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The Top 12 Human Security Issues of the Next Decade

[ 1 ] January 15, 2010 |

By way of living up to Rob’s kind introduction (and answering elbruce’s question in comments) I figured I’d kick off my LGM blogging career by reposting my Happy New Decade Top Twelve list – my predictions of which “human security” issues are going to become big in the next ten years.

Landmines, child-soldiering, genocide, debt relief, trafficking and climate change are just some of the human security issues that have been most prominent on the global agenda in the last ten years, as a result of activism by networks of NGOs, international organizations, think-tanks, governments and academics. But what about the human security problems that did not get sufficient advocacy, and consequently suffer from neglect by global policy networks? To which pressing problems might human security advocates turn their attention in the next ten years?

Here are some candidate issues, drawn from recent focus groups with human security practitioners:

1) Opthalmic Care in Developing Countries. Good eyesight seems to many like a luxury in countries riven by malaria, HIV-AIDS and river-blindness, but as a health and development priority it may be one of the most important ways to help improve the lives of individuals in the developing world: according to the NY Times, a WHO study last year estimated the cost in lost output at $269 billion annually.

2) Gangs. Human security organizations pay a great deal of attention to armed political violence, but they tend to stress violence carried out by states, either in wars per se or against their civilian populations. And emerging attention to non-state actors tends to focus on terror groups or militias. Local violence not aimed at capturing the state but rather at holding turf in contestation with other local armed groups – and the role of gangs and cartels as parallel governance structures in many places now competing with states – is being overlooked by analysts and advocates of human security. In Mexico, for example, drug cartels bring in 20% of Mexico’s GDP, control significant portions of Mexico’s territory, possess their own armies. Columbian cartels are experimenting with submarines. Threats to human security in zones where these actors have a foothold are more complex than “combatting crime” or “preventing human rights abuses by states.”

3) Indigenous Land Rights. Perhaps this issue will get a bump with the release of James Cameron’s Avatar. While indigenous people have their own UN treaty process and the right to participate in UN processes, indigenous issues are relatively marginalized within the human security network, occupying little agenda space among organizations working this these areas. Since it is now becoming clear that many of the policy initiatives to stem climate change will negatively impact indigenous populations, perhaps the indigenous voice in world politics will get a little louder in the next few years.

4) Space Security. In 1967 governments signed the Outer Space Treaty, effectively demilitarizing the Moon and other celestial bodies and prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons in orbit. Yet the treaty does not prohibit the placement of non-nuclear weapons in orbit, and according to the Center for Defense Intelligence, today space is becoming highly militarized as governments race to build anti-satellite weapons and space-based strike capabilities. These developments are prompting a movement to promote a new treaty on space governance. So far this idea has have limited impact in global policy circles, but it may an idea whose time is arriving. A recent report from Project Ploughshares argues that even the civilian uses of outer space represent human and environmental security risks, such as that posed by mounting orbital debris. And with the discovery of a perfect location for a moon colony being touted as one of the New Year’s top stories, the relationship between outer space and human security is bound to become more prominent in the next few years.

5) Role of Diasporas in Conflict Prevention. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer may have attracted ire for their treatise on the Israel Lobby, but human security practitioners spoke repeatedly of the wider issue of which their case is a putative example: the impact of outsiders, particularly diasporas, in intractable conflicts worldwide. Focus group participants spoke of the role played by financial transfers and propaganda from ethnic brethren safe abroad in inciting violence within countries that puts civilians at risk and contributed to a spiral of violence – an argument also put forth recently by scholars at United Nations University. They also bemoaned the lack of a strong international norm against outside governments fomenting rebellion within states when it suits their purposes. It’s easy to see why such an ethical standard would go against the interests of some powerful states, but it’s also clear that such a norm might serve a useful conflict mitigation function.

6) Workers’ Right to Organize. The right to unionize is enshrined in human rights law but besides the International Labor Organization, very few human rights advocacy groups pay much attention to the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain with the companies for which they work, or the responsibility of states to ensure this right is not violated. Organizations central to the human security network might follow the lead of smaller NGOs like the International Labor Rights Forum to address not only “humane working conditions” as defined by Northern advocates, but the right of workers’ to advocate on their own behalf about the concerns most pressing to them.

7) Waste Governance. It’s not sexy like climate change but it’s a significant environmental issue for billions of people worldwide. The safe disposal of human waste products is a prerequisite for human health and environmental well-being, yet in places like Africa, populations are rapidly urbanizing often in the absence of effective waste management architecture. As the International Development Research Center recognized ten years ago, this issue will need to become a priority for development organizations and donors in the next century.

