Responding to a question from the Politico about why he hasn't played golf in recent years, U.S. President George W. Bush said:
"… playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."
Admittedly, it's probably a bigger sacrifice than most Americans have made so far, as suggests the recent FP article, "The War We Deserve."
(Note: A quick search of Getty Images seems to confirm Bush's sacrifice: The site doesn't appear to have any photos of Bush playing golf after Oct. 13, 2003. There are, however, many photos of him driving golf carts, such as the one here of Bush giving his wife Laura and Afghan President Hamid Karzai a ride at Camp David, Maryland, in August 2007.)
In today's Washington Post, Mike Gerson quite rightly lambasts the "Coburn Seven" -- seven Senate Republicans who are all but blocking expanded funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Unfortunately, what Gerson ignores is the GOP's long history of failure and ignorance on the HIV/AIDS front. This sad history dates to the very founding of the contemporary conservative movement. It was Ronald Reagan, the revered Godfather, who remained silent as tens of thousands of Americans died and a pandemic was spread to more than 100 countries around the globe. Even as Reagan did nothing to combat AIDS, his surrogates in the extreme right opined that the disease was a divinely-inspired retaliation on liberalism. It was Pat Buchanan, Reagan's White House communications director, who called AIDS "nature's revenge on gay men." Such sentiments proliferated as the power of the GOP's religious right-wing coalesced in the 1990s. Former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, for instance, famously called for those infected with HIV/AIDS to be "isolated from the general population" in 1992. He stood by the statement in his 2008 presidential campaign.
When historians sit down to assess the modern conservative movement a generation or two from now, among the most severe tarnishes on the GOP's legacy will be Guantanamo and record deficits. There also will be the string of painfully ignorant policies the party has held on HIV/AIDS. To his credit, George W. Bush has probably done more than any conservative politician of his generation to reverse this tragic legacy -- more, perhaps, than any liberal politician, too. PEPFAR has provided life-sustaining anti-AIDS drugs to 1.4 million patients in the countries hardest hit by the disease. It may be the most favorably remembered foreign policy initiative of Bush's entire tenure. And in his January State of the Union address, the President proposed a long-overdue doubling of the effort.
It looked as though the GOP had finally found its moorings on combating a disease that, in a number of African countries, now affects more than 1 in 5 adults. But a small GOP minority once again appears poised to force the United States to take a backseat in the fight. As Gerson says, it will come at a price paid in lives. Unfortunately, it won't be the first time.
Speaking in Jerusalem today, George Bush was uncharacteristically modest about his expectations for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process during the rest of his term:
"I'm not running for the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm just trying to be a guy to use the influence of the United States to move the process along," Bush said.
Being that guy may force a president desperate for a foreign policy victory to back away from one of his administration's central stated principles: the refusal to negotiate with regimes hostile to the U.S. and Israel. In a new web-exclusive argument for FP, journalist Laura Rozen explores the possibility of Bush overhauling his diplomatic posture in the Middle East this late in the game:
Though the Bush administration seems unlikely to do a “Nixon goes to China” with Iran at this late date, in some isolated cases it does appear to be at least flirting with a different approach. Recent weeks have seen numerous reports of indirect proximity talks and back-channel diplomacy between Israel and Syria, on the one hand, and between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas, on the other. In both cases, Washington’s role is curious, officially condemning calls for any sort of dialogue with Hamas while at the same time, seemingly tacitly endorsing Egypt’s role as a cease-fire broker between Israel and Hamas.
Read the full piece here.
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.
It looks like one of the last bits of business of the Vladimir Putin presidency may have been the expulsion of two military attachés from the U.S. embassy in Moscow. The move could be retaliation for the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Washington in recent months. For those hoping that U.S.-Russia relations might improve under the Medvedev presidency, this is not a promising sign.
CIA Director Michael Hayden gave a smart talk earlier this week about where the world is headed and what role the United States will play in it (video). With the world population set to grow about 34 percent by mid-century, the agency will be especially attentive to demographic transitions in countries that can't sustain higher populations, he said. But Hayden also had a message for China:
On a very hopeful note, Hayden also said Americans have to start putting themselves in others' shoes:
[A] greater number of actors will have influence on the world stage in this century. And that presents one overriding challenge to those of us responsible for our nation's security: We must do a better job of understanding cultures, histories, religions, and traditions that are not our own. We must broaden our understanding, and guard against viewing the world exclusively through an American prism. We must not rely exclusively on an American—or even more broadly, Western—lens in assessing foreign challenges and helping policymakers decide how to respond.
The New America Foundation's Steve Coll and Peter Bergen were on CNN the other day, and they made some encouraging comments to Wolf Blitzer:
WOLF BLITZER (Host): [...] What's the latest in terms of the hunt for bin Laden? Is the U.S. and the West any closer to finding him?
