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JFP 12/28: 2/3 of "foreign aid" is military; case for Iran strike savagely mocked
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 28 December 2011 - 6:13pm
Just Foreign Policy News, December 28, 2011
Is a Vote for Romney a Vote for War?
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Is a Vote for Romney a Vote for War?
Here are some things we know about Mitt Romney. He has promised a more confrontational military policy towards Iran. His advisers include people who have been cheerleaders for war with Iran, and were cheerleaders for the Iraq war. He has pledged to increase the military budget. His advisers include people directly affiliated with military contractors who stand to profit if there were a new war and the military budget were increased. Furthermore, he opposes withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and he opposes the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, although the Iraq withdrawal is supported by eight in ten Americans, including the majority of Republicans.
Washington Post: Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing
Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals.
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1) Writing for Foreign Policy against Matthew Kroenig's call for attacking Iran, Stephen Walt mocks the "classic blueprint" for justifying a preventive war: exaggerate the dangers of inaction, overstate the benefits of war, and understate the costs and risks of employing force. Walt notes that the US intelligence agencies' conclusion that Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear weapon has not changed; that no plausible evidence has been advanced to support Kroenig's story that possessing a nuclear weapon would allow Iran to push the US around; that there is no reason to believe that containment would be more expensive than war; that Kroenig's story requires belief that Iran will behave in an extreme way if it is not attacked, but be docile and rational if it is.
2) About 2/3 of U.S. "foreign aid" is actually dispensed by the Pentagon, mainly for military purposes, write David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff for AllGov.com.
3) The U.S. announced it is withdrawing support for the Afghan's government press center, just as members of a fact-finding commission held a press conference at the center denouncing US night raids, the Washington Post reports. The US said the timing was a coincidence.
4) Ron Paul's campaign will transform the Republican Party by bringing war critics in from the cold, writes Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast. Beinart notes that according to a November CBS News poll, as many Republicans said the U.S. should decrease its troop presence in Afghanistan as said America should increase it or keep it the same. In the same survey, only 22 percent of Republicans called Iran's nuclear program "a threat that requires military action now" compared to more than fifty percent who said it "can be contained with diplomacy."
5) An eight year old Israeli girl has become the poster child for a campaign against Jewish religious extremism, the New York Times reports. An Israeli television program told the story of how she had become terrified of walking to her elementary school after ultra-Orthodox men spit on her, insulted her and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere exactly to their more rigorous dress code.
6) Protesters in Okinawa stopped an attempt by the Japanese Defense Ministry to file an environmental impact assessment report for relocating the U.S. Futenma air base within Okinawa, Kyodo News reports. [The government was attempting to meet a US deadline for filing the report - JFP.]
7) An Egyptian court ruled that the Egyptian military had wrongly violated the human rights of female demonstrators by subjecting them to "virginity tests" intended to humiliate them, the New York Times reports. The ruling was the first time since the military takeover that a civilian court has attempted to exert judicial authority over the ruling generals, who have suspended the Constitution and set themselves up as the only source of law, the Times says.
1) Why attacking Iran is still a bad idea
Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, Tuesday, December 27, 2011
[This piece was in response to: "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike is the Least Bad Option," http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/136917/matthew-kroenig/time-to-attack-iran. Walt's first rejoinder is here: "The worst case for war with Iran," http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/12/21/the_worst_case_for_war_with_iran]
Matthew Kroenig's defense of his Foreign Affairs article calling for launching a preventive war against Iran does little to strengthen his case. He provides no additional evidence to explain why war is necessary; nor does he remedy the gaps and inconsistencies in his original analysis. Given that he's now had two swings at the same pitch, one may safely conclude that there is no good case for attacking Iran.
