Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Elections and Democratic Success

A major pillar of the US “war on terror,” the US led invasion of Iraq, intended to win over the “hearts and minds” of the Islamic population and rid the Middle East of terrorist “safe havens” through brute force and the promotion of democratic political systems. As Martha Crenshaw notes, this was an attempt to strike back at a form of “new terrorism” that was no longer characterized by state actors, but decentralized groups determined to oppose US hegemony abroad. Ultimately if US “success” in the Middle East is measured by the proliferation of democratic political systems, how will this affect the form of “new terrorism” described above? Does this strategy assume that a democratic Middle East will eliminate the roots of extremism? Do the Defense Adaptive Red Team’s (DART) metrics, specifically the focus on representative elections, really reveal a positive correlation between current US policies and democratic reform throughout the Middle East?

First let’s examine the progress reports hailed by Colonel Gary Anderson as obvious successes of US policy in the Middle East. Colonel Anderson sites the progress of “representative governments” of Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt. Four out of these five countries can be labeled “illiberal democracies” which are not exactly democratic in nature. It is true that each of these countries have had successful “elections” but only the election in Lebanon can be touted as a true democratic success. In Lebanon, the people freely (and peacefully) expressed themselves and consequently affected the political landscape. For the US to truly measure democratic success we must look much farther than simply the ability to cast a vote.

Casting a ballot does not automatically transform a political system into a liberal democracy, nor is it a legitimate measure of success, effective checks and balances or constitutionally guaranteed/protected freedoms. For example, in Iran’s recent presidential election Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received 60% of the vote. As Michael Ignatieff notes, when the Iranian populous was forced to choose between reformers that advocated democracy and human rights “The slums of Tehran voted for a man who advocated stricter discipline for women, tougher theocratic rule and state control of the economy.” Therefore a very “successful” election enabled a former member of the Revolutionary Guard to grab the reins of leadership in Iran. Was the election democratic? Yes. In the sense that voters turned out and voted for a candidate listed on the official ballot sheet. Is Iran a beacon of liberal democracy in the world? No. Then how can democratic elections be an effective measure of US success?

The difference here is between what Ignateiff describes as minimal democracy and maximal democracy. I think we can all agree that Iran is not a democracy. Sure they have popularly elected officials (housed within the Majles) but decision-making power remains in the hands of a single man, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and freedom is drastically limited by the ruling mullahs. It is a classic case of minimal democracy. On the other hand, what is meant by maximal democracy? Maximal democracy is described as “elections plus rule of law, bills of rights and checks and balances.” Americans should be very familiar with this description of liberal democracy. This should be the measure of American success within the Middle East, not premature jubilation over mere elections. But this also raises an even more complex problem for US strategists.

What types of democracy will be prevalent within countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Will future democratically elected Muslim regimes (on the road to maximal liberal democracy) be hostile to US interests in the long term? Can the US and the West accept governments with an Islamist tinge that may incorporate religion into politics? These are all very tough questions that should be discussed in great detail if US policy is to establish true democracies in the Middle East. Currently, it seems as though most Americans simply assume that Middle Eastern democracy will be a mirror image of the secular, western parliamentary system. This will most likely not be the case. Additionally, as we are now witnessing in Europe, (Madrid, London, etc) true democratic systems allow the freedom of movement that decentralized, asymmetric threats thrive upon. It is much harder for terrorists/insurgents/global jihadists to operate in an oppressive police state, Saudi Arabia for instance (The Royal Family’s survivability depends on the destruction of extremist elements), than in a free society.

Martha Crenshaw. “Why America? The Globalization of Civil War.” Current History, December 2001, 6.

Michael Ignatieff. "Iranian Lessons." New York Times, July 17, 2005.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I suppose the Brooks article would help too

Winning in Iraq

Editorials about David Brooks' review of Andrew Krepinevich

Responses to an Op-Ed piece by David Brooks about Andrew Krepinevich's plan for Iraq.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Metrics for Measuring Success in the Middle East

Andrew Krepinevich asserts that “the Bush administration [has] focused on the wrong metrics for measuring success in Iraq.” I totally agree with this statement, but not for the reasons Mr. Krepinevich states. The Bush administration has not done enough to communicate on real successes that are coming out of the Middle East. Nevertheless, the Defense Adaptive Red Team (DART), a group within the Pentagon, has been focusing on “measures of effectiveness” as have those working on the Pew Center’s Global Attitudes Project survey. The results may be surprising to those against the war.

