Monday, January 31, 2005

Continuing the review of the deleted scene on the Rule-set shift after the Cold War, usual format prevails with Dr. Barnett's text in bold:

"A sixth rule set change emerges directly the previous: our definition of problem Third World states. During the Cold War we called them "client states," and they belonged either to our bloc or the other guy's. During the nineties, these largely fragile states typically failed to attract the generous sponsorship of any major power, and in many instances collapsed into endemic internal conflict, and so we called them "failed states." But after 9/11, the new rule set says that the states we tended to ignore over the nineties, or the ones that became increasingly disconnected from the global community, became havens for such dangerous transnational terrorist networks as Al Qaeda. So now we pay very close attention to these "disconnected states."

Several comments here come to mind. Decolonization was roughly a thirty year process of retreat by the Europeans starting with the British in India and ending with the Portuguese in Africa when the creaky Salazar regime collapsed. In their wake was left a variety of new states of varying degrees of nationalist " authenticity" and indigenous governmental competence. Some were highly artificial, ethnic crazy-quilts that were the chance accidents of the routes of 19th century white explorers claiming land for king and country. Others, like India, had extensive cadres of western educated nationals and a decades of civil service experience.

The artificial states were held together mainly by the intrinsic pressure of a local " Big Man" ruler who enjoyed clientage with the United States or the USSR and the extrinsic pressure of superpower resistance to sanctioning changes in borders from old-fashioned wars of annexation. You could subvert a neighbor but you could not readily absorb them and expect to have your ill-gotten gains be recognized. These artificial states, already " fragile" were further weakened by extensive looting and the whole appearance of places like the Congo(Zaire) was a gradual loss of all momentum from colonial days as the system leaked energy and regressed toward the Hobbesian state of anarchy in which the Europeans had found it.

When the East-West rivalry vanished, externally-imposed political barriers to globalization vanished in the Third World. After the collapse of Communism we only spoke of a " North-South" divide for a few years in the early 1990's. The rise of the Asian tigers and Russia's economic implosion soon made that concept an ill-fitting term as some " Southern" nations like Malaysia and India demonstrated their readiness for connectivity. Globalization avoided states where autarkic, despotic, rulers like Kim JongIl, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad and Burma's generals kept their societies behind a secret police firewall. Disconnection became a political survival strategy for the orphaned client state dictatorships of the Cold War.

"Our concerns about such disconnected states yields a rule-set shift in the area of weapons of mass destruction. The old Cold War rule set said arms control was the way to go in controlling a stand-off with an enemy we knew -- deep down -- we could deter. In the 1990s, a misalignment emerged thanks to our over-reliance on the instrument of sanctions to stem what we feared would be a "fire sale" of WMD from the collapsed Soviet Bloc states to rogue nations. As Al Qaeda proved on 9/11, mass deaths can be achieved without recourse to WMD, and yet, does anyone doubt Osama Bin Laden would have used WMD on 9/11 if he had had the capability? So now the new rule set says that, rather than hoping sanctions will be enough, America preempts in those special situations where we judge the "bad actors" in question are potentially undeterrable."

As bad as the Soviets were - and frankly they were horrible - their own self-interest mandated keeping a number of bad actors and potential loose cannons in line, lest they get blamed for some outrage. The Soviets, through cut-outs like East Germany, Romania and Cuba, trained a lot of terrorists including Arab terrorists of the secular, Third World, radical, variety. The politburo kept a tight rein on the approval of assassinations in the West and simply would not have permitted Abu Nidal, Yasser Arafat or Carlos " the Jackal" to pull off an operation like 9/11. Even the Iranians had qualms about doing one of their Hezbollah-style truck bombings inside the United States itself and were quick to disavow any responsibility after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Today there is no other countervailing pressure on al Qaida type catastrophic terrorism other than what the United States can bring to bear preemptively or in sure retaliation. After Afghanistan, Iranian hardliners are now aware that sponsoring terror they cannot control could bring a very high price. So they will stick to terror they can control through reliable clients and so long as they do not deal too obviously with al Qaida operations the United States will not attack and the EU will not enact sanctions.

