Monday, October 14, 2013

Forum: What Do You Feel Are America's Chief Foreign Policy Challenges In The Near Future, And Why?

Every week on Monday morning , the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher's Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day. This week's question:What Do You Feel Are America's Chief Foreign Policy Challenges In The Near Future, And Why?

Liberty's Spirit:  There are a myriad of foreign policy threats facing this nation. Whether the United States wants to lead or not, it is still the strongest nation on the globe with the responsible for facilitating the free flow of economies in order to prevent the outbreak of a true world war. The jockeying of growing powers creates an unstable volatile world that lends itself to the rise of extremism both in the financial markets and politics. When international leaders see a weak and unstable world they try to fill the global vacuum. When this is done by third world dictatorships and oligarchical tyrannies it does not mean freedom for the rest of the globe.

Middle East: rise of Islamism; shiite verus Sunni wars; Nuclear Iran threatening the oil channels to the west, Sunni states and Israel will not allow Iran to threaten their existence.

Europe: Implosion of the European Union,along with growth in nationalistic racist ideology specifically antisemitism and Islamism; culture war will end up with terrorism and a dead Europe. Europe has traditionally been a part of the USA support system worldwide, but through fear of Russia and their own growing radicalism will allow the US to stand alone, if the US ever finds its backbone again. (Of course this truly isn't anything new as the EU did not stand up to the Soviets except for Thatcher and allowed antisemitism to flourish especially during the 70s and 80s.)

China: aggressive posture vis-a-vis important sea lanes particularly the South China Sea, which controls the economic viability of the planet; threatening Japan and Taiwan; however economically weak at home, which will lead to an economic implosion, which could lead to a more aggressive nationalistic posture in the region. The aggressive economic policies has seen a rapid and unprecedented growth in the cities however it has also led to an ecological disaster in most of the nation.

Russia: Putin's desire to recreate the Russian Empire is a threat to Europe which is dependent upon Russia for natural gas; Russia has already invaded Georgia, giving it the Black Sea Port that it needed; Russia trying to flex muscles in the Middle East, supports aggressive behavior by Iran towards the Sunni nations and the western dependent oil lanes. This way Russia thinks it can hold the entire world hostage.

South America: Major nations Venezuela and Ecuador are economic disasters and ticking time bombs. These nations also export terror into South America on behalf of Iran trying to destabilize this one mostly stable area.

Mexico: economic basketcase, with life valve to the united States. Drug cartels basically run the country. Irony is that Mexico is an oil producer and was terribly mismanaged through corruption and graft. Already effecting the southern border of the USA economically and through violent crimes.

Africa: Poverty, civil wars and the tyrannies of dictatorships have led to the depletion of Africa's natural resources to corrupt companies and nations like China. The horn of Afica is a breeding ground of radical Islam as seen in the Westgate Mall massacre, meanwhile North Africa is volatile due to the rise and fight agaisnt Islamism and the Moslem Brotherhood/al-Qaeda. The sea lanes around Africa are essential to the free flow of goods, partical oil out of the Arabian gulf. Somali pirates combined with Islamists make this area of the world more and more dangerous. South Africa is highly unstable and considered the rape capital of the world (India and SA are actually in competition for this moniker) and its economy is in shambles because of the ANC's allegiance to communist ideology. Then there is Mugabe and is hold onto power. The civil war in teh Congo has resulted in a generation of child soldiers and a violent society. The rise of Islamism has put Christians at risk on the continent. Poachers and those in the blood-diamond trade take advantage of the volatility of the continent to continue their abuses. Slavery is very common in the mines and on the continent to this day.

India/Pakistan: The economic growth is stratospheric. however, it is also very unstable. This part of the world is caught between ancient cultures and modern technology and economies. There are two classes, the extraordinarily rich and the poor. This has led to a growth in Islamism and terrorism. Pakistan is one of the most unstable nations on the planet that is also a nuclear power. While the USA has tried to maintain an edge in that country the ISI is infiltrated by al-Qaeda as seen by its harboring of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban in the Pashtun regions. This is a dangerous and implosive situation for the subcontinent.

