Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pay Attention to Somalia

Here's an essay about the potential for intervention in Somalia. Somalia today is showing some of the same characteristics Afghanistan did in the 90s. As this essay is being posted, Mogadishu is recovering from yet another devastating suicide attack by the al Shabaab terrorist network. I think al Shabaab may be one step closer to seizing Mogadishu, just as the Taliban in 1996 seized Kabul. Note: this essay includes one map which may not load correctly into the blog. Forgive me for any blog formatting issues. The content here is key.


Afghanistan Part II: The Reoccurrence of International Terrorism in Somalia

Violence in Somalia has raged for so long that the conflict rarely grabs the world's attention. MALKHADIR M. MUHUMED

Afghanistan 1990-1996

    When the Soviet military withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 two significant things happened. The U.S. and other international actors withdrew their direct support for the country, and they withdrew their interest. In some ways Afghanistan was left to fend for itself without any relevant form of government and without any relevant knowledge of how to govern. By late 1992 the state was in almost complete anarchy. Mild attempts by the U.N. and other states did little to help Afghanistan build a firm governing foundation. A fledgling attempt at an interim government was just that – fledgling. In a 1993 essay for Asian Survey, Shah Tarzi offered, "the interim government, ineptly conceived and organized, was a constitutional monstrosity. By its very design, it was unfit to address the critical dimensions of political governance and state-building" (p. 166). As various militant groups fought to control the country, one emerged with force. The movement known as the Taliban captured the capital city of Kabul in 1996 (Rashid 1999).

Somalia 1991-2008

    A similar scene is playing out one continent to the west. Although not a key proxy state against the Soviets during the Cold War, Somalia did receive moderate U.S. support vis-à-vis military partnerships and education (U.S. Department of State 2010). Simultaneously, however, the country was is in the throes of civil war and an all out disentigration of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre's leading regime. In 1991, Barre's regime was toppled resulting in what the U.S. Department of State describes as, "the complete collapse of the central [Somali] government" (DoS 2010). A disastrous effort to "Restore Hope" by the U.S. and the U.N. between 1992-1993 ended in the death of 18 U.S. service men in the "Blackhawk Down" incident, made famous by a book and movie of the same name. The U.S. formally withdrew from Somalia the following year. Since then Somalia has been in a complete state of anarchy. In 2004 the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was developed, but much like the interim Afghan government the TFG has been flogged with problems. Now, one group, the al Shabaab terrorist network is gaining power. They control most of Southern Somalia and the capital city of Mogadishu.
    The question is what will the international community do? One need not hit fast-forward on this story because we have already seen the ending. Having watched Afghanistan dissolve into a dangerously dysfunctional state that became an international terrorist playground, the international community should seriously consider converging on Somalia now as it too is following a similarly dangerous script.

A State of Failure

The Data - Current Conditions

    There is no shortage of evidence to prove that Somalia currently is and has recently been the most troubled state in the world. In fact, for three years running, Somalia has topped the Fund for Peace/Foreign Policy Failed State Index as the world's most failed state (Foreign Policy 2010). James Traub, in a separate Foreign Policy article accounts for Somalia's present condition: "Today, three U.S. administrations, two U.N. secretaries-general, and 18 years later, Somalia has a raging Islamist insurgency, a government that controls a few city blocks, and African Union peacekeepers with no peace to keep" (Traub 2010).
    Economically the state has almost no GDP - estimated at a little more than $5 billion (DoS 2010). Most of it is comes from agriculture and trade exports. But, their trade partners are few: United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, India, Kenya, United States. The state does have natural resources including a variety of metals and petroleum. But, much of the resources are largely unexploited (DoS 2010). What really drives the Somali economy is money given by citizens that have moved away from Somalia. Almost $2 billion is estimated to come from remittances (DoS 2010). The African diaspora is an interesting and very important part of the country. It not only makes up a large part of the economy from remittances, it also makes up a large part of the political influence (Menkhaus, African Diasporas, Diasporas in Africa and Terrorist Threats, 2009).
    Why that is important is because there is no real internal political structure. Politically Somalia is pulled in many directions. Ken Menkhaus (2009) points out, "It is also the case that the diaspora has increasingly come to play a direct role in political leadership in government, opposition and armed insurgencies in Africa, so that virtually any political movement in Africa – whether terrorist or not – has a significant diaspora component" (p. 85). Additionally the installed TFG claims some political authority albeit minimal. There is also political influence from local clans, gangs, militant organizations such as Shabaab and businesses. Further complicating the political struggle are the northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland who separately claim independence including semi-functioning governments and separate currencies.
    There is no Somali military. Although the TFG supposedly has soldiers, the TFG has no measurable power to leverage what little supposed military it does have. Instead the TFG itself is protected by external actors, namely forces from Uganda. This is not only a major point of contention between militant Somalis, who view Uganda as an enemy, it is a major point of legitimacy or lack thereof in terms of rule of law.
    There is no rule of law because there is no constitution, and as the U.S. Department of State describes there is, "no functioning nationwide legal system" (DoS 2010). Instead a system of informal rules, shari'a law and customs instill what little sense of order there is in the country. Somalia is in effect a lawless state with no central government, no military, little to no economy, and no prospect of any positive change.
    Somalia is also the world renowned place of piracy. A relatively big business, piracy off the coast threatens the commercial waters almost daily. Piracy is a major problem, but the threat of international terrorism from piracy may not be as serious. Instead, piracy may just be more of a domestic and international criminal problem rather than a true terrorist threat. This is in part because piracy is truly a business complete with market conditions, competition, business models, fair market values, negotiated settlements, bookkeeping, and even timesheets. NPRs Planet Money Podcast showcased the Somali piracy problem and suggested that from a purely business perspective, "the issues of criminality and the potential for violence aside, a closer look at the 'business model' of piracy reveals that the plan makes economic sense" (Joffe-Walt, 2009). And it is true. It is actually an oddly interesting case study in free market capitalism. Nevertheless, piracy is a serious sore spot with world's shipping companies and adds to the lawless nature of the country.
    To make matters worse, Somalia environmentally and sociologically is a mess. Jeffrey Gettleman (2009), a long-time reporter in the region, points out that, "Just when things seem they can't get any worse in Somalia, they do. Beyond the political crisis, all the elements for a full-blown famine – war, displacement, drought, skyrocketing food prices, and an exodus of aid workers – are lining up again, just as they did in the early 1990s when hundreds of thousands of Somalis starved to death" (p. 62). This country, wracked by almost two decades of lawless thuggery is beyond the point of total collapse. It is a virtual disaster.
    Some suggest it is a state in name only. There is reasonable merit to support that claim. Somalia is a no-man's land, at least a no-reasonable-man's land. One would have to be armed, crazy or both to step foot in the country, particularly the southern capital region. Gettleman (2009) says, "When you land at Mogadishu's international airport, the first form you fill out asks for name, address, and caliber of weapon" (p. 62). But aside from the internal anarchy, why is Somalia potentially the next international threat especially for terrorism? We find the clues by comparing Afghanistan's demise through the 1990s with Somalia today.

Remember Afghanistan 1989-1996

Leaving a Void

    When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, so too did the international community. The proxy war between the Soviets and the U.S. ended in 1989. In effect, U.S. interest in Afghanistan ended at the same time. Granted, aid efforts did continue throughout the first half of the 90s, but they were not as robust as they had been through the 80s. The important point is that there was a noticeable void left behind in Afghanistan from the exodus of international actors. It was not so much a function of the physical exodus of international agencies. It was more the case that Afghanistan was left holding an empty bag. During the war in the 80s there was no effective government. When the war ended, there still was no effective government. When support withdrew from Afghanistan, it withdrew leaving behind no effective government. This is the first clue that the international community should pay attention to regarding Somalia.
    Michael Chege, in an essay about Sierra Leone points out the danger of a society that is left with a governmental void. Citing former British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, Chege captures, "'when we allow governments to fail, warlords, drug barons, or terrorists fill the vacuum…Terrorists are strongest where states are weakest'" (p. 147). Afghanistan was undoubtedly left with a void. Somalia today has been left with a void.
    When the Barre regime was overthrown in 1991, Somalia became very much like Afghanistan in 1989 – void of a government. What exacerbated the problem was that they had been under rule but under bad rule by Major General Barre. Bronwyn Bruton (2010), an expert in the region, points out that, "Somalia has been without a central government since the collapse of a decades-old military dictatorship in 1991. The bloody civil war that followed utterly destroyed what national governance structures remained, dividing Somalia into a patchwork of clan fiefdoms" (p. 6).
    The U.N. and the U.S. and others did notice the existing voids in both states. But the gravity at the time of the potential for disaster may not have been clearly understood. Unfortunately, moderate to weak attempts were made to help reinstate some form of central control. Those attempts proved to be failures.

