2009 Conference Highlights

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Foreign Policy Challenges Facing the New Administration

The post-cold-war world is not a tidy one.

Brent Scowcroft

As the Keynote speaker at the 2009 Camden Conference, Lt. General Brent Scowcroft began on an upbeat note, asserting that this is a very important time in our national life, and as difficult as times are, “the US has a great heritage and can and will rise to the occasion now.” He described his talk’s goal as “setting the scene” for the Conference and leaving the “details” to the other speakers.

Before addressing specific challenges, Scowcroft emphasized the changed world environment facing today’s policy makers, noting
that the current financial/economic crisis demonstrates that, despite having one world economically, we’re trying to solve a global crisis with separate national solutions. Characterizing cooperation as essential to dealing with the economy worldwide, he commented that “it’s not clear” whether such cooperation can be achieved. Financial crises, he noted, often intensify nationalist instincts, such as the wrong-headed “Buy American” requirement added to the recent US stimulus package. And, he added, our tools for addressing these problems are weak. The international institutions available are out of date, designed for a 1944 world, and restructured ones are needed to manage a global economy. “This will take,” Scowcroft believes, “leadership that only the US can provide.” Unfortunately, our unilateral, authoritarian leadership style in recent years has generated repugnance and the perception that the US is no longer a “well-meaning problem solver,” but “just another country.” The worst example of this behavior is Guantanamo, tarnishing America’s image as “someone different in the world.” But Scowcroft saw Guantanamo in the context of the problematic new phenomenon of nonstate actors fighting like military and empathized with the difficulty. “We had nothing in our legal structure to deal with this,” he said, but emphasized the need “to formulate a rule of law that deals with this issue.” Having thus described the changed environment for US action, Scowcroft went into the background and nature of certain specifics of the “different world we now live in.” Our cold war world, he pointed out, was a tidy one, with only “one enemy and one major overarching fear to be dealt with—the threat of a nuclear holocaust.” Suddenly that world was gone, and “instead of one enemy, one threat, there are a thousand pinprick problems.” We were not prepared for this change, and lacked the intelligence focus to know where the threats were and what form they might take. Other “seminal changes” were already afoot but “came to full flower with the demise of the USSR,” creating the fundamental change in the way the world operates that we now call globalization.

Scowcroft explained that the nature of national power had changed in two ways. Because borders are eroding, so is the power of nation-states to serve their people. Now nations need to work together to solve such problems as health, communication, global warming, and the financial crisis. At the same time, because of the expansion in communication, everyone—even remote villagers— hear, see, and know what is going on and are “energized and politicized” based on that information. Today’s terrorism is motivated by this factor. This politicization feeds a separate trend, that of the “atomization of states,” as people withdraw into ever smaller, homogeneous, and often mutually intolerant groups. (The division of Yugoslavia is a prime example.) This movement tends to work against the need for greater unity to solve the world’s new global problems. Another potential source of trouble is the population explosion, especially in the poorest regions.

“We are trying,” he said, “to cope with this new world with habits of mind and institutions that are out of date.” The United States has a great military, but it is not designed for the challenges of Iraq. (“We have never been more ready to fight World War II.”) NATO is a great alliance, but its original purpose is gone. We need to redefine its purpose for today’s world. Similarly the UN, created in 1945, is ill suited to today, even as “the world cries out for an organization to facilitate cooperation.”
But, Scowcroft noted, it’s good that we already have the UN, because it probably would be impossible to create one today. The small, new members from developing countries, many former colonies, have different goals and ways of thinking than the old members, mostly larger states with long histories and self-images. One such North/South conflict that he sees undermining the UN’s effectiveness is the contradiction between the UN’s “responsibility to protect” the world’s people while still honoring its members’ sovereignty.

Having described the changed world and the tools available for dealing with it, General Scowcroft went on to discuss the Middle East as “the most vexing and critical” world problem, breaking it into three separate conflicts he described as having merged into a series of interlocking problems, namely: the Palestinian peace process, Iran/Iraq, and Afghanistan/Pakistan.

To Scowcroft, the Palestinian peace process is crucial for the US. The current situation in Palestine fosters “a deep sense of grievance and injustice in the Islamic/Arab world.” Psychologically, a success here would change the atmosphere worldwide, but achieving it would require America to behave in fundamentally new and different ways. In the present political climate, neither Israel nor the Palestinians are strong enough to take the lead, so the US must be more assertive. The basics of a deal were proposed during the Clinton administration, and the US should now say, “Here is what you should do.” Even if this plan in not perfect, it would be a starting point.

Peace is more difficult than ever now because Israeli elections have resulted in fragmented leadership, and the explosion of the Gaza situation has encouraged Hamas and damaged the Palestinian Authority. Notwithstanding, Scowcroft feels there’s an opportunity, and we must address the seemingly hopeless situation of the Palestinian people, on which radicals like Hamas and Hezbollah feed, in order to defuse this breeding ground for radicalism.

Scowcroft was more optimistic on Iraq, feeling that the US finally has the right strategy—“not just kill the bad guys but provide security for the good guys.” But he cautioned that the US cannot solve Iraq’s political problems. He hopes that Obama’s troop drawdown will be based on the situation, not the calendar, saying, “We have an incipient success, but it could collapse if we leave prematurely.” (Scowcroft admitted that he didn’t “know when that was.”)

As for Iran, Scowcroft sees two problems: their role in the region and the Iranian nuclear issue. In the region, our interventions have destroyed their enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, freeing them to create mischief elsewhere in the region. “We need to turn that (mischief-making) around, but in a certain way,” ie, by taking better advantage of the differences among Iran’s various factions. Among Iranian moderates, the US is very popular, and “we need to build on that.” Iranians care deeply about the outcome in Iraq, with whom they had a terrible war. We also need to talk to them. “Is there common ground?” Scowcroft mused. “We won’t know unless we talk to them” and show that we understand their strategic concerns. The upcoming election promises to be an “interesting one,” and we can have some effect by making the right overtures.

On the nuclear issue, Scowcroft is not certain what Iran’s goals are. Whatever those goals, it’s clear that if Iran keeps enriching uranium, they will eventually be able to produce weapons. If they do, he feels that many other countries will want similar weapons. “That’s not a better world.” If Russia and China can be convinced to join us in opposing more enrichment, Iran’s religious conservatives will be less likely to support it. Scowcroft felt the Russians were key here, but to bring them in, Scowcroft urged better communication with them, citing the proposed missile defense deployment in Europe as contradicting our expressed desire to work with the Russians. We must, he urged, convince them that if they ll work with us to end Iran’s nuclear development, the rocket deployment will become unnecessary. China needs to be convinced of the need to cooperate to avoid conflict in the Middle East—conflict that may endanger their desire for a secure oil supply.

Lastly, Scowcroft sees Afghanistan/Pakistan as the most vexing problem in the region. For him, Afghanistan is “not just a bigger Iraq” but requires different goals and strategies. “We went in to get at Al-Qaeda and prevent the Taliban from providing them with a haven, not to build a modern state there.” We need to defend the Afghan people, rebuild their army, and look for nonmilitary solutions.

Pakistan has not been successful with democracy. Four times its army has seen fit to oust civilian governments, alleging corruption.
The current civilian government is very weak and fragile. We encouraged Pakistan to train the Taliban to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and that created problems. Now we need to be understanding and supportive and help Pakistan’s military provide
stability and security for their nuclear weapons. Scowcroft admitted that the Afghan/Pakistani situation was “a tough question”
and urged the audience to grill the other speakers on it.

In concluding, Scowcroft saw President Obama “facing an unprecedented battery of problems.” Can the US do what is needed? Scowcroft’s opinion was, “yes, if we recognize how different the world is.” He doesn’t believe that the US has lost its energy but “we need to find ourselves again and restore the ability of the US to lead, not to dictate, to provide the focal point around which countries of the world can gather to produce greater things.”

~ Brent Scowcroft was National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, and was Military Assistant to President Nixon. Today he is a security confidante of President Barack Obama, as well as the President of The Scowcroft Group, offering strategic advice and assistance in the international arena.


Q: The Economist reported a letter to Obama with three requests, one of which was to invite Hamas to the bargaining table. Please elaborate.

