Sunday, October 28, 2007

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband Has Launched FCO Blogs

Britain’s FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has launched official blogs this September. There are six FCO bloggers with diversified backgrounds in degree subjects, Foreign Service experiences, current jobs, and personalities. FCO blogs will be of much help to understand endeavors of British diplomats.

Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary David Miliband tells why he is keen on blogging and conversations with people across the world and throughout Britain.

Politics should be about dialogue and debate, and new technology makes this more possible than ever. But the gap between politicians and the public seems to be growing.

This is why in my last ministerial job I began writing a blog. I found it a great way to engage with people: to explain my work and my thinking in a more personal and less formal way than the usual Ministerial speeches; and to hear directly what people thought of what I was doing.

His enthusiasm for cyberspace democracy reminds me of Albert Gore. Prior to assuming current position, Miliband was the Secretary of Environment in the Blair cabinet. Is it a coincidence, or not?

Among numerous issues in British foreign policy, I would like to focus on relations with the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

As I mentioned in a previous post, entitled “David and Gordon: New British Prime Minister and Atlantic Alliance”, David Miliband was critical to the Bush administration’s Iraq policy. In addition, Britain had withdrawn half of its troops from Southern Iraq, which is in sharp contrast with American surge in the Sunni area. How has the Anglo-American relationship changed under the Brown administration? Recent posts by Secretary Miliband suggest Britain is still a key partner in US policy in the Middle East.

In the posts, entitled “Deeds Not Just Words in Northern Iraq” on 23 October and “The Search for Peace in the Middle East” on 25 October, Miliband comments briefly about the meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. On Northern Iraq, both Miliband and Rice sent a message to the Iraqi and the Turkish government that Britain and America were determined to work with them against PKK terrorism in the Kurdistan area. With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Miliband explores to create the Palestine state coexisting peacefully with Israel, in order to endorse political process to resolve hardship of Palestinian people. While he emphasizes importance of US leadership, he is actively engaged in coordinating the transatlantic partnership, through talks with European leaders. From these posts, we understand that post-Blair Britain continues to be a key partner to the United States, despite some ideological differences. For detail, you can also see US-UK joint press conferences on Northern Iraq and Palestine in FCO News Release.

Actually, David Miliband is keen on close contacts with America. He had the “longest meeting” with Mayor Bloomberg of New York City. Also, Foreign Secretary Miliband visited Howard University in Washington DC to discuss grassroots democracy and minority education with American citizens.

Europe is another key issue. Let me introduce two blogs by Jim Murphy and Lindsay Appleby focusing on Europe. Jim Murphy is the Minister for Europe and a Member of Parliament. In his current posts, he comments about the Lisbon European Council and the Luxemburg Foreign Ministers meeting, for further integration of Europe. External relation of the EU is also important. At the EU-Russia Summit in Mafra, Portugal, both sides discussed climate change, energy, and security. Murphy shows lots of useful links to understand internal and external policies of the European Union.

Focuses of Lindsay Appleby’s blog is more or less the same as those of Jim Murphy. But unlike Murphy, she is a career diplomat, not a politician. Therefore, her blog talks more about EU bureaucratic organizations, rather than policy issues.

From the Middle East, Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles publishes a blog to report allies endeavor with local citizens for democracy and nation building. Ambassador Cowper-Coles has a long career in the Middle East. Besides political progress in Afghanistan, he narrates personalities of national and local leaders, which is beyond media attention.

Unfortunately, no FCO staff publishes an official blog from Iraq. I hope some diplomat will start blogging to wipe out negative impression among some leftists, regarding coalition efforts in Iraq.

Finally, I would like to mention two bloggers. Maria Pia Gazella is a Trade Officer at Santiago in Chile. As a local staff at the embassy, she would present something insightful from non-British viewpoints. Sarah Russell has just joined the Diplomatic Service this October, immediately after graduating from King’s College, the University of London with First Class degree in war studies. You may be impressed with her lovely smile. She is also brilliant, and will assume important role in British diplomacy in the future.

Through FCO blogs, you can learn a lot about UK foreign policy perspectives and the life of British diplomats. You can talk with policymakers without interference of gigantic media. Wonderful, isn’t it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

US Policy in the Middle East: Managing Iraq and Thereafter

US intervention to Iraq is just the first step toward new order in the Middle East, and this is not the end. Therefore, it is essential to discuss how to manage current Iraq, and think of post-Iraq policy in the Middle East. I hereby would like to talk about two events as shown below.

