October 26, 2006
"Welcome to the party, pal!"
A quick cycle through the headlines of the past two days provides an update on our NATO allies:
October 11, 2006
A Nuclear Leviathan in the Pacific
Westhawk argues that the biggest loser of North Korea's nuclear test is China.
China remains by far the biggest loser from North Korea’s actions. America’s security alliances with Japan and South Korea will become more important and these bonds will be strengthened. Japan, now led by the unapologetic nationalist Shinzo Abe, will scrap any remaining restraints on its military doctrine and will invest in an offensive military strike capability. Japan could also very quickly become a nuclear weapons state itself, something that could occur after further provocations.Joe Katzman argues at WindsofChange that the focus should not be on North Korea, but on China:
The truth is that North Korea is an irrelevant bit player in this whole drama. The real player here is China. They have helped North Korea at every step, and North Korea's regime cannot survive at all without their ongoing food and fuel aid. Kim Jong-Il's nuclear plans may be slightly inconvenient to the Chinese - just not not inconvenient enough to derail a strategy that still promises net plusses to those pursuing it within China's dictatorship.Both of them think that the best way to influence China, and thereby to influence North Korea, is to make it clear that Japan, South Korea, and possibly even Taiwan, will be encouraged or given tacit approval by the US to strengthen their militaries.
The U.S. and its allies in the region will be forced to bypass an ineffectual China when formulating their security arrangements in the Asia-Pacific theater. And this will result in a strengthening American-led, anti-Chinese alliance in the region. This is exactly opposite the outcome China wished to see occur.And Katzman:
In other words, China won't move unless its current strategy is seen to cost them, big-time.David Frum, former Bush speechwriter, takes a similar tack, in an article in the New York Times (here via AEI):
The biggest cost, and the only one that will be real to them in any sense, is to have Kim Jong-Il's nuclear detonation result in parallel nuclear proliferation among the nearby states China wishes to dominate/ bully. That would be a foreign policy disaster for the Chinese, and would cause the current architects of China's North Korea policy to be buried along with their policy. Which, as we noted earlier, is the only kind of policy education that works in a system like theirs.
A new approach is needed. America has three key strategic goals in the wake of the North Korean nuclear test. The first is to enhance the security of those American allies most directly threatened by North Korean nuclear weapons: Japan and South Korea.Frum offers a four part plan for dealing with the crisis and accomplishing his three steps [emphasis added]:
The second is to exact a price from North Korea for its nuclear program severe enough to frighten Iran and any other rogue regimes considering following the North Korean path.
The last is to punish China. North Korea could not have completed its bomb if China, which provides the country an immense amount of food and energy aid, had strongly opposed it. Apparently, Beijing sees some potential gain in the uncertainty that North Korea's status brings. If China can engage in such conduct cost-free, what will deter Russia from aiding the Iranian nuclear program, or Pakistan someday aiding a Saudi or Egyptian one?
Step up the development and deployment of existing missile defense systems.Commentary
[ . . . ]
End humanitarian aid to North Korea and pressure South Korea to do the same.
[ . . . ]
Invite Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to join NATO--and even invite Taiwan to send observers to NATO meetings.
[ . . . ]
Encourage Japan to renounce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and create its own nuclear deterrent.
What Frum proposes would most certainly punish China, but how much punishment is too much? Consider the panoply of security architectures that have comprised the US alliance system in the Pacific. The US has a security treaty with Japan. It has similar agreements with South Korea. It has guarantees, explicit and otherwise, with Taiwan. The US used to have an alliance with Australia and New Zealand called ANZUS; but New Zealand protested the stationing of nuclear weapons or nuclear ships in its ports in the 1980s, forcing the US to come to refer to New Zealand as a "friend, not an ally." The alliance with Australia on the other hand, is one of the strongest that the US maintains.
At the same time, each of these countries has dramatically differing relations with each other. Australia maintains an alliance with New Zealand. Japan has no security relationship with South Korea, though it has offered to help defend Taiwan from China. A diagram of the existing security relationships might look like the following. I've included all alliances as arrows, whereas other lesser defense partnerships are lines without arrows. All of the US relationships are included; not all of those between the other countries are:
October 9, 2006
In 2004, an article appeared in the Korea Times, quoting National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. Hadley stated that the US policy toward North Korea is one of "regime transformation."
In an apparent policy turnaround, the United States will seek transformation of the North Korean regime without attempting to change or overthrow it, a top U.S. security policymaker said Tuesday.If regime transformation is the policy of the US government, it seems a strategy of "collapse brinksmanship" is the method being employed to reach it.
``If the U.S. policy is put into words, it would be `regime transformation,’’’ National Security Advisor-designate Stephen Hadley was quoted as telling South Korean parliamentary delegates visiting the U.S.
