Tuesday, January 31, 2006

QDR: GWOT Becomes The Long War

On February 6 the Quadrennial Defense Review is published: this is the top strategy Pentagon document, which makes provisions for all of the services and commands in accordance with the document's stragic analysis. A few pieces from a a draft version have appeared here and there. One of those with access is William Arkin, who writes the interesting blog Early Warning at the Washington Post (link in the sidebar). Arkin's recent post on the QDR's grand strategy concept of a Long War replacing the concept of the Global War On Terror was unfortunately -- but a bit serendipitously -- overlooked, when I made the observation about the GWOT seguing into stabilization operations in the last post.

One phrase contained in the draft Quadrennial Defense Review document circulating amongst defense experts is sure to be a part of your life for years to come: The long war. Defense experts want the long war to be the new name for the war on terror, a kind of societal short hand that will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cold War, promoted to capital letters, an indisputable and universally accepted state of the world.

"This generation of servicemembers will be in what we're calling the Long War," Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this week. "Our estimate is that for at least the next 20 years … our focus will be … the extremist networks that will continue to threaten the United States and its allies." (...) The Quadrennial Defense Review now exhorts the military to reform and retool to fight the long war, in everything from its business practices to its training. (...) "

Future warriors will be as proficient in irregular operations, including counterinsurgency and stabilization operations, as they are today in high-intensity combat," the document also states. Last year, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld already issued new guidance to the military placing "stability operations" on par with major combat operations in terms of funding priorities.

Arkin's critique of the same consists in three elements: i) the threat from terrorism is overblown, ii) the Bush administration blindly favors military instruments, iii) the two in combination means that we create more problems for ourselves by attracting more terrorists. Pressure begets counter-pressure:

Terrorists can not destroy America. Every day we articulate a long war, every time we pretend we are fighting for our survival we not only confer greater power and importance to terrorists than they deserve but we also at the same time act as their main recruiting agent by suggesting that they have the slightest potential for success.

The Bush administration has been in panic mode since 9/11, and though it has tripped upon sometimes improved articulations of what it is doing to respond to the scourge of modern terrorism, it has both the wrong vision of the severity of the threat and it has shown itself, in four years of fighting, that no matter how much it articulates that the United States and the world must use all aspects of their power to thwart and defeat terrorism, the Bush administration is only comfortable with the military response, and it is only really happy with secret operations.
And no: you cannot bomb your way to development, and yes, many of the challenges the Core (or the West and the rest of the industrialised world) will meet in dealing with the Gap (LICUS and those in between: the rest) will and do stem from social issues and must be solved that way. But we're back at one of the most fundamental discussions: is it possible to do international politics without recourse to security politics? Off course not -- sometimes somebody needs to tell the bad guys to stop: even if this is mostly done by implicit dissuasion.

But, perphaps more importantly and first, the destruction of wealth that follows in the wake of internal and international conflict, of failed and failing states is so huge that an effort here -- in terms of development, but sometimes at least partly with military means -- will be worth its weight in gold (see the Copenhagen Consensus paper by Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler). Second, it is exactly in the situations where societal structures are in crisis that they are most malleable: creating new institutional setups of course in the first place (which is never enough), but also forging new statelihood through well-cast societal grand bargains -- this radical development programme is probably easier then. Third -- and just as cynically as the second point, but this time just about ourselves: it is when policy is cast as an element of security; when we believe that this about our own long term good, then we are the most willing to spend political, human and monetary capital on anything.

In this way, the transformation of the Global War on Terror into a subset of the larger development puzzle of shrinking the Gap might just be more than icing on the cake -- it might actually be the crucial jigsaw piece. For this to work, we need to learn to do both Stabilization and (Re)construction at the same time, and equally well.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

SysAdmin Funding for Pentagon and State

There is a quiet revolution in US foreign policy, born out of the GWOT and the wake of Iraq , and it is following step by step in the direction Tom Barnett had the boldness to describe in the Pentagon's New Map and the new Blueprint for Action. Both Pentagon and State are being equipped with capabilities that enables System Administration as Barnett calls it: building blocks for pre- and post-conflict development work that are sorely needed in the Gap. As mentioned earlier, the DoD Directive 3000 established new policy guidelines: and now, according to the Washington Post, comes funding:
WASHINGTON -- Congress has granted unusual authority for the Pentagon to spend as much as $200 million of its own budget to aid foreign militaries, a break with the traditional practice of channeling foreign military assistance through the State Department. (...) The initiative addresses an issue that the Pentagon and State Department have identified as crucial in fighting terrorism and bolstering stability abroad -- namely, "building partnership capacity" in Africa and other developing regions. (...) The final version -- section 1206 of the authorization act -- says the Pentagon can provide training, equipment and supplies "to build the capacity" of foreign militaries to conduct counterterrorist operations or join with U.S. forces in stability operations.

But the section also stipulates that orders for such aid must originate with the president, and it requires the Pentagon to work closely with the State Department in formulating and implementing the assistance. This new authority cannot be used to provide any assistance banned by other U.S. laws, the provision adds. Further, the measure grants less money than initially requested -- $200 million instead of $750 million. And it expires after two years, far short of the open-ended mandate Rumsfeld sought. "We're calling it a pilot program," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "But I think it'll prove its worth."Defense officials say they are pleased. "It's a very good start," said Jeffrey Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations. "For the Congress, which hasn't done this before, we think it's a bold, cooperative move."

Reaction at the upper levels of the State Department also has been positive. Under a separate provision approved with the train-and-equip measure, the department is getting $200 million from the Pentagon to bolster a new Reconstruction and Stabilization Office for coordinating civilian assistance. This provision stirred its own controversy among lawmakers, who as a matter of principle have opposed shifting Pentagon funds to the State Department. Having gained this much, the Pentagon and State Department are now setting their sights on a more ambitious overhaul of foreign-assistance rules.
Interestingly the act makes provisions for conducting "anti-terror operations" which then in the same line becomes "stability operations". The Global War on Terror is slowly being transformed into the Stability and Reconstruction (S&R) Operations that characterize System Administration.

This is not the development of well-drilling and micro-finance, but development it is nevertheless. And probably also the most effective, if we are to believe the calculations by Oxford Professor Paul Collier. What we are dealing with here are instruments for supporting stability and development of states in the Gap.

Critics will be fast to point out that training and equipping troubled states' militaries and security services for them better to be able to take part in anti-terror campaigns is hardly the obvious road to democracy. They will be right to the extent that the Pentagon only teaches local militaries to hone their aim. But reducing military assitance to target practice would be wrong: numerous other inititives are underway to strengthen African peacekeeing capabilities, both seperately with the Pentagon, the French, under UN auspices, etc.

