Let's be clear at the outset of this post that its content is almost completely driven by envy. Total, abject, rage-inducing envy.
Now, with that in mind, I see that KKR is creating a fancy-pants new institute. And guess who's gonna head it?
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. today announced the appointment of retired four-star General and former Director of the CIA David Petraeus as Chairman of the newly created KKR Global Institute.
Henry Kravis, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of KKR, stated: "I have long known and respected General Petraeus and, on behalf of everyone at KKR, I welcome him to the firm. As the world changes and we expand how and where we invest, we are always looking to sharpen the ‘KKR edge.' With the addition of General Petraeus, we are building on the work we have done to understand the investment implications of public policy, macro-economic, regulatory and technology trends globally. We are pleased to bring all of this expertise together under one umbrella, the KKR Global Institute, to deliver the best of KKR's insights for our investors."
Over the past several years, macro-economic and geopolitical considerations, including the heightened role of central banks following the financial crisis, new regulation and major changes in public policy, have led to KKR's increased engagement on these areas and on environmental, social and governance issues. At the same time, KKR is a global firm investing in new and emerging markets that have new risks and opportunities, The KKR Global Institute will be the nexus of KKR's focus on the investment implications of these issues. It will also further build on the firm's efforts to help KKR's portfolio companies expand globally, and it will periodically serve as an outlet for publishing the firm's thought leadership products, including views from portfolio managers and industry experts....
General Petraeus observed. "I am very pleased to join such a great team. I have watched KKR evolve as it adapted to the post-financial crisis world and became a go-to partner for companies worldwide. I look forward to supporting the investment teams in their pursuit of the best opportunities for clients and also being a part of a new initiative to provide additional insights to KKR's clients and companies."....
General Petraeus holds a PhD in international relations from Princeton University and has taught economics and international relations at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
So this, in addition to his CUNY post, suggests that Petraeus has successfully completed his soft landing (though this and his CUNY position are gonna lead to some interesting conversations on campus). Which, in the abstract, he pretty much deserves. He served his country in a variety of not-very-easy positions for a long period of time. Sure, there's accusations of self-puffery, but that's par for the course in Washington. No, Petraeus totally deserves to be the head of some Bigthink Institute devoted to assessing geopolitical threats in the world and the best way to respond to them.
[Um … did you actually read the press release? --ed.] Well, not carefully, but … but … wait, this institute is about global political economy??!! What??!!
No, that's OK; I'm still happy for Petraeus. Really. It doesn't matter that I've devoted my entire career to studying these issues; what matters is that General Petraeus once taught economics at West Point and has a lot of leadership experience, and that translates into cognate fields like "the heightened role of central banks following the financial crisis, new regulation and major changes in public policy" and SERIOUSLY, WHO THE F**K DO I HAVE TO DRONE-STRIKE TO GET A CUSHY CORPORATE THINK-TANK POST??!!
Sorry, I just needed to vent for a second about the unidirectional nature of security folk spreading into other disciplines. But it's not all bad. After all, I still get to rail at members of Congress in an unconstrained manner! [Just not as effectively as the military! --ed. If you excuse me, I'm going to spend the rest of the day in the fetal position.]
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) just released their 2012 report on trends in world military expenditures. The report -- hell, just the press release -- should please a lot of people in the foreign policy community, albeit for different reasons.
For those decrying the global arms race, the topline figure should be cause for cheer:
World military expenditure totalled $1.75 trillion in 2012, a fall of 0.5 per cent in real terms since 2011, according to figures released today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Hooray! Fewer arms, more hugs, or something like that!!
For neoconservatives, however, the reasons behind that drop in aggregate defense spending will vindicate their worries. The press release confirms the decline in U.S. hegemony in defense spending:
In 2012 the USA’s share of world military spending went below 40 per cent for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. A declining trend that began in 2011 accelerated in 2012, with a drop in US military spending of 6 per cent in real terms to $682 billion....
US military spending in 2012 was also projected to be $15 billion lower than previously planned as a result of cuts to the Department of Defense linked to the 2011 Budget Control Act. The bulk of cuts under this legislation will begin in 2013.
