Pro-lifers oppose IUDs because their main mode of operation is to make embryonic death likely. Now suppose that we were to learn that the success of the rhythm method is actually due, not to the fact that conception does not happen?sperm and ova are much more long lived than we previously thought?but rather because the viability of conceived ova outside the HF period is minimal due to the limited resilience of the embryo and the limited receptivity of the uterine wall. If this were the case, then one should oppose the rhythm method for the same reasons as one opposes IUDs. If it is callous to use a technique that makes embryonic death likely by making the uterine wall inhospitable to implantation, then clearly it is callous to use a technique that makes embryonic death likely by organising one?s sex life so that conceived ova lack resilience and will face a uterine wall that is inhospitable to implantation. Furthermore, if one is opposed to IUDs because their main mode of operation is to secure embryonic death, then, on the assumption that one of the modes of operation of the pill is to make embryonic death likely, one should be equally opposed to pill usage. This is essentially Alcorn?s argument and assuming that the empirical details hold, consistency does indeed drive IUD opponents in this direction. If, however, our empirical assumptions about the rhythm method hold, then one of its modes of operation is also that it makes embryonic death likely. And if embryos are unborn children, is it not callous indeed to organise one?s sex life on the basis of a technique whose success is partly dependent on the fact that unborn children will starve because they are brought to life in a hostile environment?This rests on the belief that the rhythm method works because of embryonic death rather than a failure to fertilize an egg in the first place. Amanda Schaffer's article in the New York Times about the Bovens paper discusses the scientific lay of the land on that question. I have no idea whether Bovens' empirical assertion is correct -- but if it is, it would seem to pose a very interesting quandry for some pro-life activists. UPDATE: The comments tend to run towards the distinction between sins of omission and sins of commission. Just to be really subversive, try applying that framework to this question and see if your views remain internally consistent.
I see mid-1980s as the end of a great era in economic theorizing. Take game theory, principal-agent theory, and the economics of information, and apply them to everything, for better or worse. This was an exciting, indeed intoxicating, time to learn economics. While applications continue, we have run out of new ideas on those fronts. Experimental economics is completely Nobel-worthy, but it is now over forty years old. What are the next breakthroughs or the breakthroughs which have just been made?Readers have requested more IR theory posts, so let's take Tyler's question and apply it to international relations. What has been written in the past decade that is essential reading for an up and coming IR grad student? [What do you think?--ed. I'll add my picks in a few hours. For now I'll just observe that my thoughts run to books rather than articles, and I'm not sure that's a good thing.]
[A]ccording to an international survey, mathematical calculations in engineering and academia are still most often performed with pencil and paper. On a daily basis, respondents turn to scratchpads and calculators more frequently than any other tool for mathematical tasks. The same survey also revealed this community largely considers its field of work and study to be ?fully modern? and ?taking full advantage of modern tools and technology.? These results are drawn from an extensive, international survey of scientists, engineers and researchers across a variety of markets, including aerospace, automotive, electronics, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, life sciences, finance and education. With more than 2000 participants, the survey offers unprecedented insight into the daily practices, experiences and perceptions of the technical user community. When questioned about how frequently they used a range of tools and resources for design and analysis:Count me among the pen-and-paper crowd, sort of. There's no way in hell I'd start any theoretical modeling by typing it into a computer program. On the other hand, there's no way in hell I'd do any kind of statistical analysis or straight number-crunching by hand. Looking at the survey itself, it seems that engineers think of design in the same way that I think about theoretical modeling -- which makes intuitive sense to me. My question to readers: Is my use of pen-and-paper is simply an artifact of my age, and as people who have used computers since they were in diapers enter the scientific workforce, they will discard these ancient tools? Or is there something about the act of scribbling down initial thoughts about models or designs on paper that makes it work better than electronic entry? [You meant pencil and paper, right?--ed. I'm left-handed, and therefore stopped using pencils at the earliest moment possible.]?It is startling to see such hard data revealing the continued reliance on tools and practices that require so much manual effort and leave so much room for error,? said Jim Cooper, CEO of Maplesoft. ?This is a user base that is charged with driving innovation, exploring the cutting edge and bringing the best new products and services to market and yet, to a large extent, they are holding onto outdated and outmoded practices. So much of their important work will remain locked in their notebooks and lost to the layers of their spreadsheets rather than captured and carried forward with all of their logic and thinking documented.?
52% indicated that they use ?hand calculations (calculators) and paper? daily, with an additional 21% citing it as a weekly practice; 47% of respondents indicated that the next most common resources used daily are ?electronic references and tables (e.g. CD-ROM, Web),?)? with another 26% using them weekly; 35% indicated that they use ?print reference books and tables? daily, with another 31% using them weekly; and 39% indicated daily use of spreadsheets, which remain the most common software tool used in analysis and design. Another 31% of users employ them weekly.
In a statement issued by her publicist yesterday, Viswanathan said she read and loved McCafferty's novels "Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Helpings," but said she was "very surprised and upset" to learn about the similarities between the two works and her debut. "I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious," said Viswanathan, who signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown and Co., reportedly worth $500,000, following her high school graduation from Bergen County Academies in Hackensack. She plans to revise the novel with publisher Little, Brown and Co. to eliminate the similarities, and apologized to McCafferty and to readers who felt misled. Viswanathan could not be reached directly yesterday. But when asked in an interview with The Star-Ledger last week about what books may have helped inspire "Opal Mehta," Viswanathan said, "Nothing I read gave me the inspiration."And, naturally, there's been some bizarre quasi-blogging behavior on this point as well. While all of this makes for dishy reading, the fact that both my lovely wife and I focused on was the fact that Viswanathan got a two-book, $500,000 contract while she was in high school." Here's my question about this scandal: why, exactly, would Little, Brown throw that much money at a young, unpublished author? Why would any publisher do that? I know the teen and chick lit markets are booming, but dear me, that seems like a lot of money to throw around.
During the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the late 1990s, Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, appeared on television regularly to argue that impeaching President Bill Clinton was wrong. Then he got sick of it. He was bored with the cameras, sitting in the studio had lost its novelty, and, to top it off, his earpiece kept falling out. So after CNN asked him to appear yet again, he said he would agree only on one condition: that his dog join him on the air. The network agreed. During the commercial break, the phones were ringing off the hook, Mr. Sunstein recalls. Viewers wanted to know where they could buy a dog like Perry, Mr. Sunstein's Rhodesian Ridgeback. "He was a big TV star," says Mr. Sunstein. The experience, he says, was "the highlight of my television career." [I must stipulate here that Perry is indeed a gorgeous dog... though not as gorgeous as Chester--DD.].... On television-free days, Diane Ravitch doesn't wear much makeup ? no eyeliner, eye shadow, or mascara. Some days, she says, she does not even apply lipstick. She is not a fan of getting made up for television; in fact, she says "that's the worst part." There is, however, an upside to it, Ms. Ravitch says: The skillfully applied products make her look 20 years younger ? for three minutes. She realizes that is not a lot of time to share her views with the public. But it is a chance to reach a national audience, she says. Besides, most Americans get their news from television. "So if you can say something that's educational and valuable for them to hear," she says, "that's more than they'll hear for the rest of the day."Ravitch's last quote raises an interesting question -- as Americans get more and more of their news off the Internet, will more public intellectuals start up blogs? [Duh--ed.] On the serious side, it turns out that junior faculty should be wary of doing too much television. Who knew?
Word documents preserve a lot of metadata, including, very often, the author?s name ? so that if you submit your review via a Word email attachment (as many journals ask you to these days), and the journal forwards the review unchanged to the article?s author, he or she can figure out who you are without having to play the usual guessing game. I?ve been aware of this for a couple of years (I carefully strip all data before sending reviews out, just in case) ? but I suspect that many academics aren?t (some of them may not even realize that Word collates this data automatically).I've been outed once as a reviewer after I rejected a piece, but it was not due to anything as high-tech as MS Word metadata. I faxed the journal -- which shall remain nameless -- my review. The journal then faxed it to the paper-writer -- who shall also remain nameless. The problem was that the journal's fax to the writer contained my department's fax number and identification -- and from there it was pretty damn easy to identify the referee. Here's a link for potential referees about how to stay anonymous if you electronically submit your referee reports.