It is clear from the beginning of Kroenig's response that he misunderstood the central point of my critique. I accused him of employing the "classic blueprint" for justifying a preventive war, whereby one exaggerates the dangers of inaction, overstates the benefits of war, and understates the costs and risks of employing force. Kroenig responds by pointing out that "any decision to use force rests on the judgment that the costs of not using force outweigh the costs of using force," and he seems to think that this was the feature of his analysis to which I objected. Not so: my objection was to the one-sided way in which he conducted his assessment.
As I noted in my original post, Kroenig assumes that Iran's leaders are firmly committed to obtaining a nuclear weapon (as opposed to a latent capability), even though U.S. intelligence agencies still reject this conclusion. He provides no hard evidence demonstrating that the 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates on Iran are wrong. Furthermore, he assumes that a nuclear-armed Iran would unleash a series of fearsome consequences, even though we have no theory that explains how Iran could use its nuclear weapons for offensive purposes, and no examples of other nuclear-armed states doing so successfully in the past. He also assumes that rejecting the war option will force the United States to maintain a costly and dangerous "containment and deterrence regime" for decades. In short, when considering the "no-war" scenario, he consistently employs worst-case analysis.
When making the case for how a war against Iran will succeed, however, he switches to "best-case" assumptions about the short-term consequences, the dangers of escalation, and the long-term benefits, even though each of his forecasts is wide open to challenge. My point was not that Kroenig failed to discuss the costs and benefits of using or not using force; it was that if he had adopted a similar standard on both sides of the equation, his conclusion that war was the "least bad" option would fall apart.
Kroenig's piece in Foreign Affairs is entitled "Time to Attack Iran." However, he says in his response to me that he doesn't think "Washington should immediately launch a bolt-from-the-blue attack." Indeed, he now appears to concede that Iran might not be developing nuclear weapons and that we should wait to see if it takes certain measures (expels inspectors, enriches uranium to weapons grade levels, installs advanced centrifuges, etc.) before unleashing the dogs of war. But these arguments contradict both his title and his original argument, which is that preventive war is the least bad option and now is the time to do it. We are thus left wondering: is Iran developing nuclear weapons or not? And if Kroenig isn't sure, is it really "Time to Attack?"
Kroenig tells us that "in the coming months, it is possible, even likely, that a U.S. President will be forced to make a gut-wrenching choice" between containment or military action (my emphasis), and he recommends we "begin building global support for (military action) in advance." As I've noted before, the danger here is that if you keep repeating that preventive war against Iran is necessary, people gradually become comfortable with the idea and assume that it is going to occur eventually. In fact, if we beat the war drums for months but don't attack, you can be confident that people like Kroenig will then argue that U.S. credibility is on the line and we have to strike, lest those dangerous Iranians conclude we are paper tigers.
As in his original article, Kroenig's image of Iran is simplistic and contradictory. He portrays it as a highly capable and dangerously ambitious power, whose support for terrorism and proxy groups is supposedly restrained only by "fear of U.S. or Israeli retaliation." But he never describes Iran's actual capabilities (which are quite modest) or explains why the threat it poses to vital U.S. interests is grave enough to warrant rolling the iron dice of war. Nor does he discuss Iranian threat perceptions, internal politics, or foreign policy strategy (including how its policies have evolved over time), or consider the possibility that some of its activities (including its support for some extremist groups) are an asymmetric response to past U.S. efforts to isolate and marginalize it. Instead, his portrait of Iran is conveniently contradictory: as Paul Pillar puts it, for Kroenig "the same regime that if not attacked can be expected to do all sorts of highly aggressive things . . . turns into a calm paragon of caution, respectful of U.S. 'redlines' once the United States starts waging war against it." If "knowing one's enemy" is a prerequisite for going to war, Kroenig has a lot of work to do.
