Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From Bayonets to Stealth Fighters: An ongoing discussion about military capacity

While the dust from the final presidential debate continues to settle, I would like to kick up a deeper discussion on President Obama's comment about horses and bayonets, as well as dig deeper into the problems about discussing the complex topic of military and security capabilities in a dynamic world.

For those who did not watch the final debate and are catching up on the context of the many 'zingers', here's what went down. Responding to Governor Romney's argument that the U.S. navy is now smaller than at any time since 1917, Pres. Obama advised the Republican party candidate to spend a little more time studying how the U.S. military works.

          "You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916, Well,     Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips."

This statement about the changing nature of the military is the real focus of the President's comments on Monday because it broadly opens up the topic about how the U.S. can maintain military superiority and security. Foreign Policy magazine published two articles related to this topic: 1.) "Does the military still have horses and bayonets" and 2.) "This might be China's third J-20 stealth fighter", and these articles provide some information on the spectrum of military strategic capabilities and threats. 

Joshua Keating writes, in his article about horses and bayonets, "While Army recruits no longer charge dummies with bayonets fixed to their rifles, they do still receive training on how to use a knife or bayonet as a handheld secondary weapon in close combat." Even in the age of high-tech weaponry and drones, soldiers still need the physical strategic advantage over their enemy. The demand for hand-to-hand combat will always play a role within the military, despite historical practices with bayonets fading from basic training. Horses play a more ceremonial role with the military during funerals and other official events, but their utility for combat is not useless because special forces along with the Northern Alliance charged on horses while attacking the Taliban on Mazar-e-sharif in 2001. Overall, the most basic aspect of the U.S.'s military capacity remains essential for its general strategic strength, but the world of security threats and interests is far more complex, as stated throughout the debate by Pres. Obama.

Now, going beyond the basics of horses and bayonets, Pres. Obama continued to emphasize how the U.S.'s strength is not measured merely by the number of any one particular part of its military complex but by the capacity to strategically affect strategic threats. Within the last two weeks, Hannah O. and Alexandra L. presented two very important and complex issues threatening U.S. security: cyber attacks and an aggressive China, hence the pivot to Asia. Over the last few weeks, China has been scrutinized for possible cyber attacks on the U.S. and its allies, and recently China appears to have produced another J-20 stealth fighter.

In John Reed's article about China's new J-20 stealth fighter, he lays out the capabilities of China's military investments. This new fighter is speculated to either intercept bombers or strike military threats outside of China because it is engineered to be fast with cruise missiles. The other issue about the new fighter and other Chinese engineered jets is that they are made from the plans stolen (hacked) several years ago by Lockheed Martin for the developing F-35. These significant threats to the U.S.'s interests in the Pacific region add to the complexity of military threats and issues of capacity.  

Though the plethora of military issues are difficult to mention in a single debate or blog, it is important to reemphasize that the real debate about military strength does not depend on the number of ships around the world. Instead, it depends on the military's strategic capacity to defend, contain, resolve, and prevent against real threats.    

So, here are my questions to everyone:

1.) The president has emphasized that the U.S. has military capabilities that outshines the former capacities of the military 100 years ago, but will the price tag of this shiny technology eventually hit a wall, especially in the midst of threats for budget cuts?

2.) How should the discussion on the U.S.'s military capabilities be more accurately addressed in a multipolar world with various international organizations focused on mutual security?  

3.) Also, who needs a knife in a nuke fight?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Turkey as a Strategic Partner for NATO's 21st Century Grand Strategy

From the beginning of Turkey’s membership in NATO, it has been a functional ally for NATO by making major political and military contributions, which fit well into NATO’s grand strategy for collective defense, particularly against Russia. After September 11th, NATO’s grand strategy has been in an ongoing reorganization in an attempt to deal with multiple types of missions, calling into question whether Turkey should still be considered a functional ally for military defense, or whether it should be a strategic partner for addressing additional, non-military issues. Although some aspects of Turkey’s foreign policy objectives create diversion between Turkey and NATO, its geographic location at the epicenter of Africa, Europe, and Asia, as well as its soft and hard power capabilities, make it the perfect strategic partner for meeting today’s challenges of terrorism, humanitarian intervention, and protecting trade routes and resources. However, NATO members must be sensitive to the fact that Turkey must also protect its own national interests if it is going to continue on its path of growth, which makes it an important partner for NATO.