University professors denounced for anti-Americanism; schoolteachers suspended for their politics; students encouraged to report on their tutors. Are US campuses in the grip of a witch-hunt of progressives, or is academic life just too liberal?Wow, this sounds pretty bad. Oh, wait, let's get to the text of the piece:
Few would argue there are direct parallels between the current assaults on liberals in academe and McCarthyism. Unlike the McCarthy era, most threats to academic freedom - real or perceived - do not, yet, involve the state. Nor are they buttressed by widespread popular support, as anticommunism was during the 50s. But in other ways, argues Ellen Schrecker, author of Many Are the Crimes - McCarthyism in America, comparisons are apt. "In some respects it's more dangerous," she says. "McCarthyism dealt mainly with off-campus political activities. Now they focus on what is going on in the classroom. It's very dangerous because it's reaching into the core academic functions of the university, particularly in Middle-Eastern studies." Either way, a growing number of apparently isolated incidents suggests a mood which is, if nothing else, determined, relentless and aimed openly at progressives in academe.Read the whole article -- it's a compendium of the current attacks on various academics. It seems like small beer to me, and not exactly worthy of a Guardian special report. In the words of one academic who has been verbally attacked -- history professor Ellen DuBois: "It's not even clear this is much other than the ill-considered action of a handful, if that, of individuals." Or am I underreacting? I'll leave that to the commenters.
MIT Media Lab researchers are building a device to help autistic people determine if they're boring or annoying the person they're talking to. The "emotional social intelligence prosthetic device" is a camera that clips on eyeglasses and feeds images to a small computer that uses image recognition software to characterize emotions. If the listener doesn't seem to be engaged, the device vibrates to alert the wearer.Autistic people should not be the only ones who benefit from this breakthrough. I know more than one colleague who really needs this device. Click here for more info.
For almost half a century, the world's most powerful nuclear states have been locked in a military stalemate known as mutual assured destruction (MAD). By the early 1960s, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union had grown so large and sophisticated that neither country could entirely destroy the other's retaliatory force by launching first, even with a surprise attack. Starting a nuclear war was therefore tantamount to committing suicide.... This debate may now seem like ancient history, but it is actually more relevant than ever -- because the age of MAD is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China -- and the rest of the world -- will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come.... Since the Cold War's end, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has significantly improved. The United States has replaced the ballistic missiles on its submarines with the substantially more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles, many of which carry new, larger-yield warheads. The U.S. Navy has shifted a greater proportion of its SSBNs to the Pacific so that they can patrol near the Chinese coast or in the blind spot of Russia's early warning radar network. The U.S. Air Force has finished equipping its B-52 bombers with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, which are probably invisible to Russian and Chinese air-defense radar. And the air force has also enhanced the avionics on its B-2 stealth bombers to permit them to fly at extremely low altitudes in order to avoid even the most sophisticated radar. Finally, although the air force finished dismantling its highly lethal MX missiles in 2005 to comply with arms control agreements, it is significantly improving its remaining ICBMs by installing the MX's high-yield warheads and advanced reentry vehicles on Minuteman ICBMs, and it has upgraded the Minuteman's guidance systems to match the MX's accuracy. Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated. Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal's decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest. What nuclear forces Russia retains are hardly ready for use. Russia's strategic bombers, now located at only two bases and thus vulnerable to a surprise attack, rarely conduct training exercises, and their warheads are stored off-base. Over 80 percent of Russia's silo-based ICBMs have exceeded their original service lives, and plans to replace them with new missiles have been stymied by failed tests and low rates of production. Russia's mobile ICBMs rarely patrol, and although they could fire their missiles from inside their bases if given sufficient warning of an attack, it appears unlikely that they would have the time to do so. The third leg of Russia's nuclear triad has weakened the most. Since 2000, Russia's SSBNs have conducted approximately two patrols per year, down from 60 in 1990. (By contrast, the U.S. SSBN patrol rate today is about 40 per year.) Most of the time, all nine of Russia's ballistic missile submarines are sitting in port, where they make easy targets. Moreover, submarines require well-trained crews to be effective. Operating a ballistic missile submarine -- and silently coordinating its operations with surface ships and attack submarines to evade an enemy's forces -- is not simple. Without frequent patrols, the skills of Russian submariners, like the submarines themselves, are decaying. Revealingly, a 2004 test (attended by President Vladimir Putin) of several submarine-launched ballistic missiles was a total fiasco: all either failed to launch or veered off course. The fact that there were similar failures in the summer and fall of 2005 completes this unflattering picture of Russia's nuclear forces. Compounding these problems, Russia's early warning system is a mess. Neither Soviet nor Russian satellites have ever been capable of reliably detecting missiles launched from U.S. submarines. (In a recent public statement, a top Russian general described his country's early warning satellite constellation as "hopelessly outdated.") Russian commanders instead rely on ground-based radar systems to detect incoming warheads from submarine-launched missiles. But the radar network has a gaping hole in its coverage that lies to the east of the country, toward the Pacific Ocean. If U.S. submarines were to fire missiles from areas in the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know of the attack until the warheads detonated. Russia's radar coverage of some areas in the North Atlantic is also spotty, providing only a few minutes of warning before the impact of submarine-launched warheads.... To determine how much the nuclear balance has changed since the Cold War, we ran a computer model of a hypothetical U.S. attack on Russia's nuclear arsenal using the standard unclassified formulas that defense analysts have used for decades. We assigned U.S. nuclear warheads to Russian targets on the basis of two criteria: the most accurate weapons were aimed at the hardest targets, and the fastest-arriving weapons at the Russian forces that can react most quickly. Because Russia is essentially blind to a submarine attack from the Pacific and would have great difficulty detecting the approach of low-flying stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles, we targeted each Russian weapon system with at least one submarine-based warhead or cruise missile. An attack organized in this manner would give Russian leaders virtually no warning. This simple plan is presumably less effective than Washington's actual strategy, which the U.S. government has spent decades perfecting. The real U.S. war plan may call for first targeting Russia's command and control, sabotaging Russia's radar stations, or taking other preemptive measures -- all of which would make the actual U.S. force far more lethal than our model assumes. According to our model, such a simplified surprise attack would have a good chance of destroying every Russian bomber base, submarine, and ICBM. [See Footnote #1] This finding is not based on best-case assumptions or an unrealistic scenario in which U.S. missiles perform perfectly and the warheads hit their targets without fail. Rather, we used standard assumptions to estimate the likely inaccuracy and unreliability of U.S. weapons systems. Moreover, our model indicates that all of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal would still be destroyed even if U.S. weapons were 20 percent less accurate than we assumed, or if U.S. weapons were only 70 percent reliable, or if Russian ICBM silos were 50 percent "harder" (more reinforced, and hence more resistant to attack) than we expected. (Of course, the unclassified estimates we used may understate the capabilities of U.S. forces, making an attack even more likely to succeed.) To be clear, this does not mean that a first strike by the United States would be guaranteed to work in reality; such an attack would entail many uncertainties. Nor, of course, does it mean that such a first strike is likely. But what our analysis suggests is profound: Russia's leaders can no longer count on a survivable nuclear deterrent.Needless to say, this article has roiled the Russians just a bit. How much? Former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar has an op-ed in today's Financial Times scolding Lieber and Press:
America is a free country and what these two authors wrote in their article, entitled "The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy", is their business. The trouble is, when addressing such a delicate issue, it would be good to understand the responsibilities that go with it.... There are plenty of Russians who have a similar global vision and believe that the US is preparing its capability for a nuclear strike against Russia. However, the publication of such ideas in a reputable US journal has had an explosive effect. Even Russian journalists and analysts not inclined to hysteria or anti-Americanism have viewed the article as an expression of the US official stance. As China is more closed, it is harder to gauge the authorities' reaction, although I fear it may be similar. Since Soviet times, I have disliked the word "provocation". But if someone had wanted to provoke Russia and China into close co-operation over missile and nuclear technologies, it would have been difficult to find a more skilful and elegant way of doing so. Soviet military planning rested on the concept of the "return-counterstrike". That meant if a threat from an enemy arose, a Soviet nuclear strike would follow. The chances of a comeback for this doctrine are stronger now - which will hardly help strengthen global security. Over the past few years, I and many colleagues have fought for Russia to maintain a sound economic policy amid high oil prices. Russia's Stabilisation Fund, into which windfall oil taxation revenues have been paid, constituted one element of that struggle. Now I fear the battle is lost. It is not hard to guess where the resources from this fund will now be directed. (emphasis added)I'm pretty sure that if Lieber and Press were actually the official voice of the U.S. government, this essay would never have seen the light of day. That last thing the DoD would want would be to publicly advertise nuclear primacy, for precisely the reasons Gaidar elaborates. No, Lieber and Press are doing what academics are supposed to do: generating hypotheses, testing them, and publishing the results,* no matter how uncomfortable the implications. And this implication is particularly disturbing:
Is the United States intentionally pursuing nuclear primacy? Or is primacy an unintended byproduct of intra-Pentagon competition for budget share or of programs designed to counter new threats from terrorists and so-called rogue states? Motivations are always hard to pin down, but the weight of the evidence suggests that Washington is, in fact, deliberately seeking nuclear primacy. For one thing, U.S. leaders have always aspired to this goal. And the nature of the changes to the current arsenal and official rhetoric and policies support this conclusion.Read the whole thing. * Even though Foreign Affairs is not peer-reviewed, it should be noted that Lieber and Press the FA essay is an abridged version of a forthcoming scholarly article: "The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy," International Security 30, no. 4 (Spring 2006). UPDATE: Leiber and Press respond to Gaidar in this letter to the editor:
Mr Gaidar believes that these issues should not be discussed openly. We disagree. The wisdom of American, Russian and Chinese nuclear policies should be debated. But doing so requires a clear appreciation of the dramatic new realities of the strategic nuclear balance.
