Saturday, April 29, 2006
The use of rhetoric, deception, and brinkmanship have become tools of international relations and are not necessarily indicative of a return to a Cold War like policy. The Cold War was about stopping an ideology and further expansion, tensions with Iran are focused on nuclear technology and its potential to destabilize the region and pose a threat to international peace and security. While the Cold War comparison may have some validity and the tactics may be somewhat similar, the situation and concerns are hardly the same. The Cold War remained cold because it would have potentially meant death on a massive scale should outright confrontation occur, such fears do not exist with Iran. I'm doubtful that should Iran continue to pursue brinkmanship with regards to its nuclear ambitions, that it will be able to avoid direct action from the United States, Israel, and other like-minded nations. If anything, Iran would likely be in favor of the US adopting a Cold War mentality towards its nuclear program as it would be long and drawn out giving it more time to develop its program, just as North Korea has seemingly done.
Friday, April 28, 2006
With this said, a new wave of fresh officers will enter the military community in the next few weeks to begin a career for Uncle Sam, and in many cases, find themselves in Iraq by summer’s end. The U.S. invests a lot of capital into these young officers, many times over $100,000 per cadet, but the return on investment is priceless for an educated and well learned service. The military academies often receive their fair share of media coverage and well earned respect for producing some of this country’s greatest leaders, regardless of their rank (John McCain finished 5th from last in his class). Yet, in all this pomp and circumstance, the motivations behind those who graduate about why they joined are surprisingly similar no matter where you go: for the opportunity to do something great and to serve their nation.
This motivation that wills those with crazy courage or fearless strength persists around the world: nationalism is still alive. Even in Afghanistan, where U.S. intervention is ongoing, Afghanis are signing up for their country’s armed academy. Earlier this month, 260 cadets entered the National Military Academy of Afghanistan, a school that mimics WestPoint in admission, rigor, and organization (Academy). When asked why they joined, high school seniors replied that the country needs rehabilitation from the younger generation. An autonomous Afghanistan is in the makings in part from its military education, as is the case much the same way in other countries around the world. With this said, as you see Rumsfeld and Bush deliver commencement addresses in the next few weeks at our academies, think about just who else is being matriculated by our and other’s armed services. Whether it be an Iraqi policeman or a new Israeli pilot, know that our military is more than just organized violence, it is also an institution of education that yields non-military social benefits for millions in retirement, the corporate world, and even down to high-school basketball coaches. Sometimes that is just what we need, a taste of the military’s bond and discipline to shape things up in civilian life.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Okay, it's more complicated than that. Obviously, the concern is with the ongoing conflict and instablility in the region. Nevertheless, this conflict has led to an extraordinary number of noncombatants suffering: one estimates suggests that over 3 million people in the area need food aid. These are black Africans fleeing their homes from attacks by Arab militias; however the UN does not consider this genocide.
The number of people who have died from starvation as a result of this conflict is staggering; unfortunately I wasn't able to find combat statistics to compare it too. It seems obvious, though, that the ramifications of this conflict are dire: even those who flee the area are still in danger, and the conflict may well follow them out of the country.
Despite the fact that both American intelligence agents and Pakistani troops have poured into the region looking for him, Omar has successfully dodged them and maintains increasing control over the province. He remains confident that his lieutenants will be able to bring North Waziristan under his banner.
Doubtlessly, his message holds strong appeal for a nation in which honor killings still take place as poor Noor Jehan discovered to her detriment.
Between the existence of Hajij Omar and Dr. Abdul Quadeer Khan's recent admission that he gave nuclear secrets to both Libya and Iran, Pakistan is looking less and less like a reliable ally, particularly since it cannot maintain control over the tribally controlled Waziristan. In fact, analysts seem to believe that in light of the recent conflicts between armed villagers and Pakistani soldiers, escalation of conflict is inevitable.
