Donnerstag, Dezember 23, 2004

Holiday Break

Duh. Mother-in-law is here and the wife and the kids are decorating the tree. I've got a life!

Will resume shortly, but not for now...

Samstag, Dezember 11, 2004

Adding Two and Two...

So, here's an attempt to put something together.

Professor Bainbridge makes the point that the US may at this point need to reorganize its military to adjust to changing world circumstances, largely an expansion of the army back out to 18 divisions. Chrenkoff makes a similiar point, but with a slight difference: he looks at what is happening in East Asia with Japan's military stance.

Is this the shape of things? Chrenkoff makes it clear that Japan now apparently sees a confrontation with Russia as a lesser threat than a confrontation with China. The Europeans appear to be quite willing to play the evil capitalist role and drop any sort of limitations of selling military equipment to the Chinese.

I fear that we are heading back into a state of affairs where "The Great Game" of geostrategical politics will be played. Or rather, is being played.

The Cold War led everyone to play the game of Go, where you tried to prevent your opponent from taking your pieces off the board by taking his pieces off the board (massive simplification of the game, of course). A lot of locally bad politics was justified by the overall scheme of things: hence the US supported dictatorships in order to prevent communist-subverted movements from taking country x into the Soviet sphere, and the Soviets were more than glad to enter into ultimately destructive relationships (Cuba, ME client states) in order to tie the West up in knots.

But now it seems that one of the former grand masters of colonialism, the French, are back to playing the Great Game. I think that they are trying to manipulate purpoted partners into situations not of their own choosing where they think they can control the game.

Hence the massive push to re-allow the sale of advanced weaponry to China, who desperately needs it in order to achieve any sort of parity with US power. China, of course, is following its own path where it will increasingly pay attention to maintaining access to raw materials and captive markets at any cost - Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, anyone? - while other countries will try and avoid having to make the decision to start spending money on the military, since they've avoided doing it until now.

We may well end up with a resurgent China that behaves like expansionist Japan, a Japan that will resemble the UK post-WW2 (successful but exhausted from empire with population problems) and a US that is distracted elsewhere.

Or have I been reading too much Clancy?

The Chinese are clearly after key technologies and already have some of them: take a look at this and scroll down to where you will find the following:

The Type 98 is powered by a liquid cooled, turbocharged 1,200 hp diesel derived from Germany WD396 diesel technology. At its current battle weight of 52 tons, this gives a power-to-weight ratio of about 23 hp/tonne.

If you go here, you will also find this:

The original proposal was to develop an MBT based on the hull design of the T-72, and fit it with Western 120 mm smoothbore gun and advanced fire control equipment. This plan was later temporally halted due to the boycotts by the Western countries after 1989.

But this, at the same place, is also chilling:

PROPULSION: At least four diesel powerpacks have been tested on the Type 90-II/Al Khalid MBT, including two supplied by the Perkins Engine Company and each comprising of a CV-12 Condor diesel of 1,200 hp (as fitted in the Challenger 1 and 2), coupled to a French SESM ESM 500 automatic transmission (as installed in the Leclerc).

The Pakistan-manufactured Al Khalid MBT is reported to be fitted with a Ukraine built 6TD diesel (as fitted in the T-80UD). Claimed to be the most compact MBT diesel engines in the world, the 6TD series are two-stroke, liquid cooled and supercharged with horizontal cylinders and opposed pistons. At its current battle weight of 46 tons, the engine gives the Al Khalid MBT a 26 hp/tonne power-to-weight ratio and a max speed of 72 km/h.

In other words, Perkins is involved as well. So the Chinese are recreating their former mass military into a more modern fighting force with the help of the Germans, the French, the Ukranians and even the US.

And don't pshaw these developments as being trivial: the Chinese haven't had decent tanks, let alone ones that can stand up to the M1 and its variants. Given these developments, they may well be on their way to developing them.

What was that about capitalists selling the rope used to hang them? I guess today Lenin would rephrase that to point out that capitalists would actually finance the rope as well, offer volume discounts and provide generous kickbacks while doing so.