The Lobby doesn?t want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the institutions that do most to shape popular opinion.Alas, this story in the Forward by Ori Nir suggests that the reaction to their LRB essay might vindicate this portion of their hypothesis (link via Scott Johnson):
In the face of one of the harshest reports on the pro-Israel lobby to emerge from academia, Jewish organizations are holding fire in order to avoid generating publicity for their critics. Officials at Jewish organizations are furious over "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a new paper by John Mearsheimer, a top international relations theorists based at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In their report ? versions of which appear on the Kennedy School Web site and in the March 26 issue of the London Review of Books ? the scholars depict "the Israel lobby" as a "loose coalition" of politicians, media outlets, research institutions, Jewish groups and Evangelical Christians that steers America's Middle East policy in directions beneficial to Israel, even if it requires harming American interests. Despite their anger, Jewish organizations are avoiding a frontal debate with the two scholars, while at the same time seeking indirect ways to rebut and discredit the scholars' arguments. Officials with pro-Israel organizations say that given the limited public attention generated by the new study ? as of Tuesday most major print outlets had ignored it ? they prefer not to draw attention to the paper by taking issue with it head on. As of Wednesday morning, none of the largest Jewish organizations had issued a press release on the report. "The key here is to not do what they probably want, which is to have this become a battle between us and them, or for them to say that they are being silenced," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "It's much better to let others respond." Pro-Israel activists were planning a briefing for congressional staffers to be held Thursday. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering releasing a letter in response to the new paper, congressional staffers said.So, score one point for Walt and Mearsheimer.... but wait!!! Later in the story, there's this:
Mearsheimer and Walt also seem to be resisting further publicity. "I don't have an agenda in the sense of viewing myself as proselytizing or trying to sell this," Mearsheimer told the Forward. "I am a scholar, not an activist, and I am reticent to take questions from the media because I do believe that this is a subject that has to be approached very carefully. You don't want to say the wrong thing. The potential for saying the wrong thing is very great here." Mearsheimer was hosted on National Public Radio Tuesday for a full hour, to talk about Iraq, but did not make any mention of the controversial paper he co-authored. "To have a throwaway line or two on public radio to promote yourself is a bad idea," he told the Forward, following his NPR appearance. "I prefer to take the high road, although that is not always easy." Since publication, Mearsheimer added, he and Walt also turned down offers from major newspapers, radio and television networks to lay out their thesis.Indeed, this appears to be true. Earlier in the week, Walt told the Sun's Meghan Clyne: "'I have discussed your inquiry with my co-author, Professor Mearsheimer,' he told the Sun. 'We appreciate the invitation to respond to the comments, but prefer not to.'" So let me get this straight: the authors have written and published a paper because they want to provoke an open debate -- and then decide not to respond to any of the critiques made of the paper? [But some of those critiques are just ad hominem attacks labeling them as anti-Semites!--ed. Yes, but other responses, from Dennis Ross, Ruth Wisse, Jeffrey Herf & Andrei Markovits, and Alan Dershowitz, are devoid of that charge and are coming from people with comparable reputations to Walt and Mearsheimer. This editorial by the Forward provides the most comprehensive shredding of their hypothesis, but all Mearsheimer can say is that they have to be careful about what they say.] New policy here at danieldrezner.com: if the authors of a study refuse to engage in the open debate they claim to want, then I see no reason to take the study seriously.
FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: The idea that an intellectual must always speak truth to power and never compromise means for ends seems to me a rather naive view of how intellectuals actually behave, and reflects in many ways the powerlessness of European intellectuals and their distance from the real world of policy and politics. Of course, the academy must try to remain an institutional bastion of intellectual freedom that is not subject to vagaries of political opinion. But in the United States, to a much greater degree than in Europe, scholars, academics and intellectuals have moved much more easily between government and private life than in Europe, and are much more involved in formulating, promoting and implementing policies than their European counterparts. This necessarily limits certain kinds of intellectual freedom, but I'm not sure that, in the end, this is such a bad thing. I myself worked for more than ten years at the RAND Corporation, the original "think tank" satirized in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove that did contract research for the U.S. Air Force and Defense Department. Obviously, one cannot be a free thinker in a place like that (Daniel Ellsberg tried to be and he was fired), and that is one of the reasons that I eventually left to go to a university. But overall, I believe that a democracy is better off having intellectuals pay systematic attention to policy issues, even if it is occasionally corrupting. Having to deal not with ideal solutions but with the real world of power and politics is a good discipline for an intellectual. There is a fine line between being realistic and selling one's soul, and in the case of the Iraq war many neoconservatives got so preoccupied with policy advocacy that they blinded themselves to reality. But it's not clear that virtue necessarily lies on the side of intellectuals who think they are simply being honest.... BERNARD-HENRI L?VY: That's it. I think we have come to heart of what divides us.... The problem lies with the definition of what you and I call an intellectual, and beyond its definition, its function. Unlike you, I don't think an intellectual's purpose is to run the RAND Corporation or any institution like it. Not because I despise RAND, or because I believe in Kubrick's burlesque portrayal of it. No, I just think that while some people are running RAND, others no more or no less worthy or deserving should be dealing with, shall we say, the unfiltered truth. A democracy needs both, imperatively and absolutely both?"realistic" intellectuals and "idealistic" intellectuals. Both types and the functions they embody have recognizable places inside society, even if some societies value one type more than the other. America needs intellectuals with a selfless concern for sense, complexity and truth. This is just as essential to its equilibrium (possibly even to its moral fiber and therefore to its good health) as the existence of universal suffrage or the separation of powers ? la Montesquieu.I suspect that Fukuyama would not disagree with L?vy's express desire for both kinds of intellectuals. I do wonder, however, about the health of the institutions that support both sets of intellectuals in the United States. [What about Europe?--ed. Oh, Lord know, the situation is probably worse there -- but that's not my concern here.] The trouble with think tanks and the like is a seasonal topic of conversation in the blogosphere. As for the academy, well, let's just say that many of my colleagues make Hollywood seem politically grounded by comparison. Is the system broken? If so, can it be fixed? If so, how?
In this article, we argue that the public will tolerate signi?cant numbers of U.S. combat casualties under certain circumstances. To be sure, the public is not indifferent to the human costs of American foreign policy, but casualties have not by themselves driven public attitudes toward the Iraq war, and mounting casualties have not always produced a reduction in public support. The Iraq case suggests that under the right conditions, the public will continue to support military operations even when they come with a relatively high human cost. Our core argument is that the U.S. public?s tolerance for the human costs of war is primarily shaped by the intersection of two crucial attitudes: beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of the war, and beliefs about a war?s likely success. The impact of each attitude depends upon the other. Ultimately, however, we find that beliefs about the likelihood of success matter most in determining the public?s willingness to tolerate U.S. military deaths in combat. Our findings imply that the U.S. public makes reasoned and reasonable judgments about an issue as emotionally charged and politically polarizing as fighting a war. Indeed, the public forms its attitudes regarding support for the war in Iraq in exactly the way one should hope they would: weighing the costs and benefits. U.S. military casualties stand as a cost of war, but they are a cost that the public is willing to pay if it thinks the initial decision to launch the war was correct, and if it thinks that the United States will prevail.This thesis caused quite a sir a few months back, when Bush was outlining the "National Strategy for Victory In Iraq." I wrote then:
The assumption underlying Feaver and Gelpi's hypothesis is so simple that it's never stated in the article -- if a sufficiently large majority opposes an ongoing military intervention, any administration will have to withdraw regardless of the strategic wisdom of such a move. This is why, I suspect, the administration reacts so badly whenever it deals with domestic criticism about the war -- it recognizes that flagging domestic support will translate into a strategic straitjacket.... The Feaver/Gelpi solution to this conundrum is to have the President spell out a clear definition for victory. And my suspicion is that they're right -- so long as that definition contains criteria that can be verifiable by non-governmental sources.Three months ago, the Feaver/Gelpi thesis was politically controversial. Now it's OBE -- overtaken by events. Given the current state of affairs in Iraq, public opinion has already rendered its judgment on what's happening there. I don't think the administration will succeed in translating those peceptions into any definition of victory that I'm familiar with. So, In between the new story on this article, and the widespread availability of the article itself, the real world has moved on. This does not mean, by the way, that thesis contained in the paper is wrong. It's just that it's no longer politically salient.
