Topic: Foreign Policy and National Security

Nuclear Proliferators and Double Standards

One of the more interesting foreign policy phenomena over the past year or so has been the prevalence of China hawks fawning over the US-India nuclear deal. The clear implication is that the payoff from signing the deal is that India will fall into line in a loose policy of containing China. Never mind the fact that India has made perfectly clear that it has no intention of following such a policy.

Now comes State Department spokesman-turned-South-and-Central-Asia-assistant-secretary Richard Boucher to admit that with respect to our posture on India versus our posture on Iran “Is there a double-standard? Yeah. There should be.” Reuters reports further that Boucher “added that he did not believe Iran decided its policies based on how Washington dealt with India.”

This is pretty simplistic thinking. Nobody’s arguing that Iran “decides its policies based on how Washington deals with India.” The point is that the increasingly brittle international nonproliferation regime is based on norms; to the extent that the United States undermines those norms, it hastens the irrelevance of the NPT and the related institutions. Further, it’s perfectly clear that the international community (or “international community” if one prefers) has not gone along with the new norm that countries that are friendly to America should get special treatment.

And while we’re at it, let’s look at the circular logic deployed by pro-India deal types based on proliferation concerns. On one hand, we’re told that India has a rock-solid track record on proliferation, so we should sign the deal as a reward. On the other hand, we’re told that one of the benefits of the deal is that it will get some of India’s civilian reactors (though none of its military reactors and no future reactors) into a monitoring regime.

But if India has a rock-solid track record on proliferation, why care about getting them into a semi-formal nonproliferation institution? And further, let’s take a look at India’s allegedly solid track record on proliferation, courtesy of the Weekly Standard:

Over the last 20 months, the State Department has sanctioned no fewer than seven separate Indian entities for transferring strategic weapons-related technology or goods to Iran.

One of these entities–Balaji Amines Limited–was sanctioned late in July for selling Iran chemicals critical to manufacturing rocket fuel at the very same time Iranian-supplied missiles to Hezbollah were slamming into the homes of innocents in Haifa. State also sanctioned Y.S.R. Prasad, former chairman of India’s entire state-run civilian nuclear program. He is reported to have visited with Iran’s nuclear establishment several times and transferred technology to extract tritium, a material necessary to make smaller, more efficient missile-deliverable nuclear warheads. India is demanding that the United States drop its sanctions against Prasad, who is one of the most honored members of India’s nuclear elite. He also is one of the eight leading Indian nuclear scientists who recently wrote Singh protesting the nuclear deal’s encroachment on India’s freedom to expand its nuclear arsenal and to conduct a foreign policy independent of Washington.

A key concern he and his distinguished colleagues raised in their letter (which Singh noted in his address) relates to the strategic cooperation agreement India reached with Iran in 2003. The House of Representatives has been worried about India’s ties to Iran and considered conditioning U.S. nuclear cooperation on India’s supporting allied efforts to block Iran’s nuclear program. This, however, would be a deal breaker for India, Bush administration officials warned. The House listened, backed down, and instead simply expressed its desire for Indian support against Iran’s nuclear program in the report that accompanied its enabling legislation. For India, though, this was still intolerable. “We cannot accept introduction of extraneous issues on foreign policy,” Singh explained. “Any prescriptive suggestions in this regard are not acceptable to us.”

Was a strategic recalibration of the US-India relationship long overdue? You bet. But the Bush administration’s typically clumsy diplomacy with respect to the deal threatens to take a wobbly nonproliferation regime and smash it to bits, without any clear strategy for what’s going to follow in its wake. And now, to the extent the nuclear deal has become a referendum on US-India relations, it’s far too late to torpedo the deal without risking serious damage in those relations. We now find ourselves in a bind where any of the possible outcomes, whether the deal’s passage, its dying on our side, or its being killed on India’s side, are going to have pretty bad consequences.

Here you had a good idea (improve strategic ties with India) that was implemented in such a way that it created a host of negative consequences. It didn’t have to happen this way.

Ouch.

I’m anything but an expert on British politics, but if the head of the Conservatives is making noises like this, we’ve got a serious image problem abroad:

“I and my party are instinctive friends of America and passionate supporters of the Atlantic alliance,” [Conservatives chief David Cameron] said, warning against the “intellectual and moral surrender” of anti-Americanism. But he added that being an uncritical ally was dangerous for Britain: “I fear that if we continue at present we may combine the maximum of exposure with the minimum of real influence over decisions.”

