By declaring that Germany is a large country with a large export sector and economic interests around the world, Koehler [Germany's ex-President] broke the even more powerful taboo forbidding German politicians to speak of any use of the military in any foreign engagement. Germany’s passivity is a matter of national pride, German pacifism is written into its constitution, and Germans don’t talk about themselves as “a country of our size.” In polite company, Germans never, ever talk about using the military “in an emergency to protect our interests.”
Posts Tagged ‘military’
I recently came across two worthwhile pieces on Persian Gulf states punching above their weight. The first is a New York Times analysis of Qatar, the lil’ oil rich country that could:
Qatar is smaller than Connecticut, and its native population, at 225,000, wouldn’t fill Cairo’s bigger neighborhoods. But for a country that inspires equal parts irritation and admiration, here is its résumé, so far, in the Arab revolts: It has proved decisive in isolating Syria’s leader, helped topple Libya’s, offered itself as a mediator in Yemen and counts Tunisia’s most powerful figure as a friend.
This thumb-shaped spit of sand on the Persian Gulf has emerged as the most dynamic Arab country in the tumult realigning the region. Its intentions remain murky to its neighbors and even allies — some say Qatar has a Napoleon complex, others say it has an Islamist agenda. But its clout is a lesson in what can be gained with some of the world’s largest gas reserves, the region’s most influential news network in Al Jazeera, an array of contacts (many with an Islamist bent), and policy-making in an absolute monarchy vested in the hands of one man, its emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Qatar has become a vital counterpoint in an Arab world where traditional powers are roiled by revolution, ossified by aging leaderships, or still reeling from civil war, and where the United States is increasingly viewed as a power in decline.
The next one is about the big boy of the Gulf, Saudia Arabia, and it comes from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, who sees the House of Saud filling a power gap left by a ‘declining’ United States:
The more-assertive Saudi role has been clear in its open support for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Iran’s crucial Arab ally. The Saudis were decisive backers of last weekend’s Arab League decision to suspend Syria‘s membership (though they also supported the organization’s waffling decision on Wednesday to send another mediation team to Damascus).
Money is always the Saudis’ biggest resource, and they are planning to spend it more aggressively as a regional power broker — roughly double their armed forces over the next 10 years and spend at least $15 billion annually to support countries weakened economically by this year’s turmoil.
Saudi sources provided an unofficial summary of the defense buildup. The army will add 125,000 to its estimated current force of 150,000; the national guard will grow by 125,000 from an estimated 100,000; the navy will spend more than $30 billion buying new ships and sea-skimming missiles; the air force will add 450 to 500 planes; and the Ministry of Interior is boosting its police and special forces by about 60,000. The Saudis are also developing their own version of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.
There’s a lot of talk about an American pivot to the Pacific and East Asia, and rightly so, but the Middle East has a way of drawing you back in. In the recent actions and strategic maneuvers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar we can see why.
Though I’m a student of International Relations and US foreign policy, I have not read much political/military strategy pieces in my life. I gathered up the incredible courage to finally pick up, and amazingly actually open and finish, Thomas Schelling’s 1966 masterpiece Arms and Influence. I’m a modern day Indiana Jones! The book comes highly recommended and I got a lot out of it. Though much of the book is centered on US vs. Soviet capabilities and relations, there are numerous golden ‘analytical’ nuggets to make you think, sometimes twice. Here are some of the more provocative aspects of Arms and Influence.
