I've read and blogged a bit on conspiracy theories, and the basic conclusion I've come to is that they are like weeds in a garden. Without careful tending and ample sunlight in the public sphere, they are all too easy to sprout up -- and next to impossible to eliminate once rooted in the soil.
They're really hard to eliminate if they turn out to contain a nugget of truth, however:
For more on how this particular scandal is not limited to an Internal Revenue Service field office, click here.
Nor does it address the fact that the same IRS office that inquired into Tea Party organizations also apparently investigated groups with ties to Israel:
The same Internal Revenue Service office that singled out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny also challenged Israel-related organizations, at least one of which filed suit over the agency’s handling of its application for tax-exempt status.
The trouble for the Israel-focused groups seems to have had different origins than that experienced by conservative groups, but at times the effort seems to have been equally ham-handed.
Look, there's no easy way to say this: The U.S. government has just given intellectual cover for every paranoid group in the country to articulate why their conspiracy theory has been validated. The thing is, now everyone else must give some patina of plausibility to those beliefs, no matter how bats**t crazy they sound at first glance.
As Politico reports, the Obama administration's political levers at the IRS are near infinitesimal. That really doesn't matter, however. This is now a political problem. Unless the White House finds a way to indicate that it's taking these scandals seriously and fixing the problems, this will be the defining meme for Barack Obama's second term.
Well, this is big news:
Pope Benedict XVI told shocked cardinals on Monday that he would step down from the pontificate at the end of this month, citing his age and infirmity to explain the decision to become the first man to relinquish the role voluntarily since 1294.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” the 85-year old said in a message to cardinals.
He added that in the modern world “both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me”.
The Vatican said that the papacy would remain vacant between February 28 and whenever the College of Cardinals elected his successor. The conclave for the election will not begin until the pope’s abdication at 8pm in Rome (7pm GMT) on February 28.
Antonio Socci, a conservative columnist who wrote last year about the possibility of the pope’s resignation, said it would be “like playing tombola” – an Italian form of bingo – to predict the next pope. The main decision facing the 120 cardinal electors at the conclave next month would be whether to opt for “continuity or change”, he told the Financial Times.
If you're interested in gaming out who will be the next Pope, click over to Paul Musgrave's excellent summary of the literature over at Duck of Minerva.
I'm more interested in a simpler question -- why do we care? As Stathys Kalyvas tweeted this am:
Lots of attention lavished on a man who didn't command any divisions— Stathis Kalyvas (@SKalyvas) February 11, 2013
Riffing on Stalin's oft-quoted line, what is it about the Catholic Pope that means attention must be paid? What is the source of the Pope's power?
Well, one obvious reason is that Catholicism still commands a fair number of adherents. According to the CIA World Factbook, close to 17% of the world's population is Catholic. It's the largest denomination in Christendom. Only Muslims have more adherents, but that's deceptive since the CIA combines Shi'a and Sunni Muslims. From an international relations perspective, if power equals numbers, there appears to be a tripolar distribution of religious adherents between Catholics, Hindus, and Sunni Muslims.
Another source of influence is the Catholic Church's long tradition and legacy. If the Church is merely one of many now, back in its prime it was Europe's religious and secular superpower, which leads to all kinds of legacy effects. Britain and France are still on the U.N. Security Council because they were great powers back in the day, for example. The same applies to the Catholic Church. Benedict XVI's resignation was noteworthy in that only four other popes have resigned in the past millennium -- and each of those cases comes with quite a story. So tradition can create lasting legacies of power as well.
Still, I'd argue that the biggest reason the Pope matters from a power perspective is that, simply put, the Catholic Church is the most centralized religious organization in human history. -- hell, save the Communist Party, it might be the most centralized organization period. With such a structure, it matters cruicially who heads it. In contrast, the other major religions do not have anything close to the church bureaucracy or organizational resoirces.
This is a banal point, but it's worth remembering in a century where the emphasis is on "networked" structures and the flattening of hierarchies and what-not. There are very good reasons for these kinds of organizational changes. If one cares about power, however, then centralization is still a crucial quality. Which is why non-Catholics are still interested in who the next Pope will be.
[Burned a lot of white smoke to write this post, didn't you?--ed. I see what you're doing here...]
When James Q. Wilson passed away earlier this week from leukemia, political science lost a legend. Wilson was like his onetime colleague Samuel Huntington: he wrote far and wide and without fear. His most well-known argument was the "broken windows" theory of crime. He posited (along with George Kelling) that the best way to reduce serious crime was for a neighborhood to be vigilant about more minor (but publicly visible) signs of disorder, like grafitti and broken windows.
For me, however, it was his work on bureaucracy that stood out. His two books on political bureaucracy -- Political Organizations and Bureaucracy -- are landmarks in the field. Bureaucracy in particular is a fantastically rich work, akin to Tom Schelling's Strategy of Conflict, in that a generation of organizational politics scholars could take a half-page of Wilson's musings and spin them into entire books.
For some lovely obituaries, see Arthur Brooks in the Wall Street Journal, Harvey Mansfield in the Weekly Standard, and Mark Kleiman at SameFacts. Wilson was a conservative, and many of his arguments were consistent with conservative principles. He was first and foremost a social scientist, however, acutely conscious of his own biases and willing to reverse course when need be. Kleiman's post encapsulates this point nicely:
The things that made Jim special – beyond is massive intellect, wide reading, and graceful, accurate prose – were his generosity of spirit and his deep moral and intellectual seriousness. At a time when he was very much committed to the Red team, he helped spread my ideas despite what he knew were my strong Blue loyalties. (Unsolicited, he gave When Brute Force Fails, which is largely a rebuttal to Thinking About Crime, its best blurb.) Jim wanted to get things right, even when that meant acknowledging that he had earlier been wrong: a tendency not common among academics, or among participants in policy debates.
Recently I was asked to sign on to an amicus brief in a case involving the constitutionality of imposing life imprisonment without parole on those who were legally juveniles at the time of their offending behavior. The argument of the brief was straightforward: legislatures had passed juvenile LWOP under the influence of the idea that the 1980s had seen the rise of a new generation of “juvenile super-predators,” whose propensity to violence put the nation at risk of a bloodbath once they became adults unless they were kept behind bars. In fact, the upsurge in deadly violence by adolescents turned out to be merely a side-effect of the crack markets; instead of soaring, violent crime fell sharply. But the laws passed while the theory was in vogue remain in force.
Jim had been one of the promoters of the “super-predator” theory, though he was not its originator. When I glanced down the list of signatories for the amicus I found, at the bottom, “James Q. Wilson.”
Brooks has a nice quote from Wilson about how to be a conservative in the overwhelmingly liberal profession of academia: "Be twice as productive and four times as nice as your colleagues." That was James Q. Wilson.
The best way to honor his legacy is to buy and read Bureaucracy. You won't be sorry.
One of my occasional concerns about foreign policy is how ill-conceived, ill-informed, or simply illegal policies get fixed. As I've noted before, one of the problems with relying on whistleblowers is that the kind of person who believes themselves to be a truthteller also tends to have otherbaggage. To the blunt, the personality tropes that permit whistleblowers to speak truth to power also frequently make it easy to paint them as odd or unhinged.
For exhibit A of this concern, see Matt Bai's New York Times Magazine profile of Scott Ritter, the weapons inspector who prominently and loudly insisted that there were no weapons ogf mass destruction in Iraq. Ritter was right, but he was also plenty odd in the way he went about arguing his point. In recent years Ritter has gotten himself into legal trouble by... well, let's say by doing things on the internet with individuals posing as ostensibly underage girls. Bai focuses on the ways in which Ritter's belligerent insistence of his own rightness explains both his Iraq behavior and his refusal to plea bargain his current legal difficulties:
If there is a connection between Ritter the activist and Ritter the accused... it probably lies in the uncompromising, even heedless way in which he insists on his version of reality, and how he sees himself always as the victim of a system that is self-evidently corrupt. “I’m someone who believes the truth needs to be heard,” Ritter told me. “And if I’m empowered with the truth, I’m not going to shut up.”
Such stridency has repercussions. Taken in isolation, this latest case against Ritter... is hardly the kind of thing that lands you on “America’s Most Wanted.” It’s not as though Ritter, who is the father of twin 19-year-old daughters, was trolling an adolescent site looking to prey on minors. Nor did he ever hint at meeting with the fictional Emily face to face. There’s little question the man needs help, but such cases are routinely disposed of through plea bargains, and prosecutors in Ritter’s case were willing, initially, to let him escape with a single guilty plea, which may well have meant probation rather than jail. Especially given Ritter’s previous arrests in New York, this seems to have been a more-than-equitable resolution, and most accused sex offenders in the age of Megan’s Law would probably have jumped at it.
