Monday, December 30, 2013

Has Iran Turned Dove Enough for Nuclear Talk?

The inauguration of moderate Rouhani administration is taken so favorably among the media and experts, and some of them even expect détente with Iran. The appointment of Mohammad Zarif to the foreign minister, who has close personal ties with American political corridors, intensifies such a welcome trend furthermore. It is understood that Iran’s sanction hit economy is leading towards a possible diplomatic thaw with the West. But it is premature to assume that Iran is turning into a peace-oriented state. Ever since taking office, President Hassan Rouhani has not denied his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadenejad’s notorious remark of “wiping out Israel”. In addition, Iran is taking some actions to challenge the West, while nuclear talks are ongoing. Also, the Geneva process is not necessarily technically complete to stop Iran’s nuclear ambition, which raises critical concerns among France, Israel, and Gulf Arabs.

First, let me mention Iran’s geopolitical power game against the West, in parallel with nuclear negotiations. Prior to the Vienna talk from December 9 to 12 to proceed the Geneva process, Rouhani agreed the cooperation pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. At the bilateral talk, Rouhani demanded Karzai that all foreign troops in Afghanistan pullout completely (“Afghanistan agrees to pact with Iran, while resisting US accord”; FOX News; December 8, 2013). Currently, Afghanistan’s BSA negotiation with the United Sates is deadlocked, because Karzai overturned the approval by Loya Jirga, and demanded that the American side reconsider legal jurisdiction to US soldiers in case of misconduct, supply better weapons to the Afghan forces, and specify the duration of military presence in Afghanistan (“Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he’ll delay signing of U.S. accord on troops”; Washington Post; November 21, 2013).

Jarad Morzai, Spokesman at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Afghanistan would pursue good relations with both Iran and the United States (“Afghanistan rejects reports on Iran’s support to Afghan militants”; Khaama Press; December 15, 2013). Meanwhile, Iran denounces the US-Afghan BSA because it extends foreign troop presence beyond 2014 when the NATO mission in Afghanistan ends (‘US-Afghan security pact detrimental for region’; Press TV; December 3, 2013).

Iran makes another move to irk America. While the talk between Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad ended chilly over drone attacks, Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh and Pakistani Petroleum Minister Petroleum and Natural Resource Minister Shahid Abbasi announced that both countries would resume the pipeline project in Tehran. The United States objects to the deal for fear of hollowing current sanctions against Iran. To satisfy appetite for gas from Iran, Pakistan ignores infrastructure aid by the United States in return for continuing the sanction (“Pakistan Wants to Accelerate Iran Natural Gas Pipeline”; Diplomat Magazine; December 11, 2013). Iran’s thrust into Pakistan and Afghanistan suggests that the détente with the United States has yet to come.

Syria is another geopolitical issue interconnected with nuclear talks. Iran is at odds with the West as it sponsors the Assad regime, recruits militia to fight in Iraq, and allies with Hezbolloah to expand influence in Lebanon and deter Israel. This is defiance to UN-backed Syria conference to be held at Montreux in Switzerland on January 22. While Rouhani is exploring nuclear deals to ease sanctions, the Revolutionary Guards harness his efforts to aid terrorists. Andrew J. Tabler, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, comments “A deal on the Iranian nuclear program isn’t going to work if you cede the hard-liners the Levant”. On the other hand, “Iran’s position on Syria is that the alternative to Assad is more dangerous to both U.S. and Iranian interests than the status quo”, according to Karim Sadjapour, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (“On Iran and Syria, Tests of Diplomacy Intertwine”; New York Times; December 19, 2013). The problem is, whether it is possible to consider nuclear negotiations and Iran’s geopolitical defiance separately.

In addition, Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan announced that the Iranian forces improved accuracy of longer range ballistic missiles with laser technology, when the Vienna process started. The US Department of Defense is critically concerned with rapid technological progress in Iran’s missile accuracy (“Iran Asserts Dramatic Gain in Ballistic-Missile Precision”; Global Security News; December 9, 2013). Those missiles are formidable enough to pose threats to Gulf emirates and Israel. Why does Iran have to improve their missiles, if they are seriously committed to stop the nuclear project?

