Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ties that Bind--Or Not

Is a change in rhetoric (or a change in personnel) sufficient in re-focusing
trans-Atlantic relations? This was one of the themes discussed at a forum on
the future of U.S. policy held at Chatham House with speakers from both The
National Interest and The Nixon Center, in advance of the trans-Atlantic
editors' roundtable.

Some of the points our British (and larger European) audience wanted us to
ensure are being heard in Washington:

--the next British prime minister (Gordon Brown) and even his possible Tory
successor (David Cameron) will, of necessity, have to distance themselves from
Tony Blair's tight embrace of the Bush Administration. In particular, any
British leader will be under renewed pressure to show tangible benefits
Britain receives from the "special relationship", as the perception is growing
here that Blair, in return for his solid support for the United States in
going into Iraq, received no real support from Washington for issues that
mattered on his agenda (peace process, Africa, and climate change). That Latin
phrase so often dreaded in Washington circles, especially those that maintain
that all democracies share common interests, reared its ugly head: quid pro

--Don't deliberately misinterpret Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. Both are
pro-American, but from a European perspective. Their first priority will be to
re-invigorate the Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU (with some
collateral concerns about whether London will be marginalized in that
process). They do envision Europe as a partner of the United States and share
a number of Washington's concerns (including about disturbing trends in both
domestic and foreign policy in Russia). But the operative word here is
partner. They will have their own perspectives on policy and priorities and
they will expect to work with Washington, not simply follow an American
agenda. "Quid pro quo" was not mentioned explicitly in this context but the
message was that Washington would still need to not simply inform and consult
but actually negotiate if it wanted to forge a true and enduring trans-
Atlantic policy.

--Don't minimize the climate change issue. Could climate change be the next
decade's "Iraq" which divides the Atlantic alliance, or at least produces deep
fissures within it? This was a clear concern--and Democrats should not assume
that rhetorical flourishes alone are sufficient, as House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi's comments while in Germany were described by members of the audience
as vague and unclear. Others noted that whenever there is a clash between
domestic and foreign policy priorities in U.S. policy, domestic ones win out,
arguing that climate change will become a major irritant in trans-Atlantic

Let me conclude by saying the overall mood was cautious. There is a desire for
improved relations and for the United States to continue its leadership role,
but concern that the extended 2008 presidential campaign will prevent
candidates from articulating an effective vision for the future of trans-
Atlantic relations (beyond comforting banalities), and that too many in
Washington are still looking "back" to a pre-2002 situation rather than taking
into account changes in both Europe and the global environment. But hope
springs eternal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Convergence or Divergence (and Zoellick too)

I overheard two British officials today discussing a number of hot-button
issues (such as the final status of Kosovo and UN reform). One theme of their
conversation was the extent to which they felt the European states needed to
present positions that, even if they were in large agreement with Washington,
could still be distinguishable from the stated preferences of the United
States, so as to not be seen as blindly following or supporting a "made in the
U.S.A." initiative.

This raises the question about how the nomination of Robert Zoellick to be the
next head of the World Bank--and he was described by the president as a
committed "internationalist"--will play here in Europe. My assumption is that
it will be welcomed but that there will also be an expectation of greater
consultation and coordination with the other major donors.

The conversation also brings up a point that was often mentioned during my
visit to Serbia--whether or not the United States should assume that the
Europeans would automatically endorse a U.S. unilateral recognition of Kosovo
should the Security Council not pass a resolution based on the Ahtisaari plan.
I don't know how representative the sentiments expressed above are, but it does
provide some prima facie evidence that the EU would not automatically endorse
Washington's position and might in turn seek to put forward a distinct

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Humanitarian Internationalism?

Greetings to readers of TWR, I am currently on my way to London for the trans-Atlantic editors' roundtable (after my sojourn in the Balkans last week).

I just wanted to call your attention to the Bush Administration's decision to impose new sanctions on Sudan, as well as calls for a unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence should the Security Council fail to act.

