Month: November 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

2011 Grawemeyer winner

Kevin Bales, President of Free the Slaves, has won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. The prize is worth $100,000 this year.

The press release describes the award-winning ideas from Ending Slavery, the most recent book published by Bales with University of California Press:

In the book, Bales outlines steps to end the enslavement of some 27 million people worldwide. Slavery and human trafficking are tightly interwoven into the modern global economy, so new political and economic policies must be enacted to suppress them, he says.

Slavery, illegal in every country but still widely practiced, can be stopped within 30 years at a cost of less than $20 billion, a much cheaper price tag than most other social problems, he argues…

“Bales lays out an urgent human challenge, offers ways to make a difference and challenges the reader to become part of the solution,” award jurors said.

Since 2001, Bales’ group has liberated thousands of slaves in India, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana, Brazil, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh.

The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the story, as did the local Louisville Courier Journal and other news outlets. This is from the local paper:

[Bales] estimates that modern slavery puts tens of billions of dollars worth of products into the global economy each year. And while every country has laws against slavery, some don’t enforce them or provide few resources to fight it.

Bales’ ideas for suppressing it involve a mix of tightening government enforcement on illegal trafficking; enacting new policies for businesses that identify when slavery is connected to global supply chains; and adding more grassroots efforts to help free groups of slaves — and then help them get basic skills to avoid such traps again.

Bales said individuals can also help by buying Fair Trade goods and choosing socially responsible investment options.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Bales said. “But there is a box of magic bullets,”

Bales was trained as a sociologist at LSE, but IR theorists interested in norm construction, human rights, and/or scholarly activism will want to check out the award-winning book, as well as other scholarship Bales has produced on this topic.

Disclosure: I chair the Department Committee that overseas the administration of this prize. This entails soliciting external book reviews, chairing a first-round screening committee, bringing together a panel of experts to evaluate and rank a set of semi-finalists, and making sure that the information gleaned from these processes is advanced to a Final Selection Committee.

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American Foreign Policy research and Wikileaks

There may not be a whole lot of diplomatic shockers in Sunday’s release, but this really has the potential to be a game changer for American foreign policy research over the next several years. I’m still not convinced we’ll actually see the full set of 250,000+ documents, but if we do, it will be big.

Most of American foreign policy scholarship evolves in subsequent waves over the course of 30 years or so. The first wave usually relies on press accounts, initial interviews with decision makers and other participants, and the quick turn-around journalistic books — on Iraq for example, we relied heavily on the books from Bob Woodward, Dana Priest, George Packer, Steve Coll, Seymour Hersch, etc…. All things being equal we are able to develop a pretty coherent factual basis in this initial wave.

The second and third waves — usually 5 – 20 years from the event/crisis — rely on those initial sources and subsequent secondary sources plus participant memoirs, more extensive interviews from a broader range of participants, field research, and an initial set of declassified materials through FOIA. These waves tend to branch into two streams – one that reinforces the initial conventional wisdom and a revisionist stream that re-examines alternative explanations, relies more heavily on counterfactuals, and exposes gaps or contradictions in the initial (conventional) explanations.

The fourth and subsequent waves — 20 and 30 years after an event or crisis — come after the release of archived materials. This usually begins with the initial declassification of documents through the Office of Historian at the State Department – the Foreign Relations of the United States Series (FRUS). Subsequent scholarship comes from the ensuing, declassification processes at the National Archives and various presidential libraries.

In short, by the time we see the raw,internal documents, we have a pretty good understanding of the context to determine the relative significance and importance of the classified materials to help us understand gaps in knowledge.

With Wikileaks we may be able to leapfrog the traditional 30 years process. On balance, I think this will contribute positively to scholarship on American foreign policy, but I do have a few concerns and warnings based on the initial press reporting and early blogging responses to the materials:

1. Sexy does not necessarily mean significant. The newspapers yesterday focused on the “raw” nature of the diplomatic discussions. Candid discussions are interesting to read, but not particularly enlightening in terms of the overall conduct of, and decision making in, American foreign policy. Such discussions are pretty standard stuff for anyone who has spent time in the archives or digging through FRUS. To the extent they are informative, they add a level of color about attitudes, but not necessarily much about substance of policy or strategy.

2. Don’t get seduced by classification. The documents released range from unclassified to Secret NOFORN. The tendency may be give more weight to more highly classified documents. As a former intelligence analyst and now a scholar, my sense is that unclassified documents and press accounts often add as much, if not more, to US government assessments and policy considerations than do many of the most highly classified documents. The classification – especially at the Secret level – is a reflection of the sources and methods used to collect the information or the specific sensitivity of an issue discussed. It is not a comment on the validity or significance of the substance.

3. Context still matters. It will be easy to jump to conclusions and cherry pick these cables. These are only a partial representation of U.S. policy deliberations. We can glean questions of interest to the US government from many of these cables, but to understand the dynamics of policymaking and deliberations requires more information. The FRUS series and the archives give us a much broader range on internal documentation ranging from CIA reporting, NSC deliberations, presidential memcons, etc…. This batch of Wikileaks documents are only a small representation of the overall internal documentary record. We’ll still have to wait 30 years or so for those documents.

4. Not all State Dept. cables are equal. I see at least three broad types of cables released so far: a) backgrounders and country analysis; b) memorandum of conversations between senior USG officials (SecDef Gates, Gen Petraeus, Adm. Mullins, and various assistant secretaries and ambassadors, etc…) and senior host government officials; and c) Congressional delegation conversations (CODELs):

a) The backgrounders and country analysis are not all equal. Some cables are written by seasoned political officers who offer candid and insightful judgment, but others are written by officers with only limited understanding of the country, the language, and US policy. Some cables are written by Ambassadors who are political appointees and may be highly ideological (e.g. see Eric Edelman’s cables from US Embassy Ankara) and some are written as part of on-going analytical feuds between the Embassy and the political appointees or the intelligence community back in Washington. In short, some are accurate representations of information that will be transmitted to the highest levels, many are not. Discerning the significance, the internal biases, and the quality of these cables requires more than a casual read.

b) The Memcons between senior administration officials and foreign officials. These can be the most valuable because they tend to demonstrate the range and prioritization of issues as well as the formal diplomatic positions. But many of these are already represented well in press accounts and may not shed all that much light on various subjects.

c) CODEL reporting tends to be a mixed bag and the relative importance of the discussions depends heavily on the interlocutors, the country in question, and the issues under discussion. Foreign government officials often see members of Congress as a different audience than administration officials and often shift their positions – sometimes as a calculated strategy to play Congress off the administration, other times it is simply to be polite or go through the motions of appearing to be interested in random members of Congress.

