Saturday, August 30, 2014

Diplomacy is Like Comedy

There are lots of old jokes about timing and comedy because it is so very important for making a good joke.  Well, timing is also very important for international relations.  The classic example of bad timing is the Falklands/Malvinas war, as the Argentinean Generals should have waited a year or so.  Why?  Because the British were just about to dismantle key hunks of their navy which would have made the counter-attack damn near impossible.

Why do I raise this now?  Because Russia's escalations of the last week seem to be at odds with one of the key imputed intentions: to break NATO.  With the Wales summit a few days away, Putin was just about to win a key diplomatic victory--Germany standing in the way of permanent basing in the Eastern part of the alliance (Poland, the Baltics).  Reports had suggested that Germany would allow permanent basing only if Russia did something like really invade Ukraine.

Well?  There you go. EU more likely to apply real sanctions, NATO likely to develop greater unity.  Sure, Putin might find some benefits to increased isolation, but it is not clear why escalation occurred before the Wales summit.  Yes, the separatists were losing, but they were not going to be defeated in a few days.  The timing here indicates some desperation and not "cleverness" or "strategery."

Of course, we really do not know why Russia is doing what it is doing.  All I can really suggest is that this escalation is poorly timed.  And that matters--I expect a commitment of either permanent basing or permanent-ish basing at Wales.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Flying Social Contracts

I don't fly as much as my wife thinks, but it does seem to be the case that there is a news story about air travel every time I fly.  This time: a spat between passengers over reclining seats. The guy had come prepared, put a plastic hunk known as a knee defender into the seatback in front of him to prevent the person in front of him from reclining the seat.  She, the passenger in front, got upset when she could not recline, asked for a flight attendant to intervene and then threw a cup of water in the guy's face.   Good times. As a seasoned traveler, the only thing that slightly surprises me is that this happened in the econoplus seats where people do have a bit more room, which means the recliner is slightly less inconsiderate.

This story speaks to the big problem--that there is confusion about the flying social contract.  Yes, the seats can recline, but do you really deserve/own the space behind your seat?  No.  You do not.  You cannot expect that the person behind you should just continue to let the dominoes fall with recliner after recliner until they hit a seat that does not recline much (exit rows and back of the plane).  Why?  Because the person behind you may want to eat, write, compute or whatever.

Basic consideration indicates that you should not recline much if there is a person behind you.  If the seat behind you is empty, recline away.  Otherwise, recline a smidge (an inch or so) but no more unless you see that the person behind you is reclining.  As someone put it on twitter last night, whatever comfort one gains from reclining provides is almost certainly less than the discomfort imposed upon the person behind.

Flying is full of tradeoffs.  Get the window seat and you cannot come and go as you please but you can lean on the window to sleep.  Take the aisle seat and you get more freedom but then you have to move out and back when the inners have to go to the bathroom.  And you get banged by carts and folks in the aisle.  Middle folks?  Well, they be screwed as there is no upside.  And, of course, this incident occurred between to middle people.  One reason I like keeping up my frequent flyer status is that I can dodge those seats most of the time.

Anyhow, because flying requires us to be close to strangers, the onus is on each of us to just be considerate of those around us:
  • Go light on perfume since you have to share your scent with those around you.
  • Do clean up before a flight for the same reason--your scent should not be so strong as to impose on others in a tight seating arrangement.
  • Be tolerant of the kids who cry and bump around--there is only so much parents can do.
  • Do try to provide distractions to one's kids so that they are less likely to be annoying to the adults near by.  
  • Do switch seats if you can to keep families together.... even if it might mean you get middled.
  • Follow the various instructions quickly so that we can get and off the plane and so that the flight attendants can do their jobs.  
  • If you have to move the belongings of other folks to get your stuff in the overhead, ask first and then do so carefully so that you don't mash hats/coats/packages. 
  • Be aware while walking in the airport so that you do not block the way of those who are sprinting to their planes.  
  • Do not dominate the charging stations--charge only one device at a time if there are others in need of a charge. 
  • and, it deserves repeating, Do not recline that far back.
the list can go on and on.  The basic idea again is just be decent.  Sure, travel stress can put anyone in a bad mood and off their game.  But rather than being contagious, the typhoid Mark of travel stress, chill a bit.

And yes, common sense is often not so common.  Alas.

Update:  Yes, on red-eye flights, you can expect more reclining but still some consideration for the person behind you, please.
and I was tweeted this pic by Johannes Wheeldon

Monday, August 25, 2014

APSA Ultimate 2014

Time again for APSA ultimate.  Friday, August 29th at 10:30 at Walter Pierce Park.  The park is just a short walk from the Marriott or Hilton:

Bring dark and light shirts and see you there!

