Scholarly activism

by Henry on March 27, 2007

Patrick Jackson and Stuart Kaufman have an interesting short piece (summary “here”:, pdf “here”: in the new “Perspectives on Politics”: on the Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy letter that they co-organized to express the opposition of IR professors to the Iraq war. They describe the letter as having had “remarkable success” in building a consensus among IR scholars, but having been a “miserable failure” in terms of its impact on public debate. The letter appears to have been self-consciously intended as an exercise in ‘Weberian activism.’ Max Weber draws a strong distinction between the vocation of the scholar and the vocation of the politician. Roughly speaking, the responsibility of the first in the public arena is to strive for understanding and education; the responsibility of the second is to persuade others to adopt the politician’s viewpoint. For the politician, words are weapons; for the scholar, ideal-typically, they aren’t. Thus, Jackson and Kaufman argue that Weber’s ideas provide a “guideline for how we social scientists should think about intervening in the political realm in a way that does not compromise the detachment and the nonpartisan character of our enterprise.” This didn’t work in the case of the SSFP letter, because the media aren’t equipped to deal with scientifically detached analyses, but academics should persist in seeking to be Weberian activists; that is, they should participate in the public space on issues of their expertise, without getting sucked into partisan debate.

This is something I’ve been thinking about over the last few months; my half-finished review of Michael Bérubé’s _What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts_ uses the same Weberian opposition between politics and academics (now that he’s a co-blogger, I’d better get it done!). But I disagree with Jackson and Kaufman – specifically, I think that political activity is _necessary_ to secure the space for actual academic debate (let alone to have this debate resonate more widely) and that the alternative strategy of pure Weberian activism is doomed to irrelevance. Weber’s arguments make sense in a context – such as Wilhelmine Germany – where professors and academics have a fair amount of unquestioned credibility, by virtue of their _Beruf_, in public debate. In such a world, academics don’t have to defend their interventions _as academics_, because they’re perceived (whether correctly or incorrectly) as being partially removed from the political fray. Bluntly speaking, this isn’t the world of modern US politics. Professors, when they talk about politically controversial topics, are treated as partisan actors. Academics who want to disagree with right-wing talking points are fighting an uphill battle – they’re vulnerable to attack as left-liberal apparatchiks (even when they are reporting on well established scientific consensus, or are personally on the right side of the political spectrum). Right wing foundations have poured lots of money into supporting people like Horowitz and De Souza over the last couple of decades, precisely to ensure this. Finally, the existence of a plethora of think tanks, policy shops, and semi-academic institutions on both right and left make it hard even for expert observers to discern where politics begins and academia ends.

The point of this is that if Jackson and Kaufman want to see academics regain some of their authority in public debate, it isn’t enough for them to suggest that IR academics provide disinterested assessments of what is right or wrong about US foreign policy. Nor is it sufficient to say that the media needs to correct itself by taking non-partisan contributions to public debate more seriously. It’s also necessary for academics to get out there, and to deliberately, specifically, and _politically_ attack the people who are seeking to undermine the very concept of academic inquiry. The appropriate model here is the way that environmental scientists at “Real Climate”: and elsewhere have responded to anti-scientific global warming cranks, making clear what is part of legitimate debate, and what is not. In international relations, scholars who were so minded might take on the plethora of commentators with purported expertise, say, in Middle East affairs (this is part of what Marc Lynch has been trying to do). The stark Weberian distinction between ‘science’ and ‘politics’ doesn’t work very well in a political context where the very idea of scientific neutrality is treated with skepticism.

In short, if social scientists want to be taken seriously _qua_ social scientists in the public sphere, they need to do a better job of distinguishing themselves from the hacks – something which requires collective political action. I’m somewhat more skeptical than Jackson and Kaufman about the empirical possibility of separating social science from value judgements on contentious political issues – but even if I suspend that skepticism, it’s hard for me to believe that Weberian academic activism will have any real impact, unless it’s accompanied by more overtly political activity to clear a space for it.

