Saturday, September 30, 2006

Neo-Cons Say the Darndest Things

I know we’ll be talking at greater length about the readings on Wednesday, but I just finished the Podhoretz piece and I’ve got to ask: what the hell? This cantankerous, meandering Bizarro-world is the kind of history you usually hear spun after two whiskey-sours at a VFW happy hour. Still we’ve got to admit that Grampa Norm perfectly fits the stereotype of a neo-con. And when that happens, comedy is usually inevitable (not the “ha-ha” kind, the mean-spirited, hammer-dropped-on-foot type).

Consider how he proves his points while we look at the “Varieties of Anti-Americanism” section. The dime-bin representatives Norm selected prove little more than how out of touch he is. Let’s look at the lineup: the unnamed host of an unnamed program on al-Jazirah, the chairman of the Syrian Arab Writers Association (I wonder how much they charge in dues), Dario Fo (an Italian Nobel laureate excluded from America by the Johnson administration), Jean Baudrillard (who wrote a book entitled “For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign” which I hope cleans up in French), and the historian Mary Beard (not that one, the unknown English one; go figure: there are two historians named Mary Beard). Cracker-jack material, Norm; you sure showed them. He collected sound bites and called them proof.

Along these lines is his seeming inability to differentiate among people with whom he disagrees. Brent Scowcroft, Pat Buchanan and anti-Semites form one peculiar group (Norm actually cites “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion;” that ad hominem seems thrown in simply for kicks, but you’ve still got to admire the chutzpah). Look through the article; you can play this game at home. Okay, here’s one: the arts(?), universities, NYC, and Hollywood (their only common connection is that they don’t agree with Norm). Bin Ladin, Hitler and Stalin [it’s important to include the reductio ad Hitlerum argument which spares me the effort of wondering where you stand on any given issue; (one of my neo-con buddies refuses to give up the term “Chi-Coms” for Chinese Communists; I always know where he stands before the sentence is even completed )], and the head-scratcher: Archibald Cox, JFK, and George McGovern (see, while Americans always seem to be “fighting the last war,” neo-cons never let up from six wars ago).

Occasionally, Norm does to history what Andy Warhol did to art. Things just come up a bit kookier. For instance, I never knew that bin Ladin and Khomeini have identical views on America’s role in the Islamic World. (Khomeini died three years before al-Qa’idah’s first attack, but never mind). There doesn’t seem to be any difference between nationalist terrorism and religious terrorism (I haven’t heard the term Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in a loooooong time), and, my all-time favorite bit of humbug: Islamism and the Soviets are/were an equal existential threat to the US. Solid.

All in all, Uncle Norm comes off –I’ll be kind—curmudgeonly. When he called anti-war activists “Jackal bins,” he’s just plain adorable (I wonder if he knows how close that sounds to Joe McCarthy’s “Jackal Pack”). Still, if you follow Norm’s advice and simply mold the evidence to fit the political theory, all sorts of great fun is possible. Hell, I could have my own condescending, patently inaccurate magazine funded by an ultra-radical group of disappointed, yet ebullient, ex-leftists. I wonder whether the PETA people pay by the hour?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Soft power, kinda squishy

Another limitation of soft power, while yesterday's presentation is still relatively fresh. First of all, how does the recent announcement of US-imposed sanctions on Thailand relate to the topic of soft power? Does anyone really feel threatened by instability in Thailand - a strong US ally against both Communist North Vietnam and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge? If the concern here is that Thailand's military coup will increase the likelihood of military-led coups in other nations, are soft power sanctions an effective deterrent? Then again the United States cannot really afford to threaten a country like Thailand with "big stick" consequences. Is soft power then simply the least bad decision among two insufficient options?

