Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Democrats' Kosovo Problem

A constant critique of the Bush Administration advanced by Democratic presidential candidates and their foreign policy advisers, not to mention “blue-affiliated” pundits and think-tank experts, is “unilateralism.”

Take Senator Hillary Clinton’s defining foreign policy speech of last October. [A speech, on a separate note, where she favorably mentioned the work of Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman in developing the concepts of “ethical realism”.]

She said, “We can turn our back on international institutions, or we can modernize and revitalize them, and when needed get about the hard work of creating new ones. …

"We got it drastically wrong when a small group of ideologues decided we didn't need those institutions, or alliances, or diplomacy or even the respect of other nations."

A standard refrain now heard is that President Bush went to war with only a cosmetic “coalition of the willing”—without a specific mandate from the UN Security Council or even the legitimizing cover of a major regional international body or grouping (in contrast, say, to Ronald Reagan having a formal request from the Organization of East Caribbean States for the United States to intervene to restore order on Grenada in 1983). Democrats proclaim that they, in contrast, will work with others—the United Nations, allies, partners—so as to avoid the dreaded sin of “unilateralism.”

Given the difficulty that the UN Security Council sometimes faces in finding consensus among its five permanent members, some Democrats have demurred from embracing the position that only the UN Security Council can authorize particular actions. So then we come to a point raised three years ago by two leading members of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment: Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay. They wrote in the Boston Globe:

… in the real world, states have an alternative to going it alone or doing nothing when the UN Security Council cannot agree on action. And that is for like-minded states -- especially the world's great democracies -- to band together and act when the UN will not. Of course, every effort must be made to get Security Council authorization for using force to uphold international order. But when such authorization is blocked by a few states -- especially by states like Russia or China that do not share the values that unite democracies -- then the responsibility to act must devolve to the democratic states that depend on maintaining a just and secure world order.

Final status for Kosovo may prove to be the first case of America’s willingness—and especially of the Democrats—to continue to embrace the “coalition of the willing” model. Let me explain.

Yesterday, Greece’s ambassador Alexandros Mallias spoke at the magazine about the common EU position on final status for Kosovo: it should be based on the parameters outlined in the plan presented by Marti Ahtisaari, and it must be ratified by an appropriate UN Security Council resolution.

China is not enthusiastic about the plan but all indications are that Beijing would abstain from what it perceives to be a largely European issue. Russia, of course, is another story. Moscow has serious objections and in the worsening climate of U.S.-Russia relations may not feel any need to accommodate American preferences.

It may be that the Democrats will dodge a bullet, that the Russians will compromise, especially if Nicolas Sarkozy is able to broker an understanding, and we will have a UN resolution.

But the United States has threatened that, in the absence of a UN resolution, it would be prepared to recognize an independent Kosovo. The European Union, however, remains bound to a common position that a new resolution is required to define the final status of Kosovo, given that there is an existing resolution which cannot be superceded except by a new one. This position would prevent the EU (and, by extension, NATO), from supporting the U.S. position as collective bodies. Washington would most likely be able to gain support for its stance from a number of European states—beginning with Britain, but it remains to be seen whether France and Germany, while both supporting independence for Kosovo, would nonetheless want to undermine the very notion of European unity which is at the heart of the European project.

So, in support of Kosovo independence, would leading Democrats endorse another “coalition of the willing” without specific UN sanction, and without the cover of any regional body? How many “leading democracies” would have to support such action? France, Germany, India? [Again, on a separate note, this intellectual exercise points also to the difficulties of getting even a “League of Democracies” to act, given that India, South Africa and a number of other democratic states have also expressed reservations about any imposed settlement for Kosovo.]

We might end up with a situation where “unilateralism” really is in the eye of the beholder—where the thirty or states, including a number of European ones “cherry-picked” to support the war in Iraq was an example of dangerous and reckless behavior, but where something similar for Kosovo (or Darfur) is an example of leadership.

