Saturday, March 1, 2003
THE KIESLING LETTER: When a
THE KIESLING LETTER: When a high-ranking Foreign Service officer publicly resigns because of a policy disagreement, it makes one take notice. There may be private-sector opportunities for those who leave government service, but don't kid yourself -- almost no one outside the government can shape policy as much as those in the executive branch. To leave that for reasons of principle is significant -- as the International Herald-Tribune notes, "It is rare... for a diplomat, immersed in the State Department's culture of public support for policy regardless of private feelings, to resign with this kind of public blast."
So I took the resignation of John Brady Kiesling, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Athens and a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service quite seriously. Until I read the resignation letter. Here's the key paragraph:
"The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?"
I hope he's right about Al Qaeda's strength (this should help), but the bombings in Bali, Kenya, and Tunisia suggest that this group remains a potent force and that Kiesling is exaggerating.
Which is the problem with the whole missive. There is some measure of truth in what Kiesling writes, but there is so much gross exaggeration and simplification that it makes it hard to take seriously.
Kiesling started his career at the Foreign Service in 1983 -- a year in which Ronald Reagan was receiving mass condemnation abroaf for branding the Soviet Union an "evil empire." The U.S. was applying extraterritorial sanctions against its NATO allies because of their cooperation with the Soviet gas pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of protestors were pressuring Western European governments not to install Pershing II missiles as a counter to Soviet intermediate-range missiles, instead pushing for a nuclear freeze. A much larger budget deficit (as a share of GDP) was ballooning, in part because of an increase in military spending that makes today's increases look like chump change.
Maybe he wrote this in a distraught state of mind, but in the end the letter reads like a 16-year old protesting his curfew to his parents.
Friday, February 28, 2003
Why can't dictators aspire to be like Mussolini?
A fascinating FT op-ed on what Kim Jong-Il and Saddam Hussein have in common:
Read the whole piece.
Describing my political beliefs
When asked about my political beliefs, I usually respond by calling myself a "pragmatic libertarian." But what exactly does that mean?
I can't provide an answer to that question. I can, however, provide Brink Lindsey's definition of pragmatic libertarianism, which I like a great deal.
Just war and Iraq
I said below that I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer on why a quick war with Iraq would not be more just than the status quo of immiserating sanctions.
That's a fair point, but it's worth asking whether the consequences of the "permanent system of coercion and control" -- which includes the embargo, no-fly zones, and the stationing of large numbers of troops on Saudi soil -- are more limited. One can argue that containment has substantially contributed to instability in Saudi Arabia and the growth of Al Qaeda.
That said, Walzer's point about the uncertainties of conflict are worth contemplating. So is the rest of his essay. He is intellectually honest enough to admit the following:
SHAME, SHAME: As Michael Green
SHAME, SHAME: As Michael Green and Jacob Levy have already pointed out, "No War in Iraq, the University of Chicago group devoted to actively opposing the war in Iraq," which receives funding from multiple university accounts, has published a brief collection of opinion pieces from professors regarding the merits of a war with Iraq.
According to the group:
"No War in Iraq... has chosen to put together this journal of essays because we recognize the grays in the world, and because we still oppose a war in Iraq.... We wanted to put together a journal with opinions both supporting and opposing a war in Iraq.
We wanted readers to get both sides, to see the complexity and come to an educated decision, as we had. When we started soliciting essays, we realized that this task would be more difficult than we had originally thought. While it was fairly easy to find faculty who opposed the war, finding faculty who supported it was a much more difficult task. We followed every lead we had and in most cases learned that the faculty we were told probably supported a war really were not sure where they stood (This is with the exception of Richard Posner of the Law School, whoes (sic) contribution and willingness to participate despite the lack of other pro-war essays we greatly appreciate). While we were trying to convey the honest disagreement within the academic community at the University, we found it difficult to find many professors who supported a war in Iraq. Our impression was that there may not be so much disagreement after all, and that there is general skepticism surrounding the Bush administration's policies on Iraq." (my bold italics)
If this is their story, then these individuals have displayed neither the research skills nor the intellectual curiosity to merit being University of Chicago students. Go to Jacob Levy's post to see particular individuals on campus that believe an attack on Iraq would be justified. They most certainly did not follow every lead.