Yet Another Brick In The Wall

Over at The Diplomad there's another fine comment on NGOs. Too much to comment directly on here, except it's good: Read The Whole Thing.

I used to collect for UNICEF as a kid. I remember going from door to door and playing the game of pulling at people's heart strings. I believed in UNICEF and how it was helping out kids. I remember even the amount I collected the last year I did this (it was 1967 and I was 11): $167.42, back when that was real money. I was also thrilled to be thanked by UNICEF for collecting so much.

Gee, what an amazing discovery that the lunatics here have also taken over the asylum. Or that hidden agendas are driving policies that otherwise would be rejected outright.

I've heard too many stories from people at the Red Cross, at UNICEF, at WHO and other UN-related activities to give money to them for any purpose whatsoever. Out-of-control finances, outright lying in order to scare-monger for fund-raising purposes, extraordinarily wasteful spending (flying First Class and enjoying 4-star hotels is just scratching the surface), all add up to one thing: if someone comes to you asking for money to save the children, it means that not only will only a few children be saved, but that you are probably perpetuating the problem and not helping to solve it.

And it's perverse and no, I don't have an answer except this: there are charities out there that haven't taken the blue pill. Find them and give to them generously. We do it directly, since my wife travels a lot more than I do and has a number of projects aimed directly at helping a few locals who are actually trustworthy and haven't spent the money on Oakey shades and Jack Daniels instead.

Donnerstag, Dezember 09, 2004

Schroeder The Elephant

Well, Spiegel has now updated its report in Schroeders demand and it does appear that perhaps at least one or two people in politics here get it.

While some see it as a logical thing - if Germany gets a seat, it should have a veto as well - Werner Hoyer, FDP, put it brilliantly: one can only stand there in amazement watching the government behave like an elephant in the porcelain store of international relations.

Well, it sounds better in the original German, I guess:

Man steht fassungslos davor, wie elefantös die Bundesregierung durch den Porzellanladen der Internationalen Beziehungen wandelt.

Pflüger, CDU, seems to feel that if Germany gets a seat, it has to act as a trustee for the rest of Europe and use its seat as a way of pacifying such unruly peasants as Italy. Pflüger is usually fairly coherent, but in this case he underscores how little Germans want to take on responsibility: by acting as a trustee for Europe, Germany can remain passive and avoid responsibility.

Angela Merkel, who has been trashed a lot lately in the German press, put it correctly: if Germany wants a permanent seat, then it means taking on the appropriate responsibilities. If Germany doesn't want those responsibilities, then it has no place on the Security Council.

Her standing just went up in my estimation: she may be the only German politican of note today that actually understands what is at risk and what the consequences are.

NGOs Redux

Here is yet again a good piece by Andrea McCarthy: just what is international law?

To be honest, it's a crock. International law is not merely written agreements, such as treaties, etc.. If it were it'd be simple to interpret: written law has the advantage of being (fairly) immutable. If a treaty says Gibraltor belongs to England, then it does and nothing Spain can do short of war or getting a new treaty is going to change that.

While written agreements usually can't be ignored, they aren't the bread and butter of "international law": "customary" principles, unwritten rules that "are said to" reflect "universal understandings" (right); principles expressed in treaties and protocols, even (and especially those) unratified; writings by "specialists"; opinions and resolutions by international bodies; and finally "judicial" decisions by "international tribunals".

(Shucks, I think I'm going to set up an International Tribunal for Love, Peace And Justice. I've just decided to outlaw pink postage stamps as discriminatory to homosexuals: now we've established a principle of international law. You may link and quote at your leisure, you heard it here first!).

I've used a lot of Reuters-type "scare" quotes for a reason: everything in these quotes is a matter of opinion and not a matter of law. IANAL, but there isn't such a thing as customary principles, there isn't such a thing as universal understandings. There are local interpretations of what activists think should be customary principles and universal understandings: as McCarthy so beautifully puts it: "Cabals of self-interested countries, NGOs, scholars and, of course, "international law experts" convene". Repeat and repeat and repeat and aspirations start to appear as principles and end up appearing in print as "international law".

