INTL 6200 (MIP) Discussion Topics Board

94 thoughts on “INTL 6200 (MIP) Discussion Topics Board

  1. I’m not very familiar with most scholarly work in International Relations, but did anyone else find it odd in this set of readings the use of very certain language in the authors’ predictions (e.g. the US WILL NOT remain the unipole for a long time or unipolarity IS peaceful, etc)? Even in papers with lots of data to back up predictions (which these articles didn’t really include), most authors couch their predictions in very cautious language.

    1. Good questions, Sam. Maybe there is something about structural theories, or even structural *theorists* _wink_ that makes the language so declarative. Let’s be sure to discuss 1) if this is indeed different 2) if it is justified.

  2. Two of these articles are pre-9/11. The third is from 2011. Has the geo-political landscape changed significantly to warrant a new stance on whether the US is still a monopole? China’s ascendancy to economic rival/peer alone should cause a new view to emerge. And Russia has relatively the same number of nuclear weapons as the US so why should it not be considered another state making up the multipolar structure?

    1. Good question. Perhaps the issue here is what is structural realism designed to predict: Which specific states rise and fall, or at what happens to the patterns in international politics when do?

      1. I would side with the latter – predicting what state will rise or fall is the stuff of science fiction (a la Psycho-history as written about in Asimov’s Foundation series.) This uni-, bi-, multipole structure seems to be a) transient, and b) somewhat in the eye of the beholder.

    2. In response to your mentioning of China as an ascending economic rival, I believe it was mentioned in both Waltz and Wohlforth’s articles that true unipolarity only exists if the unipole is dominant in a broad range of areas, economic dominance included. In addition, Wohlforth and Monteiro both said that if a *real* challenge to the unipolar system exists, then unipolarity itself cannot exist.

      In response to Russia, I think you have a good point. It seemed that the focus was on military spending, navy capabilities, etc. instead of addressing in-depth the continuing existence of nuclear weapons.

  3. I also struggled with the idea of true unipolarity when other nuclear powers exist, especially those not allied with the United States. North Korea and Russia can be serious threats and are capable of holding their own merely because of their nuclear capabilities. While in the unlikely event of a nuclear war the United States would likely still remain supreme, the cost is so great that it almost deems it meaningless. What I also found to be interesting is the defensive dominance model towards conflict seems to predict aspects of the war on terror. It acknowledges the human/irrational aspect of decision making, one that Wholforth neglects to address or simply underestimates. His argument that peace is more likely and ensured under unipolarity does not account for a world with terrorist groups and asymmetric warfare.

  4. I found Waltz’s claim that the “internal excellence of states is a brittle basis of peace” particularly interesting. Similar to Bob’s question, how have changes in “internal excellence” in America, China, and Russia over the past decade played a role in the U.S. being a monopole, if at all? How do we measure the internal excellence of our allies and enemies and how does this shape our relationships with them? It seems that the changing economic conditions in these countries, among other things, will play a large role in explaining this.

  5. I found Waltz’s claim that the “internal excellence of states is a brittle basis of peace” particularly interesting. Similar to Bob’s question, how have changes in “internal excellence” in America, China, and Russia over the past decade played a role in the U.S. being a monopole, if at all? How do we measure the internal excellence of our allies and enemies and how does this shape our relationships with them? It seems that the changing economic conditions in these countries, among other things, will play a large role in explaining this.

  6. I’m curious what the class thinks about Schweller’s ideas on elite consensus and counterbalancing as it relates to a current event like Russia’s electoral interference through its cyber capabilities. As Schweller lays it out (171), there are four key considerations when making this calculus.

    1) elite agreement on external threat
    2) elite agreement on nature and extent of threat
    3) elite agreement on appropriate policy remedy
    4) elite agreement on political risks and costs

    I think we’d all agree there is a significant amount of elite disagreement now, but it could vary for each of the points above. How does this factor into the US government’s response to Russian electoral interference via its cyber capabilities? Alternatively, does this one specific threat deserve balancing separate from Russia’s military capabilities? Can the US underbalance against one state’s capabilities in one area (cyber) but balance or overbalance in another area (military/nukes)?

    1. Interesting point Michael. The challenge with the current mixed bag of elite consensus (or lack of) is that you have a very asymmetrical condition where the true political elite, who you would think would hold enormous power given “ownership” of both the legislative branch AND the executive branch, cannot agree on where and how to exercise that power. The adversarial nature of our constitutional setup is normal. But the current anomaly – a president who is not actually a Republican, as well as a Republican party that cannot agree internally on important issues, means you end up with fragmentation. Then, throw in the minority party who is even further at odds ideologically with the majority, but has tools at their disposal to disrupt and block (think filibuster for one) and it is not surprising that there is little consensus, let alone real action.

      Now, is that likely to lead to underbalancing in response to on certain fronts? Likely according to Schweller. But, as he points out, balancing occurs prior to actual attack not after. One balances against the threat of attack. We were attacked so now the question is how does the US react. Your point is well taken that given the current lack of elite consensus our response to the attack may be underwhelming as well.

      Finally, I would say your point about balancing in two areas with unequal commitment is very possible and probably happens more than we might imagine. Unless the threats are prioritized as near equals one threat could easily get all the attention at the expense of the other.

    2. Good point. Please bring this idea to class. One of our questions is: Can NCR make more specific predictions about foreign policy compared to structural realism and, if so, can it also explain the broader trends.

