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Posts Tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’


A Great Power Three-Way

   Posted by: Pat    in China, Middle East, Russia   Print Print

'We can still make at least 2 nukes.'

In the past couple days, the world’s great powers have been busy courting and challenging the Middle East’s prospective regional power, Iran. To most people’s surprise, the leaders of Turkey and Brazil reached an agreement with Tehran to transport and hold about half of Iran’s enriched uranium, but the details are still thin. In the deal, it is believed that there are no limits to how high Iran can continue to enrich their kept uranium and unlike the US/European/Russia led deal which Tehran reneged on last year, it would allow Iran to still keep enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon. This announcement has been followed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s proclamation that the UN Security Council 5 permanent members plus Germany have reached an agreement on a fourth round of sanctions on Iran. It is unknown how extensive the sanctions are as Russia and China have likely watered them down. In any case, it is hoped that if the sanctions are passed, they could be followed by additional individual pressure from the US and European states.

Are these two great power plays contradictory or compatible? The real fear about the Turkey-Brazil-Iran deal is that it will allow Iran to continue its nuclear weapon buildup while having the cover of international legitimacy bestowed on it by Rio and Ankara. Unfortunately, nearly the same thing can be said about the sanctions. The US/EU/Russia/China can look like they are ‘doing something’ to stop Tehran’s nuclear pursuit, but the bottom line is that the Islamic Republic is still in the drivers seat. From what I’ve read, the Turkey-Brazil-Iran deal does not do enough to really stop Iran’s nuclear efforts. As Greg Scoblete of Real Clear World stated: ‘this is the kind of deal that is okay to countries – like Brazil and Turkey – that aren’t terribly concerned with Iran’s nuclear program.’ If this is true, then the deal made could really cause problems for the US, Israel, Europe, Egypt, and all others who fear a nuclear Iran. Apparently, the Obama administration tacitly supported Brazil and Turkey’s rapprochement to Tehran on this issue, but they surely are backtracking now. Clinton has been timid in her remarks about the 3-way deal and stated that ‘the details matter’.

There is hope that the UNSC sanctions are indeed a strong step forward in this process and can lead to further steps that can push Iran into a deal that can keep Iran from weaponizing and a physical confrontation from occurring. Of note, both Turkey and Brazil are currently 2 of the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council and along with the 5 permies, 5 more votes will be needed to pass the sanction resolution. Even if the resolution passes without Turkey and Brazilian support it will suffer some international legitimacy and the Islamic Republic leaders can yak and yak about being unfairly targeted after they already made a ‘fair deal’.

If Turkey and Brazil indeed push against the UNSC sanctions and actively promote their Iranian deal as the only way forward it will be quite the gamble. In effect, they will be choosing the side of Iran. Turkey’s government has been lurching towards south and east and away from the US, Europe, and Israel so this is not that surprising, but Brazil’s choice in the matter is a bit more puzzling. Brazil has a not insignificant amount of trade with Tehran and has butted heads with the US on several minor issues (Honduras election, Colombia basing rights), but this move could really put it on the opposite side of the US on a major foreign policy issue that could become a crisis.

Alas, these moves are still in their early stages and it would not be surprising to see Brazil and Turkey come back into the fold during the coming UNSC resolution debates. We shall see.

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Foreign Service Officers’ Good Works

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

Today, I was lucky enough to attend a luncheon/talk for former US State Department Foreign Service Officers. At my table were two former US ambassadors and a group of former FSO’s who had worked for the US government all over the world. One of them gave a short, but very provocative and well-thought talk about democracy promotion by the State Department. Kiki, her first name (I can’t remember her last), described her own democracy promotion efforts in Sierra Leon and last year in Iraq’s Diyala Province. She emphasized long term civil society building that made sure to take into account the targeted country’s own history and culture.

Kiki also emphasized promoting transparency, courts, and a free and functioning press. After Kiki spoke, many other former FSO’s discussed their experiences and kept referencing how much they had learned through the years, democracy promotion ‘do’s and don’ts’ you might say. Many of them voiced the frustration of budgeting, both the lack of funds and their gross misuse, and all focused on importance of humility in trying such a harrowing endeavor.

