Democracy Arsenal

November 06, 2006

Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

We Win: Then What?
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Whether progressives triumph in one or two houses of Congress tomorrow, they will immediately face tough questions about what to do next on the thorny foreign policy questions that have dominated the campaign.  Here are ten quick pieces of advice:

1. Don't Overstate the Influence of Congress Over Foreign Policy Making - Foreign policy is the responsibility of the executive branch.  Even in the majority, progressives will not be at the helm and shouldn't pretend to be.  Particularly given the hard-headedness of this administration (Dick Cheney's "full steam ahead" comment on Iraq yesterday epitomizes it) progressives should not pretend to enjoy more sway than they do.  For example, there's been lots of talk of a regional conference to activate Iraq's neighbors on behalf of stability.  That will be tough to make work, but especially so for an Administration that still won't admit what's gone wrong.

2. Don't Let Anyone Forget How We Got Here - The reason the American public is contemplating switching horses absent what many pundits thought was essential to progressive victory: namely, a consensus plan for Iraq, is that they have come to blame the Administration for creating an insoluble crisis.  Iraq will get likely get worse before it gets better, and a changeover on Capital Hill cannot undo most of the mistakes already made.   We need a bipartisan approach to digging out from the crisis, but should not lose sight of who got us into it.

3. Don't Expect an Easy Out From Iraq - Lots of progressives have been speaking as though some tough talk to the al-Maliki government in Iraq will get it to step up to the plate, get security under control, and allow us to exit without a complete meltdown into sectarian violence.  While I don't pretend to know to what degree the Iraqi government's failings are attributable to lack of will versus lack of competence, it seems certain that regardless, the problem will not be solved.  While it may make good campaign rhetoric, its not plausible that the government is willfully allowing their country to devolve into chaos but, with the right stern words, will suddenly reverse course and get things under control.  Short of that all scenarios are pretty bleak.

4.  Be Honest with the American Public - Half-truths got us into Iraq, but they won't get us out.  With greater control in the Congress, progressives will have the authority to unpack the Administration's statements and claims and let the public in on the truth about how the war effort is going, what the likely consequences of withdrawal will be, and what needs to be done to mitigate them.

5.  Look for a Handful of Tangible Ways to Push Policy in the Right Direction - Rather than trying to pull off a miracle in Iraq, progressives should focus on preventing the White House from digging us deeper into the whole, and on some tangible steps to address the worst of the policy lapses.  A few specifics:

Continue reading "We Win: Then What? " »

September 24, 2006

Democracy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Democracy after Bush: 10 Lessons for Progressives
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

One major piece of fallout from the Bush foreign policy era is the discrediting of America's role in promoting democracy around the world.  A few days ago, I heard a Senate candidate recounting what I assume was a line he uses on the stump; something to the effect that by making the mistake of holding elections amid a population that suffers from poor education, an absence of civic institutions, and no tradition of the rule of law, you will wind up with Hamas in power.   

While Americans are right to conclude that elections alone do not a democracy make, this does not mean its wrong to support free elections in places that fall well short of the criteria for full-fledged democracy.   Here are 10 conclusions I draw after 10 years of democracy promotion the Bush way:

1.  The U.S. must remain at the forefront of promoting democracy worldwide - The hangover of the Bush years will lead many to urge retreat from efforts to advance democracy in farflung places, on grounds that such work is costly, dangerous, and bound to fail.  While the impulse is understandable, this would be a huge mistake.  America's role in fostering democracy and aiding democrats the world over helped fuel us to superpowerdom during the first half the twentieth century, and keep us there during the second.  This drive was behind many of America's greatest contributions to the international system - including the creation of the multilateral order and the rise of great democracies on all continents.  We cannot throw the baby of democracy promotion out with the bathwater of Bush Administration policies.

2.  Democracy is not the same as pro-Americanism - One of the rationales behind American support for democracy is the idea that Democratic regimes are more inclined to support the US.  While this is true in the long term, the effect is neither immediate nor universal, as we've learned the hard way in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and - arguably - Iran.  Where there are longstanding grievances, immediate resentments, and/or political elements who rally support based on anti-Western and anti-American agendas, the democracy won't necessarily temper these sentiments.  Americans need to understand that fostering democracies around the world will benefit US interests over time, and not to expect immediate gratification in the form of pro-US governments.

