Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Democracy Promotion Debate

For those who didn't already see it, my colleague Paul Saunders engaged in an online debate with Mort Halperin about democracy promotion and U.S. foreign policy for the Council on Foreign Relations website.

A critical point Paul raised:
The real question of democracy promotion in U.S. foreign policy is not whether—the answer is yes—but when, how, and at what cost, both in absolute terms and relative to our other international priorities. ... A majority of Americans understand these trade-offs: A recent poll (PDF) by the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 54 percent believed that "as a rule, U.S. foreign policy should pursue U.S. interests, which sometimes means promoting democracy and sometimes means supporting non-democratic governments."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Are the Neocons Migrating Left?

A very interesting op-ed in Sunday's Los Angeles Times by Jacob Heilbrunn:

DON'T LOOK now, but neoconservatism is making a comeback — and not among the Republicans who have made it famous but in the Democratic Party. ...
This new crop of liberal hawks calls for expanding the existing war against terrorism, beefing up the military and promoting democracy around the globe while avoiding the anti-civil liberties excesses of the Bush administration. They support a U.S. government that would seek multilateral consensus before acting abroad, but one that is not scared to use force when necessary.

These Democrats want to be seen as anything but the squishes who have led the party to defeat in the past. Interestingly, that's how the early neocons saw themselves too: as liberals fighting to reclaim their party's true heritage — before they decamped to the GOP in the 1980s.

Indeed, the credo of the new Democratic hawks is eerily reminiscent of the neocons of the 1970s, who ran a full-page ad in the New York Times called "Come Home, Democrats" after George McGovern's crushing defeat, in a play on his campaign slogan "Come Home, America." In it, early neocons such as Jeane Kirkpatrick and Norman Podhoretz called for a return to the principles of — you guessed it — Truman and President Kennedy.

One side note: the legacy of Truman is up for grabs. While the liberal hawks claim his mantle, Anatol Lieven, John Hulsman and others claim Harry for the "ethical realist" school.

Meanwhile, Guy Dinmore reports in today's Financial Times that neocons are questioning the president's democratization strategy.

Is the stage being set so that the true "heirs" to the Bush Doctrine may end up being the liberal hawks?

In that case, there is a major hurdle they will have to overcome. It is easy to assert that Democrats, if in power, would have made Iraq a success and Osama bin Laden would be in custody. But what proof is being offered?

It is also going to be tough for Democrats to argue that they represent an "alternative" to Bush.

Republicans have the advantage, as Henry Nau wrote two years ago, of having competing but "organic" schools of thought. Can one argue that, right now, there is a distinctly Democratic approach to foreign policy?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Axis of Oil -- Preview

From the forthcoming summer issue of the magazine, by Flynt Leverett and Pierre Noel.


While Washington is preoccupied with curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, avoiding policy failure in Iraq and cheering the “forward march of freedom”, the political consequences of recent structural shifts in global energy markets are posing the most profound challenge to American hegemony since the end of the Cold War. The increasing control that state-owned companies exercise over the world’s reserves of crude oil and natural gas is, under current market conditions, enabling some energy exporters to act with increasing boldness against U.S. interests and policies. Perhaps the most immediate example is Venezuela’s efforts to undermine U.S. influence in Latin America. The most strategically significant manifestation, though, is Russia’s willingness to use its newfound external leverage to counteract what Moscow considers an unacceptable level of U.S. infringement on its interests. At the same time, rising Asian states, especially China, are seeking to address their energy perceived vulnerability through state-orchestrated strategies to “secure” access to hydrocarbon resources around the world. In the Chinese case, a statist approach to managing external energy relationships is increasingly pitting China against the United States in a competition for influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and oil-producing parts of Africa.

We describe these political consequences of recent structural shifts in global energy markets by the shorthand “petropolitics.” While each of these developments is challenging to U.S. interests, the various threads of petropolitics are now coming together in an emerging “axis of oil” that is acting as a counterweight to American hegemony on a widening range of issues. At the center of this undeclared but increasingly assertive axis is a growing geopolitical partnership between Russia (a major energy producer) and China (the paradigmatic rising consumer) against what both perceive as excessive U.S. unilateralism. The impact of this axis on U.S. interests has already been felt in the largely successful Sino-Russian effort to rollback U.S. influence in Central Asia. But the real significance is being seen in the ongoing frustration of U.S. objectives on the Iranian nuclear issue. This will likely be a milestone in redefining the post-Cold War international order—not merely because Iran is likely to end up with at least a nuclear weapons option, but because of what that will imply about the efficacy of America’s global leadership.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

From the Sochi Summit

Xinhua's coverage of the EU-Russia summit in Sochi, with regard to the question of Iran, is interesting for what it stresses.

--a "common" Russia-Europe position (in contrast to the U.S. perspective of a U.S./Europe position juxtaposed against a Sino-Russian one;

--an emphasis on "diplomatic and peaceful" means to resolve the crisis.

Why I find this interesting is that it is clear that attempts are underway to shift the dynamic away from a U.S.-led/European supported process on Iran toward the recreation of the 2003 situation: an Anglo-American position on the one hand and a continental European/Asian position on the other. Could a Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Beijing alignment be in the works to take the lead on Iran? What precisely did Merkel and Putin discuss in the Russo-German summit several weeks ago? Where will Paris come down in the end? I think that the Iran portfolio is much more dynamic than assuming that the U.S. and the EU-3 have achieved a single harmonious position and that the strategy can focus on pressuring Moscow and Beijing.

