Tag Archives: research

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

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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 latin better than other IR standards such as the “end of history” or “clash of civilizations”.

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Advising Someone You Hate

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What do you do when you disagree with your boss? What about when your supervisor plays an important policy role? OK, keep going here…what if your boss is POTUS….President Trump? (And you despise him?)

This intellectual exercise-cum-mindgame played out here, outlining two paths that can be followed by smart people who disagree with their superiors–the inside or the outside path:

Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote an interesting essay in Middle East Law and Governance about what Syria experts should do when it’s obvious that the current administration does not share their assumptions that indirectly touches on this quandry. In essence, he notes that there are inside and outside paths. The inside path is all about having a direct “policy impact” on the policymaker. But if the people in power do not share one’s basic assumptions, then the outside path — op-eds, essays, media appearances — might be the proper course of action:

Because there are so many different paths to influencing policy and so much uncertainty over the exact nature of that influence (to say nothing of lag time effects), policy researchers shouldn’t necessarily make policy impact into an all-consuming objective. In this respect, influencing policy is a bit like love: you hope it happens, but you also don’t want to try too hard. We should write with a mind to helping shape, broaden, and enrich a public conversation (in the implicit hope that, over time, innovative outside-the-box ideas – assuming they’re good – will be recognized by someone, somewhere in government and at the right time).

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/02/10/the-ethics-of-advising-donald-trump/

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Reading for Realism

And now this from (realist) thinker Stephen M. Walt, identifying a major gap in how we look at the world–the lack of a smart realist writing in the opinion pages of the three top U.S. newspapers. (Realism being a major field of international relations theory.)

At the New York Times, the list of columnists regularly writing on foreign affairs includes one neoconservative (David Brooks) and several well-known liberal internationalists (Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, and Roger Cohen). Ross Douthat is a more traditional conservative, but he rarely writes on foreign affairs and is certainly not a realist. Despite certain differences among them, all of these writers are eloquent defenders of U.S. interventionism all around the globe for all sorts of reasons. The Washington Post employs four hard-line neoconservatives—editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan, and Jackson Diehl–and used to feature William Kristol as well. Its regular columnists also include former Bush administration speechwriters Marc Thiessen and Michael Gerson and far-right blogger Jennifer Rubin, along with the more centrist  David Ignatius and the increasingly bellicose Richard Cohen. Needless to say, none of these writers is a realist and all of them strongly support an activist U.S. foreign policy. As James Carden and Jacob Heilbrunn observed in The National Interest last year, Hiatt has in effect “turned the paper into a megaphone for unrepentant warrior intellectuals,” and now leads “the most reckless editorial page in America.”

Source: What Would a Realist World Have Looked Like? | Foreign Policy

So who should they hire? Walt helpfully provides human resources with this list (and I’d add him to the list, as well):

Paul Pillar, Chas Freeman Jr., Robert Blackwill, Steve Clemons, Michael Desch, Steve Chapman, John Mearsheimer, Barry Posen, Andrew Bacevich, or Daniel Larison

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Booklist | Best Diplomacy Books of 2015

Add these 2105 books that focus on the history, practice, and key issues in diplomacy to your reading list:

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Worldmaking: The Art and Science of American Diplomacy by David Milne – the most important rethinking of American foreign policy, dividing key thinkers between artistic and scientific approaches

Realpolitik: A History by John Bew – unraveling a German contribution and distinguishing it from the realist school of thought

The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pedersen – explores the first grand attempt at international governance and a failed attempt to outlaw war

The Deluge, by Adam Tooze – an original take on the interwar period as power gravitated from Europe to the US

ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger – the must-read book to understand the Middle East disruptor

King John: England, Magna Carta and the Making of a Tyrant by Stephen Church – commemorating the 800th anniversary of a foundational doc

Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist by Niall Ferguson – making the case that he cannot be ignored as a major diplomatic strategist, an effort to “revise the revisionists

Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman by Greg Grandin – on his institutionalizing failures, using intuition over facts, and forming the foundation for neoconservative missteps

Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy by Micah Zenko – avoiding groupthink by thinking like the other side

The Power of the Past: History and Statecraft by Hal Brands (Editor), Jeremi Suri (Editor) – what can policymakers really learn from history?

Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century by Alistair Horne – a longtime writer of military history isolates a key factor

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turtle – how technology makes it harder for us to be together, diminishing empathy

The New York Review Abroad edited by Robert B Silvers with introductory updates by Ian Buruma – around the world in 27 essays

 

Global Economics

Inequality: What Can be Done? by Anthony Atkinson – to follow up on Piketty’s big idea last year, how about a solution?

