Sunday, March 30, 2008

5th Anniversary: Rights and Wrongs of the Iraq War

It is 5 years since US and British forces attacked Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Until the surge drafted by Frederick Kagan, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jack Kean, Retired General of the US Army, Iraq had been implemented, the US-led coalition had been facing critical difficulties. However, things have improved since then, particularly in the Sunni triangle, the dangerous areas in Iraq. In the presidential election this year, Iraq is one of the key issues. Therefore, it is vital that we discuss rights and wrongs in the Iraq War, and explore necessary measures for victory.

Has the surge really succeeded? Prior to the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War, the United Nations released a report on human rights in Iraq, saying that violent attacks dwindled significantly in the Baghdad area. Also, the United Nations welcome the decision of the Iraqi government to join the UN Convention against the Torture (“Iraq: UN report on rights violations says violent attacks in decline”; UN News Centre; March 15, 2008).

Shortly after the release of this report, Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain visited Iraq to hail progress in defeating terrorists. On March 19, President George W. Bush delivered a speech on Iraq and the War on Terror to proclaim success of the war despite substantial difficulties, and advocate steadfast commitment until the mission completes. Regarding post Saddam turmoil, President Bush addressed the following.

My administration understood that America could not retreat in the face of terror. And we knew that if we did not act, the violence that had been consuming Iraq would worsen, and spread, and could eventually reach genocidal levels. Baghdad could have disintegrated into a contagion of killing, and Iraq could have descended into full-blown sectarian warfare.

So we reviewed the strategy -- and changed course in Iraq. We sent reinforcements into the country in a dramatic policy shift that is now known as "the surge." General David Petraeus took command with a new mission: Work with Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people, pressure [sic] the enemy into strongholds, and deny the terrorists sanctuary anywhere in the country. And that is precisely what we have done.

The President emphasized that terrorists and Iran would be emboldened, if the United States left Iraq at the mercy of their vandalism.

As if challenging American leaders, Shiite militia’s uprising is being intensified in the Basra area since the presidential speech (“More than 100 Dead in Two Days of Iraq Fighting”; CNN; March 26, 2008). Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that stability in early March this year was founded on fragile political compromise among ethnic and religious sects. She casts doubt on effectiveness of the surge, and stresses importance of political process.

However, it is apparent that premature withdrawal is no help for stability in Iraq. In view of recent uprising in Basra, Britain has changed its decision to cut troops there. As the Iraqi Forces failed to defeat Shiite militants in the Southern region, Prime Minister Gordon Brown needs to scrap the troop reduction plan last October. Ministry of Defence does not rule out sending a small force, in addition to currently staying troops (“Basra Crisis Leaves British Withdrawal in Ruins”; The Times; March 28, 2008). Although David Hamilton, Labour Member of Parliament on the Commons Defence Committee, agree to scarp the troop reduction plan, he worries that fighting both in Iraq and Afghanistan poses substantial burden to Britain (“Iraq violence puts pull-out of 1,500 UK troops in doubt”; The Scotsman; 29 March, 2008).

Richard Perle, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, evaluates rights and wrongs in the Iraq War (“We Made Mistakes in Iraq, but I Still Believe the War Was Just”; Sunday Telegraph; 16 March, 2008). He says that the war itself was the right decision as the Coalition defeated Saddam Hussein in just 21 days. However, Perle points out some critical errors in the occupation. The seminal mistake, he believes, is that the Coalition did not hand Iraq to an interim government when Baghdad fell. As a result, Iraqis see US Forces occupiers rather than liberators, and insurgents ―― both Al Qaeda and ex-Baathists ―― made use of such antipathy to Americans.

Despite unexpected difficulties, Richard Perle mentions positive consequences of US occupation. Iraqis did not yield to obstruction by terrorists, and voted in the first free election in the Arab world. In addition, partnership with traditional leaders has made the surge successful.

Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an architect of the surge, points out that US Forces attack the right target with heavy firepower thanks to close cooperation with local leaders (“The Army Grew into the Job”; New York Times; March 16, 2008).

Finally, I would like to mention an article by Peter D. Feaver, ex-Alexander F. Hehmeyer professor of political science at Duke University (“Why We Went Into Iraq: The question McCain must answer”; Weekly Standard; March 24, 2008). Feaver argues that McCain be steadfast to advocate the case for the original decision to invade Iraq. This will encourage pro-war citizens in America. According to Feaver, President Bush failed to appeal the original case for the invasion, and talked about how to manage on going turmoil in Iraq. It appeared a guilty plea to the public. Feaver insists McCain not repeat this mistake.

On the other hand, Peter Feaver criticizes war opponents for the following reasons. Though nuclear weapons were not found, they also believed Saddam Hussein posed a grave threat with nuclear bombs. They have no qualification to blame information “errors”. In addition, Feaver points out that Barack Obama showed no idea to deal with Saddam Hussein in 2002, when no inspectors stayed in Iraq and UN sanctions were falling apart. Though the threat of US Forces reinvigorated the Security Council and the inspection regime, Obama opposed this power-oriented approach, Feaver says.

Having reviewed articles and news reports mentioned here, I conclude that the Coalition and the global society must be relentless to defeat insurgents in Iraq. Downsizing of British troops has lead to current turmoil around Basra. As Peter Feaver points out, arguments by war-critics are poorly founded. It is important to learn lessons from past wrongs, but the endeavor in Iraq should be steadfast, never apologetic.

Monday, March 24, 2008

John McCain ahead of Democrats

While Democrats candidates are still bickering over presidential candidacy, Senator John McCain impressed his well-preparedness for the job of the next US president. Just before the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War, McCain visited Iraq on the same day as Vice President Dick Cheney did. Shortly after that, John McCain talked with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and then, flew to London. He talked with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Opposition Leader David Cameron to strengthen the Anglo-American alliance. Let me discuss his foreign and domestic policy, and explore some clues to foresee his presidency if elected.

McCain made his 8th visit to Iraq since US-led invasion in March 2003 on 16th of this month, as a member of the fact finding mission of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator McCain proclaimed success of the Iraq War as Vice President Cheney did. In addition, McCain articulated that continual presence of US forces to complete the mission in Iraq would be the only way to end the war quickly (“McCain Visits Iraq”; Reuters; March 17,2008).

Although this is a Senate Armed Services Committee mission, not a Presidential Election campaign, it impresses that John McCain is more qualified for the next president than Democrat candidates, as reported the following (“John McCain”; ABC News; March 20, 2008).

"While Clinton and Obama are fighting each other viciously in America, McCain is overseas looking very much like a president, and that's what his campaign wants people to think of him as," said ABC News political consultant Mark Halperin.

After the visit to Iraq, John McCain talked with leaders of key US allies, such as King Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, and President Nicholas Sarkozy of France. Currently, McCain is far ahead of Democrats in foreign policy.

In London, Senator McCain talked with Prime Minister Brown and Conservative Leader Cameron to praise British commitment to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to Middle East security, John McCain discussed climate change with Gordon Brown. Meanwhile, he avoided mentioning possible downsizing of British forces in Iraq, so as not to provoke antiwar voices in Britain. Quite importantly, McCain backed Brown to talk with Dalai Lama on oppression in Tibet (“Senator praises British troops in Iraq”; the Herald; March 21, 2008).

On the other hand, his domestic policy needs a closer look. Will John McCain try to keep conservative electorates on his side, or court moderates who would possibly convert from Democrats to Republicans? This is a critical test to foresee policies of the McCain administration.

Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of the Weekly Standard, argues that John McCain does not have many options to choose his running mate, because he needs to keep GOP conservatives on his side, to assure the victory in the election. In addition, the vice president candidate must be a sufficient political heavyweight. Senator Joseph Lieberman has been a long-term friend to McCain, but he is too liberal. Most of the Republican rivals at the primary failed to attract enough votes. Therefore, Barnes insists that Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the right choice (“The Veepstakes”; Weekly Standard; March 17, 2008). In that case, McCain policies will not depart from intellectual bases of mainstream Republicans.

Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for NPR, argues completely the opposite. She says that the nomination of John McCain symbolizes a radical change in the Republican Party, as he wears bipartisan credentials on his sleeve. Quoting words of Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, Liasson comments that McCain is the only candidate who can appeal to swing voters called “Sam’s Club Republicans” as opposed to “Country Club Republicans”. Unlike Republican establishments, Sam’s Club voters care more about governmental help for welfare, though they retain small government ideals.

This stark contrast between Fred Barnes and Mara Liasson is very impressive. John McCain is no less revolutionary than black candidate Barack Obama and female candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. His domestic policy deserves substantial attention as much as his foreign policy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A DVD Film with Niall Ferguson: The World without US

As if it were a landmark of the presidential election in the United States and 5 year commemoration of the Iraq War, a controversial DVD documentary film was launched in September 2007. This is entitled “The World without US”, directed by Mitch Anderson and Jason Tomaric. This movie questions isolationist opinions among liberals, and depicts catastrophic consequences of American withdrawal from overseas. It seems that this DVD film caricatures Iraq policy by Democrat candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Actually the Center for a New American Security, a think tank working closely with Hillary Clinton, calls for early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and restructure the forces as they come home to make the US military better and stronger.

Niall Ferguson is often referred to in Global American Discourse, because he is a leading advocate of the Anglo-American “benevolent” imperialism. A British historian, he has a distinguished reputation both in Britain and America. Currently he is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University where he earned his bachelor’s to doctor’s degree. He was selected one of 100 eminent persons in the world by Time Magazine in 2005.

Some politicians, corporations, NGOs, and individual activists make films to promote their ideals. Occasionally, such movies devote themselves to their agendas so much that they miss objectivity. There is nothing to worry about such mishandling of information, as far as comments by Niall Ferguson are concerned. The quality of discussion in this DVD is guaranteed.

The film is composed of dramas, documentaries, and interviews. The drama is stared by Roy Werner, acting a presidential candidate named Turner who insists on withdrawal of all the US forces abroad. The consequences of this turn out to be catastrophic to world peace, as you easily understand. Also, three Japanese actors ―― Tomo Kawaguchi, Mark Ofuji, and Mari Ueda ―― perform main characters in this film.

Along with documentaries, experts from Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific are interviewed. In addition to Niall Ferguson and James Lilley, former US ambassador to China, South Korea, and Taiwan, some experts represent the voice of nations in desperate need of US intervention. Kang Cheol-Hwan, a former North Korean refugee, is one of such experts. Also, Hsiao Bi-Khim, a legislator of Taiwan, raises concern if the United States withdraws prematurely from overseas. The Taiwan Strait is one of the critical frontlines of possible Sino-American clash, and what she comments in this film is plausible.

Professor Niall Ferguson makes the following comments vital to understand global security. In Trailer 1, Ferguson reminds the global public, “The world is not naturally a peaceful, organized place.” Yes, it is Hobbesian, not Kantian. At the end of Trailer 2, Ferguson tells irresponsible anti-American opinion leaders, “Be careful what you wish for.”

This impressive movie is a product of collaboration by three leading industrialized democracies, i.e., the United States, Britain, and Japan. My fellow citizens across the globe, listen carefully to the message by Niall Ferguson!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Multipolar World?

Ever since the war in Iraq and Afghanistan broke out, antipathy to American hegemony has been being intensified among leftists and nationalists across the globe. Some even anticipate challenging powers like Russia and China, and emerging economies like India and Brazil to expand their stakes in global political economy, in order to change the American world order into a multipolar one. Is it really desirable to the global community? Can emerging powers replace the United States, Europe, and Japan? In the last post, I have quoted a Financial Times discussion between Robert Kagan and Gideon Rachman.

