Thursday, September 22, 2011

The strong do what they can the weak suffer what they must

On September 13, the Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi signed an agreement with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the construction of a ballistic missile system in the Eastern European country under a program the US says will provide protection for NATO’s European areas and would “augment” the US defense. And even if the position of the Unites Stated is quite clearly “a deepening of the bilateral strategic relationship between the countries” and said greater cooperation in this area would add to “NATO's collective security and defense[1]”, the Russian view on the situation (as it could be expected) is quite different.

Even if some officials are stating that there are no reasons to dramatize the situation,[2] a short review of the public speeches on the latest events by Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, can suggest the idea that there is place for future worsening of the Russian - US relations or, what is even more probable, that this will affect third countries like Romania and Moldova.

First: Russian demand on a guarantee from US/NATO that the missile defense shield will not be directed at Russia. This quite legitimate demand however wasn’t yet met[3] because of US resistance to assure Russia that there is not threat for the country. Instead US pledged that this will not harm Russia in anyway.

Second: Russians are very disappointed that US agreed with Romania on the missile defense program based on unilateral negotiations, ignoring thus the talks on the European missile defense (agreed during the Lisbon Conference in November 2010), which implied cooperation and exchange of information between NATO and Russia.

Third: There are more pessimistic voices in Russia which state that the deployment of the missile defense in Romania has only one goal - to encircle Russia. "If you look at the map of the region, the Romanian base can be used for only one goal: to keep southern regions of Russia at gunpoint and enable hitting our cruise missiles”[4], said Konstantin Sivkov, a military expert and Senior Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues.

Taking all these into account, it is only natural to ask ourselves how this event may change the relations between Russia and US. As it has been said during the class, probably for US this is more of a gesture of courtesy towards Romania and implicitly NATO.

However, there could be explanations of a more strategic nature as to why US is interested to spend money (during a crisis) for a non-profit cause. One of these explanations is the anticipation of unrest in the potential "hot spots" of Russia border - Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Americans are arming Georgia and pulling together the forces to the region - quite probably in anticipation of worsening of the situation in this part of the world.

At this point the skeptical voices are right: this minor event will not affect very much US- Russian relations. It will affect much more Romanian – Russians relations. According to Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense Magazine, "Russia must warn Romania that if the elements of the U.S. missile shield are placed in the country they will become a target of Russia's preventive missile strikes”. For Russia, an alternative response to US and NATO would be to deploy its Iskander system in the region – namely in Transnitria, or to simply try to annoy Romania by refusing to continue the negotiations on Transnitria. So the frozen conflict will not unfreeze soon and the Moldova’s plan to become a member of the EU will repeat the Turkish scenario.

So nothing new under the sun: the strong do what they can the weak suffer what they must.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Response to S.A.: Thirty-Two Years of the Same Plan