These people spent their lives trying to make the world a more free place and of course protecting and furthering US influence and interests. Though they concentrated on what went wrong and how the world still lacks progress in many areas and in many regions, what I kept thinking about was how important their work was for the US and the world. Yes, there is no doubt that US diplomatic, economic, and military stewardship has had its drawbacks and at times has been too arrogant and close minded, but it has also done a quite a lot of good. Kiki discussed how when a civil society group in Sierra Leon would show promise, the US would provide them with money, sometimes so much that they didn’t know what to do with it. Yes, this is unfortunate in a myriad of ways, but the heart of the matter is is that the US say progress and wanted to bring it further along.

As Secretary of State Hilary Clinton embarks on her first trip overseas to Asia (Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and China, great choices Hil!) she is carrying on a great tradition of spreading not only American interests and influence around the world, but also a great amount of hope for progress and freedom. It is a shame these former state department workers and officials never get to be cheered in a parade down main street. How bout on GPP, though. ‘Cheers, Cheers, Cheers!’

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Blackwater Worldwide (Just not in Iraq)

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

The Iraqi government has had enough with the American security company Blackwater Worldwide and has denied their request for a license to work in the country. Before the recent SOFA agreement between the US-Iraq, the Baghdad government had little say in what security companies could work in their country, but now they do and Blackwater looks to be finished in Iraq.

Steve Fainaru’s book ‘Big Boy Rules’ detailed the growth and lawless nature of American funded contract security groups in Iraq and he detailed how Blackwater was known as the most efficient, but also the most arrogant and above the law. The Maliki government had wanted Blackwater out of Iraq ever since an incident involving the security groups where 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.

Of course the situation isn’t just as easy as telling the group to leave Iraq and having them do so as they were the group in charge of protecting all State Department and US government officials in the country. In fact, Blackwater never lost a US client in all their years in Iraq.  The US State Department now has to find a new contractor to take over Blackwater’s duties in central Iraq, with Dyncorp and Triple Canopy looking like the favorites.  The Iraqi government has said it will allow former Blackwater employees join these other companies, as long as they weren’t involved an known inappropriate civilian casualties.

Blackwater’s fall will probably not be too dramatic as they still own contracts with the US government to protect it’s officials all over the globe.  This is a crucial job and may become even more high profile as Sec of State’s celebrity status will bring more attention to her foreign visits.  However, this move by the Iraqi government to garner control over these groups paid for and supplied by a foreign, occupying government, will likely have precedence in future instances of a similar nature.

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China-US Relations: Geithner and Currency Manipulation

   Posted by: Pat    in China   Print Print

The Economist lays down the situation rather well:

In a written response to questions from senators debating his confirmation, {Treasurer-nominee} Mr Geithner accused China of “manipulating” its currency and promised that the Obama team would push “aggressively” for Beijing to change its policies. The sharp tone and use of the legally-loaded term “currency manipulation” ricocheted through financial markets as investors shuddered at the prospect of a Sino-American spat in the midst of a global slump.

The article goes on to describe the legal ramifications of officially accusing a WTO member of currency manipulation and warns against the Obama administration following such a policy. This statement by Geithner, which had to be Obama’s view and policy as well, forebodes a possible conflict between DC and Beijing. Geithner’s statement needs to be seen with Obama’s campaign rhetoric against free trade and the promotion of saving American jobs. The Chinese were listening then and they are surely listening now. The dire economic climate had led to protectionist calls by American citizens, elected officials, Democrat and Republican alike, and Obama could use his inaugural popular bounce to promote and further policies such as this if he chooses.

"Watch Out Geithner! The Chinese are Right Behind You! Just say 'Massaging'"

The Bush administration, just like Clinton’s before him, disapproved of China’s undervalued Yuan and used unofficial methods to get them to bring it up relative to the dollar with little success. However, the Bush and Clinton administrations were able to institute this policy push rather smoothly while keeping overall relations on a positive level. With the global economy still hemorrhaging, the last thing we need is a DC-Beijing economic dispute that would further rattle world markets and possibly constrain trade between the world’s two biggest trading partners.