East Asia: The economies of these nations are booming. They are perhaps one of the areas of the world that is economically viable (outside of Israel which had a 5% growth rate last year). However, they are facing a growing Islamist insurgence (Philippines have been dealign with this for deacdes) and it is begining to effect output and these nations world wde interactions. An attempt to modernize and bring in western culture has been met with Islamist threats and a terror campaign.

The irony here is that the more the world is economically interconnected instead of it bringing freedoms to the majority of nations of the world it has led to more and more repression. It is counterintuitve to what political scientist believed would happen when the markets opened internationally. When an organization like the United Nations, which is a microcosm of global realities, is basically run by third world oligarchies and dictatorships there is no reason to believe that the political and economic situation worldwide will improve any time soon. In fact the United Nations is pushing for less and less freedoms worldwide on the behest of their strongest political blocs. Whether the UN, through the OIC, is pushing a global law to prevent freedom of speech by outlawing condemnation of Islam, hence making Sharia Law paramount globally, and curtailing individual/private ownership of weapons, which is something any dictator or tyrant seeks, international organizations are abandoning the internationally recognized idea of human rights.

GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD: Simple. Yet not simplistic.

At great risk of appearing all NeoConic on your assets the greatest buzzkill issue will be unfun and unfree illegit regimes. Despots and despotries. Whether a collectivist state like China, corrupt royalty in Ray Bans, Generals or Presidents For Life. They kill more of their own citizens than foreigners. They cause the refugee flows; they cause the poverty; they cause all of the problems au courrant.

Look at the current crop of dictator cats running from NoKo through China in an unbroken arc through Central Asia, on again/off again Pakistan, the Middle East, North Africa, and down to Angola, with three dictatorships: Belarus, Haiti, and Cuba; if you look at that those 43 men, no women (there are no lady dictators -happy to report); Look at what they are doing today—once again they are the cause of refugee flows; they are the cause of terrorism, direct and indirect; they are the cause of wars; they are the cause of poverty, in Africa, particularly, but also in the Middle East, where the World Bank recently has shown that if you could have normal governance, democratic governance in the Middle East, that there would be a real spurt in economic growth as well.

They are the root of all of our problems.

Despots are together and individually the major security threat to Great Satan, to their neighbors, and to the world.

Contrast that with a world, a 21st century, with no dictators. What would a world without dictators be like? What would it mean in terms of the lives of ordinary people in these 43 countries? What would it mean for American security? What would it mean for prosperity? What would it mean for refugees, environment, drugs, and terrorism—every single category you can think about?

A world without dictators in all likelihood is a world without war. It is a world in which religious differences can be reconciled; it is a world of tolerance; it is a far better world. There might be competition, which is a good thing. There might be pushing and shoving, yet there would not be large scale violence.

 JoshuaPundit: In looking at the world today, I think the main foreign policy challenge America faces is not from out side but from within - leadership, plain and simple, leadership to get both our domestic and foreign policy houses in order. We have had three presidents in a row  whom have been mostly dysfunctional when it comes to foreign policy.

 The strong, intelligent leadership of a world power attracts allies and cooperation. Clueless incompetence and weakness repels them,  as the current occupant of the White House has amply demonstrated.

The trick is not to attempt to change governments, or to attempt to indulge in nation building,  because some  nations culturally and politically simply function in different ways than we're accustomed to. We tried that in Afghanistan,  Libya and Iraq  and our efforts cost American blood and treasure with no benefit for either stability in the region, the local population or our own policy goals.  Nor is it a good idea to retreat into fortress America. That simply doesn't work anymore.

Britain, a small overpopulated island unable to feed its own domestic population maintained itself as a world power and held on to a huge empire for centuries by a judicious use of its military power and by finding nation states and in some cases tribal chiefs  willing to 'police' and represent its interests as allies or clients. Rome did the same.

Both made errors in judgement, but essentially that formula worked quite well for quite some time, as it has for America when we've had leadership and foreign policy teams with the intelligence and ability to practice it.

On the plus side, at  this particular time we still have little real competition, so we have an actual opportunity to maintain our position  provided we actually get leadership that understands this.

