Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Recommended Site to Understand the Russo-Georgian Conflict

Things in Georgia change rapidly day by day. A recently founded think tank in Washington DC, called the Institute for the Study of War, has launched a special report on the Russo-Georgian conflict on the web. This report, entitled “Situation Report, Russo-Georgian Conflict”, is a daily update of analysis and overview on political and military interactions among Russia, Georgia, the United States, NATO allies, and neighbor nations.

In addition to the Russo-Western contests in the former Soviet Union, the special report has published an update on Poland over the Missile Defense. The deployment of US anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe makes the Russo-Western interactions furthermore complicated.

This report is written by Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is too well-known for drafting the surge in Iraq with General Jack Keane. As mentioned in his personal history, Frederick Kagan received his degrees, from BA to PhD, in Russian and East European Studies from Yale University. His elder brother Robert Kagan evaluates highly of his competence as a military strategist. There is no wonder why his surge in Iraq has succeeded. There is no doubt that he will present critical insights in this report.

In the reference list, Frederick Kagan includes numerous sources in Russian. This is an invaluable help for those who understand the language. Even those who don’t (including myself), they can learn a lot about Russian viewpoints.

Therefore, I recommend this site.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Russian Ambition beyond Georgia

Figure 1 (Source: "Situation Report, Russo-Georgian Conflict", Institute for the Study of War)

The Russo-Georgian conflict will impose further impact across Eurasia. This is not just a skirmish over South Ossetia, but strategic contests between Russia and the West over geopolitics, democracy promotion, and energy.

The Economist argues that the West make it clear not to accommodate Russian expansionism and authoritarianism (“The War in Georgia: Russia Resurgent”; Economist; August 14, 2008). Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt denounced Russian claim to save its citizens as Hitler’s justification of Nazi invasions. The Economist says it is Russia that triggered the South Ossetian dispute. Unlike Iraq, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia has never been regarded a threat the region.

In response to such an intolerable act, the West must impose pressure on Russia, through restricting Russian access to international clubs such as OECD, WTO, and G8. More importantly, the Economist insists that the West not delay NATO membership of Georgia and Ukraine. I would argue that this is a vital point in post Cold War democracy promotion in Eastern Europe.

From this perspective, Leon Aron, Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, comments about the peril of Russian czarism (“What Russia's War Reveals”; USA Today; August 13, 2008). Aron points out that Russia has been restrained enough not to punish pro-Western regimes in the Baltic, Ukraine, and Georgia, until quite recently, despite increasingly authoritarian trend under Putin. But Kremlin has crossed the line, and assault on Georgia inflicts substantial impact on former Soviet states.

Aron warns that Ukraine would be the next target for Russian assault. He mentions Putin’s remark at the NATO summit in Bucharest this April, “George (US President Bush), Ukraine is not even a real state!” This implies that Prime Minister Putin does not respect Ukrainian sovereignty at all. This is a critical challenge to the United States and NATO allies as Georgian Rose Revolution and Ukrainian Orange Revolution are successful case of democratization through Western influence. Therefore, Leon Aron urges that the next US president be ready against Russian ambition in former Soviet republics.

Figure 2 (Source: “The Dangers of the Safe Route: Caucasian Pipelines”; Economist; August 14, 2008)

Martha Brill Olcott, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that Russian aggression will have implications to elsewhere in the Trans-Caspian region ("Beyond Georgia: The Ripple Effects of Russia's Attack"; Plank; August 11, 2008) . Azerbaijan will need to seek Russian support regarding territorial dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan may explore closer relations with a pro-Russian regime if Mikheil Saakashvili were ousted. This will have a vital impact on power contests in oil abundant Central Asia.

Furthermore, the Economist points out that Georgia offers pipeline to the West bypassing Russia and Iran (“The Dangers of the Safe Route: Caucasian Pipelines”; Economist; August 14, 2008). Figure 2 illustrates this.

