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Sharansky's Double Standard

March 30, 2005

The Coalition's Michael Desch questions the inconsistencies in Natan Sharanksy's positions on democracy and human rights. Read story.

This article appears in the March 28, 2005 issue of The American Conservative.

Michael C. Desch is Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. He is also a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.

Posted by coalition at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)

Michael Desch Speaks to the San Antonio World Affairs Council

March 29, 2005

Coalition member Michael Desch addressed the World Affairs Council of San Antonio on March 10, 2005. To hear Mike's talk, visit "Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and United States National Security".

Desch holds the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. His full bio is available here:

Posted by coalition at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

Andrew Bacevich Discusses Iraq and the Bush Doctrine

March 22, 2005

Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich debated Peter Feaver of Duke University at a recent event at the American Enterprise Institute.

Bacevich is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and is the author of several books, including the just-released The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.

Posted by coalition at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

Taiwan as security-free rider

By Ted Galen Carpenter and Justin Logan

Two factors have historically deterred the People's Republic of China from attempting to retake Taiwan by force: technologically superior Taiwanese weaponry and concern that the United States might intervene with its own military forces.

Until recently, Taiwan took seriously its responsibility to purchase arms. Unfortunately, the Taiwanese people seem increasingly unconcerned about providing for their own defense, and instead want to rely on an implied U.S. security commitment. If the United States does not force Taiwan to get serious about its own security, the result could be an emboldened China and the risk of war in the Taiwan Strait.

Since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the United States has been legally obligated to sell Taiwan "arms of a defensive character" to help deter the PRC from attempting to retake the island by force.

In 2001, the Bush administration offered Taiwan an arms sale of roughly $20 billion to counter a campaign of Chinese military modernization aimed directly at retaking Taiwan. Recently, a version of that package, scaled back to $18.2 billion, was approved by Taiwan's Cabinet, but remains held up in Taiwan's legislature.

Opponents of the arms sales package in Taiwan lament that the weapons are too expensive, and that the island has other priorities. In an absurd display of denial, Tseng Yung-chuan, the executive director of the opposition Kuomintang's Central Policy Committee, remarked in November 2004 that Taiwan's existing defense budget should be cut in half to fund social welfare projects.

Taiwan's lack of seriousness is unacceptable because it has the effect of pushing the United States to the forefront of the cross-Strait conflict. China's purchases of advanced KILO class submarines and Sukhoi fighter planes from Russia are eroding Taiwan's qualitative advantage. Taiwan's anti-submarine warfare capabilities are insufficient and dwindling, and its air supremacy is waning in the face of China's acquisitions. All of these trends are getting worse, and creating a sense in China that it may soon be able to take Taiwan by force or intimidate the Taiwanese into surrender.

One apparent factor in Taiwan's irresponsibility is that it is banking on a U.S. security guarantee. However, Taiwanese legislators -- and more than a few U.S. officials -- would do well to take another look at the TRA, which some allege commits the United States to defend Taiwan's autonomy.

The TRA merely asserts that "efforts to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, would be a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States."

Moreover, the TRA replaced an expiring mutual defense treaty with Taiwan's government, and a debate ensued around the enactment of the TRA as to whether it should replicate the MDT's security guarantee. Proposals to incorporate such a guarantee were rejected.

To be sure, it is possible that the United States could decide to involve itself in a conflict between Taiwan and China. That decision would be ill-advised in its own right, given the potential dangers, but it certainly should not be left to Taiwan's government to force such a momentous decision.

However, given Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's penchant for provocations combined with Taiwan's dwindling defense capability, Taiwan is increasingly controlling the politics of the conflict without taking responsibility for the military consequences of its actions.

While most Americans wish Taiwan well, we should certainly not take its security more seriously than do its own citizens. If they decide that social spending is more important than deterring a possible takeover attempt by the PRC, then that is their decision. They should not be allowed to free ride on the expectation that the United States will save them in the event of a crisis.

The only acceptable policy is to continue, under the obligation of the TRA, to sell Taiwan defensive arms with which it can deter a Chinese attack. However, the United States must indicate to the Taiwanese that it does not intend to involve itself in a war in the Taiwan Strait.