If the conflict does escalate, Pakistan might find itself embroiled in its own civil war and America with one of its key allies compromised. Furthermore, the location of the conflict does not bode well for American efforts in Afghanistan itself as more conflict will merely destabilize the area further, and it indicates also that the Afghanistan project is perhaps not going as well as the US would hope. Already heavily invested in Iraq, can the US really afford to put down another resurgent Taliban?
Again, why do we care? Because Chinese nationals and more importantly, Chinese businesses will likely once again become incommunicado. The government will have stricter control over what can and can not come into the country, even over the internet, which as their recent battle with Google indicates, is already a concern in China. It would also represent a loss to the business community because they would no longer be able to sell software products to China, which despite IPR problems, does still generate revenue. China would essentially become even less dependent on imports than it already is, which has real consequences for the American capital account defecit, raising the question, "If China no longer has to buy what we're selling, what are we going to do?"
How likely are they going to be able to implement this new language? No one knows. Other initiatives have existed elsewhere, particularly in France, but most of those fell through due in no small part to the need for their computers to talk to American computers to have access to that market. Hence, no one really took them seriously. China, however, is a horse of a different color in that sense because it's got a stronger hold on the American markets. We will buy their cheap goods and try to sell them ours, so long as we can make a profit. Plus, China has stricter control over its citizenry than other individuals from other places, so the possibility that China will develop its own internet is all the more real. However, no one really knows what's going on over there on this issue, but it's still an interesting question.
A recent New York Times article discusses genocide in Darfur and the limited options available to the rest of the world to become involved there. The argument is floated that for the UN or NATO to become involved in
More can be done, and I think its time we did it. I'd encourage anyone reading this post to get involved. We can't just shake our heads and say "thats too bad". If you can't give your time or your money to this important issue, you can lend your voice. Join the Virtual March on Washington against Genocide in Darfur and check out Save Darfur to become more involved.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Admittedly, Nepal is not a terribly important nation, but it's nearby neighbor, India, is rapidly becoming significant. India has its own troubles with Maoists in several of its own states and has no desire to see their success in Nepal as that might inspire Indian Maoists to conduct their own insurgency. Civil unrest can hardly be said to be a good thing in a nuclear nation because even under the best of circumstances something unfortunate can happen at such facilities.
What is interesting about this sitaution is it represents yet another moment when democracy may not be the best system. Granted, Gyanendra's seizure of power four years ago is hardly legitimate, but assuming Nepal has open elections (and the parliament stays open), the Maoists may very well gain control over the nation as they hold sway over most of the population. Unfortunately, that has the potential for creating negative consequences for India, which would then have consequences for the rest of the world in light of India's economic growth rates.
At the very least, it's an interesting question.
Situation is that Mary McCarthy was fired from the CIA after she failed a polygraph test. The information that she leaked helped a journalist win a Pulitzer prize for reporting on secret prisons in Eastern Europe that America was using to process alleged terrorists.
Whatever happened to the world of good guys bad guys? White hats, black hats? When good guys were always good and bad guys were totally bad. We fought Nazis and Japanese Industrial Warlords with a clear realization of what was right and wrong. Then we fought Communism with the same black and white confirmation, only the bad guys started to blur and fade to gray the further we got from Moscow and the Kremlin.
Now in the "War on Terror" we have attempted to draw sharp distinctions in who is right and who is wrong. The bad guys are not just wrong, they use methods that are wrong. Then comes Abu Ghraib and all of a sudden the good guys are looking bad. So, to keep us from using bad methods, we outsource to other countries that might not be so clearly on the good side. Eastern Europe still has plenty of bad guys left over from its Communist days.
In times past, leaking classified information would have been treason. Now it seems that everyone is doing it. This is the point where the Terminator punches you in the jaw for doing something wrong and then tells you to get ready to fight because we've got some bad guys to catch. Only thing is, the Terminator is not with us today. We need a good guy and if we can't find him, we better all saddle up.
Sagan argues that the United States fear countries like Iran developing nuclear weaponry because of ethnocentric views. I disagree; I think we might be just as nervous about Canada suddenly developing a nuclear arsenal, especially if they were being secretive about it. (Put Canada half-way around the world, and make them not entirely friendly to the U.S., and I think you'd have exactly the same fears.)