If this group was serious in its endeavor to present a balanced debate, all that was needed was a mass e-mail to solicit faculty positions on the war. At a minimum, such an e-mail should have been sent to faculty affiliated with the Political Science department, Middle Eastern Studies, International Studies, Public Policy, and/or Philosophy. No email was sent.
The only conceivable defense I can think of for their error was a belief that the contributors had to come from different departments in the university and didn't want too many political science professors. However, the fact that they were able to squeeze in two English professors suggests that perhaps I'm being too generous.
Let me make it clear that if No War in Iraq had only wanted to publish a collection of antiwar pieces, that would have been perfectly appropriate, given the group's raison d'etre. What offends me is their initial claim that they wanted to publish a collection of diverse opinions and then their subsequent claim that they were unable to find any diversity of thought on campus. At the University of Chicago, if you can't find diversity of thought among the faculty, you're not looking hard enough.
It gives me no pleasure to write about this. I don't like publicly criticizing undergraduates on campus. Being at college is all about going on an intellectual journey, one that usually has its share of embarrassing stops along the way.
However, I find the incident I've just related so contrary to this university's principles of open debate that it's worth blogging about it.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
A leading indicator for the Democratic nomination
Mickey Kaus, TNR's &c., and The Note are all a flutter about Bob Shrum's decision to join the John Kerry campaign as an indicator of Kerry's chances to become the Democratic nominee.
However, over the next year (and before the actual primaries), there's a better harbinger for who will be the eventual nominee -- which candidate picks up the elite foreign policy advisors?
Why these people? Because foreign policy analysts might care about a candidate's philosophy of governance, but they care about being Secretary of State more. Therefore, unless their foreign policy views are sharply in contrast with the candidate's ideology (no pro-war analysts would be likely to work for Howard Dean, for example), these people will pick the candidate most likely to win -- and therefore most likely to appoint them to choice cabinet, subcabinet, and White House positions.
[But wouldn't these people just wait until the primary season is over?--ed. Not necessarily. There are clear first-mover advantages to latching onto candidates. In 2000, remember, George W. Bush assembled an impressive list of Republican foreign policy experts -- the "Vulcans" before the first primary or caucus. But why wouldn't domestic policy advisors operate under the same guidelines?--ed. The ideological constraints are more powerful for domestic issues. Since domestic policy is the bread and butter of presidential campaigns, candidates usually take great pains to articulate their policy proposals in a way that acts like a brand for their ideological stripe. This branding narrows the range of domestic advisors who can plausibly join a particular campaign. Because foreign policy is usually reactive rather than proactive, plain-old experience is more valued for its own sake in international relations].
Who are the elite advisors? As a public service, this blog provides the following list. I divide it into two categories -- those with sufficient gravitas to become Secretary of State, and those with enough know-how to qualify as National Security Advisor. The latter group will likely commit to a candidate first, because they have more rungs up the achievement ladder:
National Security Advisor-level advisors: (A larger and more impressive list -- but then again, I actually know most of these guys):
(Interesting side note: It was difficult to locate anything like an personal web page for the first category of people. It was easy to complete the same task for the second group. That says something, but I'm not sure what.)
To my knowledge (which is appallingly slim in inside-the-beltway stuff) none of these people have publicly committed for any candidate. Yet.
UPDATE: I've amended this post to respond to Kevin Drum's excellent question.
When war is the humanitarian option
Mark Kleiman raises a very uncomfortable question for anti-war advocates:
P.S. In fairness, I should point out that Kleiman's figure of 90,000 deaths per annum is a gross exaggeration -- the UNICEF study relied on Iraqi government information that was never released to other researchers and fails to distinguish between deaths attributable to sanctions and those attributable to the Gulf War. The best study I've seen on the topic puts the estimate at around 25,000 deaths per annum.
THE ART OF APOLOGIES: A
THE ART OF APOLOGIES: A Canadian MP has apologized for calling Americans "bastards.":
"A Liberal MP has apologized for saying about Americans: "I hate those bastards."
MP Carolyn Parrish was speaking to reporters about Canada's diplomatic initiative on Iraq. At the end of her comments, after most of the cameras were turned off, Parrish said, 'Damn Americans … I hate those bastards.'
CBC reporter Susan Lunn, who heard Parrish make the comment, said the MP then laughed as she was walking away....
