Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kissinger on Hamas: Why He Might Be Mistaken

Kissinger's new piece "What's Needed From Hamas" in the Washington Post contains a shrewd reflection on a possible "solution" to the "Middle East" "peace process". In the opposite corner, albeit in the same paper, former President Carter recently called for leniency on Hamas on behalf of the Palestinian people. Together they might form an interesting basis for some thoughts along the lines of the "realistic Wilsonianism" Fukuyama called for last week.

As argued before, the democratization project is a) feasible, and will b) take the rest of our lives. In the long term, a Palestinian state -- just like any other protostate -- can only get to resemble a card carrying OECD one if it is created in the image of its people. This means finding a model of the market economy which suits the local deep-layered cultural (ethical, religious) pattern. So in the long run, we will have to engage with the Hamas' of the world. This not because of their violent, external policies and just as importantly, the grand strategy behind it, which have to cease for the longer term to play itself out. But because they through their internal legitimacy, produced by their social know-how, hold the key to building such a society.

Upfront this means brokering a formal deal: the Clinton proposal again, or something like it. An eventual deal would have to include a carving that leaves Israel with security and the Palestinians with a (potentially) viable economy. In the absence of the Hamas surprise move to the center, likely and upfront, Olmert might continue the Sharon plan. This will only provide the first part through a gradual pullout and harmonization of the border -- to the detriment of the Palestinians.

But, says Kissinger, a tacit deal might be made in the absence of an explcit one, through the day to day interactions -- one that will eventually include also the second element above, the potential for a viable Palestinian economy.
A serious, comprehensive negotiation is therefore impossible unless Hamas crosses the same conceptual Rubicon Sharon did. And, as with Sharon, this may not happen until Hamas is convinced there is no alternative strategy -- a much harder task since the Sharon view is, in its essence, secular, while the Hamas view is fueled by religious conviction.

Hamas may in time accept institutionalized coexistence because Israel is in a position to bring about unilaterally much of the outcome described here. (...) It requires above all a Palestinian leadership going beyond anything heretofore shown and a willingness by moderate Arabs to face down their radical wing and make themselves responsible for a moderate, secular solution. (...) Final-status negotiations in present conditions would probably founder on the underlying challenge described earlier: Do the parties view this as a step toward coexistence or as a stage toward final victory? (...) Whatever happens, whoever governs Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the parties will be impelled by their closeness to one another to interact on a range of issues including crossing points, work permits and water usage.

These de facto relationships might be shaped into some agreed international framework, in the process testing Hamas's claims of a willingness to discuss a truce. A possible outcome of such an effort could be an interim agreement of indefinite duration. Both sides would suspend some of their most intractable claims on permanent borders, on refugees and perhaps on the final status of the Arab part of Jerusalem. Israel would withdraw to lines based on the various formulas evolved since Camp David and endorsed by American presidents. It would dismantle settlements beyond the established dividing line. The Hamas-controlled government would be obliged to renounce violence. It would also need to agree to adhere to agreements previously reached by the PLO. A security system limiting military forces on the soil of the emerging Palestinian state would be established. State-sponsored propaganda to undermine the adversary would cease. (...) Whether Hamas can be brought to such an outcome or any negotiated outcome depends on unity among the quartet and, crucially, on the moderate Arab world.

So, if Kissinger is right, Hamas is heading the Palestinians in a economically negative direction. Bleak looks the future, indeed. But what if something potentially positive was overlooked here, and that this happened because of the perspective chosen?
The emergence of Hamas as the dominant faction in Palestine should not be treated as a radical departure. Hamas represents the mind-set that prevented the full recognition of Israel's legitimacy by the PLO for all these decades, kept Yasser Arafat from accepting partition of Palestine at Camp David in 2000, produced two intifadas and consistently supported terrorism. Far too much of the debate within the Palestinian camp has been over whether Israel should be destroyed immediately by permanent confrontation or in stages in which occasional negotiations serve as periodic armistices. The reaction of the PLO's Fatah to the Hamas electoral victory has been an attempt to outflank Hamas on the radical side. Only a small number of moderates have accepted genuine and permanent coexistence.(...) The advent of Hamas brings us to a point where the peace process must be brought into some conformity with conditions on the ground. The old game plan that Palestinian elections would produce a moderate secular partner cannot be implemented with Hamas in the near future. What would be needed from Hamas is an evolution comparable to Sharon's.
Kissinger's analysis of the radicalization of the Palestinian political game is properly realistic in that it describes the contest for extremism that the power struggles yield (note for example how he avoids the OMG! The jihadists are here!-leaning that would befit a deterministic culturalist). But the analysis might also be wrong in the medium term (a rubber distinction, yes, sorry).

A perspective just a tad less produced by power concerns, and a bit more formed by the role of ideas (an 'idealism' -- like Wilsonianism) might see advantages in the popular legitimacy of Hamas; see a building block for future creations as opposed to the corrupt roadblock of Fatah. What if, given that some truce or working order can arise between the parties, the election of Hamas was actually a good thing -- for the Palestinians first of all -- because they might now get a government that actually cares about their daily lives? And what if that turned out to be the most effective way to a long-term OECD-fication? Then it would also be a good thing for the rest of us.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Democratization: Squaring States with People

Squaring the State with its People: Middle East Social Policy is Western Security Policy

We tend to approach the debate on democratization in the Middle East with a focus on constitutional or technical requirements of democratic regimes (free elections, rule of law), and the policies supporting these challenges (civil society projects, security sector reform). The ultimate hope, because of the role of Islam, is that secular politics will take precedence over religion. This approach is full of good intentions. But it is unlikely to be sufficient, even in the long run, because effective democratic state- and nation-building comes only through involvement of mass movements in a continuously negotiated settlement of the social question. The approach is willfully blind to the fact that secularization in the West itself is skin-deep because the fundamental societal compromises between growth and state provisions mirror widely shared religious ethics.

The upshot of this is that policies in support of Middle East democratization cannot expect to directly produce secular regimes. Western policy-makers should aim to support processes which will fuse state institutions with ethical conceptualizations of the good society that are representative of the populations. This also means embracing those Islamic movements that provide social services – because they hold the key to producing legitimate state projects in the region.

Behind the present initiatives for democratic reform in the Middle East lies a reduced Weberian understanding of what the state is: a monopoly on the legitimate use of power. But this negative definition is a very limited conception of what a state does. What is lacking is a positive definition of a state’s function. As shown by Max Weber’s own analysis, the positive agenda of the modern state is the production of legitimacy. Effectively, the modern state is an amalgam of what the institutions do and the institutionalization of this activity in the minds of the population: administrative capacity and the population’s accept of the state’s legitimacy. Democracy, more than merely a technical, constitutional question, then equals a high level of legitimacy – a project that citizens wish to participate in. The basic question regarding democratization becomes: how to produce legitimacy?