Another concern - should soft power be considered more or less susceptible to the limitations of international cooperation? What happens when nation A seeks to influence nation B through soft power - such as sanctions or criticism - but nations C, D and E fail to support or even exert soft power in another direction - by increasing trade with nation B or simply promising to continue business as usual? Nation A's soft power actually loses potency. Is it possible that soft power is only effective with the threat of "big stick" action subtly in the background or prominently displayed? Conversely, it seems that the greater the potential for "big stick" behavior, the greater the appeal and strength of "soft power". Can one then conclude that while soft power can have a negative effect on the efficiency of hard power, hard power can enhance the abilities of soft power?

Also, just a side note. NASA is to begin limited cooperation with China's Space Flight program. Why limited? Because of the close relation between China's space programs and the Chinese military. China is the third nation after the United States and Russia to successfully complete a manned space flight. Russia is no longer pursuing as aggressive a space program as they once did during the "space race" with the US, but China certainly has the technological capital to give NASA a run for it's money. Now, realpolitik science-fiction aside, can NASA's "limited cooperation" be seen as an example of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" in action? Right now, the "space race" has considerably cooled. Technological and budget limitations helped slow things down, but neither Russia, China nor the US ever really shelved their space programs - nor has anyone completely discounted space's military potential for attack or defence. Privately-funded space exploration and craft design in the US and sustained space-research conducted by the Chinese military may be giving the space race a second wind. Right now space exploration is just a hobby for rich eccentrics or a pet project for the military researcher, but things are moving forward and eventually we really will have to deal with international relations above the atmosphere. If space colonization and travel becomes increasingly likely, will this greatly impact the way nations interact on earth?

Fantasy Dictatorship Draft

If you're tired of alot of those "normal" fantasy drafts like I am, have I got a new fantasy draft for you.

Here's how it works:

1. Draft some dictatorships.
2. You can only have two dictatorships "starting" at a time.
3. Drink some beer, and pray for global instability...your league standings depend on it.
4. Tally your points.
5. Drink more beer, and savor your genius.

The Point System
Reprimand from NGO--- .5 points.
Reprimand from U.S. gov't agency---1 pt.
Reprimand from UN Security Council or UN Human Rights Council---2 pts.
Sanctions (Trade, Political, or Travel)---3 pts. every six months.
Revealed clandestine wetworks by U.S. gov't against said dictatorship---4 pts.
Missile Strike by U.S.---4 pts.
Missile Strike by ally(NATO, Japan, or Australia)---4.5 pts.
Land invasion by U.S.---7 pts.
Land invasion by ally---8 pts.

The Dictatorships (and how many points it costs to draft them)

Iran 10 pts., North Korea 11 pts., China 7 pts., Zimbabwe 3 pts., Myanmar 6 pts., Cuba 5 pts., Pakistan 5 pts., Saudia Arabia 5 pts., Syria 8 pts., Sudan 8 pts., Vietnam 3 pts., Egypt 4 pts., Tunisia 3 pts., Somalia 6 pts., Libya 4 pts., Belarus 4 pts., Uzbekistan 4 pts., Tajikstan 3 pts., and Kazakstan 3 pts.

The drafter only gets 7 pts. with which to draft his dictatorships. The points that are earned not only count in the standings, but can also be saved to draft new dictatorships. So if you want one of the big dogs, like Iran or the DPRK, you better save up. A drafter can also trade in a dictatorship for half the value he drafted it for, and those points can be put towards drafting a new dictatorship.


Monday, September 25, 2006

CIA's new Assassin Recruitment Poster

Since the CIA was for so long out of the assassination business, they are probably in need of some new recruits. Though, you may not be the best person for a job at the CIA due to a not so perfect past. How could they deny you if you have your own gun, plane tickets to Afghanistan, and a hotel stay already scheduled. Doing a cost benefit analysis would quickly show that you would be a very good option for them. Since needing denyability about your involvement, any reporter or foreign intelligence officer would planely see by looking into your past that the CIA would never have hired you. Just looks as if our citizens have taken matters into our own hands, and have become vigilantis. Whats you thoughts?

