The Warrior Scholar

This is a blog about current events - a way to provide a constructive outlet for some of the thoughts I have on the issues of the day. It's also a way to generate some discussion and to get my ideas out into the world. Enjoy!

Name:
Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

I'm a doctoral candidate in Virginia, with a love of history and politics. My dog is a great companion, and my family always keeps me in good spirits.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Employment in the United States

Reflecting back on the election years...

Interesting stats from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Total Employment in the US (current): 139,660,000, 5.5% unemployment
July 2000: 136,516,000, 4.0% unemployment
July 1996: 126,947,000, 5.4% unemployment
July 1992: 118,713,000, 7.5% unemployment

Interesting stats from the International Monetary Fund on the American economy (in current dollars)
2004 GDP: $11.7 trillion, 4.6% annual growth
2000 GDP: $9.8 trillion, 3.7% annual growth
1996 GDP: $7.5 trillion, 3.7% annual growth
1992 GDP: $6.3 trillion, 3.3% annual growth

No retreat, no surrender...unless you are France

Shortly after Paris celebrated its "self-liberation" in 1944 from the Nazis (with nary a mention of the British and American armies that stopped outside the city limits to let de Gaulle take the spotlight after the Germans withdrew) President Chiraq and the French electorate got a shock in the past few days with the kidknapping of two French journalists in Iraq. The hostage takers are reportedly outraged at a domestic French law forbidding religous headscarves from being worn in France, which is upsetting the Muslim minority in France. The reason for the shock is best explained in their own words, as reported by the BBC.

Le Figaro: "points out that the war in Iraq was "sought by the president of the United States, but condemned by the president of the French Republic". The paper expresses "outrage" at what it calls the act of "fanatics who claim to speak for an oppressed Islam, but who use the very methods of the oppressors". Given its position as the leading opponent to the US-led war on Iraq, the paper says, "France could have hoped to be spared this cruel ordeal". Ergo - we already surrendered - why are you attacking us now???

The Swiss Tribune de Geneve: "In addition and most importantly," it stresses, "France's attitude in the Iraq conflict should give it powerful leverage in Baghdad." They really should check their sources...the Iraqi people are extremely angry with the French for defending Saddam Hussein and keeping the tyrant in power throughout the 1990s, stealing billions through the highly corrupt UN "Oil-For-Food" program, and holding hostage the international community's attempts at rebuilding Iraq. The leverage the French have is with groups that support Saddam and his followers...the Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis that were repressed by Saddam will have no truck with them...

The Moscow Times has an interesting perspective: "The crisis over the French journalists stunned France, which won Russian and German support last year in its high-profile campaign against the U.S.-led war in Iraq and because of this considered itself safe from militant attack. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world's largest Islamist organization but officially banned in Egypt, said in a statement that it condemned the kidnappings. "The Muslim Brotherhood demands that the two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq be freed, especially as there is no proof of their involvement in any activity against law and order, but rather they were participating in exposing the occupation and its practices," the group said." So, this indicates that the French journalists were there working against the coalition by "exposing" it, and their erstwhile guides turned on them. No loyalty among thieves and pirates, I see...

So, what is to be done about this terrible event? The French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier is now in Egypt trying to affect the release of French hostages held by Iraqi insurgents in Iraq. I wonder why Chiraq hasn't called up President Bush or Prime Minister Allawi to see if American or Iraqi forces could go out and help out France? I'm sure the French troops in Iraq would be best for this mission...oh, right, there aren't any French troops in Iraq. Hmmm...if you don't will the means, it's hard to will the ends....

