November 13, 2006
By a thousand cuts . . .
Travel has kept me from writing about what I'd intended today . . . but not to worry, as Westhawk has instead done so. See his piece on Britain's looming insurgency.
October 31, 2006
Why do they hate us?
Robert Keohane and Peter J. Katzenstein have a new article in Policy Review that excerpts their work Anti-americanisms in World Politics. They find that things are a bit more complicated than one might think:
First, we distinguish between anti-Americanisms that are rooted in opinion or bias. Second, as our book’s title suggests, there are many varieties of anti-Americanism. The beginning of wisdom is to recognize that what is called anti-Americanism varies, depending on who is reacting to America. In our book, we describe several different types of anti-Americanism and indicate where each type is concentrated. The variety of anti-Americanism helps us to see, third, the futility of grand explanations for anti-Americanism. It is accounted for better as the result of particular sets of forces. Finally, the persistence of anti-Americanism, as well as the great variety of forms that it takes, reflects what we call the polyvalence of a complex and kaleidoscopic American society in which observers can find whatever they don’t like — from Protestantism to porn. The complexity of anti-Americanism reflects the polyvalence of America itself.As to the first point, they make a careful distinction between opinion and bias:
Some expressions of unfavorable attitudes merely reflect opinion: unfavorable judgments about the United States or its policies. Others, however, reflect bias: a predisposition to believe negative reports about the United States and to discount positive ones. Bias implies a distortion of information processing, while adverse opinion is consistent with maintaining openness to new information that will change one’s views. The long-term consequences of bias for American foreign policy are much greater than the consequences of opinion.The authors then go on to detail the varieties of anti-Americanism that they have discerned:
Liberal anti-Americanism. Liberals often criticize the United States bitterly for not living up to its own ideals . . .Their most interesting paragraphs are those detailing the "polyvalence" of America:
Social anti-Americanism. Since democracy comes in many stripes, we are wrong to mistake the American tree for the democratic forest. Many democratic societies do not share the peculiar combination of respect for individual liberty, reliance on personal responsibility, and distrust of government characteristic of the United States . . .
Sovereign-nationalist anti-Americanism. A third form of anti-Americanism focuses not on correcting domestic market outcomes but on political power. Sovereign nationalists focus on two values: the importance of not losing control over the terms by which polities are inserted in world politics and the inherent importance and value of collective national identities . . .
Radical anti-Americanism . . . is built around the belief that America’s identity, as reflected in the internal economic and political power relations and institutional practices of the United States, ensures that its actions will be hostile to the furtherance of good values, practices, and institutions elsewhere in the world . . .
Elitist anti-Americanism arises in countries in which the elite has a long history of looking down on American culture. In France, for example, discussions of anti-Americanism date back to the eighteenth century, when some European writers held that everything in the Americas was degenerate . . .
Legacy anti-Americanism stems from resentment of past wrongs committed by the United States toward another society. Mexican anti-Americanism is prompted by the experiences of U.S. military attack and various forms of imperialism during the past 200 years . .
American symbols are polyvalent. They embody a variety of values with different meanings to different people and indeed even to the same individual. Elites and ordinary folks abroad are deeply ambivalent about the United States. Visitors, such as Bernard-Henri Lévy, are impressed, repelled, and fascinated in about equal measure.And they finally describe the process by which the concept of "America" is appropriated worldwide:
“Americanization,” therefore, does not describe a simple extension of American products and processes to other parts of the world. On the contrary, it refers to the selective appropriation of American symbols and values by individuals and groups in other societies — symbols and values that may well have had their origins elsewhere. Americanization thus is a profoundly interactive process between America and all parts of the world. And, we argue here, it is deeply intertwined with anti-American views. The interactions that generate Americanization may involve markets, informal networks, or the exercise of corporate or governmental power — often in various combinations. They reflect and reinforce the polyvalent nature of American society as expressed in the activities of Americans, who freely export and import products and practices. But they also reflect the variations in attitudes and interests of people in other societies, seeking to use, resist, and recast symbols that are associated with the United States.
Is there not also a distinctly conservative form of anti-Americanism? Many conservatives look at the US today and are aghast at much of its popular culture, consumerism, and selfishness. Those who feel this way would be the first to deny it. But don't they really adhere to pastoral or romantic visions of a past that will never return? They love America, but as it once was, not as it is.
Second, the authors' description of the process of appropriation rings similarly with the Adventures post Globalization and War, about a year ago, especially a certain part, which attempts to debunk key assumptions about globalization:
Globalization will inevitably lead to Westernization. It's rather ironic that so many leftist academics espoused this theory, since it manages to embrace a sort of assumed Western superiority while at the same time turning the rest of the world's cultures into victims. Or maybe, Westernization would result because we in the West are so aggressive? No matter. The assumption is false. If there is any lesson to be learned these days from globalization's effects on people and cultures, it is that it transmits all of them, and transforms all of them. There is an process of give-and-take at play in nearly every place -- whether physically or in cyberspace, or other media -- where two or more cultures and peoples collide. In this way, we find radicalized Muslims as easily in Munich as we do in Mecca, and democrats as easily in Kabul as in Kansas. Moreover, the very cultures that were thought soon to be washed away by the onrush of global capitalism find themselves just as easily transmitted by it as those of the West. Witness the border region of the US and Mexico, which is a teeming hybrid of both Western and Latin cultures, or examine the growing influence of Chinese and Japanese pop culture upon the rest of Asia and even the United States. Western -- and American -- culture have influenced each of these others in turn, but by no means can be described as ascendant, and even less and less so, as dominant.Finally, one of Keohane's and Katzenstein's most interesting insights is that of the polyvalence of America. If personal freedom has become second nature in the United States; if man feels free to do as he wishes in all spheres of his life -- much more so than in other places; and if a respect for freedom has become institutionalized over centuries, then isn't the polyvalence of America much more than just an "American" trait? Isn't it a microcosm of the expression of human life in all of its manifestations? Emma Lazarus didn't mince words in her poem on the Statue of Liberty.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,Perhaps it is that golden door that is most upsetting to so many elsewhere, who are still learning of the unimaginable dynamism that lay behind it.
