Commentary Magazine


Topic: Kosovo

American Embassy in Belgrade Attacked

Hundreds of Serbian protesters have attacked the embassies of western countries that have recognized Kosovo’s new independence. This includes the U.S. The American embassy in Belgrade is now on fire.

Here’s an early round up of opinions, moving from the furious to the downright motherly.

Stephen Schwartz sees the attacks as the collective Serbian character unleashed:

Let Serbs dance in the ashes of their undeserved reputation for honor and glory. They will be the black hole of Europe for a hundred years. Albanians kiss our flag and express their gratitude and love for us. Let us not forget who have been our honorable and truthful friends.

While Ed Morrisey is a little more pragmatic:

Frankly, no one should be surprised at the reaction. We just recognized the division of the Serbian state from boundaries recognized for the past six centuries. If the Serbs seem disinterested in guarding our territory within their capital, it’s not hard to imagine why.

And James Joyner of Outside the Beltway goes the full “root-causes” route and apologizes for the people currently burning our embassy:

It’s worth pointing out, perhaps, that this is a case of (mostly) Christian protesters rioting against unpopular actions taken by (mostly) Muslim politicians. Powerless people sometimes vent their frustration in violent, criminal ways, unfortunately.

I guess he thinks losing ownership of another nation renders one “powerless.”

It will be interesting to see what Vladimir Putin says. He’s been a staunch opponent of Kosovo independence. Overlord Putin doesn’t need territories in the region breaking off from larger countries. He’ll waste no time in fanning these flames.

Hundreds of Serbian protesters have attacked the embassies of western countries that have recognized Kosovo’s new independence. This includes the U.S. The American embassy in Belgrade is now on fire.

Here’s an early round up of opinions, moving from the furious to the downright motherly.

Stephen Schwartz sees the attacks as the collective Serbian character unleashed:

Let Serbs dance in the ashes of their undeserved reputation for honor and glory. They will be the black hole of Europe for a hundred years. Albanians kiss our flag and express their gratitude and love for us. Let us not forget who have been our honorable and truthful friends.

While Ed Morrisey is a little more pragmatic:

Frankly, no one should be surprised at the reaction. We just recognized the division of the Serbian state from boundaries recognized for the past six centuries. If the Serbs seem disinterested in guarding our territory within their capital, it’s not hard to imagine why.

And James Joyner of Outside the Beltway goes the full “root-causes” route and apologizes for the people currently burning our embassy:

It’s worth pointing out, perhaps, that this is a case of (mostly) Christian protesters rioting against unpopular actions taken by (mostly) Muslim politicians. Powerless people sometimes vent their frustration in violent, criminal ways, unfortunately.

I guess he thinks losing ownership of another nation renders one “powerless.”

It will be interesting to see what Vladimir Putin says. He’s been a staunch opponent of Kosovo independence. Overlord Putin doesn’t need territories in the region breaking off from larger countries. He’ll waste no time in fanning these flames.

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Right Argument, Wrong Party

Hillary Clinton puts out a press release commenting on the retirement of Fidel Castro which concludes:

“The events of the past three days, including elections in Pakistan and Kosovo’s declaration of independence, are a vivid illustration of people around the world yearning for democracy and opportunity. We need a President with the experience to recognize and seize these opportunities to advance America’s values and interests around the world. I will be that President.”

This strikes me as an entirely plausible, but Republican argument. Republicans argue that the world is a dangerous place, that a key component of our foreign policy is support for the world’s fledgling democracies and that American missteps can have dire results for ourselves and our allies. (Competence matters because the world is a complicated and treacherous place.) Democrats tend to see the world in far less Hobbsian terms. Our goal is international cooperation and what counts is our good intentions. ( In this view, global warning is a far more important threat than political turmoil in Pakistan. Cuban democracy is well and good, but a global agreement on greenhouse gases is where the focus should be.) So, Clinton’s argument may be utterly lost on her Democratic primary audience. A common problem for her these days.

Hillary Clinton puts out a press release commenting on the retirement of Fidel Castro which concludes:

“The events of the past three days, including elections in Pakistan and Kosovo’s declaration of independence, are a vivid illustration of people around the world yearning for democracy and opportunity. We need a President with the experience to recognize and seize these opportunities to advance America’s values and interests around the world. I will be that President.”

This strikes me as an entirely plausible, but Republican argument. Republicans argue that the world is a dangerous place, that a key component of our foreign policy is support for the world’s fledgling democracies and that American missteps can have dire results for ourselves and our allies. (Competence matters because the world is a complicated and treacherous place.) Democrats tend to see the world in far less Hobbsian terms. Our goal is international cooperation and what counts is our good intentions. ( In this view, global warning is a far more important threat than political turmoil in Pakistan. Cuban democracy is well and good, but a global agreement on greenhouse gases is where the focus should be.) So, Clinton’s argument may be utterly lost on her Democratic primary audience. A common problem for her these days.

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Devil Went Down to Georgia

Gordon Chang, in his post below, takes the Kosovo case to a logical extreme: It is good, he writes, to encourage separatist movements to declare independence, even against the objection of their host countries. Let the dominoes fall.

At the risk of both offense and hyperbole, I have to wonder: Gordon, what you would have said about the secession of the South that triggered the Civil War? And though it may be reasonable to look to undermine the coherence of China and Russia–and certainly it is admirable to wish for Taiwanese independence–are you really willing to say the same thing about the parts of Georgia that Russia has its eyes on? About Spain? About Great Britain?

