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Laura Rozen has confirmed reports that Princeton Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter will become “the first woman to head the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning, Foggy Bottom’s in-house think tank.”

If Slaughter ever publishes an anonymous insider account about US foreign policy in Foreign Affairs, her obvious pseudonym is XX.


Volleys in the war on terror

Barack Obama may not have formally ended the war on terrorism, but he’s certainly making dramatic changes in the way it is prosecuted. From Spencer Ackerman this morning:

take a look at his first not-even-48 hours in office. He’s suspended the Guantanamo Bay military commissions, a first step toward shuttering the entire detention complex. He’s assembled his military commanders to discuss troop withdrawals from Iraq. He’s issued a far-reaching order on transparency in his administration that mandates, among other things, a two-year ban on any ex-lobbyists working on issues they lobbied for. And now he’s shutting down the CIA’s off-the-books detention complexes in the war on terrorism.

That’s a remarkable start. A bit later in that post, Ackerman mentions that the CIA will also have to start complying with the Army’s revised Field Manual (which is compliant with the Geneva Conventions) when interrogating terror suspects.

To the likely approval of UK Foreign Minister David Miliband, these moves “uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties both at home and abroad.” They also de-emphasize the military dimension of the conflict and begin to disentangle disparate foes previously lumped together as terrorists.

My Two Cents on Obama’s Speech

It was full of gloom and doom, which is not what some of us might have expected from the “hope” President, but just the kind of realism the nation needs to hear. Finally someone who will ask us to step up to bat and make the sacrifices needed to turn the planet around!

(And frankly the enormity of the mess we’re in was hit home to me when my kids and I, desperate to see Obama sworn in during a layover in Charlotte, were told by the manager of the sports bar near our gate that the basketball game was more important than hearing this historic speech. If anyone can change this mentality that afflicts so many Americans, it’s Obama, but there is a long way to go.)

The kids and I spent that hour huddled around my MacBook Air instead, along with a growing crowd of other passengers. My initial reactions:

1) The “war” against “a network” is definitely not over, contra recent suggestions on this blog. Much of Obama’s rhetoric is surprisingly similar to that of the previous Administration. Jon Stewart captured this well last night.

2) Was he sending veiled cues to Israel when he said, the US will be “a friend to all nations”? Are we finally entering an era where the US will not only obey international law but make our alliances and partnerships contingent on similar good citizenship from our allies? And if so, would this be a good thing?

3) Despite being an unprecedented diversity-fest, this was a very monotheistic celebration. Prayers and benedictions were addressed to the Almighty, not to the female Goddess, the Taoist Creative, or the pantheon worshipped in many forms by American Wiccans, Native American communities, or other minority faiths. Obama made multi-faith references to Christians, Muslims, Jews and – importantly – to non-believers. But I was a little bothered by the juxtapositioning of the People of the Book with nonbelievers, dismissing the wide swaths of deeply spiritual people of faith within this country who do not subscribe to a view of God consistent with any of the Abrahamic faiths. Obama did mention Hinduism as well, and it is probably too much to expect him to rattle off an exhaustive list of spiritual and religious diversity within this country. Still, I felt the limits of this framing warranted mention.

4) Most remarkable in my mind was this: Obama made very few specific promises in this speech. The one time I heard him use the word “pledge” it was in reference not to ending torture, solving the global economic crisis, or combatting global warming; it was to reducing global poverty:

“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”

To me, this seems like a surprisingly ambitious agenda – if he was going to pledge this, why not make some other pledges that are more within his capacity? Not to belittle the impact that a concerted US effort to combat poverty could have. President Obama could make an enormous difference immediately with such concrete steps as announcing that he will support the commitment of 7% of the US budget to non-mility foreign aid. This would still be a tiny fraction of US spending, but an enormous increase from existing spending on non-military aid. It would embody his messages of service, sacrifice, outreach to other nations. And, in addition to helping make a dent in global poverty, it would reduce one source of tension between the US and other OECD countries who already meet or exceed the 7% goal.

Theory: between experience and vision

The other night, before the inauguration, I found myself involved in yet another discussion about the relationship between theory and decision-making. Old, familiar territory for us, but slightly altered in this iteration by two factors: the fact that I’m finally teaching an undergraduate course in IR theory (check out our class wiki here) this semester, and the fact that “change” is very much in the air in Washington DC these days. Especially after President Obama’s declaration yesterday that “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” So the question — the perennial question — of the relationship between theory and practical politics is posed yet again, with just as much urgency as ever.

I don’t know that my answer has changed much since the last couple of times I addressed this theme on Duck. But I do think it’s useful to expound the argument, or a version of the argument, again, and see what kind of dialogue it provokes.