Turkey’s expansion of its own foreign policy over the last several years has caused concern among fellow NATO members as to the divergence of Turkey’s national interests from those of other NATO members. These concerns suggest that Turkey should be relegated to a continued role of a functional ally, providing only military support, rather than as a strategic partner for other NATO operations.
The most important divergence is on the issue of Iran’s nuclear development. Turkey’s foreign policy of “Zero-Problems” with its neighbors is focused on developing economic interdependence among countries in the region in order to promote security, stability, and economic growth. Turkey engages in good relations with Iran for energy, trade, and maintaining a peaceful, shared-border existence. However, Turkey’s favorable relations with Iran have extended to support of Iran’s nuclear development program, which other NATO members strongly oppose. Turkey voted against increased UN sanctions on Iran, alarming NATO members of Turkey’s loyalty to the alliance. Continued support of Iran’s nuclear development has also caused concern among NATO members, particularly the U.S., that Turkey’s government is becoming too friendly with other Muslim countries. Improved relations with other Muslim countries is also evidenced by Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel, another major concern of the U.S. Given the U.S.’s support of Israel, the unfavorable Turkish-Israel relations could be an issue which keeps NATO from considering Turkey to be a strategic partner in the region.
Although Turkey’s foreign policy of “Zero-Problems” is focused on promoting Turkey’s national interests, it is also a foreign policy that can be used in tandem with meeting NATO’s current challenges, which makes Turkey an ideal strategic partner for NATO. Turkey’s foreign policy vision is to engage in soft power diplomacy throughout the region in order to develop economic interdependency between Turkey and its neighbors, thereby increasing peace and stability in the region. This approach is implemented in a consistent and systemic global framework, meaning that Turkey desires to engage in peaceful relations with all nations in order to promote economic, political, and security ties for Turkey throughout the world.
One key aspect of this policy is that Turkey does not make threats to achieve its objectives, but focuses instead on common values, history, culture, and economic promotion to improve relations with each country. For instance, Turkey maintains that, while it is opposed to Iran’s nuclear development for weapons purposes, it is better to either persuade Iran not to continue its nuclear development or to engage in monitoring of development to ensure adherence to rules laid out in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Turkey is adamant that its foreign policy is consistent with NATO’s objectives, and that its “relations with other global actors aim to be complementary, not in competition” with, NATO’s policies.
The new security challenges for NATO include 1) new security challenges and threat perceptions; 2) the use of old tools versus new tool in dealing with stability, whether these involve the use of military hard power or normative soft power; and 3) the legitimacy of military intervention. Turkey’s commitment to helping with the first challenge is evident in the actions it has already taken, and continues to take, as a NATO ally. A commitment to the second and third challenge would define Turkey as a strategic partner. Although there is speculation that these two challenges are where Turkey’s interests diverge with NATO, it can be argued that Turkey’s foreign policy and national interests share the same objectives as NATO, and therefore a strategic partnership with Turkey would aid NATO in meeting these two final challenges.
Regarding the use of old tools versus new tools, Turkey is the only country in the region that can provide both. Due to the current insecure environment, Turkey maintains a powerful military for its own protection. However, it also is the second largest provider of military power in NATO, and has committed Turkish forces to NATO operations on numerous occasions. In a post-9/11 era, NATO is facing the issues of humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping missions, anti-terrorism post conflict reconstruction, and counter-insurgency. Turkey’s foreign policy of soft power diplomacy, along with its common history, culture, and ethnic ties to the region can be of considerable use with all of these challenges.
For instance, the U.S. has found its relationship with Turkey to be very beneficial in its Anti-Terrorism Training Assistance and Counter-Terrorism Financial Assistance programs. The U.S. has been able to train people in Turkey on these programs, and Turkey has then been entrusted to train neighboring states. Furthermore, Turkey is strong enough economically to be a foreign aid donor, which is has done with several countries, including a commitment of $300 million to Afghanistan in non-military aid.  Given the budgetary constraints for the U.S. in funding these types of programs compared to defense expenditures, Turkey could be a good strategic partner in providing the necessary funding and training for these programs, which serve both Turkey’s national interests and NATO’s objectives.
Regarding the legitimacy of military intervention, Turkey has shown a commitment to NATO in the form of military engagement on numerous NATO operations. However, Turkey’s foreign policy of soft power rather than using threats and inciting violence shows that Turkey prefers non-violent conflict resolution. Given that Turkey is at the epicenter of Europe, Africa, and Asia, and its importance to regional stability, it is important to keep violent conflicts near Turkey’s borders at bay. As Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu stated, “In overcoming regional problems, the local dimension should not be ignored.” It is important to note that Turkey is a Muslim democracy focusing on building political, security, and economic ties with all nations, including fellow Muslim countries. Therefore, Turkey can have a positive influence on other Muslim countries without the need for military intervention, which would further NATO’s objectives of peace and security.     
Turkey’s geographic location in the middle of Africa, Europe, and Asia make it a strategic ally for NATO. However, with its cultural and ethnic ties to countries in the region, its consistent foreign policy of “zero-problems”, its powerful military and strong economy, and its commitment to the alliance as part of its own national interests, NATO should consider incorporate Turkey as a major strategic partner in its grand strategy development for the 21st century.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Needlessly awakening the hibernating bear?

