Friday, September 23, 2011

When is enough enough?

When are we going to decide that the price for "help" from our erstwhile friends the Paks is too high for the miserable returns?

Hmm. Let's see. They allow Uncle Binnie to hold up in Hey Abbotabad for freaking YEARs. And, we know the ISI has been double dealing, using terror as an instrument of their foreign policy, playing chummy with us at the same time they are palling around with the Haqqani network, while issuing Captain Louis Renault denials, and now we have Admiral Mullen being more blunt public and straightforward about the ISI than is usual for careful diplomatic folks. Just carefully read the wording in this story, and let it sink in.

The Obama administration put its fragile alliance with Pakistan on the line Thursday, accusing the country's intelligence service of aiding a militant group considered responsible for a string of attacks, including last week's assault on the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of having ties to the militant Haqqani network, responsible for the attack on the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. The charge came during congressional testimony in which Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the militant Haqqani network "acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency," its main spy service.

Adm. Mullen has led previous U.S. efforts to improve U.S.-Pakistani relations, adding weight to his allegation that attacks such as the one at the U.S. Embassy and the nearby North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters were carried out "with ISI support."

Military officials said later there was no evidence that the ISI actually directed that attack, but that it has provided strategic support to the Haqqanis.

In addition to the embassy attack, Adm. Mullen said Haqqani operatives had planned a series of attacks with ISI support, including a truck bomb attack Sept. 11 in Wardak province and a June 28 assault on Kabul's Inter-Continental Hotel.

The Haqqani network was also one of the groups U.S. officials said was responsible for the 2009 attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan's Khost province that killed seven agency employees in one of the biggest losses of life in the agency's history.

"We simply cannot allow these kinds of terrorists to be able to go into Afghanistan, attack our forces, and then return to Pakistan for safe haven and not face any kind of pressure from the Pakistanis for that to stop," Mr. Panetta said.

Now one can quibble over strategic v tactical support, but the fact of the matter is, we have tolerated this because we think the counter-terror support we receive from Pakistan, such as it is, is sufficiently valuable to offset the (there is no other way to put this) egregious insult to U.S. honor that is the ISI aiding people who we and Pakistan are damn well aware are going to kill our people, and who have been doing so with basic impunity for years.

Adm. Mullen said support for extremist groups, including the Haqqani network and anti-Indian terror organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, was part of the Pakistani government's policy and served Islamabad's interests.

"The support of terrorism is part of their national strategy," Adm. Mullen said. "And that has to fundamentally shift."

Damn straight it does. And, also as obviously, if we continue to feed the beast, blithely continuing to give Pakistan aid, despite the obvious treachery and double dealing, NOTHING will change. They know that. We know that. Hell, even yellow dog knows it.

So, are we sending a clear signal as concerns the lucre? No. Not really.

The burgeoning dispute threatens to further divide the two governments. On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure that would tie $1 billion in military aid to Pakistan to Islamabad's cooperation on U.S. efforts against the Haqqanis.

Adm. Mullen, in his prepared testimony, said Pakistan itself could face sanctions over its support of the Haqqanis and other militant groups. The White House has already frozen more than $800 million in security assistance for Pakistan.

"Could" and "Would" doesn't equate to "will". The "tying" of aid to cooperation against the Haqqanis requires some sort of metric. Can there be any reliable metric? Can there be a metric that is a significant improvement over taking the Pakistani's word for it? Probably not. So, actual measures must be taken. We need to cut them off. They need something more than a gradual weening.

Possibilities ain't actualities. We need to move beyond would and could.

Enough already.

Friday Friedman Funnies: The 'stache of understanding comes in for more ribbing

A hysterical review of Friedman's latest opus sophismos from Andrew Ferguson at WSJ.

Some of the juicy bits:

As a writer, Mr. Friedman is best known for his galloping assaults on Strunk and White's Rule No. 9: "Do Not Affect a Breezy Manner." "The World Is Flat" & Co. were cyclones of breeziness, mixing metaphors by the dozens and whipping up slang and clichés and jokey catchphrases of the author's own invention. (The flattened world was just the beginning.) The breeziness would accelerate into great gusts of rhetoric about "an America we could be . . . an America we once were . . . an America we can be again," as though the author were poking fun at a slightly drunk Ted Sorensen.