So where’s the difference?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ambassador Mallias and the Balkan Train Wreck

Greece's ambassador Alexandros Mallias spoke today at the magazine about avoiding a Balkan train wreck as positions on Kosovo continue to harden in both Moscow and Washington.

Re-engaging the contact group, restarting negotiations, moving away from using language like "imposed solutions", looking at solutions that improve the European Union membership prospects for all parts of the Western Balkans, including Serbia and Kosovo, and having two additional tracks--a Franco-Russian (Sarkozy-Putin) one to try and find common ground at the United Nations and re-engaging all countries of Southeastern Europe to be stakeholders in the process--were some of the ideas. I'm not doing justice to his points and there should be a full report at National Interest online.

Rest Without the West

TPM Cafe is devoting this week's book club to Josh Kurlantzick's Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World.

In the course of that discussion there has been some comment on the forthcoming TNI essay by Naazneen Barma, Ely Ratner, and Steven Weber (of which there has been earlier discussion here at TWR)--and I recommend reading all the selections.

UPDATE: Josh Kurlantzick has just posted a new response--and within is a key observation which applies not only to China but could apply to Russia, to Kazakhstan, to a variety of states where the democracy project has slowed down even as the economies have grown:

"Isn't it possible, as Jim Mann suggests in his new book, that the very elites in Chinese cities who would be most necessary for serious political reform are the very people who've benefited most from the current system, and might actually be resistant to change now?"

Monday, June 25, 2007

Thoughts on the Succession Question in Russia

I took part in Russia Profile's experts group on the question of what happens after 2008. If Vladimir Putin decides to return to the presidency in 2012, when he will constitutionally be permitted to run again, what arrangements might be made for the "transitory period" between 2008 and 2012?

Some excerpts:

Alexander Rahr of the German Council on Foreign Relations wrote, "The best person to act as Putin-II is, however, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. He will certainly allow Putin to return to the top office as soon as possible. He may even be willing to sacrifice power even earlier than 2012. Fradkov is said to be in poor health, which may be another argument for Kremlin strategists to envision him stepping in Putin's shoes in May 2008 - for a limited period of time.

"Fradkov's candidacy would satisfy the conflicting power groups of Igor Sechin and Vladislav Surkov in the Kremlin administration. The problem with Fradkov is that even if he agrees to substutute for Putin, he must be elected. Would the Russian voters support such a spectacle? To put Fradkov on the Russian throne for four years, the Kremlin players would need to exclude any popular opposition candidates from running in the presidential race. Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky could become very dangerous opponents for Fradkov. And what will Ivanov say? Will he feel misused, exploited for another political spectacle? If Putin and his closest circles want to play out the Fradkov-Putin scenario, they must popularize it now."

This follows along what I had noted:"Is there a similar consensus among the Russian supreme elite that Putin is the “indispensable” politician whose presence is required to keep his system functioning? Would springing a surprise “successor” be accompanied by some sort of formal pact freezing all ministerial and presidential appointments? Would there be a last-minute effort to create some sort of Russian analog to China’s central military commission, where Putin would enjoy de facto recognition as the “paramount leader” with others filling the formal positions of president and prime minister? It seems that, with so little time left, any such effort would be haphazard and slipshod."

There are a number of other interesting comments and as one can see opinion is spread all across the spectrum.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rumble at the Capitol?

People have differing impressions about how the public session of the Congress-Duma joint meeting went yesterday. Some reports highlighted the clashes and tried to play up the arguments, others say that taken in its totality it was a relatively good affair.

I think that to some extent the American members of Congress came in with a pre-prepared script: praise Russia as a nation or culture, highlight common interests, and then present the laundry list of complaints (a la John McCain in the Financial Times) to a visiting Duma delegation that was supposed to sit back and accept this guidance.

Some of the Russians may have wanted to score some political points of their own by "standing up".

I think what is useful about the session, assuming that people attended with an eye to learning and not just making their statements, is:

--For the Russians, to get a sense of the feelings of frustration that many Americans have over a number of key issues and to see how deeply this resonates in the Congress--and that the Congress is not giving a blank check on Russia policy to the president.

