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From the Editor Dear AFP Readers,

Editor-in-Chief Dan May ‘11

Foreign policy has been out of the spotlight in American politics over the past several months. With the economy and health care dominating the news cycle, crucial decisions about how the United States will conduct its war in Afghanistan or its policy towards Israel are simply not on most people’s minds right now. Especially in a down economy, it seems inevitable that voters will focus on the domestic issues that impact their paychecks and their medical care more than foreign crises half-way around the world.

Publisher Steve Lindsay ‘12 Managing Editors Vishal Chanani ‘11 Tara Lewis ‘11 Jamie LaMontagne ‘11 Ben Cogan ‘12

That said, the United States faces foreign policy decisions of tremendous magnitude over the coming months. They require careful scrutiny from politicians, opinion leaders, and the public. American leaders and public intellectuals must make sure that these foreign policy issues receive the exposure and debate they deserve. Fortunately, the current issue of AFP offers thoughtful coverage of several of these key foreign policy decisions from multiple perspectives. On Afghanistan, for example, David Chen proposes a shift in strategy from a counter-terrorism effort to a counter-insurgency effort, focused on holding territory and protecting Afghan civilians rather than precision strikes against Taliban fighters. In order to carry out this strategy shift, Chen advocates the deployment of about 40,000 additional combat troops to the country. By contrast, Alex Noriega* examines the lessons of the Vietnam War for our current conflict, and he calls for a renewed focus on economic development and infrastructure rather than a larger military deployment. He argues that a free and prosperous Afghanistan will be less likely to support the Taliban and more likely to develop into a well-functioning state. This is the type of reasoned, thoughtful analysis that needs to be happening in the mainstream media. Unfortunately, foreign policy issues have largely been ignored in favor of wall-to-wall coverage of health care, or worse Sarah Palin’s campaign book. This issue of AFP aims to provide some much needed context and perspective on a few of the most crucial foreign policy issues on the table today. I hope you’ll enjoy the magazine and have a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday.

Editors Ahson Azmat ‘10 ‘10 Jon Bradshaw ‘10 Heejin Cho Matthew Drecun ‘10 ‘10 Jon Extein Jonathan Giuffrida ‘10 Lucas Issacharoff ‘10 Catalina Valencia ‘10 ‘11 Aaron Abelson Brendan Carroll ‘11 ‘11 Rachel Jackson Addie Lerner ‘11 Elias Sánchez-Eppler ‘11 ‘11 Zayn Siddique ‘11 Kit Thayer


Dan May Editor-in-Chief

Business Staff

Emma Cunningham ‘11

AFP Advisory Board

Christina Paxson: Dean, Woodrow Wilson School Katherine Newman: Director, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies Robert P. George: Director, James Madison Program G. John Ikenberry: Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs

All correspondence may be directed to: American Foreign Policy, 5406 Frist Center, Princeton, NJ 08544


Samuel Roeca ‘12

Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Rush Doshi ‘11

*Alex Noriega is a pseudonym for an author who prefers not to make his views on the issue public.

No part of this publication should be construed to promote any pending legislation or to support any candidate for office. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Woodrow Wilson School, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the James Madison Program, Princeton University, or American Foreign Policy. AFP gladly accepts letters to the editor, article proposals, and donations, which are fully tax-deductible.

‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13

Yanran Chen ‘12, Production Manager Jonathan Giuffrida ‘10 Kelly Lack ‘10 May Li ‘12 Emily Myerson ‘12 Emily VanderLinden ‘13

All best,

American Foreign Policy is a student-written, student-run publication based at Princeton University. It was founded in the wake of September 11th to provide Princeton students with a forum to discuss the difficult problems and choices facing the United States in the world. American Foreign Policy magazine is sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.

Oliver Bloom Yun Chung Sweta Haldar Jim Hao Natalie Kim Charlie Metzger Jay Parikh Peter Wang Matt Arons Don Butterworth Jonathan Lin Taman Narayan Jake Nebel Emily VanderLinden Audrye Wong

American Foreign Policy

AFP Cover Story

US Foreign Policy

Middle East

A merican Foreign Policy November 2009 Volume IX, Issue II ta b l e o f co n t e n ts


Doubling Down How to Win in Afghanistan David Chen ‘13


Vietnam Redux Learning from the Parallels “Alex Noriega” ‘11


AFP Quiz


The Long War Winding Down the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan Jamie LaMontagne ‘11

Dan May ‘11


Global Update


A New Japan Building Ties with the DPJ Sam Norton ‘12


In Context


Stopping the Settlements How U.S. Economic Leverage Can Help Christian Renfro ‘13

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Vishal Chanani ‘11

Tara Lewis ’11

A Right to Self-Defense The U.S. Should Oppose the Goldstone Report Raffi Grinberg ‘12 Obama and the Dalai Lama A New Turn in U.S.-China Relations? Hyun Sun Suh ‘12

Photo Credits: Creative Commons images from Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

November 2009

Cover Design: Yanran Chen ’12


Cover Story

Photo from flickr

An Afghanistan national police officer helps an American soldier while crossing a stream during a patrol of Balik in Afghanistan on June 14, 2007.