{ 2 trackbacks }

From Crooked Timber: Scholarly activism « Identity Unknown
03.28.07 at 1:23 pm
Crooked Timber » » Discipline and puzzle
03.29.07 at 5:24 pm



otto 03.27.07 at 5:32 pm

I’m probably sympathetic to your politics, but the production of pieces of paper by people with degrees has little to do with political outcomes. Take for example trade policy. The consensus of almost every economist is that unilateral free trade is the best policy. Or just pick a prominent single-issue example: sugar subsidies in the US — there is probably not a single academic defender of US sugar subsidies in any economics department in the United States.

If there is this degree of academic consensus in trade policy (a consensus far more widespread than on other aspects of US foreign relations), why then does the US have sugar subsidies? Because organised groups mobilise to demand them and politicians are responsive to constituents – above all, organised groups – rather than to ivory-tower types. Only by organising countermobilisation in terms of changing the re-election incentives for politicians will this change. If re-election incentives can be created for a different US sugar policy or a different US policy towards the Middle East, then a different set of pen-pushers will start looking influential (more Krugman than, well, the imaginary economist defending sugar subsidies, more Juan Cole than Bernard Lewis on US Middle East policy). But that appearance of influence will be almost entirely derivative of the different re-election incentives.

In other words, you could get every single US IR scholar to condemn US ME policy in the same way that every single US economist scholar condemns US sugar subsidies and it would make no difference at all to US policy.


Henry 03.27.07 at 5:40 pm

otto – this is absolutely a fair point. There is a space for reasoned argument etc in politics, but it’s likely not that big – nb that Galbraith quote about it being hard to convince someone of something that it’s in his interest not to know. I’m also somewhat more skeptical than Patrick or Stuart Kaufman about the likely role that this kind of intervention could have, even in the best of all possible worlds. But still, I think there is value to their arguments – and there are some instances in which factual knowledge doesn’t precisely trump interests, but at least nudges the balance in the one direction or the other.


otto 03.27.07 at 6:00 pm

Fair enough.

It would be interesting to be able to establish why this ‘nudging the balance’ sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.


eweininger 03.27.07 at 6:08 pm

Perhaps, however, we should follow Weber by being ready to duel. Pistols at dawn and all of that….


Shelby 03.27.07 at 7:10 pm

Re Otto’s point:

Absolutely true, but sugar policy may not map well to international policy on the Middle East. The former has clear constituent groups and diffuse opposition; the latter, not so much. I suspect this leaves more room for expert/academic influence. Of course, ME policy also generates more emotion (for religious, ethnic, political, etc. reasons) than does sugar policy, which would tend to leave LESS room for such influence. Do these differences come out in the wash?


Aidan Kehoe 03.27.07 at 8:02 pm

Absolutely true, but sugar policy may not map well to international policy on the Middle East. The former has clear constituent groups and diffuse opposition; the latter, not so much.

Hmm? Jews in the US care about the latter question; pace Chomsky, they all think the same thing (something like ‘the intentions behind Israel were good, its continued existence is desirable, no matter what its actions are or have been’). Less Ralph Nader and a few weirdos who’ve been paying extra-close attention to the Muslim world, no-one else has strong feelings either way. Clear constituent groups and diffuse opposition about describes them, I would say.


dearieme 03.27.07 at 8:04 pm

“we social scientists”: that’s not a weapon?


mpowell 03.27.07 at 9:19 pm

Well as Aidan points out the Israel example is a little flawed due to AIPAC. Of course, its not clear AIPAC represents the majority of jewish opinion in the US. But there are potentially issues that the public does not have significant pre-existing opinions on (like abortion) and do not directly financially impact a potential interest group (like sugar subsidies). North Korean policy might be an example of this. The only reason debate there is so unhelpful is because of the political environment the Republicans have striven so hard to create. But there isn’t really a natural constituency for doing anything in particular on that issue.


a very public sociologist 03.27.07 at 9:53 pm

I guess it falls to me to invoke the 11th thesis on Feuerbach.