These documents reveal enormous amounts of information. But, quality scholarship will require commitment to traditional efforts – culling through the range of other primary sources, conducting interviews and field research, and more archival research. These documents are a great resource and, if used with a broader appreciation of process, sources, and context will almost certainly dramatically improve our understanding of American foreign policy of the past decade.

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Riverdance your way through through the Irish Bailout in two minutes: Taiwan animation style!

From NMA – those who brought you the Tiger Woods Video, and the USA-China Currency Crisis Rap Battle video comes the Ireland Bailout video (which I can’t make fit in the frame! Edit: Fixed!)

As an IR blogger with an interest in econ, you might be interested in this animated take on Ireland’s current state of financial distress. I can’t vouch that a leprechaun really charged into Biffo’s office as he was taking in a Guiness, but we tried our hardest to condense the situation in less than two minutes.

Please watch it if only for the signs the protesters are holding at the end.

Despite the email, I don’t pride myself on a knowledge of economic issues. (My bank account can attest to this. Pension-shmention, I want shoes!) However, as this is the internet, I will add my uninformed £0.02.

While I can’t resist the Riverdancing corporate investors, I think the video may end up too pessimistically. Ireland is in a lot of trouble to be sure, but one has the sense now that at least all of the dirt is on the table. This is unlike Greece, for example, where nobody seems to actually know what’s going on or where the problems actually end. (Michael Lewis’ take on this in Vanity Fair is amazing.) One can believe (or hope) that there won’t be many more nasty surprises.

So while I’m not trying to downplay the setback that this bailout represents, I remain slightly optimistic in that I believe that there is now at least a foundation from where Ireland can make a comeback (albeit at a tough price.) It has a well educated and entrepreneurial population. It seems willing to do whatever it takes. And it has certainly seen worse than this.

As for me, I’m just going to keep compiling these videos until I have enough to use them to replace my first year lectures.

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Feminist IR 101, Post #2….vocabularies for talking about sex/gender hierarchies

In the last post, I discussed gender as a system of symbolic meanings. People understood to be “men” are often expected to be “masculine” and associated with masculinity/ies; while people understood to be “women” are expected to be feminine, and associated with femininity/ies. Traits associated with masculinities and femininities are often also transposed onto ideas, concepts, and things, in everyday life and in global politics. Masculinities and femininities are often salient in political, economic, and social life.

But, like all good political “scientists,” you ask the “so what?” question – what does that matter? What does it tell us about how the world works? Most of the answer to that question will be in another post, but, to get there, you’ll need the punchline of the answer: because global politics (at the individual level, at the state level, and at the systemic level) is gender-hierarchical. To discuss that meaningfully, though, we’ll need to know a few more gender-words, and have a vocabulary for talking about gender hierarchy.

Sex hierarchy: the explicit or implicit valuing of people (or things, concepts, ideas, etc.) differently on the basis of their (perceived) sex difference(s).

Gender hierarchy:  the explicit or implicit valuing of people (or things, concepts, ideas, etc.) differently on the basis of their (perceived) gender difference(s), usually the valuing of masculinity/ies over femininity/ies. Any give gender hierarchy is not absolute or universal, sometimes gendered hierarchies value different gender-related characteristics differently in different times and different places. Still, the existence of gender hierarchy/ies is/are universal. Patriarchal gender hierarchies (or gender hierarchies dominated by (hegemonic) masculinity/ies are often described in terms of “gender oppression,” or “gender subordination,” indicating the devaluing of non-idealized masculinity/ies and femininity/ies as compared to dominant/hegemonic (Weberian) ideal-typical notion of what “a woman” or “the feminine” should be and what “a man” or “the masculine” should be. Different feminism(s) refer to deconstructing gender hierarchy differently, using those words, or “ending gender subordination” or “gender emancipation.” Note that none of these terms are explicitly about or exclusively for “women” (to be discussed in a later post).

Other terms describe important complexities, including …

masculinism (n.) – the social preference for masculinity/ies and/or the social exclusion of femininity/ies.

homosexual (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) of a certain (biological) sex, having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) of the same (biological) sex.

lesbian (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) “women,” having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) “women”

gay (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) “men,” having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) “men”

bisexual (adj.) – describes people who are sexually attracted to “both” (“male” and “female”) sexes, regardless of their own (perceived, biological) sex.

heterosexual (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) of a certain (biological) sex, having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) of the “opposite” (biological) sex

homophobia (n.)/homophobic (adj.) – describes (unreasoned) fear or discrimination against people perceived to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual

heteronormativity (n.) – the assumption of the normalcy of heterosexuality and the abnormality of “homosexuality” or “bisexuality”

heterosexism (n.) – the preference for or bias towards heteronormative personal, social, and political organizations and bias against (people and lifestyles classified with) “homosexuality” or “bisexuality”

transgender (adj.) – an imagined cross-gender community

transgender (n.) – people who do not appear to conform to traditional gender norms by presenting and living genders different than those which are assigned to them at birth and/or presenting and living genders in ways that may not be readily intelligible in terms of traditional gender roles and norms. Sometimes “transgender” is distinguished from “transsexual,” where “transsexual” refers to people who use hormonal and/or surgical technologies to alter their bodies in ways that may be construed as at odds with the sex assignment at birth or which may not be readily intelligible in terms of traditional conceptions of sex bodies (see Talia Mae Bettcher’s work on this). Others object to the reification of biology in separating “transgender” and “transsexual.”

