Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Man Who Fell to Earth - The Musical!

The above video are clips of the classic 1976 film staring David Bowie juxtaposed with a song from the upcoming Broadway stage version of the story. Bowie is apparently involved in writing the music. They should get Adam Pascal for the lead.

Thoughts on the debate.....

John McCain does not understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy.

Barack Obama does.

Just something to think about.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Endorsment for 2008: Barack Obama

With about five weeks to go, John McCain has suspended his campaign.

He says its to allow him to focus on the financial crises.

I guess we can just assume he'll be suspending his presidency each time his Google stock takes a tumble.

Let me be very clear: America can never fully repay the debt we owe to men like John McCain. There is not a person alive today that has any right to question John McCain's courage or devotion to his country. It is only fitting that I take this time to thank Senator McCain for his decades of service in defense of this nation.

But elections are about the future, not the past.

Over the last few weeks I've increasingly come to question McCain's judgment; between his choice of running mates, his confusion over the prime minister of Spain, his threat to fire the head of the SEC, seemingly without cause save the aforementioned drop in stock prices (I know there is a "meltdown" afoot, but McCain hardly articulated exactly how SEC chief could have prevented it). The "suspension" of his campaign and his attempt to postpone Friday's debate is just the latest in a what is becoming a pattern of erratic behavior and I'm beginning to seriously worry about John McCain condition. This could well portend either dementia or the early stages of Alzheimers. And I think I've made my disdain for a certain hockey mom waiting in the wings clear.

As for Obama, I think Tom Barnett said it best earlier today when he wrote:

McCain will be a presidency built around crisis. It's what he loves.

Obama's presidency will be conducted at room temperature: calm, cautious, careful, calculating.


Let me be very clear about something: I am now, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a Republican. If I ever switch parties it will be to Libertarian. I am not now, nor will I ever be a welfare/social liberal. My economic beliefs lie somewhere between Milton Friedman and Gordon Gecko. I think the world where Saddam Hussein is dead is preferable to the world where Saddam was alive and knowing what I know now I still think it was Saddam's time to go in '03. And I don't just pay lip service to the 2nd Amendment; if you see me out and about I am probably packin' (we fought a hard battle for concealed carry in this state).

But it is because I am a conservative; because I believe that government power must be applied judiciously; because I believe that a tax cut is not a tax cut if its cost are simply foisted upon future generations; because I know that the rule of law strengthens the legitimacy of government even while containing its power; because I realize that simply making big government less effective is not an acceptable substitute for the conservative goal of having a small but efficient government; it is for all these reasons that I am endorsing Illinois Senator Barack Obama for President.

I am not swept up in the cult of Obama. I realize he is not a perfect candidate, and once he is elected I have every intent to play the role of the loyal opposition if he tries to follow through on some of his goofier campaign promises. But the events of the last few weeks demonstrate that Barack Obama is serious about governing. His choice of running mate is nowhere near as "sexy" as John McCain's, but Joe Biden is a competent public servant whose decades of senate experience will help President Obama navigate the ends and outs of dealing with the legislative branch. And during this latest crisis, while John McCain has flailed about desperately switching messages by the hour Barack Obama has remained reasoned and rational, offering that he will have to reevaluate his new spending plans in light of the financial crisis, as McCain threatened to fire the head of the SEC, Obama offered Congress both guidance and wide latitude for compromise by outlining his criteria for a bailout.

While I do endorse Barack Obama for President I continue to endorse Republicans in every other race. Like Clinton, President Obama would perform best with a divided government, which would allow the U.S. to gain all the public diplomacy benefits of an Obama presidency while constraining the lesser of angels of the Democratic Party. That being said, an Republican retaking of either house is highly unlikely this year.

In conclusion, these last few weeks have demonstrated that John McCain has a predilection for making rash, politically expedient choices while Barack Obama has demonstrated the temperament and judgment to be commander and chief.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Uninformed Voter Bias

This is an excerpt from the literature review of my undergraduate thesis. This section deals with the existence of certain anti-foreign biases among large swaths of the American Electorate.

The paper is still very much a work in progress that now stands at about 30 pages. I'm still engrossed in reading about the history of American Grand Strategy and finding examples of public pressure (presumably related to the findings in the literature that certain biases are widespread within the American electorate) hindering strategy.

