I'm going to go out on a limb and state unequivocally that I think civil liberties and gender equality are Very Good Things. All else equal, I'd much rather live in a society in which freedom of speech is protected and women have all of the rights and opportunities afforded to men.
I bring this up because a common assumption that guides much of global economic policy is that as developing countries get richer, they will start valuing these qualities as well. There's a belief that regardless of the sequencing, political modernization will not trail too far behind economic modernization. Even in anomalous countries like Singapore, for example, there are trends suggesting that richer societies start demanding all those political and personal freedoms that many in the West take for granted. Crudely and simply put, a guiding assumption behind much Western policymaking (as well as many foes of the West writ large) is that modernization = Westernization.
I bring this up because China and India are, at the present moment, trying to prove this assumption is wrong. China has been getting very rich very fast, and yet the Chinese government seems more repressive than ever. So much for political liberties.
In some ways, India is even more troubling, as the New York Times' Jim Yardley report:
India's increasing wealth and improving literacy are apparently contributing to a national crisis of “missing girls,” with the number of sex-selective abortions up sharply among more affluent, educated families during the past two decades, according to a new study.
The study found the problem of sex-selective abortions of girls has spread steadily across India after once being confined largely to a handful of conservative northern states. Researchers also found that women from higher-income, better-educated families were far more likely than poorer women to abort a girl, especially during a second pregnancy if the firstborn was a girl....
The study, being published in the British medical journal The Lancet, is the latest evidence of India’s worsening imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls. The 2011 Indian census found 914 girls for every 1,000 boys among children 6 six or younger, the lowest ratio of girls since the country gained independence in 1947. The new study estimated that 4 million to 12 million selective abortions of girls have occurred in India in the past three decades....
Dr. Prabhat Jha, a lead author of the study, noted that the use of sex-selective abortions expanded throughout the country as the use of ultrasound equipment became more widespread. Typically, women from wealthier, better-educated families are more likely to undergo an ultrasound, Mr. Jha said, and researchers found that these families are far more likely to abort a girl if the firstborn is a daughter.
“This is really a phenomenon of the educated and the wealthy that we are seeing in India,” said Mr. Jha, director of the Center for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto.
Census data has already confirmed that the problem has accelerated since 2001. The 2011 census found about 7.1 million fewer girls than boys under the age of 6, compared with a gap of roughly 6 million girls a decade earlier (emphasis added).
The steady decline in the ratio is surprising, and counterintuitive, in view of India's progress in recent decades in improving the levels of female literacy and increases in income per person....
the value of the analysis by Jha and colleagues is mainly independent confirmation of two important aspects of the sex ratio in India that have been reported previously with different data. The first is that sex imbalance at birth seems to be particularly concentrated in households with high education and wealth. This pattern suggests that dominance of the son-preference norm is unlikely to be offset, at least in the short term, by socioeconomic development. Second is that the overall problem of sex imbalance seems to arise throughout India, including in Kerala, which has often been characterised as a model state for social development and gender equality. The problem of sex imbalance seems to be a function of socioeconomic status, not geography.
As India gets richer, this problem will only get worse.
Now, this might be one of those "it's always darhest before the dawn" kind of trends, in which after a certain wealth threshhold, trends will shift back towards a more classical liberal direction. Maybe. I don't know, and anyone else who tells you that they know is bulls**tting you. Based on this study, however, the question of whether China and India will ever embrace liberal political and cultural norms is not going to go away anytime soon.
What do you think?
I think it's safe to say that the multilateral coalition implementing Operation Odyssey Dawn have had their share of public spats. This means a lot of hand-holding and negative punditry/negative press stories on the issue.
Of course, this raises the question of whether there's a better alternative or not. As sick as liberals might be of using force in the Middle East, I suspect they're even sicker of doing this unilaterally. Some conservatives seem to get the notion that multilateralism has its advantages -- particularly with generating American support for these kind of missions.
Clearly, there are tradeoffs here. I could weight them very carefully using my own limited understanding, or I could be smart and ask an expert. So, I posed the question to Sarah Kreps, Assistant Professor of Government at Cornell University and the author of the now-extremely-trenchant Coalitions of Convenience: United States Military Interventions after the Cold War. Her thoughts on the matter:
Prime Minister Churchill once opined that "there is only one thing worse than fighting with allies-and that is having to fight without them." These words were remarkable coming from a leader who had spent the better part of two years trying to encourage the American military to enter WWII. Given coalition operations in Libya, leaders couldn't be blamed for drawing the same conclusion as Churchill.