3.  Democracy delayed will be seen as democracy denied - The US cannot afford to take the position that where democratic elections may result in the rise of extremist or anti-US elements, such elections should be indefinitely postponed.  If there are reasons to believe feasible, relatively quick steps can be taken to foster more free and fair elections, there may be nothing wrong with advocating that those happen first.  But a position that only once US-friendly parties are poised for victory does a population deserve to elect its own government will be seen as self-serving and hypocritical. 

4.  Elections are necessary but not sufficient for democracy - Rather than downplaying the importance of elections, US policymakers should place more emphasis on dimensions like the development of democratic institutions; the building of an independent judiciary; freedom of the press and of expression; civic education; a firm state monopoly on the use of force, and more.  These get short shrift because they take more money and time, and don't provide the same photo ops as peasants waving ink-stained fingers in the air.  In Eastern Europe and elsewhere, the US, other Western governments and international bodies have gained experience promoting a full range of democratic accouterments.  We need to get to work as energetically in these areas as we do in the business of holding elections.

5.  Pro-democracy and anti-corruption must go hand-in-hand - The big lesson of Hamas' victory is not that elections were a bad idea, but that West's erred glaringly in failure to ensure that the previous Fatah-led government provided adequate levels of law and order and social services to sustain its hold on power.   By most accounts, Hamas' win reflected less popular extremism than abject frustration with the corruption and ineptitude of the Fatah regime.  Similar tendencies are reportedly behind Hezbollah's popularity in Lebanon.   It is no surprise, and is laudable, that voters prize competence and reject corruption.  The West needs to do what it can to ensure that they don't need to vote in violent extremists in order to get them.

Continue reading "Democracy after Bush: 10 Lessons for Progressives" »

August 13, 2006

Middle East, Weekly Top Ten Lists

You Say You Got a Resolution: What's Next in Lebanon
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Tomorrow morning the UN negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon will enter into force.  This represents a long-awaited milestone, and yet leaves open as many questions as it answers.  We've talked before about how these much-heralded international agreements sometimes wind up doing little more than paper over differences that just burst back open as deeply as ever.  Will that happen here?  Here are some signs to watch for in the coming days and weeks:

1.  What will Israel do with its forces currently in Lebanon - The idea behind the ceasefire resolution is that Israeli troops will end offensive operations, and gradually withdraw as international peacekeepers and the Lebanese army take their place.  But with intense political pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after an operation that's seen at best as a partial victory, will the post ceasefire period be sufficiently free of provocation that Israel's guns stay quiet, and will the international force be mobilized quickly enough so that the motions of withdrawal can start?

2.  Will Hezbollah comply with the resolution's requirement that it disarm south of the Litani River - Sheikh Nasrallah has said he will comply with this only once Israel leaves Southern Lebanon (including Shebaa Farms) and is replaced by the Lebanese army and an expanded UNIFIL.  A dispute over this point led to impasse at a Lebanese cabinet meeting this morning, because Israel will not leave with an armed and ready Hezbollah still unchecked in what is to become the buffer zone.  If not solved, this gap could yield a stand-off that quickly turns violent.

3.  Will the Lebanese government be able to coopt Hezbollah into rejecting violence - As long as Hezbollah remains a guerrilla state-within-a-state in Lebanon, even if there's a semblance of partial disarmament in the south, the organization will be poised to regroup and restart its attacks.  The only way to stop that is for Hezbollah to disband, or to transform into a legitimate political party.  Some suggest that a package of incentives - control over ministries and resources, perhaps - might lure Hezbollah into such a conversion.

4.  How quickly does an international force get mobilized - There is no agreement on when the 15,000-strong international force will be deployed, nor who will lead it.  France, Italy, Turkey and others have said they'll contribute troops.  The UN, largely for reasons outside the organization's direct control, is notoriously slow in getting peacekeepers out into the field.  Having witnessed the US's experience in Lebanon in 1982 and in Iraq, other governments will naturally hesitate.

5.  How well can a UN force rein in a terrorist group - I posed the same question some weeks ago in pondering the viability of an expanded UNIFIL as a route to resolving the conflict.  If Hezbollah stands down, that's one thing.  But unless they abandon or put on hold their raison d'etre of returning the region to its 1948 borders (minus the State of Israel, that is), the UN force will be faced with trying to contain an aggressive, well-armed, and sophisticated guerrilla group, something both the US military (in Iraq) and the Israel Defense Force (in Lebanon in recent weeks) have failed at.  This could be a humiliating defeat for the UN, or potentially a triumph that shows the organizations relevance in an era of terror.