Is the groundwork being laid for a new effort to bypass the United Nations, but in a way that might appeal to some Europeans as well, among them France's new foreign minister Kouchner? I'll try to take the pulse at this gathering in Britain.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Balkan Odyssey--Part III: Serbian Challenges

The week before I arrived, Serbia finally formed a government based on its recent election results that holds a mandate to govern for the next four years. As such, it should be able to concentrate on moving the agenda forward, rather than "just surviving."

Serbia needs to define its national interest; one person said we need a magazine like yours here to spark a conversation. Serbia has to define itself as being something other than "former Yugoslavia" or as one part of the now dissolved "State Union" with Montenegro. For the first time since World War I, we again have "just Serbia." This reality and the reality of a new government holding a mandate to govern gives Serbia a fresh, new start, to break with the past where such a break is warranted.

I'll try to report more on this conversation as it unfolds.

My Balkan Odyssey, Part II--A New Brand for the Balkans

An interesting conversation I had here in Belgrade was over "rebranding" the Balkans. Right now, the word is a loaded term, conveying images of violence, backwardness, and so on. In contrast, other regional designations--Scandinavia, Iberia, the Low Countries--generally have either neutral or quite positive designations.

One way forward is for Balkan countries--and this includes not only "former Yugoslavia", and Albania but also Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and even Austria, to some extent--to begin thinking of their interests in regional terms. Easier said than done, sure. But a certain degree of economic integration (and one notes that Greece has certainly taken steps in directing its investment and trade strategies) would help. Pooling capabilities that would be too expensive or too difficult for any one country to maintain is another--in the way that the Baltic States have been able to do in a variety of ways (such as air defense) without any compromise to their territorial integrity as separate states.

Another component, of course, is for countries in the Balkans to overcome their own prejudices and to stop trying to find outside powers who they believe can overturn the realities of geography and history. In the end, Serbia will never be closer to Russia and Croatia closer to Germany than Serbia and Croatia should be with each other, as neighbors (and it should go without saying that the U.S. is in no position to lift any state out of its region).

I happen to think that Yugoslavia was not as artificial of a creation as many now proclaim. There was a certain logic to at least some of those arrangements. Sure, maybe by 2015 all these states will either be in or on the doorstep of the EU--but reknitting together some of the ties that defined the old Yugoslavia--particularly some of the economics ones and the ones based on shared assets--should be encouraged to be revived.

My Balkan Odyssey: Part I--Mixed Messages

I am currently in Belgrade, Serbia, and then will be heading up to the hamlet of Palic to take part in the 2007 seminar of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, which this year deals with the questions of stability, security and regional cooperation among the countries of the Balkans.

I have had a chance to meet with a number of people--officials, experts, members of the media--and wanted to give readers of TWR some initial impressions. (My conversation with Vuk Jeremic, the foreign minister of Serbia, should also be available shortly at National Interest online). Let me stress that the following are a distillation of attitudes, opinions and comments expressed to me.

As one might expect, there is frustration at the perceived inability of the United States to listen or take Serbian concerns seriously. It is often combined with a fear that the United States does not see things through--and that no matter how the Kosovo matter is resolved, there is going to be a need for continued engagement and involvement--but many here feel Washington is preparing to "cut and run" from the region under a "mission accomplished" banner.

There is also bewilderment at the messages received from the United States but particularly its media and "expert-analytic" community. Many are puzzled why there is this continuous attempt to depict Serbia as being in Russia's camp or somehow working hand in glove with the Kremlin. For one thing, even a cursory perusal of the data shows that Serbia's destiny lies with the West. The top countries generating foreign investment in Serbia over the last several years have been, in order of total investments made, Holland, Austria, Germany, Greece, Slovenia and Great Britain. Even U.S. investors have, in toto, a larger stake in the Serbian economy than the Russians. For the most part, Serbs seem to see their future as lying in completing the processes undergone by other neigbhors--membership in both NATO and the European Union.

