Boduszyński: The Arab Spring, Libya, and U.S. Policy. Feb. 10.


What Makes a Great Scholar? » Duck of Minerva

This is an article drawing on the lessons we can learn from the work and life of Kenneth Waltz, one of the most influential IR theorists of the last century.

What Makes a Great Scholar? » Duck of Minerva.

Some highlights:

First, ask big and important questions. Start with the question and the puzzle to something big and relevant.


Third, quality scholarship takes time….he was given the professional latitude to publish his books a decade apart. I’m curious if that would be good enough for tenure and promotion at Berkeley or Columbia today?


take a position and engage in rigorous debate on the ideas to hone logic and argument.

Our diplomatic fortresses: An Op-Ed on Benghazi by Boduszyński

An op-ed from a good friend and colleague. As the quote below suggests, our reaction to the Benghazi attacks has had some unfortunate consequences.

The Road from Benghazi by Mieczysław Boduszyński – Project Syndicate.

After the Benghazi attacks, I grieved not only for my fallen colleagues, but also for the loss of the chance to deepen a relationship that had, in Qaddafi’s final years, consisted mainly of counterterrorism efforts, limited commercial relations, and historical issues, such as the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Stevens, who championed a more comprehensive approach, would have been devastated to witness the fortress that the US embassy became after his death.

Major conflict could become a regional war

Over the past week or so we have all seen a major conflict erupt that includes a devastating human toll. This is a conflict that has a long history and which, despite the efforts of mediators and peacekeepers, has not found a solution. It is a regionalized conflict and threatens to draw those countries and others into a regional war. As I write this, reports are in about the cities and towns being bombed, and about a ground war which has resulted in rebels taking over a city and its airport.

Wait, rebels? airport? Weren’t you talking about Gaza?

I’m talking about Goma, of course, and not Gaza. And Goma has made its way–marginally–into the news. But, as noted at AlertNet (and the Guardian), a key difference between the conflicts is the amount of attention each receives. In both conflicts, war weary residents of the affected areas are suffering. In Israel and Gaza, there is the uncertainty about where the next rocket will land. In Goma, there is the uncertainty of who will control the territory where you live. For the later, it is easier to flee and they have fled but the toll is still there. The LA Times reports a reasonable estimate of 60,000 people fleeing in the past few days. It is definitely reasonable to question the UN’s mandate which, like so often in peacekeeping situations, keeps them from intervening in substantive ways.

For those of you who haven’t heard much about the conflict in Goma, a good resource is the International Crisis Group. One of their recent posts discusses steps needed to avoid a regional war (the DRC and Rwanda are the main state actors, but Uganda, Burundi, and others in the region had direct interests at play.

On twitter, you may want to follow Gabriel Gatehouse (@ggatehouse), a BBC correspondent who is there; and Laura Seay (@texasinafrica), an academic familiar with the region and conflict. Jason Stearns’ blog, Congo Siasa, is another useful source for commentary (

Course Planning for Students of Foreign Policy: Walt’s advice

Top ten things that would-be foreign policy wonks should study | Stephen M. Walt.

I’m not convinced that “wonk” is what most students aspire to. But Walt has some decent advice on what kinds of classes to take for those interested in careers in foreign affairs more generally.

#2: Statistics!  I keep telling my students to take a statistics or “methods” course. Glad to see this supported here.

#5: International Law: Maybe I should be teaching it more often?

I also like #10: Ethics. Like he says, not the kind of thing you can easily pick-up in a course. However, there are some courses that might help force you to think about these issues. In our department, the political theory courses would be a good place to look.

But I am on sabbatical this fall, so that may be all the course advice I will give!

Africa Notes: Regional Trade and Integration

There has been some interesting online commentary on intra-regional trade in Africa.

Trade between African states may be increasing.
It is commonly observed that trade between African states is below what is typically seen in other regions of the world. However, as noted over at tralac, this might be changing. They quote Aileen Kwa:

In terms of non-oil exports Africa’s internal trade is almost on par with its exports to the EU. Furthermore, the trade growth rate within Africa is the second highest after China and before the United States and the EU. Therefore, it is very promising, also in terms of the quality of exports.

