Category Archives: Research/Links

Zalmay does it again…

Call me old school but as good as the Kagan and other hege impact cards have been I’ve always been a Khalilzad fan.  Unfortunately too many people felt the Khalizad card was getting old (haters)

Luckily for  people who like to hear Khalilzad when someone says hegemony he has a new article that can be found here.

Let the pronunciation wars over his last name begin again!

Khalilzad Replies to Mearsheimer

On the heels of Robert Kagan’s response to John Mearsheimer that Scott mentioned, Zalmay Khalilzad has joined in the fun with a reply of his own to “Imperial By Design”:

Shifting to an offshore-balancer role now is premature. Adopting such a strategy would accelerate the rise of multipolarity and increase the risk of conflict among major powers. Pursuing a global-leadership strategy remains the best option, albeit in a way that incorporates lessons of the past two decades. Looking ahead, future administrations should adjust specific policies to deal with changing domestic and global circumstances—the rise of China and threats resulting from globalization such as cyber attacks for example—while maintaining a grand strategy of American global leadership.

New Kagan Hegemony Article

Has some good cards, including responses to the Mearsheimer article Alderete posted a little while ago

Others have. For decades “realist” analysts have called for a strategy of “offshore balancing.” Instead of the United States providing security in East Asia and the Persian Gulf, it would withdraw its forces from Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East and let the nations in those regions balance one another. If the balance broke down and war erupted, the United States would then intervene militarily until balance was restored. In the Middle East and Persian Gulf, for instance, Christopher Layne has long proposed “passing the mantle of regional stabilizer” to a consortium of “Russia, China, Iran, and India.” In East Asia offshore balancing would mean letting China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and others manage their own problems, without U.S. involvement—again, until the balance broke down and war erupted, at which point the United States would provide assistance to restore the balance and then, if necessary, intervene with its own forces to restore peace and stability. Before examining whether this would be a wise strategy, it is important to understand that this really is the only genuine alternative to the one the United States has pursued for the past 65 years. To their credit, Layne and others who support the concept of offshore balancing have eschewed halfway measures and airy assurances that we can do more with less, which are likely recipes for disaster. They recognize that either the United States is actively involved in providing security and stability in regions beyond the Western Hemisphere, which means maintaining a robust presence in those regions, or it is not. Layne and others are frank in calling for an end to the global security strategy developed in the aftermath of World War II, perpetuated through the Cold War, and continued by four successive post-Cold War administrations. At the same time, it is not surprising that none of those administrations embraced offshore balancing as a strategy. The idea of relying on Russia, China, and Iran to jointly “stabilize” the Middle East and Persian Gulf will not strike many as an attractive proposition. Nor is U.S. withdrawal from East Asia and the Pacific likely to have a stabilizing effect on that region. The prospects of a war on the Korean Peninsula would increase. Japan and other nations in the region would face the choice of succumbing to Chinese hegemony or taking unilateral steps for self-defense, which in Japan’s case would mean the rapid creation of a formidable nuclear arsenal. Layne and other offshore balancing enthusiasts, like John Mearsheimer, point to two notable occasions when the United States allegedly practiced this strategy. One was the Iran-Iraq war, where the United States supported Iraq for years against Iran in the hope that the two would balance and weaken each other. The other was American policy in the 1920s and 1930s, when the United States allowed the great European powers to balance one another, occasionally providing economic aid, or military aid, as in the Lend-Lease program of assistance to Great Britain once war broke out. Whether this was really American strategy in that era is open for debate—most would argue the United States in this era was trying to stay out of war not as part of a considered strategic judgment but as an end in itself. Even if the United States had been pursuing offshore balancing in the first decades of the 20th century, however, would we really call that strategy a success? The United States wound up intervening with millions of troops, first in Europe, and then in Asia and Europe simultaneously, in the two most dreadful wars in human history. It was with the memory of those two wars in mind, and in the belief that American strategy in those interwar years had been mistaken, that American statesmen during and after World War II determined on the new global strategy that the United States has pursued ever since. Under Franklin Roosevelt, and then under the leadership of Harry Truman and Dean Acheson, American leaders determined that the safest course was to build “situations of strength” (Acheson’s phrase) in strategic locations around the world, to build a “preponderance of power,” and to create an international system with American power at its center. They left substantial numbers of troops in East Asia and in Europe and built a globe-girdling system of naval and air bases to enable the rapid projection of force to strategically important parts of the world. They did not do this on a lark or out of a yearning for global dominion. They simply rejected the offshore balancing strategy, and they did so because they believed it had led to great, destructive wars in the past and would likely do so again. They believed their new global strategy was more likely to deter major war and therefore be less destructive and less expensive in the long run. Subsequent administrations, from both parties and with often differing perspectives on the proper course in many areas of foreign policy, have all agreed on this core strategic approach. From the beginning this strategy was assailed as too ambitious and too expensive. At the dawn of the Cold War, Walter Lippmann railed against Truman’s containment strategy as suffering from an unsustainable gap between ends and means that would bankrupt the United States and exhaust its power. Decades later, in the waning years of the Cold War, Paul Kennedy warned of “imperial overstretch,” arguing that American decline was inevitable “if the trends in national indebtedness, low productivity increases, [etc.]” were allowed to continue at the same time as “massive American commitments of men, money and materials are made in different parts of the globe.” Today, we are once again being told that this global strategy needs to give way to a more restrained and modest approach, even though the indebtedness crisis that we face in coming years is not caused by the present, largely successful global strategy. Of course it is precisely the success of that strategy that is taken for granted. The enormous benefits that this strategy has provided, including the financial benefits, somehow never appear on the ledger. They should. We might begin by asking about the global security order that the United States has sustained since Word War II—the prevention of major war, the support of an open trading system, and promotion of the liberal principles of free markets and free government. How much is that order worth? What would be the cost of its collapse or transformation into another type of order? Whatever the nature of the current economic difficulties, the past six decades have seen a greater increase in global prosperity than any time in human history. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. Once-backward nations have become economic dynamos. And the American economy, though suffering ups and downs throughout this period, has on the whole benefited immensely from this international order. One price of this success has been main
taining a sufficient military capacity to provide the essential security underpinnings of this order. But has the price not been worth it? In the first half of the 20th century, the United States found itself engaged in two world wars. In the second half, this global American strategy helped produce a peaceful end to the great-power struggle of the Cold War and then 20 more years of great-power peace. Looked at coldly, simply in terms of dollars and cents, the benefits of that strategy far outweigh the costs. The danger, as always, is that we don’t even realize the benefits our strategic choices have provided. Many assume that the world has simply become more peaceful, that great-power conflict has become impossible, that nations have learned that military force has little utility, that economic power is what counts. This belief in progress and the perfectibility of humankind and the institutions of international order is always alluring to Americans and Europeans and other children of the Enlightenment. It was the prevalent belief in the decade before World War I, in the first years after World War II, and in those heady days after the Cold War when people spoke of the “end of history.” It is always tempting to believe that the international order the United States built and sustained with its power can exist in the absence of that power, or at least with much less of it. This is the hidden assumption of those who call for a change in American strategy: that the United States can stop playing its role and yet all the benefits that came from that role will keep pouring in. This is a great if recurring illusion, the idea that you can pull a leg out from under a table and the table will not fall over.