A Civil Provocation -- Ian Bremmer

From the forthcoming Summer 2006 issue of TNI:

A Google search that combines “Iraq” and “civil war” provides tens of millions of Internet options. Confine this search to the latest news and you’re still confronted with more than 21,000 choices.

“Civil war” is being invoked as a kind of trump card in the debate about U.S. policy in Iraq, both by those who support the continued presence of U.S. forces as well as those advocating withdrawal. ...

Yet very few of those who use the term “civil war” ever detail precisely what it would or does mean. All sides look at the disorder and confusion and find the image that best serves their political purposes. But to properly evaluate the wisdom of maintaining the U.S. troop presence, a clear definition is essential. Civil war should be taken to mean the outbreak of large-scale, sustained sectarian violence, particularly between Shi’as and Sunnis, amidst the collapse of central governance. By this definition, civil war has not yet begun. ...

But we should avoid the temptation of assuming that a civil war in Iraq would be the equivalent of Armageddon or that a civil war would be the worst of all possible outcomes.

First, even civil war would not shut in all of Iraq’s oil. Yes, new investment in energy would dry up, because there would be no central authority to enforce the laws and regulations that regularize business operations—and no single military authority capable of protecting oil infrastructure. The pipeline that moves oil from the Kurdish provinces into Turkey has already sustained considerable damage and remains vulnerable to any surge in fighting.

But nearly two-thirds of Iraq’s current production, located in the Shi’a-dominated south, would probably continue to flow. Shi’a forces are likely to be better armed and equipped than other groups to fend off insurgent attacks. Aid from Iran would help preserve that advantage. It will be difficult for Sunnis from central Iraq to infiltrate the south of the country, because regional accents are easily detectable and vigilance against Sunni attacks there will remain high. There are still many Sunnis living in the southern provinces, but those who remain there once sectarian violence begins would be unlikely to risk reprisal for attacks on Shi’a property. Over time, the inability to maintain and upgrade oil infrastructure would take a toll. But, even in a worst-case civil war scenario, the southern provinces could probably provide international markets with more than one million barrels of oil per day for the near future.

Second, as many have warned, a civil war would bring the Turkish military across the border and into the northern provinces. Turkey’s primary concern would be to prevent Iraqi Kurds from declaring independence and encouraging further unrest in Turkey’s own Kurdish regions. But neither Prime Minister Recep Erdogan nor the country’s military leadership favor the deployment of troops into the strategically crucial Iraqi city of Kirkuk. They know the move would badly damage relations with the United States—to say nothing of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

We could expect Turkey to move a substantial number of troops a few kilometers inside Iraq to establish a buffer zone against Kurdish militants and Islamist insurgents. This limited move, which U.S. and European leaders would probably quietly accept, would roil Turkish markets and block the cross-border trade that has boosted both the Turkish and Kurdish economies. But Turkey has no interest in involving its troops directly in an Iraqi civil war.

Third, though such a conflict would heighten the risk of terrorist attacks in the region, it is unlikely to provoke any sharp sudden rise in their number or intensity. Iraqi insurgents have upgraded both their weapons and the technical skill with which they wield them. But states like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran have the means to limit the risk of large-scale terrorist attacks within their borders, even if they struggle to quell unrest in areas dominated by ethnic and religious minorities.

So a civil war would be nasty, it would be messy, it would be complicated. But much like Bosnia’s civil wars during the 1990s, an Iraqi civil war could also be contained. The challenge for U.S. policymakers is to assess whether the costs of preventing a civil war in Iraq outweigh those of containment—and the international political fallout that would attend a failure to keep Iraq whole.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The School

The June 2006 issue of Esquire has C.J. Chiver's chilling description of the terrorist attack on the school in Beslan in September 2004.

Reading through the excerpt, as well as the sections Peter Carlson reproduced in yesterday's Washington Post, one cannot escape how coldly methodical the killers planned this operation. This was not an operation "for show" or to "demonstrate" but deliberately intended to target innocent civilians. If the Beslan attack is not the classic definition of what terrorism is, and cannot be accepted as terrorism pure and simple, with no "ifs, ands or buts" about it, then we truly cannot have any sort of global coalition against terrorism.

The "Scowcroft-Hagel" Initiative on Iran

How might the outcome of the current round of London talks between the U.S., the EU-3, Russia and China on Iran be affected if the United States put forward as its stance a synthesis of the positions that former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Senator Chuck Hagel have advocated.

Perhaps a Scowcroft-Hagel Initiative would look something like this:

1. Direct U.S.-Iran talks within the framework of a conference of key powers (The P-5/EU-3) on the nuclear issue.
2. A regional conference to handle other issues (terrorism, etc.)
3. Focus on internationalizing the fuel cycle and on imposing these conditions on all countries not focusing on which regimes are "deserving". This would include an immediate ban on any new enrichment facilities anywhere in the world and the creation of a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel to all countries (with appropriate safeguards for return of spent fuel).
4. Creation of a sanctions regime applied against any country and applied equally by all members of the Security Council.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Brussels Unbound -- Thoughts of Jeffrey Cimbalo

From the forthcoming Summer 2006 issue of The National Interest:


America is courting a host of difficulties by interacting with the EU and its subordinate bodies, rather than dealing bilaterally (or in ad hoc conjunction) with EU nations and their elected leaders. First, the EU willingly involves itself in foreign policy matters at the remotest edges of its authority. Since that authority has not been (and for the foreseeable future will not be) constitutionally legitimated or conferred by treaty, America’s joint endeavors with the European Union may lack effectiveness and sustainability. In addition, by dealing with the EU itself in high-profile foreign policy matters, the world’s only superpower is in effect bolstering the EU’s authority. The United States is being unnecessarily drawn to one side of a distinctly European conversation about the proper role of the EU in foreign and security policy—a conversation which is far from settled—thus bringing the EU’s longstanding problems of democratic legitimacy to America’s shores. ...

EU elites appear to be in different states of recognition of these circumstances. For every leader of a member state willing to recognize that the constitution is dead, another rises up and states that the document is merely being “reflected upon.” In January, for example, the European Parliament showed its unwarranted optimism for the constitution when it refused to pass a resolution stating that the constitution was “null and void”; it was defeated by a 452-to-107 margin. But German Commissioner Gunther Verheugen, the archetype of the largely invisible but enormously influential EU elite, has revealingly diverged from his usual mantra that “European integration [is] the most successful idea in the history of Europe”, to the grudging acknowledgment that the EU is currently in a state of crisis. ...

Meanwhile, it appears that the European Commission—a body appointed by the European heads of state and approved as a slate by the European Parliament—regarded the constitution merely as a convenient transmission device for greater powers that it can and will acquire through other means. As the vice president of the European Convention’s Working Group on Legal Personality, Giuliano Amato, creepily put it, “My beloved daughter is dead, but some of her organs can be transplanted to make the [currently in effect] Nice Treaty more beautiful.”

Indeed, EU bureaucrats are striving to appropriate some of the powers they would have gained had the draft constitution been approved, especially in pan-European foreign, space and defense policy. But it is still too early to tell the degree to which the EU will be successful in arrogating power. Far more important than the procedural maneuvering of those EU bureaucrats has been America’s de facto support of one Europe. ...

The arrogation of foreign policy powers by EU elites has raised the unreasonable expectation within and outside the EU that it can reach a policy even in the absence of unanimity. Straw’s statement, contrary to EU policy but perfectly within Britain’s right under the current treaties to have its own foreign policy, neatly restates the problem for dealing with the EU as a separate diplomatic actor right now.

The requirement of unanimity leads to a serious erosion of resolve in EU diplomacy toward third parties. The EU negotiates as much with itself to form policy as it does with others. The efforts of the EU-3—Great Britain, France and Germany—to counter presumed Iranian nuclear proliferation is particularly illustrative. The three operated as a subcommittee for both EU member states and Solana. The EU-3 mediated disagreements among themselves, which were common, in favor of the least difficult stance to sell to the rest of the members. Typically, Britain and France would be inclined to take a harder line than Germany, and the three would present a proposed stance to Solana. Solana would then either consult the heads of state or estimate their wishes himself, an exercise which invariably softened the proposed stance further.

The results were disastrous. The only progress their efforts produced was the advancement of the Iranian nuclear program. One still cannot say that the EU itself has any policy toward Iranian proliferation, other than general pronouncements of its undesirability. The State Department, aware of and greatly aggrieved by the stilted, hollow negotiation process, nevertheless had little choice but to acquiesce to the EU’s pleas for more time before taking action in the UN Security Council or other diplomatic measures.

Also, as shown with Iran, the drive for political union colors the EU’s own calculations of the prospects for success. Chancellor Merkel, greeting the results of the EU, effused, “It was what made this EU-3 approach so successful. They [Britain, France and Germany] stood together and they had one uniform position.” Charles Krauthammer grimly noted that this interpretation of events “makes you want to weep.” EU elites covet the clear diplomatic role for the EU that the constitution alone would have provided for the future, but their attempts to will such a role into existence in the constitution’s absence portend calamity for any that seek to deal with the EU today.

Granted, EU policy inertia can occasionally redound to the benefit of Western security interests, such as the inability of the EU to unanimously come to an agreement to lift its existing weapons embargo against China. But such benefits only accrue by chance. And hoping for good luck is no basis for a foreign policy. ...

The one EU organ that has been validated by treaty is the European Community, which handles matters concerning the single market, including trade with foreign nations. U.S. officials can, therefore, work with European Community officials within its clearly delineated authority, such as its ability to set conditions to access to European markets. The role of the European Community as a foreign policy tool should therefore be re-emphasized in regards to Iran and Hamas. In addition, the United States should encourage small groups of interested parties to form around certain issues, but, unlike the EU-3, should not be constrained by the will of EU elites or other nations.

The United States must be wary of ascribing powers to the EU that its member states have not consented to. Until the current constitutional crisis passes and the EU’s powers over foreign policy become more clearly enunciated, the United States should limit itself to working with the strongest and most legitimate institutions the nations of Europe can offer. A balanced approach towards diplomacy with the EU will facilitate future cooperation, no matter how “Europe’s” political union is ultimately determined.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Energy, Climate and the G-8

I attended the morning sessions of the U.S.-Europe-Japan Workshop being held at The Nixon Center, on the subject, "Energy Security and Climate Change at the G-8."