6.  How does Hezbollah approach the arrival of a beefed up UN force - This brings up the directly-related question of how Hezbollah deals with the UN troops:  in its heretofore skeleton-staffed and weakly mandated form, UNIFIL seems to have been largely ignored by Hezbollah fighters.  But the augmented force will be far more heavily armed and have robust rules of engagement.  Will Hezbollah want to be seen as cooperating?  Will their quiescence mask behind-the-scenes plotting and rearmament? 

7.  What kind of mettle will the Lebanese army show - The abject failure of the Lebanese army to exert a monopoly on force in Southern Lebanon is at the root of Hezbollah's opportunism and the skirmishes that erupted into this (thus far) mini-war.  Now the world is relying on Lebanese soldiers to play a major role in retaking and securing the country's Hezbollah-ridden border areas.   If past is prologue, this is a recipe for continued Hezbollah infiltration.  If that happens, its a matter of time before Israel comes back in in some form.

8.  Do Syria and Iran still want to rumble with the world - Both governments, known to be political, financial and military backers of Hezbollah, have announced their opposition to the ceasefire resolution.  Both are assumed to have been behind Hezbollah's initial provocations.  In the face of UNSC unanimity and an international peacekeeping force, do they decide that the optics of trying to spoil the deal are untenable?  Or do they see this as some sort of epic battle against the West that they're bent on fighting until Israel returns the Golan and the UN backs off Tehran's nuclear program?

9.  What's next in Gaza - Before this last round started in early July, the big worry was friction between Israel and Gaza, brought to a head by the abduction of an Israeli soldier, subsequent military retaliation, and exchanges of rocket and missile fire.  Before that, the big worry was a restive population as a result of a starved Palestinian authority that could not pay its civil servants because the flow of funds had been cut off after Hamas' election.  The situation could easily boil over if subsequent international efforts are not made to extend the ceasefire to Gaza in some form.

10.  What level of engagement in the conflict will the Bush Administration sustain - The speed with which the international force is mobilized, the pace at which Israel withdraws, and the role the Lebanese government plays will all be influenced by the degree to which the Administration - and others, including notable the EU and the other Permanent UNSC members - continue to pressure the parties.  With an election coming up, will Bush - as never before - be willing to tie his fate to events in the Mideast he cannot control? Truth is he's tied to them like it or not.

May 21, 2006

Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Whose Afraid of the Big, Bad Left? 10 Reasons Why Progressives Shouldn't Be
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Peter Beinart and others are worried that the fiasco of the Iraq War will result in the resurgence of a staunchly anti-imperialist, neo-isolationist left of the sort the American public will never trust with its national security.   I have been arguing for four years that progressives will not retake power if they are perceived not to trust America's military hand around the world. 

So while I agree with Peter's premise that only a robustly internationalist liberalism can resurrect American power and redirect American policy, I think its a mistake to get distracted at this point by worrying about how to manage the left.  Here's why:

1.  Talking up a hawk-dove progressive rift plays right into conservative hands - Conservatives would like nothing more than to paint the opposition as riven with divisions and wracked by isolationist, anti-interventionist sentiment.  This feeds their case that progressives cannot be trusted to defend America and that tough but blundering is better than cowardly and retreatist.  The fact is that progressives have come together to drive some major Congressional victories and are largely in agreement what needs to happen to put America on course.  We should not help conservatives paint us otherwise.

2.  9/11 and Globalization Dealt a One-two Punch Against Isolationism - While Americans rue the conduct of the Iraq war, the combination of economic and technological globalization and the 9/11 attacks have convinced most Americans that the U.S. cannot turn away from the world.  While Iraq has engendered grave misgivings about the Bush Administration's approach, history offers many other more successful models for America's global leadership.  Most Americans, even on the far left, will be receptive to internationalism as long as it is not of the Bush variety.

3.  Talk of isolationism today is greatly exaggerated - As I and others have written, Bush likes to talk about isolationism as a way to tar his critics as head-in-the-sand America-lasters.  The reality is that many of his opponents have far deeper internationalist credentials than he does and that few, if any, are arguing that America can retreat from global leadership.  Rather than arguing against supposed isolationists, progressives should expose Bush's attempt to deflect legitimate criticism by crying isolationism.