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
October 26, 2006
Does Max Boot read blogs?
Sending mercenaries to Africa isn't politically correct. But it would be a lot more useful than sending more aid money that will be wasted or passing ineffectual resolutions that will be ignored.This was a topic that was broached here at Adventures back in May of this year. Let Blackwater Loose in Darfur was prompted by a report in the Boston Globe that Blackwater had volunteered to go to Africa and stop Darfur's genocide, provided someone would pay them. Here was my take then:
The essential problem is unique to the international system: horrific events, like genocide, which occur within the boundaries of a given state, are seen as being within the sovereign bounds of that state, and the territorial sovereignty of any given state, in our current system, is sacrosanct. Only the society of states, embodied in a number of international institutions, can choose to violate that precious sovereignty. Cries of "Never again" then seem to pale so long as that which prompts them is confined to one state. Intrastate genocide becomes, ironically, a sort of externality of the international system.All of this is especially relevant to the previous post, The Autumn of the Patriarch, which wondered where all these "proxyized" forms of warfare are headed.
October 5, 2006
The European Intifada Continues
The violence in northern European banlieus was much in the news a year ago this month, but has strangely dropped from view. But now the French Interior Ministry warns that an "intifada" is pressing on many fronts:
Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day.How will the French contain this violence? Can they?
As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.
It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.
The interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also the leading centre-Right candidate for the presidency, has sent heavily equipped units into areas with orders to regain control from drug smuggling gangs and other organised crime rings. Such aggressive raids were "disrupting the underground economy in the estates", one senior official told Le Figaro.There's been quite a bit of Ramadan violence in Belgium as well. See the posts from Brussels Journal here and here. The Journal warns that there may be another flare up this weekend, "The authorities are especially nervous since the Belgian municipal elections are being held on Sunday October 8th. It is likely that the elections will be won by anti-immigrant, “islamophobic” parties. Since ramadan will not be over on October 8th and many immigrants might perceive a victory of the indigenous right (as opposed to their own far-right) as an insult, Muslim indignation over the election results in major cities may spark serious disturbances."
However, not all officers on the ground accept that essentially secular interpretation. Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas.
He said yesterday: "We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested."
He added: "We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."
October 3, 2006
In Which the European Defense Agency Shows It Has Learned Nothing in the Last Five Years
Political discourse about warfare is all too frequently shot through with utopian impulses. This is because warfare involves both the vision of an "end-state" that one's forces work toward, and millions of decisions at all levels that are easily second guessed as time passes.
An article in the London Telegraph reports that the new European Defense Agency has released a paper envisioning the next 20 years of conflict.
The paper, An Initial Long-Term Vision for European Defence Capability and Capacity Needs, paints a Europe in which plunging fertility rates leave the military struggling to recruit young men and women of fighting age, at a time when national budgets will be under unprecedented strain to pay for greying populations.It seems the study does not attempt to really envision future conflicts so much as it attempts to proscribe a series of measures that must be in place in order for the EU to engage in war. In other words, rather than focusing on enemies, it seems to focus on its own requirements. There is a term for this: self-induced friction. The EU Defense Agency is only 2 years old and already is hamstringing itself.
At the same time, increasingly cautious voters and politicians may be unwilling to contemplate casualties, or "potentially controversial interventions abroad – in particular interventions in regions from where large numbers of immigrants have come."
Voters will also be insistent on having backing from the United Nations for operations, and on crafting large coalitions of EU member states with a heavy involvement of civilian agencies, and not just fighting units, the paper states. They will also want military operations to be environmentally friendly, where possible.
All of this is similar to the Powell Doctrine in the United States, another set of internally imposed rules meant to make domestic constituents happy and to limit the kinds and types of wars that will have to be fought.
A hard-thinking, proactive enemy -- and there are few other kinds -- no doubt laughs in glee at these efforts, as it merely gives him all the more opportunities to avoid battle with the West and pursue his own agenda with impunity; or, once engaged in battle, to prevail simply by using methods and techniques that the West is institutionally (and thereby mentally) unprepared to counter.
The entire report may be downloaded here.
October 2, 2006
Could Al Qaeda team with the mob?
There is a scene near the end of the film The Rocketeer in which a deal of some kind goes south and all of a sudden three parties find themselves in a Mexican standoff: cops, the mob, and a bunch of Nazi sympathizers intent of helping Hitler invade America. When the shooting starts, the mob quickly starts fighting the Nazis. At one point a cop and a mobster are crouching next to each other, firing away with submachine guns, when they pause, look at each other, shrug, and then keep firing.
But today, this sentiment -- "hey, mobsters are awful, but at least they love America," -- must be realized as so much wishful thinking. An AP story released over the weekend [via Instapundit] reported that the FBI is keeping close tabs on the possibility of collusion between organized crime and terror-related groups.
July 27, 2006
The Hamdan Decision and the Privatization of War
July 20, 2006
Just what has the Ghana Battalion been up to?
