Thursday, March 31, 2011

Smart Power in US Foreign Policy: Theory and Practice on Libya and Japan

Last month, I talked about a new security concept of smart power and US foreign policy. The word of “smart” captures the heart of many people, occasionally without exploring the real meaning of it. Quite often, “smart” or “efficient” organizations fail to manage something unexpected. Regarding smart power, Joseph Nye,Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University, and Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, discussed this concept in US foreign policy in PBS's “Ideas in Action” on March 4. See the video below.

Nye is an authority of smart power and a close advisor to the Obama administration, while Kagan is a leading neoconservative commentator who was a foreign policy consultant for John McCain in the last presidential election. Therefore, this program illustrates how the new concept is viewed among American foreign policy makers. In the program, Professor Nye explains that smart power is a combination of hard power, which is economic and military power, and soft power, which is persuasion and attraction. Nye says that the United States is still the preeminent power, because of ideological supremacy. Robert Kagan agrees that power is multidimensional and smart use of those powers will be helpful to US diplomacy. However, Kagan insists that soft power is effective only when associated with strong hard power, as typically seen in US security umbrella during the Cold War.

Today, security challenges are intertwined. While global issues like financial disorder, environmental degradations, and non-state actor threats need transnational cooperation, traditional state to state rivalries are growing. Quite importantly, as Kagan argues, charm of Obama has not had any effect to curb Chinese and Iranian challenges. Nye also agrees importance of military power in this century. Through the discussion by both opinion leaders, we understand that the use of hard power and soft power is correlated.

When we talk of smart power, we must remember that the nature of security challenges is evolving increasingly intertwined. This is not only an agenda of US foreign policy. The strategic security concept adopted at NATO Lisbon summit in November last year states, “A comprehensive political, civilian and military approach is necessary for effective crisis management”, in order to tackle such security challenges discussed by Nye and Kagan.

Currently, humanitarian intervention to Libya and the nuclear crisis in Japan are critical cases to discuss smart power in practice. The former is a traditional power rivalry of “The West and the Rest”, as China, Russia, and India did not vote for the war at the UN Security Council. The latter, however, requires transnational cooperation. Since nuclear energy and environmental issues are critical agenda of global commons, problems are beyond national and ideological clashes.

The case of Libya is quite puzzling. At the beginning, the Obama administration was too cautious of humanitarian intervention, while France and Britain urged American commitment. This is completely opposite to the Iraq War. Solid Western alliance is essential to help rebels against the Kadafi regime. In addition to policy coordination with allies, the Obama administration is psychologically traumatized with anti-American protests during the Iraq War. This is not the only reason for Obama’s hesitation to “boots on the ground”. Those who urge US commitment are neoconservatives who advocate regime change and liberals who insist on humanitarian intervention. Meanwhile, the Congress demanded Obama to clarify war objectives and the limit of intervention (“Pressure building on Obama to clarify mission in Libya”; Washington Post; March 24, 2011). Quite embarrassingly, “Mr. Obama’s administration, however, has clearly tried to avoid the debate over a strategy beyond that by shifting the burden of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force on to France, Britain and other allies, including Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which on Thursday said that it would contribute warplanes to the effort. In other words, the American exit strategy is not necessarily the coalition’s exit strategy.” (“Allies Are Split on Goal and Exit Strategy in Libya”; New York Times; March 25, 2011)

As the debate on the Libya strategy became intensified, Senator John McCain urged the Obama administration to act beyond air attack, and not to allow Kadafi to massacre Libyan citizens (“McCain Wants Obama to Oust Qaddafi”; FOX News; March 25, 2011). On the other hand Professor Joseph Nye defended Obama’s approach. The United States avoids unilateralism and behaves humbly by leaving command responsibility to NATO. Also, Nye endorses Obama’s restraint on strategic objectives and fighting duration (“Four reasons to support Obama on Libya strikes”; Power & Policy; March 22, 2011).

But we should remember that In response to pressure from inside and outside the United States, Obama extolled America’s special role and universal values, and rejected realism in the speech at the National Defense University on March 28. Robert Kagan comments his speech Kennedy-esque (“In Obama’s speech, echoes of JFK”; Washington Post—Post Partisan; March 28, 2011). See the video below.

