Emotions, Ideologies and Violent Political Mobilization

Emotions such as anger, resentment and fear do play a big role in explaining why people take up arms (well, and do many other things in “ordinary” life). Ideologies too are often invoked as a motive for action: Banners of different colors are often inextricably linked to rebellions, and are certainly a powerful driver of all sorts of political mobilization. Yet, their study in the context of civil wars has been limited to a few, although very important, studies such as Roger Petersen’s work the link between emotions and conflict in Eastern Europe (and the Balkans). The recent Symposium on PS: Political Science & Politics, organized by Stefano Costalli (University of Florence) and Andrea Ruggeri (University of Oxford), constitutes an important addition to the field. Featuring an Introduction by the Editors and 6 articles dealing with different aspects of how emotions, ideology and collective armed mobilization interact. Venus in Arms suggests you to read them all, as the pieces are filled with insights on how to connect these phenomena and enriched by quite a few empirical examples that show such connections at work. If you dig into the articles, you might even find a piece titled “Organizing Emotions and Ideology in Collective Armed Mobilization“. If you really don’t have time to go through the issue, well you can skip that one. You know the author and nothing good should be expected.

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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 orologi replica italia 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 replica orologi italia 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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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 83

Christmas is coming, but it does not seem like international politics is stopping for the event. War in Syria and Iraq is still raging, with European countries taking a more active role in recent weeks. How do they get the intelligence needed for operating? Seymour M. Hersh writes about US intel sharing in the London Review of Books.

Attacked in its “homeland”, ISIS needs a constant influx of recruits. Could videogames, or Hollywood, provide examples to took at?

But problems for Western Powers are not limited to Iraq and Syria. Talibans are advancing (again) in Afghanistan, and the recent suicide attacks near an American base shows how the situation id far from improving.

In recent years, the debate in security studies has been often focusing on non-traditional military threats such as organized crime. El Salvador’s gang problem is a case in point.

Finally, what are the COIN lessons that the Rebels and Republic in Star Wars should learn from Afghanistan and Iraq?

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10th Pan-European Conference on International Relations

Some news about the next 10th Pan-European Conference on International Relations. The call for Panel, Roundtable and Paper Proposals is now open.

The Conference takes place in Izmir, Turkey, 7-10 September 2016, with the theme of “International Relations in World Society“.

The conference of the European International Studies Association (EISA) will be held by the Yaşar University.

Here you’ll find the details for submitting a proposal.  Here you’ll find the list of the 51 sections. Here the conference schedule. 

EISA is a new individual membership based association, serving the International Relations community in Europe and beyond. EISA has been created by the Standing Group on International Relations.

The closing date for paper, panel, and roundtable proposals is midnight (CET) on Friday 8 January 2016.

Also Venus in Arms will submit a proposal.

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 77

Hot topics abound, as usual. The causes of the Russian plane’s crash in Egypt last week have not yet been ascertained. But it seems that they give another reason for a dispute between the West and Russia. Media of the latter, says The Atlantic’s Brian Whitmore, even suggest a conspiracy masterminded by Western powers.

Time for presidential primaries’ debates. “Outsiders” are in the lead in the Republican field. We know something of Donald Trump’s foreign policy ideas, but very little on Ben Carson’s. This FP article depicts the views of the retired surgeon’s foreign policy advisor.

The new President is likely to find a pretty confused situation (to say the least) in the Middle East. And American troops that have stepped up their commitment from training missions to direct engagement. This is one of the latest reports on anti-ISIS actions in Iraq and on the uneasy relations between US and Iraqi forces.

More on the background, but not necessarily less important. Micah Zenko makes the case for “Red Teams”. Having second opinions and fostering an organizational culture and set-up that accept dissent and promote skepticism can lead to overcome the worst cases of organizational myopia, and forcefully argues that US armed forces should do that in a new book. But, is it a cost-free strategy?

The brain drain is clearly not just an Italian problem. The US military is struggling to attract and then retain the best minds, not an easy thing when the bureaucratic constraints are cumbersome, note David Barno and Nora Bensahel.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 75

What’s Russia doing in Syria? This is frequent question these days. While a clear account of operations is not necessarily easy to find, the broad picture that emerges shows how Russian military capabilities are better than previously thought.

