Over the next few weeks I'll be editing and putting the (hopefully) final touches on three major bits of research, some of which I've been working on for over 2 years. Final in the sense of the respective stages for each (R&R, monograph, initial submission). But certainly I'm nearer the end of these projects than their beginnings.
Meanwhile, I'm starting 2 projects in the near term (and maybe a third). Sure, I've been thinking about them and have been kicking around ideas for a few months, but other than my dissertation I don't have any projects begun, never mind towards the middle range of completion. There are a number of reasons for this, including trying to get work done of the three projects mentioned above, ending coursework, and preparing for comps.
I'm not sure this matters or not, but I'd like to have a project or two closer to ready for publication with a good push of effort. If I find I need some more pubs as I hit the job market in about a year, I might be too far to get one at least submitted to a journal. I'm also a bit concerned that I've been putting off starting these other projects until I've cleared my plate. I don't like this clustering approach, not least because it means I'm in the hard middle parts of all of my projects at the same time. It's a mental drain, as much as kicking all your projects out the door at the same time feels great. I'd like to balance more, if only for my emotional needs.
Over the next year or so, one of my professional foci will be to better manage my research so that I'm tackling all that can and moving them all forward, irrespective of where I am in the course of each project. I've been following the advice of Raul Pacheco-Vega at CIDE (such as this example). I'm sure there are others and would appreciate useful links.
I've spent part of today teaching myself how to plot data in R, mainly using the maps package. I found a number of ways of doing it, but this from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was the best guide that I came across to get started (you can see I kept their color scheme). I still have tons to learn about this at the basic level, including getting the aesthetics right. Some of you are probably literally pros at this and may chuckle at my adorable mapping attempts, but hey: I'm new to this.
About the data here... This is part of a project I've been working on for some time that is getting closer to done and that I presented at MPSA this year (I suspect one or two of you may have been at that panel). I've been working quite a bit on the distribution of military equipment to state and county law enforcement agencies, specifically through the 1033 Program. In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO in 2014, the New York Times obtained the Defense Logistics Agency's list of equipment transferred under the 1033 Program. The problem with most of the plots based on that data is that it does not account for the fact that most of the equipment in that dataset isn't military equipment or it's a very specific subset of military equipment. The full data contains lots of desks, computers, exercise equipment, what have you in the way of non-military equipment, and other types of military equipment beyond what the NYT offers on the map in the link. I've gone through and coded every line (over 200,000 of them) of that data as military or not-military equipment. For the former, I've categorized further to test a number of hypotheses about why agencies ask for certain types and what are the outcomes of that on crime. The plot above simply sums the value of military equipment transferred during the time period the dataset covers, by county.
Anyway, I'm hoping to wrap up the model specifications and estimations, address some feedback, and get it off to a journal soon. This was fun and I'm going to overlay some other stuff onto it, so hopefully it will be useful as well. Back to reading up on dynamic causal models of panel data.
[Author's Note: I had a longer post on this, but Weebly decided to delete all but the first sentence when I tried to post it. So it's mostly links. Thanks, Weebly.]
Daniel Byman and Will McCants have an interesting piece in The Washington Quarterly on how to avoid 'forever wars.' They offer some red lines on when to intervene against terrorist groups to add some order to how we engage them. It's good advice even if implementation might get a bit sticky.
Any time I read about safe havens I return to an article by Elizabeth Arsenault and Tricia Bacon that is truly excellent. They provide a typology of safe havens and policy advice for each quadrant of the typology (huzzah for two-by-twos!). It's my favorite piece on the topic and as it focuses on how to work with host governments. You should read it.
With today's shooting of Republican lawmakers, staffers, and law enforcement, commentary has lapsed into the black hole created by the Fundamental Problem of Terrorism (Studies). That is, there exists no agreed-upon definition of terrorism in government or academia. The result is that the determination of acts as terrorism is highly interpretive. Hence, the tendency of media to call only violence perpetrated by Muslims as terrorism and violence by whites typically as hate crimes. Or why much ink and many bytes are spent on determinations of the sanity of would-be terrorists in order to properly classify events.
The intensity of the debate for each event suggests the political nature of labeling terrorism. Of course, from a legal perspective it matters--terrorism charges have specific evidentiary standards and legal consequences. From an academic perspective, it may not matter that much.
Terrorism or not, the use of violence towards political ends is dangerous beyond the act itself. First is the degradation of norms that political processes are not debated with violence (a tenuous norm if one considers the many, many ways that violence is inflicted via politics), that could lead to a threshold whereby other would-be users of violence would turn to action. The works of Schelling and Granovetter still dominate here.
The second pernicious effect lays in the utility of terrorist violence itself. As David Lake offered, terrorism is used to shift the bargaining range to something more extreme than before the violence. Further violence of this nature pulls discourse away from centrist positions. As it appears that today's attack came from the left side of the political spectrum and with existing and continuing right-wing violence, political bargains will only be found where the extreme tails of each side overlap, making them less and less likely.
This surely is patently obvious to scholars of political violence. But the point is that the labeling is only marginally important compared to the acts themselves. There's no point in arguing in circles about this being terrorism or not while our politics spin into a more-violent orbit.
It's been a long time since I've done any regular blogging. Not since Ink Spots was still a thing, for those of you that remember that. While still writing occasionally for War on the Rocks, I've found an urge to write shorter, less formal thoughts. Particularly around my research and longer form writing.
I expect that this will follow some of my dissertation and its methods as I work on that in earnest over the next year. Some of what I write will be ideas for other research that the conduct of my dissertation precludes, as well as interesting reads and thoughts on the field of the study of conflict and war. But these things tend to have a life of their own, so we'll see where it leads.