At the London Conference hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary Hillary Clinton met Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jebril, and discussed democratic transition of Libya. However, the United States prefers political pressure to oust Kadafi. Though majority of rebel fighters are responsible Libyans, NATO Commander Admiral James Stavridis testified at Capitol Hill that some of them were associated with Al Qaeda and Hezbollah (“Summit swings behind Libyan rebels”; Financial Times; March 29, 2011). In addition to domestic opinions against unlimited war expansion and relations with European allies, this makes the Obama administration still cautious of “boots on the ground” decision.

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident caused by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake requires transnational policy coordination beyond national strategic interests and ideology. Above all, the United States has more resources to manage this crisis than any other countries, a cabal of nuclear experts and the most well-equipped armed forces in the world. Michael Auslin, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise, urged US armed forces to help Japanese earthquake victims. As Japan has only 100 military helicopters, he recommends more US heavy-lift helicopters to be sent (“Japan Needs Its Own Berlin Airlift”; FOX News; March 15, 2011). The earthquake and subsequent tsunami has inflicted dreadful damages to the Japanese economy, and the United States must support this ally that cannot help becoming inward-looking for years. Despite difficult economic ties, political ties of both countries are strengthened by the joint rescue and reconstruction mission of the Operation Tomodachi (“The US Military's Role”; New York Times Room for Debate; March 16, 2011). Rescue teams from other countries also give substantial help to Japanese victims.

In addition to multinational rescue and reconstruction activities, new global governance for nuclear safety must be established. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed to expand nuclear safety regulations by international organizations. Also, Medvadev said that Russia would be willing to offer technological help to safe nuclear plants in developing countries(”Russian standards of safety for nuclear power industry should be adopted internationally”; President of Russia News; March 24, 2011).

Libya and Japan are vital cases to explore practical use of smart power in American foreign policy. The former needs traditional power oriented approaches, as insisted by Kagan. The latter needs multi-multilateral coordination including civil societies and local communities, as maintained by Nye. Being smart does not necessarily mean achieving something with smaller capital and manpower. Smart power diplomacy must deepen American involvement in global security. Any presidents must be psychologically into the world.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

As widely known around the world, unprecedentedly tremendous earthquake of Richter scale 9.0 attacked on the Pacific coast of north eastern Japan. People are panicked and basic commodities like food and flash lights have become scarce as a result of scare buyout. In Tokyo, electricity shortage stresses people, and many events were cancelled.

Though things have improved after St. Patrick’s Day, eastern Japan is still in emergency. People are still concerned with scheduled blackouts. In order to save electric consumption, trains run less frequently and shops close earlier. Those make everything inconvenient. In a north western suburb of Tokyo where I live, air planes and helicopters of the US Air Force and Japanese Self Defense Force, from Yokota and Iruma bases, fly at night. Usually people complain such noises at night, but it is a critical emergency, now. They are saviors for disaster torn Japanese people.

Since Global American Discourse is a depth in analysis and advocacy blog, premature commentaries shall not be posted. Therefore, the earthquake and tsunami were not mentioned on this blog. However, I may talk about lessons of this earthquake in the future, regarding crisis management and the Fukushima nuclear accident. Particularly, the latter is closely related to nuclear nonproliferation, which is one of important agendas on this blog. My views about this earthquake appear on my Twitter, particularly from 3-11 (the earthquake day) to 3-17.

I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to those who experienced plights of unprecedented disaster.

Gambare Nippon!

Pray for Japan!

Friday, March 18, 2011

How Should America Advance Middle East Democracy?

As I mentioned in the last post, the rise of anti-government protests in the Middle East does not imply an erosion of American grip in this region. Rather, a long quested American Dream of Middle East democracy since the outbreak of the Afghan War and the Iraq War is coming true. In what way should the United States be involved in Middle East political transformation? I would like to talk about three key countries, which are Egypt, Libya, and Iran.

Grassroots uprisings provoked by the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt are not bolts from the blue. In a joint report by Marina Ottaway and Amr Hamzawy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, authors say that the civil protest started in Tunisia was not a completely new development, but rather a more dramatic example of the unrest common across the Arab world. Civilian protests for political and economic reform in Egypt have been witnessed from the end of the last century, and the quest for democracy has been intensified since 2003, the year of the Iraq War. Things in other Arab nations, including Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, are somewhat similar. Through in depth analysis of socio-political movements in the Arab world, Ottaway and Hamzawy say that youth movements spread rapidly even without well-arranged organizational structures. Although traditional unionists and left wing activists argue that those movements depending on social media are not long-lasting, the Facebook revolution in Tunisia has inspired Arab citizens who hope to overthrow dictators repressing them with mighty security services (“Protest Movements and Political Change in the Arab World”; Carnegie Endowment Policy Outlook; January 28, 2011).

