Monday, December 14, 2009

Final Exam

Final Exam
DIP 600: National Security Policy
December 14, 2009

Please answer one of the following three questions. Submit your exam by e-mail to Dr. Farley (farls0@gmail.com) by 12:45pm today.
  1. Since 2001, the United States has taken several steps to reorganize and modernize its national security apparatus. Has this effort gone far enough, or too far? What additional steps would you recommend in order to reform the US national security establishment to face the threats of the post-Cold War world?
  2. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the President described a relationship between US military power and the health of the international system. Did you find his argument compelling? Would a substantial decline in US military power herald a collapse of the modern, globalized international structure?
  3. According to a recent Pew poll, 44% of the American people now believe that China is the world’s leading economic power. What are the implications of this belief for US national strategy and foreign policy? Feel free to take the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the belief into consideration.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sanctions: not helping the US with the public in Iran



"We do have concerns about the situation in Iran. We’ve condemned the violence against those who are peacefully expressing their right to their political views. And we understand that there are some political challenges in Iran right now because of Iran’s refusal to respect the right of the people to express their views. You’ve heard what the President said that we’re – we have this offer on the table, this offer of engagement. At the same time, we have another track besides the engagement track, the track of pressure. As it becomes clearer that Iran is unable to make a positive response to this offer of engagement, we’re going to start looking more and more to the pressure track."
Ian Kelly, Department Spokesmen, U.S. State Department, December 11, 2009

Though dialogue hasn't perhaps gone to plan, it is hard to believe that anyone thought that simply by talking to Iran for a few minutes would end decades-long issues. Patience must be the highlighted virtue, as well as shedding old ideas such as sanctions.

What if we opened trade with Iran? If Obama continues to threaten non-effective sanctions we will only get the same results we’ve ever had. If he is truly “willing to go the extra mile with regard to diplomacy” as we’ve heard countless times (this particular quotation by Undersecretary Robert Wood during the November 20 State Dept briefing), then with that extra step we should be creative. By imposing sanctions we aren’t changing or stepping anywhere because there is little for us to take away until we give something first. Sanctions, such as the one to be discussed in Congress come January, can only create a rallying point against the United States in Iran.

If we lift sanctions and encourage bilateral trade, Iran, its people and economy would be able to see what the United States as less of a threat. Think of it: we could start a pistachio craze! Import amazing rugs! Trade probably wouldn’t start between the US and Iran, but our allies who have stood with us through years of unsuccessful sanctioning. This would allow not only their oil and gas markets to mend and even thrive, but can create trust on a multilateral level essential for peaceful negotiations. It will be these talks and agreements that will eventually allow the world to feel safer with Iran. No matter how much we speak of pressure, the United States should understand that there can't be instant results.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rethinking MONUC


With nearly 20,000 troops and a yearly price tag of $1.4 billion, MONUC (a French acronym for Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies en République démocratique du Congo) is the largest and most expensive UN mission in the world. Yet it continues to represent the antithesis of successful peacekeeping missions. It's two previous mandates have instructed MONUC to support the efforts of the Congolese military - with food and fuel supplies and logistical support - to root out Hutu rebels in eastern Congo. Later this month, the UN Security Council will take up the decision on whether to renew MONUC's mandate. If it does, it will mark the third time the Security Council has voted to continue peacekeeping support for Congolese military operations over the objections of human rights-based groups worldwide.

In recent weeks, several damaging reports of have surfaced, including a leaked internal document by a UN-mandated Group of Experts. The leaked report revealed that despite efforts to provide transparency in the Congolese mineral trade, illicit trade in tin and gold continues to finance rebel groups. Additionally, the FDLR, which consists of remnants from the Hutu-based groups that carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide, continues to receive support from regional and international networks, with FDLR executives operating freely in Europe and North American and small arms and financial contributions pouring in from states like Spain and Ukraine. Much more shockingly, the report concluded that the UN mission not only failed to neutralize the FDLR. It exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in eastern Congo.

According to various human rights groups, the Congolese army has committed numerous atrocities, including the murder of hundreds of civilians and the gang-rape of women and girls in the eastern provinces. Moreover, many these atrocities are being carried out in a brutal manner reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide, with victims being decapitated or hacked to death by machete. An effort to incorporate ex-rebels into the Congolese army has also backfired. Many former rebels don Congolese military fatigues but continue to operate as separate militias, preserving their former allegiances and chains of command. Moreover, these groups have been accused of committing a large number of the atrocities linked to the Congolese military.

With a chorus of condemnation over UN complicity in human rights violations emanating from watch groups, a recent New York Times article revealed that the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs warned of such an outcome. In April, the office informed the UN peacekeeping department that its participation along side the Congolese army risked violating international humanitarian law. However, faced with a no-win situations, UN officials chose to pursue the least-worst option, knowing that a pullout would have facilitated reprisals upon villages by returning rebels. Nevertheless, the UN has failed to resolve the inherent contradiction in a mission charged with protecting civilians while backing a military campaign widely accused of committing atrocities.

In the coming weeks, the UN Security Council must reassess it objectives in eastern Congo. Donald Steinberg of the International Crisis Group points out that the last UN Security Council mandate included 41 priorities, which essentially meant there were no priorities. Moreover, it must reconsider its relationship with the Congolese army and reevaluate its offensive operations. One option is to forgo its direct operational involvement and focus on protecting areas where the rebels have been driven out. However, such a mission would do nothing to address the ongoing abuses committed by all groups involved. On the other hand, if the Security Council decides to continue supporting the Congolese army, it must demand more MONUC involvement in the planning and implementation of operations in addition to demands that internal perpetrators of abuse are brought to justice. Whichever course it chooses, the UN Security Council is facing a monumental decision. Despite the failings of the UN mission in the DRC, it is difficult to imagine a peaceful resolution to this intractable conflict without the participation of the international community.

Public Opinion. It Matters?

It seems as though every day brings new polls, new logs of public opinion. Really though, how much does it really influence the government, the presidential administration? It would seem as though many instances occur that can be interpreted as an administration acting as they see fit regardless of public opinion and then swaying the public to their side as an afterthought. So the thought actually is that yes public opinion matters but is not necessarily the preceding deciding factor in implementation and action.

