Thursday, March 30, 2006

Possible end of American Hegemony

In class on 3/27 we were discussing the American hegemony and the consensus I received from the class is that America's hegemony is strong and currently nothing threatens it. I beg to differ though. I do not think any country in particular or even EU is an immediate threat to us, but our power is slowly starting to decline now. In the book "The World is Flat" written by Thomas Friedeman it discusses over and over again on how more educated the rest of the world is becoming. I remember how he discusses how the students in China, India, Japan, etc.. study more than American students. In addition the book discusses how most of the enginneering students are from India, China etc... I do think that Thomas Friedman exaggerates on the immediate effect, but overall I do think that he makes good points. I think that it is not good for the U.S. overall if most the enginnering students that we train are from foreign countries. I think that it shows that our schools are further behind at least in math and science. Most of the computer scientists come from foreign countries also. I also read numerous articles that predict that our quality of life will be lower than of our parents.
In addition while the rest of the world is catching up in U.S. economically. The insertion of the EU and the Euro is meant to challenge the dollar dominance in the world. I would not be surprised if Euro will be the main currency in the world within the next ten years.
Basically what I am trying to convey is that the threats are there and U.S. and the average person needs to be aware of the challenges that face our country. I am not saying that the American hegemony will end anytime soon, but there are challenges that face us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bernanke on Remittances

At the Federal Reserve.


So the US is currently the top dog in the international system. Everyone acknowledges that. The problem is, who will be the next person to take over? Nothing lasts forever; eventually, someone will have to take over from the US, just as the US took over from Britain.

One option is to let the EU take over. Okay, stop laughing. In theory, the EU has a larger population and (slightly) larger GDP than the US. However, the EU has enormous problems. Its economies (I use the plural form since they aren't truly integrated yet) are burdened by excessive regulations that hinder economic growth. There is a strongly anti-immigrant view that will limit internal movements between EU nations. Additionally, I have trouble imagining a truly viable EU military force any time soon. It will be some time, if ever, before the EU has the
internal unity to challenge the US.

Next is China. This is the "biggie." China's economy is booming, with a growth rate between 7 and 8%. Additionally, China has an enormous military (their army alone is larger than the entire US military). China also is working to increase its prestige in Southeast Asia. It's working, too. If current growth patterns persist, China will have more trade with ASEAN than the US does by 2010. Australia has seen its exports to China skyrocket; the foreign minister there recently announced that Australia would not support a containment policy towards China.
That being said, there are certain significant problems China will have to overcome before it can be a superpower. Roughly 15% of China's GDP is lost to corruption. There are vast gaps in income between the rural areas (where 2/3 of China's populace lives) and the urban areas, which is breeding resentment of the Communist government. There is an increasingly vocal group of leftist ideologues in the Chinese government who feel that China is abandoning its socialist roots. China has other problems as well, for instance, Muslim seperatists in its eastern provinces. China will need to cope with these problems before it can replace the US. Even if it does replace the US, do we really want an authoritarian government as the foremost power in the world?

Last, but not least, is India. India has a GDP of less than $1 trillion, making it the smallest economy discussed here. That being said, India is on the rise. It has abandoned Nehru's pipe dreams of socialism and autarky, moving towards free-market capitalism. India, most importantly, is a democracy, with ideals that fit well with those of the US.

Now, as with all the others, India has its problems. It's growing more slowly than China, despite its improved growth rates. It also has serious income inequities. Furthermore, it has two hostile powers on its borders (Pakistan and China), and has territorial disputes with both. Additionally, India has seperatist movements in at least three states/provinces. India will have to settle at least some of those problems before it can be a serious contender on the world stage.
In summary, there are several possible replacements for the position of hegemon. However, all of them have serious problems hindering their potential rise. They are also far from the day they can seriously challenge the US. Additionally, as pointed out in class, it's not even clear any of them want the position. Therefore, it will be decades before the US will need to worry about the loss of its position to a competitor, and two of the potential replacements are at least mostly acceptable to US goals. All in all, this is a good sign.

Update on immigration

I was watching C-Span and a representative of La Raza was discussing the talks on the table about how to "align U.S. policy with economic reality." This involves giving the 10-12 million workers who are already here illegally a mechanism to come forward without being deported. It was proposed in the Senate yesterday and a long way from becoming law, but is at least a possibility.

