America Abroad (2005) – A Blog on Current Affairs

Ivo H. Daalder
Ivo H. Daalder, President, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Ivo H. Daalder Former Brookings Expert, President - Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO

December 22, 2005

Editor’s note: This blog operated in 2005. Any links to TPM Café are no longer operative.

At America Abroad, the foreign affairs section of TPM Café, Ivo Daalder joins a number of distinguished commentators in a weblog discussion of foreign policy and current events abroad. His posts on the site are reproduced here. For the originals, including extensive commentary, visit America Abroad.


Isolate or Engage?
December 22, 2005


Daniel Greenbaum asks some good questions about the value of isolating countries like China and Cuba and whether economic sanctions work. He’s asked them before—and answering them gives me an opportunity to expand on what I said in my earlier post.



First, I think the US position (not new to this administration) that we are somehow too pure to talk to certain regimes (Cuba, Iran, North Korea—and, once, China, the USSR, etc.) is, frankly, absurd. Somehow, the notion of engagement—of talking, negotiating, bargaining—with your enemies has been equated with weakness and isolating them as a sign of strength. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The goal surely is to advance our interests by changing the behavior (if not the nature) of the regime in question. I’ll take the record of engagement over isolation any day.



A good example is the EU, which, by offering the benefits of membership to those European countries that live up to its core values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, has been a far more effective instrument of regime change than our insistence on not talking to those we don’t like.



Second, the issue of economic sanctions is complicated. Sanctions that are broadly supported and enforced can be very effective. Good examples are: Serbia (which finally ousted Milosevic), Libya (which gave up its WMD), and … hold your breath … Iraq (which, as the Duelfer Report that Bush likes to cite [sic] showed, disarmed because of sanctions and did not rearm for fear that sanctions would never be lifted). But unilateral sanctions, imposed only by us and not by any other countries, just don’t work. Just look at Cuba and Iran.



All of which suggests that pressure/isolation tactics can only work when the regime or its behavior is so egregious that there is widespread consensus that sanctions/isolation need to be imposed and also when there is agreement on what changes in behavior would bring about their end. Absent such a consensus, I’d argue that engagement … flooding the country with information about the world outside and opening up to trade … is a far more effective way to effect real, positive change. It’s what we should do with regard to North Korea, Iran, and Cuba. As a first step, let’s at least play ball!



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Failed Policy Fouls Baseball—and More
December 21, 2005


I grew up with soccer rather than baseball as the defining sport of my youth, but I’ve come to appreciate the national pastime as I watch my two boys really getting into the game. This morning brought two shockers. One was the announcement that Johnny Damon, the hero of my youngest son, Michael, will leave his beloved Red Sox for the hated Yankees (my oldest son, Marc, a Yankees fan, greeted the news with “the curse returns!”). The other was news that the administration has barred Cuba from playing in the inaugural World Baseball Classic this coming March. As Frank Deford said on NPR this morning, how stupid can you get?



What all this means for baseball I’ll leave to others to consider, but when are we going to get it into our heads that a unilateral policy of non-engagement hurts us more than them? You’d think that 45 years of a failed Cuba policy would have done the trick. Or that the decision to open the door to China over 30 years ago might have led people to reexamine the wisdom of this policy. But for some reason all too many believe that our not engaging with regimes we don’t like keeps us pure—even if it does very little to change the nature of the regimes we’re isolating and even less for the people who continue to suffer under its rule.



It’s long past time that we turn this policy around. Rather than equating isolation with strength and engagement with weakness, we should look to engagement as the best way to force real change. Just ask the people of Eastern Europe, who looked to our reaching beyond the Iron Curtain from the mid-1970s onwards as providing the inspiration they needed to challenge those in power when the time presented itself. Or ask the people of Cuba, who long ago gave up hope for a better life—and are now left with blaming Uncle Sam for dashing any hope they might have had for victory in a game they love as much as any American.



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Is Rummy Toast?
December 14, 2005


Bush on Rumsfeld: “He’s done a heck of a job.” I’d be packing my bags if I were Rummy.



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Banning Torture—Matter of Policy, Not Law
December 13, 2005


Juliette is right, of course—the reason to welcome the McCain anti-torture amendment is that it draws a line in the sand not just on torture, but on usurpation of power by this Executive. And on no issue is this more needed than on the question of torture.



Here’s why. When Rice declared in Kiev last week that “as a matter of U.S. policy, the United States obligations under the CAT [Convention Against Torture], which prohibits, of course, cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States,” some people noted that this contradicted a statement Gonzalez had provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. According to Sen. Feinstein, Gonzalez wrote the committee that “the Department of Justice has concluded that …  there is no legal prohibition under the CAT on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas.”



So how are these two positions to be reconciled? Simple, as State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told the Financial Times: “Both state and justice believe that though there is no legal requirement to do so, it is our policy to abide by the requirements barring cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment regardless of whether the detainee is in the United States or overseas.”



Of course, policy can change by presidential whim. So that’s why McCain needs to stick to his guns, and make this a matter of law rather than policy.



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What is Rice Saying?
December 11, 2005


So I read Condoleezza Rice’s Post oped carefully—and then read it again. And while it’s probably me, I just don’t get it. No, I’m not talking about how Rice, who only six years ago wrote the perfect realist treatise, has now become the principal exponent of democratic idealism. People change. No, I’m talking about all the contradictions that pervade her 1700 word essay.



Let’s just look at three of these.



One concerns the relations among the major powers. Rice repeats an argument first made explicitly in Bush’s first (and thus far only) National Security Strategy document, which was published in September 2002. For the first time since 1648, Rice argues, “the prospect of violent conflict between great powers is becoming ever more unthinkable. Major states are increasingly competing in peace, not preparing for war.” Ok, I get that (though someone should tell the Pentagon to stop worrying about the growth of Chinese military power if this is really the case…). But Rice goes further and argues that the United States is transforming relations with the other major powers, including Russia and China, in order to build “a more lasting and durable form of global stability: a balance of power that favors freedom.”



Now, I’ve heard Rice and Bush utter this phrase many times before—but I still have no idea what it means. How can a balance of power favor anything aside from stability? It can maintain freedom for some, but how does it promote if for all? And most importantly, how is that Russia and China are part of any effort promoting freedom? They’re not exactly doing much on this score at home (not when both are engaged in brutal efforts to suppress the desire for freedom among national groups within their borders…). Like I said, I don’t get it.



The second relates to Rice’s emphatic statement about the threat posed by weak and failing states. This was also a theme sounded by the NSS in 2002, but here she goes much further. She argues that “the danger they now pose is unparalleled.” Compared to what—Nazi Germany? The Soviet Union? Hirohito’s Japan?



Undeterred, Rice insists that “the greatest threats to our security are defined more by the dynamics within weak and failing states than by the borders between strong and aggressive ones.” Leave aside for the moment whether this is indeed the case (and I, for one, think the threat comes more from the growing interconnectedness of our world), you would have thought that anyone believing weak states are America’s greatest security threat would champion efforts to build the capacity of weak states around the world. But you’d be wrong. For the past three years, U.S. policy has focused not on building up the capacity of weak states but on defeating those states the Bush administration has insistently depicted as strong and aggressive. Afghanistan wasn’t a weak state when we invaded it; the Taliban controlled all aspects of daily life and it was so much in cahoots with al Qaeda that it rather fought to the death than give up Osama bin Laden. And when Bush talked about the “axis of evil” he didn’t have weak and failing states in mind—he pointed to strong and aggressive countries like North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Like I said, I don’t get it.



One final contradiction. Rice maintains that “the fundamental character of regimes matters more today than the international distribution of power.” And then argues that this is especially true in the Middle East, where “the problems emerging form the character of regimes are more urgent than in any other” region. Now one can argue this point. But whatever its merits, it clearly contradicts Rice’s earlier claim that the main threat to our security comes from weak and failing states. For whatever you think of the Middle Eastern autocracies, they’re hardly weak states. The problem, rather, is their strength and, yes, their undemocratic character.



As I said, I just don’t get it.



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The Future of Preemption
December 4, 2005


Jim Steinberg and I have an article in today’s LA Times in which we argue that it “would be unfortunate if President Bush’s doctrine of preemption were a casualty of the Iraq war. We should avoid waging unilateral preventive wars of regime change. But circumstances will probably arise in which the option of using force preventively should be available—whether to kill terrorists, prevent weapons proliferation, halt genocidal killing or stop the spread of deadly disease. The task is to make the idea a more limited and more legitimate tool for dealing with new security threats.”



The piece summarize an article that appears in the Winter 2005 issue of The American Interest. Unfortunately, in the Times Select age, this article is accessible to subscribers only. (I’ll email a copy to anyone who contacts me directly.)



View America Abroad Blog Live Online and an unedited version of the piece that appeared in the LA Times.


Bush Embraces Murtha-And Declares Victory
December 1, 2005


For all the rhetoric about the need to stay the course, what strikes me most about Bush’s Iraq speech is his embrace of Jack Murtha’s basic proposal to redeploy US forces so that they can focus on fighting terrorists first and foremost. The only major difference between the two is that Murtha argues that we need to redeploy our forces because we have failed in Iraq, while Bush argues that we can do so because we’re succeeding.



The most important statement in Bush’s speech was this one:



… as Iraqi forces become more capable, the mission of our forces in Iraq will continue to change. We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide, to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists. We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate, and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.



Here’s the essence of Bush’s drawndown strategy: as Iraqi forces take over responsibility for fighting the insurgency and become the primary means for ensuring law and order, the American forces can limit their mission to countering the terrorists in Iraq. That doesn’t require 150,000 troops—or even 80-100,000. It’s something that can be done with far fewer troops.



That’s exactly what Murtha proposed when he argued for redeploying US forces. As part of this redeployment, Murtha proposed the deployment of an “over-the-horizon” contingent of Marines. The main difference is that Murtha would deploy these forces in Kuwait, while Bush wants to maintain them in Iraq. But that, it seems to me, is a tactical difference, not a strategic one.



So what’s the problem with Bush’s approach? He assumes that Iraqi security forces can deal with the insurgency and keep law and order (Murtha, of course, assumes no such thing). But for all the rosy statistics Bush cited to back up this assumption, he’s likely to be wrong. Not only do Iraqi security forces lack the skills and training to get the job done (as James Fallows has documented), but there can be no such thing as an Iraqi security force until there is such a thing as Iraq. Instead of a single Iraq, however, there is today a deeply divided country. And unless the Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni political leaders find a way to create a legitimate and unified Iraq, no amount of training is going to create an effective set of security forces.



Yet, on this central question of how Iraq can emerge from 32 months of chaos as a single, unified country, both Bush and his “National Strategy for Victory” were noticeably silent. Could it be because they don’t have an answer?



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An Alternative Strategy for Iraq
November 7, 2005


After months of hemming and hawing, the Democrats finally seem to be uniting around an alternative to Bush’s Iraq strategy—the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2006 (or 2007). That seems to be the message of recent speeches by Sen. Kerry, former Sen. Daschle, and others, which follow similar proposals by Sens. Kennedy and Feingold made earlier.



Unfortunately, the Democratic alternative is the wrong strategy. Setting a date-certain for withdrawing troops solves nothing. It gives the insurgents an incentive to wait us out—and fully resume their destructive activities once we’re gone. And if we have lost the war, as many seem to believe is the case, then why not withdraw our troops now rather than wait and withdraw them later?



Over the past few months, I steadily moved toward the view that the mission in Iraq had failed and that we therefore should get out sooner rather than later. I still think the chances of success are small—but they are now somewhat greater than I thought even a few weeks ago.



Two recent developments account for this change in my assessment. One was the agreement among the Shi’ites, Kurds, and Arab Sunnis brokered by Zal Khalilzad, our ambassador in Iraq, just prior to the referendum on the constitution where all agreed that the national assembly to be elected in December would appoint a committee to look at possible amendments of the constitution. The other was the large number of Sunnis participating in the elections.



Both of these developments give me some hope that a political process to reconcile basic differences and forge agreement on how power in the new Iraq can be shared is still possible. Remember, that was one of the main reasons why I argued last August that as far as the constitution was concerned, it was better to get it done than to get it completely right.



Having gotten the constitution done, the Iraqis now have six months to get it right—first to hold elections and then to negotiate suitable amendments to the constitution that ensure Iraq remains a unitary, albeit federalized, state. And to give the Iraqi elite, Shi’ite and Kurd as well as Sunni, an incentive to get it right, the best course to follow is not the one proposed by Kerry or Daschle or Kennedy or Feingold but the one put forward by Senator Carl Levin.



Levin, who’s been more right on Iraq for a longer period than just about anyone else, has suggested that rather than setting a deadline for withdrawing now, we should link our commitment to remain militarily engaged in Iraq with a demonstrable Iraqi commitment to resolve their key political differences. If elections are held this December and Iraqis of all stripes participate to the maximum extent possible, if a new national assembly is formed and a constitutional committee representative of all Iraqi interests is established, if the committee can reach consensus on how to amend the constitution within the four month timeframe that has been agreed to, and if the amendments are approved in a national referendum, then there’s hope that, for all their differences, the Iraqis are committed to work them out peacefully within a unified Iraq. And if they do that, we should stay engaged to help them succeed—by providing security, training national security forces, and supporting economic and political efforts to reconstitute the Iraqi state.



