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.