Let's keep it simple: International Law (with capital letters) exists only when it is written in treaty and/or established by an international executive. There is no international executive, regardless of what people think of the UN.

And McCarthy has it absolutely correct: No one in the United States voted for these people.

The international community - whoever they are - can't make a claim on the US that violates US laws: the US did not give away its sovereignty to nameless and faceless institutions.

And in my opinion it's the NGOs that are the worst offenders. We've got to find a new name for these folks: non governmental organizations is simply a misnomer. How about International Interest Groups? You could really call them International Parasites and Bloodsuckers, but IPB isn't so catchy.

And McCarthy correctly points out that the International Court of Justice is a travesty. The ICJ wants nothing less than the ability to make domestic law in countries whereever it may choose to do so.

Who elected these busybodies? Want the rule of International Law? Fine: walk the walk. Try and get a World Constitution - or call it whatever you like - and get the countries of the world to transfer power to such constituted bodies that are included in such.

But don't try and sneak international obligations based on hidden agendas and sleazy politics.

If you want a International Court of Justice, you have to have an International Congress and an International Presidency as well: otherwise you have international law with absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever.

No powers without responsibilities, no powers without limits. Why do people keep on forgetting this?

You might even make the case that the activists are their own worst enemy: by pushing things to fast and raising alarm bells, they are undermining exactly what they are trying to achieve: the robbing of sovereignty by an unelected, illegimate group of activitsts with no controls or limits whatsoever.

The International Court of Justice, right now, has about as much international legitimacy as the International House of Pancakes. And what they are trying to force down our throats is a lot less tasty.

Schroeder and German Hubris

The chuzpah of Schroeder, Germany's chancellor, is impressive. Here he demands a veto right for Germany in an expanded UN security council.

Now, there's been talk going on about expanding the security council for quite a while, underscoring the fact that there are a number of pretty bright people who don't understand at all what the security council is about.

The Germans want in. They want to taste command, to taste power. They want people to listen to them as if they really actually meant anything on the world stage. But they have so obviously failed to walk the walk that it's pathetic. Schroeder declared Germany to be a country whose foreign policy would be dominated by a radical pacifism in order to be re-elected: he was re-elected and has been an absolutely t e r r i b l e chancellor of Germany. He had a policy of "hands-off" while the economy was tanking and unemployment increasing. He has no policies that anyone can make any sense of, instead reacting to whatever comes up. The popularity of the SPD is at all-time-lows.

But the really, really sad thing is that right now there's no alternative to him: the conservative German parties (CDU/CSU, FDP) are so incredibly clueless that they couldn't, right now, get Jesus in his second coming elected mayor of Munich, let alone chancellor. They've lost the idea of political parties: get elected.

But I'm meandering (has to do with being rather light-headed from coughing up half my lungs a few minutes ago...).

What is the role of the security council? It's where the big boys meet to thrash things out and to make wonky speeches, right? Wrong. The security council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Now this is the key point. The security council is ultimately made up of those powers who back then were the players: China, Soviets, France, the UK and the US. What makes these guys so special, why are they the ones to make the decisions?

Simple. They're the ones that hold the power of nuclear weapons and hence the responsibility to ensure that conflicts never get so out of hand that people start to want to use them. There are other countries holding nukes as well, but they aren't the big playes (except regionally: that is why Pakistand and India have nukes to begin with...).

Responsibility without power is a heavy burden. But you can't start telling nuclear powers what they may and may not do in terms of international security unless you are in their shoes.

We all might not like the nuclear genie, but it's there. The possession of nuclear weapons means that you can destroy countries, kill millions, poison vast spreads of countryside. Shucks, put a nice sheath of cobalt on a couple, toss 'em up into the stratosphere, and there's no hiding from the fallout: nukes are doomsday weapons, the wrath of God focussed on a small point in time and space.

There is a great satisfaction in saying things like "nuke 'em 'til they glow" or "turn country x into a glass parking lot": the point is that only two weapons have been used, and that to end a war, not to pursue one.

