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April 27, 2012

International Economic Cooperation Gut-Check
Posted by David Shorr

400px-Glass_Half_Full_bw_1Thought I'd take a break from all the recent FOREIGN POLICY  DEBATE 2012!! fun and shift gears to some relatively apolitical policy issues. Today, a belated response to Dan Drezner's "How are they doing?" question about cooperation among the major economic powers. Dan's post was prompted by the recent Spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank -- particularly the conjunction of an ongoing split over how to ward off a double-dip recession together with a pledge to beef up IMF coffers with an added $400 billion for the proverbial rainy day. For Drezner this good news / bad news serves as a Rorschach Test of optimism or pessimism about economic global governance more broadly, and he identifies a number of experts he considers as falling into the two camps.

It's a perennial and important question for every effort at multilateral cooperation: what is a reasonable measuring stick for success or failure? At the heart of the matter is the inherent tension between the difficulty and political sensitivity of the problems on the agenda -- fiscal discipline and job growth, in this case -- versus the urgent need for resolution and action. 

Dan gives part of the answer in reference to the infusion of $400B into the IMF. When governmental leaders resort to more modest measures, we have to distinguish between steps that do actually help and those that merely fudge the issue. Keeping sight of the essential political / policy dispute is also important. As Dan points out, the major economies' political leaders disagree over how to promote growth -- a split that became clear at the Toronto G-20 summit in June 2010, when President Obama's appeal to go slow on fiscal consolidation was rebuffed by Cameron, Merkel, and Harper. 

There is a similar struggle in this year's election debate. How many times have we heard complaints about Washington dysfunctionality and "they can't get their act together and agree on a solution." That's because -- thank you Paul Krugman for your weekly reminder -- there's a basic disagreement over government's role in promoting economic growth. The same debt-before-jobs austerity caucus has successfully held back any further budgetary stimulus that would help protect the recovery, but there's an interesting question about whether the winds are starting to shift. What we do know is that impatience with Eurozone leaders has been growing louder within G-20 meetings. 

The other useful lens to determine multilateral success or failure is to look for incremental progress on the hard stuff. In other words, can major international challenges be broken down into bite-sized pieces? For my frequent collaborator Alan Alexandroff, whom Drezner puts in the optimists' camp, you can see a lot of this slow and steady slog in the lower-level technical work that takes place between G-20 summits (below the iceberg's tip, as he says). And while Ted Truman of the Peterson Institute gets classified as a pessimist, his recent column on the lost momentum for IMF governance reform offers a very practical incremental suggestion for how to proceed.

The G-20's signature agenda is its framework "strong, sustainable and balanced growth" (SSBG), a major element of which is to ensure that no economy is too dependent on either exports or consumer demand. The rebalancing of China's export-oriented economy was considered off the table for many years until the SSBG framework was launched in 2009. This involves a major structural shift for China and scores a very high degree of difficulty in terms of tracking G-20 success or failure. From what administration officials tell me, though, what they like most about the G-20 summits is the chance they offer to steadily drag China along in rebalancing their economy and boosting their domestic consumer demand.

April 26, 2012

The Presidential Election and US-China Relations
Posted by Jacob Stokes

Xi_obamaI have a new piece up at China-US Focus that looks at how presidential politics will affect the Sino-American relationship. Here's the key paragraph:

Ultimately, the 2012 U.S. presidential election will have a long-term effect on Sino-American relations to the degree that it increases or decreases strategic mistrust between the two countries. The Chinese leadership understands that the rough and tumble of U.S. politics is often more smoke than fire—that most heated rhetoric gets moderated when it runs up against the demands of real-world policy making. 
But a political discussion that frames the relationship between the two countries as an exclusively zero-sum competition, one that mirrors the ideological and strategic dimensions of the Cold War--instead of a process of managing differences and identifying common interests--risks creating an atmosphere of strategic distrust that will do long-lasting damage in relations with China. While it’s essential for the U.S. leaders to stand firmly in support of American interests and values, candidates should be wary of letting political point-scoring damage the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

Read the whole thing here.



