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May 31, 2007

Oh, and the other party, too
Posted by Jerry Mayer

Here's what a quick tour through the Republican websites reveals about their foreign policy rhetoric. In general, their web pages say a lot less about issues, and a lot less about foreign policy.

Oh, and you may not want to waste time reading this. As I said on TV Ontario last night, I don't think the winner of the Republican nomination is in the race yet. It might be Fred Thompson. But it is NOT one of these guys. But here are their slogans anyway.

Giuliani--He cuts to the chase.

McCain--no sign of a slogan here, except a heading
The Consequences of Failure in Iraq

Romney--only two possible slogans.
There Is A War On Terror: _
Defeating the Jihadists

No real slogan, long list of issues, but he does promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Huckabee, no real slogan, not much on issues, but he does say
“Iraq is a battle in our generational, ideological war on terror.”

Gilmore—his campaign slogan is Courageous. Consistent. Conservative
And “Defeating Terrorism in Iraq” is as close as he comes to a slogan in foreign policy.

Ron Paul
American Independence and Sovereignty

Tommy Thompson (not Fred, the Thompson who has a chance). Has no slogan, and the only innovation in his positions is sending doctors overseas to help other countries. Does he really think “medical diplomacy” is going to move Republican primary voters?

Tancredo—no real slogan, but he does seem to want deadlines for Iraq that sound a lot like the Democrats. Oh, and he’s a little against immigration, just a tad.

Duncan Hunter: no slogan, just this: "I believe in peace through strength. I believe in a policy that supports U.S. interests by spreading freedom within the limits of U.S. capability. I also believe in ending the one-way street on trade."

Current Democratic Foreign Policy Slogans--an update
Posted by Jerry Mayer

So there's still time (about 12 days!) to enter the contest for coining a slogan to describe the Democratic foreign policy for '08. To spur you to greater heights of deft wordsmithing, here is what I found as the current slogans for the Democrats running for president:

Strengthening America Overseas
Or, possibly--
Strengthening American Security in the 21st Century

Biden --he didn’t seem to have a position paper on general foreign policy, but he did have a slogan for his Iraq policy of dividing the country into three regions:
Iraq: A Way Forward

Restoring America’s Standing in the World

A New Realism in Foreign Policy

Restoring America's Moral Leadership in the World

Gravel—no foreign policy slogan, and an issues page that looks like it was laid out by an 8 year old. The open comments section is worth the price of admission.

Kucinich: no real foreign policy slogan either, although he does want to set up a Department of Peace to go along with the Pentagon.

Dodd: Beyond Iraq and Into an Era of Bold Engagement

That's it, folks. The way I see it, Hillary and Obama are leading the slogan primary. Can you top these?

The foreign policy problem caused by Campaign Finance
Posted by Jerry Mayer

Our campaign finance system is so corrupt, it's affecting our foreign policy. While other nations send their best and brightest diplomats to Washington, all too often we send back to their capitals wealthy and often uninformed political financiers. Yeah, this has been happening for a long time, most particularly since Nixon. And both parties are guilty. But lately, it's changed. In the past, the donor ambassadors were sent to relatively unimportant posts, where they could do little harm, except that they sent the message that we didn't think the country was all that important. Bush has taken this to a new level--he's sent several donor ambassadors to very important countries.

In the last six months, I've had the privilege of traveling on business to Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and other parts of Western Europe. And while I don't want to name names because of friends in the State Department, one ambassador in particular was universally regarded as a lightweight. In fact, more than one journalist interpreted his appointment by Bush as a calibrated insult to the host country. One non-State Department official who has interacted with every US ambassador in that country for 25 years told a horrifying story. Our ambassador was scheduled to give a speech in a major city. A reception was planned, and the intellectual and corporate elite were all invited. The ambassador was supposed to speak for a good 40 minutes to an hour, it was intended to be a major address. Instead, he came in and told anecdotes about his life and family for 15 minutes. My source said that it would have been better for our diplomacy if the ambassador had never shown up.

I'm not complaining about the appointment of former politicians--that can often be a better choice than a career diplomat. And also, the status of ambassadors and their range of authority has been greatly lessened by technology (plug for my friend Dave Nickles book on what the telegraph did to diplomacy). But can we at least limit sending big donors to countries that are vacation resorts, and not vital parts of the world order or hemispheric security?

More Petraeus
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Colonel Boylan, General Petraeus’s spokesman, has once again responded to me regarding my post that for General Petraeus to be the primary evaluator of the “surge” represents poor management practices because of conflict of interest.

First, I will concede to the Colonel that Andrea Mitchell did in fact correct her report regarding the General’s meeting with Congress.  It was an oversight on my part.

However, that does not change the basic facts here.  The Colonel states that:

Part of my job is to correct inaccurate information such as stated on this site, in the media, and in the public domain.