It's a question hence not merely of power, but more fundamentally of responsibility. While there are plenty of people who think the US is irresponsible, how many times has the US - or China, or Russia, or the French or the Brits - initiated fusion points outside of testing? None.

Because they know what happens: Hermann Kahn called it thinking the unthinkable. The whole balance of terror, strategic calculus (when missile x can take out a missile silo with hardness y with a success rate of 82%, how many x missiles does it take to ensure 100% destruction of 3,000 missile silos with hardness y? Hardness 2y?), correlation of forces (great favorite of the Soviets and WarPact, that one), strategic balance, etc existed to try to understand what the implications were.

At the end of the day, the implications were that nuclear war was too costly for anyone to really consider it as anything but the last thing that one could do. If that.

The point here is that Germany is talking the talk, but is patently, given the radical pacifism of Schroeder, incapable of walking the walk.

Sure, people want Germany to play a greater role in world politics: but that is because it isn't playing much of a role at all. German foreign policy, as far as I am concerned, is being made in Paris and will turn out have been a very costly and foolish policy.

You see, the charter of the security council states is clear (Article 24): the members of the security council are charged with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. No one else.

Germany's current foreign policy has two parts: passive member of any organization and active measures to sell German goods overseas (the latter is perfectly legitimate, but is somewhat tainted due to the possibility of political/corporate collusion to close markets). I can't remember any successful German initiatives in the area of international security since the end of the Cold War.

None. The end of the Cold War for Germany was a dream come true: the peace dividend of not having to maintain an army to fight the WarPact, the chance to enjoy unification. So the Bundeswehr, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe were all slowly starved of funds, with increasingly antiquated equipment and increasingly outmoded tactics.

If Germany wants to share in the power, it has to share in the responsibilities as well. Such responsibilities mean not merely some peace-keepers - and indeed there were some German troops in the taking of Afghanistan, but you wouldn't know that in Germany - but rather an active participation in international affairs. The Germans defer to the French here: it's the way of the new Europe.

Damn, I'm off the topic again and am too bushed to do a serious re-edit.

Why should a country that refuses to walk the walk be given a voice on the security council?

The security concil almost died because of Iraq. You had all those resolutions demanding action and insisting on results, and Iraq weaseled its way through them. Then you had 1441 which was the final ultimatum, and what happened? France weaseled. France stated simply, even before debate, that they would under no circumstances condone military action, and that despite Resolution 1441 which explicitly warned of "serious consequences", which any foreign policy wonk knows means exactly that.

The decision of the US to depose the ruler of Iraq saved the Security Council from irrelevance and saved the UN from meaninglessness. Iraq, with the support of its covert friends in France, Russia and elsewhere - we know now who they were due to the ongoing scandals about the Oil For Food program - was about to get away with defying the UN.

Defying the people who are responsible for international security. If they had gotten away with it, the UN would have properly lost credibility: France and Russia would have more international clout with clients than the UN would have.

But what does losing credibility mean for those responsible? It means that at some point, you have to re-establish credibility: that can only be done by walking the walk. The US is at this point nothing but credible in enforcing UN resolutions. The US and its allies have walked the walk.

Germany with a vote on the UN security council? It's just another way of weakening the security council and making the UN meaningless.

The best part of the story above is the last line: Schroeder praises the "untadelige" Kofi Annan. German readers - like I got any - might well agree that this is a hard one to translate: it means someone without any fault, nay, someone who is so immaculate that there is nothing to criticize.

Guess Schroeder doesn't get out much.


Mittwoch, Dezember 08, 2004

Under The Weather

Sorry for the paucity of posts, am home from work with some sort of lung-sucking bug. Hope to be back up for more soon. Got year-end deadlines coming up, though, and until the 17th of December posting will be light due to work load. But I'll try and get an occasional post up...


Sonntag, Dezember 05, 2004

Subsidies and Competitiveness

I usually don't read Newsweek, Time and the US magazines, largely because I have too much other stuff to read. I read three newspapers a day (Handelsblatt, FAZ and the FT), as well as 2 Austrian dailies on their respective web sites.

I did, however, see this article on the Newsweek web site. Woops, just tried to link to it and I don't know how.