This doesn't mean that one does not find signs of Russophilia and that there are no ties at all between Belgrade and Moscow. Support on the Kosovo issue is also appreciated. And I doubt that Serbia would ever openly endorse some of the positions taken by, say Poland. But Serbia clearly prefers to be the "east of the West". And, at any rate, existing NATO allies (and EU members) like Greece or Hungary have much closer ties to Russia than Serbia does (not to mention major states like Italy or Germany). Some here have wondered to me whether this constant emergence of "Serbia's Russophilia" in the U.S. conversations about the region reflects ignorance, sloppy analysis, or is being used as a way to make support for independence for Kosovo seem to be a U.S. national security priority, to gain an "ally" and to weaken an "adversary." And this does raise a question, for the U.S. side, about how it sees Serbia. My colleague John Hulsman has observed that Serbia remains the "central country" of the Western Balkans, the keystone state. But does Washington really believe that? The countries of the region paid a high price in order to isolate Serbia in the 1990s; and that doesn't seem to be a realistic option for the future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How We Failed the Lebanese State

I appeared last night on TV Ontario's "The Agenda with Steve Paikin" to discuss the future of the state. The news "hook" was a report that the militant--non-state actors--fighting the Lebanese Army in the north are better equipped than the country's official army. The shorthand definition of what constitutes a state is its ability to maintain a monopoly of force within its borders--so the question was raised, are we seeing the end of the state system, or at least new challenges where non-state actors can challenge the prerogatives of the state?

It was an interesting discussion and I would encourage you to go to the Agenda's site and listen to it.

But one point from last night that I wanted to further develop right now. I said that Lebanon right now has the worst of all worlds. Prior to 2004 (and after 1990), Lebanon was a partly unsovereign state, with Syria exercising a de facto protectorate. This was resented by many Lebanese, it was galling to the West, but it did help keep factions in line and because Israel made it clear it would hold Syria responsible for what happened in Lebanon, it acted as a check to prevent harrassment against northern Israel from getting out of hand. We (the West) were able to remove most of the Syrian presence--but we didn't do much to build up the capabilities of the Lebanese state nor were we willing to commit the blood and treasure needed to make Lebanon truly sovereign again. And the war last summer showed that the Lebanese government neither could fully control its territory but also that it would not be given absolution for failing to control militant elements.

Say all the negative things you want about the post-1815 Congress of Vienna system--including its reactionary nature--but one thing they got right was that states had an interest in making sure neighboring states could function at a minimum level of operation. The Russian Empire sent a flotilla to Istanbul in the 1840s not to capture Constantinople but to help the Sultan maintain control over Anatolia for fear that continued instability would trigger a wider conflict in the Near East.

In Lebanon, we could have tolerated the Syrian role; or we could have done everything it takes to make the government truly sovereign. Instead, we decided that rhetoric trumped reality.

The state system is going to be around for the foreseeable future. So either we want to make states function--a variation of Amitai Etzioni's "Security First" principle--or we want to midwife the emergence of new states that can function (e.g. do we want to dispense with trying to hold together "Somalia" or pave the way for recognizing Somaliland in the north)--or we bring back some version of the old trusteeship program--which means the major powers have to pony up the resources.

Lebanon has been asking for help. Don't think they are going to get what they need.

Monday, May 21, 2007

NATO: Burden-Sharing or Burdensome?

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is at the Crawford ranch meeting with the president.

I have to say, reading the initial press accounts, it is not a particularly heartening conversation. This goes back to an earlier complaint of mine about NATO's seeming inability to mount overwhelming force and numbers.

