Thursday, March 31, 2011

Holy Weapons of Mass Distraction!

I missed this at the ISA, but now it will be on the web forever:

See Charlie Carpenter's post for the home to this video.

Shockingly Naive? No, Just Deliberately Ignorant

Same title, different topic: hey, if we get rid of tenure, our costs will go down, right?  The state of Florida is moving towards eliminating tenure.  The good news is that this is just a decision by one small committee, and we all know how one small committee can be completely divorced from reality and merit, right?

The assertion by the folks behind this is that if everyone is on year to year contracts, then colleges and universities would be more flexible and can allocate resources where they are needed.  Sure, because we want our institutions of higher education to act like pandering politicians to the latest craze rather than having some sense of stability so that the students can actually get in year four what they plan in year one.  The other assumption is that having annual contracts will reduce costs by allowing universities to dump dead weight.  Sure, that might happen. Or universities would have to invest in scouting, evaluations, contracting, and the like so that they can remain fully staffed from year to year.  Plus for every dinosaur that is let go (and then sues for age discrimination) there is a young hotshot that either has to be placated with a bigger contract or lost to a school that would offer higher wages and/or job security.

Aye, there's the rub.  As it turns out, studies of tenure show that it depresses wages.  Yep, lifetime job security essentially has a monetary value--people are willing to work for less in order not to have to worry about next year.  So, if you want to get rid of tenure, you might just find it will cost more, rather than less.  But that would require someone to do the work, the science, and the reading.

I am not blind to the problems of tenure, but the idea that we should get rid of it and all multi-year contracts in education is just incredibly short-sighted based on the budget-cutting fever of the day and not on what might actually function in the real world in the medium term.  One of the reasons why I believe tenure will endure is that the states/institutions that get rid of it first will lose and those who keep it will gain, as profs move to where they are secure.  And, yes, security does matter these days with profs in at least two states now facing intrusions into their email by grand-standing, labor-crushing politicians (that would be Wisconsin and Michigan at the least).

I find it almost funny that we have an attack upon tenure exactly when profs are being investigated for presenting views on hot issues of the day.  Isn't that what tenure was for?  To protect the free inquiry of ideas?  Folks always scoff, saying that those protections are unnecessary.  Hard to scoff now, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shockingly Naive

I am surprised just a little bit about how shockingly naive people seem to be.  So, the news is out--the US has sent spies to Libya.  Oh my goodness!  What is Obama thinking?  Is this the prelude to an alien invasion?

No, it probably is just sensible policy.  Everybody complains that we don't know who the rebels are.  Isn't putting some folks on the ground part of figuring that out?  Yes, the US can get info via unmanned aerial vehicles (even drunk ones), surveillance planes (catching signals as well as taking pictures), satellites, CNN, Al Jazeera, print journalists, bloggers, facebook and twitter.  But when did spying become out of fashion?  This is where I want our spies to be--figuring out this difficult, dynamic set of events and processes.

So, yes, there are thin lines between CIA spies, its paramilitary guys, and the various versions of Special Forces.  And yes, these kind of folks allow leaders to make decisions and take risks with some ability to escape accountability--this is from where the phrase plausible deniability comes.  Yet, if we are going to contemplate and even use military force, I would prefer for the countries to do with it with their eyes wide open.

Nothing Is Simple

The dynamic conflict in Libya is reminding me of the desert campaigns between the Axis and Allies during World War II--back and forth and back.  The consensus seems to be that Qadaffi may not be all that sane, but he does know how to fight a rebellion.  This, of course, has made it clearer that aid, embargo, no fly zone and air support may not be sufficient to oust him.  I was hoping that the increased danger his officers were facing from above might cause them to turn or run, but that does not seem to be happening.  While Q's coup-proofing strategies may have made it harder to repress the rebellion at first, they do still seem to be working well enough to keep enough of his military on his side.  The opposition, whoever they are, are not that competent as far as rebels go.* 
*  Of course, Yavin IV was almost a complete disaster with nearly all of the fighters shot down and only a lucky shot into an exhaust port at the last second making a difference.  Plus there was the trap they fell into when facing the Second Death Star.  While we tend to criticize militaries for developing standard operating procedures and such, they tend to be better than disorganized rabble even in the movies.
Which leads to the debate du jour: do we arm the Libyan rebels?  With what?  Memories of Afghanistan are coloring our view of this.  Would we be building the seeds of a future anti-American/anti-Western supporter of terrorism?  I think the analogy is interesting, but tends to go from step a to step c like the Underwear Gnomes, skipping step B (that we abandoned Afghanistan to an awful civil war).  The US and its friends have armed plenty of rebels around the world, and not all have become the home of anti-American terrorism.  Not that we should take this possibility lightly, but we have some confirmation bias going on if we think this is the biggest challenge.

Nope, the biggest obstacle to arming the rebels would be ... our own policies.  An arms embargo, which is the standard procedure for interventions in civil wars, always hurts the rebels who tend not to inherit the arms of the military (unless we conveniently disband the military as we did in Iraq).**
** Yes, I am still bitter about it.  How about you?

Returning to Old Question: Dumbest Decision in US Foreign Policy

While blogging today and thinking about the twitterfight club, I was thinking about running a tourney here at the Spew: Dumbest Decision in US Foreign Policy.  I have posted before about this topic while spewing about the decision to disband the Iraq military and got a few good suggestions:
  • The invasion of Iraq itself
  • The conduct of the Korean war--approaching the Chinese border
  • Not joining the League of Nations
  • Arms control in the 1970's
  • Sending too few troops to Iraq
Right now, I would like to take additional nominees.  The key here is dumbest (unless enough respondents really want to do the worst decision), which means the decision that the knowledge of the time would have suggested was a bad idea.   A gamble is not necessarily dumb in the sense that playing the odds can be a decent idea if one knows and appreciates that there is an upside and a downside and the relatively probabilities of each.  A dumb policy is one that goes against existing understandings of efficacy/efficiency/etc.

If I can get enough ideas, I will put together a bracket and then run a tourney.  If not, well, I will declare the disbanding of the Iraqi military as the winner.  Up to you, the readers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Explaining Two Hats and an Open Mind

Lots of alarm today after Admiral Stavridis, the NATO military chief [SACEUR]  (and the head of US forces in Europe) stated in his annual appearances before Congress (in response to much prodding) that there might be boots on the ground.  What did SACEUR say? "the possibility of a stabilization regime exists.”  What a ringing endorsment!  Um, not so much.  It would have been irresponsible to say anything else.  Of course, the politicians can change their minds and ask for some NATO capability on the ground.  Note, NATO. 

Part of the confusion is that Stavridis wears two hats--the senior military leader of NATO and the combatant commander of US forces in Europe.  He explained this quite well in his blog.  He was not telling Congress that the US would be putting troops into Libya, contradicting the US commander-in-chief (Obama).  He was telling Congress as the head of NATO's military that it is possible.  Not likely, not probably, but possible.  As someone who regularly loses poker hands that have a 87% chance or better to win, I appreciate the Admiral's grasp of the possible.  To say otherwise would be a lie or hopelessly naive.  I prefer my four star officers to be honest and not so naive.  Don't you?

Let me know if I need to extend this rant.

Speechifying A Moderate Mission

President Obama had a tough task--belatedly explaining and justifying not just the current mission in Libya but also why it will not go further and why the US will not be dropping bombs on all repressive autocrats.  Given American war-weariness, and the multiple boxes he had to check, it was not a bad speech, but it was also not his greatest one.  He saves the best speeches for the truly controversial yet personal moments, like on race and religion. 

I live-tweeted the speech, so I have, as a result, fragmented thoughts on it.  The best summary I had was: ""with great but finite power comes selective responsibility with friends."  The US cannot intervene everywhere nor should it, but when we have enough agreement to do so (with burden-sharing) and can make a difference, we ought to do so.  A couple of key ingredients in this were/are: allies and unique capabilities.

First, It is pretty clear that the French and British were much more interested in this, and they convinced the US to go along.  Kind of the opposite of Iraq in 2003.  The emphasis on burden-sharing was definitely a way to distinguish this effort from Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan.  Of course, we still have heaps of caveats and other restrictions constraining the commanders of the Libyan mission.  Moreover, the most deceptive part of the speech was the idea that shifting from US-led to NATO-led would mean the US is significantly less involved.  Um, we are a member of NATO, and we tend to do lots of the heavy lifting (see below), so saying it is moving from US to NATO is significant but not as much as it played here.

