Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
We are now at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. We are also nearing the 18th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union itself. This is more than simply a moment for reflection — it is a moment to consider the current state of the region and of Russia versus that whose passing we are now commemorating. To do that, we must re-examine why the Soviet empire collapsed, and the current status of the same forces that caused that collapse.
One was economic backwardness. Economic backwardness gave the constituent parts a single common characteristic and interest. None of them could effectively compete with the more dynamic economies of Western Europe and the rest of the world, but each could find a niche within the empire. Economic interests thus bound each part to the rest: They needed a wall to protect themselves from Western interests, and an arena in which their own economic interests, however stunted, could be protected. The empire provided that space and that opportunity.
The second thing tying the empire together was the power of the security apparatus. Where economic interest was insufficient to hold the constituent parts together, the apparatus held the structure together. In a vast empire with poor transportation and communication, the security apparatus — from Czarist times to the Soviet period — was the single unifying institution. It unified in the sense that it could compel what economic interest couldn’t motivate. The most sophisticated part of the Russian state was the security services. They were provided with the resources they needed to control the empire, report status to the center and impose the center’s decisions through terror, or more frequently, through the mere knowledge that terror would be the consequence of disobedience.
It was therefore no surprise that it was the security apparatus of the Soviet Union — the KGB under Yuri Andropov — which first recognized in the early 1980s that the Soviet Union’s economy not only was slipping further and further behind the West, but that its internal cohesion was threatened because the economy was performing so poorly that the minimal needs of the constituent parts were no longer being fulfilled. In Andropov’s mind, the imposition of even greater terror, like Josef Stalin had applied, would not solve the underlying problem. Thus, the two elements holding the Soviet Union together were no longer working. The self-enclosed economy was failing and the security apparatus could not hold the system together.
It is vital to remember that in Russia, domestic economic health and national power do not go hand in hand. Russia historically has had a dysfunctional economy. By contrast, its military power has always been disproportionately strong. During World War II, the Soviets crushed the Wehrmacht in spite of their extraordinary economic weakness. Later, during the Cold War, they challenged and sometimes even beat the United States despite an incomparably weaker economy. The Russian security apparatus made this possible. Russia could devote far more of its economy to military power than other countries could because Moscow could control its population successfully. It could impose far greater austerities than other countries could. Therefore, Russia was a major power in spite of its economic weakness. And this gave it room to maneuver in an unexpected way.
Andropov knew that the West, and particularly the United States, would not provide help so long as the Soviet Union threatened its geopolitical interests even if doing so would be economically profitable. For this opening to the West to work, the Soviet Union needed to reduce Cold War tensions dramatically. In effect, the Soviets needed to trade geopolitical interests to secure their economic interests. Since securing economic interests was essential for Communist Party survival, Andropov was proposing to follow the lead of Vladimir Lenin, another leader who sacrificed space for time. In the Brest-Litovsk Treaty that ended Russian participation in World War I, Lenin had conceded vast amounts of territory to Germany to buy time for the regime to consolidate itself. Andropov was suggesting the same thing.
It is essential to understand that Andropov was a Party man and a Chekist — a Communist and KGBer — through and through. He was not proposing the dismantling of the Party; rather, he sought to preserve the Party by executing a strategic retreat on the geopolitical front while the Soviet Union regained its economic balance. Undoubtedly he understood the risk that restructuring and openness would create enormous pressures at a time of economic hardship, possibly causing regime collapse under the strain. Andropov clearly thought the risk was worth running.
After Leonid Brezhnev died, Andropov took his place. He became ill almost immediately and died. He was replaced by Konstantin Chernenko, who died within a year. Then came Mikhail Gorbachev — the true heir to Andropov’s thinking — who implemented Andropov’s two principles. He pursued openness, or glasnost. He also pursued restructuring, or perestroika. He traded geopolitical interests, hard-won by the Red Army, for economic benefits. Contrary to his reputation in the West, Gorbachev was no liberal. He actually sought to preserve the Communist Party, and was prepared to restructure and open the system to do so.
As the security apparatus loosened its grip to facilitate openness and restructuring, the empire’s underlying tensions quickly went on display. When unrest in East Germany threatened to undermine Soviet control, Gorbachev had to make a strategic decision. If he used military force to suppress the uprising, probably restructuring and certainly openness would be dead, and the crisis Andropov foresaw would be upon him. Following Lenin’s principle, Gorbachev decided to trade space for time, and he accepted retreat from East Germany to maintain and strengthen his economic relations with the West.
After Gorbachev made that decision, the rest followed. If Germany were not to be defended, what would be defended? Applying his strategy rigorously, Gorbachev allowed the unwinding of the Eastern European empire without intervention. The decision he had made about Germany amounted to relinquishing most of Moscow’s World War II gains. But if regime survival required it, the price had to be paid.
What followed was liberalization only in the eyes of Westerners. It is easy to confuse liberalism with collapse, since both provide openness. But the former Soviet Union (FSU) wasn’t liberalizing, it was collapsing in every sense. What remained administratively was the KGB, now without a mission. The KGB was the most sophisticated part of the Soviet apparatus, and its members were the best and brightest. As privatization went into action, absent clear rules or principles, KGB members had the knowledge and sophistication to take advantage of it. As individuals and in factions, they built structures and relationships to take advantage of privatization, forming the factions that dominated the FSU throughout the 1990s until today. It is not reasonable to refer to organized crime in Russia, because Russia was lawless. In fact, the law enforcement apparatus was at the forefront of exploiting the chaos. Organized crime, business and the KGB became interconnected, and frequently identical.
The 1990s were a catastrophic period for most Russians. The economy collapsed. Property was appropriated in a systematic looting of all of the former Russian republics, with Western interests also rushing in to do quick deals on tremendously favorable terms. The new economic interests crossed the new national borders. (It is important to bear in mind that the boundaries that had separated Soviet republics were very real.) The financial cartels, named for the oligarchs who putatively controlled them (control was much more complex; many oligarchs were front men for more powerful and discreet figures), spread beyond the borders of the countries in which they originated, although the Russian cartels spread the most effectively.