The importance of expectations and perceptions of state’s on other state actors was continually emphasized throughout the book:
“What one does today in a crisis affects what one can be expected to do tomorrow. A government never knows just how committed it is to action until the occasion when its commitment is challenged. Nations, like people, are continually engaged in demonstrations of resolve, tests of nerve, and explorations for understandings and misunderstandings….This is why there is a genuine risk of major war not from ‘accidents’ in the military machine but through a diplomatic process of commitment that is itself unpredictable.” (Pg. 93)
And more specifically, Schelling argues that ‘saving face’ is something worthwhile in international relations:
“It is often argued that ‘face’ is a frivolous asset to preserve, and that it is a sign of immaturity that a government can’t swallow its pride and lose face. But there is also the more serious kind of ‘face’, the kind that modern jargon is known as a country’s ‘image’, consisting of other countries’ beliefs (their leaders’ beliefs, that is) about how the country can be expected to behave. It relates not to a country’s ‘worth’ or ‘status’ or even ‘honor’, but to its reputation for action. If the question is raised whether this kind of ‘face’ is worth fighting over, the answer is that this kind of face is one of few things worth fighting over.” (Pg. 124)
In this regard, Schelling calls Soviet expectations of United States’ behavior ‘one of the most valuable assets we possess in world affairs.’ We must remember that this book was written as the Vietnam War was escalating day by day. These paragraphs would be critical of those who just want to ‘cut and run’ or ‘get us the hell outta here’ to certain military engagements, with Iraq and Afghanistan being two obvious examples. This does not mean that one should always attempt to prolong conflicts, but that state’s should be mindful of the consequences of their actions as they affect how other state actors view them and how this may in turn affect their view of one’s future policies and actions.
Schelling also challenges the effectiveness of first-strike/second-strike deterrence, arguing that it may not always work as war may result from a ‘process’, a ‘dynamic process in which both sides get more and more deeply involved, more and more expectant, more and more concerned not to be a slow second in case war starts, it is not a ‘credible first strike’ that one threatens, but just plain war.” (Pg. 98)
The next IR assumption Schelling takes on is the belief that two nuclear weapon capable states would not fight a war against each other without using nukes. He persuasively argues that the Korean war, a prolonged, bounded, energetic, and purely military campaign, that never resulted in the use of nuclear weapons. Each side decided that it was not in their best interests to do so and acted accordingly. (Pg. 131)
Schelling’s clear analysis of the Security Dilemma without ever saying the magic words themselves shows the dangers of perceptions/misperceptions and the thin line between deterrence and offensive actions in international security:
“..readying the maximum number of bombers on airfields, is a way of assuring greater reprisal against the enemy in case he attacks us; it can also be a step toward readiness to attack the enemy.” (Pg. 226)
For those who advocate Disarmament as itself a major harbinger to peace on earth, Schelling warns…:
“Disarmament does not eliminate military potential; it changes it.” (Pg. 257)
In other words, the lowering of military arms on one side or by partners is really just a change in strategic calculations in much the same way Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would change the strategic environment in the Middle East.
Arms and Influence is full of provocative and well-thought out international security issues, policies, and incidents, and though a little dense and repetitive at times, will definitely make you think more ‘strategically’ about today’s foreign policy conumdrums.
The American-Australian alliance has been one of the world’s most stable, if not, important since the end of the Cold War, and it looks like it will remain so and bear fruit. Former US President George Bush and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, both conservative leaning had a very close relationship and current US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, both more liberal leaning, look to be continuing this trend. The latter two met for security and economic talks in late March and each emphasized their commitment to common security and economic goals and the strength of the alliance. This alliance and ‘partnership’ talk has brought some real results.
Australia’s Rudd has pledged to up his country’s troops in Afghanistan by 50%, increasing them from around a 1,000 to about 1,500. These troops, like most of their European counterparts in NATO, will mainly be training Afghan military and police units as well as providing security for the upcoming elections in Uruzgan Province. The 1,500 Australian troops are by far the highest of a non-NATO participant in the conflict and is part of an increased emphasis on growing the Australian military capacity. This move is one of the first concrete accomplishments of the Obama administration’s efforts to get more international help for the Afghanistan conflict. Kudos to the Australians for coming to the aid of a friend and recognizing the severity of the situation even though the dust has cleared from the Twin Towers many years ago.