Romney Foreign Policy and the "Resolve Fairy"
Posted by David Shorr

103011krugman2-blog480To hear the Romney campaign tell it, via a Rich Williamson column this morning over at, the recent failed satellite launch by North Korea is evidence of President Obama's Carteresque foreign policy failure. From reading Williamson's dire warnings, I can only conclude that the Romney camp is counting on the rest of us to disconnect all our critical faculties. 

For one thing, in both foreign policy and the economy, it's not like we haven't tried it their way. So when Williamson calls Pyongyang's (failure to) launch a satellite into space a devastating "sucker punch," one has to ask how it compares to North Korea building and testing their first nuclear weapons on the Republicans' watch? 

And let's parse the supposed disaster more closely. The attempted launch nullified the Obama administration's recent deal with North Korea, under which they would suspend any missile or nuclear warhead tests and receive food aid in return. Clearly the North Koreans reneged, so the deal is off. And this is President Obama's failure because...? Because he shouln't have pursued a halt to North Korean tests? 

As I said in a recent post, Republicans' foreign policy arguments come in two flavors: 

First, there are the bald assertions that a Republicans' vague aura of toughness would whip the rest of the world into line ... Second are the genuine policy differences between President Obama and Governor Romney, and those splits involve either starting new wars (Iran) or staying mired in old ones (Iraq, Afghanistan). So there it is, the supposed magical powers of Republican bluster or war.

With that in mind, here's Rich Williamson's indictment of the president's policy toward Iran:

President Obama's lack of resolute action and the absence of demonstrable results make hollow his declaration that a nuclear-armed Iran is "unacceptable." The path he has set us on leads to a nuclear-armed Iran. 

Which again begs the same question about President Bush's record: would you please remind us of your great success in halting Iran's nuclear program (that's IraN with an 'N', not Iraq)?  Because I can't recall any. Nor does Rich's article outline a policy alternative with any substance or specifics. Meanwhile, anyone paying the slightest attention can see that President Obama has managed to subject Iran to harsher sanctions and stronger international pressure than ever before. 

A last thought on that (completely unspecified) "resolute action" and Republicans' magical foreign policy powers. Also an explanation of the lovely trick-or-treater pictured above. With her holy Ayn Rand text and magic wand, she is of course the Confidence Fairy that Paul Krugman writes about regularly. Given the similar magical thinking at work in GOP foreign policy, it's only proper that we identify the Confidence Fairy's twin sister: The Resolve Fairy.

They both work exactly the same way. A business-friendly (read business-dictated) climate will summon the Confidence Fairy of markets and a wonderful world of full employment. Likewise, grand expressions of toughness and moral clarity bring forth the Resolve Fairy and the capitulation of rogue regimes. 

April 25, 2012

That Center Cannot Hold? Rubio Speaks on foreign policy
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Marco Rubio makes a splashy appeal to what used to be the national security center-right, with a Bob Kagan-heavy speech at Brookings and an LATimes op-ed on Latin America.

The pieces are well structured and make bows to reality -- working with allies and partners, the need for negotiation and engagement, even the appropriateness of using the UN to build coalitions -- that we have grown unused to hearing from conservatives over the primary debates.

Laura Rozen went as far as suggesting Rubio was auditioning for an Obama second-term Secretary of State, with lines like these:

In this new century, more than ever before, America should work with out capable allies in finding solutions to global problems. Not because America has gotten weaker, but because our partners have grown stronger. It’s worth pointing out, that is not a new idea for us. Our greatest successes have always occurred in partnership with other like-minded nations. America has acted unilaterally in the past – and I believe it should continue to do so in the future -- when necessity requires. But our preferred option since the U.S. became a global leader has been to work with others to achieve our goals. So yes, global problems do require international coalitions. On that point this administration is correct.

Preferably, we can succeed through coercive means short of military force. We should be open to negotiations with Iran.

