Originally written for Formiche, which published an Italian translation.
Americans long held up the quality of their democracy as a standard for the rest of the world to follow. In many political science metrics, other democracies are—literally—measured against American democracy to determine their quality; in theorizing about how “democracy” works, American institutions are routinely adduced as an unproblematic model. One of the supposed strengths of American institutions was that the sorts of paranoid conspiracy theories that appeared in other countries were, allegedly, never influential in the United States.
Continue reading “Conspiracy Thinking In The Age of Trump”
It’s clear to everyone-and I mean everyone-that the Constitution badly needs amendments. Here are my thoughts about what those should be with the caveat that I set a timer for 12 minutes to put these down.
Although I often strive to present relatively evidence-based recommendations in areas of my expertise, what follows is more a spur toward better theorizing than a distillation of disciplinary wisdom. But, lets face it, part of never letting a crisis go to waste is acting on our instincts tempered by evidence. The whole point of a crisis, after all, is that matters are unsettled–and when they are unsettled, extrapolations from the past should be radically discounted.
Continue reading “Quick Thoughts On Constitutional Amendments I’d Like”
Attention conservation notice: Semi-structured thoughts on an emerging genre of IR/political science studies.
Disclaimer: I reserve the right to distance myself from any and all ideas in this essay.
I’ve been reading stacks of books about popular culture and international relations recently. Let me grossly simplify the warrants that such pieces often provide for the time that their authors spent writing them and the time they want their readers to spend consuming them:
- Popular culture/science fiction provides a great way to introduce students to concepts in international relations and political science.
- Popular culture/science fiction changes the way that people think about IR/political science already, so we should understand what it is saying.
- Popular culture/science fiction gives us greater shades of meaning about how people think about core topics in IR, like war, peace, and even the nuclear taboo.
- Fictional universes enable scholars to engage in theorizing that gets at the core of topics related to social science, thereby potentially helping us to understand the real world.
These are strong claims, and they merit attention–if popular culture matters to a lot of people (and it does), and if popular culture tells us something about how people see the world (which seems plausible to me!), then it follows that IR and political science as a field are paying too little attention to a major part of the constitution of world politics.
Yet despite my great sympathy toward these projects, I find many of the actual engagements along these lines deeply lacking.
Continue reading “Pop culture and International Relations: Stop geeking out”
Erik Loomis picks up on something hidden in plain sight: the terrible war record of the Republic of Texas. Loomis’s post quotes from a War is Boring post that asks how a country with as pitiful a war record as the Republic of Texas could survive.
Lets get things straight: Robert Beckhusen, the War is Boring writer, is absolutely right. Heres how I describe Texas’s war for independence in my (current draft of my) dissertation:
The case begins with two shocks: the independence of the Republic of Texas and U.S. President Andrew Jacksons refusal to allow its bid for annexation to proceed. Anglo-American settlers had colonized parts of the sparsely inhabited Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas, first at the invitation of the Mexican government and then illegally after Mexico City, worried about U.S. influence, sought to halt colonization. Political turmoil within Mexico led to a revolt among the Anglo-Texans. The Texans victory was unexpected, since they were a population of a few tens of thousands without an effective government fighting a Mexican government that (at least nominally) ruled a country of several millions. The Texans war was mostly disastrous, marked by military calamities such as the defeat at the Alamo, until a decisive victory at San Jacinto on April 2, 1836, that left only a handful of Texans dead but the bulk of the Mexican expeditionary force killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Among the prisoners was Santa Anna, who signed a treaty granting the breakaway republic independence.
Wading through oceans of Texas historiography, I quickly discovered that most people who have written about Texas–and almost everyone who reads about it–wants to give Texas a glamorous past. To the extent that anyones encountered Texas history, then, they’ve come up against the most sanitized, and boring, version of the tale.
Yet simply rejecting the sanitized version of the history is misguided. The real question is, knowing how badly off the Texans were, how was it that they managed to win, and maintain, the country’s independence? As ever, focusing on only one side of the question–Texas’s manifest incompetence–gives an incomplete answer. The real story is the fact that Mexico was even worse off. In other words, the Texans were terrible at war, but the Mexicans were even worse. After all, the Mexicans couldn’t even defeat the Texans. Why?
Continue reading “The Successes of the Failed State of Texas”