As things stand now, the Taiwanese increasingly expect that we will defend them, and the Chinese increasingly suspect that we will not. That is the worst of both worlds, and portends an increasingly perilous situation for all parties involved. The United States should make clear to Taiwan that its free-riding days are over. If Taiwan wishes to preserve its de facto independence in the future, it needs to be willing to spend the money necessary to build and maintain a robust defense.

Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. His book, The Coming War With China Over Taiwan, will be published later this year by Palgrave/Macmillan. Justin Logan is a research assistant at the Cato Institute.

This article was originally published by United Press International on March 19, 2005. It is republished here by the permission of the authors.

Posted by coalition at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

Spreading Democracy: By Force or Example?

March 07, 2005

By Stanley Kober

The problem of war has bedeviled mankind since people began forming communities. "The first recorded histories, the first written accounts of the exploits of mortals, are military histories," observes Lawrence H. Keeley in War Before Civilization.[1] Intellectual efforts to mitigate this scourge have focused on arrangements to limit or eliminate arms; to ameliorate and even resolve disputes; and perhaps most importantly, to devise political arrangements, both international and domestic, to deter and restrain the impulses for conflict.

Political efforts have been plagued by the classic problem: how to create an arrangement that allows protection without the threat of persecution. Internationally, the balance of power has contended with concentrations of power, either imperial or more idealistic schemes for world government. Domestically, the debate has focused on how much authority to concentrate in the executive. Advocates of a strong executive believe peace is preserved best by an unrestrained ability to deter or forestall attack. Opponents of such a scheme fear it would allow executives to initiate war too easily, and would be especially unstable if adopted by many countries.

The Bush Administration has attempted to resolve this dilemma by creating the concept of a democratic empire. On the one hand, it stresses America’s unchallengeable military power will impose a peaceful order on a troubled world. "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge—thereby, making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace," President George W. Bush told the 2002 West Point graduating class. At the same time, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asserts America's "democratic institutions themselves are a check on the excesses of power."

Accordingly, Dr. Rice expresses bewilderment that people around the world, including long-standing American allies, are uneasy with U.S. policy. "Power in the service of freedom is to be welcomed, and powers that share a commitment to freedom can—and must—make common cause against freedom’s enemies," she has insisted. But as the late British historian Lord Acton famously observed, "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Is it possible for a country’s democratic institutions to prevent the abuse of power used to promote democracy, or will the exercise of military power undermine democracy at home? Although history cannot provide any definitive answers, the French Revolution, especially when compared with its American antecedent, provides some insights.

I. Revolution for Democracy

In the fall of 1789, Americans welcomed the news from France. "The revolution which has been effected in France is of so wonderful a nature that the mind can hardly realize the fact," President George Washington wrote to Gouverneur Morris in Paris, but he nevertheless wondered how the revolution would proceed. "To forbear running from one extreme to another is no easy matter, and should this be the case, rocks and shelves not visible at present may wreck the vessel."
Like the American Revolution, the French Revolution was precipitated by the need of the government to raise money to pay its bills, which had been inflated by involvement in distant wars. To raise funds, King Louis XVI was obliged to convoke the Estates-General, which had not met since 1614. The Estates-General had been divided into three orders: nobility, clergy, and the mass of the people who did not belong to the first two orders—the Third Estate. In a famous pamphlet, the Abbe Sieyes declared that the Third Estate "contains everything that makes up the nation; everything that is not part of the Third Estate cannot consider itself as belonging to the nation." Sieyes's statement anticipated the Revolution's overthrow of the old social order and the spirit of the Revolution itself. "The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation," asserts the Declaration of the Rights of Man. "No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation."

The Declaration was the embodiment of the democratic spirit of the Revolution. The rights of the people were supposed to be guaranteed by democratic institutions. "A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all," the Declaration continued. But France, unlike the United States, was not able to develop a stable constitution with an institutional separation of powers to protect fundamental rights. War intervened.

II. A New International Order

To be sure, the French people, when the revolution began, did not intend war with their neighbors. Indeed, they did not—at least for the most part—desire the overthrow of the monarchy. But as Washington foresaw, a dynamic had been set in motion that would quickly plunge France into violent conflict.