First, a brief recap of the Enlightenment Dream about theory — social theory in particular — and what it promised. Once upon a time there were a bunch of European thinkers who conceived an audacious epistemic project: to place all knowledge, and all action that relied on knowledge (which is to say, basically all action), on an absolutely secure foundation in Reason alone. So they set out to demolish prejudices and opinions that masqueraded as Truth, both by revealing how those prejudices and opinions were insufficiently warranted by evidence or logic, and by demonstrating how the defenders of those prejudices and opinions benefited from having others accept their claims. These twin critiques are all over the philosophical literature of the European Enlightenment, from the French Encyclopediasts to Karl Marx and August Comte. In all cases, the goal was to set things on a firmer, more solid basis, and in that way to relieve decision-makers — whether we are talking about public officials or people in their everyday lives — of the awful anxiety of having to commit to a course of action without actually knowing whether it was correct.

Now the master key to making this project succeed, in the minds of these Enlightenment thinkers, was science, which would provide a general theoretical grasp on things and thus make possible the deliberate manipulation of the social and natural environments. Science was supposed to make clear the basic structure of the world; the result of science was supposed to be a set of general theories (or perhaps just one theory) that would in some sense disclose how things really were, somewhere back behind the accidents of actual events. And such theory, in turn, was supposed to provide a solid basis on which to set decisions: if we knew the properties of building-materials, then we could determine how best to build a bridge, and analogously, if we knew the properties of human beings we could determine how best to organize them into political societies.

I am obviously oversimplifying here; there are a vast number of fascinating debates and controversies both about how to construct theories like this and about precisely what such a theory contains. But for my purposes here, it is sufficient to note that (1) something like this Enlightenment Dream persists in the ambitions, and the rhetoric, of many of the social sciences, Political Science and International Relations among them; and (2) the whole Enlightenment project has been called into serious philosophical question for centuries, both by romantics who rejected the idea of science and by existentialists and other postmoderns who rejected the Enlightenment ambitions for science and theory. Contemporary social science is not precisely the same animal as what Comte and Bentham wanted to see — to put the matter bluntly and to use some technical conceptual shorthand, positivist reductionism has been replaced by neopositivist falsification as the dominant way to conceptualize the production of lawlike generalizations — but the dream remains. Teaching in a policy-oriented program in Washington DC, I see this all the time among my students, particularly my MA students: they come for advanced study in IR hoping that it will give them a firmer grasp on how things work, and they look to theory (okay, when we force them to, they look to theory) to provide them with answers.

This, I think, is the major mistake that people make when dealing with the relationship between theory and action, and in particular when dealing with social theory and political action. The Enlightenment Dream didn’t work, because there proved to be no reliable and unquestionable way to ascertain whether any given theoretical claim, no matter how well-established it seemed to be empirically, was anything other than a declaration of how things appeared from a certain point of view. So the only meaningful test of a theoretical proposition is its practical utility, which does not mean that it could serve as the kind of certain grounding that many people wanted and still want it to be. Theory, in a post-Enlightenment frame of mind, is a useful conceptual tool, a systematic elucidation of a way of making sense of things. So almost all that can be said of a theory about, say, world politics is that it serves to show us what might follow if we adhered to its assumptions and followed their logical implications. Hence theory, and theorists, can’t give the kind of practical advice that so many people look for; all a theory or a theorist can say is something like: “what you’ve proposed sounds like theory X, and according to theory X, consequences a, b, . . . n follow if you do this.” This is what Weber called value-clarification, and it’s helpful in that it can perhaps prevent rampant inconsistencies from cropping up in the conduct of action, but it’s sharply limited in that the actor can always reject the value-premise of the theory and move off in a different direction. Theory is irreducibly perspectival, and as such it provides no answers — just clearer and sharper questions.

So in this sense, theory serves not to ground or correct experience, but to systematize experience and enable reflection on it. This doesn’t, however, mean that theory is nothing more than a logical derivation from experience; in order to systematize experience, it is necessary to select a perspective or a value-commitment from which to begin systematizing. That’s the “visionary” component of theory: a theorist takes a vision and transmutes it into a set of operational principles that can order experience. This is not the same thing as taking a vision and testing it against experience; if that were all that we had to do, then we could simply draw up an incontrovertible list of the precepts of experience and use that list as a way of choosing among visions. This is the kind of thing that unreflective practitioners often seem to suggest: as though experience spoke for itself, and spoke with a single and unambiguous voice. It doesn’t; every effort to draw “lessons from history” or codify the “wisdom of the world” implicitly depends on theoretical propositions and value-commitments.

In that way, the theorist’s task becomes a task of unveiling the implicit theories in use among practitioners, and in so doing haul them out into the light so that they might be examined more systematically. Such an examination, as I have suggested, means not just looking to see how they fare empirically, but also looking to see what their core value-commitments look like morally and ethically. That said, making moral and ethical judgments about commitments is not the theorist’s job; that’s a political and social question, and much like the Supreme Court when faced with that kind of issue, I think it’s only proper to toss it back to the people authorized to make such determinations (which in this case means people in their capacity as citizens, and their duly constituted representatives). Science won’t save us; theory won’t tell us what we ought to do.