Hadley also reiterated the U.S. is firmly committed to the six-party talks aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff and has no intention of attacking North Korea, according to the lawmakers.
Rep. Park Jin, a key member of the delegation, said Hadley’s statement can be understood as a U.S. policy that would induce North Korea toward transformation through gradual economic reform without trying to collapse the current regime.
In Cold War nuclear strategy, brinkmanship was first defined by John Foster Dulles as "the ability to get to the verge without getting into the war." Wikpedia notes, "Brinkmanship is ostensibly the escalation of threats to achieve one's aims. Eventually, the threats involved might become so huge as to be unmanageable at which point both sides are likely to back down. This was the case during the Cold War, as the escalation of threats of nuclear war is mutually suicidal."
But the brinksmanship being practiced now by the US is one of collapse, not nuclear attack. The US is attempting to create conditions whereby it becomes more and more likely that North Korea will collapse. The intended audiences for this interplay are China and South Korea, who have the most to fear of a North Korean collapse. Also, whereas in nuclear brinkmanship, as Wikipedia notes, both sides usually back down to avoid suicide, the US will not suffer suicide if North Korea collapses. Sure, it might be ugly, but the US has the least to lose from such an event.
In short, the US strategy is meant to show South Korea and China just how dangerous North Korea is, to get them all to on the same page, so that the North can then be induced to negotiate away its nuclear capability. Then, as Hadley detailed, the regime can be transformed, via "gradual economic reform."
It's a bold strategy, and it might not work. But the alternatives are equally hairy. Live with a nuclear North? Begin a military confrontation? Or other combinations of either of these? None are very palatable. Collapse brinkmanship may well be the least of many evils.
September 30, 2006
One of the hallmarks of maneuver warfare as it has been conceived in the Marine Corps is the use of combined arms. "Combined arms" refers to the use of various weapons systems in concert, such that each reinforces the weaknesses of the other. The doctrinal definition is this:
Combined arms is the full integration of arms in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another. We pose the enemy not just with a problem, but with a dilemma -- a no-win situation. [from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1, Warfighting]There's no reason to think that this doctrine couldn't be articulated at the national level as well. Rather than confining it to the realm of military strategy and the use of force, why not include all the elements of national power -- diplomatic, economic, informational, military, etc -- and force them to work in concert toward a common goal? This may be an ideal, but it is one at which the US does not perform so well. The primary reason is the way our foreign policy bureaucracy operates: there is little in the way of the kind of unity of command necessary for an individual decision-maker to muster all elements to work in concert.
But not so in Iran, warns Robert Kaplan:
July 31, 2006
Kissinger on Iran
Henry Kissinger's op-ed in today's Washington Post requires careful examination.
Let's take a close reading of The Next Steps With Iran:
The world's attention is focused on the fighting in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, but the context leads inevitably back to Iran. Unfortunately, the diplomacy dealing with that issue is constantly outstripped by events. While explosives are raining on Lebanese and Israeli towns and Israel reclaims portions of Gaza, the proposal to Iran in May by the so-called Six (the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) for negotiations on its nuclear weapons program still awaits an answer. It's possible that Tehran reads the almost pleading tone of some communications addressed to it as a sign of weakness and irresolution. Or perhaps the violence in Lebanon has produced second thoughts among the mullahs about the risks of courting and triggering crisis.Unless Israel resumes its offensive against Hezbollah, the mullahs have little reason for second thoughts about provoking conflict because the war will have finished in Hezbollah's favor. Hezbollah's centers of gravity are either its support from Iran and Syria, or its masterful use of the international media to rally world opinion against Israel. Whichever it is, if it's not both, the Israelis have yet to find a critical vulnerability to attack either of those two strengths. Attriting Hez forces buys time for a little peace in the future, but it does not solve any problems in the long term. It looks as though Israel is going to widen its ground offensive. We'll see what happens next . . .
However the tea leaves are read, the current Near Eastern upheaval could become a turning point. Iran may come to appreciate the law of unintended consequences.Is this a reference to a defeat for Hezbollah? Perhaps.
For their part, the Six can no longer avoid dealing with the twin challenges that Iran poses. On the one hand, the quest for nuclear weapons represents Iran's reach for modernity via the power symbol of the modern state; at the same time, this claim is put forward by a fervent kind of religious extremism that has kept the Muslim Middle East unmodernized for centuries. This conundrum can be solved without conflict only if Iran adopts a modernism consistent with international order and a view of Islam compatible with peaceful coexistence.Thank goodness Kissinger doesn't say the only other way the conundrum can be solved without conflict: for the world to just accept a nuclear Iran. Finally, someone sane in the diplomatic community!
