Preserving a Nation: America's Security in the Age of Terrorism 4.23.05
April 20, 2005
The American Cause will host an all-day conference on Saturday, April 23, 2005 to debate the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq, and the wisdom or folly of exporting democracy.
Hilton McLean Tyson's Corner
7920 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, Virginia 22101
CALL:(703)255-2632 for information on attending
For further details on the conference, and to RSVP, visit:
Alliances and Counter-alliances in Asia
April 19, 2005
by Stanley Kober
During her recent trips abroad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the need to strengthen U.S. alliances.
That policy is not unique to the Bush administration; previous administrations have also stressed the need to preserve and strengthen our alliances, even as opposing Cold War alliances disintegrated. But is this emphasis on alliances wise?
In his Farewell Address, President George Washington argued that alliances should be expedients to deal with threats and should not survive the disappearance of those threats. Allowing alliances to become permanent could foster the creation in the mind of the people of a permanent threat or enemy outside the alliance. In those circumstances, "the nation [i.e., the people], prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy."
In other words, popular opinion, impelled by nationalist sentiment, could lead to a war. Consequently, it is important to look not only at the policies of a government and what its rational calculations might be, but also to popular sentiment.
According to a public opinion poll recently taken in five Chinese cities, public opinion toward the United States is mixed. Although most Chinese like Americans (even if "not particularly"), half see the United States as a rival. Perhaps more ominously, a majority believes the U.S. is trying to contain China and that a clash over Taiwan is likely.
At the same time, more Chinese believe Sino-U.S. relations will improve rather than worsen in the second Bush Administration.
In this situation, with the U.S. emphasizing its alliances with Japan, South Korea and other countries in Asia, it is important to look at whether the Chinese are reacting in the traditional manner of seeking countervailing allies.
The most important of these ties is with Russia, which has viewed the continued expansion of NATO with suspicion. Over the last few years, as NATO has become more ambitious, Sino-Russian relations have become ever closer. Recent events in Ukraine also seem to have spurred closer ties.
"Western countries' acts of nibbling around Russia have stirred the uneasiness and alert of the latter," People's Daily editorialized last December. "The international community should bear in mind the many lessons derived from the Ukrainian electoral crisis, especially it must never take neo-interventionism lightly."
By "neo-interventionism," the Chinese did not mean Russia; they meant the United States. Shortly afterward, the two governments confirmed they would be holding military exercises in China this year.
"Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and [Russian Defense Minister Sergei] Ivanov agreed in their talks that the joint military exercise will be an important event," People's Daily reported. "The bilateral ties between China and Russia have entered a new phase in their relations, with the two sides establishing a strategic co-operative partnership,"said President Hu Jintao.
The other potential major ally for China is India. Relations between China and India hit a nadir in 1998, following the Indian nuclear tests, but in recent years they have improved dramatically. Although India's relations with the United States have also improved, there is an impression in New Delhi that India needs allies in order to be treated with respect by the United States.
"There are reservations about America's dominant influence in world policies," the late J.N. Dixit wrote shortly before he became the Indian national security advisor last year. "The choice is to confront and resist the U.S. and get isolated, or to make ourselves a subordinate ally of the US, or adopt a strategy of engaging the U.S. on the basis of equality while developing equations with other major powers to redress the imbalances of U.S. dominance."
One of those major powers is Russia, but India evidently views China as another country that can redress the balance with the United States, as the current visit by China's premier testifies. Although India is a democracy, at least some Indians share the perception of Moscow and Beijing that Washington's policy of promoting democracy may have ulterior motives.
"The West's unnecessarily provocative approach appears particularly ill-advised given the strains within Ukrainian society," the Hindu editorialized. "The West threatens this delicate internal balance through its avaricious drive to push itself into regions where its influence has been minimal. Russia, with its historical and cultural linkages to Ukraine, has a far stronger claim to play a role in the affairs of its neighbor."