But we cannot want this more than the Iraqis themselves—and so if the they fail to achieve this outcome within the agreed timetable (about six months from now), then we should withdraw our troops. So no to artificial deadlines, and yes to using our presence as leverage to get the Iraqi elite to do right to their own people. This is the kind of alternative strategy that all Democrats, indeed all Americans—whether they were for or against the war—can and should embrace.



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More on Intervention (or Not)
November 5, 2005


Stephen Cimbala of the Penn State sent me this comment regarding our discussion here at on intervention. Worth thinking about:



Well, well, an interesting debate, and I’m glad to see that liberal interventionists are finally being held accountable for their well intended, but geostrategically naive, embrace of an imperial American prospect. The problem with the Wilsonians left and right, or perhaps, soft and hard says it better, is that they have spent too much time in elite conversations and paid insufficient attention to the sensibilities of Middle America.



America’s armed forces are not an imperial policing force, nor are they a Red Cross. They are our kids, our students and our future. They should not be sent into harm’s way unless a vital interest is at stake, the mission is clear, and a strategy for victory, both political and military, has been defined. Powell was always right about this, and it’s unfortunate that he was bypassed in the fast lane of Bush policy by Cheney and Rumsfeld—to disastrous effect.



And now we’re surprised that the postwar reconstruction of Iraq has turned into a fiasco—a stalemate at best, or worst. The mechanics of Bush policy are bad enough, but the discussions on policy related Websites show that, in academia as in policy studies, there is insufficient regard for geostrategy and military history—including American history. The Philippine insurrection that followed our victory over Spain was a preview of postwar Iraq from 2003 to 2005. And has anyone seen The Battle of Algiers?



The collapse of the Soviet Union and the seemingly quick victory in Afghanistan in 2001 gave us victory disease and allowed policy makers to morph the “war on terror” into an invasion of Mesopotamia. Now Melvin Laird tells us, in an elegantly written but misleading piece, that we must stay the course in Iraq and not bug out as the U.S. Congress did in Vietnam in 1975. Proof, if more is needed, that the teaching of history and political science in American universities has descended into a cul-de-sac of introspection about theory and methods, while the New Imperialists peddle swill to carpetbaggers in government about the inevitability of universal democracy and market economies. Will Chevy Chase do the movie version?



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Intervention and International Law
November 3, 2005


Devon raises a good point about the apparent contradiction between humanitarian intervention and the supremacy of international law. I’ve been wanting to get into this issue—especially following David Rieff’s challenge to all of us here at America Abroad. I agree with a lot that my colleagues have already said about this (here , here and here), but I’d like to add three points.



First, I think there’s less tension between humanitarian intervention and the supremacy of international law then Devon indicates. I’m no lawyer (and I hate to pretend that I am one, with such accomplished legal minds as Anne-Marie, Lee, and Jim S. on the site), but I’d say that international law regarding intervention has been evolving. During the 1990s, the Security Council increasingly argued that internal conflicts with grave humanitarian consequences could constitute threats to international peace and security and thus warrant outside intervention. The Council accordingly authorized such intervention in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda (belatedly), and, arguably, northern Iraq. Devon is right that it did not authorize the Kosovo intervention, but the Council overwhelmingly defeated an attempt to condemn the intervention once it had taken place and authorized the UN to step in afterwards to help stabilize the situation. Moreover, this September’s UN endorsement of the concept of responsibility to protect—including a commitment “to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner … should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”—suggests that humanitarian intervention is less problematic from a legal perspective than it once was.



Second, as Jim S. and I argue in a forthcoming article in The American Interest (we’ll post a link as soon as it available later this month) the acceptance of “responsibility to protect” opens up the possibility of a more fundamental reassessment of when to intervene—for humanitarian or other reasons. For it suggests a realization that the two founding principles of the UN system—the sovereign equality of states and the non-interference in their internal affairs—are giving way to a new principle of state responsibility. As the world becomes more interconnected, threats to international peace and security are increasingly coming from developments within states rather than from their external behavior. Consider, the last three wars the US has fought were all the result of internal developments—Serb ethnic cleansing of the Albanian minority; Afghanistan’s offering sanctuary to terrorists; and Iraq’s purported development of WMD. Given this change, there is an emerging understanding that states have a responsibility to prevent developments on their territory that threaten others beyond it—be it by developing WMD, refusing to secure dangerous materials against theft, supporting or harboring terrorists, failing to halt the spread of deadly diseases, or some other threatening behavior—and that their failure to live up to that responsibility shifts the burden to the international community to intervene.



Third, the Security Council has increasingly emerged as the key arbiter for determining when such intervention is justified. Before the first Gulf War, the Council had authorized military intervention a grand total of two times (Korea and the Congo); since then it has done so no less than 17 times. Even Bush believed it necessary to justify the Iraq War by arguing that the invasion was authorized by prior Council resolutions. But what if the Council refuses to act—either because it lacks the stomach to authorize intervention or because one or more permanent member vetoes it (as in Kosovo)? In these circumstances countries that believe intervention is necessary might appeal to regional organizations to legitimize the intervention (again, as in Kosovo). Or, ultimately, it might fall to like-minded states—I’m thinking here of the Alliance of Democracies that Jim L. and I have written about—to sanction an intervention. But whether it is the Security Council, a regional organization, or a group of democracies, in each instance an intervening state would have to be able to convince a notable group of other states that intervention is justified. In situations like these, there is little if any room for unilateralism.



All of this makes a case for intervention—thus confirming Rieff’s charge that we here at America Abroad are a bunch of bloody-minded liberals (Rieff himself, it is fair to note, used to be a charter member). I plead guilty. What unites liberals and neoconservatives is a belief that America has an overriding interest in fostering liberal democratic change in the world. What divides them is liberal’s rejection of the neoconservative belief that American military power alone suffices to bring such change about. Liberals believe that change can come only if it is supported broadly from within and without—and that absent such support any intervention is likely to make matters worse rather than better. Oh, and because liberals believe in government, they like to plan ahead before they intervene (a point to note this month, the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Accords which ended the Bosnian War and commenced a peace building operation in which not a single American soldier lost his life to hostile fire).



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Whatever Happened to the Rule of Law?
November 2, 2005


On Monday Condoleezza Rice joined her colleagues at the UN Security Council to denounce Syria for its failure to cooperate with a UN investigation of the murder of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister, last February. “We in the international community must remain united and we must remain resolute in our pursuit of truth, our defense of justice, and our support of liberty,” she declared.



Hypocrisy usually isn’t a sound basis for policy.



The costs are evident in at least two ways. First, it undermines the very values we claim to stand for. Yesterday, Steve Hadley, Bush’s national security adviser, sought to reassure Americans that whatever the administration may be doing with detainees, its behavior was “consistent with our values.” But apparently it isn’t consistent with American law. For The Post reports that no sooner had the Supreme Court ruled last summer that American courts had jurisdiction over Guatanamo, or a major CIA-run detention facility at the base was shut down and the detainees transferred to new facilities in third countries. Like an outlaw, the administration ran away from the long reach of American law. How’s that consistent with our values, the most fundamental of which is the idea that we are a nation of laws?



Second, The Post reported that the secret facilities in East European countries violated the national and international legal obligations of these countries as well. So here we fought a cold war and worked valiantly to bring countries in central and eastern Europe into the western, democratic fold only to ask them to abandon the rule of law when it suits our purpose. What kind of an example does that set? And how does this advance our fundamental goal of transforming autocratic regimes that do not accept the rule of law into vibrant democracies that do?



While Abu Ghraib soiled America’s image around the world, the revelation of American secret prisons in other countries deals a perhaps fatal blow to our policy of promoting democracy abroad.



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The National Guard—At Home or Abroad
October 21, 2005


In the days after the disastrously slow response to Katrina, Bush went out of his way to argue that the delay in deploying National Guard and other troops had nothing to do with Iraq. “It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn’t enough troops here, just pure and simple,” Bush said on September 6. “We’ve got plenty of troops to do both.”



He may have been right about the troops—but now we learn they didn’t have the equipment necessary to do the job.



A new GAO report concludes that by this summer Guard units remaining State-side only had 34 percent of their essential equipment. The rest had been shipped with off with other units deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. National Guard officials believe the response to Hurricane Katrina “was more complicated because significant quantities of critical equipment such as satellite communications equipment, radios, trucks, helicopters and night-vision goggles were deployed to Iraq.” The head of the Guard accordingly told Congress that current equipment levels “permit a response to domestic contingencies that falls short of our objectives.” Or, as Katrina showed, short of what is necessary.



All of this points to a larger problem—the increasing reliance on the Guard to supplement active duty and reserve forces for duty overseas. This, of course, was by design. After Vietnam, the Army wanted to rely on citizen-soldiers for major military operations to ensure such missions were undertaken only with popular backing.



But this come with significant cost—not least an erosion in the Guard’s ability to perform its historical mission of providing security at home. The need to return to this historical focus became abundantly clear after 9/11—and it was once again underscored by Katrina. So before we waste a lot of time debating the wisdom of assigning the Pentagon and active duty forces the lead role in responding to large scale disasters at home, as Bush and others have argued, let’s focus on how we can restore the Guard’s capability to perform its historical role here at home.



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Mystery Resolved
October 20, 2005


Buried deep in a Times story on the federal shield law is this revelation: Judy Miller didn’t have a security clearance after all! Turns out, Miller had signed the same non-disclosure form every other reporter embedded with military units during the war had signed—”a written agreement to see and hear classified information but treat it as off the record unless an ad hoc arrangement was reached with military hosts.” Miller told the Times that “this so-called nondisclosure form was precisely what she had signed, with some modifications, adding that what she had meant to say in her published account was that she had had temporary access to classified information under rules set by her unit.”



Just another case of sloppy reporting and note taking, I guess. Or is it?



What set off the furor last Sunday was Miller’s claim that because she had a security clearance Libby may have shared classified information with her thinking she was cleared. You remember, here is what she wrote: “I told Mr. Fitzgerald that Mr. Libby might have thought I still had security clearance, given my special embedded status in Iraq.”



But here is the problem with this: Miller may have been able to get access to information she came across Lwhile being embedded, but she wasn’t cleared in any way, shape, or form to get access to any other classified information—certainly not from a senior White House official over breakfast in Washington. And to believe that such an official might not have known the difference is frankly, astounding if not unbelievable.



And then there is this. Remember that Miller told the grand jury “that at our July 8 meeting I might have expressed frustration to Mr. Libby that I was not permitted to discuss with editors some of the more sensitive information about Iraq”? Well, not quite, as today’s Times account makes clear: “Ms. Miller said that under the conditions set by the commander of the unit, Col. Richard R. McPhee, she had been allowed to discuss her most secret reporting with only the senior-most editors of The Times, who at the time were Howell Raines, the executive editor, and Gerald M. Boyd, the managing editor.”



Just another case of sloppy reporting?



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Why We’re in Iraq
October 19, 2005


Secretary Rice traveled to Capitol Hill today to testify, for the first time ever, on the biggest foreign policy issue confronting our nation: Iraq. In her opening statement, Rice said this about our objectives:



We know our objectives. We and the Iraqi Government will succeed if together we can:

  • Break the back of the insurgency so that Iraqis can finish it off without large-scale military help from the United States.
  • Keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven from which Islamic extremists can terrorize the region or the world.
  • Demonstrate positive potential for democratic change and free expression in the Arab and Muslim worlds, even under the most difficult conditions.
  • And turn the corner financially and economically, so there is a sense of hope and a visible path toward self-reliance.




Now, read that again, and tell me if this is serious.



Let’s remember, there was no insurgency in Iraq before we invaded the country and then totally bungled the aftermath. And there was little chance of Iraq becoming a safe haven for terrorists before we invaded the country and then totally bungled the aftermath. In other words, our first two objectives in Iraq are to undo the disaster our own actions and inactions created!



As for the remaining objectives, demonstrating the “positive potential for democratic change and free expression” is a very long cry from establishing a viable democracy in the heart of the Arab world, which a couple of years ago was declared the official aim of our continued involvement in Iraq. And “turning the corner financially and economically,” though difficult, doesn’t strike me as setting the bar terribly high.



Which leaves me with this thought: the limited nature of these objectives suggests that the administration may finally be realizing the extraordinary disaster we’re in and is trying, desperately, to find a way to declare victory so we can get out.



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For Some Good News Now
October 17, 2005


Here’s a headline you don’t see often: “Surprising Evidence of Major Declines in Armed Conflicts, Genocides, Human Rights Abuse, Military Coups and International Crises, Worldwide.” That is the conclusion of a major new study, supported by five governments that has just been published.