Heretofore the Six have been vague about their response to an Iranian refusal to negotiate, except for unspecific threats of sanctions through the United Nations Security Council. But if a deadlock between strained forbearance by the Six and taunting invective from the Iranian president leads to de facto acquiescence in the Iranian nuclear program, prospects for multilateral international order will dim everywhere. If the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany are unable jointly to achieve goals to which they have publicly committed themselves, every country, especially those composing the Six, will face growing threats, be they increased domestic pressure from radical Islamic groups, terrorist acts or the nearly inevitable conflagrations sparked by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.This is the gut check for the world. As much as an encouragement of iran's nuclear ambitions by other states may serve to promote their interests in checking US power, ultimately, if Iran proliferates, then the international system will be broken, perhaps beyond repair. And the United Nations will become even more of a laughingstock than it is now. Previous posts have discussed the issue of Iranian proliferation from the standpoint of stability in the international system (here and here). Iran may well be the tipping point in nuclear proliferation in the world. Not only would the likelihood of further proliferation by Egypt, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia be increased dramatically, but the case of Iran is unique in that the series of events comprising Iranian proliferation offer a direct challenge to the UN and the system of nonproliferation. Whereas Pakistan and India pursued their programs clandestinely, and successfully so, and Israel is still technically an undeclared nuclear power, Iran's cover was blown in 2003 by an opposition group, thus creating a clear case where the nonproliferation regime must be tested in its ability to dissuade a state from aquiring nuclear weapons. Iraq may have involved horrendous lapses in intelligence, but one thing is certain for the moment: Iraq currently has no nuclear weapons or programs to produce them. If the international security system cannot deter Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, then its credibility will be completely destroyed, and its legitimacy nil. Kissinger is right: world order will decrease, conflicts will multiply, and what he doesn't explicitly say will also be proved true: the chances of a nuclear exchange or a nuclear crisis will increase dramatically as well. These are not conditions that will appear overnight, but over an intermediate period. The morning after an Iranian weapons test will not mark the end of the current system of international security, but it will mark the beginning of the end. Kissinger next offers a quick primer in Diplomacy 101:
The analogy of such a disaster is not Munich, when the democracies yielded the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, but the response when Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. At Munich, the democracies thought that Hitler's demands were essentially justified by the principle of self-determination; they were repelled mostly by his methods. In the Abyssinian crisis, the nature of the challenge was uncontested. By a vast majority, the League of Nations voted to treat the Italian adventure as aggression and to impose sanctions. But they recoiled before the consequences of their insight and rejected an oil embargo, which Italy would have been unable to overcome. The league never recovered from that debacle. If the six-nation forums dealing with Iran and North Korea suffer comparable failures, the consequence will be a world of unchecked proliferation, not controlled by either governing principles or functioning institutions.
Diplomacy never operates in a vacuum. It persuades not by the eloquence of its practitioners but by assembling a balance of incentives and risks. Clausewitz's famous dictum that war is a continuation of diplomacy by other means defines both the challenge and the limits of diplomacy. War can impose submission; diplomacy needs to evoke consensus. Military success enables the victor in war to prescribe, at least for an interim period. Diplomatic success occurs when the principal parties are substantially satisfied; it creates -- or should strive to create -- common purposes, at least regarding the subject matter of the negotiation; otherwise no agreement lasts very long. The risk of war lies in exceeding objective limits; the bane of diplomacy is to substitute process for purpose. Diplomacy should not be confused with glibness. It is not an oratorical but a conceptual exercise. When it postures for domestic audiences, radical challenges are encouraged rather than overcome.The popular methods of portraying diplomacy include its being on the opposite end of a one-dimensional axis that includes military action on its far end, and of characterizing diplomatic initiatives as merely talk and not action. Such a view is unconstructive. Diplomacy is dealmaking, pure and simple. The tragedy perhaps is that so much of our recent dealmaking has seemed much more like concession-making alone. As Kissinger mentions, diplomacy is not rhetoric; the other side of the negotiating table will not be swayed by the eloquence of domestic speeches. Kissinger next spends two paragraphs comparing the current situation with that of the US and China in the 1970s. He concludes that they are dramatically different:
The challenge of the Iranian negotiation is far more complex. For two years before the opening to China, the two sides had engaged in subtle, reciprocal, symbolic and diplomatic actions to convey their intentions. In the process, they had tacitly achieved a parallel understanding of the international situation, and China opted for seeking to live in a cooperative world.Kissinger sees a window of opportunity for diplomatic action and it looks something like this: allow Israel to teach Hezbollah a significant lesson; quickly come to consensus among the Six; use the Israeli action to encourage realism among the Iranians, an attitude that would abandon their messianic religious idealism heretofore displayed in favor of seeking a deal. It's a tall order and my guess is the window won't be open long.