'My comments do not reflect my personal opinion of the American people and they certainly do not reflect the views of the government of Canada,' she said in her written statement.
Late last year, the prime minister's communications director, Françoise Ducros, resigned after calling U.S. President George W. Bush 'a moron' during a conversation with a reporter in Prague."
Parrish's statement is probably false -- the "bastards" comment was -- obviously -- her personal opinion. Maybe she changed her mind later, but she can't claim aliens made her say it. As one American e-mailed the CBC in reaction to the story: "If she hates us, I'd rather her say it and at least have the guts to stick to it... I'd rather be aware of honest hate rather than the smarmy lies of a pretended friend."
This kind of story makes me flash back to 1985, when Reagan was heard muttering "sons of bitches" into a microphone as the press was leaving a Cabinet meeting. Reagan never apologized -- his press spokesman said, with a straight face, that what Reagan had really uttered was "It's sunny and you're rich." In handling it that way, Reagan was able to back away from what he said. He used an obvious lie to avoid telling a more insidious lie.
COULD BE WORSE... COULD BE
COULD BE WORSE... COULD BE "BLUNT AND UPTIGHT": The New Republic Online has given a name to the contributions from Jacob T. Levy and myself -- "Chicago School." Their extraordinarily erudite editor goes on to note:
"Levy and Drezner are members of a small but growing clique of 'scholar bloggers'--scholars who share their insights with wider audiences on their respective web logs. They will be bringing a similiar brand of sharp but informal commentary on politics and foreign policy to TNR readers."
Jacob's latest effort is now available -- and should give some pause to those praising the Bush administration's commitment to Iraqi democracy.
ASSESSING AFGHANISTAN: President Bush's declaration
ASSESSING AFGHANISTAN: President Bush's declaration that the U.S. will build a free and stable Iraq is causing both supporters and critics to take another look at Afghanistan to see how things are there. Evidence of increasing stability and democracy supports the assertion that Iraq can be remade -- evidence of lawlessness and authoritarianism would suggest more humility.
So what's the situation? Depends on who you ask. Hamid Karzai thinks the Afghan situation is continually improving -- of course, he has a strong political incentive to advocate that line of thinking . That same Chicago Tribune story shows that Democratic Senators believe the situation is deteriorating -- of course, they have strong political incentives to advocate that line of thinking.
"In a city that had a handful of shopworn eating places two years ago, a new Chinese or Italian or American hamburger restaurant opens almost weekly, as well as kebab shops by the score. Small hotels have sprung up, and a $40 million Hyatt is on the way. The food bazaars are bustling and there are downtown blocks filled almost entirely with bridal shops. Rebuilt homes are rising from the ruins, and every little storefront seems to be stuffed with bathtubs or fans or with men building and carving things to be sold....
According to Commerce Minister Seyyed Mustafa Kazemi, the number of foreign firms setting up shop in Afghanistan is growing fast.
He said that in the past six months, his ministry has approved 2,600 business licenses, compared with 2,045 in the 45 years before. Many were given to foreign firms, he said, or those headed by Afghans living abroad who want to return to their homeland. These licensed businesses are the large ones that will pay all taxes and other government fees; most Afghan businesses still open without registration and beyond the reach of central government tax collectors."
However, that report only deals with the situation in Kabul. This Knight-Ridder story suggests much more pessimism about the situation outside the capital:
"More than a year after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban government that sheltered Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan is a fractured country torn by ethnic strife and divided regional loyalties. Its roads are impassable and unsafe, plagued by bandits. Opium production is surging. Regional armies owe no allegiance to the national government, and neither do political leaders who run their provinces like little countries....
'The central government is very weak and can't unite the country because it can't obtain the financial support from the international community,' said Abdul Razak, director of commerce in the southern city of Kandahar."
The truth probably lies somewhere in between, though I always trust the report coming from the sticks more than the report coming from the capital. Two final thoughts on this, however.
First, comparing Afghanistan to Iraq is as unfair as comparing it to post-W.W.II Japan. Afghanistan is the toughest test imaginable for post-war reconstruction. The fact that any demonstrable progress has taken place in a society with no sizeable middle class, economic infrastructure, or stable governance for the last 25 years is worth celebrating. Iraqis are not nearly so impoverished, uneducated, or factionalized as Afghans.