  7. In Rose’s article, he mentions very often the role that “relative power” plays in Neoclassical Realist Theory, but when describing Offensive Realism, he chooses to use “relative capabilities” instead. Was this distinction in semantics made on purpose? Are relative capabilities more tangible? Or is he more or less referring to the same concept? I know we always have to be careful with wordplay when it comes to these tedious arguements.

  8. I found it interesting to evaluate the conditions in the United States during the War on Terror. A modern garrison state has emerged that has allowed for overbalancing despite domestic issues that should have prevented it. After World War II, the United States’ defense has been heavily supported by the American constituency unconsciously. It was the first war where people were directly involved in the war effort to a high degree and ever since the government has used that rise in patriotism and sense of contribution to build its defense and in the process has done so at the cost, particularly since 9/11, of some civil rights and liberties. The Patriot Act is a good example of that. The political elite are not in consensus with some of the worst gridlock in history and social cohesion has been an issue, but the point Schweller makes about an established enemy leading to greater social cohesion can definitely be applied. The one area that the political elite have had consensus, publicly at least, has been the war on terror and that’s be a by product of the social cohesion maintained by the common enemy. The problem is under realism, this is not an external threat warranting overbalancing especially when economic and domestic issues should have rationally prevented it. I just found it interesting to note the historical legacy of the cold war on U.S. defense culture’s impact and contribution to the overbalancing that should not be occurring within his framework. And ironically, there are many who would many political commentators who would argue that underbalancing is the reality of the war on terror.

    1. So, by the terms used in the NCR and foreign policy literature, the US response is indeed an example of overbalancing – just not in the way that NCR scholars usually define the term. – More interesting is that I think that it is a mistake to view this as an elite driven policy mistake. As NCR notes, external threats are processed through domestic politics and institutions. Are there other examples of elite consensus but not overbalancing? If so, this might give us insight into how elites are able to mobilize the public to their viewpoint on some issues and not others. In a democracy, I think its safe to say that overbalancing requires both an elite and domestic political consensus.

  9. Rose discusses the importance of relative material power in states’ foreign policy considerations, but I don’t think he adequately explains what “relative material power” is– what would be some good ways to operationalize this concept? Size of the military? GDP? others?

    1. That’s a really good point, and something that I thought was missing from the article as well.

      You could possibly argue that relative material power doesn’t necessarily need to be defined in this case since policymakers are the ones actually perceiving their state’s power relative to others. To adequately define it, you would have to assume that policymakers always act rationally and a) correctly perceive their own power and b) perceive material power on the same plane as other states. One state may value their economic power over military power if it helps them achieve their policy goals in the long run.

      The definition could therefore change depending on which states you are actually comparing.

  10. In Rose’s piece, he states that of of the weaknesses of defensive realism is that it doesn’t take into account that “one’s perception of threat are shaped by one’s relative material power” (150). I guess I missed how defensive realism doesn’t account for it? Even with defensive realism’s main premise of security being “plentiful”, that alone doesn’t make the argument above valid, does it? And to another point Rose makes when he states that neoclassical realists “instead of assuming that states seek security ” but “respond to the uncertainties… by seeking to control and shape their external environment” (152). How is this not the same exactly?

  11. Foreign Policy Analysis

    It appears that we finally begin to account for the human element in foreign policy decision making in these readings. A couple of the authors walked through examples showing how bureaucratic constituencies’ voice positions on two sides of a policy choice, and we see how they ebbed and flowed and so influenced changing foreign policy (FP) over time. I especially liked my two favorite new (to me) concepts: “policy entrepreneurs” and “IR in motion”. This gives me hope that I will not actually be “stuck” forever with some static view of how these frameworks work. I think we are still a ways away from finding the trick to testable, predictive theories, but I feel like we continue to peel away the layers of the onion and are getting closer to something that approximates it.

    1. I think MacDonald’s use of “policy entrepreneurs” and the action-channels within which they operate contribute to “peeling away the layers” in finding a testable and predictive theory. While the BPM does indeed provide a good model for analyzing how policy is pushed and pulled by different groups and individuals, MacDonald’s explanation of policy “windows,” and the variation in the means by which they open, provides a more complete picture of shifts in policy. These policy entrepreneurs are able to perceive shifts in policy and then organize teams and networks in order to move along action-channels and push their policy into the spotlight. It seems the “hierarchically structured political environment” that MacDonald describes has been flipped on its head this year, which leads me to wonder what impact policy entrepreneurs will have going forward. Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon are not the scientific experts that Lewis Strauss was, but should we still consider them policy entrepreneurs? They were able to utilize their network and creativity to push their policy beliefs and goals into the open and were at the top of the most important action channel. There is indeed a distinct difference in the type of influence that Lewis Strauss had on Eisenhower and the type that Gorka and Bannon had on Trump, but should we not consider them both policy entrepreneurs? Maybe I am confusing the line between advisor and policy entrepreneur.

  12. As far as our readings go this week, I really appreciated what Julia Macdonald did in her case study. I really do like the idea of trying to breakdown foreign policy decisions outcomes at the individual level. I also feel as if this is useful for adding context to the decision-making process. I do have some reservations over the prescriptive value of her findings. I find that the bureaucratic process model is very useful for trying to ascribe meaning after an event occurs, but this seems to be where the utility ends and realist criticism begins. Maybe there are cases (most-similar design cases) where this could prove useful, but I find this very unlikely. Do you guy believe that there is more to Macdonald’s use of the BPM? Or even just the idea of unit-level analysis in foreign policy decision-making?
    P.S. Stay safe everyone

  13. As for the three models of why states build nuclear weapons, did anyone find value in any over the others? I suppose I am asking because how well can norms be ascertained from an outside nation looking in? Unless, a nation implicitly says so we are making assumptions on what they consider legitimate. Is the norms model useful when norms remain unspoken, in what way?