Kroenig also misunderstands my comment about the possibility that an Iranian bomb might prompt others countries in the region to go nuclear. Contrary to what he writes, I did not say "we should not worry that Iran's proliferation will cause other states in the region to acquire nuclear weapons." Rather, my point was that if there were proliferation beyond Iran, it would give other states in the neighborhood the ability to deter Iran and make it impossible for Tehran to wield the coercive leverage that Kroenig (not me) thinks it would gain by building a bomb. To be clear: I think it would be better if Iran and its neighbors stayed on this side of the nuclear threshold. But unlike Kroenig, I'm not prepared to panic and start a major war at the possibility that they won't.
I remain baffled by Kroenig's belief that crossing the nuclear threshold would give Iran a credible capacity to push the United States around by making nuclear threats. He repeats his claim that a "nuclear-armed Iran could threaten nuclear war in response to any U.S. initiative in the Middle East," but he fails to explain why such actions would work. Iran's leaders could make whatever threats they wished, of course, but the salient question is whether we would have to take those threats seriously. Does Kroenig think Iran could veto a new U.S. initiative to mediate Israeli-Palestinian peace, or to organize a new regional peace conference, by threatening to rain warheads down upon us? Does he believe Iran could credibly threaten to attack us if we wanted to conduct a military exercise with a key regional ally, or if the Pentagon decided to redeploy forces somewhere in the area, or if Washington launched a new initiative to promote democracy and human rights in the region?
I repeat my original point: if it would be that easy for a nuclear-armed Iran to coerce the United States into doing things it does not want to do, then why haven't other nuclear powers been able to do that to us in the past? By Kroenig's logic, the Soviet Union should have had a field day pushing us around during the Cold War. But that did not happen; in fact, the Soviets never even tried to use their huge nuclear arsenal to coerce us. The reason, of course, is that Soviet threats would not have been credible because any attempt to carry them out would have led to national suicide. The same logic applies to Iran. We know it, and so do they, which is why this familiar bogeyman should not be taken seriously.
Kroenig's claim that failure to strike soon will force the United States to invest vast sums on a "containment and deterrence regime" is equally unconvincing. He says "when the United States has imposed deterrence regimes in the past we have dedicated great economic, military, and political resources to the task." Yes, but that was because the United States was seeking to contain and deter theUSSR, a major power rival with substantial industrial capacity, a large andpowerful mass army, some significant allies, and (eventually) a vast nuclear arsenal of its own. Iran is a minor power by comparison, and will never be in the same league as the Soviet Union was.
Even more importantly, Kroenig seems to have forgotten that the United States already has a significant military presence in the Gulf region, and additional forces allocated to intervening there when necessary. These forces, and the security ties that they support, long predate Iran's nuclear program, and given Iran's modest conventional capabilities, they provide the necessary ingredients for a successful containment regime for the foreseeable future. I might add that Kroenig never identifies the exorbitant additional measures that he believes would be necessary if we fail to strike soon. In short, even if Iran does get nuclear weapons someday, there is little need to augment our existing force structure or alter our alliance relationships in any meaningful way. And by the way: the fact that a few unnamed Washington think tanks are in favor of "massive increases in our commitments to the region" doesn't mean that this is a sound idea, because think tanks inside the Beltway often propose dubious ideas, as we learned in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Kroenig actually goes so far as to make the foolish argument that "opponents of a bombing campaign are not proponents of peace, but rather by default they are advocates of a multibillion dollar, decades-long U.S. commitment to the security of the Middle East." (Readers with good memories will recall that this same argument was used to explain why we could not contain SaddamHussein in perpetuity, but had to overthrow him instead). But this charge makes sense only if you believe that attacking Iran would lead us to end our "decades-long U.S. commitment to the security of the Middle East." Does Kroenig think whacking Iran would enable the United States to withdraw completely from the region, terminate our security partnerships with Israel, Jordan, and assorted Persian Gulf states, and disband the Rapid Deployment Force? I doubt it. Moreover, if we do attack Iran, we could easily find ourselves in a protracted conflict that would make the Middle East a more dangerous and unstable region. This would neither be good for the United States nor enable us to reduce our security commitments there.