Why does the United States continue to pursue a comprehensive ballistic missile defense system (BMD)?  As someone who came of age in the post-Cold War environment, I don't have the engrained fear of nuclear destruction that most Americans endured throughout the 20th century.  And today, it feels like the threat of nuclear war affecting our lives is almost (almost) too remote to consider.  The Soviet-U.S. rivalry died with the end of the Cold War, and the U.S. and Russia have embarked on a new arms control regime that will further reduce the likelihood of nuclear war.  So then why is the installation of a missile defense system seen by some as essential to American power?

Expanding NATO protection

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has dramatically expanded its alliance.  After the Cold War, NATO almost doubled from a sixteen-member organization to an alliance with twenty-nine states including many former Soviet Republics.  And as NATO drove east, Russian policymakers grew anxious.

Given American moves in Europe throughout the 1990s, "the Russians have, in their view, considerable reasons not to trust NATO" (Kay, Sean. "NATO’s Missile Defense – Realigning Collective Defense for the 21st Century." Perceptions Journal of International Affairs XVII.1 (2012), 46).  "Russians assert they were told in the early 1990s that NATO enlargement would not go beyond integrated Germany" (Kay, 46).  Despite being told that that increase was for defensive purposes only, NATO launched a military action in Serbia, a longtime Soviet ally.  A legitimate Russian fear was, therefore, shunned by American policymakers as they sought to drive east, which has dialed up tensions between the U.S. and Russia.  "Russia . . . made clear it would pursue missile development to circumvent NATO systems" (Kay, 42).  

The threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program intensified fear among southern countries of a potential strike, which prompted additional missile defense installation.  The U.S. is concerned about instability in the region because "[e]ven a minimal Iranian nuclear capability could enhance Iranian leverage in the Persian Gulf -- making it difficult to maintain the flow of oil" (Kay, 38).  "[T]he combination of Iran's behavior outside the norms of acceptable international behavior gave the NATO allies legitimate concern" (Kay,39).  The United States committed itself to Polish defense by deploying 100 troops along with Patriot missile batteries.

But as the missile defense system was erected, other NATO allies became wary of the diplomatic blowback.  "[French] President Nicholas Sarkozy said that missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic would 'bring nothing to security' but rather will 'complicate things and move them backward'" (Kay, 43).  

Leverage for future U.S.-Russia negotiations

The primary motivation for NATO missile defense might not be the system itself but rather the leverage a potential gives the U.S. to seek concessions from Russia for other security issues.  Russia's opposition to further economic sanctions and an oil embargo on Iranian oil mean that it still controls substantial influence over Iranian nuclear program negotiations.  Russia could also help the international community negotiate with the Syrian government that is continuing to kill its people.  A number of U.S. policymakers suggested that dismantling the Iranian program would eliminate the need for the missile defense system in Europe.  Under Secretary of State William J. Burns told a Russian new agency, "If through strong diplomacy with Russia and our other partners we can reduce or eliminate that threat, it obviously shapes the way at which we look at missile defense."  Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates similarly said, “I told the Russians a year ago that if there were no Iranian missile program, there would be no need for the missile sites.”

Because an effective missile defense system could potentially eliminate the threat of Russia's nuclear weapon -- as well as Iran's -- its deployment in an expanded NATO could be intended to cajole Russia to become more assertive in settling global security issues.  Regardless of underlying security concerns, the system will continue to exacerbate Russian security concerns. "American officials repeatedly insist that the missile defense system is not a threat to Russian security -- but seldom account for the possibility that Russia might define its own national security perceptions" (Kay, 48).  And whether or not NATO intends to confine Russia's nuclear arsenal, its system has the capability to do so.

Ultimately, however, this system is based on promised technology that doesn't exist and could possibly deteriorate negotiating with a necessary security ally in Russia. And unfortunately, missile defense has taken on a partisan dimension in the American political process.

Physicists and experts regularly remind policymakers that the technology is unfeasible and the risk of new arms races high. Yet what American politician wants to argue against defending an American city against nuclear attack even if there is a logic to raising concerns about missile defenses? Missile defense has thus been popular and support for it has become a political litmus test in the United States - regardless of the science or risks. (Kay, 37-38)
1)  Does a ballistic missile defense represent a security dilemma for Russia?
2)  Should the U.S. pursue installation of a comprehensive system at all costs?
3)  Is the threat from Iran sufficient to justify provoking potentially more powerful states (i.e. Russia)?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Threat of Cyber security

Several events in the past few weeks have cemented the fact that cyber warfare is one of the nation's biggest threats to national security. These events, coupled with our in-class presentation given on Monday have piqued my interest in the topic and have implored me to devote this blog entry to the very subject matter. Adding to the relativity of this area is the fact that October is designated as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This awareness month has been in existence for the past nine years and is a joint venture between the Department of Homeland Security, the National Cyber Security Alliance, and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

Several weeks ago, the House Intelligence Committee warned American companies to avoid working with two Chinese communication firms, Huawei Technologies LTD. and ZTE Corporation, because they "pose a national security threat to the United States." (AP) The report said, "China has the means, opportunity, and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes." This report was released after a yearlong investigation. The committee said that Chinese components in computer systems carry the risk of espionage. 