Pajamas Media's editor in Sydney, Australia (aka the author of The Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez), has posted a link to a map showing the disposition of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL), as of July, 2006. Richard makes the case on his own blog that the site of much of the recent fighting is in the area of operations of the Ghana Battalion of the UNIFL.
I have no problem with Ghana. A friend once did a study abroad there and spoke highly of it. But doesn't one wonder: what have the Ghanan troops and other members of the UNIFL been doing when Hezbollah yokels up and launch a rocket across the border? Any attempts to chase them down? Fight them? Arrest them?
In fact, what's the UNIFL doing right now?
Let me make an assumption that the answer is, "very little." Jed Babbin recently recollected his own experience in this regard:
The UN's years-long record on the Israel-Lebanon border makes mockery of the term "peacekeeping." On page 155 of my book, "Inside the Asylum," is a picture of a UN outpost on that border. The UN flag and the Hizballah flag fly side-by-side. Observers told me the UN and Hizballah personnel share water, telephones and that the UN presence serves as a shield against Israeli strikes against the terrorists.Here we have an answer to the questions implied in a previous post:
The next step will be: how to ensure that no terrorist force metastasizes on Israel's border once again? Or really, how to ensure that no terrorist force can threaten Israel from the north? A buffer zone isn't really helpful if Hezbollah or anyone else can just get longer-range missiles and use them from Northern Lebanon. Instead, one of two things has to happen:If Babbin's account of the actions of UNIFL can be trusted, then the answer to the problem of proxy war and Lebanese sovereignty is rather different than the actions necessary to end the conflict. Instead, the presence of UNIFL actually legitimizes an area of non-state lawlessness, when the goal should be to somehow reduce it.
a) someone responsible has to control Lebanon's borders. It could be the Israelis, though they won't want to; the Lebanese though they'll be questionble in their effectiveness; or the "international community" which probably means the US (though perhaps the French would help, given that they used to own Lebanon).
b) Lebanon's borders must be redrawn and the Beka'a declared an international DMZ of some sort. This is extremely unlikely.
The reason for the necessity of one of these options is because the international system should have no desire for a conflict like the current one to happen again. The only way this is possible is if the next time a terrorist organization supported by Syria launches attacks at Israel, it does so from within Syria. This will then clarify thngs for the rest of the world. Borders, which are among the most sacrosanct of the current system's rules, will have been violated, and that makes consequences easier.
It is hard to see how any United Nations force will be able to offer a solution that is favorable to either of the two states involved, Lebanon and Israel, and unfavorable to the non-state terrorist group, Hezbollah. And shouldn't the reduction of non-state terror organizations be in the interest of the international system?
One is truly left to wonder whether the actual goal is inspried more by anti-Semitism or a desire to frustrate the United States.
No, more likely is the explanation offered by Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept as to why Europe is so tolerant of the extreme Islam growing in its midst. One of his arguments is that Europe and America learned fundamentally different lessons from WWII: The US learned not to give in to tyranny, even if war is necessary. Europe learned to avoid war at all costs, even if putting up with a bit of tyranny is required.
This is not so different from Robert Kagan's seminal essay of a few years back, Power and Weakness, in which he notes a similar problem:
It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory — the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.The UN is a vehicle for the expression of the European attitude to power as described by Kagan, and to war as described by Bawer. And this is why the Ghanans et al. have not stopped Hezbollah's attacks on Israel: Stabiliy, ceasefires, and peacekeeping are preferable to a decisive end to conflicts, because decision requires violence. Europeans are from Venus.
June 29, 2006
The Geneva Convention for a Non-State Entity
Today's Supreme Court ruling seems to me a remarkable point in the development of a kind of quasi-sovereignty for non-state organizations.
Were there to develop an Anti-Qaeda force, a private military to pursue Al Qaeda and win the war on its own terms, then their members would also have the Geneva Conventions apply to them, were they ever to be apprehended or detained by the US, yes? In other words, if the Geneva Convention now applies to a non-state that is a non-signatory in the eyes of the US, does it not then apply to ALL non-states that are non-signatories?
This is quite a large new degree of sovereignty that has been granted to non-state organizations. How will the concept of citizenship evolve with decisions like these?
If protections that normally accrue to states after debate and ratification can now be given over to non-states which have no mechanism for ratification, let alone debate, one can easily imagine a scenario in which non-state organizations form themselves and immediately possess the rights of a state, with no corresponding need to adhere to any laws in their own activities.
If this is the case, then we have the answer to the war: it will be privatized, and its ultimate victories won by uninhibited private military actors, not the hamstrung citizen militaries of nation-states.
Any legal minds out there are welcome to comment.
May 2, 2006
Let Blackwater Loose in Darfur
The executives of one of the most well-known private security firms, Blackwater, have offered to provide a brigade of peacekeepers in Darfur, if only someone will pay for it. [hat-tip: Arts and Letters Daily]
A few weeks ago, at an international special forces conference in Jordan, Black announced that his company could deploy a small rapid-response force to conflicts like the one in Sudan. ''We're low cost and fast," Black said, ''the question is, who's going to let us play on their team?"In other words, the private security firms need something other than cash to pay for their peacekeeping; they need some sort of legitimacy. But legitimacy for what? Invasions? The establishment of private empires of sorts?
What companies like Blackwater are proposing to do in Darfur today is very different from the combat missions of a decade ago. ''We have no interest in offensive operations," says Taylor flatly. Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, the industry's trade association, agrees: ''[Executive Outcomes] and Sandline were supporting offensive combat operations. I don't think that'll happen again, and certainly not that way."No one questions that firms like Blackwater would excel at providing this service cheaply and professionally.