Scowcroft: We need to talk to people to understand where they are. Not recognizing Hamas encourages the radicals, and if Hamas sees a peace process moving forward, they will not want to be left with just Gaza. Issues such as Gaza are hard to resolve if we do not talk to them. And by talking to anybody who will talk to us, we can profit by seeing what we can learn.

Q: What about Latin America, especially Hugo Chavez?

Scowcroft: Latin America is in ferment due to economic and nativism issues. The US tends to move between involvement and noninvolvement there. It is important to reach out to Latin America, especially Brazil. Chavez is a demagogue who will probably do himself in, because the people are starting to catch on; it is his money that has provided clout up to now.
Q: What about reorganization of the National Security Council?
Scowcroft: It’s a good idea, because the NSC was set up for the cold war. It is a good opportunity to rerationalize the NSC and break down “stovepiping” that isolates government agencies.

Q: Similarly, what would you recommend to Obama about the UN and USAID?

Scowcroft: The US needs to focus on making the UN more useful, and the UN needs reform. It needs a better balance between the developing world, which owns the general assembly, and the developed world, which owns the Security Council. USAID needs someone in charge who can help the US in nation-building, which is not the best role of the military.

Q: What advice would you give to Leon Panetta at the CIA?

Scowcroft: First, take a deep breath. Morale needs to be improved. The CIA needs to go back to its role of providing intelligence to inform decisions, rather than being forced to back up decisions that have already been made.

A New Era of Diplomacy for the Obama Administration

Can we use this age of change as an opportunity for global good?

R. Nicholas Burns

Ambassador Burns began his talk by noting that the United States has moved into an age of change and transition, where for the first time since the end of World War II, we have to share our power with others. Accordingly, the international
system we have been operating under needs to be reconstructed.

That said, it’s a time of opportunity. After World War I, the US squandered a major opportunity by not joining the League of Nations. We did much better after World War II, when the United Nations; the International Monetary Fund; the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance; and the European Coal and Steel Union, the precursor of the European Union, were created. But these institutions, suitable as they were for the 20th century, are no longer suitable for the globalized world of the 21st century. Despite the economic maelstrom we’re facing, there is
some good news:

  • The US will remain the preeminent military power for the foreseeable future.
  • Politically, as Madeleine Albright correctly noted, we are the “indispensable” nation.
  • Finally, in terms of “soft power”—business practices, universities, immigration, providing avenues for advancement of minorities—we remain attractive to the rest of the world, a fact which is in itself a form of diplomatic power.

But there is certainly bad news:

  • The weakening of our economic foundation, if sustained, risks our military and diplomatic preeminence; it also heightens the attraction of protectionism and isolationism.
  • There is a forbidding international agenda. In Iraq, despite overall improvements there, it is too early for a firm withdrawal plan. In Afghanistan, we are not winning and have yet to come up with a formula for getting people to turn away from the Taliban and support the government. Climate change and the environment are serious problems, and they will worsen as the world faces the need for a possible 50-percent increase in food supplies by 2025. Human rights, drug trafficking, and terrorism all remain important issues.
  • Our unipolar moment, which essentially lasted from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s until 9/11, is over. Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the so-called BRIC countries) are en route to becoming global powers, and there are regional powers—for example, Indonesia and Nigeria—on the ascendancy as well.
  • President Obama’s challenge will be to motivate Americans to continue to be engaged in the world and not turn inward. Isolationism and unilateralism are recipes for failure. “Isolationism and unilateralism are recipes for failure.”

So where do we go from here?

Economically, power is shifting from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, an inevitable result of the economic collapse. Moving ahead, the issue is whether we can find the right balance between regulation/control and risk/innovation.

Politically, the diffusion of power internationally is not, as it would have been in the zero-sum era of the cold war, necessarily a loss for the US. As the power of others, such as China and India, grows, we can get them more involved in various international obligations, such as peacekeeping and combating HIV/AIDS. This transition will also involve upgrading the UN Security Council to reflect today’s reality.

Diplomatically, we need to be more active than ever around the world, especially in the Middle East and South Asia. We will have to resume active mediation efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians; we will have to find the right formula for leaving Iraq without destabilizing it; and, perhaps the biggest challenge of all, we will have to find a way to stabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan. One bright note in South Asia is the stronger ties that are developing between the US and India, the world’s largest democracy.

Finally, President Obama has to project hope, not fear— as Woodrow Wilson did in the first part of his presidency, FDR did during the Depression, and Ronald Reagan did during the severe economic downturn of the early 80s. In this regard, Burns concluded, the recent foreign trips of both Senator Mitchell, the new Middle East envoy, and Secretary of State Clinton, in which they both emphasized they were on “listening tours,” portrayed the kind of “positive image of a US that wants to contribute to global good” that the world community appreciates.


Q: In terms of our resources—military, intelligence, and diplomacy—which should lead; which should get funded?

Burns: In retrospect, going into Iraq was a mistake, but we are there and the focus now has to be on getting out successfully. More broadly, for the future, while we need to keep our military and intelligence apparatus strong, diplomacy should
be our first line of offense, with force as the back-up—not the other way around. So we need to dramatically increase the number of Foreign Service officers and to rebuild USAID.

Q: Will the G-20 work?

Burns: The appropriate vehicle in today’s globalized world to deal with our economic problems is the expanded G-20, a 21st century institution—not the G-7 of the 1970s. Worldwide population growth is clearly a serious problem—it could actually lead to wars over food, water, or energy. But for the US, with its higher immigration rates and assimilated population, population growth—which ensures we will continue to have younger workers available to support our social programs—is an advantage.

Q: What are we going to do about commodity despots (such as Hugo Chavez)?

Burns: While it’s clear that the US has to develop a comprehensive energy plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, energy producers—now that oil is below $40 a barrel—also need to be more realistic. For example, Russia’s leadership “has an old zero-sum mentality” that may not be effective in the 21st century.

Q: Can you address the US/Russia relationship today and in the future?

Burns: The US and Russia need to find a balance of interests. We need their involvement when it comes to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and other issues; at the same time, we must realize we will not always get our way and we will need
to compromise. The Russians, however, cannot expect to impose a permanent sphere of influence on the Caucasus and ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia.

Q: Can you expand on an appropriate role for the US in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

Burns: The US needs to be an active mediator between Palestinians and Israelis; they can’t get there on their own. Settlement construction needs to be completely halted as a first step. We’re coming up on the 61st anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel, and during those 61 years, “Israelis have not had a single day of peace, and Palestinians have not had a single day of justice.” Without improvement in the quality of life, the West Bank will become more radicalized. “We have to make tough choices,” pushing Israel forward and being more even-handed.

~ R. Nicholas Burns is Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at the Kennedy School, Harvard University. He retired from the State Department in 2008 after a 27-year career. From 2005 until his retirement, he was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Bush Administration. Earlier, he was US Ambassador to NATO and to Greece. For five years, he was on the White House staff as Special Assistant to the President (Clinton), focusing on the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After Gaza: Obama Administration Policies in the Middle East

A peace process – however unlikely – is essential to contain destructive forces.

Tamara Cofman Wittes

“Today the conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land is regionalized to a degree I don’t think any of us would have predicted 10 years ago.” It is subject to forces well beyond its borders, and the links between the problems of Israel and Palestine and the region’s other crises are more concrete and inescapable than ever. The potential for solution is slim. Tamara Wittes opened her remarks on this sad note and went on to explore how the current situation arose, what it means in the region, and how it influences US foreign policy. Several important changes led to the regionalization of Arab/Israeli relations. The first and most important is the rise of Iran as a regional power. Iran has always sought to play a role in Arab/Israeli conflict, but for a long time its influence was
limited. However, with the containment effect of its rivalry with Iraq eliminated, and with the removal of Taliban from its other border, Iran became relatively free and emboldened, sending sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, expanding its nuclear program in defiance of the UN, and threatening its Arab neighbors. The Hamas takeover of the Gaza strip in June of 2007, with the resulting international effort to isolate Hamas, allowed Iran to further expand its influence.

A second factor in the regionalization of Israeli/Palestinian tensions is the expansion of the conflict between the revisionist and the status-quo forces in the Middle East. Since 2007, the population of Gaza and, to a lesser extent that of the West Bank, have been caught not only in the battle between Hamas and Fatah, but also in the larger conflict between revisionist and status-quo factions in the area. Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and to some extent Syria form a revisionist faction that seeks power and argues for the redemptive value of violence. On the other side is the coalition of status-quo actors, which includes the US and nearly all the Arab states alongside Israel.

