My Top 5 List for 2014: 5 Biggest Foreign Policy Events for the US in Asia


I love these hoky, end-of-the-year lists. But I don’t know much about genuinely interesting or cool stuff, like the top 5 classical music pieces or architectural masterpieces of the year. So before you read another list about the Kardashians’ top 5 lip glosses, or the 5 most repetitive comic movies of the year, here is an uber-wonky one that’s basically about the sustainability of the pivot.

I am constantly wondering whether the US can carry through on the ‘rebalance,’ whether we can actually shift out of the Middle East and Europe and pay more attention to the Asia-Pacific. I am skeptical, in part because I tend to see US commitments as opportunity costs of one another. In other words, if we are tangling with Putin or ISIS, then we don’t have much time for China or Maduro. But if you’re a neocon, then the pivot is no trouble. Getting involved in Asia doesn’t mean lessening commitments elsewhere, because the US should be globocop anyway, and US domestic expenses should be cut to fund to all this intervention.

The following post was originally put up at the Diplomat:

My First Post at the Lowy Institute: 3 Non-Predictions for 2014


So this year, I am writing twice a month for the Lowy Institute – a foreign policy and international relations think-tank in Australia. My work will go on their blog-line, called the Interpreter. My author page with them is here. I’ve had Lowy in my own blog-roll (on the right side of this page) for awhile. It is a good site, particularly if you are interested in Australia. Now Lowy is seeking to break out into East Asian politics more generally. I am happy to participate in that, and I would like to thank the Interpreter editor, Sam Roggeveen, for recruiting me. My first post with them, here, was about two weeks ago. Sam had the clever idea to invert the usual ‘predications for the coming year’ pieces that fill January with predictions of things that won’t happen. My own record of predictions on this site (2010, 2010, 2011) are pretty spotty, so this was a nice challenge.

So here are three things that you think might happen in Eat Asia this year, but won’t:

1. There will be no Sino-Japanese war. Any scuffles will be contained.This was would be so destructive, there’s no way the CCP will let the PLA pursue real escalation.

2. North Korea will not change. That might sound like the safest prediction ever, but actually political science and Korea studies have a long history of arguing that NK is about to collapse. But it won’t.

3. ASEAN will stay useless and over-rated. Western liberals and international organization majors really, REALLY need to stop hyping ASEAN. It’s a joke, and it will stay one. The real story in Asia is its refusal to regionalize/organize, not the incipient regionalization westerners are so desperate to find in every meeting of Asian leaders. And don’t even talk to me about ASEM. These are all talk-shops. East Asia is the land of Hegelian nation-state. Get used to it.

Here’s that full essay:

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Seoul 2012 Nuclear Security Summit

K-schmaltz! : where’s Dr. Strangelove when you need him to bomb Arirang back to the stone age?


This week is the big nuclear security summit in Seoul, with something like 60 attending countries and over 40 heads of state or government. Bobby McGill from Busan Haps magazine here in town asked me for a brief write-up; this is the re-print. Here are the issues as I see them from Korean IR and the local media. For full-blown think-tankery on the summit, try here.

1. Obama’s personal commitment to de-nuclearization: I can’t think of any president since Reagan who seems as personally offended by nuclear weapons as Obama. Back in the day, Reagan watched ‘The Day After,’ ‘Wargames’ and other nuclear war movies and came to dramatically oppose mutually assured destruction as it had underpinned US policy since flexible response. This helped Reagan achieve the first nuclear stockpile  reduction in history (the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – a point anti-New Start neocons conveniently forget). But Obama is going beyond that, talking about ‘global zero’ – the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons everywhere. Wow. This is why there have been two of these summits in three years, but nothing like this under Bush. To be honest, I don’t think the complete elimination of the American nuclear deterrent is probably not a good idea (although we can go pretty low); nuclear weapons are the ultimate guarantor of US sovereignty and democracy, and many US allies, like SK, rely on our extended deterrence. In any case, Obama’s personal interest in this issue is a major driver for this thing.

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It’s Time to De-Russianize the BRICS — UPDATED (twice): Response to My Critics

UPDATED, March 22, 24: This post got a lot of traffic, due to Andrew Sullivan’s citation of it. Thank you to all those readers coming for the first time; please come again. The criticisms levelled here have been similar to those made at the Duck of Minerva, where I also blog. It seems there are three main critiques, although you may wish to scroll further down to the original post first: 1. I exaggerated; Russia is still a great power. 2. I didn’t provide enough data and links. 3. I don’t really ‘get’ Russia, or I’m just recycling western propaganda.

(In passing, I find it both curious/frustrating as an author that what I think is my more creative and fresh work in the last few months [this or this series] didn’t get nearly so much attention, whereas lamenting Russia’s postimperial decline, which so many have done before me [see all the links below], got an explosion of interest. Not quite sure what to make out of that…)

1. I overshot in saying Russia isn’t a great power anymore.

Ok, but not by much. I’ll agree that it was probably gratuitous to call Russia a ‘joke’ as a great power. But then again, be honest with yourself and tell me you didn’t laugh: when Putin rode around shirtless on horseback, when Putin stage-managed a discovery of ‘antiquities’ while scuba diving, when Putin claimed the State Department and Secretary Clinton were fomenting the Moscow protests, when Zhirinovsky “backed free vodka and the reconquest of Alaska,” when the president fired a minister on live TV (!), the minister refused (!!), and Medvedev responded with farcical lecture on Russia’s globally-regarded ‘constitionalism’ (!!!). Or just read this from Gawker on the Putin the crossbow-toting whaler and tell me you don’t burst out laughing – over a head of state with superpower pretensions?

These are the sorts of howlers and hijinks we expect from leaders like Qaddafi, with his retinue of female ‘bodyguards,’ or Idi Amin, with so many gold medals on his uniform you could store it in a bank vault. But modern states, desirous of global prestige, seeking to be taken seriously at the highest levels of the game, just don’t do this stuff. Could you imagine Wen Jiabao doing he-man photo-ops? You’d laugh, right? Well… Putin’s become a punchline, regardless of Russia’s other strengths, which is ultimately what motivated the original post.

As Niall Ferguson put it last December, “Russia—who cares? With its rampant voter fraud and declining population, the country is careening toward irrelevance. …Russia isn’t quite “Upper Volta with missiles”—West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s immortal phrase. But it’s certainly a shadow of its former Cold War self. The U.S. economy is 10 times larger than Russia’s. Per capita gross domestic product is not much higher than in Turkey. Male life expectancy is significantly lower: 63, compared with 71 on the other side of the Black Sea. And the population is shrinking. There are nearly 7 million fewer Russians today than there were in 1992. By 2055, the United Nations estimates that the population of Egypt will be larger. Remind me: why did Goldman Sachs group Russia with Brazil, India, and China as the “BRICs,” supposedly the four key economies of the 21st century? Give me Turkey or Indonesia any day.” That’s exactly right (I know people think Ferguson is a neo-victorian apologist for empire, but hold that thought),  and it should deeply worry and embarass Russians that the rest of the planet thinks this way about one of the world’s great cultures. I wrote something similar last fall when Putin announced his re-taking of the presidency, and the whole world shrugged.

Here is more from the Duck of Minerva comment section:

“My interest was more developmental than realist-theoretical. On re-reading the post, it was a bridge to far to say that Russia isn’t a great power anymore. It still is, by the skin of its teeth. Nukes compensate for other areas of decline, I suppose, as you are suggesting. De Gaulle saw this, as did N Korea.

My real goal was to developmentally differentiate between Russia and the other BRICS. That BRICS moniker is to imply some level of cosmopolitan comfort with the modern world economy and rapid growth to greater weight within that economy (hence my reference to Parag Khanna). The other 4 BRICS capture that upward trend – as do other economies like Turkey, S Korea, Mexico, or Indonesia (hence my preference for Khanna’s term ‘second world’). But Russia really doesn’t. Russia is slipping, not rising and has been, more or less, since the late 1970s. That’s quite a hegemonic decline. Its internal rot is pretty severe now. Its Transparency International score in 2011 is a staggering 143 out of 182, putting it in the company of Nigeria, Belarus, and Togo, and obviously calling into question not just its BRIC credentials, but its great power ones too. And the shirtless one’s return puts off a turn-around for another six to twelve years. Given that China rose to the ‘G-2’ in just 30 years, 20+ long years of Putinism (after 10 years of Yeltsin chaos plus late Soviet stagnation) portends a disaster for Russia. This is the real reason for the Moscow protests. They see this now.

Rotation at the top is just one marker for BRIC normalization, but other obvious red flags include the relentless xenophobia of the Putin regime, the alienation from the WTO, the huge missed opportunities of globalization, the blow-out levels corruption and state capriciousness including the murder of journalists, the third worldish reliance on carbon and weapons exports, the 19th century ‘spheres of influence’ obsession with countering the West in Eurasia, the confiscatory attitude toward private wealth most obvious displayed in the Khodorkovsky case, or Putin’s laughably ridiculous throwback-to-Kaiser-Wilhelm bravado of hunting on TV with a crossbow or fighting stage-managed martial arts contests. Does that sound like a BRIC or Khanna’s ‘second world’? Not really. It sounds like Venezuela or Iran. It sounds like an angry, Weimar-style pseudo-democracy high on petro-dollars with a ‘postimperial hangover,’ as Vice-President Biden once put it. Hence the argument that BRIC/second world is the wrong developmental category for Russia. For more of this, ‘should the R be taken out of the BRICS’ debate, try here and here. For a similar write-up on how Putin’s return will critically aggravate so many of Russia’s outstanding problems, try here.