Gary Anderson, a former Marine Colonel and head of DART, realizes that gauging success against a global insurgency (war on terrorism) is difficult but not impossible. Focusing on how many insurgents have been killed is less effective than other strategies; Anderson believes, "kinetic measures of casualties and body counts never has worked and probably never will work because if you don't know how big the terrorist organization was to begin with, you really don't know how much progress you've made." Anderson sites the progress of representative governments in the region with elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt as a measure of success. Indeed, the Pew center report reveals accomplishments in changing the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt have witnessed dramatic increases in favorable attitudes towards democracy in their countries. More and more, people in the Middle East are discussing politics and thinking that change could be possible. Michael Barone states that “the Pew polls in these Muslim countries show that those attacks have moved Muslim opinion against the terrorists and toward democracy.” Unfortunately, this good news has fallen on deaf ears.

Mr. Krepinevich points out that while reenlistment rates are up, recruitment is down drastically. He believes that this is bad news; on the contrary, what this reveals is that those who are in the region feel that they are making a difference. With the persistent negativity coming out of the mainstream media, should we have expected recruitment to rise? What is truly revealing is that those in the region (Muslims and American soldiers) believe that things are changing and in the right direction. Mr. Krepinevich is dead on: the Bush Administration has used the wrong metrics. It is time to focus on positive news, not just pessimism.

Links and Trackbacks


Everything is looking great thus far.

On the question of links, let me echo Kryptos' suggestion that you should include a link to whatever previous post you are discussing. It may seem easy to keep track of now, but as we have more and more posts keeping a conversation together may become confusing.

Also, I encourage everyone to link to outside resources. If you find an article or blog post somewhere else in which you find compelling evidence of Kim Jong-Il's sanity, or lack thereof, then link to it.

If you do decide to post a link to another blog, you should consider using Trackback. Trackback tells the author of the blog (and whatever readers she may have) that you have commented on her post at your blog. If you're interested in having people read your work, it's the best way to go. Trackback is mildly tricky to pull off; you need to login to Haloscan (our login is "defensestatecraft", and our password is "dip750"), click the "Manage Trackback" link, then the "Manual Trackback" tab. From there, it's reasonably self-explanatory.

Keep up the good work.

UPDATE: Incidentally, if anyone can think of a good description for the blog, let me know and I'll post it.

My megalomaniac is better than your megalomaniac

Kim Jong Il is a rational actor. He responses to incentives and is willing to bargain when he thinks he can get a good deal. He is not illogical. Leaders such as Ayatollah Khomeini believe so fervently in their cause that they can behave irrationally. Khomeini was willing to inflict greater harm on himself than on Saddam, with no real chance of outlasting him. That's illogical. Dressing up an assassination attempt in the clothes of a peace talk is ingenious and disturbing, not irrational.

When the U.S. attempts to force and or persuade Kim Jong Il to do what we want, we must keep in mind that he very smart and very capable. He will want to persuade us that he is a little nuts, because then we are more likely to blink in the international game of chicken.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Blogging Basics

In order to raise our collective blogging skills, allow me to offer a few links and hints on blogging.

1. Posting Links: Click Here to learn how. If you use just about any browser except Safari, you should have shortcut keys that allow you to do it for writing posts, but you will still need to use HTML if you want to post links in your comments. Blogging is a link intense environment. If you cite someone else, you should always post a link to them. For any other HTML questions you might have, see here

2. New Post or Comment: Sometimes it is hard to decide if you want to start a new post or reply in the comments section of an old one. As a rule of thumb, if you are replying directly to a previous post then post in the comments section. If you are starting a new topic, going in a new direction, or even if the old topic has just progressed too far down the page because of newer posts, then it makes sense to start a new post.

3. Quotations: When you quote more than a line of text from someone else, you can use blockquotes instead of quotation marks. This offsets the text and helps your reader differentiate what you wrote versus your quote (when you skim an article you might miss the quotation marks). Learn how to use blockquotes here.

I'm not saying this to be critical of anyone... by all means keep the posts coming. I'm just trying to offer some hints for a better blogging experience.

Reply and clarification

North Korea will avoid using nukes against South Korea because of its physical proximity to South Korea. Other forms of WMD, however, are another matter, and currently stationed along the DMZ in case of invasion, etc.