FTM (adj.) and MTF (adj.) – signify directionality of “sex change” or “gender change” in trans- people (“female to male” and “male to female”). Some object to the use of these terms because they legitimate illegitimate biological sex categories.

transphobia (n.)/transphobic (adj.) – negative attitudes (hatred, loathing, rage, or moral indignation) towards (perceived or “actual” trans- people and/or transgressive gender performances.

cisgender (n.)/cissexual (n.) – people who are comfortable with and/or identify with the sex and/or gender one was assigned at birth and who experience their “physical” and “conscious” sexes as being aligned.

cissexism (n.) – the belief that trasngendered or transsexual identifications are inferior to or less authentic than those of cisgender or cissexual persons; including (in Julia Serrano’s words) trans-fascimiliation(viewing or portraying transsexuals as merely imitating, emulating, or impersonating cissexual male or female genders), trans-exclusion (refusing to acknowledge and respect a transsexual’s identified gender, or denying them, access to spaces, organizations, or events designed for that gender), trans-objectification (when people reduce trans people to their body parts, the medical procedures they’ve undertaken, or get hung up on, disturbed by, or obsessed over supposed discrepancies that exist between a transsexual’s physical sex and identified gender), and trans-interrogation (when people bring a transsexual’s identified gender into question by asking them to answer personal questions about their life story, their motives for transitioning, medical procedures they have undertaken, or when they obsess over what causes transsexuality – such questions reduce transsexuals to the status of objects of inquiry.

Sexism, heterosexism, and cissexism are iterations of gender hierarchies seen throughout the world, though they take different forms and play out with different empirical results over time, place, culture, and situation.

Still, only armed with these “vocabulary words,” one might think that the only people who should care about sex/gender hierarchies in global politics are the people on the “bottom” end of them – that is, women, persons of non-heterosexual sexual preference, and persons of non-cissexual sex/gender identification. One would be wrong.

to feminize (infinitive), feminizing (gerund), feminization (n.) – subordinating people, political entities, or ideas by associating them with values perceived as feminine. (In Spike Peterson’s words), not only subjects (women and marginalized men) but also concepts, desires, tastes, styles, “ways of knowing” …can be feminized – with the effect of reducing their legitimacy, status, and value. Importantly, this devalorization is simultaneously ideological (discursive, cultural) and material (structural/economic) … this devalorizaton normalizes – with the effect of “legitimating” the marginalization, subordination, and exploitation of feminized practices and persons.

In Catherine MacKinnon’s words (which I am sure I will get a lot of blog-spam for mentioning, but, whatever), feminization is something that can (and often does) happen to anyone – it is only that we assume that it is natural when it happens to women. Put another way (and key to the forthcoming discussion in post #3), gender hierarchy is operative in social and political relations not just when “men” discriminate against “women,” but in a variety of instantiations where associations with perceived genders/sexualities/gendered characteristics are mapped onto persons, states, and other entities in (global and everyday) interactions.

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Wikileaks and the global public interest

A couple of observations on the Wikileaks diplomatic info-dump as seen from London. First, European governments have been unanimous in their condemnation of Wikileaks, disgraceful undermining of diplomacy etc etc.  But what do they really think? I’m sure they will be philosophical about the content of the US cables. These are the sort of assessments that every diplomat makes, and is supposed to make; I would bet a year’s salary that the sort of things American diplomats said about David Cameron would pale into insignificance beside the sort of things British diplomats said about George W. Bush – indeed I’d bet a month’s salary that they were barely more complimentary about Barack Obama in the early days of his run for the Democratic nomination. There used to be a custom that British Ambassadors when they finally left a posting would write a long, frank valediction – Matthew Parris has just published a collection of these Parting Shots and very amusing (and occasionally xenophobic) they are, and certainly not the kind of text that the locals would have been allowed to see at the time. That’s the nature of diplomacy – as is the allegedly horrifying proposition that diplomats were requested to collect information on their opposite numbers; the State Department added the rider, ‘if possible’ to this general request, and I image US diplomats at the UN and elsewhere will have immediately assessed that e.g. collecting Ban Ki Moon’s credit card numbers wasn’t going to be possible and will have binned the memo.

The point is, foreign governments will understand all this, but what they will find unforgiveable is the fact that the US Government did not protect their own diplomatic correspondence adequately.  It simply isn’t good enough that accounts of conversations with the King of Saudi Arabia or assessments of Putin’s involvement with the Russian mafia are simply graded as Secret and potentially made available to anyone remotely connected to the military and/or homeland security.  Diplomats may understand the need for frank assessments of friends as well as enemies, but popular opinion, led by tabloid journalists and professional anti-Americans will play these indiscretions for all they are worth and then some. This is a self-inflicted wound, and it is no good blaming Wikileaks – although there are things we can blame them for.
This gets to my second point which is that I find it interesting that critics such as Assange are actually so obsessed with what they imagine to be an evil Empire that they come to possess the faults they attribute to it, in particular an insular inability to understand that not everything is about America, and that local actors aren’t simply reacting to US policy, but have goals and minds of their own. The Middle East leaks are a particularly interesting illustration of this point. Without actually saying so, Wikileaks manage somehow to convey the impression that America is stirring up hostility against Iran in the region, a position gratefully accepted and repeated by the Iranian government – but the leaks make it clear that virtually all of  America’s allies in the region want her to get tougher with the Iranians. What Wikileaks has done by releasing this material has been to make it more difficult for America to keep its friends on the reservation, but they seem completely blind to this, presumably on the principle that an increase in the chances that Israel will attack Iran with Saudi covert assistance is a worthwhile price to pay for the opportunity to lessen US influence in the world. This is a rather peculiar understanding of the global public interest; it makes sense only if you are so obsessed by America that nothing else matters.  
The general point is, there are times when it would be good to reduce American influence on particular issues, but there are times when it would be very, very bad indeed.  Wikileaks seem incapable/unwilling to distinguish between these two situations, and that is what makes it a public menace.
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“Diplomatic Shockers”

Wow. Iran’s neighbors are threatened by its rise! Many governments think Pakistan may not be able to secure its nuclear arsenal! The US attempts to use its leverage with its allies to achieve its political objectives! China has engaged in a cyber-campaign against Google and other American companies! Yemen approves of US’ targeted killings on its soil (but claims otherwise to quell domestic opposition)! Also, governments routinely spy on United Nations officials!

Who knew all this stuff, eh? Thank the stars for Wikileaks.

[cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]

P.S. Want to know what I did learn from this that I wouldn’t have assumed? The US State Department talks among itself far more about human rights than it does about terrorism.