The spread and success of political and economic freedom in the Middle East is in our vital interest. It will certainly present challenges, as newly enfranchised societies elect leaders whose views and purposes oppose and even offend ours. But in the long term, because governments that rule by the consent of the governed must be responsive to the material needs and demands of their people, they are less likely to engage in costly confrontations that harm their economies and deprive their people of the opportunity to improve their circumstances.

It's easier to imagine each of those paragraphs coming out of President Obama's mouth than Mitt Romney's, which presages some interesting questions about Rubio as VP.

I found just three differences on specific policies:  Rubio's call to establish a safe haven across the Turkish border and "potentially" arm the opposition in Syria; his limits on a timeline for negotiations with Iran; and his rejection of the US "reset" with Russia that produced Russian nuclear reductions udner New START, Russian help or abstention on Iran sanctions and Libya, and vital overflight rights for our troops in Afghanistan.

(I'm also confused by the idea that shale oil in Canada gets Eastern Europe to cut its cheap gas deals with Russia, so I'm not counting it here.)

But don't let all the convergence rhetoric fool you. Rubio's rhetoric, and even more the details he sets out in his Los Angeles times op-ed on Latin America today, ultimately lines him up with Romney on the central question around how the US engages in the world.

Rubio, like many, seems to define engagement as only on US terms, and pooh-poohs the idea that other countries can lead effectively. But where would we be without Germany in the European economic crisis, Australia ending atrocities in East Timor, EU peacekeepers in the Balkans? Where do emerging global powers, not just China but Brazil, Turkey, India, fit in his worldview? Why will they be content to be led by the US? He also maintains complete silence about how this definition of US leadership -- all the time, everywhere -- can be paid for, even while bemoaning his party's moves to cut foreign aid and the libertarians to his right's calls to bring home the military.

Rubio raised issues no one else has raised in politics this season, though his speech skipped some big ones (no mention of terrorism, light on Israel and the Arab Spring, nothing on the Koreas or Japan, or our military). And he made a real effort to recapture what used to be the center-right on national security. Ultimately, though, the new right seems likely to reject his views on engagement -- while the American public has already rejected the idea that engagement means universal go-it-alone leadership in favor of a vision in which America leads "with" others, not "for" them. 


This Week In Threat Mongering
Posted by Michael Cohen

Classic-scream1Two of my favorite things to write about these days are threat-mongering and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's unceasing string of misstatements, gaffes and untruths. Today, like peanut butter and chocolate, Ashford and Simpson and Batman and Robin these two forces have come together into a delicious "Panetta-threat mongering" sandwich.

Here's what Panetta had to say early this week about Iran's sponsorship of terrorism:

"We always have a concern about in particular the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] and [their] efforts . . .  to expand their influence not only throughout the Middle East but into [South America] as well," Panetta told reporters Monday. "That, in my book, that relates to expanding terrorism. And that's one of the areas that I think all of us are concerned about," he added. 

Hezbollah in Latin America? Honestly? Has Rick Santorum done a John Woo Face Off with Leon Panetta? (Actually that would explain a lot). This notion of Iranian influence in South America has been thoroughly debunked, even by America's own State Department:

The threat of a transnational terrorist attack remained low for most countries in the Western Hemisphere. There were no known operational cells of either al-Qa’ida- or Hizballah-related groups in the hemisphere, although ideological sympathizers in South America and the Caribbean continued to provide financial and moral support to these and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia. 

The State Department makes no mention of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard operating in the region. (Here's Politifact also taking a 2 x 4 to this silliness). Honestly, for Panetta to be skinny-dipping in the feverish swamps of right-wing hysteria over supposed Iranian inroads to Latin America is enough to make me wish that Obama returned to the long Democratic tradition of appointing Republicans to be Secretary of Defense. 

Next comes the continued effort, waged by various terrorism experts (and national policymakers) to convince Americans that al Qaeda is a serious threat to the United States. Here is Seth Jones making the case in Foreign Policy. Here's Mary Habeck in the same publication arguing that al Qaeda "is in far better condition on a global scale than at any time in its history."