  14. I found Keller’s article to be very informative, especially with regards to explaining the influence political leadership style ultimately has over decisions in a foreign policy crisis. However, I would also be interested to see how external variables constrain decisions in a time of foreign policy crisis as well. For example, how does China’s relationship with both North Korea and the United States affect US leadership decisions in dealing with a bombastic Kim Jong Un. I would also be interested to know how you guys would code President Trump’s leadership style and what the coding may imply.

    1. Jason, I thought the same thing about Trump and someone classifying his leadership traits. My guess is that if Tony Blair scored the way he did in Dyson’s study – control freak, not able to assimilate/grasp complex situations, etc., – President Trump would classify very similarly. Taking Keller’s study even further I would argue that Mr. Trump would fall into the constraint challenger camp. One hopes that his expected response (according to Keller) to North Korea as a constraint challenger does mean that his response will exhibit violence centrality nor severity as Keller would predict. Of course the caveat being as long as Un’s bluster remains just that.

  15. Peake’s article was written at a very interesting point in US history. It captures a snapshot of a way of thinking in the relatively short period of time between the end of the Cold War and 9/11 (the article was written in March 2001). Peake could not have anticipated how 9/11 would change the way that the United States handled foreign policy, and the way that the balance between the President, Congress, and the media would continue on in the future.

    It is interesting to note that Peake focused on data from 1984-1995, and thus was only able to evaluate the behavior of three presidential administrations and how they balanced media attention and congressional attention. I think it is fair to assume that Peake could not have anticipated the way that the media landscape, in particular, would change as a result of such milestones as the widespread adaptation of the Internet, how it influenced the spread of information, and how this information was received by readers. In addition, perhaps to a lesser extent, things like the foundation of Fox News and MSNBC in 1996 could have been the catalyst for how media outlets adapted to fit the political affiliation of their respective viewers (and how this may have changed the way that people, including Presidents, viewed the level of media coverage on a given policy area or event).

    Since I’m presenting tomorrow, maybe come to class with some of these thoughts in mind and see if you agree/disagree with me to some extent, or think this doesn’t matter to the core argument of Peake’s work.

    See you tomorrow!

  16. How valid are “at-a-distance” measures of personality? I find it to be pretty subjective, and (particularly in the Dyson article) not necessarily indicative of leadership style given leaders’ incentives to speak differently to different audiences.

    Additionally, how important do you think personality and leadership style actually are in foreign policy decision-making? I certainly think it’s a factor, but I find it inherently difficult to measure and probably not as important as institutional context or international norms.

    1. I agree with your point on the subjectivity of at-a-distance measures of personality. Dyson also attests to the spontaneity of Blair’s responses within the House of Commons, but are these types of responses really spontaneous and then how valid are they in use of such personality trait models?

      1. Maria, if you have not had a chance to do so in the past watch one of these Prime Minister Talks. They are not meant to be but sometimes they are hilarious to watch. And given the rapid fire back-and-forth dialog amongst all the parties I think that Blair’s responses and statement are likely fairly representative of what he thinks. They don’t really have time to be parsing their words or crafting responses – the opposing party will heckle the heck out of him if he says something that they don’t like. As to how valid these trait classifications are in building a profile that could be used for predictive – I’m with you – seems like a stretch.

    2. These were similar to my thoughts. The institutional context within states would seems to be a greater factor in foreign policy decisions. Take for example in the US context, the more ideological distance between the Legislature and the President the more institutional context would seem to be a factor. The more constrained the President is, the less personality and leadership style seem to affect foreign policy decisions.

  17. Is anyone else familiar with the Blair Doctrine? I ask because the article on his decision to support Bush in Iraq was quite contradictory to what he proposed in that specific speech. I have the criteria he proposed for going to war outlined below:

    – First, are we sure of our case?
    – Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options?
    – Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake?
    – Fourth, are we prepared for the long term?
    – And finally, do we have national interests involved?

    That in mind, Iraq was a case in which the checklist isn’t perfect. They weren’t sure of the case because the international community had pushed against the motivation of WMDs in Iraq, arguably all diplomatic options were not exhausted, and they definitely were not prepared for the long term. It just falls short of being justified by his criteria and so I found it interesting that that wasn’t analyzed in the piece.

    1. I think you raise an important point here. Blair’s proposed criteria seem to be straightforward and well thought out, but he says a few things in his speech that align more with his decision to enter into Iraq. He specifically names Saddam Hussein as a reason for many of the problems at the time. Blair also goes on to mention that NATO is now guided by a “moral purpose in defending the values we cherish.” Perhaps this is where Dyson’s study can help explain Blair’s decision to commit troops to Iraq. His style of management (making key decisions based off of meetings with his inner circle advisors, and not Cabinet Ministers) might have led him to throw his own doctrine out the window and make this particular decision based on something else. Or maybe he simply thought the situation in Iraq was an exception and required intervention no matter what. Whatever the case, it is perplexing that he does not entirely follow the doctrine he himself proposed three years earlier.

