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Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’

Predicting and Managing Liberal Revolutions: Two Articles from Foreign Policy Offer Guidance

Posted by K.E. White on June 27, 2011

Foreign Policy is running an excellent series that re-examines the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it’s lingering effects in its July/August Issue.

There are two pieces that make a particularly interesting joint-read:  Leon Aron’s ‘Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union is Wrong’ and Gennady Burbulis’ ‘Meltdown’.  The first knocks down structuralist explanations of the U.S.S.R.’s collapse, instead stressing the vexing variable of legitimacy (good luck making policy out of that!).  And Burbulis sounds a good old-fashioned path-dependency theme:  arguing that Russia’s path to revolution promised Putin’s half-baked liberal order.

Aron makes the argument that external pressures and internal economic woes were not the cause of the Soviet’s Union collapse.  Instead, it was elite-driven, “hesitant” liberalization that emptied the U.S.S.R.’s legitimacy.

The implications of this arguments, to me, seem clear:  (1) revolutions are difficult to predict, especially know since we’d substitute newspaper clippings with twitter-volume; (2) while may be supported external policies of other nations, can only be triggered by internally.

This, in other words, was a Soviet Union at the height of its global power and influence, both in its own view and in the view of the rest of the world. “We tend to forget,” historian Adam Ulam would note later, “that in 1985, no government of a major state appeared to be as firmly in power, its policies as clearly set in their course, as that of the USSR.”

Certainly, there were plenty of structural reasons — economic, political, social — why the Soviet Union should have collapsed as it did, yet they fail to explain fully how it happened when it happened. How, that is, between 1985 and 1989, in the absence of sharply worsening economic, political, demographic, and other structural conditions, did the state and its economic system suddenly begin to be seen as shameful, illegitimate, and intolerable by enough men and women to become doomed?

LIKE VIRTUALLY ALL modern revolutions, the latest Russian one was started by a hesitant liberalization “from above” — and its rationale extended well beyond the necessity to correct the economy or make the international environment more benign. The core of Gorbachev’s enterprise was undeniably idealistic: He wanted to build a more moral Soviet Union.

For though economic betterment was their banner, there is little doubt that Gorbachev and his supporters first set out to right moral, rather than economic, wrongs. Most of what they said publicly in the early days of perestroika now seems no more than an expression of their anguish over the spiritual decline and corrosive effects of the Stalinist past. It was the beginning of a desperate search for answers to the big questions with which every great revolution starts: What is a good, dignified life? What constitutes a just social and economic order? What is a decent and legitimate state? What should such a state’s relationship with civil society be?

Now juxtapose Aron with Burbulis’ (Michele A. Berdy trans.) article chronicling the failed coup attempt that resulted in the Soviet Union’s sudden liberal, and bumpy liberal consolidation:

A gradual transformation of the Soviet Union would have been manageable; the instant collapse caused by the coup was disastrous. The coup was the political Chernobyl of the Soviet totalitarian empire. Like the meltdown of a faulty nuclear reactor, the failed putsch blew the country apart, scattering the radioactive remnants of the Soviet system throughout the country. Within a month, the communist elites at every level had new jobs in state administrations and legislatures. They filled the ministries and threw themselves into business. The very people who had fought against the sweeping political and economic reforms we desperately needed were now running the organizations, businesses, and branches of government that were supposed to carry them out.

But it wasn’t just people who were scattered by the explosion. The body of an empire may collapse and the soul of its ideology may be cast aside, but its spirit lives on. In today’s Russia it persists in the revival of the belief in Stalin as a great leader, in the manipulated nostalgia for the false stability and power of the Soviet period, in xenophobia and intolerance, in the lack of respect for civil and human rights, in rampant corruption, in the imperial manner and mindset of some of our leaders and many of our citizens.

This is the poisonous legacy of those three days in August 20 years ago. It is worth revisiting the story now, not least because the putsch’s radioactive fallout has colored Russia’s memory of the putsch itself. The coup attempt deprived us of the opportunity to evolve gradually, to gain practical experience, to root out the vestiges of imperial thinking and behavior. It spoiled the promise of a democratic Russia before it had even begun.

