Monday, December 31, 2007

A Blog to Understand US Presidential Election 2008

Quite often, foreign authors analyze more in depth on American politics than Americans. Particularly, British and Canadians have an advantage, that is, a background very close to mainstream Americans but slightly outsider. Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, is frequently mentioned on this blog. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldrige are very well known for their book, “The Right Nation”, which is an analysis on conservatism in American politics. In addition to British opinion leaders mentioned here, Canadians hold high profile positions. Robert MacNeil had co-hosted the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour of PBS for 20 years. Peter Jennings was the sole anchor of ABC World News Tonight until he passed away in 2005. Non-Americans are in better positions to watch America objectively and cool headedly.

In this post, I would like to introduce “Democracy in America”, which is a blog published by the Economist. This blog has made a special category, called “US Election 2008” in November last year. It is quite hard to predict the outcome of 2008 election, because none of the candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, seem to have determinant strength to win this election. Also, issues cover broad ranges of foreign and domestic policies. The Economist’s blog tells such complicated and wide range issues very lucidly. I would recommend this blog to understand basic trends of the forthcoming election rapidly.

While the media tend to focus on things associated with well known candidates, “Democracy in America” talks of grassroots movements, under-noticed candidates, and new style election campaigns. I would like to mention some recent posts.

In the most recent one, “Joe-mentum for Biden?” on December 30, “Democracy in America” explores why Democrat Senator Joseph Biden will drop out from the race. Senator Biden has been a leading figure in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a long time. Neither Hilary Rodham Clinton nor Barack Obama can match his experience. Also, he is smart and aggressive in debate. However, this post points out that Joseph Biden has not raised enough money to attract media attention, because he is not as exciting as top three candidates, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. I think it is a pity that money and easy attention count so much on the election.

In another post, “What Might Define the Next President” on December 13, a comment by Professor Brian Balogh at the University of Virginia is quoted. According to Balogh, presidential candidates today pretend themselves outsiders than those in the past. However there are some contradictions with current candidates’ behavior as shown in the following.

I think she's actually trying to have it both ways. I think part of her message is: I'm an outsider; I'm a woman; we've never had a woman president before. And part of her message is: I'm the ultimate insider, I was there for all the crucial decisions -- at least the decisions that worked out -- in my husband's administration.

This post is linked to remarks by current candidates and presidents in history such as Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Franklin Roosevelt. I hope readers will enjoy vistiing these links in this post.

Finally, I would like to mention “The YouTube Debate” on November 29. This post presents a short analysis why Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has emerged so impressively. The post is linked to the Republican debate on a CNN program. It is helpful to understand how YouTube videos place influence on voters’ impression.

“Democracy in America” is very concise, and this will be of much help to see American politics from objective viewpoints. British analysts are in a very good position for this purpose. Particularly, I would recommend this blog for those who are too busy to read lengthy articles in academic journals.

Monday, December 24, 2007

America and Europe over NIE Report on Iran

A new NIE report, entitled “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities” has spurred controversy whether to stand tough against Iran or not. According to this paper, Iran has given up developing nuclear bombs, although it continues uranium enrichment research. First, is this evaluation valid? Second, does this mean Iran is no longer a threat to global and regional security?

And finally, I would like to examine the influence on the transatlantic alliance posed by this report. Critics to the Iraq War blame US intelligence fraud that Iraq had no nuclear bombs when it was attacked by the coalition. Some dangerous leftists make use of this, and try to split the relationship between Europe and America.

Even if the report is true, I believe that Iran is a grave threat to us, just as Saddam’s Iraq was. It is an act of evil, if someone were to decouple America and Europe. Remember, terrorists harness war reluctant atmosphere in Europe ever since the Iraq War broke out.

Let me review NIE report briefly. NIE judges with high confidence that Iran halted its nuclear program in autumn 2003. The report states that they do not know whether Iran has no intention of restarting nuclear weapon program, though they have moderate confidence that Iranians have not been exploring such projects by mid-2007. Regarding uranium enrichment, Iran made significant progress in installing centrifuges this year. Still, Iran has not resolved technical hurdles to make nuclear bombs. Things look quite optimistic, if this report is true. However, it is not clear whether Iran has given up its nuclear ambition.

Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, currently Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, casts doubt on this report (“The Flaws in Iran Report”; Washington Post; December 6). He criticizes fundamental assumptions. Though the report says that Iran gave up developing nuclear weapon in 2003, the distinction between “civilian” and “military” use is artificial. Also, he says that Iran is not susceptible to international pressure.

Whether this report is right or wrong, there is no denying that Iran still poses a grave threat to us. As John Bolton does, the Economist points out that this report contradicts the 2005 evaluation by NIE ("What’s Not to Celebrate?"; December 6, 2007). Also, the article says that the IAEA questions why Iran has acquired highly enriched uranium from unexplained traces. From North Korea, I wonder. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that even if America is unwilling to strike Iran, Israel will keep highly alert against this terrorist regime “because of an intelligence report from the other side of the world, even if it is from our greatest friend.”

