Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Foxes, hedgehogs, and the study of international relations
When we last left off, we were discussing Louis Menand's New Yorker review of Philip Tetlock's Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?.
In his review, Menand highlights an interesting observation by Tetlock on who did better at predicting world political events.
It was no news to Tetlock... that experts got beaten by formulas. But he does believe that he discovered something about why some people make better forecasters than other people. It has to do not with what the experts believe but with the way they think. Tetlock uses Isaiah Berlin’s metaphor from Archilochus, from his essay on Tolstoy, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” to illustrate the difference. He says:I'll need to read the book to see the methodology by which Tetlock distinguished hedgehogs from foxes, but let's assume that his finding is correct. What does this imply for the study of international relations?Low scorers look like hedgehogs: thinkers who “know one big thing,” aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains, display bristly impatience with those who “do not get it,” and express considerable confidence that they are already pretty proficient forecasters, at least in the long term. High scorers look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things (tricks of their trade), are skeptical of grand schemes, see explanation and prediction not as deductive exercises but rather as exercises in flexible “ad hocery” that require stitching together diverse sources of information, and are rather diffident about their own forecasting prowess.A hedgehog is a person who sees international affairs to be ultimately determined by a single bottom-line force: balance-of-power considerations, or the clash of civilizations, or globalization and the spread of free markets. A hedgehog is the kind of person who holds a great-man theory of history, according to which the Cold War does not end if there is no Ronald Reagan. Or he or she might adhere to the “actor-dispensability thesis,” according to which Soviet Communism was doomed no matter what. Whatever it is, the big idea, and that idea alone, dictates the probable outcome of events. For the hedgehog, therefore, predictions that fail are only “off on timing,” or are “almost right,” derailed by an unforeseeable accident. There are always little swerves in the short run, but the long run irons them out.
Potentially a lot -- from my vantage point, the incentives in the IR discipline are heavily skewed towards the hedgehogs. Methodologically, the growing sophistication of formal, statistical, and even qualitative techniques make it increasingly difficult for any one scholar to keep up their abilities in more than one area. Professionally, our field rewards the hedgehogs, the ones who come up with "the big idea" that can explain it all. As a result, my field has a lot of hedgehogs, which means that we may not be of much use when it comes to policy relevance.
Is this a bad thing? I'm sure that many commenters will instinctively say, "yeah!" but it's not so clear cut. First, if the point of the academy is to nourish unpopular but important ideas, then it's a good thing we have a lot of hedgehogs, because every once in a while they will produce the kind of insight that helps to understand Really Big Truths.
Second, asking IR scholars for accurate predictions about the future might be like asking meterologists for an accurate weather forecast three months ahead. That's impossible -- there are just too many variables. It might be that what political scientists do best is not predicting future events but rather explaining the past and present in a way that provides limited but useful insights into the very near future.
Third, there are think tanks for the kind of expert predictions discussed in Tetlock's book. It's true that think tanks have their own perversities, but perhaps the best thing to do is fix them rather than the academy.
Despite those counterarguments, I think a few more IR foxes might be a good idea. [Good idea! Did you know Salma Hayek will be co-hosting the Nobel Peace Prize Concert on December 10th?--ed. That's not who I meant by foxes. Oh.... did you mean Angelina Jolie's work as a United Nations ambassador?--ed. No, and you're not helping right now.]
I'll leave this question to the commenters.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Who needs experts?
Louis Menand has a glowing review in the New Yorker of Philip Tetlock's latest opus, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?. Some highlights:
It is the somewhat gratifying lesson of Philip Tetlock’s new book... that people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a mistake. No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people, but the experts are being paid, and Tetlock claims that the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be. The accuracy of an expert’s predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and, beyond a certain point, depth of knowledge. People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote. Our system of expertise is completely inside out: it rewards bad judgments over good ones....There are intriguing implications for understanding world politics that deserves a post of their own, but suffice it to say that Tetlock's findings will probably warm the cockles of every political blogger out there.
Your Schumpeter quote of the day
Early in life I had three ambitions. I wanted to be the greatest economist in the world, the greatest horseman in Austria, and the best lover in Vienna. Well, I never became the greatest horseman in Austria.Courtesy of Irwin Stezler.
GM: it's about more than legacy costs
Sean Gregory asks a useful question in Time: if the problems at GM are symptomatic of American manufacturing writ large, then why are foreign auto firms doing so well in the United States?
According to the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), the number of manufacturing jobs created by foreign-based automakers in the U.S. has risen 72% since 1993, to about 60,000. (The Big Three currently account for around 240,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S., down from 340,000 in 1993.) The Asian companies have grown the fastest. Toyota, which plans to overtake GM soon as the world's largest automaker, has 11 U.S. plants and expects to open a truck factory in San Antonio, Texas, in 2006. European brands, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are also growing. CAR estimates that foreign automakers operating in the U.S. add 1.8 million jobs to the American economy, including white-collar, dealership and supplier positions--from partsmakers to the bartenders at post-whistle watering holes.Click here for a CAR report on the contribution of foreign automakers to the U.S. economy.
The withdrawal question
I was on NPR's News & Notes with Ed Gordon this morning to discuss the ifs and the whens of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (click on the link to listen). The other talking head was Laurence Korb from the Center for American Progress. Larry has forgotten a lot more about the U.S. military than I've ever learned, so I'm not sure how much value I added to the conversation.
Larry and I agreed that the question is not whether there will be a withdrawal of troops, but when and how. My take was similar to Fred Kaplan's:
The signs are clear, in any case, that a substantial withdrawal—or redeployment—is at hand. Top U.S. military officers have been privately warning for some time that current troop levels in Iraq cannot be sustained for another year or two without straining the Army to the breaking point. Rep. John Murtha's agenda-altering Nov. 17 call for an immediate redeployment was not only a genuine cri de coeur but also, quite explicitly, a public assertion of the military's institutional interests—and an acknowledgment of Congress' electoral interests.Here's Throughout the conversation Larry was pushing this September proposal he co-authored with Brian Katulis on a "strategic redeployment" of U.S. forces from Iraq.
My take is a little different -- why not wait for the newly-elected Iraqi government to ask for our phased departure? If U.S. forces are as unpopular in Iraq as Korb and others claim, any elected government would exploit that resentment to boost their popularity and legitimacy. Asking for a withdrawal, and having the Americans respond to that request rather than setting up their own schedule without any consultation whatsoever, would also boost the government's legitimacy.
So, my question to Korb and others is -- why not wait a month for the Iraqis to ask us to do what everyone across the American political spectrum wants us to do anyway?
Monday, November 28, 2005
Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad is off his medication again
Since he took office earlier this year, the militance of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad has alienated many of his natural supporters in Iran.
If you think his prior statements have made some question his sanity, however, wait until people read this Financial Times story by Gareth Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr:
A leading website in Iran has published a transcript and video recording of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad claiming to have felt “a light” while addressing world leaders at the United Nations in New York in September. Baztab.com – a website linked to Mohsen Rezaei, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards – said the recording was made in a meeting between the president and Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli, one of Iran’s leading Shia Muslim clerics.The staff here at danieldrezner.com confirms that its eyes and ears will definitely be staying open whenever Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad decides to say something.
