Sunday, February 29, 2004

so, all of you who think Bush has a well-run administration, what do you think about the open bureaucratic warfare between State and Defense? And what about this issue (which I , as a scholar/researcher find a bit troubling)?

In other news-- what did I tell you thursday--Haiti is getting very interesting very fast.
Aristide is out, and it looks like we are sending in the Marines. France and Canada and the US seem to be sending some sort of peacekeeping force to oversee some sort of political transition. Good move? Necessary move? Was/is there any other option that you would rather see?
What I find fascinating is a) how fast this whole thing unraveled and b) how fast the Administration went from Aristide is the elected President, he should serve out his term and we're not going anywhere near there to Aristide needs to get out now and we're sending in the Marines.

Monday we will discuss Congress-- fun stuff, but Haiti and Bush make for a much more interesting blog, think. If you want to discuss Congress, of course, feel free. Just to tie this together-- recall that Florida's congressional delegation, led by Sens. Grahm and Nelson (both D's) pressed for active involvement in Haiti very early on in this whole thing. The Administration said no. Now they're going in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Now the fun really starts...
Moving on from history and theory we get into the meat of the government, political process, and issues--starting with the President and NSC

Presidential leadership style is very important to this-- its a nice transition from the last class about the individual level of analysis. Bush clearly has a particular style. Some like it, appreciating it as a CEO / visionary type. Others can't stand it, thinking he's aloof and uninterested. But, he's the president, and he gets to set up the NSC the way he wants to reflecting how he wants to do business.

At the heart of all this is Condi Rice. She's a fascinating figure. Single woman, concert pianist, realist, former provost of Stanford, did her doctoral thesis at Denver with Madeline Albright's father as her advisor, was an expert on the Soviet military, has a Cheveron oil tanker named after her, football fan frequently seen around town with Gene Washigton (an NFL executive-- she has said that commisioner of the NFL would be her dream job, as if National Security Advisor wasn't good enough...), one of Bush's closest advisors and confidants. The NY Times article on the syllabus (posted on the blackboard site) talks about all this. She is a quite yet powerful force in US foreign policy today.
If anyone was in my world politics class, you might have the article I wrote about her as a realist. If I remember when I get home tonight, I'll post it on the blackboard site too.

But the NSC (and Condi) are a reflection of the President. Its his NSC, designed to respond to his needs and policies.
So, what do you think about Bush-- not his politics per se, but his style of running government. What is good about how he runs his show? What is bad about it? Should it be done differently?

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Blogging from North Carolina--the wonders of technology never cease.
My friend here just got a new puppy, its very cute. I'm not really a dog person, but this dog is quite cute.
So we are on the precipice of a fantastic debate on what to do about North Korea and their nuclear weapons. Its a very vexing question, and this administration is very torn about it. Next week the next round of the 6 party talks are scheduled to take place. The latest reports on the negotiations reveal how split the administration is and what is at stake.

Its a perplexing situation with no good options. The choices are between bad--pay off North Korea to get
it to give up the bomb--worse--a North Korea with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles--and downright horrific--a second Korean war.

Is there any "good" way out of this? Like many foreign policy conundrums, this situation forces the US to make the best of a bad situation and decide which course of action produces the least bad outcome.
And that's a toughie.

So, what do you think about North Korea?
What do you do as a policy maker facing a bunch of bad options?

Friday, February 20, 2004

Fog of War

While looking for usage guidelines for "axis of evil," I happened along an interesting piece on doublespeak and foreign policy. It's a bit slanted, but I thought you all might find it interesting. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

This comes from a class-related conversation I just had with someone-- its particularly relevant to the whole class, so I thought I would share...

Everyone "hates" theory-- if you head downtown into the government, think tanks, and consultants who come up with the daily workings of foreign policy, they will all poo-poo theory and say tell me something I can use about the world.

But, the buzz in business, consulting, and now even government is to "get outside the box" (or outside the bubble, depending on which consultant ran your management training course). That is impossible to do without a true consideration and appreciation of the role that theory plays in your life.

Each fact or thing about the world that you think you know is actually given relevance due to a particular theory. Its theory that organizes the mess that is the world into bite-sized chunks that you can digest and process. If you try to go "outside your box/bubble" without altering your theory, you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes that got you into trouble in the first place. Theory constructs that box. (iron cage Weber reference here, maybe jenny will laugh at that, probably no one else will....)
But, as i was saying, if you really want to understand your box/bubble and try to get outside it, you need to come to terms with the theory that constructs that box. Only then can you really see why things work as they do.

