Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gratuitous Effort to Reach Average

For the first time in Spew history, I think, I will average less than a post per day this month.  I have been blogging less over the past year, but this month has seen a bigger dip.  Why?
  • Well, conferences and related travel make it hard to keep up.  Sure, I learn a lot and used to share more of what I learned while conferencing (such as this post two days ago), but I have much less time while conferencing these days.
  • Related: I am way overcommitted.  So, while blogging does not take as much time as people usually suspect (my typos in old posts remind me how little time I spend vetting each post), it is still some time.  
  • Am I burning out?  A friend was gleeful when I started blogging, saying that I would not be able to keep the pace.  Well, maybe I could not. 
  • I also blame twitter.  Sometimes, I get my views out via twitter and then don't have the compulsion to express them here.  Yes, twitter still inspires more than a few posts, but it may be that twitter is eating some of my blogging energy.  
On the other hand, this was actually a good month for blogging, if one measure it less by output and more by readership.  Of course, taking swipes at IR trolls always increases my hit count, but I also had posts on my participation at PSR, on the GOP and anti-vaxxing, sexism in security studies, and sexual harassment in academia that all had decent audiences.

However, I didn't get into blogging to make my hit counts (or else I would trash the IR trolls more frequently), but to vent on a variety of topics, including many outside my lane (which junior academics probably should be a bit more reluctant to do).  Twitter does provide an alternative outlet for such venting.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I thinking about this today mostly to get my average post per month a bit higher this month. 

Berlin, Day 3

Wait, what happened to day two?  Well, as most second days in Europe for me, it was lost in a haze of jet lag.  The second day of the workshop was very interesting, but I lacked the focus to be able to keep track of what I should blog about.  The one point that seemed most important was that the promise to aspire to spend 2% of GDP on defense, one that is not just being violated by the usual suspects in 2015 but also the British, has been significant for slowing cuts, if not leading to more spending.

But day three?   Wunderbar!  Just a beautiful day (it rains on me less in Berlin than Paris).  I did much tourism the last/first time I was here, so I had to figure out the mix of repeat/new stuff.  I found the same chocolate shop as last time--Fassbender and Rausch and then I walked from there to the
Brandenburg Gate. 

From there I walked along, past Humbolt U to the German Historical Museum.  I walked past the museum the last time I was here.  This time, I spent several hours inside.  I was most struck by all of the discussion of balance of power politics, something you don't see too often inside American history museums.  Ah, Bismarck and all that.

Next to the museum were a bunch of folks selling art, food, and such.  I really liked the sign that said "I am so angry I made a sign."  Even more appropriate--the seller of said sign was miffed that I was writing this down rather than buying the sign.  Beware of anger and signs, they lead to the dark side.

I wish I had more time and stronger feet.  Still, I did get a chance to hang with some interesting analysts of politics:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Jimmy Kimmel and His Doctor Friends Are Miffed

Get your kids $^%@^*&!#@ vaccinated!

More on Germany in Article V Scenarios

I briefly discussed the German challenge in my previous post, but a conversation during the coffee break was most helpful in clarifying the confusion.  So, let me try again.

There is a big difference between Article V operations and expeditionary efforts... maybe.  That is, the German cabinet could deploy troops to deal with an attack upon NATO (not just an attack upon Germany) and then consult with Bundestag later.  The problem is that the cabinet may dither because they fear what the parliamentarians might do/say later.  This is akin to the US problem that the public is not as casualty averse as politicians think, but these perceptions of casualty aversion can cause politicians to pull back (Somalia after Blackhawk down). 

This dynamic did appear in Afghanistan in that the Bundestag did not create really tight restrictions for the German troops---the cabinet did, the German defence minister did because of their anticipation about what the Bundestag would and would not accept.

For me, the key concern is that there is still some confusion about Germany's legal constraints--what does Article V mean now as opposed to back in the day?  In the Cold War, NATO defense and Germany's defense were one and the same.  These days, an attack on Latvia or Turkey may not really endanger Germany. 