The FT Morphs into the Onion
An actual headline in the Financial Times:
Readers are hereby encouraged to suggest the subhead that would do the best job at providing a concrete example buttressing that headline. My suggestion: "Proposes International No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament to Allocate Agricultural Subsidies."
[Does the FT provide any evidence of flair?--ed. According to John Authers:
Unlike many other Mexican technocrats, Mr Gurría also has great personal skills and should be a flamboyant leader for the OECD. He also has links with the European media as a former director of Recoletos in Spain.[Zzzzzzz--ed. Yeah, I know. Flair might have been the wrong word choice here.]
Bush needs economists
Daniel Altman had a piece in yesterday's New York Times on the dearth of economists willing to work for the Bush administration:
The chairmanship of the Council of Economic Advisers will soon be vacant, and two spots on the Federal Reserve Board that were recently filled by academic economists already are. There is no assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy, and the director's chair at the Congressional Budget Office, currently occupied by Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, will soon be empty, too.Niskanen goes on to take quite a few shots at the administration. However, the most interesting observation came in these paragraphs:
"It has been true, typically speaking, that Republican administrations have found it harder to find senior, more prominent academic economists for the C.E.A. members and chairman than have Democratic administrations," said Michael L. Mussa, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, who was a member of the council during President Reagan's second term.I'd be curious to hear from economists whether this last assertion is factually correct.
What would be even more interesting is whether the political affiliation precedes the academic specialization or vice versa. One would expect macroeconomists, for example, to be more skeptical of markets -- in their bailiwick, unemployment is a persistent phenomenon, suggesting that markets do not always clear. Microeconomists, on the other hand, are more intimately familiar with the perverse effects of government intervention in markets.
So, does the political ideology redetermine the subfield, or does the subfield alter one's ideology?
Sunday, November 27, 2005
With the exception of a lovely Atlantic profile of Sam Huntngton, I've never really cared for most of Robert D. Kaplan's writings. I fear that part of this is born out of petty jealousy. Kaplan has my dream job, a bewitching mélange of travel writer and analyst of world politics. It's as if P.J. O'Rourke had given up writing to entertain and instead tried writing for policy elites -- and then those policy elites actually took him seriously. Part of it is more substantial, however. According to numerous accounts, Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts and its "ancient hatreds" thesis convinced Bill Clinton not to intervene in Bosnia during the earlier years of his presidency.
Well, now I'm jealous of David Lipsky. In today's New York Times Book Review, Lipsky does a number on Robert D. Kaplan's latest book, Imperial Grunts -- and, by extension, Kaplan's entire body of work. The good parts:
[T]he book goes to pieces immediately. The first problem is headgear. Kaplan's got both his hats on at the same time, and the travel writer (who likes flavors and vistas) keeps barging in. "Who here was Al Qaeda? I asked myself, licking my fingers after devouring a greasy chicken in a sidewalk restaurant filled with armed youngsters." The next one is my favorite: "We were suddenly going out on a nighttime hit of a compound just outside Gardez. There would be no time for the steak and shrimp dinner that had been prepared." And it's a shame such well-traveled eyes are welded between numb ears: Details are "grisly," murders are "gruesome"; you hear "faint" echoes but "shrill" cries; "chiseled" bodies cross "manicured" landscapes; troops become "hardened," resemblances grow "uncanny." Kaplan is trying for fine writing - literary special effects - but he doesn't resist the old grooves, and if a writer can't avoid stock expression, it suggests imprisonment at the conceptional level. Kaplan keeps getting into scrapes at the keyboard. "I wanted a visual sense of the socioeconomic stew in which Al Qaeda flourished." You smile in admiration, as at something rare, like a triple play; it's a double mixed metaphor....That last admission is pretty mind-boggling -- because more than six months after "The Coming Anarchy" came out, Kaplan had converted its central thesis into a book-length treatment, The Ends of the Earth -- which I reviewed and panned here.
[OK, smart guy, what about your own predictions?--ed. Maybe, just maybe, I've made a mistake or two. On the other hand, I was right about J. Lo!]
Friday, November 25, 2005
Al Qaeda has lost the Middle East
That's the basic thrust of this Economist article. The key paragraphs:
The global al-Qaeda franchise, whose Iraqi branch claimed responsibility for the Amman atrocity, has scored many own-goals over the years. The carnage in such Muslim cities as Istanbul, Casablanca, Sharm el-Sheikh and Riyadh has alienated the very Muslim masses the jihadists claim to be serving. By bringing home the human cost of such violence, they have even stripped away the shameful complacency with which the Sunni Muslim majority in other Arab countries has tended to regard attacks by Iraq's Sunni insurgent “heroes” against “collaborationist” Shia mosque congregations, funeral processions and police stations.All good news. Methinks the more controversial paragraphs are the following ones:
Noteworthy in all these subtle shifts is the fact that they are, by and large, internally generated. Few of them have come about as a result of prodding or policy initiatives from the West. On the contrary, the intrusion of foreign armies into Iraq, the consequent ugly spectacle of civilian casualties and torture, and the continuing agony of Palestine, have clearly slowed down the Arab public's response to the dangers posed by jihadism.The administration has consistently crticized the domestic opposition to the Iraq war effort because it ostensible undercuts troop morale. However, the suggestion that this same opposition helps to vitiate Arab claims of U.S. imperialism is an intriguing one.
I'll leave it to the readers to determine if this is also true.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Could be worse... could be in Harbin
Among the things to be thankful for this year -- my family does not live in Harbin, China. David Fickling explains in the Guardian:
Panic was today spreading in Harbin, with officials preparing to cut off water supplies as heavily polluted river water flowed towards the Chinese city.Of course, my thanks is tempered by the fact that 3.4 million people do live there.
A civil/military disconnect on Iraq?
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations, has released its latest poll on America's Place in the World:
This quadrennial study examines the foreign policy attitudes of state and local government officials, security and foreign affairs experts, military officers, news media leaders, university and think tank leaders, religious leaders, and scientists and engineers, along with the general public.There are two stark findings. First, there's been a strong turn towards an isolationist foreign policy:
As the Iraq war has shaken the global outlook of American influentials, it has led to a revival of isolationist sentiment among the general public. Fully 42% of Americans say the United States should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." This is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s after the Cold War ended.Second, there is a growing gap between civilian and military elites about the likelihood of success in Iraq. Here's the relevant table:
Is the military out of touch on this one? In his Los Angeles Times column today, Max Boot argues that perhaps the military agrees more with Iraqis than Americans:
[I]n a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse....[But James Fallows asserts in the Atlantic that Iraq doesn't really have a viable security force--ed. Yes, but David Adesnik points out that the overwheling focus of the Fallows piece is on the period prior to June 2004.]
Now if you want a different take on what's happening in Iraq right now, see Barrack Obama's latest speech.