The troop deployment to Afghanistan for example, would the administration have sent any troops if the public had not seen fit? Sure they floated numbers for months on end trying to gage what the response would be to different scenarios, 34,000 here 40,000 there but really, if the public had strongly desired 0 troops, would that have prevented the government from acting? Would it have been enough for a immediate pull out from Afghanistan? Now that is a dramatization of the events. Clearly to some the war still appeals to the fear of security marked by the terrorist attacks that started it in the first place. So on a milder note, if the US public had been largely only supportive of say 10,000 troops would it have mattered? If the administration had the knowledge that such a minute number couldn't possibly get the job done would they have thought twice about sending what they needed? I think not.

Now this theory changes as say election year approaches, then the matter of public opinion is front and center, nothing the people don't want in large majority rarely sees any action. So maybe public opinion is contingent on the calendar. Then there is the swaying of the public to the cause after a decision has been made, great propaganda. Does the government really present the truth? Sure they do, candy coated with a big bow, unless they would like a more emotional response then you'll see the battle field tragedies and soldiers, the horrors of human rights violations, you see what they would like you to see, whatever helps the cause.

I know there are so many arguments that the government serves the people, "for the people, by the people" right? This is not denying such. only displaying the fact that many times it is contingent on the desired results. Now arguing such raises the question of whether this is a good characteristic? If the public is strongly against an outcome or decision that the experts say is required, who is better to judge? The public, who for a large part knows a little about everything but not enough about anything, or the experts? Ultimately the public must support what is done or no administration would ever survive, but the point is that complacent public opinion does not need to come before the decisions, it just has to be coerced and conveyed at some point. So, public opinion, does it matter?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Obamanation

The response to Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan is an interesting look at public opinion and the foreign policy elite. The Economist, foreign policy elitism at its finest, thinks Obama is showing weakness. Others – within Obama’s own crew – think he made the wrong decision. The public, with interest in Afghanistan, is more fearful about China, health care, and flat-out reducing US foreign involvement. Finally – and interestingly – the Neocons are supporting the Obama policy in Afghanistan. I guess I should clarify that. I am not saying it is shocking that the Neocons support the Afghan decision; it is just interesting that Obama would implement a strategy which would also be supported by Neocons.

Afghanistan troop increases make sense for Neocons, whose mantra of hegemony and Manichean motivations make foreign involvement a perpetual responsibility. Most of the American public, however, do not agree with that. This is not to say that Obama is becoming a Neocon – not at all – but it does illustrate that the Neocons are not strictly Republican either. They are independent foreign policy elite who found a home in the Bush administration when answers were needed and strategy implemented. The public seems to lump them with Republicans now – and that is not a fair understanding of the nuances.

The divide between the public and the foreign policy elite is apparent, and the decision in Afghanistan – while not based on a Neocon perspective – is a great example. Other recent divisions: the public fear of China and the elite’s conviction that the threat is almost nonexistent, at least for another generation. The elite are concerned with climate change; the public wants less foreign involvement.

All of this is to say, how well is Obama doing in his attempts to bridge the divide? I think he is doing a pretty good. I happen to agree with many of his decisions, but I also think any honest observer should admit Obama is doing good job of keeping the public informed and not getting major blowback for his decisions. Afghanistan is an example. It was a major decision for Obama to send more troops - more troops than Bush in Iraq. It may have divided his party but there were no major “Vietnam” protests as a result. Whether or not Obama is appearing weak is the wrong question. Weak to who? Clearly, the President has specific foreign policy agendas. Balancing and communicating those to the US public is not an easy task, and I think Obama is doing a good job with his rhetoric.

Combating Al Qaeda at the End of 2009

Recent intelligence estimates the Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan at only about 100 operatives. The same intel suggests that several hundred Al Qaeda dwell just across the border in Pakistan. Our war in Afghanistan appears to be against the Taliban, yet Al Qaeda is largely considered the group more hostile to American interests, and of course was the group America sought to eliminate for conducting the 9/11 attacks. We have declared war in Afghanistan and President Obama has recently announced an expanded military presence in that country. Yet, all signs point to Pakistan being the country that is home to our primary enemy.

In a recent contribution to the New York Times, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari expresses the sentiment his government and the Pakistani public share against having foreign troops enter to combat extremists. Entering Pakistan with traditional military forces has not been an option and seemingly will never become one. President Obama is in the precarious position of needing quick success in the region without violating this Pakistani demand to respect their sovereignty. Obama and his key aides, including National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, have met with Pakistani leaders in recent weeks to demand that progress be made, implying that if it is not, the U.S. will be forced to take care of Al Qaeda in Pakistan on its own.

What then will be done to combat Al Qaeda in Pakistan at the present time? The U.S. will continue the CIA Predator drone program in Pakistan, which it does not officially acknowledge for fear of greater backlash from the Pakistani citizenry. President Obama has been even more supportive of this program than President Bush was in terms of amount of strikes authorized. Indeed, Obama is said to have authorized a strike last August that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, along with several family members and body guards. The next step with the program would be to expand it from the semi-autonomous tribal areas along Afghanistan’s eastern border to the more populated and governed Pakistani region of Balochistan below Afghanistan’s southern border.

The Predator drone program is controversial because it is unacknowledged, because the Pakistani press has reported several hundred civilian casualties have resulted (likely exaggerated), and because it is seen as a counterterrorism tactic rather than a counterinsurgency tactic and therefore could create more militants and resentment as quickly as targets are eliminated. Whether or not this last point is true remains hotly contested and perhaps cannot be answered with any degree of precision. Other sources of controversy surrounding the program include the extent to which Blackwater/Xe operatives have been actively involved in the program and how much the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) supports U.S. efforts by proposing targets, offering bases for drone take-offs, etc.

Obama and the American public seem to appreciate the ability of the drones to combat key extremists while keeping U.S. forces out of harm’s way. When news breaks that a key insurgent leader has been killed by such a strike, there is cause to be thrilled, as such a successes are few and far between. In fact, just days ago, a high-ranking Al Qaeda figure was said to be killed by a drone aircraft in South Waziristan in northwest Pakistan. If true, “it would be the first time coalition forces had killed a top Al Qaeda figure in almost a year.” It seems, then, that this program will be continued into the near future. All the while, the CIA and White House spokesmen, along with Pakistani government officials, will continue to publically state the hard line position that such drone attacks do not occur and will not be supported.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Threat of Homegrown Terrorism

For years Americans have assumed that they are not as vulnerable to “homegrown” terrorists as Europe is. The 9/11 hijackers prepared inside the U.S., but they were not U.S. citizens. Of course John Walker Lindh achieved notoriety for fighting with the Taliban against the U.S. military, but he was not implicated in any terrorist plot against the U.S. homeland. In contrast, Richard Reid, the “Shoe Bomber,” was a British citizen. The perpetrators of the London bombings in 2005 were also homegrown terrorists.

