Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bush Invites UN Election Monitors

In what must surely be a magnanimous gesture, President Bush has invited election monitors from the UN to observe the US Presidential election next week. About 100 monitors will be in Florida and other states to insure that the election goes smoothly. The story I linked to above says that he did this despite some understandable complaints from some fellow Republicans.

I'm really stunned by this. Bush really seems to be going out of his way to insure a fair election. This is an amazing gesture since it was several Democrats that had sent a letter to the UN requesting election observers. Bush finally got smart and beat the Democrats at their own game by welcoming the observers. And why shouldn't he? He obviously has nothing to hide.

Will Bush get any credit for this non-partisan gesture? Don't hold your breath.

How many Iraqi civilians have died?

There has been a lot of controversy lately over the study published in Lancet concerning Iraqi civilian casualties. Fred Kaplan does a good breakdown of it here. But I also notice that he gives favorable mention to another "study" being conducted over at Iraqi Body Count. I found this really odd because the Iraqi Body Count website uses some bizarre methodology in counting Iraqi civilian deaths. Notice this on the database page:

In the current occupation phase the database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.
So the US is responsible when an Iraqi hits another Iraqi over the head with a brick because the breakdown of law and order is the fault of the US? If health care before the invasion was inadequate, are deaths attributable too faulty health care the fault of the US after the invasion? The logic here is very convoluted.

A quick perusal of their database turns up some amazing entries. You'll quickly notice that beheadings and car bombs are included. What's going on here? Well, Iraqi Body Count includes the civilians killed by the terrorists and insurgents, and claims that those people's blood is on the hands of US soldiers.

I'm not making this up. Iraqi Body Count actually blames the actions of the insurgents on the US. By doing so, they are able to greatly inflate the body count beyond what the US is obviously responsible for. Imagine that your local police weren't just responsible for people inadvertently killed by bullets fired from police weapons, but that the police were responsible for every homicide in the city. Imagine someone arguing the police, not the murderers, were responsible for those deaths.

You might be asking how Iraqi Body Count could justify using this methodology. Here's their justification for it on the methodology page:
The test for us remains whether the bullet (or equivalent) is attributed to a piece of weaponry where the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger, or is due to "collateral damage" by either side (with the burden of responsibility falling squarely on the shoulders of those who initiate war without UN Security Council authorization).
So now we see the author's intent in conducting this study: those that conduct war without the holy blessing of the UN SC are to be tarred with the deeds of their enemies. Just war theory, indeed.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

If Bush wins.. it was because he cheated

Here we go again. Yet another Democratic pundit claiming that if Bush wins, it will only be because he cheated. And who is it from? Paul Krugman, of course.

Where will this stop? When will this irrational obsession with cheating end? Is it even remotely conceivable that Bush might legitimately win? Is every single, solitary poll that shows a near statistical deadheat really part of a vast right-wing, Republican, hate-filled conspiracy to deprive John Kerry of the presidency? That's what these pundits, who are already accusing Republicans of cheating, are saying. Is this even remotely rational?!?!

If Bush wins, this country will tear itself apart. I predict we will see days...maybe weeks of rioting. What will be the ultimate outcome of quelling such rioting? Will our country ever heal from such irrationality and the outrage that it fosters? God only knows.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Spengler: Christianity and Globalization

Spengler at the Asia Times Online continues to amaze me. Here he responds to a reader's question of how Christianity could possibly have any link with capitalism. The answer is pure Spengler:

Christianity offers a response to the dissolution of the bonds of traditional society (Islam: Religion or political ideology?, August 10). The pagan who performs the rites of his ancestors and teaches them to his children is no easy convert to a religion promising peace beyond the grave, for the pagan lives his immortality in the lifeblood of his people. Mass conversion of African animists to Christianity is under way precisely because no pagan in the 21st century can doubt that his tribe, language, religion and culture will erode under the ceaseless battering of creative destruction. It is a bit fanciful, but one might say that globalization promotes Christianity today much as did the barbarian migrations of the 3rd and 4th centuries.

American Protestants, for their part, suffer from no contradiction in this matter. Christianity promotes capitalism insofar as it promotes freedom, which is a consequence in the modern world of the Christian doctrine (adapted from the Hebrews) of God's love for each individual, and in particular from the Protestant notion that grace is an individual matter, such that all men have the right and need to read Scripture for themselves. With freedom comes abuse, but rarely so much abuse as self-appointed autocrats are likely to inflict.

The Left's Take on Human Nature and Danger

Maverick Philosopher (see right) has an excellent post today on the Left's refusal to come to grips with human nature. Here's a short excerpt:
Conservatives take a sober view of human nature. They admit and celebrate the human capacity for good, but cannot bring themselves to ignore the practically limitless human capacity for evil. They cannot dismiss the lessons of history, especially the awful lessons of the 20th century, the lessons of Gulag and Vernichtungslager. They know that evil is not a contingent blemish that can be isolated and removed, but has ineradicable roots reaching deep into human nature. The fantasies of Rousseau and Marx have no grip on them. Conservatives know that it is not the state, or society, or institutions that corrupt human beings, but the logically antecedent corruption of human nature that makes necessary state, social, and institutional controls.
Something to keep in mind during this election season.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Online National Security Text!

Yes, I'm such a security geek that I was delighted to find this free text on national security. This monograph from the US Army War College is much better than the textbook that I read in my US National Security class and it's FREE! The text is well written and many of the authors are famous scholars in the field. Reading something like this will make anyone more informed about security issues in general. While you're there, poke around the site for other excellent monographs on security issues. This is a good way to build a small library of material that will always be at your fingertips. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Battle for Dan Drezner's Soul

A fierce battle for Prof. Daniel Drezner's vote has ensued over at his blog. His first post in which he said he would likely vote for Kerry is here and his followup is here.

