Thursday, June 30, 2011

US Defense and Its Role as the World Policeman

American defense policy is at the crossroads in view of growing pressure for fiscal austerity and withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ongoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates articulated that the United States must maintain the role of the world policeman, and NATO allies make more defense contributions to deal with new security challenges in the 21st century. Before leaving the job to the next Secretary Leon Panetta, Gates presented an overview of US defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute on May 24. See the video below.

In this event, Secretary Gates advocated that the United States maintain defense capability in spite of fiscal constraints. The fundamental premise of his speech is that the ultimate guarantee to defend the world from aggressors and dictators is American hard power which is the size, strength, and outreach of its armed forces. While Gates stressed importance of victory in the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, he told that the US military needs reforms in weaponry systems and organizations to meet requirements to deal with new threats. Though he believes defense expenditure does not hurt the economy, political reality does not allow the Pentagon to be exempted from budget cut. Today, the nature of threats is complicated and unpredictable, but free nations do not face a gigantic military adversary after the Cold War. In order to manage the trade off between politico-fiscal constraints and military demand, Gates raised key aspects to determine the future of US defense, which are priority, strategy, and risks. As the United States needs to fight two major wars, its armed forces must be large enough, and small forces are no use however efficient they may be. In addition to maintaining superiority against China and Russia, the United States must manage threats by non-state actors like Hezbollah which have more well equipped armed forces than state actors. Therefore, small and efficient military capability does not make sense. At the end of the speech, Secretary Gates emphasized America’s special responsibility in maintaining world peace, despite growing antipathy to the war among the public.

In view of US role in the world, some conservative media criticize President Obama’s “dangerous instinct” to cut defense expenditure whose share in GDP of 3.5% which is half of that of 7.5% during the Cold War, while introducing European styled health care system. On the other hand, they applaud Gates as he resisted such Little Americanism (“The Gates Farewell Warning”; Wall Street Journal; May 28, 2011). Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton argues furthermore “Adam Smith wrote in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ that ‘the first duty of the sovereign, that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies, can be performed only by means of a military force.’” (“National Security Must Not Be an Afterthought”; Washington Examiner; May 24, 2011) Taking America’s role as the global policeman into serious consideration, the Defending Defense Project, jointly run by the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative, released an open letter of question to next Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Most importantly, quoting comments “I have long believed, and I still do, that the defense budget, however large it may be, is not the cause of this country's fiscal woes” and "a smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go to fewer places and be able to do fewer things” by Secretary Gates, this letter asks whether next Secretary Panetta agrees to the above viewpoints. Regarding rising threats, China and Iran are key focuses. Finally, this letter demands incoming Secretary Panetta to reconsider withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan because current plans were made before the Arab spring (“Ten Questions on the Future of US Defense Spending Priorities for Secretary of Defense Nominee Leon Panetta”; Defending Defense Project; June 7, 2011).

Military capability of NATO allies is also an important issue to think of US defense. At NATO Defense Ministers Meeting in Brussels, Secretary Gates urged European allies to make more contribution in defense. As shown in the table, some members like Spain and Belgium spend around 1% of GDP for defense. This is almost the same as that of Japan whose pacifist constitution and mindsets still pose constraints to military activities(”Gates Questions NATO's Future”; Wall Street Journal; June 11, 2011). Things have not changed since Robert Kagan talked of American Mars and European Venus in his well known book, “Of Paradise and Power”. NATO members other than Britain and France are military pygmies.

