This article was written by Katherine Ehly and Matthew Hays, two Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
The Need for US Leadership as China Continues to Exert its Influence in the South and East China Seas
In late 2011 the Obama Administration announced that it would increase America’s visibility in Asia. These efforts were described by the Administration as a “pivot” or “rebalancing” of U.S. military planning, foreign policy, and economic policy toward the region. Washington, however, has wrestled with how to engage the most prominent and powerful country in the region, China. With troops nearly gone from Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan, this shift could not have come at a better time. As the region has grown more prosperous, the issue of sovereignty over the South and East China Seas has become intense with China exhibiting worrisome acts of aggression toward its neighboring countries. China, in attempting to control these waters, appears to be demonstrating its intent to exert dominance over the region.
Today the European Union announced an escalation of their sanctions against Iran. According to the new guidelines, the 27 member nations will end any oil contracts with Iran by July 1st and any assets held by the Iranian central bank within the EU will be frozen, with a limited exemption to continue legitimate trade. While this new oil embargo will go a long way in satisfying European public opinion, it is unlikely that it will have the desired effect on the Iranian regime and, most importantly, has huge potential to backfire.
PSA Advisory Board Member and former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, write about what a decline in American power could mean for the rest of the world – particularly China. The fall of the American hegemon could mean a slide into global chaos as quickly developing countries compete for global economic and strategic power. This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy and can be found here.
Not so long ago, a high-ranking Chinese official, who obviously had concluded that America’s decline and China’s rise were both inevitable, noted in a burst of candor to a senior U.S. official: “But, please, let America not decline too quickly.” Although the inevitability of the Chinese leader’s expectation is still far from certain, he was right to be cautious when looking forward to America’s demise.
For if America falters, the world is unlikely to be dominated by a single preeminent successor — not even China. International uncertainty, increased tension among global competitors, and even outright chaos would be far more likely outcomes.
Advisory Board Member and former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, discusses his recommendations for U.S. Policy in Iran. His recommendations include greater cooperation with the United Nations, collaboration with regional partners, and intelligence sharing in addition to many other points of leverage and influence the United States could use. The article originally appeared here on CNN.
Washington (CNN) — Longtime observers of the Middle East are baffled by allegations that high-ranking officials in the Iranian government approved a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabia Ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, and blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington. Commentators have described the plan as “brazen,” but “bizarre” and ‘bone-headed” might be more appropriate adjectives.
It’s difficult to comprehend either the motives or the means selected to carry out the plan outlined by the Justice Department in its criminal indictment of Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not new, but Iran has been both cautious and clever enough to restrain its ambitions for regional dominance.
If the allegations of the assassination and bombing plot are true, and the covert operation had proved successful, Iran’s leaders would have invited retaliation on a scale far more vigorous than any they might have contemplated. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that the Iranian landscape would likely have been substantially altered.
Praseodymium, Gadolinium, Erbium: you may not have heard of them before, but chances are you’ve used them recently. All three are examples of rare earths, the 17 elements occupying the middle of the Periodic Table. Rare earth elements- which, in actuality, are as globally ubiquitous as many other metals- are a critical component of both current and future technologies, helping to create products from cell phones to fiber-optic cables to electric cars.
These elemental tongue-twisters, once only the provenance of scientists and technology manufacturers, have become the object of much attention and speculation from policymakers in the past few weeks, courtesy of China. Although the PRC only has 35% of the world’s rare earth reserves, it has cleverly maneuvered its way into controlling 95% of global supply for the elements, thanks to heavy investment in the industry and a willingness to incur massive levels of environmental pollution while mining them. In the past few months, China has strategically wielded its monopoly as a diplomatic weapon, halting shipments to Japan during the two countries’ nasty territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Now reports say that China is using the same strategy against the U.S. in retaliation for the United States Trade Representative (USTR) accepting a petition alleging that China is subsidizing green energy investment in violation of WTO practices. All in all, it appears that China is beginning to engage in tit-for-tat diplomacy that raises serious questions about its intentions and its ability to behave like the superpower it strives to be. (more…)
In a 2004 speech, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao summarized the basic tenets of China’s ‘Peaceful Rise’ doctrine: the growing power and clout of China, he said, “will not come at the cost of any other country, will not stand in the way of any other country, nor pose a threat to any other country.”
