Monday, October 31, 2011

American Officials Now Push for Closer Ties with Pakistan

      A major shift in the politics between America and Pakistan have changed over the last few days. Barely a month after accusing Pakistan's spy agency of funding and aiding the Haqqani terrorist organization, based in northern Pakistan, the United States is asking for that same intelligence organization to aid in reconciliation talks to end the war in Afghanistan.

      This persistent request for aid comes after another attack by the Haqqani organization on Saturday, October 29th, that killed over 17 individuals including a number of Americans. Secretary of State Clinton hopes that through the talks and use of Pakistani intelligence,named the Inter-Service Intelligence agency or ISI, that the hostilities in Afghanistan can be reduced, in preparation for the removal of over 33,000 American troops. However, the major problem with this is that many in the Pakistani government have differing views, that are in conflict with American policies.
      It is assumed that the Pakistani government is hesitant to aid the United States, due to the belief that the Haqqani organization will be the best way for Pakistan to maintain influence in Afghanistan after America pulls troops out in 2014. Due to this, they are playing cards extremely close to the vest, and are not giving much direct intelligence or support to the American government. For now, Pakistani officials are stating that they are confused about American long term-goals in Afghanistan, and are wanting to better define the terms before anything concrete is decided. This is made even more confusing by Secretary Clinton's comment about wanting to both fight and negotiate with the Haqqani organization.

      Frankly, this change in the political position between the United States and Pakistan is both disconcerting, yet when looking at other facts expected. The first thing that should be considered is the current political upheaval in Pakistan. Former cricket star Imran Khan led over 100,000 protesters in an anti-government rally. This presents a weakness and an opening for the American government to attempt to turn Pakistan into a friend, with promises of political support, especially since Khan opposes cooperating with the U.S. against militants, the push for a connection creates the seeming friendship between countries that can lead to more support for the Pakistani government, especially in the international stage. Another thought is that the Pakistani government is apparently open to the idea, according to the dissent in this rally, so American officials may be trying to capitalize on this apparent opening.
      This cooperation also plays into the strategic planning of the Obama administration. This administration promotes the use of international acceptance and aid, rather than creating an apparent hegemony. By coming to Pakistan, Secretary Clinton hopes to further this joint effort for reconstruction.
      Unfortunately, Pakistan is not nearly as weak or open to the aiding American interests as could be assumed from the previous political actions throughout the country. Pakistan is taking a position of power, holding the information as a bargaining chip with American diplomats. Furthermore, while America has taken unilateral actions, Pakistan has no fear that the negotiations will ever cease; or that there will be any punishment for their actions. On top of this, Pakistan focuses on hegemonic power. As long as the probability for gaining influence in Afghanistan through the Haqqani movement, they will be unlikely to provide the aid to American officials.

      This creates the problem of the apparent weakness of the United States. With Pakistan taking the upper hand, and America being hesitant to go against them, there is the ability that the United States will lose a bit of the credibility or influence that is currently in the Middle East, an area that historically responds to power. In order to keep this credibility America must follow through on it's current strategic path. Secretary Clinton stated that there would be unilateral actions, and drone strikes have backed up this statement. In order to continue to maintain this power and gain Pakistan's respect, the United States government cannot go back and forth on positions, and maintain the aggressive course that has been proposed.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

India and the U.S. as Allies?

As Americans, we tend to assume that all countries want to be our BFFs unless they actively say that they hate us. Not true. For some countries, a grudging partnership with the U.S. is all that they want. Case in point: India.

India is widely considered to be a rising power. With the world’s second largest population as well as a relatively developed service industry, India is poised to become one of the world’s premier states. The country is developing the military in keeping with this expectation and is trying to buy advanced Western military hardware. In addition, India is a true democracy.

Despite these adequate reasons for the U.S. and India to be allies, don’t expect it to happen. The two countries had terrible relations for a period. The U.S. loathed India’s nonaligned stance in the beginning and forced India to devalue the rupee in the 1960’s. On the other side, India despite it being a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement was in the Soviet Union’s pocket to the point that in 1979 when the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan, India was the only democracy to not decry the action.

The 1980s began to thaw relations although not by much. During this time, the U.S. and Pakistan were very close because of the guerrilla war in Afghanistan supported by these two nations. Pakistan views India as its mortal enemy and so put much of the new military equipment on that border. Through the 1990s, relations grew stronger until the 1998 nuclear tests. President Clinton imposed short-lived economic sanctions on India. The fact that India and the U.S. are close today owes much to President George W. Bush. He decided to pursue stronger relations with the democracy. This culminated in the 2005 nuclear deal. This legislation legitimized India’s civilian and military nuclear sectors.

While it should be celebrated that the two nations are friendly, don’t expect an alliance to emerge. Aside from the baggage of history, it isn’t in India’s national interest. The U.S. may try to use India as an Asian counterweight to China; however, China and India are among each other’s largest trading partners. Of course there are tensions between the two rising nations, but few are suggesting that they will go to war with each other once again. And of the two, India is less likely to pick a fight. The U.S. is back to supporting Pakistan as a result of our war in Afghanistan. Part of this has involved funding and training the Pakistani military which views India as a far greater threat than their murky western border where terrorists and Islamic extremists roam. And despite the long-standing ties and good relations between India and Afghanistan, India has had to assume a fairly small role in order to prevent issues with Pakistan. Also, the U.S. will not sell India its top of the line military hardware such as the F-22 fighter jet.

So with the tense but changing history, support for their nemesis, and refusal to sell certain military equipment, don’t expect India to want to buddy up to the U.S. any time soon.

Disunity in the Unity State

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence from the Sudanese government, a development which many hoped would end the decades of civil war sparked by ethnic tension, religion and socio-economic inequality. Now, less than four months later, rebels from the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) have warned U.N. officials and local residents to evacuate the the Unity State. The rebels stated that their aim is to overthrow the local government and claim that they are fighting corruption, ethnic discrimination and underdevelopment.[1]. The problems that plagued the Sudanese state for decades seem to be appearing in post-independence South Sudan as well. The Unity State, which is dominated by the Dinka ethnic group, holds close to 98% of the country's oil fields.

The question is, will the United States get involved if the SSLA seriously threatens the South Sudanese government? On the one hand, the U.S. government had been pushing for a state of South Sudan since the Clinton administration[2]. Now that independence has finally been achieved, surely the U.S. wouldn't want the state to fall victim to civil war and weak government rule, similar to Somalia. On the other hand, having already intervened in the independence movement in Libya and deployed special force troops into Uganda, will it be too much for the U.S. to get involved in another African country? Or is it part of Obama's agenda for greater military involvement on the eastern coast of Africa to counter terrorist groups like Al-Shabab and the Lord's Resistance Army?