Another focal point of US defense in the world is Afghanistan. The Obama administration sees the successful attack to Osama bin Laden is a good opportunity to end the long war. However, we have to note that strategists in the military do not believe Obama’s decision right. Robert Kagan, Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, mentions that the entire military leaders worry caustic outcomes by withdrawal as commented by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen that the decision will embolden insurgents and increase risks to remaining troops. Also, it will lead allies to cut defense contribution in Afghanistan (“Military leaders know Obama’s decision is a disaster”; Post Partisan—Washington Post; June 23, 2011). At the Senate hearing on June 23, General David Petraeus testified that he agrees with Admiral Mullen. Toby Harnden illustrates critical gaps between Obama and armed forces (“General David Petraeus: I disagree with Barack Obama but 'I'm no quitter'”; Daily Telegraph Blog; June 24, 2011). Actually, ongoing Gates warned the risk of premature withdrawal when he visited Afghanistan (“Gates: No Rush for U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan”; NPR; June 4, 2011). Neighborhood countries do not want confusions associated with US withdrawal. When American officials talked with the Taliban, India raised concerns because Delhi officials do not believe in the Good Taliban Theory (“India and the Taliban Talks”; Diplomat Blog; June 26, 2011).

In view of fiscal austerity, cost performance is a vital issue of consideration. However, obsession with efficiency will ruin national security as new threat emerges one after another. Regretfully, national security is a secondary issue in the debate for 2012 presidential election at this stage. Though Republican candidates attack unanimously Obama’s economic and social security policy, they are split on defense, particularly with regard to Afghanistan (“GOP hopefuls stake out Afghanistan positions”; Washington Post; June 23, 2011). But remember! Fragile global security shall never allow nation building at home. Also, America’s position will be weakened if cutting its own defense while urge “free riders” to spend more on it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Donations to Japanese Policymaking Infrastructure!

The coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Clean Government Party (Komeito) has been critical to Prime Minister Naoto Kan with regard to his response to the great earthquake and his foreign and domestic policies. This led them to pose a no confidence motion to the Kan cabinet, in expectation of uprisings within the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) by the Ozawa-Hatoyama group, despite huge gaps in fundamental policy values between the LDP-Komeito coalition and Democrat dissidents. LDP places the foremost priority on the US-Japanese alliance as shown in their agreement with the United States over Futemma Air Base. On the other hand, the Ozawa-Hatoyama group explores close ties with China and the United Nations. As shown in the joint plot of no confidence motion by such an incompatible alliance, Japanese people are fed up with messy conflicts in Nagatacho which is more oriented toward political fraction rivalries rather than policy measures. But it is no use just to blame the diet. Above all, ability of winning votes and ability of thinking of the vision of the world or the state are not necessarily congruent. Rather, we should try to make democracy sound through policymaking initiatives outside the legislative and the executive sectors of the government. For this purpose, it is necessary to develop policymaking infrastructures which enable organizations and individuals pursuing policy ideals to exert influences on parliamentary politicians and bureaucrats.

While Japan has fallen into a political turmoil this year, in the United States, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commemorates the centennial anniversary. The background of think tank development in the United States is a “political vacuum”. America was growing rapidly since the latter half of the 19th century, and it was called a “Hercules in the cradle” by Europeans. However, this Hercules was so inward-looking that he went back to the cradle after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Even though British hegemony was in decline during the interwar period, Hercules was reluctant to go out to defeat monsters such as the Nemean Lion. Business societies and citizens thought that such an inward looking America exercise political leadership in accordance with its national power, and it was a think tank of long history such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Brookings Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations that was founded through donations by them. A long tradition of civic voluntarism donation culture since the era of British colonial rule helped policymaking infrastructures grow out of established governmental frameworks. Even present days, new think tanks, NGOs, and individuals of policy visions stand up one after another in the United States. It is supported by donations from corporations, philanthropy foundations, and citizens.

Essentially, democracy is not just the rule by the majority. It is a political regime to control excessive abuse of power under absolute monarchy. It is utterly wrong to believe that a judgment by the people is always right. If things were simply left to decisions by the majority, politics would fall into the idiocracy that permitted Barabbas and executed Jesus. In order to stop such idiocracy, minority rights are protected through systems like checks and balances, freedom of speech, and the rule of law. However, they are not enough, and intellectuals out of official positions need to take leadership in shaping the public opinion to correct misjudgments by the people. As it were, think tanks, NGOs, and individuals of visions advocate policy ideals beyond short term partisan tug wars, play alternative roles of Plato’s “philosopher king”. In order to make policymaking infrastructures that enable them to work actively, donations from people of the willing are necessary. Donation culture in Japan is expected to develop in view of the 3-11 earthquake, but real social contribution is beyond simply supporting charity activities.

