Saturday, June 25, 2011

"South China Sea, or me"

I came across an interesting article by Clyde Prestowiz on the U.S. economic condition and national security issues in East and South East Asia.

Prestowiz asserts that the national security establishment has taken us through a "detour" in the Middle East, and it is finally return to its attention to where it should be; East Asia (aka China).

He also states that since we have such a broad security blanket on the Pacific, our weathly companies know there is little risk in investing aborad, thus drawing money out of the U.S. economy.

Personally, it appears Prestowiz is a true realist with a Cold War tinge. While I loved this article and the way it got me thinking, it appears he is arguing that the U.S. should make the Pacific less secure in order to take the low-risk factor away from FDI in Asia. With this blanket gone, American companies would be more prone to invest back into America, while also making the American pull stronger for those Asian countries fearful of China's rise. He's also argues for more financial uniformity on free trade treaties, which I don't know much about, but it sounds more beneficial.

In essence, create an atmosphere which works for our interests; pretty realist.

If I am wrong on this, please correct me.

Its not that this whole idea doesn't make sense, if it would work, but that it kind of has the old Cold War 1 vs. 1 redux to it. Prestowiz is a veteran of Cold War, free trade, Reagan policies; he was commerce secretary during Reagan's administration. While I agree that Washington was too busy spending time in a unnecessary war in Iraq and running up the debt than paying attention to Asia, I don't think the U.S. should be actively looking for demons to fry. Instead of having another Cold War showdown with China that many speculate, we must double our diplomatic efforts in order to court China.

The world is different than in the Cold War, and we should adapt our policies accordingly. Veteran policy-makers of the Cold War do provide insight and wisdom, but it seems many have difficulties leaving behind the old "us vs. them" mentality. While Prestowitz's realist economic policies for the Pacific could work; we must be weary not to have China become even more aggressive and sense we cannot balance them out. Though some old concept apply in short term international affairs, there are many new ways to achieve long term relationships than ever before.

Monday, June 20, 2011

If you want to be President, you have to act like a President

Now I know all of the Republican candidates are going to be reading this blog for opinion because they agree with my positions on issues (don't worry, I'm kidding). However the CNN "debate" (more like an anti-Obama rally) on June 13 raised and presented a serious problem about respect and presidential behavior with a just about all the candidates on the stage that night.

Keep in mind when I tuned in, I knew many shots were going to be taken on President Obama. Politics is a messy game, and when you play prepared to get dirty. However, it got disgraceful when each of the candidates where questioned on social issues and religion. For the next few paragraphs I will be using this Poltico article for my quotes.

For instance, Hermain Cain said at an earlier interview “A reporter asked me, would I appoint a Muslim to my administration. I did say, ‘No,’” Cain said. “And here’s why. … I would have to have people totally committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. And many of the Muslims, they’re not totally dedicated to this country.”

Got that? OK. So at the "debate" he tried to retract that comment by saying “And I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us,” Cain said during the debate. “And so, when I said I wouldn’t be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, No. 1."

Well, I don't think any president would want to have a militant-any-religion in their administration, so that is a pretty bad cover. What empirical evidence does Hermain Cain have that Muslim-AMERICANS aren't loyal to this country. Why would one single out Muslims also? There have been plenty of Christian terrorists in our past. To think, how could Cain get away with this outward hostility to a group of fellow Americans, judged solely by the religion they practice? If you ask me, it seems contradictory to our values to judge people based upon their religion, and it is clear Cain doesn't have the capacity to be president of ALL Americans.

Also at the debate, Newt Gingrich "tumbled over the historical cliff with the idea, announcing some kind of loyalty oath to serve in his administration, similar to that used in dealing with Nazis and Communists.” I really can't begin how offensive it is to relate Muslim-AMERICANS to Nazis, and to the now evil-stereotyped communists. But to have loyalty oaths for just Muslims? Why not everyone in your administration, Newt? If a candidate is willing to ridicule a portion of Americans based upon thier religion, they are not being presidential; rather acting like pundits.

Though the other candidates were smart enough to not stoop down at their level, it was very apparent that NONE of them called out the other. By not defending Muslim-Americans, or other groups, it was clear that the candidates couldn't muster up enough courage to act like a president, or it was that they tacitly consented. Though each are vying for the party's nomination; it is a shame that defending Muslim-Americans may hurt their chances (if you're going with that defense) and that none of them stood up above partisan politics and acted like an adult to defend their FELLOW Americans.

Noticeably absent from the "debate" was Jon Huntsman. Huntsman is the most moderate Republican running for president. Maybe I am giving him too much credit, but I have enough faith in Huntsman's ability to be a good person that he would have been the only one to defend Muslim-Americans.

The point of this post is when you're running for president, you're running for president. You're not a pundit, an ex-governor, a businessman, or whatever you are. Your not the president of one group of people ether. You are running to represent every American, no matter political view, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. The presidency is for individuals who embody a higher set of values, and ideals; for those who are tolerant; and for those who respect every American no matter who they are and what they believe.

In order to be treated as a presidential candidate, one must act like they want it.  As of now, Huntsman is the only one of the Republicans in my view whom carries these qualities. When engaging in partisan game playing, a necessity to win a party's nomination, one must keep the ideal of president in mind and have the ability to represent all Americans.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Palestine's White September", and my Analysis

I came across a very interesting article on Foreign Policy about the prospects of Palestinian Statehood at the U.N. in September. Kudos to Prof. Carlo Strenge.

