Two weeks ago, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker announced that diplomats and staff could finally move into the massive, new
Apparently this snafu resulted from housing figures, calculated in 2005, that failed to predict the more than doubling in embassy staff that occured between the start and end of the embassy's construction.
To make matters worse, a portion of the staff that will remain in the trailers, currently parked behind Saddam Hussein's former palace (turned U.S. command center) will not be provided with rooftop reinforcement. They will receive some "enhanced protection," though (read: sandbags).
Without rooftop coverage, the Green Zone's looking like an awfully rough place to be these days.
Many commentators have wondered why the Bush adminstration chose last Thursday, of all days, to disclose the intelligence community's findings on North Korea's nuclear collaboration with Syria. Well, Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright of the Washington Post have an answer:
Key lawmakers nonetheless made it clear that unless the intelligence about Syria was described to them in detail, they would block funding for the deal and oppose a key waiver of a law preventing U.S. aid to a country that detonates a nuclear weapon.
Officials said the timing of the administration's disclosure was also influenced by a provision of the U.S. law governing state sponsors of terrorism, a list that has long included North Korea. Under the proposed nuclear disarmament deal, Washington has agreed to remove North Korea from the list, but the law requires that it first demonstrate that North Korea has not assisted another country on the list for at least six months. The intelligence presented this week indicated that North Korea helped Syria in removing equipment from the site through early October, meaning the six-month window only recently closed.
Far more often than they get credit for, U.S. officials do things that seem mysterious to outsiders when in reality they're just following the law. In this case, the aim was ostensibly to move North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism so that a deal could go forward. The irony is that with this disclosure, Republican lawmakers may be much less inclined to give North Korea a pass, and even leading establishment figures want the Bush administration to teach Kim Jong Il a lesson. What seems especially damning is the intelligence showing that North Korea has been dealing with the Syrians all along while pretending to negotiate in good faith.
As an aside, I owe Kessler an apology for this post and this one questioning his early reporting on the Syrian nuclear site. It turns out Kessler's reporting was spot-on and appropriately caveated, and continues to be invaluable. His biography of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is excellent, too.
Fareed Zakaria rightly notes that while everyone has been beating up on Barack Obama for proposing talks with Chávez and Ahmadinejad, John McCain has quietly espoused some genuine crackpot ideas about foreign policy. Especially wrongheaded is his idea to create a "League of Democracies," which would only antagonize Russia and China, two great powers whose cooperation the United States needs on a host of regional and global issues. (Paul Saunders ably dispatched a similar plan mooted by McCain advisor Robert Kagan and Obama advisor Ivo Daalder last August, but some bad ideas just won't die.)
Still, it's hard to get too worked up about it, since it ain't going to happen. As Reason's Matt Welch put it:
After eight years of a cranky, go-it-alone White House that won re-election in part by bashing limp-wristed Euro-weenies, the chances of another interventionist Republican winning enough good faith among grumbly allies to create a brand spanking new America-defined Club of Winners are something approaching zero.
McCain's other big idea -- excluding Russia from the G8, while formally including India and Brazil but not China -- is more plausible but equally self-defeating.
I can think of many reasons why Russia doesn't really belong in the G8. Its economy is heavily dependent on energy and its political system is trending autocratic, to name just two. Including the Russians was a stretch in the first place. On the other hand, almost everything in the chair's summary from last year's G8 summit in Heiligendamm concerned things that the West wants from Russia (and especially China): "a smooth adjustment of global imbalances," "open and more favorable investment conditions," intellectual property protection, agreement to negotiate a successor to Kyoto, greater transparency, fighting corruption, responsible behavior in Africa, and so on. Excluding them seems so self-evidently silly that I sincerely doubt McCain would go through with it were he elected.
FP reader MC weighs in on "Think Again: The Peace Corps":
As a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Ukraine, I would tend to agree with some of what Mr. Strauss argued in his article... while still seeing Peace Corps as serving a useful purpose. Peace Corps is in some ways the post-college study and party abroad opportunity for those with little or no work experience. In one of our training sessions, we were told half-jokingly that the only thing we could do wrong in our two years of service was to get drunk and fall down in a ditch. I believe that the comment was based on an incident that happened earlier in the year.
On the other hand, it is also a great chance for motivated young adults to gain much-needed experience in the international development field that can serve as a stepping stone to a future career. During my time in Peace Corps, I witnessed both types of volunteers: those that over-drank and generally embarrassed the United States of America, and those whose service truly made a difference in the world. I found that the best volunteers were those who were able to find small successes despite the cultural, linguistic, and bureaucratic obstacles.
There are indeed aspects of the Peace Corps that need to be reevaluated. The site placement process to determine where volunteers will serve definitely needs to be adjusted. Many times, volunteers seem to be assigned to sites at random with little input from the person affected most by the placement decision -- the volunteer.
Overall, the Peace Corps volunteer receives much more from the experience than he/she does for the country of service... In the end, the volunteer's attitude (along with a little luck) determines whether it's worth the taxpayer dollars spent and the volunteer's time.
