Monday, April 30, 2007

Giuliani Redux

From the New York Times:

Until this week, Mr. Giuliani’s views on Iraq were not well known. But on this trip he made clear, though never mentioning President Bush by name, that he firmly supported the administration’s current strategy, including Mr. Bush’s decision to send more than 20,000 additional combat troops there.

As for Iran, Mr. Giuliani said that “in the long term,” it might be “more dangerous than Iraq.” He then casually lumped Iran with Al Qaeda. “Their movement has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he said.

Posted by Peter

McCain's Foreign Policy

McCain's Foreign Policy could be bluntly summarized by his response two weeks ago to a question about military action against Iran: "That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," he said, alluding to the classic song Barbara Anne, "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah... " I understand that he was just joking, but it's still revealing.

McCain's statements are stark compared to the diplomatic words of Democratic candidates. When asked about America's reliance on oil, McCain said that "We better understand the vulnerabilities that our economy, and our very lives, have when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela." Ignore for a moment that Iran's 'mullahs' don't control the oil supply (and that it is often a deragatory term) and focus on the implications of this rhetoric. McCain portrays himself as someone without concern for foreign perceptions of US leadership and with no desire for "soft power". This is another version of Bush's Axis of Evil. A McCain presidency would likely come with similar interventionist policies.

Of course, that's largely what Republican voters want. I posted the overall figures below (43% of Americans favor a military strike in Iran if they are close to achieving a nuclear weapon) but Republican support is more telling from McCain's standpoint: Republicans favor military intervention 2 to 1 (60% in favor, 30% oppose).

For all the talk of a shift in US foreign policy after the mid-term elections, there are just as many hawks today as there were in 2002.

Posted by Peter

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Iran Polls

CBS News Poll 3/26-27/07
"Which comes closer to your opinion? Iran is a threat to the United States that requires military action now. Iran is a threat that can be contained with diplomacy now. OR, Iran is not a threat to the United States at this time."

MilitaryAction Now: 18%
DiplomacyNow: 54%
Not a Threat: 18%
Unsure: 10%

NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll, March 2-5, 2007
"If Iran continues with its nuclear research and is close to developing a nuclear weapon, do you believe that the United States should or should not initiate military action to destroy Iran's ability to make nuclear weapons?"
Should: 43%
Should Not: 47%
Unsure: 10%

Given the divided opinion of Americans on whether or not the US should attack in case Iran develops nuclear weapons, it is important to know the a Candidate's real position, rather than the one they adopt when it is politically expedient.

Posted by Peter

Iraq Polls

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?" CBS News/New York Times Poll. April 20-24

Disapprove: 74%

The Real Hillary?

In 2005, Hillary took a backseat on the Iraq debates. At that time:
Clinton took responsibility for her vote for the 2002 resolution authorizing Bush to go to war, while leaving open whether she would have opposed it, given what is now known about faulty intelligence and mismanagement by the administration. She pummeled Bush for his conduct of the war itself but left murky how long she believes U.S. forces should stay in Iraq. As she told Kentucky Democrats earlier this month, "I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit, and I reject an open timetable that has no ending attached to it."

Whereas she now bandwaggons with the other Democrats in criticizing the war, at that time, liberals had few good things to say about her, "Senator Clinton is demonstrating cowardice in the face of the right-wing noise machine," said Tom Mattzie, Washington director of the liberal group

Given that she now supports phased withdrawal, it is hard to know where she stands. Is she simply a wise politician blowing with the wind? As a voter, it's hard to tell what she would do in the future.

Posted by Peter

Obama Foreign Policy, Part 2

In separating Democrats and Republicans, people focus on prescriptions from the two camps. It usually comes down to a litmus test over Iraq: the Democrats advocate withdrawing troops; Republicans support the surge. On Iran, it is less clearcut. Republicans are more likely to advocate isolation and a military solution, whereas Democrats advocate engagement and developing a multilateral consensus.

However, the administration is pursuing a multilateral solution in Iran, whereas Joseph Lieberman has advocated air strikes.