View highlights and explanations of the report at America Abroad Blog Live Online


Miller’s Security Clearance
October 16, 2005


Having now waded through The Times’s articles on Judy Miller, one new fact struck me as particularly bizarre—Miller, by her own admission, was cleared to see secret information as part of her assignment as an “embedded” reporter in Iraq.



I had no idea journalists could receive security clearances—and I had no idea that the mainstream media would allow their reporters to have such clearances. After all, one of the most important obligations of a person receiving security clearances is not to reveal that information at any time, while one of the most important obligations of a reporter is precisely to reveal information the public has a need and right to know.



Can someone explain why this glaring conflict of interest is acceptable? And does anyone know whether Miller’s clearance was an exception or whether this is a common practice in journalistic circles, be it today or in the past? And, finally, as I note below the fold, could it be that this fact becomes the key to Libby’s defense?



Here is how Miller reveals that she had a clearance:




  • In my grand jury testimony, Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to the subject of how Mr. Libby handled classified information with me. He asked, for example, whether I had discussed my security status with Mr. Libby. During the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment “embedded” with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons.








  • Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I had discussed classified information with Mr. Libby. I said I believed so, but could not be sure. He asked how Mr. Libby treated classified information. I said, Very carefully.








  • Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to examine a series of documents. Though I could not identify them with certainty, I said that some seemed familiar, and that they might be excerpts from the National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq’s weapons. Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether Mr. Libby had shown any of the documents to me. I said no, I didn’t think so. I thought I remembered him at one point reading from a piece of paper he pulled from his pocket.








  • I told Mr. Fitzgerald that Mr. Libby might have thought I still had security clearance, given my special embedded status in Iraq. At the same time, I told the grand jury I thought that at our July 8 meeting I might have expressed frustration to Mr. Libby that I was not permitted to discuss with editors some of the more sensitive information about Iraq.








  • Mr. Fitzgerald asked me if I knew whether I was cleared to discuss classified information at the time of my meetings with Mr. Libby. I said I did not know.




A couple of things to note. First, if Libby knew Miller was cleared to see secret information his discussing it with her might not be regarded as an unauthorized disclosure of classified information (which is one of the crimes Libby could be charged with). The fact that Miller was a reporter would be irrelevant, because she was cleared to receive secret information in order to be able to do her job (albeit as an “embedded” reporter).



Second, when Miller writes that she “expressed frustration to Mr. Libby that I was not permitted to discuss with editors some of the more sensitive information about Iraq,” she made clear that any classified information he shared with her would not be revealed—either to her editors or to the public. But how, under these circumstances, can she do her job as a reporter?



There is, in short, something seriously wrong here, which is deserving of much more debate.



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Is the Bush Foreign Policy Revolution Over?
October 15, 2005


Yes, Jim Lindsay and I argue here. But out of necessity rather than out of choice.



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What did the President know and when did he know it?
October 2, 2005


The Post reports that Fitzgerald may indict Rove, Libby and perhaps others for engaging in a criminal conspiracy to discredit Wilson by leaking his wife’s purported role in the Niger mission. Which raises this question: What did the president know and when did he know it?



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Who’s Watching the Terrorists?
September 21, 2005


As another Cat-5 storm comes barreling towards the Gulf Coast, the administration is trying to do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the post-Katrina disaster. So it’s all hands on deck at the Department of Homeland Security.



But that raises an important question: Who’s watching the terrorists? That, after all, is what DHS was supposed to be about.



When first the Dems and then Bush embraced the idea of creating this mammoth new department, critics raised two important questions:




  1. Would the focus on terrorism divert attention from other important functions that would remain the responsibility of agencies being folded into the new department(like preparing for hurricanes)?
  2. Would a major natural disaster divert attention of the department away from its primary mission of preventing a terrorist attack?




Katrina gave us the answer to the first question. Let’s hope Rita doesn’t give us as disastrous an answer to the second.



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A Third Way in Iraq?
September 20, 2005


A former Marine Captain, in an eloquent plea to Bush to take responsibility for his mistakes in Iraq, writes this in The Times:



American citizens—and the military—have been offered a false choice between “staying the course” in Iraq and precipitous withdrawal. The historian James Chace compared the former to a sailor who, having been blown off course in a storm, continues to sail straight ahead, but in the wrong direction. Cutting and running, on the other hand, isn’t a strategy. A hasty exit would give us anarchy, civil war and maybe revenge killing on a scale unseen since Rwanda. That withdrawal is frequently advanced as the “humanitarian” option is appalling. There must be a third way.



I’m not so sure. For there to be a third way our continued presence in Iraq, in whatever form, would have to make a material difference. Perhaps we’re preventing an all-out civil war. But it sure doesn’t look like it.



The real question is not how long we stay in Iraq—or even what we do while we are there. The real question now is how we can best minimize the damage caused by our having lost the war.



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North Korea: A Good First Step
September 19, 2005


Bruce is right that the joint statement on North Korean nuclear weapons is a good first step. It’s a testament that what good diplomacy, so often disparaged as a sign of weakness by this administration, can produce results. Of course, had the Bush team engaged in this kind of productive negotiations earlier, we might have gotten these results before the North reprocessed enough plutonium to make another 6 or so nuclear bombs.



But let’s also be clear about what this agreement does not do. Here are four things that the negotiators left unresolved:




  1. The sequence of implementation. The DPRK insists it will not dismantle its nuclear program until it gets binding security guarantees and foreign energy assistance, including help with modernizing its nuclear program. The US insists that the sequence be the other way around.
  2. The North still wants a light-water reactor to produce nuclear energy; the other parties only agreed to talk about this at the “appropriate time.”
  3. While Pyonyang “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the NPT and to IAEA safeguards,” the joint statement said nothing about how any of this would be verified.
  4. The statement is silent as to when any of this must happen—the only date mentioned is the resumption of the six-party talks sometime this November.




So let’s cheer the administration for a job well done. But let’s also make sure that these nice words will be translated into effective action—sooner rather than later.



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The Korea Deal—An Inside-the-Beltway Look
September 19, 2005


In tonight’s Nelson Report, Chris Nelson takes a look at how the Korean Nuclear agreement is going down inside the beltway. Worth a close read.



Read a Transcript of the Nelson Report and View America Abroad Blog Live Online


Needed: Some Self-Examination
September 19, 2005


Senators McCain and Lieberman (along with Reps Harman and Weldon) argue for improving communications capabilities of first responders by opening up more radio spectrum and increasing funding. A good idea.



But given that both senators led the fight after 9/11 to create the Department of Homeland Security, including by putting FEMA at its core, shouldn’t they start by examining how their own proposals have gone so disastrously awry? It wasn’t just in the implementation that things went wrong; the whole idea of promoting the largest governmental organization in history was deeply flawed from the start.



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After the UN, What?
September 15, 2005


Two years ago, Kofi Annan stood before the representatives of the world and warned that the UN was at a crossroads—either it would reform itself or it would continue down the path of irrelevance. In the intervening years, plenty of people (not least the Secretary General himself) expended extraordinary efforts to gain international support for far-reaching reforms of the ailing, 60-year old organization. These efforts have now gone for naught. The 35-page summit declaration, while it has some useful tidbits, is not what was needed to save the UN. On the most important issues of the day—terrorism, weapons proliferation, aid commitments, institutional reform—the document is either silent or platitudinous. Sad to say, but this declaration stands as a monument to the UN’s present-day irrelevance.



While the Bush administration bears some responsibility for this failure, it alone is hardly to blame. Countries like Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Malaysia, and Sudan were not interested in the kind of far-reaching changes that are desperately required. And there lies the rub—what kind of organization is it that depends on the consent and support of regimes like these to make progress possible? The fundamental flaw of the effort—indeed, of the UN itself—is to insist that every country, no matter what its past and current record in supporting peace and promoting security, no matter how it is governed internally, has an equal voice in the organization’s affairs. One country, one vote is a form of pseudo democracy that works to ensure organizational paralysis—and the UN’s increasing irrelevance. And it leads to outcomes like we witnessed in New York this week.



So where do we go from here? Not to going it alone, as many of the UN critics in the U.S. would have it? As even Bush recognized in his speech to the General Assembly, ours is the age of global politics—an age where events far away can have profound implications here at home. 9/11 showed that the world has come to America—and to every other corner of the globe. From terrorism to the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, from global warming to the spread of deadly diseases, globalization makes international cooperation an absolute imperative. While regional organizations have important roles to play, the global scope of today’s challenges requires a global cooperative response.



Aside from the UN, there is no global organization that fills this need. So we must create a new one. One idea was suggested by Jim Traub in the Times Magazine last week. Traub proposed to create a Peace and Security Union composed of countries that would commit to fight terrorism, protect civilians against wanton violence, and commit to work together to alleviate the scourge of extreme poverty and disease. There’s lots to be said for this idea—at least the foundational principles would relate to the world as it is rather than (as in the insistence on the sovereign equality of the member states) to a world that has long passed us by. But the only way to make sure that countries would be truly committed to these principles would be if the members were democratic. Autocracies can’t be relied upon to keep their word. Democracies may not do so either, but they are far more likely to do so and they can and will be held to account.



So why not, then, create a global organization that would unite the world’s democracies—an alliance of democracies. Jim Lindsay and I proposed such an organization some time ago, and now that the UN has proven itself to be an emperor with no clothes, it’s time to take a serious look at this idea. The essence of the concept, as we originally proposed is this:




  • The Alliance of Democracies would address the main American criticism of institutional multilateralism—that it gives countries implacably hostile to American values a say in its foreign policy. What other members of the Alliance would receive in return is more predictability in and influence over America’s behavior. Washington would find it more difficult at home to give the back of its hand to an Alliance of Democracies than to the United Nations.
  • The first key to making an Alliance of Democracies work is to restrict its membership to countries with entrenched democratic traditions. The great weakness of the Community of Democracies, an effort launched in Warsaw in 2000 to bring together countries “committed to democracy,” is that it cast its net too wide. By no reasonable criteria are Egypt, Qatar, or Yemen—to name just some of the more than one hundred members of the Community—democracies. Many other members are newly born or quasi-democracies that could—and in some cases have—slipped back into authoritarian government.
  • Membership in the Alliance of Democracies must instead be limited to countries where democracy is so rooted that reversion to autocratic rule is unthinkable. Using criteria and rankings compiled by the widely respected Freedom House and the Polity IV Project at the University of Maryland, nearly five dozen countries meet this membership threshold. These include not just the obvious candidates, such as the OECD countries, but also Botswana, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Mauritius, Peru, the Philippines, and South Africa. The diverse mix of regions, cultures, and traditions represented makes for the basis of a truly global institution. More countries could join as they demonstrated that their commitment to democratic governance had become deeply rooted.
  • The second key to making an Alliance of Democracies work is to give it a broad mandate with real responsibilities. The Community of Democracies seeks to promote democratization worldwide. The purpose of an Alliance of Democracies would by necessity be far more ambitious. It would unite democracies to confront their common security challenges. They would work jointly to strengthen international cooperation to combat international terrorism, halt weapons proliferation, stop the spread of infectious diseases, and slow down global warming. And it would work vigorously to advance the values that its members see as fundamental to their security and well-being—democratic government, respect for human rights, and market-based economies.
  • The Alliance of Democracies would accomplish these objectives in part by working through existing international institutions. The Alliance would become a powerful caucus at the United Nations and its affiliated agencies, enabling its members to pool their votes and exercise their diplomatic clout in a coordinated fashion. The members would also be a force for making the United Nations and other international institutions more effective. They could similarly engage in joint diplomacy with non-member states.
  • But to achieve its full potential the Alliance of Democracies would also have to develop its own capabilities. On the military front, that means emulating NATO. The Alliance would develop doctrine, promote joint training and planning, and enhance interoperability among its member militaries. These efforts could cover high-intensity warfare and peacekeeping operations. The reach of the Alliance of Democracies would also extend to economic matters. The Alliance’s potential members are responsible for the bulk of world economic activity. As such, they would constitute a powerful voting bloc within the WTO. To deepen their mutual ties and to solidify the Alliance’s importance, they should work toward eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers among member countries. The Alliance would also be an appropriate forum for coordinating development and financial assistance strategies, creating an emissions trading system to combat climate change, and developing new energy policies that reduce reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.
  • The ultimate goal of the Alliance of Democracies would be for it to play a role akin to what NATO did for its members during the Cold War. With one key difference: The Alliance of Democracies would not be formed to counter any particular country or be confined to any region. Its aspiration would instead be to expand its membership ranks. Much as the opportunity to join the European Union encouraged Eastern European governments to firmly embrace democratic ways, the possibility of becoming a member of the Alliance of Democracies could provide a powerful incentive for democratizing countries to complete their journey.




So, let’s get to work and create an alliance that is relevant for the 21st century. If nothing else, the very effort will provide a more powerful incentive to turn a pre-cold war institution into one that is relevant to the post-cold war world.



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Success in Iraq?
September 11, 2005


What do you call it when you take a city—the same city—for the third time? Success or failure?