A couple of interesting lessons to be learned from this fracas. First, capitulation to terrorists simply shows weakness, and the demands will increase. Second, weak leaders encourage attacks. President Chiraq has about a 35% approval rating right now, his party was badly beaten in local elections this summer, unemployment in France has been around 10% and economic growth around 2% (equal to or less than the rate of inflation). Not looking good for "the Worm". Chiraq has a history of negociating with terrorists - questions still remain about some hostages that were taken in Algeria in 2003, probably due to a payoff and a diplomatic deal with the Islamicists not to pressure them. Third, if you campaign against the United States, then make it worth it because in international affairs, because memories can be long. Germany has been distancing from France lately, especially over the issue of bringing Turkey into the EU. Chiraq declared it was "inconvievable"...but Germany now supports the US position to bring Turkey in. If one decides to take on the "hyperpower" (a French criticism of the US under Clinton), then be prepared to stand alone.

I hope the journalists are freed...but if they die, then maybe Mssr. Chiraq will think about working with, and not against the United States in dealing with the Middle East. If not...then France can expect to get hit hard and often by Islamic extremists. It has already begun...




Monday, August 30, 2004

The War in Iraq wasn't ALL bad...

It's amazing what happens when you do a little research. I was going to the SIPRI website to look at their findings that the world is actually becoming a safer place. In the 2004 SIPRI Yearbook, it indicates that there were 19 major armed conflicts that were underway around the world in 2003, a significant drop from the 33 wars counted in 1991. Project Ploughshares uses a wider criteria, and indicates that the number of conlficts declined from 44 major conflicts in 1995 to 36 in 2003. Both agree that the number of battle casualties around the world have fallen to around 20,000 in 2003, down from the 40-100,000 per year in the 1990s and down from the post-World War II peak of 700,000 in 1951. So, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was speaking a bit out of turn when he said earlier this year that the world was a "more dangerous place" since (or because) President Bush took office.

So, imagine my surprise when I went to the SIPRI website and had a look at the Lessons of Iraq, given by the director of the organization, Alyson J.K. Bailes. Supposedly a non-partisan arms control organization, she did have some interesting views. She addresses some questions about the war in Iraq either being "all bad, uniquely bad, or the worst thing that happened to relations between the US and the rest of the world." Her attempt at a "completely fair assessment" was a barely veiled criticial piece of US foreign policy, with pretty much a pass on everyone else. The most critical point is the one that I think disturbs her (and others like her) is what she gets to in her first major point - it's about US power.

To wit: "The Iraq story proved in at least three ways that the USA today really does possess unique military and political power, and unique freedom to use it. First is the simple fact that the Americans could occupy a large and distant country so rapidly, with only limited help from others, without being able to use their usual bases in Saudi Arabia or routes through Turkey, and with such relatively low casualties. Second was the fact that no local country dared to resist or even to try to make serious mischief out of the situation. Third was the fact that the countries politically opposing the action, although including some of the US’s most powerful usual partners, did not apparently manage to change or even delay the US’s plans at all."

I congratulate Ms. Bailes for bringing out the most salient point of her entire speech so quickly. I think the issue on the east side of the Atlantic is the recognition that the USA truly is uniquely powerful - and there is not a thing that can be done about it. Ronald Steel wrote in Pax Americana that "the allies cannot ensure that American power will be used for causes they deem vital, neither prevent its use when they disapprove." When Steel wrote that in 1970, the US was constrained by both the Soviets in a bipolar world, and operationally in Vietnam - yet the fear still was there that the US could and would do what it would in the world. Now, there aren't really any constraints on the use of American power, and that can be profoundly disturbing to countries that can't do anything about it. This is the real issue - and American power continues to grow...

I take exception with her comment that the US has only built a "very small coalition" to support the operations in Iraq. Let's look at a couple "successes" of multilateralism:
Iraq (Desert Storm) 1991 - 34 countries, 600,000 troops with a UN mandate
Bosnia (UNPROFOR) 1992-1995 - 29 countries, 36000 troops with a UN mandate (no combat)
Bosnia (Deliberate Force) 1995 - 8 countries, no ground troops, (in NATO), no explicit UN mandate
Bosnia (Operation Joint Endeavor) 1995-1999 - 36 countries, 68000 troops with a UN mandate (no combat)
Kosovo (Allied Force) 1999 - 19 countries, no ground troops, no UN mandate
Iraq (OIF) 2003 - 34 countries, 250,000 troops enforcing existing UN mandates, but no explicit further authorization for combat. What is notable is that while the GCC countries did not place their troops under the "coalition" in Iraq, they did deploy 25,000 more troops to Kuwait to defend Kuwait (and de facto, the coalition COMMZ) for OIF. That would make it about 40 countries. Unilateral? I don't think so...