It is unclear how widespread this view is in India, but the Hindu is a mainstream paper. American policy is producing unexpected consequences, and Washington needs to be alert to the way its actions are viewed in other countries as it drives forward with its efforts to assist the development of democracies.
Indeed, it is noteworthy that on the eve of Secretary Rice's trip to Asia, the Indian government announced the foreign ministers of India, Russia, and China would be holding their first "stand-alone" meeting in June. To be sure, assurances were given that no alliance was envisioned, but at the beginning of the last century the Triple Entente was also not a formal alliance. We should be careful that, by emphasizing the importance of our alliances, we do not foster the emergence of a countervailing "entente."
Stanley Kober is a research fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. This article appeared on FoxNews.com on April 17, 2005.
A June Attack on Iran: Will it Secure America?
by Subodh Atal
In the 1983 Hollywood movie set during the Cold War, The Day After, Soviet forces invade Western Europe, and the United States-led NATO forces use tactical nuclear weapons to stop the Soviet advance, triggering a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union. Minuteman missile launches from the United States are countered by ICBM strikes from the Soviets. The second part of the movie depicts the colossal consequences of nuclear detonations in the Kansas City region, as mundane everyday life is suddenly overturned, replaced by an apocalyptic "Day After" where death, destruction and radiation sickness reign.
As the credits at the end of the movie roll down, the movie creators ask the world's governments to consider the consequences of nuclear war, pointing out that the images in the movie did not capture the full breadth of horror that these weapons can wreak. Fortunately, in the sixty years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nations and regimes around the world have kept such images in mind. The United States and the Soviet Union blinked during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, while more recently, India and Pakistan came close to the brink in June 2002 and stepped back. Every one of these regimes realized that there was no such thing as victory in a nuclear war.
Countries have learned this lesson well because they have a return address. Thus a nuclear attack by Iran, North Korea or Syria on the United States is highly unlikely. Those regimes simply wouldn't want Teheran, Pyongyang or Damascus to suffer devastating nuclear retribution. Meanwhile, terrorist groups that are sponsored by nation-states are kept on a tight leash, knowing that evidence leading back to the sponsoring state would result in untoward consequences towards that country. Thus some of the most dangerous international terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba or Hezbollah have not used nuclear weapons or devices as part of their terrorist arsenal, even though these groups are linked closely with regimes that either possess nuclear weapons or have access to materials that could be used to create crude nuclear devices.
No such constraints hold back individuals or small groups with no specific links to regimes. Imagine the consequences if the Madrid terrorist cell which carried out the train bombings last March had managed to get its hands on a nuclear weapon, a crude nuclear device or a so-called "dirty bomb". The Madrid cell consisted of men of Egyptian, Moroccan and Tunisian descent coming together in Spain to plot the attack. The investigation of the cell has identified links to individuals in Netherlands, Syria, Morocco, and France--but not any government. If one such cell decides to resort to nuclear terror, there is no return address, no regime to pull its strings tight, no way to deter it.
It is such fanatic trans-national terrorist cells, many that are being inspired by the Iraq war, that could be slipping under the radar of U.S. policy makers, who are still operating in the Cold War framework of looking at countries, and not trans-national groups, as enemies. Seen through the Cold War prism, Iran is one of the most significant threats for the United States, and thus "all options are on the table" to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability. While in the State Department, John Bolton, the Bush administration's nominee to become UN ambassador, demanded that the United States be ready for attacks on Iran if sanctions against its nuclear program were not ordered by the UN. Such talk may not be simply bluster: according to Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter, the United States may be preparing for massive strikes on Iran as early as June 2005.
The Bush administration has denied that it intends to attack Iran. An attack on Iran would be as momentous a decision as was the one taken to overthrow Iraq. Will the gains from the degradation of Iran's nuclear and military capabilities, and perhaps the overthrow of the mullahs overcome the potential instability that would result from such an action? Given the problems in post-war Iraq, it is fair to question whether the Bush administration has done a careful evaluation of the consequences of an attack on Iran.
