Wednesday, March 30, 2005

So Much for European Outrage

The Guardian reports -- very regretfully, I'm sure -- that the EU will agree to Paul Wolfiwitz's appointment to head the World Bank:

The EU gave the nod today to the contentious appointment of Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary, to head the World Bank.

European commissioner Olli Rehn "was satisfied with everything he heard from Mr Wolfowitz concerning free trade and also on poverty reduction and development policy," a spokeswoman told reporters.

The German development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said: "I expect that he will get the European and German support."

The World Bank board is due to choose a successor to James Wolfensohn tomorrow, and Mr Wolfowitz's appointment as president seems assured after his charm offensive in Brussels.

The prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, made it all but official when he described Mr Wolfowitz as the "incoming president of the World Bank".

After his meeting with senior EU finance and development ministers to discuss his vision for the world's leading development institution, Mr Wolfowitz - a key Bush administration hawk - said he believed deeply in the work of the World Bank and was committed to helping the world's poor. "Helping people lift themselves out of poverty is truly a noble mission," he said.

And with that, I leave for warmer environs until Tuesday... Or, as Eric Cartman would say: "Screw you guys, I'm going to the Caribbean..."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Very Reassuring...

Hmmm... No sooner do I post on the precariousness of the global nuclear situation, than I learn from Dangerous Logic that the Moscow Times is reporting this:

A serviceman of the strategic missile unit in Russia’s Siberia has been detained for smoking marijuana while on duty and selling drugs to his comrades, the Interfax news agency reported.

A warrant officer at military unit No. 28151 of the Glukhov Guards Division of the Strategic Missile Forces was detained on March 23 while selling marijuana to fellow soldiers. He did not resist arrest and military police chose not to place him in custody demanding a written pledge not to leave his unit instead.

During questioning the serviceman confessed that he had smoked marijuana for over a year, both in joints and through a home-made pipe. He also said that he had repeatedly been on combat duty while under the influence of drugs.

Commanders of the unit were quick to announce that the soldier had no access to the ’nuclear button’. They said the warrant officer served as a technician at a communications post.

I just hope al-Qaeda doesn't read the Moscow Times.

The Atomic Cocktail

Well, via Drezner, I see that the purpose of blogging is not just “to circulate ideas that are new, or at least new to us…. But every now and then there is something to be said for sheer repetition of the important.”

With that in mind, I’d like to direct your attention to Jimmy Carter’s pretty standard “nuclear proliferation is a major problem and Bush is not doing enough to prevent it” op-ed in the Post today. The column doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It could have been written a year ago, probably even two or three years ago. But it does provide a fairly decent summary of the anti-proliferation movement’s arguments -- if any readers are unfamiliar with the subject. Of course, once Carter moves from general critiques to specific policy prescriptions, his suggestions are pretty unhelpful. For instance, with regard to Iran, Carter declares that “Iran must be called to account and held to its promises under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Thank you, Captain Obvious.

On a similar topic, but much more interesting, are Greg Djerejian’s comments on some remarks by Fred Ickle’s at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ickle had this to say about 60 years of non-use of nuclear weapons:

You probably recall that right after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in '45, military historians asserted that every new powerful weapon has eventually been used in war and so they predicted the atomic bomb would also be used. Now instead we can look back on 60 years of the most extraordinary, most unique revolution in military affairs that I think you'll find anywhere in military history. Namely the uninterrupted non-use of nuclear weapons, the most powerful weapons now in the arsenals of eight countries. At first blush perhaps you'll find this point time-worn and trite. Please reconsider. It's not trite. What happened is that we all became habituated to nuclear non-use among nations. We almost assume it's the law of nature. We do not realize that we are walking on thin ice and the ice is getting thinner because of proliferation.

I'm alluding here not primarily to the often-mentioned threat of nuclear terrorism, but rather to the more pervasive instability of the international system. What I have in mind is illustrated by the agonizing choice that statesmen have to face frequently in deciding between appeasement and escalation. Rolf already referred to that. Presidents, Prime Ministers, often have to agonize, fearing they may be called another Neville Chamberlain, another Munich agreement, or fearing, conversely, that they be condemned by history for dragging the nation into another Vietnam, another quagmire. Now imagine that a serious nuclear use has suddenly occurred, say between India and Pakistan, or between Iran and Iraq, or Iran and Israel, or between North Korea and South Korea, or North Korea and Japan. If that happened,the whole global security system would be transformed within a split second, leaving no time for long consultations, whether or how to counter-attack, whether to appease or to escalate. And it would leave no solution, akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis solution, where it was possible, essentially, to restore the status quo. Once the era of non-nuclear use should end, all the strategic expectations and military plans will radically change.

