Tag: Middle East

On U.S. Military Policy–McCain is No Reaganite

I wanted to call attention to an article I caught on “RollCall” the other day.  And it’s about McCain’s recent comments about the evil “isolationists” (in this case…a pretty decent portion of the American electorate apparently) daring to question military intervention in Libya:

“I wonder what Ronald Reagan would be saying today?” asked McCain, challenging what he termed the “isolationism” of leading members of the GOP for daring to question Obama’s Libya engagement.

McCain then went on to answer his own question:

“He would be saying that’s not the Republican Party of the 20th century and now the 21st century. That is not the Republican Party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people all over the world, whether it be in Grenada, that Ronald Reagan had a quick operation about, or whether it be in our enduring commitment to countering the Soviet Union.”

Pascoe then goes on to explain that McCain’s assertion has little no connection to reality, at least the reality that Ronald Reagan considered thoughtful military policy. To illustrate this, he pulls a quote from Reagan’s book, “An American Life”:

What would Reagan do?

Our experience in Lebanon led to the adoption by the administration of a set of principles to guide America in the application of military force abroad, and I would recommend it to future Presidents,” Reagan wrote. “The policy we adopted included these principles:

1. The United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.

2. If the decision is made to commit our forces to combat abroad, it must be done with the clear intent and support needed to win. It should not be a halfway or tentative commitment, and there must be clearly defined and realistic objectives.

3. Before we commit our troops to combat, there must be reasonable assurance that the cause we are fighting for and the actions we take will have the support of the American people and Congress.

4. Even after all these other tests are met, our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort, when no other choice is available.

It’s clear to me that the mission in Libya fails in virtually every way on ALL of these counts:

  1. We have heard no argument–from anyone, least of all the administration–on why it is in our national interest to be in Libya.
  2. It’s apparent the Obama administration has absolutely no clue the importance of point number two, which is one point where McCain is always pretty good on–regardless of who is President–and it’s probably the thing that gets him the most riled up on news shows on the topic (“why won’t these Libertarians let us WIN?!?”).
  3. Congress? Who’s that? Really? He’s supposed to ask Congress.  Don’t think the Obama Administration got that memo.  Say what you want about Bush and Iraq; he at least got a resolution from Congress on the topic.
  4. Well…the funny thing about this one is that it’s inexorably intertwined with number one.  In order for something to be the “last resort” it must mean that one is “resorting” to accomplish something or solve something that desperately needs to be solved, in the resorter’s best interest.  Saying that military intervention in Libya was our “last resort” is almost like saying that as a “last resort”, I had to go twenty miles deep in the woods and shoot someone in the head who was beating their wife.  Maybe if it was someone I knew and loved (an “ally”), that would be possible, or someone that I knew was plotting to beat MY wife…or my friend’s wife.  But what were the other “resorts” that the Obama Administration went through?

The long and short of it is, everyone knows that I consider it one of my favorite past-times to beat up on Paulistinians who say we should “bring them all home” and take care of ourselves…that we should use “friendship and democracy” as the signature feature of American foreign policy, not military strength.  There are a myriad of responses to this.  Responses like, “OK, which countries should we remove our bases from? The ones who DO want us to stay…or the ones that don’t?  What about the ones that DO that are RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the ones that DON’T?” “If the whole globe goes to H.E.DoubleHockeySticks in a breadbasket, who are we going to trade with? If that doesn’t matter, then how is that not isolationist?” ETC ETC.

I think the above criteria from Reagan is a good starting point for the conversation on the topic, and leaves us with the overarching question:

What is our “National Interest”?

That’s a whole conversation for another day, but I think it’s clear that “standing up for freedom” is just not enough all by itself.  It wasn’t for Reagan, and it’s not for us.

Iran Hosts Terrorism Conference

While we’re busy pulling out our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq we must look carefully at this thing called “influence.”

Now there is no argument (at least from me) that military presence is the only, or even the best, form of influence in the Middle East. Actually, when it comes to Afghanistan, I think the entire program was a decided waste of money and resources. Iran is going to have its “Blame Terrorism on Israel and the U.S. Conference” whether we have a presence in Iraq and Afghanistan or not, but the “wooing” of Karzai, Talabani, and Zardari by Iran is just evidence that “no entangling alliances” is not an option for a viable U.S. foreign policy.  From the WSJ article:

Iran is moving to cement ties with the leaders of three key American allies—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—highlighting Tehran’s efforts to take a greater role in the region as the U.S. military pulls out troops.

The Afghan and Pakistani presidents, visiting Tehran, discussed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “many issues…that might come up after the NATO military force goes out of Afghanistan,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview here Sunday.

Iran's terrorism conference

EPA from WSJ--Iran's Foreign Minister, center, was flanked by presidents of Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan on Saturday

Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Saturday.

“The three presidents were very forthcoming in carrying out the cooperation and contacts so as to make sure things will go as smoothly as it could,” he said.

That was a jab at Washington, which is increasingly in competition with Tehran for influence in the region, particularly as popular rebellions have surged across the Middle East and North Africa since January.

The overtures by U.S. nemesis Iran come amid tensions between Washington and three governments that have each received billions of dollars in U.S. aid. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, before traveling to Tehran, welcomed President Barack Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. would withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan over 15 months.

Now I hold no illusions that there is a whole lot we can do to keep Iran from wanting to have relationships in the region, but it says alot about the Obama administration’s “influence” (or lack thereof) when he not only cannot talk any of our Muslim allies (like Mongolia, Oman, or Indonesia), or the U.N. from sending emissaries to the conference, but the U.N. Secretary General gives it a ringing endorsement, and three of our top six recipients (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan) of foreign aid sent not only an emissary but their Presidents.