This is where the historical sociology of the Western welfare states comes in. The feature that most differentiates the Western states from one another, apart from absolute size and relative power, is also the most ‘state defining’ activity: namely the aggregate set of policies concerning redistribution and state provisioned or indirectly guaranteed services which together form what is known as a the “welfare state”. According to Gøsta Esping-Andersen’s classic analysis, it is possible to discern three ideal-types of the modern European welfare states – Liberal, Social democrat and Christian democrat. Each of these has a set of preferred technical solutions to redistribution and services that correspond to certain traits in the states’ constitutive political culture. In short, the ‘welfare state’ is largely culturally dependent.

These traits are again a result of democratic ideological battles for political power and over what the state ‘means’ during the 19th and 20th centuries. The outcome of these battles has been relatively stable bargains leading to the organization of each country’s national welfare state setup. Moreover, it was exactly these bargains over the meaning of the state which gave birth to democratic politics in the modern sense. The central element here was not foreign policy and not domestic high politics, but social policy: the century-long discussion of “the social problem” was continuously reheated by the many small revolutions, general social unrest and workers’ self-organization.

Entrenched and proper democracies emerged in Western Europe over the last two centuries when mass movements with a broad popular base gained access to power and shaped the state in their image, in a balanced representation of a large majority’s expectations of equity. Legitimacy stems from solving the social question through pay-offs between elites and populace in a way that mirrors the broadly shared cultural conceptions of social ethics. Institutional stability, representative democracy and economic growth go hand in hand with mass movement involvement through state provision (or guarantee) of services.

Finally, what Westerners tend to neglect, as they gaze nervously upon the religious character of Middle Eastern politics, is the very limited development of “secularized” politics in the West. The process of secularization of the founding stakeholders of European welfare states has been slow and uneven: even nominally secular Social-democratic egalitarianism is beset with post-Christian ethics. Basically, modern welfare states have taken responsibility for functions that used belong to the Church: many of the stakeholders in the early debates and implementations very often were Church-related, and logically so, as the historical charity function of the churches is the predecessor of social policy.

All this is not to say that the Middle Eastern states should become Social-democrat welfare-states or akin to any other of the Western models. Instead, these states must in the long term be shaped by mass movements that carry a representative vision of equity in order to construct the legitimacy that comes from the citizens’ opting-in, thus squaring the idea of the state with its people. If Western security policy is Middle Eastern democratic state-building – then Western security policy must engage those organizations that deliver Middle Eastern social policy – Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. – to facilitate their worldly, civilian policies.

Later UPDATE (to post only): an interesting opinion piece from the American Enterprise Institute's Danielle Pletka corresponds nicely, if less aggressively, to pieces of the above analysis. See "Needed: Holistic Support of Middle Eastern Democracy" in the Washington Post.

[This column was published in Young Europeans for Security's spring 2006 issue of YES Communique]

Thursday, February 23, 2006

In Long Term, Connectedness Doesn't Define Danger

The troubled mass involvement in politics in the Middle East looks just like the problems associated with the democratization of the West in the early 20th century. Mass involvement in politics doesn't bring about coolheaded deliberation, secular technocrat style. Jose Ortega y Gassets Revolt of the Masses (1930) comes to mind as a pertinent analysis; so does the host of analyses dealing with the role of onesided public opinion in the long run up to the First World War in France and Germany (take this H-France review e.g.).

David Ignatius' new Washington Post column, "From 'Connectedness' to Conflict" correctly and astutely points out the short to middle term challenges related to the gradual move from aiming at stability to good governance in states abroad. Thomas P. M. Barnett's dictum that "Disconnectedness defines danger" would be under heavy fire as of late, if what he meant was that globalization's connectedness immediately and painlessly would hook everyone up to a Fukuyamaesque suburbian dreamscape. But Barnett continuously emphasizes the pain increased openness brings with it, and the automatic counterreactions there will be. If it didn't look patronizing we could call it 'teething'. But let's stick with that metaphor since we are all doing our own 'teething': European self-congratulatory posturing needs a kick in the groin every once in a while for tolerance and inclusivity to actually work.

One of the baseline assumptions of U.S. foreign policy is that "connectedness" is a good thing. Linkage to the global economy fosters the growth of democracy and free markets, the theory goes, and that in turn creates the conditions for stability and security. But if that's true, why is an increasingly "connected" world such a mess? This paradox of the 21st century is confounding the Bush administration's hopes for democratization in the Middle East. It turns out that in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and perhaps nations yet to come, the growth of democracy and technology has had the effect of enfranchising pre-modern political movements -- ones linked to religious sects, ethnic minorities and tribes. This trend astonishes Westerners who meet with Arab modernizers at events such as the World Economic Forum or see the skyscrapers of Dubai and think the world is coming our way.

Among military strategists, the bible of connectedness is a book called "The Pentagon's New Map," by Thomas P.M. Barnett. He argues that the world today is divided between an "integrating core" of orderly commerce, stretching from America and Europe across to China and India, and a "non-integrating gap," which is his shorthand for the messy rest of the world. The task of U.S. foreign policy is to connect the two. (...) So why does the world feel so chaotic? Why is there a growing sense that, as Francis Fukuyama put it in a provocative essay in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, "More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalization and -- yes, unfortunately -- terrorism"? (...) [Raja Sidawi] argues that Barnett misses the fact that as elites around the world become more connected with the global economy, they become more disconnected from their own cultures and political systems. The local elites "lose touch with what's going on around them," opening up a vacuum that is filled by religious parties and sectarian groups, Sidawi contends. The modernizers think they are plugging their nations into the global economy, but what's also happening is that they are unplugging themselves politically at home.

Sidawis insight is good, but also more fully developed in Christopher Lasch's "The Revolt of the Elites" (see this review for an abstract of Lasch's argument), which mirrored Gasset's argument, 60 years on.

Moving forward in terms of connectedness will bring more troubled confrontations between elite and mass in Middle East as elsewhere. But don't fall for the isolationist inclination on tat account. Purely elite and technocrat driven development characterized the 1960's and it didn't work well enough: coupled with the Cold War's focus on stability rather than good governance it also foretold the story of the failed attempts at one-size-fits-all approaches championed by the IMF/IBRD in the 1990s.

Instead, any democratic development in the Middle East must and will be by and through political actors with credentials among the wider populace. As I have argued before, democratization in the long term means squaring the state's regular capacity -- what it does apart from high politics, everyday institutions -- with the aggregate sense of equity of the population. If Hamas delivers on social services according to ethical conceptions of brotherhood and equality on a level that more resembles the social welfare states of Northern Europe than Texas, then we must take serious the wants that this success expresses. There will always be elites: for them to be successful in leading their countries to stability and good governance they must be accomodating towards the aggregate sense of equity of their populations.