In "That Used to Be Us," the method has been slightly altered. It would be going too far to describe the writing as "subdued," but its relative readability marks a break with its predecessors. How to explain it? My guess is that we can thank Mr. Friedman's co-author, Michael Mandelbaum. A close friend of Mr. Friedman, he is the author of many normal, un-Friedmanlike books, including "The Meaning of Sports." ("Delightful"—Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times.)

"Faced with era-defining challenges," he writes, "the country has responded with all the vigor and determination of a lollipop." One chapter is called "Homework x 2 = The American Dream." He advocates "empowering powerful breakthroughs" and notes that "the cloud . . . is driving the flattening further and faster." (Pointless alliteration + runaway metaphor = Friedmanism.) Certain phrases crop up so often that they must have been rejected book titles: "Average is over" is one of the new ones, if you want to give it a try. (You'll be hearing it on "Charlie Rose.")

Mr. Friedman can turn a phrase into cliché faster than any Madison Avenue jingle writer. He announces that "America declared war on math and physics." Three paragraphs later, we learn that we're "waging war on math and physics." Three sentences later: "We went to war against math and physics." And onto the next page: "We need a systemic response to both our math and physics challenges, not a war on both." Three sentences later: We must "reverse the damage we have done by making war on both math and physics," because, we learn two sentences later, soon the war on terror "won't seem nearly as important as the wars we waged against physics and math." He must think we're idiots.

Go on. Read the whole thing.

Some more Friedman fun:

From one of my most reliable Wiki Sources: "I moustache you a question. What would the world look like if people were wise enough to emulate the estimable Friedman?"

Answer: A terrible peak into what our pop-culture/Hollywood would look like if we all adapted the 'stache of understanding':

Ok. OK it's not Friedman. It's Selleck. I know. I know. But the message is clear. The moustache of understanding threatens to envelop us, becoming the world flattening McDonaldizing, Lexis driving influence that corporate America could only dream about. To quote Colonel Kurtz: "the horror...the horror..."

Some more parody fun:

From the excellent Egyptian blog "Inanities" "This is just the start and it never f&*^%$! ends"

Be sure to read the original 'stache' column he is parodying in order to savor the full flavor of the parody. Here's your lead in though. Priceless:

Future historians will long puzzle over how I was given an international platform to freely pontificate on the Arab people and be remunerated handsomely for it. It is true that I am not the only person in the world who formulates dubious theories based on scant or no evidence which I then harangue people with. Other people do it. They are called taxi drivers. But they are not as rich as me and haven’t been awarded three Pulitizer Prizes.

Since I’ve been here in Egypt I’ve been putting together a list of “the-absolutely-irrelevant forces” that have captured the captive Arab mind and ignited the simmering coals of the instant garden BBQ that is the Middle East. You might ask why, since I am in Egypt, I don’t ask an Egyptian – possibly two Egyptians – about what inspired them to completely ignore my theories on the Arab peoples and take to the streets. The answer is this: I am Thomas Friedman and I write a column in the New York Times.

I started my last extremely important column with an introduction in which I listed tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media as the “big causes”. Rather than just stop there, I did a Google “surprise me” search and chose five of the random results for my special “mix of forces” which inspired the Arab mass revolts. These included Barack Obama, Google Earth and the Beijing Olympics.

And, of course, this parody peaks as it features the 'stache talking about, well, his 'stache. It's one of those things that popped up with the Google 'surprise me'? Seems that would have been the first thing to enter Friedman's mind even before the notion of a 'surprise me' would have percolated to the top. Oh well. Never mind that. It is damn important. He knows it, and elaborates thusly:

MY MOUSTACHE – Americans have never really appreciated what a radical thing I did in growing a moustache, long the symbol of Arab male virility. I’m convinced that when Arab men catch a glimpse of my moustache as they bring me my breakfast in my hotel they are inspired and say to themselves: “Hmmm. Let’s see. He’s middle-aged. I’m middle-aged. He’s slightly tanned. I’m roughly the same colour. His name is Thomas. My name is Hussein. He is a prick. I sometimes act like a prick. He is not president of the United States. I am not president of the United States. Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska. Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. He has a moustache. I have a moustache. Both our moustaches have no voice in my future”. I’d put that in my special mix of hallucinogenic drugs and ingest it.

Here's a repository from Friedman, or a great facsimile thereof, a blog appropriately titled "the moustache of understanding". Looks like it hasn't been updated recently, but still full o' fun.

And here's an oldie but goodie, probably the king of all Friedman parodies, dating all the way back to the year 2o double aught: "The Datsun and the Shoe Tree."