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Feminist IR 101, Post #1 … definitions of sex and gender

(disclaimer: this is my attempt to define/illustrate; mistakes are mine, not to be assigned to feminist IR as a whole)

sex (noun?): traditionally used to refer to the biological characteristics of bodies based on their internal and external sex organs, where persons with “female” organs are “women,” and people with “male” organs are men. It can also be divided on the basis of chromosomal characteristics, where people with “XX” are “women,” and people with “xy” are men. In actuality, substantially more complicated than that, where there are more than a dozen chromosomal combinations on the “sex” chromosome, and more than 20 different combinations of sex organs that people are born with regularly enough to be documented (they total between half of one percent and one percent of the population, and include people labelled ‘trans,’ ‘intersex,”hermaphroditic’ (which is generally looked at as a pejorative description). Usually, babies born with ‘abnormal’ sex organ configurations are ‘corrected’ into a particular sex at birth, and their parents told that they just needed cosmetic surgery to make them appear the ‘sex’ they ‘really are.’ Many of these babies never find out what happened to them, while others struggle with their sex identity for most of their lives. To the extent that ‘sex’ is a valid category @ all, there are more than two ‘sexes.’ Still, the idea that the human species can be neatly divided into two ‘sexes’ by clear and recognizable criteria permeates almost every aspect of our daily lives. (see Anne Fausto-Sterling’s work)

to sex (infinitive)/sexing (gerund): to impute/(imputing) sex to a body, or some other object, and, in so doing, assume particular characteristics (see “gender” below), or distribute advantages or disadvantages, privileges or punishments, etc. (see, for example, Deirdre McCloskey’s memoirs for an illustrative treatment, and Anne Fausto-Sterling’s work cited above for a theoretical one)

sexed (adjective): a body or some other object which has (or has been assigned or imputed) a ‘sex’ (n.). About bodies, see Annie Potts’s the Science/Fiction of Sex; about an object, see the recent book Sexed Pistols, edited by Vanessa Farr, Henri Myrttinen, and Albrecht Schnabel.

(see below the fold for “gender”)

gender (noun?): 1) not equivalent to “sex.” 2) (actual definitional discussion) Gender is a system of symbolic meaning that creates social/material hierarchies based on perceived associations with masculinity/ies and femininity/ies (most often assigned by the shorthand of perceived biological sex). It is expectations, assumptions, and outcomes assigned to people, things, concepts, and ideas based on their association with one of those categories (and often their assumed membership in sex categories). People, things, concepts, and ideas that are associated with masculinity (including but not limited to most “men”) are usually valued differently than and often valued above people, things, concepts, and ideas associated with femininity (including but not limited to most “women”). Traits often associated with masculinity/ies include, but are not limited to, strength, rationality, autonomy, independence, aggression, protector-ability, assuredness, and the public sphere. Traits often associated with femininity/ies include, but are not limited to, helplessness, emotion, vulnerability/dependence, interdependence, peacefulness, maternalism/care, sensitivity, and the private sphere. These traits, and their gender-associations, vary over time and place.

to gender (infinitive)/gendering (gerund): to read/reading, or to assign/assigning, gender-based characteristics, into/onto a particular person, thing, concept, or idea (consciously or unconsciously through gender-related assumptions and/or performances.

gendered (adjective)/gendering (participle): a person, thing, concept, idea, process, or object which has (or has been assigned or imputed) a ‘gender’ or ‘genders (n.)

Next post(s): “Feminist IR 101 … post #2: a vocabulary for talking about sex/gender hierarchies;” “post #3: so what is “feminist” in “feminist IR?,” and post #4, “common misconceptions about feminist IR.” Feel free to let me know (by comment or backchannel) if there are other issues you’d like covered and/or other questions you’d like answered.

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DPRK’s attention-deficit disorder (updated)

Pyongyang’s “pay attention to me! right! now!” routines seem calculated to convince the United States, South Korea, and Japan of one thing: that military force is the only effective long-term solution to North Korean intransigence. Which means, naturally enough, that Pyongyang’s recent rounds of “WTF” are most likely driven entirely by domestic DPRK politics.

World history is flush with with examples of more prosperous states repeatedly buying off uncouth and belligerent barbarians. But one has to wonder how far Pyongyang can push the South Koreans. Will there come a point when Seoul decides to risk war rather than see the DPRK’s retrograde regime become even more awash in “Sampson Option” capabilities? I assume that the South Korean policy toward North Korea is rooted in a belief that, if Seoul waits long enough, the regime will implode. But what if that calculation changes?

What makes this interesting (and dangerous), is that ROK forces–even without U.S. help–are more than a match for anything that the North Koreans can field. This means that the South Korean leadership has any number of plausible military options; if the South Koreans begin to significantly alter their assessment of current trends, these military options will likely appear increasingly attractive.

Still, none of this suggests an alteration in the basic factors that restrain Seoul:

  • Before they collapse, North Korean forces will kill a lot of South Koreans and do a lot of damage to South Korea’s economy;
  • The United States has no appetite for taking part in an additional large-scale military conflict;
  • Uncertainty surrounding Beijing’s likely actions in the event of a conflict; and
  • The significant challenges that would come from assuming control of North Korean territory if the conflict leads to ROK victory in a full-blown war. 

These four factors–two of which aren’t particularly manipulable–make significant escalation unlikely. But with the developments of the last two days, I’m less sanguine than I was even after the sinking of the Cheonan–especially about the long-term prospects for a peaceful Korean peninsula.

UPDATE: that there’s some serious brinksmanship.

South Korea warned today that it will unleash “enormous retaliation” if North Korea launches fresh attacks against its territory.

North Korean troops bombarded Yeonpyeong, an island in disputed waters, with dozens of rounds of artillery earlier today, reportedly killing two South Korean soldiers and injuring around 20 people.

Seoul placed its military on its highest non-wartime alert level, scrambling F-16 fighter jets to the western sea and returning fire, officials said. It warned that the attack was a violation of the armistice that ended the Korean war in 1953.

The South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, who convened an emergency security meeting shortly after the initial bombardment, said an “indiscriminate attack on civilians” could never be tolerated.

“Enormous retaliation should be made, to the extent that [North Korea] cannot make provocations again,” he said.

While war remains unlikely, audience-cost dynamics can combine with political miscalculations in unexpected, and unpleasant, ways.

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A (not so) open letter to a journal editor (or five): Part II

Dear Dr. Journal Editor,

As I mentioned in “Part I” of this letter, I “lost” this battle, and it matters to me.

Why? Because it’s not just “work” to me that happens to be on a particular topic because it is an interesting question. I believe all knowledge has a politics, acknowledged or not, and I acknowledge mine.