But Ritter has forcefully insisted all along that he did nothing wrong, beyond betraying Marina’s trust. “Why would I plead guilty to something I didn’t do?” he asked me, when I raised the issue of a plea arrangement. I suggested he might have done it to avoid going to jail.
“No,” he replied. “Wrong answer. Then I’m not a man. Then I’m not a human being.”
People like Ritter might be truth-tellers, but because they have additional baggage, their ability to perform their truth-telling function becomes compromised.
This fact was getting me down, but then I read Jack Shafer's excellent review of Max Holland's Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat. Shafer's review is designed to puncture the romantic myth of Felt as a lone crusader who dared to bring down Nixon because It Was The Right Thing To Do:
Recasting Deep Throat as an avenger and not a patriot, Leak illuminates our understanding of the press by explaining why sources leak. Anonymous sources — especially Washington’s anonymous sources — almost invariably have an ax to grind, as Betty Cuniberti established in her classic August 1987 Los Angeles Times story. One unnamed Reagan administration official tells her that most Reagan White House leaks are “personal,” aimed at other White House officials. “There’s a great deal of infighting,” he tells her.
Reagan White House staffers who couldn’t get the president’s attention would slip “Message-to-Reagan” leaks to the press to generate news stories or press conference questions to which he would have to respond, Cuniberti writes. The art of the leak requires information to be packaged just right, she notes. A national security adviser who wanted to plant a story in the press — a so-called authorized leak — might avoid giving the information directly to a reporter because the reporter would rightly view it as a self-serving leak designed to advance the administration’s views. Even rookie reporters get suspicious of sources’ motives. Better to have a subordinate convey the leak to disguise the motive and make the information seem more authentically newsworthy.
Leak‘s persuasive position is that Felt gamed Woodward, making him think that he was on the side of the angels when what he was trying to do was screw his enemies and become the next J. Edgar Hoover. That’s not a criticism of Woodward or his Watergate work, which by the standards of any day was very good....
Nor was Felt’s gaming of Woodward unusual. Every source leaks for a reason, and it’s usually not about preserving the constitution and the American way. As Stephen Hess writes, sources have many reasons to leak. They leak to boost their own egos. They leak to make a goodwill deposit with a reporter that they hope to withdraw in the future. They leak to advance their policy initiative. They leak to launch trial balloons and sometimes even to blow the whistle on wrongdoing. But until contesting evidence arrives, it’s usually a safe bet that a leak is what Hess calls an “Animus Leak,” designed to inflict damage on another party.
Shafer is trying to burst the noble bubble surrounding Felt, but to this political scientist, his argument was very soothing. A world in which we must rely on whistleblowers that possess martyr complexes for important information about national security is a dangerous world. It is too easy to tarnish whistleblowers because of their other personality tropes.
Bureaucrats or career-minded political appointees leaking to advance their own aims, however, covers a lot more rational actors. Even if their motives are far from pure, the combination of individual incentives encourages a lot more leaking than would otherwise occur. Like Adam Smith's invisible hand, even if the intent is not for policymakers to provide more information to the press, the combined effect is a larger and more accurate spotlight on the foreign policy machine.
My point: I'll take a world of greedy and power-seeking bureaucrats over a world of noble, self-righteous whistleblowers to promote transparency in foreign policy and national security.
What do you think?
I'm at a stage in my career when reporters will occasionally call or e-mail me for an "expert" opinion on something. I've gotten better at refusing those requests when I'm not really an expert but just a snarky blogger. Still, even when I can claim expertise, I don't always do that great of a job.
To see what I mean, consider this New York Times front-pager by Mark Landler and Annie Lowrey on President Obama's proposed reorganization of foreign economic policy agencies. I'm quoted accurately in this story -- but I'm not quoted fully.
To explain, here's the key bits of the article:
Mr. Obama called on lawmakers to grant him broad new powers to propose mergers of agencies, which Congress would then have to approve or reject in an up-or-down vote. If granted the authority, he said, he would begin pruning by folding the Small Business Administration and five other trade and business agencies into a single agency that would replace the Commerce Department....
Despite regular vows by presidents to overhaul government — Mr. Obama made one in his State of the Union address last January — few have followed through. Those who did, like Richard M. Nixon, often met with failure. Scholars have mixed feelings about such reorganizations, with some arguing that they rarely lead to lower head counts, more effective departments or savings.
“My gut tells me those benefits will end up being much smaller than advertised, and the costs much larger,” said Steven M. Teles, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, pointing to the time wasted during the consolidation and the changed political dynamic between the agencies and Congress.
But experts on government efficiency applauded the initiative, saying it was overdue, and some analysts said it made sense to combine agencies involved in business development, foreign investment and trade promotion into a single department with the mandate to promote American exports.
“If you look at American exports, it’s dominated by big business,” said Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University. “If you want small and medium enterprises to get more involved in exporting” — a goal of the Obama administration — “having small business and the trade office in the same agency makes sense,” he said. “So this could be a boon for that.”
Now, based on that quote, you might think that I'm pretty enthusiastic about this initiative. If, however, you checked my initial tweets about this proposal, you would notice a lot more agreement with what Stephen Teles said in the paragraphs above me. My instant assessment was that this was one of those "reorganizing government" initiatives that makes a lot of sense in the abstract but probably leads to more transition costs than long-term benefits. Indeed, the first thing that came to mind could be summed up in four words: Department of Homeland Security.
So what gives? This is what happens when I talk to reporters. I had a long chat with Annie Lowrey during which I listed A) the various ways in which Congress won't go for this; and B) why merging different organizational cultures will likely be a big mess. Lowrey then asked me if there was any rationale for this kind of reorganization. At which point I said what was quoted in the paper of record.
Now if you know my views about the National Export Initiative, you'll see I don't hold out much hope of this accomplishing anything. Still, to repeat, Lowrey's quote of me is completely accurate, and it is a decent motivation for this kind of initiative.
This is one of those mismatches between reporters and experts. It's not really the reporter's job to convey the full gist of a conversation with an expert. This story isn't "What Dan Drezner The Expert Thinks About Something," after all. Still, this is often the natural expectation of many experts, because we think about the entire conversation, not just one part of it. Furthermore, it's an expectation that, despite multiple occurences like this, stubbornly persists in my brain. So the impulse to develop disciplined talking points and not stray from them has never developed.
Why? Because I like answering questions fully, or trying to, anyway. That's why I got a doctorate, and why I became a professor. This impulse, by the way, is why so many experts loathe presidential debates. The candidates are usually too savvy to directly answer a question. Rather, they are being tested on their ability to pivot from the question that's asked to the talking point that is closest to that question.
This is a long-winded way of saying that what I said in the Times was the truth but not the whole truth. And that the odds are good that I'm probably going find myself in this situation again. And that's OK -- one of the perks of having this blog is that when this sort of thing happens, I can ramble my way to a more fuller explanation of my views.
So check out David Rothkopf for a full-throated defense of Obama's proposal. Despite my quote in the Times, you're not going to see one here.
UPDATE: Now this is fascinating. The Anchorage Daily News runs a version of the Times story -- except that the ADN version has much fuller quotes from more experts. The relevant portion:
One government efficiency expert, Jitinder Kohli, applauded the move.
"These efforts to rationalize government are long overdue, frankly," said Kohli, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. "In fiscally tight times, it's even more important to think carefully about how to deliver savings — and that includes making websites easier to use, providing single points of entry and streamlining."
"In the world of business, reorganization happens all the time, for good reason," Kohli added. "The world changes around businesses, and businesses change to better serve the world. But the government is far, far less nimble."
Still, a body of research throws cold water on the notion that such reorganization leads to lower head counts, more effective departments or cost savings.
"The most important considerations are the costs in wasted time while they do the reorganization, how this changes the politics of the affected agencies in relation to Congress and other executive branch agencies, and how specific the purported benefits of consolidation are," said Steven M. Teles, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. "My gut tells me those benefits will end up being much smaller than advertised, and the costs much larger."
Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts, said "This is one of those ideas that looks great in abstract. But you're talking about merging the organizational cultures of five or six agencies. It takes a long time for efficiencies and synergies to work out. They're not going to play well for a while."
Nonetheless, Drezner said that having a single body devoted to export promotion made sense.
"If you look at American exports, it's dominated by big business," he said. "If you want small and medium enterprises to get more involved in exporting" — a goal of the Obama administration — "having small business and the trade office in the same agency makes sense. So this could be a boon for that."
Susan C. Schwab, who served as a U.S. trade representative during the Bush administration, agreed that the move might improve export promotion. But she said that it might do so at the expense of broader trade policy.
"You'd take a small, very efficient agency and have it totally swallowed up by this behemoth," said Schwab, who is now a professor of public policy the University of Maryland. "From a trade policy perspective, it makes no sense at all."
Schwab added, "Trade policy involves so many different sectors of the economy, and U.S. interests. It's foreign policy. It's manufacturing. It is services, agriculture, consumers, labor, the environment, intellectual property."