Why do social scientists have to be “Weberian” about activism? So-called public sociologists have been getting on quite nicely for decades, fighting the power and *not* compromising the quality of their work.


C. L. Ball 03.27.07 at 10:14 pm

It is worth noting that Henry and Marc Lynch were signatories of the open letter.

I found Jackson (who I know) and Kaufmann’s Perspectives article a bit puzzling. First, the letter was partly partisan — “the problem we hoped to address was the Administration’s failure to adhere to the ethic of responsibility—they were justifying policy on the basis of inaccurate factual claims.” No criticism was directed at general public discussions of what to do. It was focused on Bush administration policies right before the election.

Second, the letter was rather anodyne by Oct 2004. The question was not whether the Iraq war was a good idea; it was what do next: withdraw, redouble, stand-pat. Had this been written in Oct. 2002, it would have helped.

Third, I was struck by the either naive or arrogant assumption in the effort: issuing an open letter in Oct. 2004 would prompt a debate over reassessment? The election was the issue then, and neither candidate was likely to change policy positions less than a month before the election. Anyone doing American politics could have told “foreign affairs specialists” that. Of course, the impetus came in summer 2004 when a demonstration at APSA was discussed, but did not happen. For Weber, public education about uncomfortable facts can take the form of social science publications. Archives for Social Science and Social Policy, where Weber was an editor, did this. The open letter was not necessary to achieve Weberian ends. Indeed, it was a belated substitute for Weberian activism.

Fourth, what was the SSSFP calling for? Like too many joint letters, which suffer from meeting the needs of too many authors, this one was not as clear as it could have been (I think they did much better than I would ever have imagined that they could). Consider the conclusion:

Recognizing these negative consequences of the Iraq war, in addition to the cost in lives and money, we believe that a fundamental reassessment is in order. Significant improvements are needed in our strategy in Iraq and the implementation of that strategy. We call urgently for an open debate on how to achieve these ends…

The end is a ‘fundamental reassessment’? What is the ‘end’ of the Iraq strategy — insurgent defeat, democratic rule, partition? Are these ‘value’ questions — what are the war aims? — or are they ‘means’ questions — how to get the US out of Iraq?

Fifth, the SSSFP was not consistent in what it represented. The name was Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy but the signatories describe themselves as “foreign affairs specialists,” a far broader set but one that does not describe all signatories either. Peter Singer is brilliant, but he is not a foreign affairs specialist.

Sixth, not all of its facts were presented well. Iran sponsors terrorism, but Shi’ite Iran is no supporter of Sunni al-Qaida, and Iran did not sponsor attacks on the US and Spain.

I have more, but I’ll save that for a submission to PoP.


C. L. Ball 03.27.07 at 10:16 pm

That fifth point should have been:

Fifth, the SSSFP was not consistent in what it represented. The name was Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy but the signatories describe themselves as “foreign affairs specialists,” a far broader set but one that does not describe all signatories either. Peter Singer is brilliant, but he is not a foreign affairs specialist.


otto 03.28.07 at 12:05 am

Well, Peter Singer does write about globalisation in “One World”.


Daniel Nexon 03.28.07 at 12:52 am

Chris raises a number of important issues. I won’t address them all here, but I did want to respond to one of them.

“First, the letter was partly partisan—’the problem we hoped to address was the Administration’s failure to adhere to the ethic of responsibility—they were justifying policy on the basis of inaccurate factual claims.'”

I think you’re inadvertently making Patrick’s and Stuart’s point. There is, or rather, shouldn’t be, anything partisan about pointing this out. The Administration was justifying policy on the basis of inaccurate factual claims. It is entirely Weberian to think that the duty of a scholar is to raise “inconvenient facts,” i.e., those inconvenient for partisan opinions. The problem is, as Henry, as well as Patrick and Stuart argue, that even this stance now gets called partisan.