I do feminist work because I’m interested in deconstructing gender hierarchies in IR as a discipline and in global politics more generally. I think that such a move would benefit everyone in IR/global politics, not just women (a category I’m not particularly fond of).

I don’t want all IR the sort of work that I do, but I want (and need) it to be open to the sort of work that I do, because the world (both the real one and ours) is worse off when it isn’t, both normatively and in terms of our empirical/theoretical knowledge about the world.

In an unpublished paper a couple of years ago, I argued that the relationship between feminist IR and IR generally was an impossible one, where feminist work would always (and only) be included when it mimics IR, which robs it of its (intellectual) identity – a paradox to say the least.

I might believe that, but I’ve acted differently – attempting to mainstream feminist work at every opportunity, even when just publishing in “our” journals and talking to “our” audience would be both intellectually more interesting and substantially easier. And a lot of times that has been a great learning experience for both “sides” with an excellent result, (thanks, for example, to Security Studies), but, more often than not, like it was last week, it is an exercise where futility meets ridiculousness.

Why do I say ridiculousness? And, “so what”?


The ridiculousness: 

I wrote an article that makes a constitutive (not causal) argument about gender (not sex). It is interested in symbolism, in underlying justificatory logics, and in the ways that the unsaid plays into the particular problematique. It is heavily based on existing feminist literature in security studies, which it cites, but does not rehash for reasons of space (after all, when did you last read a 1000 word summary of Michael Doyle in the regime type literature?). It combines case explorations and multivariate regressions, though those regressions are used to show relationships rather than “measure” gender hierarchy and determine the directionality of its relationship with a “dependent variable” (the reviewers’ words, not mine).

As I implied in the first part of this letter, it was not taken on its own terms. It was not even taken on the terms usually used in evaluation of feminist work. I don’t know if the article would pass the bar on those terms, but I would sure like to.

A brief example: Reviewer 1 complains that (s)he doesn’t need the lesson on the difference between sex and gender (which I included, since I sent it to a mainstream journal and was talking about the latter, which is always conflated with the former). Then the Reviewer complains that the theory doesn’t take into account the heterogeneity among/between women, which it does, because that’s the whole point of laying out that feminist work is about gender, not about sex, and talks about women/femininity not women/sex organs. The article isn’t about “women” per se (but gendered representations and performances in war signification), and it doesn’t come anywhere near assuming either that all women have anything in common, or that femininity is something natural to (any) women. I feel fairly sure that people who do feminist IR (or even take it seriously) wouldn’t have read it that way. Its almost like some of the replies to the last letter I posted – people see the word “gender” (or, god forbid, “feminist”) and read all sorts of ridiculous things that the work doesn’t argue into it.

A second brief example: Both reviewers conclude with examples of what counts as “good work” in this field to them. First, that work isn’t in my field. I won’t “name names” in a blog post because I’m not looking to grind axes with particular people’s work, and they are people I respect personally and professionally – but they are people who “study gender” (by which they really mean sex …as dichotomous … what do men do? what do women do differently?) from a ‘non-feminist’ approach (by which I mean that they do not take account of the gender hierarchy as a fundamental condition of global social and political life). The particular work referred to in the reviews (and tacitly accepted by the journal editors as the standard by which my work should be judged) is just not good analysis from a(/my) feminist perspective, and not just for the normative reasons some may accuse me of being attached to (as if that were a bad thing). Instead, it misses links in a (you choose causal or constitutive) chain of analysis about how the world works, it makes (false/unjustifiable/oversimplified) sex essentialist assumptions, it doesn’t understand the empirical implications of sex/gender distinction (and confluence), it assumes the countability of uncountable things and the materiality of performative things, it doesn’t “hear” the substance to silence …. I could go on.

So what? 

Losing these battles is unjustified, and getting old. As a commenter on the first part of this letter notes, it’s not your journal and your journal alone. Your journal could be one of many. It’s also not just journals, its hiring committees, book publishers, etc … not universally, but by and large. So on one hand, it is not your “fault.” But it is our collective fault, and yours more than mine (both because of the relative power differential between us and because I critique the orthodoxy you reify).

Be on notice: feminist IR won’t lose the war. We will open up this discipline to feminist work (and critical work more generally), hell or high water, and I will devote my career to that work, even if it takes the rest of my career. And not tokenism, but real, rigorous, complex, contingent, modest, engaged inclusion.

I will do so because feminism belongs in IR, and not only when it looks and acts like it fits in mainstream IR’s narrow world, but maintaining its own identity and transforming IR to make it broader and better. IR needs feminist work in order to make its worldview less partial, to increase the explanatory value of its theoretical propositions, and to clarify the meanings of its empirical observations. The “relationship” cannot continue forever on its current terms, where tokenism but general closedness is the practice. Instead, feminist IR should and can transform IR – maintaining “our” sense of identity, embracing “our” diversity, and flexing “our” strengths.

That part, though, is beside the point. When Ann Tickner wrote You Just Don’t Understand, she was asking IR to think about feminist work by the claims it makes and the positions it takes, not despite them, ignoring them, or trivializing them. I, for one, am embarrassed to be needing to repeat that request (over and over) thirteen years later. But that’s what I’m doing, now, to you, and to anyone else who might be listening.

Look for a series of “PS” posts to this letter (tentatively titled “Feminist IR 101”) explaining what you might want to know to give feminist work a fair review.

Best,

Laura
…who is exhausted by having to stick up for her (research’s) right to exist.

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BMD and NATO not quite BFD, but a step in the right direction

NATO agrees to missile-defense mission. Somewhat paradoxically, this is true even if you’re lukewarm on ballistic missile defenses (BMD) in general, or the Phased Adaptive Approach in particular. Why? The more NATO presents a united front, the more likely the Russians are to cooperate on BMD and BMD-related issues, which not only reduces an irritant in relations but mitigates against some of the potentially destabilizing implications of BMD deployment.

Afterthought: might also help with New START ratification. Harder to argue that Obama is selling out BMD when he’s accomplished something no Republican ever did: convince NATO to make it part of its mission.

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The Transition

In discussing the planned handover of security responsibilities to the Afghan National Army, Vice President Joe Biden stated:

“Daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off in October — I mean in next July — so you’d better practice riding,” he said of the plan that will be outlined at the NATO summit in Lisbon.  (ABC News Radio)

The undiluted mix of imperialism and paternalism, while embarrassing from a public relations standpoint, is a good guide to how the US plans to spin the transition.  The US and ISAF will seek to shift responsibility and hence the blame for a precarious and faltering security situation onto the Afghan National Army.  Of course, no amount of paternalism will mask the fact that US and ISAF failed to properly resource and prioritize training a robust ANA and police force until last year.