Second, for all of the criticism being levied at the U.S. for not doing enough to rebuild the country, it's pretty clear that the U.S. is doing more than others. This Iranian news story paints a slightly discouraging picture of Afghanistan, but not so bad as the Knight-Ridder story. The key line:
"'The US has been true to its pledge much more than the rest of the global community in providing financial assistance to Afghanistan,' said [Tehran representative of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan Qolam-Hussein] Nasseri.
Considering the source being quoted, and the organization doing the quoting, it's tough to argue that the U.S. has fallen down on the job in Afghanistan.
UPDATE: This Washington Post op-ed definitely comes down on the negative side. Of course, I have no idea where they get their info.
A VERY SAD DAY IN
A VERY SAD DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Fred Rogers is dead of cancer at 74.
As a small child, I still remember watching -- in order -- Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and then Electric Company. Now, I'll admit that my favorite was Electric Company -- it had Spiderman and Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader -- but my afternoon was incomplete if I didn't see Mr. Rogers take off his jacket and tie and put on his cardigan.
Rest in peace, good sir. Millions of middle-aged Americans will never be able to forget you.
UPDATE: Virginia Hefferman's obit captures what I think about Mr. Rogers.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
French consistency on multilateralism
The French Prime Minister made it clear today that if the U.S. decides to go ahead with an attack on Iraq without a 20th UN Security Council resolution regarding Iraq, "would divide the international community" and "be perceived as precipitous and illegitimate." Clearly, the French have a strong belief in multilateralism.
Unless, of course, such multilateral cooperation would actually require them to make material sacrifices for the greater good. In that circumstance, the French appear to be rank unilateralists:
"France launched the most serious challenge yet to the European Union's economic rules yesterday, by vowing not to take austerity measures to plug its growing budget deficit....
Paris's response to its likely breach of the stability and growth pact - the stringent economic rules underpinning the euro - will test the credibility of EU economic policy.
A defiant stance by France, which has recently clashed with other EU members on issues such as Iraq and Zimbabwe, would make it easier for other countries to disregard the pact."
I'm shocked, shocked at this sort of behavior.... not.
UPDATE: Oh, yes, they're also threatening to break up the current round of WTO negotiations.
THOSE FATUOUS AND CYNICAL HUMAN
THOSE FATUOUS AND CYNICAL HUMAN SHIELDS: Tapped has admirably and appropriately scolded the antiwar protestors now heading to Iraq as "human shields," with the idea of thwarting U.S. bombing raids: "If you're opposed to war at any cost, risking your life to protest it has a certain nobility and purity to it. But by our lights, a line is crossed when citizens go from engaging in the political process to prevent a decision to go to war to actively impeding prosecution of the war once that decision has been made."
Here's the key section of the article:
"'We are here for the people, not the government,' said Katarina Soederholm of Norway. She said she objects to the group being used for 'propaganda.'
The Iraqi government has given the volunteers unprecedented freedom to organize their protests, which have included a blood drive and several marches. The government pays for their hotels and provides other services such as phone lines and Internet access.
Soederholm was not part of the group going to the power plant.
'Too risky' was her assessment. 'I will go to a hospital,' she said, 'I don't want to be someplace where my life will really be in danger.'
Despite being called 'human shields,' many activists aren't prepared to die.
'I am not saying I will see this thing through to the bitter end,' said [Godfrey] Meynell, the leader of the group at the power plant. Most plan to leave before any attack starts."
The hypocrisy of these protestors' actions is so rank that they can do nothing to further their alleged cause of peace. There are unsavory members of both sides of this debate, but these people are lower than either Noam Chomsky or ANSWER on the food chain of stupid ideas.
[I thought you weren't going to write about the protestors again--ed. These people are far, far more insidious than run-of-the-mill protestors.]
UPDATE: I take back what I said about Chomsky -- click here for why.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
WHO'S RUNNING THE FOREIGN POLICY
WHO'S RUNNING THE FOREIGN POLICY STORE?: John Judis has an interesting but incomplete analysis of the different administration foreign policy factions. He divides up the administration into hard-core unilateralists (Rumsfeld, Cheney), half-realist/half-institutionalists (Powell, Tenet), and neocons (Wolfowitz). It does a nice job of highlighting the divisions within the administration.
