Tuesday, May 29, 2007


"Peter Rodman, associate, confidant and friend of many decades"

Henry A. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (1999).

Peter W. Rodman, one of the 'core members' of what Henry Kissinger referred to in volume one of his memoirs (The White House Years) as his immediate policy family at both the NSC and later the State Department, was the only core member of the Kissinger group, who has served in the Bush Administration. With a wealth of experience dating back to 1969, it is remarkable (to this observer) that Rodman would condescend to be employed as a mere 'Assistant Secretary of Defence' in Rumsfeld's Pentagon. In any sane Administration of course, of which the Bush regime was and is not unfortunately, Rodman's many talents and experiences in and out of office would have netted him at the very least the post of National Security Advisor, or Deputy Secretary at either State or Defence. If not in fact higher...No doubt if that were in fact the case, much mischief would have been avoided these last six years or so. Alas...

Still, the attached article, which Rodman wrote from his current perch at the Brookings Institution, is I would argue quite insightful in a number of ways, and, deserves much study: a) it is perhaps the only intelligent discussion with the exception of Philip Zelikow's own speeches, by anyone in the current administration about the challenges facing the United States vis-`a-vis Persia and the Near East in general; b) it is the only [and that includes Zelikow while in office at any rate] statement we have on record by any current or former member of the administration's foreign policy team about the negative implications of the decision to invade Iraq in the March of 2003; c) with his extensive ties of both history and personal relationship, Rodman's views command respect, if only for the fact that one can assume that much of what he says bears the stamp to some extent of his mentor, associate and friend, Henry Kissinger.

All that being said, what can one say about Rodman's thinking on the problem of Persia? First, while the discussion is both intelligent and insightful, it suffers unfortunately, from a number of fallacies, which I would argue have bedeviled much in the way of American thinking about the Near East over the last ten to fifteen years or so. Especially from our neo-conservative friends, of whom it can accurately be said, that in some ways, Rodman is a fellow traveler of sorts. Specifically, Rodman labors under the mistaken belief that the type of 'containment' policies that the United States employed so successfully (albeit over thirty years) in Central and Western Europe, vis-`a-vis Sovietskaya Vlast, will also work in the case of Persia. While there are some analogies between present day Persia and Sovietskay Vlast, I would argue the the differences are much much greater. In particular, Persia unlike the Soviet Union is not a great power either economically or militarily. And, while its brand of revolutionary Shiite Islam does have some appeal both to Arab-speaking Shia, in say the Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and other place in the region, au fond, the Shia are a small minority (about ten to fifteen percent as a whole) in the wider Arab world. Hence, any type of 'containment' by the United States, should be, must be much more akin to that which Kennan himself argued for in the years while he was head of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff (a post which Rodman also occupied in later years), between 1947-1950: a policy of political 'containment' via the strengthening of West European societies civil and economic fabric, rather than any type of merely military containment or build-up.

In particular, singularly absent from Rodman's analysis of regional politics is the fact that Persia is only a threat to the Sunni Arab powers of the region, insofar as many of such powers are regarded by some perhaps in fact much of their own population as being illegitimate and compromised by association with the West and in particular the United States. If say the Gulf States, or Saudi Arabia or Egypt were state's which possessed a strong sense of legitimacy among their own population, than Persia's ideological 'threat' to them, would be of minuscule importance. The contrast with say Western Europe circa the mid-1950's is quite clear: by that date, if not earlier, the time had past when there was a serious threat of an internal, Communist, attempt at a putsch or takeover in say France, Italy, Germany, et ceter, et cetera `a la Prague in January-February 1948. After that time, the only threat that Western Europe faced was from the Red Army from without, not Communism as an ideology from within. Whereas of course, it is Persia's deemed ideological threat, real or imagined which worries the Sunni Arab regimes which we are allied with. Regimes which do not fear, Persia per se, in the sense that the latter will invade the former: a threat which is completely non-existent. Nor does anyone argue that even if it possessed nuclear weapons (a threat such as it is, which is far into the future), Persia would be in a position to exercise nuclear blackmail `a la Khrushchev in 1956 and 1958. Instead and here Rodman does have some telling points to make, the possibility of Persia possessing nuclear weapons is of concern, in the context that with the ongoing American debacle in Iraq and the concurrent upheavals in the Lebanon as well as the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian dispute, such a perceived change in the regional balance of power, with the reality of the same being something else entirely, might have far-reaching implications. Specifically, with the tide perceived to be running against both the United States and its Sunni Arab allies, any diplomatic pour parler between Washington and Teheran, must guard against the possibility that our allies will see us as abandoning them or attempting to reach a modus viviendi with Persia over the heads of the former (a sort of regional 'eighty percent solution' scenario). If it were believed to be true, than there is a danger, perhaps not a great one, but one none the less of say Cairo, Rihyad, Aman, et cetera, all scrambling to reach their own accommodations with Persia. Again, I myself do not see much likelihood of this occurring, but it is something which any intelligent American diplomatic opening towards Persia must take into account, in terms of the tactics of such diplomatic maneuvering.

To sum up: while one applauds Rodman's attempt to come up with an intelligent and realistic response to the current less than positive situation in the Near East for American power, his thinking is hamstrung by his employment of false analogies dating back to the Cold War in Europe. In point of fact, the very last thing that George Frost Kennan would advocate if he were still among us, is the idea that we
must respond to the 'threat' of a 'revolutionary' Persia in purely or mostly military and strategic terms of reference. And, while he (like many of his Neo-Conservative confreres from the Bush Regime) favors relying upon 'countervailing' pressures `a la containment, to cause a domestic rupture in Persia, he neglects to add, that in the case of Sovietskay Vlast, such pressures took over forty years to yield results. Is Rodman willing to wait that long until the current Mullah's regime is also history? And, will the Near East wait as well, in its current condition?

Countering Iran’s Revolutionary Challenge A Strategy for the Next Phase By Peter W. Rodman

Iran is a revolutionary power, still in an exuberant phase of its revolution. Geopolitically it seeks to dominate the Gulf; ideologically it challenges the legitimacy of moderate governments in the region. Indeed, Iran aspires to be the leader of Islamist radicalism in the Muslim world as a whole. Iran’s conventional military buildup, its pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the UN Security Council, and its interventions in Lebanon and Iraq not only reflect its ambitions but also explain its current self-confidence.

The nature of the regime is at the core of the challenge it poses, but the starting point of a counter-strategy is containment: that is, George Kennan’s classic vision of bringing countervailing pressures to bear against a revolutionary power’s external expansion until the structural contradictions within the system begin to weaken it internally.

Iran is not mainly an American problem; it is a challenge in the first instance to our allies and friends in the Middle East. Thus, the first stage in a counter-strategy is to bolster Arab allies and friends as counter-weights to Iranian power. While military cooperation with some Gulf Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, is controversial at home, tightening American links with these allies is logically the core of such a strategy. A wider strategic consensus may be emerging that would join the United States, key Arab states, and Israel against the Iranian threat. This should be nurtured.

Arab countries have other options, including their own nuclear development, or appeasement of Iran. Far preferable is that they retain confidence in us as a reliable friend and protector.

One element of this policy should be an updating of the Nixon and Carter Doctrines, to declare the American stake in shielding the security of the Gulf against nuclear blackmail. This would strengthen deterrence and possibly deny Iran much of the benefit of pursuing nuclear weapons by nullifying the blackmail potential it seeks to gain.

There are serious arguments for bilateral political engagement with Iran, but there would also be serious downsides in the present context. Our Arab friends (and Israel) would be shaken by what they would see as a major reversal, if not collapse, of long-standing U.S. policy. It would have not only procedural but substantive significance, representing final U.S. acceptance of the Iranian Revolution—a card we should not play without some significant benefit in return. We need to achieve a better geopolitical and psychological balance—some deflation of the Iranians’ self-confidence and bolstering of our friends’ confidence in us—before going down this road. Restoring this balance needs to include:

􀂃 some success in stabilizing Iraq
􀂃 broader use of economic pressures (as opposed to the narrowly targeted sanctions resorted to thus far)
􀂃 stepping up support of civil society in Iran, including improving the quality of U.S. official broadcasting into Iran How we conduct ourselves in Iraq is crucial. Our friends in the Middle East view our policy in Iraq in a broader context, as a test of the credibility of the reassurances we are trying to give them over Iran. There is no way for the United States to be strong against Iran if we are weak in Iraq.

CONTEXT: How to help Iranian moderates

During the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s, editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich produced a cartoon on the theme of how to distinguish between “radicals” and “moderates” in the Iranian regime. It depicts two mullahs carrying placards. One’s placard reads “Death to America.” The other’s reads “Serious Injury to America.” A bystander says to a companion: “I think the one on the right’s a moderate.”

While this theme is a familiar one in American discussion of Iran, it is not yet obvious that we have broken the code. Arguably, it really is the pivotal issue confronting American policy-makers: how to understand and influence the internal dynamics of the regime.

􀂃 In 1979, radicals seized U.S. diplomats in Tehran in a successful ploy to derail normalization of relations between the new revolutionary regime and the United States.
􀂃 In the mid-1980s, President Reagan and his National Security Council staffers pursued what they thought was a diplomatic opening to Iranian moderates; mistakenly believing that a new strategic relationship was within reach, they provided their Iranian contacts with TOW anti-tank missiles (for use in the Iran-Iraq War) and hoped for release of American hostages in Lebanon in return.
􀂃 More recently, in March 2007, the regime’s elite radical force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), took British sailors and Marines hostage in an apparent effort to blunt pressures from the international community over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, interference in Iraq, and other issues.

The lesson of this experience appears to be that Iranian radicals are quite skilled at manipulating their politics to influence us. We have not yet gotten the hang of influencing or outmaneuvering them. Let us begin with two key propositions: one tactical, one strategic.

The tactical point is to acknowledge that there are undoubtedly differences of opinion within any regime. But the way to help “moderates” is not to sneak them TOW missiles that they can show off at a staff meeting, but rather to affect their environment at a more macro-political level. Any government surely includes individuals who are more risk-averse than others—who might be prepared in a crisis to argue that continuation of provocative policies risks harm to the country and to the regime. We can strengthen their arguments by actually posing such risks. The strenuous exertion of American goodwill is less likely to be persuasive in the inner sancta of the regime than visible demonstrations of such costs. Conversely, weakness in the face of Iranian provocation only strengthens radicals, who can show that no price is being paid, indeed that their policies are paying off.

The strategic point has to do with differences, not within the regime, but within the country. During the last few years, the regime’s hard-liners have effectively atomized or crushed reformist elements in the intelligentsia and in political life. The replacement of Mohammed Khatami by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 completed the process. Yet, many observers believe the regime’s popular support is less solid than it appears. Ahmadinejad’s weak showing in the December 2006 municipal elections was one crack in the façade. There are signs of regime nervousness about international pressures and of a ferment that has never been completely suppressed. How do we influence that?