Second, the US does have unique capabilities.  In my year in the Pentagon, the phrase was "low density/high demand" referring to those capabilities that were seen as both very necessary and very scarce.  In this case, that would be many of the surveillance capabilities that have facilitated accurate targeting, probably the refueling aircraft, and certainly the Tomahawks.  On day one, over 120 accurate cruise missiles were launched at Libyan command and control centers, air defenses and so on.  Two of those were British missiles, and the rest were American.  Could the French and British do this without the US?  Yes, but it would have taken longer to gain complete control over the air, the targeting probably would have been less accurate (with more collateral damage), and the rebels would have had a harder time reversing the momentum.

There are complex issues about whether to apply responsibility to protect consistently and how this speech fits into a larger Obama doctrine.  Luckily, the Duck of Minerva has folks who address these issues quite clearly, with Stephanie Calvin addressing the former and Dan Nexon the latter.  My own take regarding consistency is that Churchill was right about foolish consistency.  The only way to be consistent on R2P is to do nothing anywhere.  There is no way the US or the world can intervene everywhere.  So, the real question is: what is the criteria by which countries discriminate?  For ethnic groups, I would argue have repeated argued that the domestic politics of countries is paramount so that they take the sides with which the most important constituents have ethnic ties.  In this case, the key factor for the US does not seem to be ethnic ties, but efficacy--that we can make a difference here and now at relatively little cost.  For the French, it might be about immigration prevention or taking nationalist stands at a time of political weakness.  The reality will always be that countries pick and choose which battles to fight, and domestic politics will play a significant role in those decisions.  That might make it hard to assess the morality of the choices, but, then again, I make no claims at normative expertise.  I call them on how I see their causes and their effectiveness rather than on the "should" question.

In terms of doctrine, I still think pragmatists by definition cannot really be doctrinaire.  Hence my snarky take of selective responsibility with friends.

There will be plenty of stuff on the net this morning about the speech.  Hopefully, we can all wade through it and still make progress on our day jobs.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Precedents? Schmecedents!

Lots of rumbling on the web today that US and Intl Community policy is inconsistent and that the Libya mission sets precedents for future events.  Bah!  Humbug!  I tweeted today a reference to one of my favorite titles of one of my articles: Discrimination in International Relations.  My piece sought to explain why countries vary in terms of which ethnic groups they support against their host states, but the larger point is pertinent here--countries discriminate!  Yes, they support some actors and oppose others and stand on the sidelines at other times and places.  They do not follow principled foreign policies that require them to follow a particular course of action when a particular circumstance arises.  Instead, they weigh their interests, confront varying domestic pressures and stumble along.

Indeed, it may be the case that the US does not have big interests at stake in Libya, but is willing to, dare I say it, be a good ally!  Which makes this Slate piece almost simultaneously brilliant and stupid.  It argues that the US is supporting the coalition of the willing in Libya because of their interests, not America's, which is not a bad way to think of the stakes for the US.  And then compares it to out-sourcing--which is where the piece becomes fairly idiotic.  Yes, the US might actually be doing something to pay back its allies for their support in Afghanistan.  Or it might be doing something to address the concerns of the allies, even if it does not really have a dog in the fight, otherwise.  Why is this wrong?  Isn't international relations about bargaining, about swapping concerns?  We cannot merely impose our will anywhere we want.  Sometimes, it makes sense to support an ally.  Or two. Or many.  I am tempted to wonder if this is the first time an alliance caused a country to get involved in a crisis because of the ally's concerns.  Or perhaps not as this is basic, everyday International Relations.  Perhaps these folks need to read a good intro to IR text.  Maybe one with Zombies.

So, this event will not really set precedents.  As the US is not going to drop bombs on all dictators (we are not dropping bombs on Syria today nor will we dropping bombs on North Korea tomorrow).  Countries, ethnic groups and potential rebels will read into these events what they want.  If they imagine themselves to be the Egyptian protesters, they will protest.  If they think of themselves as the Syrian protesters, they may think twice.  IR presents to anyone so many conflicting lessons (have we figured out the one right lesson from the Vietnam war yet?  No?  Never mind), that people will learn what they are disposed to see. 

For a similar but perhaps more articulate rant on the subject, see Drezner posing as an Obama speech-writer.  We don't call this blog "the spew" for nothing.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

President Obama will be speaking tonight to explain the Libya mission.  Many have been critical of the administration's messaging.  No surprise really, given that it took much wrangling to gain consensus within the government, just as it did at NATO.  Moreover, as Roland Paris has pointed out, it is far harder to prove the success of preventative actions.

It is especially difficult when it is clear that conflict is not squarely in the zone of the "national interest."  Neither was Rwanda.  What is different now? 
  • Rwanda came first, helping to re-shape attitudes about what can/should be done when one can do stuff.  Sure, the Congo is still bathed in blood and Darfur has been left twisting in the wind, but one of the differences between Libya and the others is that, like Iraq compared to Iran and North Korea, it is low-hanging fruit.  While success is hardly assured, it is simply easier to target tanks and other assets of Libya, then to stop a campaign of machete violence.  
  • Unlike Bahrain, Syria or other repressive places, we do have an international consensus on Libya. Qadaffi is now paying for alienating damn near most of the planet, especially the French. 
  • And, as I suggested during the conference on Nationalisms and War, Libya's proximity to Europe matters not just in terms of the relative ease of NATO intervention, but also that more violence would produce refugees that would wash up on French and Italian shores.
While the Administration could be doing better, I really admire Admiral Stavridis's efforts.  He not only tweets but blogs!  He clearly explains his dual role as SACEUR (the head of NATO's military) and commander of USEUCOM (US forces in Europe).  With the latter hat, he is clear that the relatively new combatant command (USAFRICOM) has the lead and that USEUCOM is providing forces, bases, and other assistance to General Carter Ham (not halal?) who runs AfriCOM.  With the former hat, Stavridis is making it clear that he is commanding the NATO effort, which has meant assigning a Canadian Lieutenant General to run the operation just as an American General (Petraeus) is running ISAF in Afghanistan.

One of the fun parts of Stavridis's messaging is how he notes how quickly NATO has reacted to events, measured in handfuls of days after the UN resolution.  While some would see this as spin, given how tortured NATO discussions can be, I see this as fairly genuine appreciation that NATO did make its decisions pretty quickly despite significant challenges from the aggressive (France) and the restrictive (Turkey).  Not to mention the timing--just before state elections in Germany, where the parties of the Chancellor and the Foreign Minister got spanked mightily.  If only Germany had a dynamic Defense Minister to stand in front of the effort.... oops!*
* Yes, I will be showing/linking to that video of the German marching band with torches pretty much any chance I get.  Just too entertaining with so much unintentional comedy to let go.  Easily my favorite video since Lisa Simpson's take on McGill as the something of something.

Speaking of communication, Andrew Exum (abumuqawama) noted via twitter that this signaling by NATO sounds a lot like the probe droid on Hoth sending back its findings to Darth Vader.

And speaking of comms, part 2, didn't the NYT time its new gated policy perfect?  Grrr.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not a One Hit Wonder

Easy to confuse the NAC with the Knack.  The North Atlantic Council is the decision-making body of NATO.  And it has finally (or quickly, depending on expectations) agreed that NATO will take command of all of the various missions above and near Libya: Humanitarian relief, Arms Embargo, No Fly Zone and Protection of Civilians.  The funny thing is that the key point of tension was the last--protection of civilians--because it is the piece that is the most risky and controversial.  Protecting civvies in this case means air strikes on Libya's forces, including command and control (which can include the phone in Qaddafi's hand).

So, this makes it easier for NATO since now the same folks coordinating the airplanes doing the embargo and the NFZ can also coordinate the air strikes.  This was probably already happening, using American assets, but now there is less need to finesse things.

Of course, this process does not address every issue.  Three stand out right now:
  1. Not every NATO country will participate.  Just because the NAC decided to do something does not obligate the members to chip in.  We knew that long before Afghanistan, but it has been abundantly clear.
  2. Not every participant will do everything.  This is a mission that is going to be chock full of caveats: some countries will only contribute to the embargo, others will contribute to the NFZ and only a subset will contribute to the civvie protection (much overlap with those willing to do offensive ops in Afghanistan is my guess).  
  3. What does protection of civilians require/imply?  So far, dropping bombs on government tanks, artillery, logistics, bases, and such.  But what about dealing with snipers?  The traditional weapon against a sniper is .... another sniper.  No doubt that the Special Forces of the various NATO members can outshoot the Libyans, but they would have to be on the ground somewhere.  This is really the biggest question--what next to do in support of the civilians/rebels?  And that is before we think about the endgame.

