The nonpartisan Center for U.S. Global Engagement released a new poll this morning, examining the attitudes of active and recently retired military officers toward non-military tools such as diplomacy and development. The survey found that a "significant majority of officers surveyed embrace a new paradigm in which strengthened diplomacy and development assistance are important companions to traditional military tools for achieving America's national security goals."
Intrigued, I dug up FP's U.S. Military index from the March/April edition, which surveyed active and retired officers on the current state of the U.S. military. While the polls were designed with different aims in mind, I found an interesting discrepancy between two smiliar sections.
From the Center for U.S. Global Engagement:
In evaluating steps the United States could take to achieve our strategic goals and improve national security, officers in our survey rank “strengthening our diplomatic efforts and cooperation with other countries” (83% very/fairly high priority) on par with “increasing counter-insurgency training for our troops” (87%) and “improving our military’s rapid response capabilities” (81%).
Below is a list of things that could potentially assist the U.S. military in winning the Global War on Terror. Please choose the TWO most important things you believe the United States government must do to win the war on terror.
31% More robust diplomatic tools
73% Improve intelligence
21% Increase the size of U.S. ground forces
19% Increase the number of troops with foreign language skills
38% Further increase the size of Special Operations Forces
13% Develop a cadre of operational, deployable civilian experts
14% Increase spending on economic development assistance programs
While the officers polled in the Center for U.S. Global Engagement survey seemed to place diplomacy on the same tier as the use of force, the FP index ranks diplomacy as a distant third. What explains the disparity? Several factors could be at work.
First, the two polls have different demographics. The Center for U.S. Global Engagement surveyed 606 commissioned officers, including 499 active duty offices and 107 who retired since Sept. 11, 2001. FP, on the other hand, polled more than 3,400 officers, 71 percent of whom had retired more than 10 years ago. It's likely the older officers may support more traditional military methods.
More significantly, the Center for U.S. Global Engagement survey allowed officers to rate each strategy in terms of priority, but FP forced respondents to choose the two most important. My guess is that limiting the options forced officers to make a deliberate decision, and when faced with a hard choice the officers chose traditional methods and force over the non-military tools that the Center for U.S. Global Engagement poll highlights.
I'd be curious to see how the results of the Center for U.S. Global Engagement poll would have looked if respondents were faced with the same constraints as the FP index. I'm also curious if this "hard choices" theory explains how budgetary decisions (funding force over diplomacy) are made.
As the "elite 8" wrapped up an 18-course dinner in Hokkaido earlier this week, members of the developing countries summit, or "D-8," were also focusing on food -- or rather, the lack of it. Leaders of member nations Indonesia and Malaysia spoke out Wednesday about the need to curb biofuel production. Indonesian Prime Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was blunt:
The idea is to reduce greenhouse gases and to wean themselves away from dependence on fossil fuels... It is not a good idea: it has only worsened the global food crisis."
Yudhoyono knows a thing or two about this problem firsthand. Indonesia has lost vast swathes of rainforests due to the production of palm oil, an increasingly popular biofuel. But while a little hypocrisy might make his words ring hollow, it doesn't make him wrong.
As FP's own Editor in Chief Moisés Naím tells us, increased food demand from developing countries is hardly to blame for the global food crisis. The real culprit is biofuel production, he aruges, and the government policies that promote it at the expense of crops for human consumption. Biofuels may account for as much as 75 percent of the global increase in food prices since 2002, according to the latest World Bank estimate.
The G-8, to its credit, had something to say about the crisis. Problem is, as usual the group didn't address the real policy problem -- it only "requested" that developed countries open their food stockpiles. Quick fixes, though, aren't going to feed the hungry for long. G-8 countries need to brainstorm feasible, long-term policies. Here's a healthy start: Stop dumping millions of dollars into subsidizing biofuels before this man-made disaster spins out of control.
The White House is scrambling to contain a diplomatic fiasco after an official briefing book distributed to reporters at this week's G8 summit contained a not very flattering description of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his country that was apparently culled from an online encyclopedia:
"Berlusconi was one of the most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for governmental corruption and vice,'' reads the profile. Primarily a businessman with massive holdings and influence in international media, he was regarded by many as a political dilettante who gained his high office only through use of his considerable influence on the national media until he was forced out of office in 2006.''
