SOME DO:

November 13, 2006

The Democratic Challenge (DAVID SHRIBMAN, November 13, 2006, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

No longer is it good enough to say that the president prevaricated getting us into Iraq and bumbled once we got there. Now the Democrats have to say how they would win or leave. No longer is it good enough to say that the president’s plans for Social Security are a radical departure from the 1935 vision of Franklin Roosevelt. Now the Democrats have to say what they would do to keep the system secure, or whether they would change public expectations of how much help Social Security will provide Americans when they retire.

These two choices — win or leave, strengthen Social Security or cut public expectations and public disbursements — may seem stark. But those are the choices. Neither problem, both signature challenges of our era, is ripe for fuzzy responses or fuzzy math. Choose one, make the argument, take a vote, live with the consequences.

There are scores of other choices like those. The war on terror, which no one wants to abandon. Climate change, which every industrial nation but America has at least tried to address. Education, where every problem cannot be solved by having students take tests and having teachers teach to those tests. Competitiveness, a word from the 1980s, perhaps, but a challenge for the 21st century. The tax system, which hasn’t been overhauled for 20 years and isn’t getting any more rational. The balance between religious life and civic life, a challenge Americans have struggled with for two centuries, but which seems even more stubborn in an age of rapid technological change.

One thing no one, including the ascendant Democrats, says about President Bush is that he is unwilling to make a choice and live with it. A short time after September 11, 2001, Thomas Rath, the New Hampshire political strategist, encountered the president at a White House event. Mr. Rath is a congenial man, his impulse unfailingly to offer comfort. To Mr. Bush, like the rest of the country still dealing with the immediate shock of the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, he said something along these lines: “Nobody asks to deal with something like this.” Mr. Bush responded immediately and forcefully: “Some people do.”

So the next time you see congressional leaders wringing their hands at the difficulties posed by Social Security or Iraq or whatever the next crisis is, remember that encounter between Messrs. Rath and Bush. It isn’t as if nobody asked to deal with problems like those the newly empowered Democrats face. They asked.

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THESE BEING THE SAME GUYS WHO BETRAYED THE SHI'A TO SADDAM:

August 1, 2006

Bush’s Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 8/02/06, NY Times)

“He told Sharon in that first meeting that I’ll use force to protect Israel, which was kind of a shock to everybody,” said one person present, given anonymity to speak about a private conversation. “It was like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ “

That embrace of Israel represents a generational and philosophical divide between the Bushes, one that is exacerbating the friction that has been building between their camps of advisers and loyalists over foreign policy more generally. As the president continues to stand by Israel in its campaign against Hezbollah — even after a weekend attack that left many Lebanese civilians dead and provoked international condemnation — some advisers to the father are expressing deep unease with the Israel policies of the son. […]

Unlike the first President Bush, who viewed himself as a neutral arbiter in the delicate politics of the Middle East, the current president sees his role through the prism of the fight against terrorism. This President Bush, unlike his father, also has deep roots in the evangelical Christian community, a staunchly pro-Israeli component of his conservative Republican base.

The first President Bush came to the Oval Office with long diplomatic experience, strong ties to Arab leaders and a realpolitik view that held the United States should pursue its own strategic interests, not high-minded goals like democracy, even if it meant negotiating with undemocratic governments like Syria and Iran.

The current President Bush has practically cut off Syria and Iran, overlaying his fight against terrorism with the aim of creating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls “a new Middle East.” In allying himself so closely with Israel, he has departed not just from his father’s approach but also from those of all his recent predecessors, who saw themselves first and foremost as brokers in the region.

In a speech Monday in Miami, Mr. Bush offered what turned out to be an implicit criticism of his father’s approach.

“The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said. “For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States.”

What could be more damning than that the Realists are neutral as between a democratic ally and enemy dictatorships?


W'S MOST IMPORTANT LEGACY:

July 20, 2006

America’s New Strategic Partner?: Over the last year, the U.S. and Indian governments struck a deal that recognizes India as a nuclear weapons power. Critics say Washington gave up too much too soon and at a great cost to nonproliferation efforts. Perhaps. But India could in time become a valuable security partner. So despite the deal’s flaws and the uncertainties surrounding its implementation, Washington should move forward with it. (Ashton B. Carter, July/August 2006, Foreign Affairs)

Previous U.S. administrations adopted the stance that India’s nuclear arsenal, which was first tested in 1974, was illegitimate and should be eliminated or at least seriously constrained. They did so for two reasons. First, they feared that legitimating the Indian arsenal might spur an arms race in Asia because Pakistan, India’s archrival, and China might be tempted to keep pace with India’s activities. Second, Washington wanted to stick strictly to the principles underlying the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT): parties to the treaty could engage in peaceful nuclear commerce; states that stood outside the NPT regime, such as India, could not. U.S. policymakers feared that compromising these principles might both give states with nuclear aspirations reason to think they could get around the NPT if they waited long enough and dishearten those other states that loyally supported the treaty against proliferators.

