Kids’ Table No More

President Obama dropped a bombshell and a “guaranteed applause line” on his passage to India: he will back an Indian seat on the UN Security Council.  And quite frankly, it’s about time. The only two countries opposing it were China and the US, so while this doesn’t completely clear the path for Indian accession, it does smooth it.

The other question is how this will remake the Security Council as a whole. Tom Ricks has his own solution:

It also probably is time to kick out France and Britain and instead give the EU one seat, which would make the permanent members:

  • United States
  • Russia
  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • EU

Japan makes sense, but adding/subtracting members is going to irritate virtually everyone no matter how it’s done (which explains why none of it has been done before).

I think we can agree right off the bat that losing members is a non-starter. No one will voluntarily give up a seat, and thanks to veto power, it’s hard to see France or Britain ruling themselves into irrelevance, no matter how much that might make sense. If they both stay then, why would Germany not deserve a seat? As the largest economy and most populous country in Europe, there’s little reasonable objection to their membership.

Then we get into regional representation. If Russia, India, and China all have a seat, why doesn’t Brazil get one? Or if we go the route of an EU seat, why not UNASUR? And/or the African Union? Will the Middle East get its own seat? Would Pakistan demand one?

It is an excruciating set of compromises that would have to be made in order to change the membership of the Security Council at all. Perhaps the largest barrier, though, is the scale of enlargement. The G8 didn’t evolve into a G10, and then a G12, and so forth – it went straight from G8 to G20. And if the Security Council is to add any of the up-and-coming powers, it will probably have to add them all.

Underground Testing

Recently, France and Britain concluded a defense agreement which, among other things, provides for increased joint nuclear research between the two. In the spirit of that nuclear cooperation – and also in the spirit of getting things done while Congress has their heads up their asses – I have decided to reprint my essay “Underground Testing: Anglo-American Nuclear Cooperation, 1946-58.”

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, August 6, 1945.

In 1946, atomic collaboration between Great Britain and the United States screeched to a halt. The fruitful partnership between the ‘Tube Alloys’ team in the United Kingdom and the scientists of the Manhattan Project had grown increasingly one-sided, with the United States’ research contributions far outstripping those of the British by the end of World War II. Two atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, demonstrating the arrival of nuclear hegemony. The British were merely informed of the decision, to which they acquiesced with “little or no debate.”[1] As the technology gap across the Atlantic Ocean continued to widen in the immediate postwar period, Britain was increasingly thrust into a lesser, subordinate role.

With the passage of Senator Brien McMahon’s Atomic Energy Act in 1946, Anglo-American collaboration in the field of nuclear power and weaponry appeared to be at a congressionally-mandated end. Much of Thatcher-era historiography views that collaboration as entirely dormant until the McMahon Act’s repeal in 1958, and that in the meantime Britain forged on as the jilted partner in the ‘special relationship’.[2] While true on an official level, this ignores the underlying reality of close continuing cooperation on atomic weaponry between 1946 and 1958. Nuclear cooperation did not hit a wall in 1946; it merely endured ‘underground’ for twelve years.

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“The 15 minutes I spent imagining what I’d name it were perhaps the happiest 15 minutes of my life.”

If the Royal Navy really does decide to sell HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2020, who might buy it? And even more importantly, what would they name it? Robert Farley handicaps the race, giving odds and possible names to potential suitors:

China
Empress Dowager Cixi
Odds: 99-1

Russia
Imperitsiya Ekaterina Velikaya
Odds: 50-1

France
Carla Bruni
(R92)
Odds:  20-1

Canada
HMCS Queen Elizabeth
Odds: 15-1

India
INS India Gandhi
Odds: 15-1

Japan
JDS Empress Michiko
Odds: 7-1

Australia
HMAS Queen Elizabeth
Odds: 9-2

South Korea
ROKS Empress Myeongsong
Odds: 4-1

Brazil
NAe Empress Isabel
Odds: 3-1

If I were a gambling man…

Also, guess what the source of the title is. Then check your answer here.

