About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

Democratic Presidential Candidates and Iran

Much of the Democratic Presidential debates have not focused on foreign policy, but the United States’ policy towards Iran has pivotal implications for Iran, the Middle East generally, European foreign policy, as well as the choices Russia and China make in the region. As such, knowing the candidates’ positions towards Iran allows us to understand their goals, likely choices in a similar crisis, and the shape of their overall foreign policy agenda. To better understand that, I have collected a summary of the top ten Democratic candidates’ stated positions towards Iran. Continue reading Democratic Presidential Candidates and Iran

The strategic use of restraint in internet arguments

Sometimes, I like to argue. I spent eight years engaged in competitive debate in high school and college and the activity prepared me for scholarly research in ways that my classes in both of those settings could not. Early on, in the early frontier days of the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was only natural for me to take my co-curricular skills and use them in earlier versions of social media—IRC, messaging services, public forums, listservs, and other budding spaces. Of course, conversations and heated debates online were a much different beast than academic debate (even when Continue reading The strategic use of restraint in internet arguments

Regions of disparity and how they influence liberalization

Troop deployments in 2000

A recent Journal of Conflict Resolution piece of mine is now available online. While that by itself may not warrant a blog post, I had the opportunity to chat with Paul Huth on the JCR podcast a few months ago and that podcast is now also available online. In my short academic career, this article has taken the longest from initiation to completion and I am happy to see it in print. You can download the podcast here. The other JCR podcasts are available through their website here. Abstract for the article: Political economy debates about the influence of power configurations in expanding and Continue reading Regions of disparity and how they influence liberalization

Poli Sci Fi

I am thrilled to share that my co-editor, Justin Vaughn, and I have just published the book, Poli Sci Fi, with Routledge. The collected works feature several different authors, including three other bloggers from the Quantitative Peace. The volume connects central research and themes of political science to science fiction films and TV shows (specific episodes). The target audience for the book is first or second year undergraduate students; a potential introductory course on political science could focus on understanding political science through science fiction (the book closely follows several introductory political science texts). Naturally, other audiences certainly can enjoy the book as well. Often, Continue reading Poli Sci Fi

Disavowing Strategy is a Strategic Move!

A friend on twitter sent me a message about a New York Times Op-Ed piece by a game theorist that ostensibly suggests real-world limitations of game theory. Yanis Varoufakis, economist, game theorist, and current Finance Minister of Greece opined that the delicate negotiations with Greece’s debt issues is a serious issue and the game theory world devoted to Poker and Black Jack is incapable of capturing the tense negotiations. Fundamentally, Varoufakis argues that Greece is not playing games at the negotiation table and they are not using some sort of psychological tricks or strategic moves to secure a better bargain Continue reading Disavowing Strategy is a Strategic Move!

It’s not always the Prisoner’s Dilemma: Military Deployments Edition

During the Russian invasion of Crimea, I previously mentioned that I, Julie VanDusky-Allen, and Michael Flynn, were working on a research project that examined the effect that hosting varying amounts of foreign (i.e. US) troops has on the defense spending of local and regional governments. Earlier this week, that article became available in Foreign Policy Analysis’ Early View. If you have taught game theory long enough, or if you have read enough anecdotes by people who have, one thing that you learn is that students, once they have learned and consumed the lessons from the Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD), seem to see it everywhere—even when it Continue reading It’s not always the Prisoner’s Dilemma: Military Deployments Edition

The Passivity of Political Science and Objective Science

I am in the midst of grading the first major written assignment for my introductory political science class and, as I grade these assignments digitally, I have my finger constantly pushing one key on my keyboard: That is, the key I programmed in Microsoft Word to automatically create a comment and write “Passive voice” within that comment. While it is no surprise that undergraduates opt for sub-optimal stylistic choices when engaging in formal writing, this problem does not end at the undergraduate level. Political Science graduate students engage in the passive voice throughout their writing and even many of our top Continue reading The Passivity of Political Science and Objective Science

The Prisoner’s Dilemma in Introductory International Relations

This semester marks my seventh time teaching the introductory course to international relations and my seventh time incorporating strategic games into the course.  A staple game for any political science course is the Prisoner’s Dilemma and a typical introduction of the material to students may have students explain the concept or, perhaps, play it with a partner.  However, this introduction is incomplete as part of the major lessons from the game (for IR anyways) is how we can use it to modify our institutions, behaviors, or norms to overcome prisoner dilemma-esque situations.  Having played this in class that range from very small Continue reading The Prisoner’s Dilemma in Introductory International Relations

Recent Lessons from Games for Political Science

The board and video game world this past week have at least two compelling reports that offer some lessons for political science. First, David Hill did both a write up for Grantland and a segment on This American Life about the Diplomacy (the game) world championships. Players in this game have to focus on territorial control and creating/maintaining alliances. This strategic game from the 1950s lacks a true randomization component (dice, coin flips, etc.). However, the game is not Chess either.  Instead, the components that makes the interaction dynamic from game to game are the relationships between the players (up to seven) and the Continue reading Recent Lessons from Games for Political Science

Star Wars as Civil War

Wookieepedia It should come as no surprise that, in addition to gaming (board, video, and card), enjoying comics and comic book movies, and about everything else that is nerdy, I enjoy speculative fiction (and fantasy) and that includes the high fantasy in space that is Star Wars.  The past six months or so have been a good time to be a Star Wars fan as the takeover by Disney has allowed us to speculate as to what they will do with the franchise, enjoy the news that they are continuing the saga, and encourage some debate as to whether the prequels Continue reading Star Wars as Civil War