IPS Blog

The “Hot Potato” of the Summit of the Americas: Cuba’s Absence

The Summit of the AmericasAs a rule, anything the New York Times says about developments in Latin America should be taken with a couple of handfuls of salt. The paper regularly does its readers a disservice by painting a picture of developments in the region created in the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine. Case in point: an April 12 report titled “Trade, Energy and Drugs Are Topics for Obama at Summit of the Americas” by correspondent Jackie Calmes, which made the claim that “For the most part, the tension over Cuba seems mostly to be behind Mr. Obama.” According to Calmes, “Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, announced earlier this month that he would boycott the meeting in Colombia because Cuba, as usual, was not invited, but he failed to persuade other leftist leaders in the region to do the same,” and that Cuban President Raul Castro “said he did not want to attend anyway, sparing Mr. Obama the prospect of any photo opportunities with a Castro.”

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether Castro actually said that and neither does the Times. However, according to the Associated Press, the Cuban leader had expressed a desire to attend the meeting but was “delicately” told by the Summit host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, that that would be impossible because it would put U.S. President Barack Obama in the position of “facing an awkward meeting with the Cuban leader or having to boycott the summit himself.”

The 6th Summit of the Americas was scheduled for April 14-15 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. According to the Falklands/Malvinas-based Merco Press, “Though the summit’s official agenda ranges from technology to poverty reduction, Cuba was once again shaping into the No. 1 hot potato for those gathering in the Caribbean port city.”

There are 43 nations participating in the summit; only two – the U.S. and Canada – oppose Cuba’s participation. On April 12, a pre-summit foreign ministers meeting is said to have failed to agree on a last minute proposal to invite the island nation

However, reading Calmes’ report one might get the impression that the issue of Cuba’s participation in the leadership gathering had ceased to be much of an issue and Correa was isolated in his position. No mention was made of the statement made weeks ago by Bolivia’s President Eva Morales that “We have arrived with the conviction that this must be the last summit without Cuba.” Or, of Santos’ statement: “I hope this is the last summit without Cuba.”

Nor did the Times report note that the recent visit to the US by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff came following her stay in Cuba and consultations with President Castro. While in Havana she criticized the existence of the U.S. base and prison at Guantanamo Bay, and the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

Perhaps more revealing of the Times’ approach to the unfolding situation was its failure to note the symbolism of – or indeed, even report on – the pre-summit visit to Havana of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, where, according to Prensa Latina, he expressed “His government’s interest in bringing relations with Cuba to the highest level.” Calderon arrived in Cuba April 11 for a two-day visit.

According to Reuters, “Calderon said on Wednesday upon his arrival in Havana that ‘in spite of our natural and different points of view about various issues,’ an effort would be made during the visit to ‘take our bilateral relation to its best level’.”

“We want to broaden trade and investment between Cuba and Mexico,” Calderon told journalists in Havana. ““We are interested in cooperating in health, education, culture and sports, as well as in bilateral exchanges in energy,” said Calderon. “My visit is due mainly to the friendship and brotherhood existing between the two peoples.”

From Cuba Calderon flew to Haiti and from there was on to the Summit in Colombia.

As it turned out that the exclusion of Cuba was indeed a big hot potato at Cartagena de Indias and it is clear the issue is not going away. Despite the wishes of Washington and Ottawa this was almost certainly
the last time the pushy norteamericanos determine who comes to summits and who does not.

Carl Bloice, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, is a columnist for the Black Commentator. He also serves on its editorial board.

Bolivian President Morales Bows to Pressure and Cancels Amazon Highway

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that he would rescind the contract awarded to Brazilian company OAS to build a road through the Amazon rainforest. This is the most recent complication in the production of the three-part road, intended to link Brazilian ports in the Amazon with those in Peru and Chile, resulting in better infrastructure that would encourage investment and trade in Bolivia. The $420 million construction project is primarily funded by the Brazilian bank BNDES, who is responsible for coming up with 80% percent of the project’s financial backing. For a variety of reasons, the construction of the road has become highly controversial. Indigenous groups–who have traditionally served as Morales’s support base, protested the road’s construction, which intends to cut through Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park or Tipnis. The cancellation of the contract with OAS by Morales casts further doubts about whether the road will ever be fully completed.