An agency without a strong trade representative, she said, could end up giving "short shrift" to some concerns.
Had this been the version that the Times ran, I wouldn't have bothered blogging about this, because my quotes were both accurate and captured to gist of what I was saying.
Of course, this is a longer story, which reminds me that sometimes it's not the reporter that has mismatched incentives -- it's the editor worried about length.
My favorite campaign novel remains
Anonymous' Joe Klein's Primary Colors, and one of my favorite exchanges in that book takes place in the early part, when a campaign flack is trying to get a New York Times political reporter to cover a policy speech that would ostensibly contain a shot at a rival candidate:
[The reporter says,] "Do you think this election is going to be about welfare reform?"
"Well, that's part of it," I said. "The folks seem interested. What do you think it's going to be about?"
"What it's always about," he said. "Sex and violence."
And he was right: this was about violence.
I bring this up because Jonathan Martin's story about Jon Huntsman's dysfunctional presidential campaign in Politico is all about the violence -- in this case, the internecine warfare between Huntsman's longtime friends and his campaign manager John Weaver.
Now, Huntsman's chances of winning the nomination were pretty slim to begin with, so you might be wondering why your humble blogger is writing about this particular story [STOP PRE-EMPTING ME!!!!--ed.] I think there are three reasons.
First, I'd expect decent odds that Huntsman would be the secretary of state in any incoming GOP administration (quick, name me an alternate candidate with sufficient gravitas). Even if he's a sideshow to the current GOP nomination, he wouldn't be if a Republican won in 2012. A story like this, on the other hand, might not help his chances to land a cabinet post.
This leads to the second interesting question, however, which is whether we can jettison the implicit correlation between assembling a well-run campaign and a well-run government. By all accounts, Hillary Clinton's campaign was even more dysfunctional in 2008, and at least one veteran of that campaign admitted to flashbacks after reading Martin's story. That said, there hasn't been that much criticism of Clinton's management of the foreign-policy machine. Maybe managing a campaign is just a wee bit different from managing a political bureaucracy, or negotiating with other actors in world politics.
The final note is, oddly, reassuring. From Martin's story:
Huntsman’s early staffing was so bare-bones that the campaign didn’t even have a policy director, or standard white papers. It left Huntsman himself relying on papers prepared by the American Enterprise Institute to bone up on the issues....
[T]he campaign has suffered early organizational challenges -- and not just with departing personnel.
With no policy director initially, Huntsman was relying on position papers from the American Enterprise Institute to serve as his briefings.
On June 25, four days after the former governor’s announcement, but well after he had put together his basic campaign infrastructure, [disgruntled former campaign aide David] Fischer sent the candidate a blunt note.
“I am concerned about the slow pace of assembling your policy team,” Fischer wrote. [Finance consultant] Jim McCray called me today and he mentioned that donors often ask for a specific policy white paper. We don’t have them.”
Huntsman has since added a policy director to the campaign. (emphasis added)
It's very easy to become cynical about presidential campaigns and conclude that it's all about the
dirty tactics opposition research. Discovering that early backers and donors actually care about, you know, policy substance, is kind of encouraging.
Unfortunately, Martin's story itself will likely make it that much harder for Huntsman to assemble a decent policy shop. Policy advisors want to glom onto campaigns that are ideologically palatable but also have a decent chance of winning. Any undecided policy wonks who were Huntsman-curious will read this story and run to Mitt Romney's campaign.
Yesterday Rush Limbaugh asked a former U.S. serviceman who called into his show a totally-hypothetical-and-not-in-any-way-designed-to-impugn-the-patriotism-of-the-sitting-president-kind of question:
Are you aware of any military contingency plans for a president who might not be your prototypical pro-America president? Are there contingency plans to deal with a president who may not believe that the United States is the solution to the world's problems?
Marc Ambinder provides both a succinct ("No.") and a more detailed answer. Now, some readers might take umbrage at the partisanship of Limbaugh's question, but I think it dovetails nicely with some recent research interests of my own. In particular: what would happen if the president was under threat of turning into a zombie?
Let's break this down into two phases: A) a president who's been bitten but is still clearly human; and B) an undead POTUS.
The first situation could distort the government's initial policy responses. After all, the actors with the most immediate stake in sabotaging any attack on zombies are those who have been bitten by zombies, and the human relatives of zombies. By definition, the moment humans are bitten, they will inevitably become zombies. This fact can dramatically alter their preferences. This change of mind occurs in many zombie films. In George Romero's Land of the Dead (2005), the character of Cholo has the most militant anti-zombie attitude at the outset of the film. After he is bitten, however, he decides that he wants to "see how the other half lives." In Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (2002), as well as Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Survival of the Dead (2010), family members keep their undead relatives hidden from security and paramilitary forces.
Clearly, soon-to-be-ghouls and their relatives can hamper policy implementation. One would expect a soon-to-be POTUS to order research efforts on finding a cure rather than focusing on prevention, for example.
If the situation is unclear when the president is infected, all hell breaks lose once he becomes a member of the differently animated. The law here is extremely murky. From Ambinder:
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 spells out a procedure. Let's look at 3 USC 19, subsection "E." We're dealing with a situation where there is no President, no Vice President, no Speaker of the House and no President Pro Tempore. The law then appoints the Secretary of State as President until either the end of the current president's term in office OR someone higher in the chain of command suddenly re-appears or recovers from injuries and is able to discharge the powers of office. (The Secretary of Defense is sixth in line, after the Secretary of the Treasury.)
This seems clear: If it's not clear, after some sort of decapitation attack, whether the President, the Vice President or the two Congressional successors are alive, or if they're all alive but disabled, then the Cabinet secretaries become acting President -- until and unless a "prior entitled individual" is able to act.
Let's say that the POTUS, the VPOTUS, the Speaker and the President Pro Tempore are all injured; only the Vice President recovers. As soon as that person is eligible, he or she can "bump" the Acting President aside whenever he wants....
The problem is that, in a catastrophic emergency, the people who need to know who is in charge might not have the resources to find this out immediately. These people are, in particular, the Secret Service, and the folks who execute lawful orders from the National Command Authority (which is another name for the commander in chief's executive powers).
Well, then what the hell happens if a president is bitten by a zombie, dies, and then becomes a zombie? It seems to me that the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 doesn't cover this contingency.
There is also the question of the conflicting bureaucratic imperatives that some organizations, like the Secret Service, would face in this scenario. For example, in Brian Keene's The Rising, the U.S. government falls apart almost immediately. A key trigger was the Secret Service's difficulties altering their In divining bureaucratic preferences, where you stand depends on who you eat. standard operating procedures. After the president turned into a zombie, he started devouring the secretary of state. As a result, "one Secret Service agent drew his weapon on the undead Commander-in-Chief, and a second agent immediately shot the first."
I think the lesson to draw here for Rush and others is that in divining both bureaucratic and presidential preferences, where you stand depends on who you eat.
I hereby applaud Rush for being brave enough to highlight this troublesome question during a week when nothing else is going on in the world.
I see that The Powers That Be at FP are highlighting my
unconventional wisdom about China's rise on their splash page.
Given the Hu-Obama summit and subsequent flurry of China commentary this week, it's worth highlighting the most absurd data point I cited in that article -- Forbes' magazine's decision to name Chinese President Hu Jintao the world's most powerful individual. Their explanation:
Paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world's population. Unlike Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts.
With these two sentences, the editors at Forbes managed to demonstrate an even shallower analysis of domestic politics than their Dinesh D'Souza cover story on Obama, which I didn't think was possible.
Let's review just a smattering of coverage about Hu Jintao's current ability to exercise iron-willed control over the Chinese bureaucracy, shall we? First, Gordon Chang in The New Republic:
Hu is sometimes called the world's most powerful person -- Forbes magazine gave him that accolade in November -- but he is a weak leader back home. Just how weak was revealed in two startling incidents within the past three weeks. On Tuesday, after the state-run Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute performed the first flight test of the J-20 stealth fighter -- an unmistakable slap in the face of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was visiting Beijing at the time -- Hu professed not to know that the test had occurred....
If the Chinese leader was telling the truth, the test flight reveals a remarkable defiance of civilian authority by the flag officers of the People's Liberation Army, an obvious attempt to undermine the military cooperation Hu said he wanted to foster. Or if, as is more likely, Hu did in fact know about the timing of the test, he nonetheless said something that made himself appear inept. One has to wonder about a political system that creates incentives for its top leader to publicly imply that he is both ignorant and weak.
Either way, the unmistakable impression is that Hu seems to have much less influence than is often assumed. This could be due to the fact that China is in the middle of a transition to the next generation of political leaders -- led by Xi Jinping -- who are gaining in power as Hu loses his in the long run up to the actual handover.
