Writing Armageddon

Writing Armageddon
Furious writing or writing furiously?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Active Learning Component using Bloody Big Battles

This semester I am teaching IR 311: War beyond Europe. The course has two goals

1) to familiarize students with 4 key wars that took place in parts of he world outside Europe. These were the War of the Triple Alliance and the War of the Pacific in Latin America, the 1st Sino-Japanese War, and the Eritrean-Ethiopian War.

2) it is a writing intensive course with the goal of imparting to the students the basics of good academic writing (largely based on what I learned in the Little Red Schoolhouse in the University of Chicago).

As part of the course, and in service of goal (1), I had the students participate in one of two active learning components. These were representations of key battles in the War of the Triple Alliance, and the War of the Pacific, Tuyuti and Tacna respectively. I used the rules system Bloody Big Battles, which has been used in other institutions of learning for pedagogical purposes. The system is for historical battles with miniatures (though one can use counters and 2d maps), in the vein of H.G. Wells "Little Wars", though much more sophisticated.

The Tuyuti Scenario Group

Friday, April 21, 2017

21 Απριλίου 1967/21st April 1967

Η δικτατορία της 21ς Απριλίου είναι ίσως το χειρότερο πράγμα που συνέβη στην Ελλάδα μετά τον εμφύλιο, και όχι μόνο λόγω των βασανιστηρίων και του Κυπριακού. Δεν θέλω να είμαι ουτοπικός αλλά πιστεύω ακράδαντα ότι αν ο Γεώργιος Παπανδρέου, ο Πρεσβύτερος, είχε αφεθεί να κυβερνήσει την Ελλάδα για δυο τετραετίες η χώρα σήμερα θα βρίσκονταν σε καλύτερη θέση. Ότι έκανε ο Ανδρέας με απότομο και εν τέλει καταστροφικό τρόπο, την ενσωμάτωση των «χαμένων» και «αποκλεισμένων» της νόθας δημοκρατίας, θα είχε γίνει με πιο εξελικτικό τρόπο. Ο καταστροφικός λαικισμος του 80 δεν θα είχε συμβεί με την ένταση που συνέβη. Οι θεσμοί της δημοκρατίας θα είχαν ενδυναμωθεί. Το παλάτι μπορεί και μπορεί να μην το είχαμε. Αδιάφορο, καθότι ο Έλληνας βασιλιάς θα ήταν ακόμα λιγότερο θεσμικό πρόσωπο από τον Σουηδό. Το πιο σημαντικό είναι ότι δεν νομίζω ότι θα είχε ακολουθήσει η αλόγιστη σπάταλη τον περιόδων 80-90-2000. Αναγκαία και κατανοητή λόγω των σαθρών καθεστώτων του 40-50-60-70, αλλά καταστροφική. Και το Κυπριακό ναι μεν θα το είχαμε θέμα, αλλά με τελείως άλλη μορφή, και χωρίς το καταστροφικό μέγεθος της προσφυγιάς. Όλα αυτά είναι πιθανά. Ίσως να μην συνέβαινε έτσι. 

Γεωργίος Παπανδρέου-Georgıos Papandreou

Αλλά την πιθανότητα αυτή μας την στέρησε ένας φαύλος βασιλιάς, μια προδοτική Δεξιά, και η ανοησία μελών της CIA. Και ακόμα τα πληρώνουμε.

A dark anniversary for Greece. In a climate of political crisis created by the refusal of the monarchy, elements of the capitalist class, and parties of the Right to accept the possibility of a Left-Liberal government under Georgios Papanderou (the Elder) which might had led to the gradual re-rehabilitation of the millions that had been excluded from the political and paternalistic economic system after the Civil War, elements within the US government and CIA and the Greek military prepared a coup d'etat by the top brass.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Why counterfactuals driven only by ideology are bad. A reaction to Micael Kazin’s “Should America Have Entered World War I?”

Why counterfactuals driven only by ideology are bad. A reaction to Micael Kazin’s “Should America Have Entered World War I?”
by Konstantinos Travlos 

Counterfactuals have a proud tradition both in popular history and in the use of social science (see JamesFearon “Counterfactuals and Hypothesis Testing in Political Science”). They can help as tease out causal mechanisms and find key decisions in decision tracing. And for many they are a kind of wish-fulfillment.  We cannot change the past, but we can always try to envision how the past would be different. This second type is the one that drives a lot of the alternative history literature.

There is a danger though in that last form of counterfactual. If it is driven by nothing more than wish-fulfillment, then rather than interrogating the historical process that writer will shoe-horn it into their favorite narrative to prove their point. They will in another name choose the interpretation that supports their prejudice. In more social scientific terms, they will choose on the dependent variable. This is exactly what Michael Kazin, historian at Georgetown and editor of the radical progressive magazine Dissent does  in his New York Times opinion piece “ShouldAmerica Have Entered World War I”.

In a quick summary, he argues that the entrance of the US into World War I led to the German decision to lunch Operation Kaiserschlacht (the Spring Offensive in 1918) whose failure led to the decision of Ludendorff and Hindenburg to give up the war. If the US had not entered the war he argues that the war would had lasted one to two more years, a negotiated settlement would had followed forced by the publics, and the political powers that rose from Versailles to feed World War Two would never had risen. This counter-argument is wrong. 

Woodrow Wilson: Racist, Progressive, Political Scientist, US President, War Victor. But also the man at fault for World War 2?