As was quickly mentioned, Australia’s government has also announced that it will grow its military, specifically its navy, to prepare the country for expected security threats to the Asian region in coming decades. Prime Minister Rudd asserted:
“It’s important for our own capability requirements … for the Australian Defense Force to be prepared to meet a range of contingencies arising from military and naval buildups across our region. That is prudent, long-term defense planning, and we believe we’ve got the balance absolutely right.”
It appears that Australia sees the writing on the wall with the growing powers in its region, mainly India and China, and the possibility of a decreased US naval presence causes concern. Instead of just sitting back and hoping the US will continue to control the vital waterways in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Sydney has decided to be proactive. Aust. Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon denied that the build up was strictly connected to China’s military rise, but he stated that indeed it was a factor. Fitzgibbon clearly believes great power politics has not faded from this earth:
“We do think that there will be a number of other powers floating about, China and India for example, the re-emergence of Russia. It’s natural that that sort of change can, and probably will, lead to strategic competition and maybe strategic tension, which in turn can turn into miscalculation. This country is determined to ensure that we are ready for any such contingencies. That’s why we’re substantially increasing our military capability so that we can defend this nation without necessarily relying on the armed forced of any other nation state.”
To accomplish this increase in capabilities, Australia has laid out plans to replace and double its submarine fleet, replace its frigates with modern warships, and to phase out their F-18′s and buy 100 Lockheed F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighters. It should be hoped that this type of forward thinking by the Australians will not lead to future war in the region but prevent it. Besides the Middle East, the future of East Asia and the Pacific is the most precarious and it is better to be safe than sorry. Or maybe Sydney’s just doing these things to get on GPP’s Great Power Rankings…
(Photo 1: Associated Press, Photo 2: Global Security.com)
Steve Fainaru’s ‘Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq‘ provides a first hand glance into the complicated nature of modern warfare and the blending of the public-private roles of war-fighting. Fainaru weaves a critical overview of the US military and government use of private security contractors in Iraq with personnel stories of the lives of several security contractors in a well-written and provocative book.
Fainaru embedded himself with several of the reported 310 US-funded security groups responsible for protecting politicians and cargo all around the conflict zone of Iraq. He vividly portrays the lack of oversight for these groups and the reasons why many Americans and foreigners choose to sign up, usually after they themselves have just finished a tour with the US military in the country.
Fainaru paints a picture of the contractors as a necessary evil in a conflict where the US government did not have the army or the stomach for the job. In this he does not mean to disparage the US military’s efforts, to the contrary, he believes that they lacked the necessary resources and the contractors were an effective and politically easier method for many missions, especially protecting supplies and politicians.
Fainaru did most of his on site research in 2006-2007 and it was blatantly clear why these contractors were needed, protection of convoys. The basic truth was during this time, every truck carrying supplies, whether it be tomatoes or rifles, needed protection from insurgent attacks and the US government out of a combination of necessity and choice, gave this job to private security groups, who of course were paid handsomely. Jack Holly, director of logistics for the US Army Corps of engineers in Iraq, stated his reasons for this choice:
‘Well, I don’t want a mother to know that her son was on a convoy coming up from Kuwait and he got killed guarding Frappuccino that was going to the US embassy. To me, soldiers and marines have a mission to do certain things, and on other things you can out-source risk.’
This is another theme that Fainaru weaves throughout the book; the differences between US army soldiers and these private security personnel. The US army had legitimacy, a well-structured hierarchy, rules, and a secure personal and institutional bond holding the group together. The private security workers, many of whom were veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, or other wars, lacked legitimacy from the Iraqi population, from the US military, and here in the US, had no rules, lacked an institutional structure, and did not share any special bonds. Case in point, Fainaru describes two kidnappings of Americans in the book; one a case where three US marines were taken and another where five Crescent Private Security personnel, mostly all Americans, were kidnapped. In the marines case, the US Army sent out a brigade of around 4,000 US soldiers knocking on every door trying to find their comrades. In the case of the Crescent American kidnapped victims, the victims’ families had to continually prod the US government and FBI to investigate and find their loved ones.
