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By Andrew J. Polsky
The signs are clear. President Barack Obama has nominated two leading skeptics of American military intervention for the most important national security cabinet posts. Meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who would prefer a substantial American residual presence after the last American combat troops have departed in 2014, Obama has signaled that he wants a more rapid transition out of an active combat role (perhaps as soon as this spring, rather than during the summer). The president has also countered a push from his own military advisors to keep a sizable force in Afghanistan indefinitely by agreeing to consider the “zero option” of a complete withdrawal. We appear on the verge of a non-interventionist moment in American politics, when leaders and the general public alike shun major military actions.
Only a decade ago, George W. Bush stood before the graduating class at West Point to proclaim the dawn of a new era in American security policy. Neither deterrence nor containment, he declared, sufficed to deal with the threat posed by “shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend” or with “unbalanced dictators” possessing weapons of mass destruction. “[O]ur security will require all Americans to be forward looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.” This new “Bush Doctrine” would soon be put into effect. In March 2003, the president ordered the US military to invade Iraq to remove one of those “unstable dictators,” Saddam Hussein.
This post-9/11 sense of assertiveness did not last. Long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan discredited the leaders responsible and curbed any popular taste for military intervention on demand. Over the past two years, these reservations have become obvious as other situations arose that might have invited the use of troops just a few years earlier: Obama intervened in Libya but refused to send ground forces; the administration has rejected direct measures in the Syrian civil war such as no-fly zones; and the president refused to be stampeded into bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.
The reaction against frustrating wars follows a familiar historical pattern. In the aftermath of both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Americans expressed a similar reluctance about military intervention. Soon after the 1953 truce that ended the Korean stalemate, the Eisenhower administration faced the prospect of intervention in Indochina, to forestall the collapse of the French position with the pending Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu. As related by Fredrik Logevall in his excellent recent book, Embers of War, both Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles were fully prepared to deploy American troops. But they realized that in the backwash from Korea neither the American people nor Congress would countenance unilateral action. Congressional leaders indicated that allies, the British in particular, would need to participate. Unable to secure agreement from British foreign secretary Anthony Eden, Eisenhower and Dulles were thwarted, and decided instead to throw their support behind the new South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.
Another period marked by reluctance to use force followed the Vietnam War. Once the last American troops withdrew in 1973, Congress rejected the possibility they might return, banning intervention in Indochina without explicit legislative approval. Congress also adopted the War Powers Resolution, more significant as a symbolic statement about the wish to avoid being drawn into a protracted military conflict by presidential initiative than as a practical measure to curb presidential bellicosity.
It is no coincidence that Obama’s key foreign and defense policy nominees were shaped by the crucible of Vietnam. Both Chuck Hagel and John Kerry fought in that war and came away with “the same sensibility about the futilities of war.” Their outlook contrasts sharply with that of Obama’s initial first-term selections to run the State Department and the Pentagon: both Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates backed an increased commitment of troops in Afghanistan in 2009. Although Senators Hagel and Kerry supported the 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, they became early critics of the war. Hagel has expressed doubts about retaining American troops in Afghanistan or using force against Iran.
Given the present climate, we are unlikely to see a major American military commitment during the next several years. Obama’s choice of Kerry and Hagel reflect his view that, as he put it in the 2012 presidential debate about foreign policy, the time has come for nation-building at home. It will suffice in the short run to hold distant threats at bay. Insofar as possible, the United States will rely on economic sanctions and “light footprint” methods such as drone strikes on suspected terrorists.
If the past is any guide, however, this non-interventionist moment won’t last. The post-Korea and post-Vietnam interludes of reluctance gave way within a decade to a renewed willingness to send American troops into combat. By the mid-1960s, Lyndon Johnson had embraced escalation in Vietnam; Ronald Reagan made his statement through his over-hyped invasion of Grenada to crush its pipsqueak revolutionary regime. The American people backed both decisions.
The return to interventionism will recur because the underlying conditions that invite it have not changed significantly. In the global order, the United States remains the hegemonic power that seeks to preserve stability. We retain a military that is more powerful by several orders of magnitude than any other, and will surely remain so even after the anticipate reductions in defense spending. Psychologically, the American people have long been sensitive to distant threats, and we have shown that we can be stampeded into endorsing military action when a president identifies a danger to our security. (And presidents themselves become vulnerable to charges that they are tolerating American decline whenever a hostile regime comes to power anywhere in the world.)
Those of us who question the American proclivity to resort to the use of force, then, should enjoy the moment.
Andrew Polsky is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. A former editor of the journal Polity, his most recent book is Elusive Victories: The American Presidency at War. Read Andrew Polsky’s previous blog posts.
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The post The non-interventionist moment appeared first on OUPblog.
By: Ellis Nadler
Blog: Ellis Nadler's Sketchbook
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Playing around with designs for an ex libris
for J.Carraway.Pen and ink with watercolour 25cm x 12cm. Click to enlarge.
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, Middle East
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, jim amos
, Louis René Beres
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Outdated goals of war in the 21st century
By Louis René Beres
Even now, when the “fog of war” in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely at its thickest point, our leaders and military commanders still speak in starkly traditional terms. Such ordinary emphases on “victory” and “defeat” belie the profound and critically-nuanced transformations of war presently [...]
Canongate has bought a collection of stories by a US marine and veteran of the Iraq war.
Senior editor Francis Bickmore pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights to the untitled collection by Phil Klay through by Cathryn Summerhayes at WME on behalf of Eric Simonoff. US rights were pre-empted by Scott Moyers and Andrea Walker at Penguin US.
Canongate and Penguin will publish in 2013.