The point here is that as the Obama administration takes on the enormous task of “change,” and confronts the basic challenges that confront any decision-making procedure in the post-Enlightenment era — the unavailability of any firm theoretical grounding that would justify particular courses of action and immunize the decision against doubt — neither they nor anyone else ought to look to theory to provide a road-map of what they ought to do. Theory and theorists can clarify the options, and the tough choices that they have to make, but determining what to choose is not in the theorist’s job description. Rather, determining the best course of action involves a closer reliance on experienced practitioners, suitably induced into reflection by the prodding of theories and theorists. It does little good to say something like “constructivism tells us that moral authority can be a power resource, so we ought to develop that.” Rather, we start where Obama started yesterday: “To all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.” And then using that as a value-commitment, we theoretically organize experience to give us a sense of the plausible. Which means that the Obama administration should lean on experienced practitioners when deciding precisely which courses of action to undertake to best achieve that goal.

Theory doesn’t answer value questions, but it does give us tools for implementing value-commitments in dialogue with experience. This is a hard sell to policy practitioners, who seem to be endlessly looking for secure answers; hence the other task of the theorist, which is to constantly and continually deflate expectations about what social science can do. Because there is no rational grounding for value-commitments, all we get are determinations to go in a particular direction that can then be supplemented with systematic elaborations of how we might do that — but that can never provide the kind of certainty that many among us still, somewhat futilely, look to science and reason to provide.

Our President

Watching the Inauguration on television, I’m amazed at the sheer number of people packed in the mile and a half between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. Last night, watching the cable news, I was amazed at the crowd just hanging out on the mall, wanting to “be there” in the moment of this monumental event. I think its quite clear that the inauguration of Barak Obama as President of the United States is becoming more than just your standard Presidential Inauguration, its becoming one of those moments that we will recall years from now as a time when things changed in this country.

For many, this event is so special because finally the president is “one of us.” Obama is not like his recent predecessors. The US is shifting demographically, and Obama is a product of these new demographics. He’s of mixed race. He’s urban. His parents weren’t Presidents, Senators, or even rich. As Nate Silver pointed out, Obama is the first truly urban president in a century, proud to call a real American city his home. He doesn’t have a ranch or a retreat and doesn’t claim some sort of small town mythology. Indeed, his election disproves the Palin thesis that “real America” is small town America. Once, that may have been the case, but today, and going forward, “real America” is city-orriented, urban and suburban.

Its an amazing transition on so many levels, and its quite a thing to witness.

Of course, I’m watching it on cable news from Denver. Taking advantage of the 4 day weekend and the utter insanity gripping Washington, we left town to visit family. But being here in Colorado (where its supposed to be 70 today as opposed to freezing back home). We wouldn’t be taking the toddler down to the mall, so CNN and MSNBC are pretty much the same regardless of where you are.

A Fresh Start

Content-free weekend

Obviously, it is slow around here over the long holiday weekend.

Here’s my brief winter holiday weekend report:

1. My wife and oldest daughter left Louisville early Saturday morning to attend the Inaugural. They do not have tickets to any events, so they will be among the masses tomorrow. However, they did have a well-placed friend for a pre-Tuesday function. As a consequence, they already met the President-elect and the rest of the Obamas! More here.

2. While most of my family is out of town, I’ve been reading email and blog posts about the incoming administration.

This is the best line, by far: “Clinton would have picked a better secretary of State.”

Madam Secretary-to-be cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee easily, but the hearings had a somewhat unpleasant, if familiar, feel to them.

3. I’ve been crafting an assignment requiring my US Foreign Policy students to research likely changes Obama will bring. What will the “new beginning” look like?

Because my university has to complete its work before the Kentucky Derby (always the first Saturday in May), we begin our third week of classes tomorrow.

When I did this exercise on my own for publication in 2001, I didn’t anticipate 9/11 (“I do not address a litany of other potentially meaningful foreign policy concerns: … [including] terrorism”) or a new Iraq war (“Despite these menacing [campaign] statements and the early attack [bombings to enforce the no fly zone in February 2001], it seems unlikely that Iraq will be the foreign policy centerpiece of Bush II.”).

This time, I’m looking for wisdom in the crowd.

The “war on terror” is over

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband says “for a couple of years now the British Government has used neither the idea nor the phrase ‘war on terror’.”

Miliband was in Mumbai, speaking (transcript here) at the recently targeted Taj Hotel. He made a number of points that new American leaders should embrace. For example, a “war on terror” creates an enemy that does not exist:

…ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken…The notion of a war on terror gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama Bin Laden and the organization of Al Qaeda. In fact, as India has long known, the forces of violent extremism remain diverse. Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology

…The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common, and the more we magnify the sense of threat.

Moreover, fighting a “war” on terror militarizes a struggle that should be handled quite differently:

the phrase “war on terror” implied a belief that the correct response to the terrorist threat was primarily a military one: to track down and kill a hardcore of extremists. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife.

…democracies must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it. If we want to promote the politics of consent instead of terror and of democratic opportunity rather than fear and oppression, we must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties both at home and abroad.