If only China’s neighbors still believed him. Earlier this year, China declared the South China Sea, which is partially claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brunei, to be part of China’s “core interest” of sovereignty, similar to regions such as Taiwan and Tibet on which China sees no room for negotiation. China’s statement followed closely on the heels of past aggressive Chinese actions in the disputed waters, which have included seizing Vietnamese fishing boats, ordering foreign oil companies not to work with Vietnam on maritime oil exploration projects, planting a Chinese flag on the ocean floor, and training guns on an Indonesian naval ship. Needless to say, from the perspective of the other five nations that share territorial claims on parts of the Sea, these actions look anything but peaceful.
China’s southern neighbors are right to be worried. The past year has produced a number of indicators that Chinese regional policy is shifting away from its previous strategy of soft-power projection to a more assertive, hard-line position. (more…)
Given that one of my distant relatives (no, not Johnny Depp) was one of the first Americans assigned the task of defeating pirates, I take a particular interest in the subject of piracy. Throw in my few years in the U.S. Navy, and I can’t help myself. Even though I was technically on vacation last week, I followed the story of the Maersk-Alabama and Captain Richard Phillips with great interest. And I exulted when three of the four pirates met their end. The safe return of the Maersk-Alabama and her entire crew was a clear win for the cause of justice, and could serve as a model. Future efforts to protect ships from pirates are likely to include some combination of greater vigilance on the part of the shipping companies and crews, in collaboration with the navies of the many different nations who have an interest in keeping the sea lanes open and free. (This is one of the themes that I develop in my new book, and that I will discuss next Monday at Cato.)
We do not need to reorient our grand strategy to deal with pirates. We don’t need to reshape the U.S. Navy to fight a motley band of young men in leaky boats. As my colleague Ben Friedman has written, piracy is a problem, but decidely minor relative to many other global security challenges.
But some are criticizing the approach taken to resolve last week’s standoff. They say that the only way to truly eliminate the piracy problem is to attack and ultimately clean out the pirates’s sanctuaries in lawless Somalia. This “solution” fits well with the broader push within the Washington foreign policy community that would deal with our security problems by fixing failed states.
I have gone on at length, usually with my colleagues Justin Logan and Ben Friedman, on the many reasons why a strategy for fixing failed states is unwise and unnecessary. I won’t expand on that thesis here, other than to point out that of all failed states in the world, Somalia is arguably the most failed of the lot. “Fixing” it would require a massive investment of personnel, money, and time — resources that would be better spent elsewhere.
Mackubin Owens offers one of the more intriguing defenses of this approach in a just published e-note for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Owens likens a strategy of fixing Somalia to Gen. Andrew Jackson’s military operations in Florida, a story that features prominently in John Lewis Gaddis’s Surprise, Security and the American Experience. As Owens notes, when some members of President James Monroe’s cabinet wanted to punish Jackson for exceeding his mandate — in the course of his military campaign he captured and executed two British citizens accused of cavorting with the marauders who had attacked American citizens – Secretary of State John Quincy Adams jumped to Jackson’s defense, and proposed a different tack. He demanded that Spain either take responsibility for cleaning up Florida, or else give it up. And we all know what happened. Under the terms of Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, Florida became a territory of the United States. 26 years later, it became our 27th state.
I’ve vacationed in Florida many times. Walt Disney World is wonderful for the kids; I’ve been there six times. I spent three memorable days watching March Madness in Miami a few years back. Spring training baseball is great fun. Adams couldn’t have imagined any of these things when he acquired a vast swampland; he cared only that Florida under Spanish control, or lack thereof, posed a threat.
Here is where the parallels to the present day get complicated. I’ll admit that I’ve never been to Somalia. Perhaps they have their own version of South Beach, or could have some day. But I’m frankly baffled by the mere intimation that our national security is so threatened by chaos there that we need to take ownership of the country’s — or the entire Horn of Africa region’s — problems.
And yet, that is what many people believe. And this is not a new phenomenon. In many respects, we have chosen to treat all of the world’s ungoverned spaces as the modern-day equivalent of Spanish Florida.
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.