S.A. writes about possible tactics in halting Iran's nuclear quest. These tactics, although reasonable, are no different from talks of the last decade on responding to Iran. Suggestions that rogue attacks from Israel, supporting of insurgencies and regime change through economic sanctions and violence, and the inciting of Iran's domestic opposition is no more insightful, than these proposals would be effective. An old saying goes that if you keep doing the same thing, while expecting different results, this is the definition of crazy. Yet, this has been the approach of U.S. policy-makers for decades.
This is not to say that these ideas are not grounded in what was once solid thinking, in a world where competition was state to state, ancd coercion was simple based on military means. The facts have changed though, agressors must now fight assymetrical battles against: terrorism, strategic undercutting of a state's resources, while the globalized world creates a sphere in which interests are not as easily defined, and security is more relative.
I want to speak upon a few of the issues I have with these proposals. First and foremost is the idea of regime change. While reading "Just and Unjust Wars", it is clear that simple intevention to liberate the people of another state should not be portrayed as a movement to free its people. Our sense of "freedom" may very well not be their same perception. Democracy imposed, is not democracy at all, but a quasi-forced system in which people really did not choose their governance. A rigged regime change, although encouraging for U.S. interests, may not be the true system the Iranian people want, and if so we have done them a diservice by interferring in an organic movement which the Green Movement represents, and could be quite capable of instituting. Further, our intervention to erect a new regime may only hurt a positive partnership that could have occured with a unilateral Green Movement. What will the collateral damage be for regime change, how will the people of Iran react? The desire to fund and support in S.A's proposal is vague, and "quiet/ covert intervention" is still intervention.
Secondly, the idea of providing arms for insurgencies fuels two problems, one of which is the obvious violence that will incur, not just against government, but against the people in response by the government, as well as in the cross-fire. Thus, U.S. interest may want violent insurrections, but the populations of those respective ethnic groups who are "OK" with the status quo, but are retalliated against by the Iranian army, well those lives are on the U.S.' conscience. Within this insurgency tactic is also the problem, that mere regime change is not the only goal of insurgencies, they want independence. While the U.S. goal may be a halt to Iran's nuclear program, the outcome may very well be long bouts of civil war within Iran, all groups vying for power and resources. A supposed nuclear Iran, turns into a civil war, which may in turn make the region even less stable for U.S. interests (read Iraq and Afghanistan), especially in contract to Iran possibly handing over its program to the IAEA as it had suggested it might recently.
Finally, S.A. comments that he knows this may be a "bloody war", and in some ways I see this as an immoral action to take then. Let me explain this further. Walzerman goes to explain that soldiers are somewhat mercenaries in effect, that they do not get to choose the wars they fight in, thus a comepelled action into combat is thus unjust in the sense that armed forces cannot stop fighting in a cause they do not believe in. More so though, I have always found it unbearable that individuals recommend war and aggressive tactics, ones in which they do not take part in themselves. If one supports a war, one should fight in it, not merely attend graduate school classes to propose them. It is always easier to order somebody else's life into battle, it's like gambling with house money in Vegas.
Overall, S.A. states "we cannot expect a miracle for Iran's clerics from puruing nuclear capabilities." We do not need a miracle at this point, lets save the short supply of miracles for really dire predicaments. It is time to think outside of the box, let go of anachonistic viewpoints and brave a new approach to the same old problem. Let me be clear when I say that I agree with S.A. that we should not expect a miracle, but that is only because this problem needs to be handled more tactfully with diplomacy, not U.S.; nor divine intervention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

America's "war on terrorism"

During the first presentation today, a classmate questioned whether only going after terrorist organizations, rather than overthrowing the established regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then replacing them with more democratic ones, might have been more effective and less costly. Probably. But that would be assuming that our country was more concerned with eradicating terrorists than with implementing pro-democratic institutional change in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I didn't get a chance to ask this question in class, so I will ask it here: should America's war on terrorism really be a considered a "war?" Or, should it at least be considered a war on something other than terrorism? Clausewitz defines war as "an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will (75)." Military strategy in war, as Schelling states, is no longer the science of military victory, but "the art of coercion, of intimidation and deterrence." Look at the first two objectives of America's war on terrorism (1. defeat terrorists such as bin Ladin, etc., 2. identify, locate and destroy terrorists along with their organizations). There doesn't seem to be any room for coercing, intimidating or deterring the enemies. Our aim is not to compel them to do our will either. The objective is to completely eradicate them.

So let's look at the 3rd and 4th objectives of America's war on terrorism (3. deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorist groups, 4. diminish underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit). With these two points comes the coercion, intimidation and deterrence of our enemies. According to Clausewitz and Schelling, this war cannot truly be considered a war without these two objectives. Yet, in these two objectives, our enemy is someone different. Rather than the terrorist groups, who posed capable physical threats to our population, it was the authoritarian, non-democratic states that were believed to be providing shelter for these groups. Moreover, in the case of Iraq, the Iraqi state was made an enemy because it was "believed" to have weapons of mass destruction.

Looking back on America's war on terrorism, which started almost 10 years ago, the primary reasons for our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq are certainly debatable now. The necessity of our military strategy, overthrowing the established regimes in those countries, and then replacing them with more democratic ones, is just as debatable, if not more so. If one looks at our primary objective of the war as the eradication of terrorist organizations, then it doesn't seem that our military strategy was the best, or most effective method, to achieving those political ends. However, if one sees the underlying reason for this war as the establishment of pro-democratic, America-friendly regimes in strategic positions in the Middle East and South Asia, then the military means which we used seem much more effective to achieving the political ends.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Strategies to prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons!

