Dan Drezner is among those who today bemoaned the absence of foreign policy content in President Obama’s State of the Union Speech. He’s not the only one. Max Boot calls foreign policy “AWOL” from the speech. Eric Ostermeir at Smart Politics has quantified the foreign policy content at only 13.9%. Whether they were very worried or not about Obama’s foreign policy message, most commentators agreed it was a weak one relative to the domestic policy content in the speech.
My off-the-cuff reaction to the speech echoed this concern as well. But then I began thinking about the assignment I have my World Politics students doing right now, which is to write about their lives using a global perspective. Lots of them are struggling with it as they always do: if they haven’t traveled abroad, served in the military, supported a global social movement, or watched BBC regularly, they don’t feel like they are really participants in world politics. I challenge this thinking by asking them to reflect on the ways in which their everyday lives are impacted by, and in turn impact, the world beyond our borders.
The purpose of the assignment is to get them thinking past their identity as Americans and situate themselves globally. However the assignment – and the era of globalization we live in – begs the question about the entire notion of the domestic politics / international politics divide. One way to look at the distinction we draw between domestic and foreign policy is as a boundary-maintenance project that is part of the practice of sovereignty. If we make the choice to suspend this practice for a moment, we might realize that Obama’s speech had more foreign policy in it that we may have recognized.
For example Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin, whom I linked to earlier describes the Obama’s foreign policy talking points as consisting of “trade, export controls, Afghanistan, Iraq, nukes, North Korea and Iran” and says he touched on all of this for only “a couple of minutes at the end.” Rogin categorizes energy policy, jobs and financial reform as domestic issues. So do those who have tallied the foreign policy content of the speech and found it wanting.
Yet what could be more global – in their impetus and impact – than a turn toward clean energy and alternative transportation in the US, which until recently led the world in global carbon emissions per capita? Given the global impact of the US banking crisis, is not financial reform a global issue? And is not a policy of “ending subsidies for firms that ship jobs overseas” a foreign policy as well as a domestic one? Certainly it will impact individuals abroad who rely on manufacturing jobs with US companies as a stepping stone out of poverty. This in turn will affect those individuals’ abilities to consume the products Obama also wants to export in greater volume. I’m not saying this is good or bad, just that these things are interconnected.
And actually, Obama said as much. Consider his rationale for financial, education and energy reform:
China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations — they’re not standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.
We think of foreign policy as that subset of policy that is directed at relations with other countries. But since so much of what happens here affects (and can be affected by) what is happening elsewhere whether we intend it or not, perhaps this perspective is behind the times. Drezner concludes his post by saying:
“I would have liked to have seen a more robust effort to link foreign policy priorities to domestic priorities – because the two are more linked than is commonly acknowledged.”
What would it mean to our practices of citizenship if our policymakers and pundits routinely thought past that distinction entirely? As Drezner himself once said, in today’s world “all politics is global.”
Or maybe this is all bunk. But it sure is a useful teaching tool. Thoughts?
[cross-posted at LGM]
I am, perhaps, the world’s worst guest blogger. I do it rarely, if at all, and in a scattered way. I keep meaning to, but then … Perhaps I am not suited for this medium of communication. Or maybe I am just distracted. With apologies to my colleagues for my flawed posting habits, however, I am not quite ready to give up on myself-as-blogger, and feel like weighing in on this question of “what to read on gender and foreign policy” might be a good place to make amends for my otherwise neglectful blogging (even if I have not managed to be timely even in this endeavor).
First, I’d like to agree with Charli both that it is a very positive development that Foreign Affairs is showing a commitment to including gender issues and gender analysis in their coverage of foreign policy issues. I am encouraged both by that as an epistemological commitment on the part of the journal as well as as a reflection of changes in the policy world.
Despite the positive directions in the academic world and the policy world as concerns gender issues, I remain only cautiously optimistic, given what I read as still largely missing: critical, complex, dialectical approaches to that gender analysis. Given that, I will accept Charli’s invitation to talk about what to read in gender and foreign policy, and through that conversation, perhaps (briefly), give a sense my hopes and fears for the field.