America's Favorite Wars

I was having a beer with several Canadians this weekend, and the topic of 1812 came up (before the wonderful British Embassy tweet).  And I asserted that the War of 1812 is not among the top ten favorite American wars.  Of course, that is an exaggeration--but top five?  No.  Let's check.

And by favorite, I refer to a combo of how each war fits into American mythology, American pop culture (movies, books, music, whatever), and what I remember of American history classes from back in the day (which slights the recent wars as teachers would run out of time).  Favorite does not entirely mean loved or liked, as how can we really like war.  Indeed, some unpopular wars are still favorites in terms of popular discussion/imagination.
  1. World War II.  Really?  Yes.  Because it is the last big war the US so unambiguously won.  Many, many classic war movies and books from this war, and the boomers are always fond of lauding their parents as the Greatest Generation since that makes them almost great, too.  Ok, that is unfair.  
  2. U.S. Civil War.  Holy re-enacting!  More re-enacting than WWII but less in the way of movies.  Plus the whole divided outlook on the war itself, with some folks still denying that slavery was at the heart of it.  
  3. The Revolutionary War.  Yes, the founding war is third.  Why?  When was the last time you saw a movie or tv show about the American Revolution?  "Turn"?  Exactly.  The political stuff certainly continues to dominate America's sense of itself, but the war?  More Americans can name more battles from WWII and the Civil War than from the American Revolution.  I wonder how many would name Saratoga as a key turning point?  Yorktown as the last big battle?  The last notable movie about this war starred Mel Gibson as the good guy.... so yeah.
  4. Vietnam. Plays a huge role in Americans' imagination of war.  Any new conflict is immediately considered the next Vietnam.  The boomers obviously had much obsession with this war, and they still shape much of American attitudes about stuff.  Heaps of movies and books.
  5. Gulf War (1991).  The US loves a victory and this is the most recent mostly unambiguous victory.  Plus George Clooney was in a movie about it. 
  6. Korea.  M*A*S*H.  
  7. Grenada.  Due to that Clint Eastwood movie. World War I.  It is hip again with the one hundred anniversary, but so very distant in time and entirely eclipsed by the war that this war to end all wars did not prevent.  I think we have more music from that war than movies/books.  Again, this is my take on the American stance on these things.  Obviously, Europeans have stronger memories about WWI, having lost a huge hunk of a generation.
  8. The various wars against the Native Americans.  Sure, Westerns are no longer popular, but the conflicts in the Old West play a big role in the American history books.  It would be interesting to see if Americans could list more Native American war leaders than generals of the opposing sides in various wars.  I would guess that only the US Civil War would be an even match.
  9. Wars of Texas Independence/US Irredentism. Thanks to John Wayne and the Alamo.  
  10. War of 1812.  I am pretty sure that Americans would have a hard time guessing what was the big battle the US won (after the war was over) or what the war was about.  Sure, we got the National Anthem from this war, but how many people can sing it?  It is also diminished by the fact that this war was a sideshow for the big wars in Europe with that Napoleon dude.
The funny thing is that the Conservative government of Canada has been playing up the War of 1812 as a key point in Canada's founding mythology even as it preceded the founding of Quebec.  I guess it is like the "French and Indian War" that is a key part of American history books, mostly due to the rise of George Washington and setting the conditions for the Revolution.

Anyhow, I am not an historian nor have I read surveys on how Americans view the wars.  Just my impressions from what I saw in my various schools and how the wars play in American culture.  I think most Americans would agree that the War of 1812 is near the bottom of the list of American wars.  I guess getting one's capital burned can lead to some selective amnesia.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"Fixing" NATO

I was going to post about my talk in Toronto on NATO today, but now I have a slightly different NATO post to write: a response to this piece by Anne Applebaum proposing that Obama magically fix NATO.  Given that the title of my talk was “The Present and Future of NATO: More of the Same,” it is inevitable that I would be a skeptic of Applebaum's piece.  

The basic thrust of the talk was that NATO's flaws are both baked into NATO's design (see the opt out language in Article V--an attack upon one equals an attack upon all and each country responds as each deems necessary) and inherent in alliances.  Which is why I argue that NATO is the worst form of multilateral military cooperation except for all the others.  Contributions have been and always will be voluntary--that no country will obligate themselves to follow orders from on high without the ability to opt out.  If such rules did exist, imagine how hard it would be to gain consensus--which is required to make a decision. 

