Friday, November 21, 2014

Review of Morrow's Order Within Anarchy

Do international institutions promote cooperation? If so, how? These questions are of fundamental importance in the study of international relations. They are also the focus of Jim Morrow's Order within Anarchy: The Laws of War as an International Institution. Offering novel and persuasive answers to these core questions, Order within Anarchy belongs on every field seminar syllabus. It is no easy read—both due to its length and the dense nature of the material, even considering the fact that Morrow wisely relegates most of the technical material to separate chapters—but those who devote the time and effort to digesting it will be amply rewarded.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review of Caverley's Democratic Militarism

Democracies don't go to war unless they have to, and if they have to, they make dang sure that they win. Or so we've been told. In Democratic Militarism, Jon Caverley paints a very different picture. Best of all, he shows that the exceptions to this rule (if you can even call it that) cannot be attributed to corruptions of the process. When democracies fight unnecessary wars, poorly, they do not do so because of elite capture, popular propaganda, or a breakdown of civil-military relations. No, that's democracy at work.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sanction Threats, Imposition, and Protest

If sanctions are to succeed as a tool of coercive diplomacy, they must impose real costs on the target. Yet, in most cases, they fail to do this—at least, directly. The economic costs tend to fall disproportionately on the average person, while the regime and its elite supports often find ways to benefit from newly emergent black markets. But might sanctions put pressure on the regime through some other channel? Say, by increasing protests?

There have been many attempts at answer this question, all of which have been plagued by serious measurement issues. The recent release of new data both on sanctions and protests allows for a more convincing analysis, which Julia Grauvogel, Amanda Licht, and Christian von Soest provide in this paper.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Social Media and Protests


The Cairo protests that ultimately led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak received a great deal of attention on Twitter—the most used hashtag in 2011 was #egypt—leading much discussion over whether we were seeing  "a Twitter revolution." But the mere fact that protests occurred at the same time as an increase in calls for regime change on social media does not establish that the latter in any way fueled the former. The same factors that lead people to take to the streets might drive behavior online. Absent a credible identification mechanism, there's no way to settle this matter empirically. But one question we might reasonably ask is whether we can at least identify a clear mechanism by which they might do so.

At this point, you're probably saying to yourself, "Um, yeah. Obviously." Because you're probably thinking that social media can help people learn that they're not alone. That Twitter can help break the fear wall. But there are problems with that argument,\(^1\) as Andrew Little discusses in a fascinating new paper, "Communication Technology and Protest."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Seven Venial Sins of Quantitative IR



A justifiably more famous Phil recently laid out seven deadly sins of quantitative political science. Though I share all of his concerns, I don't think anyone (including Schrodt) expects people to give up the easy approach any time soon. In light of that, I'd like to highlight some small changes we all can and should make without destroying our chances of building a career. (Some of these apply pretty broadly, but others are unique to the study of IR, if you're wondering why I didn't just change the one word in the title).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

War is Mostly in the Error Term, But That's Okay



Erik Gartzke's 1999 article "War is in the Error Term" is often described as a critique of Fearon 1995's "Rationalist Explanations for War". I'm not sure where this interpretation came from, because the article itself argues (appropriately) that we must either accept the limitations implied by Fearon's work or hold logic in contempt. Gartzke is not claiming to be engaged in reductio ad absurdum.\(^1\) In no way is he suggesting that we should or can dismiss Fearon's argument because we don't like its conclusions. But nonetheless, the idea is out there, and people sometimes ask me how I'd respond to it, so I figured I'd write this post.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Importance of Screening



In my first new post, I articulated one way international institutions can deter bad behavior. In this post, I'll argue that even if we assume institutions don't have access to information that isn't already available to states, they still matter more than some appreciate.\(^1\)

One of the most prominent criticisms of institutions is that they are epiphenomenal---that they put a name on behavior that would have occurred anyway. That is, some have argued that the good news about compliance is not necessarily good news about cooperation because treaties may simply screen rather than constrain.

But the one does not necessarily imply the other. That is, even if institutions merely screen without constraining, this may nonetheless give us cause to celebrate international institutions. Below, I discuss a result from a formal model in which institutions screen but do not constrain---a model where the willingness of any given state to comply with a cooperative outcome is the same regardless of whether they join the institution. But it is nonetheless true in this model that fewer states would cooperate in the absence of institutions. In other words, when assessing the impact of institutions, we have to be very clear about what our standards are (as Martin and others (1 and 2) have argued). There is an important distinction between the claim that institutions alter state preferences and the claim that they merely separate nice, trustworthy types from bad, untrustworthy types, and I do not wish to downplay it. But it is nonetheless true that screening matters.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Importance of Angry Letters



How can international institutions foster cooperation given that they lack enforcement capability? One view, quite simply, is that they can't. This view is shared by realists and many outside the academy.

Many would argue this critique is unfair. It is too easy to jump from "can't control rogue states" to "completely worthless" or "false promise" or what have you. Even states that view one another as friends sometimes fail to reap all the possible benefits of international cooperation due to coordination problems, collaboration problems, etc, and institutions may help such states leave a little less money lying on the ground. There's also pretty strong evidence that UN peacekeeping works, particularly when it has the consent of all the parties involved. Sure, that's an important caveat, but we shouldn't trivialize the large number of lives that have likely been saved as a result of the UN's efforts.

But let's set those things aside. Is the best we can say about the UN that it helps those who want to be helped but is of no real consequence to the behavior of "rogue" states? I would argue that the answer is "sort of, but only if we adopt a fairly extreme definition of 'rogue'." If we don't define "rogue" states as those that do misbehave, but instead as those who would like to, then the answer is likely that the UN does not just allow the good guys to do a little bit better on the margins, but actually changes the intentions of those we might otherwise see as bad guys.

Look below the fold to see why.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

M Data

In recent weeks, I've received a number of requests for the M data.  I haven't yet written the paper releasing the data set, and probably won't until this summer.  (I go up for tenure next year, and I'm fortunate enough to have several outstanding R&R's that need my attention more immediately than any manuscript that will need to go through at least two stages of review).

But I'm happy to share the data.  For details on how the measure was constructed, see this post.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Once More on Military Capabilities



I previously introduced a new measure of military capabilities, \(M\), which is intended to capture the size and sophistication of a nation's military relative to prevailing standards of the day, here.  Some legitimate concerns were raised about how the scores were calculated, so I adjusted the measure.

The real question is how to normalize the raw military data to reflect prevailing standards of the day.  In my previous two attempts, I did this through the use of arbitrary constants.  This is unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons.  I've decided to instead base the \(M\) scores on 5-year moving averages.