8) Sexual Orientation Persecution. Gay, lesbian and transgender individuals worldwide face violence, stigma, and numerous forms of discrimination. Last month, the Ugandan government began considering legislation that would make homosexuality a capitol offense in that country; that they are now reconsidering this provision under pressure from donor governments points to the effectiveness of a strong international response to such human rights violations. Yet it has only been in very recent years that sexual orientation persecution has been recognized by mainstream human rights organizations as an issue meriting serious advocacy, and to date far too little attention has been paid to this very pervasive and widespread form of discrimination.

9) Water. Depending on who you ask, access to a sufficient clean water is a health issue, a development issue, a human right, and increasingly at the root of territorial conflicts globally. While the issue of water is already on the human security agenda, many focus group participants were adamant that much greater global attention and advocacy is required in the next decade to create genuine and inclusive governance over water as a planetary resource.

10) Familization of Governance. During the 2008 Democratic primary, some Democrats voted against Hilary Clinton for no other reason that this: they believed no political system was served by members of only two families – the Bushes and the Clintons – ruling a country for nearly two decades. Yet the US is hardly the worst country in the world when it comes to the monopolization of state power in the hands of a few wealthy families. In many countries, democracies and dictatorships alike, apportioning some high-level positions through kin networks rather than through merit is so common as to be a taken-for-granted aspect of political life that rarely raises an eyebrow. In some cases, such as North Korea and Syria, the entire state is inherited. Participants in my focus groups pointed to the pervasive and largely unchallenged rules of the game that allow this to occur globally and discussed the ways in which it prevents political reform in many places – not just in governments but in international institutions as well. An anti-corruption agenda for the 21st century should include some focused attention to this problem.

11) International Voting Rights. The international community likes to talk about democracy promotion, but this is normally couched in terms of creating accountable, transparent and inclusive institutions at the state level. Not much attention has been given to democratizing political processes at the global level. Some practitioners argue that more attention might be given to inclusiveness within global institutions, or international voting rights on key issues that affect not only states but also individuals. A recent book by OXFAM’s Didier Jacobs lays out this argument more forcefully and shows how it could be institutionalized.

12) Impunity for Death by Neglect. As of 2005, the International Criminal Court can try and punish individuals found guilty of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and forced displacement. But governments enjoy impunity for deaths worldwide that result from benign neglect of their citizens, rather than intentional atrocity. Half a million women die due to pregnancy or childbirth and 11 million children under five die from preventable diseases each year, not because any leader wished it but simply because resources are channeled to palaces instead of hospitals, to militaries instead of health clinics. As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, those on the front lines of the human security community argue for a more expansive notion of impunity, and new mechanisms to incentivize leaders to create a fairer, safer world for all.

Question to readers: what issues do you feel should receive greater attention by human security advocates in the coming decade?

New LGM Contributor

[ 0 ] January 14, 2010 |

All,

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Charli Carpenter, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will join Lawyers, Guns and Money. Charli also blogs at Duck of Minerva and Current Intelligence, specializing in foreign policy, international law, and human security. Medium and long-term readers will recall that she served in a guest stint several months ago, during which she demonstrated her value as a technician of empire. We are delighted that Charli is joining LGM; please extend her a hale and hearty welcome.

Return of the Vampires

[ 0 ] January 9, 2010 |

Every spring, Patterson runs a policy simulation designed to illustrate the difficulty of operating an organization in the context of asymmetric and limited information. Every fall, I run a two hour mini-simulation designed to give students a sense of how the larger simulation will play out. In my first year, I did zombies; the year after was the aftermath of Independence Day, and last year I asked our 35 first year graduate students to develop a strategy for containing or killing Godzilla. Since vampires seem to be in the news lately, this year I chose a vampire oriented scenario.

The scenario was broadly organized around the motivating concept of True Blood; vampires, in existence throughout human history, reveal themselves and demand civil recognition. With vampires the devil is always in the details, so I gave them the following characteristics:

  • Sun Sensitivity: Able to move about during day, but direct sunlight kills in short time frame (15 seconds)
  • Some shape-shifting ability; some vampires capable of turning into wolves, bats, while others lack such capability
  • Coffins: Not necessary, but typical
  • Human blood: Human blood is most nutritious, but mammal blood will do in a pinch
  • Fangs: Retractable
  • Super strength: Well in excess of human norms of endurance and physical strength
  • Vulnerabilities: Cross and other religious paraphernalia have no effect; wooden stake kills, incineration kills, silver injures. No effect from garlic, running water, etc.
  • Propagation: Vampires have to intentionally create additional vampires by force feeding “candidate” victims
  • Lifespan: Spans centuries, at least

Again, with a couple of exceptions these are broadly similar to the vampires in True Blood. I also gave the vampires a transnational governance structure of generally feudal character. I estimated the total numbers of world vampires at around 15 million, with a US population of just under a million.