Today, Howard Williams, a former Peace Corps volunteer and fellow former country director "with over 20 years experience as a development professional in 15 countries," writes in to say he is "dismayed" by the article:
Among the straw men are "The Peace Corps is a Diplomatic Weapon." Peace Corps is a diplomatic asset, demonstrating the goodwill and basic decency of Americans that, taken with the work of USAID, other U.S. Agencies, and their PVO and NGO partners, show we care about more than ourselves and that a sense of service to others is a basic American characteristic.
Equally flawed is the assertion that volunteers are not sent to where they are needed and that whole countries can be "graduated," no longer benefiting sufficiently from volunteers' service. Anyone who works or travels in the field, outside the capital with its agency offices and well-appointed hotels, knows that access to resources and experience managing them is uneven and that there are populations within most countries that can benefit from volunteers' assistance.
For example, many developing countries, Cameroon no doubt included, find great difficulty recruiting qualified teachers to serve in rural and remote sites. Peace Corps volunteer teachers will go there and show up at their classes regularly and well prepared –- something that local teachers often find challenging, given the other economic, social, and health demands they face each day. Students can count on PCVs to be there, in class, helping them learn.
Some countries with a greater overall resource base, like Romania, can benefit from American volunteers by their demonstrated sense of civic duty, resourcefulness, collegial approach to their work, and public transparency, traits that were not well rewarded under the former Soviet system. If a country director knowingly sent volunteers to assignments that were not needed, not useful, or not workable or that did not sufficiently engage the volunteers, as he claims, then he would have failed in his job as director. Complaints on that score are much akin to a ship's captain blaming the Navy for bad weather and rocks.
Denigrating generalizations about local people liking anyone attempting to speak their language and participate in local traditions, or that volunteers do not sufficiently demonstrate their commitment to service, are not supported by facts but by a condescending articulation about the nature of people, including the very volunteers he pledged to support.
Finally, the assertion that Peace Corps has an obligation to justify itself on a "development" yardstick, in comparison with other agencies, completely misses the point of what Peace Corps is. There simply is no such thing as a perfect "development" program. We used to tell volunteers, "Each aid agency has strengths and limitations and each has a unique role to play in development. Some have more money, some have national programs, and Peace Corps has people. You cannot judge one by comparing its limitations to the strengths of another -- and vice versa." I hope we will not lose sight of Peace Corps' unique contribution to local development, goodwill abroad, and Americans' understanding of the world in pursuit of making it look more "professional." If you ask any villager who they can count on to be there each day for them, you'll find that Peace Corps rates very well indeed.
Were you a Peace Corps volunteer or do you otherwise have strong thoughts on this topic? Read the article and comment below or send us your comments by e-mail. Requests for confidentiality will be strictly honored.
Al Kamen dishes on former Rumsfeld deputy Douglas J. Feith:
Speaking of Iraq, the Georgetown Hoya newspaper last week quoted a student saying she was "displeased that university officials have not asked" former Pentagon undersecretary Douglas Feith "to return to teach next year."
Asked about Feith's status, Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown's foreign service school, told us that when Feith was hired -- something that caused an uproar among the faculty -- it was understood he "was on a two-year appointment." Any decision not to renew should not be seen as "a judgment on his performance," Gallucci said, noting that Feith's students' "course evaluations were really good."
Feith, author of a bestseller about his Pentagon days called "War and Decision," said he hadn't decided what to do next. "I'm intensely occupied with book stuff," and there are "several things I'm thinking about," he said.
Word is that keeping Feith on beyond the two-year term again would have infuriated a number of faculty members. Well, there are always those "dead-enders," as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld so eloquently noted back in June 2003.
Here's the original article in the Hoya.
(As an aside, would it kill the Washington Post to link to its sources instead of Google-bombing its own material?)
I agree with Mark that the gap between the Security Council's mandates and what is achievable on the ground has often been startling. In part, this is just hope prevailing over good sense. But it also reflects a deeper reality: When the Security Council authorizes a mission, it may actually be less concerned with the situation on the ground than it is with the political effect of the action at home or vis-à-vis other Council states. This points to an important political role that peacekeeping missions can play: providing political cover for the Great Powers. Historically, peacekeeping evolved in this way and, in a sense, little has changed. The early observer missions to Palestine and then the larger Suez mission in 1956 were explicitly designed to help major powers out of tight spots. Having small states provide troops made sure that the peacekeeping forces didn't themselves become triggers for great power conflict. Obviously, there have been exceptions to the rule that peacekeeping contributors should be small states and "middle powers." (The British have contributed large numbers of troops to several missions, including Cyprus and Bosnia.)
It's important to keep this context in mind, however. In the larger geopolitical game, peacekeeping forces have been buffers between the major powers. Bill Durch suggests that the major powers -- or at least more developed states -- should start providing manpower for the missions. I think he may be right. But we should acknowledge that this would be a significant conceptual shift and that it might involve political complications. The danger of great power conflagration is much reduced, though it will obviously be prudent to keep certain great powers out of certain regions. China has shown increased interest in peacekeeping, and there was grumbling by human rights activists about the participation of Chinese personnel (mainly engineers) in Sudan. The great powers have troops, but they also bring some heavy political baggage.
