Sunday, April 30, 2006

Grading Freedom: Review of Freedom House Index

Today, one of key agendas in US foreign policy is promotion of democracy and freedom. For this purpose, it is necessary to evaluate political processes and civil rights. I decided to write on this issue when I saw a blog debate between Mauo and Mike Ross.

Both are my blog friends. Mauo is a Japanese and believes in JFK liberal policy. On the other hand, Mike has unique backgrounds. He is an American brought up in Kobe, Japan. Though he is a diehard American conservative, he acquired Japanese citizenship a few years ago.

Mauo pointed out that Norimitsu Onishi, Chief of Tokyo Bureau of the New York Times, said that Japan’s politics had been under one-party rule, and its democracy was less developed than those in South Korea and Taiwan, in his article "Why Japan Seems Content to Be Run by One Party" last September. Mike refuted him, saying that the Japanese authority does not interfere civil liberty at all.

Having joined their discussion, I felt it necessary to refer to some objective data to evaluate freedom and democracy around the world. Therefore, I visited the website of Freedom House.

Freedom House is an influential advocacy group, founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to prevail freedom under American leadership. During the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Freedom House played a core role to organize students’ movement against the regime. The board of trustee is composed of business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars, writers, and journalists. Human rights agendas set by Freedom House are vital in American foreign policy to advance democracy throughout the world. Therefore, it is worth to see how they evaluate freedom in every country.

Freedom House grades the state in 7 levels, from 1 to 7. The smaller the number is, the better in this grading system. The result is shown in the Table of Independent Countries 2005. The best grade is 1-1: 1 in both Political Rights and Civil Liberties. As expected, the following Western democracies mark this grade.

United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, etc

It is quite interesting that many countries in New Europe mark 1-1 as well. They are new democracies, and I wonder whether former communist nations have transformed into free societies so rapidly. In any case, I show you 1-1 countries in New Europe below.

Poland, Estonia, Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary

Is Japan really a free country? According to the table, Japan marks 1 in Political Rights, and 2 in Civil Liberties. This is not worse than South Korea, 1-2, and Taiwan, 2-1. Things are not so bad as Onishi says. However, I feel they are graded too highly, because their democracy is less developed than that in the West. A leading Japanologist Karel van Wolfren mentions unaccountable system in Japanese societies in his well-known books like “The Enigma of Japanese Power” and “Keeping the People Ignorant.” From this viewpoint, Freedom House over-evaluates Japan. South Korea needs to be graded much lower, because their police is authoritarian, and anti-American or anti-Jaanese emotionalism dominate its politics.

How does Freedom House evaluate freedom around the world? Their methodology is shown below.

Freedom House does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom. The methodology of the survey established basic standards that are derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These standards apply to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.

It is noticeable that some developing countries mark 1-1. Certainly, their grading is fair, and not Western or Anglo Saxon centered. Developing countries mark 1-1 are the following.

Barbados, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Commonwealth, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Malta, Mauritius, Nauru, Tuvalu, Uruguay

Finally, let me see the grade of countries of critical focus: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, China, and India. Despite US-lead intervention, both Iraq and Afghanistan are far from free at this stage. As expected, Iran, North Korea, and China mark poor grades. Though the Bush administration sees India a trustworthy democracy to make the controversial nuclear deal, Freedom House grades this country merely 2-3 level: not bad but dangerous to trust too much.

Freedom House Index may not be perfect, but it is apparent that there are no cultural biases in their grading system. More importantly, their evaluation has significant effects on US policymaking. Whether Republican or Democrat administration, promotion of democracy to defeat terrorists and rogue states will be a key agenda of American diplomacy. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to pay attention to this NGO.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Britain Advocates the Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan is a Victory of Global Democracy

British Prime Minister Tony Blair articulated that the victory in Iraq and Afghanistan is vital to prevail democracy throughout the world, and defeat terrorism.

To begin with, let me review Prime Minister Blair’s speech at the Foreign Policy Centre, a New Labour think tank in London. In the speech, Tony Blair presents clear ideas why British and American endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan are necessary for global democracy. This is a must read to understand the war on terror. (See the video.)

While the majority of Western Europe sees American policy since 9-11 has been a gross overreaction, Blair refutes it a benign inactivity, sitting in the commentator’s seat. Furthermore, the Prime Minister endorses the Anglo-American presence, because Iraq and Afghanistan are facing historical turning point in their struggles for democracy. Tony Blair argues against anti-interventionists as follows.