While I don’t disagree that a number of the books that Charli lists are important ones likely to have an impact on the field and potentially also on the policy world, I worry both about the message some of them send individually and their collective omissions. I suppose, as a segway into this discussion, I should tell you that I was inspired to go to graduate school by the question of the policy relevance of feminist theorizing (a curiosity inspired by my engagement with policy debate). Feminist theorizing has done a lot of work to analyze and demonstrate its policy relevance, but there remains a tendency for some of the nuance and complexity of gender analysis to be lost in the work read in the policy world.
For example, there is a lot of work in Feminist IR specifically and feminist theorizing generally critical of the sort of approach taken in Kristof and WuDunn’s Half the Sky. While there is no denying both the density and quality of information about women’s human rights, postcolonial feminist scholars like Chandra Mohanty (in Feminism without Borders) and Geeta Chowdhry and Shelia Nair (in Power, Postcolonialism, and International Relations) have cautioned us against understanding a radical division between “Americans” and the “Third World” where “Americans” fail to be conscious of both genderings in their relationships with the “Third World” and position ourselves as helpers of victims rather than understanding agency, power, desire, and subjectivity in more complicated ways (perhaps as is evidenced in Christine Sylvester’s Feminist International Relations: An Unfinished Journey).
Along similar lines, while Tara McKelvey’s volume includes an unprecedented amount of empirical information and some important theoretical accounts (particularly those by Eve Ensler, Angela Davis, and Cynthia Enloe), several of the accounts of feminism in the book (particularly those by Barbara Ehrenrich and Katharine Viner) betray both an oversimplified understanding of gender analysis and a partial, politically interested view of what gender emancipation would look like. Other work (not least Caron Gentry and my Mothers, Monsters, Whores, but also, and closer to the empirical evidence, Miranda Alison’s Women and Political Violence) identifies gender hierarchy not as a result of (in Charli’s words) foreign policy institutions that incentivize manliness, but instead, as a structural feature of global politics reproduced not only in the incentivization of manliness in foreign policy institutions, but in gendered hierarchies within most if not all domestic and international institutions in international relations.
I’m also concerned with the potential orientalist (see Edward Said’s Orientalism) and gender essentialist (see discussions in Brooke Ackerly, Maria Stern, and Jacqui True’s Feminist Methodologies for International Relations implications of Hudson and Den Boer’s Bare Branches. Much gender analytical work in foreign policy, security, and International Relations more generally provides a more sophisticated account of states’ gendered violence that does not rely on naturalizing the sex/gender dichotomy or blaming men for gendered violence (see, for example, Ann Tickner’s Gendering World Politics or Jane Parpart and Marysia Zalewski’s Rethinking the Man Question).
To stop from going on for too long, I will turn to the things I would include in such a list that are not included in Charli’s as perhaps a suggestion of how I see the field. While my citations above give some indication of the sort of work that I find relevant to “reading about gender and foreign policy,” there are a couple of books explicitly on point that I think are important. First, I don’t think one can read about gender and foreign policy without reading Laura Shepherd’s Gender, Violence, and Security. This book is a feminist post-structuralist account of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, with important implications for national security policy-making and international organization constitution and effectiveness. I suggest this because I think it is important, when reading about gender and foreign policy, to pay attention not only to “women” and “gender” as material, but also in the relationship between gender, foreign policy, and violence that crosses the material/symbolic/performative divide. Along those lines, I would call Natalie Florea Hudson’s book on human security, gender, and the UN essential reading as well. The new (third) edition of V. Spike Peterson and Anne Sisson Runyan’s Global Gender Issues includes not only a sophisticated account of “feminization as devalorization” in the making of foreign policy, but also of (not only sex but gender) analysis of a number of crucial issues in 21st century foreign policy, including development, globalization, militarization, and migration.
This is just the start of a conversation on these issues, I suppose. I am happy that we’ve gotten to a place where there is an essential reading list for gender and foreign policy at all, but I’d like to push the envelope and argue that complex, non-essentialist, culturally sensitive, perhaps even post-colonial and post-structuralist, work on gender and foreign policy should make the “must read” list for those interested in the subject matter.