Expanding donations to policy infrastructures is not only for right democracy. These days, Japan loses self confidence in face of the rise of emerging economies in the neighborhood such as China, South Korea, and ASEAN countries. However, no matter how their industrial output grows, it is Japan along with America and Europe that plays a leading role to show fundamental values and solutions of the system in the global political economy. It is important to strengthen the leadership in knowledge so that Japan can win political and economic competitions among states.

Consequently, close ties of civic voluntarism and intellectuals of the willing are necessary so that Japan can get out of “political vacuums”. It is useless just to talk when Prime Minister Kan resigns, or whether to vote for DPJ or LDP. For this purpose, more donations for policymaking infrastructures are anticipated, beyond for charity activities grown since 3-11.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Poland as a Frontline of Russo-Western Rivalries

President Barack Obama went on a trip to Europe at the end of this May, starting from Ireland, Britain, France, and Poland. Jan Techau, Director the European Centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, comments that his visit to Poland has more important security implications than the bilateral strategic discussion on Libya in Britain and the Deauville Summit of G8 in France.

It is no exaggeration to say that history of Poland is history of Europe from the 20th century onward. World War Ⅱ began from here. The Anglo-Soviet clash on Poland during the war grew into the Cold War. The Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa was a precursor of the Berlin Wall fall down. Poland is in such a critical position in the Russo-Western geopolitical rivalry. According to Techau, Obama’s visit to Poland is expected to ease widespread anxieties among Central European nations that the United States resets relations with Russia at the expense of newly expanded NATO members in the east. Reassuring American security umbrella to the Eastern fringe will help the trans-Atlantic Alliance become more integrated. In the eyes of Poland, Obama’s decision to withdraw missile defense systems from there appears conciliatory to Russia. In order to soothe Poland, a squadron of US fighters will be stationed there from 2013. As Techau argues, a staunch alliance between America and Europe is the key to world peace and stability. Despite the rise of emerging economies, it is only the West that can make principles, ideas, and mechanisms of global policymaking (“Doing Geopolitics in Eastern Europe”; Carnegie Commentary; May 25, 2011). Obama’s visit to Poland poses significant implications to the Western alliance and power games with Russia.

Currently, the Russo-Western relationship is extremely delicate and complex. On one hand, both sides are deepening security cooperation as cited in the declaration of NATO Lisbon Summit last November. On the other hand, they are at odds with fundamental visions of global policymaking. While the West wants to promote a liberal world order, Russia envisions a multipolar and multi-valued world. Also, geopolitical rivalries between Russia and the West are still substantial. At Deauville, just before President Obama’s visit to Poland, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev demanded assurance that missile interceptors were not targeted on Russia while endorsing NATO led attack to Libya to oust Khadafy. See the Video below.

Mark Brzezinski, foreign policy advisor in Obama’s presidential election campaign, comments that it takes a long time to improve Russo-Polish relations because disagreements on the massacre of Katyn Forest. Strains between both countries deters the US-Russian reset, he says (“Obama, Poland, and Russia”; New York Times; May 26, 2011). As in the last century, Brzezinski’s article suggests that Poland is a key country of Russo-Western geopolitics in the 21st century. At the press conference after the bilateral talks with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, President Obama applauded Poland a model for democracy to Arab nations. Also, he assured US defense involvement in Poland. See the video below.

Russia was not the only agenda at the Obama-Tusk meeting. Along with economic issues like energy and trade, and security in Afghanistan, civil society repression in Belarus was discussed (“Warsaw visit concludes Obama’s four-nation European trip” Washington Post; May 29, 2011). Security in Eastern Europe is still volatile.

The Deauville Summit may have advanced the Russo-Western reset and deepened trans-Atlantic ties, but this détente has not eased East-West geopolitical tensions completely. Therefore, we need continual attention to NATO’s eastern frontiers such as Poland, Czech, and Romania, and former Soviet republics.