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June 02, 2007

Slouching Towards An Embassy in Jerusalem?
Posted by Jerry Mayer

So I'm reading Bob Shrum's autobiography, No Excuses, to review it for Politico, and one foreign policy incident stands out. In 1980, Carter's administration voted at the UN against Israeli annexation of Jerusalem. Kennedy's primary campaign tried to rally Jewish voters against Carter on that basis, and seemed to have some success in New York. The status of Jerusalem as Israel's capital has been a perennial feature of first Democratic primary politics and now Republican. I think in 2008 it might break out into the general election in a bigger way, because the Republicans will once again attempt to use strident support for Israel to peel Jewish voters away from the Democratic coalition. In 2000, Bush promised that if he were elected, he would move the embassy to Jerusalem, while Gore-Lieberman had a muddled position. Congress in 1995 passed legislation demanding just such a move, but allowed a president to opt out with a six month waiver for national security reasons. Clinton did so every 6 months, as has Bush.

But what about now? Well, none of the major candidates has taken the easy out of supporting the embassy's move. It's red meat for hard core pro-Israeli Jews, and could help any Democrat in New York or Florida, and certainly assist in fundraising. It's a ridiculously stupid policy proposition, since the moment it happens, riots would erupt in the West Bank and Gaza (if not elsewhere), and the peace process would be set back yet further. It would also make America the ONLY nation to have an embassy in Jerusalem. That's why Bush and Clinton didn't move the embassy (we do have two consulates in Jerusalem). I'm pretty surprised that none of the major Republicans or any of the Democrats has advocated it, particularly the second and third tier Democrats, for whom it would make immediate strategic sense. Even when speaking to a pro-Israel group, Biden didn't mention it.

But I don't expect this silence to go on much longer. And this time, this phony, symbolic issue could make it into the general election. If I were on the staff of any of these folks, in either party, I'd get an answer ready for the debates. But what should the answer be? The responsible answer is that moving the embassy would taint final status negotiations over Jerusalem, and unnecessarily enrage Palestinians and other Arabs at a tense time. Still, the political benefits for coming out for moving the embassy remain real, I think.

So, what should the Democrats say about the embassy, now and in the general?

June 01, 2007

Worth Reading
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

My friends over at the Washington Monthly have put together a superb package on the complexities of military opinion about Iraq and US presidential politics.  Crazy-like-a-fox Spencer Ackerman leads off with reporting on his latest Iraq embed, summarizing with this:

The uncomfortable reality is this: nothing in Iraq worth fighting for remains achievable, and nothing achievable in Iraq remains worth fighting for. Democrats have made the decision—rightly, I think—that withdrawing from Iraq is the least bad of many bad options. But they shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking that a majority of the troops doing the fighting agree with them. For soldiers like Lieutenant Wellman, this will be hard to accept. As he told me of war doubters back home, “I don’t want them to just support the troops. I want them to support the mission.” This matters, because pretending that in ending the war they’re doing the troops a favor hurts Democrats politically. They risk looking condescending, and, worse, oblivious—which has the broader effect of undermining public trust in the Democrats to handle national security. More basically, it does a disservice to those who serve. For soldiers who are optimistic, being told that the war can’t be won is bad enough. But to be told that politicians are doing them a favor by extricating them from a mission they believe in is downright insulting.

The Monthly follows with seven short pieces from Iraq veterans across the center-to-left of the military spectrum; they capture nicely the ambivalence and range of views that Spencer's piece suggests, from "let's get out" to "let's win."  Frankly, that ambivalence continues to have strong echoes among the larger non-ideological public -- and it will play an important role in the general election next year, a political reality that I wish the most strident out-now advocates would spend a little more time contemplating.

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)

Petraeus Pushes Back... On Me
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

In response to my post regarding General Petraeus’s self evaluation I got a response from Colonel Steve Boylan, asking

What statements has [General Petraeus] made since the Jan 2007 confirmation hearings that lead you to believe that he will do anything other than provide a frank assessment of what is happening in Iraq?

Here's the thing.  Colonel Steve Boylan is... wait for it… wait for it…

A spokesman for General David Petraeus!!! 

First, in response to the Colonel. I refer him to this piece by Larry Korb, which clearly points out that General Petraeus wrote a highly politicized op-ed six weeks before the 2004 election, while he was serving in Iraq. 

Then there is the fact that Petraeus held a closed door strategy meeting with the Republican Caucus back in April.  Not to mention the basic conflict of interest of having to self report on his own strategy. 

But there is an even greater question here.  By his very response Colonel Boylan proves my point that Petraeus is too political and should not be the single source for evaluating the surge.  Is this part of Col. Boylan’s job?  Surfing blogs and defending his boss’s strategy in Iraq?  Doesn’t Colonel Boylan have something better to do?

