Dienstag, 16. Februar 2010

Putting Liberals in Boots

Back in 2008 the Congressional Research Service did a study on the cost of the war in Iraq, it came up with a figure that is loosely around 1% of GDP, although in abstract numbers the costs would today actually equal the cost of the war in Vietnam. Nonetheless, since the United States considered itself being in a war since 9/11 the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are comparatively small. Manyeyes came up with a pretty cool graphic of the war costs (you'll find it to your left).

A blogger from the Atlantic-magazine - I am sorry, I really cannot remember his name - once put the relationship between foreign policy and the political parties in the US very nicely: "How the Republicans screw up foreign policy and foreign policy screws up Democrats." And since the Obama administration is taking heat on every front in foreign policy - from Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, North Korea, and recently China - its quite instructive what Vice President Joe Biden (its somewhere between minute six and seven) had to say on Larry King Live last week:
"I am very optimistic about Iraq. I think its going to be one of the great achievements of this administration."
Come again? Iraq might very well be one of the few meaningful changes for the better in the Middle East and the current progress in the stabilisation of the country actually rehabilitates the Bush project of a democratic Middle East - something I've argued all along. But a success of this, i.e. the Obama administration? Iraq was turned into a success by President Bush and the Surge, which he had to push through against significant opposition from the Democrats, including then Senators Obama and Biden. I know that the Obama administration is in desperate need of a success story. But I didn't realise that things have gotten that bad, this is simply hypocritical.

Montag, 15. Februar 2010

Saving McCain

The Tea Party Movement is gaining steam and so are Republicans on the right. It has been a concern for quite a while now that the GOP is moving further to the right and that moderate Republicans will find themselves increasingly in tough re-election battles. Florida governor Charlie Crist's run for a Senate seat has turned into an uphill battle, he is being challenged by a right-wing Tea Party-endorsed Republican. The latest news has Sentor John McCain facing a tough re-election battle, running against Congressman Hayworth, who accuses McCain of not being conservative enough. Tow consequences are certain: It will make governing a more daunting task for the Obama administration, should these right-wing candidates get through the primaries and into Congress. But it will also make it harder for Republicans to win back the White House: The GOP is drawing the wrong conclusions from Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts. Scott Brown is a moderate Republican and that enabled him to win in the first place. By moving further to the right, the Republicans are moving away from the independents, the fastest grwoing group in the US. And the Republicans are getting a wrong impression from the Tea Partys: though they are making news, they are hardly where the majority of Americans stand, moreover the movement is hypocritical at best: On the one hand they demand constitutional governance, on the other they openly reject the separation of church and state. On the one hand they go nuts when Sarah Palin arrives, on the other hand they endorse Ran Paul, whose foreign policy ideas are isolationist at best. In short: Let's hope reason prevails and McCain will be re-elected to the Senate.

Sonntag, 14. Februar 2010

Das Horn der Angst

Das Horn von Afrika ist seit Jahren ein Hort politischer und ökonomischer Instabilität auf dem afrikanischen Kontinent und das obwohl es in einigen Teilen Afrikas längst eine beeindruckende Aufbruchstimmung gibt. Allgemein werden mit dem Horn von Afrika vor allem die Konflikte in Sudan und in Somalia in Verbindung gebracht, doch das überschattet die erheblichen Probleme in Äthiopien und Eritrea. Beide Staaten führten zwischen 1998 und 2000 einen blutigen Grenzkonflikt, der zwar eingefroren wurde, aber noch heute hinter den regionalen Spannungen steht. Die Vereinten Nationen scheiterten mit ihrem Versuch den Konflikt beizulegen und zogen vor einer Weile frustriert aus der Grenzregion ab. Doch der Konflikt kann jederzeit wiederausbrechen und wird von der eritreischen Regierung genutzt, um das Land dauerhaft militärisch mobilisiert zu halten. Das hat gemeinsam mit der völlig undiplomatischen Linie des Regimes einen ganzen Reigen an internationalen Konflikten zur Folge. Von Äthiopien einmal abgesehen, hat das Land angespannte Beziehungen zum Sudan und Yemen unterhalten, die sich nur dann verbesserten, wenn irgendwo ein noch größerer Feind identifiziert wurde. 2008 zettelte das Regime auch noch einen kurzen Krieg mit Djibouti an und sein Einfluss in Somalia hat dazu beigetragen, dass der Konflikt sich dort immer stärker vertieft. All das wird nur von der katastrophalen Lage im Land selbst übertroffen: Auch wenn das Land erst 1993 seine Unabhängigkeit erlangte, gehört es zu den wenigen, noch verbliebenen stalinistischen Regimen der Welt, wie Nicole Hirt in ihrem lesenswerten Briefing eindrucksvoll darstellt. Mit anderen Worten: Das ganze Horn von Afrika ist ein Sicherheitskomplex und Eritrea gehört zum Problem.