It's by Robert J. Samuelson and it's called "No Free Launch". It's one of the better pieces I've read on subsidies in terms of making airplanes.

I'm going to expand on this briefly.

Fundamentally, Airbus and EADS are the product of European industrial policy. The French, Germans and the UK decided that they did not want to lose their aerospace industry: so they created Airbus to develop new aircraft and - and this is the critical point - they put their money behind it. Airbus has, according to Samuelson, spent something like $15 bn in taxpayer monies in order to develop aircraft.

First of all, Airbus does make nice planes: they have more or less identical cockpits, meaning that once you as a pilot get your multiengine license and have gone through training for one Airbus aircraft, you don't have to go through a lot to fly a different Airbus. This isn't the case for Boeing or Lockheed aircraft: you need to go through some new training to be certified for a 747 when you've been flying 757s.

But while the planes are nice, the methodology behind them isn't. The European aircraft industry hasn't had the greatest history of success when out there with private money and was well on its way to failure in the market place. Boeing, Lockheed, McDonnel-Douglas in the 1960s and into the 1970s had overwhelming market presence.

Airbus is heavily subsidized, and in more ways than one. It gets money up front for design and development, one-third of which is repayable only if the airplane is a commercial success, and the rest of which is loaned at below-market rates (i.e. there are government guarantees involved, which means that any credit risks involved are reduced to sovereign risk, which in this case is basically irrelevant, meaning that Airbus has its seed money well below market rates.

This is the first market distortion and a critical one.

Secondly, aircraft sales are never at list price, but are rather a highly political issue, especially when you are competing based on market share, rather than actually making money at what you are doing. Usually, and this applies to US sales as well, no one actually knows (outside of the parties involved) what the prices for new aircraft are, since this tells competitors what sort of prices and finances their competitors are playing with. In dealing with closed investment funds, I've seen a number of aircraft financed in Germany, mostly Airbus planes, but also 747s and some smaller machines, and know that these prices vary widely for what appear to be the same machines.

Further, there are often serious tax advantages to leasing planes rather than buying them. A very large number of aircraft out there don't belong to airlines, but rather obscure (at least to the general public) leasing companies that don't advertise much and certainly don't talk much about what they are doing.

Because the market is intransparent - sellers and buyers have asymmetrical information - it means that when one competitor enjoys essentially unlimited pockets for subsidizing their sales, the market will tend to buy those planes. While everyone in the industry gives price and other breaks to close deals, Airbus isn't primarily interested in making money, but rather in achieving at least market share parity with US makers, meaning Boeing.

This means that Airbus' subsidies have distorted the market.

Airbus counterclaims that US companies benefit from subsidies from NASA and the military. There is a difference, and this is fundamental: NASA and the military pay for maintaining research and design capabilities by funding research and design efforts on an ongoing basis. The government gets something for the money: what the government does with this is another question. The 747, for instance, was designed for the US government as the Air Force was looking for a large cargo plane: it was Boeing's entry that lost to Lockheed's C-5 design.

But Boeing didn't get paid to design a commercial aircraft that was to compete with foreign companies: it got paid to design a plane that was to be used to transport large numbers of heavy items. It then went on to bet the company that it would be a commercial success, and it was. Others, like Lockheed with its three-engine L-1011 failed and either went out of the commercial aircraft business or merged with others to survive in the defense industry.

So US taxpayers didn't fund Boeing and the others to keep the industry around, but rather because the US government has an industrial policy that relies on competition in the marketplace to come up with the best design.

Airbus distorts the market to achieve the same thing.

Boeing in its design and building of its new plane - the 7E7 - also uses subsidies. The Japanese government is giving Boeing and its suppliers tax breaks so that a significant portion of the 7E7 is made in Japan. Localities are also giving tax breaks and infrastructure support to attract jobs from Boeing.

What's difference? Boeing's subsidies do not distort the market. They might grant Boeing better designs or competence, but do not grant Boeing commercial advantages via capital at rates that no other commercial company has access to. To repeat: subsidizing market share distorts markets directly; subsidizing research and development by funding research and development doesn't distort the markets for the products involved.