I divided the students into the following groups:

  • Department of Justice
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of State
  • Department of Health and Human Services

Each group was tasked with developing an organizational response to the imminent public declaration of the existence of vampires. I gave each group a few general questions, then set them lose. CIA and DoD each received a bit of additional information. CIA had been aware of the existence of vampires essentially from the point of its founding, as had most major foreign intelligence organizations. The CIA even employed vampiric agents from time to time; a CIA vampire killed Salvador Allende. DoD’s relationship was even longer and more extensive. In its previous incarnations as the Departments of War and Navy, the US military had employed vampires since the Civil War. In World War II, an entire brigade sized unit was created, although it was mainly concerned with responding to the activities of German and Japanese vampires. I also indicated that many analysts believed that Osama Bin Laden was a vampire, and that Al Qaeda seemed comfortable with the use of vampiric agents.

Here are the highlights of what they came up with in the two hour window:

Department of Justice

  • Prioritize vampire-specific policies. When crafting initial vampire policy, reducing risk to humans must take precedence over the granting of equal protection to vampires.
  • Define vampire’s legal status. If the President desires full vampire inclusion in the human population, they must be granted equal protection under the law.
  • Review U.S. laws to make them species neutral, as far as possible.
  • Strengthen criminal statutes that address crimes likely to be associated with vampire behavior, including feeding and conversion. Also, create human-on-vampire hate crimes.
  • Amnesty for past crimes and legal food supply based on self-identification within a specified time frame.
  • Create and fund a new interagency entity headed by the Department of Justice to deal with vampire registration, identification and criminal enforcement, and distribution of vampire food.
  • Liaise with Interpol regarding transnational vampire threats.

Department of Defense

  • Upon legal recognition of the U.S. vampire population, the DoD has determine that a policy of further R&D should be pursued in regards to vampire defense and technology associate with vampire capabilities.
  • The increased integration of vampires into the armed forces brings up the issue of special training for both vampire and human troops. The DoD proposes to keep vampire units separate from human units.
  • A Global Conference on the Special Needs of Vampires is recommended to address international security issues, specifically a Convention on the Use of Vampires in Combat (CUVC).
  • Vampires are vital assets to the DoD. While vampires do have some limitations such as ability to withstand direct sunlight, their superhuman strength and longevity make them very valuable. Currently, US Armed Forces include three thousand of the one million U.S. vampires; this number should be bolstered through a voluntary conversion program.
  • With Osama bin Laden as a suspected vampire, other terrorists and terrorist groups may also be assumed to be vampires, given the inherent tactical advantages of converting a small force to vampires. Therefore there is an urgent necessity to create additional Special Forces units in the military to combat these insurgents wherever they may operate.
  • The DoD foresees civilian and military concerns about maintaining a sustainable, non-threatening ratio of vampire to human soldiers. The Department of Defense proposes a thorough internal review of the roles and positions of current vampire soldiers, past incidents of vampire misconduct, and the threat of defecting vampire units.
  • The increased vampire presence in the U.S. military presents logistical concerns that must be addressed by the DoD. Vampires have been previously granted Veteran’s Benefits after the traditional twenty years service. Instead, the required length of service should be adjusted in proportion to the longer vampire life span of several centuries.

FBI

  • All vampire citizens must be required to register and carry identification so that FBI agents will be able to determine the difference between a vampire and a human. The FBI proposes to maintain a database of all vampire citizens that can be checked in the event of suspicious activity involving superhuman strength.
  • Vampire agents must be recruited to work within the Bureau to assist in infiltrating organized vampire crime groups.
  • Current tools such as handguns, steel handcuffs, and bullet proof vests will not be appropriate weapons in dealing with vampire criminals. The FBI must integrate silver handcuffs that resist shape-shifting, be armed with wooden stakes and bows and arrows, and trained in archery.
  • Underreporting of crimes related to blood sucking poses a threat to the FBI and to American citizens. The FBI will need to adapt our intelligence collecting methods to detect when humans change into vampires unwillingly by vampire attack. In the event of such attacks, the FBI must ensure that the vampire database is updated with new members of the species for both the protection of FBI agents as well as American citizens.

CIA

  • The most alarming threat from vampires is the potential for infiltration into the United States government, and their unique application in covert operations in the United States and abroad, especially as vampires retain the allegiances of their former lives.
  • CIA’s primary policy proposal focuses on the recruitment of unaffiliated vampires in an effort to check the influence of transnational vampire organizations. Efforts for this policy should focus on emphasizing vampire identification and vampire tracking with the United States.
  • If the DOJ supports interrogation efforts for vampires, a new interrogation manual needs to be created that includes techniques including UV rays and liquid silver-boarding for coercing information out of vampires that relates to US national security.
  • Vampiric individuals provide opportunities to enhance current counterintelligence efforts. Efforts to incorporate and assimilate vampiric individuals in a counterintelligence sphere should be coordinated with intelligence services worldwide who hold similar interests with CIA and the United States. Their physical characteristics allow for new levels and new methods of data collection in clandestine operations.

