R.I.P. Liberal Internationalism

by David Isenberg | October 31st, 2007 | |Subscribe

If the Partnership For A Secure America stands for anything it is, to quote from the mission statement, to recreate the “bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.” As a PSA blogger from day one I agree with that. It is hard enough, in the best of times, which these days clearly are not, to try and formulate and implement a national strategy. We don’t need interminable backbiting and stale rhetoric about “stay the course” or “cut and run.”

Still, the PSA premise is one that has as its foundation the assumption that the era of liberal internationalism, U.S. power plus cooperation, which guided U.S. policymakers during the post WW II to at least Vietnam era and beyond, is something we can and should return to.

Most people assume that current U.S. foreign and national security policies are a sort of temporary aberration; a sort of passing madness brought about by the Bush administration and various neocons. And that once we reach January 2009 and a new president is in office things will return to normal.

But here is a question. What if we can’t? What if that era is so dead and buried that revival is impossible. What’s that, you say? Surely, I jest. Well, I like a joke as much as the next person but I’m actually serious.

Consider the article in the new issue of International Security by academics Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz. (more…)

Avoiding “World War III”

by David Isenberg | October 29th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Iran was a main topic of conversation across shows yesterday.  I guess we can thank President Bush’s remarks about World War III for that.

Let’s go right to the videotape. First up, CNN’s Late Edition:

WOLF BLITZER: Joining us now from New York for a “Late Edition” exclusive is the man who’s been monitoring Iran’s moves on the nuclear front. Mohamed ElBaradei is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
I want you to respond to this overall threat that the U.S. perceives comes from Iran, and listen to how President Bush the other day phrased it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.  (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is Iran, Dr. ElBaradei, building a nuclear bomb?
ELBARADEI: Well, Wolf, let me say three facts to put the Iranian nuclear issue in proper perspective. We are not talking about Iran today having a nuclear weapon as Secretary Rice said recently. Second, even if Iran were to be working on nuclear weapons, according to John Negroponte and Mike McConnell, they at least few years away from having such weapon.
Thirdly, what we are doing right now is, through the IAEA and the European Union, Javier Solana, is to try to make sure that we control the nascent enrichment capability in Iraq and create the conditions for Iran and the European, particularly the U.S., to go into negotiation.


Weather can be scarier than terrorists

by Brian Vogt | October 26th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Every day now it seems that we see more and more concrete examples of the serious ramifications of the warming of our planet.  The fires in the West are just the most recent example of the type of changes that are in the works.  Even George Bush has admitted that climate change is happening and that humans are something to do with that.  Ahhh…. the world breathes a sigh of relief.  Now that the American President, ever so skeptical of scientific evidence, has actually recognized both the magnitude of the problem and the cause, surely America will take the lead in solving the problem.  Unfortunately, no such overtures have been made by this administration.  It’s belatedly strong on talk, but still quite short on action. 

This challenge has the potential to be the overwhelming security challenge of this century.  If predictions are correct, it may make us yearn for the days when we only had to deal with terrorists and nuclear states.  In so many ways, climate change has the potential to dramatically alter many of the fundamentals of our economy and our relationship with the natural world.  Yes, there will be winners and losers, but it seems that the evidence indicates that the losers will dramatically outnumber the winners.  What’s more, the losers are those members of society that can least afford to deal with the dramatic life changes that will come.  Generally any event that creates that many losers in the world is bound to lead to increased conflict and, therefore, dramatically increased instability.   A recent report by a panel of retired generals and admirals outlines the dramatic national security threat that global climate change poses. 

The report predicts:

“Projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states…. The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide, and the growth of terrorism.

Here is recent Congressional testimony on the subject by the author of an upcoming CSIS and CNAS report, The Age of Consequences:  The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change. 


Reviving one Acronym with Another: NPT and CTBT

by Matthew Rojansky | October 24th, 2007 | |Subscribe


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the almost four-decade-old deal among the world’s nuclear and non-nuclear states to control the spread of nuclear technology that can be used for weapons, is on its back. In addition to the five declared “nuclear states” party to the treaty, three non-parties, India, Pakistan and Israel, have developed and deployed nuclear weapons in highly tense and unstable political environments and with unknown safeguards against theft or accidental launch. Moreover, North Korea has all but confirmed a minimal nuclear arsenal, which may already be deployed and aimed at Seoul, and at US forces in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. Those weapons could even, loaded on missiles like the Nodong-2 and the Taepodong, hit Japan and US bases in Asia. It hardly requires recapitulation that Iran’s nuclear program is the single greatest threat to global peace and stability today. Whether or not Tehran develops a serviceable nuclear deterrent, its brash defiance and calculated ambiguity in the face of Western pressure has pushed more responsible players to plan for what nobody wants: a US or Israeli preemptive strike on Iran.


Keeping Congress In The Dark, Again

by David Isenberg | October 22nd, 2007 | |Subscribe

One might think, given everything that has happened since the United States invaded Iraq, and what we’ve found out since, in regard to how the Bush administration manipulated intelligence and spun the facts to make the case for war that, if nothing else, they would feel, at least somewhat circumspect, about doing it all over again in regard to a Middle East country.

