Foreign Affairs – March/April 2010

From the Sun King to Karzai – Seri Berman

The primary challenge for Afghanistan is currently the establishment of a national government that has a monopoly over violence. In comparison to the French monarchs Louis XIII and Louis XIV, Afghanistan must consolidate central authority by eliciting the cooperation of local elites through coercion and carefully designed material benefits. Only by bringing warlords, tribal chiefs, and the Taliban into the fold can a counterinsurgency operation truly achieve success.

Empty Promises? – Kenneth Roth

President Obama has not currently lived up to his promises regarding human rights, including:

  • The Guantanamo deadline has passed.
  • Authoritarian rulers have not been pressed for change.
  • Trade continues to take precedence over human rights in U.S-China relations.
  • The 2008 Convention of Cluster Munitions has not been endorsed.
  • Funds continue to be dispersed to Columbia and Mexico even when they have not met the human rights stipulations attached to those funds.

While the Obama Administration has performed better than the Bush Administration with regards to human rights, a great deal more must be done before President Obama lives up to the rhetoric of his speeches.

Complexity and Collapse – Niall Ferguson

In contrast to the popular notion that great powers follow a cyclical pattern and eventually collapse, Ferguson argues that that empires and world powers collapse suddenly in an unpredictable manner. This is the result of “the amplifier effect” in which a single variable can have vast, unpredictable changes within a system. An insignificant variable can ripple throughout a system and result in a catastrophic chain of events. This narrative more accurately describes the fall of

  • The Roman Empire
  • The Ming dynasty
  • The Bourbon monarchy
  • The British Empire

The United States will also exhibit a sudden catastrophic failure when and if it collapses.

After Iran Gets the Bomb – James M. Lindsay and Ray Takeyh

The acquisition of nuclear weapons may be an unavoidable development within Iran. In response, Washington must pursue several course of action, while avoiding others. Washington should declare several prohibitions that would result in military retaliation towards Iran:

  • No conventional warfare against others.
  • No use or transfer or nuclear weapons, materials, or technologies.
  • No increased support for terrorist or other subversive activities.

Washington should also be prepared to deploy U.S. troops in Israel to signal that any attack on Israel would be incredibly costly for Iran. Tehran should also be held responsible for any nuclear transfer to a non-state actor regardless of whether that transfer was intentional or not. Increased diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions between Israel and its neighbors would also be pivotal, limiting the rhetorical appeal that Tehran has in the region. However, Washington should not respond be increasing troop levels in the region which would only exacerbate the situation. Broad-based economic sanctions should also be avoided for the same reasons. Finally, the range of U.S. weaponry sold to Arab state should not be expanded as well as any mutual security treaties.

Armistice Now – Ehud Yaari

In contrast to a comprehensive peace agreement, Israel and Palestine should establish a Palestinian state within armistice boundaries and leave controversial issues such as the Palestinian refugees and East Jerusalem to a later set of peace talks. The oppositional political climate for both parties significantly reduces the chance for an adoption of a broad peace agreement, leaving armistice as the only realistic option for moving forward. Considering the possibility for a third intifada, a measured degree of progress in the short term is absolutely imperative. The establishment of armistice boundaries would avoid controversy in Israel while placating Palestinians and result in lowing tensions on both sides. The armistice agreement should include several conditions:

  • Refugees in Palestine should be offered compensation and resettlement assistance without relinquishing their status as refugees.
  • The amount of territory controlled by the PA should be dramatically expanded.
  • An outline for a future agreement on safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza.

As the PA increase the strength of government institutions within Palestine, incentives can encourage the PA to compromise as well in addition to isolating Hamas.

Global Energy After the Crisis – Christof Rühl

The Recent Economic energy crisis has revealed various aspects of energy markets that can be used to extrapolate predictions about long term trends of energy security. Both the role of OPEC and the subsidies employed by developing countries such as China distort market conditions and create a more violate climate for consumers of oil. In contrast, coal markets remain competitive and highly responsive to market conditions, resulting in a high degree of efficiency. For natural gas, the rising implementation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has allowed markets to begin to avoid restrictive pipe-line contracts, allowing natural gas to more accurately reflect market conditions.

Regardless of the constraining forces from the economic crisis, the rising demand from non-OECD countries will continue to tighten markets and ensure that energy security through competitive energy markets is essential. Considering the role that carbon energy continues to play in the global market, a carbon-free energy model remains unlikely in the foreseeable future but natural gas could serve as a “bridge fuel” to energy markets dominated by renewable energy.

