To read and watch in August

As you prepare the nicest “out-of-office” reply, a few reading and watching suggestions.

If you’re into serious PoliSci/IR reading, a few great books came out earlier this year. We mention two, one on intrastate and the other on inter-state wars: Laia Balcells’ Rivalry and Revenge. The Politics of Violence during Civil War discusses civilian victimization in civil wars with empirics from the Spanish Civil War. Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (reviewed by NYT here).

More into fiction? Omar el Akkad’s American War brings readers to a fictional Second Civil War in the US, a dystopian analysis of effects of climate change and political radicalization (reviewed here). The Man Booker Prize Longlist just came out. We’ll go for Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (reviewed in The Guardian here), on migration and magic. All this while we patiently wait for the third installment of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, the Mirror and the Light, which might not be published earlier than 2019.

Summer movies: the easy one is Dunkirk, where the latest Batman’s director Christopher Nolan brings you to the shores of the French coastal city that witnessed the most famous evacuation in the history of war. IR theory-lovers that appreciated how well the security dilemma was depicted in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) will be inevitably attracted by the sequel War for the Planet of the Apes, directed by Mark Reeves.

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Venus on 2016: Tips on books, TV, papers, and the late T.C. Schelling

Quite of a year, 2016. As we prepare to celebrate – big dinners around here – for New Year’s Eve, we want to share something we did like in the past year. We range from TV to academic papers. But, we promise: no Trump, no Brexit and no Italian Constitutional referendum among the topics. It’s strange Top 5 (maybe 6, depending on how you count) because we selected 5 topics but often we could not agree on what should have been mentioned. The longer-than-usual list is the outcome of such disagreements.

So we asked ourselves what 2016 brought on the TV screen. List would be long, so we focused on new stuff. Two different answers, of course. One came up with the (Netflix-produced) story of Irish soldiers deployed in the  first large-scale UN peacekeeping mission that took place in Congo in the early 60s (ONUC) : “The Siege of Jadotville” (trailer here). The other was struck by the realism and vivid description of life of American Muslims (as well as by John Turturro’s acting) in HBO’s TV series “The night of”.

Fiction books. 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner The Sympathizer (here, The Guardian reviews it) – a contemporary yet classic spy story on a double agent moving from Vietnam to America – inevitably attracted the attention of the Vietnam War most passionate student among the two. The other recently read “The Association of Small Bombs”, on (terrorist) bombing and how bombers and survivors deal with its consequences (here, a NYT review).

Newspapers and magazines section. Suggestion number one is a A&Q (The Atlantic series that explores the complexity of commonly-held beliefs about “solutions” to big questions/problems) about the decline of crime in the US, by putting together and assessing different explanations for such trend. Suggestion number two is a different take on one of the topic that made the headlines in the past year: Aleppo. Legendary Middle-East reporter Robert Fisk wonders if the destructions of antiquities occurring in Syria proves that Western museums should still hold most of them.

Time for academic papers, and again two different tips. If you like focusing on contemporary matters and into hot policy-relevant debates, Aisha Ahmad shows how Islamist groups adopting a global Jihadist identity are better able than others focusing on local tribal and ethnic identities to recruit, expand, and create intra-group cohesion (“Going Global: Islamist Competition in Contemporary Civil Wars”). If you always wondered what made some Samurai more able than others to raise taxes…well it’s the peasants’ willingness and capacity to mobilize. Abbey Steele, Christopher Paik and Seiki Tanaka empirically show how this process worked in an article titled “Constraining the Samurai: Rebellion and Taxation in Early Modern Japan”.

Something we do agree upon, though. First, we join in mourning Thomas Schelling, who recently passed away aged 95. It is hard to overstate Schelling’s contribution to strategic thinking (actually, just one of the fields he contributed too). This is how great IR scholar Robert Jervis remembers Schelling. This is a thorough review of the contribution of Schelling’s most important book, The Strategy of Conflict.