The Iraqi government and US military are touting the number of insurgents captured and killed (remember body counts?) to proclaim the operation in Tall Afar, a city near the Syrian border, a grand success. But this is the third time Tall Afar has been captured from insurgents—once last year and then again earlier this year. And like the earlier operations, US and Iraqi forces entered a city that was largely deserted—the insurgents, along with the people, had left town. In the previous cases, they returned as soon as US forces left town.



Will this time be different? Plans are to station an Iraqi police force of 1700 officers, including 1000 locals, once the military forces leave. Somehow that doesn’t sound quite enough to keep insurgents from coming back.



So when Tall Afar is captured a fourth time, will they call that another success?



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Obama on Katrina
September 6, 2005


Anne-Marie asked the right questions:



Who can give us the words and the strength and the leadership to transform our shame and outrage into action? Who will capture our fury at what happened, our determination not only to repair and rebuild but to redeem ourselves as a society? Who will capture the faith that things can and will change, rekindle an idealism that seems so often nothing more than a hologram of spin? Who will dream a new dream, and lead us all to try to make it real?



Sen. Barack Obama has begun to provide an answer. Let’s hope that in the days ahead, he and his colleagues in the Senate can turn these sentiments into concrete policy and action.



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It’s the Government—Stupid
September 6, 2005


The president went to the Red Cross this morning and implored people to contribute so the Red Cross can do its job. This after he toured Mississippi with the Salvation Army and appointed his dad and Clinton to head the private fundraising effort.



But while the generosity and assistance from Americans is welcome and necessary, the people of New Orleans are waiting for the president to do his job—which is to mobilize the resources of the Federal Government and help the people in need. You’d think, six days after disaster struck, the president of the United States would understand that he’s in charge.



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Undermining FEMA—and the Nation
September 6, 2005


It is now clear that the decision to merge FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security was a disaster. What once had been one of the most effective agencies of the US government was shorn of talented leadership, deprived of adequate resources, and diverted from its primary mission. The results have been painfully apparent to everyone—none more so than the people of New Orleans.



Responsibility for this fateful decision, however, is not Bush’s alone. Long before the administration proposed merging FEMA into a new Department of Homeland Security, others had urged this step on the administration. Even before 9/11, the Hart-Rudman Commission suggested the need to incorporate FEMA into a new National Security Homeland Security Agency and after 9/11 it was Democrats who took up the call to create a new department that would have FEMA as one of its core elements.



Even at the time, some of us argued against doing so—because, among other reasons, it would weaken FEMA’s ability to respond to disasters like major hurricanes. It’s worth rereading those arguments—if only to underscore again the need for a separate, cabinet-level agency that would have national preparedness and response to disasters of all kinds its overriding mission. The people of New Orleans—the people of America—deserve nothing less.



View this entry to America Abroad Blog Live Online along with the pertinent excerpt from the July 2002 report Assessing the Department of Homeland Security.


Getting Done, Getting Out
August 22, 2005


Anne-Marie’s right—better to get it done than to wait to get it right. More time won’t get this right in any case. And with a constitution accepted by the national parliament, we’ll at least see a debate over the next few weeks as the country moves to a referendum and new elections. These political processes, even when intermixed with violence, offer some hope—however slim—that more and more issues will be sorted out through negotiations and compromise rather than through brute force.



But more important than that, the agreement on the constitution puts Iraq’s future firmly where it belongs—in the hands of the Iraqi people. It thus sets the stage for our troops to leave. After all, the legal mandate for our presence there is set to expire by the end of the year.



So let’s declare victory and go home—it’s what Bush is bound to do, so why shouldn’t we?



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What’s Plan B?
August 17, 2005


The Iraqi constitution—and presumed election of a constitutional government in December—is turning out to be the key to Bush’s exit strategy from Iraq. This explains the air of desperation that wafted through Crawford, Foggy Bottom, and the Green Zone earlier this week as the deadline for agreeing on a constitution came and went. Now, the desperate hope is to get it done by next Monday. But if, as seems likely, the constitution is not agreed, what’s Washington’s Plan B?



The Bush administration hasn’t been very clear on what its exit strategy for Iraq actually is. Bush’s general mantra—”We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed and not a day longer”—hasn’t been particularly helpful. And when he has been specific, he’s set very different objectives. At times, Bush has suggested that we will leave only when democracy in Iraq has been fully established. (“Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.”) At other times, he has implied that the insurgency would have to be defeated. (“When that mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will come home.”) At yet other times, Bush has argued that the troops would come home when Iraqi security forces have been fully trained. (“Our troops will come home when Iraq is capable of defending herself.”)



It’s clear, though, that the insurgency cannot be defeated by military means alone—it requires a political process. As Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military public-affairs official in Iraq, said the other day, “this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations. It’s going to be settled in the political process.” That is why the military, the Pentagon, and the White House are so desperate to get done with writing the constitution, because that, they believe, will start the political process that will defeat the insurgency. The sooner the constitution is done, Rummy said yesterday, “the fewer Iraqis will be killed and the fewer Americans and coalition forces will be killed.”



So the constitution, and a government elected under it, are Bush’s George Aiken moment—it will allow him to declare victory and go home. It would, conveniently, allow the president to announce troop reductions in an election year. (This also explains why Bush slapped down talk of troop withdrawals earlier this month. It isn’t that the withdrawals won’t happen as planned, but now is not the time to announce that.)



All of this assumes, of course, that the constitution will be completed, that it will be approved by a national referendum, and that it will lead to a constitutional government. And it also assumes that this process will, in fact, resolve Iraqi political divisions peacefully. Those are some big assumptions—the last one being the biggest of all. After all, our constitution didn’t exactly resolve such fundamental issues as the division of power between the states and the federal government; the civil war finally did that.



So here’s the question for the administration: What if your assumptions prove unfounded? What if the constitution is not completed next week? Or what if it is, but only over the objection of one or more of the Iraqi factions vowing for power? Or what if it fails to gain popular approval or the Sunnis again decide to sit out national elections? What if it intensifies the insurgency or accelerates Iraq’s descent into civil war? What then?



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The Democrats’ Worldview
August 14, 2005


A while back, Anne-Marie asked what the basic principles of a Democratic foreign policy should be. It was a good question—but none of us answered the call. So let’s do so now.



In America Unbound (commercial break—revised and updated edition at your local bookstores by the end of the month), Jim Lindsay and I argued that the Republican worldview, as exemplified in the Bush administration’s foreign policy, could be reduced to five key elements: the world is a dangerous place; states are the principal actors in international politics; power—especially military power—matters most in international politics, and whoever has the most power matters the most; multilateral institutions, international law, and alliances often work more to constrain than to enable the exercise of American power; and the United States is not only a unique just global power, but the rest of the world knows this is so.



What would the Democratic equivalent of these five principles be? It’s a question Jim and I sought to answer the other day as we were brainstorming about a central argument of our new book on how American power and globalization are shaping foreign policy. Here’s what we came up with:



1. The world is full of challenges to be solved rather than of dangers to be defeated. In contrast to Republican pessimism, Democrats are generally optimistic about the human condition. While there are many problems in the world—from terrorism to weapons proliferation, from hunger and poverty to deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS—none are beyond our imagination to resolve. All it takes is setting the right priorities, making the correct commitments, rolling up our sleeves, and getting to work.



2. Non-state actors and international institutions are increasingly affecting what states can do. Democrats understand that in an era of unprecedented globalization, in which technology and violence have been democratized, groups of people and even individuals have been empowered to influence, for good or ill, what occurs in the world. Al Qaeda, the Medellin cartel, Microsoft, the Pope and Mother Theresa have all had a major impact on the ability of states to pursue their national interests. The same holds true for international institutions, which can shape interests and perspectives of states as well as facilitate cooperation among them.



3. Hard (military) power is not enough to secure America’s goals; it also requires soft power (the ability to attract others to our side). America is the first, truly global power in history. Its military and economic power is unequaled, and its influence across the globe is greater than that of any country ever before. Yet, in the past four years, America had learned the limits of its hard power. It is less trusted by its friends, and less feared by its foes. It is less able to coerce or persuade others to follow its lead. And it is less able to achieve its objectives abroad. The reason for this paradox, is that while America’s power is great, its authority and influence have been steadily eroded by foolish policies and misreading of what hard power can do. To regain its authority, America must invest in its economic and diplomatic power and once again become a reliable partner committed to working with others in the pursuit of their interests as well as our own.



4. Multilateral institutions, international law, and alliances are crucial to advancing America’s goals. International cooperation is a fundamental requirement for meeting today’s challenges—whether it is countering terrorism, curtailing weapons proliferation, curbing the spread of deadly diseases, or containing global warming. Such cooperation is more likely to be available and effective if it is regularized within an institutional setting and according to agreed rules and procedures. America acted on this conviction at the end of World War II, when it spun a web of international institutions to attract other states into an American-dominated global security and economic order. And it needs to do so again in a world characterized by the grave challenges that mark the global age.



5. America’s actions must be legitimate—not only in its own eyes, but in the eyes of others. Democrats agree that America is a truly just global power, but they realize others may not see it that way. That is why its actions, to be supported and accepted overseas, need to be seen as legitimate. For without legitimacy, America will stand all alone, incapable of meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. How America can legitimize its actions is hotly debated—with some Democrats insisting on the need for a UN imprimatur or similar “global test” while others arguing that support from our democratic friends is what is most needed. But there’s no debating the need to gain legitimacy in the first place.



So there you have it—five principles of a Democratic worldview. Make any sense?



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Negotiations Cannot Guarantee Success
August 8, 2005


Libertine response to my earlier post on the six-party talks thusly: “Until I see tangible results I am going to be a skeptic of their [the administration’s] commitment to diplomacy.” It’s a sentiment that we’re likely to hear from many.



But there’s a danger here that we should try to avoid falling into—which is to assume that negotiations will always produce results. The purpose of negotiations in these kinds of situations is really two-fold: to try to resolve the issue through a mutual give-and-take and arrive at an outcome that both parties see as preferable to the status quo or, failing that, to demonstrate that you are looking for such an outcome and thus place the onus for failure squarely on the other side.



The main reason why Rice may have been able to convince Bush and Cheney that a demonstrable commitment to negotiations was now necessary is that the North had succeeded in isolating us rather than themselves. For now, the tables have turned—opening up the possibility that the North reassesses the value of giving in or, at the very least, making clear that they rather than we are to be blamed if negotiations fail. In the latter case, we will have laid the for gaining support for a more coercive strategy, should that be desirable.



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Negotiations Return
August 8, 2005


I’ve been critical of the administration’s failure to engage in the normal give-and-take of diplomacy to deal with pressing problems like North Korea—and highly skeptical of the argument that a Rice State Department would restore the art of negotiations in American foreing policy.



But the last 14 days in Beijing suggest that things may be changing after all. While the talks there failed to achieve agreement on a statement of principles, all indications are that this was not for lack of trying. Our man on the scene, Chris Hill, was apparently given room to maneuvre—including by meeting with his North Korean counterpart in one-on-one negotiations that many of us have long called for. (His predecessor, Jack Pritchard, told the Post “If any of this had taken placed under Bush I, people would have been lined up and shot.”) And while we will soon learn what prevented an agreement, all indications are that it was the North Koreans who were not prepared to accepted the statement that the US and the other four members of the six-party talks had all accepted.



All of this suggests that the administration may finally be willing to engage in serious discussions with the North. Good for them.



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Bush: I’m in Charge—and we’re at War
August 3, 2005


I don’t think we’ll be hearing a lot about GSAVE anymore from the Bush Administration after today. Here’s Bush, in Texas:



“Make no mistake about it, we are at war. We’re at war with an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. We’re at war against an enemy that, since that day, has continued to kill…”



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Bush, the Pentagon, and Extremism
August 3, 2005


So the president, Larry Johnson tells us, hadn’t heard GWOT had become GSAVE. “No one checked with me,” Bush apparently told his senior aids about the changing nomenclature of his signature foreign policy initiative. I can see why he might be perturbed, because the change in name in fact suggests a fundamental change in policy. GSAVE’s focus is on transnational networks rather than on states, on extremist ideology rather than on terrorist tactics, on a multidimensional struggle rather than on military combat, on working with others rather than on going it alone. In short, it represents a repudiation of the last four years of American policy.



Which raises this question: How seriously should we take the change?



The answer isn’t as obvious as you’d think, given who’s driving the change. It’s clear that this isn’t some Roveian response to declining public support for the president and his policies. Rather, the driving force behind the effort to recast the fight against radical jihadism is the Pentagon, which has borne the brunt of that fight. Early doubts about GWOT were expressed by none other than Donald Rumsfeld in October 2003 when he wondered, appropriately, whether we were “winning or losing the Global War on Terror.”



