Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Secretary of State Rice, Now and Then

American foreign policy under the next administration will be based on the Bush legacy, like it or not. It is important to understand Bush foreign policy in early days and how it has changed. Quite a few people argue that American preeminence is eroding, due to worldwide criticism to the Iraq War and the rise of emerging powers like Russia, China, and India. Recent appeasement to Iran and North Korea is regarded symbolic among multipolar declinists.

I am concerned with recent US policy change to Iran and North Korea as I mentioned in previous posts (see 1, 2, and 3). However, I do not agree with declinists, and it is crucial to notice policy nuances have changed substantially since Condoleezza Rice came to Washington.

Let me review two articles by Secretary Rice, contributed to Foreign Affairs. One is written during the election campaign before President George W. Bush took office (“Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest”; January/February 2000). The other was written quite recently when President Bush is completing his presidential term (“Rethinking the National Interest: American Realism for a New World”; July/August 2008). The most important difference between both articles is that Secretary Rice has changed from Metternichian realist to Wilsonian idealist. Also, global security environment has changed since the late Clinton era. The United Sates has come back from the holiday of history without Cold War threat. Now, the United States has experienced 9-11, and faces serious challenges with the rise of illiberal capitalisms.

Keeping these differences in mind, I would like to compare past Rice and current Rice. In general policy guidelines, past Rice emphasized that it was necessary to clarify national interests, and the United States act in accordance with the priority. Also, past Rice was so “unilateralist” that she criticized obsession with multilateral agreements and institutions. Rice argues that the Kyoto Protocol and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty undermine US national interest as China and rogue states are not bound with these agreements. Regarding humanitarian intervention, Rice insists that humanitarian issues are not just humanitarian, and political and strategic considerations are required for the final decision to intervene.

On the other hand, current Rice emphasizes uniquely American realism, consisted of realism and idealism, and stresses promotion of human rights and democracy. While past Rice emphasized cool headed realism that United States focus on its own national interests, current Rice advocates coalition of shared values and responsibility with industrialized democracies. Despite criticism to the Iraq War, current Rice trumpets American values more extensively than past Rice.

Also, current Rice stresses America’s special role in the world as mentioned the following.

Perhaps of greater concern is not that the United States lacks the capacity for global leadership but that it lacks the will.

Has Rice become a neocon? Not really. Secretary Rice understands the balance of value and realism.

Admittedly, our interests and our ideals do come into tension at times in the short term. America is not an NGO and must balance myriad factors in our relations with all countries. But in the long term, our security is best ensured by the success of our ideals: freedom, human rights, open markets, democracy, and the rule of law.

Stark difference between Condoleezza Rice’s uniquely American realism and neoconservatism can be found in policy against challenges of Russo-Chinese authoritarian capitalism. Both past Rice and current Rice are willing to incorporate Russia and China into US led global economy. While past Rice mentioned strategic contention with Russia and China over Eastern Europe and the Taiwan Strait, current Rice regards both giants as fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council carrying special responsibility and weight. This is completely at odds with neocons who talk of inevitable adversary between liberal democracies and illiberal capitalists.

Some issues of policy focus have changed between past Rice and current Rice. While past Rice talked much about rogue regimes, current Rice talks more about Middle East peace process and stability in Iraq. There is no way of knowing whether this is the reason why the Bush administration is appeasing Iran and North Korea these days. Secretary Rice has changed from a Hobbesian unilateralist to a Kantian multilateralist. However, she is steadfast to assert legitimacy of the Iraq War. The Kantian transformation is not because of apologism to the attack against Iraq. Lefties should remember this point, and stop speculating prewar information fraud.

Remember! As stated in the 2000 article, early Bush administration’s foreign policy was defined by the Clinton legacy. Condoleezza Rice insists how to improve issue by issue foreign policy in the era of post Cold War uncertainty. Likewise, the next administration will inherit the Bush legacy. The media focus on the rivalry between unyielding navy pilot and empty rock star. However, it is important to understand the evolution of US foreign policy under the Bush administration. Therefore, I recommend comparing both articles by Secretary of State Rice thoroughly and carefully. The more you read them, the more you learn about American foreign policy and its future.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Internet’s Effect on Japanese Politics and Election

I attended a forum, entitled “Symposium on Internet Election” on July 20, held at the Tokyo Yaesu Hall, by Tokyo Station. I was invited by Nihon Blog Mura, which is a cyber space community of Japanese bloggers.