It's incomplete in that I have no idea on what basis Judis is making these assertions -- he provides no actual evidence, says it's "based on interviews with administration officials, press reports and, where necessary, speculation." That doesn't fill me with confidence. It's also incomplete in failing to locate all of the key players (where's Condi Rice?)
Most important, Judis is too willing to lump Bush with Rumsfeld and Cheney as hard-core unilateralists. As I've argued elsewhere, Bush is a multilateralist, but a results-oriented one.
However, the difficulty of locating Bush raises an interesting and somewhat troubling management question -- why hasn't President Bush done a better job of privately managing these publicly feuding factions? (NOTE: As Brad DeLong makes clear, this applies to the administration's economic policy as well). It's clear that this president likes an open and honest debate about foreign policy matters. However, there's a difference between a private debate and a public one.
This administration has been far too public in its disagreements. The result is that anti-American elites in the rest of the world can seize on public comments made by some factions in the administration and trumpet them as official U.S. policy even when they may be a minority view. In contrast, the first Bush administration clearly has policy splits, but they were never made piblic until Bob Woodward wrote about them.
In the end, only the president has the authority to rein in such public divisions. Given the stakes involved in the current debate over Iraq, this should happen soon.
Monday, February 24, 2003
Spring training for Democratic foreign policy advisors
Josh Marshall and Heather Hurlburt have pointed out the gravitas gap in foreign policy expertise among Democrats. This matters because foreign policy will be a critical factor in the 2004 presidential campaign.
Now, thanks to Foreign Policy, we have a chance to rate the main candidates (Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman) foreign policy platforms. How do they stack up so far? Here are my provisional grades, which are based on originality, coherence, and the ability to target Bush's vulnerabilities:
JOHN EDWARDS: I've liked Edwards' previous speeches on foreign policy, so I had high expectations. They weren't met, but there's some interesting stuff here.
He starts off well, explaining the need for a "comprehensive strategy for domestic security." This point manages to underscore his policy emphasis and attack Bush. However, he then goes on to note: "the administration stubbornly clings to permanent tax cuts that will benefit mainly the top 1 percent of Americans while arguing that the government can’t afford vital measures to protect the American people." Note to Edwards staff: I understand what you're going for here, but try to avoid having your candidate sound like Al Gore.
The rest of the essay is too generic. It's not that there's anything wrong with what's being said, it's just lacking in specifics [Be fair, Edwards has given two major foreign policy speeches, and they do have more specifics--ed. Fair point]. I liked the line, "We’ve proved that we have firepower. Now we must show the world that we have staying power." But there's nothing about how exactly an Edwards administration would do this.
The essay does end well: "Getting serious about political reform and human rights in the Middle East will require specific strategies in specific countries, but it will also depend on achieving energy security. Presidents of both parties have tolerated and even supported authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, in part because the United States depends on them for oil. A real commitment to energy independence—which the Bush administration clearly lacks—would not only strengthen the U.S. economy but free the United States to promote American values." The linking of these two issues is both smart politics and smart policy. Overall, Edwards did the best job of linking foreign policy to domestic policy issues, which one would expect of a good Democrat.
Overall grade: B A good start, but room for improvement.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: There's a passage in Primary Colors about the difference between legislators as compared to politicians in the executive branch: "Legislators were a different, somewhat less interesting species." The point was that legislators may be steeped in policy minutae, but leaders have the capacity and the curiosity to innovate.
Gephardt's problem is that he is the quintissential legislator.
This shows up in his essay, which manages to be both bland and wrong, a unique combination. There's an interesting undercurrent about using private sector and civil society forces as a way of generating goodwill abroad, but it's not developed at all. However, he does say, "I am determined to further this tradition of committed leadership and have pursued such a course in international affairs throughout my career."
BWAH HAH HAH HAH !!! Oh, wait, he's trying to be serious. Sorry, I was just flashing back to his 1988 presidential campaign, you know, the one that stressed trade protectionism for one and all.
Beyond that, Gephardt's essay seems blissfully unaware or current events. He attacks the administration for not being pro-Israel enough (?!!). Then he blasts Bush for not doing enough to fight AIDS in Africa. He must have submitted this in early January. Whoops.