In these post-9/11 years our anti-proliferation efforts have tended, for good reason, to focus on the threat of nuclear terrorism by al-Qaeda-type, transnational actors. But as Greg notes:

…there remains plenty of instability in the state system itself…that could lead to state actors employing nuclear weaponry…. [M]ore thought at places like the CSIS and Brookings of the world should be given to what the world would look like, say, the day after North Korea lobbed a nuclear warhead at Osaka. It seems improbable perhaps in the extreme, but so were the Twin Towers crumbling to the ground. History is never neat and we still cannot be sure the 21st Century will be less bloody than the 20th. The specter of nuclear terrorism or state use of nuclear weaponry is one of the biggest reasons why. Above and beyond the critical attention that needs to be paid to non-proliferation regimes and efforts.
I agree. There needs to be more focus not just on strengthening non-proliferation regimes, but on how to respond/cope if those regimes fail. What would we do if there were a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India? At the moment, I don’t think anyone has a clear answer...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Weekly History Quote -- Purim Edition

"It is true that I am a Jew, and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate Deity, amidst the thundering and lightnings of Mt. Sinai, the ancestors of my opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain."

-- Judah Benjamin, US Senator from Lousiana (1852-1861) responding on the Senate floor to charges made by Sen. Ben Wade of Ohio that Benjamin was an "Israelite in Egyptian clothing."

ps. After a strange and terrible two weeks of being offline, full Internet connectivity is expected to return Saturday. Expect regular blogging to resume then as well....

Friday, March 18, 2005

George Kennan, 1904-2005

"For the love of God, for the love of your children and of the civilization to which you belong, cease this madness. You are mortal men. You are capable of error. You have no right to hold in your hands -- there is no one wise enough and strong enough to hold in his hands -- destructive power sufficient to put an end to civilized life on a great portion of our planet."

-- An impassioned plea for nuclear disarmament written in the twilight of Kennan's life. There is much I want to say about this complex, and often misunderstoond, author of "containment." But it will have to wait until later today or the weekend...

UPDATE: Both Daniel Drezner and Oxblog have thoughtful posts on Kennan's life and legacy. Also, you can read Kennan's famous 1947 Foreign Affairs article, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," here -- seriously, you can't get foreign affairs writing like this anymore.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bolton and Wolfiwitz and Their New Homes

First John Bolton to the UN, and now Paul Wolfiwitz to head the World Bank. Is this evidence of the continued neo-con ascendancy in the Bush administration? Keven Drum seems to think so, as do the Europeans. But Greg Djerejian, Daniel Drezner, and Matt Yglesias disagree. And of course, they are correct.

First off, as Yglesias notes, "preventative wars are not, I take it, something the Bank head is able to launch." Indeed, instead of regime change in Iran, Wolfiwitz will be promoting international economic development, a far easier case to make. But more importantly, at the UN and at the World Bank, Bolton and Wolfiwitz will be far removed from the inner-circles of policymaking inside the beltway -- out of the loop, so to speak. Drezner points out, "No neocon worth their salt would want Bolton at the UN or Wolfowitz at the Bank -- because neocons don't believe these institutions are particularly relevant." And combined with the fact that Doug Feith will be leaving the Pentagon this summer, and Richard Myers' term as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair will expire in December, it looks as if management is finally breaking up Team Rumsfeld. In fact, Djerejian bets that Rumsfeld himself will be gone by mid-to-late 2005. So contra the mainstream print media, what we're seeing is hardly a revival of Bush's first term foreign policy team.

Still, regardless of what it means for the direction of US foreign policy, will these appointments be effective ones? I am skeptical but optimistic about both.

The UN is undoubtedly in need of some tough love. Confronted with scandals, impotence, and zero accountability, the last thing the UN needs is another ambassador who, because of a fetish for multilateralism, refuses to confront its problems. Even Kofi Annan has acknowledged this, with his spokesman responding to Bolton's appointment by stating that Annan had “nothing against people who hold [the UN] accountable.” And Bolton will certainly do precisely that. But unlike some, I will refrain from lauding the appointment as a "Nixon goes to China" move, and I have my doubts that Bolton will become a latter-day Daniel Patrick Moynihan. That said -- provided his tendency towards inflammatory rhetoric does not get the best of him -- Bolton, at the very least, will offer a dose of reality and hard truth-telling to an organization that badly needs it.