Although I expected that global civil advocacy would be discussed as well in this symposium, agendas were mostly on Japanese domestic politics. Nevertheless, since election is one of basic components of democracy, this is an important issue for one who publishes a political blog and has contributed political articles to printed media. Even though I do not have strong expertise in the election, it is worth to attend this forum.

This symposium was very small, and there were less than 100 people except guest speakers and event staff. The primary agenda was the potential of the Internet as a breakthrough to improve current Japanese election regulations which hinders candidates from sending their policy messages to voters.

First, Takeshi Kimura, President of Financial Corporation which is an investment advisory company gave a lecture. Kimura commented that Japanese elites in politics, business, and bureaucracy, are reluctant to change current election system, because they do not welcome the rise of new type of leaders who can draw voters’ attention with their policy visions. Furthermore, he said deregulation of election campaign on the Internet will be headway toward transforming Japan into a real civic democracy from an old society dependent on bureaucratic guidance.

Most importantly, Kimura pointed out that Japanese political establishments are reluctant to provide inconvenient information for voters, because they want to “keep the people ignorant” just as medieval feudal lords did. Takeshi Kimura’s viewpoints mostly overlap those written in “The Enigma of Japanese Power” by Karel van Wolferen, a well known Dutch expert on Japanese politics. As Kimura faces outmoded bureaucratic regulation in financial industry, his arguments are driven by demand for change which is much more exigent than that of Wolferen.

Norihiko Fukuda, legislator of Kanagawa Prefecture, spoke the next, and he insisted that the Internet promotes massive flow of information from candidates to voters.

After two brief lectures, a panel discussion was held. This was moderated by Hideki Hirano, a president of a cyber media company. Panelists were Ken Takeuchi and Motohiko Tokuriki, both presidents of internet business companies, and Daigo Sato, a representative of an NPO to assist political internship programs.

Although the lecture and the panel were worthy, it is a pity that they focused entirely on one way communications from candidates to voters in their discussion about the Internet and election. However, I would argue that two way communications mutually done between candidates and voters, are also important.

Actually, a blogger like I send political advocacy messages. I raised my hand in the Q and A session, but other attendants had chances to ask.

As it was a small symposium, I wish attendants had some chances for mutual contacts. In that case, a good opportunity like this forum will be of much help for people at the forum. Just listening to lectures and panel discussions is not enough.

Nevertheless, I believe an event like this be organized frequently.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Iran Buys More Goods from America

As the negotiation between Javier Solana of the European Union and Saeed Jalili of Iran is in progress, I would like to mention a controversial news report that US exports to Iran has grown tenfold during the Bush administration’s term, despite tough rhetoric of “Axis of Evil” and confrontation over nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism, and economic sanctions (“Despite tough talk, Iran still buys American”; AP; July 8, 2008).

Main export items are daily life products, such as cigarettes, fur clothing, sculptures, perfume, musical instruments and military apparel. The objective of economic sanction is to hinder military build up of Iran. There is nothing in particular to worry about that Iranians buy some merchandises of American high or pop culture.

The problem is that export of small weapons and aircraft equipments is also increasing during the Bush term. In 2004, $106,635 of military rifles and $8,760 of rifle parts and accessories were shipped to Iran.

More seriously, Iran is keen on acquiring US military technology. Iran makes every effort to obtain leftover parts for F-14 fighters and attack helicopters. Actually, Iran faced serious airpower shortage in the Iran-Iraq War, because the United States stopped exporting equipments for these combat aircrafts.

It is ironical that the global economy, which is a product of our liberal democracy, returns evil for good. I still believe in the world strongly integrated with free trade and increased human exchanges. But strong regulations are necessary to defeat adversaries. This is the way how our liberal world order will be maintained.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Iran’s Provocative Missile Test against US and Israel

Iran has launched Shahab Ⅲ missiles on July 9. As shown in the map, this missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers, covering a large area including Greece and Egypt. It looks as if Iran were demonstrating its influence all over the Achaemenid territory. What motivates Iran’s provocative policy? Will the United States and Israel attack Iran?

Stephen Herzog at the British American Security Information Council presents an overview of the Iranian missile crisis in the Iran Updates on 11 July, 2008. The missile test was conducted shortly after a major military exercise of the Israeli air force over Greece and East Mediterranean and the US navy in the Persian Gulf. Also, US State Department announced new financial sanctions against Iranian firms and citizens linked to nuclear proliferation.