Russian ambition is beyond Georgia. Also, problems are beyond geopolitics, energy, and democracy. Russia intimidates a small democracy which is no threat to the region including Russia itself. America and Europe should not tolerate Putin’s czarist adventure, even though Russia is an indispensable partner in non-proliferation talks with Iran and North Korea.

More dreadfully, increasingly self-assertive Russo-Chinese alliance will challenge our liberal world order. Is the Russian assault on Georgia a dawn of conflict between liberal democracy and authoritarian capitalism? The Georgian conflict has so many implications to global security.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Pro-American and Liberal Imperialist Advocacy Group Incorporated

I posted some notices regarding incorporation of an advocacy organization, and the procedure has been completed on August 7 at Tanashi Office of the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau. The formal name of this group is “Unlimited Responsibility Intermediate Incorporation New Global America” (New GEAR).

At first, I thought of applying for establishing an NPO, but the official who met me at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said that political advocacy is not suitable for the standard of Tokyo Prefecture to found an NPO, even though that is related to public interest. Therefore, I decided to apply for intermediate incorporation.

Though the procedure has been completed, the new incorporation does not have enough capital and manpower. It is critical how to upgrade this advocacy activity furthermore. Also, as intermediate incorporation system will expire next year, it is necessary to step up this organization into a social incorporation during the transition period. In any case, I would like to make use of this official launch of intermediate incorporation for the future.

Finally, I would like to mention that Global American Discourse is published without anonymity, as the name, personal history, and a portrait of the blog administrator are shown on the regular styled website which is linked to this blog. I use blog display name and avatar, simply in accordance with widespread custom among bloggers. Therefore, this blog is posting political commentaries without hiding identification of blog authors.

I sincerely hope that judicial incorporation will facilitate arranging sufficient capital and manpower, which will improve the quality of advocacy activities.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The State of Iraq: By Gen. Jack Keane, Frederick Kagan, et al

While Senator Barack Obama was on his controversial trip to the Middle East and Europe, a panel discussion attended by distinguished experts on Iraq was held at the American Enterprise Institute on July 24 (The 2008 Iraq Debate: An Assessment from the Ground). Particularly, General Jack Keane and Frederick Kagan are very familiar to frequent visitor to Global American Discourse. They drafted the surge plan, and even a vocal critic to the Iraq War like Barack Obama admits its success. His presidential race rival, Senator John McCain points this out frequently.

Therefore, I would like to review this event. The panel was moderated by Danielle Pletka, President of the AEI, and three panelists presented their analysis from their own expertise. I recommend watching the event video on this site, not because of their distinguished reputation, but their clear and logical counterarguments to irresponsible remarks by Barack Obama and other war critics. The three panelists visited Iraq, and travelled around the country. They met US officials from Ambassador Ryan Crocker, General David Petraeus, to local commanders. Also, they talked with Iraqi leaders with regard to the future of Iraq and US role in this region.

Actually, Senator John McCain criticized Senator Obama that he listen to General Petraeus and local commanders when Obama carelessly mentioned early withdrawal from Iraq. This panel is important to understand how successful US operations since the surge is and how poorly founded Barack Obama’s terror strategy is.

First, Retired General Jack Keane of the US Army has made it clear that US-led coalition was winning in Iraq, and achieving war objectives. The United States intends to establish a democratic and independent Iraq, no threat to its neighbors and a long term partner for American security. Most importantly, Kean stressed the vital goal of not to make Iraq a terrorist heaven.

General Keane said there were no longer civil wars in Iraq. The number of casualties among Iraqi civilians and US soldiers has declined. Sporadic attacks may persist, but terrorists in Iraq no longer sustain the level of violence to threaten the regime.