4.  Being anti-war doesn't mean being anti a strong defense and an aggressive foreign policy - Though the Administration would have us believe otherwise, there's nothing incoherent about supporting assertive, effective American global leadership and believing that a) the Iraq war was anything but and b) the problems in Iraq won't be fixed by a continued American prresence.  The Fighting Dems and the retired Generals who have openly criticized the conduct of the war all advocate a strong national defense and tough line on terror regardless of where they come out on Iraq.

5.  Iraq is not Vietnam - Vietnam did engender a long period of American isolationism and protracted misgivings about U.S. military intervention in virtually any form.  But Iraq won't do the same for various reasons:  the mistakes and misconceptions of the Iraq adventure are so obvious that people are less prone to believe any American intervention would be similarly flawed; also, as painful as Iraq has been, casualties still are small relative to Vietnam;

Continue reading "Whose Afraid of the Big, Bad Left? 10 Reasons Why Progressives Shouldn't Be" »

April 16, 2006

Iraq, Weekly Top Ten Lists

10 Lessons from the Corporate World For Donald Rumsfeld's Fight to Keep His Job
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Since I spend my days in the corporate world, given the outcry over Donald Rumsfeld’s leadership at the Pentagon the analyses of commentators like David Brooks who tie the SecDef’s failings to the style he developed in business, I thought it might be fun to try to distill 10 lessons from the corporate world that apply to Iraq:

  1. If a Seemingly Wise and Sound Venture is Failing, Question the Management – This is the basic principal behind calls for Rumsfeld’s ouster:  if, as Bush insists, the Iraq invasion was correctly conceived and still stands a chance to succeed, there’s got to be some explanation for why the detritus of failure piles up day after day.  Had new management in the form of John Kerry come in in January 2005 there would still have been a chance to turn things around.  It may well be too late now, but the retired Generals and the public are right to demand that Bush try, and the way to start is with new management.

  1. Don’t Confuse Marketing with Sales – The Administration has put heavy efforts into trying to market the Iraq War through speeches, outreach, and artfully worded statistics.  But sagging poll numbers show that no one’s buying.  To get the public to buy into this war would have required addressing their fundamental qualms – the shaky rationale, poor planning, and absent international support.  The biggest marketing blitz in Hollywood can’t sell tickets to movies people don’t want to see.

  1. After About 9 Months, Lack of Trained Personnel is No Longer an Excuse – When the occupation of Iraq began in 2003 there might have been some grounds for excusing the unavailability of American troops trained in peacebuilding (after all, Bush had decried nation-building during the 2000 campaign).  But three years later soldiers are still finding themselves in roles and jobs for which they had not training.  The Pentagon ran out of excuses a while back.

  1. Staff Must be Obligated to Dissent – Well-run companies spend a lot of time trying to tease out alternative thinking from their executive and line ranks, knowing that functional experts see things top management cannot.  At the McKinsey consulting firm, consultants have a “obligation to dissent,” meaning that they are urged to speak their minds if they think a project is off course.  This is easier to administer in paper than in practice, where loyalties and career fears constrain openness.  But well-managed companies find ways of overcoming these barriers.  From all reports, the Rumsfeld Pentagon does the opposite.

  1. Ventures that Start Very Badly Are Typically Impossible to Turn Around – This is true in the corporate world (think the AOL-Time Warner acquisition or Bertelsmann's acquisition of Napster, to name a couple of fairly recent and sexy examples), and – it would be my guess – equally so for the military.  There are a variety of reasons why:  leaders wind up spending more time trying to defend failed policies than looking ahead; they lose confidence; they cannot attract the support of others; competitors are emboldened by the perceived failure; shareholder pressure increases which can curb resources, etc.  Many of these are at work in Iraq too.

Continue reading "10 Lessons from the Corporate World For Donald Rumsfeld's Fight to Keep His Job" »

January 29, 2006

Weekly Top Ten Lists

State of the Union: 10 Things Bush Needs to Say on Foreign Policy
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Word is that the President's State of the Union Address this week will focus on domestic issues.  Given the firestorm over the wiretaps, the carnage in Iraq, the frightening results of the Palestinian election, the latest tape from Osama, the war talk out of Tehran, and the mounting chaos on the Afghan-Pakistan border, it's hard to blame Bush for trying to divert attention from foreign policy.  But the truth is that American security is growing more precarious, partly because of Bush's own policies.  Here are 10 things the president ought to say this week.  I'll check back in afterward to evaluate whether he has.