In mid-November the Unity State was bombed, allegedly by the Sudanese government.The UN has subsequently called for an investigation in the matter. The South Sudanese government, along with the U.S., are certain that the culprit was indeed Sudan. There is also evidence that the Sudanese government has begun strengthening its bombing capabilities on its southern border.[3] Despite this, the U.S. has only called for the Sudanese government to "show restraint." America should pay closer attention to the developments here and not be afraid to intervene -- the border situation here is eerily similar to that between Congo and Rwanda in the early 1990s. What a disaster it would be if South Sudan, less than a year after gaining independence, was invaded by its neighbor to the north.

Friday, October 28, 2011

In my Lifetime: U.S. Interests and Plans in the Middle East more Disjointed than Ever.

The ongoing changes in the Middle East lend a sense of the U.S. losing influence in the region. No time, in my recollection, has the Middle East's future been more in doubt. Further, no moment within my lifetime has seemed to put the U.S' interests more at risk. The Middle East has always been a difficult region, that goes without saying, but have the pieces of the puzzle ever been more disjointed? Even after Israel's initial declaration for independence, at least there was a predictable them (Arab) vs us (Israeli) factor you could count on. It is hard to forecast the future of the Middle East and the future of U.S.' success in dealing with the states and non-state actors which have filled the gaps of Arab Spring's unhinged regimes.

I suppose my own aweness of the international world came into focus on 9/11. That day provoked the United States to respond in an expedited fashion to an agressor which murdered our innocent citizens. The U.S. had every right to respond initially the way it did. However, we overblew our response by invading regional countries not linked to al-Qaeda. If you are a proponent of Iraq war, well there are other ways we could have tried to oust Saddam void of an 8 year war. These two wars with a combined timetable of 19 years, and a complimentary war on terrorism everywhere has seemingly spun the Middle East more out of our control than ever before. The U.S., I believe is more in danger, from Middle East regional powers and non-state actors than prior to 9/11. The hundreds of billions of dollars which have been poured into our conflicts and homeland defense have drained the U.S. economy and shortened our reach as our interests extend.

The immediate pre-9/11 Middle East was in no way a perfect place, far from it. The region had ruthless leaders in Western terms. Recent deposed individuals suched as Ghadaffi and Hussein had their way in the region. However, we knew our enemy. We had interacted with Saddam before and could gauge his strengths and weaknesses. There was a sunni- shi'a balance in the region between Iran and Iraq. Since the fall of Iraq, regional checks on religious sects, Iran has gained relative power, but more so lacks a coherent Middle East rival. These extremists were more likely to attack each other than us. That is not the case any longer, from a humanitarian aspect we should have helped to ease the violence, but from a U.S. security perspective, matrys were killing matrys, and this was more acceptable than them attacking us on our territory. Saudi Arabi could be a balancing factor today, but the monarchy has been hesitant to fight within the region post 1948 overtly.

Further pre-9/11, our focus did not just centralize around terrorism alone, we were able to focus on peace initiatives (Bush speaking of trying to reinitiate further Arab-Israeli peace accords), ensuring weapons and nuclear materials were not picked up by non-state actors after the fall of the Soviet Union and increasing Western-Middle East links of trade and investment. Religion was still an important factor, but had trailed nationalism. Nationalism was more apt to be controlled by the U.S. than an unwavering sense of religious fanaticism that has taken over the region.

Today, we have fewer countries who are governing in any capacity, let alone in a democratic sense. The uprisings have allowed for vast pockets of land, with little oversight to be traversed by Islamist extremists looking to recruit new members. We led Iraq to a civil war that has been somewhat silenced, but is likely to be stoked back up with U.S. diplomats leaving at the end of this year. I believe Afghanistan will surely followIraq's path if the Taliban is able to garner power, whether through a "compromise" or duping all of those who fought for so long to replace them that the only way for violence to stop, is to put them back into government. What will the world say of U.S. effectiveness if after 10 years in Afghanistan, the Taliban comes back to power within the next 4-5 years? Will we be able to spin it as a success, more importantly, will it be?

Overall, after all these resources spent, all these American lives lost and the U.S. reputation diminished, what will we truly have to show for it? The answers lie in the way that Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan turn out. The answer further lies in whether regional "allies" such as Pakistan step in tune with our interests. Finally, will Iran cease its possible nuclear program and terrorist sponsoring when the U.S. is in harsh economic times and its society's political support is almost null? do you feel confident that the things we need to happen will? I have very little confidence in the outcomes of this wishlist

It is finally time for the U.S. to move on and regauge how to approach Middle East issues. It is not just the nature of having a high-cost and low-return method in the Middle East, but it also seems that the United States for the last eleven years has had no coherent plan for the region. We have supported regimes only to contribute to their demise later on. Fighting terrorism cannot be our only mission in the Middle East. Terrorism is abhorrent, but there are more important matters in the Middle East which will pay greater dividends for our own interests and subsequently for halting terrorism if we can formulate a plan to act. With the U.S. troops coming home, it is time that the policy-makers meet them at the border to say that all you have done will not go to waste, we have a plan. A plan, although late, is undoubtedly what we need.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


An unpleasant surprise might be expected in the next few days for the White House or Pentagon officials who would decide to go sightseeing in Moscow or take a trip to Sankt - Petersburg: no visa.
In July 2011, the U.S. State Department banned visas for about 60 Russian officials over their involvement in the detention and death of 37 old, Serghey Magnitsky. The so called “Magnitsky list” is one of the sharpest policy responses of the Obama administration to the Russian human rights abuses. Magnitsky died after almost a year in a notorious Moscow pre-trial detention center in November 2009. He had been arrested on tax evasion charges just few days after he claimed that police investigators had stolen $230 million from the state. A Kremlin human rights council report said in July that Magnitsky's death was the result of beating and that the charges against him were false and abusive.

"We, of course, have not left the political provocation against our country unanswered. On the principle of reciprocity, we have confirmed a list of U.S. citizens whose entry into the Russian Federation is undesirable," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative Lukashevich said on Saturday, October 22. Also, in one of his public statements, Luckashevich confirmed that the list contains highly-appointed Washington officials tied to crimes in the humanitarian sphere and names of those who are responsible for wrongful actions against Russian citizens in the United States. The main pro-government voices in Russian society generally stated that such calls for morality from US appear especially cynical on the background of the practical legalization of torture in U.S: special prisons, kidnappings and mistreatment of terrorism suspects, the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo, uninvestigated murders of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the security perspective, one of the consequences of this reciprocal exchange of visa bans was announced long ago by the Russia government when in July this year it was announced the Obama administration that it will stop cooperation on Iran and prevent further deliveries of supplies to Afghanistan if Congress passes the “Magnitsky list” which criticized the Russian abuses of human rights. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the ‘Magnitsky list’ is viewed as an attempt to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs and undermine a policy of cooperation with Moscow launched by President Barack Obama.