So, where's the smaller coalition? Well, if you subtract out France, then I guess there isn't a real coalition. Other intersting numbers....
- 4 of 8 of the G-8 countries in Iraq (US, UK, JPN, IT). The other four all had unemployment around 10% and growth rates at less than 2%. The fighting countries had unemployment around 5% and growth rates over 3% (other than Italy).
- 15 of 26 NATO countries are in Iraq
- 10 of 12 "major-NATO Allies" are in Iraq (exceptions: Israel and Argentina - Israel for obvious reasons, Argentina because their economy collapsed).

However, I found it even more interesting that in the "Responses to New Threats", she really doesn't give the US much credit in providing leadership in both military and non-military ways to address issues of WMD, terror, and the like. Virtually every point she brings up about multilateralism is actually underway because the US led, not because the "international community" took the lead. She did address that if the US switched from being a "forceful, unilateral power" to being one that was recalcitant and isolationist, then Europe would be in even more trouble! Again...desiring to control when and where US power is used...without necessarily agreeing that the US has a vote, too!

Her discussions about international institutions were useful from the perspective that IOs like the UN, NATO, and the EU all took a pounding because of the stress points over Iraq - and was remarkable because she did not say a single word about the amazing degree to which French obstructionism fractured all three organizations. For Iraq, President Bush went to the UN and pled America's case to the UN, and France made the decision that the UN would not support holding Iraq accountable. The US then went to NATO to gain support against Iraq, and again French obstructionism crippled that IO. When France tried to use the EU as a counterweight, not a counterpart to the US, the EU fractured - even more so because France and Germany unilaterally dispensed with the EU's Growth and Stability Pact. So, is it American unilateralism, or French obstructionism that is the real problem here?

Most telling, Ms. Bailes thought that removing Saddam was "not all bad" - implication, was mostly a bad decision. A ruthless dictator with a penchent for invading his neighbors and destabilizing the region - and he isn't a problem? Is it the weapons that are the danger, or the wielder of them? To Ms. Bailes, the wielder is not the issue - its the power. So, it comes down to American power - that is the real issue. Decrying the war over issues of law, morality, or the like are really just a smokescreen - the fact that the United States is truly the most powerful nation in the world is the "problem". So, the solution is...?



Perception and Misperception in World Politics

The Republican national convention is coming up, and it is interesting that the media is really being dishy about how they are planning on covering it. I was astonished this evening when on MSNBC, the woman that was the commentator stated "The networks aren't going to be covering many of the main speakers for the RNC in New York, such as Sen. McCain or Rudi Guiliani. This is really going to hurt the Republicans." Really? Now, why would the networks do such a dastardly thing such as this? Take a look at http://www.mediaresearch.org/, and they lay out quite clearly how current events are not being well represented by our press. When you only have a single pair of rose-colored sunglasses to view the world through, there is only one point of view.

Robert Jervis wrote an interesting book called "Perception and Misperception in World Politics" back in 1976, and in this work he indicated that when decision makers are trying to deal with the ambiguity in the world, they often use analogy as a "short-cut" to deal with issues, rather than actually using critical thinking. Much of the current Vietnam hype (otherwise known as PTSD for Reporters) falls into this category. Whenever I hear a Vietnam analogy being used to describe what is occurring in Iraq, it makes my skin crawl. Talk about an abuse of history! If we did in Vietnam what we did in Iraq, we would have stormed Hanoi, imprisoned Ho Chi Minh, destroyed the Vietnamese Army, unified the country, and facilitated the development of a representative government. In future postings, I'll expand on this line of thought quite a bit.

