Solutions, or Problems?
No trends in the U.S. foreign-policy debate are more dangerous than self-flagellation and defeatism. Lt. Gen. William Odom is guilty of both ("21 Solutions to Save the World: The Nuclear Option," May/June 2007). To blame recent Iranian and North Korean behavior on U.S. President George W. Bush defies accuracy. Both Tehran’s and Pyongyang’s nuclear programs ...
No trends in the U.S. foreign-policy debate are more dangerous than self-flagellation and defeatism. Lt. Gen. William Odom is guilty of both ("21 Solutions to Save the World: The Nuclear Option," May/June 2007). To blame recent Iranian and North Korean behavior on U.S. President George W. Bush defies accuracy. Both Tehran's and Pyongyang's nuclear programs accelerated alongside the U.S. engagement of the 1990s. Too often, policymakers prioritize diplomacy and deals over their substance and content. Now, we're paying the price for that kind of thinking.
No trends in the U.S. foreign-policy debate are more dangerous than self-flagellation and defeatism. Lt. Gen. William Odom is guilty of both ("21 Solutions to Save the World: The Nuclear Option," May/June 2007). To blame recent Iranian and North Korean behavior on U.S. President George W. Bush defies accuracy. Both Tehran’s and Pyongyang’s nuclear programs accelerated alongside the U.S. engagement of the 1990s. Too often, policymakers prioritize diplomacy and deals over their substance and content. Now, we’re paying the price for that kind of thinking.
Nor is Odom correct to assume that welcoming Iran and North Korea into the nuclear club will bring security. Cold War stability is a myth; the United States and the Soviet Union were simply lucky that nuclear crises did not spin out of control. Add the messianic ideology of some factions of Iran’s clerical leadership to the mix, and the efficacy of traditional deterrence is even less certain. If Odom does not recognize the primacy of ideology to Iran’s theocratic leadership, he misunderstands the Islamic Republic’s motivations for its long embrace of terrorism and its defiance of international norms. Arguing that the Iranian leadership opposes al Qaeda is undermined by the findings of the 9/11 Commission. Pragmatism in Iran’s theocratic circles is often more about bridging the Islamic sectarian divide to combat Western culture than a sincere effort at diplomacy. Although external regime change is out of the question, policymakers in the United States should neither preserve rogue regimes against their own demographic pressures nor rescue them from their economic failures. Offering inducements to them on the nuclear issue would do just that.
The American Enterprise Institute
William Odom replies:
Michael Rubin’s accusations of "self-flagellation" and "defeatism" are not strategic analysis — they are propagandistic agitation. I neither welcome Iran and North Korea into the nuclear club, nor do I claim that doing so will bring stability to either region. I do not "blame" President Bush for their nuclear programs. I do blame him for pursuing a nonproliferation policy that is feckless and destabilizing, which these weak states readily disregard. Nor did I mention anything about Cold War stability. There are several kinds of "deterrence," and I have always been concerned about the pitfalls of purely "nuclear deterrence."
I do not suggest that President Bill Clinton’s approach to North Korea was effective (it was not), nor am I ignoring the perverse incentives Bush created when he embraced India and Pakistan after they acquired nuclear weapons. I do, however, recognize a certain "primacy of ideology" in Rubin’s views.
Further, the 9/11 Commission’s report does not prove Iran’s good relations with al Qaeda, as Rubin claims. If the Iranian clerics believe their theology, then they consider Sunni believers in al Qaeda to be their mortal enemies. Rubin not only distorts the evidence; he expects us to overlook his logical inconsistencies.
I merely point out a number of uncomfortable facts for people like Rubin, whose sloganeering encourages the president to pursue policies that are regularly defeated by opponents of the United States. North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and Iran’s clerics see through our "ideological" hang-ups better than we see through theirs. It is precisely the view Rubin advocates that has prevented alternative policies that might well have stopped the nuclear weapons programs in either Iran or North Korea.