The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa’s Wealth by Tom Burgis – revealing how Africa sits at the bottom on of the global industrial chain

Digital Gold: The Untold Story of Bitcoin by Nathaniel Popper – from a global joke to a movement and new currency

Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science by Dani Rodrik – taking on the dismal science in the form of a defense

 

Country Focus

 

Global Rules: America, Britain, and a Disordered World by James E. Cronin

Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel, by Dan Ephron – a murder that didn’t make peace inevitable or settle the big Israeli debate

Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator by Oleg V. Khlevniuk, translated by Nora Seligman Favorov

Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean From Columbus to the Present Day by Carrie Gibson

How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People
by Sudhir Hazareesingh

The Invention of Russia: The Journey from Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War by Arkady Ostrovsky

The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq by Emma Sky

The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa: Money, War and the Business by Alex de Waal

 

Finally, take a look and James Lindsay’s complication of ten American foreign policy influencers who died in 2015. Happy New Year!

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Political Analysis: Failure of the Galactic Republic

Geeking out on this application of analysis-meets-Star Wars by Seth Masket of the University of Denver Political Science Department :

It is a bad idea for a republic to outsource its police and military power, as well as most of its diplomacy, to an autonomous religious cult. Monopoly on the use of force is a central function of a healthy state. The Galactic Republic relied on the Jedi to enforce its will domestically and internationally. Such a scenario made the republic very vulnerable to a Jedi coup, something senators would have been aware of and vigilant against. The Senate was insufficiently vigilant against a rising Emperor Palpatine because its main fear was an Emperor Yoda.

Source: The problem with the Galactic Republic was the Jedi – Vox

An earlier post on the lack of minority party was also clever.

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What Drives Russia’s Reality

What is the current undercurrent of Russian life? Helpfully, Peter Pomerantsev, a British Television producer and author who has dissected the origins of Putinism, explains:

When I went to work as a TV producer in Moscow in the early 2000s, I would ask my peers which of the “selves” they grew up with was the “real” them. How did they locate the difference between truth and lies? “You just end up living in different realities,” they would tell me, “with multiple truths and different ‘yous.’ ”

When members of this generation came to power they created a society that was a feast of simulations, with fake elections, a fake free press, a fake free market and fake justice. They are led by religious Russian patriots who curse the decadent West while keeping their children and money in London and informed by television producers who make Putin-worshiping shows during the day, and listen to energetically anti-Putin radio shows the moment they get into their cars after work.

It’s almost as if you are encouraged to have one identity one moment and the opposite one the next. So you’re always split into little bits, and can never quite commit to changing things.

via Russia’s Ideology: There Is No Truth – NYTimes.com.

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Fear Crime More than War?

Global Study on Homicide

Worry about warfare? Yes, that’s important. But if you are concerned about being the victim of armed conflict or what a new UN global study on homicide calls “collective violence”, you are more likely top be facing what some might consider ‘street crime’ as a more likely scenario.

Homicide and acts of personal violence kill more people than wars and are the third-leading cause of death among men aged 15 to 44, the United Nations said Wednesday in a new report.

 

Around the world, there were about 475,000 homicide deaths in 2012 and about six million since 2000, “making homicide a more frequent cause of death than all wars combined in this period,” the report states.

via More People Die From Homicide Than in Wars, U.N. Says – NYTimes.com.

The cost? According to the Copenhagen Consensus Centre as reported in the Guardian, it adds up to 11% of the world gross domestic product, around $9.5 trillion.

Also, of interest–the safest region to live in would be Asia, followed by Oceania and Europe. The Americas ranks last, with 16.3 homicides per 100k population.

Homocide rates by region 2012

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The Middle East Friendship Chart

It’s complicated–and all the other bi-lateral relationships in the Middle East explained through a very helpful chart.

 

By Joshua Keating and Chris Kirk

via Slate: The Middle East Friendship Chart.

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What Do Political Scientists Know? (And how do we find out)

What do political scientists, practitioners of “the dismissed science,” know that the rest of us don’t?  The process of dispersing research is (very, very slowly) changing as some serious scholars are writing for a wider auudience–explaining what we are learning via research.

Hans Noel at Georgetown explains here.

The paper is worth a full read (really). Also, Noel suggests more useful sources for informed analysis:

  • Jonathan Bernstein, plainaboutpolitics.blogspot.com
  • Daniel Drezner, drezner.foreignpolicy.com
  • Simon Jackman, jackman.stanford.edu/blog/
  • Jacob Levy, jacoblevy.blogspot.com
  • Jim Johnson, politicstheoryphotography.blogspot.com
  • Seth Masket, enikrising.blogspot.com
  • Brendan Nyhan, brendan-nyhan.com
  • Steven Walt, walt.foreignpolicy.com
  • lawersgunsmoneyblog.com
  • duckofminerva.blogspot.com
  • monkeycage.org

 

 

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