  18. So, while I was reading Matthew Baum’s first article, a few things came to mind with regards to the US and NK shouting match. First, it would appear as if the extreme rhetoric coming form Mr. Trump completely goes in the face of the trade-off democratic leaders make when going public with their statements. Baum says that leaders may want to avoid attracting the public eye (with the stipulation that strategic stakes in the foreign policy dispute are “modest”). However, it seems to me that the president has taken a totally different approach. Not only does he go public with his rhetoric, but the rhetoric itself is very heated (calling Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” and threatening to “completely destroy NK”). Baum does mention that sometimes leaders will make aggressive decisions regardless but he seems to fail at providing an answer to why this is. Do you think this means that more focus should be directed to leadership style (relating back to the Dyson article) or do you still believe that it is a secondary factor in foreign policy decision making in a time of crisis?

    1. Just wanted to add that in his second reading he clarifies that “unless a president is highly confident of success, an attentive public can, when the strategic states relatively modest, inhibit him from undertaking risky foreign policy initiatives, including military force.” I guess in addition to my original post, I wonder: what are the strategic stakes with regards to the North Korean dispute? And while the US may have the capacity to “destroy” North Korea, how does NK’s capacity to destroy Seoul factor as a constraining factor? I’d be interested to see if there is a public opinion poll on how Americans think the situation should be handled.

      1. Hi Jason, we will have a chance to discuss this in more detail in the second half of Monday’s session. Bob

  19. While I appreciated the analysis that all three pieces provided (the second of which lost me with all of the math-like talk), my main issue is this gives too much power to the president and focuses primarily on him. As was mentioned last week, bureaucracy has a lot of influence on these decisions as well. I wounder if zooming out a little would change the findings? Or would all of this still apply, but to his military and security advisers as well?

    1. This really stood out to me too, but I’m not sure exactly how to incorporate that kind of factor into the findings. While this work makes great strides in understanding the motivations of individual leaders regarding public opinion, and certainly helps to expand the discipline, it assumes, to a degree, that leadership decisions are made in a vacuum, independent of the input of advisers and members of domestic institutions. While such data might be quite difficult to collect and apply to this work, I think you have to kind of wonder if the data presented here would match up to the findings if such an input was controlled for.

  20. In Baum’s first article he posits that American presidents opt to conduct foreign policy out of the public spotlight. To do this he analyzes data from 1946 through 1994. I wonder if this study would hold true today. How does the 24 hour news cycle and the internet post 1994 impede the president’s ability to “go private”?

  21. Given the year that Baum’s two pieces were published, I found his part on audience-cost dilemma in “Going Private” especially interesting. He discusses how public threats from a President that attract high levels of public scrutiny may find the President with his hands “politically tied” if the adversary does not blink. Since Twitter is now, for better or worse, a platform that the President uses, does this change the way Baum would think about the public’s attentiveness? Not to say there was not an attentive public in 2004 and before then, but Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram did not yet exist. Social media has changed the way we consume information and it has certainly changed the way threats have been made to our adversaries. The data Baum used was also before twitter’s time, and maybe there hasn’t been enough time to analyze the effects of social media on our politics, but I wonder the effect, if any, the usage of social media would have on this research. Also, I’d say DPRK has not blinked at the President’s threats.

  22. Given the year that Baum’s two pieces were published, I found his part on audience-cost dilemma in “Going Private” especially interesting. He discusses how public threats from a President that attract high levels of public scrutiny may find the President with his hands “politically tied” if the adversary does not blink. Since Twitter is now, for better or worse, a platform that the President uses, does this change the way Baum would think about the public’s attentiveness? Not to say there was not an attentive public in 2004 and before then, but Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram did not yet exist. Social media has changed the way we consume information and it has certainly changed the way threats have been made to our adversaries. The data Baum used was also before twitter’s time, and maybe there hasn’t been enough time to analyze the effects of social media on our politics, but I wonder the effect, if any, the usage of social media would have on this research. Also, I’d say DPRK has not blinked at the President’s threats.

  23. Baum offers a nuanced view on when presidents use force and when they do so publicly; however, I argue he did not account for whether a president is in his first term or second. The main “audience cost” listed is electoral failure– if this cost is removed, do you think presidents behave differently on the international stage?

  24. Given the year that Baum’s two pieces were published, I found his part on audience-cost dilemma in “Going Private” especially interesting. He discusses how public threats from a President that attract high levels of public scrutiny may find the President with his hands “politically tied” if the adversary does not blink. Since twitter is now, for better or worse, a platform that the President uses, does this change the way Baum would think about the public’s attentiveness? Not to say there was not an attentive public in 2004 and before then, but Facebook, twitter, and Instagram did not yet exist. Social media has changed the way we consume information and it has certainly changed the way threats have been made to our adversaries. The data Baum used was also before twitter’s time, and maybe there hasn’t been enough time to analyze the effects of social media on our politics, but I wonder the effect, if any, the usage of social media would have on this research.

  25. It seems to me that the acquisition of a nuclear weapon for a terrorist group is contingent on the sponsoring state’s negligence or feigned negligence. As far as deterring states from taking these actions, what penalties currently exist in the international system to deter states from providing terrorist groups with nuclear weapons/capabilities?
    As far as constraining factors go, how important of a role does the fear of setting a precedent constrain states from giving the nuclear football to other states. These states are not resistant to terrorist attacks themselves. They would have to consider that the pathway of nuclear proliferation among non-state actors may very well increase the potential for a devastating nuclear attack on their own country in the future. I strongly doubt that a state sponsoring terrorism would trust its subjects with such imposing capabilities. However, there is obviously a lack of empirical evidence on the matter today — which is arguably good, right?

