Sunday, April 22, 2007

A new challenge from China 

Since its China as Hegemonic Challenger week and Earth Day, I though that this report might be an interesting issue to discuss (hat tip to Dan Drezner):
China will overtake the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) either this year or next, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.

The estimate is much firmer than the IEA’s previous forecast, last November, that on current trends China would overtake the United States before 2010.

”Either this year or next year,” IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol told Reuters, in answer to the question of when China would overtake the United States.
Talk about a challenge to a key US #1 ranking....

Of course, you have to consider that China is like 4 or 5 times the size of the USA population-wise. But, that's part of the allure of China as hegemonic challenger.
Chinese officials point to their country’s relatively low per capita emissions of greenhouse gases, saying historically the main culprits are developed nations, who have no right to deny economic growth to others.

U.N. data for 2003 put the United States top with 23 percent of world carbon dioxide emissions and China second on 16.5 percent. U.S. individuals were far bigger emitters, at 20 tonnes per capita against China’s 3.2 tonnes and a world average of 3.7.

But China is catching up quick and is having to try to balance 10 percent annual economic growth with environmental and energy supply issues.

Latest data shows China is building a coal-fired power plant every four days, British foreign ministry official John Ashton said on Monday.

Growth in the emerging Asian giant’s emissions puts in perspective Western efforts to fight climate change, Birol said.

”What we do in Europe may be with good intentions, may be very ethical... but if you put it in terms of numbers its meaning is very limited.”

A senior staff scientist at the U.S. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) last month estimated it was very likely that China would overtake the United States this year, estimating China’s CO2 emissions in 2005 at 5.3 billion tonnes versus the United States’ 5.9 billion, but with China growing much faster.
So what does this do to all the dire predictions of China overtaking the US at some point?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

You'd Never Guess this from our campus... 

The conventional wisdom is that young people, as in 18-29 years old, are at the vanguard of opposition to the Iraq War and the Bush Administration. Well, perhaps the Conventional Wisdom is wrong. From the NYT.com:
The younger generation is opposed to the war in Iraq, right? Wrong. Actually, they're divided on the war, far more so than their grandparents, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll in March. Seems younger people are more supportive of the war and the president than any other age group.

Forty-eight percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while 45 percent said the United States should have stayed out. That is in sharp contrast to the opinions of those 65 and older, who have lived through many other wars. Twenty eight percent of that age group said the United States did the right thing, while 67 percent said the United States should have stayed out.

This is nothing new, said John Mueller, author of "War, Presidents and Public Opinion," and a professor of political science at Ohio State University. "This is a pattern that is identical to what we saw in Korea and Vietnam, younger people are more likely to support what the president is doing," he said.

A review of the March poll suggests Mr. Mueller has a point. Overall, 34 percent of Americans said they approved of the way the president was handling his job, and 58 percent disapproved. But younger Americans were more approving than older Americans. Forty percent of 18-29 year olds said Mr. Bush was doing a good job, while 56 percent said he was not. While 29 percent of people 65 and older said they approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling his job as president, 62 percent said they did not.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted March 7-11 with 1,362 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

A look back at the Vietnam years showed a similar divide between young and old. Older Americans were defined as 50 and older, but the comparison is still apt. In October 1968, when Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon and George Wallace were running for president, a Gallup poll found that about half, 52 percent, of people under the age of 30 supported the war in Vietnam. But among those 50 and older, 26 percent supported the war.

Some of the respondents to the March poll were called back to talk about the differences between the young and the not so young. "Experience," "the draft," "other wars," were mentioned by respondents on both sides of the generational divide.

Mildred Jenkins, 68, a retired telephone operator from Somerville Tennessee, said: "We've experienced more than the younger people. Older people are wiser. We've seen war and we know." Ms. Jenkins said she usually votes Republican but "may go Democratic this time."

More than one person who lived through the Vietnam war mentioned the draft and the absence of one for this war. "It's because of life experience," said Jimmie Powell, 73, a bartender and factory worker from El Reno, Oklahoma. "I don't think younger people really know a whole lot about anything. They don't care because there is no draft. If there were a draft, we'd finally have the revolution we need."

Mr. Powell describes himself as a political independent.

Some of the younger respondents said they were more aggressive than their elders by virtue of age.

"I think old people tend to want to solve things more diplomatically than younger, more gung ho types," said Mary Jackson, 28 a homemaker from Brewton, Alabama. "Younger people are more combative."

Younger people are also more optimistic. Forty-nine percent of them said the United States was either very likely or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq, while only 34 percent of older people said the same thing.