Prof. Drezner says his support of Bush has slipped because of the mistakes that Bush has made and because Drezner thinks Kerry has a better decision-making process. Hmmm.... It seems to me that Kerry doesn't have a decision-making process at all. That's why he hasn't clearly supported anything. When I think of Kerry's decision-making process, I think of his response to the pizza question: I like everything on my pizza. That says it all for me.

It may be evil of me, but I can't help but think that eminent IR scholars weighing in against Iraq may have influenced Drezner's vote. Prof. Drezner is in a precarious position. His blog is loved by conservatives because Drezner is an IR academic who has had the guts to go against the grain. But Prof. Drezner is also a man with a family who must be worried that his public support for "the other side" might seriously hurt him come tenure time.

I'm not speculating that he is consciously changing his vote because of these pressures. I'm saying that he may unconsciously be feeling a responsibility to secure his family's future. That's understandable. Okay, enough of the amateur psychoanalysis.

This is wishing Prof. Drezner the best no matter who he votes for.

P.S. Check out some the excellent responses to his original post. That comment thread is quite long but some of the best ones are in the first hundred or so comments..

Claims of Cheating are Out of Control

This destructive obsession with cheating has gotten totally out of control. The nonsensical assertion that Bush stole the 2000 election was bad enough but now claims of cheating are everywhere. The Drudge Report claimed that Kerry took out a "cheat sheet" just before the first debate. Kerry, whatever his faults, is a smart guy who was totally capable of performing as well as he did during the first debate. He didn't need to cheat to do that. Democratic pundits claim Bush was wearing a wire during the first debate. Did they see a different debate than I did? Bush performed miserably!! If he was wearing a wire he would have done better than that. The implication is that Bush is so stupid that he can wear a wire and still perform so poorly.

Now we're getting early hints that, regardless of how the election goes, claims of cheating will be slung. Check out what Eric Alterman is saying:
I am going to go on record here saying forget the polls, which were wrong last time and will be wrong again this time. If Bush somehow wins, it will require an even bigger steal than four years ago. Nobody who voted for Gore is voting for Bush. The Democrats have registered millions of new voters who don’t show up in the polls. Idiots who share Ralph Nader’s belief that there is not a “dime’s worth of difference” between the two candidates are far fewer than last time around. And lots more people have cell phones and can’t be reached by pollsters. I’m not saying Bush can’t win; I’m just saying I don’t think he can win honestly.
Where is this going to stop? Maybe Jon Stewart is right. We are tearing our country apart.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

BBC: Babies Found in Iraqi Mass Grave

US-led investigators have recently found a mass grave that contains the remains of hundreds of vistims. Key graphs:

The skeletons of unborn babies and toddlers clutching toys are being unearthed, the investigators said.
"It is my personal opinion that this is a killing field," Greg Kehoe, an
American working with the IST, told reporters in Hatra, south of the city of Mosul.
The body of one woman was found still clutching a baby. The infant had been shot in the back of the head and the woman in the face.
"The youngest foetus we have was 18 to 20 foetal weeks," said US investigating anthropologist P Willey.
"Tiny bones, femurs - thighbones the size of a matchstick."
Mr Kehoe said that work to uncover graves around Iraq, where about 300,000 people are thought to have been killed during Saddam Hussein's regime, was slow as experienced European investigators were not taking part.
The Europeans, he said, were staying away as the evidence might be used eventually to put Saddam Hussein to death.

So we have even more evidence of Saddam's atrocities and the Europeans are refusing to take part in the investigation. Real sense of justice there. Can we count on these people? When will we realize that most European countries are not true alliesof the US? They don't want to see justice done.

NYT on Bush: He's a Religo Wackjob

You have two choices if you want to read the recent in-no-way-biased-not-even-a-little-bit piece on President Bush in the NYT: you can read all eleven pages here or you can read a hilarious summarized version provided by law professor Tom Smith here. After reading his summary I don't think I'll be able to stand on the scale again without wondering if Jesus is talking to me.

Friday, October 15, 2004

2004 Presidential Election: The Other Guys

I'm filling out my absentee ballot right now and there are many political parties that I'm apparently unfamiliar with. So below are the websites of your alternate choices if you're in the "anybody but Bush and Kerry" crowd.

Constitution Party
Their candidate criticizes Bush for being too left and for not trying to repeal all laws regarding personal firearm ownership. Yeehaw! Wild West, anyone? Nice logo.

Libertarian Party
Badnarik was recently arrested for civil disobediance. Sometimes libertarians are cool. I like their economics a lot but every libertarian I've ever heard of was either pro-pot or pro-prostitution. Get some better issues guys!

Green Party
Their logo looks like a laundry detergent bottle. They have a link to a comic strip called the "Whitebreads." One of these strips has a libertarian dude trying to get a nice environmentalist-gardner-type to grow "thcorn" (THC-producing corn, hey new to me too) in his cornfield. What did I tell you about those libertarians? Even the Greens are on to them!

Socialist Workers Party
Wow! I thought these guys were a joke! Website is scary looking, communist style. Whoops! Sorry! The candidate site is here. If they win, do we all have to wear red?

Socialist Party (candidate site here)
For the kinder, gentler, and "older" form of socialism. I didn't realize we had so many choices in the socialist arena. They are calling for the US Constitution to be completely rewritten. Yikes! Moving right along...

The Ralph Nader Party
I have to say, I admire the guy. I wouldn't want him to be president, but I'm glad he's around. Seatbelts aren't a bad thing in my book. Part of their website has an interetsing discussion of their four "symbols of the campaign." The bulldog is the mascot, Ralph sure doesn't let go of anything. The robin symbolizes the arrival of spring, as in a time of renewal. The rose represents love and beauty. The oak tree represents strength and integrity. That was a really elegant page and is quite a contrast to other parties' pages. Seemed very positive and had interesting discussions of things I've never heard of, like "tiny taxes." I wish Ralph well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Taiwan-China Security Master Link

Here's a great source for information regarding Taiwan and China security issues. It includes a roundup of news articles for each week plus any links to any recent papers that may have been released. It's an excellent one-stop link to keep up with all the developments in NE Asian security and allows you to stay informed without having to click all over the Web. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Kerry's Weak Anti-Terror Strategy

If you haven't read Matt Bai's excellent piece on John Kerry's proposed anti-terror strategy then you're really missing something. This is the first time I've heard anything substantial on how Kerry would fight terrorism. Rather than just reading blurbs on blogs, you should really read the whole thing for yourself but below I will discuss some important points about the strategy.

