Messr. X's Foreign Policy Commentary

American grand strategy/foreign policy

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Sophomore at Tulane University

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Fukuyama and Corincione on the future of the Bush Doctrine

Edifying interview done by John McLaughlin of Francis Fukuyama and John Cirincione about the current international landscape.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Look, I absolutely believe that we should do whatever we can to keep the club from expanding. But it does seem to me that the problem we're facing in Iran and North Korea is that the methods that we have for preventing that from happening, we're beginning to -- that string is beginning to run out. And if someone is really determined to do it, I don't think that it's a, you know, it's a realistic policy to preempt --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty wrong, that there should be no permission, no grant under the terms of the treaty, to have -- to develop the peaceful uses of nuclear energy?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, this was one of the basic problems with that agreement was that there was this fiction that you had these peaceful -- important peaceful uses --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to modify the treaty?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I don't think you're -- politically you're not going to be able to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But do you --

MR. FUKUYAMA: But that's been the biggest loophole is that, you know -- and you see this in Iran right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Joe, what about that? What about permitting the civilian uses of nuclear energy? And that means that you need a level of enrichment -- some level of enrichment -- to make the centrifuges run to produce your electricity, but you don't need weapons-grade uranium.

MR. CIRINCIONE: It's not the nuclear reactors that are the problem -- there are about 40 countries with nuclear reactors -- but it's the ability to make the fuel, because the same factories that can enrich uranium to low levels for fuel can enrich it to high levels for bombs. MR.
MCLAUGHLIN: Right. How do you lick the problem?

MR. CIRINCIONE: So you've got to do what Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, has recommended -- or President Bush in a slightly different way has recommended: You've got to stop more countries from getting these enrichment facilities, including Iran, and develop international mechanisms that can produce these in a safeguarded way. For example, the Europeans have a joint consortium of three countries that together produce the fuel so that no one nation actually possesses the ability to do this. If you're going to solve the Iran problem in the long run, you're going to have to solve this nuclear fuel problem with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about -- what about buying them out with a protective shield for their security?

MR. CIRINCIONE: Addressing the security concerns of countries like Iran has got to be part of the equation. And this is where Dr. Fukuyama's book comes into play. He has, you know, very cogently argued that the Bush doctrine -- the idea that we could deal with this problem by use of force, by overthrowing these regimes -- is now proven to be a false approach. MR.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the impulse made by the administration this very week towards North Korea that is abandoning the proposition that they must dismantle their nuclear program before we continue the talks with them? They've abandoned that, as I understand the news, and they've said, we will -- even though they have not fully dismantled their nuclear program, we will resume our negotiations with them.

MR. CIRINCIONE: Whether it's a recognition that their past approach has failed or just a recognition that their poll numbers are so low that they've got to produce some success, we're seeing perhaps some signs of a new realism in the Bush policy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Iran wants bilateral talks

Iran Wants Direct Nuclear Talks with US: Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran is making explicit requests for direct talks on its nuclear program, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing U.S. officials, Iranian analysts and foreign diplomats.

Senior Iranian officials have asked intermediaries to make clear to Washington their appetite for direct talks, the newspaper said.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, was among those approached to carry the message, the newspaper said, citing several diplomats and Saeed Laylaz, an analyst in Tehran and former government official.

According to the report, Iranian officials also made requests through Indonesia, Kuwait and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to convey their interest to Washington.

``This is a sign of changing strategy. They realize the situation is dangerous and they should not waste time, that they should reach out,'' Laylaz told The Washington Post.

The White House has dismissed calls for direct talks with Iran to resolve the stand-off over its nuclear program.

Feingold, Bayh and Wyden vote against Gen. Hayden for Dir. of CIA

The Senate Intelligence Committee overwhelmingly endorsed Gen. Michael V. Hayden today to become the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, with all but three Democratic members of the committee voting to send General Hayden's nomination to the Senate floor.
The support that General Hayden received from 12 of the 15 committee members is a sign that he is virtually guaranteed to be confirmed by the full Senate, which could begin debating his nomination as early as Wednesday.

Senators Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ron Wyden of Oregon voted against his confirmation, citing their concerns about General Hayden's role in a controversial domestic surveillance program he ran while head of the National Security Agency.

Anyone who watched Hayden's hearings witnessed the utter tactlessness Wyden and Feingold exhibited when they hurled ignorant questions at the General about the NSA roving wiretap program. Hayden responded so diligently that the proceedings were to David Brooks: "the dullest event in the history of the universe since the creation of sedimentary rock." Just another blow to the responsible foreign policy minds in the Democratic party.