Scott Althaus’s Collective Preferences in Democratic Politics: Opinion Surveys and the Will of the People picks up where Keeter and Caprini left off. While Keeter and Caprini sought to establish that there were a large number of Americans that lacked the information necessary to make an informed decision about policy, Althuas was generally concerned with examining ways in which the views of the informed and the uninformed diverged. Althaus looked deeper into Keeter and Caprini’s assertion that there was little consistency in the views of uninformed voters. Althaus’s conclusion was that, on certain issues, there was actually a great deal of consistency among the uninformed voters. Althaus concludes, “the opinions of ill informed respondents are often amplified in collective preferences because they tend to more like minded in their answers than knowledgeable respondents”(Althaus 23), to be precise, Althaus finds that at least 30 percent of the answers on the National Election Survey have a bimodal distribution with a large grouping at both the lowest and highest knowledge quartile; foreign policy is close to the average with 26 percent of the answers having a bimodal preference between the highest and lowest quartiles (Althaus 81).

When it comes to issues of foreign policy and globalization Althaus found that uninformed voters were less inclined towards intervention, less supportive of immigration and more hawkish on military matters(Althaus 129). For example, 29 percents of respondents agreed that the U.S. should stay out of problems in other parts of the world, but that number dropped to just 18 percent among the fully informed while at the same time 64 percent of all respondents favored deployment of U.S. troops in the Middle East (in 1988) while the informed opinion dropped to 57 percent(Althaus 130). A corollary to Althaus’s research may be a recent study from the Chicago Council of Foreign Affairs, which looked at global opinions largely of trade and economic globalization. While the CCFA study did not test political knowledge, they did find that support for globalization in the U.S. increased from 40 percent among those who did not follow international news to 60 percent for those that did follow international news (Chicago Council of Foriegn Relations ). While not as scientific as Althaus’s findings, it seems consistent with the idea that people will be supportive of internationalism if they are better informed.

A logical question to these findings is: Could it be that people that are better informed also share other demographic factors that make them more likely to support globalization? For example, Keeter and Carpinni observe that “Much of this nations enduring political history has been defined by four critical struggles; between economically advantaged and the economically disadvantaged; between whites and blacks; between men and women; and (in a somewhat different way) between the generation in power and the generation that preceded and follows it”(Keeter and Deli Carprini 156). It is possible that wealthy people somehow benefit from globalization or certain foreign policies more than poorer people. Of course, differentiating between a person’s ‘interests’ and the effect of information can be difficult. For example, below is a chart that illustrates the difference in political knowledge between different demographics (Keeter and Deli Carprini 162).

So while on one hand it is not unreasonable to think that the poorest and wealthiest people in society may view globalization differently, it also stands to reason that, if an information effect exists independent of other factors, views may change if respondents were better informed. Indeed, Scott Althaus suggests, that by using his method of simulating informed opinion while controlling for the effects of demographics, it can be demonstrated that the information effect is indeed very real, fairly large, and would move policy preferences in any demographic group (Althaus 193).

Further evidence of this can be seen in the work of Bryan Caplan, as the chart below demonstrates(Caplan 26). The ‘average response’ is the respondent’s answers to questions about welfare reform, with lower numbers indicating a desire to cut benefits and higher numbers illustrating a desire to raise them. As the chart shows, the response of those with high income and high knowledge is closer to the response of those with low income and high knowledge than it is to those with high income and low knowledge.

Income ------Knowledge----- % Of Population------ Response
High -----------High -----------------25-------------------------- 3
High -----------Low ------------------25-------------------------- 5
Low ------------High -----------------25 --------------------------4
Low---------- --Low ------------------25-------------------------- 6

