Archive for the ‘diplomacy’ Category

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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Reflecting on the visit of Diplomat-in residence Steve Browning his discussion about during his time as Ambassador has some significance to our reading of chapter four in Breuning. Ambassador Browning discussed the difficulties he had with dealing with his country team and managing the different agencies within his team. These agencies such as the Department of Defense send leaders to represent them in a specific country and work for the interest of their agency. This is a problem for the Ambassador because the Ambassador has a specific agenda for the year and unless these agency leaders inform the Ambassador what is going on it makes managing the team difficult to get anything done. Ambassador Browning said they way an ambassador manages his team is key for cooperation between these agencies to get anything done. The approach that Ambassador Browning said he used was the collegial approach were he used cooperation between agencies as a method to get things done. In Breuning the leader also has the option to use the collegial approach to manage his advisors through an emphasis of teamwork rather than competition. I understand that a president and an ambassador are two different positions but while reading the book the fact that Ambassador Browning made an emphasis on the importance of management skill and his collegiate approach made me think of the reading and how all types of leaders or people in management positions must have good managerial skills to get cooperation between their team may it be a country team or a circle of advisors for the president.

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Falkland or Malvina Islands?

In chapter 3 of Breuning brings up the feud between Argentina and Britain over the Malvinas or Falkland islands depending on whom you believe the islands belong to. Breuning provides us with the insight to the perceptions the leaders in Argentina and Britain had in regards to what they expected the other would do. For example, Argentina junta decided to invade the islands on April 2 1982 and did not expect Britain to respond militarily. The Argentinean junta believed that the world leaders would support them since many saw the Malvinas as part of Argentine territory. As a result Argentina believed Britain would relinquish the islands easily. But Britain’s perceptions were different. The British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher dispatched the Royal Navy to take out the Argentineans from the Island. Thatcher used the Munich analogy from when Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler, as an example of what appeasing Argentina would create. She used this historical case as her analogical reasoning to not back down against Argentina for the Falkland Islands. This same dispute seems to reflect the current dispute between China and Japan over the islands in the East China Sea. But in the contrary to the case of Argentina and Britain, the conflict between China and Japan is of a more dangerous scale at this moment since negotiations between the two have been rocky since protest have broke out in Japan for the islands to remain in their possession. The question that arises from this dispute correlates to chapter 3 of Breuning in regards to the perceptions leaders have when dealing with a problem. It would be key for this cases as well as it was in the Argentina vs. Britain dispute to find out what are the perceptions of the Chinese and Japanese leader. By understanding their perceptions we will be able to comprehend what is motivating them to continue this confrontation and not reach an agreement.

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On Wednesday night, the two presidential nominees will engage in their first of three debates before the November election.  What can we expect, does history give us any sort of indication?

We live in an entirely different world than we did in 1960 – We no longer live under the spectre of Communism, and America has arguably taken a place as the prime power in a unipolar world.  Yet, much like the 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon, I believe that any talk of foreign policy will stem back to what we are doing domestically.  Foreign Policy Magazine highlights their top ten presidential debate moments, and the first deals with the Kennedy-Nixon opening debate.  But, we can certainly extrapolate more from the dialogue than what is on the surface.  Kennedy drew upon the lack of inequality in the US, the lagging economy, and that what we do within our society reflects how we interact abroad.  One might say that Kennedy saw the world in very Jeffersonian terms.  He summed this up quite simply: “If freedom fails, we fail.”

Romney will undoubtably link foreign policy failures to the weak domestic economy, and failing to solve domestic issues.  Obama will counter that he took steps in the right direction with health care and the lowering unemployment figures since 2008.  He also has the upper hand in terms of his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan (as I mentioned in a previous blog post, the consensus is that neither candidate will deny scaling back in Afghanistan is a positive step for the US).