Of course, my inner hippy thinks the problem here is not that Iran might have bombs, but that we seem awfully eager for an opportunity to blow them up first.
Monday, April 24, 2006
O B L is O U T
Is Osama bin Laden (OBL), still relevant in today’s world? OBL just recently released a new audio tape, explaining to his followers that they must be ready for a long drawn out war against the West. The only bit of new propaganda coming out of OBL was a call for Muslims around the world to fight the west in
"His words are completely disconnected from the reality in
Sure these are only two groups out of many, and the common man on the street would agree with OBL. I also know that some people would think OBL is more dangerous now that he needs headlines to keep his cause going, or that President Bush needs OBL head, in order to save his Presidency, but it does bring an old saying to mind “all politics are local”. So maybe the U.S. should rethink it foreign policy.
Quotes from Washington post
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Junior officers are now not only attempting to hold Rumsfeld accountable, but likewise questions the actions, or lack thereof, of their superiors within the military. These young officers have been willing to express such dissenting views not only amongst themselves, but with the press as well. This will likely raise redflags with the Pentagon and the White House as public opinion as well as the military's attitude continues to show discontent with the war in Iraq and those responsible for prosecuting it. If junior officers are willing to vocally oppose superiors and the Secretary of Defense, dissent may quickly spread among the military ranks. While I'm not predicting a military coup, we may well see a military, from the lowest private to four star generals, attempting to influence policy inline with their own views and desires. Should the military be able to speak with a concerted voice and change those in appointed positions or the foreign policy of the US, policy makers will be severely hindered in their ability to use all the necessary tools of foreign policy. If the military begins to oppose actions which it prefers not to do rather than which it cannot physically do, it will cease to be a tool utilized by policy makers in Washington. While certainly the military is not a pawn to me shuffled around the world to do the bidding of whomever happens to be the occupant of the White House at that time. It is not in the best interest of the United States to see the military an entity independent and unresponsive to the security and policy needs and interests of the state, nor one which dictates to elected and appointed officials the appropriate way to do their job.
Friday, April 21, 2006
To that end-why do we let men run for president who have never served in the armed forces?
One of the books from the summer reading (regrettably, I've forgotten which one) suggested that presidents who had served were less likely to get the country involved in wars, and more likely to actually use "overwhelming force" and end a conflict quickly once it started. From a national security standpoint, surely someone like that is best choice for Commmander-in-chief?
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
In response, the second reaction is the attempt of a public coup of Rumsfeld by having retired generals asking for his resignation. For some reason, activists expect this new ploy to be magically effective because it tries to highlight professional criticism from within the organization. It is surprising to me that in a structure where citizens are intentionally put in charge of the military that officers are speaking out against their superiors. Although it must be understood that generals without uniforms are citizens too, but again, it is the President’s decision to keep or dismiss one of his own employees for better or for worse. Perhaps those designing this offense believe that increased media pressure might expose some weaknesses that will make resignation inevitable. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this type of attack works.
History has shown that there is no set formula or procedure to cabinet member change ups and fires. Some occur out of necessity. Vice President Agnew (although not a cabinet member, but a symbolic example) resigned to avoid jail time when he accepted bribes. Others occur out of extreme public embarrassment. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz resigned in 1971 after being caught saying a racial joke (perhaps Trent Lott can relate). President Reagan’s first Chief of Staff, Donald Regan, resigned in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra Affair and then finally shot himself dead after personally offending Nancy….he found out that he was fired on the news. Others have been let go unexpectedly such as when President Carter fired four members in one year. Other change ups have been symbolic such as Secretary of Defense McNamara being succeeded by Clark Clifford who pushed for and symbolized a new withdraw mode in the administration. In addition, during second term Presidencies, all cabinet members traditionally resign before the second inauguration as a symbol that the President can chose who he wants.