That's Not Good for Business

The rhetoric of those who did not wish the US to invade Iraq in 2003 posited that an occupation of Iraq would breed radicalism rather than fight it. A newly- leaked National Intelligence Estimate, the holy writ of the American Intelligence Community, indicates among other things, that Iraqi veterans frequently return to their home nations and begin “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.” Further, it highlights jihadi’s use of the interweb, the seeming inability of the US to contain Islamic extremism, and the willingness of more than a dozen people to leak exceptionally classified information to the New York Times. Read in concert with Arnold Wolfers’ criticism that polemics use the rhetoric of national security to pursue private agendas, a cynic might be tempted to conclude that there is now clear evidence that invading Iraq hurt America’s global war on terror.

Assessing the meaning of this NIE is a difficult proposition. Without the full text of the document for scrutiny, drawing conclusions about it is obviously premature. Further, one has to wonder about the motives of those who would leak such classified findings. Nevertheless, given the compelling claims made, one also has to ask what it would mean if invading Iraq enflamed Islamic extremism.

Just one year ago, most studies asserted that Iraq was mostly a domestic struggle fought by Iraqis. Depending on the latest numbers, which are unknown to this author, the demographics of the insurgency might be transforming. Given the experiences of the Afghan jihadis against the Soviets in the 1980s, it seems safe to assume that the recruitment of well-funded, dedicated, and usefully-skilled foreigners did not begin to takeoff until the insurgency had revved up considerably. During the Afghan conflict, foreigners played a relatively small role within the leadership cadre of the mujaahidiin with a few obvious exceptions—read Bin Ladin. Since the parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan are myriad (though far from complete), the lessons of the latter should instruct American tactics in the former. In the long-run, it was international support, both moral and financial, that allowed the Afghans to resist the Red Army.

What if this is the case in Iraq? How much international support is al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army receiving? To what extent are the Shi’ah militias in thrall to Iran? For that matter, who is funding the Sunnis? What is the demographic makeup of the principal militias, of their leadership cadre? Would sealing the borders following the 2003 invasion have prevented the entrance of foreigners? Are they sealed well enough to stop them now? Aside from the meager wages of rhetoric, how much is the Islamic world willing to donate to the insurgent cause? If this becomes a truly global jihad, is Iraq doomed to the same fate as Afghanistan? It seems, as always, there are more questions than answers.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


In other news, for those interested in Thai politics as of late, check out this detailed Thai blog, Bangkok Pundit

Lastly, here is a Washington Post article that illustrates the coup in Thailand as not being so black and white. Some aren't so happy that their elected leader was "coup'd" (That would make for a great hidden camera TV show by the way). One just needs to read the first two paragraphs to get an idea.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Glorious Hegemony

Since we have copious amounts of reading this week, I thought I'd start off with Kristol and Kagan's fluff essay, in the hopes that its elementary arguments would warm up my mind for the tougher articles ahead. It didn't disappoint. I have a lot of problems with the things they write, but for blogging purposes I'll just stick to two things: the morality in foreign policy stance and defense spending.

Defense Spending
This article was written in the mid 90's and according to K&K the US was not spending enough on defense. They admit that the US is spending more on defense than the next 4 biggest spending countries combined, but they say that we need to spend more. Well, what exactly should we buy K&K? F-22s? DDxs? JSFs? Or none of the above? K&K don't say. These weapon systems certainly wouldn't help us fight terrorism. Also, K&K take a lot of time to bash Clinton's military, but it was his military that defeated the Taliban and Saddam.

Morality in Foreign Policy
Seriously? You're going to offer up Reagan as a man who put morality in in foreign policy? This is the same guy who gave tacit support to apartheid, and under whom Iran Contra occured, right? This article was also written after the Rwandan genocide and I don't remember The Weekly Standard encouraging American involvement there.

