Five Easy Pieces

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I imagine Steve figured his “Happy 4th of July” post would stay up here throughout the holiday, but I’m bumping it down to announce my triumphant return to The Washington Note and explain my two-week absence.
I’ve spent some time in New York and Minneapolis for birthdays and weddings, respectively, but the balance has been spent talking with Congress about various aspects of America’s nonmilitary global engagement.
Some of this has been education on the Law of the Sea and an exciting proposal to make UN peacekeeping and disaster relief more responsive (I’ll have more later on that). For the most part, though, I’ve been knee-deep – ok, maybe only ankle-deep – in the Congressional appropriations process, and I’ll have more to share on the good, the bad, and the ugly in a couple of days.
In the meantime, Anne-Marie Slaughter has a quickie in Foreign Policy this month that’s worth a read.
Foreign Policy also publishes an important poll this month that illustrates the obvious rule – that faith in U.S. global leadership is waning – and notes some exceptions. Slaughter’s general thoughts on American exceptionalism as the cause of this decline are on point, if a little vague. She does lay out five specific recommendations to stop the bleeding:

[F]irst, close Guantanamo and work with other nations on a shared understanding of the rules for the interrogation of terrorism suspects; second, commit to specific carbon emissions targets and a cap and trade system; third, ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiate with other nuclear states to begin major cuts of nuclear arsenals in the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; fourth, make room at the Security Council table for emerging powers such as India and Brazil, as well as Germany, Japan, two African nations, and at least one major Muslim country at any given point; and finally, bring peace between Israel and Palestine, or at least, in the words of the Clinton administration, “get caught trying.”

Some variation on each of these five points would be among my top five or ten as well, but I’d have to expand on each of them in a nitpicky way to feel good about including them.
Point 1: Closing Guantanamo would be there, but I fail to see why a new “shared understanding” for detainee treatment is necessary when the Geneva Conventions are a perfectly good starting point. Similarly, how is the U.S. going to buttress international law while still punishing International Criminal Court member states for fulfilling their treaty obligations?
Point 2: Emissions caps and a cap & trade system need to happen; I’d add a serious commitment to climate adaptation and a more substantial focus on the nexus between energy and development – one key place where American neglect has left its brand badly damaged.
Point 3: Ratifying the CTBT and reducing nuclear arsenals is a good start, but we need to think bigger. The next president is going to have to undertake a serious diplomatic effort to revamp and boost up the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the face of new security realities.
Point 4: Slaughter gets the Security Council reform piece just right. That said, Security Council reform is just one part of the larger UN reform puzzle, and it’s a puzzle that must be solved in a holistic and comprehensive way.
Finally, Point 5: Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian problem is crucial, and the next president is going to need to look at it in a regional context. How can progress between Israelis and Palestinians leverage (or be leveraged by) Lebanese political and economic development, Iranian nuclear ambitions, new negotiations with Syria, and democratic reforms in Egypt and Saudi Arabia?
These are more expansions on Slaughter’s points than critiques of them, and I don’t doubt that Slaughter might have expanded similarly if she had the space to do so. Her general points are as good a place as any to start the conversation.
— Scott Paul

Comments

8 comments on “Five Easy Pieces

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  3. MP says:

    Michael Lind is a VERY smart guy, and I like what he has to say here, in the passage quoted by Carroll. I guess the rub comes in those tough-to-call situations: Is it REALLY genocide or is it just killing off a few hundred thousand of your own people? He also doesn’t seem to offer a way forward, at least in this passage, for folks trapped, and being killed, by their own entrenched, repressive regimes. I tend to think that Daalder et al aren’t simply interested in US et al hegemony, but are also thinking about those people and the consequences of those problems festering. But he makes good points.

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  4. Marcia says:

    When speaking of exceptionalism, the same thought can be applied to all civilizations in their youth and rise to power. It can also be said of powers at their height. One after the other empires have risen and fallen while declaring they are exceptions. The Egyptians lasted for thousands of years, preceded by Sumer. The Greeks gave us the word democracy, cultivated the arts in all its forms. Rome rose and fell, England quelled and crushed and carried “the white man’s burden,” while filling her pockets with the wealth produced by the “natives.”
    We came next with land conquest, quasi extermination of indigenous Americans, then oil, oil oil. and our legions sent to the four corners of the world. Now we are like drunken sailors still proclaiming to the world our greatness, goodness and love of democracy as the rest of the world watches us staggering downhill. Thus far no empire once on the decline has ever turned the tide. Once corruption is deeply embedded in the fabric of government it is like a worm in a fruit – it eats from within.
    What has changed however is the speed with which powers decline. Older powers eked out their “fin de regime” over decades and centuries. Look at the speed with which the Soviet Union fell before our eyes…it could no longer fulfil the needs of its people and it collapsed. We are no longer fulfilling the needs of our people and our elite no longer considers this to be an obligation or even a duty, indeed hardly a need, they have turned their backs on those who fill their pockets, actually living like cannibals to become obese creatures waddling back to the buffet for more.
    I think the big difference is that in our time information circulates with a speed unknown by former civilizations – in twenty-five years the damage is so vast it has brought us a form of existance devoted to consumerism, indifference and self-interest. Hardly the pursuit of happiness envisaged by the founders for their descendents…but hardly an exception either.