I want the Chinese to higher the value of their Yuan as much as the next American, but the Chinese government has not responded well to this type of pressure in the past and I doubt they’ll start now, especially as they have their own domestic order to worry about. Sec of State Clinton had a productive opening talk with her Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, on Friday and both pledged to work together in a cooperative manner. Let’s hope so.

We must not take the last decade or so of peaceful and productive Chinese-US relations for granted. The relationship between the world’s two greatest economic powers is a vital one, but one also filled with possible conflict, conflict that could have dangerous repercussions around the globe. I support a strong, measured US stance in its relations with China, but I would suggest to tread lightly, Mr. Obama.

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Last Day on the Job

   Posted by: Adam Stern    in Middle East   Print Print

The Three Most Powerful Women on Earth

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent her last day at the job the way most folks would. Catching up with friends, making the rounds, cleaning out her desk and…meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to formalize an agreement curtailing the smuggling of arms into Gaza. Ok it’s not what I’d consider a casual Friday but it fits the outgoing job description. Suffice it to say as Condi exits and Hillary assumes the mantle as America’s top diplomat there’s no shortage of work left in and around the halls of Foggy Bottom.

The simple question remains, can Hillary succeed in brokering Middle East peace where so many others have failed before her? Most observers seem to think that a two-state solution is the (eventual) answer. The bigger question is whether or not the United States is seen as a viable broker in the Arab world. The Israeli-American bond remains strong. Leaders from both countries share a common mission in the fight against transnational terrorism, from Al-Qaeda to Hezbollah, Hamas to Lashkar-e-Toiba. For the dignity of the Palestinians and the security of Israeli’s it might be best for American diplomats to let a regional actor take a lead in the peace process.

Why you ask? Credibility. As in we don’t have it in the Middle East (not with the masses at least). Egypt’s got it though. The Egyptians have cred within Muslim circles, a stake in fighting terrorism and a shared border with Israel. No single state is in better position to craft a sustainable solution. In the meantime…Hillary’s got a lot of work to do back home. Iran’s got nuclear ambitions, Russia’s cutting off oil pipelines and Cuba’s about to turn the corner on the Castros (that means YOU Raul). Madam Secretary, no one doubts your sincerity in standing with a longtime ally. It just means that being a good friend sometimes means stepping aside.

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Hillary Spoke In….

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

“Hillary spoke in….spoke innnn. Hillary spoke in, spoke innnnnn…..Hillary spoke innnnnn Senate todayyyyyyy!!!” I’m a big Pearl Jam fan and that was to the tune of ‘Jeremy‘ in case you didn’t know, which you probably didn’t. Mrs. Hillary Clinton did speak in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today in a hearing regarding her confirmation as Secretary of State. She appeared to confront only mild inquiries and questions as her confirmation is largely assured, though Senator Lugar did prod her about the transparency of her husband’s, former President Bill Clinton’s charity donations.

"Let's Rock N' Roll, Senators!"

Here are two solid efforts at worthwhile questions which would enlighten the public as to Mrs. Clinton’s views of the way the world works and on specific foreign policies issues. The Foreign Policy’s ‘Shadow Government‘ and several contributers to the New York Times. What questions would you ask an incoming Secretary State today?

Here are couple quotes from today’s hearing:

“We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural, picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation.”

“Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology, on facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice.”

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Obama’s War Cabinet

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

President-elect Barack Obama presented his national security cabinet yesterday and the group seems to be overall an experienced and pragmatic group.  Some of the members are extremely well-known, Hillary and Bob Gates, with others having experience in Washington’s biggest stage, but still relatively unknown, General James Jones, National Security Advisor, Eric Holder, the new Attorney General, Janet Napolitano, the new Secretary of Homeland Security, and Susan Rice, the presumed future UN Ambassador.  Reviews of the group have been relatively positive in the media, with most commenting that the group is quite centric, pragmatic, and realist leaning.  The main criticism of the group as a whole is from those who were hoping for a greater imprudence or ‘change’ from an Obama administration.  The New York Times raved and raved about the selections, and one has to wonder if they will ever see a critical comment about this president in the paper (This is a brash transition, as I’m used to reading in the Times only of a US President who can’t do anything right).  