Today, private military companies are offering defensive services-they propose to secure refugee camps and vulnerable villages, guard humanitarian aid agencies and NGOs, or, depending on the requirements of the contract, assist peacekeepers like the African Union troops in Darfur.
There's little question that companies like Blackwater could be more effective operationally than the African Union, which has been hampered by its peacekeepers' lack of command and control experience. Private military companies boast a roster of former special forces officers and law enforcement officers who are accustomed to volatile conflict and post-conflict areas like Sudan.The essential problem is unique to the international system: horrific events, like genocide, which occur within the boundaries of a given state, are seen as being within the sovereign bounds of that state, and the territorial sovereignty of any given state, in our current system, is sacrosanct. Only the society of states, embodied in a number of international institutions, can choose to violate that precious sovereignty. Cries of "Never again" then seem to pale so long as that which prompts them is confined to one state. Intrastate genocide becomes, ironically, a sort of externality of the international system.
Blackwater also subjects all of its personnel to an impressive array of extra training-whether they're training to work in Baghdad or the firm's North Carolina headquarters. They take classes in international humanitarian law, leadership, ethics, regional awareness, and ''customs and traditions." They've recently approached Amnesty International about teaching human rights education classes. And the International Peace Operations Association boasts that its code of conduct was written by human rights lawyers.
The industry also claims that it's far cheaper than its multilateral or military counterparts. ''We offer the ability to create a right-sized solution-which creates a cost savings right off the bat," says Taylor. By contrast, Brooks notes, ''NATO is insanely expensive; it's not a cost-effective organization. Neither is the [African Union]. Private companies would be much, much cheaper. When we compared their costs to most UN operations, we came up with 10 to 20 percent of what the UN would normally charge."
And so the handwringers worry over how to stop such ghastly events while still maintaining the territorial sovereignty of states.
There is no easy solution.
Blackwater though, seeks to insert itself due to one particular detail of the particular externality of Darfur. Namely, no powerful state in the world has any inherent national interest in preventing the killing there, except solely out of a sense of altruism. Blackwater offers to solve the problem for them, if only someone will pay for it all.
Here's several ways that Blackwater can raise the capital necessary to fund the Darfur peacekeeping mission, and really score a PR coup at the same time:
Option 1: Pro Bono
First announce that the mission in Darfur will be a non-profit venture. The troops and overhead will be paid for, but the firm itself will make no profit from the enterprise. Call it private security pro bono if you will. Then ask states to fund the cost.
Option 2: The Wealthy Donor Option
Go the non-profit route again. This time though, approach several wealthy individuals for support. How many Hollywood millioinaires turned out for Live8 last year? Ask them to put their money where their mouth is. Most will decline you. When they do, shame them publicly. The publicity alone will attract other wealthy donors. You know, the steel magnate from Pittsburgh, who's retired now, and already given plenty of dough to his alma mater. Or the guy in the heartland somewhere who made his fortune in mousetraps. Ask for $100 million and tell the donors that they might get a building named for them if they give that much to an insitution, but here, they'll be a footnote in history and maybe a city in Africa will carry their legacy. Be creative.
Option 3: The Paypal Option
Go to the world. Again, make it pro bono/non-profit. Ask for private donations to fund peacekeeping in Darfur. If the US public can give a billion or so in a few weeks for tsunami relief, it can certainly cough up several million to stop a genocide. Plus, none of it has to be sifted through the sticky fingers of [insert international body here]. And it'll be tax-deductible!
Finally, PR is key. Hire a bunch of bloggers to embed (ahem: my email address is in the sidebar). The journos should be all over you already. If firms like Blackwater are half as good as they claim, the immediate effects of their intervention, properly publicized, should spur further contributions in a sort of virtuous cycle.
Now take any of the above three choices and mix and match until you have enough dough to support your operations for an extended period. After you get going, your success might be shameful enough to the society of states that they start to cough up institutional money to continue your mission. All told, the private firm comes out ahead and does a good bit to shake the image of "mercenary" that seems to dog the industry.
In case you haven't noticed, each of these involves the non-profit angle. It seems that any for-profit option would have a very hard time gaining legitimacy, unless it was funded by Sudan's neighbors, or perhaps on an installment plan, by the people in Darfur themselves -- though that might be an exceptionally long installment.
Notably, it is the very same people who most loudly proclaim, "never again", who will also most loudly protest private efforts to stop the death. Perhaps actions will be perceived to speak louder than words if things are orchestrated with a bit of savvy and elan . . .
In diplomacy, business, and life, much is made of "the art of the deal." This is a situation that is crying out for a deal to be brokered between a variety of players. Something much greater than wealth will accrue to the person who can put all the pieces together in this situation: a guaranteed place in history.