A) Hey, grad students -- go check out Mary McKinney's excellent essay "Academic AWOL" for Inside Higher Ed. It's about how professors and graduate students fall into the black hole of procrastination, and the ways to get out. It's nothing revolutionary, but it might help some to know they're not the only ones suffering from missed deadlines. McKinney's first three bits of advice are particularly trenchant:That is all.1. Realize that your absence weighs heavier on your mind than the other person?s. Advisors are not losing sleep over late dissertation proposals and journal editors aren?t agonizing over missing manuscripts. The project is more important to you than anyone else. 2. Remember, when you do get in touch, the person is unlikely to be angry and punitive. We tend to be much harsher about our own tardiness than we are about other people?s delays. Advisors know it is difficult to write dissertation drafts. Journal editors are accustomed to academics who take a long time to turn around R&R manuscripts. 3. Lower rather than raise your standards when you?re running late. Don?t try to make your work more polished to make up for taking so long. Just try to get something sent out for feedback. End the cycle by chanting to yourself ?A done dissertation is a good dissertation? or ?A published paper is the only paper that counts.?Read well, grad students, or you will learn very quickly the power of Newton's First Law of Graduation. B) Frau Doktor Professor Eszter Hargittai has a post up on the oddity of being addressed as "Mrs. Hargittai" in correspondence and at conferences:On occasion, I get emails in which people address me as Mrs. Hargittai. I?m not suggesting that people need know my personal history or preferences. However, if you are going to contact someone in a professional context and they have a Ph.D. and they teach at a university (both of which are very clear on their homepage where you probably got their email address in the first place), wouldn?t you opt for Dr. or Professor?For the record, as the son of an M.D., I can't stand using "Dr." "Professor" can also sound odd when first addressing a colleague. If I need a gender-specific honorific, however, I use "Ms." C) Henry Farrell and David Bernstein have posts about whether Universities and academic departments can use the lessons of "Moneyball" as a means of moving up the academic ranks. Within the social sciences, there are certainly examples of this. Rochester's political science department catapaulted into the top ten because there was a time when they were the only ones willing to hire rational choice scholars, for example. Henry thinks a Moneyball philosophy could move hiring markets away from "winner-take-all" outcomes where two or three people soak up all the extant offers, but doesn't think it will work because academia doesn't have the same quantitative measures as sabremetricians do to measure quantity and quality of output. I think Henry's right on the second point, but for the wrong reason. The problem is not measuring academic productivity. It's that unlike in baseball, academic contracts come in only one of two forms -- six year contracts with an option for a lifetime extension, or just a lifetime contract. Not even Billy Beane would be all that risk-loving in a world where very few professors can be cut, and no professors can be traded. D) Social scientists should have a field day picking apart the holes in William Stuntz's essay at TNR Online about how the fall of Larry Summers presages the fall of American universities in the global education marketplace. In the essay, what does Stuntz erroneously assume?1) His experience at Harvard can be generalized to the rest of academia; 2) All academic departments function like the humanities; 3) "Those who go through the motions" in terms of teaching will, for some reason be "more likely to attend the meetings and write the memos and vote on the motions of no confidence?" In my experience, those two facts tend to be negatively rather than positively correlated. 4) Market competition won't work within the United States, but mysteriously, will fuction at the global level -- because other countries have much less government intrusion into the education marketl; 5) All of the above?Have some fun and dig up some other fallacies of your own!! E) International Studies Perspectives is like most other academic IR journals, with one quirky exception. On their back cover they publish "PIeces on Our Craft," a humor essay on the absurdities of academia. The targets might be obvious -- a jargon-filled poli sci interpretation of Green Eggs and Ham, for example -- but they're still funny. If you're at a university, click over to James H. Lebovic's "The Academic Conference: An Irreverent Glossary of Terms." Here's Lebovic's definition of "chair":The chair is the ringmaster for the festivities. The chair's job is to mispronounce the names of the panelists, keep time, and struggle to stay awake. There are no apparent qualifications for the position of chair, other than owning a watch. Chairs enjoy all the prerogatives of the discussant, and more: chairs can comment on the papers without the pretense of having read them. Still, chairs must justify their existence by warning panelists that time has expired using notes of increasing urgency, knowing that it would be easier to stop a speeding train.F) If you're at the U of C, pick up the Winter 2006 issue of 1000 Typewriters, published by the Society for Undergraduate Poetry. There's a very amusing poem by one Tobie Harris called "The Economist's Lorax." Here's a snippet from the poem:Now chopping one tree at a time was too slow So I quickly invented my Super-Ax Hacker Which whacked off four Truffula trees at a smacker. We were making Thneeds four times as fast as before. And the Lorax?... Pretty soon he was back at my door. "You fool!" he berated. "Can't you just understand? Your supply is too high, it exceeds your demand. It makes no fiscal sense to deforest this land! My boy, what you need is a good fiscal plan. If the market you glut, then you lower your price. Four times as fast may sound awfully nice, But you'd do a lot better if you heeded some facts, And started using your brain, instead of an ax. You've got a monopoly, making these Thneeds. A larger supply is the last thing you'll need. You don't need more Thneeds, they're fine as they are What you need, my boy, is some brand new PR!UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter who ppinted out that Ms. Harris has posted the entirety of the poem on her blog. G) Finally, hearty online congratulations to my soon-to-be-former colleague, Jacob Levy (sniff!), for accepting a tenured, endowed chair at McGill University.
A) Political correctness triumphing over rational discourse; B) What happens when an out-of-touch faculty becomes too pwerful; C) Larry Summers' inability to adapt to his environment; D) All of the above.Actually, I have only two thoughts. The first is that Larry Summers is an exceptionally bright economist who might be a better public intellectual now that he can just speak his mind. The second is that, much as one may want to buy into the argument that this is Harvard's liberal, elitist, out-of-touch faculty punishing a truth-teller, I strongly suspect there are other parts to this story. So before anyone jumps to conclusions, I'd suggest reading this Institutional Investor story by David McClintick.
One student skipped class and then sent the professor an e-mail message asking for copies of her teaching notes. Another did not like her grade, and wrote a petulant message to the professor. Another explained that she was late for a Monday class because she was recovering from drinking too much at a wild weekend party. Jennifer Schultens, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of California, Davis, received this e-mail message last September from a student in her calculus course: "Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!" At colleges and universities nationwide, e-mail has made professors much more approachable. But many say it has made them too accessible, erasing boundaries that traditionally kept students at a healthy distance.Glater has a one very odd quote on the implications of all of this. For example:
Christopher J. Dede, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has studied technology in education, said these e-mail messages showed how students no longer deferred to their professors, perhaps because they realized that professors' expertise could rapidly become outdated. "The deference was probably driven more by the notion that professors were infallible sources of deep knowledge," Professor Dede said, and that notion has weakened.Well, any belief I had that Dede was an infallible source of deep knowledge has gone right out the window. I'd suggest, rather, that e-mail is simply a less formal means of communication, and students raised in an Oprah-fed confessional culture don't see a downside in sending them. Because, most of the time, there isn't a downside -- stories like these inevitably pick on the 5% of emails that are annoying, tedious, or just plain stupid. And, I might add, the story contains the best response to these kind of electronic queries:
Many professors said they were often uncertain how to react. Professor Schultens, who was asked about buying the notebook, said she debated whether to tell the student that this was not a query that should be directed to her, but worried that "such a message could be pretty scary." "I decided not to respond at all," she said.Oh, and for the record -- all of my students are required to purchase Trapper Keepers to attend my classes. UPDATE: Ah, it appears that the Times is behind the times -- Kathryn Wymer had a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month suggesting that e-mail is on the outs with the student body:
I pride myself on keeping up to date with the latest technology. I regularly use computers in my classroom, and have long been a fan of the educational potential of online discussion groups. So I was completely taken aback a few months ago when a colleague informed me of something she had recently learned from her students: Teenagers no longer check their e-mail. I confirmed that in a subsequent conversation with a 16-year-old. "Yep," he said. "It's way too slow. I never check it." The immediate gratification of instant messaging, commonly called IM, has superceded the possibilities of e-mail for teenagers and college students. My colleague commented that her students found e-mail to be "dinosaur-ish," good only for communicating with parents and teachers.Intriguingly, Wymer's experiment with I-mailing students didn't work out so well: "I wonder if other students resisted the impulse to use instant messaging in order to keep their personal and professional modes of communication separate." Wymer also touches on a problem Kieran Healy raises: "sometimes the students pick the kind of addresses for themselves that aren?t exactly professional-quality. Frankly it feels a bit odd to correspond with, e.g., missbitchy23 or WildcatBongs about letters of reference or what have you." Be sure to check the comments thread for some other amusing examples of poor e-mail choices. ANOTHER UPDATE: See this comment on Tim Burke's blog on whether one of the profs in the story was accurately quoted.