Readers are weighing in on both sides of a hard-hitting new Web exclusive by Robert L. Strauss, a former Peace Corps country director. Here's an e-mail in support of Strauss from FP reader JH:
[B]eing a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Morocco 99-00) I think he hit the nail on the head.
I recently attempted to reenlist with Peace Corps after receiving a master's degree in international development administration with an emphasis on monitoring and evaluation of development projects in Asia and the Pacific and was rejected by Peace Corps.
After being 'medically cleared,' they wanted to send me to Africa to work on HIV/AIDS projects and I stated that I would be best utilized in an area and field I'm trained in. I was then told I was cut from the application process for being 'inflexible' when it came to placement. It seems that any questioning about the placement process is taken as a threat to the organization's authority and there are plenty of recent college graduates with no idea about development who are willing to take an available spot.
I'm sorry to say that Peace Corps is not serious about development and it seems they would rather have bright eyed idealist with no experience or idea about sustainable development practices instead of skilled or trained personnel who could point out the flaws in the system and work to improve it while have a positive impact on the community.
Thanks for pointing out the flaws in Peace Corps which could be a development system for USAID, The World Bank, or the UN, but is instead a post-college hangout where little is accomplished.
And here's a complaint from CH, who volunteered in Togo from 2004 to 2007:
The first question that came to my mind as I read this was why a former Peace Corps country director, who spent four years of his life working for the organization, would be on such a vendetta. I question his motivation in publicly bashing the organization and makes me wonder what happened in Cameroon...
It seems that his main and only recommendation is for the Peace Corps to recruit the 'best of the best' to serve as volunteers. While he may be correct in this assessment, I think his opinion makes it obvious that they should do a better job recruiting the staff as well. I have a tough time imagining what my service would have been like had I been a volunteer in Cameroon during his tenure. A country director is responsible for setting the overall tone in the country where he or she is employed and I can't imagine a very positive or motivating environment under Mr. Strauss.
Despite all this, I tend to agree with many of his arguments. Peace Corps volunteers are generally fresh out of college or untrained in the field they're expected to serve in (as I was) or both. However, this does not necessarily mean that they will be ineffective as volunteers. I'm very proud of what I was able to accomplish in my three years as a volunteer in Togo. I worked with some incredibly dedicated and inspiring volunteers, some of whom did not come to Togo with any particular skills yet who excelled in their assignments.
While in no way do I believe the Peace Corps to be perfect, highly effectual or a model to be used by development organizations, it remains an incredible opportunity for Americans and, at the very least, offers volunteers the opportunity to accomplish wonderful things. It is hard not to take Mr Strauss's bitterness personally and the motivation behind his writing should be explained.
Readers, what do you think? Were you a Peace Corps volunteer? How does his analysis fit with your experience? Read the article and comment below, or send us your thoughts by e-mail. Requests for confidentiality will be strictly honored.
Yesterday, I attended the Jane's U.S. Defense Conference, an annual gathering bringing together American and European defense industry representatives with national-security officials. The theme of this year's conference was "the outlook for policy and defense business under the next presidency," an appropriate enough subject for the day of the Pennsylvania primary.
There was an overwhelming sense at the conference that despite billions more dollars in defense spending, the United States is not adequately preparing for the threats of the 21st century, nor is it giving the "warfighters" the resources they need to achieve victory. Major General Charles J. Dunlap of the U.S. Air Force, for instance, worried that an overemphasis on counterinsurgency was leading the U.S. to ignore the possibility of warfare with a "peer country" (read: China). Former Under-Secretary for Defense Acquisition Jacques Gansler argued that protectionism and the prioritization of congressional pork projects were causing the misuse of defense resources, necessitating a law stipulating that "Congress should not be making defense-acqisition decisions." The State Department's Deputy Director of Policy Planning Kori Schake lamented the miniscule size of her own agency's budget relative to defense, saying that every one of State's problems could be "traced back to chronic underfunding."
Oddly enough in a discussion of current national-defense priorities, Iraq and Afghanistan hardly came up until near the end of the day, when the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman gave a briefing on both conflicts. Given the weakness of both countries' political institutions, Cordesman feels that the term "counterinsurgency" ought to be abandoned altogether in favor of "armed nation-building." Since Cordesman sees far more progress toward this goal in Iraq, I asked him if troop withdrawal there would increase the likelihood of success in Afghanistan:
If we can move forward in Iraq in ways that seem possible, we may be down to 10 brigrades by 2009. You can't suddenly move those brigades to Afghanistan. They require retraining. They will have to be re-equipped and restructed to fight a different kind of war on different terrain, dealing with a different culture with different values.
I also have to say that while troops are important... far more important are the aid teams and advisory teams... rapid turnover of deployments in a country where personal relationships are even more important than they are in Iraq, the inability to take aid workers out into the field where they are really needed... The problem isn't troop levels and it won't be solved by moving out of Iraq."
It seems ironic that the takeaway message of a national-defense conference was that what we traditionally think of as defense can only do so much. The next president's foreign-policy team will need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time if it wants to begin to address the problems left over from the current one.