It's a claim that Will McCants destroys here:

I don’t agree that al-Qaeda has “made real progress” toward “the greater ends of overthrowing Muslim rulers, imposing their version of sharia, and controlling territory.” Al-Qaeda Central and its affiliates have overthrown no Muslim rulers. In fact, the Islamists (even the Salafis) in Arab Spring countries are opting for parliamentary democracy, which al-Qaeda hates. It is true that AQAP has tenuous control of a few towns in Yemen but it is at the pleasure of the local tribes. The Shabab certainly controls territory and is imposing its version of sharia but it is unclear how much of the organization is under al-Qaeda’s wing. Moreover, its hold on Somalia is slipping.

This isn't even to mention the fact that al Qaeda central, in so far as it actually still exists, decidedly lacks the capabilities to pull off anything resembling a major attack against the United States. Also unmentioned is that over the past ten years an American is probably more likely to die from falling out of bed, getting crushed by a television or hit by lightning than they are being killed by an al Qaeda terrorist attack. It begs the question: at what point does AQ's consistent lack of success in killing Americans and waging successful terrorist attacks begin to factor into threat assessments of the organization?

Suffice to say I find both Jones and Habeck's argument hard to accept - they appear to both be puffing up worst case scenarios and long-shot potentialities to argue that al Qaeda remains a serious threat. 

But the larger issue is that they arguing against a strawman. Who exactly in the federal government is suggesting that the potential threat of terrorist attack from al Qaeda should be ignored? Granted, US policymakers have said AQ is in decline, but at the same time drones continue to kill suspected al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. The US just signed a long-term partnership agreement with the Afghan government to remain in Afghanistan for many years to come - nominally, one might imagine, to prevent the unlikely scenario of a Taliban takeover and a return of al Qaeda. The organization will continue to remain at best a marginal threat to the US (and certainly not a strategically relevant one) and the United States will continue to work to ensure that things remain that way. 

No one is suggesting that we should simply close up shop in trying to stop AQ's bloody ambitions - but rather that the threat should be assessed in a proper context. Habeck and Jones aren't helping in that regard.

Finally, to finish up our week in threat mongering there is this interview in the Daily Beast with Shawn Henry, the top cybercop at the FBI who believes, wait for it, that cyber crime and cyber threats are "grossly underappreciated." From a bureaucratic standpoint this isn't terribly surprising. One would hardly expect the country's top "cybercop" (even a retiring one) to suggest 'you know what this whole cyber crime thing is pretty meh.' Even less unlikely is that said top "cybercop" would say such a thing as he prepares to join a start-up that, wait for it, specializes in cyber security.

This isn't to say that cyber crime does not represent a challenge - although the assertions by some of cyberwar or a cyber Pearl Harbor are bizarrely overstated. But the larger point here is that someone like Henry has good reason (both personal and professional) to want to protect the cyber "rice bowl" and hype up the potential threats of cybercrime, cyber war etc.

One way to decrease the effectiveness of this sort of threat-mongering is to consider the messenger and take such assertions with a rather sizable grain of salt. 

What Rodriguez' Book Says About Leadership
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

The Washington Post's Dana Priest pulled the key insight out of her early reading of former CIA agent Rodriguez's book, arguing that torture post- 9/11 was necessary and productive, destroying tapes of interrogations was "just getting rid of some ugly visuals", and Obama's opposition to torture mistaken. From the Associated Press:

I cannot tell you how disgusted my former colleagues and I felt to hear ourselves labeled 'torturers' by the president of the United States," Rodriguez writes in his book, "Hard Measures."

The Post's editors, in their wisdom, buried the core problem at the back of the comics pages, at the very end of Priest's piece.  It should be the lead of every item written about Rodriguez, who is the symptom of a deeper human problem that transcends party, country and moment in history.  (Bolding mine.)

