Latest Cato Research on General Strategy and U.S. Foreign Policy en President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ Would Be a Historic Mistake Doug Bandow <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump&nbsp;has unveiled his “<a href="" target="_blank">Deal of the Century</a>” and it is—for&nbsp;Israel.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>In the past the Palestinians have been said to never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity. In this case the opportunity is entirely Israel’s, and even more directly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s. Neoconservative Max Boot called the initiative “a PR campaign, not a&nbsp;peace plan.”</p> <p>Any proposal brokered by Washington should be immediately suspect. There is no pretense that American policymakers are objective or balanced: Israel is a&nbsp;political “third rail,” enjoying extraordinary favor among many Democratic and most Republican policymakers. Recent presidents made little effort to offer a&nbsp;balanced policy, irrespective of their rhetoric.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Washington might not be able to deliver a&nbsp;better future to the Palestinians, but it should not lock them into a&nbsp;worse one.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Certainly, President Trump has not done so. His plan envisions immediate Israeli territorial gains with the annexation of settlements dispersed throughout the West Bank. Israel would forever control not only Jerusalem—the Palestinians would be left only with some city outskirts—but also their borders and airspace. The latter is even presented as a&nbsp;benefit to the Palestinians, since they could rely on Israel for security rather than spending on their own forces!</p> <p>However, only in several years, after the Palestinian Authority met unrealistic standards imposed by the U.S. and Israel, would a&nbsp;fragmented statelet be created. Then unnamed, unidentified parties not privy to the agreement would pour $50 billion into economic development of the Palestinian territories.</p> <p>Of course, a&nbsp;plan developed by American partisans of Israel and the Netanyahu government favors Israel. Indeed, reported the&nbsp;<em>Jerusalem Post</em>: “The broader ideas of the plan are similar to ones Netanyahu has long touted.” The main difference is “that the White House is behind his vision this time.” Observed Israeli Daniel Levy, president of the U.S./Middle East Project, “Only the Israeli side is deemed worthy by the American plan of empathy, of having its historical claims and justification to the land and to nationhood embraced.”</p> <p>The faux Deal of the Century was released shortly ahead of the next round of Israeli elections, in which Netanyahu is desperately attempting to gain a&nbsp;majority to reelect him and shut down the prosecution against him for corruption. At the plan’s release, he announced that Israel would “apply its laws to the Jordan Valley, to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and to other areas that your plan designates as part of Israel.” Boot called this “an Israeli power grab and land grab.”</p> <p>The proposed Palestinian entity is not a&nbsp;state as commonly understood. Rather, it would be entirely dependent on Israel’s goodwill. The Palestinian Authority would not even have control over territory within. The administration plan states: “The Israeli population located in enclaves that remain inside contiguous Palestinian territory but that are part of the State of Israel shall have the option to remain in place unless they choose otherwise, and maintain their existing Israeli citizenship. They will have access routes connecting them to the State of Israel. They will be subject to Israeli civilian administration, including zoning and planning, within the interior of such Israeli enclaves. They will not be discriminated against and will have appropriate security protection. Such enclaves and access routes will be subject to Israeli security responsibility.”</p> <p>This Palestinian gerrymander bears a&nbsp;distinct resemblance to the ten South African “Bantustans,” or homelands, created to enhance Apartheid against black South Africans while providing a&nbsp;pretense of self‐​rule. Palestinians would be similarly disadvantaged, segregated, and subjugated, their isolated cantons stitched together through “bridges, roads and tunnels.”</p> <p>Moreover, the Palestinian creation is dependent on conditions unlikely to be met. For instance, Hamas, which controls Gaza and is beyond the Palestinian Authority’s control, must disarm, renounce a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, and accept Israel as a&nbsp;Jewish state. To say this is unlikely is a&nbsp;stunning understatement.</p> <p>Moreover, stated the plan: “The Palestinians shall have implemented a&nbsp;governing system with a&nbsp;constitution or another system for establishing the rule of law that provides for freedom of press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights for its citizens, protections for religious freedom and for religious minorities to observe their faith, uniform and fair enforcement of law and contractual rights, due process under law, and an independent judiciary with appropriate legal consequences and punishment established for violations of the law.” The economic system must be similarly pristine.</p> <p>These are reasonable requirements for all governments. However, what Middle Eastern nation meets these criteria? Even Israel is backsliding on civil libertarian norms. And who decides that the Palestinians have met these conditions, years after Israel has annexed, forever, all the areas that it desires? Israel and its primary benefactor, the U.S.</p> <p>Trump famously promised $50 billion of commercial investment. This from a&nbsp;president who might not be in office a&nbsp;year from now. And one who has routinely trashed earlier agreements and treaties. Worse, there is no guarantee that anyone else will provide the money.</p> <p>The plan simply offers “the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years.” Even if Palestinians accept their role as docile Israeli dependents, which seems unlikely, what company will invest in a&nbsp;territory and region likely to be no less unstable and violent years in the future. What government will toss aid at the Palestinians&nbsp;<em>after</em>&nbsp;they have abandoned all leverage and agreed to submit? Promises to double the GDP are fantasies based on nothing at all.</p> <p>If there is an argument for the agreement, it is that the Palestinians have lost, Israel is supreme, Arab governments have dropped the pretense that they care about the issue, and Washington has abandoned the slightest veneer of balance. Indeed, the Trump administration spent the last three years imposing its version of “maximum pressure” on the Palestinians. That was not enough to force their surrender, so along with the plan the president threatened them with the loss of any concessions, opining that “this could be the last opportunity they will ever have.”</p> <p>Perhaps the president is unaware of what his administration is proposing. After all, he said: “it is only reasonable that I&nbsp;have to do a&nbsp;lot for the Palestinians, or it just wouldn’t be fair.” How else to explain the Misdeal of the Century? The result of this initiative will be neither peace nor prosperity. Washington might not be able to deliver a&nbsp;better future to the Palestinians, but it should not lock them into a&nbsp;worse one.</p> </div> Wed, 19 Feb 2020 13:06:20 -0500 Doug Bandow How Donald Trump Can Jumpstart Diplomacy with North Korea Doug Bandow <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump&nbsp;apparently has given up on&nbsp;North Korea,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" rel=" noopener noreferrer">according to his aides</a>. He said he wants no summits this year while he concentrates on his reelection campaign.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Downplaying PR extravaganzas makes sense as long as there is no agreement. However, the administration appears determined to move in reverse. An anonymous official told CNN that talks were “dead.” Apparently,&nbsp;<a href="">the State Department</a>&nbsp;has tightened already restricted travel to the North.</p> <p>Dropping efforts to achieve detente with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leaves President Trump without an obvious foreign policy success. Endless wars in the Middle East continue. The president abandoned the nuclear deal with&nbsp;Iran, creating greater Gulf instability. Relations with Russia have worsened in practice. Hostile governments in Cuba and Venezuela continue to challenge America. The main success of the trade war with&nbsp;China&nbsp;was winning increased agricultural sales to benefit his Midwest supporters, at the high cost of disrupting the economy with burdensome tariffs.</p> <p>The president should not give up working to defuse the Korean nuclear confrontation.</p> <p>He deserves great credit for ignoring complaints from the usual Korea policy analysts about his decision to engage the DPRK. Refusing to talk with one’s adversaries is dangerous as well as myopic. Imagine if the U.S. did not have diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and especially the Cuban Missile Crisis. America and China might have avoided two and a&nbsp;half years of war in Korea had the two governments had regularly communicated as allied forces moved north toward the Yalu River.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Progress remains possible but will require a&nbsp;change in approach. The possibility of promoting stability and peace is worth the risk of doing so.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Refusing to talk with Pyongyang for years was equally foolish. It is especially dumb now when North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong‐​un obviously desires contact. Indeed, he has proved to be quite skilled at the diplomatic game. That does not mean he is a&nbsp;closet liberal or friend of America. But he appears to be a&nbsp;man with whom America and, more importantly, South Korea, can do business.</p> <p>The president should build on this important achievement. How to proceed?</p> <p>President Trump should give the equivalent of a&nbsp;victory speech. He should note that he took the first, critical step in defusing the seven‐​decade long confrontation in Northeast Asia. In this way, he has achieved something none of his predecessors succeeded in doing.</p> <p>That doesn’t mean the lion is ready to lie down with the lamb on the Korean peninsula. But as during the move toward détente as the Cold War ended, the threat of military confrontation diminished. Moscow still possessed the ability to wreak havoc in Europe and around the world. However, the desultory apparatchiks who took charge of the U.S.S.R. during the Brezhnev era lacked the will to act. Creating a&nbsp;similar alternative path for the DPRK would be a&nbsp;limited but invaluable achievement nonetheless.</p> <p>To move further, to make nuclear or other arms agreements, ones that can survive the usual political vicissitudes, requires greater personal contact and trust. And that means more than an occasional brief summit between principals. The president should explain that this year he intends to strengthen the foundation of the relationship to support the larger denuclearization agreement he still seeks.</p> <p>That doesn’t mean a&nbsp;naïve belief that the extreme differences in political ideologies and systems can be wished away through personal rapport, however genuine. But it means changing a&nbsp;once persistently antagonistic relationship into one in which U.S. military coercion seems unlikely. Increasing communication, contact, and cooperation would advance a&nbsp;number of possible objectives—denuclearization, arms control, or simply civil relations. And listening to what the North says it desires increases the odds of reaching an agreement.</p> <p>The 2018 Singapore summit statement ordered the North’s objectives: better bilateral relationship, improved regional security, and then denuclearization. Separately South Korean officials reported that Kim said nuclear weapons would not be necessary if Washington and Pyongyang formed a&nbsp;closer relationship. Skepticism of Kim’s pronouncements is warranted, but such positions track with reality—after Muammar Khadafy’s brutal demise after surrendering his missile and nuclear programs, what sane dictator would voluntarily disarm? And the improved relations Kim claims to want would benefit the U.S. too.</p> <p>To that end, the president should announce that he intends to spend this year strengthening ties at all levels. He should revoke the ban on U.S.-North Korean travel, both to and from. Contact should be encouraged, not prohibited. Moreover, he should propose exchanging liaison offices, with permanent representation in both capitals. The U.S. should simultaneously insist on reciprocal rules governing freedom of movement of diplomats and wide‐​ranging conversations on all topics, including human rights.</p> <p>Critics complain that such a&nbsp;policy would “reward” the North. However, expanded communication would benefit both sides. It would improve the prospects for diplomacy and create mechanisms to defuse conflicts. The very act of legitimizing contact with Pyongyang would reduce the implicit threat of U.S. military action. Further, it would give America a&nbsp;small window into North Korea, a&nbsp;useful step when dealing with such an opaque regime.</p> <p>The president also should propose that the U.S., China, and both Koreas sign a&nbsp;peace declaration for the peninsula. A&nbsp;formal peace treaty should be placed on the agenda for future negotiation. Such a&nbsp;declaration should not be controversial. After all, the war is over. The long‐​ago combatants should acknowledge this reality.</p> <p>Opposition centers around the contention that recognizing reality somehow favors the North. The great success of America’s post‐​Korean War policy was preventing reignition of that conflict. The U.S. should celebrate that achievement. Moreover, Kim’s agreement would undercut the North’s use of perpetual war to strengthen political support for the regime. Regime propaganda might continue uninterrupted, but the dissonance between claims and reality would grow.</p> <p>Some South Koreans fear that admitting the peninsula is at peace might reduce American support for the bilateral alliance. However, a&nbsp;peace declaration does nothing more than recognize reality. It is that reality which undercuts the case for Washington’s continued defense of a&nbsp;nation with a&nbsp;population twice as large as and an economy more than 50 times that of its adversary. Only American support prevented North Korea’s conquest of the Korean peninsula in 1950, 1960, and maybe 1970. However, since then the Republic of Korea has surged past the North. Why should U.S. taxpayers continue to pay for the ROK’s defense? That question should be asked whether or not a&nbsp;peace declaration is issued.</p> <p>Finally, the administration should adapt its objectives to reality. It should be obvious that demanding complete denuclearization before offering any benefits is a&nbsp;dead end. The president should treat what he believes to be Kim’s promise to denuclearize as aspirational, a&nbsp;future possibility if a&nbsp;series of conditions are met. Thus, denuclearization is the end of a&nbsp;long road highlighted by multiple arms control steps along the way.</p> <p>There is great reluctance to admit the obvious, that the North already is a&nbsp;nuclear state and is highly unlikely to surrender what the regime’s sees as the ultimate tool to guarantee its survival. However, it is important not to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. A&nbsp;DPRK with nuclear weapons will always be dangerous, but one with a&nbsp;limited arsenal, constrained by agreements, enforced by inspections, and integrated in the larger international order would be far less dangerous. Perhaps this North Korea also is beyond reach. But the U.S. will never know unless it pushes in that direction.</p> <p>The administration should propose discrete steps that would reduce the military threat posed by the North. Each one should provide value on its own and be consistent with long‐​term denuclearization: continued suspension of testing, a&nbsp;compilation of a&nbsp;nuclear inventory, freeze on production, destruction of specific facilities, outside inspections, and more. Even if the process never reaches the ultimate objective of denuclearization, the result would be a&nbsp;more stable and peaceful peninsula.</p> <p>But moving along requires making concessions in return. Which means offering genuine sanctions relief. Agreements can be enforced by incorporating snap‐​back provisions if the terms are violated. Sanctions should be viewed as a&nbsp;means to an end, whose purpose is fulfilled as meaningful disarmament is achieved.</p> <p>Finally, Washington should consciously remove barriers to South‐​North Korea reconciliation. Pyongyang is a&nbsp;direct threat to the ROK, not America. Seoul should take the lead in developing their relationship. In contrast, Washington can and should step back from being in between the two. Thus, sanctions relief should begin by empowering the South in its relations with the DPRK, allowing joint economic and humanitarian projects to proceed. Encouraging South Korea to act as a&nbsp;sovereign state, rather than a&nbsp;U.S. dependent, also would strengthen ROK President Moon Jae‐​in’s position and authority to negotiate with the North.</p> <p>President Trump took a&nbsp;risk in pursuing the opening with Kim. The process has stalemated, but he should not abandon the opening which he has created. Progress remains possible but will require a&nbsp;change in approach. The possibility of promoting stability and peace is worth the risk of doing so.</p> </div> Tue, 18 Feb 2020 13:00:19 -0500 Doug Bandow Donald Trump’s Real North Korea Mistake Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Trump needs to take advantage of his strengthened political position following the impeachment fiasco to keep his 2016 campaign promises about reassessing obsolete American military alliances. Unfortunately, thus far his approach has consisted of little more than empty talk.&nbsp;In terms of substance, Washington’s policies toward its NATO and East Asian allies have shifted very little.&nbsp;The administration’s principal change efforts have focused on demanding greater financial burden‐​sharing from its treaty partners in both regions.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>That approach has worked only to a&nbsp;very limited extent.&nbsp;As Trump pointed out in his&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">State of the Union address</a>, the number of European NATO members meeting the agreed‐​upon target of spending two percent of their annual gross domestic product on defense has doubled during his administration.&nbsp;He neglected to mention, though, that the overwhelming majority of members still have not reached that target.</p> <p>His track record with South Korea and Japan is not much better.&nbsp;In November 2019, the administration&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">reportedly demanded</a>&nbsp;that Seoul make a&nbsp;five‐​fold increase in its $900 million annual support payments for U.S. troops stationed in the ROK.&nbsp;Washington also pressed Tokyo to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">quadruple</a>&nbsp;its $2 billion support payment.&nbsp;Both allies strongly resisted that pressure, and likely viewed the demands as a&nbsp;bluff. As with earlier calls for greater burden‐​sharing by the NATO allies going back decades, U.S. leaders have never exhibited a&nbsp;credible willingness to withdraw U.S. forces if the calls were spurned. Allied governments seem confident that the situation is no different this time.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>It should be puzzling, frustrating, and alarming to all Americans that the United States is still on front lines of any crisis involving North Korea.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Even in the unlikely event that they did accept Washington’s demands, the objective of financial burden‐​sharing fails to understand the real problem with U.S. foreign policy.&nbsp;The more fundamental problem is that the costs and risks of America’s alliance obligations now outweigh the prospective benefits—and the gap is growing rapidly.&nbsp;That situation is graphically apparent with respect to Washington’s security commitments in East Asia—especially to South Korea. The “mutual” defense treaty with Seoul entails the risk of a&nbsp;U.S. military confrontation with North Korea.&nbsp;That was perilous enough when Pyongyang lacked any nuclear capability, much less the capacity to strike the American homeland. Both conditions have now changed.</p> <p>It should be puzzling, frustrating, and alarming to all Americans that the United States is still on front lines of any crisis involving North Korea.&nbsp;That dangerous, unrewarding role arose in a&nbsp;different era under very different circumstances.&nbsp;Washington’s commitment to defend South Korea from the communist North reflected the pervasive view among U.S. policymakers that the world was bipolar strategically, and that any victory by a&nbsp;Soviet or Communist Chinese client would be a&nbsp;dangerous setback for the United States and its “free world” allies. Thus, U.S. leaders deemed keeping the noncommunist Republic of Korea (ROK) out of the clutches of international communism important to America’s own strategic interests.</p> <p>Whatever the logic of such a&nbsp;commitment in a&nbsp;bipolar Cold War setting, circumstances have changed dramatically over the past three decades. Unlike the backing that Moscow and Beijing provided to Pyongyang when the communist regime launched its military offensive in 1950 to conquer the ROK and unify the Korean Peninsula under communist rule, both China and noncommunist Russia have no desire for a&nbsp;second Korean war—or even a&nbsp;boost in tensions in the region. Even in the unlikely scenario that North Korea intends to invade the South again, Seoul’s vast economic advantage over its rival means that the ROK can build whatever forces it needs to deter or defeat such a&nbsp;conventional military threat. It also can choose to build a&nbsp;nuclear deterrent to offset anything Pyongyang does in that area.</p> <p>While North Korean leaders would logically regard as credible a&nbsp;determination by South Korea to defend itself, their assessment of a&nbsp;U.S. commitment to risk the American homeland to defend a&nbsp;small ally is far less certain. Uncertainty about credibility has always been a&nbsp;problem with the entire concept of extended deterrence. In any case, the existence of a&nbsp;North Korean nuclear arsenal and the growing reach of Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles markedly increase the risk level to the United State of maintaining the defense commitment to Seoul.</p> <p>The necessity of trying to reduce that risk impels the United States to continue pursuing the chimera of getting North Korea to renounce its nukes and missiles. As I’ve&nbsp;<a href="">written elsewhere</a>, Pyongyang is extremely unlikely ever to abide by those demands. Those weapons are the North Korean government’s ace in the hole to prevent the United States from trying to replicate the forcible regime‐​change strategy it pursued in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere. Consequently, the risk level to the United States of trying to maintain its defense commitment to South Korea is certain to rise, not fall, in the coming years.</p> <p>In a&nbsp;normal international system, the neighbors of a&nbsp;difficult and menacing state would have the primary incentive and obligation to deal with that country. The United States should take steps consistent with that realization. It is absurd for America to remain be on the front lines of a&nbsp;simmering crisis in a&nbsp;region thousands of miles from home, when other powers have far more at stake.</p> <p>Washington can normalize its relations with Pyongyang—signing a&nbsp;treaty formally ending the Korean War, establishing formal diplomatic ties, and eliminating most unilateral economic sanctions—without persisting in the futile strategy of leading a&nbsp;multilateral effort to (somehow) induce Pyongyang to return to nuclear virginity. The Trump administration should make that dramatic policy shift. As it moves toward a&nbsp;normal relationship with Pyongyang, Washington should also inform South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia that the United States no longer intends to be on the front lines of trying to manage Northeast Asia’s security environment. South Korean President Moon Jae‐​in already has&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">taken initiative</a>s for détente between his country and North Korea, and he has achieved modest success. Washington should strongly encourage such moves by South Korea and other countries in the region instead of impeding them.</p> <p>Because of geographic proximity and other factors, maintaining peace in that region should be far more crucial to North Korea’s neighbors than to the United States. It’s time for them to assume the necessary responsibilities and incur the accompanying risks. Donald Trump should at long last make his alleged willingness to change policies regarding America’s obsolete alliances a&nbsp;reality. Korea is a&nbsp;good (indeed, necessary) place to start.