Friday, November 25, 2005

George Bush's Clinton Problem

An interesting thing is slowly seeping into the political realm-- the Bush Administration is slowly, but surely, rehabilitating the image of none other than Bill Clinton.

Last week, the Bush State Department held a fete for the Clinton era team, celebrating 10 years of peace in Bosnia. You might remember in the 2000 campaign, the sole foreign policy issue was the use of the US military for nation building, with Condi Rice famously saying that American soldiers shouldn't escorting children to school. Fastforward 6 years, and here you have Rice, now Secretary of State, celebrating the very accomplishments she demeaned as a campaign advisor.

Faced with a series of foreign policy setbacks, you now have the Bush team relying on Clinton and Clinton era policies to justify their ongoing efforts in Iraq.

Milbank notes in the Post:

Is this the same Bush administration that disparaged Clinton administration
peacekeeping efforts?
Not exactly. After spending nearly five years blaming
the previous administration for everything from recession to the Sept. 11
attacks, President Bush and his aides have found new affection for their
On Monday morning, Vice President Cheney praised President Bill
Clinton's 1998 bombing of Iraq. On Monday night, Republican National Committee
Chairman Ken Mehlman again hailed Clinton's "four days of intensive bombing."
(Never mind that at the time many GOP lawmakers said Clinton was trying to
distract from impeachment.) Bush, too, has been invoking Clinton's name to
justify prewar intelligence and free trade. And when Prince Charles visited the
White House for dinner recently, the Bushes brought out the Clinton china.

Recall 1998: Clinton was in the midst of his impeachment ordeal and went on TV to announce to the nation that Operation Desert Fox was underway. Saddam had just kicked UNMOVIC inspectors out of Iraq and the Clinton team wanted to a)send a message that this behavior would not be tolerated and b)make it much harder for Saddam to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. Hence 4 days of intense bombing. At the time, the Republicans screamed Wag the Dog and all sorts of stuff, using the episode to further show the depths to which Clinton would go to save his hide.

Well, look where we are now. Bush is in serious trouble approval rating wise, with the main reason for his fall being the War in Iraq. Multiple investigations have uncovered serious flaws in the pre-war intelligence and show that the Bush team presented less than a crystal clear picture of Iraq's WMD capability. To save his standing, the Bush folks need to show that this was not a failure of Administration judgement and not a blatang political ploy. They need to show a bipartisan consensus that Saddam and his WMD were a threat. With all D's and some R's now jumping ship on the war, who is left? None other than Bill Clinton.

By rehabing Clinton's image and valorizing Desert Fox after the fact, the Bush folks are reaching to show that their view of Iraq was no different from Clinton's. Thus, who can fault the Bush folks for doing what they did? After all, they had the same intel (roughly) that Clinton did in 1998.

So, Clinton is now the beneficiary of Bush's efforts to justify the Iraq War.

The same Bill Clinton who could do nothing right in 2001 or 2002 now is the source of reason and wisdom on Iraq.

Of course, Clinton isn't playing along, claiming that Iraq was a big mistake.

Filed as

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

By popular demand: my ISA Northeast paper.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dateline: Philly
I'm attending a fantastic conference-- the Northeast ISA / Northeast APSA. I'm an ISA-NE person, its one of the best conferences around. Certainly the most fun. In fact, many of the folks listed to the right are here with me.

Maybe when I get back, I'll post a link to my paper I presented here if there is any demand.

But, I am not totally removed from the news. There is yet another fantastic Dana Priest article in the Post, this one about cooperation between the CIA and other intelligence agencies in creating joint counterterrorism centers. Through these partnerships, the CIA shares intelligence and then it works with host-country intel services to mount operations to disrupt terrorist activities or capture terrorists themselves.

These partnerships are a growing pattern of other agencies in the US government taking over key aspects of foreign policy from the State Department. Elsewhere, I have written about the role that State Governments and Military to Military exchange programs play in relations with other nations. The US runs a number of such exchange and liaison programs through a number of agencies.

The thing about this is that these other programs: A) partner with other power centers in target states, like Intel and/or the military. Often, these power centers are much, much more influential than the foreign ministry in national politics. B) Programs outside State are funded at much, much higher levels--especially in intel and DoD--than State could ever hope to have. State can make tons of promises, the military can bring tons of aid, training, weapons, and supplies. C) This means that these other agencies have more sway than State in managing our overall relationship with target nations. As such, its really hard to coordinate foreign policy since you have several agencies all running separate programs. And, D) usually the non-state programs have very instramental goals--like hunting terrorists--that can undermine large policies--like human rights--that State might be trying to emphasize. Now Ambassadors are supposed to lead country teams and manage all this--in theory. In practice, it rarely works so well.

Dana Priest is all too aware of this--she wrote some fantastic articles and a book about it a few years ago.