With the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the geopolitical currents that Washington had spent half a century mastering shifted all at once. It isn't clear how long it took Kerry -- a senator for nearly 20 years and, in September 2001, an undeclared candidate for the presidency -- to understand the political magnitude of that change. George W. Bush and his advisers got it almost instantly.

Bai starts off differently than I had expected. It's clear from the start that he'll be tough on Kerry. This is a good thing, not for partisan reasons but because we really need answers to how Kerry would fight terrorism. So far, he hasn't said anything more than "I have a plan." Bai takes note of this:

What Kerry still has not done is to articulate clearly a larger foreign-policy vision, his own overarching alternative to Bush's global war on terror. The difference between the two men was clear during the foreign-policy debate...Kerry bore in on ground-level details, Bush, in defending his policies, seemed, characteristically, to be looking at the world from a much higher altitude, repeating in his brief and sometimes agitated statements a single unifying worldview: America is the world's great force for freedom, unsparing in its use of pre-emptive might and unstinting in its determination to stamp out tyranny and terrorism. Kerry seemed to offer no grand thematic equivalent.
While Kerry is widely believed to have won the debate (I thought so too) he did not lay out any type of vision or strategy. He won mainly because of President Bush's gaffes, not because of his own ideas.

In the liberal view, the enemy this time -- an entirely new kind of ''non-state actor'' known as Al Qaida -- more closely resembles an especially murderous drug cartel than it does the vaunted Red Army. Instead of military might, liberal thinkers believe, the moment calls for a combination of expansive diplomacy abroad and interdiction at home, an effort more akin to the war on drugs than to any conventional war of the last century.
Now we start getting to some details of the proposed democratic strategy and, already, they are off on the wrong foot. I thought the "war on drugs" was supposed to be a total failure? Hmmm...

Even Democrats who stress that combating terrorism should include a strong military option argue that the ''war on terror'' is a flawed construct. ''We're not in a war on terror, in the literal sense,'' says Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton-era diplomat who could well become Kerry's secretary of state. ''The war on terror is like saying 'the war on poverty.' It's just a metaphor. What we're really talking about is winning the ideological struggle so that people stop turning themselves into suicide bombers.''
Two points here: First, comparing the effort to defeat those who perpetrated 9/11 with fighting the "war on poverty" is a striking sign of naivete. Second, the Clinton-era strategy, which Holbrooke knows all too well, didn't exactly stop suicide bombers did it? Welcome to Clinton redux.

When I asked Kerry's campaign advisers about these poll numbers, what I heard from some of them in response was that Kerry's theories on global affairs were just too complex for the electorate and would have been ignored -- or, worse yet, mangled -- by the press. ''Yes, he should have laid out this issue and many others in greater detail and with more intellectual creativity, there's no question,'' one adviser told me. ''But it would have had no effect.''... This is, of course, a common Democratic refrain: Republicans sound more coherent because they see the world in such a rudimentary way, while Democrats, 10 steps ahead of the rest of the country, wrestle with profound policy issues that don't lend themselves to slogans.
So not only is President Bush an idiot, but all Americans are too. The vanity and arrogance of this man knows no bounds. This intellectual snobbery is uncalled for and shows a petty, childish but revealing side of Kerry.

Kerry told me he would stop terrorists by going after them ruthlessly with the military, and he faulted Bush, as he often does, for choosing to use Afghan militias, instead of American troops, to pursue Osama bin Laden into the mountains of Tora Bora, where he disappeared. ''I'm certainly, you know, not going to take second seat to anybody, to nobody, in my willingness to seek justice and set America on a course -- to make America safe,'' Kerry told me. ''And that requires destroying terrorists. And I'm committed to doing that. But I think I have a better way of doing it. I can do it more effectively.''
So far we have identified terrorists as nonstate actors and a reframing of the GWOT as not a war. Now Kerry acknowledges the role of the military: he'll go after them ruthlessly. How he plans to do that remains to be seen.

''I think we can do a better job,'' Kerry said, ''of cutting off financing, of exposing groups, of working cooperatively across the globe, of improving our intelligence capabilities nationally and internationally, of training our military and deploying them differently, of specializing in special forces and special ops, of working with allies, and most importantly -- and I mean most importantly -- of restoring America's reputation as a country that listens, is sensitive, brings people to our side, is the seeker of peace, not war, and that uses our high moral ground and high-level values to augment us in the war on terror, not to diminish us.''
Kerry starts off strong but notice how this statement ends: America needs to be more "sensitive" to win the war, it needs to "listen." Here we have the crux of the problem: the GWOT requires action, not just words. But the Democrats don't "do" action, they do high-level thinking that is above the rest of us. We could "listen" indefinitely till everyone on earth has their say, but that won't win the war. Winning requires acting and in acting you have to be willing to take a stand, make mistakes, and be willing to accept that some people won't like your actions. Kerry sounds like he wishes to return to the Clinton days when opinion polls determined foreign policy and multi-lateralism hampered US national security. As anyone who has read the 9/11 Commission Report knows, Clinton could not think beyond his multi-lateralist worldview and countenance striking Afghanistan, despite the fact that they were harboring al Qaida. Let's hope that Kerry's high moral ground is so high al Qaida won't be able to reach us.

When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. ''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''
Prositution and gambling are not the equivalent of crashing planes into skyscrapers. First, the severity and symbolism of the acts alone make them very different. Second, you can not treat terrorism as a domestic crime because so much of it occurs outside of the US. US laws don't extend to other countries where terrorists live and perpetrate many of their acts.