The rise of domestic politics has fed into the strength of the revisionist forces. The status-quo countries are under double assault: internally for domestic corruption, repression, and stagnation, and externally for their inability to produce justice for Palestinians, their association with US foreign policy, and for making deals with Israel.

“These opposing coalitions have been in formation for some time but had a coming-out party at the time of the Lebanon war. The Gaza war is just one more skirmish in this regional war for influence,” according to Wittes. Egypt provides an example. Mubarak was attacked by his own population and others for keeping borders with Gaza closed. Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran all gained strength from these protests. When Gaza is burning, Islamist opposition in Egypt gains strength.

The blending of internal and external pressure on the status-quo nations presents serious problems for American foreign policy. We can no longer draw a clear line between domestic problems facing Arab governments, and regional security problems facing the US and its allies.

Stabilizing Iraq and containing Iran requires cooperation.

American and Arab partners need one another more than ever. Yet at this time, the very legitimacy of the American role is under attack. Arab states cooperate with us in the face of unprecedented high levels of public anti-American resentment and discontent from a rising younger generation.

US and Arab cooperation cannot continue if our Arab partners are implicated by our foreign policies, and we are implicated by their unpopular domestic policies. Neither can go forward alone. To change this dynamic, the US must sustain our investment in the Middle East, commit to a new investment in Arab/Israeli diplomacy, and commit for the long term.

Wittes sees three imperatives for US policy. First, we must make a renewed effort at Arab/Israeli peacemaking, in spite of its unlikely success at this time. A peace process is an important component of containing the regional, revisionist forces, in part by weakening and creating dissension within those forces. The peace process is also necessary to transform the negotiations from a regional conflict to one left to the national interest of the parties. Also, a peace process may help repair the reputation of the US.

Second, we need a continued American commitment to security in the Persian Gulf. None of our allies is able or prepared to take on the role of keeping the Gulf open for the free flow of oil for all. Only Iran is interested, and it is not a good guarantor.

Finally, we need to put American policies in the Middle East into a wider context—one that explains to the region why we are there, beyond our own narrow interests. We must recognize the integral relationship between domestic and regional politics, and we must demonstrate how our renewed diplomatic commitment will work for peace and prosperity. In that regard, we must address the governance problems on the minds of the people of the area. Because Arab leaders feel keenly the external and internal forces in the area, the US should, with the proper incentives, be able to influence at least some Arab regimes to reform as part of a broader regional approach.

Therefore, although the bad news is that the Arab/Israeli conflict is again subject to broader forces of regional politics, the good news is that the heightened saliency of the conflict is focusing the minds of regional partners and focusing the attention of the United States. Wittes is hopeful that this attention will put new emphasis on the urgency of diplomatic progress toward lasting peace.


Q: Please discuss Syria/Israel and Syria/US relations.

Wittes: The outlines of a Syria/Israel resolution are clear. Israel would withdraw from the Golan in exchange for security guarantees, probably provided by the US. The missing link in any solution at this time is the US. Syria is interested in making a deal with Israel only if it leads to renewed relations with the US. Then the US and Syria must deal with the issues of Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism and its domination of Lebanon.

Q:How should President Obama deal with Israel?

Wittes: The US needs to articulate what the parameters of a peace accord should look like. The parameters have largely been agreed on, but both parties are too weak to move forward. The US should take the role not of imposing a solution, but of saying, this is what we think it should look like. We also need to talk with the Israelis about how their actions—especially settlement development—can preclude a two-state agreement. A total settlement freeze is required to keep the options open.

Q: How should one deal with Iran’s interest in nuclear power, given that Israel has such power?

Wittes: Iran does not seek a nuclear weapon because Israel has one; Iran wants nuclear capacity in order to be an 800-pound gorilla. Therefore denuclearization of Israel would not necessarily remove the motivation for Iran. However, some leaders in the area are concerned about proliferation and are interested in a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. We need to come out strongly in favor of nonproliferation, and maybe in that context, we can address the issue of Israel’s nuclear deterrent.

~ Tamara Cofman Wittes is a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. She previously served as a Middle East Specialist at the US Institute of Peace, and as Director of Programs at the Middle East Institute. She is widely published on Arab politics and political reform, Israeli/Arab relations, culture and conflict resolution, and US Middle East policy.

The Tarnished U.S. Economic Model and the Implications for U.S. Foreign Policies

Our international image and credibility are in trouble

Denis Lamb

Ambassador Lamb began his remarks by recalling a conversation in which, in response to Lamb’s rather gloomy observations about the world economic situation, a friend (a retired senior trade policy official) reminded him that the US remains one of the most dynamic societies on earth. The US is a country of opportunity and a meritocracy, his friend said, that gives anyone the possibility for success. We have the ability and the means to work our way out of our current problems. Lamb reflected that his reply might have been that one of our most serious problems now is what this economic crisis has done to the American international image and credibility.

It was not always thus. Our government had a plan and a vision that was going to (and for a long time did) make our country wealthy. But the important thing was that this objective was not achieved at the expense of others. It made our partners (relatively) wealthy too, and it made them friends of the US. Our economic policies sustained our foreign policy objectives.

Now our financial system, quite candidly, has failed. Our credibility and our diminishing stock of international moral authority—severely undermined by Iraq—has suffered another crushing blow. It appears to the world that we are not so good at the things we were supposed to be good at—exercising military power and running an economy.

Worse yet is the specter of global economic instability resulting from this crisis. This instability, the Director of National Intelligence recently informed the Congress, has surpassed terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the US.

If we do have the ability and the means to restore our economy—a necessary first step, inter alia, to restoring foreign policy influence—how long will this restoration take? How much will it cost? What fresh attitudes must we develop? What new programs must we consider?

One attitudinal change is possibly under way. We are rediscovering the need for nations to act collectively to resolve global problems, sparked by the realization that economies worldwide are not unlinked, but have become tightly coupled.

There is no unilateral, “made-in-USA” solution to the global economic crisis. Perhaps our misadventure in Iraq— invading without adequate justification or adequate means, and with only minimal international support—taught the Bush Administration a lesson. The Administration was quick to respond to the European call for an economic summit.

At the mid-November G-20 summit, important goals and objectives were agreed on, and follow-up was initiated. The final results remain to be seen, but it was at least a start. A whole new system of economic governance is not likely, but we can legitimately hope for a harmonization of national financial re-regulation.

Other instruments are available to policy makers, notably the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to extend financial aid to developing countries. Less well known, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will be a venue where the developed countries and others come together to plot their way out of the crisis. OECD’s outreach to the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as well as others, will engage them in exchanges of view and dialogue about lessons learned and possible steps forward that will underpin efforts to put the global economy back on a path to vigorous growth.

So far, we have been focusing on finance. But there is more to global economic governance. Consider trade. One of the key challenges facing the world trade community down the road will be the manner in which the various bilateral and regional trade agreements are consolidated. The 400 or so trade agreements need to be consolidated under the World Trade Organization.

To achieve this goal, trade negotiations such as the Doha (Development) Round need greater backing from industry and the intellectual-property community. More importantly, we need to find ways to combat the protectionism that gains new life in hard times. Most of all, to strengthen global economic governance—which requires that we pool elements of our own sovereignty with others—we need to overcome the traditional American “exceptionalism” that so characterized the Bush Administration.

At the same time, we cannot neglect international economic development, building stable governments, not to mention mutually enriching trade and investment relations. In this area, we have serious obstacles to overcome. The enormous domestic costs of the stimulus program will certainly dampen Congressional enthusiasm for aid packages abroad.

Moreover, our capacity for effective developmental assistance has been sadly reduced over the years. The $500 billion reconstruction fiasco in Iraq owes much to incompetent personnel. Over the years, we lost nation-building expertise. We
need to rebuild it.

We also need to consider carefully our economic relations with China. The present economic crisis can worsen them, maintain them roughly as they are, or lead to improvement. Once, we lauded the Chinese for clinging to their currency pegged to the dollar, and not devaluing. Today, we are calling for an upward valuation of the yuan. Assuming both approaches to have been correct in their time, how do we achieve our objective today?

It once seemed that we could muscle China by threatening to raise tariffs on their exports, or by taking them to court at the World Trade Organization. These strategies reek of yesterday. Our powers of persuasion are not strengthened by the reality that 25 percent of our debt is in foreign hands, and of that foreign debt, Japan and China own 47 percent. These figures do not give us a bully pulpit from which to preach reform.