Oh, and by the way.  Isn’t there a prohibition on the military using sites like my space and blogging?  I guess that doesn’t count if you are pushing Bush Administration policy.

China Relations Won't Work on Autopilot
Posted by Michael Schiffer

I want to pick up on the earlier China posts by Michael and Suzanne and flag some signs of impending difficulties in US-China relations.  We can glimpse a preview in the underwhelming outcome of last week’s US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue.

The Bush administration came into office promising to rise to the strategic challenge of China. After all, the importance of great-power relations was a key mantra of the Vulcans.  As we know, the US-China relationship was, along with everything else, put on the back-burner, after 9-11. To some degree, of course, this was to the good: The lack of high-level attention actually gave the bureaucracy room to work on the wide range of issues where the US and China share common interests. But it has also had the effect of papering over other differences and kicking things down the road at the precise moment when a number of different trends relating to the “rise of China” all seem to be coming together.

Although some of the sharpest questions about China’s rise have to do with its military plans and spending the disappointing results of the recent meeting are particularly troubling because economics are even more fundamental to continued good relations. US-China cooperation is premised on the assumption that as China rises the more it will integrate into the world economy, and the more vested China will become, in turn, in sustaining and supporting the liberal international order.

Yet there remains serious gaps between the US and China on a range of trade and economic issues – starting with currency, IPR protections, and labor standards, for example – that if they continue to fester could lead to a breach in US-China trade and economic ties, and perhaps even trigger a larger crisis in US-China relations.

All this, of course, takes place against a backdrop in which almost all the domestic political pressures in both the US and China are stacked against cooperation.

As David Shambaugh argues, the basic question for US China policy remains how best to balance hedging and engagement. Getting the mix right - a hedge is surely necessary given all the uncertainties about the rise of China – isn’t easy --  but, hey, that's what we pay our government for. 

Even if the administration weren't consumed by the Iraq War, sustained high-level attention and political will would be a tall order in the waning days of any administration. But let's remember, a constant refrain from defenders of the administration is that whatever its mistakes, at least it has managed to get China right. It would be more accurate to say that it hasn't gotten China wrong. Getting it right will require wrestling with difficult issues that it has thus far glossed over.

May 29, 2007

The Intel Was Cooked, the latest damning evidence
Posted by Jerry Mayer

Over at A Tiny Revolution, Jonathan Schwarz collects three different citations that Congress should investigate immediately, each showing that pressure was put on our intel community to find reasons for Bush to go to war.  Any candidate who wants to move up in the Iowa polling should think about being the first national Democrat to jump on this story.  It's enough to make a patriot retch when you consider how many people are dead because of malfeasance like this. Here's one example:

...this appears in Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran:

During my short tenure in Iraqi Operations, I met one woman who had covered Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program for more than a decade. She admitted to me, unequivocally, that the CIA had no definitive evidence whatsoever that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed WMD, or that Iraq presented anything close to an imminent threat to the United States. Another CIA analyst, whose opinion I’d solicited about the connection between Al-Qa’ida and Iraq, looked at me almost shamefacedly, shrugged, and said, "They both have the letter q?" And a colleague who worked in the office covering Iraqi counterproliferation reported to me that her mealy-mouthed pen pusher of a boss had gathered together his minions and announced, "Let’s face it. The president wants us to go to war, and our job is to give him a reason to do it."


Why have a majority in Congress if you can't investigate stuff like this?  It might even make us forget the loss on the deadlines in the Iraq funding bill...

It's Zoellick
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

For the World Bank.

Alert readers will remember that he was a candidate for the job last time around but loyally went to be Rice's deputy at State instead, then left to go back to Goldman Sachs last summer.  Googling readers will already know, or I can save you the trouble, that he's a realist's realist; that he's a Bush pere guy who had a senior job at State with the Baker team; that he was repeatedly disappointed by missing Cabinet-level jobs under Bush fils.

Our allies will be relieved, though I don't know that anyone will be jumping for joy (which is not Zoellick's fault).

China Won't You Blow Your Horn
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

A new poll out today by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and reveals that most of the world think China is on its way toward matching the US's economic power, and that people don't much care.  Of the 15 countries surveyed, pluralities in 12 believe that the Chinese economy will grow as large as the US's.  Among the populations most skeptical of Beijing's rise is China's own:  only 50 percent of Chinese surveyed believed their economy will equal the US's.  Only in the Philippines and India were the public's more bearish on China than China's own.  The full poll results are here. 