The fact that Kerry does not see the difference between vice crime and catastrophic terrorism shows that he is not prepared to defend America. He does not realize the extent of the threat, nor that terrorism has changed from the political terrorism of the Palestinians. Despite 9/11, despite Spain, despite Beslan, John Kerry still does not understand the nature of the enemy were are facing.

In 1988, Kerry successfully proposed an amendment that forced the Treasury Department to negotiate so-called Kerry Agreements with foreign countries. Under these agreements, foreign governments had to promise to keep a close watch on their banks for potential money laundering or they risked losing their access to U.S. markets. Other measures Kerry tried to pass throughout the 90's, virtually all of them blocked by Republican senators on the banking committee, would end up, in the wake of 9/11, in the USA Patriot Act; among other things, these measures subject banks to fines or loss of license if they don't take steps to verify the identities of their customers and to avoid being used for money laundering.
Notice where this is going regarding non-state actors like al Qaida. First, the vice crime analogy and now calls to get states "to promise" to stop terrorist money laundering. Tying that promise to warnings about losing the US market is smart, but notice the reliance on other states in this strategy. He expounds on that multi-lateralism here:

If forced democracy is ultimately Bush's panacea for the ills that haunt the world, as Kerry suggests it is, then Kerry's is diplomacy. Kerry mentions the importance of cooperating with the world community so often that some of his strongest supporters wish he would ease up a bit.
Now we've gotten to crux of Kerry's strategy and why it won't work: his chief weapon in this campaign against Islamic terrorism is diplomacy. Bai explains that Kerry does not agree with Bush's "viral democracy" approach to fighting the causes of terrorism nor does he supposedly agree with Bush's wars against states that sponsor terrorism. But Kerry, despite Bai's claims, advocates using another state-to-state mechanism, diplomacy, to fight terrorism.

So Bush is wrong for seeking a state-centered solution but Kerry is right for seeking one, and an ineffective one at that. Diplomacy did not get Yemen to cooperate in the USS Cole bombing, nor did it force Saddam Hussein out of office. But most importantly, diplomacy did not defeat the Taliban and al Qaida forces in Afghanistan. Launching the war that President Clinton was unwilling to fight defeated them and going back to Clintonian diplomacy and multi-lateralism will not work in the post-9/11 era. Kerry has learned nothing from the past four years as Bai concludes:
When Kerry first told me that Sept. 11 had not changed him, I was surprised. I assumed everyone in America -- and certainly in Washington -- had been changed by that day. I assumed he was being overly cautious, afraid of providing his opponents with yet another cheap opportunity to call him a flip-flopper. What I came to understand was that, in fact, the attacks really had not changed the way Kerry viewed or talked about terrorism -- which is exactly why he has come across, to some voters, as less of a leader than he could be. He may well have understood the threat from Al Qaeda long before the rest of us. And he may well be right, despite the ridicule from Cheney and others, when he says that a multinational, law-enforcement-like approach can be more effective in fighting terrorists. But his less lofty vision might have seemed more satisfying -- and would have been easier to talk about in a political campaign -- in a world where the twin towers still stood.
In an effort to get back to the "good ole days," Kerry would supposedly pretend that the last four years never happened. He would go back to the policies that so brilliantly failed in confronting al Qaeda because they relied on the good-will of others and police actions that did nothing to deter terrorism.

Kerry's anti-terrorism strategy will ultimately fail because it will not keep us safe and keeping America safe is the president's highest duty.

China's "Peace"Keeping in Haiti

This has mostly flown under the radar screen so I thought I'd talk about this development a bit. China has recently sent 125 members of its elite Beijing riot police to Haiti supposedly to help with humanitarian relief efforts there after Hurricane Jeanne caused massive damage.

This story has been covered in the press but rarely do they mention the diplomatic relationship between Taiwan and Haiti. One that does is China Shows off Peacekeepers for Haiti in the Washington Post. Reporter Stephanie Hoo correctly notes:

"Haiti is among about a score of countries that maintain diplomatic
relations with Taiwan rather than China, and Beijing's move could be a part of a decades-long struggle with its rival for Third World influence. "

Bill Gertz at the Washington Times takes it a step further by noting the implications of China's deployment of forces, both on Taiwan and the US:
"A State Department official says he has 'mixed feelings' about the Chinese deployment in Haiti. 'They don't have benign intentions when they deal with countries that have formal relations with Taiwan,' the official says. 'On the other hand, the administration has been trying to organize support for the peacekeeping operation in Haiti...We would really prefer to have someone other than the Chinese there, but [peacekeeping] is something we need others to contribute to. It's a difficult challenge, and there are conflicting views on what to do about this.'"
The need for peacekeepers has now left an opening for China to pressure Haiti into breaking off diplomatic relations with Taiwan, further isolating the island. Sending peacekeeping forces will also likely improve China's image and may take some of the heat off China for its human rights abuses at home. So China gains two benefits from this deployment.

But Gertz doesn't stop there. He notes that this deployment may be an attempt to advance China's influence in the area:

"It's been a big year for China," says one official opposed to the deployment. "They put a man in space, won gold medals at the Olympics, and now they are going to put troops in the Western Hemisphere for the first time." The official says China's first military presence near U.S. shores would boost Beijing's long-term strategy to "supplant U.S. influence" in the region. "China is pursuing a maritime strategy in the Caribbean to gain access and control over port facilities, free trade zone infrastructure, fisheries, oil and minerals, and off-shore banking platforms." For example, a Chinese company whose leader is close to Beijing's communist rulers operates major port facilities at both ends of the Panama Canal. "They will assert political influence [through Chinese companies]," the official says. "That is where this is headed."