In the long run, for the Pentagon too, or if we just look at the situation from a purely operative perspective -- elements of security sector reform, accountability measures, etc. will surely be part of the package. For the local institutions to function effectively, they must be trustworthy as well. Moreover, the additional funding for State's civilian side Stabilization and Reconstruction (S/CRS) office means that the other half of the equation gets their share. If the S/CRS is only stepping in when crisis is more imminent, it will of course be appropriate if other, civilian state-strengthening development initiatives are carried out alongside the Pentagon's military cooperation projects.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Next UNSG Must Know Security

The last post contained a few reflections on who might be the next UN Secretary General; pointed to Ghani as the best present choice; and speculated a bit about theoretical Scandinavian dark horses. But, instead of guessing names, which tendencies and structural demands can be established for the selection?* If the UN is to retain or regain the standing it had during the 1990s as a medium of choice for international politics the next UNSG has to be able to embrace a proactive, not just a defensive agenda. It seems there are at least four elements:

The Basics: The next UNSG must be able to cope with a defensive agenda as a minimum. The first UNSG post quoted an FT article out of Davos with positionings by a few candidates, which pointed out that the coming UNSG must be able to handle several challenges at the same time. Sorting these into categories, the following defensive agenda emerges:
Be a diplomat: "Cater to great powers, disgruntled middle-income countries and the developing world"; "balance US objectives with the rest of the world’s suspicion of US motives"; "deal with a rising China and India"; "have mental strength to absorb savage criticism for events sometimes out of his or her control". Be an administrator: "Push through major institutional reforms"; "expand operations around the world"; "do this amid US congressional demands for managerial change following the oil-for-food and other corruption scandals"; "develop new tools to cope with: nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, human rights atrocities, persistent poverty, disease and environmental degradation".

The Politically Correct Demands: According to the site of reference concerning the next UNSG (http://www.unsg.org/), two general expectations or hopes seem to be widespread: that the next UNSG be Asian and/or a woman. The former demand is probably more in play than the latter just by virtue of the stakeholders. Truth is, the taking turns argument is not an old institution: it was invented as part of the argumentation of why Perez de Cuellar should have the post. The Asian countries will of course defend whatever candidate emerges, but the claim is not enshrined.

The Secret Stuff: While all of the other countries do have a say, it is both difficult to imag
ine possible and would be very counterproductive for the UN to get a candidate which the US cannot greenlight. One element, though can help making the US accept a given candidate -- and it is said that this has always been the case -- would be if the US "had something" on the person (e.g. Hammerskjöld, Waldheim and de Cuellar).

The Post 9/11 Demands: While the defensive agenda -- being a diplomat and an administrator -- is necessary but not sufficient, the final weight of the two next groups is harder to gauge. What we can say with some certainty, though, is that in the post-9/11 context, the UN faces some challenges very different from those it did during both the Cold War and the 1990s intermission. The UN and its backers wish to retain or regain its or parts of its status as a the reference global mediating institution as it looked to be for a while in the 1990s. As written elsewhere, this is unlikely to happen: 9/11 meant that the relative American indifference of the 1990s was over, and that DC recaptured the initiative taking role. Instead, the G8 along with other more ad hoc decision making circuits is likely to figure as the forum of choice. Yet, nevertheless, UN reform is extremely important for those parts of the global agenda that the UN runs, i.e. large chunks of development.

This means, that the next UNSG cannot merely stick with the largely defensive agenda that the FT article stakes out. The UN has to be able to deliver in terms of security politics, not just as a function of American wishes, but, in order to be a bridgebuilder, proactively deliver on American promises in ways that accomodate or sufficiently satisfies both the US and the other players. Effectively, the next UNSG must be bold enough to bring forth policy proposals very early on in these policy processes.

And here is the problem: Candidates who have only worked with "civil affairs" would probably be less readily receptive to the function of security as a policy domain. Getting a new UNSG with strong preferences for the development agenda is important -- and many development people probably would love one that would also "stick it to the rich countries" once in a while -- but this can easily backfire in terms of the UN's relative standing as a problem solving forum. So, the next UNSG must not only be a diplomat and an administrator, be well-versed in development but also have in-depth experience with security in situations when push comes to shove. Merely having been a foreign minister might not be enough.

* = Update: Richard Holbrooke has had his say on the subject in the Washington Post: Holbrooke insists on the Asian claim, and offers both a number of candidates and more general reflections.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Next UNSG: Ashraf Ghani and the Scandinavians

[LATER UPDATE, SEPT 18: Ghani Runs for UNSG and Deserves to Win]

The battle over who will replace Kofi Annan as the next Secretary General of the UN is on: Annan's term expires at the end of the year, and several candidates either have or are perceived to have joined the ranks of contenders for one of the most influential and definitely important posts in the world. Financial Times has an interesting piece on the subject coming out of the World Economic Forum summit in Davos. As FT's people aptly summarize, the next UNSG faces several tough challenges (for further reflection of the general demands for the next UN SG see the next post):
[W]hoever assumes the job will need to push through major institutional reforms as the UN expands its operations around the world, and amid US congressional demands for managerial change following the oil-for-food and other corruption scandals. They will have to perform a delicate dance between great powers, disgruntled middle-income countries and the developing world, and develop new tools to cope with nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, human rights atrocities, persistent poverty, disease and environmental degradation.

The secretary-general is often consumed with trying to balance US objectives, without whose support the UN is impotent, with the rest of the world’s suspicion of US motives. The new secretary-general will also have to deal with a rising China and India. Finally, as Mr Annan has quipped, the SG – as the secretary general is sometimes referred to – often stands for scapegoat. The incumbent needs the mental strength to absorb savage criticism for events sometimes out of his or her control.

While the election procedure is murky, a principle of different parts of the world "taking turns" to "supply" the SG would this time in principle call for an Asian to become the next SG. Among the Asians mentioned, Surakiart Sathirathai who is Thailand's deputy PM looks in the lead so far. Other Asians include the foreign ministers of Korea, Ban Ki-Moon, and Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor.

The most interesting of the Asian lot, however, is probably Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. Ghani has extensive UN system experience, is a renowned economist, understands both development and security qua his experience as the UN envoy in charge of seeing through the Bonn Agreement over the reconstruction of Afghanistan and its later implementation as the country's minister of finance from 2002-2004. Ghani has the intellectual ability, personal integrity, administrative experience, the necessary understanding of both security and development -- and he is both a top Western University graduate and a citizen of a developing country in many ways embodying the challenges of globalization in terms of the interconnectedness of security and development. Wikipedia has a nicely extensive bio here. Ghani, given that there are no nasty secrets, looks like my favorite.

As the US, through UN ambassador John Bolton, recently expressed that the American position is not primarily to follow the informal rule of taking turns, but that it wants to see the best possible candidate, a round up of the remaining, non-Asian candidates include most prominetly former Polish president Alexander Kwazniewski. Yet, as FT remarks:
It appears unlikely that the winner will come from any of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, although their blessing will be essential. The process of choosing a secretary-general is shrouded in secrecy and has been described as the papal conclave without the smoke. Many diplomats suggest the winning candidate’s name may not yet be in the ring.
The point about P5 members not running would rule out the probably most interesting candidate at all, former US president Clinton. Harper's Magazine's January edition runs an essay on "Why only Bill Clinton can save the U.N." (by Parag Khanna, main title: United they fall), which unfortunately is not online.

But, in keeping with DracObs' navel gazing claim of having a Scandinavian perspective, let's take a quick look at the possible or theoretical Scandinavian candidates (given that the fat lady has not sung yet, and that new contenders may enter the fray up until very late in the contest). The general argument for having a Scandinavian in the lead of the UN is that the Nordic countries have always been the most ardent supporters of the UN and espcially the development agenda, and that they are the most generous in relative development money terms, and even noteworthy in absolute terms. Moreover, the countries tend to represent the soft, positive agenda of the West while still retaining operative credibility with the US in security matters (Denmark more than others). A Scandinavian could then -- and this would certainly please the self-absorbed lot of us -- emerge as a compromise candidate because he or she would be the least disliked.

e theoretical Scandinavian candidates are, in this order, I would say: Carl Bildt (Sweden), Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway), Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (Denmark), Martti Ahtisaari (Finland). All of them are former PM's or presidents, and all of them have experience in different international settings.