However one of the main questions is why the Medvedev administration announced the Russian list now, three months after the US list? There is no official explanation for the Russian decision but we might guess that it may be some how related to the recent announcement made by Georgians that they will ban the Russian bid to become a WTO member. Russia, the only major economy not included in the organization, has been seeking membership in the WTO for 18 years and last several years has coordinated its long-awaited accession to the WTO with all 150 member-states apart from Georgia. And taking in account that earlier Medvedev announced that he has no intentions of paying for entry to the (WTO) by changing the political situation after Georgian aggression against South Ossetia, we may suppose that the answer to the question is that Russia is trying to play the visa card to push US to influent Georgians’ decision to ban the Russia accession to WTO.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Turkey: The Emerging Regional Hegemon in Middle East

It is not very difficult to observe the rise of a powerful turkey in one of the most volatile and unstable regions on the planet. By simply looking at the past initiatives and foriegn policy shifts in Ankara, one can realize that turkey is set to become as the regional hegemon in middleeast.

Turkey’s vision for the region and for all its external relations evolved during the 1990s and consolidated in the first decade of the 21st century. It’s based largely on Turkey’s economic interests. Turkey became a tiger among economies of the world and has been growing by leaps and bounds. The country does not have oil or gas, so its strength is exporting and it has achieved high growth rates through exports. It is now the 17th largest economy in the world, which is quite remarkable.

Turkey to continue to grow, it needs access to as many markets as it can secure, and it needs stability and peace to interact with these places. This applies to its orientation towards Europe, which is its biggest market, but also its relationships in the north towards the Balkans, Caucuses, and Black Sea area—and its relations with Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf countries in the Arab world.

The enormouse importance that turkey today places to Middle East has laregely been attributed to their fading dreams of joing the EU. In the last two years we have been witnessing a very radical change of foriegn policy in Ankara, which inculded but not limited to its tough stance against Israel over Gaza war of 2008 and Gaza Flotilla participation of 2010, mediating roles between Syria and Israel, mediating between Iran and West, placing nuclear defense systems, actively supporting the Arab Spring and promoting turkish style of democracy in these countries along side increasing economic ties with the region and helping in reconstruction initiatives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This does not indicate that turkey is turning away from Europe and the United States, but the country is charting a more Turkish set of interests and positions. Turkey is now more willing to go out on a limb for its beliefs or if they believe it is important for its political and economic interests.

Whereas Turkey may previously been perceived as being somewhat dependent on the West, it no longer sees itself that way. Recenet incursion of turkish military into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurish guerillas is a clear example of such a self perception by turkey. The withdrawal of US forces from Iraq only seems to have encouraged Turkey’s will to have a strong military presence in its border region with Iraq and possibly to establish a counterweight to Iran’s influence on a Shia-led government in Baghdad.

Similarly, Erdogan's recent visits to Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and the way these newly established regimes embraced him signals to turkey's new claim of Regional Hegemony. But, the question here is will turkey's new position be acceptable to other relevant powers such as; Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel in the region? And what about the United States? will it see this rise as benefetial? or will try to contain the rise of turkey through balancing? The answer to these questions are not clear at present and will be a subject of a lenghty debate which may not be feasable to mention here.

However, I strongly encourage the United States to cautiousely embrace the new role of turkey as a regional hegemon and to chart out a new working relations with this moderate islamic, popular and powerful country in the region. I suggest that United States should invest in turkey's future role as protectorate of U.S. interests in the region. Since turkey has more appeal to the public in this region, it is for the interest of the united states to seek turkey's role in order to solve some of the middle East issues.

United States must first work in normalization of Turkey's relation with Israel, which will avoid further tensions in the region or possible standoffs between Israel and Turkey which may lead to tensions between Washington and Ankara. United States should encourage and support the Ankara's initiatives in bringing about a nuclear agreement between Iran and West, which may prove to be successful given the proximity of the two countries and their shared interest in maintaining peace and stabality in the region.

Over all, Turkey has an enormously important role to play in the region. It could be a bridge between the West and the East, between Islam and Modernity, and between Israel and the Arabs. But, there is always the danger of "Power Corrupts", which means the United States would still need to keep its influence in the region and help turkey evolve as a responsible regional hegemon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ambasaddor Ford Withdraws from Syria for Safety

       Relations falter with Syria in the wake of the seemingly credible threats against Ambassador Robert Ford. Ford was sent to be the ambassador to Syria by the Obama administration, in an effort to strengthen ties with the country and help mitigate the potential for a “state supporter of terrorism”
      From 2004 until recently, tension between Syria and the United States grew drastically, causing in 2005 the Bush administration to recall its ambassador to Syria. During this time, Syria also increased their relations with Iran and radical Palestinian groups. This connection has caused even more stress between the governments of Syria and the United States. As of 2009 The United States has attempted to strengthen the relationship with Syria, through varied political institutions, such as congressional meetings. This culminated in December 2010 when Obama used a recess appointment to make Ford the ambassador to Syria.
     This looked to be a good step in improving the stressed relations between the two countries. However, the actions of a number of Syrian protestors have brought that into question. Recently, Ford was the target of a number of intimidation attempts by pro-government aggressors, in an attempt to stop his vocal support of peaceful protests in the country. Once again, these issues were elevated when a credible threat to Ford's personal safety was brought up. He then made a strategic retreat the weekend of October 21st in hopes of calming the pro-government aggressors.
      The State Department confirms that the embassy in Syria will remain open throughout this problem. In this statement, Mark Toner, the State Department spokesman, also stated that it was only Ford who was under the threats. The political actions seem to only target him, rather than United States involvement within the region.
      It is unsure whether or not Ford will return to Syria, which creates a number of political problems. Through the actions of the Syrian government, and protestors, it is seemingly obvious that there is political support for these actions. For example, recently when Ford was attacked with eggs and trapped in a building, the police were quite slow to respond.

     These actions create a major problem when focusing on the relations between the United States government and the government of Syria. It is understandable that Syrian officials do not agree with, or even like, the fact that Ford is vocal about his beliefs. However, international statutes define certain conditions that must be met for all diplomatic individuals, such as ambassadors. Since Fords presence was becoming a threat to the governments political beliefs, there were aggressive means used to silence him.
     While the Obama administration focuses on the politics of liberal internationalism, there still must be a defense of American rights within the region. Yes, in this ideology, the government has the right to decide who they wish to allow into their sovereign nation. However, since Syrian officials have accepted Ford into the position of ambassador they are required to provide their official duties, in this case protection.
If the United States allows the pro-government activists of Syria to bully and dictate the United States ambassador to the country, then a horrid precedent will be set. Nations who do not appreciate the liberal, vocal government activists and politically minded ambassadors will be able to use scare tactics to, not only influence, but indirectly delegate government decisions of the United States. This also shows that the United States government is willing to give into fear campaigns and can have even worse repercussions down the line.
      In my opinion, the best solution for this problem is to return Ambassador Ford to Syria. Of course, I argue for a stronger guard and protective detail to ensure the most safety possible. This is in addition to filing charges in the United Nations and other agencies for Syrian failure in this political realm. I would respect the official wish of the country, but force Syria to directly rescind Ford's right to enter the country, rather than allowing such underhanded tactics to succeed. This is done to show, not only the respect for the government of Syria, but also to show a willingness to defend its own soverign decisions.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

American Deployment and the LRA

On October 14th, President Obama announced the deployment of 100 U.S military advisers to Uganda in an effort to help the Ugandan army defeat the Lord's Resistance Army, and capture it's leader, Joseph Kony. The LRA is a terrorist group according to the U.S., and Kony and other leaders of the LRA are wanted by the ICC on charges of human rights violations including murder, rape, torture. While the deployment of these troops, primarily Army Special Forces, has caused concern among non-interventionists, President Obama clarified the action by saying “although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”

Many people are wondering just why President Obama has decided to send troops into Uganda, considering the massive troop deployments in the Middle East, and the botched 1993 mission into Mogadishu, Somalia that resulted in 18 American casualties and embarrassment for the Clinton administration. There are several reasons why the Obama administration chose to do this.