Current Iranian economy is bitterly hit by sanctions. Oil export dropped 60% in the past two years. GDP shrank 5 to 6%, and inflation and unemployment rose 45% and 35% respectively. Vasil Nasr, Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, argues that world powers seize this opportunity to advance nuclear negotiations with Iran rather than imposing pressure on them (“Iran’s Economic Crossroads”; New York Times; December 4, 2013). Iran has every reason to ask world powers to lift sanctions in return for accepting UN inspection. However, it is dangerous to assume that Iran will abide by global nonproliferation norms simply for the sake of the economy. Technically speaking, Iran can cheat the deal. In addition, the nature of the Iranian regime must be questioned.

Under the Geneva agreement, Iran must stop uranium enrichment beyond 5%, accept UN inspections, and stop operation at the Arak plutonium plant. In return, P5+1 will ease sanctions on Iran’s oil and petrochemical export, and establish financial channels to facilitate humanitarian economic transaction. Also, no further nuclear related sanctions will be imposed by the United States, the EU, and the UN Security Council (“Full Text of Iran-5+1 agreement in Geneva”; Global Security News; 24 November 2013). The problem is, Iran can continue to enrich uranium, and there are gaps in understanding the agreement between Iran and the West. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the deal was a historic mistake to make Iran another North Korea as it admits Iran to enrich uranium (“Iran agrees to curb nuclear activity at Geneva talks”; BBC News; 24 November 2013). In view of common threats, Israel turns to Saudi Arabia for possible strategic partnership. Iran sponsors Hamas in Palestine and Lebanon, Assad in Syria, and Shiite dissidents in Gulf emirates. In addition to this, both Israel and Gulf Arabs worry that the United States is proceeding cooperation with Iran at the expense of them (“Iran nuclear deal triggers anxiety for Israel and Gulf”; BBC News; 25 November 2013).

Geopolitics is not the only reason for such distrust to the Obama administration among America’s Middle East allies. Prior to the Geneva negotiation, secret talks between the United States and Iran were held in Oman. Despite concerns raised by Israel and Gulf Arabs, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal "demonstrates how persistent diplomacy and tough sanctions can together help us to advance our national interest" (“Secret talks helped forge Iran nuclear deal”; Guardian; 25 November 2013). Are the things so optimistic? As a stakeholder of the Geneva process, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius raises concerns with the second phase of the agreement “to curb global financial penalties against Iran if the Middle Eastern power restricts certain elements of its nuclear program”, because "It is unclear if the Iranians will accept to definitively abandon any capacity of getting a weapon, or only agree to interrupt the nuclear program" (“French Foreign Minister: Iran Might Not Give Up Nuclear-Arms Potential”; Global Security Newswire; December 19, 2013).

Actually, a similar deal was proposed in 2005, which allows Iran to enrich uranium while restricting the number of centrifuges. But the Bush administration and the European Union rejected it (“An enriching dialogue with Iran — with limits”; Washington Post; October 18, 2013). Is the Geneva deal a retreat from 2005? The Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Democrat Senator Robert Menendez introduced the bipartisan Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act on December 19 to impose further pressure, in order to wipe out Iran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons completely (“Senators Introduce Bipartisan Iran-Sanctions Bill”; Global Security Newswire; December 19 2013).

We must explore Iran’s strategic intention as well as technical problems. Is Iran moving toward another North Korea? Patricia Lewis, research Director of International Security at Chatham House, and Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist at the Financial Times, deny such a viewpoint in an interview on November 28. Both of them insists the following points. Unlike North Korea, IAEA has full access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. In addition, they argue that Iran does not want poverty and isolation, which North Korea has been accepting for decades. Nor, did Iran threaten to withdraw from the NPT. See the video below.

However, Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican prospective for 2016 presidential nominee, pointed out that Iran had made rapid progress in uranium enrichment technology, and spent a lot to develop nuclear weapons and long range missiles. In his view, only tough pressure has made Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accept the nonproliferation talk, and it must be continued until Iran gives up the capability to make nuclear weapons completely (“Rubio: Keep heat on Iran on nuclear talks”; USA Today; October 15, 2013).

Also, the nature of the Iranian regime is critical. As Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues, “Seldom does the Iranian government place the wellbeing of its population above its own revolutionary ideology. The Supreme Leader considers himself the Deputy of the Messiah on Earth. Sovereignty comes from God; what the Iranian people may think is beside the point” (“Bad Iran deal worse than no deal”; CNN Global Public Square; November 12, 2013). Despite tighter agreement, we must still be careful that Iran can turn into another North Korea. The focal point is whether to impose certain limits on Iran’s nuclear program while easing sanctions, or eliminate the potential of Iran’s nuclear weapon through tightening sanctions.

