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Saturday, January 17, 2004


An op-research field day, Part II: A good deal has been made of Wesley Clark's April 10, 2003 op-ed in the Times of London. I've presented some excerpts below, paired with excerpts of a speech Clark gave on Nov. 6 in South Carolina. My version of the op-ed came from LEXIS; another copy of the full text (with slightly different paragraph breaks) can be found here (link thanks to InstaPundit). Text from the April op-ed is in bold.

I have always believed that before initiating military action, crucial tests must be met: For example, every diplomatic option should be explored and exhausted. We must do everything possible to gain international and domestic support. And there must be a realistic post-war plan.

The Bush Administration failed every one of these tests.

American and Brits, working together, produced a lean plan, using only about a third of the ground combat power of the Gulf War. If the alternative to attacking in March with the equivalent of four divisions was to wait until late April to attack with five, they certainly made the right call.

Finally, after training our forces on Iraq, the Administration essentially declared - we're going it alone. Instead of using diplomacy backed by force - as we did so effectively in the Balkans - this Administration's diplomacy was only a fig leaf. The United States was going to war no matter what. The Administration went to the UN with a "take it or leave it offer," which reflected a combination of indifference and disdain. It did not explore every diplomatic option; it did not do everything possible to bring allies with us.

As for the diplomacy, the best that can be said is that strong convictions often carry a high price. Despite the virtually tireless energy of their Foreign Offices, Britain and the US have probably never been so isolated in recent times.

Despite our overwhelming military might, our economic strength and the power of our democracy, we cannot win these battles alone. We can't pursue Arab-Israeli peace, **maintain stability in the Middle East,** support reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, deal with the challenges of North Korea, track down Osama bin Laden, fight the global war against terrorism, face the problem of Iran, and return to prosperity in this country, unless we have allies to help us.

But the operation in Iraq will also serve as a launching pad for further diplomatic overtures, pressures and even military actions against others in the region who have supported terrorism and garnered weapons of mass destruction.

Don't look for stability as a Western goal. Governments in Syria and Iran will be put on notice -indeed, may have been already -that they are "next" if they fail to comply with Washington's concerns.

Our focus should have been on winning the war on terrorism - working with our allies to track down the terrorists themselves; to develop new initiatives in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to rip out the roots of radical terror, stop radical schools indoctrinating a new generation of terrorists day after day. That's how you win the war on terrorism.
The Administration zeroed in on Iraq. But focusing on Iraq made no sense -- if the real goal was to protect the US either from weapons of mass destruction or terrorism. The hundred tons of loosely guarded nuclear bomb-making material and bioweapons in Russia presents a far more tempting target for terrorists. But this Administration has not made that a priority. The nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea were more advanced and more threatening than Iraq's, but for months they paid little attention. Their actions made no strategic sense; they downplayed the greater threats, and exaggerated the lesser one.
If I am elected President, I pledge to you that America will never, under my leadership, choose to isolate itself without allies, in a "long, hard slog" that drains our money, strains our military, and squanders our moral authority. We will act with others if we possibly can and alone only if we absolutely must.

Can anything be more moving than the joyous throngs swarming the streets of Baghdad? Memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the defeat of Milosevic in Belgrade flood back. Statues and images of Saddam are smashed and defiled.

Liberation is at hand. Liberation -the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions. Already the scent of victory is in the air. Yet a bit more work and some careful reckoning need to be done before we take our triumph.
As for the political leaders themselves, President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt. And especially Mr Blair, who skilfully managed tough internal politics, an incredibly powerful and sometimes almost irrationally resolute ally, and concerns within Europe. Their opponents, those who questioned the necessity or wisdom of the operation, are temporarily silent, but probably unconvinced. And more tough questions remain to be answered.

Now, it's possible that Clark's position in these two pieces is consistent, just highly complex -- one such interpretation is provided here. Certainly he recognized the significant dangers ahead, and carefully avoided any hint of triumphalism.

But I simply don't see how these two pieces, from April and November, can be read as expressing the same opinion of the war. If the administration's diplomacy "was only a fig leaf," why does he praise the State Department and UK Foreign Office for their "virtually tireless energy," or note that "strong convictions often carry a high price? If "every diplomatic option must be explored and exhausted," why was it the right decision to move in March rather than wait for late April? (If Clark means that it was the right decision only in terms of military preparedness, surely he could have included some caveat on diplomacy?)

Most importantly, the basic underlying conviction of the November speech--that this war was a strategic mistake, and that we should have focused our efforts on Al Qaeda instead--is entirely absent from the letter and spirit of the April op-ed. The comments on "stability" seem to be in strong support of the Bush Doctrine. Indeed, how else can we understand his claim that Bush and Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt"? "Philosoraptor" argues that "Resolve in the face of doubt, if it is a virtue at all, is a virtue even when one has undertaken an enterprise in error"; but this is grasping at straws. (Can you imagine Howard Dean saying that Bush "should be proud of [his] resolve"?) Clark was clearly not praising Bush and Blair for their pagan self-assertion, or for pursuing an absurd policy as knights of faith. In the context of the piece, he was saying that they made the right move.

