Global Security Truism – #7 Freedom, though scarce, is natural yearning.

“Man if born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau writing in Social Contract.

The story of world history is essentially between freedom and slavery. Slavery has plagued humanity since ancient times. Unfortunately, slavery has been more common than liberty throughout the ages. 

In my previous post, I  spoke about the importance of liberal democracies in the world for more peace, prosperity, and global security. But where does freedom come from? What does it mean to be free? 


John Locke argues humans are free, independent, and equal in their natural state. Therefore, Thomas Jefferson deduced individuals have “inalienable rights” as he wrote in the opening of The Declaration of Independence. Rights do not depend on a government, but are part of every human.

A central thesis of his freedom philosophy rested upon private property for the individual. He lauded freedom of the press also so people could express their inner thoughts to a mass audience. 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau adds more color to the concept of freedom by advocating a voluntary social contract among individuals to form a civil society from Locke’s state of nature. He argues the resulting government led by the sovereign is more just and can offer more protection for private property.

Finally, Baron de Montesquieu contributes the idea of de-centralized power to the discussion on liberty. He advocated ordered liberty – following the law to promote greater safety. Highly centralized power in the hands of a sovereign in tyranny. 

Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu wanted pluralism, protection of individual rights, and a not-so-powerful sovereign to lead.


The recent titanic struggle for freedom occurred during the Cold War between the United States and its allies versus the ex-Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

Václav Havel, and Lech Wałęsa championed peaceful resistance to communist rule in their struggle for freedom in Czechoslovakia and Poland, respectively, during the Cold War. Many more steadfastly fought tyranny and risked their lives to triumph over its evil. 

Though controversial in many elite Western circles, then US President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” crack at the ex-Soviet Union animated many political prisoners rotting in Eastern European jails.


The battle against freedom is never won. Evil has been a part of humanity from its beginning. Only through eternal vigilance can the natural yearning for freedom triumph and global security endure.

Global Security Truism – #6 Composition of state is important.

The organization of a state makes a difference for global security.

Totalitarian states with limited economic and political freedoms pose a threat to global peace.

On the other hand, liberal democracies are the preferred type of government for lasting peace in the world.

The so-called “democratic peace” debate rages among the international affairs community. Argument and counterarguments are launched on each side. However, democracy and peace are more than academic subjects.


Theoretical and empirical evidence argues that the more liberal democracies the more peace in the world.

Political systems that maximize individual freedom, political participation, and have institutions to reflect the popular will of the people are inherently more democratic.

There is no evidence that democracies go to war with each other. Therefore, if there were more democratic states, the possibility of war would abate.

In addition to political freedom, economic freedom is important as well. Liberal democracies are more prosperous over time. The liberty for free expression, creativity, and reward for risk taking are hallmarks of democratic states since most have some form of a market-oriented economy.


There is much work to do to spread democracy in the world.

In 2013, Freedom House only counted 118 electoral democracies, an increase of one from 2012. 

 The Slideshare report provides more details:


The “controversy” over the theory and evidence that democracies are better for global security is comical.

Would you rather have more Cubas, North Koreas, and Irans in the world or Denmarks, Canadas, and United Kingdoms? Is that such a hard decision to make?

Liberal democracies are more peaceful, prosperous, and therefore are better for global security.


Global Security Truism – #5 Treaties are meant to be broken.

Treaties between states are often signed under adverse conditions. A careful calculation is undertaken to determine the value of entering an agreement. A cynic may ponder how a treaty binds the freedom of action of another partner and therefore accrue an advantage. All treaties are based on faith. A sober international observer may conclude in the end all treaties are meant to be broken.


The punitive Versailles Treaty imposed harsh conditions of indemnity on a defeated Germany after World War I. Reparations under the “War Guilt Clause” soon became a hot political issue among European states in the interwar years. A young corporal during World War I assumed power of Germany in March 1933 and embarked on a disastrous road to shred Versailles. 

Adolf Hitler remilitarized Germany in clear violation of Versailles in 1935. Allies France and Great Britain yawned and kept the focus on the reparations part of the treaty. Two years later the Rhineland was regained and again the Allies demurred. Then Germany initiated the Austrian Anschluss and Paris and London only protested all in an attempt to avoid another European war. Versailles was null and void and the aggressor acted boldly and brashly without any consequence.


