ashthomas//blog: November 2004


Monday, November 29, 2004

Powerful, Untrustworthy, Devilish and Seductive

What do Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Tin Tin, Judas Iscariot and I have in common? We all have qualified to join the newly founded Princeton Redheads Society. A Princeton professor is also writinga book about how redheads are depicted in literature:
Her forthcoming book, 'Redheads,' shows that male redheads throughout literary history have been portrayed as powerful and untrustworthy and the red-haired female as devilish and seductive.

Check out the Red and Proud website for a list of other notable redheads.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Weekly Standard Calls for Bigger Military

Tom Donnelly (the sharpest mind, in my opinion, in national security and defence analysis at the American Enterprise Institute) and Vance Serchuk, write in A Bigger, Badder, Better Army in the Weekly Standard about the need for a larger U.S. military. The four areas that they identify as requiring reform are:
More ground troops
New bases overseas
New alliances
More money

Without these issues being addressed, they argue, the Bush Doctrine is in danger of failing under the weight of its ambitions without the resources to accomplish them. Donnelly and Serchuk are a welcome antidote to the ideas of those other hawks (both liberal and conservative) who have been advocating troop withdrawl from Iraq recently.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Increase Troop Levels

Bryan Bender, in the Boston Globe, reports that many hawks in and around the Bush Administration are pushing for troop withdrawl from Iraq--not necessarily completely, but at least partially.

Bender writes in "Hawks Push Deep Cuts in Forces in Iraq":
A growing number of national security specialists who supported the toppling of Saddam Hussein are moving to a position unthinkable even a few months ago: that the large US military presence is impeding stability as much as contributing to it and that the United States should begin major reductions in troops beginning early next year.

This is, I have to say with all due respect, a pretty stupid idea. The reason why we are in the mess we are in at the moment in Iraq with the insurgency problem is that certain elements in the Pentagon assumed that they could invade, conquer and pacify Iraq with a minimal force. This was, of course, against the advice of many counter-insurgency specialists, who argued that the ratio of invading troops to population was far off what it should be/

But now, with the problem far from being resolved, some are advocating withdrawing troops? What we need are more troops--not just American, but a broad-based force (preferably from NATO--they know how to do things properly).

In order to get to a point where we are able to withdraw troops, we need to create a secure environment. The only way we are going to do that is to go in heavy, arrest or kill the insurgents and criminal gangs operating around the country, and then (and only then) will we be able to consider leaving.

Instead of talking about cutting force levels, we need to find a way to at least double the amount of troops in Iraq.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Who Is Stephen Hadley?

While everyone else is analysing the future of Condeleezza Rice in the State Department, Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post looks at Stephen Hadley, currently Deputy National Security Advisor, and set to become NSA when Rice moves up to State. In "For New National Security Adviser, a Mixed Record", Kessler reviews Hadley's history:
Hadley, 57, has worked his way up through a succession of government posts, with Vice President Cheney as one of his main advocates. But although becoming national security adviser has long been Hadley's dream, he has not left behind a rich paper trail of writings or books that outline a foreign policy philosophy, except for displaying a passion for missile defense. He appears to have won his coveted post in part through a combination of long hours, tight-lipped loyalty and a tendency to call little attention to himself.

Hadley has a reputation for being an effective bureaucrat and a team player--exactly what Bush is looking for.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

DLC on Powell

The Democratic Leadership Council has its take on the Rice appointment in "Post-Powell". Basically they argue that Powell's conservative realist ideology, while not what they agree with, at least served as a dissenting voice in foreign policy deliberations within the Bush Administration:
Powell was the living embodiment of the Republican "realist" tradition. He was the author of the "Powell Doctrine" that eschewed the use of U.S. military force in all but very limited circumstances.

He participated in, and vigorously defended, the decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power after Operation Desert Storm. He opposed U.S. intervention to prevent ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. He perfectly represented the post-Vietnam consensus of both military leaders and conservative diplomats that the United States should avoid embroilment in regional conflicts, human rights causes, and "nation-building" exercises.

Republican "realism" was clearly inadequate in a post-9/11 world, but at least Powell acted as a counterweight to the equally inadequate unilateralist and "shoot first, think later" ideology represented by the vice president and the secretary of defense.

Rice, on the other hand, will be the ultimate yes-man, a bureaucratic functionary who will carry out policy rather than initiate:

For all her manifest talents, Powell's apparent replacement, Condoleezza Rice, is preeminently a Bush loyalist and "team player" who is unlikely to urge her boss to question the decisions he's made.

I have little expectation for an activist State Department under Rice.

Kaplan on Rice as SecState

Lawrence Kaplan makes a persuasive argument in "One Way" in the New Republic that the appointment of Rice as Powell's replacement for Secretary of State will put an end to the foreign policy conflict in the Bush Administration.