Walt Post on History

Has some interesting points, on Afghanistan

Yet this sadly turns out to be no universal law: There is no inexorable evolutionary march that replaces our bad, old ideas with smart, new ones. If anything, the story of the last few decades of international relations can just as easily be read as the maddening persistence of dubious thinking. Like crab grass and kudzu, misguided notions are frustratingly resilient, hard to stamp out no matter how much trouble they have caused in the past and no matter how many scholarly studies have undermined their basic claims.

Consider, for example, the infamous “domino theory,” kicking around in one form or another since President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1954 “falling dominoes” speech. During the Vietnam War, plenty of serious people argued that a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam would undermine America’s credibility around the world and trigger a wave of pro-Soviet realignments. No significant dominoes fell after U.S. troops withdrew in 1975, however, and it was the Berlin Wall that eventually toppled instead. Various scholars examined the domino theory in detail and found little historical or contemporary evidence to support it.

Although the domino theory seemed to have been dealt a fatal blow in the wake of the Vietnam War, it has re-emerged, phoenix-like, in the current debate over Afghanistan. We are once again being told that if the United States withdraws from Afghanistan before achieving a clear victory, its credibility will be called into question, al Qaeda and Iran will be emboldened, Pakistan could be imperiled, and NATO’s unity and resolve might be fatally compromised. Back in 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Afghanistan an “important test of the credibility of NATO,” and President Barack Obama made the same claim in late 2009 when he announced his decision to send 30,000 more troops there. Obama also justified his decision by claiming that a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would spread instability to Pakistan. Despite a dearth of evidence to support these alarmist predictions, it’s almost impossible to quash the fear that a single setback in a strategic backwater will unleash a cascade of falling dominoes.

