Murder She float

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you. Without a piss poor hiphop reference to step to. Think of how many weak blogs you slept through– time’s up, sorry I kept you.
No, seriously, I apologize for going months without a single post. I’m currently kneeling in shame to my extremely small readership. Together, we are little a little Appalachian snake handling church, up in a dilapidated tent, isolated from civilization. You likely know better than to fuck with me by now, but to those who don’t, know that this is the lord’s work. It’s been over half the year, and the majority of the wait was due to laziness, I just refused to blog while in Rio De Janeiro. There are much better things to do in this world than blog, but don’t tell that to anyone living in Bushwick(little gentrified Brooklyn loves to blog joke for ya). Now that we’re here, it’s time to produce.

Today’s alienated labor will be a post about drones. To be more specific, a post about the United States use of drones, my disagreement with, and some reference to the academic literature on unmanned aerial vehicles. That last bit is important to point out because scholarship is rarely mentioned when making the case against. This post would like to help build the bridge for this gap, not bridge it completely. Aint nobody got time for that. Continue reading

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Oil & Transparency

Stopped by Evan Lieberman’s blog and stumbled upon a working paper  by the International Budget Partnership has brought up the question of transparency among extractive industries. His paper holds that there is no link between transparency and mineral/oil wealth in democracies, but there is an issue of transparency within autocracies. In this paper he drops this little nugget of information — In 2009 petroleum counted for fourteen percent of the world’s trade. That’s an extremely large number for the majority of the world to be completely clueless about. In years of record profit we go, “wow, this is proof that oil is bad” if this is the case I think it’s time to know how/why, exactly.

Let’s find some real information to do the talking and the data we have on oil’s causal effect on democracies and autocracies alike may be misleading (Haaber and Menaldo 2011). We need to make claims based on newer, bigger, badder, bolder and nacho cheesier data sets, which I’m sure is on the way(minus some of those adjectives). This information should be the first step in true transparency, in a world where one can feel comfortable about fourteen percent of its trade. Maybe with the correct information we can create policy that adjusts the approach institutions, democratic or not, take with oil. Could transparency in the international trade be the answer to removing the resource curse? I don’t see why it wouldn’t.  Attempts at finding a way around the transparency issue are already starting to surface (Gelb and Mejerowicz 2011), but I would consider the suggestion in that paper to be nothing more than an unfeasible pipe dream. It still serves as a good example of people trying to find a solution to the problem.

Thinking off the top of my head would be increasing the barriers of entry when it comes to trading resources. Why wait until gross human rights abuse to start sanctioning the oil trade of an autocracy? A high standard of accountability and transparency should be the norms before you toss your barrels out to sea, before the firms that are private or state use their technology to begin extraction on foreign soil or offshore. Are we really so needy for the black stuff at a time where we are definitely not at peak oil, and we are getting more and more use out of extraction sites than ever before? Raising the barriers of entry, and making transparency the norm would make newly resource rich nations like Uganda and Angola think twice about corruption. Chances are, until they get their operation off the ground, they are more likely to need and accept conditional loans (that call for certain freedoms, and developmental goals, blah blah). In the event a state meets all of its requirements to enter the market, the increased capital is a very nice incentive to remain transparent, at least in the oil trade. The international community should be more than capable of enforcement, as developing nations often lack the technological prowess to make continued oil exploration and extraction an economical decision – assistance is often needed to turn a profit.

Just something to think about, and just because I’m blogging it, doesn’t mean I speak with certainty. This blog needs/is many an exercise in throat clearing. Note that I haven’t exactly said what these barriers of entry would be. The reason why is because I have no earthly idea.