By: Ellis Nadler
Blog: Ellis Nadler's Sketchbook
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I'm currently taking camel driving lessons. My instructors are monozygotic
.Oil on canvas 15cm x 15cm Click to enlarge.
Tough girl Ceejay wants to be bad like her older brother who is stationed in Iraq. She takes on anyone, verbally and physically, to prove her ferocity. Friends start reporting to her that they have seen Bobby in town, weeks before he is to be released from duty. Once Ceejay finds him, Bobby has begun to hang out with the local wacko who dodges through the battle zone of the nasty Nogo Gatu and the heroic Yimmies. Bobby makes other strange choices. Ceejay watches with unbelief as her brother and Captain Crazy come to terms with the horrors of war.
ENDERS' Rating: ***
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By John Tirman
As the U.S. war in Iraq winds down, we are entering a familiar phase, the season of forgetting—forgetting the harsh realities of the war. Mostly we forget the victims of the war, the Iraqi civilians whose lives and society have been devastated by eight years of armed conflict. The act of forgetting is a social and political act, abetted by the American news media. Throughout the war, but especially now, the minimal news we get from Iraq consistently devalues the death toll of Iraqi civilians.
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, David Kilcullen
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David Kilcullen is a former Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Patraeus in Iraq as well as a former advisor to General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. Kilcullen is also Adjunct Professor of Security Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and the author of The Accidental Guerrilla (2009). His new book, Counterinsurgency, is a no-nonsense picture of modern warfare informed by his experiences on the ground in some of today’s worst trouble spots–including Iraq and Afghanistan. In this excerpt, Kilcullen shares a few insights as to how progress in the Afghan campaign can be properly tracked and assessed.
WHY METRICS MATTER
In 2009 in Afghanistan, ISAF seems to be in an adaptation battle against a rapidly evolving insurgency that has repeatedly absorbed and adapted to past efforts to defeat it, including at least two previous troop surges and three changes of strategy. To end this insurgency and achieve peace, we may need more than just extra troops, new resources, and a new campaign plan: as General Stanley McChrystal has emphasized, we need a new operational culture. Organizations manage what they measure, and they measure what their leaders tell them to report on. Thus, one key way for a leadership team to shift an organization’s focus is to change reporting requirements and the associated measures of performance and effectiveness.
As important, and more urgent, we need to track our progress against the ISAF campaign plan, the Afghan people’s expectations, and the newly announced strategy for the war. The U.S. Congress , in particular, needs measures to track progress in the “surge” against the President Obama’s self-imposed eighteen-month timetable. To be effective, these measures must track three distinct but closely related elements:
1. Trends in the war (i.e., how the environment, the enemy, the population, and the Afghan government are changing)
2. ISAF’s progress against the campaign plan and the overall strategy including validation (whether we are doing the right things) and evaluation (how well we are doing them)
3. Performance of individuals and organizations against best-practice norms for counterinsurgency, reconstruction, and stability operations
Metrics must also be meaningful to multiple audiences, including NATO commanders, intelligence and operations staffs, political leaders, members of the legislature in troop-contributing nations, academic analysts, journalists, and–most important–ordinary Afghans and people around the world.
We should also note that if metrics are widely published, then they become known to the enemy, who can “game” them in order to undermine public confidence and perpetuate the conflict. Thus, we must strike a balance between clarity and openness on the one hand and adaptability and security on the other.
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By Amanda H. Podany
In President Obama’s speech last December when he received the Nobel Prize, he observed that, “War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease—the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.” This comment almost seems to need no supporting evidence; it’s just common knowledge and common sense. And, for the most part, it’s true. That point, though, about war being the way that ancient civilizations “settled their differences”—that isn’t in fact the whole story. Ancient kings could, and did, send their armies into battle against one another. But some of them also talked to one another, wrote letters, sent ambassadors back and forth between their capitals, and drew up peace treaties. Sometimes, as a result, they avoided war and benefited from peaceful alliances, often for decades at a time.
Recently, as is so often the case, the focus of American diplomatic efforts has been on the Middle East. In a recent meeting, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed the relationship between the US and Israel, then President Obama telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to voice his support for Abbas as well. Just days before that, Vice President Biden had met with Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq. It might surprise some modern political observers to learn that the invention of diplomacy probably took place in the Middle East over 4,300 years ago and that diplomatic interactions flourished there throughout the centuries of ancient Mesopotamian civilization, long before the era even of the Greeks and Romans. Affirmations of alliance and friendship similar to those spoken by President Obama and his allies in the Middle East can be found in ancient cuneiform documents between the kings of Egypt and Mittani (now Syria) and between the kings of Hatti (now Turkey) and Babylonia (now Iraq). And just as, today, President Obama relies on his envoy George Mitchell or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to set the groundwork for agreements among Middle Eastern countries and the United States, so ancient leaders depended on their envoys for exactly the same reason.
Like modern envoys, these ancient ambassadors traveled to foreign lands, accompanied by translators and assistants. Like Mitchell or Clinton, the ancient officials often found themselves walking the line between assertiveness and compromise, between representing their government and taking a measure of control in negotiations, between accepting formal gestures of friendship and not wanting to be seen as favoring one ally over another. Fortunately for us, they left copious records of their diplomatic encounters.
