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Tag: "foreign policy"

Fractured China

[ 0 ] November 17, 2010 |

At WPR, I bloviate on theoretical and empirical issues regarding China’s fractured foreign policy:

What does China want? Unfortunately, this is a terrible way to approach the problem.

China is full of many people who want many different things. Like the U.S. national security apparatus, the Chinese government harbors a plethora of different foreign-policy perspectives, some focused on trade, others on power, and still others guided by domestic political concerns. Moreover, the Chinese government is no longer the only actor of consequence in China. Chinese public opinion increasingly constrains policymakers, and can even force them into action they don’t want to take. Like all states, China is fractured. Recognizing its fractured nature is the key to developing an effective U.S. policy toward China’s rise.

In the column I mention this SIPRI report on the emerging structure of PRC foreign policy decision-making, which is worth giving and extra-super recommendation. Check it out.


Cooperative Maritime Strategy

[ 1 ] September 14, 2010 |

I have an article up at World Politics Review on the Naval Operations Concept and the Cooperative Maritime Strategy. The article is part of a feature on maritime security, including Abraham Denmark and Zachary Hosford’s piece on China’s naval buildup and Mark Valencia’s examination of the Proliferation Security Initiative. My argument in a nutshell:

In June of this year, the United States Navy published the 2010 Naval Operations Concept (.pdf) (NOC), designed as the operational fulfillment of the Cooperative Maritime Strategy (.pdf) (CS-21) released in 2007. The 112-page NOC is an elaboration of the concepts set forth in the 20-page Cooperative Strategy, with detailed discussion of how the missions laid forth in the earlier document can be accomplished with the forces available to the United States Navy. CS-21 itself is a curious document. Deceptively modest, it was developed as the Navy’s strategic answer to the post-Cold War environment. But whether intentionally, as some have suggested, or not, it may have helped structure America’s grand strategic approach to the emergence of new powers on the Pacific Rim and elsewhere.

CS-21, and the NOC that gives it flesh, provide a liberal internationalist frame for how the United States should interpret the rise of Chinese naval power. This frame suggests that naval competition between the United States and China could be positive sum, rather than zero sum — the United States could actually benefit in some ways from the expansion of the Chinese navy. This stands in tension with more traditional and, in many ways, more accepted theories about the role and impact of navies in great power competition.

The Cooperative Strategy is one of the documents that I’ve argued progressives should pay more attention to. Long story short, I believe that the Cooperative Strategy represents, intentionally or not, a progressive framework for thinking about the relevance of US military power and US “hegemony” in the 21st century. I think that this is true not simply for the “liberal hawk” wing of foreign policy thought, but also for genuine progressives interested in engaging with the reality of US global military leadership. The Cooperative Strategy outlines a world in which maritime power is effectively positive sum, while also taking account of potentially destructive security dilemma dynamics. It wasn’t designed by progressives or for progressives, but I think that it can be fit into a progressive approach to US foreign policy.

WikiLeaks and the First Amendment

[ 40 ] August 2, 2010 |

I don’t have enough knowledge about the contents of the Afghan War Diaries to engage in informed commentary about their contents, so what I’m saying here is more a way of striving discussion about some of the questions raised by the leaks as opposed to a definitive conclusion.

Since we were speaking recently of the right-wing’s most recent Greatest Monster Hugo Black, I’m reminded that when thinking about national security and freedom of the press, I always return to his concurrence in the Pentagon Papers case. Because it involved prior restraint, N.Y. Times was a very easy case and its holding isn’t directly relevant here, but some of Black’s broader analysis remains relevant:

In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.