No wonder some get mixed messages.... No wonder some policies don't seem to work...
And no wonder most scholars of Foreign Policy and Security Studies have a hard time figuring out US foreign policy.
Its simple, really. Foreign policy is no longer what you think it is. The broad relationships with other countries are now being constructed through these wide variety of partnerships. The implementation of these policies--in total-- forms the content and substance of the rules and policies that come to govern US relations with other nations. Unless you are studying all of this, you miss how the US is trying to create security and you misread the type of security the US is creating.

(sounds a bit like my paper, actually-- maybe i'll post a link to it later, if anyone's interested).

Filed as

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Six Party Talks (again...)

Staying with the topical theme-- this week both of my world politics classes are engaged in a simulation of the six party talks. Out in the real world, the talks ended yesterday with no progress (we'll see if the folks in class can do better or not).
"The chief negotiators at six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Clockwise from top left, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev, Japanese Director-General for Asia and Oceania Sasae Kenichiro, and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei."

So, what happened when these six sat down to discuss nuclear security in Northeast Asia?
Aside from the the DPRK being upset that the US has placed additional sanctions on it for counterfieting $100 bills and other smaller issues, the fundamental dilemma remains:

The US wants North Korea to freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program--both Uranium and Plutonium. Then it will be able to recieve aid, including (possibly) two light water reactors originally promised under the Agreed Framework and KEDO project. North Korea wants the US to provide aid simultaniously, in a step by step fashion following a freeze in nuclear activities (dueling statements here).

Interestingly, the US has said that its willing to normalize relations with the DPRK in the long-term-- US Ambassador to the ROK Sandy Vershbow even went as far to say that the US would consider opening a diplomatic office in Pyongyang. This is a new step--the US package under Bush is growing with each round (recall that Bush "loathes" Kim Jong Il), now we're ready to open up a post there, as well as condone significant South Korean assistance. But, it all depends on denuclearization first.

A simple question of timing? Maybe, but one slightly more complicated than just who goes first. As the Post reported Wednesday, North Korea is pressing ahead on construction of a new, larger reactor that would offer a "tenfold leap in North Korea's ability to produce fuel for nuclear weapons" (check out the graphic for a satellite photo of the reactor site!). And, North Korea continues to produce nuclear fuel as the talks go on. The FT quotes:
Christopher Hill, the US negotiator to the talks, said North Korea had continued to process plutonium at its Yongbyon reactor and was even moving ahead with plans to build a far larger, more advanced nuclear facility. “There is more plutonium today than on September 19 [when an agreement to dismantle its nuclear programme was reached],” said Mr Hill at the conclusion of the first session of the fifth round of negotiations.
Why is there more fuel? The Bush Administration is complicit in that, having ended the Clinton-era process that produced a production freeze following the 94 Agreed Framework. But the North Koreans have similarly taken every advantage to push their program ahead and then ransom it back to the US.

North Korea's step by step approach allow them to keep making bombs as the process goes on, only fully ending the program at the end all the while recieving US aid. For the US, this is a clear non-starter. The US approach ends the program first, removing the nuclear threat, and then opens talks about aid, leaving the DPRK with little subsequent leverage or nuclear capability. From the DPRK's side, this is very dangerous. But, from the US perspective:
"They are going to have to surrender the program anyway, so I'm not going to pay them for the same thing twice," said the [US] official, who requested anonymity in exchange for speaking candidly about the talks. "We would really like to avoid tit-for-tat negotiations that could take years" to complete. (NYT).
Now, it should be easy to square this circle and find a mutually agreeable solution that maximizes everyone's interests. But, as anyone who has ever tried to square a circle knows, while easy in theory, its impossible to actually draw. These compromises involve more than just questions of intersts, pay-offs, and security capabilities--they involve fundamental questions of identity. What is left of North Korea if it no longer has a hostile relationship with the USA? What kind of hegemon allows a state to "blackmail" it with WMDs? After all, we did invade a state for less.....

Filed as

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The More You Know

The Intelligence budget for the USA is $44 Billion. This number, while long estimated by knowledgable sources, was finally revealed by a senior intelligence official working for the new DNI at a conference. The government has argued for a long time that this number must be kept secret, and that revealing how much money is spent secretly, with no public acknowledgement and little oversight, would be a grave harm to the security of the United States.

So, do you feel any less safe knowing this fact?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Its Trade week in World Politics (chapter 8 for those of you playing along at home), so i thought I might be topical for a change...

Plus, Dan Drezner has a really good post about outsourcing, one of the consequences of globalization, free trade, and the like. What I really like is how Dan (a right of center IPE guy) quotes Marx to explain the consequences of globalization, and as usual, its right on.

And, in the "real world," Bush is heading down to Argentina for a Summit of the Americas where Free Trade within the hemisphere will be a major topic of conversation. Interestingly enough, I talked to a reporter yesterday about this-- she was interested in why US progress on Latin American issues is so sporadic-- it only happens at major summits like this one.

I guess I should just say something like: Free Trade is neither Free nor Trade. Discuss.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

counter create hit