Democratic candidates like Clinton and Edwards currently support phased withdrawal of our troops, but they also voted unapologetically for the war. Clinton speaks of a renewed internationalism, bilateral talks and promoting, "religious freedom, democracy, women's rights, social justice and economic empowerment." But, as I will explore in a later post, it is unclear whether, aside from this rhetoric and her commitments to leaving Iraq, her views would lead her down radically different path from the Bush administration

Obama has tried to separate himself from Clinton and Edwards, since he opposed the Iraq War from the very beginning. He has been the most consistent and convincing in offering an alternate worldview to the one currently espoused by the administration.

Of course, there are his views on Iraq, "there can be no military solution to what has become a political conflict between Sunni and Shi’a factions."

But focusing on Iraq masks what I see as the more important difference in Obama's views: the ideological belief that the problems of the 21st century require a new way of thinking. Neorealists will laugh at this suggestion, but that's exactly the point. Obama argues for a break with the previous worldview. Whether he actually achieves this is less clear.

In some ways, Obama offers more of the same and plenty of platitudes. At the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, he advocated expanding the military, the importance of "putting boots on the ground," and the need to sometimes act unilaterally. He praised Bush 1 for garnering clear support before launching Operation Desert Storm. On the liberal side, he wants to decrease the spread of nuclear weapons, strengthen multilateral institutions and stop global warming.

As a candidate who needs to appear more centrist, these words are not surprising.

But his Foreign Policy is certainly neither Neoconservative nor Neorealist. By invoking the wisdom of John Kenney, ("the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people,") calling for American intervention in fighting avian flu and changing the education policies in foreign countries, he is significantly expanding the domain of national security.

He originally opposed the Iraq War, not because of doubts over the validity of the intelligence on WMD, but because, "it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light." Whereas Clinton believed removing Saddam would make the world safer, Obama believed that, in a world where threats cannot be contained by borders and boundaries, cooperation between countries of the free world is paramount in overcoming our challenges.

America cannot lead by "bluster and bombast" or bludgeoning and bribing our allies; we must lead by example, strengthening the principles at home which we want others to install abroad; "we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with;" "we are not a country which preaches compassion and justice to others while we allow bodies to float down the streets of a major American city."

The US does not lead through its military and State Department alone. It leads through domestic policies and promoting democracy at home rather than forcing it abroad. It leads by supporting the World Bank, WHO and international law. It leads by example rather than force.

This is nuanced neoliberalism and there is little doubt that Obama believes in what he says.

Posted by Peter

Obama's Foreign Policy, Part 1

Kingston got this one rolling on Friday. There's no hiding the fact that I heart Obama, but I'll try and keep it as objective as possible. I'd like to pick up where Kingston left off, with the theme that Obama offers the, "potential for a substantively compelling foreign policy vision that actually attacks the underlying premises of the neocon worldview."

Lets start by reviewing the neocon worldview, both neocon 1 (the pre-invasion worldview) and neocon 2 (the current worldview, which makes the same faulty assumptions, but broadens the approach). In the next post I'll expand on how Obama differs from this worldview.

Neocon Foreign Policy 1

From the work of Irving Kristol, the godfather of Neoconservatism, one can outline the following basic premises of neocon foreign policy: World government (The United Nations) is a terrible idea, statesmen should have the ability to accurately distinguish friend from foe, protect national interest actively both at home and abroad, promote national security by spreading democracy abroad, and develop a strong military.

Historically they supported the Vietnam War and took a strong stance against the Soviet Union; they aligned themselves with the policies of Reagan in the 1980s. They support Israel and Taiwan. They tend to be less deferential to traditional conceptions of diplomacy and international law.

Neocons begin with axiomatic principles, which they will not compromise even if it means unilateral action. For example, neocons begin with the assumption that spreading democracy is always good for US national security. From this assumption, they derive a foreign policy which supports regime change, even in the face of international opposition. This was the logic behind the Iraq invasion. Neocons did not need WMD to justify the invasion; as Bush himself has said, he would have invaded even if he knew that Saddam had no weapons program.

Neocon Foreign Policy 2

Much has been made about the dismissal of neocon advisers in the White House (such as the the outing of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) and the rise of Condoleeza Rice. Neoconservatism is supposedly out, Neorealism is in.

Neoconservatism or Neorealism? It is hard to tell. There are signs of Neorealism, such as our attempts to foster bandwaggoning. The administration is seeking a multilateral approach to Iran and North Korea. They are working through the UN and the IAEA. Gone is the rhetoric of the Axis of Evil. Whereas the American Enterprise Institute is advocating regime change in Iran, the administration is focusing on economic carrots and sticks.