A nuclear Iran would be harder to deal with in terms of pressure on its terrorist apparatus, but not much harder than has been in the case of Pakistan, which despite possessing dozens of nuclear weapons, had to tone down its sponsorship of terror under intense U.S. pressure. Iran is highly unlikely to use nuclear weapons against a nuclear power such as the United States or Israel, or to provide them to a terrorist group, because the Iranian regime and its people don't want to live the "Day After".
On the other hand, an attack on Iran is likely to add Shia Muslims to the growing number of Islamists around the globe vowing vengeance against the United States. Shias in Iraq, other Middle Eastern nations, and the rest of the world, could potentially join hands with the Salafist Sunnis such as Osama Bin Laden who have been preaching hatred for the west and the United States. The Pakistani military has a significant number of Shia officers, and anger over an attack on Iran, particularly if Pakistani cooperation is critical to the operations, could lead them to collude with terrorist groups in a bid to overthrow the government. In a nation already replete with Islamic extremism and an arsenal of nuclear weapons, such considerations must be taken very seriously.
The chaos in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion resulted in the extensive theft of high explosive materials such as RDX and HMX from Iraqi military installations. During or after an attack on Iran, nuclear materials and components could find their way into the hands of terrorists who are no longer under the control of the Iranian government.
A CIA analysis released a few weeks before the Iraq invasion had postulated that Saddam Hussein could provide WMDs to terrorists if he believed his regime was about to fall. Fortunately for the United States and the world, Saddam's WMD capability only existed in the imaginations of Iraqi expatriates and their neoconservative allies. Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Iran has an extensive and advanced nuclear weapons program. An invasion of Iran, which threatens to topple the current regime, might prompt some of the more extremist figures in the regime to provide nuclear components to terrorists as a parting gesture of revenge.
Thus an invasion of Iran might simply swap a threat that can be deterred for a broader, undeterrable and less detectable threat. A missile launch out of Iran would be traced rapidly to its point of origin, and prompt massive retaliation against the nation. On the other hand, a suicide terrorist cell that gets its hands on nuclear materials could potentially build a crude nuclear device and use it within the United States without worrying about retaliation. In today's post-Cold War world, the latter threat is much more likely to materialize.
A protracted dialogue with Iran on security issues could allow the United States to mitigate risks inherent in Iran's nuclear program. Before pulling the trigger on yet another attack on a Middle Eastern nation, the Bush administration must do what it did not do prior to the Iraq invasion: objectively evaluate the consequences of such an action, and judge whether alternatives to military action can better secure America.
Subodh Atal is an independent foreign policy analyst with an interest in U.S. grand strategy and nuclear proliferation.
Foreign Oil Dependence and National Security: What to Do? 5.5.05
April 18, 2005
A new left-right coalition of environmentalists, business interests, and former national security officials was launched recently to address America’s dependence on foreign oil.
C. Boyden Gray, a member of the Steering Committee for the Energy Future Coalition, argues that promoting alternative-fueled vehicles and energy conservation would make us less vulnerable to enemies in the Middle East. Jerry Taylor argues that foreign oil dependence has no impact on national security and that additional corporate subsidies and consumer regulation will prove counterproductive. Join us for a spirited debate concerning the future of energy policy during the war on terrorism.
For more details, or to RSVP for the event, please visit:
No Schisms on the Right? Conservatives and U.S. Foreign Policy 5.10.05
April 17, 2005
The Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University will host a panel discussion on U.S. foreign policy on Tuesday, May 10, 2005.
The following panelists are scheduled to speak:
Henry Nau, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, the Elliott School
Helle C. Dale, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies of the Heritage Foundation and a columnist for The Washington Times
Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for Foreign Policy and Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute
John C. Hulsman, Senior Research Fellow in European Affairs, Davis Institute, the Heritage Foundation
Paul J. Saunders, Executive Director of the Nixon Center
Nikolas K. Gvosdev, Editor of The National Interest
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
The Elliott School, Room (213)
1957 E St., NW
Sponsored by the Elliott School of International Affairs, The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute and The Nixon Center.
