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July 07, 2007

Finally, a Contest Winner, and my suggestion for the Libby debacle
Posted by Jerry Mayer

Sorry for the long delay in announcing a winner in the '08 Foreign Policy Slogan contest. Our team of elite messaging judges had to be gathered from the top political consulting firms to vote. After all the ballots were counted...

First Again, submitted by Lorelei Kelly, won. A close second was Dick Klaas with "Restoring America's Leadership, Resurrecting American Values." I just think that simpler is better, and Lorelei's has the added advantage of appealing to American jingoism, which is good politics for Dems. It's not as nationalistic as it sounds. Imagine Obama issuing a peroration going "First again--in human rights. First again--against torture...First again--in taking care of our veterans" etc.

I do want to say that Keith Porter's suggestion, of returning to the language of the Constitution and Declaration is a good one. In particular, I think that "We, the People" could be an overarching theme for Democrats in 2008. Just not for foreign policy.

Shameless plug--Politico just published my op-ed on how the Dems should respond to the Libby commutation. They should propose a constitutional amendment to limit future presidential pardons. At the very least, it will force Republicans to talk about the Libby debacle all the way into the election.

July 06, 2007

What we can learn from Israel's mistakes
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

A year ago this month, Israel and Hezbollah engaged in a bloody conflict on Lebanese territory. The horrors of civilian deaths on both sides dominated the headlines, the poor United Nations got clobbered yet again....but the conflict quickly faded into the background noise of fearful mayhem that dominates media coverage of the Middle East.

Well, a few months ago Israel released a document called the Winograd commission interim report--a highly critical review of how Israeli leaders carried out the conflict. It is important for its frank self-evaluation and notable also for what is left out (Israel's use of collective punishment against Lebanese civilians for example). But it also has great implications for US policy because some of the findings are very relevant to the defense debate here at home. The report is bad news for the advocates of the so-called “revolution in military affairs” (a thesis that champions technology over human resources and which has pretty much failed). The Center for Defense Information provides a critical summary and analysis of the Winograd Commission Interim Report by Israeli citizen Haninah Levine

Levine writes that the failures the Israel Defense Forces encountered “stemmed, according to the commission, from ‘excessive faith in the power of the Air Force and incorrect appraisal of the power and preparedness of the enemy, amounting to an unwillingness to examine the details.’” More precisely, the failure can be attributed to a new twist in the decades-old agenda of the advocates of air power. Levine’s analysis connects the “revolution in military affairs” to a “new doctrine [in Israel] which emerged as stating [according to the commission] that ‘success can be achieved by means of ‘effects’ and indirect ‘levers,’ in place of classic concepts of success….’” Later, Levine writes, “Faith in advanced air and artillery system as magical ‘game changing’ systems absolved the [Israeli] General Staff from the need to consider what capabilities … the enemy possessed, and led the IDF into a strategic trap….”

July 04, 2007

Breaking Apart at the Seams
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

There is a huge story in Iraq that is getting little to no attention in the American press.  The Iraqi government is essentially breaking apart at the seams and nobody is covering it.  The largest Sunni bloc in the government has been boycotting the cabinet and parliament for about a week now.  Meanwhile, Sadr, who holds the single largest bloc in parliament, pulled his cabinet ministers out of the government a couple of months ago.  Right now only 24 out of 37 members are showing up for cabinet meetings.  The situation is so bad that the BBC’s Jim Muir, in Baghdad, says that “Iraqi politics is in greater disarray than at any time since the 2003 invasion.”  Yikes.

Why is this important?  President Bush’s entire “surge” strategy is based on the premise that by improving security we can give the Iraqi government the political space it needs to make tough compromises and bring about reconciliation.  I don’t see how this happens when one third of the government is boycotting, one of Iraq’s two vice President’s is threatening to resign, and the other Vice President is arguing that:

Iraq no longer had a government of national unity comprised of Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds…  We haven't achieved anything after a year of participating in the government. We are depressed and sidelined, especially in terms of decision-making

On a side note, this also means that the much hailed “progress” on the Iraqi oil law is essentially meaningless.  The whole point of this law is to facilitate political reconciliation among Iraq’s ethnic factions.  It is the Sunnis who are most concerned that they aren’t going to get a fair share of the oil revenues because they live in resource poor parts of the country.  So the fact that they were conveniently boycotting the government when the law was “unanimously” agreed to by the cabinet is hugely problematic.  Naturally, Sunni lawmakers are now objecting to the law with Ali Baban a member of the Sunni bloc stating that “We greatly object to this law and I did not attend the cabinet meeting today.”  As far as I can tell, reconciliation does not mean waiting until the other guy storms out of the room in anger so that you can push your own agenda. 

