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…)

Forging a World of Liberty under Law

by Christopher Preble | September 28th, 2006 | |Subscribe

The Princeton Project on National Security has just released a major study on U.S. foreign policy for the 21st century. The authors of the report, Anne-Marie Slaughter and G. John Ikenberry, who also directed the project, spoke yesterday on Capitol Hill, along with Senators Joseph Biden and Chuck Hagel, and nearly two dozen other commentators and speakers.

I was honored to have contributed in a very small way to the work of the Princeton Project. I am particularly grateful to Harold Feiveson, Chris Chyba and David Victor, the co-chairs of the working group on relative threat assessment, who invited me to contribute a working paper for the group (.pdf available here).

However, leaving aside my biases, I believe that anyone who cares enough about foreign policy to read this blog should read the Princeton Project’s final report. I also believe that Across the Aisle is a particularly appropriate forum for an in-depth discussion of the report going forward. Many others who participated in the project have their own blogs. (For example, TPM Cafe’s America Abroad, Daniel Drezner’s eponymous blog, and CAP/Century Foundation’s Democracy Arsenal) But this PSA blog is unique in that it brings together views from across the political spectrum. The authors clearly intended that the project report would appeal to a bipartisan audience. That Anthony Lake, one of the honorary co-chairs of the Princeton Project (with George Shultz), happens also to be on PSA’s advisory board doesn’t hurt.

In the introductory chapter of the report, Dean Slaughter and Professor Ikenberry close with three urgent questions, and an appeal to their readers:

In this world, what does the United States seek — for all Americans, and for all human beings? How do we define our objectives, and what kind of strategy will we need to achieve those objectives in the 21st century? What principles will serve as our anchor in the coming decades, and what policies will guide us? The answers to these questions must ultimately be the subject of sustained national debate. This report seeks to begin it.

Over the next few weeks, I intend to weigh in on aspects of the report that I find particularly interesting, but I expect my fellow bloggers to do the same, and I welcome many more comments from readers. So, do your homework. Read the report (.pdf). And let’s get a conversation started.

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. 

Iran and the Realists

by Christopher Preble | September 18th, 2006 | |Subscribe

I have heard it said that there is nothing more dangerous in Washington, DC, than being correct too early. Perhaps that is why some of the most prescient foreign policy thinking is being done by those well outside of the Beltway. (It would be a bit too arrogant for me to think that I and my colleagues at the Cato Institute are the exception, but I offer as Exhibit A our work on Iraq.)

With the debate over the next great foreign policy challenge joined, even before the last foreign policy challenge — Iraq — is resolved, fresh thinking is welcome. Everyone is talking about what to do about Iran, especially about the Iranian nuclear program. Many of the advocates for war are the same who pushed for war with Iraq. That does not mean, however, that everyone in Washington has come to the conclusion that a preventive war is the only possible solution. Others favor negotiation. Some believe that sanctions will succeed in convincing Tehran to abandon their nuclear program. Some hold out hope that nonviolent regime change will end the crisis.

Particularly striking are the two op eds awkwardly juxtaposed in the Washington Post last Friday. David Ignatius and Charles Krauthammer, commenting on the same issue, based largely on the very same reporting, seem to come to completely different conclusions as to what the president is likely to do. Ignatius stresses President Bush’s enthusiasm for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Ignatius contends that the administration’s policy on Iran “is premised on an American recognition of Iran’s role as an important nation in the Middle East.” He quotes the president’s simple and straightforward message to the Iranian people: “I would tell the Iranian people that we have no desire for conflict.”

On the other hand, Krauthammer is skeptical that the crisis can or will be resolved without war, even as he concedes that the costs of such a war would be “terrible” — including an increase in the price of oil to perhaps as much as $150 a barrel, which would “cause a worldwide recession perhaps as deep as the one triggered by the Iranian revolution of 1979.” 

“These are the costs,” Krauthammer continues, “There is no denying them. However, equally undeniable is the cost of doing nothing.” “The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age,” given that, “deterrence is a mere wish. Is the West prepared to wager its cities with their millions of inhabitants on that feeble gamble?” Don’t be fooled by the question mark, because this is not framed as a question, and it is not meant to be read as one.

But don’t be fooled by the false dichotomy, either. In Krauthammer’s calculus, to not launch a military strike is to do nothing. This is the bleak binary choice that the neoconservatives have presented to the American public: either bomb the Iranians or accede to an Iranian bomb. (Kudos to Steve Clemons and the New America Foundation for putting together an excellent discussion that explicitly sought to escape this false either-or choice.)  (more…)

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…)


by Benjamin Rhodes | September 14th, 2006 | |Subscribe

9/11 has brought with it some new terminology, most notably “war on terror” which has taken a tendency to make war on nouns (prominently, “poverty” and “drugs”), and shifted it to making war on a tactic. Now we have “Islamofascist” – too young to have a dictionary definition, but prominent enough to merit mention by the President (and a wikipedia definition).

Islamofascism represents a bunch of things, including linking the fight against terrorism to the fight against Hitler. The Hitler thing is a little strange, but pretty clearly represents a desire to recall the victory of WWII and to cast those who disagree with tactics in the war on terror as appeasers. Beyond their both being violent and hating Jews, I’m at a bit of a loss on equating a stateless terrorist network to the Third Reich, particularly since there cannot be any clear “victory” – any occupation of Berlin or Japanese surrender – against people who have no capitol or sign no surrender agreements. But that’s a topic for another day…

The more dangerous part, I think, is conflating groups with different aims. What do the Iranian government, Hizbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, and Islanmist movements from Indonesia to Kashmir to Chechnya to London have in common? A lot less than we’re making them out to have in common if we slap a big old “Islamofascist” label on them. They may all be bad, but you don’t approach a nationalist or separatist movement in the same way that you approach an apocalyptic jihadist movement (and certainly not a government). And the argument doesn’t even hold that they are all adherents to the same ideology of radical Islam – one need only look at Iraq to know that Iran’s ayatollahs don’t march in lockstep with Sunni terrorists.

Much more could be said about this, but the bottom line is conflation hasn’t served us that well. Whether it was “al Qaeda and Iraq” or the “axis of evil” – what made for simplifying, rousing, and self-congratulatory rhetoric has translated awkwardly into policy. And this is not just a habit of this Administration or this conflict. You could go back a little farther and find that conflating a Vietnamese nationalist movement with Soviet imperialism was a stretch as well.  


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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.