Americans must rethink the perceived lack of homegrown terrorists in the U.S., however. In the last few months there have been numerous plots that should change perceptions for good. In September, the American Michael Finton was arrested by the FBI for trying to blow up a federal building in Springfield Illinois. Also in September, another terrorist plot was uncovered to bomb buildings in New York. Although the plotter, Najibullah Zazi, was not a U.S. citizen, he has lived in the U.S. for the last ten years. In November, U.S. citizen Nidal Malik Hasan gunned down 13 people and injured 32 others at Fort Hood. On December 7, the Justice Department filed charges against David Headley for helping to plot last year’s Mumbai terrorist attacks. Headley is a U.S. citizen who is also charged with plotting terrorist attacks against the Danish newspaper that published controversial cartoons depicting Mohammed. The Mumbai attacks killed six Americans and Headley is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens.

Just today Pakistani police arrested five American men who went missing from the Washington D.C. area last month. A farewell video left by one of them stated that Muslims must be defended and showed images of U.S. casualties. Family members tipped authorities off that the young men may have gone to Pakistan. It is as yet unknown whether they were there for “business or pleasure,” but it will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds over the next few days. In any case, there have been a number of homegrown terror plots in the last few months. Americans need to take the threat of homegrown terrorism seriously. Muslim Americans need to be better integrated into American society and not alienated. Addressing homegrown terrorism is yet another critical issue that the Obama administration needs to address in the coming months.

Interests in Terms of Power

In this week’s Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria wrote the cover article titled “The Post-Imperial Presidency.” Zakaria details Obama’s realist world view in several key aspects. A few quotes:
  • “More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing the resources to achieve them, and keeping his eyes on the prize.”
  • “It is now clear that Obama is attempting something quite ambitious – to reorient American foreign policy toward something less extravagant and adversarial.”
  • “The history of great powers suggests that maintaining their position requires, most crucially, tending to the sources of their power: economic growth and technological innovation.”
  • “Obama’s realism is sure to be caricatured as bloodless and indifferent to human rights, democracy, and other virtues.”

These assertions indicate Zakaria’s view of a post-imperial realism. But how do they stack up with regard to Hans Morgenthau’s principles of political realism?

Key to Morgenthau’s definition are the assertions that realism is defined in interest in terms of power, the distinction between what is desirable and what is possible under concrete circumstances of time and place, and the emphasis on rational foreign policy that minimizes risks and maximizes benefits.

While Zakaria’s characterization of the Obama administration’s foreign policy focuses on the practical aspect of political realism, his assertions hold with Morgenthau’s definition.

Obama seeks to avoid imperial overstretch that has weakened previous hegemons. He wants to limit U.S. engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, while still pushing for victory there. His emphasis on stability, peace and prosperity over human rights and democracy promotion reveal a role for the United States that maximizes the effective use of its power while limiting its risks.

Obama’s assertion that the nation he is most interested in building is the United States shows his focus on building America’s traditional source of power: the economic base. America’s economic strength and technological superiority was the backbone of its success in World War II and the Cold War. By building the domestic strength of the United States while limiting its international exposure, Obama is acknowledging the negative effects of interventionism on America’s power.

As Zakaria notes, the real test of Obama’s realist foreign policy will be in 18 months when he is forced to make a decision in Afghanistan. If instability and weakness persist, will Obama insist on removing the training wheels and pulling out American forces to focus on the buildup of U.S. domestic power, or will he commit the United States to a nation-building exercise that saps America’s resources and limits its ability to project power elsewhere?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

American Public vs FP Elite

As we saw in class and in the readings for this week, American public opinion with respect to foreign policy (and national security) often diverges with that of the foreign policy elite - whether it be the policymakers within the beltway, political pundits or bloggers, or those in academia. The Pew survey on foreign policy attitudes, released last week, confirms this divergence: troop levels in Afghanistan, protectionism levels, national security priorities, and even acceptable torture. As a proxy for the "foreign policy elite," the Pew surveyed 642 members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) while questioning 2000 people of the general public.

As the results show, the major findings reported by Pew are increased isolationism, unilateralism and a sense that China is becoming more powerful, with a clear plurality of 4% (compared to 30% in 2005) seeing China as having the most powerful economy in the world despite pretty clear evidence to the contrary. In general, we can assume the views from these types of surveys taken by the foreign policy elites (which may or may not agree with the predominate views of the American public) will be the ones that influence foreign policy decisions. For instance, 50% of the CFR survey respondents thought troop levels should increase (the questions were asked prior to Obama's speech last week) while a plurality of 40% of the general public said the number of troops should be decreased. Other stark differences in this report may portend future policy decisions against the grain of American opinion. A central question to this trend is, is it likely to continue?

Probably so. As Dan Drezner states, the poll data shows that the American public is pretty realist and pretty dumb/uninformed. Certainly not a surprise to Drezner, who cites his own piece on realists traditions in America, these results reveal undermining values and interests that define the American experience. The U.S. will have to suffer through much greater recessions, wars, and debts for its average citizen to give at least two hoots about foreign affairs. Further, as the James Fallows article on the media showed, the content of today's "mainstream" media outlets, especially on foreign policy, tends to be vacuous and focus more on politics rather than the true matter at hand. Pundits can exacerbate mistrust for politicians especially when lecturing a relatively-uninformed audience.

Another interesting query about public opinion is which political party is more informed (and optimistic) on foreign policy given a certain party's presidency? For instance, is the average American Republican so turned off by Obama and tuned into a Glen Beck-type FP mediator (who can offer more entertainment and criticism than fact) that he/she is less knowledgeable (the same being true for average Democrats under President Bush or any other Republican president and/or Congress)? While certain groups may be less informed than others no matter what, I would posit that this trend would be hard to prove statistically but could be true (I didn't come across any study having done so). Either way, while these polls certainly offer an interesting insight into the opinions of Americans (assuming the polls are accurate to the degree they claim), public opinion alone - without a strong spokesman, interest group, etc. - will likely continue not to significantly influence foreign policy.

