The three international tribunals making headlines around the world remind us that internationalism is an expensive and not terribly efficient project.
Lebanon: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon commences this coming Sunday. The court was created in 2007 by the United Nations to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Consider the following from The Washington Times:
Earlier this morning, General Motors posted a 4Q loss of $9.6 billion, culminating a dismal 2008 that saw the Detroit automaker lose $58,789.95 for every minute of every hour of every day last year. Conditions are abysmal in the markets writ large, but America’s Big Three carmakers face an especially tough task in justifying continued government financing to stave off bankruptcy. Bellum is as patriotic as the next guy, and we would be more than willing to entertain the idea of short-term “buy American” provisions to save a valuable industry with manufacturing pedigree. That said, clear evidence shows that on a “domestic content” basis, many of those cars to which we grant the “USA” stamp are indeed less American than perennial “import enemies” (who would have thought that a Toyota Tundra is 10% more American by parts and manufacturing than the Ford Mustang?). Added to this are further production inefficiencies best seen in the relative costs that go into each automobile—Way back in 2005, George Will was already raising serious concerns that more money ($1,525) in each GM price tag went toward employee health benefits than went toward the steel used to form the vehicle’s frame.
Just as newly-inducted CIA Director Leon Panetta tells reporters that his agency will be briefing President Obama on the economic woes of Latin America countries, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales — presidents of Ecuador and Bolivia, respectively — are accusing the CIA of conducting nefarious business in their countries. Both men are trying to stir up domestic support by stoking fears of yanqui imperialism.
All of this follows the September 2008 expulsions of the US ambassadors to Venezuela and Bolivia.
The separatist movement known for recruiting child soldiers by the thousands, pulling out of peace talks, allegedly inventing the suicide belt, experimenting with explosives on dogs, targeting civilians, and shattering the glass ceiling by promoting female suicide bombers looks like it is on its last legs. The Tamil Tigers may have less than 1,000 soldiers left and its air force — if one can call fewer than 5 single-engine Zlin Z-143’s an air force — was virtually annihilated last week in a suicide raid over the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.
Supplementing Scott’s fine analysis of the “Munich paradigm” from yesterday, I want to briefly consider the proper scope of appeasement in interwar Europe. Specifically, while Scott is correct in identifying 1935—and not 1938—as the point of no return for reigning in a militarized Nazi Germany, I suggest on a different front that too little was done to mollify Germany in 1931—I claim that in the Permanent Court of International Justice’s decision to block the Austro-German Customs Union laid out in the Protocol of March 19th, 1931, the European community exercised its authority in an unnecessarily punitive way.
John Nagl needs no introduction to most of our readers, especially those at Small Wars Journal. A retired lieutenant colonel who commanded troops in Iraq and a student of counterinsurgency, Nagl is now the president of the Center for a New American Security, the influential think-tank from which Obama has drawn considerable talent. He joins us today to share his thoughts on the future of counterinsurgency (COIN) in a media-driven age. We have emboldened some of the highlights.
1. Given the current media environment (Google Earth, worldwide media that is willing to publish “secrets” without solid sourcing, etc.) are covert operations still a viable option?
We tend to approach foreign policy by analogy. For two decades, debate in the US has centered on two competing templates: Munich and Vietnam. Standing over them was a third, Pearl Harbor, and in this decade a fourth, September 11th. I would like to examine these one by one to see what the popular legend is, what really happened and what real lessons we can draw.
I will start with Munich. This was supposedly the great lesson of World War II. The West did not stand up to Hitler. The lessons supposedly are that appeasement and compromise never work with dictators and that failure to fight now means a worse fight later. It is a lovely story. Pity is that every single part of it is false.
Bill Roggio, managing editor of The Long War Journal, joins us for some exclusive Q&A. Bill is a veteran of the US Army and embedded with the US Marine Corps, the US Army, the Georgian Army, the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi police in Iraq in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, and with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006. Bellum regards his site as one of the best sources for news and analysis from the frontlines.
Thomas Barker argues in his plan to revamp the mortgage market that boredom is stability’s biggest friend. Bubbles, he insinuates, stem from the usual suspects of greed, poor oversight, misdirected incentives and plain stupidity. Given this, sheer familiarity with a particular market does the most good toward correcting things in the long view even if the road there unavoidably involves severe potholes.