Archive for the 'Foreign Policy' Category

Should the U.S. Make a Deal with Russia to Fight ISIS?

This seems like the one of the main arguments the Trump administration will make to justify Trump’s conciliatory stance towards Russia–e.g., removing sanctions, returning Russian compounds on U.S. soil (not to mention Trump’s fawning approach to Putin, avoiding saying anything bad about him). So far, based on what I’ve read, this position seems rather dubious. U.S.-Russian Cooperation on ISIS: Do We Want Our Face Ripped Off Again? is from The Cipher Brief written by John Sipher, Director of Client Services at CrossLead, Inc. (He retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service.), makes the common arguments I’ve read against this notion: Continue reading ‘Should the U.S. Make a Deal with Russia to Fight ISIS?’

Foreign Policy in the Trump Administration

What I have below is a compilation of various articles and quotes about foreign policy issues/stories that may have relavance during the Trump administration. (I probably should have started the thread a while ago, but I didn’t. I’m starting it now because I want to address the Syrian situation, involving the recent use of chemical weapons.

Before I do that, here are the articles, quotes, and comments about different foreign policy issues: Continue reading ‘Foreign Policy in the Trump Administration’

Why Should the World Order and NATO Matter to Average Americans?

I’m really think these are important questions for Americans to understand–especially since Trump seems to want withdraw American power from the world. Is this a good move or not? To answer this question, we need to understand the longstanding global order, lead by the U.S., and including NATO–what exactly are both and what’s good or bad about them from the point of view for American citizens. It’s a big topic, and I don’t have all the answers. Because of that, the purpose of this thread is to try and gain a better understanding of this topic.

I should really start by defining what I mean by a world order and even NATO, but I’m going to delay that, and just post a threaded tweet about possible consequences of U.S. withdrawing their power around the world. The tweets are from Andrew Clarkson, who, according to his twitter page, is a lecturer on German and European Studies in King’s College London. (I found this via a re-tweet by David Frum.) Here are the tweets:

We’re seeing a grand experiment in what happens to different parts of the world when the withdrawal of US power suddenly seems possible. The biggest mistake is to think that states neighbouring other Great Powers will simply roll over and let themselves be dominated. Continue reading ‘Why Should the World Order and NATO Matter to Average Americans?’

A Christian’s Perspective On the Role Islam Plays in Groups Like ISIS

What’s the Right Way to Think about Religion and ISIS is a recent Atlantic piece that deals with two main perspectives on the role Islam plays in groups like ISIS or individuals like Orlando murderer. Do these acts of terror stem from Islam itself or does the faith in Islam provide the main inspiration and impetus for these actions? Or, do the actions have more secular causes, involving social, economic, political, maybe even psychological context for these groups and individuals? The author labels the former as “idealist,” while calling the latter “materialist,” and I fall pretty squarely within the materialist camp, basing this on my own experience with religion as well as my observations of people of faith. I’ll go into these reasons in the rest of the post. Continue reading ‘A Christian’s Perspective On the Role Islam Plays in Groups Like ISIS’

Responding to Some Criticisms of Obama’s Middle East Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy‘s ER (Editor’s Roundtable) recently discussed Jeffery Goldberg’s Atlantic article, “Obama’s Doctrine.” The participants (David Rothkopf, Kori Schake, Yochi Dreazen, and Lara Jakes) were mostly negative toward Obama and his foreign policy. As I was listening to the podcast, I felt myself wanting to respond to some of their comments, and that’s what I’ll attempt to do here in this thread. Continue reading ‘Responding to Some Criticisms of Obama’s Middle East Foreign Policy’

Thoughts on the Value of History

Atlantic website has a post on Niall Ferguson’s biography of Henry Kissinger. The main point of the post is that Kissinger was great because of his knowledge and application of history. The post has some interesting comments and insights that stimulated some thoughts of my own. Here are some of them. Continue reading ‘Thoughts on the Value of History’

Notes on Kissinger’s Diplomacy

Just like the title implies, this will be notes on Henry Kissinger’s book, Diplomacy. Ideally, I wanted to summarize and write about each chapter, but since I’m already half way through the book that will be very difficult. Therefore, I plan to summarize and write about what I’ve read so far, and, if possible, start summarizing the chapters that I’m reading now.

First, a brief description of the book. Kissinger focuses on the history of diplomacy and the evolution of the world order in the Western civilization, starting around the 17th century. I remember President George H.W. Bush speaking about creating a “new world order,” but I never clearly understood the term. What exactly does he mean by “world order?” Kissinger’s book answers this question. To Kissinger (and President G.H.W. Bush), “world order” refers to the principles that guide and determine the way countries will establish stability and relative peace between themselves. What I like is that these principles can and have changed over time. For example, by the 19th century, European powers achieved a world order by balancing power between nations. If one nation got too powerful, the weaker nations would create alliances to oppose the stronger nation, thereby creating balance among the nations. The book also follows key diplomats and analyzes their actions, which naturally includes the effects of their actions upon the countries they serve. Really, the book is a history book, viewed through the lense of diplomacy. One last thing. Kissinger is an excellent writer: the writing is clear, logical and well-organized.

An Important Way of Looking at the Middle East

I recently finished off David Fromkin’s Peace to End All Peace: the Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, a book about post-WWI Middle East, particularly the way the European countries shaped the region. There’s a passage from the book that makes some really important points that we’d be wise to consider when viewing the Middle East and our foreign policy in the region. Keep in mind Fromkin wrote the book in 1988.