(1) “Is Keeping Troops in Iraq America’s Best Interests?” (video, PDF)
September 18, 2007
Host: Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia

Moderated by
Gerald Baliles; Director, Miller Center of Public Affairs
Margaret Warner; Senior Correspondent, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, PBS


Frederick W. Kagan; Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
Reuel Marc Gerecht; Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Jessica Tuchman Mathews;
President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Chas Freeman; Former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

First, I mention the debate on current Iraq policy at the University of Virginia. Key issues at the panel were negative influences posed to Iraq by Al Qaeda and Iran. While proponents insist that continual US presence in Iraq is vial to defeat Al Qaeda and to curb Iranian threat, opponents say that further US involvement will provoke Al Qaeda activities and Iranian penetration in Iraq.

Frederick Kagan points out that Al Qaeda in Iraq is closely connected with Al Qaeda worldwide. He says “If we simply were to withdraw and allow the sectarian strife to continue in Iraq unabated, we would be furthering the objectives of the Al Qaida leaders who sue that terrorism both to pose as protectors of the Sunni population against Shia death squads, and also as a cover for their own violence against the Sunni. And this has been one of the things that we’ve seen most dramatically in the process of beginning a defeat of Al Qaida.”

Another proponent Reuel Gerecht says Al Qaeda and Iran will radicalize Sunnis and Shia groups in Iraq, if the United States loses this war. This will undermine US engagement elsewhere such as the Taiwan Strait.

On the other hand, Jessica Mathews insists that there is no military solution for ethnic and religious conflicts in Iraq, as witnessed in Algeria against France, in Chechnya against Russia, and in Palestine against Israel. There are only political solutions, she says.

Also, Chas Freeman argues that US intervention and the destruction of the Iraqi state have created opportunities for Iran and Al Qaeda to move in. He quotes poll results to tell that the majority of Iraqi people feel US presence there ruins their sovereignty. Freeman insists that once US forces withdraw from Iraq, then, people in Iraq will focus on curbing threats posed by Al Qaeda and Iran. This will be a substantial gain for the United States, he says.

Former Ambassador Freeman’s comment sounds rather pessimistic to US mission in Iraq, and too pacifist about the consequence of US withdrawal. I would agree with Frederick Kagan. He is well-known for a report to endorse surge, entitled “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq” with the help of General Jack Kean. This report provided basic strategic ideas for the Bush administration to improve things in Iraq.

Frederick Kagan articulates the meaning of the strategic goal of promoting pro-American democracy. The key point is not whether they like George W. Bush, but whether Iraqis are allies to the United States in the war on terror. He says that the United States is the best ally for the Iraq Security Forces the Iraqi government, and local Sunni leaders in their struggle against Al Qaeda. Kagan is right to insist that early withdrawal will simply undermine American reputation in the Middle East. Remember, Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University mentions that terrorists had been acting in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait before the Iraq War, and they moved to Iraq in the post Saddam confusion.

Regarding dialogues with Iran, Frederick Kagan has no objection to it. But as he points out, it is no use just for US withdrawal from Iraq. He mentions Iranian connection with Al Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, I would argue that current Shiite regime in Iran has a vital interest in prevailing their theocracy throughout the Middle East. A Chamberlainian approach to such a regime is fatally dangerous.

(2) “After Iraq: US Strategy in the Middle East after Troops Come Home” (video, PDF)
September 17, 2007
Host: Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Moderated by
Kenneth Baer; Co-Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Jessica Tuchman Mathews;
President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
William Marshall; President, Progressive Policy Institute
Ray Takeyh; Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Then, Let me talk about the event on post-Iraq US strategy in the Middle East. Iraq is not the end. It is just the beginning of Middle East reform to defeat terrorists and dangerous regimes, which pose grave threat to America and its allies. On September 17, “Democracy: A Journal of Ideas” and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a discussion after Iraq. “Democracy” is a progressive journal analogous to conservative counterparties such as “Commentary”, the “National Interest”, and the “Public Interest”. This event was a panel on US policy after retreating troops from Iraq, primarily through progressive (i.e., liberal. This word is used quite often these days.) viewpoints. Three key issues were discussed: nuclear non-proliferation, democracy promotion, and Iran.

Regarding nuclear non-proliferation, Jessica Mathews criticizes current double standard policy of standing tough against authoritarian regimes while dealing tolerantly with democratic nuclear powers like India. Also, she insists on close cooperation with Russia to denuclearize Iran and North Korea. There is no doubt that Iran is a key to US Middle East policy on Iraq and thereafter. However, I suspect that Vladimir Putin consider using Iran a strategic card against the West.