Overall grade: F Not ready for prime time.
JOHN KERRY: A pleasant surprise. He starts off by blasting Democrats who believe that foreign policy matters won't be pivotal in the next campaign:
"Democrats must resist a new orthodoxy within our party—a politically stagnating shift that does a disservice to more than 75 years of history. That is the new conventional wisdom of consultants, pollsters, and strategists who argue that Democrats should be the party of domestic issues alone.
They are wrong. As a party, Democrats need to talk about all the things that strengthen and protect the United States. We need to have a vision that extends to the world around us, and we should remember that this vision is as old as our party.... It’s our turn again to talk about things that are hard."
He then does a nice job of advocating more resources for the intelligence services, with specific anecdotes to highlight why such increases are necessary. He muddles through on Iraq, but then gives the best partisan spin on North Korea of all four of the candidates:
"the Bush administration has offered only a merry-go-round policy: Bush and his advisers got up on their high horse, whooped and hollered, rode around in circles, and ended up right back where they’d started. By suspending the talks initiated by the Clinton administration, asking for talks but with new conditions, refusing to talk under the threat of nuclear blackmail, and then reversing that refusal as North Korea’s master of brinkmanship upped the ante, the administration sowed confusion and put the despot Kim Jong Il in the driver’s seat. By publicly taking military force, negotiations, and sanctions off the table, the administration tied its own hands behind its back.
Now, finally, the Bush administration is rightly working with allies in the region—acting multilaterally—to pressure Pyongyang. It’s gotten off the merry-go-round; the question is why one would ever want to be so driven by unilateralist dogma to get on in the first place."
This is a harsh assessment, but I admire the tactics.
Like Gephardt, he stresses the role of non-state actors in assisting U.S. foreign policy. Unlike Gephardt, he actually devotes more than one sentence to it. Ending with a Teddy Roosevelt quote was a nice touch.
Overall grade: A- He's got the chops
JOE LIEBERMAN: The 6th grade English teacher in me liked the crisp and coherent organization of this essay. The foreign policy wonk was either bored or uncertain whether Lieberman knew what he was talking about. Beyond the usual platitudes, his suggestion to "refocus NATO, the world’s greatest military alliance, to apply its might to uproot terrorism." sounds good, but when you think about it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Exactly how is the Belgian Army going to be of use in fighting Al Qaeda?
Then there's this goal: "maintaining the global balance of power must be as high a priority as countering threats from terrorists and rogue nations." Now, surely he doesn't mean that the U.S. should become weaker so that an actual balance exist?
Lieberman deserves some credit for discussing his legislative proposals on democracy promotion and economic liberalization. He seems to get the fact that foreign policy isn't just about guns and bombs. He's unclear on the environment -- read the essay and see if he's advocating rejoining the Kyoto Protocol or not, because I'm still not sure.
Overall grade: C+ An OK first draft, but not fully thought out. Revise and resubmit.
SILLY FINANCIAL TIMES: This FT
SILLY FINANCIAL TIMES: This FT story on the emergence of realpolitik in China's foreign policy is so ahistorical that it just looks silly. The key thesis:
"The restraint that has characterised China's response to the crises in Iraq and North Korea demonstrates a fundamental shift in the way that Beijing pursues its foreign policy, Chinese academics and foreign diplomats said.
As Colin Powell, US secretary of state, holds talks with Chinese leaders today, the importance of Beijing's new-found pragmatism may be on display. Chinese leaders are not expected to stand in the way of Washington's desire to attack Iraq, nor are the two sides likely to hit an impasse over North Korea, analysts said....
'China now publicly tells the world that our foreign policy serves our interests,' says Yan Xuetong, director of the institute of international studies at Tsinghua University."
China's acting in its own interests? Stop the presses!! The unstated implication -- that in recent years China has not acted to advance its own interests -- is ridiculous.
What's dangerous is that this article completely ignores an alternative explanation for China's inaction on both Iraq and North Korea -- a struggle for leadership at the top (UPDATE: Sam Crane makes the same point even more concisely in this LA Times op-ed). The North Korea crisis has been percolating for almost six months now, and the principal Chinese reaction has been to insist it will do nothing.
This might be pragmatism in the form of buckpassing. Or it might be a sign of paralysis. You'd never know from the FT.