A few points in the spirit of applying these principles to the current controversy:

  • A clear distinction should be drawn between the leakers and people who publish leaked material (in whatever forum.)    Although I think Ellsburg was a hero and I’m glad that the Nixon administration’s authoritarianism prevented him from being convicted, prosecuting him was defensible.   Trying to suppress the Pentagon Papers or punish people for publishing them would not have been.     Based on what we know, I can’t imagine any scenario under which prosecuting Assange would be consistent with contemporary First Amendment values.
  • Prosecuting Assange under vague, authoritarian laws passed under the Wilson administration definitely doesn’t count.
  • Whether as a legal or pragmatic argument, I’m very leery of arguments that leakers have done something wrong based on threats to “national security.”     As Black went on to say, “[t]he word “security” is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment.”    This isn’t to say that such arguments are always wrong, but — especially when they’re self-serving claims made by state officials — they should be treated with a very substantial degree of skepticism.
  • This is particularly true in cases like this because arguments from “national security” have a strong tendency to treat secrecy and the shielding of both decision-making processes and the costs of war as ends in themselves.  As Stephen Holmes has argued in persuasive detail, the last decade has been most unkind to assumptions that secrecy and unilateral decision-making enhance national security.

As we learn more about the Afghan Diares, I think these principles should be kept in mind.

Troubling Nonsense Coming Out of CNAS

[ 12 ] March 25, 2010 |

Why try to pretend that this should be taken seriously?

Second, it’s not just about drugs. The Venezuelan alliance is almost a classic geopolitical attempt to deny the US access to Latin America — probably including Mexico — and to gain access to our southern border. FARC is not only the world’s largest producer of cocaine, but continues to be a murderous terrorist insurgency. The cartels, which are fast becoming a worldwide concern, are not only about drugs, but also about control of territory and other criminal activities — murder, kidnapping, extortion, counterfeiting, money laundering, among others. This is emphatically not the old, “comfortable” Mafia, and legalizing drugs, even if it were possible, would not make these trans-national criminal organizations go away, particularly when they have the support of narco-states like Venezuela has become. They will just shift to other sources of income.

I quite like Tom Ricks, but really, what’s with letting your blog become a platform for this nonsense? Venezuela and Iran are trying to seize control of Mexico and gain access to our southern border? “Narco-states” like Venezuela “will just shift to other sources of income” if drugs are legalized? What sources of income would those be? And how precisely are Venezuela and Iran and Cuba supposed to “deny US access” to Latin America, much less Mexico? Is it worth noting, at all, that Mexico has a population and economy which are each 4 times as large as those of Venezuela? And yet we’re supposed to be worried about magical narco-terror networks that can just create money whenever they want?

Why would anyone ever bother to pretend that any of this makes sense? It worries me that this garbage is coming out under the CNAS banner.

Statecraft and the State

[ 6 ] March 17, 2010 |

Yglesias links to an interesting article by Sheri Berman on the relevance of early modern state-building to policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think it would be fantastic if some school of diplomacy and/or international commerce offered a course bringing together the statebuilding literature and the Afghanistan/Iraq policy literature…

What if Iran Got the Bomb Redux

[ 6 ] March 15, 2010 |

Y’know, the idea that there are meaningful similarities between the rhetoric used to describe the Chinese nuclear program in the 1960s and the Iranian nuclear program of the last decade is kind of interesting… or at least it was six months ago, when I wrote about it at Foreign Policy. Just sayin’.

Current “Current Intelligence”

[ 0 ] March 13, 2010 |

It’s been a busy week for me adjusting to new blog formats in multiple spaces. So while LGM readers wait for their heads to stop spinning at this site’s facelift, I encourage them to hop on over and check out the new Current Intelligence site, also just renovated this week.

Current Intelligence
, where I post from time to time about the laws of war, used to be an off-shoot of Complex Terrain Lab but is now an online journal with a blog, a set of more formal foreign policy columnists including my Duck of Minerva co-blogger Jon Western, and a “Letters from Abroad” series in which the site’s bloggers report from places they visit, like Durban, South Africa and Varanasi, India. Our illustrious editor actually convinced me to contribute a piece on New Orleans as a “letter from abroad” – something you can actually do at an online journal where political community is understood to be delimited by something other than sovereign territorial boundaries. Snippet:

“It was corporate hotel culture I and my colleagues visited, not New Orleans per se.The gap between physical and social place-ness struck me all week, just as it does when I “pass through” sovereign territorial-legal spaces while never leaving the neo-medieval corridors of international airports – each of which aims to present a caricature of national culture but all of which function as carriers instead of a global culture, one characterized by spaces of liminality and heterogeneity. And yet one’s experience in such spaces borders on strictly homogeneous from a class perspective. We find ourselves compartmentalized from others around us not by geography or language but by norms, rules, uniforms and political economies… Transnational conference sites are like this too. They are hyped up as opportunities to visit a locale, interface with a population, affect local understandings, but they are actually transnational sites in which cleavages are based on capital.”

