Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Case against Obama’s Humble and Sweet America

Since this January, policymakers have been discussing job performance of the Obama administration. Considering the midterm election in November, it is vital to talk about Obama foreign policy in one year.

Shortly after the presidential election, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor of the Carter administration, said that America’s image in the world would improve under newly elected President Barack Obama. This is partly true. Those who are dismayed with “with us or against us” approach by the predecessor George W. Bush see Obama a long awaited savior. However, we should not praise Obama diplomacy simply because he is popular among global public opinion leaders, particularly liberals, leftists, and otherwise anti-Americanists.

The Foreign Policy Initiative has published a report, entitled “Foreign Policy 2010” to make an assessment on US foreign policy under the Obama administration. This report presents analysis on an extensive range of issues, including fundamental policy approaches, the War on Terror, the Middle East, Russia, China, national defense, and human rights.

At the beginning of this report, the Foreign Policy Initiative evaluates overview of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in one year. In the first essay, entitled “FPI Analysis: President Obama's Foreign Policy, Year One” (p.8 ~ p.14), the Foreign Policy Initiative says that President Obama has made right decisions to extend withdrawal timelines in Iraq and send additional troops to Afghanistan. However, Barack Obama is associating his foreign policy with those who believe American decline is inevitable, and he downplays American military power (two ongoing wars notwithstanding), alliance with liberal democracies, and promoting American ideals.

As to the Middle East, President Obama showed a drastic change in the understanding of US role in this region. Not only did Obama apologize US commitment to the coup d’état to oust Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953, he said that he would respect the current regime of Iran, even though grassroots revolt happened in June last year. Robert Kagan, Director of the FPI, criticizes that Iran takes Obama’s message that America will not endorse Iranian citizens' quest for freedom (Obama's Year One: Contra”; World Affairs; January/February 2010).

The Middle East is not the only problem. In the same article, Kagan comments bitterly that engagement with Russia and China will eventually underscore alliance with NATO partners, Japan, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, and India. When Obama visited China in the last November, he did not advocate human rights issues. Gordon G. Chang, the author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World”, says “Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak. And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate. So promoting human rights is protecting American security" (“Obama’s Fundamental Misconception”; National Review Online――The Corner; November 23, 2009). Regarding Russia, Charles Krauthammer, Columnist of the Washington Post, argues that Obama’s appeasement to Russia over Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe will be counterproductive, as Kremlin believes this area their rightful sphere of influence (“Debacle in Moscow”; Washington Post; October 16, 2009).

As mentioned in the first article of “Foreign Policy 2010”, religious fanaticism and autocracy throughout the world will be emboldened when America appears weak. It is nothing strange that a substantial number of people regard Barack Obama as a Jimmy Carter in this century.

In view of present challenges and dangers across the globe, Thomas Donnelly, Resident Fellow, and Gary Schmitt, Resident Scholar, both at the American Enterprise Institute, raise a critical concern that the drastic cut of F22 Raptor fighters, naval power, space and missile defense programs will erode air, maritime, and technological supremacy of the United States (“Obama and Gates Gut the Military” Wall Street Journal; April 8, 2009).

As a Princeton student Christina Renfo puts it, “The President should stop focusing on maintaining his popularity as an end in and of itself and start making substantive policy decisions even if they disappoint some members of the international community” (“A Paradoxical Burden: Obama’s Popularity Abroad”; Princeton Student Editorial――American Foreign Policy; 15 February, 2010).

While a formidable number of global citizens are infatuated with charming daydreams cited by Obama, Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton denounces his disdain for orthodox strategic thinking to keep America safe throughout the Cold War and the post Cold War era. Obama boasts that the new START with Russia will be a breakthrough toward a nuclear free world, but arms reduction is no incentive for Iran and North Korea to abolish their nuclear programs. In addition, Bolton argues that the United States has reached unnecessary and premature strategic weapons agreement, because the Russian economy will eventually deter Kremlin from pursuing nuclear parity with the United States. Also, he points out that Russia does not assume a global policeman responsibility as the United States does. John Bolton concludes sarcastically, “Perhaps it would have been better had the president's (State of the Union) speech not mentioned national security at all” (“More Mr. Nice Guy”; Weekly Standard; February 8, 2010). It sounds right to the point to call Obama Mr. Nice Guy as Bolton does. President Obama’s speeches in Prague and Cairo sound very sweet to naïve global citizens, but they are empty at all.

