The situation is almost too depressing to think about, but here’s a bunch of information on the subject from the National Security Network, including the point that refugees from Iraq are now almost 10 percent of Jordan’s population, a situation that’s not really sustainable and that certainly indicates they won’t be able to accept many more refugees without things totally going to hell. Not only is the United States famously being extremely stingy with the number of refugees we accept into our borders, but we’re doing essentially nothing to direct support the refugees in the region or the countries hosting them.
I went this morning to a discussion with Akiva Eldar,
notorious anti-semite Haaretz columnist and co-author of Lords of the Land, a new book (new in English, at any rate) about the Israeli settlements in the post-1967 era. He had a good line about the incompatibility of the settlement policy with the Zionist dream of a secure, democratic Jewish state, noting that commitment to the policy had made Israel “less Jewish, less democratic, and less secure.”
Beyond that he had the striking observation that since Israel signed on to the “road map” and thereby committed to dismantling “unauthorized” settlement outposts (i.e., the ones that are illegal under Israeli law) only nine houses have been removed. Meanwhile, he said that while just two percent of the Occupied Territories are actually under settlement control, a much larger swathe of the West Bank is now off-limits to Arabs, either because it’s been set aside for further settlement expansion or else because it’s part of the network of no-Arabs-allowed roads that connect the settlements, etc.
On the flipside, he observed that the Balfour Declaration came in 1917, the UN plan for a Jewish state came in 1947, Sadat’s visit to Israel came in 1977, so we’re due for good news in 2007, possibly out of the peace conference scheduled to be held in November in Annapolis.
With today’s foreign policy speech, he’s starting to hit harder, though still not naming names:
But it doesn’t end there. Because the American people weren’t just failed by a President – they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war. And most of all by the majority of a Congress – a coequal branch of government – that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Let’s be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.
Some seek to rewrite history. They argue that they weren’t really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors, or for diplomacy. But the Congress, the Administration, the media, and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002. This was a vote about whether or not to go to war. That’s the truth as we all understood it then, and as we need to understand it now. And we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?
I think we know who the “some” are here, and Obama’s exactly right. He also starts trying to push this in a more forward-looking direction:
So there is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand. They should ask themselves: who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong. This is not just a matter of debating the past. It’s about who has the best judgment to make the critical decisions of the future. Because you might think that Washington would learn from Iraq. But we’ve seen in this campaign just how bent out of shape Washington gets when you challenge its assumptions.
When I said that as President I would lead direct diplomacy with our adversaries, I was called naïve and irresponsible. But how are we going to turn the page on the failed Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to our adversaries if we don’t have a President who will lead that diplomacy?
To try to use my decoder ring for a minute here, one thing that’s worth noting is that there’s no such thing as a “Bush-Cheney policy” of refusing to engage in high-level diplomatic talks with Iran without preconditions. You could more accurately term that the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush Bipartisan Establishment Policy. He’s saying that simply returning to the pre-Bush policies aren’t going to resolve our problems with Iran, but that we need the sort of newer policies that he and his team of people — people who had the courage and judgment to make the right call on Iraq, when the conventional wisdom and political pressure went the other way — are prepared to implement.
Then comes the nuclear stuff, which, as I said earlier, I think is the most important thing int he world and where Obama has the right position.
Blackwater security contractors in Iraq have been involved in at least 195 “escalation of force” incidents since early 2005, including several previously unreported killings of Iraqi civilians, according to a new congressional account of State Department and company documents. [...]
Waxman and other critics have said the State Department, which has paid Blackwater nearly $1 billion for security work in Iraq, allowed the company to operate with impunity. “There is no evidence in the documents that the Committee has reviewed,” a memorandum released by Democrats said, “that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting incidents involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation.”
Yesterday I sat in a conference room overlooking the Hudson River Valley in the United States Military Academy at West Point listening to an impressive array of military lawyers discuss the issues associated with the war on terror. One question kept asserting itself, even though it was missing from the formal agenda: “What are we going to do about the contractors?” As one retired JAG put it, “their conduct is dangerously undercutting the military’s performance of its counter-insurgency mission.”
Meanwhile, consider what a mockery the structural situation of the contractors makes of the notion that the mission in Iraq is primarily motivated by concern for Iraqi well-being. Why would you introduce into a country a largish group of heavily armed people who are licensed to operate with legal impunity? Well, I have no idea. It sounds like something you might wish on your worst enemies. It’s certainly not something you’d do to help out.
Barack Obama’s call today for the United States to recommit itself to the goal of global nuclear abolition is an excellent move. In my view, nuclear proliferation policy is the most important issue facing the country, and Obama has not only now moved to the correct position, but shown enough interest in the topic to make this the element of today’s foreign policy speech that he wanted to “preview” for the press.
