Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

Activism At Home & Abroad-Some Wednesday Links

Walter Russell Mead has been pushing for a new Russia policy, and a foreign policy reboot with an eye towards Asia. As for some of his thoughts on the current administration: ‘Obama Tip-Toes Past The Graveyard Of His Foreign Policy:’

‘That the President and a top aide offered a defense of the administration’s international agenda that tip toed past the misreading Russia issue suggests that despite their evident discomfort and concern, the President’s foreign policy inner circle hasn’t yet come up with a strategy for national much less international leadership in our increasingly tumultuous world’

Another piece over at the American Interest has Richard Haass at the Council On Foreign Relations speaking out: “U.S. Foreign Policy In Troubling Disarray:”

‘The Obama Administration cannot escape its share of the responsibility for what has gone wrong with U.S. foreign policy. And the result is unwelcome news both for the world, which largely depends upon the United States to promote order in the absence of any other country able and willing to do so, and for the United States, which cannot insulate itself from developments beyond its borders’

I’m guessing many in the Obama administration already know themselves to be in possession of many of the right ideals and far as peace and democratic activism go, so we’re not going to be seeing much change.

The world just wasn’t ready for it.

***As posted previously-It might be worth revisiting that Cairo Speech to see how rhetoric is meeting reality.

I’ve also been referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be.  In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.

According to this view, Obama has rejected the Hillary Clinton/Samantha Power wing of humanitarian interventionism as idealists to his realism. He split the difference in Libya to the operation they wanted (like Bosnia) because of his realism. He later thought Syria wasn’t worth the risk because of his realism (it has since devolved into a near worse-case scenario into which Putin had to step-in). He approved, then withdrew, the surge in Afghanistan after he didn’t see the gains he wanted because of his realism.

No further comment….

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What about activism at home?: Well, FIRE (The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education) has its hands full, intelligently pushing back against the coalitions of activists that have taken root in our colleges and universities for some time now, but which find special expression through White House task-forces under this administration:

Who needs due process when you’ve got one judge, jury, and executioner?:

‘Perhaps most worryingly, the Task Force appears to be enthusiastic about essentially eliminating hearings altogether for students accused of assault and harassment. The Task Force is exploring a “single investigator” model, where a sole administrator would be empowered to serve as detective, judge and jury, affording the accused no chance to challenge his or her accuser’s testimony.’

Remember those anti-bullying campaigns a while back?:

Yes, feminists and anti-rape activists make moral claims, and they take them very seriously, so seriously in fact that they can work themselves into a frenzy:

Greg Lukianoff:

‘If those of us who defend civil liberties had to name our greatest historical adversary, the leading candidate could be summed up in two words: moral panic. Moral panic is a sudden, powerful, and often highly exaggerated perception within a society that people or their values are facing a dire threat.’

Here’s a further example of Left activism leading to potentially extra-judicial, quasi-official task-forces and councils and suspect bodies that can interfere with 1st amendment protections, Perhaps we can take a note from Canada, which has no such protections:

Ezra Levant’s opening statements during a lengthy investigation after he published those Danish cartoons of Mohammed:

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Levant was fighting what he saw as an infringement upon his freedom of speech by the Human Rights Commission of Alberta.  As editor of the Western Standard, Levant published the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, and found himself investigated by, in his words, “a kangaroo court.”

Originally, a letter was written by Syed Soharwardy, an imam living in Alberta, to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.  Soharwardy claimed that the cartoons were morally offensive to the religion of Islam.  Levant believed his decision to publish the cartoons was protected by Canadian law, and that Soharwardy found a path to legal action (at the expense of Canadian taxpayers) through the Human Rights Commission because no one else would take Soharwardy’s claims seriously.

One of Levant’s main concerns seems to be the the way in which someone like Soharwardy, (with unchallenged religious beliefs, and illiberal ideas of social freedom), has infringed upon his freedoms through an institution like the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

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Admit it, even if you came to learn that Christopher Hitchens started out a Marxist materialist, and ended up a contrarian, eventually tethering himself to the New Atheists, you probably enjoyed it when he defended freedom of speech against its erosion by the politically correct multiculturalists, or perhaps when he wrote his polemics supporting the Iraq war.