</p> </div> Tue, 18 Feb 2020 09:10:41 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter Ineffective, Immoral, Politically Convenient: America’s Overreliance on Economic Sanctions and What to Do about It Richard Hanania <div class="lead text-default"> <p>American sanctions target around two dozen countries, with some states experiencing what amounts to near total economic embargoes. Why are these policies in place, what effects do they have, and how successful are they in achieving their geopolitical objectives? Sanctions have massive humanitarian costs and are not only ineffective but likely counterproductive. On these points, there is overwhelming agreement in the academic literature. Such policies can reduce the economic performance of the targeted state, degrade public health, and cause tens of thousands of deaths per year under the most crushing sanctions regimes. Moreover, they almost always fail to achieve their goals, particularly when the aim is regime change or significant behavioral changes pertaining to what states consider their fundamental interests. Sanctions can even backfire, making mass killing and repression more likely, while decreasing the probability of democratization.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Why, then, does the United States use economic sanctions so often? The popularity of sanctions owes more to the domestic interests of politicians than their ability to achieve geopolitical goals. American policymakers show little interest in the empirical research on sanctions and they often do not supplement trade restrictions with diplomatic efforts that can help achieve a&nbsp;bargain. In contrast, sanctions make sense from the perspective of domestic politics and political psychology. They provide a&nbsp;middle ground between military force and doing nothing and are unlikely to cause a&nbsp;domestic backlash because the damage they inflict is indirect and largely unobserved. Taking into account political realities, here are several suggestions to prevent the overuse of sanctions: when implemented, they should be restricted to symbolic targets, which would allow American leaders to achieve their political goals without harming innocents abroad; the United States should be laxer in the enforcement of current and future sanctions regimes; and Congress should legislate to make it more difficult for the executive branch to unilaterally impose sanctions without end, which would create a&nbsp;legal cause of action for those affected. Finally, opponents of current policies should continue to make the public aware of the effects of robust sanctions, which can remove the political incentive to enact and implement them. The more often that imposing heavy economic sanctions is seen as an ineffective policy that harms innocents abroad for self‐​interested&nbsp;reasons, the less likely they are to be used.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Introduction </h2> , <div class="text-default"> <p>In early 2011, Syrians took to the streets to protest the government of Bashar al‐​Assad. Almost nine years later, Syria is still enduring a&nbsp;brutal civil war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. From the beginning of the conflict, critics accused the Obama admin­istration of “doing nothing” in the face of wide‐​scale atrocities and suffering among the Syrian population.<sup><a href="#_ednref1" id="_edn1">1</a></sup>&nbsp;This criticism, however, ignores that, aside from arming rebels fighting against the government for a&nbsp;time, the United States has, since the beginning of the conflict, sought to crush the Syrian economy—an effort in which it has largely been successful.<sup><a href="#_ednref2" id="_edn2">2</a></sup></p> <p>In August 2011, President Obama, announcing that “Assad must go,” signed an executive order that froze the assets of the regime, prohibited the importation of Syrian oil, and made it against the law for any American to invest in Syria or to do business with its government.<sup><a href="#_ednref3" id="_edn3">3</a></sup>&nbsp;Following his lead, the next month the European Union also banned Syrian oil imports, a&nbsp;particularly devastating act given that 95 percent of that country’s oil exports went to Europe.<sup><a href="#_ednref4" id="_edn4">4</a></sup>&nbsp;While the United States and its European allies have not succeeded in overthrowing the Assad government, they have been able to contribute to the destruction of the Syrian economy. Between 2010 and 2015, Syria lost 75 percent of its GDP, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund, a&nbsp;decline greater than that of Germany or Japan during World War II.<sup><a href="#_ednref5" id="_edn5">5</a></sup>&nbsp;Much of this is surely due to the destructiveness of the war itself, but the unprecedented nature of the decline can only be explained by the country being subject to what the UN calls “some of the most complicated and far‐​reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed” in the form of polices that have deprived the Syrian people of even basic foodstuffs and necessary medicine.<sup><a href="#_ednref6" id="_edn6">6</a></sup></p> <p>The fact that this economic warfare can coincide with widespread claims that the Obama administration did nothing in Syria illustrates two points. First, the use of sanctions that may cause the deaths of thousands, while being certain to impoverish millions, is such a&nbsp;normal part of American foreign policy that to much of the educated public it barely counts as noteworthy. Second, there is widespread recognition, even among inter­ventionists, that sanctions do not accomplish much toward the goal of regime change. This latter belief is correct and backed up by decades of research. Furthermore, in recent years academics have found that, in addition to the economic and humanitarian costs of sanctions, economic pressure tends to be counterproductive when it comes to achieving political goals such as democ­ratization and stronger compliance with human rights norms. Nevertheless, as of November 2019, the Treasury&nbsp;Department’s&nbsp;website lists sanctions of various levels of severity pertaining to Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic&nbsp;Republic&nbsp;of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali,&nbsp;Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.<sup><a href="#_ednref7" id="_edn7">7</a></sup></p> <p>Given the negative consequences of sanctions in terms of both humanitarian effects and accomplishing policy goals, why do they continue to be a&nbsp;normal part of American foreign policy? I&nbsp;address this question and explore the humanitarian and economic costs of sanctioning foreign countries, first by describing the American approach to sanctions, its legal under­pinnings, and the practical impacts on people living in targeted countries. Then I&nbsp;discuss what the academic literature says about the effects of sanctions. The fact that economic coercion does not accomplish its stated goals raises the question of why it is so commonly used. Politicians who want to be seen as doing something, but who do not want to commit to the use of military force, see sanctions as a&nbsp;middle ground. While directly killing people through military force can lead to domes­tic backlash, sanctions kill indirectly and over a&nbsp;longer period of time. In other words, sanctions are impractical and morally destructive but politically convenient. I&nbsp;conclude by arguing that, in light of these political realities, policymakers should avoid implementing restrictions on trade and commerce that cause widespread suffering. If sanctions are meant to accomplish domestic political goals that are symbolic in nature, then there may be ways to implement policies that achieve the same benefits without harming innocent people.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> U.S. Sanctions: Law and Practice </h2> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The history of American sanctions can be traced to the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. Through statutory interpretation and legislative amendments, that law has, in the words of Benjamin Coates, “transformed over the decades into a&nbsp;broad writ of executive authority to wage economic warfare against loosely defined enemies virtually anywhere and at any time.”<sup><a href="#_ednref8" id="_edn8">8</a></sup>&nbsp;In 1977, Congress passed the International Emergency Economic&nbsp;Powers&nbsp;Act (IEEPA), which gives the president the right to declare a&nbsp;national emergency in circumstances involving “any unusual and extraor­dinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”<sup><a href="#_ednref9" id="_edn9">9</a></sup>&nbsp;Once such an emergency is declared, the president may, among other powers, prohibit “any transactions in foreign exchange” between anyone under the jurisdiction of the United States and the foreign country or its nationals.<sup><a href="#_ednref10" id="_edn10">10</a></sup>&nbsp;When a&nbsp;president wants to sanction a&nbsp;country, he signs an executive order that begins by quoting the statute and declaring an emergency in accordance with the provisions of the bill, before listing the specific actions to be taken. There are few restrictions on the kinds of trade or transactions that the president can regulate or prohibit.</p> <p>Sometimes, a&nbsp;president will only sanction certain foreign individuals or businesses rather than enact more sweeping orders. For example, current sanctions against Belarus target only individuals, such as President&nbsp;Aleksander&nbsp;Lukashenko&nbsp;and members of his staff, and a&nbsp;handful of businesses, rather than entire categories of economic transactions with that country.<sup><a href="#_ednref11" id="_edn11">11</a></sup>&nbsp;The toughest sanctions programs are applied to what are often referred to as “rogue states,” governments that are known for their violations of human rights and hostility to American foreign policy. Cuba is the only country in the world still sanctioned under the original Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. American law bans practically all exports to Cuba, prevents Americans from doing business with that country, and even prohibits those that do business in Cuba from operating in the&nbsp;United&nbsp;States.<sup><a href="#_ednref12" id="_edn12">12</a></sup>&nbsp;Likewise,&nbsp;Americans&nbsp;cannot legally do business with hundreds of Iranian individuals and corporations, and third parties that do not avoid dealing with the sanctioned entities can themselves face punishment.<sup><a href="#_ednref13" id="_edn13">13</a></sup></p> <p>The United States not only restricts trade between the targeted state and those under its jurisdiction, but also works through allies and the United Nations to impose sanctions worldwide. UN sanctions must be approved by the Security Council, meaning that—in addition to the United States, Great&nbsp;Britain, and France—Russia and China have the right to veto any resolution. Thus, UN sanctions require widespread agreement and tend to apply to fewer countries and be less all‐​encompassing&nbsp;than the toughest regimes created by executive order under the authority of the IEEPA. While there are both U.S. and UN sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear weapons program, for example, there are no UN sanctions against Venezuela or Syria because of Chinese and Russian opposition. Nevertheless, because the United States has shown the ability and willingness to punish third parties through methods such as fines and restricting access to American markets, and because it pressures allies to adopt similar policies, unilateral sanctions can have serious global repercussions.</p> <p>The most crushing regimes therefore apply when the United States not only declares an emergency under the IEEPA, but threatens third‐​party sanctions and goes around the UN to restrict the target country’s trade and financial transactions. Often the United States and its allies work with the EU, Canada, and Japan, and can effectively bar poor countries from having meaningful economic rela­tions with the developed world. Consider the case of Iran. Before 2016, the EU, the United States, and the UN all had sanctions that applied to the Central Bank of Iran, the&nbsp;Revolutionary&nbsp;Guards, and the oil, banking, and insurance industries. Upon the signing of the Joint&nbsp;Comprehensive&nbsp;Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, the UN sanctions were removed.<sup><a href="#_ednref14" id="_edn14">14</a></sup>&nbsp;Relief for U.S. sanctions was to be phased in, but that policy was reversed under the Trump admin­istration, which now justifies its approach by pointing to Iranian behavior unrelated to the pursuit of nuclear weapons.<sup><a href="#_ednref15" id="_edn15">15</a></sup>&nbsp;The Trump administration has also encouraged the&nbsp;European&nbsp;Union to join it in the economic embargo—a move that the latter has resisted as it has sought to preserve the Joint&nbsp;Comprehensive&nbsp;Plan of Action.<sup><a href="#_ednref16" id="_edn16">16</a></sup></p> <p>Venezuela has been another target of comprehensive economic sanctions, as imposed by a&nbsp;series of executive orders signed by&nbsp;President&nbsp;Trump since coming into office. These documents give the Treasury&nbsp;Department&nbsp;the right to sanction anyone working in the Venezuelan gold or oil sectors, and blocks the country’s access to U.S. financial markets.<sup><a href="#_ednref17" id="_edn17">17</a></sup>&nbsp;In July 2019, the Treasury Department even sanctioned individuals and companies involved in a&nbsp;Venezuelan&nbsp;government food‐​subsidy program on the grounds that it was plagued by corruption.<sup><a href="#_ednref18" id="_edn18">18</a></sup></p> <p>While only a&nbsp;handful of such policies are widely covered in the press, lesser‐​known sanctions regimes abound around the globe. The Department of the Treasury maintains a&nbsp;Specially&nbsp;Designated and Blocked&nbsp;Nationals&nbsp;List, which is composed of individuals and entities that have their assets blocked and are prohibited from business dealings with&nbsp;Americans. As of November 2019, the list, which includes drug traffickers, terrorists, individuals, companies, and even specific aircraft and ships, runs 1,346 pages.<sup><a href="#_ednref19" id="_edn19">19</a></sup>&nbsp;Most of these sanctions are decided on and applied within the executive branch with little input from Congress or the broader public.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> The Humanitarian Costs of Sanctions </h2> , <div class="text-default"> <p>U.S. policymakers present sanctions as policies that are specifically aimed at the leaders of a&nbsp;regime. However, they can be devastating to the population of the targeted state. Often, it is difficult to meaningfully harm a&nbsp;government without causing collateral damage to its citizens, as a&nbsp;state can be both an oppressor of its people and at the same time provide them with food, medicine, and law and order—tasks that it cannot do as effectively if it is deprived of resources. Cutting off access to Western finan­cial markets and banking services and prohibiting investment in a&nbsp;country can likewise suffocate the private sector. Thus, aside from those narrowly targeted at the financial interests of individuals, economic sanctions practically always cause hardship to innocent third parties. Ironically, some of the people most victimized by these policies are those that the economic sanctions are designed to help.</p> <p>Sanctions regimes that target the economy of a&nbsp;country usually have humanitarian exceptions. Despite this, other regulations usually serve to limit their effectiveness. For example, federal law prohibits the president from implementing sanctions on Iran that involve “the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical devices …”<sup><a href="#_ednref20" id="_edn20">20</a></sup>&nbsp;Still, sanctions related to the financial sector and other parts of the economy work to nullify these exemptions. To see why, imagine an American company that tried to trade in food or medicine but did not have access to banking services, such as the ability to take out loans or accept credit cards.<sup><a href="#_ednref21" id="_edn21">21</a></sup>&nbsp;Compounding the problem is the fact that Iran is a&nbsp;largely state‐​run economy, which makes it difficult to do business there while completely avoiding the government sector. Even when one can potentially operate within the letter of the law, the sanctions regime is of such complexity, and the potential consequences of running afoul of U.S. law so dire, that there is a&nbsp;chilling effect on many businesses.<sup><a href="#_ednref22" id="_edn22">22</a></sup></p> <p>Some European banks have refused to process payments from Iranian firms that are exempt from sanctions on the chance that the banks may potentially face U.S. penalties as a&nbsp;result. In response to the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, which was begun in 2018, an employee of an Iranian affiliate of the German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer said that her company was facing challenges in transferring money in order to pay for imported drugs. Since trade with major Iranian banks has been restricted by U.S. sanctions, companies have been forced to risk working with lesser known banks that could themselves one day be subject to sanctions, or else the companies stop operating in that country altogether.<sup><a href="#_ednref23" id="_edn23">23</a></sup>&nbsp;The American practice of applying secondary sanctions to those who have economic dealings with entities that violate Iranian sanctions also serves to scare off many businesses.<sup><a href="#_ednref24" id="_edn24">24</a></sup></p> <p>In the case of the sanctions on Syria, the UN reports that the chilling effect “has even affected United Nations staff, who reported being refused bank accounts or mortgages from European banks when the word ‘Syria’ appeared in their job title.”<sup><a href="#_ednref25" id="_edn25">25</a></sup>&nbsp;Large human rights organizations based in that country have faced difficulties importing medicine, or even processing donations from abroad.<sup><a href="#_ednref26" id="_edn26">26</a></sup>&nbsp;Investigating one of the largest public hospitals in Damascus, the&nbsp;<em>Los Angeles Times</em>&nbsp;showed how the facility runs into trouble importing even the most basic medical necessities.<sup><a href="#_ednref27" id="_edn27">27</a></sup>&nbsp;If a&nbsp;piece of medical equipment breaks down, buying a&nbsp;replacement from a&nbsp;Western corporation becomes a&nbsp;bureaucratic nightmare, as “foreign suppliers often don’t dare send anything to Syria for fear of triggering unexpected vio­lations—a real possibility.” Getting access to software updates for hospital computers and other equipment can also be difficult. Banks from outside the United States have already paid billions of dollars in fines, most of it going to American regulatory agencies.<sup><a href="#_ednref28" id="_edn28">28</a></sup>&nbsp;According to one pharmaceutical supplier based in&nbsp;Aleppo, “I have money, I&nbsp;can’t transfer it, I&nbsp;can’t buy anything with it, I&nbsp;can’t even put it in the bank.” Sanctions affect every aspect of financing or running a&nbsp;modern economy. Apple even bans apps that have a&nbsp;Syrian origin, which led one bank in the country to create its app under a&nbsp;different name so that customers could download and use it.<sup><a href="#_ednref29" id="_edn29">29</a></sup></p> <p>Moreover, even if the provisions regarding humanitarian exceptions worked as intended, most sanctions regimes would nevertheless harm the living standards of those in the targeted state, including hindering access to food or medicine. Policies that work to destroy an economy but carve out exceptions cannot be expected to have no effect on the exempted industries. Lowering economic output ensures that all sectors are harmed: the food and medical sectors depend on other industries such as construction, education, transportation, and, of course, banking. Countries that suffer from poor economic performance for whatever reason thus see worse health and nutritional outcomes. This means that humanitarian exemp­tions, even when they “work,” should not obscure the degree to which sanctions harm the population of the targeted country.</p> <p>In order to estimate the economic effects of these kinds of policies, a&nbsp;2015 study looked at 67 countries that were subject to&nbsp;American&nbsp;or UN sanctions between 1976 and 2012 and compared them to countries that did not face similar kinds of economic coercion.<sup><a href="#_ednref30" id="_edn30">30</a></sup>&nbsp;UN sanctions reduced GDP by an average of 2.2 percent a&nbsp;year, for an aggregate effect of more than 25 percent of GDP over a&nbsp;10‐​year period. The effects of American sanctions were smaller but still significant, reducing GDP by about 1&nbsp;percent a&nbsp;year, for a&nbsp;total effect of a&nbsp;13.4 percent&nbsp;decline over seven years. The more stringent the sanctions regime, the greater the economic decline. As mentioned above, the GDP of Syria dropped by&nbsp;75 percent&nbsp;between 2010 and 2015.<sup><a href="#_ednref31" id="_edn31">31</a></sup>&nbsp;Per capita income in Iraq likewise went from $3,510&nbsp;in 1989 to $450&nbsp;in 1996.<sup><a href="#_ednref32" id="_edn32">32</a></sup>&nbsp;The economy of Venezuela has been mismanaged for years, yet it did not completely collapse until after the election of Trump, when the United States began to place stringent sanctions on the Maduro government. From 2016 to 2019, GDP per capita income of that country dropped from $9,090 to a&nbsp;projected $2,550.<sup><a href="#_ednref33" id="_edn33">33</a></sup>&nbsp;While all of these countries have suffered due to bad economic choices made by their governments, rarely have modern countries seen declines of this magnitude without the imposition of Western restrictions on trade. Besides perhaps war, it is difficult to think of a&nbsp;tool of foreign policy that today causes more economic and humanitarian destruction than economic sanctions.</p> <p>Even studies that focus on the costs of sanctions put most of their energy toward under­standing nutritional and health outcomes. This should not obscure the fact that, if even by some miracle nutrition and health outcomes did not decline in the face of comprehensive sanctions, the destruction of wealth would still represent a&nbsp;tragedy for millions of people. Economic growth is correlated with nearly everything that humans value, including time, convenience, comfort, and the ability of individuals to live their lives as they desire.<sup><a href="#_ednref34" id="_edn34">34</a></sup>&nbsp;While stories of vacations never taken, educational opportunities never pursued, and lifetimes of soul‐​crushing jobs that people cannot afford to leave do not make headlines, these costs are nonetheless real and significant for millions who suffer because of U.S. policy.</p> <p>Of course, economic sanctions do influence nutritional and health outcomes, and several efforts have been made to quantify these effects in terms of lives lost and other metrics. Economic sanctions tend to kill through harming the most vulnerable: pregnant women, newborns, the sick, and the elderly. The economic sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s were said to have killed more than 500,000 children by increasing the infant mortality rate.<sup><a href="#_ednref35" id="_edn35">35</a></sup>&nbsp;Recently, researchers have argued that these numbers were manipulated by Saddam’s government, yet even the “corrected” numbers still imply a&nbsp;death toll that may reach into the six figures.<sup><a href="#_ednref36" id="_edn36">36</a></sup>&nbsp;A&nbsp;1993 UN report indicated that sanctions on Haiti were killing 1,000 children a&nbsp;month.<sup><a href="#_ednref38" id="_edn38">38</a></sup>&nbsp;As the report says, that analysis does not take into account the effects of sanctions on hindering other international aid programs or preventing the North Korean government from addressing its own domestic needs. In Iran, sanctions are estimated to have contributed to the deaths of 1,600 people from the H1N1 virus in fall 2019 alone.<sup><a href="#_ednref39" id="_edn39">39</a></sup>&nbsp;Again, this number is based on one kind of death over a&nbsp;very limited period of time, during which much of the entire Iranian health care sector was—and remains—in crisis.</p> <p>Finally, according to the Center for&nbsp;Economic&nbsp;and Policy Research, the Trump administration’s economic war on&nbsp;Venezuela&nbsp;led to more than 40,000 excess deaths between 2017 and 2018, calculated based on a&nbsp;nationwide survey that found an increase in mortality over that time period.<sup><a href="#_ednref40" id="_edn40">40</a></sup>&nbsp;This does not include any deaths that have resulted from the even more crushing sanctions regime inau­gurated by executive order in January 2019, which barred the United States from importing&nbsp;Venezuelan&nbsp;oil.<sup><a href="#_ednref41" id="_edn41">41</a></sup>&nbsp;The Maduro regime exported 35 percent of its oil to the United States in 2018, and the cumulative effect of sanctions is such that “oil export revenues in 2019 are projected to fall by a&nbsp;cataclysmic and unprecedented 67.2 percent from 2018.”<sup><a href="#_ednref42" id="_edn42">42</a></sup>&nbsp;Thus, the death toll in Venezuela as a&nbsp;result of sanctions likely continues to increase to this day.</p> <p>In the case of Syria there are no estimates of the number of deaths from sanctions, likely because of issues with reporting and the fact that it is impossible to precisely differentiate between deaths that can be attributed to the economic embargo and those caused more directly by the war itself. Two things are worthy of note, however. First, the vast majority of the population lives in government‐​controlled areas, and second, key indicators of health and well‐​being have fallen across the board. This implies that a&nbsp;large portion of the health and nutritional effects of the war can be attributed to international sanctions, either by preventing aid or by suppressing economic activity. Between 2006 and 2016, the vaccination rate among Syrian children dropped from&nbsp;95 percent&nbsp;to 60 percent, leading to the reemergence of diseases that were once practically eliminated, including typhoid, measles, and rubella.