That “snowflake,” as Rummy’s memos are known, set the Pentagon gears in motion—and the result was a new strategy that was formally adopted last March. This “National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism,” according to U.S. News and World Report, “examines the nature of the antiterror war in depth, lays out a detailed road map for prosecuting it, and establishes a score card to determine where and whether progress is being made.” It defines the treat as “Islamist extremism” that form part of a “global web of enemy networks.” It recognizes that the fight against this enemy cannot be won with military might alone. And it makes clear that gaining the support from other countries are critical to success. As Doug Feith told U.S. News, “We need to have countries willing to cooperate with us and capable of doing the things they need to do to serve our common interests.” Not the kind of language you’d expect to hear from one of the principle architects of the Iraq War.



But if the Pentagon is changing, is the rest of the U.S. government following suit? That’s far from clear. Bush and Cheney appear to have far more faith in the familiar framework of GWOT then the more murky and uncertain world of GSAVE. The rest of the government, moreover, seems singularly ill-prepared to wage the global struggle effectively. As George Packer notes in the most recent issue of the New Yorker:



“The global struggle against violent extremism would inspire more confidence if, for example, the Administration hadn’t failed to include funding for democracy programs in Iraq beyond the next round of elections there; or if Karen Hughes, the President’s choice as Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, hadn’t left the job empty for five months while waiting for her son to graduate from high school; or if the White House weren’t resisting attempts by Congress to regulate the treatment of prisoners; or if Karl Rove would stop using 9/11 to raise money and smear Democrats.”



And, I’d add, if Bush himself showed signs of accepting his Pentagon’s view that the GWOT has failed and a new strategy is desperately needed.



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Avoiding Another Germany
July 26, 2005


I’m glad Jim raised the Pentagon’s China report. The drafting of this much-anticipated annual review was supposed to be where the big battle on the administration’s China policy would be waged. Would it hew to a confrontationist line by arguing that we need to head off China’s rise before it is too late? Or would it adopt a more accommodationist line by arguing that a full embrace of China would enable us to steer it into the right direction? The report, as Jim notes, did neither—it only offered up the choices facing China.



This is probably right, but it misses a key points—which is, what kind of China do we want and what can we do to help China move in that direction? Jim’s right to argue that we want a China that integrates into the political and economic world order that we have shaped. And he’s also right that internal dynamics rather than external factors like U.S. policy are going to be decisive in determining whether this outcome will come about.



But while our positive power to change China in the direction we want may not be all that strong, our negative power to push China into the wrong direction may be much stronger than we think. And here’s where the danger of a confrontationist policy being pushed by some comes in. If we act as if China is 21st century equivalent of late 19th century Germany—a rising power bent on challenging us—than we are much more likely to make China into the Germany of the 21st century than if we made no such presumption. Treating China as an inevitable threat will make it an inevitable threat. That’s not in our interest.



So we must encourage China to play by the rules—our rules. That’s what successive administrations have done in the economic area—coaxing Beijing into the WTO, persuading it to work according to the rules of the trading system. I realize much more work needs to be done—on labor standards, property rights, the environment, etc. But the way to get there is to pull China into the existing system, not to isolate it.



We need to do the same in the political area—by encouraging China to play a more active role at the UN, sending soldiers on UN peacekeeping duty, accepting the need to intervene in countries committing genocide and gross human rights abuses, standing up against nuclear proliferation, cooperating in fighting terror, etc. Of course, we’ll have to hedge our bets, and maintain a strong diplomatic and military engagement in Asia to ensure our allies are protected and reassured and that China knows it will never be easy to challenge our interests. But that cannot be the only element in our policy toward this rising power.



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Will Rice Now Go?
July 26, 2005


Remember when Rice announced earlier this month she would not go to the ASEAN Summit this week? At the time, there was lots of speculation that the reason for her decision was that Burma would take over the Association’s chairmanship for the coming year.



Well, if that was the reason, it worked. Burma announced today that it won’t take up the chair, which passes to the Philippines instead. So will Rice now go and show the world that America has a vital stake in the region?



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Newt to New York?
July 22, 2005


Now, there’s an idea. Senator Biden suggested yesterday that if Bolton won’t make it to the UN, Gingrich would be a good alternative. Some readers have reacted with horror, but I think Biden’s on to something.



Gingrich did yeoman’s work on the recent congressionally mandate Task Force on the United Nations, which he and Sen. Mitchell co-chaired. I’m sure Anne-Marie (a member of the task force) and Lee (a fellow expert) will agree with me that Gingrich was superb in beating back the ludicrous ideas coming from his political corner. He also was very supportive of some of the better ideas on how to reform the UN. His was a crucial voice supporting a more interventionist stand to prevent genocide and mass killings. And he was a forceful advocate of making sure we’d work with fellow democracies as a way to buttress UN reform effort.



If Bush was really as interested in reforming the UN as he says he is, he’d can Bolton and run with Gingrich.



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Who’s the CIA Kidding?
July 21, 2005


Remember when Bush triumphantly declared that “we found the weapons of mass destruction,” referring to the mobile bioweapons laboratories Colin Powell made such a big deal about before the war? He was trumpeting a glossy brochure the CIA had hastily produced the day before about two trailers found in northern Iraq, which the Agency claimed provided “the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.”



Of course, the trailers were nothing of the sort. As the British immediately suspected and the Iraqi Survey Group later concluded, the Iraqis used the trailers exclusively for the production of hydrogyn.



You’d think, therefore, that the CIA would long ago have removed the brochure from its website (or at least filed it under: “Our Flawed Assessments”). Well, think again. It’s still there.



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State Got It Right on Niger
July 21, 2005


That secret State Department memo, which mentioned Valerie Wilson had suggested her husband as someone to send to Niger, wasn’t about the Wilson trip at all. The Post reports that only two sentences of the memo were devoted to the Wilson issue.



It’s real purpose? “Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger.” In fact, State had opposed sending Wilson to Niger “because the State Department, through other inquiries, already had disproved the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger.”



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Nuclear Rights and Nuclear Wrongs
July 19, 2005


Much of the arms control community has, predictably, responded with ire to Bush’s announcement that the United States will allow India to buy technology for its civilian nuclear program without requiring it to give up its nuclear weapons. While Bush is trying to change the rules (which prohibit assistance to civilian nuclear programs unless all nuclear facilities are subject to international monitoring), it is not at all clear that this is the wrong thing to do.



The unalterable reality is that India has been a de facto nuclear weapons state for more than half the atomic age. It tested a nuclear device in 1974, and conducted a series of weapons tests in 1998. For decades, Washington has sought to convince New Delhi to put the nuclear genie back into the bottle — to no avail. India is surrounded by nuclear weapons states, and as a major emerging global power it is not about to give up the protection and status afforded by possessing a nuclear arsenal.



Arms control advocates — and, until yesterday, successive American administrations — have argued that this state of affairs is unacceptable and that the best way to convince India to reverse course is to withhold cooperation at least in civilian nuclear technology. What is more, there are international rules, dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, that prohibit sharing nuclear technology with states that do not accept international safeguards of their nuclear facilities (as India has refused to do).



So why now change course? I think there are basically three reasons. First, the strategy hasn’t worked. India is a nuclear weapons state, and will remain so at least as long as other countries maintain nuclear weapons. This, as I said, is the unalterable reality. Second, India is an emerging global power, who’s actions in Asia and elsewhere will be increasingly significant. It is important that the United States maintain good relations with rising powers like India in order to sustain America’s influence in the world — not least in Asia. Third, and most crucially, India is the largest democracy in the world. Its leaders represent — and I mean represent — one in six people in the world. Maintaining good relations with the world’s other democracies is the key to a successful foreign policy.



Some will argue that these reasons do not add up to a good justification for changing the rules. But while I accept the importance of living by international rules (especially those we have ourselves created), in the real world life is a balancing act that may not always allow for such absolutes. As I have noted before, Bush has challenged the reigning non-proliferation orthodoxy in important ways: Instead of focusing on weapons and technology, he’s focused on the nature of the regimes that acquire them. Relaxing the rules for India — a democracy — is consistent with insisting on stricter rules for rogues like Iran and North Korea.



I think there is quite a lot to this argument, which is why, on balance, I come out in favor of the India deal. Now, we can debate whether the nuclear issue was the best way to achieve the important political and strategic objectives I mentioned above. (I, for one, would have supported India’s quest for a seat on the UN Security Council.) But it clearly was the issue India regarded as critical to moving Indo-US relations ahead. Now, by having met New Delhi more than half way on this issue, Washington is in a better position to get India’s support and cooperation on other issues — which, given India’s growing importance, is no small thing.



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“Catastrophic Success” — North Korea Style
July 16, 2005


Remember when Bush argued that the Iraq War had been a “catastrophic success,” by which he meant that the speed with which Saddam was overthrown created conditions for the difficulities that came after? Leave aside for the moment the absurdity of this argument as an explanation for all that has gone so terribly wrong in Iraq. Focus instead on how this administration defines success.



It now appears that “catastrophic success” has become the Bush administration’s favorite catch-phrase for describing every misstep in its foreign policy — including, apparently, its disastrous policy toward North Korea. The Post reports that key officials were delighted when in 2002 North Korea appeared to admit that it had a secret uranium enrichment program, because that allowed the administration to wlak away from the 1994 Agreed Framework agreement freezing the North’s plutonium production program. “Some officials privately admit they had plotted [the agreement’s] demise even before the uranium enrichment program was discovered. In the words of one advocate of confrontation, it was a ‘catastrophic success’ when North Korea unexpectedly acknowledged the program, allowing the United States to scuttle the agreement.”



So there you have it: a decision that allowed North Korea to unfreeze its plutonium production program, kick out weapons inspectors, and within months produce enough plutonium for 6 to 8 more nuclear weapons is heralded by the Bush people as a success. By that standard, I’d like to know how they would define failure — catastrophic or otherwise.



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Niger and Uranium — The Evidence
July 15, 2005


In attempting to counter the obvious, Rove’s supporters (like the Post editorial page and David Brooks on Lehrer tonite) argue that the reports by Lord Butler and the Senate Intelligence Committee supported earlier intelligence assessments that Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Niger were well founded. But this ignores the definitive judgement on the matter by the Iraqi Survey Group, which concluded as follows last September:




ISG has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material—activities that we believe would have constituted an Iraqi effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.




The fundamental problem facing the administration and its supporters is that on this, as on all other question relating to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, they were, in the words of David Kay, who initially headed the ISG, “all wrong.”



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Death In Iraq
July 13, 2005


Tomorrow’s NYT reports 8,175 Iraqis killed by insurgents — nearly three 9/11s in a population 1/12th of ours — in the ten months before May 31, 2005, thus underscoring the pertinence of Anne-Marie’s probing questions.



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Rice Diplomacy
July 13, 2005


My earlier post produced some interesting, and unexpected, defenses of Rice’s diplomacy. Mu tua suggested that the reason for Rice being the first SecState in 20 years to miss an ASEAN summit meeting was that she was focused on the upcoming talks with North Korea. Rich argued that she might not be going in order to press our ASEAN friends not to hand Burma the chair of the organization in the year. And Dan K argued that the real reason she was not going was because she was making sure that Africa remained at the center of US and western (rather than China’s attention) following the G8 summit.



Wish they were right (though all three couldn’t be right at the same time).



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No Treaties, No Summits, No Diplomacy
July 13, 2005


Let me get this straight: our secretary of state, having “made no secret of her desire to cut down on the routine summitry that clogs the calendar of top diplomat,” has decided to skip the annual meeting of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) — the first time in 20 years America’s top diplomat won’t be there.



Apparently, we not only don’t do treaties in this administration, we now also don’t do summits. And, of course, we’ve never done diplomacy. So can someone please tell me why we have a secretary of state?



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Retaliate or Continue the Fight?
July 9, 2005


Reed is right, of course. We must pursue Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda with everything we’ve got. But the reason has nothing to do with the need for “retaliation,” which is a specific action made in response to a particular act (often with the aim of punishing, though also of deterring future acts).



We’ve been trying to kill or capture bin Laden since at least 1998, and we intensified the effort significantly since 9/11. The need to do so was just as great on July 6, 2005, as it was the next day, after the London bombing. What the bombing did is to remind anyone who needed to be reminded that the job of destroying Al Qaeda remains undone. The Iraq War is a major reason why we have not succeeded—it has been a giant distraction (in terms of manpower, intelligence, energy, money, and high-level attention) from this essential task. So I agree with Reed that we need to refocus our efforts on bin Laden and Al Qaeda—but then we’ve been saying this all along.



When the right advocates “retaliation” it has in mind not Al Qaeda, but a state (Iran and Syria, mostly). That was the point of quoting the Heritage folks in my last post, and also the argument I made in my first post after the London bombing. Even after London, they still don’t get the threat we face—which is why they call for retaliation whereas we call for getting back to the main business of destroying Al Qaeda.



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Who You Gonna Hit?
July 9, 2005


Predictably, the rightwing has a ready answer for how we should respond to the London bombing: Retaliate! “There must be immediate retaliation by the U.S. and UK,” write Drs. Gardiner and Hulsman of Heritage. “Whoever has harbored, funded, aided, or abetted these terrorists must be held to account. If any state has played a role in these attacks, there must be consequences.”