DHS

  • There are millions of vampire attacks on humans and animals yearly, many of which are fatal. This poses a different degree of terrorist threat. The Department of Homeland Security recommends a continued threat level of “High” (orange) as pertaining to vampire attacks.
  • The fear that the anticipated public vampiric announcement could incite in the United States population at large is a threat to homeland security generally in the risk mass hysteria poses. A more specific aspect of the threat is the probability that a marginalized population poses in the fight on terrorism. If the larger population fears Vamperic-Americans, this marginalized population will become a prime recruiting base for terrorism. This potential threat should be addressed with a public awareness campaign.
  • Given the large number of annual vampire-caused attacks, the Department of Homeland Security proposes the implementation of a microchip identification system. Current vampiric American citizens will be encouraged to voluntarily give up violent behavior and participate in the program to ensure their compliance.
  • Given the fact that there are approximately 15 million vampires worldwide and only 1 million in the U.S., it is reasonable to assume that some vampires will seek to immigrate to a country in which they will enjoy full citizenship. The DHS will direct Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to implement the microchip identification system on a mandatory basis for all vampires entering the United States.

HHS

  • Vampires will not fit within current human-oriented health administrative codes and regulations because, should they be granted full citizenship, they will have access to the national health care system. Their particular strength, lifespan, and sustenance needs would not fit into normal codes, and new ones must be developed, separate from human regulations to account for vampires’ unique condition. Medicare regulations will have to be severely restricted to vampires, as their life span is known to be far longer than average unaffiliated humans. Medicaid will also require adjustments, as human diseases afflict vampires to a far lesser extent.
  • In order to avoid any violent public backlash or outcry against vampires, the Department of Health and Human Services will publish an education campaign to inform the public about the honest intent of the vampire population to openly acculturate. The medical community will receive education on how to treat vampires, how to treat unwilling participants in vampirism, and will receive educational literature for public diffusion on what vampirism is and how it affects the body both positively and negatively.
  • In order to protect the US human population from becoming an unwilling food source to vampires, Health and Human Services will provide policy for the distribution and sale of human and animal blood to support the nutritional needs of the vampire population.
  • It is recommended that grants and funding be provided for the essential task of medical research into vampirism and related health concerns. Currently there is no known cure or treatment for vampirism. Research must be done into potential vaccines and cures for vampirism in order to assure the general public that options are available if accidental contraction occurs.

I can’t find State’s response, although as I recall it involved the potential for a separate state solution to the vampire problem. Also, several of the organization expressed concern over the extension of social services to vampires; Social Security, military and civil service promotion and retirement, and other program would have to be substantially changed.

Altogether, it was a very professional and carefully considered set of responses to an absurd question.

In Fairness, There’s Also A Strong Consensus Against Waste, Fraud and Abuse. And For Limiting Welfare Recipients to Three Escalades A Year.

[ 0 ] December 20, 2009 |

One thing to add to the fact that foreign aid is one of the tiny number of specific areas in which cuts to government spending are actually popular is that (unless public awareness of federal spending levels has increased to implausible levels since 1995) it’s quite definitely the exception that proves the rule:

The weekend before President Clinton’s State of the Union Address, the Wall Street Journal assembled a focus group of middle-class white males to plumb the depth of their proverbial anger. These guys are mad as hell. They’re mad at welfare, they’re mad at special-interest lobbyists. “But perhaps the subject that produces the most agreement among the group,” the Journal reports, is the view that Washington should stop sending money abroad and instead zero in on the domestic front.

…a poll released last week by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland which stated that 75% of Americans believes that the US spends “too much” on foreign aid, and 64% want foreign aid spending cut. Apparently a cavalier 11% of Americans think it’s fine to spend “too much” on foreign aid. Respondents were also asked, though, how big a share of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The median answer was 15%; the average answer was 18%; the correct answer is less than 1%. A question about how much would be “too little” produced a median answer of 3%–more than three times the current level of foreign aid spending.

Does Criticism of Nauru’s Foreign Policy Constitute Slut Shaming?

[ 0 ] December 15, 2009 |

Nauru has just become the first country to recognize Kosovo, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Unfortunately, Nauru switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the PRC in 2002, meaning that it misses out on the much coveted “golden sombrero” of breakaway recognition. It turns out that Nauru shifted back to Taiwan in 2005. My google powers are weak. Nauru has, in fact, achieved Golden Breakaway Status.

