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A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

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Archive for the ‘international relations’ Category

Tensions in NATO’s Afghanistan Mission: Canada Wants More Troops, US Paints Dire Picture, Germany on the Fence

Posted by K.E. White on January 30, 2008

Canada—who heads up NATO operations in Afghanistan—is becoming a bit antsy about its peacekeeping role. Earlier this month, a review of Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan—chaired by John Manley—demanded more NATO troops be sent or Canada should terminate its mission there.

Canada’s departure from the NATO mission could be a major blow to the alliance. From

“I think if NATO can’t come through with that help, then I think, frankly, NATO’s own reputation and future will be in jeopardy,” Harper told reporters after endorsing that recommendation from a panel headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley.

Canada, with roughly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, has lost 78 soldiers and one diplomat. All three opposition parties are pressuring Harper’s Conservatives to end Canada’s combat mission by no later than February 2009, with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois demanding an immediate withdrawal.



The response from other NATO countries? Not fantastic. From Spiegel Online:


Meanwhile, Germany‘s Green Party warned on Wednesday that the deployment of combat troops to northern Afghanistan could lead to the spread of the German mission to the volatile south of the country. Party defense spokesman Winfried Nachtwei told the Leipziger Volkszeitung that the Quick Reaction Force should not “open the door for the Bundeswehr in the south,” and that the government should “guarantee that the limits of the mandate up to now are maintained.” Nachtwei insisted that the combat troops should only be allowed to support troops in the north and not be sent to fight the insurgency.

The German media on Wednesday looked at the implications of the NATO request, which could see Germany further embroiled in Afghanistan.

How coalition partners react to the deteriorating situation is critical to American security. The Afghan-Pakistan border is a terrorist hotbed: threatening not only Afghanistan’s security, but that of the volatile–and nuclear armed–regime in Pakistan.


President Bush pledged to send additional American troops to Afghanistan during his State of the Union address:

“In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al-Qaida is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope.

“These successes must continue, so we are adding 3,200 Marines to our forces in Afghanistan, where they will fight the terrorists and train the Afghan army and police. Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida is critical to our security, and I thank the Congress for supporting America‘s vital mission in Afghanistan.”

A report released today paints a bleak picture in Afghanistan. From

The study by former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Marine Corps General James Jones is due to be released later on Wednesday.

“The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country,” it says.


Posted in Afghanistan, Canada, Foreign Policy, international relations, Manley, NATO | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Proliferation Press Dispatch: New America’s ‘Pakistan in Peril’ Roundtable

Posted by K.E. White on January 15, 2008

With attendees elbowing for space and some even relegated to the wonkish backwater of a TV screening room, four experts—Flynt Leverett, Peter Bergen, Nicholas Schmidle and Steve Coll—probed the troubled but essential partnership between America and Pakistan at The New America Foundation.

While differences on the sequence American policy towards Pakistan lingered, the gaggle found common ground on the big issues. The Bush administration’s policy towards Pakistan has been wrongheaded and wanting; emphasis must now be on riding out the February elections; and, finally, unconditional American aid must continue: not only to spur real Pakistani economic reconstruction, but to ensure an effective counter-terrorism strategy that will clamp down on the extremists threats posed to both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

And to make matters more difficult Benazir’s Bhutto’s recent assassination has only exacerbated Pakistan’s domestic unease, while some observers worry over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The US-Pakistan partnership is anything but a walk in Candyland.

The last six years of American policy towards Pakistan were seen by all the participants—though Schmidle agreement had to be implied—as a failure. Leverett—the harshest critic—took the administration to task for holding unreasonable expectations of Pakistan. He went to pains to flesh out the dire predicament the Bush administration leaders put by failing to capture Bin Laden and his associates in Afghanistan: hotheaded and intractable militants became Pakistan’s problem.

“Pakistan has probably performed more faithfully than the United States,” Coll stated in agreement to Leverett. He and Leverett did not hold a naïve view of Pakistan’s colored history. Rather they elevated Pakistan’s critical and productive role in America’s counter-terrorism strategy, while viewing short-sighted American policy over the last thirty years as worsening Pakistan’s domestic situation and relationship with America.

Peter Bergen did add a useful corrective to this Pakistani apologist line of though. If Iran developed nuclear weapons, contemplated selling a nuclear weapon or selling nuclear-weapons technology to North Korea and Iraq, Washington and Tehran would be at war.

These are all things Pakistan has done, all the while remaining a staunch American ally.

Such a contradiction illustrates the unique relationship between America and Pakistan. While Pakistan illegally developed nuclear weapons and proliferated nuclear technology, Musharraf’s response to 9-11 turned America and Pakistan into indispensable partners.

Pakistan needed military aid and economic reconstruction to beat back an Islamic threat and alleviate the severe poverty of this nuclear-weapons state. America needed an ally to help eradicate the Taliban and other Islamic extremists—a concern that trumped Pakistan’s past nuclear history.

