Tag Archives: security

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?

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The International Studies Association: Blogging the IR/IPE Divide

I’m attending the International Studies Association meeting in San Francisco this week. One of the highlights of this year’s ISA was the ISA Bloggers Reception, at which the first winners of the Duck of Minerva’s IR blog awards were announced. The winners, all outstanding blogs definitely worth following, were:

The Most Promising New Blog was awarded to Political Violence @ a Glance, which was also recognized as runner up for best blog entry for “Is Wartime Rape Declining on a Global Scale? We Don’t Know—And It Doesn’t Matter.” 

Best Blog Entry went to John M. Hobson, blogging at The Disorder of Things, for “Eurocentrism, Racism: What’s in a Word?” 

Daniel Drezner received the award for best individual blog, while at The Disorder of Things, was named the best group blog.

The event was a great deal of fun, and I particularly enjoyed being able to put faces to all the blogs I regularly read. But the awards also highlighted a fundamental—and I think problematic—divide in the International Studies community: the division between the International Relations/International Security and the International Political Economy communities. As an IPE scholar, I was struck that none of what I consider to be the best IPE blogs were even nominated for the Duck’s awards. And at the ISA more generally, I’ve been struck by the degree to which the two communities rarely interact with one another.

And yet we recognize intuitively that the two fields are closely connected. Just as the major issues of our day—climate change, the global financial crisis, terrorism, political instability, ecological crises, and so on—cannot really be understood, let alone solved from a single disciplinary perspective, so too can we not hope to understand the dynamics of global politics from either the IR or IPE subfields alone. 

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The turmoil over last week’s Iranian elections continued into this week, with thousands of people defying a statement  by the country’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and orders by President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad and the country’s Revolutionary Guard banning such protests. Over the weekend, hundreds of supporters of Mir-Hossein Moussavi were arrested during protests. Moussavi’s supporters believe the election was rigged, but international observers and foreign governments have so far refused to comment.

In other news from the previous week:

1. The World Bank issued a statement urging the developed world to focus on the global economy in their recovery efforts. The collapse of global credit markets over the last year, the Bank noted, had led to a dramatic decline in private capital flows, with investment in developing countries declining from $1,200 billion in 2007 to an estimated $363 billion this year. Meanwhile, announcement of the new stimulus package by the Chinese government led the World Bank to increase its forecasts for the Chinese economy this year. But the decision of the Chinese government to include a ‘Buy China’ policy in its stimulus package has led to increasing tensions over the specter of protectionism in the global recovery effort.

2. French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a rare address to the country’s parliament at the Palace of Versailles this week. For more than 130 years, the French President had been constitutionally prohibited from entering parliament—an attempt to ensure legislative independence. But after the constitution was amended last year—in the name of increasingly parliamentary oversight—the restriction was removed. French Green and Communist parties boycotted the speech in protest of what they see as an attempt to increase the power of the French presidency. Sarkozy used the opportunity to outline measures intended to address the problem of rapidly detiorating public finances, sparked by the global economic crisis. In the speech, Sarkozy rejected the introduction of austerity measures, instead focusing on the need to protect jobs.

3. The situation in Iraq deteriorated over the past week, as the number of bombings as increased. On Saturday, a large truck bomb exploded outside a Shi’ite mosque in the Kurdish town of Kirkuk. The attack, the deadliest single attack in more than a year, killed 73 people. Meanwhile, a series of smaller attacks in Baghdad killed 15 people on Monday. The declining security situation comes as the United States prepares to begin its withdrawal from Iraqi towns, handing responsibility for day-to-day security over to Iraqi police by the end of June.

4. The speaker of the parliament in Somalia has issued a call for neighboring countries to send in troops to help prop up the country’s fragile government. The security situation in Somalia remains grim. On Thursday, the government’s security minister, Omar Hashi Aden, and more than 20 others were killed in a suicide attack by Islamic militants known as al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab seeks to overthrow the country’s western-backed government and impose its vision of strict sharia law in Somalia. So far, international assistance has been limited, and al-Shabaab has confined the influence of the government to the country’s capital, Mogadishu. Meanwhile, according to United Nations estimates, some 122,000 civilians have been forced to flee as a result of fighting which began in early May.

5. Tensions between the government of Hugo Chávez and the anti-government television station Globovisión have increased in Venezuela in recent days. Chávez accuses the station of “media terrorism” as a result of its critical coverage of his government, particularly following a minor earthquake which hit the capital, Caracdas, in early May. According to observers, the station makes an easy target for Chávez, who has stepped up his efforts to transform Venezuelan society and economy in recent months.

The Future of the U.S. Global Position

A forthcoming report by Thomas Fingar, the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst, has received little attention, but heralds some dramatic changes for the United States in the near future.  According to the Washington Post, Fingar’s report, entitled Global Trends 2025, observes that, “The U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished” over the next 15-17 years, highlighting in particular the deterioration of U.S. leadership in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas.”  The major challenges?  Globalization, climate change, and regional destabilization brought about by shortages of food, water, and energy.  What’s more, in Fingar’s assessment, the extensive military resources of the United States will be our “least significant” asset because “nobody is going to attack us massive conventional forces.”

Fingar predicts a world in which the United States’ position is gradually eroded as other regional powers, including Europe and China, rise.  He also envisions a declining role for multilateral institutiosn like the United Nations and the World Bank.

Interestingly, the major concerns preoccupying U.S. foreign and military policy over the past eight years receive scant attention in the report.  Instead, Fingar emphasizes the impact of growing environmental crises on regional stability, particularly in the developing world.  Climate change and its associated conditions, including food shortages, drought, floods, mass migration, and political and economic upheaval—not al-Qaeda and Iran—represent the most significant policy challenges in Fingar’s assessment.

The award for best response to the report has to go to the Climate Progress blog, which says “Duh!”…but in a good way.  More generally, however, Fingar’s report does encourage us to rethink our understanding of security and foreign policy.  Is IR as a discipline too focused on military security and national foreign policy?  Do the (neo)realist and (neo)liberal approaches to IR help us to understand contemporary challenges in a meaningful way?  Or is it time for us to rethink our approaches?

Want to know more?  Read Fingar’s speech to the INSA Analytic Transformation Conference.  Unfortunately the report itself is not yet available for public consumption.