Article V, Relations with Russia, and America’s Insolvency

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NATO.Step.Down.jpg
(President Barack Obama, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and fellow NATO leaders step down from a photo platform April 4, 2009, following their group photo at the NATO meeting in Strasbourg, France. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Stephen Herzog, writing at World Politics Review, argues that NATO should reconsider its intention to develop contingency plans to defend Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania against Russian attacks.
According to Herzog, the operations are unnecessary because NATO is fully prepared to respond to a Russian attack. Moreover, such an attack is highly improbable and carrying out a contingency plan is only likely to generate hostility in Moscow.
He says:

The Atlantic Alliance and Russia need to work together to solve some of today’s toughest problems. These issues include fighting terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, cracking down on transnational crime, and reducing global numbers of nuclear weapons. Real cooperation cannot occur so long as both sides treat each other like enemies. NATO should abandon the idea of developing provocative defense plans that have little basis in geopolitical reality. But cooperation is not a one-way street. Russian leaders need to tone down their rhetoric and look for avenues of collaboration, not confrontation.

The dilemma Herzog identifies highlights a key problem connecting many of the United States’ strategic challenges. America is – to use Walter Lippmann’s term – “insolvent.” That is, its overseas commitments outweigh its foreign policy resources.
The fundamental issue with strategic implications is that the United States is burdened with massive security and political commitments throughout the globe that entail enormous political and economic costs.
The situation in the Baltic States is analogous to the conundrum in East Asia, where the United States continues to provide huge amounts of arms to Taiwan that benefit the Taiwanese and American military contractors at the expense of U.S.-China relations.
Adjusting America’s “legacy commitments,” must be part of the United States’ long-term strategy to reorient its foreign policy for the post-American international order, in which issues like NATO defense preparations and Taiwanese military sales cannot obstruct America’s higher-order strategic imperative of developing a new “social contract” of baseline global interests with Russia, China, and other major global players.
— Ben Katcher

Comments

11 comments on “Article V, Relations with Russia, and America’s Insolvency

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    AP Article Fuels Iran War Hysteria
    Article Speculates Medical Uranium Enrichment a Weapons Plot
    by Jason Ditz, February 08, 2010
    UPDATE: The Associated Press has pulled the original article by George Jahn and it is being replaced by a more benign article called “Iran to stop enrichment if given nuclear fuel” by Nasser Karimi. (2/9/2010)
    In a widely-circulated article which has further fueled Western hysteria about the prospect of an imminent war with Iran, the Associated Press today claimed that Iran’s uranium enrichment program move, an effort to produce medical isotopes which are rapidly running out in the nation, was a secret plot to build nuclear weapons.
    The article, entitled “Iran moves closer to nuke warhead capacity,” claims that Iran had informed the IAEA that it “will increase its ability to make nuclear warheads,” an allegation which is not only unsupported by fact but even goes beyond the ample bellicose Western statements quoted in the piece.
    In fact the IAEA’s own confirmation of the Iranian statement says simply that Iran is planning to begin efforts for “production of less than 20 percent enriched uranium,” noted by the AP piece as “just below the threshold for high enriched uranium” but actually well short of the 90 percent plus needed for weapons grade material.
    Iran has made it clear than the approximately 20 percent enriched uranium will be used in an effort to produce fuel rods for its US-built Tehran reactor, needed in the creation of medical isotopes. The move came as efforts for a third party enrichment deal, which would provide Iran with access to fuel rods from overseas, has stalled amid international ire.
    But the AP piece glossed over Iran’s acceptance of the third party enrichment deal last week, a move which it claims was “welcomed internationally” but which was actually roundly condemned by Western officials who claimed that accepting their own demands was an effort to “stall.”
    In fact this was the key to Iran’s move, as German officials insisted that Iran’s acceptance couldn’t be accepted, and that they would have to start a new round of negotiations, something Western officials have repeatedly rejected. With the prospect for a third-party enrichment deal at best speculative going forward, Iran was left with the choice of abandoning nuclear medicine treatments for thousands of patients or pushing forward with efforts to become self-sufficient in the process.
    And while British officials insisted, and the AP was quick to point out, that they doubt Iran’s capability to actually produce the fuel rods, other experts said they would likely be able to, and Iran seemed to have few options but to try.
    At the end of the day though, the biggest problem with the piece was the reference to “nuke warheads,” a technology which Iran isn’t even accused of moving forward. If Iran isn’t even capable of making fuel rods for medical reactors out of 20 percent enriched uranium it is hoping to produce, it is absolutely absurd and irresponsible to claim that Iran is nearing the capability of producing nuclear-capable warheads, which would require not only weapons-grade uranium which they are not producing, but advanced delivery systems.
    With Iran’s enrichment facilities under 24-hour IAEA surveillance, they will be able to confirm that neither Iran’s current 3.5 percent uranium or its speculative 20 percent uranium is diverted to anything but civilian purposes. The surveillance would also instantly confirm if Iran began enriching uranium beyond 20 percent, meaning the threat of Iran suddenly acquiring a nuclear weapon is entirely illusory. Western officials, and some writers at the Associated Press, however, see fit to look beyond the lack of concrete threats and instead rely on public fear of the unknown to make the case for escalating tensions beyond all reason, and bringing the West ever closer to a needless war with Iran.
    http://news.antiwar.com/2010/02/08/ap-article-fuels-iran-war-hysteria/
    Deja Vu. Iraq all over again.
    If the last batch of lying sacks of shit woulda been held accountable for being lying sacks of shit, the current batch of lying sacks of shit mighta thought twice about being lying sacks of shit.
    And when this batch of lying sacks of shit are not held accountable for being lying sacks of shit, I can GUARANTEE the next Administration will be lying sacks of shit. Ad infinitum.
    Its not rocket science.

