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Archive for December, 2012

I’ve come across numerous articles this semester that have described President Obama’s foreign policy approach as being marred by idealism. This accusation was especially prevalent in Dueck’s article “The Accommodator.”

Dueck seems to be incapable of imagining foreign policy outside of the context of traditional realism. He argues that Barack Obama simply “does not understand” that states act in their self- interest, and that a policy of “leading from behind” involving the accommodation of other states’ foreign policy goals will not eliminate this reality. Dueck believes that Obama’s focus on improving relations with the Middle East, particularly with Iran has weakened the United States’ position.

President Obama has indicated to Iran that he is open to improving relations with Iran, rather than being “strong” by further condemning Iran’s corruption and pursuit of nuclear weapons. In regards to Russia, Obama has “accommodated” to their desires to be influential in Eastern Europe by signing the New START treaty and suspending the construction of missile defense systems instead of pushing forward with construction and forcing Russia to acquiesce to U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. has also encouraged improved relations with China, and has not pushed toward condemning China’s human rights abuses.

However, Dueck’s argument is simply one that states basically “Obama has not done what a realist would do.” Furthermore, Obama’s foreign policy has been difficult to analyze because he has not followed the template traditionally used by presidents in the past. He has pushed for a policy in which relations have been on the forefront. To this extent Obama is an idealist, going away from traditional foreign policy which focuses on strengthening the United States’ lead as world-path-determiner.

Is there no room for idealism in foreign policy? Is there no room to take a risk on diplomacy over militarization? Should we always frame the argument in terms of the weak and the strong, the good and the evil, the west versus the east? It seems that the traditional arguments have left no room for other options. It seems to suggest that we should force our ideas down the throat of others in the hopes that they will not fight back. I suggest giving a bit of idealism a chance.

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In the reading Dueck “The Accommodator”, the author discusses how President Obama’s grand strategy is based on the theme of accommodating others in their interests, goals, and values as long as they did not conflict with the goals and values of the United States in the process. One of many policies that Dueck highlights is the New START Treaty with Russia. This is described as an accommodation to Russia and a diplomatic tool used to get them on board with economic sanctions for Iran.

The U.S. worked to convince China and Russia to enforce sanctions on Iran and once it happened Dueck argues that nothing really changed. While there were signs of clear economic devastation in Iran by the sanctions, it seemed to hurt the people, not the leader who made the decision to carry on with the nuclear program. The process of enforcing economic sanctions does not have a golden track record with effectiveness in both time frame and a noticeable effect. In order to even hope of forcing change, sanctions must be enforced by the entire international community at the same time, letting a country keep some major trade partners and stocking up on goods is not very effective. Even if sanctions are enforced by the entire international community, in the case of stubborn leaders it takes at best, a very long time for those sanctions to be effective.

After the experience with Iran, will the U.S. resort to economic sanctions again? And if so, will that be the only policy pursued? It does make sense to use economic sanctions as a public statement of disapproval to a countries policies which goes much farther than words, but why should we pretend that it is an adequate method of forcing change when it doesn’t seem to be an effective tool in doing so?

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During the Arab Spring Egyptians covered the streets in protest of President Mubarak and demanded a leader change and access to a democracy to give power to the people. After a long wait, the military rule gave power to the elected President Morsi. An operating democracy is a major step for Egypt and the people got what they wanted. Or did they?

On November 22nd, President Morsi decided to give himself sweeping powers that destroyed checks and balances and any real accountability. This led to more protests by the people who demanded the democracy that they thought they had already won. Once again, Egyptian protests were seemingly successful despite 7 people dead and hundreds wounded in a clash between protesters and Morsi’s support, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Mursi renounced his unstoppable powers and ceded to the wishes of the people. However, in doing so he issued a decree that gave the military permission to arrest protesters and hold them and refer them to prosecutors. On top of this, a constitution was written that clearly supports the agenda of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, liberals see it as a stab in the back from Morsi but so far a peaceful vote has been the result. The vote looks to be in favor of the constitution which may cause for more instability.

Morsi is accredited with much of the work that brokered the ceasefire between Israel and Palestine over the Gaza Strip. This could be an indicator that Morsi plans to step up as a major peace maker in the region but at this point he seems a little difficult to get a beat on. His domestic policy and foreign policy approaches appear to be polar opposites. 

Egypt can play a major role in the region and having influence on conflict between Israel and Palestine is not easy to come by. How should the United States judge this? Is Morsi a leader that we can trust and include in future regional peace talks? Many leaders have had differing grand strategies when gears shift from domestic to foreign policy, is that an excuse to accept Morsi for the leader he showed himself to be when dealing with Gaza?