Monday, December 07, 2009

"...people fight these wars."

On December 2, the day after the President gave his address to the nation outlining his decision to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by 30,000 and outlining a rough timetable for the beginning of American troop withdrawal, Gallup polls showed that only 48% of Americans believed that the allied forces were “likely” or “certain” to achieve our goals in Afghanistan. (45% claimed that we were “not likely” or “certain not” to achieve those goals.) [http://www.gallup.com/poll/124565/Americans-Split-Whether-Goals-Afghanistan-Met.aspx] While a sister poll found that a majority of Americans support the new strategy, the margin is still remarkably slim: 51% in favor and 40% in opposition.
On some issues dealt with by the federal government, numbers like these are acceptable, workable and almost expected. When dealing with war policy, however, the administration will need to be more careful. The stakes are much higher when citizens are thinking of their friends, siblings, spouses, or children in the line of fire. The fact that the Afghan strategy’s “approval rating”, if you will, was under 50% the day after an optimistic, patriotic, nationally televised speech to a live audience of West Point cadets given by the commander-in-chief is something the President’s advisors need to be paying attention to. American history has shown that in similar times, especially during a protracted war, reassuring words from the President have buoyed many citizens’ hopes and increased their faith in the forces and the President himself. This is ideally enhanced when he is careful to include concrete facts (like a date to initiate withdrawal) to convince citizens that he is committed to his claim. Though there was an increase of approval for the Afghan strategy following the speech, it was certainly not as significant as many would have hoped for.
The President and his advisors will need to be increasingly aware of the state of public opinion as they proceed with the conflict. If support begins to wane, new and unwanted troubles may appear. These may include the slow dissemination of support, both emotional and physical, of our allies; if it becomes clear that the American people are ready to be through with the war, it may become difficult to convince foreign populations to remain dedicated. Similarly, such negative tidings will put great pressure on the President when it comes time to make decisions regarding the manner and speed of the withdrawal of troops. To avoid these, the current administration will need to take additionally careful stock of how each decision, announcement or request will appeal or deter the public from supporting the venture. We may find it will make or break the war (and quite possibly the Obama Presidency).

“When all is said and done, and statesmen discuss the future of the world, the fact remains that people fight these wars.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Obama's DTR with Afghanistan

I'll admit, I was fairly skeptical of McChrystal's plan during the three months that President Obama took to deliberate and consider his new strategy toward the War in Afghanistan. However, upon hearing his speech, I felt much more encouraged about the possibility of success there. Although seemingly try to please everyone with one plan, I supported the President's decision to send more troops despite hesitant support from his party and the obvious increased cost for the new policy in a time where voters would appreciate that money being spent on domestic nation-building. I was convinced he made his decision based on convictions of US national security rather than political motives. And I was happy to hear about a strategy to end the war by beginning to pull out in July of 2011. Obama was largely successful in pleasing both sides - even my own internal dichotomies.

At least for about 24 hours....

Since then, I have become less convinced of clear strategy towards the Afghan War based on the conflicting statements from the President's speech, statements from SOS Clinton and SOD Gates, and the numerous NYT articles saying that there are "No Firm Plans for a U.S. Exit in Afghanistan". I can only imagine that the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India are equally confused.

During his conference call with the Patterson School, Stephen Biddle, of the Council on Foreign Relations, talked about how working with the "good Taliban" would be increasingly difficult if the Taliban thought that they would come back into power once the Americans left. The "good Taliban" are less likely to switch sides and work with the United States if they believe that they will be marginalized if the Taliban reasserts its power in Afghanistan. Perhaps that isn't part of Obama's new strategy to work with the Taliban, but I think the waffling time-table certainly complicates things.

As much as I would like for the US to be done with Afghanistan, I don't think the President has done himself any favors by emphasizing a withdrawal date in his speech and the rest of his administration has spent the last week backtracking and clarifying what the President meant. I had no problem with the time that President Obama spent on deliberating over the decision and believed he would come out with a clearer plan because of it. I certainly would have expected such a glaring contradiction to be covered and well thought out.

What Is To Be Done?

A December 3rd suicide bombing killed three members of the Transitional Federal Government at the Shamo Hotel, which the New York Times described as being "considered one of the safest hotels and the base of choice for the few Westerners willing to risk a visit to the bullet-pocked city." The attack took place at a graduation ceremony for some desperately-needed Somali professionals, including doctors. Many of these professionals were among the dead.

The government and al-Shabaab blame each other for the attack. The government denies involvement, and claims that Al-Shabaab is afraid to take credit for the attack which has angered Somalis. A government spokesman claims that Mogadishu’s residents are “on the verge of revolt against” al-Shabaab. The Somali government fired its military chief and head of its police force two days after the attack. If the TFG cannot protect it own ministers in the safest part of the small bit of Mogadishu that they control, what does this say about their ability to ever be a functioning government in Somalia? Is it time that the U.S., UN and others give up on the TFG?

Al-Shabaab is currently fighting on another front, against Somali clan groups, both those opposed to and allied with the TFG. Al-Shabaab and some of the clan forces had joined forces, almost ousting the TFG in May. The two groups have recently been fighting over the port of Kismayo and other cities.This civil-war-within-a-civil-war has prevented the removal of the TFG, at least for now.

The conflict, which has already caused 1.5 million refugees, threatens to spill over its borders into neighboring Kenya, and al-Shabaab has threatened terrorist attacks in Uganda and Burundi (the two countries that provide the AU force in Somalia). Ethiopia has been heavily involved in Somalia, sending in troops in 2006. Neighboring Ethiopian rival Eritrea has been accused of and denied supplying weapons to Somali militant groups.

So, Somalia is engaged in multi-front civil war, with foreign influence from multiple sides, that threatens to destroy the UN-backed TFG and spill over into its neighbors.

A friend asked me the other day, "What do people honestly think about Somalia?" I replied, "I think people honestly try not to think about Somalia."