It may be semantics, but I do not believe the administration has shifted significantly from its previous assumptions. This is Neoconservatism with a multilateral bent. The administration still advocates the spread of democracy as a means to protect America. They still believe there is a military solution in Iraq; leaving Iraq is described as surrender. There is unambiguous support for Israel. National security is still fostered by actively intervening abroad. Peace in America can only be achieved by hunting down terrorists abroad and undermining or destroying the states where they operate.

They are engaging more with international institutions, but it came only after military constraints in Iraq and political weakness at home. This is constrained Neoconservatism, rather than a fundamental shift in worldview.

Posted by Peter

Right-Wing Pundits and the War

Via the Huffington Post, editorial cartoonist Tom Tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq with a brilliant compilation (click to make bigger) of what right wing pund-idiots (Fineman and Matthews aside, though they were stupendously wrong as well) were saying about critics of the war back in March/April 2003:

What makes all this so infuriating is not so much that these guys were dead wrong, but rather the fact that these are the same people now insisting that those who support a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq are "defeatists" and do not support the troops. You'd think they'd show a bit more restraint before ranting and raving about how we'll only lose if we quit but I suppose that's far too much to ask.

Posted by Kingston

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I don't mean to steal Peter's thunder, as he's been providing us with some handy summaries on where the candidates for President in 08 sit on various foreign policy issues, but I thought I'd jump the gun and tell you that I found this bit from Barack Obama's big foreign policy speech last Monday to be right on the money:
In 2002, I stated my opposition to the war in Iraq, not only because it was an unnecessary diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, but also because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light. I believed then, and believe now, that it was based on old ideologies and outdated strategies – a determination to fight a 21st century struggle with a 20th century mindset.
As Matt notes, the contrast between this and what John Edward's emphasized in his "I was wrong about Iraq" mea culpa back in 2005 is striking:
Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.
I realize that Hilary and Edwards are in some sense unable to take the Obama line on this given their gung-ho support for the war back in that fateful fall of '02, but in Obama I'm beginning to see the potential for a substantively compelling foreign policy vision that actually attacks the underlying premises of the neocon worldview rather than simply focusing on the tired - albiet in many ways legitimate - "Bush manipulated the intelligence" theme.

Hat Tip: Ezra

Posted by Kingston

Friday, April 27, 2007

New Democratic Polls

Clinton has slipped in the polls. A Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll from yesterday showed her only 5 percentage points ahead of Barack Obama. A Rasmussen poll from earlier this month showed Clinton and Obama tied.

After raising $25.8 million dollars this quarter, Obama is establishing himself as a legitimate threat. He has managed to do so without catering too much to the far left, which means he has a good chance of going the distance. Lets hope he does: between the Imperial Presidency of Clinton and the Meek Attractiveness of Edwards, Obama is the only viable candidate offering fresh realism.

Posted by Peter

The Foreign Policy of Hillary Clinton

Hillary portrays herself in a softer light than Rudy Giuliani, focusing on rebuilding allies around the world, rather than focusing on aggressive pursuit of our enemies, "First, and most obviously, we must by word and deed renew internationalism for a new century." (Speech at CFR) Opposing the policy of this administration, she advocates bilateral talks with Iran and North Korea: "Direct Negotiations are not a sign of weakness; they're a sign of leadership."

As compared to Bush
Hillary's Foreign Policy is more nuanced; she dismisses the division of countries into camps of "good" and "evil". The Bush administration did accept Libya after it supposedly forsook its evil ways; although this is the type of action Hillary is advocating, the rhetoric and approaches are different. Whereas dealing with Libya fits within Hillary's policy approach, it is inconsistent with the administration's policies towards other countries in the Axis of Evil.