2. I didn’t provide enough data.

Ok, so here you go. It’s pretty easy to find. Please read the links above and these below. From the Duck:

Actually there’s lots of data on this that’s pretty easy to find with Google. I suppose I should have included more links orignally, but I thought a lot of this was common knowledge at this point. But here you go; all the following links come from the last few years:

a. On demography, I was thinking of Nicolas Eberstadt’s work. He’s been writing on this for a long time now, most recently November 2011 in Foreign Affairs. His title, ‘The Dying Bear,’ is pretty blunt about the population contraction. For more, try this.

b. On corruption so high, it’s incommensurate with being a great power, here’s that Transparency International score again.

c. It is downright heroic, if not irresponsible, to suggest that alcoholism is not a huge problem in modern Russia and severely impacting men’s health and mortality: here or here. Just look at those estimates of average male lifespan – around 60! Gorbachev even thought alcoholism imperiled the very existence of the USSR and launched a major government campaign against it.

d. On the brain drain, try here.  Note the big listed reason – problems with the Putinist regime – and their profile: “vast majority of those who admitted wanting to leave were under 35 years old, lived in a major city, and spoke a foreign language.”

e. On the economic overreliance on carbon and how weak the economy really is under the hood, try this from the Financial Times just today. More generally try this and this from the Economist how post-‘reelection’ dysfunctional.

For what it’s worth, this wasn’t intended to be ‘anti-russian gloom and doom.’ I studied in Russia for a bit and spoke it reasonably well once; I’d like to think I am sympathetic. But simply denying Russia’s internal decay is not really a response – as the Moscow protestors themselves understand.”

3. I am not sympathetic enough to Russia’s unique condition/I’m just spinning western propaganda.

Maybe, but I did study there for a bit, and I could speak the language pretty well once. And none of that really changes how Putin is dragging Russia down.

From the Duck:

“On my empathy, try this, which I wrote in 2009, long before this flap. I noted how Americans vastly underestimate how much Russia did to win the Second World War and that our Spielbergian self-congratulation leads us to overlook the huge suffering of Russians at the hands of the SS: “I didn’t really realize this much until I went to Russia to learn the language and travelled around. The legacy of the ‘Great Patriotic War’ is everywhere. Everyone lost someone, and frequently in brutal circumstances Americans can’t imagine. Every Russian guide you get will tell you how Americans don’t know much about war, because we were never invaded, occupied, and exterminated. The first time I heard that, I just didn’t know what to say. You can only listen in silent horror as the guides tell you about how the SS massacred everyone with more than a grammar school degree in some village you never heard of before, or how tens of thousands of those Kiev PoWs starved or froze to death because the Wehrmacht was unprepared for such numbers and the Nazi leadership just didn’t care.” Please note that a Russian even graciously commented there about how rare it is for Americans so say stuff like that. I did study in Russia; I did have friends there; I do have some language and culture skills. So I’d like to think of myself as a sympathetic critic. My real concern is that Putin’s awful misgovernment of Russia is pushing it towards irrelevance, per Ferguson above, and as I think the protestors intuit. Putin has become a global laughingstock, and he’s pulling Russia down with it.

I don’t disagree that Russians have deep social energies that we miss by focusing on Putin and the Kremlin, but one could say that about almost any country. Most peoples like to think of themselves as proud, energetic, innovative, unique, etc. Americans love to call themselves exceptional, and Koreans regularly tell me how the ‘miracle on the Han’ proves how Korea is the most awesome, cohesive, energetic, team-work society in the world that can overcome anything. Ironically, the most consequential grassroots/civil society movement in Russia is the anti-Putin protests, which fits my argument.

Finally, you raise an interesting question about whether all the issues I discuss combine into real momentum for decline. I wonder how that could not be the case, unless the leadership changes. Russia’s traditionally been a top-down place. It’s hard to see turn-around coming from below. (Again, this is why the protests are so important; they’re trying to change that.) Russia’s been slipping for three decades now. I agree it hasn’t fallen off a cliff, like, say, the end of the Ming dynasty or something, but a generation’s worth of negative trends is slowly chewing away at Russian power. I have stepped back from the original statement that Russia is not a great power; that was overreach. But the margins are narrowing.”

———————–  ORIGINAL POST ——————————————-

With Putin’s ‘return’ to the presidency, Russia is now officially a joke as a serious great power state. True, Putin has been ridiculous for awhile, what with those shirtless photo-ops that came across like desperate, bizarre geopolitical ‘ads’ that Russia is still a superpower. But this is different. Not even Chinese elites play the sorts of merry-go-round games at the top that Putin has engineered in the last 6 months. To their great credit, Chinese presidents and premiers serve and go. Russia is now the only one of the BRICS in which power does not rotate. Instead, Putin is starting to look like one of those oil-rich Arab dictators who never leaves, continually gimmicking the the ‘institutions’ and ‘constitution’ to justify how, mirabile dictu, he keeps staying in power. In the meantime, the real power structure morphs into an oil-dependent, rent-seeking, cronyistic despotism. And like those Arab dictators, Putin is facing a local resistance that increasingly realizes that Putinism is taking their country nowhere but nest-feathering. To paraphrase Helmut Schmidt, Russia’s pretty much a petro-state with nukes at this point.

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5 (Bad) Options for Dealing w/ NK (3): Defense Build-Up to Harden SK


Part 1 is here; part two is here.

Last week I spoke at the Korean Institute of Defense Analysis. I presented four options for dealing with NK that have all broadly failed: negotiations (NK doesn’t seem to take them seriously), muddling through crisis-by-crisis (condemning the long-suffering NKs to permanent repression and leaving SK open to regular provocation and blackmail), China (despite its widely touted leverage over NK, China doesn’t seem willing or able to use it), and Sunshine Policy bribery (a noble effort that failed, however unfortunately). My review left me with this final choice that I find disagreeable, but I see little alternative at this point (i.e., after the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents last year).

5. Defense Build-up: The idea here is to create space from NK by building a hard ‘shell’ around SK to insulate it from NK antics. The attraction is its unilateralism. Instead of waiting for NK or China to come around, SK can act proactively. Given that SK only spends 2.5% of GDP on defense, there is clear room for more spending. Certainly, the US, which regularly bemoans low allied defense spending, would welcome a more robust SK defense. Indeed, given that SK borders one of history’s worst, most unpredictable rogue tyrannies, SK defense spending is probably too low. Much of the gap has been filled by US forces in country, but with the US in relative decline, SK defense hikes are likely anyway.

A questioner asked me what should SK spend the money on. I made this argument earlier too, after Yeonpyong, but it seems to me that C4ISR, a larger navy, and missile defense would be good choices (although I am no formal military type, so readers comments here would be great). C4ISR are capabilities that SK leans heavily on the US for. A better navy would help harden SK in the Yellow Sea, where most of the clashes take place. And theater missile defense (TMD), which the US has approached SK about a few times, could help neutralize the burgeoning missile threat. In conversation, I rejected armor, because it has stronger offensive implications. A lesson from the offense-defense balance literature in IR is to try to buy defensive weapons as much as possible, in order to lesson your adversary’s paranoid reaction. But more generally, the idea is similar to McNamara’s ‘flexible response’ – give SK a wide range of capabilities to credibly counter NK provocation however it might occur. Needless to say, such ‘full spectrum dominance’ would be expensive, but I don’t see too many alternatives now. (Here is a good essay on defense transformation in Korea.)

The ideal would be to create an environment where SK could respond to NK provocation immediately, proportionately, and precisely. The game theory literature on cooperation argues that retaliation is most effective if, 1) it occurs immediately in response to provocation, so as to create an impression of one connected action in time, 2) it is proportionate to the original provocation so as not create either the downside impression of weakness or the upside impression of warmongering overreaction, and 3) it targets precisely those actors responsible for the provocation. Applying this to the Yeonpyeong shelling last year would result in immediate counter-battery fire onto exactly and only those NK batteries firing, and do only as much damage as SK suffered on its own island. Obviously this is an impossible ideal. No one even knew how many S Koreans were killed or how much property damage was suffered until after the incident. But to the extent investments in C4ISR could improve the information available to SK decision-makers and the rapidity and precision of their response, it will improve SK’s ability to respond ‘kinetically’ without necessarily creating a spiral. The ideal should be ‘perfect retaliation’: instantaneous, precise, and perfectly congruent to the damage done. While obviously impossible, defense spending hikes could narrow the technological gap and allow for better SK point-to-point counterforce and hence improved local deterrence. This should reduce the window of opportunity available to NK to get away with these sorts of strikes, if the political decision is made to respond.

Such hardening could insulate SK from NK, while also pushing NK to exhaustion, as the Reagan build-up helped lead to Gorbachev. The downsides of this option are:

A) It simply may not possible to de-link like this from NK. No matter what SK does to harden itself, it simply may not be possible to draw enough distance from NK and insulate itself. Here I argue that so long as half of SK’s population lives on the border with NK, the SK military’s hands are tied. Hardening would almost certainly require moving the capital out of Seoul which is just 50 miles from the DMZ and hence super-exposed.

B) I worry about the democracy costs to a young democracy that only just escaped military rule in the 80s. Regular readers will know that I bemoan the high price of the military-industrial complex in the US, and worry about the costs of semi-permanent war on US democracy. And here I am arguing for a ramp-up in SK…

The problem is that I just don’t see any other choices. Negotiation and the Sunshine Policy are failures. Yes, we should keep trying. Jaw-jaw is better than war-war. Talk is cheap, so why not? Maybe we’ll get lucky, but it is simply fantastical now to bet on that. The China path too has not lead to progress, and muddling through means more gulags and Cheonans. So improving SK’s position of strength could signal that NK cannot bully SK with provocations, push the NK toward competitive exhaustion, and improve SK autonomy in an era of US relative decline.