Which gets to two key dynamics.  First, an article V attack is only an article V attack when NATO agrees (consensus!) that such an attack has taken place.  An ally could be attacked, such as Turkey, and yet the alliance may not agree that it counts as an attack.  Indeed, I use the Turkish case because we have already seen this play out.  Second, article V includes opt out language--each country responds as each deems necessary.  So, still plenty of room to waffle. 

Anyhow, it seems clear to me that any NATO rapid reaction force would not be that rapid, as SACEUR is not being given authority to send troops without consulting the North Atlantic Council and without getting the consent of the countries contributing troops the force.  In other words, thus far, no pre-delegation of authority. 

And this is not just a German challenge--it is true for many/most/all members.  On the bright side, SACEUR can act with his second hat--as US commander of European forces.  But that means having some US troops nearby to throw into the mix. 

And, yes, I am having heaps of flashbacks to the Cold War.  We may not be in the Cold War 2 now, but there are lessons to learn from the past.  Russia is not the Soviet Union, but NATO is NATO. 

Berlin Day 1 2015: A Bridge Too Far?

I am at a two day workshop in Berlin with the topic of NATO after the Wales Summit.  It is a Chatham House/SWP (German Institute on International Affairs) event, so I cannot say what particular individuals (aside from myself) have said.  I can point to a few general themes/tendencies. 

Before getting into it, I have to say that while I found it somewhat strange previously to hear a Dutch diplomat say "a bridge too far," it is even stranger to hear it come from a German given the history of the phrase (Operation Market Garden). 

Anyhow, what did I say?  My job was to discuss whether the "deliverables" at the NATO Wales Summit last fall were sufficient and whether they are being, um, delivered. 
  • Hope is not a plan.  That the promises made at Wales were far more aspirational than anything close to being realized. 
  • The promises made to create a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force [VJTF] have been insufficient since they have not worked out the key details.   The VJTF was supposed to be able to move within 24-48 hours but is now going to be a week or so.  
    • My question was answered yesterday--whether countries committing troops to this effort have figured out the domestic legal requirements of deploying such a force (the stuff that produces caveats and also causes decision-making processes to be sloooow).  That is, for those countries that need legislative approval to deploy troops, are there efforts to deal with this challenge ahead of time so that the rapid reaction force can react rapidly?  The answer: nein.  It might be that the German requirements do not apply when it comes to self-defense/NATO defense in Europe.  But we don't know.  
    • And the other two countries that are making early commitments, Norway and Netherlands, also have domestic processes that need to be "fixed" if SACEUR is going to be able to move troops quickly.  That this responsibility will rotate to other countries with mixed Afghanistan does not fill me with confidence.
  • I was critical of the lack of a commitment at Wales to permanently base NATO troops in those states on the frontlines with Russia.  Got some fun pushback on that--what is the difference between rotations of training and permanent bases?  Just a wee bit of credibility and commitment.
    • Of the six countries committing to micro-bases (six NATO Force Integration Units), two have cut their budgets fairly dramatically (UK/France) and the other four were highly constrained in Afghanistan (Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain).
      • A speaker or two suggested that the lessons of Afghanistan are not applicable since it was not really an Article V mission.  Well, Article V has an opt out clause, so excuse me for my skepticism.
    • I even made the point that permanent basing might lead to American spouses and children living near the bases to create a more robust tripwire... returning to the Cold war.  
  • Re pledges to support Ukraine made back in the fall, I basically hand-waved since I am ambivalent about arming Ukraine.  But that's ok, NATO is shrugging as well.  
    •  I learned via people's comments that Russia's campaign to get support in Europe is working well--that many NATO allies are essentially pro-Putin, including Greece, Hungary, perhaps Bulgaria, at least one of the Slo-allies (Slovenia/Slovakia?), Mearsheimer.... not to mention Russian support of the National Front in France.  The key here is we are farther from consensus than I had thought. 
  • The big commitment that all members were to aspire to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense was entirely aspirational.  There have been arguments made here that this limited the ability of countries to cut their budgets--that the cuts that have been made would have been worse.  Um, ok.  But this was not even a pie crust promise since there was very little real intent to follow through.  Indeed, this morning (day 2) I have already heard the claim that it is not how much is spent but what one gets.  Well, given that each country is mostly messing up the procurement process, it is not like there are heaps of capabilities being produced even as spending goes down.  
    • I did make the Canadian point that it is more the doing than the spending.  Indeed, it may be easier to do more than spend more in the short term, although that is not so good in the long term.  
  • I did point out the big lesson that everyone has implicitly or explicitly learned--humility.  That NATO efforts to improve Afghanistan, the Libyan effort, etc have had less than wonderful outcomes.
Other observations:
  • Europeans are divided about whether to focus on the East (Russia) or the South (Mideast).  I would assert that NATO should focus on its old job--Russia--and let coalitions of the willing worry about ISIS.
  • TRIP survey was cited by a couple of European government officials.  So, yeah, they know that academics have opinions.  Alas, the opinion cited was that Russia was five or eighth on list of concerns, so we are thus wrong and irrelevant.  Ooops.
  • I was making a tripwire argument and someone used a different phrase--tethered goats!  Jurassic Park oh my!
  • As always, I realize that being one of the few academics in the room, I have far more freedom/discretion/bluntness/rudeness than the people working for governments.  So, I did, of course, mention which countries are just a wee bit less reliable.