This process will take another 30-50 years, but it is the only feasible direction. The alternative to supporting the process would be watching it unfold, perhaps more slowly, perhaps more bloodily (given that we don't blunderingly try to impose too fast, too much). Until then, brace for more loud noises, and, yes, violence there and sometimes here, as expressions of the political battle over the OECDification of their states.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Effects Based Cultural Awareness

The Pentagon's modernization process known as "transformation" has been aiming at moving from "capabilities" to "effects" based thinking and planning since the 2001 QDR. One more surprising outcome of moving toward effects based thinking in military tactics and strategy is the inescapability of the political dimension. With the integration of political reality into mission thinking we create the potential for a properly Clausewitzian structuring of the military intention: "done work" will then mean turn-key handovers to civilian authorities (in principle and intent, as Iraq's not going to look like that of course). Take e.g. this Washington Post story on counterinsurgency-training in Iraq:

TAJI, Iraq -- If the U.S. effort in Iraq ultimately is successful, one reason may be the small school started recently on a military base here by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. commander in Iraq. Called the COIN Academy -- using military shorthand for "counterinsurgency" -- the newest educational institution in the U.S. military establishment seeks, as a course summary puts it, to "stress the need for U.S. forces to shift from a conventional warfare mindset" to one that understands how to win in a guerrilla-style conflict. Or, as a sign on the wall of one administrator's office here put it less politely: "Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different outcome."

The purpose of the school north of Baghdad is to try to bring about a different outcome than the U.S. military achieved in 2003-04, when Army commanders committed mistakes typical of a conventional military facing an insurgency. "When the insurgency started, we came in very conventional," said Col. Chris Short, the District native and recent Manassas resident who is the new school's commandant. Back then, U.S. forces rounded up tens of thousands of Iraqis, mixing innocent people in detention with hard-core Islamic extremists. Commanders permitted troops to shoot at anything mildly threatening. And they failed to give their troops the basic conceptual and cultural tools needed to operate in the complex environment of Iraq, from how to deal with a sheik to understanding why killing insurgents usually is the least desirable outcome in dealing with them. (It is more effective, they are now taught, to persuade them either to desert or to join the political process.) (...)

Casey, the school's builder, found an easy way to make [commanders] come: He made attendance compulsory for any officer heading to a combat command in Iraq. He also meets with each class, offering the captains and lieutenant colonels a rare chance to quiz a four-star general. Some members of the faculty, which draws heavily on Special Forces officers, were not eager to teach U.S. infantry, artillery, aviation and armor officers. Short recalled that some said: "That's not our mission. We don't teach U.S. forces." Such qualms have been eliminated, he said with a chuckle.

Again and again, the intense immersion course, which 30 to 50 officers attend at a time, emphasizes that the right answer is probably the counterintuitive one, rather than something that the Army has taught officers in their 10 or 20 years of service. The school's textbook, a huge binder, offers the example of a mission that busts into a house and captures someone who mortared a U.S. base. "On the surface, a raid that captures a known insurgent or terrorist may seem like a sure victory for the coalition," it observes in red block letters. It continues, "The potential second- and third-order effects, however, can turn it into a long-term defeat if our actions humiliate the family, needlessly destroy property, or alienate the local population from our goals." (...)

As Apache attack helicopters clattered overhead, Short also offered an unconventional view of Iraq's December elections, which many U.S. officials have portrayed as a great victory. "You can ask just about every Iraqi, 'What about the elections?' " he said. "They'll say" -- Short shrugged his shoulders -- " 'Well, we voted five times, and nothing's happening out here.' " Recent attendees at the school came away impressed. "I think it's an incredibly insightful course," said Army Maj. Sheldon Horsfall, an adviser to the Iraqi military in Baghdad. "One of the things that was brought home to us, again and again, was the importance of cultural awareness."

The basics of counterinsurgency doctrine are stable: the centre of gravity is the legitimacy of the whole project; the oft mentioned hearts and minds of the population. The challenge of this kind of COIN is that it is hard to reconcile with the classical warrior spirit's more (necessarily?) manichean function, which is the evident reason it is met with suspicion.

But with the effects based thinking there is a clear connection running from Rumsfeld's tech-driven, net-centric warfare to the gritty reality of the combatant commanders on the ground in Iraq. Who would have thought that the efficiency optimization of closing the decision cycle meant investing in cultural awareness?

OECDeing the Rest: The Jigsaw Piece of Wolfowitz vs. Corruption

It has been real quiet around the World Bank after Paul Wolfowitz took over the reins almost a year ago. But it seems, according to Mallaby at the Washington Post, that an agenda is becoming clearer: Wolfowitz' new bag contains something that is ideologically coherent with the National Security Strategy's emphasis on state accountability -- anti-corruption initiatives:
First, a bit of context. The World Bank used to avoid all mention of corruption, believing it should stay out of "politics." This was absurd: The bank had long been telling borrowers how to structure their budgets -- a clearly political subject -- and corruption can't be separated from the bank's development mission. Then, with the arrival of the bomb-throwing Wolfensohn, things began to change. Wolfensohn denounced the "cancer of corruption" in 1996; and the bank's even bomb-happier chief economist, the Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz, gave speeches attacking the narrow economic understanding of development and proclaiming the centrality of politics.

Speeches are one thing, action quite another. The Wolfensohn bank developed state-of-the-art corruption indexes, which are now used by the U.S. government to identify which countries deserve extra foreign assistance; it created a department to investigate malfeasance in bank projects. But the anti-corruption unit was understaffed and ineffectual, and the bank did not build on Wolfensohn's cancer talk by cutting off corrupt borrowers consistently. Excuses were found. Lending frequently continued.

In a series of tough decisions, some of which have been widely reported and some of which have not, Wolfowitz has challenged this culture. (...) In sum, Wolfowitz's World Bank presidency, which had seemed to lack an organizing theme, has acquired one. The new boss is going to be tough on corruption, and he's going to push this campaign beyond the confines of the World Bank; on Saturday he persuaded the heads of several regional development banks to join his anti-corruption effort. It's amusing to see the Wolfensohn-Stiglitz left-liberal critique of narrowly economic development policy being championed by this neoconservative icon; and it's encouraging as well.