Lamb said negotiations with China will put the attitudinal changes he suggests to the test. But if we can accomplish these attitudinal changes, together with more vigorous support of the trade regime and improved global financial governance, a credible energy policy, global cooperation on climate change, and the strengthening of Third World governments—all in addition to putting our domestic house in order—the Obama Administration has the opportunity to build a solid economic base for a more effective US foreign policy.

~ Denis Lamb is a retired Ambassador and member of the Senior Foreign Policy Service. After serving in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the State Department, Lamb was US Representative to the OECD in Paris, with the rank of Ambassador. He completed his career as Director of Public Affairs for the OECD in Paris.

From Trade to Terrorism: Obama’s Asian Challenge

Economic crisis, security issues, and nuclear threats imperil Asia and the world.

Nayan Chanda

As a journalist, Nayan Chanda has spent several decades helping Americans understand the complexities of Asia. Setting the stage for current economic and security issues, Chanda reminded us that America’s relationship with the region has been unfolding since the discovery of the New World. Goods from China have sailed into Boston Harbor for centuries; in the opposite direction, American soldiers have landed on Asian soil in response to attacks and conflicts as varied as Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Time and again, Asia and the US find their economic and military interests intertwined.

Today, the most serious challenge the US faces in Asia is the global economic crisis. While all of Asia is feeling the impact, America’s relationship with China is the one in need of focus. “The collapse of Wall Street in September has unleashed tremendous suffering all over the world, including in China, which has been the world’s factory,” said Chanda, who went on to explain that the US is one of the countries that will be blamed for “massive unemployment” caused by the abrupt drop of demand in the developed world. Already more than 20 million people have lost their jobs in China. Among these people are factory workers who recently returned from time off to find their facility closed and guarded by soldiers. In a country with no social security, large numbers of unemployed people represent a serious threat to the political regime.

Over the last six months, exports have dropped dramatically in all of Asia’s exporting countries. Even more telling is the sharper drop in imports in countries like China and Japan. These countries were previously importing components to turn into finished goods. Plunging raw material imports foreshadow even greater decreases in future exports, a tough reality for a country like China that bases 40 percent of its economy on exports.

Chanda agrees with Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, who recently told Congress that the economic crisis is a “near-term security concern with geopolitical implications.” Admiral Blair also called for greater cooperation among countries. Chief among such international relations, Chanda stressed, is cooperation between China and the US.

Further complicating our relationship with China is our record trade deficit, which totaled $266.3 billion in 2008. Some government officials would like to punish China for its trade policies, while many economists do not think the issue is significant. One thing is certain—the trade imbalance has given the Chinese plenty of dollars to invest. China is the largest foreign creditor to the US, owning 12 percent, or $681.9 billion worth, of US Treasury Bills. The US must continue to borrow from abroad to manage its $2.5 trillion fiscal deficit. The question posed by Chanda was, “Can you ask the Chinese to reduce their exports to the US and at the same time maintain their foreign currency holding?”

Beyond the economic crisis, Asia must remain an area of focus in order to address increasing security threats. Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as North Korea, are home to considerable unrest. The US has been heavily involved in Afghanistan, but is now seeing problems migrate into Pakistan.

Since 2001, US efforts to intervene in Afghanistan have accomplished little. Afghanistan is complex because it is a “crazy quilt of ethnic and linguistic groups,” according to Chanda. The largest group, the Pashtuns, are mostly farmers and Sunni Muslims. Many people live along and spill over a shared, porous border with Pakistan that now allows Al-Qaeda to move back and forth between the two countries. At the same time, the Taliban, defeated by US troops in 2001, has regrouped in the villages and countryside and now controls almost 70 percent of Afghanistan. The US is intent on protecting the capital city of Kabul, with 30,000 troops currently there and another 17,000 scheduled to arrive early in 2009.

In addition to immediate security threats posed by Taliban forces, the movement itself is behind a massive increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. The crop yielded roughly $730 million last year, fueling corruption in the government and financing weapons for the Taliban. “This is a double whammy.” Chanda reminded us that on one hand you have this extremist group threatening the government in Kabul, but they’re also very well funded. By disrupting normal life, the Taliban has forced secular aspects of government, like the courts, to cede control and submit to its demands.

Just next door, Pakistan has not only become a primary training ground for terrorist activities throughout the world, but terrorist attacks have also been rising within the country’s borders. Nearly 1,200 attacks occurred in Pakistan during 2008. In the first two months of 2009, there have already been close to 300 attacks. The absence of security is destabilizing a government that is sitting on 100 nuclear weapons. “Extremism, opium, and now the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists make Pakistan and Afghanistan the hottest danger zone for the US,” Chanda asserted.

Another danger zone is North Korea. In this country, a reclusive government with a significant nuclear program has ceased the nuclear dismantling process it agreed to last year. Instead, North Korea is demanding that the US recognize its
regime and provide guaranteed security in exchange for disarmament. This condition, however, would require the US to “dismantle its alliance” with Japan and South Korea. To ensure its demands are not taken lightly, North Korea has indicated plans to test another missile. Further clouding negotiations is the failing health of leader Kim Jong-il, who suffered a stroke in 2008. He will soon cede power to his youngest son, passing along control of a country that is economically isolated and weak, and yet has enough material to make six nuclear bombs.

A final issue to watch involves relations between India and Pakistan. The 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks were carried out by 10 Pakistanis and killed over 170 people. So far, the Indian government has not taken any retaliatory action. Instead, India has demanded that Pakistan put the planners on trial. While Pakistani officials have arrested half a dozen people, they have not done much more. In the meantime, there are suspicions that the military in Pakistan may have been involved because the attacks were so highly coordinated, with explosions in 10 different places. This leaves people in the region wondering how committed the Pakistani government is to fighting terrorism. “Musharraf [former President of Pakistan] said he was the last barrier between extremism and chaos and the US,” Chanda said. Pakistan’s survival clearly depends on its ability to stand against the many threats from the Pakistani Taliban. Both the Taliban and Al- Qaeda are intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. As long as that remains true, the US must stay focused on these challenges in Asia.


Q: Are there any nonmilitary solutions in Afghanistan? The English couldn’t do it. The Russians couldn’t do it. Can we?

Chanda: Afghanistan has been called “the graveyard of empires.” We have yet to see whether that epithet holds true. Presently, the government is corrupt, the countryside is impoverished, and drug money pours in from opium grown in the south. Under these conditions, you can’t go into the country and build a school. You have to first ensure security so that infrastructure development can occur, and then you can win the hearts and minds. These steps require a commitment by
the government and cannot be done only by foreigners. This commitment is missing in Afghanistan, so I am not very optimistic at this time.

Q: Please comment on taking a regional focus on Afghanistan—considering not only Pakistan, but also some of the other countries in the region, such as Iran, India, China, or Russia.

Chanda: Afghanistan’s location makes it the center of many regional connections. Islam was introduced to India through Afghanistan. Now it is the buffer through which central Asian resources flow—oil and gas pipelines have to go through the country to get to the sea. The US needs to be able to get supplies through Afghanistan, because Taliban attacks in Pakistan have destroyed many supply routes. There are no real opportunities to work with other countries, like Iran. So Afghanistan must be made secure and peaceful to fulfill its role as the connector between civilizations and economies.

Q: As China’s growth exploded over the past decade, some of the social forces unleashed—middle class protests over environmental issues, peasants protesting land loss—were redirected into nationalism. With rising economic problems, how is the government managing those nationalistic forces?

Chanda: This question is keeping Chinese leadership awake at night. Unemployment is growing very fast. The Chinese government has enacted a $600 billion rescue package to build highways, subway stations, and public works. But those investments take time and don’t create many jobs. In the meantime, some urban centers are giving away cash coupons to encourage spending. But people are not spending the money. They’re saving it. The stimulus package is turning into a savings package, because people have no social security and are afraid of the future. It will take a combination of economic incentives and security measures to keep a handle on the country.

Q: What would be the consequences of developing a method of eradicating opium, specifically, without harming other plants?

