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At the 2005 UN World Summit, more than 170 Heads of State and Government accepted three interlinked responsibilities, which together constitute the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). First, States accepted the responsibility to protect their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Second, States promised to assist each other in fulfilling their domestic protection responsibilities. And third, the international community took on a collective responsibility to react, in a timely and decisive manner, if particular States are manifestly failing to protect their populations from the abovementioned mass atrocity crimes. Despite a quite remarkable normative development (see for example the frequent invocation of R2P in relation to the recent Libya crisis), this R2P principle is …

  Obama’s landmark health care reform legislation was perhaps the most consequential social policy change in the U.S. in several decades. And we now know that whether it will fully go into effect will depend on the views of the nine unelected, life-tenured justices of the Supreme Court. After Bush v. Gore and Citizens United many Court observers have become jaded, viewing the Court’s actions simply as extensions of politics.  This view has a strong pedigree in political science and, if it is correct, it’s pretty easy to predict what will happen to the health care law: down it goes.  Four justices are solidly conservative and there is little doubt about their policy preferences.  A fifth, Justice Kennedy, is a …

On Friday, 11 November, 2011, Nuffield College hosted a panel of scholars in the field of American politics, identity, and race, to discuss the September 2011 publication of Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama’s America by Desmond S. King and Rogers M. Smith. The dialogue that ensued engaged the authors with a series of questions surrounding the book’s central thesis: despite the real progress in racial equality achieved by the 1960s civil rights legislation, the United States political institution has been caught in between two modes of conceptualizing, and enacting policy, about race— both of which have failed to close the tremendous gap in racial disparities in social and economic welfare that are a legacy of American …

Only three years ago, pundits and political scientists saw the 2008 American presidential election as the beginning of a new era in Washington: the rise of President Obama and a strong Democratic majority in both houses of Congress meant that after eight years away from Pennsylvania Avenue, liberals could again implement political programmes and reforms free from Republican meddling. It provided an opportunity for a fresh progressive platform and created a new mood unlike any since the early years of the Clinton administration, or maybe since the dawn of the Great Society in the 1960s. The conservatives, meanwhile, were in despair; heavy losses darkened the mood and they saw Obama as a charismatic leader who would be difficult to beat, …

Christine Cheng has recently co-published an article with Margit Tavits in Political Research Quarterly  arguing that  female party presidents in Canada are more likely to nominate female party candidates. The research is based on original data from Canada’s 2004 and 2006 federal elections. When the party’s gatekeeper or president is female, the candidate is also six percent more likely to be a woman. The effect is small, but statistically significant, making it important to consider in policies aimed at increasing female representation in politics. Namely, beyond parties’ formal rules to encourage female participation, informal interactions matter. Having more women in top political posts can be just as effective for attracting women to politics as formal party regulations. Another important finding …

Pardon the self-promotion: I reviewed a new book on Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian and realist political thinker during the Cold War, in last week’s Economist. Niebuhr died in the 1970’s but both Democrats and Republicans lean on his advice (even if misread) to guide their modern foreign policy views. Here is a snippet from my review of the book, Why Niebuhr Now?, by John Patrick Diggins, the late American intellectual historian. AFTER years in the doldrums, Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, is enjoying a comeback. Although Niebuhr died in 1971, he is nowadays often name-dropped in opinion columns and highbrow chat as the ideal mind to help guide 21st-century political leaders through the ups and downs of world affairs. It …

Tony Blair A Journey: My Political Life Knopf, 2010 720 Pages £35.00 ISBN 978-0307269836 “This shows what it’s like being Prime Minister. That’s exactly what the readers want to know. How does it feel to run a country? How does it feel to be so cut off? How does it feel to be so hated?” –  ”The Ghost” This is the obvious checklist for a political memoir, a genre which still manages to be notoriously boring. Tony Blair’s A Journey, though, purposefully evokes a sense of unceasing contingency about the life of the 51st British prime minister. His thematically organized memoir is a folksy, well-paced, and at times cinematic rendering of a decade in office begun in exhilaration and finished …