Here's what would happen: those who come forward would be able to stay in the job or industry they're working in for another 6 years. After those 6 years, they will be able to pay a fine of $1000 and receive temporary legal residence. After 5 years, if they have proven to be a law-abiding and tax-paying individual, they will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

This seems like an excellent way to incorporate them more fully into society. This article tells 5 reasons why an amnesty plan is a good idea. Something like this needs to accompany greater enforcement of anti-illegal immigration laws.

One problem I see is that during this debate the illegal workers and those trying to come here to work have been essentially equated with terrorists. Therefore, the argument would lead, they pose just as great of a threat to our national security. While there are domestic crime issues like gangs and drugs that are probably directly linked to the influx of Mexicans and Central Americans, making the link to terrorism is illogical. It seems that this inflation of the threat will not subside, since immigration is a hot campaign topic. Some senators will continue to argue that illegal immigration of any kind threatens our national security, but I hope others will not give up on the logical point that an amnesty program would be a positive step in aligning policy with reality.
The article I linked says "The nation's security is far stronger if we know who's here to frame houses, change linens, bus tables and build microchips--and who shouldn't be here to profit from true criminal activity or worse."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Class Delayed


Because of the Monday night etiquette dinner, the class scheduled for the 20th will now be held on the 27th. Readings remain the same.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Psychology Behind Killing: A Brief Historical Analysis of the US Armed Forces' Combat Training and Its National Security Implications

I suppose there are a number of security related current events that I could write about this weekend. Most of them, however, have already been discussed in this blog so it would be pointless for me to rehash them. But, just to add my quick thoughts, I think, ultimately, the collapse of the port deal will hurt the US in a number of long-term ways (which I won’t get into now), and I believe Iran needs to be held accountable to the Security Council in a manner that (primarily due to the Russian opposition) will never occur. And that’s that. Now onto my topic at hand…

I decided to discuss something that is a bit out of the norm, but nonetheless important and, I would argue, just as relevant for national security as, say, the Iranian nuclear crisis. This issue is, specifically, how the United States trains its men and women in uniform to commit an act which is perhaps the most difficult for any human being with a conscience to commit. That act is, of course, the taking of a fellow human’s life. If the training in this act is not done properly, and the individual that is empowered by his government to kill actually does kill, the individual in question will experience a feeling difficult to comprehend. Indeed, if not dealt with, the feeling encompasses guilt, severe regret, and a sense of de-humanization. Killing is a vicious and savage act; and whether it is done for reasons that fit societal justifications or not, the psychological harm that can result in its aftermath, for even the most “stable” individual, can have lasting consequences. Therefore, in our armed forces, training in this “art” must be accomplished by competent professionals at both the practical (i.e. shooting, hand-to-hand combat), and psychological levels. Missteps can result, especially during long wars where large segments of a society are exposed to combat, in a warped and depressed populace.

I’ll never forget my first day at Infantry Officer’s Course as a young 22-year old 2nd Lieutenant. The Commanding Officer of the school handed to me and my fellow classmates a letter stating his goals for the course. Near the end of the letter he wrote that our training objective over the next ten weeks was “to learn the very serious business of how to kill the enemy.” Never before had I attended any school whose objectives were just that—training in the arts of killing my fellow man. It was a sobering statement and one I felt, given the relatively peaceful environment of the pre-9/11 world, I would never really have to execute. This of course all changed in later years.

For the next couple of months we were indoctrinated not just on methods used to kill (rifles, artillery, aircraft, ambushes, and grenades to name a few) but also how to “inspire” those under us to kill. We were after all Officers. Training 18-19 year olds to “pull the trigger” or to stand their ground with a bayonet if overrun by the enemy was part of our job. If our men ran away in the face of battle, we had failed in our duties. How then were we to “evoke” within our men courage that they did not know they possessed? How do you “inspire” men to pull the trigger when every instinct that is naturally endowed to a human being tells them not to? How do you convince them that the “values,” goals, and ends which they are fighting for actually merit taking the life of another? While admittedly these training methods will shift from group to group (i.e. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Marxist revolutionaries will form their own judgments based on their own values) the United States military, I believe, takes an approach based both on its own unique historical experiences and generally accepted understanding of human nature. As will be seen, the US has traveled a long road to balancing combat proficiency with a healthy value system that will ultimately allow members of the Armed Forces to reenter the civilian world as stable and productive people, even after possibly experiencing horrible events. I will begin with a brief discussion of the “moral resistance” to killing and the effects this has had on combat proficiency. I will then analyze what steps were taken by the military to overcome this “resistance,” these step’s consequences, and current trends in training methods used to eradicate these consequences. Throughout all of this, I will attempt to demonstrate how this subject relates to our nation’s national security in the long run.

First, Officers and their counterparts in the Non-Commissioned Officer ranks (NCOs) approach every recruit or new boot-camp graduate with the recognition that there is, inherent within every individual, a natural abhorrence to killing another human being. Call it a “moral resistance,” “mental-wall,” or whatever you like. It is real and it must be overcome. Interesting studies have been conducted on this “natural resistance” and some even more astounding findings have been uncovered. For instance, in WWII, it is estimated that between 75%-80% of riflemen did not actually fire their rifles when an enemy was exposed and threatening. What?? Yes! When it came right down to it, most riflemen in this war were unable to fire their weapons when the “moment of truth” arrived opting instead to allow their comrades-in-arms to do it for them. These numbers were about the same for both the Civil War and World War I. While the results of this research can certainly be questioned (and many have questioned them), these wars represent, ultimately, a failure in training because these men were not able to overcome an inherent “moral” objection to killing even when their lives, or their friend’s lives, were at stake. (These wars were unique, of course, from later wars in that, especially in both the US Civil War and WWI, armies tended to line up on either side of the battlefield and attack each other frontally. This gave an increased opportunity for soldiers to rely on the individual standing next to them to shoot. Research in this area was completed through private questionnaires but also through direct battlefield evidence; i.e. full magazines, etc). In contrast, the non-firing rate in Vietnam was only 5%! This could certainly be attributed to the new type of warfare that ensued in the region (smaller unit level, anti-guerilla tactics), but the training techniques utilized to train soldiers for this war, and the concepts driving them, were most certainly a major factor. What exactly were these "new" approaches? The answer, as put by Lt. Col Dave Grossman who wrote the book on the subject, stated: “Since World War II, a new era has quietly dawned in modern warfare: an era of psychological warfare—psychological warfare conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one’s own troops.” This was started post-WWII to combat the inability of soldiers to fire their weapons. Its affects started to be noticed in the Korean War and were later perfected during the Vietnam War. The main concepts that drove these techniques are summarized below. They are still practiced today.

First, desensitization to “killing” is undertaken. Whether its through violent cadences, or human-shaped targets, the soldier is familiarized with the word and hence the concept on a daily basis. Second, conditioning makes firing weapons and hitting "targets" almost a natural occurrence given certain conditions and subesquently rewards soldiers for doing so. On any given week, one can find infantry companies in the Army or Marine Corps conducting extended field operations. My time in the infantry consisted of 3 out of 4 weeks a month in the “field” constantly moving to different positions at night, attacking ready-made “objectives,” and perfecting defensive positions and offensive maneuvers. Live-fire exercises would be incorporated into training operations as well as more non-conventional operations like ambushes, patrols, and raids. Certainly these were intended to build unit cohesion and develop standard operating procedures, but they were also meant to condition soldiers to fight under adverse situations and be rewarded when the mission was accomplished. Third, and lastly, is the implementation of “denial defense mechanisms.” These, essentially, are instituted to enable the soldier who has committed the act of killing to deny that he/she has actually done something that is “inhuman.” This is primarily accomplished through imagining one's opponent to be a mere target, not actually a human being. The previous steps are taken into consideration now when developing these denial mechanisms. The soldier has become desensitized to the act of killing (regardless of the environment), has been conditioned to believe he will be rewarded for killing, and believes the enemy now to be something less than human; indeed, the enemy is nothing more than a moving target.