“The easiest line for any politician seeking office in the West today is to attack American policy. A couple of weeks ago as I was addressing young Slovak students, one got up, denouncing US/UK policy in Iraq, fully bought in to the demonisation of the US, utterly oblivious to the fact that without the US and the liberation of his country, he would have been unable to ask such a question, let alone get an answer to it.”

Moreover, the Prime Minister extends lucid arguments against those who doubt partnership between Al Qaeda and Iran or Iraqi Baathists.

“True the conventional view is that, for example, Iran is hostile to Al Qaida and therefore would never support its activities. But as we know from our own history of conflict, under the pressure of battle, alliances shift and change. Fundamentally, for this ideology, we are the enemy.”

Tony Blair goes on to say “‘We’ is not the West. … but those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts.” Most importantly, the Prime Minister mentions as below.

“[Terrorits] know that if they can succeed either in Iraq or Afghanistan or indeed in Lebanon or anywhere else wanting to go the democratic route, then the choice of a modern democratic future for the Arab or Muslim world is dealt a potentially mortal blow. Likewise if they fail, and those countries become democracies and make progress and, in the case of Iraq, prosper rapidly as it would; then not merely is that a blow against their whole value system; but it is the most effective message possible against their wretched propaganda about America, the West, the rest of the world.”

On his visit to Australia, Prime Minister Blair delivered a similar speech at the Parliament. As Britain and Australia are close partners in Iraq, this address is a reminder to the global community that how important a staunch alliance against terrorists is. (See the video.)

The Prime Minister reiterated the case for British mission in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“To win, we have to win the battle of values, as much as arms. We have to show these are not western still less American or Anglo-Saxon values but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.”

Tony Blair articulates why a strong alliance lead by the United States is a must for world peace and prosperity as below.

“The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved. We want them engaged. The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us, can be resolved or even contemplated without them. Our task is to ensure that with them, we do not limit the agenda to security. If our security lies in our values and our values are about justice and fairness as well as freedom from fear, then the agenda must be more than security and the alliance include more than America.”

Shortly after Prime Minister Blair’s tour to Australia, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Iraq on April 3. This shock and impress diplomacy is nothing new. President Bush did it twice, for Iraq and Afghanistan. At the press conference in Baghdad, both secretaries demonstrated their firm commitment to defeat insurgents and eliminate the roots of terrorism in order to bring real democracy in Iraq. Also, both British and American Secretaries said they were in full respect of Iraqi sovereignty and willing to encourage current process to establish new government.

For further understanding of the Blair cabinet’s foreign policy, I would recommend you to read an article, “Think Again” in Foreign Policy, May 2005. According to James G. Forsyth, assistant editor of this journal, Blair is not Bush’s poodle. Blair offers public loyalty in exchange for private influence, but this strategy also requires that he not boast about the achievements. Without Tony Blair’s initiative, George W. Bush would not have requested second resolution at the United Nations on Iraq. Also, without British influence, the United States would not have joined European effort to engage Iran.

In addition, Forsyth says Tony Blair is a neo-conservative in foreign policy. Prime Minister advocates the grand project of commitment to make the world more democratic, and does not hesitate to use force if necessary. Like neoconservatives, Blair believes that nothing happens without American leadership. The Prime Minister pleads with America to stay involved in the world every chance he gets, and not to fall into isolationism. In his 2003 address to a joint session of congress, Blair explained why America must act: “Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time and the task is yours to do.” Bush’s wordsmiths couldn’t have put it better.

Prime Minister Blair’s speech is an invaluable reminder for the global community. Success in Iraq and Afghanistan will advance democracy and stability throughout the world. It is not servile to be the closest strategic partner to the United States. Rather, keep America engaged with world affairs. A neocon America is much more desirable than an isolationist America.

No other allies are more important than Tony Blair. A slight outsider, the Prime Minister can add more legitimacy to US leadership in the world. None of Secretaries in the Bush administration, from Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, to Donald Rumsfeld have this advantage. There is every reason that the Anglo-American alliance has been the anchor of world peace and stability. My fellow citizens in Europe and Japan, you need to understand this!

Shah Alex

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Test Your Knowledge on the EU

I found an interesting quiz on the website of British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Questions are very tough. How well can you do?

My score was 6 out of 10. Quite desperate. I thought I knew more about the European Union. Europe is expanding and evolving.

I hope this quiz will stimulate your further interest in European integration.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Kissinger talks on India

President Bush’s last visit to Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan is a landmark in US foreign policy. The Indo-American partnership has been strengthened. America demonstrated wholehearted commitment to Afghanistan. On the other hand, relative importance of Pakistan seems to be declining. Though one month has passed since then, India is an important issue in Washington.