There is nothing good about undermining the basic idea of sovereignty and encouraging separatism universally. I too don’t like carping on about the dangers of “destabilizing” when peoples are living under oppression. But when there’s a big, scary neighbor next door, it will always be in their interest to encourage separatists in your country. This is what Hitler’s Germany did with the Sudetens. It’s what Putin’s doing now in Georgia. (Some might even say it’s what Egypt and Syria did in setting up Arab separatist groups in Israel in the early 1960’s.) The bottom line is that good peoples looking for self-rule in the face of serious oppression should be supported. At the same time, peaceful states that grant rights to their citizens should be kept coherent and stable, even if all their sub-groups don’t get political independence. Take it case-by-case. And be careful what you wish for.

Gordon Chang, in his post below, takes the Kosovo case to a logical extreme: It is good, he writes, to encourage separatist movements to declare independence, even against the objection of their host countries. Let the dominoes fall.

At the risk of both offense and hyperbole, I have to wonder: Gordon, what you would have said about the secession of the South that triggered the Civil War? And though it may be reasonable to look to undermine the coherence of China and Russia–and certainly it is admirable to wish for Taiwanese independence–are you really willing to say the same thing about the parts of Georgia that Russia has its eyes on? About Spain? About Great Britain?

There is nothing good about undermining the basic idea of sovereignty and encouraging separatism universally. I too don’t like carping on about the dangers of “destabilizing” when peoples are living under oppression. But when there’s a big, scary neighbor next door, it will always be in their interest to encourage separatists in your country. This is what Hitler’s Germany did with the Sudetens. It’s what Putin’s doing now in Georgia. (Some might even say it’s what Egypt and Syria did in setting up Arab separatist groups in Israel in the early 1960’s.) The bottom line is that good peoples looking for self-rule in the face of serious oppression should be supported. At the same time, peaceful states that grant rights to their citizens should be kept coherent and stable, even if all their sub-groups don’t get political independence. Take it case-by-case. And be careful what you wish for.

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Kosovo, Russia, and China

This morning, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and 13 other EU members said they will recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. The territory, under UN administration since 1999, declared independence from Serbia yesterday. The United States was not far behind its European allies. Today, President Bush signaled American acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood in remarks made in Tanzania, and Secretary Rice made it official.

But don’t expect the Spaniards to do so. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said his government would not accept Kosovo’s “unilateral act,” which “does not respect international law.” Apparently Madrid, which has a separatist problem of its own, did not believe the European Union’s foreign ministers, who labeled yesterday’s succession a one-off event.

Spain should indeed be worried about Kosovo’s example. There were slightly more than fifty nations at the end of the Second World War. Since then, decolonization and separatism have increased the number of states to 193, 194, or 195—depending on who is doing the counting. Today, the process of division continues. Kosovo, for example, is the sixth state to be formed from Yugoslavia. So the Russians are right to be concerned about separatist movements in Chechnya and Dagestan and the Chinese with minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Whether we like it or not, separatism will not end with Kosovo’s independence. The Russians said they would seek independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia if others recognize Kosovo. And Taiwan, an island that meets all the definitions of a state, will undoubtedly try to use the West’s recognition of Kosovo to its own advantage.

It is stirring when people declare independence, and we need to back their aspirations and the concept of self-determination. There is no advantage to us in attempting to stand in the way of history—or helping Russia and China, both large multicultural empires created by conquest and held together by oppression, in keeping themselves together. Kosovo is no one-off. Nor should it be.

This morning, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and 13 other EU members said they will recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. The territory, under UN administration since 1999, declared independence from Serbia yesterday. The United States was not far behind its European allies. Today, President Bush signaled American acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood in remarks made in Tanzania, and Secretary Rice made it official.

But don’t expect the Spaniards to do so. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said his government would not accept Kosovo’s “unilateral act,” which “does not respect international law.” Apparently Madrid, which has a separatist problem of its own, did not believe the European Union’s foreign ministers, who labeled yesterday’s succession a one-off event.

Spain should indeed be worried about Kosovo’s example. There were slightly more than fifty nations at the end of the Second World War. Since then, decolonization and separatism have increased the number of states to 193, 194, or 195—depending on who is doing the counting. Today, the process of division continues. Kosovo, for example, is the sixth state to be formed from Yugoslavia. So the Russians are right to be concerned about separatist movements in Chechnya and Dagestan and the Chinese with minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Whether we like it or not, separatism will not end with Kosovo’s independence. The Russians said they would seek independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia if others recognize Kosovo. And Taiwan, an island that meets all the definitions of a state, will undoubtedly try to use the West’s recognition of Kosovo to its own advantage.

It is stirring when people declare independence, and we need to back their aspirations and the concept of self-determination. There is no advantage to us in attempting to stand in the way of history—or helping Russia and China, both large multicultural empires created by conquest and held together by oppression, in keeping themselves together. Kosovo is no one-off. Nor should it be.

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NATO on the Edge

The increasingly worrisome situation in Afghanistan is of concern not only for what it portends about the future of that country but also the future of NATO which is in charge of pacifying that country. This is NATO’s first “out of area” mission, and by all accounts it is not going all that well. Tensions are rising among members of the alliance, as seen in the furor in Germany last week after Defense Secretary Bob Gates asked Germany to send its troops where the action is—down south. If NATO fails in Afghanistan, the alliance will not survive, at least not as a credible military force.

A useful new report (“Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership”) addresses this issue. It arrives under the imprimatur of five distinguished retired generals: Klaus Naumann, former chief of the German defense staff and former chairman of the NATO military committee; John Shalikashvili, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lord Inge, former chief of the British defense staff; Jacque Lanxade, former chief of the French defense staff; and Henk van den Breemen, former chief of the Dutch defense staff. They write that NATO interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan have revealed “structural problems” that still have not been addressed, namely “the absence of a properly defined political objective, the absence of an integrated and allied strategy to achieve that objective, and the absence of capabilities to implement the strategy.”

