Democracy Arsenal

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September 30, 2006

Rewriting US National Security Strategy
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

I spent Wednesday and Thursday in DC for the launch of the Princeton Project on National Security's Final Report, entitled Forging a World of Liberty Under Law.  I've reported some before on the Princeton Project.  Over the last two years I co-chaired a working group on Anti-Americanism whose findings can be found here.  The project is led by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and Professor John Ikenberry.  They've done a masterful job in compiling a Report that's generating considerable press and attention on the Hill, in capitals around the world and - once a national tour begins - in America outside the Beltway.

On Wednesday I took on State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger during a panel discussion on capital hill and this exchange was excerpted on the next day's All Things Considered

John Bellinger, the State Department’s legal advisor, just returned from Europe, where he says he explained and emphasized that the administration is trying very hard to, quote, “turn a new page.”

Mr. JOHN BELLINGER (U.S. State Department): I don’t think everything’s resolved, but what we’re trying to do to say to our allies is look at this as essentially as a glass that’s half full. That there’s an opportunity here for us to move forward and try to resolve some of these things, not that there has not been forward movement.

NORTHAM: Suzanne Nossel, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says the administration’s policies, such as the new detainee bill, will further erode U.S. legitimacy among its allies.

Ms. SUZANNE NOSSEL (Center for American Progress): I frankly don’t think it’s going to be good enough to go to our allies and say that the positions we have, the policies we implement with respect to detainees and in other areas are not clearly wrong. That’s I think too low of a standard for us to use as our foundation to have the kind of influence that we want to around the world.

Bellinger had said that in talking to allies around the world, he defended US policies on detention as "not clearly wrong."  My how far we have fallen.

But let's focus some on what's significant about the Princeton Report.  In my view this:

Continue reading "Rewriting US National Security Strategy" »

September 29, 2006


Carl Bildt has a blog
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Well, this is fun -- the kind of random thing you find while tooling around the web on a Friday night.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden, former UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a very smart guy who had a real knack for rubbing American officials the wrong way, has a blog.  I happened upon it because of his comments on the UN Secretary-General race that Suzanne also posted on.

It's mildly interesting but not earth-shattering to read -- a useful barometer of one strand of European thought, I suspect.  But imagine the possibilities.  What if Bill Clinton had a blog?  Come to think of it, why doesn't he?  What if Clinton and George H.W. Bush had a blog together?  What if Bob Dole had a blog?  What if Tony Blair blogs in retirement?  What if Kofi Annan did?

If readers know of other former heads of state/government who blog, let me know.  I think a list would be fun.  (I notice Bildt doesn't have a blogroll yet...) 


Troop Withdrawals, Salted Peanuts, and College Football
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

So Henry Kissinger told the Bush Administration that troop withdrawals from Iraq would be "like salted peanuts to the American public:  the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded."

This caught my eye, because I spent yesterday moderating a forum at Notre Dame on What Next for Iraq -- I could have used a Chex Snack Mix metaphor to describe the salty mix of ideas we got.

What we didn't hear:  anyone -- including military officers just back from tours of duty in the region -- arguing that things are going well or even that the media view of affairs is exaggerated.  Any enthusiasm for the Iraqi democracy project.  Anyone advocating a "bring all the troops home this month" position.  Any partisan-bashing.  This was an audience of students and professors, experts and laypeople, military and civilians, liberals and conservatives in a heavy faith-and-values context, genuinely wanting to discuss how to improve the mess we're in.  From an American point of view, I found it heartening, even as the views of the situation ranged from dire to disastrous.

I was actually quite encouraged to see panelists who started out with very diverse perspectives --  staying the course as a moral imperative, staying in for 12-18 months, shorter-term strategic withdrawal, and partition -- at least edging toward each other and toward a set of steps that one could imagine recommending in a "what now" sort of paper...

