Being A Superpower Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

by David Isenberg | March 27th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Well, now that the United Nations Security Council last week passed its latest sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program let us take a moment to ponder the wonderfully wacky world of nuclear proliferation.  In this world the letter of the law matters less than the power of the sheriff enforcing it.

Consider the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which came into force in 1970, which both the United States and Iran constantly refer to in the back and forth over Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States says is cover for a program to acquire nuclear weapons.

The NPT obligates the five acknowledged nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, and China) not to transfer nuclear weapons, other nuclear explosive devices, or their technology to any non-nuclear-weapon state. Non-nuclear-weapon States Parties undertake not to acquire or produce nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices. They are required also to accept safeguards to detect diversions of nuclear materials from peaceful activities, such as power generation, to the production of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

To vastly simplify things the United States says Iran violates the NPT, given its history of not declaring all its facilities and activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran says its nuclear program started back in the 1970s under the Shah, with the U.S. blessing, when Westinghouse was eagerly trying to sell Iran nuclear reactors and despite numerous IAEA inspections no proof has been found that Iran is embarked on a nuclear weapons program. (more…)

Sen. Chuck Hagel finds the status quo unacceptable

by David Isenberg | March 26th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Hmmm, maybe Chuck Hagel should run for president. This weekend he said some rarely voiced truths that desperately need to be heard.  Consider this excerpt from ABC’s This Week: 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about Iraq. You mentioned the House Democrats passed their bill. Their version of the Iraq war funding bill this week which imposed benchmarks on the Iraqi government but also set a deadline for the removal of all U.S. combat forces. Can you sign on to that? …  So combining legislation, what kind of conditions are you going to try to impose?
 
HAGEL: It will be binding legislation, and it will be focused on deployment, redeployment, training, equipment. What we’re doing to our force structure in this country is disastrous.
 
We essentially are ruining our National Guard. We are destroying our Army. We’re destroying our Marine Corps.

 

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Why eight attorneys matter so much

by Seth Green | March 26th, 2007 | |Subscribe

I’m generally on this blog arguing for compromise — for the Bush administration to stop its ideological approach toward national security and other issues and get on with the job of governing. But in the latest debate taking over Washington, I find that I’m against the compromise. Bush has offered Democrats the chance to question his advisers behind closed doors and off the record as a way to get beyond the current impasse on the Attorney General scandal. Democrats have refused this offer and they are right to do so. This is a very important issue and the truth counts.

Here’s why this issue is important: this goes to the heart of the Bush administration’s character. From the beginning of his presidency, President Bush claimed to be a uniter who saw the world through non-partisan glasses. And this story suggests that in fact his advisers may see even the justice department, which is intended to be a guardian of objectivity and impartiality, as a partisan enterprise. Especially after the Libby case, it’s clear the only way to ensure the truth in Bush administration officials’ testimony is to legally bind them to it.

The responses by defenders of this compromise deal have been just plain silly. After acknowledging that there is no principled reason for having the testimony off the record, Fox News contributor Susan Estrich writes: “I’m willing to give Karl Rove and Harriet Miers the benefit of the doubt. After all, Karl is an old friend of mine, and I was ready to see Harriet confirmed to be on the Supreme Court. And truth be told, whatever they said or did here, I don’t think they’re the ones whose judgment is really at issue.” And I guess that really is the only reason one could give for such an off-the-record interview series. But what’s ironic is that the reason the interviews are needed in the first place is that Gonzalez and his team at Justice misled Congress to begin with. So, giving the benefit of the doubt seems just a bit naive.

Politicizing emergency appropriations

by Brian Vogt | March 22nd, 2007 | |Subscribe

I’ve been following the debate that’s been on the Hill recently about the supplemental appropriations.  What I’ve found particularly interesting is the political aspects of the spending bill and how the Democrats have been using their majority position in the House to add on additional elements to the bill.  One of these add-ons I feel is quite appropriate, but the others, I feel, are not. 

The Democrats are working to include a provision in the supplemental appropriation that in addition to funding the President’s request would also require that combat troops be removed from Iraq by September 2008.  See this Washington Post article for more background.  This is a full six months beyond the March 2008 date suggested by the bipartisan Iraq study group.  Some might argue that it is wrong to tie these two things together.  They would argue that we should not link the funding of troops to the decision to keep them there or not.  Everyone agrees these days that we should always provide adequate funding for the troops.  In the post Vietnam era there has been strong support for the troops even in unpopular military actions.  My analysis, though, is that this approach to policy making has been formed in large part by political calculations.  No lawmaker wants to ever be accused of not supporting our troops.  Republicans are almost daring the Democrats to cut funding.  They feel that such a move would be political winner for the Republicans as they portray the Democrats as unsupportive of our troops in harms way. 