<sup><a href="#_ednref43" id="_edn43">43</a></sup>&nbsp;Between 2011 and 2016, Syrian production of wheat fell by 53 percent, lentils by 70 percent, and chickpeas by 30 percent, with an estimated 38 percent of the country being unable to meet basic food requirements as of 2018, which was after the worst of the fighting was over.<sup><a href="#_ednref44" id="_edn44">44</a></sup></p> <p>These case studies represent only a&nbsp;small fraction of the total number of deaths that have resulted from international sanctions, as the studies involved usually cover only a&nbsp;short period of time in a&nbsp;single country, and often only look at a&nbsp;single metric, such as infant mortality. The Treasury Department website lists 22 countries with individuals or entities targeted by U.S. sanctions.<sup><a href="#_ednref45" id="_edn45">45</a></sup>&nbsp;If the harshest sanctions regimes can kill tens of thousands of people a&nbsp;year, then U.S. sanctions have likely led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even millions, of people in the post–World War II era. While we will likely never have a&nbsp;precise estimate of how many people have lost their lives because of U.S. and international sanctions, the data that do exist imply that such restrictions on trade over the last two decades have, in the aggregate, been more deadly than all but a&nbsp;handful of wars across that same span of time.<sup><a href="#_ednref46" id="_edn46">46</a></sup></p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> What the Academic Literature Says about Sanctions </h2> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Sanctions are meant, at least in theory, to accomplish geopolitical goals. Thus, even if they exert humanitarian costs, is it possible that they work from the perspective of achieving national security objectives? The academic literature says that they do not. The best research indicates that not only do sanctions cause massive economic harms and ultimately cost lives, but that they also fail even by the standards set by policymakers. Moreover, research over the last few decades indicates that rather than furthering American political goals, such as democratization and respect for human rights, economic coercion is more likely to backfire.</p> <p>Politicians who support sanctions typically argue that economic pressure can help propel major changes in policy, perhaps even regime change. Occasionally, American leaders spell out precisely how this is supposed to happen. They sometimes argue that by hurting the economy of the targeted country, the people will become fed up, blame the regime for their problems, and get rid of it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for example, predicted that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran “will lead the Iranian people to rise up and change the behavior of the regime.”<sup><a href="#_ednref47" id="_edn47">47</a></sup>&nbsp;Sometimes policymakers expect regime elites, rather than regular citizens, to rise up against the government. The Trump administration sanctioned Venezuela beginning in 2017&nbsp;in the hopes that military leaders would overthrow President Nicolás&nbsp;Maduro.<sup><a href="#_ednref48" id="_edn48">48</a></sup></p> <p>Proponents of sanctions also occasionally expect that the process of starving the targeted government of resources will lead to regime change. Thus, after the Obama administration placed sanctions on the Syrian government in August 2011, then secretary of state Hillary Clinton assured the American public that the new measures would “strike at the heart of the regime” by making it unable to fund its security forces.<sup><a href="#_ednref49" id="_edn49">49</a></sup></p> <p>Each one of these theories about how sanctions lead to regime change or major policy shifts has serious theoretical flaws. First of all, even if citizens living under tyranny and economic deprivation dislike their government, they still face a&nbsp;collective‐​action problem in overthrowing it.<sup><a href="#_ednref50" id="_edn50">50</a></sup>&nbsp;Regime elites, almost by definition, benefit from the current system, so even if they face less of a&nbsp;collective‐​action problem, they usually should not be expected to take a&nbsp;major risk in order to bring down their government. Furthermore, there is little reason to expect any government to simply run out of money to pay its security forces. A&nbsp;regime facing an internal threat should prioritize security above all else. While international arms races are expensive, domestic repression is cheap, with governments having been known to even compensate private militias by allowing them to loot civilians and enemies of the regime.<sup><a href="#_ednref51" id="_edn51">51</a></sup>&nbsp;Finally, when the United States sanctions a&nbsp;regime, it is possible for rival powers to come to its rescue, thus blunting the impact of American restrictions on trade.<sup><a href="#_ednref52" id="_edn52">52</a></sup></p> <p>For these reasons, scholars who have studied whether sanctions lead to regime change generally agree that they rarely, if ever, work.<sup><a href="#_ednref53" id="_edn53">53</a></sup>&nbsp;In their classic study of the issue,&nbsp;<em>Economic Sanctions Reconsidered: History and Current&nbsp;Policy</em>, authors Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey J. Schott, and Kimberly Ann Elliott found that, from 1914 to 1990, sanctions were at least partially successful 34 percent of the time, meaning they made at least a&nbsp;modest contribution to the goals being sought.<sup><a href="#_ednref54" id="_edn54">54</a></sup>&nbsp;Moreover, as the authors emphasized, even the low success rate does not imply that sanctions were a&nbsp;major or primary reason why the targeted state changed its behavior. Unambiguous cases of sanctions achieving political goals are quite rare in the literature, and the findings of that paper have subsequently been challenged on the grounds that they are too optimistic.</p> <p>In the late 1990s, Robert Pape of the&nbsp;University&nbsp;of Chicago refuted the existence of even the moderate success rate put forth in the earlier paper.<sup><a href="#_ednref55" id="_edn55">55</a></sup>&nbsp;Although the authors claimed that sanctions were successful in 40 out of 115 cases, Pape found that only 5&nbsp;of those cases could stand up to empirical scrutiny. Sometimes the authors classified sanctions as working when an embargo was part of a&nbsp;larger war effort, as when they identified the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany as a&nbsp;case of the successful use of economic coercion.<sup><a href="#_ednref56" id="_edn56">56</a></sup>&nbsp;They similarly included foreign‐​backed military coups as successful cases, including the U.S.-supported&nbsp;overthrows of&nbsp;Mohammad&nbsp;Mosaddegh&nbsp;in Iran, Ngo Dinh Diem in&nbsp;Vietnam, and&nbsp;Salvador&nbsp;Allende&nbsp;in Chile.</p> <p>Few would consider such cases relevant to the question of whether modern sanctions regimes are likely to achieve American geopolitical goals today. In the five instances that Pape classified as successful uses of economic sanctions, the coercing state only achieved modest political goals. For example, Canada gave in to the Arab League and decided not to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem in 1979, and the Soviet Union in 1933 gave in to the UK and released six British nationals accused of spying.<sup><a href="#_ednref57" id="_edn57">57</a></sup>&nbsp;Elliott’s response to Pape on behalf of all the authors acknowledged Pape’s main points, while quibbling over the facts in only three cases.<sup><a href="#_ednref58" id="_edn58">58</a></sup>&nbsp;In large part because of Pape’s critique, the idea that sanctions do not work the vast majority of the time—if ever—is now regularly talked about as being the consensus or conventional wisdom within political science.<sup><a href="#_ednref59" id="_edn59">59</a></sup></p> <p>Supplementing this work, a&nbsp;more recent wave of scholarship reveals that sanctions can actually be counterproductive in achieving the goals of democratization and greater respect for human rights. Sanctions are associated with greater levels of repression, as leaders become increasingly desperate to hang on to power.<sup><a href="#_ednref60" id="_edn60">60</a></sup>&nbsp;Compared to similar countries, states that are hit by sanctions are less likely to move toward democratization.<sup><a href="#_ednref61" id="_edn61">61</a></sup>&nbsp;Empirical research also suggests that sanctions may indirectly contribute to governments deciding to engage in mass killing. States would usually rather not commit atrocities against their domestic population, as doing so can bring international pressure on the regime, cost the government legitimacy in the eyes of the public, and spur disobedience among security forces sent to carry out orders.<sup><a href="#_ednref62" id="_edn62">62</a></sup>&nbsp;Thus, states tend to kill large numbers of people only when they become desperate, which is why the existence of an ongoing civil war is perhaps the strongest predictor of mass killing discovered by scholars.<sup><a href="#_ednref63" id="_edn63">63</a></sup>&nbsp;Poorer countries are similarly more likely to engage in mass killing, since they often cannot afford to buy off their enemies or rely on more targeted forms of repression.<sup><a href="#_ednref64" id="_edn64">64</a></sup></p> <p>Desperation on the part of governments has a&nbsp;brutalizing effect. The logic of economic warfare of the kind enacted by the United States relies on a&nbsp;theory that is practically the opposite of what the literature suggests.&nbsp;American&nbsp;policy assumes that sanctions can produce regime change, or at least coerce the targeted state to change its behavior for the better. Yet states become, if anything, more likely to engage in mass killing and repress their populations when they are deprived of resources and find themselves under pressure from abroad. This is particularly true when American policy puts the freedom—and in some cases, the lives—of leaders at stake. The process of sanctions leading to brutalization can be seen in current‐​day Iran, where economic difficulties have inspired protests against the regime, which has, in turn, killed hundreds of citizens in response.<sup><a href="#_ednref65" id="_edn65">65</a></sup>&nbsp;The goal of the American “maximum pressure” campaign was to have such policies lead to negotiations or regime change. Yet while the first step of the plan, causing economic hardship, has succeeded, there is no indication that this will ulti­mately accomplish U.S. foreign policy goals. The Iranian regime has increased repression in response and the ongoing chaos has helped empower hardliners within the government.<sup><a href="#_ednref66" id="_edn66">66</a></sup></p> <p>The Iranian case is instructive in that it also demonstrates the unintended consequences of sanctions and how they can benefit those that they are intended to harm. In domestic policy, when government makes certain forms of commerce illegal, it empowers organized crime and other groups that are willing and able to get around the law. In states with weak and corrupt institutions, organs of the government can play that role. Sanctions on Iran have, over the years, helped strengthen the control that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps exerts over the economy, with the organization having built a&nbsp;powerful military‐​industrial‐​financial complex that deals in everything from oil and narcotics to the construction of major infrastructure projects.<sup><a href="#_ednref67" id="_edn67">67</a></sup>&nbsp;In Iraq under Saddam Hussein, U.S.-led sanctions deprived most of Iranian society of resources and this meant that aspiring elites could only achieve wealth and power through developing relationships with the state.<sup><a href="#_ednref68" id="_edn68">68</a></sup>&nbsp;While the Iraqi people suffered, Saddam’s son Uday ran the oil‐​smuggling business, making the ruling family one of the richest in the world.<sup><a href="#_ednref69" id="_edn69">69</a></sup></p> <p>If sanctions can have any positive effect, it is only when the stakes are small. The more ambitious the goal, the less likely they are to work.<sup><a href="#_ednref70" id="_edn70">70</a></sup>&nbsp;Yet the most crushing sanctions regimes often seek regime change: this was U.S. policy toward Cuba after Castro came to power in 1959, Saddam Hussein after the Iraq&nbsp;Liberation&nbsp;Act of 1998, the government of&nbsp;Syria&nbsp;after August 2011, and the Maduro regime in Venezuela since January 2019. While regime change is not official American policy toward North Korea, the interest at stake, a&nbsp;nuclear deterrent, is fundamental to the survival of the Pyongyang government.<sup><a href="#_ednref71" id="_edn71">71</a></sup>&nbsp;Regarding Iran, the Trump administration calls for the government to give up on its most important foreign policy goals and abandon its closest allies before sanctions can be removed, which is a&nbsp;set of maximalist demands that Iran simply will not comply with.<sup><a href="#_ednref72" id="_edn72">72</a></sup>&nbsp;One of the many tragedies of the American use of sanctions is that they are most brutal and harmful when they have the least likelihood of success.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Sanctions as a&nbsp;Political Act </h2> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Given that they cause widespread suffering and are counterproductive, why do policymakers continue to use economic sanctions as a&nbsp;tool of foreign policy? While they are sold to the public as being important for achieving geopolitical goals, economic sanctions in reality only serve domestic political ends. Thus, to understand Washington’s overreliance on economic sanctions, it is more useful to look at domestic political constraints, and the polit­ical objectives sought, than it is to assume that such polices are designed to accomplish something in the realm of foreign policy. The former perspective can be called the political explanation, while the latter perspective we can call the instrumental explanation.<sup><a href="#_ednref73" id="_edn73">73</a></sup></p> <p>A political understanding of sanctions is the only way to make sense of their overuse in U.S. policy, as there are two reasons not to take the instrumental case at face value. First, policymakers have shown no interest in the empirical research on this issue, unless it can be cherry‐​picked in order to support current practices. While earlier work purporting to show that sanctions can work has had some impact on American policy, later scholarship refuting it has had no discernible influence.<sup><a href="#_ednref74" id="_edn74">74</a></sup>&nbsp;This is despite the later research on sanctions being covered in some of the most prominent newspapers in the country and being widely promoted by human rights organizations.<sup><a href="#_ednref75" id="_edn75">75</a></sup>&nbsp;If policymakers remain ignorant of the empir­ical research, it is because the findings are politically inconvenient for them. This disinterest in evidence is also reflected in a&nbsp;2019&nbsp;Government&nbsp;Accountability Office report which notes that, although the National&nbsp;Security&nbsp;Council may make higher level judgments about the geopolitical impacts of sanctions, officials in the State, Treasury, and Commerce departments emphasized that “there is no policy or requirement for agencies to assess the effectiveness of sanctions programs in achieving broad policy goals.”<sup><a href="#_ednref76" id="_edn76">76</a></sup></p> <p>Second, policymakers show little interest in actually using the leverage that sanctions give them to achieve foreign policy goals. If the instrumental explanation of sanctions is correct, then the United States should, at the very least, talk to targeted regimes in order to make its demands clear and provide a&nbsp;clear path toward the removal of sanctions. Yet American administrations have done the opposite, in certain cases both demanding the impossible from their adversaries and cutting off all contact. As Tariq Aziz, former foreign minister of Iraq, told his American captors, “[w]e didn’t have any opportunity to talk to a&nbsp;U.S. official during the Bush, Clinton, or new Bush administration, so there was no opportunity to talk face‐​to‐​face and address matters of concern. They always rejected us.”<sup><a href="#_ednref77" id="_edn77">77</a></sup>&nbsp;The United States today sanctions Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela in order to remove their governments or significantly change their behavior, despite no clear path to regime change and little in the way of the most rudimentary channels of communication that would be necessary in order to facilitate a&nbsp;bargain. Politicians often attack opponents for even wanting to negotiate with certain regimes, as former senator John McCain did during the 2008 election when he called then senator Obama “reckless” for being in favor of talking to adversaries.<sup><a href="#_ednref78" id="_edn78">78</a></sup>&nbsp;Interestingly, after President Obama assumed office he mostly stuck to the policy of not speaking to adversaries, indicating that political pressures coming from within the bureaucracy and the media lead presidents away from diplomacy. When the Obama administration did begin to openly engage in bilateral negotiations with Iran, it was only after years of engaging in secret back channels that were hidden from the public.<sup><a href="#_ednref79" id="_edn79">79</a></sup></p> <p>Thus, from the perspective of the instrumental approach, American policy makes no sense. In contrast, the political theory of American sanctions provides a&nbsp;satisfying expla­nation of why the United States continues to exert economic pressure and place embargoes on other countries. Because foreign publics do not get a&nbsp;say in the American polit­ical system, there is little reason to suspect that their inter­ests will be protected or significantly taken into account. Leaders themselves have recognized this point, occasionally acknowledging that they place sanctions on foreign countries out of political necessity. In talking about sanctions against Italy in 1935, British Prime&nbsp;Minister&nbsp;Lloyd George quipped that “They came too late to save Abyssinia, but they are just in the nick of time to save the government.”<sup><a href="#_ednref80" id="_edn80">80</a></sup>&nbsp;After the 1989&nbsp;Tiananmen&nbsp;Square protests, National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft wrote that he told Deng Xiaoping that President Bush did not want to place new sanctions on China in order to preserve Sino‐​American relations, but he was feeling domestic pressure to act.<sup><a href="#_ednref81" id="_edn81">81</a></sup>&nbsp;As&nbsp;Hufbauer, Schott, and Elliott have acknowledged, “U.S. presidents seemingly feel compelled to dramatize their opposition to foreign misdeeds, even when the likelihood of changing the target country’s behavior is remote.”<sup><a href="#_ednref82" id="_edn82">82</a></sup></p> <p>Political psychology can explain the appeal of sanctions. A&nbsp;leader who engages in an unpopular foreign intervention can see his presidency destroyed. That happened during the presidencies of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who decided not to run again when facing pressure over his policies in Vietnam, and George W. Bush, who, although he won reelection, saw Iraq contribute to the collapse of his approval ratings during his second term and damage the electoral prospects of his party. At the same time, there is often domestic pressure to “do something” about human rights violations and cases of military aggression.<sup><a href="#_ednref83" id="_edn83">83</a></sup>&nbsp;Sanctions can thus appear to be a&nbsp;moderate and measured response to unacceptable behavior abroad. British diplomat Jeremy Greenstock was expressing a&nbsp;common frustration when he said that “there is nothing else between words and military action if you want to bring pressure upon a&nbsp;government.”<sup><a href="#_ednref84" id="_edn84">84</a></sup></p> <p>Sanctions are an “easy” option because the death and destruction that they cause are unlikely to stir large‐​scale domestic opposition. In addition to the fact that foreigners cannot easily influence American politics, people are subject to psychological barriers that impede a&nbsp;full appreciation of the damages caused by sanctions. Governments face pressure to address immediate harms that produce easily identifiable victims, a&nbsp;tendency that is rooted in what is called the availability bias.<sup><a href="#_ednref85" id="_edn85">85</a></sup>&nbsp;Relative to the harms caused, as a&nbsp;general matter we pay too much attention to school shootings, terrorism, and shark attacks, and not enough to marginal changes in death rates from more mundane problems such as smoking, obesity, and car accidents.</p> <p>John Mueller and Karl Mueller compare the limited threat from chemical and biological weapons, which are treated as out of bounds by all civilized nations, to the large‐​scale death and destruction caused by economic sanctions, which are a&nbsp;normal part of&nbsp;American&nbsp;foreign policy.<sup><a href="#_ednref86" id="_edn86">86</a></sup>&nbsp;The authors write that “sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post–Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history” but nonetheless “this loss of human life has failed to make a&nbsp;great impression in the United States.”<sup><a href="#_ednref87" id="_edn87">87</a></sup>&nbsp;The availability bias helps explains why. Even if the possibility of chemical and biological weapons causing a&nbsp;large number of deaths is extremely remote, they can appear more threatening to policymakers and the public than economic embargoes that are certain to kill large numbers of people from such causes as infant mortality and lack of access to adequate health care. While nationalism and in‐​group bias ensure that our politics values the lives of Americans more than those of foreigners, immediate and clear harms to those living abroad, such as the bombing of civilians, can occasionally cause a&nbsp;domestic backlash. By contrast, economic sanctions, with harms that are largely hidden, have no hope of stirring up even a&nbsp;limited reaction similar to what we see when innocent foreigners are directly killed in American military strikes. If bombings caused as much economic and humanitarian destruction as sanctions did, the harm would be indis­putable and such policies would be widely acknowledged as war crimes.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Conclusion </h2> , <div class="text-default"> <p>U.S. sanctions have harmed millions and led to a death count that trumps that of most wars of the last two decades. Policymakers&rsquo; willful ignorance of the empirical evidence showing that sanctions do not work, and their failure to combine economic coercion with diplomacy, strongly suggest that sanctions are enacted mainly for the sake of domestic political goals rather than to achieve foreign policy objectives. In looking for alternatives to current practices, it is thus important to consider not only the osten­sible geopolitical aims of sanctions, but the political realities that American leaders face. In light of such considerations, three policy recommendations are appropriate: first, if using sanctions, the United States should limit them to individuals or symbolic targets rather than restrict entire categories of trade; second, the United States should be laxer in its enforcement of current and future sanctions regimes; and third, the law should be changed to make it more difficult for the executive branch to unilaterally impose sanctions in perpetuity.</p> <p>From the perspectives of both the instrumental theory and the political theory of sanctions, a policy that only targeted individuals in foreign countries, rather than entire categories of commerce, would be a major improvement over the current approach. Sanctioning individuals is more likely to be effective, while avoiding the worst humanitarian consequences. Although there is no strong statistical evidence suggesting that sanctioning individuals can change state behavior, it is at least theoretically plausible that it would, for the same reason that a deterrence regime that focuses on those that commit crimes is more likely to succeed than one that harms innocent third parties. Leaders in the developing world often own property, take vacations, and send their children to school in the United States and Europe. Preventing them from doing so could lead human rights abusers and officials in rogue states to change their policies for self-interested reasons. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that such targeted policies can work, as Trump administration sanctions on the associates of Joseph Kabila, the former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, might have helped convince Kabila to not seek reelection.<sup><a href="#_ednref88" id="_edn88">88</a></sup></p> <p>Replacing more comprehensive sanctions regimes with restrictions aimed at foreign leaders can also serve the political interests of American politicians, even if it falls short of actually changing the behavior of the target state. The United States sanctioned Ayatollah Khamenei in 2019, a symbolic move that caused little harm to the Iranian people, while giving the Trump administration the appearance of being tough on the regime.