"The propaganda damage to the image of America would be immense. But the main concern then, and always, was for the safety of my officers.”

Readers may disagree with much of what Rodriguez writes and with the importance of some of the facts he omits from his book, but the above sentence speaks volumes about why this book is important. In this case, a loyal civil servant — and the decision-makers above him who blessed these programs — were not thinking about the larger, longer-lasting damage to the core values of the United States that disclosure of these secrets might cause. They were thinking about the near term. About efficiency. About the safety of friends and colleagues. In their minds, they were thinking, too, about the safety of the country.

Back when American society valorized all public servants, as we still do those in uniform, we prized their ability to put long-term over short-term, strategy over safety, and country over self. Do we really want to define American leadership as "getting rid of ugly visuals?"

Interestingly, it has been Defense Department and FBI professionals who have written and spoken most movingly about why the alleged short-term benefits of torture (many senior DoD and FBI professionals argue there are none) come at an unacceptable cost.  A couple examples:

  • CIA Director David Petraeus: "whenever we have, perhaps, taken expedient measures, they have turned around and bitten us in the backside...   Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are nonbiodegradables.  They don't go away."
  • Major General (ret) Paul Eaton: “When I get in arguments with those who endorse enhanced interrogation techniques, they say, I’ll do anything I need to do to achieve a tactical gain, while dismissing the strategic problem associated with dehumanizing – which is what  happens when we use these EITs [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques]; you’re dehumanizing the subject that you’re detaining.  When we look at WWII and the hundreds of thousands of Germans and Italian prisoners  who gave up to American military power to the thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who gave up,  who surrendered during Gulf War I, these are men that we did not have to kill.  They knew that they would be better treated by the American soldier than their own forces would treat prisoners.  So they surrendered.”

April 17, 2012

Foreign Policy 2012 - The Two Sides Square Off
Posted by David Shorr

Slideshow_flournoy_healeyIt's game on, game time, kick-off time -- just pick your favorite hackneyed sports phrase -- for the general election foreign policy debate. We've had dueling open letters, volleying press quotes, and last weekend Americans for Informed Democracy organized the first debate between campaign surrogates -- with Michele Flournoy speaking on behalf of the Obama campaign and Kerry Healey representing Romney.

"In this corner... from Michigan, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Park City, and La Jolla..." Boxing pre-bout analysis was Democracy Arsenal stalwart Michael Cohen's sports cliche of choiice for his latest over at Michael does his usual excellent job exposing the desperation and deceit that pervade so much of the Republican foreign policy message. To the extent Michael sees problems for President Obama, they spring from the supposed inability of politics -- and by extension, voters -- to grasp any points that don't fit on a bumper sticker. Unlike the president, Romney doesn't have to wrestle with real-world foreign policy dilemmas: 

He can simply lob rhetorical haymakers that hype up the threat of an Iranian bomb or offer Churchillian declarations about his intention to stop such efforts. For example, in an earlier GOP presidential debate, Romney said that with him as president, Iran would not get a bomb -- but that under Obama, the mullahs will join the nuclear club. How exactly this would come to pass given that the two men have almost idenctical policy prescriptions is irrelevant in a dogfight

Hold on, Michael, not so fast. I think this fight is winnable for the Obama campaign, and without asking voters to be wonkish like us. They don't have to know the finer points of statecraft or the details of the Iran case to know it's a lot harder than Romney makes it sound. And Iran is part of an overall foreign policy contrast between common sense pragmatism and empty bluster. 

Republicans have become parodies of themselves, and thus easy to parody -- as in the foreign policy Mad Libs or rules of thumb that I've posted here at DA. Or take one of my favorite lines from another Michael Cohen piece

To listen to the GOP candidates on Iran is to think that an American president can use a little military force here, drop a few sanctions there, and voilà, the Iranian nuclear program will be stopped dead in its tracks.

In other words, the magical thinking of the Republicans' foreign policy fantasies is an absolutely relevant campaign issue, even in a dogfight. 