1.  No More Illegal Wiretaps - Illegal wiretaps have trammeled civil liberties, undermined the rule of law, eroded Americans' trust in their government, and wasted thousands of hours of analysts' time reviewing useless transcripts.  The law is clear that to wiretap, a president needs a court order.  There's no evidence that this requirement has stood in the way of the intelligence agencies getting information they need.  While the debates and lawsuits on past practice will rage on, Bush should pledge no more wiretaps without a judge's approval.

2.  No Tolerance for Torture - Bush has never spoken out forcefully on torture.  He should disavow torture by any arm or official of the U.S. government and renounce the practice of extraordinary rendition of suspects to countries that practice torture.  It's painful to recognize that this even needs to be said by our president, but it does.

3.  No Permanent Bases in Iraq - Regardless of what you think about the Iraq war effort, permanent bases are a bad idea.  Analysts of the war on terror are focusing on the role that U.S. troops on Mideast (and Saudi in particular) sand and soil have had in inflaming anti-Americanism.  Though we can debate when to leave Iraq, few doubt that at some point we will go.  But Bush has never said this and it's something both Americans and Mideast need to hear.

4.  No Questioning of Patriotism for Critics of the War - It is McCarthyistic to suggest that it's un-American to question the Iraq war effort.  In the coming year, more than a dozen Iraq war veterans will run for Congress.  Along with John Murtha, John Kerry, and anyone else who has something to say, they sure as hell are going to talk about the war.  For Bush to unequivocally defend the right of all Americans to debate our foreign policy would bespeak a level of self-assurance this president hasn't shown since right after 9/11.

5.  U.S. to Mount Direct, Sustained Engagement in the Middle East Peace Process - While many factors helped foster Hamas' landslide victory in the Palestinian elections last week, the Bush Administration's Mideast policies - its sporadic engagement in the peace process after Arafat's death, its war in Iraq - are among them.  Bush has dispatched Rice to build consensus in Europe on how to deal with Hamas.  But this cannot be another short-lived blitz.  The administration has strong influence on both sides of the conflict. Now is the time to use it.

Continue reading "State of the Union: 10 Things Bush Needs to Say on Foreign Policy " »

December 11, 2005

Iraq, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Iraqi Elections: 10 Key Things to Look Out for During and After
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Iraqi_vote We all know this week's elections for a permanent Iraqi parliament are important, but what tea leaves are worth focusing on to determine whether this will be a watershed for democracy, another halting and ambivalent step in Iraq's tortured transition, or the beginning of the end of Iraq as a unitary state.    Here are 10 things to watch for after the election to see whether the balloting winds up being as transformative as the Bush Administration hopes.

1.  Performance and Cohesion of the United Iraqi Alliance - This coalition of 18 conservative religious Shiite parties nominated current Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  If it prevails in its strongholds of Iraq's 8 southern provinces and Baghdad, this means increasing Iranian influence in Iraq.   If the alliance falls short of the 45-50% of seats projected or fragments during post-vote horsetrading, that may bode well for the emergence of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi or another secular moderate, and for the US's continued strong sway.  See here for more.

2.  Performance of the Iraqi National List - This is Allawi's party, and represents the US's best bet for a friendly Iraqi leadership that will cooperate with our efforts to engineer a smooth exit and sustain our influence long-term.   Allawi got 14% of the vote in January running as a sitting Prime Minister.  If that number rises, it may suggest that secularism in Iraq has legs.

3.  Speed with Which a New Government is Formed Post-Vote - This took three months after the January elections for an interim Iraqi Parliament.  Petty infighting ruled the day, and momentum toward political reform and integration stalled.   Now, the incoming Parliament faces a four-month deadline to fill in the most contentious blanks in the constitution adopted in October.  The more time they lose, the remoter the chances that a grand and sustainable bargain on issues like federalism and apportionment of oil proceeds emerges.