I suppose there is a sixth option – an invasion of NK. But to the credit of South Koreans, I have never heard this seriously entertained. I ask my students often what they think should be done, and I always mention this as a possibility (in part because it occurred in 1950). No one has ever raised their hand, even among my hawks. I guess that is the good news among all these bad options…

Libya Lessons (2): NATO is No Longer Necessary – Get Out Now


Part one of this post is here. Here are a few more lessons to draw:

6. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is, unfortunately, encouraging dictators to dig in instead of scram. The ICC is classic liberal internationalism -a multilateral forum crafted mainly by the liberal democracies for the purpose of spreading international law and taming the ‘anarchy’ of international relations. It looks like a great idea, and indeed the US reticence to it is based on rather specious claims that US soldiers might somehow get hauled before it despite the myriad protections to prevent that from happening. (The real US concern is any constraint on war-making by the Pentagon, and the US obsession with its ‘exceptionalism.’) I support the ICC and wish the US would join.

That said, it is pretty clear that ICC indictments against Gaddafi and sons encouraged them to stay and fight, because flight was impossible. If they can’t flee to a safe haven – because the ICC makes it a sanctionable offense for any state to harbor them – then they have no choice but to stay and slug it out to the bitter end. And indeed, there is a nice rest home for Afro-Middle Eastern despots – autocratic Saudi Arabia. The Saudi took in Idi Amin in 1980 and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Gaddafi would make a nice addition; perhaps he and Ali could reminisce about the good old days, like in some John Hughes movie for dictators. But once the indictments came down, the Gaddafis had nowhere to go, even though they were sending pretty clear signals for awhile that they would exchange an exit for abdication and an end to the conflict.

It seems to met that getting these guys out of power is the most important priority. The ICC, paradoxically, gets in the way. Remember that for awhile there it looked like Gaddafi might win or split the country. No one expected Tripoli to fall so easily. I think it would be a much better outcome to offer these guys just about anything they want to scram. Usually all they want is their family out with them, some cash to keep on with the good life, and immunity from prosecution. That strikes me as a pretty good bargain, even if if thwarts justice. And it is a good precedent for trying to get other autocratic nasties, like the Mugabe and Kim cliques in Zimbabwe and NK, out the way as well without a huge bloodbath.

7. The American president needs to start declaring war again. Libya has all but set in stone the awful, dictatorship-looking, and very unconstitutional practice that the US president can war with minimal Congressional intervention or even approval. The president’s shenanigans around the War Powers Act were disgraceful. Obama made a good case for the war in March and April, and it would have been a good exercise in national deliberation on US warmaking after Iraq to have had a big national and Congressional debate. Instead, Obama – a constitutional lawyer no less! – took the low road; isn’t this one of the reasons we voted for him, and against the Bushist, I-can-do-whatever-I-want GOP?

8. Get NATO out as soon as possible, i.e., right now. The NATO mission, against high odds and great (and deserved) skepticism, helped. Don’t push your luck, and keep the mission as absolutely minimal as necessary. Once Tripoli fell last week, NATO should have withdrawn immediately. The NTC clearly no longer needs NATO assistance. Gaddafi is finished, not matter what his nut-ball sons say on TV. To keep NATO on-mission when it isn’t necessary anymore, only stokes the anger of countries, especially China and Russia, that dislike R2P already. If NATO keeps staying involved, it will indeed look like R2P means ‘regime change’ and not the protection of human rights. NATO’s desire to stay in the game is understandable: this is a nice win for NATO after a decade of GWoT confusion and transatlantic tension, and Libya’s course clearly impacts the southern tier of the NATO states. But those benefits are more than outweighed by the need for limits: the West is broke now, so it should set a precedent of restrained intervention, even when things are going well. Nor do we want anything like Iraq – where the US/West gets pulled deeply into domestic reconstruction by hanging around. The best way to prevent the mission creep everyone worried about in this operation is to end as soon as possible (i.e. in this case, when the NTC would no longer be wiped out in a bloodbath without NATO) and we have clearly reached that point now.


NB: On an unrelated note, you should probably read this, from the foremost proponent of the ‘China threat’ school.

NB2: Last week I argued that the US needs another stimuls. US conservatives and the whole GOP field oppose this. But on Monday the yield on US Treasuries dropped below 2%! That hasn’t happened since the 40s. If that doesn’t tell you the USG should spend, because no else will – i.e., people are so desperate to save, they will even take just 1.98% interest on their savings – then nothing will. But I have no doubt the GOP will trash Obama’s jobs initiative today with no hesitantation. It’s going from bad to worse.

The EU has Sewn Up the IMF Race Already? …. plus some media


I published an op-ed in the Korea Times last week on the IMF managing director (MD) race. For readers outside of Korea, the KT is a mid-level paper here in Korea, sort of like the Plain Dealer from my hometown Cleveland. The biggest paper in Korea’s landscape is the conservative Chosun Ilbo. The KT is smaller, and because it is written only in English, it has a substantial foreign readership beyond Korea. My op-ed is based on this post last week.

I am amazed at how quickly the replacement for Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) is emerging as a European once again  – the French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde (above). The Europeans seem to be moving lightning fast on this, before Asians or developing states can get their act together and congeal around one or two non-European alternatives. As I noted in the op-ed, there is no functional reason for the IMF MD to be a European. It has simply been precedent, justifiable so long as Europe was the second major pole in the global economy with the US. Well now there is a third, in East Asia, what Barnett calls the ‘New Core’ (the North Atlantic being the Old Core). Surely it’s time to give the new Core a shot at running one of the big international economic organizations of the world?

The EU has driven its economy into a ditch in the last few years, so I see no ‘competence’ reason why a European finance minister would be better than a Japanese or Singaporean banker, e.g. Nor have the last three European MDs of the IMF been very good. Horst Koehler (2000-04) and Rodriego de Rato (2004-07) were placeholding non-leaders who took the MD-ship in order to springboard into higher office back home. And of course, DSK just globally embarrassed the institution in a manner that basically epitomizes its critics’ worst fears. The narrative of a powerful wealthy white man assaulting an black immigrant female maid is straight out of the antiglobalization movement’s nightmare imagery. So there is no particularly history of ‘quality leadership’ from the EU to justify its sinecure either. In fact, quite given how bad the last three MDs in a row have been, it would be a good idea to drop the EU for a round or two.

So where is substance to the argument that somehow Europeans are somehow entitled to the MD-ship? There is none. It’s bogus. The real claim is tribal – the EU wants the position, because it bolsters Europe’s otherwise declining claim to global leadership and relevance. The EU is like a child running around the adult table waving its hands demanding attention. As Martin Wolf noted on this issue, if the IMF can’t change to accept new realities (the rise of  the rest, especially Asia and the BRICS), then unfairly excluded states will simply walk away from the institution. Asia has already flirted with this because it felt so high-handedly treated in the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC).

Finally, the argument that the IMF should have a European leader right now because the IMF will be working so much in Europe in the near-future, is so specious as to be nearly racist. I find this almost revolting. Back when the AFC hit (1997-98) and westerners were dispensing painful but necessary advice to Asia, no one in the West worried about white bankers dispensing hard medicine to Asians. To say, today, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel won’t trust anyone to run the IMF unless it’s a European she knows,  is so ridiculous, hypocritical, self-serving, and borderline racist, that it really should shock the non-western IMF members into some pretty harsh language in response. If the EU wants to run its economy over a cliff, that’s its own choice. But the EU has no special claim to line up the globe’s resources (through the IMF) to bail out foolish German bondholders badly exposed in Greece, Spain and Ireland. For a counter-example, ask if California, with its own nasty budget crunch, is getting a bail-out from the IMF? No; Americans will wrestle through that on their own, and the EU should too on Greece and the other euro-miscreants.

I find the sheer, bald-faced selfishness and parochialism of this just shocking, especially given how often the EU preens about the importance of multilateralism and international institutions, in obvious contradistinction to ‘mercantilist’ Asians and ‘cowboy unilateralist’ Americans. So here is a golden chance for the EU to really improve global governance, to make it fairer and more democratic. But no, they’d rather insist on tribal privileges. Bleh.

Does it need to be restated that the IMF is a global institution, not a European regional one? The IMF does have other lending responsibilities, and most of its non-European borrowers are vastly poorer than Greece or Ireland. The EU has huge resources compared to the many LDCs (less developed countries) of Africa, but I guess the IMF is really supposed to be a global slush fund for the euro mess.

As best I can tell, Lagarde is pretty competent, and may do a good job. I certainly hope so, and her first trip as MD should be to non-European borrowers, especially in Africa, to prove her credibility. But there is no substantive argument from her resume to set her apart. Try here and here for a nice run-down of all the good non-western candidates who won’t be considered, because Merkel couldn’t care less about global governance and multilateralism when her campaign contributors’ South European bond-holdings are about to be ‘hair cut.’ It’s all just tribalism and selfishness. The real European claim is narcissism – put off succumbing to the new global reality where Asian economies are easily as influential as the old Core’s.

Read this and this as well on this issue.

If Strauss-Kahn Resigns, How about an Asian to run the IMF this Time?


I have no particular intelligence on the details of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) case. I would only say what everyone would agree to: He should be investigated properly with due process and the assumption of innocence. (That we even need to say this in the US is now, unfortunately, necessary given the US flirtation with extra-judicial methods because of the war on terror.) That he was fleeing the US for his home country when he was arrested does not bode well; this is why he was denied bail. If he is found innocent, then he perhaps can stay on the job, unless this incident comes to be seen in a pattern of irresponsibility, even if formal guilt is not found. DSK was rebuked for an affair with an IMF staffer a few years ago, so perhaps this will tip him out, even if he is found innocent.

But any decision to retain him as IMF managing director (MD) should be based on the evidence, not because he has helped revive the IMF’s fortunes after a tough decade (because of heavy criticism of the IMF’s handling of the Asian Financial Crisis and globalization generally), nor because he has helped so much in the recent debt crisis, especially in Europe. I agree with both of those assessments, but they don’t really change the issue of whether or not he is personally responsible enough to complete his duties. It is also worth noting that infidelity is not a crime (DSK is married). The real issue is whether he tried to rape his alleged victim or not. If he did, he should obviously go. But the important distinction here is with the Clinton impeachment. If DSK’s wife can live with his libertinism, as Hillary Clinton was able to, then that is ultimately a personal issue. There is no need to import the ‘politics of personal destruction’ into the IMF. It is also worth noting that French politicians get far more leeway on personal indiscretions that US politicians. France’s longest serving modern president, Francois Mitterrand, had a love-child out of wedlock who was revealed after his death. Perhaps DSK never quite escaped that more tolerant expectation set.

