Voice

Everything you always wanted to know about American grand strategy but were afraid to find out... on YouTube

The genesis of this blog post is a bit arcane.  In response to news reports about proposed changes in U.S. defense doctrine, Andrew Exum jokingly suggested "replacing the 'Two Wars' strategy with a 'Who Wants Some? You? How About You, Tough Guy?' strategy" on Twitter.  This led to other suggested mottos, expressed in YouTube videos, which eventually led to me issuing a grandiose call:  suggest the YouTube clip that "best encapsulates American grand strategy."   

Yeah, that should bring you up to speed. 

Below you will find the ten eleven suggested clips that resonated the most for me, with some further elaboration by your humble blogger. WARNING: some profanity. Then again, if the profane is offensive to you, it's best that you not think too hard about American foreign policy.   

W. Thomas Webb suggests "Orchestra Fail":

 

A penetrating critique of the orrery of errors that have befallen American foreign policy as of late.  Clearly, the United States is trying to conduct its international affairs in a sea of darkness, lacking crucial information to light the way.  Despite the best efforts to get all the components of American power into alignment, it's hard to pull off. 

Steve Saideman linked to this scene from Crocodile Dundee:

Steve's rationale

The new or not so new defense strategy of having enough of a military to fight one war while deterring or spoiling an adversary's plans requires a "bigger knife" not to use but to dissuade challengers. 

Such a grand strategy also plays to the U.S.'s current strength -- dominating conventional war through bigger and better weapons.  In the video, Croc Dundee is confronted not by one mugger but several (and one can read race into this if one wants, since the mugger was African-American, and most threats to the U.S. are by non-white folks).  His big knife spoils the plans of each of them.  Sounds like a good use of resources.

"Cosmopolitan Scum" put forward "Jessica's Daily Affirmation," suggesting it as a symbol of "soft power":

 

I think it works as an example of soft power and American exceptionalism.  Via her affirmations Jessica demonstrates that Americans think America is awesome -- and therefore, why the rest of the world will/should want the same things Americans want.

FP's Michael Cohen proffers this climactic speech from Animal House:

 

Not bad, actually.  Note that Bluto's inspiring speech has no appreciable effect on the apathetic Deltas at first.  Only when other elites -- like Otter -- indicate their support, does the rest of the country -- I mean, fraternity -- rally around the flag.  A subtle exegesis of how elite consensus can drive the mass public into stupid, futile gestures. 

Andrew Exum's suggestion was -- wait for it -- "Leeroy Jenkins!"

An utterly brilliant exposition of the ways in which the best strategy in the world will be subverted by the cowboy who shoots first and asks questons later. Indeed, this clip works on two levels. On the one hand, you can think of it as the struggles that go on within the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy to make sure everyone is on the same page -- and the ways in which hawkish actors can unilaterally set the agenda. Or, look at it as an exegesis of how the United States, through its willingness to take immediate aggressive action, can exacerbate tensions among its less powerful allies. This exuberance can breed resentment among America's partners, but often, Washington doesn't care, because, well, at least we ain't chicken. 

Matt Fay offers up this scene from Ghostbusters:

 

Hmmm ... I'm intrigued.  This appears to be a subtle indictment of the idealpolitik that occasionally governs American foreign policy.  After all, Ray is trying to "think of the most harmless thing ... something that could never destroy us." Naturally, this leads to the creation of an entity that causes his paranormal colleagues to be "terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought." Think of this as a potential metaphor of both liberal and neoconservative enthusiasm for democracy promotion.  Sure, it sounds good in your head, but then you see who winds up doing well in the post-Arab Spring political environment, it's easy to lose the capacity for rational choice. 

Jake Sternberger goes for ... well, just see below:

 

Ha, I bet you think you've been rickrolled.  Think again!  Rick Astley smartly presaged one of the central dilemmas of America's post-Cold War foreign policy: how do you get nervous allies to believe that the United States will honor its overseas obligations?  You have to have attractive bleach-blonde back-up singers reassure them that "a full commitment's what I'm thinking of" and that "you'll never get this from any other guy."  You have to pledge, repeatedly, that America is "never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down."  Furthermore, the United States is "never gonna run around and desert you."  This kind of reassurance mechanism, done with the proper tone and in harmony with other voices, can make even the wariest of allies vault over political barriers and do backflips in celebration of their alliances with the United States. 

Steven Metz proposes this bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

 

Steven suggests that, at a minimum, this explains public discourse on grand strategy, and he has a point.  On the one hand, you have an angry public that appears to be willing to fabricate evidence to justify taking aggressive action.  On the other hand, you have elites that reject the absence of any logic to justify action.  Instrad, they rely on their own galactically stupid set of axioms to guide their thinking. 

Zach of Arabia offers up "Team America sad song":

 

Sure, the song is an obvious choice, but as he notes, it was no accident that he chose this version.  The joyful version makes light of America's exuberance for all things American.  That's not the point of this clip -- it suggests the dark side of American exceptionalism, the burden that the United States faces as it tries to preserve global order in a world gone amok by odd, tacit alliances between terrorists and rogue states. 

Hayes Brown, however, submitted my hands-down favorite, a short but sweet clip: "Go! Bwaaaah!"

In less than three seconds, this clip hints at a myriad number of rich textual interpretations. Does the dog represent what happens when force is used, dragging the rest of the country along? Or, perhaps the canine symbolizes the big influence of small allies. Actors that the United States thinks it has under its thumb are actually driving foreign policy more than you would think. Without question, however, critics of the Obama administration would conclude that this clip is the definitive explication of the perils that come with "leading from behind."

UPDATED BONUS CLIP:  Diana Wueger submitted this very late, but it's too good not to add:  "Like a BUS!

Like most of these seemingly short clips, Wueger's submission works on two levels.  On the one hand, it demonstrates the ways in which hegemonic power allows some actors to be able to pursue policies that small actors simply cannot.  In this comparison, this clip reminds the viewer of the many global public goods that a hegemonic actor might feel obligated to provide.  Compare Bus 62 with the U.S. Navy after the 2004 tsunami, for example.  On the other hand, hegemonic power can also have unanticipated negative externalities.  Sure, Bus 62 simply plows through the barrier.  However, it does so without helping the other people stuck in traffic, and, like a boss, nearly plows over the person in the way.  A cautionary tale about the uses and possible abuses of power. 

OK, readers, what are your suggestions? 

Daniel W. Drezner

So you want to know what international relations scholars think about Web 2.0....

Yesterday Foreign Policy published the graphics-friendly results of the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP), as conducted by William and Mary’s Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations.  Some of the results -- there's a plurality of constructivists in the field -- have already provoked some interesting blog discussion.  There's also the more juicy debates over the best Ph.D. programs, best M.A. programs, and most influential people in our small, small universe. 

Your humble blogger must confess to having a different interest in the results.  The good folks running the survey were kind enough to add some questions about how scholars think Web 2.0 technologies -- blogs, wikis, tweets, podcasts, etc. -- fit into our discipline.  This is a natural follow-on to some research that Charli Carpenter and I published recently.  Since this is the first time these sorts of questions have been asked, this is strictly a "snapshot" of where the field was in 2011, not the trend over time.  Still, given the anecdotal evidence of prior hostility to these technologies, it's an interesting snapshot. 

Looking at the topline survey results, here are the most interesting tidbits I found:

1)  More than 28% of respondents cited a blog post in their scholarship, and more than 56% used blogs as a teaching tool.  The positive responses for newer Web 2.0 technologies -- Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube -- were much smaller on the research side.  On the other hand, a stunning 90% of respondents said they used YouTube in their teaching. 

2) 28% of respondents had, at a minimum, contributed to a blog.  7% of respondents "regularly contrribute" to a blog. 

3)  I tweeted some wrath last month about grading a paper that footnoted a Wikipedia page (for the record, I don't mind students using Wikipedia as a first-stop for research, but I do mind students who don't follow the hyperlinks).  I see I would be joined in that assessment by about 85% of my IR colleagues. 

4)  No respondent thinks that contributing or maintaining a blog is important for advancing their academic career.  Intriguingly, however, there is certainly more appreciation about the role of blogs in the discipline than is commonly understood.  To be specific:

a) 25% of respondents do think blogs devoted to international relations should count in evaluating a professor's research output.  I guarantee you that number would have been much lower even a few ywars ago;

b) More than 66% of respondents thought such an activity should count in evaluating a professor's service to the profession. 

c)  90% of respondents believed that IR blogs had a beneficial impact on foreign policy formulation;

d)  More than 51% of respondents thought that IR blogs had a beneficial impact on the discipline of international relations. 

There's a lot more data to discuss, but I would say that this veeeeery interesting snapshot should be enough to generate some discussion for now.  For example, do readers think that these numbers will plateau, grow or recede over time?