“In addition,” they write, “nations have commonly imposed too many national caveats on use of their forces. There exists an unwillingness on the part of nations to transfer authority to the operational commander once in the theatre of operations. Finally, there is a tendency for nations not to resource operations effectively– in terms of both personnel and materiel – which serves to undermine the one factor that preoccupies the military circles of NATO nations today: sustainability.”

Coming from such NATO stalwarts, those are strong words indeed. To address these shortcomings, the retired brass propose some common-sense reforms. For starters, “NATO should abandon the consensus principle at all levels below the NATO Council, and introduce at the committee and working-group levels a majority voting rule. This would enable NATO to take quick decisions in crises, when minutes matter.” A second change they call for is that “only those nations that contribute to a mission – that is, military forces in a military operation – should have the right to a say in the process of the operations.” A third needed change is “the abolition of the system of national caveats, as far as this is possible.”

That last clause—“as far as this is possible”—hints at the political difficulties of doing what these worthies recommend. There continues to be dogged resistance among most NATO states to actually sending their troops into harm’s way, yet even those states that are not contributing much to the success of a mission want as much say in how it is conducted as those members that are risking their soldiers’ lives. Clearly this is an untenable state of affairs. The question is whether NATO will adopt the reforms suggested in this report or whether it will give up efforts to make itself relevant to the conflicts of the 21st century.

The increasingly worrisome situation in Afghanistan is of concern not only for what it portends about the future of that country but also the future of NATO which is in charge of pacifying that country. This is NATO’s first “out of area” mission, and by all accounts it is not going all that well. Tensions are rising among members of the alliance, as seen in the furor in Germany last week after Defense Secretary Bob Gates asked Germany to send its troops where the action is—down south. If NATO fails in Afghanistan, the alliance will not survive, at least not as a credible military force.

A useful new report (“Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership”) addresses this issue. It arrives under the imprimatur of five distinguished retired generals: Klaus Naumann, former chief of the German defense staff and former chairman of the NATO military committee; John Shalikashvili, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lord Inge, former chief of the British defense staff; Jacque Lanxade, former chief of the French defense staff; and Henk van den Breemen, former chief of the Dutch defense staff. They write that NATO interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan have revealed “structural problems” that still have not been addressed, namely “the absence of a properly defined political objective, the absence of an integrated and allied strategy to achieve that objective, and the absence of capabilities to implement the strategy.”

“In addition,” they write, “nations have commonly imposed too many national caveats on use of their forces. There exists an unwillingness on the part of nations to transfer authority to the operational commander once in the theatre of operations. Finally, there is a tendency for nations not to resource operations effectively– in terms of both personnel and materiel – which serves to undermine the one factor that preoccupies the military circles of NATO nations today: sustainability.”

Coming from such NATO stalwarts, those are strong words indeed. To address these shortcomings, the retired brass propose some common-sense reforms. For starters, “NATO should abandon the consensus principle at all levels below the NATO Council, and introduce at the committee and working-group levels a majority voting rule. This would enable NATO to take quick decisions in crises, when minutes matter.” A second change they call for is that “only those nations that contribute to a mission – that is, military forces in a military operation – should have the right to a say in the process of the operations.” A third needed change is “the abolition of the system of national caveats, as far as this is possible.”

That last clause—“as far as this is possible”—hints at the political difficulties of doing what these worthies recommend. There continues to be dogged resistance among most NATO states to actually sending their troops into harm’s way, yet even those states that are not contributing much to the success of a mission want as much say in how it is conducted as those members that are risking their soldiers’ lives. Clearly this is an untenable state of affairs. The question is whether NATO will adopt the reforms suggested in this report or whether it will give up efforts to make itself relevant to the conflicts of the 21st century.

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Obama and Reagan?

Ben Smith of The Politico writes

[Barack] Obama, in his interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal’s editorial board, made the case that his movement is as much about a national moment as about him as a “singular” individual, and he drew a rather odd analogy for a Democrat: Ronald Reagan. “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not,” he said, describing Reagan as appealing to a sentiment that, “We want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

On this point Obama is quite right. President Reagan was a transformational figure in several ways. The first is that he injected a new economic theory into American life, supply side economics, and cut the top tax rates from 70 percent to 28 percent. This was a profound shift for the “green eye shade” party that once focused its full attention on the deficit; cutting taxes was a far more distant priority. Ronald Reagan attempted to limit the size of government–but his greatest legislative success was in cutting tax rates and changing how his party, and much of the country, viewed taxes.

Second, Reagan was a sharp critic of Nixon and Kissinger’s détente policy and utterly rejected the Spenglerian pessimism that believed that the key to American statecraft was to manage our decline. Reagan believed the U.S. could go beyond containment and prevail against the Soviet Union–a view that was met with utter condescension within the foreign policy establishment and those in the “realist” camp.

In addition, Reagan made morality a centerpiece of American foreign policy and used explicitly moral language when talking about it (for example, calling the Soviet Union the “evil empire”). He was a relentless advocate for spreading democracy throughout the world. And President Reagan established the GOP as a pro-life party in a way that it never had been before.

Those achievements were significant and lasting; Reagan’s influence on the GOP is hard to overstate. He is to Republicans what FDR has been to Democrats.