Why is this important? Airbus doesn't understand the US subsidies as being different than their own: they see them as being fundamentally the same. That's because industrial policy in Europe doesn't deal with markets, but rather the players in the markets. France decides it needs to have a maker of mainframe computers and then spends billions over the years to keep Bull alive; it ends up with a money hole and no market player, since Bull ultimately became very, very good at getting subsidies and pretty bad about making computers.

The Europeans sees such subsidies as the natural order of things: in order to achieve success in markets, you need to either distort the markets or you need to eliminate the competition. The sad thing is that this is the natural order of things in European markets. That's why the European Union sees nothing wrong with its subsidies for Airbus.

But enough for now: suffice to say that this will be a major point of contention over the next several years as things now stand.


Samstag, Dezember 04, 2004

Making Sense Of It All Pt. 2

Part of the problem of the increasing role being played by NGOs in the world arena is a fundamental question of power and responsibility.

A lot of these NGOs are pushing some politics that are fairly reprehensible: they hide these politics nicely with a facade aimed at getting people to donate money, but at the end of the day they aren't so much interested in helping as in gaining and exercising power. Belmont Club has a nice post right now on this:

I'm not going to name names, since I want to keep this abstract and argue from principles. NGOs cynically manipulate public opinion to achieve their goals. I am sure they are very, very good at rationalizing their goals to make everything sound so rational and sensible. But they are really making things worse. The NGOs are part of the problem and not the solution.

Failed countries fail in part because of incompetence and a lack of accountability. People leading NGOs want to take over the role of the state in providing services: they do not want the responsibility as well. That's why they are in NGOs, to avoid having to make a commitment somewhere by taking over responsibility. They want instead to act as if they were responsible, but given that they operate within the environment that actively denies assigning openly responsibility - I know of no NGO that clearly states "people here are starving because French agricultural policy has impoverished local farmers by flooding the market with foodstuffs under cost": they instead choose to show pictures of starving kids to get people to donate to "save the kids".

Doesn't mean that there aren't NGOs out there that are doing good. There are. I donate money each and every month to an NGO that uses local microfunding to enable basics like clean water and irrigation for fields to ensure a surplus for a village: this is where aid goes directly to those who need it.

But there are too many who are putting band-aids on wounds caused by incompetence and lack of responsibility.

And this is the problem with the UN as well. The UN has been taken over by the inmates, as is so painfully obvious with the human rights council being chaired by third-world despots, with questions of security being settled by those who are on the take and by the sheer corruption and incompetence that dominates its daily business, as exemplified by the Oil-For-Food scandal.

NGOs and anyone else who want to expand the role of the UN and of NGOs in the world arena are part of the problem: they want control without responsibility, they want power without legitimation.

Which means that they fundamentally cannot adress the problems facing failed states: they cannot assume responsibility because they are themselves irresponsible.

Freitag, Dezember 03, 2004

Making Sense Of It All...

I just deleted a small post on sophism because it didn't go the way I wanted it to: Iwas trying to be too academic. No sense it that here: no one cares which version of the translation of the Sophist you might want to use, since what is important are the ideas (or at least should be).

Part of the reason for blogging here is trying to make sense of it all. I've got a stack of articles on my desk here at home that is no less than two feet tall and no time to properly go through them all (but I will...).

Trying to make sense of it all is trying to place things in perspective. Getting things in perspective in an increasing complex world is one thing: trying to understand that what you see ain't what you get is another; on the gripping hand, applying heuristic and hermeneutical methods to making sense out of "everything" is what is really needed.

I remember visiting my friend Chris in DC after the wall came down in Germany. He's an ex-Marine captain, worked briefly for the agency and has been at State now for quite a while. He's got a great wife and kids. Chris is probably the most straight-forward guy I know. In our long discussion back then - I think it was 91 or 92, I can't remember - we both came to the conclusion while that the end of the Cold War was a great thing, it didn't mean that the world was a safer place.

It's not.

