Thursday, January 31, 2008

Turmoil in Pakistan and US Policy

On the New Year’s Day, Peter Beinart, Editor at Large of the New Republic and Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, appeared in an NPR radio program, and commented that Pakistan will be a critical test for the Bush administration’s commitment for democracy promotion. Beinart says that the United States faces a dilemma, whether to support or abandon a pro-America dictator. He warns that a failure in dealing with current crisis will make Pakistan another Iran.

Pakistan is a frontline of the War on Terror and nuclear non-proliferation. The collapse of this country will pose considerably negative impacts to US strategy. Prior to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Daniel Markey and Husain Haqqani discusses US policy on Pakistan in “The FP Debate: Should the US Abandon Pervez Musharraf?” in Foreign Policy, November 2007. While Markey says “no”, Haqqani says “yes.”

Daniel Markey, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Former Policy Staff at the Department of State, says that though Musharraf failed in building a political party with grassroots appeal since he took power in 1999, his step down will not necessarily lead Pakistan to Jeffersonian democracy. That will undermine the US-Pakistani cooperation military, counterterrorism, and intelligence, which would ultimately pose negative effects on US security. Furthermore, he points out Pakistani reformists led by Bhutto must work with Musharraf in order to win power.

On the other hand, Husain Haqqani, Professor of Boston University and Former Advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhotto, argues that not only through authoritarian rule but also through mishandling of terrorism, Musharraf is talibanizing Pakistan. While fighting against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf has been reluctant to confront Taliban in Afghanistan. As a result, Haqqani points out that the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan has become a terrorists’ safe haven.

It is important that Pervez Musharraf is just one of generals in current regime of Pakistan. Robert Kagan, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, comments that it does not mean the collapse of Pakistan if the United States abandon Musharraf. This was not the case with the Pahlavi Iran, that is, while the fall of the shah meant the loss of US ally in case of Iran, the fall of Musharraf does not necessarily in Pakistan (“Musharraf and the Con Game”; Washington Post; November 22, 2007).

Having read the above three commentaries, I wonder whether there are any leaders to replace Musharraf. Benazir Bhutto was killed, and Nawaz Sharif does not look strong enough. Whether to support Musharraf or not, the key point is to maintain Pakistan an ally on the War on Terror.

In this discussion, it is important to understand Pakistan’s stance in the war on Terror. Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that the United States needs to be more patient (“Pakistan ―― Conflicted Ally in the War on Terror”; Carnegie Policy Brief; December 2007). According to Tellis, Pakistan takes a double standard: hard on Al Qeada but soft on Taliban, because Pakistani leaders worry that the collapse of Taliban will lead to inflame Pashutun sensitivities, which will undermine cooperation between the tribes in the Federally Administrated Tribal Area and the military. Also the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate agents are reluctant to cut old ties with Taliban. In addition to political complexities in Pakistan, Tellis points out that the Karzai administration of Afghanistan has been inefficient in curbing corruption and improving the economy, which makes the problem furthermore complicated.

In view of these problems, Ashley Tellis insists that removing Pervez Musharraf does not assure radically improved motivation and performance of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operations. Instead, he advises the United States say frustration with Pakistan’s counterterrorism performance straightforwardly, while provide organizational, technical and financial support for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also, Tellis recommends NATO expand military activities in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Policy recommendations by Ashley Tellis sound plausible. As Islamic radical are grave concerns in South West Asia, I think it necessary to get India involved. Prime Minister Manmmohan Singh has been developing strategic partnership with the United States since 9-11, because of threats by Islamic militants in Jammu Kashmir.

Nuclear weapon is another critical issue. In “Day to Day” on NPR program on December 28, George Perkovich, Vice President of the Carnegie Endowment, comments that the Pakistani military holds a tight grip on its nuclear weapons. He says that the United States and its allies focus much more on political turmoil in this country.

What is the impact of assassination of Benazir Bhutto? In "Lou Dobbs Tonight" of CNN on December 27, Christine Fair, Senior Political Analyst of the Rand Corporation, comments that Bhotto had a slim chance of winning the election. She says that Musharraf tried to have a reasonably fair and free election, in order to boost his legitimacy. Both guests, Christine Fair and Ashley Tellis, agree that election needs to be held sooner, because it is not preferable for the United States to see Musharraf use this crisis to strengthen his dictatorship. They conclude that the United States should help support democratic institutions in Pakistan, not President Musharraf personally.

For further information, please see the video of a congressional testimony at the House Subcomitee on the Middle Eats and South Asia (Windows , ; Quick Time , ; Podcast , ). In addition to Tellis and Fair, Lisa Curtis, Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, attended a hearing on US-Pakistani relations.

Finally, I would like to mention an interesting blog by Hassan Abbas, Research Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His blog, entitled Watandost, discusses affairs in Pakistan and its neighbors. Abbas is a former official of the Pakistani government. In the post, “An Indian Perspective on What Went Wrong with Pakistan” on January 16, Hassan Abbas compares a Nehruvian democracy in India and Cold War driven authoritarianism in Pakistan. Certainly, the United States was obsessed with the Red threat, and Pakistani dictators made use of it to strengthen their positions.