So, with the decline in U.S. military expenditures, we're in real danger of being overtaken by the Chinese, right? Well ... there's enough grist in the report for neoconservative skeptics as well.
The fact sheet puts this decline U.S. defense spending in the proper perspective. The United States still spends four times as much on defense as the next-biggest spender (China). Furthermore, "US spending was still more than the combined spending of the next 10 countries (p. 4)."
Will China's defense spending eventually match the United States? Assuming China grows at a healthy clip -- hardly a guarantee -- sure. But as the Economist noted a few weeks ago, tweaking those assumptions just a tad leads to some very different predictions about when defense parity will occur:
What's more intriguing is the effect of the Great Recession on defense spending:
Even in those parts of the world where spending has increased, the effects of the economic crisis can still be seen: slowing economic growth in emerging regions has led to slower rates of growth in military spending. Only the Middle East and North Africa increased their rate of military spending between 2003–2009 and 2009–2012.
The average annual rate of military spending increase in Asia, for instance, has halved from 7.0 per cent per year in 2003–2009, to 3.4 per cent per year in 2009–2012. The slow-down was most dramatic in Central and South Asia, where military spending was growing by an average of 8 per cent per year in 2003–2009, but by only 0.7 per cent a year since 2009, and actually fell in 2012, by 1.6 per cent.
Here's the chart:
That chart massively undersells the decline in defense spending, because it measures absolute levels of military spending and not spending as a percentage of global output. If you use that metric, then defense spending's share of the global economy has fallen by about half since the end of the Cold War.
It's almost as if the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession didn't trigger the arms races and general increase in political conflict that some expected would happen. It's almost as if the current threats to national security aren't as serious as they were back in the day.
Your humble blogger has been busy at the U.S. Army War College's annual conference on The Future of American Landpower ... at which he's heard a lot about cyberattacks. So at the risk of violating one of my own maxims, I want to write one post about this whole cyber business. Because the more I apply my monkey brain to this, the more dubious I get about how it's being talked about, and I want to try to work my way through this.
First, if we're living in a world where the director of national intelligence thinks it's the number-one threat out there ... well, let's face it, then it's not a very scary world, is it? I mean, if industrial espionage has replaced terrorism as the biggest national security threat facing the United States ... meh. I don't want there to be industrial espionage, but let's face it, this ain't the kind of Cold War-level threat that I hear bandied about so frequently.
But, to be fair, I think concerns about "cyber" aren't just about the industrial stuff -- it's attacks on critical infrastructure and so forth. Except now we need to step back and ask under what circumstances such attacks would occur. There are terrorists of course -- which means that this is a old threat in a new domain. There are state actors -- which means that this is an even older threat in a new domain. Terrorists will most likely attempt such attacks when the opportunity arises. State actors presumably would not attempt such actions on a full-bore scale unless there were actual military hostilities. Cases like Stuxnet fall in between ... into espionage and covert action.
So, can international norms about cyberattacks be negotiated? I know NATO is trying something like this with the Tallinn Manual, and I know the United States is insisting that the laws of war apply to cyberdomains. I suspect that this has a chance of working in regulating real world interstate military conflicts, because, with any shadow of the future, most states are prepared to obey most regimes most of the time.
But let's face it -- most of the concerns about cyber aren't about what happens if a war breaks out. The concerns are about regulating such attacks during peacetime, which means this is about regulating intelligence-gathering, espionage, and covert actions. Now, let me just list below the number of international regimes that establish the rules, norms and procedures for regulating these kind of activities:
Nada. Zip. Nothing. Or, as one journal article more delicately put it, "espionage is curiously ill-defined under international law."
That's because espionage can't really be regulated. For any agreement to function, violators have to be detected and punishment has to be enforced. In the world of espionage, however, revealing your ability to detect is in and of itself an intelligence reveal that states are deeply reluctant to do.
So I don't think negotiations will work, and I sure as hell don't think smart sanctions will work either. Most of what concerns us about cyber falls under the espionage and covert action category, and that's never been regulated at the global level.