  26. In the conclusion of Reiter’s work, he says that further American deployments of nuclear weapons abroad might increase the risk of nuclear terrorism occurring. Given what was discussed in Lieber’s article about the likelihood of states sponsoring nuclear terrorism, or even just thinking about the likelihood of terrorist organizations acquiring nuclear weapons in general, do we think this argument stands up? Also, would America risk deploying nuclear weapons to a state that might be at risk for sponsoring terrorism? This just didn’t seem like a strong argument to me.

    1. I was surprised at how many states the US has deployed nuclear weapons to, albeit under US military control. I would have thought that with submarines, bombers aloft, and ICBMs we would consider the earth pretty well covered and needn’t have a local presence.

      The odds of attribution seemed low, too, so there is no guarantee that you would trace it back to an FTO. As they say, they only have to be successful once. Having said that, I don’t believe that even state sponsors of terrorism (and I think we should debate what the state sponsoring thinks it is doing …) are irresponsible. Maybe that is a naive view, but even Iran is highly unlikely to unleash nuclear weapons directly or by proxy. Brian Williams wrote an interesting argument against that happening called “Will Iran Really Nuke Israel if it Develops Nuclear Weapons?”. If you nuke Israel you also nuke Palestinians on the West Bank and depending on the winds you get Gaza or Jordan or Syria with radioactive fallout. I don’t believe the Iranian regime is that stupid.

      1. Bob, I was also curious about the “stupidity” of a regime with nuclear weapons. Since he did not address nuclear terrorism in his essay, I wondered what Waltz might have to say on the subject considering he is a founder of neorealism. Interestingly enough he interviewed on Harry Kreisler’s “Conversations with History” and seemed to echo the arguments of Lieber and Press (2013). However, he adds to a perspective that was only briefly mentioned in Lieber and Press’s work: leaders like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi are very rational in the sense that they have been able to maintain power over a long period of time and will not act in such a way as to lose control over that power. When pursuing nuclear weapons, they would likely have a small arsenal, over which they would maintain a strong grasp. Waltz argued this would be much easier to maintain than the thousands of weapons in the U.S. arsenal (he also says we have lost track of some, which is scary). Lieber and Press do not dedicate much space to this, but it seems that it is Waltz’s main argument as to why a state would not give nuclear weapons away. He seems to think their obsession with creating power for them and their ancestors will force them to act rationally and hold on to their nuclear weapons.

        Waltz interview:

        (skip to 44:25)

      2. Bob, I was also curious about the “stupidity” of a regime with nuclear weapons. Since he did not address nuclear terrorism in his essay, I wondered what Waltz might have to say on the subject considering he is a founder of neorealism. Interestingly enough he interviewed on Harry Kreisler’s “Conversations with History” and seemed to echo the arguments of Lieber and Press (2013). However, he adds to a perspective that was only briefly mentioned in Lieber and Press’s work: leaders like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi are very rational in the sense that they have been able to maintain power over a long period of time and will not act in such a way as to lose control over that power. When pursuing nuclear weapons, they would likely have a small arsenal, over which they would maintain a strong grasp. Waltz argued this would be much easier to maintain than the thousands of weapons in the U.S. arsenal (he also says we have lost track of some, which is scary). Lieber and Press do not dedicate much space to this, but it seems that it is Waltz’s main argument as to why a state would not give nuclear weapons away. He seems to think their obsession with creating power for them and their ancestors will force them to act rationally and hold on to their nuclear weapons.

        Waltz interview:

        (skip to 44:25)

  27. I’m not convinced the data in Lieber and Press’s study is adequate to assess whether or not a terrorist group or state sponsoring a terrorist group would remain anonymous. I believe if a terrorist organization was able to acquire nuclear weapons, or was given nuclear weapons by a state sponsor, they would be much more organized and have greater capabilities than the terrorist included in the GTD. Therefore I do not believe the sample of terrorist acts used can be generalized to nuclear weapons.

    1. I thought the percents used were sparse, too, Jordan. I thought the better argument was that moving the stuff around and all the noise and charter that would be generated once an operation got underway would, similar to that which preceded 9/11, grab the attention of the intelligence community long before an act could be carries out. But, as I mentioned in another post, I also don’t believe the leaders of nuclear states who are linked to FTOs, mainly Pakistan, would be that irresponsible.

    2. I agree to a certain extent– given the limited data on nuclear attacks by terrorist (normatively a very, very good thing but scientifically difficult), I’m not convinced that evidence from conventional attacks applies here; that said, I think this piece was the only one in the week’s readings to really offer a cogent argument with some actual evidence to back it up.

  28. When reading Waltz’s piece I got curious and googled how real the threat was that the US would nuke North Korea given the current state of affairs. I was surprised to find that we had considered, but then abandoned, using nukes in North Korea and China back during the original conflict. We didn’t for two reasons: 1) by the time they were being considered the cities in the north had essentially been razed – so what were we going to bomb, and 2) the Truman administration thought that it set the bar too low for future decision makers who possessed nukes and they also didn’t want the optics of bombing a second and third Asian country. Our European allies were not in favor of it, either because they were not inclined to have to give stand by and give verbal support (excuses) for the US after having done it. See Farley, Robert, 2016. “What If the United States had Used the Bomb in Korea?”. Retrieved from thediplomat.com on September 29, 2017

  29. I was struck at how near-nebulous an idea Human Security appears even as organizations have defined it for years. The United Nations (UN) should be, one would the think, the one to provide a gold standard of definition, but event it seemed to have several overlapping if complementary definitions. Dignity plays a large role as in: “… the right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair …”. This broad brush definition is categorized into 7 fundamental tenets, but each of them is subject to the same “squishyness”. Paris even avers that it is “slippery by design.”