On the one hand, coalition operations in Libya are a recipe for disaster. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was crafted in intentionally vague terms in order to minimize opposition. The unintended consequence is that no one can figure out who's in charge, what the goals are, and when they'll leave. Undertaking this as a NATO operation would have been obvious since at least it has a clear decision making apparatus, but member state Turkey opposes the use of military force in Libya. As the Turkish prime minister said in televised speech, "Turkey will never be on the side of pointing the gun at the Libyan people." The alternative to NATO is what Prime Minister David Cameron referred to as an ad hoc "coalition of the willing"-remember Iraq?-with a mishmash of largely British, American, French, Danish military assets. But which of these is taking the lead and how these militaries are being coordinated is a mystery. This violates rule #1 of military operations: unity of command.
On the other hand, the United States already has TWO ongoing wars. Undertaking a third was of questionable merit in my book, but once it decided to use force, it made sense to be able to share the burden with others. President Obama justified the multilateral operation saying that "it means the United States is not bearing all the cost." At the least, going multilaterally will have defrayed the cost for an overstretched American military.
Whether multilateralism makes it more legitimate and exonerates the US from accusations of invading another Muslim country is another story. The initial signs are not encouraging. US marines have already been accused of firing on civilians when they went in to rescue the pilots of the fallen F-15E. Ultimately, events on the ground are likely to determine the legitimacy, not UN and Arab League approval. If the operation is successful, then multilateralism will have seemed like the legitimate, effective choice.
Of course, the first step is to figure out what success looks like. That ambiguity, however, is no fault of the coalition. The US has had some difficulty figuring that out in its "own" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Making that decision by committee will be considerably more difficult. But far preferable, as Churchill might have said, than having to bear the burden of fighting alone.
What do you think?
Thanks to alert historian friend S.L., it's worth noting that 220 years ago today, Moses Seixas, representing the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, wrote on behalf of "the children of the stock of Abraham" to President George Washington, on the occasion of his visit to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In his reply, Washington wrote the following:
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
If you click through the link, you'll see that Washington echoed Seixas' language, reaffirming
that Jews have run the country since day one its eloquence.
It's a good thing this kind of sentiment is now accepted wisdom in America, otherwise we might be
having galactically stupid arguments about the subject mired in draining, no-win conversations about religion.
cliff1066™ / Flickr.com
If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.
“Everybody always breaks it down between idealist and realist,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “If you had to put him in a category, he’s probably more realpolitik, like Bush 41,” the first President George Bush, Mr. Emanuel said.
He added, “He knows that personal relationships are important, but you’ve got to be cold-blooded about the self-interests of your nation.”
Stephen G. Rademaker, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, said: “For a president coming out of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, it’s remarkable how much he has pursued a great power strategy. It’s almost Kissingerian. It’s not very sentimental. Issues of human rights do not loom large in his foreign policy, and issues of democracy promotion, he’s been almost dismissive of.”
Well, a couple of thoughts. First, the idea of George H.W. Bush disdaining personal relationships is somewhat absurd. Bush 41 was notorious for his thank you cards and supersized Rolodex. On the margins, personal rapport among leaders does count for something, so this certainly helped Bush advance the national inrest.
So that makes Bush different from Obama, right? Well, let's click over to Scott Wilson's story in today's Washington Post now, shall we?
[I]n convening his first international summit -- the largest on a single issue in Washington history -- [Obama] focused more squarely on his relationship with world leaders. He slapped backs, kissed cheeks and met one on one with more than a dozen heads of state, leavening his appeal to shared security interests with a more personal diplomacy.
The approach marked a shift for Obama as he seeks to translate his popularity abroad into concrete support from fellow leaders for his foreign policy agenda, most urgently now in his push for stricter sanctions against Iran.
"He's in charge, he's chairing the meetings, and this is where his personality plays a big part," said Pierre Vimont, the French ambassador to the United States, who compared Obama's role during the summit to the way he led the bipartisan health-care meeting at Blair House in February....
Obama's attention to his guests began on the summit's opening night, when he spent more than an hour and a half greeting the 46 foreign leaders and three heads of international organizations he invited.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom administration officials describe as high on the list of the European leaders Obama most admires, received a kiss on each cheek at the final bilateral meeting.
Obama bowed formally to Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. He used both hands to shake the hands of some leaders and joked with others.
David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, said such personal diplomacy is "quite important" at summits, especially one about an issue he said is "often seen as administrative."
"When Obama stands up and says 'My friend Dmitry Medvedev' or 'My friend Nicolas Sarkozy,' he's right, and that's important," Miliband said. "He's made a number of friends of world leaders, and I think that's a testament to why so many arrived to take part in this."
Wow, so it really is George H.W. Obama, right?
As someone who thinks George H.W. Bush has been vastly underrated, I'd love to say yes. But this gets confusing to your humble blogger. After all, some have argued that Obama is really no different than George W. Bush. I'm also pretty sure I've read somewhere, way back in early 2010, that Obama is really Jimmy Carter. So I'm not sure this comparison can or should stick.