Has the Cold War understanding between nationalists, neo-conservatives, and conservative realists fractured beyond repair? Can we still speak of an overarching "conservative foreign policy?" Or will the Republican Party have to balance between competing and contradictory visions for U.S. foreign policy? A distinguished panel discusses the issues facing the second term Bush Administration.
The New American Militarism 5.27.05
April 16, 2005
Featuring the author, Andrew J. Bacevich, Director, Center for International Relations, Boston University, with comments by James Fallows, National Correspondent, Atlantic Monthly, and moderated by Christopher Preble, Director, Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute
According to Vietnam veteran Andrew J. Bacevich, Americans have become enthralled with military power. This "new American militarism" is manifested by "a romanticized view of soldiers, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and outsized expectations regarding the efficacy of force." Bacevich, a West Point graduate, explains the dangers of militarism and points to an alternate course for America that is in "closer harmony with the nation's founding ideals." The event included a discussion of the book by the author, followed by comments by James Fallows, national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. Cato's Christopher Preble, who is also a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, moderated.
The event was held at the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts
Ave, NW, Washington, DC.
To view the event, visit:
International Law and Universal Empire: A View from the 18th Century
April 15, 2005
by David C. Hendrickson
We are invited to reflect on the relationship between law and empire, and in particular on whether the tradition of international law teaches any broad lessons applicable to the present day. I come before you as a specialist on the American Founding, and my simple contention is that the outlook of America's founding generation does contain those lessons.
That outlook was deeply internationalist in ways that are often unrecognized. The founders spent a lot of time thinking about the characteristic problems of cooperation among states, especially within the context of their own union. They saw as dangerous any situation in which one power was in a position to give the law to the others. They believed that respect for law would inevitably be in profound tension with over-sized power. They accepted the normative legitimacy of an international system in which the little had equal rights with the great. And they demonstrated the value of checks and balances on power with their unprecedented federal constitution. [See David C. Hendrickson, Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding (University Press of Kansas, 2003).]
When the framers gathered at Philadelphia in the late spring of 1787, they stood high stop a ridge, on either side of which there lay an imposing and dangerous abyss. On one side was "empire," "consolidation," "despotism," "centralization"; on the other, "anarchy," "dissolution," "chaos," "disintegration." These terms were not mere abstractions but carried historical resonance. The former recalled for them a succession of images: the expansion and corruption of Rome; the mad search for universal monarchy by a line of continental European monarchies; the sinister views of a British court that had attempted to foist on the American provinces, via taxation by a distant Parliament, a condition supposedly akin to absolute slavery.
"Anarchy" and "disunion" had a comparable, though opposing, significance. The fatal consequences to which anarchy might lead could be seen in the rise and fall of the unions made by the Greek city-states of antiquity to secure their liberty; in the civil wars and foreign interventions of Italy during the Renaissance; in the endless internal dissensions and wars of the Holy Roman Empire; and perhaps most of all in the experience of the modern European state system. American thought was heavily imbued with equilibrist notions of all sorts, but in the operation of the old European system they saw nothing but danger. "The system of the balance of power," wrote one Federalist, "affected to smother the breath of universal monarchy," but it had "in fact organized the system of universal slavery."
Most accounts of early American thought treat diplomacy and constitutionalism as two separate worlds; I argue that they had much in common and were mutually inter-related and supporting. This interpenetration of the constitutional and diplomatic worlds is well illustrated by the words of Charles Sumner: "The comity of nations I respect. To the behests of the law of nations I profoundly bow," Sumner observed. "As in our domestic affairs, all acts are brought to the Constitution, as to a touchstone; so, in our foreign affairs, all acts are brought to the touchstone of the law of nations--that supreme law--the world's collected will--which overarches the grand Commonwealth of Christian States. What that forbids I forbear to do."
