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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Alliances and balancing during a structural power shift

I have recently been preoccupied with the Asia pivot, or more generally the structural shift towards Asia—not in the serious research way, but more like the European pondering in the park while smoking a pipe way (figuratively speaking—I usually don’t go outside; I sit inside tweeting). By sheer coincidence the other day I came across Stephen M. Walt’s 2009 article “Alliances in a Unipolar World,” which applies alliance theory and frameworks to the peculiar period of unipolarity we are in currently. Walt mentions the rising powers in Asia and the long list of countries allied or aligned with the . . .
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Multipolarity, Syria and a New Concert

Dan Trombly had, as he often does, an interesting blog post the other day on the possibility of a new concert. Not one with Bruce Springsteen, but rather a global concert of great powers akin to the 19th century Concert of Europe, where nation-states acted by a set of unwritten rules to maintain peace (this came in response to a previous post by Dan Nexon over at the Duck of Minerva). The shadows of Libya and Syria veritably loom over the text as the discussions of intervention and R2P (Responsibility to Protect) have stirred up an interesting debate on . . .
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Misunderstanding Offshore Balancing: Or How Not to Apply Lessons in International Relations

For aspiring academics the only thing worse than promoting a lame foreign policy idea is abusing international relations theory to do it. The former is relatively common (at least for us snarky Twitter/blogosphere-people), but it’s been a while since I saw someone misunderstand, or misrepresent, IR theory so blatantly as David Axe does in this recent piece in the Diplomat on U.S. policy in northern Africa (h/t to Dan Trombly for the link). Axe begins the article by calling victory in Libya “an apparent success for a new US military strategy.” Exactly what is this new strategy? Winter explains:

. . .
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Primacy, Decline, and Renewal: American Power in the 21st Century

There has been much discussion lately about the decline of American power.  For example, two nearly simultaneous talks this past October—by former ambassador Eric Edelman and Tufts University political scientist Daniel Drezner, respectively—sought to dissect America’s current bout of “declinism,” with subsequent articles by Paul Kennedy, Michael Auslin, Gideon Rachman, and others either supporting or disputing the idea of a world where American primacy is no longer secure.  Given America’s current fiscal troubles, its seemingly endless string of asymmetric wars, and coming on the heels of a global financial crisis, it’s understandable why interest in American decline is back . . .
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Book Review: Theories of International Relations and ZOMBIES

Anyone who has read his blog at Foreign Policy knows that Dan Drezner is not only one of the blogosphere’s sharpest minds when it comes to international relations, he’s also one of its most entertaining.  His latest offering, Theories of International Politics and ZOMBIES, amply demonstrates why both distinctions are well earned.

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Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, is a prolific blogger and has written several noted texts on international political economy, among other works.  Zombies is not Prof. Drezner’s first foray into the nexus of . . .
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Was Eisenhower right?

January 17 was the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous speech about the military-industrial complex. In a televised farewell address to the American people, Eisenhower warned about the dangers of a military-industrial complex dominating U.S. foreign policy and threatening individual liberty (see transcript and video here).

Much has been said about the speech and Eisenhower’s dire prediction, and the Cato Institute recently hosted a two-part event discussing the state of civil-military relations today and how to curb the military’s undue influence on policy-making. The panels were star-studded, at least for an IR geek, with Lawrence Korb, Eugene . . .
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Mearsheimer on the failure of global dominance grand strategy

This is perhaps a bit too old, but hey, we’re a new blog. John J. Mearsheimer has an article in the National Interest’s January/February issue on U.S. grand strategy. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the piece, Mearsheimer does an excellent job showing what went wrong after the end of the Cold War, choosing global dominance, as opposed to isolationism, offshore balancing, or selective engagement.

He eventually comes down on offshore balancing as the preferred grand strategy, but the piece is just as informative in tracking the evolution and failure of a global dominance strategy in the last two . . .
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