What is policy relevant, anyways?

Here we go again. It seems like every year or so some writer dusts of his or her “Timeless Ideas” notebook, turns to the “P” section and decides to rail against the current state of political science. This time the honors go to Tom Ricks, who is not particularly impressed with the latest issue of International Security. Because the world is full of dread and danger, the content of the journal, and by extension all of political science, is woefully irrelevant. The charge itself should not warrant a long response, but it made me think about a deeper question: . . .
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Tom Ricks, Political Science, and Policy Relevance

I actually should thank Tom Ricks. I’ve wanted to revive this long-dormant blog for some time now, but I’ve been caught up with moving and trying to wrap up a long-term project. Ricks, the former Washington Post military correspondent, inspired me to knock the dust off this site when he made one of the silliest arguments about the policy relevance of political science on record.

In a blog post at Foreign Policy, he mocks the latest issue of the academic journal International Security as boring and irrelevant to the myriad crises the world faces. Ricks complains that with trouble . . .
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The Weakness of a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent: Counterfactuals and the Stability-Instability Paradox

(updated below)

Since the Russian incursion in Crimea at the end of February, a meme has been circulating among some national security commentators that Ukraine should have kept the nuclear arsenal it inherited following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most forceful proponent that Kiev would have been better off maintaining a nuclear deterrent was and is University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer. At the end of the Cold War, Mearsheimer argued in Foreign Affairs (pdf),

A nuclear Ukraine makes sense for two reasons. First, it is imperative to maintain peace between Russia and Ukraine… Ukraine cannot . . .
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Shameless Self-Promotion: Overkill Edition

Posts have been sparse as of late, but I thought I’d dust off the old blog to brag to the internets inform my loyal readers (hi dad!) about a couple of recent items stemming from the paper I co-authored for the Cato Institute with Chris Preble and Ben Friedman.

First up, Tuesday at noon I had the pleasure of speaking at a Cato policy forum on our paper, “The End of Overkill?: Reassessing U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy”. The panel was moderated by Chris Preble and included myself, Ben, Dr. Hans Christensen of the Federation of American Scientists, and Elbridge . . .
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Shameless Self-Promotion: Cato Edition

[Updated Below]

As I made note of previously, blogging will be somewhat more sporadic than usual (if that’s possible) as I slog through my final year of coursework and prepare for comps next fall. That said, I always manage to find a few minutes for my all-time favorite activity: shameless self-promotion!

Today marks the release of a paper I co-authored with Christopher Preble and Benjamin Friedman of the Cato Institute on American nuclear strategy. In the paper, we argue that a smaller nuclear arsenal will not hurt U.S. security and by shifting to a submarine-based monad, instead of the . . .
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A Far-From-Exhaustive American Foreign Relations Reading List

It’s that time of year again… Football is coming back, the leaves will soon start changing color, and my anxiety level and hatred of undergrads starts to spike again school begins again. Entering my second year of grad school, I realize that my already not-so-prolific blogging will likely become even less frequent in the coming months. Not only do I have to finish my coursework and assistant teach this year, I also have make significant progress in every grad student’s favorite pastime: comps reading.

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I do plan on continuing to blog throughout the semester, but it . . .
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Putin, Snowden, and How Credibility Works in International Politics

Our old friend Max Boot has a post at Commentary that demonstrates a common confusion about how credibility works in international politics. Boot argues that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum because he doesn’t fear Obama because Obama hasn’t yet gone to war in Syria… or something. I’ll let him explain:

Obama understandably doesn’t want to get stuck in the Syrian morass. But he should understand that when the president of the United States makes threats and then fails to make good on them, that has consequences for America’s dealings with the rest . . .
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The Ever-Shrinking Odds of Nuclear Terrorism

For over a decade now, one of the most oft-repeated threats raised by policymakers—the one that in many ways justified the invasion of Iraq—has been that of nuclear terrorism. Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations, including the presidents themselves, have raised the specter of the atomic terrorist. But beyond mere rhetoric, how likely is a nuclear terrorist attack really? function dnnInit(){var . . .
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George W. Bush and the Historian's Craft

[updated below]

Daniel Larison has a new post addressing a comment made by former President George W. Bush about how future historians will come to view his legacy. According to the former commander-in-chief, “I won’t be around, because it will take a while for the objective historians to show up.” Larison correctly notes that the historical profession has never been a fully objective enterprise. For instance, in That Noble Dream, his excellent study of the American historical profession and the role objectivity played in its development, Peter Novick traces the way “objective” history became a professional norm among historians . . .
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Shameless Self-Promotion, part 2: Cyber War Edition

Like my co-blogger Matt Fay, I too have been absent from this blog for far too long. Work and grad school applications (I’ll be attending the LBJ School at UT Austin starting this fall) became a veritable time vortex, but I am hoping to (albeit slowly) get back to blogging now. I will probably post more quick hits rather than lengthy analyses, since I am in fact going to grad school, but hopefully the blog will pick up pace over the summer. Since this is a comeback post of sorts it is only appropriate that it involves my work . . .
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