Nuance and Expertise on Libya

I ain't got any of either on Libya, but these posts do:
  • Thinking about the endgame.  Who keeps the peace if Qaddafi falls? If no real boots on the ground (UN resolution almost prohibits any such effort, US will not engage in any such effort), minimizing unrest/violence/looting will be challenging.  Cannot train the locals if you are not on the ground. 
"Encouraging local capacity is thus more important than devising and importing elaborate solutions. The key lesson, Bodine concludes, is, "Wherever possible, work through existing institutions." Unfortunately, Libya has very few institutions at all. Outsiders might have to let the new rulers work out their own political problems in their own way, but nevertheless provide enormous amounts of technocratic help."
    • This does not sound good at all, but does provide a handy excuse for staying out of it.
  • Is the US doing a lot or a little?
"Adm. William E. Gortney, the director of the Pentagon’s joint staff, said Thursday that allied aircraft were already handling all the missions to enforce the no-flight zone and that United States planes were carrying out only half the ground strikes.  He said the Pentagon would mainly supply Awacs early-warning planes, refueling tankers and surveillance aircraft, while continuing to conduct some of the strikes." NYT
    •  Is some half? Sounds like the US is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but not the patrolling of fighters near and above Libya.  So, the optics look like the Europeans are doing all of the work, but when folks say NATO is doing x, that does not leave the US out of the picture, since the US provides much of the "low density, high demand" assets listed above.
  • A war that might be coming in under budget?  Suppression of the Libyan defenses has been less costly than expected.  If no boots do go on the ground, this little war may not be that expensive to the US.  To the other folks, who are more strapped for cash?  This, of course, conflicts slightly with the previous point.  Hmmm.
  • Is is not about us?  Interesting post that suggests that the American obsession about its role might just be a bit, ahem, narcissistic and not necessarily productive.  I especially like the part challenging the legacy of the Powell doctrine: "while in general, it's probably a good idea for a president to explain his or her war goals to the public, too rigid an adherence to the decisive force/clear mission/clear exit strategy set of parameters can be counterproductive in terms of actually accomplishing a stable status quo."  Oh, we should focus on what it takes to succeed, rather than respond to the mantras of the past?  
"Libyan civilians are much safer than they were ten days ago, which ought to be the basic standard of determining whether or not a humanitarian intervention is a success."
    •  The piece goes on to discuss the need for planning even though plans always fall apart in war.  The process of planning, it is argued, is important.  So far, so good.  Then it uses the example of Iraq 2003 as slavish devotion to a plan, but I would suggest that is a poor example since the focus was much more on not planning, ignoring planning, rather than actually thinking about the possibilities and coming up with alternatives.  Otherwise, a solid post.
Things may be changing quickly on the ground, according to some of the stuff I have seen on twitter.  Momentum is definitely on the side of the rebels.  What happens after that?  No one really knows.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Back to International Coalitions

Catching up, I found this to be interesting/amusing:
 "Non-NATO members participating in the operation would have a seat and a voice, on the model of the operation in Afghanistan, where some 20 other nations participate in the NATO-led war." NYT
 A seat and a voice, but a vote?  Hmmm.  In the course of our research on NATO and Afghanistan, I did happen to sojourn to Australia and New Zealand to see what the NATO life is like for non-members (yes, I have a cool job and a really cool research question).  What did they say about their role in NATO decision-making?  They are treated like kids at the various meetings--to be seen and not heard (at least, that is how the Aussies viewed the French attitude towards them), and perhaps sitting at the kids' table.  This was/is the case in ISAF--the NATO-led effort in Afghanistan--even though Australia has more troops on the ground than all but a nine or so members (which means that 19 members of NATO or so contribute less).  Which means that Greece, which has contributed only a handful of troops has a vote whereas Australia as a voice only.  

Even many NATO members do not really drive decisions.  One of my favorite memories from the year in the Pentagon was organizing the QUINT meeting--where generals from the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy were meeting to set the agenda for the next year or so of the NATO missions in Bosnia and Kosovo.  No doubt that this new mission in Libya will be driven by those who contribute the most--France, Britain, the US and perhaps Italy since many of the planes are based there.  Turkey may have a heap of influence since they would be the ones most likely to block further decisions at the North Atlantic Council.

The punchline--neither Qatar nor the UAE will be driving the bus.

PS  Handy tip--keep track of the number of sorties (each individual plane flying a mission related to the campaign--bombers, fighters, early warning, coordinators, refuelers).  As long as the number is near or over 100, the concept of the Americans turning the mission over to the Europeans is much more symbolic than not. 

Why I am a Bad Canadian?

I just don't get why Canadians, or at least their politicians, find coalitions to be anathema.  The past 24 hours or so reinforced the elite political consensus that parties in Canada cannot be seen as potentially willing to form coalitions.  How so?  That Ignatieff would not be a coalition monkey?

Coalition monkey?  Yes, coalition monkey?  It was so hot it was a key twitter theme!/search?q=%23coalitionmonkey).

I do understand what Ignatieff is saying--don't waste your votes on parties that cannot get a majority, vote for the Liberals.  Why?  Because the Conservatives suck, but Iggy cannot explain why the Liberals would suck less.  But if there are no coalitions, then voting for the Greens, Bloc or NDP would be wasting their votes.  So, vote Liberal.  On the other hand, if coalitions are fair game, then vote Green or NDP (nobody will form a coalition with the Bloc--sorry*).  Which would guarantee that the Liberals do not gain a majority.  But the funny thing is that there is no way that the Liberals will win a majority.  Iggy is just not that popular nor is his party.  Perhaps the calculation is that, in a first-past-the-post system, voting for smaller parties might mean that the Conservatives win enough seats to gain a majority whereas voting strategically (voting Liberal and not wasting votes) might mean another minority government and, perhaps, a coalition.
* Ok, I am not sorry.  I do not want to see the Bloc have more influence.  Perhaps if they stood for stuff that I liked, but they don't.  And I do get it why parties at the federal level would find it anathema to coalesce with a party that seeks to secede.

Canadians, French, Americans, and Libyans? Oh My!

Yesterday was a big day for the international dynamics of the Libyan Civil War.*  I was able to track but not blog about it since I was at a workshop on "Nationalisms and War."  Mostly the focus was on war among countries, not within, but, of course, you can imagine there was more than a little overlap between on-going events and the conference.  My paper, that I am presenting later today, relates to much of what is going on.  Or at least I would like to think so.
    * The usual definition of a civil war involves a certain number of battle deaths, with both sides inflicting a significant number, to distinguish from a mass killing.  It appears to me that we are over the usual 1k threshold of killed in action, with the question remaining whether the rebels have done significant damage to the government. 
    I only have a bit of time before I have to drive back downtown for the second day of the workshop, so here are my quick thoughts about the latest news (and how my current book project with David Auerswald is quite relevant):
    • Starting with Canada, the striking thing is that the government fell to a confidence motion at exactly the same time that a Canadian general was chosen to lead the new NATO mission.  Why a Canadian? Because the Turks are upset at the Brits, apparently.  
      • The Canadians are a good compromise for Turkey and France, who are on opposite sides of the arguments about how much force to use for what.  Leadership of key posts for NATO missions usually depends in part on how much does the country contribute.  
      • The exercise of allotting such slots is called flags-to-post, and that was one of the things I tracked during my Joint Staff days.  In Afghanistan, this exercise is not just about total numbers (or the Germans would have heaps of command positions) but a more complex calculation as certain kinds of units have different point values.  We learned this during our research last month (such a long time ago) at the various NATO HQs in Belgium and the Netherlands. 
      • What is abundantly clear here is that the choice of a Canadian was very political and not very related to how much Canada is deploying to the effort.  However, this might explain in part why Canada sent a couple of maritime patrol planes in addition to the six F-16's--that the dis-proportionality of the commitment to the leadership role would appear to be less severe.
      • Of course, that it is a Quebecker, LTG Charles Bouchard, does not hurt the Conservatives at a time when an election is nigh.  I am not saying that this particular general was chosen by the Canadians (because he was already in place at the relevant NATO HQ in Naples), but that the Tories might have been more willing to have the Canadians be more visible in part because it would have some secondary effects back home in Quebec.  Just speculation, but that is what I am paid to do.  Or not so much since I don't get paid to blog.
      • Good piece here showing that the Canadians are not thinking that seriously about what this will involve.   Why should they be any different?
      • Updated: For a good perspective on Canada and this mission, see Stephanie Calvin's duck post.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Libya is Just Like ....?