Sometimes Success Means Success

[ 0 ] December 14, 2009 |

Yglesias is more impressed than I by Pat Lang’s discussion of successful and failed counter-insurgency campaigns. In particular, I think he misconstrues the objectives of many of the major counter-insurgency campaigns of the post-war colonial period:

This theory of warfare [COIN] was developed by the colonial powers as a “cure” for the wave on “wars of national liberation” that swept through their overseas possessions after World War Two. Because of these revolts against authority most of the European powers found themselves faced with colonized populations engaged in extended attempts to obtain independence from the metropole. Such rebellions were usually based on ethnic and racial differences with the colonizers and were often led by vanguard Left parties with communist connections. That connection caused an eventual American policy commitment to the COIN struggle. That commitment sometimes occurred as a partner of the colonial power (Vietnam in the late ‘40s and ‘50s) and sometimes as a successor to the colonial power after at least partial independence had been achieved. (Vietnam after the French).

Whereas Lang describes COIN as being primarily about maintaining territorial control of colonies, the retention of territorial control was only sometimes the objective of war. The French wanted to hold Algeria, but the British in Malaya wished only to install and maintain a friendly regime. The latter model is more common, I think, to both the colonial era and today. For example, formal Vietnamese independence was established in 1950; the rest of the war, from both the French and American perspectives, was about installing friendly rulers. The Mau Mau revolt accelerated Kenyan independence, but only by convincing the British that it would be easier to manage their interests through a friendly African government than to govern the territory directly. Kenyatta, never deeply tied to the Mau Mau, embarked on a very pro-British foreign and domestic policy after independence. Lang’s argument is closer to the mark on Cyprus, but even there the insurgency was as much about the eventual balance of power between Greeks and Turks as it was about ejecting the British. The British also retained a very strong influence over Cypriot domestic institutions and foreign policy. Moreover, the pursuit of a friendly government isn’t exclusive to the colonial era. The Soviet aim in 1979 was the replacement of one faction of the Communist Party with another, not annexation; it is perhaps the only example of an invasion that was requested by both parties to the dispute.

The British succeeded in suppressing this revolt [in Malaya] but what did this successful effort gain them? It was enormously expensive and success was followed by British withdrawal from Malaya and the creation of an independent Malaysia completely dominated by the Malay ethnic adversaries of the overseas Chinese.

It resulted in the creation of a friendly regime, run by rulers chosen by the British. Indeed, the British escalated their commitment at the behest of the Malayan rulers that they had chosen. The establishment of friendly rulers in former colonial territories may or may not be stupid reason to fight a war for (there’s certainly a good case that it’s an immoral reason to fight a war), but Lang doesn’t really contribute on that question. I don’t know if the value of British economic and strategic interest in a friendly Malaysia over the forty years following 1958 exceeded the cost of the war, but I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Indeed, one of the key realizations on the part of metropolitan powers at the end of the colonial period was that they could retain economic (and often some political) control of their former territories if they made sure that the right people took over. The difference between friendly and not-so-friendly post-colonial leadership was seen, understandably, as something worth waging a war for. Thus, it’s a bit absurd to suggest that British success in establishing Malaysia was somehow pointless, simply because the British withdrew anyway.

Having friendly rulers in charge of foreign countries is nice; in fact, it’s one of the central reasons that countries decide to wage war. Arguing that COIN is useless because all it can do is install friendly rulers is like suggesting that a hammer is useless because it can only drive nails. The Korean War was waged in conventional fashion by the United States, and it resulted in the maintenance and survival of a South Korean state run by people we liked. The Chinese entered the war because they wanted to maintain a North Korea run by people that they liked. Edmund Burke wanted to strangle the French Revolution in its crib not because he had designs on Calais, but rather because he wanted to eliminate dangerous people in Paris. Central to the Allied war aims in 1939 was the removal of Adolf Hitler as ruler of Germany. It would never be argued, however, that success in conventional warfare is worthless because it resulted only in the installation of friendly regimes in Korea, France, and Germany.

Some of the other parts of Lang’s argument are better; COIN is expensive, long term, and fails a lot. Obviously, there’s also something twitchy about killing foreigners in an effort to determine how they’ll order their societies. I think that he gets Vietnam pretty wrong in suggesting that US counter-insurgency efforts were essentially successful in a military sense; the communist/nationalist insurgency in South Vietnam fatally weakened the state (and US attachment to South Vietnamese independence) to the degree that the North Vietnamese Army could crush its opposite number with ease in 1975. I also think that he gets some of this wrong:

COIN theory is predicated on the ability of the counterinsurgents to change the mentality of the “protected” (read controlled) population. The sad truth is that most people do not want to be deprived of their ancestral ways and will fight to protect them. “Hearts and Minds” is an empty propagandist’s phrase.

Were this true, the Chinese Communists would never have defeated the Nationalists, and the Viet Minh would have failed in Vietnam. In both cases, the insurgents offered positive revolutionary programs that defied tradition and ancestral ways; indeed, this is how the insurgents won the loyalty of the target populations. The peasants liked the insurgents because they promised to kill the landlords and redistribute their land, and because the insurgents offered an alternative (nationalist) conception of identity. Insurgencies in other parts of this world follow this pattern, offering varying degrees of revolutionary and nationalist doctrine (nationalism itself was a revolutionary doctrine, alien to traditional conceptions of village life). The Taliban doesn’t exactly campaign on a platform of restoring traditional Afghani ways of life; it also has a positive political program. “Hearts and Minds” is an empty propagandists phrase, but no less empty than “ancestral ways.” Most modern theorists of COIN reject using either term.

