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The editors here at The Plot are extraordinarily pleased to be writing you from Vienna, Austria (at the imposing former imperial palace of Schloss Schönbrunn, no less), where some of the world’s finest political scientists have converged this week for the Fifth Annual EPSA General Conference.

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War with crazy types

Grillo Cover

Is it possible that Bashar al-Assad is simply just crazy? Of course, it is always more likely than not that a political leader is in fact rational – even for the likes of Kim Jong-un, Muammar Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussein. But can we always be 100% certain that a given policymaker is rational? The odds that he or she is crazy may be low – like 5%, 1% or even a tenth of a percent – but they are not 0% for every leader.

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Is prevention better than cure?

Photo credit: ekgtechniciansalary.org

Most people would answer “yes”. It is better for people’s well-being to prevent a problem than to deal with it once it arrives. And it saves public money. Governments now try to implement prevention strategies across a wide range of social policies, including health and mental health, crime, and early childhood development.

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An ‘A’ for effort: Experimental evidence on UN Security Council engagement and support for US military action

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has often adopted resolutions to authorise the American use of force. What do these resolutions communicate to the wider public overseas? Will they increase levels of support for US military action? A survey study [link to article] we have conducted in Japan finds not only that UNSC resolutions increase levels of support, but also that resolutions which failed due to a Chinese or Russian veto will still secure high levels of support for the use of force. If a draft resolution is withdrawn, however, or the US gives up on diplomacy, then public support falls. Foreign public opinion gives an ‘A’ for diplomatic effort when the US at least tries to pass a resolution; self-withdrawal is the worst case for the US.

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Political Secularism, Religion and the State

Secularism Cover

Religion is intertwined with politics in every country in the world, though how this manifests is unique in each country. For example, in Germany – a state that still levies a religious tax for members of recognized religions – recent court cases addressed whether the government could regulate the ritual of circumcision for Jews and Muslims and whether it could ban the religious headwear of Muslim women. Much of the Muslim world is in a state of civil war over the role religion should play in government and which interpretation of Islam should be dominant.

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