This is precisely why I believe that it makes sense to link the two policies.  A legislator should be able to both support the troops but also call for their redeployment.  Many, though, who are supportive of our involvement in Iraq, would very much like to continue to wield the “Democrats don’t support our troops” political threat.  Yes, this does force our President to either accept the bill or veto it.  He has threatened to veto it.  However, he would then face the same political fallout that has been facing the Democrats for the past several months.  It’s time to recognize that one can support the troops and also work for an end to the our involvement in the conflict.  They are not mutually exclusive.  It’s time that the “support the troops” mantra is no longer used a political weapon. 

The Democrats, however, are certainly not immune from overly politicizing this legislation.  There is much blame to go around and they certainly should bear some of it.  This recent article gives several examples of how Democrats are adding in completely unrelated items to the supplemental appropriations in order to get the support of otherwise skeptical Representatives.  I completely recognize that this type of horsetrading (some might call bribery) goes on all the time in order to get sufficient votes on legislation.  However, the decision to go to war, to leave a war, and to fund our troops, are decision so important that they should not be clouded by bribes of support on pet projects in the districts of skeptical legislators.  Certainly many of these projects are worthwhile (ie disaster relief).  However, such legislation should be introduced on its own merits.  We need our elected officials to take a stand on the issue of the war and to suffer or benefit from the consequences of their decisions. 

The Neocons’ First Cousins

by Christopher Preble | March 21st, 2007 | |Subscribe

I’m about a third of the way through Tony Smith’s new book, A Pact with the Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise, and I hope this book gets the attention it deserves. I fear, however, that he is preaching to the choir (me) and that the people who really need to hear what he is saying will tune him out.

It is not that Smith, who holds the Cornelia M. Jackson chair in Political Science at Tufts University, is lacking for high-profile venues to promote his work. He just published an op ed in the Washington Post‘s Outlook section; he is the author of four other books; he just spoke at the New America Foundation.

The problem, however, is that Tony Smith has committed a terrible faux pas in Beltway circles: he has dared to compare the neoconservatives to their intellectual first cousins, the neoliberals. “Sources for many of the critical elements of the Bush doctrine,” Smith wrote in the Post, “can be found in the emergence of neoliberal thought during the 1990s.” This really is heresy; I should know, whenever I so much as suggest that the neoconservatives’ arguments are in any way related to arguments made by neoliberals in the 1990s, I am greeted by howls of protest and rage.

Perhaps Smith can avoid this fate because he is a self-described progressive, whereas I am not. When I enter into this debate, skeptics on the left can (with some justification) claim that I am merely trying to make trouble. Tony Smith, on the other hand, is trying to rescue the left from the allure of “progressive imperialism” as promoted by neoliberals. I support what he is doing because I believe that by rescuing the left, he is helping to rescue the country. As he says, “the neolibs are more powerful today in the Democratic Party than the neocons are among Republicans.”

If one accepts Smith’s core thesis, that the neoconservatives and the neoliberals are intellectual first cousins, and if you believe that the problem in our foreign policy is too much military intervention, not too little, then I think that a reasonable argument can be made that there is a greater danger of an overly interventionist foreign policy under a Democratic administration than there is under a Republican.

There are exceptions, to be sure; John McCain was the neocons’ candidate in 2000, and he continues to exhibit a great enthusiasm for foreign military intervention, even if the Weekly Standard‘s William Kristol has recently spoken highly of Rudy Giuliani. But the public is looking for good judgment, prudence, and restraint; they have little enthusiasm for grandiose expressions of America’s “mission”, and of the need for promoting democracy by force — key neoliberal and neoconservative precepts.

The test case for the permanence of “the neocon-neolib entente,” first formed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, will be the war in Iraq. If the lessons drawn from this misadventure remain confined to the “good idea, poorly executed” realm, then we should expect more military intervention in the near future. For now, Hillary Clinton appears unwilling to disavow the logic of the Iraq war; she objects chiefly to the Bush administration’s execution of it.

