Saturday, October 13, 2007

A possible utility of being rude

Earlier this month I argued in Newsweek that rising powers were hurting themselves by acting rudely on the global stage.

It's worth pointing out possible contradictory data on this point, however, so let's turn to Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker's story in the New York Times on a possible counterexample:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sharply upbraided the visiting American secretaries of state and defense on Friday as highly anticipated negotiations produced no specific accords to resolve growing disagreements over missile defense and other security issues.

Mr. Putin followed a pattern of recent criticisms of American policy, whether speaking in Moscow, Munich or even Maine, and he shaped the initial public tone on Friday when he greeted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at his residence outside Moscow with a derisive lecture in front of the television cameras.

Mr. Putin dismissed with sarcasm the American plan to build components of a missile defense system in formerly Communist nations of Central Europe as a reaction to a threat that had not yet materialized.

“Of course, we can some time in the future decide that some antimissile defense should be established somewhere on the moon,” Mr. Putin said, “but before we reach such an arrangement we will lose an opportunity of fixing some particular arrangements between us.”

However, American officials said things had been different behind the scenes, a view not completely contradicted by Russian negotiators....

Mr. Putin often veers from the diplomatic language typical of such high-level meetings. On Friday, meeting with the Americans at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside of Moscow, the outwardly warm interactions that once marked relations, at least between the countries’ two leaders, had clearly chilled in public.

Mr. Putin seemed to catch Mr. Gates and Ms. Rice off guard with his remarks, since no public statements were planned in advance.

Mr. Putin, though, arrived with notes and spent eight minutes welcoming the opportunity to talk about where Russia strongly disagreed with the Bush administration.

His remarks seemed to anger Ms. Rice, though Mr. Gates reacted impassively.

Mr. Putin kept the Americans waiting 40 minutes before he appeared. But Mr. Putin hardly rushed his guests away, as the private meeting went far longer than scheduled.

The implication in the story is that maybe -- maybe -- Putin is acting rudely in public because that gives him the leeway to be serious in private negotiations.

In the long run, however, this can only work if Putin can frame the outcome of the negotiations as representing a victory for Russia. So I'm not really convinced about the long-term viability of being obnoxious in a public forum. But this possibility is certainly worth a blog post.

posted by Dan at 09:37 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not to quibble with the Nobel committee, but....

Al Gore co-won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Combined with his Emmy, Webby, and Academy Awards, Gore's Nobel has cemented his hold on the world's Most Bitchin' Mantle Ever.

Just to be curmudgeonly, I thought this bit from the official press release was odd:

Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted (emphasis added).
I have a question -- is this really true? I don't doubt that if one replaced "worldwide" with "American" that this would be the case. Has the rest of the world, however, really been smacking their forehead saying, "Thank God Al Gore was here to alert us!!"

This is a serious question -- for those non-American readers out there, was Al Gore the reason you began to think about global warming?

UPDATE: Gore blogs about his prize, saying, "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

Again, being curmudgeonly, of couse the climate crisis is a political issue -- it's about the distribution of Really Really Big Costs and Benefits. This doesn't preclude it from being a moral issue as well, but Gore's statement suggests that he ascribes to the Jeffrey Sachs Theory of Politics.

LAST UPDATE: Lest I seem too curmudgeonly, it's worth reading the opening to John Dickerson's Slate column on Gore.

Al Gore is a winner. Al Gore was right. One of the best things for Al Gore about winning the Nobel Peace Prize is that the sound bites are finally all on his side. For decades the two-term vice president has been championing environmental causes and until recently often received public scorn and derision. Now he's been rewarded with one of the most coveted prizes on the planet.

This reversal in Gore's fortunes is extraordinary. He's not only seen a rolling vindication of his environmental activism as the world becomes more consumed with combating global climate change, but his prewar warnings about the conflict in Iraq now look prescient. Meanwhile, George Bush—the other political scion with whom Gore will forever be linked because of their bitter election fight in 2000—has followed almost exactly the opposite trajectory. Unpopular and increasingly criticized by many in his own party, Bush's legacy will be the broken war. While Gore is lauded for his prescience and insight, Bush will for some time—perhaps forever—be best known for lacking those same qualities.

It's hard to dispute much in those paragraphs.

posted by Dan at 09:14 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open Turkey thread

CNN reports that the Turkish government has not taken too kindly to the U.S. House of Representatives:

Turkey on Thursday recalled its ambassador to the United States and warned of repercussions in a growing dispute over congressional efforts to label the World War I era killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces "genocide."