Tasty selection:

I was changing planes at the new airport in Jakarta the other day, on the way to Stockholm from Vladivostok. Three young Bangladeshi boys sat in the passenger lounge, watching The Power Rangers on satellite TV. Their mother--garbed in the traditional sari--talked to her cousin, a migrant worker who sold German-designed Walkman knockoffs in Hong Kong, on a shiny new Samsung cell phone. Sitting to one side of them was a young Chinese émigré on his way to Toronto to work for a software company, and on the other a business-suited Rastafarian making a connection to Bratislava. Meanwhile, a couple of Tuareg tribesmen sat cross-legged in front of the ticket counter, cooking yams over a flaming mound of ticket stubs.

What’s my point? I don’t actually have one--but opening my columns with strings of clichéd cultural juxtapositions really cuts down my workload. You see, since the Cold War ended, we’ve gone from superpowers to spreadsheets, Pershings to Pentiums, the Berlin Wall to suburban sprawl, olive trees to Lexuses. Are you ready? Because the whole world is changing. Unless you are one of the eight-tenths of humanity who at this moment are either hungry, illiterate, or field-stripping an AK-47, in which case I’ll get back to you in some future column.

Ok, all done now...

The ‘disaggregation’ of good old fashioned Westphalian style sovereignty: A good idea?

There is a very interesting and very long paper, penned by Anne-Marie Slaughter, meditating on the notion of state sovereignty in the 21st century, and the impact ‘globalization’ has and should have upon that somewhat hoary notion. The paper is descriptive of 20th/21st Century trends, and also intends to be prescriptive. I’ve not given it a detailed reading, but scanned it. So, from the ‘for what it’s worth department’, here is a summary of the thing, as well as some off the cuff reactions. The not-so-Sanka Freeze Dried Version seems to boil down to the following:

1. States should grant increased intra-governmental sovereignty to branches of domestic government in the interests of...

2. Allowing them to take on more responsibility in working with peer agencies or branches from other nations in crafting and enforcing international laws, regulations and the like..

3. …and said states should be willing to live with the implications of such behavior, i.e., they should acquiesce in allowing such international organizations to regulate, legislate and adjudicate matters that have traditionally been considered ‘their own internal matters.’

4. We should not worry too much about this recommendation; because in a great many matters we already do this sort of thing (international trade agreements such as NAFTA, and international environmental agreements are cases in point).

5. In fact, the world is so interconnected economically and otherwise, that it is impossible for states to fulfill their fundamental domestic function by going it alone.

6. So, we need to rethink, re-conceptualize, or speaking more bluntly, redefine the term ‘sovereignty’ in ways that respect the network-like nature of 21st century reality, while also, to some extent hearkening back to pre-Westphalian notions.

(Here is Slaughter’s re-definition: “ “The new sovereignty is the capacity to participate in the international and trans-governmental regimes networks and institutions that are now necessary to allow governments to accomplish through cooperation with one another what they could once only hope to accomplish acting alone within a defined territory. This participation is conditioned in the sense that it mandates acceptance of certain basic responsibilities required of all governments toward their own people.”)

7. Simplifying tremendously: Previous to the Westphalian model, European states felt a moral or religious obligation to make war in the interests of interfering in one another’s domestic affairs if conditions were right. Catholic and Protestant nations (at least claimed to be) fighting one another for the betterment of the souls of their populations. In short; ‘humanitarian’ interventions were considered appropriate, (giving that term a broad scope to include welfare of the soul). States could so act unilaterally, or multi-laterally.

8. Simplifying tremendously: During the Westphalian era, states would not attack one another in order to interfere in one another’s domestic affairs, but only if they perceived threats emanating from a state, threats to the welfare of their own citizens. In this era states could so act alone, or in alliances.

9. In the emerging post-Westphalian era, because we now have an international and interdependent world, governmental networks have been formed. Nations have de-facto begun the process of ceding complete control over their individual nation’s legislation and judiciary because they recognize that at least some functions of government cannot be successfully carried out absent cooperative efforts across governments.

10. This de-facto state of affairs is, not surprisingly, reflected in international law, and we (Slaughter and company that is) recommend it be further developed. The reality is that there is already shared global governance. We need to start acting like it, formalize it. This means legal dissolution of Westphalian walls, and it carries with it the attendant notion that the shared global government has a ‘responsibility to protect’ the international ‘environment’ and its citizenry.

11. Legislation should be global in extent, and be cooperatively drafted between governments. Ditto judicial concerns, and etc...

