Sunday, October 22, 2006

Returned to Sender...

After posting for a good bit of time over at Typepad, I packed it in there and took a couple of months off from blogging. Even though I am pretty busy teaching and finishing my dissertation, I am going to start blogging again at this site.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Grand Strategy in the Second Term

I have long been a reader and admirer of John Lewis Gaddis. As an aspiring academic, I have admired his command of history and language, clear thinking, and ability to make reading in academics interesting and enjoyable. In this month's Foreign Affairs (see link above), Gaddis authors a piece entitled "Grand Strategy in the Second Term." As usual, he nails it.

George W. Bush has much to evaluate: he has presided over the most sweeping redesign of U.S. grand strategy since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The basis for Bush's grand strategy, like Roosevelt's, comes from the shock of surprise attack and will not change. None of F.D.R.'s successors, Democrat or Republican, could escape the lesson he drew from the events of December 7, 1941: that distance alone no longer protected Americans from assaults at the hands of hostile states. Neither Bush nor his successors, whatever their party, can ignore what the events of September 11, 2001, made clear: that deterrence against states affords insufficient protection from attacks by gangs, which can now inflict the kind of damage only states fighting wars used to be able to achieve. In that sense, the course for Bush's second term remains that of his first one: the restoration of security in a suddenly more dangerous world.
It has long puzzled me as to why there has been less of a consensus to emerge regarding grand strategy post 9/11. I realize that there is a lot of personal and partisan baggage that has infused this debate within the US. I also realize that the Bush administration has been somewhat tone deaf, slow to reach out, and obsessed with secrecy in terms of policy formulation and implementation. There is enough blame to go around ten times over for all parties concerned. Regardless, given the nature and scope of the threat, it seems we have failed to have a reasoned and rational debate that is truly in the best interest of the country as a whole.
THE NARROWEST GAP between Bush's intentions and his accomplishments has to do with preventing another major attack on the United States. Of course, one could occur at any moment, even between the completion of this article and its publication. But the fact that more than three years have passed without such an attack is significant. Few Americans would have thought it likely in the immediate aftermath of September 11. The prevailing view then was that a terrorist offensive was underway, and that the nation would be fortunate to get through the next three months without a similar or more serious blow being struck.

Connecting causes with consequences is always difficult--all the more so when we know so little of Osama bin Laden's intentions or those of his followers. Perhaps al Qaeda planned no further attacks. Perhaps it anticipated that the United States would retaliate by invading Afghanistan and deposing the Taliban. Perhaps it foresaw U.S. military redeployments from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Iraq. Perhaps it expected a worldwide counterterrorist campaign to roll up substantial portions of its network. Perhaps it predicted that the Bush administration would abandon its aversion to nation building and set out to democratize the Middle East. Perhaps bin Laden's strategy allowed for all of this, but that seems unlikely. If it did not, then the first and most fundamental feature of the Bush strategy--taking the offensive against the terrorists and thereby surprising them--has so far accomplished its purposes.

A less obvious point follows concerning pre-emption and prevention, a distinction that arose from hypothetical hot-war planning during the Cold War. "Pre-emption" meant taking military action against a state that was about to launch an attack; international law and practice had long allowed such actions to forestall clear and immediately present dangers. "Prevention" meant starting a war against a state that might, at some future point, pose such risks. In mounting its post-September 11 offensive, the Bush administration conflated these terms, using the word "pre-emption" to justify what turned out to be a preventive” war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

It did so on the grounds that, in a post-September 11 world, both terrorists and tyrants threatened the security of the United States. Al Qaeda could not have acted without the support and sanctuary the Taliban provided. But the traditional warnings governments had used to justify pre-emption--the massing of armed forces in such a way as to confirm aggressive intent--would not have detected the September 11 attacks before they took place. Decisions made, or at least circumstances tolerated, by a shadowy regime in a remote country halfway around the world produced an act of war that killed more Americans than the one committed six decades earlier by Japan, a state known at the time to pose the clearest and most present of dangers.

Pre-emption in its older and narrower sense might have worked against the Japanese fleet as it approached Pearl Harbor--had it been detected in time. Pre-emptive arrests would have stopped Mohammed Atta and his 18 co-conspirators as they approached their respective airports if it had been possible to read their minds. No nation's safety, however, can depend on such improbable intelligence breakthroughs: as the Pearl Harbor historian Roberta Wohlstetter pointed out years ago and as the 9/11 Commission Report has now confirmed, detecting telltale signals in a world full of noise requires not just skill, but also extraordinary luck.

That is why the Bush administration's strategists broadened "preemption" to include the Cold War meaning of "prevention." To wait for terrorist threats to become clear and present was to leave the nation vulnerable to surprise attacks. Instead, the United States would go after states that had harbored, or that might be harboring, terrorist gangs. It would at first seek to contain or deter such regimes the familiar means by which the Cold War had been fought--but if those methods failed, it reserved the right to pre-empt perceived dangers by starting a preventive war.

The old distinction between pre-emption and prevention, therefore, was one of the many casualties of September 11. That event revealed a category of threats so difficult to detect and yet so devastating if carried out that the United States had little choice but to use preemptive means to prevent their emergence. John Kerry made it clear during the 2004 campaign that he would not have relinquished that option had he won the presidency. His successful opponent certainly will not do so, nor are his successors likely to. This feature of the Bush grand strategy is here to stay.

He is absolutely correct in discussing the (relative) demise of deterrence, the conflation of preemptive and preventive war, and that such a conflation is necessary in today's increasing globalized world.

The entire article is definitely worth a read. Regardless of where you fall on GW, the war in Iraq, the left-right spectrum, Gaddis gives a fair and honest opinion as to where we stand and where we need to go in the coming years.

Chinese Concerned About Nuclear Proliferation

The BBC and others are reporting that the US is punishing Chinese firms for selling nuclear technology to Iran.

The penalties, which will remain in place for two years, include a ban on trading with, and receiving assistance from, the US government.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman dismissed the move, saying the "wanton launch of sanctions...without real evidence is not a wise choice".

A company from Taiwan and one from North Korea are also affected.

Iran has denied US accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, insisting that its nuclear plans are for peaceful energy purposes.

Two of the largest Chinese companies named by the US, China North Industry Corporation (Norinco) and China Great Wall Industry, have been repeatedly penalised for violating various export controls. Both have close ties to the Chinese army.

The firms are being punished under the 2000 Iran Non-Proliferation Act, signed into law by then President Bill Clinton.

The article hits on two points that immediately came to mind when I saw the headline. First, it is very difficult to seperate firms that sell military technology and the military who owns/controls them. Second, this is a problem that has predated Bush. Clinton, the president who was loved internationally, wrangled with many of these same issues during his time in office.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Musings on International Law

In working on my dissertation, I have been reading a number of sources regarding treaties and international law. Treaties are international law for anyone who was not aware of this and, as such, are legally binding.

Impressed? Well, in theory, everyone should be. Entering into a treaty involves the creation of international law. Each treaty concluded and the more parties involved in each treaty (universality!) brings us closer to escaping the anarchic nature of international politics! We can only wish it were so.

Treaties and international law are often flouted by the strong and the weak. Would you classify Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Egypt, Taiwan, South Korea, and Syria as strong states? All of these states have violated international agreements and, thus, international law when it comes to their obligations under the NPT. You break the law and you get punished, right? Right....

If international politics is typified by the environment in which the strong do as they will and the weak abide what they must, what does it say when weak states (relatively) flaunt it with impunity and the world does nothing?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

More on the IAEA

Given that the IAEA appears to believe that Iran does not have a nuclear program and has resisted sending the Iranian case to the UNSC, this article raises some real questions about their thought process.


Defense News reports that:


Also up for review was South Korea's acknowledgement, prompted by aggressive IAEA inspections earlier in 2004 under an Additional Protocol agreement, that its military scientists had secretly conducted plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment experiments at various points during the past 22 years.

Yet South Korea, supported by the U.S. government, succeeded in convincing the IAEA Board of Governors that a referral to the U.N. Security Council was unnecessary, contending that its previous violations did not rise to the level of significance requisite for Security Council consideration.
First of all, it if takes up to 22 years to find out a country had a nuclear program, what good is the IAEA? Second, scope and scale should matter and when compared to the Iranians, this is small potatoes. Lastly, why should South Korea not be subject to patient negotiation and process rather than passed on to be dealt with by the UNSC?

Iran Gives in on Parchin

In what will surely be touted as a positive development, Iran has agreed to open up the military base at Parchin to IAEA inspection. While not required to allow access to military bases under the NPT, the Iranians have apparently decided that it is in their best interest to do so.
The decision to open the military plant suggests that Iran has chosen to follow a very different strategy than the one pursued by North Korea, which threw out international inspectors two years ago and has not allowed them to return.

Iran, in contrast, has slowly opened a number of facilities, but only when forced to do so because of disclosures by exile groups. The opening of those sites has required Tehran to acknowledge that it hid much of its program for 18 years.

Iranian officials apparently decided that the risk of further disclosures, if there are any, was less than that of seeming to defy the international inspectors.

"The Iranians are playing a shrewd game of giving international opinion just enough to keep the wolves at bay," said Ashton B. Carter, co-director of the Preventive Defense Project, a study group at Harvard and Stanford Universities, and a former assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration. "At least they are showing a sensitivity to the perception they create, even though I don't believe that instinct will be enough to turn around Iran's nuclear ambitions."

Iran's agreement to allow inspection, the energy agency notes, does not guarantee that inspectors will be permitted into all the corners of the military base where they want to go.

American officials said they believed the inspectors would be permitted to see any location where there was no evidence of current nuclear work, or where such evidence had been removed.

"They are great at removing soil," said one American nuclear expert with long experience dealing with the Iranian program. "They have mastered the art of cat-and-mouse when it comes to inspections."

Still, Iran's agreement to allow access to the military base is something of a victory - perhaps temporary, perhaps not - for the agency. Its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, argued in an interview last month that applying slow, constant pressure on Iran would yield more results than immediately taking the country to the United Nations Security Council for sanctions, the path the Bush administration has advocated.

This about sums the whole situation up. Iran's decision is part of a strategic process of refuse then reveal. Given that it is widely thought that they are approaching breakout status, the longer the delay the closer they are to project completion. Once armed, there is far less the world can do.

Accordingly, the IAEA sees this is a victory of process and negotiation rather than a strategy by the Iranians.


Friday, January 07, 2005

More Bad News for the Guard

As someone who has friends in the Guard and Reserves, it is clear to me that something needs to be done about this. Its one thing to do your two years of active duty to fulfill your obligations if your country needs you. Its another to spend multiple tours in harm's way and serve beyond those two years without any choice in the matter.

The clearest solution is to increase the size of the Army. I always wondered why Bush never issued a call for volunteers post 9/11.

Its apparent that Rumsfeld and many in the DoD do not want to increase the size of the active duty force. However, Rumsfeld has acknowledged the strain this has put on the Guard and Reserves and promised steps to deal with this issue.

Its time to honor that promise, Mr. Secretary.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Another Blow to the Nonproliferation Regime

The IAEA has reported the Egypt has been conducting research and experimentation aimed towards producing nuclear weapons dating back as far as twenty years and continuing up until a couple years ago.

The article in the Globe and Mail reports:

Vienna — The UN atomic watchdog has found evidence of secret nuclear experiments in Egypt that could be used in weapons programs, diplomats said Tuesday.

The diplomats told the Associated Press that most of the work was carried out in the 1980s and 1990s but said the watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency – is also looking at evidence that suggests some were as recent as a year ago.

Specifically said one of the diplomats, the Egyptians “tried to produce various components of uranium” without declaring it to the IAEA, as they were bound to under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Among the products were several kilograms of uranium metal and of uranium tetrafluoride – a precursor to uranium hexafluoride gas, said the diplomat, who demanded anonymity.

Uranium metal can be processed into plutonium, while uranium hexafluoride can be enriched into weapons grade uranium – both for use in the core of nuclear warheads.

The diplomat said the Vienna-based agency has not drawn a conclusion on the scope and purpose of the experiments.

Well, its pretty clear when a country is conducting peaceful nuclear research and pursuing measures to enrich uranium to weapons grade. Egypt has just been caught, even if the IAEA is (cough cough) to polite to say so.

Anyway, when a country can cheat under the NPT for many years like this, it does not send a reassuring message to anyone who thinks the NPT is the frontline in preventing nuclear proliferation.

If we cannot verify compliance with any degree of certainty on the NPT, what chance does the CWC or a beefed up BWC (down the road) have in making a measurable contribution to nonproliferation?

Monday, December 27, 2004

Seasonal Greetings

Merry Christmas (for those who celebrate it), Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year to everyone.

I will be back January 2nd.

Cheers.