Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

Two Tuesday Quotes

“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.

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

Obama’s West Point Speech-Rhodes Scholarship?

Dan Drezner is now at the Washington Post: ‘The Two Things That Need To Be In Obama’s West Point Speech:’

Transcript of the speech here.

Drezner on Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser:

‘I’m not going to lie — whenever Ben Rhodes starts talking to the press, I get worried about the Obama administration’s foreign policy trajectory.  Rhodes tends to have a few simple international relations memes that he likes to get out into the public square’

He finishes with:

‘So if this speech says: a) military action is risky; but b) we have no positive economic agenda; and c) no plan for what to do if matters get even worse — then this is not going to be a very good speech at all.

Am I missing anything?’

Well, having read Obama’s speech, I don’t think he’s missed much.

As for the economic agenda, I’m guessing when you’re far enough Left and ideologically rigid as Obama often appears to be, not much is going to change.  He’s consistently brought the concerns of peace activists, environmentalists and labor unions to the fore at home, while investing in some of the dysfunction of the U.N. and hashtag diplomacy abroad.

Obama:

‘You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else. We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it is taking place’

Does leading by example involve waiting on the U.N in Syria, emboldening Putin and Tehran’s interests by hedging on a redline, and sitting back while terrorists fill in the opposition? Does leading by example involve avoiding hard decisions and watching a long, protracted Civil War unfold, with Assad still hunkered down in power, using chemical weapons, while over a hundred thousands Syrian are dead? Does leading by example involve a humanitarian crisis in full bloom, destabilizing the region many times over, and posing new security threats for all of us?

Is that the kind example we want to set, even for ourselves?

Adam Garfinkle offered the Rhodes hypothesis‘ a little while back:

Rhodes is the main one, I believe, who either convinced or strongly reinforced the President’s intuition that the United States is vastly overinvested in the Middle East, that we need to pivot to Asia at the expense of our investments in the Middle East and Europe, that in the absence of traditional American “Cold War-era” leadership benign regional balances will form to keep the peace, and that the world is deep in normative liberalism and well beyond the grubby power politics of earlier eras.

All of this is very trendy and sounds “progressive” and smart, but, of course, it is mostly wrong.

What am I missing?

Addition: More from David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy here.

‘Further, as Obama has shown, the problems we face today cannot simply be addressed by undoing the mistakes of past American presidents. Genuine new thinking is needed. Precious little, unfortunately, was offered in the president’s West Point remarks.’

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.

Naive foreign policy is naive foreign policy.

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

#Hashtag Diplomacy-Two Tuesday Links

From CSIS: ‘Video-Afghanistan After The Drawdown: U.S. Civilian Engagement Post 2014‘ (approx 1 hr 30 min).

‘Jerry Hyman argues that the strategy should be based on three possible scenarios (optimistic, pessimistic, and muddling-through)…’

I still think announcing a withdrawal date makes a difficult situation more difficult, and gives people leverage to whom we really shouldn’t give leverage.

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From Michael Yon: ‘Are Thai Protestors Violent?’

Click through for some ground-level coverage of what’s going on in Thailand.

I wonder how deftly the U.S. has ever handled nuanced and tense situations like these, where primary interests aren’t necessarily at stake, but good diplomacy is always welcome. Yon offers a bit of a rant against our current ambassador’s handling of the situation.

I don’t really want to get involved, but apparently, she did the moonwalk on live T.V. in the Philippines as a farewell during her ambassadorship there.  I’m just hoping for competence.

My guess is that it’s tougher to appear competent while defending the many contradictions of #hashtag diplomacy.

Yeah, Thailand, you’re just like Ukraine, so get those activists out in the streets.

Redlines and deadlines.  More speeches.

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From the comments:

‘Does the Thai military depend on US made parts for its F16s, Bells, and UH-1s, not to mention almost all of their A2A, A2G, S2A missiles and radars? (The 12 Gripens in the 701st are not going to cut it on their own)

Or does the US need Thailand as a bulwark of regional stability (in addition to South Korea and Japan), a base for forward storage of material, potential air bases and as a source of human and signals intelligence? Does the Asian pivot mean we need them more? Or does the humble foreign policy mean we need them less?

If Thailand comes under the thumb of the Chinese who will lose more? The Thai military and its elites? Or the US? It would weaken us, but we would still have other regional options.’

Modi & The Middle-East-Some Saturday Links

Adam Garfinkle-‘Our Storyteller In Chief

Garfinkle offers consistently good analysis of conditions on the ground in the Middle-East.  Really worth a read.

Also, he offers an hypothesis for the current administration’s approach:

Rhodes is the main one, I believe, who either convinced or strongly reinforced the President’s intuition that the United States is vastly overinvested in the Middle East, that we need to pivot to Asia at the expense of our investments in the Middle East and Europe, that in the absence of traditional American “Cold War-era” leadership benign regional balances will form to keep the peace, and that the world is deep in normative liberalism and well beyond the grubby power politics of earlier eras.

All of this is very trendy and sounds “progressive” and smart, but, of course, it is mostly wrong.

A lot of words and a lot of speechifying.  How much of that they actually believe, evidence to the contrary, still is worth asking.

From Political Baba: ‘The Tamasha Of Exit Polls

The old Gandhi political dynasty gets trounced at the polls, and a center-right Narendra Modi, with connections to Hindu nationalism which kept Obama’s State Department at bay for a while, will become the next Indian Prime Minister.

Let’s hope he can stay ahead of corruption and lead many sectors of the Indian economy towards sustained growth. I’m hoping he is pragmatic enough to go with what works and also has enough character and political ability to develop broader trust across swathes of Indian society, strengthening institutions for the long haul.

Relations with neighbors, especially elements in Pakistan and Beijing will be worth keeping an eye on.

Exit polls at the link.

Art & War-Detroit & Homs: Two Links

From The Detroit Free Press:

Notice the argument is still over how to divvy up the remains:

‘But others, including David Skeel, author of “Debt’s Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America,” argue that Orr’s plan so clearly favors pensioners over other groups of creditors that it qualifies as unfair discrimination. “Giving pension beneficiaries nearly 100% of what they are owed, and bondholders less than 20%, is obvious discrimination,” Skeel wrote in this week’s edition of the Weekly Standard magazine’

A great nation deserves great art, and great unions, and public pension pay-outs, and more money and top-down solutions for schools, and more fairness and equality, and new New Deal programs, and more discussions about race, and a higher military budget, and more farm subsidies, and immigration reform, and more Clintons and Bushes and…

Your interest here:  _____________

Poor Detroit:

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It looks like that Syrian Civil War is tipping back in Assad’s favor at the moment.  It’s a good thing we allowed Assad to buy himself some time, emboldened Putin, and sat back while  Islamists from all over the Muslim World and even from the West have filled-in.

From The Washington Post:

‘Syrian rebels began to evacuate their last footholds in the central city of Homs on Wednesday, departing under a deal loaded with poignancy for the opposition.

Hundreds of rebels boarded buses for the countryside north of the city after being allowed safe exit in a deal confirmed by both sides. Each fighter was allowed to carry one weapon and a bag of belongings.’

***A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Related On This SiteMore Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

From the Daily, ‘cheap’ paper: How did Detroit get here?

Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

More from Megan McArdle on the behavior that comes with pension bonuses.Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself?  See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

 

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

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