Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Impact of Japanese Kowtow to China on the Free World

The territorial dispute between China and Japan over Senkaku Islands is beyond a bilateral clash. We need to understand this dispute from global contexts. It is a clash between autocracy and democracy, and the Japanese government bowed down Chinese pressure, as the rogue captain of Chinese fisher boat was released ("China fishing boat captain to be freed by Japan. Will it ease tensions?"; Christian Science Monitor; September 24, 2010).

One of the reasons for this kowtow is an export ban of rare earth elements to Japan imposed by China. These materials are necessary for manufacturing batteries for hybrid vehicles, appliances for mobile phones, and other high tech products. Currently, Japan relies 90% of rare earth resource demands on import from China ("China bans rare earth material export to Japan"; Fuji Sankei Business Eye; September 25, 2010). Chinese export ban inflicts critical damages on Japanese manufacturing industry. This dispute has brought us home that our free world is vulnerable to natural resource diplomacy by autocratic nations. It is quite similar to the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine in January 2009. As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin intimidated whole Europe to close gas pipeline, Ukrainians bent over Russia. Ukraine sold its national sovereignty to Kremlin to extend the naval base deal for the Black Sea Fleet.

Natural resource diplomacy by China and Russia is combined with their expansionist ambition. Just as Russia regards Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union as its natural sphere of influence, China regards islands in East China and South China seas as the “pear necklace” for its aggressive expansionism from the Pacific to the Indian oceans ("China's High Seas Aggression"; Human Events; May 20, 2010). It is too well known that China pursues megalomaniac build up of its navy. Just as Russia acts with Czarist and Stalinist instinct in geopolitical rivalries against the West, China behaves with cefeng or Confucianism hegemony instinct when it claims its preeminence in East Asia. Throughout the history, China never admitted equal relations with any foreign countries until it was defeated by Queen Victoria’s gun boat in the Opium War. We must never forget this historical perspective, whenever China takes assertive attitude.

The Senkaku conflict is more serious than the Takeshima conflict. In the latter, South Korea has neither ambition nor power to tower over Japan, even though Koreans often launch anti-Japanese campaign on history. But China has cefeng ambition throughout East Asia, and explores to make Japan bend over, as Russia did to Ukraine. Therefore, autocratic China is far more dangerous than democratic South Korea.

In the old cold war, autocratic great powers were out of our system, and they had a tiny portion of share in global economic transaction. But in the new cold war, they use our global economy to impose their will on others. In an NHK’s TV program, “Japan at the Crossroads” on March 12, 2010, commentators and the public discussed the US-Japanese alliance and Japanese national security. In this debate, when a conservative opinion leader Yoshiko Sakurai stressed closer US-Japanese security ties to manage Chinese threat as both nations did against Cold War Soviet threat, Professor Kang Sang-jung of Tokyo University argued against her that China today was more incorporated into the global economy than the old Soviet Union. Kang said that China was no threat to Japan, because of such deeply founded mutual interdependence. If he understood the peril of natural resource diplomacy by autocratic states, he would change his viewpoints.

Will Japan succumb to China as Ukraine did to Russia? Current debates on this conflict utterly dismiss the fundamental structure global politics, which is the clash between democracy and autocracy as Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues in his book “The Return of history and the End of Dreams”. Further Japanese kowtow to China will embolden autocratic states around the world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Reality behind the Koran Burning on 9/11

The 9th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attack was landmarked by Koran burning. It is a protest against President Barack Obama’s decision to give permission to build a mosque close to the ground zero. Certainly, 9-11 attacks aggravated anti-Islamic sentiments among Americans, and I think it is a caustic political error to give such a controversial permission when the public have not shed trauma of a dreadful incident.

However, I think things are beyond anti-Islamic sentiment but distrust to the Obama presidency. As shown in the Tea Party movements, grassroots conservatives criticize President Obama’s economic and health care policy, because they are afraid of “excessive” governmental intervention into their civil life. Conservative momentums are growing stronger even without the Tea Party. According to a recent poll by the USA Today and Gallup, “About 59% of Democrats, 55% of Republicans and 50% of independents said they believed the GOP had become more conservative since Obama took office” (Poll: GOP more conservative but not because of the 'tea party'; Los Angels Times; September 17, 2010). It is ironical that the Obama presidency splits America, as opposed to his famous speech to call for unity beyond race and ideology. Koran burning and the Tea Party movements are just tiny tips of an iceberg to illustrate the “Obama Divide”.