My qusestion to readers -- who suffers from the greater delusions -- the military or civilian elites?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The difficulty of doing good on HIV/AIDS
Despite decreases in the rate of infection in certain countries, the overall number of people living with HIV has continued to increase in all regions of the world except the Caribbean. There were an additional five million new infections in 2005. The number of people living with HIV globally has reached its highest level with an estimated 40.3 million people, up from an estimated 37.5 million in 2003. More than three million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2005; of these, more than 500000 were children.David Greising has a front-pager in the Chicago Tribune about the efforts of Abbott Laboratories to help Tanzania cope with the AIDS epidemic. The story highlights the fact that this is not simply about access to cheap medicines:
For five years now, Abbott has worked with Tanzania's government to alleviate the impact of AIDS. The experience has taught the company that the biggest obstacles are less obvious, and less readily overcome, than getting drugs to the villages.
A data point for frozen turkeys
One of the fiercest debates among the staff here at danieldrezner.com about the Thanksgiving holiday is whether the convenience of purchasing a frozen turkey days in advance outweighs the added taste of cooking a fresh, unfrozen bird.
Angela Rozas has a story in the Chicago Tribune that highlights a heretofore unknown value of the frozen turkey -- in an emergency, it can save lives:
Mark Copsy saw the smoke inside the car, and watched as the vehicle careered into a curb in Northlake on Sunday afternoon. It took him only a moment to realize the horror--the car was on fire, and there were people inside. Copsy and his 12-year-old son ran the half-block to help.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Hmmm.. what's missing from this survey?
There are a lot of news stories (here's one from Silicon.com's Jo Best) out today on the latest Pew survey that shows search engines have become the second-most frequent online activity after e-mail. According to Pew's Lee Rainie:
These results from September 2005 represent a sharp increase from mid-2004. Pew Internet Project data from June 2004 show that use of search engines on a typical day has risen from 30% to 41% of the internet-using population, which itself has grown in the past year. This means that the number of those using search engines on an average day jumped from roughly 38 million in June 2004 to about 59 million in September 2005 - an increase of about 55%. comScore data, which are derived from a different methodology, show that from September 2004 to September 2005 the average daily use of search engines jumped from 49.3 million users to 60.7 million users -- an increase of 23%.Here's a link to the data memo in .pdf format. What I found most interesting was "the proportion of that daily population who are doing some well-known internet activities":
Email 77%Two thoughts -- first, this blog number is consistent with other recent surveys suggesting that not a large fraction of Americans are blog consumers.
Second, there's one very large invisible elephant in this survey. One obvious online activity was not included in the above list. See if you can guess what it is. [What is it?--ed.] Umm.... just guess. [Can you give the people a hint?--ed.] Ummm.... er.... Chapelle's Show had a hysterically funny skit about what people do when they're on the web that best captures this activity.
If search engines are more popular than that invisible elephant, then I'll start to disagree with Asymmetrical Information about Google's share price.
That old Iraqi nostalgia
Ellen Knickmeyer has a front-pager in the Washington Post about U.S. and Iraqi efforts to reconstitute the Iraqi army's junior officer corps with former officers from Saddam Hussein's army. Kinckmeyer's report suggests that this process is going pretty smoothly by Iraqi standards -- but it leads to some very bizarre scenes:
Clad in the olive-green uniform of old, his heart rising to the sound of the lilting march to which he once went to war for President Saddam Hussein, Sgt. Bashar Fathi, a veteran of Iraq's once-elite Republican Guard, watched Iraqi tanks trundle across a parade ground recently -- just as they once swept across the sands of Kuwait.[Er... isn't the reliance on former army people a bad thing in terms of democratizing Iraq?--ed. It's been a while since I've perused the comparative politics literature on this, but if memory serves there has never been a successful occupation or revolution that did not rely on the cooperation of the prior regime's technocrats. It's just a fact of life.]
Saturday, November 19, 2005
The new American negotiating gambit towards Iran
The Financial Times reports that the United States has made a new concession over Iran's ambiguous nuclear program:
In a major concession towards Iran's nuclear programme, the US on Friday gave its public backing to a proposal by Russia and the European Union that would allow the Islamic republic to develop part of the nuclear fuel cycle on its own territory.Having the Russians monitor Iran's WMD program strikes me as the IR equivalent of having Chivas Regal sponsoring an AA meeting [Or having you chaperoning Salma Hayek's dates!--ed.]. So why the switch in policy? I see three possible explanations in the FT article:
1) The U.S. doesn't like the end-game options on Iran and is trying to stall as long as possible;I'm pretty sure the answer is not #3. And undesirable end games haven't stopped this administration from not compromising in the past. So my vote is for #2 -- the best way to deal with an unreasonable negotiating partner on the international stage is to convince everyone in the audience of that fact before taking more forceful action.
The Guardian's Simon Tisdall and Ewen MacAskill have some reporting to suggest that most Iranians -- including the all-powerful clerics -- now agree with the "unreasonable" label (link via Andrew Sullivan):
Iran is facing political paralysis as its newly elected president purges government institutions, bringing accusations that he is undertaking a coup d'Ã©tat.The Bush administration has blunted that last problem. The interesting question is how Ahmadi-Nejad will react.
UPDATE: Tim Worstall is more optimistic than I am about the intrinsic value of the proposed deal:
What we're all worried about is Iran building a bomb. We really don't care if they make low enriched uranium for a reactor. So, if the enrichment is going to take place elsewhere (assuming we trust the Russians) then we can know that they are indeed only getting the low enriched, the stuff that doesn't go bang.Two things -- 1) I don't trust the Russians when it comes to Middle East politics; and 2) according to the FT story, the reprocessing would take place in a Russian plant "under part-Iranian management." That doesn't make me feel any better either.
The more I think about it, the more obvious it is that we are going to have to learn to live with the ghastly prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The idea of 'taking out' Iran's nuclear facilities is a fantasy, and it is a dangerous fantasy in that it is a substitute for real thought. Sanctions are unlikely to do much (who will support them?) and the long-waited Iranian revolution never quite seems to materialize. As a practical matter, of course, the real nightmare is not that Iran will start launching nuclear missiles at anyone (despite all the overheated rhetoric), but that elements in the regime will be tempted to hand over nuclear materials to terrorist groups who share their ideology but cannot be linked to any one state. Do that, and the usual rules of deterrence do not apply.Admittedly, stories like this VOA one buttress Stuttaford's point about the radical nature of the Iranian regime. And Stuttsford is making the same end-game point I've made before.
However, I'm slightly more optimistic for three reasons: 1) It's not clear how far along Iran has gone in its nuclear program (click here as well); 2) As stated above, Ahmadi-Nejad is the perfect kind of leader to cause greater cooperation among the other nuclear powers; and 3) Ahmadi-Nejad might just be the perfect kind of leader to provoke a mass revolt.
I guess I'm extinct then....
I have long recognized that that the Republican party has become a less friendly place over the years for a libertarian who nonetheless wants the government to function well in its limited capacity.
However, I think over the past few years we've gone from "unfriendly" to "pretty damn hostile"" Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias, in their inimitable ways, suggest that I can't find a single Republican congressman who wants the things I want.