The first is the official line from the Whitehouse. As a terrorist group, the LRA is legally a target for the United States and it's allies. However, President Obama, in keeping with his proclaimed grand strategy of working with other countries and institutions to accomplish its goals, has opted to send troops in a support role, as opposed to a search and destroy mission of Kony and the LRA. This is in stark contrast to the operation mounted in Pakistan to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden, however, the threat posed by the LRA and Kony is not the same as that posed by Bin Laden.

A second reason for this type of intervention is that it sends a strong message to members of Al-Shabab in Somalia. It lets them know that the U.S. is in the area and willing to help the Kenyans in their fight against terrorists. While direct intervention in Somalia may not be on the horizon, this deployment ordered by President Obama serves to strengthen America's position in the region.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Iran into a trap. . .

Iran stole the headlines earlier this week with allegations that operatives associated with Iran's Quds Force tried to hire a Mexican cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Already, some news outlets are posting alarmist commentary, warning of the nefarious connections between the Quds and the Zetas; others are advocating a more measured response. A recent Financial Times article does a good job articulating the debate between the two sides.

Some, like AEI contributor Jose Cardenas, argue we should assume terrorist organizations are working with Mexican cartels; indeed, we should be surprised if they aren't working together. Others, like Sylvia Longmire, argue that cartels are unlikely to work with terrorists for fear of jeopardizing their lucrative business model by incurring the wrath of the U.S. military. They argue that the paltry sum of $1.5 million wouldn't be enough money to persuade any cartel to execute such a risky plot. In the middle are analysts who argue that while the central command of the Zetas or the Sinaloa Cartel would be unlikely to assist terrorists, the cartels use a diffuse network of gangs to accomplish their goals. These decentralized components might be more likely to take on a terrorist client.

One last group (not mentioned in the FT article) asks whether CS-1, the alleged DEA informant who posed as a Zeta, is a new Curveball. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the U.S. government relied on intelligence from a defected Iraqi codenamed "Curveball." Later, the informant admitted he had falsified his reports. Jefferson Morley of Salon highlights some of problems with the U.S. building its case on the credibility of CS-1, and warns that until his credibility is better established we should be wary of escalating already heightened tensions with Iran.

In my view, the U.S. does not need to worry about a possible Iran-Mexican cartel link. First, as far as we know the Iranians never met with an actual Zeta — only a U.S. informant posing as a cartel representative. None of the information we have about the case shows that Mexican cartels would be willing to work with international terrorist organizations. Second, we have no proof any of the cartels would have the capability to carry out a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, especially in Washington, D.C., a city far from the border. While Mexican crime organizations have a drug trafficking presence in hundreds of U.S. cities, there is little evidence that these networks are capable of staging a violent attack. Lastly, performing an act of international terrorism on U.S. soil would be extremely risky and would threaten their business model. The U.S. would act aggressively to crush any cartel that worked with a terrorist organization. Until the drug trade becomes less lucrative, cartels have every incentive not to work with terrorists.

In the end, it appears the Iranians were duped. We know that Iran has courted different groups elsewhere in Latin America, and it is likely they were trying to do the same in Mexico. However, in doing so they demonstrated a lack of understanding of the capabilities and interests of Mexican criminal organizations. Unless new information surfaces later, indicating Los Zetas (or any other group) actually expressed interest in working with the Iranians, it is probably safe to assume Iran acted haphazardly. Furthermore, by publicizing this story the U.S. government is sending a strong message to both the cartels and terrorist organizations. To potential terrorists, the U.S. government is saying "We've infiltrated the cartels, so don't bother trying to use them to carry out an attack in the U.S." Meanwhile, the Zetas and other groups in Mexico now have further confirmation the U.S. government has infiltrated their operations, which could seed mistrust and discord within those organizations.

This is a bizarre — but fascinating — story. It will be interesting to see what actions the U.S. will take to hold Iran accountable, and whether this leads to any changes in U.S. policy with respect to the drug war in Latin America.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Could the Soviet Union Become Another Carthage?

In the 3rd century B.C. there were two great powers that were vying for dominance in the western Mediterranean Sea. One of these was Carthage, an established empire centered in northern Africa. The other was the Roman Republic, rising in power and centered on the Italian peninsula. Both of these were seeking to extend their influence in the region, both militarily and economically. As their interests began to overlap, they fought three brutal and costly wars with each other, the Punic Wars. The Second Punic War, the most famous of the three, is known for the Carthaginian general Hannibal invading the Italian peninsula with his war elephants, striking fear into the hearts of Romans, threatening the city of Rome, and occupying and destroying the countryside for fifteen years. After a few initial defeats, the Romans refused to engage Hannibal in direct combat and tried to hold out inside their city walls and hoped to figure out another way to evict Hannibal from their country. Rome stayed strong in the face of this crisis, displaying a remarkable civic spirit and unity in the face of danger. Even as they were faced with destruction, the Romans, as the historian Livy writes, did not breathe a word of peace. They were unified against Carthage, and put aside their personal differences until they could defeat their enemies. Eventually they did defeat Hannibal and Carthage, and in 146 B.C. Carthage was destroyed and the Roman Republic came to dominate the region as the sole power left.

The Republic’s people had showed unity and strength when they were threatened, and that unity allowed them to ultimately prevail. The common threat had tied the citizens together, but the citizens were now faced with a world without threats. As Cato the Elder warned, “What was to become of Rome, when she should no longer have any state to fear?” The cooperation of the Roman people deteriorated without an enemy to defeat, and internal dissension eventually tore the Republic apart, replacing it with a Caesar and an empire in 27 B.C. The destruction of the Republic was a long, slow process, but it began when the Roman Republic found itself in a world of unipolarity. In their destruction, the Carthaginians had a much more damaging effect to the Roman Republic than they ever did while alive.

What does this have to do with anything current? Everything. Josef Joffe, as a way of proving the U.S. was not in decline, pointed out that all of the prophecies about U.S. decline made since the 1950’s had proven false. That is true, but could it be that the destruction of a hegemonic power sometimes takes much longer than a decade or two, as with the Roman Republic?

Or could it be that another superpower may not challenge the U.S. anytime soon, but the relative safety of a unipolar world might have damaging internal effects and threaten our republican government? It is easy for citizens to put aside their differences and rally together against a perceivable, identifiable, and genuinely threatening enemy, such as the Soviets were during the Cold War. While unity was not always present, notably during the Vietnam War, people were genuinely afraid of the Soviets. However, with the Soviets gone and with the new threats to the U.S. being much more ambiguous and hard to identify, such as terrorism, will division inside of U.S. society come to the surface and slowly weaken the system of government, and unravel the republic? The position of the U.S. as the lone superpower may yet prove to be stable, but it might ultimately endanger the U.S. Republic.

The collapse of the Soviet Union may, like with Carthage, cause destruction to their enemies long after they are gone by unleashing internal dissent. Time will tell if this is the case, but the U.S. would be wise to remember the fate of another republic who found itself alone at the top of a unipolar world.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grand strategy for small countries

The end of Cold War and the emergence of a unipolar world made the Grand strategy process elaboration difficult for great powers. The debates around the way in which the new Grand strategy of the US should be designed are still very active and spirited among both practitioners and scholars. However, a fact is certain: a great power must have a Grand strategy in order to preserve its role and to pursue its national interests.

The aim of this post is to explore the question of whether small countries need a grand strategy or not and what are the advantages and disadvantages of having (or not) a grand strategy. Also, I would like to identify some general patterns of grand strategies for small countries from the perspective of geographical position and the proximity of great powers.

To be able to answer these questions, first we have to define what a small country is and when a state is to be considered small? There are several criteria and indicators which may help us to identify a small country: population, GDP, military assets and seize of the country itself. However, smallness should be examined under the theory of relativity: it is small compared to what? Thus Belgium according to these criteria is a small country compared to France but it is bigger than Montenegro. That is why physical measurement is not enough to determine if a country is small or not. A crucial moment for determining how big a small country is the distribution of the state power in the country, in the region (among its neighbors) and how it acts on the international arena. From this perspective, a country is to be considered small if it is suffering a shortage of autonomy, so that it has no influence on other states and depends (economically, militarily etc) on other countries. Taking into account this definition and all particularities of small countries, a natural and legitimate question arises: Does a small country need a grand strategy?

The “yes” answer: According to the definition above, a small country would lack human, industrial and military capability, thus we can presume that even if a small country will design a Grand strategy it will lack the resources to implement it. Therefore, it would seem that small countries do not need a Grand strategy. However, a country that fits the criteria presented above still has its national interests. Of course, these interests will be very minimalist in comparison to a great power strategy; mainly they will focus on national survival as an independent and self-governing country. And as long as Grand strategy provides the linkage between national interests and actions to be undertaken to achieve these ambiguous interests, taking into account the methods (ways) and resources (means) that might be employed in pursuit of those interests, it is a useful tool that a country must design. Effective Grand strategies provide a unifying purpose and direction to national leaders, public policy makers, allies and influential citizens in the furtherance of mutual interests. As result a Grand strategy reduces the risks of chaotic decisions. This systemic and calculated approach towards the national interest helps consolidating the efforts of all interested actors and might have a significant impact in the case of small countries: it helps to save the country’s limited resources by supervising their distribution. Thus, the probability of the achievement of its national interest under the grand strategy scenario is more likely then in its absence.

The “no” answer: At a first sight, a strategy might not seem absolutely necessary for a small state which lives in benign and stable security circumstances, without too much to fear and threats and with no pressing wants to remedy, especially if its system of governance is efficient and capable of rapid consensus based action. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case only of few small countries which are typically outliers from the general rule (Monaco, Luxemburg, Norway). So the situation when a country does not need a security grand strategy because it is secured enough is possible but very unlikely for the most of small countries.

Second: Grand-strategic decisions are difficult because they deal with intangibles; they require leaders to think conceptually and to visualize the effects of a series of seemingly unrelated actions. To present a functioning grand strategy, the national political process must achieve consensus amongst the polity that will implement it.

This political mature approach seems to be less possible in small countries with unstable domestic political systems. And an overall view to small countries (especially in Africa or Eastern Europe) shows that political instability is one of the most preeminent features of a small country. That is why a small country under the conditions of instability will be just unable to follow the course designed by its strategy; so the efforts and resources used to elaborate such a strategy will be wasted in vain.

And finally, grand strategy requires great discourse. A small country needs prominent leaders that know how to use words to transform strategic reality. And because words speak to the emotions, there tends to have to be an identity component in the magic. It is enough to point out the impact on the grand strategy of the country of Fidel Castro, Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Ariel Sharon. Unfortunately, just very few countries are lucky enough to have this kind of leaders.

Because a grand strategy must be sufficiently ambiguous to allow for broad interpretation, informed resource distribution and finally, when implemented, it must ultimately leave the nation more rather than less secure, the task of the leaders and policy makers is even more difficult. That is why sometimes the absence of a grand strategy is a strategy itself, especially for a small country. The absence of the commitments allows the country to be flexible, to adapt the country security strategy according to the agenda of great powers, to seek for more forthcoming benefits, to change the course of the it’s decisions according to the changes of the international arena.This being said we can conclude that small countries are different, and these differences make them act in different manner. These distinctive patterns derive from their geography, natural resources, political institutions, and proximities to great powers, demographics and historical precedent. It is within the unique context of particular circumstances that each nation designs or not its grand strategy. However a small incursion in the history shows as three different grand strategy scenario to which small countries recourse in order to ensure its national interests. The small number of alternatives (only three) also implies a general characteristic of the strategy: it cannot be aggressive and the country cannot expect to take a leading role.

The strategy of neutrality: For centuries, neutrality was seen as the alternative to military alliances, a safety belt if collective security failed. In realist accounts, neutrality was determined by exogenous and material forces – imposed by great powers, or dictated by geography or small power status. The harshest criticism to the strategy of neutrality was claimed by the realist theory, and has dominated mainstream understanding of neutrals as small, weak, amoral and passive actors in the international system. The strategy of neutrality is not working without the recognition of great powers: ‘necessity of war’ meant belligerents readily violated neu­trality (Belgium and Norway examples during the WWII) and the ability to stay neutral was depend­ent upon geostrategic considerations rather than rights. However, the successful story (in a post World War II era) of Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark might be a powerful argument to undertake this grant strategy perspective. The neutrality is often chosen as an answer to the proximity of two great powers (the example of Republic of Moldova, which is sandwiched between Russia and NATO).

The strategy of joining strong alliances: The European Union probably is the best example how a joint alliance of 27 seven countries, many of them being small countries (for example Nordic bloc: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland) can help such countries to pursuing their national interests in preserving their autonomy and self-government. The benefits of joining European Union are even greater for a young small country with less experience in self-governance: the process of integration is supported by very well elaborated political prescription and systematic control over their achievement. A small country can go further and join more than one alliance for example EU and NATO (if it is not a military neutral country of course) or other economic oriented alliances. This strategy requires commitment to certain values shared between the member countries of the alliance, or even some concession over the traditional state power. However, this strategy seems to be one of the most attractive to many small countries and the competition to become one of the member in a strong alliance as European Union or NATO is, is still very tight.

