With Good Intentions: U.S. Foreign Policy and Humanitarian Intervention 03.14.06
February 28, 2006
On Tuesday, March 14th, the Cato Institute hosted a policy forum exploring U.S. foreign policy and humanitarian intervention featuring David Rieff, New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, Contributing Writer, New York Times Magazine; Charles Kupchan, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Professor of International Relations, Georgetown University; Nikolas Gvosdev, Editor, The National Interest; and Christopher Preble, Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute, and a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.
Many conservatives questioned the wisdom and efficacy of using the U.S. military for humanitarian missions in Somalia in 1993 and Haiti in 1994. More recently, however, voices on both the left and the right have called for U.S. military intervention in Darfur, Congo, and elsewhere.
What should trigger U.S. military intervention? Some observers advocate an expansive definition of the national interest to include consideration of America's moral obligations. Those who favor a more constrained view of American interests worry that so-called moral missions carry high and frequently overlooked costs, and could therefore distract us from the business of defending America. Should policymakers focus their attention solely on U.S. security, or is the United States obligated to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, or wholesale violations of human rights?
The panelists explored these and other questions in an attempt to frame the debate over the proper role of U.S. power in the world today.
The event begins at Noon, on Tuesday, March 14, 2006.
To learn more, visit the Cato web site:
We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran
February 27, 2006
MIT's Barry Posen weighs in on the dangers posed by Iran's nuclear program, and the even greater risks associated with another preventive war.
The article was published in The New York Times, on February 27, 2006, and is available online (registration may be required):
Barry R. Posen is a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.
The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy
Daryl G. Press and Keir A. Lieber explore the implications of U.S. nuclear primacy in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.
The article can be read in its entirety here:
The Rise of the Corporate State in Russia 03.07.06
February 25, 2006
On Tuesday, March 7th, the Cato Institute hosted Andrei Illarionov, former economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, discussing "The Rise of the Corporate State in Russia."
Illarionov described how the Kremlin's policy decisions in the past few years have given rise to a new corporate state in which state-owned enterprises are governed by personal interests and private corporations have become subject to arbitrary intervention to serve state interests. Illarionov -- who, in protest of government policies, recently resigned the post he had held for six years -- discussed the role that oil wealth has played in creating the corporate state, Russia's dim development prospects, and the possibility of restoring basic liberties.
To learn more, visit:
Who Will Decide When We Leave Iraq?
February 24, 2006
President Bush declared in his State of the Union address that U.S. politicians could not dictate a military withdrawal from Iraq. The Cato Institute's Christopher Preble asks if Iraqi politicians might.
The article appears in its entirety online here:
Christopher Preble is the director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He directed the task force that prepared the report Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda (Cato Institute, 2004).
Overstating Iran's Threat
February 23, 2006
David Isenberg explains that fears of a pending nuclear attack from Iran badly miss the target.
The old saying, "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" comes to mind when reading the assertions that Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons.
The same neoconservative pundits, such as William Kristol who wrote in the January 23rd Weekly Standard , "we support holding open the possibility of, and beginning to prepare for, various forms of military action," and Charles Krauthammer, the Project for a New American Century, and George Will, who were so glaringly wrong about Iraq and its supposed WMD programs, are now making menacing statements about Iran.
But contrary to much of the media reporting, Iran is far from being able to build nuclear weapons. Consider, for example, a report "Iran's Next Steps: Final Tests and the Construction of a Uranium Enrichment Plant," released Jan. 12 by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a non-profit group in Washington, D.C. It looked at Iran's plans to enrich uranium, an activity that Iran had suspended but recently announced it would resume by completing work on its centrifuge uranium enrichment program.
The report noted several technical problems Iran would face in making just one facility, at Natanz, operational. Barring any major problems, Iran would need half a year to a year just to demonstrate successful operation there. The report noted that, without major modification, this facility is unlikely to be used to make significant amounts of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons.
The ISIS report, in a worst case assessment, noted that Iran might have its first nuclear weapon in 2009. It also noted that there were those in the U.S. intelligence community, hardly apologists for Iran, who believe that a date of 2009 is overly optimistic.