This report, as well as the relationship between the U.S. and China have become an election issue, as Mitt Romney wants the U.S. become more stringent in clamping down on China. In last night's debate, he accused China of being a currency manipulator and being a thief of U.S. intellectual property. This report has serious implications, as it creates possible quagmire between the U.S. and its leading trading partner. Furthermore, it shows just how much the western world is dependent on China, as equipment is both developed and manufactured in the country. However, a report released today by the White House after an 18-month study says that while there is no clear evidence of espionage on the part of Huawei Technologies, it did conclude that relying on Huawei is risky because of the vulnerabilities that could be discovered and exploited by hackers. (Reuters)

Just last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that Iran was to blame in recent cyber attacks that targeted oil and gas companies in the Persian Gulf. It is believed that these attacks were in retaliation of U.S. imposed sanctions against Iran, and that the attacks were supported by the Iranian government. Panetta said the attacks were "probably the most devastating to ever hit the private sector." (CNN)

These events now point to the sense of urgency the government has in creating defense mechanisms to ward off these cyber attacks. In 2010, the mock simulation of a cyber attack on the U.S. government brought to light the amount of vulnerabilities the technology system has. Whether or not Huawei Technologies is the espionage branch of the Chinese government or not, we know at least one country that is developing and devoting a military wing to cyber warfare. Tehran has assembled a "cyber corp" as an official part of its military. A recent article in The Economist about bit coins also raises awareness to just how serious this issue is becoming.

Panetta warned that the U.S. is prepared to retaliate if it is hit by a cyber attack and even said that the U.S. would consider striking preemptively. He did not, however, go into details on how the U.S. would respond offensively or defensively. It is clear that the U.S. is preparing for an attack as DARPA is discussing Plan X, one of the most extensive plans to ever come out of the agency. This plan will also necessitate cooperation between the public and private sectors, as both are targets for cyber attacks. 

How do you forsee this situation playing out? Over the past decade, our defense department has had to strategize over how to defend our country from terror attacks, including, but not limited to, biological and chemical warfare and physical attacks on the country. Now they have had to include cyber security into this portfolio. Do cyber attacks warrant the need for the U.S. to strike preemptively or do you have faith in the government to protect our country from all enemies, even the cyber enemy?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bits and Pieces: Bitcoin, Silk Road, and a discussion of associated security implications

There was an interesting article in the September 29th- October 5th issue of the Economist called “Monetarists Anonymous” about which a classmate tipped me off.  The article concerned the first (and only) online currency known as Bitcoin. Bitcoin, for those of us as ignorant as I was until a few weeks ago, is a peer-to-peer digital currency with no issuing authority or central bank. It was devised in 2009 by an individual known as Satoshi Nakomoto (a pseudonym) without paper, silver, gold, or a central government. Instead he used, according to the New Yorker, “thirty-one thousand lines of code and an announcement on the Internet.” To prevent the money supply from growing too rapidly (and keep in mind that this is painfully simplified) Bitcoins are apparently minted by computers solving extremely difficult math problems. The difficulty of these problems automatically rises to control the supply, allowing them to be issued by any savvy individual with a powerful personal computer. The result is a currency that is exchanged exclusively online, floats freely and often violently against the dollar, and is a strange cross between a commodity and a fiat currency.

The economic and technical “hows” are rather beyond me, I admit, but the security implications of such a cryptocurrency are fascinating. A key point concerns the difficulty of tracing Bitcoin transactions to points of origin. Though it is not impossible to connect a Bitcoin exchange with real people, the currency has a significant amount of anonymity built in—especially if the user knows a thing or two about shielding their identity online. This, predictably, makes Bitcoin extremely popular in dodgy cyber markets and endeavors.  The organization Lulzsec, associated with the hactivist group Anonymous and whose leaders were arrested after Sabu turned out to be an informant, accepted donations in Bitcoin.   Wikileaks began accepting Bitcoin donations in 2011 after Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, etc. instituted a banking blockade against the website. Most notably: on the website known as Silk Road, Bitcoins are the only means of transaction.

The Economist describes the Silk Road as a sort of eBay for drugs and other unsavory forms of contraband hidden in the secreted, dark corners of the Internet known as Tor. NPR has called the website an “ for illegal drugs.” Silk Road is a dark, futuristic bazaar worthy of Huxley or Orwell that sits just below the reach of most Internet users and presents, as one can well imagine, numerous and nefarious possibilities.