well, much has been done and policies are being implemented, actions have been taken in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Here I am not going into the details of what actions and policies have been taken already from UN sanctions to Unilateral embargo of the Trade by United States, and pressurizing other countries and banning multinational cooperations which go against those established Sanctions and Trade Embargo. There is no doubt that above measures have created problems for Iran from Economy to Domestic Political Problems and it certainly did delay the iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

However, the strategies that I propose here are a bit aggressive but covert approach towards resolving this problem. They certainly contain risks and unpredictability regarding the outcome but if implemented with caution and tactfulness, they will definitely give us the desired outcome. following are the strategies that United States Government can consider as favorable solutions to iran's problem at the moment:

1- Regime Change: The controversial presidential election of Iran in June 2009 provoked what is now known as the "Green Movement", it was basically led by Two prominent opponents of Ahmadinejad, namely Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi supported by Ahmad Khatami former president of Iran. The movement which started by mid 2009 was confined till end 2010 which was finally suppressed by brutal force and leaders of movement being under house arrest or in jail we do not know exactly. This movement which began with peaceful demonstrations ended up with violent street fights among the demonstrators and brutal force of Iranian government. It is very significant because it was the first of a series of open criticism of the regime and The Leader. More importantly it showcased a very large gap or disagreement among the ruling conservative clerics and liberal reformist clerics of Iran.

It is obvious by now that United States can not or will not be able to convince the ruling clerics to not pursue nuclear weapon by the existing strategies and policies. Hence, I propose Regime Change as most favorable option at present to achieve that end. It would have been very difficult to propose such a strategy back in the day that Iranian ruling elites were indivisible, but now we have the best opportunity to exploit and try to support the green movement to revive and challenge the government in similar way as it happened it Egypt. This would have the best outcome as it does not require any military involvement and of course no direct intervention or high economic costs. United States can easily get in touch with the leaders of green movement and cut a deal with them as they require support and in several occasions privately they have considered that if United States support them they will definitely not reject it. So, I propose United States must provide financial assistance or any public or political support the movement requires in order for them to breakdown the system and force the regime to reconcile and bring a change in regime.

2-Supporting Insurgency in Iran: There is a very popular idiom in Iran which says that "one day Iran without military, is the end of Iran as nation" it only means in Iran we have so many different ethnicities and communities that if given chance they will split the country in pieces. What I am indicating here is not any biased opinion towards iran per se but only as a possible strategy which can be implemented by the United States in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Azeri people in Iran which have historically been suppressed and marginalized by Governments in Tehran, have several times attempted for independence or at least autonomy but have been denied by Tehran. Like wise Kurds, Arabs, Baluchs, Turkmen, Armenians, Assyrians, Jews and Georgians have all been dominated by the Persian/Iranians which have always ruled over the country. If given chance, These ethnic groups will definitely choose break a way from Iran either by creating their own nation state or by joining their own ethnic neighboring nations. Hence, given this willingness on the part of these ethnicities especially Azeris, Baluchs and Sunnis who already formed their guerilla militias, United States can very easily provide these insurgents with arms and finance in order to destabilize the country and exhaust the military and economic power of Iranian regime. This will make the task of preventing Iran from nuclear weapons very easier by either instating a friendly regime or to ask the insurgents target the nuclear sites and destroy them.

3-Targeting the Iranian Nuclear Sites by Isrealis: As a last resort I propose the United States Government must consider the targeting nuclear sites of Iran by permitting the Israeli Airforce to attack the sites which they are willing to do so without slightest US involvement, of course this should only be done after consultation with Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in order to avoid any political back clash to this initiative. This operation will have the best possible outcome if only above two strategies are implemented and a world campaign to boycott Iran in any way possible to create chaos and internal disputes among the ruling elites so they will not have the will to retaliate.

To conclude, I know that above strategies are not easy and will have the risk of starting a Bloody War in this strategic region. But, we can not achieve anything from waiting for a miracle so that Iran will stop pursuing nuclear weapons. If united states is really concerned and worried about having a nuclear Iran, then I propose that above strategies needs to be considered and implemented in order to solve this problem once and for all. Plus US not being involved in the operation, Presence of US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and several other middle eastern countries and with having the approval of neighboring countries of Iran and world community, I do not think that Iranian military will be able to cause much of a problem than they can after they acquire nuclear weapon.