Friday, November 30, 2007

Neoconservative Foreign Policy, and US Relations with Europe and Japan

It is widely believed that neoconservative foreign policy will lead to inevitable clashes with key US allies, notably Europe and Japan. But regardless of party politics, American foreign policy will be more or less neoconservative, due to its ideological base of national foundation and the role of hegemonic state to maintain a liberal world order. Does this mean the United States always take go-it alone policy?

Actually, Europe has begun to explore more involvement in global security, since the Iraq rift. NATO and the EU will be upgraded to expand their worldwide influence. Therefore, I would like to talk about neoconservatism in America after the Bush administration, and burden sharing with Europe and Japan to tackle global challenges.

To begin with I will talk of the future of neoconservatism. Joshua Muravchik, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, points out that neither liberals nor realists have not coherent foreign policy approaches for the post 9-11 world, despite some troubles in Iraq. This is why neoconservatism captures the heart of President George W. Bush in the War on Terror. At the end of his essay, Muravchik concludes as the following.

One can always wish that policies were executed better, but for a strategy in the war that has been imposed upon us, neoconservatism remains the only game in town. (“The Past, Present, and Future of Neoconservatism”; Commentary; October 2007)

There are three key points in neoconservative foreign policy. First, it is moralistic and strongly recognizes that America be the foremost leader of liberal values. Second, it is internationalist like many liberals, and assumes that any threat to American security must be curbed at an early stage, even though that is far away from US homeland. Third, it trusts efficacy of military force like most conservatives, and doubts economic sanctions and UN resolutions.

As widely mentioned among opinion leaders, Muravchik attributes some difficulties in Iraq to policy errors by Ex Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He did not send enough troops, but since the surge based on policy recommendations by Frederick Kagan at the AEI and Ex-General Jack Kean, operations in Iraq is turning successful.

Even though some opinion leaders insist that the war in Iraq is in the wrong place against wrong enemy, they are not necessarily dovish. They believe in America’s special role that the United States must be willing to use military power for moralistic leadership. Democrat Senator Barack Obama insists on bombing terrorist camps in Pakistan, instead of Iraq. Also, Michael A. Ledeen, Freedom Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues that the United States should focus on the threat of Iran, not Iraq. Regardless of position in the Iraq debate, any administration is likely to take more or less neoconservative approaches.

Does this lead to inevitable clash between the United States and Europe? Actually, some Europeans are advocates of world order led by the American Empire.

British historian Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor at Harvard University, is too well known. In his books, “Empire” and “Colossus”, Ferguson insists that the United States be more interventionist to maintain a liberal world order as Britain was.

Another European advocate of American hegemony is Josef Joffe, Editor of German weekly Die Zeit and Visiting Professor at Stanford University. In his book, “Überpower”, Joffe discusses how to maintain the American world order. Moreover, he defends the special relationship between the United States and Israel in the article “A World without Israel” in Foreign Policy, January 2005.

In France, Jacques Chirac has gone, and Nicholas Sarkozy has taken power.

Not only do some European opinion leaders support American hegemony, but also European nations explore more active involvement. According to Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Europeans are stepping toward expansionist policy, in view of disturbances in Ukraine, the Balkans, Turkey, and North Africa (“Embraceable EU”; Washington Post; December 5, 2004). In the support for democracy in Ukraine, Europeans played no less important role than Americans.

Robert Cooper, Ex-British Diplomat and Member of European Council on Foreign Relations, insists on attracting new members from East Europe and Turkey, in order to pursue a liberal imperialist policy. Through this way, Europeans promote democracy for global and their own security. Also, NATO expansion could strengthen transatlantic endeavor to bolster a liberal world order. Robert Kagan concludes his article, “That could prove a far more important strategic boon to the United States than a few thousand European troops in Iraq.”

This October, the British government has released a new report, entitled “Global Europe”. This report, published by the Cabinet Office and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, recommends joint EU efforts to deepen liberal and democratic societies in Eastern and Southern neighbors; and also, joint sanctions against repressive regimes in Burma, Iran, and North Korea.

While Europe is stepping up towards active global commitment, Japan is wasting too much energy on trivial legal debate regarding further operations in the Indian Ocean. It is utterly stupid to spend much time on such a petty parliamentary talk in the era of global war on terror. This sort of excessive adherence to the notorious pacifist constitution would make Japan an under achiever. Remember, Japan has succeeded in joining top achievers club, through “getting out of backward Asia, and becoming the West.” Japanese leaders should bear this in mind, if seriously exploring NATO membership.

Neoconservative foreign policy does not necessarily lead to unilateralism of the United States. It presents much clearer vision to manage the world than other ideological sects. Neoconservative agendas are vital to European and Japanese interests as well. Ultimately, whoever the President of the United States is, his or her foreign policy is more or less neoconservative

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On American Endeavor for Global Democracy

Whoever the President of the United States is, democracy promotion is a key agenda in American foreign policy. Successful promotion of this ideology bolsters American soft power. As a commemorative event of publishing a new report “US Democracy Promotion During and After Bush” by Thomas Carothers, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel discussion on September 12.