--For the Americans, to understand that there is a Russian perspective on issues and that it does not accord always with the U.S. one, and that this is not just a matter of communicating better (or of people having more democratic credentials). Also that non-Americans just don't like being lectured to. And that everyone has an "image" to cultivate "back home."

Thunderstorms, after all, are full of sound and fury but they often clear the air as well.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Virtue of Consistency

Because of the frequency in which Kosovo has been discussed in these pages in recent weeks, the question has been raised about my views on the other frozen conflicts.

I am happy to report that, unlike members of Congress, I do take a consistent approach. For some reason some have assumed that I support independence for Abkhazia or South Ossetia. I don't.

I have a consistent position which is that whether we are talking about Serbia, Georgia, Iraq or Cyprus, that our first order of business is to promote the territorial integrity of states and the maintenance of borders (as cornerstones for regional security).

I have also been a consistent supporter of the "division/partition within unity" approach, of using creative solutions (confederalism, autonomy, common states, etc.) to reconcile the internal need for self-determination with an overriding interest in keeping together the outer shell of states.

The problem that we are facing is that the U.S. is not seen as an honest broker on these issues--or I should say the Congress is not, given the perception that lobbying and healthy infusions of cash are what drives the positions taken there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kosovo Compromise in Maine?

UPI's Stefan Nicola quotes an unnamed senior Western diplomat as saying, "'We need to give Russia an opportunity to save face without trading off on other issues."

The expectation is that there will be a delay in submitting any resolution on final status to the UN Security Council--overriding the recommendations of those here in Washington who wanted to play "chicken" with Moscow on Kosovo--with a new set of talks aimed at producing modifications to the Ahtisaari plan.

Are the outlines beginning to take shape, and should we expect progress when Presidents Bush and Putin meet in Maine at their mini-summit?

The U.S. goal remains birthing an independent Kosovo. Washington seems unprepared to countenance any form of substantial autonomy. But beyond that, could Washington be prepared to offer a number of compromises designed to address Russian concerns?

Kosovo as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation (along the proposals for Cyprus)?

The right of each "zone" of Kosovo to have a special relationship with neighboring states (e.g. Serbia and Albania)?

Prospects for dual citizenship for Kosovo residents? (And with Kosovo residents holding, say Serbian citizenship, having the ability to vote in Serbian elections?)

Some sort of treaty of guarantee that would permit the deployment of a limited amount of Serbian forces in Kosovo in Serb-majority areas and at key sites?

A tacit recognition by Washington that while Kosovo sets no absolute precedent for any other "frozen conflict" a final Kosovo settlement could also serve as a point of departure for addressing other separatist disputes?

It remains to be seen what sort of creative approach might be undertaken to avoid a possible train wreck scenario.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Simon and Takeyh on Iraq

Steve Simon and Ray Takeyh are drawing a good deal of heat for their Outlook piece in Sunday's Washington Post. Of course, it seems many have focused on the provocative title ("We've Lost"), but not too many have disputed what I think are the two critical assessments in the body of the piece:

"Iraq has no credible central government that U.S. forces can assist and no national army for them to fight alongside. U.S. troops can't beat the insurgency on their own; our forces are too few and too isolated to compete with the insurgents for the public's support. Meanwhile, the country's militias have become a law unto themselves, and ethnic cleansing gallops forward.

"But the most crucial reason why the war is lost is that the American people decisively rejected continuing U.S. military involvement last November. As far as the voters are concerned, the kitchen is closed."

I don't see much support at home for the decade-long commitment General Petraeus implied is needed, and the U.S. cannot force an Iraqi government to do what it doesn't want to do--a point I raised last week.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Perle and Turkish Exceptionalism?

The Nixon Center hosted an event on Turkey today with Morton Abramowitz, Fred Ikle and Richard Perle.