Canadians normally don?t get fired up about foreign policy in their parliamentary elections. Then again, Michael Ignatieff is not a normal candidate. Last fall, the professor left his post as director of Harvard University?s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy to run for parliament in his native Canada. His new office is in a bare-bones campaign headquarters on an industrial corner in suburban Toronto, where he prepares for the January 23 election. Ignatieff, a Liberal Party candidate who is considered by many to be one of the best minds Canada has ever produced, wants Canada to assume a greater role in world affairs.... ?In the foreign policy of the 21st century, the key thing to be is a producer of good ideas,? says Ignatieff. ?As a middle power, our policy is not leveraged by power but by ideas.? Unfortunately for Ignatieff, many Canadians don?t like his ideas. Ignatieff supported the Iraq war, which an overwhelming majority of his compatriots opposed. He backed the proposed continental missile defense shield, which the Liberal government refused to endorse. And he?s been taking heat for his controversial endorsement of interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation that are, he says, ?lesser evils? than torture. His critics paint him as a neocon in humanitarian clothing. At his nomination rally in late November, hecklers shouted, ?American,? ?Torture lite,? and ?Illegal war.? The heckling set the tone for a tumultuous campaign. Already tagged as a carpetbagger (he has never lived in the district in which he?s running) handpicked by the Liberal Party, Ignatieff hurt himself when he told the Harvard Crimson that he might return to Harvard if he were to lose?a statement he later retracted, saying it was a joke. Still, the comment helped his opponents who portray him as disloyal to Canada. Rather unexpectedly, he has also faced protesters who claim his 1993 book on ethnic nationalism, Blood and Belonging, is insulting to Ukrainians, a group that accounts for 7 percent of his district. If he wins, even bigger challenges await; there is already talk of Ignatieff eventually becoming leader of the Liberal Party. But Ottawa is not Harvard, and if elected, Ignatieff would find it difficult to bring his ideals into policy. ?[It] will be a test of whether principled intelligence can survive the Lilliputian reality of Canadian politics,? wrote the columnist Robert Sibley in the Ottawa Citizen at the start of the campaign. Ignatieff is aware of the difficulties. ?I?ve gone into politics to test what you can achieve if you believe certain things,? says Ignatieff. ?If I?m asked to do stuff that just seems to be in the dishonorable compromise realm, then I should get out. If I forget these noble words, my wife will kick me in the backside.? That is, only if the voters don?t do so first.Ignatieff is in a can't lose situation. Wither he wins and climbs the ladder of Liberal Party politics -- or he loses and writes a book that's excerpted in the New York Times Magazine about what it's like to be a candidate who speaks truth to power.
1) Experts are really bad at making predictions; and 2) Experts who typified Isaiah Berlin's "hedgehogs" did far worse than those who were "foxes." (and no, that doesn't mean Salma Hayek or Scarlet Johansson -- we're talking about indifferent kinds of foxes here).Today, Carl Bialik -- the Wall Street Journal's Numbers Guy -- has a follow-up story that corrects one potential misperception about the utility of experts: they might not be great predictors, but they are still better informed than you are -- which means they are still better predictors.
The New Yorker's review of [Tetlock's] book surveyed the grim state of expert political predictions and concluded by advising readers, "Think for yourself." Prof. Tetlock isn't sure he agrees with that advice. He pointed out an exercise he conducted in the course of his research, in which he gave Berkeley undergraduates brief reports from Facts on File about political hot spots, then asked them to make forecasts. Their predictions -- based on far less background knowledge than his pundits called upon -- were the worst he encountered, even less accurate than the worst hedgehogs. "Unassisted human intuition is a bomb here," Prof. Tetlock told me.And that's your quote of the day.
The head of the feared Indonesian military in Aceh was doing what was almost unthinkable only a year ago: telling its people that the war - one of Asia's longest and, until last year's tsunami, most intractable - was over. There was a bigger surprise for the departing 3500 soldiers on Thursday. Irwandi Yusuf, leader of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), who 12 months ago was one of their deadliest enemies, was there to shake hands with the hard men in fatigues before their ships slipped away from the jungle-covered hills of Aceh, probably forever. The event was stage-managed but nobody could doubt the sincerity, part of an extraordinarily successful peace process that has confounded the pessimists and inspired a people who suffered more than any other in the tsunami.Thinks have not worked out quite as well in Sri Lanka, as the Economist observes:
One year on from the tsunami that devastated large parts of Sri Lanka, killing more than 30,000 there, the South Asian island?s people are facing another looming disaster: the revival of a brutal civil war that has killed around 65,000 since it began 22 years ago. A fragile ceasefire, brokered by the government of Norway three years ago, is close to breaking-point after a string of recent attacks by the Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent homeland in the north and east of the island. On Thursday December 29th the head of the ceasefire-monitoring team, Hagrup Haukland, gave a warning that, if the spate of violence were not halted, ?war may not be far away.? In the most serious of the recent attacks, 12 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in a landmine attack in the Jaffna peninsula on Tuesday and, four days before that, 13 sailors were killed with mines and rocket-propelled grenades in a rebel attack in the north-west of the island. On Sunday, a parliamentarian linked to the Tigers was assassinated at a Christmas mass in Batticaloa.I have absolutely zero knowledge about either conflict, but I do find it interesting that the tsunami clearly pushed one case towards a more peaceful equilibrium while having no appreciable effect on the other case. Looking at both cases, John Quiggin proposes a different dissertation topic:
It would be a salutory effort to look over the wars, revolutions and civil strife of the last sixty years and see how many of the participants got an outcome (taking account of war casualties and so on) better than the worst they could conceivably have obtained through negotiation and peaceful agitation. Given the massively negative-sum nature of war, I suspect the answer is ?Few, if any?.