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt has a far more impressive international CV than Rasmussen does; he is only 56; has worked for and with both the UN, the Americans and the EU; and that in security related reconstruction subjects all over the Balkan. The security experience, just like his moderate-conservative outlook is probably a boon vis-a-vis the Americans. Unless he keeps some skeletons in the closet he would be my best Scandinavian bet.

Gro Harlem Brundtland is, for several reasons, the most obvious choice. As not only former Norvegian PM but also former leader of the WHO where she shoved competent leadership during her tenure. Rumor has it that the official reason for stepping down as leader of the WHO (she took ill) was in reality also a reaction to the renewal of Annan's contract -- she could be wanting this. Against her speaks her political stance as a pretty left-wing Socialdemocrat, her not always generous stance towards the US, and the fact that she has little security experience.

Former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, an economist, saw through a tight, fairly conservative economic reform in Denmark as head of both government and the Socialdemocratic party in the 1990s, and was partly responsible for creating and sustaining a long-lasting upturn. After stepping down he was elected to the European Parliament where he is president of the Socialist parties grouping at the EP (American readers: read 'socialist' as 'liberal'). Rasmussen, at 62, surely wants more for himself than sitting in the European puppet container for another term. For him speaks also his pragmatism and extremely efficient administrative skills. Against him speaks in principle his political stance, but he is probably much less of a loose cannon than Brundtland would be.

Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari
had an extensive career with the UN before becoming president in 1994. Question is whether he would want to come back? At 69, though, he is probably to old, and has mostly worked on EU related subjects after stepping down in 2000.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Engaging Hamas & Friends as Means to Middle East Democracy

As has been known for a while, Hamas stands to win today's election in Palestine-to-be, and the shiites's victory in the Iraqi election was finally confirmed recently too. It is definitely time to revise the West's reticence towards Middle Eastern religiously flavored political actors.

If the West sees building stable and democratically legitimate states in the Middle East
as central to its own security interests, it has to take serious the preferences of the populations. The Western project of secularization has come much less further than it would appear at first sight as the different welfare state models all mirror deep seated and culturally dependent representative conceptions of equity in their given states. We should not be afraid of religion in politics: secularization proper happens slowly and gradually, including our own.

Therefore, the West cannot ignore those Middle Eastern political or proto-political actors who represent larger chunks of their people than do their more secular or liberal local counterparts. Citizen opting-in and thus state legitimacy depends on state policies and mores that resemble the population. Moreover, these actors represent the equivalent of those Church and labor organizations who were active co-founders of the Western state-building projects' welfare apparatus, and who -- as mass movement representatives -- mediated the national variances present in today's Western states.

This is not to say, that Hamas', Sadr's, or Lebanese Hezbollah's violence or their religious intolerance should be accepted. But their civilian, worldly policies regarding the well-being of the populations must be taken seriously, and be engaged. Gaining power will force them to deliver -- especially if we hold them to their promises. Paradoxically or not, these organizations might just have a key role in creating legitimate, prosperous and democratic regimes in the Middle East -- over the long term, and better than the process so far.

EDIT: After the fact discovery: Haim Malka at the CSIS agrees with me (via Nessen at Think Tank Town; and again here, including O'Hanlon!).

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quaero: Euro-Culture, Industrial Politics & Intelligence Gathering in One?

The project to build a European competitor to Google -- Quaero -- may be tied up with more than 'just' cultural defense. Last spring, Google's announcement that it would proceed to digitize 15 million books and bring them online was met with an uproar in France. The uproar was fairly unrelated to the copyright concerns strongly voiced elsewhere. This, at least some influential people there felt, would amount to a further americanization of globalization, and thus to a challenge to the national identity of the French, and by implication, all other non-US national cultures:
[Director of the French National Library Jean-Noël Jeanneney] was immediately alarmed in December when he read that Google planned to scan 15 million English-language books and make them available as digital files on the Web. In his view, rather than democratizing knowledge, Google's move would further strengthen American power to set a global cultural agenda.

"I am not anti-American - far from it," the 62-year-old historian said in an interview in his office in the library's new headquarters overlooking the Seine. "But what I don't want is everything reflected in an American mirror. When it comes to presenting digitized books on the Web, we want to make our choice with our own criteria." When Google's initial announcement went unnoticed here, then, Jeanneney raised his voice. In a Jan. 23 article in Le Monde titled "When Google Challenges Europe," he warned of "the risk of a crushing domination by America in the definition of the idea that future generations will have of the world." And he urged Europe to "counterattack" to preserve its culture and political influence.

In subsequent interviews, he said Europe should not only convert its books into digital files, but should also control the crucial page rankings of responses to searches. And gradually his one-man campaign bore fruit. On March 16, with French newspapers, intellectuals and politicians now focusing on the Google challenge, President Jacques Chirac summoned Jeanneney and Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres to the Élysée Palace. After their meeting, a statement sa
id Chirac had asked them to study how French and European library collections could be rapidly made available on the Web. The statement concluded: "A vast movement of digitizing knowledge is under way across the world. Blessed with exceptional cultural heritage, France and Europe should play a central role in this." But where there is a will, is there a way?
A way there was, it turns out. A separate public funded scanning initiative is under way, but the most challenging element of the "French counter-attack" to Google's advancement is the newly unveiled plans for a joint French-German search engine consortium, by the name of Quaero. Basically, the plan is here to fund and encourage large and smaller French and German companies with specialty insight to participate in making a "European", Airbus-like competitor to Google.
Germany and France are negotiating on plans to inject E1 billion to E2 billion over five years into a public-private initiative to develop a series of sophisticated digital tools including a next-generation Internet search engine, a project organizer said. The program, called Quaero, would be paid for by the French and German governments and technology companies in both countries, including Thomson, Siemens, France Télécom and Deutsche Telekom. Philippe Paban, a spokesman for Thomson, which is leading the French effort, said Quaero's organizers might be ready to announce details of the project as early as next week.

Quaero, which means "I seek" in Latin, still faces several hurdles, including scrutiny of its public funding by the European Commission and uncertainty in Germany, where no single company has taken the lead and a coalition government elected in November has yet to publicly endorse the project. Organizers are also fighting some skeptics who maintain that Quaero could waste taxpayers' money in academic research that produces no commercial benefit.

The project, conceived in April by President Jacques Chirac of Franc
e and Gerhard Schröder, then the chancellor of Germany, is an attempt by two of Europe's largest economies to develop a local challenger to Google, the California-based search engine, which spent $327 million on research and development in the first nine months of 2005. In a speech this month laying out his 2006 agenda, Chirac spoke to those concerns, saying: "We must take up the challenge posed by the American giants Google and Yahoo. For that, we will launch a European search engine, Quaero." (...)

