"American Unilateralism" as Insufficient Criticism

My academic advisor at Victoria University, Dr. Rob Ayson, recently posted an opinion on the Lowy Interpreter blog regarding multilateralism’s place in today’s international political environment. One quote:

“This is my problem: so many of the attacks on multilateralism are aimed at an almost mythically universal form which involves the maximum number of participants and is by that reason alone too cumbersome to deal with the issues that really matter.”

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6 – 12 JUNE Training Week; Stress on the Armed Forces

Things have been a little spotty this past week, but I did manage 60 miles in 6 days of training. I took a few days to recover by running easy from the dual challenge of my 20 miler last Saturday and Grace’s birth. But, I feel pretty good and am taking today off after a 13 miler yesterday that I ran at about a 7 minute pace through some less-than-optimal rain conditions (exacerbated by my shoes getting soaked within the first mile).

Additionally, the subtle graphics to the left indicate that I’ve signed up for the Wellington Marathon this coming Sunday. I don’t know what the weather will be like except to say that it is fairly likely that wind will be an ingredient. I’d like to run a 7 minute pace and finish at around the 3 hour mark, but my more important goal is to run healthy and consistently (or, with an even pace, perhaps even a negative split). This is less a competition for me and more a confidence building run a little over 2 months before my 50 mile showdown (and Western States 100 qualifier). So next week you should have an update – wish me luck!

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SEC DEF Robert Gates and His Truth Tour – Asia 1, NATO 0

Stephen Walt, a professor at Harvard, an author, and a frequent blogger at Foreign Policy, is great to read. I don’t agree with all of his analysis (its a hard realism that I don’t necessarily ascribe to), but he finds that sweet spot between wonk and common man that makes for great reading. His most recent post was about the end of the “American Era.”

I’m no great decline guy, and generally like to poke holes in the overstatements organic to these arguments [Note: I like to refer to this hyperbole as “Peak Americana” and its China corollary as “888 Myopia,” as in “every day in China is as perfect as the Opening Ceremonies to the Beijing Games on August 8, 2008.”]. Anyhow, Walt writes convincingly that the “American Era,” in which the US could do whatever we liked is coming to an end. Not completely, we’ll still be very important, but, there is reason to believe that the relative level of power/influence is tipping away from the US. Above is a graphic from The Economist that helps to imagine this shift (economically). So, Walt argues:

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Great Graphics


The way the Army “pencils in” strategy?

Produced by the Hertiage Foundation, a conservative think tank, but still interesting to note ~ the remarkable increase in entitlement spending compared with a corresponding decrease in defense spending. One huge point to note is that nobody has ever proven that X% of either category is “correct.” So, to read this chart and derive the conclusion that entitlement spending must go down so that defense spending can retake its rightful place ~ that would be a fairly shallow interpretation. There’s much more that goes into those two categories (i.e. entitlement spending can turn the “losers” in creative destruction into “winners.”) That said, again, interesting to note.

3 Myths and 3 Truths about New Zealand; My Daughter

My wife Rachel and I became parents a few days ago (although, one could argue that happened roughly 9 months ago, but it became much more real this past weekend). At left is a picture of our newborn daughter, Grace Victoria Cavanaugh. She was born at 1:36am on Sunday, June 5th in Wellington, New Zealand. She was 7 pounds, 2.5 ounces at birth, and you can see she had quite a bit of hair. Her mother is resting and both are very healthy and happy…this is…a real blessing. We’re very, very lucky parents, and look forward to a lot of enjoyable difficulty (I’m certain that will make sense to all that have children).

I’ve been thinking about New Zealand as a subject for some time now. I wrote a not-all-that-great paper comparing it to the United States when I first arrived, and my sense of the country has evolved over the past 9 months or so since arrival. In a nutshell, I think New Zealand is a great place to live and work, and I’m more and more happy with our decision to attend graduate school here with each passing day. However, like most countries, New Zealand is not all black (rugby pun intended) and white ~ it is, to a certain extent, a mess of gray. I arrived with a group of thoughts or notions, about what life is like in New Zealand. Some have proven true, and some have not panned out. Specifically, what follows are three “myths” and three “truths.”

Myth #1: New Zealand is a nuclear free zone.

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31 MAY – 5 JUNE Training Week; My Daughter; Blue and Gold Stars

This is a unique entry, one that I’m going to keep short, but for good reason. At left is a picture of my newborn daughter, Grace Victoria Cavanaugh. She was born at 1:36am on Sunday, June 5th in Wellington, New Zealand. She was 7 pounds, 2.5 ounces at birth, and you can see she had quite a bit of hair. Her mother, Rachel, is resting and both are very healthy and happy…this is…a real blessing. We’re very, very lucky parents, and look forward to a lot of enjoyable difficulty (I’m certain that will make sense to all that have children).

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"American Exceptionalism"

The Challenge
The phrase “American exceptionalism” keeps coming up while I’ve been abroad, and generally it seems to be used in a negative or even a pejorative sense. The phrase was first used by Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America in the 1830s:

“The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”

One recent example is from an article by Australian academic (and former government official) Hugh White. In an essay about China’s economic growth and resulting Australian choices (“Power Shift” in Quarterly Essay), White describes the United States:

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