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  5. Carroll says:

    I notice that Slaughter keeps getting pushed here..evidently some think she should have the Sec of State position she is pursuing.
    But let’s be clear what Scott is endorsing here….by de-coding Slaughter.
    Slaughter talks constantly about “our founders” vision which is actually the older form of American liberal internationalism..but that “founders” vision isn’t what Slaughter is promoting, she just bills it as that I suppose because she thinks we don’t know our own history or the difference between our founders ideas and her new bastardized version of American “internationalism.
    There is a vast difference between the “our founders” vision and Slaughters neo lite “democratic hegemonist” new world order or Global USA.
    I’ll let Michael Lind explain it………
    “The greatest threat to liberal internationalism comes not from without–from neoconservatives, realists and isolationists who reject the liberal internationalist tradition as a whole–but from within: from schools of thought that claim the title of liberal internationalism while jettisoning some of its fundamental principles. As is often the case with a creed, the heretics are as dangerous as the infidels. In the case of liberal internationalism, the heretics come in two schools: democratic hegemonists and liberal imperialists.
    The democratic hegemonists advocate the global hegemony of a “concert of democracies.” Among the spokesmen for this idea are Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay, both Democrats who endorsed Bush’s occupation of Iraq. The most well-reasoned argument for this position has been provided by Anne-Marie Slaughter and John Ikenberry, both of Princeton and co-authors of a recent manifesto, “Forging a World of Liberty Under Law.” Prominent in the 1990s, but less visible since 9/11, is the disproportionately British school of liberal imperialists, also called humanitarian hawks, including Britain’s Niall Ferguson and Canada’s Michael Ignatieff. Liberal imperialists argue that the United States and its European allies have a duty to invade, and if necessary govern, disordered societies in the interests of human rights and justice. The arguments of democratic hegemonists and liberal imperialists overlap to a considerable degree.
    Members of both schools often call themselves liberal internationalists and claim to be “Truman Democrats,” the genuine heirs of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and cold war liberal Presidents like Truman, Kennedy and Johnson. Both of these schools invoke an older American liberal internationalism to justify the policies they propose.
    But both depart in one way or another from the historic American liberal internationalist tradition. Innovation is not always progress. The new liberal internationalism is no improvement over the old.
    The UN Charter codifies the liberal internationalist vision of world order. The fundamental norm is sovereignty. Wars are legal only if they are fought in self-defense or authorized by the UN Security Council. The Security Council was intended to function as a concert of great powers cooperating to keep the peace.
    On the question of sovereignty, the older American liberal internationalism and its would-be successors differ dramatically.
    Unlike neoconservatives, democratic hegemonists and liberal imperialists tend to endorse the idea of international law. For example, the manifesto of Ikenberry and Slaughter is titled “Forging a World of Liberty Under Law.”
    But the authors and others seek to erode national sovereignty as the basis of international law and to replace it with a new normative basis in the form of democratic government or human rights. Their purpose is to grant the United States, by itself or with allies, a license for invading and occupying sovereign states that have not engaged in cross-border aggression but have denied democracy or rights to their people.
    The moral argument for sacrificing sovereignty to the imperatives of democratization or human rights is no more compelling. Liberal internationalists believe that all nations have a duty to promote human rights in other countries–but by means other than war. Exceptions to the norm of sovereignty should be made in the case of genocide and ethnic cleansing, which violate the principle of national self-determination. But these exceptions cannot be enlarged to include crimes of a lesser magnitude, such as massacres or lynchings or judicial murders, without whittling away the basic norm of sovereignty until it crumbles. The alternative would be to grant some countries–inevitably, a few great powers–a license to intervene in any state in which a government executes a dissident or massacres a crowd. Can anyone doubt that in most, if not all, cases the protection of human rights would be used as a pretext for great-power interventions whose unacknowledged purposes were strategic or commercial?
    In addition to seeking to weaken state sovereignty to permit military interventions, democratic hegemonists and liberal imperialists reject the liberal internationalist strategy of the concert of power.
    Today’s democratic hegemonists and liberal imperialists reject the idea of a peacekeeping concert among the great powers, including nondemocratic ones like China, in favor of the project of indefinite US global primacy or hegemony, which they share with neoconservatives.
    To be sure, many of today’s would-be liberal internationalists do not make their commitment to US global hegemony explicit.
    Likewise, the “concert of democracies” proposed by Slaughter, Ikenberry, Lindsay and Daalder may be less a genuine concert than a camouflage for US hegemony.
    In “Forging a World of Liberty Under Law” Ikenberry and Slaughter propose that if permanent members of the Security Council (read: China and Russia) do not surrender their vetoes and adopt majority voting, a “concert of democracies” consisting chiefly of the United States, Europe and Japan should declare that it, not the Security Council, will henceforth have the power to authorize invasions to topple regimes.
    In practice the concert of democracies strategy looks like neoconservatism with a human face.
    The manifest goal would still be US global hegemony, supported by a US-European-Japanese-Indian alliance against China and Russia, as well as against lesser powers that oppose US hegemony in their neighborhoods, like North Korea and Iran. And while it takes international law far more seriously than do neoconservatives and the Bush Administration, the concert-of-democracies school would eliminate the provision of post-1945 international law that most irks neoconservatives–namely, the prohibition against military attacks on sovereign states except in rare cases of individual or collective self-defense or Security Council authorization.
    A liberal internationalist America would repudiate the goal of US global hegemony, which is shared with neoconservatives by most democratic hegemonists and liberal imperialists. The United States will remain the leading military power for some decades to come. But American leaders would make it clear that the alternative to the competitive multipolarity that they envision is cooperative multipolarity–not a Pax Americana, however benign.
    None of the arguments made by neoconservatives, democratic hegemonists or liberal imperialists against traditional liberal internationalism are persuasive.”