Second, on a lighter tone and kind off-topic, we agree on sports’ best performance of the year: Lebron James’ NBA Finals concluded by “The Block” (and this ESPN Sports Science version explaining the numbers behind it).

 

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Parlare di pace e guerra in Italia (parte terza)

Prima di una breve pausa per le vacanze estive Venus voleva ricordarvi alcune novità per il prossimo anno.

Come abbiamo già scritto in precedenti post (qui e qui) non è facile parlare di pace e guerra in Italia, dai media al Parlamento, dal dibattito pubblico alle università. Pertanto, anche nel prossimo anno accademico, confermiamo il  ciclo di seminari “Guerra, Pace e Sicurezza alle porte del Mediterraneo” (promosso dal Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche dell’Università di Genova e organizzato da Andrea Catanzaro e dal nostro Fabrizio Coticchia).

Molte le iniziative realizzate quest’anno (si veda per esempio qui) ehe confermeremo anche nei prossimi semestri, invitando a Genova esperti italiani e stranieri, politici, giornalisti, militari, pacifisti.

La novità del prossimo anno è la creazione di un Osservatorio sui conflitti (il nome ed il relativo acronimo sono ancora da decidere..) legato proprio ad iniziative analoghe. Anche Venus parteciperà direttamente.

Quindi, stay tuned e buone vacanze

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Organized crime, insurgencies and international politics. ISIL is the Joker…

Here below you’ll find a quotation taken form a recent interview given by President Obama. It well illustrates the nexus between organized crime and insurgencies. Obama refers to the case of the ISIL quoting “The Dark Knight“. I’ll use it in my security courses…

“Advisers recall that Obama would cite a pivotal moment in The Dark Knight, the 2008 Batman movie, to help explain not only how he understood the role of isis, but how he understood the larger ecosystem in which it grew. “There’s a scene in the beginning in which the gang leaders of Gotham are meeting,” the president would say. “These are men who had the city divided up. They were thugs, but there was a kind of order. Everyone had his turf. And then the Joker comes in and lights the whole city on fire. isil is the Joker. It has the capacity to set the whole region on fire. That’s why we have to fight it.”

Joker-dark-knight-rises

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 93

The world according to Trump”, inevitable reading after the Super-Tuesday that consolidated Trump’s leadership in the Republican field.

Among the many issues the next US President will face, there is one the current Administration did not fully address (notwithstanding the initial promises): the prison in Guantanamo. Cato Institute’s Ben Friedman reflects on what is at stake.

The FBI vs. Apple controversy has been making the headlines for a few days. It is a great case for arguing that the perimeter of “security” (including security studies) is nowadays very difficult to define. For those who want to look at the issue without delving too much into technicalities, a comic is possibly the best way.

We often presented articles on the evolution of robotics and AI and its consequences on the battlefield. Ethical issues associated with drone warfare are the subject of Scott Shane’s book “Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President and the Rise of the Drone” (Bantam 2015), reviewed in the London Review of Books.

Finally, videogames have been increasingly realistic and able to depict contemporary war-making. The release of Tom Clancy’s The Division adds to war gaming on a new battlefield: an anarchic New York City (read, watch and then compare it with scenes from The Dark Knight Rises).

 

 

 

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 91

Presidential primaries are becoming lively, and the debate on candidates also includes foreign policy. Earlier, Bernie Sanders was widely held to be a “weak” on foreign policy, but some supporters are showing how this would be far from true.

One of the challenges the next President will have to face is the modernization of US infrastructures in order to increase what Parag Khanna calls “connectivity competition”. While the US is largely ahead of others in conventional (and nuclear) weapons, Khanna argues that this dimensions has been often overlooked.

Domestically, the US has been facing several challenges as well. The San Bernardino mass shooting showed what determined individuals can achieve, pretty much on their own (or in very small groups). This is the New Yorker’s reportage on the events, two months after they took place.