Unlike Althaus and Keeter and Caprini, who put a good deal of their focus on strictly domestic issues while occasionally looking at foreign policy questions, Caplan focuses much of his attention on issues related international trade, immigration and globalization. In his book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. , Caplan explores differences between the views of economists and laymen. He begins his research by looking at the findings of a Kaiser Foundation study that surveyed economists and lay people about their opinions on economic questions. Caplan looked at several of the questions and compared the views of economists with those of both the general public and a simulated fully informed public. The answer scale ran from 0 to 2, with zero representing ‘not a reason’ for something and 2 representing a ‘major reason’. For example, when asked if a given reason responsible for slowing growth of the U.S. economy the general public supported the answer “Foreign aid spending is too high” with a ranking of of 1.5, meaning between minor reason and major reason (Caplan 58) versus economist and the enlightened public who both answered less than ‘minor reason’. Other reasons cited heavily by the general public but very little by either economists of the informed public include “There are too many immigrants”(Caplan 59), and “Companies are sending jobs overseas” (Caplan 66). Caplan puts all of these misassumptions under a meta-category he calls the anti-foreign bias(Caplan 36), which means that many people are naturally opposed to interacting with those they perceive as ‘outsiders’.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Review: Terror and Conesent: The Wars for the 21st Century

Terror and Consent is the new book by Philip Bobbitt that suggests ways to make our legal system more resilient to the threats posed by both terrorists and natural disasters. Bobbitt offers some specific suggests for more updating laws of war, interrogation and information gathering for the wars of the Market-State.

The Nation-State is on its way out, or so Dr. Bobbitt tells us. This thesis, which he began working in his 2002 The Shield of Achilles holds that over the last 500 years the predominate constitutional order of States in the world has gone through four distinct forms: The Princely State, The Kingly State, The State-Nation and The Nation-State. Each one of these orders was ushered in by an Epochal War and eventually codified in a peace treaty that ended the war. For instance, the age of the State-Nation was ushered in by Napoleon's defeat at the hands of the Grand Alliance and codified at the Congress of Vienna. The Nation-State began it's ascent with broad-based enfranchisement in Jacksonian America and accelerated during the American Civil War when Lincoln justified the war as a struggle to create a government of, by and for the people. The Epochal War of the Nation-State was the 20th Century War (1914-1990) and was codified in the Peace of Paris (1990).

Each constitutional order brought with it a unique approach to law and strategy. For example, with the Nation-State came Total War (see: WWII) and 4GW (fighting for the hearts and minds of the People only works if the opinion of the People is given some legitimacy).

Today we stand at the doorstep of a new constitutional order, the society of Market-States. If the Nation-State derived its legitimacy from improving the welfare of its citizens, then the Market-State derives its legitimacy from improving the opportunity and providing choice for its citizens. While liberal, parliamentary Nation-States were at one time opposed by competing versions of the Nation-State (such as communism) The Market-State is opposed primarily by States of Terror, which might be territorial (i.e. North Korea), virtual (Al Qadea) or natural (i.e. post-disaster). These States of Terror threaten liberty by threatening the security promised by the State and by threatening to limit the choices and opportunities offered by the Market-State.

If the State of Terror is the primary threat to the legitimacy of the Market-State, than the Market-State must adopt a strategy of preclusion to prevent the creation of States of Terror. This involves both intervening overseas to prevent states from collapsing (or to destroy an existing State of Terror such as Iraq or Afghanistan) and to strengthen our own laws so that neither a man made nor natural disaster can cause a State of Terror to be foisted upon a State of Consent.

What I liked:
In the Shield of Achilles, Bobbitt showed that he can ask thoughtful and interesting . In T&C, Bobbitt demonstrates an ability offer answer to difficult questions that have dogged the U.S. since 9/11. Bobbitt's solution to balancing the constitutional rights of the accused with the need to possibly detain a suspected terrorists are intriguing, especially his suggestion that the U.S. should come up with a non-jail means of detaining person is suspected of being involved in an active plot to commit an act of terrorism. Bobbitt recommends that this non-jail detention (which could include a "virtual detention" involving monitoring) would be subject to the oversight of a judge and grand jury and that those who are wrongfully accused must have the power to seek monetary compensation for their pain and suffering.

Bobbitt also believes that GITMO should be shut down and that Congress should use powers already outlined in Article III of the Constitution to create "National Security Courts" that would oversee accused terrorists whether captured at home or abroad. Also, the Geneva Convention should be amended or rewritten to reflect the fact that the simple definitions of the Nation-State era of warfare are incompatible with the wars against States of Terror.