Nevertheless, NIE report poses critical constraints to US attack against Iran. Even neoconservatives admit this. Robert Kagan, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that regardless of validity of the report, the United States must consider talking with Iran (“Time to Talk to Iran”; Washington Post; December 4). It has become impossible to bring European allies together since the report was published. However, Kagan says that America is not in a weak position, as the surge in Iraq has succeeded, and its influence in the Middle East will be sustainable. Rather, he argues that the Bush administration seize this opportunity to talk with Iran before it acquires capability to nuclear bombs, because the next US president will not be ready to start dialogues at an early stage. Furthermore, Kagan insists on the following.

The talks should go beyond the nuclear issue and include Iran's support for terrorism, its harboring of al-Qaeda leaders, its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and its supplying of weapons to violent extremists in Iraq.

In view of NIE Report release this November, the New York Times reports possible split between America and Europe over Iran (“Europeans See Muskier Case for Sanctions”, December 4). According to this article, an anonymous European diplomat said that tougher sanctions against Iran had become out of question.

How do European leaders act since NIE assessment on Iranian nuclear program? I would like to mention press conferences held at foreign ministries of Britain, France, and Germany.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband contributed an article “Why We Must not Take Pressure off Iran” to the Financial Times on December 6. In this article, Miliband questions why Iran chooses to confront the international community. Foreign Secretary condemns Iran’s support for terrorists in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Also, he stresses that EU3 and the United States are not willing to confront this country.

In an interview with BBC Radio, Secretary Miliband explains why the British government regards Iran’s uranium enrichment program dangerous.

Because of the history of this area, where Iran has misled the international community, people are rightly sceptical of claims that don't add up on the Iranian side. It's not a matter of saying that Iran shouldn't have energy security. What it can't be is a source of political insecurity.

A Spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France also warns of Iran’s intention for nuclear bomb, because “it has violated it appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations, and our position therefore remains unchanged” (Daily Press Briefing, December 4).

On the other hand, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomes this report, and says this is a good opportunity for initiating talks with Iran.

European attitude to Iran varies from cautious Britain to positive Germany. However, it has become increasingly difficult to fight against Iran. It is not the matter of validity of NIE Report. It is a matter of political interactions. The United States and Europe can take some actions for a dialogue with Iran, and observe its response. Also, it is necessary to see what sort of dangerous connections with terrorists and North Korea will emerge, when talking with Iran. I would like to explore Iranian threat furthermore on another occasion.

Friday, December 14, 2007

India 60 Years after Lord Mountbatten and Mahatma Gandhi

August 15, when I appeared the NHK TV forum on Japan’s pacifist constitution this year, is a memorial day for both Japan and India. For Japan, it is the End of War Memorial Day, when Emperor Hirohito declared to stop fighting against the Allied Forces. For India, it is the Independence Day.

On August 15 in 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy of India, transferred power from the British Empire to newly independent India. It is the 60th anniversary of Indian independence this year.

Ever since the independence from Britain, India had been pursuing nonalignment foreign policy. Its economic policy had been based on Fabianism, a moderate planning and state control. The first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was captured his heart with this ideology as a student at Cambridge University. He employed economic policy advisors educated at the London School of Economics.

Today, India is at crossroads. Since 1990s India has changed its economic policy from Fabianism to neoliberalism. Also, 9-11 led India to shift from the leader of nonalignment to a key strategic partner of the United States.

In view of policy changes, a book review was contributed to the Washington Post by George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In his review, “Big Democracy: Appreciating the miracle of India's triumph over chaos” on August 19, Perkovich introduces a book, entitled “India after Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha, a columnist and historian, who has taught at Stanford and Yale.

Perkovich comments highly of this book that Guha narrates how democracy in India has developed despite difficulties such as ethnic and religious conflicts, outdated caste system, grave poverty, regional separatism, and natural resource scarcity.

George Perkovich points out two lessons to be learnt from Ramachandra Guha’s book: democratic nation building and the Indo-US strategic partnership.

Regarding democratic nation building, the constitution drafting committee was chaired by B.R. Ambedkar, an untouchable. Such a successful overcome of class struggle is noteworthy, in view of post Saddam conflicts in Iraq, Perkovich says.

Also, Guha points out similarities between exploration for close US-India relations in 1962 when China invaded over the Himalayan borders, and today in order to fight against Islamic terrorists and counterbalance against China. Guha even mentions common backgrounds between Ambassador Kenneth Galbraith of the Kennedy administration and current Ambassador Robert Blaclwill, as both of them are ex-Harvard professors.

I would like to mention another Indian opinion leader, Shashi Tharoor, Former Under-Secretary of the United Nations. In his article, “60 Years of Independence and Democracy” to the Times of India on August 12, Tharoor insists that Jawaharlal Nehru made a great contribution for solid democracy in India, and his legacy continues whoever the prime minister is.