Failed Government Attempts

    In Afghanistan, the U.N. attempted a power sharing scheme to bring together the different warring factions left over from the Soviet war. Shah Tarzi (1993) points out that, "the U.N. formula envisioned a power-sharing arrangement – the creation of a 15-member council selected from the various mujahideen parties and the Wattan (homeland) Party, the former Communists" (p. 165-166). This arrangement did not work; however, and Tarzi continues, "events quickly overtook the U.N. plan and Najibullah's government crumbled under the weight of military defections" (p. 166).
    For the next few years a series of power grabs between mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Masood, militia leader General Abdul Rashid Doestam, and hardliner Islamist, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar took place. These different warlords jockeyed for premier government positions (Tarzi, 1993). As these three notables and others sought power, efforts by the U.N. to stave off a complete government collapse proved futile. The country moved further into civil war. Attacks against the struggling factions grew. A massive refuge problem emerged, and people began fleeing the country for Pakistan and Iran. By the end of 1994, Afghanistan was embroiled in war internally and the U.N. could do little to help. A collapse of the government had by that point positively occurred, and the U.N. had virtually given up. Zalmay Khalilzad (1995) reported in an Asian Survey essay that, "Because of the attacks in Kabul, U.N. staff members left and U.N. humanitarian aid declined" (p. 149). The decline of international interest gave way to the rise of a force able to seize control of the country. The Taliban in 1996 took Kabul and effectively took Afghanistan.
    In Somalia, the story follows a similar line with one exception. The U.N. and the U.S. took great interest in restoring control in Somalia between 1991-1993. Seth Kaplan (2010) in a Washington Quarterly article points out that, "Since 1992, the United States and other international actors have repeatedly sought to rebuild the Somali state by bringing the country's various factions together inside a national government" (p. 83). However, those attempts failed miserably. The famous "Black Hawk Down" incident which capped the moribund "Operation Restore Hope," was an international embarrassment. By 1994, Kaplan (2010) points out, "U.S. forces withdrew…and all UN troops exited a year after that, having sustained significant casualties in a failed bid to foster a federal government" (pp. 84-85). The U.N. did make another attempt in 2004 to create a viable Somali government.
    They established the TFG which is currently recognized as the legitimate government (Kaplan, 2010). However, the TFG is far from legitimate. It has no power. It has very little control. And the TFG is incapable of regulating anything in Somalia. Ken Menkhaus implies that more damage may have come from having the TFG than if the TFG were something else or simply never existed. He says:
If the TFG were merely incompetent, a strong case could be made that the international community must simply redouble its efforts to build the government capacity and accountability for however long it takes to make it succeed. But the TFG's poor performance, and sustained external support to the TFG, have been anything but harmless. They have been actively detrimental to the objectives of reducing extremism and lawlessness in the country, and have helped to fuel the very violent extremism US and UN policies are intended to erode. (Menkhaus, Horn of Africa: Current Conditions and US Policy, 2010)
As in Afghanistan, with no real government and no helpful external influence, one militant organization is seizing the fertile opportunity. Al Shabaab, much like the Taliban in 1996, is on the verge of taking Mogadishu from the TFG. If they do, al Shabaab will in effect have taken a critical portion of Somalia.

Who's in charge?

    With the Taliban in control of the country in the late 90s, Afghanistan became a playground for would be international terrorists. In 1999 Peter Tomsen noted that, "Afghanistan is the documented training and inspirational base for worldwide militant Islamist operations ranging from American soil to the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Philippines" (p. 181). The most notable militant Islamist group, al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Ladin took advantage of the real estate. Ahmed Rashid, who wrote extensively about the rise of the Taliban, warned that if international efforts were not coalesced in Afghanistan, "Terrorism [would] develop new adherents there" (p. 35). As the world saw, that is exactly what happened.
    What the world should wonder today is whether al Shabaab will gain control of the country. Reports differ as to the influence al Qaeda has with al Shabaab. But it seems clear that there is at a minimum a familial relationship. Bronwyn Bruton (2010) points out, regarding the failure of the TFG and the rise of al Shabaab, "Foreign jihadists, including al-Qaeda, sensed an unprecedented opportunity to globalize Somalia's conflict and quickly funneled support to the Shabaab" (p. 8). Shabaab today looks very similar to the Taliban in 1996. If we already know what happened after the Taliban seized Afghanistan, then should we not direct more attention to al Shabaab and their potential threat? Figure 1 depicts the current control al Shabaab has over Somalia. But are they a real threat?

The Threat of al Shabaab

    There are differing opinions as to the real or perceived threat of al Shabaab. Some suggest that Shabaab is indeed a threat, but not particularly an international one. Al Shabaab is similar to the Taliban in that they are a movement of extreme militant Islamists. In 2008 the U.S. Department of State officially declared them a terrorist organization (Rice, 2008). The difference between the Taliban and Shabaab is that al Shabaab is generally a youth movement. They have been thought of as more of a violent, radical gang than a terrorist network. However, their tactics and their influence is without question significant. Because they are a local radical movement, some suggest that like a gang, Shabaab is only intent on garnering power locally with little intent on expanding its reach.
    That may be a dangerous assumption. During a hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ken Menkhaus, testified about Shabaab's potential influence. During the testimony, which took place on June 17, 2010 he made a very important distinction about the threat of Shabaab. He said (2010), "On the other hand, a number of 'game changers' could lead to major changes in Somalia. One would be a Shabaab terrorist attack in a neighboring state or in the U.S. To date, Shabaab has threatened to launch terrorist attacks outside Somalia, but has not done so" (Menkhaus 2010). Less the four weeks later on July 11, 2010 nearly 70 spectators of the World Cup final at two different locations in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, were killed by two near simultaneous blasts (Harnisch 2010). Al Shabaab unequivocally claimed credit. As Chris Harnisch reported in a Critical Threats.org analysis, "The attack demonstrates al Shabaab's capability to follow up on its threats to strike internationally and its desire to remove barriers to its control of southern and central Somalia" (Harnisch 2010). The question the international community needs to answer now is whether the Uganda terrorist attacks by al Shabaab were in fact a "game changer."
    Those attacks were certainly an international strike of terrorism and not just a cross- border attack. Uganda is two states away from Somalia. The events had to be well planned, orchestrated, funded and executed. The fact that al Shabaab executed an attack in Uganda is consistent with its stated intent to follow through with threats. In cataloging some of al Shabaab's threats, Chris Harnisch (2010) says:
It should come as no surprise that al Shabaab managed to follow through on its threats against Uganda.  The group is perhaps more adept than any terror group in the world at executing on its threats.  It conducted twin suicide bombings on September 17, 2009 at the African Union headquarters in Mogadishu, for instance, less than a week after it vowed to avenge the death of al Qaeda in East Africa leader Saleh Ali Nabhan. Similarly, the group attacked a college graduation ceremony in December 2009, killing around 20 graduates and the Minister of Education, just three months after it warned the Ministry of Education about using un-Islamic textbooks. Al Shabaab has also followed through on several threats made against non-governmental organizations operating inside Somalia, including the World Food Program and the UN Mine Action Service. (Harnisch, 2010)
    These threats should be taken seriously. There is a strong case to be made that the threat from the Taliban was not taken seriously. It was not a matter of ignorance that the world did not know about the threat posed by the Taliban. The Taliban threat leading up to 2001 was well known and well documented. A Lexis-Nexis search of articles between 1999 and 2001 shows that many people were talking about it. In January 2000 Peter Tomsen warned, "The chief danger to U.S. interests is the rising tide of Islamist militancy and international terrorism emanating from bases in Afghanistan" (p. 181). If al Shabaab continues its "tide of Islamist militancy," or worse, joins hands with al Qaeda, the world will be watching the Afghanistan effect all over again. So what should the international community do?

International Intervention

    The international community should do something, and it should do something now. There is no time to wait and see if this impending threat will manifest itself outside of the African continent. Because the U.N. and the U.S. and others have tried repeatedly to intervene in Somalia, there remain essentially three options.

Do Nothing

    There is the approach of doing nothing. Doing nothing is really a status quo approach to maintaining the current course of attempting to legitimize the TFG. Additionally it entails maintaining a trickle of humanitarian assistance where needs are critical. To a certain extent this approach is a policy of containment. There is some merit to this strategy if what is being contained has a reasonable chance of either deteriorating to the point of non-existence or turning itself around after having run its course like a bad cold.
    Unfortunately, the situation in Somalia is far from a bad cold. It is a metastasizing cancer with the potential to spread through terrorist vectors. The risk of trying to contain potential international terrorists is extremely high. It could be possible through a sophisticated effort of intelligence and military special operations. This would be akin to a counterterrorism strategy whereby the focus is on defeating specific individuals within al Shabaab. The theory is that by defeating the individuals, al Shabaab could be dismantled or completely dissolved.
    To strengthen this tactic would require the TFG to become a truly legitimate governing body. As was already mentioned, the TFG is not a governing body and they are woefully inept. Therefore, the international community would need to direct focused efforts at bolstering the TFG leadership, structure, resourcing, and particularly its rule of law. Ultimately this approach to essentially do nothing hinges on the TFG. It assumes that in time and with continued minimal effort, the TFG will turn itself around and so too will Somalia.