The convergence of security and development happens around the concept of good governance: aid policies cannot be about neutral "technical assistance" when the means are not appropriately used; and when bad local policies weaken the legitimacy of the states, feeding into material, ideological and religious discontent. The OECD-ification of the Rest of the World is on the agenda for the rest of our lives. This is also why it less surprising -- if welcome -- to see the emerging centrist consensus on the path ahead; and why the major continental European countries should participate far more expediently in a project that they in fact already pursue.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fukuyama: A Realistic Wilsonianism, Please

Francis Fukuyama's long feature in Sunday's New York Times diagnoses the troubled state of Neoconservatism: coming from the conservative author of End of History and State-Building, this dissection of the challenges for the US foreign policy in general and the Bush administration in particular ought necessarily to be interesting:
But it is the idealistic effort to use American power to promote democracy and human rights abroad that may suffer the greatest setback. Perceived failure in Iraq has restored the authority of foreign policy "realists" in the tradition of Henry Kissinger. Already there is a host of books and articles decrying America's naïve Wilsonianism and attacking the notion of trying to democratize the world. (...) The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a "realistic Wilsonianism" that better matches means to ends. (...)

The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration's first term is now in shambles. The doctrine (elaborated, among other places, in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States) argued that, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America would have to launch periodic preventive wars to defend itself against rogue states and terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; that it would do this alone, if necessary; and that it would work to democratize the greater Middle East as a long-term solution to the terrorist problem. But successful pre-emption depends on the ability to predict the future accurately and on good intelligence, which was not forthcoming, while America's perceived unilateralism has isolated it as never before. It is not surprising that in its second term, the administration has been distancing itself from these policies and is in the process of rewriting the National Security Strategy document.

Fukuyama defines his "realistic Wilsonanism" as "demilitarization" of the means; strengthening several international institutions as leverage of legitimacy; pursuing good governance policies through the political institutions meant to produce them in the first place. This is pretty close to what the liberal hardliners would want as expressed e.g. in the Ronald D. Asmus driven Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy (2003).

This emphasis on partnerships and political more than just military means are surely essential elements in the Long War, even if it will probably more about the military stuff still than most civilians acknowledge. Tom Barnett thinks the exercise is futile -- but then again he does already have the framework that Fukuyama is looking for. In the end, the most interesting element in this piece of marketing for his upcoming book might -- aside from the possibility of a centrist liberal-conservative alignment around a Jacksonian Wilsonianism (instead of the opposite) -- be the news that a new National Security Strategy is in the works. Already, the QDR holds a ton of references to indirect approaches as well as many nods to interagency cooperation.

(Danish readers looking for a thorough introduction to the shortly mentioned history of the Neocons: look up Bushs Amerika, especially the chapters by David Gress).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Afghan SysAdmin Training for US Army

On the large scale, the Long War will be predominantly political: fought over political goals, fought mainly with political means. Yet political means are not necessarily civilian: these have their very important role to be sure, but the US army is slowly relearning how to deal with counterinsurgency operations. The QDR called, in line with many of the SysAdmin oriented policy reports over the last couple of years, for increased cultural and linguistic capabilities. In some areas, these are already coming into place, a bit at a time. The New Tork Times brings an interesting article on the subject, "Tough G.I.'s Go to War Armed With Afghan ABC's":
FORT DRUM, N.Y. — As the 10th Mountain Division prepared to go to Afghanistan this month, its Third Brigade ordered boxes of the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid's seminal book "Taliban" to be issued to officers along with body armor, high-tech seven-layer cold weather uniforms and ballistic-grade Oakley Blade wraparound sunglasses. When the 10th Mountain went to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, their task was purely military: to hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. That mission remains, but now the goal is as much a political one: to bolster the American-supported government of President Hamid Karzai. The 10th Mountain, one of the Army's best units, is developing a military ethos that goes beyond the tactics of past conventional warfare to a new age of ideological war.

In a series of interviews as the soldiers — about half of them combat veterans — prepared for their deployment this month, the division's commander, Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, and other officers spoke of the heightened language and cultural training they had instituted to meet the new challenges in a conflict against militant Islam that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently referred to as "the long war." (...)

Officers in many Marine and Army units have instituted study programs in basic Islam and local mores for the duty of nation-building. But division commanders like General Freakley have wide latitude, and the program here is particularly sweeping. Lt. Col. David W. Morrison, the division intelligence officer, for example, has detailed 10 soldiers to an intensive course in Pashto, the major language in Afghanistan, as their sole duty for 47 weeks. Counterinsurgency warfare, the 10th Mountain soldiers now believe, is as much a political problem as a military one; as much knowing how to win over the population as shooting bad guys.

"This is a very complex environment," said Col. John W. Nicholson, the lean commander of the Third Brigade, the main fighting force being deployed, whose office in the Pentagon was incinerated on 9/11. "It necessitates a very holistic approach." "Part 2 is governance," Colonel Nicholson said, "extending the reach of the government. We could be fighting al Qaeda one day and meeting with a local mayor the next." Capt. Rocky Haley, the officer in charge of much of the Third Brigade's program, said he had been deployed twice to Kosovo and once to Bosnia without any cultural awareness training. "It's only in the last three to five years the Army is really realizing the importance of cultural awareness," he said. "The Army is getting better. They realize it's a key piece — you have to understand the culture." (...)

General Freakley and his headquarters are being sent to Bagram Air Base to take command of NATO forces there. Helicopters and additional troops are also being deployed, for a total of 7,100 troops. They are expected to be fully deployed in March. The plan, once they get there, entails building up the Afghan national police and army to provide basic security and a sense of national identity. Provincial reconstruction teams are to rebuild — or in some cases just build — roads, bridges, schools and clinics. "Civil Affairs plays such a large part in this," said Maj. Stewart Moon, the brigade Civil Affairs officer. "We have to build their infrastructure to their ability, to get them a foothold on this big mountain."

The centerpiece of the Army's strategy is the cultural awareness program, which includes lectures by outside experts, language lessons and recommended readings. In Iraq, many officers now believe, insensitivity to local customs in house searches, for example, created resentment that helped foster the insurgency. (...)

Stabilization and Reconstruction (S&R) operations have become critical to the success of 'regular' military operations as they are the link that ties Pentagon with State, security with development. The Reconstruction-part has until recently been the stepchild of Stabilization because of the instinctive military recoiling from political jobs. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams fielded in Afghanistan are one example of the upgrading of Reconstruction -- general cultural and linguistic capacities will be another. That said, these initiatives will be necessary but not sufficient steps if the collective military and civilian efforts are not coordinated at the macro level.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Zakaria on Europe's Dwindling Constitutive Power