The Challenge: Iran Is a Revolutionary Power

The Iranian challenge is not hard to define. Iran is a revolutionary power, still in an exuberant phase of its revolution; it combines a geopolitical and an ideological thrust. r>
Geopolitically, Iran seeks domination of the Gulf (the “Persian” Gulf, as it would say) and leadership of the Middle East and the Muslim world. Its buildup of naval, air, and missile forces testifies to that ambition, as does its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran urges on its neighbors a concept of Gulf security that excludes all outside powers and leaves it to “us Gulf countries” to run things; this would leave its weaker Arab neighbors without their traditional recourse to an outside protecting power (once Britain, now the United States) to counterbalance a would-be regional hegemon.

The ideological thrust is Iran’s radical Islamism, which is implicitly if not explicitly a challenge to the legitimacy of the domestic structures of all its moderate neighbors. This thrust is in part channeled through its Shi’a brethren in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Bahrain, and other nearby Arab countries. But one can now detect an Iranian ambition to be the leader of the broader Islamist movement as a whole. Ahmadinejad’s open letter to President Bush of May 2006 reflected this aspiration. In that letter he presented himself as President Bush’s equal and moral counterpart; Ahmadinejad writes as if he were the spokesman of the Muslim world. This claim is hardly accepted in the Arab world, but it is being asserted nonetheless.

For a few years after the fall of the Shah in 1979, there were fears that Iran’s revolutionary Islamist ideology would spread in the Middle East. But it did not spread then—due to Arab allergy to things Persian, and the Sunni/Shi’a divide. The Muslim Brotherhood had been brutally suppressed in most Sunni countries throughout the long ascendancy of the secular, nationalist, “Arab socialism” of Nasser and his heirs. After the fall of the Soviet Union, however, the radical left was weakened globally. Secular, “socialist” radicalism was discredited; legitimacy now came from a different ideological direction. Sunni Islamists were emboldened also by their triumph against the Soviets in Afghanistan. (They thought they did it themselves.) In this new post-Cold War environment, then, Islamist movements gained traction in many places at the expense of old-line secular forces—in Egypt, Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, and now Iraq. During the Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, we saw the broader crossover appeal in the Sunni Arab world of the Shi’a Hezbollah’s struggle against Israel.

This is not to say that Iran’s pretensions to leadership of the whole Islamic world will ever be willingly accepted by Arabs and others; most likely the rich diversity of the Muslim world will prove resistant to Iranian charms. But Iran is building its power, and pressing its claim, and its successful defiance of the West over nuclear and other matters is boosting its status—and its self-confidence.

Iran also profits from the weakness of Iraq. One of the geopolitical objectives of the U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003 was not only to remove a regime that was seen as a looming threat, but also to help put in its place a moderate Iraq that would be a fit partner for us and the Arabs in facing the longer-term problem of Iran. To this day, Iraqi Shi’a leaders insist on their loyalty to Arab Iraq and their rejection of Iranian dominance or interference.

The temptations of opportunism, however, have proved irresistible in Tehran. When Muqtada al-Sadr appeared on the scene as a radical spoiler, Iran began funneling him support, at the expense (and to the consternation) of rival Iraqi Shi’a groups (like SCIRI) that had long enjoyed Iranian support. The IRGC Qods Force is now funding Iraqi extremist cells, training them on Iranian soil, arming them with advanced explosive munitions and other weapons, and in some cases providing advice and direction. While Iranian interference is not the main source of Iraq’s turmoil, Tehran appears to have made a strategic decision to fuel instability there in order to weaken the United States. There cannot be serious doubt of the regime’s responsibility for this activity. The Qods Force is not a non-governmental organization; it is an arm of the Iranian regime and reports to the Supreme Leader.

Bolster Our Regional Partners

Iran is not mainly an American problem; it is a challenge in the first instance to all our allies and friends in the Middle East. Not only Israel, but our Arab friends as well, see revolutionary Iran as an existential threat. Thus, 2006 saw the rare spectacle of leading moderates at an Arab League meeting openly rebuking Hezbollah for precipitating the Lebanon crisis. These leaders saw the Hezbollah war as a power play by Iran to extend its influence in the Arab world. Their discomfiture at Hezbollah’s seeming success was as real as that of many in the West.

Our first line of defense—and the first stage in constructing a counter-strategy—is to bolster Arab allies and friends as counter-weights to Iranian power. This the United States has been doing. Whatever the prospects for influencing the regime’s internal evolution, the starting point is containment: that is, George Kennan’s classic vision of bringing countervailing pressures to bear to block a revolutionary power’s external expansion, until the structural contradictions within the system begin to weaken it internally.

This is the very least that must be done. In 2006, the State and Defense Departments jointly launched an initiative called the Gulf Security Dialog. The United States has worked in concert with all of Iran’s Arab neighbors on measures to deter Iran, including strengthening air and missile defenses, improving conventional defense capabilities, cooperation in counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism, engaging them in stronger support for Iraq, and other steps. Egypt and Jordan have joined a foreign ministers’ forum with the Gulf Arabs, and with us, with the same strategic purpose.

Most of these countries have traditional ties with Iran, and some are not eager to be drawn into public military or political alignments against their powerful neighbor. The United States has reassured them that it seeks not to provoke a crisis but to prevent one, and to reinforce regional defense and deterrence. Privately the strategic assessments are strikingly parallel. All of them welcome this American commitment.

This is no small matter. Facing an Iranian threat, these countries have other options. They could seek nuclear weapons themselves, as the Gulf Cooperation Council countries may in fact be flirting with. Or, appeasement of Iran could be their default position. The far preferable course is that they retain confidence in the United States as a reliable friend and protector.

The Role of Saudi Arabia

The key principle here is the recognition that our Gulf Arab friends are our partners and are on the front line. But implementing such a strategy is inevitably controversial here at home. The strategy involves weapons supply, training, exercises, and other military cooperation with Gulf Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia does not tap into a great reservoir of goodwill among the U.S. Congress or public; on the other hand, if Iran is our focus, then we need the Saudis as a partner. They are the leading power of the Arab Gulf. On many strategic issues (e.g., Lebanon/Syria, Iran) they have lately been unusually clear-headed and assertive. One does not have to agree with every Saudi initiative to recognize that they are objectively one of the most important partners we could have.

Our Israeli friends need to be assured that the United States is committed to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. At the same time, solidifying Arab ties to us is a common interest. This is a delicate balance to strike, but the United States needs some flexibility. Israelis need to assess their risks in a different way, weighing their worst-case fears of the capability of certain hardware in Arab hands against the real-world strategic benefit of linking them more tightly to the United States, and trusting more in the objective strategic context that governs the region today. The extraordinary strategic fact is that preoccupation with Iran is uniting us all—the United States, the Arabs, and Israel. There are rumors of Saudi-Israeli contacts, as well as open links between Israel and other Gulf countries. This emerging strategic consensus is one of the positive developments of this era. It is real, and it needs to be nurtured.

Declare the U.S. Commitment

One piece that is missing so far in the Gulf Security Dialog is what is called declaratory policy: a public American commitment to provide an umbrella over regional countries threatened by Iran’s pursuit or acquisition of nuclear weapons. This would be a logical extension of what is already implicit in the Gulf Security Dialog and in other recent steps, such as deploying a second U.S. carrier strike group in the Gulf. It is especially needed at a time when the United States is seen as weakened by its Iraq engagement.

The time has come to update the Carter Doctrine (which declared America’s vital interest in the Gulf) and the Nixon Doctrine (which offered an American shield for allies and friends threatened by nuclear blackmail). Like those two famous pronouncements, it would not be a formal defense commitment but a statement of policy; it would articulate the American interest in maintaining the security of the Gulf against major threats that the countries of the region could not reasonably be expected to meet by themselves. Such a declaration today would strengthen deterrence. Arguably it might deny Iran much of the benefit of pursuing nuclear weapons by nullifying the blackmail potential it seeks to gain.

Exhausting Our Political and Economic Tools
Use Our Economic Leverage

By the time the next President takes office, it is unlikely that the present multilateral diplomacy will have succeeded in halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The world community will face even tougher choices than it faces now.

Military options are not attractive, especially with the United States preoccupied in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any person of goodwill will surely prefer that political and economic tools of leverage be exhausted first. Further, economic sanctions in this case could have a significant political effect. But to “exhaust” these tools means to use them, not to exhaust ourselves in debating them for two years, doling them out in small increments, and then wondering why the Iranians have not been intimidated.

There is reason to believe the regime fears economic sanctions, worrying that its weak economic performance is a domestic political vulnerability. The Treasury Department has influenced many foreign private banks that have cut ties with major Iranian banks on the grounds of their links to terrorism and proliferation. This is a significant financial blow. Yet our UN diplomacy has focused on narrowly “targeted” sanctions, aimed at specific individuals and entities in Iran directly connected to proliferation. Much of this self-denial is due to Russia’s obstruction of stronger measures. But it has also been explained on the U.S. side as a way to “target the regime while sparing the Iranian people.” The downside of this approach is its limited impact, which would seem to conflict with the goal of imposing costs on the country that discredit the radical policies that cause them. The U.S. government should be willing to follow through on its stated commitment to go outside the UN Security Council, ratcheting up sanctions in a “coalition of the willing” (with Europe, Japan, and others) if serious action continues to be blocked at the United Nations.

Should We Engage Diplomatically?

Direct diplomatic engagement with Iran has also been proposed, including by the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group. A number of arguments have been advanced for it: 􀂃 The United States had diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union from 1934 onwards, which did not prevent us from pursuing containment or whatever other firm strategy we wished to pursue. 􀂃 Diplomatic contact should thus be treated as an instrumental, not substantive matter. Any initial shock to our allies should wear off if our substantive policy remains as firm as before. (Our Arab allies, after all, all have their own political and economic relations with Iran.) So we should just get it over with. 􀂃 It can also be argued that the passage of time works against us, so that waiting in the hope of building up greater bargaining strength may only leave us worse off as Iran pursues its nuclear project. 􀂃 An American political overture might even have a usefully subversive effect in Tehran, where hard-liners who resist it from their side (using arguments that mirror arguments used in Washington) would see it as a collapse of revolutionary purity.

These are serious arguments, and some in the U.S. Government may be tempted by them. Nonetheless, there are serious downsides that need to be borne in mind in the present environment: 􀂃 If there is anything our Arab friends fear more than Iran, it is the United States and Iran cutting a deal. Past rumors of U.S.-Iran political contacts have caused a degree of panic in the Arab world. In the context of Iran’s continued defiance on the nuclear issue and aggressiveness in Iraq and Lebanon, an American political overture to Tehran would be understood as a major reversal, if not a collapse, of a long-standing U.S. policy. (Indeed, some others would hail it for that very reason.)􀂃 The fact that the Arabs have their own ties with Iran does not alter this calculus. We are not in the same position as they; they are counting on us to hold the line against Iran, in order to ensure their survival. In addition to unnerving the Arabs, a U.S. overture to Iran could also unhinge the Israelis, who have so far been relying on a firm U.S. policy to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. 􀂃 What Tehran would gain from the fact of such a political engagement is the final step in its quest for international legitimacy, that is, acceptance by the United States of the finality of the Iranian Revolution. This would be a huge substantive step for us, which would reverberate loudly in the region. (Given the anti-regime ferment inside the country, it may also be mistimed in its effects internally.) This is a card we should not play without some significant benefit in return. And what would that be? 􀂃 For the record, diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R. came after Hitler came to power and Stalin feared Japanese as well as German belligerence. Similarly, the U.S.-China rapprochement of the 1970’s was driven by the Soviet threat. Thus, geopolitical forces brought these parties together, not a reflexive hunger for “engagement.” Today, the main geopolitical force at work with respect to Iran is the rise of its power and the weakness of international counter-weights to it.