Former Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher argues furthermore to suggest necessary steps toward Arab reform. Since Arab citizens no longer trust the government, any reform must be beyond lip service. Muasher endorses fair election, strong parliament, checks and balances, and educational reform. Without political reform, people will not trust economic liberalization, because economic growth simply widened social inequality. Muasher insists that the above reforms must be pushed forward, and leaders must overcome harsh opposition by the establishment (“How to Achieve Real Reform in the Arab World”; Washington Post; February 2, 2011).

As to Egypt, Amr Hamzawy, Research Director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, argues almost the same points as Marwan Muasher. He insists that the emergency law be eliminated, and civil freedom be protected. Furthermore, Hamzawy recommends that political prisoners be freed (“Egypt's Path Ahead: Agree to the People's Demands”; National; February 2, 2011).

Some Western commentators warn the risk of Islamists, but Former Dutch Member of the Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali say that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt can adapt to reality, though they were violent in the past. Through her experience in election, Ali points out, “The party has to be embedded in as many communities as possible, regardless of social class, religion or even political views” (“Get Ready for the Muslim Brotherhood”; New York Times; February 3, 2011). Therefore, Western policymakers should focus on transparent and accountable governance in Egypt, rather than the rise of Islamists.

Michelle Dunne, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, argue that successful democratization of Egypt will have a considerable impact on the whole Arab world. Egypt is a birthplace of pan-Arabism and the first country to the peace treaty with Israel. Its population is by far the largest among Arab nations. Both experts recommend smart and targeted assistance to Egypt. They argue that Western aid must be focused on the economy rather than military, such as debt forgiveness and free trade agreement. Also, mentioning a report of recent trip to Egypt by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, they insist on increasing private investment which Egyptians need, and send a delegation of high-tech industry there (“Why Egypt Has To Be the U.S. Priority in the Middle East”; Washington Post; March 7, 2011). Since anti-Mubarak youth stood up to demand improvements in the economy and social inequality, their recommendation will be plausible. Quite importantly, both authors advise the US government to respect self rise movements by Egyptians, and not to impose American-styled democracy. Kagan and Dunne argue that Middle East policy needs a high powered leader to act beyond bureaucratic sectionalism, and put a unique proposal that the Obama administration appoint a Middle East Transition Czar.

Things in Libya are completely different as Colonel Muammar Khadafi clings to power. While Western policymakers advocate that a no-fly-zone be imposed on Libya, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is skeptic to American capability for such a mission, and even hopes of leaving it to Britain, France, and Italy (“Robert Gates on Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Defense Budget”; Weekly Standard Blog; February 23, 2011). As the Obama administration is cautious of intervention to Libya, foreign policy and human rights experts, including Robert Kagan, William Kristol, and former officials of the Bush and Clinton administration, urged President Obama to take actions against Colonel Khadafi’s repression, notably establishing no-fly-zone (Open Letter; Foreign Policy Initiative; February 25, 2011). Jamie Fly, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative points out that enforcing a no-fly-zone by the United States and key allies does not need the approval of the UN Security Council, as in previous cases of Iraq and Kosovo. He also argues that the Obama administration not dismiss America’s moral obligation to defend Libyan citizens attacked by Khadafi (“Opposing view: A moral obligation to intervene”; USA Today; March 3, 2011). Moreover, Fly criticizes the inaction, because even liberal New York Times argues “the Obama administration is throwing out so many conflicting messages on Libya that they are blunting any potential pressure on the Libyan regime and weakening American credibility” (“What Should We Do About Libya?”; National Review Online Symposium; March 10, 2011).

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met a delegation of the Benghazi government in waiting which is called the National Transitional Council in Paris. If the council is recognized by the global community, it can use Libya’s overseas assets and export oil. Though France recognized this post Khadafi regime, the waiting regime does not agree with the United States on Israel-Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan (“Rebel council seeks to transform Libya”; Washington Post; March 15, 2011). But this is also the case with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. I do not believe it a legitimate reason for the United States to abstain from supporting the anti-Khadafi rebel. Despite that, the United States did not agree to a no-fly-zone initiative by France and Britain at G8 foreign ministers meeting in Paris (“France fails to get G8 accord on Libya no-fly zone”; Reuters; March 15, 2011). The Obama administration may be traumatized by the Bush administration’s experience in the Iraq War, but an obsession with a UN resolution will simply delay necessary action. This is a critical test of current administration’s use of smart power.