Why didn’t the Bush administration heed this advice years ago? Many others were offering it — since September 2001, in fact.

Actually, back in summer 2005 the Bush team did briefly appear to abandon the “war” on terror or terrorism.

Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, for instance, wanted to refer to the US policy as a “a global struggle against violent extremism” (G-SAVE). By dropping “war,” the administration could have somewhat de-militarized the conflict. As was noted at the time,

“Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had “objected to the use of the term ‘war on terrorism’ before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution.”

The solution is “more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military,” Myers said.

At the time, as my blog post made clear, Karl Rove liked the “war” framing and President George W. Bush settled the issue before the end of the summer. Bush declared in August:

Make no mistake about it, we are at war. We’re at war with an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. We’re at war against an enemy that, since that day, has continued to kill. They have killed in Madrid and Istanbul and Jakarta and Casablanca and Riyadh and Bali and London and elsewhere.

As Peter pointed out at the time, the “war on terror” language allows Bush to “claim significant powers and the mantle of a Wartime President….Bush has successfully used the language of War to legitimize much of his policy agenda.”

When he spoke of the “rule of law” and democracies, Miliband explicitly said the UK welcomed Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo. This seemed like a clear signal to the incoming administration that even America’s closest ally wants change it can believe in.

Teaching Evaluations

Ezra’s post on Texas A&M’s proposal to reward a faculty member with $10,000 for the highest score on its teaching evaluations has generated a whole lot of response across the blogosphere, much of it from fellow university faculty who do in fact take teaching seriously.

I too wanted to chime in with how foolish this idea is, and how little understanding of what we, as faculty, actually do (or what my colleagues do because I in fact do something somewhat different, if you want to be completely accurate). While teaching is an important part of our job, and an important part of the University’s mission, it is not all of our job, and it is not all of the University’s mission. Moreover, Universities divide themselves by mission–some with a greater focus on high-end liberal arts teaching, some with a research focus, some with a broad focus on more vocational teaching. Our job is to teach, pursuant to the mission of our institution, but at the same time, be a full fledged member of our discipline, producing research, participating in the scholarly conversation. Indeed, that level of ‘expertise’ in our area is what ostensibly qualifies us to teach.

We get into this line of work because we love our subject and we love talking about our subject. I, in particular, stay at my job because I love teaching, I enjoy my time with students, and I find it particularly rewarding fulfilling to foster real learning among my students. And for this, I do a bunch of administrative stuff that pays the bills, so I can teach for fun but I don’t get to teach enough for my own taste.

What is poorly understood is the incentive structure in the Academy. We’re judged not by what we actually do for our own university. We’re judged by our contribution to our field, by our peers in journals, books, and conferences. The most important thing to any junior faculty member is Tenure. The top criteria for tenure at most Universities: contribution to the field, as defined by publication. Publish or perish. If you’re a junior faculty member, everyone rightly tells you to forget about teaching, forget about service, and publish, publish, publish enough to get tenure. Then, with tenure, take time to work on that stuff. Hiring is a derivative of this–on search committees, we look for people who can get tenure, which is to say, people who have an interesting research agenda and the promise to publish enough to make a mark in the field to be deemed worthy of tenure.

If you want to make teaching matter, make it a part of the tenure evaluation. That’s the only incentive that really matters. And if you doubt that, then you really don’t understand the academy all that much (not to defend it, but that’s how it is).

Teaching evaluations are a rather problematic way to run an evaluation absent other rigorous evaluation criteria.

I regularly teach our department’s undergrad research methods class. In fact, I now coordinate that class (which is ironic, really, since I’m by no means a methodologist in any sense of the word). My teaching evaluations are quite high for a methods class. But, its a methods class. My evaluations in methods are always lower than my evaluations for substantive classes, regardless of what they are. My evaluations for the 8:30 am class are always lower than they are for the 9:55 am class. I’ve taught those two back to back–the same exact thing, and the later one always, always gets higher points. Are you to punish those of us who teach the morning methods class, knowing full well that there is no way that we can score as high evaluations as the person teaching the mid-afternoon contemporary issues class? (and still, I know I beat most of those folks on the evals, but I crack jokes in class, bring in food, and talk about baseball and TV. Does this alone make me a better teacher? Not necessarily. I’m also very accessible, return emails, and engage my students with class discussion. Which drives the evals? Probably both, but only one should.)

I know I’ve done a good job with my methods class when students talk to me after the class and admit how they’ve continued to use the approaches to research I taught. When seniors say, this really would have been helpful my sophomore year. When sophomores return as seniors and want help with a research design for a Fullbright application. When a student I had in class 3 years ago drops in to discuss his BA/MA Thesis and I tell him to give me a research design and he knows exactly what to do. When students tell me how the class helped them put together a Senior capstone proposal. But none of that will ever show up on an end of semester evaluation.

Bush Confesses (Without Being Tortured). Now What?