April 24, 2006
Economic Determinism and Europe's Descent
Charles Boix has written a fascinating recent article in Policy Review, in which he argues that as universal as the desire for freedom may be, the conditions for the spread of democracy are limited. Chiefly, equality of economic conditions is the primary state in which democracy will take root and thrive:
The insight that equality of conditions is a precondition for democracy has a long and often forgotten tradition in the study of politics. It was apparent to most classical political thinkers that democracy could not survive without some equality among its citizens. Aristotle, who spent a substantial amount of time collecting all the constitutions of the Greek cities, concluded that to be successful, a city “ought to be composed, as far as possible, of equals and similars.” By contrast, he noticed, a state could not be well-governed where there were only very rich and very poor people because the former “could only rule despotically” and the latter “know not how to command and must be ruled like slaves.” They would simply lead “to a city, not of free persons but of slaves and masters, the ones consumed by envy, the others by contempt.” Two thousand years later Machiavelli would observe in his Discourses that a republic — that is, a regime where citizens could govern themselves — could only be constituted “where there exists, or can be brought into being, notable equality; and a regime of the opposite type, i.e. a principality, where there is notable inequality. Otherwise what is done will lack proportion and will be of but short duration.”Boix then goes on to offer a variety of empirical evidence to support this point. He takes particular aim at Islam itself, showing that it is no stronger a force against democracy than any other cultural factors in other parts of the world, and that even Islam is subordinate to economics when it comes to the flowering of democracy:
Islam has been much brandished as the cause of authoritarian attitudes and institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. But as Freedom House recently pointed out, if we take into account the large Muslim populations of countries such as India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey, the majority of the world’s Muslims live now under democratic regimes. In turn, some scholars have noted that, even if Islam is compatible with free elections, the Arab world is not. Indeed, all Arab states remain undemocratic as of today — and do so by employing substantially repressive policies. The problem with this claim, however, is that it never specifies the ways in which Arab culture and behavior may be at odds with the principle of mutual toleration among winners and losers that makes democracy possible. Moreover, the few surveys we do have seem to show that Middle Eastern populations favor democracy by margins similar to those found in Latin American or Asian publics. The truth is that the politics surrounding the control of natural resources, rather than any religious or cultural factor, is what explains the preponderance of authoritarianism in the Middle East (and much of sub-Saharan Africa as well).Boix's is a great article and his ultimate conclusions are not to be dismissed.
His work though raises vexing questions about what he does not discuss. Namely, how does his economically determinate argument explain the rise of semi-autonomous, undemocratic groups within Europe? According to his economics-based theory of democratization, Europe should be a place where democracy continues to thrive indefinitely, not where it is threatened by some other system. Yet the growth of semi-autonomous immigrant communities in Europe's large cities -- places where the democratically created laws of the host society don't apply or aren't enforced -- is a frequent feature of the news these days (and even a slew of recent books).
How to account for this? Especially when all of these communities have one thing in common -- Islam?
My guess is that this phenomenon speaks less to the anti-democratic tendencies of Muslims than it does to the pusillanimous and faint-hearted efforts of the Europeans in defending and justifying their freedoms. But readers are welcome to differ . . .
April 20, 2006
A Contrarian View of China's Future
As Hu Jintao's visit to the US winds down, allow a little bit of speculation about the future of China.
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal carried an article noting Hu's upcoming visit, and stating that the Chinese government's legitimacy is dually based on economic growth and nationalism.
The WSJ today carries an editorial that ends with this line:
The larger strategic bet here is that sooner or later China's economic progress will create the internal conditions for a more democratic regime that will be more stable and less of a potential global rival.
The US strategic assumption therefore is that "sooner or later, economic growth will lead to democracy." This is a controversial statement in political science circles -- there isn't any strong agreement on this, just a kind of fervent hope. Perhaps it is because of how closely Americans associate political freedom with economic opportunity. But it's still controversial.
But a completely uncontroversial statement in economic circles is that a boom-bust cycle prevails in most if not all markets and economies. Think about it: has anyone ever heard of an economy without a recession? and usually, isn't it true that the larger the boom, the greater the bust? I'm only 28, but I remember the heady days of 1999. Anyone who said a few key buzzwords and promised ridiculous market growth could get angel funding it seems. Then the bubble burst and we had a recession and now things are humming right along again.
Has China ever had a real recession since Deng liberalized the economy in 1978? There's been some slowing of growth here and there of course, but I don't believe a full-fledged recession, in which the economy actually shrinks.
Wouldn't it seem that China is . . . overdue for a recession?
No one can know how an economic retrenchment may begin. There are many possibilities:
-a collapse in the banking sector
-a decline in US domestic consumption
-oil price shocks
-deflationary slump caused by currency revaluation (as is argued by a Stanford professor in another Journal op-ed today)
But can one say, with any reasonable seriousness, that an economy which has boomed for two or three decades will not see at least one major recession?
Moreover, compared to developing countries, our recessions here in the US have been relatively mild. Consider these other Asian economic recessions:
1. Japan in early 1990s -- deflationary slump. The Japanese economy reached such lofty heights in the 1980s that the value of downtown Tokyo real estate was gauged as being higher than all of California. Fortunately, Japan has now recovered and -- as I heard on the radio the other day -- is in the midst of its second longest expansion in the postwar period, growing for 51 straight months. But from the early 90's for about ten years, Japan suffered what has become "the lost decade." "Nihon wa ima shiniso!" my host-brother proclaimed to me in 1994. "Japan is nearly dead these days."
2. Wikipedia's article on the East Asian financial crisis of 1997 notes that per capita GDP, (measured in purchasing power parity) has declined from 1997-2005 in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In other words, those economies have been more or less stagnant overall in terms of the net effects of growth in the economy and growth in the populations ever since the currency and financial crisis of 1997.
So suffice it to say that when China has a slump or recession, there's a good chance that it won't be pretty. It will probably make one of our domestic recessions look like a single bad day at Nordstrom.
If economic growth stalls, what is to replace it as a pillar of political legitimacy? It seems there are two possibilities, more nationalism, or, in the hope of the United States, democratic legitimacy through political freedom. At the time of its recession, Japan had had a history of parliamentary elections and representative democracy for three or four decades (one could debate this given the overwhelming dominance of one party, but Japan was democratizing for a very long time to say the least). Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia all had some form of popular representation during their crises, though the democratization was varied in degrees in each. All of these countries though, at the time of their difficulties, were much, much, much further along the way toward representative and consensual government than China currently is.