Risking a rift with the Republicans and his own traditionalists, he attacked the “unrealistic and simplistic” neoconservative philosophy of Mr Bush’s closest colleagues and advisers, calling it “a view which sees only light and darkness in the world – and which believes that one can be turned to the other as quickly as flicking a switch”.

Coming Monday: “9/11 Five Years After: Reassessing the Terrorist Threat and Homeland Security”

Monday is the fifth anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, that precipitated the Global War on Terror internationally and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security domestically. While the Global War on Terror has received a vast amount of commentary, less has been said about the effectiveness of the government’s policies to guard against terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Is there, in fact, enough of a terrorist threat to justify the astronomical sums spent securing landmarks in third-tier cities? Has domestic anti-terrorism policy actually made us any safer? Was the DHS even a good idea? How is it spending our tax money?

All these questions and more will be debated in the imminent September edition of Cato Unbound, “9/11 Five Years After: Reassessing the Terrorist Threat and Homeland Security.” Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller will kick off the conversation with “Some Reflections on What, If Anything, ‘Are We Safer?’ Might Mean.” Mueller will get feedback and pushback from: Clark Ervin, head of the Homeland Security Program at the Aspen Institute and the first inspector general of the United States Department of Homeland Security; Veronique de Rugy, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and expert on DHS budgeting priorities; and Timothy Naftali, soon-to-be director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and author of Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism.

Chief of Pentagon Joint Staff Wary of “War” Rhetoric

President Bush likes to remind the country as often as possible that “we are at war.”  (Last night, though, he acknowledged, without irony, that “one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.”)  The few people who have balked at the rhetoric of “war” as the response to terrorism often have been derided as “unserious” about the threat of terrorism.  But it’s interesting to see that the latest person to reject Bush’s war rhetoric is Army Col. Gary Cheek, the chief of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff:

What is needed, said Army Col. Gary Cheek, is to recast terrorists as the criminals they are.

“It makes sense for us to find another name for the GWOT,” said Cheek. “It merits rethinking. I know our European allies are more comfortable articulating issues of terrorism as criminal threats, rather than war … It ought to be our goal to partner better with the European allies so we can migrate this from a war to something other than a war.”

The “war” moniker elevates al-Qaida and other transnational terrorists, giving them legitimacy as an opposition force to the United States. It also tends to alienate Muslim populations in other countries, who see the war as a war on Islam, and feel they need to support al-Qaida as a matter of defending their faith.

It also tends to frame the fight as one in which the Defense Department has the primary role, when it is becoming increasingly clear that the “long war” against global terrorism is going to be won on other fronts – economic, political, diplomatic, financial. Other government agencies and departments must become more engaged; only they have the expertise to help other countries take the actions necessary to defeat terrorists.

Whole story here.

Lenin, Hitler, Bin Laden — and Iraq

In his speech yesterday before the Military Officers Association of America, President Bush focused on Osama bin Laden’s speeches and writings. “We know what the terrorists intend to do because they’ve told us,” Bush told the assembled crowd, “and we need to take their words seriously.”

For the president’s part, bin Laden’s words affirm that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. “For al Qaeda,” the president explained, “Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America – it is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided.”

We know of Al Qaeda’s intentions – to expel the Americans from Iraq, and then to establish a Caliphate there – but what do we know of their capacity for achieving such ends? History is littered with the names of kooks and fanatics who aspired to global world domination. In relatively recent times, Americans remember cult leaders such as David Koresh, and perhaps even Jim Jones, but the vast majority of these individuals merit barely a footnote in textbooks.

The president wishes us to focus on the exceptions, on the evil, tyrannical few who have managed to translate their grandiose intentions into reality. He pointed to Lenin, and to Hitler, men who laid out their plans in clear view, in published writings and in speeches, but who were all but ignored until after they had seized the reins of power.

President Bush further contends that bin Laden has much in common with Lenin and Hitler, and that “History teaches that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake.”

We must not underestimate bin Laden, but we would be foolish to fight a war on his terms. We must especially avoid the apocalyptic conclusion that a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq will have the effect of handing all of Iraq over to Al Qaeda on a silver platter. For what differentiates the Lenins and Hitlers of the world from countless other megalomaniacal fanatics was their unique ability to marry their evil designs to the power and resilience of a modern state, complete with an industrial base and a functioning military.

