The similarities between the way in which the Arab League chooses to deal with
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The similarities between the way in which the Arab League chooses to deal with
As F. Gregory Gause III notes in a Council on Foreign Relations interview, the Saudi government has been at work building support for its regional interests against the expanding power of Iran. He argues that the Saudis are attempting to “limit Iranian influence in places where the Iranians seem to be getting stronger,” such as Lebanon and Palestine. Containing Iranian ambitions of course has more relevance to its neighbors than it does for the U.S. The U.S. experiences Iranian power once removed while its neighbors feel the direct effects. Gause estimates Saudi intentions in this way:
On the one hand, they want to contain Iranian influence. There's not much they can do in Iraq right now. But certainly at the peripheries of Iranian influence they're trying to roll it back. On the other hand, they don't want an open confrontation with Iran. They remember the 1980s when Ayatollah Khomeini was castigating them and the Iran-Iraq war was going on. That wasn't a comfortable time for them. The Saudis are playing a pretty nuanced balance-of-power game. Bring the Iranians in, talk to them, try to make deals with them where deals can be made, say perhaps in Lebanon, but at the same time, try to—in a sophisticated way—limit Iranian influence in places where the Iranians seem to be getting stronger.The Saudis however must play to Arab nationalities in its balancing act. As Vali Nasr has noted, the Iraq war stimulated a Shia revival that now is having the larger effect of dissociating the Shia from Islam in general. Iran, as both non-Arab and Shia, is thus twice removed from its Sunni Arab neighbors. Thus as Gause notes: “the Saudis can work in the region to try to constrain and contain Iranian influence, particularly in Arab contexts, in Lebanon and among Palestinians—not so much in Iraq these days.” As such, the members of the Arab League recently considered creating new security alliances to the exclusion of its powerful neighbor. As Al-Jazeera reports, the Arab League seeks a "new and effective pact for Arab national security," against Iran and also presumably the U.S. as well.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has become an increasing liability for its Arab allies in the region, who fear that a U.S. attack on Iran will further upset the balance of power, irrevocably involving them in the widening mess it recently made in Iraq. Thus our former pseudo-allies are now abandoning us. As Robert Baer asserts in Time:
Our Arab allies are jumping ship, apparently as fast as they can. At the opening of the Arab summit on Wednesday, Saudi King Abdallah accused the U.S of illegally occupying Iraq. The day before, the leader of the United Arab Emirates sent his foreign minister to Tehran to tell the Iranians he would not allow the U.S. to use UAE soil to attack Iran. That leaves us with Kuwait and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to face Iran.This unfortunate turn of events should have been quite predictable considering Huntington’s thesis that conflicts in the post-soviet era would emerge along civilization’s boundaries. However, the internal conflicts of a civilization will be dealt with along more specific cultural differences such as ethnicity and contradictory inter-religious dogmas. This explains the emergence of an intra-regional coalition. At the same time, these conflicts likely will resolve themselves and then focus on external enemies, or will be resolved as a result of its focus on the external western threat. This must not necessarily come to pass. Yet as our Arab friends are finding it increasingly more difficult to maintain their political ties to the erratic and unconstrained behavior of our executive administration, reversion to typical modes of conflict will become more prevalent.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
In the recent issue of Foreign Affairs Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations has argued that détente should be the appropriate point of departure for US-Iranian relations. He argues against containment policy, which has been the guiding principle of the relationship in the past, and which is unlikely to advance
The “new right” Iranian movement also appears to be realist in its theoretical orientation. As such, if it were to gain influence in the Iranian government, the
Thus, détente seems to be the best diplomatic avenue through which
Let us hope that moderates at home will succeed in discrediting the universalistic religious dogmatists in our own government, such that moderate elements within other states may be met with a sympathetic ear for a harmony of real interests. My own opinion is that this will not happen and the American people will be further robbed by ideological amateurs of its post-cold war primacy as we become bogged down in the widening quagmire which Brzezinski has called The Global Balkans.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
One subject of importance to the field of International Relations is the concept of negative and positive security assurances. The concept of positive assurance has specific relevance to the historical US- Japanese security alliance, which
Positive security assurance is a neat package offered to a given state protecting it in the face of a potential attack. Thus,
The history of the international proposal shows that the Bush administration was determined from the beginning that it would fail, so that it could bring to a halt a multilateral diplomacy on
's nuclear program that the hardliners in the administration had always found a hindrance to their policy. Iran
Bush's objective was to free his administration of the constraint of multilateral diplomacy. The administration evidently reckoned that once the Iranians had rejected the formal offer, the
would be free to take whatever actions it might choose, including a military strike against US . Thus the June 5 proposal, with its implicit contempt for Iran 's security interests, reflected the degree to which the Iran administration has anchored its policy toward US in its option to use force. Iran
now seeks to the clear the way for the next phase of its confrontation with Washington , Bush is framing the issue as one of Iranian defiance of the Security Council, rather than Iran refusal to deal seriously with a central issue in the negotiations. "There must consequences if people thumb their noses at the United Nations Security Council," Bush said on Monday. US
If the EU-3,
and Russia allow Bush to get away with that highly distorted version of what happened, the world will have taken another step closer to general war in the China Middle East.