In order to understand the overall view of this issue, let me refer to an article, “Anatomy of Partnership” in the International Herald Tribune by Henry Kissinger. In the article, he welcomes new partnership with this powerful English-speaking democracy and the United States. America and India faces common threats of Islamic terrorism. Since 9-11, the US-Indian partnership has become critically important to defeat radical Muslims from Yemen to Mumbai. Also, it is necessary to incorporate India into the global economy. Globalization brings costs and benefits, and both India and the United States can overcome these problems by joint efforts.

On the other hand, while Indian participation in building a new world order will be an advantage to American global strategy, Kissinger warns not to use India as America’s diplomatic card against China and other actors. He argues that neither India nor China seeks pre-eminence in Eurasian heartland, despite conflicts over Tibet. According to Kissinger, both the United States and India need constructive relationship with China, and it does not serve America’s interest to use India to contain China.

The most vital issue is the nuclear deal. Kissinger insists that nuclear progress in India is irreversible, but it is necessary to make Indian commitment to non-proliferation explicit. R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State, says almost the same thing in the lecture at the Heritage Foundation.

So far as pro-con debates on US-Indian deals are concerned, the most serious issue is nuclear non-proliferation. Should the United States trust India, without considering effects on current non-proliferation regime?

Pro-Indian opinion leaders regard India as a trustworthy democracy. In their view, a feasible agreement outside present NPT will be helpful foe nuclear arms control.

Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that a powerful and prosperous democracy like India is a good counterbalance against China and Russia. Most importantly, he endorses US double standard policy against Iran and India, because Iran takes brinkmanship diplomacy while India does not. While he recognizes current NPT regime remains a useful tool to stop nuclear proliferation, he insists that realistic deals with India are inevitable as this regime is collapsing.

His viewpoints are widely shared among neoconservatives and Bush administration supporters. Helle Dale, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, goes on to say that arguments against India sound rather like the District of Columbia's gun laws, which leave handguns in the hands of the criminals, but deny honest citizens the right to own one.

IAEA welcomes this deal as well. Considering icy relations between American conservatives and UN bureaucrats, it is a surprise. Though India refuses to sign NPT, Director General Mohammed El Baradei supports the deal to bring India closer as an important partner in the non-proliferation regime while satisfying its growing energy needs. It is noteworthy that R. Nicholas Burns told Reuters that this unique deal with India would not be repeated with other countries such as neighbor and rival Pakistan, because India has not proliferated for 30 years. He says this distinguishes India from major proliferators like North Korea.

Still, some opinion leaders worry that the Bush administration gave too much benefits to India without sufficient return. According to Joseph Cirincione, Director of Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, President Bush permitted the Indian authority to decide which reactors would be exempted from inspection. This does not satisfy the normal and full-scope inspections originally sought. Moreover, he warns that a double standard will undermine US effort against Iran.

Even Republican leaders including Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Henry Hyde, Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, and Rep. Ed Royce, Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation worry that the deal is too lenient for India, and sacrifice nonproliferation objectives.

As India is buying uranium from Russia before the US-Indian deal comes into effect, opponents’ views are worth being considered.

In face of these pro-con debates, George Perkovich, Vice President at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that nonproliferation rules needs to change flexible enough to get India in. However he worries that the deal is too vague and too fast. The term of “civilian” and “military” must be defined more strictly, he says. Though Perkovich does not necessarily agree to President Bush’s approach, he defends a double standard.

“Iran has been found noncompliant with legal obligations, and is being held to account for them. Also, Iran, unlike India, does not recognize the right of some countries to exist. Iran, unlike India, conducts terrorism...The two examples are very different.”

Finally, let me review Afghanistan and Pakistan just briefly. For the surprise visit to Afghanistan, President Bush canceled the tour to Taj Mahal. Unlike former president Bill Clinton, he did not enjoy tiger safari in India. These facts illustrate how serious the Bush administration is to resolve Afghan issues. On the other hand, the importance of Pakistan to the United States is declining. It is noticeable in Burns’ lecture at the Heritage Foundation. He mentions too much on India, and too little on Pakistan.

Fundamentally, the Bush administration is right to incorporate India into the global economy, and establish strategic partnership with this powerful English-speaking democracy. But remember that India acts on its own. America should not trust this country blindly. Former senator Sam Nunn who currently chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative raises serious concern that the deal will damage US interest without imposing sufficient obligations to India. Pro-con controversies at the congress will be intensified. Forthcoming debates will be a real landmark in US foreign policy and global nonproliferation.

by Shah Alex