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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Conference paper

In the next six weeks or so, I have to write a paper for mid-October delivery at the 2010 annual conference of the International Security Studies Section of ISA and the International Security and Arms Control Section of APSA. That's a mouthful, eh?

As my title and abstract reveal, the paper is part of the ongoing comedy book project. Almost every conference paper I've delivered over the past few years fits into the project.

“The Buildup to the Iraq War as Farce”

Realist international relations theorists such as Jervis, Lebow, Mearsheimer, and Morgenthau commonly describe world politics in terms of tragedy. Dramatically, tragic narratives focus on the downfall or death of an elite character, often caused by the protagonist’s inherent character flaws. The stories are set in the Great Hall or on the battlefield and reveal how little control (despite concerted attempts) the protagonist has over difficult situations and conflict. Despite the obvious parallels with realist views of IR, however, the events of global politics often seem more like farce than tragedy. Farcical narratives often focus on elites, but place the characters in improbable or ludicrous situations that may be exaggerated for comic effect – even though the threat of violent action that would shock the audience may loom over the tale. These are usually frantically paced stories serving to reveal the ridiculous and to critique the characters and the situation. A farce often turns on intentional acts of deception, but does not end in the complete downfall or death of the protagonist.

This paper will explain the buildup to the Iraq war in terms of farce – focusing on the period between August 2002 and March 2003. As is now well-known, the war was premised on evidence and rationales that have been largely undermined by subsequent revelations and events. In retrospect, the claims were improbable and ludicrous. Can international relations scholars recognize a farce while they are observing it?

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