Voice

Your weekly post on higher education

Lots o' stuff to chat about in the higher education universe, but let's keep it to three items in this blog post:

1)  My student-soon-to-be-Doctor-of-Philosophy Patrick Meier and Chris Albon blog "Advice to Future PhDs from 2 Unusual Graduating PhDs."  They make some interesting, provocative, and dare I say counterintuitive arguments. 

I disagree with a couple of their points.  First of all, I ain't buying "the blog is the new CV."  The blog is a calling card, and if you're lucky it's a branding device -- but it's not the same thing as a vita.  Second of all, I think they tend to inductively generalize from their own experiences and capabilities.  Not everyone should take on outside projects or teach at every opportunity, because these are excellent not-writing-your-dissertation activities.  Finally, I think their seven pieces of advice are out of sequence.  Their #3, #6 and #7 are the most important things.  Only once you've answered those questions should you even consider following the rest of their advice.  Still, read the whole thing

2)  I see that Naomi Schaefer Riley got fired from her Chronicle of Higher Education gig for writing a 500 word blog post bashing dissertations-in-progress in African-American studies without reading them.  Riley has written her response on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page.  James Joyner provides an excellent round-up of the affair.  My take is similar to Joyner in that, to be blunt, neither the Chronicle nor Riley come out of this looking very good.  The Chronicle looks like it kowtowed to the pressures of academic political correctness by either not reacting sooner or standing their ground.  Riley, on the other hand, has put herself in the indefensible position of calling for greater academic rigor while whinging that those standards shouldn't apply to her when she blogs for the Chronicle.  So, a pox on everyone's house for this affair. 

3)  The House of Representatives, in its infinite wisdom, has voted to cut funding for political science -- and only political science -- from the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences part of the National Science Foundation.  Representative Jeff Flake's justified cutting the funding using pretty much the same logic as Senator Tom Coburn did in 2009 when he lamely tried to do the same thing [At least he didn't claim that "social scientists brought our world to the brink of chaos"!!--ed.  Thank goodness for small favors.] . 

See John Sides, Erik Voeten, Michael Flynn , Seth Masket and Jay Ulfelder  for some useful responses.  Ulfelder's point is particularly trenchant:

There’s real irony here in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives voting to defund a political-science program at a time when the Department of Defense and “intelligence community” seem to be increasing spending on it. With things like the Minerva Initiative, ICEWS, IARPA’s Open Source Indicators programs, the parts of the government concerned with protecting national security seem to find growing value in social-science research and are spending accordingly. Meanwhile, the party that claims to be the stalwart defender of national security pulls in the opposite direction, like the opposing head on Dr. Doolittle’s Pushmi-pullyu. Nice work, fellas.

Indeed. 

Daniel W. Drezner

What I learned about Sino-American relations yesterday

Yesterday your humble blogger attended a Hoover Institution conference devoted to China's evolving military and its implicatons for U.S. foreign policy.  I can't say who said what, but I can say that atendees included several high-ranking military folk, multiple former policy principals, top China people from the academic and think tank communities, and at least one former presidntial candidate. 

Chatham House rules prevent me from revealing who said what, but what was interesting was the areas of consensus among most of the attendees.  In order: 

1)  China has bigger worries than the United States.  It is easy to look at China's military modernization and interpret it as a dagger placed against the throat of the U.S. and its allies.  It's worth remembering, however, that China currently spends more money on internal security than defense.  Their actual capabilities in the anti-access/anti-denial area are... let's say a bit exaggerated (though growing).  Sure, Beijing wants to expand its sphere of influence -- its a rising great power -- but it sees its greatest threats as internal rather than external. 

2)  If you want to worry about something, worry about China's civil-military relations.  The U.S. defense establishment is quite keen on ramped-up military-to-military connections.  It's the People's Liberation Army (PLA) that is not keen on this at all.  The civilian leadership has... let's say limited control over numerous aspects of the PLA.  Plus, the Chinese military has a corruption problem that makes the Bo Xilai scandal look like minor kerfuffle.  Relations with the United States are difficult because of clashing interests... but also clashing styles.  The PLA is quite transparent about intentions, but opaque about their capabilities.  The United States is the reverse -- transparent about capabilities but ambiguous about intentions.  This is not a recipe for comity. 

3)  The Chen case didn't really affect the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.  This is not to say that the S & ED solved anything, but it did appear to be a productive meeting -- which is, after all, the point of a dialogue. 

4)  You know what would be super?  The United States ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  There was unanimous consent the United States could do far more damage to itself than China ever could.  Exhibit A on this front was the continued failure of the U.S. Senate to ratify UNCLOS.  This is, in theory, the treaty that can provide the framework for resolving disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea.  It's a treaty backed by every president and secretary of state in the post-Cold War era.  It's a treaty that the U.S. Navy desperately wants to see ratified.  But because it hasn't happened yet, the U.S. always finds itself wrong-footed on these issues in negotiations.  Well, I'm sure that in the current political climate, the Senate will eventually get around to it.  Oh, wait...