Despite rising tension, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said attack by both the United States and Israel was unlikely. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted that the United States defend its allies from Iranian threat. Meanwhile, Javier Solana, High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, is talking with the Iranian side on July 19.

How should the global community deal with Iran? In an interview with Foreign Policy, Karim Sadjapour, Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, answers questions on Iran’s intention (“Seven Questions: What Iran wants”; July 2008). Sadjapour is a leading expert on Iranian politics, and a regular contributor to major Western media. As an Iranian, he has extensive contacts with Iranian senior officials, clerics, intellectuals, dissidents, students, and the grassroots.

Sadjapour comments that Iran is unyielding because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes that bowing to foreign pressure leads to more pressure, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks that the United States is unwilling to fight due to the result of 2006 midterm election. Also, he advises the United States neither attack on nor offer diplomatic overture to Iran. Ahmadinejad simply make use of them to solidify his political leadership in his country, Sadjapour says.

As to attack by Israel, Sadjapour says it unlikely. While Israeli forces made surprise attacks against Iraq and Syria, they do not keep silent this time.

Quite importantly, Sadjapour points out that 80% of the Iranian public receive news from official media, and liberal elites are politically marginalized. Therefore, he insists that attack by the United States or Israel will simply strengthen Ahmadinejad’s domestic political stand.

On the other hand, Sadjapour mentions common US-Iranian interests to preserve territorial integrity of Iraq. Al Qaeda infested Iraq will be a critical threat to both countries, he says.

Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, currently Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, criticizes continual negotiations with Iran, and insists on closer cooperation with Israel (“Israel, Iran and the Bomb”; Wall Street Journal; July 15, 2008). Bolton says the missile test symbolizes five year nuclear negotiations with Iran ended in failure. He warns that Iran is developing nuclear attack capability further and further while the negotiation has stalled.

Bolton argues critically important point. However, as Sadjapour says, the United States and Israel need to be cautious. No political advantage must be given to Ahmadinead. Senator John McCain stresses exigent necessity of building reliable missile defense system against rogue states like North Korea and Iran. I agree with McCain. In addition to supporting this idea, John Bolton insists that the United States not obstruct Israeli actions whatever necessary to curb Iranian threats. In his view, the cost of inaction is much greater than risks by action.

Regarding cost and benefit of attacking Iran, Patrick Clawson, Deputy Director for Research, and Michael Eisenstadt, Senior Fellow, both at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has published a report “The Last Resort: Consequences of Preventive Military Action against Iran”, prior to the missile test.

They argue that prevention must remain as an option to bolster diplomacy. Most importantly, Clawson and Eisenstadt stress it necessary to evaluate exactly whether Iran really decides to rebuild nuclear bomb related facilities. This time, Iran fired missiles, but not tested bombs. I think it is on the borderline to determine Iran’s nuclear ambition.

While admitting the risk that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapon provoke other Middle East nations, Eisenstadt insists that prevention merely delays Iran’s nuclear program, not halt it. This does not mean that the United States needs to be conciliatory to Iran. In a previous post, I mentioned that Patrick Clawson insisted on using military threat against Iran. He argues that preventative action be based on IAEA inspection rather than on disputed intelligence.

Regardless of pro-con debate on attack against Iran, the United States is changing approaches. The Guardian reported controversial news that the United States would restore diplomatic presence in Tehran since 1979 (“Report: U.S. to Establish First Diplomatic Presence in Iran Since 1979”; FOX News; July 17, 2008).

A few weeks ago, the Bush administration removed North Korea from the Terrorist List. As Javier Solana, EU Foreign Policy chief, talks with Saeed Jalili, Iranian chief nuclear negotiator, current administration sends William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (“Policy Shift Seen in U.S. Decision on Iran Talks”; New York Times; July 17, 2008).

I do not oppose negotiation itself. However, I am afraid that recent policy changes against Iran and North Korea will send wrong messages to the global community. President Bush is talking softly with rogues without carrying a big stick. Some allies like Japan are concerned with such Chamberlainian diplomacy. The United States need to act as the hegemonic state. Israel is not the only ally that frowns upon easy-going deals with dangerous dictators.

Map: ”Real or not, Iranian missile fire must stop: US”; AFP; July 10, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Question: Must the Summit Address Solid Action Plans?