Do Something Similar only Different

    A pragmatic look at maintaining the status quo reveals that the prospect of a future functioning TFG are slim at best. An alternative then, is an alternative to approaches that have been taken in the past twenty years. Crafting yet another strategy for Somalia's well being comes with a proven probability of failure. Some things could be done differently, though. First, any effort needs to be unified under a central mandate, presumably through the U.N. The strategy would need to be clear with clear objectives and clear lines of communication. A streamlined command channel would facilitate the implementation of ideas.
    Second, the effort would need to be bold and determined to withstand resistance. One of the great failures of a moderately unified U.N. & U.S. approach in 1992-1993 was the lack of will to withstand resistance. The "Black Hawk Down" incident completely ruined any international hope of further progress let alone any internal hope of Somalis that the world cared about them. Resistance should be expected and even heavy fighting may ensue. But persistence by a significant U.N. member state coalition would be essential to any restoration.
    Third, an approach at top down government should be abandoned. Every attempt at government intervention, 14 as of 2009 (Gettleman, 2009) has failed. Instead, what some offer as a bottom-up system of rule and governance may be more suited to the highly fractioned and clan-based society. Seth Kaplan (2010) suggests, "The international community should abandon its attempts to impose a top-down, centralized, and profoundly artificial state model and begin to work with, rather than against, the grain of Somali society" (p. 89). This could even mean, then, considering deals with militant groups. Bronwyn Bruton (2010) additionally says, "The use of a presidential model in a country fractured along clan lines, and lacking any credible national leaders over the past thirty years, should be abandoned" (p. 24).
    Finally a different alternative would also require a heavy military presence. To allow the state of Somalia to right itself from the bottom up would require security against militant groups seeking to turn the country upside down. There is no doubt that an insurgency would rise from any international effort to help Somalis regain their independence from themselves. As with the second point of persistence, a military security presence would entail occupation for quite possibly a long time (several years at least) by member states of the U.N.

Take a Radical Approach

    Ken Menkhaus (2010) suggests that, "We face poor choices and high risks in Somalia no matter what we do" (Menkhaus, Horn of Africa: Current Conditions and US Policy, 2010). Therefore, if we face high risks of failure as an international community, and there is also a high risk of facing international terrorism from Somalia, a more radical approach to dealing with the country may offer some chance for success. One such radical approach may be to dissovle the state of Somalia altogether and create three distinct states.
    The northern region of Somalia is not as bad as the southern capital region. In the north are the regions of Somaliland and Puntland. Both claim relative independence. Both claim separate semi-functioning governments. Both even claim separate forms of currency. None of which is formally recognized by the U.N. or other member states.
    By dividing the country into three separate states, positive state-building efforts can be applied to the Somaliland and Puntland regions respectively. Then, a tighter, more narrow containment strategy can be applied to the southern region of Somaliland. If Somaliland and Puntland can grow economically and demonstrate signs of growth, there is good reason to believe that neighboring partnerships can be forged to further contain Southern Somalia. This is an initiallly simplistic concept of a radical approach to Somalia. Regardless of the approach, something radical may prove better than the aforementioned two which have proven poor track records. Whatever the international community does needs to be done now if we wish to avoid the results of a second Afghanistan.


    The signs are all there. Somalia looks like the next international threat. Somalia exhibits some of the same characteristics Afghanistan did in the 1990s. The world watched what was happening inside Afghanistan during the 90s but did nothing constructive to stop it. What happened? The state dissolved into anarchy. The Taliban seized the country. They cultivated an environment for terrorist growth. Al Qaeda took advantage of it. Then the world watched in dismay as terrorists flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
    Is the world merely watching what is happening inside Somalia? Is it the case now that "Violence in Somalia has raged for so long that the conflict rarely grabs the world's attention" as Malkhadir Muhumed suggests? Should the international community finally pay serious attention to what is currently going on in Somalia? Arguably yes the world should. As Afghanistan became somewhat of an international afterthought in the 1990s, Somalia too has become a vacuum of international interest. The state is a festering wound that requires more than a bandage to heal. There should be little doubt that al Shabaab is attempting to gain control of Mogadishu to expand their influence internationally. So, what will the international community do? Will we watch and see what happens? Or, having seen this show before, will we turn it off so the credits do not roll again?
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Chege, M. (2002, Summer). Sierra leone: the state that came back from the dead. The Washington Quarterly
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Gettleman, J. (2009, March/April). The Most Dangerous Place in the World. Foreign Policy , pp. 60-69.
Harnisch, C. (2010, July 13). Al Shabaab's First International Strike: Analysis of the July 11 Uganda Bombings. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from Foreign Policy: http://www.criticalthreats.org/somalia/al-shabaabs-first-international-strike-analysis-july-11-uganda-bombings-july-14-2010-4532
Joffe-Walt, C. (2009, April 30). Behind The Business Plan Of Pirates Inc. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from NPR: Planet Money: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103657301
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, 33 (1), pp. 81-97.

Khalilzad, Z. (1995). Afghanistan in 1994: civil war and disintegration. Asian Survey
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Menkhaus, K. (2009). African Diasporas, Diasporas in Africa and Terrorist Threats. Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik
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Menkhaus, K. (2010, June 17). Horn of Africa: Current Conditions and US Policy. Hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs . Washington, D.C.
Muhumed, M. M. (2010, August 3). More troops in Somalia not a solution, experts say. Retrieved August 4, 2010, from Google News: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gDoEzmcFZRzcH2p49lD4VOhrC1hQD9HC2Q1O0
Rashid, A. (1999, November/December). The Taliban: Exporting Extremism. Foreign Affairs , 22-35.
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Rice, C. (2008, February 26). Designation of al-Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from U.S. Department of State: http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/other/des/102446.htm
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nuclear WMD vs. Illegal Drugs

I was to argue for against the following supposition. This one was not very easy. I wish I could do more research on it because I felt like I did not know enough about either aspect of the supposition. There are a couple of charts included in my response. I hope they appear in this posting. I haven't figured out how to correctly incorporate images in the blog posts.

Argue for or against: Nuclear WMD Are Not Likely in Our Times to Be Used, But Illegal Drugs Comprise WMD When Measured in Devastation

"What major catastrophic event upon the Western world will its leaders need in order to start actively listening to Usamah (sic) bin Ladin's demands?" Inspire Magazine Summer 2010

    In July 2010 al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula purportedly published the first issue of a new jihad magazine in English. It was a full glossy, 67-page, professionally printed magazine complete with interviews of renowned jihadists, editorials, how-to articles, and even advertisements. Despite the legitimacy and cacophony of speculation about its effectiveness, the magazine demonstrates one thing; there is a thread of anger toward the West. And, the West must pay a price. That price is unclear, but Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are a likely figure. But, are WMD a realistic threat in our post-Cold War world? Or is there another threat that poses even more devastating effects, such as illegal drugs?
    Some may suggest that nuclear WMD are not likely to be used in our time. Instead, the effect of illegal drugs comprise WMD when measured in devastation. Although it is a tempting premise to support, there is evidence to suggest that a nuclear WMD could happen and that illegal drugs should not be characterized as WMD.