Perle's comments were quite interesting to me because of his seeming acceptance of a "mixed" [ed. this is my own assessment] system for Turkey and his criticisms of outside "tinkering" with "internal institutions" that work fine within a Turkish context. This is, of course, the "extraordinary and unique relationship" between the Turkish armed forces and the republic, where the military acts as the guradian of the country's secular democracy and intervenes whenever necessary--including taking power as a last resort--to deal with ineffective civilian governance or threats to Ataturk's legacy.

Another was his analysis of the recent constitutional/presidential crisis--that in essence the AK (Justice and Development) Party, which while receiving only 34 percent of the vote had a parliamentary majority, was on the verge of taking the presidency as well, which would give them not only the ability to pass legislation but to remove roadblocks that had been placed by the previous president. In his opinion this would upset the checks and balances of the Turkish system.

I think what many in the audience found to be fascinating in these remarks--and Steve Clemons of New America tried to draw out the further implications from the perspective of the Washington policy debate (and particularly the democracy/one-size-fits-all rhetoric)--is that it was a recognition that 1) context and history matters in a country's political development--that "one size does not fit all"; that 2) the results of democratic elections should not overturn a country's political institutions even when those institutions are unelected--in this case, the role exercised by the Turkish military and 3) a certain degree of management of the system is necessary to preserve stability.

It was very reasonable--but, for example, I think it would be far more difficult to make similar arguments about other Eurasian or Middle Eastern states.

On a separate note, I was concerned by the gap in the U.S. discussion about "the day after." The mantra continues to be recited: it is in U.S. interests that Turkey be admitted to the European Union. And if that doesn't happen? Then what?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Logan takes on McCain

I assume Justin Logan wouldn't be looking for a job in a future John McCain administration. So that sense of liberation allowed him to make a point we continually stress here--that laundry lists are no way to conduct foreign policy.

In today's Financial Times, he writes:

John McCain suggests a host of issues on which we must "be firm" with Russia ("Why we must be firm with Moscow", June 13). Nuclear targeting. Kosovo. The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. The extradition of Andrei Lugovoi to Britain. The mysterious deaths of journalists in Russia. State-owned media. State seizure of assets. Moscow's response to Talinn's treatment of a Soviet war memorial. Russia's handling of energy resources. Russian policy in Ukraine, Georgia, Iran and Sudan.

What Senator McCain fails to describe is an overarching strategy for dealing with Russia. He offers not a policy, but rather a laundry list of demands that is unlikely to be met with anything other than intransigence from Moscow. By failing to prioritise his goals (might we not be willing to be less "firm" on Kosovo in exchange for enhanced Russian co-operation on Iran?), he threatens to undermine them all.

The democratic depredations in Russia are real and troubling, but they would be best dealt with in a framework where Russia feels its geopolitical concerns count for something in Washington. Moscow is increasingly convinced that they do not, and Senator McCain's essay could serve as Exhibit A for this belief.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

McCain: European or American Conservative?

On all of my recent trips to Europe--most notably to Germany and Britain--interlocutors there have been keenly interested in the U.S. presidential race. And one of their major concerns is whether or not the next president will be able to reinvigorate the trans-Atlantic alliance and restore a sense of common purpose and partnership that many feel has been eroded in recent years.

No less than those on the left, those who self-identified themselves as conservatives raised issues such as Guantanamo Bay and climate change as continuing sources of friction in ties across "the pond." And, particularly in London (prior, of course, to Putin's Gambala gambit, there was a good deal of speculation about whether rising dissatisfaction with Moscow's policies might help to bring Europe and North America closer together.

So, based on things like Senator McCain's interview last month with Business Week, where he said he would "close Guantánamo Bay" and "address climate change in the most serious fashion", and then his use of the Financial Times more recently to lay out a more skeptical line vis-a-vis Russia, it would seem that he is continuing to lay the groundwork in Europe as the "conservative Europeans could do business with." And since two of the EU-3 are now governed by conservative politicians, and with gamblers' odds that the UK will also have a conservative government by the time the next U.S. president takes office, it certainly looks like a good strategy. It undercuts one of the Democrats' particular arguments, advanced by John Kerry in 2004, that Democrats are in a better position to improve ties with key European allies.

