Friday, December 5, 2008

Warp speed, Mr. Sulu

Ah ha, fooled you all -- bet you thought I'd never seen even one episode of Star Trek.

Right, now to the business at hand. If you go over to The Monkey Cage (see link at the sidebar), which is a blog written by several political science professors, you'll find two recent posts reflecting on that blog's one-year anniversary. The author assesses how well the blog has performed in fulfilling the purposes set out in its inaugural statement, gives statistics on the average number of daily visits to the site (a very impressive figure, by the way, especially for a serious academic blog), and so on.

Howl at Pluto's one-year anniversary will not arrive until May 23, 2009, but when it does, I won't have to write a post like those at The Monkey Cage. Why not? Because I didn't write an inaugural statement, hence there are no explicit benchmarks against which to measure this blog's performance. The pleasures of non-accountability!

It occurs to me, however, that some readers, especially those arriving here via circuitous paths and/or for the first time, might appreciate some remarks about this blog's intended aims. The easiest way to approach this is in a negative fashion, by indicating what the blog does not seek to do.

-- This blog is not primarily a vehicle for partisan politics. Although I made no effort to hide my views on, and preferences in, the '08 election, I was not preoccupied with constantly pummeling McCain and praising Obama. Indeed, I denied that McCain was senile, at a time when some Democratic partisans were claiming the opposite, and I criticized Obama's performance in the first debate.

-- This blog is not primarily a vehicle to publicize the results of social-scientific research. Although I have commented at least once on a scholarly article I found interesting (see the post "Does Tilly's thesis travel to the third world?") and intend to comment occasionally on scholarly articles in the future, it will probably not be a very frequent thing. A lot of the IR journal articles are not that interesting to me, and the ones which are interesting tend to pile up faster than I can read them, unfortunately. There's at least one recent article, on the history of "imposed democracy," that I mean to get to and haven't yet.

-- This blog does not attempt to provide comprehensive, thorough coverage of a particular 'hot topic,' e.g.,
asymmetric warfare, terrorism, counterinsurgency, development, humanitarian emergencies, arms control, defense policy, drug policy, human trafficking, piracy, relations between the U.S. and one particular region of the world, trends in public international law, peacekeeping, climate change, etc., etc. Such coverage is available elsewhere, and while I may occasionally draw on it, there's no point in trying to duplicate it. Within my field, I am a "generalist," and as Walter Russell Mead once wrote: "Generalists are superficially mistaken about a great many subjects; specialists are profoundly mistaken about a few." One could, I suppose, turn this around and say: Generalists are superficially insightful about many subjects; specialists are profoundly insightful about a few. The insights offered here, to the extent there are any, will have to compensate in breadth for what they lack in depth.

So, after all this negativity, what can I say positively about the purpose of this blog? I'm afraid it comes down to something fairly selfish. Although I hope to provide a measure of enlightenment, information, and even perhaps entertainment to readers, this blog exists, as do a lot of other blogs, mainly to indulge a propensity to yap (in slightly Whitmanesque fashion perhaps?) at the world. After all, I'm not making any money at this, so when it stops being fun I will probably stop.

Until then, meet me on the flight deck, Scotty. The Flight Deck -- now that would be a good name for a blog. Oh, well -- too late now.

Afterthought: Just to be clear, this is not an attempt on my part to horn in on Elected Swineherd's Friday Star Trek blogging, which I remembered only after writing the post. I don't know enough about Star Trek to do that in any case.

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