What am I missing? Seriously, what -- because what I just blogged is highly subject to change.
This television season has been a mixed blessing for those of us who like to study how humans behave under anarchy. On the one hand, in addition to Season Three of The Walking Dead about to start, two new shows have explored that theme at some length. The first to premier was Revolution. On the other hand, Revolution really isn't that good.
What about the other new show? Here's the extended trailer for Last Resort:
So, you get the premise: the nuclear sub USS Colorado gets an order to fire their nuclear weapons at Pakistan. While the codes check out, the order seems just a bit wonky cause it goes through a secondary alert network. After the captain and executive officer question the order to their superiors, all hell breaks loose.
My take? SPOILERS AHEAD.
Cards on the table: I definitely liked this show more than Revolution, although that's an admittedly low bar. This has a lot to do with the acting. Andre Braugher knows how to project authority, Robert Patrick is perfect as the grizzled and misogynistic chief of the boat, and I'm surprised to report that Scott Speedman is really compelling as the XO. Having watched the pilot and second episode, the tensions within the crew of the Colorado play out nicely. The mystery behind the launch also seems quite interesting. And the pilot does explain why, after a failed first attempt, the U.S. navy doesn't try to take out the Colorado again -- welcome to network television, MAD!!
So there's some potential here -- but there are also some serious, serious problems with the show as it's played out so far. In ascending order of importance:
1) in the pilot, Captain Chaplin relates to his XO an anecdote about Reagan needing to seem just a bit crazy to convince the Russians he could launch a nuke, while Brezhnev had already done that by invading Afghanistan. This ia a good setup for Chaplin's own need to seem just a bit crazy. The problem is that, Steve Saideman points out, it was Nixon and not Reagan who believed this logic.
2) I've met some submariners, and, well, let's just say that they're a different breed from the rest of the U.S. Navy. Any individual willing to be in a small hermetically sealed tube for up to six months has to have a particular mindset, and Last Resort doesn't hint at that. At a minimum, there would have been a few very religiously devout sailors on the Colorado, but that's not talked about at all. This is a shame, because the presence of Navy SEALS on the boat suggests the opportunities for some culture clashes that haven't panned out.
3) The Washington, DC scenes are not terribly convincing, particularly the super-hot defense contractor Kylie Sinclair, played by Autumn Reeser. Now let's be very clear here: I have no prejudice whatsoever against super-hot defense contractors. I do, however, have a problem with the notion that supposedly whip-smart Kylie is going to spill all the beans about her super-secret system that's on board the Colorado to the guy she's about to sleep with.
4) Oh, and about that system that Kylie set up -- essentially, it's a device that renders the Colorado invisible to detection. Not to put to fine a point on it, but this would not be a system that would make deterrence that stable. In fact, if memory serves someone made a movie based on this very premise.
5) Really, though, 1-4 are small matters compared to the elephant in the room with respect to Last Resort. The plot gets moving when the USS Colorado is ordered to fire its missiles at Pakistan. Later in the pilot, we discover that the USS Illinois did obey orders and fire two missiles into Pakistan, "killing millions" as one character later mentions.
After those missiles are fired, 98% of what we see is how Washington and the crew of the Colorado cope with the Colorado's refusal to obey orders. Which is pretty important... but maybe, just maybe, not as important as the U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS THAT WERE USED AGAINST PAKISTAN!!!!
Seriously, there are one or two mentions of how things in the world are "complicated" because of this, and that's it. Nothing on Pakistani retaliation, India's reaction, China's reaction, and so forth. In the Washington scenes, all anyone seems to care about is the Colorado, which is pretty funny, since I'd think the first use of nuclear weapons since 1945 might raise a few hackles.