As I was thinking about how this boils down to a strategy for the 2012 foreign policy debate, I remembered the strategy that Shadow Government's Peter Feaver offered for how to campaign against President Obama's record. Feaver separated the president's policies into two categories -- arguing that Obama has been successful when he has copied his predecessor George W. Bush and failed when he has attempted major changes. 

The way I see it, the Republican foreign policy argument / critique comes in two flavors. First, there are the bald and empty assertions that a Republican administration would be more effective at achieving America's international aims -- yet without a plausible explanation of how it would actually work, sometimes without even any specifics of how it would differ from what President Obama is already doing. Of course there are real policy differences too, and most of those involve either starting new wars (Iran) or staying in old ones (Iraq, Afghanistan). So there it is, vague and self-serving promises of effectiveness or war.

April 09, 2012

Republicans' Having-and-Eating-Cake Iran Policy Critique [updated]
Posted by David Shorr

BDAY3With all due respect to my friend Rich Williamson, the Romney foreign policy surrogate who gave the below quote to Helene Cooper for her NYTimes piece yesterday on foreign policy surrogates:

“The world is better off because Osama bin Laden is dead. The world is better off because Muammar Qaddafi is dead,” Mr. Williamson said in an interview. “But two deaths do not a foreign policy make.”

To which the obvious response is that pithy quotes don't make for much of a foreign policy either. Plus, I think there was a little more policy behind those "two deaths" than Williamson's glibness suggests.

Whichever side of the political divide they fall, all self-respecting national security experts presumably believe in the same policy wonk creed that political rhetoric should hew as close to practical policy as possible. It isn't always easy, but the campaign platform should bear a reasonable relation to how an administration would govern. Lately I've been wondering whether our Republican friends are even trying.

Let's take the debate over Iran, particularly two either/or choices that Republicans have dodged for their own convenience. For all their professed concern about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, they need to make some decisions. First, sanctioning Iranian oil exports -- not to mention rattling the sabers of a near-term attack -- raises the price of oil. Those who are loud proponents of sanctions should have the guts to say that higher prices at the pump are worth it.

Also, please stop whining about President Obama's reset of US-Russian relations. The clearest payoff of the reset was a boost in Russian help in pressuring Iran. If keeping up pressure on Iran is important, then so was the reset. Oh, and the supposedly unforgiveable shift of missile defense away from Poland and the Czech Republic? Yup, that was done in order to orient the system toward Iranian missiles rather than Russian. If Republicans weren't peddling such a version of the story, they'd have to justify prioritizing our Cold War foe instead of Iran. 

Actually the link between US-Russia relations and Iran policy has already been highlighted for Gov. Romney and his foreign policy team in a recent open letter from advisers to President Obama's reelection campaign. (I was one of the signatories.) Aside from asking what Gov. Romney would do differently on Iran -- we suspect not much -- the letter focused on the connection to Russia:

Why did you call Russia "without question our number one geopolitical foe," especially when strategic cooperation with Russia is essential for countering the Iranian nuclear threat? What do you think is gained by casting Russia in this role?

Finally there's a dilemma that is gradually emerging, but I have highlighted as extremely important. Many Republicans have drawn a redline against letting Iran continue any uranium enrichment program. With all the talk of military action against Iran, this begs a vital question: are you willing to go to war in order to stop Iran from spinning centrifuges to even low levels of enrichment? 

UPDATED: This post was revised to include the issue of the Obama administration's shift in missile defense plans.

Image: Markov Family Blog

April 04, 2012

Republican Foreign Policy Boiled Down for You
Posted by David Shorr

6227047853_f3326d97c9Some simple rules of thumb:

1. Extent US must pursue missile defense: As far as conceivable

2. How much it matters whether the conceivable technology is actually workable: Not very

3. How much we should spend on the military: More (definitely more than Democrats, or the military themselves, say)

4. Degree to which we should adjust to concerns of non-allies: Zero

5. Number of allies you need to focus on: One (three, at most)

6. How long US troops should be kept in Iraq and Afghanistan: Longer than Obama says

7. Hypocrisy involved in screaming about high gas prices and attacking Iran at the same time

7. Relevance of past Republican presidents' nuclear arms treaties and reductions to today's GOP: What nuclear reductions?