The profile goes on to say that Berlusconi is is "despised by many but respected by some for his bella figura [beautiful image]."
We may have taken a few shots at Berlusconi around here, but obviously this is no way for the White House to treat the U.S.'s staunchest European ally. And if they must, at least do it right and make fun of his tan.
While President Bush is spending his birthday week with "smart guy" Dmitry Medvedev, his secretary of state is embarking on you might call a tour of the front lines of Western-Russia tension. Tomorrow, Secretary Rice travels to Prague to formally sign an agreement on the construction of a U.S. missile-defense radar system in the Czech Republic. Later in the week, she heads to Georgia, an American ally locked in a standoff with Russia over its increasingly violent breakaway provinces.
Russia strongly opposes the building of the missile-defense shield and the Foreign Ministry has warned that "appropriate steps" will be taken to punish the Czechs. Since the Russians' amped-up support for the Georgian provinces began as retaliation for Western recognition of Kosovo, it's safe to assume they don't make such threats idly. But compared with historically unstable Geogia, there's not much Russia could do to push around the Czech Republic, a country where Moscow hasn't held much sway since the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
In fact, it's clear Czech leaders are excited to be under the U.S. military's protective wing, and the same goes for Georgia's efforts to join NATO. Poland, which the U.S. hopes will also host part of the missile defense system, is still holding out, but that seems to be mostly about the Poles negotiating a better deal.
These countries, even if purely for cynical reasons, see cooperating with the U.S. as a strategic advantage. Russia, on the other hand, only seems to influence other nations by undermining their governments or shutting off their energy supplies. This can work in bordering countries like Georgia or Ukraine, but places like the Czech Republic and Poland no longer have to fear Russian tanks rolling down the street.
There's a lesson here: For all the talk of the Putin/Medvedev tandem's international assertiveness, they seem to lose a lot more battles than they win. And despite everything that has gone wrong in the last eight years, the United States still seems to be much better at making and keeping friends than the Russians.
Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and new Russian President Dimitry Medvedev met for the first time today at the G-8 Summit in Japan, on the heels of a report that British security forces consider Russia the third most serious threat facing the country.
According to The Times of London, only al Qaeda's terrorist threat and Iran's nuclear program are seen to be more dangerous:
The services are understood to fear that Russia's three main intelligence agencies have flooded the country with agents, The Times understands. There is reported to be deep irritation within the services that vital resources are having to be diverted to deal with industrial and military espionage by the Russians
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since the 2006 poisoning of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London, allegedly at the hands of an ex-KGB agent whom Russia refuses to extradite. The issue apparently caused a row between Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin at last year's G-8 summit, and was a topic of disucussion at today's talks.
No word so far as to whether Brown and Medvedev have hit it off better than their predecessors, only that there were some "sharp exchanges" between the two.
In the harshest criticism yet of the stolen election in Zimbabwe, neighboring Botswana called today for the African Union to ban Mugabe from its meetings:
In our considered view, it therefore follows that the representatives of the current government in Zimbabwe should be excluded from attending SADC (Southern African Development Community) and African Union meetings," a text of summit remarks by Vice President Mompati Merafhe said.
"Their participation in the meetings of the two organisations would give unqualified legitimacy to a process which cannot be considered legitimate."
"Botswana's position is that such a scenario would be unacceptable."
Unconfirmed reports claim that Nigeria has also refused to recognize Mugabe's government.
Botswana's stand came during closed-door proceedings today at the AU summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. It remains to be seen what effect it will have on Zimbabwe, but it's good to see that some rulers in Africa appear to be showing a little spine.
They'll need it. Mugabe has been defiant over last Friday's fraudulent election, where he was the only candidate running and many citizens were threatened with violence if they did not vote for the 84-year-old ruler. Responding to international criticism today, a Mugabe spokesman told the United States and other Western states to "go hang a thousand times."