Had the West — more specifically the United States — wanted to finish Russia off, this was the time. Russia had no effective government, poverty was extraordinary, the army was broken and the KGB was in a civil war over property. Very little pressure could well have finished off the Russian Federation.
The Bush and Clinton administrations made a strategic decision to treat Russia as the successor regime of the FSU, however, and refused to destabilize it further. Washington played an aggressive role in expanding NATO, but it did not try to break up the Russian Federation for several reasons. First, it feared nuclear weapons would fall into the hands of dangerous factions. Second, it did not imagine that Russia could ever be a viable country again. And third, it believed that if Russia did become viable, it would be a liberal democracy. (The idea that liberal democracies never threaten other liberal democracies was implanted in American minds.) What later became known as a neoconservative doctrine actually lay at the heart of the Clinton administration’s thinking.
Russia Regroups — and Faces the Same Crisis
Putin sought to restore the center in two ways. First, he worked to restore the central apparatus of the state. Second, he worked to strip power from oligarchs unaligned with the apparatus. It was a slow process, requiring infinite care so that the FSB not start tearing itself apart again, but Putin is a patient and careful man.
Putin realized that Andropov’s gamble had failed catastrophically. He also knew that the process could not simply be reversed; there was no going back to the Soviet Union. At the same time, it was possible to go back to the basic principles of the Soviet Union. First, there could be a union of the region, bound together by both economic weakness and the advantage of natural resource collaboration. Second, there was the reality of a transnational intelligence apparatus that could both stabilize the region and create the infrastructure for military power. And third, there was the reversal of the policy of trading geopolitical interests for financial benefits from the West. Putin’s view — and the average Russian’s view — was that the financial benefits of the West were more harmful than beneficial.
By 2008, when Russia defeated America’s ally, Georgia, in a war, the process of reassertion was well under way. Then, the financial crisis struck along with fluctuations in energy prices. The disparity between Russia’s politico-military aspirations, its military capability and its economic structure re-emerged. The Russians once again faced their classic situation: If they abandoned geopolitical interests, they would be physically at risk. But if they pursued their geopolitical interests, they would need a military force capable of assuming the task. Expanding the military would make the public unhappy as it would see resources diverted from public consumption to military production, and this could only be managed by increasing the power of the state and the security apparatus to manage the unhappiness. But this still left the risk of a massive divergence between military and economic power that could not be bridged by repression. This risk re-created the situation that emerged in the 1970s, had to be dealt with in the 1980s and turned into chaos in the 1990s.
The current decisions the Russians face can only be understood in the context of events that transpired 20 years ago. The same issues are being played out, and the generation that now governs Russia was forged in that crucible. The Russian leadership is trying to balance the possible outcomes to find a solution. They cannot trade national security for promised economic benefits that may not materialize or may not be usable. And they cannot simply use the security apparatus to manage increased military spending — there are limits to that.
As a generation ago, Russia is caught between the things that it must do to survive in the short run and the things it cannot do if they are to survive in the long run. There is no permanent solution for Russia, and that is what makes it such an unpredictable player in the international system. The closest Russia has come to a stable solution to its strategic problem was under Ivan the Terrible and Stalin, and even those could not hold for more than a generation.
The West must understand that Russia is never at peace with itself internally, and is therefore constantly shifting its external relationships in an endless, spasmodic cycle. Things go along for awhile, and then suddenly change. We saw a massive change 20 years ago, but the forces that generated that change had built up quietly in the generation before. The generation since has been trying to pull the pieces back together. But in Russia, every solution is merely the preface to the next problem — something built into the Russian reality.
In last week’s global security and intelligence report, we discussed the recent call by the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al-Wahayshi, for jihadists to conduct simple attacks against a variety of targets in the Muslim world and the West. We also noted how it is relatively simple to conduct such attacks against soft targets using improvised explosive devices, guns or even knives and clubs.
The next day, a lone gunman, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. The victims were in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, a facility on the base where troops are prepared for deployment and where they take care of certain processing tasks such as completing insurance paperwork and receiving medical examinations and vaccinations.
Even though the targets of Hasan’s attack were soldiers, they represented a very soft target in this environment. Most soldiers on bases inside the United States are normally not armed and are only provided weapons for training. The only personnel who regularly carry weapons are the military police and the base civilian police officers. In addition to being unarmed, the soldiers at the center were closely packed together in the facility as they waited to proceed from station to station. The unarmed, densely packed mass of people allowed Hasan to kill 13 (12 soldiers and one civilian employee of the center) and wound 42 others when he opened fire.
Hasan is a U.S.-born Muslim who, according to STRATFOR sources and media accounts, has had past contact with jihadists, including the radical Imam Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki is a U.S.-born imam who espouses a jihadist ideology and who was discussed at some length in the 9/11 commission report for his links to 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. Al-Awlaki, who is currently living in Yemen and reportedly has contacts with al Qaeda, posted a message on his Web site Nov. 9 praising Hasan’s actions. Despite Hasan’s connections to al-Awlaki and other jihadists, it is unknown at this point if he was even aware of al-Wahayshi’s recent message calling for simple attacks, and therefore it is impossible to tell if his attack was in response to it.
However, one thing that is certain is that investigators examining Hasan’s computer hard drive, e-mail traffic and Internet history will be looking into that possibility, along with other indications that Hasan was linked to radicals.
We noted last week that by their very nature, individual actors and small cells are very difficult for the government to detect. They must somehow identify themselves by contacting a government informant or another person who reports them to the authorities, attend a militant training camp or conduct correspondence with a person or organization under government scrutiny. In the Hasan case, it now appears that Hasan did self-identify by making radical statements to people he worked with, who reported him to the authorities. It also appears that he had correspondence with people such as al-Awlaki, whom the government was monitoring. Because of this behavior, Hasan brought himself to the attention of the Department of Defense, the FBI and the CIA.
The fact that Hasan was able to commit this attack after bringing government attention to himself could be due to a number of factors. Chief among them is the fact that it is tactically impossible for a government to identify every aspiring militant actor and to pre-empt every act of violence. The degree of difficulty is increased greatly if an actor does indeed act alone and does not give any overt clues through his actions or his communications of his intent to attack. Because of this, the Hasan case provides an excellent opportunity to examine national security investigations and their utility and limitations.