Mainly I'm putting this up because the publicity around Dan Drezner's case led to a lot of e-mailed questions and some blog speculation about mine. If you're looking for things in common between Dan's case and mine, don't look to blogging; and don't look to our libertarian politics.... Look to the fact that both political economy and liberal political theory are outside the emerging, Perestroikan, sense of what this department's about.I've blogged about perestroika and political science in the past -- check out those posts for my take on the debate. I can neither confirm nor deny Jacob's hypothesis about perestroika's deletrious effects on my department. After witnessing my department's treatment of Jacob's case, I'm afraid that the primary hypothesis I cannot falsify is that a majority of my senior colleagues
There could be no doubt about the theme of President Bush's Iraq war strategy speech on Wednesday at the Naval Academy. He used the word victory 15 times in the address; "Plan for Victory" signs crowded the podium he spoke on; and the word heavily peppered the accompanying 35-page National Security Council document titled, "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." Although White House officials said many federal departments had contributed to the document, its relentless focus on the theme of victory strongly reflected a new voice in the administration: Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who joined the N.S.C. staff as a special adviser in June and has closely studied public opinion on the war. Despite the president's oft-stated aversion to polls, Dr. Feaver was recruited after he and Duke colleagues presented the administration with an analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004. They concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believed it would ultimately succeed. That finding, which is questioned by other political scientists, was clearly behind the victory theme in the speech and the plan, in which the word appears six times in the table of contents alone, including sections titled "Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest" and "Our Strategy for Victory is Clear." "This is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency," said Christopher F. Gelpi, Dr. Feaver's colleague at Duke and co-author of the research on American tolerance for casualties. "The Pentagon doesn't need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion.".... Based on their study of poll results from the first two years of the war, Dr. Gelpi, Dr. Feaver and Jason Reifler, then a Duke graduate student, took issue with what they described as the conventional wisdom since the Vietnam War - that Americans will support military operations only if American casualties are few. They found that public tolerance for the human cost of combat depended on two factors: a belief that the war was a worthy cause, and even more important, a belief that the war was likely to be successful. In their paper, "Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq," which is to be published soon in the journal International Security, Dr. Feaver and his colleagues wrote: "Mounting casualties did not produce a reflexive collapse in public support. The Iraq case suggests that under the right conditions, the public will continue to support military operations even when they come with a relatively high human cost.".... Asked about who wrote the document, a White House official said Dr. Feaver had helped conceive and draft the plan, though the official said a larger role belonged to another N.S.C. staff member, Meghan L. O'Sullivan, the deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, and her staff. The official would describe the individual roles only on condition of anonymity because his superiors wanted the strategy portrayed as a unified administration position.... The Feaver-Gelpi hypothesis on public opinion about the war is the subject of serious debate among political scientists. John Mueller, of Ohio State University, said he did not believe that the president's speech or the victory plan - which he described as "very Feaverish, or Feaveresque" - could produce more than a fleeting improvement in public support for the war, because it was likely to erode further as casualties accumulated. "As the costs go up, support goes down," he said, citing patterns from the Korean and Vietnam wars.This is roiling elements of the mainstream media and liberal blogosphere. It's telling that the Indianapolis Star, running the same NYT story, has as its headline, "Iraq plan appears intended to win the war at home" (the NYT has the more neutral "Bush's Speech on Iraq War Echoes Voice of an Analyst"). Laura Rozen, for example, scoffs that, "The strategy is mostly designed as PR for the American public." The indictment would seem to be that the Bush administration is more concerned with the domestic politics of the Iraq war than with actually winning on the ground in Baghdad. As someone who's been more than a little displeased with the administration's handling of Iraq, let me state that this charge is absolutely true. The implication that this is somehow misguided is a bunch of horses**t.
It was no news to Tetlock... that experts got beaten by formulas. But he does believe that he discovered something about why some people make better forecasters than other people. It has to do not with what the experts believe but with the way they think. Tetlock uses Isaiah Berlin?s metaphor from Archilochus, from his essay on Tolstoy, ?The Hedgehog and the Fox,? to illustrate the difference. He says:I'll need to read the book to see the methodology by which Tetlock distinguished hedgehogs from foxes, but let's assume that his finding is correct. What does this imply for the study of international relations? Potentially a lot -- from my vantage point, the incentives in the IR discipline are heavily skewed towards the hedgehogs. Methodologically, the growing sophistication of formal, statistical, and even qualitative techniques make it increasingly difficult for any one scholar to keep up their abilities in more than one area. Professionally, our field rewards the hedgehogs, the ones who come up with "the big idea" that can explain it all. As a result, my field has a lot of hedgehogs, which means that we may not be of much use when it comes to policy relevance. Is this a bad thing? I'm sure that many commenters will instinctively say, "yeah!" but it's not so clear cut. First, if the point of the academy is to nourish unpopular but important ideas, then it's a good thing we have a lot of hedgehogs, because every once in a while they will produce the kind of insight that helps to understand Really Big Truths. Second, asking IR scholars for accurate predictions about the future might be like asking meterologists for an accurate weather forecast three months ahead. That's impossible -- there are just too many variables. It might be that what political scientists do best is not predicting future events but rather explaining the past and present in a way that provides limited but useful insights into the very near future. Third, there are think tanks for the kind of expert predictions discussed in Tetlock's book. It's true that think tanks have their own perversities, but perhaps the best thing to do is fix them rather than the academy. Despite those counterarguments, I think a few more IR foxes might be a good idea. [Good idea! Did you know Salma Hayek will be co-hosting the Nobel Peace Prize Concert on December 10th?--ed. That's not who I meant by foxes. Oh.... did you mean Angelina Jolie's work as a United Nations ambassador?--ed. No, and you're not helping right now.] I'll leave this question to the commenters.Low scorers look like hedgehogs: thinkers who ?know one big thing,? aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains, display bristly impatience with those who ?do not get it,? and express considerable confidence that they are already pretty proficient forecasters, at least in the long term. High scorers look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things (tricks of their trade), are skeptical of grand schemes, see explanation and prediction not as deductive exercises but rather as exercises in flexible ?ad hocery? that require stitching together diverse sources of information, and are rather diffident about their own forecasting prowess.A hedgehog is a person who sees international affairs to be ultimately determined by a single bottom-line force: balance-of-power considerations, or the clash of civilizations, or globalization and the spread of free markets. A hedgehog is the kind of person who holds a great-man theory of history, according to which the Cold War does not end if there is no Ronald Reagan. Or he or she might adhere to the ?actor-dispensability thesis,? according to which Soviet Communism was doomed no matter what. Whatever it is, the big idea, and that idea alone, dictates the probable outcome of events. For the hedgehog, therefore, predictions that fail are only ?off on timing,? or are ?almost right,? derailed by an unforeseeable accident. There are always little swerves in the short run, but the long run irons them out. Foxes, on the other hand, don?t see a single determining explanation in history. They tend, Tetlock says, ?to see the world as a shifting mixture of self-fulfilling and self-negating prophecies: self-fulfilling ones in which success breeds success, and failure, failure but only up to a point, and then self-negating prophecies kick in as people recognize that things have gone too far.? Tetlock did not find, in his sample, any significant correlation between how experts think and what their politics are. His hedgehogs were liberal as well as conservative, and the same with his foxes. (Hedgehogs were, of course, more likely to be extreme politically, whether rightist or leftist.) He also did not find that his foxes scored higher because they were more cautious?that their appreciation of complexity made them less likely to offer firm predictions. Unlike hedgehogs, who actually performed worse in areas in which they specialized, foxes enjoyed a modest benefit from expertise. Hedgehogs routinely over-predicted: twenty per cent of the outcomes that hedgehogs claimed were impossible or nearly impossible came to pass, versus ten per cent for the foxes. More than thirty per cent of the outcomes that hedgehogs thought were sure or near-sure did not, against twenty per cent for foxes. The upside of being a hedgehog, though, is that when you?re right you can be really and spectacularly right. Great scientists, for example, are often hedgehogs. They value parsimony, the simpler solution over the more complex. In world affairs, parsimony may be a liability?but, even there, there can be traps in the kind of highly integrative thinking that is characteristic of foxes. Elsewhere, Tetlock has published an analysis of the political reasoning of Winston Churchill. Churchill was not a man who let contradictory information interfere with his id?es fixes. This led him to make the wrong prediction about Indian independence, which he opposed. But it led him to be right about Hitler. He was never distracted by the contingencies that might combine to make the elimination of Hitler unnecessary. (emphases added)
in another sense, academic blogging represents the fruition, not a betrayal, of the university's ideals. One might argue that blogging is in fact the very embodiment of what the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott once called "The Conversation of Mankind"--an endless, thoroughly democratic dialogue about the best ideas and artifacts of our culture. Drezner's blog, for example, is hardly of the "This is what I did today..." variety. Rather, he usually writes about globalization and political economy--the very subjects on which he publishes in prestigious, peer-reviewed presses and journals. If his prose style in the blog is more engaging than that of the typical academic's, the thinking behind it is no less rigorous or intelligent.
