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Tag: "foreign policy"

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…

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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]

ISA Blogging Panel Redux

[ 0 ] February 20, 2010 |

Alex Parets live-blogged yesterday’s ISA panel on blogging, policy, and the political science discipline. Check it out. I should further note the blogs of the various questioners and participants, including Steve Walt, IPEatUNC’s Will Winecoff, Peter Feaver, and Duck of Minerva’s Stephanie Carvin.

The Most Farcical Part of the Farce…

[ 0 ] February 17, 2010 |

Matt Duss shoots, guts, dries, and renders into tasty beef jerky the Chalabi-supporting wing of the neoconservative movement:

Even after the invasion, after it became clear that there were no WMD and no Saddam-Al Qaeda alliance, and that, despite his claims of a massive following, Chalabi had no genuine political base in Iraq, the neocons — such as Michael Rubin and Eli Lake himself — continued to promote him as Iraq’s savior. That became a lot harder after Chalabi’s party — which ran on the slogan “We Liberated Iraq!” — received a pathetic 0.36 percent of the vote in Iraq’s December 2005 elections, not even enough to secure a single seat for Chalabi himself.

Eventually, Chalabi was disavowed by the Bush administration, judged to be an “agent of influence” of Iran, suspected of having tipped off the Iranians that the U.S. had broken secret Iranian codes, as well as passing Iraqi government documents to Iranian agents. The Defense Intelligence Agency concluded — in 2004 — that “Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi.” Needless to say, none of this speaks very well of the judgment of Chalabi’s neoconservative fans.

Now consider the recent neoconservative attacks on Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett of the New America Foundation for their advocacy of U.S.-Iran engagement. Back in November, Lake published a piece that suggested, on the flimsiest of evidence, that Parsi was an agent of the Iranian regime. The piece was hailed as a blockbuster in neoconservative circles, in some cases by the very people who had boosted Ahmad Chalabi.

On the one hand, you’ve got a guy whose double-dealing and treachery helped get Americans killed. On the other, you’ve got people who think that attempting to achieve rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran is in the U.S. interest, and should therefore be pursued (though, at least in Parsi’s case, not to the exclusion of human rights concerns). It’s interesting who the neocons think the real villains are. And it’s amazing that they should consider themselves credible to attack the integrity of others after having been duped by an IRGC-connected swindler like Ahmad Chalabi.

Israel’s Integrated Military

[ 0 ] February 6, 2010 |

Danny Kaplan at Foreign Policy is pointing out how the US lags behind other top-notch militaries like the IDF in its nascent, grudging willingness to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly.

The United States and Turkey are now the only NATO military powers that do not allow gays to serve openly, but Israel and other countries have shown that the participation of gay soldiers in combat units presents no risk for military effectiveness. What’s more, acknowledging their presence might even improve unite cohesion.

No “might” about it, actually; Elizabeth Kier’s study of this topic twelve years ago demonstrated it does. She drew attention back then to the distinction between “unit cohesion” which is indeed based on a sense of commonality among fellow fighters, and “task cohesion” – the ability to actually get things done in a professional manner – which at times can actually be threatened by too much unit cohesion resulting in group-think. While the “military morale” arguments have accounted for the opposition to open integration by conservatives, Kier explains this only applies to unit cohesion, but it’s task cohesion that makes military units effective.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

Executive Power and the Constitution

[ 0 ] February 5, 2010 |

I don’t think it contradicts the text of Matt’s post, but it’s worth noting that the trend towards unilateral executive power is a question of constitutional norms, as opposed to the text of the Constitution. John Yoo’s nonsense notwithstanding, the framers were worried about the President having excessive authority over foreign affairs, and clearly divided the relevant powers between Congress and the President in ways that put substantial limits on the president’s authority. The trend toward unilateral power has happened because Congress has been for the most part willing to delegate its powers to the executive branch.

Madison was right about one important institutional question: in and of themselves, parchment restrictions on state power are not very effective constraints, and hence they had to be accompanied by an institutional design that would make such limitations effective. Where Madison has largely turned out to be wrong is in his assumptions about the separation of powers. Madison assumed that institutional actors would be very jealous about guarding their prerogatives. But in practice, rather than maximizing their authority members of Congress often take advantage of the separation of powers to evade responsibility. Thus dynamic explains not only the increased foreign policy powers of the presidency, but the general growth in policymaking authority on the part of both the executive branch as a whole and the federal courts.