Both Russia and China face severe demographic challenges and both would swap problems with the U.S. in a heartbeat. China's one child policy ( and the inbred preference for sons over daughters) has insured that China, which is still a Third World country in a number of aspects will grow older and poorer before it grows richer. In Russia, something like 70% of pregnancies to ethnic Russian send in abortion, while the only segment of the population still growing is Muslims. While that in itself poses a problem, it is not a near term one and a greater problem for Russia ( which has been fighting Muslims for 400 years) than for us.

Problems like Iran and of resurgent Islamism are problems more because our dysfunctional leadership has refused to deal with them properly than because of any inherent power they possess. Islamism in particular has proven to be a dismal failure once the locals in places like Tunisia and Egypt got a good whiff of what Qu'ran-based fascism smelled like.

After the Muslim Brotherhood was booted out of Qatar and Egypt, the running joke was that the only Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers left were in Gaza and Washington DC.

The key to America's foreign policy challenges is leadership.

 The Glittering Eye: Going forward the primary foreign policy challenge facing the United States is, as it has been for most of our history, deciding what role we wish to play in the world.

We have no near-peers so a military preparing for conflict with a high tech near-peer is hopelessly out of date. How much in the form of lives, money, time, and attention should we spend opposing enemies who don't constitute a threat to us but do threaten creaky regimes that aren't particularly friendly to us? E. g. Afghanistan, Pakistan. I don't have an answer for that but do think it's an important question.

Today China is chafing under the "Americanized" world in which the U. S. is the irreplaceable country whose currency is the world's exchange currency by default. Tomorrow it will be Russia, Brazil, India, and any other economic powerhouses that may emerge.

The future is likely to hold fewer friends for us and more "frenemies". I see few signs that an economically and demographically stressed United Kingdom will be as reliable a supporter of U. S. foreign policy goals in the 21st century that it was in the second half of the 20th, joining notional allies like Germany and France.

Should we pivot east towards Europe or west towards Asia? I think a better choice might be south but our Latin American neighbors look on us with a certain amount of reasonable suspicion which for some reason they don't hold for our European (who've actually colonized the region in the past) or Asian (who are even now renting major tracts of land beyond their borders, colonization by another name) competitors.

Well, there you have it.

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B.Poster said...

This is a very fascinating discussion with many interesting points. The position about promoting democracy and what a huge benefit this would be to our nation is spot on. This is why I initially supported "nation building" in Iraq and Afghanistan. I correctly understood that it was/is in our best interest to change the direction of these countries.

One of the areas where the neo conservatives and many of America's leaders made a mistake was they assumed these nations would automatically embrace democratic ideals and be grateful to us once the dictators who had oppressed them were removed. Unfortunately as is pointed out quite correctly in this commentary many nations simply are not ready for democracy. Such a commitment was going to take time and effort on our part to achieve. I think the neo conservatives realized this but alas they never had any real influence over how American policy was actually implemented.

the biggest problem with Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya is once the regimes were removed the allies did not commit enough "boots on the ground" to provide security for the populace. As such, the whole thing deteriorates into civil war like conditions. Providing security would have given the various parties breathing space to iron out their differences and it would have been a huge boon to us. Unfortunately I underestimated the willingness of the American people to make the kinds of sacrifices that would be necessary to achieve our goals and even worse I failed to realize that certain individuals would use a challenged war effort to score political points and to try and destroy their domestic opponents!!

As such, while the promotion of democracy would be a great idea in theory, we simply lack the will to implement it properly and with our massive national debt and worn down military we probably don't have the ability to implement at this point. As such, prudent leadership will come up with a new policy.

If there is a silver lining to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is very likely they prevented or at least delayed another 911 type attack because enemy resources were diverted to these areas that very likely would have been used against America. With that said there were better ways this could have been done. The invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya were major strategic errors. I learned the lessons America's leaders should have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and opposed military actions in Libya. It's a pity our leaders are to blinded by ideology to learn any thing.