8. Connection between America's own actions and what we expect from others: Non-existent

9. Nature of American exceptionalism: Perfection - the focus of awesomeness in the modern world

Extent that above tenets exaggerate / caricature: You be the judge

Illustration: Boris Rasin

Missile Defense Cooperation with Russia Still Makes Sense
Posted by The Editors

BMDThis post written by Eric Auner, an analyst with Guardian Six Consulting, a private research and analysis firm. He tweets at @eauner.

Last month at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama was overheard asking outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev for “space” on the missile defense issue, stating that he would have “more flexibility” after the November election.

Administration critics pounced, including Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) who spearheaded the unsuccessful effort to defeat the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in 2010.  Writing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Kyl asserted “It appears the president is willing to compromise our own missile-defense capabilities” in order to make further progress on arms reductions, he wrote, referring to Obama’s expressed interest in further nuclear reductions.

Kyl concluded by writing:

“The federal government has no higher moral obligation than to protect the American people and to help ensure the human race never again experiences the ruin and destruction of the wars that occurred before the advent of nuclear weapons. Supporting a robust nuclear deterrent and an effective missile defense is a moral obligation for all those who are entrusted with ensuring our nation's security.”

Kyl overlooks critical facts in the broadly-acknowledged history of missile defense and missile defense cooperation. During the negotiation of the New START treaty, for example, the Obama administration did not agree to Russian requests for limits on missile defense, and the final treaty did not contain limits on U.S. missile defense plans. This position is entirely consistent with the current bipartisan consensus that opposes giving a veto over U.S. missile defense plans to Russia or any other country.

Whatever one thinks about missile defense as a national strategy, it is clear that the administration has made it a priority. The administration led the effort to place territorial missile defense at the core of NATO strategy in 2010, an effort that garnered unanimous support among Alliance partners including recent NATO members on Russia’s border.

The United States has concluded a series of bilateral deals with partner nations such as Poland and Turkey to host U.S. missile defense assets, despite Russian objections to the system. The administration has also moved forward on existing missile defense cooperation efforts with some of America’s closest allies, such as Japan and Israel.

The Obama administration has also repeatedly rejected Russian requests for a jointly operated system with Russian “red button” rights. It has also rejected Russian requests for legally binding guarantees that the U.S. system will not target Russia.

In short, robust missile defense, and especially the European system in all its four phases, is now American policy. There is no indication that this will change, regardless of the upcoming election’s outcome.

Furthermore, the “hot mic” incident does not weaken the case for limited missile defense cooperation with Russia. Missile defense has long been a contentious issue between Russia and the United States. As both sides built massive nuclear arsenals during the Cold War, each side worried that the other’s missile defenses could blunt the effectiveness of their offensive forces and give the advantage to their opponent. According to a recent Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI) report, U.S.-Russia missile defense cooperation would be a “game changer” that “would go a long way toward overcoming the legacy of historical suspicion and achieving the strategic transformation that is needed.”

The United States currently possesses a significant advantage in missile defense in terms of technology, deployed assets, and diplomatic relationships that allow the United States to flexibly deploy missile defenses and take advantage of partner efforts and territory. Cooperation now, on American terms and without compromising sensitive data or technology, makes strategic sense.

Cold War thinking, including hyperbolic Russian fears about U.S. missile defense deployments, will still take time to overcome. As U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense Ellen Tauscher told the Missile Defense Association last month, “Missile defense is one area where we can work together with Russia to end Cold War thinking and move away from Mutually Assured Destruction toward Mutually Assured Stability.” Partisan sniping does nothing to move us towards that goal.

Photo: Missile Defense Agency

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