David Bosco raises a legitimate concern about "bang for the buck." However, it is very difficult to measure results with any degree of accuracy when mission mandates are increasingly broad and often patently overambitious. I'd like to turn the question around, and ask if mandating authorities (like the UN, EU and AU) are not expecting way too much of peacekeeping -- regardless of the financial costs?
For example, UN Secretariat officials repeatedly warned of the overwhelming obstacles to deployment to Darfur, but their warnings went unheeded by a Security Council that mandated 26,000 uniformed peacekeepers for the mission -- with one of the main mandate elements being implementation of the defunct Darfur Peace Agreement.
The African Union Mission in Somalia managed to deploy only a quarter of its authorized strength of 8,000 due to a combination of logistical constraints, financial shortfalls, and a lack of peace to keep. With only 2,000 AU troops in Somalia and only 9,000 in Darfur, in March 2008 the UN Security Council was seriously debating the notion of deploying 28,000 UN troops to Somalia.
The widening gap between aspirations and the implementation of successful peace operations is very evident. The multi-billion dollar question is: How do we close this gap? By simply saying "enough" and retreating from the peacekeeping enterprise, as happened in the mid 90s after the last big peak in global peace operations and some nasty experiences in the Balkans and Africa? By trying to expand the available means with the likes of the US-sponsored Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), which aims to train a total of 75,000 peacekeeping troops -- mostly Africans -- by the year 2010? By commissioning another expert panel, like the one led by Lakhdar Brahimi in 2000 which produced very substantive recommendations on how to get the operational mechanics of UN peace operations right? Or by taking a really hard look at the mandate end and the peacemaking processes that precede the crafting of seemingly impossible mission mandates?
Even as we discuss the logistical, manpower, and financial pressures on [the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations], I hope we do not leave aside the question of what precisely the international community is getting for its (admittedly modest) investment in peacekeeping. Is the current crop of missions producing political and humanitarian results? The UN, of course, endured intense soul searching during the 1990s about the efficacy of peacekeeping in the wake of the Bosnia and Rwanda missions. Today's missions are far less scrutinized but I suspect that has more to do with a distracted media than it does an easing of the operational dilemmas facing peacekeepers in the field.
First, just so we're clear, [the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)] has been growing -- nominally, 25 percent in the past year alone -- just not as fast as its operational commitments. Eight years ago, 520 people in New York supported roughly 40,000 military, police, and civilian personnel in the field. Today, about 1,200 support up to 140,000 mission personnel who work in more violent places than before (like eastern DR Congo, south Sudan, and Darfur).
Exactly how many work where at what time is hard to measure, as it takes the UN many months to fill a new position in NY or in the field. That inability to respond fast (apparently treasured by many of its member states), the growing combat risks posed by new missions, and the sheer size of the enterprise (spread over nearly 20 countries on four continents) mean that the UN is indeed approaching the breaking point (as it not only has to staff 140,000 field positions but find rotation replacements for most of them every 6-12 months). Pile on the departure in June of Undersecretary-general Jean-Marie Guehenno, who has ably managed UN peacekeeping's expansion for nearly eight years, and the simultaneous scattering of UN personnel across NYC as their iconic but aging headquarters is gutted and rebuilt, and you have the makings of a severe morale and management crisis.
UN peacekeeping has a future if only because it will take years to finish the tasks it has already started, and because NATO is already jammed in Afghanistan, the EU risk-averse (though its new "battle groups" make ideal reinforcements for UN operations in crisis), and the African Union is broke. The AU has ambitious plans for peacekeeping but nothing like the money it needs, and donor train-and-equip programs may suck funds from development and good governance -- and bad governance breeds war. So, UN peacekeeping has a future; it would be a better one if more developed state troops showed up on UN rosters outside the Middle East or if those same states paid their share of UN mission costs on time. UN PK costs $6.7 billion a year but its arrears are a fairly steady $2 billion, and it can't borrow (at US insistence) even to stop wars (making for two-edged irony). When short of funds, it pays vendors first and troop contributors last. Both are needed but vendors quit sooner. Still, no troops, no peacekeeping. Tick, tock.
As Bill Durch aptly points out in the paper (pdf), the surge in UN peacekeeping has been neither met by commensurate increases in the number of staff in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), nor by commensurate increases in the funding streams available to DPKO. Is peacekeeping reaching its breaking point? Is there a future for UN peacekeeping? If so, what can be done to boost peacekeeping's capacity to deal with the multitude of challenges it faces?
The next U.S. president is going to have a lot of work to do. Or, as my colleague Matt Cordell puts it at U.N. Dispatch, he or she "will have a unique opportunity to create a new global agenda for the United States and right the course of America's foreign policy."
To that end, Passport and U.N. Dispatch are teaming up to host an online salon discussing one of the thorny topics George W. Bush's successor will likely confront while in office. Kicking off the discussion will be William J. Durch, editor of Twenty-First-Century Peace Operations and author of "Peace and Stability Operations: Challenges and Opportunities for the Next U.S. Administration," (pdf) a new paper published through the Better World Campaign. He is a senior associate at the Stimson Center, an independent think tank here in Washington.