Even if Rouhani looks moderate, Iran is still improving nuclear capable missiles, and shows geopolitical ambition from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the Gulf, Afghanistan, to Pakistan. The nuclear project is deeply interconnected with their revolutionary ideal of exporting Shiite theocracy. They may use this temporary détente to finance to proceed the project later on. In addition, we must watch closer, whether the Obama administration can override bipartisan objection to the Geneva agreement. The failure to manage this will move Obama furthermore to lame duck.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Timeline of Iran’s Nuclear Project

The Geneva Talk has provoked controversies whether to make a nuclear deal with Iran or not. Iran’s nuclear project dates back to the shah’s era. The New York Times publishes the chronology of the nuclear development to present a historical overview of the ongoing negotiation.

It is well known that Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi envisioned a post petroleum Iran, and the nuclear power plant project was a crown jewelry to sustain high economic growth during the Pahlavi era. Since the 1950s, the United States provided generous technological aid for Iran, and the shah joined the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968.

Things have changed after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The project restarted in 1984 to reconstruct the plant in Bushehr. In the late 1980s, Iran joined the Khan Network to develop nuclear weapons. Also, Russia signed the nuclear contract with Iran in 1995. Though Russian President then Boris Yeltin pursued post Cold War coexistence with the West, his administration did not accept the American request to stop selling nuclear technology to Iran. In 2002, Iran’s opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq revealed the secret plan for nuclear bomb. The following map shows main nuclear facilities.

Despite continual crisis, UN sanctions started so late in 2006. Quite interestingly, Israel made a secret request to the Bush administration to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2008, as it did to stop Saddam Hussein’s program in Iraq. Instead, the Bush administration began cyber attacks to Iran along with Israel. The Timeline is helpful to understand the development of the decades long Iran nuclear crisis. I would like to talk about Iran’s nuclear threat furthermore later.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Obama Presidency Divides America

The Obama administration faces political deadlocks too frequently, like sequestration and government shutdown. Partisan divide among the American public arose during the Bush era, and that has grown tremendously ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated. The Tea Party movement emerged as widespread backlashes to the Obama presidency. Regarding frequent sequestration and current shutdown, experts tend to discuss ideological split and fiscal policy, but I would rather focus on public hatred to un-American aspects of Barack Obama himself.

No other Presidents have been called so offensively as Obama is. People call him a socialist, communist, Muslim, etc. Still, many of them suspect that Obama was not born in the United States, which disqualifies him to be the president by the constitution. Some racist sentiment may lead to those profanities, but public hatred to Obama’s un-Americaness is much deeper than this. As shown in his speeches at the inauguration, in Prague, and in Cairo, Obama’s apologetic foreign and domestic policy views are at odds with traditional American values.

Since his inauguration, or even during the election campaign for his first term, it was predictable that the division of the American public would be intensified if Obama took office. However, the media praised and dramatized him, simply because he would be the first Black American president in history. They went along with anti Bush atmosphere without giving consideration to political implication of Obama’s victory. Conservative popular backlash as typically seen in the Tea Party movement is an inevitable consequence of it. Regarding popular protests, I would like to mention two key points. First, they want to defend America of the constitutional value, which is assuring freedom from the government. Second, they stand against any actors that pose danger to their homeland of lofty constitutional ideals, and Islamic terrorists are the most critical threat for them. Popular profanities to Obama illustrate their emotion to him. Politics is not always a rational debate of a certain policy, and I would like to argue these two points, mainly based on Facebook and Twitter massages.

It is often understood that the Tea Party is a rally of fiscal austerity as it advocates a small government. This is quite superficial. Most of the participants and supporters of the rally are not experts but grassroots public. Rather than technical issues on the budget and welfare, their primary agenda is an America of constitutional ideals. Obama care is a symbol to attack his big government. Some experts like Timothy Gaston, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, proposes that Republicans focus on fiscal policy rather than Obama care (“Time to Compromise? How Republicans and Democrats View the Government Shutdown”; FixGov; October 3, 2013). It makes sense when the partisan battle is simply on the economy. That is not the case with Tea Party conservatives. Obama care is a symbol of his big government policy as northern spotted owl was in the Pacific North West forest in 1994 and polar bear is on global warming at present.

Constitutionalists are loyal to national foundation ideals, and they are very patriotic and affirmative to America. Certainly, unlike neoconservatives, they are no proponent of America as the world policeman. In Syria, they opposed the war not because of the budget, but the fear of helping Al Qaeda among the rebel. They may be isolationist when the US homeland is safe, but another Pearl Harbor attack like 9-11 makes them interventionist to defend the constitutional homeland of America.

From this perspective, fear of Islam among grassroots conservative is quite important. A typical case that illustrates such a sentiment is popular responses to Nina Davuluri, the winner of Miss America 2014. She is the first Indian American to win the title, but numerous offensive comments were tweeted on Twitter. For example, "Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you", "More like Miss Terrorist #MissAmerica", and so forth (“20 Racist Tweets About the New Miss America”; Indian Country; September 16, 2013).

Fear of Islamic terrorism is understandable, but she is not an Al Qaeda.

Those tweets show ignorance and vulgar racism, as India is a key ally for the United States in the War on Terror. Moreover, some rulers of Islamic dynasties in India during the Middle Age were so extremist that they repressed Hinduism brutallyand even exterminated Buddhism. However, I would like to stress that such ignorance and vulgarity illustrate popular feeling much more vividly than splendid academic articles. The media and experts talk about antipathy to long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they dismiss voices against possible help to Islamic extremists Syria and profanities to Obama are deeply related to such sentiments.

Obama cannot manage such popular antipathy to his domestic and foreign policy. Even his fellow Democrats express dissent to Obama. Fifteen Democrat senators, including Michael Bennet, Jeff Merkeley, and so forth are frustrated with the political deadlock by the Obama care dispute, as they have elections in 2014 (“Obama Moves to Quell Democratic Dissent Over Health-Care Rollout”; Bloomberg News; November 7, 2012). According to the poll by Quinnipiac University, Obama’s approval rate has fallen to 39%, which is the lowest since his inauguration (“President Obama's approval rating drops to lowest yet in Quinnipiac University poll”; FOX News; November 12, 2012). Alex Roarty, Staff Correspondent for the National Journal, points out that the president who does not run for reelection has not recovered from the drop in approval rate (“Why Obama won’t Bounce Back”; National Journal; November 12, 2013).

On the global stage, it is Russian President Vladimir Putin who takes the top position of Forbe’s Ranking of the World’s Most Powerful People, and Obama comes to the second, followed by Chinese President Xi Jingping to No.3, German Chancellor Angela Merkel to No. 5, and British Prime Minister David Cameron to No. 11 (“Forbes Releases 2013 Ranking Of The World's Most Powerful People”; Forbes Magazine; October 30, 2013). Does this imply that the United States is no longer the superpower? Seeing the ranking carefully, you will understand that many American public officials and businessmen such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Microsoft founder Bill Gates occupy high positions on the list. It is not American decline but Obama’s poor leadership that has led to such a result. In a parliamentary cabinet system, a leader like him would have already gone. Remember the government functioned during the Bush era, though approval rate plunged after the global financial crisis.

Though having three years left to end his term, Barack Obama has become a lame duck president virtually, and it is time for American watchers to think of the next president after Obama. From current ruling Democratic Party, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is supposed to be the most likely candidate. However, the Benghazi Gate will give her heavy blow. This incident deterred Former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice from assuming the position of the Secretary of State, in the face of vehement opposition from Republicans on the Hill. In view of widespread naïve fear of Islam among the grassroots, this is a critical disadvantage. Will the Democratic Party still nominate her or someone else?

Also, it is vital to see whether the Republican Party rolls back or not. Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center at the Heritage Foundation, comments critically that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s cheer leading to Obama will harm the image of the Tory Party among its fellow American conservatives. In addition , Gardiner sends a reminder message that Conservative Cameron has little to learn from Democrat leftist Obama (“Cameron worships Obama, but Barack's win won't help Dave in 2015”; Daily Telegraph; 8 November, 2012). Gardinier’s comment is insightful even to Socialist French President François Hollande, as Obama has already become a lame duck. Can the Republican Party overcome the split between interventionist defense hawks and America first Tea Party? This is the key to their roll back.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remember, No Al Qaeda Havens in Uyghur

The Chinese authority arrested five Uyghurs for the bombing at the Tiananmen Square. But are they really responsible? Historically, Xinjiang or East Turkestan is the route to Afghanistan and Pakistan from mainland China. However, see the map of Al Qaeda franchise below.

