Samstag, 24. Januar 2009

Please, Don't Let Carter Guide You

Arthur Herman aptly summarised my personal nightmare scenario of what could become the foreign policy legacy of Barack Obama: A return of Jimmy Carter's ill-advised stance toward the rest of the world, Herman's article is hence worth a closer look:

"But today? When Iraq, the most egregious example of Bush’s supposedly reckless zeal to go it alone, is turning out to be a success, reaffirming the rightness of America’s cause and the soundness of the postwar vision? Why adopt, today, the arguments and proposals of those who still pretend that Iraq has been nothing but a sordid failure, or who hold that the fact of its success proves nothing whatsoever about who we are and what we stand for?
Some of Obama’s early choices for high-level foreign-policy positions—particularly General James Jones as National Security Adviser and the incumbent Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense—suggest that the President-elect may be reconsidering his priorities. One can only hope so. In his book Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger writes that the experience of history is a statesman’s one sure guide. As the historical experience of the last 30 years has demonstrated over and over again, and as the historical experience of the last eight years underlines once more with blinding clarity, Carterism is not the way."

Freitag, 23. Januar 2009

Gaza - Turning A War of Necessity into a Strategic Victory

Since the clouds of war over Gaza began to disappear, much is being talked about whether the recent war in Gaza was necessary or not. Well it was, simply because no country could allow a neighbour - state or not - to fire rockets on its cities, deliberately targeting civilians. But there are some issues related to the conflict that have not made headlines but should be kept in mind, when talking about the war.

- This war was not only necessary, Israel even fought it in the right fashion. The increasing range of Hamas' rockets turns a small border threat into a wider strategic threat. Drawing conclusions from the 2006 war with Hisbollah - when Nasrallah said that he would not have abducted Israeli soldiers had he known how aggressively Israel would respond - and the Cold War, Israel had to adopt a strategy of Massive Retaliation, making it clear that every attack would be followed by a massive conventional response in order to deter future attacks. Only by such a strong response can future casualities be prevented, though the question at this juncture remains, whether a strategy to prevent nuclear war, can be adopted to a conventional setting.

- Only once would I like to see a comment on TV asking what would have been if Hamas would not have smuggled weapons and ammunition through its tunnels but medicine and food. Of course Hamas never did, instead it used the tunnels to smuggle weapons and outsourced responsibility for the population of Gaza to Israel. The Israeli government understandably has no intention of helping its enemy by providing the services, food and humanitarian relief that is the responsibility of Hamas in the first place. But instead of supplying its people, Hamas was more interested in an arms build-up.

- The question of proportionality, whether the death of five Israelis justifies the death of more than a thousand Palestinians is especially odd in the German context. The federal court recently ruled that the German authorities were not allowed to shut down airplanes in case of hijacking, because the lives of 120 passengers could not be weighed against more than a thousand people on the ground, whose lives would be saved by such an act. This decision was hailed by the German left, the very same group that now accuses Israel for a supposedly disproportional response. A classic case of double standards on the left.

Dienstag, 20. Januar 2009

The Untold Story of George W. Bush's Africa Legacy

Today, when Barack Obama was sworn in, the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, officially became the subject of history. And while most contemporary commentators lament the Bush years as largely squandered ones, both in the international and domestic arena, it might be worthwhile to take a closer look. There is one policy field that has attracted virtually no attention at all, although it might be one of George W. Bushs most impressive achievements: The United States' Africa policy.
George W. Bush deserves credit for the United States' return to Africa, a continent that has largely been neglected by his predecessor Bill Clinton. Once the US pulled out of the ill-fated United Nations intervention in Somalia, Clinton signed the Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD 25) that led to the United States total retreat from Africa. In PDD 25 Clinton ordered that the United States would only intervene in Africa when the national interest of the US would be at stake. It was against this backdrop that the US stood idly by when a genocide in Rwanda unfolded and crises from Liberia to the Congo called for international action. Clinton's 1998 response to the bombing of the US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi provided a case study in proportional responses. The missiles he fired on alleged al-Qaeda training camps in the Sudan and Afghanistan did little to deter al-Qaeda and only underlined his unwillingness to engage seriously in African affairs.
With George W. Bush the picture could hardly be more different: a regular guest in Africa, he has elevated development assistance to Africa to a serious foreign policy field. Indeed, due to Bush's Africa policy, development now complements the other two d's: diplomacy and defence. Under his leadership development assistance has more than doubled from a marginal 10 billion to more than 22 billion. And his anti-AIDS programmes have fostered progress in countering the disease, indeed they are ideal types of how bureaucratic hurdles can be bypassed to make development assistance more effective. Like it or not: In Africa President Bush saved thousands of lives.
And finally he established the first regional command for Africa: AFRICOM. The Pentagon no longer deals with Africa within the inappropriate structures of EUCOM, but has a single command focusing on Africa, helping African governments in training African militaries to enable it to bring what has once been termed as African solutions to the African continent. Moreover, AFRICOM has a unique structure with a State Department official being second in charge and a huge focus on development assistance. In fact, President Bush is the first American President who actually formulated a strategic approach to Africa. He should be applauded for that achievement.

Freitag, 16. Januar 2009

Surprise: History is Going to Treat Bush Nicely

It was about time to set the record straight on George W. Bush: We will miss him. Though it is certainly not a popular stance, Patrick Keller and I wrote a little piece on Bush's presidency, successes and its long-term impact on US foreign policy and the world for that matter. It has been published online by The Weekly Standard.
Take a look yourself:

Dienstag, 6. Januar 2009

To Moscow with Love - Crazy Ivan turns into Foreign Policy Doctrine

I have long thought abut getting seriously into Russian foreign policy as an academic profession. But while I could always explain the rationale behind Chinese foreign policy or any other major player for that matter - though I did not always agree with what they were doing in the first place - I never quite understood what considerations actually drove Russian foreign policy. On the contrary, much of Russian foreign policy today seems to be exactly what Alec Baldwin faced in The Hunt for Red October: A Crazy Ivan, a sudden, unexpected and apparently random move totally ad odds with the course laid in by the leadership.

But certainly Russia's foreign policy has turned onto a more assertive course in recent years in what was fuelled by record revenues of oil and gas exports. Its move into Georgia proper, its aggressive stance towards the United States, its reinforced ties with Venezuela and Russia, its now openly stated doctrine that it will protect its citizens in foreign countries by force if necessary and last not least unproductive role in the Iranian nuclear dispute clearly indicate that Russia wants to regain strategic losses suffered after the end of the Cold War. It is, however, set on a course bound to fail, because of two major, and intertwined miscalculations:

- First, it appears that Russian foreign policy makers seem to believe that since the country lost its status as a world power virtually over night, it should be as easy to regain that status, which is why Russia often employs means that might enforce its stance in the short-run but seriously harm its interests over the long-run. It might also explain why Russia choose the military card in Georgia, because the military would be able to yield gains in the short term; diplomatic channels would have required patience that the Kremlin apparently lacks on its way to reassert what it thinks is its historic destiny.

- Second, it appears that Russian foreign policy is also driven by the fear that relying on diplomacy and other long term means would widen the gap between the United States and Russia. The gap, however, widens as new major players like China and India carefully maneuvre themselves in the midst of the United States and Russia, which leaves Russia no longer as second among equals, but as one of a couple of major players. This perception gains momentum as other states, such as Brazil, are closing in on Russia and seem to be willing to take on leading roles in their respective environments, too.