So here we have a UN mission being clearly used to advance China's national interests. Of course, this happens all the time. From a realist POV, participation in the UN can be seen as allowing countries a forum to advance their narrow national interests. Therefore, the UN is properly seen as a vehicle for geopolitics, not a benign organization devoted to spreading idealistic, utopian notions of peace and human rights. This conception of the UN runs against common wisdom but the dispatching of China peacekeeping forces provides a opportunity to see the true role of the UN while also unmasking China's geopolitical maneuvering.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Post 9/11 Foreign Policy Online Lectures

Here's a link to a series of online lectures about America foreign policy after 9/11. The Iraq War is covered in detail and there are quite a few "big names" in the IR/foreign policy fields: John Mearsheimer, Victor Davis Hanson, Walter Russell Mead, etc. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Discussing "The Pentagon's New Map"

I'm having quite the discussion with TM Lutas over at his blog regarding Dr. Barnett's book The Pentagon's New Map. TM Lutas did something really cool, he conducted an interview with Dr. Barnett. The discussion we are having is about the book and the interview. BTW, I plan to post a full review of the book at a later date. For now, here's the relevant parts of the discussion for those of you who are already familiar with PNM or the Gap and Core concept:

That was a good interview overall, but you made most of it too easy by asking Dr. Barnett to expound on future scenarios. Dr. Barnett did far too much of that already in PNM. Instead, why not ask about some of the shortcomings of PNM? For example:

1. Why would our European allies support converting the Gap into Core states when their immigrant (and native) populations would obviously reject that?

2. Why does Dr. Barnett take for granted the continuing support of Cold War allies when he admits that Cold War rule sets are no longer valid? If those rule sets are no longer valid then the alliances based on them are now groundless so how can we rely on those allies to support remaking the Gap?

3. How would Dr. Barnett suggest generating the US political will
needed to remake the Gap? Wouldn't people be unlikely to support that?

4. Preemptive military action violates the UN Charter if such action is not purely in self defense. Is Dr. Barnett's argument that converting all the Gap countries to capitalistic democracies realistically going to be seen as necessary to insure US national security?

5. Would unilateralist military action be used against Gap countries in which a majority of the population agree that they don't want globalization?

6. Last but not least, won't people see imposed democracy in the Gap as tyranny? Dr. Barnett makes constant reference to America (the "grandfather of globalization") being the model for Gap countries but wasn't the War for Independence about self-determination and explicitly against accepting imposed political and economic systems?

These aren't all the questions I could ask after reading PNM. As you can tell, I saw major problems in it, both in implementing the plan and the overrall goals of PNM itself.

Replacing Kantian with Hobbesian thinking may inject some realism into foreign policy but throwing out John Locke as well is too much.
Posted by: Dave C. at October 9, 2004 01:05 AM

Dave C - Here is why I wouldn't ask the questions you laid out in your comments:

1. It's just not true. E. Europe could have fallen into the Gap but the EU made and continues to make tremendous efforts to stitch them into the core. Considering the history of intra-europe bigotry and infighting, that's a significant, proven commitment to core enlargement

2. The cold war allies, insofar as they are part of the core, have an interest in enlargement of the core as a security matter. For those in the Gap, what connectivity they have is largely mediated via US structures. You can put a certain amount of pressure on through that established relationship, enough to show the benefits of taking that road of enlarging connectivity.

3. This one's not really his area of action at all and it somewhat overlaps with my question #10. I asked it in my way because I knew that your sort of formulation wasn't going to get an answer out of somebody who works in the bureaucracy. The politicals don't like it when the bureaucrats do things like that. Asking it in terms of civic improvement was as close as I should get while still leaving him free to answer.

4. Preemptive military action is not something that is going to be the major tool in this struggle. Think of it like moving a mountain for a dam or road. Sure, the dynamite (military action) breaks up a lot of stubborn structures faster than any other alternative but most of the time you're dealing with clearing out the rubble that the explosives leave behind. Gap shrinking in Libya became possible when Khadaffi betrayed his axis of evil compatriots over their joint nuclear program. That's going to take decades to fully exploit but was the result of a military operation in a different country that took a few weeks. That's just one example. Elections in the KSA, a free area for Iranian freedom fighters to organize in Iraq, the declaration of Al Queda apostasy by Ayatollah Sistani, these are all major development that will play out over many countries for many years based on one military operation. Let's revisit when the rubble is cleared from this one (about 2012, by my guess).

5. Since the entire theory rests on the idea that gap countries are in the gap because of the violence inherent in the generic gap system, I don't see how meaningful consent could be measured. Gap and Core membership is not a black and white thing. Greece, a core member by any reasonable standard, has a major disconnect at Mt. Athos, which by ancient treaty has no women. Nobody believes that Greece should be militarily attacked to force the issue. There is some pressure on them to abrogate the old treaty and take Mt. Athos by force into Greece proper without the ancient clause of accession but that's from the EU feminist block and they're just not going to win.

6. In the gap, they suffer tyranny all day long. How "sort it out yourselves" is tyranny compared to the manifest injustice of the gap style tyranny they live with every day is beyond me. It's just not realistic.

Posted by: TM Lutas at October 9, 2004 09:59 AM

TM Lutas, I'll take your replies one at a time:

1. The EU supports Core enlargement? Really? What about letting Turkey into the EU? The French seem very opposed to that. Norway won’t even enter the EU because it doesn’t want to share wealth with other Europeans, let alone the Gap.What about the recent EU refusal to intervene in Darfur or Rwanda? Not much concern with non-European Gap countries there.

2. How much of an interest does the EU have in Gap enlargement? Will the rising Muslim population of Europe support Core military engagements in the Gap? I don’t think so. The increasing number of Muslim immigrants will put pressure on the socialist safety net. The native Euros will press back to conserve their socialist utopia. Refusal to back US actions in the Gap will: a. give the EU more money to prop up the socialist system and b. cool domestic unrest. Don’t look for the EU to support remaking the Gap.

3. Fair enough. I accept that Dr. Barnett can't answer that question (although I don't see why) if you say so, but in light of US history, answering this question is CRUCIAL. Paraphrasing Richard Haass, I would say that calls for intervention are inseparable from discussion of HOW that intervention could be made to work. If it can't be made to work, then no intervention. This question is not out of bounds if PNM is a work of foreign policy instead of IR theory.