Hug it Out

Hello, reader(s), it’s the day after Monday the Thirteenth, Garfield’s least favorite day of the year. For the rest of us, it’s Valentine’s Day. The only thing I’m crossing my fingers on, concerning the 14th, is a lack of bloody Valentine lore involving Syria. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem likely given Assad’s “emboldened” approach since the infamous double veto in the UN Security Council. This failure has brought us a wealth of material in the blogosphere, focusing on R2P and where America should go from here. The most discussed route at the moment is arming the seemingly fractured Syrian opposition, to provide self-defense and the tools for a miracle. This humble blogger would like to suggest a less destructive track. I’m talking about negotiation.  Yes, I know the opposition claims they won’t sit down and talk unless Assad’s exile is on the table, but we shouldn’t allow a belligerent to make such demands at the expense of the people’s  immediate safety.  As it stands, I couldn’t find much literature on forcing a non state actor to negotiate, so for blogging sake, I will assume it’s possible. Negotiation also allows us to gather much-needed intelligence on the Syrian opposition, to which we can better work with(or ignore) should talks break down. Bargaining during this phase we can assume to be ex ante should call for a ceasefire. The observance of this could save a massive amount of lives as those with the means make their way to refugee camps outside of the Syrian state.

Before I get into the negotiation, I’d like to talk about R2P for a moment, since it is with its passing moment in the saga, that brings us to the current dangerous juncture. The idea that America, the international community, has the responsibility to protect is something I don’t agree with. I feel that it implies that it’s in the job description and the only job they have is to advance their own interests. America isn’t putting its job security at risk for ignoring Darfur. It may be the right thing to do, and something I’d like, but I feel considering it as a responsibility puts too much blood on our hands. The international system already provides enough incentives, punishments and other conflict reducing mechanisms to make most world leaders play fair. Repeated use of R2P is a doctrine suitable for an empire, and the United States is not that. We are currently experiencing the waning years of the US’ uni-polarity(There should still be at least two decades of US dominance to go, just not immediate post cold war levels). If it was an empire, states would not be able to pursue their own interests. During the US uni-polar moment, there have been attempts to expand beyond its reach and it espoused values it wished were universal. This does not equal a peaceful time for the pole, history shows us a nation the spent most of its time at war. A quarter of our history of war, were spent in the last twenty years.

The Obama administration and the ones to follow are not ignorant of a hegemon’s heavy hand. It’s no wonder Obama speaks of “leading from behind”. If these foreign conflicts taught us anything, it is the truth of the multipolar/multicivilizational world Samuel P. Huntington spoke of. A world where the core states of civilizations gain power relative to the US after exhausting itself in two extended conflicts and a financial crisis that some think it will never fully recover from.  If we are to believe we can’t force our values on civilizations outside of ours with hard power(Iraq, Afghanistan taught us that), intervention loses its attractiveness. It’s less attractive because R2P can be a costly doctrine if you are not advancing your own interests. Now if we are shown a window where intervention is presented as an attractive option, it would almost have to look similar to Libya. Gadhafi may have been inching towards Benghazi, but the progress previously made by rebels presented a situation where we could be close to certain that providing a no fly zone would eventually bring victory and regime change. R2P without boots on the ground, arming rebels, would have nowhere near the desired effect for Damascus. For more on the subject, I would suggest reading Dan Trombly’s excellent post on arming the Syrian opposition and other options. If we are to accept a multicivilizational world and the coming of multipolarity, R2P’s implementation will continue to be rare and not a viable option for Syria. Instead, the “responsibility” to protect should lie within the core states of civilizations in the future — as it may be in their best interests. The Arab League, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, if this doctrine means anything to them, should take the lead on belligerents in their sphere of influence. In the present, intervention is not an option or a costly one to anyone but the United States and NATO. Despite a go at the UN security council, I do not believe intervention was the US’ intent because the level of commitment/difficulty conflicts too much with its interests.

On the subject of arming rebels, refer back to the Dan Trombly piece or anyone else you hold in high regard. Those for and against arming the opposition believe it will lead to a complete mess.  This is why I am proposing negotiation. I understand that I’m not onto anything groundbreaking even though no one seems to bring this up. There’s a healthy chance breaching the subject would reveal one as slow of the mind if previous posts didn’t already do the trick. That’s okay because this blog will not haunt my career should I be blessed to have one. The Opposition said they will not sit at the table until it is certain that Assad will be stepping down. There’s nothing saying that this will change, but are good reasons to make the attempt.