The U.S. State Department condemned the Dec. 3rd attack "in the strongest terms" (another friend pointed out to me: the "strongest terms" is actually a pretty weak response. State further said, "We look to Somalis everywhere to support efforts to end the violent conflict that has engulfed their homeland for nearly two decades. The United States, with the international community, will partner with the Somali people to help them achieve that goal."

Sounds inspiring, but how?

Communicator in Chief



President Obama’s December 1st speech was much anticipated by American and international audiences, waiting for both the content and broader context of the President’s remarks. This speech offers some interesting examples of strategic communication, including examples of multivocality – the “art of saying different things to different audiences in one speech.”

Strategic communication encompasses not only the words of a message, but its presentation and medium as well. For example, President Obama deliberately waited to give his speech until after the Thanksgiving holiday. While specifics of the decision regarding future US involvement in Afghanistan had been largely decided, and disseminated through the media prior to the holiday, he waited until after the collective celebration, and undoubtedly Black Friday shopping, to make an announcement regarding military action that will cost both money and American lives.

Furthermore, President Obama could have released a statement through Robert Gibbs, through an official white house statement, or he could have given a message from the Oval office, but instead he chose to do speak at West Point. This venue portrays future military leadership and also voluntary service. The Academy invokes a sense of reverence and is a more palatable image of US military, as opposed to those in battle dress. Clearly, strategic communication is very purposeful in context beyond the content of a message.

Regarding content, consider the following excerpt:
Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead.

This passage signals to the domestic audience that our involvement is legitimate in eyes of world, because we have partners in the effort; we are not acting alone. For the international community, this is an appeal, signaling what we are willing to do, but that the gravity of the situation requires that they step up to aid in this collective effort.

Another example:
This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over.
These statements can indicate to democrats – we’re going to do better than the Bush administration. However, it can simultaneously say to republicans – we’re going to be fiscally conservative. This is a masterful use of multivocality.

And finally:
…we must draw on the strength of our values - for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.
President Obama addresses the idea of values, but without elucidating certain ones, and the invocation can be open to any person’s core values. Therefore the call challenges collective adherence to whatever values we hold, regardless of differences among the listeners.

President Obama uses strategic communication, especially multivocality, as an effective tool; but his audience is complex and diverse. Ultimately, we need to be strategic listeners so that we can interpret all possible messages and their implications. To be an engaged citizenry, we must listen with as much purpose as the President speaks.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

To share or not to share?


Pakistan is caught in an uncomfortable position: "Pakistan's government is under domestic pressure not to be seen simply taking orders from the United States and give the impression it has a say in any new Afghan policy." At the risk of irritating the strongest military power in the world fighting a counter insurgency war in a neighboring country, the Pakistani government continues to (attempt to) maintain face at home. Regardless of the substantial resources provided by the United States, cooperating with us is still vastly unpopular, if only because the Pakistan people fear something similar to the Bush/Blair relationship.

Good idea: By working closely with the Pakistan government we can not only have some idea of what they are planning but also prevent some public opinion backlash after the expected increase of Taliban insurgents to their country because of the 30,000 troop surge. This would also add legitimacy to Obama's commitment "to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust" as spelled out in his 12/2 speech announcing the new military plan.

Bad idea: Obama's 12/2 speech mentioned many things, but the expanded use of unmanned drones was not one of them. This is by far the most offensive and least popular move that the U.S. could make to win the hearts and minds in Pakistan. If we give the blueprints of further plans to use these drones it could lead to a worse political relationship, or worst case scenario: the Pakistan army could undermine our efforts.

Sharing highly sensitive national security information has never been a desirable action by any US administration, but if essential cooperation from Pakistan depends upon it, perhaps we should consider. A show of trust and commitment on the side of the U.S. may make it easier for what I think is the best solution to an armed Pakistan: U.S. troop presence. We won't go until we are invited, but the sooner the U.S. military has access to the whole known area of Taliban strongholds, we can't effectively carry out our mission with any hope for success.

Does Public Opinion Affects Decision-Making?

Last week, President Obama unveiled his plan to add an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, a number that is 10,000 less than the amount General McChrystal had requested. Some suggest that this lower number of troops shows that Obama is trying to moderate public criticism of the war while providing enough troops to accomplish our goals in Afghanistan.

Obama has tried to make clear that the number of troops he is sending is the minimum number he needs to accomplish US goals through his strategy. By taking his time to decide on this level and by consulting with many leaders on the subject, he hoped to convey that the decision was well thought out.

However, recent polls show that the public may not be entirely supportive or have confidence in the President's new plan. Much of the President's speech was focused on narrowing the scope of US goals in Afghanistan. Instead of nation building, the President outlined a plan to dismantle and disrupt al Qaeda, which has a focus of building up the Afghan national army and police. Despite the narrower focus, only 48% of Americans say the US is certain or likely to meet its goals in Afghanistan. Although this number may not reflect American's faith in Obama, Obama's scaling back goals in Afghanistan points towards his focus on public opinion and increasing public support for the war.

Some have even criticized the speech, saying Obama has pandered to all groups, yet has really satisfied no one yet. One European viewpoint found in Der Spiegel said, "Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America's new strategy for Afghanistan.... It left both dreamers and realists feeling distraught." But attempting to appeal to all groups without fully satisfying any group is just a part of diplomacy, and before criticizing the speech, critics should acknowledge the difficulties associated with the situation at hand.

Nevertheless, Obama is realizing that the entire public will not be satisfied with executive policy decisions no matter how well-thought they are. But that's not to argue against prudent decision-making. In the end, Obama's decision will be judged based on its success.

Commonwealth of Nations: Soft power and stability in the Great Lakes region of Africa

Last Saturday, Rwanda became just the second state admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations, formally the British Commonwealth, without a British colonial past or a constitutional link to Britain. In doing so, Rwanda also became the fourth state of the East African Community to also be a member of the Commonwealth. (Burundi is now the only member of the EAC to not be a part of the Commonwealth network.)

Rwanda’s admission to the Commonwealth came over the objections of the Commonwealth network’s human rights watchdog. Earlier this year, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative released a report on Rwanda, in which it claimed that Rwanda had not lived up to the principles of human rights and democracy set out in the 1991 Harare Declaration. The CHRI team dispatched to investigate Rwanda sighted numerous transgressions committed by Kigame’s regime, including suppression of speech and association, and a tendentious judicial system. Moreover, the CHRI claims that since 1994, Rwanda has been an incredibly destabilizing force in the region, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it has usurped the political authority of the state and fostered an illicit economy based on the plunder of the DRC’s natural resources.

