Friday, March 11, 2011

Is a No Fly Zone in Libya 'just'?

After recently reading Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars I was interested in applying the Just War doctrine to the intervention of a US no-fly zone in Libya.  Recently rebels have advocated for NATO to get involved and multilaterally establish a no-fly zone to deter the air superiority of Gaddafi's loyalists.  Now, I am not a huge advocate for the Just War doctrine, but just wanted to explore the no-fly zone within its criteria.

Just War Criteria:

1. Just Cause
This is always tricky to decide subjectively, but as Walzer argues, you must observe political autonomy and respect international borders as those embroiled in civil/secessionist conflict need to maintain a balance.  If the US or NATO were to intervene and this tipped the scales in favor of the rebels, if they won decisively because of our entrance, then this would fail this criteria.  Seems strange that this is so rigid but nonetheless it fails.

2.Legitimate Authority
This one is easier to satisfy.  First, the intervention (no fly zone) must be done by a recognized world government.  Check.  Next it must have international approval.  This has been danced around so far, the UN has not determined anything as of yet, perhaps looking at points made in this doctrine.  Also China and Russia typically veto anything they see as meddling in other countries internal affairs.

3.Right Intention
Another sticky point.  It is impossible to say that the US intervening would be to strictly balance the sides and done simply in the interest of the oppressed party.  Sure, that could be part of the argument but why do we care about Libya in the first place? Oil is one, and having a favorable government installed would allow more influence in the region.  Sadly its nearly to truly meet this condition, although if a true humanitarian crisis arose, where the world was convinced of great threatening evil to all Libyan people (and maybe surrounding countries), the intention would be good and therefore just.  It just needs this disinction.

4. Probability of Success
This one is pretty sure.  US air power is vastly superior to what Gaddafi has.  Success is realistic and therefore satisfactory.

5.Last Resort
We are moving closer to meeting this goal.  We have already taken indirect and diplomatic measures to help put pressure on Gaddafi.  Its impossible to tell if you are really on "the last resort" but if the situation because dire in a humanitarian way as mentioned above, this would be met.

6.Proportionality
This is most likely appeased.  By intervening, we would eliminate Gaddafi's air power, and we would have to stop there.  That is what the rebels asked and that would restore "balance."  Introducing land war would over step this boundary, that is, unless another power comes to the help of the loyalists in which case Just War states that counter-intervention is just and nearly necessary.  Gaddafi's influx of mercenaries could be defined as foreign help, but again this is ambiguous and requires deeper analysis.

7. Discrimination
The US has the technology to make civilian casualties limited but not extinct.  The F-22 has the ability to evade Libya's ground-to-air defenses that would need to be bombed otherwise, and cause noncombatant deaths.  Therefore we can meet this criteria from a teleological argument.

Overall it seems that a no-fly zone misses some points that are required to make the intervention "just" but should the conflict degenerate into a genocide or mass executions break out, it would alleviate some of the constraints that formally held back the move, and indeed may call for a more of a response.  Also, we need to weigh the fact that bringing in multiple aircraft carriers would take away from our other conflict (Afghanistan, Iraq) and would also become quite costly; not something that wants to be brought up in the middle of a budget crisis.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Top Countries: Will China overtake the US?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the "rise of the rest."  This phenomena has caught fire because supposedly it threatens US hegemony.  America has been squarely on top since the fall of the Soviet Union but now the rise of developing countries, notably China, have threatened American dominance.


Now, its hard to judge which country is "best," but we can look at notable categorical criteria to see what direction certain political/economic factors are pushing the major nations.  I have compiled some data based on proposed criteria for evaluating what a makes a country strong.  While of course its debateable how important they are, I nonetheless present you with this data table: Click for image (too large to fit this frame)

This is also only a handful of countries.  I tried to pick some of the notable ones: the ones with the hype, biggest economies, economic potential etc.  It is worthy to note that a great many African countries have very promising growth rates in GDP, Population, and Education.  I have not included any as they have a way to go before a geopolitical dominance bid.