A nuclear strike against Japan is an issue because the DPRK cannot strike the USA, yet. Furthermore, while Kim Jong Il is "a few peas short of a pod," I agree the likelihood of nuclear retaliation is an extreme case; I envision this happening if, for example, we invade North Korea, etc.

Finally, Somalia and Uganda fit all of the criteria listed: borders, population, etc. Are they NOT failed states?

Krepinevich on Iraq


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Not so fast Xerxes

All of Xerxes' points are well taken, however I disagree with most of them. The issue over use of a nuclear weapon by North Korea is still up in the air. I again pose the question: Would North Korea really launch a nuclear weapon at Japan or South Korea? I'd wager a bet that most hostage takers wouldn't actually go so far as to shoot a hostage if their demands were ignored, but the threat that he/she will shoot often gets those demands granted. If the hostage taker were to shoot a hostage then all bets are off and not only will he/she have no chance of getting his/her demands, but most likely he/she will be killed. There is no benefit to North Korea to use nuclear weapons, because the country will just be obliterated in retaliation and then what good has that done?

I also disagree with the statement that North Korea is a failed state. Last time that I checked, the government had a pretty strong grasp on the country, it has clear borders, and a clear population. Sounds like a state to me. Is it a respectable state? No. But, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be treated like a state.

I certainly don't want to sound as if I support North Korea or that I want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. But, if our policy is not to negotiate with terrorists, then why do we continue to give in to the demands of North Korea?

Thoughts on North Korea, its nukes, and failed states.

Nuclear weapons on the Korean penninsula pose an immediate danger to the international community. North Korea (The DPRK) could use a nuclear weapon against a strategic American ally (Japan) or it could sell WMD on the black market. Furthermore, its possession of a viable nuclear weapons program could encourage nuclear proliferation in South Asia.

North Korean nukes are a serious symptom of a larger problem, namely that the DPRK is a failed state. Pyongyang routinely engages in counterfeiting and drug smuggling (as well as egregious human rights abuses), and kidnapping. Appropriately, North Korea is often referred to as "the hermit kingdom" because its policies isolate its citizens both internally and externally a la Stalinist-style repression.

North Korea could change its behavior, though how easily (politically and practically) is unclear. DPRK force concentration along the DMZ is astronomical; the military receives something like 8-10 percent of GDP. Central planning only drives the economy farther into the ground. Therefore, I think Michael E. O'Hanlon is correct that any resolution of the nuclear crisis should begin with measures that both curtail the economic incetive to produce nuclear weapons and encourage economic reform. For example, a reduction in North and South Korean force concentration along the DMZ could redirect government outlays towards the purchase of foodstuffs, something the starving population of North Korea desperately needs.

My point is this: placing the North Korean nuclear crisis squarely in the context of a failed state might increase the breadth and effectiveness of potential diplomatic solutions.

Friday, August 26, 2005

North Korean Nukes

The problem that I see with how the U.S. is dealing with North Korea is that we are solely focused on the actual attainment of nuclear weapons by North Korea. However, whether North Korea has nuclear weapons or not isn't the point. The threat that North Korea might get (or have) nukes makes us negotiate with them. I certainly don't think that North Korea should have nuclear weapons (just as I don't think that anyone should have them), but the mere possibility that they might have them scares us enough to give in to their demands. Is it really likely that a sovereign nation-state would use a nuclear weapon against another? Kim Jong-Il might be a couple peas short of a pod, but I don't think he's that stupid. But as long as he continues to drag the rest of the world around by his nuclear leash, he'll get whatever he wants.

Administrative Notes

The Biddle volume is now available in the student computer room. Please borrow and copy the relevant portion.

The University of Kentucky Library system cancelled its subscription to the Journal of Strategic Studies last year, and the moving wall on internet availability means that the two companion pieces to the Biddle will be difficult to find. I'll see if I can work something out; otherwise, don't worry about them.

I've given up on the idea of having class on Tuesday next week, so we'll meet at the normal time on Thursday. Also, I'm planning to screen Terence Malik's adaptation of James Jones The Thin Red Line after class on Thursday. It's not required, but the film follows the experiences of an infantry company on Guadalcanal, and nicely highlights some of the issues we'll be talking about, including professionalism in the officer corps, the citizen soldier, the relationship between officers and NCOs, and the "modern system" of infantry and artillery tactics.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Juan Cole

Without specific comment on the substance, let me suggest that the point of this course is to develop the skills necessary to evaluate an argument such as that made today by Juan Cole.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

This is a class blog for Defense Statecraft, DIP 750