    Given the ambiguity there is no prescription for how states can formulate actionable domestic and foreign policies that provide human security. One nation’s rule of law is another’s human rights abuse.

    The collection of feminist security rights articles referenced in the Stern/Wibben article make legitimate points about how gender sets the kinds of abuses apart – especially rape, forced prostitution, and societies that are repressive against women. But I sensed that their bigger beef was that women are not included in the public debate and formulation of International Relations policies, decision making about war, or negotiations on treaties. The outcomes would be that there might be better chances at avoiding war in the first place, or if conflict is at hand, negotiating a fair peace. Can’t argue with the assertion – testosterone-laden FP has shown itself to shoot first and ask questions later.

    1. I didn’t consider the lack of women in foreign policy decision-making initially– that’s a great point. Even beyond that, how many women are involved in studying foreign policy? If it’s like the American side (heavily male dominated), then that suggests even scholars of international relations may tend to neglect women’s issues in their work. I did not consider that when I initially read the Stern and Wibben article.

  30. I struggled to find a common thread or definition of human security within the feminist security studies concerns. It’s a similar challenge to that pointed out in the larger picture of human security, the lack of clear definition. It makes it hard to offer real prescriptions. The issue they seem to have is exactly a problem that is seen in the definition of human security: the lack of clear definitions and the resultant assumptions that undermine many of the issues they mentioned. I found it really interesting that the usefulness of the broad definition can actually serve as an undermining characteristic

    1. Exactly the point! This is a frustrating topic. Hopefully we can hash it out tomorrow. Think about the “value added” of using human security as a concept apart from traditional concepts like human rights. I dont know the answer to this, hopefully youll have some thoughts 😉

  31. Well, this was maybe the most frustrating group of readings in my honest opinion. I knew that the nuances of how we define concepts matter, but not nearly to this magnitude. The task for conceptualizing and then operationalizing human security is both daunting and tedious. I do appreciate how Paris attempts to create a parsimonious matrix for better defining what kind of human security we’re studying, but this attempt seems to contradict the very same criticisms that Paris mentions earlier (and that are also expounded upon by the climate change and feminism readings). While I remain unconvinced that we will be able to identify and agree on some kind of universal understanding of what human security is, I am convinced that the seemingly infinite elements that compose the study will prove invaluable for future research. It does bother me how politicized this concept has become. I also worry about how these discrepancies will affect the functionality of NGOs in a competitive market. Could this perhaps lead to situations where two groups are trying to solve the same problem in different ways? This is no doubt inefficient and worrisome….

    1. It is frustrating. One way to approach the topic is to think about the degree to which “human security” differs more traditional human rights concepts.

  32. How does the nationalist view of the world, some leaders are advocating, effect how we will go about climate change and human security? As climate change reduces the access and quality of natural resources will this cause leaders to continue to adopt nationalist policies? These are vital questions that came to my mind while reading for this week, if leaders keep putting state over humanity the probability of violent conflict seems to greatly increase as the effects of climate change worsen.

  33. I had a very similar thought. Nationalist and populist governments will find a hard time trying to get their domestic supporters behind anything that requires interstate collective action!

  34. So guys, I have to say that this idea of defensive avoidance is incredibly intriguing. This goes hand-in-hand with what we were talking about last week (Wednesday’s class I think). Fear is definitely the most powerful tool in propaganda, and it certainly finds its way into the Twitter sphere. Defensive avoidance seems to add another complimentary layer to this concept of fear. Mr. Trump continues to verbally lambaste North Korea while pushing this Big Bad Wolf picture of Kim Jong Un. This, combined with comments made with regards to Rex Tillerson and how he shouldn’t bother negotiating with Pyongyang, really epitomizes the whole “fear to understand threat” concept that Jervis purports. Yikes…

    1. The real challenge, Jason, is does anybody think that the “big bad wolf” shtick is going to deter anyone in NK at this point? Likely not…

      We are going to have to accept that we need to sit down and talk with these people, regardless of how distasteful the rhetoric has been, and seriously try to work out a lasting deal. And that might include having nukes on the peninsula. Deterrence only goes so far from a threat base.

  35. In the Jervis article regarding to perception and deterrence he states, ““One would think, therefore, that every government would establish an office responsible for reconstructing the other’s view of the world and that every policy paper would have a section that analyzed how the alternative policies would be seen by significant audiences.” To be honest before reading this paper I assumed the United State’s would have some entity doing this kind of work, but then I began to think about how difficult this would be. I think this quote embodies what we should strive for when creating foreign policy, but how feasible is this notion? Is it possible reconstruct a hermit nation, such as North Korea’s view of the world? Also, though realist would deem terrorist groups not a real threat, how do we begin to understand their perception and view of the world?

    1. Can deterrence work on terrorists? It seems like, from its inception, deterrence has been a tool used to address interstate conflict. When dealing with a non-state actor, the logic of the deterrence doesn’t seem to hold. By Miller’s argument, it seems like deterrence only (kinda sorta) works on terrorist groups that behave most like states, which seem to be relatively few in number. What alternatives could be used to “deter” terrorists?