Earlier this year I threw up some results from a survey of folks interested in the concept of “human security,” in which my research team asked them to name the most important items on the human security agenda; and also to answer the question: “What problems do you know of that are not getting enough attention from the human security network?”

A first cut at coding this data shows highly salient issues include the following:

Problems not receiving enough attention, mentioned by at least one respondent, included megacities, leprosy, cyberterrorism, social exclusion, traffic accidents, high sex ratios, and “liberation of hostages, famous or not.”

One of these low-salience issues in particular stayed in my mind this week as I kept an eye on the news: “Impunity for world leaders who committed war crimes or crimes against humanity while in office.” It didn’t make the NYTimes headline this morning, but if I heard Bush correctly yesterday, he basically admitted to having signed off on torturing detainees during his administration.

Let’s leave aside the fact that “sure, I tortured” ranks pretty high among those things you’re not supposed to say as a sitting head of state, even if you’ve been there done that. Really, the important question is what the Obama administration should do about this legacy once taking office. Not about reversing Bush’s torture policy, which is largely a given. About holding the previous head of state accountable for that torture policy. And yes, it’s quite interesting to see so little attention to this building a norm to do precisely that. Sure there’s the international criminal court, but that’s an institution with a limited mandate and short reach. What about the responsibility of new governments to hold their predecessors accountable for crimes committed while in office? What about an international movement to create such a standard for democratic regimes?

At Harper’s, Scott Horton argues that there is a strong historical precedent for future leaders punishing a previous leader who willfully violates the laws of nations. Torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, ranking right up there with genocide. The emphasis of activists so far have been simply to roll back Bush’s torture policy, but there are real questions to be asked about whether the international criminal regime has got to a point where it can reach and punish harms inflicted by the President of the most powerful country in the world.

As long as Bush stays in the US, the answer is probably no. But that doesn’t mean that the incoming administration couldn’t take steps, or that the human security community could not work harder to generate a sense of obligation for all governments to do the same.

How much for an entire world?

It seems to me that, in the lands of Israel and Palestine, the going rate is far too cheap for such a dear commodity.

NGOs as the “New Colonialists”

Somehow, last summer I missed a Foreign Policy article by Michael A. Cohen, Maria Figueroa Küpçü, and Parag Khanna, which appeared in the July/August 2008 issue. Unfortunately, you won’t find much of the article at that link unless you are a subscriber. I happened to see the piece in the November/December Utne Reader. The on-line excerpt is a bit longer there, but you still won’t find the full essay. Sorry about that.

Nonetheless, the authors’ central thesis is certainly provocative and worth discussing even if internet users cannot find the entire piece:

[T]he thin line that separates weak states from truly failed ones is manned by a hodgepodge of international charities, aid agencies, philanthropists, and foreign advisers. This armada of non-state actors has become a powerful global force, replacing traditional donors’ and governments’ influence in poverty-stricken, war-torn world capitals. And as a measure of that influence, they are increasingly taking over key state functions, providing for the health, welfare, and safety of citizens. These private actors have become the “new colonialists” of the 21st century.

Is this the logical new step beyond what Jessica Matthews called a “power shift” back in 1997? Clearly, this is not what scholars had in mind when they noted that activists had moved beyond borders.

While the authors credit NGOs with performing all sorts of beneficial — even vital — functions, they nonetheless claim “whatever the task, the result is generally the same: the slow and steady erosion of the host state’s responsibility and the empowerment of the new colonialists themselves.” Additionally, the authors imply that NGOs have a selfish agenda: “aid organizations and humanitarian groups need dysfunction to maintain their relevance. Indeed, their institutional survival depends on it.”

What are we to make of this critique?

As I said, I’m late to this discussion, so I should first point to an excellent early September post by William Felice at the HRHW Roundtable blog. Felice laments

“the way in which the language of colonialism, imperialism and empire has been sanitized and misused in the current period…Cohen, Küpçü, and Khanna fall into this revisionist quagmire by conflating colonialism solely with dependency, ignoring the most vicious and brutal components to the over 450 years of colonial domination. It should not be so easy to label an organization “colonialist.” In fact, given the real meaning of the term, it is absurd and scandalous to call the Gates Foundation “colonialist.” One would not lightly brand a group “fascist” or “totalitarian.” Yet, somehow today it is OK to talk about empire, imperialism and colonialism as if these were almost neutral terms.

Felice also takes on the claim about selfishness, pointing out that human suffering would increase to “immeasurable” levels if NGOs did not provide vital functions throughout the developing world.

On July 31, Tony Pipa of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard wrote that equating NGOs with colonialists simply “doesn’t work…It’s like calling the Prius the new Hummer. They both get you from here to there, but the goals and values behind the design are completely different.” Pipa also references specific infrastructure projects that NGOs voluntarily turned over to governments once they had some success.

The Foreign Policy trio conclude that NGOs must be held accountable in order to assure that their goals are just and their power limited. They don’t really offer many specifics — market-style “competition among aid groups” is the most concrete suggestion.

There’s actually a very large policy and scholarly literature on NGO accountability. See, for example, this piece and this one too. Nayef Samhat and I briefly addressed some of it in our 2004 book. We argue for widespread inclusiveness, transparency, and public deliberation.

Update: Corrected a typo on Tony Pipa’s name 1/21/09.

Silent coup?

Back in September, I blogged about the new Northern Command, which oversees deployment of an Army Brigade Combat Team inside the US — putting active American troops on the homeland for the first time since 1878 (other than during national emergency).

The recent post was a somewhat paranoid followup to one I wrote on July 4, 2007, about NSPD 51. That White House security directive asserts presidential leadership of government during catastrophic emergency. By the standards of the directive, the US arguably had two such emergencies during the Bush years (9/11 and Hurricane Katrina). Potentially, it creates a broad threat to ordinary democratic rule.

Apparently, even some Bush administration officials are worried about these moves — and others. Thomas A. Schweich’s op-ed in the December 21 Washington Post warned of a “silent military coup” against the US government. Schweich recently served as Bush’s ambassador for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan and deputy assistant secretary of State for international law enforcement affairs, so he had a front row seat to the disturbing trends he outlines.

So, what specifically worries Schweich?

In addition to the NorthCom deployment, Schweich points to Defense undermining State Department training efforts in Afghanistan, the military tribunals in Guantanamo, militarized anti-drug efforts in Latin America, and increased military involvement in domestic surveillance. He’s very worried about the placement of military officials at the top of intelligence agencies. Schweich notes Barack Obama’s risky choice for National Security Advisor, retired 4 star general James Jones. Behind the scenes, notes ambassador Schweich, the military has effectively vetoed numerous foreign policy choices and shaped enormous budget choices. He is almost offended that Defense gets billions of dollars to accomplish what other agencies are asked to do for mere tens of millions.

It’s an interesting piece that probably went unnoticed during the holidays.

I should also note that other conservatives, including Professor Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, worry about militarism in America.

Bill Clinton’s White House effectively outsourced a number of key decisions to the Pentagon — rejection of the ICC, the land mine ban and CTBT, for example. It will be interesting to see if Obama’s administration can reclaim civilian governance of foreign policy.

Tuesday Geek Blogging

So this is a spoof of facebook news feed created for the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries. Hat tip to Robert Farley. Also, Season 4.0 was released today, so any of us who didn’t follow the series in real-time from the start now have ten days to quickly catch up on all our episodes before the final season begins on January 16th… Yikes, too bad I’m in New York doing interviews and can’t start until this Friday… Gods help me…

Leon comes in from the cold (updated)

Leon Panetta was named to head the CIA today.

Its a surprise move, as no one had Panetta on any lists for a major appointment, and many were looking for someone with “intelligence experience” to head the CIA. While Panetta has never worked in the IC, he was a Congressman, head of OMB, and Chief of Staff to the president. The top thing Panetta seemingly had going for him? His strong stance against torture and the distance he provides from Bush Administration policies. Its now well documented that he wrote in the Washington Monthly that “We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.”

Reaction has ranged from great to terrible to huh? As I mentioned before, Obama is putting together a governing team heavy on legislative experience. I think Panetta has the potential to be a good DCI. He knows Washington. He knows the White House, and he knows how to serve the President, who is the CIA’s main client. Lets not underestimate this kind of experience–most are looking for supply-side, Intel product production experience. Panetta has consumer, client-based experience. He knows what needs to come out of the agency, and can press the agency to produce a higher quality product that is at is useful to for the President. He also knows the budget and the Hill, so he can get the agency the money it needs and build a positive relationship with Congress.

If he stands up for his people, rewards good work, and puts together a good management team, he can do well. Recall that one former DCI, George Bush, had no intel experience when he took over, and he seems to have done quite well for himself, as they named the building after him.

Of course, this remains potential. He doesn’t know the business, he could misjudge what the agency needs to do, and he could just as easily alienate his workforce and decimate their budget, and the Administration might not listen to him anyway.

I think, though, that Panetta is a savvy enough guy to make this gig work and to be a very solid addition to the Administration and an asset to the IC.

Update: After pondering this for a bit, this appointment gets back to the experience issue that has been a leit-motif of the entire Obama campaign. He has no experience. He doesn’t need experience, he has good judgment. Yadda yadda yadda. Here you have a number of people, including the relevant congressional committee chairs requesting someone with “experience.” The Obama people obviously felt that “experience” as they constitute it was a detriment, not an asset. The “experienced” people rumored to have been under consideration, like Brennan or Hayden, certainly knew the CIA, but gained their experience working there under the Bush Administration. Is this the kind of experience you want leading the agency? Obama clearly feels not– he wants to signal a break from torture, Iraq’s WMD, and a host of other high profile failings of the agency and IC. So, you look toward a different kind of experience, experience running a government agency and serving the President’s needs not tainted by the Bush Administration. That pretty much leaves one place to go, a Clinton Administration veteran such as Panetta.

