Category: Sex and the City… and Deterrence

Photo by Luke Haubenstock (CC ’20)

Let me start of by saying that I personally, like all the fuck boys out there, hate the “friend zone”. I think it’s a candy-coated way of saying, “he’s (or she) is just not that into you”, and like any good realist, I am very anti-candy coated.

That being said, I don’t think the phenomenon can be simply ignored in the world of modern relationships. In fact, its contested definition and ambiguous nature remind me very much of an emerging field in IR: “gray zone conflicts”.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute defines gray zone conflicts as, “activity that is coercive and aggressive in nature, but that is deliberately designed to remain below the threshold of conventional military conflict and open interstate war.[*]

But Jamie, what does this have to do with the friend zone? Oh, let me tell you.

As a frequent resident of the undefined relationship zone, AND being a self-proclaimed aggressive flirt, I can safely say relationships today, especially in college, are 50 shades of gray (innuendo intended).

Let me paint a picture:

Two people, who are not very close friends, but are acquaintances, begin talking more and more. Suddenly, one person (B) starts to think “Hey I want to take this relationship to the next level” or “Damn, I never realized how sexy person A was before”. So, person B begins to escalate their actions, touching person A seductively on the shoulder, laughing at their jokes, etc.

Then, Person A and B get drunk together at a party, and kiss (maybe once or twice), but later on Person A tells Person B that they should just be friends. Person B tries to keep their cool, despite wanting more, and in attempts of salvaging the romance, stays Person A’s good friend. As the friendship continues to develop, Person B still has underlying hopes of making something happen with A. B dresses well, sends flirty snaps, talks about other love interests, and continues to test just how far it can push A into either:

  1. Entering into some sort of romance with B
  2. Completely ceasing all flirtation and romance and being the most boring of friends.

This essentially lasts until B gets over A or recognizes that it will never be, and that’s okay.

In this scenario, B is essentially forcing A into a gray zone conflict. Its neither romance nor friendship, but a blurry in-between area where feelings are a whirlpool of friendship and passion, just as a gray zone is neither war nor peace, but a conflict between the two.

Foreign Policy suggests fighting gray zone conflicts using unconventional warfare, such as Special Operation Forces. I however, have no suggestion for the non-military world. I can simply offer my condolences and best wishes to Person B, and hope one day a better relationship guru than I can figure this phenomenon out [*].

“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” runs alternate Fridays. To contact the writer or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Photo Courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

And we’re back! Hi folks! I apologize for my recent absence of posts; I was traveling and then what I like to refer to as the “election explosion of chaos” occurred. I know what you’re all thinking… “Great, another article on Trump”. But fear not! I promise to only mention our good ol’ president elect once.

Today I want to talk about a concept I’ve been wrestling with recently: the role of age in relationships. My findings would suggest that things do in fact get better with age, BUT our proclivity for conflict also increases, essentially just making relationships a gigantic pain in the ass. So, “you’re going to suffer… but you’re going to be happy about it.” (Please note that this is definitely a Harry Potter reference, and not some weird/kinky Fifty Shades of Grey bullshit.)

There is a tendency in today’s society to think that younger people are more reckless, ready to throw the first punch or spit the first insult. However, recent Conflict Resolution Researchers have disproved this stereotype. After examining 100,000… I repeat, 100,000 cases, throughout the years, these researchers came to the conclusion that “in general, as the age of leaders increases, they become more likely to both initiate and escalate militarized disputes.” Insert a worried glance towards our post-January, and every so wrinkly, future White House here.

While at first I found these conclusions profound, the more I thought about them in terms of dating, the more obvious they became. As a twenty year old, I can safely say that I have been in maybe one serious relationship conflict. And honestly, that makes complete sense. In comparison to an older dating pool, I simply don’t have as much time or experience, two very potent ammunitions for conflict. Basically, there is a lot more to be pissed off about the longer you’re around.

The researchers also found that “in personalist autocratic regimes… as the leader’s age increases, the relative risk of conflict declines relative to the rising risk of conflict associated with aging leaders in other types of regimes.” I think this conclusion is very suggestive of a certain phenomenon in the age-relationship rhetoric, i.e. the cougar. I must admit, while writing this I couldn’t get a picture of Putin dressed as a Mrs. Jones character, listening to “Forever Young” out of my mind.

After fighting for so many years, I think both the dictator and the cougar are just looking for some sweet simplicity in their lives (obviously using slightly different tactics to achieve this). While dating a younger partner is sometimes frowned upon, I think it provides an understandable reprieve from the war caused by time that inevitably surrounds the elder’s more typical relationships.

All that being said, I personally look forward to getting older. Not because I am looking forward to more conflict in my life, but because I think conflict so often yields growth. I am ready to fight, and consequently grow, my way into a relationship that is right for me. And hell, if that doesn’t work, I’ll start taking notes from Mrs. Jones or Madonna. The following link provides more information on the research I’ve discussed in this article.