The Illegal Drug World

    There is little doubt that illegal drugs comprise a very real threat to our national security. The 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) assesses that illicit drug availability is on the rise (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2010). Drugs present two primary characteristics in terms of their damaging effects. There is the physical aspect that affects users. And there is the trafficking aspect which entails a vast network of growers to sellers and everything in between. The complicated networks of drug traffickers are at the forefront of a war that is increasing in intensity. In a World Policy Journal essay, Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone discuss the deadly drug war in Mexico. Parts of Mexico are under siege. The cartels waging war against themselves and the government demonstrate a rising danger. That is, drug cartels pose a serious threat not only because of the illicit substances they promote but because these organization have become highly sophisticated and heavily armed.
    Kellner and Pipitone (2010) point out that, "A 2008 government raid on the Gulf Cartel seized a cache of anti-armor weapons, cluster grenades, anti-aircraft missiles, armored HUMVEES, and even chemical protective suits" (p. 32). These small scale armies have caused a tremendous amount of damage throughout Mexico. Retired Army General, Barry McCaffrey reported his findings after a 2008 visit to Mexico to meet with a consortium of Mexican and international leaders. Between figures in McCaffrey's reports and Kellner and Pipitone's essay, since 2007, the death's directly related to criminal drug activity alone exceed 16,000. That does not even begin to account for the collateral criminal drug related deaths and injuries. Also, this does not account for any drug related deaths due to the use of drugs. This is just a snapshot of one particular area of one particular state. Similar drug activity is taking place throughout the world.
    In the U.S., the costs associated with illegal drug use and trafficking are also high. The 2010 NDTA estimates that the total financial consequence of drugs is (2010), "nearly $215 billion annually" (p. 1). This is not a statistic that is expected to decrease any time soon. Instead, as the 2010 NDTA warns, we should see an increase in the trend of costs associated with illicit drugs. As for the other costs related to illegal drug use and trafficking - the previous year's NDTA report detailed some of the daunting figures. They include:
  • More than 35 million individuals used illicit drugs or abused prescription drugs in 2007.
  • In 2006 individuals entered public drug treatment facilities more than 1 million times seeking assistance in ending their addiction to illicit or prescription drugs.
  • More than 1,100 children were injured at, killed at, or removed from methamphetamine laboratory sites from 2007 through September 2008.
  • For 2009 the federal government has allocated more than $14 billion for drug treatment and prevention, counterdrug law enforcement, drug interdiction, and international counterdrug assistance.
  • In September 2008 there were nearly 100,000 inmates in federal prisons convicted and sentenced for drug offenses, representing more than 52 percent of all federal prisoners.
  • In 2007 more than 1.8 million drug-related arrests in the United States were carried out by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
  • Mexican and Colombian DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations] generate, remove, and launder between $18 billion and $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds annually.
  • Diversion of controlled prescription drugs costs insurance companies up to $72.5 billion annually, nearly two-thirds of which is paid by public insurers. (p. III)
    Currently, Mexico presents the U.S. with the most troubling image of the threat from illegal drugs. Following his trip to Mexico, McCaffrey (2009) testified to Congress that Mexico was, "engaged in a violent, internal struggle against heavily armed narco-criminal cartels that have intimidated the public, corrupted much of law enforcement, and created an environment of impunity to the law" (McCaffrey, Threats from transnational drug enterprises, 2009). The picture he paints of the Mexican state is one of murder, kidnappings, torture, assassinations, addiction, corruption, and utter chaos.
    What is even more revealing and disturbing about the problem Mexico and the U.S. face is that like an infectious disease, it is spreading. McCaffrey (2009) said, "The malignancy of drug criminality now contaminates not only the 2000 miles of cross-border US communities but also stretches throughout the United States in more than 230 U.S. cities where drug distribution is controlled by Mexican cartels" (McCaffrey, Threats from transnational drug enterprises, 2009). Drugs have been around for a long time, and they will be around for a long time to come. But, the evidence today shows that the virulence of the drug problem is more threatening than a decade ago. Today it threatens national security.
    We must take the illegal drug threat seriously. In an after action review memorandum following the same trip to Mexico, McCaffrey (2008) warned that the stakes in the Mexican drug war are so high that, "We cannot afford to fail" (p. 8). With Mexico as our southern neighbor, the threat of their instability should raise our interest in them.
    The 2008 Joint Operating Environment report, categorized Mexico as one of two states with potential to fail. The report (2008) offers, "Any descent by the Mexico (sic) into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone" (p. 36). According to the report, the reason Mexico is at risk of failure is specifically because of its internal struggle with drugs and drug cartels (JOE 2008). McCaffrey (2009) warned, "Governments that think they can turn a blind eye to the drug trade or give free reign to drug trafficking organizations will discover at the end of the day that their nations will be ravaged by a cancer that rapidly metastasizes into just about every facet of society" (McCaffrey, Threats from transnational drug enterprises, 2009).
    The picture painted of the threat from illicit drugs is bleak, ominous and looming. What is important to note about the devastation from illegal drugs is that it is ongoing. So, these data will continue to accumulate. Their cumulative effect over time is enormous. But, should we characterize it as something akin to a WMD event? The data suggest that drugs inflict a heavy toll on society. What about the toll of a nuclear WMD event?

The Nuclear Threat

    The effects of nuclear WMD are hard to determine. There is a wide range of research that all show varying results. The common characteristic is that the casualties resulting from a nuclear WMD event would be staggering. Only two examples in history offer a glimpse at the potential outcome of nuclear blasts - Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The death toll from the blast alone was estimated at 70,000 and 40,000 respectively (The Manhattan Project).
    One particular research report examined the effects of blasts in four large-population cities in the U.S. The vulnerability assessment by William Bell and Cham Dallas (2007) looks at primarily three variables of a nuclear blast - the blast destruction, thermal destruction and radiation fallout. What is interesting about the report and the data from the report is that beyond expected casualties from the blast itself are the extent to which the population would be affected by a taxed health system. They summarize what could happen as follows:
In most conceivable WMD attacks, however, it is reasonable to expect that the health care system would be overloaded with massive numbers of patients requiring an array of professionals with specialized training. If this already stretched medical community was also severely impacted by the very attack that requires its response, the effects would be even more devastating. In addition to the loss of medical care, among the anticipated outcomes for the general public will be fear of invisible agents and contagion, magical thinking about radiation, anger at perceived inadequacies by government entities, scapegoating (sic), paranoia, social isolation, demoralization, and loss of faith in social institutions. (p. 2)
    Based on Bell and Dallas' (2007) computations, the population affected by blast and radiation fallout in New York City alone reaches 1.7M. That is from a supposed device yielding 20 kilotons which, according to their report is equivalent to a tactical nuclear device. In other words, a device much like a bomb, torpedo or even a truck. By way of comparison, the bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which effectively ended the war in the Pacific, yielded 15 and 21 kilotons respectively (The Manhattan Project). When Bell and Dallas increased the size of the device to 550 kilotons, something more like a strategic weapon in the Russian arsenal, the devastation more than triples (Bell & Dallas, 2007). Below are portions of the charts Bell and Dallas use to show the effects from a 20 and 550 kiloton detonation (Bell & Dallas, 2007).

    What stands out from the data is that a nuclear event produces a sudden mass of casualties. These figures are hard to comprehend. We only have the examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to relate to. Yet, they pale in comparison to Bell and Dallas' modern data. The other factors that are difficult to calculate are the effects on systems. A nuclear detonation will produce a sudden loss of social systems such as the public command and control system, infrastructure, the health system, and financial systems. The toll is heavy, quick and dramatic.

Comparing The Two

    Where should our focus be then? The likelihood of a nuclear event is categorically lower than the reality of drug related events. So, should the reality of the costs of illegal drugs outweigh the possible toll of a possible nuclear event? Or should the dramatic nature of a nuclear event garner our attention while illegal drugs fester? If we focus too much on one thing, something else may become the more grave threat.
    There is certainly a fair argument to be made that our focus on threats right now is unclear. In a New York Times article about the transformed role of the FBI, Eric Schmitt makes the case that while we focus on finding terrorists, other things slip by right under our nose (Schmitt, 2009). He points out (2009), "The F.B.I director, Robert S. Mueller III, has acknowledged the toll of the shift of agents to counterterrorism and intelligence duties. It comes at the cost of resources to combat corporate and financial fraud, and the deadly drug war in Mexico. About 40 percent of the bureau's agents are devoted to fighting terrorism" (Schmitt 2009). Is the FBI correct to be heavily weighted toward terrorism at the expense of countering illegal drugs?
    It comes down to who and what we fear most. We worry about drug effects, but we somewhat understand them. Plus, we can associate drug use with bad behavior. If we do not engage in the bad behavior, we, individually, do not perceive the consequences. Similarly we worry about drug cartels, but we generally know their criminal intentions. As a law abiding citizen it is hard to associate oneself with the criminal world. So if one avoids the criminal world, one reduces their exposure to it.
    We fear nuclear WMD because we do not know what could truly happen. A nuclear attack affects anyone, criminal or innocent. We fear the rogue regime or non-state actor with unknown intentions. Robert Joseph and John Reichart (1999) offer this, "While the utility and legitimacy of nuclear weapons are increasingly questioned in the West, from the perspective of countries like Iran and North Korea there appear to be many potential benefits of possessing even a small handful of crude, low-yield weapons". (p. 2). It may be difficult for the West to conceive of another Western or modern state to initiate a nuclear attack. The Cold War stand-off between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union no longer exists. There is arguably a rational understanding between Western and non-Western democratic states that a nuclear avenue is not one to go down. It is the irrationality of a terrorist organization or rogue state that makes nuclear threat fearful. In that sense, the consequences of illegal drugs are relatively acceptable. The consequences of a nuclear attack are not.


    The notion that nuclear WMD are not likely to be used in our times is a dangerous supposition. We would be negligent as a nation to limit any serious precautions toward thwarting and defending against a nuclear attack. There is a growing threat of nuclear WMD particularly from rogue states and non-state actors. Despite their ongoing affect on society, illegal drugs do not comprise WMD even when measured in devastation. The results of drug use and violence are visible daily. There is a certainty society understands regarding the use and trafficking of illegal drugs. To a certain extent maybe society has been desensitized to it. But, there is no end to the frightening imagination of uncertainty surrounding a nuclear attack. A nuclear event presents an entirely different element in terms of devastation. It is a shock and horror that happens in an instance. It is for that instant that we must prepare and protect against. The fight against drugs is costly, but it is visible. A "major catastrophic event" is potentially unimaginable.
al-Qa'idah Organization in the Arabian Peninsula. (2010, July 1). Inspire Magazine
(this source may no longer be accessible through the internet because of its jihidist affiliation) . Al-Malahem Media.