Now, there’s the persistent criticism that this is a return to the Clinton years, but one cannot have it both ways. If you want experience, Democrats really have no place else to go but Clinton officials. If you want a break from the Clinton era, you end up with no experience in key positions.

Indeed, lets take a look at the cabinet nominations. Who among them has experience in the agency they are now slated to lead?
Gates at Defense, as a holdover certainly has experience since he’s already in the job.
Energy, Chu, he directs Lawerence Berkeley Lab, which is a DOE lab.
Justice, Holder, was Deputy AG in the Clinton Administration
Treasury, Geithner, was Undersecretary of Treasury for International Affairs in the Clinton Administration
EPA, Jackson, worked there for 16 years early in her career.
USUN, Rice, was an Assistant Secretary of State for Africa in the Clinton Administration
HUD, Donovan, former Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Clinton Administration
Emanuel, COS, was a deputy COS in the Clinton Administration.

A second list, on which I would include Panetta, shows related and relevant experience, but not direct experience.
Education, Duncan, ran Chicago Schools
Shinseki, VA, Army
Blair, DNI, did a stint at the CIA and ran PACOM
Panetta, former COS
Orszag, OMB, from CBO

And then there’s the Legislative / Governor experience that everyone assumes should translate to a Cabinet appointment, and sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t.
Agriculture, Vilsack
HHS, Daschle
Homeland Security, Napolitano
Interior, Salazar
State, Clinton
Labor, Solis
Transportation, LaHood

Moral of the story–Panetta’s not any better or worse than any other of Obama’s picks.

The Russia-Ukraine Gas Row

I haven’t found a great many voices claiming that the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute is some sort of Russian power play. Which is a good thing, because, as a friend recently explained to me, it isn’t. While some of its dynamics are fairly complicated, there’s also a very simple process at work here.

Gazprom is badly over-leveraged from its many acquisitions–some driven by its apparent goal of becoming a Russian zaibatsu.

Gazprom itself is mired in debt, and was recently included on a list of companies eligible for a government bailout. Its shares, which once valued the company at over $300 billion, making it the world’s third largest, have fallen 76% since the financial crisis hit in September.

Gazprom’s wholesale contracts put it in an even worse spot, as Steve LeVine explains:

Regarding the latter, Gazprom’s troubles go far. It doesn’t produce much of the gas it ships to Europe, but markets gas it buys mostly from the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan. In order to obtain long-term rights to that gas, and not have it siphoned off by a covetous West, Gazprom has agreed to pay the Turkmen about $340 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Given market prices, that means that Gazprom might be forced to sell to Europe this year at a loss, unless it unilaterally cuts the price it pays to the Turkmen, who in that case could respond by withholding supplies.

“Gazprom is in a tough spot,” says Kenneth Medlock, a natural gas expert at Rice University’s James A Baker Institute for Public Policy, who helped me with the calculations for this article. If Gazprom loses the Turkmen supplies, Medlock said, “they are going to have trouble meeting their contractual commitments” to Europe.

So it isn’t surprising that Gazprom very much wants to collect what it says are back payments owed by its Ukrainian client, or that we’re seeing a revival of the perennial dispute over how much Ukraine pays for natural gas.

To complicate matters, Ukraine’s gas company, Naftogaz Ukrainy, claims it paid RosUkEnergo, itself half-owned by Gazprom, and that whether Gazprom gets paid is RosUkEnergo’s problem. This kind of stuff is, I imagine, part of why Jerome of The Oil Drum characterizes the dispute as mainly about the distribution of loot among oligarchs.

Gazprom, moreover, seems to be using the quarrel as an excuse to scapegoat Ukraine for its possible implosion. Rumor has it, in fact, that the Kremlin is already funneling money into Gazprom to keep it afloat.

In other words, best to see what’s going on not as a sign of Russian muscle, but of Russian weakness.

The bigger question, frankly, is how serious Russia’s rentier-state blues will be, and what this will mean for Putin’s regime.

Foreign Policy and the Blogosphere

Many Duck readers probably already noticed the announcement, but perhaps not everyone given the holiday period: two prominent international relations scholar-bloggers are teaming with various scholars, journalists, and former policymakers at Foreign Policy magazine to create a new venture in journalism, blogging and policy analysis.

Effective Monday, neither Marc Lynch, aka Abu Aardvark, nor Dan Drezner will be blogging at their former websites. They will be part of the new Foreign Policy team.

Congratulations — and best wishes — to both of them!