I don’t believe that we can appease Islamic extremists, which is the whole premise of this administration’s approach…blunt American power and incentivize Muslim societies to drive the extreme elements out through international cooperation: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Just how far Left is this administration anyways? Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

From Der Spiegel: ‘How Western Is Germany? Russia Crisis Spurs Identity Conflict’

Full piece here.

Another thing to consider:

‘Right up to this day, Germans and Russians maintain a special relationship. There is no other country and no other people with which Germans’ relations are as emotional and as contradictory. The connection reaches deep into German family history, shaped by two world wars and the 40-year existence of East Germany. German families still share stories of cruel, but also kindhearted and soulful Russians. We disdain the Russians’ primitiveness, while treasuring their culture and the Russian soul.’

And:

‘Still, a divide is growing between the political elite and those in Germany who are sympathetic towards Russia. A recent survey conducted by pollster Infratest dimap showed that almost half of all Germans want the country to adopt the middle ground between Russia and the West.’

I wonder if any American operatives went under deep cover to Dschingis Khan concerts to better understand the German soul:

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Here’s Putin, back in the 80’s, meeting Reagan.  Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.

From The Atlantic Photo: Vladimir Putin-Action Man

‘Russia needs a strong state power and must have it. But I am not calling for totalitarianism.’

-Vladimir Putin

 

Some Links On Foreign Policy & Ukraine

Walter Russell Mead notes Les Gelb getting publicly uncomfortable with our current foreign policy:

‘Gelb points out that Obama’s inclination towards diplomatic negotiation without the threat of military follow-through could encourage potential aggressors to act without fear of retribution.’

Anne Marie Slaughter advocates for caution:

‘For some frustrated with the complexity of the post-Cold War world, redividing the globe along an East-West axis would be comforting. Yet doing so serves military and defense interests all too well, as George Kennan understood as he watched his original doctrine of containment become an entrenched enmity licensing military adventures in the name of anti-communism’

Yet, as Claudia Rosett points out, putting all of our energies into international institutions and law…is… well…:

‘The UN body that should really be objecting to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine is the UN Security Council. But with Russia holding one of the Permanent Five veto-wielding seats, the Security Council is even more impotent than usual. So Ukraine had to take its case to the General Assembly, where the resolutions can carry a certain heft as a reflection of general opinion, but have no binding force’

In advocating for peace, aiming U.S. energies towards peace talks and negotiations through international institutions actually leading to more peace? What about Libya, Egypt, and Syria?

As linked to before.

David Goldman wrote the following back in 2008, a few years after Ukraine’s Orange Revolutionjust as Georgia was flaring up, and when Putin stepped-in (to Georgia) to maximize his advantage:

‘The place to avert tragedy is in Ukraine. Russia will not permit Ukraine to drift to the West. Whether a country that never had an independent national existence prior to the collapse of communism should become the poster-child for national self-determination is a different question. The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important.

My proposal is simple: Russia’s help in containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism in the Middle East is of infinitely greater import to the West than the dubious self-determination of Ukraine. The West should do its best to pretend that the “Orange” revolution of 2004 and 2005 never happened, and secure Russia’s assistance in the Iranian nuclear issue as well as energy security in return for an understanding of Russia’s existential requirements in the near abroad. Anyone who thinks this sounds cynical should spend a week in Kiev.’

Related On This Site:  Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And OthersFrom The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Nearly three years ago now: Eric Posner At The Volokh Conspiracy: The Bear Is Back!

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

James Baker At The NY Times: ‘3 Presidents and a Riddle Named Putin’

Full piece here.

“He’s not delusional, but he’s inhabiting a Russia of the past — a version of the past that he has created,” said Fiona Hill, the top intelligence officer on Russia during Mr. Bush’s presidency and co-author of “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.” “His present is defined by it and there is no coherent vision of the future. Where exactly does he go from here beyond reasserting and regaining influence over territories and people? Then what?”