I was in Vietnam a couple of years ago, and I found that the Vietnamese had moved on much more than our press corps. About a third of Vietnam is under the age of 15, and the "American War" to most of them is as relevant as World War I is to the children in our schools today. We do not get to take a "time out" from history - it is continuous and it shapes our future as well as our present. Vietnam was a tragedy in nine parts - but it was also an event that occurred three decades ago. As Stephen Ambrose wrote in Rise to Globalism, Vietnam was the liberal's war - a terrible, painful, wrenching, and ultimately futile war that caused tremendous self doubt in the idea of American exceptionalism and the idea that American power could be used for good in the world. However, this tragedy does not mean that American power cannot be used for good - it does mean that American power must be used wisely. Much of the discussion today is about the use of American power - there are some people that feared Saddam and Osama more than war; others that feared war more than anything else. I appreciate that distinction - but there are times when force must be used. The chants of "Bush recklessly drove us to war" are inane, to put it mildly. Going to war in Iraq was a discussion that took 13 years to conclude - our sin was one of logrolling and vacillating, not one of reckless offensiveness.

I'm curious to see how the histories of the current conflict in Iraq will end up establishing when the current war "began". In this century, we've fought three major undeclared wars - the war with Germany in 1941 when President Roosevelt in essence took the country to war against the German navy in the north Atlantic, the slow escalation of fighting in Vietnam beginning with Eisenhower, embellished by Kennedy, and disastrously escalated by Johnson. Lastly, there was the war in Iraq. I would think that the war in 2003 can really be established as starting in 1998 with Operation Desert Fox. For those that are unaware, President Clinton from 17-20 December 1998 ordered strikes to deliver a "serious blow" to Saddam Hussein's capability to manufacture, store, maintain and deliver weapons of mass destruction and to prevent him from threatening or otherwise intimidating his neighbors. The reason we needed to conduct military strikes against Iraq was that the Iraqi's had thrown out the UN weapons inspectors that were there to confirm the terms of the cease fire agreement after the 1991 war. With no UN inspection system, the allies had no choice but to assume the worst from Saddam. The US and UK were the only countries to conduct the strikes - France backed out. Sandy Berger in his piece in Foreign Affairs in 2000 claimed that the Clinton Administration should not be criticized for losing French support for operations against Iraq, and that the United States as a "hyperpower" sometimes just needed to do what needed to be done. Interesting how things have changed now....I'm curious if the critics of President Bush also say "Clinton Lied" too!

So, since Desert Fox, a low level war raged in Iraq. Combining the totals of engagements of Operation Southern Watch (US/UK aircraft patrolling the no-fly/no-drive zones in southern Iraq) and Northern Watch (over the Kurdish areas), our pilots were getting shot at virtually every day, and we were returning the favor about every other day. Every aircraft carrier that deployed since 1998 has seen combat - so the Navy and Air Force have been at war for the past six years. It is a testament to the skill of our armed services that we didn't lose anyone in OSW or ONW. It is disenguous for the Democrats to say that they led a time of peace - it was more like they led in a time of bubbling wars that they just tried to keep a lid on, and in the end the lids blew off.

So, now that we have established that Saddam Hussein declared war on us and we just didn't bother paying attention to his cry of "havoc", we can move on to some other issues tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Warrior Scholar is open for business

Greetings all!

I've decided that after spending lots of time thinking about the events of the day, it is time to begin sharing some of my thoughts for others to see and comment upon. In this time of war and disinformation leading up to the national elections, I think that it is important to have an opportunity to be heard. The United States is at a very interesting time in its life - but then again, all times are interesting. We have serious choices to make about the future of our country, and I find it appalling that some of the electorate are not being well informed. So, welcome to my blog - I'll see you on the high ground!