Continue reading "Troop Withdrawals, Salted Peanuts, and College Football" »

Progressive Strategy

Anatol Lieven's Critique of Exemplarism
Posted by Michael Signer

The newest edition of the exciting journal Democracy contains an article by Anatol Lieven, a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and author, with John Hulsman, of Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World.  In his article, Lieven critiques my essay in Democracy's inaugural issue arguing for a doctrine of "American exemplarism" that would allow America to be both strong and good.

Lieven's essay is problematic for two reasons:  (1) its general argument illuminates in stark detail the troubling divide within the left that I discuss in my article, and (2) its internal confusions chart out the hopelessly gnarled strands of progressive thought on foreign policy, and exposes just why it's so hard to have any clarity in our principles -- much less our policy.

Continue reading "Anatol Lieven's Critique of Exemplarism" »

September 28, 2006


Horse Race in Turtle Bay: The Next UN Secretary General
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Un_hq Today the NYT asked each of the declared candidates to succeed Kofi Annan to answer 2 questions:  1) the UN's biggest mistake; and 2) the area most in need of reform.  Answers are here

The replies are revealing in that they point to some of the fundamental questions that will confront the UN's new leader:  What role can the organization play in trying to modernize and stabilize the Middle East?  How should it balance the competing priorities of Member States, some of whom - like the US - want the focus to lie with peace and security, and others - from the developing world - who are clamoring for more resources and emphasis on development aid?  How should the UN deal with issues that are pressing for its members, but fall outside the world body's areas of demonstrated capacity and potential to succeed - should it focus on further building on what it does well, or shoring up its weaknesses?

By dint of its vast membership the UN is nothing if not multi-faceted, but the UN's spotty record makes clear that the organization needs to pick area to focus its attention and resources.  Here's what we can glean from the five would-be's who participated in the Times' query about where their priorities would lie.

Prince Zeid - The young and charming Jordanian not surprisingly focuses on the challenges in his own region, citing the rise of extremism in the Mideast as a challenge above all others.  That's a view shared by many in Washington, but that's not as prevalent in a world body that includes many countries for whom AIDS, trade and development issues are more central than the threat of terrorism.   This goes to a very basic divide at the UN between the US and some other Western countries that believe the organization's prime focus should be peace and security, and developing world nations that want more emphasis on economic issues.  I actually do think the UN has a potentially critical role to play in the Middle East, particularly if it can prove itself with a successful revamped UNIFIL in Lebanon.  One of the reason's for Zeid's initial appeal as a candidate was the idea that he might bridge the Islamic world with the West.

Dhanapala - The Sri Lankan singles out Darfur as the UN's greatest failing, putting blame not just on the UNSC members but also on the Secretariat.  He talks about the need for rapidly deployable humanitarian capabilities and troops, but sidesteps the fact that absent stronger political will in cases like Darfur, its not clear such arms would be mobilized even if they existed.

Ghani - The former Afghan Finance Minister talks about corruption and mismanagement at the UN.  He waxes forth on accountability and transparency, but offers no specifics on how to achieve them amid the UN's fractious membership and often hidebound decision-making processes.

Vike-Freiberga - The President of Latvia and the only woman in the race talks about the relatively newly consecrated "responsibility to protect" in international law, and about the Millennium Development Goals, a set of measures agreed to 6 years ago to address poverty and hardship in the developing world.  The direction she points is, in essence, the opposite of Zeid's.  As the only "Northerner" in the group, a message directed at the concerns of "the South" has a certain political logic.  The trick with the Millennium Goals is that they are enormously broad and ambitious and cover both areas, like children's health and vaccines, where the UN has demonstrated itself to be extremely effective, and much broader questions of socio-economic development in respect to which the world body's track record is far more mixed.

Tharoor - Debonaire longtime UN diplomat-cum-bureaucrat Shashi Tharoor addresses the problem of sustaining UN peacekeeping over the long-term.  From the standpoint of competitive advantages, this is an area where the UN plays indispensable role today and where, with augmented capabilities, it could do even more.  We've learned the hard way in Iraq the challenges posed by unilateral alternatives to UN-led statebuilding.

Results of today's straw poll among UN Security Council members are here.   South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon - who declined to participate in the NYT survey - has a big lead, but it ain't over til its over.