The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the measure 27-21 Wednesday. President Bush and key administration figures lobbied hard against the measure, saying it would create unnecessary headaches for U.S. relations with Turkey.

Turkey -- now a NATO member and a key U.S. ally in the war on terror -- accepts Armenians were killed but call it a massacre during a chaotic time, not an organized campaign of genocide.

The full House could vote on the genocide resolution as early as Friday. A top Turkish official warned Thursday that consequences "won't be pleasant" if the full House approves the resolution.

"Yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball," said Egemen Bagis, foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball."....

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos, D-California, was unmoved by the Turkish government's protests.

"The Turkish government will not act against the United States because that would be against their own interests," he told CNN. "I'm convinced of this."

But Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing the resolution, and said the backlash threatened by Turkey could disrupt "America's ability to redeploy U.S. military forces from Iraq," a top Democratic priority.

Turkey, a NATO member, has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East and a conduit for sending supplies into Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that good relations with Turkey are vital because 70 percent of the air cargo sent to U.S. forces in Iraq and 30 percent of the fuel consumed by those forces fly through Turkey.

U.S. commanders "believe clearly that access to airfields and roads and so on, in Turkey, would very much be put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will," Gates said.

Bagis said no French planes have flown through Turkish airspace since a French Parliament committee passed a similar resolution last year.

He said the response to the U.S. might not be the same, but warned if the full House passes it that "we will do something, and I can promise you it won't be pleasant."

Comment away. A few questions worthy of discussion:
1) Hey, what happened to the Democrats' claimi that they would restore America's image to the rest of the world?

2) Doesn't the Lantos quote sound an awful lot like George W. Bush's strategic thought? UPDATE: This is not the first example of Lantos screwing up U.S. foreign policy.

3) So when will we get to read The Armenian Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy?

posted by Dan at 08:25 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Clearly, there are no constructivists at Foggy Bottom

I've been remiss in not linking to the new State Department blog, DipNote. Part of the reason for the slow-motion link is that Joshua Keating panned it over at Passport ("most of the posts from the big shots consist of little more than summaries of their schedules.... zzzz."). Then there's been the outright mockery.

Clicking over, however, I found this Sean McCormack post about negotiating with Iran pretty interesting. McCormack -- who's the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs -- clearly articulates how Foggy Bottom thinks about the utility of negotiations:

One way the mainstream media breaks down coverage of Iran policy is to place people (both inside and outside government) into two neat categories – those who want to engage Iran and those who want to isolate Iran. Admittedly, there are other ways to create camps on the Iran issue – use of force vs. diplomacy, for example – but the engage vs. isolation dichotomy is the one I most often read about those at State purportedly chomping at the bit to negotiate with an Iranian, any Iranian. Let me offer another way to look at the issue.

I’ll start with a simple premise: diplomacy without incentives and disincentives (carrots and sticks) is just talking. Put another way, diplomacy without the proper mix will accomplish nothing when dealing with an adversary. The question then becomes one of establishing both sides of the equation – incentives and disincentives -- before any negotiation. So those who want to divide the world into engage vs. isolate camps are missing the point. In fact, it is not a binary choice. Instead engagement and isolation are two different sides of the same coin.

Experience tells us that without creating significant leverage, you will fail in a negotiation – unless of course you face a weak or unthinking opponent. So, unless the U.S. creates the right conditions for successful negotiations with Iran, we won’t get anyplace.

This prompts a few questions:
1) Is McCormack correct? If he is, social constrictivists all over the world will be crying themselves to sleep.

2) Does this logic change when one views the very decision to engage in direct negotiations to be an incentive in and of itself?

3) How does the United States look when we don't answer letters?

posted by Dan at 11:08 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

The baseball gods apparently read this blog

Daniel Drezner, "That's right, I'm risking the wrath of the baseball gods," May 28, 2007:

The best thing that could happen to the long-term plans of the Red Sox is if Steinbrenner fires Cashman in favor of a Steinbrenner toady. At that point, I bet you that the new GM would trade Philip Hughes, Jose Tabata, and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana.

In which case, there will be seven fat years for the Sox, and seven lean years for the Yankees.