The following participants will be chiming in:
Mark Leon Goldberg of U.N. Dispatch will be moderating the discussion, with some help from me.
Over the next few days, we'll be dissecting Durch's ideas and probably introducing a few of our own into the mix. You can follow the action here or over at U.N. Dispatch, or contribute your own thoughts in comments or at OnDayOne.org.
Even undeniably "puerile" debates can sometimes cough up interesting tidbits, and, on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton proposed an interesting way to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions: Extend nuclear deterrence to "those countries [in the region] that are willing to go under the security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear [weapons] ambitions." Unfortunately, moderator George Stephanopolous did not ask any follow-up questions, even though Sen. Clinton’s idea certainly merits a closer look.
The concept of a "nuclear umbrella" has been around almost since the Cold War and the nuclear arms race began. At the most basic level, it involves a nuclear- weapons state promising to use its nukes to respond if non-nuclear ally is attacked with nuclear weapons. Cold War strategists hoped that "extending" nuclear deterrence like this would cement important alliances and, crucially, eliminate the need for those countries to develop their own nukes. A nuclear umbrella is thus a tool of both diplomacy and of nonproliferation.
The key question here is credibility. How, for instance, would you convince the
Unfortunately, even in Gulf regimes that are friendly to America
However, the idea is still worth exploring as a contingency plan, and new ways of establishing credibility and commitment might be possible -- for instance, extending a missile-defense "umbrella," even one that doesn't work very well yet. But although technical measures like these may be part of the solution to
There are a lot of interesting tidbits in Elisabeth Bumiller and Larry Rohter's article about how various Republican foreign-policy realists are concerned that the dreaded neocons are winning the battle for John McCain's ear. McCain advisors Randy Scheunemann and Robert Kagan seem eager to downplay any such split, and they point to the fact that Henry Kissinger, a realist par excellence, is a close confidant of the Arizona senator.
I think Bumiller and Rohter missed a chance to point out something about Kissinger. When it comes to subjects such as great-power relations, Kissinger still sounds like his old realist self. He is critical of McCain's recent hard line on Russia, for instance. But on the key foreign-policy issue of the 2008 campaign, Iraq, Henry the K sounds a lot more like Max Boot than he does Brent Scowcroft. As Ron Suskind has reported, Kissinger has been a key voice urging the Bush administration to stay in Iraq for the long haul. He has also sounded extremely skeptical of engagement with Iran. In other words, this list does not really indicate that McCain is consulting a wide range of views:
So far, Mr. McCain has not established a formal foreign policy briefing process within his campaign. If he needs information or perspective on an issue, advisers say he picks up the phone and calls any number of people, among them Mr. Kissinger, Mr. Shultz or Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.
Representative Howard Berman of California has proposed legislation to clear the name of the South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) in the United States government record books. Nelson Mandela, and other former members, need approval to enter the United States as the ANC was once labelled a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and South Africa during apartheid. The ANC has evolved quite a bit over the years, but did carry out numerous attacks on institutions of South Africa's apartheid regime from the 1960s through the 1980s. The New York Times explains the U.S. stance:
Until recently, State Department officials preferred to grant ANC members waivers for travel to the United States on a case-by-case basis. They feared a more permanent exemption would open the floodgates to similar requests by other former terrorist groups. But that objection apparently now has been wisely dropped."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found it an "embarrassing matter" to waive travel restrictions on her South African counterparts, let alone the "great leader" himself. The bill would update entries on the ruling party's members in U.S. government databases. Just in case you missed the neon sign, Hamas and al Qaeda need not apply.
We've just made this piece by current Republican nominee John McCain from FP's Summer 1996 issue available for free. Titled "Imagery or Purpose: The Choice in November," it was written as an endorsement of '96 Republican candidate Bob Dole's foreign-policy platform. (Then Senator Tom Daschle wrote on behalf of Bill Clinton.)
What's striking about the piece -- rediscovered deep within the cavernous FP archives thanks to the National Security Network -- is how much of it could have been written today. Among the issues McCain discusses are North Korea's nuclear program, democratic backsliding in Russia, expanding NATO, turmoil in the Balkans, and the threat of an emerging China. McCain attacks Clinton for indecisiveness, inconsistency, and an "inclination to seek solutions to problems that merely postpone their worst consequences."
It's also worth noting that the piece comes from the period between the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, when McCain is said to have shifted from an intervention-skeptic to a neoconservative hawk. In light of this transformation, it's interesting that McCain's primary criticism of Clinton is the latter's ideological capriciousness:
The president is quite skillful at discarding one identity for its opposite. His success at reinvention is a testament to the astonishing ease with which he appropriates the arguments of his critics and then lays claim to first authorship.
Spoken like a man who's never run for president.
I think the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon is overselling this story of increasing criticism of Sen. Barack Obama's alleged "radical departure from standard U.S. doctrine" regarding negotiating with rogue leaders, but Karim Sadjadpour makes a good point here:
If Obama comes into office in January 2009, I wouldn't advise him" to hold talks with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad quickly, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran specialist at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who said he is generally supportive of Sen. Obama's agenda. "Only two things can rehabilitate Ahmadinejad politically: bombing Iran or major efforts to engage" him ahead of the vote.
