Monday, June 30, 2008

Political Participation of Moderate Islamists for Real Democracy in the Middle East

Democracy promotion in the Middle East is one of the key foreign policy agenda for the United States. European leaders are also tackling this issue. However, real democracy cannot be achieved simply through engagement by Americans and Europeans. As it was the case in Iraq, local citizens play considerably a crucial role in building a stable democracy. Therefore, it is important to understand Arab viewpoints for successful Middle East democratization.

In this post, I would like to refer to an article by Amr Hamzawy, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which explores the role of moderate Islam. Hamzazy is an Egyptian political scientist, and taught at Cairo University and the Free University of Berlin, prior to coming to the United States. His research interest is political participation and Islamic movements in the Arab world.

Now, let me review his article, contributed to an Egyptian journal Al Ahram Weekly (“Where are now for Islamists?”; 5-11 June, 2008). For real political reform in the Middle East, Hamzawy argues that moderate Islamists, such as the Moroccan Justice and Development Party, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in Jordan, the Kuwaiti Constitutional Islamist Movement, and the Bahraini Wefaq National Islamic Society, be admitted more political participation.

Hamzawy insists that political participation of moderate Islamists will pave the way for political plurality, and power redistribution between ruling elites and opposition movements. He points out that the above mentioned moderate Islamic groups enjoy extensive grassroots support.

Remember that Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at the America Enterprise Institute, mentioned importance of grassroots empowerment, when he drafted the surge plan in Iraq. This implies that real political reform to win the War on Terror needs boarder political participation along with military intervention. Hamzawy talks of critically important point, regardless of ideology in the West.

On the other hand, Hamzawy criticizes that moderate Islamists demand too much changes to increase their influences. They tried to expand religious power in public policy and link social Islamization and political participation. Hamzawy comments that such demands deter moderate Islamists from establishing flexible alliances with non-religious oppositions.

Therefore, Amr Hamzawy makes the following recommendations.

1. Islamists must convince their popular bases that priority be given to political participation even though some compromise with the government is necessary. Grassroots who support moderate Islamists must understand that their socio-economic requirements will be achieved through step-by step efforts.

2. Islamists must find a suitable and practical balance between political participation and religious dogma. In other words, they need to balance between pragmatism and ideological commitment.

3. Islamists must separate religious inducement and political activities. This is the key to institutionalize advocacy organizations such as political parties and associations.

As to Recommendation 3, I think that moderate Islamists have much to learn from Christian democratic parties in Europe (Christian Democratic Union in Germany, Union of Christain and Centre Democrats in Italy, and so forth), and the New Komeito Party (a Buddhist party) in Japan.

Hamzawy’s recommendation is applicable beyond the Arab world. For example, Turkey is facing resurgence of Islamism these days. This is partly because Turkish people are disillusioned with Brussels’ continual rejection for EU membership. Though it is absolutely necessary to maintain a Kemalist regime, coercive confrontation with Islamists does not serve national interests of Turkey.

In order to isolate radical Islamists to win the War on Terror, successful dialogues with moderate Islamists are essential. The global society needs more attention to viewpoints by Arab and Islamic opinion leaders. Amr Hamzawy presents invaluable recommendations for Middle East governments and Western leaders.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Key Person: From Grand Old Party to Grand New Party?

Sam’s Club Republican

Title: Various
Education: Various
United States

(Photo: “Sam’s Club Politics”; In These Times; May 30, 2008)

In this post, the person of focus is not a single individual. However, they are suitable to what is mentioned in the first post of this category, “This corner talks about specific person who advocates important agendas in international affairs, regardless of fame, power, popularity, and social status.” In a previous post, I have quoted a comment by Mara Liasson, saying that Senator John McCain’s presidential candidacy is due to the shift of Republican political base from Country Club Republicans to Sam’s Club Republicans. In other words, Republicans have begun to drawing attention from young and working class voters, through emphasizing social conservative values and active governmental involvement in social welfare.

Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, is the first Republican to expand political power base beyond traditional sphere. Matthew Continetti, Associate Editor at the Weekly Standard, explores changes toward increasingly grassroots-oriented Republican Party (“Tooting the Horn of Pawlenty: Meet the first Sam's Club Republican”, Weekly Standard; May 7, 2007).

Continetti points out that younger generation between 18 to 29 years old are disillusioned with Bush Republicanism. In addition, he says that successful Republican governors these days――such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts――adopt conservatism à la carte policies. While emphasizing some conservative ideals like lower taxes, they are flexible to mix some “liberal” measures. Their policies combine social conservatism with active governmental assistance to working class.