Peter Gammons, "Yanks' issues go beyond Torre," August 9, 2007:
They are the Yankees, so two hours after their season turned to winter, there was a cellphone conversation about what could be packaged with Chien-Ming Wang to get Johan Santana, not Carlos Silva or any of the other mongrel free agents. They inquired about Santana, because they are the Yankees.
Psst... George.... package Melky Cabera and Ian Kennedy with Wang and I bet you could get him.

Do it. Pleeeease.

UPDATE: At TNR online, Alex Massie argues that the Yankees are suffering from a two-term curse:

Can it really be a coincidence that the most-storied and successful team in American sports has failed to win while George W. Bush has occupied the Oval Office? I think not. The successor to the Curse of the Bambino is George W. Bush's hex upon the Yankees.
You'll have to read Massie's essay to see the parallels -- it does kinda explain the New York Times' coverage of the Yankees and Red Sox.

posted by Dan at 07:25 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Grading out the GOP debate on trade

I didn't see the GOP debate yesterday, but looking through the transcipt, I was surprised to see trade came up as an issue.

According to the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes and Amy Shatz:

{S]everal [candidates] reflected skepticism about free trade that is gaining hold in both political parties. The others, while professedly free-traders, acknowledged widespread job losses as a consequence of globalism and a public sense that trading partners, particularly China, are taking advantage of the U.S.
Looking at the transcript, I think Calmes and Shatz are overinterpreting what was said.

The fringe candidates (Hunter, Tancredo) were perfectly happy to sound protectionist. But they're not going to win, so let's skip them.

Some of the mainstream candidates (Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee) had some caveats:

Romney: "We need to make sure that the Chinese begin to float their currency and they protect our designs and our patents and our technology."

Giuliani: "I think you've got to almost separate them into two different categories. There's economic protection and then there's protection for safety, security, and legal rights. And I don't think we've done a particularly good job on the second, and we have to improve those agreements. But we can't throw out the baby with the bathwater. We can't say, because these agreements weren't perfect, because they have problems, because they have issues, we're going to turn our back on free trade."

Huckabee: "the fact is, we don't have fair trade. And that's the issue we've got to address."

The other candidates (Paul, McCain, Thompson) didn't pander at all on this question. Which, of course, means they're doomed.

So, on the whole, the only possible nominee who scared me was Huckabee. The rest of the field sounded relatively sane on the topic. And, credit where it's due, Giuliani scored the best combination of sound policy and sound politics on the issue.

Oh, one last thing -- no one let Ron Paul anywhere near the Federal Reserve.

posted by Dan at 02:47 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Your foreign policy quote of the day

From Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, "An Israeli Strike on Syria Kindles Debate in the U.S." New York Times, October 10, 2007:

“You can’t just make these [foreign policy] decisions using the top of your spinal cord, you have to use the whole brain,” said Philip D. Zelikow, the former counselor at the State Department. “What other policy are we going to pursue that we think would be better?”

posted by Dan at 08:15 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hillary Clinton really wants to improve America's standing abroad

Last week I asked which major party was going to be more trade-friendly.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton provided part of the answer. The Financial Times' Edward Luce summarizes:

Hillary Clinton, frontrunner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, on Monday said that all US trade agreements should be evaluated every five years and, if necessary, amended.

The process should start with the North America Free Trade Agreement, which was the signature trade pact of her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president.

The comments, which were aimed at union leaders who remain critical of Nafta, which they say has displaced US workers, amount to her strongest break so far with Mr Clinton’s pro-free trade agenda of the 1990s.

Mrs Clinton said Nafta suffered from “serious shortcomings”. She also reiterated her pledge to incorporate strong environmental and labour protections in future trade deals – a measure most economists view as protectionist.

“I think it is time that we assess trade agreements every five years to make sure they’re meeting their goals or to make adjustments if they are not,” she said in a speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which stages the first caucus vote in the presidential nomination process next January. “And we should start by doing that with Nafta.”....

In addition to the five-year trade reviews, Mrs Clinton said she would appoint a federal trade enforcement officer who would monitor compliance with trade agreements.

Click here for more details (it's not all bad; the proposal to expand trade adjustment assistance to cover service-sector workers makes sense). For a party that claims it wants to burnish America's image abroad, the Democrats sure know how to propose specific steps that will piss off our trading partners.

Seriously, if this kind of review is proposed, what incentive would any country have to sign an FTA with the United States? The major benefit of a free-trade agreement with the United States is less economic than political. An FTA increases the certainty of the bilateral relationship. Clinton's "review process" essentially strips away that certainty.