In that famous 1960 debate, Kennedy argued: “The reason Franklin Roosevelt was a ‘good neighbor’ in Latin America, was because he was a good neighbor in America.”  I predict that Romney might make similar remarks in order to show that by being the stronger candiate for domestic recovery, he can translate this success into a meaningful foreign policy agenda.

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In class, we talked about what the U.S. would respond to the threats to the security of their embasseis. We speculated a wide variety policies the U.S. could enact. I thought that it would be interesting to find out what exctly the government does in these situtations. According to the article, they evacuated all non-essential personel from the country as well as warned U.S. citizens to stay away from the country and it’s waters. The embassy may be reinforced with more marines and better walls but the government wouldn’t want to publicize that I assume.

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Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon...

Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Iran‘s nuclear ambitious have been getting a lot of attention lately, but whatever happened to our Cold War love affair with the possibility of nuclear annihilation? It’s all a bit sad that our major nuclear concerns revolve around a “maybe” in Iran, an educated guess as to the actual nuclear capabilities of North Korea, and for the foreign policy junkies the neighborly disputes of the nuclear sort involving India and Pakistan. What about fears of an attack on US soil? Have we lost our faith in the Henry Kissingers, the Donald Rumsfelds, and the Dick Cheneys of old that could so compel us with rousing speeches about how we might die tomorrow? In recent years, fans of doomsday scenarios may have been forced to turn to figures like Glenn Beck for their daily dose of annihilation-inspiration. Luckily, for those of us with a more aged and refined taste for annihilation scenarios, foreignpolicy.com is offering some gems of the nuclear sort in an article titled “The Fifty-Megaton Elephant in the Room.”

US Secretary of Defense Leo Panetta is in Beijing this week for a round of meetings with leader Xi Jinping, where they will discuss a plethora of topics not including nuclear weapons, says the article. At the moment, US-China nuclear relations exist on an “I won’t use the nuke first” basis, and needless to say the author is of the opinion that two nuclear weapon-possessing world powers should certainly be discussing the issue. China has been described by some as “little Russia,” in comparing the threat that Russia posed to the US during the Cold War and the threat that China may pose today. However, Jeffery Lewis, the article’s author, points out that the current situation is far from the situation that existed during the Cold War.

Lewis argues that during the Cold War, reasons for the US and Russia to refrain from using nuclear weapons on each other were clear. The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the evolution of more powerful nuclear weapons compelled us to think there would be no winner in a nuclear war. A policy of “assured destruction” became popular in the 1960s, following an experiment conducted by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. McNamara concluded that even if 400 1-megaton nuclear bombs were deployed against the Soviet Union, it might not be enough to deter “another Stalin,” but “401 would be a fool’s errand.” This policy became known as “mutually assured destruction” (MAD).

Lewis points out that for policy-makers; mutually assured destruction on the level dreamed by McNamara is far beyond the realm of acceptability. Decision makers are persuaded by the idea that even one nuclear bomb could reach U.S. or Chinese shores, and the state of “mutual vulnerability” as MAD has evolved into, very much still exists. Understanding that mutual vulnerability is a fact of life is a fact that should encourage this issue to continually be discussed, contends Lewis.

Do countries like Iran, Pakistan, and India figure into U.S. foreign policy decisions regarding mutual vulnerability? Should American presidents, and currently the Obama administration push harder for nuclear non-proliferation? Does the ownership of nuclear weapons increase or decrease geopolitical slack? Is Iran pursuing nuclear weapons to deter the United States, or to have a bargaining chip on the table of world powers?

These are all questions that should be asked.

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In the reading, the author had stated that politics no longer stopped at the water’s edge. It was strange to hear this from someone who practiced classical realism. Its harder to explain that states are unitary actors without that idea. At first, I was skeptical of the change in the theory. But then I read articles like this one where domestic politics clearly reach out to foreign countries. I think its pretty terrible that in the future nominees like Romney will be going around the world trying to garner foreign support or at the very least make the American public think they had foreign support. It just seems wrong. It makes us look bad.

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