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  6. rty says:

    > Similarly, how is the U.S. going to buttress
    > international law while still punishing
    > International Criminal Court member states for
    > fulfilling their treaty obligations?
    Forget screwing with bits of African aid, lets get the whole “the Hague invasion act” of the table. I would say threatening to send the troops into a NATO partner that is rumored/reported to have had a role in Iraq and has a major role in Afghanistan because of its help dealing with war criminals suspected of crimes against humanity under international law …. isn`t within the diplomatic protocol! (Please tell me Jesse Helms hasn`t somehow topped this piece of work)
    Oh, and when everyone was guessing which European countries could house a secret CIA torture prisons, Romania kinda stood out having signed up to the aid-for-warcrimes deal.
    Its not like the christian right isn`t gonna demand the aid is condom/sex-ed/abortion safety free anyway…
    Oh and the current governing coalition of the Netherlands? Christian democrats, small Christian *LEFT* and social democrats decimated in the last election, possibly because of the Christian democrats use of US campaigning tactics. And guess who was among the more vocal backers of the Iraq war? The chief of the Christian peace movement that formed against the placement of US missiles in the Netherlands during the Cold war! (And unlike in the US, to argue for this war one had to argue with the many respected military annalist who predicted the US would fail at counterinsurgency)
    They figured the US would always take care not to turn Iraq into a place of more murder and torture than it was under Saddam. Just a helping the people who would do the actual fighting figure out what they are getting themselfs into.

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  7. JohnH says:

    Actually American exceptionalism is all but dead and buried. It just hasn’t been announced to the American people yet. The rest of the world has no trouble seeing America’s dedication to hard power as anything but exceptional–except for the incomprehensible extent of its destructive capability . Bush and Cheney have resolutely set about “killing the bullshit talk” American exceptionalism the same way that Ariel Sharon was content to bury Israel’s claim to a unique Jewish morality:
    “We’ll hear no more of that nonsense about the unique Jewish morality, the moral lessons of the holocaust or about the Jews who were supposed to have emerged from the gas chambers pure and virtuous. No more of that. The destruction of Eyn Hilwe (and it’s a pity we did not wipe out that hornet’s nest completely!), the healthy bombardment of Beirut and that tiny massacre (can you call 500 Arabs a massacre?) in their camps which we should have committed with our own delicate hands rather than let the Phalangists do it, all these good deeds finally killed the bullshit talk about a unique people and of being a light upon the nations. No more uniqueness and no more sweetness and light. Good riddance.”
    — Ariel Sharon – Interview with Amos Oz, 1982

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