Monthly Archives: March 2014

Blogging in IR: Reflecting Divides in the Discipline

flags-waving-in-the-windI’m at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association meeting in Toronto this week. Last night, I attended the annual bloggers’ reception, where several outstanding blogs were recognized. The awards, organized by Duck of Minerva, are quickly becoming a key event at the ISA’s meeting.

Political Violence @ a Glance was recognized as the best group blog, with The Monkey Cage recognized as runner up. Dart Throwing Chimp was the best individual blog. Nuclear Diner was the best new blog. And Daniel Drezner was awarded a special achievement award for his work in contributing to the developing of blogging in international relations.

All of the awards were well-earned, and I encourage you to check them all out. But I was also struck by the relative lack of attention paid to the international political economy side of the discipline. Historically, IR has been divided into two main subfields: international relations, which tends to focus on security issues, and international political economy, which tends to focus on global economics. A massive conference like the ISA draws IR scholars and practitioners from both sides of the discipline. But it’s striking how little connection there often is between the two groups.

This is unfortunate. Just as the most interesting and important questions are unlikely to be successfully addressed by a single disciplinary field, so too the biggest questions in IR would likely benefit from the insights provided by both subfields. Climate change, for example, is both a security and an economic question. So why are we so bad at working beyond the (sub)discipline?

The Role of the Public and Private Sectors in the Good Society

Governments are increasingly reliant on private sector principles for the provision of public services.

The city government of Santa Barbara allows prisoners to upgrade their accommodations. For a mere $82 per night, detainees have access to a private cell, separate from the general population, and are permitted access to a greater variety of entertainment—ipods, computers, and so on.

In Washington, DC, lobbyists now pay homeless people to wait in line to get access to key committee hearings.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, private military contractors outnumbered military personnel on the ground and provided the vast majority of reconstruction efforts and service delivery in support of the US military effort.

In this TED Talk, Michael Sandel describes this as a “quiet revolution” in which we have slowly moved from having a market economy to becoming a market society.

On one side, fees for public services provide incentives for better service and introduce a greater level of efficiency in the public sector. Toll roads, for example, force individuals to balance the value of their time against the greater cost of driving the toll road. But Sandel argues that the introduction of market society undermines the inclusiveness of public life, facilitates inequality, and crowd out the “public good” from public life.

What do you think? Do market solutions to public service challenge promote more efficiency in the public sector or undermine the promise of inclusiveness and equality in the United States? Do you agree with Sandel’s argument presented in the video? Why? And what are the unintended consequences of such policy changes?

[This article was previously published at the Election Center blog and is reprinted here with permission.]

Banning Twitter in Turkey

The government of Turkey yesterday announced it would “eradicate Twitter,” prompting a sharp protests in social media.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a troubled history with social media, which has been sharply critical of his leadership. Critics of the government have used social media to mobilize protests and distribute information charging the government with corruption. Prime Minister Erdogan asserted that “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.” But Google and Twitter quickly announced ways around the block, and the number of posts from Turkey actually increased following the announcement.

What do you think? Will Turkey be successful in its efforts to control the internet? Or does the decentered nature of the internet undermine Turkey’s ability to control it? And what might this suggest for the future of social media and its relationship to governments and politics around the world?

Happy World Happiness Day!

The United Nations has recognized March 20 as the International Day of Happiness! What are you doing to celebrate it?

The United Nations’ recognition is intended to highlight the importance of fundamental freedoms. While measuring happiness can be problematic, the overall findings of the World Happiness Report suggest that levels of economic development—that is, of satisfying basic material needs—is important.  Thus it’s perhaps not surprising, the happiness index ranks the Scandinavian states as the happiest in the world.

So happy International Day of Happiness! What are you doing to celebrate?

Tracking International Migration

migration interThe Migration Policy Institute has produced a new interactive tool that lets us analyze global migration patterns. According to the United Nations, an estimated 232 million people—approximately 3.2 percent of the global population—live as international migrants abroad.

International migration is driven by many factors. Political asylum seekers hoping to escape repression, economic refugees hoping for better lives and new opportunities abroad, and slaves and sex trafficking victims forced abroad against their will are all grouped into the broad category of “international migrants.”