This may be the fresh approach American foreign policy has been looking for. According to The Miami Herald, U.S. Amb. James Cason has become a singing sensation in Paraguay after learning the native Guaraní language and recording an album of indigenous folk songs.
Cason, who became ambassador to Paraguay in 2005, has become quite the hit. His songs are in heavy rotation on local radio stations and he drew 1,000 to a sold-out downtown concert. He's used the proceeds from the concert and album sales to raise over $20,000 for English-language education scholarships, gaining plenty of attention from the locals along the way:
He's been on TV and in all the newspapers,'' said Nelson Viveros, 16, who traveled to meet the ambassador recently in Encarnación, by the Argentina border. "It's strange, but people love it.''
Not everyone is convinced. One Paraguyan senator, who has asked Paraguay's legislature to denounce Cason, said the diplomat "sings horribly and his pronunciation of Guaraní words is stammering. It is an offense to the Paraguayan people."
The U.S. embassy in Cairo is a fortress-like compound, sequestered in the leafy, decaying neighborhood of Garden City along the east bank of the Nile. Merely to stand before the outer blast wall, you have to pass through a security checkpoint and explain your business.
But maybe the U.S. mission to Egypt isn't as impregnable as it seems. A body was recently discovered on the embassy's lush grounds, and Margaret Scobey, the new U.S. ambassador, has demanded a full-scale investigation. The body was sent out for autopsy to experts in Cairo and swiftly returned to the United States for burial.
Thing is, it's the ambassador's dog that we're talking about, not a person. The animal might have died accidentally after eating poison intended for feral cats. But Scobey wants to make sure, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reports:
Americans in Egypt say that the ambassador's state of extreme anger has forced the embassy's security to cooperate [with] Egyptian authorities in spending considerable time on proving that the incident was not a premeditated attack and that the embassy's security measures, employees and the ambassador's home and household are safe. After all, a successful attempt to murder the ambassador's dog sends a message that it is possible to commit the same crime against Americans working at the ambassador's home or against the ambassador herself.
(Hat tip: Brian Whitaker)
Still reeling from Irish voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last week, EU bigwigs are now focusing on the Czech Republic, another country that has yet to ratify the treaty and appears in no hurry to do so. Badly in need of a victory, French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Prague yesterday in a likely futile bid to try to nudge the reluctant Czechs to ratify as quickly as possible.
There are a few reasons to be skeptical about Lisbon's chances in the Czech Republic. First, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, though mostly a ceremonial figure, is one of Europe's leading EU skeptics and said last week that Irish voters should be congratulated for defeating what he called an "elitist artificial project."
More importantly, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who nominally supports the treaty, is taking heat from within his fragile center-right coalition and will likely stall ratification as long as possible. There's also speculation that Topolánek and his party are trying to stall ratification until after the Czechs get their crack at the EU presidency in January. (Under the new treaty, meetings would be chaired by the new, permanent European Council president, not rotating member states.)
France's hard-sell tactics may also be backfiring. Diplomats say that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's involvement in the lead-up to the Irish vote was counterproductive for the "yes" camp there. And Czech politicians aren't happy about Sarkozy's diplomatic offensive.
It certainly makes sense that the Irish and the Czechs don't appreciate being pushed around by "old Europe." But I find it ironic that two of the countries that have benefited the most from EU membership might be shutting the door on its future development.
This is what it's like to be the envoy of a lame duck. Time's Tim McGirk reports from Israel on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's latest trip:
On Sunday, Rice just passed through Jerusalem again. Ghosted through might be a better description since this time there was no fanfare, no motorcades snarling up the city’s traffic, and the lady couldn't even book a room in her usual hotel, the David Citadel. She had to settle for a less grand hotel, though admittedly it wasn't one of those pilgrim fleapits in the Old City. But for me, that's a sign of how far how far her superpower status has fallen in the dwindling days of Bushdom.
McGirk also notes that Condi's name is now being used as a verb on Israeli television, "meaning to go endlessly around in circles, accomplishing nothing."