 

Articles:

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-12-10/news/35726305_1_arrest-civilians-mursi-presidential-spokesman-yasser-ali 

http://bostonglobe.com/news/world/2012/12/17/morsi-backers-predict-victory-new-charter/2utc0G2wIABbGUdrkgAb3N/story.html

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ILO had a very interesting discussion about climate change policy in chapter 2. The U.S. must consider the perception it has to the international community. Being a model for other countries and hoping that they follow suit in becoming democracies, having better human rights standards, and helping the environment are all things that we hope to influence. How is it that we can tell other countries to help the environment and to slow pollution rates if he fail to sign and ratify the single most influential agreement in that department? The Clinton administration signed the Kyoto protocol but failed to ratify it, a step in the right direction, but not quite enough to avoid hypocrisy. The Bush administration seemed to support the ratification of Kyoto and other emission reduction policies but abandoned everything when the economy was threatened by these policies. This was most definitely a step in the wrong direction but definitely fixable. Obama came into office with a goal to pass policy that reduced emissions and hoped to pass Kyoto. Appointing Steven Chu and focusing on China were two very important things that Obama did and everything looked to be in place to get ground breaking changes through. However, China refused to sign any internationally binding agreements to reduce emissions and cited Annex II as the reason why Kyoto did not apply to their country. This ruined the good vibe at Copenhagen and stalled all progress on the issue. 

Bush cited the economy as the reason for scrapping policy change and Obama won’t act without China. A deeper look at this reasoning may reveal that these are actually the same reason for the same decision. China and the U.S. are the biggest polluters and change would be very dramatic and impact-full. Obama is probably shying away from giving reasons like: I am avoiding climate change policy because the economy cannot handle it. However, blaming it on China is a legitimate excuse and also expresses the same message. Without China on board with strictly enforced emission reduction policies the Unites States would be putting its businesses at a huge competitive disadvantage with China and China would massively benefit from avoiding policy change that helps the environment. Also, without China on board, progress by the U.S. and other countries in helping the environment could be erased by China’s lack of cooperation as well as the probable increase in demand for Chinese goods once they are benefited by U.S. policy change that damages its own businesses. Can internationally binding climate change policy pass for the U.S. absent China being on board or will China always be a prerequisite for major change in this area?

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I realize that the most recent post is about Syria but progressions with this issue in the last few days make this a more pressing concern! Syrian Vice-President Farouq al-Sharaa recently came out and said that neither the government or the rebels can win the 21 month old conflict. Does this signal a stalemate? 

The United States has recently recognized the rebel group, this could be an indicator that unilateral action (or NATO) is coming in the future. 20,000 people have been killed in the conflict as international organizations have stood by and watched the conflict go on. After so much waiting, what could make the minds of leaders change and cause help to come? Well the answer to this may be something that falls into the category of national defense for the United States! Whether or not that claim is legitimate, it would be nice to have an excuse for taking action and stopping the conflict. An article from the Washington Post reported yesterday that the U.S. has growing concerns over the Syrian governments ability to maintain control of its chemical weapons. Russia had been trading these weapons with Syria and there is a stash of weapons that could be very devastating if they were to fall in the wrong hands. “Islamist extremists, rogue generals or other uncontrollable factions”(Washington Post, 12/16/12) are of the main concerns expressed by the U.S. as of now and that could be enough for action. Waiting for the UN to enforce a “No Fly Zone” or a “Safe Zone” seems unlikely at this point as China and Russia have vetoed such proposals from the west. Catering to these two countries as the U.S. did in the case of Iran and economic sanctions would take more time and be potentially ineffective. We have waited too long, the time to act is now!

 

Articles:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20755279

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-plans-for-possibility-that-assad-could-lose-control-of-chemical-arms-cache/2012/12/16/f4912be2-4628-11e2-a685-c1fad0d6cd1f_story.html

 

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I just posted this on the department’s blog.

Political Science at University of the Pacific

On December 4, 2012, by a vote of 61-38 the United States Senate failed to consent to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It takes 66 votes to consent to a treaty, so at least for the time being the United States will not be a party to the latest global treaty extending international recognition of human rights.

The treaty, already signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, states that nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens.

The vote was essentially partisan. Every Democratic Senator plus eight Republican Senators, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) who has arguably been the most important Senate Republican on foreign policy issues for decades, voted to consent to the treaty. For the record…

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North Korea announced yesterday that it will test launch another long-range rocket for the commemoration of the one year anniversary of the death of the former leader Kim Jong-Il. This launch is said to take place any time from December 10 to December 22. The report mentions how this announcement was made after Chinese delegation went to visit North Korea. It was speculated that China had sent a delegation to speak with North Korea about halting launches of test missiles. Critics say that this launch is a cover for testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. South Korea and the United States see this test launch as a provocation from North Korea.

“In Washington, the Obama administration also denounced the planned launching. A North Korean ‘satellite’ launching would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Saturday. She added that the United States was consulting with allies on the issue.”

This article reflects my points covered in my North Korean Nuclear Proliferation research paper. It demonstrates the argument I made of North Korea’s “two faced” actions. North Korea says the missile launch is a form of celebrating the memory of previous leader Kim Jong-Il as it did in April when it launched a missile to remember Kim Il-Sung the creator the Korean nation. When in reality these launches are actual missile testing under the disguise of commemoration for previous leaders. Though the April launch was a failed launch, this new launch is said to be full of hope for success as previous errors were corrected. This announcement by North Korea only elevates the tension between North and South Korea and inevitably a concern for the United States even though North Korea may not be a priority on America’s foreign policy check list right now, though it is there as a concern. North Korea seems to be using in my opinion these test launches as a form of leverage for negotiations for economic aid and to serve as a reminder to other countries the potential it could have with its missile launches and its continued focus on the production of weapons of mass destruction.

 

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