Next, the Economist:
China's new raw-knuckle diplomacy is partly the consequence of a rowdy debate raging inside China about how the country should exercise its new-found power. The liberal, internationalist wing of the establishment, always small, has been drowned out by a nativist movement, fanned by the internet, which mistrusts an American-led international order.
Then there's Drew Thompson in -- hey, it's FP!!
China's national security decision-making process is opaque, and so this worrisome disconnect -- who knew what when -- is difficult to ascertain with certainty. It is highly improbable that Hu was unaware of the development of this major military advancement. His role as chairman of the Central Military Commission ensures that he is well briefed about major programs, and he doubtlessly approves their large budgets. What is not known is how much oversight and control the central government leadership in Beijing had over the PLA's decision-making process that lead to highly visible tests at the Chengdu air base just as Gates was visiting China.
And, finally, David Sanger and Michael Wines in the New York Times:
China is far wealthier and more influential, but Mr. Hu also may be the weakest leader of the Communist era. He is less able to project authority than his predecessors were -- and perhaps less able to keep relations between the world's two largest economies from becoming more adversarial.
Mr. Hu's strange encounter with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates here last week -- in which he was apparently unaware that his own air force had just test-flown China's first stealth fighter -- was only the latest case suggesting that he has been boxed in or circumvented by rival power centers....
President Obama's top advisers have concluded that Mr. Hu is often at the mercy of a diffuse ruling party in which generals, ministers and big corporate interests have more clout, and less deference, than they did in the days of Mao or Deng Xiaoping, who commanded basically unquestioned authority....
"There is a remarkable amount of chaos in the system, more than you ever saw dealing with the Chinese 20 years ago," Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser and Mr. Gates's mentor, said Saturday. "The military doesn't participate in the system the way it once did. They are more autonomous -- and so are a lot of others."
Now, to be fair, it's possible that China is learning how to play the authoritarian equivalent of the two-level game. Even if that's true, however, China is playing that game very badly -- and they're playing it in policy arenas that are guaranteed to trigger a balancing coalition rather than accommodation.
OK, contest for readers -- name the award that I want to give to writers who vastly exaggerate China's rise!
FP's Josh Rogin ably summarizes the State Department's rollout of the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), an exercise that was clearly inspired by the Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review. This was Anne-Marie Slaughter's signal achievement during her tenure as Director of Policy Planning,* which leads to the obvious question of whether it really matters.
The QDDR is dedicated to Rickard Holbrooke, who passed away earlier this week. In a revealing Financial Times article, Brain Katulis of the Center for American Progress makes a particularly telling point about the arc of Holbrooke's career:
"If you compare Holbrooke's tenure in his job as representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and compare it to what he was able to do in the 1990s on Bosnia, you really see that the balance of power in the interim had shifted from the state department to the Pentagon," said Brian Katulis at the Centre for American Progress in Washington.
Katulis hits upon a theme that has been a source of concern here at this blog for a good long while. For at least a decade, there's been a vicious feedback loop: State loses operational authority and capabilities because of poor funding, which leads to more tasks for Defense, which leads to even more lopsided funding between the two bureaucracies, which leads to an even greater disparity in responsibilities, and so forth.
Will the QDDR change that? That's sorta the point of the whole exercise -- the phrase "civilian power" appears 281 times in the QDDR. I'm dubious -- the only way this works is through greater staffing and greater funding for U.S. foreign aid, and in this Age of Austerity, the first things that get cut are.... diplomats and foreign aid funding.
I'd love to see Hillary Clinton make the case to Congress than an extra $50 billion for State would improve American foreign policy enough to cut, say, $100 billion for DoD. I'd love a free pony too, for all the likelihood that this will happen.
I'm not the only one who's dubious. The Christian Science Monitor's Howard LaFranchi ends his story on the QDDR as follows:
[E]xperts, as well as some military officials, have pointed out that the concept of "civilian power" sounds good, but that the US diplomatic corps is not prepared and doesn't have the numbers to take over many tasks from the military.
Clinton acknowledges that the shift in priorities and organization is "a work in progress," but she also emphasizes that someone will be designated at both the State Department and at USAID to oversee implementation. "I am determined that this report will not merely gather dust, like so many others," she said. And she wants Congress to approve making the QDDR a regular and required State Department policy-review process.
Slaughter echoed those words in a humorous sum-up with reporters. "I'm pretty sure you're thinking, 'I've heard this before,' " she said - a big plan to change the way a government agency works. "But this is different."
The big difference, she insisted, is that Clinton has given the reorganization top priority: "She knows ... we can't afford to continue working in the way we have been."
Reading the QDDR, it's clear that there's a hope that Foggy Bottom will scrape together more resources through wringing greater efficiencies out of the current budget. This is certainly possible -- no one is going to label the State Department a lean, mean fighting bureaucratic machine -- but color me skeptical that there's all that much savings of "government waste" in them thar hills.
To be fair, however, one report is not going to change a dynamic that's been building for more than a decade. It's only a first step. Still first steps are better than no steps. We'll see if this remains Clinton's top priority.
*I have no inside knowledge about this, but am simply assuming that Slaughter will be returning to her academic haunts after the standard two-year leave has expired -- in other words, in early 2011.
I was remiss in not blogging about Tom Donilon replacing James Jones as National Security Advisor. Well, actually, I don't think I was remiss, because I didn't think it was all that big of a deal. Past reportage indicated that Donilon had been the de facto national security advisor for some time now.
The one difference is that Donilon has had the ear of Obama in a way that Jones never did. And sure, access to the president is an important lever of influence in Washington. It's no guarantee of success, however. Condoleezza Rice probably had a closer relationship to President Bush than Steve Hadley, but the latter did a better job as NSC advisor. Like Peter Feaver, I figured that this move simply matched titles to actual responsibilities.
The personnel change, however, is causing some people to say some silly things. Steve Clemons, for example, provides this assessment:
Obama's decision making system -- which is huge now and an obvious corrective to the cabal-like operation that Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Richard Cheney ran during the G.W. Bush years -- simply could not function without Donilon (and [Denis] McDonough).
But that does not mean that the role of being the premier adviser to the president on America's global threats and challenges can be properly filled by someone who is excellent at a speedy, inclusive, decision making process but too overwhelmed to get distance to think and advise strategically.
Some of the early reactions to the Donilon appointment have focused on his political connections and savvy over his intellectual merits and standing. These critics couldn't be more wrong.
While Donilon has not taken the path to power that many others in the national security establishment have of carefully pruned and crafted exposes on American foreign policy -- published in journals of record like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, National Interest, and American Interest -- he has been actively engaged for years in national security strategy groups and working meetings.
His thinking about U.S. foreign policy is known to any who have worked with him in these groups. He's a systematic, creative, pragmatic thinker about America's foreign policy challenges -- and whether he has expressed himself in roundtable discussions rather than a large volume of opeds makes no difference.
Donilon is a pragmatic, non-ideological practitioner who knows that America's greatest challenge today is restoring its stock of power and its ability to positively shape the global system. He knows that American power is doubted today and needs to be reinvented -- and he thinks about this all of the time. It is what animates him and the furious pace he keeps.
This might be the ritual suck-up-to-the-next-NSC-advisor kind of blog post, but taken at face value, a few minor corrections are warranted.
First, by definition, a good foreign policy process should be able to function well regardless of personnel changes. If a process can't function without particular individuals in charge, then it's neither a good nor a robust decision-making process.
Second, "non-ideological" policymakers don't exist. Policymakers might be in denial about what ideologies they possess. Their ideologies might be so moderate and mainstream that they're not noticed as ideologies. But any policymaker has a set of ideas that guides them through the complex swamp that is world politics.
Finally, from what I can read, there was no policy distance between Jones and Donilon. The only difference seems to be that Donilon was more willing to push back against the military, and that the military dislikes Donilon more. Why this promotion should lead to fundamental policy changes is beyond me.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
There are many peculiar rites of passage for each incoming U.S. administration: the first scandal, the first resignation, the first broken campaign promise, and the first botched use of force.
Add to this list the first Bob Woodward book of an administration. Like a debutante's coming-out party, there are highly formalized rituals -- the press leaks about the good stuff in the book, the Sunday morning talk show commentators obsessing over the more controversial bits and pieces, the inevitable meta-essays on Woodward himself. As a young foreign policy wonk, I remember looking forward to the latest Woodward tome the way others looked forward to the latest Stephen King novel.
That was then, however -- with Obama's Wars, has Bob Woodward demonstrated that he's about as irrelevant as the debutante circuit?
Woodward is operating in a very different media environment now. What used to be his bread and butter -- the political and bureaucratic machinations of presidential administrations -- is no longer his exclusive province. Beyond the Washington Post and New York Times, media outlets as varied as Politico, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, and the New Yorker now generate
monthly weekly hourly revelations that Woodward used to be able to hoard for his books. As my old dissertation advisor used to say, "is there anything new here?"