Since many of the readers of this blog fall into the target demographic (young voters), why do you think this is so? Does this poll reflect what you see among your peers?

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Signs of Trouble on Iraq 

Two lead articles in today's news reveal severe trouble for the Administration with respect to Iraq policy. Both are "inside-baseball" type of articles, but they are indicative of real problems with the overall direction of the course of the war.

The first was the Washington Post's front page story:
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation. At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position...
One of the former Generals who turned down the position hit the nail on the head:
"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.
To summarize the fundamental problem, the top NSC official now in charge of this is Meghan O'Sullivan, a young, fast-rising national security policy star. Her fundamental problem, though, is twofold. First, she can't "task" agencies, which is to say, she can't direct State or DoD to do X or Y. Second, she's still relatively junior and in no position to win bureaucratic battles with Gates and Rice. The Administration recognizes (about 4 years too late) that interagency cooperation is needed to run an overall war effort by the US Government, where the talents, resources, and capabilities of each agency work together rather than at cross-purposes, and they need someone in place to make sure that happens (though as Crooks and Liars asks, isn't that Bush's job?). But, as Sheehan points out, you can only direct a war when there's somewhere to go, and to repeat his line, "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going."

Then the report (I first saw it on the NYT) that the Pentagon is extending combat tours for the Army in Iraq to 15 months, up from the 12 months they now (used to) serve. The given rationale is that
Mr. Gates said the change would enable the Central Command, which runs American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, to maintain an increased number of American troops in Iraq to stabilize Baghdad for another year if necessary....

Mr. Gates said the impetus for the increase in Army combat tours had come from the service’s leaders, who saw a demand for “more clarity and fairness.”

As strains on the military have increased, some soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan have had to go back before a year’s rest. At least now, General Pace said, soldiers will know when they are coming and going. He said they would be able to “sit around a dinner table and know on such-and-such a date,” and plan their lives accordingly.

The new policy will ensure a year at home and that “all share the burden equally,” Mr. Gates said.
The WaPost points out what this 3-month extension says about the overall approach to Iraq:
The announcement makes official what had been an ongoing military strategy of keeping force levels up in Iraq, as commanders had sought extensions for several brigades over the past year to maintain pressure on enemy forces, especially in Baghdad. Gates and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference today that the broad-based extensions will provide a predictable and dependable deployment schedule for troops and their families.

The extended tours are also an indication of how much strain has been placed on the Army as a result of repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan for wars that have lasted far longer than expected.
In essence, the long-time criticism that there just aren't enough troops in Iraq to secure the country was spot-on, and the difficulty that the Military, the Army in particular, has in meeting those increased troop requirements is now starkly revealed. In the short run, this should help the regional commanders because they have some more troops for a sustained time. Officially, the Army can do this (and any soldier worth his salt will always say, sure we can do it-- that can-do attitude lies at the heart of the US military), but these demands are severely straining the military, and will have a profound effect for years to come, as experienced, veteran NCO's and Officers don't re-enlist, and instead abandon military service, taking hard-learned lessons and institutional knowledge with them.

Taken together, these two stories reveal the serious, profound, fundamental difficulty and disconnect at the heart of the Administration's Iraq policy. It can't find anyone willing to take charge of the situation (begging the question, who's in charge now), and it can barely sustain enough troops in theater, and does so by running the Army into the ground.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Choose one: Counter-proliferation or Counter-terrorism? 

National Security is all about prioritizing tough decisions. Often, an administration can get away with avoiding the really tough calls, but from time to time, issues arise that force policy makers into pragmatic trade-offs between vital values and interests. Those choices are very instructive and insightful as to how a President sees the world. The NY Times reports that the Bush Administration faced just such a choice between its key goals of counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation:
Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials.

The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.

The NYT story is quite clear about the central issue:
But the arms deal is an example of the compromises that result from the clash of two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration’s commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its effort to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program.

The Administration has identified both counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation as vital national security interests. But when they happen to conflict, as in when fighting terrorists requires looking the other way on a major North Korean arms deal, we see where the Administration's priorities lie. They would rather allow Ethiopia to purchase tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons from North Korea, providing North Korea with vital cash and circumventing UNSC sanctions limiting arms transfers out of North Korea in punishment for its nuclear test than not, so long as those weapons go to fight terrorists, and by terrorists we mean the Islamic militias in Somalia.

They had a clear choice--cut off one of North Korea's few sources of cash on the international market or equip an allied government with weapons necessary to launch an attack on Islamist militias.

Its one of those tough choices that National Security policy-makers make that reveals their priorities and values. It is also one of those choices with real repercussions long into the future, many of which have real consequences for vital US national security interests.

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