From two very different perspectives (academic vs. eye-witness),  Aron & Burbulis make some memorable points.  First, while advanced democracies are being hit by the debt wave (and their debt politics appear drowning in immaturity), Aron points out that structural financial issues are only one slice of the geo-political order.  China is accruing its own liberal debt, and debt it will have to pay—one way or the other, and that will have a financial impact far greater than the U.S. debt ceiling.  But Burbulis makes clear that one comes after a liberal revolution is (1) impossible to control from the outside, (2) unpredictable and subject to fast-changing currents, and (3) may fall far short of  the hopes of its supporters.

But there’s one indisputable conclusion implicit in both these articles.  Those tasked with reading the tea-leaves of the international system have one hell of job.  How do we look ahead even 2 years when we’re still arguing about the U.S.S.R.’s collapse 20 years ago.

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Proliferation News Round Up: Sizing Up Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review

Posted by K.E. White on April 7, 2010

What does President Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review change?  The New York Times squarely answers this question—claiming that Obama has prudently constrained when the United States will deploy nuclear weapons:

The document substantially narrows the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons. The last review — done in 2002 by the George W. Bush administration — gave nuclear weapons a “critical role” in defending the country and its allies and suggested that they could be used against foes wielding chemical, biological or even conventional forces.

The new review says the “fundamental role” of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies, and it rules out the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries, even if they attack the United States with unconventional weapons.

There is an important caveat. That assurance only goes to countries that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which leaves out North Korea and Iran. It would have been better if Mr. Obama made the “sole” purpose of nuclear weapons deterring a nuclear attack. No one in their right mind can imagine the United States ever using a nuclear weapon again. America’s vast conventional military superiority is more than enough to defend against most threats.

Assuming the NPR holds diplomatic weight, how does Obama’s revision shape-up overall?

ForeignPolicy.com offers three takes on Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), all worth reading.  But all the articles—whether grading the NPR or highlight its surprising results—fail to properly place the NPR within Obama’s overall nonproliferation strategy.  While the review might not be as bold as some desire, it represents one step in the administration’s nonproliferation strategy.  With an upcoming nuclear security summit and NPT conference, the last thing the administration needs is controversy within the administration or the Hill over  Obama’s nuclear weapon policies.  Hence, assessing the NPR in a vacuum does little to map-out America’s nuclear policies at the end of Obama’s first (or second) term.

Peter Feaver writes on the NPR’s significance and uncertain legacy:

On balance, the NPR seems to be a split-the-difference compromise between different factions among Obama’s advisors. In this respect, it resembles the most important national security decisions President Obama has made thus far on Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics may complain that this results in a lack of strategic clarity — and some of the confusion that has attended the Iraq and Afghanistan policies shows that this danger is a real one — but perhaps it will come to be seen as a politically deft balance of competing desiderata. It is unmistakably a step away from the compromises struck during the Bush era, but I don’t see much evidence that this is the bold leap that wins plaudits in academic seminar rooms, activist think-tanks, and Norwegian parliaments.

David E. Hoffman highlights the plan’s shorting-comings.  Among his list:  Obama’s continued adherence to the nuclear triad and keeping nuclear missiles on alert; Obama’s refusal to tackle the problem of attribution (while he reserves to right to use nuclear weapons against biological threats, what happens when the source of the threat can’t be identified?); and finally, the nuclear posture review’s silence on tactical nuclear weapons.

And Josh Rogin, adding an interesting wrinkle, argues the NPR gives “star billing” to missile defense:

Later on in the document, the administration points to Russia and China’s nuclear modernization and notes that both countries view U.S. missile-defense expansion as destabilizing. Secretary Clinton addressed that issue in Tuesday’s press conference.

The NPR itself was careful to mention missile defense as only one of several capabilities needed to counter non-nuclear attacks.

But Secretary Clinton was less careful.

“It’s no secret that countries around the world remained concerned about our missile-defense program,” Clinton said, explaining that the NPR weighs in on “the role [missile defense] can and should play in deterring proliferation and nuclear terrorism.”

Ok, so now missile defense can deter chemical attacks, biological attacks, proliferation of nuclear technology, and suitcase bombs?