Many of you were kind enough to share your thoughts on what I should assign in my IR Theory Seminar this year. Now that I’ve got something on paper, thought I’d provide the link so that those interested can see the current draft. Comments on this thread will no doubt be studied closely by my IR students as empirical evidence of ongoing debates about the constitution of our field. ;)
I think I’m speechless:
For those of you who may be following the issue of detainee abuse of prisoners of war in Canada (or any other country than America), I have an editorial piece with Dr. Grant Dawson (Deuputy Director of the David Davies Memorial Institute at Aberystwyth) in the Ottawa Citizen today.
A quick summary is that two different detainee scandles (one in the aftermath of the Somalia Intervention in the 1990s and the current Afghan one) are being confused. Where as the “Somalia Inquiry” was used to shield the government from responsibility and criticism, an Afghan inquiry might actually hold the government accountable.
The issue was the subject of my second blog post here.
So the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that limits on direct corporate spending for political campaigns violate the First Amendment rights of corporations (hey, corporations are people too!). The New York Times has a good overview, plus links to the actual decision. Since I’ve done some work on corruption in the past, and regularly teach a seminar on Corruption and Global Governance, this decision has resonated with me and I can’t help being shaken up.
Let’s consider a commonsense definition of corruption: the abuse of public power for private gain, or the use of private means to shape public decisions so that they conform to narrow private or sectoral interests. The definition depends on our being able to draw a line between public good and private interest. The idea of corruption not only means that it is wrong for public officials to take bribes, but also more broadly that some things, like justice, should not be bought. If money becomes the primary determinant of public outcomes, public trust in governance, the rule of law, and the overall system of justice is corroded. But the primary focus of anti-corruption discourse emanating from the U.S. has been on corruption in the developing world. We consider ourselves to have the most advanced anti-corruption legislation in the world, thanks to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits U.S. corporations from bribing foreign public officials. Equating corruption with flat out bribery allows us to ignore the bigger question of the role of money in politics, and especially of private, corporate money. By shaping global anti-corruption discourse to focus on bribery (see the OECD Convention on Bribery) we have managed to generate a relatively “clean” identity for the U.S. (though not entirely so, according to Transparency International’s rankings) and keep the focus on the developing world as the hotbed of corruption. While it would be silly to deny that corruption is a problem for development, the discursive maneuvers emanating from the U.S. prevent adequate reflection on the health of our own political system. The role of corporate money in the U.S. political system was of course already a concern before this latest Supreme Court decision, but even so, the blow that has now been dealt to campaign finance reform (a bipartisan issue, by the way) is staggering. And now we hear the word “corruption” being thrown around a great deal more than usual in discussions of the U.S. political process. So the silver lining may be an increased propensity to reflect on the corruption of our own system, not just on corruption as a problem for those under-developed Others.
Yesterday, my class on U.S. Foreign Policy considered Walter Russell Mead’s Hamiltonian School — ostensibly an American realism grounded in the aligned interests of the state and business.
The Hamiltonians have their roots in Alexander Hamilton. They have always believed that the American national strategy should be modeled on the British system: use your trade to make money through commerce; government should support large business; your trade policy should be an instrument of your economic development, however that benefits you most; and then, the revenues from your international trade will support your military expenditures and interests while preserving political stability at home.
For most of U.S. history, argues Mead, Hamiltonians were mercantilists — favoring “open door” trading policies over “free” trading policies. However, after World War II, the Hamiltonians became free traders and thus embraced GATT, then WTO, NAFTA, etc.
After outlining Mead’s arguments to the class, I also presented some data that questions whether the new laissez-faire Hamiltonians have made the right call. Does the free trade system they’ve helped create build American wealth?
Dan Drezner might disagree with the limited analysis I provided, but many of the students shared the concerns I was raising.
I started the challenge with the question famously raised by Robert Reich: “Who is us?” Then, I asked the students to consider (from the Hamiltonian position) if the American state has perhaps gone too far in removing itself from global capitalism — effectively benefiting transnational corporate interests (and mercantilist states) at the expense of U.S. interests.
the U.S. manufacturing sector never emerged from the 2001 recession, which coincided with China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. Since 2001, the country has lost 42,400 factories, including 36 percent of factories that employ more than 1,000 workers (which declined from 1,479 to 947), and 38 percent of factories that employ between 500 and 999 employees (from 3,198 to 1,972). An additional 90,000 manufacturing companies are now at risk of going out of business.