With Quaero, the French and Germans are hoping to build expertise in the technologies that are shaping the distribution of information and entertainment. The project aims to develop next-generation leadership in search technology, software for managing copyrights and digital ownership and what one document called "cultural-heritage management."
The reason: Culture, for the French -- but also for many Western European countries' by the look of their Ministries of Culture's budgets -- is not an industry, not something that produces commodities for comsomption, but something way more important. Even given that this is not untrue, and that public-private partnerships in R&D heavy areas are very common, this project seems awkward, with its whim of industrial politics driven by nationalism and autarky-hopes. Perhaps the parallel should less be Airbus, because Airbus produces a commodity in the extreme end of a scale, where one single sale can mean a lot -- with Google at the other end thriving on a zillion small steps. While airplane salesmanship, how tough it may be, is still a matter of long negotiations and sometimes political back room maneuvres, Google's core business, in other words, is in the perhaps toughest of all competitions, that for the ficklest of consumers, just lookin for an efficient way of looking up things. Customer loyalty may be high now, but if a competitor comes along with a better product, we'll all be gone in a month. Anyone remember Altavista?

The point being here, that creating a "national" or "European champion" in search technology from scratch even with this kind of money makes little sense. Of course, the proposed 1,5 billion dollars over five years do amount to something compared to an annual R&D budget close to the lower end of that estimate for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft's search R&D, etc. But include the millions spent annually on developing DRM (digitial rights management) systems and software among the content providers and the amount seems less impressive. What is worse than potentially wasting taxpayers' money on reproducing something that the market offers efficiently for free is the strange idea that one would want to government regulated ranking of search results. One thing is achieving this technically, but up front the whole idea looks proposterous.

If we perceive this project to be not an all out cultural defense but also an investment in security politics it makes a little more sense. The European Union funded Galileo project has effectively ended the American monopoly on GPS systems, giving its member countries more of a leeway in using the acquired information at will. As was visible this week, Google's evergrowing appetite in collecting all kind of consumer and thus citizen related information suddenly got a tinge of real politics when the US Justice Department subpoenaed Google, Yahoo and other search engines for information about internet searches. Google was the only company to deny the motion, but the initiative still made more than one commentator wonder both whether that would be the last government attempt at getting access to privately collected data (viz. the continuing data mining projects concerning the war on terror at DoD and elsewhere), and how much information we actually put out there.

In this light, what the French might be hoping to do is to create an alternatively amassed and controlled heap of information, separate from Google's and the other privately held American companies' -- before their information gradually becomes accessible to the American intelligence agencies. And given that security politics is an area where every dollar spent is an investment in a less incertain future instead of instant profitability, Quaero may make more sense.

UPDATE, March 10: The Economist's article on Quaero has a few good observations, but none on the intel perspective.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mallaby on Rice's Transformational Diplomacy

Sebastian Mallaby really does well in Rice's Blind Spot, his latest Washington Post op/ed piece on Secretary of State Rice's new agenda for 'transformational diplomacy'. First the central bits from Rice's speech:
We are living in an extraordinary time, one in which centuries of international precedent are being overturned. The prospect of violent conflict among great powers is more remote than ever. States are increasingly competing and cooperating in peace, not preparing for war. Peoples in China and India, in South Africa and Indonesia and Brazil are lifting their countries into new prominence. Reform -- democratic reform -- has begun and is spreading in the Middle East. And the United States is working with our many partners, particularly our partners who share our values in Europe and in Asia and in other parts of the world to build a true form of global stability, a balance of power that favors freedom.

At the same time, other challenges have assumed a new urgency. Since its creation more than 350 years ago, the modern state system has rested on the concept of sovereignty. It was always assumed that every state could control and direct the threats emerging from its territory. It was also assumed that weak and poorly governed states were merely a burden to their people, or at most, an international humanitarian concern but never a true security threat.

Today, however, these old assumptions no longer hold. Technology is collapsing the distance that once clearly separated right here from over there. And the greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them. The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power. In this world it is impossible to draw neat, clear lines between our security interests, our development efforts and our democratic ideals. American diplomacy must integrate and advance all of these goals together.

So, I would define the objective of transformational diplomacy this way: to work with our many partners around the world, to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. Let me be clear, transformational diplomacy is rooted in partnership; not in paternalism. In doing things with people, not for them; we seek to use America's diplomatic power to help foreign citizens better their own lives and to build their own nations and to transform their own futures.

In extraordinary times like those of today, when the very terrain of history is shifting beneath our feet, we must transform old diplomatic institutions to serve new diplomatic purposes. This kind of challenge is sweeping and difficult but it is not unprecedented; America has done this kind of work before. In the aftermath of World War II, as the Cold War hardened into place, we turned our diplomatic focus to Europe and parts of Asia. We hired new people. We taught them new languages, we gave them new training. We partnered with old adversaries in Germany and Japan and helped them to rebuild their countries. Our diplomacy was instrumental in transforming devastated countries into thriving democratic allies, allies who joined with us for decades in the struggle to defend freedom from communism.
We jump in after Mallaby's run down of the fundamental change of Rice's grand strategy outlook from the 2000 Foreign Affairs article with its Big Power Politics, and third-image-realism to a second-image focus on regime type:

Well, that's quite a turnaround. But it's not a completely satisfying one, because the debate has recently moved on. Rice has caught up with the 1990s consensus that powerful states may pose less of a problem than disintegrating weak ones and that the best hope for peace in the long term is a world of stable democracies. But she's only half-acknowledging the next question: Yes, weak and autocratic states are a problem, but can we do anything about them?

The best formulation of this new debate comes from Francis Fukuyama, who famously proclaimed the universality of the democratic urge in his 1989 essay on history's end. Fukuyama certainly believes in spreading U.S. values, but he has emerged as a critic of the Iraq war because he believes its ambitions were unrealizable. The United States lacks the instruments to transform other societies, Fukuyama argues; to build nations you must first build institutions, and nobody knows how to do that. Conservatives, who have long preached the limits to what government can achieve with domestic social policies, should wake up to government's limits in foreign policy as well.

Rice shows some signs of seeing this. She is not content with the instruments of foreign policy as they exist, and her speeches last week were about fostering new ones -- a strengthened office for post-conflict stabilization and a reconfigured foreign aid program. But this only begins to confront Fukuyama's worry, which is that no amount of tinkering with the apparatus of government will make nation-building possible. Creating a functional Iraq or Afghanistan requires creating norms of work and trust and honesty, and such norms can't be conjured by outsiders, no matter how well organized they are.

This is indeed a deep philosophical question. One which at the same time goes to the heart of the differences across the political spectrum in the US today, with its distinction between those who believe politics can change things, including institutions, and those who don't profess to societal engineering in the same sense, and who have a more organic conception of what society is: one that does not rely on the state as the ultimate formatting power. Funnily enough, this distinction is not all constitutive for the political spectrum in Europe where those critical of the state are much less present: instead, there are those who support the state because they believe to have created it in their image so that it helps to uphold the organic social order (conservative paternalism) or better it (socialdemocrat paternalism).

Why is this relevant for the discussion of democracy-promoting transformational diplomacy abroad? Because it tells us something about the ideological levers and degrees of support for different positions. It can thus give us a hint about where things might go in the future.
Because the Europeans do not have an instinctual critique of the state the only challenge to Rice's transformational diplomacy will come from the American conservatives (and within the UN system from targeted elites; at the Pentagon, post-Iraq transformation means that supporting democracy has been inscribed into its basic framework of action).

