January 30, 2003

Tony, You're Not Alone! Wonderful

Tony, You're Not Alone!

Wonderful opinion piece in the Times of London jointly signed by a half dozen or so European leaders likely timed to appear just after W's State of the Union and continue to notch up the pressure on Saddam. More important, however, it is a direct challenge to Gerard Schroder and Jacques Chirac's delusion that, by hoisting a Franco-German position on Iraq to the Continent--other countries ostensibly lower in the EU pecking order would dutifully line up behind their approach. And it certainly helps Tony Blair in his confrontations with increasingly nettlesome Labor backbenchers. He's not just the lone W-phile poodle London ragsheets would have you believe. Rather, a good chunk of European leaders agree with his position on Iraq and are going on the record in the U.K. to make that message heard loud and clear.

Key paragraph: "We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and far-sightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the United States we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime’s persistent attempts to threaten world security."

Also: "The United Nations Charter charges the Security Council with the task of preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those Resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result."

There is also mention made of strength resulting from "unity," another direct message to Paris and Berlin to get on board. Paris likely will end up doing so under cover of evidence Powell will present to the UNSC on February 5th. Berlin, it would appear, is just too far gone to change position given myriad public pronouncements post-Schroder's shameless electioneering. Well, his government won't last too much longer regardless.

Read it here, and check out the various leaders who signed. Bosnia redux, of course. You didn't expect a common EU position on Iraq, did you?

Posted by Gregory at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2003

State of the Axis (North

State of the Axis (North Korea, Iran, Related Matters)

The key part of Bush’s speech revolves around discussion of the “axis” countries. There are several key messages and signals here to friend and foe alike. The main message and most important passage in the entire speech is Bush’s reiteration that “(t)oday, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation."

Here Bush, forcefully and with all the force of the Presidential bully pulpit, makes the case that the war against terror and the near-certain conflict with Iraq are one and the same. Put simply, the intersection of rogue regimes with WMD capability and transnational terror groups, Bush understands, represents the greatest threat to the stability of the international system in the 21st Century.

Herr Chancellor

Bush reminds fair-weather allies like Germany of the stakes with reference to the fact that the ambitions of “Hitlerism, militarism and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances and by the might of the USA.” This line was crafted to resonate strongly in Berlin and, to a lesser extent in Paris. The use of the locution Hitlerism is significant—Bush might have used the more common expression fascism. But he is rightly angry at Chancellor Schroder’s irresponsible electoral gambits. He reminds the Chancellor that “great alliances” helped good triumph over evil in WWII and of the key role of the U.S. in securing European freedom from Hitler’s Third Reich. It is a direct and unsubtle reminder—just the kind Schroder needs.

Moi?

Then the President relays a direct warning to key (wavering) parties like the French who are (lately) touting a procedural, “international law” approach to international relations and, specifically, regarding Iraq. Referencing anti-proliferation initiatives being pursued through various international fora Bush states: “(i)n all of these efforts, however, America’s purpose is more than to follow a process; it is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world."

Message to Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin: We will not get bogged down in enarque style word-play and procedural mish-mash. Pragmatism and results-oriented diplomacy will win the day. Should bodies like the United Nations shirk their responsibilities regarding grave issues like containing rogue regimes armed with WMD—the US will lead a coalition of the willing (so far, it appears, the U.K, Australia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait and Poland) to do so.

Troubled Peninsula

On North Korea, Bush makes clear he is not about to kowtow and eagerly negotiate energy and food deals to temper Kim Jong II’s nuclear appetites. Instead, he barely veils his contempt for Clinton’s policy to attempt to, in essence, buy off the North Korean dictator: “Throughout the 1990’s, the U.S. relied on a negotiated framework to keep North Korea from gaining nuclear weapons. We now know that that regime was deceiving the world, and developing those weapons all along. And today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions. America and the world will not be blackmailed.”