We need to achieve a better geopolitical and psychological balance—some deflation of the Iranians’ self-confidence and bolstering of our friends’ confidence in us—before going down this road. Otherwise we appear a supplicant. Restoring this balance is the imperative—and would remain so whether we were talking to Iran or not (all the more so if we were). That imperative deserves at least a fraction of the attention being showered on the issue of whether American and Iranian diplomats have a meeting.

This bolstering must include some success in stabilizing Iraq. Some might argue that this has it backwards: that we need to engage Iran if we are to succeed at all in Iraq. On the contrary: Unless we and the Iraqis restore some balance of forces by our own efforts, we would be simply begging Iran to stop tormenting us; Iran’s price would go way up. The goal is not to concede Iran’s dominance in Iraq but to block it.

The fact is, we have been willing to deal with Iran at a practical level where this promised to be useful, especially in a multilateral framework. U.S. and Iranian diplomats have met in the context of the UN “6+2” meetings in 2001-2002 in support of post-Taliban Afghanistan, and in March and May 2007 in the context of the “neighbors conferences” intended to garner international support for Iraq. And the United States has promised to join the multilateral nuclear diplomacy with Iran if Iran halts enrichment and reprocessing.

There is also a bilateral ambassadorial channel. Zalmay Khalilzad was authorized, when he was ambassador in Kabul, to talk to his Iranian counterpart for what the Pentagon calls “de-confliction”—ways to avoid significant miscalculations with respect to planned actions. Khalilzad was authorized to do the same when he served in Baghdad, though such contacts never materialized. Perhaps this will be reactivated via Ryan Crocker, our new ambassador in Baghdad, in the wake of his meeting with Iranian diplomats at the Sharm el-Sheikh “neighbors conference” at the beginning of May 2007. But, again, expectations should not be raised that the vaunted political rapprochement is at hand.

For our problem with the Iranian regime is not a communications problem. We understand each other all too well. Iran’s ambitions are driven by ideology, by the deeply held convictions of its leaders, and these ambitions are on their face incompatible with fundamental interests of the United States. We only insult these leaders—and delude ourselves—if we imagine it’s just a misunderstanding. In present conditions the concrete benefits to us of a political dialogue with Iran do not match the negatives that are foreseeable. We should not sell ourselves cheaply.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Perspective

The United States has resumed its engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Our Arab friends constantly tell us that this diplomatic commitment should always be at the heart of our Middle East strategy. But, as we pursue this, we should do so with our eyes open.

It is best to dispense, first of all, with the cliché that this conflict is the core of all the problems in the Middle East. The generation of turmoil in the Gulf—encompassing the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War—has very little to do with the Palestinian problem. A more precise way to characterize the U.S. strategic interest in a Palestinian solution is that prolongation of this conflict, especially in the age of Al-Jazeera, is a source of radical pressures on moderate Arab governments, complicating their ability to cooperate strategically with us. The author heard a wise Gulf leader say that the best reason to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to shut down the problem on that front and free all of us—meaning Arabs, Americans, and Israelis—to unite in confronting the real problem, Iran.

The Israelis, for their part, are quite conscious that progress on the Palestinian issue, if attainable, would yield a significant strategic payoff for them in their regional relations. The obstacle to progress has been that, while the Israeli political consensus has continued to move toward acceptance of a Palestinian state and flexibility on borders, the Palestinians have elected a Hamas government that does not want Israel to exist on any borders. This is yet another self-inflicted wound on the part of the Palestinians. The present disarray of the Israeli government also makes a breakthrough unlikely.

The United States should always show that it’s making the effort, but undue expectations should not be raised in the present context.

Influencing Iran’s Internal Evolution

Influencing Iran’s internal evolution is a more difficult challenge. It was George Kennan’s insight in the Soviet case that maintaining external pressures to block expansion was an indirect way of fostering internal pressures as well. But it was Ronald Reagan’s insight that such regimes’ internal conditions are susceptible to more direct influence. The Islamic Republic is a regime with many vulnerabilities, including ethnic divisions, economic mismanagement, and disaffection among both the intelligentsia and the broader population.

Economic sanctions have already been discussed in the context of the nuclear diplomacy. The weakness of the sanctions so far imposed is a missed opportunity not only to discredit radical policies but also to exacerbate fissures within the system.

The U.S. government has initiated a number of programs to aid or encourage civil society in Iran, in the hope of enabling pluralism to survive. The United States has never explicitly adopted regime change as a policy objective in Iran, nor does it have to. There can be no doubt that the nature of this regime and its ideological thrust are the core of the problem it poses. However, in the real world the most immediate task is to mobilize leverage; we can err on the side of understating what may be the result rather than overstating it.

The quality of U.S. official broadcasting into Iran has been poor. There is a tension between our broadcasters’ aspiration to balanced journalism and our policy imperative to get a message out. The current structure of all our international broadcasting—which includes many barriers between broadcast content and U.S. policy—should be reviewed by the next Administration. It may not be consistent with our strategic necessities during a period of intense ideological competition.

Concluding Observations: U.S. Steadfastness in Iraq

Finally, a further word must be said about Iraq. Our goal must continue to be a stable, moderate Iraq that is a fit partner for us and the Arabs in the new strategic environment in which Iran looms so large. After almost three decades of facing two hostile powers in the Gulf, it will be a stark relief to have an Iraq that is a partner, rather than an erratic, truculent, disruptive danger in its own right.

Iran now exploits the vulnerability of an Iraq in turmoil. The Bush Administration’s decision in early 2007 to crack down on IRGC subversive activities on Iraqi soil was long overdue. More broadly, there is ample reason to believe that the Iraqi people still hold in their own hands the power to consolidate their national institutions, and as these national institutions are consolidated, the structure will regain its resistance to outside interference. This is part of the struggle that is now under way.

A pivotal element here is U.S. policy. Our Gulf Arab friends, whom we are seeking to reassure regarding Iran, respond by referring to Iraq: “Don’t abandon us,” they implore. They are viewing Iraq in the context of Iran. We Americans are understandably preoccupied with Iraq. But there is a broader region out there, a vitally important one, which is the strategic context of our current debate. To many in the Middle East, our steadfastness in Iraq is a test of American credibility, which will affect their confidence in whatever assurances we are trying to give and their willingness to go along with American initiatives.

There is no way for the United States to be strong against Iran if we are weak in Iraq. Some may be tempted by the idea of “cutting our losses” in Iraq while compensating for this by appearing strong in the region in other ways. But there’s no way to square this circle. The next President may find this an uncomfortable truth, but it will be an inescapable one.

Organizing a Counter-strategy We know from the Soviet case that revolutionary ideologies can be defeated—they can be discredited by failure. The renewed militancy of Iran’s clerical rulers in recent years may mask a deepening uncertainty about whether their people support them. Those who want change, who were many in number a few years ago, have been cowed into silence; they have not gone away. Thus in the longer run we deal from strength, even if we are scrambling in the short run for an effective international counter-strategy. Organizing such a counter-strategy will be one of the most important tasks on the next Administration’s agenda. It will be able to build on the policies of its predecessors. Iran’s nuclear challenge may prove to be the forcing event; if Iran continues its defiance, then the international community will need to find ways to increase pressures. The time may soon come for us to play offense, not only defense, pressing harder against the regime’s internal vulnerabilities. The alternative—a nuclear-armed, militant, aggressive Iran, with its neighbors and the world bowing to it—is not acceptable
. www.opportunity08.org/Issues/OurWorld.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


"We both face challenges of domestic protectionism and questions about the merits of trade and globalization. There is a growing skepticism in each country about the others' intentions. Unfortunately, in America this is manifesting itself as anti-China sentiment as China becomes a symbol of the real and imagined downside of global competition. That argument is fueled by the evidence of persistent trade and financial imbalances. China has its own opposition, with its own set of arguments. The purpose of this on-going dialogue is to have candid discussions and find ways to ease, rather than increase, these tensions.

A look back demonstrates, of course, that increasing our ties has benefited both our people. China's presence in the global economy has raised living standards in China and fueled growth around the world. Ten years ago, China was an outsider in the global marketplace; other countries set the rules and China was expected to abide by them. Now, China is a member of the WTO, a dynamic economic force and a model for other developing countries. China is able to help lead and define the rules. Neither America nor China can shrink from the role we have carved for ourselves in the world. We both must exercise leadership, in positive and productive ways. I have no doubt that our proud, strong countries can fulfill this responsibility.

The United States is supportive of a stable and prosperous China. We are not afraid of the competition. We welcome it, because competition makes us stronger. It is therefore in our interest to support China's continuing efforts to open its economy. As I have said before, our policy disagreements are not about the direction of change, but about the pace of change. Americans have many virtues ---we are a hard-working, innovative people---but we are also impatient. Even the notion of a "dialogue" may seem too passive for America's action-oriented ethic. It is up to us, over these two days and in the work that follows, to show that words are precursors to action

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, 22nd May A. D. 2007, Opening Remarks at the 2nd Round of the Sino-American 'Strategic Economic Dialogue'. In www.treasury.gov.

"I believe that we are going to achieve results that we would not have achieved without this dialogue....I believe that we have greater co-operation than we had before we established the strategic economic dialogue".

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in Financial Times, 22nd May 2007, p. 2.

As it will be readily apparent from the title of our entry today, we are extremely skeptical, that the aforementioned 'strategic economic dialogue', between the United States and Peking, will 'achieve' anything. Anything that is, other than some additional hot air. Perhaps, it might, just might, achieve what Secretary Paulson, and people of his ilk, id est, the top tier of the Financial Services industry want from the PRC at the moment: liberalizing and opening up, China's Financial Services industry. Aside from that, as well as some noises about the PRC allowing its currency to float a bit higher vis-`a-vis the dollar, and other currencies, there is nothing in these talks which will have any concrete impact on the massive trade deficit that the United States runs with the PRC. Last year to the tune of over Two Hundred & Thirty Billion dollars (see: www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance). An increase of two and half times in less than five years. In the same time frame, China has grown a massive current account surplus, of upwards of 1.3 Trillion Dollars, the greatest in the world. Judging from the expenditure of mere talk, correlated to the Sino-American trade deficit, it would appear that the more American officialdom 'talks' about the problem, the greater the problem becomes...Or at least that is what the available statistics say.

