How The Middle East Got That Way: Fromkin Used History to Explain Politics

If you haven’t read A Peace to End All Peace, add it to your summer reading list immediately. David Fromkin, a professor of International Relations at Boston University is a prolific author and scholar whose book provides a historical look at the creation of the modern Middle East–with an eye toward geography, conflict, and the decisions taken post-WWI the shaped the regions storied history.

In a Foreign Affairs review of the book, John C. Campbell writes that “Fromkin’s history is made by men rather than impersonal forces.”


Fromkin wrote about other seminal issues in 20th century international relations, such as the origins of the Great War, post-war relations and reconstruction, and the fate of key theoretical constructs such as idealism and realism, as embodied in institutions and programs:

In 1995, he wrote “In the Time of the Americans: F.D.R., Truman, Eisenhower, Marshall, MacArthur — the Generation That Changed America’s Role in the World,” in which he argued that after World War II Americans were given a rare second chance to correct the shortcomings of Woodrow Wilson’s one-world idealism.

As Richard Reeves wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “The United Nations is Wilsonian; NATO represents the kind of big-power peace enforcement envisioned by T.R.”Among Professor Fromkin’s other books were “Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?” (2004), which the journalist Avedis Hadjian, writing for, called “a fast-paced, gripping guide through the complex set of reasons and emotions that led to the 20th century’s seminal conflict”; and “The King and the Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh, Secret Partners” (2008).


Hacking for Diplomacy

New class at Stanford that is part-technology, another part-diplomatic trouble-shooting:

Hacking for Diplomacy starts in the fall. The courses ask government officials for specific challenge ideas—in Hacking for Defense, some worked on a communication app, others on a wearable device that can monitor a diver’s physiological traits and students applied in teams to work on individual projects.

One of Blank’s goals was to show tech-minded students their skills could solve problems facing the government, just as they might in the consumer or business worlds, he told Nextgov. The class might “provide another venue” for civic-minded students to help the government, in addition to joining new and much-hyped federal groups such as 18F or the U.S. Digital Service.

Terry Gross on How to Talk to Anyone

Diplomats, salespeople, missionaries, and journalists all talk to people. Some do it better than others. But nobody does it as well as Terry Gross, the NRP interviewer par excellance–who kept me informed and entertained as I worked a painting conservation job in college, swabbing dirt inch-by-inch across a gigantic, room-filling canvas. Foam-covered 1980’s era headphones attached to a Sony AM/FM/cassette Walkman were my lifeline to a world of fascinating ideas and people, thanks to Gross.

So when I saw this piece by Susan Burton on the art and craft of WHYY in Philadelphia’s master interviewer I wanted to see what could be learned. One insight: it takes a lot of work (and a little luck) to get a “real moment” in a hard-earned conversation, and it can be uncomfortable:

When the interview ended, Gross and her producers asked themselves, ‘‘Are we going to keep that in the edit?’’ Yes, they decided: ‘‘Maybe there’s not a really satisfactory, conclusive answer,’’ but ‘‘it felt like a real moment.’’ Gross went on: ‘‘Even if the real moment isn’t somebody being really honest and forthcoming and introspective, a real moment of friction, a real moment of tension, is still a real moment.’’

Occasionally the ‘‘real moments’’ can be awkward for Gross. In July, in an interview with the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, Gross began laughing in response to a story he told about being yelled at by a teacher. ‘‘See, it sounds like you’re laughing because, like, it’s funny if you’ve never been in the environment,’’ Coates said. Some on social media pegged Gross as a clueless white lady. But the exchange was constructive. Gross was simply reacting, and then listening as Coates explained his perception of her reaction. In doing so, he illuminated an experience of growing up in a culture of fear and violence.

Source: Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up – The New York Times

The Disadvantages of Peace (According to Michael Desch)

Thanks to Professor Walt, we get this interesting peace on academic research by Michael Desch in International Organization in 1996 on why giving peace a chance may not work.

Don’t get me wrong: I think peace is wonderful, and I wish more politicians talked about it openly and did more to further it. But prolonged periods of peace may also have a downside: They allow divisions within different societies to grow and deepen.But prolonged periods of peace may also have a downside: They allow divisions within different societies to grow and deepen. Even worse, they may eventually drive the world back toward war.

Source: The Case Against Peace | Foreign Policy

Over the last two decades, Walt sees this idea as better than other IR standards such as the “end of history” or “clash of civilizations”.

Northwestern Faculty veto Karl Eikenberry for global studies institute

The newest university addition to global studies is an institute is based at Northwestern and funded by Warren Buffet with a gift of $101 million (Wow). Trustees found an ideal new director: aformer Ambassador to Afghanistan, three-star Army general who had lived in Korea (twice), China (three times), Italy, Belgium and Afghanistan. He is currently a distinguished fellow at Stanford’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, with two master’s degrees–from Standord and Harvard. So what’s the problem?

The deal, announced in November, fell through months later, after a surprising debate erupted about Eikenberry’s qualifications and his views on the value of the humanities and social sciences as elements of “soft power” in U.S. foreign policy. The dispute at the elite private university in north suburban Evanston reflected the power of faculty dissidents as a check on university administrators, as well as conflicting views on the value of military and diplomatic experience for advancement in academia.

Source: How Northwestern faculty derailed retired general’s global studies job – Chicago Tribune

Reasons behind the petition and faculty intransigence appear to arise from his lacking a Ph.D.  It may also stem from perceived faculty view that “the Unviersity’s core mission of independent research and teaching becomes identified with U.S. military and foreign.”  policy. More on the controversy, explained by North by Northwestern.


Argument Mapping with Debategraph

A great little tool to map out views on the Global Goals, Peace in the Middle East, Nuclear Politics, or more, run by a non-profit founded by Peter Baldwin and David Price. It has been used by CNN, the White House, and the Independent as a unique pedagogical tool to explain complex ideas.

Tutorial Prezi


The Power of Kids Debating: Kings and Queens of Speech

Here’s a pitch: let’s show the power of speech and debate to help kids make it through school (and life). Good news. It exists, thanks to this Sky 1 show following 20 students as they attend an after schoolclubs. And it  ends up in Parliament….brilliant!

The result is an eight-part series from the people behind Educating Yorkshire called The Kings & Queens Of Speech, which tries to transform the children into confident young adults by encouraging them to speak up. The first six episodes each focus on a different British school as teams of pupils are trained in debating skills. The winning team from each school will then travel to the Oxford Union to compete in the semi-finals, with the final being held at Parliament, where they’ll learn a thing or two from the pros (or should that be teach them a thing or two?).

The project is the brainchild of the charity Debate Mate, which takes children who would never traditionally be involved in debating societies and gives them 16 weeks of intensive training. It works in 200 schools across Britain, and claims to help 4,500 disadvantaged students each week.‘Our school did have a debating team, but it was made up of the sort of boys you’d expect to find – the high achievers,’ explains Mr Whiteley. ‘The remit here was to ask different types of boys to get involved.’

Source: The shy boy who’ll make you cry:  It’s another tear-jerker from the team behind Educating Yorkshire, this time empowering timid pupils through debate | Daily Mail Online