Anyway. Current Intelligence covers foreign affairs, asymmetric conflict, war law and post-Westphalian political geography. It’s a fabulous community that includes a number of excellent bloggers such as Chris Albon (ConflictHealth is one of the finest human security sites I know of), Tim Stevens who also blogs at Ubiwar, and of course Mike Innes who blogs at Monkwire and is behind the whole thing.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

Equal Opportunity Water-boarding

[ 8 ] March 12, 2010 |

Karl Rove defends mock drowning once again in his new memoir. After all, we do it to our own troops during training to help them learn to withstand torture. Not that it is.

A more forgiving assessment from Peter Feaver. Helpful roundup of responses from The Atlantic Wire.

The Political Economy of Human Rights Advocacy

[ 1 ] March 10, 2010 |

James Ron has a guest post at Steve Walt’s blog about the problems of NGO dependence on Western funding. His argument is a logical extension of his earlier work with Alex Cooley on the negative externalities associated with the political economy of the NGO sector, and it also builds on newer scholarship critically assessing the relationship between domestic NGOs, targets of influence, third-party governments and private donors.

Ron offers an answer to the question in the title of his post: no, foreign funders should not stop donating to local human rights NGOs, but they should donate more wisely: Read more…

India on the Atlantic

[ 0 ] March 4, 2010 |

I have an article at Pragati: Indian National Interest Review about the treatment of India in the 2010 QDR. The title (“Putting India on the Atlantic”) isn’t mine, but it’s an excellent summary of the piece:

In an important sense, the 2010 QDR “Europeanises” India. It assumes that India will, minor friction aside, act in the general interests of the political and economic order that the Atlantic powers have established, just as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and NATO have acted for the past several decades. This framework is unquestionably productive. It sets Indian foreign and military policy apart from either Pakistan or China by treating the former as a solution and the latter two as problems (even if India isn’t described as a solution to the particular problems posed by either China or Pakistan). It opens space for thinking seriously about the role that the Indian military could play in maintaining regional stability, and hints at both avenues for cooperation and a desired Indian force structure.

However, the program set forth in the QDR hinges on the assumptions that Indian and US interests will not diverge substantially, and that India is interested in playing the role that the US wants it to play.

A Curious Omission

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |

In the process of engaging In Praise of Aerial Bombing, Edward Luttwak makes an odd claim:

Back in 2006, while the Israeli Air Force was bombing down its target list in Lebanon, assorted experts were almost unanimous in asserting that the campaign would fail. As a defiant Hezbollah continued to launch rockets into Israeli territory day after day, the consensus was seemingly proven right. And because television and photographers in Lebanon kept feeding pictures of dead babies or at least broken dolls to world media while withholding images of Hezbollah’s destroyed headquarters and weapons, Israel was paying a very high political price for its bombing. In any case, it was running out of targets: There were only so many bridges and viaducts in Lebanon. Even its friends could only regretfully agree that Israel seemed to be failing.

But that is not at all how it turned out. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah admitted immediately after the war that he would never have ordered the original deadly attack on an Israeli border patrol had he known that Israel would retaliate with such devastating effect. Before the 2006 war, Hezbollah launched rockets into northern Israel whenever it wanted to raise tensions. Since the Aug. 14, 2006, cease-fire, Hezbollah has rigorously refrained. Whenever rockets are nonetheless launched, Nasrallah’s spokesmen rush to announce that Hezbollah had absolutely nothing to do with it. Evidently, Israel’s supposedly futile bombing did achieve its aim.