For example, 3,350 years ago, a man named Keliya represented the king of the Mittanian Empire, in ancient Syria, traveling regularly to the court of the powerful Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III. Prior to his time, Egypt had been an enemy of Mittani for almost a century, starting around 1500 BCE. Egyptian kings had invaded Mittani, looted cities and taken back prisoners and booty. Mittani, in turn, was no vulnerable victim. It too had been expanding aggressively into neighboring lands. But around 1420 BCE the two lands made peace and instigated an era of extensive diplomatic contact. Other former enemies of Mittani—Hatti in what is now Turkey, and Babylonia in what is now Iraq—joined in as well. The great kings saw themselves as “brothers,” or equals, and they relied on their ambassadors, like Keliya, to keep communication open between them. Thanks to such men, what ha
Alia Muhammad Baker seems an unlikely heroine. A quiet, unassuming woman, she works as the chief librarian at the Basra Central Library in Iraq. In 2003, however, she is faced with an extraordinary challenge — how to save the books of her beloved library from being destroyed by the war with the invading forces of Britain and the U.S. Alia has read books about the burning down and destruction of libraries in the ancient past — and she was horrified. Now she faces the possibility of the very same thing happening to her library. Can she save the books? Read the graphic novel and find out!
Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty (Knopf, 2004) is the account of one particularly courageous woman’s fight to protect the books of her city and nation. Yes, librarians can be super-heroes, and Alia is a prime example of the kind of courage and determination, as well as wit and presence-of-mind that it takes to save a library from imminent ruin. Artist Stamaty — a cartoonist for numerous outlets like the New York Times Book Review, the Washingtoon Post and the Boston Globe — has created a short but revealing graphic novel about the plight of culture in times of war. Books do need saving; they are the repositories of a people’s ideas, culture and art. Alia, is indeed, a heroine of an extraordinary kind. Stamaty’s clever combination of using comic-book art to outline the story of an unlikely ’superhero’ is brilliant and I hope he continues producing more graphic novels of this kind!
Our current Book of the Month is Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis, which profiles the stories of 24 young Iraqi refugees, aged 8-19, told in their own words.
Two years ago, Save the Children Sweden and Inma Group South Lebanon worked with Iraqi refugee children in Lebanon to create short animated films. Read more about the project here and watch this video, which I found praticularly thought-provoking. The detailing is superb too – note the unhappy expression on the sun on the cover image…
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By Susan C. Mapp
On December 23, 2002, the United States ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This document defines a “child soldier” as a person under the age of 18 involved in hostilities. This raises the minimum age from the age of 15 set in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Neuroscience is now providing us with the tools to see what many have long suspected: the adolescent brain has not yet fully developed. In particular, the prefrontal cortex, which regulates complicated decision-making and calculation of risks and rewards is not yet fully developed. The American Bar Association used this knowledge in its support of the ban on the death penalty for minors.
Article 7 of this document states that nations who are parties to it will cooperate in the, “rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons who are victims.” The Declarations and Reservations made by US related primarily its recruitment of 17-year-olds and noting that the ratification did not mean any acceptance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child itself, nor the International Criminal Court, thus indicating its acceptance of Article 7.
However, the United States frequently detains and incarcerates child soldiers. The United Nations has noted the “presence of considerable numbers of children in United States-administered detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan” (p.6). The New York Times states the U.S. report to the UN regarding its compliance with the Optional Protocol states that it has held thousands of children in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. The same report also states that a total of eight children have been held at Guantanamo Bay.
The United States is currently in the process of trying a child soldier who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the past 8 years. Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. Omar was 15 years old at the time, well below the minimum age for child soldiers. The head of UNICEF, a former U.S. national security advisor, has stated his opposition to the trial:
The recruitment and use of children in hostilities is a war crime, and those who are responsible – the adult recruiters – should be prosecuted. The children involved are victims, acting under coercion. As UNICEF has stated in previous statements on this issue, former child soldiers need assistance for rehabilitation and reintegration into their communities, not condemnation or prosecution.
The Paris Principles, principles and guidelines on children associated with armed groups, was developed in 2007 to provide guidance on these issues. Developed by the United Nations, it has been endorsed by 84 nations as of 2009, not including the United States. It states that “Children … accused
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By Alia Brahimi
The air freight bomb plot should be understood as part of al-Qaeda’s pervasive weakness rather than its strength. The intended targets, either a synagogue in Chicago and/or a UPS plane which would explode over a western city, were chosen as part of the attempt to re-focus al-Qaeda’s violence back towards western targets and pull the jihad away from the brink.
Indeed, things haven’t worked out the way Osama bin Laden hoped they would.
Quoting such diverse sources as Carl von Clausewitz, Mao Zedong, Vo Nguyen Giap and Peter Paret, al-Qaeda strategists had repeatedly emphasised the pivotal importance of attracting the support of the Muslim masses to the global jihad. For Abu Ubeid al-Qurashi, the absence of popular support meant that the mujahidin would be no more than a criminal gang. ‘It is absolutely necessary that the resistance transforms into a strategic phenomenon’, argued Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, time and time again.
However, despite the open goal handed to bin Laden by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the increased relevance and resonance of his anti-imperial rhetoric from 2003-2006, he failed to find the back of the net. His crow to Bush about Iraq being an ‘own goal’ was decidedly premature. The credibility of bin Laden’s claim to be acting in defence of Muslims exploded alongside the scores of suicide bombers dispatched to civilian centres with the direct intention of massacring swathes of (Muslim) innocents.
Moreover, where al-Qaeda in Iraq gained control over territory, as in the Diyala and Anbar provinces, the quality of life offered to the Iraqi people was a source of further alienation: music, smoking and shaving were banned, women were forced to take the veil, punishments for disobedience included rape, the chopping of hands and the beheading of children. Brutality was blended with farce as female goats were killed because their parts were not covered and their tails turned upward.
In the end, bin Laden’s ideology, which relied first and foremost on a (poetic) narrative of victimhood, became impossible to sustain. Bin Laden’s project is profoundly moral. He casts himself as the defender of basic freedoms. He eloquently portrays his jihad as entirely defensive and al-Qaeda as the vanguard group acting in defence of the umma. He maintains that all the conditions for a just war have been met.