But this assumes we know who is behind these attacks—or at least who is behind those who are behind these attacked. Problem is, we don’t. It isn’t even clear that the strike was the work of Al Qaeda. What we’re dealing with here most likely involved a group of men who were probably inspired by bin Laden and the fighting in Iraq to join the jihadist cause. But like the terrorists who struck in Madrid and elsewhere, the London bombers probably planned and operated on their own rather than under the direction from bin Laden or his organization. Terrorism Inc. is today a franchise operation rather than the centralized factory that produced 9/11. As Steve Coll and Susan Glasser observed in this morning’s Post, “Now more a brand than a tight-knit group, al Qaeda has responded to four years of intense pressure from the United States and its allies by dispersing its surviving operatives, distributing its ideology and techniques for mass-casualty attacks to a wide audience on the Internet, and encouraging new adherents to act spontaneously in its name.”



So next time you see someone beating their breasts and hear them screaming for retaliation, ask them: “Who You Gonna Hit?” Their answer will tell you whether they get the essence of the fight we’re waging.



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The True Face of Terrorism
July 7, 2005


For all the talk of Iraq being the central front in the war of terrorism, we learned again this morning that the real central front is everywhere. Terrorists can and will strike at a time and place of their choosing. That is the essential nature of this threat that the Bush administration has ignored at its—and our—peril.



From the very first moment following the 9/11 attacks, it was clear that the Bush administration operated on a flawed understanding of the terrorist threat we now faced. To it, a threat of this magnitude could come about only if states provided the essential support, which is why the administration focused less on combating the terrorists than on going after state sponsors—first Afghanistan, then Iraq. Had Iraq not become a mess, Syria and Iran would have followed.



That is what Bush meant by the global war on terror: “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them,” Bush declared on 9/11/01. Two days later, Paul Wolfowitz argued that the war would focus on “ending states who sponsor terrorism.” And as Wolfowitz deputy, Doug Feith, later told the New Yorker, “the principal strategic thoughts underlying our strategy in the war on terrorism is the importance of the connection between terrorist organizations and their state sponsors.”



The terrorists who bombed the London transportation system, likely killing dozens and wounding many hundreds—like the terrorists who struck Bali, Madrid, New York, and elsewhere—have demonstrated the fallacy of this way of thinking. Today’s terrorists are independent operators, beyond the control of any state. They roam relatively freely around an interconnected world—striking when they are ready and we least expect it.



The best way to deal with that threat is not by invading countries, which often makes matters worse. Rather, it requires greater international cooperation among the states capable and willing to deal with the threat. That should now be the principal focus of our counter-terrorism strategy. If there is one glimmer of hope coming from today’s horrific news, it is that the bombers may now galvanize the G8 countries to intensify their cooperative efforts in defeating the evil that todayonce again showed its true—and ugly—face.



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Europe Without Enlargement
July 3, 2005


James Goldgeier and I expanded on my earlier post arguing that Europe’s crisis would undermine stability in countries that had hoped to join the European Union but now won’t in today’s Washington Post. We welcome your comments



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An Iraqi Death
June 30, 2005


Warren Strobel, of Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, sent around this story earlier tonight. A reminder of what Iraq is still very much about.



A bright and promising Knight Ridder journalist was killed in Baghdad. By Hannah Allam



View the entire piece from the Knight Ridder and America Abroad Blog Live Online


Russia and the G8
June 30, 2005


Because of an eye injury I suffered earlier this week (no idea tennis could be so lethal….), I’m only now catching up on my reading. I just came across a very interesting piece by Yale’s Jeffrey Garten in Tuesdays’s Financial Times (I’ve copied the entire piece below the fold, since is a subscription only site). Garten rightly objects to Putin’s Russia taking over the chairmanship of the G8 after next weeks Gleneagles Summit meeting:



If ever there were a travesty of leadership by example, this is it. Two trends are changing the world for the better—freer markets and democrat­isation. Is it too much to expect that the G8 should stand for both? But, alone among the summit members, Russia is moving in the opposite direction of what is desirable. Moscow’s leadership of the G8 reduces the credibility and the relevance of the group to zero. It also makes a mockery of the Bush administration’s push for democratic, market-oriented societies around the world. Putting Russia in charge of the G8 is akin to the United Nations having allowed Sudan and Liberia to play big roles in its UN Human Rights Commission—a move that resulted in the irrelevance of the commission and a subsequent plan for radical reorganisation.



On the money. And so is Garten’s suggestion that the other G7 leaders condition their attendance at next year’s Summit in St. Peterburg on Putin halting his roll back of democracy and renationalization of the energy sector and reversing course.



View Garten’s piece from the Financial Times and America Abroad Blog Live Online


Where Bush Went Wrong
June 29, 2005


When all else fails, repeat—loud, clear, and often—”It’s 9/11, stupid.” And that’s where Bush went most wrong last night—not only in once again linking Iraq to the terrorists attacks of four years ago, but, more importantly, by implying that the American public is stupid. The opinion polls showing a precipitous drop in public support and confidence over recent weeks are not an indication that the American people have lost their nerve, as Bush implied by his steadfast insistence of resolve. Rather they are a call for the president to come clean—on why Iraq has turned into a mess and what the president is going to do about it. But in his condescending speech, Bush failed to respond to this call.



Let’s, one more time, make clear why linking 9/11 to the Iraq War is a dangerous canard.



First of all, despite desperate attempts by key administration officials to prove the contrary, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. That issue was settled definitively by the 9/11 Commission last summer—and Bush conceded as much in January 2003.



Second, Bush conveniently forgot that prior to its onset the main—indeed, the only persuasive—rationale for the war was Saddam Hussein’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. Just go back and read Bush’s principal speeches—at the UN in September 2002, in Cincinnati in October 2002, the State of the Union speech in January 2003, and his national press conference on March 17, 2003.



Third, if the global war on terror was the reason for going to war, Iraq was the wrong target. Afghanistan remained very much unfinished business in 2002—yet critical resources and capabilities were diverted from that war to preparing for Iraq. If another country posed a jihadist threat at that time, it was Saudi Arabia, purveyor and financial bagman for an offensive Islamist ideology and home to most of the angry young men who killed Americans on September 11, and of many who now stream into Iraq to kill Americans and many more Iraqis.



Fourth, to the extent Iraq today is the “central front” in the war on terror, as Bush once again claimed insisted it was, it is so because we invaded Iraq and had no plan for ensuring stability after Saddam was ousted. The Bush administration, through its hubris and incompetence, made Iraq into what it is today: a major training ground for terrorists who will kill not only in Iraq but, having gained life-fire training, will terrorize the rest of the world.



Finally, Bush failed to acknowledge that the insurgency in Iraq is being funded and fought primarily by Iraqis, not by foreign terrorists. And it is this insurgency that is calling into question the continued viability of his strategy in Iraq. Yet, Bush had nothing to say about the insurgency—other than offering the tired canard that Iraqi security forces will take care of it once they are fully trained.



Last night, the American people were looking for a sense that their president understood the gravity of the situation in Iraq. They were looking for an explanation of what went wrong and how the situation might get better. They looked in vain. Instead, Bush offered them more of the same—and suggested that those who had lost confidence in him and his strategy were somehow letting America’s fighting men and women down. To that accusation, a brother of a fallen Marine had the best answer. He wrote the New York Times to say “he did not want Mr. Bush to say the war should continue in order to keep faith with the men and women who have died fighting it. ‘We do not need more justifications for the war. We need an effective strategy to win it,’ he wrote.” We still need one.



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David Brooks Doesn’t Get It
June 23, 2005


David Brooks fundamentally misreads public sentiment on Iraq, arguing that people are reacting negatively only because the news out of Iraq is no good. “Everybody just wants the miserable present to go away.” Brooks argues that progress is in fact being made, citing recent statistics on insurgents killed and captured—the Iraq equivalent of the Vietnam body count. So we just need to tough it out.



But the polls are saying something very different—they convey a clear sense that the American people are losing confidence in their government when it comes to Iraq. Part of the reason is the growing disconnect between what Bush and other administration officials are saying about Iraq and the reality of daily bombings and killings on the ground. (Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel gets it: “Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality.”)



The more important reason for the public’s discontent is the growing sense that the current stratey isn’t working. The public will support sacrifice and will stand by a president even when the going gets tough, but only if they are absolutely convinced that the president and his administration know what they are doing and have a strategy for success. Americans know neither is currently the case. Why doesn’t David Brooks?



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The End of Europe (Cont’d)
June 23, 2005


My earlier post arguing that EU enlargement is at an end and that the consequence thereof are more profound than many presume has generated a lot of interest, with EU scholars in particular shocked that I could suggest this. To give you a flavor of the argument, I am reproducing an email exchange I have had with Jolyon Howorth, Jean Monnet Professor of European Politics at the University of Bath and now a visiting professor at Yale, over the past 24 hours.



Read Ivo’s email exchage with Jolyon Howorth on the America Abroad Blog


Iraq—The New Afghanistan
June 21, 2005


The indefatigable Doug Jehl has this to report:



“A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda’s early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for militants to improve their skills in urban combat.”



So let me get this straight. We went to war against Iraq, Bush told us over the weekend, because of 9/11. And since we’ve been there, Iraq has become the “central front” in the war on terror. (“All of us can agree that the world’s terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror,” Bush said Saturday.) And now the terrorists aren’t only killing American soldiers and Iraqis in Iraq—they’re getting what Richard Clarke calls “life-fire training,” which they will use to strike again at a time and a place of their choosing.



No wonder that a majority of the American people have concluded that the Iraq War has made us less—not more—secure.



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The End of a Europe at Peace?
June 21, 2005


The crisis that has befallen Europe after the double shock of the French and Dutch rejections of the European Union constitution and the subsequent failure of its leaders to agree on a budget is likely to be deeper, more lasting, and of greater significance than many in Europe and here appear to realize. For the crisis not only raises serious question about the long-term viability of European integration, but also undermines the central pillar of the post-Cold War European stabilization effort: the prospect, open to all European countries, of eventual EU membership. If the enlargement of the Union’s membership is now for all practical purposes dead, then so may the prospect of continuing to build a Europe that is whole and free and at peace. And that is something all of us must worry about.



When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in November 1989, the sudden euphoria of the prospect for a permanent peace was quickly balanced by fears about the uncertainty of what the future would hold. What would the reunification of Germany in the center of Europe mean for the continent’s future stability? Would Soviet dominion over eastern Europe be replaced by ethnic violence and a return to the destructive nationalism that had been Europe’s historical fate for centuries? And what would happen to the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons if the Soviet Union itself were to disintegrate? It was questions like these that led some to argue we would soon miss the Cold War.



The United States and its European allies knew better. They responded to these challenges with the most successful example of “transformational diplomacy” in history. Instead of walling off the prosperous west from the turmoil that many feared would soon engulf the east, the transatlantic partners reached out across the divide and invited the newly freed nations of central and eastern Europe to become members of the western club. Integration, rather than segregation, was to become the new name of the game.



The first, and most immediate, integrative move was to ensure that a united Germany would be firmly anchored in the west. That meant convincing Moscow that its security would be better guaranteed by a Germany that remained in NATO than by a Germany that would stand apart—and alone. And it meant convincing Germany and its EU partners that the best way to ensure the new Germany remained on its postwar path of peace and prosperity was by deepening the political and economic integration of the European Union. European Monetary Union, and the euro, were to become the linchpins of that effort.



The next important step was to invite the countries that had been imprisoned behind the iron curtain to become members of NATO and the European Union. Importantly, the United States and Europe set clear conditions for enlarging the membership of these organizations—conditions that aimed at the democratic consolidation of the newly liberated countries. Thus, to become a member of NATO, applicants had to settle any territorial disputes with their neighbors, ensure civilian control of their military, transform their defense establishments in line with those of the alliance, and be committed to democracy, human rights, and open markets. The EU demanded even more exacting standards on human rights, democracy, and economic development.



The point of these conditions was not to bar countries from becoming members of NATO and the EU—though bar some they would. Rather, the point was to encourage the countries of central and eastern Europe to undertake the extraordinarily difficult and politically challenging task of transforming their societies from autocratic states with command-driven economies into market democracies.



And it worked. Never before in history have some many countries with so many people made such political and economic progress in such a short period of time as the countries of central and eastern Europe. Within 15 years, NATO grew from 16 members to 27; and the European Union expanded from 12 to 25 members.



Enlargement has proven to be the most successful strategy of regime change ever devised. While NATO enlargement proved important, for it provided security to countries living in the Soviet and Russian shadow, EU enlargement was absolutely crucial because it provided the basis for solidifying political freedom and enhancing economic prosperity in countries that had known little of either.



Yet, this extraordinary success of western policy is now severely threatened by the crisis that has engulfed the European Union during the past month. For all the differences among the EU members, there appears to be widespread agreement—or at least resignation to the fact—that the doors to Europe have closed for a considerable period of time, if not forever.