The “continental realist” John Mearsheimer argues that the U.S. has had a flawed China policy for a very long time. Yet, as the data reveal, the U.S. is helping to make China a stronger future great power competitor.
In the long run, the U.S. might be able to survive the loss of its manufacturing base — thanks perhaps to its innovative information technologies. However, in the midst of a deep recession (with real unemployment at near 20%) and huge trade deficits, the current situation seems troubling — at least it should for Hamiltonians worried about American national interests.
“What?!” You must be exclaiming. “Miss Piggy is a Palin Predecessor?”
No. It’s not so simple. Jim Henson was no fool and I’m sure Kermit does not believe that Obama is a secret communist socialist muslim agent. Or at least I really hope so.
According to the article (which is chronicling a debate on the issue as a break from the never-ending nightmare of the healthcare “debate”):
… the Muppets are temperamentally conservative. While they value education, for example, their interest in the subject is implicitly linked to their desire for children to adopt the norms of bourgeois society, and thereby to take their place as productive citizens. Mr Henson wanted everyone to count by numbers, in the order in which those numbers traditionally appear. Although Muppets occasionally dabble in the arts, notably Rowlf at his piano, Mr Henson had little appreciation for free-form intellectual endeavour. Among his earliest Muppet sketches two curious characters appear. One, “the philosopher”, is described as scatter-brained and often quoting things inappropriately or inaccurately. Another, depicted variously as an octopus and a sea-monster, is described as big, happy, and “normal-thinking”.
But I think it goes far beyond this. Exhibit A: Sam Eagle.
Sam Eagle, the protector of “American” values, who hammers on and on and on about culture. Who uses the show to deliver address against “namby-pamby” liberals who want to put a halt to industry to protect endangered species… like American bald eagles.
Sure, Jim Henson may have supported liberally-oriented civil rights in public(remember Roosevelt Franklin?) He arguably introduced tv’s first gay (albeit closeted) couple. But let’s face it – Sam was the dark heart of the Muppet Show. The Col. Nathan R. Jessep (“protecting these walls”) so that the show may go on. The true side of felt-based American television entertainment.
And who else could we add to this list?
I leave it for blog readers to suggest their own candidates for a “vast rightwing sing-along variety hour conspiracy”.
Congratulations to Claus Wischmann, Martin Baer, and the performers of the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra for their work on the documentary of the “Kinshasa Symphony.” The film has been selected to premier at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival “Berlinale Special” on February 17th 2010, 21:45h (rerun February 18th, 18:00h, Cubix 8)
This is a beautiful project about the only symphony orchestra in central Africa – the “Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste.” The film will be shown in cinemas all over Germany later this spring. I hope it migrates over here to the US soon. Here’s a short clip of it:
Type rest of the post here
One thing that hasn’t really been addressed about our little election here in Massachusetts this week is the degree to which Scott Brown openly campaigned on his support for waterboarding, his opposition to any constitutional rights for terrorists, and his opposition to closing Guantanamo. His main campaign commercial ended with the line “I believe the constitution was designed to protect our nation and does not give rights to terrorists.”
Brown is a Lt. Colonel (Reserve) in the Judge Advocate Generals (JAG) Corps (National Guard) but apparently he didn’t subscribe to the views of his superiors. The JAG Corps consistently opposed the Bush administration’s torture policies and specifically objected to the CIA’s use of waterboarding.
Nonetheless, Brown ran heavily on these views and I think his campaign tapped into a level of populism that is not simply economically-driven,but is also driven by an increasing acceptance of Jack Bauer’s view of the world — every threat is existential and torture is needed to keep us safe.