It is not the matter of President Pervez Musharraf himself. It is a matter of Pakistani political structure and history since its independence. The United States, Britain, and European allies can demand further reform to Pakistan. However, as Ashley Tellis commented at the congressional testimony, the reform should be acceptable to Pakistani people, not simply fair and free.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Foreign Policy Challenges to the Next US President

Currently, rivalry in the presidential election of the United States is becoming more and more intensified. People tend to pay too much attention to the rise and fall of individual candidates day by day. However, it is vital that the most competent commander in chief must be selected to protect US homeland and solidify the American world order. Neither gender nor “blood and colour” should be a top agenda.

The next President of the United States will face unprecedented challenges in the War on Terror, nuclear non-proliferation, and dealing with rising economies like China and Russia. President George W. Bush will pass Middle East problems, such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine to his successor.

In view of foreign policy turning points, Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution and Former Deputy Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, contributed an article, “Trouble Ahead for the Next U.S. President” to Financial Times Magazine on January 4.

Talbott was a roommate with Former President Bill Clinton as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. Therefore, he argues US foreign policy from Clintonian viewpoints. However, removing some biases, this article makes some crucial policy recommendations for US and foreign leaders and citizens.

Let me comment briefly to this article. Strobe Talbott says that the rift between the United States and the United Nations be repaired. So is the relationship with US allies, he argues. Talbott is critical to the Bush administration’s “unilateralist” policy on Iraq and disregard of international institutions.

Talbott urges the next president ―― whether Republican or Democrat ―― to address complete obligation to the Geneva and UN torture conventions, and re-sign the International Criminal Court treaty, in order to send a clear message that the successor will take utterly different policy approaches from those of the Bush administration.

Throughout this article, Strobe Talbott insists on Kantian rule-based foreign policy, rather than Hobbesian power-oriented foreign policy advocated by neoconservatives. He argues that nuclear non-proliferation and climate change are urgent issues for the next president to take actions. On the other hand, he does not mention democracy promotion and the War on Terror, both of which will continue to be key foreign policy agendas after the Bush administration. I am disappointed with this point.

However, I agree with him that the United States value multilateral approaches to manage global issues and defeat present dangers. Though Talbott is critical to Bush diplomacy, I have to remind readers that NATO globalization has started under current administration. NATO is exploring strategic cooperation with Japan and Australia. Success in Afghanistan is a step toward the future. It is a pleasure that Japan is back to the Indian Ocean to help NATO.

Regarding nuclear non-proliferation, Strobe Talbott insists on obligation to NPT rules. Actually, he is a vocal critic to the US-India nuclear deal between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Also, he urges the next president to respect the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. I do necessarily not agree to rigidly rule based approaches, because the United States needs new partners like India. Asia-Pacific allies such as Japan and Australia are exploring strategic ties with this country. I believe America’s policy option be more flexible. But I agree with Talbott that non-proliferation issue has become more important than ever.

Another issue is climate change. It is a critical issue, and the global community needs US leadership. Strobe Talbott argues that the United States ratify the Kyoto Protocol immediately. In my view, more practical ways need to be suggested. Right or wrong, the Kyoto Protocol was rejected at the Senate. It is unlikely that Albert Gore movie change such atmosphere. Will the next administration show alternatives without damaging America’s national interest? It is true that the Bush administration failed to do so.

Whether you agree with him or not, there is no denying that Strobe Talbott points out vital agendas for the next president. America stands at crossroads, and the world stands at crossroads as well. The most desirable candidate is the one who is qualified to be the most competent commander in chief and able to pursue multilateral endeavor like NATO globalization.

The selection of the leader is beyond party politics. I feel resented with the tear and sympathy tactic and an appeal for women voters by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would have never done a thing like that. She said she became the Prime Minister not because she was a woman, but because her policy was right. If she were to be the real commander in chef, Hillary Clinton must behave like Lady Thatcher of Finchley.

Who will take over unfinished job of President Bush in the Middle East, non-proliferation, and other global issues? The brightest commander of multilateral efforts is wanted now.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is the Chinese Economy Really Strong?

The economy of China is expanding rapidly these days. Some people say China will grow to become a real challenger to the American world order in this century. There is no doubt that China is exploring bigger stake in global politics and economy. Global American Discourse has published a few posts on China’s military ambition in the past as shown below.

US Policy against China’s Military Build-up
1-11 Shock: Reagan Diplomacy Needed against China’s Ambition in the Space

In addition, Chinese leaders regard the Beijing Olympic this year as a spring board for greater power. China is exploring the same path followed by Japan in 1964 Tokyo Olympic and South Korea in1988 Seoul Olympic.

In such harsh power rivalries on global and regional stages, the World Bank announced on December 18 last year that the economy of China had been overestimated, and it was 40% smaller than previously thought. The Bank uses purchasing power parity (PPP), which focuses on individual consumption, to evaluate wealth and poverty of 146 economies. According to this survey, the richest nations in terms pf per capita PPP are Luxemburg, the United States, Iceland, Britain, and Norway. Despite this, China still remains the second largest economy after the United States in the Bank’s ranking.