Unlike European welfare states, America is a “Right Nation” as John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge argue in their book. Conservative movements are strong and widespread in the United States. Both British authors compare conservative political bases on both sides of the Atlantic, and they say the American side has more extensive grassroots network and highly esteemed think tanks. Barack Obama is an odd man out in a Right Nation.

The Obama Divide is being intensified in foreign policy as well. While some media regard Obama’s speeches in Prague and Cairo as a breakthrough to depart from Bush’ s cow boy diplomacy, conservative opinion leaders criticize them apologetic to American preeminence. At APEC summit in Singapore, Obama even said that America would welcome the rise of China. Though Obama tries to meddle his liberal thoughts and presidential duty as shown in the speech to commemorate the end of US combat mission in Iraq, it is very tough to soothe conservative and centrist suspicion to his “un-Americanness”. Koran burning reveals such deeply embedded sentiments among the public.

President Obama’s background needs to be examined to explore the reality behind the burning. Had the president come from electoral bases acceptable to conservatives, radical Christians would have stopped burning Koran. Yoshiki Hidaka, Visiting Fellow at the Hudson Institute, mentions Obama’s “dark personal contacts” with left wing extremists in his book “America has chosen a misfortune”. The famous cover page picture of the New Yorker, in which Obama and his wife Michelle wear Taliban clothes, illustrates deeply embedded suspicion to Obama among the American public. Actually savage behavior like burning did not happen during the Bush era.

I shall never support this sort of uncivilized middle age brutalism. Eminent leaders of counterterrorism allies in both the Afghan and the Iraq wars, notably, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and NATO Secretary General Anders Fough Rasmussen denounced Koran burning. Blair’s Britain was the staunchest contributor to US-led War on Terror. Rasmussen was a leading proponent of the Iraq War as the prime minister of Denmark. Moreover, General David Petraeus who commands the war in Afghanistan denounced the burning. But I have to call an attention to the Obama Divide when we explore the background of fanatic hatred to specific religion.

According to a survey by AFL-CIO, Barack Obama was the most liberal senator. Can a “leftist extremist” Obama govern the Right Nation? The mid term election will be a critical occasion to evaluate the effect of the Obama Divide. Has America chosen a wrong president? That is the vital question.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Prospect of Afghanistan by General Petraeus

President Barack Obama announced that the United States would concentrate counterterrorism struggle on Afghanistan when he declared the end of combat missions in Iraq. Therefore, I would like to review commentaries by General David Petraeus and some articles to understand the Afghan War and explore the strategy.

First, let me present an overview of this war. As in Iraq, the Obama administration explores to transfer responsibility to local security forces and withdraw earlier. However, former commander General David McKiernan and current commander General David Petraeus opposed early transition to Afghan units, because the progress of training them is slower than expected. In order to improve the capability of Afghan forces more quickly, the coalition sent additional troops in December 2009. Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell of NATO Training Mission for Afghanistan said, "Our mission is about teaming with Afghans to build a bright, dynamic future for this sovereign nation."

Currently, Afghan Security Forces consist of the Army, the Air Force, and the National Police. Among them, the army is regarded as the most capable unit. Although the size of the Afghan Army expanded from 83,000 in March 2009 to 113,000, that is short of the requirement by Senator Joseph Lieberman to double the manpower. Also, it is slow to provide sufficient equipments to fight independently against terrorists for the Afghan army. One Afghan general said "I was much [better] equipped when we were fighting the Soviets." The Air Force remains infant level, but the Pentagon plans to make this force capable of providing air support from helicopters to the troops on the ground. As to the National Police, lack of professionalism is a critical problem. The Afghan Police misuse power over the public, abuse drug, and shoot their colleagues.

Currently, as in Iraq, General Petraeus endorses close partnership between the coalition forces and the Afghan troops. US and NATO teams expand their training programs through the Afghan Defense University. Governmental bureaucracy needs to be reformed as well. Judicial systems are still inept to enforce the rule of law, and the Ministry of Defense is split with ethnic friction and political fractionalis (“Backgrounder: Afghanistan's National Security Forces”; Council on Foreign Relations; August 19, 2010).