Daniel Nexon 03.28.07 at 1:08 am

Actually, I can’t resist a few more.

• I agree with Chris about the name of the organization, which did turn out to be misleading, but the letter itself is pretty clear about the nature of the signatories.

• Chris is right that one of the reasons the letter lacked concrete policy proposals: doing so would have been impossible in a consensus statement of this kind. But I do think many of the participants wanted to call attention to what an overwhelming consensus of scholars took to be a serious of bankrupt assumptions still operating in the public sphere: that the trajectory of the Iraq War was anything other than downhill. Indeed, I’m struck by how prescient many of the concerns of the letter turned out to be.

• It is true that, for Weber, scholarly activism can take many forms. But that hardly discredits one of those forms.

• It certainly would have been better if the final version of the letter had drawn a distinction between Al-Qaeda and, say, Hezbollah. But I don’t think your example of “facts not presented well” provides much of an alternative explanation for the failure of SSSFP to make *any* (not marginal, but *any*) impact on the US national scene (as opposed to its coverage overseas or in some local media markets).

Given that any number of ideological hacks at certain think tanks receive far more coverage, place far more op-eds, and otherwise get to have a major “voice” in public discourse, I do think the issues raised by Henry–and by Patrick and Stewart–deserve serious consideration. Think about it: the overwhelming percentage of international-affairs academics were basically *right* about the Iraq War, yet few voices call for a reassessment of how the media apportions “expert opinion.”


Dan Kervick 03.28.07 at 2:06 am

I’m a bit unsure of the utility of the concept of “public space” here. In the United States, there are very few genuinely public spaces for discussion. There are innumerable private spaces whose owners control access. Nobody gets into these spaces unless the owners permit access, and when they do permit access, they control the form of allowed participation. So, for example, I am personally permitted to view CNN, but not to speak on CNN – at least nobody has invited me so far.

Some of those private spaces might be so large, and invite so many people, that they may be regarded as public in a secondary sense – that is, because much of the public happens to visit them. But one can’t forget fundamental fact that access is privately controlled. To be invited to speak on a network such as CNN, its owners have to be convinced that what you say will be sufficiently entertaining and concise to fit comfortably within the restricted formats they offer, and also fits inside the spectrum of opinions that are given an airing.

Academics can buy a private space or spaces of their own, and attempt to entice sizeable numbers of people to access that space in order to listen to academic discussions. Doing so, without debasing the quality of the discourse, is quite a challenge. Ultimately, getting into a private space is only half the battle. Getting other people to come to that space and listen to you while you’re there is another matter entirely. Even if media executives were more personally disposed to include academic discussion in their programming, one would have to prove it is commercially viable proposition to get that access. And to do this one needs to attract an audience.

Attracting an audience is the crucial challenge. If people desire a high intellectual level in their discourse, they will seek it out and create the privates spaces to to gather and participate in it or view it. But in the current environment, it’s not just, as you point out, that many American viewers don’t trust the objectivity of academics. Even if they tended to regard all academics as thoroughly objective, they still might not regard them as sufficiently interesting to spend much time watching them or reading them. Only a minority percentage of Americans seem to crave such discussions. One can occasionally see some fairly high quality academic discussions on television – they’re mostly on C-Span.

So any effort at substantially increasing the impact of academics on public discourse and national decisions requires a very unique kind of activism. That activism must be directed at getting people to desire and seek out academic level discussion, and thus either to demand it in the private spaces they already access, or create new private spaces where they and others like them gather in substantial numbers. You are right that one form of useful activism is to defeat the people who are destroying the reputations of academics. But I think a far more important kind of activism must be directed at the broader public, and seek to promote intellectual culture. A high level of intellectual culture among the general public does not just appear by magic. One has to propagandize and organize on behalf of it.

