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Chris Blattman

Chris Blattman is an Associate Professor at Columbia University. Through his blog, Chris explores statistics and cultural trends to examine poverty and political participation. His weekly links capture some of the best content on the web.

Cyber Warfare Is Getting Real: The risk of escalation from cyberattacks has never been greater—or the pursuit of peace more complicated

In 2022, an American dressed in his pajamas took down North Korea’s internet from his living room. Fortunately, there was no reprisal against the United States. But Kim Jong Un and his generals must have weighed retaliation and asked themselves whether the so-called independent hacker was a front for a planned and official American attack.In 2023, the world might not get so lucky. There will almost certainly be a major cyberattack. It could shut down Taiwan’s airports and trains, paralyze...

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The Hard Truth About Long Wars: Why the Conflict in Ukraine Won’t End Anytime Soon

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, few observers imagined that the war would still be raging today. Russian planners did not account for the stern resistance of Ukrainian forces, the enthusiastic support Ukraine would receive from Europe and North America, or the various shortcomings of their own military. Both sides are now dug in, and the fighting could carry on for months, if not years. Why is this war dragging on? Most conflicts are brief. Over the last two centuries, most wars...

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Spectator picks WWF as a best book of 2022

Philip Hensher There were some very good novels this year, but they came from surprising directions. It is astonishing that one as original as Kate Barker-Mawjee’s The Coldest Place on Earth (Conrad Press, £9.99) couldn’t find a major publisher. A friend recommended this wonderfully controlled and evocatively written novel about a heart coming to life in the depths of Siberia.  I always enjoy Mick Herron’s half-arsed spy thrillers, but Bad Actors (Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99)...

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From street fights to world wars: What gang violence can teach us about conflict

Episode 65 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast explores why violence occurs from the local to the geopolitical level and how conflict can revert back to peace. Our guests today begin by asserting that peace—and not war—is the natural order of things for the human race. They then propose and identify five theoretical mechanisms that cause breakdowns in societies and discuss why different groups end up resorting to violence. Our guests then compare and contrast the characteristics of...

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The prospects for war with China: Why I see a serious chance of World War III in the next decade

When I wrote my book on war, I avoided ongoing conflicts because I didn’t want the book to be dated the moment it came out. The roots of war and the paths to peace are timeless, and I wanted examples that made this permanence clear. Still, it was hard not to read obsessively about the conflicts facing today’s world and develop opinions. Over the next few months I plan to write a series on some of the most troublesome conflicts, and what I think social science has to say about them. I’ll...

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When is War Justified?

Oct 24, 2022 12:00 pm 53:02 mins Most Americans have never fought in a war, or even had our lives disrupted by one. Does being so far removed from the loss and trauma make us more willing to send our military into battle? This is the first of two episodes we’re dedicating to thinking more deeply about the consequences of war. Rarely is going to war clearly the right or wrong choice. When is war justified? We're hoping that, by really embracing the nuance here, we'll...

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Vox FuturePerfect50

Chris Blattman is an economist and political scientist at the University of Chicago, but he’s not the type to dwell in an ivory tower working purely on theoretical questions. Instead, he does empirical work that gathers data from the real world — which then influences the real world in turn. His recent research focuses on violence, asking questions like: Why do people fight? How can we reduce the chance that criminal violence or war will spring up or stop it once it has? He’s explored...

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The 5 reasons wars happen

Whether it is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of nuclear strikes or Chinese belligerence in the Taiwan Strait, the United States seems closer to a great power war than at any time in recent decades. But while the risks are real and the United States must prepare for each of these conflicts, by focusing on the times states fight—and ignoring the times they resolve their conflicts peacefully and prevent escalation—analysts and policymakers risk misjudging our rivals and...

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