Let's see what Steve Luxenberg's preview in the Washington Post has to say:
President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward....
Among the book's other disclosures:
-- Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn't think about the Afghan war in the "classic" terms of the United States winning or losing. "I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?" he said.
-- The CIA created, controls and pays for a clandestine 3,000-man paramilitary army of local Afghans, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. Woodward describes these teams as elite, well-trained units that conduct highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan as part of a stepped-up campaign against al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens there.
-- Obama has kept in place or expanded 14 intelligence orders, known as findings, issued by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The orders provide the legal basis for the CIA's worldwide covert operations.
-- A new capability developed by the National Security Agency has dramatically increased the speed at which intercepted communications can be turned around into useful information for intelligence analysts and covert operators. "They talk, we listen. They move, we observe. Given the opportunity, we react operationally," then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell explained to Obama at a briefing two days after he was elected president.
-- A classified exercise in May showed that the government was woefully unprepared to deal with a nuclear terrorist attack in the United States. The scenario involved the detonation of a small, crude nuclear weapon in Indianapolis and the simultaneous threat of a second blast in Los Angeles. Obama, in the interview with Woodward, called a nuclear attack here "a potential game changer." He said: "When I go down the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that's one where you can't afford any mistakes."
-- Afghan President Hamid Karzai was diagnosed as manic depressive, according to U.S. intelligence reports. "He's on his meds, he's off his meds," Woodward quotes U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry as saying.
Hmmm.... there is some interesting stuff, but it's more in the details (Karzai's depression, the CIA's paramilitaries) than in the overarching narrative. Obama feuded with the military on Afghanistan? There was bureaucratic dissension on Afghanistan? Well, blow me down!!
This ain't how it used to be. In The Commanders, for example, Woodward showed that JCS Chairman Colin Powell was much more reluctant to attack Iraq than previously known.
Now it's possible that this is simply a function of me being
more cynical older than I used to be. But the fact is, I just don't look forward to a new Bob Woodward book anymore.
Question to readers: has Woodward jumped the shark?
We've hit the eighteen-month mark of the Obama presidency, which means that articles like this one are going to start appearing with more and more frequency:
Linda Douglass slept nearly 12 hours the day after she left her job as a communications aide at the White House. And the day after that and the day after that. It took two weeks until she finally felt rested.
“I got to the point where I was almost traumatized by how hard I was working and how much stress I was feeling all the time,” Ms. Douglass recalled.
When she resigned, she said: “I felt like a real burden was lifted from my shoulders. I was really surprised how exhausted I was when I left.”
Eighteen months into President Obama’s term, some of the first-generation team that arrived with him at the White House are moving on. One by one, usually with little fanfare, they have turned in White House badges and BlackBerrys to rejoin the outside world, some eagerly seeking the exit, others unhappily shown the door.
Even in calmer times, the White House is a pressure cooker that can quickly burn out the most idealistic aides, but it may be even more so in an administration that inherited an economic collapse and two wars — and then decided to overhaul the nation’s health care system for good measure. Add to that the nonstop, partisan intensity of the e-mail-Internet-cable era, and it takes a toll.
The article focuses on White House officials in particular, but this problem extends to the cabinet departments as well. Executive branch burnout is a bipartisan phenomenon (no matter what Victor David Hanson thinks), and as the article notes, the real-time news cycle is only making things worse. This is particularly true on the foreign policy beat. Even if it's 3 AM in Washington, it's 6 PM somewhere else, and someone is doing something that will require an American response.
In my experience, most normal people can survive this kind of policy pressure cooker for 18-24 months before losing it just a little bit. From selection effects, we know that high-ranking policymakers on either side of the aisle
can process greater quantities of coffee more efficiently than the rest of us are mentally and physically prepared for longer terms of service. Still, after four years, even policy principals will find their brains going to mush (as one professor-turned-policy-principal put it to me, your stock of intellectual capital starts to erode the moment you enter public office).
On its own, this phenomenon wouldn't be that big of a deal -- indeed, some personnel churn is likely a good thing, prevents groupthink and all that. The problem is that this trend is intersecting with another one -- the increasing length of time it takes to appoint and confirm high-level personnel (and I'd just like to thank the Senate for making my point today). With greater fixed costs involved in vetting and sheparding people through the confirmation process, presidents will be exceedingly reluctant to let these people go, which means that many of them will stay on for longer than perhaps they should.
There's no magic bullet here, but it's a problem that's going to fester until some cabinet official decides that they've had enough and take the emergency exit.
UPDATE: James Joyner wonders how much of the burnout problem is self-inflicted, a West Wingization of the West Wing:
Some of this is, I think, a spillover from the “West Wing” television program. It reinforced the mindset that, if you weren’t killing yourself, you weren’t working hard enough. And it’s just nonsense.
National Security Advisor Jim Jones was getting sniped at in the press by subordinates annoyed that he clocked out at a reasonable hour most nights and had the temerity to go for a run during his lunch breaks. His retort, basically, was that anyone working 12 hour days was probably pretty inefficient.
I’m with Jones (disclosure: formerly my boss’ boss). Sure, there are legitimate crises that require burning the midnight oil. But, contrary to the mythology of Washington, every damned thing isn’t a crisis.
But, alas, we have a mutually reinforcing arms race where staffers compete with one another to see who can get in earliest and stay latest. And the culture also dictates that, if the boss is there, no one else can go home. That, even if the thing the boss is doing doesn’t require additional staff support.
The upshot of all this isn’t just burnout but bad decision-making.
Joyner might be right, but I'd point out that based on first-hand accounts of pre-West Wing West Wing staffers, this is not a new problem
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Answer: they both pretty much put me to sleep.
Call me shallow, call me jaded, call me cynical, but there's not that much there there in either effort. Day 1 of the Top Secret story was the most informative of the bunch, no doubt -- but even that story was frustratingly short on detail. Day 2 and Day 3 were worse, in that they didn't tell me anything I already know. Day 2 of Top Secret America told me that outsourcing to private contractors is bad, bad, bad, and very expensive. Day 3 was kind of like your local news teasers: "Are NSA employees living RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO YOU?!" If you live in the vicinity of BWI, it turns out the answer is, "yes, but it's not a big deal." Again... yawn.
If Top Secret America actually prompts hearings/reform efforts, then yay, dead tree journalism. Otherwise, the reveal was far less than the hype.
As for Wikileaks, Blake Hounshell and Andrew Exum sum up my feelings on the matter. So it turns out that the war in Afghanistan is not going well and Pakistan is playing a double game? Well, knock me down with a feather!!
In essence, neither story provides much in the way of new information -- they merely serve as news pegs through which intractable policy issues can be debated anew. If those debates prove fruitful, that's great -- but during a summer in which I've seen the Stupidest Topics Ever become cable show fodder, I ain't getting my hopes up.
This might be my own subfield prejudice at work. Every once in a while someone from security studies tells me that international political economy is really, really boring and that they can't understand how I could find it interesting. I think today is one of those days in which I would tell them the same thing.
Am I missing anything? Seriously, anything?
I suspect everyone inside the Beltway will be discussing the first part of the Washington Post's "Top Secret America" series on the intelligence and homeland security apparatus that has mushroomed since the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, the 5,400 word opening salvo by Dana Priest and William Arkin doesn't pull any punches in its lead:
The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.
These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
The investigation's other findings include:
* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.
* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year - a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
Priest and Arkin are top-notch reporters and analysts, and a lot of the material in this report is pretty damning. It's well worth the read.
I have one small quibble, however, which is with the "redundancy and waste" argument about multiple agencies doing the same work. This is a standard argument in favor of rationalization, and it's not always wrong. It should be noted, however, that some redundancy is actually a good thing, particularly on an issue like counter-terrorism.
Say a single bureaucracy is tasked with intelligence gathering about threat X. Let's say this bureaucracy represents the best of the best of the best -- the A-Team. The A-Team does it's job and catches 95% of the emergent threats from X. That's still 5% that is missed.
Now say you have another independent bureaucracy with a similar remit. This agency is staffed by different people with their own set of blind spots. Let's even stipulate that we're talking about the B-team here, and they'll only catch 80% of the emergent threats from X.
If thesr two bureaucracies are working independently -- and this is an important if -- then the odds that a threat would go unobserved by both bureaucracies is .05*.2 = .01 = 1%. So, by adding another bureaucracy, even a less competent one, the chances of an undetected threat getting through are cut from 5% to 1%. That ain't nothing.
Now, there are a lot of assumptions that need to hold for this effect to hold. Priest and Arkin suggest that some of these assumptions don't hold (many inteligence analysts relying on the same information). They also note the rise of segemented information, however, which leads me to think that some redundancy might be a good thing.