Does Hillary Clinton really want to return Mexican-American relations to the bad old pre-NAFTA days?

As for a "trade enforcement officer," this is the trade equivalent of Michael Dukakis' pledge from 1988 to balance the federal budget deficit through improved tax collection. It's nice politics, but it ain't going to mean a damn thing in terms of reducing the trade deficit or protecting American jobs.

Look, trade expansion does have distributional effects, and it makes sense to expand programs that try to compensate for those effects. Clinton's ham-handed idea is not the answer, however. This will play great on the hustings and contribute to an eroding image of the United States abroad.

Clinton should -- and does -- know better.

posted by Dan at 08:54 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Thinking about China's weight gain

Steve Clemons thinks that China is running diplomatic rings around the United States:

It is China that is "out multilateral-ing" the United States today. As we have been distracted in Iraq, China has rolled out aid and development programs globally, helped institute yet another Asian multilateral effort in its "East Asian Community" initiative, launched a multilateral security organization in the "Shanghai Cooperation Organization", and was the key factor in the recent negotiating successes with North Korea over its nuclear program. As State Department Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and chief negotiator with North Korea Christopher Hill has said, "China has become the first stop for any American diplomacy."

While much of the world perceives -- at best -- America as a status quo power but more realistically as a superpower in decline that will eventually look something like a well-endowed military state and more as an ordinary great power -- that same world looks at China as an ascending power. China's weight gains in global affairs matters.

This has been a recurring theme among foreign policy wonks.

I share this concern, but I also have my doubts. North Korea aside -- and it's a big aside -- China has had a pretty lousy year of diplomacy. I pointed his out last week:

Even China has had its diplomatic stumbles this year. Despite claims about the rise of Chinese "soft power," it has experienced some nasty blowback from its aggressive investments in Africa and its inadequate consumer regulation at home. The uprising of the monks in Myanmar also caught China short—a replay of Beijing's slow response after the 2005 tsunami.
I'm not the only one who's observed China's bad year.

As China amasses more "weight," it will also find itself amassing more global criticism. Beijing is valued now because it acts as a check against American power -- but the reverse will also be true.

Critics often bash the Bush administration for buying into a crude "bandwagoning" theory world politics. These fears of China seem to be predicated on the same kind of bandwagoning logic, however.

Clemons and others would point out that the difference is that while the Bush administration cares only about hard power, the Chinese have been astutely developing its soft power capabilities. Well, maybe. Are the Chinese initiatives at multilateralism significant or not? The Shanghai Cooperation Organization could be significant, but for every warning I read I also come across analysis suggesting that the organization doesn't matter that much.

Consider this an open thread -- are concerns about Chinese-led multilateral initiatives overblown or not?

posted by Dan at 05:24 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

I almost feel bad for Kevin Drum. Almost.

For this Stanford graduate and Red Sox fan, I must confess that Kevin Drum's horrible sports weekend is pretty awesome for the hardworking staff here at

posted by Dan at 12:52 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A first-person account of being lobbied by the Israel lobby

In the Boston Globe, journalist Elaine McArdle describes an AIPAC-funded junket to Israel and the effect it had on her:

I've found myself picking over the question: how much has my opinion on Israel been moved?

It's not hard for me to acknowledge that I'm much more sympathetic to the predicament of Israel than I was before I saw the place so extensively with my own eyes. Traveling the countryside has given me a much clearer picture of its precarious state, with a mere 9 miles separating the West Bank from Tel Aviv - less than from Boston to Concord, and easy distance for rockets. You can certainly see why Israel wouldn't give up the West Bank until it has a partner it can trust. Its existence - and the lives of the people we met - are at risk.

Before the junket, I would have described myself as admiring of Israel but increasingly disturbed by its human rights violations.

Now I would say I find myself aligned with a growing group of former Israeli leftists, those who once believed a peaceful solution was imminent but after the debacle of Gaza have, with heavy hearts, lost their bearings and moved toward the center.

Is this a seismic shift? No. But I also have no way of knowing where I would stand had I paid for the trip with my own money, organized my own interviews, and gotten equal access to the Palestinian point of view.

Our guides, to their credit, showed us the separation wall at its most formidable and depressing. But what life is like on the other side of that wall - whether families are eating olives and grilled fish, what their hopes and dreams for the future are, whether they dream of a nonviolent resolution to the conflict - of this, I have no personal experience.

posted by Dan at 08:43 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)