Still, it is empirically shown that cabinet members are employees of the President, not the general public. They are replaceable, loyal political appointees who carry out the administration’s agenda. If the President wants to go down in flames to save one of his members’ reputation, so be it. Firmness can often be misinterpreted as stubbornness, and one must realize that democratic oversight begins and ends after election day. Letting the President manage his own team is essential towards executing executive power. Perhaps the best way to conclude this dialogue is to quote President Bush himself (in a real, coherent English sentence), “I’m the decider”.
Monday, April 17, 2006
I brought up a point in class that all the big cities i.e. NYC, Washington D.C., L.A. among others receive all of the funds for combat of terrorism. It is understandable because attacks, especially from foreign sources are more likely to happen at places like this, but domestic attacks can happen anywhere. As Dr. Farley said, the largest terorrist attack before 9/11 in the U.S. was in fact in Oklahoma City. It was done by a domestic source.
In a recent movie I watched, a CBS original. I do not happen to remember the name of the movie (if somebody knows feel free to name it), but terrorist planted a bomb in a football game in D.C. The terrorist demanded money and the release of an Arab guy actually. Everybody thought that it was an attack by foreign terrorists, Arab guys were targeted in the stadium, but it turned out that the terrorists were depressed American guys working for an organization. While this was obviously a movie, but it is realistic that there are domestic threats of terrorism. In my opinion money needs to be allocated to more places in the U.S., because attacks can happen in New York City, Oklahoma City, and it can happen in cities we do not expect like Lexington.
I also currently think that Americans now do not think about domestic threats but instead focus only on international threats. According to the article there are 803 hate groups in the U.S. Some of these people are capable of anything.
I also think that there need to be better public education all over the U.S. regarding terrorism. In Israel, young kids are taught how to detect a suspicious behaivor or suspicious objects, etc... It definetely helped prevent attacks. While the threat in U.S. is considerable lower, there is still a threat and it is important to educate everybody, not just law enforcement.
While I do think that U.S. is better equipped to deal with terrorism after 9/11 and there is more public awareness. However,I do think that more could have been done in the past 4.5 years to lower the risks of terrorist attacks, either domestic or from international sources. We simply can not ignore the domestic risks that exist, in every city, not just the biggest 5 or 10 cities in the U.S.
The role of the US troops is changing, what should it be? Now, instead of fighting the insurgence, more and more the US troops are thrust in the middle of the secterian fights as some sort of a referee. I should phrase that differently...they are still fighting the insurgence, but now on top of fight the insurgence they have to be a ref as well. Is this asking for too much? Are our troops being spread even more thin than they already are by this development? There is evidence among the troops that taking on this additional task is demoralizing and disheartening. Time will tell for sure, but until then I would like to open it for debate on our lovely blog.
The commanders are trying to utilize a number of tools to quell the unrest, such as the establishment of microloans between Shiite and Sunni merchants, joint police patrols between the two sects, etc. I am not sure that these tactics will work very well. Same has been tried in Bosnia, but until the partition of the country into two different entities, little was acomplished. Even now, the weak federation between the Croats and Muslims is on the rocks, as the Croats would like their own entity just as the Serbs have. Realistically, I think that Iraq is headed in the same direction as Bosnia was. Why don’t we save unnecessary bloodshed and just partition the country now into different entities which would still work together toward a unified economy and government (which would be rotating between different sects as is the case in Bosnia).
The areas like Jurf as-Sakhr in Iraq which is very intermixed would be tricky. But as was the case in Bosnia, some of the cities were divided into different areas where one sect was predominant, and in other cases people moved to areas where their ethnicity/sect is a majority (and were resettled in these areas by the government-provided housing). The plan is far from ideal, but it just might be the best option that the US and Iraq have.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Many people are arguing right now that economic sanctions won't work because Iran is more concerned with attaining the freedom of action that would come with nuclear weapons than the country's economic health. But Pollack points out that the government (though perhaps not the president himself) is troubled by the economic situation and the popular unrest that's causing. The reason why economic sanctions haven't worked in the past is that Europe and Japan weren't willing to participate, so Iran could rely on those sources of trade. Pollack says they could "have their cake and eat it too." So obviously Japan and Europe would need to be on board for this to work.