Now you might think that since this is a show about the crew of a renegade sub, that's fine -- except it isn't. The plot in episode two hinges on Russian Spetsnaz forces trying to seize the boat. At one point the U.S. Secretary of Defense gets pretty indignant at a Russian official for trying to do this. In the show, the Russian official just looked sheepish. If this had played out in the real world, the Russian would have said the following:
"I'm sorry, what was that? You, the United States military, initiated the use of nuclear weapons in South Asia, killing millions of people, right? And now you have a rogue sub firing missiles close to Washington. You're asking what the hell Russia is doing? With all due respect, f**k off, Mr. Secretary."
I know I'm not going to watch Revolution again. I'm on the fence with Last Resort... but this whole nuking Pakistan thing going unmentioned might drive me away.
As the fallout from Dominique Strauss-Kahn and The Chambermaid's Tale continues,
the guy from the Dos Equis commercials French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy is taking quite a beating inside the United States. Lévy -- or BHL for those in the know -- is a longtime friend of Strauss-Kahn -- or DSK for, well, you get the idea. After DSK's arrest, BHL penned the following in the Daily Beast:
I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.
I do not know—no one knows, because there have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question—if Dominique Strauss-Kahn was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, at the time, as was stated, he was having lunch with his daughter [we actually know that, given the timeline, DSK's lunch with his daughter is not an alibi, as even his defenders acknowlege --DWD].
I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet....
And what I know even more is that the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.
This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other....
I hold it against all those who complacently accept the account of this other young woman, this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television.
I do not know the extent to which BHL fact-checked his column -- for example, the French woman he accuses of being opportunistic now actually went public in 2007 only to have herself censored on French television.
I do not know the extent to which BHL is aware that DSK's other sexual indiscretions appear to have a greater element of coercion than had been previously realized.
I do not know why BHL's understanding of "cleaning brigades" is somewhat at odds with the reality of how American hotels actually function.
So, this raises an exceptionally uncomfortable question for some foreign policy commentators. BHL might look like a horse's ass right now, but six or seven weeks ago, he was playing a very different role. According to
BHL himself multiple press reports, Bernard-Henri Lévy was the interlocutor between Libya's rebels and the rest of the world. He therefore played a crucial role in getting French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- and therefore, the West more generally -- to intervene in Libya. This caused some consternation at the time. It would obviously set off even louder alarm bells now.
Given this role, Ben Smith tweets a very valid question: "So if the order of DSK-gate and Libya are reversed... do we go into Libya?"
This touches on some very interesting questions about temporality, causation, correlation and counterfactuals. What are the necessary or sufficient conditions for a policy outcome to occur? Do events have to happen in a particular sequence to reach a particular outcome? Was BHL either a necessary or sufficient condiition for the UN/NATO action in Libya?
My answer would be that Bernard-Henri Lévy's intellectual reputation was neither necessary nor sufficient for Operation Odyssey Dawn to take place. Consider the following:
1) French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been more circumspect than BHL in commenting on DSK, reflecting the general muteness of the French political class on the topic. It seems unlikely that BHL's ardent advocacy would have caused Sarkozy to listen to him any less on Libya.
2) One of the key aspects of the Libya decision was the compressed time frame in which it had to be made. Qaddafi's forces seemed on the verge of retaking the country within a week. Debating whether BHL was an honest broker or not seemed pretty peripheral to the real-time changes on the ground in Libya. It's worth remembering that the Arab League and the UN Security Council acted very quickly by International Organization Standard Time, and I certainly don't think BHL had much of a role to play. On the scale of things, one would have expected the "flickers" of Al Qaeda presence among the Libyan rebels to have acted as a bigger brake, and yet that fact did not derail the policy either.
3) Without in any way diminishing the allegatioons and official charges against DSK, there is a difference between the (mostly) venal sins of BHL and the French political class, and the (mostly) mortal sins of Qaddafi and his family If the Libya decision was happening right now, my hunch is that it would drown out much of the Franco-American contretemps over
American puritanism French misogyny one person's failings.
What do you think?