Perles Before Swine

Peter Beinart wrote a pretty decent appraisal of Ronald Reagan’s more moderate and dovish tendencies for Foreign Affairs recently. For anyone at all to approach the Gipper with a modicum of even-handedness is impressive these days, and for some of those facts to damn near inspire me; well, I guess that just speaks to Reagan’s better qualities.

Anyways, moral of the story is that of all people, Foreign Affairs somehow ended up with Richard Perle writing a rebuttal. Yes, that Richard Perle, the ‘Prince of Darkness’, who argued for invading Iraq with 40,000 troops. The same Perle who got tired of being credited with planning the Iraq War and passed the buck up to President Bush . The same Perle who called Seymour Hersh a terrorist , proposed a national biometric ID card program, and demanded an invasion of Syria (at this point it should of course be noted that Perle attended the London School of Economics for a time). Perle’s latest gem is called “Against Evil,” with a tagline of “Only liberals like Peter Beinart think that Ronald Reagan was a dove.”

Yes, and only Richard Perles like Richard Perle think that Richard Perle is in any way still relevant or qualified to comment on anything.

Trouble in Paradise

And by paradise, I of course mean NATO. Turkey has called an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in order to discuss the recent Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla. It’s a fairly routine response to such an event, except for what it might actually mean for the alliance and for Israel. As a refresher, Article Five of the treaty:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Now, consider Article Six – and keep in mind that one of the flotilla ships, the MV Mavi Mamara, is Turkish-flagged:

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

[…]

  • on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer [emphasis mine].

There is a whole world of possibility here, virtually none of it good. Whatever the justification is for Israel’s actions, it’s clear there are going to be consequences, the severity of which have yet to be determined.

Unfortunately, I cannot recall the exact source I saw this in (if you know it, remind me), but if there was an “international aid flotilla” steaming for Turkey with its supplies bound for the Kurds, would Ankara act much differently? It’s a good point – but the current membership of NATO renders such a hypothetical mostly irrelevant.

This could very well mean the beginning of the end for the Atlantic alliance. It will at least pose a serious dilemma in terms of composition. After all, who right now is more aligned with policy and public sentiment in Europe: Turkey, or America?

Victory!

C Company, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment marches in the Victory Day Parade in Red Square for the first time.

Saturday marked the 65th anniversary of V-E Day in most of Europe, but for Russia – being several time zones removed – Sunday, May 9th was V-E Day.

Throughout the Soviet era, a yearly military parade was held in Red Square to commemorate victory in the Great Patriotic War, but after the Soviet Union’s dissolution these parades were reduced in scope and grandeur. Vladimir Putin restored the Victory Day Parade to its former prominence in 2008, and this year’s parade was possibly the most epic yet.

For the first time, Allied and CIS forces also marched in the parade – an American company from the 18th Infantry Regiment, a British company from the Welsh Guards, a Polish battalion, a French aviation detachment, and troops from nine other countries – commemorating the global effort it took to rid the world of Hitler and Nazism.

French troops march in the Victory Day Parade in Red Square.

While there was certainly some resistance to Western troops marching in the holiest-of-holy Russian secular holidays, it mostly ascribed to the Communists and ultranationalists. Many veterans welcomed the other Allied troops:

“This parade unites all those who participated in the war,” said Iosif Efron, 85, who recalled that his Soviet division encountered American forces at the Elbe River in Germany at the end of World War II. “The invitation was absolutely proper. We fought together, and they helped us.

“Of course, without Russia, no one would have defeated Germany,” he added.

There are a ton of stunning (and not a little bit intimidating) photographs of the parade at Wiki Commons – including a real, live T-34! – and the BBC.

Reagan, Thatcher, and the ‘Tilt’

The British election has decided in favor of no one in particular. The possibilities seem confined to a Conservative minority Government or a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition one. With so much going wrong for Britain (just look at the accidental disenfranchisement), the last priority of whatever the new British Government is will be their friend across the pond.

At the same time, Rockhopper has claimed to have discovered oil in the area of the Falkland Islands, reversing the disappointment felt by Desire Petroleum earlier this year. With these two events in mind, it seems like a perfect moment to look back at the last time the special relationship really came to the fore, while the Falklands were in the news.