In essence, the whole purpose of the 'dialogue', is to give the appearance the Bush regime, like its predecessors, is 'doing something' or better yet, appearing to be doing something about the problem. When in fact, a 'do nothing'policy is in fact, the real, bipartisan, Republican and Democratic, position on dealing with the PRC, as a trading partner. Why? Simply put, the interests which support open access to American markets by the PRC (or other countries for that matter), are for good or for ill, are, have been and will be in ascendancy in the American polity: urbanized, post-enlightenment, liberal bourgeois cosmopolitan elites. Of which Secretary Paulson, the ex-President of Goldman Sachs, is the exemplar, par excellence. For such individuals, there are no 'downsides' to the ongoing Chinese trade penetration of the American (and other) markets. The time is no doubt well past, when a severe clampdown on the flood of cheap, Chinese goods to the American market was possible. In any case, for a better look at the Sino-American economic talks going on in Washington, we urge that you take a look at the following excerpts from an article by the American online journal, Stratfor.com (www.stratfor.com). As per the above, the article quite clearly shows that the Bush administration, like the Clinton Administration before it, is in fact not at all inclined to push any coercive levers vis`-a-vis Peking, in order to obtain concessions on the trade front. With essentially any noises being made for the purpose of attempting to show the American Congress, that 'something' positive is being done to resolve the problem. When in fact, no such thing ever occurs....As for the other key aspect of the article, one which we find to be a dangerous idea and notion indeed. That the United States should align itself with the PRC in order to 'balance off' a resurgent Russia. We find this to be nonsensical. By definition, the United States and Russia, both repositories (albeit in quite differing fashions) of Western and indeed European civilization and culture, should be naturally much more aligned than either with the Asiatic PRC. Unfortunately, our neo-conservative ideologues, in or out of power, see Russia's (relative) resurgence as a cause for concern, rather than one for hope. On that note, we encourage you to peruse Mr. Baker's article for its undoubted insights into the ongoing, charade of the Sino-American 'economic dialogue':

China, U.S.: The Strategic Economic Dialogue as a Tool for Managing Relations
By Rodger Baker

"Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi is in Washington to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for the second of the planned biannual Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) sessions between the two countries. The dialogue brings together representatives of numerous ministries on both sides of the Pacific, covering finance, labor, trade, agriculture and the environment, among others. As the talks get under way, business and media attention is focused almost exclusively on two main issues: the Chinese-U.S. trade imbalance and China's undervaluing of the yuan.

The dialogue, however, is designed to integrate a much broader array of issues between Beijing and Washington, moving beyond trade to the larger matter of how the world's only remaining superpower deals with the rapid emergence of China on the international economic and political scene. For Washington, the dialogue is a tool to manage China's international relations as much as China's economic development. And for Beijing, the dialogue represents an attempt to shape relations with the United States in terms of economic cooperation, rather than strategic competition.

The economic framework for discussions seems to appeal to both Washington and Beijing, and the current dialogue, then, serves as a convenient tool for managing relations that sit on a much broader geopolitical framework. Still in its early stages, the SED reflects a changing dynamic in the management of U.S.-Chinese relations. From Beijing's perspective, the SED is a way to focus on the potential positive elements of U.S.-Chinese ties -- business and trade -- and reduce attention on questions of the "China threat" and the emergence of China as a military competitor to the United States.

The SED serves, in Beijing's mind, as one way of using the U.S. administration as a balance to the U.S. Congress. If the administration is looking at the broader strategic issues posed by China's global emergence, then it will be less likely to accede to congressional politicking on the China issue -- or so Beijing hopes. China sees the U.S. Congress as "unsophisticated" on China issues, and Capitol Hill as a place where short-term political interests, based to a large degree on electioneering and campaign contributions, drive periodic spurts of anti-Chinese rhetoric. However, during the past two decades, Beijing itself has grown a little more sophisticated in its understanding of U.S. politics, and has moved past dealing primarily with image management at the presidential and ministerial level to trying to shape U.S. political views from the ground up.

With the rapid rise of the Chinese economy in the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis and Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organization, China looked to both protect its growing economic connections and expand its international influence in the post-Cold War environment. With the Soviet Union gone and Europe failing to rise as a counterbalance to the United States, China set its sights on Washington as the biggest challenge to Chinese power -- and yet the best economic path to Chinese growth. Washington was headed for a presidential change, Beijing was dealing with increasing U.S. warnings of the China threat and the Chinese government was looking at its own upcoming leadership transition and the internal battle over best economic policies and security posture. For each of these issues, managing relations with the United States became the critical common factor....

And Beijing is seeing a payoff, at least on the surface. When the current administration took power, relations with Washington were contentious to say the least. U.S. President George W. Bush came into office with a Cabinet that viewed China as the next strategic threat now that the Soviet Union was relegated to history. China's economic rise, and its military expansion that focused on new missiles and naval technology, was seen as a challenge to U.S. dominance of the seas, and thus to U.S. core national security. Now, the administration is pursuing strategic dialogue and cooperation with China, even if this is just a stopgap measure until Washington can free itself from Iraq.

In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, Washington and Beijing came to a working arrangement. The United States would essentially leave China alone, and China would not present any direct challenge to the United States as Washington dealt with what it saw as a new strategic threat: al Qaeda and international Islamist militancy. Beijing welcomed the reprieve from the more contentious relations with Washington, which had declined precipitously following the collision that left a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft on a military runway in southern China.

At the time, Beijing was neither militarily nor politically prepared to square off against the United States. In fact, China was facing a major generational shift in leadership and needed the external buffer to allow Beijing to focus on internal issues. With the political transition completed, Beijing then shifted focus to economic and social stability -- and again used the minimal external pressure from Washington to give it breathing room while these issues took priority....

By 2005, Washington was looking at longer-term involvement in Iraq than it had planned, and then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick made an indirect offer to Beijing for closer potential cooperation -- offering to treat China as a global player if Beijing proved a "responsible stakeholder." The offer appealed to Beijing, and China, cautiously at first but with increasing boldness, launched into a more open dialogue with Washington, making token trades on currency issues and offering its services in "rogue" nations such as North Korea and, more recently, Sudan in order to demonstrate its "responsibility" and keep real pressure from the United states to a minimum.

While the U.S. administration, particularly the Pentagon, was not all that reassured by China's behavioral change (as seen in early 2006 with a series of reports labeling China a strategic threat and culminating in a several-minute-long tirade by a Falun Gong activist at the White House reception for Chinese President Hu Jintao), Washington, with the exception of Congress, has taken a relatively relaxed approach to China. Trade issues dominate the headlines, as does the yuan valuation, but the administration pushes for more cooperative dialogue with Beijing rather than punitive sanctions or tariffs.

On Beijing's side, shortly after the first SED meeting in December 2006, China's Foreign Ministry launched the Center for China-U.S. Relations Studies at its research institute, the China Institute for International Studies. The center is designed to bring together top Chinese scholars on U.S. issues from across a broad spectrum of China (economic, international relations, security and others) and encourage increased exchanges with counterparts in the United States -- thus managing the perception campaign from a unified center. Earlier this year, China also appointed Yang Jiechi as foreign minister, calling on Yang's years of experience in the Chinese Embassy in Washington, his work with both sides of Congress and his long-standing ties with the Bush family.

The SED, then, provides both Washington and Beijing with a more centralized (and less random) point of contact for managing bilateral relations. But management and fundamental alterations are very different things. China's trade and economic policies will not be set with Washington's concerns as the top priority. Beijing's first concern is the maintenance of Communist Party rule, followed closely by the maintenance of social stability (which allows the party to remain in power). Economics are a tool, one that must balance domestic social pressures with international concerns. Furthermore, while dialogue can provide a channel for managing relations with the United States, China is not abandoning other tools for preserving its increasing economic vulnerabilities as its trade and energy requirements are internationalized.

China's anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) test in January was a clear reminder that China still sees the United States as the top challenge to Chinese economic security. China is a land power, not a maritime power. But China's economics have grown increasingly linked to longer and longer supply lines, particularly with energy imports. As such, Beijing sees a major vulnerability in its supply routes, as a large portion of its energy must pass through waters that, for all intents and purposes, are controlled by the United States. The ASAT test was intended to notify Washington that Beijing has ways to deal with the U.S. strategic dominance of the seas by threatening critical U.S. communications and guidance infrastructure.

China's vulnerabilities as a land power increasingly dependent on sea routes makes Beijing always extremely nervous about the United States, regardless of whether Washington intends to interdict Chinese trade and energy supplies. At the same time, China's expanding trade and political links around the globe are starting to rub up against U.S. strategic interests, particularly where China taps into energy resources Washington wants, or where Beijing's relations in places like Africa and Latin America challenge U.S. access to raw materials. But economic competition notwithstanding, Washington is loath to directly confront China, as attacking a land power in Asia is never wise or easy....

There is something beyond the SED, however, that could start bringing Washington and Beijing closer together: the re-emergence of Moscow....

This could provide the impetus for a Beijing move closer to Washington -- to keep the United States focused on Russian threats rather than Chinese concerns. Beijing already has experience working with the United States to counter Russian influence, and keeping the current and former superpowers eyeing each other leaves China a less visible threat, and thus capable of continuing to deal with its own internal issues while facing minimal pressure from outside. As Beijing sees it, if a true multipolar world cannot be established any time soon, the hints of a return to a bipolar world order -- with Russia facing off against the United States -- could keep China out of the crosshairs and constrain U.S. actions. With the SED already in place, China has another pathway through which to shape its own image as cooperative, and perhaps drop a few hints of its concerns about Russia".

Monday, May 21, 2007


Once again, our friends at the International Crisis Group (hereafter ICG), have come out with a most worthy and no doubt heartfelt plan of action for the international community to follow. In this instance it is in reference to the ongoing problem of Kosovo. As readers of this journal should no doubt be familiar with, the United Nation's Special Envoy for the province, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, has drawn up for consideration by the Security Council's membership, a plan of action for Kosovo. This plan calls for de jure independence for Kosovo, under the auspices of the United Nations and the European Community, which would de facto be the governing authority in the province for a good number of years. As per our dear friends as the ICG, the Ahtisaari plan is the only chance for Kosovo to enjoy those wonderful fruits so beloved by our post-enlightenment, liberal bourgeois cosmopolitan elites:"a multi-ethnic, democratic, decentralized society". The fact that currently and for perhaps forever more, Kosovo, due to the violence by both sides, most especially by the Albanians in the aftermath of the Kosovo War of 1999, is precisely the opposite of a 'multi-ethnic' society, seems to slip past our learned colleagues in international affairs commentariat. Consequently, the idea that the various alternatives raised for the provinces future, alternatives which have (unlike their own proposals) the reasonable prospect of gaining the support of Belgrade and Moskva, such as partition along the Ibar River, are dismissed with a wave of the hand (no more than that actually...) as destroying the prospect of 'multi-ethnicity' in Kosovo, as well as the rest of the Western Balkans. Which causes one to ask reasonably enough: whereabouts is such as thing as 'multi-ethnicity' said to exist? In Bosnia? In Croatia? In Albania? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. By raising the (false) prospect of a complete chimera, the ICG, can swat away as deplorable or even worse any alternatives to their own cherished proposals, such as a partition: "would trigger a Kosovo Albanian overreaction, including violence".

