Friday, August 27, 2004


From time to time I see a bumper sticker that reads, "If you love your freedom, thank a vet." I appreciate America's veterans, but the bumper sticker presents a simplistic (to the point of being false) relationship between the freedom we enjoy as Americans and the use of force--or, more specifically, the deployment of troops--by the United States. Interventions in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Cuba, Haiti, and elsewhere have rarely had anything to do with the freedom of the United States. Some American troop deployments have been justifiable as instances of humanitarian intervention while others potentially qualify as cases of "forward defense" of American freedom. The latter category, however, requires great caution since it can lead, in extremis, to an illegitimate strategy of preventive war as called for in the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States.

The international community does not look favorably upon intervention. Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (Montevideo, 1933) says, "No state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another." The closest neighbors of the United States, on forming the Organization of American States, felt it important to be particularly emphatic about the principle of non-intervention. Article 15 of the OAS Charter (Bogotá, 1948) states, "No state or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the state or against its political, economic and cultural elements."
Notwithstanding the legal--and moral (see Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars)--arguments against intervention, the United States intervenes--a lot. This site, using a Macromedia Flash presentation, documents 163 instances of American intervention abroad between 1801 and 2004. (Thanks to David Dillman for sending me the link.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Swords Into Sailboards

From today's Olympics news comes this first: An Israeli won the gold medal--his country's first ever in Olympic competition--in windsurfing (a sport thought to have been pioneered two millennia earlier--before the invention of sailboards--by a Jewish prophet).

(I promise to get serious with this blog when classes start next week.)

Passports and Presidents

This may come as no surprise, but it turns out that John Kerry has a commanding lead (58% to 35%) over George Bush among Americans who hold a passport, according to a Zogby Poll conducted recently. Likely voters without an active passport prefer Bush over Kerry, 48% to 39%. It seems fitting, somehow, given that Kerry spent part of his youth attending school in Switzerland (his father was a diplomat) while Bush went to Europe for the first time just three years ago, after becoming president.

The good news for President Bush is that his supporters are less likely than Kerry's to be abroad on Election Day. Registered voters who are out of the country on November 2 have several options, depending in part on their status. Absentee balloting is, of course, possible for those who are away because they're on vacation, studying abroad, or traveling on business. (Regulations concerning absentee balloting vary from state to state. This site offers information on absentee voting for all fifty states and the District of Columbia.) The five million Americans who live overseas and the half million military service members and their families, on the other hand, have some different options. (This site offers the basic information overseas voters need. Embassies and consulates can also help.)

How many Americans could be in Europe (or elsewhere) on Election Day if they wanted to? Or, to put it differently, how many Americans have valid passports? During Fiscal Year 2003, the U.S. Department of State issued 7,300,667 passports, according to the data here. Since 1994, approximately 62,700,000 Americans have acquired passports. The State Department doesn't indicate how many of the passports it issues each year are for persons under 16 and thus good for five years rather than the ten years for which most passports are valid. In other words, some of the passports issued since 1994 have expired. Others have been lost. It seems likely, though, that roughly 55,000,000 Americans possess valid passports. There is, in other words, about a one in five chance that the fellow citizen you meet on the street has a passport--unless, of course, the street where you meet her happens to be the Champs Elysées.

Incidentally, the New York Times recently reported on problems in college study-abroad programs. Here's a key point:

Indeed, with at least 160,000 students overseas each year - more than twice as many as a decade ago - many college officials argue that they are exporting drunkenness, misconduct and other trouble to an unprecedented degree, prompting an industrywide overhaul of policies and practices.

The State Department has the same worries whenever Dubya travels abroad.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES is geared toward a particular (captive) audience, namely, the students in the three international politics courses I teach at Pepperdine University. Other readers (and correspondents) are welcome, but those who are enrolled in International Relations, International Organizations and Law, and Ethics and International Politics are, shall we say, more than welcome to read and contribute to discussions of the questions posed and the issues highlighted in my commentary.

The title of this blog deserves a brief comment. It is drawn, in the first instance, from Scripture. The prophets Isaiah (2:4), Joel (3:20), and Micah (4.3) each use the expression. Here is Isaiah's version:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

For students of international politics of a humane (and religious) bent, few prophetic statements capture better the ultimate ends of our pursuits. The phrase also appears as (and is associated in my mind with) the title of a seminal study of international organization by Inis L. Claude, Jr. First published in 1959 and updated in three subsequent editions, Swords Into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organization offered more than a historical and institutional account of the League of Nations and the United Nations, the world's two universal-membership organizations. It offered as well an extraordinarily insightful analysis of the broader issue of the organization--the structuring--of the world. It was my privilege to study with Professor Claude at the University of Virginia, and so the title of this blog is not only a reflection of my faith in the prophetic vision of a world at peace but also an homage to a mentor who pushed me to develop a clear-eyed understanding of what the realization of a such a vision might entail.