Schmidle brought a unique, testimonial viewpoint to the discussion. Just deported after living in Pakistan for two years, Schmidle jocularly showed off his deportation notice while somberly telling listeners of his first hand experiences with Taliban militants.

He stressed two major themes. First he noted that a once scattered New-Gen Taliban has now come under the authority of one leader. Schmidle also saw Pakistan’s tribal areas turning away from Islamist parties to nationalist parties, a development that could pave the way for a successful counter-terrorism strategy in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. [For more details, go to the source: read Schmidle’s articles]

Looking forward, the discussion tackled to US policy quandaries: how best to calibrate a US-Pakistan counter-insurgency strategy, and whether the US pushing democratic reform would help or hinder Pakistan’s stability and capacity to clamp down on the Taliban.

Leverett stressed American strategy turn away from bilateral engagement in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. Instead regional coordination would increase the pressure on countries to fulfill their counter-terrorism strategies. But Coll doubted the payoffs of such an intensive diplomatic strategic investment, calling it a “very difficult strategy to carry out.”

Coll and Leverett also disagreed on promoting democracy in Pakistan.

“There is no evidence that democracy buys you anything in terms of the war on terror,” Leverett pronounced making clear illusion to failed attempts of the much maligned neo-con agenda.

But Bergen brought the obvious—while shallow—comparison between the histories of a turbulent Pakistan and its prosperous neighbor India. The difference? A firm commitment to parliamentary democracy and civilian rule.

Coll stressed the long history of failed, but real, attempts at Pakistani parliamentary democracy. “We’re not imposing democratic aspirations on Pakistan,” Coll claimed.

On forecasting Pakistan’s near-term future, the analysts were in wait and see mode. Election-fraud by Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf was bound to happen, but blatant voter manipulation would topple Musharraf—and he knows it (or should). The PPP will find success, and will aim to merge with Nawaz Sharif’s PML party to demand Musharraf’s ouster.

And regarding the Bhutto assassination controversy that has so animated Pakistan’s upcoming elections, the experts agreed that Musharraf’s version—that Bhutto was not killed by an assassin’s bullet—was true. Unfortunately Musharraf’s fabricated rush to judgment sapped whatever credibility he had left.

Pakistan political future now rests within the interplay between a new parliamentary majority dedicated to reform and an increasingly unpopular President. The wild card? Musharraf’s new pick for Army Chief of Staff—Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Will this American trained general emerge as a new Pakistani strong man? Or will Kayani work with a rancorous Parliament and dictatorial President to bring stability to a poor and divided nation, while executing a counter-terrorism strategy that defends America and Pakistan against international terrorism?

Posted in Flynt Leverett, international relations, Musharraf, New America Foundation, Nicholas Schmidle, Nuclear, Pakistan, Peter Bergen, Steve Coll, Terrorism, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mearsheimer On The Colbert Report

Posted by K.E. White on October 3, 2007

Prominent international relations scholar John Mearsheimer went on the Colbert Report last night. Anyone who has taken a class explaining the concept of “realism” has probably brushed across his name. His particular contribution in the field of IR theory has beenJohn Mearsheimer offensive realism.

He’s gained attention for writing the Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, a work that explores the influence of the “Israel Lobby” on American foreign relations. From the title, controversy over the book is easy to see. (This controversy has been protracted: while published this September, the book has been in development for years)

Mearsheimer’s recent book does bring up an interesting question for IR theory: why did this luminary of realism–a theory which holds that states are unitary actors with set interests–opt to study how an interest-group affects American foreign policy?

“Is Anybody Still a Realist?” Jeffrey Legro and Andrew Moravscik asked in 1999. (They argue for a new realist lens, so yes—somebody is still a realist)

Colbert, all jokes aside, did (lightly) critique Mearsheimer’s thesis buy bringing up American arm-deals to Arab nations like Saudi Arabia. And Colbert gave Mearsheimer ample time to explain/plug his book.

From the interview:


Mearsheimer: “Jews do not control out foreign policy. The lobby is a powerful influence on American foreign policy especially in the Middle East—nothing more, nothing less.”

Mearsheimer: “Our argument is that the United States should support the survival of Israel. If Israel’s survival is threatened, we should come to its aid. But otherwise we should treat Israel as a normal country. The way we treat Britain, France, India—other democracies.”

Colbert: “If we’re not going to cut off aid to them, should we at least stop sending them Christmas cards? Because they never send them back.”

Posted in Andrew Moravcik, international relations, IR, Is Anybody Still a Realist, Jeffrey Legro, John Mearsheimer, realism, Stephen Colbert, theory | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“[T]he Asian Century”: Kaplan and Chang Duke it Out

Posted by K.E. White on September 21, 2007

Is America slipping? Is this century Asia’s?

Robert Kaplan says yes.

Gordon Chang critiques.

Posted in America, Asia, Gordon Chang, international relations, IR, Robert Kaplan | Leave a Comment »