The road’s unpopularity sparked mass protest from over 1,500 Bolivians, primarily indigenous groups and their supporters, who marched 500km for 60 days to La Paz earlier this year. Critics of the road have suggested that this is an example of Brazil’s regional hegemony in Latin America, arguing that Morales has abandoned his promises to advocate for environmental and indigenous rights. In a piece run by the Guardian at the time of the protests, Ernesto Sanchez, one of the organizers, expressed concern that, “The highway is being built for Brazil so that it can export its products to Bolivia…Here we’d only be left with debts because all the benefits go to Brazil.” In response, Morales claimed that the road would no longer extend into the TIPNIS region. This decision was made in response to the overwhelming opposition from indigenous and leftist Bolivian groups.

Recent developments produced additional speculation as to whether the road’s construction will continue. According to oneBBC report, “the firm had repeatedly ignored instructions and failed to meet various contractual obligations.” Speculation has also been made that Morales’ next goal is to rescind the contracts for completing the other two parts of the road, between Villa Tunari and San Ignacio de Moxos. President Morales said, “We’ve started a process to annul the road construction contract, which was granted to OAS, because the company hasn’t complied (with the terms),” according to The Chicago Tribune, which has also reported that Morales claimed that “the company had suspended work ‘without justification or authorization.'”

It is unclear whether the road project will now have the impetus to continue or whether OAS will be compensated.

Melissa Moskowitz is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Time for the Cut-Off: A Global Day of Action Against Military Spending

GDAMS in India.

GDAMS in India.

“Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership. In fact, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration.”
President Obama, speaking at the Pentagon, Jan. 5, 2012

Despite our profound indebtedness, the state of the U.S. economy, and the outcries of the Occupiers, Obama’s statement confirms fears that military spending will continue to grow over the next 10 years. In real terms, the base military budget is going to remain at levels higher than at any point during the Bush administration.

While most Americans have grown weary of our lengthy wars, influential profiteers have lobbied hard for their persistence. Although President Obama has been hailed for his diplomatic efforts by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the themes (and consequences) of U.S. military strategy have not differed greatly from the Bush era.

This election year has been particularly telling. Employment has undoubtedly been on the forefront of American minds, and according to IPS scholar Janet Redman, “the idea of spending money overseas is entirely unpalatable to the many people who feel economically squeezed right now.” As a result, the Pentagon has scrambled to convince the public that a cut in defense would equate to enormous job loss. In October, a controversial job study by the Aerospace Industries Association was repeatedly quoted by officials concerned by the purported “million” layoffs that could occur from a decrease in the defense budget.

On the contrary, Miriam Pemberton and William Hartung have argued that “maintaining Pentagon spending at current high levels while pushing the burden of budget cuts on domestic programs would result in a net loss of jobs nationwide.” To be fair, military spending does create a lot of jobs, but more jobs are created by other sectors. Put simply, other sectors of the economy can create more jobs than the military industrial complex—and for less. Costofwar.com cites construction, education, and even home weatherization as more sustainable and stimulative industries.

President Obama has explicitly embraced national security as one of his campaign issues. For example, he has opened a joint military base with Australia in order to “play a larger and long-term role in shaping [the East Asian] region and its future.” Because this is essentially the equivalent of Russia opening up a base in Cuba during the Cold War, it’s no surprise that China has reacted negatively to the decision. It appears that the U.S. government will continue to leverage its military in order to maintain control over resources. Moves like this prove that pre-emption is still a prevailing theme of U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, preemption not only produces backlash but is also inordinately expensive.

From Australia to AFRICOM, the Pentagon continues to extend its global reach. The costs of war already far outweigh the benefits, but the way our spending looks, war will be an enduring staple of our economy. According to military researcher Nick Turse, “recently, the Army sought bids from contractors willing to supply power plants and supporting fuel systems at forward operating bases in Afghanistan for up to five years.” Withdrawal of troops seems to be a subjective term. Where is the drawdown we have been told about?

In a roundtable with young graduates, Janet Redman advised our future leaders that “it is time to realize that the world outside of the U.S. is not just a threat — it is our global community. Our global economy desperately needs an alternative to militarization. If you are frustrated that your government is spending money on violence instead of job creation, if you are tired of elite defense contractors from the 1 percent sucking tax dollar coffers dry, if you see our “defense” system as offensive, check out demilitarize.org, and connect with activists and advocates in your area to protest.