But if McCain adopts positions that may play well with European conservatives, will that carry sufficient weight with U.S. conservatives? I am on record warning U.S. audiences not to overestimate what President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel are prepared to deliver because "both are pro-American, but from a European perspective." Will the Republican rank-and-file respond to the notion of a common Western "conservative" position on issues like climate change? Is there such a thing as a European conservative endorsement and does it really have much impact anymore for Republicans?

The other point is how much maneuvering room McCain would have. Does he have to be in essentially close agreement (say 90 percent) with Sarkozy and Merkel on a number of major issues in order to claim for himself the style of being the Republican best suited to repairing the Atlantic Alliance (against his major rivals who perhaps lack substantial foreign policy experience)? Or, does being closer to them on a number of issues than say, President Bush is, but not really in close agreement, not really pay dividends--as Speaker Pelosi found in her European trip--that criticisms of the Administration are not really sufficient? Or will European conservatives decide that they can accept differences from a conservative they view as "pro-European, but from an American perspective?"

Why this latter point matters is that advisors to both Sarkozy and Merkel are debating whether or not they should move ahead on new initiatives with the United States now or wait until there is a new president. And would both see Senator McCain as their preference--and would such support help or hinder him as he seeks the Republican nomination?

Did "Democracy" "Fail" in Iraq?

One of the assumptions that we need to revisit in order to assess what to do in Iraq is what elections actually wrought.

The working assumption (or some might say delusion) was that elections in Iraq brought to power political leaders who had mandates to govern and to rule, and that they commanded the support of most of their voters, and that what was needed was targeted military action against a small minority of rejectionists.

Is that really the case?

One option is that Iraqis themselves have hedged; just as families split their sons between the police/security services and the militias/insurgencies, people voted for politicians and give open or tacit aid to the militants, as a hedge for the future.

Or those who were elected have failed their constituencies (in terms of providing security, opportunity, stability and the prospect for peace).

Are we aiding a process in Iraq that could lead to stability, or impeding it?

And at what point and under what circumstances are Iraqis responsible for what happens?

On a separate note:

My sense is that when General Petraeus releases his report, he will note that when resources and attention have been focused on an area in a sustained way, you can see signs of progress--but then recommend that the U.S. maintain or increase its commitments for the next two to three years--something I think is politically unsustainable in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stop the Rush!

The president's remarks in Albania make it more likely that we are headed for the train wreck scenario over Kosovo. Perhaps some people in this town believe in playing chicken--bluff the Russians and the Europeans will fall into line. But I don't know if that is a responsible course of action.

The worse case scenario is having a Kosovo resolution be vetoed in the Security Council, a unilateral declaration of independence in Kosovo, unilateral U.S. recognition, and then the EU unable to deploy its mission on the grounds that UN Security Council resolution 1244 has not been replaced. Then fighting breaks out and what happens if Serbia is pushed to intervene to protect monasteries or Serb enclaves that come under attack?

And having another statelet emerge whose status is unclear--recognized by some, not by others--in a region where interdependence is key to growth and security--how does this advance U.S. interests.

So, let's step back.

1) Kosovo is not a plaything for the U.S.-Russia relationship. Using Kosovo to stick it to Moscow may be satisfying to some people in DC but there are real people on the ground in the Balkans. Kosovo should be settled on what best serves the region.

2) It is not 1995 or even 1999. I think Washington will find it much harder to get NATO to "substitute" itself for the UN. And if you have a Russian veto, Chinese abstention and Indian opposition to the plan, it is a little hard to argue about there being the will of the "international community" at work.

3) The Sarkozy-Putin tete-a-tete, while it failed at the G-8, may provide a way forward: a period of delay, followed by convening of a consulting conference, a careful review of options and, I would think, a regional wide settlement of all issues on the table.