In the end the foreign counterinsurgent is embarked on a war that is not his own war. For him, the COIN war will always be a limited war, fought for a limited time with limited resources. For the insurgent, the war is total war. They have no where to escape to after a tour of duty. The psychological difference is massive.

While it’s true that insurgents invariably accept higher risk and endure higher costs than counter-insurgents, it’s simply not the case that there’s “nowhere to escape after a tour of duty.” The success of the “Anbar Awakening” was in giving insurgents somewhere to escape to, and thus reducing their willingness to sacrifice for the cause. Efforts to reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban are similarly about reducing the absolute commitment of the insurgent. These efforts may fail, and they may be costly in their own right, but it’s absurd to claim that every insurgent has a total commitment to the cause. When given a good reason (Americans promise to go home, for example) many insurgents may well decide that the fight isn’t worth the risk.

None of this has anything to do with whether or not a counter-insurgency approach will succeed in Afghanistan. The friendly government may be too corrupt and weak to save, the enemies too strong, civilian casualties too high, etc. I’m skeptical that even the most in-depth historical analysis can be of much assistance in determining the prospects for success in Afghanistan, and I’m really skeptical that an approach as far ranging and shallow as Lang’s can do much good.

Graduation Day!

[ 0 ] December 12, 2009 |

Today was graduation day at Patterson. For lack of anything better to post, below is the graduation keynote that I delivered to the Spring 2009 graduates:

Congratulations to the graduating class, and thank you for asking me to speak. I’m not going to make any claims about the superiority of the Spring 2009 Patterson School graduating class over any other class. But let’s be frank; I don’t need to. They’ve already sufficiently demonstrated their wisdom…

Graduation speeches are evaluated primarily on their brevity, so I’ll keep things short. Tonight I’ll only talk about two things; the first is service, and the second is myself.

A commitment to service binds all Patterson classes together, and by that I mean all Patterson classes that have been, and all that are to come. When someone decides to come to the Patterson School, they sketch out for themselves a career of service to their community, to their government, to something larger than themselves. Our students go on to work in the government, in the intelligence community, in non-governmental organizations, and in major companies around the world. In so doing, they take responsibility for making the world work; taking responsibility is, after all, what service is about. We live in a world of financial crises, terrible poverty, terrorism, cylons, piracy, and trade disputes, and those are only the exciting bits, the tip of the iceberg. Our graduates tonight will be taking responsibility for all of that, along with the daily grind that constitutes making policy in government, in an NGO, or at a private company. Our graduates, in short, are taking responsibility for making the world run.

I don’t think that this commitment to service, this undertaking of responsibility, can be understood independently of an appreciation of Kentucky. Kentucky is about community; circles of community reaching from family to town to county to state to nation. How this sense of community works can be mystifying, even maddening to an outsider like myself, but there’s no doubt that it exists. I think that this sense of community, and the commitment to service it produces, infuses everything that we do at the Patterson School. We’re not simply a school of foreign policy; we’re a school of foreign policy in Kentucky, and that distinction means something for what our graduates will do.

And so, what has all this meant to me? For four years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching at the Patterson School, and I’ve found it the most rewarding part of my career. If someone asked me, I’d say that teaching Patterson students is, I think, the most important thing that I’ve ever done. But I would also have to say that my attachment, and my enthusiasm, has thus far been detached; I’ve approached Patterson in an analytical sense, detached from the personal.

This has been a luxury of (relative) youth. As some of you know, my wife and I are expecting two baby girls this summer. I expect that many things will change; one thing that has changed already is my appreciation of service, of the acceptance of responsibility that our students have undertaken. Because now it’s not just me; it’s my daughters as well. Now, when we send our students out into the world, they’re taking responsibility for making sure my daughters have the opportunity to grow up safe, healthy and prosperous. And that means that the success of our graduates tonight has, so to speak, become personal. And so as you, the graduates, go forth, I say with all seriousness: Do well.

I should also say that I will be deeply honored if, some 24 years from now, my daughters join you all as Patterson graduates. We’ll see.

Thank you, and congratulations again to our graduates.

ChiComs Under the Bed!

[ 0 ] December 3, 2009 |

Al Kamen, via Jason Sigger:

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Clinton administration’s cavalier handover of the Panama Canal — leaving an alleged front for the Chinese Red Army in control of the strategic passage — despite the strong misgivings of some top foreign policy experts.