Europe should focus more on regional blocs in Africa
Paul Collier suggests that this might be a good time for Europe to reconsider some of its trade strategy with African states, which has often involved individual trade deals with African governments rather than more efficient engagement with Africa’s regional blocs.

And, as I note in my post on the WTO today, there may be more that Africa’s regional blocs need to do before regional integration succeeds
[Africa Notes: WTO Roundup]

South Africa’s attempt at being a gateway to Africa might be underscoring the need for greater regional integration.
Some discussion has been had regarding whether South Africa is–or can be–a gateway to Africa. Clearly it would like to be in that position. Last month, South Africa launched its Dube TradePort, a new international passenger and cargo airport. According to its website it can handle 7.5 million passengers per year right now and will eventually be able to handle 45 million. Its cargo terminal can handle 100,000 tons per year and eventually will handle 2 million tons (more than what LAX currently handles). However, some say this is not enough. Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa and Charles Wachira have a nice critique of the argument that South Africa is a gateway and note there are other competitors (including Angola) for that title in the near-future. TRALAC reports that SA’s most recent Industrial Policy Action Plan has some clues to some of the key challenges:

trade barriers are not the main impediment to raising Africa’s intraregional trade levels, which remain almost trivial when compared with goods and services flows in other territories.
Instead, the main constraints relate to the absence, or inadequacy, of the physical infrastructure linkages required to facilitate trade flows, as well as the continent’s under- developed production structures, which decreases the opportunity for trade in complementary value-added products. (tralac)

Noted: BRICS roundup

The BRICS have been very active in recent weeks. The significance of an alliance of Brazil, India, and China is not lost on many. But occasionally some have wondered whether Russia deserves to be in the group and South Africa’s entry last year raised a few eyebrows (and still does).

The Summit
Their summit in New Delhi, held on March 29, included a number of activities that suggest the group is strengthening its institutional bonds. Here is a brief description of some of their outputs:

The Delhi Declaration, capturing the essence of discussion as well as putting forth common position of BRICS countries on various economic and political issues of global and regional importance was issued at the end of the Summit. The Declaration included Delhi Action Plan which highlights the activities to be undertaken under India’s chairmanship of BRICS to further cooperation. Two agreements namely- “Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currencies” and “BRICS Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement”- were signed by the Development Banks from BRICS countries. The Leaders also released “The BRICS Report” focusing on synergies and complementarities between the BRICS economies and highlighting their role as growth drivers of the world economy. An updated edition of BRICS Statistical Publication was also issued at the occasion.

They make a number of bids for their relevance to any future decision-making about the global economy. There is, for instance, this statement in their declaration:

BRICS is a platform for dialogue and cooperation amongst countries that represent 43% of the world’s population, for the promotion of peace, security and development in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world. Coming, as we do, from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, the transcontinental dimension of our interaction adds to its value and significance.

In a recent op-ed, Jeffrey Sachs worries about whether the multi-polar environment signaled by the rise of the BRICS means a loss of leadership at a time when the world needs a clear leader (Business Insider). Jeremiah Kure at Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader voices a thought commonly heard in some corners of the developing world: maybe it is about time the US and the North Atlantic-led world order change.

The Global Economy
The clearest place where the BRICS are trying to have an impact involves the global economy. This year was only their fourth summit, but their action items are getting clearer. Collectively, they have a lot of potential to collaborate on financial and economic matters (Ghosh). One of their more tangible plans is the launching of a development bank in the first quarter of next year and apparently located in South Africa (Reuters). While this definitely provides a challenge for the other global IFIs, the BRICS are not yet giving up on the IMF and World Bank. They are just repeating their previous bid for greater voice in those global institutions. Most recently, they told the IMF they would provide more cash if they could expand their decision-making role (Reuters). Of course, there is some irony that it is euro-zone countries that are in need of this cash.