This event was moderated by Jenifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. As the author of this report, Thomas Carothers, Vice President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, gave a presentation.

Two commentators attended this panel discussion. One is skeptic to the Bush initiative, while the other is pro-Bush.

Skeptic commentator is Francis Fukuyama, Berland L. Schwartz Professor at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. His reputation is very great for his book, “The End of History.” He was one of signatories to launch the Project for a New American Century, a well known neoconservative think tank to endorse the Iraq War. It is widely known that he has converted to a vocal critic against the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

On the other hand, pro-Bush commentator is Vin Weber, Former Member of the House of Representative and currently, Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, which is a pro-democracy NPO. He was an election strategist of the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign. Despite his Republican background, he co-chaired an independent task force on “US Policy toward Reform in the Arab World” with Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In addition, he is a member of the US Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board.

Let me review the video of this event to explore American policy on democracy promotion under the current and the next administration (Windows, Pod cast, Quick Time, and PDF).

To begin with, Thomas Carothers presented his analysis on the Bush administration’s policy for democracy promotion. Regarding the role of democracy promotion in the Bush administration’s foreign policy, some people say this is the central pillar, while others argue current administration does not take the issue seriously. Carothers says the truth lies in between and things are more complicated. US foreign policy is a mixture of security-and-economic-oriented policies and real democracy assistance.

Regarding democratization in Iraq, Thomas Carothers points out that while the Bush team appears to be passionate about the issue, it has not presented clear vision for this objective. Rather, he says, current administration has made some achievements for democracy in the rest of the Middle East. While US policy for empowerment of Arab citizens is proceeding gradually, this effort has been constrained by realist necessities to maintain close ties with authoritarian regimes in this region, such as Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, and Pakistan. This is because excessively rapid democratization could lead to the rise of anti-Western Islamist regimes.

In the rest of the world, the Bush administration continues the same patterns as those of previous administrations from 1980s to 1990s, according to Carothers. The United States confronts against dictatorial regimes such as Belarus, Burma, and Zimbabwe. Also, America supports people struggling for democracy in Ukraine, Liberia, Nepal, and Peru.

On the other hand, Carothers says that US relations with two strategic challengers, Russia and China, are realist, and determined primarily with economic-and-security interests. Also, the United States needs close cooperation with non-democratic governments in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere in the War on Terror, despite proclaimed agenda for global freedom.

Regarding difference between Bush policy for democracy promotion and those of his predecessors, Carothers suggests three points: attachment to the War on Terror, hard lines in the Middle East, and use of military intervention. He points out that US endeavor for democracy in the Middle East has made little progress, but some achievements have been witnessed in the rest of the world, such as in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia. Carothers argues that Bush policy is undermining the legitimacy of democracy promotion, because of excessive focus on Iraq and counter-terrorism. Also, he warns that success of “authoritarian capitalism” in Russia and China could be an alternative model for some countries.

Thomas Carothers outlines US endeavor for democracy promotion very well, though I have some disagreements regarding the war on terror and Iraq. Also, it is understandable that progress in the Middle East is slow, because of political complexity as Reuel Marc Gerecht of the AEI mentioned. I am concerned that he did not mention North Korea whose autocrat regime is posing substantial threat to our free world, regardless of progress in nuclear bomb and Japanese abductee issues. It is desirable to wipe out a state like this in the end. Is US policy to North Korea a realist like those to Russia and China?

Despite some distinctive points in current administration’s policies for global democracy, most of them are consistent with its predecessors. Therefore, I have to reiterate that agendas set by quite a few anti-Bush activists are dubious.

After the presentation by Thomas Carothers, Vin Weber and Francis Fukuyama left comments.

First, Vin Weber argued from pro-Bush position. He comments that President Bush tries to inspire more involvement in democracy promotion through his rhetoric, while Carothers criticizes it empty and unpractical. Basically, Weber agrees with Carothers that democracy promotion is not unique to the Bush administration, and this is a vital agenda for the next president as well.

Weber points out some progress under the Bush administration such as the Middle East Partnership Initiative. Also, he insists that more NGOs launch pro-democracy activities throughout the world, indirectly influenced by Bush policy.

Weber’s comment sounds right. Never have I heard so much of democracy promotion before. This is partly because of the War on Terror. We are in a critical era, and any US president could have taken approaches like current president has been doing.

Francis Fukuyama argued from another perspective. He insists that Iraq has distorted US policy for democracy promotion. Fukuyama points out that democracy was the third reason for intervention to overthrow Saddam Hussein, after WMD non-proliferation and the War on Terror. Also, he criticizes the Bush administration’s approach to use democracy promotion as a national security policy instrument, because it appears foreigners that the United States is hypocritical to use democratic ideals for its strategic interests. Fukuyama argues against Weber, saying that lofty rhetoric for democracy by the Bush administration will inspire people aspiring liberal society, but also inspire people having negative image about America.

It is right that democracy promotion should not be linked to strategic objectives excessively. Though I agree with Francis Fukuyama on this point, I think it necessary to remember that liberal ideals and security interests are coincided in US foreign policy.