This whole situation becomes even more absurd when you realize why the Sunni boycott started in the first place. Turns out there was an arrest warrant issued for a Sunni cabinet minister for his role in an assassination attempt of another Sunni politician in 2005 (Two of the target’s sons were killed but he escaped).  The Sunnis are protesting the arrest warrant by leaving government.  Urgh….

Update:  The National Security Network's assessment of the oil law.

July 02, 2007

The Bush Boomergang Effect in Europe
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

One of the most improbable and unintended legacies of the Bush administration is an emerging generation of European foreign policy leaders that is more progressive than any in decades. They were chosen by new heads of state eager to move beyond the polarizing politics of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. These top diplomats now have the potential to reshape European foreign policy in ways that will reverberate back to Washington.

First came French President Nicolas Sarkozy's choice of renowned humanitarian Bernard Kouchner as his foreign minister several weeks ago. Then, last Thursday, newly seated British Prime Minister Gordon Brown tapped rising star David Miliband as foreign minister and former U.N. official Mark Malloch Brown for a cabinet-level slot as minister for Africa, Asia, and the United Nations. Each appointment signals a desire to break from the past, move beyond the shadow of the Bush years, and reassert European influence on the global stage.

Kouchner is a lifelong leftist who founded Doctors Without Borders, pioneered the concept of humanitarian intervention to rescue people from abusive dictators, and led the U.N.'s administration in Kosovo from July 1999 to January 2001. He has argued for "humanitarian first strikes" to preempt genocide and other war crimes. During the French presidential campaign, Kouchner backed Sarkozy's socialist opponent, Segolene Royal. His appointment by the opposite party was interpreted as an olive branch toward liberals, unionists, and socialists at home.

But the trans-Atlantic implications of Kouchner's appointment cannot be seen through a simple prism of right and left. 

Continue reading "The Bush Boomergang Effect in Europe" »

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Independents
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Progressives love to argue among ourselves about whether "swing voters" really exist, and whether targeting them is a high priority or a terrible sellout.  You owe it to yourself to read not just Sunday's Washington Post article reporting new Post-Kaiser-Kennedy School research, but also the survey results themselves.

They break down independents into multiple categories and point out how independents are now a) a larger self-identified group than Republicans and b) more likely to identify with Democrats.  BUT there is fascinating variation issue by issue.  To sum up quickly:

Independents come down with Democrats on the disastrousness of the Iraq war, but still give Republicans the edge in fighting terrorism (the only issue where independents rank Rs over Ds);

Independents come down with Democrats on the importance of global warming;

with Republicans on their levels of concern about immigration;

more likely than either Ds or Rs to say that the effects of globalization are "mostly bad."

There's lots more...

"Setting the Table" on Human Rights, with Dishes We Won't Care For
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Sarah Mendelson's testimony, in front of the Helsinki Commission six weeks back, is a great summary of why "soft power" matters:

If U.S. soft power continues to decline, or if there is no change in the current configuration over the next decade, Russia (together with China) can essentially "set the table" on human rights issues in ways that favors hyper-sovereign interpretations of international legal frameworks and noncompliance by states concerning human rights. This trend bodes very badly not only for the international human rights machinery, in place in no small part to past U.S. leadership, but for peace and security in the international system.

The whole testimony is worth a read for the way it intelligently and germanely draws the links between (for example) Americans' behavior at Guantanamo and the future of conflicts such as Chechnya -- as well as for a rather sobering, though nuanced, view of the situation inside Russia.

Training Security Forces
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

The cartoon below says it all.  The ultimate problem with Iraqi security force training is not how they are shooting.  It's who they are shooting and no amount of training is going to change that.  Do you we seriously think that continuing to arm these people is a good idea?


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