As European leaders are trying to come to terms with Ireland's stunning rejection of the revised EU treaty, they would be wise to listen to Charlie McCreevy:
The treaty refers to sub-paragraphs of former sub- paragraphs and other documents and there is no person this side of Timbuktu who would be in a position to understand it,'' Ireland's representative on the EU commission, Charlie McCreevy, told reporters in Dublin. While McCreevy backs the treaty, he said he hasn't read it.
The irony here is that the new treaty would actually make the European Commission, often accused of being opaque and antidemocratic, more accountable, not less. A pity advocates weren't able to communicate that more effectively.
With airfares continuing to skyrocket and all the bad news about airlines going bankrupt, there's actually one potential bright spot in the world of air travel: China and Taiwan are holding official talks about the possibility of charter flights across the Taiwan Strait. Led by Chiang Pin-kung (right), chairman of the quasi-governmental Straits Exchange Foundation, a 19-member delegation from Taiwan arrived in Beijing Wednesday for four days of discussions. Relations between the two sides have warmed considerably since Ma Ying-jeou, who favors closer ties with the mainland, was elected president of Taiwan in March.
This week's talks are the first time in nearly a decade that there have been formal negotiations between China and Taiwan. It's not Chiang's first visit to Beijing, though. Three years ago, I interviewed him in Taipei shortly after he returned from Beijing, where he was visiting as a member of Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) party (but not as an official from Taiwan's government -- a fine distinction that's all too important in delicate cross-Strait relations). His visit was frowned upon by then-President Chen Shui-bian, who was in favor of the island's independence. Chiang told me that his goal was to develop relations with the mainland in a way that would benefit Taiwan's economy, and not to get overly bogged down in politics. But now with a KMT president in office, he's free to engage in both politics and economics.
This week's talks will probably focus exclusively on economic ties, however. Polls show that Taiwanese prefer to maintain the status quo of de facto independence, but want the economic opportunities that closer ties with China will provide. And the Chinese are not about to do anything drastic politically -- not with all international eyes on them after the earthquake and ahead of the Olympics in August. So, for this round, just expect lots of handshakes, photo ops, and quite possibly, a little more friendliness in the skies.
Incredibly, the situation is Zimbabwe grows ever more outrageous. There is simply no doubt that the runoff election on June 27 is going to be stolen by Mugabe's thugs. Opposition rallies have been banned. Aid organizations have been shuttered and diplomats detained. In a country on the brink of famine, authorities yesterday confiscated food aid earmarked for starving children and doled it out to Mugabe's supporters instead. Jails are being emptied to make room for opposition troublemakers -- anything to intimidate people away from polls (as if top generals weren't already doing a fine job of that). Abductions, beatings, and torture are commonplace since opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai bested President Mugabe at the polls in March.
But where are the outraged public statements? Hitchens is right: A denunciation from Mandela would boom in this enviroment, as would the pope's. (Good to see Desmond Tutu calling Mugabe's regime a "nightmare" yesterday.) South Africa's Mbeki has shown himself spineless in denouncing Mugabe's actions, and this recent statement by President Bush is simply not going to cut it. The polite applause Mugabe earned on his recent trip to Rome was just too much.
What's Bush got to lose? He should be out there every day condemning the brutalization of Zimbabwe's opposition and the inevitability that the country simply won't get anything approaching a free and fair election on June 27. What's preventing him -- or anyone else in a position of power -- from doing more than just throwing stern glances in Mugabe's direction?
Here's an interesting excerpt from The China Diary of George H.W. Bush: The Making of a Global President. This is Bush writing on Saturday, November 20, 1974:
Kissinger is an extremely complicated guy. He is ungracious, he yells at his staff, he is intolerable in terms of human feelings. Dictatorial. 'Get people here.' 'Have those people here,' 'Where are they?' 'Why do I need these papers?' 'Where are my papers?' And yet all those petty little unpleasant characteristics fade away when you hear him discussing the world situation. He comes alive in public. Walk up the steps and the salute rings out from the PLA guard. He literally is so alive within, you can see it on the outside very clearly. He is like a politician with a roar of a crowd on election eve or the athlete running out at the 50-yard line just before the kickoff. The public turns him on.
"He does a first-class job on that whole press operation," Bush assesed. But "clearly he is not an administrator."