There are no moderate Republicans. If there were moderate Republicans, those would be members of the Republican Party who had moderate views on policy questions. A person with moderate views on policy questions would have been regularly defecting from the extremist-led leadership in such years as 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005 as the aforementioned leadership pushed crazy bill after crazy bill throgh the congress. But there aren't any Republican members of the House of Representatives who fit that description. What you saw this afternoon were vulnerable Republicans running scared from an increasingly unpopular GOP leadership.Well, I actually kind of like certain "extremist" Republican positions, such as drilling in ANWR, proposing school vouchers, and cutting budgets.
The thing is, I also like stem cell research and oppose dumb-ass Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. And, as Sullivan points out, I'm dreaming of a null set:
In theory, it should be possible for a Republican to be both socially moderate, fiscally conservative, and dedicated to the fight against Islamo-fascism. That's, broadly speaking, my position. But one reason I feel no real connection to today's GOP is that there are almost no people in that position in the party as it now stands. The most reliable fiscal conservative, Tom Coburn, is a rabid gay-hater and a theocon. It's simply a fact that, as a RedState blogger points out, not a single Republican Senator who opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment voted for the Coburn Amendment, and not a single Republican Senator who co-sponsored the latest stem cell research bill voted for the Coburn Amendment. The kind of conservatism I believe in no longer really exists in the Congress of the United States.... McCain is the best we've got, and God bless him. But it's also undeniable that he has deep suspicions of economic freedom, and often sees the need for government to intervene in all sorts of areas - steroids in sports, for example, - where government, in my view, has no role whatever. Does that mean that social inclusives and fiscal conservatives should despair? I hope not. There are glimmers of hope among fiscally conservative Democrats. A McCain-led GOP would be vastly preferable to a Bush-led one. But these are dark days for individual freedom and fiscal sanity in America, and it's no use pretending otherwise.Sounds pretty despairing to me. Especially when Republican representatives start accusing decorated veterans of "cowardice".
Friday, November 18, 2005
So I see there's an article in Slate....
You know you've reached a new and bizarre degree of "fame" when you read an article that features you prominently.... even though you were never contacted by the author prior to publication.
I'm talking about Robert Boynton's article in Slate on the perils and promise of scholar-bloggers. A few corrections and clarifications for those wandering over here from that story.
First, let me stress yet again that I have never said that the blog cost me tenure. My information on this front is imperfect, but rest assured that whenever more than twenty senior academics are meeting about anything, there are myriad, obscure, and frequently bizarre factors involved in any decision. Click here for more about that.
Second, although it's a great ending for Boynton's essay, the Fletcher School did not find out about my tenure denial from the blog. That said, a lot of other places did find out that way, and I did get a very healthy number of queries through the blog.
Third, I agree with Eric Alterman that having three Stanford degrees and a forthcoming Princeton University Press book is "good, but hardly sufficient" for tenure at the University of Chicago. In my own defense, though, I have a wee bit more than that under my scholarly belt.
I am grateful to Boynton for the kind words in this paragraph:
Boynton goes on to point out the basic conundrum of how to count blogging -- even if the output is high quality, what is the external and replicable measurement through which this is assessed?
Should blogging count in some way? I don't know. I think my blogging makes me a better researcher. If I'm right, it has its own rewards. And I don't think that any blog post approximates a review article in any way -- if they did, they would be a lot less interesting!Let me suggest that there are two issues that are conflated in the story. First, there is the idea of a blog as an output for public discourse, a la op-eds and the like. On that score, blogging counts as a form of service and not much else.
Second, there is the idea that academic blogs facilitate better scholarship by encouraging online interactions about research ideas. Take, for example, this exchange between Marc Lynch, myself, and others about whether international relations theory is slighting the study of Al Qaeda, or this exchange between Erik Gartzke and R.J. Rummel about the root causes of the liberal democratic capitalist peace. Even better, the private responses I received to a post on trade-related intellectual property rights facilitated my own research efforts in that area. This sort of thing happens off-line as well, but the blog format is exceedingly well-suited for enhancing and expanding this kind of interaction. In this sense, blogs may very well supplant the old practice of having exchanges of letters in journals.
Should it count for anything? As Hawks points out, it should lead to better research anyway, which should get recognized by the traditional standards.
So I'm pretty sure that the contribution of blogs to academic output can be measured using pre-existing standards -- with one exception and one caveat. The exception is that maybe the whole of an academic blog is greater than the sum of its parts. Precisely because a blog can contribute to public discourse, scholarly research, and teaching pedagogy at the same time, it encourages a greater mkix of ideas and information than would otherwise be possible. Whether this is true I will leave for the commenters.
The caveat is that even if blogging can be counted via conventional means, there is no indication that academic units will do so. As I've said before, academics are a very conservative bunch in many ways, so the idea that blogs should count for a plus will take a long time to seep in. For the present moment, my hope is that blogs do not count against you.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Not a good sign for Russia
One of the standard lines of criticism about Council on Foreign Relations task forces/reports/working groups is that the desire to product nonpartisan output can water down CFR foreign policy analysis and recommendations. There might, just might, be a grain of truth to that charge every now and then.
So it's pretty damn telling that Jack Kemp and John Edwards, the co-chairs of the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, sent a letter to President Bush that was pretty damn explicit in terms of concern about Russia's new law regulating NGOs. Here's how it opens:
Dear Mr. President:Developing....
India decides to welcome FDI
Jo Johnson reports in the Financial Times that the Indian government is about to make some major changes in its rules about foreign direct investment:
India's Communist-backed government will on Thursday afternoon consider a sweeping liberalisation of foreign direct investment rules that would kick start a long-stalled programme of economic reforms.UPDATE: Tim Harford has an update suggesting that FDI liberalization on't be preceding as planned.
Putting on the foil? Read this first.
"On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study", by Ali Rahimi, Ben Recht, Jason Taylor, and Noah Vawter. The abstract:
Hat tip to The American Interest's Dan Kennelly for the link.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
So much for the WSIS running the Internet
Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit.Of course, a second AP report suggests that things aren't completely hunky-dory among the WSIS participants:
Publicly, officials were positive on the agreement, noting that it brought together government, business and civil leaders to work out issues surrounding Internet governance.Should the EU really feel like it achieved something? Simon Taylor provides some details of the agreement:
The current system where ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is responsible for day-to-day management decisions concerning the internet will remain in place, Selmayr said.Consultation is a pretty thin reed to claim victory -- but I suppose for the EU its better than nothing.
That last bolded part offers the first instrumental motivation for the EU's behavior that I've seen. Until now, I've mostly seen analyses that echo Laurence Lessig:
The largest cause of this rift is European distrust of the United States. It's not particularly related to the Internet. The Europeans are eager to stand up to the Americans, and that I think has been produced by the last five years of U.S. foreign policy. It's not really a cyberlaw problem....My guess is that the EU acted as it did for both sets of reasons. The symbolic reasons explain the surprisingly public nature of the dispute.
As for the U.S., it maintained its primary objective, to ensure that the WSIS -- really the International Telecommunications Union -- has as little say as possible in any important dimension of Internet governance.