Yet behind this tough talk there are conciliatory feints. For one, W makes no mention of Kim Jong II by name, thus beginning to de-personalize the stand-off in distinction to W’s earlier (and unfortunate) comments regarding how he “loathes” the North Korean leader. He makes mention of all the key regional players (South Korea, Japan, China and Russia) who are working together to defuse the crisis. He mentions that Pyongyang “will find respect in the world” if it junks its nuclear program. Bush is in the middle, as so often in this administration, between hard-liners who want absolutely no negotiations and more conciliatory voices at the State Department (and Seoul, Beijing and Moscow). But there is enough here to signal to Kim Jong II between the lines the outlines of “bold initiatives” the U.S. would be prepared to entertain if North Korea were to step down from the nuclear precipice.

Iran, Ignored?

Regrettably, regarding Iran, the President provides rather thin gruel. Clearly, not too much in depth thinking has gone into the U.S. approach to Teheran. Bush mentions that in Iran “we continue to see a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction and supports terror.” O.K., sounds just like myriad speeches on Iraq. So why aren’t we pressuring the regime there like we are in Baghdad, an observer might ask?

He goes on: “We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy.” What’s the point here? That if you have a youthful demographic that is occasionally boisterously demanding greater freedoms than the U.S. will be less willing to intervene in a country’s affairs? That because there are power struggles between reformist and reactionary forces in government the U.S. will stand to the side and let these battles play out? Well, not exactly. Bush mentions that the U.S. “supports their aspirations to live in freedom.” But, if one examines this speech, it would appear that Iran policy is treated in de minimis, paltry, and unconvincing fashion by this Administration. Foggy Bottom and other Beltway policymakers must do better lest critiques regarding inconsistent approaches to different “axis” countries will begin to stick more effectively than they have to date.

State of the Axis (Iraq)

The speech, of course, ends with a lengthy discussion of Iraq and a message to the U.S. military. If the nation (and world) were not already on a war footing, the speech should help focus the international community on the reality that we will likely be at war in the coming weeks rather than months. In sharp distinction to North Korea, Iraq is treated in highly personal fashion with Saddam referred to as “he”, as in “(h)e has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.” “It” is, alternately, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 30,000 munitions, and mobile biological weapons labs.

Bush picks up a theme (earlier advanced by Paul Wolfowitz at the Council on Foreign Relations last week) contending that: “Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.

Message: If this isn’t a material breach, let’s all pack up and call U.N. Resolution 1441 a huge farce and allow further (after the inglorious displays of U.N. impotence displayed in the last decade in Bosnia) erosion of the U.N.’s credibility as a supposed guarantor of international stability.

Then Bush makes another key point that provides one of the more memorable lines of the State of the Union. After detailing horrific tortures Saddam’s regime engages in on a routine basis, Bush states: “If this is not evil than evil has no meaning.” What a refreshing tonic after the heady (and empty) Clinton boom years where we were asked to ponder “what the meaning of is is.” What a rebuff to relativist claptrap emanating from academia, Barbara Streisandish-Hollywood precincts, and Joshka Fischer’s Foreign Ministry (and Green Party) that struggles to differentiate Iraq and Kosovo.

This powerful line also represents a defense of the entire “axis of evil” phraseology providing continuity and credence to last year’s State of the Union. Yes, Bush tells us, evil still stalks the planet. And the U.S. will lead willing participants to combat said evil. More boorish rhetoric from the Midland, TX simpleton? To some jaded sophisticates flipping through Le Monde and the Guardian, surely. But, as many fair-minded observers would agree (from breathless neo-cons like Bill Kristol to so-called “liberal hawks” like David Rieff or Salman Rushdie), Bush is basically spot on when he says to the people of Iraq: “Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.” Indeed, and for good measure, such speech-making during a major address ties into Tony Blair’s strategy of exerting maximum pressure on Saddam to enhance the chances (however slim) that he may be toppled internally before a conflict begins.

Finally, it bears noting that Bush makes specific reference to a February 5th convening of the U.N. Security Council. On the agenda, we are tantalizingly informed, Secretary of State Powell will present information that not only details Iraqi violations of Resolution 1441—but also, one suspects, will more fully (than previous Administration statements) broach specific links between Saddam’s regime and terrorist groups. Depending on the strength and efficacy of the U.S. evidence and presentation, Powell might be able to bring the French back on board. In the face of continued recalcitrance from Iraq after a methodical approach to disarmament that will have lasted almost half a year (from Bush’s September 12, 2002 speech at the U.N. to February 5th)—the time for action, Bush appears to have indicated in his State of the Union, has arrived.

