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Monday, April 30, 2007

Foreign aid failure

The University of Louisville has twice given the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order to works outlining some of the potential problems with humanitarian assistance.
  • Janine Wedel won in 2001 for her work on corruption in the Eastern bloc recipient states, after the end of the cold war.
  • Fiona Terry won in 2006 for her work on the "paradox of humanitarian action." Sometimes, aid goes to perpetrators of humanitarian abuses, rather than victims.
Well, it appears as if the United States also makes for a poor recipient of humanitarian assistance. Sunday's Washington Post has the details as they related to Hurricane Katrina.

Note: The lessons offered by Wedel and Terry: take greater care in the selection and oversight processes. They weren't anti-aid in general.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Hypocrisy watch update: April 2007

President George W. Bush, at a press conference on Friday, April 28:
I want to thank the [Japanese] Prime Minister [Shinzo Abe] for being a strong advocate of sending a clear message to the North Korean leader that there's a better way forward than to defy the world.

On all issues, there is a --- whether it's this issue or any other issue, is that we will work with our partners to determine how long.
In fall 2002, that same man kept repeating lines like these:
So this is a chance for the United Nations to show some backbone and resolve, as we confront the true challenges of the 21st century. It's a chance for the United Nations to show its relevance, and that's why I gave the speech I gave. But make no mistake about it, if we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it.
And this, in March 2003:
I think the threat is real. And so do a lot of other people in my government. And since I believe the threat is real, and since my most important job is to protect the security of the American people, that's precisely what we'll do.

Our demands are that Saddam Hussein disarm. We hope he does. We have worked with the international community to convince him to disarm. If he doesn't disarm, we'll disarm him.
Maybe the President is learning?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Misery and pain

Singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams was in Louisville tonight and her show was terrific. She's a great lyricist, she sings with excellent conversational phrasing and her backing band is first-rate.

She opened solo with "Passionate Kisses" and closed with backing from warmup performer Carrie Rodriguez on "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings" (inspired, she says, by Paul Westerberg). Williams played lots of great tunes in between, though I kind of thought the extended version of "Joy" sounded eerily familiar.

I guess my only complaint is that the show included too much material from "World Without Tears," which I like least of the five Lucinda Williams CDs in our house. The title of this blog post comes from her cut on that CD: "People Talkin'." Williams is known for her depressing lyrics, so she joked about that a few times and pointed out that she is currently engaged and happy. She even played a new "up" song.

Don't fear fans, "there's plenty of misery," she says, "in the well."

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bolts from the Blue, 2007

The Hardy House League fantasy baseball draft ended last Saturday about 7 pm Pacific Time -- in Vegas. It didn't take long for my team to suffer its first catastrophe of the season -- my "closer" revealed an elbow injury after pitching horribly in Saturday's game.

I went into the auction with this roster:

C Gerald Laird (TEX) $6
1B Kevin Youkilis (BOS) $6
SS Jason Bartlett (MIN) $10
OF Alex Rios (TOR) $24
DH Travis Hafner (CLE) $31
P Zack Greinke (KC) $5

And my auction results:

C Kenji Johjima (SEA) $15
2B Josh Barfield (CLE) $22
3B Dallas McPherson (LAA) $1
CR Ben Broussard (SEA) $3
MI Alex Cintron (CHX) $1
OF Carl Crawford (TB) $42
OF David DeJesus (KC) $15
OF Melky Cabrera (NYY) $9
OF Eric Hinske (BOS) $1

P B.J. Ryan (TOR) $34
P Rich Harden (OAK) $24
P Jamie Shields (TB) $4
P Miguel Batista (SEA) $1
P Jason Davis (CLE) $1
P Jimmy Gobble (KC) $1
P Wil Ledezma (DET) $1
P Chris Reitsma (SEA) $1

I left $2 on the table, unfortunately. My last half dozen one dollar picks were uncontested because I was the last person buying players.

Reserve draft results:

1. OF Rob Mackowiak (CHX) $3
2. P Tom Mastny (CLE) $2
3. P Jeremy Accardo (TOR) $1

For the injured McPherson, I picked up IF Matt Kata (TEX). I also grabbed P Brandon League (TOR) because Blue Jay saves could be volatile this year after Ryan's injury.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


2007 Grawemeyer Award winner Roland Paris was in Louisville this past week. He spoke Tuesday night about his prize-winning book, appeared on public radio's "State of Affairs" Wednesday and talked to the local Committee on Foreign Relations Thursday.