4. Dr. Barnett’s theory assumes we live in a bandwagoning world instead of a balancing world. Libya came around, no one else did. Iran, N. Korea, Syria, Myanmar, etc. are not cowering in fear because we blew up Iraq. Assuming that these places will “get the picture” is too idealistic IMO. Implementing PNM would require extensive preemption.

5. I’m not interested in whether we can measure dissent in repressive societies. I’m talking about the principles espoused in PNM. If a country genuinely did not want to join the Core, would it be allowed not to? I got the feeling from reading PNM that the answer was “NO.”

6. “Sort it out yourselves” is the system that they have now. Arguing the exact opposite, PNM explicitly states that remaking the Gap into the image of the US is THE desirable goal of US national security. Among the many assumptions of PNM are: a. that a majority of people in the Gap really wants capitalistic democracy and b. that if Gap states did become Core states, democratic peace theory would keep them from fighting. Neither of those assumptions is warranted, nor are they addressed in PNM.

BTW, thanks for taking the time to argue this out with me. I apprecaite the opportunity to sharpen my IR skills.

Posted by: Dave C. at October 10, 2004 03:31 AM

P.S. Check out his blog. He has some good stuff there on geopolitics.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Economic Effects of 9/11

Right now, I'm watching the rebroadcast of last night's presidential debate. One thing I've never understood in these debates is why no one discusses the ecnomic impact of the 9/11 attacks. How much harm did 9/11 do to our economy? Did that impact hurt job growth? Where are the assessments of the damage done?

Friday, October 08, 2004

Final Word on Iraqi WMD?

Kausfiles gets it right:

"If a man says he has a gun, acts like he has a gun, and convinces everyone around him he has a gun, and starts waving it around and behaving recklessly, the police are justified in shooting him (even if it turns out later he just had a black bar of soap). Similarly, according to the Duelfer report, Saddam seems to have intentionally convinced other countries, and his own generals, that he had WMDs. He also convinced much of the U.S. government. If we reacted accordingly and he turns out not to have had WMDs, whose fault is that? Why doesn't Bush make that argument--talking about Saddam's actions in the years before the U.S. invasion instead of Saddam's "intent" to have WMDs at some point in the future? (It wouldn't necessarily make the Iraq war prudent, but it would make Americans feel more comfortable about it than what Bush has been telling them.)"

I also share his exasperation with the president's responses to the lack of WMD. This argument is not difficult to make. So why isn't Bush making it?!?!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Prepare for Kerry Presidency

Conservatives must prepare themselves for a possible (likely?) Kerry presidency. After President Bush’s abysmal performance in a debate that he should have won easily, we can expect Kerry to carry the day in the last two debates. I don’t expect for a minute that Bush will have a better grasp of domestic issues than Kerry. What does the future hold? Some tentative predictions and suggestions:

1. Defeat in Iraq – No matter what happens, the Democrats are in for a tough four years. We simply don’t live in a multi-lateralist, collective security environment anymore in which we can expect our “allies” to come help us. We never could count on many of those allies but US military supremacy during the Cold War masked that. The only allies the US has are the handful of countries that have sent troops to Iraq. That’s it. Any Democratic attempt to return to the Clinton era (as Kerry seems to favor) will not work.

If they win the election, the Democrats will immediately be faced with the war in Iraq, a war they probably won’t be able to win. Kerry even changed his position in the debate by saying Iraq was both a mistake and not a mistake. How will he win the war using rhetoric like that? He has called on allies that have said they don’t care who is president, they aren’t sending troops. After all, they can’t send what they don’t have. Considering the problems with the allies and that a Kerry win would make the security situation worse, Kerry would have to be more aggressive than Bush to win in Iraq.

If Kerry wins the presidency he will have to win in Iraq or face a major US military defeat during his term in office. Judging from his so-called plan, Kerry has no idea what he would do in Iraq. His plan is no more than a list of goals with no visible means to attain those goals. Therefore, his plan is no plan at all.

Since Kerry can’t afford to lose the war, how would his party react if he actually tried to win it? Imagine the uproar amongst his supporters. Election win or no, the democratic party looks set for some major turmoil. Which leads me to number two.

2. Republicans may have to support Kerry – If he’s elected, national security will take a big hit. Bush has prosecuted the GWOT. If Bush is defeated, the terrorists will see that defeat as their victory. Kerry will immediately seek multi-lateralist solutions to Iraq and the GWOT, but he will get a very, very rude wakeup call. The US and European left will refuse to support him and call for US withdrawal.

If Kerry wins, all those in favor of strong US national security will have to support Kerry, regardless of partisanship. The Republicans must not do what they did with former President Clinton. No more investigations, no more scandals, no more hearings, no whining about how or why the election was lost. Attacking the president in today’s fragile security environment would be disastrous. American national security is above petty partisan concerns!

More on this later.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Neo-con 101

Since the rise of the neo-cons, I have had a hard time finding a short, concise introduction to what exactly neo-cons believe. I've done a little research and here's what I've identified as the neo-cons' theoretical foundations:

1. Straussian philosophy – Leo Strauss was an oddity in that he taught political science from a very classical point of view. He thought that the best way to illuminate problems that occur in modern democracy was to look at the problems faced in Athens’ classical democracy. He placed great emphasis on the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero because the early philosophers were often highly critical of Athens.

One of the main ideas of Strauss’s work is the idea of values or virtue and how democracy deals with such virtue. The best example is Socrates, who loved Athens but saw fatal flaws in the government of the city. He was condemned to death by the courts, showing that democracy does not always value virtue and those who are wiling to speak out.

Strauss believed that those with virtue should form a core group that could ultimately protect democracy from its faults. Preferring the electoral college over popular election is similar to this. Having this core group is important so that democracy does not degenerate into the “tyranny of the majority.” Strauss thought that democracy had a tendency to silence those that lived for virtue. He argued against the idea that everyone’s opinion is equally valid because this leads to a tyranny of mediocrity. This mob rule is clear in certain passages of Thucydides.