The “period of reflection” agreed to by European leaders during last week’s failed summit applies not only to their constitution but also to their membership. For the first time in years, they made no mention of the planned expansion. “We need to give our citizens time to breathe,” said the union’s external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.



But that is cold comfort for the citizens of countries that are not EU members. Bulgaria and Romania, slated to enter the Union in 2007, may still get in, but even that is now no longer a certainty. Turkey, which is to start accession negotiations with the EU this October, will find that the road to Europe has now been blocked. The Balkan nations, who have latched onto the prospect of EU membership to end their deadly conflicts and embark on the road of political and economic reform, will be bitterly disappointed—and find it that much more difficult to keep on going. Ukraine, which only months ago celebrated its liberating Orange Revolution, will have to continue along the reform path in the near-certainty that EU membership does not now lie at the end. Countries in the Caucuses, and beyond, whose chances of entering Europe were distant and slim, can forget about making it there altogether. Even in some of the countries that already made it into the Union, publics may begin to question whether the costs of change are worth making now that the benefits of Union membership may never materialize.



The United States and Europe must urgently recognize the problem that ending the prospect of EU enlargement will likely cause on Europe’s periphery. They must develop a strategy that minimizes the damage, even while recognizing that a return to the earlier policy is now unlikely. NATO expansion, which has languished in recent years as the Alliance’s attention has drifted elsewhere and EU enlargement took center stage, offers one way to address the fears and aspirations of countries like Ukraine, Serbia, and Bosnia (though not Turkey, which has been a member since 1952). The EU might also consider various association arrangements that fall short of membership, but do not evoke the kind of public opposition that full membership now does.



During the past fifteen years, Europe has been transformed into a democratic zone of peace unprecedented in history. This transformation has been extraordinarily beneficial to the peoples of Europe—as well as of the United States, which fought three major wars in the past century to make it possible. These gains must not be lost.



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The Iraq Debate (Continued)
June 16, 2005


Well, we really have an Iraq debate going now—not only here at America Abroad but increasingly in the country. When the leftist and rightist members of the House combine to introduce a resolution calling for a drawdown of US forces, something important maybe stirring. But what … and to which end? Those are the real questions.



The case for sending more troops, made by Tom Friedman in yesterday’s Times, got a powerful boost by Richard Oppel’s story today on the return of US troops to Tal Afar—a city in western Iraq American forces had taken 9 months ago but that since their departure had become a sanctuary for insurgents who terrorized the local population.



“We have a finite number of troops,” said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, which arrived in Tal Afar several weeks ago. “But if you pull out of an area and don’t leave security forces in it, all you’re going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country. In the past, the problem has been we haven’t been able to leave sufficient forces in towns where we’ve cleared the insurgents out.”



The problem is … where are you going to get those troops? As I argued in an earlier post, we don’t have the troops necessary to take every single village, town, and city in Iraq, empty it of insurgents, and then keep it secure (which, as the story of Tal Afar remind us, is what is required). That is the problem with this insurgency, and why, once it had started, it cannot be defeated militarily.



You don’t have to take my word for it; just take those of Gen. George Casey, the US commander in Iraq. He told Knight-Ridder that the insurgency was like the “the Pillsbury Doughboy”—pressing the insurgency in one area only causes it to rise elsewhere. “We push in Baghdad—they’re down to about less than a car bomb a day in Baghdad over the last week—but . . . they’ve gone up [in north-central Iraq]. The political process will be the decisive element.”



On that front, at least there is some good news today. The Sunnis have agreed to join the constitution-writing process. A precipitous withdrawal at this point would clearly pull the rug out from under those Iraqis who are trying to move forward. So, we should stay, at least for now. But we cannot stay for ever … not least because this would further feed the insurgency and undermine the chances of a successful political process.



That’s I come back to where I have been for some time. Because the solution to the insurgency is ultimately political, and not militarily, making clear that we will draw down our forces once a constitutional and elected government is in place still makes the most sense. This, of course, presupposes that the political process can move forward—which, to say the least, is an optimistic assumption. But given the alternatives, it is one that we should stick with a bit longer.



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What Now In Iraq?
June 14, 2005


With the tide of public opinion turning against Bush on Iraq, readers want to know what the right policy for Iraq is at this point. Or at least they want to know what Democrats should be pushing for.



It’s a fair question. For the most part, Democrats have been good at criticizing the administration for its multiple failures—ignoring intelligence that suggested the WMD threat was much less dire than officially depicted, botching the diplomacy in the lead-up to the war, failing to plan for its aftermath, refusing to send enough troops to secure the country after the war, and refusing to bring in the rest of the world to help rebuild Iraq. All these were and are valid criticisms. But as John Kerry found out, they never added up to a credible alternative to Bush’s policies.



Two years into this war—and after two years of accumulated mistakes and failures—no good options remain. We can, as some Democrats and neocons have long argued, increase the number of American troops in the country as a way to defeat the urgency. But we don’t really have the additional soldiers and marines for anything more than a very temporary increase. Moreover, it’s not at all clear that more troops would mean more security—it clearly hasn’t been true up to this point.



We can, as Bush insists, stay the course—train Iraqi security forces and nudge the political reconciliation process along. But it is now clear that training Iraqi forces will take many more years to produce real, cohesive, and capable fighting forces—assuming that is even possible so long as the underlying politics remain as fractious as they are. Even under the most optimistic projections, though, current US troop levels would have to be maintained for two or more years just to keep some modicum of security (assuming, in fact, that we could do even that). And the political process is pretty paralyzed—with basic differences between Arab Sunnis and Shiites preventing even agreement on the process for writing the constitution. (To say nothing of the differences among Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites over autonomy, religion, and oil revenue sharing that will have to be resolved when drawing up the constitution.)



If neither beefing up our presence nor staying the course is likely to produce success, we’re left with reducing our presence as the only alternative. The question is whether we should do so immediately—or whether we should do so on the basis of a set of benchmarks.



We could announce that we will stay until a new constitution has been adopted and a constitutional government has been elected. This is the position of former national security adviser Anthony Lake. It has also been advocated by Sen. Ted Kennedy and my Brookings colleagues Mike O’Hanlon and Jim Steinberg. I endorsed this view in an earlier post. The problem with this position is that it assumes the political process will in fact produce results. That is a highly uncertain prospect, to say the least.



Alternatively, we could announce that we will give the current strategy another year to succeed, but if there has been no measurable improvement on the political, security, and training front we will leave. This position was put forward by Sen. Joe Biden last week. But not only are measures of success very uncertain, a deadline like this would give insurgents an incentive to wait us out, only to start up again when we have departed.



Or we could announce now that we will withdraw our forces immediately or on some phased timetable. Few are willing to support this approach—if only because few Democrats want to be accused of cutting and running. Leaving now would also signal another major defeat for the United States—and could convince the terrorists that America is on the run, giving them more reason to think they can strike without impunity.



At the same time, unless it can be shown that remaining in Iraq for a set period of time—be it after beefing up forces, by staying the course, or setting benchmarks for withdrawal—will have a reasonable chance of improving the situation, the argument for leaving will become stronger and stronger.



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Iraq Update
June 13, 2005


Gallup has a new poll showing 6 in 10 Americans want to reduce the level of US troops in Iraq or withdraw altogether. Interestingly, Independents and Democrats are more and more in agreement on Iraq—with Republicans increasingly the outliers.



Also, ThinkProgress has copies of six new British government memos on Iraq—all foreseeing many of the problems that have beset the operation.



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Hoagland Gets Iraq…Too
June 12, 2005


Jim Hoagland, writing in today’s Washington Post, gets it too.



The next important tipping point may not be in Iraq but in the United States. It is not just the surge of violence in both conflicts [Afghanistan and Iraq] in the past month that is shaking support for Bush. It is also the growing concern of middle-of-the-road Americans that they cannot trust the information they are being given by the administration—and particularly by the Pentagon—about the conduct and progress of these wars.



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American Exceptionalism—The Obama Version
June 11, 2005


Should American exceptionalism be one of the guiding principles of American foreign policy? This question has generated very interesting commentary, both in response to Anne-Marie’s earlier post and the original post by Michael Singer on



The answer really depends on what exceptionalism we are referring to. The neocon’s version of exceptionalism—and certainly the one propounded by our commander in chief—is a triumphalist one, suggesting that America is morally superiot to everyone else. Because our motives are pure and superior, the justice of our actions must go unquestioned—or so this form of American exceptionalism appears to imply.



I’m not particularly comfortable with this kind of muscular certitude of our supposed moral superiority. I much prefer the way Barak Obama talks about American exceptionalism. Here’s what the junior senator from Illinois had to say on this subject in his really quite extraordinary commencement address at Knox College last week:



[America is a] place where destiny was not a destination, but a journey to be shared and shaped and remade by people who had the gall, the temerity to believe that, against all odds, they could form “a more perfect union” on this new frontier. And as people around the world began to hear the tale of the lowly colonists who overthrew an empire for the sake of an idea, they started to come. Across oceans and the ages, they settled in Boston and Charleston, Chicago and St. Louis, Kalamazoo and Galesburg, to try and build their own American Dream. This collective dream moved forward imperfectly—it was scarred by our treatment of native peoples, betrayed by slavery, clouded by the subjugation of women, shaken by war and depression. And yet, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, people kept dreaming, and building, and working, and marching, and petitioning their government, until they made America a land where the question of our place in history is not answered for us. It’s answered by us.



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Troubles Training Troops in Iraq
June 10, 2005


Yesterday I mentioned that the training of Iraqi security forces was not going well. In today’s Washington Post, Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru confirms that observation in spades. The reporters spent three days traveling with an Iraqi unit and the American soldiers that had trained. Two quotes sum up the problems this mission faces:



“I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period,” said 1st Lt. Kenrick Cato. “But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won’t be ready before I leave. And I know I’ll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don’t think they’ll be ready then.”



“We don’t want to take responsibility; we don’t want it,” said Amar Mana, 27, an Iraqi private. “Here, no way. The way the situation is, we wouldn’t be ready to take responsibility for a thousand years.”



Doesn’t give you much reason for optimism, now, does it?



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The High Cost of Unilateralism
June 9, 2005


In the early days of the Bush administration, us foreign policy wonks would sit around and bemoan Bush’s unilateralism—his decision to walk out of the ABM Treaty, declare Kyoto “dead,” abandon efforts to strengthen the ban on biological weapons, unsign the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, withdraw the nuclear test ban from Senate consideration, and other such steps. What we couldn’t really agree on in those early days was what the costs of this unilateralism were going to be. Sure, our friends and allies were upset. But when 9/11 happened they all rallied around to our side. You remember, Schroeder declaring “unlimited solidarity”; the headline in the French newspaper Le Monde: “We Are All Americans Now”; even Iranians, by the thousands, holding candlelight vigils.



Thanks to Iraq, though, we soon learned that the costs of unilateralism would be very, very high.



The high cost of unilateralism is most evident in the fact that America accounts for 85 percent of the foreign troops, 90 percent of the foreign casualties, and 95 percent of the aid dollars coming into Iraq. But it is also apparent in the difficulties we have confronted ever since Saddam Hussein was toppled, since the lack of legitimacy rendered international support—and success—that much less likely.



Nor did the Iraq invasion necessarily make us safer. Yes, we’re better off with Saddam Hussein gone, as Bush keeps on saying. But that’s only one measure of success. Our failure to plan for the aftermath has turned Iraq into the most dangerous place on earth. Iraq is the central front in the war on terror because we made it so. The appalling abuses in Abu Ghraib, Baghram, and Gitmo—and the lack of any sense of responsibility on the part of the administration—has only made matters worse. The decision to go to war itself also had real costs—not least because we did not finish the job in Afghanistan (where a low-intensity war rages even today) and then ignored North Korea as it openly produced enough nuclear material for 6-8 more bombs. No wonder that a majority of American people now believe that the war has not contributed to the long-term security of the U.S.



But while we paid a very high price for Iraq, the costs of unilateralism are evident in other ways, including, crucially, a growing reluctance by our friends and allies to support us in our diplomacy. I was reminded of this just today, while reading the New York Times over morning coffee. Two stories caught my eye. One reported on failure of the John Bolton-led effort to deny Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, another term. Ever since the run-up to the Iraq war, when ElBaradei refused to endorse the administration’s view that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program, the Egyptian diplomat has been a thorn in Washington’s eye. So Bolton led the charge to get our friends to oppose his nomination for a third term (as he had earlier done successfully in the case of the Brazilian head of the chemical weapons agency). Problem is, no one agreed with us—and no one worried about standing up to us. So rather than getting our way, Condoleezza Rice had to sheepishly conceed yesterday that ElBaradei would remain for another four years.



The other story that caught my attention was one reporting on the U.S. failure to secure backing for setting up a democracy monitoring mechanism as part of the Organization of American States. (Earlier, the administration had to give in on the appointment of José Miguel Insulza as the new secretary general, even though it had supported two alternative candidates.) And why did the administration fail? Because our Latin friends believed we were pushing this initiative only to go after Venezuela and not to strengthen democracy in the hemisphere. And so the sided with Caracas rather than with us.