The current strategy is reliant on a process of accelerated training, in order to swell the ranks.  It is a strategy that clearly emphasizes quantity over quality.  Whether such a strategy will lead to a competent force is highly debatable.  As a CSIS Report on the Afghan National Security Forces recently commented:

“Trying to expand Afghan forces too quickly, creating forces with inadequate force quality, and decoupling Afghan force development from efforts to deal with the broad weakness in Afghan governance and the Afghan justice system will lose the war. America’s politicians, policymakers, and military leaders must accept this reality—and persuade the Afghan government and our allies to act accordingly—or the mission in Afghanistan cannot succeed.”

A rushed transition designed to suit US domestic political priorities and national interests may jeopardize the prospects for a stable Afghanistan.  If the relationship between the US/ISAF and the ANA is that of parent to child as the Vice President asserts, then the parent seems to be guilty of criminal neglect and reckless endangerment.

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A (not so) open letter to a journal editor (or five): Part I

(a letter I’ve thought about writing a dozen times over the last decade of being a feminist researcher)

Dear Dr. Journal Editor,

I submitted an article to your (big) journal in my (general) field. I don’t know if it was of the quality to be published in your (spiffy) journal or not, but, to be honest, I was trusting you to figure that out. You betrayed my trust, and in spades.

Your journal presents a pluralistic face, and lets in the occasional article that transgresses the norms of traditional social science. In fact, I do a lot of reviews for your journal and many journals like it … I’m the person that you send stuff you don’t really understand to, and you often trust me to vet it.

I’m worthy of that trust. I will tell you if research in my “ism” or “paradigm” or epistemological approach is great and pathbreaking, or if it downright stinks. I don’t write better reviews for feminist poststructuralist work (which I like) than for the next positivist democratic peace article (which makes my epistemological instincts cringe) – I judge them each on their own terms (or at the very least on the terms of their particular approach to international studies)…because that’s what a good reviewer does, and, I think, what a good journal editor does.

So why doesn’t your journal give (my) feminist work that courtesy?


Because for all of your platitudes about the need to escape from paradigmatic approaches to IR, and having heard the perestroika movement, you still fundamentally don’t understand non-positivist work generally and feminist work specifically?

My article will find a publication outlet with as intense scrutiny as your journal but not as much (methodological, epistemological, or ontological) closed-mindedness that your journal has. Why? Because, though its not perfect and could benefit from good reviews, its not bad work, and you’d know that if you read it without blinders on. I know my field well enough to know that any two (or three or five) feminist reviewers taking the article on its own terms would have recommended an R&R. And I think a journal editor concerned with taking what I do seriously would have given it one.

Why do I care that it didn’t get one?

Its not about my publication record – I’m happy with that, and, though a few more articles in the “big” journals like yours might make my (academic) life easier, I’m happy with it as it is.

I sent the article to your journal because I consider your journal to be important in the field, including in the sort of work that I do, an impression that had been validated in the past with experiences I’ve had (as a manuscript writer and a reviewer) with feminist work being evaluated on its own terms, rather than having other (inappropriate for this work) standards be used as a measuring stick to which it will (by epistemological definition) not measure up. Note that this has nothing to do with whether the article is ultimately accepted or my advice as a reviewer ultimately taken … but with the integrity of the process.

You sent my work to people who just don’t understand, and, fundamentally, don’t want to. Which is their prerogative, but I thought your journal was (and it should be) above that.

For example, both reviewers attribute a “hypothesis” to the article – it has no such thing, nor would I claim such a thing for it. The first reviewer also attributes variables to the article, which, strictly speaking, the article doesn’t claim, and wouldn’t want to. Both reviewers note that the chosen “variables” are “bad measures;” that’s certainly true … of course, because there’s no such thing as a “good measure” of something intangible that people lie about anyway. The work has a different purpose – establishing potential consistency, showing theoretical logic, etc. It must, because its empirical argument is fundamentally “unproveable” in traditional terms and its epistemological stance not particularly committed to the idea of provability.

On one hand, its your journal’s choice to by default exclude work that doesn’t conform to the scientific method; it is also your journal’s choice, and indeed its right, to reject my work for whatever reason, or no reason at all.

That said, I believe(d) in your journal as a pluralist outlet that would try to think through/think about work across the positivist/postpositivist divide, and regardless of the “ism” from which it came. That’s why it was disappointing that the article was sent to people who quite clearly had not even the most basic literacy in feminist theorizing in IR, and even more disappointing that they (therefore) criticize the article both from an epistemological standpoint which it/I reject and from a place of complete theoretical ignorance.

The point is not that your journal (or others) shouldn’t publish positivist work. Or that your journal (or others) should publish the particular article I submitted. Or even that this experience is out of the ordinary for me. The point is instead is that pluralism is more than seeing someone use “gender” as a variable and publishing it … it is critically thinking about and engaging different approaches to how one thinks about global politics. A pluralist model should evaluate work on its own terms, and the journal review process I just experienced in the review process strayed from that, and that’s disappointing to me, especially given that your journal has a fairly recent history of fairness and pluralism, for real. A pluralist review process doesn’t require ignoring the things that divide us, but working hard to talk over, through, and past those divides.

Combining these reviews with the recent table(s) of contents of the journal, well, I think I’m not so sure anymore, and that’s disappointing. Its disappointing especially given the uphill battle it takes to convince (previously burned) feminist scholars to engage at all … and the fact that, so long as journals like yours are (de jure or de facto) closed to feminist work, it will remain at the margins of American IR, given the feedback loop between elite journals and tenure and promotion at elite institutions.

I “lost” this battle, and dozens like it. And each time I, or someone else, loses, and feminist work is excluded from journals like yours (even when there are token feminist scholars on the editorial board), it does hurt the relative position and power of feminist scholarship in the US R1 university community. But you (and scholars like you) think about these things from a site of power, and can fairly easily categorize this stuff as “bad” work. And, given your rejection rate, I have company. But this one matters to me.

Why? See Part II soon.