“If we do nothing, I can guarantee you that within a decade, a communist Chinese regime that hates democracy and sees America as its primary enemy will dominate the tiny country of Panama, and thus dominate the Panama Canal, one of the world’s most important strategic points,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) told a House subcommittee on Dec. 7, 1999, as it debated the handover.

Retired Adm. Thomas Moorer warned that China could sneak missiles into Panama and use it as a launchpad for attacking the United States. And former defense secretary Caspar W. Weinberger wrote that fall that Panama’s contract with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa to control ports at both ends of the passage was “the biggest threat to the canal.”

Is that a money back guarantee, Dana?

Blair: The Biggest Villain?

[ 1 ] December 1, 2009 |

Tom Ricks:

As a British naval historian friend I know once noted, the time when the British government could have helped — and perhaps stopped the war — was back in the winter of 2002-2003. Real friends speak up when a friend is making a big mistake. Instead, Tony Blair may have destroyed the “special relationship” by supporting the invasion when he should have opposed it. My friend said he believes Blair should be confined right now in the Tower of London.

Observations:

1. I wonder if Blair really could have stood and said “No.” I always kind of suspected that Blair pursued the Iraq War with the enthusiasm he did because he believed that he couldn’t stop it if he wanted, and a) wanted to be part of the action, and b) wanted to maintain the “special relationship.” This isn’t to say that Blair privately opposed the war, just that his primary motivations were about the relationship more than conviction about the wisdom of the invasion. But I really don’t know.

2. If Blair had said “no,” would the neocons have spewed the same vitriol towards Britain that the sprayed at France? I would have loved to see a book explaining how the United Kingdom is our enemy, and in fact has always been our enemy; it makes even more sense than France.

QOTD

[ 0 ] December 1, 2009 |

Stephen Walt:

Americans have come to believe that spending government revenues on U.S. citizens here at home is usually a bad thing and should be viewed wth suspicion, but spending billions on vast social engineering projects overseas is the hallmark of patriotism and should never be questioned. This position makes no sense, but it is hard to think of a prominent U.S. leader who is making an explicit case for doing somewhat less abroad so that we can afford to build a better future here at home. Debates about foreign policy, grand strategy, and military engagement — including the current debate over Obama’s decision to add another 30,000-plus troops in Afghanistan — tend to occur in isolation from a discussion of other priorities, as if there were no tradeoffs between what we do for others and what we are able to do for Americans here at home.

Via Yglesias

Leverage and Influence

[ 0 ] November 30, 2009 |

This doesn’t seem right to me:

During the Cold War, the United States and Turkey formed a “strategic partnership” based on both countries’ fear of Soviet intervention in the Middle East. The Truman Doctrine offered a specific guarantee that both Turkey and Greece would be protected from Soviet aggression – a fear that was quite real in Turkey at the time. In exchange, the United States received access to military bases, support in the Korean War and a strategically advantageous position in the Middle East. Despite serious disagreements – particularly over Cyprus – the relationship worked to each sides’ mutual advantage until the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago.

Today, the United States wants Turkish support on a wide variety of important issues, including stabilizing Iraq, supporting the mission in Afghanistan, preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, moving energy to Europe, serving as a Muslim ally, and providing stability in its neighborhood.

In exchange, the United States offers security guarantees, military assistance, and the benefits that accrue from an alliance with the world’ most powerful military. All of these things are very important to Turkey (and to many other countries). The problem is that the United States is not in a position to credibly threaten to withhold these benefits without undermining the international order in which it has invested so much. For example, both Washington and Ankara know that Turkey’s stance on Iran’s nuclear program will not jeopardize the American security blanket.

Of course, there are red lines that Turkey (or any other country) could cross that would change U.S. policy. But the point is that Turkey has a great deal of running room before those red lines are crossed. Turkey, both because it is a NATO ally and a strategically critical country, knows that it can pursue an independent foreign policy while still enjoying the benefits of American power.

The basic problem identified here is that it’s difficult to exclude particular countries from the benefits (such that they are) of hegemony, and consequently that it’s much more difficult for the United States to exert influence than it would seem on paper. My response, I guess, is as follows: This is not a new problem, it characterized the Cold War, and in many ways small and medium sized states had more leverage during the Cold War, rather than less.

The central issue is thus: the Cold War granted the US a certain degree of leverage over countries like Turkey because the United States could provide protection against the Soviet Union. However, it simply wasn’t the case that the United States could, as a matter of policy, routinely threaten to exclude Turkey from the umbrella of protection. The loss of US influence over Turkey would, during the Cold War, have been understood as a colossal strategic setback for the United States. Indeed, threats of the “loss” of countries far more trivial than Turkey were treated in US strategic circles as harbingers of the Apocalypse, and client states of the US routinely made (usually implausible) threats of realignment in order to cajole more support from Washington. Kenneth Waltz may have been correct in demonstrating that the shift of a few small and medium sized powers could not fundamentally affect the balance of power between the US and the USSR, but Hans Morgenthau was surely more accurate in his prediction that small states could wield inordinate influence over large powers by threatening defection. Consequently, during the Cold War the idea that the United States could “exclude” Turkey, or Japan, or West Germany from the benefits of its umbrella is simply crazy; indeed, the smaller states held a great degree of leverage. Moreover, I’m not convinced that even formal exclusion from the US sponsored system of alliances entitled actual exclusion from the US security umbrella; the Russians probably didn’t want to invade Sweden or Yugoslavia anyway, but an effort to do so might well have sparked a general European war even in the absence of a direct NATO security commitment.

