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Archive for March, 2011

Will The Real Libyan Civilians Please Stand Up?

[ 48 ] March 31, 2011 |

Though it’s gotten relatively less play than the story about CIA boots on Libyan soil, annother NY Times report answered a crucial question today: whether NATO is backing the rebels (consistent with an invasion where humanitarian concerns are a smokescreen) or backing Libyan civilians (consistent with the R2P doctrine). A lot of discussion centered on whether it would be legitimate to arm the rebels (looks like that’s been ruled out) but the more cogent question from an R2P perspective was always how NATO would deal with ill-treatment of civilian Gaddafi supporters by the rebels themselves in towns they claimed.

And though I was as worried as anyone about how this would play out, once again the answer appears, at least for now, to be reasonably consistent with R2P norms:

As NATO takes over control of airstrikes in Libya and the Obama administration considers new steps to tip the balance of power there, the coalition has told the rebels that the fog of war will not shield them from possible bombardment by NATO planes and missiles, just as the regime’s forces have been punished.

“We’ve been conveying a message to the rebels that we will be compelled to defend civilians, whether pro-Qaddafi or pro-opposition,” said a senior Obama administration official.

That’s right: whether you buy it or not, the message is basically: Libyan rebels, if you attack civilians, we’ll bomb you too.

But the Times goes on to spell out the age-old conundrum for weapons-bearers, compounded by the particular nature of NATO troops’ mission: how to identify the “real” civilians for the purpose of carrying out their protective mission, that is, knowing precisely who to target for targeting them: Read more…


Ladyparts Are Icky!

[ 14 ] March 31, 2011 |

The GOP war on parody continues.

LGM Baseball Challenge

[ 6 ] March 31, 2011 |

hickes 01 asks:

Hey, What happened to the LGM Fantasy Baseball league?

And the answer is: I completely forgot about it.

LGM Baseball Challenge
League: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

The hope this year is that some ragtag group of rebels can overthrow the tyrannical M. Ricci regime, possibly with the support of massive NATO airstrikes.

Yoo Better Believe That’s Going Too Far

[ 43 ] March 31, 2011 |

I’ll have a bigger piece about the subject next week, but as I’ve said before, to assert that presidential initiations of military force — whether wise or unwise — violate the Constitution strikes me as being as pointless and anachronistic as claiming that the federal government lacks the power to regulate the national economy. I’m not crazy about the consequences of the de facto constitutional order with respect to presidential war powers, but in Congress continues to delegate warmaking authority to the president I think the issues raised should properly be viewed as policy rather than constitutional questions.

But when it comes to Clinton’s claim that Obama could proceed with attacks on Libya in the face of congressional opposition, though, I get off the bus. The Constitution shares warmaking powers between the president and Congress. If Congress wants to delegate its powers to the president — whether actively or even through acquiescence — that’s one thing. But to claim that that the president can simply defy valid statutory restrictions is, as Adam says, lawless. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s endorsement of Yoovian conceptions of executive power can no longer be considered surprising, but it’s still dismaying.

And it Begins

[ 21 ] March 31, 2011 |

So, far be it from me to judge, but I’m not sure that calling on Brandon Phillips to bunt with Stubbs on 2nd, nobody out, down three in the bottom of the first inning of the first goddamn game of the season was a good idea.

Just sayin’.

Conferencing (Chicago edition: MPSA)

[ 0 ] March 31, 2011 |

I’m sitting in an airport bar waiting to board my PDX-ORD flight, with an outside shot at an upgrade.  I’m off to Chicago to present a paper, co-authored with my (one) Ph.D. student, on turnout.  Entitled “Salience and Turnout in Second Order Elections: The Role of EU Regional Funding” we examine the role of salience in explaining electoral turnout to the European Union Parliament (EUP).  Recent work on turnout has examined the question of participation from the benefit side of the classic calculus of voting, rather than the cost side (I’d list the citations, but I’m one of them).  Rather than placing the onus on the individual (or demand side) and her ability to overcome the associated cost hurdles, attention is instead focused upon the electoral context (or the supply side) to which potential voters respond.

We argue that one form the benefit term can take is that as the perceived salience of an election increases, the benefits of participation likewise increase.  Elections to the European Union Parliament are correctly considered largely irrelevant: the body doesn’t really matter, so people don’t bother voting for it.  However, we suggest that the presence of Objective I regional funding in an EUP constituency serves to increase the visibility of the EU as a whole, which in turn increases the perceived salience of the one direct manner in which the European citizen can participate politically in the EU through traditional means.

Our N is 1601, based on a level of analysis at the NUTS2 “region”.  Yes, it’s called NUTS, which is French for nomenclature d’unités territoriales statistiques, which is the primary EU statistical region.  There are three levels.  Our data are derived from 11 of the member states, going back to the first direct elections in 1979 where appropriate (as some member states in our data joined after 1979).  In other words, all of the original EU-12, save for Greece, because . . . neither of us could make out Greek.  The data were hand gathered from various official sources on the web, nearly exclusively in the native language of the country.  Hence, Greece lost its chance at the fame that this paper would have conveyed upon it.

In a multivariate model, we find that the presence of Objective I funding increases turnout roughly two percentage points (from an intercept of 34%).  As Objective 1 regions, by definition, enjoy less than 75 per cent of EU average GDP,  this finding appears incongruous when one considers the long standing relationship between SES and turnout.