4) U.S. pundits need to stop rehashing ill-informed cliches. Serbia is not a Russia clone in the Balkans (that role has traditionally been played by Bulgaria--now a close U.S. ally). There are also a whole range of options for solutions--we don't have to make this a binary choice.

5) Some Kosovo Albanians want independence now and are threatening to riot. It seems to be a bit odd that you would try to blackmail the people who have given you de facto independence and protection (could you imagine the Taiwanese rioting)? If entering into real negotiations to settle final status and waiting longer for that resolution is distasteful (and Cyprus has been waiting more than 3 decades, Nagorno-Karabakh vis-a-vis Azerbaijan coming up on two decades, etc.), then we don't need to stay at all.

6) Finally, as I have always advocated--this is a time for the U.S. to be turning to our allies in Athens. They have some creative ideas and have shown more flexibility than frankly many U.S. officials have. If Italy is part of the Contact Group, then Greece certainly should be a member.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Week's Difference

What a difference a week can make. At the beginning of last week, I took part in a taping of the VOA program "On the Line" (which goes out over the weekend), and the general tenor was that Vladimir Putin was isolated, on the ropes (at least internationally), and on the losing end of the missile defense argument.

Then President Bush went to Europe. The G-8 summit, instead of showcasing a united front of the West (and providing an opportunity for the new alignment of President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel with their Anglo-American colleagues), foundered on the issue of climate change. No clear and unambiguous message on the future of Kosovo. And Putin's surprise "Gambala Gambit" caught the White House unprepared (even if the substance of the proposal was not known to Washington, shouldn't they have been prepared, since part of the Putin track record is to spring these kinds of surprises? Is the White House that distracted by Iraq?)

Putin seems to have, to some extent, escaped his isolation. He seems, at face value, more reasonable on the missile defense question.

Kosovo may prove to be different, and we will have to see. Significantly, however, I don't think that the U.S. has received assurances that, in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution, the European Union would be prepared to deploy its absolutely essential Kosovo mission. I've also been told that, at least among some European governments, any Kosovo resolution that cannot command near unanimous support would be seen as a failure--so that under this scenario, a Russian veto, combined with a Chinese abstention, and having several other Third World states vote against or abstain--would create the impression that Kosovo independence is a preference of the West but not of the "international community." Could Putin be laying the groundwork for having a reasonable delay? We will have to see.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Clarifying the "Obama-Zakheim" Plan

First, to note: there is no "Obama-Zakheim" plan, at least none I am aware of. I don't know whether Barack Obama and Dov Zakheim have ever been able to converse on Iraq in person. Nor am I suggesting that the two have similar positions on Iraq. Far from it. There are profound differences, beginning with the desirability of going into Iraq in 2003 in the first place.

In discussing a hypothetical Obama-Zakheim plan, my point was to say that if we use their positions as a starting point, we might then be able to find some common ground for thinking about Iraq policy.

Following his participation in the TNI symposium, Zakheim, in early January 2007, outlined further his view of "operating at the borders" in Iraq. In an op-ed in the Financial Times, he noted:

"... the US must reposition its forces to foster regional stability and minimise casualties. Up to two brigades should be devoted to Kurdistan and a roughly equal number to the far west of Anbar province. ...

"By operating from Iraq's borders American forces would be well placed to prevent the establishment of terrorist training camps anywhere in Iraq, including Anbar province. In addition, it ensures that US forces have a realisable mission. They may be unable to bring stability to all of Iraq, but they can certainly bring a degree of stability to the region."

Meanwhile, in November 2006, Obama had observed:

"Drawing down our troops in Iraq will allow us to redeploy additional troops to Northern Iraq and elsewhere in the region as an over-the-horizon force. This force could help prevent the conflict in Iraq from becoming a wider war, consolidate gains in Northern Iraq, reassure allies in the Gulf, allow our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda wherever it may exist, and demonstrate to international terrorist organizations that they have not driven us from the region."

