The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Weekend News Round-up


May 21, 2007

It wasn’t quite one of my best-laid plans, but it did go awry this weekend. I had intended to blog about 3 or 4 interesting stories I’ve been following over the weekend, but between feeding the new kid, searching for child care (if this were one of those so-called ‘mommyblogs,’ oh the stories i could post. but its not, so i won’t…) and of course the fantastic Taste of Wheaton today, time flew by and here it is, Sunday night watching the Mets – Yankees game (and I share Rodger’s view on this) and this is all that there is time to do. So, here goes:

Event I really really really really wanted to go to this weekend but couldn’t: The annual Joint Services Open House. The Security Studies Bombs and Rockets geek in me loves it. In fact, one might say that the annual Dayton Air Show at Wright Pat is partially responsible for my current career. Probably not a good place to take a 2-month old, maybe next year. We did see an F-117 flying over the Taste of Wheaton though, so I guess that counts for something.

From the Korean Peninsula–a big shift in North-South relations. The train tracks across the DMZ linking the DPRK and ROK finally opened, with the first train traveling between the two countries since the war. Is mostly symbolic, but holds promise for serious integration between the two countries at some point. Interesting point: My Freshman World Politics class in Fall 2005 predicted this. In their settlement to the 6 party talks, they had a special railroad deal that would link Korea to Europe via Russia. Lo and Behold, that’s what Korea wants out of this long term.

I was there two summers ago, and saw those train tracks. Its quite an amazing thing, to have a passageway across the DMZ.

Paul Wolfowitz resigned from the World Bank Presidency. My two observations on this: 1) It was bound to happen. Despite what everyone will publicly say, it was never just about the girlfriend, it was much more about the rest of the world, angry about Iraq and US Hegemony, finally finding a way to vent at the Bush Administration. 2) that said, it was not inevitable–Wolfowitz walked smack into this one. It not just the girlfriend issue, but the way he never fit into the Bank Culture. Part of the problem is that he’s an academic, a theorist, not an administrator. He’s got his theories about how to solve the world’s problems, and, in what has been one of the central flaws in decades of “development,” had the I know what’s good for you, do as I say and not as I do, don’t question my methods because I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good, oh lord, pleas don’t let me be misunderstood… He never figured out how to actually run an institution–not DoD, not Iraq, and not the World Bank. And he got his comeuppances.

Bush Appointed a 3-Star General to be the “War Czar” (or is it War Tsar?). Good luck General Lute. Its a job no one wanted, and so, in a trend noted by William Arkin, you have yet another Military Man taking what ought to be a Civilian Job. Because, of course, no civilian wanted it. Like all Czars, its a high profile job to solve an intractable problem that is probably doomed to fail. Like this 3-Star can really get 2 or 3 superiors in the Chain of Command (say Fallon, Petraeus, Gates) not to mention the Sec State or the National Security Adviser to sing from the same sheet of music. Like the DNI, its more bureaucracy in order to cut through the problems of bureaucracy. More to the point, it shows that no one in the Administration is actually doing their job, which is to avoid getting into situations that make such a job necessary in the first place. Besides, we already have a War Czar with all the appropriate authority and ability to cut through the bureaucracy, get the inter-agency process to cooperate and work, and keep everyone on the same page. Its called the President. Or at a minimum, his NSA….

And, from the we’re doomed in Iraq file, well, we’re… (can you tell its getting late, as my typing gets a bit faster and the language a bit looser?) Harpers recently published an article by Edward Luttwak on how there is no way the US can win in Iraq (hat tip to RNN on this one). He reviews the new Counter Insurgency manual that the top Army and Marine Generals developed based on successful in-country experience and are now attempting to apply in Iraq. Fundamental issue: its a ground war. (and, check out this from Intel Dump on how the Air Force is struggling to remain relevant in Iraq) More to the point–its a political ground war. The US Army is great at fighting ground wars against other armies. It doesn’t do politics, and all of its best abilities are useless unless it can solve the fundamental political problem that a) the people don’t believe that US forces are actually helping them, rather they are an occupying army intent on corrupting their way of life and b) without the political support of the local population, you can’t defeat an insurgency.

His conclusion: The US must either become something that it is not (or at least doesn’t claim to be)–a severely repressive occupying power that strictly and directly controls conquered territory OR face certain political failure in Iraq.

What I worry about is that, in the name of ‘victory for the forces of democracy’ those non-democratic impulses make inroads into US Foreign policy, fundamentally altering the identity of this nation in a very dangerous way. Its the danger of the Wolfowitz / Bush Administration way of doing business–if my intentions are good, don’t question the motive. But, bring in a little Ido Oren and John Ruggie and you can see not only how this threatens the fundamental underpinnings of US Hegemony, but threatens the very nature of the US itself (the quasi-cites make sense to me at least…).

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.