
  • I learned much during the Academic Freedom and Social Media roundtable--I have never studied academic freedom, but I do indulge in it quite a bit.
  • The Duckies were a blast!
  • The second roundtable celebrated the life of Pattie Weitsman.  And, yes, I was a mess.
  • The third roundtable focused on Canada and Afghanistan.  We had much consensus
    • that the argument that the military hoodwinked the Prime Minister is crap
    • that parliament was super lame (technical academic jargon)
  • I met a heap of old friends and a few new ones.  I have been very lucky in this academic journey. 
  • The OMC business meeting was very successful--a small crowd but heaps of great ideas!
  • The TRIP data panel went well.
  • Dinner with Team Steve was delightful.
So, yeah, I am very lucky.  I hope the good fortunte continues tomorrow as I travel back home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

OMC is Alive!

Yesterday, the Governing Council met for 17 days and nights .... or about six hours to discuss the various issues on the agenda.  I will not get into the details of the meeting (I live-tweeted the highlights).    The key bits of news are this:
  • I learned how to do emoji on my Ipad.
  • The blogging issue from last year produced a report by the Professional Responsibilities committee, and the recommendations which became policy essentially said that we ought to expect everyone to be professional and treat each other with respect and dignity. 
    • This applies to not just ISA journal editors who were the focus last year.
    • They deliberately chose not to ask bloggers to put disclaimers on their blogs since everyone would have to be disclaiming pretty much everything they do.
    • A clear win for the social media folks.
  • The Online Media Caucus sailed through.  Through a clever bit of agenda-setting that I had nothing to do with, it was the penultimate issue considered and exhaustion was our friend.  So, come to the business meeting on Saturday at 12:30 in the Hilton's Elmwood room as well as the Duckies Thursday night at 7:30pm at the Quarterdeck rooms in the Hilton

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Caveats for Sale

I find the Authorization to Use Military Force [AUMF] Obama is trying to sell quite notable for many reasons but particularly because it is the closest thing I have seen in the US to a coalition government-style caveated mandate.  In ye olde book, we found several European countries that would have legislative approval of letters/decisions that specified the length of a mission and what the troops could do. 

This AUMF has a limited time span--three years--which is far longer than those in Europe (and Canada), which are usually anywhere between six months to two years.  Perhaps even more notable--that this AUMF so that there will be no enduring offensive ground operations.  Now that is quite the restriction--caveat ahoy!  I think that is what Stephen Harper had in mind when he sent CANSOF to Iraq--no enduring ground ops.  Instead, he said combat.  Whatevs.

Brian McFadden, NYT
Good times for writers of books on civilian control of troops involved in multilateral military operations.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Trading Risks in Iraq, Maple Flavour

The debate the past few weeks since it was revealed that Canadian Special Operations Forces (CANSOF) has pondered the meanings of combat and accompanying.  My friend, Roland Paris, is most concerned about mission creep--that the CANSOF folks doing targeting on/near the front lines may not just lead to firefights but a broader engagement with much more combat.  I am less worried about mission creep because I focus on domestic politics--that any deeper involvement would raise risk for the election next fall. 

The point I want to make today is a simple one (as I have too much work to do pre-ISA to do any complex thinking/writing).  Canada is engaged in a bombing campaign in Iraq.  It seems to be the case that the air campaign has helped to blunt the ISIS offensive, even reversing some of its gains (Kobani is the visible example in Syria, I don't have a handy battle/town to cite for Iraq).  If one is going to do bombing, then risks are there to be managed: do you act to faciliate more accurate targeting, putting some of your troops at risk or do you avoid risks to your troops and thus have less accurate bombing? 

I ask this because I doubt that the CANSOF troops that have approached the front lines, whatever that means, to paint targets just for the fun of it.  Maybe so, but probably because they felt they could do the job better than the Iraqis they are training.  More accurate targeting means two things--more effectiveness from the Canadian and coalition planes above and less (albeit non-zero) risk of hitting civilians on the ground.  While drones and recon planes are handy, having eyes on the ground is generally seen as better.  Indeed, the big German mistake in Kunduz, Afghanistan was in large part because there were no eyes on the ground. 

The CANSOF do have some restrictions (a.k.a. caveats)--they are not engaging in raids or other clearly offensive operations.  They are engaged in combat, as I understand it, since they are painting targets for the planes dropping bombs, whether this leads to them being in firefights on the ground or not.  Anyone insisting that the CANSOF not facilitate the targeting process must ask themselves--would this kind of caveat be aimed at reducing the risks facing the CANSOF?  If so, at the expense of both Iraqis and effectiveness?

Despite my general criticism of caveats, some make sense.  Not engaging in raids makes sense as that significantly increases the risks not just of casualties but of capture.  Which would complicate things greatly.  But a caveat against providing support for the air campaign?  That would not eliminate risk but move it from the CANSOF to the Iraqis in ways that also harm effectiveness.  As such, tis a bad idea.