Best,

Laura Sjoberg
…who does feminist research and has never claimed otherwise

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Latest Data on Drone Casualties

A study published in the Jamestown Foundations’ Terrorism Monitor a few days ago claims it sheds “New Light on the Accuracy of the CIA’s Predator Drone Campaign in Pakistan.” (Never mind the fact that as civilians, CIA agents are not entitled to wage war and would have to be considered ‘unlawful combatants’ if brought to justice.)

The question addressed here is a simple but very important one from a jus in bello perspective: what is the proportion of civilian deaths to combatant deaths in such strikes? No one is actually keeping track, but the authors aim to develop a good estimate by extrapolating from both Western and Pakistani news sources. On this basis they conclude:

Widely-cited reports of the inaccuracy and disproportionality of civilian to militant deaths in the CIA’s ongoing Predator drone campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan are grossly misleading. The most detailed database compiled to date, assembled by the authors of this article, indicates (among other important findings) that the strikes have not only been impressively accurate, but have achieved and maintained a greater proportionality than either ground operations in the area or targeting campaigns elsewhere

Now, I haven’t studied their coding closely enough to understand how it enabled them to arrive at such wildly different conclusion than this study last year, which used a similar methodology; however simply by reading over the article itself I can already see three problems:

1) Their definition of ‘civilian’ excludes adult men and boys over the age of 13:

All children under 13 and women were assumed to be civilian, along with all of those specifically identified as civilians, bystanders or locals uninvolved in the fighting. Where it was impossible to determine whether a person killed was properly categorized as a suspected militant or civilian, we assigned them to the category of “unknowns.”

Numerous scholars, myself included, have shown how misleading it is to assume all women are civilians and all men and older boys are combatants; and to build this gendered stereotype into one’s dataset immediately prejudices the data in favor of finding fewer civilian deaths.

2) The authors are to be commended for using the label “suspected militants” rather than “militants” – too many right-of-center commentators assume that a terror suspect is in fact a terrorist, just as too many left-of-center commentators use the term “war criminal” to describe individuals who have never yet been convicted of a war crime. Yet these authors somehow fail to notice the ethical implication in the behaviors they are describing: the US is carrying out a mass murder campaign against individuals suspected of committed crimes, in the absence of any sort of effort to determine whether or not they are actually guilty. In short, what renders these individuals putative “legitimate targets” appears to be nothing more than the suspicions of those with their fingers on the trigger. Oh, and possessing testicles.

3) Now that said, the way that they have gone about exploring the concept of discrimination is very interesting: they have compared the ratio of civilian/”suspected militant” deaths with drone to equivalent ground operations by US troops, by Pakistani troops, and by Israel’s targeted killings campaign, and in inter-state wars historically. All of these are interesting and helpful comparisons. I’d be interested to see them replicated with data that properly coded “civilian” dead – which would need to involve a consideration of the context of each attack.

That said, strictly speaking the authors are measuring the concept of “distinction” or “discrimination,” not the concept of “proportionality.” The distinction principle measures the ability to hit combatants while minimizing the costs to civilians. Proportionality measures the overall good of an attack relative to its overall negative side-effects.

From a human security perspective, I would argue the appropriate measure for an analysis of proportionality would not be the number of civilian death to combatant deaths, but rather the number of civilian deaths by drone strikes to some estimate of the number of Pakistani civilians who will not now die as a result of militant activity.

I leave it to the number crunchers to figure out how to calculate this.

[cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]

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BBC spy miniseries upsets China, but how real is it? Let’s play Spooks bingo!

The BBC has offended the Chinese government because its primetime show Spooks (Mi5 in North America) has depicted Chinese intelligence agents in an unflattering light, reported here and here in the last few days. The plot saw MI5 trying to prevent an ‘ethnic weapon’ falling into Chinese hands, with much chasing around London and a few sinister and, perhaps, stereotypically Chinese baddies (judge for yourself in the Guardian screenshot here). 
As somebody who has written about Spooks and the war on terror (Chapter 7 of this), only to meet gentle mockery from my students, colleagues and indeed co-author, I can only say thank you to the Chinese government for suggesting Spooks is significant; that representations of international politics make a difference to international politics; enough of a difference to kick up a diplomatic rumpus.

But how much do the threats represented in Spooks match the priorities and intelligence of British defence and security agencies? One way to find out is to look at the threats listed in Britain’s latest National Security Strategy, just out, and see what happens in the next series of Spooks in 2011. That’s right, its time to tick off the threats as they appear, and you can play along at home or on BBC i-player. Here are threats, ranked into three tiers:
National Security Strategy: Priority Risks
Tier One: The National Security Council considered the following groups of risks to be those of highest priority for UK national security looking ahead, taking account of both likelihood and impact.
• International terrorism affecting the UK or its interests, including a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack by terrorists; and/or a significant increase in the levels of terrorism relating to Northern Ireland.
• Hostile attacks upon UK cyber space by other states and large scale cyber crime. • A major accident or natural hazard which requires a national response, such as severe coastal flooding affecting three or more regions of the UK, or an influenza pandemic.
• An international military crisis between states, drawing in the UK, and its allies as well as other states and non-state actors.
Tier Two: The National Security Council considered the following groups of risks to be the next highest priority looking ahead, taking account of both likelihood and impact. (For example, a CBRN attack on the UK by a state was judged to be low likelihood, but high impact.)
• An attack on the UK or its Oversees Territories by another state or proxy using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons.
• Risk of major instability, insurgency or civil war overseas which creates an environment that terrorists can exploit to threaten the UK.
• A significant increase in the level of organised crime affecting the UK.
• Severe disruption to information received, transmitted or collected by satellites, possibly as the result of a deliberate attack by another state.
Tier Three: The National Security Council considered the following groups of risks to be the next highest priority after taking account of both likelihood and impact.
• A large scale conventional military attack on the UK by another state (not involving the use of CBRN weapons) resulting in fatalities and damage to infrastructure within the UK.
• A significant increase in the level of terrorists, organised criminals, illegal immigrants and illicit goods trying to cross the UK border to enter the UK.
• Disruption to oil or gas supplies to the UK, or price instability, as a result of war, accident, major political upheaval or deliberate manipulation of supply by producers.
• A major release of radioactive material from a civil nuclear site within the UK which affects one or more regions.
• A conventional attack by a state on another NATO or EU member to which the UK would have to respond.
• An attack on a UK overseas territory as the result of a sovereignty dispute or a wider regional conflict.
• Short to medium term disruption to international supplies of resources (e.g. food, minerals) essential to the UK. (HM Government, 2010: 27)
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(Head of) State Secrets

As I’ve already noted, former President George W. Bush is apparently settling some scores in his new memoir. In Europe, his passages about former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are attracting a good deal of attention.