The Nature of Intelligence Investigations
If, during the preliminary inquiry, the investigating agents find probable cause that a crime has been committed, the FBI will open a full-fledged criminal investigation into the case, similar to what we saw in the case of Luqman Ameen Abdullah and his followers in Detroit.
One of the large problems in national security investigations is separating the wheat from the chaff. Many leads are based on erroneous information or a misidentification of the suspect — there is a huge issue associated with the confusion caused by the transliteration of Arabic names and the fact that there are many people bearing the same names. Jihadists also have the tendency to use multiple names and identities. And there are many cases in which people will falsely report a person to the FBI out of malice. Because of these factors, national security investigations proceed slowly and usually do not involve much (if any) contact with the suspect and his close associates. If the suspect is a real militant planning a terrorist attack, investigators do not want to tip him off, and if he is innocent, they do not want to sully his reputation by showing up and overtly interviewing everyone he knows. Due to its controversial history of domestic intelligence activities, the FBI has become acutely aware of its responsibility to protect privacy rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and other laws.
And the rights guaranteed under the Constitution do complicate these national security investigations. It is not illegal for someone to say that Muslims should attack U.S. troops due to their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, or that more Muslims should conduct attacks like the June 1 shooting at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark. — things that Hasan is reported to have said. Radical statements and convictions are not illegal — although they certainly would appear to be conduct unbecoming a U.S. Army officer. (We will leave to others the discussion of the difficulties in dealing with problem officers who are minorities and doctors and who owe several years of service in return for their education.)
There are also many officers and enlisted soldiers in the U.S. Army who own personal weapons and who use them for self-defense, target shooting or hunting. There is nothing extraordinary or illegal about a U.S. Army major owning personal weapons. With no articulable violation of U.S. law, the FBI would have very little to act upon in a case like Hasan’s. Instead, even if they found cause to extend their preliminary inquiry, they would be pretty much limited to monitoring his activities (and perhaps his communications, with a court order) and waiting for a law to be violated. In the Hasan case, it would appear that the FBI did not find probable cause that a law had been violated before he opened fire at Fort Hood. Although perhaps if the FBI had been watching his activities closely and with an eye toward “the how” of terrorist attacks, they might have noticed him conducting preoperational surveillance of the readiness center and even a dry run of the attack.
Of course, in addition to just looking for violations of the law, the other main thrust of a national security investigation is to determine whom the suspect is connected to and whom he is talking to or planning with. In past cases, such investigations have uncovered networks of jihadist actors working together in the United States, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. However, if all Hasan did in his correspondence with people such as al-Awlaki was exercise his First Amendment right to hold radical convictions, and if he did not engage in any type of conspiracy to conduct an attack, he did not break the law.
Another issue that complicates national security cases is that they are almost always classified at the secret level or above. This is understandable, considering they are often opened based upon intelligence produced by sensitive intelligence programs. However, this classification means that only those people with the proper clearance and an established need to know can be briefed on the case. It is not at all unusual for the FBI to visit a high-ranking official at another agency to brief the official on the fact that the FBI is conducting a classified national security investigation involving a person working for the official’s agency. The rub is that they will frequently tell the official that he or she is not at liberty to share details of the investigation with other individuals in the agency because they do not have a clear need to know. The FBI agent will also usually ask the person briefed not to take any action against the target of the investigation, so that the investigation is not compromised. While some people will disagree with the FBI’s determination of who really needs to know about the investigation and go on to brief a wider audience, many officials are cowed by the FBI and sit on the information.
Of course, the size of an organization is also a factor in the dissemination of information. The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army are large organizations, and it is possible that officials at the Pentagon or the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (still known by its old acronym CID) headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., were briefed on the case and that local officials at Fort Hood were not. The Associated Press is now reporting that the FBI had alerted a Defense Criminal Investigative Service agent assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Washington about Hasan’s contacts with al-Awlaki, and ABC reports that the Defense Department is denying the FBI notified them. It would appear that the finger-pointing and bureaucratic blame-shifting normally associated with such cases has begun.
Even more severe problems would have plagued the dissemination of information from the CIA to local commanders and CID officers at Fort Hood. Despite the intelligence reforms put in place after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government still faces large obstacles when it comes to sharing intelligence information with law enforcement personnel.
Criminal Acts vs. Terrorism
However, with Hasan being a member of the armed forces, the victims being soldiers or army civilian employees and the incident occurring at Fort Hood, the case would seem to fall squarely under the mantle of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). From a prosecutorial perspective, a homicide trial under the UCMJ should be very tidy and could be quickly concluded. It will not involve all the potential loose ends that could pop up in a federal terrorism trial, especially when those loose ends involve what the FBI and CIA knew about Hasan, when they learned it and who they told. Also, politically, there are some who would like to see the Hasan case remain a criminal matter rather than a case of terrorism. Following the shooting death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah and considering the delicate relationship between Muslim advocacy groups and the U.S. government, some people would rather see Hasan portrayed as a mentally disturbed criminal than as an ideologically driven lone wolf.
Despite the CID taking the lead in prosecuting the case, the classified national security investigation by the CIA and FBI into Hasan and his possible connections to jihadist elements is undoubtedly continuing. Senior members of the government will certainly demand to know if Hasan had any confederates, if he was part of a bigger plot and if there are more attacks to come. Several congressmen and senators are also calling for hearings into the case, and if such hearings occur, they will certainly produce an abundance of interesting information pertaining to Hasan and the national security investigation of his activities.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Making sense of U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy at this moment is difficult. Not only is it a work in progress, but the pending decisions he has to make -- on Iran, Afghanistan and Russia -- tend to obscure underlying strategy. It is easy to confuse inaction with a lack of strategy. Of course, there may well be a lack of strategic thinking, but that does not mean there is a lack of strategy.