Are we going to continue to expand the alliance so that we can can have, on net, 500 troops from each country as their "admission" to the game? If NATO truly were based on burden-sharing, shouldn't we have far more troops in Afghanistan than the small force currently present? Shouldn't the average be 2000 or 4000 troops per member, rather than it being a US-Canada-British mission with small "other" contingents?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Yet More on Debates

Debate is a continuing theme this week. Dimitri Simes commented on the lack of it among the U.S. political establishment with regard to foreign policy in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune. Then, with an appropriate hat tip to the readers of TWR, I read the report over at The Washington Note on how the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party wants to exclude Congressman Ron Paul from the debate of likely presidential hopefuls because of his views on domestic but even more his positions on foreign policy.

That would be a mistake. Republicans do need a vigorous debate on how and why an earthshaking shift has taken place in their perceptions of foreign policy. I asked a senior member of the Republican foreign policy establishment recently how exactly the position had shifted—I had noted, in my review of Nixon and Mao for the May 21, 2007 issue of The American Conservative, that “As late as 1985, Irving Kristol could declare in the first issue of The National Interest that the task of American foreign policy was not to make the world ‘safe for democracy’ but to create conditions ‘so that the nations of the world can have the opportunity to realize whatever potential for popular government and economic prosperity they may possess or come to possess.’”

In the past, the United States could forge together under the rubric of “the Free world” a hodge-podge of regimes—free-market democracies, socialist democracies, monarchies, and various types of authoritarian governments—but all sharing a common purpose. We used to think of democracy promotion as creating conditions for democracy to evolve in other societies rather than something to be exported and imposed. And as our beliefs have changed, though, so have the challenges to our ability to exercise leadership. Now, of course, Washington is finding it much harder to construct and maintain an overarching coalition in the Middle East (as well as other parts of the world). And do we think that the continued existence of monarchies, theocracies and even dictatorships elsewhere in the world de-legitimizes our own republican form of governance?

I would think we should be debating these questions much more than we are.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Part II: Promoting Democracy?

Paul Saunder’s essay, “Learning to Appreciate France”, which appeared in the March/April 2007 issue of The National Interest, led to a number of comments that we will feature in the forthcoming issue.

Tom Carothers comes straight out of the gate with the assertion that "the notion that democracy promotion plays a dominant role in Bush policy is a myth." He goes on to note "The Bush push for democracy in the rest of the Arab world is halfhearted at best, and already receding." He concludes:

"The notion that the universal pursuit of freedom constitutes George Bush’s global compass is an enormous illusion. Of course there is some pro-democracy substance in Bush foreign policy beyond the partial push for democracy in the Middle East. The administration has exerted pressure for democratic change on several authoritarian regimes, using the bully pulpit, economic sanctions, and democracy aid. Such pressure has been directed at various governments, including those of Belarus, Burma, and Cuba, toward which the United States has no countervailing economic or security fish to fry. In several other cases the administration has exerted pressure on governments it views as security threats, such as those of Iran, North Korea, and Syria. In such cases, however, whatever pro-democracy interest lies behind such pressures is derivative of a security-driven regime change instinct."

Andrew Bacevich (and our condolences on the loss of his son in Iraq), Robert Merry, Amitai Etzioni and Wayne Merry also contribute to this discussion as well.

Two Debates: Part I: Rest without the West

First, my apologies to readers of TWR for the delays in posting. We are once again in that magical season of the final push of putting together yet another issue of The National Interest. And in the following two weeks, I will be on the road again--to the Balkans and then to Britain.

But I wanted to call your attention to two debates in the forthcoming issue.

The first is whether or not a new global paradigm is developing--one which is based neither on alignment with or opposition to the United States but instead on ignoring America, routing around us. UC Berkeley's Naazneen Barma, Ely Ratner and Steven Weber argue:

"By preferentially deepening their own ties amongst themselves, and in so doing, loosening relatively the ties that bind them to international systems centered in the West, rising powers are building an alternative system of international politics whose endpoint is neither conflict nor assimilation with the West. It is to make the West, and American power in particular, increasingly irrelevant.

"What is emerging is a “World Without the West.” This world rests on a rapid deepening of interconnectivity within the developing world—in flows of goods, money, people and ideas—that is surprisingly autonomous from Western control, resulting in the development of a new, parallel international system, with its own distinctive set of rules, institutions, and currencies of power."