This finding is interesting from two perspectives.  Theoretically, as variance in Objective I funding has no logical effect on lowering the costs of voting, it’s a good measure of the salience of the institution (and hence elections to that institution), and supports the notion that increasing the salience of an election has an observable effect on turnout.  Second, our findings suggest that increasing the visibility of the EU (ideally in a positive manner) engages a greater number of citizens in what is, for all intents and purposes, an election with little potential impact on policy.

And we’ve got some pretty color maps as well.  So, this is what I’m doing in Chicago for the next two nights.  That and, erm, drinking beer.

My Final Word to Daniel Drezner on Zombies

[ 7 ] March 31, 2011 |

At the International Studies Association conference a couple of week’s back, both Rob and I were invited to join Stephanie Carvin’s round-table roasting Daniel Drezner for his new book Theory of International Politics and Zombies.

Rob’s presentation refuted some of Drezner’s findings on the empirics; mine refutes one or two rather important assumptions as well as interrogating the normative underpinnings of his book. Here is the video blog version.

(This panel, by the way, was voted among the “Top 20 ISA Panels of All Time” by a “senior academic sitting in audience” via Twitter. My post-ISA content analysis of the conference Twitter hashtag also shows that ‘zombies’ was the fifth most common word tweeted at the entire conference– beaten only by ‘#isa2011’, ‘rt,’ ‘panel’ and ‘http’, and surpassing the words ‘power,’ ‘libya’ and even ‘bitly’ as well as references to the IPad contest being thrown by Routledge Press. What this suggests about the state of IR as a discipline one can only wonder, but Steve Saideman has a few choice thoughts.)

Michelle Rhee

[ 41 ] March 31, 2011 |

Would saying that her reputation is an utter fraud too strong? Perhaps, but I’m tempted to say it anyway. It’s amazing how much you can get out of bashing teacher’s unions even absent much other substance. See also here and here.

Modern Republicanism Defined

[ 15 ] March 31, 2011 |

As Atrios says, the core principle seems to be that $50,000 a year is unimaginable luxury (especially if it’s being paid to some useless teacher or nurse or policeman), but 200k is essentially below the poverty line, and the latter need tax cuts partially financed by pay cuts to the former to get by.

The Limits and Future of the “Responsibility to Protect” Doctrine

[ 3 ] March 31, 2011 |

Small Wars Journal published a longer version of my argument about the criteria associated with the R2P doctrine and why the “If Libya Why Not Bahrain” argument is specious.

However, particularly in light of evolving events, I think it’s important to qualify this argument by emphasizing that I’m describing an existing (and limited) set of standards, not necessarily endorsing it as currently constituted. In fact it would surprise me if Operation Odyssey Dawn does not result in some slightly revisited normative understandings regarding R2P, and indeed perhaps it should. (The rest of this is a thinking aloud post, so please take my ruminations in that context.) Read more…

The Current Situation in Libya

[ 33 ] March 31, 2011 |

So, here is where we are:

  • Rebel forces have been unable to hold the ground that they recently captured (perhaps traversed is a better term) and have retreated back to Adjadibya.  Logistics play a major role in the problems of both Loyalist and rebel forces, because supply lines lengthen as either advances.  The Loyalists seem to have somewhat better logistics, but they have more onerous requirements because of their heavy weaponry, and they’re suffering from airstrikes all along their lines.  As many have suggested, this is a recipe for stalemate.
  • The US and the UK (and probably France as well) are trying to break the stalemate through the deployment of CIA, SAS, and MI6 operatives.  In addition to carrying out political work (vetting rebels, probing Loyalist forces for defectors), these operatives will be playing a military role in any rebel advance.  SOF will analyze Loyalist positions, identify vulnerabilities, illuminate targets, and coordinate rebel attacks with airstrikes.  This is the “Afghan Model,” and could be very effective against Loyalist forces.  Variables include the intensity of air attacks, the number of SOF, and the quality of rebel forces.  But yes, this does represent an escalation of UK/US/French involvement.
  • The next big political and military problem seems to me to be Sirte.  Rebels, assisted by air attacks, made absolutely no headway when they reached it last week.  With Western SOF assistance they might have a better chance.  Taking Sirte wouldn’t resolve logistical problems, but it might crack open the entire Loyalist defense and demoralize Gaddafi’s supporters.  However, it appears from casual observation that the people of Sirte don’t feel that they need Western “protection” from the Gaddafi regime, and aren’t enthusiastic about the rebellion.  This poses some very serious question for NATO (which is now in command) if and when they rebels seize the city.  A bloody purge of Loyalists is not out of the question, and Western SOF may find themselves shifting very quickly between attack and restraint missions.

Altogether, I’d say that the situation is less hopeful than it was a few days ago.  In my view, partition and Western escalation remain the only two plausible options (arming the rebels is unlikely to have a near term effect on their capabilities), and neither of those are particularly good outcomes.

“With Notably Rare Exceptions, Grady Little’s Postseason Tactical Decisions Were Brilliant.”

[ 28 ] March 30, 2011 |

Immortality achieved!

Update [PC]:Is it really fair to condemn an entire program because of a single slip-up?

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