Princeton Project on National Security – Concert of Democracies

by Brian Vogt | September 29th, 2006 | |Subscribe


Thanks very much to Chris Preble for introducing the Princeton Project report on a national security framework for our country’s future.  Considering that our current direction seems to be mightily off course, this effort was sorely needed.  Although there are many useful subjects to discuss in the report, today I’d like to look at the proposal that I expected to have most suspicion of – the Concert of Democracies.  It turns out that despite my initial wariness, I’ve come to see this idea in a more positive light.  I’m guessing that this proposal is one that also makes many UN supporters a bit nervous.  However, I’ll describe here why I think that this potentially could be a good idea. 

The Princeton Project reports describes the Concert of Democracies:

This alternative body would be a global “Concert of Democracies.”  Its purpose would be to strengthen security cooperation among the world’s liberal democracies and to provide a framework in which they can work together to effectively tackly common challenges – ideally within existing regional and global institutions, but if those institutions fail, then independently, functioning as a focal point for efforts to strengthen liberty under law around the world.  It would serve as the institutional embodiment and ratification of the “democratic peace”. 

With this proposal, the devil is in the details.  Many might be skeptical that this Concert of Democracies might be more akin to the “coalition of the willing” that was supportive of the Iraq invasion.  However, looking back on that coalition, we must remember that clearly democratic countries such as France and Germany were not supportive of the invasion, and therefore the Concert of Democracies would not have been simply a rubber stamp on that action. 

However, this Concert of Democracies could act in a situation such as Darfur that is being held up by Russian and Chinese unwillingness to compel Sudan to accept an international peacekeeping force.  In this situation, I believe, that the Concert of Democracies would be more willing to intervene in such a dire humanitarian disaster.  Since pledging to support the concept of “responsibility to protect” would be one of the requirements to be a member of the Concert of Democracies, it seems likely that such a group could take collective action in Darfur.  (more…)

Time for Action in Darfur

by Jamie Metzl | September 27th, 2006 | |Subscribe

As someone who has done a lot of research and writing about the genocide in Cambodia, I’m feeling a worrying sense of deja-vu all over again as I read the coverage of Darfur. There, as today, people over time largely agreed that genocide was taking place, but weren’t willing to do what it took to stop it. There, as at some point in the future in Sudan, people will come to grave sites and give eloquent speeches about how the world failed to respond. Historians will again write books, like Samantha Power’s The Problem from Hell, that explore how well meaning people weren’t willing or able to do what it took to end the genocide, even those who knew full well what was going on. Some things in life are difficult. This one is simple. With bipartisan support the United States must:

  1. Either secure UN Security Council support for a humanitarian intervention in Sudan and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force or, if that will not be possible due to Chinese resistance, to seek the same authorizations and commitment through NATO;
  2. Once force has been authorized, give the Sudanese government one last chance to support the peaceful deployment of a UN or NATO mission.

Making decisions like these is always difficult, but it always seems so clear that something should have been done at the memorials later held in concentration camps and killing fields. President Bush has taken all kinds of moralistic positions on issues that may not have merited them, but this is one case where the President’s sense of morality ought to be a national asset. It’s incumbent upon Democrats and Republicans alike to catalyze this process.

Secretary Rice: What’s the Real Plan for Taking “Action” in Darfur?

by Victoria Holt | September 25th, 2006 | |Subscribe

Secretary Rice spoke to the Security Council last week and called for UN action on Darfur even if Khartoum resists: “Our intention – I want to underscore – is not to impinge upon Sudan’s sovereignty. But let there be no doubt about our resolve. As President Bush said on Tuesday, “If the Sudanese Government does not approve the peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must find a way to act.””

She continued:

If the notion of the “responsibility to protect” that we all agreed to last year – if the notion of the responsibility to protect the weakest and most powerless among us is ever to be more than an empty promise, then we must take action in Darfur. This is a profound test for the international community, and we must show that we are equal to it.

Strong words. But she didn’t answer her own challenge, namely, how should the international community both respect the sovereignty of Sudan and yet not stand for the on-going violence in Darfur? What is the plan? Sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur is not just hard for the obvious reasons – a difficult environment, huge area, lack of funds and troops – but because it is ill-equipped to act when a sovereign power opposes its entry. That’s just as challenging when the United States has declared the situation genocide.