The consistently interesting Fareed Zakaria rounds up the Trans-Atlantic situation in this Washington Post op/ed piece "The Decline and Fall of Europe". With a starting point in a recent OECD report he lists the symptoms of Eurosclerosis usually found in the Economist. In the very basic terms of growth, Europe and the US have drifted even further apart over the last 15 years:
If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German. (Britain is an exception on most of these measures, lying somewhere between Continental Europe and the United States.) People have argued that Europeans simply value leisure more and, as a result, are poorer but have a better quality of life. That's fine if you're taking a 10 percent pay cut and choosing to have longer lunches and vacations. But if you're only half as well off as the United States, that will translate into poorer health care and education, diminished access to all kinds of goods and services, and a lower quality of life. Two Swedish researchers, Fredrik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, note in a monograph published last year that "40 percent of Swedish households would rank as low-income households in the U.S." In many European countries, the percentage would be even greater.
Sweden being a rich country, the term should probably be "in most European countries". Zakaria moves on to the dismal progress on the Lisbon agenda, intended to catapult Europe into high-tech, R&D-driven growth, and notes that European reformers are stuck with a defensive agenda that is framed merely to fend off the challenges of globalization. To be fair, the same urges linger in America where the John Edwards (and to some extent Kerry) agenda of trade protectionism might well pop up again as 2008 approaches. But the effects are much more present in Europe: the structural problems in terms of labor market liberalization means that the sensation of being under siege is far more widespread on this side of the pond. Oddly, this is even the case in the Scandinavian flexicurity model-countries, where growth, flexible labor markets and widespread welfare do seem to add up positively.

Zakaria's conclusion is also a critique of the EU's common foreign and security policy (CFSP) project, because the soft power that the European countries seem to prefer to hard power is exactly a subset of the constitutive power that is produced by absolute wealth and relative economic growth:

What does all this add up to? Less European influence in the world. Europe's position in such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund relates to its share of world GDP. Its dwindling defense spending weakens its ability to be a military partner of the United States, or to project military power abroad even for peacekeeping purposes. Its cramped, increasingly protectionist outlook will further sap its vitality. The decline of Europe means a world with a greater diffusion of power and a lessened ability to create international norms and rules of the road. It also means that America's superpower status will linger. Think of the dollar. For years people have argued that it is due for a massive drop as countries around the world diversify their savings. But as people looked at the alternatives, they decided that the chief rivals, the euro and the yen, represented economies that were structurally weak. So they have reluctantly stuck with the dollar. It's a similar dynamic in other arenas. You can't beat something with nothing.

Indeed. Europe's decline has been predicted many times before: the stagflation crisis of the 1970s produced a widespread Weimar-esque sensation of fragility. Raymond Aron's book essay In Defense of Decadent Europe (1977) argued that Europe's liberal (Americans: read "philosophically liberal" as in pro-democracy, pro-market) heritage and worth were stronger in terms of economic productivity than it would appear: only the Europeans had lost faith in them.

Interestingly, the very different intentions and outcomes of Mitterand's and Thatcher's subsequent reforms in the early 1980s are still today framing the European debate over "globalization": proactive market reforms or reactive state-based defense of the status quo?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Defining the Long War: Tony Corn's 4GW

Policy Review may just have done it again: published an agenda-setting piece of strategic analysis, which, while intellectually limber, is not academically irrelevant. Former State Department employee Tony Corn's "World War IV As Fourth-Generation Warfare" has some thoroughly interesting arguments; summarizes the central elements of the debate on the War on Terror; and addresses the organizational changes underway in the comprehensive interagency perspective. The article is a rare case of strategy proper: tying together separate realms in a practical framework. Do go read the whole thing here. Just a few comments:

* Corn is right that The Long War isn't primarily military in its nature, and neither can our means be. The political dimension is necessarily what this is about. This doesn't mean that the military will not play an important and some times predominant role. But it does mean that the military has to become a whole lot better at the political thing, including calculating effects of military operations in political currency, if it wants to succeed.

* Because the Long War includes an entanglement of military and political elements in its strategy; and of probably all of the foreign policy related organizations in its practice, the resolution of interagency problems is paramount. This includes, first, basic and still very challenging coordination in terms of both operations, planning, learning, and convergence on strategic levels. Second (and this is the hard part!), it means addressing the institutionalized perspectives that a) stem from the civilian and military organizations' raison d'etre and that b) are braking if not blocking proper reaction to the challenges ahead (in short, respectively: warrior spirit vs. the political dimension, and disinterestedness/bureaucracy vs. teleological thinking/strategy).

* Corn's use of the Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) concept is a little off in that he repeats some of the misunderstandings of its proponents: that 4GW is post-clausewitzian because it contains non-state actors and is focused more on the opponent's political will than fighting capacity. This mistake stems from a legacy interpretation of Clausewitz -- what he actually says in the full version of the most famous quote is exactly that politics does take precedence over the military, strategic level; that the political outcome is what we should be aiming at: "[d]er Krieg [ist] nur ein teil des politischen Verkehrs, also durchaus nichts Selbstständiges." Corn uses the concept of 4GW because he wants to justify the strategic importance of what State does and the strategic value of the knowledge and experience of State's employees. This is more than just an honorable intention: he has a valid point. The problem is that the "4GW" concept is part of a military internal debate over the evolving nature of warfare: as such it is much more of an office politics than it is a proper analytical device (see Echevarria's piece on 4GW for the full argument; thanks to Opposed Systems Design for leading me to it). Corn's analysis of the salafist challenge is the central claim of the article, not the 4GW stuff which seems like an afterthought. In any case, as Echevarria has shown, "4GW" is close to signify about whatever you would want it to.

* His jab at Thomas P.M. Barnett's "Disconnectedness defines danger" is unfair. In the context it looks like Barnett meant that the salafists are "disconnected" in the sense that they are not in touch, not using cell-phones or whatever. The proper meaning behind the slogan is instead that "disconnectivity" is a grand strategy heuristic device for identifying future troublespots: it deals with the macrolevel of absence of economic and cultural integration, not the microlevel degree of technology in tactics.

EDIT: According to the Washington Post Corn's article already is on the agenda.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Middle East Reform: Growth Before Democracy?

What if democratic reform in the Middle East is really contingent upon the same factors that have driven the OECD-ification of the former communist states in Eastern Europe? What if economic growth is a lever for political reform in the long term? This would imply that the Western hope for ME democratic reform would be better suited by focusing less on "cultural factor" civil society projects and security sector reform (as is the case now) -- and more on traditional, "boring" politics areas of functional cooperation such as trade facilitation and lobbying for bureaucratic reform of the legalese underpinning economic growth in the ME.