Democracy in China seems unlikely to spring forward overnight during a time of economic crisis. It seems equally unlikely that any budding manifestations of it will suddenly blossom. Indeed, during the rural uprisings and riots we've seen trickling out in the news last year, it seems China was much more likely to send in the brute squads to put them down than to expand freedom for the rioters. Some of the freedoms the Chinese currently enjy might wither on the vine if poor economic times come along . . .
Perhaps nationalism will be intentionally spread to make up the difference in regime legitimacy?
This seems at least as likely a scenario as that of economic growth leading to greater political freedom, as is the strategy of the United States.
If China's roiling economy is one of the key pillars of regime legitimacy, I fear that the regime may soon learn what a bust is . . . and what might happen then?
In short, while everyone and their grandmother expects the "Chinese economy to surpass the US by 2030" or "China to emege as a global power" etc, I think it is just as likely that China will suffer a severe economic crisis, and do something horrible that makes it a pariah in the world's eyes -- whether internally or abroad; or that the Chinese regime could collapse under a popular uprising. I'm no expert, but it seems that if there's one place where they like to riot as much as France, it might be China. Flipping through a history of China is to read again and again of peasant or other popular uprisings.
If China transforms into a democracy with no political violence or economic hardship, we'll all break out the plum wine and celebrate. But all should have their eyes wide open as to the likelihood of more dreadful scenarios as well.
Sadly, I think there's little more the US can do than what we already are: building relationships with China's neighbors to counterbalance it if things go to heck; encouraging political freedom inside the country; trading with China; etc etc etc. The op-ed by the Stanford professor makes the case that we should quit complaining about their currency evalution, as a rapidly inflating currency was what led to Japan's deflation. I'm not enough of an economist to make heads or tails of that, but perhaps it's worth considering.
Perhaps we should just darn the torpedoes and pressure China to democratize much faster than it is, for its own sake . . . Given how many other things are on the US plate at the moment, it seems more likely that we'll kick this can down the road for a while longer . . .
September 15, 2005
Market-states, Netwar and "Ebay-style command systems"
On many occasions, loyal readers, I have referred you to the brilliant work by Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles, which is about the relationship between constitutional order and warfare, and the different forms that the state has taken over the past five hundred years: princely state, kingly state, territorial state, state-nation, nation-state, and now, market-state. It is pure genius. I highly recommend it. The only thing that has kept me from reviewing it in full is that it is nearly 800 pages and so broad-ranging that I'm sure I would miss more than a few important things. For the moment, I'll give the briefest of overviews, which is only fair because it illuminates much of my thinking here on the blog.
Here's the central thesis in my own paraphrased words: the state was created as one strategic innovation of warfare. Since then, as warfare evolved, the constitutional order of states has evolved with it. Along the way, there have been several "epochal wars," during which the strategic innovations of warfare resulted in a new constitutional order. During the 20th century, the period from 1914 to 1990 was one such epochal war. The constitutional order in play was that of the nation-state. The three alternatives of nation-state were fascism, parliamentarism, and communism, all of which each promised to maximize the welfare of a given nation, through one means or another. During that war, the Long War of the 20th century, the states involved made strategic innovations to win -- three in particular: nuclear weapons, rapid computation, and global communcations (in the broadest sense: the movement of people, ideas, materiel etc). These same three strategic innovations, which were essential to winning the Long War of the nation-state, now undermine that same society of states. The new constitutional order will be that of the market-state. Governments will no longer seek to maximize the welfare of a given nation, but will instead maximize the opportunities of citizens.
That in a nutshell is the argument and I think it rings true in many, many ways. First off, Bobbitt has jettisoned the prevalent view of history: that the nation-state has been in existence since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and is now being rent asunder by global capitalism, which drives all things before it. This view, the prevailing one in the academic world, is inherently Marxist. It says that capitalism is the root cause of everything: culture, politics, societal breakdown . . . And it says that "all that is solid melts into air," which leaves much to be desired in terms of giving hope for the future of the human race. Bobbitt instead argues differently: it is not capitalism that drives everything. Instead, he would claim that war is the driving force in human history. This is a classical view, a classically liberal view, it is a breath of fresh air, and it is fascinating.
Bobbitt believes that the market-state will rely less on legal regulation and laws to solve policy problems, and will instead rely more on market-based incentives to accomplish its goals. In a sense he comes full circle: capital is not the defining element of life, war is. But capitalism has blessed us with the best ways of organizing society, and now, in our continued drive to continue to prevent wars, we will rely on those market-based approaches to accomplish the aims of our Leviathan.
Now one wonders: how does this wide-ranging grand theory translate into everyday domestic politics? It might be easy to equate the market-state with the ultimate goal of libertarians, who wish for no central government whatsoever. But this would be incorrect. Bobbitt does not see markets as replacing states. He sees states as using markets to accomplish their goals, rather than grand government redistribution schemes, or bureaucratic means of making decisions. In fact, Bobbitt argues that the welfare state has been so discredited in recent years because it was part and parcel of the nation-state -- the state that promises to maximize the opportunities of a given nation. This is what both FDR and LBJ attempted to do with their programs. But the innovations which won the Long War -- nuclear weapons, rapid computation, and global communications -- have rendered a world in which no one nation, or ethnic group is clearly defined. One cannot seek to maximize the welfare of a given nation because one can no longer even define that nation. This is especially true in the United States, a multi-ethnic continental superpower.