The Lake Toya Summit was held from July 7 to 9 by Lake Toya in Hokkaido, Japan. Beautiful summer days in a sub frigid forest resort had become extremely tumultuous. In reply to bitter criticism to the Summit by anti-globalism activists, I would like to ask the following questions and explore answers for them.

1. Is it a must to address solid action plans at the Summit?

Let me review the history of the Summit. In face of the Nixon Shock and the Oil Crisis in the 1970s, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, then-President of France, proposed a top-level conference to manage the global economy, which led to the first Summit at the Chateau de Rambouillet in the suburbs of Paris in November 1975.

The original purpose of the Summit is a candid discussion of global policy in an at-home atmosphere among major industrialized democracies. Therefore, the top leader meetings have not been result-oriented. In this respect, the Summit is similar to the Commonwealth Meeting.

Just after Soviet invasion to Afghanistan, Margaret Thatcher, then-Prime Minister of Britain, and Indira Gandhi, then-Prime Minister of India, expressed completely opposite viewpoints on Soviet threat each other, but the discussion was very friendly.

Anti-globalists and environmentalists criticize the Final Declaration resulting from compromise of major powers. But I would argue that obsession with results will inactivate candid discussion. I would rather remind them of antithetical but friendly discussions between Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi.

The Summit is a forum of candid discussion, not a conference to “produce” a treaty. You understand what I say, if you see this link.

2. Is it necessary to expand the membership?

Absolutely not! Fundamental concept of the Summit is a straight talk among top leaders without bureaucratic interference and out of daily hustle and bustle. This is one of the reasons why most of the Summit conferences have been held in silent villages rather than in capitals and big cities.

As I mentioned in Question 1, a forum of candid discussion on global policy in an at-home atmosphere should be held among like minded nations.

Also, in many cases, remote resorts are not well-prepared to accommodate a huge number of guests from all over the world. Moreover, substantial amount of preparation will be imposed for the conference, once Summit membership expands. This is no longer a forum of frank and at-home atmosphere.

3. Is the Summit a Conspiracy Club as anti-globalists remark?

Thorough examination of Question 1 and 2 will tell you that their assumptions are apparently wrong. Unlike their persistent advocacy, the Summit is not the place of decision making, but a forum of straight talk among like-minded members. Actually, anti-globalists are fond of blaming any intergovernmental conferences. Remember what happened at the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999. Anti-global leftists devastated the street, because the Seattle Conference was a “conspiracy” session among major industrialized nations and multinational corporations.

But remember, lefties! The Summit has never “produced” any treaties. All declarations have been non-binding.

Consequently, the Summit should be a membership of like minded nations. There is nothing wrong with this idea. Obsession with results and expansion of membership will increase substantial burden to the host city, and they are likely to lead to massive bureaucratic intervention.

Above all, it is important to reconfirm the real objective of the Summit. It should be a small and constructive forum of industrialized democracies to discuss global affairs. If necessary, world leaders can organize ad hoc meetings to include developing nations. Distortion from the foundation spirit will ruin the Summit.

Monday, July 07, 2008

US Removal of North Korea from the Terrorist List Shocks Japan

The Bush administration’s decision to remove North Korea from the terrorist list has given a tremendous shock to the Japanese public. Japan and North Korea are clashing over the abductee issue. Japanese nationalists are infuriated with the bolt from the blue, and blame that the United States betrayed its best ally in the Asia-Pacific region to ignore such a vital humanitarian issue.

Their resentment is understandable, but the Japanese public should not be obsessed with the abduction. I am not saying that the Japanese be cold-blooded like Tesundo Iwakuni , Japanese Democrat Member of the House of Representatives, who remarked “Japanese people are kidnapped with the abductee issue on North Korea.” I firmly believe that Japan be allied with the global community to pressure the dictator in Pyongyang. Also, I am concerned with early removal of North Korea from the terrorist list.

At this stage, the global community has not succeeded in eliminating all nuclear weapons in North Korea. Also, this country has been engaged in illicit economic activities, such as export of drug, counterfeit of hard currency, and so forth. This is the reason why I feel it too early to take North Korea away from the list.

On the other hand, Japanese must remember that the primary objective of the six party talk is denuclearization of North Korea, and various security issues are intertwined. Therefore, the following aspects must be taken into consideration.