Moreover, the US distinction is sounder than the European: societal institutions are, as Mallaby notes with Fukuyama, notoriously inscrutable in terms of origin - or rather, 'construction'. There is not a quick fix state-building set which requires the addition of water and stirring. Yet, when we look at the development of the modern state since the late 19th century on both sides of the Atlantic, from the American Great Society and the GI Laws, to the European Social and Christian Democrat versions there is no denying that societal institutions even in their deepest sense can be shaped over time and that politics do matter. We just have to look at the very long term, where 10 or 15 years is just a start.

So it will be exiting to follow whatever debate comes up concerning this subject in the relevant US conservative policy and academic journals -- if it doesn't show up there, it won't do so at all. The productive infight between 'blue-eyed' idealists and 'reductionist' realists may take another turn.

Friday, January 20, 2006

UN Peacebuilding Commission: Good, but Still Dependent on the Pentagon

The Baltimore Sun brings an interesting op/ed by Gareth Evans, the president of the International Crisis Group and former Australian foreign minister on the UN Peacebuilding Commission. First half of the quote makes case for better coordination of effort - second part deals with the challenges:
More civil conflicts have been resolved by negotiation in the last 15 years than in the previous two centuries.

But the missing ingredient until now has been effective post-conflict peace-building, to consolidate the achievement of the peacemakers and peacekeepers. As nascent transitional governments have struggled to establish their credibility and regain their sovereignty, the key international players have often worked at cross-purposes.

Billions of dollars of assistance pledged at donors conferences have been poorly used, delivered according to the donors' rather than donees' timetables or not delivered at all. Basic underlying causes of tension have gone unaddressed, and countries have tumbled back into deadly conflict. In Angola and Rwanda alone, the failed peace agreements of the early 1990s cost some 3 million more lives.

Nearly every country emerging from conflict has similar challenges: to ensure effective governance, necessary physical security, a functioning economy and basic social justice.

Constructing or reconstructing societies on this scale needs support from the international community - mobilized, properly channeled and sustained over time - and this is where the Peacebuilding Commission's value will lie. But this is only if its potential is fully realized, and this will only happen with a lot more effort from key players.

Some fear that the United Nations simply has established a new bureaucracy that will add another layer of inertia to the effort. Any body whose core organizational committee involves 31 states is potentially dysfunctional. The commission, its country-specific working configurations and its support office will have to be agile, flexible and fast-moving.

Some unhappy compromises were made, as so often within the United Nations, to get the commission off the ground, including on the crucial issue of resources: The costs of the commission's activities beyond its basic operations will come from a voluntary fund rather than assessed contributions.

The risk is that a coordinating body without the resources to influence actions may quickly become irrelevant. Donor nations must ensure that the voluntary fund is filled. And the commission must be staffed by individuals of stature who can hold their own in tough interagency and international negotiations.

The point on funding is important. Making the internal setup within the UN solid will enable the Commission to be less dependent on external actors' willingness to get involved in each case. This could allow coalitions to deal with a situation through the UN without one of the bigger countries, e.g. without the US but with another lead nation in case they deem it more important than the US does.

But in the end, the Peacebuilding Commission will always be dependent on external lead nations for funding, capabilities in logistics, and especially, military units. In short: most of the time, most of the situations will depend on the US leaning in. This is why the real deal is not so much the UN Commission proper, but the combination of the DoD Directive 3000 and what happens at State concerning the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction. The 3000 directive defines a policy that makes the Pentagon do the same reflections and analysis that will happen at the Peacebuilding Commission - the 3000 will, in other words, better prepare the Pentagon not only for S&R, but also for cooperating with the UNPC (more on the Directive here).

This in fact where the stakes are highest, and what anyone interested in the UNPC should follow closely.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ad Hoc'ing and the UN: Iran as Prism

One little observation near the end of the Economist's Special Report on Iran's nuclear programme this week stood out for pointing at a different story:
The Europeans have already hinted that if sanctions are blocked at the UN, they will impose their own. They will also try to get others to join them, rather as America has orchestrated the Proliferation Security Initiative, an informal posse of countries prepared to take tough action to block shipments of illicit goods and materials around the world related to weapons of mass destruction.
The banal reason for the Europeans' willingness to shortcut the UN system if it has to, is of course the problem with the potential Russian or - more likely - Chinese vetos. Ad hoc'ery evidently happens all the time in the murky worlds of politics: informal alliances, trade-offs and dealmaking, pre-meeting coordination, pressures and promises is what diplomacy is made of. But this case is interesting for its lesson about realpolitik and righteousness.

The 2002 National Security Strategy with its emphasis on preemption and the following year's dramatic confrontations over Iraq inside the UN and outside in the regular stream of international politics left many Europeans very worried that the US had cut down on its doze of multilateralism, preferring instead a shot of unilateralism. Even if the Americans are always the scapegoats only two scenarios are more upsetting to the NATO allies: the vision of the US retracting in isolationalism or, the opposite, of it going it alone.

Thus, during the Iraq debate and after much energy was spent worrying to which degree the US would abandon the UN and other common structures of concertation and decision. Especially the French worried about ad hoc - cherry picked coalitions of the willing - becoming the order of the day, not just because the US would then be able to orchestrate more - or as in the case of Iraq - less able and representatively legitimate background choirs for any given, predecided course of action. But also, of course, their precious SC veto losing its shine.

Then in 2004 came along the PSI, which to begin with was positioned in somewhat uncertain legal waters - the test case for the new kind of ad hoc, act-now-squabble-later framekworks which the Europeans had worried about (more about the PSI here in a 2004 Strategic Insights piece, which aptly shows the legal limbo). And France was part of the 11 original countries, including the rest of the G7 except Canada (others, including Denmark and Norway have joined since). Even if the PSI was subsequently sanctioned by the UN, and it thus at least in hindsight seems as a less dramatic change than it probably was, it is still interesting to see that the Iran issue is now leading the Europeans down that same path, of bypassing the UN when it comes to action.

Of course there are some caveats: 1) it is not that new: Kosovo was the big thing in this regard, even if the Europeans were also probably shamed into action for not doing anything earlier and under the impression that the Americans would now. 2) The whole European angle on the Iran situation, through the initiatives of the E3 (UK, France, Germany) has to a large extent been driven from the beginning by a sense of urgency that they might get to a solution before the US - presumably - entered the fray with less elegance.

An old truism in Danish foreign policy says that it is easier to be a Danish foreign minister when the mood on a given issue is aligned at the UN, in the EU and in NATO (i.e. the US). Squaring a small country's responsibilities and allegiances with such strong forces when they are heading in different directions is not the least easy. Which is why the smaller alliance countries - at least those who have any kind of active foreign policy tradition, be it in security or development - are both those who are usually the most pro-multilateralism and those who stand to lose the most if ad hoc'ery gets to be the order of the day.

But the Iran situation has already demonstrated what should have been clear all along for the small EU states about the CFSP - the Common Foreign and Security Policy - project. The formation of the E3, as proposed indirectly before 9/11 by the UK (via Mandelson) is itself an ad hoc. While it is definitely true that common EU foreign policy stances cannot be had without the consent of the E3, their going it alone without the veneers of an EU emissary goes a long way to show the difference between lofty words and the necessities of realpolitik. Not that surprising of course. But it is a healthy reminder for all of those who insistently and intuitively always start their analyses about international politics with calls for formal insitutionalizations and - oh, the ring of it - international law.