My own sense is that, even if found innocent because it turns into ‘he-said-she-said,’ it will be hard for him to stay on. The images of him in handcuffs, being pulled off a plane, standing sullenly in a court will make it hard to keep him. Paul Wolfowitz too was forced out of the World Bank presidency several years back for a similar, less egregious, personal affair. My guess is that DSK will have to go too.

For my own previous writing on the Fund, broadly sympathetic to its role, try here or here.

The issue of his replacement brings up a long-standing dispute over the leadership of the Bank and Fund. Precedent says the Europeans pick the IMF MD, and the US picks the World Bank president. This logic was based on the, previously reasonably accurate, claim that the North Atlantic represented the core of the world economy. Of course, it was more than this; prestige has always played a huge role, particularly for the Europeans. Having the IMF sinecure helped buttress Europe’s self-image as important central to global governance.

But you hardly need to be an economist to know that Europe’s role, relative to that of the US and Asia, has been in decline for awhile. Decolonization generally reduced Europe’s global footprint. Decades of slow growth and declining military spending has vaulted the US past the EU in the transatlantic partnership. The seemingly endless inability of the Europeans to put the EU into good working order – the euro mess, the constitutional-institutional rube goldberg structure of the EU itself, the continuing inability of outsiders to know who ‘speaks’ for Europe – cripples an EU global role. Just about everyone outside Europe thinks that the EU should have one EU seat on the UN Security Council, not two for Britain and France. Henry Kissinger famously quipped that he did not know whom to call if he wanted to talk to Europe, and that question is still unresolved. And of course, the rise of Asia has relatively squeezed the EU more than the US. I was at a conference last year where I made this point, and the EU speaker could at best only respond that the EU was a ‘foreign aid superpower.’ If that is all you got, it is time to step aside and allow the ‘New Core,’ Asia, to have a crack at the top-table of world politics. And last year, when I was at an IMF conference in Korea, Asian questioners did in fact ask DSK this, and he was response was, yes, the MD after him should be an Asian.

Everyone knows that Asia’s weight in the global economy has grown dramatically in the last several decades. The IMF’s own voting quotas have been re-ordered to reflect this. Chinese, Japanese, and Indians have already been pretty high up in the managerial order in both the Bank and the Fund.

My own sense is that a Japanese banker would be an excellent choice. Japan is the most open and mature of the Asian economies. The Bank of Japan has been downright heroic in its battle against deflation for years now; it is vastly more serious about Japan’s economic problems that Japan’s politicians. The BoJ has tremendous skills on issues that dog IMF debtors, like government debt, the money supply, or slow growth. A Chinese might be a more controversial choice, one the US and EU might veto, because China is highly interventionist and still a formally communist country. If China would object to a Japanese, likely out of sheerly nationalist resentment, then what about a Korean, Indian or Singaporean?

In short, Asia’s time to run one of the two Bretton Woods Institutions has arrived. Europe’s economic claim to that leadership role is now much-reduced. The euro is a mess; EU economies are carrying huge debt burdens; the EU remains unable to find a common voice despite decades of waiting and endless speculation; and the last few Europeans to run the IMF have been been pretty meager – Rodrigo De Rato lasted just three years (2004-07) and used the position to jockey for political position at home in Spain; before him, Horst Koehler (2000-04) did the same.

In fact, the only argument to keep a European one more time, is based on Europe’s weakness, not its strength; that is, because the IMF’s most important work in the next few years will be in Europe, it should have a European. But this strikes me as too clever by half and yet another gimmick to keep Asia from its clearly-earned place to run these institutions occasionally. By any reasonable criteria, Asia is qualified – probably more qualified actually given Europe’s economic state today – to take the MD-ship. The inevitable arguments to be heard in the next few weeks about Europe’s ‘weight’ in the global economy will just be mask the real,  tribal and prestige-driven desire to hang onto the last shreds of influence in an increasingly ‘post-atlantic’ world.

Is Ban Ki-Moon the Antichrist? Teaching End-Times UN Hatred in Asia


In teaching the UN this week, we discussed the issue of purposeful American defunding of the UN since the 1980s and the rocky US-UN relationship since the 1970s. For a good review of the ‘this-wordly’ issues go here. But then, inevitably, one must discuss the ‘theological’ complaints of US Christians. Something like 30-40% of Americans have had a born-again experience, in which Jesus purportedly intervenes personally in their life, former President Bush being the most prominent example. Koreans already find this to be pretty bizarre.  But then when you have to explain that lots of these people also believe the book of Revelation is a real prediction of future history (ie, Armageddon), then they just find it ridiculous. I tried as best I could to present it objectively, but I was genuinely embarrassed for the US to look so foolish. Most of my students were laughing out loud by the time I got to the end of the presentation. The same thing happened when I tried explain the Tea Party and those protestors with signs of Obama as Hitler. I don’t think American conservatives, who love the discourse of American exceptionalism, realize how much damage this kind of stuff does to foreigners’ impression of our ability and legitimacy to lead.

I struggled a bit on the details. In my Catholic grade school, we never read Revelations. The Church seemed to find it an embarrassment, and we spent most of our time on the Evangelists’ books. Most of my experience has come from watching the three Left Behind films (which I watched explicitly to get a handle on this material, although their unintentionally campiness is pretty hysterical). In that trilogy the UN Secretary-General (S-G) is the Antichrist. Speaking with a goofy pseudo-Transylvanian accent, he provokes a global war that inevitably includes an invasion of Israel. He assassinates people with impunity on the floor of the UN Security Council, and a shady Arab henchman organizes a global currency. The Rapture is there too of course (although not the fact that God would be thereby responsible for all the deaths from plane crashes due to raptured pilots). The demonic S-G, a slick Euro-bad guy, seduces the hot blonde  and builds a global tyranny from the UN, complete with a new unitarian-style religion. The American heroes have macho names like Buck and Steele. (Grrr!)

But all this strikes me as more American than Christian. First, it is Americans who have come up with this stuff, and I never met a European or Asian Christian who even knew about the Rapture and end-times wars, much less believed it. Second, it seems conveniently American that the US plays such a central role in these future histories, and that the UN, already disliked in the US, is the enemy yet again. Third, the movie bad guy looks and talks like the stock, ‘slick Euro’ character, whom Americans love to hate (like Alan Rickman in Die Hard). To be fair, I haven’t read the Left Behind novels though.

Teaching can be a great profession, and moments like this are real classics you will always remember in your career  (like the time I had a student ask me what OBL’s economic plan was for the caliphate after he re-united it). ‘Intercultural confusion’ would be the political correct expression, but honestly, the students just found it idiotic. Most East Asians come from a Buddhist-Confucian background (even the Christians, because Christianity is still pretty recent here). So most of my students had no context at all; indeed, for Americans who find this End-Times stuff ‘normal,’ nothing shows you just how absolutely absurd it is like trying to explain it to uninitiated foreigners. You want to convince Asians we aren’t fit to lead? Just let them watch Sarah Palin for awhile and then give a screening of Left Behind. Try explaining that it isn’t all anti-science, superstitious conspiracy theories. It’s just laughably implausible when taught as a straight ‘theory.’

First I had to lay the groundwork about the splintering of American Protestantism, because this eschatology is not mainline. Most Koreans are Catholics or Methodists. Korean Protestantism looks more like Europe than the US. Mega-churches built around one preacher don’t really exist. But they are coming. Indeed, one downside of the major US influence in Korea, because of the long alliance and commercial ties, is that US variants of charismatic-evangelical Protestant are coming, with an even greater stress on proselytization than in the US. Here, fundamentalists will stand at train stations and walk through subway cars holding big red crosses yelling (yes, yelling, not really preaching). Most Koreans resent them, so once I started discussing the details of evangelical end-times theology, my students were rolling their eyes immediately. That a Korean is the current UN S-G only raises their level of amazement and incredulity even faster. By the time I wrapped up, I was practically laughing myself – something I could never do in a US classroom, because there were always students who believed this stuff.

For all its absurdity, I do think teachers of IR should at least know the outlines of fundamentalist Protestant eschatology. It motivates UN hatred in the US far more than is acknowledged, and American ‘Christian Zionists’ – for whom Israel plays a role in the end-times wars – are far more important supporters of Israel than American Jews. This is a good IR article waiting to be written. I know of no serious investigation of the end-times version of world politics, despite its wide influence in the US electorate.

NB: I am just about positive that I will be ‘left behind,’ but thankfully the Tea Party is telling me how to  stock up for it

Asia’s Improved IMF Quotas — Wake Up! It’s not that Boring…


Here is a subject that could put anyone to sleep but is probably the best thing to come from the otherwise poor G-20 summit last week. The voting shares of the IMF were reweighted to reflect Asia’s expanding size in the global economy. Here is good write-up; for Asian self-congratulation, try this. This puts it in context for Korea.

The quota represents the percentage of control that a state has over IMF decisions. Big decisions are made by the IMF’s Board of Governors, the national representatives who collectively control the institution. On the Board, each country receives a weighted vote whose size (quota) is roughly in line with its national percentage of global GDP, crossed against the importance of exports to national GDP (its ‘openness,’ in IMF-speak). (The voting formula is ridiculously arcane for non-experts. There are endless proposals to reform it. Here it is in the words of the IMF itself.) In short, the bigger your quota, the more sway you have in IMF decisions (about loans, the creation of Special Drawing Rights, IMF responsibilities for the global economy, etc.). The biggest quotas, inevitably, belong to the US, Japan, and the Europeans. However, given Asia’s expansion of the last few decades, pressure is rising to re-weight the votes to Asia’s favor. In practice, that means giving China a bigger voice at the expense of the Europeans, who are resisting quite selfishly it must be said, for all their talk about cooperative global governance and multilateralism. US and Japanese shares will be scarcely affected. Korea’s share will reweighted a little bit as well (1.4% to 1.8%).