This is why I think that there is at least the genesis of a workable, bi-partisan, pragmatic approach. And alongside "Baker-Hamilton", Obama-Zakheim certainly has a nice ring, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Serious About Democracy?

Headlines today around the U.S. make much of President Bush's criticisms of the rollback of reforms in Russia. Is this a sign of a change of heart?

Or is it because Russia has become less accommodating on a number of key security issues for the United States, its domestic faults are now given greater prominence.

We had a forum last month on Paul Saunder's piece on democracy promotion. Tom Carothers made some points there that he reiterates in a piece that will appear in the forthcoming issue of National Interest (and excerpted now on NI online). He notes:

Of course there is some pro-democracy substance in Bush’s 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—where 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.

It might be said that this pre-dated the president's remarks in Europe this week. And right on schedule, and keeping true to form, what countries did the president identify: Belarus, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran and Syria. (In fairness to Tom, he did mention Zimbabwe at the event, even if he did not in the print version).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Absent Japan?

Jun Okumura raises a justifiable complaint: in all of these discussions about the future of international relations, where is Japan? At the trans-Atlantic editors' roundtable, at the sessions I attended, China and India were mentioned in several contexts but Japan came up only once: in a discussion about energy security.

Japan is still the world's second largest holder of dollars (after China but before Russia, in the third position) but it remains taken for granted in Washington that Japan will use its dollar reserves to support U.S. objectives--whereas one must be more concerned about Beijing's (or Moscow's) intentions. There is also an assumption that, in strategic terms, Japan has "nowhere else to go" other than to remain in Washington's tight embrace, especially when faced with an unpredictable North Korea and a rising China.

The last major piece in The National Interest on Japan was Chris Preble's A Plea for Normalcy which appeared in the September/October 2006 issue. I've reproduced below the concluding paragraphs. Is this the direction of U.S. - Japan relations for the future?

Japanese military power might prove instrumental for dealing with future, more serious challenges to the regional security order. Japan's lingering hostility toward and suspicion of North Korea in the near term pales in comparison with its medium- to long-term concerns of a rising China. The trajectory of China's rise to regional prominence threatens to collide with both Japanese and American interests. The open question is whether all three countries will be able to establish a new strategic balance or whether competition for influence in East Asia will lead to a clash that could threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of people on both sides of the Pacific.

Common economic interests within Asia may lead to China's peaceful integration into the region. Or China could turn away from its current course of political and economic liberalization and revert to economic autarchy imposed by military force. It is even possible that China could become a revisionist power, no longer content to accept regional security configurations in their present form. That could occur even if the PRC holds to a course of economic reform.

Against those unlikely but dangerous possibilities, Japan's neighbors should welcome a potential counterweight to a rising China. Many already do. Attitudes toward Japan vary widely, with Taiwanese, Singaporeans, Filipinos and Malays much more favorably disposed than are Koreans to the notion of a wider security role for Japan. These attitudes could evolve further if China's behavior grows more threatening.

The decades-long U.S.-Japan strategic partnership is changing. Americans are becoming increasingly anxious about the costs and risks of our permanent global military presence. We welcome changes that will allow the U.S. military to step back from its role as the world's policeman, and are looking for ways to devolve security responsibilities and reduce our risk exposure. The Japanese--while retaining a strong anti-militarist disposition--are willing to play a more assertive role. They are anxious for their country to behave, and to be treated as a normal country, that is, as a country responsible for defending its interests. Japanese Self-Defense Forces are already highly capable, and Japanese military capabilities could quickly expand if the security environment grows more threatening.

Japan is a stable and mature democracy. The pre-World War II era, when an imperial Japan attempted to secure an exclusive economic sphere for itself, is long past. The ghosts of World War II cannot be allowed to forever dictate the shape and character of U.S.-Japan relations. Americans and Japanese should welcome a transition away from a patron-client relationship, to one based on shared interests, mutual trust and understanding.