If this is a “profound test,” then the Administration has an obligation to offer options and backing.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should ask UN Ambassador John Bolton these questions on Thursday (September 28), when he appears before them as their hearing witness on “Darfur: Prospects for Peace.” [UPDATE 9/26: Hearing abruptly cancelled! Hmm.] Senator Biden has called for a no-fly zone, along with Committee colleagues Senators Voinovich, Dodd, Chafee, Feingold, Coleman, Nelson and Kerry. Does the Administration support a no-fly zone? How about forceful intervention despite resistance from Khartoum? Doubling humanitarian aid? Giving the African Union forces there increased air assets and support? (more…)

Blurring the Lines of Partisanship

by Seth Green | September 23rd, 2006 | |Subscribe

I lead a non-partisan organization and we work hard in everything we do to think in terms of issues and not parties. But one of the difficulties of being non-partisan in today’s America is that the Bush administration has worked so hard to magnify small differences and to frame these differences automatically in terms of different ideologies and values. An example from last week is instructive. Bush was asked at a press conference about General Powell’s letter, which said :“The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.” Instead of responding directly, Bush said “It’s unacceptable to think that there’s any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.” What Bush was essentially saying is that his disagreement with Powell was not over strategy or pragmatic foreign policy concerns — this was a difference at the most basic level of whether Powell cared about Americans or terrorists. Was he with us or with them?

The divisionary nature of this administration was a main focus of a panel discussion I spoke on last Wednesday at NYU (see the news story). Some students after the panel said that they felt it was a partisan panel because it took such a sharp aim at the Bush administration for magnifying our differences and making our country and our world a more divided and partisan one than any time in recent history. And the discussion I had with these students reminded me of the odd and difficult place in which our country finds itself today. Non- and bi-partisanship really is under attack by a President who seeks to magnify our differences and yet even to bridge this subject is to open yourself up understandably to being called a partisan. Hopefully, the next leader who promises to be a uniter and not a divider may actually deliver on that promise so that we can keep our differences in perspective and magnify our commonalities instead.

Iran and the Cult of Bush

by David Isenberg | September 22nd, 2006 | |Subscribe

You may have noticed recent news tidbits intimating that a Bush administration attack on Iran is coming sooner rather than later.  An article in this week’s Time Magazine says that “a genuine, eyeball-to-eyeball crisis between the U.S. and Iran may be looming, and sooner than many realize.”

Now Time Magazine is hardly a definitive source and the article itself acknowledges that “No one knows whether–let alone when–a military confrontation with Tehran will come to pass.”

But, just for the sake of argument, let’s suppose the article is correct and that Bush administration is planning to attack Iran in the relatively near future, which would make it the fourth war it has started since assuming power; the others being Afghanistan, Iraq, and the overall global war on terrorism, now the “long war.” Certainly, the address by President Bush Tuesday at the United Nations where he said in regard to Iran, “You deserve an opportunity to determine your own future. The greatest obstacle is that your rulers have denied you this opportunity…” sounds like a call for regime change.

It raises certain intriguing questions. For example, why do we need a military confrontation with Iran shortly before a hotly contested national election in which the ruling party is in danger of losing its monopoly of political power?  Has Iran’s uranium enrichment program made some breathtaking advance that we need to take military action before November 7? (more…)

Political Maneuvering with the Torture Issue

by Brian Vogt | September 19th, 2006 | |Subscribe


I thought that in 2005 we had settled the “torture” issue.  John McCain broke with the President to introduce legislation that would prohibit the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners.  McCain got broad bipartisan support for his legislation and despite Cheney’s attempts to insert exclusions for the CIA, McCain was successful.  Not able to accept this defeat, Bush inserted a signing statement that basically said that he would implement the legislation as he saw fit. 

