Monday, July 31, 2006

The Selfishness of Protest

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a story entitled "Partisan Divide on Iraq Exceeds Split on Vietnam" about the nature of American public opinion on the Iraq War. According to the article, "no military conflict in modern times has divided Americans on partisan lines more than the war in Iraq, scholars and pollsters say — not even Vietnam. And those divisions are likely to intensify in what is expected to be a contentious fall election campaign." The numbers: "Three-fourths of the Republicans, for example, said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while just 24 percent of the Democrats did. Independents split down the middle." "An analysis by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the difference in the way Democrats and Republicans viewed the Vietnam War — specifically, whether sending American troops was a mistake — never exceeded 18 percentage points between 1966 and 1973. In the most recent Times/CBS poll on Iraq, the partisan gap on a similar question was 50 percentage points."

Many people see this partisan gap as a potential long-term problem for the American body politic:
Many experts and members of both parties say they worry about the long-term consequences of such bitter partisan polarization and its effect on the longstanding tradition - although one often honored in the breach -— that foreign policy is built on bipartisan trust and consensus.

"“The old idea that politics stops at the water'’s edge is no longer with us, and I think we'’ve lost something as a result," said John C. Danforth, a former senator and an ambassador to the United Nations under President Bush.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said, "“There used to be some unwritten rules when it came to foreign policy."

The article goes on to discuss the role that the war is playing in electoral campaigns.

All of this may be true, but if the divide over the Iraq War is so great, then I'm left with one burning question: Where's the protest? If Iraq is the single most divisive foreign policy issue of the last 30-40 years, then where's the public outcry? Where are the protests? Where are the rallies? Where are the anti-war movements? Sure, Cindy Sheehan was in the news, but apart from her, this must be the quietest anti-war movement of all time. I've been on two college campuses (Duke and Puget Sound) since the invasion, and I've not seen one serious protest or rally. There have been round table discussions, talks, and "teach-ins," but nothing along the lines of good old fashioned opposition and outrage.

Why not? If this war is inflaming the Republican-Democrat divide, why isn't it inflaming the protestors, and the students in particular, as well? My theory: the absence of a draft has tamped down the anti-war sentiment. The myth of Vietnam is that public outrage at an unjust and immoral war grew and grew until Nixon was forced to bring the boys home, but this is little more than a myth. Public opinion actually ran strongly in favor of military operations in Vietnam for quite some time, and only began to turn late in the war as US casualties grew, especially in the wake of the Tet Offensive. However, the vanguard of the protests, and the student protests in particular, were not opposed to the war per se, but to the draft. What got students marching and, well, burning their draft cards was the likelihood of them getting called up and sent overseas. It was the possibility of personal involvement and danger that motivated the anti-Vietnam movement.

Obviously, there is no draft today. The Iraq War is being fought by a volunteer army. No one who does not choose to be is at risk of dying in Iraq. Without the risk of the draft, the motivation to vehemently protest is simply not there for most people. Not that this is surprising...people respond to incentives, and without proper incentive, there's not much reason to act. People may not support the war, but unless they personally stand to be affected by it, they won't march, they won't sit-in, they won't hold signs and banners. True, there has been the occasional massive rally, but these seem to be the exceptions that prove the rule. Attending a one-time rally assuages the guilty consciences of the anti-war types, but does little to actually affect public policy or opinion.

This seems to me to be a critical transformation of the political dynamic. The logic of the democratic peace (the theory that democracies do not go to war with one another) rests heavily on the domestic nature of a democratic polity, and, specifically, the hesitancy of the public to go to war. By ending the draft and moving towards an all-volunteer military, the federal government has done much to insulate itself from the pacific tendencies of its audience. By and large, this is probably a good thing; the foreign policy of a hegemonic superpower cannot be run from the streets. But, when a complacent public is combined with a feckless Congress, the propensity for executive abuse becomes high. If neither the American public nor the US Congress is willing or able to check the power of the executive branch, the country could be in trouble indeed.

So if you're opposed to the war, are you out making your voice heard? If not, why not? Are you just selfish and lazy?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Blogging Hiatus

I'm getting married on Sunday in Whistler, BC. So, needless to say, I will be taking a break from blogging. I should resume posting Friday, July 28th, or Monday the 31st.

I'd like to take this time to take each and every one of you for reading my thoughts, ideas, and opinions. So far, I've had over 5,500 hits...I'm not Daniel Drezner, but it's not too shabby either. I've had some interesting discussions with those of you who comment, and I thank you for that as well.

I'm hoping that while I'm away, you'll let me know what you think of this blog, and if there's any subject in particular you'd like me to discuss. Just let me know in the comments to this post.