The notion of Mexico having a basket case economy with a "life valve to the US is spot on. The best thing we could do for Mexico is to secure our borders. This would force Mexico to address their own economic problems and would give us breathing space to address ours. By not doing this we are essentially telling Mexico we don't think they can handle their own affairs. This seems racist to me!! Also, securing the borders would greatly help the illicit drug problem in the US and starve the cartels of much needed cash. A win/win for everyone that should vastly improve our relations with our southern neighbor in time. Why don't Mexico's leaders suggest this? Apparently they are more interested in harming their northern neighbor than are in trying to constructively solve their problems. All the more reason to secure the borders!!

B.Poster said...

The analysis of how Great Britain and Rome did things is interesting and seems spot on. It might work for us IF we could implement such a policy. The problem is we simply can't. There at least three basic problems with it. 1.)Americans have been conditioned to think of imperialism as a dirty word. This includes America's leaders especially. Until an attitude adjustment occurs there's simply no way to implement such a policy. 2.)We have nothing of real value that can't be gotten elsewhere to offer these people to deal with us. Perhaps we can offer worthless greenbacks which will be even less valuable when the dollar loses its role as world reserve currency. 3.)The other major powers will not react favorably to us messing in what they perceive as their territory. There is a major risk of war with such a policy. Given the state of our economy, our industrial base or lack thereof, and our depleted military war with a major world power is inadvisable right now. As such, we need to come up with other ideas.

As for the idea that America faces "little real competition" seems questionable at best. For example, Russia holds a huge lead over us in tactical nuclear weapons and they've done much to upgrade their nuclear arsenal in recent years. Additionally America lacks good HUMMINT. Also, America's cyber warfare capabilities are limited to electronic eavesdropping and even this has been exposed very likely rendering even this program that had very limited effectiveness to begin with even less effective. In contrast, a number of reports indicate the Russians and Chinese have penetrated America's computer networks at the highest levels.

In a military conflict there's a real possibility they'd render us blind, deaf, and dumb at the start. Also, there's a real possibility of problem with computer chips made in China that are used in military weapons systems. I suspect a combination of cyber attacks, pinpointed attacks against strategic infrastructure, and tactical nuclear strikes would be used by Russia to defeat us fairly quickly and easily. Russia probably does not even need China here. There's also the option of simply using an all out nuclear attack against us before we have time to respond.

Perhaps I'm over reacting, but I think the notion that America faces no real competition may be a bit presumptuous. I'd be reluctant to trust America's national security on such a belief.

While Russia has faced Islamic terrorism much longer than the US has, the Chechens are little more than a nuisance to the state of Russia. They can blow up a bridge, an apartment building, and perhaps damage an air port but that is about it. The ones who we face are capable of taking out entire cities and they are all over the world. Russia's problem is largely localized to Chechnya. Our challenges in this area are many orders of magnitude more serious than those faced by Russia.

B.Poster said...

I'm not quite sure what we mean by "fortress America." If we mean redeploying forces to America's homeland and off its coast where they would well positioned to actually repel an attacker as opposed to engaging in a fruitless "pivot" to the Pacific like we're somehow going to challenge China or fruitless nation building actions in the Middle East and elsewhere then by all means count me in and explain why properly defending one's home is a bad idea.

Furthermore I've laid out a multi point plan here and elsewhere a number of times on how to improve our national security and our economy. Part of this includes streamlining the regulations that make it overly costly for domestic manufacturing, developing all of our own oil and gas reserves, and building more refineries. Do this and we could become a net exporter of quality manufactured goods as well as energy. Since we'd actually have something of value to trade, this would greatly enhance our relations with the rest of the world and would give us much needed leverage that we currently don't have. This combined with a sensible deployment of American military forces would result in a huge boon for our country.

Also, getting our forces out of Japan and South Korea would be a huge benefit to us and would greatly help our relations with those countries. We are likely to need assistance from them someday. Right now they'd be unlikely to help us in a meaningful way. Redeploying our military assets away from those nations would be extremely helpful.

If we mean by "fortress America" not interacting with the world and not trading with them, then you are correct. This would be bad and would not work. If we mean redeploying to positions that give us a fighting chance to defend our nation, then I don't see any thing wrong with that. I'm just not quite sure what you mean by the term "fortress America."