India’s Rise, America’s Interest – Evan A. Feigenbaum

India and the United States share a great deal in common but a continued partnership faces several diplomatic hurdles. Unlike relations during the Cold War, their partnership is no longer constrained by Cold War Politics, a stagnant commercial relationship, or contentions over India’s nuclear program. However, both the united State and India must both strive to accommodate the other. India must continue to expand its global influence economically and politically as well as evolving strategic doctrines and diplomacy to further secure its importance within the international arena. Several contentious issues within India confront the United States as well:

  • The United States’ long term commitment to Afghanistan.
  • Washington’s willingness to pressure Islamabad.
  • Whether or not Washington will call for concessions by India to resolve the conflict with Pakistan.
  • To what degree Washington’s relationship with Beijing takes precedence over its relationship with New Delhi.

Feigenbaum advises to avoid particularly controversial issues for the time being and focus on efforts both the U.S. and India agree on such as the bilateral investment treaty, removing restrictive trade policies on both sides, and enhancing the level of transparency in their relations.

The United States-Japan Security Treaty at 50 – George R. Packard

Despite the notion that the United States-Japan treaty remains resilient, historical trends in conjunction with the recent election of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) indicate that the status quo is not sustainable. From its inception, the treaty has been controversial on both sides. Between accusations that Japan was free riding under the U.S. nuclear umbrella to Henry Kissinger’s visit to Beijing, the history of the treaty has not avoided controversy. Generally, the benefits have outweighed the costs for both parties but that may be changing. With the election of the DPJ, the U.S. military footprint in Japan will continue to be a particularity contentious issue. Military bases antagonize the local populace through:

  • Red light districts
  • Increased pollution
  • An increased crime rate
  • Aircraft accidents
  • Substantial noise from aircrafts

In particular, the Futenma Marine Corps air base has dominated discussion. Regardless of the controversy, U.S. Secretary Robert Gates has insisted on adhering to a prior 2006 agreement between the former U.S. and Japanese administrations.  Packard calls for the White House and the State Department to reassert control over the United State’s foreign policy with Japan and to reduce the military footprint in return for increased participation of Japan in agendas of international security and global peace. A free-trade agreement should also be signed and ratified in conjunction with a symbolic gesture by both U.S. President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama in Hiroshima as well as Pearl Harbor to cement the partnership.

New Treaty, New Influence? – Anthony Luzzatto Gardner and Stuart E. Eizenstat

The adoption of the Lisbon Treaty within the EU marks the end of EU institutional reform. It is unlikely that member states will seek broader reforms in the foreseeable future, leaving the Lisbon Treaty as the standard by which future foreign relations within the EU will be conducted. Overcoming former deficiencies, the Lisbon Treaty has created the positions of high representative of the union for foreign and security policy and a full-time President of the European Council, consolidating foreign policy consensus to a degree. Even though the Lisbon Treaty has created the position of high representative, member states have retained their ability to act unilaterally in foreign policy.

Furthermore, the ability for either of these positions to comprehensively engage the international community is limited but they do offer opportunities for the EU to consolidate its defense spending and respond efficiently to regional or global events. Contrary to critics’ objections, the strengthening of the EU does not mark a departure from NATO involvement.

Enemies Into Friends – Charles A. Kupchan

Contrary to critics claims that the Obama Administrations policy of rapprochement towards rivals will not lead to results, Kupchan argues that rapprochement offers the greatest chance of a reduction of hostilities with America’s rivals and increased international stability. Historically, small concessions and appeasements have been the starting point for abandoning rivalries, not confrontation:

  • The United States and Great Britain
  • Norway and Sweden
  • Indonesia and Malaysia
  • Argentina and Brazil

To achieve similar success, the Obama Administration faces two main challenges. First, concessions must not be too comprehensive to begin with by focusing on second-order issues and demanding reciprocity in each stage.  Secondly, formidable domestic opposition must be overcome in each country. Kupchan offers three misconceptions of rapprochement to help solidify domestic support.

  1. While Washington may compromise some of it’s values while negotiating with repressive regimes, the long-term potential for peace, stability, and democratic institutions within the region far outweigh this cost.
  2. Rapprochement does not abandon hope that the regime will change. In fact, decreasing tensions often results in a regime change and the consolidation of democratic institutions.
  3. Economic interdependence is not a precursor to rapprochement. It can deepen relations between states but only after political settlements have been reached through diplomacy and rapprochement.

This process will be unavoidably slow. Rivalries are abandoned over decades, not election cycles.

Citation (Chicago):

Foreign Affairs 89, no. 2 (March/April 2010).

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