After discussing the piece with a friend and Clark supporter, here's my take on the probable spin. Clark, we may be told, supported the effort as of April 10, but subsequently learned that (a) there were no WMD in Iraq and (b) the administration didn't adequately plan for the post-war. Thus, he now thinks the adventure was a mistake.

But this spin won't work. Clark is a four-star general who commanded a NATO mission; he has all the clearances and knows everyone in the top ranks. He had as much access to information about Iraq's WMD as any U.S. citizen outside the government. If the Bush administration guessed wrong on Iraq's weapons capability (but not unreasonably so, as Ken Pollack persuasively argues), why should we think that a President Clark would have acted differently? Moreover, the diplomatic failures leading up to Iraq were apparent to everyone well before Clark wrote his op-ed. The lack of a post-war plan doesn't explain why Clark described the war as a strategic mistake only after it was all over and he had started his campaign for the presidency.

Which brings us to another question. If he knew he wanted to run for president in April, why on earth did Clark write the op-ed? My guess is that he thought the war had gone well, and wanted to get on the right side of history (while making room to criticize the administration on the post-war). Or maybe it's what he actually believed. But in that case he owes the American people an account of what changed his mind. This isn't just a garden-variety flip-flop, like Joe Lieberman's "Private Journey Away From Privatization"; it represents a fundamental shift in thinking about one of the most important foreign-policy questions America faces, and one that seems primarily motivated by political concerns.

I'd really like to think that Clark is a viable candidate in 2004. By "viable," I don't mean that he's electable, but that he's someone I'd feel comfortable with in the White House. But after reading this op-ed, along with his earlier praise of Bush and Cheney (not to mention his bizarre comments on abortion -- up until the hour of birth?), I don't get the sense that he's the kind of person who's thought long and hard about the issues and figured out where he stands. I don't get the sense that his campaign is fundamentally about Wesley Clark's vision for the country. Instead, I get the distinct and unfortunate sense that his campaign is fundamentally about Wesley Clark.

UPDATE: See further post above.


Thursday, January 15, 2004


The Changing Definition of Security: In the course of studying for my two exams tomorrow, I've decided to post another essay from my International Relations tutorial (the first is linked here). Many scholars have argued that external military threats are given excessive attention in security planning. As time goes on, they predict, the security agenda will be increasingly dominated by cross-border issues such as environmental degradation, resource conflicts, mass migration, and ethnic tension. A few have gone even further, to claim that such problems should themselves be considered threats to a wider concept of "human security." I disagree:

The effort to broaden security planning to include "human security" changes the terms of debate. It goes beyond arguing that non-traditional problems such as environmental degradation are likely to create a security threat (by encouraging conflict) to claiming that such degradation itself constitutes a security threat--a threat to the quality of life of those in a polluted environment.

The theoretical difficulty with limiting the concept of security to the use of physical violence is that all economic and political relations are characterized by force, whether threatened or actually employed. The possession of economic rights in a resource is constituted by a threat of legal force against those who would attempt to violate those rights. Someone who has no economic rights to food, the argument goes, or no rights to other resources which can be traded for food, is prevented by force from obtaining food just as surely as someone who is deprived at gunpoint.

Thus, J. Ann Tickner quotes approvingly another author's definition of security "not only in terms of the internal security of the state, but also in terms of secure systems of food, health, money and trade." ... A secure society must therefore "promote a viable ecosystem while at the same time working towards the elimination of both physical and structural violence," an elimination that requires "dismantling hierarchical boundaries between women and men, rich and poor, and insiders and outsiders which have contributed to an exclusionary divisive definition of security."

However, such a conception of "structural violence" sits uneasily with traditional concepts of force and violence. First, it is unclear why such limitations are only "violent" if they are unjust. There are many just uses of violence, as in the case of threatening force (even only the level of force necessary for arrest, trial, and imprisonment) against those who would violate individual rights--and these acts do not become less forceful because they happen to be just. Second, such a definition raises the possibility of treating all unjust economic arrangements per se as cases of structural violence. Given that sophisticated health care is expensive, any system that unjustly reduces the resources available to one group will result in a decline in the group's life expectancy from what it would otherwise have been. Thus, if all unjust social arrangements are inherently violent, no unjust society is secure--and it is impossible to give a descriptive account of security without first establishing normative agreement on what constitutes a just economic and political system.

You can read it all here.


Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Back from Ireland -- but facing a mountain of work at home. I'll try to post some reactions from the trip in a few days. In the meantime, go read a hilarious post by Steve Wu on probate law among hobbits.




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