    Reply

  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “For the Secretary of State to
    frame Iran as she did is just muddled or dishonest”
    Oh its worse than simple fearmongering. These assholes are bound and determined to stop ANY efforts by Iran to become a modern member of the global community. The RW media slime machine, (little more than a propaganda arm of the United States government) is also raising a ruckus about Iran’s efforts to put satellites up, because of the missile technology required to do so. These sacks of shit aren’t content with just limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities. They won’t be happy until they’ve made sure that Iran is hopelessly stalled technologically in all aspects of modern science, as well as stalled militarily. And both of these factors will stall the country sociologically. They aren’t content just painting Iranians as backwards war-mongering heathens, they want to actually make backwards war-mongering heathens out of them. And they’re going about it just right to pull it off. Lets starve ’em and bomb ’em.
    All these poor Iranian protestors that we are feigning concern for, in another year or two, will be known as “insurgents”. And it may well be American troops shooting them on the streets of Tehran.

    Reply

  3. Dan Kervick says:

    “The fundamental issue with strategic implications is that the United States is burdened with massive security and political commitments throughout the globe that entail enormous political and economic costs.”
    Yes, but who will tell the people? Consolidation and downsizing, though frequently essential to long term success and rejuvenation, are never pretty or popular.
    Most Americans never leave their country to visit the outside world. Many are going to be shocked and chagrined to learn that they don’t run it any longer.

    Reply

  4. John Waring says:

    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2010/feb/01/00006/
    Please click on the above link and read “No Exit: America Has an Impressive Record in Starting Wars, but a Dismal one in Ending Them Well,” by Andrew Bacevich.
    We simply can’t afford our over-militarized foreign policy, nor does it work. The job of the American military is to destroy the enemy, not to solve intractible political, economic, and social problem of historic magnitude, aka Afghanistan.
    Now let’s discuss Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act may be getting long in the tooth.
    Of the four countries that are the world’s largest producers of steel, China produces more than the other three combined. This development has occured since the Taiwan Relations Act was passed.
    On the eve of WWII Japan produced six million tons of steel per year, and had to import most of its raw materials. The USA produced 76 million tons, and imported almost no raw materials. After they lost four carriers at Midway, the Japanese never caught up. After we lost our battleship fleet at Pearl, we built the Iowa class battleships, a dozen fleet carriers, the Liberty ships, and armed several millions of soldiers and sailors, and fought a two front war.
    The moral of this story is that, when push comes to shove, China may have the upper hand in any future armed conflict over Taiwan. Once China’s military technology catches up with its industrial might, China may be able to blunt our technological superiority with sheer mass. If China can force the USA into a war of attrition, the game may cost too much for us to play. The facts on the ground appear to be rapidly eroding our ability to maintain our policy of strategic ambiguity vis a vis Taiwan.
    I think we need to be arguing about the artificial exchange rate that’s part of the reason we have a real unemployment rate of 18%. We either fix the macro economic imbalances, or face a potential crash-and-burn scenario. I think we need to stop arguing over Taiwan and help them get the best deal they can with the mainland. When the British lease ended, life still went on in Hong Kong. Life unquestionably changed, but it still continued. The post WWII era of unquestioned American military and political preeminence in the Far East may be coming to a close. We may be entering a prolonged period of fiscal austerity, and we may need to adjust.