Currently, Iran only has a single almost-ready reactor, at Bushehr. No other reactors are yet being built, and the fuel-fabrication plant will not be fully up and running until 2012.
Nevertheless, despite the extensive post mortems that have been done on the inadequacy of United States and other countries intelligence on Iraq, the Bush administration seems determined to repeat its errors by relying on the same discredited playbook. Thus, we see familiar ploys such as the touting of statements from disenchanted exiles with obvious agendas, like the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The problem with much of this new rhetoric is that it lacks substance. The United States, and for that matter, Israel, do not have good military options.
A study released last year by the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies institute noted, "As for eliminating Iran’s nuclear capabilities militarily, the United States and Israel lack sufficient targeting intelligence to do this..." Compounding these difficulties is what Iran might do in response to such an attack.
After being struck, Tehran could declare that it must acquire nuclear weapons as a matter of self-defense, withdraw from the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and accelerate its nuclear endeavors. This would increase pressure on Israel (which has long insisted that it will not be "second" in "possessing" nuclear arms in the Middle East) to confirm its ownership of nuclear weapons publicly, and thus set off a chain of possible nuclear policy reactions in Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, Algiers, and Ankara."
No Value To Military Threats
To cut to the chase, the prospect that Iran might make nuclear weapons is indeed worrisome, but it is hardly the impending nightmare many from the right, and also the left, make it out to be. In the interest of nuclear nonproliferation, Iran should indeed be discouraged from acquiring them. But threatening military action is hardly the way to do it.
Although the record of U.S. diplomacy with Iran over the program has been dismal, it is still far and away the best option. In the worst case, an Iran with nuclear weapons could still be influenced.
Indeed, the worst thing about Iran’s nuclear program is not Iran itself but how other countries view the outcome. The U.S. security interest lies in strengthening the norms of nuclear nonproliferation. To that end, the United States and other nations could take steps to discourage both Iran and other nations from developing nuclear weapons. These include
- Discrediting the legitimacy of Iran’s nuclear program as a model for other proliferators through a series of follow-on meetings to the 2005 NPT Review Conference to clarify what activities qualify as being "peaceful."
- Increasing the costs for Iran and its neighbors to leave or infringe the NPT by establishing country-neutral rules against violators withdrawing from the treaty.
- Limiting Iran's freedom to threaten oil and gas shipping by proposing a maritime agreement to demilitarize the Straits of Hormuz.
- Isolate Iran as a regional producer of fissile materials by encouraging Israel to take the first steps to freeze and dismantle such capabilities.
While these measures are not foolproof, they are far better than a military option. They would make it far riskier diplomatically, economically, and militarily for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons than is currently the case.
David Isenberg is a senior research analyst at the British American Security Information Council, a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information. The views expressed are his own.
Gary Hart Discusses "The Shield and the Cloak" 03.02.06
February 22, 2006
The New America Foundation hosted former Senator Gary Hart discussing his latest book, The Shield and the Cloak: The Security of the Commons (Oxford, 2006). The Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy was pleased to co-sponsor this event with one of the original signatories to the Coalition's Statement of Principles.
Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart has long stood out as one of the nation’s foremost experts on national security. Possessing both a deep knowledge of defense policy and first-hand experience of the political realities that influence American security and defense strategy, Hart brings unique insight to his most recent book, The Shield and the Cloak: The Security of the Commons. Hart argues that the new challenges confronting America require an entirely new security strategy. The old security required massive weapons in massive numbers. Faced now with a terrorist threat that has no state and no geographic home base, and thus no real target for the world’s largest and most sophisticated military force, America must make important strategic shifts.
This was the first meeting in which former Senator Hart was speaking in his new capacity as Distinguished Scholar in the New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program.
War in Error
February 16, 2006
Boston University's Andrew Bacevich questions the wisdom of the U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan that killed as many as 18 residents of the small village of Damadola.
The article was published in the February 27, 2006 issue of The American Conservative and can be read in its entirety here:
Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.
Democracy and Its Discontents
Exploring the implications of the Hamas victory in last month's Palestinian elections, Leon Hadar reminds us that voting doesn’t produce peace in societies that lack the foundations of a liberal order.