Boynton goes on to point out the basic conundrum of how to count blogging -- even if the output is high quality, what is the external and replicable measurement through which this is assessed? Ann Althouse, Orin Kerr, and John Hawks (whose blog was mentioned but not linked to in the story -- what's up with that?) have further thoughts. Hawks makes an interesting point here:
Should blogging count in some way? I don't know. I think my blogging makes me a better researcher. If I'm right, it has its own rewards. And I don't think that any blog post approximates a review article in any way -- if they did, they would be a lot less interesting! But the cumulative whole is greater than any single review article. And I would say that a sizable number of my posts are "worth" more than a book review, which would get counted in a minor way. It would be nice if the choice between different forms of productivity did not involve such a stark difference.Let me suggest that there are two issues that are conflated in the story. First, there is the idea of a blog as an output for public discourse, a la op-eds and the like. On that score, blogging counts as a form of service and not much else. Second, there is the idea that academic blogs facilitate better scholarship by encouraging online interactions about research ideas. Take, for example, this exchange between Marc Lynch, myself, and others about whether international relations theory is slighting the study of Al Qaeda, or this exchange between Erik Gartzke and R.J. Rummel about the root causes of the liberal democratic capitalist peace. Even better, the private responses I received to a post on trade-related intellectual property rights facilitated my own research efforts in that area. This sort of thing happens off-line as well, but the blog format is exceedingly well-suited for enhancing and expanding this kind of interaction. In this sense, blogs may very well supplant the old practice of having exchanges of letters in journals. Should it count for anything? As Hawks points out, it should lead to better research anyway, which should get recognized by the traditional standards. So I'm pretty sure that the contribution of blogs to academic output can be measured using pre-existing standards -- with one exception and one caveat. The exception is that maybe the whole of an academic blog is greater than the sum of its parts. Precisely because a blog can contribute to public discourse, scholarly research, and teaching pedagogy at the same time, it encourages a greater mkix of ideas and information than would otherwise be possible. Whether this is true I will leave for the commenters. The caveat is that even if blogging can be counted via conventional means, there is no indication that academic units will do so. As I've said before, academics are a very conservative bunch in many ways, so the idea that blogs should count for a plus will take a long time to seep in. For the present moment, my hope is that blogs do not count against you.
Has IR theory been irrelevant to the debates? To find out, I just spent a few hours looking at the contents of the last four years of the six leading journals for International Relations theory (International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, World Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, European Journal of International Relations, Review of International Studies - see the end of the post for discussion of these choices), along with the American Political Science Review. I used an exceedingly loose definition of "about al-Qaeda" - i.e. I included everything about terrorism and counter-terrorism, even if it barely touched at all on al-Qaeda or Islamism itself; and I included review essays, even if they did not include any original research. The results were even more striking than I expected. All told, these seven journals published 796 articles between 2002-2005. I found a total of 25 articles dealing even loosely with al-Qaeda, Islamism, or terrorism. That's just over 3% of the articles. Now, there's lots of important stuff out there in the world, and there's no reason for the whole field to be following the headlines, but still... 3%?
Lynch posits that this is because the leading paradigms used to explain international relations are unsiuted to explain Al Qaeda:
The dominant theoretical trends in the international relations field have been strikingly absent from the mountains of paper expended on analysis of al-Qaeda, Islamism, and the war on terror. Most of the dominant theoretical approaches were not so much wrong as irrelevant. Realism, with its emphasis on the balance of power among self-interested nation-states, had little to say about a non-state actor motivated by religion. Liberalism, with its various arguments about international institutions, trade, and democracy, similarly offered little traction. Rationalist approaches seemed initially stymied by an organization defined by intense religious convictions, and by individual suicide terrorism (though there were some game efforts to reconstruct a strategic rationale behind al-Qaeda?s terrorism). Of all the dominant trends within IR, constructivism seemed to be the best placed to account for such a religious, transnational movement. But constructivist analyses of al-Qaeda were few and far between. Whether because the Islamist movement espouses norms repugnant to the liberalism espoused by many constructivist theorists or because of a lack of interest in policy relevant research, constructivists have largely failed to rise to the opportunity of authoritatively interpreting al-Qaeda.
Kevin Drum is appalled: "I know it takes a while for people to change gears, but you'd sure think terrorism might have captured just a little more attention among IR types by now, wouldn't you?" James Joyner and the Glittering Eye believe the fault lies with the skewed incentives of the academy. My thoughts:
1) I'm a bit dubious of Lynch's counting methodology. First, the turnaround time between writing the rough draft of anything decent and getting it accepted and published in a major journal is eighteen months -- and that's if you're very, very lucky. To write about Al Qaeda, senior scholars would need to halt their other projects -- which means a loss of asset-specific investments -- and start building up knowledge in a new empirical domain. The failure to see anything decent crop up in the first few years is not terribly surprising. (It would be interesting to see whether the journals that were around in 1945 saw a similar lag). We're just starting to see dissertations affected by the 9/11 events come into the pipeline. Wait a bit before complaining of a deficit. Second, Lynch doesn't include any security journals -- International Security, Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, Security Dialogue, etc. Lynch justifies the exclusion of International Security by labeling it a "policy-oriented journal" -- but it and the other journals listed above are both peer-reviewed and pretty theory-oriented. Third, there is a difference between what's been published and what's been submitted. I suspect that there has been a lot more work submitted -- but just because someone is writing something about Al Qaeda doesn't mean it's something good about Al Qaeda. My guess would be the first wave of efforts probably won't pass muster. 2) The opportunity costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom can't be denied here. That operation didn't just divert hard power resources away from Al Qaeda -- it distracted IR theorists as well. For the theorists, this was an easy call -- discussing the theoretical implications of an interstate conflict was much easier than discussing a completely new phenomenon. 3) Follow the money. The amount of intellectual enegy invested in understanding the Soviet Union during the Cold War was a function of the wads of reseearch money that was available for studying that topic. I honestly don't know what the financial incentives are right now to study AQ -- but I'd wager that it's less lucrative and less institutionalized than studying Soviet nuclear capabilities or the Fulda Gap in the early eighties. 4) I do think Lynch has a point in believing that IR theory doesn't think much about Al Qaeda because to IR theory, Al Qaeda is not in the same league as the old Soviet Union in terms of magnitude of threat. Take the Princeton Project on National Security's latest working paper on grand strategy for example (co-authored by Frank Fukuyama and John Ikenberry). Al Qaeda is mentioned three times; terrorism is mentioned sixteen times. China, in contrast, gets 127 mentions. The reason for this is pretty simple. Al Qaeda can only weaken its enemies -- it can't govern anywhere, can't hold significant portions of territory, can't manage a modern economy, and has no base of popular support anywhere. It's not a threat to supplant U.S. hegemony. China is a different story. 5) Fukuyama and Ikenberry, however, do acknowledge the theoretical problems posed not by Al Qaeda alone as much as AQ + nuclear weapons:
The possibility that a relatively small and weak non-state organization could inflict catastrophic damage is something genuinely new in international relations, and poses an unprecedented security challenge. In all prior historical periods the ability to inflict serious damage to a society lay only within the purview of states but a recent confluence of globalization, technologies of mass destruction, and extremism amounts to what Joseph Nye has called the ?privatization of war?. Violence capability that once only a few great powers could muster could someday fall into the hands of transnational groups with apocalyptic agendas. The entire edifice of international relations theory is built around the presumption that nation-states are the only significant players in world politics. If catastrophic destruction can be inflicted by nonstate actors, then many of the concepts that informed security policy over the past two centuries?balance of power, deterrence, containment, and the like?lose their relevance. Deterrence theory in particular depends on the deployer of any form of WMD having a return address, and with it equities that could be threatened in retaliation.
All major IR theories do a lousy job of explaining the influence of non-state actors -- constructivism included.
[So what's your takeaway point?--ed. I think Lynch is overstating the problem, but it does exist. Whether this is important depends on whether you believe that Al Qaeda really does represent the greatest threat to U.S. power and interests over the next decade.] UPDATE: Lynch responds here. And Ethan Bueno de Mesquita makes some excellent observations in the comments.
Putting reality first would not only make political science more interesting, it would also make it more scientific.... Suppose, for example, we want to predict whether negotiations between historically hostile parties will produce an accord, or fail and result in war. Rather than search for universal laws, we are better off examining a concrete case ? for example, the negotiations that brought Nelson Mandela to power in South Africa ? and then seeing whether the conditions there are similar or different from those in, say, Northern Ireland or the Middle East. The real world contains a great deal of uncertainty, which makes perfect prediction impossible. But it also offers enough regularity to permit modest generalization, especially if we are willing to acknowledge the possibility of error and to revise our expectations accordingly.
I have two reactions to this suggestion. The first is to stop and gaze with awe at Wolfe's ability to unconsciously mimic those Guinness-in-the-bottle ads that were all over television last year:
Alan Wolfe: I've invented a new way of studying crisis negotiations... it's called the "case study". Random Political Scientist: The Case study? BRILLIANT!!!