As to democracy promotion, William Marshall points out that it is necessary to tackle the problem of marginalized people in the Middle East under the global economy. Actually, a conservative policy analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht mentions similar points in “Selling out Moderate Islam”. This issue becomes increasingly important in the post Cold War era.

Finally, Ray Takeyh commented on Iran. He says that Iran and the United States common interests to reconstruct a stable and unified Iraq. Therefore, he argues that both countries talk on the future of Iraq. Certainly, this should not be ruled out. The problem is, Iran assists Shiite radicals, in order to have strong influence on Iraq, which is at odds with US led initiatives for Middle East reform.

Though three panelists are critical to the Bush administration’s Middle East policy, people should keep it in mind that progressives pursue common agenda of Middle East democratization. Moderate reform in key Western allies, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is no less important than progress of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq is at a critical stage now. Success here is a vital step for the future in the Middle East. Also, it is time that US and European policymakers began to think of post Iraq strategy in the Greater Middle East. Regardless of ideological backgrounds, two events present invaluable insights for those having keen interests in US foreign policy and Middle East affairs.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ambassadors Address 200 years of US-Russian Relations

It is 200 years since Russia and the United States established formal diplomatic relationship. Currently, relations between Russia and the West are not necessarily good under the Putin administration. In an atmosphere of growing self-assertive nationalism and czarlistic authoritarianism, presidential election will be held in Russia next March.

In view of present Russian politics and diplomacy, ambassadors of Russia and the United States contributed a memorial article on the 200 year anniversary of US-Russian relations to the International Herald Tribune (“Relations for a New Century”; September 24, 2007). They present five recommendations for the US-Russian relationship in this century.

(1) Despite natural differences and disagreements between America and Russia on global political and economic affairs, both nations must identify and advance common interests.

(2) In view of rapid changes in the post Cold War era, the United States and Russia need to reshape their global strategies. Violent anti-Americanism poses graver threat to the world.

(3) The US-Russian relationship improves when both sides pursue common interests to develop shared solutions. Issues like terrorism and WMD proliferation have not been resolved, and there is much to be done.

(4) In addition to regular diplomatic channels between leaders, further institutionalization of dialogues between cabinet and sub-cabinet levels must be explored.

(5) Encourage broader contacts among scientific, social, and religious organizations. It is necessary to change visa systems for this purpose. Also, expand economic ties beyond WTO entry of Russia.

Certainly, it is important to develop further cooperation between the two giants. However, this message is excessively “diplomatic”, and more straight talks are essential to understand US-Russian interactions.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted an event, “200 years of US-Russian Diplomatic Relations: Ambassadorial Conference” on September 24 and 25. A panel discussion was held on 25th, moderated by Mark Medish, Vice President for Studies of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Jill Dougherty, US Affairs Editor of CNN International. Let me review the event (PDF, Windows Media Player, Quick Time, and Pod Cast).

This luncheon panel discussion was more straightforward than the article in the International Herald Tribune to commemorate 200 year anniversary of US-Russian diplomacy. The moderator Jill Dougherty has much experience in Russian affairs, as she received BA degree in Russian studies from the University of Michigan and has been a Moscow correspondent of CNN in 1990s. She is in a good position to chair the debate on Russia in post Cold War transition.

To begin with, Dougherty asked immediate question regarding rocky relations between the United States and Russia in face of presidential election in both countries. Former US Ambassador to Russia James Collins who is currently the Director of Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, mentioned that the election should not disturb relations between Russia and the United States. On the Russian side, Former Ambassador to the United States Vladimir Lukin points out common interests and disagreements between two countries. Both the United States and Russia share vital agendas such as counter-terrorism and WMD non-proliferation. On the other hand, there are many issues of discord in regional problems like Kosovo and the Middle East, said Vladimir Lukin. As Jill Dougherty explained it, the United Sates was ready to accept Kosovo independence, while Russia adamantly opposed to it. Lukin raised the same concern as Collins that Russian presidential candidates might be tempted to impress a strong Russia in their election campaigns.

Yuri Dubinin who was Russian ambassador to the United States in the “Yalta to Malta” period, says that both Russia and the United States are in democracy now, and insists “we need to know the opinion of our peoples, what is it that they want, and to solve the objectives, the problems the way the people want and not the way this or that country wants us to do”, to fill the gap between America and Russia on Kosovo.