Maybe he’s got his own future, and doesn’t need ours. Maybe he hasn’t thought that far ahead. Maybe some people in China’s military see outside interests reflexively as threats and calculate accordingly.  Maybe Al Qaeda’s Islamist radicalism is messianic and delusional, as are a lot of people in the Muslim Brotherhood, as are some people out there who would hijack nuclear material and kill millions of innocent people if they could.

Do we take Somali pirates aside and give them a good talking-to?

But as to Russia and Putin, I suppose the country’s too big and its leader too important to ignore for many strategic reasons.

I suppose we’ll keep looking inside those nesting dolls for a man we can do business with.

A Cold Dose Of Realism-‘Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess’

Full piece here.

Neo-cons, humanists, human-rights advocates…religious and secular idealists, missionaries of all stripes who want to see more freedom and democracy cast in our image…it’s good to get other points of view:

David Goldman wrote the following back in 2008, a few years after Ukraine’s Orange Revolutionjust as Georgia was flaring up, and when Putin stepped-in (to Georgia) to maximize his advantage:

‘The place to avert tragedy is in Ukraine. Russia will not permit Ukraine to drift to the West. Whether a country that never had an independent national existence prior to the collapse of communism should become the poster-child for national self-determination is a different question. The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important.

My proposal is simple: Russia’s help in containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism in the Middle East is of infinitely greater import to the West than the dubious self-determination of Ukraine. The West should do its best to pretend that the “Orange” revolution of 2004 and 2005 never happened, and secure Russia’s assistance in the Iranian nuclear issue as well as energy security in return for an understanding of Russia’s existential requirements in the near abroad. Anyone who thinks this sounds cynical should spend a week in Kiev.’

The argument is pretty clear:  Putin is looking at demographic decline, and he’s an ex-KGB ethno-nationalist looking to keep the empire together:

‘Russia is not an ethnicity but an empire, the outcome of hundreds of years of Russification. That Russification has been brutal is an understatement, but it is what created Russia out of the ethnic morass around the Volga river basin. One of the best accounts of Russia’s character comes from Eugene Rosenstock-Huessey (Franz Rosenzweig’s cousin and sometime collaborator) in his 1938 book Out of Revolution. Russia’s territory tripled between the 16th and 18th centuries, he observes, and the agency of its expansion was a unique Russian type.’

Worth a read.

Related On This SiteRobert Merry At The National Interest: ‘Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy’“Spengler” At PJ Media: ‘Lessons From Europe’s Winners And Losers’

Is Barack Obama A Realist?From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Kasparov, Kerry, Putin & Obama?-Some Links On Ukraine

Is Barack Obama A Realist?

I’ve been referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be.  In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.

According to this view, Obama has rejected the Hillary Clinton/Samantha Power wing of humanitarian interventionism as idealists to his realism. He split the difference in Libya to the operation they wanted (like Bosnia) because of his realism. He later thought Syria wasn’t worth the risk because of his realism (it has since devolved into a near worse-case scenario into which Putin had to step-in). He approved, then withdrew, the surge in Afghanistan after he didn’t see the gains he wanted because of his realism.

All of this difference-splitting, essentially, is evidence that Obama is the one taking the longer view and resisting the impulses of those who will act to make the world as they’d like it to be by using military force and sticking our noses into the affairs of others (Bush in Iraq, Bill Clinton in Bosnia, Hillary Clinton in Libya).

In short, by mostly using drones, SpecOps strike-teams and often not even the threat of force, by instead continually leaning upon his own rhetoric and international law to round-up our enemies and foes with carrots and sticks, Obama is the cool head in the room, seeing the world as it is….shrewdly and realistically.

Dear Reader: Are you convinced?

