Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for the ‘American Interest’ Category

Must Read: Thoughts on Iraq

Posted by K.E. White on February 10, 2008

The American Interest offers some analysis about progress in Iraq, and where to go next.

Here’s a link to the ‘Iraq Symposium’ where anyone can read the articles by clicking the titles.

The contributors? Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kaplan, Richard Perle, Philip Zelikow, James Kurth and others.

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Posted in American Interest, Iraq Symposium | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Proliferation Press Rewind: Joe McGraw’s Response to “Debunking the Sovereignty Solution”

Posted by K.E. White on March 28, 2007

Below is Joe McGraw’s March 12 response to an earlier Proliferation Press post.

The post reviewed “The Sovereignty Solution,” a new US Strategy written by Anna Simons, Don Redd, Duane Lauchengo, and Joe McGraw presented in The American Interest.

The co-author’s response:

Mr. White is indeed correct in his posted response from 3 March. We do consider our concept quite distant from strategies of Pax-Americana. And this point is paramount: The Sovereignty Solution is fundamentally different from other proposed strategies. It is not isolationism, nor Empire, nor ‘new’ containment (and certainly not multilateralism). The foreign policy that we advocate is predicated on collaborative bilateral relationships, and these relationships we define and describe in the article.

The article in The American Interest provides a glimpse at this foreign policy that we term ‘SSR’, but even the careful reader might miss the other two pillars of our proposed Grand Strategy: ‘Indivisible America’ or IA (a complimentary domestic policy), and the creation of an operational capability that we term ‘Ethnographic Intelligence’ or ‘EI’. Together, SSR, IA, and EI provide a complete and yes, simple framework for national strategy that is both direct and clear. We do strongly reject the ad-hoc strategies of ambiguity that have been the hallmark of American leadership since the end of Cold War Containment.

Good blogging-edicate demands that I not redress all of Mr. White’s points in one sitting, but I do appreciate the opportunity today to take up his bifurcated critique of the Sovereignty Solution. Mr. White, with the powers of Janus, takes issue with “Sovereignty” both through analogies to the past, and predictions of the future.

THE PAST. Historical analogies are always a tad tricky to pull off; aside from casual comparisons between eras and societies, they just aren’t very useful for analysis. The comparison of our concept to the Austrian policies of 1914 is one such stretch. Our concept relies on functioning Constitutional government, liberal democracy, and unchallenged military dominance in air, sea, and space. Things not to be found in Austria at the turn of the 20th Century. One could easily make a more profound historical analogy between our concept and the strategy of the 1979 Pittsburg Steelers (who at least did have dominance in the air, and stout domestic support).

To be fair, the comparison was drawn over the mechanism of ‘demands’. Demands are a critical component of our strategy. They fit into the bilateral relationship framework. If US sovereignty is attacked (if our citizens are slaughtered), we deliver demands to the state which owns the problem. If the owning state refuses, the state is part of the problem, and the SSR response is to destroy the state’s levers of power–the government. But not to occupy, not to re-build, not to recast better governance. Simply to punish and destroy it. And those are things that American power can do rapidly. Had Austria the power of 2 aircraft carrier groups and an airborne division, AND the strategic clarity to punish and destroy, AND the balance of Constitutional power to seek and approve a representative sanction for defensive war, the analogy would fit a degree better.

The comparison to the WWI balance of power is not lost. Surely, the alliance structure of Europe is the quintessential vision of Westphalia philosophy come to terrible fruition. “Sovereignty” does rest heavily on the philosophy of Westphalia; we do believe the state structure is the best way to put the non-state ‘genies’ of disorder back into their respective state-lamps. But we adopt the philosophy of Westphalia to 21st Century realities. The Peace of Augsburg was defined through the line “cuis regio, eius religio” (whose region, his religion). We adapt it to the realities and requirements of today: cuis regio, eius reus (whose region, his responsibility). Because, dear readers, it is all about responsibility. If you want to be treated as sovereign of your state, fine. You got it. But you get it with all the trappings: the respect of your sovereignty from the United States comes with the accountability for it. And the United States will now hold you accountable. Such simplicity does not equate to unrestrained US power, the decision on if and when to use military force depends upon the bilateral relationship following an attack on US sovereignty. So, our citizens have just been attacked and killed. And the perpetrators crawled out from within your borders. What has your relationship been with the US? What do you want it to be now?

THE FUTURE: Mr. White cautions that future US strategy will grow out of the eventual end to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. How terribly sad, and possibly prophetic, that assertion is. To say that it might be so is frightful commentary on American perception of strategy, to say that it will be so is to declare that such decisions are beyond the confines of national debate and reason. We, the light bulb installers, optimistically disagree.

The policy school that declared strategic planning was a thing of the past grew out of the late 1960s and exploded in the 1990s. The reasoning was that international events unfolded too fast to ever make a single, comprehensive strategy feasible. One might say this is simply laziness on the part of policy makers to establish an overarching doctrine of US security interests tied directly to sustainable ends, ways, and means. A cynic might add that this is nothing more than a way in which to conduct policy by the seat of one’s pants without holding firm to a position that political opponents might call to account. Either way, ad-hoc strategy has proven for the past 20 years to be a dangerous and costly proposition. One that the nation could certainly do without.

As we point out in the article, the reason that so many societies around the world can point to the United States and scream “hypocrite” is that, simply, we are. It stems from ad-hoc policy that is wielded largely for the best of intentions. And it doesn’t work. Democracy for Egypt…but not for Pakistan. Autocracy for Saudi Arabia…but not for Syria. Communism for China…but not for Venezuela. Reform for Gaza…no wait. This is realpolitik, global chess one might say, in action. This is what strategic ambiguity provides.

What we propose is containment of threats through cultural relativism and the power of state sovereignty. Furthermore, we underscore the primacy of bilateral relationships, and the rights, responsibilities, and accountability state sovereigns have over their respective populations. Read the article. Even if you disagree with one, some, or all of our concepts, we firmly promise that you will watch the news tonight through a different eyes: our concept has a 72 hour ‘flash to bang’ detonation process that will make you more a believer than you ever thought (or possibly wanted).

These opinions are my own. I, a single component of the ‘et al’, and but one of four light bulb installers. Mr. White, the floor is yours!

Posted in American Interest, Anna Simons, Debunking the Sovereignty Solution, Joe McGraw, Security Studies, United States | Leave a Comment »

Bolton Speaks: Selections from Bolton’s Interview for AI

Posted by K.E. White on February 26, 2007

One can read the entire interview by purchasing the March/April 2007 edition of The American Interest or going to their web-site and subscribing there.John Bolton

Bolton on the threat from international terrorism:

  • “I think the problem is not being able to keep people focused on the real threat. The real threat is not terror coming from already known and defined places. It’s terror combined with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of states or terrorist groups anywhere that might be inclined to use them. That doesn’t mean that the threat is not acute, and it may be growing, but it should be clear to the American people what kind of threat it actually is.
  • “I think part of the problem is that too many Americans don’t live in a climate of fear. Five years after September 11, without a subsequent attack of that size on American territory, people have been led to think the threat has disappeared. Yet we can see even now in Somalia, where elemnts of al-Qaeda tired to regroup, that the threat is still there. A rogue state or a terrorist group with weapons automatically into weapons of mass terror. And that is why the notion of preemption to make sure that attacks don’t take place in the first instance is a proper response to the kind of enviroment we face.”

Bolton on the International Criminal Court and sovereignty:

  • “This goes to an issue that is not well understood–in academic circles, certainly, but even among policy professionals in the United States and overseas–and that’s the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty is not an abstraction, in America at least. Sovereignty is a reflection of the will of the people. In America, the people are sovereign–not a monarch or distant government. We are sovereign. So infringements on our sovereignty have a direct impact on our control over our own government and governments that deal with us. That’s what I was concerned about as much as anything: the transfer of potential authority over us without having the ability to bring it into account.”

On refusing the neoconservative label:

  • “I am not now, nor have I ever been (general laughter) a neoconservative. I remember the original definition of a neoconservative in the early Reagan days was that of a “liberal mugged by reality.”
  • “I was never a liberal. As I said, my first campaign involvement was for Barry Goldwater, back at a time when many future neoconservatives were debating the fine points of Marxism and socialism. I describe myself not as a neoconservative but as a national-interest conservative, if I can use that phrase.”
  • “I look to define and defend American interests, and to protect and expand them. I think the whole foreign policy discussion these days has gotten lost in a war of bumper-sticker-length phrases that obscure as much more than elucidate. Self-described neoconservatives can fend for themselves. I’ve awlays considered myself a realist, but I also consider myself very profoundly anti-communist. American interests and values in equal measure were and remain implicated in my anti-communism, and in my anti-totalitarianism more broadly construed, and I don’t see any inconsistency there.

On human rights:

  • “My general view is that genuine human rights are a pretty narrowly defined category, principally what today would be called political rights. Even the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights has too many “rights”, and I’m uncomfortable generally with delineating rights that themselves become entitlements. I personally prefer a narrow definition that, precisely because it’s narrow, means that preserving those rights becomes critically important….Today virtually everything is a right in a UN context, like the right to development, for example. God knows what that means. Thanks to that sort of expansion of the concept, advocates for human rights have gotten to a point where the phrase is losing its meaning. I think that’s tragic, because nothing is more important than protecting real human rights.”

Posted in American Interest, John Bolton, neoconservativism | Leave a Comment »

Debunking the Sovereignty Solution: Simons’ ‘Old Is New’ Grand Strategy Won’t Save Us

Posted by K.E. White on February 26, 2007

Introduction: Austria All Over Again?

 

Undoubtedly you’ve been asked the ever elusive quandary: How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Now what if we scaled that question up a few notches?

How many people does it take to create a new paradigm for American foreign policy?

Apparently four, at least according to Anna Simons, head writer for the recently published “The Sovereignty Solution”. Simons, teaming up with Don Redd, Joe McGraw and Duane Lauchengo, offer a new American Grand Strategy for the readers of The American Interest.

Their thesis:

The grand political bargain we propose is this: America will guard its sovereign prerogatives, responding to violations of sovereignty with overwhelming force, in return for which it promises other states that it will not infringe on their sovereign prerogatives, including rights to cultural integrity, national dignity and religious freedom (pp 34).

This becomes, as you read their circuitously written article, to mean this: Countries do things that violate of sovereignty (a la fund terrorist groups who actively advocated terrorist attacks on U.S. allies or America itself, provide funds or protections to terrorists who have killed U.S. troops or have carried out another 9-11), should be delivered a list of demands.

These demands would be roughly this: stop the policies that are directly threatening the United States. If the country does this, they get rewarded: aid and political support from the United States.

And if they refuse?

America will launch devastating attacks that cripple the nation, with no promise for reconstruction.

If this seems familiar, that’s because it’s been tried before: Austria once sent a list to Serbia with similar demands.

This, being cooperated by Germany, led the world into World War I.

Call it Austria 21st Century: U.S. Special Forces Edition.

 

Sovereignty 2.0: Simons et al Take Their Shot

 

Besides failure to mention this historical parallel, there are other problems with the Simons et al paradigm.

Despite the attractive elegance of their model, it doesn’t 1) solve the actual problems that will dictate our next national security strategy and 2) offers little to American security.

On the first point, let’s look at Iran. The authors propose that America send a list of demands to Tehran, demanding they stop kill American forces in Iraq.

According to the authors, America will then be in the privileged position of responding to a wrong, instead of preempting one. This, argue the authors, will put more legitimacy on American actions.

From the article:

Here’s what should happen the next time U.S. sovereignty is attacked. The attackers’ host or source—the state that “owns the problem”, in other words—would be delivered a list of U.S. demands that might include “eliminate al-Qaeda from your territory”, “disarm and disable Hizballah”, “turn over terrorist X”, OR “Stop sending fighters to country Y.” The level of compliance we receive would then determine the category into which that state would fall—partner state, struggling state, adversarial state or failed state—and that in turn would shape our course of action (35-36).

 

Unfortunately this approach offers little help on Iran. Iran considers the U.S. invasion of Iraq a violation of their sovereignty. Remember they too were a member of the “axis of evil”, so it would seem they have good reason for fighting U.S. forces covertly in Iraq: they consider the U.S. forces to already be covertly fighting them.

The authors offer us clarity: shining light on the gray of neo-conservatism. Yet they do not address America’s gray starting point.

Iran will demand concessions, and frankly so will other regional powers (China, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and India) from the Bush administration before this new paradigm can take place. For Iran this will assuredly revolve around the nuclear question.

And, unfortunately for America, if the United States unilaterally bombs all good going into Iran and their military sites, the response is predictable: Iraq and Afghanistan will be lit up by suicide bombers and guerrilla fighting that will make the American long for today’s tragic headlines.

This point does not cripple the paradigm itself, merely the immediate expectations the authors put on it. For this paradigm to rise up, the diplomatic tensions of today (chiefly the nuclear quandaries of North Korea and Iran) will have to be worked out.

Unfortunately these practical concerns dovetail with the sovereignty model’s profound structural limitations.

 

A Strategy Whose Tenets Fall Short

 

America will not be able to continuously bomb ‘bad’ countries without any responsibility to care for the injured. The lightening attacks the authors endorse (which, admittedly, would match our military’s strengths and eliminate its weaknesses) would cause wide-sweeping damage and have civilian causalities.

These features will merely strengthen the regimes of these troublesome nations.

This is especially true when you look at the other end of their bargain: rewarding ‘good’ regimes that follow our demands.

 

  1. Where’s the Trust?

 

This reciprocal system would have a hard time starting. Europe, let alone Iran, has trouble believing the United States acts in any other way than power-maximization.

Simons et al seem to intuit trust in American motivations as the first step in their legitimacy repair kit. Will Iran really wait to see if America rewards it for ‘good’ behavior?

Don’t hold your breathe.

And what about those fragile regimes America is desperate to keep afloat lest a terrorist group takes control of the state. It seems those states (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt) have a lock on American aid.

 

  1. Destroying our Imperfect Friends

 

And what happens to these fragile regimes after they are ‘decked’ by American bombers. Either the regimes turn virulently anti-U.S. or are replaced by radicals who possess bona-fide anti-American credentials.

This is not to mention other flaws in this paradigm. Will the American public really not be rattled by intra-state atrocities? Will U.S. elites really cede more influence to ‘rival’ states if they agree on terror? And will America not loose allies by cavaliering bombing countries we deem not meeting our demands?

 

C. A Quick Note on Other Flaws: What about the Benjamin’s ($$$)?

And what about non-military approaches to international stability. How can America encourage a growing and prosperous global middle class? The economic portion of this strategy is next to non-existent.

No strategic plan can be maintained unless it reflects the marco-economic challenges facing America and economically rewards America’s partners. In the Cold War it was the Marshall Plan. What should it be today? The authors don’t answer.

The authors only glance of this aspect, detailing only is how to keep America competitive, not how better to integrate the economic interests of regional powers. But there quick reccomendation that America take more of a led in global medical challenges does win them some points in improving the U.S. image around the world. (Unfortunately these tasks are already being taken up by private charities: a la the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or Bill Clinton’s charitable organization).

 

What Should Be Done?

 

But these criticisms are not meant to take away the value of this working paper. America must prioritize its strategic aims. Do we care about security or do we continue to pursue regime change at all costs?

If we care about both, where will we make our difference and how to do maximize our chances of success?

The “list” concept the authors aver is nothing new. President Bush sent a list of demands to the Taliban (one that the Taliban actually claimed to have met before our invasion). Saddam Hussein did the same thing (remember those missiles he got rid of, and then the whole failure to find weapons).

These examples show the central flaw in this approach: How does America know the sovereignty violator has met the demands, and not merely shift money-flows or push terrorists into another country?

Again, this weakness results from a structural flaw in the strategy: Understanding the state-on-state tensions that allow terrorism to foster.

Until both these challenges are addressed, America will continue to grope around in the dark strategically.

And this Austrian 21st Century: U.S. Special Forces Edition does not get us there.

The next strategy will be borne out of contingency. Iraq and Afghanistan must be solved, and the way those dilemmas are approached will set the parameters of any U.S. grand strategy.

But this criticism applies to all attempts to forge grand strategy today.

We have yet to truly know the dynamics of this evolving world system. And, most importantly, America’s strategic posture in the world remains nebulous to both our allies and foes.

The regional powers of the world are still on the side-lines, waiting for the Iraq outcome (and to a lesser extent the nuclear crisis points in Iran and North Korea).

How will the United States come out over the next five years? America has only begun asking that question, let alone adopting policies that in time will answer it.

Until then no one can purport to offer the new IR roadmap—only shed light on various approaches that may reveal the contours of this still murky world system we inhabit.

Posted in American Interest, Anna Simons, Bush administration, Diplomacy, Don Redd, Duane Lauchengo, Iran, Iraq, Joe McGraw, neoconservatism, North Korea, Pakistan, Victor Davis Hanson, WMD | 5 Comments »