The bottom line is that the United States is going to remain committed to defending its interests in the Persian Gulf--whether we go to war with Iran or not--and the price tag for doing so is likely to be roughly similar whether Iran has nuclear weapons or not. It is therefore disingenuous for Kroenig to suggest that the opponents of war are advocating a costly long-term commitment to the region but the proponents of preventive war are trying to save money and reduce our defense burdens.
Kroenig says he is surprised by my charge that he glossed over the risks of a military campaign. In response, he says that he "fully engaged" with the many negative consequences of an attack and "proposed a mitigation strategy" for each one. But identifying downsides and "proposing" some mitigating countermeasures is insufficient: one has to explain in considerable detail how they would work and think seriously about the various ways that this best case might go wrong.
Let's assume, however, that all goes according to plan and we knock out virtually all of Iran's nuclear facilities. As Kroenig acknowledges in his Foreign Affairs article, even a completely successful war would not end Iran's capability to build nuclear weapons once and for all. We would merely have bought ourselves a few years, because the Iranians--who would probably be mad as hornets--would surely set out to build nuclear weapons in a secure location to deter the United States from attacking their homeland again. All of this is to say that we cannot prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if it wants them badly enough, and attacking them in the immediate future is likely to make them want those weapons even more. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate deterrent, after all, which is why Israel, the United States, and several other countries have nuclear arsenals today and no intention of getting rid of them anytime soon.
Finally, it is striking that Kroenig's response does not engage the legal or moral implications that I raised in my original critique. It appears that he remains untroubled by the fact that many innocent people will die and many more will be wounded if the United States follows his advice to launch a major bombing campaign against Iran. He seems equally at ease with the ideathat the United States would be launching an unprovoked war of aggression, which would be in clear violation of international law. And still people wonder: "why do they hate us?"
2) Two Thirds of U.S. Foreign Aid is Really Military Aid
David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov.com, Monday, December 26, 2011
When some Americans complain that foreign aid is wasting taxpayer money abroad that could be put to better use at home, they may not realize that today's version of foreign aid isn't what it used to be. Call it the Pentagon-zation of U.S. foreign assistance.
Until a few years ago, the State Department was the leading U.S. government agency when it came to doling out foreign aid. But beginning in the second term of George W. Bush's presidency, and continuing through the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has surpassed the State Department in supporting foreign initiatives, most of which have been military oriented.
For the past two years, the Pentagon has been given $10 billion more than the State Department for foreign aid projects. With $17 billion, Defense officials plan for the coming year to invest in foreign military and police training, counter-drug assistance, counterterrorism activities and infrastructure projects, among other programs,.
Among the expenditures included in the recently passed 2012 National Defense Authorization Act are $1.1 billion to the government of Pakistan for alleged counterinsurgency efforts and $415 million for two programs known euphemistically as the Combatant Commander Initiative Fund and the Commander Emergency Response Fund. Translated into everyday English, this means cash that can be handed out by U.S. commanders.
Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center told iWatch News that by shifting foreign aid to military programs "you end up strengthening those instruments which are least democratic fundamentally."
3) U.S. pulls advisers from Afghan press center it funds
Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post, Wednesday, December 28, 2:07 PM
Kabul - After funding and supporting the Afghan government's press center for more than four years, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul announced Wednesday that it has withdrawn its advisers from the center amid concerns over the way it is being run.
The office, known as the Government Media and Information Center (GMIC), has become politicized in recent months, according to Afghan and Western officials, as pro- and anti-American factions within the Afghan government have sought to use its visibility to push certain causes.
The embassy's decision to pull its advisers coincided with a news conference at the center Saturday at which members of a fact-finding commission appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized night raids and house searches, controversial tactics employed by the U.S.-led military coalition. Their report prompted Karzai to announce that Afghanistan would not sign a bilateral agreement with Washington unless NATO stops carrying out night raids.
