Tuesday, January 31, 2006
However, it is far from time to celebrate. First, a "reporting" to the Security Council is less strict than a "referral" for which the US was hoping. A "referral" brings the matter to the domain of the Security Council, while a "report" merely puts the issue on the agenda for the Security Council to consider (in essence, a referral skips one step and moves right to the consideration of punishment). Also, just because Russia and China agreed to report Iran, there is no guarantee that either would consent to sanctions or punishments. The US and the EU nations must continue to work on Russia and China, telling them that further participation in the western economic and political domains is contingent on their upholding international law and promoting international security by punishing Iran if Iran remains intransigent.
This is a positive step, but we are not yet at the endgame.
Monday, January 30, 2006
I find it difficult to talk of moral obligations between one state and another, or even between one state and the citizens of another. A state represents a pooling of collected sovereignty and self-interest; citizens give up rights and freedoms in order to live in a society that in turn is entrusted with pursuing the best interests of those citizens and protecting them. The laws of domestic society are what allow citizens to live together; without the protection of the rule of law, societies as we know them could not exist. But in international politics, there is no real law. Of course, international law exists, but it has no power of enforcement. States are only punished for breaking the law when it is of concern to other powerful states, and powerful states can rarely be forced to obey. This international anarchy means that international society does not represent a collected sovereignty above that of the state, and that moral obligations do not transcend state borders. Of course, domestic law must still apply, but domestic law often has little to say about the actions of a state internationally.
But, the absence of moral obligation does not mean that states should not behave morally towards one another. There are lots of reasons that states should observe rules, norms, and standards of behavior in their international dealings. First is the question of legitimacy. States that adhere to internationally accepted moral codes obtain a cloak of legitimacy, which makes other states more likely to cooperate and view an action favorably. This is one of main consequences of Bush's decision to invade Iraq without authorization from the United Nations.
Second is the question of institutional restraint. As I argue in my article Institutional Signaling and the Origins of the Cold War (the link is to the article in the journal Security Studies, RR; if you can't access it and would like to read it, email me and I'll be happy to send it to you) and as Professor G. John Ikenberry does in his book After Victory, states can signal benign intentions to other states by virtue of restraining their behavior in international institutions. In essence, institutions become a soft replacement for law; a state that is seen to adhere to institutional obligations and accepted international norms is perceived by other states to be status quo and potentially cooperative.
So, in my analysis, the question as to whether states should behave morally has less to do with a sense of moral duty or obligation and more with questions of utility. The decision of whether to behave morally must be properly understood as having impacts above and beyond the specific policy question at hand. Sometimes states will decide that pursuit of their national interest requires the violation of international law or moral codes, as when the US bombs a Pakistani village in hopes of killing high-ranking al-Qaeda members. But, when couched in the proper framework, taking into account the points mentioned above, states should often restrain themselves so as to achieve larger policy goals. Too many violations of international law and morality will make it much more difficult for the US to realize its other goals and to maintain its hegemonic control of the international system.
Friday, January 27, 2006
How does a state react when its citizens are killed by the government of another state? They retaliate. Every state in the world should and would behave the same way. Hamas is no longer a non-state actor. It is now the governing party of the Palestinian quasi-state. Israel is now in a much better place to establish a deterrent relationship by stating that any "act of war" by Hamas will be met in kind. Open war may be a sufficient threat to convince Hamas to restrain itself and being the transformation into a legitimate political actor.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Hamas has always shown more of an interest in the nitty-gritty of governance than has the PLO/PA, be it under Arafat or Abbas. Hamas has done much more than has Fatah to root out corruption and to improve social services, which explains the surprising, sweeping parliamentary victory. But the act of governing will transform the situation. When Hamas was a shadowy organization conducting a terrorist insurgency, Israel's options were limited. Targets were hard to find, and there was little to threaten other than the lives of the leaders and the militants. But now Hamas will look much more like a state, meaning that there will be a better chance of creating deterrence. Hamas will have to build social institutions, sit in the parliament and mayoral/gubernatorial houses, and openly campaign to win future elections. If Israel needs to retaliate, there will have much more concrete targets than before. Hamas will not likely be willing to forfeit and sacrifice the political power that it has so difficultly wrested away from Fatah.
Now, I will not be surprised if I'm wrong, but I do expect that Hamas will behave itself and restrain its violent campaign against Israel. There will be, of course, more suicide attacks against Israeli citizens. They will be carried out by Islamic Jihad, Hamas (either by the organization itself or by rogue members upset with Hamas' new course), and maybe even Fatah, which quite possibly may conclude it needs to return to violence to re-gain its political stature. Moving the peace process forward will require great patience on both sides. Israel must be willing to give Hamas the opportunity to transform itself into a real political party. And Hamas must realize, as I believe it has, that this opportunity is the road to best outcome that Hamas could actually achieve: governing an independent Palestinian state.
UPDATE: I am happy to announce that I am not alone in my optimistic outlook on the victory by Hamas. Gary Becker agrees with me. Nothing like have a Nobel laureate in your corner.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
It seems to me that these critiques may be a bit short-sighted and possibly even counter-productive. Of course, I would prefer that China was not an authoritarian country, did not censor what its citizens are allowed to read and would not have put Google in this position. But lets consider, for a moment, the nature of US foreign policy towards China which can be described in one word: engagement. The logic stems from IR theories of democratic peace and economic interdependence. In short, the argument goes that as China becomes richer and more integrated into the international community, it will necessarly become more open and free domestically (as middle-class businessmen clamor for more transparency, greater enforcement of rule of law and property rights, a more open and fair economic environment, improved access to information, etc.) and more responsible on the world stage (preferring to gain the benefits of cooperation with the US and the West [such as membership in the WTO and hosting the Olympic Games] as opposed to wages of rogue status).
This is the logic that has guided US policy towards China for decades. It is the logic that prompted the first President Bush to quickly move beyond the Tiananmen Square massacres and re-establish friendly relations with China. It is the same logic that forced President Clinton to renege on his threat to tie China's MFN status to improvements in China's human rights record. It is a long-term strategy that ignores (or at least minimizes) short-term problems and concerns in favor of a slow, evolutionary approach. Better to continue, goes the argument, the slow transition towards a liberal economy and freer society than harp on one particular and immediate human rights violation and undermine the whole process.
Now, I do not believe (although I admit I know little about business so perhaps I'm wrong) that Google is aware of its role in this strategy and that Google's executives do not see their business decisions regarding China as fitting into the bigger picture of US foreign policy. But, I also believe that criticizing Google in hopes that it will be shamed into abandoning its ventures in China is a bad, short-sighted idea. China is already a more open and freer society than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and while the trajectory may not be smooth or even, it is trending towards even more freedom. If Google can assist that long-term development, it may be worth a little short-term censorship. This, in a nutshell, is what is known as realpolitik.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
We can only hope that this deal is an example of the classic IR tactic of kicking the can down the road. That is, when a difficult problem presents itself, accept the easiest solution for the time being, leaving the essence of the problem itself to be resolved at a later date. The problem itself is how the AU envisions itself and its role on the African continent. I really hope that it eschews the UN model and makes itself a meaningful force for democracy and human rights.
Monday, January 23, 2006
The AU is at a crossroads. It can allow Sudan to assume the presidency, and consign itself to the ashbin of history. The AU has not done too well as of late, with, among other problems, its peacekeepers struggling to contain regional conflicts in Ivory Coast and Ethiopia and its inability to deal with the escalating problems in Zimbabwe. These problems all stem from the same problems that cripple the UN: a blind commitment to sovereignty and an unwillingness to condemn member nations or declare their practices illegal or abhorrent. If the AU wants to matter on its own continent, let alone on the world stage, it needs to take a stand and dedicate itself to upholding and spreading democracy and human rights. Better a strong less-inclusive AU that assists with lifting its member nations out of the sea of human misery in which they swim than an egalitarian institution that accomplishes nothing.
The dropping of the charges represents not just a victory for free speech, but also one of institutional suasion. It seems impossible that Turkey's decision to drop this case was entirely based on its desire to join the European Union, which has expressed serious concerns over Turkey's human rights record in general, and over Pamuk's case specifically.
There is no doubt that the EU succeeded where the UN could not have. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the UN has nothing that anybody wants, and therefore can offer no carrots to induce compliance with international law or adherence to moral norms. The EU, however, has lots that states such as Turkey want. Thus, states are faced with a choice: Maintain old traditional customs and laws and remain outside of a valuable institution, or adopt more internationally accepted laws and standards and benefit from institutional membership. Western institutions, such as the EU, the WTO, or NATO, are sufficiently valuable and powerful to make that a difficult choice, with many countries choosing to move towards Western values and conceptions of law. The UN is not.
Friday, January 20, 2006
So, why would the UN prevent this woman from giving interviews? Because the prime minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, was visiting the UN, and, in the words of Shashi Tharoor, the U.N. undersecretary-general for public information, as a "general principle" the United Nations had to take account of the views of a member state. Heaven forbid the UN offend a member nation that allows its domestic courts to sentence a woman to be gang-raped for the crimes of her brother!! Mind you that this is the same Shashi Tharoor who wrote in Foreign Affairs that the UN provides international legitimacy as it "helps establish the norms that many countries -- including the United States -- would like to live by." Tharoor writes, paraphrasing Dag Hammarskold, that "the UN was not created to take humanity to heaven but to save it from hell." Did the UN do anything to help Mukhtaran Mai? The 800,000 hacked-to-death casualties of the Rwandan genocide? The Bosnians in Srebrenica? The Kosovars? The Cambodians? I know there is much the UN does well, like peacekeeping, but it simply cannot deal with problems that involve political entities.
The UN has to choose. Either it can continue to uphold the principles of sovereignty, or it can decide to pursue real law that makes distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong. Now, given the institutional structure of the UN, in particular the veto power of the five permanent members, such a change will never occur. So, pursuit of real international law will have to occur elsewhere. The UN is useless for such activity.
As I wrote on Opinio Juris back when this story first broke, I believe that an AUMF differs from a declaration of war in one manner that is critical to understanding executive power in cases like this: the ceding of domestic legislative activity to the president by Congress. Where the formal declarations of war for WWI and WWII specifically pledged "all of the resources of the country" to the president in pursuit of the war, the AUMF does not use such language, only giving the president authorization to use "all necessary and appropriate force against those national, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
As Julian Ku points out over at Opinio Juris, this whole argument really hinges on whether or not "warrantless wiretapping of foreign-domestic phone calls is a plausible 'fundamental incident of war powers.'" But, in this case, the president does not and did not have "war powers." There was no declaration of war. The AUMF does not contain the critical language that indicates congressional intention to give the president to ability to take action in the domestic arena that would normally require a legislative act. This is not merely a semantic distinction. Giving the president the ability to act without legislative authorization is a huge step that cannot be taken lightly. In a war with no end in sight and in which there are few yardsticks with which to judge progress, giving the president unchecked and indefinite authority to eavesdrop or imprison is unacceptable. This is why we have checks and balances (or as my doctoral advisor Bruce Jentleson likes to say: separate branches sharing powers) on the use of power.
I am no fan of limiting the power of the president to use force without formal authorization from Congress. As I wrote in the Detroit News on 8/28/02, the Constitution, Supreme Court decisions, and congressional precedent clearly give the president wide latitude in deploying troops and using force without any legislative check. But where that power stops is on the homefront, where and when a president may need to appropriate legislative powers, as in the steel seizure case or this NSA surveillance operation. It may have been necessary and critical for the president to conduct such surveillance. But in this country the process is more important than the ends. We make sacrifices all the time in which our principles to civil liberties and individual freedoms trump desirable policy outcomes. Unless we are facing a truly existential threat to the nation, which I do not believe, in the absence of a nuclear attack, the US faces from al-Qaeda, policy must flow from process. This is why President Truman was not allowed to seize steel mills and why President Bush should not be allowed to conduct domestic spying without explicit Congressional approval. It is both dangerous and disingenuous to justify such legal violations for political expediency.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
This message from bin Laden smacks of desperation and signals that al-Qaeda is in serious disarry as an international terrorist organization. Since 9/11, al-Qaeda's targets have been soft ones: discos in Indonesia, buses in London, and exposed US soldiers in Iraq. Of course, these attacks are horrendous, but they are certainly not the sort of targets that al-Qaeda would like to be striking. Al-Qaeda has been seriously damaged by the loss of Afghanistan as well as the arrest or killing of many senior leaders. And while it may be preferable that the US arrest or kill bin Laden too, one can only imagine how difficult it is to run an international terrorist organization while constantly on the run, fearful that any and all methods of communication may be tapped.
