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This series organized by USC School of International Relations PhD alumnus David Bridge, now Assistant Professor of Political Science at Baylor University.
Chair: Patrick James, USC
Discussant: Eric Hamilton (USC)
“Ideology, National Interest, and Foreign Policy in Dictatorships”
Eric Fleury (Baylor University)
Abstract: Recent events in Crimea have reignited a discussion on the motivations behind foreign policy in a dictatorial state. One side emphasizes a direct correlation between the will of the leadership and the content of policy, whether informed by personal greed, psychological malady, or ideological orthodoxy. Alternately, dictators provide a necessary reminder that international politics remains the realm of anarchy and self-help, despite the liberal preference for diplomacy and multilateralism. This paper aims to establish an alternative to these prevailing explanations, and improve understanding of the foreign policy decision-making process in regimes designated as “rogue states.” In states where a supreme ideology regulates all legitimate political action, such an ideology is neither the wellspring of policy nor a gloss on realpolitik. The subservience of policy to ideology grants immense freedom of action; the indisputable good of the ideological objective sanctions nearly anything that can plausibly bring it about. However, this tactical freedom is purchased at the cost of strategic restraint. The identification of the leadership with transcendent goals requires that each individual move validate the regime’s infallibility, and to disavow any negative externalities as the fault of conspiracy or sabotage. This confines the ideological dictatorship to a series of short-term calculations that gradually constrict the pursuit of long-term strategic ends. As a result, there is no clear separation between the objective conditions of security and the preferences of ideology, as the need to preserve the illusion of ideological purity renders the unalloyed pursuit of interests impossible.
“The Contingent Support for Human Rights: How Violent Crime Influences State Repression”
Mauricio Rivera Celestino (CIS Postdoc Fellow, USC)
Abstract: Does violent crime influence state repression and human rights violations? While an autocratic government faced with violent crime is likely to deploy repression, either to signal state’s strength or guarantee order, the crime-repression nexus is far more complex in democracies where state’s authorities face significant constraints that increase the costs of human rights violations. I relax the traditional assumption in the repression literature that citizens punish state repressive behavior in democracies, and instead consider citizens' support for human rights as contextually determined. I argue that high violent crime rates increase real and perceived threats to personal integrity and worsen public safety, and thus citizens are likely to demand repressive methods of law enforcement. With public safety as an imperative, governments resort to repression to curb violence and strengthen public security. The results indicate that violent crime substantively increases the likelihood of disappearances, torture, and extra-judicial killings. Analysis at the individual level from Latin American countries is also consistent with the argument as crime victimization and perception of public insecurity are positively related to individuals' preferences for state abuses.