2. Trotskyism – Another thinker that spoke truth to power and paid the price was Trotsky. Neo-cons seemed to have latched on to an idea that got Trotsky kicked out of the USSR, that of a “permanent revolution.” The neo-cons seem to believe that Trotsky advocated the spread of Communism to all parts of the globe as a part of a continuous revolution that promoted what he saw as right. The neo-cons presumably advocate extending capitalist democracy to all parts of the globe, militarily if need be much like the USSR pushed communism.

From what I understand, this is a complete misreading of Trotsky’s ideas. Permanent revolution was actually an individual, psychological purging of false consciousness that was reinforced by the group. Trotsky thought that bourgeois (middle class) ideas were so deeply imbedded that they would have to be continuously eradicated. So people should be encouraged to destroy such thought, in others and themselves. This intellectual communism ran afoul of Stalin, who had a more external idea of communism. Under Stalin, you didn’t have to worry about purging yourself, he’d do that for you!

Are the neo-cons misreading Trotsky? The permanent revolution was the main idea behind the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960’s and 70’s, not something I hope the neo-cons advocate.

3. Scoop Jackson democratic philosophy – Scoop Jackson was a prominent democrat that served on the Senate Armed Services committee for many years in the 60’s to 80’s (I think). He was a classical liberal in that he was a strong proponent of capitalism and democracy. This put him at odds with the new liberalism of the 60’s. Jackson believed in having a strong military and not being afraid of intervening internationally much as John Kennedy believed. Jackson made a name for himself by arguing against appeasement of communism and the Jane Fonda–type thinking of some of the Democrats. At the same time, he argued against détente as promoted by Kissinger and other prominent Republicans. He believed that the US should be more confrontational in confronting dictators that opposed US interests.

US Presidential Debate Shakes up Taiwan

An editorial in today's China Post (sorry, no link) says that Taiwan's diplomats are now scrambling to establish contacts inside John Kerry's campaign. See my earlier post on the Taiwan anxiety over a possible Kerry win here. Kerry's performance in the debate has people speculating that he might win the presidency but no one is sure how that win might change the US stance on Taiwan. Considering that he hasn't said how he would handle the Taiwan security situation if he were president and the criticism he made of President Bush's "whatever it takes" remarks, the Taiwan government is understandably anxious. More to follow.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Clinton Foreign Policy and Beslan, part 2

Village Idiot asks some good questions about my post on the connections between Clinton-era foreign policy and the Beslan massacre. I’ll post my response here instead of in the comment section. Sorry about the length.

Clinton-era foreign policy is, of course, not solely responsible for terrorism. My charge is that his foreign policy contributed to the “new” or “catastrophic” terrorism we are seeing today. In making that charge, the real questions we have to ask are how did Clinton-era foreign policy differ from other presidential foreign policies and how did those differences contribute to today’s terrorism?

President Clinton was elected after the fall of the Berlin Wall, at a time when all of America’s security assumptions were crumbling. The subtle dance worked out between the US and the USSR had unraveled and the rules for when and how to militarily intervene in other countries, which had been worked out over 50 years in the Cold War, seemed to no longer apply. As a consequence, both Bush 41 and Clinton’s presidency occurred at a time when the US had no overall national security strategy.

In this larger security context, the crisis in the former Yugoslavia provided a real test for military intervention. The collapse of the USSR (yes, not Clinton’s fault) had already weakened statehood in that area.

When Serb forces attacked Bosnia to incorporate Bosnian areas where ethnic Serbs dominated into Serbia, the European consensus was that Bosnia didn’t constitute a “real” nation-state anyway since no single ethnic group dominated. Sounds a little bit like National Socialism doesn’t it?

The US response was that ALL parties involved were guilty of ethnic cleansing despite evidence to the contrary. So an arms embargo was put in place which weakened Bosnia against Serbia (because Serbia had already prepared for war). How Serbia was at fault (post-war spin) but all were guilty was never fully explained.

Since all parties were supposedly at fault, intervention had to come from outside: the US and the EU. Those forces supposedly intervened to stop ethnic cleansing.

Fast forward, to the “resolution” and we see that Bosnia got carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey with Serb dominated portions of Bosnia going to Serbia, just what Milosevic wanted. The division rewarded ethnic cleansing because the “cleansers” got exactly what they wanted.

So US intervention weakened Bosnian sovereignty by:
1. weakening the idea of a multi-ethnic state by rewarding ethnic cleansing and dividing a sovereign nation: Bosnia
2. deligitimizing the Bosnian government by allowing US and EU military intervention rather than selling arms to Bosnia and allowing the Bosnians to defend themselves

In answer to our first question, this partitioning of a sovereign nation was what separated Clinton-era foreign policy from other recent presidents.

As to the second question that I pose, Clinton’s foreign policy and his pushing the agenda of globalization weakened states that were then less able to control the movement of peoples through their territories. Fewer border checkpoints, more corruption, more illegal trading, all these things flourish in a weakened state. O’Neill says (emphasis mine):

"The developments of the 1990s - away from a world organised around state sovereignty and towards encouraging the movement of both state and non-state forces across borders - did much to give rise to today's peculiarly rootless, cross-border movements...
Where the old world order, for all its vast faults, gave rise to movements that sought to create their own states, the new world order has encouraged the emergence of distinctly stateless groups, not tied to any specific community or political goal.
This goes some way to explaining why today's terrorism seems so much more unrestrained and brutal than earlier political violence. Freed from responsibility to a distinct community, with little ties to national territory or political principles, today's roving terrorist has fewer constraints on his actions - as we witnessed so devastatingly in Beslan."

Today's terrorist doesn't want a nation-state, a body that would require international recognition, in the way that Palestinian terrorism operated. Freed from goals that require such recognition, the terrorists are no longer restrained as much in their terrorist acts.

That's how Clinton-era foreign policy contributed to Beslan.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Did Humanitarian Interventions Lead to Beslan?

