Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Foreign Ministers, Stones, and Glass Houses

Abul Ati al-Obeidi has warned that the UK’s plan to send military advisors to assist Libyan rebels will prolong the search for peace.  Is he for real?

War: a continuation of politics by other means; a phenomenon that takes place once more diplomatic routes to conflict resolution between two adversaries are perceived to be exhausted.  In the end, it comes down to the enforcement of ones will upon another.  But crucially, this projection of will must be embedded within the condition of peace. 
Peace: the elusive condition of being that often proves so distant within hot-war environments; a condition which is reliant on the most specific of factors aligning, so as to achieve balance at a particular moment in time and the acceptance of one adversary’s will by the other (albeit sometimes more than begrudgingly).
All sounds rather migraine-inducing, doesn’t it?  Or perhaps not if your name is Mr Obeidi.  If Libya’s foreign minister is to be believed, the first step toward peace would involve keeping British (and more generally, foreign) forces off the ground in this troubled part of North Africa, for their presence will prolong the conflict and lessen the chances of an amicable resolution.  Or so he says. 
He’s wrong.  Firstly, logistical and intelligence training is a far cry from combat forces, so let’s not get the two confused.  And secondly, the 10 or so British officers pencilled in for deployment will provide only the smallest pinch of tactical respite for Libya’s rebels; a contingent that needs all the help it can get whilst up against the war machine of a state.
So, thank you for your advice Mr Obeidi, but here is mine to you: massacring thousands of your own citizens isn’t the best way to bring about peace, either.  If Mr Obeidi wants to throw stones, perhaps he should move from a house of glass to one slightly more robust, say, reinforced by the practice of human rights, liberty and democracy.

By Dane Vallejo
Originally posted by The Henry Jackson Society

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Made in America: why the US should protect its own

America’s status as the world’s superpower was established in no small part from the strength and talent of our men and women in uniform. However, this cannot simply be attributed to exceptional training; we would be amiss if we failed to recognize the American companies who develop and build the equipment that our men and women use every day to ensure our national security. American ingenuity has kept us at the forefront of military technology that helps keep our soldiers safe. It is not only key to our military strength, but also to the strength of our economy.

Unfortunately, a troubling trend has made it way into the industry. In the name of a “free market” and “fair competition,” foreign companies have begun winning defense contracts at the peril of American companies. The competition is by no means “fair,” and all that is “free” is the free-ride foreign companies are getting when they receive subsidies from their governments. Because foreign companies receive money from the government, they are able to offer artificially low prices when they bid for contracts against American companies, who do not receive government aid.

We are seeing this played out right now, as Kansas-based Hawker Beechcraft competes for an Air Force contract against the Brazilian company Embrear. Embraer publically acknowledges that it receives assistance from the Brazilian government. And this is not an isolated incident – just a few weeks ago Boeing was awarded a similar contract over EADS, it’s European counterpart, but only after a controversial prolonged fight where Boeing had to overcome EADS’ unfair advantage due to government subsidies.

As our country continues to struggle to bounce back from recession, we need to ask ourselves: Should our defense spending be used to protect 1,400 American jobs, or should we allow a foreign company to produce planes in Brazil, ship the parts to the U.S., assemble them in Florida, and stamp them  “Made in America?”

Congress and the Pentagon need to know that Americans are not okay with outsourcing our military manufacturing or our national security.  The idea of supporting a company whose government has provided no assistance or support to the U.S. in fighting terrorism around the globe? The answer seems pretty clear. Support keeping America strong, and tell Washington to stop outsourcing our jobs and security.

Guest Blog by Emily McGann

Sunday, 10 April 2011

New Blog: Dane Vallejo

Military Matters readers,

Please check out Dane Vallejo's new blog.  It is pretty similar to Military Matters as things stand...but it will be going down a new track eventually, so watch this (or that) space!

Topics will vary but will be principally focused on foreign policy vis-รก-vis Latin America, Counterinsurgency, and energy geopolitics.

I hope you continue to enjoy both blogs!


Friday, 8 April 2011

Reid and Obama struggle to keep Boehner down

Over 800,000 American federal employees have gone to work this morning, not knowing whether they will be expected to come in on Monday. Congressmen from both sides of the political divide worked through the night last night in an attempt to foster agreement over a the $3.5trillion federal budget. They remain half a percentage point apart. In other words about $5bn. With the budget in the balance, funding for a number of federal programs will effectively be frozen until agreement is reached.

As if the hundreds of thousands without wages and canceled tourist activities don’t sound bad enough, organisers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival have announced the annual gala parade would be canceled should lawmakers fail to reach agreement. But seriously, the failure of lawmakers to reach agreement through compromise reflects badly on the system, threatens domestic political fallout and may damage the international prestige of the United States. Come on guys you’re the world’s only superpower. What happens if you shutdown?

The polarized politics of recent years is finally coming to a head as (Republican) House Speaker Boehner, and (Democrat) Senate Majority Leader Reid continue to struggle over specific ‘riders’, including funding cuts to Planned Parenthood abortion clinics and environmental red-tape. At present  both sides seem to be spending more time blaming each other than actively pursuing agreement. Hesitant to blink first, they have argued that any concessions given up over the budget may set a dangerous precedent for future negotiations, which are expected to become increasingly testing. With the government only hours away from shutting down, it's time for lawmakers to step up to the plate and pass this test of political will.

by David Fairhurst

Originally posted by The Henry Jackson Society

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gonna Change Their Way of Thinking?

Agnes Repplier once said, “Humour brings insight and tolerance.  Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding”.  She wasn’t wrong.  In the same week that Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei was jailed, age-old protester, Bob Dylan stormed through his first ever gig in the Middle Kingdom: how’s that for irony?
Ai is widely recognised as China’s most famous contemporary artist and can (or at least could before his disappearance into custody) often be found levelling criticism of the state at the powers that be in Beijing; a well-documented void when it comes to human rights.
If the foreign ministry is to be believed, the investigation of Ai is regarding “economic crimes” and has “nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression”.  A spokesman for the ministry added that "China is a country ruled by law and will act according to law” (that’s your irony quota filled for the day); perhaps Beijing could elaborate on its highly selective rule of law model?
As for Dylan, his gig played out free of controversy to the relief of some 2,000 agents of the Chinese Communist Party present.  He stuck to the predetermined set-list, avoided some of his more controversial numbers and kept chit-chat with the audience to a minimum.  That’s not to say he “bottled it”; his gigs are often carried out in this light these days.  But he evidently thought better of pulling “a Bjork” and avoided the precedent set by the screwball Icelandic pop icon who wound up earning a two-year ban on foreign acts after her mini on-stage Tibet protest in 2008.
Perhaps Dylan was simply sharper.  After all, if the West’s soft power is to be used as part of a strategy to change China’s way of thinking, Western acts are going to need a stage to play on.  Better to get the message across quietly than to not get it across at all. 

by Dane Vallejo