Ultimately, no other presidents and would be presidents until the inauguration of Barack Obama were so willing to accept American decline without considering the harmful consequence of it. As Yoshiki Hidaka insists in his book, “America has chosen a misfortune”, Obama may not have confidence in American values. His humble and sweet foreign policy needs to be reviewed from critical perspectives.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Japanese Democrat Government in Confusion and Its National Security Policy in Errant

On April 14, I attended a panel discussion, entitled ”The Prospect of Japanese Politics under the DPJ Administration” hosted by the Japan Forum on International Relations, inviting Professor Kouichi Endo as the guest speaker.

Professor Endo analyzed the DPJ administration from three points, and finally, he told prospects of the forthcoming election of the House of Councilors.

Regarding the power rotation last year, Endo said that the DPJ won the last election because Mutohaso (independent voters) who voted the LDP in the Postal Saving Election in September switched to support the DPJ. However, he says that LDP predominance has begun to be eroded, since the first manifesto based election in 2003. DPJ has grown steadily since then, not because leftist and liberal voters increased, but conservatives and centrists feel disappointed with LDP single party rule.

Regarding new DPJ regime with the above mentioned backgrounds, Endo points out critical gaps in policy values within the executive team, and the Hatoyama cabinet is dominated by Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, who leads intra party affairs of the Democratic Party. According to Endo, this is something like party superiority to the government under communist regime in the old Soviet Union and China. Endo expects a restructure of Japanese politics by new parties, as the DPJ government is in confusion and the LDP has become outmoded.

A typical case of illustrating confusion of the DPJ administration is the Futenma Military Base Issue, which has become the most important national security problem now. Endo is not the only Japanese opinion leader who strongly demands that Prime Minister Hatoyama resign unless he resolves the Futenma Issue by the end of this May as he promised. This may ne the reason why Prime Minister Hatoyama had a 10 minuet unofficial talk with President Obama to discuss the Futenma Issue, at the Nuclear Security Summit on April 12 and 13. However, did any leaders besides Hatoyama dared to discuss issues not related to the agenda of such a multilateral meeting? This fact reveals how erratic national security policy of the current administration is.

As the Nuclear Security Summit of 47 countries, issues like US base in Okinawa is just a “domestic problem”. Ever since the inauguration, President Obama has been preoccupied with domestic issues like passing the health care bill at the Congress, and he has just begun to tackle nuclear non-proliferation. President Obama has not made sufficient preparations for the Futenma negotiation, now. Hatoyama’s behavior is something like talking of mathematics when taking an English exam, or talking of History when taking a science exam.

As one diplomat told, US Forces in Japan will continue to use Futenma if the Japanese side cannot find any resolutions. This is hardly a problem for the American side.

A world without nuclear weapons was declared at this summit, but the imminent problem was Iranian nuclear arsenals. President Obama had the longest talk with Chinese President Hu Jiontao, because the gap between China and the West is not filled on sanctions against Iran. This is what I mentioned in previous posts (See 1 and 2.). Quite a few media reported that Japan was far less impressive than China, but it was Hatoyama’s fault that he discussed an issue irrelevant to the agenda of the summit.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Critical Review of President Obama’s New START

Prior to the Nuclear Security Summit, hosting over 40nations on April 12 and 13 in Washington DC (“Nuclear Security Summit to Meet in Washington”;; 6 April 2010), President Barack Obama signed the New START with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8 in Prague, Czech. The media bow down and praise this treaty as a landmark toward global peace of a world without nuclear weapon. However, I would like to make a critical comment to the New START briefly.

Long before the Prague Meeting, Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton points out that the Obama administration has committed a fatal error in arms control negotiations, that is, pursued reduction for reduction without taking serious considerations to US national interests. In order to achieve nuclear parity with Russia, the United States must cut more warheads than the counterpart. He says, “The positions of the United States and Russia are not parallel, and roughly equivalent warhead limits impair Washington far more than Moscow." The United States must defend allies across the globe, and faces threats of terrorists, Iran, and North Korea (Obama's Obsession with Reduction”; Washington Times; February 24, 2010). I agree with Bolton that Obama is obsessed with reduction and craving for cheers from global public opinion. Actually, Russia and China try to dilute sanctions against Iran, now.

Furthermore, Baker Spring, F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation, points out that the new treaty includes US missile defense system into the target for reduction, along with warheads. Russia is permitted to withdraw from the treaty, if the United States advances the missile defense program (“New START Would Render U.S. Vulnerable to Missile Attack”; Heritage――Foundry; April 8, 2010). This is a critical constraint for the West. American allies badly need the missile defense system in view of Iranian and North Korean threats in their neighborhood. Without the missile defense system, America security umbrella will become vulnerable as Spring says.