    Afghanistan.  Really.  Why?  The struggle to put together a NATO mission has clearly resulted from the lessons of Afghanistan--not to buy into a NATO mission until one is more or less sure what it is.  But the NATO wrangles are like Afghanistan in how the different nations are grappling with a new effort.  That is, there were two ways that NATO broadly dealt with the inter-state differences: write broad rules of engagement and let countries opt out of the things they could not/did not want; and co-exist with parallel efforts that have different goals and rules--Operation Enduring Freedom.

    I must admit I have been a bit surprised that the Libya effort is starting to look more like the NATO/OEF combo than a NATO mission with lots of caveats (the former model). 
    "The 28-member alliance would operate alongside the international coalition launched by the United States, Britain and France, he [Rasmussen, S-G of NATO] said."  "There will be a coalition operation and a NATO operation," he added, indicating that strikes against Gadhafi's tanks and artillery would continue to be in the hands of the coalition led by the United States, Britain and France.
    This finesses Turkish objections to a more offensive mission and potentially allows Germany to come back in.  I guess Qatar and the U.A.E., as the token Arab states joining in, will join the NATO mission and not the more offensive one.  I hope that they do not name the ad hoc one anything that looks like, sounds like, or tastes like OEF even though the parallel should be pretty obvious.

    The Germans must be thrilled that the Turks are getting all of the attention.  Why has Merkl so badly misplayed this?  See this piece provided by one of my readers (thanks!).  It does seem to be the case that neither Merkyl nor Westerwelle (the Foreign Minister) had a clue about how this would play domestically or internationally.  "In Germany, Foreign ministers are always among the most trusted and popular politicians – with the exception of Westerwelle."  Where is the plagiarizing but pretty sharp Defense Minister?  Ah, yes, Zu Guttenberg is out of office.  So, the German top politicians are risk averse.  We get that, but they could have saved their no's for later, when asked to do something significant.  They could have chosen the Turkish or Italian models--arms embargo but not so much no fly zone and only a defensive stance. 

    Back to the Turks: their parliament has given the government a relatively blank check, but Prime Minister Erdogan has taken the opportunity here to play up Turkey's identification with Arabs and Muslims, distancing himself and his country from Europe.  Is this the price Europe is paying for alienating Turkey by keeping it out of the European Union?  Or is it the likely stance of the leader of a moderate Islamist party (as opposed to the more pro-military, pro-Western parties that have usually led Turkey)?  I don't know.  I hope a Turkish reader can provide some insight. 

    I have to run off to an appropriately themed workshop on Nationalism and War, but hope to keep track of events via wifi and twitter.  Hopefully, I will have a chance to spew more about NATO, the OEF-like op to be named later, and all the rest later today.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    No Fly Zone Update: Busy Day

    Mediterranean March Madness continues:
    • NATO has taken over the arms embargo, which is still distinct from the No Fly Zone and enforcement of the UN decision.  For now.  Thanks to a tweet from SACEUR. His message on this.  He has appointed an Italian admiral--probably because that officer was heading the NATO command in Naples.  But does not hurt the effort to keep Italy on board the NFZ as well if Italians are given big and visible responsibilities.
    • Turkey has agreed to participate in this effort, again not the NFZ.
    • The embargo fleet includes Italy, UK, Greece, US, Canada, Spain and Turkey, which, of course, raises the question of how well the Greeks and Turks play with each other.  Not a huge issue as long as they are led by somebody else....
    • The NFZ plus has racked up a few wins.
    • A moment to consider France: I was talking with a student about xenophobia and nationalism (related workshop this weekend) and the conflicted French approach came up.  Sarkozy had spent his first few years in office taking a radical turn towards NATO, including making the French among the more flexible forces in Afghanistan.  But now, with a deep loss in popularity at home, he is putting France in the lead (which fits with French sense of the nation) and blocking NATO taking over command and control as it would be unfriendly to the Arab world?  Or is it that blocking NATO fits more comfortably with traditional right-wing political stances?  
    • Richard Lugar is right to ask the big question: who are these guys we are supporting?  LA Times suggests they are not as pure as the driven snow sand.
    Favorite quote in the SACEUR-recommended piece:
    "The force generation process is still under way. It is still in the build-up phase." He added: "I confide that we will have enough assets to carry out our mission."
    Given that force generation is still incomplete regarding Afghanistan and, hee, hee, Kosovo, so the idea that the force generation process "is still under way" is funny to me since it never ends.

    Good times.  Tomorrow and Saturday will be light blogging days due to aforementioned workshop on Nationalism and War.  Good news for xenophobia fans--the Libya conflict allows me to stretch my previous book's logic further still!

    Zombies and the Political Science Profession

    Last week, the obvious highlight of the International Studies Association meeting in Montreal was the panel lionizing/pimping/mocking Dan Drezner's Theory of International Politics and Zombies.  I missed the panel because I was thinking about me and my needs--publishing--rather than the profession's.  Good thing that Dan Nexon has posted a podcast of the presentations (but not the Q&A).  The panel was, indeed, quite entertaining (and Charlie Carpenter will be posting her presentation's video, which apparently needs to be seen to be believed.Update: here it is).

    I was one of the folks who engaged with Dan early in his Z-journey as he pondered the role of Zack in IR theory and vice versa, and served as one of the reviewers of the book for the press.  I was glad not to be asked to serve on this panel, as the folks who did so set a very, very high standard.  However, I cannot help but note that there is a gap in the discussion of the "Zombie Gap."  Specifically, what does a Zombie Outbreak mean for me?  And for my profession?  Given that narcissism is a running theme here, and my navel-gazing skills were recently sharpened by my service on a panel dedicated to obsessive study of our profession, I feel well suited to bridge this gap.

    The first question is, of course, what does a zombie outbreak mean for the political science job market?  Would there be more positions available as scholars succumb to the virus?  As usual, the answer is: it depends.
    • Pre-zombie tenured folks will certainly fight to keep tenure in place even for those struck by the zombie virus.  While the risk of tenured folks biting students would be significant, I would expect universities to have to find various ways to keep the students somewhat safe since profs will argue that the freedom of speech that comes with tenure also covers moaning and perhaps even snarling.  
    • Just as we have been long expecting lots of jobs as the old folks retire, we ought not expect professors with tenure to retire just because they have turned into zombies.  Indeed, they will be far more reluctant as zombie full professors can only be more stubborn than the unbitten kind.  Profs nearing retirement often do not respond to early retirement packages. Zombie profs would be even less likely to do so, unless better access to brains are included.
    • On the other hand, junior faculty may find the zombie virus to be yet another obstacle to tenure.  Departments may end up discriminating against the infected, as they may not want to expose themselves to the virus or give tenure to those with, shall we say, problematic trajectories. This may open up more positions for newly-minted PhDs.
    • Another advantage newly-minted PhDs will have is less exposure to plague-carrying undergrads.  This should alter the usual new vs advanced assistant professor calculations in favor of the new folks.
    How will a Zombie epidemic affect the actual process of hiring?
    • Political Science Jobs Rumor site will be just as scathing and unhelpful.
    • More phone interviews, especially skype, to minimize job talks that do worse than bomb--that infect.
    • More hostile questions during the job talk--departments may even trot out zombies to see how well the candidate thinks on their feet.  And then some.
    • The best job offers will include funding for protective devices, even less face time with potentially infected grad students, and brains for those who are already infected but otherwise have great potential.
    How will a Zombie outbreak influence department politics?
    • Not much change really.  Those departments that have been unable to contain their less functional colleagues will fail here, too.
    • Shorter meetings.  In each department, there are long-winded folks who are like to talk at every meeting.  My bet is that they are the first to be bitten, perhaps by non-infected who use the epidemic for cover.
    • One exception to the shorter meetings--long debates prolonged by those who see Zombies as discriminating minorities emerging majorities deserving of rights.  Drezner was right about the emergence of those who over-identify with the post-humans.
    How will a Zombie outbreak affect publishing?
    • Expect the review process to take even more time.  The unbitten will have even more things on their plate.  And the undead make lousy reviewers--their limited vocab usually means that they just ask for their work to be cited.
    • Citation counts will still be used to measure productivity, although this measure loses validity as zombies tend to quote other zombies.  Their pack behavior is unbelievable.  Will distort citation counts, network analyses (not to mention word clouds), and rankings for years.
    • My guess is that Zombies will publish more in articles than books as they tend to have less patience.  
    What am I omitting?