Training methods that highlighted these concepts were implemented brilliantly during the Vietnam War. Their success was demonstrated through the ability of Soldiers and Marines to fire their weapons at an increased rate when required. However effective these methods were in creating combat proficiency, though, they failed miserably in the next crucial element of training a soldier properly; that is, enabling a soldier to cope with the stress and “moral crisis” that will inevitably follow after committing such a horrible act. As a result of this failure, Vietnam War Veterans have become almost synonymous with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Why? Because in the end Veterans, upon returning home and considering their actions (and often facing the scorn of a very hostile nation) could not cope effectively with the “unnatural” acts their nation asked them to commit. Sacrifices made by soldiers, especially those that experience combat up close and personal, goes beyond the mere chance that they may not come home alive. Indeed, once exposed to the atrocities of war, many are never again able to function properly in society. While training in previous wars resulted in non-functioning soldiers, the failure in Vietnam-era training methods resulted in non-functioning civilians. This is a mark of shame primarily on our military training techniques, but also on an American public who often held these returning soldiers in contempt.

Military training, in the post-Vietnam War era, has focused its efforts on trying to significantly reduce cases in post-traumatic stress, while also not losing the combat benefits it gained from the above described training concepts. Therefore, the military has started recognizing that whenever a barrier has been torn-down, as in the case with the natural “resistance to killing,” another one must be constructed in its place. In this case, a new "artificial" moral barrier must be reconstructed, one that is compatible with the military's mission. Hence, the Armed Forces have begun emphasizing and incorporating more forcefully into their training programs ideas that have always been present. These include duty, honor, courage, commitment, and the laws of war as sacred, moral principles. Now-a-days ethical training follows closely alongside combat training. For example, as a Rifle Company Executive Officer (whose primary job was to plan and set-up training), rules of engagement were always heavily stressed in operations I planned. My fellow officers in other companies were equally sensitive to these things. Marines violating them were reprimanded in any number of ways. Additionally, Officers and NCOs alike started taking more of an interest in their young soldier’s personal lives, tracking more closely any unusual types of behavior. Counseling at hospitals or by the unit Chaplain has become a common tool used by the chain-of-command to ensure the proper growth, development, and stability of its unit’s members. Counseling is also highly encouraged upon return from any operation deemed high-stress. And lastly, patriotism and love of country has been more strongly reinforced. This is crucial in a young soldier’s mind. He must believe in the cause, and therefore he must believe in the country that is sending him to achieve that cause. If he questions his nation, he will not be able to do his job. Patriotism and love of country, often scoffed-at notions in some circles, must remain central to military training. The day soldiers think the worst of the nation they serve is the day that nation’s national security truly is at risk.

As a final note, a war is a nation’s collective responsibility, regardless of what one feels about it. The majority of the burden lies on the military for preparing our young men and women in uniform to reenter society after experiencing life-altering situations. But the populace at large must ultimately welcome them home and back into the society that they were willing to defend. For a country to ever turn its back on its soldiers returning from a war zone is to turn its back on its very future. While many may question a war, and even at times laugh under their breath at such “mindless” concepts as duty, honor, and love of country, these ideals are, ultimately, what keeps a combat veteran on the side of sane, and hence, ensures future national security and stability.

The information for this essay is primarily from the author's experiences and the book On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Back Bay Books, New York: 1996.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dubai ordeal

Just a quick vent...a lot of people are criticizing Bush for the anti-Arab backlash created by his rhetoric after Sept. 11- the "axis of evil," "war on terror," yada yada. But he has certainly gone out of his way to make a distinction, both in rhetoric and policy, between terrorists and the larger category of Muslims or Arabs. Certainly he hasn't been wishy-washy about the threat of terrorists and those countries that harbor them. But is Bush really responsible for this fear of Arabs or general anti-Arab sentiment?

Think about it for a minute. Within a few hours Muslim terrorists demolished huge in the hub of American business activities. Would any amount of presidential speeches about Islam being a peaceful religion have really changed public opinion after that horrifying display of terrorism?

I definitely don't like the general distrust of Arabs that has obviously been increasing among the American public and politicians. Instead of making a huge deal about the Dubai contract, US legislators should be focusing on the real issue, which is improving port security on the ground. But I just wanted to bring up the blame game that inevitably happens in politics. Bush is not responsible, it's just natural that Americans would have a bad taste in their mouths after Sept. 11. Reminds me of Mercer's Theory...we form a reputation about our adversary the way we want to. Acts of terrorism speak much louder to us at home than any kind of cooperative or peaceful gesture.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Meeting on Thursday


To clarify, we are meeting on Thursday, March 9, but there are no readings.