My hope is that Obama doesn't literally mean he will sit across the table from Ahmadinejad, but rather that he won't be afraid to negotiate with Iran and will drop preconditions that only ensure that talks will go nowhere. But it's worth pointing out that the United States has tried in the past to ignore Iran's power dynamics and negotiate with its preferred interlocutors. That approach simply doesn't work, because the hardliners will work to torpedo any deal that doesn't include them. Plus, they've got Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on their side, and he's the big boss. There will be no deal without his approval.
State Department officials John Negroponte and Richard Boucher are in Islamabad for what sounds like an extremely uncomfortable meeting with Pakistan's new government. Pakistan People's Party advisor and FP contributor Husain Haqqani made it clear that things ain't what they used to be for the Americans in Pakistan:
If I can use an American expression, there is a new sheriff in town," Mr. Haqqani said. "Americans have realized that they have perhaps talked with one man for too long."
Critics of Republican presidential nominee John McCain often point to his inconsistent stance on military intervention as a sign that he is not the straight-talking maverick he presents himself to be. An examination of McCain's stances on intervention, however, reveals not mixed signals but a steady transformation of worldview. The young Vietnam vet who once vocally opposed military overreach has become the elder statesman who passionately advocates the need for military action. Here's a look at the stances McCain has taken on some of the major U.S. military operations of the past few decades.
Stance: As a freshman congressman, John McCain broke with President Ronald Reagan and most of his party to oppose invoking the War Powers Act to extend the deployment of U.S. peacekeepers in Lebanon.
Statement: "The longer we stay in Lebanon, the harder it will be for us to leave. We will be trapped by the case we make for having our troops there in the first place." Sept. 29, 1983
Iraq (Operation Desert Storm)
Stance: McCain worried about the prospect of an extended deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq and hoped to limit the U.S. action to a bombing campaign.
Statement: "If you get involved in a major ground war in the Saudi desert, I think support will erode significantly. Nor should it be supported. We cannot even contemplate, in my view, trading American blood for Iraqi blood.'' Aug. 19, 1990
Stance: After a failed operation that led to the death of 19 U.S. soldiers, McCain proposed cutting off funding to the U.S. mission in Somalia in order to force the Clinton administration to bring the troops home. He later wrote that he regretted this stance.
Statement: "I'll tell you what can erode our prestige Mr. President. I'll tell you what can erode our viability as a world superpower, and that is if we emesh ourselves in a drawn-out situation, which entails the loss of American lives, more debacles like the one we saw with the failed mission to captured Adid's lieutenants using American forces and that then will be what hurts our prestige." Oct. 14, 1993
Stance: Like most congressional leaders at the time, McCain opposed sending U.S. troops to Haiti in 1994 to assist the return of exiled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide back in power.
Statement: "I don't think our vital national security interests are at stake... In Haiti, there is a military government we don't like. But there are other governments around the world that aren't democratic that we don't like. Are we supposed to invade those countries, too?" July 10, 1994
Stance: McCain initially strongly opposed intervention in Bosnia, but after the signing of the Dayton accords in 1995, he changed his stance and cosponsored a resolution supporting the U.S. peacekeeping mission.
Statements: "If we find ourselves involved in a conflict in which American casualties mount, in which there is no end in sight, in which we take sides in a foreign civil war, in which American fighting men and women have great difficulty distinguishing between friend and foe, then I suggest that American support for military involvement would rapidly evaporate." April 23, 1993
"Our troops are going to Bosnia. Congress should do everything in our power to insure that our mission is truly clear, limited and achievable, that it has the greatest chance for success with the least risk to the lives of our young men and women. The resolution that the majority leader and I have offered does not ask senators to support the decision to deploy. It asks that you support the deployment after the decision had been made. It asks you further to condition your support on some important commitments by the President." Dec. 13, 1995
Stance: McCain not only favored the use of force to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, but pressed the Clinton administration to send ground troops into Serbia.
Statement: "If we lose this war, the entire country and the world will suffer the consequences. Yes, the President would leave office with yet another mark against him. But he will not suffer that indignity alone. We will all be less secure. We will all be dishonored.'' May 9, 1999
Stance: McCain strongly supported the U.S. operation to defeat the Taliban and attempt to capture Osama bin Laden.
Statement: "[W]hat we need to understand is that we may have to put large numbers of troops into Afghanistan for a period of time, not a long period of time, but for a period of time, in order to effectively wipe out these terrorists' nests and track down Mr. bin Laden. In other words, it's going to take a very big effort, and probably casualties will be involved, and it won't be accomplished through air power alone." Dec. 28, 2001
Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom)
Stance: McCain has been among the most vocal supporters of the initial invasion of Iraq and last year's troop surge. His stance on these issues has largely defined his presidential run.