One of the things they point to is that "Though global trade has been increasing as a whole, the twenty largest and wealthiest countries in the developing world are, as a whole, preferentially trading with the rising powers that lead the pack—China, India, Russia and Brazil. And the rate at which they are doing so is rising every year. The critical fact here is that this deepening of interconnectivity in the World Without the West is well in excess of what standard economic models of trade (the gravity model) would predict."

They also argue that a neo-Westphalian system is in the works: "The bargain here is simple and straightforward: Sovereign states are empowered to set the terms of the relationship inside their borders between the government and the governed. They then deal with each other externally in a market setting and recognize no real rights or obligations other than to fulfill agreed contracts. International institutions have no legitimate business other than to serve and facilitate these ends."

So, is this the shape of the world to come?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pay Attention to What Sarkozy Says (and Cameron too)

Reading through some of the comments on Sarkozy's election, you'd get the impression that France has elected an AEI fellow to office. Yes, Nicolas Sarkozy is pro-American--but in a European context.

This is the man who after all said "This does not mean that I seek to wipe the table clean: On many points, Jacques Chirac’s record in the area was exemplary."

And this is what he said about the alliance with the United States:

"The friendship between Europe and the United States is a cornerstone of world stability, period. It is deep, sincere and unshakeable. But friendship means being with your friends when they need you and also being able to tell them the truth when they are wrong. Friendship means respect, understanding and affection . . . but not submission. Friendship is only real when it is honest and independent. I want an independent France and an independent Europe, and I call for our American friends to let us be free; free to be their friends."

Not exactly a blank check.

And John Hulsman's analysis (in today's National Interest online and expanded further in a future issue of TNI) shows why any British leader who follows Tony Blair will have a different approach:

"it is hard to imagine a greater casualty of the Iraq War than the comfortable British model of how to deal with what novelist John le Carré has somewhat ambiguously termed "the cousins." The prime minister, in boldly strategically supporting President Bush in Iraq, not just diplomatically but also in terms of actual boots on the ground, was the only major ally to significantly join America in participating in the Iraq War. Tony Blair, the most gifted British politician of his age, has been destroyed over his following standard British practices in dealing with the Americans. His demise will be a cautionary tale for all British politicians for the foreseeable future; in fact, today one can scarcely meet any of them without the topic coming up in hushed tones."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Kosovo Connection?

How should we react to the news that four of the plotters identified as “Islamic militants” who were preparing a terrorist attack on Fort Dix, New Jersey, were ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, three from a town on the Macedonian-Kosovo border and one who had served as a sharpshooter in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in its clashes with Serbian security forces during the 1990s?

Fearing the burst of negative publicity (even more so because Fort Dix housed ethnic Albanian refugees displaced as a result of the fighting from the 1999 U.S.-led NATO intervention over Kosovo), proponents of immediate independence for the province have been quick to stress the strong pro-American sentiments of the vast majority of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia. Some in the region, in a time honored tradition throughout the greater Middle East, have even questioned whether those accused had anything to do with the plot at all; one cousin of the three brothers who are now imprisoned on terrorism charges declared, "These are simple, ordinary people and they've got nothing to do with terrorism. I expect their release and I expect an apology."

The question before us is not whether or not most Kosovar Albanians are radical Islamists who hate the United States; the overwhelming number are not. And the presence of a Jordanian and a Turk in this cell is testimony to the fact that even when a country is a close ally of the United States, such sentiments may not be shared by every single member of the national community.

But we should not go from one extreme to another and blithely assume that there is no threat. Ever since the Yugoslav wars began, Al-Qaeda and other radical organizations have worked to gain and develop footholds in the Balkans and among the expatriate populations. In spring 2005 the acting head of Bulgarian intelligence, Kircho Kirov, warned that Kosovo would become a “direct source of regional instability and a hub for international terrorism” if concerted action was not taken to address the issue.