The book, edited by Texas A&M historian Jeffrey A. Engel, comes out next Wednesday.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright fears that it is:
THE Burmese government's criminally neglectful response to last month's cyclone, and the world's response to that response, illustrate three grim realities today: totalitarian governments are alive and well; their neighbors are reluctant to pressure them to change; and the notion of national sovereignty as sacred is gaining ground, helped in no small part by the disastrous results of the American invasion of Iraq. Indeed, many of the world's necessary interventions in the decade before the invasion — in places like Haiti and the Balkans — would seem impossible in today’s climate.
I'm not so sure Burma represents the best test case here. Can we really imagine a Haiti-style intervention in one of the world's most xenophobic countries? We're not talking about a failed state here, but a paranoid, Stalinist military junta that would need to be violently shoved aside in order for a Haiti-like receivership to take hold.
There's another thing Albright doesn't take into account: the China factor. Guess who is not too enthusiastic about humanitarian intervention in places like Burma, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and guess who's vastly more powerful than in the 90s?
UPDATE: Yglesias chimes in.
As someone who used to live near the rodent-infested, abandoned embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), I'm glad to see that the Washington Post is finally shining a light on the shameful local practice of countries abandoning parts of their diplomatic missions and allowing them to fester. Aside from the DRC, Pakistan, the Philippines, Malawi, the United Arab Emirates, Liberia, Malaysia, Bosnia, Argentina, Niger, and Togo, are all guilty, according to the Post.
But it doesn't have to be this way:
Developer Jim Abdo bought Ghana's vacant diplomatic residence -- rain was "cascading" through the roof when he visited, he said -- and turned it into his home. He paid a consultant to fly to Nigeria to persuade the country's leaders to sell him their shell of a mansion in Massachusetts Heights.
Abdo paid $3.2 million for the estate, including a family of raccoons scampering about its four floors. After a massive renovation that included a new swimming pool, he is selling the mansion for $6.95 million.
The raccoons have moved out.
On the subject of international media reactions to Obama's win, Le Monde's Corine Lesnes practically swoons over the Illinois senator, placing him in the same category as Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. Noting Obama's multinational family tree and appeal around the world, she also calls him America's first "global candidate." She can't help but note that "he doesn't speak any foreign languages (except Indonesian)," however.
It makes sense that a French newspaper article would be the first place I had ever seen the presidential candidates' foreign-language skills mentioned. But given that I already know more about Obama's basketball skills and the condition of John McCain's prostate than I ever really wanted to, it seems like this would have come up at some point. After a little Googling I found that Obama told The Hill that in addition to Indonesian, he speaks "a little Spanish." As far as I can determine, McCain doesn't speak any languages.
The leader of the free world probably doesn't actually need to know foreign languages to have a good grasp of foreign affairs (and for what it's worth, I've personally witnessed Nicolas Sarkozy attempt English and it wasn't pretty) but it might be something to keep in mind the next time candidates get all sanctimonious about educating America's youth to compete in the global economy.
It's easy to identify a global crisis, but much more difficult to resolve it when all parties act exclusively in their own self-interest.
At the U.N. food summit in Rome, heads of state and other global leaders met today to address skyrocketing global food costs. Among those in attendence? Zimbabwe's President-for-life Robert Mugabe, who should know a thing or two about food crises.
There was little disagreement about how to resolve the spiraling costs of food and its impact on the world’s poor: more food aid to feed the world's hungry, additional seeds and fertilizer for poor farmers, fewer export bans and tariffs that restrict the flow of trade, and more research to improve crop yields.
Unsurprisingly, there was strong disagreement over the key causes of rising global food prices, particularly with regard to the so-called food vs. fuel argument.
When developing countries blamed shortages on the transferring of crops from food to biofuels, leaders of countries investing heavily in ethanol and biolfuel production, notably Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, fired back:
Biofuels are not the villain menacing food security in poor countries ... It offends me to see fingers pointed against clean biofuels -- fingers tainted with oil and coal."
The debates on farm subsidies for biofuel production is unlikely to end anytime soon. Then again, with gas prices at $4 a gallon, I'd say you can safely bet that biofuels -- subsidized or no -- are here to stay.