In the meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds understood that dealing with the world’s largest democracy requires a better understanding of the decision-making processes of the latter. That is why, Foreign Policy reports, the Kurdish Regional Government are increasingly recurring to K Street lobbying.

Two interesting pieces in the past week on the “intractable” conflict in the Middle East par excellance. Natan Sachs ponders over Israeli “anti-solutionism” in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, trying to explain why accepting (and prolonging) the status quo has its own rationale.

The New Yorker features an article on what would have happened had Rabin survived its assassination attempt. Counterfactuals are always tough to make, but the thought experiment allows, if nothing else, to remember a key moment in the history of the conflict.

Preparing for the Star Wars’ episode 7, a classic (2002) “neo-con” article on how the Empire was actually not that bad at all. Sure that IR interpretation of the saga will flourish in the next few months.

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Top5 by Venus in Arms – Week 73

First Democratic Party primary debate last night. How did candidates perform on foreign policy? Fred Kaplan argues that is was a clear win for Hillary Clinton.

Whoever becomes President, however, will face many challenges and several unsolved issues. Even in countries that have been traditionally stable. Turkey is one of these cases, as the dramatic bombing occurred a few days ago showed several cracks.

And American strategy, Adam Elkus argues on Warontherocks.com, is in a very bad state. Who killed it? In a CSI-like reconstruction, Elkus makes an accusation to the community of strategists: “the shocking plot twist in tonight’s episode of CSI: Pentagon is that we — the community of people that talk, debate, write about, and work in the making of strategy — were nonetheless accessories to the crime. How? We failed at the most critical task of all — understanding the nature of the problem and proposing solutions””. To keep in mind, for a blog/website on strategy.

We don’t know if academic research is faring much better. Jarrod Hayes discusses the state of the most ambitious objective of social sciences, prediction.

On a more practical note, but always looking at the future, future robots will be able to predict the moves of humans confronting them. This  breakthrough – somewhat disturbing for those passionate about Asimov’s I, Robot – is due to improvements in the “brain” (the algorithms of the software) of the machines.

 

 

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Il Dilemma della sicurezza europea: Est e/o Sud?

Una grande canzone pop trash degli anni 90 aveva come ritornello i quattro punti cardinali. Da quello che leggiamo e vediamo rispetto al contesto della sicurezza europea, il dibattito pare sempre più orientato attorno a  dilemma che si lega a due direzioni possibili della bussola: l’Est e il Sud. Da dove proviene la “minaccia principale” per i paesi europei?

La prima possibile riposta riguarda il  “fronte orientale“, caratterizzato dall’esplosione della crisi Ucraina, dalla politica estera russa, dalla guerra “ibrida”, attorno alla quale tanto si è discusso. I paesi dell’Europa orientale, a partire dalla Polonia e dagli stati Baltici, sono naturalmente iper-preoccupati delle conseguenze legate al coinvolgimento militare Russo nel conflitto ucraino e ai possibili cambiamenti geopolitici nell’area. Stati Uniti, NATO ed alleati hanno cercato di rassicurarli, attraverso il  dispiegamento di forze e la creazione di nuovi strumenti ad hoc come la NATO Readiness Action Plan (RAP). Il summit in Galles aveva proprio la RAP come principale novità ed il fulcro della riflessione strategica ruotava attorno alla crisi Ucraina e al nuovamente complesso rapporto con la Russia.

Tre brevi considerazioni vanno fatte in merito al “fronte orientale” come focus prioritario dell’Alleanza Atlantica e dei paesi europei in generale.

1) Nonostante nel passato l’attenzione generale si sia concentrata sul crisis management e sulle missioni in aree di crisi, soprattutto nel contesto post 11-Settembre, la difesa collettiva rappresenta sempre il core business della NATO. Un aspetto che i membri “orientali” dell’Alleanza non fanno che ricordare.

