I’ve been reworking my syllabus for Winter 2020’s Civil War seminar. But explosion of research over the last two decades has made it impossible to even try to survey the field (especially since the quarter system at Chicago means we have a grand total of nine class sessions). So I went ahead and created a recommended reading list on civil war and political violence. It’s still wildly incomplete still (I know there is a ton of important missing research), but hopefully can give a more representative picture of the field than the syllabus. It will be permanently linked to on the Students page of my site. I will update it as I remember or see work to include. I hope it’s useful.
India’s revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has triggered substantial concern among Democrats in Congress, leading to a heated committee hearing in the House on October 22, 2019. In addition to House Democrats like Pramila Jayapal, several Senate Democrats, especially Chris Van Hollen (as well as Republican Lindsey Graham), have been vocally skeptical of post-August 5 Indian policies. Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have similarly criticized the human rights situation in the Kashmir Valley.
This made me wonder what the landscape of US public opinion toward India is, especially the party politics at play.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs runs excellent polling on US opinion toward foreign policy. Their 2019 report (p. 33) shows overall quite positive views of the US-India relationship among Americans (and very negative views of the US relationship with Pakistan):
With the bulk of criticisms on Kashmir coming from Democrats, what can we say about partisan divisions in US opinion?
The figure below is from the Chicago Council’s 2017 report (page 15), comparing confidence in countries to “deal responsibly with world problems”:
In this measure, we see a partisan divide – Democrats are more pro-India than Republicans by 14-16 percentage points, with “Core Trump Supporters” similar to Republicans. There are similar partisan splits with regard to Russia (notice the striking shift in Republicans’ views from 2015 to 2017!), China (Democrats +12 in 2017), the EU ( Democrats +19 in 2017, and +25 vs. Trumpists), and Germany (Democrats +15). Japan doesn’t get that treatment.
The Council in 2017 also asked respondents what they think about countries’ global influence, from 0 to 10, with 10 being the greatest influence (p. 31):
The differences are not massive, so we wouldn’t want to put too much weight on them, but here again we see evidence that Democrats are generally more pro-India than Republicans at the level of mass opinion. The variability by country is striking: Trump supporters are substantially more likely to view the US and Russia as more influential than Democrats and independents, while the pattern is reversed for the EU, Germany, South Korea, and India. There aren’t noticeable differences in views of China and the UK. The difference between Democrats and Trump supporters in views of India is .6, around the difference between Democrats and Republicans (but not Trump core backers, which is .8) in views of Russia; Democrat/Republican splits in views of India are similar to Democrat/Republican splits in views of Germany.
In her analysis of the 2015 Chicago Council poll, which asked about the desirability of countries’ leadership in global politics, Alyssa Ayres noted a Democratic tilt toward India (small, but larger than that on the EU or Russia).
In turn, there is evidence from Pew in 2018 that Indians join Russians and Germans as being “much more likely to say their country is playing a bigger role in world affairs than are people in other countries.” It does not bode well for mutual understanding if Americans think of India as somewhat important but not massively so, while Indians believe Americans do – or should – think India is more important than Americans actually do.
While the House hearings have had minimal media impact in the US – the spiraling political crisis in Washington has sucked up all the attention, among various other pressing disasters – this is an interesting time for the politics of US-India relations. With all the caveats that come with these kinds of data, it does appear to be the case that Democrats have been more pro-India in recent years. Some of this may be due to Indian-Americans tending toward the Democrats, but they remain only 1% of voters, so it not simply due to that alone.
How might we make sense of this potential change? Put simply, the rise of the BJP as India’s dominant party is not something that most Democrats are likely to view with great enthusiasm, nor any kind of Indian embrace of the staggeringly-unpopular Donald Trump (one can imagine reactions when PM Modi said in Houston that “I admire him [Trump] for something more: his sense of leadership, a passion for America, a concern for every American, a belief in American future, and a strong resolve to make America great again”). India’s justifications for its actions in Kashmir have clearly not persuaded a chunk of Democratic lawmakers, despite Indian diplomatic efforts. The globalized media environment makes other countries’ political systems more legible than in decades past: every campaign speech by Amit Shah is immediately visible to a global audience, as is every report about conditions in the Kashmir Valley.
Blaming the “liberal media” is a standard Republican line that will not get much traction among those Democrats already inclined toward skepticism. Ambassador Shringla arguing that the American media has been peddling “half-truths, untruths, factually incorrect information” similarly may not have been wildly compelling.