And amen to that.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
We may be experiencing technical difficulties
Sometime in the next 24 hours I'll be making a few upgrades to the site, including but not limited to an upgrade of Movable Type from the prehistoric version I currently use.
UPDATE: OK, looks like things are coming back on line -- let me know if you like the (mild) redesign
A weird week in the blogosphere
So there's been some positive developments for the credibility of bloggers. For example, Andrew Sullivan announced that he will be moving his blog to Time's website. Congrats to Andrew.
In other positive blog news, Harvard history graduate student Rebecca Anne Goetz has an excellent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the synergies between blogging and the academy:
On the other hand, there's also a lot of weird blogosphere versions of those multiple car accidents that you think are just horrible but can't help looking at anyway.
I don't want to call any more attention to them than already exists, so I'll just tell you to click over to this Rob Capriccioso story at Inside Higher Ed on one ugly academic blog brawl, [UPDATE: Tim Burke has the best assessment of this particular brouhaha] and this New York Times column by David Carr about what happens when Gawker gawks at the wrong topic. And then go take a shower.
Oh, and I'll state for the record that I'm less than thrilled with the decision by Pajamas Media to have Judy Miller give the keynote address at the big launch. I'm even less thrilled to have to agree with Kos that this is not an auspicious beginning.
How much worrying about nonproliferation is justified?
Ben Bain reports in the Financial Times that the 9/11 Commission is not thrilled with U.S. nonproliferation efforts:
[Nuclear proliferation sounds worrisome--ed.] Well, the nexus between terrorist groups and nukes should be a source of concern. On the other hand, over at the Foreign Policy website, however, Jacques E. C. Hymans argues that the problem is not quite as big as Kean is claiming:
[But rogue states are still a source of concern, right?--ed.] Hymans makes a provocative point on this front:
[Yeah, but surely we should worry about Iran, right?--ed.] Well, yes, but how much to worry is a question that's still subject to debate. Just as worrisome is what Kevin Drum has pointed out -- the U.S. can't convince other countries on its own to care:
[At last, something to worry about!!--ed.]
Monday, November 14, 2005
My personal apologies to Mitchell Hurwitz
After having digested the first twelve episodes -- and still laughing about them 48 hours later -- I feel I owe an apology to creator Mitchell Hurwitz. I clearly belong to a large swath of viewers who would have enjoyed the show and yet mysteriously chose not to view it when it counted. My only defense is that a large groups of us have small children, and by the end of the weekend have little energy for anything more sophisticated than My Mother, the Car.
Why the show failed to merit any coverage by the Television Without Pity people, however, is beyond me.
Sorry, man -- we let you down.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Why aren't IR scholars paying more attention to Al Qaeda?
Marc Lynch, blogging at Abu Aardvark, says that international relations journals aren't paying enough attention to Al Qaeda:
Lynch posits that this is because the leading paradigms used to explain international relations are unsiuted to explain Al Qaeda:
Kevin Drum is appalled: "I know it takes a while for people to change gears, but you'd sure think terrorism might have captured just a little more attention among IR types by now, wouldn't you?"
[So what's your takeaway point?--ed. I think Lynch is overstating the problem, but it does exist. Whether this is important depends on whether you believe that Al Qaeda really does represent the greatest threat to U.S. power and interests over the next decade.]
UPDATE: Lynch responds here. And Ethan Bueno de Mesquita makes some excellent observations in the comments.
The rioters really are French, part deux
Following up on this post from earlier in the week about the rioters acting within the political traditions of France, we have Mark Landler's, "A Very French Message From the Disaffected" in today's New York Times:
Friday, November 11, 2005
Maybe AOL could buy me a Prius... coated in platinum
Here's what I found out:
Woo-hoo!! Priuses for everyone!! I'm richer than the New York Times!!
[Er, this site suggests that your blog's actual annual value is really closer to $4966.88--ed. I knew the dot-com bubble would eventually catch up to me.]
Props to Mickey Kaus for all of the links.
I thought the problem was too many workers
Exactly one week ago I blogged about the inflow of Hispanic workers -- including illegal immigrants -- into New Orleans. The implication in the stories cited in that post was that these workers were crowding out employment opportunities for locals.
So imagine my surprise when Gary Rivlin reports in the New York Times that this is basically a crock of s**t:
What do you do about Al Qaeda's new base of operations?
In its editorial for today on the topic, the Washington Post points out that this is the latest in a long string of reversals for Al Qaeda in the Middle East:
This doesn't even mention Al Qaeda's unpopularity in North Africa.
Here's the thing, though -- does any of this matter in terms of reducing terrorist activity in the region and across the globe? I ask because of this disturbing story by the Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy:
This development has some bitter ironies for both the Bush administration and the opponents of the Iraq war.
The administration might take some PR comfort in the WaPo's assertion that, "The targeting of Jordan can hardly be blamed on the Iraq war," but it must accept the fact that the success of this attack (as opposed to a botched 1999 attempt) is directly attributable to the administration's pre-invasion failure to take out Zarqawi and post0invasion failure to ensure basic security in Iraq.
For opponents, however, the irony is even more bitter. The Bush administration might have been full of it when it claimed a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the invasion. However, as frustrating as it may be, Bush is correct to say that Iraq is now one of the focal points in the war against Al Qaeda -- the Jordan attacks are merely the latest evidence of this. As long as Zarqawi has a base of operations and a playground to train zealots, he will continue to be a potent source of trouble.
So, a question to those who advocate a pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq -- how would a U.S. withdrawal help in any way towards removing Iraq as a base of operations for Al Qaeda?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
What do you do with statesmen?
David Bosco and James Forsyth have a serio-comic essay in Slate about the divergent paths that former politicians take in the United States and Europe:
A libertarian might say, "Good for the U.S.A." upon reading these paragraphs -- better that ex-politicians try to get rich rather than try to spread well-intentioned but counterproductive and ineffectual governance structures to the rest of the world.
The problem is that matters are not that simple. The Slate grafs suggest that ex-politicians in the United States want to get rich, they thend to do so by exploiting their comparative advantage -- their knowledge of the intricacies of government. Regardless of party, ex-politicos have an incentive to ensure that the government retains some influence over the market -- so that they can exploit their influence over the government.
This political life after politics subverts the famous Harry Truman line: "A politician is a man who understands government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead for 15 years." In modern America, a statesman is a man who understands government and is paid very well for that understanding."
The rent-seeking implications of this kind of parastatal career are disturbing -- continued opacity of government. So which is worse -- European politicians who seem less interested in money but aspire to supranational forms of governance, or American politicians who are more interested in money and aspire to lobby the national level of governance?
Open Jordan thread
Comment away on the latest suicide bombing attacks in Jordan.
Earlier in the week I had referenced Marc Lynch's overvations about prior Zarqawi-inspired attacks in northern Africa. I tend to agree with his preliminary read of this attack as well:
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
It's déjà vu at the Kansas Board of Education
So I see that the Kansas Board of Ed has approved new science standards that, "change the definition of science to allow for non-natural explanations and cast significant doubt on the theory made famous by Charles Darwin," according to Knight-Ridder's David Klepper.