Of course, like so many other assumptions concerning the Bush administration you would be wrong. As a case in point let’s look at this excerpt from yesterday CNN’s Late Edition: 

WOLF BLITZER, HOST:  Congressman Hoekstra, I want to start with you on this mystery, this bombing that the Israelis undertook of some sort of facility in Syria. You and a handful of your colleagues have been briefed by the Bush administration what exactly happened.
And yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, you and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote a provocative article saying, among other things, this — and both of have you been briefed: “The Bush administration, however, has thrown an unprecedented veil of secrecy around the Israeli air strike. We are prepared to state based on what we have learned that it is critical for every member of Congress to be briefed on this incident as soon as possible.”
Why is it so important, Congressman?
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: What happened in northern Syria clearly can be described potentially as an act of war. I mean, you’ve got Israeli planes going into northern Syria and bombing some type of facility. Yes, we’ve been briefed.
A number of countries that may be on our radar screen, Iran, North Korea, other countries. You know, we should know what their role in this activity or what was going on in Syria. And the most important thing at this point in time, Wolf, is that, you know, the president and administration have decided that they are going to make this information public. But what they’re doing is they’re going through and leaking parts of this story to the media. We call that “spot declassification.”
Jane and I had a discussion about this towards the end of last week. She thought maybe information should stay classified. I disagreed with her.
But I think we both would agree that if the administration is going to start leaking bits and pieces of this story to the media, at that point all members of Congress should be briefed. And I think the American people should know what has gone on.

BLITZER: But you’re the chair of this important intelligence subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee. Have they briefed you?
HARMAN: No, they have not briefed me on what went on in northern Syria. All I know is what I’ve read in the media.  

Private Sector Leadership

by Raj Purohit | October 22nd, 2007 | |Subscribe

The former head of Mozambique, President Joaquim Chissano, is the first winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize for governance; an award financed by and named after the prominent Sudanese cell phone millionaire. The cash prize of $5 million over 10 years and then $200,000 per year is awarded to the top former African leader of the past three years. Mr. Ibrahim is essentially trying to create incentives for good governance among African leaders.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presented Mr. Chissano with his award – Annan chaired the illustrious panel that was responsible for making the pick this year.

Mr. Chissano is a worthy winner, having brought peace to his country in 1992 and in a move reminiscent of former South African President Mandela he declined to run for reelection in 2004 despite being constitutionally able to do so.

I have thought a bit about this award, and read some of the concerns raised by critics. On balance, I have to say that I feel that this is a terrific idea – anything that can positively encourage good governance in Africa is worth looking at and I think that Mr. Ibrahim should be commended for putting his money where his mouth is. After all, at a time when many private sector groups are playing such a negative role in Africa, it is nice to see one business man trying to show some leadership.

Solving the Fundamental Problem

by Seth Green | October 20th, 2007 | |Subscribe

The stock market has been moving up and down with new veracity over the last few months and that’s a major security issue for the U.S. For a long time, U.S. properties and our trusted dollar have been seen as a good investment to governments and individuals alike around the world. Among other attributes, it was a reasonably safe bet that was much less likely to see the type of volatility often endemic to emerging markets. But what we’ve seen over the past few months is a dollar in almost constant decline and a stock market that moves in fast and furious ways.

One might think that the volatility in the market is entirely natural and there’s little U.S. policy can do about it. I’d beg to disagree. Some volatility is inevitable as markets correct to new and unexpected information. But other volatility is the result of economic problems that our government has not even tried to help solve. After a lot of talk, there has been almost no policy change to try to help those with sub-prime mortgages who risk losing their homes or to create greater transparency to reassure current investors that their money is in safe hands. Instead, we have had a policy where the government tries to make it cheaper to buy into the market but does not attempt to change the market fundamentals. So, Ben Bernake drops interest rates and the market is more attractive in the short-term because money is relatively cheaper to invest, but there is no fundamental change to address the root cause of the issue. The U.S. needs to get back to a sound economic policy as a matter of national security. If we do not, we will soon see international investors pulling their money out of our country and we will lose one of the competitive advantages that has been at the heart of our success as a country since at least 1945.

Support the AKP, Don’t Trip Them Up

by Jonathan Wallace | October 19th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Last week, the House Foreign Affairs committee voted 27 to 21 to bring a resolution to the floor condemning as genocide the mass killings of Armenians in 1915. The genocide of Armenians has been widely accepted as historical fact. Despite this, the timing of the House resolution is damaging to American foreign policy. Not only does this resolution hurt American policy in the Middle East, but it also is harmful to the current ruling party in Turkey, led by Prime Minister Erdogan and President Adbullah Gul. This is a time when we need to support the current Turkish civilian leadership. We do not need to be adding to its challenges. (more…)

Bhutto Back in Pakistan – Survives Assassination Attempt

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

Former, and future, Pakistani PM Bhutto returned to her country yesterday to massive crowds and a few hours later survived an assassination attempt. Listening to some of the reaction here in the U.S. two things come to mind. One, Pakistan and the international community need Bhutto to succeed and finally the Bush Administration seems to understand that. Two, Musharraf is part of the problem not part of the solution. Bhutto and her People’s Party have to deal with him but he is not a constructive force. The Bush Administration still does not understand that it is his rule that has facilitated the spike in radicalism within Pakistan.

The Nightmare from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

by David Isenberg | October 18th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Well, another week and another retired general heard from. This time it was retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez who, last Friday, said the White House, the Congress and the State Department all share the blame for what he’s calling a nightmare with no end in sight.

Hmm, the nightmare from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. That’s kind of catchy; could be a movie there.

The sound bite that has been whizzing around the talk shows is this: (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.