My interpretation is that the Democrats, using multiculturalism, seek to maximize the welfare of every mini-nation which can be found in the US, but to the overall detriment to the whole. They use the tired old redistributive policies of the welfare state to accomplish this, but ultimately, the welfare state can never be as effective at maximizing welfare as the market can in maximizing opportunity. Here is where the GOP comes in. Contrary to the Democrats, the GOP has traditionally sought to maximize market opportunity, while at the same time enacting social policies that buttress a much narrower conception of one particular melting-pot American nation-state. So the effects of the market-state cut through both parties. I think the GOP is in a position to much more clearly adopt the concept of the market-state and implement policies based upon an understanding of its dynamics than are the Democrats.
In fact, guess who else has been reading Bobbitt?
In his new book, Winning the Future, Newt Gingrich dedicates a chapter to Entrepreneurial Public Management as a Replacement for Bureaucratic Public Administration. Sound familiar? Scroll down:
As Professor Philip Bobbitt of the University of Texas has noted: "Tomorrow's [nation] state will have as much in common with the 21st century multinational company as with the 20th century [nation] state. It will outsource many functions to the private sector, rely less of regulation and more on market incentives and respond to ever-changing consumer demand."Don't be deceived. Bobbitt's work is more about war and diplomacy than about turning the US into number one on the Fortune 500 list, with the President as CEO. But the analogy is not inappropriate, and is in fact the easiest part of the book to discuss in the public realm with our existing vocabulary of states, markets, and politics. Newt has merely latched on to this one aspect of the market-state.
But to get back to war . . . this is where the idea of the market-state is most fascinating. After all, our current military organizations are relics of the industrial age, and the welfare state. They are nation-state institutions. What will the military of the market-state look like? There are many answers, but I think the most interesting ones lie at the nexus of Bobbitt's work with that of two RAND researchers, Jon Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, who are the pioneers behind the concept of "netwar" (see The Advent of Netwar). The RANDsters describe the rise of network forms of organization as a direct result of the information society (read: Bobbitt's "global communications"), which break down hierarchies (read: bureaucratic government agency holdovers from the nation-state). Their work is fascinating, and has obviously been very influential. They have written a separate work postulating that "swarming" will be the doctrine of the future, because of the decentralized nature of warfighting organizations, based on dense and robust communications. Hugh Hewitt has quoted their work about swarming in his own book, Blog, to describe what he terms "blogswarms". And of course, the Marine Corps is developing something called "Distributed Operations," which General Hagee discussed at the American Enterprise Institute conference on The The Future of the United States Marine Corps:
Distributive operations, in my mind, as this lays out, is an additive capability and it's a logical extension of our warfare philosophy and that is maneuver warfare, and what we're talking about is taking several squads and rather than putting them ashore as a platoon, they may go to shore as a platoon but they would be spread out over a large area, and that squad leader would have the capability to call in kinetic fire, whether it's from air, sea or land, and coordinate those fires. Can you do it today? He has the capability but we haven't given him the education and training, and we are absolutely committed to doing that.One way of imagining distributed operations is a small market of interconnected actors, who are free to collaborate amongst themselves when convenient, all in pursuit of a common policy goal. This is the conceptual way to imagine how a market-state will implement its policies, as opposed to a libertarian utopia of all private-sector all-the-time. In fact, in a 2003 interview at Berkeley, Jon Arquilla even goes so far as to say:
You take several of those squads and you can spread them out over a large area. You've got eyes on target. You can bring in kinetic fires, if so desired, and if it's high-intensity conflict, you find the gap in the enemy's lines, and here is the part that's different. You reaggregate that force as a platoon, as a company, as a battalion, as a regiment, and you shove that combat power through that gap, looking for the enemy's center of gravity.
It's a little bit what we're doing today. We don't have all the technologies. They've been invented, they're out there, we just don't have them yet. The technologies to ensure those squads are connected together. And we haven't provided the education and training to ensure that squad leader has everything he can to be that strategic corporal, to be that strategic sergeant on today's battlefield.
What David Ronfeldt and I have suggested in terms of organizational redesign is that we create many small units who, first of all, can communicate with each other, and secondly, with our automated, unmanned assets in the air and other aircraft or ships at sea that can provide fire support. We've also suggested a commanding general or admiral who will be able to observe all of this as it is under way. The true measure of generalship in the future will be the leader who watches, but doesn't control directly, who adjusts and corrects where necessary, but allows things to unfold in a natural way.Ebay style of command? Crazy right? Check this out, from an in-depth profile of Donald Rumsfeld by Thomas P.M. Barnett:
I went so far as to suggest once that it would be nice if a general tried to move to an eBay-style command system in which he simply let it be known to his commanders of what Ronfeldt and I call these little pods and clusters out in the field -- if he simply gave them a list of all the things that mattered to him: a bridge, a town, an enemy unit, the battery of artillery. We assign point values to those, and he put them on his list for a certain amount of time, at a certain point value. Of course, this could be adjusted every day. Imagine a campaign in which the commander's intent was expressed in that fashion, as opposed to a stream of orders from one unit to the next. The efficiencies created would be absolutely enormous. And, frankly, we have the information technology today. EBay is the proof that we have an efficient auction system for allocating resources. Well, we could be doing that in the military realm as well. I'm only partly tongue in cheek about that; I think we could go to something very, very close to that, very much further away from traditional notions of command.