And this is why the whole argument of “standards before status” matters. A government unwilling to crack down on organized crime or tackle local warlords and Mafiosi is also not going to take vigorous action with regard to terrorism. Back in summer 2002 Ray Takeyh and I noted :

the continuing conditions in Bosnia, Albania, and Kosovo have created ripe conditions for human trafficking, arms smuggling, and narcotics distribution—all areas in which bin Laden reputedly has been a “silent investor” …

The international community has poured material, resources and personnel into Kosovo and the province has been de facto separated from Serbia since 1999. Yet, as Freedom House reported:
Kosovo lacks a functioning criminal justice system. A report by Karl Eide, special envoy of the UN secretary-general, submitted to the UN Security Council in June 2005, noted that the justice system is the weakest of Kosovo's institutions. Both Kosovo's Supreme Court and local courts have been subject to political influence and intimidation. Ethnic Albanian judges are generally unwilling to prosecute cases involving Albanian attacks on non-Albanians, and the physical safety of non-Albanian judges brought into Kosovo to try cases is difficult to guarantee. Criminal suspects who have been arrested under the UN special representative's power to order executive detentions are frequently released on the orders of local judges. The Eide report noted that in Kosovo "property rights are neither respected nor ensured." … Trafficking is a major problem in Kosovo, which serves as a place of transit, a point of destination, and a source for women and children trafficked from Eastern to Western Europe for purpose of prostitution ...

I wrote before that those who argue in favor of immediate independence for Kosovo must answer some questions. The first is to explain why they are so confident why a local government that under UN and NATO supervision has been unable to crack down on crime and human trafficking or to provide adequate guarantees for the ethnic minorities of the province will somehow be much more effective if independence is granted. I don’t buy the argument that the province’s "undefined status" prevents effective governance. Case in point: Taiwan. (Another, as much as it may pain me to note, is that there has been no evidence of terrorist camps or organized criminal gangs taken root in the unrecognized Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.]

"Standards before status" was a good policy to have adopted and should still remain the guiding principle. And as we have seen in East Timor, granting independence is not a panacea and does not in and of itself guarantee stability. The Fort Dix incident should be a reminder about proceeding carefully with regard to Kosovo's final status.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Not Exactly Overwhelming Force ...

Just a statistic for those interested:

The United States has 12,000 troops committed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan (another 8000 are there continuing Operation Enduring Freedom). NATO's 25 other members plus 11 additional partners have come up with the grand total of an additional 20,000 troops. That works out to an average of 556 troops per country.

(This is from a bloc that has a population of at least 750 million people.)

A real gap between perception of the North Atlantic alliance as a juggernaut and what it actually is prepared to deliver.

Monday, May 07, 2007

England's Ukraine

It has been quite amusing to watch how quickly Westerners want to dismiss all of the precedents that have emerged in Eastern Europe over the past two decades when we are confronted with the very real possibility that Scotland may seek to sever its union with England.

It is patently ludicrous to argue, on the one hand, that Montenegro or Kosovo are viable as independent entities but that Scotland, with its five million people (larger than any of the three Baltic States), its natural resource base and its position as location of one of Europe's leading financial centers could not function as an independent nation (within the European Union).

It's also interesting to watch how people suddenly feel that history matters, that the 300 year union between Scotland and England deserves maintenance when a longer union between, say Russia and Ukraine, should be consigned to the dustbin of history. Or the arguments that England and Scotland are now so intertwined that separation would be impractical if not nigh impossible.

My assumption is that most people in Scotland want to continue the United Kingdom (then again, most Ukrainians voted in March 1991 to retain the USSR, too), and even a proposed referendum would be unlikely before the next decade. But the refusal of some to even countenance the idea that Scotland should be free to withdraw from its union with England speaks volumes about double standards.

President Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy noted in his interview with TNI and Politique Internationale:

It seems to me that until now, we have not given enough thought to an essential question: what should be the backbone of our foreign policy? This does not mean that I seek to wipe the table clean: On many points, Jacques Chirac’s record in the area was exemplary. But a rapidly changing world is forcing us to make a few changes. In brief, I think the time has come to give French diplomacy a doctrine. I do not believe that a theoretic framework impinges upon the practical necessities of our policy. Fundamentally, our doctrine should have a clear global vision, a set of long-term objectives and the interests we will defend. It is a collection of values that will guide our actions. In the long term, it will give a sense and coherence to our actions.

So, now we'll see what this means in practice.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Bad Feeling on India

First, Robert Blackwill--in well-timed remarks appearing in the current issue of The National Interest, anticipated the letter sent by senior members of Congress to the Indian Prime Minister when he noted what factors might complicate the emerging U.S.-India relationship:

"The first is any problem arising out of the codification of the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal in what is called the “one-two-three” agreement—this is the document that works out the technical details of how the bilateral nuclear agreement will be implemented. Without this agreement we cannot get from here to there ...

"The second is the possibility of a divergence over what to do about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Some members of Congress feel very strongly that india needs to see exactly eye to eye with the United States in how to deal with Iran. There are no differences between Washington and New Delhi over the goal: neither country wants a nuclear-armed Iran. But there may emerge tactical differences regarding the best way to go about accomplishing this."

Blackwill feels that, in the end, given that so many in both Washington and New Dehli are invested in the success of the new relationship, these bumps in the road can be overcome. I hope so. But the Congressional letter worries me.

The first is that it may be used to confirm the suspicions of many in India that the United States is really not interested in relations with India because it views India as an important country, but rather that the nuclear deal is instrumental--meant to get New Dehli to sign up with U.S. priorities vis-a-vis Iran (and then China), that India is of value to the U.S. only in terms of what it can do to pressure Tehran and help contain Beijing.

The second is the assumption that India has to see Iran through the same lenses. And here the letter falls into the trap of conflating all Islamist-based terrorism and Iran. It is very true that Iran will back Sunni movements--but when they challenge U.S. and Israeli interests (e.g. Palestinian Islamic Jihad). But Iran has no use for Sunni movements in other parts of the world particularly if they attack Shi'ites. So it is true India has been subjected to terrorist attack but the groups that have carried out such actions are not ones supported by Iran (and in fact often target Shi'ites in Pakistan as well). Iran doesn't support separatism in Kashmir for the same reason it doesn't support it in Chechnya--it doesn't like Sunni radicals and it doesn't like separatism given Iran's own vulnerabilities in this regard. Also Iran likes India for its role in safeguarding one of the largest Shi'ite populations in the world.

Third, I think we have the order wrong. India needs energy. It's not going to forego relations with Iran unless it has guarantees elsewhere. Get the nuclear deal ratified and open up the possibility of a maximum expansion of India's civilian nuclear capacity, and I think we'll see greater willingness to cut Iran off. But we are falling the same trap as we did with the Russians and Iran in the 1990s--vague promises of future contracts versus real tangible deals. It's not surprising Russia went with Iran in the 1990s (and, now that Russia has real alternatives, is willing to cut Tehran off); why should we expect India to be different?

Given the reaction today in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, where there was broad agreement across party lines that India would not accept any outside interference in its foreign policy matters nor compromise with its sovereignty and national integrity, I see the possibility of the deal being scuttled, unless cooler heads on both sides prevail.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

League of Democracies?

Senator John McCain unveiled his idea for a League of Democracies and pledges that, if elected to the presidency, he will call a summit of the world's democracies within his first year of office.

The Senator observes:

"The new League of Democracies would form the core of an international order of peace based on freedom. It could act where the UN fails to act, to relieve human suffering in places like Darfur. It could join to fight the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and fashion better policies to confront the crisis of our environment. It could provide unimpeded market access to those who share the values of economic and political freedom, an advantage no state-based system could attain. It could bring concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe, with or without Moscow's and Beijing's approval. It could unite to impose sanctions on Iran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. It could provide support to struggling democracies in Ukraine and Serbia and help countries like Thailand back on the path to democracy."