Sounds pretty grim. Amy Sullivan, however, points out that Kansas wasn't the only place where this issue was subject to debate yesterday:
Indeed, the Knight-Ridder story goes on to point out:
Ann Althouse has more, particularly on the interrelationship between the litigation and electoral strategies that tend to contain this kind of educational tom-foolery.
UPDATE: Oh, dear, I see that Pat Robertson has opened his mouth on this topic. According to the AP:
Wait, I'm confused by that last sentence -- does this mean that Robertson believes that Charles Darwin's ghost is still around?
Anyway, it appears that God ain't pleased with Robertson.
Open Douthat & Salam thread
The American Scene's Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam have written a manifesto for the Republican Party's future which is on the cover of the Weekly Standard. It opens by stating the depressing truth:
So what's the solution? Douthat and Salam argue in favor of taking the "opportunity society" rhetoric and actually putting flesh to it:
Read the whole thing. I'm still mulling it over, but there are some ideas in there that are definitely worth some blog debate.
The rioters really are French
From Miss Jane Galt:
But Davies wins the prize here, pointing out the one way in which this is all so... French:
Indeed. The only difference between these riots and prior action like this by, say, Air France employees is that by this point in the game the French government would have already capitulated.
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Way to go Zarqawi
Marc "Abu Aardvark" Lynch reports that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's latest tactics in Iraq haven't gone down well in the Maghreb states:
Read the whole thing -- the idea that Zarqawi is playing a tw-level game is an interesting one.
How hard is it to use a f#$%ing footnote?
Apparently, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown sent a letter to Mike DeWine regarding the Samuel Alito nomination, and the letter essentially copied a Nathan Newman post about Alito's take on labor rights. Brown's staff admitted to Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Stephen Koff that "90 percent of what Brown, an Avon Democrat, wrote in his letter was lifted from an Internet posting by a blogger."
Ordinarily I woldn't post about this -- I've reached the point where I'm bored with my own media whoredom. However, this story has some lefty bloggers very annoyed -- including Newman:
While I have some sympathy with the idea of reporters focusing on actual policy substance, this is still a completely valid story. Consider this section of Koff's story and compare it with Black's defiinition of plagiarism:
This is a case of sloppy staff work in Brown's office and not much more -- but it's still a screw-up, which explains why Brown's office immediately copped to the miscue.
UPDATE: Brown has sent another letter to DeWine acknowledging the failure to cite Newman. However, the press release accompanying the letter asserts that, "In coordination with an Ohio newspaper article published Tuesday, DeWine's staff dismissed concerns expressed by Brown in the Nov. 4 letter, instead focusing on citation errors." (emphasis added)
That's an interesting word choice -- Brown is clearly implying that DeWine's staff engineered the story in the first place. I have no idea if this is true or not -- but I'd like to hear of any evidence Brown has to back this up.
So how is trade integration going?
I've seen better weeks for those who want trade expansion.
At the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, everyone took a "wait-and-see" approach to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. The Economist explains:
This makes sense. So how are those WTO negotiations going? The Associated Press reports that India's Commerce Minister is not optimistic:
[So this is Europe's fault, right?--ed. Well, at this point the answer is yes and no. Certainly EU intransigence on agricultural matters doesn't help. On the other hand, the developing countries are now in a position where they need to make concessions as well. Consider the Indian Commerce Minister's remarks in this story by the Independent's Philip Thornton In a wide-ranging interview with The Independent, Kamal Nath lashes out at the attitude taken by rich nations in the WTO talks especially that of Europe's trade commissioner Peter Mandelson. He appears baffled that Europe has offered to eliminate domestic subsidies and reduce tariffs but in exchange for concessions in other areas, notably service industries and market access for industrial goods.
"I welcome Peter Mandelson's proposal to say he will reduce by so much but then he says 'I want my pound of flesh'," Mr Nath said. He compared Mr Mandelson to a politician seeking a knighthood simply for obeying a traffic light. "He is looking to be rewarded and rewarded for behaving as one should.
"It is a step in the right direction but it is a question of giving an inch and asking for a mile not just asking for a foot but a mile."
On the one hand, Nath is correct in saying that the EU should liberalize its agricultural sector no matter what. On the other hand, the GATT/WTO process was designed for states to get concessions from other countries in order to gain the concessions they want. From an economic standpoint, this kind of reciprocity makes no sense (it's better for countries to unilaterally lower all their tariffs, quotas, and barriers). From a political standpoint, however, the Indians -- and other large-market developing countries such as Brazil and China -- are going to have to reciprocate for the Doha round to have any meaning.
UPDATE: Oh, goody, the U.S. has scored a trade "victory," according to Edward Alden of the Financial Times:
Monday, November 7, 2005
That Burmese junta is just so wacky
In the Financial Times, Amy Kazmin reports that the military junta controlling Burma has found a brand-new way of ensuring its diplomatic isolation:
The pushback on Dick Cheney
One of the mantras on this blog from day one has been the excessive influence that Vice President Richard B. Cheney has played in the foreign policymaking process. This is not to say that a Vice President should have no influence -- merely that Cheney had his thumb so hard on the scale that the interagency NSC process was fatally compromised.
Dana Priest and Robin Wright have a front-pager in the Washington Post on the proposed amendment to prevent detainee abuse suggesting that Cheney's thumb is not as heavy as it used to be:
The report goes on to describe the lengths to which Cheney's camp is going to maintain the upper hand in the game of bureaucratic politics:
Andrew Sullivan has more -- a lot more.
This issue, by the way, also raises some interesting questions for realists -- the flavor of the month in critical foreign policy circles. Consider Cheney's explanation for why the proposed limitations on interrogation would hamper U.S. national security, according to Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff:
Now, if you're a realist, this should be an easy call if you accept Cheney's assertion -- aggressive interrogations yield useful intelligence. Removing this option might preserve some soft power and demonstrate grater respect for international law, but neither of those things should matter in realpolitik world anyway.
Oh, and just to be clear -- Cheney's oversized role in this does not mean that I believe Cheney is the main culprit for U.S. missteps in either Iraq or interrogation policy. The responsibility for those policies -- and the process that abetted them -- lies with the president.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, now that I have everyone's attention, let's highlight one more fissure this kind of issue generates among conservatives. On the one hand there are the Hamiltonians who place a great deal of trust in the executive branch to execute policy in a good faith manner. On the other hand there are Madisonians who inherently distruct executive power and wish to see limitations placed on its use.
If you study foreign policy, there are many compelling reasons to prefer the former approach -- but I'm starting to have great sympathy for Madison in recent years.
Sunday, November 6, 2005
Is American political fiction really so bad?
Via Kevin Drum, I see that Christopher Lehman has a long essay in the Washington Monthly asserting the poverty of American political fiction:
This particular subgenre of fiction is the topic of Rachel Donadio's NYT Book Review essay for today. Curiously, Christopher Buckley makes a cameo appearance there as well:
Is the state of American political fiction really so
What's the explanation? Lehman thinks it's because the overarching theme in American political fiction is the loss of innocence -- which doesn't jibe with how politics actually works:
This echoes the complaint voiced by Slate's David Edelstein a few years ago about how politics is portrayed in film and television:
I'm not sure I have a better answer than Lehman or Edelstein, except to say that I'm not at all sure the problem is peculiarly American. Good fiction set in an democratic political milieu just might be a difficult feat to execute.