Prior to the World Bank’s press release, Albert Keidel, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has contributed an article, “Limits of a Smaller and Poorer China” to the Financial Times on November 14 last year. As I mentioned in the previous post, “Carnegie Report on Economic Growth and Rural Society in China”, Albert Keidel has conducted field researches with Liu Jiaxing, at the International Cooperation Center of the National Development and Reform Commission in China. Also, several Chinese assistants helped his research. Therefore, his analyses are not Western-centered, and reflect Chinese viewpoints very well.

Let me summarize and review the article. According to Keidel, recent surveys by the Asian development Bank and the World Bank concludes that “the number of people in China living below the World Bank's dollar-a-day poverty line is 300million - three times larger than currently estimated.” This is an astonishing figure, and roughly a quarter of China’s total population.

As China had never participated in international price surveys, it is difficult to calculate its PPP in dollars accurately. In view of large shares of the world’s poor in rising economies, including China, India, and Brazil, World Bank President Robert Zoellick argues that the Bank continue to lend them. Keidel says that China will not grow big enough to challenge American predominance so immediately as often argued among some opinion leaders. Rather than focusing on Chinese military threat, he advises that the Unites States and it allies help China’s economic development conductive to political moderation.

Economic analyses presented by Albert Keidel sound rational and persuasive. Then, why do Chinese Communist Party leaders quibble over the American world order? China’s military build-up is extremely rapid. Its ambition in the space is evident.

Security is not the only issues which China explores vigorous rivalries against the West. At press conferences, the Chinese government accepts questions in Chinese only. In addition to the language, the Chinese authority has been continually defying universal ideals of enlightenment, human rights, and liberty.

Apparently, China tries to rival against America, or more broadly, against the West. Why? Are the Chinese willing to sacrifice poorer economy to challenge the West just as the North Koreans are? It is a mystery. America, Europe, and Japan need further watch on China.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Year Question: Antipathy to Western Civilization and Pax Americana

The year 2007 ended with a nightmarish terrorist attack in Pakistan, murdering Benazir Bhutto. Backlashes against Western civilization in the Islamic world will be a critical issue this year. This is a grave challenge to American leadership in the world. On NPR radio, Peter Beinart, Editor at Large of New Republic, said Pakistan will be a serious test for the Bush administration’s commitment to promote democracy.

Islam is not the only actors against the supremacy of Western civilization. As I mentioned in a previous post, China is exploring another world order of Confucius values, in order to rival the United States. Also, Russia is behaving more and more assertively, due to successful economy under the Putin administration.

Now, I have questions. Why are they so reluctant to accept Western enlightenmentism, and stick to Dark Age authoritarianism? What kind of negative impact will they have on the liberal world order?

I do not have objections to multiculturalism, as long as it does not disturb social cohesion in one country and contributes to further development of the liberal world order. As Professor Yan Xuetong at Tsinga University in Beijing insists, the rise of Oriental values could enrich world civilization.

The problem is, however, those who advocate resurgence of their national civilizations often make use of this, simply in order to reject enlightenment and defend Dark Age authoritarianism. During 1990s when South East Asian economies rose rapidly, leaders such as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohammad boasted success of Asian values until miserable economic failure in the Asian Financial Crisis. Both of them were vocal critic to Western enlightenment as leaders of China, Russia, and radical Moslems are today.

Also, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, points out that the West has gone through self criticism to its own civilization (“Selling out Moderate Islam”; Weekly Standard; February 20, 2006).

Islamic civilization may yet produce its Edward Gibbon, a sincere religious voyager who ends up scrutinizing the foundations of his civilization with a skeptical, cynical, and, at times, profoundly unfair irreligious eye.

Actually other civilizations, including China, Russia, and the rest of Asia, have yet to produce their own Edward Gibbon as well. Nations mentioned here enjoy rapid rise in the economy these days. Will they contribute to the progress of the global society, or simply end up being malcontents to Western civilization and the American world order? Until they produce their Gibbon, rising economies are likely to remain being malcontents.

The West was savage in the Middle Age. The Occidental world had been under feudal order, ecclesiastical authority, and uncivilized superstitions throughout this period. It was revitalization of Greek and Roman civilizations which disentangled the West from the Dark Age. Western enlightenment has achieved spectacular success in Japan and Turkey. It was successful until the notorious revolution against the Pahlavi modernization in Iran.

On the other hand, it is noteworthy that ecclesiastical dominance in the Dark Age led to the modern era.

Universities were founded and the search for knowledge began, a belief in technology arose, and individualism was invented.

It is difficult to know whether the Protestant religion with its belief in individual connections between man and God to arise or whether that belief in individuality caused Protestant religion to develop, nut in any case the belief in individuality did arise. (The Future of Capitalism, Lester Thurow, p.268)

Despite growing economy, Russia, China, and the rest of Asia are still in the Dark Age. Will they produce some values to step up themselves as the West did during the Middle Age? If not, they will remain nothing else but malcontents to Western enlightenment and the American world order.

For further discussion, I would like to talk about Japan and Western civilization on another occasion, because Japan is exceptional to succeed in disentangling itself from Asian backwardness to join the Western Great Powers Club.