Why of course the Serbs are expected to accept almost complete diktat, due merely to the fact that the Kosovo Albanians will erupt in violence, if they do not get their way, is something which our friends at the ICG, fail to clarify for us. By the same logic, once could argue, that the Bosnian Serbs should be allowed to form their own independent state, because by preventing them from doing so, will have the end result of triggering violence....It has been the declared position of this journal, that any solution, any sensible long-term solution to the problem of Kosovo, must, I repeat must, involve some degree of acceptance by Serbia. A diplomatic diktat, cannot and will not work. To impose a solution, it now appears is no longer possible due to a likely Russian veto at the United Nations. Which one can only be thankful. Perhaps, once this realization will sink in, will the International Community, the United Nations, and the EU (one of course forbears from talking about the State Department in the context: its position on the matter is merely sub-human...), go back to the drawing board, and come up with a plan which shall command the assent of all sides to this conundrum, and not merely one of them.

For those interested in a depressing read, here follows the text of the ICG's report.
Please read and be abused for your pains:

Kosovo: No Good Alternatives to the Ahtisaari Plan, 14 May 2007

The debate on Kosovo’s future status has reached a crucial point. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has begun to consider elements of a draft resolution to determine the entity’s future, which could be put to a vote in the coming weeks. The best way of ensuring regional peace and stability and lifting Kosovo out of an eight-year-long limbo, with a tired, temporary UN administration and an undeveloped, low-growth economy, is a resolution based squarely on the plan of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. This would supersede UNSC Resolution 1244 (1999), define Kosovo’s internal settlement and minority-protection mechanisms, mandate a new international presence and allow for supervised independence.

Ahtisaari presented his plan in mid-March 2007 – in the form of a short “Report” and a lengthy “Comprehensive Proposal” – to the Secretary-General, who forwarded it to the Security Council, with his full support, on 26 March. This followed fourteen months of negotiations – a process the Council had authorised with Resolution 1244 mandating “a political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status” – which failed to forge a compromise between Serbia and Kosovo Albanians.

The Ahtisaari plan is a compromise that offers Kosovo Albanians the prospect of independence, Kosovo Serbs extensive rights, security and privileged relations with Serbia, and Serbia the chance to put the past behind it once and for all and realise its European future. It is the best recipe for the creation of a multi-ethnic, democratic and decentralised society and fits within the European Union’s multi-ethnic project for the Western Balkans, which ultimately offers the prospect of accession. The EU is already the largest donor in Kosovo and plans to assume the lion’s share of responsibility for the post-status Kosovo civilian mission. Ultimately, Kosovo is, and will remain until resolved, a European problem.

The alternative is bleak. Forcing Kosovo Albanians back into a constitutional relationship with Serbia would reignite violence. Belgrade has offered little beyond proposing that Kosovo remain an integral part of the Serbian state. It has done nothing over the past eight years to try to integrate Kosovo Albanians or to offer them meaningful and concrete autonomy arrangements. Instead it has tried to establish the basis for an ethnic division of Kosovo and partition along the Ibar River, which runs through the northern city of Mitrovica. It has done so by trying to delay the adoption of a Security Council resolution in the expectation that this would trigger a Kosovo Albanian overreaction, including violence, and so create the conditions for such partition. Partition, however, would not only destroy the prospect of multi-ethnicity in Kosovo but also destabilise neighbouring states.

Implementation of Ahtisaari’s Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement will pose significant challenges. The key to a peaceful transition lies in its extensive decentralisation measures, which offer a way to secure buy-in to a new Kosovo state by its Serb minority, especially the majority of Kosovo Serbs who live in enclaves south of the Ibar. The Ahtisaari Proposal is wisely ambiguous with regard to the powers and duration of the EU mission that will oversee this settlement, ensuring that the international community will retain the final word in Kosovo through its formative years of statehood.

There is strong support from the major Western countries for the adoption of a resolution based on the full Ahtisaari plan. But it is also important to exhaust all reasonable opportunities to achieve the greatest unity possible within the Council, and most importantly, to avoid a Russian veto.

Russia has opposed a quick timetable, strongly criticised the Ahtisaari plan, raised concerns about the international precedent Kosovo may create and hinted that it might veto a draft that does not take its position into account. Nonetheless a compromise solution may be possible and should be attempted, possibly with the inclusion of additional elements of conditionality in the two-year period before review of the international supervisors’ mandate, and the reaffirmation of the need for more progress on minority rights standards. A resolution which does this and endorses the Ahtisaari Proposal but does not explicitly support Kosovo’s independence may achieve the necessary support.


To Members of the United Nations Security Council:

1. The United Nations Security Council should as soon as possible adopt a resolution under Chapter VII of the Charter which, optimally, would:

(a) supersede UNSC Resolution 1244;

(b) endorse both Ahtisaari’s Report on Kosovo’s Future Status, and his Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement;

(c) mandate specifically the new international presences in Kosovo described in the Comprehensive Proposal, including the International Civilian Representative (ICR), the International Civilian Office (ICO), the EU European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) Rule of Law Mission and the International Military Presence (IMP), as well as the International Steering Group (ISG), which will review the mandate of these presences after two years; and

(d) recognise the specific circumstances of the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia which make Kosovo a unique case.

2. The U.S. government should engage with Moscow in good faith negotiations, while coordinating closely with the EU, and offer Moscow opportunities to retreat gracefully from its anti-Ahtisaari plan rhetoric, for example by being prepared to:

(a) modify aspects of the Ahtisaari plan, by creating a Special Envoy for Minorities, and setting a two-year moratorium before Kosovo can apply for UN membership; and/or

(b) adopt a resolution which endorses Ahtisaari’s Proposal but not his Report.

To Kosovo Albanian Leaders:

3. The Kosovo Albanian leadership, pending adoption of a UNSC resolution, should:

(a) refrain from making a unilateral declaration of independence;

(b) consolidate the administrative and legislative preparations for independence;

(c) agree on multi-ethnic symbols for the future state; and

(d) deepen coordination with international partners and design a strategy to protect the Kosovo Serb community during the first weeks of independence.

Pristina/Belgrade/New York/Brussels, 14 May 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007


For upwards of fifteen years now, the United States, the European Union countries (or at least some of them), and China, have been attempting, with only some success, to penetrate the Central Asian states of the former Sovietskaya Vlast. With their (allegedly) vast oil and natural gas resources, much of which is still unexplored,to many Western analysts, the Central Asian states were ripe for the picking, in terms of opening them to Western and or American influence. Economic, political and cultural. To some extent, this 'project', which in the aftermath of the collapse of Sovietskaya Vlast, seemed a plausible one, especially in the period after the 11th of September 2001, has just suffered an almost catastrophic body blow. On the 12th of this month, in the Turkmen city of Turkmenbashi, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, managed to forge an agreement with his Turkmen and Kazakhstan colleagues, to in essence, corral much of the two countries future supplies of natural gas. Consequently, the competition between Russia, China and the West, now appears to have been decisively won by Russia (for news of the agreement see: www.ft.com). As the Moskva based, political analyst Sergei Blagov, has recently noted:

"Russian officials and experts can barely conceal their glee over the signing of pacts that give the Kremlin a seemingly unbreakable stranglehold over Central Asia's energy resources" (see his article: "Russia celebrates its Central Asian Energy Coup", in www.eurasiaNet.org).

With this agreement, Russia has in effect secured a stranglehold on the energy resources of a good portion of Central Asia. An in addition of course, is now in a much greater position to dictate (or should one say, diktat), the terms of future energy collaboration between the European Union states and Russia. By 'dictate' of course, one is not referring to a process in which Moskva merely determines the price of collaboration between EU Europe and itself. Rather, what has and what will occur again and again in the future, is that Moskva will be in a much better position to forge ties, with some of the larger states in the Union, most especially Deutschland, and, in that way override the caveats of some of the smaller, and, more 'anti-Russian', states such as the Baltic countries and Poland. As the Financial Times recently noted about Berlin's own attitude: rather than actively seeking an escape from Germany's dependence upon Russian energy resources, Angel Merkel, et. al., appears to be quite content to remain beholden to Moskva. Partly this is a matter of economics (Russia is a big market for German exports), and, partly a matter of realpolitik (Germany cannot envisage a time when Russia will not be its largest and most important neighbor for more on this, see: "How Disputes are exposing the limits of German Ostpolitik", in www.ft.com). Consequently, as the run-up to the two day Russia-EU Summit has already demonstrated, most of the tensions have not, and will not be between Russia and a unified EU, but between differing members of the latter itself. Making of course, fairly easy pickings for Putin, or any other Russian leader in the future, to divida et impera...? Well if not necessarily that, but certainly, it will make it much easier for Moskva to pick and choose which countries in the EU it wishes to work closely with (Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Italia), and, those that it prefers not to: the Baltic states, and Poland in particular.

For the United States, the results of the Russian energy agreements are only important in a foreign policy sense. Not being even minimally dependent upon Russian oil or natural gas, Washington's only concern, is with the geopolitical fallout of Putin's coup. Those are, as we have indicated, that in a real sense, as far as Central Asia is concerned, for the moment, Russia is once again the undisputed maitre of the game. And, America is not even in a real sense any longer in the game any longer. Of course there are other pickings for Washington to bite on, such as Azerbajian, but, while Baku's energy resources are plentiful enough, they are no match for those of Central Asia. Indeed, Baku even shows signs of being fearful of being left out of the new agreements being forged between Moskva, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Much the same can be said for the PRC. So notwithstanding its own hordes of cash to invest, and, bribe if need be, Peking, appears to be left standing in the cold. With the end result as Steven Blank of the United States Army War College, has noted:

"China, which has a deal in place to import up to 30 bcm of gas annually from Turkmenistan starting in 2009, is in danger of being left holding the bag if there is not enough gas after exports through Russian pipelines. From the Western viewpoint, this situation could result in two undesirable scenarios. First, China’s dependence upon Russia for gas could grow; or secondly, and far more likely, Beijing would feel compelled to take aggressive action, and pay top dollar, to lock up supplies from other sources, including politically disreputable states. Either alternative would do little to enhance US-Chinese relations" (see: Stephen Blank's article: "Russia Takes a Step towards the Formation of a Natural Gas Cartel", in www.Eurasianet.org).

In short, one can in a real sense say that for now, the fabled 'Great Game', is finis, over in Central Asia. It is 'game, set and match' Russia.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


[George W.] Bush: Yo, Blair. How are you doing?

[Tony] Blair: I'm just...

Bush: You're leaving?

