zenpundit.com » 2006 » July

Archive for July, 2006

Monday, July 31st, 2006


This Monday’s segment of the Soft Power/Public Diplomacy series, Paul Kretkowski’s Beacon features Joshua S. Fouts, director of USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy and co-director of the Center’s “Public Diplomacy in Virtual Worlds” project.

An excerpt from Dr. Fouts’ post:

“Public Diplomacy Dateline 1994: From Monologue to Dialogue as VOA Picks up the Phone

In 1993, shortly after taking over the helm of the Voice of America, director Geoffrey Cowan said that it was time to stop talking to audiences overseas and time to start listening. One of the hallmarks of U.S. democracy, he noted, was our ability to tell the good with the bad and, perhaps more importantly, to engage in debates about them in an open forum. Why not bring the world audience into the conversation?

At the time, China still jammed VOA broadcasts quite heavily, and anecdotal evidence in Iran told us that equipment that could be used to access overseas broadcasts—satellite receivers, for example—was heavily banned by the Mullahs. But we knew were getting through.

Cowan announced that we would start a call-in show to these regions—first in Mandarin and later in Farsi. VOA had hosted call-in shows before, but never on a regular basis and infrequently in languages of countries in which jamming was prevalent. Further, he pushed us to embrace the evolving pace of technologies and make the information accessible on multiple venues—satellite and Internet.

….To describe the first shows as emotional is an understatement. Listeners embraced the platform and filled up the phone lines. They asked tough questions of guests from the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, to a stream of politicians, diplomats and pundits. More importantly, we listened, we discussed and debated. And the world talked back.”

Read the post in its entirety here:

Monday, July 31st, 2006


Though several requests were put in for this post earlier today, the aftermath of Qana seems an even more appropriate moment to survey how one of the most competent and effective of earth’s armies finds itself frustrated and outgamed by a small terror militia dependent on third rate foreign powers for logistics and intelligence support. The answer to Israel’s inability to come to grips with Hezbollah in Lebanon hinges on the fact that all military actions occur in a geopolitical, economic and diplomatic environment, or as Dr. Barnett likes to say ” in the context of everything else”.

You need a strategy in order to navigate that global context and I’m not sure what Israel’s strategy actually is in Lebanon -or if they have one at all. Whatever the IDF is using, all observers seem to agree that it is not working very well in terms of advancing Israeli interests. Hezbollah, and frankly I see them as a very nasty, dangerous and destructive force, has managed to finesse a near disaster into a diplomatic coup and a military stalemate, primarily because they have kept their eye on their strategic goals and consider human life to be a very cheap price to pay for coming out on top.

Some informed commentators, notably Colonel Patrick Lang, have pointed to the IDF chief, a career air force man, as the source of Israel’s current debacle, as General Halutz is the advocate of Israel’s EBO attack on Lebanon, there’s no doubt some truth to that. But General Halutz is the chief of staff, not the Israeli Cabinet, which contains no small number of politicians with experience in Israel’s previous wars. Nor is he the Prime Minister of Israel. EBO is a tactic, a very effective one against states, but it is not an end in itself. Why, Israel would use an EBO attack and against whom counts for much more.

That was a question of strategy for Israel’s government to decide for General Halutz, because for a small state like Israel, no matter how militarily effective it might be, diplomacy and leveraging the psychological dimensions and moral level of warfare matter about as much as bombs and bullets. Israel has no strategic depth, no room for error, while Hezbollah has depth clear back to Teheran. Instead, Israel went with the easy and tactically certain course of degrading Lebanon’s systemic infrastructure -slowly – and is painting itself into a strategic corner as a result, having done insufficient damage to Hezbollah to justify the costs of the campaign.

In fairness to PM Olmert and the Israelis, we do not know the backstory here. The popular assumptions are that the Bush administration egged Israel on to attack Lebanon and, conversely, that Hezbollah is being run from Iran. These assumptions may very well be wrong. The Bush administration may have vetoed an Israeli EBO attack on Syria, a campaign that would have made far more strategic sense, given Syria’s indispensible role as a conduit of Iranian aid to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Likewise, while the Pasdaran and MOIS keep Hezbollah fine-tuned as a terrorist machine, Nasrallah may have manuvered Ahmadinejad and Khameini into backing Hezbollah’s confrontation with Israel the way Ho Chi Minh and Giap once played Kosygin and Mao for fools. We don’t know what options were foreclosed in a priori.

As Hezbollah is a semi-4GW organization, it obeys no recognized rules of warfare yet escapes much in the way of blame, and intentionally seeks maximum civilian casualties among Lebanese Shiites from Israeli retaliation, there are certain political realities that cannot be ignored:

First, even careful Israeli retaliation will kill plenty of civilians.

Secondly, if you are going to retaliate and kill civilians, the faster you react, the better you will appear to the rest of the world. Time lag and killing civilians does not mix for a power that needs diplomatic ratification to secure its strategic gains.

Third, if you are going to kill lots of civilians, there needs to be a realizable, acheivable, end-goal in mind. Pushing Hezbollah’s rocket line back in terms of geography is meaningless because either Hezbollah will tweak their rockets to improve the range or Iran and Syria will provide better rockets. What happens when Hezbollah launches rockets from north of Beirut ?

The only meaningful strategic goal here for Israel was the total demilitarization of Hezbollah, an objective that coincided with the national interests of not just the U.S. but that of France, and therefore, in a languidly trailing and desultory way, the EU. The key to that objective was Syria, not Lebanon, and making the hapless and ineffectual Lebanese government instead of the “strong”, generally unpopular and very “targetable” Syrian regime the focus of Israeli wrath – followed by real negotiations of things Damascus is interested in talking about – was a mistake. Carrots and sticks. Much more efficient use of Israeli political capital than bombing Lebanon or engaging in bloody house to house fighting in the Bekaa ( the only way to actually root out Hezbollah’s fighters). A better route for Israel to have taken if it wanted an EBO campaign.

And of course, in five or six years, if Nasrallah were to have an accident, by then Israel will probably only be one of the suspected culprits. Perhaps not even at the top of the list.


Abu Aardvark

American Footprints ( Haggai)

American Future

Arms and Influence

Armchair Generalist

Aqoul ( Tom Scudder)

Austin Bay ( Bill Roggio guest post)

Bliss Street Journal

Bruce Kesler



Counterterrorism Blog

Dan Drezner



Don Surber

Fabius Maximus (DNI)

John Robb

Juan Cole

Lexington Green

Live From the FDNF !New !

Martin Kramer


Middle East Perspective

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Sun BinNew !


The Glittering Eye

Threatswatch ( Schippert)

William Arkin

William Lind (DNI)

Winds of Change ( Donald Sensing)

Sunday, July 30th, 2006


Dr. Daniel Nexon had a thought-provoking post at The Duck of Minerva entitled “Failed state and the global war on terror“. His post is long and contains many points worthy of attention and indeed, I could not help but leave comments on some of them at The Duck. I suggest you read Dr. Nexon’s post in full as I am going to critique particular sections.

Here follows excerpts from Dan’s post and my observations and questions:

“….I argue in the book that there are a variety of generalizable principles concerning religious conflict and the dynamics of imperial control. But these “lessons” tend to be rather indirect.When we got back I returned to the process of converting the footnotes from plain text to Endnote (note to all dissertation writers: use citation software now; doing so will save you a lot of time later) and realized that I could draw one rather immediate and, in some ways, rather banal lesson: if your aim is to limit the impact of trans-national religious movements, then your focus should be on enhancing state capacity. As some analysts might put it, the best way to limit “networks” is to develop “hierarchies.”[1]”

I would agree. There’s only so much social ” battlespace” in a given population and the unconstrained growth of hierarchies can crowd out potential competitors by thoroughly dominating the environment the way trees shade out grass. Taken to an extreme you have the Nazi “coordination” of all German institutions, professions, industries, charitable associations until effectively the civil society independent of National Socialism ceased to exist or was forced into collaboration with the regime. Or the Soviet Union where all private associations were simply abolished and replaced by Bolshevik ones.

Unfortunately neither of those examples are attractive options for a liberal democracy, representing a cure worse than the disease. The very definition of a liberal and open society is one in which its citizens are relatively free to associate and interact without government supervision and intervention which is where we’d like most Gap states to be someday. Yet most weak states are in danger of failing from an inability to provide basic security or attract the primary loyalty of its citizens and fear liberalization would cause what little authority they have to come unglued. Therefore I’ve argued that the United States should pursue building state resilience in a focused manner which means strengthening institutions in terms of their legitimacy and not simply showering weak states with massive amounts of aid money. Without a degree of resiliency and functional transparency the aid cannot even be effectively absorbed.

“As John Mueller remarked to me about a number of African polities, “their central governments are so weak that they face serious threats from roving bands of two hundred or so thugs.” In fact, the relative strength of central power across early modern Europe was a decent, if imperfect, indicator of whether or not religious contention would fragment a polity. Early modern European states tended to be relatively weak, composite entities with imperfect, at best, monopolies on coercive military power. The fact that they developed in relatively centralized and strong states later on rendered them, all things being equal, both relatively resilient in the face of such threats and decreased the likelihood that such threats would emerge in the first place.”

Here’s an interesting counterpoint, going back some 700 years earlier, the Byzantine Empire, a highly centralized polity tearing itself apart over the Iconoclast movement ( a religious reform that was also a bid for even greater centralization in religious or political affairs). That being said, I’m pretty sure Dr. Dan is right about early modern Europe.

“Israel’s policy of trying to compel the fragile Lebanese state to “take on” Hezballah not only seems to be failing at both the strategic and a “war of ideas” level, but, as I noted in my first attempt at videoblogging, looks almost like its designed to create a failed state–a consequence that would be far worse for Israel than intermittent low-level attacks from a relatively restrained (if odious) quasi-state organization in the country. Remember the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982? They drove out the PLO and got Hezballah in exchange.”

EBO attacks are, as John Robb once noted, system disruption warfare designed to produce failed states. This tactic was successfully used by the Clinton administration against Iraq with Operation Desert Fox and against Milosevic in Serbia in the Kosovo War. In both cases, the objective desired (” Get the Serb paramilitaries out of Kosovo”) was viewed as less costly a capitulation by the target government than suffering a destroyed state. Lebanon is simply unable to comply with Israel’s demand; even if Hezbollah was not actively supported and supplied by Syria and Iran, Hezbollah is far more likely to disarm the Lebanese Army than the reverse. An EBO attack on Syria, however, might have produced the result Israel wanted but that ran the risk of provoking wider regional war – and was perhaps vetoed by the Bush administration.

( For more on EBO, see Sonny’s series ” Defending EBO” at FX-Based)

“Strong states, simply put, are a important firewalls against “global guerillas.” Destroying them for the express purpose of creating democracies? Not such a good idea.[2] Strong states make it less likely that regional, substate, and transnational non-state actors will threaten US interests. Even though some of those “strong” states (such as Iran) sponsor violent non-state actors (such as Hezballah) the ultimate threat from those movements is very much conditioned by the number of low-capacity states in the world. Moreover, strong states do have the capacity to limit the activities of their proxies, and present themselves as targets for coercive leverage of the kind that might actually reduce the resources and capabilities of their clients”

They are certainly better than weak states or failed states however I would argue that legitimacy and demographic homogeneity are important factors here, not just expertise at social controls and potential police and military powers. Japan is not particularly vulnerable to Global Guerillas in the way that India or China might be.

“I believe, in fact, that these outcomes reflect a tension in US occupation policy between its “unite-and-rule” goals (e.g., the kind of intense “nation-building” that Bush derided in the 2000 campaign) and its commitment to providing the absolute minimal resources it can to the effort. This raises an interesting question: does a governing party have to be social-democratic or otherwise “statist” to do nation-building right? “

Bismarck, a conservative-nationalist junker, was a nation-builder par excellence as was General Douglas MacArthur, whose political views were both far-right and egomaniacal. Lyndon B. Johnson’s efforts in South Vietnam were as unsuccessful as those of Richard Nixon’s ( which is saying something, as Nixon came into office looking to get out of Vietnam as cheaply as possible). George W. Bush has spent a large amount of money in Iraq but to very little substantive effect.

Getting things right in terms of nation-building, I suspect, depends a great deal on understanding what you have to work with.


Dr. Demarche weighs in on the problem that this scenario presents for statesmen in a guest post at Austin Bay’s blog.


John Robb’s incisive analysis of Hezbollah’s performance against Israel’s IDF has particular salience for this discussion. Israel’s unwillingness to accept casualties or inflict them effectively ( either by accurately hitting a high ratio of Hezbollah fighters or callously using the same WWII meat-grinder tactics Russia used when it took Grozny) has put the IDF at an uncharacteristic military disadvantage in Lebanon. The IDF can chew up Hezbollah but not without bringing it’s full power to bear and inflicting massive civilian casualties

Saturday, July 29th, 2006


Lots of great things to comment on – too many in fact – and it’s a hell of a nice summer day outside. So, I’m taking the kids to a nearby festival with a petting zoo and overpriced concessions.

Be back online tonight.

Friday, July 28th, 2006


For Thursday’s segment of the series, Paul Kretkowski’s Beacon features a post by the eminent scholar Joseph S. Nye, Jr., father of the “Soft Power” concept itself and the former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Nye has also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology.

A excerpt from Professor Nye’s guest post:

“Public Diplomacy Dateline 1958: Perestroika Begins When a Soviet Visits Columbia UniversityI think the single best episode of public diplomacy of which I am aware was the U.S.-Soviet exchange program that brought Alexander Yakovlev to study at Columbia University in 1958. He was greatly taken by the theories of pluralism taught by Professor David Truman. He applied these ideas as a key exponent of perestroika and glasnost after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the 1980s. This helped to accelerate a peaceful end to the Cold War and to the Soviet Union. Although it took two decades to pay off, it is difficult to think of a greater impact than that. (I describe the event in more detail in Chapter 2 of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.)”

Read Dr. Joseph S. Nye’s post in full here.

1958 must have been quite a year at Columbia for future Soviet bloc historical figures. That year also saw as exchange students the future KGB General Oleg Kalugin and Hafiazullah Amin, the bloodthirsty Marxist Prime Minister of Afghanistan who was toppled and murdered in the Tajbeg Palace by special KGB commandos in the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Blogging Note:

More to come tonight…..

Switch to our mobile site