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Ben Smith of The Politico writes

[Barack] Obama, in his interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal’s editorial board, made the case that his movement is as much about a national moment as about him as a “singular” individual, and he drew a rather odd analogy for a Democrat: Ronald Reagan. “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not,” he said, describing Reagan as appealing to a sentiment that, “We want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

On this point Obama is quite right. President Reagan was a transformational figure in several ways. The first is that he injected a new economic theory into American life, supply side economics, and cut the top tax rates from 70 percent to 28 percent. This was a profound shift for the “green eye shade” party that once focused its full attention on the deficit; cutting taxes was a far more distant priority. Ronald Reagan attempted to limit the size of government–but his greatest legislative success was in cutting tax rates and changing how his party, and much of the country, viewed taxes.

Second, Reagan was a sharp critic of Nixon and Kissinger’s détente policy and utterly rejected the Spenglerian pessimism that believed that the key to American statecraft was to manage our decline. Reagan believed the U.S. could go beyond containment and prevail against the Soviet Union–a view that was met with utter condescension within the foreign policy establishment and those in the “realist” camp.

In addition, Reagan made morality a centerpiece of American foreign policy and used explicitly moral language when talking about it (for example, calling the Soviet Union the “evil empire”). He was a relentless advocate for spreading democracy throughout the world. And President Reagan established the GOP as a pro-life party in a way that it never had been before.

Those achievements were significant and lasting; Reagan’s influence on the GOP is hard to overstate. He is to Republicans what FDR has been to Democrats.

Bill Clinton also attempted to change his party–but met with mixed success. As President he made it pro-free trade. He fulfilled his commitment to “end welfare as we know it.” And he was in the tradition of liberal internationalists. During the 1992 campaign, for example, he was hawkish on China, criticizing President George H.W. Bush for kowtowing to the “Butchers of Beijing.” During his presidency the United States used military force in Iraq. And President Clinton, in concert with NATO, began a massive bombing campaign against the Serbian government to end its “ethnic cleansing” of

Albanians in the Kosovo region.

The Democratic Party post-Bill Clinton has retreated on free trade and is much more skeptical about the use of military force. And while Democrats are not calling for a return to the welfare policies of the past–how could they, after all, since it ranks among the most significant social achievements of the last half-century?–the theme of individual responsibility has largely vanished from their political lexicon. The real energy in the Democratic Party today comes from the kind of fringe groups that Bill Clinton attempted to marginalize during his presidential campaign.

The Democratic Party today is almost pre-Bill Clinton, at least intellectually; his presidency was sui generis and, as Obama said, he did very little to change the trajectory of America.

Senator Obama’s words are not only true, they are a reminder of what an intriguing political figure he is. In the midst of an intense Democratic primary battle, he had good words to say about President Reagan, a very popular figure with most Americans, while he succeeded in linking (and properly so) Nixon and Clinton in terms of their impact on our country.

But Obama’s words also reflect on him. So far his campaign is largely about capturing a mood rather than about advocating a set of ideas–and at the end of the day, changing the trajectory of America depends on ideas and policies, not sentiment. Reagan was an optimistic person–but that is not his lasting achievement. And if Reagan’s policies had failed rather than succeeded, his optimism would have looked badly misplaced and would now be used against him. Barack Obama, who so far has shown himself to be an utterly orthodox liberal (as has Hillary Clinton), now has to take the next step and show that he is bold and creative in the realm of ideas and policies, which was a hallmark of Reagan. So far Obama hasn’t–and that has been the glaring weakness in his otherwise impressive campaign.

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Not Team Players

says UN envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura of Iraq’s disparate political, religious, and ethnic factions:

“We do not feel a real spirit of reconciliation developing even if the government has accepted the law on reintegration of former Baathists,” he said.

“The little intercommunity game continues but Iraq has no more time.”

He said Iraq had six months to make political progress.

“After that, the former insurgents may be tempted to return to violence and we must absolutely avoid that. We see a light at the end of the tunnel but we have to move quickly,” he said.

This, from the institutional voice of an organization whose failures and incompetence brought you those world-famous massacres in Kosovo and Rwanda! An organization that engineered a highly profitable little business deal with Saddam. Anyway, you’d think the UN would be happy about the first step at de-Ba’athification

The law, adopted on Saturday, is the first in a series of measures Washington has pressed the Shi’ite Islamist-led government to pass to draw the minority Sunni Arab community that held sway under Saddam closer into the political process.

which prompted de Mistura’s comments. The Ba’athists might prove to be just as understanding of the UN’s needs as Saddam was…

says UN envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura of Iraq’s disparate political, religious, and ethnic factions:

“We do not feel a real spirit of reconciliation developing even if the government has accepted the law on reintegration of former Baathists,” he said.

“The little intercommunity game continues but Iraq has no more time.”

He said Iraq had six months to make political progress.

“After that, the former insurgents may be tempted to return to violence and we must absolutely avoid that. We see a light at the end of the tunnel but we have to move quickly,” he said.

This, from the institutional voice of an organization whose failures and incompetence brought you those world-famous massacres in Kosovo and Rwanda! An organization that engineered a highly profitable little business deal with Saddam. Anyway, you’d think the UN would be happy about the first step at de-Ba’athification

The law, adopted on Saturday, is the first in a series of measures Washington has pressed the Shi’ite Islamist-led government to pass to draw the minority Sunni Arab community that held sway under Saddam closer into the political process.

which prompted de Mistura’s comments. The Ba’athists might prove to be just as understanding of the UN’s needs as Saddam was…

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Peacekeeping in Iraq

My Council on Foreign Relations colleague Stephen Biddle makes an excellent point in this Washington Post article. He cautions against concluding that, because American forces have had greater success recently in pacifying Iraq, they can be pulled out with impunity.