Getting to the site, however, is a little more complicated than just typing “Silk Road” in the Google search bar. It won’t show up that way, and the URL for Silk Road has apparently been forgotten. In any case it is long, convoluted, and nearly impossible to memorize. Visitors are required to use special software. This special software, Tor, is Google-able and is used to facilitate online anonymity via something known as “onion routing.” “Onion routing” utilizes a layered system of encryption services that bounces around proxies while decrypting its data bit by bit—as its onion logo so artfully depicts.  It’s handy, and was actually partially pioneered by the U.S. Government. That’s not as ironic as you may think. The uses of a tool such as Tor are unlimited, but it truly is a double-edged sword; online anonymity facilitated by Tor was vital in dissident movements in Iran and Egypt and can evade internet censorship, but in America it is often utilized for criminal endeavors.  Tor is, of course, free to download—at your own discretion.

Silk Road sells drugs, and a lot of them (the site was estimated in August by Forbes to annually rake in somewhere in the ballpark of a cool $22 million), but allegedly does eventually draw the line.  The terms of service ban the sale of “anything whose purpose is to harm or defraud, such as stolen credit cards, assassinations, and weapons of mass destruction.” I suppose it could be considered a small mercy that weapons-grade plutonium and biological weapons are off-limits on the online black market.  The idea remains, though, as does the potential for the sale of materials more sensitive and much more dangerous than illegal drugs.

This has, of course, happened. The Armory, another online black market, emerged as an offshoot of the Silk Road and specializes in exactly what its name suggests: weapons. These commodities were a little too hot for Silk Road administrators, so the operators of the Armory pulled away from the market defined by American meth and weed and decided to fly solo. It operates under the same idea—with a little digital money, some anonymity software, a pinch of computer savvy, and a glaring lack of respect for laws, just about anyone can get their hands on just about anything. In the case of the Armory: Glocks, AK-47s, even grenades— largely shipped to buyers in pieces to be assembled on delivery.

Now, with the combined anonymity of the software provided by the Tor Project and the cash-in-a paper-bag aspect of Bitcoin, tracing buyers and sellers on sites like Silk Road or the Armory seems is nigh impossible—to the chagrin of the FBI and the ATF, I’m sure. Nevertheless, Forbes reports that users on Silk Road “worry that its operators may have been infiltrated by law enforcement” and a significant number of the site’s highest profile sellers have disappeared.

For discussion: what are the security implications of the anonymity promised by the combined forces of tools like Tor and Bitcoins? How can the United States and other governments deal with these implications? Or are we just wringing our hands for no reason? After all, you may argue, the bad guys will eventually get their hands on whatever drugs or arms they seek to possess—avenues like Silk Road and The Armory are no different than any physical black market. Additionally, the identity concealing aspects of tools like Bitcoin and Tor could be viewed as a boon to people seeking freedom of information and self-determination the world over. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Can the Crisis Push Towards Deeper European Unity?

The eurozone crisis clearly empowered euro-skeptics’ positions against the proponents of the European unity. At first glance, Greek, Irish, Portuguese, and now Spanish developments serve as a good illustration of why the common currency was a bad idea from the very beginning and how irresponsibility of certain states creates problems for the rest in a too much intermingled community. Many forecast that sooner or later Greece (and not only) will have to leave eurozone and might be forced out of the EU. In a traditionally euro-skeptic UK David Cameron hinted that Britain may even consider holding an EU referendum, though not until 2015 general elections, in the hope that Europe's fate will be clearer by then.

On the other hand, official Brussels doesn't seem to be giving up. Jose Manuel Barroso’s 2012 State of the Union Address to the European Parliament contained many important messages for observers and initiated a new wave of debate both in the European Parliament and outside. “Europe needs a new thinking… globalization demands more European unity; More unity demands more integration,” he said. In short, Barroso is offering a new reforms package, final version of which, after being thoroughly debated and scrutinized by MPs and wider public of experts, will be presented by the 2014 Parliamentary Elections. Main pillars of the package are deeper economic and long-awaited political unity, as well as “truly collective defense.” While he spoke a lot about deepening unity in all major sectors, he has not mentioned widening (expanding) the Union at all.

Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman
Of course, Barroso’s proposal is far from being adopted and probably will have more critics than any other European treaty has ever had, but so far his fight in the legislature is receiving support of the executives in the European capitals. With or without the help of Sarkozy, Angela Merkel seems determined to keep Greece in the Union and in the eurozone. European Central Bank’s decision to buy unlimited volumes of bonds from indebted eurozone countries, as well as Merkel’s yesterday’s visit to Athens are clear indications that EU is not going to give up that easy.

History teaches us that it often takes big crisis, wars or other types of shocks to push societies to the new level. After all, current Europe is the product of WWI and WWII. “The EU may move in this [further integration] direction, but in the absence of major shock, the movement will be very slow and ambiguous,” wrote William Wohlforth (International Security, Vol.24) in 1999. Can this crisis serve as a major shock that will push EU towards further unity? If yes, what will that mean for the US? Wohlforth thinks, that “if the EU were a state, the world would be bipolar,” but in order to “create the balance of power globally EU would have to suspend the balance of power locally.” According to Kathleen McNamara, “assuming the EU succeeds in deepening its level of integration and adding new members, it will soon have influence on matters of finance and trade equal to America’s; A more balanced strategic relationship is likely to follow” (Rethinking Europe, Kupchan 1999). And as Barroso pointed out in his address to the European Parliament, “In the 21st-century, even the biggest European countries run the risk of irrelevance in between the global giants like the US or China,” but Europe united as a “federation of nations” is likely to have a say in relationship with these giants. Today economically and politically united and prosperous Europe is in the US interests not because it sets example and contains “socialist club,” but because it has the capacity to share US’s military and financial burden. Europe, as it is today, is already an ally in Afghanistan or Libyan crisis, but only politically united EU, with much faster decision-making tools and unified foreign policy, will be able to cost-share as much as Washington is asking to.   