Statement: "Only an obdurate refusal to face unpleasant facts -- in this case, that a tyrant who survives only by the constant use of violence is not going to be coerced into good behavior by nonviolent means -- could allow one to believe that we have rushed to war... Our armed forces will fight for peace in Iraq -- a peace built on more secure foundations than are found today in the Middle East. Even more important, they will fight for the two human conditions of even greater value than peace: liberty and justice. Some of our soldiers will perish in this just cause. May God bless them and may humanity honor their sacrifice." March 12, 2003
They want to end the Iraq War, and make the American government more reluctant to use military force in the future. But ... the idea that yelling at a couple of Marine recruiters week after week might have some actual impact on the speed with which we leave Iraq is so absurd one wonders whether even the participants believe it.... But that's not why they're there. They're there because it makes them feel good. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. That's why all of us do most of what we do.... But it becomes a problem when you hurt the cause you're trying to help, particularly when there are actual opportunities for effective action."
One of these days, a smart sociologist is going to sit down and write a book that explains just how, despite overwhelmingly anti-war public opinion, Americans allowed Iraq and Afghanistan to become the longest wars the country has fought in the last 100 years (with the exception of Vietnam). In other words, why did a viable anti-war movement fail to materialize despite the fact that two thirds of Americans believe the war is not worth fighting?
The answer might have something to do with the fact that most of the public debate about the Iraq war has been about the way it was sold and waged, not about ideology. "More competence" doesn't exactly make for the best rallying cry. What's more, many Americans don't see the fight against militant Islam as a transcendent struggle akin to the Cold War. A majority now do not fear becoming a victim of the terrorists' rage. And most aren't particularly motivated to tangle with those who do. Some time back, Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. senator, 9/11 commissioner, and Medal of Honor recipient for his service in Vietnam quite rightly put it to me this way, harkening back to Vietnam:
[I]n the Vietnam War, you had a number of other fault line debates going on, civil rights being the largest, that tended to divide very much like the Vietnam War did—pro civil rights people tending to be anti-Vietnam War and so forth. They were exceptions to that. But it tended to break out that way. It was a great left-right debate going on. And by left-right, I mean communism versus liberal democracies, and it wasn't an artificial debate. It was a real debate.... I have a much different sense of this debate than the Vietnam debate. This one is: We shouldn't have gone there because there wasn't weapons of mass destruction, that the administration lied to us—those are the sorts of things that you hear in the debate. And it's just not as likely to galvanize a large audience the way the Vietnam War did."
Commenters: Why not?
As FP recently explored in the Military Index, the U.S. Army last year had a shortage of 3,000 captains and majors, a number expected to double by 2010. Behind these statistics are folks like 26-year-old Army Capt. Kirkner Bailey of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Mosul, who says:
I have served my time; I've done two tours in Iraq. For the past three years of my life I have either been in Iraq or training to go to Iraq. I just know that there is more to life than this war, and my girlfriend, Shannon, and I are interested in finding out what that is. I can't speak to trends. But 8 of my 10 friends who are captains are leaving the Army."
When people talk about how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hollowing out of the military, this is what they mean. The trend is particularly scary when you consider that officers like Captain Bailey have tremendous amounts of combat experience and the Army is counting on them to be the next generation of leaders.
It's been a bad news cycle for Hillary Clinton. After ABC News rushed to discover whether the former first lady had been in the White House on blue-dress day, other news organizations scoured the 11,000-plus pages released by the National Archives for evidence of Clinton's expansive claims about her foreign-policy experience in her husband's White House.
The Guardian sniffed around her scheduling records and found, on an "initial reading," that Hillary wasn't always exactly an eyewitness to power:
On the day that dozens of US cruise missiles rained down on Serbia in an attempt to punish Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for the country's onslaught against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, first lady Hillary Clinton was far from the White House war room: instead she was touring ancient Egyptian ruins, including King Tut's tomb and the temple of Hatshepsut. And on the day before the signing of the Good Friday agreement in Belfast she was at an event called "Hats on for Bella" in Washington.
Ouch. I wonder, though, what if we had we discovered that the former first lady was in the Situation Room with Sandy Berger and Wes Clark, pointing out bombing targets on a map? That wouldn't have played well, either.
Canada's forces in southern Afghanistan are getting a boost from the U.S. Marine Corps:
Roughly 1,100 of the 3,200 U.S. marines due in Afghanistan have already arrived for what's scheduled to be a seven-month tour in the war-ravaged country, where they are expected to buttress badly stretched Canadian resources. "I think everyone has embraced us, the Canadians in particular," Col. Peter Petronzio, the unit's commanding officer, said Monday.
The deployment is a stop-gap to bolster the Canadians, who have been battling insurgents and insisted on help as a condition of extending their deployment. After Germany, Spain, and several other NATO states refused (again) to send troops south, the U.S. offered a Marine unit. For the next seven months, the North Americans will be fighting shoulder to shoulder in the province. Hell, if the Mexicans chip in a brigade, Kandahar could join NAFTA.
The U.N. High Council on Refugees announced today that the number of Iraqi asylum-seekers more than doubled last year, reversing a five-year decline. But according to one U.S. congressman, these Iraqis are just being selfish. California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher had this to say at a hearing last week on the U.S. obligation to Iraqi refugees:
They're wonderful people who'd like to live here, especially the ones who have helped us, but the last thing we want to do is to have people who are friendly to democracy... moving here in large numbers at a time when they're needed to build a new, thriving Iraq."