I take issue with several of Paul Saffo’s claims ("21 Solutions to Save the World: Time for a Sea Change," May/June 2007). Saffo asserts that the Law of the Sea Treaty would improve marine resources, but he fails to acknowledge that it could do exactly the opposite. The treaty requires harvesting the entire allowable catch in some areas. Nations that do not do so are required to make the surplus available to other states. Such a "use it or lose it" policy is reminiscent of federal grazing policy, which until recently required ranchers to use their forage rights or lose them, and contributed to resource damage. The same outcome is possible under the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Second, Saffo argues that the treaty would prevent terrorism. On the contrary, it would complicate the job of interdicting terrorists. Although the treaty permits the boarding of ships suspected of piracy and other offenses, it does not authorize the boarding of ships suspected of harboring terrorists. Should U.S. forces board ships for this reason, they would likely find themselves subject to the treaty’s tribunal. Further, the treaty requires all underwater vehicles — including those used in mine detection — to travel on the surface to qualify for "innocent passage." This regulation would render these vehicles ineffective and leave ships vulnerable to mines placed by terrorists.
Saffo also claims the treaty would slow global warming. Even assuming a correlation between human activity and warming, the treaty would do no such thing. China, which acceded to the Law of the Sea Treaty in 1996, built an average of more than one coal-fired power plant per week during the past five years. The treaty hardly stopped its emissions growth.
Finally, Saffo suggests that U.S. ratification is necessary to ensure access rights. Such rights already exist through other agreements. In addition, the treaty governs the behavior of all signatories, so access rights for U.S. ships would be guaranteed regardless of whether the United States joins, because other countries are already bound by the terms of the treaty at all times. The United States is under no obligation to sign the Law of the Sea Treaty, and Saffo’s pie-in-the-sky claims only serve to obscure the policy debate surrounding this important issue.
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Paul Saffo replies:
David Ridenour’s objections have been raised before — and rejected by those who would have the most to lose if he were right. If the Law of the Sea Treaty interferes with the right of innocent passage or suppressing terrorism, then it is hard to imagine why ratification has the solid support of the Pentagon, and in particular, the U.S. Navy. Similarly, if the treaty harms fisheries and the environment, why would ratification of the treaty enjoy broad support among environmental and resource groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Nature Conservancy?
Earlier this year, Stephen Hadley, the assistant to the U.S. president for national security affairs, noted the "historic bipartisan support" for the Law of the Sea Treaty. That historic support was underscored by President Bush shortly after the May/June issue of Foreign Policy was published, when he urged the Senate to ratify the treaty. Ridenour and the lonely minority hostile to this important treaty have not merely failed to persuade, they have utterly lost the argument.
Joseph Nye calls for the creation of "a nonpartisan, nongovernmental Civil Society Fund" governed by an independent board that would "separate policy advocacy and diplomacy from the development of long-term social interactions around the world" ("21 Solutions to Save the World: A Smarter Superpower," May/June 2007). Leaving aside the vague description of "social interactions," can he explain how his proposal differs from the existing nonpartisan and nongovernmental National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which provides grants, training, and moral support to civil society organizations and movements throughout the world; links intellectuals and practitioners through a research center that, among other things, publishes the Journal of Democracy; and globally connects civil society and political activists through the World Movement for Democracy? Before he reinvents the wheel, Nye might want to familiarize himself with what already exists.
The National Endowment for Democracy
Joseph Nye replies:
Not to belittle the good work of Carl Gershman and the NED, the organization has become known as an advocacy organization for the promotion of democracy. As Allen Weinstein (who helped draft the NED legislation) told the Washington Post in 1991, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA." What I have in mind is a fund to promote exchanges and interactions without a particular agenda. The United States’ soft power is often greatest when Americans are open and self-critical, and not in the advocacy mode. Americans need to listen as well as preach. There is a role for both the NED and for a Civil Society Fund along the lines I suggest.
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