LOOKING TOWARDS AND BEYOND 2015: THE HARD STRATEGY AND DECISIONS IN A DETERIORATING WORLD

President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.
President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

In a world that increasingly seems bent on self-destruction, bad governance, and self-inflicted wounds, there is clearly an urgent need to, as they say, “get a grip” on things!  As President Obama has said, none of these problems are easy; they will take a long time to deal with and they can’t be done by just one nation. Nor can they be addressed by just doing nothing. The key is, as Obama again said, is “not to do stupid things”, and needless to say do intelligent things and do them well and do them with other like minded nations whenever possible. This means first of all examining with care our values and our real interest, the cost and practicality of possible options, and not least the probability of success and any unforeseen consequences; what some would call “blowback.”

The last Bush administration did none of this and this administration has learned hopefully that lessen of “not doing stupid things.” That does not mean withdrawing from the world, but it may mean forcefully responding to a crisis when necessary and practical. But what are the elements that either make good policy and strategy and what are the harsh constraints in devising good strategy and properly implementing it, and with others, in a true multilateral coalition?

First, one domestic constraint on an effective American role in addressing global challenges is our corrosive political landscape, which is too often driven by hate, ignorance, stupidity, and partisan politics and not by good values or the national interest. The right wing neo-con hawks have criticized Obama for “leading from behind”. This pejorative statement is simply partisan from those who got us into an unnecessary war at great cost to our nation, the lives of brave men and woman in the armed forces, and our embassy staff. Now they are looking at pushing a unilateral unnecessary war with Iran and seem to be fomenting a  crude “cold war” strategy and creating implacable enemies out of China and Russia. Sadly, some of this is to increase mindlessly the DOD budget on behalf of the military-industrial sector and to push narrow ideological and myopic interests.

This is not the way to make smart strategic and foreign policy decisions. It has already hurt our global role as Congress debates the coming budget and pushes restrictions on the president’s ability to conduct his foreign policies as this is written.

Second, external constraints were partly covered in our earlier post and several are looked at below and others will follow in this series. In our last look at forward strategy, we tried to take a “macro” perspective and asked: “did the institutions of our international community react, educate, and address with honesty and in comprehensive detail what these changes and trends portend for our frail planet? Does the international community know what needs to be done to safeguard the security and lives of its citizens?” Looking ahead, there are two categories of our analysis: (1) Recognizing the distinctly “macro global” trends of 2015, and (2) an attempt to understand these trends and consequences while devising possible responses to specific functional and regional problem areas.”  Another installment will be looking forward into 2015 and beyond, would be aimed specifically in key problem sectors describing the difficulties and opportunities that lay ahead for American foreign and security policy.

THE CHANGING GLOBAL AND STRATEGIC AND LANDSCAPE AND THE DECLINE OF GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS TO ADDRESS OUR REAL AND COMING RISKS

There are many reasons why governments and international organizations seem increasingly incapable of addressing and mitigating our global challenges and high-risk dangers. Not least, as we have noted, is the growing indifference of many nations including in the United States to the plight of the most at risk and vulnerable. The recent global recession had a deep impact on the reaction of citizens who have a growing sense of hopelessness.  Encouraged in the United States  by right-wing Republicans, their billionaire backers, and their paid for media and pundits, have long pushed for disdain of role of government and international organizations in serving the well-being of common citizens in need.  These forces drove public opinion against sufficient support for preemptive action to address major dangers to national security and global stability and humanitarian crises. This means that organizations like UNESCO, UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR, World Health Organization, World Food Program, NATO, World Bank, and the UN system as a whole including the Security Council, are under funded and restricted by member states from taking effective action to address oncoming risks and conflicts. If this trend continues, the risk to American security and to the global system’s ability to address and mitigate serious major threats will continue to deteriorate and risks and costs will grow and not diminish. We need a new look on how to make these international institutions more effective and forward looking.  

TOP LEVEL THREATS: PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND DESTABILIZED REGIONS AND NATIONS 

Despite all the headlines about terrorism, the far greater risk to U.S. and global security at the existential level are weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue or unstable and confrontational nations. This includes Russia under the unpredictable President Putin and Pakistan and India with nuclear weapons; nations both of which are in conflict with each other. North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is led by an unpredictable leader, and the possibility of an Iran with nuclear weapons in a region of ubiquitous conflict and instability. Each of these problematic centers will remain well into 2015  and beyond and need a much higher level of attention by all global actors than has been seen hereto through by all nations and especially among some in Congress who seem to think “war” is the answer to every issue.  I suggest to our readers to look at the post of Secretary Kerry’s Geneva press conference for an insight into this problem with a focus on Iran and beyond.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES TOP LEVEL THREATS

As President Obama has made clear there is no more important crisis the globe faces that climate change and its consequences.  Many members of the Republican Congress do not think it exists, or do not think that it is caused by human activities, and even encourage energy sources that are among the worst polluters. This roadblock needs to be overcome with an enlightened global leadership, and the environmental community and citizens need to act. This is what the president had done by domestic legal regulations and international agreements that do not require Senate ratification. The agreement with China, the trip to India with this as a key topic, and with efforts to at last forge a global consensus on a broad range of climate impacting actions indicates some useful progress. More is still needed.  I think 2015 and 2016 will see major moves abroad with our allies on this issue while opposition by Republicans will persist.  

GLOBAL POVERTY, CIVIL UNREST, POPULATION MOVEMENTS AND GROWING COMMUNAL AND REGIONAL WARS AND TERRORISM

There is little question that America and the rest of the world will increasingly be impacted by the larger forces we have already seen arising. Frankly, they are at a cost of our past indifference to what is happening beyond our borders. Few paid attention to these forces; many of our leaders and our citizens and especially our corrupted media are giving more space and time to what the last stupid celebrity did, diverting our people from facing serious issues and solutions.

Terrorism is just one result of indifference by governments, powerful elites, and business to a larger social responsibility.  It will not go away overnight but it can be mitigated and in part overcome. The primary action needed is to give jobs to those that live in hopelessness and despair. The other is to fight the ideology of hate and those that use terrorism to achieve their aims.  Here the answer is not just military. Often here is where diplomacy and collective political and economic action can and should mitigate the conditions that breed conflict and narrow nationalism or racial hate. 

Countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, much of the conflict-ridden Middle East and many parts of Africa need greater help than has so far been given. If we do not recognize this we will be over whelmed over time by several results: more conflict, an increased spread of diseases, greater poverty, and humanitarian and natural disasters and in the end a high risk world for all.

THE SO-CALLED RISE OF MAJOR “NEW” ACTORS ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE

A lot has been written about the rise of “new” powers like China, India, and, for some, Russia.  This concept is often joined by the so-called “decline” of America and Europe. Frankly, this has both a part of truth but also a lot of nonsense.  Yes, India and China are growing but each has still deep-seated weaknesses, which will undermine their inherent potential for decades due not least to the large inequality that exists and social, racial, and ethnic divisions within each society. For Russia, despite all the aggressive and destructive actions, it is a state of concealed but deep crisis and decline that seems, under Putin, to reject modernity or even rationality and has destroyed its citizens meaningful participation in their collective decisions. This can’t last in the present equilibrium that is unstable over the long run. Putin is an historical tragedy for Russia at this time.  But the West and the rest of the world need a strategy to draw Russia over time into a community of cooperating and responsible states and we should never give up this goal. 

Some European leaders recognize this, but the silly forces on the right seem to think unneeded war with a nuclear-armed irrational nation is a bit of a lark. In 2015, Obama seems to know this and is struggling to find the right balance of restraint and prevention of aggression and the “inducement” of diplomacy, economic gain, and cooperation. We are likely to see more of this but Ukraine is the testing ground for both sides in 2015 and beyond and the only “good” solution requires Ukraine to remain a viable independent and unified state that can choose its destiny in the long run.

More on specific challenges will come in future posts and a look a creating a more effective international structure and the ability to foresee earlier coming dangers and respond.  

We welcome your comments!

JOHN KERRY’S REMARKS AT GENEVA PRESS CONFERENCE

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The press conference of March 2nd  in Geneva in which Secretary John Kerry provided a broad outline with great clarity of some of the most pressing foreign affairs and national security issues facing this administration. There is so much substance to this press briefing in Geneva that we decided it deserves to be highlighted and its text posted to provide to our readers a chance to not only read it in full but also to comment, if they wish, on Secretary Kerry’s outline of our objectives and perspective.

