Dr. Mitchell Reiss
Mitchell Reiss has worked in foreign policy for decades. He served as the director of policy planning at the State Department under Colin Powell, as Special Envoy for the Northern Ireland Peace Process from 2003 to 2007, and as an advisor to Governor Mitt Romney on national security issues during the 2008 campaign. Now the president of Washington College, situated comfortably in small-town Maryland just over an hour from the nation’s capital, Dr. Reiss granted Bellum an interview in his office in late April.
“This is a more difficult job than the ones I’ve held in government,” he said without hesitation. He described a jam-packed day that included several on-campus events — the first at 7 o’clock in the morning, the last at 5 o’clock in the evening — and then a panel discussion in Washington. The students, faculty, donors, parents, and local community present a formidable “array of constituencies that you have to be mindful of,” he explained, and unlike in government, where very few positions don’t have you reporting directly up a chain of command, as a college president “you are the final line of authority.”
In April of this year, Bellum posted a series of “dispatches” from a woman allegedly named Amina Arraf, who we believed was living in Damascus. It increasingly appears that this was not the case. In fact, there are serious doubts as to her location and even identity, and many are suggesting her entire persona as an American-born Syrian blogging live from the revolution was an elaborate hoax. I apologize that she was not more thoroughly vetted. It will not happen again.
– Tristan Abbey, Senior Editor
The Honorable Michael B. Mukasey
Few can claim as much knowledge and experience in the intersection of national security and the law as Michael Mukasey. He served as Attorney General from November 2007 to January 2009 after spending 18 years on the bench as a federal judge in New York. Cases over which he presided included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the trial of Jose Padilla. He is now a partner at the Manhattan law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and joined Bellum for an interview last March.
National security issues once consumed “easily thirty percent” of his job. Mukasey received a security briefing every day and once a week followed up that briefing with a meeting with President Bush on related matters. In addition, there were applications to the FISA Court, dealing with surveillance and wiretapping of suspected terrorists.
“Death is a debt we all must pay.”
– (Euripides, 480-406 BC)
Rebels misfire a rocket (AP)
Libyan rebels will soon be bolstered by the efforts of some 30 to 40 military advisors from Britain, France, and Italy. Critics argue that such a small force can hardly turn the tide of a conflict that seems to be running against the NATO-backed rebels, but in the past such advisory missions have often served as significant force multipliers.
The Turkey-based American journalist Claire Berlinski criticized the terms of the British deployment, which forbid the advisors from training the rebels in the use of weapons and combat tactics. She writes: “They are being sent, apparently, in a ‘mentoring’ role. So they’re going to chair a round-table, maybe?”
Prof. Joseph Nye
Joining us today is Professor Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Dean Emeritus of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a familiar name to many of our readers. He is the author of the new book, The Future of Power.
1. The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine features a survey of international security experts, including you, that seemed to paint a picture of a fundamentally benign geopolitical environment, at least for the US — war between the US and China is unlikely, a nuclear-armed Iran is not an “intolerable threat,” and the likeliest of wars may not even involve the US. What, then, are West Point cadets signing up for today — careers in humanitarian response, disaster relief, and international development (John Mueller at Ohio State suggests war will “cease to exist”), or is traditional warfare still a realistic possibility?
Alas, war will persist, for a variety of reasons, but it is not the only function of military power as I explain my my new book, The Future of Power. Deterrence, protection and assistance will be important military roles along with fighting. West Point will need to train for a variety of tasks. And the security environment may not be so benign when one includes non-state actors who will be empowered by information technology — witness cyber attacks where attribution and deterrence are difficult.
Chuck Hagel, Senator-turned-Professor (Credit: Washington Post)
Five incumbent senators retired during the 2008 election cycle—all of them Republicans. Of this group, none has remained more engaged on policy issues, especially national security, than Chuck Hagel. The two-termer from Nebraska currently co-chairs the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and sits on the Secretary of Defense’s Policy Board.
In a recent interview with Bellum, conducted on March 18, the Senator-turned-Georgetown professor addressed a wide range of issues, from the nature of American power to the future of US domestic politics.
Our readers likely need no introduction to Robert Kaplan, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, and most recently the author of Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. He joins us today for Q&A on a range of topics, including the turmoil in the Middle East, the future of the US military, and the nature of power in Washington, DC.
What do the democratic revolutions in the Middle East mean for the Indian Ocean?
Dr. Butch Brodie and the lizard cristatellus
The international security field is no stranger to scientific analogies. Alan Beattie at The Financial Times says China and the US are “two giants locked in a symbiotic embrace.” David Kilcullen and others have written about the “insurgent ecosystem” and winning “the battle for adaptation.” Leaderless organizations like terrorist movements have been called “starfish” because of their ability to regrow and flourish. But in the other direction, the international security field can also have an impact on how scientists understand and explain their own field.
Joining us today is Dr. Butch Brodie, director of the University of Virginia’s Mountain Lake Biological Station. He is one of the leading experts on “evolutionary arms races.”
Death on a Pale Horse (Gustave Dore, 1865)
The collapse of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes has left many observers wondering which domino is the next to fall. Whether the revolution itself should have been foreseen is a matter for extended analysis, but one thing should have been clear long ago: Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak would not outlive the 2010s.
I mean that literally. Ben Ali was born in 1936 and Mubarak in 1928. By 2020, they would have been 84 and 92 years old, respectively. Even Leonid Brezhnev didn’t make it to 76. Fidel Castro, who is two years older than Mubarak, caved in to biological demands and handed the presidency over to his younger brother three years ago. Egypt and Tunisia should have been on the watch list for geriatric reasons alone.