Fainaru describes the ambiguous nature of the contractor’s situation in just two short sentences;
‘They didn’t die or get wounded or engage in combat. They were everywhere and nowhere.’
The most troubling aspect of the private contractors in Iraq, and that Fainaru emphasis’s greatly, is the lack of accountability for these contractors and their owners. The Crescent group, which had some its members kidnapped, ignored many protocols and put its employees and Iraqis in danger time and time again. Fainaru also details the power and efficiency of the infamous Blackwater security group, which protects all State Department officials around the globe. Fainaru asserts that Blackwater was almost universally despised for its arrogance and disregard for all rules, but he acknowledges that the group has never lost a State Department official.
These contractors’ ability to supersede Iraqi law looks like it has for the most part come to an end as of January 1st, according to the SOFA pact, they are now under Iraqi law. Of course time will tell what this means. In addition, at this time, 5 Blackwater employees face indictment here in the US for deaths of 17 Iraqis during the Nisour Square incident in September 2007.
It is easy to say, with all these problems, lets just eliminate these private security groups, but this looks to be impossible. The US has a volunteer military and would require hundreds of thousands more troops to cover the contractor’s presence. Even so, if you were a soldier would you want to risk your life protecting soda pop or lamps? The US is not the only state hooked on private security groups as the Italian military, when leaving Iraq for good last year, first got its troops out and then hired contractors to get their supplies after the fact. The ways and means of modern warfare are becoming blurrier and blurrier.
Most of you have probably heard that Israel has refused to bring a lull to their offensive air attack on Hamas targets in Gaza despite many international calls for a 48 hour break. It has also been reported that Israeli successfully killed Nizar Rayyan, a senior Hamas figure, and many of his family members. Rayyan has been connected to several attacks on Israeli, sent his son on a suicide mission, and outrightly calls for martyrdom in the Palestinians efforts against the Jewish state.
Israel has gone to great lengths to explain their rational for continuing the onslaught, including deploying Foreign Minister and Prime Minister hopeful Tzipi Livni to Paris, and their concentrated efforts to limit the damage to civilians as much as possible. The main consensus for Israeli’s strategic reasons for continuing the assault is the idea that they can eliminate forever, or at least for quite awhile, Hamas’ ability to launch rocket attacks into Israel proper.
Does this strategic goal have a chance at success or is Israel just delaying the inevitable Hamas comeback? Is this effort even just igniting further disdain for Israel in the eyes of Gaza’s citizens? Does Israel have a legitimate political and strategic endgame for this conflict or will it end ambiguously like the 2006 Hezbollah battle?
Israel seems to be conducting a serious, well-executed military air assault and Hamas’ security and governmental structures and institutions are taking a major beating. I can’t imagine the pressure the Hamas members must be under right now. Is it possible for senior Hamas members to relent and make promises to Israel to end attacks if Israel desists its assault? It’s hard to imagine this happening as Hamas’s reason for being is largely the destruction of Israel and its leadership, especially in Gaza, seems unwilling to negotiate.
What about President Abbas’s government in the West Bank, is this Israeli assault giving him greater leverage as a moderate voice in the conflict? This is harder to see. It would be nice if the international community, especially the Arab governments and great powers, to try to hold up Abbas’s more moderate government as contrary to the counterproductive policies and actions of Hamas. Of course, Abbas has problems of his own, with a lack of legitimacy and a Hamas-led congress, to name a couple.