Strategy, as we have argued, is less a matter of choice than a matter of reality imposing itself on presidents. Former U.S. President George W. Bush, for example, rarely had a chance to make strategy. He was caught in a whirlwind after only nine months in office and spent the rest of his presidency responding to events, making choices from a menu of very bad options. Similarly, Obama came into office with a preset menu of limited choices. He seems to be fighting to create new choices, not liking what is on the menu. He may succeed. But it is important to understand the overwhelming forces that shape his choices and to understand the degree to which whatever he chooses is embedded in U.S. grand strategy, a strategy imposed by geopolitical reality.
Empires and Grand Strategy
American grand strategy, as we have argued, is essentially that of the British Empire, save at a global rather than a regional level. The British sought to protect their national security by encouraging Continental powers to engage in land-based conflict, thereby reducing resources available for building a navy. That guaranteed that Britain's core interest, the security of the homeland and sea-lane control, remained intact. Achieving this made the United Kingdom an economic power in the 19th century by sparing it the destruction of war and allowing it to control the patterns of international maritime trade.
On occasion, when the balance of power in Europe tilted toward one side or another, Britain intervened on the Continent with political influence where possible, direct aid when necessary or -- when all else failed -- the smallest possible direct military intervention. The United Kingdom's preferred strategy consisted of imposing a blockade -- e.g., economic sanctions -- allowing it to cause pain without incurring costs.
At the same time that it pursued this European policy, London was building a global empire. Here again, the British employed a balance-of-power strategy. In looking at the history of India or Africa during the 19th century, there is a consistent pattern of the United Kingdom forming alliances with factions, whether religious or ethnic groups, to create opportunities for domination. In the end, this was not substantially different from ancient Rome's grand strategy. Rome also ruled indirectly through much of its empire, controlling Mediterranean sea-lanes, but allying with local forces to govern; observing Roman strategy in Egypt is quite instructive in this regard.
Empires are not created by someone deciding one day to build one, or more precisely, lasting empires are not. They emerge over time through a series of decisions having nothing to do with empire building, and frequently at the hands of people far more concerned with domestic issues than foreign policy. Paradoxically, leaders who consciously set out to build empires usually fail. Hitler is a prime example. His failure was that rather than ally with forces in the Soviet Union, he wished to govern directly, something that flowed from his ambitions for direct rule. Particularly at the beginning, the Roman and British empires were far less ambitious and far less conscious of where they were headed. They were primarily taking care of domestic affairs. They became involved in foreign policy as needed, following a strategy of controlling the seas while maintaining substantial ground forces able to prevail anywhere -- but not everywhere at once -- and a powerful alliance system based on supporting the ambitions of local powers against other local powers.
On the whole, the United States has no interest in empire, and indeed is averse to imperial adventures. Those who might have had explicit inclinations in this direction are mostly out of government, crushed by experience in Iraq. Iraq came in two parts. In the first part, from 2003 to 2007, the U.S. vision was one of direct rule relying on American sea-lane control and overwhelming Iraq with well-supplied American troops.
The results were unsatisfactory. The United States found itself arrayed against all Iraqi factions and wound up in a multipart war in which its forces were merely one faction arrayed against others. The Petraeus strategy to escape this trap was less an innovation in counterinsurgency than a classic British-Roman approach. Rather than attempting direct control of Iraq, Petraeus sought to manipulate the internal balance of power, aligning with Sunni forces against Shiite forces, i.e., allying with the weaker party at that moment against the stronger. The strategy did not yield the outcome that some Bush strategists dreamed of, but it might (with an emphasis on might) yield a useful outcome: a precariously balanced Iraq dependent on the United States to preserve its internal balance of power and national sovereignty against Iran.
Many Americans, perhaps even most, regret the U.S. intervention in Iraq. And there are many, again perhaps most, who view broader U.S. entanglement in the world as harmful to American interests. Similar views were expressed by Roman republicans and English nationalists who felt that protecting the homeland by controlling the sea was the best policy, while letting the rest of the world go its own way. But the Romans and the British lost that option when they achieved the key to their own national security: enough power to protect the homeland. Outsiders inevitably came to see that power as offensive, even though originally its possessors intended it as defensive. Indeed, intent aside, the capability for offensive power was there. So frequently, Rome and Britain threatened the interests of foreign powers simply by being there. Inevitably, both Rome and Britain became the targets of Hannibals and Napoleons, and they were both drawn into the world regardless of their original desires. In short, enough power to be secure is enough power to threaten others. Therefore, that perfect moment of national security always turns offensive, as the power to protect the homeland threatens the security of other countries.
A Question of Size
There are Obama supporters and opponents who also dream of the perfect balance: security for the United States achieved by not interfering in the affairs of others. They see foreign entanglements not as providing homeland security, but as generating threats to it. They do not understand that what they want, American prosperity without international risks, is by definition impossible. The U.S. economy is roughly 25 percent of the world's economy. The American military controls the seas, not all at the same time, but anywhere it wishes at any given time. The United States also controls outer space. It is impossible for the United States not to intrude on the affairs of most countries in the world simply by virtue of its daily operations. The United States is an elephant that affects the world simply by being in the same room with it. The only way to not be an elephant is to shrink in size, and whether the United States would ever want this aside, decreasing power is harder to do than it might appear -- and much more painful.
Obama's challenge is managing U.S. power without decreasing its size and without imposing undue costs on it. This sounds like an attractive idea, but it ultimately won't work: The United States cannot be what it is without attracting hostile attention. For some of Obama's supporters, it is American behavior that generates hostility. Actually, it is America's presence -- its very size -- that intrudes on the world and generates hostility.
On the domestic front, the isolationist-internationalist divide in the United States has always been specious. Isolationists before World War II simply wanted to let the European balance of power manage itself. They wanted to buy time, but had no problem with intervening in China against Japan. The internationalists simply wanted to move from the first to the second stage, arguing that the first stage had failed. There was thus no argument in principle between them; there was simply a debate over how much time to give the process to see if it worked out. Both sides had the same strategy, but simply a different read of the moment. In retrospect, Franklin Roosevelt was right, but only because France collapsed in the face of the Nazi onslaught in a matter of weeks. That aside, the isolationist argument was quite rational.
Like that of Britain or Rome, U.S. grand strategy is driven by the sheer size of the national enterprise, a size achieved less through planning than by geography and history. Having arrived where it has, the United States has three layers to its strategy.