So a possible "stick" he recommends is incremental investment sanctions, since the government is desperate for billions of dollars of capital investment and the US, Europe, and Japan are the only markets that can provide that money. The sanctions could start off small and directed, and incrementally increase depending on Iran's actions.
The carrots then could be capital investment as well, the promise of non-aggression, and even providing Iran with forms of power such as safeguarded light water reactors.
This is an attractive plan and Pollack certainly knows more than I do about how to negotiate with Iran. But it seems like the same kind of approach that's been tried but hasn't had much impact. The real difference is that in this scenario Europe and Japan would come in on the stick end, and the sanctions would be more properly directed. How to convince them to sacrifice important business deals when Europe in particular has been reluctant in the past? Hopefully Iran's escalating rhetoric and nuclear project is enough to frighten them into action. The good thing about this plan is that Russia and China wouldn't be so critical to effective sanctions, so the US, EU and Japan could bypass the Security Council if it appears to be going nowhere.
Friday, April 14, 2006
While I can certainly see Rumsfeld inserting his opinion into military discussions, I think this is a duty of the Secretary of Defense. The military is very good at its job, but civilian defense officials still need to insert their input at times. The military is, after all, basically a bureaucracy with guns. We discussed yesterday how little the military is changing in response to the new challenges of today's world. Without an outsider at the top, the military would be even more resistant to change. Even with a hands-on, hard-nosed Secretary like Rumsfeld, the military is still digging in its heels. What would the military be like with a more weak-willed secretary?
I can't shake the feeling that at least some of these calls to resign come from a military resentment of Rumsfeld. The military has been suspicious of excessive civilian control since the Vietnam war, where Johnson reportedly had to give his personal okay on all bombing targets. While civilians certainly have no business interfering at the tactical level, and little more at the operational level, they should certainly be involved to some extent in the strategic level of military planning. I'm not sure the US military completely accepts this. They were burned by Johnson's rather dictatorial ways, and they don't want to get burned again. However, if a Secretary of Defense stays out of defense matters, then he's neglecting his duties. One of the primary roles of a politically appointed Pentagon official is to maintain civilian control of the military. If Rumsfeld is forced to step down, I would hope that Bush would select an equally stubborn man as his replacement. With a bureaucracy as politically powerful as the military, you need a strong SecDef to maintain control.
I'm not defending the Iraq war or its conduct. I am, however, deeply concerned that civilian officials continue to be able to assert control over the military bureaucracy.
Yesterday (April 12) DHS Secretary Chertoff had some things to say about how his struggling Department was “reorganizing” for future operations. At the same time, though, he clearly stated his view of the role for state and local governments to play during these crises. I thought they were interesting, so here are some highlights from his speech that I think will help answer some questions raised in class about DHS’s mission (his remarks in italics, mine in regular print):
He starts off by saying disasters, natural or otherwise, are ultimately “national” responsibilities:
As we know, the major threats we face – whether a hurricane, a terrorist incident, or pandemic flu – are not just federal concerns; they are national concerns that require a national strategy and a national response effectively integrating all levels of government.
….with respect to emergency management….First and foremost, we recognize that state and local governments are the primary first responders in a disaster. And there is a good reason for this. Disasters, by their very nature, occur locally – in communities far removed from federal assets. State and local responders are the first on the scene and are most attuned to the needs and concerns of local populations.
Therefore, local governments:
...are in charge of developing emergency plans, determining evacuation routes, providing public transportation for those who can’t self-evacuate, and setting up and stocking local shelters with relief supplies.
And a state government:
…is responsible for mobilizing the National Guard, pre-positioning certain assets and supplies, and setting up the state’s emergency management functions. They are also in charge of requests for Federal support though the formal disaster declaration process.