Last night, seven Palestinians received word that their Fulbright scholarships would not be given away to other students. On Thursday, the students, who call the Gaza Strip home, had been notified that their scholarships were being "redirected." The reason? Since the June 2007 blockade began, Gazans have not been able to secure travel visas from the Israeli government for any reason other than pressing humanitarian concern. And although the Fulbright program is now optimistic because the Israeli government has finally acknowledged the visa applications and agreed to an interview process to take place in Jerusalem, the Israelis still reserve the right to deny the visas.
The very day before the students had their scholarships taken away, the Israeli Knesset's Education Committee had petitioned the Israeli Defense Ministry to reconsider restrictions on visas for students. Michael Melchior, chair of the Committee had this to say:
We are a nation that for years was prevented from studying - how can we do the same thing to another people?"
News of the reversal is good for Palestinians who wish to study in the United States, but there are reportedly around 670 students with similar scholarships for study in Europe and elsewhere whose fate is yet unknown. Today, the Israeli Supreme Court heard the petitions of two such students hoping to travel to Germany and Great Britain, and some of the justices have already made their positions clear:
Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein expressed discomfort with the ban on allowing students from Gaza to study abroad, telling the State Attorney that the ban seems 'no less harmful to the Israeli interest, because we have to live with the Palestinians in the future, too.'
If the Fulbright program weren't one of the crown jewels of American public diplomacy, Israel might never have come under real pressure to reexamine its restrictions on travel in and out of the Gaza Strip. But now that it has, the intellectual potentials of nearly 700 Palestinians hang in the balance.
In an op-ed he coauthored in Monday's Wall Street Journal Asia, McCain placed himself to the right of President Bush's policies on North Korea:
We must use the leverage available from the U.N. Security Council resolution passed after Pyongyang's 2006 nuclear test to ensure the full and complete declaration, disablement and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in a verifiable manner, which we agreed to with the other members of the six-party talks.
The key words here are "full and complete," since the Bush administration has shown flexibility on that front. And as Glenn Kessler notes, "leverage" in this instance is code for "threaten sanctions," an approach the Bush team abandoned in favor of direct diplomacy. Conservatives are increasingly critical of the current plan, under which Pyongyang would merely acknowledge U.S. concerns about uranium enrichment but admit to nothing.
In his speech in Denver Tuesday, McCain again took a hawkish line, saying, "It is a vital national interest for the North Korean nuclear program to be completely, verifiably and irreversibly ended."
Matt Yglesias thinks this illustrates that, "on national security policy, McCain is, if anything, more hard core than Bush." But I don't think he's so easy to pigeonhole. The candidate's speech is sprinkled with words like "multilateralism" and "allies" often enough to make Charlie Kupchan's heart flutter. He even spoke about working more closely with Russia to reduce nuclear stockpiles. That doesn't sound like Bush 2.0 to me.
It seems worth pointing out that three major negotiation stories broke in the Middle East and South Asia today. Israel and Syria, technically at war since 1967, are holding historic peace talks in Turkey that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described as a "national obligation." The Lebanese government negotiated a compromise with Hezbollah, ending 18 months of violence and political deadlock. And Pakistan's government defied the U.S. by agreeing to withdraw from Taliban-controlled territory in exchange for security guarantees.
Of course, whether these agreements will hold up is another question. They also raise troubling questions about the increasing ability of terrorist groups to win concessions from governments. However, it's interesting to note that while American politicians debate the idea of negotiating with hostile regimes and religious extremists as if it were some abstract concept in an international relations seminar, the U.S.'s allies in the region are already doing it on their own.
The Bush administration is currently debating a plan to sell 66 advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan. The F-16 sale was a recurring theme in a panel discussion Monday at the Carnegie Endowment on cross-straits relations featuring Bonnie Glaser of CSIS, Michael Swaine of Carnegie, and Douglas H. Paal, Carnegie's new China program director.
