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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Alexander Wendt

Scientists have long thought that quantum mechanics -- the bizarre and fantastic world of non-locality, indeterminacy, and wave/particle duality that physicists discovered in the early 20th century -- was confined to the sub-atomic level. At the macroscopic, human level it’s been assumed that our familiar classical, Newtonian physics still rules, a belief reflected in the fundamental categories of social scientific thought such as classical logic, classical probability theory, and classical decision and game theory.

In the past decade, however, there have been growing hints that this foundational classical assumption is mistaken. For example, a field of “quantum biology” emerged after biologists unexpectedly found that birds, plants and other organisms use non-trivial quantum processes to survive. Closer to home, “quantum decision theorists” in psychology have shown that quantizing the axioms of expected-utility theory can resolve the long-standing anomalies of rational choice known as “Kahneman-Tversky effects.”

While these and other hints are still very preliminary, if evidence of quantum effects at the human level continues to mount, then the social sciences today could be in a situation similar to physics in 1900 – based on a simple but profound mistake, with a revolution just around the corner.

Quantum Theory and the International, organized by Alexander Wendt, Ralph D. Mershon Professor of International Security, won't try to solve any such grand question. But it will begin thinking – in a very exploratory and open-minded way – about what a quantum social science might look like. As students mostly of international politics, that subject will provide our substantive focus and primary illustrations.

>> Read more and register at go.osu.edu/quantumtheory

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Hollie Nyseth Brehm

Social factors shaped who rescued people in Rwandan genocide

We tend to think of heroes in terms of a psychological profile: brave, altruistic, strong.

But a new study suggests that for at least one kind of heroism, it takes a village to save a life.

Through in-depth interviews, researchers examined what motivated some members of the majority Hutu population in Rwanda to risk their own safety to save persecuted ethnic Tutsi during the genocidal violence of 1994. The violence claimed up to 1 million lives, eliminating much of the Tutsi population.

“We started this study thinking we would identify the individual characteristics that motivated rescuers, because that’s what most previous research had pointed to,” said Mershon affiliate Hollie Nyseth Brehm, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

“But we realized very quickly that most people who rescued weren’t doing this alone. It was a form of collective action. The social dynamics and situational context were key factors in determining whether someone decided to rescue.”

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Richard Herrmann

When the United States ended the draft and moved to an all-volunteer military in 1973, most political and military leaders assumed that the nation would reactivate the draft in the event of another major war. Instead, the U.S. fought long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with an all-volunteer force.

How well has this military model worked, and will it work in the future? Is it fair, efficient and sustainable?

On March 29, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies will host a symposium exploring these questions with input from national policymakers, military officers and academic experts. Students attending the conference will be asked to break into working groups to discuss the issues raised and generate solutions, which they will present to a panel of experts.

Rick Herrmann, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, sheds some light on some of the pressing topics that will be discussed at the event.

>> Read more and register at go.osu.edu/FutureofAVF

Why did the U.S. move to an all-volunteer force?
The U.S. abandoned the draft in 1973 due to the mounting unpopularity of the Vietnam War, moral and economic objections, a lessening demand for manpower and a general desire for change.

When did the idea of conscription first originate?
The idea of a nation state, where people from the society fight for the country, is a relatively modern idea and it really comes from the French Revolution and Napoleon’s success of selling the idea of a French nation. The troops he was able to mobilize in France around the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity — they fought harder. They seemed to have more motivation than the armies of other regimes that were still fighting for kings, emperors and tsars. The people who founded democracies believed there should be a close connection between citizens and the common defense.

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Sangbeom Yoo

The Mershon Center has a new visiting scholar starting in January 2018: Sangbeom Yoo, associate professor in the Department of Security Policy and director of the Office of Research Planning at the Research Institute for National Security Affairs at Korean National Defense University.

Sangbeom Yoo is author most recently of "The Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy toward the Asia Pacific Region" (RINSA Forum, 2017); "The Pattern of North Korea's Local Military Provocations" (Korean Journal of International Studies, 2017); and Prediction of Three Major Security Threats on the Korean Peninsula 2017 (co-authored) (RINSA, 2016).

During his time at the Mershon Center, Sangbeom Yoo will conduct research for "Threat Perception and Alliance Robustness," which is about how the degree of people's perception toward threat is related to the perception of the alliance coherence. He will also work on his book project on the concept of dilemma -- for example, security, prisoner, or rebel dilemma -- and types of solutions.

Sangbeom Yoo has a bachelor's in chemistry from Korea Military Academy (1994), a master's in international relations from Korea National Defense University (2005), and a doctorate in political science from State University of New York at Binghamton (2012).