Now, when Venezuela can outwit the U.S. diplomatically in our own Hemisphere, you really know that the costs of our unilateralism are great!



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The American People Get It—Why Can’t Bush?
June 8, 2005


When it comes to Iraq, the American public clearly gets it. A new ABC-Washington Post poll released today shows a growing belief among Americans that the United States is getting bogged down in Iraq. Four in ten Americans polled think our position today is analogous to our position in Vietnam thirty years ago. Three-quarters of all Americans believe the number of American casualties is unacceptable, and almost 6 in 10 believe the war was not worth fighting. The public knows that things are not going well in Iraq—but does the Bush administration?



It is, of course, difficult to ignore developments in Iraq, which have steadily gone from bad to worse. Since the new Iraqi government was formed in late April, the insurgency has really taken off—at great cost and consequence for the country. In May alone, more than 700 Iraqi civilians were killed and thousands more wounded as a result of bombings, killings, and executions. Two-hundred and seventy Iraqi security forces were also killed that month, as were 77 American soldiers and marines. All told, 12,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives in the last 18 months as a result of the insurgency—as have more than 1,500 Americans in uniform. (The most complete data on casualties and almost anything else on Iraq can be found in the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index.)



Many hoped that the elections last January would bring an end to the fighting. Indeed, Bush still touts the vote as the reason for optimism about Iraq’s future. But it took three months for the varied factions to agree on a government—and that was just to decide who would get what position. Still left to do is the difficult work of governing—rebuilding a destroyed infrastructure, creating business opportunities and jobs, and, of course, establishing some basic sense of security. And then, of course, there is the little matter of the constitution—which is where the real bargaining begins about who will get what power when.



As it has been from the start of this war, restoring public security has been the critical imperative for everything else. Yet, for all the money and effort devoted to training Iraqi security forces, maintaining a semblance of security is still largely America’s responsibility. According to Sen. Joe Biden, who returned last week from Iraq, of the 107 battalions of police and military in uniform (or 160,000 men overall) “only three are ‘fully operational,’ meaning able to perform largely independent operations. Twenty of the battalions are ‘partially operational,’ or able to perform missions in tandem with American units.” The rest, Biden said, are in various states of training and have varying degrees of utility. As a result, American military commanders in Iraq told Biden that US forces had to remain in Iraq at current or even higher levels for another two years.



You wouldn’t know any of this if you listened to Bush—who seems to be hearing only the good news (of which there is some) but none of the bad news (of which there is plenty). Of course, there hasn’t been an American ambassador in Iraq since John Negroponte came home to run the intelligence community. (A hearing on the nomination of Zal Khalilzad to replace him was held yesterday.) Rumsfeld also seems to have tuned out—he now spends a couple of hours a week in video conference with American generals in Iraq rather than the hours each day that he used to devote to the largest sustained US military operation (with the largest number of casualties) since Vietnam.



But now the American people are increasingly clamoring to be heard. They know this is a war that America cannot possibly win — only the Iraqis can. So we need to put all our effort into training Iraqi police, paramilitary, and military forces. That must be America’s number one, two, and three mission. And we must make clear that when Iraqis decide and vote on a constitution, our job there will be done, and our troops will come home.



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Shortchanging Democracy
June 4, 2005


If you need any more evidence for Jim’s point that the administration is all hot air but no action, read the excellent piece by Marisa Katz in TNR on how Bush is shortchanging democracy.



Katz has some very interesting data to back up the point that Bush has failed to put much money where his mouth is:



Despite President Bush’s inaugural pledge of support for “the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture,” democracy funding for some regions has actually declined. During his presidency, Bush has decreased spending on democracy promotion in Eastern Europe by 38 percent and in the former Soviet states by 46 percent. Eurasia Foundation President Bill Maynes says declining U.S. government support has necessitated across-the-board cuts to all his programs. It has also meant having to seek funding from foreign governments and businesses, which often prioritize economic development over more direct forms of democracy promotion.



Even when it comes to the administration’s signature democracy initiatives, the record falls well short of the rhetoric. When, in 2002, Bush announced the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)–which restructures foreign aid to reward countries that “govern justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom”—he pledged to increase funding annually until it reached $5 billion by 2006. Yet, each year, he has asked Congress for less than he said he would, and Congress has authorized less than that. Bush’s actual 2006 budget proposal requests only $3 billion, and that figure may be overly optimistic. The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)—designed to fuel political, economic, and educational reform, as well as women’s empowerment in that region–has received similarly unenthusiastic support. After requesting $150 million and getting only $74 million for 2005, the president is lowering his sights and asking for $120 million in the next budget cycle. For the U.N. Democracy Fund, which Bush unveiled with few specifics at the opening session of the United Nations last fall, the president has proposed a first-time contribution of $10 million. But, at the same time, administration-encouraged criticism of the United Nations prompted the Senate last month to reduce U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping missions by tens of millions of dollars. Finally, Congress wasn’t particularly receptive to Bush’s 2004 State of the Union proposal to double funding for the NED to $80 million. It granted $60 million for 2005; Bush is trying again for the $80 million in 2006.



As Jim argued, all of this is peanuts. We’re spending more in a couple of hours on our troops in Iraq than we are spending in a year to support democracy in the Middle East. This isn’t serious.



The task now is to put together a serious program for supporting democracy-building efforts not just in the Middle East, but everywhere. Bush has provided strong rhetoric; Democrats in Congress and others need to push for a serious level of annual funding to turn that rhetoric into reality. To help them, send in your comments and ideas on what to spend the money on.



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Dutch Seal EU Constitution’s Fate
June 1, 2005


Exit polls in the Netherlands show a decisive 63% “nee” vote on the referendum on ratification of the European Union Constitution. Coming on the heels of the decisive “non” from French voters on Sunday, the EU Constitution is now a dead letter.



Legally, this means nothing much changes in Europe and with the EU—it will continue to operate on the same legal basis (the Nice Treaty) it does today. Politically, however, the rejection of the Constitution by two of the six founding members of the EU means that the 25 member countries will turn ever more inwards to debate their future.



This is bad news for America—which needs a strong, outward looking partner to meet the many challenges we all now face. Even the Bush administration appeared in recent months to understand that Europe could be that partner. But if Europe is busy debating its future it cannot be an effective partner—leaving the United States to deal with the world’s many problems very much on its own.



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We Don’t Do Treaties
May 31, 2005


To no one’s surprise, the review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that took place all this month in New York ended in a bust. The ostensible reason for the failure was the deep division between those NPT members (like Iran and Egypt) who insisted the US and other nuclear weapons states needed to live up to their disarmament commitments and those (led by the US) who insisted that the non-nuclear states needed to strengthen their nonproliferation commitments. This division between the nuclear haves and nuclear have-nots is not new (it has dominated every review conference since 1975), and neither is the failure of an NPT review conference (which has happened once before).



What is new is the lack of concern shown by an American administration over the failure to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. While other countries sent foreign ministers to the conference, all we could do was send a mid-level state department official. Rice, so we were told, couldn’t even find one hour to fly up to New York anytime this month.



What explains this lackadaisical attitude towards a treaty that is meant to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and help prevent weapons or materials from falling into the hands of terrorists (which Bush in his debate with Kerry last year agreed constituted the gravest threat to America’s security)?



I think there are two basic explanations. One is that this administration hasn’t yet met a treaty it really likes. It sees treaties as constraints on America’s freedom of action—as Jim Lindsay and I have argued, Bush believes that an America unbound is a more secure America. This belief applies especially to arms control treaties, which the Bushies argue constrain the good guys but do nothing to constrain the bad guys, because they will invariably cheat. So since 2001, Bush walked out of the ABM Treaty, threw out the comprehensive test ban treaty, torpedoed efforts to strengthen the biological weapons convention, sabotaged the implementation of the chemical weapons convention, and now did nothing to strengthen the NPT. Instead of treaties, Bush looks to ad hoc coalitions—like the G-8 and his Proliferation Security Initiative—to work the proliferation problem. (Note the very interesting comment by a “senior Bush official” at the end of David Sanger’s story in today’s Times).



The other reason is that Bush sees the proliferation problem in a very different way than his predecessors. To the president, the problem is not the weapons or technology but the nature of the states and regimes that seek to possess them. The focus of our efforts should be to prevent weapons and technology from falling in the hands of rogue states and their tyrannical rulers—not on preventing the spread of technology per se. We don’t want Iran to possess the ability to enrich uranium—but we’re not particularly worried when Brazil insists that it needs to do so as well. Rogue states have weapons of mass destruction. We, Bush once said, don’t—we have a nuclear deterrent. Treaties don’t prevent rogue states from acquiring weapons of mass, and neither do negotiations. To Bush, the only sure way to deal with the threat of rogues acquiring weapons of mass destruction is through regime change. As Cheney once said, “We don’t negotiate with evil; we defeat it.”



Now, Bush is surely right that a rogue state acquiring nuclear weapons represents a greater threat than when a democratic state does so. Yet, one way to prevent rogues from getting this capability is by trying to halt proliferation everywhere—including to our allies and friends. We’ve spent an awful lot of time and effort to convince countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany, and many others that they are better off being allied with us than getting their own nuclear weapons. We’ve been very successful in this effort. The NPT was an essential means to that end—and seeing the treaty weakened cannot be good for anyone.



More fundamentally, Bush’s policy of non-proliferation by regime change doesn’t have a very good track record. It got us stuck in Iraq—at an extraordinary cost in lives and dollars. And, of course, we never found any weapons. It hasn’t worked particularly well in stopping North Korea from building more nuclear weapons either. In fact, while Pyongyang did not manufacture any nuclear weapons during the eight years when Clinton actively engaged the North, it has produced enough material for at least 6 more nuclear weapons since Bush became president. So sometimes, when you don’t negotiate, evil wins.



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Whatever Happened to Bush’s “War on Terror”
May 28, 2005


For three years, the president didn’t let an opportunity go by without repeating that we were in a global war against evil terrorists. But he’s gone strangely silent ever since his reelection last November. My Brookings intern, Jina Chung, examined the text of Bush’s speeches over the 12 months, as posted on the White House website to see how many times Bush referred to the “war on terror” or some variant of the phrase in the six months since November 2 and how many times he did so in the six months prior the elections. Here’s what she came up with: Before the elections, Bush mentioned the war on terror three times as often as after. In fact, he referred to it more often in the thirty days prior to the election (71 times) than in the six months since (66 times).



Why this sudden reluctance to talk about what for years was Bush’s signature foreign policy issue? Part of the reason, surely, is that the war on terror was central to Bush’s reelection effort. “We can go to the country confidently on this issue,” Karl Rove told the GOP months after the September 11 attacks, “because Americans trust the Republican Party to do a better job of keeping our communities and families safe.” And there is no doubt that confidence in Bush’s ability to fight terrorists proved to be decisive in his defeat of John Kerry.



But I think something else, something more significant is going on—which is that Bush increasingly appears to think the war on terror has actually been won. That’s not as surprising as it sounds. For Bush, the invasions of Afghanistan was the first phase in the war on terror; Iraq has turned out to be the last. In Afghanistan, Bush maintains, the terrorist infrastructure was destroyed and Al Qaeda was severely disrupted. The terrorist network “has been severely diminished,” Bushed argued in his prime time press conference in late April. “We are slowly but surely dismantling that organization.” And just this week, Bush confidently told the graduating class at the U.S. Naval Academy, “we are winning the war on terror.”



As for Iraq, remember that Bush called this the “central front” in the war on terror as far back as September 2003. With January’s elections and the installation of a new Iraqi government just this week, Bush I think now feels that the terrorists are really on the run—and that he is the true victor in his war.



I am not saying that Bush is right in thinking this. He’s, in fact, deeply mistaken. Terrorists have hardly been defeated and, if anything, the botched invasion of Iraq has done wonders for their cause. But what I am saying is that Bush appears to believe that the tide in the war has turned—that victory is not only likely, but is actually at hand.



And this helps explain another strange turn of events—the return, in recent months, of Bush’s pre-9/11 foreign policy. Before the terrorist attacks, Bush’s foreign policy consisted of worrying about great powers and rogue states—and abhorring involvement in nation-building and dealing with the world’s great calamities as misguided forms of foreign policy as social work. The policy priorities emanating from the White House and Foggy Bottom today are little different. A key priority now is containing China through strengthened alliances with Japan and India, and support for Taiwan. That is what Condi Rice’s trip to Asia last month was all about. Another priority is preventing rogues like North Korea and Iran from threatening us and our allies with nuclear weapons. And rather than worrying about the nexus between tyrants, terrorists, and technologies of mass destruction we’re back to worrying about madmen and missiles (which, Bush reassured us last month, missile defenses will take care of).



The only difference between Bush’s pre-9/11 foreign policy and now is his new rhetoric about freedom and liberty. But let’s not kid ourselves—rhetoric is one thing, actually following through is another. After Bush decided to walk hand-in-hand with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in Crawford earlier this month, it’s surely no longer possible to take this rhetoric seriously.