Already, more than 130 groups in at least 39 countries are involved in the second annual Global Day of Action against Military Spending, which is set for Tuesday, April 17 — Tax Day in the United States. From street theater in Dhaka, demonstrations in Istanbul, a parliamentary debate in Yaoundé, protests against military bases in Okinawa, a peace village in Oslo, a high-level seminar at the UN in Geneva, a flash mob in Oakland, Tax Day leafleting in Bethlehem, PA, and a “walk of shame” in Washington DC, we will be occupying the global military industrial complex and advocating investments in people. Join us!

Emily Norton is an intern at the Institute of Policy Studies.

The Great White Mancave

For years, researchers have parsed the nation’s top op-ed sections and deemed them to be too male and too white. With this problem so openly acknowledged, you’d think that there’d be some improvement. Well, you’d be wrong.

The media reform organization FAIR, an OtherWords partner, reviewed the commentaries featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal between September and October 2011. It summarized the results in the latest edition of Extra!, the organization’s monthly magazine.

Newspaper Grape Purple by NS Newsflash

Newspaper Grape Purple by NS Newsflash

FAIR’s report is packed with interesting data and observations. A few examples:

  • Latinos, who now make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, wrote less than 0.5 percent of the commentaries published in these three top newspapers over the two-month period.
  • African American bylines comprise 1 percent of the commentaries the Wall Street Journal published over this two-month period.
  • Women remain underrepresented in these three op-ed sections. They penned only 6 percent of the Journal‘s guest columns, for example.

Having tried to improve the diversity of voices that OtherWords features for the past two and a half years, I’ve learned that this challenge is harder than it sounds. FAIR’s study serves as a great reminder of why it’s so important for this editorial service to meet that challenge.

After some improvement under IPS stewardship, OtherWords is doing a better job at amplifying the voices of women and people of color than these three op-ed sections. But that’s not saying much. In September and October 2011, the period FAIR reviewed, 25 percent of OtherWords commentaries were by women and 5 percent were by people of color. We can and will improve this track record.

FAIR’s report also notes that these three prominent opinion sections range from right-of-center to conservative. I’ve noticed the same thing. The Washington Post touts centrists Dana Milbank and Richard Cohen as being part of its “left-leaning” lineup. The Post‘s right-leaning squad, however, is packed with “severe conservatives” like George Will and Charles Krauthammer.

FAIR also found that the Occupy movement’s arrival during the period studied didn’t make a dent on the overall conservative tenor of the commentaries these newspapers published. “While coverage in papers’ news sections increased dramatically from September to October (2011), the opinion pages at the Times, Post and Journal remained entirely free of the voices of those involved,” wrote researcher Nick Porter.

Because the Post, Times, and Journal are widely syndicated, the imbalance in their lineups is magnified throughout the media. Their columns run in hundreds of newspapers and new media outlets. Here are some examples.

In 2007, Media Matters released an in-depth study on the rightward tilt of op-ed sections. It found that the top three, measured in terms of the number of newspapers in which they are featured, were George Will, Cal Thomas, and Kathleen Parker. Will, Thomas and Parker all appear on Townhall.com, which bills itself as “the leading source for conservative news and political commentary and analysis.” Today, Thomas and Will are in about 500 newspapers and Parker’s in more than 350.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Annan’s Syria Plan Another Olive Branch Assad Will Crush?

Annan and Assad.

Annan and Assad.

Cross-posted from the United to End Genocide Blog.

UN-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria has not failed. No, Syrian troops and heavy weapons have not been withdrawn from cities as called for, but as of April 12 in Syria, there have been no reports of significant government attacks. For at least the time being, a ceasefire seems to be in place. Of course, President Assad in a letter said he reserved the right to respond to “terrorist” attacks and large protests expected tomorrow will put him to the test. In all likelihood, the plan as set out by Annan will not be realized, but any failure will not be his, but that of Assad.

For all the criticism of Annan and his plan in recent days, his efforts have made unified action by the international community, led by the UN Security Council, more likely. No longer can Russia and China, the countries that have blocked past efforts at strong resolutions and action, hide behind the argument that strong diplomatic efforts have not been exhausted. The next step should be what Bruce Jones of the Brookings Institution calls “diplomatic overtime”. UN monitors should be rushed in as soon as possible. Perhaps the plan can be salvaged or the halt in killing be extended.