Nothing like that has occurred between Iran and the United States. There is not even an approximation of a comparable world view. Iran has reacted to the American offer to enter negotiations with taunts, and has inflamed tensions in the region. Even if the Hezbollah raids from Lebanon into Israel and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers were not planned in Tehran, they would not have occurred had their perpetrators thought them inconsistent with Iranian strategy. In short, Iran has not yet made the choice of the world it seeks -- or it has made the wrong choice from the point of view of international stability. The crisis in Lebanon could mark a watershed if it confers a sense of urgency to the diplomacy of the Six and a note of realism to the attitudes in Tehran. [emphasis added]
Up to now Iran has been playing for time. The mullahs apparently seek to accumulate as much nuclear capability as possible so that, even were they to suspend enrichment, they would be in a position to use the threat of resuming their weapons effort as a means to enhance their clout in the region.Kissinger sees comprehensive sanctions as a necessity, and soon. And he encourages a process among the Six that will not necessitate 100% agreement or long pauses.
Given the pace of technology, patience can easily turn into evasion. The Six will have to decide how serious they will be in insisting on their convictions. Specifically, the Six will have to be prepared to act decisively before the process of technology makes the objective of stopping uranium enrichment irrelevant. Well before that point is reached, sanctions will have to be agreed on. To be effective, they must be comprehensive; halfhearted, symbolic measures combine the disadvantage of every course of action. Interallied consultations must avoid the hesitation that the League of Nations conveyed over Abyssinia. We must learn from the North Korean negotiations not to engage in a process involving long pauses to settle disagreements within the administration and within the negotiating group, while the other side adds to its nuclear potential. There is equal need, on the part of America's partners, for decisions permitting them to pursue a parallel course.
A suspension of enrichment of uranium should not be the end of the process. A next step should be the elaboration of a global system of nuclear enrichment to take place in designated centers around the world under international control -- as proposed for Iran by Russia. This would ease implications of discrimination against Iran and establish a pattern for the development of nuclear energy without a crisis with each entrant into the nuclear field.This seems like a fantastic idea if it can be accomplished in a verifiably safe fashion.
President Bush has announced America's willingness to participate in the discussions of the Six with Iran to prevent emergence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. But it will not be possible to draw a line between nuclear negotiations and a comprehensive review of Iran's overall relations to the rest of the world.This is a point that many other commentators have made: while Iran's nuclear program is our paramount concern, there are a number of other issues that need addressing, any one of which would be bad enough on its own.
The legacy of the hostage crisis, the decades of isolation and the messianic aspect of the Iranian regime represent huge obstacles to such a diplomacy. If Tehran insists on combining the Persian imperial tradition with contemporary Islamic fervor, then a collision with America -- and, indeed, with its negotiating partners of the Six -- is unavoidable. Iran simply cannot be permitted to fulfill a dream of imperial rule in a region of such importance to the rest of the world.
At the same time, an Iran concentrating on the development of the talents of its people and the resources of its country should have nothing to fear from the United States. Hard as it is to imagine that Iran, under its present president, will participate in an effort that would require it to abandon its terrorist activities or its support for such instruments as Hezbollah, the recognition of this fact should emerge from the process of negotiation rather than being the basis for a refusal to negotiate. Such an approach would imply the redefinition of the objective of regime change, providing an opportunity for a genuine change in direction by Iran, whoever is in power.A good point: give the Iranians enough rope to hang themselves, then say diplomacy won't work. Don't just assume it won't. He may be referring to direct negotiations here.
It is important to express such a policy in precise objectives capable of transparent verification. A geopolitical dialogue is not a substitute for an early solution of the nuclear enrichment crisis. That must be addressed separately, rapidly and firmly. But a great deal depends on whether a strong stand on that issue is understood as the first step in the broader invitation to Iran to return to the wider world.Another good point: a policy of improving relations with the world should have identifiable and verfiable objectives.
In the end, the United States must be prepared to vindicate its efforts to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program. For that reason, America has an obligation to explore every honorable alternative.This final statement is where Kissinger shows he understands the game better than most of the denizens of Foggy Bottom ever will: "vindicating" US efforts implies efforts that have failed. And it refers to the use of force. Kissinger understands all too well the big stick that must be carried by the soft-spoken.
Altogether an excellent piece. Given the hyperbolic nature of the coverage of Israel's war with Hezbollah, Iran's nuke program has fallen by the wayside. Kissinger's piece could not have come at a better time. In summary: Iran is the real problem; the clock is ticking quickly; there's an opportunity; get after it. Wise words from an old man.