The success of the surge in Iraq in 2008, Al Qaeda was supposed to be defeated. However, the Obama administration’s decision to pull out US troops from Iraq and subsequent Arab Spring helped Al Qaeda resurge and spread in Africa, including the Sahel, Kenya, and Somalia, and also throughout Arab nations. Their strongholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan are still formidable. The Boston bombing was inspired by their affiliates in Chehchnya. But Al Qaeda has not penetrated in Central Asia and the Chinese Xinjiang (“The al Qaeda Franchise Threat”; Wall Street Journal; April 30, 2013).

The Chinese authority says that Uyghur “terrorists” are trained in Syria. Are the suspects related to Syrian war rebels? No information has been provided. Alim Seytoff, Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, comments that it is quite unlikely that Uyghur citizens attack such a tightly secured place (“Rights Groups Doubt Uyghur Involvement in Tiananmen Attack”; Diplomat Magazine; October 30, 2013). Rabiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress, argues furthermore that China can do anything to manipulate Uyghur “terrorism”, in order to repress independence movements in East Turkestan. On the other hand, Ilham Tohti, China based Uyghur economist, says that Uyghurs have no other measures except violence as Beijing took away all the channels for their self expression (“China suspects Tiananmen crash a suicide attack, sources say”; Reuters News; October 30, 2013).

Is China fixing up terrorism, or is Al Qaeda intruding to Xinjiang? At this stage, it is suspected that the Communist Party manipulates the terror attack.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Turkey’s Questionable Choice of Missile System from China

The news that Turkey decided to choose the anti-missile system from China raises  critical concerns among NATO allies. Why did China win the competition among many rivals? Above all, political implication of this decision is serious, if Turkey really is to stay in NATO and maintain ties with the EU. The problem is not just Chinese penetration into NATO air defense system. Turkey is processing the deal through state run CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation), the company that is sanctioned the US government for violating nonproliferation rules against Iran, North Korea, and Syria, this February. CPMIEC was sanctioned also in 2003 by the United States for arms sale to Iran (“US-sanctioned Chinese firm winsTurkey missile defense system tender”; September 26, 2013; Hurriyet Daily News). In other words, Turkey is helping a rogue corporation make profits, and defies the code of conduct in the global nonproliferation regime.

Why does Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan make a problematic deal with such a notorious company? The Erdoğan administration pursues independent foreign policy from the West. But this is not the only reason for selecting the Chinese missile system over American and European rivals. China is more willing to meet Turkey’s requirement for technology transfer than the West (“WhyTurkey’s Buying Chinese Missile Systems”; Diplomat Magazine; September 30,2013). I would like to call an attention that copyright protection in China is loose, and they use stolen technologies from the West, Russia, and Israel. Therefore, I raise a concern that generous codes for technological transfer can help terrorists to acquire cutting the edge technology. Remember some terrorist organizations like Hezbollah are more well-armed than sovereign states, and the Erdoğan administration is helping such a dangerous company make money.

In addition to technological transfer, Turkey explores economic opportunities in the New Silk Road area through deepening relations with SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) nations. A landmark deal was made in 2010 between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chinese Prime Minister-then Wen Jiabao to boost bilateral trade. President Xi Jinping reaffirmed it in 2012 before he was inaugurated. Quite alarmingly, Anna Beth Keim and Assistant Professor Sulmaan Khan at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University points out that Turkey and China share concern with American supremacy, as a substantial portion of Turkish people regard the United Sates as an oppressive superpower.

However, Turkey’s position in Eurasia is complicated. Turkey’s membership in NATO is incompatible for full membership to SCO. Also, the Uyghur problem is a hurdle for Turkey to develop real partnership with China (“Can China and Turkey forge a new Silk Road?”; New Turkey; February 6,2013). One Uyghur activist in Japan was disappointed to hear the missile deal as it would help the repressive regime of China. Like America and Europe, Turkey accommodates some leaders of the World Uyghur Congress. Pro-Chinese foreign policy just in quest of independence from the West will ruin Turkey’s Afro-Eurasia policy which is closely associated with Turkic kith and kin.

The Turkish-Chinese missile deal symbolizes China’s aggressive marketing of arms export. In 2012, China has overtaken Britain to become the 5th largest defense exporter ("For China, Turkey missile deal a victory even if it doesn't happen"; Reuters News: October 2, 2013). Coincidentally, South Korea makes a similar deal with China as President Park Guenhye is pursuing more Asia-oriented foreign policy than her predecessors, which distresses the United States and Japan. It is not just a “Great Leap Forward” of Chinese arms export. China drives wedge into America’s Atlantic and Pacific alliances, and it targets the weakest link of both groups.

Like Yukio Hatoyama in postwar Japan, Erdoğan is an exceptional prime minister in modern Turkish history. Both of them defy their national fundamental of “datsu-a nyu-oh”, that is, to boost national power through joining the West and become first class civilized nations. But Hatoyama’s dream of the East Asian Community failed miserably, and so did Erdoğan’s good neighbor policy in the Middle East. Is Turkey making another mistake? That simply irritates NATO allies and their fellow Uyghurs. China may appear to be a powerful and reliable partner for Erdoğan, but it has no power projection capability in Turkey’s neighborhood. Only American and European allies can help Turkey in the Syrian crisis. Erdoğan must learn a lesson from Japan’s failure to ally with Hitler’s Germany in World War II. Nazi Germany had no power projection capability in the Pacific region, and Japan fought the war virtually alone.

Turkey’s primary partner is the West, and there is no alternative. AKP associates its political ideal with that of Christian Democrats in Europe, in order to placate the fear of Islamism among the EU public. Also, Turkey has no choice but abide by the Copenhagen criteria on human and minority rights, particularly with regard to the Kurdish problem. Finally, I would propose that Japan act with NATO allies to stop Turkey’s missile deal with China, because it is coincided with South Korea’s similar deal. The Abe administration advocates proactive pacifism and global-oriented diplomacy, and therefore, Japan, along with Western and Asian allies, should not allow China to target the weakest links.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Dangerous World without Commitment of America and Europe

It is ironical. In the early 20th century, the West was overconfident to assume “white man’s burden”, which led to the zenith of imperial capitalism, and ultimately, the most devastating World Wars in history. But today, a reluctant and self denying West is responsible for global disorder. It is not just Obama’s superpower suicide. In Britain, the House of Commons rejected R2P action to Syria, which gave a blow to Cameron’s ideal of inheriting Blairite liberal interventionism. Also in Germany, people turn less willing to endorse European integration in view of the burden of helping financial crisis of Greece and Cyprus.

During the Cold War, a solid Transatlantic alliance was the anchor of the Free World. This helped American alliance spread across the Asia Pacific and the rest of the world. After the Cold War, NATO expanded their mission to Afghanistan, in order to manage globalized threats out of the Euro Atlantic sphere, typically Al Qaeda terrorism. But currently, both America and Europe are hesitant to use their hard power and soft power for global and regional public interest, and pursue their own recluse happiness. What happened with the West?

Both in the United States and Britain, people are tired of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Partisan politics and weak economy hurt their global policemanship. Autocracies like Russia and China, and terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda make use of such annoyance for their favor (“The weakened West”; Economist; September 21, 2013). The heir of Greco-Roman civilization and the creator of universal liberal norms is disposing the burden for global public interest.

Let me see country by country to explore why the West has become so reluctant to take leadership roles. First, I have to talk about the United States. In view of public hesitation to attack Syria, President Barack Obama remarked that the United States would not act as the world policeman on September 10 (“Team America no longer wants to be the World’s Police”; Washington Post; September 13, 2013). In an interview with France 24 TV on September 27, Xenia Dormandy, Senior Fellow at the Chatham House, commented that American military and economic power still overwhelm others, but the problem is how to use them and whether it sustains the will to use them for global interests. See the video below.

Despite the war wary atmosphere among the public, some American leaders are keenly aware of benefits of Pax Americana for the world and America itself. Senator Marco Rubio comments “History teaches us that a strong and engaged America is a source of good in the world. History also teaches us that the best way to preserve the peace is to have the military power to win any war. Our foreign policy should sustain and deepen our relationships with our allies, including those who are threatened because of their willingness to stand with America” (“Putin Is Wrong”; National Review Online; September 12, 2013). What Rubio mentioned here is the vital lesson of 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Then, I have to talk about Europe. At the World Economic Forum in 2008, Europeans questioned if Japan was a forgotten power on the global stage. However, I would like to remind them that their post imperial mindsets lower global public attention to Europe as well. For example, the media in Japan pay far more attention to South Korea than the EU and major European powers. Considering their political, economic, military, and cultural power, this is absurdly unbelievable. That is primarily because Europeans are too self-critical of assuming global responsibility, and become too inward-looking.