In view of the above mentioned overview, some experts point out fundamental differences between Afghanistan and Iraq when discussing the surge. While Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was resolute to defeat insurgents, Afghan President Hamid Karzai explores some compromises with Taliban. Also, Iraqi forces were permitted to more freedom than Afghan forces, which is necessary to take decisive actions to defeat enemies in case of emergency. It is troublesome that Afghan people are “not necessarily fond of the Taliban actions, do not seem to see huge differences between Taliban and government control” (“Realities, rules, relationships won't help surge succeed”; Iraq the Model; August 1, 2010).

However, Joshua Gross, ex-Media Relations Director of the Afghan Embassy in Washington, insists on the case for the surge and Western involvement in nation building. He points out that liberals have been ardent proponent for the Afghan War since 9-11, while they talk of early withdrawal today. Gross urges war opponents such as the Members of Progressive Caucus to remember vital values of this war, and points out that President Obama endorses the mission in Afghanistan. He argues against progressive claim that the war is an unwinnable quagmire, and the land is ungovernable. Afghanistan fell into turmoil since the United States withdrew support for the mujahedeen when their resistance against the Soviet Red Army ended.

However, Gross points out that Afghanistan was relatively peaceful from late 19th century to early 1970s. And Afghan security is improving and its economic reconstruction is making progress little by little. Therefore, he insists that Afghanistan is governable. More importantly, Gross argues that America must not discourage reform minded Afghans through premature withdrawal (”Liberals stand with Afghanistan”; Politico; August 17, 2010).

As shown in the video below, General Petraeus argues against skepticism to the Afghan mission, and told that NATO forces overturned momentums for Taliban in key areas such as central Helmand province. Also he stressed that this was a necessary war to defend free citizens around the world from transnational extremists’ attack. In addition, General says that this is a war to save Afghan people from mediaeval oppression by Taliban (NATO Channel; August 31, 2010).

Although President Obama asserts his commitment to the Afghan War, his deadline of July 2011 raises concerns among policymakers and military strategists. Senator John McCain said "You cannot tell the enemy you're going to leave and expect to succeed" (FOX News Sunday; September 5, 2010). Marine Corps Commander General James Conway warned that the withdrawal deadline suggested by President Obama would boost Taliban’s morale, and he expected the Marine Corps to stay to complete the mission (“Obama's Afghanistan deadline gives Taliban sustenance, US general warns”; Guardian; 25 August 2010). To placate such worries, General Petraeus said that the White House understands unpredictable nature of the war, in an interview with David Gregory (“Meet the Press”; NBC News; August 13, 2010).

For successful mission in Afghanistan, the coalition forces revised both military and non-military approaches. General Petraeus intensified counterinsurgent attacks by special operation forces, and 235 enemy leaders were killed or captured. In parallel, the general said that the special operation forces have made contributions to community building, such as key leader engagements and medical exercises. Socio-economic improvements will discourage terrorists to claim the area as their safe haven or sanctuary (“Petraeus Explains Afghanistan Strategy”; Small Wars Journal; September 3, 2010). Understanding local community is critically important. However, General Petraeus points out that the United States did not know about Afghan tribes and tribal leaders to well enough to deepen cooperation in community building, unlike Iraq (“Petraeus: U.S. Lacks Afghan Tribal Knowledge”; Wall Street Journal; September 2, 2010). External threats are also important. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta insist that the United States focus more on remote control to Afghan terrorists from Pakistan. Petraeus say their concerns are legitimate (“Petraeus: Karzai concerns about Pakistan 'legitimate'”; Hill; August 31, 2010).

In an interview with John Noonan, Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations said that cross-organizational coordination, not only between US military and the Embassy, but also between foreign contributors, the UN, and NGOs, is a key to success(”FPI Policy Advisor John Noonan interviews CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot”; Foreign Policy Initiative; September 8, 2010).