A stance, however, is not a policy. And eliminating India’s arsenal became an increasingly unrealistic stance when Pakistan went nuclear in the 1980s — and then became a fantasy in 1998, when India tested five bombs underground and openly declared itself a nuclear power. After India’s tests, the Clinton administration sought to nudge New Delhi in directions that would limit counteractions by China and Pakistan and above all prevent an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war. All the while Washington firmly maintained that U.S. recognition of India’s nuclear status was a long way off. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, which prompted Washington to take a fresh look at U.S. policies in South Asia, the Bush administration first reached out to Pakistan to secure its help against Islamist terrorists.

But then it also turned toward New Delhi, and in the summer of 2005 finally granted India de facto nuclear recognition. In a stroke, Washington thereby invited India to join the ranks of China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom — the victors of World War II — as a legitimate wielder of the influence that nuclear weapons confer. When, earlier this year, the Bush administration negotiated the specific terms of its nuclear arrangement with New Delhi, Washington abandoned, against the advice of nonproliferation specialists, any efforts to condition the deal on constraints that would keep India from further increasing its nuclear arsenal.

Under the terms of the deal, the United States commits to behave, and urge other states to behave, as if India were a nuclear weapons state under the NPT, even though India has not signed the treaty and will not be required to do so. (Even if the Bush administration had wished to make India a de jure nuclear weapons state under the NPT, such a change probably would not have been possible, as it would have required unanimous approval by all 188 parties to the treaty.) Washington has also undertaken to stop denying civil nuclear technology to India and has determined to require India to apply the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) only to nuclear facilities it designates as being for purely civil purposes. India is now also authorized to import uranium, the lack of which had long stalled the progress of its nuclear program.

Nuclear recognition will bring enormous political benefits to the Indian government. Naturally, the deal is popular with domestic constituencies, which were already well disposed toward the United States. (In 2005, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of Indian respondents had a favorable view of the United States — the highest percentage among the 15 leading nations polled.) Singh supporters in the National Congress Party have downplayed the importance of the few obligations that India has undertaken, such as the commitment to voluntarily subject some of its nuclear facilities to inspections, a routine practice in all the other recognized nuclear states, including the United States. Criticism from the opposition BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has been narrow and technical — and it probably reflects the BJP’s chagrin that the agreement was secured while the National Congress Party was in power. Although some members of the marginal Left Front parties have criticized the terms of the deal, their complaints have smacked of antiquated NAM politics, and the detractors are unlikely to be able to block the deal’s approval by the Indian Parliament. Barring the imposition of new conditions by the U.S. Congress, the deal is thus likely to sail through the legislature in India.

American critics of the deal contend that India’s past behavior does not warrant this free pass. They argue that Washington should at least ask India to stop making fissile material for bombs, as the NPT’s acknowledged nuclear powers have already done, rather than wait for the proposed fissile Material Cutoff Treaty to come into existence. Others contend that India should be required to place more nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, to prevent any diversion of fissile materials from its nuclear power program to its nuclear weapons program. Still others want India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty rather than be allowed merely to abide by a unilateral moratorium on further underground testing, as it has done since 1998.

The Indian government, backed by Indian public opinion, has resisted all attempts to impose such technical constraints on its nuclear arsenal. So far, the U.S. government has effectively supported New Delhi’s position by insisting that the India deal is not an arms control treaty but a broader strategic agreement. The Bush administration has described the nuclear issue as the “basic irritant” in U.S.-Indian relations and has argued that once the issue is out of the way, India will become a responsible stakeholder in the nonproliferation regime, jettison its vestigial NAM posturing, take a more normal place in the diplomatic world — and become a strategic partner of the United States. […]

The real benefits of the India deal for Washington lie in the significant gains, especially in terms of security, that the broader strategic relationship could deliver down the road. For one thing, with New Delhi as an informal ally, Washington should expect to have India’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, even if India’s assistance would risk compromising its friendly relations with Iran. There have been some promising signs. At meetings of the IAEA Board of Governors over the past year, India joined the United States and its European partners in finding that Iran had violated its NPT obligations and then in referring the matter to the un Security Council — two welcome signs that India supports the international campaign to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Whether India actively cooperates with the United States against Iran or persists in offering rhetorical support for the spread of nuclear-fuel-cycle activities (uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing) will be the clearest test of whether nuclear recognition “brings India into the mainstream” of nonproliferation policy, as the Bush administration predicts will happen.