Bell, W. C., & Dallas, C. E. (2007). Vulnerability of populations and the urban health care systems to nuclear weapon attack - examples from four American cities. International Journal of Health Geographics
, 6, 5-33 DOI: 10.1186/1476-072X-6-5.

Joseph, R. G., & Reichart, J. F. (1999). Deterrence and Defense in a Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Environment. Washington, D.C.: National Defense University.
Kellner, T., & Pipitone, F. (2010, Spring). Inside Mexico's Drug War. World Policy Journal , 29-37.

McCaffrey, B. R. (2008, December 29). After Action Report Visit Mexico 5-7 December 2008. Memorandum for Department of Social Sciences . West Point, New York.
McCaffrey, B. R. (2009, October 1). Threats from transnational drug enterprises. FDCH Congressional Testimony, retrieved from http://library.norwich.edu/loginurl=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=mth&AN=32Y0931184664&site=ehost-live&scope=site .

National Drug Intelligence Center. (2010). National Drug Threat Assessment . Johnstown, PA: Department of Justice.

National Drug Intelligence Center. (2009). National Drug Threat Assessment. Johnstown, PA: U.S. Department of Justice.

Schmitt, E. (2009, August 18). U.S.: F.B.I. Agents' Role Is Transformed by Terror Fight. Retrieved July 20, 2010, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/us/19terror.html

The Manhattan Project. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2010, from U.S. Department of Energy Office of History and Heritage Resources: http://www.cfo.doe.gov/me70/manhattan/

United States Joint Forces Command. (2008). The Joint Operating Environment. Norfolk, VA: United States Joint Forces Command.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thought for this week regarding WMD

I'll be dealing with the following question or statement this week. It is a meaty subject with lots of potential. I hope to have something substantial by Sunday. If you have a thought one way or another, maybe I'll include your thoughts in the final draft. Here is the question/statement:

Nuclear WMD Are Not Likely in Our Times to Be Used, But Illegal Drugs Comprise WMD When Measured in Devastation

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Be or Not To Be Part of Multinational Forces

Valid Reasons for the U.S. to Be, or Not to Be, Part of a Multinational Conflict Management Force

    In 2002 President George W. Bush's National Security Strategy offered a number of challenges to set the country on a better path to security. Interestingly the strategy outlined a dichotomy of options to be or not to be part of a multinational effort to deal with conflict. On the one hand President Bush (2002) suggested, "The U.S. national security strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism" (p. 1). On the other hand he concluded, "the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is diminishing. In a globalized world, events beyond America's borders have a greater impact inside them" (p. 31). Essentially the U.S. has three options when dealing with conflict. There is the option to not deal with conflict which is really not practical. The U.S. can unilaterally manage conflict. Or, the U.S. can be part of a multinational force. Should the U.S., then, consider being part of such a force or go it alone? The challenge with determining whether to be or not to be is that there are valid reasons to be and not to be part of a multinational conflict management force.

To Be

    Participating in a world system that encourages multinational cooperation has benefits. There is strength in numbers. States individually have resources. Collectively states can amplify those resources. There is also a distribution of responsibilities. One state, theoretically, does not have to bear the burden of responsibility when dealing with conflicts. The burden is shared. Two aspects of this burden sharing provide valid reasons for the U.S. to participate in multinational forces. There is the nature of a shared landscape that effectively connects all states. As Thomas Friedman (2002) put it regarding globalization, "it is the integration of everything with everything else" (p. 64). There is also the nature of shared threats. Transnational terrorist groups, rogue states and burdened states are examples of global threats that affect states collectively. Considering these two aspects when dealing with conflicts, it makes sense then for the U.S. to be part of a multinational force.

Nature of a shared Landscape

    President Obama's recently published National Security Strategy (2010) captures the heart of the global environment. He says, "To succeed, we must face the world as it is" (p. 1). Understanding how the world is today is to understand that no country is alone and states are not entirely independent of each other. President Obama continues, "we must recognize that no one nation - no matter how powerful - can meet global challenges alone…America must prepare for the future, while forging cooperative approaches among nations that can yield results" (p. 1). The argument then is that those results are best achieved together rather than alone. The U.S. is strong, but is it strong enough to handle conflicts without help?
    The reality of the global landscape today is that presently no one nation can truly govern all elements of economic, military and political capital. That is to suggest, then, that a certain complete hegemony that the U.S. may have held prior to the end of the Cold War is no longer true. Instead the nature of power is diffusing. Granted, we can reasonably argue that the U.S. still maintains a large share of global power. But, other blocs of nations have gained strength economically and politically.
    There is therefore a relative diluting of American strength globally. Fareed Zakaria details this in his book, The Post-American World. He argues (2009), "This hybrid international system - more democratic, more dynamic, more open, more connected - is one we are likely to live with for several decades" (p. 43). In other words the U.S. would do well to join it rather than beat it. This means the U.S. should consider amplifying its strength with that of other nations when dealing with conflicts. This is particularly important today considering the global nature of shared threats.

Nature of shared Threats

    Although terrorism is not a new threat, the events of the past decade demonstrate that terrorist threats transcend borders. Using a colloquial phrase, we all have a dog in this fight. In a backgrounder published by the conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, James Carafano and Richard Weitz make the case for cooperating internationally with alliances to thwart terrorist attacks (citation). They say (2007), "The transnational nature of contemporary terrorist threats, the interdependence of modern societies resulting from globalization, and the concept of using layered defenses to thwart attack at every turn from conception to execution all make the case for multinational homeland security partnerships" (p. 3). Threats are not entirely localized. They stretch beyond borders and require a response that is also beyond borders.
    Kosovo in the mid 1990s was a case in point. Charles Kegley and Gregory Raymond (2002) cite Tony Blair's proposition when he argued, "The mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the notice of the rest of the world. But it does make a difference that this is taking place in a combustible part of Europe" (p. 230). The international community including the U.S. was faced with a humanitarian crisis. Dealing with the crisis was beyond the scope of a single power, so collectively, NATO intervened. Now the intervention and subsequent reconstruction was not effortless. David Rieff argues that the ad hoc assembly of NATO forces proved unsuccessful as similar ad hoc assemblies did in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda (Rieff, 1999). Nevertheless, the reason to partner to counter shared threats still remains valid. Rather than accept a position as Rieff's, the U.S. should consider bolstering the organization of a multinational force vice an ad hoc one. Why?
    Partnering with multinational forces to improve security at home makes sense because the effect of doing so expands the reach of American resources. Alliances with other nations provide opportunities to place U.S. resources - diplomatic and military - forward so security threats are dealt with abroad. Robert Art makes this point in his essay The Strategy of Selective Engagement. He suggests (1999), "alliances facilitate war waging, peacekeeping, and peacemaking…because standing alliances permit more rapid and more effective action than assembling ad hoc coalitions" (as cited in Art & Waltz, p. 329). The strength of an organized multinational force expands the influence of U.S. power and ultimately provides an international layer of national security protection.

Not to Be

    Despite the nature of globalization and states sharing the landscape and threats, there are reasons not to be part of multinational forces. What governs the international system today is a set of principles established in the 17th Century. Kegley and Raymond (2002) capture the governing principles of the international system. They say, "Ever since the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the twin principles of sovereignty and nonintervention have governed international politics" (p. 214). When states choose to participate in a multinational effort, they choose to forgo some essence of sovereignty. Furthermore states submit their forces and resources to deal with interests that may or may not be entirely relevant to individual national security. Therefore considering the value of state sovereignty and the relevancy of national security concerns, it may make sense for the U.S. not to be part of a multinational force.