Regardless, the document makes clear that with fewer nukes to be deployed once the new START agreement goes into effect, and with the role of nuclear weapons now limited to responding to nuclear threats, the administration is now looking to missile defense, among other technologies, to fill in the gap.

Posted in Nuclear Posture Review | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

N-Deal for Pakistan? C. Christine Fair’s Editorial in Foreign Policy Magazine

Posted by K.E. White on March 23, 2010

Update 3/24/10:  Fair’s Foreign Policy editorial post-dates a similar editorial she wrote for the Wall Street Journal last month (subscription only).

C. Christine Fair suggests the United States take preliminary steps towards a nuclear deal with Pakistan.

The reward for such a policy?  Breaking the Pakistani regime’s ties to extremist organizations.

Could such a plan work?  Perhaps.  But there are many pitfalls.  Would opening Pakistan to the nuclear market-place really strengthen America’s bargaining power?  Or would we get short-term gain, and then watch in later years as Pakistan deals with other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group?  And what cost would America pay in its relationship with India or its efforts to strengthen non-proliferation norms if it even hinted at a U.S.-Pakistan nuclear deal?

In any case, any Obamaland discussion of this proposal seems unlikely for now.  With the State Department struggling to seal a new START treaty with Russia; Obama preparing for an international nuclear security summit latter this spring; and a once-every-five-years NPT review conference convening this summer, Obama’s nonproliferation agenda would–at best—be distracted with talk of another country-specific U.S. nuclear deal.

But Fair draws our attention to a critical and (perhaps) emerging U.S. foreign policy debate.  And any debate that links American security interests, Pakistan’s internal stability and global nonproliferation norms will expose thorny but unavoidable policy dilemmas.

Fair, a professor at Georgetown University, offers full-text links to a rich body of previously published works.  I particularly recommend Determinants of Popular Support for Iran’s Nuclear Program, India and the US:  Embracing a New Paradigm and Indo-Iranian Ties:  Thicker Than Oil.

From Fair’s article at ForeignPolicy.com:

Pakistan maintains that its dangerous policies are motivated by fears of India. A phased U.S. approach will either diminish this deep-seated insecurity or call Pakistan’s bluff about the rationale for its behavior, motivating the United States to rethink its handling of Pakistan. Either outcome would be an enormous improvement over the stagnant status quo.

Washington must transform its relations with Islamabad (and Rawalpindi, where Pakistan’s military is headquartered) with the same energy and creativity as it did with New Delhi because Washington needs both South Asian states as much as they need Washington. Such a conditions-based deal will take years to come to fruition even if dubious U.S entities and inveterate U.S. foes in Pakistan don’t stand in the way. Putting it on the table now would only be a first step in a strategic gamble that may or may not pay off down the road.

And from another article Fair wrote for Washington Monthly in April 2009:

The Need for Sober Realism

The United States needs to chart a different relationship with Pakistan, relying on different instruments of influence. It needs to lessen its dependence on Pakistan so it can be bolder in applying negative as well as positive inducements to shape Pakistani behavior. It needs to develop a suite of assistance that strengthens Pakistan’s governance capacity and the country’s ability to wage counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations effectively. And it needs to support Pakistani civil society as it debates the kind of country it wants to become and seeks to hold its government to account for its crimes of commission and omission. In the end, despite continued U.S. and international support and assistance along these lines, Pakistan may remain unwilling or unable to relinquish support for militant groups within its territory or in the region. In this case, the United States must be willing to consider Pakistan an ill-suited recipient of U.S. generosity and be willing to deploy punitive measures if need be. Indeed, a credible U.S. threat to apply these sticks may encourage the state to undertake needed steps to secure its own security and that of its neighborhood in the first instance.

Although this may seem untenable at first blush, the alternatives are even worse. If the international community cannot save Pakistan, and if it cannot save itself, then the United States and its partners will have to reorient their efforts toward containing or mitigating the various threats that emanate from Pakistan. This will be a daunting task. The enormity of such efforts should motivate Washington to adopt a realistic policy approach that mobilizes all aspects of U.S. national power to secure a Pakistan at peace with itself and its neighbors.

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Critical Mass: News from Around the Web

Posted by K.E. White on June 30, 2009

BBCNews on-line reports on the stifled diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program. Interesting highlight: “Currently [Iran] is under inspection by the IAEA, which has stated that there has been no diversion of inspected materials to any secret programme.”