2) A fronte di scenari complessi, minacce asimmetriche, conflitti tra gruppi armati irregolari, terrorismo, stati fragili o falliti, è in effetti “più facile” capire lo scenario ucraino dal punto di vista prettamente militare e strategico. In altre parole, per le élite politiche e militari atlantiche la difesa territoriale rappresenta un concetto più agile da maneggiare, meno difficile da interpretare (sappiamo almeno chi è l’avversario, conosciamo abbastanza le sue caratteristiche e risorse, etc.). Dopo decenni di Guerra Fredda le forze armate europee si sono dovute adattare e trasformare per affrontare contesti completamente nuovi. Un ritorno al passato, pur con le notevoli ed evidenti differenze, potrebbe anche inconsciamente essere accettato più facilmente. Anche dal punto di vista del weapons procurement, dopo anni nei quali molti si chiedevano il perché dover continuare ad acquistare mezzi da Guerra Fredda per missioni contro guerriglieri e gruppi criminali, adesso è certamente più semplice giustificare tale scelta.

3) Non tutti i paesi europei la pensano allo stesso modo nei confronti della Russia. Gli interessi economici in gioco sono enormi e la cautela si impone d’obbligo per quelle nazioni che hanno sviluppato un’ampia rete di rapporti commerciali con Mosca, a partire dal tema della dipendenza energetica. L’Italia lo sa bene.

In aggiunta a queste riflessioni generali, ora che Putin sembra orientare l’attenzione verso la Siria, dobbiamo domandarci se cambierà davvero qualcosa rispetto alla centralità del “fronte orientale” per la NATO in primis ed anche per l’Europa in generale? Che ruolo può avere in tutto ciò l’UE, che sta ripensando lo propria strategia globale? Quale direzione diplomatica prenderà l’amministrazione Obama? Che cosa emergerà dal prossimo summit dell’Alleanza Atlantica? Che cosa diranno i paesi europei che affacciano sul Mediterraneo?

Per rispondere occorre tenere presente la crescente importanza del “fronte sud” per la sicurezza europea ed atlantica. Il dramma dei rifugiati è solo l’ultima manifestazione evidente del caos e dell’instabilità nella regione. Dalla Libia alla Siria, passando per Iraq e Sahel, la multi-dimensionalità della minaccia (che lega terrorismo a network criminali, passando per l’ISIL) appare sempre più incombente.

Se Polonia e paesi Baltici sono preoccupati per la politica di Mosca [Venus in Arms rifugge la scontata e banale figura retorica dell’Orso Russo, più adatta ad altri ambiti..], Madrid, Roma e Atene non possono che far sentire la propria voce di “frontiera” di fronte dei mutamenti al di là del Mediterraneo. Gli stati europei hanno fatto pochissimo sul piano dell’aiuto allo sviluppo e hanno commesso errori strategici gravissimi accanto all’alleato amerciano negli ultimi tre lustri. Ogni soluzione d’emergenza adesso non può che dimostrarsi fallace, dall’immigrazione all’ISIL.

Per questo occorre capire in che modo il “fronte sud” possa nuovamente acquistare un peso cruciale nella riflessione strategica complessiva in ambito NATO ed europeo.

Che cosa farà l’Italia, al di là degli sforzi volti a una migliore redistribuzione del numero di profughi tra i paesi europei? Una domanda alla quale non possiamo ancora dare una riposta chiara. Di sicuro sarebbe importante evitare il ruolo del biondino  nel sopra citato duo: muoversi e affannarsi per avere visibilità senza svolgere in fondo alcun compito di rilievo.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 70

We apologize for the delay in publishing our Top 5, but you know, September is full of tasks for “academics” (new courses, publications, conferences, post-summer stress, etc.). Here below our suggestions:

First of all, it seems that Russian fighter jest entered in Syria (with transponders off..). A turning point for the conflict (and the proxy-war)?

As fans of content and discourse analyses, here you’ll find an interesting comparison of the speeches by the last two Popes (Benedict and Francis) to the UN.

Are interested in the evolution of international peacekeeping? Political Violence at a Glance argues that we should review our traditional pessimist view on PKOs: “The surprising thing about peacekeeping — the real story — is that, despite its many problems, it works”.

What happens in Burkina Faso? The Guardian helps you in better understanding the state of democracy in the African country after the last troubles.

Finally, this week we had the 9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations: “The Worlds of Violence”. Here you’ll find all the info on panel and papers presented at the convention (which has been held at Giardini Naxos, Sicily).

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