Perhaps if our administration were to realize the parallels between US- Japanese relations and the relative absence of an arms race in east Asia, and compare and contrast precedent to current events in the mid-east it would be able to see the utility of positive security assurances. Our president should direct his administration to confirm the negative security assurances of the nuclear posture review, and affirm positive security assurances to the Iranian government. It should do so in order to realistically address
Thursday, March 8, 2007
“The administration backed up its tough talk by deploying the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group a week earlier than planned in January and, in a surprise move, also “surging” the Ronald Reagan to the west Pacific and dispatching the Stennis to the Middle East. Stennis joined the already-deployed Dwight D. Eisenhower group in the 5th Fleet area Feb. 19, doubling the Navy’s combat power in the region.Defense news also provides us with a vivid mental image of what might soon come to pass.
"The initial strike could come from stealth Air Force fighters and bombers and cruise missiles launched from B-52Hs, Navy submarines and surface warships. The attacks could center on command-and-control centers, anti-aircraft sites and other targets that pose a threat to follow-on strikes by nonstealth bombers and fighters. The Air Force bombers could fly nonstop from their home bases in the United States, while Air Force fighters would have to be launched from bases within the region. The Air Force already has fighters based in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the western Arabian Gulf. The Air Force and Navy bombs, like the cruise missiles, would all be precision-guided in an effort to minimize unnecessary deaths and collateral damage at dual-use facilities or those located amid civilian populations. F-22As, once they drop their bombs, would focus on shooting down any Iranian fighters that tried to challenge U.S. aircraft. Navy cruisers and destroyers from the Eisenhower and Stennis strike groups would be prepositioned in the Arabian Gulf, their flanks protected by anti-submarine helicopters and attack submarines. The latter would be submerged, simultaneously preparing to fire cruise missiles. The two carriers would not be anywhere near them. With much uncertainty about the locations of Iranian anti-ship missile ships, high-speed boats or mobile shore batteries — and the range U.S. Navy jets can produce with the aid of Air Force fuel tankers operating on the periphery of the battlespace — the carriers probably would be situated outside the Arabian Gulf, likely in the Gulf of Oman."While it appears the administration may be gearing up to strike Iran by itself, it may instead be preparing to support an Israeli led strike, showing support for an emerging anti-Iran coalition, or simply providing extra support for US ops in Afghanistan. Balance of power logic suggests that containing an aspiring regional hegemon like Iran may be necessary through war, but it doesn’t require that the US should act as the immediate balancer. If history is a guide to what may come, the US typically shouldn’t assume that role until the power of regional balancing is exhausted. The US’s traditional role as offshore balancer in the past meant that intervention was required only when a regional power had conquered its neighbors, enabling it to then project its power into our backyard and directly threaten our immediate security interest. However, this logic was clearly abandoned when the 2002 National Security Strategy announced its neo-liberal (neo-conservative) agenda, so it’s hard to say that the administration actually understands its own role in the world.