Despite stark differences, Former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union Arthur Hartman tells Americans to be patient with progress of transition in Russia, and not to see the world solely through American perspectives.

Another critical issue was energy, whether Russia considered using it as political and economic weapon against the West. Regarding this question, both Vladimir Lukin and James Collins agrees that market determines the price of oil and gas, and the unique relationship between Russia and former Soviet republics changes inevitably.

Although this luncheon discussion was in a friendly atmosphere, both US and Russian ambassadors talk about the rise of nationalist sentiments in Russia associated with election. In a policy brief, entitled “Russia’s Strategic Choice”, Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, says that Russia’s ultimate interest is a major power status in the world, vis-à-vis the United States and China. He points out current Russia is frustrated with NATO expansion to the Baltic area, and increasing US military influence in Central Asia and Georgia. More and more former Soviet republics are out of Russian hands. Trenin says the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty raises further concern on the Russian side.

Despite friendly atmosphere at the commemorative event of the 200 year anniversary of Russo-American diplomatic relations, turbulences are expected between the two giant nuclear powers. Russian presidential election this March will be one of turning points for US foreign policy after the Bush administration.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hamlet: Japan’s Dilemma between the US-India Deal and Non-proliferation Regime

This is the first post on India in Global American Discourse. Considering its importance in security of the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region, it is quite late to post the first article on this country in October. I have written some posts on the US-India nuclear deal in the past. This is controversial but a key to the Bush administration’s strategy in the Middle East and Asia.

Regarding this deal, Japan faces a serious dilemma whether to support it or not, because India is out of the NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty) and CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). In an article, entitled “Japan’s New Prime Minister Faces India Dilemma” in the Asia Times on September 28, Masako Toki, Research Associate of the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies at Monterey, California, raises a serious concern that approval to the US-India deal could ruin Japan’s accumulated credentials in non-proliferation and disarmament. Toki points out that the US-India agreement has no countermeasure against possible nuclear test by India, and this is the most worrisome point for Japan.

Also, it is necessary to mention that the Japanese public is extremely sensitive to nuclear issues. This summer, the then Defense Minister Akio Kyuma was harshly criticized for his careless comment, “The United States had no choice but nuclear attack against Japan in order to end the war quickly.” Both the media and the public condemned this remark an insult to atomic bomb victims.

Despite such widespread anti-nuclear emotion, the Japanese government has been extremely cautious to articulate its stance on this deal. Toki says “Tokyo has been wise enough to avoid further controversy but not strong enough to maintain its stance as a champion of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.” While Masako Toki insists that Japan not accept exception of NPT regulation like the US-India deal, new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is likely to strengthen strategic partnership with India as his predecessor Shinzo Abe was, following recommendations in the Armitage Report 2007.

Toki argues that Japan needs to articulate its commitment to disarmament and nonproliferation, even if this leads to short term conflict with India and the United States. She says “In the long run, a commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament remains the most important element of Japan's national identity and interest.”

For me, her recommendation sounds too idealistic. It is necessary to understand India’s strategic partnership with the United States and NATO. India is a key ally in the War on Terror. Regarding the US-Indian strategic partnership, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said “The new challenges that are emerging, including protecting the electronically connected and interdependent world from terror and organized crime, are immensely complex,” and “It is also naive to expect the international system to deal with such complex and significant issues without democratizing international decision-making,” in his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on October 1 (“India Sees Nuclear Deal as Key to Global Cooperation”; Global Security Newswire; October 3, 2007).

Former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar says that India will be a cornerstone in NATO’s global operation from the Indian Ocean to the Asia Pacific region. The United States endorses NATO-India partnership, in order to fill power vacuum in these areas. (“India Holds Key in NATO’s World View”; Asia Times; October 6, 2007)

However, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and leftist members of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regard the deal sacrifices Indian sovereignty, because civilian nuclear plants are subject to US inspection. They are not pro-Western as current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I believe that the deal must be sustainable regardless of party politics in India. (“Feature”, South Asian Perspectives by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2007)

If India were to be a real strategic partner with free nations, the US-India bilateral deal should include NATO, Japan, and Australia in the future. It is understandable that India does not trust current non-proliferation regime under IAEA inspection. However, a multilateral deal with common creed and interests will be helpful to make it more stable and sustainable. This could placate opposition by nationalists and leftists. Japan’s dilemma would be resolved through this way.