Value of state sovereignty

    Some might argue that to get a little, one must give a little. When states join into a collective effort, states join into a body that assumes some amount of responsibility over the whole of members. The individual right of states to control their resources is circumstantially surrendered. Robert Art (1999) discusses this drawback to collective security. Among other things he makes the point that joining a collective effort to manage security means that states may have to give up forces to support a conflict. He said, "In the past, moreover, states have not been willing to yield national control over the use of force and give to an international organization a blank check upon which to draw in order to resist or punish aggression" (as cited in Art and Waltz, p. 343).
    Also, in order for that collective or multinational force to deal with conflicts there must be a decision to cross sovereign boundaries for the good of the entire group. The logic suggests that what occurs domestically within the borders of a sovereign state impacts other states. Therefore external states have an interest in the domestic affairs of states internally. This is exactly what happened in the former Yugoslavia during the early 1990s.
    Kegley and Raymond (2002) point out that, "If NATO acted without a UN Security Council resolution specifically authorizing the use of force…it would violate the UN Charter. Article 2(4) prohibits 'the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state'" (p. 228). Leading into the intervention of Yugoslavia the international community needed to validate its justification to use force "against the territorial integrity" of the former Yugoslavian state. NATO did justify intervention vis-à-vis a series of propositions. According to Kegley and Raymond (2002) one such proposition "declared that the international community had a legal responsibility to stop human rights violations" (p. 229). They recount the International Court of Justice as arguing that, "all members of that community 'have a legal interest in their protection'" (p. 229). In other words all members of the multinational force, NATO, shared the same responsibility. Therefore intervention was justified.
    While intervention in the Balkan states was arguably necessary, the greater point of concern the U.S. must consider is whether it would concur with a similar intervention on U.S. soil by members of NATO for a domestic U.S. crisis. If a domestic crisis were significant enough to garner the interest of the international community (take for instance a housing mortgage meltdown), the U.S. vis-à-vis its membership in NATO could lose its "political independence" for the good of the rest of NATO. Although that is highly unlikely, the U.S. should consider the value of its sovereignty and choose not to participate in a collective effort.

Relevant Security Concerns

    One thing a state must consider regarding any aspect of its foreign policy is the relevancy of security concerns. To a certain extent the security concerns that exist on the global landscape could be arranged in a priority list. A state must place a value on each concern and rank them in terms of relevancy. In other words, some issues have greater relevancy than others with regard to a state's overall security. When a state becomes part of a multinational group, then every state in that group shares the relevancy of issues. However, what is relevant to the group may not necessarily be relevant to an individual state. Ted Galen Carpenter (1992) made the following point in a Cato Institute occasional paper. He said, "Washington's Cold War era alliances also have the potential to entangle the United States in a host of obscure conflicts that have little relevance to America's legitimate security concerns" (p. 1).
    This can be a particularly complicated point for a state like the U.S. to manage because the U.S. is so powerful. The U.S. has money and resources to deal with conflicts in a way that other nations do not. As President Bush put it in 2002, "The United States possesses unprecedented - and unequaled - strength and influence in the world" (p. 1). So the U.S. is somewhat ethically challenged to right every wrong. Leading up to the air war on the former Yugoslavia, President Clinton remarked (1999), "'ending this tragedy is a moral imperative'" (as cited in Kegley & Raymond, p. 228). From an ideological perspective addressing as many conflicts as can be addressed is a moral imperative. However, from a practical perspective it is not feasible. And, despite states' interest in being morally objective, states still maintain the realist principle of self-interest. As Robert Art puts it (1999), "nationalism and national self-interest remain the most potent forces in international affairs today, overriding ethnic, religious, and cultural cleavages" (as cited in Art & Waltz, p. 329).
    Ultimately states must do what is best for the state. So, the U.S. has a responsibility to do what is best for the security of its people. Sometimes states delve into a conflict with good intentions. But good intentions do not necessarily make the U.S. any more secure. Joining a multinational effort could mean being forced into a position to support a cause that has little to no real national security effect. In that case the U.S. might be better served by avoiding such arrangements and determining on its own what is or is not a relevant security concern.


    Choosing to be part of a multinational conflict management force certainly has benefits. Choosing not to be part of a multinational effort also has benefits. Benefits of the former are inherently drawbacks to the latter and vice versa. So what should the U.S. do? Today the interconnectedness of states and their threats require cooperation especially for managing conflicts. It is not truly practical to avoid involvement in multinational forces. As President Bush (2002) said, the U.S. does posses an unprecedented amount of power and influence in the world. The U.S. therefore has a responsibility to participate in multinational efforts where it can. However, the U.S. can be selective about the extent to which it participates. The U.S. should balance the power of that responsibility with the value of its sovereignty. The challenge for the U.S. then is not really an "either or" question. Depending upon the relative effect on national security the U.S. is in a position to be and not to be part of a multinational force.
Art, R. J., & Waltz, K. N. (2009). The Use of Force Military Power and International     Politics (Seventh ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefied Publishers, Inc.
Carafano, J. J., & Weitz, R. (2007). Enhancing International Collaboration for Homeland     Security and Counterterrorism. Heritage Foundation, Douglas and Sarah Allison     Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation.
Carpenter, T. G. (1992). Cato Institute Foreign Policy Breifing No. 16: The Case for U.S.     Strategic Independence. Washington, D.C.: The Cato Institute.
Friedman, T., & Kaplan, R. (2002, March/April). States of Discord. Foreign Policy , pp. 64-    70.
Kegley, C. W., & Raymond, G. A. (2002). From War to Peace Fateful Decisions in     International Politics. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.
President of the United States. (2002). The National Security Strategy of the United States of     America. Washington, D.C.: The White House.
President of the United States. (2010). The National Security Strategy of the United States of     America. Washington, D.C.: The White House.
Rieff, D. (1999, Summer). A New Age of Liberal Imperialism. World Policy Journal , 1-10.
Zakaria, F. (2009). The Post-American World. New York: W.W. Norton.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What will it take to claim victory?

This is a question I heard this morning on the Today Show. It is very interesting and very telling. The answer should be clear. If we have clear objectives with achievable goals, wouldn't success equal achieving those goals? So why should we be asking what it will take to claim victory? What I wonder is if we are setting conditions to claim a graceful end to the Afghanistan conflict. Let me think about it. I think there is lot to that kind of strategy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Multinational Conflict Management

Multinational Conflict Management: Does the Concept Conflict with Sovereignty?
    In a 2002 Foreign Policy article, Thomas Friedman said "globalization is the integration of everything with everything else" (p. 64). This statement says a lot about the nature of our global system. All states are connected in one way shape or form. Following this globalization phenomenon characterized by Friedman means the boundary lines of sovereignty are no longer thick. They have become thin. The line is not easy to see. There is a parallel connection between this aspect of globalization and the management of conflict today. States cooperate in a more multinational fashion to deal with conflicts. So does the multinational concept conflict with state sovereignty? Yes, but the conflict may be more of a technical one. The alternative to strict sovereignty necessitates a multinational effort.
    Kaufman et al characterize sovereignty as an autonomous reality of a state. In their textbook, Understanding International Relations, they suggest sovereignty means, "no authority exists to order the state how to act; there is no actor with the legitimate authority to tell a state what to do" (p. 50). In other words states are generally free to act as they wish. And, they are free from having other states intervene in their acting as they wish. This is of course, generally speaking. Where this level of autonomy becomes problematic external to the state is when a state is in conflict and that conflict affects others.
    Iraq, for instance, has a decade's long history of being a nuisance to other states in the region. And because they hold some of the world's largest reserves of oil, they impact the global energy markets. The international community has a vested interest in Iraq being relatively free from conflict. So technically one might say that despite Iraq's "material breach of all its obligations under relevant resolutions" (cited in Art & Waltz, p. 283), as Robert Art and Patrick Cronin point out in reference to UN Resolution 1441, there is little that should be done because they are sovereign. This situation, however, is simply not feasible.
    So the question then becomes: who should deal with the conflict? Essentially there are three options. First, nobody could deal with the problem. Unfortunately this is the least feasible of the three. If little to nothing is done to address festering state problems, then the problem just grows. With regard to Iraq in the early 1990s, Art and Cronin point out that, "Saddam became more adroit at seeking tailored approaches to finite goals against a sagging international coalition" (cited in Art & Waltz, p. 279). Under this model the problematic state maintains its sovereignty. But, the regional and international community suffer.
    The next alternative is to have a single state confront the problem. While this approach may in the short term offer efficiencies and sometimes rapid effectiveness, the long-term side effects of a unilateral approach can exacerbate other problems. This is somewhat what the United States did in Iraq in 2003. Dobbins et al point out that, "The deadlock at the UN…reinforced the U.S. administration's desire to retain control of both military operations and postconflict (sic) planning" (p. 167). This model of intervention represents a singlehanded encroachment on a state's sovereignty. The result, however, is that the intervening state, the U.S. in the case of Iraq, eventually owns the problem. On the one hand this can appear imperialistic. On the other hand, total success or total failure rests with that intervening state. Furthermore, having crossed the sovereign boundary the unilateral state risks miscalculating or misunderstanding appropriate adjustments to fix the state in conflict.
    Dobbins et al point out that the U.S. understanding of Iraq going into 2003 was "woefully inadequate" (p. 185). This led to a U.S. appearance, real or not, of Westernizing a non-western state. Dobbins et al said, "There is a temptation for U.S. forces to fill senior positions with Westernized Iraqi technocrats who are not tainted with Baathaism" (p. 187). One of the big issues of unilateral sovereign intervention, then, is an issue of legitimacy. Arguably one of the reasons the U.S. has had such difficulty in Iraq since 2003 is that the U.S. has had to prove why it was the legitimate, single force necessary to create change in a problematic, albeit sovereign state.
    To overcome the legitimacy issue, states may join together either through regional coalitions or as a whole internationally through mechanisms such as the UN. The third option to deal with conflict looks more like a multinational effort whereby multiple states intervene. This option brings legitimacy to encroaching upon a state's sovereignty because a multilateral corps can better justify the need to cross sovereign boundaries. There is strength in numbers.
    After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the international community responded en masse. Although led by the U.S., the effort was sanctioned by the UN. Kegley and Raymond reiterate this point in their book From War to Peace. President George H.W. Bush sought strategic political steps to garner wide support. Kegley and Raymond note that, "The first step was taken by the end of the month, when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 678 authorizing member states 'to use all necessary means'" (p. 201). This singular step provided legitimacy not only to the U.S. who led the invasion, but to the entire effort to fix the problem – the problem being Iraq. Kegley and Raymond capture this point from a letter President Bush wrote to Saddaam Husein, "'What is at issue…is not the future of Kuwait..but rather the future of Iraq'" (p. 201). The situation in Iraq and Kuwait in 1990 necessitated sovereign intervention, and that intervention was best legitimated through a multinational medium.
    From a purely technical perspective multinational conflict management does cross sovereign boundaries. So, from a technical sense, yes a multinational concept conflicts with sovereignty. However, sometimes states forgo their strict sovereign rights when their actions impact others. Therefore, practically speaking the greater conflict exists when problematic states' sovereignty is left unchecked. A multinational effort provides a more legitimate response to managing the conflict.

