Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Busy Day in Applying Ye Olde Research and Teaching To Today's News

I am doing something I have never really done before: try to write an academic piece for a real deadline.  I have written stuff for conference and workshop deadlines, but I am working right now on a very current piece--the coalition against ISIS--for a journal that has set a deadline for me.  Good and bad, of course.  But as a result, I can only really post some quick hit thoughts on many of thing bits of news today
  • Perhaps the most important or least important item might be the announcement that Russia is setting up a new security service.  Now it might be aimed at new threats or whatever, but the proliferation of security services is often viewed by those who study civil-military relations as coup-proofing.  That is, efforts aimed at making it harder for the military to overthrow the government.  Or, in the case of a place like Russia, creating alternative security organizations may be aimed at helping to put down protesters if older agencies are seen as less reliable.  That it happened a day after the Panama Papers indicate that Putin and friends might be a smidge corrupt is probably just a coincidence.   Hmmm.  Very interesting.
  • Indonesia just blew up a bunch of foreign fishing boats as part of the larger South China Sea territorial disputes.  The most obvious thing to note: no Chinese boats despite China being the most aggressive violator of pretty much all things territorial in that area.  Is Indonesia conveying strength via this act or weakness via its targeting?  Hmm.
  • Things continue not to look good in the Caucuses with Azerbaijan and Armenia set to re-start their 1990s war.  Is it fair to call a country seeking to reverse the irredentism of another country irredentist too?  Sure, as the effort to take back territory that is seen as lost is not really that dependent on the time of the loss.  For Azerbaijan, the loss is quite real and quite recent (much irredentism is based on mythical losses or historically distant ones), so yes, trying to get Nagorno-Karabakh back is irredentism.  However, this sprung from Armenia's irredentist campaign 25 years ago, so only Armenia's excellent PR efforts in the West and, oh, Azerbaijan's tainted authoritarianism make Armenia seem like a victim in all of this.  And, yes, Russia is playing both sides.  I discussed this a bit more yesterday.
  • NATO folks are pushing back against Trump.  NATO clearly is a good investment for the US and the West--deterring Russia, coordinating all kinds of stuff (peacekeeping in Kosovo, counter-terrorism in the Mediterranean, counter-piracy, training in Afghanistan, etc), and on and on.  Robert Keohane was right about at least one thing: once you build an institution, folks want to keep it around to address new problems because setting up institutions is hard.  NATO needs to adapt to the 21st century, but its bugs will remain since they are necessary for the alliance to operate.  Countries have to be able to opt out or impose caveats on missions and operations or else they will not give consent for such efforts.  The US is one of those that insisted on such opt outs, so we have to live with them.   
  • Folks are pondering who is more racist: the US or Europeans?  My hot take was: look at some stats.  Intermarriage between (religious, racial, linguistic, whatever) groups is higher where?  What about segregation?  Yes, US is highly segregated but stories about Muslim communities in France and Belgium are suggestive.  As always, I link to old posts about comparative xenophobia.
As always, I miss teaching Intro to IR as I could be talking about all of this stuff to students who are puzzled by this stuff.  Anyhow, I have and will write more about much of this, but for now, this will do.

No comments: