Bolton Watch

Steve Clemons has launched Bolton Watch over at TPM Cafe. It should be good. Steve talks about a story that gives you some indication of the style of Bolton over on his own blog:

When he arrived at the UN, one of the first meetings he had with other Security Council principals had him stepping in and saying:

I’m John Bolton, and I’m here to pursue the interests of the United States.

Those who are here to pursue the interests of the world, please yourself.

Leo Strauss and the origins of Neo-Conservatism

I have been looking into the philosophy of Leo Strauss in more depth recently, and found the first episode of the BBC series, ‘The Power of Nightmares’ (60mins) quite helpful. It is worth a look. Some interesting stuff in there about the early days of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

This is related to a recent article by Robert Kagan in the Weekly Standard, denying that he is a Straussian.

The Perils of Primacy

Benjamin Shwarz has a thoughtful piece on how America must deal with it’s primacy. He argues that since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not fully dealt with its new position, and must seriously consider it’s position, and soon. He notes:

Defense analysts have grown increasingly nervous about the convergence of several strategic developments. In “The End of Mutual Assured Destruction?,” a brilliant and sobering study of military analysis that is being prepared for publication in an academic journal, Keir A. Lieber, a scholar at Notre Dame, and Daryl G. Press, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a consultant to the Defense Department and to RAND, have trenchantly surveyed the trends that are troubling the experts. The first is the precipitous erosion of Russian nuclear capabilities. Compared with its forces in 1990, Moscow has 55 percent fewer intercontinental ballistic missiles, 39 percent fewer strategic bombers, and 80 percent fewer ballistic-missile submarines, or SSBNs (the component of a nuclear arsenal most likely to survive a first strike). Moscow itself has stated that its nuclear forces will decline by an additional 35 percent in the coming years, but many experts believe the total Russian arsenal could shrink even more, from about 3,800 strategic warheads today to as few as 500 (the United States currently has more than 5,200). More important than this quantitative reduction, though, has been the even steeper qualitative decline. Owing to financial constraints, Russia can’t ensure unbroken monitoring of American ICBM fields, and can’t plug the holes in its missile-warning networks that render it blind to attacks from U.S. submarines in launch areas in the Pacific. Maintenance, supply, and training deficiencies afflict Russia’s nuclear forces generally and its submarines most crucially. A viable Russian deterrent demands that a number of SSBNs be at sea at any given time and that they successfully evade the U.S. attack submarines that stalk them. But in fact most Russian SSBNs must now remain pierside—the Russians weren’t able to conduct any patrols in 2002 and could carry out only two in 2004. This makes the SSBNs highly vulnerable to a U.S. first strike, and it means that the skills Russian SSBN crews need in order to elude U.S. subs have been greatly vitiated (most Russian crews haven’t been on patrol in years). Largely for these reasons former commanders of Russia’s ballistic-missile fleet warned as long ago as 1998 that their supposedly invulnerable submarines would be detected and destroyed in a conflict with the United States.

And he concludes, crucially:

Confronted with the growing nuclear imbalance, Russia and China will be forced to try to redress it; but given America’s advantages, that effort, as Lieber and Press note, could take well over a decade. Until a nuclear stalemate is restored—if it ever is—Moscow and Beijing will surely buy deterrence by spreading out their nuclear forces, decentralizing their command-and-control systems, and implementing “launch on warning” policies. If more than half a century of analyzing nuclear dangers and “crisis stability” has taught us anything, it is that all these steps can cause crises to escalate uncontrollably. They could trigger the unauthorized or accidental use of nuclear weapons; this could lead to inadvertent nuclear war.

American military preponderance now embraces the entire “spectrum of conflict,” as Pentagon planners put it. That is to say, we’re miles ahead of everyone in every type of warfare. But if that preponderance is leading to a world in which Russian and Chinese launch commanders are fingering nuclear hair triggers, the game may not be worth the candle. Without any public scrutiny or debate the United States has emerged as the nuclear hegemon, in possession of a destabilizing first-strike capability. It does not matter whether this has come about by accident or design, or whether America’s motives are worthy or malign; the condition itself is the problem. The ramifications of this state of affairs are of the gravest significance to America’s security—and the world’s. It’s time for scrutiny and debate to begin.

Peace spreads?

Following on from my post last month about the apparent spread of peace, the Atlantic have a helpful graph that summarises the Human Security Report.

violence

The number of ongoing armed conflicts is 40 percent lower now than in 1992, and the number of deadly conflicts—defined as wars leading to 1,000 or more combat deaths—is 80 percent lower. The number of military coups and attempted coups was 60 percent lower in 2004 than in 1963. And the annual number of victims of genocides and mass killings fell by 80 percent from 1989 to 2001, even taking such places as Bosnia and Rwanda into account. 
The exception to this generally positive trend, of course, is terrorism.

Peace epidemic?

Dan Drezner links to an article by Fred Kaplan in Slate. Kaplan questions the veracity of claims in the Human Security Report that the world has become a more peaceful place since the end of the Cold War.

Kaplan is unconvinced:

All the report’s graphs end in 2002, the final year for which the authors could gather data. The events of 2003-06—the war in Iraq and a possible civil war in the works, the slackening of dictatorship (but possibly the resurgence of ethnic conflict) in Lebanon and Ukraine, tensions rising with Iran, continued fighting in various hotspots of Africa—seem more discouraging than hopeful. The best thing that can be said about these conflicts, whether raging or brewing, is they could go either way.

Drezner disagrees though:

1) If you look at the figure, it seems like the world was more peaceful 60 years ago — but that’s only because the total number of states in the system was much smaller than today. It’s not surprising that the number of intrastate conflicts increased from 1946 to 1991 — that’s because the number of states in the system increased as well. What’s interesting about the post-1991 system is that it’s gotten more peaceful even as the number of states has increased. True, a lot of these new countries are microstates like Tonga — but they also includes the former Soviet and Yugoslav republics.

Kaplan’s focus is on the numerator — but you have to look at the denominator as well. That’s what makes the decline in wars so surprising.

2) Unstated in the Human Security Report, but vital to the perception of a “peace epidemic,” is the absence since 1945 of the most deadly form of international conflict — a genuine great power war. For the near future, the U.S. won’t be fighting China, India, Russia, or even the European Union. Great power wars are indeed rare, but the current peace of 60 years is the longest stretch of time without one breaking out since the birth of the modern state system.

Kaplan is correct to point out that the current downturn in armed conflict might not be permanent — but it’s still a downturn.

Staff rebellion at the World Bank?

A good friend of the staff here at Gavin’s Blog, Steve Clemons, has a story on an array of departures at the World Bank, since neo-conservative/neo-idealist Paul Wolfowitz became head of the organisation. The money quote:

In recent months, picking up steam in recent weeks, there has been a massive exodus of top talent from the World Bank. According to reports, the senior Ethics Officer at the Bank has departed. Also on the exit roster are the Vice President for East Asia & Pacific, the Chief Legal Counsel, the Bank’s top Managing Director, the Director of Institutional Integrity (which monitors internal and external corruption), the Vice President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, and the head of ISG (Information Solutions Group).

According to one senior insider who feels as if Wolfowitz is gut-punching the most talented teams at the bank and indicated that morale is plummeting, “Wolfowitz just does not talk to his Vice Presidents. He speaks to a few close advisors — Kevin Kellems, Robin Cleveland, Karl Jackson, some others — but a lot of very good people are leaving.”

What Wolfowitz has done that has started a serious wave of negative sentiment against him among his ranks is that he has appointed Kevin Kellems — Vice President Cheney’s former Communications Director and Spokesman — as a “director” of the bank, which formally reports to a Vice President of the Bank — while at the same time making him Senior Advisor to Wolfowitz.

In other words, Wolfowitz is forcing a political appointment at the “director level” of the bank — which is never done. “Director” positions are fairly low in the World Bank bureaucracy and are filled by a competitive process and the merits of one’s work — not political imposition.

But read the whole post. Is Wolfowitz taking lessons from Bolton?

Drezner's letter to Karen Hughes

Dan Drezner wrote a really entertaining open letter to Karen Hughes about how the US could help out Pakistan with regard to the recent earthquake, and in doing so improve US-Islam relations immensely. Indeed after US involvement in Indonesia subsequent to the tsunami, polls showed that hostility to the US decreased dramatically.

The money quote:

The reason I bring this up is that the tsunami aid brought about a tremendous amount of goodwill in places like India and Indonesia. There’s already some evidence that the aid sent to Pakistan is helping to burnish America’s image in a distinctly anti-American portion of the globe. Anne-Marie Slaughter reprinted one letter on America Abroad that makes the point in a plain manner:

[H]aving just visited the region and spoken to many community leaders across the NWFP and Pakistani-held Kashmir, it is apparent that there is a tremendous strategic opportunity for the United States and its allies. For a fraction of the cost of what is spent in other arenas of the War on Terror, an extremely volatile region and country’s hearts and minds can be won over. All that is required is a very substantial, very visible US relief effort.

To date, the US has provided helicopters and commitments of up to $50 million. What is needed– for adequate relief and for this opportunity-born-of-tragedy to be capitalized upon– is not a contribution, but a massive US presence and effort. The entire country is desperate, the entire Muslim world is watching; I cannot overstate how glaring and massive the opportunity is.

My sympathies for Pakistan aside, the US can buy a great deal of affection and moral currency by responding to this emergency– it must not let this be just another cause for further alienation.

This is one of those instances where the U.S. can do good and do well by following through with significant relief and humanitarian efforts. It’s the best kind of public diplomacy you could ever buy. And bear in mind that the costs of inaction here would be considerable.

Giving justice its due: George Perkovich

The latest edition of Foreign Affairs is full to brim with excellent essays. One of my favourites is Perkovich’s essay on justice. It is wide ranging and well written, taking in various disciplines from economics to evolutionary psychology. I will post more about it once I get near a computer. Perkovich is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.