In reality, however, all of his just war arguments – about just cause, right authority, last resort, necessity, the legitimacy of targeting civilians – are based on one fundamental assumption: that al-Qaeda is defending Muslims from non-Muslim aggressors. As such, it is essential that (1) al-Qaeda stops killing Muslims and (2) al-Qaeda starts hitting legitimate western targets and the regimes which enable the alleged western encroachment.
The emergence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in January 2009 can be viewed as part of this end (much as the al-Qaeda-affiliated GSPC in Algeria formed in opposition to the moral bankruptcy of the GIA). Their publications favour targeted violence such as political assassinations and attacks within US military barracks such as that perpetrated by Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood. Their most high-profile operations have been an assault on the US embassy in Sana’a, an attempt to assassinate the Saudi security chief Mohammed bin Nayef, and the bid by the ‘underpants bomber’ to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP) have internalised lessons from Iraq and are seeking to keep the population and the tribes on side. Their statements articulate the political and social discontent of the populace. The leadership seems to subscribe to bin Laden’s argument that violence must be used strategically and not w
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By Dan P. McAdams
In the spring of 2003, President George W. Bush launched an American military invasion of Iraq. From a psychological standpoint, why did he do it? Bush’s momentous decision resulted from a perfect psychological storm, wherein world events came to activate a set of dispositional traits and family goals that had long occupied key positions in Bush’s personality. At the center of the storm was a singularly redemptive story that, around the age of 40, George W. Bush began to construct to make sense of his life. After years of drinking and waywardness, Bush fashioned a story in his mind about how, though self-discipline and God’s guidance, he had triumphed over chaos, enabling him to recover the freedom, control, and goodness of his youth. In the days after 9/11, President Bush projected this very same narrative of redemption onto America and the world. Just as he had, with God’s help, overcome the internal demons that once threatened to destroy his own life, so too would America, God’s chosen nation, overcome the chaos and evil of Saddam and thereby restore freedom and the good life to the Iraqis. Because the redemptive story had played so well in his own life, the president knew in his heart that the mission would be accomplished and that there ultimately had to be a happy ending.
I have been thinking a lot about George W. Bush’s redemptive story these days as I follow the U. S. midterm elections. The big political story for the past few months, of course, has been the Republican surge and the rise of the Tea Party. One of the strategies of embattled Democratic candidates has been to frame the election as a contest between them and Bush. After all, the Democrats decisively beat the Bush legacy in 2008, and they would love to fight that fight again. But I wonder if they have picked the right enemy.
Like such Tea Party darlings as Sarah Palin and Rand Paul, George W. Bush was a died-in-the-wool conservative. Throughout his political career, he pushed for lower taxes, less government regulation, strong defense, and other favorites of the political right. Like Glenn Beck and many other social conservatives, furthermore, he was emotionally in tune with an evangelical Christian perspective on human life and social relationships. At a Tea Party rally in Anchorage, Alaska, Mr. Beck recently confessed: “If it weren’t for my wife and my faith, I don’t know if I would be alive today.” As governor and president, George W. Bush often expressed the very same sentiment.
But Bush was really different, too. In tone and sentiment, George W. Bush was less like the angry Republicans who are fighting to take over the House and Senate on November 2 and more like, well, President Obama. Both Bush and Obama embrace an unabashedly redemptive narrative about life and about America. Bush’s life story channels the well-known American story of second chances and personal recovery. Obama tells the quintessentially American tale of upward mobility and liberation, the black boy who grew up to defy all the odds and become president. In both narratives, the protagonist overcomes early suffering to reach the Promised Land in the end. Both men project the theme of redemption onto America, though in different ways. Bush wanted to restore small-town American goodness and spread democracy to the Iraqis. Obama wants to catalyze human potential and improve Americans’ lives through progressive government. Both appeal to the discourse of hope.
And what about the Tea Party? It is difficult to generalize, but most conservative candidates who have won the backing of Tea Party activists in this election season do not seem to be telling a redemptive narrative about American life. Their political rhetoric instead has a harder edge. Let’s take the country back from the evil forces who ar
By: Elvin Lim,
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, Elvin Lim
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By Elvin Lim
American foreign policy elites are now facing the difficult choice of deciding if our short-term goals are in fostering democracy in the Middle East, or in quietly propping up authoritarian allies in the region. Even if policy-makers have a choice, it not an easy one to make. Certainly, in the long run, democracy in the Middle East would likely remove the breeding conditions for terrorism and resentment towards the West, but in the short run, transitioning toward democracy is a highly volatile project and in the meantime our strategic interests in the region could be compromised.
That is why until September 11, 2001, there had been an unspoken consensus that democracy in the Middle East matters less than friends in the Middle East. It has certainly been easier for the United States to negotiate with Kings and dictators than they have with the unorganized masses. We are not alone in taking the path of least resistance. The Soviet Union and the British empire operated on the same principle, prioritizing predictability over democracy. Indeed, almost all the monarchies in the Middle East were created by the British, trying to replicate the balance of power called the Concert of Europe which had prevailed in Europe in the 19th century.
This top-down, and short-term approach to regional order and predictability had its consequences in crowding out the more sustainable, bottom-up approach. The result of imposing an authoritarian solution from above is that whereas countries in the West developed democratic institutions and traditions, countries in the Middle East were developmentally arrested, never allowed to develop the apparatuses of self-rule, including a system of government accountability, a separation and division of powers, codified laws, stable political parties, a free and open media, and an engaged and educated citizenry. The existence of a major resource, oil, made it especially difficult for countries in the Middle East to break out of their arrested development, because leaders propped up by oil revenue spent their energies defending their control of resources rather than fighting for the affections of the people. As a result, most countries in the region failed to develop electorally responsive mechanisms to allocate and check political power. By choosing democracy over predictability and the path of least resistance, the US and the West made it more likely that the Middle East would enjoy neither in the future.