Second, no doubt K&K were instrumental in forming the foreign policy ideology of the current Bush administration, yet I don't see any consistent form of morality in their foreign policy. While Bush states that "liberty is a God-given right" and that Iran, North Korea, and Syria must become democratic, yet he doesn't threaten Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt (US gives them 2nd most aid of any country after Israel), or Morroco because they are our allies. They talk like morals guide their FP, but they are more like opportunistic realists (Layne calls them offensive realists--on page 96-- but I don't find that entirely accurate). Talk of liberty only seems to apply where applicable.

Finally, it is wrong to believe in American exceptionalism. We are fallible, therefore prone to mistakes. It is arrogant to assume that we should be the ones that set the global agenda; however, it would be less arrogant if we at least were more consistent and less hypocritical in our FP.

This week a story aired on the growth of the Afghanistan opium market. In 2006 alone, the cultivation of opium has surged 60% according to a DEA representative who's hard at work with PM Karzi's government on tackling the issue.

Why is this important? Because farmers are being threatened by the Taliban who's resurged in the country because they know that the sale of opium to make heroin is one of their big means to finance. They're no just threatening the farmers, they're offering protection and security if they continue growing for them. And you know what? Guess who their biggest consumer is? WE ARE, yep....America is.

About 35% of Afghanistan's GDP comes from the sale of opium.

Distruction of the opium is already underway. I'm guessing that it's the US exterting most pressure on its destruction. I'm not to concerned about the ostensibe unemployment of the farmers, I'm concerned with the sale of this getting back into the hands of the Taliban. The country supplies the world 92% of the world's opium supply. Plus, heroin use is a leading cause of the spread of HIV around the world. So, what do we do? Intervening might be seen as the US policing the world, but I don't really care about world opinion. If Afghanistan is helping to lead the efforts, and they want us to join them, great. I wish I had a crystal ball. I believe in taking action for the greater good. So let's take out opium, and thus take out the a growing domestic drug problem, the financing of the Taliban who's also a threat to our efforts in Afghanistan's reconstruction. Even the youth admit that they use heroin because there's no jobs for them. Don't worry guys... Wal-Mart will be there soon enough to create employment? Comments?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

...cost of a b-2 $2.1 billion.....

...cost of a GBU-36 $231,250 a bomb

... $72,000 avg. income of a pilot....

.... being able to put a two thousand pound bomb within a yard of where it is needed in the middle of the Iraqi desert....PRICELESS!!!

Is spending millions of dollars to place craters in the dessert of Iraq worth taking away veteran's rights...I think not.


VA Health

Monday, September 18, 2006

The World's Most Dangerous BFF's

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is visiting his best buddy Hugo Chavez and the two are growing closer and closer. They have signed agreements in the areas of petrochemicals, steel, and even auto production, as noted in a recent article on

The two leaders are uniting in efforts to create a world without a single dominating power. They are surely feeling a rush of adrenaline after the recent Non-aligned movement/anti-American pep rally in Cuba.

I can't help but think of the potential benefits (to the U.S.) of a world where the U.S. isn't the only superpower. Perhaps it would even be better for the U.S. if there was a counter-weight to shoulder some of the pressure of global dominance. After all, a union of the non-aligned countries would have plenty of oil and plenty of money. But since, in reality, a counterweight consisting of the likes of Ahmadinejad, Castro, and Chavez would probably be even more threatening to U.S. security than the Soviets once were, and such a coalition would be unlikely to work with the U.S. on any international initiatives, I think it's worth it to keep all the pressure on America's shoulders. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's much the U.S. can do to prevent such ties from growing stronger and more plentiful.

Blue Oyster Cult

Do Fear the Reaper!

"The Air Force is the Department of Defense's executive agent for designating and naming military aerospace vehicles. In the case of the Reaper, Gen. T. Michael Moseley made the final decision after an extensive nomination and review process, coordinated with the other services. "The name Reaper is one of the suggestions that came from our Airmen in the field. It's fitting as it captures the lethal nature of this new weapon system," General Moseley said."