Quite importantly, General Keane points out expansion of mutual cooperation between US forces and Iraqi citizens, because people are fed up with violence by insurgents. Sunnis are fighting against Al Qaeda, and Shiites are expelling Iranian influence. Also, the Iraqi Security Forces have been improved qualitatively and quantitatively, and they are evolving from internal defense forces to external defense forces. This is a vital point to talk about the future of US-Iraqi relations.

Finally, Jack Keane explained why the surge has made success. Prior to the surge, the Bush administration focused on training of Iraqi forces, but they were not ready to defeat insurgents. Therefore, the Unites States decided to send additional counter offensive troops, and changed leadership structure under General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

After General Keane outlined strategic success in Iraq, Kimberly Kagan, President of the Institute for the Study of War, presented her analysis on the progress of political process there. As Keane mentioned in this lecture, former ethnic and sectarian insurgents are turning toward political participation, in order to appeal their interests. Kimberly Kagan criticizes a widespread understanding that the surge has defeated insurgents, but it has not brought political progress. Contrary to such viewpoints, she argues that the surge has led to political progress.

Although Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki desired to execute leadership in a British styled parliamentary cabinet system, continual violence deterred constitutional political process. Since the surge, influence of Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite radical leader, has diminished. Also, Al Qaeda can no longer afford to threaten the Iraqi government and obstruct political process.

Kimberly Kagan summarizes the above mentioned success and stresses positive impacts of the surge. As a result, legislative procedures moved forward. Currently, Iraqis are making their country into a real parliamentary democracy, based on diversified interests and ideologies. Despite some progress, the upcoming provincial election may provoke political competition among ethno-sectarian groups, which may develop into conflicts as parliamentary democracy is not firmly rooted yet. Therefore, Kimberly Kagan insists on maintaining current level of US troops in Iraq.

Finally, Frederick Kagan commented US operation in Iraq in the context of global security and the War on Terror. He points out that the Iraq debates often dismiss regional and global context of this war. Frederick Kagan stressed that the purpose of the Iraq War is not just creating an isolated show case of democracy in the Middle East, but advancing American interests there.

It is critically important that Frederick Kagan articulated American interests of this war, because the media and the public often forget this vital premise, and easily fall into emotional pacifism that the United States stop this “immoral” (of course, this is their view.) war. In reply to widespread criticism among liberals that fighting in Iraq was a distraction of the War on Terror, he compared the current war with Franklin Roosevelt’s decision on World War Ⅱ, attack Nazi Germany first despite the Pear Harbor. Frederick Kagan asserts that Senator John McCain is right to argue that US forces stay in Iraq, and Obama is wrong to say that American troops withdraw from Iraq and focus on Afghanistan.

In a big picture of regional strategy, Kagan insists on making Iraq a bulwark against Iranian expansionism. He lists up Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Syria, Shiite militias in Iraq, and Taliban in Afghanistan. Regarding current nuclear negotiation with Iran, Frederick Kagan says it is extremely dangerous to start talking while surrendering at first. Without US forces, Iran faces no hurdles to increase its influence in Iraq, which will simply strengthen Iran’s position in the nuclear negotiation.

Frederick Kagan added that both Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and National Security Advisor Mowaffaq al-Rubaie are exploring strategic agreements with the United States, while US Democrats oppose the deal. He criticizes Democrats short-sighted behavior as Iraq sits at the heart of the Middle East geo-strategically, and Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri regard Iraq a primary frontline against the West. Judging from history, I think Frederick Kagan mentions the right point, because this geo-strategic consideration is the vital reason why the Abbasid dynasty of the Islamic Empire moved its capital from Damascus to Baghdad in the 8th century.

The media misreported that Maliki agreed with Obama. Frederick Kagan point out that neither Maliki nor Rubaie agreed with Barack Obama to set a fixed timetable for US withdrawal. This is an essential point to discuss the future of Iraq.

I strongly recommend watching this event video, because the three experts tell lucidly how broadly believed understandings on Iraq are poorly founded. The United States is winning, and further strategic cooperation with new Iraq is making progress.