Monday, November 21, 2011
DCExile will be live blogging tomorrow night's CNN Republican debate on National Security. If you were with us last time, you can expect the same sort of fun. Because National Security always brings out the best in the Republican field, we may even make it into a drinking game.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
- Yesterday, Kuwaiti protesters stormed Kuwait's parliament and marched on the PM's house, demanding his resignation.
- In the wake of the Free Syrian Army's attacks on military installations in Damascus, Sergei Lavrov has compared the situation in Syria to a civil war. The Economist reported at the end of October that defections from Syria's army were increasing and others have speculated that Wednesday's attacks indicate that the FSA has achieved an operational critical mass.
- A bizarre political drama is playing out in Pakistan today, after reports of serious intrigue involving a Pakistani business man, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, and, potentially, Zadari himself.
- Congress: always looking out for the kids.
- Gingrich, back from the dead. Meanwhile, Cain's unbearable lightness of policy is catching up to him.
- Look, I don't like Speaker Boehner, but I don't understand why Politico is making fun of him crying. Two things: 1. I don't have a problem with a man being overcome by patriotism or inspiration in the face of someone who, you know, went to the moon; 2. we all know Boehner cries at the drop of a hat.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
In a guest post at CFR, Mohammed Jallow argues for a stronger AU military intervention in Somalia to complement Kenya’s incursion (currently bogged down in Somali mud). Jallow writes, “With all these converging forces pressing on al-Shabaab, there is once again another opportunity to end the Somali conflict, at least from a military perspective.” He also claims:
If the AU manages to secure more troops and contributions from other countries, launching an offensive against al-Shabaab from the north could shrink the size of al-Shabaab controlled territory, and cut off its supply lines, effectively starving it of much needed resources to sustain a long fight. Simplistic as that may sound, there is real potential here for a military end to al-Shabaab’s dominance over Somalia, as well as removing the threat it poses to the transitional government and the AU forces protecting it.
But is this right? It is unclear to me that a stronger military to response is any kind of solution to the manifold problems accompanying Somalia’s twenty-year collapse. There is no evidence to indicate that Somalis will respond with anything other than hostility to significant foreign military intervention. Every major foreign intervention since Somalia’s collapse has been unwelcome: the U.N. and U.S. intervention in 1992; the Ethiopian intervention in 2006; and the ongoing African Union mission to Somalia. Worse, none of these interventions has delivered any sort of measurable progress in terms of stabilizing Somalia—in fact, Ethiopia’s invasion arguably did more harm than good by ousting (and subsequently radicalizing) the closet thing that Somalia had seen to a central government in twenty years.
After twenty years of failed attempts to graft a solution onto Somalia, one would expect the international community to take stock and try something else. In particular, the international community ought to look north of Mogadishu to the Republic of Somaliland. Although it has been basically ignored by the international community, Somaliland is a model of success. Its success is attributable to its organic, indigenous conflict resolution process—a process that relied at the outset on traditional power centers and a gradual enlargement of participation to ensure legitimacy and buy-in from stake holders including tribal leaders, rebel fighters, and the people of Somaliland. Importantly, this process of indigenous conflict resolution occurred in parallel with a home-grown disarmament campaign that successfully demilitarized a population that had been engaged in a decade-long civil war.
The success of indigenous conflict resolution among Somalis need not be limited to Somaliland, however. It is little wonder that the closest Somalia has come to a functioning central government in the last twenty years was the brief reign of the Islamic Courts Union. Unlike the farcical Transitional Federal Government, the ICU earned the buy-in of a substantial portion of rump-Somalia’s populace, it was able to administer justice, and it had a stabilizing effect. While we may bristle at the draconian operation of some of the Courts (they were disaggregated), there is a lesson to be learned from their brief success—and from the abject failure of everything before and everything since Ethiopia’s invasion. Namely, that external solutions—especially those that rely on or incorporate individuals with no real constituency within Somalia—are non-starters.
It is for this reason that Jallow’s hope is misplaced. No amount of Kenya, Ethiopian, Uganda, South African, or Nigerian troops can fix Somalia unless they mean to permanently occupy the country. Even then, it is far more likely that a protracted nationalist insurgency will arise to oppose such an occupation than Somalia would be stabilized. Nor is it an answer that the TFG has given the AU or Kenya or any other actor its blessing to operate in Somalia. The TFG has no writ and its collaboration with (and reliance upon) outsiders serves only to underscore this fact.
So, to answer the question posed in Jallow's title: No, collective military action is not the answer.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
- Syrian troops stormed a restive neighborhood of Homs in another attempt to quell the still simmering rebellion in the country. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton defended the Obama administration policy in the Middle East, noting that every situation is different.