      1. I think it’s tough to find a a definitive way to ‘deter’ terrorism. As we discussed in our 6000 class, terrorist causes can be ’emboldened’ locally when states (particularly democratic states) crack down heavily and violently in response to terrorist events. I think those willing to engage in terrorist activities naturally already overcome the fear of retaliation (and possibly can gain from it with increased sympathy for their cause), and believe that their actions are still worthy regardless of the consequences.

  36. Sagan discusses the calculated ambiguity doctrine in his article, and I wonder what he would make of President Trump’s response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons in April of this year. The use of a conventional airstrike by the President seems to contradict what proponents of the doctrine say; although the response to the use of chemical weapons was not nuclear, it seems to have deterred the Assad regime from further usage of such weapons. And whether he meant to or not, Trump has cleared up any ambiguities concerning the U.S. response to the use of chemical weapons by a so-called rogue nation. I also wonder if their having been used against the people of Syria, and not against another nation, further compelled the President to go with a conventional weapons response instead of nuclear response.

  37. This week’s topical readings all acknowledge the salience of cyber threats, but the take on whether we will or won’t have war, whether it will or won’t be a precursor to nuclear war, show how diverse the thought threads are out there.

    Crosston’s article from 2011 is out of date in that he believes that deterrence is nearly impossible – yet the technologies have advanced quite a bit to detect and prevent intrusions. His solution is to just threaten the heck out out of would-be adversaries with his MAD posture. Attribution is hopefully improving, at a minimum on the national security front, so as to more readily discover who is perpetrating an attack so an appropriate response can be mounted.

    Rid’s take that cyber can never be “real” war (does not meet the violence/instrumentation/publicized-ownership test) seemed a little silly. One could envision a scenario where all three of those were achieved, so just because it has never happened yet is not a reason to say it never could. The tools of war are changing, Mr. Rid – catch up!

    1. I could not agree with you more, Bob. Rid’s article was absolutely incorrect. The basis of his argument is founded upon a shaky and antiquated understanding of ‘war.’ I would also argue that his dismissal of some of the cyber offenses he lists off is just negligent. Yes — nobody perhaps died in these cases (speculatively), however I don’t see how this would warrant for sweeping our concerns under the rug. He basically says that there will never be cyber war while also acknowledging that cyber offenses do occur. How can he say that cyber threats exist but because they are not lethal they shouldn’t merit concern? That just seems borderline irresponsible to me. He even fails to offer the ol’ “this subject requires further research” spiel at the end…

  38. I found that Crosston failed to address how non-state actors might be deterred under his ideal system. Obviously this poses the larger question of “can you deter non-state actors? (i.e. terrorists)” but I think this is especially important given the *relatively* low barrier to entry into the cyber realm. If I’m a politically motivated, skilled (enough to avoid attribution), lone wolf cyber-terrorist who can get all the equipment I need at Best Buy, is the threat of US retaliation really going to deter me?

    You also have to think about Junio’s argument that offense > defense, so I feel like by the time some new detection software is developed, those who want to get by it have already begun working to crack it. Maybe I’m a bit ignorant in the area, but to me this evokes the example of how every time a new iPhone comes out, despite the crazy amount of money applied to keep its software sound, people inevitably find a way to “jailbreak” it after a few days. Obviously an iPhone is different from the NSA, but when there’s a will there’s a way!

    1. Andrew, I was frustrated with this part of Crosston’s article as well. He mentions that a dozen people with computers can hack systems without being identified, but then completely leaves out non-state actors in his arguments in favor of cyber MAD. He then proposes that in order to increase capabilities, states should “outsource at least parts of the problem to other governments, commercial entities, or criminal underworld organizations in a quasi-mercenary model” which is basically recognizing that non-state actors are important in the cyber world. It seems as if he intentionally left out non-state actors in a portion of his article.

  39. How would you classify Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election? Rid would likely argue that it would not constitute cyber war, but it may fall into one category he mentions: subversion. How effective do you think this cyberattack was in influencing the election? How should the US deter further electoral interference? I am not certain offensive cyber deterrence (as Crosston advocates) would be effective here, and the US should bolster cyber defenses and incentivize private companies (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) to improve self-regulation.

    1. These are all great questions. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have all the answers at the moment. With regards to Russian electoral interference, I think the US needs to come out with a clear statement loaded with what consequences will ensue if such cyber influences are used again. It is difficult to figure how much influence this ordeal had on our election, but it certainly warrants major concern. Investing in a offensive-driven cyber policy surely cannot act as an absolute deterrent, especially when in many instances we are unable to identify the origins of the attack (like in Estonia or the Russian pipeline). I do think that private companies regulating and filtering what content is allowed to appear on their sites would be a step in the right direction. I know Facebook has already started working on algorithms to further this cause. Unfortunately, this runs us into the whole security vs. civil liberties debate. How willing are we to let companies filter out what they think is inappropriate? What about with our own secured data? Are we willing to give the government the key to unlock secured (and private) data from our Iphones? I’m not quite sure where I stand on the matter, but I am sure that Rid and his assessment of the problem we are facing is not the answer.

