Saturday, June 28, 2014

Charli Carpenter's "'Lost' Causes"

R. Charli Carpenter is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, specializing in international relations, gender and political violence, transnational advocacy networks, human rights, and the laws of war. She is the author of Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond, Innocent Women and Children: Gender, Norms, and the Protection of Civilians, and editor of Born of War: Protecting Children of Sexual Violence Survivors in Conflict Zones.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, "Lost" Causes: Agenda Vetting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security,and reported the following:
Page 99 of "Lost" Causes is an excerpt from one of the three case studies that illustrates the broader argument - the story of how autonomous weapons got on the international agenda. The bigger question in the book is why some issues get picked up by global advocacy networks and others don't, and the answer to the question is about the social relations and power dynamics within global networks themselves. I develop this argument broadly in the first two chapters, then illustrate it with three case studies of norm entrepreneurs attempting to market their issues to global advocacy "gatekeepers."

In the case of autonomous weapons, the issue of their humanitarian and ethical implications was first championed by two separate networks of scientific experts: the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), which opposes the development and deployment of autonomous weapons, and the Consortium on Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security (CETMONS), which tended to argue in favor of R&D into such systems while insisting that any such systems be programmed to comply with the laws of war. Today, advocates of a straight-line ban on such systems are generally in contestation with those who see autonomous weapons as a potential humanitarian advance over human soldiers if properly programmed, but in the issue formation period between 2007-2012 the synergistic interaction between these two networks helped promulgate the more basic idea that global governance was needed in this emerging area.

From p. 99:
Even though these two networks possess different network ties, adopt different outreach strategies, and are somewhat at odds prescriptively (both in their substantive claims and the extent to which they take open positions), they do enjoy considerable synergy and interaction. Both groups aim to spark a wider discussion about the ethics of autonomous weaponry in advance of their widespread deployment and use in contemporary battle-spaces. And while these are correctly understood as distinct epistemic networks, individuals in each enjoy social ties with both... most importantly, both were simultaneously courting advocacy elites to legitimate and disseminate the notion that the ethical dimension of advances in autonomous weaponry should be front and center on the international agenda.
The page then introduces a new sub-section, entitled "From Agenda-Vetting to Issue Adoption by Network Hubs," which also encapsulates and underscores a key argument in the book: that because of the structural features of global policy networks entrepreneurs succeed best when they can market their issues to organizations most central to thematically specific networks - in this case, Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of the Red Cross. As the new section on p. 99 begins to detail, this dynamic was very evident to the early strategic thinking of norm entrepreneurs worried about autonomous weapons:
From the start, both CETMONS and ICRAC's founders recognized that to really promote ethical standards they needed the assistance and legitimation of professional advocacy organizations. Indeed, most were extremely humble about their own abilities as advocates, preferring instead to incite a discussion that would be promoted by ohters. In 2011 Robert Sparrow told me, "ICRAC suffers from being an organization comprised of academics... academic research and political activism aren't the same thing. People have full-time research or teaching commitments, and at the moment we don't have the activist base to really motivate arms control around these particular weapons." Similarly, Ron Arkin never pictured himself as an advocate, describing himself as "just a roboticist" who recognized hat if norm development would take place in this area it would be organizations with credentials and connections in the area of war law that would need to carry the banner. According to [Noel] Sharkey: "I'm not trying to be an advocate. I would like other people to take it up who are better able to. All I am is an academic with some access to the media and some technical expertise, but I don't see myself talking to the UN..."
As such, this page does indeed provide a glimpse into the overall argument of the book and a teaser into a case study that nicely illustrates these broader dynamics. Ethical attention to autonomous weapons was sparked off by norm entrepreneurs circa 2007-2009, but only hit the global advocacy agenda upon the launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots by Human Rights Watch in 2012. This confirms the basic claim that network centrality confers important agenda-setting influence on specific organizations. But the wider book is a theory how those organizations decide which issues to focus on. That story, detailed in the subsequent pages of the "killer robots" case study and the other cases on collateral damage compensation and infant male circumcision, is also a story of intra-network politics, as I explain on p. 5: "Advocacy elites choose issues not just based on their merits, or mandate, or the wider political context, but partly on calculations about the structure of their institutional relationships - to other actors, other issues, and to networks themselves. Therefore, understanding how to use network ties strategically is a key ingredient in any recipe for successful global norm entrepreneurship."
Visit Charli Carpenter's website.

The Page 99 Test: Forgetting Children Born of War.

--Marshal Zeringue