Just ten countries receive half of all international migrants: the United States (45.8 million), Russia (11 million), Germany (9.8 million, Saudi Arabia (9.1 million), the United Arab Emirates (7.8 million), the United Kingdom (7.8 million), France (7.4 million), Canada &7.3 million), Australia (6.5 million), and Spain (6.5 million).  But South-South immigration is quickly increasing, with migration to Asia increasing at the quickest rate since 2000.

Given the complexity of global migration dynamics, the new interactive tool provides a useful way to analyze the data and to note some interesting trends. As the New Republic observes,

The map, which allows you to select by country and by immigrants or emigrants, is a font of fun facts. For instance: While there are 13 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S., more Americans immigrate to Mexico (849,000) than to any other country. Or: There are more Ukrainians in Russia (3 million) than from any other country, and there are more Russians in Ukraine (3.5 million) than from any other country.

So take a look and see what patterns you can find.

The Long-Term Challenges of Syria and the Challenge of Multiple Crises

Syrian Children Crossing a Street

Syrian Children Crossing a Street

A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is drawing new attention to the impact of the ongoing crisis in Syria on the country’s youth. The report noted that some 5.5 million children require assistance because of war—a figure that has doubled in less than a year. Some 10,000 children have been killed in the conflict, many as the result of deliberate action on the part of combatants. The report also warned that children face “deep developmental and emotional scars” that will continue long after the fighting ends.

Simon Ingram, UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Chief of Communication warned that, “Here we are talking about the hidden injuries, the hidden wounds that have been inflicted on children because of what they have experienced; the behavioral changes, the nightmares that they carry around with them – the way in which they can no longer function as normal children do.  And, this is an aspect of the crisis, which has been too often overlooked, but which is growing all the time.”

And yet as the crisis in the Crimea and Ukraine evolves, attention to Syria on the international scene appears to be waning. And more to the point, cooperation between the United States and Russia in attempting to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program appears to have been placed on the back burner after the two countries found themselves on opposite sides of the crisis in Crimea. The Ukrainian crisis has also helped to shape Turkey’s presidential elections, scheduled for March 30.

What do you think? Can reports like those issued this week by Unicef help to draw international attention back to the crisis in Syria? Are decision makers able to focus on multiple crises and issues—the situation in Syria, Ukraine/Crimea, Turkey, etc.—at the same time? Why? How do the breaking of multiple crises affect foreign policy decision making? What determines which issue rises to the fore?

Gendered Labor and Household Equality

b00srp6v_640_360Today marks International Women’s Day. Established early years of the twentieth century, International Women’s Day is observed on March 8 every year and is intended to celebrate women’s political, economic, and social achievements—and often to draw attention to ongoing gender inequality.

Ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a new report on the distribution of household labor in is 34 member states. The report uses time use surveys to determine the amount of household labor (measured in minutes) performed by men and women in each state. The report notes that women perform the majority of unpaid work in all states, though the disparity between men’s and women’s household labor varies by country.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Scandinavian welfare states—which have a long history of gender equity in politics—have the highest level of gender equity in the distribution of household labor. Men in Norway—the most equal country in the study—perform an average of 180 minutes per day doing housework, while women in Norway perform an average of 210 minutes per day of housework.

Japan has the greatest inequality in the distribution of household labor, with women working an average of 377 minutes per day in the household, compared to just 62 minutes per day performed by men.

To mark International Women’s Day, the OECD has created a website and a quiz highlighting gender equality (or inequality) in countries around the world. It’s an informative quiz and well worth reading.

Escalating Tensions in Ukraine

Sharp clashes in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea erupted over the weekend, as pro- and anti-Russian groups fought. The Russian parliament on Saturday unanimously authorized President Vladimir Putin to use Russian military forces to protect the country’s interests “until the normalization of the political situation in the country.” Late last week, unidentified soldiers in unmarked vehicles seized control of several key areas, including airports, in the Crimea. The region is also home to large populations of Russian citizens. Meanwhile President Barack Obama warned Russia against intervening in Ukraine’s political situation, and the United Nations Security Council held an “urgent” meeting on Saturday to address the crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, many observers are asking if Russia will invade Ukraine? And Ukrainian officials are warning Russia not to interfere.

What do you think? Will Russia intervene in Ukraine? If you were responsible for advising President Obama regarding the situation, how would you advise him to respond? What steps can the United States take? What steps should it take? Why?