September 11, and the war in Iraq it precipitated, temporarily blurred this conclusion because it appeared that we could seek democracy and predictability at the same time, or at least the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration promised. The relative success of the Iraq war blurred the zero-sum game between democracy and predictability by seeking the latter in the name of the former. But the temporary marriage between our commitment to democracy and predictability in the Middle East could last only as long as our commitment to the former was tentative and calibrated.
The uprisings in Tunisia, however, has put this marriage to the test. As the wave of protest spreads in the Middle East, some neo-conservatives are now realizing that they got more than they bargained for, and the instinct to return to short-term thinking in the US has returned. The US can take on the project of democracy one country at a time — starting for example in Iraq — but it cannot do this in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen all at once. Policy-makers and the elected politicians who appointed them have to worry about the here and now too. And that means thinking about the markets, oil prices, and friendly counter-weights to rogue regimes like Iran, which necessarily become more powerful as the authoritarian regimes around it crumble. With even the King of Bahrain now talking about reforms, and protests starting in the normally
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Michael Scheuer was the chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 and remained a counterterrorism analyst until 2004. He is the author of many books, including the bestselling Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism. His latest book is the biography Osama bin Laden, a much-needed corrective, hard-headed, closely reasoned portrait that tracks the man’s evolution from peaceful Saudi dissident to America’s Most Wanted.
Among the extensive media attention both the book and Scheuer have received so far, he was interviewed on The Colbert Report just this week.
Interested in knowing more? See:
0 Comments on Michael Scheuer sits down with Stephen Colbert as of 1/1/1900
By Mark Kantor, Michael D. Nolan & Karl P. Sauvant
The conversation in the new and old media over the last several weeks has been dominated by reports about uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and violent clashes in Bahrain, Yemen, the Ivory Coast, Iraq and elsewhere. In Libya, fighting currently is reported to take place close to strategic oil installations. Because of the scarcity of claims arising out of similar events in investor-state arbitration, political risk insurance claims determinations by the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) can play an important role to develop this area of law and fill these gaps in future investor-state arbitral arbitrations.
OPIC has a long history of dealing with claims under political risk insurance policies arising from political violence. Its first political violence claims arose as a consequence of the rebuilding efforts by the Organization of American States following political strife in Dominican Republic in 1967. Early claims included a 1968 claim arising out of war damage to an extension of Jerusalem airport. Since then, OPIC has addressed political violence claims relating to projects in inter alia Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Philippines, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Gaza, Colombia and Afghanistan. These claims concerned damages suffered as a consequence of declared war, violent secessions, military coups, civil war, or revolution. The variety of the different situations encountered in OPIC claims determinations provides valuable insight into how political violence can and does affect foreign investments.
One key element that OPIC determinations have spent significant time addressing is attribution to establish who is responsible the underlying act of violence and for what purpose it was committed. Was violence committed by a group that was trying to overthrow the government, was it committed by a group that was under the control of a government? Or was the violence non-political in nature and as such not covered by the OPIC policy?
The OPIC claims determination with respect to the Freeport mining project in Indonesia is perhaps particularly on point for current events. Freeport Indonesia was engaged in mining activities in the area then known as Irian Jaya (now West Papua), a province of Indonesia on the island of New Guinea The area in which Freeport Indonesia operated became part of Indonesia only after negotiations between the Netherlands and Indonesia. A year after Irian Jaya was joined to Indonesia, various dissident groups, known as the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (“OPM”) formed for the purpose of asserting independence.
In 1969, a first uprising took place, which did not damage Freeport Indonesia facilities. In 1976, though, Freeport Indonesia received letters from OPM demanding assistance in a renewed insurrection expected in spring of 1977. That uprising would reputedly be joined by a major invasion of nationalist forces from neighboring Papua New Guinea. An uprising did occur in 1977, including in the area of Freeport Indonesia’s facilities. Government of Indonesia armed forces were sent to quell the insurrection. The military apparently used Freeport Indonesia facilities as a base of operations. During the period from July 23, 1977 to September 7, 1977, Freeport Indonesia’s facilities suffered damage during acts of sabotage and attacks. Because the partisans shared a common purpose to assert independence, OPIC determined that the loosely affiliated OPM did constitute a revolutionary force despite its lack of a clear command structure. OPIC further applied a “preponderance” test, weighing the evidence available to OPIC to establish whether it was more likely than not that the harm done to Freeport’s facilities was the result of
By David Fisher
There has been much recent debate about whether the 2003 Iraq War was legal, with both Tony Blair and his Attorney General summoned before the Chilcot enquiry to give evidence on this. But a more fundamental question is whether the war was moral.
On this question the Chilcot enquiry has been silent, perhaps reflecting a more general scepticism in society about whether moral questions can have objective answers. But there is a way of thinking going back to Aquinas, Aristotle and beyond that insists that there are rationally based ways to answer moral questions.
A key contribution to this is furnished by the just war tradition. This sets a number of tests which have to be met if a war is to be just. It has to be undertaken: for a just cause, with right intention, with competent authority, as a last resort, and the harm judged likely to result should not outweigh the good achieved, taking into account the probability of success; while in its conduct the principles of proportion and non-combatant immunity have to met; and the war end in a just peace.
This may appear over-prescriptive: erecting so many hurdles that war would become impossible. But the just war tradition recognises that wars can be just and may sometimes be necessary. What the tradition insists on are two fundamental requirements, as simple as they are rationally compelling: is there a just cause and will the harm likely to be caused by military action outweigh the good to be achieved by that cause? In other words, is war likely to bring about more good than harm?