Blair: No, no, no not yet. On this trade thingy....(inaudible) (Mr Blair is getting anxious that the World Trade Organisation is falling apart because some nations, including the US, are putting domestic interests before a worldwide free trade agreement)

Bush: Yeah, I told that to the man.

Blair: Are you planning to say that here or not?

Bush: If you want me to.

Blair: Well, it's just that if the discussion arises...

Bush: I just want some movement.

Blair: Yeah.

Bush: Yesterday we didn't see much movement.

Blair: No, no, it may be that it's not, it may be that it's impossible.

Bush: I am prepared to say it.

Blair: But it's just I think what we need to be an opposition...

Bush: Who is introducing the trade?

Blair: Angela (The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will lead the trade discussion. That is good for Mr Blair. She is on his side.)

Bush: Tell her to call 'em.

Blair: Yes.

Bush: Tell her to put him on, them on the spot. Thanks for the sweater it's awfully thoughtful of you.

Blair: It's a pleasure.

Bush: I know you picked it out yourself.

Blair: Oh, absolutely, in fact (inaudible)

Bush: What about Kofi? (inaudible) His attitude to ceasefire and everything else ... happens. (Change of subject. Now they are on to Lebanon and the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan)

Blair: Yeah, no I think the (inaudible) is really difficult. We can't stop this unless you get this international business agreed.

Bush: Yeah. (Mr Blair is trying to push the idea of a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. That 'yeah' does not sound like a wholehearted agreement)

Blair: I don't know what you guys have talked about, but as I say I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is, but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral.

Bush: I think Condi is going to go pretty soon. (Meaning: 'No')

Blair: But that's, that's, that's all that matters. But if you... you see it will take some time to get that together. (Meaning: 'Oh well, all right, if you don't want me to. Just a thought')

Bush: Yeah, yeah.

Blair: But at least it gives people...

Bush: It's a process, I agree. I told her your offer to... (Meaning: 'Drop it. You're not going.')

Blair: Well... it's only if I mean... you know. If she's got a..., or if she needs the ground prepared as it were... Because obviously if she goes out, she's got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.

Bush: You see, the ... thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over....

Blair: Syria.

Bush: Why?

Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing.

Bush: Yeah.

Blair: What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way...

Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is sweet. (Mr Bush is probably being sarcastic)

Blair: He is honey. And that's what the whole thing is about. It's the same with Iraq.

Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen.

Blair: Yeah....

Bush: We are not blaming the Lebanese government.

Blair: Is this...? (at this point Blair taps the microphone in front of him and the sound is cut.)

Conversation overheard at the G-8 Summit in Saint Petersburg in July 2007. Edited Transcript from the Independent in: www.news.independent.co.uk

For many critics, most especially in his own native United Kingdom, nothing symbolized better the 'lapdog' status that Great Britain fell into vis-`a-vis the United States, during the latter portion of Blair's premiership, than the above dialogue with the American President. In which Bush, in his inarticulate fashion seems to dominate the conversation, and, Blair seems to merely respond to Bush's demands. Even a seemingly fair minded, non-partisan historian and commentator, such as Ian Kershaw recently noted that while Blair is a:

"conviction politician par excellence. His actions have been nobly motivated, underpinned by his Christian beliefs and guided by the principals of liberal interventionism to bring about democracy and justice".

His decision to join the American intervention in Iraq was a 'catastrophic decision', which has had the end result of: "undermining the international standing and power position of both parties [UK & USA] to the 'Special Relationship'". See: "Blair's 'Special Relationship'" in www.latimes.com.

Well one may inquire: is this true? As per the fact that the Iraq debacle has indeed 'undermined' the power and standing of both the UK and the USA (especially the latter), is an obvious truism. Equally true is the fact that from the very beginning of his premiership, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, has expressed in both public and private, a moralism which one can scarcely encounter in a holder of the post of First Lord of the Treasury since Gladstone's second Ministry in the first half of the 1880's. Contrary to those who criticize him for going whole hog with the Americans into Iraq, Blair has from the very beginnings of his premiership, consistently sided with and aligned himself with the United States in a fashion that has been fairly unique among British Prime Minister's since the end of the Second World War. From operation 'Desert Fox', to the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, to the diplomacy of the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, Blair has scarcely veered away from his embrace of the United States.

Which in turns begs another question: 'why'? Unlike other Prime Minister's in the Post-War period, Blair's alignment with the United States does not appear to have been inspired by a desire for some type of diplomatic quid pro quo. In which a UK 'service' would be reciprocated by some American favor. Quite the contrary appears to have been the case throughout his premiership. Nor does his closeness with for example the current American President, been rewarded with any degree of real influence into the shaping of American policy either in Iraq or in the Near East as a whole. Indeed, with the partial exception of the push for a second Security Council Resolution in March of 2003, there does not appear to have been an instance that Bush, et. al., have cared to tailor to the smallest degree American policy to take into account either Blair's advice or concerns. As the retired British Ambassador in Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer put it in his infamous memoirs (DC Confidential) that his remit from Downing Street was to:

"Get up the a--- of the White House and stay there".

And, that in their tet-`a-tet's Blair consistently failed to exercise any effective pressure or influence on Bush and company. Notwithstanding the fact that in absence of British support in the months leading to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush regime's policy to go to war, would have suffered perhaps (admittedly only a 'peut-etre')a near-fatal blow. Since, absent the UK, only geo-political pygmies like Azerbajian, Georgia and, Bulgaria would have made up the fabled 'coalition' with the United States. Instead of course, Blair gave his support, and pro-offered some thirty thousand troops (initially) for the invasion, and as of this writing, the UK still has seven thousand troops in Iraq. For what purpose escapes all and sundry. Obviously, the idea that via British support, Bush and company would gear American policy in the region to force through, a peace settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has gone nowhere. With the contact group, merely providing the barest of fig leaf's for an American policy (until recently) of splendid inactivity.

To sum up, it would appear that Blair's support for American policy has been gratuitous in the extreme. Unlike in times past, it has not resulted in any effective British influence on shaping American policies, certainly not in the Bush years, and, once can assume that not much even during the Presidency of his mentor and doppelganger, President Clinton. One can only assume that perhaps the major reasoning behind Blair's thinking is that he wished to avoid the fate of his predecessor at 10 Downing Street, John Major, whose relationship with President Clinton's America, was from start to finish uniformally bad. Especially over Bosnia and Northern Ireland. With the result that the Tory Prime Minister, was to all intents and purposes persona non grata, with the White House. Which is not to gainsay the fact, that in an strange, perverted way, Blair 'is' the William Ewart Gladstone pour notre jour. Both strong Anglo-Catholics, both with Scottish backgrounds, both committed to almost totally moral view of politics and foreign affairs in particular. Both great public speakers, with a special talent to putting into words the feelings of the bien pensant at a particular moment. A talent which both subsequently lost well into their respective years at Number Ten. The fact that Blair supported American policy in Bosnia in the years prior to his premiership, from a purely moralistic point of view, perhaps explains Blair's subsequent, leach-like clinging to the American coattails. Something that notwithstanding their own at times (mostly rhetorical) idealistic gloss on the Anglo-American relations, Churchill, Bevin, Macmillian, Thatcher, and the other luminaries of the 'Special Relationship' would not have approved. Nor do I think should we. Notwithstanding this fact, one cannot deny that in many ways, Tony Blair, while indeed an unfortunate child of his era, is a most singularly talented and intelligent man and politician, as that arch-commentator on Twentieth Century British politicians and Premier's, Peter Hennessy has noted, in his book on the subject (The Prime Minister). All the more unfortunate, that his talents such as they are, were wasted in the sands of Iraq. Pour rien plus les beaux yeux of George W. Bush. What could possibly be a more tragic fate than that?

Monday, May 14, 2007


Now that his tenure at the institution is over with, one may with a fair degree of objectivity review the UN career (or to be more accurate careerism) of Kofi Annan. Essentially, 'placed' into the Secretary Generals position by American strong-arm tactics, which if employed now by the current American administration, would bring howls of outrage, by the liberal intelligentsia, but, which at the time was quite willing to overlook Albright's and Clinton's behavior in New York. Annan, was supposed to make up, for the alleged, 'passivity' (meaning occasional unwillingness to toe the American line, all the time) of his predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the office of Secretary General. Especially as it related to the Bosnia war. Annan, who had in fact not fared terribly well, in responding to the various crises that he had dealt with in his previous post as head of all UN peacekeeping operations, especially (oddly enough in retrospect) those of Rwanda and Bosnia, was thought by Albright, et. al., to be a safer pair of hands. In this case of course, like in fact the ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Annan possessed one of those characteristics which one inevitably finds in similar beings who emerge out of thin air in large bureaucratic institutions: a suppleness in leaving behind, debacles which one has been involved with, and, a similar breeziness in passing through from one office to the next without however ever actually doing anything of either significance or importance. Much less being held responsible for anything. Certainly not anything of importance. In the case of Annan of course his hands are to the scholar and the lay educated public alike (insofar as they are not blinded by ideology or stupidity...), all over the twin disasters of Rwanda and Srbenecia. Which did not prevent the USA from parachuting Annan, to replace Boutros-Ghali in 1995.

This little noticed American coup de main, can be viewed in retrospect as being one of the most singularly successful episodes in the foreign policy of the Clinton Administration (which speaks volumes of course about what that actually means concerning foreign policy between 1993 and 2001...), and, probably had the end result of in turn providing the launching pad for the two parts egregious and one part ridiculous, Albright being named as Secretary of State by Clinton. Installed in the Secretary Generals chair, it would be correct, to state, as the British commentator, Perry Anderson notes in his brilliant hatchet job on Annan and his career, in the current issue of the London Review of Books ("Our Man", in www.lrb.co.uk), that:

"Annan was never a strong figure, or an independent agent....There is no reason to suppose his Americanism was purely calculating, a mere means of self-advancement. It belonged to his formation. He achieved high office as a creature of the Clinton administration, with ties that swaddled him to the end.... In fact, what is really striking about Annan’s tenure as secretary-general is less his personal characteristics than the nature of the inner circle that surrounded him. From the start, it was overwhelmingly Anglo-American, with a sprinkling of figures from the Anglophone zones of the First or Third World – Canada, Pakistan, India, Gambia – trained, like Annan himself, in the United States. A token Frenchman. Not a Russian, a Chinese, a Japanese, even a German or Italian in sight. The provenance of figures like Robert Orr, head of ‘strategic planning’, lifted straight from the National Security Council in Washington, Louise Fréchette, deputy secretary-general, dispatched from the Defense Ministry in Ottawa, or, lower down the scale, theorists of humanitarian intervention from Harvard or Princeton like John Ruggie and Michael Doyle, speaks for itself."

