Friday, January 28, 2011

I Guess They Haven't Heard of the Democratic Peace

From Haartez, "Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, said it is in Israel's interest for Mubarak's regime to survive since the alternatives, ranging from an Islamic government to the secular opposition, would be far less friendly to the Jewish state.  'I am very much afraid that that they wouldn't be as committed to peace with Israel, and that would be bad for Egypt, bad for Israel and bad for the U.S. and the West in general,' he said."

But how could it possibly be that if Egypt went from autocratic to democratic that the probability of militarized conflict between Israel and Egypt would increase?  Crazy talk.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Web talks/podcast bleg

I sometimes like to listen to podcasts or talks while drinking my coffee and getting myself ready to do some real work.  Especially on weekends.  So with the weekend coming up, I'm asking for recommendations.

I really liked TED talks when I first discovered them.  But after a while, I started expecting each one to end with "And if we all clap our hands loud enough, Tinkerbe--um, poverty will end." 

Bloggingheads can be good, especially if Glenn Loury is on.  I also like Dan Drezner, Heather Hurlburt, and some others.  But a lot of times, it's only a hair better than cable news.  Too much attention to the latest meaningless internet meme for my tastes.

Econtalk is good, particularly if you don't mind the libertarian spin (if you haven't guessed, I don't).  And Russ Roberts, to his credit, at times has guests whose views differ from his own.  Those are usually the best ones.  Besides any podcast with Mike Munger.  I highly recommend every podcast Munger has done with Econtalk.  But I'm not always dying to know the order in which Hayek published his works, or the difference between Google's and Apple's business strategies.

So, what would you recommend to someone who wants something a little more academic (otherwise I'd just turn on NPR) and is tired of TED?  I know there must be tons of gems out there that I've yet to discover...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Determinants of State Power

We talk a lot about power in IR.  How to measure it.  How it is distributed, and how it influences the distribution of benefits, the likelihood of war, etc.  Recently, there's more and more work on how states decide how much of their overall capabilities they wish to bring to bear within a specific crisis. 

Lately, I've been wondering why we spend so little time trying to explain why some states have so much of it and others so little.  Or rather, why we don't talk more about why specific states fall in the categories that they do.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Strange Claims Linking Iraq War to Tunisian Riots

Some neocons are arguing that the riots in Tunisia prove Bush "prescient" in his remarks that the Iraq War would help democracy take hold in the region.  Jon Western at the Duck of Minerva offers an amusing analogy to his father's faith in dousing.  Seek and ye shall find, I guess.

A few more thoughts below the fold.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Death of the Labor Party?

Ehud Barak quits Labor.  Some Labor MPs do the same, others leave the coalition government.  In the short term, this probably stabilizes Netanyahu's government, since the smaller majority will be more unified.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Does That Mean?

I've complained before about the failure of scholars to work from common definitions.  So far, I've whined about the use and abuse of the terms rationality and public goods.  Let's add three more to the list: dynamics, norms, and counter-intuitive.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Volunteer Armies and Collective Action

Bryan Caplan claims that "human beings have always been war-fearing in an absolute sense.  In what era were wars fought by unpaid volunteers and financed by bake sales?"  Responding to his co-blogger's claim that he overstates things, Bryan follows up by observing that, following the Pearl Harbor attack on the U.S., "during the first three months of U.S. involvement - a period where our national mythology describes a whole generation rushing to volunteer - just 2.4% actually did."

This is a great example of how people free-ride way more often than we choose to believe.  But I think Bryan is trying to infer something from this that simply does not follow.

The Right and Afghanistan

HuffPo has an interesting story about Grover Norquist's call for an honest debate amongst American conservatives over the U.S. war in Afghanistan.  Some more thoughts below the fold.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Miscellaneous Links

1. Excellent post on why we should downgrade the Islamist Terror Threat. (h/t Kindred)

2. U.S. says sanctions have hurt Iran.

3. Turkey's influence in Iraq increasing.

4. Drezner and Blattman offer rather different reactions to developments in Cote D'Ivoire.

5. Violent rhetoric and support for political violence.  Sides is duly skeptical of the extent to which the findings he discusses can help explain the tragic events in Tucson.

I'd go further.  If this effect was anything but trivial, wouldn't the number of incidents like the one in Tucson be a lot greater than it (thankfully) is?  And perhaps drive people who weren't already obviously disturbed and unstable to violence?

Put differently, if a pharmaceutical company developed a drug that it tested on a sample of 300 million and a tiny handful responded, we'd all be pretty comfortable saying there's not much there, right?  So why exactly are so many people on the interwebs so quick to say that violent political rhetoric is at fault for this tragedy?

UPDATE: An interesting observation from Brendan about who is making such claims.

UPDATE II: Another great post from Brendan on the responses to the tragedy in Tucson, with a never-inappropriate takedown of Krugman.

FWIW, as partisan hack journalists go, Krugman's no worse than most, and certainly better than many.  The reason I focus on him is that it seems to me that many academics have a hard time recognizing that, these days, he's a partisan hack and nothing more - whatever his past contributions to economics.  Sure, Glenn Beck is more despicable, as are many others.  But I assume I'd be preaching to the choir if I harped on that point on this blog.  I can think of no other pundit who is held in such esteem by political scientists, and can't for the life of me see why he deserves such esteem.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The Tucson story is getting a lot of reactions.  See Drezner's great post on the rarity of political violence in the US; Noxon's somewhat related post reminding us that things in the U.S. were a lot worse in the past, not better; and Farrell's point that we can't explain single events by pointing to (putative) probabilistic relationships.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Policymakers and the Academy

Several bloggers have been discussing the relationship between policymakers and IR scholars lately (see here, here, and here, all of which are responding to points made here and here).

A lot of great points have been made.  I particularly liked Dan Noxon's points about the difference between findings that are "policy-relevant" and research that policymakers would benefit from reading, and very much share his concern that when academics try too hard to be policy relevant, it can be pretty ugly.

More below the fold.