The United States will also want India’s assistance in dealing with a range of dangerous contingencies involving Pakistan. Pakistan’s stock of nuclear weapons, along with Russia’s, is the focus of urgent concern about nuclear terrorism. Whatever version of the A. Q. Khan story one believes — that the Pakistani government and military were unaware of Khan’s activities or that they permitted them — its moral is worrisome. It suggests that terrorists could buy or steal the materials (namely, plutonium or enriched uranium) necessary to building nuclear bombs from Pakistan thanks to diversion by radical elements in the Pakistani elite or if the Musharraf regime crumbles. And if an incident were to originate in Pakistan, the United States would want to respond in concert with as many regional players as possible, including India.

Such risks are still difficult for Washington and New Delhi to acknowledge publicly, however, as both governments try to maintain a delicately balanced relationship with Islamabad. The United States needs Pervez Musharraf’s support to search for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists on Pakistani territory, prevent the radicalization of Pakistan’s population, and stabilize Afghanistan; it can ill afford to be perceived as tilting too far toward India. The Indian government, for its part, also seems intent on improving its relations with Islamabad. But it is still reeling from the fallout of the bombings on the Indian Parliament last year, which have been attributed to Pakistani terrorists. And India, too, could be a victim of loose nukes in the event of disorder in Pakistan.

Down the road, the United States might also want India to serve as a counterweight to China. No one wishes to see China and the United States fall into a strategic contest, but no one can rule out the possibility of such a competition. The evolution of U.S.-Chinese relations will depend on the attitudes of China’s younger generation and new leaders, on Chinese and U.S. policies, and on unpredictable events such as a possible crisis over Taiwan. For now, the United States and India are largely eager to improve trade with China and are careful not to antagonize it. But it is reasonable for them to want to hedge against any downturn in relations with China by improving their relations with each other. Neither government wishes to talk publicly, let alone take actions now, to advance this shared interest, but they very well might in the future.

The India deal could also bring the United States more direct benefits, militarily and economically. Washington expects the intensification of military-to-military contacts and hopes eventually to gain the cooperation of India in disaster-relief efforts, humanitarian interventions, peacekeeping missions, and postconflict reconstruction efforts, including even operations not mandated by or commanded by the United Nations, operations in which India has historically refused to participate. Judging from the evolution of the United States’ security partnerships with states in Europe and Asia, the anticipation of such joint action could lead over time to joint military planning and exercises, the sharing of intelligence, and even joint military capabilities. U.S. military forces may also seek access to strategic locations through Indian territory and perhaps basing rights there. Ultimately, India could even provide U.S. forces with “over-the-horizon” bases for contingencies in the Middle East.

On the economic front, as India expands its civilian nuclear capacity and modernizes its military, the United States stands to gain preferential treatment for U.S. industries. The India deal theoretically creates economic opportunities in the construction of nuclear reactors and other power infrastructure in India. These should not be exaggerated, however. The United States would have to secure preferences at the expense of Russian and European competitors and would need to persuade India’s scientific community to focus its nuclear power expansion on conventional reactors rather than on the type of exotic and expensive technologies (for example, fast-breeder reactors) it currently favors. India is also expected to increase the scale and sophistication of its military, in part by purchasing weapons systems from abroad. The United States can reasonably anticipate some preferential treatment for U.S. vendors. Early discussions have concerned the sale of f-16 and f-18 tactical aircraft and p-3c maritime surveillance aircraft.

In addition to the excellent piece on the Shi’a (below), this edition of Foreign Affairs has a series of good essays on India. This one is pretty amusing in the way it tries to argue both that the President gave away too much and that we stand to gain a tremendous amount from the new alliance.


SHOULDN'T HAVE STRAYED SO FAR FROM THE LAP:

May 31, 2006

President Bush should heed Tony Blair’s advice (EJ Dionne, 5/31/06, Seattle Times)

Imagine where British Prime Minister Tony Blair would be if he hadn’t joined with President Bush in prosecuting the Iraq war. […]

You wish, at least, that the prime minister could have edited Bush’s rhetoric. More important, you wish Blair would have pushed Bush much harder to approach the rest of the world in a way that would have left us with a few more friends and allies.

The reality is that most of the political damage that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair sustained from the war is a function of the latter’s insistence (along with Colin Powell) on trying to sell it to the international community and to do so using the WMD argument. Had the P.M. just accepted the President’s assessment that the UN wasn’t going to be any use and that it was up to enforce their resolutions for them he’d have nothing to apologize for today. Though his heart is generally in the right place, Mr. Blair continues to stumble when he makes himself believe his own backbenchers, the continental Europeans, and the UN are interested in the same causes he is. The transnationalist project is aimed at stopping men like Tony Blair as much, or more, as stopping those like Saddam.


MORE UNILATERALISM:

May 9, 2006

US food aid for crisis-hit Darfur (BBC, 5/09/06)

President George W Bush has announced US emergency food shipments to ease the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, urging Congress to approve $225m in aid.