This event presents well balanced views and comments on Bush policy on democracy promotion. Apparently, anti-American radicals are wrong to argue that democracy promotion is a neoconservative plot. Understanding this discussion is a key to foresee pro-democracy policy of the next administration.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

“Operation Iranian Freedom” by Cyberspace Citizens

Tension between Iran and the United States is growing as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson announced economic sanctions to stop nuclear projects by the Ahmadinejad administration. Someone even talk of possible US-Iranian war over nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and Iraq. How do Iranian citizens see current their country under theocratic rule? Previously, I have mentioned an online magazine, called “Persian Journal” in the post, “Is Middle East Democratization a Neocon Plot?” on this blog. Let me review this online journal so that we could understand political logic and sentiments among Iranians.

The website of Persian Journal self introduces this online community as the following.

Persian Journal is the news division of the more comprehensive sites, a progressive Iranian online community and resource. Persian Journal is an online magazine of Iran's current events and Iranian culture featuring news, in-depth analysis and investigative reporting as well as opinions and commentary from a network of exclusive Iranian columnists and bloggers. It also features a very robust forum for discussion of news and current events. All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments and submissions are property of their posters and their source. The is not affiliated with political, religious or any other organization.

Quite interestingly, Persian Journal is published in English, although articles are contributed by Iranian columnists and bloggers. Apparently, they are keen on prevailing their opinions and information on Iran to Americans, Europeans, and people throughout the world, rather than to their Farsi speaking fellows. Persian Journal is outward oriented.

On the other hand, it is closely tied with Iranian communities both inside and outside Iran. Advertisements on this site are related to daily life of Iranians. For example, “Iranian Dots” provides Iranian singles with information for match making. Also, Iran Online is linked to Iranian communities of various agendas and interests.

Prior to reviewing commentaries and analyses on Iran, I would like to narrate recent news. In view of invigorated Kurdish separatist activities in Turkey, Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki accuses the United States of assisting PKK in order to pressure Iran to slow down its nuclear research program and stop sponsoring Islamic groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Palestine. Such a hardliner policy of the Ahmadinejad administration cause bitter criticism among moderate leaders such as Former Presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Meanwhile, White House Spokes Woman Dana Perino explained that the United States was pursuing sanctions because it was exploring diplomatic resolutions rather than fighting against Iran. On November 1, US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns met with delegates from EU3 of Britain, France, and Germany. Also, Russia and China sent their representatives for this negotiation in London as well. Russia and China are still reluctant for further sanctions after the London talk.

How do Iranians see political interactions with international communities? Kashayar Hooshiyar, Managing Editor of Iran Review, criticizes the Bush administration’s adherence to “fairy tale idea” of promoting pro-Western democracy and borderless economy in the Middle East despite hardships in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hooshiyar argues “In fact, Iran's hardliner and despotic president, Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, has successfully been using such attacks to portray himself as anti-imperialist and the "Messiah" of the poor and oppressed people not only among the people of the region, but also, surprisingly, among a large segment of the Left in the West.” Furthermore, he says that the emergence of progressive mass democracy will be nationalist, and challenge Western imperialism of Coca-colonization, local autocrats, and capitalists. This is more serious threat to the United States than current theocracy in Iran, says Hooshiyar (“Iran, Iraq, and US Interests in the Middle East: Washington’s Dilemma”; Iran Review; October 30, 2007).

In my view, Hooshiyar does not understand strategic objectives of the American side. Just as Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argued at the policy forum at the University of Virginia, Americans are not interested in Coca-colonization or McDonald-ization. He says both Americans and Iraqis share vital interests in defeating uprisings by terrorists and radical Moslems. Hooshiyar dismisses that Iranian mullahs sponsor their activities.

Also, Hooshiyar confuses democracy with populism. Dmitri Trenin, currently the Vice President of the Carnegie Moscow Center, points out the real democracy is not simple rule of majority but politics by well educated and self conscious public. Radical nationalism of anti-Western, anti-Zionism, and anti-capitalism is not democracy. Remember that Egypt under the Nasser administration was far from democracy.

Persian Journal picks up opinions from the West as well. I would like to mention two of them, which describe dangerous nature of current regime in Iran. According to “Iran’s Leaders Need Enemies like Bush, and at Every Turn He Obliges Them” in The Guardian on October 29, “Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard need US enemies to justify their idiocies at home and mischief-making in Iraq.” Although the United States pushes for harder sanctions, it can impose limited effect on already isolated Iran, says the writer. In addition, he comments that EU is eager to do business with oil rich Iran, and Russia and China are reluctant to help the Bush administration. Therefore, the Guardian talks of possible war between the United States and Iran.

In “Pressing Iran to Disarm” on October 29, “The Star” of Canada recommends that the Canadian government endorse UN efforts including harsher sanctions, and also urge the United States to negotiate with Iran, instead of threatening it.

Persian Journal takes up news and ideas of various sources and ideological backgrounds, in order to promote understandings for democratization of Iran. Non-political news and commentaries such as those on culture, entertainment, and sports are published as well in this journal. Persian Journal is useful to understand politics and daily life of Iranians, including those who are in exile.