Drawing from the data I will first bring your attention to this:
Click to Enlarge
Population vs. Projected Population: No surprise that China and India are the biggest bastions of humans, they will continue this trend.  It is interesting that Indonesia will greatly increase in population, a prime area for economic boom should the policy utilize the manpower.  Some of the European nations included will actually suffer a population decline.  This issue is also prevalent in Russia, much to the dismay of ethnic Russians who would rather not assimilate the influx of immigrants.  The US will grow, and immigration will be a prime factor in the shaping of its demographics.  

Next....
Click to Enlarge
This scatter plot has Population on the X-axis vs GDP Growth Rate percentage on the Y-axis.  I like to contrast these two variable as population is obviously important to economic power, and GDP rate determines who is currently headed down the right track to future economic dominance.  Again China and India do not disappoint with their human resources, and their GDP reflects this, they have the highest rates.  The European Nations are clumped in the bottom left, not a good omen for their respective economic futures.  The US is muddled in with them, distinguished only by its larger population.  This lag behind China is the biggest threat right now, and numerous pundits have expounded on the subject.  Brazil and Indonesia have silently built a strong GDP rate and as long as they continue to grow, and avoid contraction, they will be primed in the coming decades to build an economic power.

While its obvious that many countries have built up their economic power, with China able to dethrone the US as top economy, that is not surely not the only determining factor in achieving worldwide success.  The political theater is also important, and I have included the "Freedom" list to reflect this in part.  Freedom is measured by this scale.  It is based in economic freedom, but also reflects the general rule of political freedom.  I feel that the US's position might be partially politicized, but alas nothing is perfect and they still top the list in the chosen countries.  China and Russia bring up the rear as they are obviously remnants of communist style institutions, and have numerous violations of citizens rights.  China has been under scrutiny recently and is at the time of this article asking that journalists keep quiet about its internal repression.  This is really the only factor holding China back and should it begin to liberalize its citizens rights, it will surely flourish and surpass the United States.

Another note on China's internal policies hurting its growth, as laid out here.  While the one child policy originally it helped to stifle overpopulation fears, its effects while eventually catch-up to the sleeping dragon.  First it creates "little buddhas," essentially a generation of children that have no siblings and therefore tend to get spoiled.  In addition, the rise in the elderly population of China is going to hurt growth.  These people don't have the same pool of labor and will also seek retirement benefits.  It will be interesting to see how these issues get addressed.

The United Nations also can help determine who's at the top of political influence.  The US, Russia, and China all have Security Council status, conveniently for China.  Brazil is also looking to join the club.  While the United Nations is notoriously bad at having any real influence on big powers, it does come into play in instances such as this, where the big powers grasp for regional control.
Top 10 economies in GDP PPP in 2020

The graph to the left was taken from here.  Its a good graphical display of predictions for the future economic battleground.  It shows China edging out the US and India falling in behind.  Japan, another Asian powerhouse that looked primed to topple the US, has withered, and this table outlining the countries with the largest debt further inclines their peril.  They are certainly in rough times and China's rise has hurt their regional control.

The last big point to make here is military power.  Many countries in these graphs/tables are nuclear and therefore are highly unlikely of fighting conventional wars with one another.  Military might is still a top factor and good ol' Wikipedia lists out the defense spending of all nations.  Spending doesn't always translate into the best armies/navies/air forces but I would compare it to candidate spending in US elections, it certainly helps.  The US obviously still holds gold here as our aircraft carrier count alone can attest.  But recent news suggests the militarization of space, and no one has the absolute advantage here yet; spending can help.

I will certainly add to this topic as more information and statistics become available.  Below are some links to other articles that outline other takes on the subject of the "rise of the rest" and I highly suggest checking them out and commenting with your thoughts:


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Arising from the ashes after 5 years

After more than five years Tough Vote has come back from its long period of inactivity. In the past five years my political leanings and thoughts have undergone evolutions and therefore some former posts have been taken down to reflect this. I will likely readdress those issues with a fresh perspective. Stay tuned for new (and hopefully frequent) posts.