On the Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered a special address. Singh stressed key initiatives for massive increase in governmental spending on education, science, health care, agriculture, and rural development. Prime Minister Singh described malnutrition a “national shame”, and appealed that the government will work hard to eradicate it (“PM Addresses the Nation on 60th Independence Day”; Times of India; 15 August, 2007). This empowerment will strengthen democracy in India furthermore.

Though it is a commemorative year, I regret that Global American Discourse did not have enough opportunity to post an article on India. There is no doubt that India will be more important partner for America and its allies. Also, it is important to notice Shashi Tharoor’s comment that the legacy of Nehru has made India democratic. This is a sharp contrast between India and Pakistan. As everyone knows, Pakistan has been under military dictatorship and stagnant economy. President Pervez Musharaf of Pakistan is criticized bitterly in the global community, due to unfair election. This is not the case with India.

Earl Mountbatten and Mahatma Gandhi will be pleased to see successful and prosperous democracy in India today. How will US-India ties help promote world peace and well-being?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Conservative Backlash against un-Bush North Korea Policy

The Bush administration’s approach to North Korea raises serious concern among conservatives in the United States and the public in Japan. In return for denuclearization, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill suggested that the United States remove North Korea from the List of Terrorism Sponsoring Countries. However, North Korea is notorious for cheating, and Kim Jong Il could gain to food and energy without completely denuclearizing his country, as it happened in the Clinton era. This is quite un-Bush, and it is quite questionable whether soft line policy is helpful for non-proliferation objectives.

In addition, soft policy against North Korea undermines moral leadership in US foreign policy. It is a repressive regime. North Korean leaders exploit its citizens. It is infamous for kidnapping Japanese, South Korean and other foreign citizens. As mentioned in the previous post, democracy promotion is a key agenda in the post 9-11 world.

Unlike Israel and India, North Korea can never become a strategic partner with the United States to promote a liberal world order. While both Israel and India are trustworthy democracies, North Korea has been a bête noire in the global community.

Unlike Libya, which was bombed in 1986 by the Reagan-Thatcher axis, North Korea has no experience of being defeated by the United States. North Korea has been boasting the victory over the “savage American imperialist” in the Pueblo crisis in 1968. Nor does North Korea face domestic threat of radicalists, which poses serious danger to the Khadafy regime of Libya.

Therefore, any kind of nuclear bargains with nations like India and Libya, are unlikely to work for Kim Jong Il.

Congressional Research Service has released a report, entitled “North Korea: Terrorism List Removal?” on April 6 this year. Regarding terrorism, this report says the following.

Although it is a party to six international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, Pyongyang has not taken substantial steps to cooperate in efforts to combat international terrorism.

As to the Japanese abductee issue, it says “The chronologies of acts of terrorism in the annual Patterns reports shows that the United States defines kidnapping as a terrorist act.”

It seems quite inappropriate to remove North Korea from the list.

In addition, conservative opinion leaders have been critical to a Chaimberlainian appeasement to North Korea. As Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University argues, the United States is capable of fighting both against Iraqi insurgents and North Korean autocrat.

David Frum, Resident Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, warns that realist approaches to North Korea would lead the Bush administration to make the same mistake as the Clinton administration did. Quoting an article in the Boston Globe by Graham Allison, Assistant Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, Frum points out that North Korea wants to reassure they have both bombs and aids. Also, he says that China is concerned with the collapse of North Korea, because a unified Korea would be under American influence. In his view, current negotiation is likely to fail in denuclearizing North Korea. (“Realism is Ugly in North Korea”; Notional Post; June 30, 2007)

Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is more critical to current talk with North Korea. In his article to the Wall Street Journal (“Bush’s North Korea Meltdown”; October 31, 2007) and an interview with Fox News on December 3, Bolton attacks that State Department bureaucracy is obsessed with making a deal first without sufficient consideration to the outcome. Even if the United States succeeds in disabling the Yongbyon reactor, it is not clear how to verify uranium enrichment facilities, he says.

Furthermore, John Bolton raises concern over negative impacts on the US-Japanese alliance, posed by current six-party negotiation. In view of possible US-North Korean compromise without consideration to abductees held by Kim Jong Il, I often hear some Japanese conservatives question the validity of staunch alliance with the United States. Regarding this issue, John Bolton argues as the following.

Thomas Schieffer, the Bush administration's ambassador to Japan, reportedly complained recently to the president that he was "cut out of the process." State should explain why it trusts North Korea more than our ambassador to Tokyo, and why we ignore Tokyo's concerns over North Korea's kidnappings of Japanese citizens.

As Reuter reports on December 4, North Korea takes a delaying tactics in the nuclear negotiation. Hawks are right to question current six-party talks.

Things may change after the forthcoming Presidential Election in South Korea on January 19 next year. South Koreans question current president Roh Moo Hyung’s Sunshine Policy against North Korea. I hope a conservative candidate wins this election.

Consequently, Shocker is Shocker! Harsher resolutions, such as military intimidation as taken in the Cuba crisis, need to be considered.