On the common empiricism arg

For starters, even smart people with good intentions have difficulty learning the right lessons from history because there are relatively few iron laws of foreign policy and the facts about each case are rarely incontrovertible.

And unfortunately, the theories that seek to explain what causes what are relatively crude. When a policy fails, reasonable people often disagree about why success proved elusive. Did the United States lose in Vietnam because the task was inherently too difficult, because it employed the wrong military strategy, or because media coverage undermined support back home? Interpreting an apparent success is no easier: Did violence in Iraq decline in 2007 because of the “surge” of U.S. troops, because al Qaeda affiliates there overplayed their hand, or because ethnic cleansing had created homogeneous neighborhoods that made it harder for Shiites and Sunnis to target each other? The implications for today depend on which of these interpretations you believe, which means that consensus about the “lessons” of these conflicts will be elusive and fragile.

What’s more, even when past failures have discredited a policy, those who want to resurrect it can argue that new knowledge, new technology, or a clever new strategy will allow them to succeed where their predecessors failed. For more than 20 years, for example, a combination of academic economists and influential figures in the finance industry convinced many people that we had overcome the laws of economic gravity — that sophisticated financial models and improved techniques of risk management like financial derivatives allowed governments to relax existing regulations on financial markets. This new knowledge, they argued, permitted a vast expansion of new credit with little risk of financial collapse. They were tragically wrong, of course, but a lot of smart people believed them.

Similarly, the Vietnam War did teach a generation of U.S. leaders to be wary of getting dragged into counterinsurgency wars. That cautious attitude was reflected in the so-called Powell doctrine, which dictated that the United States intervene only when its vital interests were at stake, rely on overwhelming force, and identify a clear exit strategy in advance. Yet after the U.S. military routed the Taliban in 2001, key figures in President George W. Bush’s administration became convinced that the innovative use of special forces, precision munitions, and high-tech information management (together dubbed a “revolution in military affairs”) would enable the United States to overthrow enemy governments quickly and cheaply and avoid lengthy occupations, in sharp contrast to past experience. The caution that inspired the Powell doctrine was cast aside, and the result was the war in Iraq, which dragged on for almost eight years, and the war in Afghanistan, where the United States seems mired in an endless occupation.

American Enterprise Institute Hosts Afghanistan Panel Discussion

Earlier this week the American Enterprise Institute hosted a panel discussion with Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, Jack Keane, and Andrew Exum about their recent “Defining Success in Afghanistan” report.

Two thousand ten was a pivotal year in determining the prospects for success in Afghanistan. In December, President Barack Obama and his administration favorably reviewed US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, reporting significant progress in weakening al Qaeda’s presence in the region, though acknowledging the short- and long-term challenges that the United States, its allies, and its Afghan partner face in securing a stable Afghanistan. A great deal of confusion, however, remains in the public debate about what success in Afghanistan would look like and why the current approach can succeed after ten years of efforts that did not. Resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan, who directs the Critical Threats Project at AEI, and Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), spent 150 days in Afghanistan in 2010 and will lay out the key details of their latest report, “Defining Success in Afghanistan,” copublished by AEI and ISW. General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff for the US Army, and Center for a New American Security fellow Andrew M. Exum, who served both on active duty and as a civilian adviser to General Stanley A. McChrystal in Afghanistan, will comment. AEI’s Danielle Pletka will moderate.

The video of the event is available online. This is a good opportunity for debaters to hear the pro-COIN, pro-war side of the Afghanistan debate presented by some of its leading advocates.

Unconventional Wisdom

This months edition of the FP feature has some good stuff:

The democracy article has a good new replacement for Diamond

For there is one thing the neocons get right: As I argue in The Democracy Advantage, democratic governments are more likely than autocratic regimes to engage in conduct that advances U.S. interests and avoids situations that pose a threat to peace and security. Democratic states are more likely to develop and to avoid famines and economic collapse. They are also less likely to become failed states or suffer a civil war. Democratic states are also more likely to cooperate in dealing with security issues, such as terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.