Tuesday, December 05, 2006

# Posted 1:57 PM by Patrick Porter  

THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY: The Trident debate rages on in Britain, and I can't add much to the moral or political arguments for and against the bomb that haven't been put already.

But one thread of argument that does deserve more discussion is the differing assumptions on either side about what future threats will look like, and the future of the security environment. Its a reminder of the bracing and pessimistic book Another Bloody Century by Colin Gray, the hard-bitten 'neo realist.'

Michael Portillo argues that Britain's system of nuclear deterrent is an expensive relic of the Cold War. His judgement that it is obsolete is premised on a view of the strategic future, that Britain's potential adversaries will be the undeterrable “urban guerrilla detonating a dirty bomb in a suitcase in one of our cities” and the “residual risk” of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

To be fair, he also argues that Britain should shelter under America's nuclear umbrella, but a big part of his case is built around the prediction that the dangers Trident was designed to combat are a thing of the past.

To be sure, its true that stateless enemies without a 'return address' might be very difficult to deter. But to remove an entire capability on that prediction, that only these more shadowy enemies must continue to be the pre-eminent threats, or to infer from the exact current situation to the medium-term and long-term future, seems to be a fallacy working from 'is' to 'will be.' If that makes sense.

We still inhabit the kind of world in which a state leader calls for a second holocaust, where ethnic hatred and territorial rivalries can be intense, and where America's rivals may not be content to let the 21st century be an American century.

A Islamicist revolution in Pakistan, a coup in Russia, a regional arms race involving Japan, North Korea or China, or something like this is not inconceivable. And while the era of 'asymmetric' and 'post-modern' warfare between non-state actors may have arrived, it doesn't mean the serious dangers entailed in major interstate wars have completely left us.

It seems that one of the difficulties with the disarmament case is the good faith it places in every state. The lowest common denominator, though, has a vote when it comes to developing and using weapons, and to disarm entirely on the assumption that this will create a climate of non-proliferation sufficient to persuade even the most pathological ruler seems dangerously naive. Which is very roughly one of Colin Gray's positions.

And we should not discount the possibility that more predatory regimes might interpret disarmament not as a gesture of goodwill but as a sign of weakness and retreat, emboldening aggression.

However, there is a serious discussion to be had about the precise arrangements with Britain's system, and the extent there should be interdependence with the USA. Views?

PS: I won't mention boring things like the cricket, or the record England set overnight in making the largest first-innings total in a test match defeat.
(19) opinions -- Add your opinion

I think someone already posted this one, but although it's an oldie, it's a goodie:

10:53 PM by David Adesnik
DOLLARS AND SENSE: Some of my anti-war friends have been hyping Yale economist William Nordhaus' estimate that a war would cost $1.6 trillion, if one takes into account its costs on stock and oil markets.

If one ignores, for the moment, indirect costs such as the impact of war on global markets, it is clear that the actual cost of fighting Saddam, including a military occupation, will come in at under $200 billion.
David Sez, indeed.
David Sez:

I think there is every reason to believe that Iraqis will be "pleasantly surprised when they discover how relatively benign our rule" is.

This is a David Adesnik moment, circa March 3 2003.Enjoy...
As for the effects that aroused anti-American sentiment might have in the future, I think there is every reason to believe that once we overthrow Saddam, set up a transitional government and put Saddam's WMD arsenal on display, the anti-war majority will initiative an impressive effort to pretend that it was behind America all along. ("No, really. We knew it had to be done. We just wanted it to be done with UN approval." Nice try, Jacques.)
I just love it.
And another by Addy;

WHAT BACKLASH? Max Boot writes that

'When the United States finally took firm action, by invading Afghanistan, there was no rejoicing in the Arab street and no sign of increased recruiting for al Qaeda. The prospect of spending the rest of their lives in Guantanamo Bay may even dissuade some of the more faint-hearted Islamists from taking up arms'

My point exactly.

Btw, the rest of Boot's column is worth a read as well. It makes a point that should be pretty self-evident by now, i.e. that confronting Iraq hasn't stopped us from smoking out the remnants of Al Qaeda.
In a slightly different genre, but still clueless, I give you 'Adesnik on Film' :::

The film also works because of Nicholas Hoult, who plays the boy (Marcus). It takes a damn good child actor to make this kind of script work, since it depends on real interaction between the kids and the adults. IMHO, Hoult demonstrates that Episode I might have been able to live up to the hype like if its script didn't call for Young Anakin to act like an idiot.

(I won't pass judgment on Haley Joel Osment, since I have to assume that he was doing what Lucas wanted. Besides, he was quite good in The Sixth Sense.)

haha. Does he get anything right?
er, D.A on 27 Jan 2003

''When the weapons are found, German and French intransigence will have been exposed as a self-righteous and outright selfish endeavor that protected the government of a brutal tyrant.