 

The Falkland Islands

One of the last vestiges of British empire, the likelihood that the Falkland Islands would ever become a household name – let alone the site of a major twentieth century conflict – seemed slim at best. Yet when the military government of Argentina dared to invade in April of 1982, the successful British retaking of the Falklands entered into the realm of legend and revitalized both Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government and Great Britain as a whole.

The extent to which American assistance was a crucial part of the British war effort is still debated. Paul Sharp claims that “Britain’s success in the Falklands War…would not have been possible without US support.”[1]Then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger downplayed the role of American aid, characterizing himself as a mere “assistant supply sergeant, or an assistant quartermaster.” He placed the glory of victory solely with the British:

Some said later that the British could not have succeeded if we had not helped. This is not so – I think the decisive factor was Mrs. Thatcher’s firm and immediate decision to retake the Islands, despite the impressive military and other advice to the effect that such an action could not succeed.[2]

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan's cabinets meet at the White House, 1981.

While the revival of the wartime Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ did not necessarily ensure a British victory, the effects that American support had on British and Argentinian morale and indeed, world opinion, were significant. As Sharp explains, “had the Americans decided to oppose Britain’s recovery of the Islands, then the war would have been impossible and Thatcher’s political demise all but assured.”[3]

The sophisticated weaponry supplied by the Pentagon, such as the Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the Stinger man-portable surface-to-air missile, helped to minimize British casualties. Especially crucial was US intelligence. That support was all the more surprising as it constituted a near-complete reversal of the centuries-old Monroe Doctrine demarcating the western hemisphere as an entirely American preserve.

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Whither the Special Relationship?

There’s an interesting debate going on over at Harry’s Place as to which British political party has been and would be most conducive (or accommodationist, if you like) to the ‘Special Relationship’. “Norflondon’s” article, in particular, claims that Labour is the “true Atlanticist party.” I would have to disagree.

If you take the three major personal relationships throughout the twentieth century, you have FDR and Churchill, Jack and Mac, and Reagan-Thatcher. All three Prime Ministers were Tories and two of three Presidents Democrats.

This is not meant to imply that the most fruitful partnership would necessarily be Obama-Cameron (i.e. a Democrat and a Tory), but rather that Labour has until recently never been a particularly stalwart half of the Special Relationship. Indeed, America was rather fearful when Clement Attlee and Labour came into power – they were seen as ‘red’ socialists, and socialism was naturally a bad thing (a contemporary cartoon by David Horn in the Evening Standard showed Attlee surrounded by a circle of U.S. Congressmen all asking themselves “no hooves? No tail”)?

The article mentions the Major Government and divides over the Balkans , but considering that was a highly contentious debate within the Clinton Administration itself – not to mention a low-risk bombing campaign – the absence of British support wasn’t seen as a low blow in the same way that say, the Wilson Government’s silence was in Vietnam. Then, of course, there’s Major’s wholehearted British contribution to the first Gulf War.

The change could be pinned on Blair and New Labour, but also keep in mind the nature Blair-Clinton relationship: new center-left incarnations of their old selves.

However, when it comes down to it, does the United States really want a Blairite United Kingdom as part of the special relationship? Patrick Porter has made this point much more eloquently than me; he reminds us of Britain’s pretensions to Great Power status, but then points out the absurdity of Britain trying to do so much:

Geography comes up in the Strategy, but only in a perfunctory and generalised way. It asserts that Africa matters wherever there is extremism or violence, not a very discriminating test; Eastern Europe matters because Britain is engaged there; the Middle East matters because it is central to security and ‘totemic’ to extremists, and Afghanistan-Pakistan for its links to domestic terrorism. Central Asia, Eastern Europe, large chunks of Africa and the Middle East: these four spheres would strain a superpower, let alone Britain.

If at least a portion of an alliance is for figuring out what’s best for an individual country, isn’t the New Labour approach of ‘America first, British national interest second’ pretty bankrupt at this point? Prime Ministers in the past have easily subordinated their Atlanticism to the national interest of the United Kingdom – Thatcher being a notable example – but the times the call for spartan budgets and austerity measures, and those will have to translate into defense cuts as well.