Despite its perceived irrelevance, the Commonwealth is, nevertheless, a high-profile organization that provides a number of political, economic, and cultural benefits. Its greatest strength is probably its ‘soft power’ which manifests itself as informal, cooperative links between members. However, some benefits are more tangible. Commonwealth nations account for 20 percent of the international trade and investment and constitute 40 percent of WTO membership, making the network a strong lobbying presence when it comes to the international economy.

Of course, strength of the Commonwealth's soft power can be measured by its ability to establish international norms of behavior among its member states. Admission to the Commonwealth requires that applicants meet certain conditions, including democratic governance, judicial independence, good governance, transparency, and respect for human rights. Consequently, Rwanda's admission to the Commonwealth does - to some extent - bring a sense of legitimacy to the actions, internally and externally, of the Kigame regime. This is troublesome. If the effectiveness of informal organizations, such as the Commonwealth, is to be measured in terms their norm-setting capacity, then Rwanda’s admission to the Commonwealth sets a dangerous precedent for the stability of a region in which Rwanda’s influence will only continue to grow.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Democratic Difficulties

As current events unfold throughout the world, it becomes more and more obvious now, how much of a role democracy can play in the development of strategic communication. In a structure where the citizenry are the rule, or at least shape the rule, strategic communication, in this opinion, becomes much more complicated to deliver. In the United States, there is so much transparency and so many venues of communication and information gathering that the words of our executive and congressional branches are scrutinized and often challenged by the very public they represent. Comparatively, you don't see the participation of citizens from countries such as Iran in such a similar way. Or more extremely the participation and information gathering by peoples of say China. The restriction on the knowledge of the people makes the delivery of communication more simplistic, easier to swallow if you will.

When a foreign leader from a country where the citizenry is either by law restricted or by circumstance unable to attain information, the likely hood that people believe what they are told increases. The degree to which people will stand behind their leaders unchallenged is seemingly more likely as well. The American public is infamous for standing up to our governing bodies when our opinions or information rich venues dictate to us that we should. In doing so, in having that luxury the strategic communication delivered by our government needs to be that much better, that much more convincing. An informed public is a challenging one.

Take the Afghanistan policy that was newly announced for example. The amount of work that went into insuring the substantial support of the American public was tremendous. The numbers they floated in the news over the course of months, testing the response to troop levels and timetables. Such steps were needed, given the huge outcries in national papers, blogs, protests, etc. You don't see as much, not to say there isn't any, of the same from Iranian citizens over the formalities of the nuclear programs, the controversy over not working with the world powers. Mutivocality needs to exist, every leadership must cater in some degree to its people, but the ability of some to conceal information, to tip the scales in their favor lends a hand. The relative freedom in some democracies makes for a slippery slope. This all begs to question how the world would be different if everyone were as equally informed, oh how the art of strategic communication would soar to new levels.

Every aspect of the news bears propaganda, Italy's ruling on the Knox case giving rise to combative values from country's legal systems, the restriction of information and meeting with the president in China by the Chinese, in comparison to the highly televised and information rich Afghanistan policy debates in the US and the remarks by McChrystal that accompanied them. Ultimately the point is that democracy makes its leaders artful and careful practitioners.

Strategic Communication in Pakistan

It is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. is losing the battle strategic communication in Pakistan. U.S. drone attacks are widely condemned and continue to cause anti-U.S. resentment in Pakistan although many recent studies show that they have been effective. In fact, locals that live where the attacks actually occur are far less resentful. Something even more serious is the fact that many Pakistanis think that the recent spate of terrorist attacks is the work of an outside enemy as opposed to the Taliban.

Last month, Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid, an al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, posted an audio message claiming that the recent bombings should be blamed on Blackwater (Xe). He stated that violent extremists were not responsible for the bombings which killed innocent civilians because the mujahedeen only target the army and security forces and not innocents. This message has seemed to catch on as a recent BBC report interviewed Pakistanis and found that many of them blame India or Blackwater, and not the Taliban, for the recent series of attacks.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban know that strategic communication is critical to their success. Without widespread resistance to their presence in Pakistan, they will be able to maintain their presence there relatively simply. However, if the majority of the people strongly opposed the Taliban presence and saw them as a major threat then they would likely be pressed harder by the ISI and Pakistani Army. Al Qaeda may be realizing that Islamists lost popular support in Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq due to excessive civilian casualties and they may be distancing themselves from the attacks in Pakistan in order to continue to operate there. Obviously the extremists in the region are not a monolithic group. Some of them may be implementing this strategy and some may want to claim responsibility for attacks. Whatever the case, all of the different groups are using strategic communication in a battle with the U.S.

An Ode to Public Opinion

Just in case you wanted evidence that media furor over an issue can lead to a drastically distorted public opinion:
Pew Research has just conducted a new poll, and it seems that China is the world's greatest economic power...

"44% of the public now says China is the world's leading economic power, while just 27% name the United States. In February 2008, 41% said the U.S. was the top economic power while 30% said China."

If this poll were from 2030, it might not be disturbing. In 2009, however, it is surprising that anyone thinks China is economically bigger than the U.S. Compare GDP, for example: China 3.38 billion, U.S. 13.75 billion. Not even close. The result seems objectively absurd unless you take into account the media blitz about U.S. decline and China's rise. Unfortunately, providing context apparently doesn't make riveting news.

On the upside, "Somewhat fewer people now say China is the top economic power than named Japan as the leading economic power in the late 1980s (58% in 1989)." We have been more wrong about our economic strength, during the last period of U.S. decline scare-mongering. Maybe there's a lesson here about fearing China's "inevitable" overtaking of the U.S. Way, way back in the 70's, 80's and part of the 90's, we thought Japan and West Germany were "destined" to overtake us. The U.S. was falling apart and could not keep up with the rising, more efficient and high-tech powers. Except we did. Conventional wisdom is not always very wise.

Something else to think about:

"The new survey finds that 41% of the public says the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader today than it did 10 years ago -- the highest percentage ever in a Pew Research survey."