For Korea and other emergent economies’ share to get even bigger, they would need explosive growth like China’s, as well as a major demographic expansion. Neither will happen realistically. Globally speaking, Korea is just too small to have a much bigger quota, although a 0.4% jump is 30% quota expansion, which is actually pretty good. The really big quota fight is between China and the EU, with India coming down the pike as well. In short, global economic institutions are adjusting, albeit painfully, to the rise of Asia. The increasing equality of wealth between Asia, Europe, and North America means that the voting weights of each of those regions are slowly equilibrating.

States are sensitive about quota size, because it is a zero-sum game. If Korea gains .04%, that means some other state loses 0.4%. Hence the Fund can never be made large enough to make all feel confortable. Instead, control of the Fund will always be relative – if I have 0.0001 percent, then you do not have it. While global GDP expansion is positive sum, Board control of the IMF (and World Bank) Board is not. And inevitably, the size of a national quota is interpreted as a general sign of global clout and importance. One can see that in the Europeans’ strenuous efforts to delay and obfuscate the re-weighting, for they will lose in that process. It is like the veto rights of the permanent 5 members of the UN Security Council. That is widely considered as a signal of their great prestige, and even though the French and British empires are long gone, it is unrealistic to think that they will give up their P-5 status.

So Korea’s quota increase is good for Korea, in a small way, and it is just, insofar as Korea has grown more rapidly than the EU in the last few decades. But it is not really that important, because 1. Korea’s relations with the IMF are quite chilly anyway, and 2. Korea is simply too small economically and demographically at the global level. More interesting would be Korea’s ‘quota’ in the emerging Chiang Mai Initiative, which is like a local Asian version of the IMF.

Generally, we should be pleased that the IMF was able to evolve like this. The more it looks like the actual world economy, the more it can meaningfully intervene. Contrast that with the UN Security Council, frozen in time (1945), with three veto-wielding ‘great powers’ (Russia, France, and Britain) that are no ‘greater’ than a lot of other countries now. Unable to adapt – again, primarily because of European selfishness (France and Britain will not a agree to consolidate their veto into one for the EU) – the Security Council is sliding into irrelevance. If the IMF – the supposed global tyrant – can adapt, how about the UN?

Korea and the G-20: An Exercise in Koreaphoria


A street near my house got festooned with G-20 flags for a week.

There has been lots about the G-20 in the major financial press, but little on the way in which Korea has rewritten the meeting, at least to itself, as a global homage to Korea’s arrival. Most Koreans haven’t the slightest clue what the G-20 is. Nor do they really care much for OECD trading norms – which, of course, is the whole point of the G-20. In fact, they flagrantly violate those norms (as just about every western businessman I have met in Korea reminds me at every conference I go to). The ROK is irritatingly mercantilist, and Americans are right to think Korea cheats on trade. So if Koreans actually wanted the G-2o to be a success, how about dialing down the protectionism and currency ‘fine-tuning’ (i.e., sterilization of inflows to favor big exporters like the ship builders)? I am hardly one to defend the US auto industry for making cars that no wants to drive and that wreck the environment, but Ford nails it with this write-up. So the Chosun Ilbo says Korea should be a good global citizen, but that’s not what Korea really cares about in the G-20.  In Korea-land, the G-20 is an opportunity to preen, not what it actually is suppsed to be – a global economic coordinating body. In the words of no less than the SK president, the G-20 in Seoul means, “Koreans are great and that the world is now recognizing that fact.” Somehow I doubt that is what Medvedev, Singh, Kirchener, and all the rest had in mind. *Sigh*

The Korean press is nothing if not unprofessional and arriviste, aggressively desperate for recognition that Korea is a ‘player’ or, in the locution most preferred by the jingoistic media here, an ‘advanced country‘ (with the obvious implication that other countries are therefore ‘below’ Korea – ask Koreans what they know about Africa, e.g.) Start here and here, in order to learn that the G-20 in Seoul means that the whole world is watching Korea, that Koreans should be proud, that Korea is a global player, a powerhouse, a model, blah, blah, blah. Among other narcisisstic disinformation was the media line that Korea was the ‘first’ non-G-7 state ‘ever’ to host the G-20 leaders. Technically this is so, but the G-20 leaders have only met 4 times before, so it’s hardly as unique as it sounds. (This is preceisely the kind of faux statistic the ROKG and media love to create in lieu of something meaningful; try here for a simliarly desperate non-category – that Korean is a ‘top five food.’) But nothing could stem the self-congratulation. For the three weeks previous, there was a media countdown to ‘D-Day’ – yes, that’s what they called it. Literally, in the top left corner of the major TV networks’ broadcasts, there was a permanent ‘D-15’ (day minus 15) or ‘D-3’ graphic counting down to the big day the whole world would swoon over Korea. Perhaps my favorite moment in this bathos of self-absorption was the televised message on ‘D-1,’ by no less than the mayor of Seoul, that Koreans should be nice to visiting foreigners if they meet them on the street. Hah! How about the rest of the time for those of us who live here, huh? The last thing already hyper-nationalistic Koreans need is to be told that they should be even more proud.

I have said it lots of times before, but Korea is a really nice place to live actually – a lot better than the Central Valley – but then Koreans insist on spoiling that with over-the-top insistence that Korea is unbelievably awesome, and using almost anything to argue that Korea’s ‘brand’ – whatever that means – is on the rise. If all this sounds like the Tea-Party’s hysterical American exceptionalism it should.

For a more serious take on the G-20, one that actually recognizes Korea’s small size and its consequent limits, try this piece by a friend of mine at the Korea Times. Cho admits what Koreans know in their hearts, but adamantly refuse to admit to foreigners: that Korea is a bit-player, that it faces severe constraints in the future, and that Korea’s super-growth days are over. In short, Korea is a middle power, will remain one, and Koreans should accustom themselves to this rather than demanding, Uncle-Tom style, that resident foreigners recite a mawkish Koreaphoria.

Post-Western Global Governance?


These two articles really got me thinking recently about the the complexity of global governance (GG), and whether it can realistically absorb new powers, much less define itself meaningfully to policy-makers. In fact, sometime I wonder, because I teach international organization (IO), if GG even exists at all. Randy Schweller, one of my grad school profs, says basically GG is a mash-up of rules, institutions, norms, and everything else that is so complex that is effectively unanalysable. And Thomas Weiss, quite the opposite paradigmatically of Schweller, basically says the same, and that we should go back to looking at world government (hear, hear!).

I wrote my dissertation on the IMF and World Bank in the (ever-so-quaint 1990s, pre-9/11) belief that global governance was a meaningful idea, that rules could slowly creep up on the world, that most of those rules would come from liberal internationalist thinking primarily rooted in the West, and that all this was a good thing. Even belonged to the UN Association of the USA before 9/11. Yet after years of struggling to make this an analytically coherent idea (and subscribing to the excellent journal), I have given up mostly. My own research has turned back to states instead of the tortured mix of NGOs, IO, MNCS, rules, norms, regimes, etc, etc, that are somehow supposed to interrelate into multilateral, multilayered, multisectoral, networked, transnational, social constructed, complex, I-don’t-know-which-way-is-up-anymore GG. When I teach IOs, after I go through all this with the students, and they ask me for the one-liner on GG (because all good ideas can ultimately be expressed simply), I say GG is (dysfunctional) world government-light. Hence Schweller’s piece caught my attention. GG is so complex and such a confusing notion, that it obscures as much as it clarifies. And Weiss is wonderful in his frustration that no one really knows wth GG is, and that the world government discussions of the past (after the two world wars) were much more understandable and analytically useful.

Beyond the confusion though, is my growing sense that as the non-western world gets its act together slowly in the coming decades, all this GG talk will just look like preening academic liberal internationalism, our hubris in trying to extend a system basically built for the West (plus Japan) to everyone else. But everyone else (Huntington’s famous ‘the rest’) probably don’t really want to live by the rules that we have set up. In the same way that Japan never really liked its semi-membership in the Concert of Europe and never really followed its norms (it stormed around Korea and China regardless of what Bismarck or Earl Grey thought), I think the emerging powers of the world will probably be more inclined to truculence and grievance than assimilation.

Walt calls this the end of the Atlantic Era; Mead says it is the death-throes of liberal internationalism. Increasingly, sadly to be sure, I think this is right, and increasingly my own IR thinking has drifted from optimistic liberalism to fearful realism. It makes me miss the 1990s so much. Before 9/11, the US was strong enough that we could indulge in Eurocentric intellectual flights of fancy that everyone wanted to live like us (the Washington Consensus of the indispensible nation), and that if only they followed the rules (GG), they could. But the rest of the world has been ‘rising’ (ie, modernizing, ie, it getting its act together) for several decades now, and there are a lot more of them (the Rest) than of us (the West), so inevitably as the BRICs (above map) and such come on-line, they are going to change the implementation of the rules, if not the rules themselves, if only because of their sheer bulk. China and India each have 1.3+ billion people. How can they not impact just about everything? I once heard the president of the World Bank say there would be 20 billion more people born by 2050, and 90% of them would be born outside the West. There is your one-liner for the future, not some academic tinkering about NGO access to UN specialized agencies.

Compounding these structural de-westernization trends, is the massive sinkhole of western power and strategy that the GWoT has become. The US would be declining relatively to the new risers anyway, but the $3 trillion spent on Iraq vastly accelerated this process. Does anyone remember predictions just a decade ago that China would rise so fast? Of course not, because no expected the US to shoot itself in the foot (if not the head) so badly since 9/11.