The French Revolution, like the American, proclaimed that people could not be ruled without their consent, but it did so in a way that directly challenged the legitimacy of other governments. If peoples who considered themselves to be French wanted to throw off their rulers and become part of the new French Republic, the National Assembly decreed they could. "Treaties made without the consent of the people of Alsace could not bestow legality on rights to which they had not given their consent," Merlin de Douai, reporting on behalf of the “committee on feudalism," told the Assembly in October 1790. "In short, it is not the treaties of princes which regulate the rights of nations." To France's neighbors, this assault on the foundation of the international legal order—the treaties in question were the peace of Westphalia—was less a question of principle than a simple land grab. "Monarchs thought that this new international law was obviously calculated to benefit France by permitting it to annex, peacefully and at no cost, any territory whose inhabitants wished to start their own revolution," Georges Lefebre observed in his history of the French Revolution. "All treaties were torn up, all legal bonds between France and Europe broken."

By proclaiming this democratizing mission, the French Revolution was thrown off course, diverging from its American counterpart. Gradually, the powers surrounding France began to respond to this incipient threat. In August 1791, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II and the King of Prussia issued the Declaration of Pillnitz, which asserted the fate of French King Louis XVI was the concern of all European sovereigns. To the French, the declaration was interference in their internal affairs, possibly presaging military intervention. As relations deteriorated, they decided to strike first, declaring war on Austria in April 1792. According to historian T.C.W. Blanning, "they may well have taken such a step as a last desperate attempt to pre-empt what was seen as inevitable foreign aggression." But they miscalculated. "The war was expected to be short, decisive and victorious," Blanning notes. "In the event, it dragged on for more than two decades … ending with the destruction of the Revolution."

III. Shock and Awe

Not everyone in France shared the belief that French armed forces would be welcomed as liberators. "When the orators excited us to war," wrote Robespierre, not otherwise noted for his political moderation, "since they described to us how the Austrian armies, deserting the banners of despotism, would fly to the tricolor … we could have expected a more successful beginning." But if the peoples did not welcome the French as their democratic saviors, French arms began to achieve success over foreign armies because of France's revolution in warfare.

During the century before the revolution, warfare in Europe "became more and more limited both politically and militarily," observes military historian J.F.C. Fuller. "With a few notable exceptions, campaigns were methodical, leisurely, and punctuated by an accepted etiquette." But that approach to war was about to be challenged. "Let us suppose," the Comte de Guibert wrote in his celebrated essay on tactics in 1770, "that a vigorous people were to arise in Europe: a people of genius, of resources and of political understanding: a people who united with these stirling [sic] virtues and with a national militia a fixed plan of aggrandizement, and never lost sight of it . . . . One would see this people subjugate its neighbors, and overthrow our feeble Constitutions, like the north wind bends the frail reeds."

That prediction was fulfilled when the French people answered the call to arms in response to the threat of foreign invasion. A February 1793 law ordering a levy of 300,000 men was followed in August by the famous levee en masse. The size of French armies was "without precedent in the history of European wars," writes historian Leo Gershoy. The French not only defended their territory; they went on to overrun practically all of Europe.

But the initial success of France's armies ultimately led to overconfidence and defeat. Advocating the 1798 invasion of Egypt, for example, Foreign Minister Talleyrand predicted "it will involve only modest expenditure, for which the Republic will soon be reimbursed." Napoleon, in command of the French forces, attempted to convince the Egyptians he came as a liberator, not a conqueror. "People of Egypt: You will be told by our enemies, that I am come to destroy your religion," he proclaimed. "Believe them not. Tell them that I am come to restore your rights, punish your usurpers, and raise the true worship of Mahomet." He was not believed; despite its initial success, the army was isolated and defeated. Napoleon, evidently foreseeing the disaster, abandoned the army to its fate and returned to France, where he would quickly assume total power.

IV. Dictatorship and Defeat

Ten years after the storming of the Bastille, France came full circle as Napoleon assumed the powers formerly possessed by the king. A decade of turmoil had left the French people yearning for stability and order, and they thought a single, powerful leader could assure that for them. They were mistaken. Having seized power, Napoleon led France into a series of wars that brought it both glory and destruction.

Whatever his military genius, Napoleon failed because, unlike Robespierre, he did not appreciate that "no one loves armed missionaries." When he sent his army into Spain in 1808, he portrayed himself as a liberator. "I have no wish to reign over your provinces," he assured them. "I will ameliorate all your institutions and make you enjoy, if you second my efforts, the blessings of reform, without its collisions, its disorders, its convulsions." He was not believed. The popular resistance to his army gave us the term guerrilla war, from the Spanish for "small war." With the aid of British and Portuguese forces, the Spanish expelled the French.

