Issue 49 (2012)

Communitarian Observations


Upcoming on NPR

David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at the Krock Institute for International Peace Studies at Nortre Dame, and I will debate the merits of drones on Interfaith Voices, airing on NPR stations January 27 – February 2 (to view airtimes for your local station, click here). After the show airs, it will be available for streaming at (please note, the link will not be active until Friday, Jan. 27).


From My Diary


The hour-long debates on whether or not it was proper to ask Newt Gingrich about his offer of an open marriage to his wife after he was caught cheating—a legitimate debate—ignores one detail. Newt succeeded in never answering the question he was asked by the moderator—and instead made the query the issue. It is a very old trick, but it worked as if it had never been pulled before.


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An off-the-record meeting in Washington brings some questions to mind:

1. We told Iran privately that closing the Strait of Hormuz would be considered crossing a red line, really, truly– to be sure they do not think that we are just posturing. We did not do the same for their anticipated acquisition of nuclear arms. Will they conclude that we are signaling that we do not mean business with regards to nukes?

2. The Russians are very troubled by our plans (still) to build a missile defense system, which will be based in part in Poland and the Czech Republic. It will not be operational until 2020 and will then only be able to take down some types of missiles (rather basic “primitive” ones). We say the missile defense shield is not aimed at Russia but at Iran. I assume we are not worried about conventional warheads. If we do not plan to allow Iran to go nuclear anyhow—why do we need an expensive, primitive missile defense shield that antagonizes the Russians to the point that they say they may pull out of the START treaty?

3. Asked about Iran’s nukes, a high-ranking Israeli official explained that Israel is just as concerned about the biological and chemical weapons Syria has, which may end up in worse hands, and about the 50,000 accurate long-range missiles Hezbollah has assembled, many placed in homes to turn those who take them out into killers of children.


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From Occupy Nigeria: And then all the poor will have left to it will be the rich.


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I saw Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, in one of those numerous meetings in DC that are off the record. I can see why he may be chosen as a GOP VP candidate. He says the Tea Party things in such an affable way, one could readily be taken in. And he seems very comfortable with himself, unlike some candidates who seem as real as a three dollar bill, or over-rehearsed, or keep their cool even when they are spit upon. Watch out for him.


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NPR reports that a gay couple sued a Christian wedding photographer because he refused to shoot them. A legal scholar argued that if you open to serve the public, you must serve one and all. Another asked, “What if he had refused to take pictures of a black couple?” Good arguments, but still I wonder. The gay couple may well have the right to be photographed by the Christian photographer—but are there occasions when, out of a communitarian spirit, we should just let go?


Recent Publications


“Rethinking the Pakistan Plan.” The National Interest 117 (January/February 2012) p. 55-65.

The quest for improvement in the deeply troubled relationship between the United States (along with its Western allies) and Pakistan focuses largely on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and on the country’s approach to governing. But this quest has not yielded much, and rela­tions between Washington and Islamabad are spiraling downward. Lost in this Ameri­can struggle to induce change in Pakistani behavior is a fundamental reality—namely, that there probably can’t be any significant progress in improving the relationship so long as the India-Pakistan conflict persists. For Pakistanis, that conflict poses an omi­nous existential challenge that inevitably drives their behavior on all things, includ­ing their approach to the West and the war in Afghanistan. But if the India-Pakistan confrontation could be settled, chances for progress on other fronts would be greatly enhanced.


“China: Making an Adversary.” International Politics 48.6 (November 2011) p. 647-666.

Commentators in the Western media, the United States Congress and academia are increasingly contending that China is on its way to becoming a threatening global force, an adversary, if not an enemy. This article examines whether those views are justified, after first establishing the importance of critically assessing all claims that a nation is turning into an adversary. The examination proceeds by summarizing the arguments of those who consider China an adversary in the making – the ‘adversarians’ – and the responses of those who hold China is leaning toward a peaceful development and should be engaged – the ‘engagers’. The discussion is organized into three segments, each analyzing the debate with regard to the different sectors of power: military/geopolitical, economic and ideational. The concluding sections explore alternative American responses to China’s rising power in each of the three sectors.


“The Lessons of Libya.” Military Review 92.1 (January/February 2012) p. 45-54.

What a difference six months make. Early in 2011, an overwhelming majority of American policymakers, opinion makers, and the public were strongly opposed to more military entanglements overseas, particularly a third war in a Muslim country. And there was a strong sense that given our overstretched position due to the war in Afghanistan, continued exposure in Iraq, and—above all—severe economic challenges at home, the time had come to reduce U.S. commitments overseas. In June 2011, when announcing the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, President Obama put it as follows: “America, it is time to focus on nationbuilding here at home.” Regarding involvement in Libya, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated in March 2011: “My view would be, if there is going to be that kind of assistance [providing arms] to the opposition, there are plenty of sources for it other than the United States.” Admiral Mike Mullen raised questions about a Libyan involvement, stating in a March 2011 Senate hearing that a no-fly zone would be “an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.”