Readers are warmly encouraged to suggest their favorite political novels.
Saturday, November 5, 2005
So Friday was a pretty good day....
Friday was a great day for two reasons. First, a 70 degree day in Chicago in November is a rare treat and needs to be properly savored.
[Wow, you're keeping up such a brave face after getting denied tenure--ed.] Well, that leads to the second and more important reason why Friday was a pretty good day.
I have formally accepted an offer to be an Associate Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, starting in the summer of 2006. Next year at this time, I will be teaching students pursuing a M.A.L.D. (Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy) or a Ph.D. at Tufts University in Medford, MA.
[Wait a minute. Wait just a friggin' minute. What exactly does "Associate Professor" mean?--ed.] It means that, subject to the approval of Tufts University's Board of Trustees, I will be a tenured professor.
[Why Fletcher? Did you have any other options?--ed.] I received a number of inquiries (at various levels of seriousness) from academic and non-academic institutions -- the latter including government, think tank, and publishing opportunities. This was both gratifying and useful. Gratifying because it's always nice to be wanted. Useful because it gave me the chance to ponder whether the academy was for me. In the end, Fletcher was the best choice for a combination of personal and professional reasons.
[So how are you feeling now? Still bitter at the University of Chicago?--ed.] I'm feeling pretty good, actually. Fletcher is an excellent public policy school for what I study, and they actually like the fact that I write for a wider audience on occasion. Oh, and Tufts seems to be doing an excellent job of facilitating policies I like.
As for the U of C, no, I'd say the bitterness level is down to a very tiny nub. Mind you, I still think they screwed up, but they've screwed up other decisions even worse. Anyway, that's the department's problem now, not mine. I will always have very fond memories the institution, the students, and many of my colleagues. We will miss Hyde Park's rumored restaurant renaissance -- but this will be more than compensated by the plethora of supermarket choices in the Boston 'burbs.
[So how do you feel about the blog now? Now that you're tenured, can you really cut loose?--ed.] No, it's just the opposite, I'm afraid. Brian Weatherson hit the nail on the head in Scott Jaschik's Inside Higher Ed story on blogging and academia:
[So you'll be tenured, huh? Well, there goes the last shred of any connection you have with the "real world" in which other American workers must cope!--ed.] You've been reading the comments too much. I don't want to go off on a rant here, but the meme about academics having no connection to the real world is a crock of s$#*. Yes, tenure equals lifetime employment. However, consider the following:
[Yeah, but you academics don't have to deal with your jobs being outsourced!--ed. Er... no, that doesn't wash. The premier positions in American academia have has a global labor market for decades now, so the effect is analogous to offshoring -- though The long-term effect of professorial podcasting will be interesting, because it suggests an inexpensive way to commodify aspects of teaching.]
[Man, a lot has happened to you since you started the blog -- you're going to need to update that "About Me" page--ed.] Yeah, I already thought of that.
[So you'll be moving to the Boston area, huh? How much NESN will you be allowed to watch?--ed.] My wife and I are deep in negotiations about this very question. With the Red Sox management currently imploding, however, this may not be much of an issue.
Friday, November 4, 2005
November's Books of the Month
The international relations book this mo--- [Hold it!! Didn't you forget October's book selections?--ed. Um.. look, a lot happened in October. Cut me some slack? Just this once. You get denied tenure again, though, and I'm walking--ed.]
Er... where was I? Oh, yes, the book recommendations.
This month's books both deal with international relations. In fact, both deal with the use of language and rhetoric in IR and foreign policy. Both of them also have interesting things to say about the Bush administration's foreign policy. However, it's safe to say that they take veeeeerrrrry different approaches to the problem.
The first book is Anne Sartori's Deterrence by Diplomacy. The book's precis:
Sartori's thesis is interesting for theoretical reasons because it recasts the literature on extended deterrence. Deterrence theory usually boils down to questions of how leaders can demonstrate a reputation for "resolve." Saartori suggests that the reputation that matters is one of honesty. In making this switch, Sartori also challenges game theorists who argue that diplomacy is "cheap talk" because there are no costs to words (as opposed to action). If an honest reporation matters at the global level, then diplomacy is not cheap talk -- lying is costly.
Sartori's arguments apply in interesting ways to the Bush administration's diplomatic style. On the one hand, it suggests that the administration has overemphasized the importance of demonstrating resolve as a means of advancing its interests. On the other hand, this approach also suggests that the administration's bluntness has greater value than mainstream foreign policy analysts have previously suggested.
The other book of interest is Jeff Legro's Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order. Legro asks a different question than Sartori: when do great powers engage in radical rethinks of their grand strategies? Why are such rethinks so rare in world politics? A summary of Legro's answer:
Rethinking the World helps to explain the administration's grand strategy remains the status quo, despite limited success in Iraq and declining public support for the big neoconservative ideas. For there to be shifts in grand strategy, it can't just be the case that the current strategy is failing. There must also be a viable alternative around which others can rally -- one that can generate immediately attractive solutions to current problems.
At present, both realism and liberal internationalism have their champions. However, my suspicion is that the realists have the upper hand because their recommendations for Iraq (as graceful a withdrawal as possible) seem more compelling than liberal internationalism. Still, Legro's framework helps to explain why it remains an open question whether there will be a radical shift away from the current grand strategy.
Go check them out!!
The immigration wave hits New Orleans
Yesterday Michael Martinez wrote a front-pager for the Chicago Tribune about the influx of Latinos into New Orleans looking for post-Katrina reconstruction work. Today, Leslie Eaton has a similar story in the New York Times.
Some highlights from Eaton's piece:
This is interesting stuff, but for my money, the Martinez piece in the Tribune is of greater interest because of two points not mentioned by Eaton. I've highlighted them below:
This story raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about immigration, race, and the economy.
For me, the big question remains -- if New Orleans was such a stagnant economy that those displaced to Houston don't want to return, just how much money should be committed to reconstruction efforts?
Over at The Plank, Jason Zengerle castigates the Times and other national outlets for not reporting on Nagin's remarks. Props to Martinez and the Tribune for catching it.
Thursday, November 3, 2005
No one let Alan Wolfe study international relations
I see that Alan Wolfe has an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education decrying the state of the political science discipline.
Wolfe makes a few well-worn but not completely worthless points -- and then we get to this paragraph:
I have two reactions to this suggestion. The first is to stop and gaze with awe at Wolfe's ability to unconsciously mimic those Guinness-in-the-bottle ads that were all over television last year:
My second reaction is to ponder the logical implications of Wolfe's suggestion. Surely Wolfe must be aware of the dangers that come from generalizing from the study of a single case -- there are too many possible explanations. Wolfe would likely respond that the way to compensate is to assemble as many relevant examples of the category of interest as possible, and then determine what combination of factors is important.