Like most of you, I am learning more and more about these officials day by day and will declare right now that my views of them and their work will be fluid, as they in due time show how effective/ineffective, realist/liberal internationalist they can each be in their assigned position.  That being said, let the judging begin!  Well, I’ll at least give a quick take on a few of the bigger names.  

I couldn't resist.

Hillary Clinton – Sec of State – Hillary, she goes by her first name, is obviously a capable politician and government official who will not be shy in the face of foreign adversaries or challenges, nevertheless her choice brings caveats.  First off, I was surprised at the move, as I thought Obama had many other fine choices, and would not wan to bring the Clinton baggage.  Hillary brings with her Bill and they both bring with them a huge media following that could prove distracting and make policy making and implementing that much harder.  It’s almost like bringing Barry Bonds on your baseball team, sure he’s a great hitter and would help the team, but man, it would suck to deal with all the extra press and attention, a lot of it negative.  Another issue about Hillary is her lack of foreign policy experience.  Obama and his team, including Susan Rice, criticized Hillary’s claim of FP experience as First Lady during the election and for good reason.  Hillary has also been an active member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where she voiced her disapproval of the Iraq surge policy, and during her presidential campaign showed that she can handle stressful and difficult situations, but we should expect much from our leader of diplomats and foreign policy.  Of course, Condi Rice has a Phd in International Relations and she was involved in some questionable decision making.

Bob Gates – Sec of Defense – I love me some more Bobby Gates in the Defense Department!  Gates has proven to be a strong, pragmatic, and thoughtful manager of US defenses and of the Afghan and Iraq wars. It is this type of pick that gets me excited about a moderate and wise Obama administration.  Even Gates is only around for a year or two he’ll bring stability in a time of great turmoil in America’s foreign wars and global position.  The internal word in the defense department is very positive about this move.  What will be interesting to see is how Gates deals with the likely dismissal of most of his subordinates.  

James Jones – National Security Advisor - To be honest, I have not heard much about the General since before Obama mentioned him in one of the debates, but the more I learn, the more I like.  He has a strong non-partisan past of patriotic service to the US and has been the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and served as an envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the Bush administration.  He lived for most of his childhood in France, but I won’t hold that against him.  Seriously, this combined with his NATO experience should definitely help future EU-US relations, especially during times of disagreements, say over Afghan troop levels.

Eric Holder Jr. – Attorney General – Holder was a hold over from the Clinton administration and is said to be a capable man for the job.  The one caveat is his role in the Clinton pardon of Marc Rich, a tax fraud convict, and there are some who think this alone should disqualify him.  Though what I know about the Rich case is not pleasant, I do not think it enough for a Senate denial.  The challenges facing Holder will be immense.  He will attempt to close Guantanamo Bay while figuring what to do with all of the enemy combatants who may pose a real threat to the US, but lack verifiable material evidence for a conviction. This modern day warfare brings with it a tremendous challenge to our legal and individual rights, one that will be with use for the foreseeable future.  

Susan Rice – UN Ambassador – Rice apparently is a real go-getter, finishing her Phd in International Relations at a young age and serving in President Clinton’s National Security Council.  She is considered the most liberal of all of Obama’s team and was a close advisor to him on the campaign trail.  The relationship between Rice and Clinton will be something to watch as there were some animosities between the two during the campaign.  Regarding Rice’s possible FP leanings, she is an avowed humanitarian intervention supporter, who is for the use of force in situations such as the Rwandan genocide of the 1994.  Here is a quote:

“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again {Rwanda}, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required,” she told The Atlantic Monthly in 2001

Now if a Bush administration official stated this it would be quite the uproar.  Obama seems to be rather measured in the foreign policy realm, in other words more realistic than idealistic, and it will be interesting to see how these two views connect or disconnect.  

This last point is important.  For it seems that Obama has put together a team of realists, those who will let US national interests lead their policy prescriptions and implementation.  Obama does not talk about the ‘worldwide growth’ or ‘greatness’ of democracy.  He seems to be more of a Jeffersonian American, a person who desires to protect US democracy here at home rather than find tyrants to defeat abroad.  Interestingly, George W. Bush entered the White House 8 years ago with a similar world outlook, but we all say how that drastically changed.  Obama, his national security team, and America’s exceptionalism will all bear watching during these next, what are sure to be exciting, four years.

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