Art, R. J., & Waltz, K. N. (2009). The Use of Force (Seventh ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman &     Littlefield Publishers.
Friedman, T., & Kaplan, R. (2002, March/April). States of discord. Foreign Policy , pp. 64-    70.
Kaufman, D. J., M., P. J., Howell, P. V., & Doty, G. R. (2004). Understanding International     Relations. The McGraw Hill Companies.
Kegley, C. W., & Raymond, G. A. (2002). From War to Peace Fateful Decisions in     International Politics. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Runaway General | Rolling Stone Politics

This is a very, very interesting article that comes at a very interesting time in the Afghanistan fight. I think this article will have game changing effects. A must read.

The Runaway General Rolling Stone Politics

Friday, June 18, 2010

Robert Art's Vital Interests

Here is a recent question from class. It is about Robert Art's idea about American interests. Any thoughts?

Review Art's three "vital interests": In your estimation, did he get them "right"? Using what you now know about the "9/11" attacks, how is it that he could see so clearly the threat to homeland security (at least two years before it happened) when others seemingly never envisaged such a threat?

Robert Art suggests there are six national interests, three of which are vital. He says, "retarding NBC spread, maintaining Eurasian great-power peace, and preserving access to secure and stable oil supplies" (Art & Waltz, 2009) are vital to American interests. I think for the most part he was right. But I think there are considerations to adjust some of what he considers "vital."

Regarding our homeland security, Art points out that of three types of threats, "the third type of threat - fanatical terrorists or rogue states armed with NBC weapons" (p. 331) were the most worrisome. While I think still true today, the one aspect of attacks I think many people were missing was the creativity of fanatical terrorists. The remarkable thing and arguably one of the reasons we failed to stop the 9/11 attack was how simple it was. Granted, the effort was very coordinated, well planned, and well thought out. But, the actual procedure of hijacking planes and turning them into weapons is too simple.

It seems that the fascination with weapons of mass destruction has been limited to NBC weapons. This is an area Art could refine with respect to this particular "vital interest." He was right to say that the present day threat was of a terrorist nature, but focusing on only "rogue states or fanatical terrorists armed with NBC weapons" (p. 331) leaves our broadside exposed to any number of creative options.
His idea about maintaining Eurasian peace may need updating as well. On the one hand he more than implies that it is the United States' responsibility to keep Eurasian states from all out war (Art & Waltz, 2009). This means that those states are inherently subordinate to the U.S. While that may be technically true from an international economic and military perspective today, the challenge for the U.S. is to maintain that hegemonic responsibility into the future. If the relative power of Eurasian states balances with the U.S., then the U.S. may find it hard to persuade those states to accept supervision.

This is what Fareed Zakaria talked about in his book The Post-American World. He suggests, "We are now living through the third great power shift of the modern era. It could be called 'the rise of the rest'" (p. 2). Following Zakaria's suggestion, then, the balance of global power is slowly shifting away from the U.S. and leveling amongst a field of players. His point is not that the U.S. is losing power. Rather other states, particularly Eurasian states are gaining power and independence while American power remains constant. Art's Eurasian peace theory requires perpetual American dominance. While I would not necessarily be opposed to that, the U.S. should consider the possibilities were it no longer the dominating force in the world.

In general , forecasting the future may not be practical, but enough clues from the past and present exist to piece together possibilities. The challenge is paying attention to the clues. I think Art saw clearly potential threats to U.S. homeland security. While his focus was partially narrowed to focus on NBC threats, the gist of what he proposed as threats was true. Many others saw those threats too.
Ahmed Rashid warned that the West was ignoring a growing threat in Afghanistan (Rashid, 1999). In his 1999 Foreign Affairs piece Rashid said, "Terrorism will develop new adherents there [Afghanistan]" and that cost was one "that no country…can hope to bear" (p. 35). In a response to that article a couple of months later, Peter Tomsen pointed out that, "Afghanistan is the documented training and inspirational base for worldwide militant Islamist operations ranging from American soil to the Middle East…" (p. 181). At the same time Zalmay Khalilzad and Daniel Byman urged that immediate action was essential. If not the Taliban would become, "too strong to turn away from rogue behavior" and "gain more influence with insurgents, terrorists…and spread its abusive ideology throughout the region" (pp.65-66). These are only a few examples of clues. Art was talking about impending terrorist threats. Many were talking about impending terrorists threats. It seems few were paying attention.

Art, R. J., & Waltz, K. N. (2009). The Use of Force Military Power and International Politics (Seventh ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefied Publishers, Inc.

Khalilzad, Z., & Byman, D. (2000). Afghanistan: The Consolidation of a Rogue State. The Washington Quarterly
, 23 (1), 65-78.

Rashid, A. (1999, November/December). The Taliban: Exporting Extremism. Foreign Affairs
, 78 (6).

Tomsen, P. (2000). A Chance for Peace in Afghanistan. Foreign Affairs
, 79 (1), 179-182.

Zakaria, F. (2009). The Post-American World. New York: W.W. Norton.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Name Change

I believe there is a lot in a name. Today was an aniversary for YouTube. Their name is interesting and intriguing and inviting all at the same time. So, I think it is time to change the name of this blog. It's not that I don't like it. I just think it is confusing. I'm confused by it - and I made it up. I've got one more essay to post from this semester and will be putting it up later this weekend. Then I'll have one more semester to go. During the next semester I'm going to try to keep this place a little more updated. I'm not too concerned about trying to attract readers. But, I don't want to discourage anyone who might be remotely interested in checking out a deeper discussion about stuff in the world. Plus, I'd like to delve a little deeper into the discussions. What should I call it? As with the blog, I'm open to ideas.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Challenges of Punitive and Reconciliatory Measures

Here is a recent essay from class. This topic dealt with punitive measures and reconciliatory measures used to prosecute offenders of atrocities. We were to discuss the challenges that different actors face when balancing which measure to use. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Nation/State-Building Challenges of Punitive and Reconciliatory Measures

    Patrice McMahon and Jon Western warn that (2009), "After 14 years of the international community's effort in the Balkans, eight in Afghanistan, and six in Iraq, it is clear that state building is not for the faint of heart" (McMahon & Western, 2009). These examples and many others prove two things. State building has become a rule following conflicts, and it is not easy. When states, coalitions or international institutions engage in the post-conflict nation/state building process, they face several challenges. They are challenged with understanding the conflict. They are challenged with determining a solution to the conflict, and they are challenged with adjudicating the conflict.

    Adjudicating the conflict offers specific challenges. External actors must balance the punitive and reconciliatory measures necessary to ensure justice. In doing so they must take into consideration three things. First, external actors should consider their effect on state sovereignty. By virtue of their intervention, external actors interfere with state sovereignty. Second, they should consider whether a certain measure of force may be necessary to either bring about an end to conflict or to maintain an end of conflict. Third, they must determine an effective solution to accountability. They must also determine which form of accountability will achieve the most effective result. Additionally, since future conflict remains an unavoidable problem for the international community, who is most effective in meeting those challenges - the state, international institutions or others, such as non-governmental organizations (NGO)? The entire process of conflict resolution, then, is a balancing act of challenges for both punitive and reconciliatory measures.


    Trials and tribunals, such as those conducted at Nuremburg following WWII, are generally punitive post-conflict measures. Their intent is to prosecute those who are responsible for atrocities. On the one hand, punitive measures are necessary to seek justice. On the other hand they can also act as a deterrent for future violence. In terms of international justice, Ramsbotham et al believe that trials (2005) "are an essential ingredient in the struggle to assert internationally endorsed humane standards" (p. 241).