That said, on this issue as on several others, John Edwards can pretty fairly argue that he was here first. I praised him for his Pace University counterterrorism speech about a month ago where he said:
As president, I will create a Global Nuclear Compact to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would support peaceful nuclear programs, improve security for existing stocks of nuclear materials, and ensure more frequent verification that materials are not being diverted and facilities are not being misused. And I will lead an international effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Even earlier, during the Q&A to a CFR speech in May Edwards said:
Well, let me say first, I think I would want to associate myself with the concepts that are conveyed by Kissinger, Sam Nunn and others in the op-ed piece. I thought it was very thoughtful. And I think essentially what they said if I remember — I don’t remember the precise language — was that we should aspire to a nuclear-free world. I agree with that. Now, there are a lot of steps that have to go between here and there. Some of them are pretty obvious, which is America should not be building new nuclear weapons. And then I think America should be doing things like leading an international effort to close the holes in the NPT. There are clearly serious flaws in the NPT. And I think America, leading an international effort to reduce the supplies nuclear sense in the world — all aimed at the general goal that’s described in that piece that you just spoke about.
The op-ed in question can be read here, and that’s essentially the policy Barack Obama is now endorsing as well (although, to be fair to Obama, he’s also said good things on non-proliferation in the past).
I’ve mostly seen Robert Kaplan’s article on PMCs for The Atlantic‘s website characterized as a defense of the contractors, and since I typically disagree with Kaplan about policy matters I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how he intended it, but it’s really a very non-polemical piece that basically just lays out how absolutely integral contractors have become to the defense establishment as it currently exists. Given that our main actual ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t going very well, I think this mostly supports the conclusion that building a heavily contractor-dependent military has been a mistake.
Oh, good. Word on the street is that back in the CPA days they said “real men go to Teheran.” Obviously, though, the really real hawks of the world are the China hawks. Like, it seems, Christopher Hitchens:
China also maintains territorial claims against India and Vietnam (and, of course, Taiwan) and is building a vast army, as well as a huge oceangoing navy, to back up these ambitions. It seems an eon ago, because it was before Sept. 11, 2001, but we should not forget what happened when an American aircraft was involved in a midair collision over Hainan island in the early days of this administration. The Chinese acted as if the accident was deliberate, impounded the plane and the crew for several days, and mounted mass demonstrations of hysterical chauvinism. Events in the Middle East have since obscured this menacing picture, but actually it is in that region that China’s cynical statecraft is most obviously on display. If Beijing had had its way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Iran is being supplied with Chinese Silkworm missiles. Most horribly of all, China buys most of the oil of Sudan and in return provides the weaponry—and the diplomatic cover at the United Nations—for the cleansing of Darfur.
Robert Farley notes that Hitchens seems to have decided that now would be a good time to adopt full-on crazy neoconservative opinions. He also note spoints out that China has no real territorial claims against India (if anything, it’s India who’s making claims about China) and this business about a “huge oceangoing navy” is just made up. Obviously, in the scheme of things the Chinese Communist Party is not the most admirable crew on the planet. But on the other hand, the humanitarian benefits to locking the US and the PRC into a cycle of mutual paranoia and hostility are really nowhere to be seen.
I liked Heather Hurlburt’s five rules of democracy promotion. Especially the first one:
It’s their democracy. So shut up, already. This Administration did considerable harm to democracy activists across the Middle East, as well as the folks who came out of the Orange and Rose Revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia with governing responsibilities, by seeming to take too much credit. This makes the locals look like puppets (see under: Iraq) instead of folks who are expressing indigenous forms of an indigenous desire for universal freedoms. Yes, I want to see this Administration speak loudly and clearly about repression in Burma — but please, no more chest-thumping about what support we’re giving whom. People who are showing that much determination and courage deserve not to be miscast as our puppets.
Obviously, though, this is one of those instances where Bush has been screwing up without “making mistakes” as such. He treats those foreign democracy activists who he chooses not to ignore as puppets, because whether or not it’s actually the case that the activists in question or puppets, his only interest in them is as puppets. Bush doesn’t believe in foreigners holding elections that produce the wrong results (see Palestine) and doesn’t oppose coups when he thinks they might advance his policy agenda (see the pre-war hints that Turkey’s military might want to step in) nor does he oppose hanging out with petty, cruel dictators of theocratic states when they support his geopolitical aims (Saudi Arabia is the famous case here, but see also Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, etc.).
It’s true, of course, that when Bush sees a foreign state under the control of a regime he deems hostile, he approves of overthrowing it. And when the overthrowers are genuine democrats, he’s fine with that, but he’s also fine with sheltering the MEK or whatever else. Whether or not other people wind up looking like puppets or hundreds of thousands of deaths result (see, e.g., Iraq) isn’t really a serious consideration.