When the weapons are found, German and French aspirations to international leadership will have been set back a generation. In contrast, Britain will have won the lasting gratitude of the lone superpower in addition to having established itself as the one nation other than the United States with the potential to lead the international community.''
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

# Posted 10:00 PM by David Adesnik


An extended US occupation may be quite a good thing if it gives time for indigenous democratic forces to organize themselves and draft a workable constitution.

stop throwing stones and tell me what you think about Trident.

Another nice one:

''In time, the current Euro-American rift will become yet another memorial to the unprecedented flexibility of alliances between democratic nations. It was that flexibility that ensured our victory in the Cold War, and which will ensure our victory in the war on terror.''

11 March 2003
by David Adesnik, on March 11 2003

''Will an invasion in Iraq provike a Muslim backlash? Martin Kimel says yes. I say no. In light of most Arabs' negative views of Saddam, I sense that having US troops cross the border from one Muslim land to another won't make a lasting difference. ''
This is interesting. Not to flatter OxBlog, but I think they're discourse has (probably) had some kind of tangible impact on popular perceptions of policy over the last few years - its intriguing, therefore, to see past analysis dredged up and put out into the open. Particularly at the present time.
What do you think of Ikle's new book?
Good stuff, Patrick. Wish I had the time to think about it and post a reasonable response. I haven't managed to track the nuke/Trident debate, but your post reminds me of the dichotomy between pre and post 9/11 thinking that's played out regularly in Australia, usually between Defence of Australia advocates and a rather motley collection of everyone else. Most often it seems to end in arguments over which is the greater threat: a major power, ie China (and yes there are those who'd nominate the US); or AQ, JI, state failure and proliferation. We clearly need to move on.
Hey Peter Nolan and Goz,

Peter, haven't read Ikle's book yet, but might give it a crack over a beer downunder. any good?

Goz, I agree, it often boils down to these divergent future visions. I guess what also complicates it is that deciding which will be the greater threat then leads to policies that themselves shape/effect the security environment.

I think it is difficult to predict the trend for the next fifty years or so, certainly the next century, just based on the last ten years.

How long is it since 9/11? Five years? 9/11 seems to be the date that people cite as a turning point in the security environment. I'd say that a hell of a lot can happen even in twenty years, so it is unwise to assume that security will be threatened in the same ways it is now.

Just as an example, WWI was known, shortly after its completion, as "the war to end all wars." Up to around 1929, you would have had difficulty finding someone who seriously entertained the probability of another large-scale international war. And yet it happened.

In twenty years, the main threat could come from Islamists, it could come from states, it could come from invading Martians or there could be very little threat at all. I just think the "9/11 happened, change your mindset" train of thought isn't appropriate for long-term planning.

"I just think the "9/11 happened, change your mindset" train of thought isn't appropriate for long-term planning."

amen to that!

I enjoyed this. I don't think an Islamicist revolution in Pakistan is the most likely outcome, looking ahead a decade and a half - the tribal areas and Balochistan set to the side, they've never been big vote-winners, and they've succeeded in NWFP and Balochistan precisely because of the present government's suppression of the parties that naturally have the largest vote shares there. That's the good news, such as it is, as far as I see it.
Then the bad news. If projecting forward a decade, there's an Anglo-American withdrawal, say, from defence commitments east of the Suez, leaving Afghanistan in greater chaos, with resurgent narcotrafficking and less US engagement with Islamabad, China's inexorable rise may well push the next post-military democratically elected government to align more forcefully with Beijing, which in Pakistani strategic circles is already viewed as the fair-weather friend. This could create a more rigidly bipolar subcontinent, with some potential for instability, a (perchance) more US-aligned India and Afghanistan, a more militarised Japan if certain trends under Abe continue, and a China-aligned Pakistan.
After the congressionals, a friend who is a Democratic political operative asked me if there was anything I would be willing to congratulate this administration on. After a few sips of coffee, I pointed to its simultaneous improvement of ties with both Delhi and Islamabad, without a discernable tilt toward either. Now there's an idealist argument for tilting strongly toward Delhi as an elective democracy, withdrawal of support from the military government in Pakistan and a throwing of political weight behind the PPP and PML-N; but I'll concede some strength to realist arguments for maintaining engagement with Islamabad's current governement, itself a fair-weather friend. In any event, though, it was a delicate proposition, and one area, possibly the only, where I think this administration has actually demonstrated some diplomatic finesse.
which in Pakistani strategic circles is already viewed as the fair-weather friend

Eek. I meant the all-weather friend, there.
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