“Nationalism: The Communitarian Block.” Brown Journal of World Affairs 18.1 (Fall/Winter 2011) p. 229-247.

The difficulties experienced by the European Union, and in particular the 17 members of the eurozone, highlight a major challenge faced by many nations that are not in the EU. These nations face a communitarian paradox: on the one hand, they need a significantly higher level of transnational governance, which, as I shall attempt to show, can be provided only if the expansion of such governance is paralleled by a considerable measure of transnational community-building. On the other hand, this communal expansion encounters nationalism, which acts as an overpowering communitarian block by standing in the way of building more encompassing communities, ones comprised of nations.

The article finds that nations must either find ways to overcome this block (a very challenging undertaking) or limit the level of transnational governance (and in the case of the EU, scale it back). The article closes by reviewing measures that have been undertaken in the pursuit of communities that encompass nations and suggests other approaches.



“Unintended Consequences: War Crimes in Libya.” CommonwealJanuary 13, 2012 p. 9.

However good the reasons for our intervention in Libya, we and our allies failed to stop some terrible deeds committed by the rebels we supported. U.S. officials have talked a lot about making sure the rebels commit themselves to a democratic regime and do not impose sharia law. But for the most part officials were mum when the rebels—under the cover of our military support—committed one atrocity after another. If we ever ally ourselves with another armed rebellion, say in Syria, we should make it clear that our support will be granted only as long as rebels refrain from committing the kinds of crimes against humanity we are trying to protect them from.


In China’s Shoes

President Obama recently announced the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq and plans to pull them out of Afghanistan. But the administration is sending Marines to a new U.S. military base—in Australia. Although the number of the Marines is small, perhaps a symbolic move, many interpret it as part of an American “pivot” from the Middle East to the Far East. And the Far East is a code word for China, increasingly viewed as a major threat to American interests…

Read the rest at The National Interest.


Is China America’s New Enemy?

President Barack Obama unveiled Thursday a new military strategy. It calls for “pivoting” from the Middle East to the Far East, focusing partly on the military buildup of China.

Without a major public debate of the kind we have about raising taxes, or a congressional vote, the U.S. government is moving slowly but surely toward characterizing China as an aggressive superpower and is preparing for war, should it become necessary.

James Clapper, retired lieutenant general and current director of national intelligence, characterized China, “growing in its military capabilities,” as a “mortal threat” to the United States. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said, “The Chinese military openly regards the United States as an enemy. We should not undermine our own security by thinking we can make friends with self-proclaimed adversaries with hospitality and open arms.”

Read the rest at


Why Health Care Competition Won’t Work

A proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden to allow those who retire in the future to choose between Medicare and private health care insurance for seniors is the latest addition to the drive to increase competition in health care.

Mitt Romney recently released a health care proposal that would introduce vouchers, which would allow consumers to choose where to take their business, although he did not include Medicare as an option. Newt Gingrich’s plan suggests a variety of ways to increase “price competition in the industry.”

And President Obama’s health care overhaul also includes competition, to take place in new statewide exchanges, in which individuals and businesses will be able to find and compare insurance plans in a centralized marketplace…

Read the rest at


Fostering Political Change in Egypt

We best note that in several other countries, many of them with sociological conditions more favorable for a transfer to democracy than those in Egypt, it took a decade or more for a gradual transfer of power from the military to civilian institutions. These include South Korea and Chile. After South Korea’s military dictatorship officially ended in 1987, the military continued to have great influence over public life. A civilian did not hold the presidency until Kim Young Sam’s election in 1993. It was not until the election of President Lee Myung Bak in 2007 that observers felt South Korean democracy came to “full maturation.” Similarly, though the Chilean people ousted General Augusto Pinochet in a 1988 plebiscite, paving the way for democracy in 1990, it took fifteen years (until 2005) to remove many of the undemocratic Pinochet-era policies (e.g., former presidents serving as “senators-for-life,” the military and other government bodies selecting nine senators, and the inability of the president to remove the commander-in-chief of the armed forces). We should neither expect nor demand a jump to a Western-like polity…

Read the rest at The National Interest.



The Best Government Money Can Buy

An analysis conducted by the New York Times found that in the 2006 defense appropriations bill, then-Senator Rick Santorum earmarked $124 million in federal funds for Pennsylvania companies. During that election year, his campaign and its associated PAC took in over $200,000 in donations from people associated with the corporations that benefited from those earmarks and their lobbyists.


Recent Interviews

Click here to read an interview with Martin Eiermann of The European about “The Construction of Europe.”


For German speakers, click here to read an interview in Berliner Zeitun.


For Polish speakers, click here to read an interview by Andrzej Lubowski in Gazeta Wybocza.




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Edited by Julia Milton.