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Coalition vs. Commentary, Round Two

December 27, 2005

Harvard's Stephen Walt, The American Conservative's Scott McConnell, and Justin Logan and Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute respond to Gary Rosen's review essay in Commentary magazine.

The three letters to the editor, plus Rosen's response, are available online here:

Posted by coalition at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

Electing to Fight, Cato Book Forum, 01.12.06

December 20, 2005

On Thursday, January 12, 2006, the Cato Institute hosted a forum discussing the book Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (MIT Press, 2005).

The event, attended by more than 150 people, featured the authors, Edward D. Mansfield, University of Pennsylvania; Jack Snyder, Columbia University; with comments by Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Robert W. Merry, President and Publisher of Congressional Quarterly.

The promotion of democracy is a top foreign policy priority for both Republicans and Democrats. Many political scientists argue that promoting democracy is sound policy because democracies do not go to war with each other; thus, more democracies should equal less war. But what are the risks of democratization? In Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War, Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder argue that the process of democratization -- when incomplete or undertaken prematurely -- often leads to an increase in war and instability. Drawing on nearly 200 years of historical data, Mansfield and Snyder find that the transition to democracy is often characterized by a belligerent nationalism that substantially increases the risk of war. Their findings call into question the existing U.S. policy of pushing the democratic envelope in the Muslim world and China.

The event can be viewed using Real Video, or downloaded as an MP3 podcast

Posted by coalition at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

The Jury Is Still Out on Iraqi Democracy

Steven Clemons compares the overheated rhetoric and rosy scenarios surrounding the future of Iraq, and the less pleasant realities.

This article appeared in The Australian (12.20.2005) and is available in its entirety online:,5744,17610052%255E7583,00.html

Steven Clemons is a member of the executive committee of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He is director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publisher of the political blog

Posted by coalition at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

If U.S. Leaves, Al-Qaeda Will Not Inherit Iraq

December 19, 2005

The Bush administration's worst-case scenario makes the present predicament in Iraq look good by comparison. Chris Preble and Justin Logan offer a corrective.

In making the case for an open-ended American military presence in Iraq, the Bush administration and its supporters have deployed various worst-case scenarios of what will occur in the event of a military withdrawal. The most important of these is the assertion that Iraq will become a terrorist haven if the United States leaves.

In a recent speech at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld painted a very grim picture. Rumsfeld asked his audience to "[i]magine the world our children would face if we allowed [Ayman] al-Zawahiri, [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi, [Osama] bin Laden, and others of their ilk to seize power or operate with impunity out of Iraq." According to the defense secretary, the answer is obvious: "They would turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was before 9/11 - a haven for terrorist recruitment and training and a launching pad for attacks against U.S. interests and our fellow citizens."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad warned that a post-Saddam, post-U.S. Iraq would be even worse than Afghanistan. In an interview with Rich Lowry of The National Review, Khalilzad painted only two possible outcomes in Iraq. In the optimistic scenario, the U.S. achieves all of its political objectives, including the establishment of a functioning Iraqi democracy. Realistically, this requires an American presence for several more years. Khalilzad's alternative scenario, though, is too horrible to imagine: "Al-Qaeda taking over part of Iraq and from there expanding to the rest of Iraq or beyond the region and the world."

President George W. Bush also seems convinced that Al-Qaeda could take over if U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq. In a speech to U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen on November 30, he pointed to Al-Qaeda's stated objective to gain control of Iraq. Following an American military withdrawal, the president warned, "They would then use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America."

There is ample reason to doubt these claims. In a recent essay in The Boston Review, MIT's Barry Posen explained that the U.S. could not even be certain that a civil war, if one were to occur, would be a strategic boon for Al-Qaeda. More to the point, the U.S. does not need 150,000 troops in Iraq to pursue Al-Qaeda. The Zarqawi network is not going to be defeated by civil policing and neighborhood patrols.

The vast majority of Iraqis do not support Al-Qaeda's methods or objectives, and they would be even less likely to do so after the U.S. military left Iraq. As the president explained in his Naval Academy speech, Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists comprise the smallest of the three groups that make up the current insurgency. There is strong evidence that the other larger insurgent groups - Sunni Arab rejectionists, and pro-Saddam loyalists - would turn against the small number of foreign fighters currently waging the most deadly terrorist attacks. An Iraqi insurgent leader, Abu Qaqa al-Tamimi, recently told Time magazine: "One day, when the Americans have gone, we will need to fight another war, against these jihadis."

The largely Sunni Arab insurgents might well find themselves politically marginalized after a U.S. withdrawal. Their prospects for success depend on support from the Sunni population, but, perversely, the major factor driving Sunni cooperation currently is the U.S. presence. Without that rallying cry, what would Al-Qaeda have left? Shiite Muslims hate the foreign terrorists even more; Zarqawi has made attacks on Shiite Muslims a central object of his terror campaign, and some Iraqi Shiites now complain that the U.S. is preventing them from successfully prosecuting a counter-offensive against their would-be killers.