The last four years has seen a feud in the Administration between the George H.W. Bush-era realists, centred around Foggy Bottom, and the neoconservatives, gathered in the Pentagon and in Vice-President Cheney's office. With Powell and, most likely, Armitage out, and with the more malleable Rice in, there will be little impediment to the neocons pursuing their agenda. Kaplan writes:
With Condoleezza Rice at the helm--and, in all likelihood, with Undersecretary of State John Bolton as her deputy--the State Department will now be run by a team known for its rigid loyalty to the president. They, more than any other administration officials, represent authentic expressions of Bush's foreign policy--more realistic than the Bush team's neoconservatives but far more aggressive than its self-described 'realists.' Rice, to be sure, is neither a great thinker nor a great manager. But she is a great lieutenant--that is, someone who can be relied on to convey and translate the president's inclinations into official policy. For his part, Bolton is all of these things, plus a fierce conservative. Between the two of them, they could well transform Foggy Bottom into something that looks more like the Pentagon--only competently run. Even if the State Department doesn't become the center of foreign policy deliberations, it certainly won't stymie them.

The State Department under Rice will become even less relevent to foreign policy than it was under Powell. Foreign policy will be run out of the Pentagon and Cheney's office from now on.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Gun-to-the-Head Democratization

Robert D. Kaplan, the author of an extraordinary series of recent articles in the Atlantic Monthly over the last couple of years, had an op-ed piece in the NYTimes on the weekend. "Barren Ground for Democracy" seeks to encourage us to "look at the campaign in the Persian Gulf region not as an isolated effort but as the culmination of a decade-long effort to bring the vast lands of the defunct Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and Asia into the modern world and the Western orbit."

The Iraq War is the latest in a slow process of spreading democracy from west to east. Kaplan argues that the project began with the end of the Cold War and the de-Soviet-isation of Eastern Europe. It continued into the 90s with the efforts of NATO to clean up the Balkans and the Near East. It is now being undertaken in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq.

What Kaplan emphasises is that the effort is getting harder and harder the further from Western Europe we go. Kaplan argues that we have been blind to this reality when dealing with Iraq:
In the 1990's, those supporting humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia branded references to difficult history and geography as "determinism" and "essentialism" - academic jargon for fatalism. In the views of liberal internationalists and neoconservatives, group characteristics based on a shared history and geography no longer mattered, for in a post-cold war world of globalization everyone was first and foremost an individual. Thus if Poland, say, was ready overnight for Western-style democracy, then so too were Bosnia, Russia, Iraq - and Liberia, for that matter.

This, I think, is a bit of a simplification: while some neocons did indeed expect the Iraq War to be quick and that elections could be held within months of the "liberation", this was not in any way a complete consensus. Many, especially those who fall into the "liberal imperialist" wing of the neoconservative camp, recognised that the peace would be more difficult than the war, and that democracy and liberalisation would take years, if not decades, to take root. Kaplan continues:

By invading Iraq, Republican neoconservatives - the most fervent of Wilsonians - simply took that liberal idealist argument of the 1990's to its logical conclusion. Indeed, given that Saddam Hussein was ultimately responsible for the violent deaths of several times more people than the Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic, how could any liberal in favor of intervention in the Balkans not also favor it in the case of Iraq? And because the human rights abuses in Iraq showed no sign of abatement, much like those in the Balkans, our intervention was justified in order to stop an ongoing rape-and-killing machine.

And is there anything wrong with this? Of course not. What Kaplan seems to be advising, and what I think is an obvious point, is that blind optimism and naivete are dangerous in foreign policy. Kaplan is another example of a trend I have been noticing of neoconservatives aligning themselves more with Democrats and less with Republicans. He is another in the Francis Fukuyama and Niall Ferguson vein of neoconservatives who, while agreeing with the general neocon goal of democratisation and liberalisation of the world, at the tip of a sword if necessary, realise that it is not an easy task, it will not be quick and it will involve some form of imperialism for quite some time.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Ledeen's War Cabinet

Michael Ledeen gives his wishlist for a new "War Cabinet" in the National Review. His picks:
State: Zell Miller
Defence: Jim Woolsey
NSC: John Bolton or Paul Wolfowitz

For Ledeen, this is the beginning of necessary housecleaning that will replace many of the top tiers of the national security apparatus:

The president must have the advice of people who will not shirk from the unpleasant tasks before us, and who are capable of leading their agencies to maximum performance.

Unfortunately this probably means a wholesale housecleaning. If it were up to me, I would urge the president to replace the secretaries of state and defense, the national-security adviser, and the heads of the FBI and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). All are exceptionally gifted and patriotic people. All have worked very hard. But all have failed, for different reasons and to different degrees. There is a very narrow window of time to make wholesale changes, and I hope the president will seize his moment.