1. De-nuclearization of North Korea:
Ultimately, Japan shares common interest with the United States. If forced to choose, Japanese people will save 120 million citizens in Japan, instead of hundreds of abductees taken by Kim Jong Il. Nuclear bombs are far more serious threat to Japan than kidnappers. Japanese people want no more Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Though current US administration is going to take North Korea out of the list, it has not abandoned all nuclear bombs yet.

2. Geopolitical rivalry against China:
Historically, Korean Peninsula has been a buffer against continental powers like Russia and China. This is the vital reason why Britain and America approved Japan to colonize Korea in early 20th century. China plays a substantial role in this deal, and will early removal of North Korea from the list strengthen Chinese influence in the Korean Peninsula?

First, let me review an article by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (“Diplomacy is Working on North Korea”; Wall Street Journal; June 26, 2008). This article focuses on nuclear non-proliferation, and issues like Japanese abductee and geopolitical rivalry with China are not mentioned.

Despite this, I agree with Secretary Rice that there is no alternative to the six party talk. Also, I have to mention that the Secretary argues important points in negotiations with North Korea.

If it chooses confrontation – violating international law, pursuing nuclear weapons, and threatening the region – it will face serious consequences not only from the United States, but also from Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, as it did in 2006 after testing a nuclear device.

If, however, North Korea chooses cooperation – by fulfilling its pledge from the September 2005 Joint Statement to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" – a path is open for it to achieve the better and more secure relationship it says it wants with the international community. That includes the U.S. We have no permanent enemies.

However, should we wait and see whether North Korea really intend to give up nuclear programs, as Rice maintains? This notorious scoundrel has been lying and deceiving the global community. Unlike Libya, North Korea has never been defeated by the United States. To the contrary, it boasts a victory against America in the Pueblo incident in 1968 as I mentioned before.

Steve Clemons, Senior Fellow and Director of American Strategy Program at New America Foundation, points out political interaction behind softening approaches to North Korea (“BREAKING: Bush Administration to Ask Congress on Thursday to REMOVE North Korea from TERROR WATCH LIST”; June 24, 2008 and “Chris Hill BEATS John Bolton: Bush Declares New Track for US-North Korea Relations”; June 26, 2008. Both in the Washington Note.). He questions Bush’s engagement to North Korea while pressuring on Iran. Clemons says that the deal results from political interaction between multilateralist dove Christopher Hill and neoconservative hawk John Bolton.

In order to understand problems associated with terrorist list removal, I would like to mention two articles by Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, currently Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In his article to the Wall Street Journal (“The Tragic End of Bush's North Korea Policy”; June 30, 2008), Bolton reminds us that North Korea has been breaking major agreements with the United States since its national foundation.

Bolton points out corrosive impacts of removal of North Korea from the terrorist list. It will help Kim Jong Il stay in power and maximize political and economic gains. In addition, he mentions that North Korea assisted nuclear bomb programs in Syria and Iran, terrorist sponsor states. Furthermore, relations with Japan and South Korea will be damaged, as North Korea has abducted hundreds of citizens from both US allies.

In the Daily Telegraph (“North Korea Nuclear Deal with U.S. ‘Like Police Truce with Mafia’”; July 1, 2008), Bolton criticizes this deal furthermore.

The only real progress in de-nuclearising North Korea came via Israel's air force last September 6, when it pulverized a nearly-completed clone of Yongbyon on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria.

As one keen observer put it, negotiating with Iran or North Korea is like the police sitting down with the Mafia to discuss their common interest in law-enforcement. President Bush's North Korea deal reflects the Administration's lame-duck status.

I agree with John Bolton, and I am afraid it too early to remove the notorious scoundrel from the list.

On the other hand, I do not find one side criticism to the Bush administration of much help. Come to think of it, it is the Koizumi administration of Japan that decided to normalize relations with North Korea with the Pyongyang Declaration. However, Junichiro Koizumi has not convinced the Japanese public why Japan needs diplomatic relations with Kim Jong Il. Nor have his successors, who have not officially abandoned the Pyongyang Declaration.

Technically speaking, the Japanese government is more soft-liner to North Korea than the White House. The Bush administration is just negotiating for denuclearization. Remember this, Japanese rightists!

Above all, we must not allow North Korea any lies and deceits in the nuclear talk. Honesty in nuclear weapons will lead to honesty in abduction, illicit economic activities, and so forth. US and Japanese approaches to North Korea must be reviewed critically from this perspective.