For all the armaments the Reaper carries, it needs more cowbell.

Finally, I just have to add the video.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Clooney to the Rescue!!!

"Oscar-winning actor George Clooney has made an impassioned speech to the UN Security Council over continuing violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.

He told council members genocide was taking place "on your watch" and how they responded "is your legacy".

Mr Clooney was speaking at a special informal session hosted by the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. "

Not sure what exactly this says about the U.N., but good for the Clooney clan. Joining forces with John Bolton, no less. Just imagine what one of the better Batmen like Adam West or Michael Keaton could have accomplished.

Also of note: the BBC giving Clooney top billing in his remarks to the U.N. over Elie Wiesel's.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Should they stick with the unitary state theories?

Although the nuclear taboo is widespread today, it is probably not universal. A critical question is whether it holds for new nuclear states and for nondemocratic states that are not accountable to public opinion.
Tannenwald, p. 34

Um, okay. All states depend upon – are accountable to – their public. Governance depends upon the acquiescence of the governed. In the specific context, starting a destructive and wasteful war – i.e., dropping the bomb – can generate substantial resistance, even to the harshest dictators: ask Mussolini or Robespierre.

Al-Qaida may wish to topple the House of Saud, but if a majority of citizens do not support this goal, al-Qaida is unlikely to achieve it.
Kydd and Walter, p. 54

The House of Saud won’t fall until a majority of citizens don’t support it. Really? Even in a democracy, it takes a lot less than a majority of the population to change the leadership – it can be done with a plurality of those who vote. Bush, in 2000, was elected by about 50 million (or, if you’re really cynical, five) in a nation of more than 280 million.

But we’re not talking about an election here. We’re talking about a revolution or a coup, which is done by a few highly committed people.

I'm a big fan of democracy and all, but these two writers seem to deploy grade-school understandings of majority rule.

Yes, I know that I'm nitpicking.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Wave Boondoggle?

F-22 Raptor

Did You See This?

The last two nights I watched ABC's "Road To 9/11" miniseries. Overall, I enjoyed it and thought it interesting enough to watch it over the season premiere of "The Wire" (which I watched On Demand).

Aside from one scene where the actress playing Former Sec. of State Albright warns the Pakistanis of an impeding missile strike on Bin Laden, I didn't see much that should offend the Clinton Administration. The miniseries took as much time to point out the failures of the Bush Administration as well (Condi looking over a memo whose title reads, "Bin Laden Determine to Attack Within U.S., Richard Clarke's warnings falling on deaf ears, and the indecision that plagued the White House on 9/11). In reality, it is way too simple to pin all the blame on one Administration. In a lot of ways they're both to blame. A dozen different people at a dozen different times could have stopped the attacks, but they didn't. Bureaucracy and a general feeling of "I doubt Al Qaeda could really hit us hard" seem to be better explanations.

If the miniseries was political at all, it was when explaining how civil liberties protected suspected terrorists. Several characters commented on this, and this aspect didn't seem balanced to me.

Dan puts it better than I do.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Role of Nuclear Weapons

In the Tannenwald reading he makes a claim that the use and even the existence of nuclear weapons has is taboo. Though these weapons are known to be in existence, it is not generally accepted into use by much of the world thus creating a sort of stigma about it. I gather from the reading that he is against nuclear weapons being put into use even as a deterrent. The simple fact that they are still considered an available weapon in arsenals is the primary reason that they have not been used since WWII. A situation of MAD is created with a semi-stable environment in which battles can be fought without much fear of the other side striking with a nuclear weapon. He also brings up that if deemed as illigal under international law, the nuclear weapons would be dismantled in all of the arsenals of the nuclear powers. I do not believe this to be the case. Due to the fact that it would be relatively easy for a state to secretly keep a few of their nuclear weapons, it would be impossible to totally relinquish the only real nuclear deterrent. "You bring a knife to a knife fight, but you still want your gun in case the other decides to pull out his".