Compared to the exciting developments in the Middle East, the 2011 Oscars telecast had all the excitement of watching wallpaper paste harden. To be fair, however, even judged in a vacuum, these Oscars were galactically boring -- which is saying something given Melissa Leo's tres bleu acceptance speech. The patter was boring, the gowns were boring, and Celine Dion's
braying singing ruined the memorial montage. I got so bored during the actual telecast that I had to make up a scenario whereby former Oscar hosts started massive protests against the current Oscar regime to maintain any interest in the proceedings.
[So, why are you blogging about it?--ed.] To demonstrate my ability to wring world politics insights from even the most mundane of sources, of course!! And they are:
1) Last year I noted that films leaning towards security studies trounced the more global political economy-friendly films. Obviously, The King's Speech (which is about leadership and great power politics) beating out The Social Network (which is about intellectual property rights and network externalities) for Best Picture is a continuation of that theme. Still, the overall results were more mixed. The Social Network did pick up a few Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay, and in the Best Documentary category, Inside Job upset Restrepo -- which meant a real-live-honest-to-goodness political scientist now owns an Academy Award. NOTE: This doesn't mean all political scientists are happy about this.
2) I've been a longtime supporter of drug legalization as a way to eliminate multiple foreign policy headaches -- but based on the behavior of many Oscar presenters and winners, I'm now wondering if there should be drug testing before the Academy Awards.
3) Here's a thought -- if the Brits keep giving the best acceptance speeches, then maybe the Academy should just outsource the awards hosting duties to them as well? I mean, after that show, suddenly all the carping about Ricky Gervais seems churlish. I could see Russell Brand and Helen Mirren doing at least a passable job at it.
4) As for the Best Picture Winner, I myself would have preferred The Social Network -- but I enjoyed The King's Speech decently enough despite the massive historical revisionism in the film. It's not like The Social Network was a straight re-creation of history either. If the controversy about historical accuracy prompts a deeper discussion about the period under question, so be it. And let me stress that this position has nothing to do with the fact that the Official Blog Wife feels about Colin Firth the same way I do about Salma Hayek.
Did I miss anything?
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One of my guilty pleasures is Ana Marie Cox's Twitter feed, and based on what I'm reading there, there's apparently some hearings going on down in Washington about repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy with respect to homosexuals serving in the military. The House has already voted to repeal; it's up to the Senate now. The Defense Department report seems pretty through and clear that, in the end, it's a repeal that should take place as soon as possible.
Senator John McCain, who earlier in the decade voiced cautious support for the repeal of DADT, is now
digging deeper into his bunker expressing serious reservations about any change in the policy. He wants the soldiers polled directly (though that's kinda what the DoD report already did) and wants their opinions to dictate the policy change (which kinda contradicts the 200+ year traditions of civilian control of the military and, you know, the chain of command).
In doing so, McCain seems to be undercutting his past statements on how and if/when to repeal DADT, as Jon Stewart demonstrates to devastating effect in the clip above. This has prompted much pop psychoanalysis about what's exactly driving John McCain's truculence.
My position, based on careful consideration of the matter, is as follows:
1) The perceptual bias in the testimony to date is focusing on the risks and costs of changing the status quo. Will unit cohesion be compromised? Will the change undermine national security during wartime? This partially misses the point: the status quo is undermining national security far more than any change. The rigorous enforcement of DADT is preventing competent and patriotic soldiers from serving their country, particularly in high-demand positions like, say, Arabic translators. It's fine to say that repealing DADT might have some costs -- but those costs have to be weighed against the costs of continuing as is. And from what I read, those costs are serious to the country and debilitating to the affected soldiers.
2) I therefore really and truly don't give a s**t why John McCain's position has shifted. I just want to know why the ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services committee is throwing national security, civilian control of the military, and the hierarchical chain of command under the f***ing bus. John McCain is weakening the institution he claims to love the most. I don't care why he's doing it -- I just care that he's doing it.
That is all.
Stephen Colbert's Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's attempt to rally fear in the hearts of Americans through its foiled toner cartridge gambit continues to reverberate in homeland security circles. Clearly, there are still a few bugs in the system. That said, here are my quick takeaways:
1) Al Qaeda failed… again. Seriously, if al Qaeda is ostensibly the New York Yankees of terrorism, the Steinbrenners would have fired the GM and coach years ago.