At best, as Steve notes, Iraqis will observe a fragile truce in the years ahead. Even if terrorism continues to fall, distrust among the various sectarian and ethnic groups will continue to run high. In such a situation, maintaining the peace requires the presence of a trusted outside force that can be seen as a neutral arbiter of intercommunal disputes and protector of each side against the other.

In Bosnia and Kosovo, that role has been played since 1995 and 1999, respectively, by NATO forces. In Iraq, there is scant prospect of other countries dispatching peacekeeping forces, at least not until the situation becomes a lot less violent than it is even today. Many of our remaining allies (the Poles, Brits, and Australians) are already pulling their forces out. That leaves the U.S. military as the only possible long-term peacekeeping force.

“The troop counts normally sought for peacekeeping are not much lower than those for counterinsurgency war fighting, at least in the early years, and a meaningful outside presence can be needed for a generation,” Biddle writes.

He’s right. And it would be a good thing if President Bush, the various presidential candidates, and Congressional leaders started talking more publicly about the need for this kind of generational commitment. As Steve notes, “If we are not prepared to stay in large numbers for a long time, the gains of recent months could easily be reversed.”

My Council on Foreign Relations colleague Stephen Biddle makes an excellent point in this Washington Post article. He cautions against concluding that, because American forces have had greater success recently in pacifying Iraq, they can be pulled out with impunity.

At best, as Steve notes, Iraqis will observe a fragile truce in the years ahead. Even if terrorism continues to fall, distrust among the various sectarian and ethnic groups will continue to run high. In such a situation, maintaining the peace requires the presence of a trusted outside force that can be seen as a neutral arbiter of intercommunal disputes and protector of each side against the other.

In Bosnia and Kosovo, that role has been played since 1995 and 1999, respectively, by NATO forces. In Iraq, there is scant prospect of other countries dispatching peacekeeping forces, at least not until the situation becomes a lot less violent than it is even today. Many of our remaining allies (the Poles, Brits, and Australians) are already pulling their forces out. That leaves the U.S. military as the only possible long-term peacekeeping force.

“The troop counts normally sought for peacekeeping are not much lower than those for counterinsurgency war fighting, at least in the early years, and a meaningful outside presence can be needed for a generation,” Biddle writes.

He’s right. And it would be a good thing if President Bush, the various presidential candidates, and Congressional leaders started talking more publicly about the need for this kind of generational commitment. As Steve notes, “If we are not prepared to stay in large numbers for a long time, the gains of recent months could easily be reversed.”

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Taiwan’s Rejection

Taiwan’s rejection—for the fifteenth time in a row—by the agenda-setting committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations last Wednesday may well be seen, before too long, to have been a turning point. After all, who can believe that Taiwan will be turned down another fifteen times?

Chinese diplomats are nervous. They don’t want Taiwan even on the agenda, because they fear, correctly, that an open discussion might not go their way. They know that no one believes on principle that Taiwan should be excluded. Other countries are simply afraid of China.

How long can China continue to intimidate otherwise free-thinking nations? The answer is, not indefinitely.

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Taiwan’s rejection—for the fifteenth time in a row—by the agenda-setting committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations last Wednesday may well be seen, before too long, to have been a turning point. After all, who can believe that Taiwan will be turned down another fifteen times?

Chinese diplomats are nervous. They don’t want Taiwan even on the agenda, because they fear, correctly, that an open discussion might not go their way. They know that no one believes on principle that Taiwan should be excluded. Other countries are simply afraid of China.

How long can China continue to intimidate otherwise free-thinking nations? The answer is, not indefinitely.

Consider India. In an article on the op-ed page of the Times of India, Ramesh Thakur, formerly a senior vice rector of the U.N. University in Tokyo, wrote:

The biggest and longest running scandal is the way in which Taiwan has been banned from the U.N.. Taiwan is refused membership, is not granted observer status, and does not figure in the U.N.’s statistical databases.

Concluding that the exclusion of Taiwan “has little to do with the merits of the application and everything to do with the geopolitics of China as a permanent member of the Security Council,” Thakur asked:

Where does this leave all the fine talk of democracy, human rights, and self-determination in Kosovo, East Timor, and elsewhere? Taiwan is better credentialed than most of them. Its population of 23 million is almost the combined total of Australia and New Zealand, and bigger than scores of U.N. member states, including East Timor (under one million) and Kosovo (over two million).

To our shame, official jaws in Washington have been clenched tightly shut with respect to this issue, except when reiterating hoary formulas whose authors, with a handful of exceptions, are long dead.

The Bush administration portrays Taiwan’s increasingly audible demands as no more than local political posturing and manipulation, for which their elected president is to blame, and resolutely declines comment on the merits of Taiwan’s case.

Some former officials, however, are talking sense: Michael Green, for instance, Bush’s former top Asian aide, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was recently quoted as saying:

For the U.S. side, we need to recognize the issue of identity in Taiwan is not a political game, it’s not a tactical move in Taipei, it’s a very fundamental issue, not at all unique to its 23 million people…. Look at Korea, Japan, the national identity is at the top of the agenda in every country in Asia and there is no reason why Taiwan should be any different.

Thakur and Green are absolutely right. The issues and processes they describe will not disappear or cease simply because we and China wish they would. We are dealing with nationalism. Difficult as it may be, we need to think ahead.

