It's a Small World

Kevin Lewis

December 20, 2009

Common ecology quantifies human insurgency

Juan Camilo Bohorquez, Sean Gourley, Alexander Dixon, Michael Spagat & Neil Johnson
Nature, 17 December 2009, Pages 911-914

Many collective human activities, including violence, have been shown to exhibit universal patterns. The size distributions of casualties both in whole wars from 1816 to 1980 and terrorist attacks have separately been shown to follow approximate power-law distributions. However, the possibility of universal patterns ranging across wars in the size distribution or timing of within-conflict events has barely been explored. Here we show that the sizes and timing of violent events within different insurgent conflicts exhibit remarkable similarities. We propose a unified model of human insurgency that reproduces these commonalities, and explains conflict-specific variations quantitatively in terms of underlying rules of engagement. Our model treats each insurgent population as an ecology of dynamically evolving, self-organized groups following common decision-making processes. Our model is consistent with several recent hypotheses about modern insurgency, is robust to many generalizations, and establishes a quantitative connection between human insurgency, global terrorism and ecology. Its similarity to financial market models provides a surprising link between violent and non-violent forms of human behaviour.


Do Working Men Rebel? Insurgency and Unemployment in Iraq and the Philippines

Eli Berman, Joseph Felter & Jacob Shapiro
NBER Working Paper, November 2009

Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in places with active insurgencies. We test that prediction on insurgencies in Iraq and the Philippines, using survey data on unemployment and two newly- available measures of insurgency: (1) attacks against government and allied forces; and (2) violence that kills civilians. Contrary to the opportunity-cost theory, we find a robust negative correlation between unemployment and attacks against government and allied forces and no significant relationship between unemployment and the rate of insurgent attacks that kill civilians.


Market Power in Uranium Enrichment

Geoffrey Rothwell
Science & Global Security, May 2009, Pages 132-154

Four firms dominate the international uranium enrichment market. Simultaneously, the nations that host enrichment facilities strongly discourage other nations from developing enrichment capacity, given its potential use in nuclear weapons production. Therefore, these four firms benefit from the exercise of national power to prevent entry into this market. This paper shows that these firms also benefit from increasing returns to scale. In similar national situations, this industry would be regulated or nationalized. This is because free markets do not necessarily lead to a socially optimal long-run equilibrium where the industry is necessarily concentrated, such that there is no proliferating entry, but is sufficiently diverse, so that no one national group can dictate prices, contract terms, or non-proliferation policy. Therefore, some form of international regulation might be necessary to discourage enrichment technology proliferation and assure enrichment supply at reasonable prices.


Exposure to News, Political Comedy, and Entertainment Talk Shows: Concern about Security and Political Mistrust

Yariv Tsfati, Riva Tukachinsky & Yoram Peri
International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Winter 2009, Pages 399-423

Previous research has demonstrated that exposure to news media increases viewers' concerns about national security, as well as their mistrust of politicians and government. However, the contribution of entertainment media to security concerns and trust in government has received only scant attention in previous research, conducted mainly in the American context. The current investigation explores possible associations between exposure to news and political entertainment and concern about security and political mistrust using survey data (n = 512) collected in Israel in the aftermath of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Results demonstrate that exposure to entertainment talk shows was related to greater concern about security and high levels of political trust, while exposure to political comedy was related to reduced concerns about security and lower levels of political trust. News exposure was not significantly related to security concerns and political trust.


'No Olympics on stolen native land': Contesting Olympic narratives and asserting indigenous rights within the discourse of the 2010 Vancouver Games

Christine O'Bonsawin
Sport in Society, January 2010, Pages 143-156

The Olympic movement is a powerful industry and resistance to it is often deemed unnecessary, and at times is considered to be criminal. The campaign calling for 'No Olympics on Stolen Native Land' is perceived to be a radical crusade calling for the cancellation of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. However, the reality is these Olympic Games will take place and they will be hosted on unceded and non-surrendered indigenous lands. The British Columbia land question remains unanswered, and the very presence of the current Olympic structure on contentious indigenous lands has the potential to temporarily silence, and perhaps permanently alter, the immediate needs of indigenous peoples within British Columbia, Canada. This essay contributes to the ongoing narrative of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as it provides an historical framework for understanding the fragile tensions that exist between present-day Olympic programming and indigenous activism.


Decision-Making and the Soviet War in Afghanistan: From Intervention to Withdrawal

Artemy Kalinovsky
Journal of Cold War Studies, Fall 2009, Pages 46-73

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan sparked acute Cold War tensions. The war soon became an undesirable distraction and burden for Soviet leaders, who did not expect to spend most of the 1980s propping up a client regime in Kabul. Drawing on archival sources and interviews, this article traces Soviet decision-making from the intervention in late 1979 to the final withdrawal in early 1989. The article shows that the supporters of the Soviet intervention believed that Soviet military and economic aid efforts were making progress and should not be aborted early. They warned that a premature withdrawal would undermine Soviet prestige in the Third World. Before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and to some extent afterward, the supporters of intervention were usually able to silence or sideline their critics through deft political maneuvering.