What is clear is that the international landscape presents extraordinary challenges and difficulties that require not only wisdom and real resources by America but also the full participation by our allies and friends in the difficult task of dealing effectively with the many crises that clearly face the international community. In the coming days we will post some of our analysis of these and others topics in our earlier post on looking at American strategy in 2015 and beyond.   


“I met this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And we spent a fair amount of time discussing Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, and Iran. I reiterated the urgency of Russia’s leaders and the separatists that they back implementing the full measure of the commitments under the Minsk agreements and to implement them everywhere, including in Debaltseve, outside Mariupol, and in other key strategic areas. And I underscored this morning that if that does not happen, if there continue to be these broad swaths of noncompliance, or there continues to be a cherry-picking as to where heavy equipment will be moved back from without knowing where it’s been moved to, or if the OSCE is not able to adequately be able to gain the access necessary, then there would be inevitably further consequences that will place added strain on Russia’s already troubled economy. Now, obviously, Ukraine is just one of those issues, as I mentioned, that we focused on. And it’s only one of those issues, frankly, on which the United States and Russia are focused.”

“We spoke at length about steps that might be able to be taken in order to try to see if there is a potential of common ground. And we agreed that there is no military solution; we agreed there is a need for a political solution; and we agreed on the need of those countries who have been supporting people in this endeavor, in this conflict, to be able to search yet again to see whether or not there is a path either to Geneva 1 or to some hybrid or some means of ending the violence. And one of the things that drives that interest, that common interest, is the reality of Daesh, the reality of what is happening to Syria as a result of the presence of Daesh there and its use of Syria as a base for spreading evil to other places.”

“We continue to believe, all the members of the P5+1, that the best way to deal with the questions surrounding this nuclear program is to find a comprehensive deal, but not a deal that comes at any cost, not a deal just for the purpose of a deal; a deal that meets the test of providing the answers and the guarantees that are needed in order to know that the four pathways to a nuclear bomb have been closed off. And that is the task. And we hope it is possible to get there, but there is not guarantee.”

“Sanctions alone are not going to provide that solution. What needs to happen is that Iran needs to provide a verifiable set of commitments that its program is in fact peaceful. And that average people and experts alike looking at that verifiable set of commitments have confidence that they are sustainable, that they are real, and that they will provide the answers and guarantees well into the future.

Any deal must close every potential pathway that Iran has towards fissile material, whether it’s uranium, plutonium, or a covert path. The fact is only a good, comprehensive deal in the end can actually check off all those boxes.”

“Now, I want to be clear about two things. Right now, no deal exists, no partial deal exists. And unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that will be required, there won’t be a deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is the standard by which negotiation is taking place, any anyone who tells you otherwise is simply misinformed.” 

“Now, we are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days. I want to say clearly that doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region, so is our security in the United States. And we are very clear that as we negotiate with Iran, if we are able to reach the kind of deal that we’re hoping for, then it would have to be considered in its entirety and measured against alternatives.”

“President Obama has said this repeatedly: We will not accept a bad deal. We have said no deal is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal could actually make things less secure and more dangerous. Any deal that we could possibly agree to would make the international community, especially Israel, safer than it is today. That’s our standard. So our team is working very hard to close remaining gaps, to reach a deal that ensures Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively and verifiably peaceful, and we have made some progress, but we still have a long way to go and the clock is ticking.”


To read the full text of this press conference from Geneva on March 2nd visit https://cipnationalsecurity.wordpress.com/resources/full-text-pieces/ 

We Welcome Your Comments!

TRANSCRIPT: KERRY AND ASHTON ON APRIL 17 GENEVA DEAL ON UKRAINE

1b6ea27c-fb68-4b18-86d3-f75dee6b0d9d-460x276Transcript: Kerry and Ashton on April 17 Geneva deal on Ukraine

SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody — or good evening, actually, I guess. I’m very, very grateful to be joined here today by the high representative, Cathy Ashton, my friend and colleague, and a terrific partner in this and in other efforts. And I thank her for her leadership throughout this particular initiative. Diplomacy requires willing partners, and I also want to thank Minister Deshchytsia and also Minister Lavrov for their willing work in the course of today, their readiness to engage in a constructive dialogue. Continue reading