A lot of people believe in U.S. decline. At what point does belief become reality? If people in the U.S. don't have confidence in our role in the world, will we lose our power to inspire others, and seek isolationism? (By the way, the percentage of people who think the U.S. should "mind its own business" was 49%. Drum roll, please... another Pew record.)

At the same time, 44% surveyed felt that the U.S. was the most powerful nation and should pursue a unilateralist course in foreign policy (you guessed it, another record...). At the same time, 78% feel that we should "take into account the views of" our close allies in foreign policy matters.

What does this mean for public support for U.S. foreign policy? Will it be isolationism, unilateralism, or something else? Maybe what it really says is that public opinion is complex, fickle and really hard to measure.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Strategic Communication and "The Narrative"

In a recent op-ed piece, Tom Friedman argued that American Muslim Nidal Malik Hasan was overcome by “The Narrative”, or the bogus “cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11.” Though his contacts to terror groups are tenuous, Hasan was enticed to his own form of jihad which resulted in 13 American deaths at Fort Hood. In essence, Hasan bought into a deadly anti-American philosophy that has persisted unchecked and appears to be growing.

“The Narrative” states that the since 9/11, the U.S. has declared a war on Islam – not just terrorists but all Muslims. The U.S. and Israel are actively interested in keeping Muslims down religiously, economically, and politically. The west, is responsible for the lack of opportunity in Muslim countries; those governments themselves are not to blame.

Facts clearly show otherwise. Attacking occasional strategic and tactical blunders is one thing; assaulting American ethics and goals is quite another. Friedman acknowledges that after 9/11, “we did some stupid and bad things… [b]ut for every Abu Ghraib, our soldiers and diplomats perpetrated a million acts of kindness aimed at giving Arabs and Muslims a better chance to succeed with modernity and to elect their own leaders.” But that’s not the message being received by most Arab and Muslim communities today. The masses of uneducated, powerless, and hopeless young people in these countries have found their scapegoat. Al Qaeda doesn’t need defined networks when “The Narrative” is ever-present: frustrated Muslim males just commit the attacks for them.

We as a country have yet to determine the proper response to such propaganda. Mosque preachers denounce America but the line is often ambiguous as to what justifies a First Amendment content-based restriction on dangerous speech. Web sites may fuel extremism but also serve as a counterterrorism tool for intelligence analysts to track site visitors. And how exactly can or should we respond to content emanating from outside United States jurisdiction, often from Arab-government owned media outlets?

We’ve recently discussed strategic communication, defining it as “a way of persuading other people to accept one’s ideas, policies, or courses of action.” It is a process by which a state argues to the world that its particular view on how things ought to be is compelling and to be followed. However much the U.S. is communicating to the Muslim and Arab world, its statements are being overwhelmed. Major Hasan’s case proves a particularly striking example, since he was American born and raised and part of the usually patriotic military establishment.

The question arises: should the U.S. seek to sway public opinion of Muslims both at home and abroad to counteract the negative messages that have continually proven to be harmful? Put another way, should the U.S. actively engage in putting out a different message, or would be doing so merely be “propaganda”?

As already emphasized, the major issues concerning legal and law enforcement responses have no clear cut answers. At minimum, however, we could put out a few messages to undermine “The Narrative’s” effectiveness. First, we can reiterate that the majority of Muslims being killed today in this overarching conflict are at the hands of jihadist suicide bombers, terrorist-placed IEDs, etc. – not by Americans. Second, we can show how America respects people of all religions, and how we have happy and successful Muslims enjoying being an equal part of American society. Third, we could review the messages being sent out in “soft power” formats (American films, music, publications, etc.) to ensure that the collective message is not one that would sour our perception in the Muslim world any further.

Strategic communication is an issue of marketing the U.S. in a compelling way. By not responding, we are allowing our enemies to take advantage of our civil liberties to form internal dissent, and allowing a dangerous message to pervade foreign societies continually hostile towards us.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Yay Coups

Chances are, you fall into one of the following camps: (1)You support the coup, (2)you don't support the coup, (3)or you flat out don't care. I'm guessing the latter is already full. REGARDLESS, the stance taken by the United States is sending a message when it comes to Latin American coups.
Initially, when Manuel Zelaya was ousted (in his PJs no less), the U.S. condemned the coup. Shortly thereafter a senior U.S. official said that Washington recognized only Zelaya as president. Months later, a "democratic" election is held and Porfirio Lobo is elected president. Now, the U.S. approves...
Put this another way: I'm a disgruntled movement in a Latin American country and hope to one day come to power. BUT, I'm afraid that the U.S. won't like me anymore. You're telling me that all I have to do is hold an election where my opponent tells its would be voters to stay home because their vote would legitimize the elections. You're kidding right? Sign me up...
This past Wednesday, the Honduran congress upheld the coup with a vote of 111 to 14. Minds were made up before this vote even took place. Honduras has been suffering from crippling sanctions, so politicians were eager to get back some sense of normality, regardless of what message that might be sending. Justifications also included that reinstating Zelaya would be admitting some sort of wrong doing. So now it's a pride issue? Why would the Honduran congress not strike a deal with Zelaya that goes something like this: Zelaya would be allowed to return to power with the premise of fresh elections being held in January. This way, Zelaya returns peacefully to Honduras, new elections are held and the people avoid the wrath of economic sanctions. I'm pretty sure this was on the table at one point. What was wrong with this idea?
I realize that the U.S. supports and represses a plethora of coups. In fact, Chavez has been calling for an investigation of the CIA in its role of the Honduran coup. The fact still remains that the U.S. may be sending unintended messages in its newly found support of Lobo. The funny thing about this is the condemnation of Zelaya for violating the constitution when, weeks after the coup, the de facto government acknowledged that they violated the constitution by deporting Zelaya in the first place. The more I learn about this story, the more I realize that it doesn't add up. The point is that the U.S. should be prudent in its support or ("and" in this case) opposition to would be coups, and the implications that go along with them.

COIN Kryptonite?