So how does the Iraq War fare against these criteria?
Different reasons were adduced at different times for the war. But the declared grounds common to both the US and UK Governments was to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, so enforcing UN Security Council Resolutions.
We now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. But even that startling disclosure by the Iraq Survey Group would not necessarily invalidate the coalition’s disarmament objective as just cause if there had been strong grounds for believing that Saddam had such weapons.
The problem is that the evidence for such weapons was ‘sporadic and patchy’ in the words of the official Butler report. The Governments’ claim that they were acting on behalf of the UN was also weakened by the lack of substantial international support for military operations, evidenced by the reluctance of the Security Council explicitly to endorse such action through a second resolution. This, in turn, reflected concern that military action was not being undertaken as a last resort: that Saddam should have been given more time to convince the inspectors he had abandoned WMD. Doubt over whether each of these just war conditions was met did not amount to a knock-down argument against war. But the doubts taken together mutually reinforced each other and so strengthened concern that there was not a sufficient just cause.
It is, moreover, the single most serious charge against those who planned the Iraq War that they massively under-estimated the harm that would be likely to be caused by military action. Coalition leaders could not reasonably be expected to have forecast the precise casualty levels that would follow military action. But the coalition leaders can be criticised for failing to give sufficient consideration to what would be the effects of regime change and for not formulating robust plans promptly to re-establish civil governance in its wake and ensure a peaceful transition to democracy. They thus acted with a degree of recklessness. Just as they had undertaken worst case assessments of Saddam’s WMD capability, so they had undertaken best case assessments of what would happen after the regime had been changed.
The Iraq War was, like most wars, fought from a mixture of
By Gregory A. Daddis
David Ignatius of The Washington Post recently highlighted several “positive signs in Afghanistan,” citing progress on the diplomatic front, in relations between India and Pakistan, and on the battlefield itself. Of note, Ignatius stressed how U.S.-led coalition forces had cleared several Taliban strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. The enemy, according to the opinion piece, was “feeling the pressure.” That same day Britain’s former ambassador to Afghanistan condemned General David Petraeus’s tactics as counterproductive and “profoundly wrong.” Denouncing an overemphasis on military action, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles noted that the use of body counts and similar statistics was reminiscent of the Vietnam War and “not conducive to a stable political settlement.”
The allusion to Vietnam, made frequently in the last five years, suggests uncertainty over the true amount of progress being made in Afghanistan today. For nearly a decade Americans in South Vietnam similarly tried in vain to assess progression towards the daunting political-military objective of a stable and independent noncommunist government in Saigon. Military officers and their civilian leaders employed a range of metrics to track success in the myriad political, military, economic, security, and social programs. As early as 1964, analysts were wading through approximately five hundred U.S. and Vietnamese monthly reports in an attempt to appraise the status of the conflict. In the process, the American mission in Vietnam became overwhelmed with data, much of it contradictory and, thus, of dubious value. By war’s end, questions remained over whether the U.S. Army in particular had achieved its goals in Southeast Asia. That debate continues to this day.
The American experience in Vietnam has served—rightfully so—as only an imperfect roadmap for our more current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In short, all wars are unique. Our recent conflicts, however, do illustrate the continuing challenges of defining progress and success in unconventional wars and of developing a coherent strategy for such wars. It is here that an objective study of Vietnam can offer insights and perspectives into the unresolved problems of measuring what matters most in an environment like Afghanistan. Quantitative statistics often do not tell the whole story as governmental allegiances, population security, and political stability all are highly subjective assessments. As in Vietnam, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have varied from province to province and any broad, centralized appraisals of the war likely miss the finer points of local conditions driving the political and military struggle.
Even in a war without front lines, Americans expect wartime progress to be linear. Effort should equal progress. Progress should lead to victory. The widely contrasting views of David Ignatius and Sherard Cowper-Coles, however, imply a battle is being waged over the very idea of “progress” in Afghanistan today. (Asking if the United States “won” in Iraq would provoke equally opposing responses.) If historical examples can be instructive in any way, the problem of metrics in Vietnam arguably helps illuminate the reasons why gauging wartime progress in Afghanistan has produced such a wide range of opinions. Assessing wars oftentimes is just as difficult as winning them.
Colonel Gregory A. Daddis is the author of No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War. Daddis teaches history at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. He has served in a variety of
By Marko Milanovic
Last week the European Court of Human Rights produced a landmark decision in Al-Skeini v. UK, a case dealing with the extraterritorial application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). What a mouthful of legalese this is, you might think – so let me try to clarify things a bit. The main purpose of human rights treaties like the ECHR is to require the states that sign up to them, say the UK, France or Turkey, to respect such things as the right to life and legal due process, and prohibit the torture, of people living within the UK, France or Turkey.
But what happens when the US detains foreigners on foreign soil (Guantanamo), or kills people in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan with unmanned drones, or a former Russian spy is poisoned in London ostensibly at the orders or with the collusion of the Kremlin? The question that then arises is whether all these individuals have rights under human rights treaties against the US, the UK or Russia, even though the alleged violations of their rights did not take place in the US, the UK or Russia.
This question might appear to be counterintuitive. Human rights are, after all, supposed to be universal—why should it matter whether a state violates a person’s rights by acting within its territory or outside it? At the legal level however it is a matter of treaty interpretation. The scope of application of many major human rights treaties, including the ECHR, is defined by a very similar clause: the persons concerned must fall within the state’s jurisdiction for that person to be able to raise his or her rights against the state.