… in an utterly catastrophic disaster like Katrina, the Federal government does have a role to play and a clear responsibility to support state and local response when you [a state’s] ability to deal with a disaster has been clearly overwhelmed…..[the Federal govt] is responsible for meeting those requests from the state – both during the disaster and in its aftermath. As we saw during Katrina, that includes logistical support for search and rescue, providing food, water and ice, establishing disaster centers and processing federal disaster claims, and participating in short- and long-term public works projects – such as debris removal and infrastructure rebuilding.
Federal abilities include:
The Coast Guard [which] rescued more than 33,000 people from flooded streets and rooftops – six times the rescues in all of 2004.
FEMA [which] also rescued 6,500 people, in partnership with state and local responders.
Secretary Chertoff goes on to list the various actions DHS has undertaken (and is continuing to undertake) to “fix” itself following the Katrina debacle. These include a host of different things; mostly resulting from government mandated emergency response reviews. The most significant is the change in leadership at FEMA. Interestingly enough, DHS has decided to try a civilian-military leadership team. The new Chief is David Paulison (civilian), and the Deputy Chief is a 3-star Coast Guard Admiral named Harvey Johnson (the CG is, of course, only under the jurisdiction of the DOD during war time).
Secretary Chertoff’s most interesting statement, and I think the one most pertinent to our discussion today, came in his conclusion when he stated in regards to FEMA:
The bottom line is this: FEMA did not fail because of where it lies on the organizational chart. We can focus on constantly rearranging the deck chairs of government every year or two and guarantee that we will fail, or we can focus on what needs to be done to fix problems. I am focused on fixing the problems…
I agree with this statement. After disasters, whether 9/11 or Katrina, often the first impulse from people, and those elected to represent them, is to go overboard with change. Do I think following 9/11 that we needed a DHS? Absolutely. As discussed in class today, another “1947” was long overdue with the end of the Cold War and other emerging threats. Has DHS worked? I think its getting there. Katrina was obviously not its finest moment and demonstrated clearly dangerous shortcomings within this new, huge bureaucracy. But it’s a start, and a much needed one. I believe if given the time, DHS will prove to be the great mediator and equalizer amongst a disparate group of formerly autonomous federal departments, each with their own mission and sometimes divergent interests to protect. Secretary Chertoff admits failure, but also asks for time. Granted, in times of emergency, time is a valued commodity. But ultimately, DHS is the result of an appropriate government reorganization at the appropriate time. To go back to the way things were, or to initiate yet another major “rearranging” in the face of failure is to lose even more of this valuable time. DHS can work and it eventually will given an ever growing set of challenges and resources. With leaders in charge, like Chertoff, willing to see these large, structural changes through to a successful conclusion, public patience, for now, is what's needed most.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
In fact, Bush has appointed Caleb McCarry as the “transition coordinator” for Cuba, a position that has probably been around informally for a couple decades. With a dedicated budget of $59 million, McCarry’s job is to try to prevent a continued dictatorship from either Raul or other possible contenders. How this is to be accomplished is unclear and of course, too early to speculate. Yet, expect a call to spread democracy as the battle cry.
Then enter the immigration and business transitions. The eventual post-Castro Cuba and the possible-though not probably-democratized Cuba would mean that many Cuban-American’s may want to return and bring their entrepreneurship with them. In addition, business interests are already eyeing the potential markets of a post-embargo state. Yet, both of these changes are dependent upon a stable governmental regime after Fidel…but is this really possible without a shot fired?