"I voted against the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to be director of the C.I.A. because I am not convinced that the nominee respects the rule of law and Congress's oversight responsibilities," Mr. Feingold said.

Bush and the "Holy Land"

Interesting comment Prime Minister Olmert made today at the press conference. He recalled a conversation that he and then Governor Bush had on his visit to Jerusalem in 1998, and followed by praising the President's "personal commitment to the Holy Land."

It seems as though the President stakes a lot on his personal connection vis-a-vis other leaders.

I am not so sure this is the best approach for the interests of the United States, however.


Francine Kiefer of the The Christian Science Monitor wrote in 2002:

In 1998, when George W. Bush was still governor of Texas, he took an unforgettable helicopter tour of the West Bank with Ariel Sharon, Israel's foreign minister at the time.

The Texan was struck by the tiny distance between Israel's population centers and the enemy lines of the 1967 war – lines the Arab world would like Israel to retreat to in any Palestinian peace deal.

"The general said that before the Six Day War, Israel was only nine miles wide at its narrowest point," Mr. Bush later recalled. "In Texas, some of our driveways are longer than that."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Middle Class Exodus in Iraq

You often hear that successful democratization requires "a vibrant middle class."' So much for that in Iraq.

The New York Times has reported that in the last 10 months, the state has issued new passports to 1.85 million Iraqis, 7 percent of the population and a quarter of the country's estimated middle class. The school system offers another clue: Since 2004, the Ministry of Education has issued 39,554 letters permitting parents to take their children's academic records abroad. The number of such letters issued in 2005 was double that in 2004, according to the director of the ministry's examination department. Iraqi officials and international organizations put the number of Iraqis in Jordan at close to a million. Syrian cities also have growing Iraqi populations.

The USA Today moreover has reported that an astounding one-fourth of Baghdad's adults are suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, though only one-fifth of those seek treatment.

Though the President on his surprise visit to Iraq called the formation of the new government the "turning point," he grounded his comments with more sober warnings of further bloodshed.

"The progress we've made has been hard fought and it's been incremental," Bush said in his speech today. "There have been setbacks and missteps like Abu Ghraib. They were felt immediately and have been difficult to overcome."

Israeli Prime Minister coming to town

The Saban Center at the Brookings Institution has produced swaths of analysis on the upcoming visit.

But more on this later...

Reclaiming the Democratic Agenda? Wait, the Democrats have an agenda?

Apparently so, says Jackson Diehl today in the Washington Post.

What are the Dems views on Iraq?

The two seasoned foreign policy wonks in the Senate and the House offer drastically different plans.

Senator Biden, on one hand, wants to stay a while, install a loose federalist government and hold an international conference to try to salvage the mess.

Congressman Murtha, on the other hand, wants to "redeploy," preferably by this summer.

I believe there are cases to be made for both strategies, but the House approach has unfortunately developed a rather shrill Murtha mimicry from Nancy Pelosi and the like who sap all the substance from Murtha's message. Biden emerges out of this not only as the Democratic frontman on foreign policy, but it's of my opinion he's also poised to ride his Iraq strategy all the way to the 2008 nomination.

Which strategy does Diehl think the Dems should go for?


"No, I'm not talking about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who wants to quickly abandon Iraq, regardless of the consequences; or Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who recently issued a "Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World" that does not include the word "democracy."


He means the "the coalition of mostly younger foreign affairs professionals who held mid-level positions at the State Department and the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and who have spent the past several years formulating a distinctly Democratic response to the post-Sept. 11 era -- as opposed to a one-dimensional critique of President Bush or Iraq. Now they are beginning to gravitate toward some of the centrist Democrats who -- unlike Pelosi or Reid -- might actually emerge as serious presidential candidates in 2008, such as former Virginia governor Mark Warner, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack."

He means people like Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic, whose recent book "The Good Fight," looks to the early liberal Cold Warriors as models for a Democratic grand strategy. America is yearning for the tough liberalism once embodied in some of the hawkish intellectuals of the Truman and Kennedy administrations--in the tradition of George Marshall and George Kennan--not George McGovern

Leslie Gelb, former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, though hardly a younger professional, has co-authored the Biden proposal which has been considered at length by Princeton Professor Anne Marie Slaughter.

If Rumsfeld wants to take our military into the 21st century, tell him to be more conventional

Two former Secretaries of Defense make a solid case today in the Washington Post to begin reverting some of our warheads back to their conventional uses. It is highly unlikely that a preventative nuclear attack will emerge as a viable policy option amid threats from terrorists or outlaw states. As of today, our subs are not armed with the conventional arsenal needed to rapidly respond without recourse to tactical nukes. The recommendation seems pretty sensible to me. We will see how the current Sec Def reacts.