Writing about the need for the reinvention of European dream, Anne-Marie Slaughter concluded that what Europe needs today is another Schuman or Monnet. I doubt anyone sees new Shuman or Monnet in Jose Manuel Barroso, but Angela Merkel has a very good track record so far.  

Monday, October 08, 2012

A Moral Case for a Nuclear Iran

Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities has been a hot topic for some time, and has become rather scorching more recently. Strong arguments for and against a possible preventive strike against Iran have been made. As tensions rise between the U.S. and Israel over whether and when to take military action, the U.S. must decide the best course of action for the near and long term. There exists a common view among theorists and experts that a nuclear Iran cannot be contained; therefore, a preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is necessary to keep Iran from waging nuclear against its neighbors, particularly Israel . Yet others theorize that, since deterrence has maintained peace among nuclear nations over the last six decades, the same will apply to Iran, as Iran’s nuclear capability will then create a balance of power between Israel and Iran.  Still others suggest that the only way to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is for the U.S. to engage in a full-scale invasion and occupation of Iran. Although all three of these options have been examined in short/long term perspectives and in economic and military costs and benefits, very little has been examined from a moral perspective.

Author Michael Walzer warns that there is potential for an initial aggression to be followed by continuous escalation on both sides, resulting in increasing ruthlessness and destruction. He further argues that the initial aggression is an immoral act, quoting Karl von Clausewitz as saying, “The aggressor is responsible for all the fighting he begins” (Walzer 1977, Chpt. 2). With this concept as the premise for analyzing each of the three options, we can determine that the options of invasion/occupation and pre-emptive strike should be considered immoral, and that the option of allowing Iran to become a nuclear power, and relying on time-tested deterrence for maintaining peace is the only moral option.

The two options of a preventive strike and invasion/occupation place the U.S. in a position of being an aggressor against Iran, since Iran has not taken aggressive action against any other state, nor has it threatened to do so. The option of preventive strike can be considered immoral for two reasons. First, it relies on the argument that a preventive strike causes destruction which produces peace.  However, that argument only holds if the strike results in ultimate destruction. In the case of Iran, reports indicate that a preventive strike will only delay, not stop, their nuclear development by up to four years.  Without the ability to completely destroy Iran’s chances of obtaining nuclear power, a preventive strike only will set the stage for resistance and escalating violence, as it will interrupt the existing peace, result in immediate casualties, and cause anger and embarrassment for Iran, which will likely lead to retaliatory action from Iran, and possibly terrorist groups.

Second, the Iranian regime has stated that they have no intention of developing nuclear weapons. They maintain that they are interested in developing nuclear power in order to diversify their energy sources, fearing their oil fields will eventually be depleted, and to keep up with their booming population and rapidly-industrializing nation. These claims have been backed by a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq and other experts. As a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they understand that they would be in violation of the treaty if their nuclear development were for anything other than the generation of nuclear power. Furthermore, the theocratic regime has firmly stated that the development of nuclear weapons would be against Islamic religious principles. Lacking any proof or evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, much less threatening to use them, a preventive strike as a strategic decision could still be judged as immoral.
Many experts agree that a preventive attack would give Iran a reason to build a nuclear weapon, if only to inhibit future attacks and to save face. They argue that in order for any military campaign to be effective in keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear power is to remove the current Iranian regime with a full-scale invasion and maintain U.S. occupation. Iran would view an invasion/occupation as a tyrannical U.S. aggression which justifies forceful resistance.  Again, any retaliation from Iran could lead to escalating violence of both states, and possibly others. This initial, unprovoked U.S. aggression in both options would be considered immoral, due to the escalating violence that would ensue.

From a moral perspective, the only available option is to allow Iran to continue the development of its nuclear program, and continue to engage in negotiations in relation to inspections and compliance with the obligations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The End of Reset

October 1 was probably the official end of Obama’s Russian Reset Policy. The culmination of the failure was September 18, when Moscow officially thanked Washington for $2.7 billion US dollars of aid spent in Russia for over 20 years and requested USAID to pack and leave by October 1. Causes of this decision not mentioned in the official letter, but publicly voiced by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was USAID’s involvement in Russia’s internal affairs and attempt to influence the election processes through funding non-governmental election monitoring organizations. Putin went as far as accusing personally Secretary Clinton in “encouraging “mercenary” Kremlin foes” by “setting the tone for some opposition activists.” Kremlin is primarily annoyed by the election monitoring NGO “Golos,” which is by and large the only significant independent non-governmental organization left in Moscow, surviving and functioning through American and European funding only. Earlier this year, Russian Duma adopted a law that requires international non-governmental organizations to register as foreign agents. Russian law-makers have been complaining about the sources of funding of these organizations for years already.