12. Ditto executive concerns: This gives that shared global government the responsibility to act against, and attack when necessary, constituent nations (and rogue nations that are not a part of the network, or only nominally so) when their actions imperil the global commons and order, as well as when their actions are such that they fail in their responsibilities to their own citizenries.

13. This also requires that states give up their ‘right’ to refuse legislation or judicial decisions that they do not like.

That series of statements seems to be the prescriptive gist of the VERY long paper by Slaughter, which I have admittedly scanned only cursorily. What to make of it all? Running again through the bullets, some quick responses:

First, a most general response: the paper covers a lot of ground, but the emphasis on the problem of intervention and violation of sovereignty when human rights are violated shows that the theory being expounded, though not entirely sprung from such concerns, nevertheless found its genesis in the search for arguments backing humanitarian interventions during the 90s. It has, more recently, found room for application as an underpinning rationale for the ongoing Libyan intervention. The theory being expounded is a primary element of the underpinning for a moral argument for humanitarian intervention. You can tell that other considerations have come to play a role in the development of the theory, such as environmental concerns, and international banking concerns. So, much of what follows focuses on those aspects of this re-conceptualization of sovereignty that have grown up around the theory, and does not focus so much on the humanitarian intervention angle that gave it its original impetus.

Secondly, the bulk of the paper is not prescriptive, but goes into fascinating length describing intra-governmental efforts that have grown up, thanks to globalization, and, most interestingly, great potions are given toward description of what we can call ‘informal’ methods of social control, that is NON governmental, but social forces that can be leveraged and utilized in order to cause agents on the world stage to behave responsibly. I think there is very much to recommend in such approaches, and doing so does not require a radical re-visioning or re-definition of sovereignty. Be that as it may, the article’s coda does suggest a move toward a more traditional governmental structure, on a global scale. This is the most radical or bold portion of the paper. So, you’ll see I focus on it. This is not intended to be to the detriment of the other more ‘anarchic’ or non-governmental bits. Indeed, a reading of those portions suggests that the informal methods may in fact render the need of the more traditional governmental methods moot. Now, some comments loosely connected to the various numbered statements:

1-2. Under the Constitution treaties become the ‘law of the land’. Treaties are executed by the executive branch (duh). This proposal of Slaughter’s would seem to give increased weight, perhaps more weight to a transnational legislative body, a sort of world Senate, that would presumably include the U.S. legislative branch as a member. Would this arrangement have the potential to set up a conflict between the U.S. executive and legislative branches (President and Congress)? Could it lead to such a situation in regard to the legislation generated by the world body? Not all countries require the signature of the executive for a law to be established. So, what is to happen if the international legislature passes a law that the U.S. Prez does not sign? Does the U.S. President have to sign it in order for it to be legit for the U.S.? Is the Slaughter proposal in fact potentially unconstitutional if the answer is ‘no’? Similar questions arise for the envisioned international justice system.

3-5. Acquiescence to government by international law or judiciary is certainly less problematic when voluntarily entered into and when considered in general. But, we can imagine scenarios and specific instances where individual nations, having voted in the minority in the international legislative body, are going to be legally held to, or bound by, the legislation that they did not vote for due to the structure of that international government, to which they have bound themselves. They will be in a position analogous to our domestic cases in which individual states in the U.S. refuse to abide by federal law. This raises at least two questions:

A. What are the prospects of nations actually ever going along with something
like this? (I would suggest dim, outside of certain trade/banking and perhaps
environmental agreements. The ideological, pragmatic and cultural differences
are, I suggest, too great to allow this scheme to begin to work. Buy-in beyond
what is presently going on (and described quite well in the paper) does not look
likely. Consider the U.N. as a case in point), which leads to the related

B. Are we universally and in every case comfortable with the
notion of international enforcement actions against nations, carried out by this
global governmental entity?

We in the West may be tempted to say ‘yes’ when we think of the sorts of cases the R2P folks emphasize; cases like Libya, Baathist Iraq, Li’l Kim’s NoKo, and other such places, where egregious human rights violations occur. But, we must remember we cannot discount the possibility that other less odious nations may run afoul of the global government envisioned, and its laws and for less weighty reasons. If that international entity is to be thought of on the model of a federal government, then we cannot discount the possibility that it may determine that it needs to ‘send the troops in’ to some place like Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, or the U.S. to enforce its laws. Absent that last resort, it can engage in other punitive actions of course, just as extant federal governments do, BUT we do have to consider that possibility, and ask ourselves if we should acquiesce in such an arrangement.