The embassy billed Wednesday's move as a step in its effort to disengage from the minutiae of Afghan government operations. But the advisers' departure from a center that plays an important role in shaping domestic and foreign news coverage of Afghanistan was surprising and raised the possibility that figures critical of the West's engagement here could gain a greater hearing.
Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall issued a statement Wednesday saying the United States was "reassessing and reviewing its relationship" with the press center.
Sundwall said the decision was not made in response to the news conference Saturday. "This has been under consideration and happened to coincide with the press conference," he said.
4) How Ron Paul Will Change the GOP in 2012
The libertarian upstart isn't just stirring controversy; he's threatening to expose profound divisions within the GOP.
Peter Beinart, Daily Beast, Dec 27, 2011 4:45 AM EST
We haven't even said goodbye to 2011, but I want to be first in line with my person of the year prediction for 2012: Ron Paul. I don't think Paul is going to win the presidency, or even win the Republican nomination. But he's going to come close enough to change the GOP forever.
Washington Republicans and political pundits keep depicting Paul as some kind of ideological mutation, the conservative equivalent of a black swan. They're wrong. Ask any historically-minded conservative who the most conservative president of the 20th Century was, and they'll likely say Calvin Coolidge. No president tried as hard to make the federal government irrelevant. It's said that Coolidge was so terrified of actually doing something as president that he tried his best not even to speak. But in 1925, Silent Cal did open his mouth long enough to spell out his foreign policy vision, and what he said could be emblazoned on a Ron Paul for President poster: "The people have had all the war, all the taxation, and all the military service they want."
Small government conservatism, the kind to which today's Republicans swear fealty, was born in the 1920s not only in reaction to the progressive movement's efforts to use government to regulate business, but in reaction to World War I, which conservatives rightly saw as a crucial element of the government expansion they feared. To be a small government conservative in the 1920s and 1930s was, for the most part, to vehemently oppose military spending while insisting that the US never, ever get mired in another European war.
Even after World War II, Mr. Republican-Robert Taft-opposed the creation of NATO and called the Korean War unconstitutional. Dwight Eisenhower worked feverishly to scale back the Truman-era defense spending that he feared would bankrupt America and rob it of its civil liberties. Even conservative luminaries like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater who embraced the global anti-communist struggle made it clear that they were doing so with a heavy heart. Global military commitments, they explained, represented a tragic departure from small government conservatism, a departure justified only by the uniquely satanic nature of the Soviet threat.
The cold war lasted half a century, but isolationism never left the conservative DNA. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, some of America's most prominent conservative intellectuals-people like Irving Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Pat Buchanan-argued that the GOP should become the party of Coolidge and Taft once again. The Republican Congress of the 1990s bitterly opposed Bill Clinton's wars in the Balkans, and Buchanan, running on an isolationist platform, briefly led the GOP presidential field in 1996. Even the pre-9/11 Bush administration was so hostile to increased military spending that the Weekly Standard called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.
Given this history, it's entirely predictable that in the wake of two disillusioning wars, a diminishing al Qaeda threat and mounting debt, someone like Ron Paul would come along. In Washington, Republican elites are enmeshed in a defense-industrial complex with a commercial interest in America's global military footprint. But listen to Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh and see how often you hear them demanding that America keep fighting in Afghanistan, or even attack Iran. According to a November CBS News poll, as many Republicans said the U.S. should decrease its troop presence in Afghanistan as said America should increase it or keep it the same. In the same survey, only 22 percent of Republicans called Iran's nuclear program "a threat that requires military action now" compared to more than fifty percent who said it "can be contained with diplomacy." Almost three-quarters of Republicans said the U.S. should not try to change dictatorships to democracies.
5) Israeli Girl, 8, at Center of Tension Over Religious Extremism
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, December 27, 2011
Beit Shemesh, Israel - The latest battleground in Israel's struggle over religious extremism covers little more than a square mile of this Jewish city situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and it has the unexpected public face of a blond, bespectacled second-grade girl.