Monday, June 04, 2007

World Order, Kosovo and Palestine

I want to conclude my series of dispatches from London with a warning: it may appear from my earlier postings that there was a clear and easy divide between “Americans” and “Europeans.” I want to correct that simplistic assumption. A wide range of views was expressed across the spectrum by both American and European participants. Some of the Europeans put forward views on foreign policy that would be considered quite “neoconservative” from a U.S. perspective, and there was ample proof around the table at Chatham House why synergy occurred between the Bush and Blair Administrations when it came to Iraq.

One, however, could detect two general “European” approaches to world affairs on display during our discussions. The first was a version of the “global NATO” approach—that a reinvigorated trans-Atlantic relationship, perhaps guided by a renewed EU-3 under the troika of Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, could reach out to Washington and forge a new consensus about how to deal with both geopolitical problems (Russia, China, the Middle East) and issues such as democracy promotion, energy security and climate change (on the last point, of course, President Bush’s speech damped expectations about finding common ground). In keeping with Sarkozy’s point he made to The National Interest, that one goal of foreign policy must be “to promote the universal values of liberty and the respect for human rights and dignity” , some of the participants argued for a vigorous trans-Atlantic effort to push back against the “democracy backlash”.

The “neo-Westphalians” were also very much on display, however. They argued that most of the world’s pressing problems require the active cooperation of both democratic and non-democratic states, and that even a tighter U.S.-Canada-EU alliance was not sufficient to address the issues in sufficient depth. Cooperation in pursuit of shared aims would in turn require a greater willingness to accept divergences in domestic social, political, and economic arrangements. This group was much more skeptical about proposals for a community of democracies, although some agreed that the community framework made sense in terms of providing a blueprint for ordering trans-Atlantic (rather than global) relations.

Finally, one other point of trans-Atlantic divergence. In recent posts, I highlighted the divisive issue of climate change. Another one emerged, in that of how to deal with the Palestinians. And here, there is a Kosovo connection.

Many of the Europeans have adopted the same logic for Kosovo and Palestine—that what prevents Palestinians and Kosovar Albanians from dealing with terrorism, organized crime and violence is the lack of a final defined status that guarantees statehood. Therefore, many have adopted the logic of “status producing standards”—that linking further progress in both places to achievement of benchmarks in security and law-enforcement is counter-productive.

The problem is that while the U.S. has moved away from the “standards before status” approach with regards to Kosovo, it still insists strenuously on strict Palestinian compliance with such benchmarks before there can be significant progress. And this appears to be a widening point of divergence across the Atlantic.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Trans-Atlantic Tremors

Some of the comments I've heard at the 7th Annual Trans-Atlantic Editors' Roundtable (this year held at Chatham House in London)...

There is a surprising amount of agreement between European and American interlocutors on a variety of issues, ranging from the direction Russia is taking to the nature of the problems we face in the Middle East. This does not lead, however, to the same policy conclusions as to what is to be done.

Further to my observation from Wednesday, in another form, about the difficulties "Europeans face in following behind the American banner."

Concerns about the window of opportunity leadership change in Europe brings in the here and now versus the natural tendency to wait for the final demise of a lame-duck administration. Will Sarkozy, Merkel and Brown put forward their best foot now, with a Bush Administration that has less than 2 years to go; or wait to see who the next president is; but will they still have that momentum come January 2009 (assuming, of course, that the next president can hit the ground running; realistically, though, would a new president be ready to engage any time before late spring 2009).

A debate: when the U.S. and Europe work together, do they have overwhelming leverage (e.g. China and Russia will find it much more difficult to oppose a united trans-Atlantic front) or is the world shifting so that even when America and the Europeans are on the same page, we can only influence the situation? (In the context of discussions over what to do about Iran, Darfur and Kosovo).

A second debate: can and should the U.S. and Europe even seek "common" positions--are this not going to be little more than watered down, lowest common denominator approaches? Should instead the model be "complementary" policies where each side of the trans-Atlantic relationship (and here I would group the Canadians with Europe) focuses on specific areas and there is coordination in terms of meeting shared objectives?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?