On Iraq
Hillary has been politically savvy in avoiding too many direct suggestions regarding Iraq. Like many, she is revisionist in her interpretation of the Iraq invasion, focusing on the failure of implementation. In 2005, "Clinton blasted the administration's policy, and said the best policy instead would progressively redeploy US troops in the region, call for a regional conference to help discuss options and advocate for the creation of an organization aiming at guaranteeing a division of oil income among all Iraqis." (Breitbart) In February 2007, she introduced a bill to cap the number of troops in Iraq at pre-surge levels, and initiate a phased withdrawl. Yesterday she voted for the Emergency Appropriations Bill calling for the withdrawl of US troops from Iraq, "With this vote, Congress has provided funding for our troops while also putting forward sensible provisions to begin the withdrawal of troops from Iraq." (Clinton 2007)

Last night, she put it more succinctly, "But I think the real question before us is, what do we do now? ... If the president does not get us out of Iraq, when I am president, I will."

Posted by Peter

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Foreign Policy of Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani's ideas on Foreign Policy are not widely known. He likes to portray himself as tough, somewhere between a Neocon and a Realist; most of his statements seem to confirm this position.

On Terrorism
Giuliani thinks that the previous US stance on terrorism was overly defensive and agrees with the plan President Bush outlined on September 20th, 2001, of rooting out terrorism around the globe. He also believes that "Removing Saddam Hussein was a necessary part of the war on terrorism," since Saddam was "a pillar of support, both in a practical sense, and in training people, and assisting." (Giuliani 2004) Frighteningly, there are, " easily seven, or eight, or nine other pillars of support," and that, "You’ve got to remove those pillars of support." It is unclear whether these "pillars" include Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Palestine and Lebanon, but I need not elaborate on the consequences of attempting regime change in all of these countries.

On the Middle East
As a telling sign of his views, 10 Israeli experts concluded that Giuliani is the best presidential candidate for Israel (Haaretz). Given that Giuliani had late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat ejected from a concert at the Lincoln Center in New York in 1995, this isn't too surprising. His quotes are also very positive of Israel: "Israel is the only outpost of freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the only absolutely reliable friend of the United States." (August 2002) New York City politics likely played a crucial role in his previous statements, but one cannot ignore the importance of precedence in dictating future behavior.

This is the first in a series of posts on the Foreign Policy of 2008 Presidential Candidates.

Posted by Peter

Saturday, April 21, 2007

DeLong Critiques the Neocons

In critiquing The Economist, Brad Delong explains the great intellectual history of neoconservatives.

The "neoconservatives" were a different group of people, later--Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz were their intellectual godfathers, rather than Daniel Bell and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The real neoconservatives formed into a group at the end of the 1970s around four planks:

1) That the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War, which the west needed to heat up and wage it with harsher methods--nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, and death squads rather than limp-wristed Carter-Ford focus on international economic prosperity, democratization, and human rights.

2) That Likud should be encouraged to drive Palestinians into their existing homeland of Jordan as soon as practicable.

3) That taxes should be cut, (military) spending raised, and budgets balanced--and that anyone who pointed out that this didn't add up needed to be shouted down.

4) That African-Americans got too easy a ride in modern America, and needed to be made poorer and less powerful.

It's not much to be proud of.

Posted by Peter


The Economist on the fate of neocons:

"But the movement's implosion is nevertheless astonishing. One neocon sums up the prevailing mood in the movement. The neocons are a “laughing stock”. Their “embrace of power” has been “a disaster”. ... The “surge” is a desperate response to failure. ...

The neocons are being relentlessly marginalised in Washington. ... They are also being marginalised—or at least slapped down a bit—within the conservative movement. .... Realists dislike them for their destabilising foreign policy. Small-government types dislike them for their indifference to government spending. Libertarians dislike them for their preoccupation with using the state to impose virtue. Neoconservatism could well return to where it started—the intellectual property of a handful of families called Kristol, Podhoretz and Kagan. "

Posted by Peter

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bush's Polls

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?"

Disapprove: 65%
approve: 35%

The Administration is gambling that Congress will take the timeline out of the funding provision. These polls suggest that Bush is going to lose this battle.

Posted by Peter

The Right Response

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, has the right response for Dick Cheney's BS. "He has misled the people consistently on Iraq," Levin said. "He has misstated. He has exaggerated. And I don't think he has any credibility left with the American people."

Levin could say the same for most people in the administration.

