Read this article.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The New York Times reports that a number of factors, including the heavy cracktown on Tebetian dissent by the Chinese government, have made upcoming elections in Taiwan unexpectedly close. The Nationalist party, which still favors some type of reunification with the mainland, was on course to win by a substantial margin, but the recent actions of the Chinese government seem to have given the voters some pause. Taiwan strikes me as an area in which the United States should be more heavily engaged. Our policy of strategic ambiguity in the China-Taiwan dispute has kept things relatively quiet over the last several decades, but as China's power grows along with Taiwanese sentiment for independence, it would behoove the United States to facilitate negotiations for some kind of permanent status agreement between the two countries (or "political entities" if you prefer) before we find the issue forced, and we are caught between the options of abandoning an ally and risking major war.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Sorry for the absurdly long absence. I've got a few posts in the works and I promise I'll be back into form soon. For those of you in the D.C. area, I highly recommend you come to the Politics & Prose bookstore this evening for a 7:00 talk by Parag Khanna, author of the new book The Second World. I'm in the process of reading it and it's an absolute tour de force.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Responding to rocket attacks from Hamas is one thing. I understand that the Israeli government has a responsibility to protect its own people. To be honest, though, the continued officially-sanctioned building of settlements in disputed territory, coupled with the government turning a blind eye to unsanctioned ones, is beginning to seriously undercut my sympathy with Israel's position vis a vis the Palestinians. All through the last two decades of on-and-off negotiations with the Palestinian authority, the Israelis have made no serious effort to curb settlement activity. From a perspective of U.S. policy, if the Israeli government is really not willing to restrain the more reactionary, destructive impulses of some Israeli citizens, we ought to re-think the nature of our relationship with the country.
Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that we abandon the Israelis, but the level of aid and political cover that the American government gives to that of Israel has got to have some relationship to U.S. strategic interests. Israel's continued colonization of the West Bank is clearly and unequivocally not in the interest of the United States. Our foreign policy ought to begin reflecting that.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
A recently released report commissioned by Britain's Royal Society has called for the creation of an international database of global nuclear programs in order to improve nuclear forensic capabilities and provide incentives for governments to secure their nuclear materials. The idea is that if there were a global databank detailing the scope, extent and nature of civilian and military nuclear activity, it would increase the chances that smuggled nuclear material or - God forbid - the remains of a nuclear attack would be traced back to their source. If governments know that they will be blamed for rogue groups using their nuclear stocks, they will take better care of them. Also, in the chaotic atmosphere that would surely follow a nuclear attack of unsure provenance, having the outlines of an appropriate response in place beforehand would reduce the possibility of knee-jerk reactions that could amplify the crisis.
Best of all, the Society's proposal has few downsides for most international actors, meaning that it is realistically implementable. Certainly opaque nuclear powers like Israel and emerging powers like Iran would be reluctant to disclose the information necessary to participate, but even if they remained outside of the databank regime, it would serve its purpose, as the chances that their nuclear materials would be identified would be increased through the process of elimination. For most established nuclear powers, whose arsenals play the role of strategic backstop, the diminished threat of 'loose nukes' would be well worth the marginally uncomfortable disclosure process. Here's hoping this idea is picked up by those in positions of global leadership.
So, for what they're worth, Abbas has agreed to back down from his suspension of peace talks with Israel. He had previously demanded a truce between Israel and Hamas as a condition for talks to continue. While I think it's great that Abbas has decided that continuing talks is preferable to a bloody stalemate, his original point is well taken. Israel understandably doesn't want to enter into full-fledged peace negotiations with Hamas, which would confer upon the group the status of a legitimate governing entity, but it strikes me as both reasonable and prudent to negotiate a cease fire, if only to stop the photographs of Israeli military strikes in Gaza from reaching the West Bank and further undermining Abbas's already tenuous position.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Blake Hounshell over at FP Passport makes an interesting and logical point about the way that the U.S. sometimes uses its military. How, precisely, is a missile destroyer off the Lebanese coast supposed to bolster the current government? Hounshell notes that all the move is likely to do is remind the Lebanese of U.S. sea-to-land shelling during the 1980s (I actually had a Lebanese professor in college, one of whose earliest memories was the sound of American shells shrieking overhead into the mountains), ratcheting up tensions rather than calming them. I'm not a military man. Perhaps the ship has some political or strategic value that I just don't see. Still, while gunboat diplomacy can be useful in certain circumstances (I at least understand, for example, sending more U.S. ships into the Gulf to send a message to Iran), it doesn't seem to hold much potential to improve things in Lebanon.
Monday, March 3, 2008
The IAEA today has stepped up its criticism of Iran's nuclear program, following a presentation last week by the agency's chief inspector, which presented evidence that Iranian scientists have been engaging in work "not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon."