Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Foreign Policy Teams in the US Presidential Election

The quality and the quantity of the foreign policy team indicates each candidate’s view and dedication to the US role in the world. Also, the selection of policy advisors shows policy focuses of current contestants. The advisor team is a barometer for us to see which candidate is well prepared for the presidential job. From this point of view, Republican candidate Donald Trump was stupidly overconfident to say “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain” when he was asked about his foreign policy (“Trump: I consult myself on foreign policy”; Politico; March 16, 2016). But when his rival, Senator Ted Cruz announced his foreign policy team, Trump followed suit a few days later (“Trump begins to peel back curtain on foreign policy team”; Hill; March 21, 2016). In view of the above mentioned aspects, I would like to talk about each candidate’s advisory team.

Both in terms of quality and quantity, Hillary Clinton’s advisory team overwhelms those of other candidates. She delivered a keynote speech at the foundation ceremony of the Center for New American Security in 2007. The CNAS has provided foreign policy staffs for the Obama administration, notably its co-founders Michèle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell. Also, Clinton has an extensive personal contact among foreign policy and national security communities from her experience as the First Lady, Senator, and the Secretary of State. Her foreign policy team is in huge advantage, not just in the sheer size, but the coverage of policy areas. The team is headed by Jake Sullivan and Laura Rosenberger, both were Department of State staffs when Clinton was the Secretary. In addition, high profile figures like former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, are in contact with the team as outside advisors. Even though Senator Bernie Sanders have met some renowned Middle East experts to fill his weakness in foreign policy, such as Lawrence Korb, Ray Takeyh, and Tamara Coffman Writtes, they are associated with Clinton (“Inside Hillary Clinton’s Massive Foreign-Policy Brain Trust”; Foreign Policy; February 10, 2016).

Furthermore, Clinton has deep ties with Republican foreign policy leaders, as typically shown in Henry Kissinger’s endorsement upon her inauguration to the Secretary of State. Ever since the Gulf War, Democrats had shared common policy objective with Republicans to remove Saddam Hussein. The Clinton administration even embraced the idea of regime change in Iraq, which was proposed by the Project for the New American Century. The Bush administration acted in line with this. As if reflecting this point, Republican national security élites strongly disagree with Trump’s non-interventionism on the Iraq war, Libya, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Russia. So far as foreign policy is concerned, both parties share common understandings, and favor an orthodox candidate of the rival party, rather than a bigoted and unorthodox candidate of their own party. Even a non-mainstream Republican like Senator Rand Paul prefers Clinton, as Trump’s remark about water boarding and the wall against Mexico are utterly at odds with his libertarian values (“Hillary Clinton Has Long History of Collaboration With GOP on Foreign Policy; Intercept; March 13, 2016). There is every reason that Clinton is far more preferable to Trump for numerous Republicans.

Actually, some conservatives notably Bryan McGrath of the Hudson Institute say that they trust Clinton on foreign and defense policy (“Vocal Trump critics in GOP open to supporting Clinton”; Hill; March 24, 2016). Particularly, neoconservatives such as Robert Kagan and Max Boot openly state that they prefer Clinton to Trump. Also, former Bush administration officials from Dick Cheney to Condoleeza Rice expressed favorable views to Clinton as the Secretary of State and potential rival to Barack Obama (“Neocon War Hawks Want Hillary Clinton Over Donald Trump. No Surprise—They’ve Always Backed Her”; In These Times; March 23, 2016). Commonly regarded as a liberal hawk, Clinton monopolizes the brain trust of both parties in Washington political corridors.

In contrast, rival candidates’ advisory teams are far more insufficient, both in terms of the quality and the quantity. Sanders hardly founded something deserves to be called a foreign policy team. On the Republican side, their teams cater to popular fears against Islamic terrorism, but hardly capable of showing the vision of American role in the world. First, let me talk about Ted Cruz’s team. He announced his advisory staffs ahead of Trump. The team is led by former Senator Jim Talent and Elliot Abrahams who was a deputy national security advisor of the Bush administration (“Cruz unveils national security team before Trump”; Washington Examiner; March 17, 2016). Both neocons worked for Senator Marco Rubio’s team until he dropped out of the race (“Marco Announces Support of Top National Security Experts”;; March 7, 2016). On the other hand, anti-Islam conspiracy theorists like Frank Gaffney argues that a quarter of Muslims in the United States plot anti-American jihad, and their Sharia law poses a critical threat within the country (“Cruz Assembles an Unlikely Team of Foreign-Policy Rivals”; Bloomberg View; March 17, 2016).

Cruz’s recent comment to tighten security checks around Muslim residents (Ted Cruz: Police need to 'patrol and secure' Muslim neighborhoods; CNN; March 23, 2016) may reflect such views, but Republican mainstream does not accept those ideas. The Cruz team covers a broad range of ideological stands within the party, but the chasm between universalist neocons and nationalist conspiracy theorists can break out when their disagreements on specific issues are serious. Also, the selection of advisors of this group is disproportionately concentrated on Middle East and Islamic terrorism experts. That is far from meeting requirements to manage global challenges that America faces today.

Finally, I would like to mention Trump’s foreign policy team. Like Cruz, Trump’s team places disproportionate emphasis on Islamic terrorism. As if rivaling Cruz, Trump unveiled his foreign policy led by Senator Jim Sessions, a few days later. He has chosen neither high profile figures, nor former senior government officials for his advisors. Remarkably, his team is extremely commercialist, as if indicative of his businessman backgrounds. Carter Page and George Papadopoulos have an important position in the team, both of whom are oil and energy consultants (“Trump begins to peel back curtain on foreign policy team”; Hill; March 21, 2016). Some of them are with quite dubious and outlaw backgrounds. To begin with, Joseph Schmitz quit his job at the Pentagon in 2005 due to continuous corruption. Another member Walid Phares murdered Palestinian refugees when he fought for a Christian militia in Lebanon, and such a man of criminal conduct joins the team as a counterterrorism advisor. More startlingly, Retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg has no employment record in the army, despite his claim of working for the occupation forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 (“Top Experts Confounded by Advisers to Donald Trump”; New York Times; March 22, 2016).

In view of an appalling lineup like this, Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, comments, “Either [Trump] doesn’t care about experience. . . or no one wants to taint his reputation by working for a guy whose views are often so harsh and unthinking” (“D.C.’s Foreign-Policy Establishment Spooked by ‘Bizzaro’ Trump Team”; National Review Online; March 24, 2016). There is no wonder why Trump’s foreign policy viewpoints are totally at odds with bipartisan and trans-ideological common understanding of foreign policy and national security communities in Washington, DC. He is completely scornful of the value of a global network of American alliance. Typically, Trump’s suggestion that Japan and South Korea be armed with nuclear weapons by themselves, is a complete defiance to America’s critical security agenda to stop nuclear proliferation throughout the world. (“In Japan and South Korea, bewilderment at Trump’s suggestion they build nukes”; Washington Post; March 28, 2016). The problem is no longer racketeering, bilateral alliance, and burden sharing. His remark is a sheer ‪insult‬ to ‬‪‎bipartisan foreign policy‬ experts who are dedicated to ‪‎nuclear‬ ‪‎nonproliferation‬. Trump must know more nuclear armed powers in the world imply more likelihood of terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons.

As to the appointment of policy advisors, a leader must be much more farsighted than the public. A candidate needs to meet people’s demand. But that is not enough. A good leader must drive people to pay more attention to unnoticed, but important issues, but not pander on populist outrage. In view of this, Clinton’s advisors are the best, and Trump’s are the worst. It is possible that the Cruz team will expand and upgrade, as more advisors can join from the Bush and the Rubio team.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Democracy and Human Rights Promotion in the US Presidential Election

President Barack Obama’s remark that America is no longer the world policeman, has perplexed the global public. But the more important question is whether America is dedicated to democracy promotion in the world. It is popularly believed that the United States still assumes it a foreign policy imperative to prevail democracy. However, during the Obama presidency, Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that American budget to support democracy assistance has declined by 28%. The US Agency for International Development is the most severely hit victim, as its projects in the Middle East and Africa are drastically curtailed. This is because American citizens and policymakers are increasingly skeptical of democracy aid (“Why Is the United States Shortchanging Its Commitment to Democracy?”; Washington Post; December 22, 2014).

There is no doubt that vehement criticism to the Iraq War on the global stage drove the American public to isolationism, because defensive reactions to 9-11 attacks were blamed so bitterly. The failure of the Arab Spring has made America reluctant to make a commitment to democracy promotion furthermore. Arab opinion leaders blame the West and Zionist for corruption and instability in the region, but most of them are rooted in their societies. In addition to socioeconomic inequality and ethno-sectarian conflicts, Arab nations are hardly united despite pan-Arabism slogans. The rule of law and political participation are insufficient (“The Arab Winter”; Economist; January 9, 2016). Such global and Arab reactions have led to Obama’s withdrawal from the world policeman. It has given a bad impression to the global public that Obama has given away America’s special role to maintain the liberal world order.

American allies achingly desired that this election will elect the president who can overturn Obama’s superpower suicide. But things are rather developing to the contrary. Isolationism is rising on both the Democrat and the Republican sides. That is discouraging to America’s long term allies. Remember that democracy promotion and alliance network are deeply intertwined centerpieces of postwar American foreign policy. Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution tells how both pieces work reciprocally in “The World America Made”. The United States has always fought a war with allies, while both the Soviet Union and China have virtually alone. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, former Warsaw Pact nations joined NATO. Even former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia want to follow this. On the Pacific side, South East Asians like the Phillippines and even former foe Vietnam hope American presence to remove the Chinese threat. Though actually, none of the nations in the region want American or Chinese dominance, but their own independence.

It is widely understood that they embrace American hegemony, because the United States has neither territorial greed nor intention to infringe national sovereignty of others. Also, democratic values solidify American leadership on the global stage. Former senators Joseph Lieberman and Jon Kyl tell it in detail, “For America to lead, security and prosperity—guided by the principles of freedom—must be pursued in tandem” (“Why American leadership still matters”; AEI American Internationalism Project Report; December 3, 2015). Furthermore, both authors argue the relation between promoting American values and pursuing the national interest, “[But] supporting human rights and democratic ideals isn’t just about altruism. Democracies will not go to war with the United States, nor will they support terrorism against it, nor will they produce refugees to flee to it. Democracies do, however, ally with the United States and make for better economic partners” (“The case for American internationalism”; Catalyst; January 20, 2016).

However, not all candidates understand the importance of foreign policy assets. Typically, a Republican candidate Donald Trump argues for a fortress America against Mexicans and Muslims, and disengagement from Syria and North Korea, while a Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders almost entirely focus on domestic socioeconomic inequality. Let me talk about foreign policy of each candidate in this election (“Campaign 2016 --- Candidates & the World”; Council on Foreign Relations). Among current contestants, Marco Rubio is the most dedicated advocate for prevailing American values throughout the world. The fundamental idea of Rubio’s foreign policy is American exceptionalism to assume the special role in the global community, and he laments that the Obama administration wants to make America like the rest of the world (“Rubio: ‘Obama Wants America to Be Like the Rest of the World’”; MRC TV; January 28, 2016). As a result, he argues “Our allies don’t trust us. Our enemies don’t fear us. And the world doesn’t know where America stands” (“Rubio’s ad: “Our enemies don’t fear us’”; Hill; December 30, 2015). He endorses civil empowerment against autocratic regimes from China to Cuba. On the other hand, he voted against the Freedom Act in order to keep tough surveillance on terrorists in the homeland.

To the contrary, a Democrat Bernie Sanders and a Republican Donald Trump are unenthusiastic, and even at odds with democracy and human rights promotion, as they are extremely inward looking isolationists. Sanders is almost entirely dedicated to domestic inequality and labor issues, though he values multilateral cooperation with allies and friendly partners. As to domestic civil liberty, Sanders objects to strict surveillance for the sake of security against terrorism, as conservative libertarians do. The most problematic candidate is Donald Trump, because he is not just an isolationist. His devotion to American values is questionable from his inflammatory remarks about Muslims and Mexicans. As typically seen in his utterance about nuclear triad and wartime international law, his knowledge in foreign policy is extremely poor. His disrespect to human rights is revealed in the view on waterboarding, which distressed former CIA Director Michael Hayden so much as to say there is a legitimate possibility that the U.S. military would refuse to follow his orders (“Former CIA director: Military may refuse to follow Trump’s orders if he becomes president”; Washington Post; February 28, 2016). His foreign policy views are based on blue collar distrust to the global economy and liberal world order. He does not believe in “The World America Made”. Therefore, he does not trust democratic allies, nor is he interested in democracy promotion (“Trump’s 19th Century Foreign Policy”; Politico; January 20, 2016). He is an exceptional Republican to see diplomatic normalization with Cuba a business opportunity.

Other candidates from Republican Ted Cruz and John Kasich to Democrat Hillary Clinton stand between internationalism and isolationism. They are more or less realist, and not necessarily stanch advocates for democracy promotion. Clinton denounced China’s one-child policy as the first lady in 1995, but as the Secretary of State, her pivot to Asia was more trade oriented. Domestically, she insists on “humane” treatment of immigrants, and supports the Freedom Act for the same reason as Tea Party libertarians do. On the other hand, Cruz is in a delicate position. While he argues for hardline policies to advance human rights in geopolitically adversary regimes, notably China and Iran, he does not believe in “regime change” for fear of long and extensive troop deployments like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the domestic front, Cruz worked with a prominent libertarian Rand Paul to replace the Patriot Act with the Freedom Act to loosen terrorist surveillance. This is partly due to his supporter bases, consisted of Tea Party libertarians who believe in a limited government and evangelicals who believe in moralism. But that is not the only reason for his antipathy to neocons and deep skepticism to Arab democratization.

Cruz depends his foreign policy heavily on Jeane Kirkpatrick to assume himself a Reaganite. Based on Kirkpatrick’s article (“Dictatorship and Double Standards”; Commentary; November 1, 1979), Cruz is willing to live with unpleasant autocrats like President Bashar al Assad of Syria, in order to avoid risks of unknown confusion resulting from moralistic interventionism (“Ted Cruz’s un-American ‘America First’ Strategy”; Foreign policy; December 16, 2015). Kirkpatrick’s double standard was taken to rival against the Soviet Union. Unlike neoconservatives and progressive internationalists, Kirkpatrick was skeptical of universal progress of civilization, and she was more realist than idealist. However, Cruz dismisses that Reagan did not always follow her advice, as typically seen in his response when pro-American and anti-communist Ferdinando Marcos was overthrown in the Phillipines (“Ted Cruz's New Foreign Policy Isn't Conservative”; National Interest; August 1, 2014). Cruz’s double standard between America’s strategic rivals like China and Iran, and unfavorable Arab autocracies like Syria and Egypt, can undermine America’s global stand as the bearer of freedom and human rights.

Democracy promotion in foreign policy is also correlated to domestic policy. From this point, Donald Trump is the worst candidate. He is notorious for arrogance to the media; inflammatory remarks to provoke mob violence; and insults to minorities, women, and handicapped people. Even if he launches human rights agenda, the world shall not listen to him. Pursuit of universal value and its achievements are foreign policy assets of the United States. I hope that the open letter by national security leaders to denounce Trump’s arrogant and ignorant isolationism will be the real start of counterblow of American internationalism.