A couple of suggestions to conclude. First, in the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, some famous authors have been asked to “rewrite” some the bard’s most celebrated works. This is an interview of Harold Jacobson, who’s been rethinking the Merchant of Venice, and has a few things to say about the contemporary “Jewish question” in Europe.

Finally, if you happen to be in Atlanta for the Annual Conference of the International Studies Association (March 16-19), check out the panel on “Star Wars and International Security”!

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Call for panels: The annual Conference of the Italian Standing Group on International Relations (SGRI)

We are pleased to announce the call for panel for the next annual Conference of the Italian Standing Group on International Relations – SGRI.

The SGRI annual Conference is “a two-day session that brings together scholars, researchers and PhD students from Italian academia to discuss issues related to global politics, European Studies, foreign policy, regional dynamics and international theory“. The 2016 Conference will be held for the fifth time in Trento from June 23rd to June 25th and will be organized by the Bruno Kessler Foundation‘s Research Center on International Politics and Conflict Resolution (FBK-CERPIC).

On the SGRI website you will find all of the relevant information for the 2016 Conference, including panel descriptions, social and scientific programs (coming soon), and information about accommodations.

Those interested in organizing a panel should send a short abstract to sgri@fbk.eu by March 4th, 2016.

Registration will open on April 4, 2016.

See you in Trento!

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 88

This week we start from the armed militia in eastern Oregon. Robert Finicum, an Arizona rancher and one of the leaders of the militia, was killed in a police shootout. Are we talking about terrorism?

Do you appreciate Italian museum? Also Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, enjoyed them….

War on the Rocks stresses how America is constantly seduced by “the easy war“. In other words, from the Gulf War (1991) onwards,”the political desire and expectation for bloodless, risk-free (yet victorious) military operations has created an impossible standard in the use of military force”.

Who are the Trump supporters. Some interesting info here (spoiler: they dislike minorities..).

Finally, something different. A brand new study on schizofrenia offers new insights on its causes.

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 86

This week we start with pundits, IR theories and US foreign policy. The question is: “Do the greatest op-ed pages in America discriminate against foreign policy realists?”. Here some possibile answers.

Is Ebola over? The epidemic  has killed more than 11,000 people. However, as reported by The Guardian, the efforts to prepare for pandemics have been chronically underfunded.

Moving to contemporary warfare, here you’ll find an interesting analysis on the never-ending crucial role of the artillery in the battlefield. Even in Syria.

What about “Brexit“? Der Spiegel provides the last news on the EU strategy to keep Britain from leaving.

Finally, a song. We already missing you.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Top of 2015 (week 84)

Here below “a special edition” of our Top5. For this last post of the year we provide the Top 5 of 2015 of movies, series, blogs, books, and papers (interpreted through the length of IR and political science). Obviously, a questionable rank.

  • TV Series: As last year, our choice is for “The Americans“. The third season has widely received critical acclaim. A fantastic script and incredible actors. Plus: the Soviets, Reagan, and the KGB. What else? “Open House” (3×3) is one the best episodes ever.
  • Blogs: We have decided to create Venus in Arms in order to emulate some excellent blogs on political science and international relations. Thus, we thank again The Monkey Cage for their wonderful job (especially this year, because some friends of us have provided their contributions to the blog).
  • Papers: “Over the last 25 years, there has been a noteworthy turn across major International Relations (IR) theories to include domestic politics and decision-making factors. […] These theoretical developments, however, have largely ignored decades of research in foreign policy analysis (FPA)”. Absolutely right. This article by Juliet Kaarbo (“A Foreign Policy Analysis Perspective on the Domestic Politics Turn in IR Theory”. International Studies Review, Vol17-2, 189-216) provides an excellent contribute to the current IR debate, finally devoting attention towards foreign policy analysis.
  • Books: Ok, (maybe) this is not the best book of 2015. But it is our book! So, self-promotion at the end of the year!!!

 

P.S. Some vacation for us (Venice/ Morocco). Happy New Year!

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