Because the event is run under Council/Chatham House rules, I'm going to just note some of the points raised rather than identify participants. But I did appreciate very much the candor in which the various participants talked, not about the abstract "what should be done" but addressed some of the real political and business issues.

Some points:

--there can be no real progress on solving both the energy and climate questions if the approach is for Europe, the U.S. and Japan to reduce consumption, increase efficiency and use alternatives but demand for traditional hydrocarbons, especially on the part of India and China, continues to accelerate [by the way, this is a point made by Senator Lugar as well in his article on Energy Realism in the forthcoming Summer issue of TNI];

--the problem is not one of "demonstrating" technologies; it is creating a regime by which technologies can be transferred and intellectual property rights respected; one of the participants relayed an anecdote from a recent meeting of the Asia Pacific Partnership, where a U.S. business representative maintained that there was no incentive to transfer proprietary technologies to China and India because they would be "stolen";

--no one expects the G-8 process to make a significant difference; the thrust of the Gleneagles summit last year toward alternate energy is being replaced by a focus in St. Petersburg on energy security defined as securing access to traditional hydrocarbon supplies--and at any rate each G-8 country is approaching the question differently; Japan, Germany, the U.S. and UK, for example, each have different priorities.

--the U.S. domestic political focus on the "price of gasoline" and giving relief to consumers prevents real progress on moving toward more efficient use of energy and move to alternates; if U.S. consumers were hit with the full shock, it might then galvanize the reaction needed to get the U.S. to be more aligned in its fuel consumption with Europe and Japan.

--Is the goal energy "independence" of each G-8 state or energy "interdependence" among the leading consumers and producers?


A useful discussion, because we all "know" what needs to be done but we have no real roadmap to get us from point a to point b. More of these conversations are needed--and politicians need to lead and not be driven by the polls.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hagel on Iran

In the forthcoming Summer 2006 issue of the magazine, Chuck Hagel talks with us about a number of foreign policy issues. He is often quoted in sound-byte formats as favoring direct talks with Iran, and I thought readers of TWR might be interested in his longer response on the issue:

" I believe that the United States should deal directly with Iran. We should be talking directly with Iran about the entire framework of issues, including the nuclear issue. I do not know of any other way to deal with these kinds of complex dangerous issues than to talk. What do we have to lose, and what are we afraid of? We are the greatest power on earth. We are not negotiating with them in order to be giving anything away to them. But by refusing to talk—this is what leads to real dangerous predicaments when you isolate countries, when you don’t talk to countries, and you somehow think that you’re accomplishing something.

"I think the world is far more dangerous today in the Middle East than it’s ever been. And I think part of that is because our policies have been wrong.

"At first, the Bush Administration tried to opt out of the Middle East. For the first two years of the Bush Administration, we took a hands-off approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue: “When you’re ready for peace, come talk to us.” This latest issue is now, “We may talk to Iran, but that will only be in the context of Iraq.” Well, that doesn’t make any sense to me. What’s the point? Who are we penalizing here? We’ve got a mess in Iraq, we’ve got a mess in the Middle East, we’ve got a mess with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we’ve got a very dangerous situation in Iran. So how do we think we’re going to get out of it, and how are we going to put this all back together in some positive track that is rational and responsible?

The Indians, the Pakistanis, the global community of nations, they all want some resolution to the Iranian issues—but they also want the United States to demonstrate leadership. Yes, the United Nations is a framework and a forum; the iaea will play a critical role. But the United States cannot stand on the sidelines and outsource to the Europeans and say “We’re all together on this.” I still think it is critical that the United States talk directly to Iran."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Graham Fuller and Superpower Fatigue

From the forthcoming Summer 2006 issue of The National Interest:

Has superpower fatigue set in? Clearly so, to judge by the administration’s own dwindling energy and its sober acknowledgment that changing the face of the world is a lot tougher than it had hoped. Of course, some degree of wear and tear is normal five years into any administration, regardless of policies. But fatigue emerges in direct proportion to the ambitiousness of the undertaking. From its early days, this administration adopted a strategic vision and peremptory posture whose implementation would prove exhausting under the best of circumstances. Administration documents and statements have regularly indicated that ”we are at the beginning” of “a long war” fought globally in well over one hundred countries, probably “lasting for decades”, until “victory over terrorism” is achieved. Even more, this is all ties in with “the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” The task is Sisyphean, the enemy generalized, the goals unclear, the scope open-ended.

The taxing character of U.S. foreign policy betrays signs of morphing into “imperial over-reach.” And there should be no doubt that we are talking about empire here, albeit in a new form. Neoconservatives embrace the term openly, while the ultra-nationalists, headed by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, do not disavow the concept. The extent of U.S. global reach—the overseas military installations and complex base-rights agreements that often dominate our relations with small nations, the peripatetic military-command representatives who overshadow ambassadors, a broad variety of active military presences, a worldwide intelligence and strike capability—are all well documented. The U.S. global “footprint”—a revealing word regularly employed by the Pentagon without irony—is massive and backed by the world’s most powerful military machine in history. While different in structure and intent than the British, French or even Roman imperial presence, current U.S. ambition for projection of power is sweeping. And pursuit of this goal generates ever newer challenges that quickly contribute to strategic fatigue.

