What Happens When a Duck Gets a Newsletter?
The answer remains unclear
It’s Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022.
Yesterday we learned that the Supreme Court had – and likely still has – at least five votes to deny women the right to bodily autonomy. Politico broke the story, and published a copy of Justice Alito’s draft majority opinion. It is quite the screed.
I have thoughts on the matter, but you’re likely to get much better analysis at Lawyers, Guns and Money.
(I know almost nothing about abortion and international politics. If you do – or know someone who does – get in touch. We’d love to publish some posts on the subject.)
You can probably guess that I didn’t expect to open our first Substack missive with the subject of abortion.
I’d planned something a little more conventional; something along the lines of:
The list of academic bloggers moving into the newsletter space continues to grow. Marc Lynch recently reconstituted Abu Aardvark and – on the advice of “term blogger” Van Jackson – we’ve created a Substack beach-head for the Duck of Minerva.
I’m going to be honest here: I’m not sure how this is going to play out. I have enough trouble posting at the Duck of Minerva or Lawyers, Guns and Money, let alone producing and editing episodes of Whiskey and IR Theory or doing the occasional LGM podcast.
But here we are.
We’ll figure it out eventually.
I do know one thing we’ll be using the newsletter for: calling attention to blog content, whether by rounding up recent-ish posts or re-upping older content that’s become relevant again. As Van pointed out, it’s not like very many people use RSS these days.
The yet-to-be-determined-temporal-interval Duck of Minerva roundup
I’ve spent the last few weeks tweaking the site in an effort to get load times under control. But that hasn’t prevented us from running some interesting content.
First, on the “academe” front
, Oliver Kaplan discusses “Partnered Engagement: A New Form of Ethical Policy Engagement.”
What happens when a research subject becomes a research and briefing partner? In 2017, I was contacted by the peacebuilding NGO Peace Direct to contribute to a policy report on community-based atrocities prevention. I invited a local peacebuilder I knew from Colombia to partner with me in the endeavor. We co-facilitated an online forum and drafted a chapter for the report. We then shared our findings – plus her experiences and my research – with NGOs and policymakers in the U.S.
The initiative Oliver participated in sounds terrific.
The Duck of Minerva also generated some – I hope productive – controversy. Stuart Kaufman’s asked us to publish a short piece in which he questions the wisdom of the International Studies Association’s (ISA) decision to display “land acknowledgements” in every room of its 2021 annual convention.
Idean Salehyan wrote one of our most popular recent (well, recent-ish) posts. He describes preliminary findings about the association between foreign (unusual) names and citation counts.
Whatever explains this gap, “typically-American” scholars seem to have a clear advantage when it comes it citations counts in the field of international relations. This advantage likely holds in other fields as well.
On a rather different note, the Mershon Center at the Ohio State University recently convened a workshop to take a “fresh look at standards for data accuracy and transparency in conflict studies.” Sooyeon Kang & Trey Billing reported on five of its key takeaways.
One set of recommendations focuses on making it easier for scholars to ‘look under the hood’ of any given dataset. For example, the workshop attendees suggest that “researchers should… code for ambiguities in their data, including biases in source material.”
This strikes me as an excellent idea.
My tenure as editor of International Studies Quarterly made clear to me that the referees rarely scrutinize data, evidence, or even the actual content of citations. This is a problem. I do make an effort to check at least some citations, and I regularly discover that – whether inadvertently or deliberately – the paper misrepresents the contents of the source.
Most recently, I’ve concluded that ATOP incorrectly codes two security agreements between Spain and the United States. This isn’t that big a deal. It’s not hard to correct. But it took a ton of work – reading digitized archives, newspaper articles, and congressional hearings – and a discussion with the lead author of the dataset to figure out what went wrong.
(Come to think of it, I still owe Ashley Leeds a written discussion of why I’m confident the coding is wrong.)
Second, and speaking of security commitments, Van Jackson’s most recent post examines the “strange” case of “Japan’s golf-buddy theory of deterrence.” The post tackles an important subject: the role (or lack thereof) of interpersonal ties in security arrangements.
Van’s focuses on the peculiarities of the Trump presidency, but the question of how interpersonal ties affect international security extends well beyond the 2017-2021 period.
Marina Henke has a neat article in Security Studies on the subject. She points out that:
Social relationships can be used to reduce information asymmetries and increase trust. But in the presence of fractured social networks, social ties can foster information bias and distrust, ultimately increasing the likelihood of bargaining failure.”
This, she argues, helps explain the Bush administration’s inability to secure permission to invade Iraq from Turkey.
The Russian attack on Ukraine also generated some interesting content, including two posts reacting to John Mearsheimer’s claim that U.S. policy basically forced Putin to invade. I wrote about analogies between the Korean War and the Russian invasion, as well my (briefly viral) answer to a Foreign Affairs “expert poll” on whether NATO expansion was a mistake.
I’d be remiss for not once again mentioning Cheryl Rofer’s fascinating counterfactual about what Eastern Europe would look like if NATO had closed its doors to new members. As she points out:
What’s striking about even the most systematic answers to that question is the modesty of their counterfactual reasoning. Participants in the debate often assume that if NATO had not expanded, today’s situation would differ mostly in terms of the degree of Russian hostility. Supporters of NATO expansion, at best, point in very general terms toward Russian domination of its western neighbors, or towards the possibility of security dilemmas in Eastern Europe. Opponents certainly don’t go any further than that.
Cheryl spins out a scenario in which a nuclear-armed Sweden leads an alliance of FSU and Warsaw Pact states. Seriously. It’s good. Read it.
I also want to call attention to Eteri Tsintsadze-Maass’s post about nationalism and nationalist narratives as drivers of the war. Eteri draws a connection between the agency of small (or “weak”) states and nationalism, arguing that the latter undergirds the “why” and “how” of the former.
The invasion – and the circumstances surrounding it – underscores the agency of weak states. Preoccupied with great power politics, many framed the war almost exclusively in terms of the NATO-Russia relationship. Some entirely overlooked Ukraine’s agency. Still others downplayed Putin’s agency in launching the invasion, blaming the United States and its allies for provoking it. But Ukraine’s and Georgia’s desire to join NATO is no less genuine than Poland, Czechia, Hungary, and other NATO states that also sought membership in order to escape Moscow’s shadow.
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That’s all folks
I had ambitions to supply more original content, but that’ll have to wait until next time.
– Dan Nexon