Here’s how journalist Laura Rozen explains the website and her role in it:

an exciting new daily, online site starting Monday featuring a bunch of high-powered foreign policy and national security thinkers, writers, reporters and practitioners. Among them, long time Washington Post defense correspondent Tom Ricks, author of “Fiasco,” who will be writing a daily blog, “The Best Defense,” on all aspects of hard power; Arab world expert Marc Lynch of the excellent Abu Aardvark blog and George Washington University, and Daniel Drezner of the Fletcher School, are both moving their blogs to the site. Foreign Policy editor Carolyn O’Hara will closely observe all things Hillary (including the array of pants suits) in a new blog, Madam Secretary. Former Bush I NSC official, Rice counselor and 9/11 commission executive director Philip Zelikow, former Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim, former NSC official (and Palin foreign policy advisor) Steve Biegun, Bush-era NSC advisor Peter Feaver, and former Condi Rice speechwriter and current Foreign Policy editor Christian Brose will be blogging “the Shadow Government,” unclassified for all of us civilians. Former Clinton administration official and NSC chronicler David Rothkopf will interpret the mysteries of Washington powerbrokers; and Harvard’s Stephen Walt, author of “The Israel Lobby,” will offer his Realist take on global affairs. Veteran Washington Post foreign correspondent and national editor Susan Glasser is executive-editing the whole thing, with help from Foreign Policy online editor Blake Hounshell, and deputy online editor Rebecca Frankel.

As for me [Laura Rozen], I will be reporting and writing a reported, scoopy online daily column, The Cable, on all things foreign policy.

I’ll be reading.

I’ve never met a man…

Today, I took the family to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. If you’ve never heard of Rogers, then you might want to learn. He was quite a man.

Rogers was an entertainer, a writer, a public speaker, amateur philosopher, etc. In 1931, he went on the radio with President Herbert Hoover to talk about the Depression. He seemed truly troubled by what was happening:

So here we are in a country with more wheat and more corn and more money in the bank, more cotton, more everything in the world—there’s not a product that you can name that we haven’t got more of it than any other country ever had on the face of the earth—and yet we’ve got people starving. We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poor house in an automobile. The potter’s fields are lined with granaries full of grain. Now if there ain’t something cockeyed in an arrangement like that then this microphone here in front of me is—well, it’s a cuspidor, that’s all.

Now I think that they’ll arrange it—I think some of our big men will perhaps get some way of fixing a different distribution of things. If they don’t they are certainly not big men and won’t be with us long, that’s one thing…

A bit later, Rogers asked Americans to help their fellow citizens:

These people that you’re asked to aid, why they’re not asking for charity, they are naturally asking for a job, but if you can’t give ‘em a job why the next best thing you can do is see that they have food and the necessities of life. You know, there’s not a one of us who has anything that these people that are without it now haven’t contributed to what we’ve got. I don’t suppose there’s the most unemployed or the hungriest man in America has contributed in one way to the wealth of every millionaire in America. It wasn’t the working class that brought this condition on at all. It was the big boys themselves who thought that this financial drunk we were going through was going to last forever. They over—merged and over—capitalized, and over—everything else. That’s the fix we’re in now.

Now I think that every town and every city will raise this money. In fact, they can’t afford not to. They’ve got the money because there’s as much money in the country as there ever was. Only fewer people have it, but it’s there. And I think the towns will all raise it because I’ve been on a good many charity affairs allover the country and I have yet to see a town or a city ever fail to raise the money when they knew the need was there, and they saw the necessity. Every one ‘em will come through.

Europe don’t like us and they think we’re arrogant, and bad manners, and have a million faults, but every one of ’em, well, they give us credit for being liberal.

Doggone it, people are liberal. Americans—I don’t know about America being fundamentally sound and all that after-dinner hooey, but I do know that America is fundamentally liberal.

Rogers was known for his witty remarks on a wide variety of political and economic topics.

Obviously, this extended radio address was a little more serious.

Post-Holiday Bleg

Not to remind everyone enjoying their holidays that Spring Semester is right around the corner, but I need to ask for help with my World Politics 101 syllabus. I’ll be traveling on research early in the semester and need a film I can show one day while I’m away. At that point in the term, the only thing really appropriate will be a short film intended to excite students about global affairs, sort of a recruitment-into-the-major film on careers in global affairs, the way globalization affects us all, the value of a global outlook, that sort of thing. 50 minutes or less.

I’m having a harder time than I expected finding something. Any suggestions?

Happy Boxing Day!

Yeh, I just can’t stop celebrating all the awesome holidays at this time of year. Boxing Day, celebrated throughout the Commonwealth, has in many places become a version of Black Friday, but the true point of the holiday, of course, is to reverse roles with those higher or lower on the power chain than oneself. (Though, in our house we’ve never quite figured out how to let the kids take over our roles and still maintain a semblance of functionality around here… thoughts ye parent-readers of this blog?)

Anyway, I like Justin Callaway’s recipe for incorporating Boxing Day into America’s hoiday reportoire:

“Legislative members of both houses of Congress must find a family in the “final throes” of foreclosure within their electoral base and switch places with them for the remainder of their luxuriously long winter vacations. During this time, these families will not only have access to their elected representative’s federal health benefits, but they will also be given the identical weekly personal budget that each of these Senate and Congressional members has at their regular disposal, including any housing and vacation rentals. Conversely, each Legislator and his/her family must try and figure out how they are going to survive for the next couple of weeks, while avoiding being evicted from their foreclosed housing situation and trying to find food within the other family’s limited economic means.”

Read the rest here, and, cheerio.

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