The Afghan War is winnable and the land is governable. Prior to NATO Summit in Lisbon on November 19 to 20 this year to discuss transition of responsibilities in Afghanistan, General Petraeus requested 2,000 additional troops to train Afghan security forces (“Gen Petraeus requests 2,000 more troops for Afghanistan”; daily Telegraph; 6 September 2010). The victory in the Afghan War requires consummate skill to coordinate American and international agencies, local authorities and tribes and so forth. General Petraeus has shown competence in managing delicate political interactions in Iraq. The most important point is President Barack Obama’s leadership. As shown in his speeches in Prague, Cairo, and Singapore, the President is too shy of endorsing American preeminence. This may be one of the reasons why he hints early pull out and focusing on the economy. That is a dangerous temptation.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Review of Ex-PM Blair’s Commentary on Iraq and the War on Terror

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has released a new book, entitled “A Journey” on the day when President Barack Obama announced the end of the Iraq War. Is it a coincidence? Even if it is not, the book has appeared at a turning point when Obama decided to turn the page (“Was Obama's speech 'Mission Accomplished'?”; Washington Post; September 1, 2010). Though Obama was an opponent to this war as a presidential candidate, FPI Director William Kristol says the President was respectful to soldiers in his speech (“A Note to My Fellow Hawks: It wasn't a bad speech”; Weekly Standard Blog; August 31, 2010). Anyway, Obama tried to strike a delicate balance between his liberal belief and the duty as the President. Since the Commander in Chief does not have confidence in the mission in Iraq, it is vital to review the new book, in order to understand why Tony Blair fought the Iraq War along with George W. Bush. Also, I would like to refer to some articles by Blair to explore how major democracies lead the global community in the War on Terror.

As the Prime Minister, Blair insisted that Iraq and Afghanistan was beyond security and military issue but they were starting points to win the War on Terror in terms of values. Extremists want stable democracy to fail, and drive the Islamic world back to semi-feudal religious autocracy. Also, Blair said clearly that Iraq was a vital threat to global security, though WMDs were not found. Iraq invaded Kuwait and Iran, and murdered the Kurds with chemical weapons. The United Nations issued 14 resolutions against the Baathist regime (“A Battle for Global Values”; Foreign Affairs; January/February 2007).

In his latest book, Blair talks about WMD information prior to the Iraq War. Though the media and antiwar activists blamed intelligence mistake, Blair says they would have accepted the war, had WMDs been found. In addition, Blair wonders why Saddam acted as if he had been hiding nuclear weapons. However, he still believes that the decision was right. Though Saddam faced tough sanctions, and it was a compelling priority to remove them to save the economy, Iraq still craved for dominance in the Middle East. Nuclear acquisition was vital for his ambition to overshadow Iran and Israel. I believe this is a critical point to evaluate whether American and British attack was right or not. Saddam mocked UN inspectors, because he did not give up such megalomaniac greed. Remember this when we deal with current proliferators like Iran and North Korea.

The threat of Baathist Iraq is not the only problem. Tony Blair mentions the number of Iraqi people who were killed by Saddam Hussein as shown below.

• Iran–Iraq War, 1980–8: 600,000–1.1 million total fatalities from both countries
(Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War, Vol. II, p. 3)

• Anfal Campaign against Kurds, 1988: up to 100,000 Kurdish fatalities; many more injuries and displaced persons
(Human Rights Watch, ‘Genocide in Iraq’, 2003)

• 1991 Invasion of Kuwait/Gulf War: 75,000 fatalities
(Milton Leitenberg, ‘Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century’, Cornell University, Peace Studies Program)

• 1991 campaigns/reprisals against Shia: 50,000 fatalities

• Other political killings over the years: 100,000 or more
(Human Rights Watch, ‘Justice Needed for Iraqi Government Crimes’, December 2002)

Moreover, Blair points out that international sanctions inflicted significant impacts on health and sanitation for Iraqi citizens.

The Iraq War is just one case of the battle against extremist and autocracy. Blair insists that military intervention to rogue regimes has become increasingly required due to globalization. Among those regimes, Iran is the most critical. Blair comments, “Iran is a far more immediate threat to its Arab neighbours than it is to America ... That's why Iran matters. Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam." He concludes "I wouldn't take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon" (“Tony Blair: military intervention in rogue regimes 'more necessary than ever'”; Guardian; 1 September 2010).

As Barack Obama pulled US combat troops out of Iraq, it is time to explore rights and wrongs in the Iraq War, and learn lessons to defeat dangerous ambitions of terrorists, extremists, and rogue states. Tony Blair presents us invaluable suggestions.