The more I look at possible endgames to this recent and ongoing conflict, the more discouraging and depressing the outcomes appear. I think Israel has a real chance at drastically weakening Hamas’s ability to seriously harm its territory, but it’s hard to imagine that Hamas will fully be stopped from launching erratic, but still lethal rocket attacks. Just like the 2006 Hezbollah war, while Israel bombards Hamas targets with effective air attacks, Hamas has been resisting with errant rocket attacks of their own. What about a Israel military endeavor or occupation of Gaza? Likewise, it is difficult to see how this would do any long term good. This should only be done if Israel is prepared to completely oust the Hamas-led government and install some kind of occupied rule over the Gaza Strip until a suitable government, likely based in the West Bank, could be installed, and this is highly, highly unlikely to happen.
It appears that Israel is stuck trying to create a deterrence situation with an enemy that seems near impossible to deter. What endgame do you see for this most recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians? Can security be achieved for Israel? Can Hamas be defeated militarily?
(Photo Source: New York Times)
As my fellow blogger has recently written, the Israeli-Palestine conflict is flaring up again and unlikely to see much progress through Western diplomacy. For my analysis, I find it useful to look at the international community’s reaction to the current flare-up. I see this as indicative of why past diplomatic efforts by the US and others have failed.
First, for the background. Israel’s military campaign on Hamas-controlled Gaza began after a six month ceasefire with Hamas ended on December 19. (Contrary to the definition of a ceasefire, this slowed the frequency of the mortar attacks but never actually resulted in a complete peace for southern Israel.) After intense efforts by Israel to lobby Egyptian leaders and the moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for an extension of the ceasefire, the Syrian-backed Hamas would have none of it. This proved a clear opportunity to draw Israel into a debacle similar to the 2006 invasion into Lebanon at a time when Israel appears to be gaining some legitimacy with some of its Middle Eastern neighbors.
Since the end of the ceasefire ten days ago, Hamas forces have fired over 300 missiles, rockets and mortars into Israel. In response, the Israelis have began targeted attacks against the militants using on-the-ground intelligence. Unfortunately, these attacks have resulted in a high casualty rate because of the common tactic of terrorist groups to place their security forces in residential neighborhoods. This has served, and likely will continue to serve Hamas well by eliciting international sympathy for a “humanitarian crisis” being brought on by the Israeli military. Indeed, this strategy’s success can already be seen with comments made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling the Israeli response “disproportionate.”
And Sarkozy is not alone as the UN Secretariat General has suddenly become interested in the affair, calling for a cease in operations and echoing calls of a disproportionate response. The Security Council has reconvened to address Israel’s “belligerency.” Undoubtedly, Hamas’ efforts to portray their cause as one of “resistance against illegal occupiers” rather than as instigators of terrorist attacks on innocent civilians has fared quite well with the international community. This leaves one to wonder what the international community was doing while Hamas was violating their six-month ceasefire or during the period since 2005 when Hamas fired nearly 6,300 rockets into southern Israel?
Such is the history of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Peacemaking efforts have consistently revealed the extremist intentions of those sounding the clarion call for the Palestinians. Simply, these groups seek no less than the destruction of Israel as a nation-state and as a people. Facing this intransigent position, it is no wonder the Israelis have failed to appease their foe at the negotiating table.
The “peace process” has often resulted in Israel making territorial concessions while receiving little assurance of safety for their border citizens (e.g., Oslo Accords followed by the Second Intifada). And often it becomes just a matter of time before Israel responds to protect its citizens. In this sense, Gaza provides the most recent example of a moral equivocation that has shaped the conflict. The daily occurrence of random terrorist acts by Hamas has been essentially equaled and surpassed with the latest Israeli response. Hence, disproportionate.
As a developed nation, Israel finds itself in a similar position as the US in that it can be held accountable for its actions and its military endeavors are often subject to the political will available. This means it must fight the battle of public perception if it is to be successful. Unfortunately, Israel seems to have perennially lost this battle in the international community. Conversely, little accountability has been placed on the Palestinians’ shoulders while consistently being granted a pass by the media for their terrorist activities.