So my question then is how do we put together rules for the new post-western era. The UN, built to fail by sovereignty-obsessed nation-states, has therefore failed. It reflects a simpler world, where much of the world’s population was unsocialized, unmobilized peasantry under imperial or semi-feudal rule. So, as Schweller notes, GG was easier. There were fewer players, and they were all pretty culturally close. Today it is running the other way as previous marginalized peoples around the globe get richer, get to TVs and the Internet, complain more (especially about the US), vote their grievances, and otherwise make the liberal rules harder to enforce.

Finally, this doesn’t mean the US will be poorer or weaker, but it does mean the US will have less room to maneuver and that it will be harder to bully others into doing what we think is right for them (even if it is good for them). It’s not the decline of the US or the West, unless you equate unipolarity and Western cultural hegemony with the ‘normal’ status of the world.

Asia 21, or the IMF Comes Crawling Back to Asia…


1. For an organization regularly accused of wrecking the world, the July IMF-Korea get-together was a lark. 13 years ago in the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), the Fund pummeled emerging Asia with all sorts of tough but necessary reforms. And Korea, for an OECD economy, took a hell of beating at the time and never forgave the Fund. Never ones to admit they were wrong, Korean elites steadfastly refuse to recognize that the Fund’s advice was necessary and was the reason Korea bounced back so fast from what at the time observers thought was going to be a regional meltdown. And now, as the world’s money flows into Asia in the coming decades, the IMF has had to come crawling back. The irony of course is that Fund advice why the AFC lasted so briefly and why Asia returned to growth so quickly.

But no one EVER thanks the Fund, and now, with the Western powers traditionally supporting the Fund all bankrupt, the Fund desperately needs Asia. So after a 13 year mexican stand-off over the Fund’s AFC advice, the Fund has finally blinked. It has come back to ask to be let back in. For Korea this was a moment of triumph. Not one Korean speaker missed the opportunity to dredge up the old grievances, and not one IMF speaker had the professional courage to defend the Fund. Even Managing Director Strauss-Kahn (right above) didn’t have the backbone to defend the rescue package that saved Korea from default and an Argentine-style depression. Instead the MD told sob-stories about how the IMF refused to loan money to countries which included cuts in children’s services in their programs. See how nice the IMF is now! 15 years ago they were killing babies, now they are saving them from faceless bureaucrats. Make sure to blast-fax that to all the NGOs and the New York Times. Bleh. Strauss-Kahn has otherwise been a good MD after the last two forgettables. But he sounded so craven it was embarrassing.

But I suppose he had no choice. Asians so loathe the Fund that they are brink of building their own local version of it – the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI). 13 years ago the IMF was able to sink this idea, because Asia was broke and the US was the ‘indispensible nation.’ Now, the world’s cash is in Asia, and its debtors are in the West. The Fund can’t play so hard, and CMI represents a genuine threat to institutional relevance. Hence the peace offering at Asia 21.

2. The conference didn’t say too much you wouldn’t already know from reading the (required) FT and Economist, but at least Asians seem to be realizing the West won’t import as it did before and that the US stimulus was essentially sterilized by cuts in local, state, and consumer spending. This is progress. Two years ago, when the crisis started, the first instinct was to ignore the depth of the crisis in Asia’s major export markets and just wait for things to return to the 2000s status quo: massive overconsumption (and debt) in the US and much of the EU, coupled with a huge run-up in dollars reserves in Asia. Smart observers like Martin Wolf have been arguing since the start that an Asian buying binge is the fastest, safest way out of the crisis, but Asian elites would have none of that. Now at least, I had the impression that they realizing that the wild imbalances of the post-AFC pseudo-expansion are risky to even to them. But I still didn’t see a commitment to reverse the current account surpluses, only to lessen them somewhat. Not even this Great Recession can dent the Asian reflex for mercantilism.

3. There was a great deal of fear that Greece might spiral into a sovereign debt crisis throughout the OECD, and much hand-wringing about how the West could be moved toward structurally lower fiscal deficits. As a political scientist though, I found the answers to the latter curiously technocratic and formal. None of the speakers note what seems to me the obvious, cultural, answer – generational expectations. In the EU, the biggest problem for balance is not corruption, better tax-collecing, the Common Agricultural Program; it is the mindset that the work is ‘oppressive’ beyond 35 hours a week and 55 years of age. It is cultural or socio-political expectations that are the real limits on fiscal seriousness. A ‘social-democratized’ population taught that generous government is a right has made it all but impossible to get Europeans to live within their means. In the US, the primary problem with balance is analogous: an anti-tax commitment on the right that borders on paranoia. I can’t think of any serious economist who believes the US can balance its budget in the medium-term without tax increases – the deficit is now $1 trillion, so please tell me how to fix that without more tax revenue? – but taxes have achieved a totemic significance on the right that makes them nearly impossible to raise despite the obvious mathematical case for them.

By contrast, it seems that Asian populations are willing to pay their taxes and accept less social welfare redistribution. We say that the West needs to learn to live within its means, Asia has some good examples of that. South Koreans want low taxes and lots of goodies like anyone else, but I have never seen, in the press or my students or colleagues here, the suicidal drive to spend without taxing that has become the curse of the contemporary West.

4. A quick tip to the IMF guys at these big conferences: maybe you shouldn’t clique up so much and be unfriendly to everyone else; that is why people think you are a big conspiracy. I defend the IMF all the time, but really, the IMF does bring some of the conspiracy thinking on itself. A little people skills would go a long way – how about not giving the impression that the rest of us are wasting your time? I have been to many conferences with IMF types (I wrote my dissertation on the Fund), and again and again I have seen them tie-up together in little knots, where they whisper (yes, whisper) among themselves, and generally not talk with the others as much. Not only is it the royal blow-off to the rest of us, it creates among the suspicious the perception of a disinterested priesthood. I guess global domination means they don’t have time to talk with some lowly political scientist. Hah!

The Chiang-Mai Initiative is Freaking Out the IMF


For some basic details on the IMF’s relevance in this post-Great Recession world, try here. Or read the IMF’s own publication, Finance & Development, which obsessively navel-gazes over the IMF’s own role.

So last month, I was a selectee for an internal IMF research project on its continuing relevance in Asia. Yikes! That should set off alarm bells. Neither the cover letter nor the interviewer mentioned the Chiang-Mai Initiative (CMI), but it was clear as day if you know about Asian attitudes toward the IMF. In short they loathe it. In fact, they loathe it so much, they want to build their own local version. After the Asian financial crisis (AFC), Japan proposed an “Asian Monetary Fund” (AMF), which the US shot down. At the time, the US was the indispensible nation at the end of history. What all that ‘America-is-awesome’ rhetoric really meant was that we were the uncontested hegemon with our fiscus in order, so we could push the Washington Consensus pretty hard. Today though, the US is a mess, and Asia is feeling its oats. So here we are again.

It was pretty easy to see from the questions that the IMF is really nervous about this. CMI is basically the AMF warmed over, although no one wants to come out and say so. Asians want it, because when the AFC hit, the IMF conditions on the bail-outs were tough. But unsurprisingly they were necessary – really necessary actually. Asian economies are far too export-dependent, mercantilist, corrupt, and oligarchic, and the Fund helped somewhat loosen the death-grip of politically-connected conglomerates on the economies out here. As usual, the Fund was demonized for providing good advice that was necessary. One reason why the AFC was so short, and the region’s economies bounced back so fast, was the IMF’s necessary pain. But no one ever thanks the Fund. It’s far easier to blame it for domestic political point-scoring.

So this time, the Asians are going to create their own currency pool, with their own Asian rules – whatever that means. In a way, one could see as part of the Great Recession-inspired fantasy of ‘de-coupling.’ (Tell me how you decouple from globalization and not fall behind lightning fast?) But they say, Asia should look inward, with its own rules and such. The irony, of course, is that conflict has already erupted between the likely lenders (China and Japan) and the likely borrowers (ASEAN) over what the rules over the loans should be. It’s the clash over conditionality all over again – except far more demur and behind-closed-doors, because of ‘ASEAN Way’ sensitivities that Asian countries should not publically criticize each other (lest that open the door for Western lecturing and preening). Asian leaders love the CMI for the distance it creates from the West and the Fund, but the fight over rules-set will mirror those of the Fund. The other big benefit for Asia, or rather for its elites, is that an neo-AMF/CMI will be far kinder toward ‘state-capitalism’ – all the rage now, as it is supposedly superior to liberal economics. The CMI will provide bail-outs and conditionality which push Southeast ASEAN borrowers to modernize as Northeast Asian donors have – directed state investment, aggressive mercantilism, (semi-)closed politics.

This is unfortunate to my mind for two reasons:

1. Obviously, propping up authoritarians capitalism has an anti-democratic ring to it. The last thing, politically, that Southeast Asia needs is more cheerleading to concentrate political-economic power in a small, almost-closed elite. Insofar as the Fund promotes economic neoliberalism, there has always been an oblique pressure to openly politically therefore as well. This will now be lost, as the CMI is certain to follow the ‘ASEAN Way’ of no political commentary.

2. If you bracket this political concerns, there are clear economic worries. A CMI fractures the global financial system, just as the proliferation of free trade areas in Asia is fracturing the WTO universal trade system, and Chinese pressure increasingly threatens to regionalize the Internet. This year’s ‘multilateralization’ of the CMI means it is now a genuine systemic-institutional threat to the Fund. This is almost certainly the proximate cause of the worried IMF survey on its relevance.

So I felt bad for the Fund (who EVER says that?) All the questions from the interviewer were about the Fund’s continuing relevance, what its role in Asia should be, and perhaps most telling, should it have a role? That inspired real discomfort.  I can only imagine what interviewer heard from Koreans – who feel they were turned upside down by the IMF even though the bail-out probably prevented street rioting – and Indonesians- where the AFC did end in street rioting and government collapse. The prime minister of Malaysia at the time even said the AFC was caused by ‘Jewish speculators.’