Seeking protection from or partnership with one great power strategy: In the last two decades most of European small countries emerged as result of collapse of Soviet Union or Former Yugoslavia. The burden of independence, the systemic lack of self-government skills determined some of them to seek protection of the former ruler (for example the case of Belarus) but being a satellite to a great power can cost more in long-run perspective: other countries can avoid any kind of economic, diplomatic etc. relations with such a satellite just because of its relations with that great power.

As it was said before there are many factors which might influence a small country to develop a grand strategy. The strategy itself is dependent on a range of factors: from the geographical point of view it is more plausible that a small country with a great power neighbor will choose to be a satellite of that power. This choice might be even more plausible if that country had some historical precedents of collaboration with that great power. The same geographical location might determine a country to declare its neutrality, if for example it is an insular country. For some small countries, there is a conflict of such factors – e.g. where the proximity of great powers and the economic interests of joining an alliance conflict – such as the situation of EU-bordering countries in Eastern Europe that are fundamentally split in their internal and external politics between east and west.

In my view, the argument that a small country needs a Grand strategy just because it would help it avoid chaotic decisions and save its scarce resources, is a decisive one. It is definitely more substantial than the assertion that a small country does not need such a strategy due to its lack of capacity and resources to implement it. It is the Grand strategy that answers this very question: how to achieve your goal when you have few resources and low capacities? So keeping in mind the realistic possibilities of one's country (the possible outcome of all factors described above) there is a good chance to design a small grand strategy for a small country.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sayonara al-Awlaki

There are undoubtedly questions that arise when pondering the usage of Predator missile strikes to eliminate a past U.S. citizen. These matters will in some ways have to be worked out as we go along. Without firm delineation of ethical uses of drone strikes, as this practice is relatively new, there has to be a line where jihadists, who once possessed U.S. citizenship ends. I think the personal acknowledgement of waging war against the United States, and then carrying out the violent action is that line. Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico, to parents of Yemeni descent. He worked in San Diego and Virginia as a boisterous imam who turned young American youth into Jihadists, fighting for religious causes oceans away. It is now known too, that Al-Awlaki helped Hamzi and Mihdhar with housing, transportation and setting up checking accounts from his base in San Diego. Hazmi and Mihdhar are two of the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing over 3,000 U.S. citizens and inflicting major health issues upon first responders and others in the area. Hamzi and Mihdhar described al-Awlaki as their “spiritual advisor.”
An earlier blog post brought up the idea of arresting al-Awlaki and then carrying out a public execution. I do not in any way agree this assessment. This is not Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover; this is not Somalia; this is not Sudan; nor does the United States implement the same types of justice as Iran, North Korea, or remote villages that follow shari’a law. In fact, according to NPR, the last public execution in the United States was in this very state, when a public execution was held for Rainey Bethea in 1936. Bethea did commit despicable crimes of rape and murder and one might want to give an eye-for-an-eye type of punishment, yet rapes and murders did not halt thanks to the event of his public execution. The idea that public executions deter future crimes does not hold water, since public executions were plentiful for the same types of criminal activity prior to 1936, and these crimes still continue today. Horrible crimes persist and will persist, just as terrorism will. We are attacked in the United States because of our values, and our willingness to fight for these values here and abroad, more than any other reason I believe. And while one can undoubtedly raise counterpoints of fighting for interests that contradict our values, by and large, our wars and the reason we are targeted, is cultural dominance. Lyman says “we risk losing what makes us different than our enemies” if we engage in an “any-methods-necessary” approach. That, to some point, is undoubtedly true. However, public executions skew us to the practices of al-Qaeda more than ridding the Earth of a well-known terrorist. Al-Awlaki not only wished to commit violence on innocent American civilians, but has a track record of doing such. By publicly executing people, we lose a certain soft power; we lose an image of being intelligent, compassionate and progressive. By resorting to such tactics, last used in the 30’s, we imitate rogue, immoral and unstable actors; we no longer exemplify “the city upon a hill.”
Al-Awlaki conspired in Yemen from 2004-2011. In 2010, he urged Muslim jihadists in the U.S. to wage violence on their U.S. respective cities. This is different from a domestic lone wolf conniving plans of terror in his basement. That U.S. psychopath has rights if captured, for we must be able to prove he is guilty before we try him. In the case of Al-Awlaki, we knew he was guilty before we killed him. Al-Awlaki impersonated a pure imam, although his multiple San Diego arrests for soliciting prostitution proves differently. He has outspokenly declared war on the United States and called for the murder of our citizens, while actually helping individuals to realize those plans. Of all the roles that Al-Awlaki pretended to be, a U.S. citizen was no longer one of them.
Drone strikes on high-level known terrorists are an efficient way of dealing with a threat. The expectation that Yemen officials would arrest and hand over al-Awlaki is laughable, and if JSOC would have landed in Yemen to procure al-Awlaki’s arrest, this would have ended up in a shootout, most likely killing al-Awlaki anyway, while endangering our skilled soldiers in the process. All in all, this method was cost benefit and effective.
Further, by stating that al-Awlaki deserves a trial, we open up the door for discussion as to whether terrorists are military combatants or criminals. The past two administrations have not really addressed this issue in fear of opening the floodgates to potential court cases. One terrorist has been tried in the past ten years, and the justice system may not be able to support the case load that would follow an acknowledgement of rights to trial. While the holding of individuals suspected of terrorism in black cells and Guantanamo Bay without charges is a grave human rights abuse and the issue needs to be addressed, the targeted killing of a known terrorist is not a human rights abuse, it is merely a tactical killing. There was no grey area as to whether al-Awlaki was deeply involved in al-Qaeda; this is somewhat different from individuals in Guantanamo. We targeted a terrorist who supported and carried out anti-American human rights abuses/and asymmetrical warfare of his own.
Two problems though do come to mind with this targeted killing: the life of al-Awlaki’s speeches and books, as well as a slippery slope of targeting “terrorsists.” While al-Awlaki is gone, his recorded speeches and writings live on. These publications will have as much of an effect today as they did prior. Overall though, one less prominent evil-doer is in the world and that is a good thing. We must strategically discuss action plans to combat his lasting jihadist rhetoric. How will we respond? That is question one now that this administration must respond to in relation to his killing.
Secondly, the targeted killing of individuals holding past citizenship will become as much of an issue as the government makes it. After George Bush clumsily announced the broad definition of “war on terrorism”, Russia saw a precedent for a preemptive attack on individuals who were clamoring for self-determination, not terrorists by international standards. We cannot allow the lines of who is a terrorist to blur; this is a political, legal and public duty. Very few in the international arena, being of sound mind, could argue that al-Qaeda is not a terrorist group. If other states garner this type of UAV power, we will have to ensure that their “terrorists” truly are such. Future drone strikes cannot extend to political advocates, U.S. domestic criminals, political opposition in authoritarian states; or domestic opposition in democratic states. Drone strikes are obviously inappropriate to use against U.S. citizens in Baton Rouge, but we cannot say the same for an individual who was deeply immersed in al-Qaeda and who not only spoke about, but physically supported, terror on our citizens, while residing in Yemen. Unethical drone strikes may not have a verbatim description, but much like Justice Potter’s description of obscene pornography, “I will know it when I see it.” Al-Awlaki’s killing sparks no notion of the sort. The fear is that big brother will take drone strikes too far, and while this is a legitimate concern, we ought not bring into question the killing of a known terrorist abroad. We eliminated an individual who recruited, supported and assisted individuals to decimate our kin. While al-Awlaki does not deserve a public execution; he definitely deserved, and got what he had coming to him.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Response to U.S. Grand Strategy in Eurasia

It's interesting that you bring up differences between the New Russia and post-Nazi Germany, namely in how each society viewed itself following the disintegration of its state. Actually one could, and many do, draw comparisons between the New Russia and Weimar Germany.