According to press reports, Bush says Schroder was for the Iraq war before it was against it. Because of his own electoral problems, Bush implies, Schroeder flip-flopped.

The former president writes that when he said he was considering the use of force in Iraq, Schroder said, “‘What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you.'”

Mr. Bush writes that he “took that as a statement of support. But when the German election arrived later that year, Schroder had a different take. He denounced the possibility of force against Iraq.”

…Mr. Bush writes in “Decision Points” that though he continued to work with the German leader on some issues, “as someone who valued personal diplomacy, I put a high premium on trust. Once that trust was violated, it was hard to have a constructive relationship again.”

Unlike Bush’s former domestic ally Mitch McConnell, who has remained mum about Bush’s similar accusations, Schroeder says Bush is lying:

Schroder said Tuesday that former President George W. Bush “is not telling the truth” in his new memoir “Decision Points,” according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

…Schroder says Mr. Bush’s description of the exchange is false. He said in that meeting and in others he told Mr. Bush that Germany would stand by the United States if Iraq is shown “to have provided protection and hospitality to al-Qaida fighters.” He added, however, that it became clear in 2002 that the alleged connection between Iraq and al-Qaida “was false and constructed.”

Obviously, one of these former leaders has the facts wrong.

Throughout Europe, if press reports are accurate, most people side with Schroeder.

Bush skeptics certainly have history on their side. The most hawkish supporters of the Iraq-war simply did not countenance conditional support — and have often accused political opponents of simple and hypocritical “flip flops” when something more complicated was at work. I’ve pointed this out before in regard to the “pro-war” votes in the Congress and UN Security Council in fall 2002. Lots of people labeled “war supporters” were simply trying to give the U.S. enough leverage to force Iraq to yield to weapons inspections and assure disarmament.

In this case, Schroeder’s support was contingent upon the evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda:

“Schroeder’s support (for the invasion of Iraq) was conditional on evidence being found of terrorists being harbored in Iraq, so when there was no evidence delivered, he withdrew his support,” LSE professor [Dr. Henning] Meyer told Deutsche Welle. “Bush is attempting to polish his own picture of this situation with the Germans by saying that the breakdown in relations was not his fault and that it was Schroeder who turned opinion against him.”

As RFE/RL reviewer Christian Caryl notes, Bush’s memoir “passes over in silence…how his administration’s repeated declarations of a link between Al-Qaeda and Hussein’s regime warped the work of the intelligence agencies, who had been told all too clearly what their masters wanted to hear.”

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Bush: McConnell plays politics with national security

In his new memoir, former President George W. Bush says that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) let electoral politics influence his advice about the Iraq war in 2006. Cincinnati’s CityBeat has the exchange from Bush’s memoir:

“In September 2006, with the midterm elections approaching, my friend Mitch McConnell came to the Oval Office. The senior senator from Kentucky and Republican whip had asked to see me alone. Mitch has a sharp political nose, and he smelled trouble.

‘Mr. President,’ he said, ‘your unpopularity is going to cost us control of the Congress’ …

‘Well, Mitch,’ I asked, ‘what do you want me to do about it?’ ‘Mr. President,’ he said, ‘bring some troops home from Iraq.'”

The Louisville Courier-Journal, November 9 quotes Bush as replying that he would “set troop levels to achieve victory in Iraq, not victory at the polls.”

Ouch.

My local paper (and McConnell’s) lets Michael Desch, a realist IR theorist and chair of political science at Notre Dame, explain the Senator’s problem:

“Because he [McConnell] had been a cheerleader for the president in the war, it makes him look like a bit of a hypocrite,” Desch said of McConnell. “It also makes him look bad because he seems to be trimming his sails in response to electoral politics, which doesn’t look very statesmanlike.”

Indeed, in an op-ed on November 11, the C-J detailed McConnell’s hypocrisy:

At the time that Sen. McConnell was privately advising Mr. Bush to reduce troop levels in Iraq, he was elsewhere excoriating congressional Democrats who had urged the same thing. “The Democrat[ic] leadership finally agrees on something — unfortunately it’s retreat,” Sen. McConnell had said in a statement on Sept. 5, 2006, about a Democratic letter to Mr. Bush appealing for cuts in troop levels. Sen. McConnell, who publicly was a stout defender of the war and Mr. Bush’s conduct of the conflict, accused the Democrats of advocating a position that would endanger Americans and leave Iraqis at the mercy of al-Qaida.

Ouch again.

The op-ed notes that McConnell has three choices: call Bush a liar, admit that he was lying publicly at the time, or “explain why the fortunes of the Republican Party are of greater importance than the safety of the United States.”

In the original piece, University of Virginia’s election savant Professor Larry Sabato says that this revelation signals that George W. Bush is out of politics and that he’s settling some scores.

Virtually everyone quoted in the story agrees that McConnell was right — Bush’s war in Iraq did cost the Republicans the Congress in 2006.

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Drip, drip, drip

I do not own a copy of the George W. Bush memoirs, but I have been following the bits and pieces that appear in my newspaper. I’m going to try to blog about a few of the most important items, especially as they pertain to my past blogging and/or research interests.

For example, the former President confirms that Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2002. This has long been a matter of discussion on the Duck.

Even more interesting, Bush says he rejected Israel’s request that the US bomb the facility. Given Bush’s “preemptive” war policy, Israel may have viewed this as a perfectly reasonable favor. Apparently, however, the CIA “had only ‘low confidence’ that Syria had a nuclear weapons program,” though they had “high confidence” that Syria had built the reactor — thanks to North Korea.

What this means is that the Bush Doctrine did have limits after all!

Then again, perhaps it is more accurate to say that Israel simply implemented US policy:

“Prime Minister Olmert’s execution of the strike made up for the confidence I had lost in the Israelis during the Lebanon war,” Bush writes. “The bombing demonstrated Israel’s willingness to act alone. Prime Minister Olmert hadn’t asked for a green light, and I hadn’t given one. He had done what was necessary to protect Israel.”

I’ll try to examine additional tidbits soon.

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