Chanda: This idea has been tried. Initially, the US sprayed something on the crops to destroy the opium. But that creates a lot of anger among the people, because it is their livelihood. The country used to have beautiful fruit and nut orchards that were world famous. Most of the orchards were destroyed in years of bombing by the Russians. Unless you offer an alternative as lucrative as opium, you cannot simply destroy the crop and stay in power.

~ Nayan Chanda is Director of Publications and Editor of Yale Global Online Magazine at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. For 30 years, Chanda had been editor, editor-at-large, and correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong. He also served as a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, DC. For two years, he edited the Asian Wall Street Journal.

Aligning Our Values and Our Interests Through Global Affairs

U.S. leadership in soft-power issues makes a difference.

Paula J. Dobriansky

Soft power is a critical component of Paula Dobriansky’s concept of how the US can and should go about “Aligning Our Values and Our Interests through Global Affairs.” The Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs throughout virtually the entire Bush Administration began by noting that the National Intelligence Council’s recent report on “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” called the attention of policy makers to the importance of global soft-power issues “from climate change to human rights and democratization, science, technology, health, humanitarian issues, and
trafficking in persons.”

“A lot of these issues can breed instability, chaos, and conflict. In other words, the drivers, as they were termed in the study, will affect policy. So policy makers need to have a very active grasp of these issues and actively engage and think about them.” She then used numerous examples picked up in her eight years of being in charge of this “disparately connected” range of issues to illustrate how projection of US values in the soft-power arena can help promote our national interest.

Dobrianski’s view on how these issues fit into a broader foreign policy context was clarified in response to a question from the floor on whether the US couldn’t send a better message to the Middle East, in particular, if we shifted more of our money from hard- to soft-power efforts in fields such as energy research and technology. “We have to be realistic about hard power and what we need to be doing about protecting us here at home. But at the same time, what I tried to indicate is that these [soft power issues] play just as important a role,” and can often be promoted without spending “overwhelming—or even significant—pools of money.”

Dobriansky picked four issues to discuss with the aim of “breathing life” into the thesis that the US has a leadership role in global issues and in soft power:

  • Democracy and human rights
  • Health
  • Climate change and the environment
  • Science diplomacy

Democracy promotion “has been a component of US policy for decades. But it truly has come in for a great deal of examination in recent years,” she said. Conceding that there are and will continue to be “contradictions” in this area, she stressed, “These do not in my opinion undermine the integrity of the effort.”

She identified three basic principles that are critical if the US is to succeed in democracy promotion. The first is “not relying on a cookie-cutter approach” to democratic transitions. “You can’t merely take the experience of the US and transplant it on the soil of another country. You have to take into account the importance of local environments, including historical, cultural, religious, and ethnic considerations.”

Dobriansky’s second principle “is that multilateral cooperation is integral to successful democracy promotion.” One of the examples she cited of such a multilateral effort was the UN Democracy Fund, created with the active involvement of both President Bush and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This effort also served to illustrate another of Dobriansky’s recurring themes, the importance of public/private partnerships and nongovernmental organizations in soft-power diplomacy. “The resources in this fund go to nongovernmental organizations. Not to governments but to those members of civil society who are in need and want to advance democracy in their communities.”

The third principle of democracy promotion outlined by Dobriansky was empowering agents of change.” She chose here to “weave in the notion of women as agents of change,” specifically in Afghanistan. While the situation in Afghanistan remains “grave,” she said, “There have been a number of significant changes on the ground, and I think the women had a lot to do with it,” both in the governmental and the business sectors.

She described meeting, on her first trip to Afghanistan, “two young women who were no more than maybe 24 years old, and they were setting up a micro-lending bank, specifically to provide assistance to women and others who wanted to build their businesses.” On a second trip, she met these two women again, but this time “we had to meet in a huge cafeteria because you had close to 80 to 100 women who owned all sorts of businesses based on lending from the micro-lending bank.” Their businesses ranged from making kites, to a cement factory, to furniture. “That kind of economic growth also leads into change on the ground and assists in such processes as the promotion of democracy.”

Dobriansky then turned to the “important national security issue” of health. “As we know, infectious diseases cross borders. International collaboration is essential in this area.” She focused in on avian influenza, noting that as recently as three years ago, only 30 to 40 countries had preparedness plans. Now some 130 countries have such plans, due in part to “a series of international
meetings through what’s known as the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza,” a network for not only sharing information, but also cooperating on scientific research and the development of a vaccine.

Climate change and environment was the next area in which Dobriansky discussed ways of aligning national values and interests. She noted that 2009 is a critical year” because the UN Convention on Climate Change will be convening in Copenhagen in December with the aim of reaching a new agreement on climate change. “We want to see such an agreement. We want to have the US as part of that agreement. We also want to see what we call major emerging economies be part of that agreement, meaning India, China, South Africa, Indonesia. That is absolutely essential, because in the end, we are looking for an agreement that is environmentally effective and also economically sustainable.”

Dobriansky stressed the importance of technology in making any agreement both environmentally effective and economically sustainable. “We really need nothing less than a clean technology revolution,” she declared, adding, “Today I think that revolution has truly begun.” She then returned to the favored theme of public/private partnerships, and in particular the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. She described attending a signing ceremony between Chinese officials and a US laboratory for an agreement under the auspices of this organization involving development by the lab of building codes to promote energy efficiency in China— “a perfect example of an action that is responsible both environmentally and to economic objectives.”

Later, in response to a questioner who was skeptical about the value of work on energy independence carried out over three decades by the US Energy Department, Dobrianski explained that the lab in that agreement was the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, run at the time by Steven Chu— recently named to be Obama’s new Energy Secretary. “The reason I mentioned this is, I think he’s a creative thinker,” who “will bring a lot of dynamism” to the task of promoting a clean technology revolution.

“Science and technology, an often overlooked instrument of soft power,” was the fourth area in which Dobriansky discussed aligning values and interests. She related an anecdote about a US delegation including representatives from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Department, and other government agencies that went to Uruguay in the aftermath of the signing of an agreement on science and technology. When this multitiered delegation sat down with the Uruguayans to hear what they needed to implement the accord, the members discovered that the President of Uruguay was an oncologist who had made it a priority to build a state-of-the-art cancer institute in Uruguay. This is just the sort of situation in which soft power can “breed good will, and at the same time also affect our interests—as well as global interests—favorably.”

“Soft power is an instrument by which we can advance our relationships with other countries, and in some very creative ways. The United States leadership in this matters, and public/private partnerships are one of the new and very creative instruments that can have a tremendous impact,” she said in conclusion. “I look forward to seeing the new Administration move forward in these areas and advance them in very creative ways with other countries.”

~ Paula J. Dobriansky served from 2001 until early 2009 as the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, as well as the President’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, with the rank of Amabassador. Currently she is senior
international affairs and trade advisor at the law firm of Baker Hostetler. She also teaches a global issues seminar series at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

Climate Change: Renewing U.S. Leadership in Challenging Times

The world has been waiting for the U.S. to lead on this issue.

Timothy Juliani

Timothy Juliani, for Eileen Claussen

Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, wasn’t able to make it to this year’s Camden Conference because she had to have double knee replacement surgery, Timothy Juliani, senior markets and business fellow at the Pew Center, told a stunned audience. By the time he had finished explaining that “one knee was bad from years of kneeling down praying for Washington to get serious about climate change, and now the other knee is bad from praying for the market to get better,” nobody was complaining about the stand-in for Claussen, who was actually suffering from a bout of the flu.

Noting that “there’s nothing funny about today’s news, and this is certainly true when it comes to climate change,” Juliani managed both to convey the seriousness and scope of the challenge facing the US and the world on this front, and to keep the audience receptive to a hopeful—albeit grim—message.

“The fact is that the world has been waiting for the US to lead on this issue. Not only is our nation the largest economy in the world, but we produce fully one-fourth of global emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas that is causing climate change. Without our active involvement, there is little chance of arriving at an effective international agreement to reduce emissions of these gases worldwide.”

However, the US can’t really play a productive role internationally “unless we first do some very important work here at home.” Juliani recalled that in 1992, the US under President George H.W. Bush had negotiated, signed, and ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including a voluntary goal for developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. But it quickly became clear that not all developed countries would meet their voluntary targets, and that the targets were too weak in any case.