As Ben argues, post-Cold War the United States still can’t plausibly exclude states like Turkey from the benefits of a US dominated international system. However, small and medium size states generally lack the same degree of leverage that they possessed when the Soviet Union existed. The US became indifferent to the fate of lots of Cold War hotspots as soon as the USSR collapsed; I suspect that if the USSR (and its enmity with the US) had survived, the US would have continued to pay very close attention to happenings in Somalia, Afghanistan, Zaire/Congo, etc. Threats of defection from the US sponsored global system only grant leverage if the US cares, and if such threats are credible; on balance, I’m not convinced that exerting influence is any more difficult today than it was in 1980.

Who?

[ 0 ] November 20, 2009 |

The European Union selected its President and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice President for External Affairs. In the classic stereotype of the dull gray bureaucrat, they’ve selected a couple of relative lightweights (given the nature and stature of the position) whom nobody outside of their jobs, families, and closest work colleagues know anything about. I’ll admit to having “fleshed out” my knowledge of the two appointees just this morning.

The President is the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy. He’s only been Belgian Prime Minister since December 30 of last year, and then, he was reluctant to take up the position following the political collapse of the imagined state of Belgium. The King had to cajole him.

The High Representative for a Number of Important Things is Catherine Ashton, life peer since 1999 so commonly referred to as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, or Lady Ashton here in the UK. She has had a proper lefty background, studied Sociology at University, worked for the CND for a couple years, had a stint working with businesses about issues of social inequality, before entering politics. I’ll admit to gleaning most of her pre-politics background from her Wiki as well as a couple other sources.

I’ll try to imagine some strengths of these appointments before discussing the obvious weaknesses. Van Rompuy has held a country together that by all accounts should not be a country, and nearly ceased being a country in 2007-08, a crisis that I exploited for its humor value early and often in class. By all accounts, his success in holding Belgium together was more than mere competence; he was able to rebuild a modicum of trust between Flanders and Wallonia. These skills should serve him well in trying to keep the 27 member states of the European Union on the same page. Of course, there is fear that Belgium has lost its healer and will once again descend into chaos.

Lady Ashton was the Leader of the House of Lords for a bit over a year, has held the post of EU Trade Commissioner (replacing Peter Mandelson) for a bit over a year, has a reputation for . . . well, hell, I really don’t know anything about her.

I wrote about this on Halloween. While my post was primarily a befuddled questioning of Tory tactics on several issues, I had this to say about the positions:

Second, I don’t see the value in European leaders wanting a “chairman rather than a chief”. A recognizable, public face as the putative leader or figurehead representing the EU will help not only abroad, but within the EU itself. Not noted for its democratic transparency, distrusted by more than just the British, and perceived to be run by faceless Eurocrats in Brussels, such a “president” would help raise the profile of the EU within the EU.

These appointments will help the image or profile of the EU neither abroad nor within. What they do suggest is that the 27 member states, especially the leaders of the large leading countries (e.g. Germany, France, the UK, Spain, and . . . Italy? Poland?) did not want these posts to have a higher profile than they. So, we get a perhaps diplomatically and politically gifted Belgian Prime Minister whom nobody outside of Brussels or Antwerp has really heard of, and a British politician who, as The Guardian argues, is as obscure as she is unelected. Can you even be a politician in a democracy if you’ve never stood for election?

Critics of the EU will have a field day with this, indeed already are here in the UK. The leader of UKIP (and an MEP), Nigel Farage, argued

We’ve got the appointment of two political pygmies. In terms of a global voice, the European Union will now be much derided by the rest of the world. Baroness Ashton is ideal for the role. She has never had a proper job and never been elected to public office.

But then we would expect UKIP to say that.

A greater problem will be the legacy that they establish in designing their positions. The descriptions are suitably vague enough that a strong political force could have developed them into something useful vis-a-vis the various heads of government in the EU. However, George Washington they ain’t.

Speaking of American Presidents, Obama did claim that these appointments would make the EU an “even stronger partner” to the United States.

Did he say this before, or after, looking them up on wikipedia?

Note: while I may appear to be overly critical of Belgium, I rather love that country, and spent a lot of time in it when I lived in the Netherlands. In fact, one of my top five beer bars on the planet is in Antwerp.

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