Still dealing with the AQ Khan Network: Switzerland destroys nuclear documents from the illicit nuclear ring.

The Taliban have abrogated all peace deals with Pakistan. And C. Christine Fair insists that the key to stability in Iraq is an effective Pakistani police-force: “[T]he army can’t fix what ails the nation…The army’s past and recent track record in clearing and holding territory is not encouraging.”

Reuters probes China’s rhetorical shift on North Korea. Don’t expect any big policy changes, but China could be laying the ground work for bigger changes down the road: “…the overt expression of disenchantment suggests the Chinese government wants to prepare public opinion for harsher policies toward a country long lauded as a plucky communist friend.”

PONI launches Fissile Material—and today’s round-up is a must-read. Particular thanks for highlighting former UN inspector Charles A. Duelfer’s editorial on weapons inspections and the nuclear dilemmas of North Korea and Iran: “From the experience in Iraq, we have seen the ability of the international community to hide behind inspectors in some circumstances and to expect too much from them in others.”

Peter Wehner slams Obama for contradictory responses to developments in Honduras and Iran.

And check out Foreign Policy’s 2009 Failed State Index.

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Pakistan’s Nuclear (In)security: Fact or Fiction?

Posted by K.E. White on May 19, 2009

Fears over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal have flooded the wires. But how real is this threat?

NPR’s May 6th report paints a worrisome, but not catastrophic picture, of Pakistan’s nukes: stating that the arsenal is secure, but as long as extremists operate in and control more of Pakistan, the risk of theft becomes more likely.

Steven R. David considers the nuclear threat from Pakistan more dangerous than the Cuban missile crisis. He views Pakistan’s refusal to add US-manufactured safety devices and divulge, combined with the real possibility that the Pakistani military and government collapse, makes shoring up Pakistan’s civilian government and command-and-control procedures an American foreign policy imperative.

(Note: I believe David’s article betrays a facile reading of history regarding today’s Pakistan vs. yesterday’s Cuba. Vasili Alexandrovich Arkipov’s, Russian submarine B-59’s second captain, voted against the use of nuclear weapons even though in the face of intense U.S. depth-charging. Arkipov’s dissent from his ship’s captain and chief political officer “saved the world from a nuclear cataclysm.” [Michael Krepon’s Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb, page 36])

But Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at Center for American Progress, urges caution. He points to various reasons why the fear of the army collapsing, cooperating with extremists or the Pakistani state collapsing are overblown.

Korb’s key points:

  • “the Pakistani military, which numbers about 1 million soldiers, has enough brute force to prevent the Taliban from breaking out of the rural areas of the frontier provinces and into the heart of Pakistan
  • “It’s also important to note that Islamabad’s intelligence service, or ISI, which has been a renegade operation for nearly two decades, has been brought under the army’s control.
  • the Pakistani Army is composed mostly of Punjabis, and the Taliban insurgents are entirely Pashtun. Therefore, the army won’t let these insurgents, who they see as outsiders, take control of the heart of Pakistan (as opposed to the frontier areas) or the nuclear weapons.
  • The Pakistani Army jealously guards its reputation. In fact, it places a higher priority on its reputation and its interest than that of the country.”

Posted in Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Susan Burk Returns As U.S. Representative to the High Stakes 2010 NPT Review Conference

Posted by K.E. White on April 23, 2009

Update: Susan Burk’s confirmation is still held up after Sen. DeMint’s May 5th ‘hold’ on her nomination.

Summary: Obama has made it clear he sees the “sound” Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as critical to stemming nuclear weapons proliferation. So what will Obama’s bold nuclear moves-warming up to Russia on a new START treaty, calling for eventual nuclear weapons abolition, and bringing focus back to the NPT-yield? It’s too soon to tell. But the nomination Susan Burk as Special Representative reflects the high aims Obama has for the 2010 meeting. Below is a review of Burk’s testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and discussion of NPT 2010 meeting’s significance to Obamaland foreign policy.