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Clarity on Taiwan

Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly will ask that President Bush personally express his opposition to the upcoming referendum in Taiwan over U.N. membership. Evidently, statements of opposition from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte (on Phoenix TV in Hong Kong) and former CIA analyst (and now National Security Council member) Dennis Wilder have not satisfied the Chinese authorities. According to the World Journal of September 3, Hu will make the request when he meets President Bush at the upcoming APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting in Australia. A tempest is now brewing over a matter that Washington should have dismissed with a simple “no comment.”

Beijing is clearly worried that democracy in Taiwan will get out of hand. It has evidently been warning and threatening us—perhaps, and this is my own speculation, suggesting the Chinese government might undertake some symbolic or real military action if a “red line” is crossed. This would be most unwelcome given the current state of Iraq and Afghanistan. So Washington has made a huge effort to make absolutely certain that no trouble develops in Asia—leading to an overreaction that is proving seriously counterproductive.

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Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly will ask that President Bush personally express his opposition to the upcoming referendum in Taiwan over U.N. membership. Evidently, statements of opposition from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte (on Phoenix TV in Hong Kong) and former CIA analyst (and now National Security Council member) Dennis Wilder have not satisfied the Chinese authorities. According to the World Journal of September 3, Hu will make the request when he meets President Bush at the upcoming APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting in Australia. A tempest is now brewing over a matter that Washington should have dismissed with a simple “no comment.”

Beijing is clearly worried that democracy in Taiwan will get out of hand. It has evidently been warning and threatening us—perhaps, and this is my own speculation, suggesting the Chinese government might undertake some symbolic or real military action if a “red line” is crossed. This would be most unwelcome given the current state of Iraq and Afghanistan. So Washington has made a huge effort to make absolutely certain that no trouble develops in Asia—leading to an overreaction that is proving seriously counterproductive.

By publicly supporting the Chinese, we have put the spotlight unintentionally on our own policies, which are a welter of contradictions unlikely to withstand close scrutiny. We have never recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, even when we did recognize the Chiang Kai-shek government in Taiwan as the government of China. We expected, when we cut our relations with Chiang’s government, that Taipei’s then-autocratic rulers would cut a deal with Beijing and merge. But they did not; they went democratic, unexpectedly (not without some consternation on our part). We support independence referenda in states all around the world, and are pushing now for the independence of Kosovo from Serbia. We insist on peaceful resolution of issues between Taipei and Beijing, yet we sell weapons and share intelligence with the government of Taiwan, which we do not recognize. Our most important Asian allies, Japan in particular, have vital interests in Taiwan’s not coming under Chinese control. PRC forces there could easily cut vital shipping lanes for energy from the Middle East to Northeast Asia.

But even though we do not consider Taiwan to be part of China, we oppose the Taiwanese sharing this view or acting on it. All sorts of conflicts are latent here, but silence and circumspection have kept them reasonably quiet for nearly thirty years. Now a series of misplaced steps, designed to please China, seem set to push the whole situation towards exactly what we and they have been seeking to avoid: a clear-cut, democratic, and legal assertion of the rights of the Taiwanese to be members of the international community.

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A New Bomber?

The National Journal has an interesting article in the current issue on “The Air Force’s Next Bomber,” by Sydney Freedberg. Unfortunately, it’s not available for free online. (For the paid version, see here). But the gist is that the Air Force, after years of pressure from Congress and political appointees in the Department of Defense, reluctantly has agreed to begin developing a new bomber by 2018. Yet many analysts doubt whether the Air Force is serious.

To an outsider this might seem like a head-scratcher. Why wouldn’t the Air Force want a new airplane? The need for a new bomber seems clear given that, of the current bomber fleet of 180 aircraft, more than half are B-52’s that were last built in 1962. They still perform admirably, but it’s not clear how much longer we can continue to rely for our defense on aircraft that are older than the pilots. Yet the Air Force hasn’t been planning to get any more bombers for decades—not until 2037, when the B-52 turns 75. (Would you drive a 75-year-old car?) The last addition to its bomber fleet was the B-2 stealth bomber, of which it now has 21, the last having arrived in 1997.

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The National Journal has an interesting article in the current issue on “The Air Force’s Next Bomber,” by Sydney Freedberg. Unfortunately, it’s not available for free online. (For the paid version, see here). But the gist is that the Air Force, after years of pressure from Congress and political appointees in the Department of Defense, reluctantly has agreed to begin developing a new bomber by 2018. Yet many analysts doubt whether the Air Force is serious.

To an outsider this might seem like a head-scratcher. Why wouldn’t the Air Force want a new airplane? The need for a new bomber seems clear given that, of the current bomber fleet of 180 aircraft, more than half are B-52’s that were last built in 1962. They still perform admirably, but it’s not clear how much longer we can continue to rely for our defense on aircraft that are older than the pilots. Yet the Air Force hasn’t been planning to get any more bombers for decades—not until 2037, when the B-52 turns 75. (Would you drive a 75-year-old car?) The last addition to its bomber fleet was the B-2 stealth bomber, of which it now has 21, the last having arrived in 1997.

All of the Air Force’s creative energy has been poured into acquiring super-expensive, short-range fighter-bombers—the F-22 and F-35. Both are sexy and fun to fly, but have small bomb capacities and flight ranges. The National Journal notes their limitations in a prospective war with China:

Even from the nearest U.S. bases, in South Korea, the F-22 and the F-35 may well penetrate the outer layers of enemy defenses only to run out of fuel long before they reach any target. Slow, bulky tankers can refuel the short-range fighters in midair, but would never perform this delicate operation in full view of hostile radars. Thus, strike planes must rely on their internal fuel tanks once they enter enemy airspace. The F-22 has an estimated combat radius—the maximum distance it can fly before it must return to base—of 540 nautical miles; the still-in-development F-35 will be slightly better, at about 633 miles. Either fighter could hit, say, Tehran from bases in Kuwait, or Beijing from South Korea. But if U.S. allies balked, or if the bases came under fire, or if, in China’s case, key targets were hidden deep in Central Asia—like the Xichang space facility from which China test-launched an anti-satellite missile in January—the fighters would simply run out of gas.