Even in Britain, that boasts a global power status through the special relationship with the United States, the House of Commons rejected intervention to Syria. Quite importantly, some Tory MPs such as Davis Davis, Crispin Blunt, and Julian Lewis voted against the Cameron administration for fear of an escalation of the war and confrontation with Russia (“Dozens of Conservative MPs defied David Cameron over Syria” Daily Telegraph; 30 August, 2013). Polly Toynbee, Columnist of the Guardian, comments that the decision at the Commons illustrates a farewell to Britain’s imperial legacy and Blair styled liberal interventionism (“No 10 curses, but Britain's illusion of empire is over”; Guardian; 29 August, 2013). But what is Britain that hesitates to police the world with America, detaches from the EU, and rejecting the imperial legacy?

Reclusive isolationism is on the rise in Germany as well. Despite the victory of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in the last election, its neo liberal coalition partner Free Democratic Party lost seats (“Early results give FDP 4.7 percent, short of representation in Bundestag”; Deutsche Welle; 22 September, 2013) for fear of the borderless economy across the globe and within Europe. Germans chose Merkel because they are content with relative stability and prosperity in a continent of debt crisis and youth unemployment coupled with resurgent nationalism (“Why Germans May Stick With Merkel’s Steady Hand”; Bloomberg News; September 21, 2013). German voters are not so much interested in greatness, strength, and regional obligations of their nation, judging from their self-defensive response to the Greek and Cypriot financial crisis. This is a problem, considering Germany’s historic contribution to European integration.

I shall never endorse “white man’s burden” idea in the old days, but in presentday context, Europeans should play more proactive roles to manage global problems, and they should not be forgotten. The fatal consequence of such a reclusive and self-indulged West is a growing assumption among challengers like Russia, China, and Islamic terrorists, that neither America nor Europe is capable of boasting their primacy. An understanding of “Western decline” provokes them to behave more assertively and defiantly to current global system. As a result, the clash between the West and the rest of the world will be intensified. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent contribution to the New York Times (“A Plea for Caution From Russia”; New York Times; September 11, 2013) is an apparent declaration against American, and more broadly, Western preeminence.

The chasm between the West and the rest will place intermediary nations like Japan, India, and Turkey in awkward positions. These non-Western democracies are regional powers closely associated with the West. Japan and Turkey are too well known for successful modernization through the Meiji Restoration and the Kemal Revolution. After the World War II, both nations are natural member of the Western alliance. On the other hand, India has been assuming itself a leader of the Third World. However, since the inauguration of the Singh administration, India has been deepening economic ties with the West. The War on Terror has made India's relations with the West ever closer.

In view of a reluctant West and aggressive challengers, should intermediary nations act independently? Remember the failure of detachment from the West by the Hatoyama administration of Japan and the Erdoğan administration of Turkey. Quite interestingly, both Hatoyama and Erdoğan thought emerging economies in their neighborhood were more prospective partners than the West. But Yukio Hatoyama’s initiatives for the East Asia Community stalled due to China’s autocratic and expansionist policy. So did Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogul’s blueprint of “Turkey at the heart of the Afro-Eurasian sphere”, as Turkey failed to improve relations with Iran, Syria, and Iraq, and Islamic populist Morsi administration of Egypt was overthrown. Turkey realizes that NATO is the only reliable partner to manage the civil war in neighboring Syria, just as Hatoyama’s Japan learned the real meaning of US deterrence against Chinese threats. From this point, Japan’s former ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was wrong to manage the Sino-Japanese diplomacy through the instinct based on his businessman background.

The West is predominant in capability of setting universal norms and founding a global regime, which is deep rooted since the Greco-Roman, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment era. Seemingly powerful, challengers simply defy the West, but not thinking of supplanting its global supremacy. Russians claim their preeminence in the Eurasian heartland, Chinese do in the Pacific area, and others do accordingly. What intermediary democracies like Japan and India, need to do is to explore how to share burdens with the West, rather than to detach from it. The failure of Istanbul’s bid for the Olympics symbolizes fatal consequence of Erdoğan’s “independent” foreign policy. Rather, proactive engagement by intermediary powers will bolster the confidence of the West to assume global responsibility, and this is more constructive than the Hatoyama- Erdoğan initiatives.