So in 1997, the US under President Bill Clinton joined in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol, including a mandatory target of 5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. This protocol was rejected by President George W. Bush, who cited concerns about its economic impact and the lack of commitments by India and China. “Today, we are fast approaching that 2012 deadline, and there will be decidedly mixed results,” Juliani said. Some developed countries will miss their targets. Many developing countries have increased emissions faster than predicted, and US emissions have risen to roughly 15 percent above 1990 levels.

“In December 2008, in anticipation of new US leadership, governments agreed to enter into ‘full negotiating mode’ on a new comprehensive climate pact,” for targeted signature late this year in Copenhagen. “We need to take advantage of the current political moment to bring an effective global agreement within reach,” he noted. Why is it urgent? “Briefly, the science has developed to a point where there is no longer any doubt that climate change is real, impacts are already being felt across the globe, and further delay risks catastrophe.”

For the US to take the needed leadership role means taking action on three priorities, he argued: “investment in clean energy; an energy policy that helps America build a 21st-century energy economy; and cap-and-trade.” Later, in answer to a question, Juliani explained that the Pew Center sees cap-and-trade as preferable to a carbon tax, first, “because getting a carbon tax of any significant level passed in Congress would be essentially impossible,” and more fundamentally, because “cap-and-trade provides some environmental certainty in the sense that you cap the level of emissions and you trade underneath that cap. With a carbon tax, you set the level of the tax at whatever is politically possible, but you don’t know what the actual effect will be.”

“I am pleased to say that many in Washington now appear to understand what needs to happen,” Juliani noted. Upon taking office, President Obama quickly reaffirmed his commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “The signs from Congress are equally encouraging.” Support from the business community is an important reason for Washington’s quick action. Under the auspices of the US Climate Action Partnership, a “unique coalition” (including 25 of America’s top business leaders, plus the Pew Center and other nongovernmental organizations) released a detailed plan “to achieve steep reductions in US emissions in an economically sustainable manner.” (The report is available at www.us-cap.org.)

Juliani then outlined four challenges that the US and others must overcome in order to reach an effective global agreement. “The first is how we decide on comparability of emission targets for developed countries.” Obama’s stated goal is to reduce US emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, for example, while the European Union (EU) is aiming to cut emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by that date. But since 1990, the US population and emissions have grown, while Europe’s population has been stable and its emissions have declined. Both the EU and US goals would imply a 15 percent reduction from a 2005 baseline. Given such anomalies, agreement on a single quantitative target for all developed countries seems unlikely. Rather, targets will likely be determined through political negotiation in which factors such as “population trends, emissions in relation to GDP, marginal costs of abatement, and more” are
taken into account.”

The second challenge is the type of commitments made by developing countries. Absolute reduction targets would be “impractical, unrealistic, and unfair,” Juliani stated. What these countries should agree to do is “implement nationally defined policies—such as energy efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, sustainable forestry plans, and other policies” that are “measurable, reportable, and verifiable. And they must—they must—put us on the path to stopping and reversing the growth in global emissions.”

The third challenge is managing expectations. “With President Obama in office and with other countries literally champing at the bit to see progress in the global talks after so many years of dashed hopes and delay, there is an understandable optimism in the world that this might be the year when we accomplish something remarkable—something big.” While that could happen, the Copenhagen conference should be considered a major success if it produces a strong interim agreement that spells out “the range of emission reductions and the level of support that developed countries are prepared to commit to, and initiates a process to determine the specific actions that developing countries will undertake.”

The final, biggest challenge? “Show me the money.” Juliani explained, “We can talk all we want about the need for technology and new investments in developing countries’ capacity to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, but the money has to come from somewhere.” In a global recession, it’s hard to see where that will be.

Juliani then dispensed with some red herrings that “get us stuck in roundabout and unproductive conversations.” First is “the competitiveness question,” the assertion that emission controls could penalize the US economy. While some “energyintensive industries that manufacture globally traded commodities” may suffer, “responding to climate change in a serious way, coupled with an equally serious effort to transform how we produce and use energy, can provide a significant and lasting boost to the US economy.”

Then there’s “the question of fairness.” The Pew Center “strongly supports efforts to secure real, verifiable policy commitments from developing countries like China and India,” but is it fair that some countries were able to produce greenhouse gases at will for over a century and others should not be able to follow their lead in improving their standards of living? Is it fair that the US produces more than four times the per capita greenhouse-gas emissions of China, and more than 10 times those of India?” The fairest thing “is to design a framework that secures verifiable commitments from all major emitting countries to do their part.”

The final red herring: “If climate change is already under way, why not just focus on adaptation?” Why try to reduce emissions? The answer is that “we have the capacity to dramatically reduce the level of climate change that the world will see in the decades to come. And we therefore can reduce the ultimate costs of adapting to climate change.”

“It may be a challenge getting some people to pay attention to this issue in today’s economic climate,” Juliani concluded, “but the bottom line is, we must. We don’t have any other choice. And to the extent that we can make the connection between protecting the climate, decreasing our nation’s dependence on foreign energy supplies, and advancing the US economy, I believe we will be successful.”

~ Timothy Juliani, of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, manages the Center’s Business Environmental
Leadership Council, the largest US-based association of companies devoted to climate-related policy and corporate strategies. He is also the staff representative to the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP).

National Security Challenges and Opportunities Facing the Obama Administration

Good intentions are not enough in foreign policy

John Deutch

Former CIA Director John Deutch, began the Sunday morning session by offering his list of the 10 most critical issues facing the new Administration: Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, the Middle East peace process, climate change, counterterrorism, and counterproliferation. Deutch made four points that he believes must be considered if progress is to be made in any or all of these “top 10” issues.

First, he observed, each of these daunting problems is, in and of itself, enormously complex and will require the application of multiple resources. Each of them requires engagement and leadership by the President of the United States, energetic application of our diplomatic resources, and significant US funding (difficult at a time when government spending must be trimmed to provide support for domestic economic stimulus). President Obama will need to be selective, and though expectations for him and his new administration are high, it would be a mistake for the American people to make those expectations too high.

Deutch’s second point was the importance of the nature of our engagement, which will need to be more than just saying we are going to talk. If we are going to make progress in these international issues, the substance is essential. By way of example, he chose Iran, asking, “How can we make progress with Iran?” He listed four areas that the US must consider when dealing with Iran: their movement toward developing nuclear weapons, the encouragement of involvement of other forces in Iraq, their activities in Afghanistan, and the 300 million barrels of oil a day Iran produces. Then Deutch identified the specifics we must clarify prior to engagement:

  • US interests in each of the four areas
  • The incentives and disincentives we can offer
  • The concerns and interests of Iran’s neighbors, and how to win them to our side
  • Our need to balance our interests, knowing full well that the US cannot realistically “win” in all areas, and that we must be prepared to compromise

The question, “Are our objectives clear, and are they realistic?” was Deutch’s third point. Here he used Afghanistan as an example. He observed that US foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan have altered dramatically since 2001. We began with a straightforward plan to capture Osama Bin Laden, destroy the Al-Qaeda organization in Afghanistan, and punish the Taliban for giving the terrorists sanctuary. Today, our objective is the more complex one of nation-building: completely transforming the society, achieving a politically stable leadership, and providing security throughout the country for economic and social advancement. He suggested that while the goal may be laudable, the more important question remains, “Is it achievable?” Deutch thinks not, given that “we don’t do well” in the role of nation-builder. He pointed out that our superb military forces have not been trained to build and manage a civil government, water supplies, power, health and sanitation, the establishment of the rule of law, and economic development. As we spend more and more time in the country, we also have to ask ourselves, “ Is Afghanistan able to make the transition, and do they want to?” He pointed out that Afghanistan’s entire GDP is $8 billion, while the US alone spends $40 billion a year for its presence there. The country is scarcely in the position to provide military and police forces adequate to maintain order, let alone to support further nation-building efforts.

Deutch’s fourth point concerned the potentially conflicting “opportunity costs” of our foreign policy objectives. Each time the US focuses on a given objective, our involvement in one area leads to costs elsewhere. Again using Afghanistan as his example, he observed that it certainly was not our intent to destabilize Pakistan in our pursuit of the Taliban across the border, but that is exactly what has happened. In addition, our presence in Afghanistan encourages the Taliban to recruit foreign fighters, who then become involved in terrorism directed against US efforts elsewhere.