Bobbitt also favors reexamining our laws about succession and ask "What happens if somebody wipes out Congress and the Supreme Court in one fell swoop?" He prudently argues that we need succession planning for the Supreme Court and laws that outline a "rump Congress" made up of the survivors of a massive attack on Congress would govern before their respective states were able to have new elections.

Bobbitt also favors the creation of sys-admin force for peacekeeping operations.

All of these suggestions are prudent. While Bobbitt is the first person to point out that his suggestions are not perfect, the questions he raises are very important and his ideas should be discussed and debated in Washington.

What I didn't like:
Bobbitt uses the term Market-State, State of Consent, Parliamentary State and Market-State of Consent interchangeably. This leads him down a path of calling for a "League of Democracies" to deal with the world's problem. Obviously, this leaves China, which has a million man army and rapidly growing expeditionary construction industry out of the equation and replaces them with the E.U. Europe is a nice place, nobody wants to leave. China is still young enough to have citizens to export, so any strategy of precluded the creation of States of Terror through nation building is going to have to include the Chinese.


Terror and Consent is a great book for anyone looking for a vision that can reconcile the dual challenges of combating terrorism while maintaining a nation of laws.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin on Grand Strategy (or lack thereof)

"Doctrine, boy I don't know."

Condi. Joe Liberman. Colin Powell. Mitt Romney. Rudy.

Just a few of the people that would have made a more responsible choice for VEEP.

She doesn't understand that question. Perhaps he should have asked her to define "doctrine" define "Grand Strategy".

Gibson nails it when he says he's "Lost in a blizzard of words".

"Pakistan, boy I don't know."

I wonder if she's aware that cross border raids are being conducted into Wazaristan?

I wonder if she knows where Warzistan is?

"Warzaristan, boy I don't know."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Russia, boy I don't know...

The scene above is from the 3rd season of the West Wing. In the clip, Bartlett tell Richie that a Secrete Service Agent was just killed in a robbery. Richie responds by saying "Crime, boy I don't know."

Tonight Sarah Palin had a similar moment, except hers was televised and her answer can be better summarized as "Nuclear holocaust, boy I don't know".

GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.

PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.

Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but...

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

Yes. Of course. That's why it's so important that we not allow a country with a ONGOING conflict into NATO. Whoever started the trouble in Georgia (Russia's hands aren't clean; but neither are Saakashvili's), it would be ludicrous to allow a country that currently has hostile forces stationed within its borders into NATO.

Saakashvili does not get to declare war between the two largest nuclear stockpiles in the world.

Somebody get Sarah Palin a copy of The Guns of August.

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to -- especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.

We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.

GIBSON: And you think it would be worth it to the United States, Georgia is worth it to the United States to go to war if Russia were to invade.

PALIN: What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to.

It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries.

His mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that's a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow

I don't know how many times she used the word "democratic".

"Democracy, boy I don't know."

But that's not what worries me. She doesn't understand the function of NATO. If a State, be it Georgia, the Ukraine or France, becomes a NATO member we are automatically obligated to protect them if they are invaded. We don't have options, we don't proceed with sanctions (when have sanctions ever worked?) we go strait to the beach, so to speak (On the Beach, good movie; bad grand strategy).

A hair trigger "red line" with a short time delay is deterrence. That is what kept West Berlin free for 45 years and what stopped the U.S. from intervening in Hungary or Checezlovakia. The red line can be a powerful tool, but must be applied judiciously. Should a NATO country be invaded and we respond with sanctions or diplomacy that's the ball game. We get to pack up our military units, say bydy-bye to the international system we worked so hard to create since 1945 and just wait for the Humongous to take over.

On the other hand, it makes no sense to go to war with Russia over two breakaway regions of Georgia.

A black and white, democracy versus Putin narrative does not work here. Complexity is not a vice.

She takes being disengaged to new heights. When I first saw that McCain had picked Palin it struck me that there was nothing in her academic or professional background that demonstrated any sort of curiosity about international relations, national security or diplomacy. This interview confirms my worst fears. She's a .22 caliber mind in a .45 ACP world. This nation, at this moment, has to expect more from our leaders.

We need a heavyweight.