This is not an impossible dream. But one must be serious about it, and approach it with a can-do attitude. My experience in the academic world was that the deplorable intellectual condition of the American masses was something everyone groused about, but few tried to do anything serious about. If one seriously seeks to raise the general intellectual level of the public, enhance their appreciation for critical and scientific thinking and instill the habits of mind that are conducive to rational discourse, how does one do it? Bearing in mind that this is a long-term endeavor, what kinds of projects might work?


C. L. Ball 03.28.07 at 2:43 am

Re Dan Nexon’s posts

Two points on the the organization naming v. signatory identity partial disconnect. First, it contributed, to some degree, to the media disinterest. If the majority of the editorial boards of International Security,Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, etc. had signed the letter, it might have had more impact on media reporters.

Second, the ‘Weberian objectivity’ (W-O) status of the letter is diminished, to some degree, by the non-security expertise of the signatories — and I mean non-security in the public policy sense, not academic IR sense, which is more expansive. But even there, Henry, just as an example, is not a security expert; I respect his judgment on military security issues in his capacity as a well-informed citizen, but not as scholar per se. And the Jackson & Stuart article is explicit on distinguishing citizen participation from scholarly participation. Turning it around, if a similar effort was launched to criticize Bush over-estimates of the costs of CO2 emission reductions, I would see Henry as an expert signatory but would not want to see John Mearsheimer or Stephen Walt’s (or my) names as signatories, even though I would respect their views as well-informed citizens. I’m not saying this is why the media ignored it; I’m saying it is not as genuinely W-O as J&S portray it.

I failed to explain the “partly partisan” point well. Pointing out Bush errors and only Bush errors is not partisan, but the letter was issued weeks before the 2004 election. Also it did not mention the flaws in leading alternatives. It appeared more intended to influence the 2004 election than to redirect national debate, and this might have led national media outlets to downplay it. After all, SSSFP did little after the 2004 election. To redirect national debate as the letter says SSSFP intends to do, requires a “tous-azimuth” approach to all national politicians. I volunteered for Kerry in Iowa in 2004, but I found Kerry’s key 2004 suggestion that he would get other states to contribute troops in Iraq either immensely ignorant or disturbingly disingenuous (the NYT had a good — really — editorial on this point).

My view is that political engagement by scholars in their areas of expertise in a W-O sense in the Iraq war case required greater journal publication on this subject– why didn’t International Security have articles on Iraq the way it did during the Cold War on US arms control policies?
To engage in broader public education, would require scholars to submit op-eds, speak to civic groups, give public lectures, do press, radio and TV interviews, and a host of other exhausting activities. And this should occur not just during election cycles.

Expecting the national media to influence debate –NYT, WSJ, NPR, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN — by carrying a expert letter-signing story, I see as naive. John Mearsheimer, one of the signatories, did PBS, CNN, NPR interviews and call-ins in 2002 and 2003 on the run-up to war. But Max Boot did more. Regional press coverage of the SSSFP is not a media failure — this is how many American get their news, especially when evening broadcast TV viewership has declined. I think expectations by signatories and organizers were too high.

By the way, Daniel Nexon and I are friends from graduate school.


Lord Acton 03.28.07 at 2:57 am

Perhaps the failure of IR to have any impact on
the debate is because of it’s record.

No doubt a huge percentage of IR type’s were
violently against the US involvement in Viet Nam.
And their opinion was also that if the US left
Viet Nam, and the North took over, nothing too
bad would happen.

Well, since there were no IR type’s among the
tens of thousands of murdered former South
Vietnamese, I guess nothing too much bad happened.

Perhaps we Americans have memory of that academic
fiasco and are not quite as convinced that you
folks, beyond being ever-so-smart, really have
a clue about the “real world”.

Couple that with a Educational System with
costs rising significantly higher than the
inflation rate each year, and we hoi poloi
could not care less about your opinions.

Clean up your act first.

And then, maybe, you will be taken seriously.


Walt 03.28.07 at 3:32 am

Lord Acton, that is some funny stuff.


Daniel Nexon 03.28.07 at 3:35 am

“First, it contributed, to some degree, to the media disinterest.”