Posted by Peter

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More McCain Nonsense

Regular readers of this blog (I'm sure there are a few of you out there) will be aware that we're not very fond of John McCain. This past Thursday, McCain gave a big speech on the war at the Virginia Military Institute. The central theme is that we need to prolong the war indefinitely because any strategy that hints at withdrawal or redeploying forces would pretty much lead to the end of the world. But this was my favorite bit:
For the first time in four years, we have a strategy that deals with how things really are in Iraq and not how we wish them to be.
Gee! Given that McCain thinks the past four years have been marked by unrealistic Pollyannish platitudes, I'm sure glad he went to such great lengths to unseat the architect of that failed strategy back in 2004. Oh wait...

Hat Tip: Andrew

Posted by Kingston

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Really Bad Day in Iraq

Over at Too Hot For TNR, Spencer highlights the ominous significance of today's suicide bombing in the Green Zone and the destruction of the al-Sarafiya bridge in northern Baghdad, respectively. On the Green Zone:
...someone in a uniform had to wave the bomber into the parliament building. I didn't visit the parliament, but getting into a facility like the U.S. Embassy chow hall requires passing through several tiers of security. You are scanned and frisked. Your papers are scrutinized. Your companions are questioned. Items on your person are confiscated, even without suspicion of their use for terrorism. It's a likely bet that someone guarding the facility, and quite possibly a beneficiary of our training, equipping and mentoring efforts, wanted the attack to occur.
And on the bridge bombing:
This is the first successful attack with real military significance since the beginning of the surge. There aren't too many ways across the Tigris in that area, and it's bound to have something of a deterrent effect on either resupply or the mobility of U.S. or Iraqi forces who need to get from one side of Baghdad to the other. It may not be major, but it'll be a factor....Add to that the cost of hardening the rest of the city's bridges to ensure that further access doesn't get lost -- which has the effect of frustrating Iraqis who already endure massive traffic snarls at the city's numerous checkpoints -- and we see an insurgent/terrorist strategy developing that displays real military sophistication.
As Matt notes,
Two different attacks both of which indicate a qualitative leap in insurgent capabilities or intentions over what we've seen over the past four years of combat does not, to me, suggest an insurgency that's in its last throes or a "surge" that just needs more time to succeed.
Posted by Kingston

Monday, April 09, 2007

Iran Announces Nuclear Expansion

Ahmadinejad could best be described as "psyched" to announce Iran's opening of a 3,000 centrifuge enrichment plant, which increases their nuclear production capability by almost 10 fold. This is yet more evidence that, while the international community is quite certain that Iran will produce nuclear weapons (and I agree with that assessment), no one is going to stop Iran's nuclear progress.

After our failure in Iraq, the US has lost the international (and domestic) credibility to successfully intervene militarily in Iran. Our military options are limited. 1) An invasion is too costly and, unless we were willing to became a permanent occupying power, it would not be a long term solution. 2) We could turn Iran into a parking lot, but I need not dwell on the ethics of such a decision. 3) We could launch a limited strike on their production facilities, but we could not be sure of hitting all of them and this would only escalate the situation; unfortunately, in a crisis situation, or a confrontational stand-off with the West, I have little faith in Iran's restraint in using nuclear weapons, particularly by giving them to terrorist organizations.

Diplomatic solutions will almost certainly not stop Iran's nuclear ambition. It is unlikely they would trust a US security guarantee. The Iraq invasion taught Iran that nuclear weapons are the only deterrent against US military might.

If we do not attack, we are left to build better relations with yet another nuclear power. I have enough faith in humanity to believe that we can resolve our differences; however, failure to calm Iran's passions and control their nuclear power, could have far worse consequences for the future.

It is not an easy decision to make.

Posted by Peter

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The DPRK-Ethiopia Affair

Hasn't the Bush administration been arguing since 2002 that the North Korean regime is one of the world's greatest threates to international peace and security? From today's NYT:
Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials.

The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.

Let's take a bet on how much purposeful obfuscation Powerline will need to engage in in order to defend this abomination of a policy.

By the way, remember how conservatives were heaping praise on the Ethiopians for defeating Islamic militants in Somalia? Looks like that's not working out so well.

Posted by Kingston

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Unemployment Figures

Unemployment in the US has dropped to 4.4%, with good numbers for all sectors outside of manufacturing (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Unlike some previous manipulations by the administration, this improvement comes from an increase in the employment to participation raio (hat tip Angry Bear) rather than a drop in labor force participation (which held steady at 66.2%).

Not that this is helping Bush, who's approval rating remains at 35%.

Post by Peter