I should only add in the Fund’s defense that when I talk with Koreans and other Asians, most have no good sense of what the IMF should do differently, because most have no grasp of what it actually does. All will tell you that it should reform, but like most of the anti-globalization protestors, their ideas are vague or indicate that they don’t understand the, albeit highly technical, IMF. (I even wrote my dissertation on this topic.) Most seem to think that the bailouts should come cost- and change-free, but all that does it move the costs somewhere else – to the OECD taxpayers providing the Fund’s bailout resources – nor does it help clear up the problems that created the crisis in the first place. The great irony is that although Asians loathe the Fund, they actually learned the appropriate lessons from it in 1997 and were much better able to withstand the next crisis in 2008, the Great Recession. Pity the Fund. It does its job pretty well, but everyone hates it anyway

Under-Institutionalization in Asia


This is an article proposal for the Asian Studies Conference Japan. A friend works there; its a good outfit. You should take a look.

Proposal: “It is a commonplace in research on international security and economics in Asia to call for greater, thicker institutionalization similar to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the European Union. Not just East Asia, but most of the continent is comparatively poorly institutionalized. The Six Party talks on North Korea collapsed rather than evolve into a hoped-for ‘Northeast Asian Concert.’ The Association of South East Asian Nations is weak, having failed to coordinate well against either the Asian Financial Crisis or the Great Recession. ASEAN spin-offs like the ASEAN Regional Forum or Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have done little. In South Asia, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation has essentially been sidelined by, rather than help to alleviate, the Indo-Pakistan competition. In the Middle East, the Gulf Cooperation Council is a self-protection club for monarchs, not a multilateral forum for dispute resolution or integration. This paper investigates today why even Africa is today even more institutionalized than Asia, especially East Asia. Repeated calls for thicker institutions fail for reasons local elites are loathe to admit. Deep divisions over territory, religion, ideology, and memory divide states across Asia. Territorial issues like Dokdo/Takeshima, Kashmir, or the West Bank are similar across the continent. Historical issues like the conflicts over Japanese colonialism or Israeli behavior are similar as well.  Accelerating democratization will only worsen these divides as entrepreneurial politicians fire populism for electoral and legitimacy gain. Despite regular academic calls to institutionalize Asian security, this – much less security communities as we see in Europe and the Western Hemisphere – is unlikely.”

I could cut out the bit on SE Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, and only focus on NE Asia. But it strikes me that security institutionalization across ALL of Asia is pretty bad.

I am pretty pessimistic on institutionalization out here. Those who say that Asia’s future is Europe’s past seem right to me. East Asians just don’t seem ready to really build a serious multilateral forum. They just don’t like each other enough. It is pretty politically incorrect to say that, but things like the EU, NAFTA, or the OSCE require a modicum of good will and shared values among the participants. Simply trading for greater profit is not enough. SK and Japan, and Taiwan and China trade, but they still loathe each other. As long as my Korean students tell me they are ready to go to war over Dokdo (!) and they watch Japanobic movies like this, then you can forget an Asian or East Asian Union. South Asia too isn’t ready; the Indo-Pakistan conflict – including its talibanic addendum in Afghanistan – paralyzes everything. And it hardly needs to be said that regional integration is utopian in the ME.

It took the Europeans 3-4 centuries of bloody brutal conflict before they agreed to seek security through integration and cooperation rather than domination. You’d think after Asia’s violent 20th century, they would have learned that too. I guess not. As another western scholar out here said to me in extreme irony, ‘they’re just one more good war away.’ Sad but true, perhaps?

Tell Fox News that Gordon Brown Has Joined the Global Conspiracy

anti-united-nations The prime minister of Britain says a lot of good things about global coordination to overcome shared, global problems in his recent op-ed. But I am pretty stunned at his concluding remark that we should ‘create the first truly global society.’

The idea of course has a lot to recommend it. The global scale of some problems (global warming, terrorism, drugs) suggests we need globally-scaled solutions, and a global society, or ideally a world government (WG), would be able to coordinate that a lot more easily than the messy, choppy circus of multilateral meetings that passes as ‘global governance’ today. When I teach International Organization, I spend a week or two on the counterfactual of WG. We talk about what the benefits might be, why it has not happened, what its prospects are, how it might be organized, etc. (If you are curious about some detailed ideas, try here.) The economies of scale and efficiency benefits of WG are basically the same as those of any integration scheme – NAFTA, the EU, ASEAN, etc. And there is a great logic question in why human political organization has risen to the level of the sovereign state, but no further. In other words, we progressed from families to tribes to city-states to nation-states, and some of our nation-states are continental-sized. But we have not moved to WG. Why not?

The best answer I can think of is nationalism. And this is why Brown’s remark shocked me so much. The big reason we don’t have a ‘global society,’ much less WG, is because no one wants it. People remained deeply psychologically wedded to their nation, even if those nations are recent, artificial, rickety, etc. Look at how much the Iraqis want the US to leave even though the Iraqi ‘nation’ feels like a myth. Or consider how hard European integration has been. Yes, there are organizational problems with the EU that hamper more integration. The EU is a bureaucratic morass that only specialized academics fully grasp, but this is a second-order reason. The EU would work better if the EU’s citizens really wanted it to, if they really felt like ‘Europeans,’ not Irish, French, Poles, etc. Then they would vote to give it real constitutional and organizational clarity. But the Eurobarometer evidence does not suggest that Europeans are shifting their cultural-national allegiance and identification from their national community to the European one.

If the postmodern, ‘we’don’t-have-militaries-anymore’ Euros can’t forge a continental identity, then how can the rest of us possibly build a ‘global society’? And certainly, the US, the audience of the Brown op-ed, is dead-set against this. The American Right thinks state health care is the beginning of socialist tyranny, and before 9/11 John Bolton called global governance the greatest threat to the United States. The American Right is deeply committed to American exceptionalism. Serious talk of a ‘global society,’ much less a WG, would provoke a huge backlash. To the US right, Kyoto was a major breach of US sovereignty, and even NAFTA may be a bridge too far. I can only imagine American conservatives flipping out on reading that line by Brown. Can you picture the Fox News hysteria if an American official actually concurred with the leader of our most important ally? Glenn Beck would be in tears again, and there’d be rioting in the streets…

Give the IMF a Break Already

A week ago, I attended a talk by a Hungarian academic on Eastern European countries’ particular problems with the financial crisis. It was sponsored by the PNU EU Center and the Korea-EU Forum – good outfits both.

Ostensibly titled “A Hungarian Perspective on the Future of European Integration,” the talk quickly turned into a list of complaints about IMF conditionality during the current crisis. The audience was receptive; Korea went through an IMF bailout as well that turned the country upside down. The speaker heavily stressed that creditors must share with borrowers the costs of debt crises. She ended with a call for a ‘restructuring of the global financial architecture’ for this purpose. I heard Jeffrey Sachs once at Ohio State say basically the same thing. I am struck by how similar the left’s complaints have been about the global economy since the 70s. A couple of points are in order.

1. I’ve grown tired of the constant use of large-sounding IR jargon to obscure either unlikely leftist proposals (global taxes) or a lack of concrete ideas and notions (rich countries should be nicer). You sound a lot more important if you talk about the need for ‘paradigm shifts’ and ‘new global structures,’ than if you actually say rather mundane things like the IMF should ease up on its inflation targets or Obama should push for global cap-and-trade in carbon.

2. The IMF is world’s financial paramedic. You only call it when the wheels come off your economy, and you’re careening off the bridge. It is bad faith to criticize the Fund when you yourself have caused the crisis – in Hungary’s case by a consumer spending splurge financed by borrowing. Nobody ever calls the Fund when times are good. Nobody ever thanks it for providing resources when no one else will.

3. The IMF does not in fact insist on brutal, one-size-fits-all conditionality, and the Fund has given one program after another to many countries, creating in effect a long-term development relationship rather than a short-term patch. (Read the work of Randall Stone and Ngaire Woods on this generally.) Frequently states welch on the IMF conditions, back-sliding or cheating. The real determinant of the details of conditionality is the conflict between great power interest in the borrower and Fund technocracy.

4. Debt relief has been around for a long-time. and creditors, shareholders, and rich-country taxpayers have carried the costs of LDC profligacy and wasted investment. Institutionalizing or regularizing debt relief would be disastrous, as it would immediate be discounted by private borrowers and likely reduce available development financing and raise its interest rates. More generally, it strikes me as dangerous fantasy to argue against the sanctity of contract, especially in such a high-handed way. This bites the hand that feeds you. If a ‘new international financial architecture’ really means making it easier to get debt relief, than creditors won’t lend to begin with. The moral hazard problems are quite obvious; as much as possible contract must be maintained and borrowers must carry the costs.

5. IMF reforms are usually necessary. Economies don’t just explode overnight. Usually the IMF gets involved because you ran your country off the road yourself. Structural problems pile up and lead to an meltdown. Korea’s economy is dominated by a corporatist oligarchy who sought to unload their costs on taxpayers when the easy money dried up in the Asian crisis. The Fund had nothing to do with this, and the crisis was useful for partially cracking the corporatist-familial lock on the economy that is so common in emerging markets. The Fund’s medicine was good for Korea.

6. You don’t have to borrow from the Fund if you don’t want to. Again, it seems like the height of hubris to bite the hand that feeds you. Some states found dealing with the Fund so disagreeable, they simply won’t do it again. If that is what you want, fine. That’s exactly the right attitude. My own sense is that that is risky, but ultimately that is up to you.

7. Can we stop implying that somehow creditors force borrowers to borrow? If your parents give you a credit card and you buy a car with it inside of paying for your college classes, that is hardly their fault. We are seeing the same logic today about the financial crisis. The Chinese made it so easy to borrow, it was irresistible for Americans to splurge. Gimme a break. Show some basic responsibility. Countries dig their own holes, and lenders only become ‘predatory’ when the mistakes pile up.