Two key-if little noted-nominees for diplomatic roles in the Obama White House testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.  Ivo Daalder has been tapped for U.S. Representative on the NATO Council, and Sarah Burk has been nominated for U.S. Representative to the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

President Obama’s recently announced commitment[i] to revitalizing the NPT to stem nuclear proliferation brings Burk’s likely role special significance.

Burk, if confirmed, will play a major role in the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Held every five years, these meetings bring together the 188 treaty members to discuss nonproliferation and disarmament issues. With Iran inching closer towards nuclear weapons capability and North Korea reneging on its pledge to disarm, this meeting may be the last chance to exert multinational pressure on these rogue states.

NPT meetings have had a erratic track record. In 1995, with Susan Burk heading up Clinton’s delegation, the NPT treaty was renewed permanently. But the 2000 conference was marked more by what was avoided (fears of collapse in the wake of 1998 nuclear tests of Pakistan and India), and 2005’s has been considered “a near total fiasco.”[ii]

Iran, as a member of the NPT, holds a unique test for the treaty regime. While Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have developed nuclear weapons since the treaty’s ratification, none were members of the NPT (North Korea left the organization before developing its limited nuclear weapons capability). Iran crossing the nuclear line would represent the treaty’s largest failure-and call into question its grand bargain of nonproliferation in return for peaceful nuclear technology sharing and eventual nuclear weapons disarmament.

Susan Burk’s opening statement offers a concise review of the Obama administration nonproliferation policy aims and the challenges it faces as it heads into the 2010 NPT Review Conference. The administration has an ambitious agenda, calling for:

continue reading article

Posted in NPT | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Echoes From A Cold War

Posted by proliferationpresswm on March 30, 2009

posted by Bob Noziglia

Reports have made clear that the Obama administration will continue military strikes against terrorist sites in Pakistan. This holdover from the Bush administration demands we ask what just is going on in Pakistan and why America has wedged itself into Pakistan internal border disputes. Bob Noziglia explores these questions and Pakistan’s self-defeating liberal tendencies, which demand the continued presence of robust American military support. 

 

It must be a dire situation indeed when Russia, with its own nuclear armament history, to be concerned about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  Let us remember that not too long ago it was Russia, which after the Cold War ended in the disintegration of the Soviet Union, had nuclear submarines rusting in unsecured ports; and a fire-sale on all equipment. 

It is also important to note the silence that, until now, Russia has had towards the operations regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This comes from the haunting memories similar to our Vietnam when they attempted to expand Soviet territory. 

It is then with new eyes we must re-examine Pakistan and Afghanistan while both have their own qualities that make efforts for reconstruction a slow and complicated process, they are linked by more than geographical boundaries. 

While it was not profoundly mentioned when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last year, it was during her first tour as Prime Minister of Pakistan that she supported the rise of the Taliban, which was then one of many forces seeking to benefit from the Soviet’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Bhutto felt it was better to have a strict Islamic state next door because it would allow them to concentrate on somehow defeating India for the territory of Kashmir.  This decision combined with the military’s hands off approach regarding the tribal areas however would cause dire consequences, as these are where her assassins most likely came from. 

With an outpouring of support because of the death of his wife, it was “Mr. 10%” Zardari who ascended to the political throne with a promise of political unity with another deposed President due to corruption, Sharrif.  This of course became a political crisis for the same reason that toppled Musharraf’s government, the topic of reinstating judges banned from their duties under dubious charges. 

The failsafe within Pakistan has been that if things were to get too bad, the military would flex political muscle and be able to step in and have confidence with the people of making things right. 

Recent events, however, have eroded the populace’s confidence dramatically.  The recent attacks of fundamentalists against the military near the border regions has left many with the impression that the Military is in fact just as incompetent as their civilian counterparts. 

Combined with the many perceived and real failures of Musharraf in Pakistan, the military credibility is also at its lowest point.  When one also considers new revelations that the military had tangential relations with those behind the attacks in Mumbai, one has a renewed sense of urgency. 

What makes this situation precarious is that many of the leadership in Pakistan are schooled in the West, especially so of their judicial branch.  With this they have come to expect and desire separate but equal branches of government and the fundamental right of law. 

These are qualities to be aspired to no question, but there also needs to be a tradition of legitimacy to that government.  Control over ones borders and checks and balances making sure that no power, however pervasive becomes dominate. 