On August 23, 1939, on the verge of invading Poland, Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union – two erstwhile enemies – shocked the world with their nonaggression pact. Hilter wanted to take Poland unopposed. Josef Stalin wanted to make nice with Germany and buy time to build up his military. A secret clause made arrangements to carve up East Europe later. Two of the most ruthless dictators in human history were now friends. At least that was the plan.

Suspicions between the two countries swirled even as Germany looked west to conquer Europe. When Germany executed Case Barbarossa, the plan to invade the Soviet Union, all bets were off just two years later. The Soviets got their slice of Poland, but the devil’s deal unraveled. There was little confidence between the two countries and the Soviets now faced the most powerful invading force in history.


Debate concerns Iran’s faithful compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a signatory. A full accounting of Tehran’s nuclear capacity is wanting. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cannot make a determination that all nuclear activities are for non-military purposes. Iran’s policy of concealment and evasion raise serious doubts.

The IAEA does not have the power to enforce the NPT.

Iran, an oil rich country, supposedly needs nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
Why would Tehran not be forthright about its activities?


In 1987, the United States and then-Soviet Union signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement which for the first time in arms control history eliminated an entire class of weapons. The US Reagan Administration trumped the Soviets after their deployment of SS-20 missiles by fielding their own INF missiles over the objections of the rowdy, KGB-infiltrated anti-nuclear crowd in Europe. 

Reagan employed a simple enforcement mechanism – “trust, but verify.” The treaty is still in force between the US and now-Russia. However, the current US Administration knows of Russian violations of the treaty while pining for a new treaty to scrap more missiles. The US has decided to ignore the breaches instead of causing a dust up in the “reset” of relations between the two countries. The distrust between Washington and Moscow has only sharpened and ignoring reality doubles the trouble.


Then there is North Korea, another faithful negotiation partner. US President Clinton tried to buy off Pyongyang to “freeze” its nuclear development and fully dismantle its program. The 1994 Agreed Framework seems reminiscent of the current deal with Iran to stop its nuclear drive even including softening of economic sanctions. Linkage of good North Korean implementation brought promise of food aid, light water reactors, supplies of heavy fuel oil from the West. However, Pyongyang never intended to fulfill the agreement.

North Korea is not a normal country and to pretend otherwise is foolhardy. Pyongyang has actually expanded the size of the uranium enrichment facility at the Nyongbyon nuclear complex and restarted a reactor that was used for plutonium production under its new young leader. Also like Iran, it is continuing to modernize its ballistic missile facilities to deliver weapons of mass destruction. Any halt and surely dismantlement does not appear to be a high priority of the regime.


These five cases clearly demonstrate the trouble with negotiated treaties or agreements between distrustful partners. In a world where the aggressor sets the rules, any faith in a scrap of paper for security is delusional. In each case, there is no penalty for cheating or outright breaking the agreement. 

Confidence, enforcement, and the will to implement agreements fully are lacking in all five cases. Treaties have a checkered past in human history, especially among states that should be mature and expect the other side to not abide by its word. 

Global Security Truism – #4 Economy is key to global dominance.

Economic strength underlies global power status.

Historical analysis shows an accumulation of great economic decisions pushes countries to the pinnacle of global primacy. Commensurate military power follows a sound financial foundation, as argued in Paul Kennedy’s seminal The Rise and Fall of Great Powers . Great Britain held 30% of global GDP at its height and used the Royal Navy to build an empire. After World War II, the US was the global hegemon by default, a role it never sought. The US currently holds about 25% of global GDP and maintains bases in disparate spots around the world. 


In some respects, the Cold War competition between the US and Western allies against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact was an economic contest to the finish line. 

The components of a vibrant economy – technology, intellectual power, patents, natural resources, efficient allocation of resources, etc. – favored the Western powers. Despite doubts about the market-oriented economy in darker periods of the Cold War, in the end, the Soviet Union was unable to compete. The massive US military buildup, and technological innovation like the Strategic Defense Initiative exhausted the decaying Soviet system by the mid-1980s. A revival of Western economic might undergirded victory in the Cold War. 