2) As this New York Times round-up suggests, al Qaeda has had to adopt new tactics because its preferred tactics have been thwarted:
[It was] a rare attack aimed at the air cargo system -- one of the foundations of the global economy -- rather than the passenger system, which has received the most attention from governments working to avoid a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Times story goes on to bemoan the failure to ratchet up security in the cargo system, which is a fair point. An implicit conclusion to draw from this switch in tactics, however, is that al Qaeda-affiliated groups are being frustrated on the passenger front.
3) Will Juan Williams now be fearful every time he sees a toner cartridge, even though most toner cartridges are not evil?
4) A common mantra about combating terrorism is that homeland security officials have to aim for a 1.000 batting average, while terrorists just need to get lucky once. I wonder if this is really true, however. Each time a new type of attack is thwarted, government officials learn a great deal about new tactics and methods, and a treasure trove of intelligence can be quickly generated. Failed attacks are likely to discourage some al Qaeda sympathizers, leading to more informants.
No, al Qaeda doesn't need a perfect track record, but failure after failure does carry strategic and operational costs.
5) The Saudi counterintelligence effort is getting an awful lot of good press.
Am I missing anything?
Mark Bowden has a long profile of CENTCOM commander David Petraeus in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. There's a lot of interesting material in there, and I'm sure Tom Ricks will have many interesting things to say about it. For your humble blogger, this part stood out:
Petraeus went off to Baghdad in early February of 2007 with a mandate from the president to put counter-insurgency into practice. The surge, then, was not just an infusion of new troops. It was an infusion of new ideas. He took with him some of the scholars, military and civilian, who had helped him write the counter-insurgency manual. The assignment was a stark illustration of the difference between academia and the military. In academia you publish and subject your work to criticism and comment, and sometimes your ideas are shot down. It can be a humbling experience. In the military, you publish, and then you arm yourself for battle. If your ideas are wrong, you don’t just suffer criticism. People die (emphasis added).
[Hold on a sec... I need to write this down....important stuff.....OK, I'm good!!--ed.]
Not to quibble with Bowden too much, but the difference might have more to do with time than impact. To repeat a famous observation from John Maynard Keynes:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
Perhaps the difference is that the soldier has to witness firsthand the implementation of his or her ideas. The academic might very well be dead already by the time his or her ideas are in vogue.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Shorter Exum: "the posts on this blog are meant to be light and irreverent.... I am sorry that folks got their proverbial panties in a twist about a post that was meant to be funny." He then outsourced a more substantive response to Scott Wedman, who said eminently reasonable things.
According to Spencer Ackerman, Exum also pwned me.
Some are dissatisfied with this response. As for me... meh. If Exum's original post really was intended as a humorous lark, then so be it. I apologize for misinterpreting and overreacting -- though I gotta say, the bulk of his recent posts aren't exactly overflowing with wit.
That said, this evening's festivities are a bit odd, in that there are so many mortal locks in the major categories. Christoph Waltz is gonna win for Best Supporting Actor, Mo'Nique is gonna win for Best Supporting Actor, Jeff Bridges is gonna win for Best Actor, and so forth.
For reasons that passeth all understanding, Salma Hayek did not appear in a Major Prestige Picture. This leaves the Best Actress category is a bit more muddled. Unfortunately, I fear that Sandra Bullock will win in a year when Gabourey Sidibe, Carey Mulligan and especially Meryl Streep gave better performances.
It's interesting that these are the three films being talked about, since they're all war pictures, even though they're operating in very different keys. Long-time readers know how I feel about Avatar, so I won't regurgitate it here. I finally saw The Hurt Locker last night. It's much better than Avatar -- there are nuances to the characters and everything -- its massive adrenaline rush began to wear off about two-thirds of the way into the picture (though the final 10 minutes are better than entire hours of Avatar). And as that rush worse off, so did the willing suspension of disbelief.