Did it? That would be interesting to verify, but I don’t think that Patrick and Stewart report any evidence of this from the interviews they conducted with media contacts. Did the majority of those journals not sign? There a *ton* of signatories, but I haven’t cross-checked it with those editorial boards. I suspect a fair number did sign.


Henry 03.28.07 at 3:43 am

But even there, Henry, just as an example, is not a security expert; I respect his judgment on military security issues in his capacity as a well-informed citizen, but not as scholar per se. … Turning it around, if a similar effort was launched to criticize Bush over-estimates of the costs of CO2 emission reductions, I would see Henry as an expert signatory but would not want to see John Mearsheimer or Stephen Walt’s (or my) names as signatories, even though I would respect their views as well-informed citizens.

Funnily enough I have more security credentials (a jointly authored article on the OSCE and security transformation in _IO_ ) than I do in re: CO2 emissions etc. Not that I would describe myself as an expert in security _tout court_ (but I do have a fair amount of knowledge in re: the more specific area of security transformations in Europe). My real areas of expertise, such as they are, are in IPE, governance of e-commerce, and the hot topic of cooperation between mechanical engineering firms in Germany and Italy.


Doug 03.28.07 at 11:31 am

17: Doesn’t rhyme, doesn’t scan, and as free verse it leaves much to be desired. Applying the poetic imagination to Southeast Asia is an interesting approach. Are the spelling and grammatical errors meant to imply that a voice other than the poet’s is speaking? What about the elements of the fantastic — what are they doing in a poem about war and its aftermath; presuming of course that is what the poem is about. I suggest editing and re-submitting, perhaps tightening to address just one of the topics touched in the present draft of the poem.


Doug 03.28.07 at 11:42 am

20: Henry, are y’all perhaps talking each other on what you mean by security?

I don’t think you’re an expert in the guns’n’bombs parts of discussions of security (correct me if I’m wrong), but I do think you’re an expert in the frameworks within which states and leaders make decisions about security.


Henry 03.28.07 at 1:32 pm

oh I’m just saying that I know more about security than the costs of CO2 emissions, not that I’m an expert _tout court_ which as C.L. Ball says, I certainly am not. I could make some sort of claim to specific knowledge that was arguably relevant to the Iraq conflict, in that my security-related work, such as it was, was on the circumstances under which states could or couldn’t successfully intervene in building democracy in other states (specifically, using peaceful means in the countries of Central/Eastern Europe). Whether this knowledge travels well to Iraq or not is a judgement call (I did blog about it a few times, discussing how the relevant literature provided little hope that things would work in Iraq).


Oliver Kamm 03.28.07 at 1:40 pm

“In short, if social scientists want to be taken seriously qua social scientists in the public sphere, they need to do a better job of distinguishing themselves from the hacks…”

Good point, Henry.


Doug 03.28.07 at 2:18 pm

I’ll add my doubts that anyone is a security expert tout court; it just includes too much. On the other hand, someone for whom security only relates to things that go bang is likely to overlook the areas in which you really are an expert (frameworks et seq. above). That may have been happening upthread.


Henry 03.28.07 at 2:24 pm

Indeed Oliver – I hadn’t, as it happened, seen the rather self-servingly dishonest post that you link to, not being a regular reader of your blog, but I’m delighted to be reminded again of one of the more hilariously maladroit examples of intellectual gymnastics that I’ve encountered (those who haven’t had the pleasure of discovering Mr. Kamm’s style of argument for themselves can go “here”: to see the relevant example).


C. L. Ball 03.28.07 at 5:08 pm

Re 19 (hi Dan),

“Distinguished academics sign letter criticizing administration policies” or “Distinguished academics call for debate on alternative foreign policy” is the journalisitc equivalent of “Dog bites man” not “Man bites dog.” In short, I think the editors made a valid journalistic judgment, though I am surprised that none of the national print (NYT, WSJ, WaPo, USA Today) picked up the AP wire in back pages. Even CT did not post, best I can tell, about it until Shea attacked it.