This article was the cover story in the February 27th issue of The American Conservative and is available online here:
Leon Hadar is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and a research fellow at the Cato Institute. He is the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Rethinking the Military's Mission
February 15, 2006
George Washington University's Gordon Adams explains that the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) dances around the crucial question "What is the Army's mission?"
The article was published in The Chicago Tribune on February 15, 2006, and is available online here:
Gordon Adams is director of security policy studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
The Limits of Propaganda
New America Senior Fellow and Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy member Anatol Lieven, and David Chambers, an expert on Middle East broadcasting, explain why the Radio Free Europe and Voice of America model from the Cold War does not apply in the case of al Hurra. Accordingly, they conclude, "Al Hurra should be closed down at once."
The article was published by the Los Angeles Times on Februrary 13, 2006, and is available online here:
Anatol Lieven is member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and a fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the author of America Right or Wrong. David Chambers specializes in Middle East broadcasting and was a member of the White House Arts and Entertainment Task Force.
Is "Old Europe" Doomed?
February 14, 2006
Cato Unbound features a lengthy essay by Manhattan Institute fellow Theodore Dalrymple, with responses by Timothy Smith, Anne Applebaum, and Charles Kupchan.
The exchange can be read here:
Revisions in Need of Revising: What Went Wrong in the Iraq War
David C. Hendrickson and Robert W. Tucker, both members of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, explore the problems faced by U.S. forces in Iraq. Among the many lessons that Americans should take away from the Iraq experience, Hendrickson and Tucker explain, the most important lesson is a newfound appreciation for the limits of military power.
Editor's Note: I have read many papers and articles on Iraq in the past three years, but in many respects I believe this study by Professors Hendrickson and Tucker to be the most important of the lot. The two touch on themes developed elsewhere, including "The Incompetence Dodge," by Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias, and my own (with most of the credit going to my co-author Justin Logan) "Failed States and Flawed Logic: The Case against a Standing Nation-Building Office."
But this paper deserves special attention. It explores the particular challenges in Iraq -- widespread violence, a growing insurgency, regional unrest, international repercussions -- in much greater detail than the other studies cited above, and it explicitly draws the necessary lessons from America's experience in Iraq in an attempt to frame and shape much broader considerations of the appropriate use of U.S. power, especially military power, in a chaotic and dangerous world.
I stand by all of the articles posted on the Coalition's web site, but I take special pride in calling attention to this one. I have excerpted several passages from the paper's summary below, but I strongly urge you to print out the entire report from the Strategic Studies Institute web site, or to request a copy from SSI.
-- Christopher Preble
Excerpts from the Summary:
Though the critics have made a number of telling points against the conduct of the war and the occupation, the basic problems faced by the United States flowed from the enterprise itself, and not primarily from mistakes in execution along the way. The most serious problems facing Iraq and its American occupiers -- "endemic violence, a shattered state, a nonfunctioning economy, and a decimated society" -- were virtually inevitable consequences that flowed from the breakage of the Iraqi state....
Criticisms of the political course followed by the United States . . . all have merit. At the same time, the more fundamental truth is that the United States had thrust itself into the middle of a bitterly divided society, and there was no apparent way to split the difference between groups whose aims were irreconcilable....
Though the record of Iraq war planning [deserves scrutiny] critics also have neglected the larger lesson that there are certain limits to what military power can accomplish. For certain purposes, like the creation of a liberal democratic society that will be a model for others, military power is a blunt instrument, destined by its very nature to give rise to unintended and unwelcome consequences. Rather than "do it better next time," a better lesson is "don't do it at all."
To read the full report (.pdf), visit the SSI web site:
The "Isolationism" Canard
Justin Logan, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, deconstructs President Bush's claim that anyone who opposes his policies must be an isolationist.
The article can be read in its entirety here:
Justin Logan is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He is the author of a number of policy papers and articles including most recently "Failed States and Flawed Logic: The Case against a Standing Nation-Building Office."
Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq
Paul R. Pillar, who served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, renders a devastating indictment of the Bush administration's dysfunctional relationship with the intelligence community.