The BRICS also have not given up on the WTO’s Doha Round of trade negotiations.

we will explore outcomes in specific areas where progress is possible while preserving the centrality of development and within the overall framework of the single undertaking (ICTSD)

Beyond Economics and Finance
The BRICS agenda is not solely economic. Their own agreement that they are not bound by the West’s decisions to sanction Iran (which they definitely are not, legally), suggests they are interested in flexing some political muscle as well. (And it is useful to note that the only BRICS country NOT to ever have had nuclear weapons is Brazil, although it did have a bit of a program for a brief period of time.)

Climate Change
Unfortunately, the BRICS also seem unlikely to provide leadership on climate change. Their priorities are clearly on economic development. This is what they state in their declaration:

We affirm that the concept of a ‘green economy’, still to be defined at Rio+20, must be understood in the larger framework of sustainable development and poverty eradication and is a means to achieve these fundamental and overriding priorities, not an end in itself. National authorities must be given the flexibility and policy space to make their own choices out of a broad menu of options and define their paths towards sustainable development based on the country’s stage of development, national strategies, circumstances and priorities. We resist the introduction of trade and investment barriers in any form on the grounds of developing green economy.

Research Resources: KOF Index of Globalization

KOF Index of Globalization.

This might be useful. They describe their data:

The KOF Index of Globalization measures the three main dimensions of globalization:

  • economic
  • social
  • and political.

In addition to three indices measuring these dimensions, we calculate an overall index of globalization and sub-indices referring to

  • actual economic flows
  • economic restrictions
  • data on information flows
  • data on personal contact
  • and data on cultural proximity.

Data are available on a yearly basis for 208 countries over the period 1970 – 2009.

KOF Index of Globalization

Wandering and rambling

I can tell the academic year is approaching partly because the academic blogosphere seems to be getting busier. Or perhaps I am just starting to pay more attention again.

My Wesleyan colleague, Erica Chenoweth, has been making some fantastic posts in her new blog, Rational Insurgents.

Chris Blattman has an interesting piece on an experiment that was run on South African politicians. The tentative conclusion of the research by Gwyneth McClendon is that They tend to be more responsive to co-ethnics and to “unifying” issues. Over at the Monkey Cage, a few thoughts we expressed as to the ethics of the approach (Sides doesn’t seem to critical of it) as well as useful links to other similar experiments.

Deborah Brautigam continues her very helpful quest to set the record straight on the roles China may be playing in Africa. Her most recent focus has been on The Economist. See here and here.

Over at the Duck of Minerva, Josh Busby has published a nice series on the famine in East Africa. Part V is here.

A clear sign that the summer season might be ending is that the online debate between Dan Drezner and Anne-Marie Slaughter seems to finally be dying down. Henry Farrell at the Monkey Cage has a nice overview of the majority of that debate (it wasn’t–isn’t?–over yet). Farrell tries to insert his own voice in he with a mention of contagion as a useful metaphor for international politics. I think the key point to remember is that each has their own unique starting assumptions and beliefs about politics and human nature… But, oh wait, isn’t that obvious? Incommensurable worldviews make debate difficult. What could have made this all more interesting, theoretically, is if a little more was done to attempt bridging these perspectives. All of this reminded me of David Lake’s recent article, “Why “isms” Are Evil: Theory, Epistemology, and Academic Sects as Impediments to Understanding and Progress“. I find it interesting that, in many ways, his attempt to knock down the divisions between the different mainstream schools of thought in IR (such as some of those dividing Drezner and Slaughter and, ultimately to break down barriers between our major fields) simultaneously embraces diverse understandings of the truth of IR while pointing a possible way towards that holy grail of a grand unifying theory for IR. He might disagree with me that these are his purposes, but it is hard for me not to see such possibilities. That said, he, Drezner and Slaughter all seem to underestimate the epistemological rifts that are likely to persist. After all, as Larry Laudan teaches us, there are those who have no problem with the existence of impediments to progress given that progress should neither be possible nor, therefore, a goal. Not something I believe, but that perspective persists…

Recommended Reading: Chenoweth on Nonviolent Resistance

Give Peaceful Resistance a Chance –

I especially like the last lines:

The good guys don’t always win, but their chances increase greatly when they play their cards well. Nonviolent resistance is about finding and exploiting points of leverage in one’s own society. Every dictatorship has vulnerabilities, and every society can find them.