By contrast, the article notes, the B-2 has a combat radius of 3,000 miles. During the Kosovo conflict, B-2’s flew all the way to Belgrade from Missouri and back without ever landing (but with multiple in-flight refuelings). So why doesn’t the Air Force want more bombers like the B-2?

The service advances plenty of arguments for its preference, but none is particularly convincing. More germane may be a fact noted by the National Journal: “Nearly half of all Air Force generals are fighter pilots, but less than 5 percent have bomber backgrounds.”

This is one case where it’s imperative that civilian leaders not defer to the preferences of the uniformed services. The Air Force needs more bombers—and more UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles)—even if it’s not what the fighter jocks prefer.

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We’re All Neocons Now

Last Friday, RealClearPolitics ran in its lead feature spot an essay by Gregory Scoblete, a free-lance writer in New Jersey. The essay had the headline “The GOP, Ron Paul & Non-Interventionism,” and was subsequently commented upon by, among others, guest-blogger Stephen Bainbridge on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Scoblete’s premise is that, just as Barry Goldwater’s failed campaign for president led the Republican party to embrace a limited-government philosophy, so too Ron Paul’s presidential campaign today, doomed though it is, will cause the GOP to embrace his philosophy of “non-interventionism.” Scoblete goes on at great lengths to “distinguish non-interventionism from isolationism.” He writes, for example, “The former seeks a more rigorous and delimited definition of America’s interests, while the latter a walled garden that completely cuts America off from the world. Non-interventionists are not pacifists, but they do reserve war fighting for moments of actual national peril.”

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Last Friday, RealClearPolitics ran in its lead feature spot an essay by Gregory Scoblete, a free-lance writer in New Jersey. The essay had the headline “The GOP, Ron Paul & Non-Interventionism,” and was subsequently commented upon by, among others, guest-blogger Stephen Bainbridge on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Scoblete’s premise is that, just as Barry Goldwater’s failed campaign for president led the Republican party to embrace a limited-government philosophy, so too Ron Paul’s presidential campaign today, doomed though it is, will cause the GOP to embrace his philosophy of “non-interventionism.” Scoblete goes on at great lengths to “distinguish non-interventionism from isolationism.” He writes, for example, “The former seeks a more rigorous and delimited definition of America’s interests, while the latter a walled garden that completely cuts America off from the world. Non-interventionists are not pacifists, but they do reserve war fighting for moments of actual national peril.”

That’s a distinction without a difference. How many self-proclaimed isolationists exist who proudly proclaim that their goal is a policy that “completely cuts America off from the world”? In fact, throughout our history, those who have advocated a de facto policy of isolationism have always claimed that they were in favor of a “rigorous and limited definition of America’s interests.” After the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, even the America Firsters were ready to embrace war; unfortunately, they weren’t willing, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, to take the kinds of actions that might have staved off a world war.

Ron Paul, a self-proclaimed “libertarian,” fits squarely into this isolationist tradition. As noted by Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times Magazine:

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames “a dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,” chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: “Just leave.” During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the country’s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”

Is this a foreign policy philosophy likely to gain much adherence in the Republican Party? Not on the evidence so far. True, Paul has been doing a bit better than expected in the presidential race, but that’s not saying much. He still barely registers in the polls. And all of the mainstream Republican (as well as Democratic) candidates firmly reject his brand of isolationism. Even many libertarians dissent from Paul’s crabbed view of America’s role abroad: see, for instance, this Wall Street Journal article.

One of the most interesting things about this year’s Republican field is that there is not a single major candidate who is running on a foreign policy platform markedly at odds with President Bush’s. Chuck Hagel could have run as an antiwar candidate, but so far he’s stayed out of the race, presumably because he knows he has no chance of winning. The debate among Giuliani, Thompson, Romney, and McCain hasn’t been over whether Bush’s foreign policy objectives are sound; it has been over who would do a better job of carrying out those policies. Even the Democratic candidates offer a foreign policy vision that differs more in rhetoric and details than in substance from Bush’s stated goals of spreading democracy, defeating terrorists, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, even as the Democrats profess a desire to pull out of Iraq, they are talking up other military interventions from Darfur to Pakistan. It’s enough to make you think we’re all neocons now.

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France’s “Grandeur”

In announcing that he would not seek a third term as France’s president, Jacques Chirac averred that he had devoted himself to “justice, progress, peace, and the grandeur of France.” The last of these desiderata sounds to foreign ears like a confession, but it was intended as a boast, and so apparently was it taken by his countrymen. The foreign policy of no other Western state is driven by such narcissism. Others might pursue their security or prosperity or their values, but only the French still feel their heart quicken at the thought of their own grandeur.

Many other national goals can be achieved at no one’s expense. The peace, prosperity, or liberty of one nation is ordinarily a boon to the peace, prosperity, or liberty of others. But grandeur is inherently comparative or invidious. It is a zero-sum game. And the quest for it tends to make French foreign policy mischievous and unprincipled.

Chirac’s model, Charles De Gaulle, withdrew France partially from NATO and declared that France’s nuclear weapons would be directed at “all azimuths.” This “third camp” stance served the French notion of grandeur, but it put a heavier burden on the other members of the Atlantic alliance to provide for collective security without France’s full cooperation (even though France continued to benefit fully from NATO’s protection).