Last week's edition of the Economist carried an interesting article about trade in Eastern Europe, based on this recent study from the World Bank: "From Disintegration to Reintegration: Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union in International Trade." The study distinguishes between three spheres of countries, depending on their level of economic integration through trade and general development:
COMMUNISM divided the world into two camps, with a grey zone in between. Now capitalism has similarly divided the former captive nations. On one side are countries now tightly integrated into the world economy: chiefly, eight new members of the European Union, such as Poland and Estonia. On the other are the 12 countries of the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), where foreign trade is backward in both quality and quantity: commodity-based exports, few services and big bureaucratic barriers. In between are the seven countries of south-eastern Europe, ranging from prosperous Croatia to dirt-poor Albania.
Note the story starter: the distinction between those who are more and those who are less integrated into the global economy seems even more valid today than during the Cold War, when the Communists at least had a run at creating an alternative system. Nowadays there is only the OECD and the rest. "OECD" is here a shorthand for well-functioning market economies with membership of the WTO, low levels of corruption, good levels of growth, etc. ... and democracy. The distinction is applicable to the Middle East by extension. The WB argues that internal reform matters more than bilateral and multilateral trade policies: that the domestic arena is more important than the international:

It is tempting to think that formal trade policy matters a lot. Certainly, rich-country protectionism has hurt exports, particularly food and metals. (...) But self-imposed, low-level barriers to trade have a much worse effect. The study describes the “extraordinarily pernicious” effect of corrupt customs services in Central Asia and the Caucasus. (...) The gains from what the study calls “trade facilitation” are huge. It gives the countries scores for their regulations, customs services and the efficiency of ports. Raising these scores to merely half EU levels would bring $178 billion in extra trade, a gain of around 50%.

The underlying message is that clean, competition-friendly countries do well. Foreign investment, good scores in corruption indices, and low barriers to the entry of new firms and the exit of failing ones (such as crunchy bankruptcy laws) are strongly correlated with high shares of imports and exports in GDP. The extent of reform counts for much more than each country's starting point. Getting ready to join the EU forced the pace for the eight countries now in the union. Now they “overtrade”: imports and exports are around one-third higher, as a share of their national income, than in other countries with similar geography and incomes per head. The south-eastern Europeans “undertrade” by 25%. In short, it is reforms “behind the border” that count. Foreign trade is highly beneficial—but ultimately it is a symptom of success, not a cause. [emphasis added].

Of course, the WB study's conclusions explicitly state that trade policies count for less than internal reform. So in terms of the strategic approach to the larger ME policies of the West, merely opening the gates for trade will not do the trick, even if it will be a start. Akin to the Middle East, the CIS countries' economies are dominated by "commodity-based exports, few services and big bureaucratic barriers". Both groups have members that are struck by the "curse of oil" -- who might just be even worse off than the rest because of the usual disincentives for reform associated with that situation. These of course represent a different challenge: but one where the solution of differentiating the economy is at least clear to the local elites -- such as in Dubai.

It is thus likely that our policies that are aimed at democratization of the ME should e
mphasize internal policies conducive to trade and general economic development in broader terms. The advantages of this approach are evident: these are not suspicion provoking demands associated with direct democratization attempts but rather mutually beneficial initiatives -- and elegantly neutral-looking.

It would be interesting if the WB, or somebody else, would repete the scoring analysis of this study with the economies of the greater Middle East -- to gauge how comparable these economies are, and to plot them into the three groups. This would enable an identification of more and less promising candidates: obvious upfront ones include Egypt, Tunesia, Iraq and Lebanon. Such a study would then also identify target policy areas. But are the bureaucrats behind European Union's Barcelona Process and the strategic policy units of the State Department and the CIA thinking in this vein?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cato's Critique of S/CRS is Wrong

Back in early January, Justin Logan and Christopher Preble, with the Cato Institute, published the first counterargument in the ongoing academic, military and policy discussion about reinforcing military and civilian post-conflict S&R capabilities: Failed States and Flawed Logic. The Case against a Standing Nation-Building Office (here, pdf).

Their argument is three-pronged: 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 is likely to do so again; c) the present system will be able to carry the weight if the US intervenes only when absolutely necessary. In that case, there will be no need for neither reform nor the S/CRS. My post at the time dealt with the first part of the argument (will get back to that below). The two latter parts of the argument are tied together in a weird way. Logan and Preble seem to want to have it both ways; to argue both that nationbuilding costs are inhibitive; that the US cannot learn from its mistakes ... AND that the present capabilities are sufficient provided we just don't do more, or do less, nationbuilding.

Logan/Preble's rundown of the structural challenges connected to nation-building are pretty fair: both the Defense Science Board reports, the James Dobbins/RAND reports and Quinlivan's research point to a negative structural challenge in terms of country/population size. With a 20 personnel per 1000 inhabitants requirement for ambititous operations, Quinlivan noted in 1995, some countries are simply to large to become subject to S&R (see my report's literature section for references). My report pointed to a further negative condition: the level of previously inculcated expectations of statehood. This is a far more anthropological measure, but clearly a contributing factor to success in the cases of Japan and Germany post-WWII. Unfortunately, exactly the absence of an historical legacy of successful statehood is often correlated with weak and failing states, making succes harder to obtain.

Yet, when Logan/Preble argue that "there simply is no 'model' for nation-building" it is stretching the truth -- and this weakness goes hand in hand with their attack on S/CRS for being both to small and a bureaucratic monster in spe, possibly prone to produce demand for its product.
What has changed since 9/11 is the increased attempt to shoehorn American interests into nation building. As Gary Dempsey wrote in 2002: "Liberal internationalism, in short, is back, and this time it is posing in the realist attire of national self-interest. But its utopian premise is still the same: if only we could populate the planet with “good” states, we could eradicate international conflict and terrorism." A standing nation-building office with dedicated funding and institutional support would likely become a vocal advocate of nation building. Bureaucracies are remarkably inventive in finding ways to justify their own existence. In the case of S/CRS, justifying its existence would involve agitating for a costly, dangerous course of foreign policy that would generate reconstruction and stabilization missions to work on.
The bureaucracy argument looks correct -- "if we really stink at doing something we are less likely to do so" -- but its fallout is fallacious: Anything that is worth doing is difficult. Taking into account the positive structural conditions (our input variables: time, men, money, political determination) and the negative structural conditions (situational input: size, security situation, statehood legacy) is not enough. We need the dynamic variables as well in order to estimate the future ability to conduct nation- and state-building operations. Arguing over the size of the S/CRS is missing the point. For the time being, the S/CRS has a coordinating role -- and the operative, executive and planning organizations on both sides must be included in order to fathom the machinery. This includes the Pentagon, USAID, OCHA, UNDP and the new UN Peacebuilding Commission (UNPC), and it includes all of the foreign equivalents of these organizations who are willing participate and fund such operations. The S/CRS is but a small element in this machinery, but it might prove to be very important.

With the recent realignment of USAID within State, with the (coming implementation of the) DoD Directive 3000, and the UNPC in the works, the S/CRS has the potential to be a central element in the best practice based planning and training for future interventions. The overriding conclusion of the Dobbins reports was not so much the difficulty of the operations, but that the US had been as bad as the UN (actually: worse) in learning from past mistakes. State- and Nation-building are unlikely ever to be "add water and stir"-operations but there is an incredibly amount of lessons being learned within all of the relevant policy sectors. Proposing that we cannot learn to this at the very moment where initiatives are launced in all sectors to ensure exactly knowledge accumulation is pushing the envelope of reason.