Russia in the 1990s, like the Weimar Republic, experienced severe economic instability. The country also experienced incredible levels of corruption, crime and social tension. Both had, in the eyes of the public, a negative and unwanted experience with democracy. It was not until Putin became president and oil prices rose that the country's economy and political environment became more stable. Thanks to continually high oil prices and Putin's ability to manipulate the Russian political system in order to stay in power, Russia's economic and political conditions over the past decade have largely gone unchanged.

But it is more than just the incumbent regime preventing the country from developing a more liberal-democratic form of governance. The Russian people, by and large, are still skeptical of Western-style government structures and would much prefer to be led by a more autocratic leader. In the latest edition of the Economist, a survey shows that nearly 60% of the population would prefer a "strong leader" and only around 30% would prefer a democratic government.[1] What's more, the survey shows that half the population regret the collapse of the Soviet Union.

You bring up a good point many Russian nationalists view their country as a successor state of the USSR, and there are certainly those who hope to recreate their "empire," albeit in a slightly different form. The ideology of these Russian Eurasianists, who can be found both within Russian politics and outside of it, seemed to be somewhat marginalized until Putin announced his plans to economically unite Russia with its former territories. Even if Putin's intentions are only economic integration- nothing more- there is an inherent desire within the government for Russia to lead this sort of union, and not just be an equal member in it.

This is an alarming sign for a region whose countries' political and economic independence were already being infringed upon by Russia. The U.S. needs to pay careful attention to developments in this region and should consider a more aggressive strategy to balance Russia's neo-imperial intentions.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

U.S.Grand Strategy: Russia is still treated as Soviet Union

Much has been discussed about the future of U.S. Grand Strategy after the collapse of the USSR, but the truth is everyone in the U.S. Administration believed that not only they must not abondone a Successful Strategy but they must polish it, adjust it inorder to fit the new world environment. Hence, I personally believe that inspite of War on Terrorism, Global Warming, etc which became the new features of U.S. Grand Strategy, Containment as an umbrella Strategy is still relevent.

It is easy to realize that U.S. is still following the same policies of Containment but with a proactive and progressive approach. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was optimism among the officials in washington that they have not only defeated their enemy but there is a chance of democratizing that enemy and forging a friendly relations which will boost the international security and will become the corner stone of world peace. However, their optimism did not last long before they witnessed a New Russia emerging in the ashes of Soviet Union with a very similar outlook towards the West and world politics. Russian Nationalism which became very intense during the 1992-95 realized that unlike Germans who renounced Nazism and created a new identity for themselves, Russians can very openly embrace the achievements of the Soviet Union inorder to create a superior Russian National Identity.

So, what does Russian Nationalism have anything to do with the U.S. Grand Strategy? well, the Russian Behaviour which considers itself as Soviet Successsor will definitely affect how the U.S. deals with it. It became apparant soon after the anouncement of independence by Soviet Republics that Russia is trying to influence the political transformations in those countries through its sympathizers which almost all of them were Old Communist Officials related to Moscow. The reason for such a policy is very clear and does not need any explanation, Russia considers these republics as its sphere of influence, necessary for its National Security and Power, Vast energy fields will boost the Russian economy, politics and will raise its status in international politics. So, Russia is ready to pay any price in order to keep these countries under its influence.

Nato expansion which aimed at admitting the Newly Independent Soviet Republics, Democratizing their Governments, providing economic and military assistances, arming them with Missile Defense System was and is all and all part of the same policies under the U.S. Grand Strategy of Containment aimed at Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation. Scholars around the world have largely argued that if these aggressive policies against Russia is dropped, then we will soon be witnessing the Reemergence of the Soviet Union under the Russian Leadership. It may not be the same Soviet Union, with the same ideology or geography, but it maybe a much more dangerous threat to the U.S. and European Interests.

It is obvious that U.S. realized this threat long ago and have been prepared for it and have done anything it could to not allow such a thing happen. Europe too realizes that, while they witnessed the Reemegence of the Nazi Germany, they know it will not be very difficult for Russians to claim back their sphere of influence and enjoy the overwhelming power and influence which can come with having the independent Soviet Republics on its side.

Lets see what Russians have been doing to forge their forces together and claim their superamacy and influence over the independent Soviet Republics. I mentioned that they have been very active in shaping political institutions and a leadership in those countries that are loyal to Moscow, they have created the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which beside some Central Asian Countries it is a forum where China, India, Iran, Pakistan are its members and Afghanistan is planning to join it as well. Russian military presence in Kyrgyzstan and in other central asian countries where in some counries it is official and in some it has unofficial presence, some even believe that the russian pressur was the sole reason behind uzbekistan's decision of evicting the U.S. military base from that country. Russian attack of Georgia in 2008 which came in the aftermath of that country's decision to join Nato and allow Missile Defense System to be stationed in its territory are obviouse examples of what these countries mean for Russia.

Today, as usual i am checking the BBC for the News and here it is to my surprize Putin calling for a "Euroasian Union" of ex-soviet Republics well, i thought there is nothing to be surprized about, everyone including myself expected that Russian Federation will finally make a move that will expose their underlying intentions and Strategy to the common man and world public opinion. And here we have it, the statement comes from the most powerful Russian Politician and most probably the next (Future) Russian President. Let him declare that his proposition is not aimed at re-creating the Soviet Union but we know that he will not be unhappy to make that dream come true.

To conclude, we can find thousands of such examples where the U.S. and Russian Relationship or better say the Russian position in U.S. Grand Strategy has remained the same as the Cold War Containment but an advanced version of it, which means here we are not dealing with a threat but a possible threat! Hence, we can boldly state that the idea of U.S. not having a Grand Strategy is False, and that United States has not abondoned its Strategy of Containment, but has developed, improved and expanded it in such a shape inorder to not only tackle the Possible Russian Problem but encompass other global issues and threats which affects its National Interests and Security in 21st Century.

Anwar al-Awlaki and Government Assassination

With the recent killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen ( ) there is some controversy regarding the legality of the U.S. government killing a U.S. citizen it deemed a terrorist without due process. The Constitution seems to address this issue.