Now we are presented with this issue again.  No one should be fooled this time into thinking that this legislation has anything to do with keeping America safer.  It’s politics pure and simple.  Earlier in the year Karl Rove clearly stated that he would make this election a referendum on which party would keep America safer.  True to his plan, the President has supported legislation that allows for certain “alternative” interrogration techniques for prisoners being held by the CIA.  Whether or not this legislation passes is probably irrelevant for Bush.  The goal here is simply to have Democrats voting against legislation that “keeps America safer.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if the commercials were already shot – Congressperson ______ voted against the President’s plan to protect Americans.  Can we really trust him/her to keep us safe?  Already you are seeing foreign policy being thrown front and center in the political debate.  Here’s a recent ad on the wiretapping issue by Nancy Johnson who is running for reelection in Connecticut. 

As we saw last week, Bush had miscalculated the Republican opposition to this purely political piece of legislation.   Not only did John McCain come out against the legislation, but also Lindsey Graham and John Warner.  Colin Powell also was critical of this.  Not surprising that a host of ex military officials are the ones who saw the dangers of such legislation.  Now some are criticizing McCain saying that his stance on the torture issue will hurt him in his Presidential run.  Come on now!  If anyone can make an argument about standing up on principle on this issue, it’s John McCain. 

The Bush administration may still get its wish to have this purely political legislation come to a vote, but it will have a hard time explaining why the Democrats that stood against the legislation were accompanied by folks like Colin Powell, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Warner. 

A Few Good Women Are Hard to Find

by Victoria Holt | September 17th, 2006 | |Subscribe

For the last few months, The Atlantic Monthly has polled about 40 “foreign-policy authorities” on hot topics: States of Insecurity (April), the Future of Hamas (June), War in Iraq (July/August), a Nuclear Iran (September); the War in Lebanon (October).

Great topics. Important questions. Bipartisan views. Much brainpower from experts with broad experience and knowledge, many DC-based. Just one thing about these polls: They are based nearly completely on interviews with men. Over the course of five polls, it is striking that only five women are named, total, as participants, according to the magazine’s website. 

I noticed this disparity after reading the absorbing September issue on a flight home, especially the worth-reading “Declaring Victory” by James Fallows, about the US war on terror. Pieces on Presidential doodles and the development of the Wikipedia universe were both engaging. Then I found the Poll on a “Nuclear Iran” where it asked: Do you believe there is any set of incentives and economic sanctions that could persuade Iran to give up its quest for nuclear weapons? I noticed the list of those polled; two of the 38 were women. That’s about 5% participation. I was surprised. I checked the past polls by the magazine. The ratio of women got only a bit higher. [Their May poll wasn’t on foreign policy.]

So what’s up with the lack of woman experts included in The Atlantic’s re-occurring Poll group?  (They post the list in the magazine and for subscribers.)

There is a real gender visibility gap – many public forums on foreign affairs and defense have few women in prominent positions. This is more than a hunch. A report last year (more…)

Talking About U.S.-Muslim World Relations

by Seth Green | September 12th, 2006 | |Subscribe

In my last post, I wrote about the problems with the all-encompassing war on terror metaphor pushed by the Bush administration. But I’m actually writing this time to defend the use of the term “Muslim world,” even though I acknowledge that it is a great oversimplification that fails to illuminate the diversity within Muslim communities. Our organization has been hosting a series of “Hope not Hate” summits for young leaders around 9-11 on the “future of U.S.-Muslim world relations.” Several students have written to us to say they think it is wrong to group all Muslims into a single world. And, worse yet, they ask what this distinction means for American Muslims. After all, they are fully Americans just like any other citizen of this country regardless of their religion. These students also asked how we could compare a country and a faith, a region and a religion. One student went so far as to boycott our conference “because i didn’t want to sit around and explain to a bunch of orientalist jerks why it’s not ok to generalize.”

