Kashwan and UN repository

A co-authored paper that Prof. Prakash Kashwan published recently has been added to the “methods” repository of the official website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Congrats!

Prof. Kashwan told us he “brings some of this ongoing policy engagement to the classroom through a new course (POLS 2998: Environmental Policy & Institutions) that I am teaching in the spring.” A flyer for his course is available here.

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Garcia on Mexico’s demographics

Yazmin Garcia Trejo, a POLS PhD student, recently blogged on Mexico’s demographics for the American University Center for Latin American & Latino Studies, where she is a fellow. Congratulations!

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Logie ’15 attends SCUSA

Linnea Logie ’15 was one of two UConn students who attended SCUSA 2014. She tells us about it below. Earlier this week, we heard heard from Briana Bardos ’15 , UConn’s other delegate.

I recently had the honor of attending the 66th annual Student Conference on United States Affairs (SCUSA) at West Point, joining military academy cadets and nearly 250 delegates from across the country and around the globe.  The theme of the conference, “What’s the Worst That Could Happen? The Politics & Policy of Crisis Management,” made for fascinating round-table discussions as delegates, cadets, and expert mentors puzzled over worst-case scenarios ranging from cataclysmic cyber warfare or global pandemic to a nuclear Iran or unchecked Russian aggression.

I, myself, was fortunate to call myself a member of the group charged with drafting U.S. policy responses to the potential use of nuclear weapons by state or non-state actors.  Unsurprisingly, the topic yielded vigorous debate about the likelihood of various overseas conflicts escalating into nuclear war and the appropriate strategic and moral U.S. response to the use of such destructive force.  We did a bit of rudimentary war-gaming, considering the likelihood that regional conflicts between India and Pakistan or Israel and Iran might escalate beyond conventional means of warfare, as well as grappled with the prospective use of nuclear weapons by the North Korean leadership in Pyongyang or by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.

To some, spending several days thus immersed in doomsday scenarios might seem grim, but to conference participants with professed interest in international affairs and a curiosity about crisis management, it was time extremely well spent.  Hearing the diversity of opinions voiced by my fellow delegates and, in particular, the unique perspectives held by the West Point cadets, was truly a highlight of the experience, shedding light on how my peers conceive of a threat that did not pervade our childhoods as it did for those alive during the Cold War but is no less real in what today may be a second nuclear age.  One of our table’s mentors, Dr. Austin Long, prompted arguably the most rewarding conversation held over the course of the conference by expressing a similar interest in how my generation views the terrorist threat, international stability, and American national security in the 21st century.  Like any generation, we differed wildly in our conceptions of such political realities, revealing profoundly different worldviews.

And while SCUSA challenges students to think critically about the issues of the day and facilitates discussion of preventive, as well as contingency, policy planning, it also promotes understanding and friendship between the civilian and military communities that have grown so distant since the discontinuation of the draft.  The almost alien nature of each other’s lifestyles leaves room for misconception and indifference, threatening national unity and the American cause.  SCUSA offers delegates like myself a much-needed window into the disciplined—and grueling—lives of cadets, whose demanding schedules put to shame any college student who laments the cruelty of 8 a.m. classes, while concomitantly lending cadets insight into the lives of students from universities at home and abroad.  Indeed, I was exposed to the stoic beauty of West Point and to the daily activities of cadets in each year of training, gobbling down lunch alongside cadets in the mess hall, touring the grounds and cemetery, and peppering my two roommates (second-year cadets filled with verve and an admirable yearning for self-improvement rarely as pronounced among people my age) in the barracks with endless questions about life at West Point.

Thus, SCUSA lends invaluable perspective, both about the world beyond U.S. shores and about the diversity of the American experience.  The conference was an absolute blast, leaving me not only with fond memories of laughter and fast-friendship, but also with fresh ideas about global affairs and the United States armed services on which to reflect in the days and years to come.

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Bardos ’15 attends SCUSA

Briana Bardos ’15 was one of two UConn students who attended SCUSA 2014. She tells us about it below. Later this week, we will hear from Linnea Logie ’15, UConn’s other delegate.

What did you do at the Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA)?

The objective of the conference was to write a policy paper based on a scenario we were presented at our round table. This year’s conference was entitled, “What’s the Worst that Could Happen? The Politics and Policy of Crisis Management.” The topics of the roundtables were very intriguing and ranged from nuclear war to a zombie apocalypse.