Though these weapons are known and accepted as being different than conventional weapons due to their immense power, they should still always be ready to be used as a second-strike weapon, not a first strike weapon. However having the ability to keep them in the arsenal of available weapons gives the state a sense of protection against a first strike as well as an edge over the other state, who may not be a nuclear power by inciting fear in their troops, the government and the citizens of that state.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A New Approach To The Bear

To put it bluntly, the US and Russia haven't gotten along lately. Which is extremely unfortunate considering Russia's huge stockpile of WMDs and its abundance of natural resources. These two factors alone, potentially make Russia more of a threat to the US than anything brooding in the Mid East.

US policy has been completely reckless in terms of its approach to Russia, and is the primary cause for the recent relations. The US has: increased its military encirclement of Russia with new NATO and US bases in former Soviet countries (this after Bush I promised the Soviets in '90 to not expand NATO "one inch to the east"), US denials that Russia has any legitimate national interests outside of its own territory (even though most of the former Soviet countries populations are ethnically, linguistically, maritally, religiously, and ecnomically linked), treating Russia as if it doesn't have sovereignty within its own borders, and the US's recent attempts to achieve nuclear superiority (withdrawl from ABM Treaty in 2002).

These policies have caused Russia to cooperate less in many different areas, and they are now more sensitive to issues that concern their sovereignty. Moscow has begun to intrepret the "color revolutions" as clearing the way for NATO bases. Effectively turning them away from the West, and into the arms of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (also known as NAMBLA). The revolutions also make Russia further embrace the local despot in Belarus, and crack down on democracy within the Motherland. Also, the US would have more leverage in critizing Russia's crackdown on democracy--and supporting other nefarious acts at home and abroad--if the US didn't buy oil from despotic regimes in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

It is important to note that Russia could make life a lot more difficult for the US, but it hasn't despite all the actions taken by the US. If it wanted to, Russia could: easily penetrate any "missile shield", give more aid to seperatists movements in Georgia, shut out US businesses from lucrative contracts, redirect its natural resources away from the West, and use its power on the UN Security Council to veto any proposal.

What the US should do is stop the expansion of NATO--it is an anachronistic organization anyway. If Ukraine is absorbed, things may come to a breaking point (it may also be undemocratic since a majority of Ukrainians are opposed). The harsh rhetoric, particular by VP Cheney in recent months, must also cease, and a return to the ABM Treaty is imperative. Lastly, interfering in Russia's internal affairs only harm chances for political liberties and give hard-line Russian politicians higher approval ratings.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Here's a Post About Posting

This is a test post. For National Security Policy. In the Patterson School. And here is a picture:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The "Appeasement" Attack: Nothing New

Good, short piece in the Sunday Times Week in Review situating the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld efforts to tie, if subtly, opponents of the administration's Iraq policy to 1930's appeasement policy.

The upshot: Although perhaps most prudent to never take appeasement option off the table in dealing with a hostile state, post WWII American history shows unequivically that American presidents of both parties (starting with FDR's own attacks on Republican isolationists as appeasers) have employed to bully pulpit to paint their political opponents as treading in the footsteps of Neville Chamberlain.

Most entertaining, if somewhat off-color: LBJ's quote re: opponents of his Vietnam policy, "If you let a bully come into your front yard one day, the next day he’ll be up on your porch, and the day after that he’ll rape your wife in your own bed.”