* * *

The latter like in this Le Monde Diplo piece which has this curiously 70's university debate ring to it:
What really needs to be questioned is power itself as a criterion for appointing leading members. The history of democracy has been a constant struggle against the usurpation of power by the richest and strongest. The proposed changes will leave the Security Council as the same aristocratic body at odds with the egalitarian essence of democracy. The proposal to democratise the council is a sham.
The article goes on to sketch out a new UN system, ending up with a conclusion that is marvelously in tune with Raymond Aron's diagnosis of Marxism as a secular religion. Faith in the direction of historical progress can move mountains. Of newspaper, at least.
These proposals are made for discussion, but there are imperatives behind them: the need for democracy (by the elimination of all prerogatives that benefit only a few states), for law (by strengthening the competence of the general assemblies) and justice (by the mandatory nature of international law). These cannot be ignored for much longer.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cato on State-Building: National Security as Homeland Defense

Cato's new policy analysis piece is the first to explicitly attack the arguments behind the push for better post-conflict or state-building capacities - as expressed in the creation of State's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Development (S/CRS). The argument can be resumed in three subsections: a) there is no direct necessary threat from failed states, and quantifying state failure shows this; b) the US have been doing a bad job at this before and so is likely to do so again; c) this is why we should intervene only when absolutely necessary, because then the present system will be able to carry the weight, and so there will be no need for neither reform nor the S/CRS.

One philosophically interesting thing about the state-building policy push is the concomitant realignment of the old left-right repartition of producers of meaning. That would be a good general indicator of the issue's validity - as it is with all political subjects which do not summon the usual opinions along this continuum. The Bush administration came into office waving the small government conservative Big Power politics flag, and then did a 180 on the topic after 9/11 with the National Security Strategy. Liberals tend to be pro anything on the soft end of the transition process from intervention to statebuilding, while realist conservatives prefer the hard end, used sparingly. So, the fault lines are approximately the same as regarding humanitarian intervention.

Now, the classic liberals of the CATO Institute enter the fray about post-conflict reconstruction, transitioning and, concretely, the attempts at administrative preparation for the next time through State's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Development (S/CRS). In a 32-page interesting piece entitled Failed States and Failed Logic (here, in pdf), Justin Logan and Christopher Preble make their case against a "Standing Nation-Building Office". The executive summary:
In July 2004 the State Department opened the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS). Its official mandate is to “help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife, so they can reach a sustainable path toward peace, democracy and a market economy.” The idea of a standing nation-building office has strong support in the Bush administration, among academics and foreign policy analysts, and from key players in Congress.

The arguments in favor of creating such an office are rooted in the belief that failed states are threats to U.S. national security. S/CRS’s early projects included postconflict planning for Sudan, Haiti, and Cuba, all countries largely unrelated to U.S. national security concerns. Although failed states can present threats, it is a mistake to argue that they frequently do. The few attempts that have been made to quantify what “state failure” means demonstrate that it is not inherently threatening.

Moreover, attempting to remedy state failure would pose serious problems for U.S. foreign policy. U.S. nation-building projects in the past had a highly dubious track record, and there is no indication that future projects would fare any better.

A standing office devoted to nation building is a cure worse than the disease. Sober assessment of the U.S. national interest and a more judicious approach to intervention abroad would be better guiding principles than assuming that all failed or failing states pose a threat. When interventions are absolutely necessary, existing institutional capacity is sufficient to carry out stabilization and reconstruction missions.
Logan/Preble make one semi-valid point about the faulty logic of anti-failed states arguments in the name of national security, but miss the larger picture in its insistence on the sanctimony of parsimony in policy choices. A more valid argument is made more implicitly, concerning the stimulation of demand through generous supply (risks of too-frequent use once a reasonably effective mechanism has been established, in other words). In this piece, we have a look at the first of the three subsections of the Cato argument, and then hopefully return to the rest later.

The argument goes: No direct necessary threat from failed states, and quantifying state failure shows this. The two contain a welcome deflation of a recurring claim - on the face of things, at least. Logan and Preble do have a valid point about the direct necessary threat from failed states. In a concrete sense, the usually made argument about failed states as vaccum which attracts and allows terrorists to roam freem and prepare to strike out is clearly too simplistic, and it was probably about time someone said it out loud. Starting out with three different attemps at coding and listing the world's present and potential failed states, Logan and Preble make a reverse argument about what the data are not saying:
If one assumes that state failure in itself represents a threat, then the logical conclusion is that American security concerns for the Ivory Coast would be greater than they are for any of the less-failed nations. But that is obviously not the case. There are much better metrics for assessing levels of threat than the degree of state failure. The lists of “failed states” and “security threats” will no doubt overlap, but correlation does not equal causation. The obvious nonthreats that appear on all lists of failed states undermine the claim that there is something particular about failed states that is necessarily threatening.
This point is completely valid and it was probably about time someone made it, because it has been reiterated in every policy report on the subject since 9/11. Yet, what the failed states category can yield is of course exactly correlation and it is thus a useful heuristic device for the security people.

But that the fall out from this analysis must be, that the entire US national security community should by definition be doing everything else than getting better at state-building and post-conflict process administration flies in the face of reason. No, correlation is not causation, but if there is correlation then it could easily be that there is another framework which will solve the security/state stability/development equation. Maybe there is another reason for dealing with failed states, one that while not aligned with clear and present danger may still be very much grounded in valid national security reasons. It would be possible to make several very different arguments about the benefits of long-term policy planning etc., but we'll have to do with just one of them for now.

What is really at stake here, in the way that Logan and Preble pose their question and make the argument is not as much the definition and role of 'failed states' as it is the definition and role of 'national security'. Do we conceive of 'national security' as 'national defense' , i.e. the mostly defensive and very limited notion of homeland defense?

Or do we mean something more forward, outreaching, with the goal of defending and sustaining not merely our territories, but also our way of life, i.e. including sustaining and protecting the globalized economy? While the CATO people would probably love a 'minimal state' version of national security they must have missed most of the last 50 years foreign policy developments if they think it possible. National security IS about a lot more than national defense: that was why the term was invented around 1947, to account for all the stuff that was less than war but more than regular diplomacy, around the time the conceptual chips fell into place after the turmoil of WWII (see Yergin's
Shattered Peace).

US 'national security' has always been about more than mere homeland defense - because for as long as the concept has existed, the US has conceived of a much broader challenge and responsibility for itself, as the ultimate defender of freedom. Exactly what this means and entails is evidently open to a lot of interpretation, but one thing it does not mean, in spite of the sometimes recurring calls for it, is that functional isolationism in security especially, but in practically anything, is a proper and possible option.

So, to return the scholastic Logan/Preble argument: What is true in the logic of Economics is not necessarily true in Politics. In fact, politics IS the framework which lets the principle of the free market function. Looking at the very big constitutive spheres of society - a sort of conceptual Lego bricks - Security is one of the essential Politics Lego pieces which serve to support the Economics pieces. An absence of evidence about impact in the short term is not evidence of absence of the importance of failed states for US national security, in neither the middle nor the long term.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Danish PM: Shrink the Gap

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave a speech today at the Foreign Ministry's advisory Council on International Development Work - the first time he met with the Council's members which consist in Danish stakeholder development ngos. Official Danish development aid puts Denmark at the forefront of state driven development aid in relative terms. When including all development related activities, Denmark in 2004 ranked number 2 globally among the most generous countries, just a tad behind Holland according to Foreign Policy.