Freitag, 12. Februar 2010

The Palin-Saga

Sarah Palin is a former vice-presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska and a former mayor of some forgotten place in Alaska. Would usual circumstances prevail that would be a nice way to spell not-important. But in Palin's case it is everything but. Not that we could explain why, but things are what they are. So we are left with Palin appearing somewhere, doing something clumsy and we got 24/7-coverage in the news, with virtually every newsanchor asking: "Why are we even talking about her?" If I may: Damm good question!

So she spoke at a tea-party convention having written important notes on her palm: "Energy, Taxes, Lift American Spirit." There is a good point to be made about the fact that if you really want to run for the White House, you should probably know that you want to lift the American spirit--and you can watch this point being made in a poor way right here:

But hey, thats just me and I don't have vote in this anyway. Actually its the media keeping the option of her running in 2012 on the table and it is frightening that someone who needs to remind herself of her very own basic principles and convictions could end up next to the nuclear launchcodes (and might out of "divine intervention" seek to blow the Russians from the earth to lift the American spirit and prevent them from coming to Wassila). But there is an upside in Palin being Palin: First it finally created an opportunity for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to demonstrate that humor is something he has come across:

But more so, it brings Jack Cafferty and Wolf Blitzer from CNN together regularly. Cafferty is virutally the greatest cynic on CNN and Blitzer the most balanced anchorman who often ends up trying to bring a bit of balance to Cafferty's rather candid positions. What fun that really is.

Donnerstag, 11. Februar 2010

Charlie Wilson died yesterday. The congressman shaped the Cold War confrontation from his Texas seat in the House like only few congressmen had. His story became widely known due to the movie "Charlie Wilson's War", starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Though he is gone one wonders whether there are any lessons to be drawn for the current international crises.

Dienstag, 9. Februar 2010

George W. Bush's Legacy

Meine beiden letzten Veröffentlichungen sind beide bei der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung erschienen und sind online abrufbar. In der Dezember-Ausgabe der Auslandsinformationen habe ich in warmen Worten versucht mehr Gerechtigkeit in das Urteil über George Bushs historisches Erbe zu bringen. Und in der Januar-Ausgabe der Politischen Meinung erschien ein kurzer Artikel über die jüngeren Herausforderungen an die deutsche Afrikapolitik.

Don't ask, but do tell

Originally, I belonged to the critics of president Obama not only for failing to deliver a tough message to Iran but also because he was not moving on the military's "Don't ask, don't tell". Now that he has finally pledged to move on the issue, I was reading Jamie McIntyre's post on the Joint Chiefs reaction during Obama's state of the union. I still believe Obama is moving to late, but only for one simple reason: Ending don't ask, don't tell is not about ending a policy, its about ending hypocrisy.

I was reading Peter Feaver's article in the Foreign Policy earlier this morning and something came to my attention. When the administration announced that it would look for ways to get rid of don't ask, don't tell, the Senate hearings of Robert Gates and Joint Chief Admiral Mullen were prominently reported. But, I couldn't tell where NSA James Jones would wind up on the issue. Has he really disappeared, as Feaver asks?

Montag, 8. Februar 2010

Stephen Walt on Iran

Stephen Walt used his blog at Foreign Policy to deliver what he termed "bad news for the neoconservatives". He is taking a poll to make a couple of points that he apparently thinks are disenchanting from a neocon-perspective, a poll that in his view shows that Ahmadinejad might have won the election anyway. Now, the poll itself has been rightly critised extensively by others as inaccurate and misleading--and I shall just add that the BBC series "Yes, Prime Minister" once explained the trouble with polls brilliantly. But though these critics are right, even if the poll would have been accurate Walt's statement should be of concern:

First, there is a reason why in democracies polls aren't enough. If pollsters were right Rudy Giuliani would have been president of the United States by now, or perhaps Hillary Clinton. We should not discard the essence of democracy just because it is convenient to make a point. It is also terribly wrong.

Second and more seriously: The sort of alternative being put forward by Walt is precisely what this conflict is not about: it is not about the maintenance of the Islamic Republic OR as Walt put it a "U.S.-led liberation". This is exactly the hypocritical statement typical for his strand of thinking, so may I remind the honourable colleague: democracy doesn't come in a star-spangled banner, it comes with the rule of law, human rights, constitutional government and the separation of powers. And the aspiration does not turn you into a U.S. crony, it does turn you into a democrat. And if Walt wouldn't agree, I am sure the French would.

Third and most important: this mixing of the nuclear issue and the opposition to the regime has become a common theme. And no it wouldn't be "nice if we tried it"-- "it" meaning us allowing enrichment, while the Iranians would forego weaponisation. It might under certain circumstances be acceptable (though none of these circumstances are in place) but even then it would not be nice. Needless to say, however, that it would fail.

And finally: this, dear colleague, is not bad news for neocons. I ought to know, because I am used to count myself among them; if it is news at all, this is primarily bad or more precisely sad news for Iranians. Because if it were to be true, Iranians would have indeed elected a government that has concluded that killing its own citizens is a just course of action.