  40. Junio states, ‘if the perception that cyber weapons are non-lethal comes to be widely perceived (as Rid would prefer), it is reasonable to conclude that the threshold for their use will be lower than other kinds of weapons – even if the cost of cyber attacks is greater.’ It would seem this perception has already begun to take place, especially in regards to the Russian hacking during the U.S. elections. In Heminway’s “The Sun Also Rises” there’s a passage where Bill asks Mike how he went bankrupt and Mike’s reply is, “gradually, and then suddenly.” If we continue to perceive cyber attacks as non-lethal and demand no repercussions the attacks will gradually worsen until it is too late and then suddenly we will find ourselves in the middle of a cyber war. How can we change the perception of cyber war, or is it possible without a sudden shock to the system?

    1. Maybe we could look at what scholars were saying about terrorism before 9/11. They had no way of knowing how things would change after this attack, but what were their perceptions of terrorism prior to this attack? Were perceptions of terrorism similar to our current perceptions of cyber attacks? Rid mentions that there has been no “cyber Pearl Harbor,” and there certainly wasn’t a “terror Pearl Harbor” before 9/11. Maybe we won’t know how to change our perceptions or responses until a massive attack happens.

  41. I think that the necessity for a reframing of the perception of the ramifications and consequences of a cyber attack is necessary for successful deterrence. The success of MAD comes from the clear awareness of the potential destruction by nuclear weapons due to their use during WWII. Cyber attacks have not proven to create the kind of destruction and chaos necessary to effectively dissuade an actor from utilizing them even with the likelihood of a response. If cyber offenses hold the potential that some assert, it is necessary that that is how they are perceived for any real deterrence to occur.

  42. If the U.S. is going to attempt to sway public opinion in the Arab world on issues as controversial as Palestine, it’s gonna have to be willing to concede to valid criticisms for more effective two-way dialogue. Either that, or it’s just gonna have to accept that certain issues are unrealistic to undertake with the hopes of swaying opinions. Furthermore, while I understand that the coverage of the Vietnam War put a sour taste in the U.S.’s mouth for unfiltered war coverage due to the anti-war sentiment it helped fuel, it’s important to understand why it may come off as problematic when that kind of coverage isn’t presented to Arab viewers from an American owned network for conflicts that the U.S. is involved in. Whereas, they can get uncensored coverage from al-Jazeera. It looks better to show the skeletons in your closet rather than have someone else find them.

  43. I think your final point is really great, Haidi. I think it’s usually much more effective to get out in front of an issue and ‘control’ the story to a certain extent rather than try to sweep it under the carpet by only providing a portion of the information.

    I really enjoyed this week’s set of readings because I actually had the chance to work in the Public Affairs section of the US Embassy in Berlin, where I had the chance to help develop a few public diplomacy initiatives. While most of them fell under the umbrella of cultural/academic exchange, it was interesting to watch the challenges that my coworkers in the Press/Media faced when trying to maintain the Embassy’s social media presence (particular in the wake of reports of NSA surveillance on Merkel and other Germans). Despite the fact that social media outlets provided an opportunity to have engagements with the German public, the people who maintained the Embassy’s accounts struggled to strike a balance between retaining the institution of free speech by allowing all types of responses to remain in the comment section and managing the level of troll responses/hate speech that was often left in the comments or sent via private messages.

    I would be interested in seeing what you all think about an Embassy or other government entity policing/removing certain comments/responses that are perhaps what they deem to be too negative (or weird or offensive), and what that means for the success of the public diplomatic efforts and the greater messages they are trying to convey. In their defense, I have seen them respond to negative comments in the past to further the conversation with information and resources, etc.

    If you’re curious what it looks like, here’s the link to the US Embassy in Berlin’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/usbotschaftberlin

    A lot of it is in German, but you can get the idea.

  44. I found this week’s readings a tad depressing. Not the notion of soft power, or soft diplomacy, but rather the inept way in which the US has tried to use it, if used at all. It seems that our only arrow in the quiver anymore is beating people with a stick to be more to our liking, rather than letting others determine their own destiny. We will not agree with every variation of government out there. Nor do other states universally agree with ours. But it seems as though we aren’t even really trying to work things out with anyone. The JCPOA and French Climate Accord were both great examples of engaging in a positive way with the world, and now we seem bent on fouling that up too.

    As Halloween is nearly upon us, skeletons in the closet seems most apropos, Haidi. : – )

  45. I was surprised to learn about the State Department’s Digital Outreach Team. In theory, this sounds like a great idea. A government agency is recognizing the importance of social media, is making efforts to connect with foreign public, and is doing so in an area where American foreign policy is not exactly well-liked. But I was more surprised at how ineffective it was, at least in the 2009 case in which it was discussed. It seems silly to me to have this program only respond to positive comments and even then operate under the guide of dissemination rather than engagement. Also, what do diplomats think of this? I get the feeling that diplomats employed by State are generally willing to have an open, two-way dialogue with foreign public, so why is this digital diplomacy platform not a two-way communicating model?

  46. The Khatib, Lina, and Thelwall piece states, “the DOT practice is particularly unusual in light of competing views, such as
    those by Mark Leonard and Evgeny Morozov, that governments should be covert about such activities to maintain message credibility.” At face value Leonard and Morozov’s point that messages coming from a foreign government are likely to be perceived as propaganda is a valid concern. How can the U.S. operate DOT covertly without compromising its “morality”? If the U.S. did such, wouldn’t that equate to how Russia used Facebook in order to try and influence our elections?

  47. Apply Berejikian’s cognitive theory of deterrence to the Trump-North Korea situation. Do you think the president’s tweets and bellicose rhetoric place Kim Jong Un in a losses frame? How probable do you think deterrence is with North Korea? I would say yes. What would a “firm but fair” policy look like compared to the president’s current strategy?

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