The Danish government has been widely critized in the development business for fixing the official Danish development budget in absolute 2001 terms, thus lowering the GDP ratio from 1% to 0,8% since 2001. This year, due to corrections for inflation the budget looks set to grow again for the first time. The PM's speech centered on globalization as a means to development in Africa:
Globalization is often described as something dangerous. But I see globalization as an exiting challenge that offers opportunities for growth and jobs. This also goes for the development countries. The road forward from an African perspective is not simple, but demands a special effort. (...) The next decade's largest challenge is to make Africa part of globalization.
The connection between development and globalization is of course at the core of Thomas P. M. Barnett's grand strategy analysis of The Pentagon's New Map and Blueprint for Action. Barnett's website today offered the map to be downloaded for free.

The map offers an important graphic analysis by showing the total man-days spent by US military from 1990 to 2003 around the globe, thus pinpointing the area of intervention of the future. This is the "Gap", which is defined by not being "connected" to the Rest of the World, i.e. the "Core", where globalization is proceeding, and where security issues are rarely a matter of life and death. Thus security and development go geographically and functionally hand in hand in (defining) the Gap.

Interesting to see, that the Danish PM's perspective is so closely aligned to Barnett's basic policy prescription: shrink the Gap.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pro Bono Life Imitates Art

Given that this is not an elaborate hoax coming from the U2 tricksters, the AP certainly have a superbly timed news piece which reports that U2 front singer and leading good cause crusader Bono has had some difficult times balancing the Band with the Mission:
LONDON, England (AP) -- Rock star Bono said Saturday that his commitment to campaigning against poverty caused tensions within his band, U2. The musician said that, at one point, he feared his commitment to the anti-poverty cause might force him out of the band. "They (the band) are hugely supportive spiritually and financially of the work I do, but they are in a rock 'n 'roll band, and the first job of a rock 'n 'roll band is not to be dull," Bono told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "So we have to be very careful about just letting me go too far."

(...) Bono acknowledged that his campaigning had sometimes "raised eyebrows" among his fellow band members. "When I do my rant on making poverty history, I have got Larry Mullen, our drummer, behind me looking at his watch, timing me." "There was one point when I thought `I'm going to be thrown out of the band for this stuff."' ...
What we have here is a classic case of life imitating art - the magicians at the Onion published the self-same story in their Dec 7 issue:
Rest Of U2 Perfectly Fine With Africans Starving

SAN FRANCISCO—Rock band U2, currently on tour in North America, is well-known for its human-rights advocacy, particularly its ongoing campaign to eradicate poverty in Africa. Less known to fans of the Irish supergroup, however, is that the lion's share of these efforts are made by lead singer Bono. The three other U2 members are perfectly okay with the dismal plight of Africa's poor.

"Yeah, that Africa stuff is Bono's thing," The Edge said. "I don't mind if he pursues other interests, but I really try to focus on the guitar riffs that give U2 its characteristic sound." (...) In 2002, Bono started an organization called Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa to raise awareness of the deep health and economic crises that cripple much of the continent. His fellow bandmates, however, do not lose any sleep over the debt crisis facing many African nations.

"If I could wave a magic wand and cure Africa's problems, I would do that," drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said. "But someone has to take care of the more practical, day-to-day stuff that Bono doesn't really bother with. Like, for example, how's the next album going to sound? How're we going to keep our live act fresh? I can't tell you how many millions of decisions go into making one Elevation tour." Mullen added: "You don't win 14 Grammys feeding Africans." (...)

During live concerts, U2 audiences are treated to a stunning audiovisual experience, with Bono periodically giving his opinion on social and world events between songs. During these interludes, the rest of U2 is often conspicuously silent.

"When Bono starts telling the audience how messed up the world can be and how we should work together to make things better, I usually just zone out," Mullen said.
Heh! Nothing much to make sense of, except maybe stating that political satire is an artform requiring honed analytical skills and a finely adjusted set of sensors deployed deep into the public consciousness. Satire is mostly funny because it is partially true or at least probable.

Which is also why it is essential to a well-functioning democratic public sphere.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Pay to Play: the New US Multilateral Burden Strategy

What to make of these two articles concerning US reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan: "U.S. Has End in Sight on Iraq Rebuilding" and "U.S. Cedes Duties in Rebuilding Afghanistan"? In both cases the US winds down their level of S&R engagement - and these are the two biggest on the table. Of course the two stories are different: one deals with financing reconstruction, the other with the question of force sizing and military strategy in on the extended stability side. Yet given that there are no decisions to immediately turn focus elsewhere, and that that the job isn't completely done in either case this looks like a relative US disengagement.

Using the term 'relative disengagement' must of course be heavily qualified. As the article on Iraq states, the absence of a new bill proposal doesn't mean there are no funds allocated:
While the Bush administration is not seeking any new reconstruction funds for Iraq, commanders here have military discretionary funds they can use for small reconstruction projects. The U.S. Agency for International Development is expected to undertake some building projects, as it does in 80 other countries, with money from the foreign appropriations bill.
The problem with this perspective, however, is that it doesn't fit very well with the philosophy of the DoD Directive 3000 or the NSPD44 (more here). What we would be looking at in that light would have been something more integrated - not the old school either-or solution described in the quote: either 'bribe money' spent locally for force protection or purely civilian reconstruction on "some building projects". Of course, a civilian framework might hint that the security situation had improved enough for proper post-conflict reconstruction to charge ahead; but it may also imply that the strategic necessity implied with the use of military means is no longer behind the decisions made.

The allocated budget still holds quite a lot of US money left for Iraq reconstruction for this year; in both cases other donors have given some means; and in neither case the choice is aligned to a military withdrawal. Of course, in Iraq it is hoped that the withdrawal will be possible within the next year or so, while the situation looks a bit grimmer in Afghanistan. But if there is any one well-wrought lesson to be drawn from the welter of transitioning, reconstruction and state-building reports that have come out over the last year it seems certain to be James Dobbins' about the importance of input variables: time, men and money.

Which leads us to this interview with John Bolton, also in the Washington Post may which give a deeper clue of what to make of the maneuvers. Given that there are still things to do, and that the US taxpayers - qua their administration - can feel the weight of the tab, could we then be looking at a forced return to multilateralism? Not that the US hand is forced, but rather that there may be a strategy of returning to multilateralism through sharing of responsibility? By withdrawing a bit from the fray - wouldn't that create a small vaccum, just a bit, and enough for the Other Actors to be concerned enough to pull their weight? Could that be the deep pedagogical instrumental intention here - a decision to tie together a more multilateral stance with an implicit demand that those who want to play may also have to pay?