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 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 fortune 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.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thanks Obama

For having a sense of humor about yourself.

How Security Studies is Like Casablanca

There is gambling at Rick's?  Shocking.  There is sexism in security studies equally not so shocking.  I have been in this business for more than twenty years and you can add grad school to that.  Ever since I have been in it, I have heard stories and also witnessed a significant degree of sexism in this area (I am not as attuned to the sexism in other parts of IR or other parts of poli sci).

So, I found it particularly frustrating last night to be involved in one thread at PSR and another on twitter addressing the issue of women in poli sci and IR in very different ways.  At PSR, there are a bunch of folks repeating the same myths that women get heaps of jobs because of affirmative action.  On twitter, folks got riled up because there was not a single woman listed on the program of the next Aspen Security Forum.  A nice juxtaposition of myth and reality.

The reality is that both men and women are getting jobs and both men and women are not being placed and are frustrated about the academic job market.  In all of the searches I have been involved in at universities in the US and Canada, I have seen it happen one time that a women was offered a job because of her gender ... maybe.  That it was a situation where two candidates were quite good and the tie went to the woman.  Otherwise, my anecdata goes the other way--that I have seen colleagues say things like: "well, her husband has a job, so she doesn't need this one."

In security studies, there has always been a perception that there was an old boys network that favored men and the misogynists.  Perhaps feeling free to express nostalgia for the old boys network is some evidence of this.

I posted a list of books written by women about 18 months ago, mostly in the security area, as a list of my favorite books both to prove a point and because it was largely true. I was responding to a post somewhere (I forget) that listed the best books and omitted female authors.  It didn't take more than five minutes of thinking to come up with a list of ten (or more) books written by women that are among my very favorites.  I didn't label it as a list of ten great books written by women, just my ten favorite books.

As Aspen Security Forum proved, perhaps inadvertently, sexism is quite alive and well in the field of security despite the fact that women are doing excellent work in academic and making a difference in policy positions.  Getting the best speaker or the best person for the job should mean that women are among those chosen--not because they are women but because they are among the best.