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In announcing that he would not seek a third term as France’s president, Jacques Chirac averred that he had devoted himself to “justice, progress, peace, and the grandeur of France.” The last of these desiderata sounds to foreign ears like a confession, but it was intended as a boast, and so apparently was it taken by his countrymen. The foreign policy of no other Western state is driven by such narcissism. Others might pursue their security or prosperity or their values, but only the French still feel their heart quicken at the thought of their own grandeur.

Many other national goals can be achieved at no one’s expense. The peace, prosperity, or liberty of one nation is ordinarily a boon to the peace, prosperity, or liberty of others. But grandeur is inherently comparative or invidious. It is a zero-sum game. And the quest for it tends to make French foreign policy mischievous and unprincipled.

Chirac’s model, Charles De Gaulle, withdrew France partially from NATO and declared that France’s nuclear weapons would be directed at “all azimuths.” This “third camp” stance served the French notion of grandeur, but it put a heavier burden on the other members of the Atlantic alliance to provide for collective security without France’s full cooperation (even though France continued to benefit fully from NATO’s protection).

Chirac’s predecessor, François Mitterrand, made a dramatic flight into Sarajevo in 1992 while it was under siege and bombardment by Serbian ethnic cleansers. But this was just theater. France’s main goal in the Bosnian crisis was not to stop the killing but to keep NATO out, so that the American role in Europe might be reduced—in the interests of French grandeur. However many Bosnians might be sacrificed on this altar was of secondary concern.

Chirac has had a better record than his predecessors, cooperating with the U.S. on Kosovo, Lebanon, and recently on Iran. But his approach to Iraq, the Israel-Arab conflict, China, and other issues has been based on the pursuit of French grandeur rather than justice, prosperity, or peace.

France’s overweening amour-propre is especially troubling because of the nation’s seat on the UN Security Council. The theory behind the UN, as explained by Secretary of State Cordell Hull when it was being founded, was that “the four major powers will . . . consider themselves morally bound not to go to war . . . and to cooperate with each other . . . in maintaining the peace.” (The four powers were the U.S., the UK, the USSR, and China. France was subsequently added as a permanent member of the Security Council at the behest of Winston Churchill, in what amounted to the UN’s first act of affirmative action.)

The key phrase in Hull’s statement is “morally bound,” suggesting action based on something other than naked self-interest. Every state will put its own security first. But some interpret this in an enlightened way, leavened by a concern for the international commonweal. The U.S and the UK do so, but two other veto-wielding members of the Security Council, Russia and China, pursue national aggrandizement, pure and simple, constrained only by prudence. And France pursues its obsession with grandeur. This is the principal reason why the world body is such a hopeless failure.

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Riding Hurd

Last year we had to endure James Baker, one of the chief culprits for the genocide in Bosnia, lecturing the Bush administration about Iraq. Now Douglas Hurd, his British counterpart in the early 1990’s, calls for a British equivalent of the Baker-Hamilton report—an inquiry that would ask the question: “How did we [the British] follow the Americans in this gross miscalculation of what would happen after the fall of Saddam Hussein?” Hurd insists that “this would not be a ‘trial of Tony Blair,’” but his denial rings hollow. “Under our next prime minister we have to learn again what we have forgotten: the art of working with the United States as an effective junior partner capable of independent thought, and of ensuring that reasonable advice is listened to, and that eventual questions are answered.”

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Last year we had to endure James Baker, one of the chief culprits for the genocide in Bosnia, lecturing the Bush administration about Iraq. Now Douglas Hurd, his British counterpart in the early 1990’s, calls for a British equivalent of the Baker-Hamilton report—an inquiry that would ask the question: “How did we [the British] follow the Americans in this gross miscalculation of what would happen after the fall of Saddam Hussein?” Hurd insists that “this would not be a ‘trial of Tony Blair,’” but his denial rings hollow. “Under our next prime minister we have to learn again what we have forgotten: the art of working with the United States as an effective junior partner capable of independent thought, and of ensuring that reasonable advice is listened to, and that eventual questions are answered.”

Can this be the same Douglas Hurd who, as Conservative foreign secretary, was largely responsible for the European Union’s disastrous policy on Yugoslavia, including an arms embargo which prevented the Bosnians from defending themselves against Serbian genocide and ethnic cleansing? The same Douglas Hurd who warned against armed intervention to halt the dictator Slobodan Milosevic, first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo? The same Douglas Hurd who was told at the time by his former boss Margaret Thatcher: “Douglas, Douglas, you would make Neville Chamberlain look like a warmonger”? The same Douglas Hurd who, within a year of retirement, returned to Belgrade in 1996 on behalf of the bank that now employed him, NatWest Markets, to negotiate with Milosevic about the privatization of Serbian utilities? Not only was Mr. (now Lord) Hurd eager to profit from the Serbianctator’s desire to sell state assets in order to generate cash to preserve his brutal tyranny—he even tried to justify it by claiming that his motive was the altruistic one of “liberalizing” Serbia, and that Milosevic “could have been rehabilitated.”

As the historian Brendan Simms points out in his brilliant Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia (London, 2001), there was never any likelihood of Milosevic changing. As for Hurd’s campaign to prevent Western intervention—“the calculated caution and gravitas, the sage warnings, and the weighty caveats: this was all bluff.” Once the Blair government adopted a policy diametrically opposed to that of John Major and Douglas Hurd, which resulted in the Kosovo War and the fall of Milosevic, the bluff was called. Hurd, Baker,and the whole gang of “realists” were discredited: “None of them had the faintest idea what they were talking about.”

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