Saturday, March 31, 2012

Missiles in the Gulf

Karen DeYoung reports in WaPo this morning about the first "strategic cooperation forum" meeting between the U.S. and the six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia).

The UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia already have U.S. Patriot missiles and the U.S. is planning to help tie these systems together into a regionally integrated system, according to DeYoung's article. (The Patriot, for those rusty on this, is a surface-to-air missile designed to hit planes and ballistic missiles; the Wikipedia article on it appears to be fairly thorough.) Presumably these Patriot missiles are supposed to deter an Iranian missile attack on Saudi Arabia or the other GCC countries. Thus it may be worth noting that a recent article in International Security [abstract] which simulated an Iranian conventional missile attack on Saudi oil installations found "
no evidence of a significant Iranian missile threat to Saudi infrastructure."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The freedom to live like it's 1804"

From a piece by Dahlia Lithwick on the health-care arguments: " we know the [Supreme Court] is worried about freedom: the freedom to live like it's 1804." See also E.J. Dionne here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brief note on the decline of interstate war

From S. Walt's post of yesterday:
I agree with [Steven] Pinker's claim that the overall level of human violence has declined significantly over the past several centuries ..., but I remain agnostic about the larger claims for a long-term reduction in inter-state violence. That trend is driven almost entirely by the absence of great-power war since 1945, and the absence of great-power war may have multiple and overlapping causes ... whose persistence is hard to forecast.
There are no interstate wars going on in the world at the moment, as far as I'm aware. (The war in Afghanistan, for example, is not an interstate war; it's an internationalized civil war. The war in Syria is a civil war, period.) Since there are roughly 200 sovereign states in the world and since there could be numerous interstate wars not involving the great powers, and yet in fact there are no interstate wars at all, it seems bizarre -- actually, it seems flat-out wrong -- to say, as Walt does, that the decline in interstate war "is driven almost entirely by the absence of great-power war...." We're dealing with a phenomenon -- the absence of interstate war -- of which the absence of great-power war is a (very important) manifestation, or sub-phenomenon if you prefer. Even if no great powers were fighting each other, a lot of other states could be fighting each other. But they're not. Walt evidently sees this as insignificant or at least as not worthy of separate mention. Why? Good question. Better go ask him directly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Note to readers

I said that posting here would be light in March and it has been. I have one post in the works but it's not time-sensitive and probably will not go up until April. So I don't anticipate much activity here for the remainder of March.

Added 3/23: Quick note on Obama's nomination of J.Y. Kim to head the World Bank: Someone who, among many other things, has edited a book called Dying for Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor [here] is a very good choice.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Afghanistan: more bad news

Update: A quite revealing column about Karzai by Joshua Partlow.

I haven't said anything about recent events in Afghanistan (including Koran burnings and the reaction; the killing of 16 Afghan civilians by an as-yet-unnamed U.S. soldier who has now apparently been flown out of the country by the military [update note: he has now been named]; and the Taliban's suspension of the barely-begun peace talks). None of this bodes very well, though there is disagreement about how damaging these events are to the NATO/ISAF position, and Obama and Cameron have been trying to put the best face on things.

Those, such as S. Walt, who argued from the beginning that the Afghanistan 'surge' was a mistake feel that their judgment has been vindicated, and I was hard put to do anything but agree with Walt's recent post to that effect. Commenting on a post of mine in August 2010, Hank suggested that patience was required. About a year-and-a-half later, I'm not sure that a great deal has been accomplished; we won't know for sure, I suppose, until the ISAF forces leave and the Afghan army and police are more or less on their own. But I suspect that the Afghanistan surge will go down as one of Obama's biggest foreign policy mistakes (or even, per Walt, the biggest).

P.s. See also this interview on 'The World' (PRI) about, among other things, how the soldier accused in the shootings might have been able to walk off the base unnoticed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New book on climate change and conflict

Will climate change generate armed conflict? The present state of research on this question would seem to be somewhat inconclusive, at least to judge from this Monkey Cage post and the accompanying comments. Just now I was over at the Polity Press site for another reason and happened to see the announcement for Climate Wars (by Harald Welzer), so I'm passing it on fwiw.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The our-grandchildren-will-have-to-pay-off-the-deficit myth

A quick post, as I'm pressed for time. I just caught the tail end of Marketplace on NPR. A commentator, a community banker from Pa. named Liz Herman (if I recall correctly), was saying, among other things, that the deficit worried her because she didn't want to stick her children and grandchildren with the bill (I'm paraphrasing).

One hears this all the time. It's nonsense. Yes, there are good reasons to reduce the deficit, especially over the long term and after what appears to be the start of a slow recovery gathers steam, but "oh noes! our grandchildren will be stuck with the bill" is not one of those reasons. As I remarked on a recent Crooked Timber thread, a government not facing a Greece-like crisis can continue to incur debt indefinitely, and as others added, this is particularly so if the economy grows faster than the government debt does. In any event, no one is going to knock on the door of Ms. Herman's grandson or granddaughter and say "pay up". This children-and-grandchildren-will-be-stuck-with-the-bill line is a myth devised by conservatives in search of catchy, understandable rationales for reducing government spending on programs they don't like. It's catchy, all right. It's also complete BS.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

One aspect of the human cost of the Afghanistan 'surge'

I just stumbled across this WaPo article from a year ago. It's about (among other things) the increase from 2009 to 2010 in wounds to U.S. soldiers that required amputation of one or more limbs. Drawing on data from "a team of surgeons at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where virtually every evacuated soldier stops en route to the United States," the article notes:

In 2009, 75 soldiers underwent amputation and 21 lost more than one limb. In 2010, 171 soldiers had amputations and 65 lost more than one limb. GU [genito-urinary] injuries increased from 52 to 142 over the same period.

I stumbled across the article because this article linked it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A note and a few links

Posting will be light here in March and probably in April as well. Before going silent for a while, however, I might as well link to a few things:

*This article by Kalyvas and Balcells (from 2010) is something I'll be reading in the next week or two.

*A review (h/t HC) of James Hershberg's 900-page tome about a missed chance to end the Vietnam war in 1966.

*The continuing toll of chronic childhood malnutrition:

Also: Cynthia Ozick & Henry James.