Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quote of the day

From Richard Shannon, The Crisis of Imperialism 1865-1915 (1974; Paladin Bks. ed., 1976), ch.4, "Liberal Initiatives: Gladstone's Ministry 1868-74":
In many ways the various reforms of the British military system during Gladstone's first ministry exemplify as well as anything the interconnectedness for Liberals of principles of morality, efficiency and economy.... The basic aim of the Liberal military policy was to shift Britain from what may be termed a 'Wellingtonian' posture to a posture characterizable as being on unmistakably Liberal principles.... Of the influences at work the most important were the 'objective' considerations: on the immediate level, a chronic shortfall of recruitment, aggravated by the depopulating effects of the famine in Ireland, traditionally a rich source of enlistment in the British service; and, on a larger view, recognition that the fundamental lesson of the Crimean War was not so much its misconduct as that it registered the end of Wellingtonian or Peninsular assumptions that Britain could be a military power on a par with the continental Great Powers.... The Liberal aim, in essence, was to leave the Indian situation more or less where it was as far as strength was concerned (there was no real alternative) but to bring home the bulk of the rest of the army, reduce it in numbers and expense and make it an efficient expeditionary army which could be dispatched where it was needed instead of being a dispersed aggregation of strategic garrisons.... Thus from being a colonial garrison army with a European interventionist frame of intention, it would become a home army with a colonial or expeditionary frame of intention. (pp.82-84)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bad day in Afghanistan

The killing by an Afghan policeman of three Americans at a hospital in Afghanistan, including a pediatrician, Jerry Umanos, who had been there nine years, seems perhaps especially outrageous, though every death there in these sorts of circumstances is outrageous. But the deaths of Westerners who are in the country in the capacity of, say, doctor, journalist, or teacher -- I think for instance of the young American scholar Alexandros Petersen, killed last January in a restaurant bombing in Kabul; he had just gone to teach at the American Univ. in Kabul -- will, as they should, garner attention. It's hard to give equal attention to all the pointless deaths, but at this juncture they all seem pointless.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Housekeeping note

I've just turned off (at least I think I have) the word/number/captcha/whatever-you-call-it feature of the commenting function, so commenting should be marginally easier now. (If spam results, I may have to consider turning it back on.)  Posting will be light here for the remainder of April, but a couple of semi-meaty posts are in the works for sometime in May.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Quote of the day

I was skimming the other day a two-year-old article by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "How India Stumbled" (Foreign Affairs, July/August 2012), and these bits might be worth quoting in light of the current Indian election:
Most Indian political parties, the Congress included, have archaic decision-making structures that are controlled by small groups of elites.... There are no transparent processes by which decisions are made or party platforms are shaped, which means that there are no real checks on party leaders.... The silver lining for the Congress is that the BJP is struggling with succession and organizational issues of its own.... The next major face-off between the Congress party and the BJP will be the general elections of 2014.... The side that understands that India is fundamentally changing and that old modes of governance no longer work will have the best chance of winning.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Once more with the Asian pivot

A WaPo piece by David Nakamura -- quick reading because so much of it is what might be called 'mainstream-media foreign-policy boilerplate' -- concludes that the Obama admin's Asian pivot is falling short of expectations. The, by implication, obstructionist Dems are blocking the TransPacific Partnership 'free trade' pact (did it ever occur to the WaPo that maybe the TPP has problems?); the State Dept, according to a recent Senate report, is not focusing much of its resources on Asia; and as a result (gasp, what a surprise) the pivot has come to be seen in the region as militarily-focused, the piece informs us.

Also (how shocking), the Chinese believe the aim of the pivot is containment, the Obama administration's protests to the contrary notwithstanding. Of course the piece does mention, in quick passing, the placement of a rotating contingent of U.S. Marines in Australia that was announced shortly after the pivot was launched. What if China placed a rotating contingent of its soldiers in, say, Cuba or, less plausibly, Jamaica? Wouldn't the U.S. admin think China's aim was containment of the U.S.? The distinction between containment and hedging, mentioned in the article, seems not worth wasting all that much time on: China likely will view the redeployment of U.S. military assets to the region as containment, regardless of what the U.S.'s  preferred label is.

There is however at least one success story, or semi-success story, from the pivot, and that is Burma. Hillary Clinton made two trips there as Sec. of State, the second time accompanied by Pres. Obama, and Burma is on what seems to be a gradual path to political liberalization, with emphasis on "gradual." (Jeffrey Brown on the NewsHour had a report from Burma/Myanmar the other day, which I heard on the radio but haven't watched yet.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quote of the day

A post-disability world is closer than we think. When soccer’s World Cup begins in Brazil in June, a paralyzed teenager will rise from a wheelchair on the field to make the ceremonial first kick. The teen will be wired into an exoskeleton, with electrodes in his brain that will make the machine respond to his desires, and move the immovable.

Monday, April 14, 2014

C. Rice speech controversy

See here.

Book note

They don't make paperbacks like they did in the good old days (TM). I recently chanced upon (and bought for practically nothing) a beautifully manufactured paperback copy of Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (1962), a book I'd seen cited many times but had never looked at. It remains to be seen how much I'll read of it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A.M. linkage

-- S. Radchenko on understanding Putin in light of history (here).

-- S. Vucetic has an 'autobiographical take' on the causes of WW1.

-- There are now one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon (via). 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Journal note

The March 2014 issue of International Theory is currently available for free (here). It includes a symposium on "Theories of Territory beyond Westphalia."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Quote of the day

From Corey Robin's 2004 review of Greg Grandin's The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War, republished in Robin's The Reactionary Mind [link], pp.156-57:
Arguably the most audacious experiment in direct democracy the continent had ever seen, the Agrarian Reform [in Guatemala] entailed a central irony. The legislation's authors -- most of them Communists -- were not building socialism. They were creating capitalism. They were scrupulous about property rights and the rule of law. Peasants had to back their claims with extensive documentation; only unused land was expropriated; and planters were granted multiple rights of appeal, all the way to the president.... Guatemala's socialists did more than create democrats and capitalists. They also made peasants into citizens.... When anti-Communists put an end to this democratic awakening in 1954, it was as much the peasant's newfound appetite for thinking and talking as the planter's expropriated land that they were worried about.... Guatemala's archbishop complained that the Arbencistas sent peasants "gifted with facility with words" to the nation's capital, where they were "taught...to speak in public."