But perhaps most stunning are Rumsfeld's plans for something he calls the National Security Personnel System, which will radically redefine civilian and military service in the Defense Department, changing from a longevity-based system to a performance-based system. Already, radical new features of this plan have been field-tested in the Navy, where, in the past, so-called detailers told sailors where they were going on their next assignment-with little warning and like it or not. Eager to break that boneheaded tradition, the Navy is experimenting with an eBay-like online auction system in which individual servicemen and -women bid against one another for desired postings. As Admiral Vern Clark told me, "I've learned you can get away with murder if you call it a pilot program."How about them apples? The market-state, entrepreneurial public managment, netwar and swarming: all tied together, all right around the corner.
So Clark is pioneering a system by which, instead of sending people to places they don't want to go on a schedule that plays havoc with their home life, "they're going to negotiate on the Web for jobs. The decision's going to be made by the ship and the guy or gal. You know, we're going to create a whole new world here."
The plan is designed to save the services money and effort by reducing early departures from the ranks by people who just can't take it anymore. The Navy's so-called "slamming" rate, meaning the percentage of job transfers against a person's will, has hovered at 30 to 35 percent in recent years. That means the Navy has been pissing off one third of its personnel on a regular basis. Now, under this program, the slamming rate is down to less than one percent. More profoundly, Clark's pilot program has already spread to the other services, and in turn could well change the very nature of civil service throughout the United States government.
Where will it end? Innovation in republican and democratic government is no stranger to the United States. We may yet come up with something wholly new, different, and better, even more so than the first attempts described above.
UPDATE: Newt also mentions Ebay, but in a different context (same link as above). I definitely think he has read Bobbitt's book:
Creating a citizen centered government using the power of the computer and the internet. The agrarian-industrial model of government saw the citizen as a client of limited capabilities and the government employee as the center of knowledge, decision and power. It was a bureaucrat-centered model of governance (much as the agrarian-industrial model of health was a doctor-centered model and the agrarian-industrial school was a teacher-centered model). The information age makes it possible to develop citizen centered models of access and information.The market-state will seek to maximize opportunity for its citizens.
The Weather Channel and Weather.com are a good example of this new approach. The Weather Channel gathers and analyzes the data but it is available to you when you want it and in the form you need. You do not have to access all the weather in the world to discover the weather for your neighborhood tomorrow. You do not have to get anyone’s permission to access the system 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Google is another system of customer centric organization that is a model for government. You access Google when you want to and you ask it the question that interests you. Google may give you an answer that has over a million possibilities but you only have to use the one or two options that satiate your interest. Similarly Amazon.com and E-Bay are models of systems geared to your interests on your terms when you want to access them. Compare these systems with the current school room, the courthouse which is open from 8 to 5, the appointment at the doctor’s office on the doctor’s terms, the college class only available when the professor deigns to show up. Government is still mired in the pre-computer, pre-communications age. A key component of Entrepreneurial Public Management is to ask every morning what can be done to use computers, the internet, CDs, DVDs, teleconferencing, and other modern innovations to recenter the government on the citizen.
May 2, 2005
Borders, Gangs and War
. . . on Nov. 2, a political earthquake occurred when Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, which denies state welfare benefits to illegal aliens and strengthens voter registration requirements. Forty-seven percent of Latino voters and 59% of Latino Republicans voted for Proposition 200.He goes on to say that
These figures have liberated Republicans to speak candidly about immigration control without fearing the "race card." Opponents will still try to use it, but it rings hollow. In the words of Lyndon B. Johnson, "That dog won't hunt."
there is now a broad consensus in Congress that border security must be given a high priority. We cannot think seriously about legalizing millions of new "temporary workers" until we are able to control our borders and know who is entering our country and who is leaving.The school of theorists of fourth generational war, often quick to sound a death knell for the state system, frequently draws attention to the ease with which non-state actors might transit our southern border. They are not alone in this regard, but they are usually much more compelling in the scenarios they imagine.
William Lind, a founder of this school of thought, takes the issue up in his latest piece, More on Gangs & Guerillas vs. the State.
Meanwhile, drug smugglers and guerrilla forces like the FARC work together more easily than states do. The state system is old, creaky, formalistic and slow. Drug dealing and guerrilla warfare represent a free market, where deals happen fast. Several years ago, a Marine friend went down to Bolivia as part of the U.S. counter-drug effort. He observed that the drug traffickers went through Boyd Cycle or OODA Loop six times in the time it took us to go through it once. When I relayed that to Colonel Boyd, he said, “Then we’re not even in the game.”Note Lind's quick dismissal of state−based action. His is not so much a call to action, as a lament that state-centered policies are doomed to be hopelessly fruitless. Yet if Congressman Tancredo has his way, the state will make more and more robust efforts to police its border . . .
Not surprisingly, the FARC and others find they can use the drug trade for political ends. The Washington Times piece noted,But the (State Department) report did not mention FARC’s recent cultivation of ties with leftist rebels in Paraguay …Colombian Marxists infiltrating Paraguay beyond the drug trade made headlines in February when former presidential daughter Cecilia Cubas was found dead after being held captive for more than two months.How long will it be before al Qaeda and other Islamic non-state forces make their own alliances with the drug gangs and people smugglers who are experts in getting across America’s southern border? Or use the excellent distribution systems the drug gangs have throughout the United States to smuggle something with a bigger bang than the best cocaine?
Just as we see states coming together around the world against the non-state forces of the Fourth Generation, so those non-state forces will also come together in multi-faceted alliances. The difference is likely to be that they will do it faster and better. And, they will use states’ preoccupation with the state system like a matador’s cape, to dazzle and distract while they proceed with the real business of war.
See Bill Roggio's earlier piece on this issue: The Fourth Rail: Minutemen and the Border War
UPDATE: I'm tracking back to Mudville Gazette.