This latter meeting was about Afghanistan, which was also the subject of a Paris op-ed piece back on October 25 in the Globe and Mail. Paris pointed out the successes -- and failures of that mission:
much has been achieved in the past five years. Presidential and parliamentary elections have been held, and some 1,000 schools, clinics and government buildings have been built. In real terms, the non-drug economy has grown at an impressive average of 15 per cent a year. Most Afghans do not want the Taliban back in power. And unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is not verging on civil war.

But recent trends are discouraging. A strengthened insurgency has made much of the country unsafe for civilian development personnel. Local warlords and drug traffickers are reportedly collaborating with the Taliban against the government. And ordinary Afghans are showing signs of mounting disaffection with their own government's inability to provide security and public services.

If these trends continue, the Afghan mission will fail.
A key problem is lack of international commitment:
This mission is the most under-resourced international stabilization operation since the Second World War. For example, there were 20.5 international peacekeepers in Kosovo per 1,000 inhabitants, 19 in Bosnia, 10 in Sierra Leone and 3.5 in Haiti. The ratio in Afghanistan is a paltry 1 to 1,000. From the beginning, the operation has been hampered by a lack of international forces to help the Kabul government establish its presence throughout the country.

Afghanistan has also received less international aid per capita than many other war-torn countries, including East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Solomon Islands.
In the op-ed piece, Paris offers a handful of recommendations for saving the Afghan mission, including ways of thinking more creatively about the opium poppy crops, improving police security training, rooting out corruption, building an Afghan army and stopping the flow of Taliban fighters from neighboring Pakistan.

If NATO continues down the current path, argues Paris, the war will be lost and the alliance itself could be destroyed.

That might be the greatest cost of all.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Climate change and security

Britain holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council this month and decided to introduce global warming as a threat to international peace and security, which is the domain of the body. The Guardian quoted British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett speaking to reporters in advance of the discussion:
"This is an issue which threatens the peace and security of the whole planet - this has to be the right place to debate it."
Inside the UNSC Beckett was just as direct:
"Climate change is a security issue but it is not a matter of narrow national security - it has a new dimension," she said. "This is about our collective security in a fragile and increasingly interdependent world."

...The foreign secretary quoted remarks made by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda that global warming is "an act of aggression by the rich against the poor".
The BBC coverage referenced the so-called "Stern report on climate change, which was commissioned by the UK government" and "warned of potential economic disruption on the scale of the two world wars and the Great Depression." A document circulated by the Brits warned about the potential security threat to be posed by 200 million environmental refugees, energy scarcity, and new border disputes caused by physical changes.

New Secretary-General "Ban Ki-moon said that 'issues of energy an climate change have implications for peace and security'." He also mentioned water and food scarcities as potential threats to peace and security.

Representatives from other European nations, small island nations (the Maldives, for example), Bangladesh, Panama, and Peru were also supportive of Britain's initiative. As expected, environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace, praised the effort.

Delegates from China, Pakistan, Russia and South Africa said that the UNSC was not the appropriate forum for the discussion. The Group of 77 argues that Britain's move is an effort to expand the power of the security council beyond its domain. As you might have expected, the American representative was not enthused either.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Light blogging

Sorry for the inconsistent blogging lately.

I've been working on taxes, my annual fantasy baseball auction draft (which is this weekend), the Grawemeyer World Order award processes ('07 winner Roland Paris arrives Tuesday; first round '08 reviews are trickling in), grading, etc.

Expect more content soon.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Iraq: the war dead

Thanks to the so-called "rally 'round the flag" effect, war is initially popular with the American public. Virtually all wars become less popular, however, and political scientist John Mueller argues that the casualty figures matter:
American troops have been sent into harm's way many times since 1945, but in only three cases -- Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq -- have they been drawn into sustained ground combat and suffered more than 300 deaths in action. American public opinion became a key factor in all three wars, and in each one there has been a simple association: as casualties mount, support decreases. Broad enthusiasm at the outset invariably erodes.
To date, nearly 3300 US soldiers have died in Iraq.

What is sometimes missed, however, is that this figure would likely be much higher if it weren't for modern medicine. Consider this fact presented by physician Ronald Glasser:
In Iraq, the American military has lost one for every ten soldiers hit in combat, compared to a one-in-four fatality rate in Vietnam, and one in three during the Second World War.
If the current war had occurred thirty years ago, it is quite likely that there would be more than 8000 dead. Within this coming year, America might have been expecting its 10,000th casualty.