Addition: Link sent in to a Ben Domenech piece at The Federalist: ‘Reject Naive Foreign Policy, Whatever Its Source

Kasparov, Kerry, Putin & Obama?-Some Links On Ukraine

Well, not to look like too much of a dupe (me), but chess great Garry Kasparov, who has spoken-out at great personal risk for his birthplace of Azerbaijan as well as for the freedoms of all against autocracy and tyranny, has been very vocal on Twitter as to just what we’re likely dealing with in Putin:

Addition: Kasparov is a human-rights advocate having a tough time finding support against the actual force used by Putin against those supporting an independent Ukraine.  Some human-rights advocates are as close to foreign policy decisions as they’ve been in a while in the current U.S. administration.

Is there any merit in applying rational motives to Putin’s behavior?

Perhaps, if you’re in Kasparov’s shoes, no, there isn’t.  Putin’s actions should be clear enough.

Hopefully, I’m aware that many Western media outlets occupy a kind of secular-bubble within which everyone’s a potential convert to a shared set of assumptions about liberal democracy.  The spread of human-rights through international institutions is often presumed to be the natural course of events.  Apparently even Putin, China, the mullahs in Iran, and Islamic terrorists might be welcome to join as long as they agree to some basic conditions.

It’s ain’t what you know…

Moving along, here’s liberal strategist and thinker Zbigniew Brzezinski at WaPo, born in Poland, who served under Jimmy Carter (yes, Obama’s further out there than Carter, in many respects).

Putin’s actions can’t go unpunished:

‘This does not mean that the West, or the United States, should threaten war. But in the first instance, Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch’

WaPo’s editorial board wakes up to Obama’s foreign policy assumptions, at least before potentially nodding-off again.

I think it’s reasonable to expect more redlines and deadlines from the President. Economic sanctions and scrambling behind the 8-ball are par-for-the-course these days. Check out Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic’s interview with Obama.  It’s quite insightful.

My take:  This administration is deeply invested in a kind of everyone-come-to-the-table peace activism and idealism, as well as Obama’s ability to read the intentions of others using this roadmap.  I suspect he’ll likely redouble efforts for an Israel/Palestine peace process and a tentative peace-deal with the leadership in Iran, evidence to the contrary, history, strategy, peace through strength notwithstanding.  The liberal internationalists are grounding him in realpolitik to some extent, bolstering this worldview which I suspect Obama sees as quite pragmatic and middle-of-the-road.

Yes, he’ll use drones, take out Bin-Laden, and keep our security in mind, but his default position is towards an ideal of peace, not necessarily peace through strength.  His political and ideological interests are similarly aligned.

Addition: Is Putin acting to undermine his own interests quickly, more slowly?

Important to note:  American withdrawal supply lines out of Afghanistan run through Russian territory, and any possible negotiations with the Iranian leadership depends upon some Russian cooperation.

Also, what many Americans may have missed during the last election:

We need a grander strategy, from the Middle-East through Asia, though how this strategy would look, exactly, is up for debate.

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Charles Hill suggests that if America doesn’t lead with a new set of challenges that face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either.  If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism.  If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

The world can easily destabilize and get quite violent, quite quickly.

This seems to be where we are.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome

(*As for liberal democracy, my understanding is that there are many strains within it that are highly illiberal, and threaten it from within, obviously, while claiming high ideals and insisting upon utopian and big solutions to persistent problems).

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Full piece here.

More on Kennan (wikipedia).

Now that Putin is playing the Russian strongman in Ukraine (video of Russian tactics):

‘Yet one wonders how many U.S. government officials during the 1940s would have been able to behold the fruits of the policy with the sort of critical distance that Kennan demonstrates. His black, razor-sharp diagnosis of Stalinism—at a time when pro-Soviet wartime propaganda in the United States presented a diametrically opposed picture of the regime—is of a piece with this innate skepticism and independence of thought.’

Many diplomats and first-class thinkers can be frustrated by the constraints of a democratic system. Some are like Grandmasters, playing a global game of chess. They can spend their entire lives envisioning strategic outcomes, advising and calculating many moves ahead as they run through a rolodex of hundreds of names and players.  

It can be dispiriting for them to have to try to explain the logic of it all to a President and his team who might give them 10 minutes to get a point across, and then have them write a follow-up position paper. 