Courts both international and domestic have produced mounds of conflicting case law on how this is different from the state’s territory, with two main strands of decisions defining ‘jurisdiction’ either in spatial terms, as state control over territory, or in personal terms, as control over individuals, with a number of deviations from these two models in between. These contradictions flow partly from the vagueness of the legal concepts, but, also more importantly from conflicting policy considerations. On one hand, courts want to follow their human rights-friendly impulse and protect the individual affected by extraterritorial state action. On the other, courts fear political fallout, and therefore choose to unduly restrict the extraterritorial application of human rights instruments, often on seemingly completely arbitrary grounds.
The Al-Skeini case with which I started this post is a perfect example of this tension. It concerned six individuals, all killed by British troops in Basra, in UK-occupied southern Iraq. One of them, Baha Mousa, was killed while in custody in a British detention facility after much mistreatment. The five others were killed in varying circumstances by British troops on patrol. Some may even have been killed in justifiable or at least excusable circumstances, but their families wanted the UK to conduct an ECHR-compliant effective investigation into their killings. They thus brought proceedings before the UK courts under the Human Rights Act, claiming that the ECHR applied to the killing of their relatives in Iraq. The House of Lords (now rebranded as the UK Supreme Court) held that only Baha Mousa was protected by the ECHR, as his killing took place in a UK military prison, which (I kid you not) was somehow analogous to an embassy (more on that here). As for the other five, they were held not to have been within the UK’s jurisdiction as the ECHR could generally not apply outside the
By Lana Goldsmith, Intern
Richard Archer is Professor of History Emeritus at Whittier College. Current events in Iraq have caused him to hark back to an earlier time in American history when ours was the occupied country. In this post, he uses an excerpt from his book, As If an Enemy’s Country, to discuss the Boston Massacre and his theory on the soldiers’ actual intentions. The Boston Massacre occurred on the night of March 5, 1770, read more about it here.
One of the joys of historical research is the unexpected discovery. Sometimes a new understanding of seemingly familiar material comes from events in our own lives. In 2003, for example, when I was well into studying why Boston was in the forefront of the movement toward the American Revolution, the United States went to war with Iraq. I immediately was sensitized to the importance of an occupation and old documents suddenly had new meanings.
A similar experience came while I was investigating the Boston Massacre. Previous accounts gave the impression that the soldiers had mindlessly fired their weapons. Whether there was an order to fire or not (I conclude not), the standard story simply stated that the soldiers discharged their muskets and five people died and another six were wounded. Much to my surprise as I read depositions and trial testimonies, several witnesses charged that some soldiers fired at specific individuals. The evidence isn’t definitive, but it certainly opens the possibility of murder, as the following excerpt from As If An Enemy’s Country demonstrates:
There looms the possibility that some of the soldiers killed or attempted to kill particular people deliberately. Sailors and soldiers had fought with each other nearly from the first day of the occupation, and Friday’s ropewalk fray still was fresh in the minds of soldiers of the 29th Regiment. Even in the moonlight, the sailors’ attire distinguished them from the rest of the population. Two of the five men who died in the massacre were sailors, and one was a ropemaker who had fought with British troops on March 2. Another sailor was among the six who were wounded but recovered. It is equally possible that the victims were shot randomly. After all, the proportion of sailors and the ropemaker who died approximated the proportion of sailors and ropemakers in the crowd. Most of those who were killed or wounded were shot from a distance where visibility, even with moonlight, was limited and the accuracy of muskets was imperfect.
The deaths of Attucks and Gray, however, require special attention. Both of those men stood in close proximity to the grenadiers, and they would have been recognized as a sailor and a ropemaker. The unusually tall, dark Crispus Attucks stood out still more, particularly at a distance of no more than fifteen feet. Two bullets, from one or two muskets, simultaneously struck him in the chest. Whether the responsible soldier or soldiers intended to kill him may never be known, but there can be little doubt that one or two aimed at him. Perhaps it is only a coincidence, but the only other victims who received two bullets were the sailors James Caldwell and Robert Patterson.
The evidence that Samuel Gray was intentionally killed is stronger still. In a deposition Charles Hobby claimed that one of the grenadiers ‘at the distance of about four or five yards, pointed his piece directly for the said Gray’s head and fired. Mr. Gray, after struggling, turned himself right round upon his heel and fell dead.’ Edward Gambett Langford, in his testimony at the soldiers’ trial, identified the shooter as Matthew Kilroy, one of the grenadiers fro
John Ehrenberg and J. Patrice McSherry are Professors of Political Science at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus. Jose Ramon Sanchez is Associate Professor of Political Science at Long Island University. Caroleen Marji Sayej is Assistant Professor of Government and International Relations at Connecticut College. Together they wrote The Iraq Papers, which offers a compelling documentary narrative and interpretation of this momentous conflict. In the post below we see how Alice in Wonderland mirrors our own political world. Read other posts by these authors here.
That is what the playing card Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, (and in all previous versions) shouts, a flippant order to decapitate everyone and anyone who dares show her any insolence, no matter how trivial the offense. The movie is a reminder of the excesses and abuses of authority. It exposes the often illogical and dangerous decisions that emerge from unaccountable rulers. There are many signs that Alice would encounter these same dangers in America today. Two congressional events from last week come immediately to mind. One was the passage of a bill to prevent the torturing of American school kids and the other was the introduction of a new bill that would require government authorities to treat anyone arrested as if they were already guilty.
On March 3, 2010, the House passed HR 4247, Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. The bill is designed to prevent the occurrence of torture in schools, including forceful restraints, seclusion, and beatings. Hundreds of U.S. children have suffered from such physical and mental abuse, resulting in countless injuries and death in many states, according to the General Accounting Office. What is most interesting about this new law is that so few Republicans voted for it. The final vote tally was 238 Democrats and 24 Republicans voting for the bill. The overwhelming majority of Republicans, 145, voted against. The reasons Republicans gave for voting against the bill were that not enough information was available about the prevalence of such school torture, the need to protect state’s rights, and their reluctance to impose federal guidelines on private schools. These are all legitimate concerns. I would wonder, however, why such concerns trump something as insidious, shocking and unconstitutional as the use of torture on children in our schools? Why are we so casual about burying our children alive, as Charles Dickens once described solitary confinement?