And remember the inverse counterfactual. If rich countries and their banks did not lend, then they would be accused of racism, neo-imperialism, coldness to suffering and poverty, and ‘not seeing the people behind the statistics (the credit rating)’. (That last is my all time favorite anti-social science banality.) Recall that this was exactly the logic behind extending credit to the riskiest in the US, which then lead to the financial crisis. Red-lining was racism; cruel bankers saw only credit ratings, not the young under-privileged family struggling for a home. It turns out actually that those credit ratings did have meaning, and ignoring them with implicit government backing has resulted in taxpayers paying the cost of anti-credit rating ‘social justice lending.’ It is a great irony that the World Social Forum wants to eliminate subprime mortgages.

IN short, if you want developing financing, then accept the strings that come with it; if not, then accept international red-ling (as Cuba and NK do). You can’t have both; money isn’t free. And the poor record of official development assistance suggests that free money for LDCs is not a good idea anyway. If you borrow from international finance, expect an IMF stricture if you blow the cash. That is how the game is played. Contracts are contracts, and the IMF is the closest thing we have to insuring their international viability. Try to imagine for a moment how much development finance would disappear without its backstop role. That is a far scarier thought.

Reweighting the IMF Vote

A friend wrote to me:

"I am all for readjusting the world institutions to reflect new balance of power. the problem is are these countries ready to lead and other ready to follow. yes India and China and Brazil have big economies but will they contribute to the fund on focus on their daunting domestic problems? Do they have a viable plan or are they just interested in rejecting the US plan to show their muscle? Can their marshal the world behind them – is the world ready to follow the Indian or Chinese plan for development?"

My thinking:

They are ready to free-ride and play spoiler – just like the EU and most of NATO. Why do anything else? Why not ride a declining hegemon – if that is what we are – right into the ground? That is what we did with the Brits from 1914-45, that is what the euros did in the 70s (when folks like Kissinger said the world had become multipolar after Vietnam and they euros still walked away from burden-sharing), and the Japanese did in the 70s-80s even after they hardly needed preferential US market access anymore. I expect nothing from the Chinese and Indians in terms of world order provision. Hell, the euros can’t even find a few combat brigades and helicopters for Afghanistan, and they’re allies.

Thankfully, any reweighting in the IMF toward Asia will occur at Europe’s expense, not ours. Ironically, the US vote in Bank and Fund is smaller than the US percentage of global GDP. It’s the EU vote that is way oversized. So let the Europeans and Asians fight it out. Its not our concern.

Al Qaeda as an NGO

Research Note

1. Argument

Since 9/11, the United States has implicitly treated its terrorist opponents as if they were states. It has deployed traditional assets of hard power against countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush speaks of a global ‘war’ on terror (GWoT) and listed only states in the ‘axis of evil.’ Yet terrorist groups themselves are structurally similar to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). While they may receive state-sponsorship, they frequently are an organizational embodiment of indigenous social movements. Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Islamist groups emanate from the Islamic revival or wave since the 1970s, just as Greenpeace did from the environmental movement. That some of these NGOs or social movement organizations deploy violence distinguishes them tactically, but not structurally. Indeed at least one environmental NGO, the Earth Liberation Front, has slowly drifted into terrorism. Hence, warfighting counterterrorism strategies mischaracterize the opponent. This essay will first, map the structural similarities between terrorist organizations and NGOs through a comparison of Greenpeace and al Qaeda, and second, deduce counter-insurgency rather than warfighting policy implications for the GWoT.

As social movements arise – feminism, Islamism, Irish nationalism – they kick up non-state entities – NGOs – that agitate for new goals. Traditionally the literature on NGOs and social movements has implied that they are leftist or ‘progressive.’ From rising environmental concern emanates Greenpeace or the World Wild Life Fund; civil rights concerns generate the NAACP. Yet this logic does not preclude nationalist, religious, or ‘regressive’ social movements. Rising Irish nationalism in the environment of decolonization generated the IRA, as well as peaceful groups agitating for change. Similarly, an Islamic revival has gripped the Muslim world since the 1970s and created non-state, civil society groups to renew Muslim piety, some of which have reached to terrorism. That some, such as Hamas or Hezbollah, so blur the boundaries between NGO-style aid and charity work and terrorism, intellectually motivates my comparison of the two concepts.

2. Research

Several decades of research on social movements and NGOs has generated a general set of structural attributes of NGOs. For comparison, I choose Greenpeace, because it is a ‘classic,’ well-researched NGO case, and al Qaeda, because it is the best known terrorist group emanant from the Islamic revivalist movement. The following structured, focused comparison will be expanded in the full essay: Both are non-state and transnational. They are networked across borders through national chapters. These chapters have formal memberships, complete with selection criteria and bureaucratic jockeying over advancement, projects, and internal governance. National chapters are complemented by a wider but softer constituency of partially mobilizable sympathizers. Leadership is oligarchic and personalistic; charismatic founders tend to dominate, with limited circulation at the top. Both engage in fund-raising and recruitment within the relevant social movement. They are principled advocates; they seek deep ideational change in world politics. But the ‘deep politics’ of norm entrepreneurship is slow, and both are given to bouts of extraparliamentary direct action for immediate policy change. Neither seeks to enter traditional politics or morph into a political party. Both are media-savvy and engage extensively in public relations campaigns. They heavily use the non-nationalized, deterritorial space of the internet to organize, mobilize and fundraise at a global level for global change. Finally, like many NGOs, both share a general ideological disdain for US-led capitalist modernity.

3. Policy Implications/Results

The policy implications of this analysis, particularly for the current US WoT are significant. Islamism will continue to kick up groups like Al Qaeda or Hamas until the fervor behind the revival fades. As such, militarized strategies that target failed states are unlikely to reduce Islamic terrorism. Indeed, as the National Intelligence Estimates argue, the Iraq war has likely created more jihadists, because it plays to the most extreme variants of the Muslim revival. Warfighting counter-terrorism strategies significantly overrate the relevance of rickety, postcolonial states of the Middle East and Central Asia; they mischaracterize the opponent as a traditional state which can be reduced by traditional means.

If the opponent is primarily ideational – an inspirational social movement – channeled through violent NGOs, then a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy, complemented by containment and counterinsurgency, is likely a more efficacious approach. The model for future Western action in the GWoT would be not Iraq but the Malayan emergency of the 1950s. The norm entrepreneurship of Islamic radicals would be met by a contrasting, liberal campaign for hearts and minds. Where unsuccessful, Islamist regimes like Iran would face containment, and violent NGOs like al Qaeda would face counter-insurgency in fine-grained, patient, well-intelligenced, culturally-literate, small-footprint operations.

4. Method

The method is historical and cross-comparative. I will follow Alexander George’s prescription of structured, focused comparison. Along a series of generalized vectors, I will compare these two cases. The attributes listed above (section 2) are the general markers against which the two cases will be measured. The actual research will only involve reading. The relevant information is already in the public sphere. Because I wrote my dissertation on NGOs, I will likely circulate drafts among my NGO acquaintances; I will make a particular effort to solicit Greenpeace. I will also consult with associates from the CIA, homeland security, the military, and the other terrorism scholars in my professional network.

5. Literature/Contribution

This project contributes creatively to the international relations literatures on terrorism and social movements. To my knowledge, they have never been brought together before. Traditionally, social movement and NGO scholars focus on left-‘progressive’ groups like the anti-globalizers around the IMF and World Bank, or indigenous third world development groups. In Power in Movement, Sidney Tarrow noted that almost no one applies the tools of this work to rightist social movements. By contrast, the counterterrorism literature is dominated by Iraq, tactical considerations of how democracies should respond to terrorism, and state-sponsorship of terror. The structure of terrorist networks is simply taken for granted; they are like brigands or pirates or militias. But the operations of al Qaeda, Hamas and others suggest far greater sophistication.

So I believe I am creatively fusing two previously unaffiliated literatures. Applying our tools, as Tarrow suggests, to a conservative social movement and its emanant NGOs should yield theoretically interesting and policy-relevant results.

Globalization of Pluralism – Again

Here is part 1 of this argument.

MNCs and NGOs are re-creating at the global level, what interest groups have long created at the domestic level. Where political interest groups emerged from domestic civil society and the economy to lobby government, the same is happening in the albeit less well integrated, global first and third sectors.

The global level has no public authority as integrated as a state. Yet it does, increasingly have policy processes that generate outcomes that apply to many states across many issues. There is neither global sovereignty, nor world government, but there is increasingly global governance. The pressures of globalization, particularly economic, but also social and environmental, have raised supra-state policy issues – human right, global warming, bank reserve ratios. States are not forced to submerge their will to supra-state policy answers – there is no world government – but rather strong functional and humanitarian pressures for coordinated policy responses. Globalization is not unstoppable, but increasingly states have gone along with its pressures to address problems at the global level. First and third sector organizations in states frequently demand such actions. Global governance, however, ramshackle and inefficient is the answer.

Globalization is the real-world driver of GG. As it elevates issues to a level of global concern, it creates strong incentives for global policy answers. But this does not explain the participation of nonstate actors in global policy making processes. In a strict inter-state model of world politics, GG would simply be regime building. But increasing actors from the for- and non-profit sector are joining the game. States could conceivably lock them out, and the most repressive do – the only voice from North Korea in world politics is the DPRK. But for an increasing number of states, preventing private actors from engaging in world politics, at least trying, is ideologically impossible. Democratization has driven up the costs of such repression. Surely Donald Rumsfeld would like to quiet Amnesty International’s harsh criticism of the Guantanamo detention facility, but to do so would violate clear norms, and in many democratic cases, written constitutional protections, of free speech. As more states democratize and liberalize, the most their internal private actors are allowed to make international connections, join the global economy and other global social movements. While GG has no formal charter to insure that is pluralistic, its most powerful state members, and an increasing number of the rest are liberal. Democratization has opened the floodgates, particularly for NGOs to spill into world politics.