16 April 2007

Fun quotes from foreign policy land

First up to bat, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, talking about why she won't run for president:
I understand American politics very badly. I've always said I'm much better at understanding international politics than American politics. I just know that I've got a job to do for the rest of this president's term. That's what I'm concentrating on. . . . I haven't thought much about it myself. I'm thinking more about these days how to get other people to hold elections that are free and fair around the world.
Well gee golly, Condi. Your stellar grasp on international politics has led to a quagmire, a resurgent Tali-terrorist threat, a nuclear North Korea, and a really really cranky Iran. Top that all off with a completely stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process and a now four-year old genocide in Darfur. As for getting other people to hold those free and fair elections, I have two questions: 1) Florida and Ohio, much? and 2) the current elections in Nigeria, from whom we buy a lot of oil, are turning out to be a smashing success, aren't they?

If this is what your excellent command of international politics gets us, I'm quite glad you're refraining from giving us your thoughts on Social Security and immigration reform. Lord knows they'd be stunning policy failures that would make your current boss look brilliant.

Now let's move on to round two, with General John J. Sheehan (USMC, Ret.), talking about why he turned down the job of coordinating the Iraq and Afghanistan wars among several government agencies (which, by the way, is the National Security Advisor and President's job):
It would have been a great honor to serve this nation again. But after thoughtful discussions with people both in and outside of this administration, I concluded that the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically. We got it right during the early days of Afghanistan -- and then lost focus. We have never gotten it right in Iraq. For these reasons, I asked not to be considered for this important White House position. These huge shortcomings are not going to be resolved by the assignment of an additional individual to the White House staff. They need to be addressed before an implementation manager is brought on board.
Translation: "Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent." Alternatively, the Administration is clueless and they're not gonna find some savior for their debacles until they figure out just what purpose their debacles serve.

Good choice, General. Besides, you're probably making way more money in the private sector anyway, and probably also have time to see your family. Lack of family time has been a key motivator for those jumping off the H.M.S. WhiteHousePanic.

There you have it folks. We're totally fucked, and nothing will change until we get some personnel changes at the top, and/or an infusion of intellectual capital in the capital.


Chris said...

Look, you're getting a Master's in this stuff, so why the partisan cant.

North Korea was pursuing enrichment secretly even during the period of the Agreed Framework. We simply pretended not to see what they were doing, and they pretended not to cheat. The new wrinkle is that there are some indications that the reactor at Pyongbyong is inactive due to parts shortages and assorted incompetence in North Korea. You can't really blame Rice for this. Indeed, the steps she has taken, sticking to the Six Party framework, has avoided the North Korean tactic of splitting one party from the other, and forced the Chinese to accept their responsibility as regional hegemon.

The Talib were always going to come back. That's the nature of a lawless border area. NATO forces have been able to counter them, but the fact that the Pakistanis are playing a double game is rather out of our control. The Northwestern frontier states are out of anyone's control, barring a major invasion of the area. You can't quite blame Rice for that as well. Liberals have been screaming about "if we only had sent more troops in 2001", but when they do this, they show a deep misunderstanding of the Afghan terrain. A million troops (which we didn't have back then) couldn't have done the job. Those smuggler's trails, and there are thousands of them, have been used since the time of Alexander. It is an intractable political struggle which will only be solved by a slow grinding down of the Talib and a consensus between the government in Kabul and the tribal structures.

Finally, I don't quite blame her for her efforts in the Middle East. I think most Americans stopped caring a whit what goes on there. And they're right.

I would get into Florida and Ohio with you, since I've been a political operative for some time, and you have no idea what you are talking about, but the bottom line is, your criticism of Rice is both emotional and off base. One is reminded of the old saw about the lawyer who is reduced to banging the table, but there you have it.

jterry said...

@ Chris: Thanks for your comments. You're quite right that my post carries a decidedly partisan tone. However, I don't think my study of conflict resolution somehow means I can't be a little partisan now and again. And besides, I had a number of issues with Clinton Administration foreign policy, but that time has since passed, and thus now the Administration in power is the Administration we have to criticize.

That said, I'm not entirely certain about your statements on North Korea. I think a lot of our current situation comes from the Bush Administration's decision in early 2001 to review our policy towards the DPRK and start withdrawing from our end of the bargain. Frankly, I don't know that strong evidence (as in from the IAEA) exists to show that North Korea wasn't living up to its end of an admittedly flawed agreement. If it does, then I'm only about half wrong here. You're right that convincing China to go along has been an important accomplishment, but China also wants to secure its role as the regional power, and thus probably would've played nice anyway.

As for Afghanistan, I have two points. For one, the front line of any war on terror has always been in the Afghan mountains, and nowhere near Iraq, where the bulk of our fighting forces are now serving. This isn't a matter of having put in more in 2001, this is a matter of the U.S. actually sticking around to even attempt to finish what it started. With regard to our ability to control Pakistan, I remind you that Pakistan is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance. Your point about not being able to control the actions of the Pakistani regime are thus quite erroneous. All we need do is cut off the flow of cash, and get tough on Musharraf for his lack of clear command and control over his security forces.

Americans are foolish to abandon the Middle East peace process. Not only is peace necessary on humanitarian grounds, but continuing instability makes security and thus U.S. economic interests in the region (which are considerable) untenable.

I would get into other areas I mentioned with you (like Darfur or Nigeria), but since you're a domestic political operative, you obviously wouldn't have a clue what I would be talking about. My criticism of Rice isn't driven by any emotion but frustration.

Finally, for the rest of my readers, I wish conservatives wouldn't get so damn uppity every time somebody pokes a little fun at their leaders. I feel like conservatives want to be able to toss bigoted and childish remarks at liberal leaders, while they can't seem to stomach it when lefties like myself offer some critique laced with innocent witticisms.