The Reset Policy was viewed quite skeptically from the very beginning. Skeptics and critics were everywhere - in Washington, Moscow, and Europe, especially in the Central and Eastern Europe. As it progressed (or regressed) some even joked that the policy was “moving from “reset” to “regret.”” The Reset, formally launched in March 2009, was defined by the State Department as the strategy to “cooperate in areas where we can cooperate with Russia, in areas that serve American national interests… and communicate clearly and honestly on the topics where the two governments don’t agree.” The areas important for American national interests were many, with the cooperation on Iran, in Afghanistan, and now Syria, signing of the new START treaty and deployment of missile defense system in Central Europe in the top of the list. Unfortunately, the Reset did not yield major results in any of these areas. Yes, the START was signed, but many argue on how fair and beneficial it was for the US; Washington held off the missile defense project in Poland, but this compromise was not followed by the reciprocal actions from Moscow and what’s worse, Warsaw launched discussions with France and Germany on developing its own defense system independently from Washington. There was no progress in cooperation on Iran and Afghanistan either.

If we look at the bigger picture, Reset policy was an attempt to engage Russia (a defiant actor) in constructive cooperation and negotiations through institutions (special NATO-Russia Council), binding it to various international regimes and treaties (acceptance to WTO, START), and showing that such cooperation can be fruitful and Russia can actually get what it wants without creating energy crises or using hard power (compromise on Polish missile defense). But it did not work. Was reset unsuccessful only because White House was not ready to forget about permanent human rights violations and civil society and media repressions, or because it kept repeating that US believes Georgian break-away territories are occupied by Russia? Even though Moscow has always been too sensitive about its special “Sovereign Democracy” and is not welcoming any comment or “humanitarian intervention” in the areas which Kremlin considers as its internal affairs, Washington’s moderate statements regarding Georgia, or financial support of the civil society organizations in Russia are still peripheral issues, especially now that NATO expansion has stopped for a long time, if not forever. Kremlin has simply made its choice and betted on becoming an alternative pole of power through establishing unclear and messy relationship with other defiant actors such as China, Venezuela, Iran or Syria.

Now, what does that mean for the US and the rest of the world? Moscow’s extravagant actions are clearly raising security concerns among its immediate neighbors and in Europe. Countries with centuries of experience of dealing with Russia, are facing old dilemma of bandwagoning (choice between US and Russia) or building regional alliances to balance it. As we saw, as soon as Washington stepped back on missile defense system, Warsaw started to question US’s reliability and immediately started to look for alternatives in Paris and Berlin (US and Poland have re-launched negotiations in the summer 2012 and now plan to develop the system by 2018). Countries which depend on Russian energy resources are facing even harder choices.

Of course, White House is not going to respond on Russia’s latest provocation in the pre-election period, but new administration will have to come up with an alternative to or simply a new reset strategy. Having Putin back to Kremlin for another 10 years most probably, not much of the change can be expected on Moscow’s side. But as we heard in Seoul this year, Obama promised “more flexibility” after the elections.  What may this “flexibility” mean is a good question for us to discuss.    

Monday, October 01, 2012

Britain Inches Towards Europe Referendum, America Feels Vaguely Uncomfortable

          How “European” is Britain? The question goes back at least as far as “Splendid Isolation” and arguably all the way to the reign of Henry VIII. The answer has always been some variation on “kind of,” but today an official response came a bit closer as the Labour Shadow Europe Secretary, Jim Murphy, suggested that Britain should at some point hold an in-or-out referendum on EU membership. Though the official Labour Party stance on Europe is that Britain should remain in the Union, such a statement from a high-ranking party member suggests that the Labour bulwark against the EU referendum may be coming under strain.

Britain and Europe have always had an unusual relationship. The UK played the role of balancer long before the foundation of the European Union and maintains significant sway within the EU despite its half-in, half-out policy. Euro-skepticism gained extraordinary force under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher who clawed back huge amounts of British contributions to European funds and famously said “no, no, no!” to the single currency. Since that time, strains in the UKs involvement in Europe have grown more and more pronounced. Britain was forced to leave the ESM, has clung to its many opt-outs, and has resisted virtually all attempts at European political integration. This has led to a whole host of descriptors for the Britain-EU relationship.

Describe it however you want -- “two-tier,” “two-speed,” “multi-track,” -- Europe and Britain must settle their stances once and for all. Though any referendum will be held after the dust of the EU debt crisis storm settles, both sides now seem to know it is coming. Europe knows it must demand what it can expect from the UK, and the UK knows that it must either accept a higher profile in Europe or abdicate its role entirely. Perhaps to go out to the green pastures of the randomly-still-extant EEA.

