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Tag: "foreign policy"

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]

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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]

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…

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