In 2006 election, Democrats won the majority because younger voters were annoyed with Country Club Republicans and chose Democrat candidates. The Republican Party regards this serious blow for the future, because the youth can continue to support the Democrat. In such a political climate, did Pawlenty’s slogan of “The Party of Sam’s Club” emerge.

Continetti concludes his article as the following.

Few people would deny that Tim Pawlenty is a man of the right. The problem is that it's becoming harder and harder to determine who or what is a "man of the right." The top three Republican presidential candidates--Giuliani, McCain, and Romney--all disagree with aspects of the movement-conservative agenda. Outside the South, successful Republican politicians have felt the need to move left in order to remain competitive. For all but diehard activists, the borders of conservatism are in flux. It's reasonable to assume that someday soon, after a haphazard and acrimonious process, those borders will be worked out. The question is just how much of what we think of as "conservatism" will be left.

Prior to this article, Ross Douthat, Associate Editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and Reihan Salem, freelance writer, present dedicated analyses of Sam’s Club voters (“The party of Sam’s Club”; Weekly Standard; November 14, 2005). They point out that the Bush administration’s enterprise-oriented socio-economic policies such as Social Security privatization. However, both authors argue that the majority of Republican supporters, consisted of social conservatives and pro-government conservatives are critical to big business, and they advocate governmental intervention to help families from the global economy.

In view of socio-economic changes, the Republican is transforming from a male corporate party to a female family party. In conclusion, Douthat and Salem make the following recommendation.

So today's Republican party should be in favor of helping recent immigrants get ahead and slowing the flow of illegal labor--in favor of providing a helping hand to the hard working poor and cutting subsidies to the idle and shiftless--in favor of a tax policy that favors the working class and the productive rich. Above all, it should be in favor of limited government, and in favor of using government's considerable power to shore up the institution that makes a limited government possible--the beleaguered but resilient American family.

Since then, Ross Douthat has contributed a post-scrip of this article (“The party of Sam’s Club”; Atlantic Monthly; May 8, 2008). He says that Senator John McCain and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee drew more votes than Congressman Ron Paul at the primary, because the GOP is changing from a country club party to a working class party. Many of them are skilled workers, and more affluent than the middle class such as teachers, journalists, and academics. They do not believe in a high tax welfare state, but advocate governmental assistance to maintain a family value society. They criticize corporate libertarianism like free trade.

In order to defeat Democrats relying on mass upper class and the poor, Douthat suggests that Republicans need to win some mass upper class votes along with working class. Therefore, the GOP must retain pro-Bush voters while drawing Sam’s Club supporters. This will be a key to McCain’s nomination of his running mate.

Adam Doster, Senior Editor at In These Times, applauds Douthat and Salem because their working class conservatism hits Democrat’s lack of moral value. However, Doster points out that Douthat and Salem fail to present insightful analyses on socio-economic inequality under the Bush administration. Adam Doster says that John McCain needs to address real working class conservatism (“Sam’s Club Politics”; In These Times; May 30, 2008).

Sam’s Club Republicans will play a critical role in the presidential election this year. The media focus on Iraq, the War on Terror, and the Subprime mortgage. But grassroots movements are no less important in this election. Will the Grand New Party stimulate political dynamism of America?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Strength and Weakness of McCain and Obama

A British conservative journal, entitled the Spectator, publishes a special blog named Americano to present brief commentaries on US presidential election this year. On this blog, I found an interesting post, “If it's the economy it's Obama, if it's foreign policy it's McCain” (13 June, 2008).

Quoting a CNN poll released on June 12, James Forsyth, Web Editor of the Spectator, says “The poll finds that Obama leads McCain 50-44 on the economy, while McCain has a 54-43 advantage over Obama on foreign policy.” At this early stage, it is not of much use to speculate overall results, and determine which candidates are in a better position. Michael Dukakis led George H. W. Bush in June 1988, and John Kerry led George W. Bush in June 2004 (“Fat Lady Not Singing Yet (Except in California)”; The Plank=The New Republic’s Blog; June 12, 2008).

What I would like to argue is that voters do not trust Senator Barack Obama’s competence in foreign policy despite his wholehearted appeal for sooner withdrawal from Iraq. Senator John McCain’s 54 to 43 lead in foreign policy is substantial, compared with Obama’s 50 to 44 advantages in the economy. As I have mentioned in a previous pots, McCain has already discussed vital security issues with European and Middle Eastern leaders this March to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War. Yoshiki Hidaka, Visiting Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and former Japanese journalist, often comments that McCain’s unyielding commitment to the Iraq War is widely respected among the public. Come to think of it, Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out flip flop attitudes of Senator John F. Kerry and Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton on Iraq.

