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Archive for the 'International Relations' Category

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

The American Prism

Why America Misunderstands the World

“A nation’s culture—which itself has been shaped by all of the physical, political, and historical circumstances that have made that nation what it is—powerfully influences its citizens’ perceptions. A culture determines much of what the people who are part of that culture take to be factual knowledge. American culture and everything that has gone into it constitute a prism that slants, distorts, and colors how Americans see what is around them. Sometimes the distortion is so great that they fail to see some things at all.” — Paul Pillar

This week, our featured book is Why America Misunderstand the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception, by Paul R. Pillar. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the first chapter, “The American Prism,” in which Pillar discusses how “the distorting and coloring prismatic effects of being an American … extend to how [Americans] perceive the world outside their national borders.”

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

The American View of War

Why America Misunderstands the World

Why America Misunderstands the World examines how this process applies to the United States—the sole superpower, with a history and circumstances especially unusual among nations—and to how Americans tend to view and interpret foreign policy problems of today.” — Paul Pillar

This week, our featured book is Why America Misunderstand the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception, by Paul R. Pillar. Today, we are happy to present a guest post from Pillar in which American experiences of World War II have shaped subsequent American foreign policy decisions.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Why America Misunderstands the World!

The American View of War
By Paul R. Pillar

A nation’s history can explain a lot about how citizens of that nation, including its leaders, view today’s problems. With nations just as with individuals, past experience colors the way current happenings are seen and interpreted. The coloring often involves distorting and obscuring. The influence of a nation’s particular history and circumstances causes misperception. The misperception in turn leads to errors and troubles that might otherwise have been avoided. Why America Misunderstands the World examines how this process applies to the United States—the sole superpower, with a history and circumstances especially unusual among nations—and to how Americans tend to view and interpret foreign policy problems of today.

Many distinctive circumstances and experiences have shaped the distinctive American worldview, including ones involving the expansion of the United States across a richly endowed continent and its rise to unparalleled global power. But to illustrate the connection between past experience and current ways of thinking, consider America’s past experience with foreign wars. Wars are especially salient chapters in any nation’s experience and especially likely to have an impact on later ways of thinking. To narrow the illustration down even further, consider the American experience with World War II. That war, the bloodiest and most widespread armed conflict in human history, also was America’s biggest and costliest foreign war. Winning it was the greatest achievement of what came to be called America’s greatest generation. The war became the archetype in American minds for how a war ought to be conceived and fought, creating a mold for thinking about later conflicts. But later conflicts have not always fit that mold. (more…)

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

The Role of Shared National Experience in Foreign Policy

Why America Misunderstands the World

“Americans’ shared national experience heavily influences the way Americans perceive the outside world, which in turn has a major influence on U.S. foreign policy.” — Paul Pillar

This week, our featured book is Why America Misunderstand the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception, by Paul R. Pillar. To kick off the week’s feature, we have an excerpt from Pillar’s preface, in which he discusses the genesis of and his goals for his book.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Why America Misunderstands the World!

I have spent most of a lifetime interpreting the actions and perspectives of foreign nations or managing others whose job it is to perform such interpretation. This experience has included a career with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and later work as an academic and independent scholar writing about foreign policy and international relations. The interpretations have not always been correct, but the effort to make them teaches some lessons that involve knowing oneself better by getting to know others. In this context, “self ” and “others” can apply to nations as well as to individuals. Two lessons in particular are relevant.

One is that to understand a nation’s decisions and behavior requires understanding the perspectives that the people in that nation, including its decision makers, have acquired through their shared national experience. The nation’s triumphs and tragedies and the rest of its history color the images that its people and its leaders have of the rest of the world, and those images in turn guide how that nation behaves toward the rest of the world.

The other lesson is that the portion of the U.S. bureaucracy in which I formerly worked is not the principal guide for major decisions in U.S. foreign policy. The images of the world abroad that have influenced U.S. policy the most have come from other sources.

Putting those two lessons together leads to a third: that Americans’ shared national experience heavily influences the way Americans perceive the outside world, which in turn has a major influence on U.S. foreign policy. In an earlier book, I described how and why the intelligence bureaucracy is not the main place to look for images that have guided major U.S. foreign-policy decisions. The present book addresses one of the places we do need to look for those images. The premise is that the distinctive circumstances and history of the United States yield distinctive, important, and policy-relevant ways that Americans perceive the rest of the world.

This book unavoidably has a downbeat message in that any discussion of how perceptions are shaped by the perceiver’s attributes is in large part a discussion of misperception and error. This fact does not imply, however, an overall negative outlook about the American experience or about many of the traits and attitudes that flow from it. In the course of many years of studying the troubles and flaws of other nations, I have repeatedly been reminded of why I am glad and proud to be an American.