It is these two qualities-recognized balance between government branches and border integrity-that appear to be lacking in Pakistan.  The tribal regions linking Pakistan and Afghanistan have been left to their own devices for decades.  A definition of a government is to be the ultimate authority of a given territory.  For all intents and purposes Pakistan has been a country divided by its government’s apathy to maintain that authority.  With Fundamentalist having secured a base of operations that the Government of Pakistan is afraid to confront, and jealously uses sovereignty to prevent others from attacking, these fundamentals represent a great threat. 

Should another civilian led government fail, these fundamentals could represent the most cohesive and unified political and military force in the country.  With raised expectations of a government led by a unified government, and the military now placed in a decidedly supportive role, the margin of error razor thin. 

It is then we will see a country run by a fundamentalist government, one which has ties to those responsible for the attacks in 2001 have nuclear capabilities, and the desire to proliferate and use those weapons.  This is something that can not be allowed to happen, and would be a just cause to intervene in the internal politics to make sure such a scenario does not occur. 

Pushing for accountability of Pakistan’s leadership is recognition of the dangerous dynamics that exist.  The United States should take the position of assisting the Pakistani military against those in the tribal regions.  This in conjunction with maintaining a coalition within Pakistan that would seek to maintain Pakistan as a country guided by the Principles of Islam, without the xenophobia or fundamentalist principles that terrorist groups have allowed to corrupt the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Ultimately, this is a problem that can only be defeated by the people of Pakistan.  The United States has historically been a country which held to the principle of self determination, we must offer our assistance to aid Pakistan so that they may be able to live up to the definition of their country; Land of the Pure.

Posted in Pakistan, Pakistan fundamentalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Russia Rearms: Why is the Bear Roaring?

Posted by K.E. White on March 17, 2009

President Dmitry Medvedev announced a “large scale rearming” of Russia’s conventional and nuclear forces in 2011. 

The NYTimes portrays it as a mix of diplomatic posturing for Medvedev’s meeting with Obama and the response to Russian military weaknesses shown in the recent Georgia-Russian war. The Guardian heralds the new arms race, putting blame squarely on America’s maximalist foreign policy. And Canda.com views the announcement as geared more towards the Russian public. 

In short, the move is not welcome news—but it’s not entirely unexpected. And its meaning will take form over this year. Medvedev has drawn various lines in the sand: moves towards having airbases in Cuba, setting up bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, helping rid of an American base in Kyrgyzstan, and now a rearmament announcement. Keep in mind, Russia has for years protested expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe–and drew a bloodly red line in Georgia.

And let’s not ignore another possible cause of this announcement: the economic crisis. Russia may be signaling that current economic woes will not change their strategic objectives. 

But one thing is clear: The US-Russian relationship is entering a critical phase, and the Obama administration must tread carefully.  

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Obamaland Foreign Policy: Bush Doctrine Dolled Up or Courageous Return to Realism?

Posted by K.E. White on March 16, 2009

With over fifty days in, how has Obamaland defined their approach to foreign policy?

Defining Obama & Co.: What is the adminstration's worldview how has the administration performed on foreign policy? Experts seem split on both fronts.

 

Three different takes on Obama’s first foreign policy moves.

Fareed Zakaria shows support for Obama’s foreign policy moves, and argues that both liberal and (neo)conservative critics share a similar flaw: a “maximalist” and myopic view of American foreign policy. From Zakaria’s Newsweek article:

Consider the gambit with Russia. The Washington establishment is united in the view that Iran’s nuclear program poses the greatest challenge for the new administration. Many were skeptical that Obama would take the problem seriously. But he has done so, maintaining the push for more effective sanctions, seeing if there is anything to be gained by talking to the Iranians, and starting conversations with the Russians. The only outside power that has any significant leverage over Tehran is Russia, which is building Iran’s nuclear reactor and supplying it with uranium. Exploring whether Moscow might press the Iranians would be useful, right?