Indeed! What more can one say, except that notwithstanding the torrents of praise which poured in when he received the Noble Prize, and, later stilted explanations for his ethically challenged relationships with certain contractors who used (or attempted to use) his son, to solicit favors, Annan was and is no more than a morally blinkered, rather mediocre USA-flavored bureaucrat, of middling talents, who never excelled at much of anything except at positioning himself in the best light, when it was shining in his general direction. The fact that leading lights of the American foreign policy establishment (admittedly of the Democratic side of the political scale) saw fit, in 2003-2005, to elevate Annan's cause to that of the UN as a whole, speaks not so much for their own blinkered relationship to both ethics and the truth, as to the exact place of the United Nation's in the International System. In essence as Anderson points out, the whole role of the UN, from start to finish has been as an adjunct to American power and diplomacy:

"Schematically – simplifying a mottled tale – there have been three distinct periods in the history of the UN. The organisation was from its inception an American creation, as Stephen Schlesinger has shown in abundant and admiring detail, the product of Roosevelt’s vision of a postwar world in which the USSR and Britain would retain delimited spheres of influence within an international order whose overarching power would be the United States. Its founding conference at San Francisco was meticulously controlled and choreographed by Washington, a special unit of US military intelligence at the army base in the old Spanish fort of the Presidio intercepting cables to and from the assembled delegates, the FBI tracking their movements on the ground, and a large bloc of Latin American satellites assuring majorities where issues were put to the vote. Soviet compliance was purchased with promises of non-interference in Eastern Europe and a watered-down right of veto in the Security Council. With its headquarters planted in New York, where surveillance would be permanent, and a large majority of members – principally European and Latin American – at the beck and call of Washington, the UN, whose first secretary-general, Trygve Lie, even illegally collaborated with the FBI in purging his own staff, was an all but infallible decoration of the American will. For 25 years, the US never had to cast a single veto in the Security Council, so relentlessly did its resolutions coincide with whatever Washington wanted. The landmarks of the UN in this period were approval of the creation of Israel (the Jewish third of the population allocated over half the territory of Mandate Palestine by Ralph Bunche, the ‘ghost-writing harlot’, as he described himself, of the UN plan for partition, rammed through the General Assembly by the US with every bribe and blackmail at its disposal); provision of a flag of convenience for American intervention in the Korean civil war, checked short of complete victory only by Chinese entry into the conflict; and induction of Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship in the Congo, after Dag Hammarskjöld and his American advisers had connived at the murder of Patrice Lumumba.

Decolonisation, multiplying new member states from the Third World, brought such unimpeded utilisation of the UN by the US to an end. The General Assembly resolution of December 1960, calling for independence of the colonies – the US, in the company of Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and South Africa, refused to vote for it – marked the dusk of European imperialism. In the Middle East, Israel’s pre-emptive war of 1967, on the pretext of Cairo’s request that UN forces finally exit the country, having been ensconced in Egypt ever since it was victim of the three-way attack by Britain, France and Israel in 1956 (naturally there was no UN presence on the Israeli side of the border; why should the aggressor put up with any?), was a turning-point for Arab opinion. In South-East Asia, the Tet offensive of 1968 emboldened opposition to American power across the Third World, and a group of 77 ex-colonial countries started for the first time to offer organised resistance in the UN. The belated seating of the People’s Republic of China in 1971, to Washington’s fury (this was before Nixon’s visit to Beijing) amid scenes of wild rejoicing in the chamber, made it clear that the General Assembly had escaped American control.

The first US veto had been cast not long before, in defence of Ian Smith’s racist regime in Rhodesia. Since then, in a complete reversal of the pattern of the previous period, the US has vetoed more than eighty resolutions in the UN, many of them critical of Israel, others of South Africa, and not a few of its own actions in Nicaragua and elsewhere – products of the conjunction between the Soviet bloc and the Third World in the 1970s and 1980s. The acute dislike of the UN on the American right, lingering to this day, dates from these years. Unlike the first phase of UN history, however, this second phase was for all practical purposes an exercise in futility. There was no risk of the US suffering an Israel, Korea or Congo in reverse. Washington was not going to be ambushed, as Moscow had more than once been, in a structure it had itself designed. The US remained master of what the UN could do, however many impotent resolutions were passed in the General Assembly, or proposed to the Security Council, to be killed by it. No UN decisions of any significance mark these decades. In the resultant limbo, symbolic gestures like the denunciation of Zionism as a form of racism made do instead.

This period came to an abrupt end in 1990, with the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, and the collapse of the USSR the following year. As late as 1989, the US – along with the UK and France – had to veto a resolution condemning the American invasion of Panama. By the spring of 1991, the Gulf War could be launched with Soviet assent and Arab participation, under cover of a deliberately vague Security Council resolution, passed with just one abstention. Victory in the Cold War, knocking the USSR out of the ring, and the concomitant eclipse of nationalism by neoliberalism in the Third World, henceforward gave the US more thoroughgoing power over the UN than it had enjoyed even at the height of its postwar ascendancy, since it could now rely on the compliance, tacit or express, of Russia and China. Annan’s Secretariat was one product of this change. The multiplication of UN peacekeeping missions in the 1990s, off-loading policing tasks of lesser strategic importance – Haiti and the like – was another. On occasion, when the US had no great stake in the outcome, as in East Timor once Suharto had fallen, such missions could even live up to their name, without altering the structural realities of the organisation....

Today, paramountcy does not mean omnipotence. The US cannot count on always securing UN legitimation of its actions ex ante. But where this is wanting, retrospective validation is readily available, as the occupation of Iraq has shown. What is categorically excluded is active opposition on the part of the UN to any significant US initiative. A Security Council resolution, let alone a secretary-general, condemning an American action is unthinkable. Ban Ki-Moon, whose appointment required Chinese assent, may keep a lower profile than Annan, but his role is unlikely to be very different. The US grip on the organisation has not relaxed, as can be seen from current UN resolutions on Lebanon and Iran. Anxious voices from liberal opinion, worrying that the organisation might become irrelevant if Bush’s ‘unilateralism’ were to persist, and plaintive appeals from the left to defend the UN from distortion by Washington, are regularly heard today. They can be reassured. The future of the United Nations is safe. It will continue to be, as it was intended to be, a serviceable auxiliary mechanism of the Pax Americana"

"A serviceable auxiliary mechanism of the Pax Americana", is of course equally apt in describing Annan himself. And, to quote Shakespeare: 'the rest is silence...'

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Notwithstanding the success or the failure of the so-called 'Surge' policy, it has to be acknowledged that the Iraq debacle, since the Spring of 2003, has exposed a very very large hole in the performance of the American armed forces. Most especially I think at the senior officer corps level. In essence those most responsible for the failure of American strategy, besides the American civilian leadership (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, et. al), are the Generals (Franks, Meyers, Abizaid, Casey, Sanchez, et. al), who aided and abetted their civilian masters in formulating and then carrying out (or attempting to carry out) a military-political strategy which shall no doubt go down in history as being one of the most ill-conceived in the history of the Republic, if not in the history of mankind....

As with the previous case of Vietnam, the (coming) American defeat in Iraq, shall no doubt inspire a great deal of self-criticism and analysis and the American polity and nation, shall be all the better for it. One Iraq defeat is enough for any one's lifetime. Perhaps the first of such efforts is the essay by Army Colonel Paul Yingling, which has recently appeared in the Armed Forces Journal (www.armedforcesjournal.com). Titled: 'A Failure in Generalship', Colonel Yingling, looks at several historical and structural instances where an inability to adapt, by a once triumphant military force has resulted in that self-same force eventual downfall. In short Hubris is always followed by Nemesis. Rossbach's are inevitably followed by Jena's & Auerstadt's. Gulf War One by Gulf War Two. As a first effort, Colonel Yingling's effort is quite interesting and deserves a very close reading indeed. It is precisely for that reason, that I offer it up to the readership of Diplomat of the Future. By all means read and enjoy.


"You officers amuse yourselves with God knows what buffooneries and never dream in the least of serious service. This is a source of stupidity which would become most dangerous in case of a serious conflict."
- Frederick the Great

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

The Responsibilities of Generalship

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.

The passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war. Regardless of the system of government, the people supply the blood and treasure required to prosecute war. The statesman must stir these passions to a level commensurate with the popular sacrifices required. When the ends of policy are small, the statesman can prosecute a conflict without asking the public for great sacrifice. Global conflicts such as World War II require the full mobilization of entire societies to provide the men and materiel necessary for the successful prosecution of war. The greatest error the statesman can make is to commit his nation to a great conflict without mobilizing popular passions to a level commensurate with the stakes of the conflict.

Popular passions are necessary for the successful prosecution of war, but cannot be sufficient. To prevail, generals must provide policymakers and the public with a correct estimation of strategic probabilities. The general is responsible for estimating the likelihood of success in applying force to achieve the aims of policy. The general describes both the means necessary for the successful prosecution of war and the ways in which the nation will employ those means. If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means. If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results.

However much it is influenced by passion and probability, war is ultimately an instrument of policy and its conduct is the responsibility of policymakers. War is a social activity undertaken on behalf of the nation; Augustine counsels us that the only purpose of war is to achieve a better peace. The choice of making war to achieve a better peace is inherently a value judgment in which the statesman must decide those interests and beliefs worth killing and dying for. The military man is no better qualified than the common citizen to make such judgments. He must therefore confine his input to his area of expertise — the estimation of strategic probabilities.

The correct estimation of strategic possibilities can be further subdivided into the preparation for war and the conduct of war. Preparation for war consists in the raising, arming, equipping and training of forces. The conduct of war consists of both planning for the use of those forces and directing those forces in operations.

To prepare forces for war, the general must visualize the conditions of future combat. To raise military forces properly, the general must visualize the quality and quantity of forces needed in the next war. To arm and equip military forces properly, the general must visualize the materiel requirements of future engagements. To train military forces properly, the general must visualize the human demands on future battlefields, and replicate those conditions in peacetime exercises. Of course, not even the most skilled general can visualize precisely how future wars will be fought. According to British military historian and soldier Sir Michael Howard, "In structuring and preparing an army for war, you can be clear that you will not get it precisely right, but the important thing is not to be too far wrong, so that you can put it right quickly."

The most tragic error a general can make is to assume without much reflection that wars of the future will look much like wars of the past. Following World War I, French generals committed this error, assuming that the next war would involve static battles dominated by firepower and fixed fortifications. Throughout the interwar years, French generals raised, equipped, armed and trained the French military to fight the last war. In stark contrast, German generals spent the interwar years attempting to break the stalemate created by firepower and fortifications. They developed a new form of war — the blitzkrieg — that integrated mobility, firepower and decentralized tactics. The German Army did not get this new form of warfare precisely right. After the 1939 conquest of Poland, the German Army undertook a critical self-examination of its operations. However, German generals did not get it too far wrong either, and in less than a year had adapted their tactics for the invasion of France.

After visualizing the conditions of future combat, the general is responsible for explaining to civilian policymakers the demands of future combat and the risks entailed in failing to meet those demands. Civilian policymakers have neither the expertise nor the inclination to think deeply about strategic probabilities in the distant future. Policymakers, especially elected representatives, face powerful incentives to focus on near-term challenges that are of immediate concern to the public. Generating military capability is the labor of decades. If the general waits until the public and its elected representatives are immediately concerned with national security threats before finding his voice, he has waited too long. The general who speaks too loudly of preparing for war while the nation is at peace places at risk his position and status. However, the general who speaks too softly places at risk the security of his country.