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Germany Divided

    Seems like Merkl's decisions of late have not played well domestically or internationally.  Lots of strange stuff here.  Germany did pull out of the NATO fleet in the Med because its involvement in the embargo would have required a vote in the Bundestag.  But the tale here suggests that winning such a vote might not have been that problematic.  Seems like both parties in the coalition are in revolt against their leaders, suggesting a big mis-read of what would, ahem, fly domestically.  Even the peaceful Greens are criticizing the government for setting German hopes for a permanent UN Security Council seat a decade or two. 

    Indeed, one of the strangest parts of this is that the Germans are being good allies by sending more folks to Afghanistan to backfill the allies who need to send airborne surveillance planes to the Med. 
    Opposition lawmakers were unimpressed, however. “It’s a perverse logic,” said Wolfgang Gehrcke, foreign affairs spokesman of the Left party, “to exacerbate the war in Afghanistan because one doesn’t want to get involved in a war in Libya.”
    I am completely confused.  It would seem to me that the Libya operation could have been one in which the Germans could participate without either casualties or killing (see the Italians for how to fly/sail near but not over Libya), supporting a mission that would potentially prevent flows of refugees towards Germany, and not really do much harm overall.  A new mission like this is going to be more popular than older mission (rally around the flag effects tend to be short-lived).  I was not terribly surprised to see Germany stay in the background, but its more active refusals seem strange. 

    Yes, state elections are ahead, but the actions taken by the government and reactions inside and outside seem to be a bad way to go.  Could they have anticipated this reaction?  Maybe if they talked to the backbenchers?

    Continuing Observations about Campaign against Qadaffi, part two

    The campaign continues to demonstrate that multilateralism is really, really hard.
    • Germany is taking its ships out of NATO's Mediterranean force "Because there is a component to the arms embargo that envisages the use of force if necessary." This is a bit deceptive, as Germany has been involved in similar ops where their ships had responsibility for detecting/signaling but not firing.  The parallel action of pulling the airmen and woman from NATO AWACS planes reinforces the basic German stance--we are not involved in this at all.  Germany is being more aggressive in stepping aside than in previous efforts (excluding Iraq 2003).  Is Germany war-weary or is Merkl more worried about elections?
    • Canada is now in campaign season as the new budget is going down in flames.  The election will likely take place in May and result in the status quo being confirmed, including that Ignatieff is a dork.  How will this effect the Libya mission?  Not much.  The Liberals are big fans of responsibility to protect, so it will be hard for them to attack the government on this.  Instead, they are depicting the purchase of F-35's as anti-family.  Good luck with that.
    • Sometimes stealth is too stealthy.*  US F-22s are not over the skies of Libya as they cannot communicate with the allies' planes or most American ones for that matter. In developing its comm systems, apparently there was a tradeoff between communicating easily and being stealthy (F-35 will have this solved).  Given how much the US badgers others on developing interoperable weapons systems, this is a major oops and hypocrisy.
    * I used pink here because this is pretty darned embarrassing.  Imagine the US blushing.
    • Al Jazeera Rocks.  Really.  I said that.  They seem to be the folks behind this really cool google doc (H/T to for the link).  Lists the various forces in play over and around Libya and what they are doing.
      • Includes links to videos like this.
      • Funny that the pattern seems to be four to six planes from each smaller country (Canada, Norway, Denmark, Spain).  I guess that is critical mass enough for the logistics package but not so large that there would be problems for finding space for them at southern European bases.  Plus it lessens the risks of any one of these countries standing too far out.
    • France is seemingly even more gutsy/insane than we realized.  Nice post here about how the first attack on tanks was in daylight, before any air defense suppression.  Whether France was on its own or trying  to provide the Libyans into over-reacting is not clear.  But those pilots were very much in harm's way.
    • Obama is working the phones to get the coalition to include Arab countries and for command and control to move from US to NATO.  Good luck with that.
    More thoughts on this stuff as events and other analyses spur them.

    Transition Means What?

    President Hamid Karzai announced which parts of Afghanistan will transition from ISAF control to Afghan control: four cities and three provinces.  The cities include Mehtar Lam, Herat, Mazer-e-Sharif, and Lashkar Gah.  The provinces include Bamyan, Panjshir, and most of Kabul.

    First, there are some surprises and non-surprises in this list:
    • It would have been surprising if Bamyan was not on this list.  It is remote and populated by Hazaras who deeply resent the Taliban.  The province has been mostly the responsibilty of a very small New Zealand contingent (around 200) and most notable for having a female governor.  The one question here is how far along the police might be since the Kiwis have not been doing police training if I remember my interviews correctly. This will most likely give the Kiwis the excuse to pull out their conventional forces.  200 troops is not a deal breaker anywhere in Afghanistan.
    • Herat is the site of the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team [PRT] and much of the Italian effort.  Little is really known about this.  When it comes to Afghanistan, the Italian government is atypically quiet.  I tried to interview the Italian defense attache in Ottawa, but did not get an audience (yes, caveats apply to DATT's as well).
    • Mazer-e-Sharif has been a key German base for RC-North and the location of the Swedish PRT.  This is interesting because the Norweigans, I think, were hoping to move out of their PRT that is further west and more remote to move in with the Swedes, but perhaps it will be the other way around.  The city transitions raise questions about what counts as a city.  Will the German base in this area, used to support the rest of operations in the western part of RC-North, be closed?  Re-deployed to another part of RC-N?  It certainly is not leaving the region, unless it leaves the country.
    • Kabul was supposed to have transitioned a few years ago.  Turkey still has a large contingent here, and it is unlikely to go anywhere else as security here is still too important and the Turks are pretty heavily restricted.
    • Lashkar Gah is the most controversial since it is the capitol of Helmand, the most violent province.  Perhaps the violence is not in the city so much as elsewhere?  A very puzzling choice given the fragility of the region, and the desire to start only where the gains are seen as relatively irreversible.
    The Canadians would like to see Kandahar on the list, but that is quite, well, laughable.  Yes, the Canadians have worked hard over the years, but Kandahar is hardly ready to be among the first to be turned over.  Especially since the politics here are shaky with Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, always stirring the pot.

    It is not clear what transition really means since the first case of it--Kabul--still has not really happened.  The idea is that Afghans take the leading role in providing security.  That means PRTs can stick around, I guess, since they are not security providers but development and governance facilitators (or whatever).  But their efforts/movements are heavily coordinated with the military units, so will Swedes remain in M-E-S and be guarded by Afghans? Or will the Swedes move their PRT to someplace else?  Lots and lots of unanswered questions. 

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    NATO Finesses While Libya Burns? Updated

    NATO has decided to enforce an arms embargo on the seas and in the air near Libya.  I hadn't realized that arms were flowing to Qadaffi in any significant way.  This seems more to be a way to get NATO's foot in the door, coordinating part of the effort, while not going all the way. 
    "At the same time, NATO has completed plans to help enforce the no-fly zone -- to bring our contribution,  if needed,  in a clearly defined manner, to the broad international effort to protect the people of Libya from the violence of the Gaddafi regime"
    What does this mean?  That NATO has not reached consensus on actually taking over the NFZ or its "ancillary activities" of plinking tanks.  Yes, multilateral warfare is hard, as my book in progress asserts and as Sarah Kreps demonstrates quite well in her new tome. Again, the likely suspects are France (despite Sarkozy's greater enthusiasm for NATO than previous French leaders), Germany (Merkl just lost her Minister of Defense to plagiarism and spent most of the past several years ducking Afghanistan when she could), Italy (which suddenly realized it was the focal point as THE base of operations), and Turkey (due to its position in the Middle East).

    This does not mean that NATO will not eventually sign off on the NFZ mission, but tricky bargaining is occurring in Brussels this week as the competing demands must be finessed. One of the interesting things here is that France and the UK were pretty willing to go ahead without crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's.  They knew that it would take a while to get a NATO consensus and went ahead without it.  Very striking.