Or, in the case of Kennan, it might be even harder when their ideas are actually adopted into policy.

‘SOME OF HIS crankiest observations deal with the shortcomings of democracy. During his time as a government official Kennan had often witnessed how the principles of good policy were undermined by the short-term thinking of elected politicians, and he had concluded from the experience that democracies were inherently incapable of devising and pursuing rational strategy.’

Perhaps it’s an inherent good to have the logic and experience of even the very wise frustrated by the democratic process.

A realism you can get behind?

Henry Kissinger:

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”

and:

“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.

How About That Russian Reset? Two Friday Links From The American Interest

From Via Media: ‘Russia Turns Gaze To Latin Autocrats:

At first, a friend pointed-out the return of the old Moscow-Tehran-Damascus alliance: Russia may be only a shade of its former Soviet self, but Putin is still running the old Cold-War playbook for leverage to recover his empire.  The Syria redline debacle simply allowed him to dust-off some old plays.

Now there’s a Meridian Class intelligence ship docked in Havana and possible negotiations for Russian bases in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Mead:

‘That Russia is building ties with the least democratic and most anti-American governments in the hemisphere should help us as we gaze into his eyes and try to see his soul. He doesn’t actually like us very much, and doesn’t wish us well. This kind of stuff is particularly problematic for the two flexibility experts in DC—Kerry and Obama—who have consistently reached out to Russia in hopes of a better or at least more pragmatic understanding.

It’s hard to think of many goals that the Obama administration has pursued so consistently as the reset with Russia. News like this reminds us that it may have all been in vain.’

As of now, we’re putting human rights ideals and peace-dealing before many of our other interests, using this dragnet to try and include even bad-actors into an international framework.

The actual consequences of this approach are not reassuring, with Syria and Russia currently standing-out.  We’re creating something of a power vacuum and conducting an experiment to see which kind of people fill the void.

If I’m not mistaken, Mead is calling for a more Huntingtonian approach, or rounding-up our interests and allies first and proceeding from there (less Western far-Left, human-rights focused and liberal internationalist).

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Thomas Graham, a former Security Advisor to Russia, suggests we still aren’t in a zero-sum game against Russia.

So, what do we actually do next?:

‘What requires more thought is Mead’s conclusion. He sees a major zero-sum geopolitical contestunfolding, pitting Russia against the United States. Washington, he argues, should abandon its policy of seeking better relations and push back against Russia. Most urgently, in his view, the administration needs to rethink its policies on Ukraine and Syria to take into account Russia’s unrelenting opposition—and Mead would surely argue that the dramatic events in Kiev and the collapse of the Syrian negotiations only reinforce the urgency. But he has not yet suggested what the pushback would entail in detail and what it should aim to achieve. What, in other words, should the United States do, to what ends, at what cost, and with what chances of success?’

We may be getting to that point shortly under the current leadership.

How’s that Russian reset going?:

Ross Douthat At The New York Times: ‘Huntington’s Conflicts, Fukuyama’s World’

Full piece here.

‘But at the same time, Huntington’s partial vindication hasn’t actually disproven Fukuyama’s point, because all of these conflicts are still taking place in the shadow of a kind of liberal hegemony, and none them have the kind of global relevance or ideological import that the conflicts of the 19th and 20th century did. Radical Islam is essentially an anti-modern protest, not a real alternative … China’s meritocratic-authoritarian model has a long way to go to prove itself as anything except a repressive Sino-specific kludge … Chavismo and similar experiments struggle to maintain even domestic legitimacy … and what Huntington called the Western model is still the only real aspiring world-civilization, with enemies aplenty, yes, but also influence and admirers in every corner of the globe.’

Related On This Site:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Francis Fukuyama has started a center for Public Administration at Stanford…it’d be interesting to imagine a conversation between Eric Hoffer and Fukuyama: Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘Mexico And The Drug Wars’…Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin?Update And Repost-Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

A Few Thoughts On Foreign Policy-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Conservative Principles Of World Order’

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