Have a great 2 weeks!!

-- Seth

Monday, July 17, 2006

Is the UN a War Criminal?

On Friday, the BBC reported that seven Bosnian Serb officers have been put on trial at The Hague for their roles in the 1995 massacre of approximately 7-8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica. As a bit of background, during the Bosnian conflict that followed the splintering of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Srebrenica was declared a "safe area" by the United Nations in a resolution stating that "all parties and others concerned treat Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attack or any other hostile act". However, despite UN protection, in July 1995, Bosnian Serbs entered the town, and began slaughtering the residents. While it is good to see the perpetrators of the massacre facing justice (although I remain skeptical of the ability of international tribunals to provide good-quality justice), it leads me to ask whether the UN itself doesn't bear a large share of responsibility here.

According to the Human Rights Watch report on the massacre, "United Nations peacekeeping officials were unwilling to heed requests for support from their own forces stationed within [Srebrenica], thus allowing Bosnian Serb forces to easily overrun it and—without interference from U.N. soldiers—to carry out systematic, mass executions of hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilian men and boys and to terrorize, rape, beat, execute, rob and otherwise abuse civilians being deported from the area." Furthermore, the report (the full version of which is not available on-line, but can be ordered through the above link) castigates the UN for "the craven decisions of its field commanders prior to the fall of Srebrenica, its apparent suppression and destruction of evidence of massive human rights abuses immediately after the fall of the 'safe area.'" The report also calls out Dutch Defense Ministry’s "destruction of a video tape showing Bosnian Serb soldiers engaged in extrajudicial executions as Dutch U.N. troops looked on." [Note: the UN troops "protecting" Srebrenica were Dutch.]

A UN report on the massacre determined that the UN indeed shares blame for the killings, blaming the UN for setting up the safe area without credible and effective means of defense and for declaring that force (applied by NATO) would only be used against the Bosnian Serbs as a "last resort." In 2002, the Dutch government resigned as a result of its attempt to cover-up the role (or lack thereof) of Dutch peacekeepers in allowing the Serbs to enter the city.

It's bad enough when the international community stands back and refuses to protect innocents from slaughter, as in Rwanda or Darfur. But when the UN gathers people together in order to protect them, only to refuse to provide sufficient force to do so, and then stands back and allows those people to be massacred, raped, tortured, and otherwise brutalized, that's a different matter entirely. That rises to the level of a war crime. The Dutch officers, politicians, and UN bureaucrats responsible for the failure of the UN at Srebrenica should join the Bosnian Serb officers in the dock at the Hague. They're war criminals, plain and simple.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Hard Lesson in the Middle East

Two Middle East governments are being taught the lessons of statehood the hard way this week. Both Hamas and the Lebanese government are learning that one of the most critical abilities of a sovereign government is the ability to maintain a monopoly of large-scale violence within its borders.

In the wake of the killings and abductions of Israeli soldiers, Israel has launched major military operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip as well as Hezbollah and the Lebanese government. In the case of Hamas, Israel has been attacking PA offices and arresting and killing members of Hamas' military and political wings. In Lebanon, Israel has imposed a naval blockade and rendered Beirut's international airport inoperable in an effort to prevent Hezbollah from smuggling the captive Israelis out of the country. Israel is holding the Lebanese government as whole responsible for Hezbollah's actions, as Hezbollah holds two seats in parliament and is largely left alone in southern Lebanon.

The immediate cause of the current crises (setting aside the overall setting of the Arab-Israel problem, which I have neither time nor space to discuss here) is the unwillingness or incapability of the Arab governments to exert control over rival internal powers, particularly those with the capacity for violence. Recently, the biggest obstacle to a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestinians has been the presence of rival militias, each with its own agenda and the ability to undermine the government. When Fatah ran the Palestine Authority, neither Arafat nor Abbas was willing to take on and disarm Hamas (and Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, or any of the other serious milita groups). When Hamas came to power, it in turn was not willing to break the military power of Fatah. Thus, the government in Gaza has not and does not have one of the most basic components of governance; a monopoly on organized violence. The problem is similar in Lebanon, where the government has refused to challenge Hezbollah, leaving them more or less uncontrolled in southern Lebanon and armed to the teeth.

Both governments have their reasons for not wanting to challenge their armed rivals. Each is relatively young and dependent on a public support that may not support a move against fairly popular rival groups. Any attempt to disarm the rival parties could easily devolve into civil war. And, it may be useful to have armed parties running around outside of the government, as it enables the government to say one thing (yes, we want peace, e.g.), while the armed struggle continues in the face of governmental disavowal.

Now, the governing authorities are paying the price for their fecklessness. This also helps to explain the lack of international outcry at the Israeli military actions. True, there have been some perfunctory calls for a cease-fire or condemnations of Israel, but compare the international sentiment today with that when Israel invaded Jenin several years ago? Witness the silence from Russia, in particular. It's one thing when Israel is attacking a people fighting for their independence; it's another entirely different situation when Israel is defending itself against border incursions, kidnappings, and rocket strikes launched by neighboring governments. No country can truly put itself in the position of defending Hamas or Hezbollah or even condemning Israel too strongly, as one of them could be, some day, in a similar position.

The lesson being taught by the Israel Defense Forces is a harsh and brutal one. But it is a necessary one. A government cannot function if it can not or will not exert political and military control over its own territory. Whether Hamas and Lebanon will learn from this remains to be seen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Using the Big Stick

Anthony Arend has responded to my post responding to his post responding to my original post about creating a new institutional framework to deal with issues of international security outside of the United Nations. Arend seems to agree with my (admittedly rudimentary) suggestions, saying:
This makes sense to me. I do worry that the U.S. may have lost so much credibility of late that the time to do this may not be now. I think, however, if U.S. leadership were exercized as part of an overall re-engagement with multilateral institutions, it could happen. For me, such re-engagement would include steps such as these:
  • An explicit reaffirmation of the Geneva Conventions (including the acceptance the Supreme Court's interpretation of Common Article 3) , the Torture Convention, and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • An genuine expression of willingness to work multilaterally on questions relating to global climate change.
  • An declaration to work toward addressing concerns with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in order to facilitate eventual U.S. ratification.
  • A commitment to work more closely with the international community through the United Nations Security Council. (I know Professor Weinberger is likely to disagree on this, but I think the United States-- through changes in its leadership style-- could help make the Council much more effective. This is not to say that the Council is a panacea, but rather that the United States is not fully taking advantages of the role the Council could play in promoting international peace and security.)

I don't disagree that the US should adhere more strictly to the Geneva Convention (note that doesn't mean that I think the people in Camp XRay are POWs; they're not. But they should be given a hearing to determine their status). I'm still in the skeptical camp as regards global warming (Let me explain. I'm not a real scientist and I don't understand, and won't debate either way the science of climatology. But I do know two things: One, whenever people claim that there is total consensus and no disagreement on an issue, I get skeptical. Case in point: A recent issue of Discover magazine featured an editorial claiming that the dispute over whether humans are to blame for rising global temperatures is over. In the same issue was an interview with the chief hurricane expert for NOAA who argued that he does not believe humans are responsible for global warming. Fishy, no? Second, if global warming is in fact human-caused and serious, I don't trust government to regulate a solution.) so I don't think the US needs to, or should, take the lead seeking international climate change solutions.

Getting the US into the ICC would be a good idea, but only if it can be done in such a way so as to not hamper the ability of the US to project force abroad. It's one thing to prosecute, for example, soldiers accused of rape, torture, or murder if the host government refuses to do so. It's another to prosecute the leaders of a country for killing civilians while conducting a military operation intended to save people from genocide. If such guarantees can be built in, joining the ICC would be great for the US.

Tony is right that I still dismiss the UN. I don't think the US should spend one iota of energy or capital (real or political) to improve the UN Security Council, because it can't be improved. The UN protects sovereignty first and foremost, and so long as countries who see the world differently than does the US and the West, like Russia and China, possess a veto, the UNSC will be little better than useless. The UN can and should continue with its peacekeeping and nationbuilding roles, but hoping that the UNSC can play a serious role in international security is a pipe dream.

Taking some or all of these steps would likely go a long way to assuage hurt feelings and fears of domination and improve the US image to the point where the US could begin building an alternative institutional security framework. And today, we have an excellent example of how that might work. Today, the US announced that it may be willing to sign a deal clearing the way for Russia to enter the WTO. The sticking points were over typical trade issues like whether foreign banks could open branches in Russia, how Russia would approach bringing its intellectual property rights laws up to standard, Russian agricultural subsidies, and whether Russia would open its insurance markets. Why couldn't the deal include some expectation of Russian behavior regarding international security? If you want to participate in the western economic markets, stop protecting genocidal regimes in the UN. Stop cooperating with Iran's nuclear program. And so on. As I mentioned yesterday, such demands must be strictly controlled. If states could be punished every time they disagreed with the US, the entire trade regime would collapse. But I don't see why Russia, or China, should be allowed to reap the benefits of free trade with the US and the Western powers without paying some commensurate political price. Tying institutional memberships such as the WTO into security-related behavior could provide the carrots and sticks so desperately missing from the UN's arsenal, and allow the US and the West to apply pressure when and where it's needed.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Building a Big Stick

Over at Exploring International Law, my former professor Anthony Arend has a post about my post calling for a new international security framework in response to the challenges posed by Iran and North Korea. Arend asks:
What would this new apparatus look like? How would it be structured? And how would it be able to have the teeth necessary to impose effective sanctions?
My vision revolves around the pre-existing economic and political institutions that make up the backdrop of the international political system, and the western world in particular. Institutions like the WTO, IMF, World Bank, international banking systems, and so on are now critical and indispensable players in international politics. These institutions should be utilized as the "carrots" for forcing convergence towards international norms. Want to develop a clandestine nuclear program? Fine, but forget about admission into the WTO or being able to use international banks. Want to launch missiles towards your neighbors. Go right ahead, but forget about receiving any kind of international development aid.

Deterrence and coercion can only work when supported with both carrots and sticks. The stick, of course, is military force, but that is exceedingly difficult to use, politically, strategically, and tactically. UN sanctions are even more useless, as they're crippled by the political divides and weak institutional design of the Security Council. Moreover, as the EU-3 learned in their negotiations with Iran, no one other than the US really has anything to offer rogue states as rewards for abandoning their deviant behaviors.

Thus, it falls on the US as systemic hegemon to provide the carrots. It is incumbent upon the US to take the lead on this problem; doing so will not only provide improved options for dealing with rogue state crises, but will likely also go a long way towards rehabilitating an international image that has taken a severe beating.

The US should, as it did after World War II, begin knitting together as many international institutions as possible and predicate their benefits and membership on acceptable international behavior. Now, this should not, of course, be overused. States must still be allowed to do things their own way and such a system must not be hijacked for petty political debates; I'm only talking here about punishing gross violations of international norms, such as genocide, widespread massive violations of human rights, aggression, or wanton proliferation.

All states are, to some degree and some more (Iran) than others (North Korea) dependent on the international economic infrastructure and international institutions. Those institutions and the goods and service they provide should not be freely available. The United States can use its leadership and economic, political, and military power to create a system that can be used to express the international will, exert leverage, and punish those that choose to violate the standards of the international community.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Need for a Big Stick

For the last few days, the news has been filled with dire news from Iran and North Korea. The former announced yesterday that Iran would not respond early to an international proposal for dealing with its developing nuclear program. North Korea, of course, has been castigated by the international community for its testing 7 missiles, including a long-range Taepo-Dong 2 missile that failed. Today, North Korea is ranting that it will consider any punitive sanctions to be an act of war by the international community.

However, neither North Korea nor Iran need worry, as the likelihood of the international community cracking down on them for the behavior is slim to none. Both Russia and China, for various reasons, oppose sanctions in both instances and claim that only continued, and perhaps endless, diplomacy, can resolve the situations.

The problem is, of course, that the UN, and the international community more generally, is incapable of enforcing its norms, rules, laws, and will. The UN is hamstrung by Security Council vetoes, a norm of sovereignty, and a general prediliction for consensus, while the international community is crippled by free-riding, shirking, and indifference. Whether or not, for example, you supported the US invasion of Iraq, there is no question that the UN was unwilling and incapable of enforcing its resolutions on Iraq, that the sanctions and containment regimes were collapsing, and that without the US invasion, Hussein would still be in power and by now would have very likely reconstituted his arsenal of WMDs.

Both North Korea and Iran are able to spit in the face of the international community because both states know that they will not be called to account for their behavior. Each has one, if not two, veto-wielding Security Council members in its corner, and each is well aware of the hesitation of "New Europe" to act boldly and strongly in the name of international peace and security.

In the absence of an overarching, systemic, and existential threat like that posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, international security has become more dependent on the interational community. The US has learned the hard way the price of going it alone. But where's the international community when serious threats pose themselves? Everyone seems to agree that Iran must not be allowed to continue its pursuit of nuclear "power," while North Korea's missile tests alarmed Russia and China, as well as Japan and the West. If both North Korea and Iran continue down their present paths, it will, no doubt, fall on the US to unilaterally deal with the problem.

It's time for the like-minded states, which excludes Russia and possibly China, to develop a new international security apparatus outside of the UN framework. NATO is a collective security institution and is not meant to nor capable of dealing with these kinds of threats. Instead, the international economic structures in which nearly every state participates (maybe not North Korea, but Iran is trying hard to get into the WTO) must be tied together and made contigent on adhere to international norms of cooperation and behavior. The punishment for rogue behavior such as demonstrated by Iran and North Korea must be international isolation and economic exclusion. And such decisions cannot be left in the hands of the United Nations.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Why the Left is Responsible for NSA Surveillance, Guantanamo Bay, and Other Abuses of Executive Power

The latest edition of The New Yorker has an article entitled "The Hidden Power," about David Addington, a top adviser and chief-of-staff to Vice President Cheney, who happens to be the legal mind behind the Bush Adminstration's legal strategy for the War on Terror. [The article isn't available through any of my on-line sources...sorry.] In the article, a reference is made to "the New Paradigm," which is the argument that emerged after 9/11 that the president has "inherent authority" to take almost any steps necessary to protect and defend the nation against the threat of terrorism. This is the paradigm that gave rise to the NSA domestic surveillance program, the policies at Guantanamo Bay, and other components of the War on Terror, many of which raise the hackles of civil libertarians and Democrats.

The title of this post argues that, ultimately, it is the Left that is responsible for these policies. Yes, that Left. The Left of the ACLU and Sen. Harry Reid. The Left that foams at the mouth when forced to think about George W. Bush. The Left that sees these very policies as assaults on the liberties that make this country great and underpin our very freedoms. But, how can that be?, you ask. Bush is certainly no Lefty, nor is Cheney, nor any of the main advisers. So how can I claim that the Left is reponsible for these transgressions of American civil liberties?

Several months ago, I wrote a letter to the New York Times which was never published. The letter was in response to a NYT editorial which opposed the Bush Administration's attempt to use the Controlled Substance Act to prohibit physician-assisted suicide (this attempt was ultimately struck down by the USSC, but that's not important here). Here's the text of my letter:

To the Editor:

I find it interesting that you oppose the government’s expansion of the Controlled Substance Act to prohibit doctor-assisted suicide (editorial, Oct. 5), but that you are happy to allow the commerce clause to be broadened to include the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

When you agree to expand the powers of government to produce a desirable outcome, you should not be surprised when those new powers are used for purposes with which you do not agree. Perhaps we need to remember why the Founders believed in limiting the powers of the federal government in the first place. Power once given is exceedingly difficult to take away. Just as we allow Nazis to march and the Boy Scouts to exclude gays to protect our First Amendment rights, we sometimes have to accept unwelcome policy outcomes to preserve the constitutional guarantees of freedom from excessive governmental control.

The point I made in the unpublished letter is the same I want to make here, and the reason I believe that responsibility for the assault on freedom and liberty undertaken by the Bush Adminstration ultimately lies at the feet of the Left. Since the days of the New Deal, the Left has had one answer to all of society's problems: government intervention. Every problem we face -- poverty, unemployment, the environment, smoking -- has been handed over to the government to be solved, and government just keeps growing in size and power to deal with all of the problems we cede to it for solving.

Is it any surprise that when faced with a serious threat from international terrorists, the Right (which has more or less capitulated in its effort to shrink the size and scope of government) turned to Big Government to deal with the problem? I do not believe, and I think it is disingenous to claim, that Bush and Cheney and the current administration is trying to undermine our civil liberties for their own personal gain, or even just for fun. This is not 1984, and the Bush Administration is not Big Brother. The NSA surveillance program, the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists at Camp X-Ray,the use of military tribunals; all of these things are intended to protect the country.

This is the reason that true libertarians (and I don't mean the wackos in the Libertarian Party) fear giving power to government to solve problems; even problems for which we all agree on a solution. You may like what Big Government does today, when your preferred elected official is in office. But what about tomorrow, when the other party holds power? And how do you stop government from taking as much power as it believes it needs to protect the country? The next time you find yourself calling for government regulation, remember where it can lead. Big Government is inherently and necessarily a threat to liberty and freedom.

UPDATE: My friend Geoff Manne over at Truth On The Market makes an excellent point; one that we've discussed many times and I wanted, but forgot, to include in my post. Here's his argument:

So here’s my question (this version is really for the left, but there are analogues for the right): Why, if “Big Oil,” “Big Pharma,” Wal-Mart and Microsoft are so scary, does it make sense to turn to the biggest of the big, the most oppressive of the oppressive, to constrain those other big baddies, to keep them from getting too big, too powerful? Is there anyone who really has so much faith in our democratic process that despite, say, the legal monopoly on the use of force and the ability to print money, he is worried less about “Big Government” than about “Big Tobacco”? I don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong: I realize the biggest of the big is a really effective hammer with which to pummel all those pesky nails. But is it so hard to see the broader, bigger, long-term implications of consistently handing over that power to the government?