Sadly, I don’t know which prime minister would be the most healthy combination for the Special Relationship and the United States. Perhaps Britain itself must reduce it to no more than a ‘special partnership.’

The Thirty Years’ War and Collective Memory

T. Greer at The Scholar’s Stage tell us World War II provides a convenient metaphorical framework for understanding the world today, but goes on to explain that today’s political situation is more akin to the 30 Years’ War than World War II.

You can summarize the history of the Second World War in two paragraphs. Squeezing the causes, campaigns, and countries of the war into these paragraphs would be a gross simplification, but it is possible. This does not hold true for the Thirty Years War. It is one conflict that simply cannot be related in a paragraph. The number of actors involved, the myriad of motivations and goals of each, and the shifting alliances and intrigues between them all are simply too complex to be stripped down to a single page. Piecing together the events of the Thirty Years War inevitably takes up much more time and effort than single page summaries allow.

Single page summaries or 5-minute interviews allow no room for nuance, deliberation, or even explanation. The goal of televised news seems to be for one side to “win” at the other’s expense, and victory means hammering home as simple an argument as possible. Sure, the Maginot Line is long-gone, we have airborne robots and laser weapons, and even Communism has been defeated, yet somehow the analogies of ‘the last good war’ resonate in our collective memories.

The great majority of policy makers are familiar with the Second World War. If asked to, I am sure that most folks in Washington concerned with foreign affairs and security policy could provide an accurate sketch of the countries and campaigns involved. Indeed, we conceptualize current challenges from the standpoint of World War II; allusions to it are the lifeblood of both popular and academic discourse on foreign affairs. Pearl Harbor, Munich, Stalingrad, Normandy, Yalta, and Hiroshima are gifts that keep on giving – they serve as an able metaphorical foundation for any point a pundit or analyst wishes to make.

Compounding the problem is that old familiar anti-intellectual strain in American public discourse. Just the thought of applying something other than a 20th-century analogy to a contemporary situation seems like high-falutin’ blasphemy, further evidence that the pansy college boys have no place deciding what’s what. But we need to start comparing other human conflicts (thought not so all-over-the-place as Edward Luttwak) to our own, and figuring out what really matters – and what really doesn’t.

Via zenpundit.

A Brief Study in Hyperbole

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan at Camp David, 1984.

Yesterday I took part in an in-class debate on which was the more ‘special’ relationship: Churchill and Roosevelt, Macmillan and Kennedy, or Thatcher and Reagan? I was assigned to the Thatcher-Reagan team.

I took it upon myself to write an opening statement, and it follows. Bear in mind I wrote this in approximately 30 minutes (including edits and rewrites). Then you can decide: did I actually say anything at all? Or did I just make it sound like I did? In other words, where’s the beef?

Since revolution tore the two asunder, and the White House burned in 1812, the United States and United Kingdom have enjoyed an extraordinary partnership unrivaled by anyone in the world – a “special” relationship.

The relationship has waxed and waned over the years, but never was it stronger or more dynamic than the Thatcher-Reagan era of the 1980s. Bound together by mutual respect and admiration, cultural affinity, and a shared commitment to western values, the special relationship between the Gipper and the Iron Lady was forged in history and sealed with blood. Through war and in peace, America and Britain held fast at home and abroad with Reagan and Thatcher at the helm.

From the windswept south Atlantic to the skies above Libya, Reagan and Thatcher were partners amidst a sea of troubles. Politically like-minded like to pair before them, they successfully navigated the shoals of the Cold War and brought the Soviet Union to its knees. Together they restored a sense of national pride to their respective countries and returned the special relationship to its lofty pedestal.

Personally, politically, diplomatically, and militarily, Reagan and Thatcher were exceptionally close. Maintaining a solid front publicly, they never hesitated to disagree in private, always constructively and without hint of animosity. Anglo-American relations, NATO, and indeed the west itself were and continue to be rejuvenated by their remarkable friendship; and nothing less than the whole of humanity has been the beneficiary of Thatcher and Reagan’s truly special relationship.

I like the lofty rhetoric I came up with, but methinks the substantive portion leaves something to be desired. And that’s ignoring what I actually think about the merits of the argument.