The early generation of American statesmen had drunk deeply of the writings of the expositors of the "law of nature and of nations"--Grotius, Pufendorf, Vattel--and they saw the American Republic entering a world of states whose mutual relations were to be regulated by an authoritative law. The humane expositors of that law in Holland, France, and Switzerland had, in the words of Patrick Henry, "held up the torch of science to a benighted world." From 1776 onward, appeal to the law of nature and of nations—and to "these kind instructors of human nature"--was woven closely into the fabric of the American position, and might even be mistaken for being the American position. The expositors of the law of nations rejected what was then called "Machiavellism"—the sort of unmatched cruelties and perfidious violations of good faith with which Machiavelli's name became closely identified but which, as Jefferson said, had been "exploded and held in just horror in the 18th century."
This complex of thought is of keen relevance to the contemporary moment. It is not unreasonable to insist that the avoidance of international anarchy and the creation of a peaceful order through law was a deep part of the original understanding, even if the project was initially confined to eastern North America. The 20th century assumption of that role, though representing an obvious departure in certain respects from the traditional American policy, represented in another sense its fulfillment. At the same time, one finds in the outlook of the founders a clear and definitive rejection of universal empire, and we ought to reflect on the significance of that rejection for our own day.
The last several years have witnessed the emergence in the United States of a distinctly imperial attitude. In its pure form, the Bush Doctrine has asserted the right to wage preventive war against "rogue states" and terrorists who seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. It has assumed that the United States has a right, perhaps even a duty, to overturn tyrannical governments through force and to institute democracy. It has averred that America's condition of undisputed strategic superiority would be maintained indefinitely. Finally, it has breathed a spirit of defiance toward the constraints imposed by international law and institutions. While none of these elements of the Bush Doctrine was entirely missing from previous U.S. administrations, the total package was certainly new and alarming. It suggested that that we had entered a new age in which one state is more equal than others and where the weak must abide by the rules but the powerful may disregard them.
It is often asserted that there is no precedent for the mix of awesome military capabilities and revolutionary strategic doctrines now possessed by the United States. But in fact there is one. It lies in what Jonathan Schell calls the "hoary old nightmare of the ages, the always-feared but never-realized ambition to win universal empire." Whereas "empire," in its ordinary signification, means political control, whether direct or indirect, that is exercised by one political unit over another unit separate from and alien to it, "universal empire" means control over the state system as a whole. More simply, empire is ruling over other peoples without their consent, while universal empire is ruling over the state system without its consent. Both are exercises in domination, which is usually the key attribute that users of the label have in mind, but they are very different in significance. Empires are a dime a dozen, scattered all throughout human history; the quest for universal empire occurs less frequently but is the more important and world-shattering phenomenon.
Though not in common usage today, the term "universal empire" is useful because it gives us imaginative access to a critique of the phenomenon that was once part of the American consensus and that speaks to certain enduring issues. The critique of "Monarchia Universalis" was advanced by a remarkable group of Spanish writers, including Vitoria, Las Casas, and Soto, in the 16th century, and was taken up avidly by a host of Enlightement thinkers in the 18th century. Montesquieu, Vattel, Hume, Robertson, Burke, and Gibbon all considered the theme, and were as one in regarding universal empire as, in Alexander Hamilton's words, a "hideous project." The prevention of a situation in which any one power could give the law to the others was thought by the classic writers to be a necessary underpinning of international society, and they all looked with dread on the condition of supreme power to which the Bush administration aspired. Whether in western constitutional thought or among the publicists of the law of nations, it was axiomatic that any situation of unbounded power held peril for the maintenance of both order and liberty. While conceding that universal empire had a certain irresistible and siren-like appeal, the classical writers believed that the enterprise would inevitably recoil upon its authors. David Hume traced out, as had Montesquieu, a natural process by which aggrandizement turned on itself: "thus human nature checks itself in its airy elevation; thus ambition blindly labours for the destruction of the conqueror." "Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing," as Tocqueville summarized the classic wisdom: "Human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion."