SCUSA 2014

Bardos ’15 is in the first row, second from left.

 

I was part of the roundtable entitled, “After the Cyber Pearl Harbor: Vulnerability and Resiliency in a Networked World.” This topic is something that was extremely new to me; I had heard about cyber warfare in the past, but never in this extreme end-all-be-all sense. I was not alone in this, as many of my peers were in the same boat, with little former knowledge as there is not a large body of literature yet on this topic.
The biggest positive to this was that we were able to really take our discussion and our policy paper wherever we wanted; our table co-chairs were not political scientists but IT guys (with a bit of IR background), so it was a really interesting combination of the technical/IT and policy fronts that made for an intriguing policy paper.

That was the main goal of the conference, but secondarily we needed to write and perform a skit on our topics. I was one of the two skit-writers, ultimately choosing to write a parody song to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” entitled “Hack it Up,” which I would deem to be a success. These two products occurred in the midst of various other activities, including a Keynote Address from retired Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, various delegate social mixers, and a tour of West Point.

SCUSA

Bardos (left) pictured with the other UConn delegate, Linnea Logie.

 

Does being at West Point make any difference in terms of the conference and how it feels (or operates)?

Especially at first, I would say yes. Knowing it’s at West Point, you go in with certain expectations or preconceived notions. For me, I assumed it would be very organized and that the cadets would be very serious (as I had received an email from two of the cadets on my roundtable and the emails came across very stern).

Well, I soon realized these thoughts were wrong. The conference is entirely cadet run-the equivalent of an entirely undergraduate-run conference. Of course, there are going to be issues. For example, the driving directions were a bit unclear and the shuttle was running way off schedule, so myself and two other delegates walked 45-minutes across West Point with all of our luggage to find where we were supposed to go. Honestly, I am really happy that happened, as it made me feel oddly more relaxed about the experience as I realized

SCUSA

that even West Point cadets make mistakes with planning.

The cadet-delegate line very quickly disappeared. Of course, some of the cadets, the first years or the “Pleebs,” had to do things like carry our luggage for us, but for the most part we were just peers who were either working together or hanging out (and the guys I thought were stern were actually really relaxed, way more than I am!). It was really interesting listening to how their experience at West Point is both similar and different to my undergraduate experience, most notably different for me in the living arrangements. Staying in the barracks for three nights was an extremely interesting experience, specifically the extremely high-off-the-ground bunks (which I was lucky to have, as many of my peers received army cots) and the open showers, which honestly were the biggest shock of the entire trip. However, I think staying there was an important part of understanding how the West Point cadets live. I think that being at West Point makes SCUSA more than just a conference and transforms it into an overall experience.

Photos: Briana Bardos.

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Lefebvre: “The Geopolitical Dilemmas of Confronting ISIL/ISIS”

Hot Topics Discussions

“The Geopolitical Dilemmas of Confronting ISIL/ISIS”

Prof. Jeff Lefebvre, Political Science

UCONN Stamford
Room 1.29
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

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Dyson on Booker Finalists

Professor Stephen Dyson wrote about two works of political fiction on the shortlist for the Man Booker prize, Britain’s highest literary honor. Money quote: “Personifying the abstract is fiction’s great gift to political thought. Howard Jacobson’s warning about the future and Neel Mukherjee’s epic of the past offer rich rewards, whatever the final decision of the Booker judges.”

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Dyson on ‘The Leftovers’

Prof. Stephen Dyson wrote about HBO’s saturnine thought experiment ‘The Leftovers’ for the Monkey Cage, a political science blog hosted by the Washington Post. The central point: “The most vivid character, one of the few who seems not to have surrendered to a smothering depression (although it is an open question whether he has retained his grip on reality), is the police chief Kevin Garvey, played by series star Justin Theroux. Garvey still cares enough to get angry over turf wars with the federal government, and to react with humanity when the reconfigured Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives and Cults (ATFEC) offers to “eliminate the infestation” of a Guilty Remnant chapter in his town. In one of the very few instances of humor in the entire season, Garvey toasts a bagel which fails to emerge from the toaster oven – has his breakfast been raptured?”

Congratulations!

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