In closing, Deutch gave his thoughts about the future capability of the US intelligence community to contribute to foreign policy. The community as a whole suffered an enormous loss of credibility as a result of the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the failure to successfully warn against 9/11. He identified four activities that that will have to be managed in a way that the public will accept, in order for the intelligence community to win back public and Congressional trust and support. Those activities are:

  • the detention of “bad” people,
  • methods of interrogation,
  • electronic surveillance on US entities, and
  • movement of “bad” people to other countries (rendition).

Each of these intelligence activities causes discomfort in a democratic society, but Deutch believes that with independent judicial review, the means can be found to manage these activities successfully. When that is accomplished, Deutch hopes for the intelligence community to return to what it does best: collecting, analyzing, and communicating information to our leaders so that they are better able to carry out US foreign policy objectives.


Q: Why is it now more difficult to nation-build in Afghanistan and Iraq than it was to rebuild Germany after World War II?

Deutch: There was the advantage of the total destruction of Germany and a total military occupation, with governance and rebuilding structured as the victors wished. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the objectives are excessively broad, and the people don’t necessarily like it.

Q: Has the Patriot Act made us safer?

Deutch: I do think it is necessary to make adjustments in our concept of privacy because of the current terrorist threat. There does not need to be a violation of fundamental rights, but with independent judicial review, I think some
essential electronic surveillance, such as that needed to see patterns of terrorist chatter, can be done acceptably. That activity is different from the invasion of privacy or the intention to prosecute.

Q: In Afghanistan, a country so different historically from ours, so porous, and so willing to allow the Taliban to flourish, what is the middle ground between imposing our own form of government and so clearly and obviously having our national security threatened?

Deutch: “Clearly and obviously threatened” is the cost I referred to. By staying in Afghanistan and by our conduct there, are we making the threat higher or lower? We could be reducing the threat locally, but causing unintended serious
consequences globally—in Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Beirut. We may need to say to the Taliban that they can operate within their own borders, but insist that they not harbor organizations that are going to commit acts of terrorism
outside their own country.

Q: If in 18 months Iran has the bomb, what would you do if you were: A) the President of the US, or B) the Prime Minister of Israel?

Deutch: As I said, we have four issues with Iran, and one is that we realistically have to consider that Iran might develop a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it locally. We will have to manage the direct and indirect effects of that on other countries in the region. Merely saying you don’t want Iran to have a bomb does not make it so.

~ John Deutch is an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been on the MIT faculty since 1970, serving as Chairman of the Chemistry Department, Dean of Science, and Provost. From 1995 to 1996, President Clinton appointed him Director of the CIA. He previously served as Deputy Secretary of Defense and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions
and Technology. Earlier, he was in the US Department of Energy as Under Secretary and Director of Energy Research.

What the World Wants from an Obama Foreign Policy

Just decency, humility, responsibility, and intelligence

Gareth Evans

Evans sees the world’s hopes for Barack Obama’s foreign policy as basically what Americans want: “a course of action conducted with decency, humility, responsibility, and intelligence.” By decency, Evans means “not just avoiding the Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs, but pursuing policies that embrace the values they promote, and truly responding to cries of distress.” The humility he hopes for is US recognition that we can’t do it all, and that cooperation with other countries and rule-based conduct are essential. As for responsibility, Evans urged Americans to recognize that great power carries with it great responsibility. Thus, though US national interests have top priority, sometimes the US “must help solve problems in other countries to serve its own interests, and some problems can’t be solved without US participation.” But the whole “must be implemented with intelligence,” using principled, productive military hard power along with soft power to create “smart power.” For Evans, Barack Obama’s biography embodies “huge soft power:” the African ancestry, Indonesian education, Muslim middle name, et cetera, combined with the grace of his communication style, make him attractive and influential to the rest of the world. Before explaining how these thoughts translate into specific responses to specific issues, Evans acknowledged that his personal views derive from “three hats” he wears, as the leader of three organizations deeply involved in, respectively, international conflict prevention, the prevention of mass-atrocity crimes, and promotion of nuclear nonproliferation. Evans stressed six areas of world concern: the US’s two major bilateral relationships, with Russia and China; the world’s two major conflict arenas, the Middle East and Afghanistan/Pakistan; and two big, thematic issues—improving the world’s handling of mass-atrocity crimes and reducing the frightening potential for nuclear proliferation.

Describing America’s bilateral relationship with Russia as “not healthy,” Evans added that, nevertheless, he considers the situation “remediable.” To the US, he recommended showing more respect for the new Russia and offering fewer careless provocations. He also proposed rethinking NATO’s relationship with the “beast from the East;” Russia still sees NATO as created solely against it. The Russians, Evans felt, must recognize that they have overreached recently, especially in Georgia. Both parties have a responsibility to start defusing a range of dangerous situations. For examples, he cited cutting back on nuclear weapons, reducing conventional forces, and putting joint pressure on Iran.

Evans called the US/China relationship “the most important in the world,” based on China’s huge holdings of US debt. He characterized Tim Geithner’s recent reference to Chinese currency “manipulation” as a “minor bump” in the relationship, but nothing too alarming. Evans sees China as increasingly aware of the responsibilities inherent in its growing role as a great power. He counseled the US to continue giving China encouragement and respect, and to promote more Chinese cooperation in Myanmar and the Sudan.

“In the Middle East,” Evans said, “what the world desperately wants is a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and its poisonous ramifications in the Arab world.” He then added that the perception that the two-state solution could bring peace—if only the US would help the Israelis and Palestinians through it—is no longer valid, due to Israel’s turn to the political right and the Palestinian’s bitter internal divisions. Evans saw the US failure in 2006 to recognize the Palestinian government of national unity and to bring Hamas into the talks as “a big mistake in hindsight.”

The best hope he could now see was through negotiations with Syria and Iran. Despite the recent rejection by Netanyahu, the Israeli premier-presumptive, of any Golan Heights negotiations, Evans thought progress possible with Syria, and that “a deal is definitely possible with Iran.” He added that any US/Iran talks should be premised on the US rethinking its current demand that Iran end production of fissile material, and substituting a more realistic insistence that Iran renounce weapons capability and allow tough inspection. Such negotiations could also help in other areas of mutual interest, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan/Pakistan situation worries all world observers, “whose ardent wish is for the US to allow no further deterioration in what has become a God-awful mess.” In Afghanistan Evans sees: an inadequate military effort, few economic development results despite huge money outlays, the problem of opium, corrupt government, and a lack of coordination in the NATO coalition’s military and development efforts. Pakistan’s ills include: the out-of-control Afghan border, the military’s refusal to fight, and incompetent civilian government. Evans feels US policies clearly need reassessment but has confidence that Richard Holbrooke can do the job. Calling the current US effort “definitely overburdened with multiple objectives,” Evans suggested America’s “basic goal must be a solution that denies Al-Qaeda the ability to reestablish itself,” adding his hope that any agreement made with the Taliban would preserve the democratic and women’s-rights gains Afghanistan has made.

Evans ended with the two thematic issues “on which the world really wants to see the US get things right.” The first is mass-atrocity crimes—such as genocide and ethnic cleansing—“where principled, consistent US leadership is badly wanted.” He described how during the ‘90s, rules for the so-called right to intervene (in mass-atrocity situations) made no progress due to the “global South’s” resistance. However, the horrendous atrocities of Somalia, Rwanda, and the Balkans led to a breakthrough in 2005 with the unanimous adoption by the UN World Summit of the Right to Protect resolution, allowing intervention in certain limited circumstances. [NOTE: Evans was a key player in the writing and passing of this resolution.] “But much more must be done,” Evans added, citing the Darfur genocide and the Bush Administration’s unilateral but inappropriate use of the right to protect to justify invading Iraq. Obama’s people seem to “get” what’s needed here, Evans feels: renouncing the application of the right to protect in Iraq, and working harder on a Darfur solution.

On nuclear nonproliferation, Evans saw “the rest of the world looking for US leadership after years of desuetude, except in Iran and North Korea.” Action is essential, he felt, given the 27,000 nuclear warheads in the world’s arsenals, too many armed for combat, and some on almost “hair-trigger” readiness. He termed “scary” the Pakistan/India nuclear capability, where fail-safe measures are adopted but not used, and the nuclear materials and weapons are poorly protected. Evans warned that the US “must get serious talks back on the rails,” adding that his antiproliferation group had recently met with Obama Administration members and Congress, urging action on the following priorities:

  • Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (on which he hopes Maine’s Senators will give “their usual help”)
  • Ending US opposition to a cutoff of fissile material production
  • Pursuing US/Russian talks on deep nuclear-weapon reductions
  • Undertaking wide-ranging talks with both Russia and China on cooperation to reduce nuclear danger points

Serious revision of the US nuclear-use doctrines, which the Bush administration expanded much too permissively. Evans and his colleagues were greatly encouraged by the reception they received in Washington recently, sensing that this receptive attitude begins at the top and gives promise to their optimistic hopes that Obama’s election has signaled “an exhilarating change in attitude.”