    The other thing that is quite notable is how eager the US is to pass on leadership to someone else.  Anyone else.  This is a huge change from the traditional American caveat that Americans must command multilateral ops so that American units in the operation are ultimately led by an American.  I don't think this is why Congress is in a conniption over this, but it could become an issue.

    UPDATE:  Another (they have the best set of bloggers) blogger, Josh Rogin, has updated stuff on NATO.   In short, Germans and French are now the key obstacles to a NATO lead, with the Turks relenting, although not thrilled.  It took a Presidential call, which is also the final step in the NATO force generation process after begging at higher and higher levels fails to work.  The immediate impact as been that Norway has deployed planes but will not fly them.  My guess is that Turkey would not participate much in any NATO mission except at or over the Med and probably not even that.

    The strangest part of this is the French excuse for its opposition--that the Arab community would not want a NATO-led op, but the French were the first to go way outside the original intent of the No Fly Zone by bombing Libyan tanks.  Given that the Arab League and UN resolutions seemed to permit NFZ and actions in support of the NFZ (bombing airfields and air defense sites) but not necessarily tank-killing, it seems strange that France is trying to seize the banner of being the most sympathetic to the Arabs.  Perhaps that would seem a bit more, ahem, genuine, if Sarkozy's government was a bit less hostile to Muslims at home. 

    Inevitably more to follow.

    Continuing Observations about Campaign against Qadaffi

    First, note my title.  I will be more blunt than government officials because I have little tolerance for deliberate ambiguity (I am great at inadvertent ambiguity) and because I have tenure.  This conflict is not going to end until Qadaffi is gone.  The only way to protect the civilian population for any length of time is to get rid of Q, as he has no credibility and the demands are incompatible.  The rebels want him gone, and he does not want to go.  Not so divisible.

    Second, the French are often seen as obstacles, but remember this: overflying France is not a problem this time.  The US and UK are flying missions from British bases, and this is much easier when France does not mind (note my newer post backtracks on my glowing review of France).

    Third, we have some new entrants that we should note: Belgium and Spain.  However, as the Italian example suggests (where it flies but is not supposed to shoot), we don't really know yet if they are following different rules of engagement than the others.  Still notable that the paralyzed Belgian government can deploy pretty quickly.

    Fourth, Italy has an aircraft carrier?  Really?  News to me.  Eight harriers and a bunch of helos.  Not too shabby, but given typical politically imposed restrictions (caveats), not clear what it will add to the mix.

    The obvious contrast is between how eager some countries seem to be to join in on this mission when compared to their reluctance to do heavy lifting in Afghanistan.  A couple of possible reasons are aversions:
    • European countries act with more alacrity when they face the risk of refugee flows to their countries.  Yep, xenophobia might not just serve as a brake on irredentism, but it might also foster intervention when the alternative of doing nothing is associated with potentially significant influxes of refugees.  
    • Other than distance, another difference between Libya and Afghanistan is the issue of likely casualties.  Yes, we just lost one F-15, but it is not likely that participants in the mission will be hit with significant casualties.  Deploying, say, six planes means that only 6 or 12 air-folks* are at risk.  There is not that much risk of getting shot down especially when compared to the risks of operating in southern or eastern Afghanistan.  Crashes, also, do happen, but it seems like the search and rescue assets have been put into place.  So, the casualty aversion of governments, even coalition governments, is mitigated by the type of deployment.  
    Any other thoughts why the less aggressive, more restricted countries are joining the action?

    Finally, don't expect US command and control to be turned over to NATO soon.  Lots of arguments happening in Brussels, with various actors not that interested in a new NATO mission.  France is not interested because they argue that the Arab League is opposed.  But then again, the League is also opposed to the more aggressive forms of this campaign beyond the No Fly Zone and the French were the first ones to attack tanks (and these tanks did not have wings).  Germany is not interested because it is tired of being seen as a rations consumer rather a burden bearer.  Turkey is opposed both because it was slighted and because it does not want offensive ops against a Muslim country.  Any one of these folks can essentially block a NATO decision.

    Times like these make me wish I was teaching Intro to IR this semester.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    NATO over Libya (continued)

    It is becoming pretty clear that Turkey is one of the key obstacles to a NATO mission over Libya, rather than an ad hoc effort.  Three problems with this:
    1. Italy needs a NATO blessing to host the bases, apparently.  Losing Italy as a base would be a huge challenge for the effort.  While we complain about interoperability being over-estimated, it is clear that Italy can serve as a good host to the Canadian, Danish, Norwegian, British and American planes. 
    2. The US really does not want to be in the lead, but right now it is doing most of the command and control.  
    3. The most obvious regional organization to run this is, of course, not the Arab League but the European Union.*  The EU has been trying to be a decent defense organization since forever, but has always failed miserably.  One of the challenges has always been NATO-EU cooperation since any effort to develop such links get vetoed on one side by the Turks and on the other side by the Greeks (since the Turks are not in the EU and resent it, and the Greeks, well, like to stick to the Turks).**
    *  I would prefer that the Evil League of Evil take care of this, as Qaddafi is an embarrassment to their organization, but others find it hard to really play the "Enemy of my enemy is a friend" strategy.
    ** Simplistic assessment of the situation?  Sure.  Comment if you think it is much more complex than that.
    Developing EU capacity is the last thing the Turks want.  But they also don't like seeing bombs dropped on Muslims either, I guess.  Their stance in Afghanistan is very interesting--they are in a position to block NATO OPLANs (operational plans) and such, but have not.  Instead, they keep a very defensive posture (no offensive operations) in Kabul plus a PRT in a quiet part of the north.  So, they participate in a pretty war-like effort but do not do much warring themselves.  They could choose not to break silence (the NATO parlance) and let a NATO command and control mission go ahead. 

    Of course, then the Germans might be compelled to take a stance (they abstained on the UN resolution).  My guess is that the Germans would not get in the way directly but would limit via caveats and other restrictions units that have Germans (think AWACS planes) from significantly participating. 

    Very interesting times.  If only I was working on a book on how domestic political dynamics affects participation in multilateral military operations....  Oh, I am?  Cool.

    Where is NATO?

    I have been wondering about who is commanding this operation.  Yep, command.  Coordination is not going on, someone is doing some leading, as it requires decisions to be made.  There is definitely a division of tasks, a sequencing of attacks, and so forth.  Apparently, the relatively new US Africa Command is taking the military lead, although other reports have the French and British leading.  I think only the US and NATO apparati (apparatuses?) have the technical ability and the experience to run an operation with more than a few countries.  We see US, UK, France, Italian, Danish and perhaps Canadian planes taking part.  If there are any non-NATO participants, such as Qatar, then again the US seems to be the likely leader.

    What about NATO?
    The coalition is not operating as a NATO mission, Gates said, because of sensitivity on the part of the Arab League to being seen to be operating under a NATO umbrella. He added it may be possible to “work out NATO’s command and control machinery without it being a NATO mission and without a NATO flag.” (US govt source)
    Or, just perhaps, it might be that a NATO mission requires a decision out of the North Atlantic Council (the NAC), where a consensus rule operates.  Easier to get the Germans to abstain at the UN than perhaps at NATO.  Other NATO members (Greece or Turkey, depending on which one is trying to piss the other one off) may also be willing to break silence (stop a document from getting passed), and as a consensus-based organization, that is all that it takes.

    Still, it seems pretty clear that there is some metaphoric NATO oil lubricating the processes here.

    And for those who are interested in red cards (as one component of how countries operate multilateral military efforts [see the Dave and Steve book when it comes out]), at least one bombing mission was aborted when the pilots felt there would be significant civilian casualties.

    Coming Late to Libya

    To be clear, I deserve perhaps more blame for being late to blog about Libya than the international community does for starting the campaign 22 days into this.  Readers: when was the last time the international community took less than a month to start a significant multilateral military campaign to address a humanitarian crisis that involved combat?  Anyone?

    I am not that surprised that there is confusion over the intent of the mission.  This NYT piece suggests surprise that the US and others might desire to remove Qaddafi, when the UN resolution and some of the statements suggest this is just about trying to protect the rebels.  Um, how do you do one without the other?  Qaddafi is not going to step down and walk away.  Regime change is an essential part of it it as that is their demand, and any other demand depends on it. 

    Sure, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that the intent is supporting the UN mission, but about the possibility of success w/o Qaddafi remaining in power: “That’s certainly potentially one outcome.”  That is not a ringing endorsement of non-regime change.

