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Kaplan responds

I meant to post this a while ago, but Atlantic journalist Robert Kaplan has responded to criticism of his recent cover story. He deals with some of the issues raised, that I mentioned here. It seems Kaplan was mostly responding to Thomas Barnett, as he deals specifically with issues Barnett raised. Kaplan notes:

The article has elicited some rants on the Web that express the following concerns. First, that in return for highlighting the military viewpoint, I am granted unusual access to the military. In fact, I am granted access because I am willing to spend six months yearly away from my family, out of e-mail contact for weeks on end, living in tight quarters with enlisted men, on deployments that the public would find fascinating but rarely gets to hear about because they often lack hard-news value. Any reporter, including a left-wing one, willing to do this would find many doors open for him in the military. Second, and related, is the criticism that I have bought into the Pacific Command-Navy view of the world. The PACOM view of the world is one that I judge to be worth knowing, especially as it constitutes one of the big blocks of the China story that has gotten relatively little attention from the media. The PACOM viewpoint offends those on the right who see nothing good about China because it is not yet a democracy, and thus believe that the whole concept of managing and constraining China’s military is doomed to fail without more hard-line policies. It also offends those on the other side of the political aisle, who define any reference to China’s growing military capability as war-mongering. Pacific Command, whatever its shortcomings and internal divisions, falls in the reasonable middle between these extremes. My conclusion is expressed in the article’s last “callout”: that China’s reemergence is natural and legitimate. But PACOM, as a military organization, is forced to think in worst-case scenarios, even as it chooses moderate Bismarckian methods to prevent their occurrence. I have internalized that outlook in my narrative.

Remember, we worst-cased the scenario in our original invasion of Iraq and got the best possible result. But we best-cased the occupation and got the worst possible result. Worst-casing China may be the way to peaceful outcomes.

This article introduces PACOM to the reader. That is probably the most important thing that it does, because I’m making a bet in this article: that PACOM is going to be in the news a lot over the next years and decades. Even if China emerges peacefully, there is going to be relatively more military activity in the Pacific. Yet PACOM is not monolithic, and will change. The new combatant commander, Admiral William Fallon, a carrier aviator, comes from a different tradition than the previous PACOM commander, Admiral Thomas Fargo, a submariner. Admiral Fallon may turn out to be more of a traditionalist in regards to China and other matters. Submariners—who have been very active in the post-Cold War off the coasts of the Balkans, Iraq, and elsewhere—can tend to be a bit more aggressive.

On the subject of aircraft carriers specifically:

We will have aircraft carriers or the equivalent of them through most of this new century. The question is, Should we invest in building even more of them? Or rather, should we just keep upgrading the ones we have in a slow gradual phase-out over many decades? This is something about which there are terrible fights that get very, very technical. The bad thing about putting all your marbles in carriers is that at some point adversaries will be able to penetrate their defense shield. The good thing about them, as you saw during the tsunami, is they’re offshore bases for all intents and purposes.

Apologies to those who have not been following this debate.

China and Europe: Eat your sprouts

Tom Friedman with a warning:

This is not a joke. If North Korea and Iran both go nuclear, that step may trigger a major realignment of geopolitics – the like of which has not been seen since the end of the cold war.

If North Korea sets off a nuclear test, how long will Japan continue relying on the United States for its nuclear shield? And what will South Korea and Taiwan do? And if Japan or South Korea goes nuclear, how may an anxious China react? And if Shiite Iran becomes a nuclear power – in tandem with Iraq’s being run by Shiites – the Sunni Arab world will go nuts, not to mention the Israelis. Will Saudi Arabia then feel compelled to acquire a nuclear deterrent? Will Egypt?

We’re talking nuclear dominoes.

So there you have it – my annual nonproliferation column. Unless China and Europe get serious about the problem, it’s not going to get fixed. And for now, neither one seems ready, willing or interested in eating its brussels sprouts.

Apocalypse Soon

Robert McNamara’s piece has appeared on the FP website, go have a read.

…just last summer, at a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry said, “I have never been more fearful of a nuclear detonation than now.… There is a greater than 50 percent probability of a nuclear strike on U.S. targets within a decade.â€? I share his fears.

Pouring oil on the East China Sea

Some ongoing tensions between Japan and China are detailed here.

Japan has begun planning for the worst. A conflict with China over rich gas deposits in the East China Sea has escalated since late January when two Chinese destroyers entered the area, which has been in dispute for decades. Japan warned China that it would defend its resources there.

But conflict is not inevitable. China’s June 2004 proposal to jointly develop a large gas field that straddles a boundary claimed by Japan is an opportunity to cap rising tension, and at long last harvest the resources in the disputed area.

The East China Sea is thought to contain up to 100 billion barrels of oil – it is one of the last unexplored high-potential resource areas located near large markets. The development of oil and gas in much of the area has been prevented for decades by the boundary dispute. The Japanese government has refused to let companies explore and develop the resources in the area because it says that it could adversely affect relations and negotiations with China on the boundary.

But now China is drilling near the boundary claimed by Japan. Tokyo has officially protested the drilling and is now considering allowing some companies to drill on Japan’s side of its claimed boundary. Just the possibility has been protested by Beijing.

Promoting the National Interest: Condoleezza Rice

In case anyone missed it, back in 2000 Condi Rice wrote this piece for Foreign Affairs. It’s a good insight into the mind of the new Secretary of State.