This all strikes me as further evidence of a growing divide between the United States and its transatlantic partners. I just finished reading The End of the West? Crisis and Change in the Atlantic Order edited by Jeffrey Anderson, G. John Ikenberry, and Thomas Risse. Coming from a variety of theoretical perspectives, each of the contributors agrees that the transatlantic security community took a direct hit during the Bush years and most conclude that while the intensity of the crisis over the Iraq War may have receded, the shared values, collective identities, and common interests embedded in the transatlantic security community may well continue to decline. With a significant number of Americans, even in the bluest state, seeming to have a dismissive attitude toward international law and the Geneva Conventions (and, at the very least a casual acceptance of torture) it strikes me that we are in the midst of a significant transformation of what we call the West.
I know I was asked to comment here on international political economy issues, but how can I pass up the opportunity to point you all to the Online Security Jam?
Yes, on February 4, you too can participate in an online discussion of important security issues. You will “help make the world a safer place…online.” The Jam is being co-produced by the European Commission and NATO, who are just so..so..cutting edge, yes? Well, ok, it’s actually being organized by Security and Defence Agenda, a think tank, and IBM. The goal is to engage literally thousands of experts and non-experts alike in “widening the debate” beyond military concerns. As they say, “No one person has the solution. We all do.” They even have a “Guide to Jamming,” complete with a video, for those of us who are not so of-the-moment, not so part of the online social community.
Actually, I do applaud the idea of widening the debate. And the organizers are sensitive to the increasing influence of NGOs in security issues, which has not always captured the attention of the powers that be. I will be interested in seeing what comes out of the Jam session. Although, frankly, I am not confident that crowdsourcing is the way to solve security issues, even in the 21st century.
Over the break, Foreign Affairs posted my picks on which gender literature the foreign policy community should take seriously. Here’s how the piece begins:
Feminists have long argued that it is wrong to ignore half the population when crafting policies meant to secure a stable world order. Now foreign policy experts are beginning to grasp a different point: a “gender perspective” is relevant not only to those concerned with making the world better for women, but also to anybody who cares about military effectiveness, alliance stability, democracy promotion, actionable intelligence, the stem of pandemic disease, or successful nation building. The following sources are essential reading for anyone interested in the connections between gender relations — norms and assumptions about men and women, masculinity and femininity — and the practice of foreign policy.
You can argue with how I framed it or which works I chose out of the volumes of good scholarship on gender and IR. But if you ask me, it’s fabulous that FA is starting to include gender issues among its must-reads – and, if the latest issue is any suggestion, mainstreaming them in its print edition. Go check it out and tell me what you think.
[cross-posted at LGM]
Lundry quickly runs down the importance of infographics and data visualizations in the political realm. Bottom line: people are hard wired to learn through visualization, and infographics can be very powerful tools in political battles over ideas and policy:
It amazes me that we haven’t seen a faster uptake among professional politicians of data visualization, especially considering the sheer number of political operatives, consultants, and strategic communication firms. All it takes is about five minutes watching C-SPAN to realize that these folks are due for a major upgrade in the infographics department.
I also love Lundry’s updating of a famous H.G. Wells quote
Visual Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write.
Personally, I think you need both visual and statistical in there, but in general I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.
[Cross-posted at bill | petti]
Amazing but true. Social scientists presenting at the International Studies Association’s “Theory v. Policy” Conference this winter will be able to use Powerpoint projectors without shelling out for and packing their own. And not only will you be able to use a projector free of charge (unheard of as late as last year) but ISA will provide projectors and laptops in every room to actually make this easy! (In an exciting twist on this story, overhead projectors are no longer being encouraged; now you have to ask for one of those.)
Welcome to the new century, my esteemed colleagues. I look forward to your many-varied, dynamic and visually exciting presentations.
Better yet, this unprecedented move would seem to mark a decisive shift at the ISA toward more technological savvy in general. Who knows? Maybe this means they’ll manage to get wireless access throughout the conference as well.
Now if our “theories” will just follow ISA “policy” in catching up to the technological changes in the world around us…
This is off-topic from Haiti, and while I am very much concerned about the situation there, an article in the Times of London yesterday raised an issue important enough that I thought I should blog about it. I am generally a fan of the Times, but I was very disappointed to wake-up and read this article declaring that an “Extreme preacher lectures at the LSE”.