"If the terrorist group happened to be close to an Air Force deployment or the right kind of Navy force, an air attack might conceivably be carried out within a few hours -- possibly catching the group still in camp and unaware. But if the terrorists were far from U.S. aircraft or cruise missiles, the only option available to the president would be to order the use of a ballistic missile -- a land-based Minuteman or submarine-based Trident D5 -- either one of which could hit a target almost anywhere on the globe within a half-hour. One big problem, though: At present, all of these missiles are equipped only with nuclear warheads...Would the president order a preventive nuclear strike in such circumstances? It's conceivable, but very unlikely. There would still be doubts as to whether the intelligence was accurate, and even if it was, the consequences of an unprecedented action of this kind might well be regarded as unacceptable -- in terms of the risk to innocent lives, of environmental damage and of the expected political repercussions around the world. More than likely, the president would order U.S. intelligence and military forces to try to track the terrorist group and seek later opportunities to hit it with Special Forces or aircraft armed with conventional weapons. This might work, but if it didn't the consequences could be catastrophic."

Lessons from Libya

NYTIMES: WASHINGTON, May 21 — Prodded by the United States with threats of fines and lost business, four of the biggest European banks have started curbing their activities in Iran, even in the absence of a Security Council resolution imposing economic sanctions on Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons program.


The question remains , though, whether a united Euro-American coalition can convince Iran to accept a "grand bargain" without Russia and China aboard. I am doubtful. Bruce Jentelson summarized his recent study on the lessons learned from Libya's decision to disarm its nuclear program here:

To put it them succinctly

1) the effort requires deft and sustained diplomacy ( apparently sending letters via pigeons doesn't count) The nuclear negotiations began not as many in the Bush administration would like us to believe, after our invasion of Afghanistan, but during his father's administration. We cut our diplomatic ties with Iran more than 10 years before the nuclear negotiations in Libya ever began. Looks like we can X out Lesson 1.

2) the threat of military force is an important card to be holding, but it is not the ace of spades. I dont think anyone besides Seymour Hersch believes that there is even the remote possibility for successive preventative wars, but it's important that the Europeans keep strategic bombing on the table. In addition, however, it's not so much the threat of military force that Jentleson notes aided in convincing Qaddafi to disarm but the potential benefits of a formal security guarentee--I don't think it's prudent to take that off the table either. If our policy remains that a) we are dedicated to regime-change in Tehran and b) on top of that no bargain will entail security guarentees and c) on top of that we refuse to diplomatically recognize you, ever....then D) is gonna be a pretty shitty conclusion of events I promise you that.

3) regime-change has gotta go. It does not benefit anyone except for maybe Richard Pearle and a few hundred bazaar merchants and exiles in London and Tehrangeles. It just allows Ahmadinhjad to frame the debate as an affront and attack on Islam, and unneccessarily gives him fodder to rabble rouse with. The mullahs aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

4) There needs an appearance of unity in the coalition... and with oil at 70+ a barrel... does not appear we're gonna get it from Russia and China unless Ahmadijehad starts denying the Battle of Stalingrad or calls Mao The Great Douchebag.

Star Wars Episode II

NYTIMES: WASHINGTON, May 21 — The Bush administration is moving to establish a new antimissile site in Europe that would be designed to stop attacks by Iran against the United States and its European allies.
The administration's proposal, which comes amid rising concerns about Iran's suspected program to develop nuclear weapons, calls for installing 10 antimissile interceptors at a European site by 2011. Poland and the Czech Republic are among the nations under consideration.
A recommendation on a European site is expected to be made this summer to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pentagon officials say. The Pentagon has asked Congress for $56 million to begin initial work on the long-envisioned antimissile site, a request that has run into some opposition in Congress. The final cost, including the interceptors themselves, is estimated at $1.6 billion.


I see two rather obvious problems: 1) Iran does not even have ICBMs yet that could reach the United States 2) It doesn't protect Israel, the most likely target of an Iranian attack (not that we should build an anti-missile shield for Israel either)

It also bolsters the argument to take regime-change off the table. If we are prepared to invest billions in an anti-missile system designed for one country, one regime, then it defies logic to also expect the regime to lose its grip on power in the foreseeable future. The mullahs are a long-term problem. I'm interested to see what the Russians say about an anti-missile system in Poland. I'm willing to bet they aren't going to be too happy about it. We may have to send Cheney over there again.