Strategic blogging

I'll try to get something up on Samuel Alito soon, but for now I'd like to point to two interesting foreign-relations posts by Thomas PM.. Barnett which I read last night. The most interesting is a response/interpretation to Iranian President's Ahmadinejad's statements calling for Israel to "be wiped off the map". It reads the statements as the outward manifestations of a domestic political conflict, and notes that the U.S. responding to them as if they were serious is exactly what the Ahmadinejad-faction in this battle would want. Since this is not the democracy-activist faction which U.S. hopes for Iran are to a good degree pinned to, it is important that the U.S. recognize the statements as insincere attempts to gain the upper-hand domestically, and respond accordingly (it's not clear to me, though it might well be to Barnett, what an appropriate response would be). Or at least, that's how I read him.

The other post I found interesting was on the new U.S.-Japanese military arrangements. It's interesting in part because just before I read the post, one of my roomates read part of the article it's responding to and wondered why the United States would want to do something like this just to weaken/piss-off China. Barnett says pretty much the same thing through a more sophisticated framework, talking about how the fact that Cold Warriors are still in charge of the United States military leads to policies which are overly-confrontational towards China. I agree that pissing China off is, ceteris paribus, an evil. If you want to understand why I think that, see this (really excellent) DeLong post from July.

But Barnett and my roommate's reading both fail to address a point which the article makes: Japan taking over more of its military defense for itself leads to other benefits — benefits not associated with China at all. Namely, either Japan itself can use more troops for future (truly) humanitarian military operations or the United States will have more troops available for such operations because Japanese troops will have substituted for American troops otherwise tasked to Japan. Both of these could also occur. I don't know how to assess
whether this benefit (or others) out weigh the cost of this pissing off China, but surely it must be taken into account before declaring this new arrangement to me a negative. The original article's failure to mention the "China isn't going to like this" factor is, of course, bizarre.