Lets say we exhaust every diplomatic option in trying to get the Free Syria Army and Assad to sit at the table. What does Russia say then? This is what they asked for and when we know this to be impossible, under what pretense do they veto another security council vote? The attempt of negotiation may be precursor to international action via UN. Now lets say negotiation is possible. Negotiation should provide a ceasefire that opens the door for the exodus of Syrians who may have been trapped in their suburbs. It may temporarily stop the bloodshed and in the best case, stop it completely(aside from minor non state actor skirmishes involving minorities). Negotiation allows us to see just how unified the opposition is. Some believe it’s just a collective of armed men, working in their respective area, answering to no one. The Negotiation would allow us to figure out just who we will be working with in the future, assuming they eventually succeed. Negotiation allows us to feel out the level of blowback we could be facing in arming them. Finally, who knows, maybe the Alawites give Assad up in hopes of not being slaughtered. It’s currently unknown how each side would feel about concessions (discussed at length in link) with the dismissal of Assad(I am still assuming there’s a dictatorship), but it’s worth looking into. I’m just throwing it out there, because I believe it’s an important part of the process that is somehow missing. To skip this step and fan the flames of war seem pretty irresponsible to me. Everyone knows this, but we assume we can’t get these two sides to sit down, so lets hope that they’re wrong. I’m not that enthusiastic about the future of Syria with or without Assad, I just want what’s best for the people.

Wikipedia: concession defin

Run Tell Dat: SOTU Response

The quoted text below is from Greg Mankiw’s blog, his response to the president’s state of the union address. I’d have to say I agree with Mankiw on his second item. Yes, I am aware that he was a Bush adviser, it says it right in the quote. I’m pretty sure Mankiw didn’t do a 9/11 though; nor did he throw our economy under the bus with a sick jutsu. I will assume anyone reading this has a good idea how that happened. Yes, I am aware that he advised or currently advises Mitt Romney, on matters of the economy and possibly the heart. These revelations in no way imply that this man is ass backwards, as a person or economist. Mankiw is not some monstrous entity leading the charge against all that is right in the world, crushing the little pea heads at OWS with mean math. I consider myself to be pretty far left, with an appetite for Marxist critique. At the same time, there’s still an actual real world to operate in, with conditions that won’t change any time soon. Our country’s prevailing ideas lean heavily towards,  if not a reflection of a world ideal for those with capital. With that said, there are still ways to care, understanding the current system and figuring out works best for people. Protectionism in America, is not in the least bit appealing to me or the developing world.

2. I was disappointed, and even a bit surprised, that the President adopted the xenophobic approach to outsourcing and international trade.  Usually, on issues of international trade, the President plays the role of grown-up and leaves it up to Congress to gin up populist ire.  That is true of both parties.  Recall that President Clinton pushed NAFTA through.

When President Obama bragged that his administration had substantially increased trade cases against China compared with his predecessor, it made me proud to be one of President Bush’s advisers.  (Not that the Bush administration was perfect on trade issues.  It is just good to know we were better.)  These trade cases include such things as anti-dumping claims, which in many cases are just the modern face of protectionism.  Phill Swagel and I wrote about anti-dumping laws here.

If it’s any consolation, America isn’t the only country getting petty with protectionism. Brazil churns out anti dumping cases against China at an alarming(yet funny) rate. It might actually be its biggest export when it comes to the Brazil-Sino relationship which is still somehow blooming. The nature of anti-dumping(As described in the piece Mankiw links) has gotten to the point that I’m not even sure if the Chinese even take offense to it. All cases are met with a sagely bro nod, it knows better.

Since this is a blog, and I’m allowed an informal nature as long as I can stand my own writing, I’d like to add my own quick reaction to part of Obama’s SOTU. I recall Obama talking about “deepening” or perhaps he said “strengthening” America’s ties with Latin America. As the honorable Jay-Z once said,

“We don’t believe you, you need more people”

The US relationship with Latin America can be described as tepid at best. From Brazil claiming to be in a currency war that involves the dollar, to the death of the DREAM act, and the continued failure to properly understand the American consumer’s role in a drug war that has many in Mexico and Central America, living in fear. There are also several state level laws passed, most notably in Arizona and Alabama, that has put a strain on the US relationship down South. Obama has to do better in 2012, there’s no excuse for so little progress.