Why would bin Laden issue this message now, after more than a year of silence (most experts believe the message was taped in December)? Al-Qaeda is in trouble. Bin Laden may very well be facing a leadership crisis, as hiding in caves and keeping silent does not inspire insurgencies. He may need to reassure the troops that he is indeed alive and (more or less) well, especially after so many top leaders will killed last week. However, the message itself sounds desperate. "Yes, we still mean to kill you, and though we haven't, it's only because we haven't been trying. But now, we're going to try. Seriously." That's not a message that rings true. And if al-Qaeda is preparing a significant onslaught against US and Western targets, why offer a truce? Only one thing can demonstrate to the al-Qaeda faithful and Western infidels that al-Qaeda is still a potent international threat, and that is another large-scale attack. And with Iraq and Afghanistan monopolizing al-Qaeda's attention -- both of which are wars they cannot afford to lose -- it's not likely al-Qaeda has the capability to conduct such an attack. That does not mean it is not a threat. Certainly al-Qaeda can still carry out attacks on soft targets, and they can of course continue to cause chaos and kill civilians and soliders alike in Iraq. But, I would wager that al-Qaeda is no longer capable of attacks like those it carried in the 1990s up through September 11.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Now, while I'm no fan of big-name journalists, I've never really watched the major networks and never really cared one way or the other about Rather. But his reporting on North Korea refused to portray the "Hermit Kingdom" for the murderous, human rights violating, torturous, monstrosity that it is. I was reminded of the revelations that CNN had intentionally covered up reports of atrocities within Saddam Hussein's Iraq in order to maintain its access in that country.
Here are some of the best (worst?) parts of Rather's report:
"Somehow North Korea, which is the size of Mississippi, manages to afford the third largest army in the world." Somehow? How does Rather think North Korea affords such a large army? Maybe by denying its people such basic luxuries as food? Maybe by conscripting every able-bodies male for almost 4 years? Does Rather wonder how North Korea can afford such an army when it can't even afford 24 hour a day electricity for its capital city? No. Rather such poses this question as if it is an unanswerable puzzle.
"When Kim Il Sung died, his son, Kim Jong Il, took control. He's not as popular as his father, but we noted the crowd's adulation when he showed up to review the troops. Whether because of fear or true devotion, North Koreans can't seem to get enough of him." Seriously? In a country where people, even babies, are sent into reeducation camps for the smallest of "dissent" (three generations of families can be jailed on a mere denunciation) and starved into submission, Rather wonders whether the people's "love" for this monster is genuine?
"There were no tours available at any price to areas where mass starvation has been reported. We were allowed to go into the countryside, but not to the jails that have been called gulags for political prisoners." There are only reports of starvation? The US Institute of Peace estimates that 2-3 million people died of famine between 1994 and 1998. The average daily food ration during the famine was estimated to be 600 calories, or 1/4 what is needed. People are often reduced to eating grass and bark. Entire generations of children have had their development stunted. And Rather tells us that there are "reports" of starvation? And that the jails are "called gulags?" No mention of the forced abortions, the testing of biological and chemical agents on prisoners, the 20-25% death rates, the arrest and imprisonment of entire families for the "crimes" of one member, or any other of the barbaric conditions mentioned here in a NBC special report, here in The Aquariums of Pyongyang, here in a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune, on in any other of the innumerable reports on North Korean gulags. No, Rather only mentioned reports of mass starvation and that some people call these prisons gulags.
The entire report is nothing more than a whitewash of North Korea's crimes against its own citizens. Rather does deign to tell us that people can't afford cars or bikes, that one can be arrested for allowing strangers into one's home, that Pyongyang has so little electricity that it can't even run traffic lights, and that the government controls "many aspects of life here: where you live, where you work, where you get medical treatment, where you go to school." But this is about the extent of the evil that Rather reveals.
Rather concludes his report by asking "Where does [Kim Jong Il] want to take his country? To the future or the past? To peace or to war?" Is this even a serious question? Can any sane person really wonder if Kim Jong Il wants to do anything but profit off of the blood of his people?
I find it very difficult to understand how Rather can call this report serious journalism. I wouldn't have thought he was some kind of Stalinist sympathizer, but this report makes one wonder. If CBS and 60 Minutes are producing a whitewashed report so that, a la CNN, they can maintain access to North Korea, they should be ashamed of themselves and be boycotted by any and all. If Rather seriously believes that his report accurately portrays North Korea, then he is more deluded than his critics have made him out to be. Either way, I now find Rather to be reprehensible and to have lost any credibility he may have ever possessed.
As I said earlier, the only viable solution to this mess seems, to me at least, to move forward on the Russian proposal to enrich uranium in Russia and ship it to Iran. Neither military strikes nor economic sanctions seem to have much chance of a successful outcome.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
I go back and forth as to whether I agree with Crumpton on this. On the one hand, there's the sense of technological teleology; that is, that the more WMD exist, the more likely it is that they'll be used. As counter-terrorism efforts get better, terrorists are forced into more spectacular attacks that get more "bang for the buck." The possibility of inflicting massive casualties and fear on a society by unleashing a virulent biological agent or detonating a nuke may just be too good for a terrorist group to ignore, especially when one considers the relatively low cost of such an action.
On the other hand, I'm not entirely convinced that these are good weapons for terrorists to use. While it's true that al-Qaeda doesn't play, or need, the PR game quite like old school terrorist groups (the PLO/PA, the IRA, etc.) do, al-Qaeda also isn't quite as unique as they're often made out to be. Al-Qaeda still needs public opinion, even if it's only to attract new recruits. We're also seeing first hand what happens when al-Qaeda alienates its potential domestic constituency, as Iraqi Sunnis, even those involved in the insurgency against the US occupation, turn against the group. Al-Qaeda also still needs to support of states, even when that support is much weaker than it received from Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda needs Pakistan to not try too hard to clean out the mountain regions. It needs Syria to allow its militants into Iraq, and it needs Iran and other countries for political and economic support. Unleashing a WMD such as anthrax, smallpox, or plague could very well bring all such support to a halt. I have argued that if al-Qaeda had known that it would lose its base of operations in Afghanistan, it would not have carried out 9/11. Now that it knows what the price of such high-scale attacks may be, would al-Qaeda really raise the bar even higher? I do not believe that the US is the real target of al-Qaeda's wrath, so why would it poke the bear even more?
As I said, I'm conflicted. It's certainly possible that a terrorist group will, at some point in the near future, use a WMD against the US or another western country. But, I don't think it's inevitable. A lot of it will depend on how well the US can deter the use of such weapons. The invasion of Afghanistan and even the invasion of Iraq have done a lot to create that deterrence.
So, if the threat of an oil cut-off is overblown, and if Russia and China continue to block a referral of Iran to the UNSC (and would likely block any sanctions if the case ever got there anyway), what is going to happen? If Iran continues its intransigence, military strikes will most likely occur. Word over this past weekend is that Republican and Democratic senators alike are starting to get behind using force to destroy Iran's nuclear program. While any attack may be a ways away and depends on Iran continuing to stonewall, it's certainly possible.
The other alternative is that Iran will accept the proposal of Russia that any and all nuclear fuel be enriched in Russian nuclear plants and then shipped to Iran for use in the peaceful nuclear energy program. While this seems like a workable solution, if Iran has secret and functional nuclear weapons plants, they would be able to used the enriched uranium to build a weapon. However, despite that risk, this seems like the best option. There doesn't seem to be much stomach for taking Iran on, either militarily or diplomatically, and military force is a less than palatable option as well. This seems to be a situation akin to the Israel-Palestine peace process: Everyone knows what the end will be, but no one knows how to get there.
Monday, January 16, 2006
It is a sort of unwritten rule of international institutions that the more inclusive the institution, the less effective it will be. This is because in order to satisfy all members, an instituiton will have to either be so wishy-washy that it refuses to judge or discriminate, or it will contain so little enforcement power that, either way, it will be ineffective. So, perhaps it is time to build a less inclusive and more effective international order. What's the point in calling the UN the protector and promoter of international human rights if countries like North Korea and Sudan are allowed to be members without any punishment? What seems more effective, as with China, is to build a strong order of which other countries will wish to be a part. Then, if those countries that do not meet accepted standards wish to join, they will have to make changes. This is, in essence, the logic of the US strategy towards China, and can be seen in action during the negotiations surround China's accession to the WTO. The UN cannot offer rogue proliferators, human rights violators, or other bad states any incentives to make them change their behavior. But the West, and the US in particular, can. Security guarantees, economic aid, market access. These are things that states want, and are often willing to change their behavior to get. And if they won't change, then what good is it to pretend that sitting with them in the UN General Assembly will accomplish anything?
True, the UN does do good works, but not in issues like this. It's time to stop pretending that the UN can or will ever be an effective institution. If the UN wants to continue to be an all-inclusive body that respects sovereignty, fine and well. But then it should not also claim to be the protector of international law. Now is the time, under US hegemony and through the institutions of the liberal west, to break the UN's monopoly on international legitimacy.
Friday, January 13, 2006
A part of me would very much like to keep sports out of the political arena. I like the idea (though I fully realize it will never happen) of the Olympic truce, and there's something noble about political enemies competing in the ring, letting the better athlete win, and then shaking hands.
On the other hand, there's no question that for many countries, participation in -- and especially hosting -- the Olympics, the World Cup, or other international games is an important source of national pride. Proponents of the US strategy of engagement, for example, point to the carrot of hosting the 2008 Olympics as an important determinant of Chinese restraint and reform. If states want to play with the others, then they have to behave according to international norms.
So, should Iran be permitted to play in the World Cup? It seems a small price to pay if there's any way that ostracising the country could lead it to restrain itself. As Dan Drezner points out, "there's a scholarly literature out there that argues the apartheid regime in South Africa lost its base of support once they were banned from various sporting events, including the Olympics." So since Iran seems to be garnering near-universal condemnation and doesn't seem to want to follow their legal obligations or the will of the international community, why not keep them out of the Cup?
Thursday, January 12, 2006
This deal is a classic example of a moral hazard, which is a situation in which dangerous behavior is encouraged when actors do not bear the full costs of their actions. The global non-proliferation regime was designed to provide peaceful nuclear technology to states that agreed not to develop nuclear weapons and to punish those states that would not cooperate. India did not, and has not cooperated. Why now should India be allowed access to the benefits that law-abiding states receive? According to Kerry, because "it is better to have India as a participant in the IAEA procedures and standards with respect to its civilian program than not to have it." So, India proliferates and still gets the benefits as if it hadn't. Why then should other countries not proliferate, knowing that they will likely be allowed IAEA benefits anyway (true, India was excluded from IAEA assets for three decades...but obviously that wasn't a sufficient deterrent)?
The answer as to whether this is a good idea or not hangs on the assessment of which other states are likely to respond to this incentive and proliferate. I don't believe that this is a big problem. "Rogue" states like Iran and North Korea are going to try to proliferate based on their assessments of national interest, and are not likely to respond to IAEA incentives, as evidenced by the current crises. Most status-quo states are not likely to want nuclear weapons anyway. They're expensive, dangerous, and not worth the time and effort. The lure of proliferating and still gaining access to IAEA assets will not likely convince these states to develop nuclear weapons.
That leaves us with states like India, Pakistan, and Israel, which, while not rogues, choose to exclude themselves from the non-proliferation regime and develop nuclear weapons to ensure their national security. While its true that perhaps other such states could be deterred by credible threats of exclusion and punishments, would the price of having nuclear programs existing outside of IAEA controls be worth it? How many other states are in situations such as Israel, India, and Pakistan, having legitimate security needs that can be responsibly met through nuclear proliferations. In this case, the Bush Administration, and now John Kerry, have made the right decision, acting to bring the Indian nuclear program under international controls at the (small) price of possibly encouraging a bit more proliferation in the future.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The answer is: not likely. Deterrence is predicated on three components: communication (the target must be aware of what action is being deterred and what the penalty for acting will be; this is what the Soviets got so hilariously wrong in Dr. Strangelove by not telling the US about their Doomsday Device), capability (the deterrer must have sufficient means to carry out the threat), and credibility (the target must believe that the deterrer will, in fact, carry out the threatened punishment). In most instances, establishing the credibility of the deterrent threat is the most difficult part. Deterrence is fundamentally an irrational act, as it requires taking an ex post action and paying attention to sunk costs. If deterrence failed and the Soviets had invaded, say, West Berlin and stopped, what would be the point in nuking? Carrying out the action might be useful for establishing future credibility, but that's not strong enough to build a deterrence strategy upon. Actors try to solve this problem by "hand tying" or creating unbreakable commitments that remove the decision from their hands and make the deterrent response automatic. This was the whole point of the Doomsday Device in Strangelove, and also a primary reason that the US based so many troops in Germany. Those soldiers couldn't have stopped a Soviet assault; rather they served as a tripwire to ensure that American soldiers would die in a Soviet attack on Western Europe, making it more likely that the US would fulfill its commitment to protect Europe, thereby enhancing its deterrent credibility.