The US must work to support Israel despite this eternal antagonism toward it by others. Israel’s quest for self-preservation and defense of its homeland is no foreign mission for any sovereign to understand. Yet it has long been a challenge for them to persuade others of this mission. Geopolitically, the best outcome from the current fighting would be a fatal blow to the Hamas power structure. Only then will the peace process successfully resolve the issues at hand. As long as the Palestinian people have leaders that take their marching orders from Syria and Iran, no amount of concessions on Israel’s part will suffice. If Hamas were to be severely weakened, this would then allow more moderate forces like Mahmoud Abbas to become the Palestinian voice at the bargaining table.
Whether this will occur is yet to be seen. Israel has a tremendously difficult battle in front of them, both militarily and publicly and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another series of events like their invasion of Lebanon in 2006. So should Israel launch a ground attack? Will it be any more successful than its 2006 campaign? Does it have any other viable alternatives like turning to the UN for support?
Last year, when the the Bush administration announced it was creating an African Command (Africom) military structure for the continent I thought it sounded like a great idea. Though there are fears for American imperialism and exploitation, early results seem to showcase the opposite. Eric Schmitt of the NY Times wrote a great piece of a partnership between the US State and Defense Departments to train counterterrorism training and assistance with Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, and now even Libya. Schmitt discusses the tenuous democracy of Mali and how Al Qaeda militants from Algeria were starting to infiltrate the large Sunni nation, long known for its tolerant brand of Islam. US Green Berets are currently training Mali military personnel, along with neighboring Senegal’s, in tactics to counter this threat.
This partnership has many other nonmilitary aspects as well. There is aid for teacher instruction, emphasizing non-radical education, and job training which targets young Muslim men who may be tempted to join extremist groups.
Africom is still an incipient organization as its headquarters has not even found a home yet on the continent (it currently is Stuttgart, Germany). Here is a description of its creation and mission from its official website:
On February 6, 2007, President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the creation of U.S. Africa Command. The decision was the culmination of a 10-year thought process within the Department of Defense (DoD) acknowledging the emerging strategic importance of Africa, and recognizing that peace and stability on the continent impacts not only Africans, but the interests of the U.S. and international community as well. Yet, the department’s regional command structure did not account for Africa in a comprehensive way, with three different U.S. military headquarters maintaining relationships with African countries. The creation of U.S. Africa Command enables DoD to better focus its resources to support and enhance existing U.S. initiatives that help African nations, the African Union, and the regional economic communities succeed. It also provides African nations and regional organizations an integrated DoD coordination point to help address security and related needs.
United States Africa Command, in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners, conducts sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign policy.
We all know the problems of Africa cannot be solved by mere military methods alone, as when the guns go quiet there is still a lack of opportunity for a majority of the continent’s citizens. Another way the US and world can help the people and nations of Africa is the support of free trade. Herman Cohen argues that a free trade agreement between the East African nations embroiled in war, mainly Congo and Rwanda, could bring about shared growth that would tie the region’s governments, tribes, and people together. The US can help by mediating such a compromise. In 2000, the US Congress passed the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an investment policy that would open up American markets to Sub-Saharan African goods, but progress has been slow, as US trade with Africa is only about 1-2%.
The United States can help bring stability and prosperity to Africa in many ways, with trade and security being at the top of the list. The US is not planning any major military movements inside of Africa, so there need be no fear over a loss of sovereignty. But both sides have much to lose if extremist and terrorist elements gain a foothold in any region or locality. A small US military footprint, featuring special forces eliminating terrorist threats and units like the Green Berets training nascent African armies how to control their territories and borders, can have a large impact on regional stability. Both sides also have much to lose if trade links between the two falter or fail to grow, especially the citizens of Africa. President-elect Obama has many strategic challenges in front of him, and Africa is no doubt probably low on that list, but one can hope that a concerted effort by his administration, combined with a few personal touches by this President of African descent himself, could go along way in fostering this growing relationship.
(Picture #1: New York Times, Picture #2: Africom website)