This article, which appears in the March/April 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, is available in its entirety here:
Paul R. Pillar is on the faculty of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. He concluded a long career with the Central Intelligence Agency as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.
Beyond Preemption and Preventive War
February 10, 2006
In a paper published by The Stanley Foundation, Dr. Cindy Williams, principal research scientist in the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, calls on the nation's leaders to rebalance military and nonmilitary spending in the interest of advancing American security.
Among the major policy recommendations put forward by Williams are the following:
The United States should increase its relative emphasis on the nonmilitary international tools that offer the hope of genuine prevention of conflict and terrorist attacks.
This includes a doubling of nonmilitary foreign aid, and better targeting of this aid to "poverty reduction and other measures in the world’s poorest countries."
Further, in order to "enhance American prestige in the world, improve the chances of early warning of conflict or terrorist attacks, and secure the cooperation of allies in the fight against terrorism," Williams calls on the U.S. government to "improve the capacity of the State Department by investing more in personnel, improving communications and information systems, and upgrading embassies."
Finally, and in general, "the US government should be more explicit about the tradeoffs between military and nonmilitary security expenditures. Moreover, within the defense budget, it should purposefully pursue integrated tradeoffs among offensive, defensive, and preventive defense expenditures, moving steadily toward a more sensible balance between warfighting and conflict prevention."
The Policy Analysis Brief, "Beyond Preemption and Preventive War: Increasing U.S. Budget Emphasis on Conflict Prevention," was published by The Stanley Foundation in February 2006, and is available for download in its entirety here:
About the author:
Dr. Cindy Williams is a principal research scientist in the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Formerly she served as associate director for national security in the Congressional Budget Office and in the directorate of program analysis and evaluation in the Office of Secretary of Defense. Her current research focuses on the processes by which the US government plans for and allocates resources among the programs related to national security and international affairs. She is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.
Democracy not an Export Item
February 09, 2006
Cato Institute Research Fellow Leon Hadar finds in the recent Danish cartoon controversy evidence that many people in the Middle East do not understand the basic principles of liberal democracy.
The article was published in The Australian (February 9, 2006) and can be read in its entirety here:
Leon Hadar, a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, is author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). He blogs at globalparadigms.blogspot.com.
Of Power and Providence
David C. Hendrickson renders a thoughtful and engaging counterpoint to Robert Kagan's thesis on the decline of Europe.
The article was originally published in the February/March 2006 issue of Policy Review and can read in its entirety here:
David C. Hendrickson is professor of political science at Colorado College and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He is the author of Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding (University Press of Kansas, 2003). An earlier draft of this paper was presented at a conference on the European Constitution at the University of Luxembourg in February 2005.
Dubious Assumptions about Iran
Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, examines the logic, or lack thereof, guiding U.S. policy toward Iran.
This article was originally published on FoxNews.com on February 8, 2006 and can be read in its entirety here:
Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of seven books and the editor of 10 books on international affairs. His most recent book, America's Coming War with China: Collision Course over Taiwan was published in January 2006 by Palgrave Macmillan.
What Now for U.S. Middle East Policy?
A roundtable discussion hosted by The National Interest, and co-sponsored by the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, pondered the future of U.S. policy in the Middle East, in the wake of last month's Palestinian elections.
Hosted by TNI editor Nikolas Gvosdev, the event featured Alexis Debat, terrorism consultant for ABC News and a contributing editor of TNI, and the Coalition's Leon Hadar, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, and the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East.
To learn more about the event, visit Nikolas Gvosdev's blog:
Although the event was officially "off-the-record" Leon Hadar posted his talking points on his blog, Global Paradigms:
The Gap between U.S. Rhetoric and Reality
February 02, 2006
The United States cannot afford to use the rhetoric of spreading democracy as an excuse for avoiding other pressing national grievances explains New America Foundation senior research fellow Anatol Lieven.
The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections ought to lead to a fundamental rethinking of U.S. strategy in the Middle East, especially since it follows electoral successes for Islamist parties in Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The most important lesson of the elections is that the United States cannot afford to use the rhetoric of spreading democracy as an excuse for avoiding dealing with pressing national grievances and wishes. If the United States pursues or supports policies that are detested by a majority of ordinary people, then these people will react accordingly if they are given a chance to vote.