First, the United States must maintain the balance of power in various regions in the world. It does this by supporting a range of powers, usually the weaker against the stronger. Ideally, this balance of power maintains itself without American effort and yields relative stability. But stability is secondary to keeping local powers focused on each other rather than on the United States: Stability is a rhetorical device, not a goal. The real U.S. interest lies in weakening and undermining emergent powers so they don't ultimately rise to challenge American power. This is a strategy of nipping things in the bud.
Second, where emergent powers cannot be maintained through the regional balance of power, the United States has an interest in sharing the burden of containing it with other major powers. The United States will seek to use such coalitions either to intimidate the emerging power via economic power or, in extremis, via military power.
Third, where it is impossible to build a coalition to coerce emerging powers, the United States must decide either to live with the emerging power, forge an alliance with it, or attack it unilaterally.
Obama, as with any president, will first pursue the first layer of the strategy, using as little American power as possible and waiting as long as possible to see whether this works. The key here lies in not taking premature action that could prove more dangerous or costly than necessary. If that fails, his strategy is to create a coalition of powers to share the cost and risk. And only when that fails -- which is a function of time and politics -- will Obama turn to the third layer, which can range from simply living with the emerging power and making a suitable deal or crushing it militarily.
When al Qaeda attacked what it saw as the leading Christian power on Sept. 11, Bush found himself thrown into the third stage very rapidly. The second phase was illusory; sympathy aside, the quantity of military force allies could and would bring to bear was minimal. Even active allies like Britain and Australia couldn't bring decisive force to bear. Bush was forced into unilateralism not so much by the lack of will among allies as by their lack of power. His choice lay in creating chaos in the Islamic world and then forming alliances out of the debris, or trying to impose a direct solution through military force. He began with the second and shifted to the first.
Obama has more room to maneuver than Bush had. In the case of Iran, no regional solution is possible. Israel can only barely reach into the region, and while its air force might suffice to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, and air attacks might be sufficient to destroy them, Israel could not deal with the Iranian response of mining the Strait of Hormuz and/or destabilizing Iraq. The United States must absorb these blows.
Therefore, Obama has tried to build an anti-Iranian coalition to intimidate Tehran. Given the Russian and Chinese positions, this seems to have failed, and Iran has not been intimidated. That leaves Obama with two possible paths. One is the path followed by Nixon in China: ally with Iran against Russian influence, accepting it as a nuclear power and dealing with it through a combination of political alignment and deterrence. The second option is dealing with Iran militarily.
His choice thus lies between entente or war. He is bluffing war in hopes of getting what he wants, in the meantime hoping that internal events in Iran may evolve in a way suitable to U.S. interests or that Russian economic hardship evolves into increased Russian dependence on the United States such that Washington can extract Russian concessions on Iran. Given the state of Iran's nuclear development, which is still not near a weapon, Obama is using time to try to head off the third stage.
In Afghanistan, where Obama is already in the third stage and where he is being urged to go deeper in, he is searching for a way to return to the first stage, wherein an indigenous coalition emerges that neutralizes Afghanistan through its own internal dynamic. Hence, Washington is negotiating with the Taliban, trying to strengthen various factions in Afghanistan and not quite committing to more force. Winter is coming in Afghanistan, and that is the quiet time in that conflict. Obama is clearly buying time.
In that sense, Obama's foreign policy is neither as alien as his critics would argue nor as original as his supporters argue. He is adhering to the basic logic of American grand strategy, minimizing risks over time while seeking ways to impose low-cost solutions. It differs from Bush's policies primarily in that Bush had events forced on him and spent his presidency trying to regain the initiative.
The interesting point from where we sit is not only how deeply embedded Obama is in U.S. grand strategy, but how deeply drawn he is into the unintended imperial enterprise that has dominated American foreign policy since the 1930s -- an enterprise neither welcomed nor acknowledged by most Americans. Empires aren't planned, at least not successful empires, as Hitler and Napoleon learned to their regret. Empires happen as the result of the sheer reality of power. The elephant in the room cannot stop being an elephant, nor can the smaller animals ignore him. No matter how courteous the elephant, it is his power -- his capabilities -- not his intentions that matter.
Obama is now the elephant in the room. He has bought as much time as possible to make decisions, and he is being as amiable as possible to try to build as large a coalition as possible. But the coalition has neither the power nor appetite for the risks involved, so Obama will have to decide whether to live with Iran, form an alliance with Iran or go to war with Iran. In Afghanistan, he must decide whether he can recreate the balance of power by staying longer and whether this will be more effective by sending more troops, or whether it is time to begin withdrawal. In both cases, he can use the art of the bluff to shape the behavior of others, maybe.
He came into the presidency promising to be more amiable than Bush, something not difficult given the circumstances. He is now trying to convert amiability into a coalition, a much harder thing to do. In the end, he will have to make hard decisions. In American foreign policy, however, the ideal strategy is always to buy time so as to let the bribes, bluffs and threats do their work. Obama himself probably doesn't know what he will do; that will depend on circumstances. Letting events flow until they can no longer be tolerated is the essence of American grand strategy, a path Obama is following faithfully.
It should always be remembered that this long-standing American policy has frequently culminated in war, as with Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson and Bush. It was Clinton's watchful waiting to see how things played out, after all, that allowed al Qaeda the time to build and strike. But this is not a criticism of Clinton -- U.S. strategy is to trade time for risk. Over time, the risk might lead to war anyway, but then again, it might not. If war does come, American power is still decisive, if not in creating peace, then certainly in wreaking havoc upon rising powers. And that is the foundation of empire.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Pakistan has been a busy place over the past few weeks. The Pakistani armed forces have been conducting raids and airstrikes against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other foreign Islamist fighters in Bajaur Agency, a district inside Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), while wrapping up their preparations for a major military offensive into South Waziristan. The United States has conducted several successful missile attacks targeting militants hiding in areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border using unmanned aerial vehicles.