Brendan O'Neill at spiked raises some very interesting points in his latest piece on the ruthless terrorist attack in Beslan. The first thing he notes in that, so far, there is no evidence that the terrorists were Chechen. He says:

"This morning Sergei Ivanov, Russia's defence minister, is quoted as saying that not a single Chechen has been found among the 32 dead terrorists, raising questions about earlier attempts to explain Beslan as a straightforward 'Chechen issue.'"

If the terrorists weren't Chechen then who were they? Considering the links between the Chechen rebels and the global jihad movement, the terrorists were likely a trans-national mix of mujihadeen united only by their common cause. They possibly slipped into the area through the open door created by Clintonian-era humanitarian interventions. How does that work? Here's how O'Neill explains it (emphasis mine):

"The missing link in the debates about terrorism, about the shift from the more politically-oriented violence of the past to the blindly ruthless attacks of today, is the West's foreign interventions of the 1990s. It is by examining these that we can start to make sense of today's seemingly senseless terror. Such interventions, particularly in the Balkans, did much to create the conditions for the rise of the new stateless groups that are so different from old-style nationalist movements.

"The end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and early 1990s gave rise to new rounds of Western intervention in the third world - interventions that were justified as defending beleaguered peoples against ruthless dictators and upholding human rights across the globe, rather than in the selfish, national interests of Western elites... Yet for all its stated aims, humanitarian intervention powerfully destabilised the world order, undermining the institutions that had cohered the international order in the postwar period. At the heart of the new humanitarianism there was a distinct hostility to the sovereign nation state, which had been the building block of international affairs for nearly 50 years. The Clinton administration, king of the humanitarian age, made clear its disdain for the old idea of non-intervention in sovereign states' affairs. In the early 1990s Clinton adviser Strobe Talbott outlined their preferred approach to world affairs: 'Nationhood as we know it will be obsolete. All states will recognise a single global authority.... A phrase that was briefly fashionable in the mid-twentieth century - citizen of the world - will have assumed real meaning by the end of the twentieth century.'"

As state sovereignty was dismantled, the "single global authority" failed to materialize. So Clinton and others who urged intervention actually dismantled the only structures that could provide security for the area. By using outside force, they destroyed nation-states' internal mechanisms that kept the state together. Espousing utopian rather than realist ideals, Clinton, et. al. assumed globalization would bring world order and when it didn't, terrorists were free to roam at will.

The new terrorists thrive in this environment and seek to keep the momentum going by destablizing other areas. That's why they don't make clear-cut political demands -- they don't desire nationhood like the Palestinian terrorists of the 1980-90's.

Freed from political objectives, the terrorists have now become more destructive and deadly in their attacks. Slaughtering children, as in Beslan, is nothing to these people.

So what's the solution? We have to help strengthen the nation-states in the Caucuses, not an easy task to be sure. But undoing the damage done during the Clinton era (along with killing the terrorists, of course) will be a major part of winning the GWOT.

Gotta See It to Believe It

I would like to draw reader's attention to one of my links listed on the right: Defense Tech.

This site keeps track of the amazing things the US Defense Department is developing. Check out this post about a folding operating room.

The potential uses of this operating-room-in-a-box would be almost limitless. Humanitarian interventions, peace-keeping, and peace-making missions could also use something like this to provide serious healthcare to refugees and victims of war. Darfur, anyone?

Kerry and Taiwan Spying on the US

The small scandal over a State Department official possibly spying for Taiwan (see earlier post here) seems to have all but blown over. But this incident should be re-evaluated in light of recent developments in Taiwan.

Earlier this week, Taiwan Premier Yu Shyi-kun finally called for the legislature to fund the major weapons purchase that has been lingering for two years now. What has changed dramatically is the rhetoric the current administration is using to describe something they were very luke-warm about previously. The premier called for the building of a "balance of terror" of the MAD type between Taiwan and China. The Chen administration had previously said it would rely on the US to defend the island but has now done a complete about-face, calling for an immediate arms build-up. The swiftness of the turnaround even caused a near-riot by protestors last weekend who thought the money would be better spent on domestic needs.

So what caused the abrupt change in the current administration's thinking? The possibility of a Kerry presidency.

John Kerry makes nominal mention of the Taiwan security issue here on his website:

"A Kerry presidency will be committed to a 'One China' policy, and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-Straits issues. We support Taiwan's vibrant democracy and robust economy and will maintain America's commitment to provide Taiwan defensive weapons."

Despite this apparent support of Taiwan, notice it does not mention coming to the defense of Taiwan if the country were attacked. In fact, Kerry has criticized President Bush in the past for saying the US would defend Taiwan. Contrast the above statement with the Republican platform:

"Republicans recognize that America's policy is based on the principle that there must be no use of force by China against Taiwan. We deny the right of Beijing to impose its rule on the free Taiwanese people. All issues regarding Taiwan's future must be resolved peacefully and must be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China violates these principles and attacks Taiwan, then the United State will respond appropriately in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. America will help Taiwan defend itself."

An explicit pledge to defend Taiwan.

Taiwan's DPP government has become very nervous about US commitment to defending the island. Because of that nervousness, Taiwan is likely to increase spying on the US so the island can be prepared for whatever happens after the election.

In any event, a "balance of terror" in the Taiwan Strait will be a dangerous development.

Walter Rogers and Anti-Americanism on CNN

Since I live abroad, I'm a dedicated watcher of CNN International. News anchor Richard Quest just conducted an "interview" with CNN senior correspondent Walter Rogers to get his reaction to the debate this morning. This is a paraphase of an exchange they had:

Quest: Do Americans care what Europeans think?
Rogers: No, not really.
Quest: Why not?
Rogers: Because most Americans can't even find Italy on a map.

What was Rogers thinking? Please keep in mind that CNN International is one of the ways that people overseas get their news about the US. Kind of makes one wonder about the "CNN effect" overseas. Oh, well. At least they don't get CBS.