I enjoyed it, and it was interesting analysis from a psychologist. I often think a psychological look at international relations is helpful; as it tends to explain actions that political science cannot. If states act like humans, since they are run by them, then it is essential to review the psychological aspects of international affairs.

Personally, giving Palestine statehood is the first step of compromising for a two state solution and more importantly, peace. Its called a two-STATE solution.

In addition as mentioned in the piece, if the PA does not achieve statehood, it will totally delegitimize the moderate leadership of the PA. All credibility would be lost, and radical factions may take control of the PA. Peace will be even farther away if that happens.

Israel must concede on this one, and rise up to have long-term strategy of achieving peace to this issue, rather than short term bickering. One must be pragmatic and sensible, keeping in mind the higher ideals and goals to achieve for the future. If one lets theology and emotion get in the way; logic and problem-solving capabilities are lost.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Benefits of Multilateral Diplomacy: The Victorious Tortoise

I think the allusion I use in the title of this post is appropriate to describe multilateral diplomacy. The moral of the famous tale about the tortoise and the hair is slow but steady wins the race. I think that is exactly how to portray the benefits of multilateral diplomacy over unilateral diplomacy in the current age. Multilateral diplomacy may be cumbersome, but it facilitates partnerships, brings many voices into the decision making process, and forms a consensus so precious when needing to enforce international agreements. In an increasingly fragmented world order increasingly connected through technology and globalization; it is imperative to embrace multilateral diplomacy as the means  of solving global issues and furthering U.S. interests.

In a time whether it is the rise of the BRICS or the relative decline of American power; the U.S. must use the its power as a global hedgemon to its advantage in the international system in procuring interests. Let me use an another allusion to illustrate me point. If a candidate is running for office, they must persuade voters and convince them that their plans are the best for their own interests. If not, the candidate will lose. The same concept applies to the international system. In order to advance our interests and have countries respond in support of these interests; we must use broad diplomacy to engage and persuade other states. If we convince them that  the U.S.'s interests will be their interests, then those actors will support the U.S. agenda. Essentially, the U.S. must fully and proactive work within the system in order to steer it into the right direction. Instead of commanding the world as we used to, we must adapt to changing times and work with others to guide it.

Unilateral critics may point that that we don't need the system to get what we want. That is true in minor cases. However, they are wrong in that the U.S. operates on Earth, so we are in the system whether we like it or not. We exist on this planet, so our actions affect other states, and due in part to globalization, their actions have an impact on use. It is irresponsible to act alone and destructively on certain issues without having it legitimized by a majority of the world community. The U.N., the essence of multilateral diplomacy is viewed as a legitimate institution by many states. There are some who see it as obstructive and useless; but these critics fail to see this accepted institution creates accepted policy. The fact that many are involved in the process, even small countries, is viewed by a majority as something that came out of consensus and thus acceptable to the world. The U.S. must continue to use the U.N. as a means of rallying policy. If the U.S. steers states in the direction it wants, and especially if done through the U.N., then our interests can turn into the world's interests. A very powerful thing.

I would like to expand on some things I touched on before: compromise, consensus, and inclusion. Multilateral diplomacy is a makeup of these three ideals. One must be willing to compromise on issue, make a consensus with others, and make sure others are included in the decision making process. The policies that come out of these three ideals are stronger in the long run. Why is that? When actors compromise, they create an agreement acceptable to multiple parties. When actors build consensus, they make sure others are OK with this compromise and are willing to enforce and defend it. When actors include others in compromise and consensus, it makes those included feel like that have a stake in the outcome, and thus builds a strong base of support. The EU's European Council needs everything to be unanimously approved. They do things, among other reasons, so that the final decision is acceptable to all and that each state can provide a defense and reasoning for support a certain policy. Thus, multilateral diplomacy creates solid supporters. In order to advance policy; you need friends that support it.

A common criticism of multilateral diplomacy is that it is slow, and ineffective. These are both true at times. The 6 party talks have failed (for reasons that may not have to deal with multilateral diplomacy but just China's interests. I think if we built an international coalition pressuring China, they would have made North Korea act differently). The G-20 doesn't seem to have produced all that much, and the U.N. is routinely stalemated. I am not denying these points. However, if the U.S. uses its influence and skillfully navigates international forums/organizations, or just builds a coalition on its own, I am confidant these disadvantages would become irrelevant. For the U.S. to maintain is power in the global order, we must become the master of diplomacy.

Another allusion for you. Lets say the world is congress, and each state is a representative. Being unilateral is playing to ones specific interests, thus I think its safe to say this can be likened to being partisan. Being multilateral, negotiating, compromising and including many others, is similar to being bipartisan. If we want to get things done, and I thinks its a safe generalization that  people like it when things get "done", then wouldn't it be a no-brain-er to be multilateral? If working with others creates a finished product everyone (or the majority) likes, then shouldn't the U.S. be even more  involved so that the outcome is favorable to U.S. policies/interests? Yes, we should.

Though a slower process, in the end it has the potential to create results for U.S. foreign and economic policy. I would rather have something that benefits me long term, and may take a little longer than something that is short term but is faster. The U.S. must be a skilled diplomatic negotiator to maintain relevance, favorable world policies, and power. The way to change/make the system to your liking is to be a part of it; in order to shape it. We must mold the world; it take great skill to do that. The tortoise is famous for beating the hair, now lets apply this important moral for transforming our diplomacy for the 21st century.