Threatened by these developments -- especially the actions of the Pakistani military -- the TTP and its allies have struck back. They have used larger, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in attacks close to their bases in the Pakistani badlands to conduct mass-casualty attacks against soft targets in Peshawar and the Swat Valley. They have also used small arms and small suicide devices farther from their bases to attack targets in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the respective seats of Pakistan's military and civilian power.
Initially, we considered devoting this week's Security and Intelligence Report to discussing the tactical details of the Oct. 10 attack against the Pakistani army headquarters. But after taking a closer look at that attack, and the bigger mosaic it occurred within, we decided to focus instead on something that has not received much attention in the media -- namely, how the coming Pakistani offensive in South Waziristan is going to have a heavy impact on the militants currently living and training there. In fact, we can expect the Pakistani offensive to cause a large displacement of militants. Of course, many of the militants who are forced to flee from South Waziristan, the epicenter of Pakistan's insurgency, will likely land in areas not too far away -- like Balochistan -- but at least some of the militants who will be flushed out of South Waziristan will land in places far from Pakistan's FATA and North-West Frontier Province.
The Coming Offensive
The Pakistani military has been preparing for the coming offensive into South Waziristan for months. They have positioned two divisions with some 28,000 troops for the attack, and this force will be augmented by paramilitary forces and local tribal militias loyal to Islamabad. As seen by the Pakistani offensives in Swat and Bajaur earlier this year, the TTP and its foreign allies are no match for the Pakistani military when it turns its full resources to address the problem.
The Pakistanis previously attempted a halfhearted offensive in South Waziristan in March of 2004 that only lasted 12 days before they fell back and reached a "negotiated peace settlement" with the militant leaders in the area. A negotiated peace settlement is a diplomatic way of saying that the Pakistanis attempted to pay off Pakistani Taliban leaders like Nek Mohammed to hand over the foreign militants in South Waziristan and stop behaving badly. The large cash settlements given to the militants did little to ensure peace and instead allowed the Taliban leaders to buy more weapons, pay their troops and essentially solidify their control in their areas of operation. The Taliban resumed their militant activities shortly after receiving their payments (though the most prominent leader, Nek Mohammed, was killed in a U.S. missile strike in June 2004).
This time, the South Waziristan offensive will be far different than it was in 2004. Not only do the Pakistanis have more than four times as many army troops committed to it, but the Pakistani military has learned that if it uses its huge airpower advantage and massed artillery, it can quickly rout any serious TTP resistance. In Bajaur, the Pakistanis used airstrikes and artillery to literally level positions (and even some towns) where the Taliban had tried to dig in and make a stand. Additionally, in January 2008, the Pakistani army conducted a successful offensive in South Waziristan called "Operation Zal Zala" (Earthquake) that made excellent progress and resulted in the loss of only eight soldiers in four days of intense fighting. This offensive was stopped only because Baitullah Mehsud and his confederates sued for peace -- a truce that they quickly violated.
The lessons of past military operations and broken truces in South Waziristan, when combined with the recent TTP strikes against targets like the army headquarters, have served to steel the will of the government (and particularly the military). Pakistani government sources tell STRATFOR that they have the intent and the ability to "close the case for good." This means that there should be no negotiated settlement with the TTP this time.
Of course, we are not the only people who can anticipate this happening. The TTP and others like the al Qaeda core leadership know all too well what happened in Bajaur and Swat. They have also been watching the Pakistani military prepare for the South Waziristan offensive for months now. The TTP leadership realizes that if they attempt to stand and fight the Pakistani military toe-to-toe they will be cut to shreds. Because of this, we believe that the TTP will adopt a strategy similar to that used by the Taliban in the face of overwhelming U.S. airpower following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, or that of the Iraqi military following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Rather than fight in set-piece conventional battles to the bitter end and be destroyed, after some initial resistance the TTP's fighters will seek to melt away into the population and then conduct insurgent and terrorist strikes against the Pakistani military, both in the tribal regions and in Pakistan's core regions. This is also the approach the TTP leadership took to the Pakistani offensive in Swat and Bajaur. They made noises about standing and fighting in places like Mingora. In the end, however, they melted away in the face of the military's offensive and most of the militants escaped.
Contrary to popular perception, the area along the Afghan-Pakistani border is fairly heavily populated. The terrain is extremely rugged, but there are millions of Pakistanis living in the FATA, and many of them are extremely conservative and hostile toward the Pakistani government. This hostile human terrain poses perhaps a more significant obstacle to the Pakistani military's operations to root out jihadists than the physical terrain. Accurate and current population numbers are hard to obtain, but the government of Pakistan estimated the population of South Waziristan to be nearly 500,000 in 1998, although it is believed to be much larger than that today. There are also an estimated 1.7 million Afghan refugees living on the Pakistani side of the border. This human terrain should enable many of the TTP's Pashtun fighters to melt into the landscape and live to fight another day. Indeed, the militants are already heavily embedded in the population of South Waziristan, and the TTP and its rivals have controlled much of the area for several years now.
We have seen reports that up to 200,000 people have already fled areas of South Waziristan in anticipation of the coming military operation, and it is highly likely that some TTP fighters and foreign militants have used this flow of displaced people as camouflage to leave the region just as they did in Swat and Bajaur. Whether the coming offensive is as successful in destroying the TTP as our sources assure us it will be, the military action will undoubtedly force even more militants to leave South Waziristan.
In the wake of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the many militant training camps run by al Qaeda and other organizations in Afghanistan were destroyed. Many of the foreign jihadists who were at these camps fled to Pakistan with the Taliban, though others fled to Iran, Iraq or elsewhere. This migration shifted the focus of jihadist training efforts to Pakistan, and South Waziristan in particular. Quite simply, there are thousands of foreign jihadists who have traveled to Pakistan to receive paramilitary training at these camps to fight in Afghanistan. A smaller number of the trainees have received advanced training in terrorist tradecraft, such as bombmaking, in the camps.
Due to the presence of these transplanted training installations, South Waziristan is "jihadist central," with jihadists of all stripes based in the area. This confluence will complicate Islamabad's attempts to distinguish between "good" and "bad" Taliban elements. Both the good Taliban aligned with Islamabad that carry out their operations in Afghanistan and the bad Taliban fighting against Islamabad are based in South Waziristan, and telling the difference between the two factions on the battlefield will be difficult -- though undoubtedly elements of Pakistani intelligence will attempt to help their Taliban friends (like the Haqqani network and Mullah Omar's network) avoid being caught up in the coming confrontation.
