Friday, October 30, 2009

Quotes of the Day

From my colleague Dr. Andrew Stigler, a professor of national security studies here at the Naval War College:

"If peace were manufactured in factories, there would be a lot more Senators in favor of it." (A timely quote given the leak from the Hill about the Congressional probe into members of the defense appropriations committee.)

"There is no such thing as a diplomatic-industrial complex." (Although given the first steps of private military companies to offer humanitarian and development services, might one develop in the future?) And Parag Khanna might have a different view about a future diplomatic-industrial complex (via Diplopundit)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Focus on Central-east Europe Today ....

The Vice President reassures, but also wants central-east European states to move the relationship forward with the United States.

But is economics the real determining factor for the future of the region, and the roles of Russia and the West?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire

An interesting post by Edward Luttwak over at Foreign Policy, the Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.

Several years back, I asked What Would the Byzantines Do?" in addressing contemporary foreign policy challenges. Glad to see the subject interests others. I haven't yet read Luttwak's book, but I certainly hope that Obolensky's and Ostrogorksy's contributions to the field are cited.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Don't Understand the Logic

Jeffrey Goldberg and Marty Peretz are both angry with the administration that cancelling missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic didn't win Russian support for greater pressure on Iran.

Why would it? We said missile defense wouldn't work, the technology wasn't there, the plan was a boondogle. We were pretty public about these comments. Why did we think they wouldn't be heard in Moscow? (Psst ... the new administration doesn't want to spend money on a system they don't think works). So why should any rational actor say, You stopped work on something you said wouldn't work, now we are supposed to give you something substantial in return? A working, deployed system is another thing--but that's not what we had in place. And no one should be surprised at the reaction.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lavrov's Answer ... (And Clinton's Hope)

Over the past several weeks, I've asked whether there might be a change in the Russian position on Iran. Foreign Minister Lavrov gave a pretty clear answer: no. No support for new sanctions on Iran at this juncture. The Russians were unwilling to discuss with Secretary Clinton any specific new measures that might be used to pressure Iran--if the comments from "State Department sources" are accurate. Sure, down the line, if Iran doesn't change its behavior, maybe we'll talk again. But when the Geneva talks resume later this month, the United States doesn't have a credible threat to wield against Iran.

Also, in passing ... Secretary Clinton held out hope that Boeing will get a major Russia contract. I find it hard to believe that she "has hope" that Boeing will be
selected to provide planes for the new carrier Rosavia given that 51 percent
of the firm is owned by a Russian state company that includes the Russian
arms exporters and U.S. policy works against this companies sales (e.g. to
Iran) and that U.S. policy is working against Russian energy interests.
Unless she is compromising on other things that matter to Moscow ...

UPDATE: Press agencies are reporting that President Medvedev told Secretary Clinton that while he is pleased about the apparent success of the Geneva talks "he expects Iran to implement them and if they don't there should be sanctions," according to another "senior State Department official." It is being cited as proof of a breakthrough.

Again, I am not rushing to celebrate. "Should be" sanctions is not the same as "there will be". Define implementation of the Geneva agreements. As I said earlier, I don't see that the U.S. has gotten a firm commitment that strengthens its position when the talks resume.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Vice President Heads East?

Some thoughts on the vice president heading to central/eastern Europe, on another of his reassurance missions. What will be interesting to observe is what he's been authorized to offer ...

A greater conventional U.S. military presence in the region, including stationing forces and a Patriot missile battery in Poland, has been banded about. Will the administration decide that this is what it needs to proffer in order to reassure not only people in the region but its critics here that no new "Yalta" is in the offing?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Serving the Country?

James Joyner has an interesting essay over at the Atlantic Council, where he looks at the growing phenomenon of senior public servants who define their service in government as being "non-partisan" and the growing attempts to categorize their efforts as in fact being partisan--looking at recent coverage of both General Jones as the National Security Advisor and Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense and the implications that they are becoming partisan supporters of the president.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A James Baker Moment

David Billington raises a good point in his response to my earlier post about the Geneva talks. Doesn't the U.S. get what it wants if the Geneva agreement is actually implemented?

Yes and no. Yes in that the immediate danger of Iranian nuclear proflieration is ended. No in that the infrastructure and know-how remains intact, giving Iran a possible hedge down the road. The U.S. principal intent has always been to deproliferate Iran--with all equipment and facilities dismantled and removed--not to supervise an Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

I talk about the Obama administration facing a "James Baker moment" in this column. What I mean by the term is the extent to which the U.S. limits its own policy preferences in return for getting maximum international support on a key development [e.g. better to have a broad coalition supporting the explusion of Saddam Hussein from Iraq rather than go to Baghdad alone.]

Friday, October 02, 2009

Am I Too Pessimistic About the Iran Breakthrough?

Some of my colleagues think I am underestimated the breakthrough that occurred in Geneva in the Iran talks. I acknowledge that Iran has made a seemingly major concession--sending uranium outside the country to be enriched--essentially a version of the Scowcroft plan proposed a few years back--and this could be the start toward ending the crisis. Where the deal easily could be hung up: Iran agrees to ship out the uranium but wants to keep all of its existing infrastructure with no dismantling as a hedge.

Why, if I have been stressing Russia's reluctance to sanction Iran, would they be instrumental in getting this deal through by being one of the parties involved in supplying Iran with the fuel? Well, to the extent that this "temporary" settlement only delays rather than resolves the Iran issue, then much of the status quo which benefits Russia stays in place--and Russia reaps benefits in Europe for its constructive role.

I assume that the U.S. perspective is one of eventual timing--delay works in our favor if we expect that time is against the current regime.

Just my thoughts--

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An Answer to Takeyh's Question

On the Newshour, September 24, 2009, Ray Takeyh, in responding to what to expect from the upcoming negotiations with Iran--"And the question is, can Iranians drag out that process in a rather inconclusive way by making slight modifications?"

Reuter's "Snap Analysis"concludes that Iran agreed to limited transparency measures and a promise of a future meeting but that no date has been set for the IAEA inspectors. Meanwhile, "the chances of making harsher sanctions work suffer from a lack of global will to enforce them."

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