Most prescious: The fact Bush's own efforts to portray Democrats as appeasers have complicated by the fact the Bill Kristols have simultaneously opened a similar line of attack against him re: the administration's diplomatic overtures to Iran. It's hard to credibly make the appeaser attack stick when many of your former friends are trying to do the same to you. The desire to extricate themselves from this stickly political dilemma may explain as much as anything else the turn-up in the rhetoric from the President re: Iran this past week.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hezbollah Ho-Down

In class last week we talked a little bit about terrorism, and how effective Hezbollah performs acts of "terrorism." Recent events, if nothing else, give one the impression that Hezbollah is for real. As far as terrorist organizations go, they make Al-Qaeda look like the JV team. I'm suprised/impressed at how well they've fared against some of Israel's best forces in southern Lebanon. This could be the second time in 25 years that they've forced Israel to pull out of Lebanon. They've accomplished more than any of the other conventional Arab militaries in the region. Hezbollah must have greater strategic thinkers and leaders. There also must be within their chain of command better honesty about realities on the ground--all things that hamper Arab militaries.

Here are some videos from 2000 of Hezbollah. I have no way of verifying if they are indeed fighting IDF forces, but if they are you can see how well they utilize artillery fire to suppress an uphill position as a small unit advances using cover and combined arms--all while clearing booby traps. These offensive tactics are complex and demand a high level of training. If they were speaking English, one might believe them to be Marines or the Black Watch (if you consider what the Scots speak as English) .

Video 1.

Video 1 continued.

Newsweek has an excellent article about the advanced technology and tactics employed by Hezbollah. Selected parts:

"They've reportedly destroyed three of Israel's advanced Merkava tanks with wire-guided missiles and powerful mines, crippled an Israeli warship with a surface-to-sea missile, sent up drones on reconnaissance missions, implanted listening devices along the border and set up their ambushes using night-vision goggles." (Emphasis mine.)


"According to a recent study by terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp at the Swedish National Defense College, its shopping list included night-vision goggles, Global Positioning Systems, advanced software for aircraft design, stun guns, nitrogen cutters, naval equipment, laser range finders and even ultrasonic dog repellers."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Institutionalist Theories: A Dismal Science?

John Mearsheimer presents a rather dismal outlook on the hope many place in international institutions to promote stability in geopolitical affairs. In his article “The False Promise of International Institutions,” he systematically dismantles three institutionalist theories by noting flaws in their causal logic. Then he concludes that the institutions will not only fail to maintain peace, but reliance on them will result in more failures in the international arena in the future. Since many of us have plans to be parts of international institutions, should we accept Mearsheimer’s pessimistic outlook of a world where realism, anarchy and the security dilemma are inevitably going to result in international aggression?
It is true that there is ample room for a highly critical view of the role of international institutions and the theories behind them. It is easy to see that the theory of liberal institutionalism plainly ignores the question of relative gains, and is thus “largely obsolete.” The idea of critical theory and changing the way the international system works by changing the predominant thoughts pertaining to it seems highly idealistic and therefore difficult to achieve. However, the third theory (probably strategically located second in Mearsheimer’s article because his argument against this theory is the weakest of the three) of collective security provides a framework that could present some hope for the realistic idealists among us. In “Concerts, Collective Security, and the Future of Europe,” Charles Kupchan argues that, “erecting a collective security structure in Europe is both viable and desirable.” However, the different conclusions by the two authors are partially based on a definitional difference: Mearsheimer believes that concert and collective security are not reconcilable because concerts are based in realism while collective security is not. Kupchan promotes a collective security system with its basis in a concert of nations.
In light of Kupchan’s arguments as well as recent events in the Middle East, it appears that there is a role for international institutions. Although the U.N. was unable to prevent a violent war between Israel and Hezbollah, it was able to play the essential role in bringing an end to the conflict. In Mearsheimer’s world where the U.N. is simply a creation of idealistic Americans who rebel against the ideas of realism (and thus serves no real purpose), the conflict would likely continue today. While it is far from a perfect version of collective security, the U.N.’s ability to unite the international community against the aggressor and bring an end to the major violence opens a crack in Mearsheimer’s conclusion that these institutions “matter rather little.”

Friday, September 01, 2006

Huangyangtan - Mystery replica landscape in China

Hmm, is China planning an Indian invasion?.