Applebaum argues that Obama should spend his last two years revising a new North Atlantic Treaty.  Um, yeah, two years.  Good luck with that.  Her first point is that the new treaty should require countries to pay in order to receive protection... and she uses the figure of 1% of their national budget.  Strange, since pretty much everyone hits that target.  They tend to fall short of the NATO-expected 2% of GDP, but that is always bigger than 1% of the national budget.  Bad math here.  Bad logic too, as countries that are not on the frontline and less needing of protection from the threat might opt out. So, the new NATO might have Poland and the Baltics and Turkey but Italy?  Spain?  Portugal?  Germany?  Hmmm.  Starts to look like a coalition of the willing than an alliance with a history of credibility, legitimacy and practiced inter-operability.

Applebaum also calls for more of each country's military spending to go to NATO efforts.  The only countries that really spend much on their military that is used in non-NATO efforts are ... the US, France and the UK.  So, not sure what is going on there.

Applebaum then goes onto call for re-aligning the bases where NATO's troops are deployed.  There is something to this, but she really wants a magical wand:
The basing of troops and equipment needs to be rethought completely: If we were starting from scratch, nobody would put them where they are now. NATO needs to shut down unnecessary commands and legacy bases, and move on.
Why should other democracies not have the same kind of base closing politics as the U.S.?  It is well known how hard it is to close military bases, with the BRAC process* aimed at reducing Congress's accountability and temptations to engage in pork-type politics.  Congress has prevented any new BRAC process despite the pressures of sequestration and all that.  Why should European countries facing vary strident publics close bases that help to provide jobs?  If the Americans cannot do it, why expect anyone else to do it?
*  The BRAC process is not strictly focused on military utility as it has to consider economic impact.  Oops.
Yet, there is some truth here--that there should be more troops from NATO countries based in and near Poland and the Baltics.  The Russian threat is significant and we need trip-wires to deter Russia and to reassure the un-reassurable--those closest to Russia.

Applebaum is correct that enlargement should be more focused on what countries can bring rather than just filling in holes in a map.  So, Sweden and Finland, sure.  Serbia and Bosnia?  No.  Georgia?  Hell no since too much reassurance and security guarantees can lead to overconfidence and less restraint (see Glenn Snyder on the Alliance Dilemma). 

Applebaum concludes with the least realistic recommendation--if the Europeans and Canadians don't fall in line, Obama can leave the alliance.  Really?  No, not really.  It would be very difficult  in US domestic politics because treaties involve ... the Senate.  Abrogating treaties is serious business.  He would be pilloried by politicians across the spectrum.  Internationally?  He would be alienating America's best friends who are actually quite helpful most of the time.  And he would be sacrificing something that works better than the alternatives.

Decades of effort to build technical interoperability would be tossed away.  Political interoperability problems--caveats, differential burden-sharing, etc--would remain as they are inherent in the enterprise when multiple democracies seek to cooperate militarily.  Countries do not give up national control of their militaries when they join a coalition or an alliance, and domestic politics will shape how that control is exercised.  It is inescapable.  At least with NATO, we have learned how to deal with such challenges.




Friday, August 22, 2014

Academic Failure: Where is the Dataset?

Gawker ran a piece on the absence of a dataset on police violence.  Brian Burghart, the author, blames the police departments in the U.S. for not providing such data.  That the federal government does not collect such data despite collecting nearly all other info about crime in the U.S.  What Burghart does not mention but could have/should have: the academic absence.

To be clear, I am not a scholar of crime.  I have no idea if there is a dataset that has been collected by academics.  But I think Burghart would have found it by now.  The strange thing is that we scholars get money, sometimes heaps of it, to build datasets about war, about political systems elsewhere, civil wars, and on and on.  But there is no dataset for police violence in the U.S.?  Where are the sociologists?  Where are the political scientists who study U.S. politics?

There seems to be a huge gap that is dying (oops) for a grant application.  This is the kind of thing that the National Science Foundation funds when it is not been ... micromanaged by Congress. 


In the principal-agent language of all of this, the principals (voters/politicians) seem not to be paying attention to what the agents (the cops) are doing, which means that they can do less or more than we want.  The fire alarm is ringing (this article and others like it), but no one seems to be answering.  Crap.


So, my academic friends, is Burghart wrong?  Or have we academics failed our city country?

Jobs at NPSIA

We are hiring this fall.  We will have two jobs both in the area of intel, terrorism and national security.  I am posting the first job ad below.  It is more specific than the second job, which I will advertise when I get the final ad copy.



Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (Infrastructure Protection, Intelligence, and International Security) - Assistant Professor (Closing Date for applications: October 10, 2014 or until the position is filled)

The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) invites applications from qualified candidates for a tenure track appointment in infrastructure protection, intelligence, and international security at the rank of Assistant Professor beginning July 1, 2015.