Need a conference on private military contracting?  You better invite Deborah Avant.  Working on non-violence?  You better read and cite Erica Chenoweth.  Terrorism?  Chenoweth again, Mia Bloom, etc.  Pakistan?  Christine Fair.  Identity and violence?  Stacie Goddard, Erin Jenne, Monica Toft.  Alliances?  Invite Sarah Kreps and Stefanie Von Hlatky and read Patricia Weitsman. The US national security apparatus?  Amy Zegart. Civil-military relations?  Avant again.  Crime and international security?  Louise Shelley.  Nuclear taboo?  Nina Tannenwald.  Canadian defence?  Elinor Sloan and the aforementioned Von Hlatky.  Quantitative work on war?  Sara Mitchell.

I could go on and on.  It really is not that hard.  Indeed, as others have noted, leaving women out might actually require some work. 

I do think there has been a hell of a lot of progress made, but dammit, it is clear that there is still so much room for improvement.  Thanks to the Aspen Security Forum for reminding us not to take for granted that we need to more and better.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Exceptional Exceptionalism

I was out today so I missed an epic rant by Ben Denison about the lousy arguments people use to argue that the Balkans had conflict because of artificial boundaries.  The good news is that we have both Storify and the Storify master, Kelsey Atherton, which means we have this.

The only things I would add to this are:
Boundaries are damn near always "artificial", given that the world did not emerge spontaneously with maps with handy dandy lines dividing people.  Politics among and within groups of people produced these magical lines.  Some of these lines appear more natural than others, but the reality is that most are quite artificial and yet .... conflict is rare.  While most war does involve territorial disputes, most territorial disputes ... do not involve war.  Ooops.  There are many, many quite artificial boundaries over which there is currently little conflict.  But we don't notice the non-events.

Which gets us to another basic reality: the artificiality of borders is pretty constant--borders don't change much--but conflict varies.  And basic social science says you cannot explain some thing that varies with something that is constant (and vice versa).

Indeed, For Kin or Country (the new paperback version with a new intro is coming out this summer) started with the puzzle that there was both more and less violence in Eastern Europe than we expected.  The least legitimate, most artificial border in Europe?  Probably that separating Moldova from Romania as it was drawn by Molotov/Ribbentrop but really Stalin/Hitler.

Anyhow, if anyone says that a conflict happens because of an artificial boundary, you have my permission to run screaming from the room.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Deja Vu Du Jour

Perhaps it is really unfair to consider Europeans as sell-outs.  However, the European effort too bargain over Ukraine's fate reminds me of Bosnia.  Early in the Balkan wars, the Europeans were pretty willing to agree to anything that would end the conflict quickly, including giving Serbia its desired chunks of Bosnia.  That it would reward the ethnic cleansers as it would mean that the refugees from Yugoslavia could then go home quickly.

These days, it seems to be that European leaders would like to end Ukraine's war as quickly as possible so that they could get their energy cheaply and certainly from Russia.  Is this fair to Merkel?  Well, it depends on the deal.  If it creates a demilitarized zone that essentially cements Russian (one could say separatist but let's be serious) gains, then "peace in our time" will be provided by selling out the Ukrainians.  If it allows the Ukrainians to actually govern throughout the country (minus Crimea because that ain't coming back), then maybe the Europeans are not selling out Ukraine.

Let's just say I don't have a heap of confidence that Putin will settle for anything that allows Ukraine to stabilize.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Flawed Hero or Villain with a Heart of Gold

Someone put all of the major Snape segments of the HP movies in chronological order:

Which causes us to return to the big question: Snape bad?  Snape good?  On the whole, I think Snape was a bad person who had one soft spot, as he did buy into the Mudblood stuff when he was young, making friend with awful Slytherin people, causing Lily to be alienated.  She proved to be an excellent judge of character.  Yes, Snape was a good double/triple agent for Dumbledore because of his remorse, but he was still mostly an awful person.  His jealousy/bitterness towards James infected everything ever since, including being on the wrong side of the Sirius story in Prisoner of Azkaban. 