Obviously, no one can be sure if a greater number of American victims would make the war even less popular than it already is.

In any event, I would note that another scholar, Christopher Gelpi , challenges Mueller's claim. Gelpi argues that the key indicator of public support is public perception of a war's success -- or failure:
public support for a military operation will erode sharply in the face of mounting casualties when the public believes the war is failing but will remain relatively robust when the public believes the war is succeeding. This argument is based on extensive analyses of scores of surveys...
It would seem logical that a high number of American war deaths would help foster a perception of failure.

It will be interesting to see if American perceptions of the war are influenced by the recent declaration by cleric Moqtada Sadr, who told his followers that US forces are "your arch enemy." Hundreds of thousands of Shia responded by protesting non-violently in the holy city of Najaf.

Their message was clear: "No, no, no to America." They want the US troops out of Iraq.

Based on the polling data, most Americans also want the US troops out of Iraq soon. Though there's been a slight uptick since "the surge" began, most Americans say "not too well" (32%) or "not at all well" (24%) when asked by Pew Research: "How well is the US military effort in Iraq going?

A few months ago, a combined 64% of respondents answered "not too well" or "not at all well," so the surge may be buying the Bush administration some time. In March, 10% responded "very well" and 30% said "fairly well." In the prior six polls since September 2006, the average for those responses had been about 6% and 28%, respectively.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Somebody alert the Veep!

The Washington Post has a page one story today that is not really news to most of the security analysts I know: "Hussein's Prewar Ties To Al-Qaeda Discounted; Pentagon Report Says Contacts Were Limited."
Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides "all confirmed" that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a declassified Defense Department report released yesterday.

The declassified version of the report, by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, also contains new details about the intelligence community's prewar consensus that the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda figures had only limited contacts, and about its judgments that reports of deeper links were based on dubious or unconfirmed information.
However, the story also notes that Vice President Cheney remains a committed propagandist:
The report's release came on the same day that Vice President Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, repeated his allegation that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq "before we ever launched" the war, under the direction of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist killed last June.

"This is al-Qaeda operating in Iraq," Cheney told Limbaugh's listeners about Zarqawi, who he said had "led the charge for Iraq."
As has been previously reported, the US could have killed al-Zarqawi before the war -- but his PR value was apparently too high. Alive, he helped justify the war:
Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
Oh, and Zarqawi was located in the northern Kurdish part of Iraq before the war, so it was not as if the Iraqi regime had anything to do with his operation.

Moreover, Zarqawi was something of a rival of Osama bin Laden's before the war, though both men were committed to toppling despotic Middle Eastern regimes -- such as the one directed by Saddam Hussein.

Many of my very first posts on this blog were about this lie.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Light my fire

Here's the US-European climate split in a nutshell.

The US perspective, from the US Representative to the European Union:
Boyden Gray told AFP that Washington and Brussels were "exchanging papers for the next EU-US summit and our differences are not that great."

"We were criticised for being much more interested in energy security than in climate change, but both sides of the Atlantic now agree it's the same and it's a constructive change... I don't see that much difference," he said in a phone interview.
Really? Not much difference.

Keep in mind
that the EU just mandated 20% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. That's on top of Kyoto, which the US abandoned.

The EU view:
European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas...tartly compared these [European] plans with the US voluntary approach.

"(The US) approach doesn't help in reaching international agreement and doesn't reduce (US) emissions, because they are right now 60 percent above the 1990 level," Dimas said, noting that in 2005, emissions by the 27-member EU were 7.4 percent below the 1990 benchmark.
It may not quite fit Robert Kagan's worldview, but I think we know which one is "awake and alert" and which one is sleeping.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Climate news

Recently, I wrote a couple of manuscripts about the politics of climate change. Most of the analysis for both pieces centered upon post-Kyoto developments.

Here's an example of one interesting development, from the BBC, February 20, 2007:
EU environment ministers have agreed in principle to cut greenhouse emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020.

The ministers, meeting in Brussels, also agreed to seek a 30% cut worldwide if matched by other developed nations.
That means at least 27 affluent countries, with a combined GNP larger than the US economy, are moving forward.

Germany is prepared to reduce by 40%.

Over at the Duck of Minerva, I recently blogged about the unique problem of China and greenhouse gas emissions growth.

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