Wrong. The Washington Post reacted by worrying that Obama might be capitulating to Russian power. His sin was to point out in a letter to the Russian president that were Moscow to help in blunting the threat of missile attacks from Tehran, the United States would not feel as pressed to position missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic—since those defenses were meant to protect against Iranian missiles. This is elementary logic. It also strikes me as a very good trade since right now the technology for an effective missile shield against Iran is, in the words of one expert cited by the Financial Times’s Gideon Rachman: “a system that won’t work, against a threat that doesn’t exist, paid for with money that we don’t have.”

The problem with American foreign policy goes beyond George Bush. It includes a Washington establishment that has gotten comfortable with the exercise of American hegemony and treats compromise as treason and negotiations as appeasement. Other countries can have no legitimate interests of their own—Russian demands are by definition unacceptable. The only way to deal with countries is by issuing a series of maximalist demands. This is not foreign policy; it’s imperial policy. And it isn’t likely to work in today’s world.

But Commentary’s Abe Greenwald considers “[t]he Bush Doctrine alive and well” in Obamaland. From his recent article, ‘The Doctrine of Fakism’:

That’s because the most distinguishing feature of the new mushy realism is that it’s shamelessly fake. Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly believe that, “The best way to advance America’s interest in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions,” because she can’t even explain what that means.  Barack Obama does not believe (at least not now) that Iran can be talked out of the bomb any more than he intends to “end” the Iraq War, and John Kerry doesn’t think, “we have an opportunity to reshape the way the United States does business with the world.” These fakists have settled on a language to use in public and this is it. Global, interconnected, diplomatic, sustainable, endurable, smart, multilateral, non-ideological. You know — Obamese. The biggest change Barack Obama has brought to American politics is linguistic. Leaders are now required to create cuddly, meaningless word salads while continuing the implementation of aggressive policies.

The Bush Doctrine is alive and well.  This is because George W. Bush was not, as Clintonand Kerry imply, too blinded by ideology to be pragmatic. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said of smart power, “This is not a radical idea. The ancient Roman poet Terence, who was born a slave and rose to become one of the great voices of his time, declared that ‘in every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first.’” But she didn’t need to reach back to the second century B.C. to make her point. She could have simply adduced the behavior of the current President. Before attacking Afghanistan, President Bush pleaded both directly and through back channels with the Taliban in hopes that they would hand over Osama bin laden. Before going into Iraq, the President got the UN Security Council to pass a cycle of extra resolutions aimed at getting Saddam to disclose his weapons and weapons programs without having to go the military route. In both cases, Bush doggedly sought UN approval for action – something Hillary Clinton’s husband did not secure before launching operations in Haiti, the Balkans, and Iraq.

The ‘right’/unstatisfying answer: We don’t know. Obamaland’s public moves to date have been devoted to putting out fires from the Bush administration (Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and Pakistan). And, like any astute triage approach calls for, the White House is using what works: (perhaps) pushing back on missile defense to gain Russian support on Iran, while simultaneously going with hard power in Afghanistan. Now how far Obama pushes nonproliferation, how he enlists Russian and Chinese support against terrorism and nuclear weapon-proliferators and crisis management are some of the barometers that will–in time–reveal Obamaland’s foreign policy framework.

And even then Obama could always do a Reaganesque flip.

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North Korea Update: Clinton Expected to Name Stephen Bosworth As U.S. Special Envoy

Posted by proliferationpr on February 12, 2009

Reuters reports that Stephen Bosworth will be named U.S. envoy to the six-party talks, taking the role Christopher Hill played in the Bush administration from 2005-2008. 

Learn more about Stephen Bosworth, and check out Reaching Out to Pyongyang—a May 12th, 2008 Newsweek article Bosworth co-authored with Morton Abramowitz.  (Update: In Reaching Out to Pyongyang, Bosworth & Abramowitz call for a long-term strategy towards North Korea that looks beyond soley denuclearization–and push for gradual steps towards diplomatic normalization with the Kim Jong-il regime. While this perscription may not seem trailblazing, it takes regime change  off the table.)

Bosworth’s appointment would fill-out Obama’s team for the nuclear-charged Korean peninsula—where previous diplomatic breakthroughs have hit snags.

Stephen Bosworth now works as Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and previously served as ambassador to the Republic from Korea under the Clinton administration.

Notes: Sum Kim currently serves as Special Envoy to the Six Party talks, taking the post in July 2008. And Christopher Hill has been slated as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq

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