Obama’s policy isn’t as far-reaching as I’d like to see, but this is still night and day between him and Clinton. I have no idea what she’s even trying to say about Cuba. Obama is talking sense, directly labeling our policy a failure, and then drawing at least a few of the correct implications from them with regard to remittances and travel.
On the occasion of Kosovo’s independent, I take the opportunity to take a look at the humanitarian hawk movement the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia spawned and contrast it a bit to the rather messy realities on the ground there.
At any rate, I wrote the column before this shitstorm hit Belgrade, though I don’t think it materially affects the argument.
According to John McCain’s website:
John McCain strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses. Effective missile defenses are critical to protect America from rogue regimes like North Korea that possess the capability to target America with intercontinental ballistic missiles, from outlaw states like Iran that threaten American forces and American allies with ballistic missiles, and to hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China. Effective missile defenses are also necessary to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred by the threat of missile attack from a regional adversary.
For starters, north Korea doesn’t possess ICBM capabilities. Second, it’s hard to see how national missile defense will protect our forces from Iranian missile attacks when our forces are right next door in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, it’s unclear why we’d be particularly worried about any sort of ballistic missile attack given the close quarters situation at hand. But while this is a bit dishonest and ignorant, the business about hedging against “potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China.” Simply put, a scenario in which the United States possesses an effective ability to shoot down a Russian or Chinese ICBM threat would be completely intolerable in Moscow or Beijing. It would, in effect, give the United States a viable a threat of a nuclear first strike.
Neither Russia nor China is going to let that happen. Instead, they’ll spend money on building up their nuclear arsenals in order to maintain their deterrent capacity. Thus, at great cost to the Unites States, to Russia, and to China we’ll be back at the status quo. But beyond the monetary cost, the large buildup in Chinese nuclear capabilities that would result from this situation would force India to engage in a nuclear build-up of its own. And that, in turn, would force Pakistan to follow suit. This large increase in the global stock of nuclear weapons would, of course, imply an increase in the odds of a nuclear accident or the loss or theft of nuclear material. At the same time, a nuclear buildup of this sort might create incentives for Iran to reinitiate its nuclear weapons research program. And even if it didn’t, revitalizing the Non-Proliferation Treaty desperately requires the status quo nuclear powers to be working together on nuclear issues, and fulfilling our treat obligations to move toward reduced arsenals.
In short, what McCain has on tap here is a recipe for disaster — a breakdown in great power relations, new arms races, massive nuclear proliferation, etc. And why? I suspect the last bit is the real reason. He wants “to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred.” Basically, we need to spend huge sums of money and encourage an enormous amount of nuclear proliferation because that would facilitate the launching of new aggressive wars. Probably the proliferation McCain’s policies helped induce would become the rationale for a new round of warfighting.
Owen Bennett-Jones for the Stanley Foundation has a new paper out on Pakistan, “US Policy Options Toward Pakistan: A Principled and Realistic Approach”
The United States is providing massive quantities of aid to Pakistan—as much as $20 billion since 9/11. This has enabled Pakistan to go through a period of lavish military spending, but there have nonetheless been serious reverses both in the military battle against the radical Islamists and in the transition to democracy. It is tempting for US policymakers to react to these developments by switching support from the army to civilian politicians. The United States, however, should not forget that whatever form of government exists in Pakistan, the army, for good or ill, will continue to be a major force in Pakistani society for many years to come. Given the widespread agreement that the war on terror is going to last at least 20 years, the United States should think about longer-term policies. With that perspective in mind, the goal of persuading Pakistanis to turn their backs on radical Islam, alongside democracy promotion, can best be achieved by spending the bulk of the US aid on education and promotion of the rule of law.
This seems reasonable enough. But as I’ve observed in other contexts, the big problem with focusing efforts on promoting the rule of law is that our toolkit on this subject is really crappy. If the developed countries had rule of law promoting methods at our disposal, the world would be a much better place since Pakistan is hardly the only country that could use the rule of law most of all. Thomas Carothers made some key points about this in a 1998 Foreign Affairs article on “The Rule of Law Revival” and he has a book called Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge.
Which isn’t to say that a focus on the rule of law is the wrong idea, but merely that one should be cautious about one’s prospects for success here rather than simply assuming a can opener. For better or for worse, we can’t control Pakistan’s destiny.
An embargo helped kill communism in Europe, and it can also end it in the Caribbean. One day we will establish normal trading relations with Cuba, but that should not be before the people there govern themselves. “The post-Fidel era is clearly at hand, and the Bush administration has done almost nothing to prepare for it,” the New York Times said. Prepare for what? The embargo has been working all along, and it is up to the Cuban dictators to relax their grip, not us.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, and former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs State Amb. Karl “Rick” Inderfurth discussion the situation in Pakistan on streaming audio or downloadable MP3, courtesy of the National Security Network.
The Air Force, stung by my attacks, is ready to launch a new campaign, doubling its advertising budget at a moment when “service leaders think the stakes are high.” Not the stakes in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the budgetary stakes, where the Air Force is hoping to mount a propaganda campaign aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the American people away the other services:
The proposed advertising campaign’s goals are laid out like the strategic targeting plan of an air war. The targets are 220 million adults. The goal is that each adult over a year’s span will see 30 Air Force advertisements, from ads on Web sites to full-page newspaper ads to prime-time television ads.
What they really need to worry about, though, is John McCain. A naval aviator in the White House could be the end of them.
On the whole issue of whether or not Hillary Clinton’s run a bad campaign, I think it’s necessary to draw some distinctions. I think the Obama campaign made a variety of errors during 2007, while Clinton’s campaign made very few. What’s more, Clinton’s team did a great job of reading the issue landscape well and developing smart policies that were well-suited to the political and objective circumstances. She did what I thought was a surprisingly good job of largely defusing the war issue in the minds of the voters. What’s more, they made an excellent recovery after losing Iowa. Consequently, they woke up on the morning of February 6, 2008 in pretty good position — up in delegates, up in national polls.
Then things fell apart. The campaign made two weird decisions. First, they essentially decide to throw ten primaries and caucuses in a row and that as part of the throwing strategy they were going to repeatedly insult the residents of the states in question. Second, they decided to respond to losses with panicky moves — amping up the decibel level on their attacks, shifting the message, etc. These both struck me as mistakes independently, but they’ve truly made for a bizarre combination.
Thus, to add it all up we need to consider different possible interpretations of “Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” It’s a big operation, a lot of people work there, and as best anyone can tell most of them have done an excellent job. The policy people have mostly come up with excellent policies and the communications people who worked with them have done an excellent job of rolling those policies out, providing surrogates, etc. The new media people have done a good job of handling an objectively difficult situation. Her speechwriters haven’t produced any classics that’ll go into collected volumes, but the candidate’s not well-suited to soaring oratory and the speechwriters have done good work producing speeches that work well for her. One could go on like this. Lots and lots of people involved with the campaign, and the vast majority seems to have done a very good job. But a few key strategy architects have made a couple of bad mistakes, and the candidate herself has chosen poorly in terms of whose advise to take. It appears likely that those mistakes will be fatal, but that shouldn’t cast aspersions on all the other good work that lots of people have done over the past 18 months (or more).