A truly new direction for U.S. foreign policy can only come from those willing to cast off both neoconservatism and neoliberalism, and embrace instead a prudential realism that elevates the importance of preserving and advancing U.S. national security.

 

Yet Another Bad Decision on Iraq

by Raj Purohit | March 20th, 2007 | |Subscribe

I am sure that we have all lost count of the poor decisions made by the Administration on Iraq. However, the recent decision by the Administration to start delivering about $3 billion – yes with a b – worth of weapons to the Iraqi army may be bad enough to enter the top 5 list of appalling policy choices on Iraq.

We have seen numerous reports in recent months that highlight the links between the Iraqi army/ security forces and various militia groups. We also know that weapons and uniforms have somehow found their way into the arms of individuals who are fighting against U.S. forces.

SO – why on earth would we agree to use the Foreign Military Sale program to provide the Iraqis with M-16’s, small arms, armored Humvee multipurpose vehicles, 5-ton trucks, ammunition, air surveillance radars and radios?

I don’t have time at the moment to go into the broader questions of where the money is coming from but at the most basic level I have to say that this does not seem like a well thought out decision to me.

We Can Do Better

by Jamie Metzl | March 19th, 2007 | |Subscribe

It’s not that our government has gotten worse in the last few months, although it would seem so in light of the back-to-back scandals blanketing the news. The unfortunate reality is that the Democratic majority in Congress has forced a level of accountability for the executive branch that has simply not been seen over the previous six years. It seems likely that more evidence of unethical, and possibly illegal, activity by the administration will continue to come out over the coming months. This is not a partisan swipe at an administration that is at an ebb, it is a statement about the need for accountability in government. It is good to believe that our democracy can be self-policing, but it most often can not. The responsibility of the majority is to lead responsibly. The responsibility of the minority is to hold the majority, or the executive, accountable without seeking to
sabotage the country for narrow, partisan gain. Our system is beginning to regain its balance and to correct the many problems that have emerged over the past six years, and beyond. We are starting at an extremely low point relative to where we were at the beginning of this decade. We can do better.

Starting the Fifth Year in Iraq

by David Isenberg | March 19th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Given that this weekend’s talk shows were on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq there was only one topic on people’s minds, Iraq.  

We might start by remembering what President Bush said four years ago, when he announced the war to the American public. He said:  

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly — yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

Well, we’ve long since realized there were no weapons of mass destruction. So what now? Well, on Face The Nation Secretary Gates confirmed that yet another Bush administration rationale for staying in Iraq is false. (more…)

Judicial Protest in Pakistan

by Raj Purohit | March 19th, 2007 | |Subscribe

U.S. policymakers need to keep tabs on the spiraling crisis over the freedom of the judiciary in Pakistan. It has been about 10 days since President (dictator) Pervez Musharraf decided to suspend the chief justice of the Supreme Court on charges of misconduct.

Since that move, Pakistani lawyers have demonstrated on the streets, fearing a move against the judiciary and have been involved in clashes with the security forces. These clashes have been covered in the media which has led to the security forces deciding to move against the media – a decision that came as a bit of a surprise to me.  Usually the media is given a lot of latitude to report what they wish. Maybe the move suggests that the regime is feeling under pressure from internal strains. With these recent developments coming on the heels of pressure from Pakistanis in exile, we are entering a rocky time for the Musharraf regime.

As I have mentioned earlier, I am troubled that we are not seeing more of a strategy from the Bush Administration for dealing with Pakistan. I also would like to see that country be a higher priority for the Presidential candidates.

What part of Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution Does Congress Not Understand?

by David Isenberg | March 14th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Monday night, Rep. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership, because of opposition from members of their own party, decided to pull language from the Supplemental Appropriations bill which stated that no funds may be authorized for military operations in or related to Iran unless specifically authorized by the Congress.
 
According to the Congressional Quarterly daily report, some Democrats are fighting Speaker Pelosi’s language, which would prevent the President from going to war on Iran without the approval of Congress.
 
One might think this is an easy call; perhaps for you or I; but evidently not for some Democratic members of Congress. According to the CQ some of the same Democrats most vehement about ending the Iraq debacle are resisting denying the President unilateral authority to go to war on Iran.
 
So much for the idea that in the aftermath of the mid-terms elections the Democrats would recover their backbone and start acting like, well, members of Congress, who have a Constitutional obligation to decide whether the country should go to war.

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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.