Above all, U.S. policy makers must understand that other peoples have their own national pride and national interests, which they expect heir governments and representatives to defend. In Russia in the 1990s, the liberals helped to destroy their electoral chances by giving Russian voters the impression that they put deference to American wishes above the interests of Russia.
Today, Americans who want to support liberal revolution in Iran as a way of making Iran more responsive to U.S. and Israeli demands are making the same mistake. And in order to understand this, it is hardly necessary to study Russia or Iran. In the United States, if a political party were supported by a foreign country, and gave the impression of serving that country's interests, would it stand any chance of being elected to anything?
But in truth, the present centrality of the "democratization" idea to administration rhetoric does not come from any study of the Middle East, or of reality in general. Rather, the Bush administration has fallen back on this rhetoric in part because all other paths and justifications have failed or been rejected. The administration desperately needed some big vision that would give the American people the impression of a plan for the war on terror, promising something beyond tighter domestic security and endless military operations.
Thus spreading democracy was always one of the arguments used for the Iraq war, but it only became the central one after the failure to find the promised weapons of mass destruction. As a result of the Iraqi quagmire, the language of preventive war and military intervention, so prevalent in the administration's National Security Strategy of 2002, has also become obviously empty, requiring a new central theme for the forthcoming security strategy of 2006.
The road map toward a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been shelved, and Bush has admitted that his promise to create an independent Palestinian state by the end of his second term has been abandoned. Building Palestinian democracy therefore became in effect a diversion from a failure or refusal to make progress on addressing real Palestinian grievances.
Finally, demands for democratic regime change in Iran have been used as a way of avoiding making the very painful U.S. concessions that will be necessary if Iran's nuclear program is to be stopped by diplomatic means. These will have to involve U.S. security guarantees to Iran, a leading place for Iran in any Middle Eastern security order, a role for Iran in shaping the future of both Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatic recognition and open trade and investment. Any Iranian government would have to demand all this in return for giving up the future possibility of a nuclear deterrent.
Given the mixture of extremism and chaos in the new Iranian government, such a deal may now be impossible as long as the popularly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains in office. But as Flynt Leverett, a former director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, has revealed, in 2003 the administration received a credible Iranian offer of comprehensive negotiations, which it brusquely rejected.
Democratic Party leaders, too, have failed utterly to support a diplomatic alternative to the failed strategy of the Bush administration, partly because they are too scared to confront the bitter anger among powerful groups in the United States that would attend any radical change of U.S. policy toward Iran.
The administration has also been able to neutralize domestic opposition to its "strategy" because its rhetoric appeals to a deep American belief in the U.S. duty to spread democracy and freedom. This is indeed in itself a noble aspiration, and has been until recently the source of much of U.S. moral authority in the world.
But the Bush administration's combination of preaching human rights with torture, of preaching democracy to Muslims with contempt for the views of those same Muslims, has not helped either the spread of democracy or U.S. interests but badly damaged both.
In fact, the distance between Bush administration rhetoric and observable reality in some areas is beginning to look almost reminiscent of Soviet Communism. And as in the Soviet Union, this gap is also becoming more and more apparent to the rest of the world.
Anatol Lieven is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism.
This article originally appeared in the International Herald Tribune on January 30, 2006 and is reprinted here by permission of the author.
Boston University's Andrew Bacevich challenges the president's assertion from Tuesday's State of the Union address that anyone who opposes his policies must be an isolationist. The reality, Bacevich explains, is far more complicated.
The article can be read in its entirety here:
Andrew J. Bacevich is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and a professor of international relations at Boston University. He is the author of several books including American Empire, and most recently, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.
February 01, 2006
Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT, and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, explains how the United States can disengage from Iraq within the next 18 months, and why it is in our interest to do so.
The Posen piece can be read in its entirety at the Boston Review website.
Barry R. Posen is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and the Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT. He will become the director of MIT's Security Studies Program in 2006. Posen is the author of Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks and The Sources of Military Doctrine.