Posted by Gregory at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

State of the Union I

State of the Union

I would have flirted with the notion of staying up until 2:00 AM London time to catch W’s State of the Union live but, suffice it to say, getting satellite television in London is an arduous task. Therefore, I instead settled for reading the State of the Union in the A.M. While without the benefit of catching the subtleties related to W’s delivery of the speech, I must say the speech reads (mostly) very well.

Karl Rove’s influence is apparent from the get-go with the initial strong emphasis on domestic issues like tax cuts, health care reform and environmental issues. Message: I am not my father and will not ignore domestic issues to my electoral peril. Not that the Herbert Walker tag would ever really stick to W—his “common” Reaganesque qualities insulate him from Connecticut Yankee stereotypes. Clearing brush and chopping wood on the torrid Crawford ranch evoke far different images than Kennebunkport golfing forays in the breezy Maine summer.

Yet the heart of this State of the Union dealt with the “axis of evil” countries—well, really one in particular—as Bush further put the U.S. on a war footing in preparation for conflict with Iraq (see State of the Axis in next post). The transition within the speech from domestic issues to foreign policy also betrayed Karl Rove’s extensive influence. W spoke of the “compassion of America” in the context of volunteers visiting prisoners in jail, mentors for disadvantaged young students, and drug recovery programs. Then he extended the mantle of “compassion” beyond the U.S.: “The qualities of courage and compassion that we strive for in America also determine our conduct abroad.” Thus the appeal to the great American center under the rubric of compassionate conservatism is linked to Administration foreign policy overseas.

In this context, however, the speech passes through a weak spot with breezy treatment of our rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan (no mention of the extensive firefight in southeastern Afghanistan just yesterday) and international food aid issues. Surprisingly, even for this Administration which has de-emphasized previous administration’s energetic peace-processing in the Middle East, the issue of helping to broker a Middle East peace is sandwiched between the brief aside regarding Afghanistan and talk of “feeding the hungry.”

Mention of continuing efforts to “seek peace between a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine” might just as well have been left out. The subtext here was the continuing victory of neo-conservatives within the administration on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It appears that until Arafat more or less passes from the scene (whether by death, exile or delegating power to a credible Prime Minister thus solely relegating himself to figurehead status), this President is not prepared to seriously engage the two parties in the Holy Land on a search for peace.

That is the real message behind referencing a “democratic” Palestine. And stressing that peace would be with a “secure” Israel goes beyond the traditional peace process "land for peace" (ie., security) formulation. It is a further indication that W views Israel’s leadership as grappling with the very same “homeland security” issue he faces in the U.S (no differentiation regarding a national liberation struggle appear to complicate the picture for W). The “roadmap” will thus likely remain a cul-de-sac even after the Israeli election that returned Sharon to power yesterday. This is unfortunate as the parties are exhausting themselves through protracted confict and an energetic U.S. leadership role is critical to the prospects of brokering any forward movement that will stem the carnage in the region. But that is a discussion for another day.

This weak patch in the Bush State of the Union is improved, however, by a lengthy discussion on combating AIDS in Africa. Here, Bush shows that he is not just rhetorically paying lip service to his “compassionate conservative” values vis-ą-vis their extension overseas. $10 billion of new funds dedicated to “turn the tide” of the AIDS plague in the Caribbean and Africa is a significant initiative by any measure. Further, as Rove surely realizes, it helps immunize Bush from a potential campaign issue that Democratic foreign policy grandees like Richard Holbrooke have been touting as a full-blown national security threat.

