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Archive: June 2007
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Authors Warn Domestic Partisan Divide Could Encourage US Retreat Globally
06/20/2007 4:41 PM ET
An overextension of US resources--beginning after the end of the Cold War but increasing most dramatically with the invasion of Iraq--has created deep partisan divisions in American public perception regarding the nature and necessity of US involvement abroad, according to Charles A. Kupchan and Peter L. Trubowitz in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.

The authors warn that the stark partisan divide threatens to undermine US leadership abroad, and engender an isolationist tendency--something not unfamiliar in the American historical experience.

In the early twentieth century, deep partisan divisions produced unpredictable and dangerous swings in U.S. foreign policy and ultimately led to isolation from the world. A similar dynamic is unfolding at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The assertive unilateralism of the Bush administration is proving politically unsustainable.... Especially amid the domestic acrimony spawned by the war in Iraq, partisanship and stalemate at home could once again obstruct U.S. statecraft, perhaps even provoking an unsteady retreat from abroad.

The U.S. electorate already appears to be heading in that direction. According to the December 2006 CBS News poll, 52 percent of all Americans thought the United States "should mind its own business internationally." Even in the midst of impassioned opposition to the Vietnam War, only 36 percent of Americans held such a view.... If Washington continues to pursue a grand strategy that exceeds its political means, isolationist sentiment among Americans is sure to grow.

The United States needs to pursue a new grand strategy that is politically solvent. In today's polarized landscape, with Democrats wanting less power projection and Republicans fewer international partnerships, restoring solvency means bringing U.S. commitments back in line with political means. Finding a new domestic equilibrium that guarantees responsible U.S. leadership in the world requires a strategy that is as judicious and selective as it is purposeful.

First, a solvent strategy would entail sharing more burdens with other states. Great powers have regularly closed the gap between resources and commitments by devolving strategic ties to local actors. The United States should use its power and good offices to catalyze greater self-reliance in various regions, as it has done in Europe....

Second, where the war on terrorism is concerned, U.S. strategy should be to target terrorists rather than to call for regime change. This would mean focusing military efforts on destroying terrorist cells and networks while using political and economic tools to address the long-term sources of instability in the Middle East....

Third, the United States must rebuild its hard power. To do so, Congress must allocate the funds necessary to redress the devastating effect of the Iraq war on the readiness, equipment, and morale of the U.S. armed forces....

Fourth, the United States should restrain adversaries through engagement, as many great powers in the past have frequently done.... Washington should pursue similar strategies today, using shrewd diplomacy to dampen strategic competition with China, Iran, and other potential rivals. Should U.S. efforts be reciprocated, they promise to yield the substantial benefits that accompany rapprochement. If Washington is rebuffed, it can be sure to remain on guard and thereby avoid the risk of strategic exposure.

The fifth component of this grand strategy should be greater energy independence. The United States' oil addiction is dramatically constricting its geopolitical flexibility; playing guardian of the Persian Gulf entails onerous strategic commitments and awkward political alignments. Furthermore, high oil prices are encouraging producers such as Iran, Russia, and Venezuela to challenge U.S. interests....

Finally, the United States should favor pragmatic partnerships over the formalized international institutions of the Cold War era. To be sure, international collaboration continues to be in the United States' national interest.... It is already clear, however, that congressional support for the fixed alliances and robust institutions that were created after World War II is quickly waning. Grand visions of a global alliance of democracies need to be tempered by political reality.... In a polarized climate, less is more: pragmatic teamwork, flexible concerts, and task-specific coalitions must become the staples of a new brand of U.S. statecraft.

Far from being isolationist, this strategy of judicious retrenchment would guard against isolationist tendencies. In contrast, pursuing a foreign policy of excessive and unsustainable ambition would risk a political backlash that could produce precisely the turn inward that neither the United States nor the world can afford. The United States must find a stable middle ground between doing too much and doing too little.

Link To Report
CSIS Draft Report Charges US Trying to Fight "Wrong War" in Iraq
06/20/2007 3:54 PM ET
"The latest Department of Defense report on “Measuring Stability in Iraq” attempts to put a bad situation in a favorable light. It does not disguise many of the problems involved, but it does attempt to defend the strategy presented by President Bush in January 2007 in ways that sometimes present serious problems. More broadly, it reveals that the President’s strategy is not working in any critical dimension," senior CSIS Strategic Analyst Anthony Cordesman writes in the draft of his forthcoming report Still Losing? The June 2007 Edition of "Measuring Stability in Iraq"

Posted by Steve Clemons of the Washington Note, Cordesman's report posits that "Part of the problem is that the US is trying to fight the wrong 'war.' The US does need to fight a serious counterinsurgency campaign, but this seems to be focused far too narrowly on both Al Qa’ida, which is only one Sunni Islamist extremist movement, and on the most radical elements of the Sadr militia. The US does not have an effective strategy or the operational capability to deal with the broader problem of armed nation- building, or with a widening pattern of civil conflicts."

Cordesman says that the US is losing ground in Iraq, but argues that all is not lost. "The June 2007 report may 'spin' a level of success that does not exist, and understate many problems and challenges, but a detailed reading also highlights many efforts that can have considerable impact over time if Iraqi political conciliation takes place, if the US is more realistic about the time-scale and resources needed for effective action, and if the Congress and American people are given more reason to trust the reporting, strategy, plans, and program execution required from the US government."

Finally, Cordesman projects that the plan to stabilize Iraq requires a long-term commitment that will outlive current the Administration: "The US cannot bring security and stability within the life of the Bush Administration. It can only create a hollow and crumbling façade or withdraw. One key message that emerges from both the content and flaws in the June 2007 report is that success will be limited, uncertain, and take time. When it comes to effective US action in each of the major areas listed above, the time-scale is 2010-2015 and not 2008."

The Bush Plan
Former National Security Adviser Challenges White House Long-Term Iraq Ideas
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski
Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski

"Iraq is not Korea," former National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told an audience in DC Wednesday night.

Speaking before a gathering sponsored by the Committee for the Republic, Brzezinski expressed profound dismay about recent White House inferences to imposing the "Korean model" on Iraq.

As White House spokesman Tony Snow explained it to reporters on Wednesday, "The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence, but you've had the development of a successful democracy in South Korea over a period of years, and, therefore, the United States is there as a force of stability."

Speaking at US Pacific Command in Hawaii on Thursday, SecDef Robert Gates also cited the "Korean model" as an attractive option for Iraq.

"The idea is more a model of a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence but under the consent of both parties and under certain conditions," he said.

"The Korea model is one, the security relationship we have with Japan is another," he said.

Brzezinski objects to the validity of using a Korean analogy as a possible way forward in Iraq. US presence has engendered stability on the Korean peninsula because "the South Koreans welcomed us," he said. Following the Korean war, the US was viewed as a force for good, protecting the south from the oppression of the north.

But the US presence in Iraq is "much closer to colonialism, imperialism," Brzezinski explained. A good majority of Iraqis object to the presence of US troops, viewing them as foreign occupiers. Thus, Brzezinski noted, the US could never hope to sustain an enduring presence unless American leaders resigned themselves to facing enduring resistance.


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