    There may be fudging going on here, but that has to do with keeping the coalition together (I guess), international law (almost certainly) and expectations management (absolutely).  The Republicans and the Arab League seem to be on the same page: do something!!!  Anything!!! Now!! But perhaps not that!!! 

    I think Obama is right for letting the Europeans appear to be in the lead, given that this is, otherwise, the third war the US has started against the leadership of a country in the Middle East.

    Yes, it would have been easier earlier, but getting all the pieces in place takes time.  I have been surprised, especially since NATO is not seemingly in the lead, how many attacks have happened so soon.  Not just French and British planes, but American, Italian, Canadian and Danish ones seem to be in on the action or about to be so.  No President can wave a magic wand to get this to happen so fast.  Only a unilateral US effort could have been quick, and I think we have had enough unilateral US efforts in that part of the world over the past ten years.  Once again, Bush foreign policy constrains the choices of his successor. 

    Oh, and one last thought: if we had any doubt that Kerry was an incredibly poor choice for the Democrats, that should be wiped out now.  What a tool.

    And a couple of questions: what is NATO's role here?  Someone is coordinating all of this--the French?  The British?  If the Danish and Italians are flying planes towards Libya, NATO is involved.  And if we are hitting the government's vehicles as these pics suggest, who is providing the targeting info?  Special Forces on the ground?  Just air assets?  

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Putting Some Perspective Sauce On Past and Present

    While I was conferencing at the ISA in Montreal, I did come across a few pieces online that put everything into perspective:
    • usually has comics that entertain about technology and such.  This one illustrates the radiation exposure in ordinary times and not so ordinary times.  Aside from the 50 or so technicians trying to deal with the Japanese reactors, this event is not that dangerous to the Japanese public.  It is no Chernobyl.  And will almost certainly come nowhere close to that.
    • Speaking of Soviet disasters, this piece on the failed Soyuz 1 launch, with the cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov knowing he was being sent into space in a fundamentally flawed rocket, is incredibly disturbing.  Yes, we have a far greater number of casualties in either Japan or Libya, but putting a brave face on a guy who didn't step aside (knowing his friend and national hero--Gagarin--would be his replacement) brings it home. Even if it happened 44 years ago.
    More posts later as I also have to catch up on pop-culture.

    What I Learned at the 2011 International Studies Association Meeting

    I found it harder to blog at a conference in my town as I had to spend time commuting to and from, that I couldn't pop upstairs to my hotel room to nap and surf if I had a free moment, and the hotel's wifi was not so accessible.  So, today I will start to catch up--on learning what I missed and spewing about what I learned.  This post is for the latter.  Subsequent posts will address the stuff upon which (?) I am catching.

    • Lesson #1:  Get a smartphone.  So I can tweet, facebook, surf, email, blog, etc.  
    • Lesson #2:  Conferences at home are not so thrilling to the wife either--none of the advantages of me being away (less snoring) and most of the costs (piles of dishes, laundry).  
    • Lesson #3: Piracy rocks.  I didn't go to the panels on piracy (which are starting to multiply), but I was the chair of a panel where one of the paper-givers informed us how the Somali pirates split their booty: class A and class B stock classes, fixed fees, profit-sharing, etc.
    • Lesson #4: Pride can be good. Another participant on the aforementioned panel was a grad student of mine, presenting a spin-off of the dissertation research.  Something I had not read yet.  It was also the first time I saw her present non-dissertation stuff at a conference.  At the end of it, all I could think is that I am proud to be her adviser.  Rock on, Ora.
    • Lesson #5: Technology can be cool.  A friend suckered me into being a discussant at the last minute, so I read four papers that applied a variety of techniques to understanding our own business--who cites what, which works are associated with other works, and so on.  One paper dumped 26 years of IR journal articles into a program to find out which words are associated with others, developing word clouds associated with realism, liberalism, constructivism and such.  The key findings in the piece for opportunistic scholars are--the words that are associated with more citations and those associated with less (or the kiss of death as the authors put it).  Bad news for scholars who focus on NATO (oh no!).  Another paper on this panel used network analysis to understand citation patterns.
    • Lesson #6: Things tend to happen during this conferences: the UN resolution and the start of the air war against Qaddafi started while we were here.  Plus the continuing drama in Japan.  Reminded me of the APSA during Katrina.  I was pretty surprised by the UN resolution and I was not alone.  I will have to read the news and then consider it at the Spew.  The first thing that is interesting is--how NATO-ish* is this effort going to be?
    * Yes, I am trying to minimize citations given my new understanding (see above).

    • Lesson #7:  I am pretty lucky.  I have built up without thinking a broad network of really smart, interesting, dynamic, curious, sharp and supportive colleagues/friends in the community of IR scholars.  Poker, panels, former jobs, ties to the old schools (Oberlin, UCSD), sections of the association (Foreign Policy Analysis, Ethnicity/Nationalism/Migration), and other events/meetings/opportunities have been most beneficial, not just to my citation patterns and to my conference schedules, but to my journey through this profession and through the years.  Thanks.

      Thursday, March 17, 2011

      ISA Means Little Blogging

      The hotel for the ISA has a very lousy wifi policy so don't expect much blogging from me for the rest of the week. 

      Good panel, fun interactions, great beer, good food, bed time.

      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

      How Scary Has This Been For You?

      Tim Goodman does yeoman's work and then some by taking the media to task for their incredibly poor (although not surprising as we know these guys are pretty bad) coverage of the multiple tragedies hitting Japan.  Why did I give up watching TV news a long time ago?  In part because of the inanity of the normal coverage of events, but also in part because of how they handle situations like this (as if there has ever been a situation like this).

      Read Tim's assessment of the media.  He can be brutal:
      As the nuclear reactor story began gaining attention, all focus was lost and the words “meltdown,” “catastrophe” and “radiation” were tossed around in such a way that it seemed news agencies were willing it all to happen, a rapacious hunger to plant the seeds of Armageddon in viewers’ heads, which of course would translate to ratings.
      Brutal but on target.  Radiation means ratings, right?

      With Great Power ...

      The more I read about Afghanistan, the more frustrating it becomes.  I am currently reading Bing West's book, the Wrong War, and it is very critical of the effort.  Understandably so, as he was out and about with the patrols, seeing the costs for the war.  For the lawn-mowing--going out and clearing and then coming back and having to clear again. 

      One of the biggest challenges has been one of the biggest lost opportunities.  Karzai has a tremendous amount of power, as he appoints and can remove governors of provinces and leaders of districts.  Most of his focus on selection has been, not too surprising, on fealty to Karzai rather than competence.  So, American, British, Canadian and other military folks have had huge problems trying to get stuff done because the guy in charge of the area is not so interested in performance but in providing votes to Karzai and in enriching himself (few females in this process).  If, on the other hand, Karzai had been interested in moving Afghanistan forward, he could have replaced the inept/incompetent/corrupt folks and supported the competent ones.  That might have been a bit risky in the short term, but it might have produced some governance and some stability.  Instead, his strategy just means he is more reliant on folks he is renting. 

      This means that the government is on shaky grounds and that it is very hard to get the local folks to buy in.

      Having said that, I will write a short review of West's book soon, as I do find it overly critical about some stuff.  To preview, he tends to assume that there are lots more choices all along the way.  Not so sure about that.  Still, pretty awesome to be a writer running out on patrols in Helmand and Kunar, some of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan.

      Rules for Playing Chicken

      1.  If you have no real leverage over your opponent, then you are going to lose. 

      Ok, I think that is sufficient.  McGill has been playing a game of chicken with the government of Quebec.  The university has unilaterally increased the tuition for its MBA program by quite a lot (still cheaper than many programs elsewhere) in defiance of Quebec's position that only the government can set the tuition and that tuition should be really, really low.  Quebec kept threatening McGill if it did not get in line.  So, who has the power to hurt (Schelling)?  Um, not McGill.  But now Quebec has said that it will cut its support of McGill by $2 million.  This is quite significant as McGill is already in the midst of a Quebec-induced budget crisis. 

      Sure, it made sense that McGill would want to charge the going rate for an MBA.  The graduates mostly finish with jobs that make it relatively straightforward to pay off their debts, and it does not make sense for the rest of the university to subsidize a particularly expensive program.  But this position not only cuts against basic views of what is appropriate in Quebec (all education should be dirt cheap even if that is unsustainable), but let me say it again: McGill has no leverage with Quebec.  And the next government of Quebec is likely to be very hostile to McGill just on the basis of identity politics (Parti Quebecois is not going to fond of an English-speaking educational institution--just a guess on my part).  So, McGill has picked a confrontation it cannot possibly win. 