Admittedly, a world of 1,271 agencies tackling this question is probably one of redundancy run amok. I'm just saying that a little redundancy is a very good thing.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Over the weekend, CIA chief Leon Panetta had a chat with This Week's Jake Tapper, and provided the following assessment of Al Qaeda' capabilities:
TAPPER: How many Al Qaida do you think are in Afghanistan?
PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaida is actually relatively small. I think at most, we're looking at maybe 60 to 100, maybe less. It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of Al Qaida is in tribal areas of Pakistan....
PANETTA: I think what's happened is that the more we put pressure on the Al Qaida leadership in the tribal areas in Pakistan -- and I would say that as a result of our operations, that the Taliban leadership is probably at its weakest point since 9/11 and their escape from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Having said that, they clearly are continuing to plan, continuing to try to attack this country, and they are using other ways to do it.
TAPPER: Al Qaida you're talking about.
PANETTA: That's correct. They are continuing to do that, and they're using other ways to do it, which are in some ways more difficult to try to track. One is the individual who has no record of terrorism. That was true for the Detroit bomber in some ways. It was true for others.
They're using somebody who doesn't have a record in terrorism, it's tougher to track them. If they're using people who are already here, who are in hiding and suddenly decide to come out and do an attack, that's another potential threat that they're engaged in. The third is the individual who decides to self-radicalize. Hasan did that in the Fort Hood shootings. Those are the kinds of threats that we see and we're getting intelligence that shows that's the kind of stream of threats that we face, much more difficult to track. At the same time, I think we're doing a good job of moving against those threats. We've stopped some attacks, we continue to work the intelligence in all of these areas. But that area, those kinds of threats represent I think the most serious threat to the United States right now. (emphasis added)
Seriously? 60-100 guys? That's it? As Philip Giraldi points out, this kind of assessment raises some Very Important Questions, like: "If CIA Director Leon Panetta is correct and al-Qaeda has been reduced to a tiny remnant why are we spending nearly a trillion dollars a year on defense, intelligence, and homeland security?"
It's a fair question -- shouldn't these guys be able to deal with 60-100 guys?
The easy answers here are A) path dependence; and B) concerns about U.S. reputation. There's a harder answer here, however, that is buried within Panetta's comments, as well as those of just about every other counter-terrorism expert. Let's call it the Counter-Terrorism Mantra, which consists of the following:
1) Al Qaeda is nowhere near as powerful as it was a decade ago
2) Al Qaeda is now really unpopular among Muslims worldwide
3) Because of their desperate straits, Al Qaeda is encouraging anyone and everyone to try attacking the United States
4) One of these homegrown, disgruntled sorts might
not be a moron be smart and lucky enough to succeed.
I understand why the Counter-Terrorism Mantra is used -- because the political costs of underestimating Al Qaeda's capabilities are far greater than overestimating their capabilities. That said, this kind of mantra leads to Very Stupid and Costly policies.
The fact is, Al Qaeda's abilities to execute Grand Guignol-kind of attacks appears to be nil. There have been plenty of opportunities over the past five years for AQ to launch the kind of attack that would put fear into the heart of the West -- the USA-England World Cup match, most recently -- and there's been nothing. Even if Captain Underpants or the Times Square bomber had succeeded, the carnage would have been on a far lower scale than the 9/11 attacks.
Isn't it time that some rational cost-benefit analysis was applied to counter-terrorism policies? In a world where "The [defense budget] gusher has been turned off, and will stay off for a good period of time," isn't it time for political leaders to argue in favor of resource retrenchment, even if it increases the probability of a successful attack just a smidgen?
I can ask this question, because I can be dismissed as an out-of-touch, elities, zombie-loving, pointy-headed academic who knows nothing about counter-terrorism. What I'd like to see is a few bona-fide counterterrorism experts have the stones to ask a similar question.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Here's a conundrum I don't entirely understand. Maybe someone can explain it to me.
1. For the past year or so, we've seen a series of stories detailing the Obama administration's foreign policy process. The signal theme of these stories is that the White House is large and in charge of this process. While Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates are clearly influential, Obama and the Executive Office of the President are clearly the central node, disciplining everyone else into a single policy position.
2. The description of U.S. foreign policy towards Afghanistan to come out of the McChrystal imbroglio is one of serious bureaucratic wrangling, a Pentagon resistant to civilian oversight, petty carping, and significant press leakage.
How can both of these narratives be correct?
It's possible that David Brooks is correct and this is simply a case of garden-variety kvetching gone public. Or it's possible that Obama's strategic communications shop is too good at their job, exaggerating an orderly process that is fundamentally disorderly.
Which is it? Provide your answer to this paradox in the comments. Your humble blogger will ponder this question while on a small vacation in a
zombie-free quiet undisclosed locale.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
The story of the day, from David Sanger and Thom Shanker:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.
Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President' Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course....
One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran's nuclear program.
In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”
But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.
In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what strategists call a “virtual” nuclear weapons state.
Now, if one doesn't read carefully, the obvious implication to infer from this lead is that the Obama administration has been lax on both policy planning and thinking about military contingencies.
If one reads the entire story carefully, however -- something I highly recommend -- two important facts stand out. First, Gates wrote this in January, but it's being leaked now, in mid-April. As Spencer Ackerman notes, the Obama administration has geared up on a variety of fronts on both Iran and nonproliferation. You can criticize the response as inadequate or misguided -- but it's safe to say that there was a policy response.
So why leak the memo now? The Power Line's Scott Johnson asks that very question:
As always with stories like this, one wonders about the motives of the Times's sources. Why would anonymous officials leak word of a highly classified memorandum suggesting that the administration has no policy beyond what has proved to be empty talk? These apparently well-informed officials must think that we have something to worry about.
That's one possibility. Another (not mutually exclusive) possibility is that whoever leaked was on the losing side of the policy debate. The White House has been centralizing the foreign policy process, which inevitably leads to some hurt feelings. Furthermore, the bureaucratic politics on Middle East policy have become both nasty and personal. It wouldn't surprise me if someone in the administration thinks that it's payback time. Which isn't to say that the leaker is necessarily wrong, but Marc Ambinder is right -- there are multiple possible motivations for the leak in the first place.
The second useful nugget of information comes from this paragraph:
Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed. Separately, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote a “chairman’s guidance” to his staff in December conveying a sense of urgency about contingency planning. He cautioned that a military attack would have “limited results,” but he did not convey any warnings about policy shortcomings (emphasis added).
If the senior uniformed officer is skeptical of the utility of a military attack, that strikes me as pretty important. Sure, one option could be to really ramp up the military option to include a ground assault, but even Iran hawks acknowledge that this is off the table.
So, what do I know now that I didn't know prior to reading Sanger and Shanker? I'd say the following:
1) All policy options on Iran stink.
2) The bureaucratic politics of U.S. Middle East policy are getting worse;
3) The administration has responded to the Gates memo, but not in a way that pleases all of the bureaucratic heavyweights inside the administraion.
4) January is apparently a month of foreign policy "wake-up calls" and "bombshells" in the White House.
What I don't know, after reading Sanger and Shanker, is whether someone like Gates would approve of the administration's current contingency planning on Iran.
Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Your humble blogger has long been a believer that, in matters of American foreign policy, the process can matter just as much as the outcome. Sure, sometimes fortuitous foreign policies emerge from bad decison-making structures, and sometimes bad foreign policies have been thoroughly vetted. On the whole, however, good decision-making processes should lead to good decision-making outcomes.
What makes for a good foreign policy decision-making process? That question comes to mind after reading David Sanger and Peter Baker's NYT story on the Nuclear Posture Review that's going to be unfurled today:
The strategy to be released on Tuesday is months late, partly because Mr. Obama had to adjudicate among advisers who feared he was not changing American policy significantly enough, and those who feared that anything too precipitous could embolden potential adversaries. One senior official said that the new strategy was the product of 150 meetings, including 30 convened by the White House National Security Council, and that even then Mr. Obama had to step in to order rewrites.
That's a lot of meetings for a document of questionable utility.
This also backs up the themese from last week's excellent Financial Times story by Daniel Dombey and Edward Luce on the Obama administration's foreign policy decision-making process that's gotten a lot of play. Over at Shadow Government, Peter Feaver provides some useful cautions about reading too much into stories like this. For the purposes of this blog post, however, I'm just gonna throw those cautions right out the window. Because after reading Dombeyand Luce, I'm both horrified and impressed by what the Obama administration is doing.
Let's start with the good. It's clear that this White House has centralized foreign policy decision-making in a way that we haven't seen since the Bush/Scowcroft years. Presidents have to claim ownership of their foreign policies, so this is cheering news.
There's also a lot of praise in the story for the revival of the NSC interagency process -- particularly the way Tom Donilon is running the deputies' committee:
Also the organiser of Mr Obama's 9.30am national security briefing, Mr Donilon reinstated the paper trails needed to prevent intra-governmental anarchy, using the model de-vised by Brent Scowcroft, national se-curity adviser to George Bush senior and Gerald Ford. Vice-president Joe Biden's team was also incorporated to prevent the kind of "parallel process" Dick Cheney used to circumvent the bureaucracy under George W. Bush.