She is Naama Margolese, 8, the daughter of American immigrants who are observant modern Orthodox Jews. An Israeli weekend television program told the story of how Naama had become terrified of walking to her elementary school here after ultra-Orthodox men spit on her, insulted her and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere exactly to their more rigorous dress code.
The country was outraged. Naama's picture has appeared on the front pages of all the major Israeli newspapers. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday that "Israel is a democratic, Western, liberal state" and pledged that "the public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all," there have been days of confrontation at focal points of friction here.
Ultra-Orthodox men and boys from the most stringent sects have hurled rocks and eggs at the police and journalists, shouting "Nazis" at the security forces and assailing female reporters with epithets like "shikse," a derogatory Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman or girl, and "whore." Jews of varying degrees of orthodoxy and secularity headed to Beit Shemesh on Tuesday evening to join local residents in a protest numbering in the thousands against religious violence and fanaticism.
6) Base Relocation Plan Runs Into Roadblock
Protesters in Okinawa stop delivery of key report
Kyodo News, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011
[There is a nice picture of the protest at the link - JFP.]
Okinawa residents on Tuesday stopped an attempt by the Defense Ministry to file a key environmental impact assessment report with the prefectural government for relocating the U.S. Futenma air base within the prefecture.
About 200 protesters opposing the base relocation blocked a delivery van that was carrying the document to the prefectural government office in Naha in the morning. The vehicle turned back without delivering the paper.
The ministry had originally planned to have officials of its Okinawa Defense Bureau deliver the report to the prefectural government in person but decided to send it by mail in the wake of the protests.
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa told reporters Tuesday the delivery of the document is significant in the central government's efforts to lessen Okinawa's burden of hosting the bulk of the U.S. military presence in Japan.
Several citizens' groups began the protests Monday morning to prevent the report from being submitted to the prefectural government.
The report also concluded that a U.S. plan to deploy MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft in Okinawa in 2012 would pose no problem in terms of noise under the relocation plan, according to the sources.
Prodded by the U.S. government to make progress as soon as possible on the long-stalled base relocation, the central government was eager to submit the report to Okinawa within the year. [In fact, the US gave Japan an end-of-year deadline - JFP.]
Locals in Okinawa, which has long hosted the lion's share of U.S. forces in Japan, have been strongly opposed to the relocation plan and want the base moved outside the prefecture.
7) Court in Egypt Says Rights of Women Were Violated
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, December 27, 2011
Cairo - An administrative court ruled Tuesday that the Egyptian military had wrongly violated the human rights of female demonstrators by subjecting them to "virginity tests" intended to humiliate them.
The decision was the first to address a scandal arising from one of the military's first crackdowns on protesters, on March 9, less than a month after it seized power with the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. And the ruling was also the first time since the military takeover that a civilian court has attempted to exert judicial authority over the ruling generals, who have suspended the Constitution and set themselves up as the only source of law.
Although members of the ruling military council have often denied imposing the "virginity tests," the court said in its judgment that it relied in part on a June 27 report from Amnesty International in which a general on the council confirmed that women had been physically examined against their will. The general justified imposition of the tests to safeguard soldiers from being accused of raping women detainees.
The court found that protecting against potential charges of rape was no justification for violating women's bodies, according to a text of the ruling provided by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which helped argue the case.
"These acts involve deliberate humiliation and intentional insult to women participating in protests," the court said in its ruling, calling the military's conduct of the tests "a criminal offense."
Until recently, the Egyptian news media, cowed by the ruling generals' investigations of journalists and bloggers who were deemed to "insult" the institution of the military, scarcely covered the charges. Of the seven women, only Ms. Ibrahim spoke publicly about her experiences or filed legal claims.
On Tuesday, news of the decision was widespread in the Egyptian news media. Ms. Ibrahim was cheered as a hero by hundreds of supporters who marched with her to Tahrir Square. Men formed a ring around a group of women marching, to protect them from harassment.
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