    Truth commissions lean more towards a reconciliatory measure in that they do not entirely prosecute fault. They more so explain fault. The truth commissions used in South Africa, for instance, were particularly important for closing a dark chapter on racial and ethnic abuses. While some suggest truth commissions do not fully prosecute offenders, they do expose the gravity of situations. In South Africa the extent to which apartheid was a function of inhuman treatment became "truth." It was hard to deny those abuses took place. Jonathan Tepperman expressed this in a Foreign Affairs essay in which he cites a South African Constitutional Court judge. The judge, Richard Goldstone, says (2002), "If we had not had a truth commission, the denial of apartheid-era abuses …would no doubt continue to this day" (p. 135-136). Outside actors take on several challenges in choosing which measure to apply.


    One challenge outside actors face is that they are outside actors. They cross the lines of sovereignty to intervene in situations. Since the end of the Cold War, lines of sovereignty have been crossed many times including Somalia, Haiti, Cambodia, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan (Fukuyama, 2004) and most recently Pakistan. We should reflect on the following observation Francis Fukuyama made in his aptly titled book, State-Building:

State sovereignty was a fiction or bad joke in the case of countries like Somalia or Afghanistan, which had descended into rule by warlords. Dictators and human rights abusers like Serbia's Milosevic could not hide behind the principle of sovereignty to protect themselves as they committed crimes against humanity, particularly in multiethnic states like the former Yugoslavia where the borders of the sovereign state in question were themselves contested. Under these circumstances, outside powers, acting in the name of human rights and democratic legitimacy, had not just the right but the obligation to intervene. (p. 97)

    Intervening in a situation inherently requires an organization to inject itself into the troubled nation. In Bosnia for instance, many international organizations entered the scenario. The United Nations, NATO, the EU, the United States and many more separate organizations sought to help the Balkan states recover from both fighting and atrocities. McMahon and Western suggest that at one point over 262 (McMahon & Western, 2009) entities were working within Bosnia. To say that Bosnia had any control of itself at that time would be laughable. They did not.

    Yet, as Fukuyama said, the international community essentially had an obligation to intervene because the Balkan conflict had human rights interests and international interests. Necessary intervention, though, can become problematic. Over time the intervention of external actors creates a sense of fatigue. James O'Brien illustrates the fatigue by saying (2006), "many in the region may be tired of change; as one participant told me, the states 'are tired of transition'" (p. 80). In that case the international community must determine which actor is best suited to mete out justice, bring about change and avoid upsetting too extensively states' rights of sovereignty.

    For this particular challenge, regional coalitions, such as the EU, may be the most effective element. In the Balkans, there is a specific incentive for participation by the affected nations. It is in their best interest to become members of the EU. Conversely, the EU is able to leverage its incentive to effect changes. Elizabeth Pond notes that (2008), "The trump card is that the Kosovar Albanians, like everyone else in the Balkans, yearn to join the EU…and must be on their best behavior to qualify" (p. 104). Because they hold that "trump card" of dependency, regional institutions can be more nimble in terms of interfering with sovereignty. But what if more than just access to the troubled state is needed?


    Fukuyama argues that force was the necessary measure needed to "pacify" the Balkans. Drawing a distinction between applying peace and applying force, Fukuyama suggests the following (2004):

the European peacekeepers contributed to the problem by not being willing to fight; in places like Srebrenica, they were held hostage and needed to be rescued. It was only as a result of actions by states that were willing to decisively use traditional forms of military power - the Croatians in the case of Bosnia and the Americans in the case of Kosovo - that Serbian domination was ended and the Balkans pacified. (p. 116)

A particularly frustrating challenge actors face in troubled situations is to what extent should force be applied to quell violence. Arguably the UN has a poor track record of applying force in situations. An equally arguable point some might make is that member states, such as the U.S., can be unreasonably forceful. Actors must consider to what extent force should be applied in the situation. This determination can impact the method external actors use to achieve justice be it punitive or reconciliatory.    

    Ramsbotham et al suggest there is a need to end violence before meting out justice. Referring to the aforementioned, Richard Goldstone, who was also involved in criminal tribunals of the former Yugoslavia, they note that (2005) "without a cessation of violence there is usually no hope of bringing perpetrators of atrocities to justice" (p. 241). When external actors must force an end to violence, they must also be careful not to blur the legal lines of war and peace. Kenneth Roth makes this point regarding the United States' handling of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an essay for Foreign Affairs he says (2004), "using war rules when law-enforcement rules could reasonably be followed is dangerous…But if war rules apply, the government is never obliged to prove a suspect's guilt" (p. 5).

    That is not to say external actors would either apply rules of war or apply rules of peace when prosecuting alleged offenders. But, the effect of the measure of force applied to end violence could cause actors to apply more punitive measures instead of reconciliatory ones or vice versa. Therefore it may be incumbent upon international institutions, such as the UN, to affix a punitive or reconciliatory label to the resolution process. As an institution that should remain somewhat impartial, they would likely be more effective at determining a path to justice. This way accountability can be properly applied on both sides of the conflict.


    After a conflict, intervening actors are challenged to deal with the question of what to do with the accused. Part of the resolution process involves holding perpetrators accountable. This is in part a matter of upholding regional and international human rights norms. It is also a matter of closing painful chapters of history for the offended so they and the nation can move on. Henry Kissinger put it this way in a 2001 Foreign Affairs essay (2001), "It is an important principle that those who commit war crimes or systematically violate human rights should be held accountable" (Kissinger, 2001). But what does it mean to be held accountable? For instance which process of justice would have served both the former Serbian President, Slobodan Milosovic, and the Serbian people? Was the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sufficient? Or would a less punitive approach, such as truth commissions used in Central and South America, have effectively moved the conflict forward?

    It is difficult to say because both methods have inherent problems. Michael Humphrey, in a 2003 essay, points out that (2003), "The main public criticisms of truth commission reports…[is] governments' failure to implement the recommendations of reports, especially on reparations" (p. 178). As was mentioned before, truth commissions expose the truth. On many levels they contribute to the emotional healing of a nation. But, when severe atrocities are committed, blanket forgiveness may not be a viable option.

    What further complicates determining accountability is determining through which means accountability is served. This is specifically true of punitive measures. Laura Dickinson offers a reasonably convincing suggestion that instead of purely domestic or purely international courts, a hybrid system of justice may be most effective to ensure proper accountability (Dickinson, 2003). She argues that domestically courts (2003), "do not capture the complexity or magnitude of the atrocities" (p. 305). In essence, domestic judicial systems are not designed to handle the extent of atrocities which often are of an international scope.

    Conversely she argues that internationally (2003), "there is often such a limited base of familiarity with the norms in question that such authority is meaningless" (p. 305). In other words, courts, such as the International Criminal Court, can be so far removed from the problem that their lack of understanding regional and local laws has negative ramifications. For these reasons, then, regional institutions may be most effective at determining accountability. Institutions such as NATO have a vested interest in resolving conflict particularly when member states are involved. Also, because of their regional familiarity, NATO and similar regional institutions may more effectively issue meaningful authority rather than "authority [that] is meaningless".

    Undoubtedly nation/state-building is very complicated. But, it is an inescapable international process. Fukuyama offers (2004), "Peace is of inestimable benefit to the people living in those countries and justifies the international effort" (p. 103). The challenges of sovereignty, use of force, and effective accountability are a few of the many challenges external actors face when trying to resolve conflicts. It is important for the international community to balance those challenges. And, it is important for the international community to apply the proper institution to those challenges. Doing so may bring about a more effective end to conflict whereby either punishment or reconciliation is best served.


Dickinson, L. (2003). The promise of hybrid courts. The American Journal of International Law
, 97 (2), 295-310.

Fukuyama, F. (2004). State-building: governance and world order in the 21st century. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Humphrey, M. (2003). From victim to victimhood: truth commissions and trials as rituals of political transition and individual healing. The Australian Journal of Anthropology
, 14 (2), 171-187.

Kissinger, H. (2001, July/August). The pitfalls of universal jurisdiction. Foreign Affairs
, 80 (4), pp. 86-96.

McMahon, P. C., & Western, J. (2009, Sep/Oct). The death of dayton. Foreign Affairs
, 88 (5), pp. 69-83.

O'Brien, J. C. (2006, Summer). Brussels: next capital of the balkans? The Washington Quarterly
, 29 (3), pp. 71-87.

Pond, E. (2008, Autumn). The EU's test in kosovo. The Washington Quarterly
, 31 (4), pp. 97-112.

Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T., & Miall, H. (2005). Contemporary conflict resolution (Second Edition ed.). Malden, MA: Polity.

Roth, K. (2004, January/February). The law of war in the war on terror. Foreign Affairs
, 83 (1), pp. 2-7.

Tepperman, J. D. (2002, March/April). Truth and consequences. Foreign Affairs
, 81 (2), pp. 128-145.