Of course, Snape redeemed himself by sacrificing everything for the ghost of Lily, but he was not a good person otherwise.  Alan Rickman did a fantastic job, of course, capturing the complexity of the character.  And the character gave me one of my favorite lines at the start of Intro to IR: that a professor who spent a year in the Pentagon would teach Intro to IR is like Snape teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts.

When Realism is Unrealistic

One must always admire the Realists for their confidence* as they boldly state their preferred policy choices without much equivocation.  Me?  I am not uncertain about what the US and Europe should do in the Ukrainian crisis.  I don't see giving arms to Ukraine to materially change the situation on the ground--Russia has plenty more it can throw at Ukraine and Ukraine is not bereft of military hardware.  On the other hand, there is something to be said for increasing the costs.

Anyhow, this post is about the confidence confident men* who call themselves Realists.  John Mearsheimer has an op-ed in today's NYT, pleading that the US should not arm Ukraine.**  I tend to agree that arming Ukraine would not really do that much.  But as others have pointed out, there are some key contradictions such as the supposedly existential threat facing Russia despite its nukes.  I have wondered about the stability-instability paradox--that strategic nuclear deterrence might free up folks to use force at lower levels.  Why is it that this is only an opportunity for Putin and not for the West?

The big policy proposal is what has drawn most of my ire: "the West should seek to make Ukraine a neutral buffer state between Russia and NATO... like Austria during the Cold War."  Yes, Ukraine should be treated like a hunk of the defeated power?  While I agree that NATO expansion to Ukraine was and remains a bad idea, the neutrality of Ukraine happens to partially reside in Ukraine's hands.  The country can choose to lean West and join various partnerships even if it is not invited to join NATO.  After losing a significant hunk to Russia via Crimea and after paying a steep cost in lives and money due to Russia's war in the supposedly separatist regions, it is hard to see how any Ukrainian politician in the future could do anything but lean west.  Neutral?  Only kind of, sort of.  Buffer?  Only if Ukraine is denied agency.  Not only does its domestic politics come into play here, but the day that Great Powers can impose their will like this is mostly gone.  Hence this tweet last night:

"It is essential that Russia help end the fighting in eastern Ukraine and that Kiev regain control over that region."  Sure, sure.  "Help" since this suggests that the separatists have heaps of agency.  Hmm, agency for the separatists but not for the state fighting them?

The truly strange thing about all of this is that it ignores a key reality that I referred to earlier: that alliance dynamics are different in a nuclear world.  Why is Russia so concerned with "buffer" states and a Ukraine that is not in its orbit if Russia's security is assured by its nuclear weapons?  It is not so much a Ukraine in NATO that threatens Putin, but a genuinely democratic Ukraine that is outside of Russia's dominance that seems to be the key.  This all happened after a regime change in Kiev with NATO membership not a realistic possibility anytime in the near to medium future.  Only those with Ukrainian immigrants were yammering for NATO membership (Canada/US).   Ah, there is domestic politics again.  Why should regime change matter to a Realist?  Since it did not portend a sudden inclusion into NATO, its meaning might be something else.  But that would be operating in places that old time Realists know not--domestic politics.

*  Men?  Yes, there are women who consider them realists, but the real Realists have much nostalgia for the old boys clubs of the past.   
** Seems strange that for all of the complaining that Mearsheimer does about being ignored in 2003 during the Iraq invasion debate and how "marginalized" he has been as a result that he would still bother to write op-eds like this.  After all, secret lobbies and lying politicians and all that.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fun and Games with Evaluations

Lots of profs spent this morning playing online.  Why?  There is a new tool out there that scrapes date from Rate My Prof so that one can see how various words are used to describe professors.  The major punchline, of course, is that students provide different words when they describe female profs than male profs.  Which is not really that new, but appalling as it is illustrated so dynamically.  See the NYT story that describes the data and has the tool available.