The United States must construct a credible nuclear deterrence policy for non-state actors and their societal supporters who act in contradiction to or independently of their own government's policies. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia come to mind here. While these regimes are friendly, within reason, we dare not let it be thought that elements in those countries that support radical Islamism could attempt to facilitate nuclear terrorism aganst the United States without bringing the gravest of consequences on their own heads and their nations. Furthermore, we must have " buy-in" from the rest of the Core on making nuclear terror both as unattractive and as difficult to execute as we possibly can manage.

Next, in Part IV, preemption and its alternatives.

End Part III.
"After Afghanistan, Iranian hardliners are now aware that sponsoring terror they cannot control could bring a very high price. So they will stick to terror they can control..."

Very good observation! It's comments like this that make me love this blog!
Hi Dan,

Thank you very much !

From my best understanding, al Qaida provided services that were so invaluable to the Taliban that they became the dominant partner in the relationship ( though this did give the Taliban more independence from Pakistan's ISI)and acted accordingly. Bin Laden pulled down Mullah Omar with 9/11 and knew beforehand that was a possibility.

The hardline clique around Khameini and in the Pasdaran won't make that mistake. Lebanese Hezbollah is their tool ( actually their creation). Ditto for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They will only do exactly what Teheran allows them to do.

I agree completely.

If you have not read it yet, I suggest "Taliban" by Ahmed Rashid (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0300089023/qid=1107289674). A number of the author's theories were co-opted by Michael Moore for Farenheit 9/11, but out of context. It was also written during the last years of the Clinton Administration, and so is free from Bush hatred.

The Student Movement comes across as the saddest military dictatorship in the history of man. Literally the most disabled government in recorded history, they ran Afghanistan like the mental juveniles they were. Al Qaeda found the weakest (militarily and mentally) host government possible and ended up destroying it. (The betrayal and bizarre lies that led to the escape of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are particularly memorable).

(I believe either in Taliban or Jihad, Mr. Rashid argues that a substantial portion of the Taliban did not know where Uzbekistan was when they joined the jihad against it.)

I doubt there is any government now in the world that would rely on al Qaeda to the extent that the Taliban did. Good for us.
some stray thoughts on what a deterrence policy could include:
1. It must be clear that it is a separate policy from the existing mutually assured destruction policy that governs conflicts between states. That way we can hopefully deter nonstate actors without unduly alarming other core states.
2. We should not commit ourselves in advance to the use of nuclear weapons. Thats a big step so we should keep options open. Something like "in the event of WMD terror attack of a certain degree of severity on America or our allies the US reserves the right to respond in the manner and time of its choosing up to and including the use of nuclear weapons".
3. The "degree of severity" should be left unspecified. Creating uncertainty in the minds of our enemies works in our favor.
4. The US should state its policy is to retaliate against the country that provided the WMD technology and ALSO the country that harbored the terrorist and ALSO the home country of the terrorist. This maximizes the deterrence value of our policy and provides the greatest number of incentives for a country to control its extremist elements.
5. Since no country wants to be the 1st nation to use nuclear weapons it would be best if this could be a multilateral or bilateral (US and UK, maybe others) policy. A WMD terror attack on either country would make possible an in kind response from either or both countries. This would help provide diplomatic support in the event that deterrence failed and we had to retaliate against a country.
(posted by ryan c)
Dan and Ryan,

first, let me apologize for the delayed response. The flu, technical problems and house reconstruction have interposed themselves between me and consistent access to the net.

I'll check out Rashid. I'm collecting a fairly large number of ME/Islam related authors to delve into on a semi-systematic basis.

In terms of nuclear deterrence, ambiguity of response had some uses circa 1990 but the pendulum swung too far in the post-Cold War world to a general opinion that the U.S. could *not* bring itself to use nukes any longer on moral-legal grounds no matter what the provocation. The lack of the Soviet threat meant such a response was unjustfiable.

I don't agree with that opinion, I believe it to be fatuous nonsense but the World Court in the Hague did. So did a lot of our allies in Europe and as a result our deterrence credibility significantly eroded with our enemies. How to best restore it in an age where threats come in non-state and state forms mixed together is the operative question.
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