      While I believe McGill is correct in its basic idea--that MBA students should cover much of the cost of their education, I also believe that McGill needs a new strategist.  Whoever gamed this out forgot to include power in their calculations.  They cannot blame the game theorists for that one, as Schelling and the rest always started with the basic situation of whether each side can hurt the other. Not to mention that Quebec has other audiences (the rest of the universities in the province) and incentives not to swerve, even if McGill had some potential to impose some harm onto Quebec. 

      All I can say is: oy.

      Monday, March 14, 2011

      Going Out in Style

      I thought I had posted this:

      A plagiarist/Minister of Defence leaves office.  Military band, torches, at night.  Ah, the Germans.  Who says they don't have style?

      Of course, this song always reminds me of this bit:

      Context or Panic: You Decide

      This post at Slate does a nice job of putting the nuclear power plant crises in Japan in context.  Not only are the power plants in Japan not nearly as much in panic mode as CNN would have you believe, but when compared with other sources of energy, nuclear power still appears to be safer.  Of course, there is still the problem of what to do with the nuclear waste, but mindlessly reacting to this is a bad idea.  Just look at who is mindlessly reacting--Joe Lieberman.  That is pretty much all you need to know.

      Undergrad Political Science Folks Alert!

      If you are an undergrad poli sci person, there is a contest for you.  An essay contest.  Start your word processing programs and go!

      HT to Lukas Neville.

      ISA Inspires Navel Gazing

      A friend asked me at the last minute to serve as a discussant (one who reads the papers and then comments on them towards the end of the panel's session) for the International Studies Association meeting that is taking place over the rest of this week in Montreal.  The panel is on a series of surveys done to assess the profession, and when the original discussant dropped out, my friend looked for a professional narcissist.  Hence moi!

      Anyhow, I am halfway through my task.  The second paper focused on the gaps between the academic and policy worlds, trying to assess whether IR scholars who tasted the policy life changed what they did and how they did it after returning back to the Ivory Tower.  Of course, that led me to think about ... me. 

      As readers of my blog know (and my students as well), I spent 2001-2002 on the US Joint Staff in the Directorate of Strategic Planning and Policy on the Bosnia desk.  Good times.  So, how did that experience change me, other than causing me to gain weight?*

      *  Long hours combined with frequent cakes for birthdays, promotions, departures plus the Friday ritual of a fatty breakfast with the rest of the crew had a greater effect than the two or three games of racquetball a week.

      Ok, I use "sir" far more than I ever did before.  But in terms of my work, it had some clear and some less clear effects.  My research agenda, focusing on civil-military relations and especially how countries control their militaries during multilateral operations, is a direct product of the year on the Joint Staff.  Having seen the stuff up close, I developed heaps of questions about how this worked. The experience has facilitated this research because I understand better the language of the policy-types, their acronyms and such.

      The paper I read focused more on where stuff is being published rather than what was being researched.  I have not really published that much in policy journals.  I have tried, but it has not been a focus of mine and it has not yet been that successful.  I have spoken to groups of policy types much more the past few years, but that may have more to do with the topic of my work (NATO and Afghanistan) and relations developed with Canada's policy community through the research than directly from the JS experience.

      How does the experience affect how I think?  I still think about theory and how to test theory, but I take more seriously the role of individuals (how can one not after spending a year in Rumsfeld's Pentagon), the fragility of institutions (again, Rummy's Pentagon and the shifting role of the Chairman), the importance of relationships (who do we know), and the like.  Ironically, UCSD with all of its focus on principal-agency theory failed to get me to see things in using that lens, but one year in the Pentagon made me appreciate the challenges involved in delegation. 

      Finally, I think I have a much greater interest in engaging beyond the academy than I did before via TV, radio, newspapers, random blogs, and such.  Sure, I had some experience in seeking out attention before the JS experience, but I think I see the relevance of my stuff for the non-academic more clearly now. 

      Ok, back to reading the other two papers...

      Reminder to ISA Folks

      My guide to Montreal is here.  Expect rain and snow.  The Sheraton, as far as I know, is not connected to the underground passages, so you will be exposed to the weather. 

      Have a good flight.

      Sunday, March 13, 2011

      Identity Crisis: SNL and the Canadians

      Last night/this morning, Saturday Night Live had its usual mixed performance.  One of the sketches was aboot a nice celebrity talkshow set in Canada, eh?  Not only was it the usual "hey, let's have another talk show since we cannot imagine many other settings for sketch" but it also decided to play upon the "Canadians are nice, eh" stereotype.  Nice combo.

      So, as someone who has lived here for more than nine years, all I can think is: the roads don't close due to snow (a major repeating plot point/joke in the sketch) all that often.  So, I guess am starting to shift my identity, eh.  Those hosers couldn't even get the effects of snow right up here, for goodness sake.

      Give the Man What He Wants?

      President Karzai has just asked NATO and the US to cease operations in Afghanistan.  This is in reaction to a tragic mistake where a group of kids were killed.  Perhaps he is grandstanding for the sake of the domestic audience.  Otherwise, if this is a real request, what is NATO to do?  The stated purpose of the mission to support the development of Afghan institutions and stability.  If the President of said country does not want the US/NATO operating there, what can we do?
      1. We could cease military operations, which then means what?  A quick withdrawal would possibly followy since a purely defensive stance would increase the risks to the international forces.  The irony is that the countries that are most comfortable with operating purely in a defensive stance are the ones already closest to the door.
      2. We could re-define operations so that smaller-scale patrols and such can continue, but there would still be a risk of killing civilians.  
      3. We could follow his advice and move our forces into Pakistan to fight the enemy there.  Insert maniacal laughter here.  Nope, that ain't gonna happen.
      4. We could hope that Karzai changes his mind or that he really did not mean it.  This is probably the best bet for what will actually happen and what is the best choice in general.  Karzai talks a good game, but usually is speaking to one audience at a time, either not realizing or not caring that other audiences are also listening. 
      Once again, Afghanistan demonstrates that you cannot even rent leaders too easily.  Karzai is not our agent, or, if he is, he is a live demonstration of the worst of principal-agent problemos.  He may be focused on his survival, and he may not get killed in the immediate aftermath of a NATO pullout.  But I would not bet the over on his survival either.

      Once again, the ratio of civilians killed is 75% by the other side and 25% by NATO.  NATO is trying hard to reduce such casualties but the other side pursues tactics to induce the outsiders to put civilians in harm's way.  The proper comparison is not so much the current status quo versus no civilians killed by outsiders, but the current status quo as compared to an Afghanistan sans US/NATO.  As long as the US and NATO stick around, there will be mistakes.

      My ambivalence about the war just gets deeper and deeper.  It would be easy to call for a pullout, but there is more at stake in Afghanistan than Karzai's position.  If we were to leave, the lives of Afghans would certainly worsen in the short term with a much deeper, more brutal civil war.  Karzai might be willing to sell out to the Taliban, but a good hunk of the country will not.  The impact on the neighborhood from a western defeat would not be that great either. 

      So, once again, we have lousy choices. 

      Defense Spending Re-Considered, again

      Check out this set of graphics and decide for yourself what to spend defense $$ on.  The simple chart raises good questions even if it misses the point here and there. Criticizing the MRAP for being bad on a conventional battlefield misses the point that it is designed for an unconventional, IED-laden battlefield.  Perhaps this is all moot with the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts--that the US will not choose another unconventional war.  The problem is that being really good at conventional war induces the adversaries to use unconventional means.

      Still, it is important to raise questions about in which sinkholes we want to throw money.

      Saturday, March 12, 2011

      Some Professional Advice

      At a time like now, the Simpsons have the best take on the experts playing their role in the crisis:

      Have I ever speculated on TV/Radiowithout much info?  Um, yes.  Have I been wrong?  Indeed, I have.  The most egregious error?  No, not when I predicted heaps of terrorism in Lubbock.  Probably when I didn't expect before the invasion that there would be much suicide terrorism afterward.  Of course, I didn't know that Bush and his gang would make every mistake, but still that was a big one and became wrong pretty darned quickly.

      I just hope the experts who are on TV now that are speculating that the Japanese reactors are going to be ok are more right than those speculating otherwise.