If as has happened in the past, the Assad regime fails to live up to its promises the next step should be a strong, unanimous UN Security Council resolution that clearly condemns Assad, implements an arms embargo, refers the leaders of the Syrian regime to the International Criminal Court and sets a clear deadline before, as they say in UN-speak, “all necessary measures” are taken to protect civilians in Syria. This is the spirit of the Responsibility to Protect — a graduated escalation of options before force may be used as a last resort.

Now is not the time for force. The likelihood of even more bloodshed and deaths of civilians is too great, the disunity of the opposition groups too strong and the will of the international community too weak. It is not possible to establish “safe zones” without boots on the ground, air strikes and a willingness or at least preparedness to escalate. But the time for such intervention may be nearing and the will of the international community to carry it out is growing with each olive branch that Assad chooses to crush, not to mention each civilian life that is taken (over 1,000 Syrians have been reportedly killed since Assad said he accepted Annan’s peace plan).

The international community should continue to support Annan’s plan and use the next days to pursue “diplomatic overtime” but it should also prepare for the next steps that may need to be taken. If an intervention is to take place to protect civilians it should be multilateral (see Bruce Jones’ suggestion for a stabilization force in Foreign Policy) and come with the endorsement of the UN Security Council. That will be largely up to Russia and China. However, the lead of regional powers can make a difference. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already arming the opposition. Turkey has warned that further attacks across its border (two people were killed in a Turkish refugee camp when Syrian forces opened fire across the Turkish border) could lead it to invoke NATO help protect its borders.

For now Annan’s plan is the least worst option in a sea of bad to horrible ones. It may very well fail to be implemented as designed but it has already succeeded in pausing the most intense period of fighting since the crackdown began 13 months ago. Moving forward, Annan’s plan will not be a failure if this latest legitimate effort at peace unifies the UN Security Council for real pressure on Syria, mobilizes regional support for further action and demonstrates to the world that this is not about an interventionist western policy but about a regime thumbing its nose at the world, even as civilians continue to die in large numbers.

Daniel P. Sullivan is the Director of Policy and Government Relations for United to End Genocide.

NORK Rocket Failure Affords West an Opportunity to Dial Down Condemnation

North Korea's Unha-3 rocket.

North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket.

Nearly a month after North Korea announced it would launch a rocket carrying an earth-observation satellite in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and, at least by western accounts, in violation of the recently struck “Leap Day Deal,” the North Korean rocket, a three-stage Unha-3, reportedly failed due to a separation malfunction after about a minute into its flight, scattering debris into the Yellow Sea.

This is probably the best outcome short of it exploding on the launch pad.

Meant to kick off the 100th anniversary celebrations of the birth of North Korea’s late founder, Kim Il-sung, and demonstrate that the impoverished North had achieved his vision of becoming a “strong and prosperous nation,” the rocket’s failure is a monumental embarrassment. Fortunately for the regime, control of the domestic media means that most North Koreans will never be aware of this failure. Rather, they will likely cheer the resounding success of the satellite launch in the name of the Great Leader and his progeny. It makes you wonder why they even bothered to launch a real rocket at all when they could’ve just bought a model rocket kit, launched that, and “reported,” on their latest great achievement. Most North Koreans wouldn’t know the difference so long as the camera angles were right…

However, this abysmal failure is certainly good news for the west. Over the past several years (heightened further over the last several weeks) there have been dire warnings about the emergence of a credible North Korean ballistic missile threat to the American mainland. While there certainly is a threat, it would seem that it is much further off than many may have thought even several hours ago. Failure to make it past the first boost stage should not inspire the fear that Kim Jong-un will shortly be raining down nukes on the west coast. This latest failure demonstrates that North Korea is still a ways off from developing a reliable delivery system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead over great distances.

(Indulge me briefly – What if the rocket’s failure is, in fact, an elaborate – and expensive – ruse, designed to lull us into a false sense of security before they strike!? What if they really have an operational ICBM and this one was an intentional dud!!?? On second thought, this seems unlikely, even for a movie plot – although any word on whether Kim Jong-un is as great a cinephile as his papa?)

More importantly, the failure allows the U.S. some wiggle room in choosing its response. While domestic politics and common sense demand condemnation of this provocative act, the Obama administration would be wise not to go overboard. The administration should seek a tempered response, recognizing that any harsh reaction will likely precipitate further provocative action from the North, such as a third nuclear test and a complete deterioration of relations for the foreseeable future. Such an outcome is undesirable for all parties.