Most empires ultimately founder on economic grounds. But the short-term economic cost of the administration’s policies, while high, has not yet become unbearable. Still, there are a number of longer-term indicators that do raise worries about American economic capacities on into this century: massive domestic debt, ever greater trade imbalance, the extraordinary and broadening gap in domestic wealth between rich and poor that has no parallel in other industrial nations, the growing outsourcing of jobs, and the rise of economic competitors who are hungry for a place in the sun. But it is the immediate political cost of the expansion of empire that is fatiguing, even before the economic cost fully bites in.


This exhaustion is perhaps most sapping at the domestic level. Americans are dying in meaningful numbers abroad; there is a lurking fear that the world is not safer, and maybe more dangerous because of Iraq; Americans prefer to be liked abroad and are uncomfortable with their isolation; U.S. international business is unhappy; and the budget is soaring out of sight, even if its costs haven’t yet touched the private pocketbook.

The intensified nationalist and neoconservative agenda within the administration, with its dramatic policy consequences, has greatly divided the nation. While the shock of 9/11 helped create a certain national “can-do” spirit of solidarity against foreign terrorists, that sentiment was rapidly depleted by Bush’s broader response to 9/11. The resultant ongoing bitter domestic divisions require administration foreign policy architects to drag along a large and hostile domestic minority even before dealing with an unsympathetic world as well.

Abroad, the administration now faces widespread international resistance. The honeymoon of the early post-9/11 days gave way to international reconsideration of the full implications of the Global War on Terror, particularly American doctrines of unilateralism and strategic pre-emption. In the last few years, diverse countries have deployed a multiplicity of strategies and tactics designed to weaken, divert, alter, complicate, limit, delay or block the Bush agenda through death by a thousand cuts. That opposition acts out of diverse motives, and sometimes narrowly parochial interests, but its unifying theme—usually unspoken—is resistance to nearly anything that serves to buttress a unipolar world.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Guest Column -- Robert Bruce Ware

How Bad Is Russia's Democracy?

Robert Bruce Ware

Russian democracy has come under sharp scrutiny from American leaders in the
run-up to the G-8 summit, hosted this summer in St. Petersburg by Russian
President Vladimir Putin. In a speech that he gave in Lithuania last week,
Vice President Cheney told Eastern European leaders that Russia had
"unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people" and had set a
political course that could undermine Russia's relations with other
countries. Even harsher assessments of Russian democracy have emerged from
across the American political spectrum, in reports issued separately by John
McCain, and by John Edwards with the Council on Foreign Relations. Rhetoric
has escalated on both sides, as McCain has urged President Bush to boycott
the summit, and Russian leaders have accused Cheney of reviving the Cold

Yet recent events suggest that the state of Russian democracy is more
nuanced than these assessments have allowed. For example, in Russia's
volatile North Caucasus region, the Kremlin has appointed some leaders who
are highly principled and genuinely popular. Because of the intense
factionalism of this region, some of these leaders could not have been
elected to office. Paradoxically, some of these Kremlin appointees have
greater popular support, greater capabilities, and greater chances for
success than their corrupt and ineffective predecessors, even though their
predecessors were "elected" to office.

Last February, for example, the Kremlin installed Mukhu Aliev as President
of Russia's southernmost Republic of Dagestan. Aliev, who holds a PhD in
philosophy, resides in a three-room apartment, and owns no automobile. Yet
he is a leader of exceptional integrity and experience, who has managed to
hold himself aloof from the factionalism and corruption that have
overwhelmed Dagestan's once vibrant, young democracy. For this reason he
enjoys broad popular support, estimated plausibly by one local leader in the
vicinity of 90 per cent. The irony is that Aliev was unelectable precisely
because he had refused to join with any factions and had chosen to remain
innocently impoverished. As Dagestani politics grew increasingly corrupt,
Aliev was in danger of being marginalized. The Kremlin's appointment of
Aliev ensured the popular support and legitimacy that no election could have

At the beginning of September 2004, the nearby Republic of North Ossetia was
thrown into political crisis by the hostage atrocity that left more than 330
dead in a school in the town of Beslan. The crisis underscored the
fecklessness of Alexander Dzasokhov's regime. Under pressure from the
Ossetian public, as well as from the Kremlin, Dzasokhov resigned in 2005.
As his replacement, the Kremlin appointed ??imuraz ??msurov, the 51-
year-old speaker of the North Ossetian legislature. In contrast to
Dzasokhov, Mamsurov gained stature, during the Beslan crisis, when he
declined an opportunity for the release of his two children from the
besieged school, saying that he would never be able to look his neighbors in
the eye. Like Aliev in Dagestan, Mamsurov is a principled and popular
leader. As in Dagestan, the Kremlin served the interests of most local
people when it replaced an elected leader with an appointee.

Other Kremlin appointments in the region have been less auspicious. The
worst occurred in the Ingushetia in 2002 when the Moscow forced the
resignation of the popular and effective President Ruslan Aushev. In his
place the Kremlin installed Murat Zyazikov, who had made his career in the
federal security service. Without a local political base, Zyazikov relied
on the security services to combat Islamist extremism. The result was
escalating police brutality that only served the cause of radicalism.