Now, I have a question. Is Barack Obama so well versed with the economy? He has not articulated his economic policy during the campaign at this stage. Those who chose Obama over McCain in the economy are simply frustrated with economic crises under the Bush administration such as the Subprime mortgage problem. But the economy will not improve through simply denouncing George W. Bush and the Republican Party. If the mortgage problem is so serious as pessimistic economists say, it must be resolved through multilateral policy coordination as seen in the Plaza-Louvre accord in late 1980s. In that case, Obama’s incompetence in foreign policy will be a critical disadvantage. While McCain has launched an initiative for a League of Democracies and talked with European leaders, Obama has not done anything. In addition, Japanese leaders are concerned with Obama’s pro-Chinese stances. Can Barack Obama really lead policy coordination among top industrialized democracies without winning sufficient trust? I doubt it.

More importantly, John McCain is not a carbon copy of current President Bush. In foreign policy, he is more interventionist, and not in favor of early Bush “humble diplomacy”. McCain is more active in cutting greenhouse gas emission. He draws more support from grassroots “Sam’s Club Republicans”, rather than relying on one of Bush’s political bases of “Country Club Republicans”.

Apparently, Barack Obama has not proven his competence and qualification for the President over John McCain. It is John McCain who is really capable of rearranging America’s partnership with Europe and Japan. The problem is the trend of low-information voters as the Economist’s blog “Democracy in America” says (“Which way for Obama and McCain?”; June 13, 2008).

In face of domestic and global challenges, America needs a Theodore Roosevelt, not a Jimmy Carter.

In any case, it is too early to foretell the result of this election. When both candidates select their running mates, prospects will be much clearer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

America’s New Strategy after Bush: A League of Democracies to Manage the Globe

American foreign policy is at crossroads. Presidential candidates talk of Iraq and the War on Terror. WMD non-proliferation, rogue states, and the rise of Sino-Russian illiberal capitalisms are also critical issues. In face of new challenges, the next President of the United States needs to re-strengthen strategic partnership with allies.

Adrian Wooldridge, Chief of Washington Bureau at the Economist, warns that current debates between both parties are preoccupied with the War on Terror and Iraq, and America is not well prepared to deal with challenges by China and Russia (“America and the World: After Bush”; The Economist; March 27, 2008). Despite these difficulties, he says that America still fascinates people around the world. Global citizens watch the presidential election closely, because its dynamism is very dramatic (“Special Report: America and the World”; Economist Interview; June 8, 2008).

The Republican candidate, Senator John McCain has launched a new initiative to create a League of Democracies, which will be the core of the American world order in this century. This idea is widely supported among leading policymakers from liberals to conservatives such as Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay, John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Robert Kagan, and so forth. Can this initiative re-build US leadership, and help free nations stand against Russo-Chinese illiberal capitalism, rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and terrorists?

Let me review pro-con debates on a League of Democracies, and explore US relations with its allies after the Bush administration. A panel discussion, entitled “Is a League of Democracies a Good Idea?”, was held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on May 29 this year. The discussion was moderated by Morton Halperin, Director of US Advocacy for the Open Society Institute, a public interest group founded by George Soros. Discussants for a League of Democracies are Ivo Daalder, Senior Fellow at the Brookings institution, and Tod Lindberg, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Daalder is a foreign policy advisor and fundraiser to the Democrat candidate Senator Barack Obama, while Lindberg is a conservative policy analyst. This fact suggests extensive support for a League across ideological standpoints. On the other hand, Thomas Carothers, Vice President at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, refutes this idea, because democratic nations do not necessarily share common interests.

At the discussion, Thomas Carothers pointed out that the United States need to act with autocracies: Saudi Arabia, Gulf Arabs and Egypt for the War on Terror; China for North Korea, and Russia for Iran. Also, he mentioned that developing democracies like India, Brazil, and South Africa do not necessarily agree with US foreign policy. In addition, he says that European allies are not as enthusiastic with this idea as the United States.

On the other hand, Ivo Daalder argues that globalization and increasing interdependence has made dangers far away have immediate damages at home, even in a powerful state like the United States. Also, he says that existing international institutions are not efficient in promoting international cooperation to deal with new threats. However, he points out that democracies in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, are natural partners to the United States. Moreover, democracies together represent overwhelming majority of world wealth and military power. Therefore Daalder advocates the case for a Democracy League.