As Ashley Tellis has recently argued, Trump’s foreign policy toward India has been “transactional” and characterized by “capriciousness”; the dominant Trumpist wing of the Republican party should not be seen as a source of consistent comfort. In turn, with Democrats putting a greater emphasis on values and human rights in the Trump era, and identifying the spread of global illiberalism as a threat to American democracy (see, for instance, Sitaraman, Wright, Sanders, and Magsamen et al.; it’s worth noting that none of them prominently mention India one way or another), India’s favorable domestic coalition in the US may be facing new strains in the coming years.
- I wrote a skeptical op-ed in the Hindustan Times about the government’s move on Article 370. As I note, I could easily be wrong, but my judgment is that this is a much riskier and less straightforward policy shift than much of the hyperbolic, government-line-backing discussion in India (to a lesser extent, the US) suggests: “Kashmir: A bold strategy isn’t always wise”
- I participated in podcasts on the topic: Deep Dish with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and The World Unpacked by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
- Drew Stommes and I published a piece in The Print summarizing some data we have gathered on the demography of India’s main paramilitary forces (the Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force) and Army. The academic version, with way more stuff, is here, and the dataset is available here.
- Austin Carson and I went on the Thank You for Your Service podcast to discuss civil-military relations around the world and in the US, as well as a huge variety of other topics.
I vividly remember reading Max Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation” as a college freshman; mixed with passages that baffled me were remarkable insights that still stick with me. Here are 2 articles discussing its meaning on its 100th anniversary:
A pair of interesting pieces on what 21st century warfare may be moving toward:
- Christian Brose, “The New Revolution in Military Affairs,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019.
- Robert Work and Greg Grant, “Beating the Americans at Their Own Game: An Offset Strategy with Chinese Characteristics,” Center for a New American Security, 2019.
I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while doing dishes, mowing the lawn, etc. When not listening to photography shows (i.e. the Classic Lenses Podcast), I focus on Asia and foreign policy podcasts. Here are a few recommendations, in no order (I listen to all of them on iTunes, but links are to whatever pops up most easily when I googled):
The Diplomat/Asia Geopolitics – a very granular, background-to-the-news podcast ably hosted by Ankit Panda. Covers all of Asia, including places/topics that tend not to get much attention in US media.
National Security Conversations with Happymon Jacob. Jacob, a JNU academic with a broad public profile in India’s security debates, interviews a guest on a specific topic each week. Excellent for giving a wide variety of perspectives on India’s security and foreign policy from prominent Indian journalists, scholars, analysts, and former policymakers.
Bombshell. A now-classic War on the Rocks podcast, often with a female NatSec-focused guest. Mostly built around the insights and personalities of Erin Simpson, Radha Iyengar, and Loren DeJonge Schulman. Very enjoyable and covers a wide range of US and international topics; manages to stay fresh.
Three Things from the Indian Express. I listen to this news summary show when I want to immerse in day-to-day happenings in Indian politics. It’s too much to keep up with otherwise, but was invaluable in the aftermath of Pulwama and through the 2019 general election, and when I was teaching my IR of South Asia class.
Grand Tamasha. Milan Vaishnav’s show blends interviews with summaries of what’s been happening in Indian politics. It does a really nice job bringing in journalists and academics to provide analysis.
Ganatantra. A primarily-academic show on Indian politics and society – based on interviews with scholars of particular topics; good for selected deep-dives.
Tea Leaves. Kurt Campbell and Rich Verma’s interview-based show. More a celebration of the guests than back-and-forth analytical, but still often insightful.
Asia Chessboard. Hosted by Mike Green at CSIS, a new interview-based focus on Asia strategy and geopolitics. Similar to Tea Leaves, in ways good and bad.
Jaw Jaw. Another War on the Rocks podcast; Brad Carson does a great job pushing interviewees hard on their views of the rise of China – lots of willingness to get into debates and push back on guests’ arguments. The first season was on China and is now finished; not sure what will come next but the China interviews were diverse and fascinating.
Power Problems. I’m not a Cato Institute person in my general politics, but their views of foreign policy are often thought-provoking. Hosted by Emma Ashford and Trevor Thrall.
Drew Stommes and I just published an article in India Review that introduces a set of new data we’ve collected in the last four or so years on fatalities among India’s internal security forces. It is fairly comprehensive, we hope, on the CRPF and BSF, substantially less so on the Army, and, unfortunately, incomplete and problematic (with huge variation in both) on the state police forces.
The project began while I aimlessly googling around and found a pair of massive PDFs that MHA had published to commemorate those who died in service, which then begin a multi-year process of trying to more systematically gather relevant information. I personally found the demographics of the MHA forces to be the newest and most interesting set of findings – with important caveats, there appear to be substantial regional imbalances in the composition of these forces (some intended, some perhaps not).
The data are available in the Data section of my website – we’d love for researchers and analysts to use and improve them.