<sup><a href="#_ednref89" id="_edn89">89</a></sup> It is unclear whether going beyond sanctions against the leadership of a country provides much more of a &ldquo;symbolic win&rdquo; than what one gets by focusing on a few individuals. If anything, placing broader sanctions on a country takes attention away from sanctions on individual leaders, which can be done to much greater dramatic effect. Personalization, that is, making political debates about individuals rather than issues, tends to make the news more compelling to the broader public.<sup><a href="#_ednref90" id="_edn90">90</a></sup> Imposing sanctions on Vladimir Putin would likely grab more public attention than has so far been given to the sanctions on the Russian economy, while also inflicting less collateral damage on the Russian people.</p> <p>Besides sanctioning individuals, the United States can engage in symbolic boycotts that do not significantly harm the living standards of the people in the targeted country. For example, some historians believe that preventing South Africa from participating in international sporting events during the second half of the 20th century had a large psychological effect on the country and may have helped turn its white citizens against apartheid.<sup><a href="#_ednref91" id="_edn91">91</a></sup> Additionally, if the United States must keep current sanctions regimes in place, or enact new ones, lax enforcement may lead to fewer unintended consequences. While sanctions are created by legislation and executive order, ultimately the interpretation and implementation of the resulting programs is done through agencies such as the Department of the Treasury, to which few Americans pay close attention. The political benefits of placing sanctions come at their announcement, while enforcing them until they harm innocent parties abroad tends to mostly bring negative news coverage. When politicians face pressure to &ldquo;do something&rdquo; in the face of crises, it is far more humane to craft policies that maximize symbolic effects, while minimizing the economic and humanitarian costs.</p> <p>Just because leaders have found it politically useful to implement stringent sanctions in the past does not mean that they will always do so in the future. Viewing sanctions through the lens of domestic politics, rather than international statecraft, suggests that opponents of such policies should focus most of their efforts on seeking reforms that create different incentive structures for American politicians, rather than putting forward different methods to achieve the foreign policy goals that sanctions are ostensibly meant to solve. This can be done by changing laws. Currently, Congress has delegated to the president the unilateral right to place sanctions on foreign countries. Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the executive has nearly unlimited power to restrict almost all forms of trade simply by declaring a national emergency. Under current practice, the &ldquo;mere reiteration of statutory language in an executive order&rdquo; is all that is needed to begin the process.<sup><a href="#_ednref92" id="_edn92">92</a></sup> President Reagan declared a national emergency on the basis of the &ldquo;unusual and extraordinary threat&rdquo; that the Export Administrative Act of 1979, a law that regulated the ability of American businesses to engage in foreign boycotts, was about to expire.<sup><a href="#_ednref93" id="_edn93">93</a></sup> The ability of the president to enact major economic regulations at the stroke of a pen is not only a usurpation of Congressional power, but has made it too easy for administrations to employ sanctions, thus leading to the overuse of an ineffective policy instrument.</p> <p>Given Congress&rsquo;s long-standing penchant for abdicating its responsibility in foreign affairs, particularly the constitutionally specified authority to declare war, it may seem unrealistic to expect the legislative branch to amend the IEEPA.<sup><a href="#_ednref94" id="_edn94">94</a></sup> However, Congress has, in recent years, taken a more assertive role, passing bills that have been opposed by the White House pertaining to Russian sanctions<sup><a href="#_ednref95" id="_edn95">95</a></sup> and support for the Saudi war in Yemen.<sup><a href="#_ednref96" id="_edn96">96</a></sup> It is therefore possible to imagine legislation modeled after the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to gain approval from Congress within 60 days of sending American forces into hostilities or else to end the operation.<sup><a href="#_ednref97" id="_edn97">97</a></sup> A similar bill that would require congressional approval 60 days after the point at which a president decided to declare a national emergency under the IEEPA would make sanctions less likely to last by requiring congressional action for them to continue.<sup><a href="#_ednref98" id="_edn98">98</a></sup> In politics, default rules often determine outcomes; by switching the default from sanctions continuing indefinitely to such policies ending after a certain period of time, Congress can help prevent their overuse.</p> <p>Unfortunately, while the existence of the War Powers Resolution should be cause for optimism, its actual implementation has failed to achieve its stated objective. Presidents have simply ignored the reporting requirement and continue to enjoy the nearly unfettered ability to employ force abroad.<sup><a href="#_ednref99" id="_edn99">99</a></sup> We may therefore suspect that a similar law that sought to rein in the IEEPA would suffer the same fate. To avoid this, Congress should make it explicit that Americans harmed by unauthorized sanctions can bring lawsuits against the federal government.<sup><a href="#_ednref100" id="_edn100">100</a></sup> Courts have been known to defer to the executive branch on major foreign policy issues, but they would likely be more willing to intervene in economic policy in the light of specific statutory authorization than they have been to weigh in on ongoing wars. While the War Powers Resolution failed because Congress did not remain vigilant after it was passed, allowing aggrieved parties to challenge sanctions in court could ensure a reliable enforcement mechanism for a law meant to limit the emergency powers created by the IEEPA. In such a case, one would not have to rely on the continuing input of a legislative branch that has, for several decades now, shown itself to be extremely passive with regards to major foreign policy issues.</p> <p>Finally, greater awareness of the deficiencies of sanctions should discourage their overuse. If sanctions are used mostly because they give the impression that the American government is doing something between war and nothing, then a better understanding on the part of the educated public of the actual impact of sanctions can have a major effect. Leaders would like to appear bold and decisive, carrying out policies that serve the interests of the nation without harming people abroad. This is why executive orders and statements regarding sanctions often reference the people of the nation being targeted, purporting to care about their well-being.<sup><a href="#_ednref101" id="_edn101">101</a></sup> Yet the narrative presented by American leaders is false. For their own political gain, policymakers impose costs on powerless groups of people, up to and including death, without achieving American foreign policy goals. The more aware that the public is of the counterproductive effects of sanctions, the less li<a id="_idTextAnchor000"></a></sup>kely it is to support their use. This is a reason for optimism: although domestic politics is currently the driving force behind sanctions, it may also be what ultimately ends the practice.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Citation </h2> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Hanania, Richard. “Ineffective, Immoral, Politically Convenient: America’s Overreliance on Economic Sanctions and What to Do about It.” Policy Analysis No. 884, Cato Institute, Washington, DC, February 18, 2020.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​3​6​0​0​9​/​P​A.884</a>.</p> </div> Tue, 18 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0500 Richard Hanania Time to Drop Defense Guarantees to the Philippines Doug Bandow <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Rodrigo Duterte, the ever‐​unpredictable president of the Philippines, has given official notice to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">terminate</a>&nbsp;the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that governs the presence of U.S. military personnel. Among other complaints, he said Americans were rude and failed to leave their weapons after conducting military exercises on the islands. The VFA will conclude in six months, which actually is great news.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Although Americans always believed in continental expansion — even Thomas Jefferson spoke of an Empire of Liberty — “saltwater imperialism” was alien to the nation’s founding. Proposals to turn America into a&nbsp;traditional colonial power by conquering foreign peoples generated strong opposition. After all, Americans had revolted against their British masters.</p> <p>But as the U.S. prepared to enter the 20th&nbsp;century, Washington’s ambitions expanded exponentially. The yellow press, most spectacularly William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, helped prepare the way, using lurid “fake news” to promote imperial adventures. Indefatigable warmonger Theodore Roosevelt, among others, captured the public’s imagination. In 1898, Congress declared war on Spain, nominally to liberate its Cuban possession.</p> <p>But many imperialists had their eyes on the Philippines from the start. It could act as a&nbsp;way station to Asia, expanding Americans’ commercial and military reach. One of the leading imperial propagandists was Indiana Sen. Albert Beveridge, who in his famed speech “<a href="" target="_blank">The March of the Flag</a>” dismissed criticism of seizing Pacific lands. “Hawaii and the Philippines not contiguous! The oceans make them contiguous,” he proclaimed.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Rodrigo Duterte is no friend of America. But in this case he would force America to do the right thing, giving Washington an excuse to end an obsolescent military guarantee to a&nbsp;nation of little security importance to the United States.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The main impediment to this plan was not the Spanish, who were quickly vanquished, but the Filipinos, who already were fighting for their independence. They were not inclined to accept a&nbsp;substitute colonial master, so war soon broke out between U.S. forces and Filipino insurgents. That conflict raged for more than three years, until mid‐​1902, and resulted in 200,000 or more civilian deaths. In some Muslim areas, resistance never ceased — and fighting continues to today.</p> <p>Washington eventually granted Manila independence in 1946, after liberation from Japanese occupation. The archipelago ended up as a&nbsp;semi‐​failed state, bedeviled by corruption and coups. Manila also was heavily dependent on America for its security, backed by the 1951 “Mutual” Defense Treaty. The most important U.S. military facilities were Clark Airfield and Subic Bay, returned in 1991 and 1992, respectively, after a&nbsp;volcanic eruption disabled Clark and political opposition blocked extending U.S. access to Subic.</p> <p>Still, the Philippine government continued to rely on American aid. And military ties were gradually rebuilt. The VFA took effect in 1999. In 2002, the U.S. sent “advisers” to help battle Islamist insurgents/​terrorists, primarily on the Mindanao islands.</p> <p>More recently, Manila sought backing in its territorial disputes with the People’s Republic of China, which in 2012 occupied Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal to Filipinos and Huangyan Dao to Chinese). America’s dependents called the U.S. an “unreliable ally” since it did not confront the PRC over the 60‐​square‐​mile set of worthless rocks and reefs. (The appropriately named Mischief Reef was another flashpoint. Although within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ, the PRC claimed that territory, on which it constructed military facilities, as well.)</p> <p>Manila’s mad expectations only expanded. The Philippine population is generally pro‐​American. But Duterte, who also was elected in 2016 but makes Donald Trump look civil and cerebral, made no effort to hide his hostility toward America. Relations tanked after the Obama administration criticized Duterte’s brutal assault on the rule of law and civil liberties.</p> <p>Duterte declared his nation’s “separation” from the U.S. and shift to Beijing, and he visited China spouting its praises. But the PRC gives nothing away, especially territory. Last June, in what Manila claimed to be its EEZ but Beijing insisted were territorial waters, a&nbsp;Chinese vessel hit and sank a&nbsp;Philippines fishing boat. With a&nbsp;navy whose flagship is a&nbsp;half‐​century‐​old U.S. castoff, Duterte could only tell his people, “A shooting war is a&nbsp;grief and misery multiplier. War leaves widows and orphans in its wake. I&nbsp;am not ready or inclined to accept the occurrence of more destruction, more widows and more orphans should war — even at a&nbsp;limited scale — break out.”</p> <p>But Duterte did not hesitate pushing Washington into war: “I’m calling now, America. I&nbsp;am invoking the RP–US pact, and I&nbsp;would like America to gather their Seventh Fleet in front of China. I’m asking them now.” The bombastic Duterte seemed to channel&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Major T. J. Kong</a>&nbsp;from the movie&nbsp;<em>Dr. Strangelove</em>, prepared to ride an American bomb down on the Chinese invaders: “When they enter the South China Sea, I&nbsp;will enter. I&nbsp;will ride with the American who goes there first. Then I&nbsp;will tell the Americans, ‘Okay, let’s bomb everything.’ ”</p> <p>But that was then. Duterte now says that there is no need to deter Beijing: “They do not mean harm,” he opined, as long as “we do not also do something that is harmful to them.” But it was not this startling new judgment that caused him to drop the VFA. Rather, he was angry over U.S. criticism of his government, especially its bloody drug war. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo cited “a series of legislative and executive actions by the U.S. government that bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system.” So irritated was Duterte that he declared he would neither “entertain any initiative coming from the U.S. government to salvage” the accord nor accept any invitation to visit the United States.</p> <p>The Trump administration simply ignored last year’s proposal to attack the PRC. But the risk of conflict remains. America’s ambassador, Sung Kim, stated that the misnamed “Mutual” Defense Treaty — Manila’s only job is to act helpless — would apply to “any armed attack,” including by any “government‐​sanctioned Chinese militia,” in disputed waters. Even so, the document does not automatically trigger Washington’s military involvement. The treaty commits America to “meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes,” meaning war remains a&nbsp;decision for Congress.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the Obama administration proclaimed its pivot or rebalance to Asia and strengthened military links with the Philippines. Washington signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in 2014, provided military equipment and financial grants, flew surveillance aircraft through the archipelago, and added exercises and other military activities. Defense consultant Jose Antonio Custodio contended that Obama engaged in “an obvious bending” of the law: “The U.S. and Philippine governments have always found ways to liberally interpret the provisions of the existing agreements.”</p> <p>Trump’s predecessor still remained cautious in addressing America’s role in contentious territorial disputes. Not, however, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who last year announced, “Any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.” Earlier Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had threatened to end the relationship if the Trump administration did not clarify the status of disputed territories under the security pact — meaning he wanted Washington to state its willingness to send Americans to fight and die for the Philippines. Else, said Lorenzana, Manila might end the relationship. He opined, “It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me. It is being involved in a&nbsp;war that we do not seek and do not want.” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he accepted America’s word, which he interpreted as, “We have your back.”</p> <p>Why would any U.S. president make such a&nbsp;commitment to such a&nbsp;country?</p> <p>The defense treaty dates to early in the Cold War, when Japan was seen as a&nbsp;possible return regional threat and the Soviet Union was emerging as a&nbsp;global threat. Manila now welcomes increased Japanese military activity and Russia is a&nbsp;non‐​factor.</p> <p>The only plausible substitute threat is China. Yet it is far different than the “Evil Empire,” as Ronald Reagan called Moscow. Ideologically bankrupt and practically fascist, the PRC wants to gain predominant influence in its region, not threaten America. At stake is Washington’s continued determination to treat the Asia‐​Pacific as a&nbsp;U.S. sphere of interest — convenient, but unsustainable at reasonable cost as the PRC continues to grow.</p> <p>Beijing’s more limited territorial ambitions seem concentrated on plausibly Chinese territories — Taiwan, Hong Kong, and nearby islands. Nothing suggests a&nbsp;desire for aggressive war to conquer other lands that would be quite difficult to swallow. Americans understandably might prefer to extend the Monroe Doctrine to Asia than accept a&nbsp;more powerful PRC, but achieving that end is not worth war. China has far greater interest in its own neighborhood, something the U.S. should understand: the Kennedy administration almost went to war to prevent the Soviets from putting nuclear‐​armed missiles in Cuba. The good news is that even regional hegemony is likely to elude Beijing, which is surrounded by countries not only hostile but also at times military enemies: India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Vietnam.</p> <p>The Philippines is weaker than these states and most of its other neighbors, but the costs of occupation still would outweigh any plausible benefits. Filipinos always have fought their oppressors — Spanish, American, and Japanese. Manila could do more to increase the price of war to the PRC.</p> <p>Anyway, the archipelago matters little to America. The contested rocks offer control of fish and oil/​natural gas, useful but not decisive. Possession of the shoals might aid Chinese efforts to inhibit freedom of navigation, but sovereignty is less important than capability. International law provides for freedom of navigation even in EEZ and territorial waters. Beijing likely won’t interfere with peacetime navigation; all that matters in wartime is naval superiority, which will be ever tougher to maintain so near the Chinese mainland.</p> <p>Nor is Manila a&nbsp;meaningful ally otherwise, since it is better at whining about its adversaries than arming against them. By offering base facilities, it still might enhance U.S. influence in the region, but that is threatened by the Duterte government and hardly warrants war. Nor is the Philippines likely to risk backing the U.S. against China when it mattered — in a&nbsp;war involving Taiwan or Japan, for instance. Whatever the state of relations with Manila, Washington faces the conundrum that it costs America much more to project power into Asia than costs the PRC to deter the U.S. from doing so. Although the Pentagon is working to counter China’s growing anti‐​access/​area‐​denial capabilities, the risk of escalation, especially by attacking the Chinese mainland, is great.</p> <p>There is an obvious alternative to the U.S. defending the Philippines. Manila should broaden its defense relationships with other nations. The Philippines broke with its anti‐​Japan recent past and welcomed the latter’s increased military outlays and role. Four years ago, Tokyo gave the Philippine government two ships. India also is playing a&nbsp;larger regional role and could cooperate with Manila. So too Vietnam, which fought a&nbsp;land war against China four decades ago and more recently clashed with Beijing over conflicting territorial claims. Moreover, Australia plays an important role in regional security and is concerned about China’s growing geopolitical ambitions.</p> <p>Thus, it is the U.S. that should be taking the lead in rethinking an alliance that long ago lost its raison d’être. In this case, Duterte did America a&nbsp;favor by forcing the issue.</p> <p>Alas, Defense Secretary Mark Esper continues to treat Washington as the supplicant, complaining that dropping the VFA “would be a&nbsp;move in the wrong direction.” An anonymous administration official opined, “regional and global security is best served through the strong partnership that is enabled by the Visiting Forces Agreement” and “We will continue to work with our Philippine government partners to strengthen this relationship in a&nbsp;way that benefits both our countries.”</p> <p>The VFA governs the legal status of visiting American military personnel. Without such a&nbsp;pact, the Obama administration’s efforts to expand the presence of U.S. military personnel at Filipino facilities and encourage construction of new bases likely would have been stillborn. Equally significant, the U.S. would have had to negotiate event by event over even joint activities. As for the future, warned Assistant Secretary of State for Political‐​Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper, “All the engagements, all the freedom of navigation operations, all the exercises, all the joint training, having U.S. military personnel in port, on the ground, on the flight’s line, does require that we have a&nbsp;mechanism that allows that.”</p> <p>Finally, lack of a&nbsp;VFA would make it harder for Washington to defend the Philippines. Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst with the RAND Corporation, observed, “By not having the ability for U.S. troops to move freely into the Philippines, to operate there and to move military equipment into the Philippines makes it much more difficult for the U.S. to make good on its obligations under the mutual defense treaty.” In fact, Philippines Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned that dropping the VFA would reduce that pact “to a&nbsp;mere paper treaty as far as the U.S. is concerned.”</p> <p>As noted earlier, however, America does not depend on Manila for security. Nothing that happens to the Philippines is important to America. If Manila doesn’t want the U.S. military to stop by, Washington should say thanks and goodbye, eliminating any reason for American personnel to visit. Indeed, Duterte says he wants what the Trump administration should desire: the Philippines to act independently. The Filipino president, explained his office, “believes that our country cannot forever rely on other countries for the defense of the state.” Washington should give his efforts a&nbsp;boost by terminating the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and “Mutual” Defense Treaty.</p> <p>Indeed,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Trump</a>&nbsp;appears to understand. Asked about Manila’s decision, he responded, “I really don’t mind, if they would like to do that, that’s fine,” He added, “We’ll save a&nbsp;lot of money. You know my views are different from other people. I&nbsp;view it as, ‘Thank you very much, we’ll save a&nbsp;lot of money.’ ” And, more important, possibly American lives as well.</p> <p>Rodrigo Duterte is no friend of America. But in this case he would force America to do the right thing, giving Washington an excuse to end an obsolescent military guarantee to a&nbsp;nation of little security importance to the United States. It’s time for the Philippines to take over responsibility for its own defense.</p> </div> Sun, 16 Feb 2020 13:10:48 -0500 Doug Bandow Christopher A. Preble discusses the defense budget on WTAN’s Freedom Works with Paul Malloy Fri, 14 Feb 2020 11:23:29 -0500 Christopher A. Preble Brandon Valeriano participates in the event, “What do we know about cyber escalation?,” hosted by the Atlantic Council Wed, 12 Feb 2020 10:48:37 -0500 Brandon Valeriano Greeted as Liberators? Regime Change and Reality A. Trevor Thrall, Emma Ashford, Benjamin Denison <p>Join Trevor Thrall and Emma Ashford as we discuss the failures and history of regime change with Ben Denison, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank">Benjamin Denison bio</a></li> <li>Benjamin Denison, <a href="">The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: The Failure of Regime‐​Change Operations</a>,” Policy Analysis 881</li> <li>Benjamin Denison, “<a href="">Regime Change Rarely Succeeds. When will the U.S. learn?</a>,” <em>Washington Post</em>, January 9, 2020</li> <li>Christopher Preble, “<a href="">Covert Wars, to What End?</a>,” <em>War on the Rocks</em>, August 7, 2019</li> </ul> Tue, 11 Feb 2020 10:55:45 -0500 A. Trevor Thrall, Emma Ashford, Benjamin Denison Religious Persecution Continues to Increase, Threatening All Believers Doug Bandow <div class="lead text-default"> <p>There is no more fundamental liberty than the right to respond to one’s creator. Belief in the transcendent obviously varies, which is good reason for the state to stand clear as people respond to something infinitely mysterious and powerful. When government seeks to impose someone else’s understanding of the world beyond, it is interfering with the essence of the human person. Attempting to suppress people’s deepest spiritual beliefs also guarantees social conflict, since no serious believer in God can obey self‐​serving politicians instead.