Where Logan and Preble do have a valid point is the first part of their paper: that there is an absence of direct correlation between threats to national security and failed states. That claim is valid and original, and deserves attention. This is also where their repeated call for a proper debate on nation-building is warranted. But absence of evidence of utility in the short term is not evidence of absence of utility in the medium or long term: basically, the Cato logic of minimal state interference is a function of an allready well-functioning state (i.e. the US) and is just not valid in low-quality state situations. When the GWOT becomes the Long War it will probably take a far more political turn, framing military operations according to their political effect. Rooting out terrorism can only happen through succesful development policy, which again may very well hinge on (coordination with) effective military policies. In this context, nation-building missions are important showcases for our will to integrate the developing world in the democtratic political community and the global economy.

Furthermore, a more speculative argument can be made, that post-conflict states have better potential for far-reaching reform than non-conflict states who have less of an incentive. Measured in relative progress over time this area may just be the growth stock of international donor policy. Add to this the more cynical observation, that our willingness to spend is larger when "security", not "development", heads the bill. The latter point is of course what Logan and Preble oppose: when they argue that nation-building proponents are in a sense "liberal internationalists" this is not incorrect in a philosophical way.

But the fact that this has been the strategic, not ideological, choice made by a Republican administration that came into office with a strong opposition to nationbuilding is an remarkable indication of the need for better capabilities here. Unfortunately, the otherwise healthy dose of libertarianism at Cato is a weird starting point in matters of national security. As noted in my first post on the Cato-report, the minimal state approach makes them misjudge what US national security "means" and has "meant" ever since WWII: namely something much more forward than just homeland defense. Applying that logic would result in a hands-off isolationism whose effects are likely to be far more pernicious in the long term than a balanced activism.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Restoring Trust in Munich: NATO Out of Area or Out of Bounds?

The Munich Security Conference was again the scene for another attempt at Trans-Atlantic reconciliation. Over the coming months, the US wants the alliance members and Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to study the possibilities for a closer cooperation between the four and NATO. Following in the wake of the introduction of the concept of the Long War to describe the continuation of the Global War on Terror, with both the early release of the 2005 QDR and President Bush's State of the Union speech, the proposal is both functionally logical for the disinterested observer and instinctively problematic in some ways for the Europeans.

So why would the Europeans oppose this development? For two reasons: 1) They do not see a vision, and they don't like to change the status quo just for the sake of change. For the Eastern Europeans, NATO still serves as a security guarantee against Russia and turning toward a more clear global role aimed at Out of Area operations they fear that NATO will lose its focus. 2) They have seen the vision, and they don't like it, or -- more probably -- they have seen the vision, they accept it to some degree, but they want a) to be consulted on policy choices, not be a tool box for Pentagon planners, and b) be sure that political means are given the proper weight.

Reconstructing the Trans-Atlantic trust is about more than unruly Europeans. There is a clear feeling in some European policy circles that the US refusal to let NATO get involved up front in Afghanistan was motivated by a "unipolar hubris", which now, because of the magnitude of the challenges ahead has passed -- for want of resources, not for ideological reasons or as a strategic choice. The US will need its partners for a lot of operations in the Long War, but they will want to be consulted before delivering. Right now they do not really trust the American return to dialogue. This is at the core of the German call for an assurance that NATO be the premier forum for policy choice discussions:
Leading European members of the North Atlantic alliance warned the US at the weekend that Nato could not become a global policeman, but must be used by both sides as a political forum to debate and agree on significant security issues such as Iran, the Middle East and energy security. Angela Merkel, Germany’s new chancellor, led the European calls for continuing reform of the organisation, with a plea to expand its political scope to co-ordinate strategy between Europe and the US outside the Nato area.
Even if the call for NATO as a forum at the face of it confirms the American problem with NATO as a talking shop, the Germans did point to the big question: How to balance the need for leadership with honest partnership? This is the essence of the challenge to America: not because the Europeans are annoying or selfish, but because this is the difference between leading and dictating.

The second part of the European hesitation has to do with a profound distrust, not the military means, but in the American preference for it. Kagan's Mars and Venus all over again. Why is this still really, really important? Because the Europeans, for operational reasons, are more right than maybe could be expected, although maybe not as right as they would like to be. The Long War, if it is to be, will not primarily be fought with military means, even if these may be more important than the Europeans are ready to acknowledge. Conceived of as a global counter-insurgency campaign, the political reality has to take precedence over military logic.

In a long-term counterinsurgency campaign where the goal is to accomplish a sufficient reduction of terrorism the means will be successful, legitimate states whose citizens choose opting into the state project.
As Bruce Hoffman (RAND pdf) notes: "At the foundation of counterinsurgency is the salience of the political dimension—in doctrine, planning, implementation, and, most importantly, operational coordination." In strategic terms: in counterinsurgency the center of gravity is not so much military capabilities as it is the hearts and minds of the population.

If the Americans are to convince the Europeans about the strategic vision of the Long War, they will have to not only address the challenge of honest partnership, but also deliver a convincing vision that includes more than the military perspective. We still need political policy proposals that takes better into account the convergence between security and development. Of course, one might naively hope, the Europeans could produce the ideas themselves, but this does not look set to happen: the policy ideas production industry is almost absent from the European continent. But why that is is another question.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

USAID's Office of Military Affairs

The implementation of US policy reform in the area of post-conflict capabilities in the form of inter-agency cooperation and coordination has moved even faster than the publication of the policy documents: as mentioned earlier, the DoD Directive 3000 and the National Security Presidential Directive 44 (NSPD) each institutionalize the new policies regarding the essential necessity of post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction at the Pentagon and the State Department respectively. The Dod D3000 called for further coordination between the Pentagon and other post-conflict/S&R organization stakeholders, including civil society NGO's; while the NSPD 44 gave State the formal lead role for the entire post-conflict process.

Apparently, the goodbye from USAID director Andrew Natsios last month was preceeded, not followed, by changes in the US State Department and Development aid institutional setup: back in late October USAID announced the creation of a new Office of Military Affairs in order to "better coordinate development assistance efforts":

Washington - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is building a partnership with the U.S. military to improve coordination in humanitarian relief efforts. Speaking October 19 at a public hearing of the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, Michael Hess, assistant administrator for USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, announced the formation of a new USAID office to coordinate humanitarian efforts, planning and doctrine with the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department. (...) "Since post-conflict reconstruction is a pillar of the U.S. national security strategy, it is imperative for USAID to have an operational link with the military on how to better coordinate strategic development goals," Hess said.

According to Hess, the Office of Military Affairs will place senior USAID development professionals in staff positions on the five geographic unified Combatant Commands -- Central Command, Southern Command, Northern Command, Pacific Command and European Command -- to assist military professionals in assessing development needs and priorities. In addition to the staff positions with the Combatant Commands, Hess said USAID also plans to participate in joint exercises with the military to add development issues to military planning as well as to "maintain emergency response readiness" for future disasters and conflicts.

"The Office for Military Affairs will also serve as a contact point to increase working relationships between nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. military," he said. "NGOs often have tremendous operational experience in working in various environments and their input into the development process will allow the United States to be more efficient in administering humanitarian assistance," Hess said. (...)Finally, Hess cited recent successes in joint cooperation between USAID and the military through numerous humanitarian operations in Indonesia following the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami. However, he noted the experience demonstrated the need for "a strategic planning relationship between USAID and the military." (emphasis added).

The new OMA looks like a classic unit for operations, policy and best practice coordination, i.e. what is usually done in order to overcome inter-agency coordination challenges (like, e.g. the CIA's OMA). The official press release refers to this issue of a State e-journal for more info on US military relief and humanitarian assitance efforts. Traditionally, USAID operations have been decoupled somewhat from regular State operations in order to ensure continuity of development initiatives regardless of the political whims of the day. The interesting thing in the announcement is the untroubled mix of "both kinds" of the development world, i.e. both humanitarian assistance/relief and "strategic development goals": one thing is to coordinate and share best practice knowledge for better planning and execution of humanitarian relief efforts -- another is to more deeply coordinate general development aid with military objectives.

As the GWOT from a Pentagon perspective looks set to change into a "Long War" (and here) with a perspective of general democratic transformation and thus far broader political goals the latter would be a logical continuation of the policy directives. Connecting and coordinating between two perceived extremes of US foreign policy is both administratively logical and in practice a revolutionary change.

The question is of course who will get to have what say as the Pentagon moves into more political territory. The humanitarian "left" will be wont to fear a militarily dictated development policy, which will then be not only less efficient because more short-sighted, but also subject to suspiciousness in the donor countries as the ostensible non-political character of development aid is more clearly mixed with security interests. Those within military circles on the other hand, who prize warrior spirit and the perceived Clausewitzian legacy of a functional separation between military and civilian realms of action will be supsicious as to the potential of getting stuck within a largely "soft" political and humanitarian universe, leaving them unprepared for the "real challenges".

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

More Long War: State of the Union and MCC Reform

The "Long War" now looks set to be the central moniker for the Bush administration's US Grand Strategy: it will pop up soon as an ingredient in the QDR, and it was the cornerstone of yesterday's State of the Union speech's foreign policy paragraphs:
Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal: We seek the end of tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends on it. (...) In all these areas -- from the disruption of terror networks, to victory in Iraq, to the spread of freedom and hope in troubled regions -- we need the support of our friends and allies. To draw that support, we must always be clear in our principles and willing to act. The only alternative to American leadership is a dramatically more dangerous and anxious world.

Yet we also choose to lead because it is a privilege to serve the values that gave us birth. American leaders -- from Roosevelt, to Truman, to Kennedy, to Reagan -- rejected isolation and retreat because they knew that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march. Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy, a war that will be fought by presidents of both parties who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress. And tonight I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.
The inclusion of the "Long War" as a cornerstone concept into the SotU speech gives a special weight to its place in the QDR. The exact role and definition within the military grand strategy perspective remains to be seen, but what it does already do now, is to offer common grand strategy framework which in many ways is not only, as mentioned in the speech, bipartisan in the American context, but also in principle in the transatlantic, wider left-right context. All of the questions about use of force, when to use it, and who gets to decide will stay with us for along time -- but what we basically have here is a continuation of the realignment between the "tough" and "soft" parts of global international politics. Bushs vision offers a two-pronged refusal of isolationism (the only thing Europeans secretly fear more than "blundering US activism") and a further, more deep-reaching convergence between security and development:
Our offensive against terror involves more than military action. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East. Elections are vital, but they are only the beginning. Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law, and protection of minorities, and strong, accountable institutions that last longer than a single vote. (...) Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity. (...)

To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress and fighting disease and spreading hope in hopeless lands. Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies; it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need. We show compassion abroad because Americans believe in the God-given dignity and worth of a villager with HIV/AIDS, or an infant with malaria, or a refugee fleeing genocide, or a young girl sold into slavery. We also show compassion abroad because regions overwhelmed by poverty, corruption and despair are sources of terrorism and organized crime and human trafficking and the drug trade. In recent years, you and I have taken unprecedented action to fight AIDS and malaria, expand the education of girls, and reward developing nations that are moving forward with economic and political reform. For people everywhere, the United States is a partner for a better life. Short-changing these efforts would increase the suffering and chaos of our world, undercut our long-term security and dull the conscience of our country. I urge members of Congress to serve the interests of America by showing the compassion of America.
An important piece of the Bush administration's development policy was to be the -- so far disappointing -- Millennium Challenge Account, administered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, with a promised budget of 5 billion dollars annually. The simple and promising idea behind the MCC was to award development aid to countries that was already showing progress towards democratic and accountable reform, and then to give larger, more targeted funding. By creating incentives for more efficient, democratic and accountable state-building instead of focusing on purely need-based evalutations the MCC would then "invest" in the "democratic growth stocks" of the developing world. The MCC had a very bad run in the beginning, took too long to set up, and started extremely slowly in disbursing aid: these problems are now being addressed according to this interview with the new director in the Washington Post. The US may in this way be on its way to be a significant policy innovator in the realm of output based aid -- new public management for development policies -- if not in absolute ODA (Official Development Assistance) terms.

Two challenges are paramount for the MCC to deliver substantially: to introduce this kind of condition-based aid without losing focus on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and to square this aim of choosing reform-willing partner countries with the OECD's DAC Guidelines on ODA in terms of effective focus on poverty reduction. One important element of the latter is the untying of aid, i.e. scrapping demands for procurement in donor countries. Untying development aid may be the development world's equivalent of agricultural subventions in that it effectively hampers growth of recipient countries' own capacities. According to the OECD there is some, but modest progress on this area: only 13% of overall ODA was untied in 2003. The ratio of LDC ODA that was untied (to tied LDC ODA) has risen substantially across the board for most DAC member countries since the Guidelines where agreed upon in 2001 (click picture for enlargement; page 14 of link above).

The Long War is thus not only a Pentagon affair, and it cannot be: the convergence of security and development means that both elements, seperately and jointly, have to deliver for the results to emerge. Whether the MCC -- including the USAid threshold program -- will be an efficient player in that game will depend among other things on its ability to deliver on poverty reduction in the LDCs.