There are literally thousands of Arab, Uzbek, Uighur, Chechen, African and European militants currently located in the Pakistani badlands, and a good number of them are in South Waziristan. Many of these foreigners are either teaching at or enrolled in the jihadist training camps. These foreigners are going to find it far harder to hide from the Pakistani military by seeking refuge in Afghan refugee camps or small tribal villages than their Pashtun brethren.
Some of these foreigners will attempt to find shelter in North Waziristan, or perhaps in more heavily -- and more heterogeneously -- populated areas like Quetta (Mullah Omar's refuge) or Peshawar. Others may try to duck into the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, but there is a good chance that many of these foreign militants will be forced to leave the Pakistan-Afghanistan area to return home or seek refuge elsewhere.
This exodus will have mixed results. On one hand it will serve to weaken the international jihadist movement by retarding its ability to train new jihadists until replacement camps can be established elsewhere, perhaps by expanding existing facilities in Yemen or Africa. On the other hand, it will force hundreds of people trained in terrorist tradecraft to find a new place to live -- and operate. In some ways, this migration could mirror what happened after the number of foreign jihadist began to be dramatically reduced in Iraq -- except then, many of the foreigners could be redirected to Pakistan for training and Afghanistan to fight. There is no comparable second theater now to attract these foreign fighters. This means that many of them may end up returning home to join insurgent movements in smaller theaters, such as Chechnya, Somalia, Algeria and Central Asia.
Those with the ability and means could travel to other countries where they can use their training to organize militant cells for terrorist attacks in much the same way the foreign fighters who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s and left after the fall of the Soviet-backed government there went on to fight in places like Bosnia and Chechnya and formed the nucleus of al Qaeda and the current international jihadist movement.
The Next Generation
There is a big qualitative difference between the current crop of international fighters in South Waziristan and those who fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. During the earlier conflict, the foreigners were tolerated, but in general they were not seen by their Afghan counterparts as being particularly valiant or effective (though the Afghans did appreciate the cash and logistical help they provided). In many engagements the foreigners were kept out of harm's way and saw very little intense combat, while in some cases the foreign fighters were essentially used as cannon fodder.
The perception of the foreigners began to change during the 1990s, and units of foreigners acquitted themselves well as they fought alongside Taliban units against the Northern Alliance. Also, following the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the foreign jihadists have proved themselves to be very effective at conducting terrorist attacks and operating in hostile territory.
In fact, over the past several years, we have witnessed a marked change in the ways the Afghan Taliban fight. They have abandoned some of their traditional armed assault tactics and have begun to employ al Qaeda-influenced roadside IED attacks and suicide bombings -- attacks the Afghan fighters had previously considered "unmanly." It is no mere coincidence that the number of suicide attacks and roadside IED attacks in Afghanistan increased dramatically after al Qaeda began to withdraw its forces from Iraq. There is also a direct correlation between the IED technology developed and used in Iraq and that now being employed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
All this experience in designing and manufacturing IEDs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan means that the jihadist bombmakers of today are more highly skilled than ever, and they have been sharing their experience with foreign students at training camps in places like South Waziristan. Furthermore, the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has provided a great laboratory in which jihadists can perfect their terrorist tradecraft. A form of "tactical Darwinism" has occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan as coalition firepower has weeded out most of the inept jihadist operatives. Only the strong and cunning have survived, leaving a core of hardened, competent militants. These survivors have created new tactics and have learned to manufacture new types of highly effective IEDs -- technology that has already shown up in places like Algeria and Somalia. They have been permitted to impart the knowledge they have gained to another generation of young aspiring militants through training camps in places like South Waziristan.
As these foreign militants scatter to the four winds, they will be taking their skills with them. Judging from past waves of jihadist fighters, they will probably be found participating in future plots in many different parts of the world. And also judging from past cases, they will likely not participate in these plots alone.
As we have discussed in the past, the obvious weakness of the many grassroots jihadist cells that have been uncovered is their lack of terrorist tradecraft. They have the intent to do harm but not the ability, and many times the grassroots cells end up finding a government informant as they seek help acquiring weapons or constructing IEDs. When these inept "Kramer terrorists" manage to get linked up with a trained terrorist operative, they can cause considerable damage.
The possibility of these militants conducting attacks or bringing much-needed capability to grassroots cells means that the South Waziristan migration, which has almost certainly already begun, will give counterterrorism officials from Boston to Beijing something to worry about for the foreseeable future.
Broken promises from EU members on crisis missions risk more fragile states collapsing into failed states
Broken promises and treating Afghanistan, DR Congo and Iraq like Bosnia has left the EU without the capacity to prevent fragile states from becoming failing states. This is the main finding of the latest report from the European Council on Foreign Relations, published today.
According to the report, Can the EU rebuild failing states? A review of Europe's civilian capacities, by ECFR's security experts Daniel Korski and Richard Gowan:
- EU member states break promises and significantly under-staff key international missions.
No member state has deployed even half of what they promised in the 2004 Civilian Headline Goal process, and the EU has a shortage of 1,500 personnel across its 12 ongoing EU state building missions. All eyes are on Afghanistan: but the EU's police mission there is at half its authorised strength.
- Crisis missions still rely on the 'Bosnia-template', ignoring reality on the ground.
The 2005-2006 mission to DR Congo, for instance, was rendered largely irrelevant because EU planning failed to take into account corruption and the country's size compared to Bosnia.
- Turf wars between the European Commission and the European Council weaken missions.
In practice, spheres of influence overlap, leading to squabbles over who is responsible for what. In 2004 this led to a case at the European Court of Justice over who should get involved in a project tackling weapons trafficking in West Africa.
Daniel Korski says:
"If Yemen descends into full blown civil-war or al Qaeda gains new bases in Africa, the EU will be ill-equipped to offer the strategic and development assistance likely to be needed. Getting EU crisis missions right is essential in a world where stability in faraway places is key to security on the streets of Hamburg, Marseille and Manchester."