    Reply

  5. John Waring says:

    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2010/feb/01/00006/
    Please click on the above link and read “No Exit: America Has an Impressive Record in Starting Wars, but a Dismal one in Ending Them Well,” by Andrew Bacevich.
    We simply can’t afford our over-militarized foreign policy, nor does it work. The job of the American military is to destroy the enemy, not to solve intractible political, economic, and social problem of historic magnitude, aka Afghanistan.
    Now let’s discuss Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act may be getting long in the tooth.
    Of the four countries that are the world’s largest producers of steel, China produces more than the other three combined. This development has occured since the Taiwan Relations Act was passed.
    On the eve of WWII Japan produced six million tons of steel per year, and had to import most of its raw materials. The USA produced 76 million tons, and imported almost no raw materials. After they lost four carriers at Midway, the Japanese never caught up. After we lost our battleship fleet at Pearl, we built the Iowa class battleships, a dozen fleet carriers, the Liberty ships, and armed several millions of soldiers and sailors, and fought a two front war.
    The moral of this story is that, when push comes to shove, China may have the upper hand in any future armed conflict over Taiwan. Once China’s military technology catches up with its industrial might, China may be able to blunt our technological superiority with sheer mass. If China can force the USA into a war of attrition, the game may cost too much for us to play. The facts on the ground appear to be rapidly eroding our ability to maintain our policy of strategic ambiguity vis a vis Taiwan.
    I think we need to be arguing about the artificial exchange rate that’s part of the reason we have a real unemployment rate of 18%. We either fix the macro economic imbalances, or face a potential crash-and-burn scenario. I think we need to stop arguing over Taiwan and help them get the best deal they can with the mainland. When the British lease ended, life still went on in Hong Kong. Life unquestionably changed, but it still continued. The post WWII era of unquestioned American military and political preeminence in the Far East may be coming to a close. We may be entering a prolonged period of fiscal austerity, and we may need to adjust.

    Reply

  6. samuelburke says:

    Monday, February 08, 2010
    More Nuclear Scaremongering about Iran from Clinton; Neocons
    Quake at Ahmadinejad threat to make . . . gasp . . . Medical
    Isotopes
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton engaged in some
    fearmongering on Iran on Sunday on Candy Crowley’s CNN
    magazine show, State of the Union. Here is how the exchange
    went:
    http://www.juancole.com/2010/02/more-nuclear-
    scaremongering-about-iran.html
    ‘CROWLEY: If you were to say to the American people, this
    country is the most dangerous to Americans and to the U.S.,
    where is that country?
    CLINTON: You know, Candy, in terms of a country, obviously a
    nuclear-armed country like North Korea or Iran pose both a real
    or a potential threat.
    CROWLEY: And you’re convinced Iran has nuclear…
    CLINTON: No, no, but we believe that their behavior certainly is
    evidence of their intentions . . .
    Kudos to Crowley for not letting that ridiculous assertion pass.
    To put Iran in the same category as North Korea in 2010 and to
    make it among the primary ‘threats’ challenging the United
    States is just bizarre. The US intelligence establishment
    continues to doubt that Iran has or wants a nuclear weapons
    program. Tehran does have a nuclear enrichment program,
    which is permitted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran
    allows United Nations inspections of it nuclear facilities.
    Although Iran is not as transparent as the UN International
    Atomic Energy Agency would like, there is no dispositive
    evidence of a weapons program. For the Secretary of State to
    frame Iran as she did is just muddled or dishonest.

    Reply

  7. Mr.Murder says:

    Taiwan arms deals are part of triangulation in the region. This is Kissinger doctrine, long standing, as part of the Nixon Legacy.

    Reply

  8. JohnH says:

    Ah yes, the familiar warmongering from Wigwag.
    She obviously prefers to drive the US into bankruptcy and sacrifice her Social Security benefits for the cause…

    Reply

  9. JohnH says:

    Glad to see America’s massive security commitments finally raised in the context of US insolvency on this blog.
    It’s all the rage these days to blame “entitlements” for America’s insolvency. But if the truth were told, Social Security and Medicare have not contributed a penny to the problem.
    The crux of the problem is military spending, which increased 250% over the last decade. Military spending along with massive tax cuts. Military spending is now higher than Social Security payments. Social Security has been paying for itself. The military hasn’t.
    An what have we gotten for all that military spending? If Iraq and Afghanistan are any indication, not much except $4 Trillion in debt.
    It’s time to call a spade a spade. Obama is letting Bush’s tax cuts lapse. But Obama won’t discuss military entitlements, which are a sacred cow, behaving like a raging bull. It’s time to face down all that bull, else the nation become truly insolvent.