QDR Roundup

[ 0 ] February 3, 2010 |

I have an article up at TAP on the QDR and the end of the Long War. I also have a couple of posts up at ID on the QDR, including this on improving Air Force foreign training practice, and this on innovation in the defense industry.

Here’s some other groovy stuff to read on the QDR:

I’ll try to get to a few specific questions that people have asked in comments later today.

Game Plans

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

Kayvan Farzaneh informs us that the Pentagon has been worrying about terrorists using World of Warcraft to plot attacks. Considering a Wisconsin appeals court recently upheld the right of prisons to ban inmates from playing Dungeons and Dragons, lest they “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment,” this sort of paranoia is not just funny but genuinely troubling.

Too bad the “right to play” in international law only applies to children…

Isn’t All Politics Global?

[ 0 ] January 28, 2010 |

Dan Drezner is among those who today bemoaned the absence of foreign policy content in President Obama’s State of the Union Speech. He’s not the only one. Max Boot calls foreign policy “AWOL” from the speech. Eric Ostermeir at Smart Politics has quantified the foreign policy content at only 13.9%. Whether they were very worried or not about Obama’s foreign policy message, most commentators agreed it was a weak one relative to the domestic policy content in the speech.

My off-the-cuff reaction to the speech echoed this concern as well. But then I began thinking about the assignment I have my World Politics students doing right now, which is to write about their lives using a global perspective. Lots of them are struggling with it as they always do: if they haven’t traveled abroad, served in the military, supported a global social movement, or watched BBC regularly, they don’t feel like they are really participants in world politics. I challenge this thinking by asking them to reflect on the ways in which their everyday lives are impacted by, and in turn impact, the world beyond our borders.

The purpose of the assignment is to get them thinking past their identity as Americans and situate themselves globally. However the assignment – and the era of globalization we live in – begs the question about the entire notion of the domestic politics / international politics divide. One way to look at the distinction we draw between domestic and foreign policy is as a boundary-maintenance project that is part of the practice of sovereignty. If we make the choice to suspend this practice for a moment, we might realize that Obama’s speech had more foreign policy in it that we may have recognized.

For example Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin, whom I linked to earlier describes the Obama’s foreign policy talking points as consisting of “trade, export controls, Afghanistan, Iraq, nukes, North Korea and Iran” and says he touched on all of this for only “a couple of minutes at the end.” Rogin categorizes energy policy, jobs and financial reform as domestic issues. So do those who have tallied the foreign policy content of the speech and found it wanting.

Yet what could be more global – in their impetus and impact – than a turn toward clean energy and alternative transportation in the US, which until recently led the world in global carbon emissions per capita? Given the global impact of the US banking crisis, is not financial reform a global issue? And is not a policy of “ending subsidies for firms that ship jobs overseas” a foreign policy as well as a domestic one? Certainly it will impact individuals abroad who rely on manufacturing jobs with US companies as a stepping stone out of poverty. This in turn will affect those individuals’ abilities to consume the products Obama also wants to export in greater volume. I’m not saying this is good or bad, just that these things are interconnected.

And actually, Obama said as much. Consider his rationale for financial, education and energy reform:

China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations — they’re not standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.

We think of foreign policy as that subset of policy that is directed at relations with other countries. But since so much of what happens here affects (and can be affected by) what is happening elsewhere whether we intend it or not, perhaps this perspective is behind the times. Drezner concludes his post by saying:

“I would have liked to have seen a more robust effort to link foreign policy priorities to domestic priorities – because the two are more linked than is commonly acknowledged.”

What would it mean to our practices of citizenship if our policymakers and pundits routinely thought past that distinction entirely? As Drezner himself once said, in today’s world “all politics is global.”

Or maybe this is all bunk. But it sure is a useful teaching tool. Thoughts?

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

SOTU Rapid Reaction

[ 0 ] January 28, 2010 |

Wow. Perhaps the ghost of Howard Zinn was speaking through our President tonight. In a little over an hour, he called out the Supreme Court for its recent decision on campaign donations, reminded Republicans they are here to serve their country rather than their own ambitions, and chided pundits for reducing serious debates to silly arguments. I don’t know whether to be glad to see him speaking truth to the powers that be around him or worried: he seemed most effective at the parts of his speech where he was reaching out to the opposition rather than staring them down.

And he didn’t spend much time on foreign policy, but no surprise. Josh Rogin has a translation of his foreign policy remarks here.

He did, though, end on the right tone:

“Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated… the only reason we are here is because generations of Americans weren’t afraid to do what was hard.”

Well said, Mr. President.

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