We can get a sense of Sunni Arab views toward Al-Qaeda by looking at other countries in the region. In a recent survey conducted in six Arab nations for Zogby International by Shibley Telhami, an expert on Arab public opinion, only 7 percent of respondents supported Al-Qaeda's methods, and only 6 percent supported Al-Qaeda's goal of creating a Muslim state. On the other hand, the number-one reason respondents sympathized with Al-Qaeda was because the organization was seen as standing up to the U.S.

At a news conference announcing the survey results, Telhami explained that respondents saw Al-Qaeda "as an instrument of anti-Americanism, but none of them would love to see Zarqawi be their ruler. None of them would like to see the kind of Taliban order that was imposed on Afghanistan in the Arab world." A U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would likely make this sentiment even stronger.

The jihadis will certainly claim that the American withdrawal represents a victory for their side, but they will do so whenever U.S. forces leave - be that next year, or 10 years from now. In his Johns Hopkins speech, Rumsfeld declared that a "retreat in Iraq" would tell our enemies "that if America will not defend itself against terrorists in Iraq, it will not defend itself against terrorists anywhere."

That is absurd. An American military withdrawal from Iraq would not signal that the United States has chosen to ignore events there; it expects all countries around the world to cooperate with it in the fight against terrorism. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq must be coupled with a clear and unequivocal message to the people of Iraq, and to the world: Do not threaten us; do not support anti-American terrorists. Meanwhile, the U.S. must continue to pursue Zarqawi and his network, just as it pursues bin Laden and his network. The world can be assured: the U.S. will take all necessary measures to carry the fight the enemy, wherever he might reside, be that in Germany, Afghanistan or Iraq.

An American military withdrawal from Iraq will hardly be a stepping stone for Al-Qaeda's grandiose plan to establish an Islamic super-state from Morocco to Indonesia. The Bush administration ought to stop inflating the costs of leaving Iraq, and take a more serious look at the benefits.

Christopher Preble is director of foreign policy studies, and Justin Logan is a foreign policy analyst, both at the Cato Institute. They are also members of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. This commentary was written for THE DAILY STAR and is republished here by permission of the authors.

Copyright (c) 2005 The Daily Star

Posted by coalition at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

Fear, and Other Tales of Empire

December 16, 2005

The Winter 2006 issue of The Independent Review features articles by several scholars affiliated with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.

Editor Robert Higgs renders a devastating critique of the manipulation of fear to expand the power of the state.

Christopher Preble reviews Claes Ryn's America the Virtuous.


Edward Olsen reviews Andrew Bacevich's The New American Militarism.

Posted by coalition at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

The Worst and the Dullest

December 14, 2005

Scott McConnell renders a thoughtful and eloquent review of George Packer's The Assassin's Gate.

The article, originally published in the December 19, 2005 issue of The American Conservative is available in its entirety online.

Scott McConnell is the editor of The American Conservative, and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy's Executive Committee.

Posted by coalition at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

Humanitarian Intervention and Democratization

December 12, 2005

The Winter 2005 issue of Orbis includes an essay by James Kurth on humanitarian intervention, and another by William Anthony Hay on the foundations of liberal democracy.

The Kurth and Hay essays are both available online at:

Posted by coalition at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

Innocent Abroad

December 09, 2005

Even the slickest marketing campaign cannot overcome international hostility toward U.S. foreign policy. Leon Hadar explains what happened when the Bush administration launched yet another hamfisted attempt to win hearts and minds.

Hadar's article originally appeared in the December 19, 2005 print edition of The American Conservative and is now available online.

Leon Hadar is a Cato Institute research fellow in foreign-policy studies and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He is the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East.

Posted by coalition at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

Debate: Islam vs. Western Civilization 12.13.05

December 07, 2005

Jonathan Clarke, research fellow at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, debated Washington Times editor Tony Blankley at an event sponsored by the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation.

Resolved: Radical Islam is Taking Over Europe:
Is a WWII war spirit necessary to save Western Civilization?

The Graduate Center
The City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue, New York
(Corner of 34th Street & 5th Avenue)

December 13, 2005
6:30 P.M. Prompt

(Free and open to the public - Reception to follow)

To learn more about this or other Smith Family Foundation events, visit:

Posted by coalition at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

Reducing Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa through Trade

December 06, 2005

Marian Tupy, assistant director of the Cato Institute's Project on Global Economic Liberty and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, published a new paper exploring the linkages between free trade and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read the executive summary, or to download the entire report, visit:

Posted by coalition at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

America on Its Own in Iraq War

December 02, 2005

Ted Galen Carpenter explains why it is unrealistic to expect much international help in Iraq.

This article can be read in its entirety here:

Carpenter is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author of seven books on international affairs. His next book America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course over Taiwan will be published in January 2006 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Posted by coalition at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

Fighting Talk, but Who's Going to Fight?

December 01, 2005

David Isenberg's survey of the security landscape in Iraq reveals a number of worrisome trends. The president's "new" strategy for victory addressed none of them.

The article is available in its entirety at Asia Times.

David Isenberg is a senior analyst with the Washington-based British American Security Information Council (BASIC), and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He has a wide background in arms control and national security issues. The views expressed are his own.

Posted by coalition at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)