A Journey to Rwanda: Backgrounder

•June 22, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Recent articles in the New York Review of Books and, in the more popular media, a “special report” on Rwanda in U.S. News & World Report are but a few examples in the media of a growing wave of American interest in the small central African country of Rwanda. Once only of interest to cultural anthropologists, political scientists, development experts and others interested in the origins and outbreak of the 1994 genocide (which killed upwards of one million people), Rwanda has attracted the attentions and interests of businesses, tourists, and churches, all called, it seems, to understand Rwanda in ways that the social scientists have not.

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The Perils of Deliberation

•December 19, 2006 • Leave a Comment

Suddenly, George W. Bush has become a thoughtful, reflective and deliberate leader—or so he tells us. Following the release of the Iraq Study Group’s findings, simply “rushing” into a new strategy (read: “cut and run; cut and walk; “graceful exit,” pick your poison) is now a bad idea. We have gone from “slam-dunk” to “Well, just wait there a minute, fella!” Only those who were against the war in the first place (or, alternatively, those who think no one pays attention as they daily sample the winds of political change and switch directions accordingly) are asking: where was caution and real deliberation before the invasion of Iraq?

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Editorial Note

•December 19, 2006 • Leave a Comment

After a long absence, I have returned to res publica. I have a bit of time again, and there are a number of things that are going on that have got me thinking. They have a lot of people thinking. I hope to contribute to the discourse.

The Fog of War

•February 1, 2006 • Leave a Comment

In the Fall of 2001, I was teaching a large, introductory Political Science course. On September 12th, I went to class, but decided to set aside my prepared lecture in order to discuss the events of the day before. After some discussions about the attacks, the likely perpetrators, and the already-emerging references to Pearl Harbor and the opening battle of a war, I stopped the discussion to pose a scenario. "Imagine," I said, "that a small group of angry men spend months, possibly years plotting an attack on largely symbolic targets that represent the object of their hatred. They intend to kill many people in a spectacular, almost surreal attack. They know they will die in the attack, but they are more interested in the shock, mayhem, fear, and disbelief the will instill within the general public. They will have shown that, ultimately, the powerless have real power."

"Does this scenario ring a bell?" I asked.

One of my students raised her hand and replied, "It sounds a lot like Columbine."

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What’s in a name?

•January 25, 2006 • Leave a Comment

So what does “res publica” mean, and why did I choose it for this site?

Perhaps the subtitle of the blog provides a clue: “reflections on politics, civil society, and the state.” What I was hoping to be able to do was to look into how we think about the role of government in our lives, the market, and about governance generally, with a view to sometimes unpacking political problems and issues by examining the embedded assumptions we all have as we approach political and social problems, and what we should do about them.

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A Hobbesian Moment?

•January 19, 2006 • 3 Comments

On January 17th, the New York Times reported that there is a little brouhaha between the FBI and NSA over this whole wiretapping business. Essentially, the NSA is flooding the FBI with all manner of “leads” they are supposed to investigate, regarding potential terrorist activity between al-Qaeda groups overseas and people (presumably, citizens and non-citizens alike) in the United States.

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What constitues “the political”?

•January 15, 2006 • Leave a Comment

An article in the January 12, 2004 edition of the New York Times got me thinking about an important question: what constitutes “the political?” To say that some problem is appropriate for the realm of public policy is one thing, but that may not mean it is a political problem. There might be political dimensions and consequences to an issue, but that is another matter.

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