In Kabardino-Balkaria in 2005 the Kremlin appointed Arsen Kanokov, a Moscow
billionaire who has never held any job in his ethnic republic, apart from
the presidency. In Chechnya, in 2004, the Kremlin allowed the fraudulent
election of Alu Alkhanov. Despite this inauspicious start, Alkhanov is a
widely-respected leader, with a reputation for integrity and courage. He
has the support of the vast majority of Chechens, who credit him with
progress toward stability and economic recovery. At the same time, Moscow
has also tolerated Chechnya's Prime Minister, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose private
militia operates brutally beyond Alkhanov's control. Yet in recent weeks
there have been indications that Moscow may be ready to reign in Kadyrov,
and throw stronger support to Alkhanov.

While the record of Kremlin appointments in the North Caucasus has been
mixed, it has sometimes provided genuine administrative improvements.
Moreover, there are signs that the Kremlin is learning. Moscow not only
picked the best man for the job in Dagestan, but it did so with finesse that
impressed people in the republic. If appointments like this are seen by
local populations as serving their own best interests, then they cannot be
hastily dismissed as anti-democratic. American leaders have a history of
unrealistic assessments of Russia. Political rhetoric that plays well in
America may not serve the interests of democracy in Russia.

Robert Bruce Ware is a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardville
who studies the North Caucasus.

Democrat Dilemmas

President Bush has approval ratings in the low 30s--there is a rising sense of frustration with the Republican-controlled Congress--and Democrats are poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Democrats still have not solved their foreign policy chasm, and as a result they cannot forge an effective campaign for the 2006 midterms. No Gingrichesque figure has emerged to distill a new agreement with America.

The problem? A Democratic foreign policy establishment in DC where many agreed with the decision to go to war in Iraq and have critiqued the management, rather than the underlying assumptions, about the war; a Democratic activist base that is anti-war (or of the opinion that Darfur rather than Iraq is where U.S. forces ought to be deployed); and a country which in mood seems more receptive to the pragmatic realism of a Senator Hagel or an ethical realism being described by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman.

How the Lamont-Lieberman race will play out at the Connecticut Democratic party convention and how these rifts can be patched up will illuminate how the party plans to do this on the national level.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Monday morning wrap-up

Thanks first to David Billington and the two "anonymous" posters who have had a very interesting and quite illuminating debate about the role of U.S. power in a changing and evolving international system. I might add that on the point about religion and politics, you might find of interest Ambassador Ellsworth's thoughts on the subject, which will be one of the review essays in the Summer 2006 issue of TNI.

Thanks also to all posters on the most recent entry, particularly about the interrelationship of democracy, foreign policy and positive demographic trends. Some of this reminds me of the arguments that will be unveiled in Ian Bremmer's forthcoming book The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall, which I highly recommend.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Analysis, Not Ethnicity

Given some of the reactions to my recent Los Angeles Times op-ed (see below) and other comments I've made about Russia, Eurasia and the U.S. role, I request consideration under the Josef Joffe standard, as outlined in his recent New Republic essay: "I certainly would want to be opposed on the basis of my analysis, and not of my presumed ethnic loyalties."

Separating Democracy from Foreign Policy

The Los Angeles Times published my op-ed today, where I develop the theme discussed earlier this week--that promoting greater liberal-democracy in Russia and getting Russian and U.S. foreign policy objectives to harmonize are two separate and unrelated goals.

An excerpt here:

And would a more democratic Russia be more amenable to U.S. interests? Opinion polls suggest that more than 60% of Russians see the United States as having a negative influence in the world; more than half believe that the U.S. is unfriendly to Russia. And although many Americans comfort themselves with the illusion that these figures must be weighted in favor of the elderly with Cold War hang-ups, the reality is that it is the young, college-educated elites in Moscow and St. Petersburg — Russia's wealthiest and most liberal cities — who are the bastion of anti-U.S. sentiment in the country.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cheney set the table, Putin sat down for dinner

If only the vice president had returned to Washington after giving the Vilnius speech (see earlier TWR commentary on this matter).

But he then traveled to Kazakhstan, a country whose system of managed pluralism/managed democracy/authoritarianism is more pronounced that Russia's. And the Vilnius principles were replaced by much more pragmatic concerns.

Putin had this to see in his State of the Federation speech today: "Where is all this pathos about protecting human rights and democracy when it comes to the need to pursue their own interests? Here, it seems, everything is allowed, there are no restrictions whatsoever."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More on Mercenaries

Thanks to Matthew Yglesias over at TPM for talking about my "out of the box" ideas on humanitarian interventions, as well as to The Postmodern Conservative for his thoughts and comments.

What was so interesting about the reaction to the Sudan/Darfur peace deal was how quickly statesmen wanted to proclaim "problem solved" and avoid the question of further deployments beyond monitors and AU peacekeepers.

But the questions are still on the table.

I think that the criticisms made that having a world where private groups can conduct "humanitarian operations" of choice without reference to the international system are quite valid; concerns about the track records of specific PMCs are also important to keep in mind. But what I found frustrated in some of the critiques is an unwillingness to acknowledge the "democracy paradox" at all--that in democratic states with volunteer militaries it is usually very difficult to muster popular support for "wars of choice" if direct national interests aren't involved, and the "shame" approach--very much on display in the recent issue of The New Republic--has a limited trajectory. And the second frustration--those who still hold out, a la the Simpsons, for the line, "can't someone else do it"--the faceless military personnel of this or another country.