Ledeen's choices are interesting, although I think the only one with a real possibility is Wolfowitz for National Security Advisor.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Doomsayers and Skeptics

James Mann, the author of the excellent Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet, has an article about the Bush second term on the Foreign Policy website. “Four More Years” asks whether Bush's international strategy will be more of the same, or more restrained. There are two camps that Mann identifies, the Doomsayers and the Skeptics:
The Doomsayers suggest that Bush’s second term is likely to produce further military interventions overseas, along the lines of Iraq in 2003. Perhaps Syria may be the next target of U.S. military power, they suggest, or Iran. They believe that the neoconservatives, who were the driving force behind the Bush administration’s preventive war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, will have even greater power and influence, now that the president has won reelection. ...

The Skeptics contend that Bush’s foreign policy in his second term will turn out to be more cautious and less belligerent than his first, if not by choice, then by compulsion. Whatever some hawks might like to do, the reality is that the Bush administration will face a series of constraints—military, diplomatic, political, and economic—that will curb its ability to launch new preventive wars.

I tend to agree with Mann that the second scenario is more plausible, if only because of the enormous drain on American military resources that Iraq is going to require over the next few years. However I do not think that this is the end of the neocon influence in the White House. There are more weapons in the American arsenal than brute on-the-ground military force, and the neocon philosophy can be advanced through other means, including multilateral and diplomatic avenues.

Iraq was an unusual case where military force was necessary--Iran poses a different challenge that will require a different solution. North Korea is an altogether unique problem, that will probably be dealt with by traditional Cold War policies of containment and deterrence. Despite the stereotyping of some members of the left (and the paleocon right), neoconservative thought does not always call for the use of military force.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Gaffney's Neocon Imperialist Game Plan

Despite the fact that he says that it does not constitute “some sort of neocon “imperialist” game plan”, Frank Gaffney gives exactly that when he outlines what he calls “a checklist of the work the world will demand of this president and his subordinates in a second term.” From the National Review Online, Gaffney's “Worldwide Value” lists seven areas of concern for the Bush second term:
  • Dealing with insurgent strongholds in Iraq;
  • Regime change — one way or another — in Iran and North Korea;
  • Providing the substantially increased resources needed to re-equip a transforming military and rebuild human-intelligence capabilities;
  • Homeland protection;
  • Protection of Israel;
  • Dealing with France and Germany, “namely, their willingness to make common cause with our enemies for profit, and their desire to employ a united Europe and its new constitution — as well as other international institutions and mechanisms — to thwart the expansion and application of American power where deemed necessary by Washington”;and
  • “Adapting appropriate strategies for contending with China's increasingly fascistic trade and military policies, Vladimir Putin's accelerating authoritarianism at home and aggressiveness toward the former Soviet republics, the worldwide spread of Islamofascism, and the emergence of a number of aggressively anti-American regimes in Latin America.”

While the objectives Gaffney identifies are reasonable (who could argue against protecting the homeland, taking out the militias in Iraq?), I don't always like the way Gaffney expresses them or justifies them. I think the last two especially were poorly worded.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Possible Bush Cabinet Changes

Alexis Simendinger in the National Journal looks at the possible changes in the Bush Cabinet if Bush wins. Of particular interest to me is the discussion of the foreign policy/national security team:
Defense Secretary -- It is hard to find anyone inside the White House or close to the political center at the Pentagon who believes that Bush will ask Donald Rumsfeld to leave the job he's held twice in his life, in the middle of a war, and even despite his 72 years. ...

Secretary of State -- The more-conventional wisdom that Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, are poised to depart is correct, according to a former White House official. ... Although plenty of reports have speculated that Condoleezza Rice could succeed Powell, Rice's current and former colleagues insist she has little interest in the administrative challenges within the State Department culture.

National Security Adviser -- Leading candidates to succeed Rice, no matter where she might go, include her deputy, Stephen Hadley, and Robert Blackwill, Rice's coordinator for strategic planning at the National Security Council.

Director of Central Intelligence/Director of National Intelligence -- The job of director of central intelligence is being turned into the (theoretically) more powerful post of director of national intelligence. The consensus speculation is that Porter Goss will move up, leaving Bush to fill the CIA post again. ... Under the scenario in which Goss is promoted, the betting is on Frances Fragos Townsend, the president's White House adviser on homeland security, to become the first female director of central intelligence.

Attorney General -- John Ashcroft, while useful to the president among his socially conservative base in an election year, may be expendable after re-election to appease Republicans who believe he has almost single-handedly hurt the party's reputation on immigration and civil liberties. ...

Homeland Security Secretary -- ... Smart and knowledgeable sources believe the odds are that [Tom Ridge] departs but that external events could change his mind. If Ridge goes, his undersecretary, Asa Hutchinson, has been publicly eager for the top job.

Also now up on the National Journal site is the Carl Cannon article on the possible Kerry cabinet.