Continue reading "Iraqi Elections: 10 Key Things to Look Out for During and After" »

November 06, 2005

Human Rights, Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

What Iraq Has Taught Us About Humanitarian Intervention
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

There's an important debate underway on America Abroad about where the liberal internationalist consensus for humanitarian intervention stands after Iraq (see Anne-Marie Slaughter's latest post for a partial summary).  The gist is an argument over whether, as David Rieff claims, after Iraq, humanitarian intervention can no longer be distinguished from self-interested, imperialistic interventions done under the guise of promoting human rights and ousting despots.  Back in the Spring of 2004 (actually, the Summer of 2003, in light of FA's pub cycle) I fretted that exactly this would happen, writing in Foreign Affairs that:

After September 11, conservatives adopted the trappings of liberal internationalism, entangling the rhetoric of human rights and democracy in a strategy of aggressive unilateralism. But the militant imperiousness of the Bush administration is fundamentally inconsistent with the ideals they claim to invoke. To reinvent liberal internationalism for the twenty-first century, progressives must wrest it back from Republican policymakers who have misapplied it.

Shadi Hamid has touched on similar issues in posts immediately below.   There's much I agree with in responses to Rieff from Slaughter, Bruce Jentleson, Ivo Daalder and John Ikenberry, including the essential point that Iraq was emphatically not a humanitarian intervention.  It doesn't even qualify as the hard case that might make bad law.   But that said, Iraq has taught us key lessons that can and must guide future thinking on humanitarian intervention, mostly raising the bar for when we should intervene and how we need to do it.  I list 10 of them.  Look forward to additions, subtractions and comments.

1.  Principle Motivation Must be Perceived as Humanitarian - I disagree strongly with Rieff that humanitarian intervention has already been discredited beyond salvation.  But after a few more Iraqs, that likely would be true.   No matter the stated reasons for intervention, audiences in the affected country and at home will judge motives for themselves.  Humanitarian intervention will normally implicate some strategic US interest, writ broadly.  But any whiff of narrower self-interest (especially involving economic or domestic political considerations) can foul the air completely.  James Baker's observation that we had no dog in the fight in Bosnia may, ironically, have helped legitimize our interventions in Bosnia and later in Kosovo.

2.  While it Need Not Necessarily Derive from Any Single Source, Legitimacy is Essential - Anne-Marie Slaughter and Ivo Daalder illuminate how the US operation in Kosovo, though without UN imprimatur, had the effect of "pushing" international law to provide broader license for similar interventions, culminating in this Fall's adoption of a UN "responsibility to protect" (a duty that, unaccountably, has not been invoked in Darfur).   Rather than fixating exclusively on a single form of sanction (UN Security Council, for example), advocates of humanitarian intervention will need to ensure they can credibly claim some source of legitimacy (for example, from a regional organization).

3.  Humanitarian intervention is war - Rieff is right to emphasize this, particular since the point was forgotten by those (outside the Administration) who favored war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds.    Many expected a quick, clean conflict and thought that if a brutal tyrant like Saddam could be ousted relatively bloodlessly well, then, why not?  Iraq is a reminder of the  risks that make going to war a momentous decision:  loss of American lives, loss of foreign lives, physical dislocations, social and psychological disruptions, regional destabilization and risk of unpredictable horribles.  While we rightly rue our failure to act in Rwanda, we perhaps don't think enough about what the never-fought "Rwanda War" (and subsequent occupation?) might have been like.

4.  Humanitarian intervention is more than just war - Those of us who believe that humanitarian intervention needs to be among the options available to US policymakers face a major challenge in bringing US capabilities to carry out the non-military aspects of intervention (stabilization, state-building, socio-economic reconstruction, etc.) up to the standards applied to our conventional military operations (counter-terrorism, unfortunately, excluded).   See here for more.

5.   Intervenor Bears Strict Liability for Anything That Goes Wrong - The reasons the operation in Iraq has gone so badly wrong have everything to do with the fact that this was not a humanitarian intervention:  if the US's motives weren't at issue, we wouldn't face the kind of insurgency we do.  But Iraq has nonetheless taught a sobering lesson about the responsibility an intervenor shoulders, fairly or not.  We should never again intervene without a serious examination of the worst-case scenario consequences and how to deal with them.

6.  Negligent Intervention May be Worse than No Intervention - Until Iraq, it never dawned on most of us that the US was capable of an operation as poorly planned and executed as the aftermath of the Iraq intervention.  But we know now.  A hard-headed assessment of preparedness and capabilities is essential to any future humanitarian intervention debate.