In this month’s issue of PARAMETERS, Gian Gentile once again plays spoiler to the Justice League of COIN advocates. The thing is, he may have a point. Gentile’s argument is that the increasing prominence of COIN strategy in military and academic circles may lead to the widespread use of counterinsurgency tactics in lieu of thoughtful military strategy. There are several reasons for this:

1. Having finally gained attention from policy-makers, COIN advocates are eager to press their positions and encourage restructuring of the U.S. military around population-centric counterinsurgency principles. Gentile fears that in Afghanistan and in future conflicts, the prominence of the COIN argument may come at the expense of better strategies that would require less commitment from American forces.

2. Some aspects of COIN strategy are logically sound and politically palatable. For example, a focus on development and making strong connections with the people resonates better with many Americans than does bombing villages and interrogating terrorists. The focus on winning hearts and minds and transitioning power over time to the locals makes logical sense. However, Gentile points out that historically, insurgencies that have been defeated have either been waited out or put down violently. He cites the recent Sri Lankan counterinsurgency effort as evidence. (He also asserts that John Nagl’s claims that the British shift from counter terror to COIN strategy in the Malaya Emergency are overblown.)

3. In its current incarnation, COIN is best characterized as a “strategy of tactics.” Gentile invoked this term from Andrew Krepinevich's analysis of the Vietnam War in arguing that the COIN strategy that is being advocated by the D.C. think tanks is a method, not a true strategy. The COIN principles laid out in Kilcullen’s 28 articles are tactics for dealing with an insurgency, while nation-building using those tactics should be viewed as an operation. Gentile says that the United States has “principilized” population centric COIN as the only way of fighting insurgency, and this leads to tactics dictating strategy.

Gentile’s arguments are a useful warning to policy makers. I think Andrew Bacevich would agree that if we allow COIN tactics to dictate our national strategies, we are likely to find ourselves intervening in more “imperialist” nation-building conflicts. The development of national strategy should include the consideration of the types of conflicts we’re likely to confront, our goals in addressing those conflicts, and the full gamut of tactics that could be employed.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama's Afghan Strategy & Communication


Last evening the President presented his strategy at West Point Military Academy after months of deliberation with the principals and national security team. On Wednesday Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton will testify on Capitol Hill and are expected to discuss the White House's $30 billion estimate for the strategy's first year. No doubt Obama's speech will be summarized and analyzed in the coming days and weeks, but a few articles that have popped up fairly quickly are worth mentioning in a quick analysis of his words. (Check out Obama standing on a box covering Iran in the comic, ain't no thang.)

One article (actually written a few hours prior to the speech) is David Jackson of USA Today paraphrasing Rick Nelson, who points to the multivocality of Obama's speech, or maybe trivocality. Nelson claims the three distinct audiences of the speech are the American public, Congress, and the International Community. The first make sense for sure, but I have problems with the assumption that Obama's message to everyone outside the US is the same. In the speech he mentioned Yemen, Somalia, the Afghan people, and NATO allies among other parties. Instead, I would break the international community audience of this speech into three sub-groups: the Karzai government (still a "legitimate government" despite "corruption, drug trade, an under-developed economy and insufficient security forces"), the Afghan people, and the Taliban (who can actually be grouped with our allies). Also trying to communicate to other groups such as Iran, Somalia and others would be attempting to kill too many birds with one stone in this blogger's opinion. The message hopefully received by the Karzai government is that its last chance to bolster Afghan security forces and work with US political objectives there is now, or else it may actually beat Somalia as the most corrupt government. ("The days of providing blank checks are over" might be directed more toward the American public rather than the Karzai government.) The Afghan people, if reached at all, should ideally be convinced that the US does not want to stay any longer than it "has" to and hopefully provide cooperation in counterinsurgency operations until the end of the campaign. Lastly, the message to the Taliban (and our allies) should be fairly clear: go COIN or go home. Of course, an approximate time table (July 2011) for an exit in Afghanistan offers the insurgency a clear goal: keep it up for another year and a half and the US will lose (or at least Obama won't be reelected).

Another interesting article I'll mention briefly is the NYT's room for debate. The most helpful contribution to the Afghan strategy discussion I believe is the one offered by Gerald Meyerle (Gventer's idea that COIN equates to the US military building "a nation from scratch" would likely incite a disapproving response from Kilcullen among others). He states that the number of troops is at best a third order question - while the US political objectives with respect to the insurgency and the Afghan government and what to do with the troops are more important.

At least for Obama's sake, he didn't mention "exit strategy" in the speech (in fact he never used the word 'exit') which would spell one-term-presidency according to Thomas Ricks. Then again he didn't publicly state the approach to Pakistani security problems either... (cue for an excellent post on the Gordian Knot of Pakistan)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Historic

Tuesday, December 01, 2009, the day history will remember when….. Lisbon came into effect in Europe. Is that a historic event or?.....

After eight years of negotiations the treaty was ratified in November when the Czechs gave the final nod. That’s great and all, but there has been raging debate over the new appointments the treaty creates (a permanent president of the European Council and a high representative for foreign affairs). The president will be the current Belgian prime minster Herman Van Rompuy and the high representative will be the current EU trade commissioner Catherine Ashton, from Britian. Who?

I thought one of the main reasons for adopting this treaty was to move the EU - as a whole - to more of an “on par” position with the US. If that’s true the appointments seem somewhat odd, but nevertheless expected given the variety of personalities that are represented in EU leadership (i.e. Merkel, Sarkozy, etc…). Clearly not everyone in Europe is ready to hand over their foreign influence. Both of these new positions will be tough. President Rompuy will be spending most of his time putting out the fires of EU internal disputes while the high representative will be working on aid, energy security, and climate change. The high representative also gets to wield a fancy new diplomatic core known as the European External Action Service (EEAS).

This is multivocality on a whole new level. “Domestic” in Europe is not really a term that makes much sense on a continental level. Being sensitive to how audiences receive messages in Europe is not a singular question – Europe IS international - and far more complex than say…. US domestic understanding.

Neither of the two new EU leaders have control over defense, tax, foreign policy, or social security in any member states. As eavesdroppers to these recent developments the US and the rest of the world will have to wonder where to turn when issues bleed over. Say in… defense and energy security. Without strong leadership from the representatives they will - more than likely - be placated, pushed to the side, and ignored by more forceful members of the EU who will want to pursue their own “real” domestic agendas. Remember, these two were not “elected.” They were appointed as the options the power players in the EU could agree on. Not really a position one loves to fulfill given the variety of interests.