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Alas, the Pew Research Center finds a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">significant increase</a>&nbsp;in infringements of religious liberty over the decade from 2007 to 2017:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Government restrictions on religion — laws, policies and actions by state officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices — increased markedly around the world. And social hostilities involving religion — including violence and harassment by private individuals, organization or groups — also have risen since 2007.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Pew’s work is notable since it addresses two aspects of the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ongoing attack</a>&nbsp;on religious faith. One is legal restriction, from modest civil limits to brutal criminal penalties, including death. The other is social hostility, ranging from religious discrimination to mob violence. The two phenomena sometimes merge, especially in Islamic nations. In other cases, governments act despite general social indifference, like in China. In contrast, state repression trailed social antagonism in the Central African Republic.</p> <p>Unfortunately, both threats contribute to persecution and are on the rise. Put the two together, and religious liberty is likely to suffer greatly. Pew reported that over the decade covered, “52 governments — including some in very populous countries like China, Indonesia and Russia — impose either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of restrictions on religions, up from 40&nbsp;in 2007.” The comparable increase for states exhibiting significant degrees of social hostility was 39 to 56.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>America cannot remedy the world’s ills, but it should treat religious freedom as an essential human right and stand for freedom of conscience whenever possible.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The news was not entirely bad. Both religious restrictions and hostility actually peaked in 2012. But they have since rebounded after dropping. While the future is unpredictable, there is no reason to expect attacks on religious faith to fall measurably in the future.</p> <p>Countries with the highest restrictions are predictable, mostly Muslim or communist/​authoritarian. In 2017, 27 of 198 countries studied (isolated North Korea is not on the list but is known to be one of the worst) had “very high” levels of official repression: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Burma/​Myanmar, China, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The only Christian majority state that made the list was Russia — authoritarian and formerly communist.</p> <p>Those countries that have the highest degree of social hostility are fewer in number. Muslim majority states also dominate the list, though other ethno‐​nationalist regimes make an appearance: Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Egypt, India, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen. On this list, only Central African Republic is majority Christian. Nigeria is divided, but the violent conflict is driven by Muslim extremists.</p> <p>There is continual churning on both lists, with both Iraq and Western Sahara dropping a&nbsp;notch in 2017&nbsp;in terms of government restrictions, while Comoros, Pakistan, Sudan, and Vietnam rose into the “very high” category. In terms of social hostility, the Palestinian territories and Russia fell, while Central African Republic, Pakistan, and Yemen increased. Overall, in 2017 two‐​thirds of countries had measurable changes, up or down, in the degree of restrictions. Nearly three‐​quarters saw shifts in levels of social hostility.</p> <p>Pew looked at four different forms of government provisions:&nbsp;<em>restriction</em>&nbsp;on religious liberty,&nbsp;<em>state favoritism</em>&nbsp;toward religious groups,&nbsp;<em>limits</em>&nbsp;on religious activities, and official&nbsp;<em>harassment</em>&nbsp;of believers. The first two are most common and “have been rising; the global average score in each of these categories increased more than 20% between 2007 and 2017.”</p> <p>The latter two are less prevalent but also growing, sometimes faster than the other two. “For instance, the average score for government limits on religious activities in Europe (including efforts to restrict proselytizing and male circumcision) has doubled since 2007, and the average score for government harassment in the Middle East‐​North Africa region (such as criminal prosecution of Ahmadis or other minority sects of Islam) has increased by 72%.”</p> <p>Social hostility also has four characteristics:&nbsp;<em>responses</em>&nbsp;to religious norms,&nbsp;<em>gang/​mob violence</em>,&nbsp;<em>organized attacks</em>, and i<em>nterreligious tensions</em>&nbsp;among communities. In this area, the news is more mixed. The first has jumped notably. The next two have grown modestly. The last has “declined markedly.” Indeed, the number of nations suffering through communal battles was down 17 percent over the decade.</p> <p>Pew helpfully listed the 10 worst‐​rated states per category (though ties sometimes yielded more than 10 “winners”). Which favor particular religious groups? Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Greece, Iceland, Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, Sudan, United Kingdom, and Western Sahara. Unsurprisingly, most are majority Islamic.</p> <p>Those with the greatest restrictions are Eritrea, Maldives, Mauritania, Thailand, China, Syria, Comoros, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Brunei, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Qatar, Tunisia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Western Sahara. Again, most are majority Muslim states.</p> <p>Countries with the most restrictions on individuals and groups are China, Maldives, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkmenistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Laos, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. The malign leader of that list is communist. Most of the others are overtly Islamic states. It is much the same story for those notable for harassing religious groups: Iran, Russia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Syria, Egypt, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.</p> <p>Social hostility tied to religious norms yields an interesting mix, with some new malefactors: Germany, India, Somalia, Uganda, Israel, Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Libya, Russia, Syria, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Yemen. Countries with significant interreligious tensions and violence produce a&nbsp;different set: Burma/​Myanmar, Central African Republic, Egypt, India, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Syria, Thailand, and Ukraine. Although Islamic states are heavily represented, other characteristics also matter.</p> <p>High levels of violence by groups occurred in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, India, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Palestinian territories. Significant harassment of individuals and groups afflicted Central African Republic, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, U.S., Angola, Kenya, and Ukraine. America’s presence on this list is controversial. Pew explained that the ranking resulted “in part because of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally … where white supremacists … expressed anti‐​Semitic and racist sentiments.”</p> <p>The worst countries to live in obviously are those in which both government and society are antagonistic to religious minorities. Among the most populous nations, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia are double offenders. Bangladesh, France, India, Nigeria, and Thailand come close. At the other end of the spectrum are Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, South Africa, and South Korea.</p> <p>Christians face harassment in 143 countries, up from 107&nbsp;in 2007. Muslims face the same in 140, up from 96; ironically, the worst treatment of Muslims typically occurs in other Muslim nations, given the Shia/​Sunni divide. Jews are abused in 87 countries, up from 51. The lower number reflects not greater acceptance but far fewer people to persecute. The mistreatment of members of other faiths trails far behind. Government harassment is the bigger problem for Christians, Muslims, and others, while social harassment is more extensive against Jews.</p> <p>Finally, not all geographic areas have been affected the same by rising persecution. The worst abuses have been concentrated in particular areas, some surprising. Pew reported, “The level of restrictions started high in the Middle East–North Africa region, and is now highest there in all eight categories measured by the study. But some of the biggest increases over the last decade have been in other regions, including Europe — where growing numbers of governments have been placing limits on Muslim women’s dress — and sub‐​Saharan Africa, where some groups have tried to impose their religious norms on others through kidnappings and forced conversions.”</p> <p>In terms of government restrictions, the Mideast/​North Africa is by far the worst. Always has been. Probably always will be. The reason is obvious: the concentration of Islamic‐​majority states. Almost all persecute other faiths. The Asia‐​Pacific is next. This region includes several Muslim states as well as communist/​authoritarian nations, most notably China, Laos, Vietnam, and (unmeasured) North Korea, along with other ethno‐​religious states, particularly India. Europe almost exactly matches the global average, sub‐​Saharan Africa falls a&nbsp;bit below, and the Americas are most friendly to religious liberty.</p> <p>The Mideast/​North Africa also is in the lead in terms of social hostility, though the magnitude has fallen over the last few years. Levels in Europe recently passed those in the Asia‐​Pacific; both are above the global average. Antagonism in sub‐​Saharan Africa roughly tracks world levels, while the Americas, again, fall well below average.</p> <p>There is no more fundamental freedom than the right to seek spiritual fulfillment. There was a&nbsp;time when Christian majorities used the state to oppress those who believed differently. Today the oppression mostly comes from those of other faiths, especially Muslims and Hindus, but also atheists, who rely on government to impose their worldviews. The result is massive injustice worldwide.</p> <p>America cannot remedy the world’s ills, but it should treat religious freedom as an essential human right and stand for freedom of conscience whenever possible. It isn’t enough to press governments to stop targeting religious believers. States also must protect their citizens from private extortion and violence. And defending spiritual liberty should not be viewed as only the government’s domain. People of goodwill of all faiths should act and organize to expose and shame oppressors around the globe. Freedom of conscience benefits all of us.</p> </div> Sun, 09 Feb 2020 10:24:59 -0500 Doug Bandow A. Trevor Thrall moderates the event, “Navigating the Nuclear Future,” hosted by The Center for Security Policy Studies at George Mason University Sat, 08 Feb 2020 10:17:59 -0500 A. Trevor Thrall The Media’s Coverage of the Syria April 2018 Chemical Weapons Attack Is a Disgrace Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead text-default"> <p>For most members of the news media, the&nbsp;<a href="">Syrian civil war</a>&nbsp;that erupted in 2011 has been a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">stark melodrama</a>&nbsp;between good and evil, much as journalists oversimplified the earlier murky conflicts in the Balkans, Iraq, and Libya.&nbsp;In the standard media narrative, Syrian dictator Bashar al‐​Assad is an arch‐​villain, while Syrian insurgents are innocent victims of his atrocities.&nbsp;That narrative also parrots the official position of Washington and its Western allies.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Nowhere is the lack of media skepticism about government propaganda more evident than in the coverage of allegations that Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against civilians. Worse, media outlets (with few exceptions) have ignored a&nbsp;growing body of counterevidence. Their coverage of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the UN body tasked with investigating allegations that Syrian forces used such weapons in 2013, 2017, and 2018, has been especially credulous and unprofessional.</p> <p>Independent analysts raised pertinent questions about several conclusions that the OPCW reached regarding the earlier incidents, and it was bad enough that mainstream journalists ignored or peremptorily dismissed those objections and critiques.&nbsp;But mounting evidence of outright OPCW misconduct during its investigation of the latest episode, the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma (a rebel‐​held Damascus suburb) in April 2018, should have triggered a&nbsp;massive inquiry by journalists.&nbsp;Instead, there is the sound of crickets.&nbsp;The United States and Britain responded to the Douma incident with airstrikes against Syrian government targets, at least temporarily escalating Western military involvement in Syria’s civil war.&nbsp;Consequently, assessing whether those strikes were based on valid or erroneous information is rather important.</p> <p>The OPCW released an&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">official interim report</a>&nbsp;in July 2018, and issued its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">final report</a>&nbsp;in March 2019.&nbsp;The interim report asserted that the weapon used likely was a&nbsp;cylinder of chlorine gas dropped from the air. The conclusion about the delivery method was important because insurgent forces lacked either fighter planes or helicopters, making aerial delivery of a&nbsp;chemical weapon from that faction highly unlikely. Ruling out possible manual placement of the cylinder thus made Assad’s regime the obvious suspect for the atrocity.&nbsp;However, both the July 2018 and March 2019 reports omitted significant material that investigators had included&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">in their initial draft</a>&nbsp;of the interim report.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Independent analysts raised pertinent questions about several conclusions that the OPCW reached regarding the earlier incidents, and it was bad enough that mainstream journalists ignored or peremptorily dismissed those objections and critiques.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Then, in May 2019, an internal OPCW memo was leaked. That memo was written to the&nbsp;organization’s leaders and accused them of having&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">misled the public</a>&nbsp;about the investigation’s conclusions. Specifically, the conclusion that an aerial attack had been responsible was only a&nbsp;majority view, not a&nbsp;consensus.&nbsp;Ian Henderson, a&nbsp;member of the OPCW’s Fact‐​Finding Mission in Syria, has denied leaking the memo and the exact person who leaked it remains unclear.&nbsp;Regardless, it appears&nbsp;numerous inspectors harbored doubts about the official conclusion, and by extension, the Assad regime’s culpability. Yet OPCW officials had withheld the release of information about the dissenting views,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">with no explanation or apparent justification</a>.</p> <p>The OPCW’s response to a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">query</a>&nbsp;from British journalist Peter Hitchens about Henderson’s leak was strikingly defensive, insisting that the organization was focusing its investigation on “the unauthorized release” of the document questioning the official report, and adding that “at this time, there is no further public information on this matter and the OPCW is unable to accommodate [sic] requests for interviews.”&nbsp;Fellow British journalist Robert Fisk observed acidly: “[H]ere is an institution investigating a&nbsp;war crime in a&nbsp;conflict which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives — yet its only response to an enquiry about the engineers’ ‘secret’ assessment is to concentrate on its own witch‐​hunt for the source of the document it wished to keep secret from the world.” Unfortunately,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">he contended</a>, “It’s a&nbsp;tactic that until now seems to have worked: not a&nbsp;single news media which reported the OPCW’s official conclusions has followed up the story of the report which the OPCW suppressed.”</p> <p>Questions regarding the OPCW’s conduct became even more pertinent in November 2019, when WikiLeaks&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">began releasing</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;series of internal documents showing the existence of dissenting views and demonstrating that the team that wrote the OPCW’s final report on Douma apparently hadn’t even gone to Syria.</p> <p>At the very least, journalists should have exhibited caution about accepting official conclusions from the United States and its NATO allies about responsibility for the chemical attacks.&nbsp;Yet very few media outlets expressed the slightest skepticism.&nbsp;Instead, the vast majority repeated Washington’s original allegations and the OPCW’s subsequent conclusions as though they were established, indisputable facts.&nbsp;</p> <p>The unwillingness to challenge those official accounts continued even when information mushroomed about questionable aspects of the OPCW’s Douma investigation.&nbsp;The pervasive media indifference to damaging revelations persisted. What modest coverage the new information did receive was confined largely to non‐​mainstream outlets such as the&nbsp;<em>Intercept</em>,&nbsp;<em>Anti​war​.com</em>, the&nbsp;<em>Grayzone</em>, and&nbsp;<em>Counterpunch</em>. The&nbsp;<em>Grayzone</em>’s Aaron Mate&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">expressed disappointment bordering on disgust</a>&nbsp;about the performance of the journalistic community: “As the suppressed findings come out via brave whistleblowers and Wikileaks, they are still being kept from the public. That is because the Western media — including top progressive, adversarial outlets — have ignored or whitewashed the story. And that media self‐​censorship has become a&nbsp;scandal in itself.”</p> <p>The few mainstream journalists who did try to cover the increasingly embarrassing developments regarding the OPCW encountered ferocious resistance.&nbsp;One angry&nbsp;<em>Newsweek</em>&nbsp;writer, Tareq Haddad, resigned from that publication after editors repeatedly blocked his attempts to publish revelations about the leaked OPCW documents. One of the more disturbing aspects of his experience was that a&nbsp;key editor&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">making that decision</a>&nbsp;had previously worked for the European Council on Foreign Relations, an ultra‐​establishment think tank with extremely close ties to several NATO governments.</p> <p>Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter noted that Haddad’s analysis had the potential to be a&nbsp;blockbuster scandal involving a&nbsp;widely respected UN agency, because his investigative article “was not about Ian Henderson’s report, but rather a&nbsp;series of new documents backed up by an inspector turned whistleblower known only as “Alex,”&nbsp;that accused the OPCW leadership of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ignoring the findings of its own inspectors</a>&nbsp;in favor of a&nbsp;revisionist report prepared by another team of inspectors based out of Turkey.” The latter group apparently relied heavily on data and witnesses provided by the Syrian Civil Defense (the “White Helmets”)—<a href="" target="_blank">a virulently anti‐​Assad medical aid organization</a>&nbsp;backed by Saudi Arabia, France, and other foreign powers.&nbsp;Perhaps most unsettling,&nbsp;<em>Newsweek</em>&nbsp;not only blocked publication in its own pages, it allegedly threatened to sue Haddad if he published his analysis elsewhere.&nbsp;</p> <p>Coverage (or more accurately the lack of coverage) of the OPCW’s questionable conduct indicated that, as they had with regard to the Balkan, Iraq, and Libya conflicts, mainstream journalists are far too willing to serve as conduits for a&nbsp;questionable, government‐​inspired narrative. Once again the press is playing the role of a&nbsp;lapdog rather than a&nbsp;vigilant watchdog guarding the public interest.</p> </div> Thu, 06 Feb 2020 11:36:25 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter Our Military Is Clashing with Russians While Defending Syrian Oil. Why? Doug Bandow <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Last month, American military forces<a href=""> physically blocked</a> Russian troops from proceeding down a&nbsp;road near the town of Rmelan, Syria. U.S. troops were acting on orders of President Trump, who said back in October that Washington <a href="">would be “protecting” oil fields</a> currently under control of the anti‐​Assad, Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Meanwhile, the Russians are acting on behalf of Syrian president Bashar Assad, who says the state is ultimately in control of those fields. While no shots were fired in this case, the next time Moscow’s forces might not go so quietly.</p> <p>U.S. officials offered few details about the January stand‐​off, but General Alexus Grynkewich, deputy commander of the anti‐​ISIS campaign, said: “We’ve had a&nbsp;number of different engagements with the Russians on the ground.” Late last month the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported: “Tensions have continued to increase significantly in recent days between U.S. and Russian forces in the northeastern regions of Syria.”</p> <p>Stationed in Syria illegally, with neither domestic nor international legal authority, American personnel risked life and limb to occupy another nation’s territory and steal its resources. What is the Trump administration doing?</p> <p>American policy in Syria has long been stunningly foolish, dishonest, and counterproductive. When the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, Washington first defended Assad. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even called him a “reformer.” Then she decided that he should be ousted and demanded that the rest of the world follow Washington’s new policy.</p> </div> , <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Trump seems to think it’s okay to choose who controls resources and who doesn’t in other people’s countries.</p> </div> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>For years the Obama administration implemented a&nbsp;confused mix of contradictory policies. The U.S. sought to oust Assad and destroy the Islamic State, which the Damascus government opposed. The administration sought to find and aid an ever‐​diminishing pool of “moderate” insurgents while cooperating with an al‐​Qaeda affiliate and watching substantial U.S. materiel end up in the hands of other radical groups. American officials maintained the fiction that Turkey shared Washington’s objectives, even as it aided ISIS and focused its ill attention on Syrian Kurds, which Washington, in turn, relied on as its primary ground force against the Islamic State. Both Moscow and Tehran aided Syria against ISIS, yet the administration sought to expel Russia from a&nbsp;country with which it had been allied throughout the entire Cold War and turn Syria into another front in the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, also long allied with Damascus.</p> <p>President Obama’s only serious objective was reversing the Islamic State’s geographic advance. However, the group was an outgrowth of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and would not have existed otherwise. ISIS was opposed by most every regional power backed by Russia, Europe, and America. The “caliphate” would have been defeated even without Washington, though not as quickly. Obama’s policy, which kept U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq, left the latter particularly dependent on America, which is proving dangerous for both Baghdad and Washington.</p> <p>Candidate Trump criticized “endless wars” in the Middle East, and as president he has repeatedly indicated his determination to bring home U.S. forces from Syria. Despite his cheerful announcement that ISIS had been defeated—it no longer rules any territory as a “caliphate”—Washington continues to occupy Syrian territory without legal warrant, U.S. or international. Nevertheless, the president has continuously faced determined resistance to his withdrawal demands from his own appointees as well as the Pentagon and the Washington foreign‐​policy establishment.</p> <p>Last year his staff convinced him to swap deployments in the name of withdrawal, removing troops from Kurdish‐​held territory in the north and deploying units to guard Syrian oilfields seized by the Kurds. This new presence could be essentially permanent. General Frank McKenzie, America’s Mideast commander, stated: “This is an area where we made a&nbsp;commitment. I&nbsp;think we’re going to be here for a&nbsp;while.”