Knowing oneself is a virtue, for nations as well as for individuals. This book has been written to add modestly to collective American virtue by helping Americans become more aware of the twists that they habitually impart to their view of what lies beyond their borders and of why they impart those twists. It also is written in the hope that such awareness will help lead in some small way to a less twisted and more accurate understanding of the world and thus to better-informed U.S. foreign policy.

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Book Giveaway! Why America Misunderstands the World, by Paul Pillar

Why America Misunderstands the World

“A formidable and influential scholar offers a fresh and distinctive take on the idea that U.S. foreign policy is ultimately an expression of ‘us’ rather than ‘them.’” — Andrew Bacevich, Boston University

This week, our featured book is Why America Misunderstand the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception, by Paul R. Pillar. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Why America Misunderstands the World. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, March 11th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

The new and improved Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) database

Columbia University Press announces the new and improved Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) database

The renowned international affairs database Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) has recently undergone a complete overhaul aimed at enhancing user experience. The new CIAO website features a redesigned user interface that standardizes the discovery and presentation of content and adds more video content, a live Twitter feed, and improved search functionality.

Other new features include: faceted browsing and refinement of search results based on normalized metadata, OpenURL and Shibboleth capabilities, and a CIAO YouTube channel, not to mention new partnerships with policy institutes and publishers, including Atlantic Council, Center for Migration Studies, Hudson Institute, the Soufan Group, Transparency International, and many more.

Of course, CIAO still retains the great features that users have always loved, including: the CIAO Atlas, featuring detailed maps and country data for 201 countries provided by the Economist Intelligence Unit; the monthly CIAO Focus, long considered an outstanding classroom tool for teaching salient issues in the field of international affairs; full-text e-books and journal content.

CIAO also boasts an advisory board that comprises of international affairs specialists and scholars from both the United States and abroad.

CIAO is a collaboration between Columbia University Press (CUP) and the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS), part of the Columbia University Libraries / Information Services, combining the editorial talent of CUP on content and CDRS’s depth of knowledge in design and information architecture to create a new, enhanced, and responsive CIAO.

About Columbia International Affairs Online

Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) is the world’s largest full-text online resource for political science, diplomatic history, international law and business, policy formation, and country analysis. The full-text database encompasses more than 500,000 pages of working papers, policy briefs, interviews, journal articles, and e-books in the field of international relations. CIAO is a dynamic resource that is constantly growing. More than 180 leading academic and research institutions, publishers, government agencies, and journals worldwide contribute to CIAO.

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Book Giveaway! After the American Century, by Brian Edwards

This week one of our featured books is After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East by Brian T. Edwards.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of After the American Century to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Wednesday, December 4th at 1:00 pm.

After the American Century offers a fascinating tour of the appropriation and deployment of American popular culture in a globalized, restless Middle East.” — Marc Lynch, author of The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East

After the American Century is a book of exquisite audacity.” — Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Friday, October 30th, 2015

A Guru for Our Time: Eqbal Ahmad and the Life of Dissent from Empire

Eqbal Ahmad

“Eqbal was a quirky, seminal thinker and analyst of global foreign policy. He understood and described correctly the catastrophies that would follow if the US invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein. He had met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the early 1980s and predicted early on that the man would become a major enemy of the US once the Soviets were defeated.” — Stuart Schaar

For the second half of this week, our featured book is Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider in a Turbulent Age, by Stuart Schaar. In the final post of the feature, we are happy to present an article by Schaar telling a number of poignant stories about Schaar’s relationship with Eqbal Ahmad and about Ahmad’s life as an activist and seminal political thinker, originally published at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment blog.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Eqbal Ahmad!

A Guru for Our Time: Eqbal Ahmad and the Life of Dissent from Empire
By Stuart Schaar

In the early 1960s I was living in Rabat while researching my doctoral dissertation for Princeton University. My friend, the Pakistani Eqbal Ahmad (d. 1999), who was living in Tunisia and also researching his dissertation, had just driven through Algeria as the Algerians celebrated their victory over France and gained their independence. Eqbal was euphoric after having shared celebrations with the Algerians whom he met along the way. We immediately set out for southern Morocco and the walled Saharan towns south of Marrakech.

Along the route we stopped at a town where everyone was blind. They were victims of trachoma, a fly-borne disease. I remember Eqbal biting his lower lip and bursting out in tears at the sight of people who greeted us with outstretched arms begging us to help them. We were activists and were used to organizing solutions for problems. This time, we felt absolutely helpless. Years later we learned that the World Health Organization began solving the problem of blindness in the Moroccan south, by distributing lime powder to peasants who lined the walls in the rooms under their houses, where they kept their animals, and in that way kept away infected flies.