Rather, the Obama administration should, after an appropriate freeze period, and with the consent of our regional allies, pursue further the positive steps made in negotiating the Leap Day Deal. The United States should make it clear to North Korea that it is still willing to dispatch food aid, provided that the North first allow the return of IAEA inspectors to monitor North Korean nuclear facilities and ensure the cessation of all nuclear activities. Such an outcome would be eminently more desirable than a return to the provocative and acrimonious pattern of past relations.

Finally, the U.S. negotiators must avoid further miscommunication with their North Korean counterparts. Jeffrey Lewis over at Arms Control Wonk wrote a great piece on the subject. As he, and others have noted, there are still some discrepancies between the statements regarding the LDD offered by the United States and North Korea. Most notably, the North Korean statement only refers to a moratorium on “uranium enrichment at Yongbyon,” while the moratorium in the American statement applies to “nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment.” As Mr. Lewis says, when dealing with North Korea, “the details matter.” Otherwise you might just leave a loophole big enough to launch a rocket through.

UPDATE: Korean Central News Agency announced that the rocket launch had failed to place a satellite into orbit. Unusual candor from the North Korean state media…

Greg Chaffin is a research assistant for the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London.

Grand Poobah of R2P Goes All Travis Bickle on FPIF’s Zunes

Gareth Evans, the former foreign minister of Australia, has carved a formidable post-government service career as, for instance, the head of the International Crisis Group and co-chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. Perhaps most notably, as Foreign Policy in Focus’s own Stephen Zunes writes at Alternet:

Gareth Evans is perhaps best known internationally as the world’s principal intellectual architect and proponent of the doctrine of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), which calls for Western military intervention in crisis areas to prevent massacres of civilians. He was particularly outspoken in his support for what he referred to as “the overwhelming moral case” for the controversial NATO military intervention in Libya, which went well beyond the original mandate to protect civilians to effectively become the air force of the rebel coalition.

Whatever controversy — if practice, if not in theory — affixes itself to R2P is dwarfed by a blot on Evans’s record while foreign minister. Professor Zunes’s explanation begins:

In early 1991, despite reports by Amnesty International and other human rights groups documenting the contrary, Evans had stated that East Timor’s “human rights situation has, in our judgment, conspicuously improved, particularly under the current military arrangements.” When Indonesian forces massacred 430 civilians at a funeral in the capital of Dili nine months later, Evans falsely described the mass killings as simply “an aberration, not an act of state policy.” In the face of international outrage at an Indonesian “investigation” of the tragedy which blamed the massacres on the nonviolent protesters, Evans claimed there was “no case to be supremely critical” of the regime. He insisted that the Indonesian dictatorship had “responded in a reasonable and credible way” and argued that “essentially punitive responses from the international community are not appropriate” (a very different perspective than he would later take toward non-ally Libya).

None too savory and it only gets worse. Professor Zunes brought his record up to Evans at a recent conference in Australia.

I thought it appropriate to ask an Egyptian speaker – who had expressed his disappointment at continued Western support for the military junta in Egypt – about perceptions in his country of Western double-standards. I prefaced my question by noting how the American and British governments were opposing the repressive regime in Syria while supporting the repressive regime in Bahrain, how Washington had called for greater democracy in Egypt while arming its autocratic military rulers, and how the principal advocate for Western intervention against the Libyan regime to stop repression under the doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” had, as foreign minister of Australia, supported far greater repression by the Indonesian regime against the East Timorese.

Before I could get to the actual question, Evans shouted out, “Are you referring to me?” I answered, “Yes, actually.” “That’s crap!” he yelled.

Echoes of Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (“You talkin’ to me?”). Read Professor Zunes’s AlterNet article in its entirety to see how the drama played out. I guess Evans saw a need for the Responsibility to Protect … his own reputation, not to mention his fragile ego.

U.S. Only Lightening Grip on Reins of Afghan Night Raids

In light of the Afghan War’s protracted wind-down, questions have arisen about who has the responsibility to carry out certain operations, particularly the controversial night raids. Since the war’s inception, the United States has taken pains to emphasize Afghan sovereignty even as it violates this sovereignty. With a timeline in place for withdrawal, U.S. policy has been to encourage the Afghan government to take on more leadership.