What does all of this have to do with Iran? Deterrence is really REALLY hard to develop. When the stakes were as high as they were during the Cold War, with allies as important as West Germany, the US was still afraid that its credibility wasn't high enough. Credibility will be an even larger problem in deterring Iran. When I worked for the Strategic Assessment Center of SAIC, one of the last projects I worked on before returning to grad school was a series of wargames on the future role of nuclear weapons, examining what would be the effect of a country like Iran or Iraq developing a nuclear weapon. The analysis was that it would be very bad for US foreign policy, precisely because it would undermine US deterrent credibility. Would the US really destroy a city like Tehran, killing millions of innocent people, to prevent Iran from developing a nuke? Unlikely. If Iran did succeed in proliferating, would the US risk losing a city of a major ally, like Israel or Turkey if deterrence failed? Unlikely. Ironically, the lower the stakes become, the more difficult it becomes for a great power to deter a smaller one.
I don't see nuclear deterrence as a strong option in this case. Conventional deterrence is a little better, as the costs and implications of use are lower. In that case, the US could: A) Carry out or assist a limited air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities; B) Conduct a small-scale operation to seize the facilities, or; C) Invade Iran. A is the most likely, but it's hard to believe Iran hasn't hardened its facilities against such a possibility. B and C are much more likely to work, but are much less desirable options for a myriad of reasons. So, as I see it, the best options are either a limited air strike against Iranian nuclear sites or trusting in sanctions, either through the UN, or in the case of a Russian or Chinese veto, through a western organization like NATO. I'm still undecided as to which I think would be best. I do know that this is an exceedingly difficult problem that will likely have a very unsatisfying resolution.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
However, this seems to me to be a mistake. Despite Hamas' choice of tactics, they have behaved themselves over the years as a rational political actor. During the second intifada, there were numerous times when one more suicide bomb would have completely derailed the peace process, and yet Hamas always restrained itself. Hamas has, more or less, observed the recent truce, despite the possibility of totally ending negotiations between Israel and Fatah.
What are Hamas' motivations? While they claim to be pledged to the destruction of Israel, they cannot believe that this can be accomplished (at least not the leadership). So, short of that, Hamas most likely wants to rule whatever land they can. And the best way to do that is through the burgeoning political process, with a bit of violence thrown in here and there to keep the pressure on both Israel and Fatah.
What would a political role for Hamas mean? Forcing Hamas to campaign for votes could help moderate the party's platform. While Hamas is an Islamic group (as opposed to the secular nationalism of Fatah), it does not promote Islam with the fanatacism of, for example, the Taliban. As the New York Times noted in an article from last November, Hamas currently governs the West Bank town of Qalqilya (Lexis-Nexis, RR), and the responsibilty of governance is heavy. While Hamas has been reasonable successful at mundane issues (e.g., balancing the budget, modernizing the infrastructure, fighting corruption), their religious practices have created opposition from Palestinians who do not want to see their land become Afghanistan under the Taliban. So long as Hamas isn't the only viable party in Palestinian lands and has to compete with Fatah and other groups, it will have to restrain itself to win votes and govern effectively. Besides, whether or not the Palestinians want their lives to be governed by sharia isn't really a concern of Israel or the US, is it? Furthermore, it's not like Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are much better. Abbas has shown little more spine than Arafat ever does, refusing to root out corruption or challenge the militants. So, ignore the rhetoric and let Hamas compete for office.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Not that I know what to do about Iran. It's possible that Russia will support Security Council sanctions, but it's hard to know what Russia will do, and I'm skeptical of the ability of sanctions to be effective. There's been talk of Israel conducing an airstrike a la Osiraq, but I can't believe that Iran hasn't hardened its facilities or even buried them. Even though the EU is talking tough right now, they probably wouldn't support military action, and the US is in no shape to take on a third theater of operations. I'm hopeful that, in the long term, demographic and political pressures within Iran will end the rule of the mullahs, but that's off in the future, and doesn't resolve the current problem. Any ideas on how the international community can deal with Iran's nuclear program?