The Spanish example inspired others, notably the Russians. When Napoleon insisted to his entourage that Tsar Alexander wanted to initiate war against him, he was challenged by one of his aides who recollected a conversation with the Tsar. "The Spaniards have often been defeated and they are not beaten, nor have they submitted," Alexander told General de Caulaincourt. "We have plenty of room; and our standing army is well organized, which means, as the Emperor Napoleon has admitted, that we need never accept a dictated peace, whatever reverses we may suffer. What is more, in such circumstances the victor is forced to accept the terms of the vanquished."

That warning, which proved prophetic, went unheeded. Napoleon invaded Russia, defeated the Russian army, and occupied Moscow. But the people, instead of submitting, burned their own city. Napoleon was forced to withdraw; his army was destroyed, and his empire collapsed.

V. Lessons of History

The tragic consequences of the French Revolution, especially when compared with its American counterpart, are surprisingly absent from our current discussion of history’s lessons for U.S. foreign policy. "It is the hard-liners who have learned from experience," claim David Frum and Richard Perle, whereas "the soft-liners cling to exploded illusions about the way the world should work." But is it so clear that the hard-liners are pragmatic realists while the soft-liners are ideologues who ignore experience?

Frum and Perle clearly believe that democratic countries are more peaceful, but they insist that "hard-liners are not bent on imposing democracy on anybody." Rather, they argue that American power can remove obstacles to democracy. "The U.S. may not be able to lead countries through the door to democracy," they explain, "but where that door is locked shut by a totalitarian deadbolt, American power may be the only way to open it up."

That distinction seems too neat, however. Does it make sense to liberate countries and then leave the job undone? Significantly, Frum and Perle's approach is the exact opposite of Winston Churchill's. "It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war," he advised in his famous 1946 "iron curtain" speech. In other words, do not go to war to break open totalitarian deadbolts. But if you have to go to war, you must see the job through to win the peace that was—or at least should have been—the object of the war in the first place. As Clausewitz, not known as a soft-line ideologue, put it, "the political view is the object, war is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception."

Moreover, as the experience of France demonstrates, campaigns to open totalitarian deadbolts carry their own risks for the liberating power. In the first place, the people who are liberated are not always grateful. "French rule had meant the abolition of feudalism, the modernization of the law, the destruction of clerical and aristocratic privilege, and efficiency in government," notes Louis Gottschalk in his classic history of the revolution, but the people "remembered only that it meant humiliation." That theme of humiliation resonates in Iraq and other Arab countries today. "Saddam's people were terrible but they never humiliated us like this," an Iraqi shopkeeper told Reuters in explaining attacks on coalition forces. "We are a tribal society. We are hot-blooded. What do you expect?" Indeed, the sense of humiliation appears in ways that may be unexpected by Americans. "We are very happy, relieved that this man is out of the picture," said Khaled Batarfi, managing editor of the Saudi newspaper, Al Madina, about the capture of Saddam Hussein. "On the other hand, to see him so humiliated - he is an Arab president after all."

Finally, there is the question of how a campaign of democratic liberation affects the country attempting to spread democracy by force. The French experience in this regard is not reassuring. Constant wars of liberation led France to concentrate power increasingly in the executive, with tragic results. "War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement," James Madison wrote in 1793. "Hence it has grown into an axiom that the executive is the department of power most distinguished by its propensity to war: hence it is the practice of all states, in proportion as they are free, to disarm this propensity of its influence."

Perhaps the best statement of the American credo in this respect is George Washington’s Farewell Address. "Avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty," he urged the American people. His advice on trade policy would apply to those who think our policy of benign liberation will appear credible abroad. "It is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another. . . . It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard." Rather, Washington encouraged the American people to instruct the world by their example. "It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it?"

"It is in the realm of ideas that the impact of the American Revolution can be most clearly seen and evidence most readily offered," writes historian R.R. Palmer. "When the Declaration of Independence submitted its self-evident truths to a candid world, the world whether candid or not was ready to listen." But the world is not so ready to listen now, something even advocates of forceful policy now acknowledge. "The grand alliances are dead," concludes Charles Krauthammer with apparent bitterness. "With a few trusted friends, America must carry on alone."

Like France in 1814.

Posted by coalition at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)