7.  When We Go at it Alone, We'd Better Understand Why - Many progressives subscribe to the mantra "with others where possible, alone where necessary."  When it comes to humanitarian intervention, we need to answer honestly why we're alone.  If its because of the rest of the world's biases, indifference, cowardice or helplessness, fine.  If its because we haven't proffered a rationale convincing enough to rally others, because they suspect our motives, or because they believe that measures short of intervention might work, we need to look hard at whether to go ahead.   Analyzing this objectively will be tough.

8.  Humanitarian Intervention Represents a Preventive Policy Failure - Given the emphasis that we progressives place on diplomacy, alliances, multilateral institutions, and fostering democracy and the rule of law, humanitarian intervention should only arise as a need once our best efforts on all these fronts have failed.  That notion may seem obvious, but truly embracing it means rejecting humanitarian intervention"ism" as a major pillar of progressive foreign policy (an pillar that wins favor partly because it allows liberals to demonstrate that they don't shy away from force).  John Ikenberry makes a similar point.

9.  Putting Values into Action Abroad Invites Scrutiny at Home - This is one of the most dangerous aspects of the neo-conservative hijacking of progressive priorities like human rights and the rule of law.  The abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have tainted the way these concepts are understood abroad, and we will spend years undoing that damage.

10.  Today's Interventions Will Both Dictate and Circumscribe Tomorrow's - What we used to think of as "Vietnam Syndrome" has turned out to be an eerie pendulum that swings from one era's mistakes of action (Vietnam, Somalia) into the next's errors of omission (Rwanda, Bosnia), and then back again (Iraq) and again (Darfur).   The challenge of us defenders of humanitarian intervention is to take the last 30 years of experience and build from it a vector of progress (Anne-Marie Slaughter's faith) rather than than a bloody cycle of repetition (Rieff's fear).

October 30, 2005

Weekly Top Ten Lists

While Washington Slept
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

I could not bring myself to weigh in this week either on Plamegate or on the latest "plans" for Iraq.  Yet writing about virtually anything else seems to sidestep what's uppermost on all of our minds.  But as important as the areas in which the Administration has botched US policy, are the ancillary effects of its missteps on neglected and overlooked issues.  We all know that domestic preparedness has been buried under the bureaucratic avalanche of the Department of Homeland Security, and that our military is dangerously overstretched.   But a host of other issues crawl across our minds - flickering in and out as we absorb ourselves in more immediate problems like Plamegate and Iraq.   But if we don't start paying attention soon, they'll catch up with us.  Here are 10 of them.

Middle East Peace Process – The Bush Administration's failure to engage deeply and consistently in the Mideast peace process has left the most contentious conflict in the Middle East in a dangerous limbo.  Ariel Sharon's historic decision to pull out of Gaza left a host of questions unanswered, and the Administration has done little to try to ensure that the Gaza withdrawal be followed by further steps to implement the road map.  Bush's own wise decision to reject Arafat's leadership, followed by Arafat's death, could have allowed this Administration to make history a very different kind of history in the Middle East.

Doha Round- The Doha Round of trade talks, aimed at reducing the agricultural subsidies that result in cows in France enjoying higher per capita income that millions of people in Africa, are in danger of collapse.   The worst culprits are the French, who refuse to support even modest EU proposals to trim welfare for farmers.    But while USTR Rob Portman has made important conditional commitments to reduce US subsidies, the Senate Ag Committee has voted to extend benefits for rice, cotton and other agribusinesses til 2011.  The demise of Doha will perpetuate global poverty, (fairly or not) deepen resentment toward the US, and set back economic growth at home and abroad.  The Administration should redouble its efforts to prevent that from happening.

Galloping Anti-Americanism – Karen Hughes' ear-muffed listening tours of the Middle East and Indonesia make great comic relief, but do nothing to allay the march of anti-Americanism.   While I objected to Hughes' 8-month long voluntary hiatus before taking office, now that she's on the job Hughes' tone-deafness may well be making things worse.  Apart from the serious political consequences of anti-US attitudes, businesses are increasingly worried that the friction may hurt the bottom line.  Despite years of Administration talk on the need to win hearts and minds, we aren't.