                The coming decision bears a whole range of consequences for the United States regardless of the outcome. America has accepted the European Union as an important institutional guarantor of peace on the continent. It restrained Germany (even once united), promoted interdependence, and spread norms which tamped down dangerous nationalist tendencies across the board. The British referendum may throw the balance out of kilter.

                One of the elements that made the EU tolerable to America is that it has never been particularly united. France and Germany tend to be wary of each other, and the United Kingdom could always be depended upon to throw a wrench in the works if the federal project seemed to be gaining too much steam. However, once the British are in or out, their single biggest trump card is gone; they can no longer threaten to leave. The UK will lose much or all of its ability to affect institutional formation within the EU, potentially leading to greater European fiscal, financial, and political integration or to dissolution of the EU under the many internal pressures which Britain has historically helped to mitigate through its unique position. Both options are anathema to an America aimed at maintaining the status quo.

                Europe without Britain may also be dangerously tilted towards Germany. Much as has been seen oh, twice, before, an increasingly muscular Germany seems to be able to overcome balancing by France and other members. Leaving mighty Germany to exercise outsize control over the whole of the European continent through supranational institutions and its own purse strings is also against American hegemonic interests.

                Lastly, there are the more direct threats and gains for the USA. The “special relationship” is real and valuable. Unity and cultural affinity within the English-speaking world have been extraordinarily economically and politically productive. This productivity is based on the Anglo-American relationship. As two of the only rich countries with major reserve currencies, the ability to project military power, and global socio-political economic reach, the US and Britain do a great deal to enhance each other’s power. Though the UK has rarely done America’s bidding without question, it has been content to play the role of junior partner.

                If Britain votes in favour [sic] of membership, it may well find itself drawn out of America’s orbit. If it votes out, the United States may well benefit from still more sway as European support for Britain becomes optional. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher and a great many Tories were fond of suggesting NAFTA: the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. But this outcome remains far from certain; Britain may choose to use its newly free hand to excercise a more independent foreign policy.

                The vote is still a way off, and a lot can change. But with Labour beginning to come on board, it’s beginning to appear on the horizon at last. Europe and the United Kingdom know it must, and probably look forward to the catharsis whatever the outcome. What is certain is that America’s change-averse foreign policy establishment won’t find anything cathartic about it at all.

Libya: a key battleground state in the Middle East

Coming into an election year there is always a tremendous amount of speculation on the battleground states: the states that could go either way in November yield a handsome reward of electoral votes and political support.  There is another political contest that is being waged on the global stage that has pitted the West against Islamic extremism represented by groups like Al-Qaeda.  In this ongoing battle, Libya has emerged as a highly prized battleground state, one whose strategic value is highly desirable to both sides.  The reason Libya should be viewed as a battleground state is that it exhibits several highly favorable conditions that would facilitate both sides’ self-assertion and to victor:  the geopolitical spoils.   

From the perspective of Al-Qaeda, Libya would serve as a key strategic front on the Mediterranean for both operational execution and logistical influx of personnel, facilities, and equipment.  The geography of Libya with its tremendous coastal access to the Mediterranean, unsecured international borders, vast expanses of virtually uninhabited desert and mountain regions, and densely populated urban centers present an ideal locale for the billeting, training, smuggling, and transporting activities that drive terrorist operations.  A climate of revolution combined with current economic stagnation and recession is the environment that Islamic extremism has been most successful in consolidating political power and influence.  Libya’s relatively small population of roughly 6.5 million and high percentage of young people (half of the population is under age 15) is of an ideal size and demographic mix for manipulation by Al-Qaeda cells operating with limited numbers and financial resources.

Conversely, a vibrant new democratic state emerging from the ashes of the Gaddafi regime with the help of the United States would serve as a beacon for cooperation and mutual benefit with the Western World.  With the 10th largest proven oil reserve in the world and a developed production infrastructure virtually unscathed during the revolution, Libya’s new government has a sturdy base for its economy.  Libya is also endowed with an exceptionally high level of human capital, possessing one of the best educated populations in Africa and the highest literacy rate in North Africa.  Furthermore a homogenous religious profile (approximately 90-95% of the population is Sunni Muslim) diminishes the prevalence of sectarian conflict that has stalemated the progress of many other middle eastern countries.

Al-Qaeda is focusing on destabilizing the new government by attempting to induce a frost upon the Libyan/American diplomatic relationship through the recent acts of terrorism committed upon the American embassy in Benghazi.  Any reduction in American support in Libya plays directly into the hand of Al-Qaeda.  Rather, the U.S. must implement a policy that enhances security in Libya supporting the ultimate goal of reviving the flagging economy which will likely be the most significant factor for Libyan vulnerability to Islamic extremism and disillusionment with building a long-term partnership with the Western World.