Today Algeria is heading for the ballot box. Algeria experts Mehdi Lazar and Sidi-Mohammed Nehad explain why today’s elections could be of central importance for Algeria’s political future. Since the partitioning of the Sudan, Algeria is the largest African country and a primary regional power in the Mediterranean region. Therefore, the condition of this North African pivot-state is essential […]
Elections to the European Parliament in May will have a special significance. They will either help the EU regain public trust or let it sink further: it’s a “make it or break it” game.
Europhiles want to stick to the EU because the end of European integration is likely to hamper businesses and take Europe back to old style geopolitics with numerous destabilizing implications. They want to reform the EU, but they cannot imagine integration without it.
Eurosceptics have little trust in the EU’s ability to reform itself. They want to bring power back home from Brussels and replace European integration by inter-state cooperation.
Both groups are right and wrong on some issues, which means that neither Plan A nor Plan B is ideal. Eurosceptics are right to argue that reforming the EU is a hopeless exercise. In today’s huge and multi-layered Union, bold reforms are contentious while timid ones are useless. Would people rush to the ballot box in May if they were told that the European Parliament is no longer to travel between Strasbourg and Brussels? And does anybody believe that a president of the European Commission elected by a popular vote will be able to bridge differences between creditor and debtor states within the EU?
We are about to experience a substantial influx of unmanned systems into the maritime military services. On 17 December 2013, the Royal Navy launched a Boeing ScanEagle unmanned aerial system from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay, a first for the RN in an operational theatre. This places the Royal Navy alongside the British Army and Royal Air Force in demonstrated drone capability; the latter service has been operating surveillance drones in Afghanistan for years. Since 2012, ScanEagle systems have been in regular use by the Royal Canadian Navy. In May 2013, the Royal Australian Navy announced it would invest up to $3 billion on Northrop Grumman’s new MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime patrol aircraft. Additionally, the latest Fire Scouts are coming online, Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C, following its predecessor whose service in the U.S. Navy is now routine. A recent expansion of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., included the opening of a Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. The U.S. Navy announced it would introduce mine-hunting surface units by 2017, and it will not be too long before General Dynamics’ Unmanned Undersea Vehicle program produces workable unmanned submarines. Most dramatically, on 10 July 2013, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B fighter drone successfully landed on board the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77).
Technological revolutions in warfare, whether bow and arrow, gunpowder, or unmanned systems, inevitably bring about a period of tumult and reshuffling. If we are lucky, such upheaval also brings systematic self-reflection. What changes might this newest revolution in maritime technology bring about?
Lamenting the marginalization of an increasingly cloistered academic elite has once again become de rigueur among the chattering classes. Under the tagline “Smart Minds, Small Impact” Nicholas Kristof recently fired off yet another salvo in the charged debate over the role of the professoriate, lamenting that “my onetime love, political science, is a particular offender and seems to be trying, in terms of practical impact, to commit suicide.” John Maynard Keynes likewise dismissed them as “mad scribblers,” but American scholars of political science and international relations—more so than their counterparts in other countries—are in a comparatively advantageous position to have their ideas fed into the public discourse.
A far more pertinent issue raised by Kristof’s piece is buried in his subsequent blog post: “When I was a kid, the Kennedy Administration had its “brain trust” of Harvard faculty members, and university professors were often vital public intellectuals who served off and on in government.” It bespeaks a nostalgic, if unwitting, yearning for the halcyon days when a coterie of sagacious men brought their talents to bear on considerable foreign policy problems. This “Wise Men” syndrome perpetuates outdated notions of what it means to be a “great thinker” in this field. The real problem with political science academe today isn’t that the professoriate’s leading lights and prominent graduates are incapable of disseminating impactful ideas. The pages of Foreign Affairs are littered with pontifications by top-notch scholars such as Robert Jervis, John Ruggie, and Vali Nasr, who moonlight as governmental consultants, as well as by respected academics such as Stephen Krasner, Francis Fukuyama, and Joseph Nye, who have all experienced stints in public service. The problem, rather, is that still so few of them are women.