Now there's a name for this kind of approach in political science -- behavioralism. Such an approach can be useful (see, for example, the CIA's State Failure Task Force from the 1990's) but presents two rather important problems.
First, these approaches -- just like any other social science technique -- generate methodological controversies (see, for example, Gary King and Langche Zeng's methodological rejoinder to the State Failure Task Force, or this summary of the debate in Nature). Methodology doesn't just matter for its own sake -- there are real world implications.
Second, pure behavioralism of the kind suggested by Wolfe is tricky without any theoretical guidance. Throwing a kitchen sink of variables at a question is not of much use unless the researcher has a good grasp of the relationships among these seemingly independent causes. Rational choice approaches are one useful tool, but there are others as well.
If Wolfe had provided an American politics example, I probably wouldn't have written this post (and, to be fair, Wolfe is riffing off of Ian Shapiro's latest book, The Flight From Reality in the Human Sciences, which I haven't read but is likely worth reading). But the IR example he offers is a powerful suggestion that Wolfe hasn't peered into the pages of either International Organization or International Security in quite some time. There are case studies -- as well as statistical analyses, formal models, social theory, and other types of analysis -- in those journals.
If the rest of the discipline wants to copy international relations more closely, fine with me. But I don't think Wolfe has lookec closely at how IR is actually studied.
I think that I've demonstrated my subfield's close attention to the real world, so if you'll excuse me, I have to run to hear a paper presentation.
[What's it about?--ed. Sovereignty and the UFO. You're f#@%ing kidding me!--ed. No, I'm really not.]
So what's going on in the Parisian suburbs?
OK, so the French appear to be experiencing some domestic disquiet in recent days. The Guardian has some details:
[Wait a second -- there's a ministry of social cohesion in France?--ed. Well, sort of.]
Comment away -- but I am curious about the accuracy of the press analysis on the riots. After the reportage on Katrina, my radar is up about any exaggeration of chaos and mayhem.
Offshoring tales from across the land
Writing about offshore outsourcing for a public audience carries many, many perks. One of them is getting e-mails like this one:
OK, I'm confused -- are my facts wrong, or is it that I don't have any of them? Really, it's very hard to keep track.
Seriously, I also get more interesting anecdotes about those who experience outsourcing first hand. Consider this e-mail from a colleage who is in the middle of getting a book published:
This is pretty interesting, in that the process that's described is not only about offshore outsourcing -- it's also about the fact that what used to be considered a complex task (the cottage industry of copyediting) has been segmented into a lot of very simple tasks (the person whose sole job it is to shorten the spaces after a sentence, for example). It's both high-tech AND low-tech.
This reminds me of something.... oh, yes, Karl Marx's Wage Labour and Capital (1849):
Sounds very dire.... except that Marx, for all of his understanding of the forces behind technological innovation, never really got the idea that such innovation also creates entirely new categories of complex, high-skill jobs. It took Schumpeter to figure that one out.
[Er.... what about the demise of copyediting jobs? Doesn't that mean that offshoring leads to a net loss of employment?--ed.] Not according to AFP:
[That's the number of jobs; what about wages?--ed.] The Global Insight page offers this tidbit on wages:
Click here to read the executive summary of the Global Insight report -- and click here to read my take on the 2004 version of the report.
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Kristol errs in predicting Bush's bottom
William Kristol, "George W. Bush's Not So Terrible Week," Weekly Standard, 28 October 2005:
CBS News, "Poll: More Bad News For Bush," 2 November 2005:
UPDATE: Hmm.... maybe I'm being unfair to Kristol. Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics points out that the weighting for the poll is a just a bit off. Unweighted, Bush's approval is still less than 38% though.
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
The Syrian regime doesn't face a tough choice
Nicholas Blanford and Rhonda Roumani have a story in the Christian Science Monitor entitled, "Syrian regime faces tough choices." Why? Read on:
That's not a tough choice, that's the easiest call ever -- Assad will fail to cooperate fully.
Why? First, the Syrian regime can try to obfuscate matters by feigning cooperation but not making any material concessions.
Second, while compliance would require Assad to weaken his own regime, defiance in the face of an external threat will strengthen the regime -- at least in the short term. So, for that matter, would diplomatic and economic sanctions. Syria has already set up a sanctions crisis team. The FT's Ferry Biedermann quotes the Syrian in charge of this team saying, "to be honest, sanction busters are everywhere."
Third, as this companion CSM story by Chris Ford makes plain, it's not clear that the Security Council will even agree to impose economic sanctions in the face of Syrian non-cooperation:
For Bashir Assad, this is the easiest call in the authoritarian playbook.
Dr. Doom vs. the soft landing
As long as this blog has been in existence, Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach has been pessimistic about the U.S. economy. His latest missive is in today's Financial Times:
I'm a bit more sanguine than Roach. The U.S. has already absorbed several energy shocks in the last year, and the reaction by financial markets to Greenspan's successor has been pretty smooth. I'm just as worried as Roach about US protectionism, but it's not clear to me that the situation is going to worsen in the next twelve months, and the Doha round is still moving forward -- albeit very slowly.
[Yeah, but what about the housing market?--ed.] Mary Umberger writes in today's Chicago Tribune that the National Association of Realtors sees a soft landing rather than a hard one:
I'm not saying the chances of a hard landing are zero -- let's just say I'm twice as optimistic as Roach.
UPDATE: Kash at Angry Bear is more pessimistic -- and he has some persuasive reasons. The real question, to me, is not whether the economi
Say it ain't so, Theo!
Part of my faith in the Red Sox's future rested with general manager Theo Epstein and the brain trust he had assembled. In contrast to the byzantine organizational structure of George Steinbrenner's New York Yankees.
Alas, this week has scrambled those expectations. Steinbrenner managed to retain Brian Cashman as his GM, and Cashman managed to shift the center of gravity on decision-making away from Tampa and towards New ork.
Meanwhile, Red Sox wunderkind GM Theo Epstein has declined the Red Sox's offer of a new three-year contract. The Boston Herald's Michael Silverman explains why:
Epstein's innovation as a GM wasn't to use sabremetrics to analyze baseball players -- though he was part of the first wave of GM's to do so. No, Epstein's real gift was to think about the 40 man roster as a portfolio that needed to be diversified, and to exploit the healthy payroll he was given to the hilt. In positions where the Red Sox did not have an All-Star, Epstein managed to sign multiple players whose whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Think of Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn at second base in 2004, or the troika of Jeremy Gimbi, David Ortiz, and Kevin Millar at 1B/DH in 2003, or Millar and John Olerud this year at first base. Not every signing paid off, but Epstein hit the jackpot way more often than he crapped out. And he did this without trading away all that much in the way of young talent.
Methinks Celizic is way too pessimistic. A rebuilt farm system is going to be providing the Red Sox with a bevy of fresh arms and speed over the next few years. And I think the current owenership is still pretty interested in winning another World Series or two. That said, it's still going to be a very bumpy off-season -- but was true the year they won it all (remember A-Rod?).
However, the staff here at danieldrezner.com wishes the best of luck to Mr. Epstein in any of his futute career pursuits -- so long as they don't entail taking over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' GM job.