</p> <p>The president has long had a&nbsp;fixation on oil. As a&nbsp;candidate he complained that Washington should have kept Iraq’s petroleum reserves, and he continued to talk about the possibility of seizing the oil after becoming president, to Baghdad’s extreme discomfort. As for Syria, after he approved the Department of Defense plan he said America would be “keeping the oil.” It seemed natural to him: “I’ve always said that—keep the oil. We want to keep the oil, $45 million a&nbsp;month.”</p> <p>The president apparently believed that the U.S. would make back the money spent on the occupation: he said he hoped to “make a&nbsp;deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly.” That isn’t going to happen—no legitimate company is likely to develop <em>stolen resources</em> in a&nbsp;<em>war zone</em>. Even if the petroleum were developed, the resulting revenue collected from Syria’s wells, limited even before the conflict exploded, would hardly justify the occupation expense, let alone the military risk.</p> <p>And the latter is real. President Trump seemed ready for war: “Either we’ll negotiate a&nbsp;deal with whoever is claiming it, if we think it’s fair, or we will militarily stop them very quickly.” A&nbsp;bit less clear was Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who minimized the role of oil while announcing that Washington would “respond with overwhelming military force against any group who threatens the safety of our forces there.” Since some 500 Americans are currently occupying the oil fields, that effectively means they will defend them with deadly force.</p> <p>Unfortunately, potential conflict is not limited to Syria, the recognized government of the territory occupied by America and the legal owner of the oil the president threatens to sell. As noted earlier, Washington is prepared to confront nuclear‐​armed Russia, a&nbsp;Damascus ally, over Syrian oil.</p> <p>What conceivable stakes could be worth taking such risks?</p> <p>The president appears to realize that the standard reasons for entanglement do not just justify America’s ongoing military presence, but his officials see the oil mission as a&nbsp;stalking horse, an excuse to keep the U.S. entangled in the region. Admiral William D. Byrne, Jr., vice director of the Joint Staff, opined that protecting the stolen Syrian oil was merely a “subordinate task.” The president may reign, but he does not govern.</p> <p>What and why do Washington’s war partisans want America to do in Syria?</p> <p>Syria does not matter and never has much mattered to America. The Assad regime obviously poses no military threat to the U.S. Although Washington labeled Damascus a&nbsp;state sponsor of terrorism, the latter does not engage in terrorism as commonly understood. That designation is political, reflecting Syria’s support for quasi‐​states, such as Hamas, which are antagonistic to Israel. But the latter is well able to protect itself, having destroyed a&nbsp;Syrian nuclear reactor and more recently launched routine strikes against Iranian forces located in Syria, without any response from Damascus.</p> <p>Throughout the Cold War, Syria was allied with the Soviet Union, so Russia’s current involvement changes nothing. Washington, meanwhile, retains overwhelming influence in the Middle East, being allied with virtually every other state and possessing multiple bases, military relationships, and deployments. What happens in Syria simply isn’t important for the U.S., other than as a&nbsp;humanitarian tragedy, which cannot justify military intervention.</p> <p>Why else occupy roughly a&nbsp;third of Syrian territory with American troops? To continue the fight against ISIS? As a&nbsp;quasi‐​state, the group is dead. But its remnant forces will remain a&nbsp;problem, promoting a&nbsp;malignant theology and perhaps undertaking insurgent attacks. However, that is likely to be the case for years if not decades: the U.S. still worries about al‐​Qaeda nearly two decades after 9/11.&nbsp;A&nbsp;permanent U.S. occupation of Syria is not necessary. The Islamic State’s other enemies, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, and Russia, are capable of countering whatever remains of the group.</p> <p>The Syrian Kurds cooperated with America out of their own interest—defeating ISIS forces that threatened their population and territory—not for humanitarian reasons. Washington has no cause to offer a&nbsp;permanent defense commitment, especially one that Congress has never voted on. The Kurds’ best option is to make a&nbsp;deal with Syria, within which their territory is located.</p> <p>Desiring to defenestrate Russia is a&nbsp;fantasy objective, given Moscow’s long ties with Damascus. Attempting to exclude Iran, invited in by the Assad government, is an even less realistic objective. Pushing these two governments out would be convenient for Washington, but in practice would offer little meaningful benefit. America will retain its long‐​standing military dominance throughout the Middle East in either case. Indeed, the wreckage known as Syria may prove more liability than asset for both Moscow and Tehran in the foreseeable future.</p> <p>Finally, some Washington policymakers still dream of ousting Assad. Indeed, that objective likely underlies Esper’s October announcement that Washington would “maintain a&nbsp;reduced presence in Syria and deny ISIS access to oil revenue.” Since the Islamic State has been largely destroyed, in reality, Washington is denying Syria’s oil to the Syrian government and its allies, such as Russia, as we recently saw. Weakening the Assad government is supposed to allow its ouster, or force it to follow other U.S. dictates, such as the expulsion of Russia and Iran.</p> <p>Assad deserves to be overthrown, but that does not make him unique. Nor does the Trump administration have the ability to oust him. On the contrary, he has survived years of bitter warfare and is on the cusp of victory over the remaining rebels in Idlib. He has no reason to quit or abandon allies that sustained him against myriad insurgents backed by America, Europe, and the Gulf States.</p> <p>Moreover, removing Assad would not answer the vital question: who comes next? Washington has dramatically bungled regime change in both Iraq and Libya, leaving behind greater carnage and instability. Nor can the promotion of democracy justify the human and financial cost of promiscuous war‐​making, even for allegedly humanitarian reasons. American military personnel are not pawns for Washington’s ivory tower crusades; 9/11 demonstrated that misguided foreign intervention puts even America’s homeland at risk.</p> <p>The president wants to seize Syrian oil but his appointees have very different agendas. Such contradictory objectives could lead to confusion and worse. At the same time, the president’s well‐​publicized focus on resources feeds the traditional Mideast meme that all the U.S. government cares about is oil. Today that is not just a&nbsp;conspiracy theory; it is the president’s own official pronouncement.</p> <p>A policy of America First should be Americans First. Two months ago the president declared that “we left troops behind, only for the oil.” Last month a&nbsp;22‐​year‐​old North Carolina soldier, Antonio Moore, was the latest death in the illegal, counterproductive Syria mission. Washington policy should focus not on collecting cash for the federal government but protecting the lives and liberties of the American people. That means not risking them for interests that are fundamentally frivolous—like grabbing Syria’s oil for fun and profit. President Trump should fulfill his promise and bring home the U.S. military from Syria.</p> </div> Thu, 06 Feb 2020 10:18:49 -0500 Doug Bandow Is War Over? Paul Poast, John Mueller, Christopher Fettweis, Bethany Lacina, John Glaser <p>A scholarly debate has emerged over trends in global conflict and the future of warfare. Is the international system becoming more peaceful, or is it just as violent and war‐​prone as it always has been? Is great‐​power war a&nbsp;thing of the past, or has it merely been dormant under changing technological and institutional conditions? Crafting an appropriate U.S. foreign policy is dependent on accurately measuring the state of war and peace in the world. Please join us for a&nbsp;discussion of these vital issues.</p> Thu, 06 Feb 2020 09:38:28 -0500 Paul Poast, John Mueller, Christopher Fettweis, Bethany Lacina, John Glaser Trump’s Brass Knuckles Tactics toward the European Allies Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Trump’s concept of “America First” has little to do with reducing America’s overgrown security commitments around the world. Knowledgeable advocates of a&nbsp;new foreign policy based on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">realism and restraint</a>&nbsp;have made a&nbsp;compelling case that many of Washington’s commitments are&nbsp;<a href=";i=stripbooks&amp;crid=8683Z3ENWCO0&amp;sprefix=NATO%2Cstripbooks%2C186&amp;ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_4" target="_blank">now obsolete</a>&nbsp;or were&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ill‐​advised</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href=";keywords=christopher+preble&amp;qid=1579646139&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=Christopher+Preble%2Cstripbooks%2C354&amp;sr=1-1" target="_blank">counterproductive</a>&nbsp;from&nbsp;<a href=";keywords=rajan+menon&amp;qid=1579646052&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=Rajan+Men%2Cstripbooks%2C180&amp;sr=1-2" target="_blank">the outset</a>. It is not unreasonable for a&nbsp;government running chronic, trillion‐​dollar‐​per‐​year budget deficits and trying to manage multiple wars to reconsider components of its foreign policy.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>But Trump’s behavior does not indicate such a&nbsp;sober policy re‐​assessment. He appears quite content for America to preserve all of its existing commitments–provided other nations pay more of the financial cost and obediently embrace all of Washington’s policy preferences. His periodic berating of other NATO members for an insufficient commitment to burden‐​sharing reflects the first demand; his pressure on those governments to adopt a&nbsp;more confrontational policy toward Iran and other US adversaries epitomizes the second.</p> <p>The administration’s criticisms about inadequate defense spending on the part of certain NATO members have become increasingly insistent and caustic. In May 2018, Trump warned that allies who failed to meet NATO’s target of 2&nbsp;percent of annual GDP being devoted to defense would be “<a href="" target="_blank">dealt with</a>,” and he singled out Germany as an egregious offender. US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell warned Chancellor Angela Merkel in August 2019 that if her government did not boost military spending, Washington would&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">withdraw the U.S. troops</a>&nbsp;stationed in her country. At the same time, other administration officials made it clear that NATO partners who did what Washington wanted regarding financial burden‐​sharing could count on being rewarded. US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">stated</a>: “Poland meets its 2% of GDP spending obligation towards NATO. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland.”</p> <p>The mixture of US policy carrots and sticks is weighted more toward the latter with respect to demands on the European allies about Iran. Most recently, the Trump administration reportedly&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">threatened to impose</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;25% tariff on auto exports from Britain, France, and Germany, if those countries did not formally accuse Iran of breaking the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and thereby trigger that agreement’s dispute mechanism. It was a&nbsp;cynical and outrageous demand, since the United States&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">withdrew its compliance</a>&nbsp;nearly two years ago. In retaliation, Iran&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">gradually diluted</a>&nbsp;its own compliance, but it was not until the US assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, that Tehran announced that it&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">was no longer bound</a>&nbsp;by the JCPOA’s restrictions on its nuclear program. For Washington to insist that the European signatories act as though Iran was the party undermining the agreement was an exercise in unmitigated gall. Nevertheless, all three governments caved in response to Trump’s tariff threat.</p> <p>It was hardly the first time that the Trump administration demanded that its European allies tamely adopt Washington’s goals and methods regarding policy toward Iran. When Britain, France, and Germany made it clear in 2018 that they&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">would not follow</a>&nbsp;the United States in re‐​imposing economic sanctions on Tehran, administration officials were miffed. Their anger rose when those countries and other European Union (EU) members openly sought ways they could cushion Iran from the worst effects of the US action.</p> <p>US leaders continued to insist that the European signatories withdraw from the JCPOA. In April 2019, the Trump administration exacerbated already serious transatlantic frictions when it eliminated some of the boycott waivers it had granted to EU firms. Allied governments&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">criticized</a>&nbsp;that step and Washington’s other moves to tighten sanctions. Nevertheless, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">surprise visit</a>&nbsp;to Brussels in early May 2019 as EU foreign ministers met to discuss the escalating tensions about the unraveling Iran nuclear agreement. Pompeo had the temerity to drop in unannounced on a “Europeans only” meeting and try to ratchet‐​up US pressure on the representatives to endorse Washington’s position. His posture resembled the behavior of an imperial viceroy delivering instructions to political dependents</p> <p>If it’s any consolation to the European powers, they are not the only democratic allies the Trump administration has bullied with respect to Iran and related issues. Iraq has especially experienced the full intensity of Washington’s demand for obedience.</p> <p>The US drone strike that killed General Soleimani outside Baghdad in early January was a&nbsp;brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. Carrying out the assassination on Iraqi territory when he was there at the invitation of the Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to discuss&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;new regional peace feeler from Saudi Arabia,</a>&nbsp;was especially arrogant, and widely resented. The killing of Soleimani (as well as two influential Iraqi militia leaders) led Iraq’s parliament to pass a&nbsp;resolution calling on Mahdi&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">to expel US forces</a>&nbsp;stationed in the county.</p> <p>Trump’s reaction to the prospect that Baghdad might order US troops to leave was brutal.&nbsp;He threatened America’s fellow democracy&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">with harsh economic sanctions</a>&nbsp;if it dared take that step. Indeed, Trump warned that “we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” Senior officials from the Treasury Department and other agencies began&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">drafting specific sanctions</a>&nbsp;that could be imposed.&nbsp;Washington’s explicitly warned the Iraq government that it&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">could lose access to its account</a>&nbsp;held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Such a&nbsp;freeze would amount to financial strangulation of the country’s already fragile economy. The US‐​held account, which consists primarily of Iraq’s oil revenues, represents nearly 90% of the government’s budget.</p> <p>Faced with such potentially dire consequences, Mahdi (who is serving as a&nbsp;caretaker prime minister) stated that he would leave any decision about the status of US troops&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">to the next government</a>. His retreat averted an immediate bilateral crisis (and Iraq’s likely humiliation), but it did so at great cost to America’s reputation for fair dealing.</p> <p>If the United States is going to retain its vast global network of allies (or even a&nbsp;reduced version of that network), it will need to temper its demands and treat those allies with a&nbsp;modicum of respect. Throughout the Cold War, US leaders proudly proclaimed that NATO and other US‐​led alliances were voluntary associations of sovereign nations. Conversely, the Warsaw Pact alliance of Eastern European countries was a&nbsp;blatantly imperial enterprise of puppet regimes under the Kremlin’s total domination.</p> <p>That distinction between the rival geopolitical blocs was generally valid. Although the United States occasionally exerted pressure on its allies when they opposed US objectives, Washington did not treat democratic partners as lackeys to be ordered about. However, such restraint seems to be disappearing. The Trump administration’s mean‐​spirited arrogance is most evident in its conduct toward Iraq, but the threat to impose punitive tariffs on key European allies unless they complied with US demands regarding Iran policy is not far behind. By engaging in such heavy‐​handed behavior, the United States risks being seen as the new evil empire.</p> </div> Wed, 05 Feb 2020 16:28:20 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter Doug Bandow participates in the event, “The End of a Pax Americana?,” hosted by The Center for Independent Studies (Australia) Wed, 05 Feb 2020 10:53:00 -0500 Doug Bandow In Impeachment Trial, Democrats Exaggerate National Security Threats Emma Ashford, Caleb O. Brown <p>Is Ukraine’s security really America’s security? In the impeachment trial, Democrats presented the defense of Ukraine as a&nbsp;vital national security interest. Emma Ashford comments.</p> Mon, 03 Feb 2020 17:17:57 -0500 Emma Ashford, Caleb O. Brown Can the U.S. Congress Change China’s Human Rights Policy? Doug Bandow <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The U.S. Congress is the driving force behind sanctions imposed on much of the world. Unfortunately, they rarely achieve their objectives. Such measures are unlikely to work any better against China.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Decades ago, Congress pioneered the use of secondary sanctions in an attempt to oust Cuba’s Castro dictatorship. Sudan became another early sanctions target, in response to Khartoum’s atrocities in the brutal civil war.</p> <p>Since then, sanctions directed at foreign enterprises through the U.S. financial system have become commonplace. Not trusting President Donald Trump, legislators tightened penalties against Russia. Congress approved legislation targeting the People’s Republic of China over its response to the protests in Hong Kong. In December, members of Congress hit Russia again, along with NATO ally Germany, for cooperating on a&nbsp;natural gas pipeline. The same bill targeted Syria.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>To lead on human rights, Washington should avoid the sanctimonious hypocrisy that has so often marred prior efforts.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>What makes these restrictions noteworthy is how Congress attempts to conscript the entire world to do its bidding. Anyone doing business in any way in the U.S. or with U.S. institutions faces massive penalties for failing to follow Washington’s dictates. In doing so, the risk of overreach is steadily increasing, as the Europeans join China, Russia, and a&nbsp;gaggle of other nations in resisting America’s attempt to govern the entire globe.</p> <p>Just this past year, veto‐​proof majorities in both the House and Senate have enacted versions of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which would mandate reporting on treatment of Uighurs. They have also urged President Donald Trump to sanction Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and other officials over the same issue, and have pushed to bar the sale of American goods to provincial enterprises.</p> <p>Beijing’s mistreatment of Uighurs is atrocious. An estimated million or more have been rounded up and imprisoned in reeducation camps. The province has deployed one of the most sophisticated surveillance systems yet created. CCP apparatchiks even have been moved into people’s homes. Nor are Uighurs the only victims. There is a&nbsp;nationwide shift back toward Maoist totalitarianism.</p> <p>However, the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act is unlikely to help a&nbsp;single Uighur.</p> <p>Sanctions have one certain effect: they cause economic pain. But they rarely change any government’s policies in ways demanded by the U.S. Highly publicized evil has not been remedied.</p> <p>For instance, communism continues to reign in Cuba, 60&nbsp;years after the first U.S. economic embargo was imposed. In Sudan, political revolution arrived only&nbsp;after&nbsp;Washington had lifted most of its sanctions. Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro survives despite the Trump administration’s attempt to destroy their already desolate economy. Sanctions helped convince Iran to negotiate, but the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the agreement then reached and reinstitute sanctions led Iran to revive its nuclear program, target Gulf shipping, and attack Saudi oil facilities. Russia has yet to surrender Crimea or exit Ukraine. North Korea appears to be preparing to restart missile and nuclear testing. Years of sanctions did not stop Syria’s government from waging a&nbsp;brutal campaign to suppress multiple insurgents. Legislators assume that the sanctions will pressure the country in question to change courses, which increasingly seems to be a&nbsp;preternatural optimistic stance.</p> <p>Broad, society‐​wide sanctions do not generally work because they hit the wrong people. Governments and well‐​connected elites tend to manipulate controls to their benefit. Banning commerce may leave regimes with less funds, but they almost always put their ambitions before their people’s needs. And no government, including the U.S., would trade away perceived national interests for cash, absent the threat of immediate collapse. Prohibiting the sale of U.S. products—other than, say, technologies put to particularly nefarious purposes—sometimes hurts Americans as much, if not more than foreigners.</p> <p>Narrow‐​targeted penalties have the moral advantage of hitting alleged miscreants and their supporters. But what dictator will abandon nationalistic policies because he or she no longer can visit or bank in America? What dictator’s ally will oust his or her patron to maintain access to a&nbsp;vacation home or commercial opportunity?</p> <p>The legislation moving through Congress will achieve little. The measures mandate reports on Xinjiang, a&nbsp;worthwhile objective but already covered by the State Department as part of its annual human rights report.</p> <p>The economic penalties are only symbolic, probably because even Congress recognizes that initiating a&nbsp;commercial conflict with a&nbsp;major trading partner and world’s second‐​largest economy, one with extensive trading relationships with America’s Asian and European allies, would be folly. The President’s current trade war would look like a&nbsp;minor skirmish in comparison. Worse, Washington could not count on the support of its allies. Forced to choose commercially between the PRC and U.S., some might go with the former and dare America to retaliate.</p> <p>Congress wants the president to sanction Xinjiang’s party apparatchiks. They deserve censure, but so what? Who believes that after the bill’s passage Xinjiang chief and Politburo member Chen will travel to Beijing and urge CCP General Secretary and President Xi Jinping to free the Uighurs? And that the latter will do so? The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act looks like another act of moral vanity, something that allows legislators to feel good about themselves, even as they achieve little.</p> <p>Perhaps the measure would offer some moral uplift to the few Uighurs who learn about it and embarrassment to Xi and his officials. However, the downside could be significant: inflaming nationalist sentiments, thereby making concessions in Xinjiang or anywhere else less likely. One obvious regime imperative will be not appearing to retreat under U.S. pressure.</p> <p>Consider Hong Kong. Washington has already strengthened Beijing’s belief that Americans support the protests. Not only did Congress approve the legislation, but Hong Kongers greeted news of the measure’s approval by waving U.S. flags and holding signs thanking President Trump. That gives Beijing another reason to hang tough. Foreign interventions that are simultaneously public but empty can do more harm than good.</p> <p>Many Americans are genuinely concerned about foreign injustice. However, Washington’s ability to dictate other nations’ behavior is surprisingly small. To lead on human rights, Washington should avoid the sanctimonious hypocrisy that has so often marred prior efforts. Most important, U.S. policymakers should practice humility and prudence, with a&nbsp;keen focus on what is likely to work. Just because something feels good does not mean it is the right thing to do. Like sanctioning the PRC today.