If you build it, they will come. The problem, of course, is that nothing has prevented an ad hoc coalition of democracies (or even democracies and non-democracies) from already acting on any of these issues. We saw how an informal "democratic entente" of the United States, Japan, India and Australia responded in the aftermath of the tsunami.

What McCain lays out sounds like a talking shop--a place for democracies to consult and discuss about problems and solutions. This is already happening. If we are not seeing more effective action on Darfur, it is not because there is no League of Democracies but because states are using the UN as cover for their own reluctance to get involved.

How or why would this proposal improve upon the Community of Democracies which has not really fulfilled its promise to be the global coordinating council? FDR improved on the League of Nations to create the UN; what is new here to prevent the LoD from duplicating the CoD?

Is the League going to have a collective security component? How will it coordinate joint action? What do you do about a democracy like India which is also an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

Finally, how does the Senator get past the point that Paul Saunders made in the last issue of The National Interest (and which so many people seem reluctant to want to engage with him on)--that the test of any League or Concert or Community of Democracies is the Franco-American relationship? Are the world's major democratic powers interested in this idea? I've never heard support for this idea from any major European democratic power (from people in government). And if you take John Lee's assessment of what's going on in the ASEAN region (in the current issue of TNI), I don't see the major ASEAN democracies jumping on board. Or is this going to be another "coalition of the willing"?

NATO served specific strategic interests (and it had non-democratic members); the U.S. alliances in east Asia were based on strategic considerations. Alliances that start on the basis of supposed shared values are always stillborn.

Finally, on the east European/Eurasian points. I have never seen evidence that the Kremlin particuarly cares whether governments on its periphery are democratic, autocratic or some mix of the two. What they do care about is whether their interests are safeguarded. Witness the good relations Russia has with states like Hungary and Bulgaria. To the extent that nationalism in Russia's neighbors tends to be anti-Russian, then democracy will produce anti-Russian governments and authoritarian rulers will also use anti-Russian sentiments to prop up their own governments (e.g. Turkmenistan under Niyazov).

One final note: there has been a major sea-change in Republican thinking. McCain says the U.S. is safer when the world is more democratic. Perhaps democratic here is meant in a looser sense, of governments that rule with the consent of the governed or for the benefits of their populations. But that was not the traditional American stance. The traditional stance was the world was safe when every country was free to make its own choices free from the pressure or interference of others. If other countries wanted to choose our form of government, wanted to follow our example, wanted our help in making the transition, that was one thing; but we defined international peace and security via self-determination and through "peaceful competition" of different social systems. Americans didn't feel until quite recently that the existence of other forms of governance undermined our own republican system or delegitimized its appeal. This is a profound shift--and seems to reflect a certain insecurity about America's ability to continue as a global leader.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Leiken's Golden Bridge Confirmed?

From the CNN reporting on the reported death of Al-Masri:

Reports of fighting between al Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni militants surfaced Tuesday, the latest hints of rising tensions between the two allied groups.

Other reports have emerged this year of tensions between Sunni fighters and the Sunni-dominated al Qaeda in Iraq, particularly from Anbar province, long a favored turf for indigenous Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters infiltrating Iraq from Syria.

The unconfirmed reports from tribal leaders to Iraqi government officials indicate that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed Tuesday in fighting between al Qaeda militants and Sunni tribal fighters from Abu Ghraib and Falluja.

Does this present the opportunity that Robert Leiken noted last year in National Interest online, the possibility of coming to some arrangement with the Sunni resistance? I don't know--but this may be a case for pursuing what Justine Rosenthal wrote in our pages several issues back ("Jigsaw Jihadism") about being able to split apart Al-Qaeda from regional groups "with traditional nation-state aims--even if they use Islamic rhetoric."

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