Another curiosity from last week appears to spring from the same odd rabbit hole that Alice fell into. Senators John McCain and Joe
Michelle Rafferty, Publicity Assistant
Recently Tim Parsons, Professor of African History at Washington University and author of Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall, stopped by Oxford with his wife Ann. In the following podcast Ann asks Tim a few questions about his book and what empires past can tell us about the present.
Michelle Rafferty: Today we have a special treat here at Oxford. I’m here with Tim Parsons and his wife Ann Parsons, and Ann is actually going to interview Tim. Here we go.
Ann Parsons: Your specialty is African History. What motivated you to write a book about empires worldwide?
Tim Parsons: Well in the past as a social historian of Africa I’ve written books about common people, which means I write about how common people live their daily lives, and in this case, in studying East Africa, I’ve looked at how East Africans, average people, experienced empire. And one of the things that troubled me is in the last ten years we’ve heard a lot about how empires can be benevolent, civilizing, how they were forces for global order and security, and how then the way to solve the problem of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the global war on terror, was that the United States should impose an empire from above, and that this would be the way to restore order to the world. And as someone who has studied empire from the bottom up, that I see the true realities of empire, I knew from the start in 2003 that this was a very bad idea. One of the things that I felt I had to do was make this case, I had to actually talk about empires historically, to go back in time and to see if what I know about the British Empire in East Africa held true all the way back to the Roman Empire because that’s what many of the current proponents of empire now, cite.
Ann: So then what do these historical empires tell us about the present?
Tim: Well, first of all they us that it’s really a very bad idea to cite ancient civilizations as examples for modern American foreign policy. In others words, empires, if we go back 2,000 years to the Roman Empire, if we even go back to the 15th century Spanish Empire in the Americas, yes those empires did last a long time, but one of the reasons why they did is because things were very different back then. The communication was much slower, transportation was much slower, they were largely agrarian societies when literacy was not very widespread, and most identities, which means how people identified themselves, were local and confined to the village level. And in those times it was very easy to conquer many villages and then to impose rule from above. So that made these empires appear much more stable than they actually really were. And what you find out, if you at the history of empire over time, you see that the lifespan of empires gets shorter, and shorter, and shorter, to the point, as I argue in the book, that empires today don’t exist.
Critics on the left of American policy in the last maybe 50 years have branded the United States as a new empire, as the new Rome because they don’t like American foreign policy, because they don’t like the exertion of American force around the world. And that’s a problem I think, because by calling the United States an empire they are missing the true definition of empire. An empire is direct formal rule. They fail to recognize that it’s not the question of whether the United States is an empire or not, it’s that they should point out using empire as a model is a very bad idea because empir
In What Makes Civilization?, archaeologist David Wengrow provides a vivid new account of the ‘birth of civilization’ in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq). These two regions, where many foundations of modern life were laid, are usually treated in isolation. This book aims to bring them together within a unified history of how people first created cities, kingdoms, and monumental temples to the gods. In the original blog post below, David Wengrow writes about that isolated view of the Near and Middle East.
To talk of civilizations is not just to describe the past. It is also to reflect on what is different about the societies we live in, how they relate to one another, and the extent to which their futures are bound up with traditions inherited from previous ages. The ancient Near East—including Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) and Egypt—occupies a uniquely paradoxical place in our understanding of civilization. We freely acknowledge that many foundations of modern civilization were laid there, along the banks of the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Nile. Yet those same societies have come to symbolise the remote and the exotic: the world of walking mummies, possessive demons, unfathomable gods, and tyrannical kings. What is the source of this paradox? For answers we usually look to the legacy of the Old Testament, and the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. But as part of a generation that was no longer obliged to read the ‘Classics’ at school, I find something unsatisfying about the idea that we have simply inherited the cultural prejudices of the ancients, as though by osmosis.
Most people today, I would have thought, are more likely to encounter the ancient Near East through the lens of Hollywood than through the biblical and Greco-Roman literature that informed the views of earlier generations. Still, when the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was looted in 2003, eight decades after its foundation by the British diplomat and archaeologist Gertrude Bell, our newspapers proclaimed ‘the death of history’. The headlines, for once, were in my opinion proportionate to the truth. Ancient Mesopotamia and surrounding parts of the Middle East were the setting for some of the most momentous turning points in human history: the origins of farming, the invention of the first writing system, of mechanised transport, the birth of cities and centralised government, but also—and no less importantly—familiar ways of cooking food, consuming alcohol, branding commodities, and keeping our homes and bodies clean. That is what archaeologists and ancient historians mean when they talk (a little coyly, these days) about ‘the birth of civilization’, 5000 years ago, on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates.
As somebody who researches and teaches the archaeology of the Middle East for a living, I have often been struck by how little Mesopotamia is discussed outside a small circle of academics, by contrast with its ever-popular neighbour on Nile. Even less widely known are the other great urban centres of the Bronze Age: in the Indus Valley, the oases of Central Asia, on the Iranian Plateau, and along the shores of the Persian Gulf. Contrary to what most people think, the discovery of ‘lost civilizations’ did not end with the Victorian era. It has been going on, quietly and steadily, amid the turmoil of the 20th century, through fieldwork in remote and sometimes dangerous areas, and through the equally important work of analysis and translation that takes place in universities and museums. Why are the results of this steady increase in our knowledge about the ancient world not better known?
Academics and curators must themselves carry a c