The fun and games comes in largely when comparing disciplines.  One can enter a word or a two word phrase and see how the disciplines compare and how wide a split there is between comments used for men and women.

Before discussing specific results, I should note a couple of biases in the data: Rate My Prof is purely voluntary so it tends to get the students who are most pleased or displeased.  Why post a meh/moderate rating when one can simply do something else on the web?  The other bias is we should have more reviews of men than women in many fields due to the reality that many disciplines are still male-dominated.  For instance, in just the study of International Relations, the numbers are roughly 70-30, at least according to the latest round of TRIP data.  I am working with the Canadian TRIP data right now--the American/UK/World (those places where TRIP has surveyed) range between 65% and 70% male.

Anyhow, the least surprising result, aside from gender, may have been that Political Science profs get reviewed as biased the most.  Why?  Are poli sci profs more liberal?  According to these reviews, they are.  But it is probably more the case that Political Science profs are viewed as more liberal and more biased because we talk about politics, where our students have strong opinions and where our expertise is not as respected.  Which might explain why we are also seen as arrogant (males far more than females).*  The interesting thing is that political science profs also get labeled as smart by more students.
* Hat tip to Mathis Lohaus (@mathislohaus) for pointing out arrogant to me.

We are not seen as especially silly.  We are far down when it comes to stressful (almost gender parity on that one).  In the middle on hard and funny. We are in the top ten on boring, far ahead of accounting and math and the like, which seems strange to me.  Strangely, political scientists are also near the top on sexy with men getting this label far more than women.  So, this is a boring but sexy discipline?  Oh, and a dynamic one (although far fewer times mentioned). 

To be sure, there are probably some extreme selection effects in play.  But one can play with adjectives for hours and compare disciplines.  Which one is seen as smelly?  Strange?  Obsolete?  Geriatric?  Enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Holy NAC D Ministerial!

A NAC D Ministerial is a meeting of the Defence Ministers (SecDef in US case) of the members of NATO.  If I remember correctly, the NAC D meets twice a year.  While the leadup requires heaps of work by folks on the Joint Staff and OSD in the US (I took part in this fun prep in 2001-2002) to prepare talking points, these meetings (as far as I can recall) were not times for significant policy changes to be announced.

This time... wow!  For folks underwhelmed by the decisions announced at the Wales Summit last fall, this NAC D might just be a bit more impressive.  There is more specificity about the Very High Readiness Force (I am a skeptic on that one--see below), but more critically, there was an annoucment of six command and control units to be established along NATO's frontier with Russia: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. 

This represents a sea change as some members resisted doing anything that might be seen as permanent deployments to those countries closest to Russia.  Now, this modest effort--they are to facilitate rapid deployments but are not themselves big movements of troops--is quite significant, suggesting that Germany (an obstacle last fall) and others have realized that provoking the bear is probably a lesser issue than reassuring the allies and deterring the bear.  The passage of time has made it far clearer to Merkel and to other hestitant leaders in Europe that Putin is not going away anytime too soon, that the increase in Russian planes overflying NATO countries and other provocative acts are not going to slow down.  This means that NATO needs to do what was previously resisted.

The Georgia stuff?  Meh.  More talk, but don't expect Georgia entering NATO soon.  There is still much resistance to extending Article V security guarantees to a country that few in NATO will want to defend.

Back to the Very High Readiness Force: how can such a force be able to move within 48 hours if it includes troops that require legislative approval before deploying?  I am headed to Berlin in a few weeks for a conference, so I will be asking the folks there.  In April, I am going to Belgium for a conference and for some research, but I will make time to go over to NATO HQ to ask this question.  For now, I am just confused.

The clearest part of this NAC D is that there is now a stronger consensus that NATO has a role in reassuring the allies closest to Russia. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Can We Legislate Against Love?