What nerve! It's as if they're putting their personal safety and well-being ahead of U.S. foreign-policy goals. Don't they know this is an election year?
(Hat tip: Cato-at-Liberty)
World Bank President Robert Zoellick, formerly the number two in the State Department, told Europeans at the Brussels Forum that the next U.S. president is going to piss them off:
Zoellick began his session by challenging European expectations for a new U.S. president. "My major concern is that the tenor of the debate in Europe is raising expectations – regardless of who the next president is – that overlooks a range of interests that I think both parties in the United States would pursue and also some ideologies… they would pursue, and that those heightened expectations will inevitably have to be adjusted," Zoellick said.
In an enlightening debate this week on PBS's NewsHour, AEI scholar and "surge" advocate Frederick Kagan made a curious assertion about the U.S. troop presence in Iraq:
The American presence in Iraq is not an occupation. We are there by power of the U.N. Security Council.
I say "curious" for two reasons. One, Kagan may be right in legal terms, but let's not kid ourselves here. It's an occupation, and that's how most Iraqis see it. Two, since when do AEI scholars cite the "power of the U.N. Security Council" so readily?
As for the rest of the debate, I would urge Passport readers to check it out. Both Kagan and his interlocutor, journalist Nir Rosen, have some good points to make about the success of the surge. I would note that Gen. David Petraeus is a lot more cautious than Kagan is about the political progress the Iraqi government is making. Kagan thinks there's been "remarkable political progress." But Petraeus told the Washington Post Thursday, "[N]o one [in the U.S. or Iraqi government]... feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation."
(Hat tip: Steve Clemons)
Newt Gingrich is a big tease. I attended a talk by the former House speaker and FP contributor at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday titled, "What if Reagan Had Not Run and the Soviet Union Still Existed?" Given Gringich's penchant for alternative history, I was anticipating apocalyptic scenarios of President Ted Kennedy ceding Alaska to the Soviets while American schoolchildren were memorizing passages from Das Kapital.
Instead, Gingrich's presentation was largely a discussion of the power of political rehetoric. This month marks the 25th anniversary of two of Reagan's key speeches, the March 8th "Evil Empire" speech and the March 23rd speech announcing the creation of the Strategic Defense Inititiative. Gingrich feels that these two speeches set the stage for the Soviets' collapse:
Here he is, simultaneously in the same month [...] boldly setting out two great principles of dismantling the Soviet empire. First we're going to boldly take it on by delegitimizing its authority because it's evil. And why should something that's evil have authority. Second, we're going to start a race involving science and technology that the
Gingrich's larger point was that "none of the people who were wrong in the 1980s have learned anything." He feels that liberal elites in the U.S. media, state department, and academia still favor appeasement and relativism toward America's enemies over Reagan's aggressive moral clarity, which is why they avoid giving Reagan credit for winning the Cold War. I would argue that this isn't as radical an opinion as Gingrich thinks. (Even the dreaded New York Times grudgingly included it in Reagan's obituary.)
But leaving aside the multitude of reasons for the Soviet collapse and the strong evidence that decades of containment weakened the USSR more than Reagan's confrontation, it's clear that the Gipper played a crucial role in hastening events. If anything, Gingrich's analysis actually sells him short. Gingrich focuses only on the bellicose rhetoric of Reagan's first term, not the more conciliatory actions of his second. He doeesn't mention Reagan's many meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev, including the 1986 negotiations in Iceland where the U.S. president nearly agreed to abolish his nuclear-missile force. Reagan clearly respected Gorbachev and felt that negotiation with such a rival was not an act of moral compromise. In doing so, he spurned the neoconservatives in his administration who viewed these overtures as tantamount to appeasement.
If aggressiveness and moral clarity were all that it took to defeat tyranny, democracy would have flowered in Cuba decades ago. The real takeaway lesson of Reagan's Soviet strategy is that confrontation only works if combined with constructive engagement. It's a lesson that many of those who idolize him have yet to learn.
The Iraq war has killed the American "magic," says French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner:
Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, "It will never be as it was before." "I think the magic is over," he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of the strongest supporters in France of the United States. U.S. military supremacy endures, Kouchner noted, and the new president "will decide what to do - there are many means to re-establish the image." But even that, he predicted, "will take time."
In a sense, Dr. Kouchner is right: The United States' reputation has been badly dented (for both fair and unfair reasons) and will need time to recover. But there is something remarkably ahistorical about the premise that pre-GWOT America had the world in a spell. I've recently been rereading accounts of the outrage that sundry past American activities created (see, for example, Vietnam, support for Israel, the Grenada invasion, the deployment of intermediate range missiles in Europe, the bombing of Libya, and the invasion of Panama). It's easy to forget the depth of antipathy to past American policies. After a 1983 U.N. Security Council meeting at which dozens of countries condemned America for its forays in Central America, the Libyan ambassador crowed that "America has no friends!" It has often seemed that way. America's "magic" will ebb and flow, but it hasn't run dry.
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