Fine.  But what exactly was inaccurate about my first post to which the Colonel responded?  The main point was not to launch a personal attack or spread incorrect information.  The main point was that if this September report is so important.  If everything hinges on it.  And if that is the major decision point for Congress and the President, then we should have an outside evaluation in addition to the report by General Petraeus?  It’s just plain old common sense.  You don’t just have the person who is running the operation be the sole reporter.  When a corporation makes a major decision, such as an acquisition or merger, it hires lawyers, investment bankers and accountants, who act as a second set of eyes and deliver an outside evaluation.  It’s just good practice.

In terms of the Colonel’s argument that:

You should be aware that General Petraeus will not be the sole source of the assessment. This will be a joint assessment by the US Embassy in Baghdad and the Multi-National Force-Iraq. The two individuals who will report on the assessment are of course Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Petraeus.

Well, Ambassador Crocker is still part of the group implementing the current policy. It doesn’t answer the fact that we need an outside assessment.

As for the Larry Korb op-ed.  The Colonel argues that it was only Korb’s opinion and not a fact.  Well, it seems pretty compelling to me.  Here is what Korb had to say and for full disclosure here is the op-ed from General Petraeus.  I’ll let readers judge for themselves.

On Sept. 26, 2004, about six weeks before the presidential election, in which the deteriorating situation in Iraq was an increasingly important issue, then Lt. Gen. Petraeus published a misleading commentary in the Washington Post. In that article, Petraeus, who was then in charge of training Iraqi security forces, spoke glowingly about the tangible progress that those forces were making under his tutelage. According to Petraeus, more than 200,000 Iraqis were performing a wide variety of security missions; training was on track and increasing in capacity; 45 Iraqi National Guard battalions and six regular Army battalions were conducting operations on a daily basis; and by the end of November 2004, six more regular Army battalions and six additional Intervention Force battalions would become operational.

Because Bush administration policy at that time was that "we will stand down when they stand up," this article, in effect, conveyed to the American electorate that the Iraqis were, indeed, standing up, and, therefore, there was light at the end of the tunnel for the Iraqi quagmire.

If Petraeus wrote on his own initiative, he was injecting himself improperly into a political campaign. If he was encouraged or even allowed to do this by his civilian superiors, he was allowing himself to be used for partisan political purposes.

The Colonel also argues that:

General Petraeus over the times he has been in Iraq has written op-eds on various topics in order to provide context to what is happening on the ground.

But actually I did a little research and was not able to find another op-ed in a major newspaper that General Petraeus has written in the past five years.  My search included more than 200 newspapers including almost all of the highest circulation papers in the country as well as most of the large circulation magazines.  If I missed something, I would ask the Colonel to correct me.  But as far as I can tell, the piece that came out six weeks before the 2004 election and conveniently reiterated the President’s talking points is the only one out there in a major U.S. newspaper.  This only reiterates Korb’s point.

Then there is this disturbing report in the LA Times, which again I ask the Colonel to respond to.

U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success. 

Finally, there is the question of Colonel Boylan’s job.  I recognize the fact that he works in public affairs.  But I thought it was poor form that he did not identify himself as Petraeus’s spokesman in the initial post.  For the sake of full disclosure this should have been made completely clear.  It gives a greater context to his comments. 

New Blog
Posted by Shadi Hamid

There's a new foreign affairs blog out there worth checking out. Some of you may be familiar with the organization I'm involved with - The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). Last month we launched our new blog, the "POMED Wire," with the goal of providing the most-up-to-date news and analysis on U.S. support for democracy in the Middle East. I'm biased but I think "The Wire" is one of the most comprehensive resources of its kind - a sort of one-stop shop for those interested in Arab reform. The blog is continuously updated throughout the day, and aims to consolidate the vast amount of information available in the U.S. and Arab media. Our research assistants in DC also attend congressional hearings and other events and provide concise event summaries, which are available through the blog.

So, check it out at, and if you like it, bookmark it, and come regularly.

A "Second Nuclear Age" in Asia?
Posted by Michael Schiffer

At a meeting I attended today in Singapore, Raja Mohan offered some sobering thoughts on an incipient "second nuclear age" in Asia:

This term captures the essence of a number of changes in global nuclear politics including the shift in the contested terrain from Europe to Asia, growing Asian military capabilities, the rise of nuclear nationalism, the late-mover advantages to new proliferators, and the rise of the non-state actors. The conscious or unconscious international responses to these are indeed part of the unfolding structural change in the global nuclear politics. The Bush Administration has accelerated the change in three areas. One, it has redefined the relationship between offence and defense in the calculus of nuclear deterrence. Two, Washington has looked beyond the established non-proliferation law to deal more vigorously with the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Missile defense, counter-proliferation, pre-emption, regime change, and a willingness to differentiate between good nukes and bad nukes are part of this new game. Three, the Bush Administration has reversed nearly three decades of American opposition to the spread of civilian nuclear power.