    Reply

  10. WigWag says:

    What position does Ben Katcher want the United States to adopt on the myriad of foreign policy challenges it faces including Iran, China and Russia?
    Answer: prone.
    You don’t need to be a neoconservative to understand that projecting weakness and fecklessness doesn’t make you strong; it makes you weak.
    With all due respect, the argument made in this post is virtually delusional. What is it Katcher recommends?
    First he thinks that the United States should stop providing Taiwan with weaponry. The United States has been selling weapons to Taiwan ever since the days of Richard Nixon’s rapprochement with the Communist main land. The Taiwan Relations Act obligates the United States “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character”, and “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.”
    Ever since the Taiwan Relations Act was first passed, relations between the United States and the Peoples Republic of China have improved and grown more intertwined Adhering to American obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act has never been a serious impediment to Chinese-American relations.
    Does Katcher really think that refusing to sell arms to Taiwan (and thus unilaterally breaching the Act) is really going to improve Chinese American relations? Has it occurred to Katcher, that American relations with Taiwan actually strengthen American leverage with the Peoples Republic rather than weakening it?
    Do Katcher and Steve Clemons want the United States just to abandon Taiwan without getting anything in return or do they want to trade the Taiwan chit away for something? What price do Katcher and Clemons have in mind for their pound of flesh? Given their obsession with the right to self-determination for the Palestinians, it’s remarkable how indifferent they are to the right of self-determination for 23 million Taiwanese. What’s their price for refusing to provide Taiwan with the arms needed to defend itself and deter a military attack from the main land? Is it a tiny appreciation in the Yuan? Is it support for sanctions against Iran? Is it a promise by China to start treating Google a little nicer?
    There is a tendency by many readers of this blog to treat China as a far more powerful adversary than it is. Some are motivated by a hatred of American policies that is so ingrained that their exaggeration of Chinese power is a cover for their hope that China really will rival the United States someday soon. Other commentators who exaggerate Chinese strength do so out of naivety.
    China’s military strength is not particularly great (otherwise why would they be afraid of American arms sales to little Taiwan); it’s economy, while extremely large because of the total size of its population, is pathetically small on a per capita basis and despite its tremendous growth rate will continue to be in the short and medium term; it faces huge social problems including poverty, a middle class that can become restive at any moment; a Muslim insurgency and problems in Tibet. Even China’s huge surpluses present a big problem; diversifying their currency portfolio becomes difficult if not impossible.
    Katcher’s argument, which is little more than that the United States needs to appease China, is laughable.
    As extraordinarily wrongheaded as Katcher is about China, he’s even more wrong when it comes to Russia. Here’s a newsflash for you, Ben; Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are members of NATO. Was it a mistake to admit them? Maybe, but that ship has sailed.
    NATO is a mutual defense organization. It’s based on a simple premise; an attack on one member is an attack on all members. NATO has no choice but to develop contingency plans in the eventuality of an attack by Russia on any of the Baltic members of NATO; that’s what defense organizations do. Has it occurred to Katcher that perhaps a robust plan to defend the tiny Baltic nations might just help deter an attack by Russia? Has it occurred to him that robust signals by NATO that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are as central to NATO as France, Germany and Italy makes an attack less likely and enhances peace in Europe rather than making peace more difficult to achieve?
    I know that Ben Katcher has fallen in love with Lippmann’s phrase about insolvency in American overseas commitments, but has it occurred to Katcher how wrong Lippmann was? After all, when Lippmann made his remarks about insolvency, the United States was on the verge of dominating the world in a manner that few superpowers had achieved before. Lippmann was wrong when he made his statement; has it occurred to Katcher that he might still be wrong?
    Of course, Ben Katcher wants the United States to appease the Russians and Chinese; he’s become star-struck by his new mentors; that would be the couple who want to appease the Mullahs in Iran and everyone else in sight.
    What is the Ben Katcher strategy for advancing American interests in the world?
    Apparently it’s for the United States to lie in the prone position begging, “thank you sir, may I have another?”

    Reply

  11. jon says:

    Nice idea. Too bad NATO proved inadequate to step into the
    breach in the instance of the former Yugoslavia. And the UN
    proved ineffective, or worse, when things got sticky.

    Reply

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