In no country, including the US, did a plurality judge the inevitability of China's ascent as more negative than positive.  In the US just one in three see China's rise as mostly a matter of concern.  More than half of Americans are neutral on the subject.   Reactions in Poland, India and Russia are likewise split to indifferent.  As Steven Kull, the poll's editor put it:  "despite the tectonic significance of China catching up with the US, overall the world's public response is low key - - almost philosophical."

The results do not suggest a global lovefest for the Chinese.  Publics in 10 of the 15 countries surveyed say they don't trust China to "act responsibly in the world," and an equal number make the same judgment of the US.  The pollsters are quick to point out that this is not just rote distrust of superpowers:  10 out of 16 countries polled about Japan think that country can be trusted to lead responsibly.

What to make of this?  I am not going to mount a lengthy exegesis on the evolution of global attitudes toward the US, but based on the trends I've seen, I attribute these latest results - at least in part - to Iraq.

Continue reading "China Won't You Blow Your Horn" »

Glad to be here, and Worried about the Kurds
Posted by Jerry Mayer

Thanks to Ilan and everyone for having me here on this temporary guest blog slot.  I'll try not to be boring.
I'm just back from three weeks in Europe, and while I was lecturing on American foreign policy, I was worried about northern Iraq the whole time.  What?  Worried about the only part of iraq that is relatively peaceful and quite prosperous?  Sure, because it is quite likely that sometime between now and January '08, Turkish troops will cross that border in pursuit of the PKK, the Kurdish guerrilla movement that they've been fighting for years.  There are several reasons why this could well happen. First, the Turks are quite emotionally attached to the rights of Turks everywhere.  There is a small Turkomen population in Iraq, located amidst a large Kurdish population, with population centers in Mosul and Kirkuk.  Before January, the Kurds have been promised a referendum in Kirkuk, a center for oil production in northern Iraq.  If they win, and they likely will, Turkish leaders have promised serious action, both because it would be bad news for the Iraqi Turks and because having all that oil would greatly empower Iraqi Kurdistan.  Another reason for Turkish action is the ongoing secularist-Islamic divide in Turkish politics, which is getting quite hot.  Prime Minister Erdogan's religious rhetoric scares many in the Turkish military, but if he gave them a war against the Kurds, all enmity would be forgotten.  Just as Bismarck united disparate strands of Germany with blood and iron, Turkish unity would be reforged by conflict with the Kurds.  Finally, Turkey might be restrained by its hopes of getting into the EU, but with the election of Sarkozy, that looks even less likely.  Turkey has less and less to lose and much to gain, by intervention.  Of course, this will represent a catastrophe for Bush's foreign policy, since Turkey is, after Israel, by far our best friend in the region, and the Kurds are our strongest allies in Iraq.  But don't think it can't happen.  Turkey has invaded Iraq several times in recent years, only border incursions, granted, but Turkish anger at the Kurds is rising.  This passionate commentary is typical.  Might all be just saber rattling but I don't think so...And what is most alarming of all is that I'm not confident that the current foreign policy team at State or in the NSC has the foggiest idea of how to prevent this.  I'll post some of my ideas on how to do that in a later post.
(for    Background  on the conflict.)(UPDATE--Turns out my background was a little on the biased side, and a Turkish American friend was good enough to point it out. Here's two better ones..... Background1 Background2
Update the SECOND--This article from the Washington Post this AM talks about the likelihood of a Turkish incursion. (*What a cheerful way to start my blogging here--a scenario describing how the war in Iraq gets WORSE...*)

Petraeus's Employee Self Evaluation
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So would this ever happen in the corporate world?  You have an employee.  He’s doing a job.  You ask him to evaluate how he is doing his job.  You base your entire evaluation on his own assessment without getting any objective outside input.  Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it.  But that’s exactly what President Bush wants us to do when evaluating whether or not the “surge” is working.

We are supposed to sit tight and wait for General Petraeus to deliver his report in September and tell us how well he is doing his job.  Then based on his own self evaluation Congress should make a decision.  The conflict of interest is brutally obvious.  Petraeus is inextricably tied to the “surge”.  Concluding that it isn’t working would be a huge blow to his own career and legacy.  Not to mention any political aspirations that he may have after life in the military.  He has also realized that one of the centers of gravity for the war is American public support.  Without it the war can’t go on and his strategy has no chance.  He seems to be taking it upon himself to try and build that support.  Finally, there is his previous behavior.  Larry Korb points out that Petraeus has injected himself into politics before, writing an op-ed six weeks before the 2004 election arguing that the Iraq Security Force training was going well.  Keeping all of this in mind, it’s not surprising to see reports that military leaders are already starting to move the goal posts on the September report so that they can project an image of success instead of failure.

I can tell you what the Petraeus report will say.  It’s what every employee self evaluation says.  “I’m doing a great job, but just to show you that I’m a modest guy here are some areas where I can improve.” 