The successful candidate will be expected to research, teach and supervise students (primarily at the graduate level) in fields broadly related to critical infrastructure protection (CIP), intelligence and national or international security. The position includes teaching duties in the Infrastructure Protection and International Security program, where we are interested in offering courses in areas such as risk assessment, counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

NPSIA is a recognized centre of academic excellence in international affairs and public policy.  It is the largest and oldest school of its kind in Canada with an international reputation and full membership in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (http://www.apsia.org/). We offer M.A., M.A.-J.D. and Ph.D. degrees in international affairs (http://www.carleton.ca/npsia), and contribute to some specialized undergraduate programs.  The School’s multidisciplinary faculty is engaged in a broad and growing array of research projects, innovative teaching initiatives and linkages with the policy community. This position is associated with the Master’s in Infrastructure Protection and International Security (MIPIS) degree that is jointly offered with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carleton University (http://graduate.carleton.ca/programs/infrastructure-protection-and-international-security-masters/).

At the time of appointment applicants should have a completed Ph.D. in Political Science, Economics, International Affairs, Law, Public Policy, Public Administration or another relevant discipline. The ideal candidate will have a strong record in teaching and research (including relevant publications) and demonstrated potential for excellence as a teacher and researcher in the identified fields. Candidates should be committed to working in a policy-oriented multidisciplinary environment; related policy experience in the public or private sector will be an asset.

The deadline for applications is October 10, 2014.  Candidates should submit applications electronically to Karen Howard (Karen.Howard@carleton.ca) in three PDF files including: 1) a curriculum vitae; 2) a statement of teaching interests, a teaching portfolio and any evaluations or other evidence of teaching performance, and a statement regarding their approach to teaching; and 3) a plan for ongoing and future research, a short description of papers or monographs published or in progress, a summary of the doctoral thesis, and links to any publications or some sample publications.  Candidates should also arrange to have three confidential letters of reference sent to the School.  All candidates attaining an interview will be asked to deliver a research seminar to faculty and students.

Please indicate in your application if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.  [Steve says: if you are not, you are still eligible for the position and go ahead and apply]

Located in Ottawa, Ontario, Carleton University is a dynamic and innovative research and teaching institution committed to developing solutions to real world problems by pushing the boundaries of knowledge and understanding daily. Its internationally recognized faculty, staff, researchers, and librarians provide more than 27,000 full- and part-time students from every province and more than 100 countries around the world with academic opportunities in more than 65 programs of study. Carleton’s creative, interdisciplinary, and international approach to research has led to many significant discoveries and creative work in science and technology, business, governance, public policy, and the arts.

Minutes from downtown, Carleton University is located on a beautiful campus, bordered by the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal. With over 12 national museums and the spectacular Gatineau Park close by, there are many excellent recreational opportunities for individuals and families to enjoy. The City of Ottawa, with a population of almost one million, is Canada’s capital city and reflects the country’s bilingual and multicultural character. Carleton’s location in the nation’s capital provides many opportunities for research with groups and institutions that reflect the diversity of the country.

Carleton University is strongly committed to fostering diversity within its community as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to the further diversification of our University including, but not limited to, women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity. Those applicants that are selected for an interview will be requested to contact the Chair of the Search Committee as soon as possible to discuss any accommodation requirements. Arrangements will be made to accommodate requests in a timely manner.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. All positions are subject to budgetary approval.
[Steve again]: NPSIA is a great place to work.  I have been very happy in my two plus years there as it is a very supportive, engaged placed with sharp students and good connections to where foreign/defence policy happens in Canada.

Shoot me an email if you have questions about the position.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

NATO Forever

I am heading to Toronto today for a talk this evening on NATO and its future.  I don't always buy ye olde Liberal Institutionalist arguments about transaction costs and international institutions.  Still, it is certainly the case here that NATO will continue to exist because it is harder to build institutions than modify them.  NATO serves a variety of purposes for its members, who do not always agree about its role in the world.  But as the premier multilateral security organization in the world, it ain't going anywhere.

More relevant today?  I would say about as much as before.  Sure, Russia's aggression makes NATO appear to be more relevant, but NATO was pretty damned relevant in Afghanistan for fourteen years or so, was very relevant in the Balkans from 1995 onwards, and very relevant for figuring out the future of Eastern Europe after 1991.  I don't just say this to justify people buying the book as the book is full of comparative civil-military goodness anyway. 

I will post the slides after the talk (Spoilers are bad!).


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guardians References

Heaps of fun stuff buried and not so buried in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Spoilers dwell in the video


H/T to AV club

as always, make mine Marvel.