Jamie Fly, Executive Director, and John Noonan, Policy Advisor, both at the Foreign Policy Initiative, refute commonly believed notions that the New START will be a breakthrough toward global non-proliferation. It is just a strategic weapons treaty between the United States and Russia. Tactical nuclear bombs are untouched, and it does not assure the “reset” of US-Russian relations. Quite importantly, Fly and Noonan points out that a treaty does not work for rogue states, but military threat by the United States and Israel did for Libya (“Debunking the Administration's Nuke Myths”; Weekly Standard; April 9, 2010).

The latest START may charm the media and global public opinion, but I wonder why Barack Obama thinks so lightly of maintaining American primacy in nuclear power, which guarantees US security umbrella for allies. This treaty may fall into another SALT Ⅱ signed between President Jimmy Carter and Chairman Leonid Brezhnev. Watch the forthcoming Nuclear Security Summit, and explore the interrelation between the New START and the Summit.. Nuclear arms reduction will be the key issue of the year 2010.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Message of Condolence to Polish President Lech Kaczynski

Global American Discourse would like to express heartfelt condolences to President Lech Kaczynski of Poland, his wife, his policy staff, and airplane crews, who passed away in the accident on route to the Katyn Forest. I wish people of Poland would rise again from this tragedy.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

On Iranian Nuclear Bombs, Can We Really Trust China?

In a previous post, I mentioned the Anglo-Chinese talk on Iran. I said that China was reluctant to impose sanctions on Iran, because the Beijing government needs to satisfy voracious demand for oil to pursue continual economic expansion. Shortly after the meeting, the Chinese government decided to join Western powers to denounce Iranian adherence to the nuclear enrichment program. However, China’s commitment to stop Iranian nuclear project is quite doubtful. Let me review recent news briefly.

China has overturned its long time reluctance to punish Iran, and begun to join talks on sanctions against nuclear proliferation at UN Security Council. A White House Spokesman Bill Burton takes it a positive sign toward real progress (“Beijing agrees to talks on sanctions for Iran”; Financial Times, April 1, 2010). US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told that China agreed to work closely with the United States, France, Germany, and Russia to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, Iran sent a nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to Beijing to ease international pressure. The negotiation for the sanction will take a few months, as Russia and China prefer softer measures than those insisted by the West (“Iran envoy in China as sanctions push builds”; Washington Post; April 1, 2010).

In reply to Western request, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said "China opposes Iran possessing nuclear weapons, but at the same time we believe that, as a sovereign state, Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy in a peaceful way" (“World powers discuss sanctions on Iran, no consensus yet”; Xinhua; March 31, 2010).

President Barack Obama emphasized importance of unified pressure on Iran, but China still expresses reluctance for tough measures. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said, "Negotiations should be conducted with logic, not with pressure. If negotiations and pressure occur at the same time there's no way these negotiations can go forward" (“Obama urges China to back Iran nuclear sanctions”; Guardian; 2 April 2010). President Obama will host the Nuclear Security Summit on April 12 and 13, and discuss this issue with President Hu Jintao of China (“China Visit Suggests Thaw Over Iran, Yuan”; Wall Street Journal; April 2, 2010).

Though China and Russia are not willing to accept the demand for earlier sanctions by the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, Obama is confident of broad international consensus for pressuring Iran (“Obama confident of securing broad support for more U.N. sanctions against Iran”; Washington Post; April 3, 2010).

Is it likely to inflict critical impacts on Iran? An Israeli paper casts doubt on a joint pressure endorsed by UN Security Council. As China and Russia oppose hard sanctions, Iranian overseas assets, shipping service, and oil and gas exports remain unaffected. (“International push for Iran sanctions is too little, too late”; Haaretz; April 2, 2010)

James Phillips, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, says that it is unlikely for the Security Council to pass sanctions against Iran, in view of Chinese and Russian foot dragging. He argues that halfway measures acceptable to Russia and China hardly impose effects on the Tehran theocracy. Therefore, Phillips insists on adopting hard measures with European allies, such as cutting oil exports from Iran. Phillips points out that French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested tougher approaches with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel beyond Russian and Chinese approval, when he talked with President Obama in Washington (“Iran Economic Sanctions at the U.N. Security Council: The Incredible Shrinking Resolution”; Heritage Web Memo; April 2, 2010).

In any case, I do not believe it helpful to spend a long time to wait for Chinese and Russian approval. Particularly, China is not willing to sacrifice its economic growth for the sake of global public interest, as shown in COP Copenhagen Conference. Current regime of Iran is associated with terrorists in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and that is trying to develop nuclear weapons. President Obama needs to reconsider his engagement policy, and Iran is a vital case.