My second reaction is to ponder the logical implications of Wolfe's suggestion. Surely Wolfe must be aware of the dangers that come from generalizing from the study of a single case -- there are too many possible explanations. Wolfe would likely respond that the way to compensate is to assemble as many relevant examples of the category of interest as possible, and then determine what combination of factors is important. Now there's a name for this kind of approach in political science -- behavioralism. Such an approach can be useful (see, for example, the CIA's State Failure Task Force from the 1990's) but presents two rather important problems. First, these approaches -- just like any other social science technique -- generate methodological controversies (see, for example, Gary King and Langche Zeng's methodological rejoinder to the State Failure Task Force, or this summary of the debate in Nature). Methodology doesn't just matter for its own sake -- there are real world implications. Second, pure behavioralism of the kind suggested by Wolfe is tricky without any theoretical guidance. Throwing a kitchen sink of variables at a question is not of much use unless the researcher has a good grasp of the relationships among these seemingly independent causes. Rational choice approaches are one useful tool, but there are others as well. If Wolfe had provided an American politics example, I probably wouldn't have written this post (and, to be fair, Wolfe is riffing off of Ian Shapiro's latest book, The Flight From Reality in the Human Sciences, which I haven't read but is likely worth reading). But the IR example he offers is a powerful suggestion that Wolfe hasn't peered into the pages of either International Organization or International Security in quite some time. There are case studies -- as well as statistical analyses, formal models, social theory, and other types of analysis -- in those journals. If the rest of the discipline wants to copy international relations more closely, fine with me. But I don't think Wolfe has lookec closely at how IR is actually studied. I think that I've demonstrated my subfield's close attention to the real world, so if you'll excuse me, I have to run to hear a paper presentation. [What's it about?--ed. Sovereignty and the UFO. You're f#@%ing kidding me!--ed. No, I'm really not.]
Sometimes getting your pink slip can be a good thing. That's the case with Bruce Bartlett, a now-former senior fellow at the conservative Dallas-based think tank National Center for Policy Analysis. Bartlett, an ardent Bush supporter in 2000 who was also a member of the George H.W. Bush Treasury department, was given his walking papers on Monday after his boss, president of the organization John C. Goodman, read the manuscript of his upcoming book, The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. After The New York Times reported the news of Bartlett's firing, Doubleday (which is pubbing Impostor) quickly bumped the book's release date from April 4 to February 28. The imprint has also upped the book's print run from 30,000 copies to 50,000.
Coincidentally, after my own career setback, I have recently learned that Princeton University Press accepted my book manuscript for publication. [Hooray!! This means it's coming out in a few months, right?--ed. How little you know about academic publishing, my notional friend. It means I will be spending the next couple of months to complete one final revision. After I hand it in, it will come out about a year after that. So my goal will be for the book to be released in 2006.] And you -- yes, you, the not-so-average blog reader -- can help!! If you have a few spare days, feel free to peruse the manuscript. Let me know if you have any constructive criticisms, stylistic suggestions, or detect any typos (there are a bunch strategically sprinkled into the current version). If you're lucky, you too could find yourself mentioned in the acknowledgments in a major university press book!! [Whoop-dee-frickin'-doo. This is a big deal?--ed. Well, it is for my field. Anyone in the discipline who sees a new book in their field will first check the acknowledgments, index, and bibliography to see if they are mentioned. And anyone who tells you otherwise is not to be trusted.]
Not much there that is worthy of comment. Nearly everyone on the list has made a contribution which is either totally ephemeral, or which will simply be absorbed into the body of human knowledge without leaving much trace of its originator. Ideas from Sen, Habermas or Chomsky will survive in some form, but nobody will read them in 100 years. And the rest will be utterly forgotten?or so I predict.
Bertram is likely correct that many of the contributions are ephemeral, but is it really so bad to come up with an idea that is "absorbed into the body of human knowledge"? Isn't that kind of the point? [But according to Bertram, there won't be much trace of the idea's progenitor--ed. On the one hand, duh. Current writers always interpret older writers in the context of their current epoch. On the other hand, it is precisely this habit in our thinking that then leaves the door open to graduate students eager to engage in their own kind of revisionism -- which can't happen without reading the originator.]
Today's papers note his ingenious applications of "game theory" to labor negotiations, business transactions, and arms-control agreements. But what they don't note?what is little-known in general?is the crucial role he played in formulating the strategies of "controlled escalation" and "punitive bombing" that plunged our country into the war in Vietnam. This dark side of Tom Schelling is also the dark side of social science?the brash assumption that neat theories not only reflect the real world but can change it as well, and in ways that can be precisely measured. And it's a legacy that can be detected all too clearly in our current imbroglio in Iraq.
Alas, Kaplan commits the very sin he accuses Schelling of making -- providing an overly neat theory of how Schelling contributed to U.S. policy in Vietnam. Kaplan's own description of Schelling's role in Vietnam contradicts his claim:
[Assistant Secretary of Defense John] McNaughton came to see [Schelling]. He outlined the administration's interest in escalating the conflict in order to intimidate the North Vietnamese. Air power seemed the logical instrument, but what sort of bombing campaign did Schelling think would best ensure that the North would pick up on the signals and respond accordingly? More broadly, what should the United States want the North to do or stop doing; how would bombing convince them to obey; how would we know that they had obeyed; and how could we ensure that they wouldn't simply resume after the bombing had ceased? Schelling and McNaughton pondered the problem for more than an hour. In the end, they failed to come up with a single plausible answer to these most basic questions. So assured when writing about sending signals with force and inflicting pain to make an opponent behave, Tom Schelling, when faced with a real-life war, was stumped. He did leave McNaughton with one piece of advice: Whatever kind of bombing campaign you end up launching, it shouldn't last more than three weeks. It will either succeed by then?or it will never succeed. The bombing campaign?called Operation Rolling Thunder?commenced on March 2, 1965. It didn't alter the behavior of the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong in the slightest. Either they didn't read the signals?or the signals had no effect.
In this description, there's not a whole hell of a lot of brashness -- indeed, Schelling's recommendation was not to escalate Rolling Thunder if the initial bombing didn't work. In Kaplan's passage, Schelling appears to be acutely aware of the difficulties of measurement in applying his theory of compellence to Vietnam. He made a recommendation, but with none of the hubris Kaplan associates with social science (Kaplan also elides Schelling's leadership in a subsequent attempt to convince then-NSC adviser Henry Kissinger to withdraw from Vietnam in the early days of the Nixon administration). Kaplan's essay contains a grain of truth about the dangers of social science. Too often, theorists come up with great models of the world by assuming away petty inconveniences like bureaucratic politics, implementation with incomplete information, or the effects of rhetorical blowback. But before he throws out the baby with the bathwater, Kaplan might want to ask himself the following question: if policymakers choose not to rely on social science theories to wend their way through a complex world, what navigational aid would Kaplan suggest in its stead? Policymakers across the political spectrum always like to poke fun at explicit theorizing about international relations. The problem is that they usually rely on historical analogies instead -- which are, in every way, worse than the use of explicit theories. UPDATE: Tyler Cowen quotes Business Week's Michael Mandel on the drawbacks of game theory:
Game theory is no doubt wonderful for telling stories. However, it flunks the main test of any scientific theory: The ability to make empirically testable predictions. In most real-life situations, many different outcomes -- from full cooperation to near-disastrous conflict -- are consistent with the game-theory version of rationality. To put it a different way: If the world had been blown up during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, game theorists could have explained that as an unfortunate outcome -- but one that was just as rational as what actually happened. Similarly, an industry that collapses into run-amok competition, like the airlines, can be explained rationally by game theorists as easily as one where cooperation is the norm.
Tyler has a number of responses (to which Mandel responds) but mine is simple: game theory has the wrong name. It is a theoretical tool rather than a theory in and of itself. Because of this, Mandel is correct that it is possible to devise game-theoretic models that lead to contrasting predictions. However, the virtue of game theory is that the differences made in starting assumptions, institutional rules, and causal processes are laid bare. One can then argue about how realistic the assumptions, rules, and processes are. ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman points out and explains why the blogosphere is united in its high regard for Schelling.
What the issue comes down to, I think, is the perception that blogging is inherently unbecoming of a scholar. Posts are brief and rapid-fire. But what I hope that more faculties are beginning to discover is that blogging can serve as an important complement to the traditional forums for scholarship. No one thinks that blogging should replace books or journal articles. But I think it can serve as an invaluable means of allowing scholars to apply their knowledge to current situations without having first to write a 30 or 300 page manuscript. Thus, I wish the UC faculty bloggers all the best and hope that their example will demonstrate that blogging is anything but the academic equivalent of lese majeste.
In the spirit of the last paragraph, I would encourage the IR scholars in the audience to check out Dan Nexon's post about the debate over the role that norms play in world politics. He's looking for feedback.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.