Moving from personalities to ideas, the realist/idealist divide, you still wind up with a muddle. Bob Kagan is right to say that Obama's desire for a nuclear-free world is about as idealistic as one can get. Similarly, Obama's affirmation of multilateralism doesn't seem terribly realist either. On the other hand, his policies towards great power rivals like Russia and China, and dependent allies like Israel and Afghanistan, seem pretty damn realist. Much like his Nobel Peace Prize address, the Obama administration's latest foray into the less shallow waters of international relations theory offers a sliver of support to all major IR approaches.
Which box you put him in, I suspect, depends on which policy dimension you think matters most. Human rights advocates will use the r-word; fans of nuclear deterrence will use the i-word. As someone concerned with the management of great power politics, I'd be comfortable calling Obama an realist, but I'm biased -- I speculated that this was the approach the post-Bush president would be forced to pursue.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
The Financial Times' Edward Luce talks today about the ways in which U.S. perceptions of China have changed:
[N]o amount of dexterity can disguise the fact that Mr Obama’s visit to China crystallises a big shift in the global centre of gravity over the past few years. Just a decade ago Bill Clinton persuaded Capitol Hill that China’s membership of the World Trade Organisation would strengthen the forces of democracy within China.
Today, almost nobody in Washington even tries to make that case. Subsequent developments in China – and elsewhere – make it hard to sustain the argument that economic liberalisation leads necessarily to political liberty.
I'm not saying Luce doesn't have a point. China's been opening to the world for two decades now and Beijing's Freedom House score on accountability and public voice hasn't really budged (and stories like these don't help). So anyone who thinks that economic liberalization will lead to political liberalization in the short-term is fooling themselves.
That said, this isn't a short-term game that's being played. Freedom House also acknowledges that, "Even though political institutions in China have not undergone major change, the degree to which Chinese can manage their own lives has increased substantially in the reform era." Furthermore, as someone watching their foreign economic policy, I think it's safe to say that the current Chinese leadership is far more sensitive to domestic political pressures than was the case a decade ago (whether the Chinese public actually wants what Kantian liberals think they want is another matter entirely).
China might be one of the toughest tests imaginable on the relationship between economic and political liberalization. The country has a strong civilizational identity, but the leadership is acutely aware of the rebellious tendencies of some of its ethnic minorities. The population is so huge that even after decades of double-digit economic growth, a lot of Chinese citizens are dirt poor. It will likely take another decade for China's GDP per capita figure to rise to the level when most political science models would predict some push towards democratization.
I certainly don't think U.S. policymakers can sit around and wait for China to democratize as the answer to policy problems in the Pacific Rim. But neither am I convinced that China's domestic polity has reached its final steady state.
The following is not rocket science, but rather International Relations 101. Still, I hadn't seen it anywhere else, so here goes:
In both countries, conservative elements of the established regime conducted what was, essentially, a coup d'etat. In both cases, the coup-plotters used both legal and extralegal means to cement their hold on power. These actions have triggered mass demonstrations in the streets of Tehran and Tegucigalpa. Both governments are rather paranoid about external influence on their regime. And, in some domestic politics version of the security dilemma (I hereby label this the "sovereignty dilemma"), that paranoia about external meddling is merely fuelling greater international attention to their domestic affairs of state.
Now, what are the differences? They boil down to a few important distinctions:
What does this mean? It means that realist and liberal logics will work together in Honduras and against each other in Iran. The Organization of American States could never reverse a regime change in, say, Brazil -- but multilateral coordination will have an effect on Honduras. Indeed, the fact that Honduras is relatively small is what makes it easy for the OAS to muster some consnsus on the issue. Furthermore, in contrast to larger countries, the effect of multilateral sanctions on Honduras would be pretty significant.
In Iran, on the other hand, conflicting strategic interests prevent any kind of great power concert that could push for domestic change. It's also far from clear whether anything short of a gasoline embargo would really have an appreciable impact on the regime in Tehran.
So, holding everything else constant, the odds are that the coup in Honduras are more likely to be reversed than the coup in Iran.
Bear in mind, however, that life never holds everything else constant.
For a lot of very boring reasons having to do with “ethics,” political scientists are not allowed to conduct real experiments in world politics. We can’t tell a head of state, “say, would you mind invading this neighboring country to see if a balancing coalition forms against you?” Our lot in life is hard this way. The best that international-relations scholars can hope for is a “natural experiment.” This is when events change the value of a particularly important variable, and we can then closely observe the effects of that change on world politics. We’re about to experience a natural experiment on the causes of war, and the results may or may not be pretty.Go check it out.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.