So, those of you who aspire to jobs in the "real world" of foreign policy: theory is much, much more important than anyone gives it credit for being, and this is why we have the brief week of theory in this class.
(and its also why you should all take an IR theory class, but that's another little rant for another time....)

Monday, February 16, 2004

Today we dip into the fun filled world of bureaucracy.
you've got to love a good bureaucracy-- the world is full of them. Ever had to clear up a problem with your financial aid? deal with the registrar? gotten a ticket? its all bureaucracy.
Its something we love to hate, and yet its everywhere. everything is a big bureaucracy that people love to rail against, and yet, no one really has developed a better way to manage large, compex organizations.
how is your experience with financial aid relevant to foreign policy?
well, each and every one of the actors involved in making US foreign policy is a bureaucracy-- the state department, the pentagon, the military services, and so on.
Washington is the consumate bureaucratic insider's town, and tales of bureaucratic inflighting here are legendary. Like, for instance, the current battle between State and Defense over just about every element of US foreign policy.
Do you have a good bureaucracy story? Have you ever encountered a bureaucracy that actually "works," or, have you seen an alternative type of organizaion in action that should replace bureaucracy?

Friday, February 13, 2004

so, theory
i use theory all the time, it informs my work, and it even informs how i teach this class. If you ever read anything that i write, you would see my theory in action.
I am curious-- where do people fall? I would imagine that we have a variety of people, I would like to hear, if you care to identify yourselves, what are you? realist? liberal? constructivist? what draws you to your position?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Oh, how can you not love the West Wing last night? What a wednesday.
A whole episode about nuclear proliferation!!! And, on the same day the President makes a major policy speech on the very same issue.

The fascinating thing, i think, is how close this fictional world tracks the "real world" on issues like this-- notice that yesterday President Bush announced a major shift in non-proliferation policy, cutting off access to all nuke technology for non-nuclear countries. This is a fundamental rewriting of the central tenet of the NPT, the global treaty that is designed to prevent proliferation and created the IAEA to monitor it.
(this article comes with a great graphic, check it out too)

What I like about West Wing is how they can take such a complex issue like nuclear proliferation, show its complexity and yet make it compelling to a general audience. This is one of the most important and dangerous issues in foreign policy--who joins the nuclear club--and it so often recieves scant attention.

And, notice how well it tracks with the class-- our debate in a week or so is about North Korea. Who was a top suspect of the bomb? North Korea. What is next week's episode all about? North Korea.

So, to really do well in class that day, you need to keep up with your West Wing!!!
(and James Bond-- Die Another Day is also required viewing here....)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Well, things are starting to get interesting.
Comcast wants to buy The Mouse for a mere $66 billion. That's a huge chunk of change for ESPN, the Lion King, and Ted Kopple.

So, we are moving on. History has ended (and i am the last man-- that's a francis fukuyama joke, but no one will get it...)
We now move on to theory, which is fun and exciting.

So, do you have a theory of how the world works? Do you ever use theory? I play with theory every day--but then again, I am a theorist as much as I am a policy person. Its funny, though, because theory people think that policy is beneath them-- theory is for theory's sake. Policy people think that theory is for the birds (well, they don't say birds, but....) and of no use to solving real-world every day problems. I disagree, I think that theory is very useful to policy and policy is very useful to theory. After all, policymakers have theories about how the world works, and that shapes thier decisions. And, theories are about how the world works, and the working world is a bunch of policies in action. But this is not a popular position in either the world of IR theory or Foriegn Policy.

Do you think theory is important? Are only some theories important?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

. . . To 'War President' (washingtonpost.com)

Interesting piece on Bush as a War President. Also, for those who have taken either Prof. Howard or Prof. Jackson's Intro to IR Research classes, note the reference to a "tipping point".

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Imminent Danger at The CIA (washingtonpost.com)

Here's an interesting bit on attacks based on bad intel. dating back to the Clinton administration. Is the difference between Clinton and Bush one of substance or degree?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The issue is quite simple: Is George W. Bush's approach to foreign policy, as defined by his national security strategy, good for the United States? Is Bush acting as a strong, decisive leader taking the tough steps necessary to secure American interests in troubled times? Or, is Bush acting like an arrogant, irresponsible, and reckless leader undercutting America's long-term security by alienating allies and over-stretching American power? The positions are stark, but the debate is quite real, and if you listen to what the President and his Administration officials are saying and compare that to what the Democratic presidential contenders are saying, you will see the debate cast in just these terms.
How do you evaluate and judge Bush's approach to US Foreign Policy?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Powell Says New Data May Have Affected War Decision (washingtonpost.com)

Here's an interesting piece, in which Colin Powell alternates between saying that he might not have recommended war had the intel. said there were no weapons stockpiled, and arguing that Saddam had "the intent" to use and acquire WMD, and that justified invasion. If intent to acquire WMD is considered a valid cause for going to war, how does this affect the Bush Doctrine? What do you guys think?