Harvard has finally decided to create a policy that prohibits profs from having sex with undergrads.  My first reaction was: how about the same policy with grad students?  Not so far, I guess.  I was at a place where a prof slept with multiple grad students, and it created a toxic environment for everyone.  I was at another place where the attempts by one prof every few years to sleep with grad students amped up the stress for those in the know and especially for the prof's targets.

Often, the response to such policy proposals is: hey, you cannot legislate against love.  Consenting adults should be able to do what they want.  Well, in my academic travels, it has not been about love but exploitation.  But, let's say a prof falls in love/infatuation with a student.  Then wait.  Have a little responsibility and wait until they graduate.  If it is love, then you can wait.  If it is true love, then wait until you can get out of your Pirate contract, go through the Fire Swamp and declare True Wove.

But kind of like the vax thing, one has an impact on those around, even if there is consent. So, be responsible.  And if you are not responsible, be fired.

Holy Jointness, Batman!

I spent yesterday at a conference at the University of New Brunswick where most of the audience came from the Combat Training Centre at nearby Gagetown. The theme was jointness--the Canadian Army operating with others: Navy, Air Force, allies, government agencies.  I was presenting my take on Canada and NATO, which I will summarize a bit below.  But what did I learn?

Well, it was my second time here for this conference, so I didn't explore Fredericton this time (too cold, just one day, not a large downtown to explore).  But I still learned much from the various presentations.

I learned that some historians can be great presenters.  Lee Windsor and Marc Milner are not the historians that show up at Poli Sci conferences and read their papers in monotone.  Both were quite dynamic and had interesting things to say about the conventional "accusational" historical account of WWII operations.

Lee argued that Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, was not the semi-failure that it has been portrayed as being.  Yes, the Germans did manage to move much of their equipment and many of their troops to Italy.  However, that was the stuff that got to the tip of the island, with the rest being blown up by the allies.  More importantly, the objective of Husky was not to destroy the German troops there, but to get Italy out of the Axis, which it did.  This forced Germany to reinforce the entire southern part of Europe, since the Italians were out of it.  This dispersion impacted the defense of northern France as well as the Russian front.  Lee also argued that Patton and Monty had a better relationship and mutual respect than usually advertised.  My only response: but George C. Scott seemed mighty miffed!  But I have not read the after action reports that Patton wrote.

Marc focused on the Normandy campaign--that for whatever bickering about how slow Monty moved, so much of the invasion was a success of joint planning and operating
  • the Navy did what it said it was going to do--take out the heavy guns behind the beaches, not the fortifications on the beaches.
  • that much of the invasion went off well because there had been significant practice and planning between Army and Navy..... well, on the British and Canadian sides.  Perhaps Omaha didn't work out so well because the Americans started their planning later.
  • that the Canadians got a key role to play that has been lost to history until Marc's new book: Stopping the Panzers.  That the Canadians had one of the most capable units, staffed with heaps of armor and put in the spot where the Panzers would be most likely to try to disrupt the invasion.  And it happened--the Panzers came at the Canadian armor and were defeated.  Looking forward to reading the book.
  • Marc taught me how to promote a book, as he sold all of the copies brought there that day.
My panel included a former CIDA (Canadian aid) person and a Canadian general who had been working within the US 10th Mountain Division when it moved into Kandahar.  It was interesting to hear a CIDA person talk since they are almost always prohibited from speaking.  Which means that we (meaning me as well as other folks) tend to be critical, dismissive, and otherwise not entirely fair to the poor folks who worked at a reluctant, over-centralized and PR-deaf agency. She made a good argument about how good development and good counter-insurgency practices are not necessarily in conflict.  The general was surprisingly brief--one non-fancy slide--with a quick tour of the lessons of living life large (the US does everything big).

I presented a briefer version of this:that we cannot wish away the dynamic that inherent in NATO and that there are also domestic political dynamics that will always be present in some form.