(Now I’ll admit, this is better, apparently, than the Bush Administration did when Iran hosted a conference on the Holocaust, back in 2006.  We couldn’t keep a certain American “emissary” away.)

If the influence of not only U.S. military power, but that of NATO as well (our Defense Secretary has spelled doom for that alliance) was to wane substantially, it is not beyond the realm of imagination that “trilateral alliances” could fill that NATO void.  And what does “finding the root causes of terrorism” really mean?:

For the most part, the conference followed a pattern many U.S. and European officials anticipated. Iranian, Cuban and Palestinian representatives—mixing with North Korean, Zimbabwean and Myanmar diplomats—branded Israel the world’s largest terrorism threat.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, addressed the conference and said the definition of terrorism is abused internationally. “We should prevent the use of terrorism for political reasons,” he said.

On the grounds of the conference hall, the Iranian hosts assembled displays documenting what they alleged were Israeli and American-backed plots against the Islamic Republic.

So, now that they’ve found the root cause, what, pray tell will be the long-term solution?  Hmmm?

Withdrawal Timetables and following the Iraqi example.

Interesting article on the Iraq situation and the prospects of “timetables.” Mr. Kissinger is, of course, an adviser to John McCain, so his view is the same as mine: that arbitrary timetables based on wishes of the U.S. population back home instead of conditions on the ground plays right into the hands of opposition forces in Iraq.

However, Mr. Kissinger makes another point which I sort of instinctively knew deep down, but simply couldn’t put my finger on until he expressed it. Beyond that I think it even illustrates Iraq as an example we should learn from:

In this manner, prospects for reconciliation among the three parts of the country, Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni, have appeared not through legislation, as congressional resolutions applying the American experience imagined, but by necessity and a measure of military and political equilibrium. Since the need for American forces in dealing with a massive insurrection has diminished, they can increasingly concentrate on helping the Iraqi government resist pressures from neighbors and the occasional flare-up of terrorist attacks from al-Qaeda or Iranian-backed militias. In that environment, the various national and provincial elections foreseen for the next months in Iraq’s constitution can help shape new Iraqi institutions.

This goes way deeper than foreign policy as far as the “Liberal” versus “Conservative” view of things. Most of the process of the left covering their tails about the success of the surge has revolved around the argument that there has not been the “political reconciliation” that was predicted. And in their view, they’re right. The Iraqi government has indeed not completely come together–Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd–and forged the agreements and institutions necessary to secure their country long-term.

But the people of Iraq, the tribes, the communities, and the neighborhoods…have come to some agreements. The long and short of it is: “Progressives” can’t picture anything good happening without a Government agency being responsible for it. This is why “Liberals” can say–with a straight face–that “Conservatives” want the Government telling us what we can and can’t do, while almost in the same breath will describe how the Government should tell us what we can and can’t do. Because if someone is a proponent of an idea, then OBVIOUSLY that means they want the Government to enforce it. How else can you change things if it’s not by Federal edict?

However, I’ve met few conservatives who are pushing for a Christian Caliphate (to use the term loosely); they simply believe the Government should not force us to abandon our own principles on the altar of abiding by “Progressive” ones.

And back to Iraq some are (as this article in the Boston Globe makes clear) obviously unable to believe that anything can happen unless the Federal Government makes it so. Suppression of violence, infrastructure, stability, economics, all of that stuff is irrelevant because Maliki’s had less to do with it than he would like to admit.

Truthfully, we can draw a lesson from this domestically. We as individuals, communities, and States should start thinking about solving our own problems instead of waiting for Washington, DC to do it for us (or, to be fair, an external military presence); this is the solution to: Health Care, energy, transportation, immigration…you name it.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize how attitudes about Foreign Policy and Domestic Policy are intertwined into one major philosophical divide: who is responsible for solving the world’s problems? Individuals or Governments?

Options in Israel

The NYT lays out two options that Israel has for resolving the conflict in Gaza:

a)

Ms. Rice could encourage Israel to increase the strikes against Hamas in the hopes of destroying its leadership in Gaza. But Israel tried that with Hezbollah in Lebanon and failed, leaving Hezbollah leaders to assert when the war was over that they had stood up to Israel.

OR

b)

Ms. Rice’s other alternative — encouraging Israel to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas — has pitfalls, Middle East experts say, because that would further legitimize Hamas, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist organization. Martin Indyk, the former United States ambassador to Israel, said such a cease-fire would further undermine Mr. Abbas and make it look like Hamas is the entity with which Israel and the West should be negotiating.

My humble suggestion:

c) see a, except for this time negotiate Fatah’s permission to do it…and don’t fail.  Hamas doesn’t have 1/2 the credibility or 1/10th the support (right now) as Hezbollah did.  Don’t know if this would solve the problems permanently, and am quite sure the media fallout would be bad…for a while.  But it really can’t get much worse, and the (b) alternative would be MUCH worse.

Reason #427 why a nuclear Iran is not cool

Now it looks like everyone wants nukes…and who can blame them?

Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.

So, too, Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant. And Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear programs. While interest in nuclear energy is rising globally, it is unusually strong in the Middle East.

“The rules have changed,” King Abdullah II of Jordan recently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “Everybody’s going for nuclear programs.”

Other than the fact that they’re discussing it as if it’s a new recipe for baba ghanoush, it’s seems logical that if you are within 10,000 miles of a nuclear Iran, you probably want nukes.

International Herald Tribune