Neither Russia nor China has any ideology of universal appeal. Despite high-handed diplomacy these days, both powers are isolated. Russia feels uneasy with eastward expansion of NATO and the EU. China draws suspicious attention from its neighbors facing Chinese threats. New European nation are willing to get out of Russian influence, and join the West. The Japanese take pride in the status as the only nation in the Asia Pacific to share chief executive seats with Americans and Europeans.

While those who resent American or Western supremacy may be pleased that Russia and China counterbalance the West, the global community does not expect their leadership role in the world. In other words, multipolarism is based on negative psychology to liberal world order under American hegemony, but not on innovative instinct to create a new world order. Remember that the transition from British hegemony to American hegemony was relatively smooth, because both empires share common universal philosophy to manage the globe. On the other hand, both Russia and China are more preoccupied with national and neighbor affairs than Anglo-American liberal hegemonies.

Some opinion leaders argue that Russia expands its influence through energy diplomacy. However, as witnessed in the fall of OPEC, energy resource is no useful device to be a real super power. Eventually, resource export countries will fall dependent on industrialized nations. Moreover, both Russia and China are bidding to join the IMF-WTO regime, Western system of global economy. For this purpose, they need to upgrade the level of freedom, human rights, and transparency to that of the West.

However, as I quoted “Illiberal Capitalism” of the Financial Times in the last post, some leaders in the developing world regard the Russo-Chinese authoritarian capitalism as a model for their economic policy. While Russia is dependent on high energy price, China is likely to enjoy continual high growth. Some developing countries welcome Chinese aid more than Western one, because no political reforms are required to accept aid from China. The problem is, both giants have political weaknesses such as turmoil in Tibet, Chechnya, and other regions of ethnic minorities.

Regardless of some rises and falls, the Economist asserted that the United States still enjoy overwhelming advantages in hard power and soft power, as mentioned in a previous post “A Review of the Economist’s Assessment on American Hegemony”. Also, I would like to mention the structural power model, invented by late Susan Strange, Professor Emeritus of the London School of Economics. In global political economy, there are two powers, structural and relational. Structural power decides how things shall be done, while relational power simply let others do something which they would not otherwise do. The United States is the only power to excel four dimensions of structural power: production, finance, knowledge, and security (“States and Markets”; p. 24~29; Susan Strange). This power owes substantially to universal liberal values. Even Islamic radicals appreciate Western liberalism as I said in a previous post, “Five Questions on Islamic Radicalism”.

The only power that can rival or replace America is a unified European Union. It has the economy of scale, brains, industry, technology, financial institutions, and universal ideology. However, none of the nations in Europe are willing to sacrifice national sovereignty for unification. Also, people are cautious of Brussels bureaucracy. In finance, euro may become another key currency, but it will be no alternative for dollar as Britain stays out of it. Despite fundamental advantages in science, technology, and the economy, Europeans are not willing to build up military power to match evenly with that of the United States.

Will the world evolve into a multipolar one? The answer depends on how you define a “multipolar” world. Challengers may be able to “protest” Pax Americana, but not furthermore. They cannot create a new world order and the system.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Russo-Chinese Challenge to Our Liberal Capitalism

In the last presidential election of Russia on March 2, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been elected. It is widely believed that President Medvedev will be a puppet of Prime Minister Putin, and continue to pursue policy course set by the Putin administration. An ex-president of an oil company, will Medvedev take nationalist energy diplomacy? More importantly, a strategic partnership between a self-assertive Russia and an ambitious China will pose a critical challenge to our liberal capitalism. Success of their authoritarian capitalism can attract anti-Western dictators in developing nations, which will erode our liberal world order. Therefore, I would like to talk about Russian foreign policy under the next administration, and challenges to the global community by the Russo-Chinese partnership.