STEVE COLL (President, CEO of New America Foundation): Well, I'm not aware of any specific intelligence that has lit up the trail in the last six months or so, but the circumstances in which he's hiding have changed. And he's probably in Pakistan and there his popularity has declined considerably, and also you've got a new government in power, so the motivations on the Pakistani side are changing very quickly.
BLITZER: What do you think, Peter?
PETER BERGEN (New America's Schwartz Senior Fellow): Yes, I think the hunt for bin Laden is going very poorly. As Steve said, bin Laden's support is evaporating in the North-West Frontier Province, where he's almost certainly hiding. A recent poll showed he had dropped from 70 percent favorable in August of 2007 to 4 percent.
BLITZER: So wouldn't that make it easier for Pakistani or other -- or the U.S., Afghan troops, somebody to find him?
PETER BERGEN: Yes. And I think the short answer is yes. Also a very sharp decline in support for suicide bombings amongst Pakistanis. Unfortunately, on the other hand, you have got a Pakistani government which is doing a deal with some of the militants in the North-West Frontier Province at the same time. So as always, sort of a mixed message here with the Pakistanis.
If the Pakistanis can convince those militants to dime out their special guest, it might all be worth it.
(Hat tip: Sameer Lalwani)
The conclusions on Pakistan are likely to garner the most attention, and quite rightly. Watch for more calls like this one for a three-front war.
Cindy L writes in response to "Think Again: The Peace Corps":
Heh, wonder if Robert Strauss would have jumped to the same conclusions about me. Back in '83-'85, fresh out of college, I was a 'generalist,' one of those fluent Spanish speakers sent to Africa he suggests were misplaced. Would he have read my mind and heart and assumed that I, too, was in it for subsidized travel experience or bolstering my resume. [...] [O]ur volunteer group consisted of 16 or so -- some had advanced degrees, one was at Harvard Law, another from MIT, and guess what, the specialists did not outperform the nonspecialists. The Peace Corps cannot solely be blamed for not using my Spanish, as I, already familiar with Latin culture because of my Colombian background, chose to take advantage of the travel opportunity to go to Africa--not for a some exotic fun, but because I could learn more there. It took me a whopping 3 months to become [fully conversant] in Setswana, big deal. And yes, I learned it not in the training classrooms, but in the bars, in the village, dancing, running village trails, and hanging with the natives--mostly the poor, but also the rich. [...]
[E]ven when I did accomplish good things -- development things -- the locals appreciated not what I did, but who I was. For [example], my generalist self got to the village and realized we had no electricity, no water, nothing to teach agriculture with, and most of all very low morale. So I went into the capital, taught myself how to build a water catchment tank and how to write grants, raised money, got supplies, electrified the school, put up fencing for gardening, built the swimming pool size tank. But what I was always noted for was not those things, but for getting sporting goods and starting various sporting teams that became competitive against better-supplied, established schools. It was running through the village with my students, sending them on distance runs with papers to be signed w/split times by store or bar clerks. It was speaking the language, hanging out.
Development got done, but the greatest value was the cross-cultural component, the public relations, and what *I* learned and took home with me, that will stay with me for a lifetime, affecting what I do now and how I do it. The tax dollars went into me and my growth and now I'm pouring myself out for society.
Some of the political appointees, a phenomenon I noticed as well, did cause a few problems for me, in that they made some serious cultural mistakes (like insulting my landlord, which ended up being an insult to his uncle--the chief! which ended up getting the witch doctor after me), but mostly we volunteers just ignored or derived a chuckle from the clueless appointees.
Earlier on Passport:
Over at the Huffington Post, National Interest Senior Editor Jacob Heilbrunn worries that realists such as Kissinger and Scowcroft have failed to groom a generation of young Republicans to follow in their pragmatic foreign-policy footsteps:
[W]hile Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and other realist elders are consulted by [John] McCain, his heart is with the younger neocons, the 'beavers,' in the words of one McCain supporter, who draft the speeches and get the grunt work done ... the result is disastrous recommendations such as threatening to expel Russia from the G-8.... The gap -- and it is fundamental -- in the GOP today is generational. The elderly realists haven't groomed anyone to replace them. The neocons have."
I think the simplest explanation for why the neocon voices within the McCain campaign are the loudest is that in recent years McCain has most closely identified with them ideologically. That's why, as I pointed out a couple months ago, he surrounded himself with foreign-policy minds like Mark Salter, Daniel McKivergan, Marshall Wittmann, and Randy Scheunemann (though McCain has never really fully signed on to the neocon cause).
As for the generational gap between GOP realists and neocons, Heilbrunn is probably right that it exists. But when I talk to young Republicans, I get the sense that, thanks to the Iraq war, the problem will be self-correcting. Just because a group of young realists hasn't found a home in the McCain camp doesn't mean they aren't out there. Still, it is unfortunate that they had to come to their thinking based on a botched war instead of being groomed by the old guard.
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."
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