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More on R2P, Second Thoughts by Slaughter? Plus, Drezner on Networks

Friday, September 30th, 2011

R2P is in the news while I slowly and laboriously wind my way through writing the next edition of the R2P is the New COIN series.

LATimes - R2P and the Libya mission:When does ‘responsibility to protect’ grant countries the right to intervene?

The Palestinian bid for statehood and traffic congestion weren’t the only things going on in New York last week as the 66th U.N. General Assembly convened. One of the issues privately discussed by foreign ministers at the United Nations was the “responsibility to protect,” or R2P. This concept was central to the U.N. mandate to protect civilians in Libya, which led to NATO‘s aerial involvement there. As the dust settles in Tripoli, it has become necessary to refute a powerful myth that has developed among some pundits and politicians. That myth is that R2P bestows “the right to intervene” in Libya.Even though R2P features in just two paragraphs of the 40-page “outcome document” of the 2005 U.N. World Summit, historian Martin Gilbert has suggested that it constituted “the most significant adjustment to national sovereignty in 360 years.”R2P’s core idea is that all governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is primarily a preventive doctrine. However, R2P also acknowledges that we live in an imperfect world and if a state is “manifestly failing” to meet its responsibilities, the international community is obligated to act. It is not a right to intervene but a responsibility to protect.

The distinction is not diplomatic artifice. After the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the 1995 massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, the international community resolved to never again be a passive spectator to mass murder. Still, it would not have been surprising if R2P had quietly expired after 2005. The United Nations, after all, can be a place where “good ideas go to die.” Instead, within the U.N. the debate now is about how R2P should be meaningfully implemented, rather than whether such a responsibility exists….

If I were the House Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee or the Senate Armed Services Committee, I sure would like to know what those foreign ministers and especially our SECSTATE or UN Ambassador were saying about R2P! I might even suggest that,  in televised hearings, that before the US endorse or adhere to any newly fashionable concepts of sovereignty, the elected representatives of the people of the United States should be informed and consulted.

Simon Adams, like most commenters in the R2P debate, is focused on the impact an R2P doctrine as part of international law would have on military intervention, especially the frequency of American military intervention. This is reasonable because, logically, R2P implies much larger burdens and more frequent interventions overseas. But the flip side, if you look at the implication of “new sovereignty” as articulated by Dr. Slaughter, are changes to how we as Americans govern ourselves, transfers of power and authority to unelected officials, private interests and even foreigners, as well as  limitations on democratic consent.

[Limitations on the democratic consent of the unwashed masses seems to be popular lately with the political elite]

Speaking of Anne Marie Slaughter, she recently penned a curious op-ed about Afghanistan that is not a retreat from R2P, but comes across as at least a step back from seeking maximalist policy objectives with military force, in the face of messy realities:

Where the Afghanistan effort broke down

….For a long time I was convinced that the NATO intervention in Afghanistan could be successful at building a functioning Afghan government that would provide basic services to its citizens. My views were largely shaped by my regular conversations with my long-time friend Sarah Chayes, who lived in Kandahar for much of past decade running first a dairy cooperative and then a soap and fragrance business with Afghans. We were failing, in her view, because of the high NATO tolerance for the cancerous corruption that was sucking the life out of the country, starting at the top. Her book Punishment of Virtue tells the tale, describing how Afghans genuinely committed to rebuilding their country have been systematically driven out or killed by their compatriots who are profiting from the enormous in-flux of money and opportunity that inevitably accompanies large-scale Western intervention in a poor country. She thought, and I agreed, that the U.S. had had an opportunity to help rebuild a very different Afghanistan immediately after the invasion, and that it was still possible to empower the good guys if we were really willing to take on the bad guys profiting at the local, regional, and national level.

Over the past two years, I have reluctantly changed my mind. I have come to believe that where the problem is a predatory state, which the very presence of massive Western resources tends to fuel, it is essentially impossible for outsiders to spur or even effectively support a process of reform from within when we are a big part of the problem by being there in the first place. Stewart makes the argument succinctly and effectively: “the international community necessarily [lacks] the knowledge, the power, and the legitimacy to engage with politics at a local provincial level.”