I certainly appreciate and respect these concerns, but I actually think the use of the term “U.S.-Muslim world relations” is an apt reflection of where we are today and the challenge we face. Certainly, the Muslim world is a mosaic, not a monolith. But there are certain sentiments that countries with a predominantly Muslim population increasingly agree on. Recent studies suggest that people in countries with a high Muslim population increasingly perceive and define themselves based on their religious (rather than national) identity and they overwhelmingly see the U.S. as the primary threat to their country and their way of life. And in the U.S., surveys show rising prejudice by American non-Muslims toward American Muslims. The term “U.S.-Muslim world relations” recognizes this current divide and the real and unfortunate fact that today we see ourselves as increasingly separable into different camps. It also illuminates the real tensions for many American Muslims today who feel understandably as if they are being treated like second-class citizens in their own country. Of course, our organization wants to overcome these growing divisions and to show that non-Muslims and Muslims have a great deal in common and much at stake in their common future. But I don’t think you overcome the dichotomy by denying the existence of a “U.S.-Muslim world” relationship. After all, international relations is about perceptions and the perception already exists in the minds of the vast majority of the world’s public. I think you need break down this dichotomy by acknowledging two worlds in the eyes of the public and then showcasing how these supposedly separate “worlds” are actually quite interconnected and interdependent. Hopefully, this will help the public realize that even if you perceive two worlds today, we need to find common ground between our worlds for the sake of our shared humanity.

Banality of evil: The Bush Administration

by David Isenberg | September 12th, 2006 | |Subscribe

The concept of the “banality of evil” entered public discourse after the publication of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which was based on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s thesis was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the Nazi death camp bureaucracy, were not crazy and ruthless fanatics, but instead were just ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good civil servants.

Now speed forward nearly fifty years to last Friday when the Senate Intelligence Committee released two of its long awaited Phase II reports on the handling of Iraq related intelligence prior to the U.S. invasion. The reports are part of a five-report study that the Senate Intelligence Committee has undertaken into the Bush administration’s use of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq.

The long anticipated and greatly overdue reports, Postwar Findings about Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How they Compare with Prewar Assessments and The Use by the Intelligence Community of Information Provided by the Iraqi National Congress, confirm what has been obvious for years now; namely that to this administration truth and reality are irrelevancies; if they don’t coincide with the agenda then they are to be, as Jesse Jackson might have put it once upon a time, suppressed, repressed, and depressed. Or to paraphrase the classic line from the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, “Truth? We don’t need no stinking truth!” (more…)

Sen. Glenn on Bipartisan Foreign Policy Consensus

by Eugene Gholz | September 11th, 2006 | |Subscribe

I was at the American Political Science Association panel on foreign policy bipartisanship that Chris Preble organized last weekend (see his descriptions here and here). And I was struck by the consensus on the panel: essentially everyone agreed that the Republicans and the Democrats pretty much agree about foreign policy strategy (they disagree about tactics — more on that in a second). But I thought that Peter Feaver had the most interesting comment. Not the one that Steve Clemons, who was on the panel, blogged about (in which Feaver responded to my question by challenging the world to find instances in which the Bush administration had ever questioned its critics’ patriotism). Peter’s most interesting point was one that I think most people in the room agreed about, rather than the one that shocked the audience.

Peter suggested that even as Democrats and Republicans have come closer together in their substantive beliefs about foreign policy, the level of vitriol has risen substantially. Actually, most people intuitively sense this, although perhaps they just don’t remember the level of partisan hostility over such issues as the Vietnam War, the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe, and aid to the Nicaraguan contras. But Feaver had a very interesting way of making the point, in his naturally pro-Bush administration talk (after all, he works in the administration). Feaver quoted the very sharp Democratic response to a series of Bush administration strategy documents on Iraq, and then he described the policy that Democrats offered in place of Bush’s strategy. And, of course, the Democratic “alternative” was almost exactly the same as the Bush policy.

Democrats excoriate Bush for doing the wrong thing, then they say something like “we should train the Iraqi police” or “we should clear and hold certain key cities in Iraq.” While the Bush administration may not have initially emphasized those activities, that’s certainly exactly what the Bush administration is up to now. A real debate over Iraq policy would be broader — questioning the administration’s goals in Iraq, whether training police or holding cities are policies likely to achieve those goals, etc. We actually have almost no debate at all. All smoke, no fire.

I was intrigued by Feaver’s clear formulation. And when the University of Texas hosted Ohio State’s football team this weekend (for a very traumatic Saturday night game), the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where I teach, also had the opportunity to host retired Senator John Glenn. Senator Glenn has been a prominent Democrat for a long time, and he’s a smart guy, so I asked him about Feaver’s comments. I got an interesting response, too. (more…)

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.