As Justin Logan and I wrote last year, the claims that bin Laden can and will create such a super state in Iraq are absurd on their face. The Kurds will not tolerate Al Qaeda in their midst. Neither will the Shiites, including many of the factional leaders and militia groups that are outspoken in their hostility to the United States. Even many Sunni Arabs, the minority who have lost the most since Saddam Hussein was removed from power, are loathe to make common cause with the murderous jihadists perpetrating indiscriminate violence against innocent Iraqis.

Rather than empowering potential allies in the fight against Al Qaeda, the continuing U.S. military presence is discouraging Iraqis from stepping forward because it feeds into bin Laden’s cynical narrative – that the Western nations, with the United States in the lead, seek to humiliate and dominate Iraqis, and all the Arab peoples. Absent a formal pledge to leave, ideally by some date certain, President Bush’s repeated assertions to the contrary are seen as nothing more than rhetoric, in contrast to the proximate, physical reality of nearly 140,000 U.S. troops on sacred Arab lands.

The occupation is counterproductive in the war against Al Qaeda, but it is also ineffective in its other stated aims. Nearly three and a half years since American forces went into Iraq, the U.S. military presence has not delivered on the promise of establishing a stable and unified Iraq. And for those who say Americans must be more patient, that monumental change takes time, perhaps even generations, it is not too much to expect that the trend lines would at least be moving in the right direction.

But they are not. Three nationwide elections in 2005 have not delivered stability, nor have they contributed to it. If anything, the political process in Iraq has empowered some of the most radical elements in Iraqi society. The ethnic militias and the death squads have used the political process to infiltrate the Iraqi Interior and Health ministries, among others, and have subverted the good faith efforts of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to establish order.

With no definitive milestones on the horizon – there are no nationwide elections scheduled for Iraq until 2009 – the occupation grinds on indefinitely. Beyond the sickening drip-drip-drip of American casualties, there is the torrent of violence against Iraqis, particularly sectarian killings of Iraqi vs. Iraqi. From this maelstrom of bloodshed, the president can offer only more of the same. “The road ahead is going to be difficult, and it will require more sacrifice.”

That it is, and that it will be.

State Department Stretched Thin, Too

For fear of revealing how tall the “to be read” stack on my desk is, this August 24 article from the Washington Post reveals how it isn’t just the military that’s stretched too thin as a result of the Bush administration’s policy of purposively destabilizing the Middle East; the State Department is feeling the crunch, too. Citing “increasing international turmoil,” Foreign Service Director General George M. Staples outlined a plan to push more FSOs into “hardship” postings, as opposed to cushy appointments in Europe and other traditional focal areas. The planned changes

are intended to shake up the State Department culture so that overseas service becomes more frequent and more focused on global hot spots.

The changes come as the number of overseas positions that prohibit accompanying children – and sometimes spouses – has increased from 200 in 2001 to more than 800 today. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who ordered the new approach, has already begun shifting personnel from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.

More than 200 foreign service officers are required each year in Iraq, and already 1,000 of the roughly 11,000 foreign service officers have voluntarily served there. The number of foreign service officers needed in Iraq will grow as Rice pushes forward with a plan to establish provincial reconstruction teams across the country.

Moving folks from Brussels and Berlin into Baghdad and Basra makes sense on its face, but that ignores the fact that the administration is also currently hell-bent on trying to twist European arms into coming along with us to confront Iran over its nuclear program. Arm-twisting requires diplomacy, and diplomacy requires diplomats. Take diplomats out of Europe, decrease your chances for diplomatic breakthroughs.

And about those provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs): State’s been having a hell of a hard time finding folks to fill them. There’s been a long-standing dispute between DoD and State as to who is going to protect these folks (DoD finally acquiesced to doing it). Moreover, State made a pretty measly request for its folks to apply to PRTs in the first place–it posted 35 available positions early this year, and by April, it had only received applications for 12 of those positions, only one of which was deemed qualified. Even when State finds folks to staff a few dozen PRT positions, it’s hard to believe that 50 diplomats are going to fix Iraq.

All of this points in one direction: if you want to have an empire, you’d do best to put yourself together a colonial service and do it right. If you don’t want to have a colonial service, maybe you’d best pare back your imperial ambitions.

Liberal Media?

Interesting to see that the influential Time magazine endorses an “all imperialist, all the time” approach to looking at the five year anniversary of 9/11.

Time draws on the broad range of experts from Max “Case for American Empire” Boot all the way over to Niall “The United States Is and Should Be an Empire” Ferguson, who is, frighteningly, a foreign policy adviser to John “Sophisticated Plan for Iraq” McCain.

Time really went out of its way to get at both sides of the issue there!  You can have it either way: Empire or Empire!