The Cold War covered up a lot of problems, allowing them to be simply pushed together and excused as a result of East-West tensions. The concentration during the Cold War on the state of US-Soviet relations meant that the machinations of other countries was largely ignored, downgraded and/or excused by the machinations of the other side. The behavior of country A, for instance, in, say, the Middle East was acceptable to the US because the goals of country A, while in and of themselves problematic, if not outright vile, matched the major policy goal of the US in the area, of preventing the Soviets from gaining ascendency.

If your country is in the way of superpower interests, things tend to get rather unpleasant rather quickly, especially if your country isn't being held together by much more than the interests of the other superpower. You end up getting screwed by some bastards, but as the saying goes, no one cares because "they're our bastards".

But this is nothing new and indeed has been the field of play for Realpolitik since the beginning of the colonial period in the 19th century into the 20th. Placing blame for this is silly, since it is the game that is played and you can't turn history around. Everyone was in on the game in one way or another, and there were those who were consummate players and those who bumbled around at it. The US belongs more the the latter group than the former; the former would be former colonial powers, which include the UK, France, China and the Soviets.

Where does that leave us in the 21st century?

We face a group of transarently failed countries; a slew of failed countries that maintain more or less a facade of not being failed; countries that are muddling through, a few success stories for post-colonial development, and what is euphimistically called the developed world.

The greatest danger at the beginning of the 21st century isn't so much this crisis or that: those are temporary problems that can be solved by throwing money at them or throwing bombs at them. The more fundamental crisis is that the international system of bilateral symmetry, of the Cold War, has dissolved and everyone's floundering around trying to figure out how the world will work after the Fall.

Part of the reason for this difficulty is the increasing meaninglessness of states. Ever since the Treaty of Westphalia, states have been the actors of international relations. Treaties are between states; the study of international relations is the study of the relationshop between states; there are even those who believe in international law as being binding on states.

But the concept of states is being undermined from below and above.

They are being undermined from below by conficts that predate the states involved that haven't been resolved. Many of the failed states belong to this category: countries like the former Yugoslavia dissolved from within because they were artificial states that failed to impress upon their citizens the worthiness of the state as the fundamental entity within which to operate.

They are being undermined from above as well. Quangos, MNOs, NGOs, whatever you want to call them. Quasi-Autonomous Government Organizations, Multi-National Organizations, but above all the Non-Governmental Organizations are slowly usurping traditional state roles.

The role of NGOs is especially problematical, since they operate without responsibility. The NGOs go into a country with a problem and try and deal with the problem according to their own priorities and needs. What they end up doing is undermining the authority of the state: whether this is done out of the best of intentions, or deliberately for political purposes, or accidently plays no role in the effect that it has on the states involved: they are weakened.

Why is this important? It's important because if you are going to push for things like an International Court of Justice, treaties like Kyoto, for "obeying international law" - whatever that means - then you can't at the same time dismantle the actors that work within this framework.

And I think that many of the NGOs are pursuing their own special agendas that don't have all that much to do with providing aid or help and have a lot more to do with ensuring that the problems failed states face don't go away, since that would mean the NGOs involved would lose their main arguments for fund-raising and that some of those involved might have to drop the pretense of trying to save the world and actually find a real job.

So the mere concept of the state as international actor is being undermined, largely, as I see it, by those whose agendas fail to gain support in individual countries (i.e. their politics ensure that they wouldn't be elected, so they aim for achieving power by other means).

There's a lot more for me to cover: the importance of secondary players in international politics has changed drastically and more fundamental interests that were pasted over during the Cold War have re-emerged and will present new challenges.


Mittwoch, Dezember 01, 2004

The Title of the Blog...

Cognescenti, will, of course, recognize the song from King Crimson. I've been a Crimson fan since the beginning of the 1970s and have seen them no less than seven times since then: the most recent concert was here in Germany a few years ago.

In my opinion no better guitarist than Robert Fripp and a fascinating journey.

But that's not the reason for the blog. :-)

First of all, I'm not schizoid. :-)

Second, I chose the title to reflect my take on world developments: it's gonna be a tough ride for the next several decades and the changes and choices aren't going to be fun.

More on this later...