In the rest of the world European political assumptions are so taken for granted that nobody thinks about them anymore; but at least one of these assumptions, the modern belief in secular civil government, is an alien creed in a region most of whose inhabitants, for more than a thousand years, have avowed faith in a Holy Law that governs all of life, including government and policies.

Fromkin continues by recognizing that some European statesmen did recognize this and subsequently tried to incorporate Islam’s influence in their designs for the region.

However, European officials at the time had little understanding of Islam. They were too easily persuaded that Moslem opposition to the politics of modernization–of Europeanization–was vanishing. Had they been able to look ahead to the last half of the twentieth century, they would have been astonished by the fervor of the Wahhabi faith in Saudi Arabia, by the passion of religious belief in warring Afghanistan, by the continuing vitality of the Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere in the Sunni world, and by the recent Khomeini upheaval in Shi’ite Iran.

Continuing local opposition, whether on religious grounds or others, to the settlement of 1922 or the fundamental assumptions upon which is was based, explains the characteristic feature of the region’s politics: that in the Middle East there is no sense of legitimacy–no agreement on the rules of the game–and no belief, universally shared in the region, that within whatever boundaries, the entities that call themselves countries or the men who claim to be rulers are entitled to recognition as such. In that sense, successors to the Ottoman sultans have not yet been permanently installed, even though–between 1919 and 1922–installing them was what the Allies believed themselves to be doing.

It may be that one day the challenge of the 1922 settlement–to the existence of Jordan, Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon, for example, or to the institution of secular national governments in the Middle East–will be withdrawn. But if they continue in full force, than the twentieth-century Middle East will eventually be seen to be in a situation similar to Europe’s in the fifth century AD, when the collapse of the Roman Empire’s authority in the West threw its subjects into a crisis of civilization that obliged them to work out the new political system of their own. The European experience suggests what the dimensions of such a radical crisis of political civilization might be.

It took Europe a millennium and a half to resolve its post-Roman crisis of social and political identity: nearly a thousand years to settle on the nation-state form of political organization, and nearly five hundred years more to determine which nations were entitled to be states. Whether civilization would survive the raids and conflicts of rival warrior bands; whether church or state, pope or emperor, would rule; whether Catholic or Protestant would prevail in Christendom; whether dynastic empire, national state, or city-state would command fealty; and whether, for example, a townsman of Dijon belonged to the Burgundian or to the French nation, were issues painfully worked out through ages of searching and strife, during which the losers–the Albigensians of southern France, for example–were often annihilated. It was only at the end of the nineteenth century, with the creation of Germany and Italy, that an accepted map of western Europe finally emerged, some 1,500 years after the old Roman map started to become obsolete.

The continuing crisis in the Middle East in our time may prove to be nowhere near so profound or so long-lasting. But its issue is the same: how diverse peoples are to regroup to create new political identities for themselves after the collapse of an ages-old imperial order to which they had grown accustomed. The Allies proposed a post-Ottoman design for the region in the early 1920s. The continuing question is whether the peoples of the region will accept it.

The settlement of 1922, therefore, does not belong entirely or even mostly to the past; it is at the very heart of the current wars, conflicts, and politics of the Middle East, for the questions that Kitchener, Lloyd George, and Churchill opened up are even now being contested by force of arms, year after year, in the ruined streets of Beirut, along the banks of the slow-moving Tigris-Euphrates, and by the waters of the Biblical Jordan.

Bridging the Gap Between Realists and Idealists With Regard to Public Policy

From a recent Atlantic article defending Henry Kissinger by Robert D. Kaplan:

Ensuring a nation’s survival sometimes leaves tragically little room for private morality. Discovering the inapplicability of Judeo-Christian morality in certain circumstances involving affairs of state can be searing. The rare individuals who have recognized the necessity of violating such morality, acted accordingly, and taken responsibility for their actions are among the most necessary leaders for their countries, even as they have caused great unease among generations of well-meaning intellectuals who, free of the burden of real-world bureaucratic responsibility, make choices in the abstract and treat morality as an inflexible absolute.

Fernando Pessoa, the early-20th-century Portuguese poet and existentialist writer, observed that if the strategist “thought of the darkness he cast on a thousand homes and the pain he caused in three thousand hearts,” he would be “unable to act,” and then there would be no one to save civilization from its enemies. Because many artists and intellectuals cannot accept this horrible but necessary truth, their work, Pessoa said, “serves as an outlet for the sensitivity [that] action had to leave behind.” That is ultimately why Henry Kissinger is despised in some quarters, much as Castlereagh and Palmerston were.

I really like this quote. It cogently expresses my personal view on foreign policy and politics in general–i.e., solving real world problems is not for the morally or ideologically pure. Like Kaplan, I think individuals who demand a morally and an ideologically pure approach and vehemently attack political pragmatists do so because they don’t have the real responsibility that political leaders do, nor can they accept the necessity of violating principles, both moral and ideological. But here’s the thing: how can I be so sure of this? Continue reading ‘Bridging the Gap Between Realists and Idealists With Regard to Public Policy’

“Failing to Connect the Dots”

With regard to the recent botched terrorist attack, President Obama mentioned that the problem was not that we didn’t have the intelligence, but a failure to understand the intelligence, a failure to connect the dots. I wanted to make several comments about that. When the President says that we had the information that could have stopped the terrorist, he makes it sound like the system failed badly. Indeed, many pundits and politicians I’ve heard reacted with alarm. One writer called for Janet Napolitano’s head. I want to make several comments about this: Continue reading ‘“Failing to Connect the Dots”’

Afghanistan War

Do you support the war? Should we send more troops? Continue reading ‘Afghanistan War’