Of all these various bids for universal empire, the one bearing the closest analogy in ideological complexion to that of the contemporary United States is that which occurred in conjunction with the French Revolution and the wars that erupted in its train. It has it all: a strategic doctrine of preventive war, a revolutionary creed looking to liberate foreign peoples from tyranny, contempt for the society of states and its customary prohibitions, and a military machine that had, with the levee en masse, discovered sources of power hitherto unknown. The essential features of this colossal power were described by Alexander Hamilton in the late 1790s. Revolutionary France, in Hamilton's estimation, had “betrayed a spirit of universal domination; an opinion that she had a right to be the legislatrix of nations; that they are all bound to submit to her mandates, to take from her their moral, political, and religious creeds; that her plastic and regenerating hand is to mould them into whatever shape she thinks fit; and that her interest is to be the sole measure of the rights of the rest of the world." Here, in capsule form, are all the essential symptoms of the dread disease, the historic check-list for detecting the malady of universal empire. Altogether familiar to denizens of the 21st century is the charge that Hamilton brought against France, for it is the same charge now brought against America.
Our contemporary situation thus bears us back, ceaselessly against the tide, to an argument announced at the founding of the American experiment. From the vantage point of the political science of the American founders, U.S. hyperpower today must appear as inherently problematic and fraught with peril. If we are to be true to the legacy bequeathed by the founders, we must reabsorb the lesson that power needs restraint. Especially because domestic constraints on the war making power of the executive have weakened, we must look to those embodied in international law and institutions as an essential underpinning of America's world role.
There is of course an objection to my line of argument, which holds that acting within these constraints is fundamentally incompatible with vital national interests. To so act, say the advocates of an "America unbound," would leave us insecure and more exposed to attack. I deny this. Indeed, one cannot fail to have been struck, as the Bush administration crashed through various legal barriers over the past several years, that the law contains within itself lessons of a prudential character. The restraints imposed by law are often seen as artificial or idealistic, whereas on a deeper view they help us identify where the path of self-interest really lies. Can anyone doubt that, on any calculation of costs and benefits, the torture to which the Bush administration has given license has wounded rather than strengthened this country? Such a question might also be asked of the doctrines of preventive war that have overturned the Cold War strategies of containment and deterrence.
We are far down a road in which the first question asked of any legal restraint is how we can get round it, whereas the truer view is that the prohibitions embodied in law themselves reflect certain vital prudential lessons drawn from hard and painful experience. We ought to respect these restraints for the same reason we pay attention to guard rails and speed limits on a mountain road. They prevent us from going off the cliff.
David C. Hendrickson is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and a professor of political science at Colorado College. These remarks were prepared for the panel "International Law in Times of Empire," American Society of International Law, Washington, D.C., April 1, 2005. Citations are available on request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Long and Blinding Road
April 12, 2005
Doug Bandow urges readers to approach recent developments in the Middle East with caution. Read story.
The article is published in The American Spectator.
Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He also is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
Destiny Not in Iraqis' Hands
April 06, 2005
Carolyn Eisenberg explains Iraq's difficulties in forming a new government in an article published by Newsday. Many of these problems flow from the "interim constitution" written by American legal experts and handpicked Iraqis. This document complicated the efforts of elected Iraqi representatives to choose new leadership, and effectively delayed the creation of a government for over two months.
This article, originally published on March 31, 2005, can be read here:
Carolyn Eisenberg is a professor of history at Hofstra University and is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. She is the author of "Drawing the Line: The American Decision to Divide Germany."
Forcing North Korea's Hand
April 04, 2005
Ted Galen Carpenter calls for bold measures to move the stalled six-party talks forward in an article published on FoxNews.com.
Ted Galen Carpenter is Vice President of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.