This, sadly, is not a new issue. The government and the media have been concerned about radicalization (let’s be specific – Islamic radicalization) on university campuses for a number of years now and they have put in new measures to “deal” with the situation. We are now required to do unprecedented monitoring of our students, particularly, foreign students, including reporting their failure to show for class and their attendance at all levels.
Nor is the first time the LSE has been accused of being the “London School of Terrorists”. For years it was rumored that Carlos the Jackal went to the LSE (not true – but Mick Jagger did!) And accusations flew after the murder of Daniel Pearl when it emerged that the mastermind of his death had attended the LSE in the 1990s. One of Kaddafi’s sons was doing a PhD in the government department while I was there as well, but last I checked, Libya is supposed to be on our side now. Combine this with the fact that the “pants bomber” went to University College London (a different institution, but down the way from LSE) and I guess you have yourself one hot story.
I’m not a fan of Hizb ut-Tahrir or radicalization in general. Nor do I really want to see either of these things on campus.
But this Times article raises several concerns for me as a member of the profession in the UK
This last point is particularly interesting because it is full of some loaded assumptions about what our responsibilities are as academics. First, that it is our responsibility to be aware of our students views. Secondly, if we are concerned with these views we must report them.
Most of my interaction with students is in the classroom – and I have a hard enough time getting them to speak in the first place. I don’t think I will suddenly have my apparently radicalized students suddenly issue a proclamation to wage war against crusader states in Week Three of term.
But let’s say this student does make such a suggestion. What is my best option as a lecturer? Reporting him immediately to the administration? Or would it be to question his views and have other students do the same. I suppose one answer is that these options do not have to be mutually exclusive, but the second option, in my mind, would probably be more effective than the first. If nothing else, having a bunch of eager third-year students (anxious to make their seminar participation mark) let loose on some nutty ideas, would probably have more of an effect (even if it only came down to peer-pressure) than making a claim that would be probably lost or ignored by a university administration trying to deal with the recent budget cuts announced by the Labour government.
To be fair, I would probably report something that seemed to be causing an immediate threat – such as students who suddenly took an interest in bringing a ton of fertilizer or armed weapons to campus. Additionally, I firmly believe that the beliefs of HT and other radicalized groups should be challenged in an open (and hopefully informed) debate. So this is not a call for academia to put its head in the sand.After all, I remember being shocked when I arrived at the LSE in 2001, seeing warnings on the walls that were warning about bombs in the post. There was also an anthrax scare at the BBC next to campus.
But it must be said that in terms of radicalization the only thing I ever saw was a very well sewn sign that was occasionally raised by the ever diminishing Socialist factions (and they spent more time fighting each other rather than capitalism) which read “One Stock Broker is one stock broker too many.”
Oh, and I guess there were all of those investment societies – who probably went on to fill the ranks of Goldman’s, AIG, etc – institutions that went on to bring about more havoc than this perhaps slightly delusional PhD student could probably bring.
In speaking about these issues with my friend Nick Anstead (blogger, lecturer at the University of East Anglia and fabulously more knowledgeable on UK politics than I am), he pointed out to me that the really interesting point here is the dividing line over public and private. The student preaches on Fridays in a room at the far end of campus to a university club/religious group. The rest of the week he is teaching students and (hopefully) working on his PhD. Is there a relationship between these two activities? Is it that they happen to both happen on a campus? And is that enough for the university to intervene?
What are our responsibilities as academics to national security while they are on campus? I am included to believe it is encouraging students to question views, teaching them how to read critically and widely. We are not trained to recognize radicalism in the ways that the government (and apparently The Times) wants us, nor would I ever want to be. I have papers to mark, office hours, a book manuscript to finish, a text book to propose and an article to revise and resubmit. I do not have the time to attend meetings where a student may, or may not, call for the over throw of the system. Oh, and then there are the very real “everyday” emergencies and tangibly more real problems of students dealing with death in the family, substance abuse and eating disorders.
Besides – most of us are wearing dirty jeans and wrinkled tweed. James Bond would not be amused.
First, as posted at LGM, I predict this book is going to sell a whole lot of copies this year. Unlike many ongoing crises that suffer from lack of aid money, in Haiti the relief lag we are seeing is due not to compassion fatigue (text message donations surpassed $10 mil today, equal to the amount pledged by Brazil or Switzerland) but rather to sheer logistical strain caused by poorly built or now-destroyed infrastructure.