The relics and scars of U.S. interventions of the 1960’s are still very real in the back of the minds of Cuban nationals and Americans. Yet, 1/3 of Cuban-American’s support an immediate armed intervention before a natural caused death; more support an intervention during succession. However, a stable but weak, communist Cuba may be more preferable to deal with than a Cuba at war with civil disrupt. Can the U.S. military support another theater of conflict or better yet, would American’s tolerate it? Nevertheless, Cuba after Castro will be an event we will get to witness, so get your cigar cutters ready. Perhaps the Sopranos will be able to accomplish what the Corleone family couldn’t after all.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
This case serves as a classic example of bureaucratic competition as described by Allison. The Pentagon, under Donald Rumsfeld, over-ruled Powell’s State Department and USAID. It’s pretty generally agreed that the Bush Administration has tended to favor the Pentagon over the State Department with regards to
This case serves as a classic example of bureaucratic competition as described by Allison. The Pentagon, under Donald Rumsfeld, over-ruled Powell’s State Department and USAID. It’s pretty generally agreed that the Bush Administration has tended to favor the Pentagon over the State Department with regards to
In short, NATO has become a key vehicle for the West in exerting its “hegemony” throughout the world. A look at the last decade of NATO’s evolvement is evidence of this. Kurt Volker, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, summed-up NATO’s transformation best when he said recently at the Navel Post-Graduate School:
“If you think about 1994, NATO was an alliance of 16 countries that had done a lot of exercises but had never conducted a military operation. It had no partners. If you look at the NATO of 2005, you see an organization that was running eight military operations simultaneously, which had 26 members, and partnership relationships with another 20 countries in Eurasia, 7 in the Mediterranean, and a growing number in the Persian Gulf.”
And the intent is to increase these members and missions.
NATO missions have exploded in scope and varying degrees of depth in the post-Cold War world. For example, NATO is scheduled to take-over the whole of the security operation in Afghanistan by this summer. Aside from this major military expansion, though, lie other significant contributions to international security. Notably among these is NATO’s continuing mission to train security forces in Iraq and the Balkans, and its global humanitarian missions, best highlighted by actions taken to assist earthquake ridden Pakistan.
And its mission is not the only thing expanding. Perhaps more importantly (and telling of NATO’s long-term validity and association benefits) is the alliance’s expansion in membership. Already encompassing many of the former Communist States of Eastern Europe, Croatia, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have all applied for full membership. And potentially most important of all is that the Ukraine is weighing a similar bid to join. As in past cases, NATO membership usually precedes a bid to join the European Union. For the Ukraine, then, this would be one step closer to full partnership and identification with the West. Other Partner-for-Peace nations such as Georgia could (after additional house cleaning) potentially join. The inclusion of Ukraine and a viable state in the Southern Caucus region would bode well for future NATO expansion into Central Asia.
Clearly NATO is on the move. As Supreme Allied Commander General James Jones recently states, 2006 is a pivotal year for NATO. Why? The Riga convention this coming November will focus on the many issues and debates facing NATO’s long-term commitments and viability. The convention's work is intended to help define a mission that, given the many world threats, some see as unclear. For the United States and the majority of the NATO command, the alliance’s continued expanse into peacekeeping and humanitarian missions throughout the world is highly desirable. Additionally, increasing membership is also viewed favorably. They will push for such measures in Riga. Opponents to NATO’s expansion stem both from traditionalists who view NATO operations outside its historical North Atlantic “box” as overreach, and those who feel its expansion will force an increasingly isolated Russia into the hands of the Chinese. These opponents are vocal, but it is doubtful their arguments will be seriously considered given the success of NATO operations, the relative weakness of Russia, and China’s economic priorities.
As an article published by the Foreign Policy Association recently stated, “allies are back in vogue.” For the US, this means an invigorated NATO strengthening the West both politically and militarily. NATO, from the US’s perspective, is necessary to pursuing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “transformational diplomacy;” a strategy where soldiers and diplomats work hand-in-hand to solve many security issues (most notably defeating terrorism and the conditions that breed it). It is a return for the US to a more multilateral security approach and one that, I believe, fits in well with the mission of NATO as a "Western Alliance". It is also viewed by the US (and increasingly by European leaders) as the most viable option, absent a unified UN, for international action.
By the end of this year, therefore, we will continue to see NATO operational successes, and the alliance's current missions will be reaffirmed by the November conference as viable options for future international crisis. 2006 will prove to be the year that the NATO transformation became complete; a transformation from a Cold War defense alliance, to one that uses Western power projection capabilities to achieve peace and stability in the face of dire threats. It is, in my opinion, a proper and noble mission.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
UPDATE: The poll results are here.