I would add a much more personal dimension, one that is consistent with a 21st century focus on social actors and social relations as well as on governments and inter-governmental relations. The “international community” does not engage with Afghans. Individual men and women (mostly men) do. Those individuals – diplomats, soldiers, development professionals – develop personal relationships with Afghan officials at the national, provincial, and local level. They have to work together on common programs; moreover, the Americans or Europeans are doing their best to cultivate personal relationship in part to garner exactly the knowledge they know they lack. But once those relationships are established, how exactly is a general or a captain, an ambassador or a political counselor, a USAID Mission Director or a field development expert supposed to turn to his or her Afghan counterparts and interlocutors and explain that they should really stop taking bribes and looting the funds intended for their fellow Afghans? And once the denial is issued, as of course it must be, then what?  Accuse him or her of lying? The problems that are most central cannot even be talked about honestly. They are always someone else’s fault. But if they cannot be acknowledged, they cannot be resolved.

It is at this micro-level that policies must actually be implemented. And it is at this level that I conclude state-building military interventions are much more likely to fail than to succeed.

Slaughter, in my view, is more insightful with her empirical analysis of the granular mechanics of international relations than the theoretical and especially legal constructs she builds from them. Military force is a blunt instrument; whether you approach it from a Clausewitzian perspective or one partial to Sun Tzu, the ability to extract desired political concessions with violence – to compel the enemy to do your will – becomes more difficult and costly as your ends are at once both expansive and “fine-tuned”. We transformed and fine-tuned the societies of defeated Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, but only after waging the greatest  total war since the Mongols sacked Persia. Bismarckian strategic talent to accomplish major ( but not maximalist) strategic goals at reasonably affordable ( but not cheap) costs is an extreme historical rarity.

Finally, Dan Drezner has re-engaged Slaughter on the point of networks in international relations and politics:

Do networks transform the democratic political process?

….As a social scientist, I must acknowledge that this is a powerful prima facie data point in favor of Slaughter.

And yet, it’s worth pushing the NYT thesis a bit. What happens when the coalition of like-minded individuals stop being of like mind? These sorts of protests can be very powerful on single-issue questions where a single policy change is desired. Maintaining this level of activism to affect the ongoing quotidian grubbiness of politics, however, is a far more difficult undertaking. Even if people can be mobilized behind the concept of “Policy X is Stupid!” getting the same consensus on “Policy Y is the Answer!” is harder. Over time, these kind of mass movements have an excellent chance of withering away or fracturing from within. See, for example, the Tahrir Square movement in Egypt.

Another thing, and this is important: unless the people in these movements actually vote in elections, then their agenda will be thwarted in the long run. Even if these kinds of networked movements are new, the political imperative to get elected and re-elected is not. If they don’t vote, then officials have a pretty powerful incentive to curry favor with the people who do vote, don’t take to the streets and don’t like these young whippersnappers with their interwebs have different policy preferences.

On the transformative nature of networks, I think Slaughter is, in the big picture, correct that scale free networks are different from hierarchies in important behavioral and structural ways. RAND scholar David Ronfeldt, a friend of this blog, has a paper that I would strongly recommend that looks at the sociopolitical nature of  tribes, hierarchies, markets and networks that has great relevance to this discussion. Drezner’s counter-point to Slaughter has traction because although networks are powerful, it is a matter of comparative advantage over other social forms in certain environments, but not all environments.

Moreover, a lot of what Slaughter is calling “networks” – especially the “governmental networks” that occur in and within IGOs are really organizations with the characteristic of modularity and are not naturally emergent scale free social networks like your twitter follower list. Secondly, networks have weaknesses as well as strengths and history is replete with networks – like political and social protest movements, peasant rebellions and revolutionary conspiracies – that were unceremoniously and thoroughly crushed by the power of ruling hierarchies. Third, and most important, the de facto existence of  tacit, dynamically evolving, social networks as political movers to be taken seriously is not itself a good reason to grant them de jure status in international law as legitimate, authority-wielding, actors.

In fact, I can think of many good reasons not to do so.

[Belated hat tips to Cheryl Rofer, Bruce Kesler, David Ronfeldt]

Open-Source Counterinsurgency in Mexico?

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Are the Mata Zetas an open source counterinsurgency of loyalist paramilitaries, a “black hand” of frustrated state security personnel or an embryonic cartel?

Mexico Fears Rise of Vigilante Justice

MEXICO CITY-A self-styled drug-trafficking group calling itself the “Zeta Killers” claimed responsibility this week for the recent murders of at least 35 people believed to belong to the Zetas, Mexico’s most violent criminal organization.

The claim by the “Mata Zetas” has stoked fears that Mexico, like Colombia a generation before, may be witnessing the rise of paramilitary drug gangs that seek society’s approval and tacit consent from the government to help society confront its ills, in this case, the Zetas.