Iran nuclear dispute

Today Cheney warned that the UN Security Council will impose ‘meaningful consequences’ on Iran if it continues to pursue uranium enrichment activities. The Bush administration also ended talks of compromise with Iran. This comes after nuclear scientists concluded it’s too risky to allow Iran any kind of flexibility in developing nuclear technologies. The Russian proposal would have called for a 7-9 year moratorium on industrial enriched uranium production, but with the compromise that Iran would be offered a joint venture w/ Russia on production as well as limited research and development after the moratorium. One analyst said it was like being a little bit pregnant…sooner or later you will have the baby. So the current view of the Bush admin and many other countries is that Iran shouldn’t be allowed any nuclear development rights.

There are some risks the US and Security Council take by hard-line positioning
-Iran is warning to inflict “harm and pain” if the SC takes measures
-As the world’s #4 oil provider, Iranian officials say they are reviewing oil export policy
-Fostering resentment by singling out Iran while similar technologies exist in India, Israel, and Pakistan

But, of course, Iran is inviting a hard-line response:
-It defied the Feb.4 IAEA resolution that called for ceased production
-Iran hid atomic research from the IAEA for 18 years
-Has called for the destruction of Israel
- Hostile toward talks of compromise, like the Russian proposal, because Iranians think it’s their right to have complete ability to develop nuclear technology

Iranian representatives have said they are still open to negotiation, but I seriously doubt this. Russia’s proposal seemed quite generous, and I think they would have accepted it if renewable energy sources were really their concern. Iran definitely needs better energy technology, but it seems that nuclear weapons are their end goal.

The risk of allowing Iranians to continue any kind of nuclear tech development outweight any risks listed above. There are other oil sources in the world, and the likelihood of Iran being able to inflict 'harm and pain' is low. Iran cannot obliterate Israel if it does not have the technology. Also, Iran is openly threatening Israel and indirectly threatening the US, so it is not wrong to "single out" Iran's nuclear program.

I think it is wise to raise the stakes and threaten Security Council action. However, the Council may not be able to take serious action, since Russia and China have expressed disapproval toward pursuing economic sanctions. It is hard to say now what kind of leverage the SC will have, but I think this is the best option at the time. It would be ideal to devise some kind of face-saving, behind-the-scenes approach that would allow Iran to back down quietly and gracefully. But I think the problem here is that Iran wants nuclear weapons, and that’s that. So the issue goes beyond saving face and requires international pressure, in whatever form that might take. Sorry for the vagueness on that point, but if I knew the answer I’d be on my way to Washington.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The NPT: Does It Even Matter Anymore?

Yesterday (March 2) President Bush, during his first state visit to India, moved one inch—perhaps mile—closer to completely rendering obsolete what some would argue is a cornerstone in international security: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Before talking about the consequences resulting from such actions, a short review of the NPT (its role in international security, successes, and failures) is probably in good order.

The basis for most non-proliferation agreements over the past 35 years have been firmly grounded in the NPT which opened for signing in 1968 and was put into force in 1970. Since then, this landmark treaty has provided a grounded international framework for the recognition, dismantling, and restriction of Weapons of Mass Destruction, primarily nuclear weapons (although it can be argued that the NPT itself spawned work on both the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions). The majority of the international community (186 nations to be exact) has signed-on recognizing the dangers posed to the world through the further development of nuclear weapons. The three most important exceptions are Israel, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan and India have, of course, openly tested nuclear weapons while the existence of Israel’s program, which is suspected to have been under development since 1968, has been neither confirmed nor denied by its government (even though its existence is clearly agreed upon). Additionally, it is generally accepted that Iran, who is a signatory to the NPT, is actively developing nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Iranians may view regimes such as the NPT as nothing more than an opportunity to acquire information, facilities, and material for the development of nuclear weapons programs under the auspices of peaceful development.