Tom Lindberg added his viewpoints. He says “The advantage of the United Nations is it’s a universal membership body. The disadvantage of the United Nations is that it’s a universal membership body. There are certain kinds of issues that you can only effectively address there and there are certain kinds of issues that you can never effectively address there because of the limitations that universal membership imposes on the nature of the dialogue.”

As mentioned by Daalder and Lindberg, a League of Democracies is expected to supplant existing international organization to some extent.

At the end of the event, Marc Plattner, Journal of Democracy, asked relations between a global NATO and a League of Democracies. Three discussants said this was a provocative question, as the Security Council of the United Nations is inefficient in many cases. Yet, no clear conclusion has been reached.

In a Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief, “Is a League of Democracies a good Idea?” (May 2008), Thomas Carothers criticizes this idea because democracies are not unanimous in their foreign policy, and the United States needs some strategic bargaining with non-democratic nations. However, he admits that the United States needs to rebuild credibility of its democracy promotion and foreign policy in general. Also, the rise of authoritarian powers poses serious troubles to democracies across the globe. Instead of trumpeting a grand initiative with strong ideological rhetoric, Carothers insists that the United States rebuild democracy promotion through quiet confidence-building measures, such as assisting democratic reform in authoritarian allies like Pakistan and Egypt, and strengthening democracy promotion in collaboration with existing multilateral institutions like the United Nations and regional organizations (See also another article by Thomas Carothers: “An Unwanted League”; Washington Post; May 28, 2008).

Carothers has right concerns that high-handed approaches for democracy promotion will provoke anti-American sentiments. The problem is, existing multilateral institutions cannot afford to manage new era challenges, and actions through these institutions are severely constrained by illiberal powers.

In order to understand why a League of Democracies is necessary, and how to reconstruct US leadership, I would like to mention two articles by Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and his TV interview. Currently, Kagan is a foreign policy advisor to the Republican candidate Senator John McCain. It is noteworthy that both McCain advisor Robert Kagan and Obama advisor Ivo Daalder advocate US-led League of Democracies to manage global issues.

In his article to Financial Times (“The Case for a League of Democracies”; 13 May 2008), Kagan points out that the idea of a concert of democracies was invented by liberal internationalists, not Republicans. This idea is welcomed among some European leaders such as Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Robert Kagan denies widespread misunderstandings that a League of Democracies supplant the United Nations. He says a concert of democracies is necessary when UN Security Council cannot act in case of humanitarian crises like Darfur and Kosovo. While Kagan refutes alarmist viewpoint that policy collaboration of democracies will cause a new cold war, he points out that ideological competition between Russo-Chinese authoritarianism and Western liberalism is already underway.

Then, how should our democracies deal with critical challenges? Robert Kagan points out that early post Cold War assumption has turned out to be wrong, despite the fall of communism. The global economy has not led to disappearance of nation states, and hard power is still no less important than soft power in international politics. Market economy in Russia and China has not resulted in political reform. Today, ideological and geopolitical rivalry between Western democracy and Russo-Chinese autocracy, and clashes between Islamic radicalism and modern enlightenment, constitute power structure of the world. As autocracy and Islamic radicalism pose threats to our liberal world order, Kagan insists the democracies unite firmly together. (“Is Democracies Winning?”; Prospect; May 2008)

In a TV interview, Kagan commented that authoritarian powers resist the spread of democracy because they are afraid of its influence in their territories. Also, geopolitical concerns matter, as shown in Russia’s objection to NATO expansion. Though Kagan argues for a common front of free nations, he agrees with Carothers that the United States not impress arrogant image in the process of founding a League of Democracies (“A Conversation with Robert Kagan”; Charlie Rose Show; May 15, 2008).

I believe that John McCain’s staunch advocacy for a united democracies against autocracy is a good sign, as European allies regarded early Bush humble diplomacy as somewhat go it alone isolationism. Can the United States reconstruct leadership with a new initiative? Further attention to the development of this idea is extremely crucial.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Procedure to Establish an Intermediate Incorporation

Today, I went to Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau at Tanashi to apply for registration of intermediate incorporation so that I can strengthen current advocacy activity. I have mentioned this in a previous post, “At Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau”.

Legal procedure is very complicated and time-consuming. Also, a revenue stamp is required for registration. Unfortunately, I had some expenditure and was not able to buy the stamp. Money is a real problem. I have not been able to attend international events recently.

The official at the Legal Affairs Bureau told me that he would check the articles of association, before I register for incorporation.

I hope things will go successfully. Also, I will be able to finance my travel abroad to attend international events. They are absolutely necessary to develop my advocacy with friends.