Broken promises and weakened missions
The EU prides itself on its involvement in civilian missions to fragile states, with successes in countries like Bosnia and Aceh. But this reputation is being undermined by the broken promises of some member states.
The worst offender in breaking promises is Spain, which deploys less than 3% of its pledged civilian experts. Britain does little better, fulfilling only 7% of its promises. France is more than twice as likely to stand by its undertaking, but Korski and Gowan rank France below Britain because France's civilian missions have serious flaws elsewhere - for instance, debriefing procedures in France are very inconsistent.
Korski and Gowan's report is the first-ever audit of the EU's civilian crisis management capabilities based on extensive research in all 27 member states, interviews with more than 50 EU officials and reviews of completed and ongoing European missions, including former EU Special Representatives, heads of missions and senior generals.
For the full text of the report: http://ecfr.eu/page/-/documents/civilian-crisis-report.pdf
Key recommendations to policy makers include:
- The EU needs to scrap the 'Bosnia template' and rethink its entire approach to foreign interventions, with a focus on speed, security and self-sufficiency. EU member states need to recruit the right specialists, officials and administrative staff. Then the EU must be able to deploy these civilian experts rapidly to dangerous places and to let them operate closely with local populations. Civilian personnel must become better at taking the initiative, and Brussels must be prepared to cut the apron-strings.
- The EU should appoint senior envoys in each of the twenty countries the EU considers to be at greatest risk of instability. These twenty countries should be based on the European Commission and Council Secretariat's watch lists of countries in danger of slipping into violence. This would allow the EU to have a more seamless approach to foreign interventions, taking steps to prevent crisis before they erupt and offering immediate assistance on the ground when they do.
- Set up a "European Institute for Peace" which should be the standard setter of member states' civilian missions training.
- Ensure each member state devises a National Action Plan, to make certain all recruitment, training, funding, debriefing and planning targets are met. This should be peer-reviewed by another member state every four years.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Daniel Korski is a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and is based in London. He is a former British official who has worked in Bosnia, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on +44 7876 616302.
2. Richard Gowan is a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and is based in New York City. He can be contacted at Richard.email@example.com, or on +1 917 975 6629.
3. Results of the audit: The analysis of the 27 member states conducted in this audit allowed the authors to divide them into four groups on the basis of their civilian crisis management capabilities.
a) The professionals: Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The EU's top performers take the role of civilians in crisis situations seriously. They recruit carefully and comprehensively, offer extensive training for civilians, have developed cross-governmental planning processes, and seek to debrief all deployed personnel to learn lessons.
b) The strivers: Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy and Romania. These countries show signs of wanting to build their civilian capacities but have yet to put in the necessary hard work. While France, Italy and Romania are all major contributors to missions in terms of numbers deployed, they fall down elsewhere. None of these countries appears to take have put much thought into recruitment, and debriefing procedures in France and Italy are extremely patchy.
c) The agnostics: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. These countries seem unconvinced about the value of civilian deployments. Planning is a problem; all countries report poor governmental co-operation; and debriefing is mostly patchy and informal.
d) The indifferents: Other than Lithuania, which seems to be attempting to improve its performance, no country in this category seems to take the task of developing civilian capacities seriously. Only Greece and Malta have compulsory training for police; Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia only train personnel deploying to Afghanistan. Planning and debrief procedures in these countries are also very weak. Others, such as Bulgaria, Luxemburg and Cyprus, need more coordination between the ministries responsible for their involvement.
4. This report, like all ECFR publications, represents the views of its authors, not the collective position of ECFR or its Council Members.
5. For all media enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 20 7031 1623.
6. The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is the first pan-European think-tank. Launched in October 2007, its objective is to conduct research and promote informed debate across Europe on the development of coherent and effective European values based foreign policy. http://www.ecfr.eu/
Monday, October 19, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
More than 85,000 Iraqis were killed during the country's violent upheaval between 2004 and 2008, according to the Iraqi government's first official count. The Human Rights Ministry based its numbers on death certificates issued once the country regained a functioning government in 2004, according to the Associated Press. (For this reason, there are no reliable statistics for 2003, the year the U.S. invasion began.) The casualties include 1,279 children and 2,334 women, as well as 263 university professors, 21 judges, 95 lawyers, and 269 journalists—"some of the professions which were specifically targeted as the country descended into chaos," the AP notes.
The committee that awarded the peace prize to Obama consists of chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, president of the Storting and former Labor Party prime minister and foreign minister of Norway; Kaci Kullmann Five, a former member of the Storting and president of the Conservative Party; Sissel Marie Ronbeck, a former Social Democratic member of the Storting; Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, a former member of the Storting and current senior adviser to the Progress Party; and Agot Valle, a current member of the Storting and spokeswoman on foreign affairs for the Socialist Left Party.
Therefore, the award to Obama was neither more or less odd than some of the previous awards made by five Norwegian politicians no one outside of Norway had ever heard of. But his win does give us an opportunity to consider an important question, namely, why Europeans generally think so highly of Obama.
The Europeans experienced catastrophes during the 20th century. Two world wars slaughtered generations of Europeans and shattered Europe’s economy. Just after the war, much of Europe maintained standards of living not far above that of the Third World. In a sense, Europe lost everything — millions of lives, empires, even sovereignty as the United States and the Soviet Union occupied and competed in Europe. The catastrophe of the 20th century defines Europe, and what the Europeans want to get away from.
Between 1945 and 1991, Western Europe lived in a confrontation with the Soviets. The Europeans lived in dread of Soviet occupation, and though tempted, never capitulated to the Soviets. That meant that the Europeans were forced to depend on the United States for their defense and economic stability, and were therefore subject to America’s will. How the Americans and Russians viewed each other would determine whether war would break out, not what the Europeans thought.
The Cold War revolved around Soviet domination of Europe. In the end, whatever the risks, the Cold War was worth the risk and the pain of U.S. domination. But to Europeans, the jihadist threat simply didn’t require the effort the United States was prepared to put into it. The United States seemed unsophisticated and reckless, like cowboys.