What any CEO would tell you is that this project needs some kind of outside review process.  Are Lee Hamilton and James Baker available?

Miss USA and Rising Anti-Americanism
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Some people may have been amused by the clip of Miss USA falling, and then getting booed, at the Miss Universe competition (in neighboring Mexico). I, however, was not. It was a striking image, and, more than that, a sad one: the whole incident was emblematic of America's fall from grace in the eyes of world, friends and enemies alike. (She was booed again while responding to a question from one of the judges). If Miss Chile or Miss Taiwan had slipped and fell, the audience reaction would have probably been sympathetic. But this was Miss USA, a symbol, whether she wanted to be or not, of something which has gone quite wrong as of late.

Since 9/11, I've lived at various points in Egypt, Jordan, and England, and, in each, I have never apologized for being an American, nor should anyone else. But that doesn't change the fact that, more and more, even the simple act of saying you're an American can and does provoke a reaction, often negative. Of course, Republicans wouldn't know much about this since they are loathe to venture abroad in foreign lands with those weird, foreign people, many of whom presumably want to kill us.

Two New Guest Bloggers
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I've been off in French Polynesia for a week in a half.  I know that as a Democracy Arsenal blogger I'm supposed to have some brilliant insight about foreign policy from my trip abroad. I don't.  It's way too beautiful and nobody there really cares too much about Iraq. 

Anyway, introducing two new guest bloggers.  R. Michael Schiffer is a program officer in Policy Analysis and Dialogue at the Stanley Foundation, where he is responsible for the foundation's Asia programs and a range of other US national and global security issues.  He previously spent 10 years on Capitol Hill and is currently based in Iowa.

Jeremy Mayer is the training and policy director for Americans for Strong National Security.  Jeremy is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University where he teaches courses in American foreign policy, media politics and policies and national policy systems.


Talking to Bashar and Supporting Syrian Reform: Not Mutually Exclusive
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I've been posting a bit on the US-Syrian relationship recently, and here's another useful contribution to the debate from Republican Darrell Issa, an Arab-American congressman (via The POMED Wire). He makes the important point, most likely lost on neo-con zero-summers, that the most effective way to support democratic reform in Syria is by maintaining a dialogue with the Syrian government, however distastefully autocratic it might be. On the other hand, cutting ties with Bashar has actually had the effect of hurting Syrian civil society:

The lack of dialogue that began when the United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in 2005 prevents us from supporting Syrian civil society. For example, Damascus responded to our silence by closing the Syrian office of AMIDEAST, a nongovernmental organization that uses development projects and educational exchanges to build understanding between Americans and the peoples of the Middle East. A lack of dialogue also denies us a platform to articulate to the world Syria's continued failures.

May 28, 2007

Egyptian Bloggers Fighting for Democracy
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Here is a must-read Washington Post op-ed piece by Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger. He asks:

How much is enough to make Americans question why their money goes to support this government? We Egyptians want a fair struggle for our freedom. We'll never have it as long as Mubarak and his corrupt regime are propped up by U.S. aid. All we ask is: Give us a fighting chance.

Wael, and so many others like him, on the trenches of the battle for Arab democracy, have spoken, and continue to speak, with great courage and at tremendous risk to their own safety. Will America listen?

For the Arabic-readers out there, make sure to check out Wael's blog.

Bush and the Brotherhood Agree
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I posted last week on the deteriorating political situation in Syria, and offered a note of caution that Nancy Pelosi's April meeting with Bashar al-Assad had been a mixed bag. Well, shortly thereafter, I stumbled onto this article about the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's reaction to Pelosi's visit. Apparently, the Brotherhood was not in favor, and criticized Pelosi for shaking hands with "the president of one of the worst repressive, totalitarian regimes." And then I thought, that's interesting - Bush and the Brotherhood actually agree on something. It hearkened back to a different era in 2003-2005, when Bush and Islamist groups in the region seemed tied together, however unwittingly and in somewhat parallel fashion, by their mutual dislike and opposition to Arab autocracy. Since then Bush, obviously, has dropped the ball on democracy promotion, precisely because of his administration's fear of empowering Islamist groups through democratic elections.

There was once talk of (somewhat) secret Bush administration meetings with the Syrian Brotherhood. I remember when I was living in Jordan in 2005, I would occasionally read vague and speculative articles in the notoriously speculative Arab press about a covert Bush-Brotherhood axis. Of course, there was rarely any conclusive evidence to this effect. However, I wouldn't be very surprised if there had been some level of contact between the two parties, at least through back channels and intermediaries. In any case, this is what the venerable State Department spokesperson said in late 2006 about the matter. It also occurs to me that State Department-speak should be recognized as separate English dialect. 

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