Then there's Charli Carpenter, who's rooting for the Basterds:
Tarantino has done what he always does best, though not always in the same way - something unexpected that makes us uncomfortable. Partly because so many of the uncomfortable conversations the film would have sparked are about one of the most important moral issues of our day: the limits of just war theory. And partly because Basterds does something most films don't do: make us think about film itself as it ties into power politics.
In what is likely a sign of advanced aging, the film I'll be pulling for is Up -- because the directors of this movie had the audacity and skill to put this effortlessly heartbreaking sequence into a children's movie. Oh, and because of Dug.
I'll live-tweet the show itself, with a wrap-up post sometime in the morrow.
Steve Walt alerts us to a curious post by CNAS' Andrew Exum -- a.k.a., Abu Muqawama -- intended to create a "manifesto... for those using quantitative analysis to study war."
Steve thinks these are "wise words indeed." I think... well, let's go through Exum's rules, shall we?
War is a human endeavor. I recognize that it is a phenomenon that does not conform to neat mathematical equations.
I will use quantitative analysis in conjunction with theory and qualitative analysis to describe what I see as phenomena in war and peace. I will be honest about the limits of both my theory and my analysis
Of course. Good job nailing the compulsories so far.
In war and peace, the variables are infinite, and not everything can be measured or assigned a numerical value
Um... the variables are infinite on just about every dimension of life. No operationalization, econometric equation or formal model is going to completely capture reality. I guarantee you, however, that no qualitiative analysis will perfectly capture reality either (I will further note that qualitative scholars often fool themselves into believing this is not the case, which gets them into all sorts of trouble -- but some quant jockeys commit this sin as well). This doesn't mean you give up on explanation -- it just means you acknowledge the limitations of your approach.
I will not use numbers to signify what are fundamentally qualitative assessments without acknowledging to my reader that I have done so in order to satisfy a departmental requirement, gain tenure, or get published in the APSR. Or because I have been in graduate school for so long that I have forgotten how to effectively write in prose.
Yeah, this is where Exum's manifesto departs from the land of common sense and enters the world of unadulterated horses**t. First, I've occasionally used this kind of data, and I sure as hell didn't do it to get tenure -- I did it because I thought it was a good way to test my explanation. Second, whether someone can write clear and crisp prose has nothing to do with whether they use quantitative methods or not. That Exum seems not to know this is the first sign that we're dealing with some very muddled thinking.
I recognize there are no mathematical equations in Vom Kriege and that it is nonetheless unlikely that my legacy will transcend that of Clausewitz.
Um... I could provide the undisputed, univerally-hailed-by-all explanation for why the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and my legacy wouldn't transcend Clausewitz. Or Thucydides. But that's a really high bar to set.
Just to turn things around, there are plenty of mathematical equations in Strategy of Conflict and it is nevertheless likely that Exum's -- or your -- legacy will never transcend that of Thomas Schelling.
I recognize that very few squad leaders in the 10th Mountain Division have ever taken a course in statistics yet probably know more about the conduct and realities of war than I do.
I think there is some truth to this statement. It is also a fair statement, however, that very few graduate students in security studies have ever served a day in uniform yet probably know more about the causes of war than those squad leaders do.
As Drew Conway points out, it takes a special kind of chutzpah for someone who admits that they don't "get" quantitative methods to write something like this.
In my opinion... the most important lesson that the social sciences have to offer to policy makers - be careful about selection bias. Policy debates in Washington DC are rife with selection effects, with advocates highlighting convenient cases for a particular policy argument and hiding inconvenient ones. I’m co-teaching a big MA intro course on IR theory and international affairs practice with a practitioner this semester. If I can get this one single point across to my students, so that they really understand it, I think I’ll have given them good value for money.
Quite true. Sophisticated qualitiative scholars are quite adept at coping with this issue. But there's a lot of hackwork that misses this point entirely.
Over at Duck of Minerva, Charli Carpenter has some interesting blog posts on recent trends in civilian casualties of interstate wars. These casualties are traditionally divided into two categories. The more prominent category is the intentional targeting of civilians by militaries -- what we now call "war crimes." The other category is the unintentional killing of civilians in the course of routine military operations -- what is often referred to as "collateral damage."