- The Euro mess continues as Italy's parliament prepares for a vote on its own austerity measures, which could further imperil the chronically imperiled Prime Minister Berlusconi.
- Polls have opened in Liberia in the presidential run-off vote, though the specter of violence looms large.
- China faces some issues as it seeks energy from Burmese despots.
- A woman has stepped forward and outlined specific allegations against presidential hopeful Herman Cain. The physical nature and specificity of the allegations will require the campaign to directly address an issue it has sought to avoid.
- The Supreme Court will consider if the warrant-less and indefinite use of GPS tracking devices by law enforcement runs afoul of the fourth amendment.
- Municipal leaders try to balance civil rights and maintaining order as the Occupy protests continue.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, and Julian Barnes’ reporting in the Wall Street Journal indicates that the United States views its covert drone campaign in Pakistan to be an armed conflict, governed by international humanitarian law. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the hostilities between the United States and various organized armed groups operating in Pakistan—and there are many such groups—are sufficiently intense to rise to the level of an armed conflict, triggering international humanitarian law. IHL provides a state with the authority to use force as a first resort against hostile civilians who directly participate in hostilities. The low-level foot soldiers of the various armed groups in Pakistan are such civilians directly participating in hostilities and they are lawful targets for as long as they are directly participating in hostilities.
Thus, Spencer Ackerman’s mischaracterizations aside, the fundamental question of who can be targeted is not one of policy but of law. Limiting drone targeting in Pakistan to high-level leadership was an implicit indication that the United States was invoking a state’s inherit right of self-defense. The expansion in targeting to include low-level fighters indicates a recognition on the part of the United States that it is engaged in one (perhaps several) armed conflicts in Pakistan. It is within the framework of armed conflict that the United States finds the authority to target a broader set of individuals and not just those whose killing is necessary to disrupt an imminent armed attack—the requirements for a state to use force in self-defense. Notably, the refusal to expand the use of drones in Yemen to include low-level fighters may suggest that the United States does not believe it is engaged in an armed conflict in Yemen, a very interesting point unto itself.
Moreover, the criticism that Ackerman levels—“CIA Drones Kill Large Groups Without Knowing Who They Are”—is misplaced and wrongheaded. Under neither self-defense nor the law of armed conflict is it necessary for the CIA to know who it is targeting. Under self-defense it may be useful for a state to know who it is targeting to be assured that it has made out the requirements of self-defense, but it is not required. Under the law of armed conflict, however, this criticism becomes ridiculous. In a non-international armed conflict, one that takes place between a state and a non-state actor, targetability turns on whether the target is directly participating in hostilities. As for the laundryman in Ackerman’s hypothetical, he is collateral damage. Whether his death renders the use of force unlawful depends on whether, from a prospective view, his death (and those like him) is disproportionate to the military advantage gained by killing the target.
There is plenty to question about the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan and elsewhere without confusing paradigms or leveling critiques that make no sense.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
- Finance ministers from around the world are trying to have Greece walk back its planned referendum on the rescue package the EU has cobbled together.
- Britain's high court has denied Julian Assange's request to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered the building of 2,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem, and Israel decided to freeze Palestinian Authority tax revenue in response to Palestine being admitted as a full member to UNESCO.
- Fourteen countries are gathering in Turkey to discuss the future of security in Afghanistan, as foreign troops begin to prepare for withdrawal.
- Two settlements regarding sexual harassment perpetrated by Herman Cain hasn't dented his reputation in Iowa so far, but one of the claimants would like to be released from her non-disclosure agreement to tell her side of the story. And as reported in Democracy in America, video of the victim recounting her story can quickly change the situation.
- Freshmen Congressmen are upset that the Super Committee is working in such secrecy. Perhaps the members of the committee are concerned if words like taxes or Medicare leak that people will stake out positions they can't walk back from. Meanwhile, Erskine Bowles has floated a $2.6 trillion deal that's intended to split the difference between the rumored Republican and Democrat plans' divide.
- A Super PAC supportive of President Obama is set to begin attacks on Mitt Romney.
- The U.S. and the state of Texas will square off in federal court to discuss the legality of Texas congressional redistricting.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
I tend to agree with Walt's assessment that U.S. withdrawal from Iraq may actually undermine, as opposed to bolster, Iran's position vis-a-vis Iraq:
Ever since 2003, the U.S. presence in Iraq has reinforced cooperation between Iran and some significant portions of Iraq's Shiite community, and especially those elements (such as Muktada al Sadr's Mahdi Army) who really wanted the United States to get out. But once we withdraw, then it is far from obvious that the bulk of Iraqis -- including most Iraqi leaders -- will want to become a satrap for Iran. It's true that the Sunni-Shiite divide provides Iran with some avenues of influence in Iraq society, but there's also the enduring division between Arabs and Persians and Iraq's overriding interest in not allowing Iran to become a hegemonic power in the Gulf region. Let's not forget that the two countries fought a brutal and costly war for most of the 1980s, and plenty of Iraqi and Iranian Shiites killed each other during that conflict.