Notable successes of the NPT include encouraging nuclear powers to steadily dismantle existing weapons systems, and sparking nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, Belarus, South Africa, and Uzbekistan to give up or cease the development of weapons. Its failures are many, though, as seen in the cases with North Korea, the A.Q. Khan Network, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and India. In these cases, the NPT did not prevent states--even those that were signatories--from pursuing or acquiring weapons, nor did it prevent extensive international networks (or probably even “rogue” states) from proliferation efforts. Of these listed failures, 4 of the 6 have occurred within the last decade pointing to a rise in nuclear acquisition attempts, not decline. So, the question then put before us is: “Has the NPT become irrelevant?” Based on the actions of the President this past week in India, I would venture to say that yes, if the NPT is not yet dead, it is one nail in the coffin away from being so.

Just to bring anyone that may be lagging up to speed, President Bush on this past week’s trip to New Delhi wrapped up negotiations that had begun on India’s nuclear program last July. Essentially, this week’s “historic” breakthrough (the President’s words, not mine), approved a plan by India to separate its civilian program (used for energy purposes) from its weapons program (a program that, as already stated, is, in the current international language, illegal). This separation allows the US (pending approval from Congress of course) to aid the development of India’s nuclear energy program and hence, it is supposed, help transform India’s growing energy demands away from oil and gas. Additionally, this deal is intended to strengthen US ties to India, a nation that is becoming increasingly important to US security efforts in the region and who’s international economic influence is on the rise (to put it mildly). US support of putting India in a “special category” all its own for nuclear states brings many issues to the fore, not the least of which is the viability of the current nonproliferation regime defined primarily by the NPT. This brings us to the critic’s arguments.

And there are many. I will focus, for the sake of brevity, primarily on the arguments of one of the leading experts in nonproliferation, Dr. Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (He attacks this new policy in his recent article The US’s Nuclear Cave-In. You can link to it at the Carnegie website). In short, he believes President Bush has all but scrapped the NPT regime that has existed for over 35 years. He has done what all his predecessors refused to do in regards to India; that is, condone its methods for developing weapons (which he believes resemble those of the internationally condemned Iran), and condone the weapons themselves. The results: Pakistan now expects a similar deal, and Israel will soon be waiting for equal treatment. Iran will cry hypocrisy. On top of that, he believes, India, in this deal, retains too much say in the reactors they allow for inspectors to inspect, and have been less than forthcoming with the reactors they proclaim as “peaceful” reactors. On the surface, all very troubling indeed. Except for a few missed points…..

1. First, this is India we’re talking about, not Iran (or even Pakistan for that matter). Dr. Cirincione does not draw a distinction where one certainly must be drawn.
2. Second, India does not have a history of proliferation (except unto itself).
3. Three, the regime the NPT has overseen was on its deathbed well-before the Bush
Administration’s proposal. This is the most important point and the one I want to briefly touch on.

The most telling statement regarding this last point comes from the man who will, in the short term at least, have to deal most with this agreement’s immediate impacts. You guessed it… Dr. Mohammed Elbaradie, director of the IAEA, came out in support of the US-India deal. Here’s his quote:

"This agreement is an important step towards satisfying India´s growing need for energy,
including nuclear technology and fuel, as an engine for development. It would also bring India closer as an important partner in the non-proliferation regime. It would be a milestone, timely for ongoing efforts to consolidate the non-proliferation regime, combat nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear safety. The agreement would assure India of reliable access to nuclear technology and nuclear fuel. It would also be a step forward towards universalisation of the international safeguards regime. This agreement would serve the interests of both India and the international community."

Sounds like a pretty strong endorsement. Why? Because this agreement is a realistic interpretation of how the non-proliferation regime has evolved over the past few years; an evolution that has focused more on action then mere words. While the NPT was a document that bound its signatories towards noble transparencies and obligations, it was, in effect, not realistic in regards to the various regional security dilemmas and energy needs the international community as a whole consistently faces. The various “violations” that coupled the NPT’s implementation throughout its long history are evident of this fact.

