State Capacity and the US Federal Budget

bush_budget.jpgWe’re currently discussing and analyzing the state, and its important role in comparative politics. One of the dimensions on which we can compare state power is “capacity.” What is capacity? According to O’Neil (p.38-39), “capacity is the ability of the state to wield power in order to carry out the basic tasks of providing security and reconciling freedom and equality. A state with high capacity is able to formulate and enact fundamental policies and ensure stability and security for both itself and its citizens.” We were presented with evidence today of a demonstration of the high capacity of the United States as President George W. Bush unveiled his new 3.1 trillion-dollar (I’m no mathematician, but that’s at least a couple of gazillion dollars, isn’t it?) budget. Any state that can make its citizens cough up that much money, more or less willingly, has to have high capacity.

The photograph is from Yahoo News, click here to see a video clip of the president submitting this year’s federal budget, the first one in American history to be submitted in electronic form. As the president correctly surmised, “this will save a lot of trees!”

The Future of US Foreign Policy post-Bush?

Daniel Drezner, an associate professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, has published an article in the latest issue of Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft (“International Politics and Society”) entitled “The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy.”  In it he envisions what a post-Bush US foreign policy (regardless of which party wins the White House) should look like.  

As we have already discussed, and will discuss further throughout the course, a fundamental tenet of the realist theory of international relations is that the nature of the domestic regime does not matter as it pertains to the manner in which a state acts in the world.  Thus, whether a regime is democratic, authoritarian, or even a theocracy, the compelling logic of trying to ensure security in an anarchic world means that all states will act the same way.  A corollary of that is that it does not matter, say the realists, whether the leadership of a state is more left-wing or more right-wing, the fundamental character of foreign policy will be the same.  Does Drezner agree with the realists?

For Europe, American foreign policy in 2009 will clearly be an improvement on its current incarnation. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, there will likely be a reaching out to Europe as a means of demonstrating a decisive shift from the Bush administration’s diplomatic style. This does not mean, however, that the major irritants to the transatlantic relationship will disappear. On several issues, such as GMOs or the Boeing–Airbus dispute, the status quo will persist. On deeper questions, such as the use of force and the use of multilateralism, American foreign policy will shift, but not as far as Europeans would like. When George W. Bush leaves office, neo-conservatism will go with him. This does not mean, however, that Europeans will altogether agree with the foreign policy that replaces it.

Drezner also has some interesting things to say about neoconservatism, the theory underpinning the Bush administration’s view of international relations:

 It would appear that Americans are now disenchanted with neo-conservatism
as a foreign-policy doctrine. Five years ago, the idea of muscular,
unilaterally-imposed democratization was believed to resonate with
American values in a post-9/11 world. This is no longer the case. In October
2006, a Public Agenda poll found that 83 % of Americans are worried
about the way things are going for the United States in world affairs.
Their new »Anxiety Indicator« found that »a significant majority of the
public is feeling anxious and insecure about the country’s place in the
world.« Iraq – an obsession of neo-conservatives for over a decade now –
is obviously a major cause of this discontent…

…Neo-conservatism will formally expire as the grand strategy of the
United States on January 20, 2009: the date George W. Bush leaves office.
What will take its place? There are myriad ways in which us foreign
policy could diverge from the neo-conservative approach.

NATO–Preemptive Nuclear Strike a Key Option?

We discussed in class today the use of preemptive force to respond to potential security threats and how this was a central component of President Bush’s National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United States (2002). Now, according to the Guardian newspaper, it seems that “five of the west’s most senior military officers and strategists” have insisted that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the

west must be ready to resort to a preemptive nuclear attack to try to halt the “imminent” spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a “grand strategy” to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument” since there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”.

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

“The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible,” the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Remember that in one of our earlier sessions we wondered aloud if there were any institutionalized norms in international relations and we thought that maybe there was a normative injunction against the use of nuclear weapons. Nina Tannenwald has written about the “nuclear taboo” but suggests that in the aftermath of WWII, officials in the US and Europe thought that nuclear weapons would come to be seen as another type of conventional weapon.

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