Sour Grapes

Yes, this is a case of sour grapes ... Peter Carlson's magazine column in today's Washington Post notes that in the forthcoming issue of Foreign Policy, General William Odom talks about leaving Iraq:

"Invading Iraq was not in the interests of the United States," Odom writes. "It was in the interests of Iran and al Qaeda."

Kudos to the brave editors for publishing such heresy.

Of course, Odom first made this case--in the summer 2004 issue of The National Interest. Back then, it wasn't quite the popular position to take. Of course, in summer 2006--this is now much more of a "mainstream" position.

Odom, of course, has displayed remarkable consistency on this issue. No "mea culpas" three years after the fact.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Democracy and Foreign Policy

One of the new heresies in Washington is to suggest that that a country's internal political developments (degree of democracy) and its external policies (degree of alignment with the United States) are not always going to be in sync. In other words, that the more a country becomes democratic, the more friendly it becomes to the United States.

That is true in some circumstances and under the right set of conditions. For a country like Poland, with a menacing neighbor to its east, the pattern has been that greater democratization in Poland over the last 15 years has led to an alignment with the United States.

It is not true for other states. A more democratic Pakistan, for example, would not be as close of an ally in the war on terror.

This belief is now being used as the basis for U.S. policy toward Russia as well.

There is a clear authoritarian trend in Russia. Whether a less authoritarian Russia, however, would be more supportive of the U.S. on Iran and other issues, is highly questionable. The U.S. may be concerned about shrinking pluralism, transparency and competition in Russia for very valid reasons--but I think it is a real stretch to argue that if Mikhail Khodorkovsky were to be released and all charges dropped against him, or a BBC-style charter of governance created for State Channel 1, that this in and of itself would produce a closer U.S.-Russia alignment.

Certainly, if opinion polls are any guide, a more responsive Russian government would have no incentive to move closer to U.S. positions. And unless the U.S. were to offer some very lucrative economic concessions, it is difficult to see why Russia would want to change its economic behavior to suit our preferences.

So the argument that promoting more pluralism in Russia advances the U.S. foreign policy agenda--that is not clear. We have good incentives for a more pluralistic Russia--among them greater transparency in decision-making--but in terms of getting support for matters like Iran we will have to appeal to Russian interests--and that is a separate matter.

(My thoughts on the vice-president's speech in Vilnius can be found at National Review.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Democracy Paradox--the Domestic Variant

I appreciate the comments and discussions that the last two posts of TWR have generated.

All of this points to one version of the democracy paradox: what happens when the citizens of a democracy don't want to engage in democracy promotion abroad, or, more generally, humanitarian interventions beyond very minimal engagements (e.g. sending food aid).

Geoff Thale's op-ed on PMCs--specifically, recruiting of Latin American citizens to serve as U.S. contractors in Iraq--in the Miami Herald (January 29, 2005) raised the following question, something that the Princeton Project's conference on PMCs also debated:

"U.S. military and government officials are attempting to avoid paying the political cost in the United States of the war in Iraq by hiring poor Latin Americans to do part of the fighting and the dying in place of U.S. citizens. Whether one supports or opposes the U.S. war in Iraq, one can agree that it is the U.S. military that ought to bear the burden of fighting a war that the United States initiated. Allies may join in and send their own troops in support if they so choose. But U.S. contractors working for the Pentagon shouldn't be recruiting civilians in Latin America to bear the burden of carrying out a U.S. military mission. ...
When a U.S. soldier is wounded or killed in combat, his or her family, neighbors and community feel the weight of the war and ask themselves, Is it worth it? In a democracy such as the United States, it is important for citizens to share the burden related to military action abroad, feel the impact and make the judgment about whether it's worthwhile."

The Sudan imbroglio demonstrates that at present, while most Americans would say it is a tragedy, and call it genocide, they haven't answered Thales questions regarding whether to assume to burden, feel the impact and make the judgment about whether it is worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Emotional Response or Crafting Policy?

The last comment posted to yesterday's discussion on Sudan sums it all up: the anonymous poster, like Senator Biden in 2004, argues that, if not for the baneful influence of the "realists", who somehow have a mystical lock on policy formulation, American power would be unfettered to do good in the world. And simply by raising hard and inconvenient questions, we must be supporters of dictators and tyrants.

If the central government and the western rebel/secessionist movements cannot reach a sustainable peace agreement, then, as I see it, these are our varying options. In taking one or more options off the table, I think advocates are under the obligation to demonstrate why the remaining options are more viable or more likely.

1. Do nothing. Let the death and destruction continue, even potentially destabilize neighboring states, but otherwise containable to central Africa. (More or less what we've been doing to date)

1a. Public relations campaign. Passing of resolutions, fiery speeches, etc. and half-hearted attempts at sanctions and divestment but no further action.

2. "Offshore" balancing by increasing the capabilities of the rebel movements to protect civilians and withstand government forces. Avoids direct U.S. involvement, but also little ability to control what groups would do with weapons, equipment and intelligence and also no guarantees that Khartoum will not up the ante by buying more and better weapons.

3. Aid the African Union efforts. Again, avoiding direct U.S. involvement, but the question has to be firmly and directly answered: why are African forces which have been largely ineffective or problematic in other African peace-keeping efforts going to be so qualitatively better in Darfur, unless African Union forces are backed up by Western forces (private or public) on the ground? How do we avoid Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc.

4. UN force comprised of non-U.S./non-European soldiers. See question 3. Are Pakistani forces, for example, prepared for major combat operations if Khartoum raises the ante?

4a. Some mix of UN forces and PMCs (not wild-eyed Wild Geese mercenaries but retired professionals) to augment African Union forces, with a clear command and control mandate.

5. U.S./NATO force. Is it possible to get real sustained support from Western publics for a deployment, not the emotional CNN response of "doing something" that turns into "get the hell out" when casualties occur? Will a U.S./NATO force be prepared to use force and take casualties to prevent ethnic cleasning and violence, something that didn't happen in Kosovo in 2004?

The Sudan/Darfur crisis demonstrates that the hopes in the immediate post-Cold War world that nation-states would be prepared to take the burden of a "duty to protect" is more a dream then a reality. Is a way forward, perhaps, to return to the medieval concept of the knights-hospitaller, of having autonomous, sovereign military orders prepared to intervene if given authorization, a kind of 21st century Knights of Malta?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Darfur Rally

Yesterday was the main rally in Washington to urge the government to "do more" about Darfur. As the AP report noted, Thousands of people joined celebrities and lawmakers at a rally Sunday urging the Bush administration and Congress to help end genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. "Not on our watch!" the crowd chanted as a parade of speakers lined up for their turn on a stage on the National Mall, the Capitol serving as a backdrop.

The Darfur rally, to me, epitomized what's wrong with the American foreign policy discourse, what Harvey Sicherman calls the "hustle"--the belief in short-term, low-cost, easy solutions.

What we heard at the rally:

1. Talk about action is just as good as action. Consciousness-raising and protesting equals social responsibility. (It was also interesting that some of the coverage of the rally focused more on the participants, stressing the cross-religious, cross-ethnic, cross-political nature of the crowd, rather than on the issue of Darfur itself.)

2. "Someone else can do it." The African Union can handle the situation. (Let's just ignore the less than stunning peacekeeping successes in West Africa.) What we need is a "broad-based international force." (Code for: this means no U.S. forces). China is the problem.

I don't mean to minimize the human suffering and tremendous loss of life. But celebrities and politicians pontificating doesn't do much either. What leadership on the Darfur issue REALLY demands is the following:

1. Stopping the killing and strife requires a U.S. commitment--it requires U.S. logistics, equipment and trained personnel in sufficient numbers to be effective. It cannot be "subcontracted" out to ill-trained unmotivated conscripts from Third World militaries. Air power does not have much impact. The one feasible alternative is the one most pontificators refuse to countenance--private military contractors and mercenaries.

2. You want China to back us on Darfur--we have to be prepared to give China real commitments on its energy supply. I didn't hear any speech that said, "Paying $5 at the pump is a small price to pay for stopping genocide."

3. It is going to be complicated. To stop the killing any force has to insert itself into the situation. The force will have to navigate between defending a civilian population and "not intervening" in the political question of separatism. (The other alternative is simply to support, a la Kosovo, the separation of Darfur from Sudan).

Here the U.S. track record is not encouraging. 17,000 NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo can't quell pogroms and violence when they erupt. Peacekeepers in Bosnia from 1992-95 were also pretty ineffective (remember Srebenica?), unless forces on the ground are prepared to get down and dirty. They usually aren't.

The Darfur rally follows the Somalia script: shame the country into action. The problem is that shame is a very short term motivator.

Leadership would require American politicians to tell the truth, to make clear the costs and risks and to lay out the reasons for going. I am no White House speechwriter, but I think it would have to go something like this:

"My fellow Americans. Today I have ordered the mobilization of an American Expeditionary Force to Darfur. We have informed the government of Sudan that it can peacefully permit the deployment of U.S. forces in the region to end the cycle of violence and destruction or face the forcible intervention of the U.S. military. We have notified the various rebel groups in the west that they can peacefully stand down or run the risk of being targeted by U.S. forces.

"I have called president Hu Jintao to inform him that the United States will guarantee the equivalent of China's imports of oil from Sudan, from our own reserves if necessary, and requested that China fully support this humanitarian intervention.

"Many Americans have often lamented that we did not do more during the Holocaust, or the slaughter in Rwanda a decade ago. This is our chance to act. In ordering this intervention, I am very aware that America's sons and daughters are at risk. There are also real costs to pay, including the possibility of higher prices at the gasoline pump. We must be prepared to make sacrifices in order to guarantee the famed "Four Freedoms" to all people on this earth.

"In order to continue our operations in Iraq, in order to maintain a credible threat of military action against the mullahs in Iran and the dictator of North Korea, and in order to have sufficient forces for humanitarian action, I am asking Congress for the authority to call into service America's young. I am pleased to announce the creation of a new branch of service to begin training young Americans to serve in conflict-zone reconstruction forces, for those many young American men and women who have asked for the opportunity to serve and to be involved."

In an election year--such sentiments are highly unlikely.

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