The thing about being hawkish....

Rich Oppel performs the courtesy of quoting me at length in his New York Times story on the GOP candidates and their newfound dovishness on Afghanistan.  My contribution:

Amid a series of bloody and troubling episodes in Afghanistan that have inflamed Afghan opinion against the United States, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are now calling for a reassessment of American policy there — suggesting that it may be time to withdraw troops sooner than the Obama administration has planned....

Mr. Romney has said he would rely on advice from military commanders for his Afghanistan policy, adding last summer that it was “time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, as soon as our generals think it’s O.K.” He has also said he would not negotiate with the Taliban.

He’s definitely given himself wiggle room,” Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, said of Mr. Romney’s policy toward the country.

What’s more clear, Mr. Drezner added, is growing public opposition to a conflict some once described as “the good war.”

There’s no question that there has been a rising tide of, ‘Why are we in this conflict now,’ ” he said. “And so as much as Republicans might want to sound hawkish, it’s tough to sound hawkish on a conflict where your rationale for being there has evaporated.

That said,” he added, “remember that these guys are fighting for hard-core G.O.P. primary voters,” some of whom believe the United States should fight until victory.  (emphasis added)

To elaborate on my point here -- American public opinion on wars is a fickle thing when it comes to war.  By and large, the primary metric that Americans use to gauge their support for military statecraft is whether the operation appears to be successful.  There's a "halo effect" comes from successful uses of force - they are deemed successful regardless of public attitudes prior to and during the conflict.  In the case of the 2011 Libyan intervention, for example, A July 2011 CNN poll found 35% support for U.S. military action, with 60% opposed.  A month later, with the fall of Tripoli, 54% supported the operation and 43% opposed it.  Military victory can create its own supporters. 

So, when a conflict drags on, Americans tend to split into two camps -- those that write off the possibility of victory and demand an immediate termination to the conflict, and those that want to double down to achieve victory -- but will favor withdrawal if a "surge" or other strategy to fight the war more aggressively is off the table.  This split was observed in Vietnam, in Iraq, and Afghanistan.  What's happening in Afghanistan right now is that the hawkish camp is starting to conclude that the gloves aren't coming off -- and therefore withdrawal is better than the status quo.  Gingrich and Santorum are just following that shift in public opinion. 

Since they're not gonna win, they have that luxury.  Presidents and possible future presidents have additional constraints.  Even if withdrawal is the right political and strategic move, there are other considerations -- alliance politics, exiting in as non-chaotic a manner as possible, and so forth.  This is why Romney, who will likely get the GOP nomination, issued his wiggle-room-statement. 

The same goes for the Obama administration's response, as today's broadsheets are a bit unclear about next steps.  The New York Times story is headlined, "U.S. Officials Debate Speeding Afghan Pullout," while the Washington Post goes with "Despite challenges in Afghanistan, U.S. determined to stick to exit strategy." 

Bear all of this in mind, by the way, as the debate about what to do on Iran continues.  I know the polling appears to show majority support for military action against that country's nuclear program, but there are some significant caveats: 

1)  It's a bare majority;

2)  The moment a "diplomatic and economic action" option is introduced, support for force collapses down to the teens;

3)  The polls are based on Iran going balls out to develop a nuclear weapon -- which, according to U.S. intelligence, is not necessarily occurring; and

4)  It's not going to be hard for doves to bring up Afghanistan and Iraq as a way to blunt any enthusiasm/expectation for a quick strike.


Daniel W. Drezner

Should women get Ph.D.s in international relations?

Erik Voeten reminds us that now is the time "when undergraduates interested in a career in political science have to choose between PhD programs."  Erik offers some very useful pointers on how to choose, but there is a deeper question to ask -- is it worth it to get a Ph.D. in political science?  As one graduate student blogging at Duck of Minerva puts it: 

I'm loving graduate school; it's been on balance the best time of my life; and nevertheless there have been times when (to quote a colleague) I've wished I'd taken the blue pill and kept my job.

Or, as Steve Saideman phrases it

[A] PhD in Political Science should only be for those who are passionate and curious and do not care where they end up living.  And that they need to be aware that the job market can be pretty challenging and stressful.

Checking my blog archives, I see that I've mused on this topic before -- so, rather than repeat myself, here are some links.  If you're wondering about the virtues of getting a Ph.D. vs. a policy degree like SAIS or Fletcher, click here and here.  If you're really interested in politics and are debating between a Ph.D., a law degree, or going the apprentice route, click here

But I want to blog about a question related to something buzzing about the foreign policy blogosphere:  what if you're female?  Micah Zenko at CFR and Diana Wueger at Gunpowder & Lead have blogged about the underrepresentation of women in foreign policy positions in the government, think tanks or the academy.  Wueger asks readers to "spend 10 minutes thinking about what you can do to help your female staff or friends or Twitterbuddies to advance in their careers." 

After ten minutes, I have some positive words and some cautionary, bordeline controversial pieces of advice.  Here goes. 

My hunch is that, all else equal, the value-added of getting a Ph.D. might be greater for women than men.  Wueger blogs about a big problem:  the difficulty/trepidation that women have when seeking mentors, particularly if their field is dominated by men.  The advantage of getting a Ph.D. is that it pretty much forces the person to work hard at collecting mentors and advisors.  Furthermore, these relationships are forged through years of TAing, RAing, and pleading for dissertation advice.  So, even if women are shyer about seeking mentors/male advisors are warier about advising female students, these barriers can be broken down with time. 

That's the good news.  The bad news is two-fold.  First, Wueger argues that the assignments women get at the outset have a powerful effect on their later careers: 

There’s a gap in the types of tasks women and men are assigned early in their careers. Intentionally or not, women tend to given more administrative or support work rather than policy or research work; path dependence takes over from there. I recall a prominent scholar regularly asking his female research assistant (RA) to pick up his dry cleaning and take his car to the shop—things he didn’t ask of male RAs.

OK, for the record, my male RAs were too forgetful to request as little starch as possible this is a problem, but I suspect it's decreasing.  The more serious problem operates through a subtler channel -- women might get shunted into research areas that are seen as more female-friendly.  For example, I believe that more women study international political economy or international organizations than international security.  Even within security studies, I suspect that there are more women studying "human security" than more standard guns & bombs kind of security.  This might be due to interest, but there are path-dependent effects at work, and so successive waves of women go into those fields in greater numbers.  So, that's a thing. 

The second problem is, I suspect, even greater and trickier to discuss, but here goes.  Unlike the apprentice or professional degree paths, the Ph.D. route to a foreign policy career has a few BIG decision-making nodes that have profound effects on a person's career choice.  For the Ph.D., the first job after getting one's doctorate matters a lot, particularly if said Ph.D. is pursuing the academic career track.  The first job can define whether you want to be thought of as a researcher first, a teacher first, a policy wonk first, and so forth.  Also, it usually requires moving -- with the exception of Ph.D. granting institutions in-Boston-well-not-in-Boston-but-nearby-no-not-Tufts, universities do not hire their own. 

The thing is, most people are between 27-32 years of age when they complete their Ph.D..  This also happens to be the peak demographic of the whole getting married/having children phase of life.  And, women tend to marry men a few years older than them.  The professional difference between 50 and 53 is negligible, but those few years can make a HUGE difference in one's late twenties/early thirties.  It means that, on average and regardless of career choice, the man in the relationship is more firmly embedded down his career path. 

For newly-minted women Ph.D.s, this can impose profound constraints on career choices.  Their best job offer might be inconvenient for their spouse's career, and so they pass on it.  I saw this very dynamic play out multiple times with female colleagues when I was in graduate school.  There are a lot of good reasons to subordinate one's first job choice to family considerations, but it has a negative impact on one's long-term career trajectory.

[What about you?--ed.  As a man, the age effect was reversed.  My fiancee was younger and therefore at a more embryonic stage of her career, which meant she was more portable.  For the record, I accepted a post-doc that I otherwise wouldn't have taken for her career, but this was a minimal sacrifice.  It only delayed my first job by a year and I got a ton of writing done during those twelve  months.]

This problem is not unique to those earning doctorates.  Those with non-Ph.D. career tracks , however, have more career-decision nodes at later and earlier ages.  I suspect this problem is magnified for Ph.D.s in a way that it isn't for those who pursue more apprentice-oriented or shorter-degree tracks.  But I'd be interested in hearing differing opinions on this in the comments below. 

So, to sum up:  if you're a woman and you're trying to pursue a foreign policy career, there are some advantages by getting the Ph.D., but there are big pitfalls at the beginning and end of getting the doctorate.  I urge you to have a good sense of what you want to study before someone shapes that decision for you.  And have some good, long conversations with any potential spouse about what you want to do with your career. 

Am I missing anything?  Seriously, am I?