So what exactly is this “new” nonproliferation regime that has been, in my opinion, cemented in the US-India breakthrough? It is one founded primarily on transparency as defined best by acquiescence towards IAEA inspections. With the US offering to share civilian technology with India, India’s reciprocal offer to allow open-inspections (although, admittedly, not in every site), and the IAEA blessing of this deal, I would argue a new era has been born in nuclear state classification and negotiation. The key in this new regime is not a state’s signature on any particular document, but rather the concession to periodic and sweeping inspections. In other words, the new regime is not based on the fact of whether or not a state has programs or weapons, but rather on its willingness to take action to prove its intents regarding those programs and weapons. (And yes! Even states that have nuclear weapons could have developed them in order to achieve peace).

Is this what we want? Do we want a world that allows states to develop nuclear programs without signing onto any overarching document that establishes guidelines for the development of such programs? Can’t states demonstrate up front through the signing of documents, such as the NPT, that they are peaceful? Perhaps, but the facts in this case prove otherwise. But is an absence of oversight what is really happening here? Or, are the rules changing for the better and actually getting stronger? I think so. While its comforting to have a document that supposedly dictates rules and regulations for such internationally dangerous endeavors, if its not working-indeed maybe even acting counterproductively-is it not best to adjust the rules so as to allow certain players in the international bazaar (borrowing a term from Dr. Stempel :) flexibility in achieving what would be perceived by most to be legitimate objectives (both energy and security wise) without incurring ostracism from the rest of the world?

The key in this new nonproliferation regime appears to be the old Russian proverb so famously thrown back at the Soviets by President Reagan: “Trust, but verify.” If one is willing to submit to verification, then one deserves to be trusted. And if a country is being less than forthcoming, than the international community has more room under these rules, and legitimacy I might add, to maneuver. I think this is the way Elbaradei sees it, especially since his agency will bear the greatest responsibility in this new enforcement. Yes, Iran is a member of the NPT, and no, India is not. But where one’s signature is or isn’t will not ultimately determine my comfort level regarding those regimes and their ambitions. Verification and one’s willingness to submit to such measures is what it all boils down to. The NPT is finished. Good. A regime of words has been replaced with a regime of action. I’m comfortable with that.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

How weak is "weak"?

I think we can all agree that no country thinks that America is actually "weak". Reluctant to finish what we start, maybe, but never weak. A weak country would be easy prey-but then again, a weak country wouldn't be worth the trouble. A superpower might nuke a weak country every ten years, but it's just as likely that the weak countries aren't worth the cost of a nuke to bother, unless the country is conveniently or strategically located. (When's the last time anyone went after Andorra, or Luxembourg, for their own sakes?)

I resist the idea that truly think that America is weak. We've been more or less safe from attacks on our own soil for the last 4 years-could a weak country protect armor itself that quickly, to that much effect? Or is America strong enough that aggression towards us just isn't worth us-unless we show up in someone else's territory?

Weak is one of those words, like evil, that is easy to throw around about an enemy. It's hard to rouse the troops against a strong, stalwart and good foe. Then again, it's really more of a convenient insult than anything else-it's hard to honorably declare battle against a weak foe, if you honestly believe the difference of power is huge. (As an analogy- a sumo wrestler may very well call a slightly skinnier sumo wrestler weak, and wrestle him-but an honorable sumo wrestler isn't going to pick a fight with a skinny accountant.)

Our enemies may very well think we give up to early, or that we don't clean up after ourselves, or that we just like to meddle-but no one thinks we're "weak".

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

American Foreign Legion?

Here’s an interesting article on how to tackle the problem of military personel shortage. It suggests we form a sort of American foreign legion where foreigners in this country would serve in the military in exchange for US citizenship.

While I realize that our troops are over-stretched now, and I agree with the author that this sounds better then waver of criminal records in exchange to join the military, the problems with this solution are many.

I don’t think the American people would feel more safe knowing that they are being protected by foreign nationals, whose only reason for doing so is in order to get US citizenship.

While there are obviously those in the military who are serving in order to pay for their schooling, or whatever other reason one might have, there is still this sense of patriotism (how prevalent this is is arguable) and care for one’s country. This is not something that could be expected from a foreign national who has spent only a short period of time in the country. I also question unity, cohesion and camaraderie of the troops if we were to incorporate the foreign legion into the regular military forces.

Most importantly, this foreign legion would open up a whole new channel for terrorists from all sides to infiltrate our military. I don’t think I need to go into more detail in order to portray how serious of a security threat this would be...just use your imagination.