Monday, March 28, 2011

My War and International Security Class, Part Three

Available here.  This section draws a lot more on my own research than previous sections.  It also followed the syllabus a little less closely, though I've been going somewhat off script throughout when I thought that would better promote student comprehension.  This time around, I dropped some lectures (including two on economic interdependence, one theoretical and one empirical) when I found that I needed to go more slowly through the material than I'd originally intended.

See here and here for previous sections.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What France's Role in the Libyan Intervention Doesn't Tell Us

Peter Beinart seems to think it demonstrates that "America Doesn't Matter Anymore."  We've been over this before when John Quiggin made a similar argument about the irrelevance of the US, sparking a number of responses from myself (here, here and here) and Kindred (here, here and here), not to mention Dan Drezner.

Kindred doesn't let Beinart get away with this nonsense.  Read his excellent smack-down here.


I have just a few thoughts to add to what Kindred has already said.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Your Control Variables Don't Do For You Part the Third

Previously, I discussed conditions under which control variables led to inappropriate inference where sparse models would not have done so due to measurement error on the omitted variable and when the primary independent variable served as a collider variable.

As I'm trying to persuade folks, there are a great number of ways in which throwing in variables that also correlate with the dependent variable willy-nilly can screw up your estimate of the effect of x on y, so it's really unfortunate that the norm in our field is to reject all journal submissions that don't have tons of "control" variables (read: someone else found that it correlated with the dependent variable).  So this likely won't be the last time I blog about this.  Just one more illustration, with more to come in the future.

Miscellaneous Links

1. Nice summary of why it's a bit crazy that so many of us expect democracy to work so well.  (Stupid title though -- do we know of some other species that excels at meeting the demands of democracy?) (h/t Zac Greene)

2. Two great posts from Stephen Walt about Libya, here and here.  Not enough to make me forget this, but still, the man's on a roll.  (h/t Andrew Boutton and Will May).

3. Support for Libyan intervention lowest of recent campaigns.

4. North Korea on the lessons of Libya.

5. Interactive time-line of Arab Protests (h/t Will Moore).

6. Gaza rockets strike Israel.

7. xkcd on time management.  (As always with xkcd, don't miss the mouse-over.)

UPDATE: re: Walt and Libya, see this post by Kindred.  Good points.

The Slippery Slope of Slippery Slope Arguments

I've long been bothered by slippery slope arguments.  Whenever someone uses this line of reasoning against you, it feels like a cheap shot.  After all, it seems absurd to deny the basic logic of the metaphor.  But it's such an easy critique to make, how can you take it seriously?  Unless of course, you're the one making the criticism, right?  No, that's not how it works?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Checking in With Egypt, Libya

As the US and its allies take a bold step to help the march for democracy in Libya, and bravely offer sterns words to the Saudis as they help put down pro-democratic protests in neighboring Bahrain, let's take a moment to step back and bask in the glow of the historic changes coming to Egypt.

The results of yesterday's referendum are coming in, and guess who's really happy about the results and who isn't?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Signaling Advice For Grad Students

I think a lot (though certainly not all) of the difficulty that the average grad student faces as they work their way towards the PhD can be avoided by thinking about interactions with faculty as a signaling game, and realizing that the game changes as you move from undergrad to grad, and even at different stages of grad school.  Specifically, pay mind to the change in the qualities upon which the faculty are conditioning their strategy (where that strategy may be assigning grades, writing letters, extending requests to co-author, etc, as the case may be).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Miscellaneous Links

1. Replace economics with political science and what changes? Well, Esther Duflo and John List, for one.  But you get the idea.  Incidentally, I fully agree that we should be skeptical, and thus mostly only hold weak beliefs, though this is a standard I often fail to meet, especially after I've had a beer or two...

2. From the new blog, Bleeding Heart Libertarians (what was that about no opinions, fil?), a bunch of related links about looking like you care about others' suffering vs actually helping those who suffer: here, here, here and, somewhat related, here.

3. The US gov't in bed with dictators who are willing to act as allies against a broader foe?  Say it ain't so!

4. No-Drive-Zones in Libya?  See also here.

5. Subtle change in language means talks can begin -- wake me up when that actually means the war is going to end.

6. I'm sure this too indicates an imminent a peace agreement, this one b/w Israel and Syria.

7. Math atheism.  I think there are some adherents on PSJR, particularly those insisting that there is no cause for concern whatsoever that most quantitative political scientists basically think regression is magic and have no idea what assumptions they're making when they estimate models in STATA or R...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Correlations, Causation and Polisci Blogging

Over at Monkey Cage, Gelman goes after UB colleague Jason Sorens for this post at Pileus.

I'm sympathetic to Gelman's argument.  I think it's disturbing how often we use casual language when discussing the results of correlational analysis of observational data.  In fact, most days, I'm so frustrated by how unappreciated this is, I'd leap with joy to see one of the most read blogs in poli sci driving the point home.

The "but" comes after the jump.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Your Control Variables Don't Do For You Redux

In this post, I argued that dumping in every observable variable you can find that just might correlate with your dependent variable isn't necessarily justified even if you have legitimate concerns about omitted variable bias.  In that example, the problem was essentially one of measurement error on the omitted variable.

Here's another example, which has to do with collider variables -- which entirely too few political scientists have heard of.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Shining Example that Iraq is Not

Can you believe this?  Maliki is trying to consolidate his hold on power!  What the what?  I mean, didn't we we bring* real democracy to Iraq?  When does that ever fail to live up to expectations?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Troop Surges and Domestic Opposition

I don't know why I do this to myself.  I have 4 co-authored projects that I'm currently working on or have committed myself to work on soon.  I've turned down a few requests for new co-authored projects even though I'd like to be able to say yes, because I'm simply over-committed.

And yet, today, I started work on a new project.  Stupid.  I can't actually see having the time to work on it until this summer at the earliest, and that's if I continue to put off revising some existing solo work that has been backburnered in favor of co-authored stuff for several months as it is.

But I'm really glad I did, because I'm psyched about this project. 

US, Libya, and the Domestic Politics of the Use of Force

First, I don't think it's very likely that the US will intervene.  With these recent remarks from Gates, the US appears to already be backtracking from a position that initially had military options on the table, judging by Clinton's remarks regarding no-fly zones.

Has anyone else noticed that this is not the first time that the Secretary of State, a Democrat, has looked more hawkish than the Secretary of Defense, who was first appointed by a Republican?

Setting aside what's likely to happen, let's consider the politics of who would like to see what happen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Causes of Effects v Effects of Causes and IR Theory

I'm grading comprehensive exams again, some I'm again in the mood to reflect on the field.  Not for the first time, I'm really frustrated with the tendency to try to crown winners in the debate between the "-ism"s.  It occurs to me that borrowing some language from the causal inference folks might be useful for explaining how silly this is.