On Wednesday, Mexico’s national security spokeswoman Alejandra Sota vowed in a statement that the government would “hunt down” and bring to justice any criminal group that takes justice into its own hands.

….”Our only objective is the Zetas cartel,” said a burly, hooded man who said he was a Mata Zetas spokesman, in the video. The man said that unlike the Zetas, his group didn’t “extort or kidnap” citizens and were “anonymous warriors, without faces, but proudly Mexican” who would work “clandestinely” but “always to benefit Mexico’s people.”

The mysterious group appears to be part of the New Generation drug cartel, which operates in the northwestern state of Jalisco, according to an earlier video that showed some three dozen hooded men brandishing automatic rifles as a spokesman vowed to wipe out the Zetas in Veracruz. In that video, the spokesman lauded the work of the Mexican armed forces against the Zetas, and urged citizens to give information on their location to the military.

Given the small size and relatively meager investment in Mexico’s military, compared to it’s GDP, the endemic corruption of the Mexican police and judiciary, the scale and firepower of the cartels and the degree of violence unleashed, the real surprise is that paramilitary activity has not arisen sooner. Assuming that the Mata Zetas are a genuine, emergent, grassroots paramilitary group ( something that Mexico’s corrupt political elite would find more threatening than the narcos). Too soon to tell.

It is difficult to see how the Mexican state, left to it’s own resources, can regain the initiative in Mexico against the cartels without either adopting tactics similar to those employed by Colombia to beat back FARC and ELN or engaging in a military mobilization sufficient to create a crushing advantage in manpower.

ADDENDUM:

SWJ Blog – Mexican Cartel Strategic Note

Mapping our interdependencies and vulnerabilities [with a glance at Y2K]

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — mapping, silos, Y2K, 9/11, rumors, wars, Boeing 747s, Diebold voting machines, vulnerabilities, dependencies ]


www.fun1001.com | Send this image to your friend

The “bug” of Y2K never quite measured up to the 1919 influenza bug in terms of devastating effect — but as TPM Barnett wrote in The Pentagon’s New Map:

Whether Y2K turned out to be nothing or a complete disaster was less important, research-wise, than the thinking we pursued as we tried to imagine – in advance – what a terrible shock to the system would do to the United States and the world in this day and age.

1.

My own personal preoccupations during the run-up to Y2K had to do with cults, militias and terrorists — any one of which might have tried for a spectacle.

As it turned out, though, Al Qaida’s plan to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve, 1999 was foiled when Albert Ressam was arrested attempting to enter the US from Canada — so that aspect of what might have happened during the roll-over was essentially postponed until September 11, 2001. And the leaders of the Ugandan Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, acting on visionary instructions (allegedly) from the Virgin Mary, announced that the end of the world had been postponed from Dec 31 / Jan 1 till March 17 — at which point they burned 500 of their members to death in their locked church. So that apocalyptic possibility, too, was temporarily averted.

2.

Don Beck of the National Values Center / The Spiral Dynamics Group, commented to me at one point in the run-up:

Y2K is like a lightening bolt: when it strikes and lights up the sky, we will see the contours of our social systems.

— and that quote from Beck, along with Barnett’s observation, pointed strongly to the fact that we don’t have anything remotely resembling a decent global map of interdependencies and vulnerabilities.

What we have instead is a PERT chart for this or that, Markov diagrams, social network maps, railroad maps and timetables… oodles and oodles of smaller pieces of the puzzle of past, present and future… each with its own symbol system and limited scope. Our mapping, in other words, is territorialized, siloed, and disconnected, while the world system which is integral to our being and survival is connected, indeed, seamlessly interwoven.

I’ve suggested before now that our mapping needs to pass across the Cartesian divide from the objective to the subjective, from materiel to morale, from the quantitative to the qualitative, and from rumors to wars. It also needs a uniform language or translation service, so that Jay Forrester system dynamic models can “talk” with PERT and Markov and the rest, Bucky Fuller‘s World Game included.

I suppose some of all this is ongoing, somewhere behind impenetrable curtains, but I wonder how much.

3.

In the meantime, and working from open source materials, the only kind to which I have access – here are two data points we might have noted a litle earlier, if we had decent interdependency and vulnerability mapping:

quo-vulnerabilities.gif

Fear-mongering — or significant alerts?  I’m not tech savvy enough to know.

4.

Tom Barnett’s point about “the thinking we pursued as we tried to imagine – in advance – what a terrible shock to the system would do to the United States and the world in this day and age” still stands.

Y2K was what first alerted me to the significance of SCADAs.

Something very like what Y2K might have been seems to be unfolding — but slowly, slowly.

Are we thinking yet?

Dead Sea Scrolls & Nag Hammadi Codices online

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — archaeology, Biblical scholarship, eschatology, digital literacy ]

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Both the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran and the Gnostic and associated codices from Nag Hammadi are now available for study online:

quo-codices.jpg

The Nag Hammadi Archive can be explored via the Claremont Colleges Digital Library, and the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls via the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Here’s a description of the War Scroll from Qumran, which “is dated to the late first century BCE or early first century CE”:

Against the backdrop of a long biblical tradition concerning a final war at the End of Days (Ezekiel 38-39; Daniel 7-12), this scroll describes a seven stage, dualistic confrontation between the “Sons of Light” (the term used by Community members to refer to themselves), under the leadership of the “Prince of Light” (also called Michael, the Archangel) – and the “Sons of Darkness” (a nickname for the enemies of the Community, Jews and non-Jews alike), aided by a nation called the Kittim (Romans?), headed by Belial. The confrontation would last 49 years, terminating in the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of the Temple service and sacrifices. The War Scroll describes battle arrays, weaponry, the ages of the participants, and military maneuvers, recalling Hellenistic and Roman military manuals.

You can see why I’m interested.

The Nag Hammadi texts are a little less well known but include — along with a variety of other texts, some of them self-described as “apocalypses” — the now celebrated Gospel of Thomas, which Bart Erhman reads as continuing a “de-apocalypticizing” of Jesus’ message which he finds beginning in Luke and continuing in John:

In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, written somewhat later than John, there is a clear attack on anyone who believes in a future Kingdom here on earth. In some sayings, for example, Jesus denies that the Kingdom involves an actual place but “is within you and outside you” (saying 3); he castigates the disciples for being concerned about the end (saying 18); and he spurns their question about when the Kingdom will come, since “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the earth and people do not see it” (saying 113).

Again, you can see why I am delighted that these texts are becoming available to a wider scholarly audience…

In both the Nag Hammadi codices and Qumran scrolls, we have texts that were lost for almost two thousand years and discovered, somewhat haphazardly, in 1945 and 1947 respectively, providing us with rich insights into the religious ferment around a time and place that have been pivotal for western civilization.

Now, more than half a century later, the web — as it becomes our global museum and our in-house library — brings us closer to both…

The Lion of Judah, Jesus and Jihad

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron – a meander from Narnia via Roke and the stars to Jihad –  too religious, perhaps, or too literary — a lightweight post of no significance ]

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lww-1991-03-small.jpg
illustration credit: Pauline Baynes
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In my previous post, I quoted the prophet and apostle Bill Harmon:

We are about to move from the dispensation of grace to the dispensation of dominion. We are about to see Jesus, not as the suffering lamb that was slain, but the roaring Lion who is King!

Dominion is a keyword that’s getting a lot of attention right now – it has significantly different meanings for different strands in the theological mix — but as usual I’m at least as interested in the symbols and imagery people use as I am in their doctrinal expressions.

This post, then, will explore the imagery of the Lion.

1.

Having recently written that post with the Harmon quote from 1999, I was struck to read the following account on the Elijah list just yesterday :

I had a profound encounter recently before going to bed. I think it is just like God to get you right before you fall asleep. I had to get out of bed to make a record of this! I felt it important to share with you. We see Jesus in many different expressions in the Scriptures. He is the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the Lord of Hosts, the Angel of the Lord and many other looks. But one night recently He came to me as the Lion who is ready to roar. As you read, ask the Lord to reveal this aspect of His nature in your life.

I had a vision where I found myself on the back of this giant Lion with a huge mane. Then I realized it was the Lord. As the Lion turned His head, I could see His mouth open as if He was getting ready to roar. It is time to ride on the Lion of Judah. It is as if He has been waiting for this season. There is something fresh and new in the air. The breath of His mouth will destroy the enemy.

In this vision I was also running my fingers through the mane of the Lion. This represents the intimacy with God that is the foundation for our authority. Our intimacy is for a purpose – it is to establish the Kingdom of God for the King. The Lion is symbolic in that it is the “King of the Jungle”. The world is that jungle. Jesus is coming as the Lion to rule in the jungle bringing His power to set people free.

The Lord carries us into that jungle with His authority. When we are riding on the Lion we can be assured that we will succeed in all He calls us to do. He is massive, larger than life. He is ready to conquer and demonstrate His power.

In my encounter, I was suddenly on this Lion and He was of full age and postured for action. This will be a time where God will do things suddenly. It will take us by surprise. The sons of the Kingdom will advance the Kingdom for His purposes and with His power.

John Belt, Live In His Presence Ministries

2.

To be honest, it strikes me that that’s straight out of CS Lewis and his wonderful books for children – but without Lewis’ grace as a writer. Compare:

That ride was perhaps the most wonderful thing that happened to them in Narnia. Have you ever had a gallop on a horse? Think of that; and then take away the jingle of the bits and imagine instead the almost noiseless padding of the great paws. Then imagine instead of the black or gray or chestnut back of the horse the soft roughness of golden fur, and the mane flying back in the wind. And then imagine you are going about twice as fast as the fastest racehorse. But this is a mount that doesn’t need to be guided and never grows tired. He rushes on and on, never missing his footing, never hesitating, threading his way with perfect skill between tree trunks, jumping over bush and briar and the smaller streams, wading the larger, swimming the largest of all. And you are riding not on a road nor in a park nor even on the downs, but right across Narnia, in spring, down solemn avenues of beech and across sunny glades of oak, through wild orchards of snow-white cherry trees, past roaring waterfalls and mossy rocks and echoing caverns, up windy slopes alight with gorse bushes, and across the shoulders of heathery mountains and along giddy ridges and down, down, down again into wild valleys and out into acres of blue flowers.

— CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (illustration above by Pauline Baynes)

That captures the “riding the Lion” idea a great deal more powerfully, and it’s imaginative fiction.

3.

The other idea present in Belt’s narrative is the Lion’s roar. Again, it seems to me that what Belt offers us is a less gracious version of Lewis, who wrote:

The Lion opened his mouth, but no sound came from it; he was breathing out, a long, warm breath; it seemed to sway all the beasts as the wind sways a line of trees. Far overhead from beyond the veil of blue sky which hid them the stars sang again; a pure, cold, difficult music. Then there came a swift flash like fire (but it burnt nobody] either from the sky or from the Lion itself, and every drop of blood tingled in the children’s bodies, and the deepest, wildest voice they had ever heard was saying: “Narnia, Narnia, Narnia. Awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine.”

It was of course the Lion’s voice.

— CS Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

4.

Commenting on Lewis’ version of the Lion’s roar, Paul Ford writes:

This passage is remarkable for the intense breath image and the addition of the fire image (from the first conferral of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament on Pentecost; see the Acts of the Apostles 2:3-4).

— Paul F. Ford, Companion to Narnia

With in turn refers us to this passage:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

— Acts 2:3-4

5.

TS Eliot was notably moved by the same passage, and we can see how a poet deals with the same wind and fire in one of the final sections of “Little Gidding”:

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre —
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

— TS Eliot, “Little Gidding”, Four Quartets

6.

It’s the wind of inspiration that brings tongues of flame here, many tongues, many languages…

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

John 3:8

And the Greek is really quite wonderful here, as Phillip Comfort among others points out

In John 3:8, there is a metaphor which is purposefully polyvalent, in that Jesus was speaking of wind, spirit, and breath at the same time (inasmuch as pneuma can mean all three)

Philip Comfort, Encountering the manuscripts: an introduction to New Testament paleography, p 235

And circling back for a moment to CS Lewis — because there is really only one universe of discourse…

It must always be remembered … that the various senses we take out of an ancient word by analysis existed in it as a unity.

CS Lewis, The Allegory of Love, p 365

7.

I said earlier that CS Lewis’ writing seemed to me to have notably more grace than John Belt’s — and I think that grace has to do with the theological virtue of the same name too, that beauty is an indicator of Grace if you like.

Here’s another author, also writing for children, whose prose is a marvel of purity — describing the music of the stars of which Lewis also spoke — Ursula Le Guin:

It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

Ursula Le Guin, Wizard of Earthsea

Ursula would, I think, describe herself as a Taoist: the traditions may differs, grace is still grace.

8.

Well, you might not think it would be easy to get from Narnia and CS Lewis to jihad in a single bound, but it has been done, and Jarret Brachman posted the proof a while back…

The jihadist propaganda lion:

screenshot.jpg

was in fact swiped from the Narnia lion:

narnia.jpg

— as Brachman elegantly demonstrated:

composite.jpg

all three images credit: Jarret Brachman, Cronus Global

9

Well, that’s funny — but not uplifting.

So I’ll leave you with another flight — that of the king of the birds this time in the words of Isaiah:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31


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