Carpenter is asking the question, "what percentage of total civilian deaths are 'collateral damage' and is this percentage trending up or down over time?" Her first, very preliminary cut at an answer -- remember, this is a blog post, not the American Political Science Review -- is rather surprising:
This analysis suggests that collateral damage rather than war crimes now constitute the majority of civilian deaths in international wars worldwide, and that the total number of collateral damage deaths is 20 times higher than at the turn of the last century.
The ratio of collateral damage victims to war crimes victims has dramatically increased since the end of the Cold War. According to Downes' dataset, between 1823 and 1900, unintentional deaths constituted 17% of all deaths in war. Since 1990, that number has risen to 59%....
In other words, the majority of civilian deaths since 1990s have not been war crimes but have been perfectly legal "accidental" killings. Of course this could partly be a result of a decrease in direct targeting of civilians over time, which would be a good thing.
But collateral damage is not only increasing as a percentage of all civilian deaths. The number of collateral damage victims is also increasing over time in absolute terms. Between 1823 and 1900, 84 civilians per year on average were the victims of collateral damage. Since 1990, the number is 1688 per year - a twenty-fold increase (emphases in original).
This finding, if it holds up, is surprising for two reasons. First, the number of interstate wars has been trending downward for the last thirty years -- so an increase in the absolute numbers of civilian collateral damage would not be expected. Second, this bump in collateral damage also took place during a revolution in precision-guided munitions -- which, in theory, was supposed to reduce the likelihood of collateral damage.
One could argue that the good news portion of this is that the intentional killing of civilians is trending downward. And I'd like the security studies readers to go over Carpenter's approach to see if it holds up.
The latest Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey of international relations scholars has been released (I've blogged about a prior TRIP survey here). The part that jumped out at me:
On the policy side, we see several important changes from previous surveys. In 2008, for instance, we see fewer than half as many scholars (23 percent of respondents in 2008 compared to 48 percent in 2006) describing terrorism as one of the three most significant current foreign policy challenges facing the United States. Most surprisingly, while 50 percent of U.S. scholars in 2006 said that terrorism was one of the most important foreign policy issues the United States would face over the subsequent decade, in 2008 only 1 percent of respondents agreed. American faculty members are becoming more sanguine about the war in Iraq, as well: in 2006 76 percent said that the Iraq conflict was one of the three most important issues facing the country, but in 2008 only 35 percent of U.S. respondents concurred. Concern over several other foreign policy issues is also declining markedly: when asked about the most important problems facing the country over the next ten years 18 percent fewer respondents chose WMD proliferation, 12 percent fewer said armed conflict in the Middle East, and 13 percent fewer indicated failed states. At the same time, 17 percent more respondents in 2008 than in 2006 believed that climate change will pose a serious challenge, 6 percent more worried about global poverty, and 4 percent more said that resource scarcity is one of the most significant foreign policy challenges.
Basically, my colleagues have mellowed a bit on the standard threats everyone has fretted about for the past eight years. Now they're more worried about threats emerging from the global political economy.
Which puts them in line with the Director of National Intelligence:
The new director of national intelligence told Congress on Thursday that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States.
The assessment underscored concern inside America’s intelligence agencies not only about the fallout from the economic crisis around the globe, but also about long-term harm to America’s reputation. The crisis that began in American markets has already “increased questioning of U.S. stewardship of the global economy,” the intelligence chief, Dennis C. Blair, said in prepared testimony.
Mr. Blair’s comments were particularly striking because they were delivered as part of a threat assessment to Congress that has customarily focused on issues like terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Mr. Blair singled out the economic downturn as “the primary near-term security concern” for the country, and he warned that if it continued to spread and deepen, it would contribute to unrest and imperil some governments.
“The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests,” he said.
It's great to get this kind of attention, but I fear that part of it is faddish. All it will take is one conventional interstate war or one spark across the Taiewan Straits, and the focus will shift back towards more conventional security threats.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.