Suppose the domestic welfare policies of a member nation are deemed to be seriously destabilizing to the international economic order. Would this require such interference? Would runaway governmental spending be just cause to send in the troops? Sounds implausible, even a bit flakey and conspiratorial, but, the real question here is this; is such an eventuality outside the realm of the possible? Once you consider giving up good old fashioned sovereignty, you have to consider this.

6-14. Nothing much is said about the fact that global governance such as it exists is like this: The global economic system and the commons are maintained to varying degrees of significance and responsibility by the various actors/governments/nations in the world. While it is true that there is shared governance when it comes to trade, for instance, it is not true that there is that same degree of equality when it comes to actual contributions of manpower and force for police or military functions. In that case, the U.S. shoulders the lion’s share. The sea lanes are open and relatively safe because the U.S. Navy is the cop on the beat. In general, we can also say this; in different regions of the world, there are nations that play that lion’s role. Additionally, when we consider varying levels of morally responsible behavior on the international scene (China for instance being, to put it bluntly, very sketchy with its respect of intellectual property) by states that would purportedly be members of the international governmental body, we must take account for these varying levels of morally responsible behavior, either in consideration of membership, or in structures and procedures the body uses when crafting, executing or adjudicating legislation. To do otherwise is to violate a basic moral principle of desert.

This being the case, it seems a fair version of such an international governmental body as Slaughter sketches would and should give increased voice to the material and moral Lions, if you will, as they are the ones contributing the most wealth, blood and legitimating influence toward preservation of the international order and commons. This would seem to militate in favor of their retaining good old fashioned sovereignty, weighted preference or veto powers over the world body.

Similar things can be said with regard to economy, monetary policy, environmental concerns etc... That being the case, the international body will have to craft its laws, its constitution in such a way as to give adequate ‘recompense’ for the increased levels of material responsibility that have been shouldered by the lions, as well as variances in morally responsible ‘world citizenship’. The lions should expect nothing less. And, if they are more ‘responsible’ vis-à-vis the rights of their citizens, and world citizens, they should demand veto powers in case the less responsible members of the world legislative body should try to game the system.
While on the subject of moral responsibility; this is a notoriously slippery area. Some things are clearly morally irresponsible (genocide for instance) while other things are not so clear cut. In other cases, the moral responsibilities are clear, but it is unclear whether or not a particular action or practice violates a moral responsibility. (It is clearly reckless to damage the global environment, but it is not clear that CO2 emissions are a case of such damage. So, it is unclear whether there is a moral mandate for humans to cut such emissions). The essence of legislation is in effect to make decisions about enforcement. Legislation that ‘makes decisions’ about such ambiguous cases is bound to be controversial. That creates obvious avenues for friction.

So, all of this being the case and the world being as ambiguous as it is, I think that I can say this about the Slaughter paper: In the end, the international governmental body envisioned in the coda of the paper is, if not unrealistic, bound to develop into something very like the U.N. even if greater emphasis is put upon member nations having to meet a nominal level of exhibition of responsible behavior in order to attain membership. There will also always be significant cultural and ideological variance in the world. Not only that, but nations (some rightly so) will balk at ceding significant levels of sovereignty. That is the nature of human beings, cultures, nations, societies. There is always pride and patriotism, nationalism that is always at the core of cultures. To give this up is something that is, if not simply against human nature, still rather unlikely to occur.

So, in the end, I think the world order will continue to be much as it is, despite the exertions of those neo-Kantians that would have it otherwise. This is probably as it should be (and in fact Slaughter does describe this state of affairs, and seems to approve, despite the coda). The world as it is is a sort of marketplace of ideas, cultures, ideologies and local governments competing and presenting their solutions to the universal problems of the human condition, as well as peculiar local conditions. Such competition yields results that can be compared and ultimately utilized by others. People and cultures may neglect to observe or learn from the results, but those results are nevertheless there for the offing. The world government envisioned by the paper is more like a central planning committee (the sort of thing the effectiveness of which Slaughter does in fact express doubt). Central planning committees do not generate as many solutions for ‘natural selective’ forces to act upon. Indeed, often their solutions outlive what should have been their own mortality because they are propped up artificially thanks to governments’ monopoly on power and monetary supply.

Of these two approaches to solving problems, I dare say the former tends toward generation of effective solutions, even if it is a bit anarchic and free-wheeling, while the latter does not. So, three cheers for old fashioned sovereignty!

Another series of posts on that paper are HERE, at Zen Pundit. Give it a looksee.