As I wrote about in an earlier blog on Opinio Juris, any attempt to build strong international law that does not take into account US power and hegemony is doomed to fail. The US serves a valuable function as the guardian of international peace and security, and fear of prosecution could certainly curtail the abiity and willingness to fulfill that role. For example, the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, carried out without legal authorization from the UN Security Council, could very well have prompted war crimes charges, and did in Belgium, until that state did away with its universal jurisdiction laws in 2003. A world that restrains US power without creating commensurate protections of the rights and liberties of all is a world of genocide and massive human rights violations. Rather than moaning about US intransigence, the international community would be better off building as strong of an ICC as possible among those willing states, and allowing the US to continue to provide security for the international community as a whole.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Let me respond: In which era were human rights advanced more: the bi-polar Cold War or the post-Cold War world of US hegemony? When states are concerned for their own safety and survival, concern for human rights slide down the agenda as traditional security issues dominate. This is not to argue that the US is the exemplar or paragon of human rights. So, even though the US is refusing to join the International Criminal Court, could the court even have existed during Cold War? Would the Kosovars have been protected from Serb aggression -- and even more to the point, would Milosevic be in the dock to answer for his crimes? -- if Russia was still a major player on the world stage? Only in a world of a relative level of international peace could these things occur. We are currently in such a stage and we have US hegemony to thank. In the current issue of Foreign Policy, Michael Mandelbaum argues this same point, writing:
The United States makes other positive contributions, albeit often unseen and even unknown, to the well-being of people around the world. In fact, America performs for the community of sovereign states many, though not all, of the tasks that national governments carry out within them.
U.S. military power helps to keep order in the world. The American military presence in Europe and East Asia, which now includes approximately 185,000 personnel, reassures the governments of these regions that their neighbors cannot threaten them, helping to allay suspicions, forestall arms races, and make the chances of armed conflict remote. U.S. forces in Europe, for instance, reassure Western Europeans that they do not have to increase their own troop strength to protect themselves against the possibility of a resurgent Russia, while at the same time reassuring Russia that its great adversary of the last century, Germany, will not adopt aggressive policies. Similarly, the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which protects Japan, simultaneously reassures Japan’s neighbors that it will remain peaceful. This reassurance is vital yet invisible, and it is all but taken for granted.It is functions such as these and others that "creates the space" needed for the world to focus on other non-military issues, such as human rights. Despite polemical claims to the contrary, a shift to a bi- or multi-polar would not advance the cause of global liberalism, but would likely herald a return of suspicion and arms races.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
This is a very fine point: clearly US aggressive actions have changed the calculus of al Qaeda's actions. However, the point is one of marginal utility. All that was likely needed to establish sufficient deterrence against al Qaeda was the invasion of Afghanistan and, perhaps, a policy of targeted killings (assassination) against the leadership. If, as I believe, attacking the US is not really part of al Qaeda's strategy, these two actions were probably sufficient to deter further strikes against the US.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Perhaps, but I'm not so sure. As Immanuel Kant wrote in the excellent Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, "the will's manifestation in the world of phenomena, i.e. human actions, are determined in accordance with natural laws, as is every other natural event. If [one] examines the free exercise of the human will on a large scale, it will be able to discover a regular progression of freely willed actions. In the same way, we may hope that what strikes us in the actions of individuals as confused and fortuitous may be recognized, in the history of the entire species, as a steadily advancing but slow development of man's original capacities." That is, human history, over time, can be seen as going somewhere. Our development, on a macro scale, is not random or haphazard, but represents improvement. It is teleological.
The Universal History serves as a intellectual prelude to Perpetual Peace in which Kant argues that international society is moving toward world government. While Kant gives this move moral force, one need not do so. Human rights, as we understand them can also be the result of politics and utility. As societies develop, those that have "better" and more efficient conceptions of rights thrive, while those societies that do not, fail. This is not to argue that any one society has it all correct. But, what does seem clear to me, and as I argued in a seemingly unrelated post, is that US hegemony creates space in which countries are left free to determine what works best. Thus, the Kantian progression coincides with the expansion of global human rights, both of which are simultaneously enabled and constrained by American power.
I'd like to welcome you to Security Dilemmas, a new blog dedicated to examining issues of international and national security. My name is Seth Weinberger, and I am an assistant professor of Politics and Government at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, where I teach international relations (US foreign policy, international security, terrorism) and political philosophy. Before becoming an academic, I used to work for the Strategic Assessment Center of Science Applications International Corporation, where I did strategic wargaming for the Army, the Air Force, and the Office of Net Assessment in the Department of Defense. I hold a BA from the University of Chicago in political philosophy, an MA from Georgetown University in National Security Studies, and an MA and PhD from Duke University in political science.
I look forward to engaging with everyone out there in cyberspace on international politics.