</p> </div> Mon, 03 Feb 2020 09:04:22 -0500 Doug Bandow Trump Extends Travel Ban to 6 Countries — but Is OK with Selling Arms to Those Same Places A. Trevor Thrall, Jordan Cohen <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The Trump administration announced Friday that it is <a href="" target="_blank">adding six new countries to the existing travel ban</a>, joining the <a href="" target="_blank">seven already on the list</a>. The ban means that citizens living in these nations cannot get visas to travel to the United States without getting a&nbsp;special waiver, dramatically <a href="" target="_blank">reducing</a>&nbsp;the number of people from these countries visiting the United States. The administration’s rationale for the ban is that conditions in those countries, especially the level of terrorism, <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4n_DoLXXY$" target="_blank">raised the risk</a>&nbsp;of allowing their citizens into the U.S. to an unacceptable level.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>But if the administration is correct about the risks posed from the countries on the newly expanded list, why does it continue to allow the U.S. government and companies to sell weapons to more than half of them? During the Trump administration alone, the U.S. has sold <a href="" target="_blank">Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria and Tanzania</a>&nbsp;(the last five of which are new additions to the travel ban) everything from handguns and automatic weapons to <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4neuVbbx4$" target="_blank">light attack aircraft</a>. Even more damning, since 2002 the U.S. has sold roughly <a href="" target="_blank">$409 million</a>&nbsp;worth of these weapons to 10 of these 13 nations despite their troubled political systems, poor human rights records, high levels of corruption and their participation in a&nbsp;range of conflicts.</p> <p>The Trump administration is only the most recent administration to embrace what they believe to be the strategic and economic benefits of arms sales, while turning a&nbsp;blind eye to the downstream consequences of how these arms can increase terrorism and dysfunction in the countries to which they are sent.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>If these places are so threatening, the U.S. shouldn’t continuing to give their governments the very weapons that can make them even more unsafe.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>For the White House, arms sales appear to be the ultimate tool of foreign policy: a&nbsp;flexible way to support allies and partners, who face internal challenges such as terrorism and insurgency, as well as external threats from dangerous neighbors, without putting American boots on the ground. And it’s a&nbsp;tool for exerting leverage over the recipients of American weapons that offers an economic boon to U.S. companies.</p> <p>Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, arms sales and transfers have been a&nbsp;central tactic in the U.S. war on terror. From 2002 through 2019, the United States sold about <a href="" target="_blank">$215 billion worth of weapons to 169</a>&nbsp;countries, as calculated by the NGO Security Assistance Monitor, including many where the risks should have been obvious. This list includes autocratic nations such as <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nus-62uU$" target="_blank">Saudi Arabia</a>&nbsp;and <a href="" target="_blank">Nigeria</a>&nbsp;that have used American weapons to kill civilians at home and abroad, nations such as <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nNtJ0vUw$" target="_blank">Colombia</a>&nbsp;and <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4n7erJ1VY$" target="_blank">Paraguay</a>&nbsp;while they were gripped by civil conflict, and places such as <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4ngwm0ydA$" target="_blank">the United Arab Emirates</a>&nbsp;and <a href="" target="_blank">Uganda</a>&nbsp;that host well‐​established black markets for American weapons.</p> <p>In these places, U.S. arms have not brought stability, much less peace. Instead, in many cases they have led to <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nVcYAbwk$" target="_blank">increased homicide rates</a>&nbsp;and fed <a href="" target="_blank">state‐​sponsored violence</a>, and may <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nXbVlj3c$" target="_blank">have exacerbated</a> <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4ny1ISf2w$" target="_blank">rather than</a>&nbsp;ameliorated terrorism and civil conflicts.The U.S., for instance, has delivered millions of dollars in <a href="" target="_blank">weapons to Nigeria since Trump took office</a>&nbsp;and the country is notorious for <a href="" target="_blank">losing these weapons to Boko Haram</a>— the exact group the weapons are being sold to fight.</p> <p>Despite the steadily accumulating evidence that arms sales to corrupt and troubled nations have had negative consequences, the American arms sales portfolio has only become more dangerous since the George W. Bush administration.</p> <p>At the <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nYl066ug$" target="_blank">Cato Institute, we developed an Arms Sales Risk Index</a>&nbsp;to assess the likelihood of negative consequences of sales such as weapons being stolen, used against civilians or deepening a&nbsp;conflict on a&nbsp;0‑to‐​100 scale. The risk score of the average American weapons customer has risen from 39 under President George W. Bush to 41 under President Barack Obama to 48 during the first three years of the Trump administration. To put those figures in perspective, the average nation’s risk score in 2019 was 39, while NATO countries average just 17.</p> <p>Sadly, it doesn’t look like Trump worries much about these risks. Though his predecessors all sold plenty of weapons, Trump’s revision of the <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nsvRMw5w$" target="_blank">Conventional Arms Transfer Policy</a>, the White House’s primary policy for weapons exports, makes clear his <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nytpTDVA$" target="_blank">unprecedented emphasis</a>&nbsp;on the economic benefits of arms sales.</p> <p>When Congress raised the prospect of cutting off weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, for example, Trump <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4nzw_9yvc$" target="_blank">responded that</a>, “I don’t want to lose all of that investment being made into our country. I&nbsp;don’t want to lose a&nbsp;million jobs, I&nbsp;don’t want to lose$110 billion in terms of investment.”</p> <p> <a href=";!!PIZeeW5wscynRQ!5_fm64E_rm4OL5JiY1M18VMpsGMzJ88Ha6G7BH8TjtEFtkYc5bWn96rFFf4n_DoLXXY$" target="_blank">Critics complain</a>&nbsp;that the travel ban was just a&nbsp;thinly disguised anti‐​Muslim move given the populations from the original seven countries that were barred — Trump did not, for example, ban travel from Thailand or the Philippines, states without Muslim majorities where substantial terrorist activities take place.</p> <p>Though there may be some truth to this argument, the average risk index score of Trump’s proposed group of travel ban nations is a&nbsp;staggering 69 out of 100. These countries suffer from much higher than average rates of terrorism, human rights abuses and political violence; are far more fragile than most; and are much likelier to be engaged in both internal and external conflicts. Caution in managing relations with these nations is clearly in order.</p> <p>What does not make sense, however, is prohibiting people from these countries from traveling to the U.S. while continuing to sell their governments the very weapons that may make them even more dangerous.</p> </div> Fri, 31 Jan 2020 08:48:25 -0500 A. Trevor Thrall, Jordan Cohen For Democrats, Trump Isn’t Hawkish Enough on Ukraine. That’s Not Impeachable. Emma Ashford <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The case laid out by the House managers in President Trump’s impeachment trial confronts senators with some stark charges: Trump corruptly sought a&nbsp;favor from the Ukrainian government. The president made military aid to Ukraine contingent on its leaders helping him get dirt on his political rival. He did it in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">contravention of the Impoundment Control Act</a>. And his corrupt actions have undermined the national security of the United States.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>As one of the House managers, Rep. Jason Crow (D‑Colo.)&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">put it</a>, providing military aid to Ukraine is vital because “We help our partner fight Russia over there so we don’t have to fight Russia here.”</p> <p>Not really.</p> <p>Trump may be guilty, but unquestioning support of Ukraine is not in America’s national interest. It is the allegations of corruption that are at issue, not the foreign policy implications. But by conflating the two, Democrats come perilously close to arguing that insufficient support of Ukraine and — by extension — insufficient belligerence toward Russia is an impeachable offense.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>But that’s what is implied when House managers conflate Ukraine’s security with ours.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>We have heard variations on this throughout the hearings. In October, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">testified</a>&nbsp;to the joint House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees that “a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to U.S. national security interests because Ukraine is a&nbsp;front‐​line state and a&nbsp;bulwark against Russian aggression.” In a&nbsp;New York Times op‐​ed earlier this week, William B. Taylor Jr., former top diplomat in Ukraine,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">argued</a>&nbsp;“Ukraine is the front line” in a&nbsp;hybrid war against Russia that includes the United States.</p> <p>In his closing argument last week, hoping to convince senators of the gravity of Trump’s actions, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D‑Calif.) took these arguments a&nbsp;step further: “These funds, they don’t just benefit Ukraine, they benefit the security of the United States,”&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">he told</a>&nbsp;senators. Having the resources provided by our aid makes the Ukrainian war effort “more effective. It might even shorten the war,” he said, adding: “That’s in our interest! This isn’t just about Ukraine, or its national security; it’s about our national security. This isn’t charity, it’s about our defense as much as Ukraine’s.”</p> <p>In the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report, the Republicans opposing impeachment&nbsp;<a href=";pg=PT237&amp;lpg=PT237&amp;dq=the+minority+wishes+to+note+for+the+record+its+unwavering+commitment+to+security+for+the+people+and+the+nation+of+Ukraine&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=EPmsg7YiVS&amp;sig=ACfU3U1UNifdWvMsiuQDa6N_9bRCjsGPsw&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwj7ptPz36nnAhUvlnIEHRMcA6MQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=the%20minority%20wishes%20to%20note%20for%20the%20record%20its%20unwavering%20commitment%20to%20security%20for%20the%20people%20and%20the%20nation%20of%20Ukraine&amp;f=false" target="_blank">offered</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;similar sentiment: “The minority wishes to note for the record its unwavering commitment to security for the people and the nation of Ukraine.” You might be forgiven for concluding that withholding military aid to Ukraine is the first step in the collapse of the West.</p> <p>Democrats undoubtedly have an incentive to frame the impeachment issue in this way; national security concerns often appear more pressing than questions of simple corruption. Perhaps the impeachment managers hope wavering senators can be persuaded by a&nbsp;presentation that takes a&nbsp;more typically Republican and hawkish approach to foreign policy. They can even make a&nbsp;good case that Trump has violated the bipartisan will of Congress: The Ukraine aid package delayed by the Trump administration was passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.</p> <p>The foreign policy reality, however, is more complicated. The United States and Ukraine are not long‐​term allies. Aid increased substantially&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">only after the 2014 Russian invasion</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">lethal military aid</a>&nbsp;was not approved until 2017, in the first year of the Trump administration. The Obama administration feared sending lethal aid — weaponry and ammunition — to Ukraine would only provoke Russia and prolong the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region. It was a&nbsp;view shared by many experts at the time: Fiona Hill, who would later serve on Trump’s National Security Council, and who was a&nbsp;prominent witness in the House impeachment hearings last year, co‐​wrote a&nbsp;Washington Post op‐​ed in 2015&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">arguing</a>&nbsp;that if the United States were to send weapons, “the Ukrainians won’t be the only ones caught in an escalating military conflict with Russia.”</p> <p>Though we have been lucky enough to avoid escalation, there is little evidence that U.S. aid has been a&nbsp;game‐​changer for Ukraine’s military. As&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">one study describes</a>, “Despite the remarkable changes in Ukraine’s military forces since 2014, major problems in its defense sector remain.” And the weapons provided are sometimes more symbolic than useful: The much‐​hyped&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Javelin missiles</a>, for example — referenced repeatedly during the impeachment proceedings — are explicitly required by the United States&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">to be stored far</a>&nbsp;from the front lines. Our military aid has not enabled an accelerated, favorable peace settlement.</p> <p>Nor is Ukraine a&nbsp;bastion of Western democracy. Governments in Kyiv have alternated between pro‐​Western and pro‐​Russian positions in the post‐​Cold War period. The post‐<a href="" target="_blank">Maidan revolution</a>&nbsp;governments have made a&nbsp;valiant effort to implement a&nbsp;pro‐​democracy, anti‐​corruption policy, but we have seen this story before. The government that followed the 2005&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Orange revolution</a>&nbsp;made similar attempts before&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">succumbing to the corruption</a>&nbsp;and elite capture that are deeply‐​rooted features of the Ukrainian political system.</p> <p>It makes sense for our leaders to root for the success of Ukraine’s current leaders. But it is a&nbsp;mistake to hitch our national security hopes to their success, rhetorically or otherwise. We cannot guarantee the next Ukrainian government will continue a&nbsp;pro‐​Western approach. Even if the Ukrainians succeed at fashioning their country into a&nbsp;flourishing, Jeffersonian democracy, it will still be close to Russia. As&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">President Barack Obama once said</a>, “The fact is that Ukraine, which is a&nbsp;non‐​NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do.”</p> <p>The unpleasant reality is this: Ukraine will always be less important to U.S. foreign policy than Russia is. Russia may be a&nbsp;great power in decline, but it still possesses the capacity to undermine U.S. foreign policy around the world. It holds a&nbsp;veto at the United Nations Security Council. It possesses thousands of nuclear missiles, most of them aimed at us. We do not have to like Russia’s ugly and belligerent foreign policy, but we have nothing to gain from adopting an increasingly hostile posture toward it and plenty to lose if we cannot work on issues of common concern.</p> <p>Maintaining a&nbsp;working relationship with Russia, for example, could be the difference between effective arms control or no arms control at all. A&nbsp;new nuclear arms race would be far more dangerous to Americans than continued fighting in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>It is understandable Democrats are tempted to paint Trump as soft on Russia and Ukraine as part of the broader issue of impeachment — from their point of view, it highlights the stakes of his actions. But it also means hawkish foreign policy choices toward Russia are being presented as gospel. It makes it sound as if choosing a&nbsp;more dovish approach is a&nbsp;dereliction of presidential duty. Although congressional Republicans accept the same assumptions, by making this particular case, congressional Democrats inadvertently reduce impeachment to a “<a href="" target="_blank">policy disagreement</a>,” as the president’s lawyers assert — and a&nbsp;shortsighted one, at that.</p> <p>In adopting this position, Democrats paint themselves into a&nbsp;corner. Such policies substitute Ukrainian interests for American ones. They worsen relations with Russia, lock us into an unending sanctions regime and make it more challenging for any future presidential administration to work toward stability in places like Syria and Ukraine, cooperate on issues like nuclear nonproliferation or effectively deter future Russian election meddling.</p> <p>Even if they see it differently on the foreign policy implications, Democrats should still be wary. Trump’s apparent corruption and evident perversion of the policy process are more than sufficient grounds for impeachment. Do they really want to make hawkishness a&nbsp;metric that should be applied in future presidential impeachments?</p> </div> Thu, 30 Jan 2020 17:23:03 -0500 Emma Ashford John Glaser discusses the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan on Sirius XM’s The Big Picture with Olivier Knox Thu, 30 Jan 2020 10:15:13 -0500 John Glaser Trump Ignores the Saudis’ Awful Record on Religious Freedom Doug Bandow <div class="lead text-default"> <p>While proclaiming his commitment to America First, President Donald Trump has treated Saudi Arabia with extraordinary obsequiousness. He has turned American military personnel into royal bodyguards and whitewashed that country’s most outrageous human rights abuses, including the slicing and dicing of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Perhaps the president’s worst hypocrisy, however, is treating one of the world’s leading religious persecutors with such tenderness. Despite his strong evangelical support, rarely does a&nbsp;word of criticism of the Saudi royals pass his lips, or those of any of his officials. (Sam Brownback, the ambassador‐​at‐​large for religious liberty, is a&nbsp;notable exception.)</p> <p>Administration officials must understand they are defending the indefensible. The Kingdom is at the bottom of virtually every freedom list of countries. For example, Freedom House ranks Saudi Arabia as “not free,” failing in both political rights and civil liberties. Reports FH: “Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties.”</p> <p>The State Department documents a&nbsp;thoroughgoing totalitarian state: unlawful killing, forced disappearances, torture, political prisoners, censorship, and “severe restriction of religious freedom.” That latter topic inspired a&nbsp;separate 21‐​page report from Mike Pompeo’s department, which has designated Saudi Arabia a “Country of Particular Concern.” State concludes the obvious: “Freedom of religion is not provided the law.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The Kingdom’s treatment of Christians and Shias has been abysmal. It’s time for the president to stop sucking up.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>State is not alone in this judgment. The group Open Doors rates Riyadh at 13 of 50 global persecutors, in practice a&nbsp;very harsh verdict. Saudi Arabia is behind only nations with widespread violence or mass imprisonments, such as Syria, Yemen, Libya, North Korea, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. To look good only compared to them, or Somalia, Sudan, and Pakistan, is not much of an endorsement. The World Watch report observes of Riyadh: “The spike in pressure from family life from the 2019 to the 2020 World Watch List reflects the brutal reality for Christians who have converted from Islam—these believers risk violence because of their decision to follow Jesus.”</p> <p>The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that the royals “maintained a&nbsp;ban on non‐​Muslim public religious observance and continued to arrest, detain, and harass individuals for dissent, blasphemy, and apostasy. The Saudi government continued to violate the rights of Shi’a Muslims and non‐​Muslim minorities, and to advocate a&nbsp;doctrine of religious intolerance.”</p> <p>However, State offers the greatest detail. It notes that “sharia is the foundation of the Kingdom,” while the Quran and Sunna are the constitution. Between 85 percent and 90 percent of the population is thought to be Sunni, so the system is organized by and to benefit Sunnis. The law forbids “non‐​Islamic public worship, public display of non‐​Islamic religious symbols, conversion by Muslim to another religion, and proselytizing by a&nbsp;non‐​Muslim.”</p> <p>Riyadh also criminalizes the promotion of atheism, materials contradicting Islamic law, and “any attempt to cast doubt on the fundamentals of Islam.” Blasphemy is typically punished by lengthy imprisonment and lashing, though the death penalty also is authorized. (This was one of the charges against blogger Raif Badawi, which resulted in a&nbsp;prison sentence of 10&nbsp;years and 1,000 lashes, though so far only 50 of the latter have been imposed.) Warns the Commission: “Muslim Saudis who convert away from Islam face legal penalties that include capital punishment for the crime of ‘apostasy’.”</p> <p>Although all of these rules are characterized as religious, they are inherently political too. The counterterrorism law penalizes “anyone who challenges, either directly or indirectly, the religion or justice of the King or Crown Prince.”</p> <p>These rules affect foreign visitors and employees as well as citizens. In theory non-Muslims—non-converts—can worship privately. Foreign visitors are allowed to bring one Bible, though as State reports, “the government regularly exercised its ability to inspect and confiscate personal non‐​Islamic religious materials.”</p> <p>However, these rights seem to be honored more in the breach than in practice. Discreet meetings within diplomatic and foreign compounds are most likely to be allowed without interference; other gatherings not so much. Indeed, relates USCIRF, “While the Saudi government has stated repeatedly that non‐​Muslims who are not converts from Islam may practice their religion in private, this policy has not been codified.” Adds the Commission, “The Saudi government has broken up private religious gatherings on the grounds that they are violating noise regulations, that alcohol is present, or that members of the gatherings lack proper work authorization,” or even “that men and women in attendance sit together in the same room, claiming such mixing could encourage prostitution.”</p> <p>Shia, too, suffer at the hands of the Kingdom’s Sunni monarchs. Shiites who meet privately for religious purposes can be arrested and imprisoned. Political opposition is received even worse. Clerics, scholars, and students face prison and even execution for resisting Riyadh’s dictates. Isaac Six of Open Doors USA observes: “The concern is that many of those who are executed are part of the Shia Muslim minority. So there’s a&nbsp;concern that there may have been some discrimination.” Indeed, sectarianism rather than security almost certainly is the basis for punishment.</p> <p>Moreover, USCIRF observes that “Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia continue to face discrimination in education, employment, and the judiciary, and lack access to senior positions in the government and military.” Private discrimination reinforces public repression. The Pew Research Center reports that social hostility is “high.” State notes that “instances of prejudice and discrimination against Shia Muslims continued to occur in private‐​sector employment. Social media provided an outlet for citizens to discuss current events and religious issues, which sometimes included making disparaging remarks about members of various religious groups or ‘sects’.” Converts usually did so in secret, reports State, “fearing the reactions of family members and the threat of criminal charges, up to and including execution. Women in particular feared loss of parental rights or being subjected to physical abuse as a&nbsp;result of converting from Islam.”</p> <p>There is good news, but it tends to be merely less bad. For instance, notes State, the “public presence” of the religious police, or so‐​called Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is down, except in Mecca and Medina. There are fewer reported instances of “harassment.” However, these enforcers of fundamentalist morality have not disappeared and still “monitored social behavior.” That means targeting everything from “gender mixing” to exhibited evidence of other faiths to disrespect of Islam to practicing sorcery or black magic to moral degeneracy to alcohol to acting in ways inconsistent with approved Muslim practices.</p> <p>Even as Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has won popular support, especially among the young, by relaxing social controls, he has respected the royals’ corrupt bargain with the Wahhabist clergy. The former funds the latter’s extremist and intolerant theology around the world, including in America. The latter tells the Saudi people to obey those who rule in Riyadh. And a&nbsp;good time is had by all.</p> <p>The Commission expresses hope. Promises of reform have been made and meetings have been held. However, USCIRF admits, “Notwithstanding these positive developments, religious freedom concerns in Saudi Arabia remain.”