I left this story, and several other poignant ones, out of my new book, Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider in a Turbulent Age just published by Columbia University Press. Instead I concentrated on his ideas and the reasons why we should remember and read him still. Eqbal was a quirky, seminal thinker and analyst of global foreign policy. He understood and described correctly the catastrophies that would follow if the US invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein. He had met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the early 1980s and predicted early on that the man would become a major enemy of the US once the Soviets were defeated. (more…)

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Eqbal Ahmad and Edward Said

Eqbal Ahmad

“Both men [Ahmad and Said] had cosmopolitan views, and by the time they met, they had seen a considerable part of the world. Their status as refugees had made them into critical outsiders. Both of them could see the societies in which they lived from without, and they had developed sufficient yardsticks with which to gauge with some detachment and discernment what they experienced and saw.” — Stuart Schaar

This week, our featured book is Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider in a Turbulent Age, by Stuart Schaar. Eqbal Ahmad and Edward Said were contemporaries who shared political views, and who also grew to be very close friends. In the excerpt below, taken from the second chapter of his biography, Schaar delves into their friendship, explains where they agreed and where they disagreed in their scholarly and political works, and mentions how Ahmad’s fervent defense of Said was both a positive and a negative factor in his professional life.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Eqbal Ahmad!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider in a Turbulent Age

Eqbal Ahmad

“This book is full of remarkable original primary material on the life and writings of an intellectual and activist well deserving of a biography.” — Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University

This week, our featured book is Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider in a Turbulent Age, by Stuart Schaar. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Eqbal Ahmad. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, October 30th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Introduction to “Terrorism in Cyberspace”

Terrorism in Cyberspace

“Studying terrorist communication online is one critical means of early warning or scanning of the horizon for potential future threats, as well as a method of keeping on top of evolving trends in terrorism.” — Gabriel Weimann

This week our featured book is Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation, by Gabriel Weimann, with a foreword by Bruce Hoffman. Today, we are happy to present Weimann’s Introduction, in which he discusses whether the time has come to end the War on Terror, while also engaging with the problem of what terrorism actually is.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Terrorism in Cyberspace!

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Watch Gabriel Weimann discuss “Terrorism in Cyberspace”

Terrorism in Cyberspace

This week our featured book is Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation, by Gabriel Weimann, with a foreword by Bruce Hoffman. Today, we are happy to present a video interview with Weimann from the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Wilson Center Now, in which Weimann discusses his new book, the current state of cyberterrorism, and what governments can do in response.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Terrorism in Cyberspace!

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

There’s No Such Thing as a Lone Wolf in Cyberspace

Terrorism in Cyberspace

“Most important, however, a careful balance must be established between security and liberty. For fighting terrorism online raises the issue of the price paid in terms of U.S. civil liberties.” — Gabriel Weimann

This week our featured book is Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation, by Gabriel Weimann, with a foreword by Bruce Hoffman. Today, we are happy to present a post by Weimann that originally appeared on the Reuters’ The Great Debate blog: “There’s No Such Thing as a Lone Wolf in Cyberspace.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Terrorism in Cyberspace!

There’s No Such Thing as a Lone Wolf in Cyberspace
By Gabriel Weimann

“Lone wolf” terrorism is often cited as the biggest terrorist threat today. The problem with this label is none of the assailants act alone. They all belong to virtual wolf packs.

Law enforcement authorities in Boston, for example, described Usaamah Abdullah Rahim’s scheme to behead random police officers as the plot of a lone wolf. Police also applied the term to other recent terrorist assaults, among them the brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that left 12 dead and the Boston Marathon bombing. In all these incidents, the assailants used traditional terror tactics, such as targeting civilians, but appeared to be acting independently of any organization.

The “lone wolf” metaphor is based on the image of a wolf alone in the wild. But this is incorrect, as my studies on terrorists reveal. Wolves never hunt alone — in nature or in terrorism.

In fact, wolves are among the most social of carnivores; they live and hunt in packs. Though the whole group is not always seen, their attacks rely on a well-coordinated circling and cornering of the victim. Lone-wolf terrorists are very similar.

They have their pack — but it’s a virtual one. The solo terrorists are often recruited, radicalized, trained and directed by others online. The current wave of lone-wolf attacks has been propelled by websites and online platforms that provide limitless opportunities for individuals to explore and locate their virtual pack. (more…)

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Bruce Hoffman’s Foreword to “Terrorism in Cyberspace”

Terrorism in Cyberspace

Terrorism in Cyberspace represents the next step in its author’s decades-long quest to map, analyze, and understand the evolution of terrorist communications since the advent of the Internet and this new form of mass communication.” — From the foreword by Bruce Hoffman

This week our featured book is Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation, by Gabriel Weimann, with a foreword by Bruce Hoffman. To start the week’s feature off, we’ve excerpted Hoffman’s foreword.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Terrorism in Cyberspace!