Should such a coalition emerge, how would it look? Samuel Huntington suggested that conflicts in the post-soviet era would occur along civilization’s fault lines. And when evaluating our war against Islamic terrorism, his thesis certainly seems vindicated. Yet at the regional level, this particular conflict involves not only an inter-civilization split, but also an intra-civilization split. Huntington describes Islam as a civilization in itself. However, even though Iran is an Islamic nation, its people are ethnically non-Arab. Also, the emerging Sunni and Shia conflict, exacerbated by altered religious dynamics in Iraq, has further removed Iranian identity from the rest of the wider Islamic world. Perhaps this increases the chances of a coalition emerging against it. But, in terms of regional military capabilities certainly the most logical candidate for leading it would be Israel. Unfortunately though the Palestinian issue may exclude it from participation. The dis-utility of Israeli participation was typified when Israel sat out the first gulf war for this reason
What are the implications of civilization divergence for a regional anti-Iran coalition? Perhaps it may be a naive proposition to include Israelis in an Arab coalition. But such an alliance could go a long way in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the wider Israeli- Arab conflict in general. At this point, a unilateral US strike seems like the worst of all possible worlds. Let us hope that Robert Gates injects some foresight and innovative thought into the Bush administration's seemingly eyeless liberal internationalist crusade. We should use our efforts wisely and attempt to foster the creation of a regional coalition that includes Arabs and Israelis, while sitting this one out.
Saturday, March 3, 2007
For example, our military has undergone a profound revolution in military affairs, one which was unsurprisingly geared not towards the limited rapid response missions we thought would become the new focus of the post-cold war era, but which was geared toward fighting major power wars. We now have a highly effective military, one that is designed not for peacekeeping or post-war reconstruction but to fight and win wars against other great armies. Thomas Barnett notes in The Pentagons New Map that the pentagon's target army was of course China’s.
Our nuclear forces are also currently undergoing modernization. Our strategic nukes, designed for fighting great power nuclear wars and affecting nuclear deterrence, are being upgraded. They are not being scaled down in accordance with the NPT. The pentagon and congress have authorized modifications for higher yield ratios on our Minutemen III ICBM’s. While the disappearance of great power war and the emergence of rogue state nuclear proliferation suggested high yields nukes where no longer relevant, at least not so many of them, congress instead rejected development of low yield tactical bunker busting nukes designed to destroy underground nuclear sites.
China is not the new Soviet Union. While China has become a new economic power and is in the process of upgrading its military and nuclear forces, it no longer falls within the same category of threat that it and the Soviet Union once did during the cold war era. In the latest issue of Foreign Policy Magazine,
China is no longer a revolutionary power. It does not have fundamental complaints about the international economic and political systems from which it has benefited so much over the past 25 years. Moreover, its economic interdependence with the rest of the world will deter Beijing from military adventures unless such core interests are threatened. (32)To paraphrase Keohane and Nye in After Hegemony, the existence of international regimes has had the effect of reducing the transactional costs of cooperation between states. While on the upper plane of international interaction power is organized by the principle of anarchy, in the lower planes economic, legal and political rule sets mitigate anarchy, fostering cooperation between seemingly antagonistic powers.
This may seem to contradict balance of power logic, but there is nothing within realist theory that suggests we should simply ignore the explanatory power of other theories. Rather, we should attempt to accommodate each by utilizing theory pragmatically, not dogmatically. In the past US-China relations have been mutually beneficial, in the future China could play a greater role in managing regional and even global instabilities. The uni-polar system is turning out to be highly unstable. We need an effective cooperative counterbalance in the system, and there is no reason to exclude from our thinking China’s potential role. In the end, dogmatism and fear mongering serve none of our national interests.
To demonstrate: Here, Joe Cirincione attempts to explain US’s past role in provoking a possible future US-China arms race. However, the Fox News correspondent prefers to focus only on Chinese aggression, asserting that the Chinese should comply with international laws that do not yet exist, and which the Bush administration previously rejected.