I think J&S elide (in effect) Henry’s point that the “strategy of pure Weberian activism is doomed to irrelevance” because in “Wilhelmine Germany… academics [didn’t] have to defend their interventions as academics, because they’re perceived (whether correctly or incorrectly) as being partially removed from the political fray. Bluntly speaking, this isn’t the world of modern US politics.”

J&S write that the media’s inference “was that the SSSFP effort was not Weberian activism at all, but a partisan attack—and a tacit call for votes against George Bush—thinly disguised as an educational effort” (p.99) I think that is a reasonable inference even though it is not true. The letter did not criticize overall alternatives (though it does not have to be Weberian objective activism [WOA]), but if you want people who do not understand WOA to think it is WOA you cannot:

focus only on the seated president
weeks before potential re-election
using services of’s PR firm
repeating points that partisan opponenents have already made

J&S argue that the media does not understand WOA and has been rhetorically coerced by the Bush GOP to not believe in WOA. I disagree. Many but not most academics are in the political fray, and do so on a partian basis. Henry thinks this is necessary; I would like more academics to try for WOA. But take just as an instance, the union card-check issue. Academic intervention has not been WOA — there is no discussion of the value of public deliberation and the need to protect that space from employer intimidation. Instead, the argument is that employers have power advantages and therefore card-check — the organized labor and Democratic proposal — is the way to go. A WOA-style critique can say: the current system is flawed and unless real deliberative space is created, card-check is the better alternative. But I think it is partisan and non-WOA to say: if you don’t support the labor/Dem bill you are anti-union, and discussing deliberation is naive and only serves anti-labor interests.

Also, just because academics are heard even as WOAs, does not mean they will be listened to or that they present useful advice. The current Iraq policy sucks, but would it suck more or less than re-doubling efforts or withdrawing? That’s what I was pondering in late 2003, and that’s what was tying Kerry in knots. The future US policy was being debated in 2004 but not in an imaginative way, and sadly, the SSSFP statement did not substantially push that debate forward because it did not address the substance of alternatives.

Also, the “it’s the media, stupid” line misses the academic failings. Where are the special issues of IS, SS, JoSS or other declared military-security journals titled: “Victory, Defeat, or What? Alternatives to US Iraq Policy”. This space is ceded to Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, etc. which are loathe to engage the W-O analysis that is needed. I think Krevick (#15) makes this point quite well.

I got through the first half of the IS ed board and less than half (excluding Feaver) signed the letter. I’ll compile a IS, SS, JoSS list later this weekend.


Jim Johnson 03.29.07 at 9:56 pm

As editor of the journal that published the Jackson & Kaufman essay (and, in the interest of full disclosure, as a distinctly “non-expert” signatory of the initial “security scholars” letter) I’d like to say that this thread is precisely the sort of discussion I’d hoped their essay would provoke.

Here is a question: what does it take to be an “expert” on such issues? Does the fact that I read widely in more or less relevant scholarly and journalistic literatures count? That makes me considerably more expert than the general run of folks who get develop their views based on media reports or perhpas on less than that. But it does not make me competent to write scholarly articles.

Here is another question: Should “realism” be a prescription for the intervention of scholars into political debates? Or is such activism meant to be at least partially a challenge to what passes for debate on topics such as the Iraq invasion which had virtually nothing to be said for it prior to the event (i.e., the proffered “justifications” were, and were known to be, largely bunk even if large portions of the public were prepared to buy the bunk).

Here is a third question: How should we think about the general matter of interacitons between “activist” interventions like the initial letter, scholarly journals like Persepctives on Politics and other media like this blog. I find this discussion to be fruitful as a model for breaking out of the academic ghetto.


ProfPTJ 03.31.07 at 9:51 pm

Interesting discussion indeed! I’ve posted some further thoughts over at the Duck.

Comments on this entry are closed.