The Indochina war offers an obvious historical analogy. One of the reasons the United States fought there for so long was the familiar domino theory -- the dubious idea that a communist victory in Vietnam would trigger a cascade of falling dominos and undermine the entire US position in Asia (and possibly elsewhere). But when the United States finally got out, the exact opposite thing happened: none of our other Asian allies abandoned us and China and Vietnam had a rapid falling-out that led to war between the two communist states in 1979. And over time, of course, China abandoned Maoism and Vietnam grew more and more interested in better relations with America. And let's not forget that fourteen years after Saigon fell, it was the Soviet Union that ended up on the ash-heap of history. Once we stopped pouring troops and bombs into Indochina, in short, our strategic position began to improve and we could focus on the more serious aspects of Cold War competition.
In short, if you really think Iran is a threat to dominate the Gulf region, and if you also believe that states tend to balance against threatening powers instead of band-wagoning with them, then you should also expect the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to encourage more regional powers--including Iraq--to take actions to limit Iranian power and influence. And that might also include being a bit more favorably inclined toward the United States, despite all the other things we do that tick off people in that part of the world. That could be why we're getting a positive response to these new initiatives, and that's why getting out of Iraq may actually bolster our overall strategic position.
Putting aside the historical analogy, the notion that Iran will continue to dominate Iraq and the wider Gulf upon U.S. withdrawal seems misplaced. First, as Walt notes, Iranian strength will likely inspire balancing on the part of Iran's neighbors. Second, for historical and cultural reasons, Iraq is more likely to align with its Arab neighbors (who will engage in balancing) than to band-wagon with Persian Iran, despite the fact that the majority of Iraqis are, like the vast majority of Iranians, Shiite.
- The Greek government has called for a national referendum on the EU rescue package sending stocks crashing and causing MF Global to file for bankruptcy over its exposure to European debt.
- In Libya, a new interim Prime Minister has been named, but the country is already having some trouble turning the militias that helped lead the rebels to victory into regular army units.
- UNESCO admitted Palestine to the body as a full member, and in response the U.S. has stopped payment on $60 million in annual funding to the organization.
- In Egypt, protesters are coming to the aid of a blogger who was arrested and refuses to recognize the military court the government sought to try him in because the military is the group bringing the charges against him.
- Amnesty International has been critical of the Ugandan government's crackdown on opposition groups, protesting the higher prices in the country.
- Herman Cain spent much of yesterday addressing sexual harassment claims that two former employees have levied against him. But Cain's shifting story over a 24 period has raised more questions than it has answered.
- Score a point for civility, oh wait, take that point down.
- The Super Committee is running out of time, but Social Security is on the table. No words yet is tax increases are also on the table.
- Some Jewish leaders believe Obama needs to make a visit to Israel or else lose Jewish support, though I think Matt Yglesias might find this argument a bit lacking.
Monday, October 31, 2011
- The Economist pens an almost wistful obituary of Muammar Qaddafi. David Bosco considers the potential pitfalls awaiting an ICC prosecution of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi.
- More signs pointing towards the reality of the Iranian plot to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir.
- The United States cut off funds to UNESCO--the UN body responsible for, among other things, designating World Heritage sites--because the body granted Palestine member-state status, within that organ of the UN. The United States believes the Palestinian bid for membership (and thereby, de jure statehood) in the UN is premature and that Israelis and Palestinians should work together toward the two state solution. In other news, the Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire designed to end the cycle of rockets-then-air strikes in Israel and Gaza appears to be moribund.
- And the world's 7th billion inhabitant may or may not have been born somewhere today. Regardless of the questionable precision, the fact is there are a lot of folks on the planet today.
- Politico broke a story this morning about two women accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. The Cain camp has issued a series of more strident denials over the course of the day, ranging from denying the charges, denying any awareness of the settlement, and to claiming he's subject to a "witch hunt." Cain leads a new Texas poll that has Perry down.
- BHO is coming back to infrastructure investment.
- Another day, another Executive Order.
Friday, October 28, 2011
- It's been confirmed that the U.S. Air Force is flying reaper drones out of a small civilian air field in Ethiopia to surveil and attack targets inside Somalia.
- Security forces in Tunisia had to fire in the air to disperse protesters, unhappy their favored party had not done better at the polls.
- The UN decided to remove the no-fly zone restrictions over Libya yesterday, despite NTC objections. Meanwhile, reports are emerging that Qaddafi's intelligence chief was injured in custody in what would be a clear violation of international law.
- Flooding continues in Thailand.
- Speaker Boehner says new revenues are a non-starter as he rejects a leaked proposal from the Super Committee Democrats that would have cut the federal deficit by $3 trillion, but included $1.3 trillion in new tax revenue. **How do you negotiate with someone over deficit reduction when seemingly ANY revenue generation is a non-starter?**
- States struggle to cover their Medicaid commitments as federal money drys up.
- New York State struggles with whether to continue to tax millionaires.
- Gov. Rick Perry may bail on some of the future GOP debates.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
- Libya's leaders have asked for NATO to remain in the country through the end of the year to ensure remaining Qaddafi loyalists don't attempt a counter attack.
- Turkey continues to seek survivors in the rubble following this week's earthquake, and has agreed to accept international assistance after initially declining the offer.
- South Africa is rethinking its initial approval of Walmart's purchase of the country's largest retailer, Massmart, but not for the reasons many protesters might think.
- Following the success of the elections on Sunday, Tunisia will prepare to congregate a national assembly to rewrite the constitution.
- President Obama will announce a plan today to ease the burden of student loans on college graduates, many who recently find themselves facing a difficult job market.
- Gov. Rick Perry has a tax plan that fits on a postcard, that would give people the option to opt in to a 20% flat tax. This is in the latest in a series of plans though some scions of conservative thought are less them amped about Perry's plan.
- The PATRIOT Act turns 10.
- A former director at Goldman Sachs will surrender to police to face insider trading charges.
Monday, October 24, 2011
- Amid speculation that Turkey may establish a buffer zone within Syria, at the end of last week, Turkey met with the Syrian opposition council for the first time. Libya
's new governmentrecognized that same Syrian opposition body--becoming the first state to do so.
- An-Nahda declared victory in Tunisia's first election since Ben Ali's ouster. Winning elections provides another similarity between Ghannouchi and Khomeini. Former Congresswoman Jane Harman described the elections as "hands down the best, most promising election I have ever witnessed, including those I have seen in the United States."
- As Jason noted this morning, the death toll in the Turkish earthquake continues to trend upward.
- Libya claims that Saif Qaddafi is planning to flee the country on a forged passport.
- The mess of Bachmann's campaign keeps getting ink. As a former field staffer, it is difficult for me (without knowing either the particularized experience of these staffers or their professional experiences before this campaign) to assess their grievances. That said, it kind of strikes me as the sort of bellyaching that comes from inexperienced field staff.
- Ahhh, the impact of Occupy Wall Street, already altering the narrative--this Editor wonders, though, if the change in message means the death of the jobs bill (in any form); as such, he will remove the message discipline counter. Meanwhile, the President runs against Congress. Classic re-elect tactic. And he takes a stick Minority Leader McConnell, that ole son of a [Editor's note: this is a family blog].
- Sweet Sassy Mollassy, it's the Newt & Herman show. Speaking of Cain, he's a man without a machine. But, boy can he sing!
- Over the weekend a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Eastern Turkey. The search for survivors continues, but already over 200 people have been reported dead.
- In Tunsia, citizens went to the polls in the first free and fair election in the country ever and the first for any Arab Spring country. Counting is underway, but results aren't likely to be released until Tuesday. Meanwhile, in Libya, the country formally declared independence yesterday following the killing last week of Qaddafi. Already the hand wringing in the West has become over how Islamist is too Islamist.
- In Syria, the US ambassador has returned to Washington, but has not been formally recalled. There is some speculation this temporary recall is for the ambassador's safety.
- In Mexico, as police are re-tasked to deal with violence, drug crops are allowed to flourish.
- Following President Obama's announcement that all combat troops will withdraw from Iraq by the holidays, Secretary Clinton warned Iran not to misread American resolve.
- Obama's policies haven't done as much to help struggling homeowners, in part because he hasn't spent enough or gone big enough. Meanwhile, none of the GOP presidential hopefuls could articulate what they'd do, let alone what they'd do different from Obama, to abate the housing crisis.
- The Department of Defense is leading the way in trying to utilize green technology and is helping some start-ups further develop products. Meanwhile, the Center for a New American Security's National Security blog has been giving a lot of ink to alternative energy.
- Many expensive drugs are about to pass their patent limit so generics could be close on the horizon.
- After bailouts and attempts at reform, it's business as usual on Wall Street. But we really need to repeal Dodd-Frank?
- The Tea Party is losing some of its vigor on the Hill.