To put it as politely as possible, Edward Luttwak has never been the sort of writer who has felt deeply constrained by empirical reality. He’s smart and knows his stuff, but he doesn’t let facts get in the way of the argument he wants to make. In this case, I’m sure that Luttwak is aware that, in addition to the long air offensive that almost everyone agrees was a failure, the IDF launched a large ground incursion into southern Lebanon that engaged prepared Hezbollah defenses and caused significant Hezbollah casualties, by some accounts up to a third of the organization’s front line strength. This ground offensive was covered on several blogs, as well as every major world newspaper and television network. People have written long reports about the ground war, and even books. Even if we assume that Hezbollah’s reluctance to launch rockets was caused by Israeli military action (and this is a tendentious assumption), I would hazard to suggest that it is at least possible that Hezbollah’s reluctance to launch rocket offensives against Israel may have something to do with the ground offensive that sapped its strength, rather than with the air offensive that devastated infrastructure targets in parts of Lebanon where Hezbollah has no control.

And so, while I can perhaps understand Luttwak’s decision to engage in creative history by assigning all causation for the (questionable in any case) moderation of Hezbollah to the air offensive, I’m rather more perplexed by the editorial decision to allow him to perform such artistry. I appreciate that he’s an important guy who’s written books and stuff, but he’s using Foreign Policy to make an empirical claim (terror bombing is super) and basing that upon an evidentiary foundation that would be laughed out of a freshman political science course. At the very least, Luttwak could have been asked to mention the ground offensive, and perhaps even to explain why the air offensive and not the ground offensive caused the purported effect. Like I said, he’s a smart guy; I’m sure he could have managed.

Thinking About Gender and Security Studies at ISA

[ 0 ] February 23, 2010 |

Among events I attended last week at the International Studies Association Annual Conference: an informal discussion on the relationship between IR feminist theory and security studies, organized by my Duck of Minerva co-blogger Laura Sjoberg. Some of the questions posed to the participants in advance: What (if anything) can feminist theory teach security studies? What (if anything) can security studies teach IR feminism?

My key answer to the first of these questions has typically been: feminist theorists can show security folks how a gender lens can help solve problems that matter to security studies.

The foreign policy community and defense establishment gets this, I think. The US Army has recently begun requiring all soldiers, male and female, to undergo resiliency training so they can learn to “talk about emotions” as a bulwark against morale problems, suicide, domestic violence and divorce. Top Pentagon brass are urging the Obama Administration to repeal the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy not just because “it’s the right thing to do” but because the discharge of numerous gay and lesbian servicemen and women has deprived the military of key assets.

What the foreign policy establishment often doesn’t get is how to do “gender” well. This is because their efforts to craft more gender-friendly policies are themselves so based on gender assumptions rather than gender analysis. So for example, the State Department has seized upon “women’s empowerment” as a benchmark for its democracy promotion efforts – with mixed results. I think there’s a tremendous opportunity right now for feminist IR scholars studying gender dynamics in post-conflict zones and the roles of gender discourse in national identity and international negotiations to have an important effect in creating sounder policy options.

The key to having that effect, though, is to speak to the interests of those states involved. The US interest may not be “Iraqi women’s betterment” in and of itself; it may be “effective stability operations.” But if you can make the case that protecting Kurdish women from honor killings or ensuring Shi’a women equal protection under a national constitution supports the broader goal of the “nation-building” then you may have a much better chance of harnessing the support of powerful actors for feminist ends than if you limit yourself to “critiquing the hegemonic discourse.”

And this is where my answer to Question Number Two comes in: Security Studies can teach IR feminists how to communicate with the defense establishment more effectively. As I pointed out at the discussion, very few IR feminists I know – (and I am obviously poking fun at some of my own writing here as well) – can utter the sentence “the US needs to revamp its force structure to ensure power projection in anti-access environments” without snickering much less talk or write seriously about the kinds of issues raised in the QDR that was released last month – on terms that are actually likely to be taken seriously by military bloggers, defense intellectuals, or men and women in uniform. Certainly most of Laura’s posts at the Duck do not.

I think this is a shame and that it could easily be changed if IR feminists accept the validity of a genuine exchange with security studies on its own terms, rather than on some asymmetric cross-paradigmatic battlefield.

P.S. Peter Feaver from Shadow Government crashed this discussion and made a few choice points. I hope he blogs about them…

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

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