(You simply can’t offload supplies from ships without dock cranes. You can’t land planes full of relief shipments and inflatable hospitals without a functional control tower. To save lives, search and rescue crews must get their equipment from tarmac to disaster zone efficiently. Helicopters need landing zones not decimated by rubble. And most importantly, military folks with the choppers need to be able to communicate with the civilian aid agencies who have the supplies.)
A lesson for human security specialists may be: is some level of international governance over basic infrastructure going to be necessary to resolve coordination problems like this in the future? There’s a lot of talk in the MDGs about development aid for food, vaccinations, school supplies, but how about for construction of roads, ports and control towers that can withstand natural disasters? This would seem to be a prerequisite for effective civilian-military response in such scenarios. An international community that can trace nuclear materials or close an ozone hole could establish and implement such standards if it chose – half the problem is lack of political imagination.
Second, my bet is the US military is thinking hard about what its prominent (yet inevitably sluggish) role in this disaster means for its maritime force posture. Climate disasters like this may become more prevalent and the humanitarian fall-out presents security risks if they occur in areas near US borders; the US is positioning itself as a global humanitarian hegemon bent on rebuilding nations ravaged by state failure and disaster. All this has important implications for naval readiness as well as strategic communication. Galrahn at Information Dissemination made a cogent set of points in this regard:
There have been 3 Admirals on C-SPAN in the last 6 months, and only once was it on an issue related to the sea – that was the BMD change. Every other time you see an Admiral on C-SPAN it is Mullen or the topic is prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The media is focused on Haiti, and the symbol of American power is going to be the largest thing everyone can see – USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Be visible, take pictures from the air that include the carrier, and turn USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) into a symbol of hope. The Navy doesn’t have a single Admiral actually in a Navy post today (which means Stavridis and Mullen don’t count) who is recognizable by the average American, but every American knows what a Nimitz class aircraft carrier looks like – as does the rest of the world. Showcase the ship, because it is a symbol and symbolism matters in soft power. The whole world is watching.
If you are trying to follow the news about Haiti, I recommend reading Mark Leon Goldberg’s UN Dispatch. If you are looking to donate to the relief effort, then check out The Daily Beast’s rundown of NGOs operating effectively in Haiti.
Goldberg and I agree that Reverend Pat Robertson is a fool. Media Matters transcribed his January 13 comments about the Haitian tragedy:
PAT ROBERTSON: And, you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.” True story. And so, the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.”
And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now, we’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.
I’ve previously blogged about Robertson’s idiocy, but this latest comment is truly abhorrent given the circumstances. Haitian leaders are estimating between 100,000 and 500,000 dead, but nobody really knows right now.
Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be kicking off a blogging stint over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, where I’ll post material regularly on foreign policy, pop culture and human security. My IR theory-related posts will remain exclusively at the Duck.
OK, LFC might be onto something. From an LGM commenter:
from aliens? from TSA? ?? from politicians promising hope & change but delivering bags o’crap?
Hmm, this should be fun.
It is often asked, “How can we win a war against terror? Who would surrender? How can we make war against an emotion (terror) or a guerrilla technique (terrorism), neither of which are enemy states?” These questions assume that victory in war is simply a matter of defeating the enemy. In fact, that may be the criterion for winning in football or chess, but not warfare. Victory in war is a matter of achieving the war aim. The war aim in a war against terror is not territory, or access to resources, or conversion to our political way of life. It is the protection of civilians within the rule of law.
But Newsweek’s editors seem to have taken a different message from his argument – that it’s impossible to define victory. Instead of taking seriously the idea of how to measure victory on Bobbitt’s terms, their latest issue features a long, admittedly interesting but ultimately distracting conversation about how ambiguous the concept of “victory” is today. That whole discussion misses Bobbitt’s point, I think. Victory on conventional terms is no longer possible in asymmetric wars. Instead of belaboring that, let’s redefine our terms and create some valid metrics to go with them.
More ruminations on that score at Current Intelligence.