Tag Archives: war

The Right Way to Lose a War: America in the Age of Unwinnable Conflicts

The Right Way to Lose a War: America in the Age of Unwinnable Conflicts

Prof. Dominic Tierney

Thursday, December 5, 2013

4:30-5:30 p.m.

Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall

Swarthmore College


Army's Top Marksmen Mentor Afghan National Army Rifle Range Instructors
isafmedia via Flickr under Creative Commons license 2.0

Since 1945, most major American wars have ended in regret. The era of U.S. power has also been a time of military frustration, stalemate, and loss, in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. What should we do when a conflict becomes an unwinnable war? Can we cut our losses and leave without seeing everything we fought for crumble into ashes?

The stakes are incredibly high. How wars end, and the U.S. exit strategy from conflict, may decide the fate of thousands of American soldiers, impact America’s reputation and global image, cast a long shadow over the home front, and shape the future of the allied country.


Based on interviews with dozens of leading generals, ambassadors, and secretaries of state, this book project provides a guide to handling military failure and escaping from a quagmire. The talk will explain how the United States can avert military disaster, negotiate with opponents, withdraw its troops, train local forces, bind the wounds of veterans, reconcile with enemies, and remember military loss in ways that foster national learning and renewal.

Web project on Drones

From our friends at the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr:

The Solomon Asch Center is starting a web project on drones–how they function in the present and what they may become in the future. This project aims to explore the politics of government use of drones for surveillance and interdiction, private and corporate use of drones; privacy and due process issues raised by use of drones, fifth generation warfare using drones, and any issue relating to how the technology used in drones will play out in the future. The Asch Drone Project seeks contributions from scientists, engineers, social scientists, lawyers, artists, journalists and citizens to provide a multi-faceted online presentation incorporating text essays and visuals relating to drones. An online gallery will display Afghan folk art, fine art, cartoon, and photographic representations of drones. The Project is open to all types of interpretations and opinions, and to any length text from a paragraph to a multipage essay. If you have visuals or links to existing blogs to suggest, or if you are able to write something for the project, please get in touch with Asch Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture Initiatives Jonathan Hyman at jhyman@brynmawr.edu and identify your inquiry or submission in the subject field as such: attention Asch Drone Project.

The Asch Drone Project expects to open on the Asch web site (www.aschcenter.org) no later than 1 January 2013. If enough good essays are contributed, authors may be invited to participate in a Special Issue of the journal Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict (www.informaworld.com/dac), edited by Asch Co-Director Clark McCauley.


For a decade the Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, now located at Bryn Mawr College, has brought together social scientists from many disciplines-history, political science, psychology, linguistics, economics, law, sociology and anthropology ? to analyze the underlying causes of conflict, how conflict can be managed constructively to avoid widespread violence, and how to ameliorate the refugee problems that flow from intergroup violence.

Amelia Hoover Green ’03 on Preventing Wartime Violence Against Civilians

How Swarthmore Built My Dataset

by Amelia Hoover Green ’03

Amelia Hoover Green '03It’s almost time for my ten-year Swarthmore reunion! When people ask me about having kids — a seemingly inevitable, if highly uncool, side effect of being a decade out of college — I will probably point them toward my only child (so far), the Armed Group Institutions Database (AGID; see our project page here: http://rkthb.co/11859 and watch the video at the bottom of this post). I’m currently an Assistant Professor at Drexel University, where I work on topics in human rights and armed conflict.

The AGID comes out of my sense that political science research has done a pretty lousy job integrating insights from other disciplines. My conviction that we ought to be better at interdisciplinarity is, as one of my Ph.D. advisors correctly stated, “such a Swat thing.” That’s certainly true — I don’t think I’d have read across so many fields without my liberal arts background. It’s equally true, though, that researchers who are stuck inside disciplinary boundaries often get the answers wrong — no matter where we went to college.

The particular set of findings that spurred the development of the AGID is from social psychology. I frequently summarize social psych findings on violent conflict (and violent behavior) as follows: War is bad for your brain. Armed conflict situations are full of stimuli that, experiments show, make people more prone to violence: fear, uncertainty, sleeplessness, general stress, insecurity, glorification of violence, alcohol, drugs, highly traditional masculinities — you name it, war’s got it. Looking at it from that perspective, the puzzling question isn’t “Why do armed groups commit so many human rights violations?” but rather “Why do some armed groups commit so few human rights violations?”