“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” runs alternate Fridays. To contact the writer or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

In order to begin to try and understand the confusing world that is dating, we have to break it down to the basics. Sure, it can be said that some people just ‘stumble’ upon their ‘soul mate’, but being the neurotic single-lady that I am, that answer really just isn’t good enough for me. So using my handy-dandy side kick of statecraft theory, I have decided to really break down and dissect what factors, or personality traits, people posses that eventually lead to their perceived ‘happily ever after’.

 

As I began thinking about this more, and attempted to cut away all of the bullshit and stereotypes that so often hover as a poisonous fog around most relationships, I tried to discern what truly was the single most important factor in building a romantic relationship. My findings can essentially be summed up in the age-old debate… “It’s not all about looks” or perhaps even more demeaning, “but she has a great personality!” That’s right folks, apparently there is not a single solution! Apologies in advance to those who thought I was some sort of relationship guru and had actually figured this shit out.

However, I would like to suggest that maybe looks vs. personality isn’t necessarily a zero-sum game. Maybe one is not more important than the other.According to Robert Art in his piece “Force and Fungibility Reconsidered”, he suggests that identifying a most important factor (i.e. choosing between force and diplomacy) is an absurd task. However, he doesn’t use this statement as a cop-out from answering the question of “what factors make a great state?”. Rather, he transforms the argument, stating that force is the central factor in statecraft. He contends that force gives meaning to diplomacy, however both are crucial to building a strong state.

 

Enough theory, let’s talk about sex. Or rather, sex appeal. Using Art’s theory, I have come to the semi-superficial conclusion that sexual attraction, or even just good looks, is at the center of every well-crafted relationship. The personality can only work its magic after the initial ‘punch’ of the flawless facial features or well-chiseled body.  

Just as David Baldwin criticizes Art in “Force, Fungibility, and Influence”, this argument also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The main contention being: perhaps a charming personality actually makes a person more attractive, or as Baldwin states, “it is also true that diplomacy, economic statecraft, and propaganda enhance the effectiveness of military force under certain circumstances”.
I unfortunately reached no solid conclusion, or revelation for that matter, in untangling the mess that is the modern relationship. But, perhaps that is what is so beautiful about both security and the modern marvel that is relationships; no one ever really knows “why”, and hell, there may never just be a single solution.

This past summer, being the existential early 20 year old I am, I decided that I should start a blog. Being that I was going abroad for the fall semester, I naturally came to the conclusion that “I should definitely write about the totally “eye awakening” experience of life in a foreign country”. Shortly after my epiphany, I popped my own bubble, remembering that I was in fact going to Denmark… a country arguably whiter than me. Plus, everyone and their mom blogs about their study abroad experiences, and I wanted to be different. So I sat and pondered for a bit, contemplating my interests. After first reaching the conclusion that I needed more hobbies, I realized that the two things I am most passionate about are “Sex and the City” and strategic stability. Two peas in a pod… right?!

As I began thinking about the two subjects, I began drawing more connections between the two. I explicitly remember sitting in Professor Zachary Shirkey’s “Topics in International Security” class, where he would give “real world” examples of complex theoretical models, such as crafting strategy to try and get to Brooklyn when the L train was down. The more classes I sat through, the more I often thought, “holy shit, avoiding war is almost as hard as finding a steady relationship in New York”. I continued my studies, interning with an Arms Control affiliated office, and continued to draw these parallels between international relations and life in the Big Apple with thoughts such as “Russia acts up more than the MTA”, and “I should have made stronger alliances my first year”.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to my series: “Sex and the City…. and Deterrence”. It is my aim with this column to make strategic stability and international relations sexy again—a Cosmo of Jervis and (Samantha) Jones, if you will. Hell, maybe I’ll even inspire other aspiring Louboutin-clad warmongers out there. Through multiple extended metaphors, drastic simplification of IR theory, a strict avoidance of dry texts, and a hint of humor, I hope to take you on a journey through the streets of New York and the complexities of foreign policy.

Alright, enough clichés. For my more doubtful readers, who are wondering just how exactly I plan to go about this, think of my series as a type of intelligence analysis.

In the Intelligence Community today, one of the most common approaches to understanding data is through a Synthesis Analysis Model. Essentially, it models relationships between two elements to better help the consumer of the data understand it. It requires that the analyst is first creative, simplifying the data and creating a model, and then analytical; pulling his or her own model apart to see if more elements can be made more precise.

That is exactly what I tend to do! I am going to create elaborate models through Carrie Bradshaw like rhetorical questions, using data such as Professor Jack Snyder’s Why Emerging Democracies Go to War, in order to better digest the material.

I cannot wait to begin this journey, and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

For an example of a common Synthesis Analysis Model, please visit the following link:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/apr/29/mcchrystal-afghanistan-powerpoint-slide

“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” runs alternate Fridays. To contact the writer or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com