Now on to Wolfiwitz. Wolfiwitz, as it happens, is my favorite neocon in the Pentagon (Bob Kagan being my favorite neocon in all). Yes, he was badly wrong about many aspects of the Iraq War (necessary troop levels, being greeted with flowers, oil revenues paying for the war), but of all the war's neo-con advocates, Wolfiwitz was the most idealistic about the war's humanitarian and democracy-promotion aspects. Further, when many conservatives opposed the Balkan interventions of the late-90s, Wolfiwitz stood strong in support of Clinton. He's also argued for higher spending on aid to Liberia and the Sudan. In other words, Wolfiwitz accepts and believes in the World Bank's raison de'etre -- that the rich world can and should help the poor world through economic development.

That being said, Wolfiwitz is not an economist and he has had limited experience in development work. So it remains to be seen that he can master the myriad details that running the World Bank requires. Still, at the World Bank he'll be able to put his great intellect to use on aid and democracy promotion, while being restrained from pursuing his more controversial ideas on regime change and preventive war... Everybody wins.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Tragedy of Torture

Andrew Sullivan possesses a frustrating ability typical of exceptional writers -- to be able to express a sentiment that you had been struggling to find words for, far more articulately than you ever could. When such is the case, it is best just to excerpt liberally. And so excerpt I shall:

The last time I checked, the official number of murders by torture in U.S. custody was five, with 23 other deaths under investigation. Now we have 26 criminal homicides of detainees. There will be more to come. The standard conservative defense is that this was restricted to one night in Abu Ghraib and that even that wasn't torture. Anyone who has read even the white-wash reports, like the Church report, knows that what happened at AG was torture under any definition. Anyone who reads the NYT this morning will note that only one of the murders took place at Abu Ghraib. This was systemic mistreatment of detainees. It still is. And this doesn't even deal with the CIA, which has been given carte blanche to torture or kidnap anyone it suspects of terrorism, even if innocent, or to send them to Syria, Egypt or Saudi Arabia to get hung from hooks in the ceiling. The second conservative response is that this has nothing to do with official policy and that therefore no one in the administration should be held accountable. First, Donald Rumsfeld didn't think so. He offered to resign twice because of his responsibility (he had signed two torture warrants by then and known of Abu Ghraib for months). Second, the administration's reversal of its own 2002 memo sanctioning torture implicitly acknowledges that it had responsibility for this astonishingly widespread phenomenon of torturing prisoners to death or treating them so badly they died. The numbers of detainees tortured or mistreated who didn't die is, of course exponentially larger. The administration included as part of its war-plan legal memos arguing that the usual ban on mistreatment of prisoners was no longer operable and that any "military necessity" could justify torture or abuse of detainees. How much more evidence do we need? Now we have the latest ACLU document dump in which one soldier reports that General Ricardo Sanchez said, ""Why are we detaining these people, we should be killing them." Well, why should anyone be surprised when these prisoners were indeed killed?
It’s baffling that the same administration which has dedicated itself to ending tyranny and spreading democracy throughout the Middle East could be so willing to adopt interrogation procedures that are inimical to the liberal democracy it is trying to promote. Actually it’s not baffling, it’s sickening. And it threatens to undo the progress made in the region so far. (One of my major problems with John Kerry was his craven refusal to call the President out on the interrogation practices that his administration had condoned). The image of the hooded Iraqi man standing on a small box with wires attached to his genitals could be just as influential as the image of the joyous Iraqi man voting with a child in his arms.

It is important to note here that, although torture has been widespread, it is still practiced by only a small percentage of our military and intelligence personnel. Indeed, the large number of Army and CIA officials who have condemned and reported such behavior is quite heartening. But it is also important to note that torture continues still.

There must be an investigation into detainee abuse that is unconnected to either the Pentagon or the CIA. It is the first step to undoing the damage that we have wrought. Hopefully, it won’t be too little, too late.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Issues with the Internets

Don't worry, all ten of you who read this blog, I am still alive -- just unable to post much. The fortified compound in northwest Washington, DC that the Radical Centrist calls home is experiencing Internet problems -- which may require drastic measures to solve. I'd post from work, but right now I'm way too busy to spend the day pontificating on world events.

So until connectivity is restored, you may read this article about the increasingly pro-Western/anti-regime sentiments of the Iranians, and you may check out this coverage of the 1 million anti-Syrian protesters in Beirut yesterday.
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