Foreign policy in a Republican administration will most certainly be internationalist; the leading contenders in the party’s presidential race have strong credentials in that regard. But it will also proceed from the firm ground of the national interest, not from the interests of an illusory international community. America can exercise power without arrogance and pursue its interests without hectoring and bluster. When it does so in concert with those who share its core values, the world becomes more prosperous, democratic, and peaceful. That has been America’s special role in the past, and it should be again as we enter the next century.

Blair overstates the threat of terrorism

William Pfaff writes:

PARIS Tony Blair gave a major talk last Friday on terrorism and the intervention in Iraq that was a strange combination of apocalyptic warning and anodyne remedy, very different from what has been said on the same subjects by the George W. Bush administration in Washington.

The British prime minister declared that Islamic extremism constitutes a threat that could “engulf” the world. The scale of this threat, according to Blair, requires abandoning the framework of international law and interstate relations that has served society for the last three and a half centuries.

Blair told his parliamentary constituents in northern England that Islamic extremist collaboration with rogue states to obtain weapons of mass destruction warrants an aggressive new international legal standard justifying international or state intervention in other countries, overriding their sovereignty.

This superficially resembles the claim made by the Bush administration’s national security strategy statement of September 2002, that when circumstances make it seem necessary, Washington intends to take pre-emptive action “to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack.”

Blair placed his argument concerning weapons of mass destruction in the context of “humanitarian” interventions into the affairs of other countries to remove despotic regimes, an idea that has been making its way since the Yugoslav wars of secession and the Rwanda genocide.

His references were all to Iraq and to radical Islam, however, and the purpose of his talk was to justify his decision to take Britain into the war in Iraq – where, unfortunately for his argument, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and until after the occupation began, there were no Islamic terrorists.

The difference between the British and American positions lies in the robust nationalism of the American statement. It concerns threats to U.S. security. It says that it was possible in the past for the United States to rely on deterrence based on the threat of retaliation. Nuclear weapons were then mutually “considered weapons of last resort” that risked the survival of those who used them.

Today, the statement went on, weapons of mass destruction are seen by America’s enemies “as weapons of choice” for aggression or to intimidate neighbors, and are considered usable in order to blackmail the United States and its allies so that they do not attack rogue regimes.

Established international law concerning pre-emptive defense must be modified, it said, to allow “anticipatory action,” to disarm threats to the United States. References to allies and global interests in the security statement were infrequent and perfunctory.

The American position was challenged for just that reason. Its claim to a right of unilateral American pre-emption in the national interest, against a unilaterally determined threat, was criticized internationally in the historical context of powerful or dominant nations who do what they please. The United States was accused of merely rationalizing its own self-interested conduct.

Blair, making his argument in terms of the common international interest, failed to suggest a standard of evidence or a forum for international decision that an armed “humanitarian” intervention is justified.

Who decides? The prime minister says of the United Nations that even now “it is strange that the United Nations is so reluctant” to enforce its own Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But as the United Nations acts in such a matter only when it is told to act by the Security Council, of which Britain is a permanent member, this would seem a reproach to Britain itself.

Blair says that the United Nations should be reformed, adding that “poverty in Africa” and “justice in Palestine” should also be addressed, and “our duty” should be acknowledged “to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan as stable and democratic nations.” This does not lend much weight to his case. Iraq and Afghanistan have yet to become conclusive arguments for the humanitarian benefits of overthrowing tyrannical regimes, with or without weapons of mass destruction.

Blair actually abandons his argument at just the point where it becomes interesting. Interventions to seize weapons of mass destruction and interventions meant to impose humanitarian standards of government are quite different things. Are we talking about North Korea, or Zimbabwe and Haiti?

Blair and Bush ultimately build their case on their personal intuitions, provoked by the Sept. 11 attacks, that something new had appeared in the world. They both concluded, as Bush was to put it, that they had to “rid the world of evil.” But their argument that Islamic extremism is a “global threat” is indefensible. The Islamists can make spectacular attacks on Britain or the United States, but neither country, nor any of the other democracies, is in the slightest danger of being “engulfed” by terrorism, or shaken from its democratic foundations.

The Islamists are a challenge to Islamic society itself, but a limited one. Their doctrine will run its course, and eventually be rejected by Muslims as a futile strategy for dealing with the modern world.

Yglesias continued the discussion here after mentioning Andrew Sulliva’ns views. I think Pfaff is right – they are a limited threat to both Islamic society and Western society.

Bill Gates and Bono

The Irish Times had an opinion piece today from none other than Bono and Bill Gates. You can read the text here. They have a four point plan:

For a start, we hope that the leaders of every developed nation will resolve to take four crucial steps in 2005. The wealthy world has already committed itself to some of these ideas. Promises made must be promises kept. First: double the amount of effective foreign assistance – possibly through the International Finance Facility, a UK proposal to frontload aid and get it flowing immediately.

A British- and French-backed initiative using the same principles is ready to roll now and could save five million lives by increasing child immunisation. Second: finish the job on poor countries’ debts. They need more than relief – they need full debt cancellation. Third: change unfair trade rules, creating a pathway for poor countries to reach self-reliance. Fourth: provide funding for the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, a more aggressive and coordinated approach to developing an HIV vaccine.

Laudable objectives – and serious weight has been added with Bill Gates’ name.


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