"If you look for the 2002 or 2003 meeting where the decision to go to war in Iraq was taken, you cannot find it," says the senior official. "By getting the process right, we are improving the quality of decisions."....
The refurbished machinery was perhaps most in evidence during the build-up to Mr Obama's decision in December to send another 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan - a journey that took four months and involved him in 40 hours of Oval Office meetings.
Now, the bad -- and there's more of it than I would like to see.
First, while the White House appears to be running the foreign policy machine, the parts of the White House that are involved should provoke serious consternation. The National Security Advisor, James Jones, is characterized as disengaged. As a result, we get this anecdote:
The lack of a strong national security adviser has created recurring difficulties. Perhaps the best example is the Arab-Israeli peace process, which Mr Obama launched on his second day in office when he appointed George Mitchell as his envoy. Three months later, Mr Obama insisted Benjamin Netanyahu freeze all settlements activity in order to boost Arab confidence in the talks.
In a heated showdown in the Oval Office last May, in which Mr Netanyahu refused to accede to Mr Obama's demand, the only officials present were Mr Emanuel and David Axelrod, senior adviser to Mr Obama in office and during the campaign. Gen Jones was not there. The fallout put the talks in abeyance and damped high Arab hopes for Mr Obama.
"The question is, which bright spark advised the president to demand a settlements freeze without working out what the next step should be when Netanyahu inevitably said 'No'?" says Leslie Gelb, an official in the Carter administration and former head of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Why wasn't George Mitchell in the room? Where was Jones?"
Um... what Gelb said. Seriously, having only Axelrod and Emanuel in the room is doubly disturbing. First, they're not foreign policy experts. Second, having political operatives in the room sends the signal to Netanyahu that the U.S. Israel relationship really is all about domestic politics for Obama. I don't think that's true, but if Netanyahu thinks that it's true, then it could explain a lot of his recent behavior.
Now we get to Obama himself. The implicit message in the story is that he's his own NSC advisor:
Only briefly acquainted with Mr Obama beforehand, General Jones, a retired four-star marine corps general, shows little interest in running the "inter-agency" process - a key part of the job. Somewhat unconventionally, Gen Jones travels frequently and is thus often out of town. Unusually, it is Mr Obama himself who usually chairs the weekly national security council, known as the "principals meeting", not Gen Jones.
Yeah, this is very unusual. Sure, you might think, "hey, this is great, POTUS is really involved!!" Except that when the boss is in the room, the staff will often have a tendency to bite their tongues and refrain from airing discordant views. This will be true even with someone like Obama, who use to lead seminars for a living and by all reports likes having provocative discussions.
Dombey and Luce note in the end that, "Mr Obama has a sharp learning curve, which means his administration continues to evolve." I hope so, because if the article is accurate (and it seems to jibe with prior stories) then there are definite areas for improvement.
My provisional grade: a straight B.
As Peter Feaver observed over at Shadow Government, there's an ever-increasing number of leaks coming from the Obama administration on foreign policy.
Beyond the drip-drip-drip on the Afghan strategic review, the foreign policy community is now agog at Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf's story in Time on the rise and fall of Greg Craig, Obama's first White House Counsel. Former colleague Laura Rozen labels it as, "one of the most devastating accounts to have emerged of the Obama White House."
Calabresi and Weisskopf's story contains astonishing revelations, like the following:
Well, blow me down.
I don't mean to belittle those who either ardently support or ardently oppose the initial efforts to eliminate the legacies of Guantanamo and the like. But stories that reveal politicians to be acting, er, politically don't really cause my jaw to drop.
The only interesting thing I found in this piece was the part Rozen excerpted:
Obama arrived at Emanuel's office a few minutes later, took off his windbreaker and sat down at a table lined with about a dozen national-security and political advisers. He asked each to state a position and then convened an impromptu debate, selecting Craig and McDonough to argue opposing sides. Craig deployed one of Obama's own moral arguments: that releasing the memos "was consistent with taking a high road" and was "sensitive to our values and our traditions as well as the rule of law." Obama paused, then decided in favor of Craig, dictating a detailed statement explaining his position that would be released the next day.
But for Craig, it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. Four days later, former Vice President Dick Cheney attacked Obama on Fox News Channel for dismantling the policies he and Bush had put in place to keep the country safe. More significant was the reaction within Obama's camp. Democratic pollsters charted a disturbing trend: a drop in Obama's support among independents, driven in part by national-security issues. Emanuel quietly delegated his aides to get more deeply involved in the process. Damaged by the episode, Craig was about to suffer his first big setback.
In other words, the median American voters are comfortable with using illiberal means to protect the national interest (hmmm... that sounds familiar). And, shock upon shock, politicians respond to public attitudes.
In light of Hamid Karzai's agreement to go forward on a run-off election in Afghanistan, I was curious about special envoy Richard Holbrooke's role in this denouement. Jon Western links to this Nukes & Spooks McClatchy blog post chock-full of some inside dirt:
Three administration officials, who asked not to be identified by agency, told us that, while Holbrooke is laboring away hard behind the scenes, he's received direct orders from the White House to cool it publicly while Washington desperately tries to unscramble the Afghan electoral mess between President Hamid Karzai and his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
"This process is so sensitive. He'd love to deal with this. The White House thinks ... it's not the time for him" to be out front, one of the officials said of Holbrooke...
To be fair -- and we do try to be fair here at N&S, we're told that the White House orders are not directed at Holbrooke alone. Everyone involved in Af/Pak policy has been told to keep a lid on it while President Obama deals with the difficult decision of how to keep the situation there from dropping into the abyss and whether to send more American servicemen and women to Afghanistan.
I'm beginning to wonder if Hoobrooke is simply the exemplar of the bad cop in foreign affairs. For his sake, I hope so. Otherwise, he's stuck being an envoy to a region in which the Indians won't talk to him, the Afghans won't talk to hi, and the Pakistanis that will talk to him are feckless.
According to one Western diplomat, the Afghan president was more comfortable dealing with Sen. Kerry than with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry or the administration's special representative to the region, Richard Holbrooke. Mr. Holbrooke angered Mr. Karzai when he suggested shortly after the Aug. 20 election that a runoff might be needed.
I read with great interest the Wall Street Journal story entitled "A President as Micromanager" about Barack Obama's decision-making style -- and had the exact same reaction as Noam Scheiber:
The big problem is that the piece conflates two very different things: One is micromanaging, which involves making decisions that are well below your pay-grade. The other is wanting detailed information on which to base decisions that are at precisely your pay grade. The Journal story presents lots of evidence for the latter; zero evidence for the former....
If I had to guess, I'd say what happened is that the Journal found itself with a nice story about the way Obama makes decisions, but that it seemed too positive. As the piece itself notes: "Unavoidably, the accounts all come from people who admire Mr. Obama, not from his critics, who aren't privy to such sessions." The "micromanager" frame was presumably added somewhere along the way to correct for this problem and make the piece seem more even-handed.
Indeed. For all the puff pieces on Obama's management style, this article suffers from the reverse problem -- it tries to paint a negative frame and doesn't succeed because of the lack of evidence. Instead, the Obama in the WSJ story is someone who is intellectually curious, eager for data (which, as Scheiber points out, is distinct from micromanaging) and naturally contrarian.
In other words, pretty much the opposite of the last person to occupy the Oval Office. Which is fine with me.
During the transition, Barack Obama voiced numerous concerns about being trapped in the Presidential "bubble," cut off from the rest of the real world. Oddly enough, this is also a concern of 30 Rock.
If this New York Times story by Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry is any indication, the bubble seems to have completely enveloped Obama's White House staff:
Crowds did not clamor for a glimpse of him. Headlines offered only glancing or flippant notice of his activities. Television programming was uninterrupted; devotees of the Russian Judge Judy had nothing to fear. Even many students and alumni of the Western-oriented business school where Mr. Obama gave the graduation address on Tuesday seemed merely respectful, but hardly enthralled....
Some Obama aides said they were struck by the low-key reception here, especially when compared with the outpouring on some of his other foreign trips. Even Michelle Obama, who typically enjoys admiring coverage in the local news media when she travels, has not had her every move chronicled here.
Seriously? Seriously?! The President of the United States visits a staunchly nationalist country that has significant conflicts with Washington, and the charm offensive didn't take? Well, blow me down!!
When/if Obama visits China and India, his staffers might have some more rude awakenings in their future.
A recurring theme of this blog has been the relationship between academics and policymakers. What, if anything should academics have on offer? What should they have to offer?