Failing to visualize future battlefields represents a lapse in professional competence, but seeing those fields clearly and saying nothing is an even more serious lapse in professional character. Moral courage is often inversely proportional to popularity and this observation in nowhere more true than in the profession of arms. The history of military innovation is littered with the truncated careers of reformers who saw gathering threats clearly and advocated change boldly. A military professional must possess both the physical courage to face the hazards of battle and the moral courage to withstand the barbs of public scorn. On and off the battlefield, courage is the first characteristic of generalship.

Failures of Generalship in Vietnam

America's defeat in Vietnam is the most egregious failure in the history of American arms. America's general officer corps refused to prepare the Army to fight unconventional wars, despite ample indications that such preparations were in order. Having failed to prepare for such wars, America's generals sent our forces into battle without a coherent plan for victory. Unprepared for war and lacking a coherent strategy, America lost the war and the lives of more than 58,000 service members.

Following World War II, there were ample indicators that America's enemies would turn to insurgency to negate our advantages in firepower and mobility. The French experiences in Indochina and Algeria offered object lessons to Western armies facing unconventional foes. These lessons were not lost on the more astute members of America's political class. In 1961, President Kennedy warned of "another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin — war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by evading and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him." In response to these threats, Kennedy undertook a comprehensive program to prepare America's armed forces for counterinsurgency.

Despite the experience of their allies and the urging of their president, America's generals failed to prepare their forces for counterinsurgency. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Decker assured his young president, "Any good soldier can handle guerrillas." Despite Kennedy's guidance to the contrary, the Army viewed the conflict in Vietnam in conventional terms. As late as 1964, Gen. Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated flatly that "the essence of the problem in Vietnam is military." While the Army made minor organizational adjustments at the urging of the president, the generals clung to what Andrew Krepinevich has called "the Army concept," a vision of warfare focused on the destruction of the enemy's forces.

Having failed to visualize accurately the conditions of combat in Vietnam, America's generals prosecuted the war in conventional terms. The U.S. military embarked on a graduated attrition strategy intended to compel North Vietnam to accept a negotiated peace. The U.S. undertook modest efforts at innovation in Vietnam. Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), spearheaded by the State Department's "Blowtorch" Bob Kromer, was a serious effort to address the political and economic causes of the insurgency. The Marine Corps' Combined Action Program (CAP) was an innovative approach to population security. However, these efforts are best described as too little, too late. Innovations such as CORDS and CAP never received the resources necessary to make a large-scale difference. The U.S. military grudgingly accepted these innovations late in the war, after the American public's commitment to the conflict began to wane.

America's generals not only failed to develop a strategy for victory in Vietnam, but also remained largely silent while the strategy developed by civilian politicians led to defeat. As H.R. McMaster noted in "Dereliction of Duty," the Joint Chiefs of Staff were divided by service parochialism and failed to develop a unified and coherent recommendation to the president for prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. Army Chief of Staff Harold K. Johnson estimated in 1965 that victory would require as many as 700,000 troops for up to five years. Commandant of the Marine Corps Wallace Greene made a similar estimate on troop levels. As President Johnson incrementally escalated the war, neither man made his views known to the president or Congress. President Johnson made a concerted effort to conceal the costs and consequences of Vietnam from the public, but such duplicity required the passive consent of America's generals.

Having participated in the deception of the American people during the war, the Army chose after the war to deceive itself. In "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife," John Nagl argued that instead of learning from defeat, the Army after Vietnam focused its energies on the kind of wars it knew how to win — high-technology conventional wars. An essential contribution to this strategy of denial was the publication of "On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War," by Col. Harry Summers. Summers, a faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, argued that the Army had erred by not focusing enough on conventional warfare in Vietnam, a lesson the Army was happy to hear. Despite having been recently defeated by an insurgency, the Army slashed training and resources devoted to counterinsurgency.

By the early 1990s, the Army's focus on conventional war-fighting appeared to have been vindicated. During the 1980s, the U.S. military benefited from the largest peacetime military buildup in the nation's history. High-technology equipment dramatically increased the mobility and lethality of our ground forces. The Army's National Training Center honed the Army's conventional war-fighting skills to a razor's edge. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled the demise of the Soviet Union and the futility of direct confrontation with the U.S. Despite the fact the U.S. supported insurgencies in Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Angola to hasten the Soviet Union's demise, the U.S. military gave little thought to counterinsurgency throughout the 1990s. America's generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past — state-on-state conflicts against conventional forces. America's swift defeat of the Iraqi Army, the world's fourth-largest, in 1991 seemed to confirm the wisdom of the U.S. military's post-Vietnam reforms. But the military learned the wrong lessons from Operation Desert Storm. It continued to prepare for the last war, while its future enemies prepared for a new kind of war.

Failures of Generalship in Iraq

America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America's generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America's generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.

Despite paying lip service to "transformation" throughout the 1990s, America's armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In "The Sling and the Stone," T.X. Hammes argues that the Defense Department's transformation strategy focuses almost exclusively on high-technology conventional wars. The doctrine, organizations, equipment and training of the U.S. military confirm this observation. The armed forces fought the global war on terrorism for the first five years with a counterinsurgency doctrine last revised in the Reagan administration. Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America's generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that "there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq." The ISG noted that "on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals." Population security is the most important measure of effectiveness in counterinsurgency. For more than three years, America's generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. Moreover, America's generals have not explained clearly the larger strategic risks of committing so large a portion of the nation's deployable land power to a single theater of operations.

The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship. Any explanation that fixes culpability on individuals is insufficient. No one leader, civilian or military, caused failure in Vietnam or Iraq. Different military and civilian leaders in the two conflicts produced similar results. In both conflicts, the general officer corps designed to advise policymakers, prepare forces and conduct operations failed to perform its intended functions. To understand how the U.S. could face defeat at the hands of a weaker insurgent enemy for the second time in a generation, we must look at the structural influences that produce our general officer corps.

The Generals We Need

The most insightful examination of failed generalship comes from J.F.C. Fuller's "Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure." Fuller was a British major general who saw action in the first attempts at armored warfare in World War I. He found three common characteristics in great generals — courage, creative intelligence and physical fitness.

The need for intelligent, creative and courageous general officers is self-evident. An understanding of the larger aspects of war is essential to great generalship. However, a survey of Army three- and four-star generals shows that only 25 percent hold advanced degrees from civilian institutions in the social sciences or humanities. Counterinsurgency theory holds that proficiency in foreign languages is essential to success, yet only one in four of the Army's senior generals speaks another language. While the physical courage of America's generals is not in doubt, there is less certainty regarding their moral courage. In almost surreal language, professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters. Now that the public is immediately concerned with the crisis in Iraq, some of our generals are finding their voices. They may have waited too long.

Neither the executive branch nor the services themselves are likely to remedy the shortcomings in America's general officer corps. Indeed, the tendency of the executive branch to seek out mild-mannered team players to serve as senior generals is part of the problem. The services themselves are equally to blame. The system that produces our generals does little to reward creativity and moral courage. Officers rise to flag rank by following remarkably similar career patterns. Senior generals, both active and retired, are the most important figures in determining an officer's potential for flag rank. The views of subordinates and peers play no role in an officer's advancement; to move up he must only please his superiors. In a system in which senior officers select for promotion those like themselves, there are powerful incentives for conformity. It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator in his late forties.

If America desires creative intelligence and moral courage in its general officer corps, it must create a system that rewards these qualities. Congress can create such incentives by exercising its proper oversight function in three areas. First, Congress must change the system for selecting general officers. Second, oversight committees must apply increased scrutiny over generating the necessary means and pursuing appropriate ways for applying America's military power. Third, the Senate must hold accountable through its confirmation powers those officers who fail to achieve the aims of policy at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure.

To improve the creative intelligence of our generals, Congress must change the officer promotion system in ways that reward adaptation and intellectual achievement. Congress should require the armed services to implement 360-degree evaluations for field-grade and flag officers. Junior officers and noncommissioned officers are often the first to adapt because they bear the brunt of failed tactics most directly. They are also less wed to organizational norms and less influenced by organizational taboos. Junior leaders have valuable insights regarding the effectiveness of their leaders, but the current promotion system excludes these judgments. Incorporating subordinate and peer reviews into promotion decisions for senior leaders would produce officers more willing to adapt to changing circumstances, and less likely to conform to outmoded practices.

Congress should also modify the officer promotion system in ways that reward intellectual achievement. The Senate should examine the education and professional writing of nominees for three- and four-star billets as part of the confirmation process. The Senate would never confirm to the Supreme Court a nominee who had neither been to law school nor written legal opinions. However, it routinely confirms four-star generals who possess neither graduate education in the social sciences or humanities nor the capability to speak a foreign language. Senior general officers must have a vision of what future conflicts will look like and what capabilities the U.S. requires to prevail in those conflicts. They must possess the capability to understand and interact with foreign cultures. A solid record of intellectual achievement and fluency in foreign languages are effective indicators of an officer's potential for senior leadership.

To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War. The money required to prevail may place fiscal constraints on popular domestic priorities. The quantity and quality of manpower required may call into question the viability of the all-volunteer military. Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face. Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.

Finally, Congress must enhance accountability by exercising its little-used authority to confirm the retired rank of general officers. By law, Congress must confirm an officer who retires at three- or four-star rank. In the past this requirement has been pro forma in all but a few cases. A general who presides over a massive human rights scandal or a substantial deterioration in security ought to be retired at a lower rank than one who serves with distinction. A general who fails to provide Congress with an accurate and candid assessment of strategic probabilities ought to suffer the same penalty. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war. By exercising its powers to confirm the retired ranks of general officers, Congress can restore accountability among senior military leaders.

Mortal Danger

This article began with Frederick the Great's admonition to his officers to focus their energies on the larger aspects of war. The Prussian monarch's innovations had made his army the terror of Europe, but he knew that his adversaries were learning and adapting. Frederick feared that his generals would master his system of war without thinking deeply about the ever-changing nature of war, and in doing so would place Prussia's security at risk. These fears would prove prophetic. At the Battle of Valmy in 1792, Frederick's successors were checked by France's ragtag citizen army. In the fourteen years that followed, Prussia's generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like those of the past. In 1806, the Prussian Army marched lockstep into defeat and disaster at the hands of Napoleon at Jena. Frederick's prophecy had come to pass; Prussia became a French vassal.

Iraq is America's Valmy. America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand. They spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers. As at Valmy, this one debacle, however humiliating, will not in itself signal national disaster. The hour is late, but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security. The power and the responsibility to identify such generals lie with the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not act, our Jena awaits us.

■ARMY LT. COL. PAUL YINGLING is deputy commander, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He has served two tours in Iraq, another in Bosnia and a fourth in Operation Desert Storm. He holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Chicago. The views expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the Army or the Defense Department.