U.S. Constitution Article III, Section 3.1

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

U.S. Constitution 14th Amendment Section 1

“All person born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state where in they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

First quote mentions “convicted”, typically being convicted involves a trial. Additionally al-Awlaki neither confessed in open court nor did two witnesses testify in any court (that I am aware of).

The second quote mentions “nor shall any state deprive any person of life… without due process of law”. The issue should be handled in a way that leaves no doubt to its legality. The U.S. should not worry about how close to the line of legal and illegal its actions are, instead when the situation involves the constitutional treatment of U.S. citizens, the U.S. government should ensure there is no doubt whatsoever its actions are constitutional.

So what would be a solution? The U.S. should attempt to capture the individual and bring him back to the U.S. to stand trial. If he is found guilty, he should be executed, consideration should be given to making the execution public, possibly a public hanging in downtown D.C. on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by the symbols of the very country he was convicted of committing treason against. Public execution like this could serve to deter others from committing similar acts, as it would for domestic crimes if applied more frequently; yet I digress. For a U.S. citizen that has committed treason against his country, death by missile is too good for him, rather the trial and execution should be publicized in order that the traitor must go through the humiliation and stress that would accompany such a trial; then after conviction the execution would see to it that he was just as dead.

When we combat a threat in an any-methods-necessary approach, we risk losing what makes us different than our enemies. In the combat of terrorism, we need to act in a manner which leaves no doubt we are behaving in a righteous manner. President Kennedy said: “There is little value to insuring the survival of our nation, if our traditions do not survive with it.” Liberty and justice have always been traditions in this country, we must ensure their continued survival or risk losing all that is worth fighting for.

Monday, October 03, 2011

How Long Will the U.S. Compromise on China?

It is unfortunate the United States seems to be not supporting Taiwan (true China) as much as it used to. Acting in a righteous manner should never be sacrificed to continue to be on the good side of ones lender. We need to remember that while Taiwan was part of China before the Chinese civil war, the wrong side won that war. Evil won and good lost. The U.S. should give Taiwan the new F-16s and anything else they wish to purchase to protect themselves against possible aggression from Mainland China. The CIA World Factbook classifies China as a “Communist State”, while they may be shifting towards capitalism we need to remember that they are communist. (It is the same classification given to Cuba and we embargo them, morally the U.S. should consider embargoing China to be fair). If the day comes that Taiwan is a part of China, it will be unfortunate, rather we should wish to see China become a part of Taiwan.

If we are willing to sell out Taiwan for the economic benefits we gain from Mainland China then the U.S. has fallen much further than I thought. China needs the U.S. to purchase its goods as much as the U.S. wants to buy them, and wants China to fund the U.S. debt. It is a mutually supportive relationship, one that continues to assist China in gaining strength, and for that reason it needs to be severed. The United States needs to work to rely upon other capitalist countries that respect human rights.

The IMF has predicted the Chinese economy will overtake the U.S. in 2016 Unfortunately the tipping point for this event has likely already passed; still the U.S. needs to do all it can to prevent this event from occurring due to the slight hope and chance it is possible to avoid. As China gets closer and possibly overtakes the U.S. economy, the U.S. will need to have more allies in the region it can rely upon; Taiwan can serve to be one of those allies, hopefully Japan can be another. The U.S. needs to cut its spending down to levels where it no longer needs China and make the China-U.S. relation more important to China than the U.S., then it can leverage China as it may see fit. If the U.S. and the rest of the free world cannot control China it needs to be weakened back to a level that together the free world can control it. As long as China remains communist, the U.S. should work to strengthen Taiwan, economically trip China all it can, and in particular, prevent the Yuan from even being an option as the world reserve currency. He who has the strongest economy has the influence; Communist China cannot be allowed to have that influence. The manipulation of the Yuan also is reason to attempt to punish China, not reward it by becoming greater friends with them.

The U.S. must not compromise in its foreign policy; it must act in a righteous manner towards the rest of the free world. Placating China should not be our goal, weakening it should be. It needs to be known that if you abuse your people, if you do not respect human rights, if you do not promote freedom for all men, rather you are more interested in economic growth and riches regardless of the cost, the United States will not be your friend, ally, or even trading partner, instead we will oppose you until you realize the errors of you ways.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

When Does the U.S. Lease on Taiwan End?

With the recent news that the U.S. has decided not to sell Taiwan new F-16 fighter jets and instead upgrade their existing fleet of older F-16s, a shift in U.S. policy may be occurring. While the Obama Administration has claimed that its decision was based on the balancing of Taiwan’s needs and U.S.-China relations, it may be that the U.S. is slowly backing away from and shunning Taiwan as the need for the U.S. to keep on China’s good side grows.

Is this so bad? Not necessarily. Economically, U.S.-Taiwan trade in 2010 only accounted for around $60 billion, (U.S.-China trade was well over $450 billion) and while Taiwan may be a solid trading partner, in terms of trade importance it pales in comparison to China. The potential weakening of future trade with Taiwan would not represent a death blow to global U.S. trade.

The U.S. has become much more heavily dependent on China for trade, the purchasing of U.S. debt, and joint diplomatic efforts, among a host of other things. The world has changed dramatically since 1949 when China and Taiwan split and Taiwan first began turning to the U.S. for protection and support. Since then the U.S. has been “leasing” its protection to Taiwan. However, Taiwan quite frankly is now just not as important as China is to the U.S. in 2011. As Owens wrote in last week’s reading, “When strategy makers…do not adapt to changing conditions, serious problems can result.” The U.S. needs to re-evaluate its relationship with Taiwan in light of its current dependence on China and China’s past history with Taiwan. China sees Taiwan as part of its country (which Taiwan was before the Chinese Civil War) and U.S. interference in what they see as an internal issue has been a source of strife and potential trouble in U.S.-Chinese relations.

While Taiwan has been a longtime U.S. ally, their importance politically and economically does not equate to the potential risks that the U.S. is taking by maintaining its policy of support. If potentially the U.S. were to back off of their policy and allow Taiwan to again become an official part of China (relations between the two have been improving recently) the U.S. would have just given China something that it desperately wants and would eliminate a potential flash point between the U.S. and a country that it relies on very heavily for its economic well-being.

There is an opportunity therefore for the U.S. to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip. The U.S. could quietly back away from its support of Taiwan in exchange for something that it wants and that the Chinese control completely- their currency value. The supposed undervaluing of the yuan by China is a hot-button political issue in the U.S. and it is often blamed by U.S. politicians as the reason for the U.S.-Chinese trade imbalance and the dismal state of the economy. A trade could potentially be reached as both sides have something of value that the other desires. If the U.S. were to limit their support of Taiwan and allow it to fall into the Chinese sphere, Beijing would be able to claim a major political victory and sell it to their people as a reunification of China. If China were to allow the yuan to float, even to a small degree, U.S. politicians could claim a major victory in time to sell it to their constituents as the 2012 elections approach.

The U.S. could use Taiwan as a way of placating the Chinese and as a political and economic victory. It would be a sizable achievement to both sides and a point of conciliation that could ease tensions in the region. So when does the U.S. lease on Taiwan end?