</p> <p>Of particular concern, younger Saudis are still taught to hate non‐​Muslims. State notes that textbook revision continues, “although intolerant material remained in circulation, including older versions of textbooks, particularly at the high school level, that contained language disparaging Christians and Jews. Content included statements justifying the execution of ‘sorcerers’ and social exclusion of non‐​Muslims,” as well as attacks on members of other faiths.</p> <p>Human Rights Watch points to the continued use of “biased, anti‐​Semitic, and anti‐​Shia language. Some teachers reportedly continued to express intolerance of other faiths and of alternative viewpoints regarding Islam.” The Anti‐​Defamation League studied Saudi textbooks and reports that “dozens of troubling passages that clearly propagate incitement to hatred or violence against Jews, Christians, Shi’ite Muslims, women, homosexual men, and anybody who mocks or converts away from Islam” The ADL also cites language promoting anti‐​Semitic memes and violence against Jews. In fact, USCIRF worries that not only has progress halted, but “after more than 15&nbsp;years of incremental progress, the Saudi government showed backsliding on improvements to its textbooks that continued to propagate intolerance and advocate violence against religious minorities, women, and the [gay] community.”</p> <p>Christianity is under extraordinary pressure in the Middle East. Observes the&nbsp;<em>Guardian</em>: “Millions of Christians in the region have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against.” Once 20 percent of the population of the Middle East and North Africa, their numbers have dropped to less than 4&nbsp;percent. Saudi Arabia has been a&nbsp;major contributor to this assault against Christianity.</p> <p>The administration cannot force Saudi Arabia to be something that it’s not. But Washington should stop enabling a&nbsp;regime that undertakes, day in and day out, a&nbsp;full‐​scale assault on American values and interests. There should be no illusions about what Riyadh represents.</p> </div> Thu, 30 Jan 2020 09:50:31 -0500 Doug Bandow Can the Us‐​China Trade Deal Be Enforced? Simon Lester <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Trump&nbsp;and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed the U.S.-China “phase one” trade deal this month. President Trump&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">touted the significance of this deal</a>, stating: “Nobody has ever seen anything like it. This is the biggest deal there is anywhere in the world, by far.”</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>But trade observers understand that much of the U.S.-China trade deal is a&nbsp;restatement of current trade obligations. Many of the deal’s substantive obligations already exist at the WTO, where China previously agreed, among other things, to protect intellectual property and refrain from forced technology transfer. There are some expanded obligations in the new deal as well, but the agreement mirrors current coverage to a&nbsp;great extent.</p> <p>What is most different about the U.S.-China deal is a&nbsp;brand new “dispute resolution” chapter. Unfortunately, this enforcement mechanism is a&nbsp;step backwards, and is less likely to induce reform in China on intellectual property, technology transfer, and other issues than the dispute provisions found in most other trade agreements. That’s a&nbsp;shame, because if these new rules are good ones, we need them to be enforceable.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The U.S.-China deal’s “dispute resolution” mechanism is a&nbsp;step backwards, and is less likely to induce reform in China on intellectual property, technology transfer, and other issues than the dispute provisions found in most other trade agreements.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Trade enforcement typically works as follows. If one government thinks another is not complying with the obligations in a&nbsp;trade agreement, the complaining government can raise its concerns through a&nbsp;request for consultations. If the consultations do not resolve the issue, the complaining government can ask for a&nbsp;neutral panel of experts to consider whether the other government’s actions violate the terms of the agreement. That panel will issue a&nbsp;ruling on the legal question of whether the respondent government is in compliance. If there is a&nbsp;violation, there will also be a&nbsp;neutral entity to determine the harm from the violation and the appropriate trade retaliation that can be imposed in response.</p> <p>The WTO has the most advanced version of this process, with 593 complaints since it was established in 1995, and hundreds of panel reports and appellate reports reviewing those complaints (the Trump administration may have just killed off the appellate review mechanism, at least in its current form, but the panels remain). Bilateral and regional trade agreements have their own version of panels, without appellate review.</p> <p>The neutral adjudication provided through these panels makes it possible to enforce the agreements. One government’s view that another is in violation is not seen as objective: It is simply the position of the government, rather than an impartial conclusion. An unbiased adjudicator, by contrast, has the credibility to determine whether a&nbsp;violation exists. This process brings the “rule of law” to international trade disputes. Rather than “frontier justice,” under which a&nbsp;complainant would decide on its own whether a&nbsp;violation exists and what retaliation is justified, there is a&nbsp;quasi‐​judicial approach to resolving disputes.</p> <p>Of course, compliance with trade obligations cannot be achieved in every case. Some government policies are too politically sensitive to change, regardless of an international ruling. But without this neutral ruling, it can be very difficult to convince a&nbsp;government that it is in the wrong.</p> <p>With the U.S.-China trade deal, the Trump administration appears to be trying to move away from this conventional wisdom and away from the rule of law. The U.S.-China trade deal does not have the typical adjudication mechanism, but rather has a&nbsp;mechanism under which either side can determine on its own if the other is not in compliance, and can then — after a&nbsp;consultations process — take what it considers to be appropriate action in response (most likely, this will take the form of tariffs).</p> <p>The Trump administration may see this as a&nbsp;tough enforcement mechanism, and it is certainly going to be a&nbsp;quick one if there is no need to adjudicate the dispute. But think about this: If China believes it is in compliance, but the United States does not, these unilateral tariffs probably will not induce China to take any action. Why would China change based on what it considers to be an incorrect view of the meaning of the agreement?</p> <p>If, on the other hand, there were a&nbsp;ruling by a&nbsp;neutral adjudicator that China is not in compliance, China might take some action.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">It has done so in response to WTO rulings</a>, and it would likely do so in this context as well.</p> <p>What we have with the U.S.-China trade deal, then, is not really an enforcement mechanism at all. Rather, it is merely a&nbsp;process to restart the tariff war if one side is not happy about something. Presumably this could be done without any special process, though, as there was no such provision that served as the basis for starting the tariff war initially. The Trump administration has proved that governments who want to start tariff wars can do so whenever they want. Thus, it is not clear what these new dispute provisions in the U.S.-China trade deal will accomplish. If the Trump administration is not happy with China’s behavior, it can find reasons to impose tariffs without these provisions, as it has done before.</p> <p>The Trump administration touted its deal as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">“a momentous step — one that has never been taken before with China.”</a>&nbsp;In its current form, however, it is not. If the Trump administration wants the obligations in the deal to have an impact, it needs to include a&nbsp;neutral adjudication mechanism to hear claims of violation, which will offer the credibility and legitimacy that could actually induce China to comply.</p> </div> Thu, 30 Jan 2020 09:44:35 -0500 Simon Lester Trump Faces a Dilemma as Taiwan Pokes China in the Eye Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Tensions between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been at disturbingly high levels over the past four years, and there are signs that the situation is about to become even worse.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Taiwan’s just‐​concluded presidential elections eradicated any lingering hopes that Tsai Ing‐​wen would be a&nbsp;one‐​term president and cross‐​strait relations would return to “normal.” Tsai instead won a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">landslide victory</a>&nbsp;over KMT nominee Han Kuo‐​yu and a&nbsp;minor party candidate, receiving more than 57 percent of the vote to Han’s 38 percent in a&nbsp;record turnout.</p> <p>Her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">retained its majority</a>&nbsp;in the legislature, which the party had attained for the first time in Taiwan’s history in 2016.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>President Tsai’s landslide victory this month is a&nbsp;major provocation against Beijing, which appears to be readying for a&nbsp;fight.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Beijing has been unhappy since Tsai and the DPP swept to victory in those 2016 elections. Before that unexpected outcome, Chinese leaders had believed that the rapidly growing economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland under Taiwan’s previous Kuomintang (KMT) government, led by the accommodating Ma Ying‐​jeou, would continue. The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">underlying assumption</a>&nbsp;was that expanding economic and cultural links would eventually erode the resistance of the Taiwanese people to political unification.</p> <p>The DPP’s decisive victory in 2016 came as a&nbsp;rude awakening to PRC leaders, and their&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">reaction was harsh</a>. Beijing spent the next four years taking a&nbsp;very hard line toward Tsai’s government. It conducted numerous&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">provocative military exercises in the Taiwan Strait</a>, worked on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">enticing</a>&nbsp;the handful of small, poor countries that still maintained diplomatic relations with Taipei to switch ties to the PRC, and intensified its warnings that Taiwan could not continue refusing to negotiate the terms of unification indefinitely. Tsai’s government steadfastly refused to back down, however; indeed, its resistance to pressure seemed to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">become more determined</a>.</p> <p>The results of the January election were an emphatic endorsement of Tsai’s uncompromising policy toward the mainland, and she wasted no time in acting on that mandate. Indeed, her initial comments likely escalated tensions with the mainland: “We don’t have a&nbsp;need to declare ourselves an independent state,” she&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">told the BBC</a>. “We are an independent country already.”</p> <p>Some Taiwanese political figures had expressed similar sentiments over the years, noting that the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name) predated the establishment of the PRC. But Tsai appeared to go further, insisting that Beijing “must accept” the reality of Taiwan’s already independent status. She also used a&nbsp;new formulation of the official name, noting that “we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan.” It was a&nbsp;subtle change but an important one, since it underscored Taiwan’s political separation from the mainland,</p> <p>Furthermore, the newly re‐​elected Taiwanese president gave Beijing a&nbsp;stark warning about using force to compel unification. “Invading Taiwan is something that is going to be very costly for China,” she said.</p> <p>Tsai again rejected Beijing’s longstanding offer of the “one country, two systems” formula, under which Taiwan would have an autonomous political status similar to that granted to Hong Kong. Her decisive victory, she argued, demonstrated how little desire there was among the Taiwanese people for the concept of “one China” or the one‐​country, two systems proposal. Whereas the PRC insists that those two components must be the basis for any productive talks about Taiwan’s political status, Tsai stated bluntly that Taiwan’s sovereignty was not up for negotiation.</p> <p>Tsai’s assessment of Taiwanese opinion seems quite accurate. Even before the massive pro‐​democracy demonstrations erupted in Hong Kong in the spring of 2019 over Beijing’s efforts to undermine that territory’s guarantee of political autonomy, polls showed that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">80 percent</a>&nbsp;of Taiwanese rejected the idea of one country, two systems. Support became even weaker as 2019 wore on and Hong Kong’s protests persisted.</p> <p>The PRC’s clumsy handling of Hong Kong was the single biggest factor in Tsai’s massive victory. A&nbsp;year before the election, her political fortunes seemed bleak, with extensive public grumbling about corruption and Taiwan’s lackluster economic performance. DPP candidates had lost badly in local elections in late 2018, and Tsai had to resign her post as party chairman.</p> <p>But the events in Hong Kong made Taiwan’s policy toward Beijing by far the leading issue in the presidential campaign. Tsai portrayed herself as the champion of the island’s sovereignty and security, while arguing that the KMT would fail to defend those values. Her message was that a&nbsp;KMT victory would render Taiwan as vulnerable as Hong Kong, with its democracy, civil liberties, and self‐​rule in peril. “Young people in Hong Kong have used their lives and blood and tears to show us that ‘one country, two systems’ is not possible,” Tsai&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">said at a&nbsp;large rally</a>&nbsp;in Taipei on the eve of the election. Voters gave her message a&nbsp;resounding endorsement.</p> <p>The danger now is that Chinese leaders may conclude that they have no alternative except to greatly intensify the pressure, including military pressure.</p> <p>Ironically, though, Beijing’s current preoccupation with its problems in Hong Kong may delay any confrontation with Taiwan. PRC leaders likely would not want to manage two major crises simultaneously. However, there are indications that Chinese policy regarding Hong Kong may be about to become more hardline. An especially ominous development came earlier this month when the longstanding head of the PRC’s Liaison Office, the mainland’s most senior official in Hong Kong, was replaced with&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;staunch loyalist</a>&nbsp;to President Xi Jinping, a&nbsp;man the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;calls “<a href="" target="_blank">an enforcer</a>.” Beijing might be contemplating a&nbsp;severe crackdown in Hong Kong, both to bring that territory under control and to send a&nbsp;stark message to Taiwan</p> <p>Washington needs to use the current interval to carefully reassess its own policy on the Taiwan issue. Under President Trump and a&nbsp;strongly pro‐​Taiwan Congress, U.S. policy has become increasingly supportive of Taipei without much apparent thought as to the potential consequences. A&nbsp;major step occurred in March 2018 when Trump signed into law the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Taiwan Travel Act</a>, which encouraged high‐​level U.S. officials to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts. That legislation ended Washington’s practice under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act of holding meetings only with relatively low‐​level Taiwanese officials. It was especially noticeable that the TTA specifically promoted interactions with “cabinet‐​level national security officials.”</p> <p>Demonstrations of U.S. support for Taiwan’s security have continued to multiply. Former national security adviser John Bolton&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">met with</a>&nbsp;Taiwan National Security Council Secretary‐​General David Lee in May 2019, in accordance with the TTA. American warships have&nbsp;transited&nbsp;the Taiwan Strait repeatedly in recent years, including&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">just days after</a>&nbsp;Taiwan’s latest election. The Trump administration approved a $2 billion arms sale to Taiwan&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">in July 2019</a>, over China’s strenuous objections. Administration officials indicated that such sales were now likely to become&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">“routine,” the “new normal”</a>&nbsp;in U.S. security relations with Taipei.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, Beijing views the proliferation of such pro‐​Taiwan measures with great concern and irritation. Washington especially needs to proceed cautiously if relations between Taiwan and the mainland become even more tense and confrontational. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States has an implied commitment to defend the island’s security and de facto independence. The wisdom of that commitment, given the PRC’s mounting economic clout and&nbsp;<a href="">increasingly potent military capabilities</a>, is highly questionable. But even Americans who support that commitment should caution their government not to exacerbate an already volatile situation.</p> </div> Wed, 29 Jan 2020 09:18:55 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter The Future of Progressive Foreign Policy: 2020 and Beyond Kate Kizer, Adam Mount, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Dan Nexon, Mena Ayazi, A. Trevor Thrall <p>Even before Donald Trump’s election, foreign policy thinkers were beginning to realize that American grand strategy had to change. After more than 15&nbsp;years of war in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Americans’ enthusiasm for foreign adventures had expired and many believed that public support for traditional American leadership of the liberal international order had expired along with it. The big question was: What would come next?</p> <p>During the third year of the Trump administration, the 2020 Democratic candidates have offered a&nbsp;range of arguments about what’s wrong with U.S. foreign policy today and where it should be headed. Some of these hew fairly close to the traditional, pre‐​Trump approach, while others represent more significant departures from the status quo.</p> Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:01:56 -0500 Kate Kizer, Adam Mount, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Dan Nexon, Mena Ayazi, A. Trevor Thrall The Democratic Obsession with Russia, Explained Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead text-default"> <p><strong>Key Point:</strong>&nbsp;Overblown rhetoric does not make good policy.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The issue of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has intensified an already deep and bitter partisan divide. Democrats and the broader progressive community argue that a&nbsp;hostile nation worked to defeat Hillary Clinton and install a&nbsp;president that Moscow could influence, perhaps even control. Those allegations have become increasingly shrill and over‐​the‐​top. In the process, they have chilled debate on U.S. policy toward Russia and created an atmosphere of intolerance and guilt‐​by‐​association disturbingly reminiscent of the McCarthy era in the 1950.</p> <p>It is astonishing how outlandish some of the comments have become. A&nbsp;recent example was the speculation that MSNBC contributor John Heilemann engaged in when Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sought to make public the memo that the committee majority approved about possible FBI abuses during its investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Heilemann asked Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy: “Is it possible that we actually have a&nbsp;Russian agent running the House Intel Committee on the Republican side?” It was the <a href="" target="_blank">second time</a>&nbsp;that Heilemann raised that absurd notion on air.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The Democrats have overestimated Russia’s strength and threat to the United States.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Other progressives have wildly exaggerated the supposed Russian threat to America’s security and domestic liberty. During the 2016 campaign itself, Clinton asserted that Donald Trump would be “ <a href="" target="_blank">Putin’s puppet</a>.” The accusations have grown wilder and more inflammatory since then, as Democrats hype the dangers that Russia’s apparent election meddling posed. During a&nbsp;March 2017 House Homeland Security Committee session, Democrat Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman accused Russia of engaging in <a href="" target="_blank">outright warfare</a>&nbsp;against the United States. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a&nbsp;form of war, a&nbsp;form of war on our fundamental democratic principles.”</p> <p>She was hardly unique in using such hyperbole. During House Intelligence Committee hearings that same month, <a href="" target="_blank">several</a>&nbsp;of Coleman’s Democratic colleagues made similar alarmist statements. Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier insisted that Russia’s activities were indeed “an act of war.” Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell echoed that assertion. Citing the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other targets, Swalwell stated: “We were attacked by Russia,” and that attack “was ordered by Vladimir Putin.” Democrat Rep. Denny Heck explicitly compared Russia’s actions to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Worries about Russia, he insisted, had nothing to do about politics. Instead, “this is about patriotism … this is about country, and the very heart of what this country is built on, which is open, free, trusted elections.”</p> <p>Such threat inflation is not confined to House members. Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, <a href="" target="_blank">similarly described</a>&nbsp;the election meddling as an “attack” and likened it to a “political Pearl Harbor.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders <a href="" target="_blank">asserts</a>&nbsp;that “Russia’s attack on our democracy is of enormous consequence.”</p> <p>As Clinton’s smear of Trump and Heilemann’s attack on Nunes illustrate, the progressive hysteria about Russia dovetails into impugning the integrity of anyone who disputes the narrative that Russia poses an existential threat to America and its democratic system. Sanders epitomizes the technique with his <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter comment</a>&nbsp;that “we need to know whether the president’s foreign policy serves the best interests of our country or the best interests of Russia.”</p> <p>Targets of such McCarthyism extend far beyond Trump and his inner circle. Figures receiving <a href="" target="_blank">similar treatment</a>&nbsp;include Jeffrey Taylor, columnist for the&nbsp;<em>Atlantic</em>, University of Chicago Professor (and dean of the realist school among U.S. international relations scholars) <a href="" target="_blank">John Mearsheimer</a>, conservative writer and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, and an assortment of journalists with a&nbsp;wide range of ideological orientations, such as the&nbsp;<em>American Conservative</em>’s <a href="" target="_blank">Daniel Larison</a>, the&nbsp;<em>Intercept’s</em>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Glenn Greenwald</a>, and the&nbsp;<em>Boston Globe’s</em> Stephen Kinzer. Epithets such as “apologists,” “stooges,” “Russian trolls,” and “useful idiots” appear frequently in attacks on these maverick foreign‐​policy critics. Many of those attacks occurred before the 2016 election, indicating that the anti‐​Russia hysteria and vitriol has much deeper roots than concerns about Moscow’s interference in that election.</p> <p>Even if one concedes the allegations that Russia engaged in election meddling, the response of progressives is wildly excessive. It is preposterous to compare cyber espionage with the bloody Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks. Indeed, such a&nbsp;comparison trivializes the tragedy and horror of those episodes. Moreover, even if Moscow’s interference did take place, it is hardly an act of war. Indeed, it is not materially different from what the United States <a href="" target="_blank">has done</a>&nbsp;in dozens of countries, including democratic countries, <a href="" target="_blank">for decades</a>.</p> <p>Progressives need to adopt a&nbsp;course correction. Those who sincerely believe their shrill rhetoric need to get a&nbsp;grip and not succumb to Russia Derangement Syndrome. Those who are cynically using the anti‐​Russia hysteria as a&nbsp;club with which to beat the Trump administration need to pause and consider how their actions are triggering a&nbsp;second&nbsp;“cold war” with the one power that has the military wherewithal to destroy America.&nbsp;In either case, their current behavior is doing their country a&nbsp;grave disservice.</p> </div> Tue, 28 Jan 2020 09:34:27 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter