Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Yesterday, belaboring a point I've frequently made here, on HNN and on H-Diplo, I wrote:

"...retaining control of the initiative is critical in an unconventional, asymmetric war like the War on Terror. Smart, creative, ever evolving tactics within a larger strategy keeps the enemy off-balance but forces him to evolve to an extent, organizationally-speaking, in a direction we determine by our setting of the conflict parameters. This is why it is critical that the United States government - not the UN, not the Red Cross, not the EU, not professional NGO activists or media blowhards - determine the rules of engagement against a foe whose only rule in this war is that they will honor no rules whatsoever. Beslan is their paradigm, not the Geneva Convention.

Attempts to force the post-Kantian " police model " rule-set of warfare, adhered to by most European powers, on the United States military, is an attempt to hobble our response to al Qaida. Not an *effect* of applying such standards but the *intent* for applying them. Not all of our friends are really our friends in this war and not all of our usual or logical enemies are against us either, as they each pursue their own best interests."

Today TM Lutas had an important post about how the American public - who foots the cost in blood and treasure for being the world-system's leviathan and stabilizer - perceives the War on Terror and how the rest of the World does. It is noteworthy that the remainder of the Core could afford such chores but opt to leave them to the United States - while implicity demanding " stakeholder rights " on determining on how that American force is employed on their behalf. Go read the whole post but here is the critical excerpt:

"That approximately 7 in 10 voters feel that we are in a real war, a war that is non-westphalian, is incredibly disruptive to the current international system which is based on westphalian principles and which can not survive in a non-westphalian world. This poll means that a durable majority in the country that supplies nearly 50% of the world's military force essentially believes that all the international applecarts are going to have to get turned over. Furthermore, this is one of the two issues that they feel are most important for the country to face today. This is an electoral tiger that neither candidate is entirely comfortable riding though President Bush comes a lot closer to popular sentiment than Senator Kerry...."

"...I suspect that if the poll were taken among the political elite and among the general population, a huge, yawning chasm would appear in their responses. In this bifurcated nation between the people and the powerful, it would be President Bush on the side of the people, with the powerful's champion being Senator Kerry. "

I agree. The American foreign policy elite - except for the Neocons who have blind spots of their own- from the Dovish Transnational Progressives to the hawkish Realist Stabilitarians of the Kissinger-Nixon mold, are loath to grapple with the implications of the collapse of the post-WWII, Cold War, world order. They just ignore the obvious breadth of the Islamist insurgency and forget that WWIII itself provoked a drastic change of rule-sets - Bretton Woods, the World Bank, The UN, NATO, GATT, Bipolarity, MAD, EU - because the interwar rule-set no longer matched the conditions of the world.

So far there have been two alternative models proposed - The National Security Strategy of the United States, a document influenced by Neocon analysis and Dr. Barnett's Global Transaction Strategy based on the PNM theory. The rest of our bipartisan elite, so far, has nothing to offer - except pretense, criticism and the dogged obstinacy of a ruling class stunned by the realization that circumstances are leaving them in the dust.

They need to lead or get out of the way.
Have we entered a non-Westphalian era? I'm not so sure. There are two distinct models that would suggest otherwise. First, consider the question what is a nation? If a state is defined as the unit of measurement for war-making (which I'd see as consistent with the Treaty of Westphalia's concept of the state's monopoly on war-making), then we are at war with a state. An odd non-geographical state but a state nonetheless. For the second model consider that nearly every majority Arab nation includes in its constitution a commitment to the Arab maghreb. What would the army of the Arab maghreb look like? May I suggest that it would look very much like the enemy we face?
Clearly, the Westphalian model has given way, in the way we deal with the non-integrated gap. That is not to say that the gap ever operated by westphalian rules, just that we have stopped applying westphalian rules to our actions in the gap. A perfect example would be how the US approaches state sovereignty in the core and state sovereignty in the gap. To say that there is such a thing as a non-geographical state in the gap, which has operating westphalian rules is, frankly, absurd. The first comment is comapring a global ideological movement to a state; it is like saying that communism and the Soviet Union are the same thing.

What I will say is that the Old Euros either have no conception of the changing nature of warfare and the rules that consequently must apply or they do not care. If history is any indication, in most cases Europe has always took a long time to graps the consequences of the seminal moments in their history that effected warfighting. A perfect example would be the impact of the industrial revolution on warfare; allowing war to reach immensely destructive levels by the end of WWII. It took them a long time to even begin to figure out new rules (70-100 years?) to deal with these changes. The French Revolution was a system perturbation much like 9/11 was; warfighting changed dramatically and subsequently new rules had to be formulated to deal with the changes. Clausewitz once said that war can lecture to you, and I think he is right.

There certainly are always those who resist changing the rules (realist Cold Warriors, balance of power Euros) and there are those who may not even realize what new rules are needed (neocons, who think they know all of it). I think the American poeple intristically know that there is something different about this war, they just need someone to atriculate it properly. The neocons have put thier finger on the pulse, but they are limited by their American-centric perspective. They have changed some of our rules, but they haven't even looked at changing the whole system's rules, which is why Barnett's analysis is important. Even if he is wrong in his conclusions, he forces you to look at the 'everything else' as he puts it.
mark - I think you might be missing the nature of the difficulty. If it were merely the UN system that had to be scrapped, we would not be getting as much push back as we are. What we're talking about is 4+ centuries of diplomacy that has to be reexamined to do the job right. A great deal of it will be reconfirmed under the new dispensation but when profoundly uncomfortable skeletons have been resting peacefully in closets for longer than the existence of the USA, there's a notable reluctance to even admit their existence.

Dave Schuler - I believe that the proper standard for evaluating whether we are in a westphalian era or not is to look at our threat profile and see how much of it is from westphalian sanctioned sources (nation-states) and how much is from non-westphalian sources.

Clearly, we're more worried about Al Queda blowing up San Francisco than the PRC and are aligning our military and diplomatic priorities in accord with that evaluation. If you are unsure of what kind of system we are in, you simply have to tote up what an appropriate % is and look to our policies and our budgets to see if reality meets your threshold for declaring westphalia dead.

If you believe that Al Queda is a stalking horse for a pan-arab international conspiracy of arab governments, the solution is bloody and simple, the eradication of Riyadh, Cairo, Damascus, Tehran, and all the rest of the conspiratorial states. They have levied war against us and are too great for us to take out conventionally.

After the dust has settled, reevaluate and see if they're continuing to support their war on us. If so, repeat until you run out of arabs or they run out of war fighting will.

I think that this utterly westphalian solution is both ineffective, and immoral, missing the nature of our enemy entirely. I do not know of a more practical solution that lies entirely within the westphalian guidelines for the scenario you lay out in your comment.
Excellent comments gentlemen ! I'll take some time later this evening to answer your points in turn after my young and restless progeny are squared away in their respective beds.
In my comments in this thread I am merely musing; I don't know that I disagree with a lot that either Andrew or TM Lutas has said.

Have you actually read the Treaty of Westphalia? The nature of statehood contained there is quite broad. It includes entities we'd recognize as nation-states, city-states like the Republic of Venice, and the Swiss Confederation but every single one of them is founded on the legal and social relations and conventions of Indo-European society.

Does the notion of nation-state have any real meaning outside those legal and social conventions?

Today at least a third of the members (and maybe substantially more) of the United Nations are countries where the arm of the central government, except for occasional raids, doesn't extend far outside major cities. And yet we still consider them to be nation-states.
Ok - I'm back now.


I think you put it very well when you wrote:

"A perfect example would be how the US approaches state sovereignty in the core and state sovereignty in the gap."

The problem with the Gap - including the Arab world - is that during the Cold War the previous *accountability* of sovereigns became divorced from the *exercise* of sovereign rights. Authority without responsibility is as bad a recipe for nation-states as it is for individuals.

This made sense in the era of MAD to turn a blind eye to the misbehavior of proxy states in order to avoid an escalation to superpower confrontation. It no longer makes sense today, particularly when the talk of "failed states" indicates that for an increasing number of countries, sovereignty exists as a legal fiction. Sometimes the state itself is completely ficticious and continues to exist on a map because the international community would refuse to recognize any territorial annexation by neigboring regimes.

TM Lutas:

Actually, I do recognize the magnitude of the problem, I just didn't express the temporal scope particularly well in my post, where I was more focused concerned with the immediate time frame than the historical process to which you allude. You're correct of course - what needs to be done will tear open what the Europeans view as settled questions - questions they believe must remain settled to keep the intra-European peace.


You raised a number of questions in your comments.

Have I read the Treaty of Westphalia ? Yes. My field is diplomatic history with an emphasis on the 20th century. By Westphalian system I meant the body of custiomary international law as it has evolved.

I also think there is a substantial difference between a nation and a nation-state per se. Some nations - the Kurds, Tamils, Shan - have no state. Other nations like the Germans and Italians have at times been divided into many states - Germany is still divided into two, Austria and Germany proper. Some nations that were formerly stateless, the Poles and Ukranians now have nation-states.

The Arab nation certainly exists as a romantic cultural concept in the same vein as the pan-Germans spoke of in the 19th century or the Russian Slavophiles but pan-Arabism has proved a dismal failure. The brief and tumultuous history of Nasser's U.A.R. demonstrated that Arab nationalism is not enough to overcome the differences of geography and parochial subculture.

So, when you wrote:

"Today at least a third of the members (and maybe substantially more) of the United Nations are countries where the arm of the central government, except for occasional raids, doesn't extend far outside major cities. And yet we still consider them to be nation-states"

I would say that's exactly the problem. We are calling entities " nation-states " that clearly are not nation-states and do not function like nation-states but *must* function that way if the Westphalian system is to work. If the number of psuedo-nation-states are increasing - and I think you are correct that they are- that is itself good evidence that the old system is crumbling.

The question is - to be replaced by what ?

To go the route of the Euro Transnational Progressives and diffuse accountability further will aggravate our current problems and, in my view, accelerate the tendency toward anarchy in the Gap.
My field is diplomatic historyIt's just barely possible that you are familiar with the work of an ancestor of mine. My twelve times great-grandfather drafted the Swiss Articles of Confederation.
Wow ! I could not name my grandfather's grandfather on a bet.

My strongest suit by far is actually US-Soviet relations though I'm fairly well versed ( oddly enough) in 19th century American economic history.
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