A recent memorandum — signed by Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghan minister of defense — points to the impending transition of responsibility to “Afghan-led operations.” According to American Forces Press Services,

The agreement “codifies what has been happening for some time — that is Afghan-led operations,” George Little, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Pentagon Press Secretary said. The night raids have been an effective tool for U.S. and Afghan special operations forces, he added, and the vast majority of the raids are planned and led by Afghans. Afghans are responsible for entering private residences.

The most important component of Sunday’s memorandum is the agreement that transfers leadership of night raids to Afghan security forces. Afghan forces are currently responsible for leading 40% percent of the raids, which primarily occur in the southern Pashtun regions. Historically, raids conducted by U.S. forces have been a major point of contention in U.S.-Afghan relations. Emma Graham- Harrison at the Guardian writes,

The night raids, often in insurgent-dominated territory, have generated huge resentment among Afghans, both because of civilian deaths in operations that have gone wrong and through more general anger over intrusions into homes and on families…. Although the deal may constrain them, it allows raids to continue and will also mean responsibility for any civilian deaths or allegations of mistreatment will be shared by an Afghan partner.

The new deal stipulates the U.S. and Afghan forces get special permission from an inter-ministry council called the Afghan Operational Coordination Group, which will be responsible for approving all Afghan-led raids. U.S. forces may still be called upon to assist in raids. New York Times journalist Alissa Rubin spoke with a U.S. official who “emphasized that the relationship between Afghan and American troops was ‘not an adversarial one,’ and United States officials did not appear to be worried that Americans would be denied access to detainees.”

Exceptions made for special programs and the continuation of U.S. support for night raids emphasize the U.S. commitment to continuing influence in Afghanistan. The deal allows for some special forces not under the auspices of the Afghan government, like the CIA- trained units, to continue to conduct night raids without the permission of the government-led council. Capt. Kirby informed reporters that, “It’s not about the U.S. ceding responsibilities to Afghanistan.” Under these conditions the United States would still be consulted before any decision about operations had been made. Kirby refused to answer as to whether the new rules would be applied to independent special U.S. operations like JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command). Similarly, journalist Spencer Ackerman reports that restrictions may only apply to cases where there is a “reasonable chance of taking Afghan prisoners” or what Kirby describes as “search[ing] a residential house or compound.” These restrictions serve to further limit Afghan control over raids.

Similarly loopholes in the Afghan constitution, specifically under Articles 38, allow for warrantless detention. Kirby said that “theoretically, these operations can still go forward without a warrant in advance. But it does have to be pursued as soon as practical afterward.”

U.S. financial support for night raids, moreover, confirms ongoing US involvement in promoting raids. “The Americans are not giving up a huge amount,” one Western official told The New York Times. “And if they are paying $4.1 billion a year for the Afghan military, if they want permission to question someone, I think they’ll get it.”

In the end, then, the memorandum’s ambiguity regarding when and where the United States can conduct raids without approval from the Afghan government seems to undermine the shift in paradigm being called for by Washington.

Melissa Moskowitz is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Our Iran Policy on the Couch

While war may seem like an instrument of foreign policy to the world of international relations, to many of us, except when our soil is threatened, it’s simply evidence of deep-seated pathology.

Any international affairs authority who acknowledges that would likely be to the left of center. Michael Brenner, Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, fits that bill. The National Journal National Security Experts Blog often poses questions to its panel, to which Brenner belongs. On April 9, Sara Sorcher asked What Do You Expect from Negotiations With Iran? Titling his response Immaturity, Brenner wrote that it:

… expresses itself in various psychological strategies to cope with a reality that challenges self-image – e.g. a recalcitrant Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the ingrained belief of American leaders that they can coerce weaker states to bend to their will and thereby fulfill the United States’ self-defined needs. Such an ego defense mechanism becomes pathological when [it tries to] construct a refuge for a threatened ego.

What strategies, he asks, does it employ?

Denial that anything fundamental has changed – in oneself and out there. Denial entails unconscious attempts to find resolution of emotional conflict and reduction of anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant aspects of external reality. So, excuses and rationalizations are avidly seized upon to explain failure to achieve objectives. Reiteration of established behavior such [as] intimidation, coercion, bluster – e.g. repeated futile efforts at “nation-building” in uncongenial settings. Parsimonious changes at the pragmatic margins of one’s outlook and worldview – changing the packaging but not the content of terms for unconditional surrender that we extend to Iran. Cultivated ignorance – taking liberties to pronounce on matters of which one knows next to nothing [which] creates space for dogma. When these mechanisms fail, there arises the danger of delusional projection, i.e. grossly frank delusions about external reality. Eventually, there is the even greater risk of regression, i.e. reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development.