That’s where the AGID comes in. My work suggests (again, borrowing from researchers in psychology, sociology and behavioral economics) that groups that cultivate a strong positive identity around civilian protection, whether by informal methods or formal education, should commit more carefully controlled patterns of violence against civilians. Once complete, the AGID will allow us to test that theory (and along the way will provide a wealth of data about armed group structures that’s never been gathered in one place before).

Interested in getting involved with this research? There are lots of ways to do so. As you may have noticed from the project page (http://rkthb.co/11859), this project is partially crowd-funded, which means that we’re actively looking for help from folks who like science and/or human rights. (Honestly, who doesn’t like science and human rights?) $14 pays for an hour of my research assistant’s work; $110 pays for a whole day. If you don’t have money but you do have time (and you’re an undergraduate who wants to see how cutting-edge social science research works), try your hand at some volunteer data-gathering. Have questions? Just write me: ameliahoovergreen@drexel.edu.


Catch up with War News Radio

Been listening to War News Radio recently? If not, get back in the groove with this month’s broadcast.

This month on War News Radio, “Back to Work “. First, we examine the problem of youth unemployment in Morocco. Then, we look into the persecution of physicians in Syria. Finally, we hear about a peace activist whose surprising devotion to the cause didn’t seem to match his flat personality.

The latter piece about a peace activist refers to the recent lecture by Michael Doyle on Roy Kepler and Kepler’s bookstore.

Graphic novels, memory, and war in Lebanon

“Remembering a past that has hardly passed”

Carla Calargé

November 5th, 4:30-5:30pm

Keith Room (Lang Center)

While the war that ravaged Lebanon between 1975 and 1990 can be described as a microcosm of the conflicts plaguing the Middle East, persistent socio-historical factors have, until recently, suppressed its discussion and effectively silenced its memory. Recent emerging accounts have started to unearth this past, whether to understand it, heal its wounds, or extract lessons for the future.

This talk discusses two graphic novels by Lebanese women who grew up during the war: Je me souviens. Beyrouth published by Zeina AbiRached in 2009, and Lamia Ziadé’s Beyrouth 1975-1990 published in 2010. A close examination of these works will reveal the tension between the need to remember, and the limitations of remembering in a context largely defined by collective and state-sponsored amnesia.

Carla Calargé is Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Florida Atlantic University. Her work focuses on the Francophone Arab novels and comics.

Prof. Dominic Tierney Launches Iran War Clock

It’s 10 Minutes to Midnight: Political Scientist Dominic Tierney Launches Iran War Clock

by Susan Clarey


[original post from Swarthmore College News and Information http://www.swarthmore.edu/x35177.xml]

Iran clock Three students – Jonathan Emont ’12, Lorand Laskai ’13, and James Mao ’12 – provided essential research assistance.

TheAtlantic.com recently launched The Iran War Clock created and directed by Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science.

Drawing together a panel of 22 high-profile experts from the worlds of policy, academia, and journalism, The Iran War Clock reflects the average of each contributor’s estimate that war will break out in Iran in the next year.  Based on this number, the Clock is adjusted so that the hand moves closer to, or further away from, midnight.

The aim of the project is to estimate the chances of war while producing a more informed debate on this highly-charged subject.

“Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Iran War Clock is correct in March 2012 and there’s roughly a 50/50 chance of war,” Tierney explains. “Americans need to have an accurate view of this reality. If they wrongly thought there was just a 1 percent chance of conflict it could be dangerous. And if Americans misperceived and felt there was a 99 percent chance of war, this could also be hazardous.

“When you approach the cliff edge,” he says, “you need to know how far away the precipice is.”

In a Sunday interview with MSNBC’S Alex Witt, Tierney discussed what he called the “dream team” of panelists working on The Iran War Clock and explained the methodology behind it.

Three students provided research assistance: Jonathan Emont ’12, an Honors history major and political science minor from Ridgewood, N.J.; Lorand Laskai ’13, an Honors political science major and a course history major from Berkely Heights, N.J.; and James Mao ’12, an Honors political science major and economics minor with a course major in economics, from Beijing, People’s Republic of China.