I don't know if I share Raja's pessimism (he would call it realism, I suppose) about how far down this road we may already be.  But I do share his sense that the revolutionary changes wrought by the administration’s approach to US nuclear posture and non-proliferation policy have potentially profound consequences for the region – and may well end up making the US far less secure from the threat of nuclear weapons than we are today. To take one example: The administration's efforts to alter the fundamental nature of deterrence, combined with its focus on missile defense, has, as Raja pointed out, introduced a new tension between the Chinese nuclear arsenal and its plans for protection against a potential nuclear attack – and appears to be altering Chinese thinking and plans about the size and nature of its nuclear arsenal.  Its hard to see how a potential US-China nuclear arms race, with possible spillover effects elsewhere in the region, serves US national security interests well. Likewise, if not handled right, the proliferation challenges presented by Asian plans to rapidly expand civilian nuclear power programs – plans which may well be necessary given the dual challenges of sustaining economic development and seeking to avert catastrophic climate change – may bring in their wake a whole new range of difficulties, not the least of which include the potential for vast new stockpiles of nuclear material vulnerable to terrorist threat.

Building a new consensus to head-off the risks of the potential dawning of a “second nuclear age” in Asia  -- starting with our own approach to nuclear weapons -- will require US leadership, sustained diplomacy, and a focused dialogue on all nuclear-related issues among the Asian-Pacific nations.  The alternative is none too pleasant to contemplate.


TB and Terrorism
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

It's not just dangerous nuclear, chemical or biological materials that can devastate. What about the guy with a dangerous drug-resistant form of tuberculosis...who just left and re-entered the USA and is only now under quarantine? Buzzflash has a good analysis up about it.

I'm not suggesting anything about this man in particular-- who was just trying to carry on with his wedding and was not stopped by authorities--but I don't even want to see the stats on how unprepared we are to deal with this kind of threat.

May 30, 2007

Kassam Rocket Threat
Posted by David Schanzer

I am posting from Tel Aviv.

From afar, it may be easy to underestimate the seriousness of the threat from the Kassam rockets being launched from Gaza into Israel on almost a daily basis.  The rockets are wildly inaccurate, usually hit nothing, and seem a weapon of desperation, especially compared to suicide bombs, which are deployed with pinpoint accuracy and cause devastating death and destruction.

Yet, despite the power of suicide bombs, Israel has been amazingly successful preventing these attacks in recent years.  The Kassam attacks, however, are very difficult to prevent -- the bombs are cheap and plentiful, the supply seems unlimited, and they can be launched from anywhere close to the border. 

A key difference between the Kassams and suicide attacks is that the Kassams can target a specific geographic community -- in this case the town of Sderot -- and deployment of massive law enforcement resources would do nothing to provide additional protection to that community.

The only way to provide absolute protection is for citizens to leave.  And here lies the grave threat to Israel.  Separating people from their land, especially land within Israel's undisputed permanent borders, contravenes Israel's credo and identity.  For decades, Jews have stood firm on the land against all opposition, no matter how powerful.  But sitting in bomb shelters helplessly, just hoping the bombs miss, without any ability to fight back, is especially upsetting and demoralizing. 

Israel's retaliatory measures should be evaluated based on the genuine threat the Kassams pose, not the inaccurate perception that they are mainly a harmless annoyance.   


Democratic Message on Foreign Policy 2008--A Contest
Posted by Jerry Mayer

So I have been part of an informal group of people working in Washington on Democratic and progressive messaging on foreign policy since 2005.  Once, the suggestion of using the metaphor of a toolbox to describe the Democratic foreign policy came up, that Bush was trying to build a house with only a hammer, he had only one tool, while the Democrats would use every tool, like diplomacy, trade, persuasion, etc.  I actually didn't think much of the idea, it was too complicated for the American public, but someone who had worked on the Kerry campaign chimed in and said "Yeah, we liked that in May, for Kerry, and we kept trying to get it into speeches.  I think we finally got it up on the website in October." 

Yes, that's right. It took the Kerry campaign months to agree on a METAPHOR for its foreign policy.  Sigh.

Well, for 2008, we pretty much know what the Dem foreign policy is going to be, substantively, right?  Get out of Iraq, reengage with our allies, smart multilateralism in our foreign policy, tough on the real terror threat, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil...but what the heck do we call it?

I think Kerry's was Stronger at Home, Respected Abroad.  But it's tough to tell.  It was no "New Frontier."  Probably more successful than McGovern's "Come Home America" from 1972.  My suggestion in '06 for Congressional Dems was "Change the Course." 

So, a contest here at Democracy Arsenal.  Propose a catch phrase or label for the Democratic nominee's foreign policy in '08.  No more than 10 words.  Winner will receive a George Mason University t-shirt via mail.

Bonus humor points: come up with a slogan for the Republican foreign policy.  Like "Hey, A Few Countries Don't Hate Us!" or "Same Failed Policies, Now With Competence!" "Republicans: We Put the U in Quagmire!"

Coulter Delenda Est?
Posted by Jerry Mayer

Over in the Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum proposes that the Latin phrase EXTRICANDAE COPIAE "Get the troops out" be adopted as a progressive counterpoint to "Islamo-fascism delenda est" "Islamo fascism must be destroyed". 

I'm not sure a Latin catch phrase is the key to victory, but if it is, Extricandae copiae is probably not the one. Having a Latin-Greek scholar for a brother,I got him to come up with competitors:

Revocandae legiones sunt!
Milites revocandi sunt!

(both meaning troops out!, with the sunt optional)

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