What Can Virtual Worlds and Games Do for National Security?

V. S. Subrahmanian & John Dickerson
Science, 27 November 2009, Pages 1201-1202

Military planners have long used war games to plan for future conflicts. Beginning in the 1950s, defense analysts began to develop computer-based models to predict the outcomes of military battles that incorporated elements of game theory. Such models were often restricted to two opposing forces, and often had a strict win-lose resolution. Today, defense analysts face situations that are more complex, not only in that conflicts may involve several opposing groups within a region, but also in that military actions are only part of an array of options available in trying to foster stable, peaceful conditions. For example, in the current conflict in Afghanistan, analysts must try to estimate how particular actions by their forces-building schools, burning drug crops, or performing massive security sweeps-will affect interactions between the many diverse ethnic groups in the region. We discuss one approach to addressing this prediction problem in which possible outcomes are explored through computer-based virtual-world environments.


Law for States: International Law, Constitutional Law, Public Law

Jack Goldsmith & Daryl Levinson
Harvard Law Review, May 2009, Pages 1791-1868

International law has long been viewed with suspicion in Anglo-American legal thought. Compared to the paradigm of domestic law, the international legal system seems different and deficient along a number of important dimensions. This Article questions the distinctiveness of international law by pointing out that constitutional law in fact shares all of the features that are supposed to make international law so dubious. In mapping out these commonalities, the Article suggests that the traditional international/domestic distinction may obscure what is, for many purposes, a more important and generative conceptual divide. That divide is between "public law" regimes like international and constitutional law that constitute and govern the behavior of states and governments and "ordinary domestic law" that is administered by and through the governmental institutions of the state.


The Unravelling of the Cold War Settlement

Daniel Deudney & John Ikenberry
Survival, December 2009, Pages 39-62

Twenty years ago, as the Cold War was being ushered to a close, American and Russian leaders crafted a settlement with principles and arrangements intended to constitute a great-power peace as well as to extend the liberal international order. Today, the promise these arrangements once held now seems distant. For both sides, relations are now marked by a sense of grievance, disappointment and dashed expectations. The new administration of President Barack Obama sees the repair of the relationship with Russia as a major foreign-policy objective, and is ambitiously attempting to reset it and place it on a more positive footing. Already this new policy has provoked a chorus of condemnation that the United States is appeasing Russia and sacrificing both its national interests and the interests of democratic allies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet region. In reality, the Obama policy is a move toward recovering some of America's most successful foreign-policy approaches that reached a zenith at the end of the Cold War under the later Reagan administration and the George H.W. Bush administration.


Selling a New Vision of America to the World: Changing Messages in Early U.S. Cold War Print Propaganda

Andrew Yarrow
Journal of Cold War Studies, Fall 2009, Pages 3-45

This article examines how U.S. Cold War print propaganda shifted from an emphasis in the late 1940s on America's liberal democratic idealism to an emphasis by the mid-1950s on the country's high and rising living standards and shiny new system of "people's capitalism." The United States could claim to have beaten the Soviet Union at its own game, providing "classless abundance for all." These messages echoed those disseminated domestically, in which political leaders, business executives, journalists, and educators increasingly defined America's greatest virtues and identity in economic terms, emphasizing growth and prosperity. This article assesses how the United States-via the U.S. Information Agency and its precursors from the late 1940s to 1960-presented itself to those in the Soviet bloc and globally. The article relies on content analysis of three magazines-Amerika, a Russian-language monthly published for Soviet audiences from 1945 to 1952; Free World, a magazine sent to East Asia that began publishing in English and various Asian languages in 1952; and America Illustrated, a Russian-language monthly published for three-and-a-half decades beginning in 1956-as well as of many pamphlets and other printed material intended for overseas audiences.


Are international technology gaps growing or shrinking in the age of globalization?

Thomas Kemeny
Journal of Economic Geography, forthcoming

This article examines changing international technology gaps over the recent period of globalization, 1972-2001, using a novel measure of technology. It evaluates each economy's technology level based on the goods it exports, considering each product's average productivity and relative quality level. The analysis reveals a growing disparity between the most- and least-sophisticated economies and a lack of intradistributional mobility. Results are consistent with a view of globalization in which emergent specialization patterns in advanced economies allow them to maintain and even extend their lead over technological latecomers, even as some developing economies are climbing up the ladder.


Glass Houses? Market Reactions to Firms Joining the UN Global Compact

Jay Janney, Greg Dess & Victor Forlani
Journal of Business Ethics, December 2009, Pages 407-423

We examine market reactions to publicly held multinational firms announcing their affiliation with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). The UNGC is a voluntary initiative to support four areas of United Nations viz. Human Rights, Labor, Environmental, and Anti-Corruption. Because firms must file annual Communication on Progress (COP) reports toward these initiatives, we argue this creates a differentiating transparency of interest to stakeholders. Using a sample of 175 global firms, we find support to the theory for joining the UNGC. Returns differ markedly, however, between multinational firms headquartered in the United States (negative) and Europe (positive). We also find that failing to complete the annual COP generates a negative market reaction.

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