China's Growing Political Influence - China's economic and diplomatic influence in Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere has grown tremendously since Bush took office.  Whether or not we consider China a likely military threat, for a country that shares so few of our political values to enjoy a level of global influence that rivals our own will complicate our foreign policy for decades to come.   We could have a long debate about the best strategy to deal with this, but looking the other way while our own sway wanes is not it.

Russia - As James Goldgeier and Michael McFaul point out in a new piece in Policy Review, Russia has made no meaningful contribution to any of the Bush Administration's three chief policy objectives:  fighting terror, controlling the spread of nukes, and promoting liberty.  In many respects, the US-Russian relationship seems to be slipping backward into Cold War era antagonisms.  Despite Condi Rice's expertise in the region, Russia has not been a focus for this Administration, and it shows.

Shoring Up American Influence in Our Own Backyard - US ties to Mexico are strained, and perceptions of the US in Canada are worse than at any point in the last 25 years, with the latest tension over what the Canadians are dubbing flagrant US violations of NAFTA.   The upcoming Summit of the Americas is expected to be an anti-Bush fest and a planned POTUS visit to Brazil afterward is already attracting protests.  Meanwhile outspoken anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is consolidating his influence.

Global Warming - Remember when the Administration's repudiation of the Kyoto Protocol on emissions and its failure to propose alternatives ranked among Bush's chief foreign policy failings?  Well, that day may come again.  Since then the Administration has continued to deny the link between greenhouse gasses and global warming, impeding efforts to control pollution and prevent climate change.  The result has left countries like India and China free to continue polluting without the pressure of emerging global standards.

The Balkans - The US military intervention in Kosovo in 1999 seems to get mentioned these days only as a reminder that Democrats are unafraid to use force.   There's little talk about the fact that Kosovo's political future remains unresolved (though Charlie Kupchan has a great recent Foreign Affairs article on the subject), and that peace in the territory is contingent on continued international presence.  More than 10 years after the Dayton Accord Bosnia is likewise heavily dependent on an international administration to avoid political disintegration.  Eventually the US will have to reengage to help these territories shift toward permanent status.

Bird Flu - The Administration has finally gotten off the dime in response to the threat of bird flu, now that new cases of the disease seem to be surfacing daily.   Bush will give a major speech on the topic this week at the NIH.  But make no mistake, in terms of real preparations for an outbreak, we are near nowhere.

Pakistani Attitudes Toward the US - I wrote about this last week, but the reports now are that the second wave of post-earthquake deaths from disease and exposure are already beginning.  UN agencies will have to scale back their aid this week unless more donor money flows fast.  If tens of thousands of Pakistanis die this winter because not enough help reached them, Pakistan's number one international "partner" - the US - is the most likely target for blame.  If that happens, the failure to deal more adequately with Pakistan's October 8 earthquake could go down as one of the greatest lapses of Bush's fight against terror.

October 16, 2005

Weekly Top Ten Lists

National Security Contract With America
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

There's been talk in recent weeks about the need for progressives to devise their own version of Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America.  Nancy Pelosi is apparently putting the finishing touches on such a document, and analysts including Robert L. Brosage at The Nation are proffering their own formulations.   Walter Cronkite has called for convening a mid-term Convention to ratify the ideas.  The bulk of any such proposal will deal with domestic policy, but here are nine ideas to get the ball rolling on what the foreign policy planks of such a contract could be.  When the Gingrich contract was issued within weeks of the 1994 mid-term elections, each provision was accompanied by draft legislation. 

1.  Truth in War Act - This law would require that before Congress could declare war (or shortly thereafter in exigent situations), the maximum possible disclosure of information be made to the American people concerning the grounds for military action and the challenges and risks of the proposed operation.  It could  be up to the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to jointly certify that the requisite level of disclosure was made under the circumstances and the Senate could hold public hearings on their findings.

2.  Strengthening America's Military Act (aka Uncle S.A.M.) - This law would enlarge the active-duty military and the the Special Forces, and reduce reliance on over-taxed reservists, stop-loss orders and extended tours.  It would provide resources for DOD to develop recruitment, training, benefits and outplacement packages necessary to lure substantial additional recruits for active duty.  More details on each of these are contained in this CAP report.  CAP also identifies potential cuts to wasteful programs that could make expansion of the army revenue-neutral.

Continue reading "National Security Contract With America" »

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