I think that this whole idea of "electability" is a little goofy in the sense that you have, in essence, people voting for who they think others will vote for. Clearly, Kerry has the advantage right now of being the most "electable" candidate since the media has anointed him the front runner at the right time. Other than the media giving him lots of pub and showing polls where he beats Bush one on one, I don't see why people think he is so electable. If electablity is important to you, it seems to me that Clark is the most electable by a long shot considering he is a general/Rhodes scholar from the South. I know that Kerry has campaign experience, but I think that experience can be overrated, and I could see Kerry pulling an Al Gore-2000 and move to the middle so much that it hurts him, since of all the candidates, he seems the most like a "politician" who will say whatever it takes. What do you (especially those who want to see Bush go) think about all of this? Which candidate do you like the best? And is there anyone from Massachusetts with some insight on Kerry who can help me change my opinion of him?

Good debate about Vietnam yesterday, well done.

So, we open late due to a mild rainstorm....
While listening to NPR news this morning waiting for word on the University's late opening (WAMU, 88.5 FM which is American University run), I heard a great story that has a direct bearing on our class discussion for Thursday, directly commenting on Bush's foreign policy strategy in one way or another.
The first was about David Kay--again. Click hear for a link to the story--its an audio link, interactive! Its amazing how such a few words--"We were all wrong" can have such a dramatic impact. Here, Kay and others are discussing the importance of accurate intelligence to Bush's national security strategy of preemption. Preemption is at the center of Bush's strategy, and it was used to justify the war in Iraq. Preemption involves striking first-- but if you are going to strike first, you need to be sure that the target is in fact a threat. This requires solid intel. Without the intel, the whole thing could fall apart. Check out the story, it has some great audio clips and background on Bush's national security strategy.

Preemption was controversial when Bush announced it, and its just as controversial now, after Iraq.

Clinton-- to bring in the other half of Thursday's class-- was all about "Engagement and Enlargement" spreading American ideas and influence through cooperation, institutions, and so-called soft power.
Bush is much more about overt American military and political dominance.
In a sense, they are doing the same thing: managing a post-cold war American empire.
But, they also are operating in different worlds, pre and post Sept 11 Terrorism.

So, to start the debate early, and I hope to have this continue through next Monday, is Bush's doctrine of preemption and assertive use of American power the way to go? Is the Clintonian alternative, emphasizing carrots over sticks, a more effective foreign policy? Or, was each appropriate for its time period?

Lots to discuss and debate...

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Its superbowl Sunday, and here I am blogging about foreign policy.....
Still can't decide who I am picking to win, both teams seem so solid and evenly matched. But, I will probably root for the Patriots because Mike Vrable starts for them at linebacker. He started for Ohio State when I was there. When in doubt, always root for the the team with more Buckeyes!!!

The fallout from the David Kay statements and testimony continue to amaze. His signature line: "We were all wrong" now has congress, the media, and experts questioning each and every claim that the Bush Administration made justifying the war. Today, both the Washington Post and New York Times have stories that pick apart Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentatin to the UN Security Council requesting a resolution authorizing war. Most of what he said then we now know not to be true.
Note the fallout from these revalations.

Bringing this around to Monday's class: Many have noted the uncomfortable parallels between Iraq and Vietnam. What if someone, like a David Kay type figure, had come out in 1967 or 1968 and said that we were wrong about Vietnam? Could that have changed things? Would he have even been right?

In a sense, the Pentagon Papers, published in 1971, were that type of revelation (link on history of papers click here; link to text of the papers if you want to read excerpts, click here). They showed internal government analyses that challenged the very foundations of the war. But, they appeared late, well after much of the American public had turned against the war.

Vietnam remains a critical event in both the history of American Foreign Policy and the building of the America that we find ourselves in today. The presidential campaigns relfect this-- John Kerry trumpets his record as a Vietnam war vet. He rose to political fame by coming home and turning against the war-- in a march on Washington he famously threw away his medals.
So much of what the public was told about Vietnam was wrong, so much of what American believed and actually knew about was somewhere between misguided and wrong. And for the longest time, there was no David Kay to say so and force us to question why we were fighting.

What do you think?

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