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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Iron Dome Does Not Vindicate SDI

Sure, Max Boot makes terrible historical analogies, but I’ve always just assumed that the disagreements I have with him are based on honest differences and not utter ignorance. After today, I’m no longer sure that’s the case. Writing at Commentary Magazine’s Contentions blog, Boot argues,

The latest Gaza war is only a few days old, but already one conclusion can be drawn: missile defense works. This is only the latest vindication for the vision of Ronald Reagan… who made missile defense a major priority for the U.S. and our allies.

Boot is referring to the Iron Dome system co-developed . . .
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Will Turkey Invoke NATO’s Article 5 over Syria?

NATO members are meeting today to discuss Syria downing a Turkish fighter jet. Concern is rising that this incident could pull NATO into an armed conflict. Turkey has called the meeting under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty—just the second time this has been invoked in NATO history—which states:

The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.

The circumstances and facts of the incident are not clear. What is clear, however, is that Turkey is not taking this situation lightly . . .
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Arming the Syrian Rebels Is Not a Romantic Pursuit

Ben Hubbard of the Associated Press filed a fascinating yet sobering report last week after being embedded with Syrian opposition fighters for two weeks. The report provides great insight into the debate over arming the Syrian opposition. It paints a picture of groups that are disorganized and lacking in basic communication. As the fighting becomes bloodier and the chaos grows, it becomes more evident that a U.S. or NATO intervention would be subject to numerous unintended consequences. Specifically, arming the wrong opposition groups should be a main concern. But relying on the hope that the C.I.A. can acquire sufficient . . .
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Saddam, Iran, and the Stability-Instability Paradox: Can Israel's "Samson Option" Hold?

Following a post from a few months back, I was pointed in the direction of an intriguing study by Duke University’s Hal Brands and David Palkki of the National Defense University that is germane to the current debates over a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and its implications for Israeli security (h/t Zach Novetsky).  “Saddam, Israel, and the Bomb: Nuclear Alarmism Justified?”, published last summer in International Security, is the result of countless hours pouring over documents captured after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The implications of Brands and Palkki’s findings for Israeli security are alarming but . . .
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War Games: What are They Good For?

A little over two weeks ago, a report in the New York Times by Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti described a recent war game run by CENTCOM that envisioned the aftermath of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program.  The result:  Regional war with hundreds of American service members dead.  News of the classified simulation, which was leaked to the Times by an unnamed official, had the Twitterverse abuzz, and the subject was quickly hyped on the Left by ThinkProgress, the blog of the liberal Center for American Progress, and denounced on the Right by Bret Stephens, writing in . . .
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Turning Down the Volume on the Iran Debate

Pundits, academics, and the mainstream media have turned the volume up to eleven on the “Bomb Iran” debate in the past two months. Much of the discussion has been healthy, indeed necessary when discussing matters of nuclear proliferation and war. But much of the reporting and opining has also been reckless fear-mongering (see Glenn Greenwald’s assessment). And most arguments for a preemptive strike are premised on the assertion that the Iranian regime will eventually pursue nuclear weapons, if it is not already.

So it is refreshing to see a few major outlets cutting through the noise and stepping back . . .
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Prospects for Accidental Nuclear War in the Middle East

Many are obviously alarmed over the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Some of these fears are cartoonish and should be ignored, but there are others that should be given due consideration.  One example of the latter is the question of whether or not an Iranian nuclear weapon would raise the likelihood of an accidental nuclear war between the Islamic Republic and Israel.  Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg outlined a potential scenario last month in one of his regular columns for Bloomberg View.  But the type of “warp speed escalation” to nuclear war that Goldberg invokes is not nearly . . .
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Iranian Threat: Mortal or Deterrable?

Numerous essays have been written in recent months taking up positions on whether or not the United States should use military force against Iran in an attempt to forestall its nuclear program.  Foreign Affairs offers an excellent debate on the subject that iss highlighted by contending essays from Matthew Kroenig and Colin Kahl, taking the pro- and anti-bombing positions, respectively.  Perhaps the silliest offering in this ongoing discussion though was an op-ed in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal by Mark Helprin that is filled with contradictions and paints an exceedingly cartoonish picture of Iran.

angioedema treatment

Mr. Helprin, a . . .
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The Historical Uncertainty of Middle Eastern Nuclear Proliferation

There seems to be one area of agreement between hawks and doves on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program:  the veritable certainty of a nuclear proliferation “casacade” in the Middle East whereby Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and others respond to an Iranian nuclear weapon with nuclear programs of their own.  Fears of that scenario were understandably raised recently when Prince Turki al-Faisal, a member of the royal family and former head of Saudi intelligence, explicitly stated that the Kingdom would consider pursuing its own nuclear capability were Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon of its own.  Max Boot cited . . .
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