The US economy has stalled since the 2008 world financial crisis. Its GDP to debt ratio is 100% and growing. Employment participation in the labor force is the worse since the Great Depression. Bureaucratic regulations, onerous laws, and taxes continue to increase on business and individuals. Indeed, economic freedom is on a steady decline. The US now trails Estonia in the annual Index of Economic Freedom. While still the largest economy in the world, challenges abound both internally and externally. The global economy is in constant flux and preeminence is not a guarantee as former great powers can attest.


One of the unmistakable trends shaping the global economy is cited in the Global Trends 2025 report: China and India are going to dominate as economic powers in the near future. Inevitably the US share of the world economy will shrink. China and India’s dominance will heighten the transfer of wealth from West to East. The historical record demonstrates military power follows economic power. Global Trends 2025 also indicates conflict between the two rising Asia land powers in competition for resources. 


While economic power is a key determinant in global primacy, sustainability over the ages remains a constant challenge for great powers.

US economic,military, and political decline stem from both internal and external factors. Challenges loom, but the 21st century belongs to Asia. 


Global Security Truism – #3 Diplomacy doomed without credible threat of force

The two recent cases involving Syria and Iran underscore the need of credible force to back diplomacy. Jawing at the negotiation table, especially when confronted by inveterate foes, in absence of coercive instruments, is a fool’s errand.


The bloody Syrian civil war remains a tenuous stalemate which for now is a win for President Assad. His resort to using chemical weapons last year crossed a supposed “red line” set by the US administration. Red lines are sometimes not so red as the world has learned from the young president.

In September 2013, with domestic support at nil, the US backed off bombing Syria if Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons. Assad leaped to accept the offer with full-throttled support of Russia, its arms patron. Was this coercive diplomacy at work?


Syria and Russia both knew the US did not have the courage to follow through its hollow threat. Moscow shielded its arms customer from US attack. Plus, the credibility of the young president on the international stage five years into his administration was suspect.

While Assad agreed to give up his chemical stockpile, he is slow in compliance. There is no one to enforce his promise.  In February, Syria missed a crucial deadline to transfer more stocks out of the country. The consequence of not following through with his promise? Nothing.

While poking the international community in the eye by keeping nearly 95% of his chemical stock (for now), the “peace conference” on the Syrian civil war in Montreux, Switzerland, did not go better. The first round failed miserably even without agreement on a “humanitarian corridor” to besieged communities. Dictators do not suddenly decide to give up their power and privilege without a compelling reason. Backed by Moscow, Assad has no worries about Western military intervention beyond small arms shipments to the motley crew of rebels slowly losing the war against Damascus. No threat of force is on the negotiation table. 

The jumble of statements – blather – namely from Washington and the ever-shifting balance in favor of Damascus on the ground, while retaining its deadly chemical stockpile, allow Assad to muddle through with impunity. 


Inconsistencies in international diplomacy do not occur in isolation. The fumble in Syria did not go unnoticed by its ally Iran. 

The recent “breakthrough” in November 2013 to “freeze” Iran’s drive for military nuclear capability is non-consequential. The long and winding road of Iran nuclear talks proves it. Malevolent actors do not respect paper, only force. 

Iran will achieve nuclear breakout and continue to perfect its ballistic missiles to deliver weapons of mass destruction. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif emphatically told CNN in an interview that Iran “did not agree to dismantle anything.”

The latest deal with Iran is not backed by the credible use of force to compel compliance with any measure contained in the agreement. The complex web of nuclear sites (known and unknown) and the word of a terrorist regime are not comforting. The foundations for the agreement is porous. 

If Iran decides to nix the agreement tomorrow, there would be no consequence. Fundamental errors in diplomacy on such a treacherous issue of a nuclear program of a terrorist state cannot succeed on blind faith.


The cases of the Syrian civil war and chemical weapons stockpile and the Iranian military nuclear program prove that credibility and force are two keys to successful diplomacy between the civilized world and rogue states. 

Malevolent regimes in the past like today do not play by the rules. They set agenda. Assad can thumb his nose at the West with Russian support and interference at the negotiation table. Iran has a long history of talking, talking, and talking and agreeing, but then pulling back at the last second. Time is wasted, but the despot’s agenda of holding power and wielding it is advanced. 

Dictatorial regimes play the public relations game well, but in the end, have no intention to fulfill their promises. Unless another entity forces them to play by the rules.