First, let me mention Medvedev’s bio data in “Russia Profile”. Having graduated from Leningrad University (currently, St. Petersburg University) with a law degree, he developed close personal contacts with Vladimir Putin, while heading Gazprom. Though Putin is expected to use strong influence on him, the predecessor is likely to advise Medvedev in softer tones, according to his profile in this journal.

With regard to implication of this election, Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director at the Carnegie Endowment Moscow Center, has contributed an article to the Wall Street Journal (“The Meaning of Medvedev”; March 4, 2008). Trenin points out “Mr. Medvedev's task is twofold: to make decisive progress toward the rule of law, and to improve Russians' health, housing and education standards, even as the country moves past its commodities-driven economy and builds a foundation for economic innovation.” Despite successful economy, Russia will remain authoritarian and un-transparent for the time being. As a Russian, Trenin admits this. However, he insists that the Medvedev Russia will move toward constitutionalism.

Dmitri Trenin points out that Russia cannot survive in the global economy without freedom and accountability. Therefore, he says that liberalism is widely supported among businessmen, professionals, middle class, and progressive bureaucrats. Also, he points out that Russia has reached the limits of the current economic model. In his view, the trend toward political freedom is irreversible in Russia. At the same time, Trenin comments that political liberalization will not complete in Medvedev’s presidential term, and the next four year will be a crucial step for further reform to be continued in the future.

However, in foreign policy, Trenin argues that Russia will pursue geopolitical rivalry against the West. As witnessed in energy sanction to Ukraine, Russia feels uneasy with its lonely great power position. In conclusion, Dmitri Trenin says “Russia is gradually transforming itself into a Western-type society and economy, while politically standing very much apart from Europe. It is a country to watch closely. Dmitry Medvedev comes at an interesting time.”

Will Russia pose challenge to the West along with China? Both great powers have much in common. While pursuing free market economy, political elites in both countries are still reluctant for rapid reform at this stage. Moreover, they are becoming increasingly antagonistic to unipolar American world order and Western supremacy in global politics and economy.

Finally, let me review the discussion between Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist of the Financial Times, and Robert Kagan, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (“Illiberal Capitalism”; Financial Times; January 22, 2008). This article questions as the following. In Russia and China, capitalism has not led to Western-style democracy. The new Russo-Chinese model advocates a combination of economic development, state authority, and nationalism. The Russo-Chinese axis opposes Western pressure on rogue states. It is important to understand the implication of the rise of illiberal capitalism, and whether their model will replace the Western model.

Kagan and Rachman answered to questions from both sides of the Atlantic. Most of them are about the implication of the Russo-Chinese model to the West. Though autocrats in developing countries may be attracted to authoritarian capitalism model in Russia and China, Robert Kagan denies that both giants are exporting their models. They do not hold universal ideologies. However, Kagan points out that their influence growth in international organizations will encourage autocrats. Rachman mentions Chinese soft power to defy American or Western supremacy. China questions democracy promotion by America and Europe. However, Rachman point out the limit of Chinese soft power, because Asian neighbors take threat posed by China seriously.

Other questions are more or less the same. But one by a Chinese reader raises concern that criticism to Russia and China comes from Western-centrism. Both Kagan and Rachman reply that the West today respects multiculturalism. However, they agree that some non-Western nations are reluctant to accept Western enlightenment as a universal value. This is what I discussed in a previous post, “New Year Question: Antipathy to Western Civilization and Pax Americana”. I recommend the Financial Times article quoted in this post.

Although as Trenin says, progressive intellectuals in Russia and some of them in China may move both nations toward liberalism gradually, they remain authoritarian for some decades. The rise of nationalism will delay political liberalization. The Russo-Chinese defiance to the expansion of our liberal political economy will be one of the most important issues in this century.