The participants presented somewhat differing opinions on the diplomatically sensitive move. Swaine doesn't see a good time for U.S. approval of the sale in the near to medium term. Glaser, on the other hand, feels it will happen because postponing the sale until the next administration risks getting off on the wrong foot with China. She recommends the window after the Olympics but before Bush leaves office. Carnegie's Minxin Pei weighed in that if the sale goes forward, China would likely respond negatively to a request by Taiwan to withdraw some of the 1,000 balistic missiles aimed at it. But it's not as if jets and missiles are easily equated military capabilities in tit-for-tat negotiations, Glaser said.
Glaser also remarked how this underscores a differing approach to cross-straits negotiations where some, including the U.S., view defense aid to Taiwan as a necessary precursor to productive negotiations as it gives the island nation a more solid footing on which to withstand threats. Others, namely China, strongly respond to arms sales as obstacles to diplomacy which discourage cross-straits engagement.
The State Department wants to delay the F-16 issue until after the Olympics, but I agree that if the U.S. is going to do this, it would be much better to sweep it under the rug of the outgoing administration so the new administration can chalk it up to "change" or whatever they're into at that point.
The U.S. needs the UN according to a new report by Alistair Millar and Eric Rosand, of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation titled, Building Global Alliances in the Fight Against Terrorism. Both authors spoke on Friday afternoon at the New America Foundation along with Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens. The speakers point out that if we can stress the common security interests of all nations, the UN will once again function as an effective international body. Fighting terrorism is one issue that requires nothing less than the whole world's attention, but it is also a divisive issue. The UN has so far failed to even agree on a definition of terrorism, though Eric Rosand had a good working one: "Politically motivated violence against civilians."
The main argument is that the United States is missing an opportunity to work with the United Nations in its global fight against terrorism. The speakers were careful to stress they are not suggesting the fight be handed over to the UN. Instead, the U.S. should use the platform as underlying support for its existing efforts while maintaining sovereignty over U.S. interests. They believe that many bi-lateral negotiations are perceived as American sledgehammering and may be better received through the lens of third party. Policy recommendations include the appointment of a counterterrorism czar in the White House (non-military in nature), and the formation of a global counterterrorism body.
While I agree that the U.S. cannot "go it alone" in the war on terror, the bottom line is that unilateralism is a direct result of international lack of will. The United States has gone it alone in part because of the inaction of the UN and its member states. Hezbollah is a prime example of this inaction. Under UN resolutions enacted in 2004 and 2006, Lebanese militias were to be disarmed. In April of this year, the security council adopted a presidential statement reiterating this. Instead, over the past few days Hezbollah has taken over half of Beirut.
While I like the idea of a future with international cooperation and committment to fighting terrorism, I think we need to first make sure the international community is interested in bearing the costs to achieve results. And state-sponsored terror is going to be a big obstacle in this process.
I came away from the gathering (portions of which I missed) with several broad impressions. One was that multilateralism has become virtually an end in itself. What matters to many Europeans and liberal-leaning Americans is the process rather than the results. What almost never gets discussed is what happens when one's desire for multilateralism collides with achieving a worthy end (for example, trying to stop genocide in Darfur or prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb). The child-like faith in multilateralism as the solution to all that ails the world would be touchingly innocent if it weren't so terribly dangerous.
Do Europeans really have a "child-like faith in multilateralism"? Discuss.
Think your job sucks? Try walking a mile in the shoes of Christopher Hill, who has been the U.S. envoy to the six-party talks since February 2005. For more than three years, Hill has been trying to convince North Korea to shut down its nuclear program and come clean about its nuclear activities.
He's had some success at the former, with the North Koreans agreeing to the dismantling of their plutonium reactor at Yongbyon. But Kim Jong Il's irascible regime has been notoriously coy about acknowledging just what it's been up to on the uranium and proliferation fronts. So, Hill negotiated a delicate workaround: North Korea would acknowledge U.S. concerns but admit to nothing. Then, the United States would remove North Korea from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation that has all kinds of other legal and financial ramifications. On balance, it seemed like a good idea to at least mothball Yongbyon and learn as much as possible about the nuclear program. Why let the perfect become the enemy of the good? And on a factual level, North Korea hasn't actually sponsored terrorism since 1987.