Mr. Bush then continues some pre-electioneering positioning defending his record on the war on terrorism. He preemptively moves to hobble so-called national security candidates in the Democratic field like Joe Lieberman or The New Republic’s latest flavor of the month FL Senator Bob Graham (or is it now Gary Hart?) by stressing that over 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in the past year or so (an impressively large number that simultaneously reminds listeners of the massive human toll of 9/11). Bush also lists various terrorist plots that have been uncovered over the past 15 or so months in time to save lives from the Straits of Hormuz to Buffalo, New York.

He also reminds us all of the continued perils presented by the war on terror lest the public become overly complacent given the occurrence of no mega-terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11: “There are days when our fellow citizens do not hear news about the war on terror. There is never a day when I do not learn of another threat, or receive reports of operations in progress, or give an order in this global war against a scattered network of killers.”

The message to Nancy Pelosi, Warren Christopher and other disgruntled Californians: The war on terror is not on the backburner but very much front and center. We are lucky we have not lost a significant number of lives since 9/11 to another attack. This is partly because we are prosecuting the war with utmost diligence. And we will continue to do so, even as we expand the war on terror. (see above on “State of the Axis”)

Posted by Gregory at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2003

Is U.S. Foreign Policy Driven

Is U.S. Foreign Policy Driven by Religion? For Europeans, the Answer is Increasingly Yes

A recent opinion piece in a major British daily is titled simply: "The United States of America Has Gone Mad." The writer describes American strategic thinking thus: "God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America” and suggests that “religious cant” is the reason why U.S. soldiers will be sent to war in Iraq.

This emerging view of U.S. foreign policy as theological enterprise is increasingly widespread in Europe. Elite European opinion certainly has come a long way since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when the left of center French daily Le Monde famously declared "We Are All Americans Now." Even Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, was quoted recently describing U.S. foreign policy as "religious" and “all or nothing” in nature.

There is a deep irony here. The United States was attacked on September 11th by a terror network motivated by a grotesquely distorted theological worldview. Some European elites, rather than fully concentrating on marshalling forces with the U.S. to confront this global threat (one aimed at Paris and London as much as at New York), are instead branding the United States with the tag of reactionary religiosity.

Unfortunately, stereotypical perceptions are trumping rational analysis when it comes to European views of current U.S. foreign policy. Unaccustomed (since at least Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire”) to provocative language like "axis of evil," "with us or against us" or "evil-doers," European elites are focusing on Administration verbiage and rhetorical pronouncements rather than the manner that U.S. foreign policy is actually being implemented.

Take the variegated approach the U.S. is pursuing with the "axis of evil" members. Iraq is being pressured under the barrel of a gun, in North Korea the U.S. is pursuing dialogue in close consultation with key regional players and, in Iran, the U.S. is monitoring the dynamics of change within Iranian society while not shutting off channels with Teheran. Hardly the one-size-fits-all foreign policy that Mr. Solana describes.

Another important, and related, misperception is that a small cabal at the Pentagon is evangelically-bent on exporting American-style democracy from the River Jordan to the Tigris and points beyond. One prominent academic recently suggested that there is a “messianic” aspect to figures such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz—again linking U.S. policymaking to theological imperatives.

Yet these neo-conservatives are not primarily driven to unseat Saddam because they believe a gaggle of Jeffersonian Democrats is patiently waiting in the wings to preside over a parliamentary democracy in Mesopotamia. Indeed, the consensus administration policy focuses on Saddam’s arsenal. Whether relatively dovish advisors around Secretary of State Colin Powell or hawks around Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—the goal is to disarm Saddam. To paraphrase an old line, it’s the weapons of mass destruction, stupid.

The current American Administration understands that the greatest threat to international security in the 21st Century will come from the perilous intersection between transnational terror groups and rogue regimes with WMD capability. We must hope that Europeans understand that the religious forces that actually need combating are busy manufacturing poisons like Ricin in London or finding the next discotheque to blow up. The sooner Europeans leaders fully understand that, the better for re-invigorated cooperation across the Atlantic to better secure the international system from future shocks like 9/11.

Posted by Gregory at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2003

Check this site for (mostly)

Check this site for (mostly) foreign policy analysis with an emphasis on Euro-American relations from the perspective of a transplanted New Yorker now living in London.

Posted by Gregory at 08:34 PM | Comments (0)
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