While some analysts argue that Iran will fill the Middle East power vacuum in view of the fall of pro-Western Arab governments, Karim Sadjapour, Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace comments the opposite. Potential reemergence of democratized Egypt will undermine relative power of Iran. Also, he says that Iran has the same problems of repression and deteriorating economy as those in Egypt and Tunisia. Furthermore, Arab Shiites in Iraq and Bahrain do not feel themselves familiar to Iran (“Arabs Rise, Tehran Trembles”; New York Times; March 5, 2011). It is quite likely that the Arab transition will stimulate youngsters in Iran who stood up in the Green Movement.

Finally, I would like to explore the big picture of the Arab world and the guidelines to advance democracy in this region. Marwan Muasher insists that the West must give priority to political reform over economic liberalization, as the market economy without checks and balances brought wealth to the ruling class and simply widened socio-economic inequality. Also, he calls an attention to the vital fact that the protests spread nationwide by ordinary citizens who were annoyed with autocrats, not Islamists who cling to outmoded theocracy. That makes a compromise with a repressive regime useless (“Arab Myths and Realities”; Project Syndicate; March 8, 2011).

While some experts compare current Arab democratization with the fall of Berlin Wall, Thomas Carothers, Vice President at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, comments cautiously. Unlike monolithically communist Central and Eastern Europe in the Cold War era, Arab nations are more diversified, including reformist monarchs, conservative monarchs, autocratic presidents, tribal states, failing states, oil-rich states, and water-poor states. Also, Arab leaders are more independent of the West than those in Central and Eastern Europe. However, that does not mean Arab democracy is difficult to achieve, as Arab activists are keen to learn successful experiences abroad. Islamists may be well organized, but they need support from swing voters to win majority. Quite importantly, Carothers points out that Islamists in the Arab world were willing to work within multiparty systems (“Think Again: Arab Democracy”; Foreign Policy; March 10, 2011).

The path to democracy in the Middle East is not so simplistic. Gulf monarchies are key allies to the West, and slow but steady approaches are necessary. Such approaches differ from one country to another. In some cases, bold interventions are required, and the Obama administration is finally moving toward endorsing France and Britain in Libya (“Specter of Rebel Rout Helps Shift U.S. Policy on Libya”; New York Times; March 16, 2011). On the other hand, things in Bahrain grow difficult to manage. Democracy in the Middle East has become an America’s agenda since 9-11, and critical tests are posed now.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Middle East Democracy: American Dream Will Come True?

The United States has been exploring political reform in the Middle East for a long time. Leading think tanks and NGOs have been helping empowerment of rural communities, women, ethnic minorities and so forth in the Middle East. Particularly, since 9-11 terrorist attack, and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, American policymakers have begun to give high priority on democracy promotion throughout the world. European foreign policy experts follow this. Moreover, have any Japanese leaders talked about Middle East political reform so seriously without US-led initiatives associated with the Afghan and the Iraq wars? Only through joint endeavor of the Western alliance, has Middle East democracy become a key agenda of global security to defeat terrorists, like Al Qaeda.

Some people say that the unrest in the Middle East implies the decline of American influence. As Facebook revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are posing impacts to Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, they argue that grassroots quest for democracy will shake pro-American but corrupt regimes, which will tempt Iran to expand its influences (“As Arab world shakes, Iran's influence grows”; San Jose Mercury News; February 23, 2011). Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was critically alarmed by Iranian warship passage through the Suez Canal (“Passage of Iran ships through Suez delayed by 48 hours”; Haaretz; February 20, 2011).

It is partly true that the unrest in the Middle East provides a good chance for emerging powers to fill the power vacuum. As the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt suggests, new democratic regime may not necessarily be a staunch ally to the West and Israel. However, we must remember that distrust to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan has grown among the American public since 9-11 attacks, although they are long term allies to the United States. Suicide bombers in the attacks were mostly Saudi Arabians and Pakistanis. Innumerable conservative bloggers among grassroots Americans detest corruption and poor governance in both countries that nurtured terrorism.