But now, Hill's careful game of diplomatic Jenga may be coming apart. For months, North Korea has stalled, appearing to want to wait for a better deal from the next president. Last week's allegations about North Korea's nuclear cooperation with Syria appear to have only inflamed building congressional anger against the deal. And it's not just Republicans who were upset. Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously to require that the White House certify it has gotten a "complete and correct declaration" from Pyongyang. Hill's plan was, to be frank, to fudge it.
One congressional staffer told the Financial Times the White House would go "ballistic" over the committee's move, but the Bush administration still has a chance to convince the full House and the Senate to scuttle it. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed, however, that the White House has let Chris Hill run point on these negotiations for a reason. If things fall apart -- as it seems they might -- he can be hung out to dry and blamed for the failure. That would be a shame, because Hill is a real star of the diplomatic corps and somebody America needs to keep around.
Almost any American who has taken Chinese in the past decade should know the phrase "Meiguo ren hen xihuan da guansi" (Americans really like to sue people). It is usually presented as a point of difference between our two cultures, and McDonald's coffee inevitably comes up.
Well, the tables sure are turning. Reuters reports that a primary schoolteacher and a beautician have filed suit against CNN for the allegedly slanderous comments against the Chinese people made by Jack Cafferty. (The crotchety CNN anchor called Chinese products "junk" and the country's leaders "goons.")
The suit asks for $1.3 billion dollars -- $1 per person in China -- for "violat[ing]the dignity and reputation of the Chinese people." Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Jiang Yu called the suit "spontaneous action" on the part of the Chinese people.
It certainly brings new meaning to the title of Cafferty's book, It's Getting Ugly Out There.
You have probably already heard about protests in China over the weekend in several cities against French supermarket chain Carrefour and alleged Western media bias. But there were also demonstrations by the Chinese community on Saturday in five Western cities: Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London and Washington. Xinhua news agency reports thousands of participants in the European cities and hundreds here in Washington. With signs like "Love our China" and "You can't find this from BBC... Stop disrupting the Olympics" there is a clear, organized international effort to get the message out that many overseas Chinese also oppose the affronts to the Olympic games and the related media coverage. The silent protest in Britain attracted 3,000 participants and was the first public demonstration on the part of the Chinese community there.
Recent fervor has demonstrated a strong, unified voice on the part of the Chinese community. And said overtures are producing results: French President Nikolas Sarkozy sent a letter to "Wheelchair Angel" Jin Jing expressing sympathy and regret for her treatment in the Paris torch relay (but no apology).
But the strife continues as yesterday, the Paris city council went over Sarkozy's head and approved the Dalai Lama for honorary citizenship, in addition to recently jailed dissident Hu Jia. While many may call it misguided for its lack of respect for human rights, the Chinese position shows sophistication in political advocacy: Adopt a unified stance and get the widest possible coverage to spread your message. Though the synergy is the result of the people and the government touting the same line, it's an impressive campaign for a country with a state-run media. It's also worth pointing out that, unlike people within China itself, these expats have access to the gamut of information on their homeland, and yet they still feel strongly that the Western view is biased.
Dog bites man. A Commentary magazine blogger slams Jimmy Carter for meeting with Hamas leaders.
But there's more. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) says it turned down a meeting request from Carter, whom the terrorist group accused of "carrying an American-Israeli agenda." (Funny, most of Carter's critics would say he's carrying water for the Palestinians.) Commentary's Eric Trager says the incident "should finally shatter Carter's credibility as a peacemaker." He explains:
While PIJ shares many of Hamas' militant features–including its coordination of terrorist activities, calls for Israel's destruction, and theocratic aims–PIJ lacks Hamas' social and political significance. It does not have the social welfare network on which Hamas has built its popularity, while PIJ's refusal to participate in the 2006 parliamentary elections points to its minimal public authority among Palestinians.
There are many valid reasons to meet with Hamas, most notably because no peace process can possibly succeed if the Islamist movement is outside the tent trying to blow it up. Carter is right about that, and many Israelis know it. But if it's true that the former U.S. president wanted to meet with the odious PIJ as well, then it shows he hasn't learned a whole lot about politics in his 83 years. To say the least.
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