Brenner concludes:

If the United States is not ready for all-out war and its aftermath, then it should make the necessary intellectual, emotional, political and diplomatic adjustments.

Whenever subconscious motives breach the perimeter of international relations, it’s cause for celebration.

The Right’s Curious Nostalgia for Military Rule

Cross-posted from Foreign Policy Special Project Right Web’s Militarist Monitor.

Egypt’s path toward democracy has been neither steady nor assured since its uprising last year. However, as the country prepares for a presidential election campaign—which follows on the heels of its Islamist-dominated parliamentary elections several months ago—it finally appears set to install its first-ever fully democratically elected government.

But the neoconservatives, purportedly champions of democracy and human rights, are finding this turn of events hard to swallow. For example, Jonathan Tobin, editor of the “Contentions” blog at Commentary magazine, is incensed about the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision to nominate a candidate despite its earlier pledge abstain from the race—and he finds the Obama administration somehow at fault. Noting that the administration has quietly backed the Brotherhood’s candidate over a more extreme Salafist nominee (who now appears to have eligibility issues), Tobin writes that “this U.S. tilt toward the Brotherhood is just the latest of a series of inept moves that has destroyed American influence in Egypt.”

He adds, “Should the Brotherhood candidate for president succeed, it would create a dangerous situation in which this Islamist party would control both the executive and the parliament. This would place intolerable pressure on the army—which remains the sole force in the country that could act as a check on the Islamists—to back down and allow the Brotherhood untrammeled power.”

Echoing the charges of former GOP candidate Michele Bachmann and the previously marginal Rick Santorum, Tobin flatly declares, “Obama abandoned Hosni Mubarak last year. With our embassy now backing the Brotherhood, secularists and the army must assume the president means to ditch them, too.”

In a subsequent post, Tobin sums up his critiques of the Obama administration’s Egypt policy in a rambling series of accusations: “It refused to promote democracy or human rights while Hosni Mubarak still ruled,” he writes, “but then compounded that error by quickly dumping Mubarak. It repeated that pattern by seeking to attack the military government that succeeded Mubarak and then appeased them by continuing the aid in the face of provocations. Now, it has put its chips on the Brotherhood even though there is still a chance it can be stopped.”

Tobin doesn’t explain how a more U.S.-friendly democracy would have emerged under the aegis of a U.S.-backed dictatorship, nor does he see the apparent contradiction in knocking the Obama administration for “dumping” Mubarak even as his own publication frequently complains about Russia’s continued support for the autocratic Bashar al-Assad in Syria. One could be forgiven, moreover, for suspecting that Tobin is advocating the subjugation of a nation of 80 million people for the sake of Israel’s subjective sense of security.

The substance of Tobin’s critique ultimately has less to do with the Obama administration’s choice of candidate, which is clearly a bid for what must seem to Washington as the safest bet, but rather with the administration’s apparent acquiescence to the likely choice of Egyptian voters. What Tobin calls the Brotherhood’s bid for “untrammeled power” is really just its decision to field a candidate for a democratic election—something that less interventionist commentators would concede is any party’s right in an emerging democracy—and he laments that the country’s unelected military leaders should be constrained to share power with an elected civilian faction he finds distasteful.

Tobin’s dirge for military rule illuminates the ongoing confusion on the neoconservative right about how best to respond to democratic uprisings in a region governed for decades by U.S.-backed autocrats—a divide that dates back to Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s 1970s-era thesis that right-wing “authoritarian” governments are more amenable to democratic reform than left-wing “totalitarian” states. While the likes of Tobin, Frank Gaffney, and Caroline Glick have made pleas for the region’s anciens regimes (and while FDD‘s Andrew McCarthy has accused the Obama administration of “rain[ing] down a billion-and-a-half more American taxpayer dollars” on the Brotherhood in the form of aid to Egypt) , former Bush administration neocons like Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad have imprudently suggested that the uprisings somehow vindicate the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda” of democratization by force.

If Tobin is so concerned about U.S. “influence” in Egypt, he might do well to reconsider whether turning its back on Egypt’s broadly backed political forces and advocating a return to a loathed military dictatorship is the best way forward.

Peter Certo is an editorial assistant at the Institute of Policy Studies as well as IPS Special Project Right Web.