He also said he was sending his secretary of state to the UN Security Council to help speed up the deployment of UN peacekeepers to the region. […]

Calling the situation in Darfur a “genocide”, President Bush said five aid ships would be urgently redirected to Sudan to provide extra help for the two million people displaced by the conflict.

He said: “These actions will allow the World Food Programme to restore full food rations to the people of Darfur this summer.”

Money for the world’s largest aid operation has been running out. Rations for May have been cut in half.

Mr Bush said: “Darfur has a chance to begin anew… America will not turn away from this tragedy.”


NOW THAT'S MUSCULAR WILSONIANISM:

May 6, 2006

Sudanese, Rebels Sign Peace Plan For Darfur: U.S. Pressured Parties; Doubts Remain on Deal (Glenn Kessler, May 6, 2006, Washington Post)

With a prod from the United States, the government of Sudan and the biggest Darfur rebel faction signed a complex peace plan yesterday that diplomats and experts said would require careful implementation to ensure an end to a conflict that has left as many as 450,000 people dead and 2 million homeless. […]

U.S. officials say an accord is essential in order to persuade the Sudanese government to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force that would include logistical assistance from 400 to 500 NATO officers. The African Union currently has a 6,000-person force with a limited mandate in place. Many experts say it has been ineffective at stopping the fighting.

As the negotiations in Abuja stretched into the wee hours, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told the rebel leaders that they would miss a historic opportunity if they did not accept the agreement.

Zoellick said that at some time between 2 and 4 a.m. Friday, he pulled out a letter from President Bush to Minnawi pledging to “strongly support” implementation of the deal and make sure anyone who broke it would be “held accountable” by the U.N. Security Council. Zoellick read the letter to the assembled gathering. One problem, he said, was that it was clear that many rebels had not read the tentative agreement and did not realize that issues they kept raising had already been addressed.

In the past year, Zoellick has become the administration’s point man on Sudan, making four trips to Khartoum, the capital, and the Darfur region to press the two sides to agree. He also has shepherded efforts to implement another peace deal, signed last year, that ended a 20-year conflict between the Muslim government and rebels in the southern part of the country, which is largely animist and Christian.

The Darfur agreement is an amended version of a draft document produced earlier in the week by the African Union, which mediated the talks.

One faction that refused to sign is led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, who founded the movement that launched the revolt against the government but has since split. The other rebel group is the Justice and Equality Movement.

“We won’t sign it because the deal does not protect the people of Darfur. We don’t have any real power in this deal,” Ahmed Tugod, a JEM negotiator, said in an interview. “It only answers part of our problems, and we reject partial solutions.”

Analysts yesterday were divided on the prospects for success.

Prod? First we told The Sudan it had to give autonomy to its South, now its West. That’s a bit more than prodding.


YOU MEAN CHINA HAS TO LIBERALIZE TOO?:

April 19, 2006

White House Puts Face on North Korean Human Rights (Peter Baker, 4/19/06, Washington Post)

The story of how an obscure instance of individual hardship came to figure in a meeting between two of the world’s most powerful leaders sheds light on the crosscurrents of U.S. foreign policy under Bush. The son of a former envoy to Beijing, Bush has worked to build stable relations with China and wants its help on urgent priorities such as curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Yet the same president has proclaimed expanding freedom to be the guiding principle of his foreign policy, with the goal of “ending tyranny in our world.”

So as diplomats and bureaucrats throughout the U.S. government in recent weeks assembled briefing books on the Chinese currency and the trade deficit and other issues of importance to Bush’s business backers, another corner of government, much smaller, has worked to put on the table China’s treatment of desperate North Koreans who slip across the border.

They have been aided in that quest by a growing movement of Christian activists who lately have adopted North Korea as a cause, much as they earlier did Sudan, and pushed Congress into passing legislation intended to make human rights in Asia’s last Stalinist outpost a higher U.S. priority.

“We just feel this is what we’re commanded to do,” said Deborah Fikes, executive director of the Midland Ministerial Alliance from the president’s Texas home town. “If you’re a follower of Christ, this should be one of your number one priorities, speaking out for the oppressed, and I can’t think of anybody more oppressed than the North Koreans.”

The case of Kim offered an opportunity to put their concern front and center. Never before has the Bush White House singled out a North Korean asylum seeker by name and held Beijing responsible for her fate, according to U.S. officials and human rights workers. The timing was especially pointed, coming just before the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who will be greeted tomorrow by a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House.

Administration officials said Bush feels strongly about the situation. “He’s taken a very personal interest and a fairly significant interest in the issue of human rights,” said Jay Lefkowitz, whom Bush appointed last year as a special envoy for human rights in North Korea. “He fundamentally believes the character of the North Korean regime is defined by its human rights conduct.”

It’s almost as if he’s serious about all that human rights guff….