Already six months after the invasion in Iraq, the Bush administration started sending new, more accomodating signals across the Atlantic to its traditional partners - ostensibly softening the brouhaha stemming from the choice of going to war with Iraq (practice) and the doctrine of preemption (principle). Judging by Bolton's stated intention with the UN reform the administration has calculated that securing US leverage at the UN's different institutions means securing the leverage of all the post-WWII big powers, the 'P5':

UNITED NATIONS -- John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he will start the new year by reinvigorating stalled efforts to restructure management of the world body, beginning with a controversial push to seek assurances that the Security Council's five major powers will be guaranteed posts on a new Human Rights Council.

Bolton said in an interview that the Bush administration wants to ensure that the United States is never again denied membership in the United Nations' principal human rights body, as it was in 2001, when Austria, France and Sweden defeated a U.S. bid for membership in the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission. But his initiative would also boost efforts by China and Russia, two permanent council members with troubled rights records, to gain membership in the new body.

The proposal is part of a broader drive by Bolton to place the five permanent Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- at the center of U.N. decision making. But an official involved in the negotiations warned that creating fresh privileges for the council's most powerful states "would turn off a large chunk of the membership."

Bolton said one of his main priorities for 2006 will be rallying council support for new initiatives to combat terrorism and the spread of the world's deadliest weapons. Last month, he helped secure permanent posts for the "P-5" countries on a new U.N. peace-building commission that was established to oversee post-conflict reconstruction efforts worldwide.

"It's called the perm 5 convention. It's not written down anywhere -- it's not a treaty or anything like that," Bolton said. "It has been a convention operating also from the beginning of the United Nations that the perm 5 serve on all standing bodies of the U.N. that they want to serve on, in exchange for the perm 5 almost never seeking chairmanships of any bodies."

If the advantages of this involvement of the partners are obvious - reinvesting in the UN against for more institutionalised leverage, and more involvement from the main partners in crucial projects - then the problems are too. Just to take two: First of all, we are here only looking at the UN. While UN reform is important and necessary, the UN is not the sole forum for making big decisions: the G8 has become one and other, more may arise ad hoc when needed. Second, handing over responsibility after the fact may not work as well as sharing it up front. What we are looking at is still a transatlantic division of labor where the Americans do the tough work (or screw up, depending on your viewpoint) and the UN, the European countries, the EU and NATO get to do the cleaning (or save the day).

From a European perspective the question is not just the color grading of that division of labor, but its seeming clearcutness: it is also one of who gets to weigh in when and how much on the preceeding decision. Also for the coming ones.

Of course, from the US perspective, this could easily look like wanting to play without pay.

But in the end: if we are to comprensibly rethink warfare within everything else - in the terms of Tom Barnett - then we must look at all kinds of investments to judge the common and separate input variables in the larger global security game. This is then no longer just about military expenditure (but don't tell the Europeans, they still have quite a lag): it is about all of the elements that go into administrating the states system and especially the fates of the weakest and poorest states.

A showdown with North Korea or Iran would be far costlier than taking care of Sudan, but as Barnett has shown: the real expenditure is within the Gap. More specifically, in terms of interventions, measuring how big a punch you pack is not just a measure of battle-ready battalions. Nor is it just a measure of civilian money for post-conflict reconstruction. It is both and everything in between - and all of those elements, among all of the Responsible Actors, most be included in the calculation of decision making weight for the implicit proposal of these three pieces to be carried out.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Conservative/Left-Wing Convergence on State-Building

In an oped piece in the Washington Post Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart reiterates the points from their september LICUS-report: nation-building - i.e. the construction of efficient and legitimate states - must be the central development task concerning the weakest and poorest of states. Nation-building - or, as it should be properly: state-building - thus steps in as an alternative to the choice between project-based development in peaceful states and the purer military logic of interventions. Interestingly, the oped takes it point of departure in a general reflection looking very much like the Fukuyama-End-of-History cum Kaplan-Coming-Anarchy perspective found in Tom Barnett's grand strategic analysis:
In 1945 the future of capitalism as the organizational form of the economy and democracy as the organizational form of the polity was far from certain in the advanced industrialized world. Today there is a remarkable consensus on both the preferred economic and political forms. With globalization of the media, the benefits of membership in the wealthy democratic club are beamed daily to the homes of billions of people who in turn aspire to the economic opportunities and political freedoms that the market economies and democratic societies have delivered to their citizens.

Yet the daily experience of so many people in poor countries is confrontation with the realities of failing or fragile states, criminalized and informal economies, and the denial of basic freedoms. It is not resentment of the West but exclusion from the right to make decisions in their own countries that feeds the resentment of the poor. At the same time, the networks of violence that have declared war on the security and order of ordinary people in the developed world are making use of the territory of failed states to expand their bases of destruction.

The path to security is not just investment in the institutions of security. The price tag for security in a fragile state can quickly run into billions of dollars a year. A sustained analysis by NATO of the best means of achieving security in Afghanistan showed that credible institutions and public finance would contribute more to security than would the deployment of troops. Nor is the answer money alone; in these countries, money cannot be translated to capital, because such things as the rule of law, transparency and predictability are lacking. The state is the most effective, economical way of organizing the security and well-being of a population, just as the company is the most effective approach in a competitive economy.

Thus the need for functioning states has become one of the critical issues of our times.
The argument about the centrality of failed states in a security politics perspective has been stated repeatedly over the last years as in the report by the Commission on Failed States and US National Security - and of course, most importantly, in the National Security Strategy of 2002.

What is interesting about Ghani's, Lockhart's and Carnahan's original background report is both the UN/development origins of the perspective and the fairly hands-on analysis of what is required of a functioning, legitimate state-as-always-unfinished-process:

In the interdependent world of today, states must perform a constellation of interrelated functions that range from provision of citizenship rights to promotion of the enabling environment for the private sector, in marked contrast to the one-dimensional function of ensuring security which they performed in the 19th century. This section outlines ten core functions that we propose a state must perform in the modern world.

These functions are: (1) legitimate monopoly on the means of violence; (2) administrative control; (3) management of public finances; (4) investment in human capital; (5) delineation of citizenship rights and duties; (6) provision of infrastructure services; (7) formation of the market; (8) management of the state’s assets (including the environment, natural resources, and cultural assets); (9) international relations (including entering into international contracts and public borrowing); (10) rule of law. Other functions may be required to be performed at particular moments, such as the repatriation and integration of refugees and those displaced, and transitional justice.

When the state performs these functions in an integrated fashion, a virtuous circle is created in which state decisions in the different domains bolster overall enfranchisement and opportunity for the citizenry. By contrast, failure to perform one or many of these functions leads to the creation and acceleration of a vicious circle.
Thus, the development perspective shows a way out, where the security perspective is better suited at pointing out problems to focus on - because the latter tends to be locked into problems of power balances rather than power management. One thing that has changed since the mid-90s Human Security project started picking up speed within the UN circuit is that this recipe for creating welfare has changed as the underlying problem - the weak and failed states - shifted from being a humanitarian to a security problem in the eyes of the West.

The change is discrete but profound: from proposing that the human condition of others was as vital as security politics without bridging the necessity gap gap between the two - including the problem of self-sustainable economic development and as such be perhaps morally well founded yet more utopian than realistic - it has gone on to incorporate the underpinnings of capitalist democracy.

Another interesting point here, is the alignment between moderate conservatives (as Francis Fukuyama: State-Building) and the left wing: the traditional pro-state and pro-structure paternalism of both camps fits handlily together in the search for better functioning states, to better care for their citizens as a means to stability - and the other way around.