To close, Evans stated, “Yes, there’s always the fear that in a year or two we may soon again be afflicted with that old weary cynicism, but I think not. We’re certainly going to have to workhard for progress.”


Q: What should the US role be regarding the China/India relationship?

Evans: The Bush Administration’s exuberance in rebuilding the US/India relationship through what many see as an overly permissive nuclear treaty has created understandable uneasiness and has not gone unnoticed in China. Notwithstanding, India and China’s relationship seems to be evolving in a reasonable, mature way, despite obvious underlying tensions, especially on
nuclear issues and their respective developmental progress. India’s nuclear situation should certainly be included in the wider-ranging nonproliferation talks I’ve advocated here.

Q: I agree with your emphasis on controlling Al-Qaeda. Do you feel that we could totally withdraw from Afghanistan and still control Al-Qaeda with Predator missile attacks? Do you hear policy makers discussing such a strategy?

Evans: I see a better chance for success from well-directed Predator drone attacks in Pakistan, where the US is getting good support from Pakistani army intelligence. The intelligence sources in Afghanistan, on the other hand, are not good, and some are even suspect. The Afghan army is still too weak to replace us, and their police are useless. But the allies’ big problem now, and in these future scenarios we’re discussing, will be the difficulty of distinguishing the internationalist-jihadist Al-Qaeda bad guys from the domestic-jihadist Taliban bad guys. Their relationships and activities are so intertwined that it’s hard to do.

Q: Your list of six or more issues needing attention contrasts with John Deutch’s emphasis on a few priorities, because “we can’t do it all.” Can you prioritize your agenda goals for the next four years?

Evans: Having served in government myself, I fully recognize how day-to-day urgencies can crowd out important priorities. But I’m very confident about the Obama Administration’s ability to multitask, largely because of the very competent people he’s appointing to handle these issues and the administration of them. That said, I would be satisfied initially with visible action on at least three or four fronts, just to improve the environment for negotiation and sensitivity. I think a major effort on the Iran negotiations could be especially worthwhile. But overall, I say, why not try to be ambitious on all these fronts?

~ Gareth Evans is former Foreign Minister of Australia. He has participated in a series of high-level UN and international commissions on such issues as intervention and state sovereignty, weapons of mass destruction, and genocide
and mass atrocity. He is now President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Crisis Group, a multinational NGO headquartered in Brussels and Washington, DC.

Wrapping Up: Questions for All

The Camden Conference traditionally concludes with a discussion panel that takes questions from the audience and engages the speakers with one another. Each answer to a question below is a summation of the responses of various panelists.

Sunday’s panel this year, moderated by Graham Phaup, included: Tamara Wittes, Paula Dobriansky, Gareth Evans, Timothy Juliani, Nayan Chanda, and Denis Lamb.

Q: What can the US do about carbon dioxide from deforestation, especially in Indonesia and Brazil?

A: Reducing the carbon dioxide may seem straightforward, but forestry issues are tricky in international negotiation. For example, it is difficult to measure/quantify carbon content, and to monitor leakage”—that is, stopping deforestation in one place only to have it move elsewhere. It is important for the countries affected to be involved, and the good news is that the Indonesians have put this on the table as a priority. Interested organizations and countries are coming up with good ideas. Forestry is an important part of a carbon offset program.

Q: What about admitting Georgia and Ukraine to NATO?

A: Before such decisions are made, it is important to redefine what NATO is for. Then decisions can be made about expansion of membership. Politically, admitting these countries without admitting Russia requires great care, in light of recent events in Georgia. Given the historically incoherent addition of countries to NATO, this issue will probably be on hold for a while.

Q: What is the role of North Korea in the nuclear crisis? Is it important?

A: It is important. North Korea has material for at least six bombs. This issue needs to be resolved. An economic consideration is that they are sending material to other countries— it is the only thing that they have to sell, and they are a poor country. On the other hand, the risk of their using nuclear weapons is small; they primarily use the threat to prevent attack or attempts at regime change. The Koreans are hard to negotiate with, so it is important not to overreact.

Q: What is the likelihood of Russia working with the US to solve the Iran nuclear issue?

A: There are trade-offs to consider in getting Russia involved. A key for them is energy security in the Middle East. They may not be willing to intervene until they see Iran getting close to having an actual weapon; before that, they
may not see a threat.

Q: What about earlier statements that it may be necessary to settle for the Afghanistan we have, rather than the one we want?

A: We do have to be realistic in our goals; however, we cannot give up and pull back. The price will be paid by Afghan women and girls, among others. We need patience; they have made some progress. Negotiation has been unsuccessful, which is why we have gotten into nation-building in the first place. A Jeffersonian democracy might not be possible, but the Afghans do take pride in their elections and their emerging democracy. We cannot underestimate the danger of the Taliban, and we cannot give in, which would give them tremendous PR leverage. In addition, failing states tend to drive transnational security issues. The best course is to start with Kabul and establish a working government, then spread this stability to other parts of the country.

Q: What should the Obama Administration’s policy be toward Cuba, which is a symbolic issue?

A: The recent changes in policy, to allow travel and remittances, signal a real desire to find a way forward. The political mix is different with the new generation in the Miami redoubt. We have had a failed policy for 40 years; it is time for a change.

Q: What about issues relating to the melting of Arctic ice, particularly shipping and security?

A: This situation needs to be treated like putting a road into the wilderness to provide access we have not had before. Considerations need to include free flow of military and commercial shipping; resource extraction; and environmental,
energy, and security concerns. There are already some disputes between the US and Canada. The Arctic Council has started to meet to determine how the countries affected can deal with this new situation. It is important for the US to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty so that it can be a part of the decision-making.

Q: How can the public get accurate information about issues, with newspapers dying and the media often focusing on commentary rather than information?

A: Information is essential to the success of a democracy. People tend to like things packaged, and the media cater to that preference. The role of the press was to extract and interpret information, but if there is transparency, this role may not be as necessary as it once was. However, it is harder to get information on foreign policy without good reporting. With the closing of newspapers’ foreign bureaus, that reporting is compromised. The Internet may be the best solution, because it has fewer filters and it allows users to look at background as well as current news.

Q: What are the three most important things for individuals to do to stop global warming?

A: Key suggestions were: vote for those candidates who address the issue; consider buying carbon offsets; encourage the US to work with other countries; invest in research on climate technology, including carbon sequestration. We all
know what we should do, but all of us sometimes do things we know we should not.

Q: Please comment on the use of torture.

A: Panelists were opposed and said unequivocally that torture is not effective. Its use gives us a bad image in the world, and it causes anxiety among the troops in the field, who fear that they could be tortured.

Q: Has the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) been undermined by cooption of government funding and militarization of humanitarian aid?

A: The simple answer is mostly no. The majority of NGOs get funding from nongovernmental sources and care deeply about their independence from governments. They generally work with the military to separate their actions and assistance, and have processes in place to work extensively with other entities.

Q: Is our Congressional leadership strong enough to keep up with and assist the Obama Administration to take a more global view in our foreign policy?

A: There are several reasons why Congress is not of greater assistance. One may be partisanship. Another is the rotation of committee leadership, which lessens the degree of expertise in committees. At present, expertise tends to be devalued on the Hill. Congress learns about foreign policy issues from interest groups and the Administration. But the best way for Congress to understand the issues is to go to the places involved. Unfortunately, trips are somewhat unfashionable at present. If we want members of Congress to be knowledgeable, we have to promote travel and stop rebuking them for “junkets.” Another advantage of travel is that legislators from both sides of the aisle who travel together tend to put aside their partisanship and work to address issues.

This year’s Camden Conference was dedicated to Harvey Picker, a founder and generous supporter of the Conference, who died last year at the age of 92. Harvey was a physicist, inventor, educator, businessman, and philanthropist. He is sorely missed, but his many contributions to the community live on.