Stanford's alumni magazine offers an interesting take on this question, asking six scholars and policymakers affiliated with the university about, "what lessons they drew from conflicts they studied or had a role in, and how they relayed their insights to the people in charge."
The most fascinating anecdote comes from Priya Satia:
In 2007, the U.S. Directorate of National Intelligence invited Satia to address staffers from more than a dozen different intelligence organizations about Middle East counterinsurgency. She spoke about the risks of groupthink, and the price British and Iraqis paid for that. But the message seemed to pass people by.
They wanted to hear more about T.E. Lawrence, she says, not sounding very surprised. “The kind of people who get into intelligence have been inspired by the T.E. Lawrences—they staked their careers on having some kind of secret role in the making of history, and when you tell them that’s not going to work, I mean, what are they supposed to do with that information?”
I assume Satia must have been talking to the operations people, because I find it hard to believe that analysts are really all that inspired by T.E. Lawrence.
That quibble aside, Satia raises an interesting point. Many social scientists focus on the myriad structural reasons why things are the way they are. Policymakers believe they can help shape the way things are. The last thing they often want to hear is why their ideas won't work. And while scholars can often explain why an idea won't work, they are often at a loss to offer a superior, politically viable alternative.
This might be an "irreconcilable" problem, but I'll leave that question to the commentators.
This is normally Laura Rozen or David Rothkopf's beat, but I found several interesting reveals in Helene Cooper's New York Times story on how General James L. Jones is working out at national security advisor. This included a sit-down between Cooper and Jones.
First, there's the dueling moosehead factor. Rothkopf voices some disapproval of Jones:
"The national security adviser needs to be behind the president” both literally and figuratively, said David Rothkopf, author of “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.” General Jones, Mr. Rothkopf said, is not “seen as the guy in the room.”
On the other hand, Brent Scowcroft also gets quoted: “I look at the result of our national security policy and I’m pretty pleased so far.”
Second, although Cooper doesn't come out and say it bluntly, the NSC staff seems dissatisfied with Jones' lack of workplace intensity, which leads to this priceless exchange:
General Jones described that behind-the-scenes “teeing up” process as an example of how he could be helpful to the president. He maintained his cool even when asked about sniping from staff members that he went biking at lunchtime and left work early, although he did, at one point, seem about to crush his coffee cup.
“I’m here by 7 o’ clock in the morning, and I go home at 7, 7:30 at night; that’s a fairly reasonable day if you’re properly organized,” he said. What about officials who pride themselves on being at the White House deep into the night?
“Congratulations,” he said. “To me that means you’re not organized.” (emphasis added)
Despite the obnoxiousness of the last remark, I have to side with Jones here. The perception -- aided and abetted by The West Wing -- is that unless you're staying at your White House office until the early hours of the morning, you're not really working that hard. That is a massive deterrent for aspiring policymakers with concurrent aspirations of a home life from entering government service.
Still, what's truly interesting here is that Cooper is picking up this kind of backbiting from the NSC staff.
Ever since Barack Obama was elected, I've received myriad queries about whether I'm going into the administration. And, for a variety of reasons, my answer has always been, "no, not interested."
After reading Ryan Lizza's profile of Rahm Emanuel in The New Yorker, however, I must confess that there is one job that I would do for free:
I noticed that over [Emanuel's] left shoulder, on the credenza behind him, was an official-looking name plate, which he said was a birthday present from his two brothers. It read “Undersecretary for Go F**k Yourself.”
Now that's my kind of job. It's a bit senior for me, though. If asked to serve, I would consider the stepping stone to that position -- Deputy Assistant Secretary for Eat S**t and Die.
From Amie Parnes' Politico story about internecine Clinton conflicts at the State Department:
Sources familiar with the vetting process say Clinton is playing a role in the decisions and wants to keep some familiar faces around.
Cheryl Mills, who served as Clinton’s general counsel and played a major role in post-campaign operations, is likely to be named Clinton’s chief of staff, sources tell Politico. Clinton campaign aides credit Mills with helping to “bring order” to the Clinton campaign last year.
Seriously? This was Mills' great achievement?
By that standard, I look forward to the appointments of Richard Gere as ambassador to India, John Thain as undersecretary of state for economic affairs, and Alex Rodriguez as goodwill ambassador for baseball.
Noam Scheiber reports on a battle a-brewin' within the Obama administration:
Foggy Bottom has spent the last month hinting at its designs on economic policy, which would presumably come at the expense of Treasury. The latest indications are that Hillary's first target may be the U.S.-China relationship, which Geithner's immediate predecessor, Hank Paulson, spearheaded in the Bush administration. Publicly, Treasury officials welcome a more active role for State. Privately, they say parting with Paulson's brainchild, the Strategic Economic Dialogue, is highly unlikely, noting Geithner's longstanding experience in the region. Let the border skirmishes begin.
On the one hand, this kind of turf war clearly needs to get settled in short order.
On the other hand, in a perverse kind of way, it's not a bad battle to have. Despite all the foreign policy heavyweights in the administration, China is kind of like the orphaned child looking through the window. Since Obama took office, I think it's safe to say that they haven't been feeling the love.
I normally abhor a big bureaucratic battle royale, but in this case it might be good for the Chinese to know that they're wanted.
My second National Interest column in a week is now online, and evaluates the recent high-profile appointments at the State department. Let's just say I'm wary:
There are rumors aplenty of fierce battles within Foggy Bottom between the special envoys and undersecretaries for coveted offices on the seventh floor (where Clinton will be). As Daniel Markey points out, foreign policy for south Asia has been a “toxic mix of turf battles.” Holbrooke is simply another bureaucratic entrepreneur (one opposed by the Indians, by the way). The Obama administration is already having difficulties finding someone who would agree to serve as assistant secretary of state for south Asia. This is because, to put it gently, the transaction costs of dealing with Holbrooke can be high. Similarly, the relationship between Mitchell and Dennis Ross, who has been touted to be a “super-envoy” for the Middle East, remains unclear.
There is one, final, sobering thought. The person who will be directing this great game of diplomatic egos will be Hillary Clinton.
Read the whole thing. And in the interest of fairness, check out Jacob Heilbrunn's more optimistic take on yesterday's scene at Foggy Bottom. This is one issue where I sincerely hope that I am wrong and Heilbrunn is right.
Laura Rozen's latest Cable post suggests that the Obama administration might be falling into the same trap that befell the Clinton and Bush administrations:
[There are] only a dozen or so positions to be filled [at the NSC] immediately, given that much of the NSC staff is seconded from other federal agencies who will hold over in the new administration's early months. Not only that, but the Obama team reportedly plans to scale back the NSC from its Bush/Cheney days. Under Bush, the NSC had six deputy national security advisor positions; the Obamans are looking to a more traditional, flatter model, my sources tell me, with as few as one deputy national security advisor and senior directors for different regional and functional areas below that (Europe, etc.).
Now, a flatter model may or may not be a good idea. If "scaling back" includes cutting the NSC staff more generally, however, it would be a boneheaded move. Worse, it would replicate the exact same boneheaded move made by the previous two administrations. When Condi Rice came to the NSC, she pruned the staff by a third. Similarly, the NSC was cut in the first years of the Clinton administration to honor candidate Clinton's pledge to cut White House staff by 25%.
In the end, the NSC has no resources except access to the president and staff. To actually coordinate or implement foreign policy, the NSC needs to be on top of what other agencies are doing. A smaller staff makes that task much more difficult. Indeed, after policy coordination miscues in the early years of their administrations, both Clinton and Bush wound up reversing course on the NSC.
Hopefully, Obama will learn from their mistakes -- because nobody likes shrinkage.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned yesterday against the risk of a "creeping militarization" of U.S. foreign policy, saying the State Department should lead U.S. engagement with other countries, with the military playing a supporting role.You expect to hear the phrase "creeping militarization" with regard to U.S. foreign policy from a lot of places -- most of which would be ensconced within the academy. When the Secretary of Defense is saying it, however, it's worth taking notice. More here:"We cannot kill or capture our way to victory" in the long-term campaign against terrorism, Gates said, arguing that military action should be subordinate to political and economic efforts to undermine extremism.
Broadly speaking, when it comes to America’s engagement with the rest of the world, you probably don’t here this often from a Secretary of Defense , it is important that the military is – and is clearly seen to be – in a supporting role to civilian agencies. Our diplomatic leaders – be they in ambassadors’ suites or on the seventh floor of the State Department – must have the resources and political support needed to fully exercise their statutory responsibilities in leading American foreign policy.From a standard bureaucratic politics perspective, this kind of behavior is damn unusual. Agency heads usually don't go around saying that other agencies need more resources. Of course, Gates himself likely doesn't think much of that perspective:
One of the reasons I have rarely been invited to lecture in political science departments – including at Texas A&M – is because faculty correctly suspect that I would tell the students that what their textbooks say about government does not describe the reality I have experienced in working for seven presidents.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.