I am sorry that I could not stick around for a second day, as there are a variety of panels on COIN.  It was nice to meet both the senior officers who attended, including some rumint on the CDS's career plans, and the junior officers who are the future of the CF.  As always, this event is incredibly male-dominated in the audience--female infantry officers exist but are rare.  The panels were not as male dominated, thankfully.

Oh, one last lesson: if you cannot get thru to Air Canada when you plane is cancelled, complain on twitter.  I was able to get a new flight via the AC twitter folks. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Best Ever?

Lots of columns this week about Tom Brady being the best QB ever, but it is so hard to compare across time.  Why?   Because the game is easier and harder than it was a while back, and it is not clear which matters more.

How is football easier?  The rules have changed to facilitate offense as offense is more exciting and as making football nominally safer has meant less (but still plenty) danger for receivers in the middle of the field and QBs being rushed.  While Brady has been hit hard over his career, lineman cannot tee off against him (at least the past several seasons) compared to what they did in the 80s against Montana and his contemporaries. 

How is football harder?  The defenses are bigger, faster, smarter.  The salary cap means that it is hard to keep talented teams together.  There is less continuity as a result.  In the 80s and early 90s, you can have a few teams dominate year in and year out with huge Super Bowl wins--the 'Skins, 49ers and Cowboys (and Giants here and there).  These days, repeating is really hard, and there is less dominance in the Super Bowls--each Pats SB was decided by 4 points or less. 

Does that make Brady more dependent on luck than Montana?  Maybe. 

I am reluctant to call the QB of one of my favorite teams the best ever since I am very aware of recency bias and I am very aware that Brady could be 6-0 or 1-5 in Super Bowls, depending on the lucky plays in key moments.  On the other hand, Brady did go 13 for 15 in the 4th quarter against one of the best defenses, even if it was a bit roughed up.  A few weeks after coming back from two 14 point deficits....   Of course, they got into bad spots because of his mistakes and those of others.   Hmmmm.

The conclusion--Brady is damned good even if he cannot complete the long pass anymore.  Anything else is far less clear.

The Politics of Insanity or The GOP Goes Derping for Anti-Vax Votes

I wrote a couple of posts over the weekend venting about the anti-vax movement, as it is leading to the return of preventable diseases.  I then saw stories about Chris Christie and Rand Paul taking dumb stands on vaccination, pandering to the anti-vax crowd. 

What is going on?  The vast majority of Americans of either party support vaccinations.  However, people in the two parties are moving in opposite directions with more Democrats favoring vaccinations and fewer Republicans doing so--still at 65% or so.

Perhaps the best pithy diagnosis of this is by Howard Dean, who is a doctor as well as a prominent Democrat:
Howard Dean, a presidential candidate in 2004 and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said there are three groups of people who object to required vaccines: “One is people who are very much scared about their kids getting autism, which is an idea that has been completely discredited. Two, is entitled people who don’t want to put any poison in their kids and view this as poison, which is ignorance more than anything else. And three, people who are antigovernment in any way.”
The last line explains why the anti-vaxxers tend to be people on the far left and far right.  If these focus are fringe, why are the GOP candidates pandering to them?  Because the American primary process, especially in the Republican Party, means playing to the base and particularly to those in the base who are most passionate and turn out.  Pro-vaxxers are not going to vote on that issue.  But anti-vaxxers?  Absolutely.  This leads to outbidding--that the GOP candidates will compete with each other to be the most suspicious of government.  Lovely.

On the other side?  Perhaps Hillary Clinton is not so worried about being outflanked:
I have seen some stuff lately indicating that the most conservative candidates cannot win the primary (Huckabee?), but that ignores the reality that all GOP candidates get pushed further to the right by the outbidding dynamics.  So, the most Conservative may not win, but anyone who does will have to establish a record of being very Conservative, which, ironically, means pursuing policies that are actually not conservative.  Conservative usually means sticking with the tried and true, the old policies that seemed to work in the past.  What fits that category better than vaccines?