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Book Giveaway! Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation

Terrorism in Cyberspace

Terrorism in Cyberspace represents the next step in its author’s decades-long quest to map, analyze, and understand the evolution of terrorist communications since the advent of the Internet and this new form of mass communication.” — From the foreword by Bruce Hoffman

This week our featured book is Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation, by Gabriel Weimann, with a foreword by Bruce Hoffman. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Terrorism in Cyberspace. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, August 7th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Jeffrey Sachs Discusses “The Age of Sustainable Development” on Charlie Rose

Last week, Jeffrey Sachs appeared on Charlie Rose to discuss his new book The Age of Sustainable Development and the urgent need for global action on climate change:

Friday, May 8th, 2015

The Conclusion from Boaz Ganor’s Global Alert

Global Alert

“[S]tates that battle terrorism must fastidiously preserve the legal legitimacy of liberal democracy even as they undermine any terrorist attempt to exploit it.” — Boaz Ganor

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. Today is the final day of the week’s feature, and, fittingly, we are wrapping things up with an excerpt from Ganor’s conclusion to Global Alert, in which he revisits his hopes for the book, addresses common misconceptions in how the West thinks about Islamist terrorism, and wraps up his discussion of the “liberal-democratic dilemma in the war on terrorism.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Global Alert!

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Defining Terrorism – Is One Man’s Terrorist Another Man’s Freedom Fighter?

Global Alert

“We face an essential need to reach a definition of terrorism that will enjoy wide international agreement, thus enabling international operations against terrorist organizations.” — Boaz Ganor

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. Following yesterday’s video, in which Ganor argues that we must have a definition of terrorism if we are to successfully confront increasingly complex terrorist organizations, today we have an excerpt from “Defining Terrorism – Is One Man’s Terrorist Another Man’s Freedom Fighter?,” an article by Ganor from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism website.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Global Alert!

Defining Terrorism – Is One Man’s Terrorist Another Man’s Freedom Fighter?
By Boaz Ganor

Proposing a Definition of Terrorism

The question is whether it is at all possible to arrive at an exhaustive and objective definition of terrorism, which could constitute an accepted and agreed-upon foundation for academic research, as well as facilitating operations on an international scale against the perpetrators of terrorist activities.

The definition proposed here states that terrorism is the intentional use of, or threat to use, violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims. This definition is based on three important elements:

1. The essence of the activity—the use of, or threat to use, violence. According to this definition, an activity that does not involve violence or a threat of violence will not be defined as terrorism (including non-violent protest—strikes, peaceful demonstrations, tax revolts, etc.).

2. The aim of the activity is always political—namely, the goal is to attain political objectives; changing the regime, changing the people in power, changing social or economic policies, etc. In the absence of a political aim, the activity in question not be defined as terrorism. A violent activity against civilians that has no political aim is, at most, an act of criminal delinquency, a felony, or simply an act of insanity unrelated to terrorism. Some scholars tend to add ideological or religious aims to the list of political aims. The advantage of this definition, however, is that it is as short and exhaustive as possible. The concept of “political aim” is sufficiently broad to include these goals as well. The motivation—whether ideological, religious, or something else—behind the political objective is irrelevant for the purpose of defining terrorism. In this context, the following statement by Duvall and Stohl deserves mention:
Motives are entirely irrelevant to the concept of political terrorism. Most analysts fail to recognize this and, hence, tend to discuss certain motives as logical or necessary aspects of terrorism. But they are not. At best, they are empirical regularities associated with terrorism. More often they simply confuse analysis.[14] (more…)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The Definition of Terrorism: A Fundamental Counter-Terrorism Measure

Global Alert

“We will never be able, actually, to get to the level of counter-terrorism efficiency which is needed to deal with [new forms of terrorism] without agreeing on the basic issue: what are we fighting against?” — Boaz Ganor

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. Today, we have a video from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), in which Professor Ganor discusses the necessity for coming up with a definition of terrorism.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Global Alert!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Boaz Ganor’s Introduction to Global Alert

Global Alert

“Islamist-jihadist terrorism—a plague that has spread to almost every corner of the world—creates painful dilemmas for the peoples and decision makers who confront it. Its rapid, shape-shifting advance has sometimes confounded efforts to comprehend its origins, motives, and aims. Its sophistication in exploiting liberal values poses challenges and difficulties for the Western world, and for liberal democratic states in general, in attaining effective and balanced counter-terrorism policies.” — Boaz Ganor

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. To get the feature started, we have excerpted Ganor’s Introduction, in which he discusses the necessity for the international community to grapple with the problems raised by terrorism, and describes how his book will address many of those issues.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Global Alert!

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor

Global Alert

“When it comes to outstanding informed, analytical and policy-oriented scholarship on counterterrorism in the context of open societies, the work of professor Boaz Ganor is plainly and simply inescapable for academics, politicians, security practitioners and concerned citizens.” — Fernando Reinares

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book, its subject, and its editors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Global Alert. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, May 8th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!