Western intellectuals are also bitter to Middle East dictatorship and monarchy. Christopher Davidson, Reader at Durham University in the United Kingdom, argues that wealthy and unaccountable Persian Gulf monarchs are no longer. exempt from Middle East turmoil. Davidson says Gulf monarchy is akin to single party dictatorship as political parties are mostly forbidden. Social inequality and human rights abuse are not the only problems. Due to nepotism and long rule by current monarchs, Saudi Arabia and Oman have problems to select competent successors. Therefore, governability of Gulf sultanates is deadlocked (“Lords of the Realm”; Foreign Policy; February 21, 2011). Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband compares current Middle East to Berlin 1989 rather than Iran 1979 on Twitter.

Among Arab nations, Egypt is the key to foresee the transformation for democracy. Michael Barone, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, argues that reform in the Middle East will give an unprecedented opportunity for American leaders to ally with only pristine partners. In history, the United States had to take an option to be allied with autocratic regimes such as Stalin’s Soviet Union, in order to defeat more critical threats (“As with Other Fallen Allies, Egypt Will Vex the US”; Washington Examiner; February 5, 2011). Senator John McCain expresses unabashed support for civil movements, and says it is a great opportunity to advance toward Ronald Reagan’s dream of the world free of tyranny (“John McCain on Egypt”; Weekly Standard Blog; February 8, 2011).

Middle East unrest is not a great opportunity for contenders to the West. The rise of Islamic democracy will inflict impacts on China. Minxin Pei, Adjunct senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that Chinese leaders are beginning to understand that economic growth-based legitimacy is unreliable, since social inequality and corruption are becoming increasingly serious as seen in Egypt. Pei argues that the Chinese Communist Party must take a difficult step toward gradual democratization like Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil (”The Message for China from Tahrir Square”; Financial times; 12 February, 2011).

Russia is also just a reactionary actor. NATO Under Secretary Lord George Hakobyan mentions that Russia sent weapons to dictator regimes such as Libya and Yemen, in order to manage the unrest. Like China, turmoil in the Middle East is no chance for Russia to replace America in this region.

While Iran explores to seize the opportunity to expand influences in the Middle East, it faces domestic uprisings. For fear of another Green Movement, the Shiite theocracy arrested opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Now, the United States and the EU discusses tougher sanctions on Iran, as taken against Libya (“What about Iran?”; Wall Street Journal; March 3, 2011). Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton argues that the United States is legitimately interested in preventing Iranian expansionist ambition to help democracy throughout the Middle East (“How Freedom's Foes Exploit Arab Unrest”; New York Post; February 21, 2011). Things do not necessarily develop in favor of Iran.

Recent turmoil in Libya shows us that only US and NATO troops can act as the Global Police Force. Regarding Western intervention, Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director of Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said, "I don't think they would have any problem with this. I would suspect that the Arab world would support this" (“Analysts: More Libyan bloodshed could prompt U.S., NATO intervention”; CNN; February 25, 2011). According to Sir Richard Dalton, Former British Ambassador to Libya, the threat of bloodshed in this country is serious enough to consider international humanitarian armed intervention. Though Russia and China oppose Western military intervention, Libya has been isolated in the Arab world. Also, Libyan oil production can be replaced in the short term by others like Saudi Arabia. Dalton says both points are the key to make Western humanitarian intervention more acceptable (“We must stand ready to intervene in Libya”; Daily Telegraph; 27 February, 2011).

Since Middle East reform is a long time policy pursuit of the United States, Michelle Dunne, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama and secretary of State Hillary Clinton to urge US involvement in democratic transition of Egypt (Open Letter; Working Group on Egypt; February 7, 2011). Furthermore, William Kristol says if Obama helps Arab democracy, “we critics of his administration here at home will be glad to salute him” (“Obama's moment in the Middle East - and at home”; Washington Post; February 23, 2011). Regarding widespread concerns to Islamists, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Former Member of the Parliament of the Netherland, denies the rise of fundamentalism. In case of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is an ideologically diversified group, consisted of tribal leaders, free-market liberals, socialists, hard-core Marxists and human rights activists. Ali points out that it is vital to found effective organizations to make democracy sustainable (“Get Ready for the Muslim Brotherhood”; New York Times; February 3, 2011).

The media dramatize the Facebook revolution, but internet software is just a tool. People who use the software are far more important than Facebook or Twitter. Don’t forget that American and European development aid organizations, think tanks and NGOs have been involved in empowerment of Middle East citizens. That has given tremendous help to awaken educated people in this region. The Obama administration needs to bear it in mind.