Doubling Down How to Win in Afghanistan David Chen ‘13


espite General Stanley McChrystal’s call for additional troops in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has avoided decisive action on his administration’s most pressing foreign policy issue. While Obama’s caution is laudable, every moment of indecision contributes to a deteriorating political and military situation in Afghanistan. After weeks of deliberation, the time has come for strong presidential leadership to inject new hope into the flagging war effort. Obama should endorse McChrystal’s call for more troops and augment it with a shift in political strategy that emphasizes strengthening Afghanistan’s failing government from the ground up.


A successful strategy for Afghanistan must first target the endemic complications caused by the country’s dispersed tribal societies. The clear-and-hold strategy employed successfully in Iraq’s cities would be a logistical nightmare in the disconnected and remote villages of Afghanistan. Shifting tribal alliances often render the progress of successful operations irrelevant; soldiers secure one area and move to a second, only to find that Taliban forces have reemerged in the first. Problems plaguing Afghanistan’s government worsen the situation in the field. Pervasive corruption and a lack of provincial governance have allowed insurgents to entrench themselves within everyday Afghan life. The Taliban main-

American Foreign Policy

tains its strength through kickbacks and bribes from both government officials and private citizens. In some areas, the government is so weak and inept that Taliban members have essentially assumed all governing authority. In other areas, political leaders are so corrupt that there is no functional difference between the Taliban and the government, making the complete eradication of insurgents in those areas all but impossible. In light of these challenges, the only solution for American forces lies in the combination of a full-throttle political and military surge. Obama should not simply replicate his predecessor’s strategies in Iraq. Instead, the main component of the strategy should be engaging the Afghan government more rigorously, sending a message of partnership rather than occupation. The more that American officials complain in public about Karzai’s government and try to make policy unilaterally, the more difficult it becomes for the two governments to develop a productive relationship. Geographic challenges and

corruption can best be addressed by including provincial and tribal leaders in central government discussions; the regions most in need of stable governance are those farthest removed from Kabul’s reach. The U.S. should help local leaders maintain legitimate rule while also facilitating dialogue with Karzai’s government. This approach would include providing security, conflict mediation, and economic support to tribal areas. Gradually, power-sharing between these groups could rein in politically distant regions as local leaders trade power for government support. By involving more Afghans in the decision-making process, this strategy would also help shed the perception that Karzai is simply a puppet of the West and enhance the central government’s legitimacy. To many Afghan people, the war is a struggle over who will govern them, and much of the battle involves perceptually defeating the Taliban and gaining the Afghans’ favor. The Taliban should also be included in the governing process. The label “Taliban” is too often used as an umbrella term to describe all Pashtun insurgents in the region, and it obscures the fact that these insurgents are not a homogenous group. There are moderates within the Taliban who fight not for religious extremism but for economic survival. Negotiating with and providing alternatives for Afghans to make a living is crucial, since many currently join the Taliban in exchange for promises of profits from illegal trading and debt collection. Winning over these moderates would fragment the insurgency and weaken its military capabilities. All of these solutions, however, require a troop commitment to improve security. The goal of elevating troop levels is not to stage a dramatic occupation but instead to stabilize and build local capacity. Currently, Taliban forces frequently threaten Afghans with violence and destroy infrastructure the moment it is built. Not only have the insurgents crippled the border regions, but they have also instilled a sense of paralysis among the people. Most Afghans, fearing retribution from the Taliban, do nothing to improve conditions in the region and thus further hamper foreign military operations. Troop deployment focused in Afghanistan’s rural South and East would decrease security risks, but equally importantly, it would allow for cooperation

Cover Story

between American and Afghan armies. Training and equipping local forces increases American forces’ legitimacy in the eyes of the people and prepares Afghanistan for self-sufficiency. Counterterrorism vs. Counterinsurgency A False Dichotomy Opponents of a troop increase advocate a scaled-down counterterrorism approach that targets only al-Qaeda members rather than the entire Taliban. Vice President Joe Biden, chief among these opponents, has called for surgical unmanned drone strikes in addition to special forces operations. Yet policymakers like Biden err in treating al-Qaeda as an entity separate from the Taliban. A March 2009 review ordered by President Obama portrayed the two groups as intertwined. Defeating both groups will require more combat troops. Assassinating al-Qaeda officials will only encourage further extremism among Taliban members who will move to fill the power vacuum.

“The goal of elevating troop levels is not to stage a dramatic occupation but instead to stabilize and build local capacity.” Counterterrorism in Afghanistan must include components of counterinsurgency, the resource-intensive military doctrine that calls for extensive manpower to pacify dangerous regions. Special Forces operations rely heavily on intelligence and local bases from which to launch, assets that only a counterinsurgency campaign in the volatile regions of Afghanistan can provide. More importantly, surgical strikes exact a heavy toll on Afghan civilians. The inevitable cost of unmanned drone bombings is civilian deaths, which alienate the population and pose ethical concerns. The seeming cruelty of U.S. bombings creates tension be-

November 2009

tween soldiers and civilians while further spreading anti-Americanism. In addition, even successful missions usually fail to alter the dynamic between Afghan locals and Taliban thugs, who continue to terrorize villages. No More Delay The War Must Be Won The biggest challenge for Obama will be to strike a balance between an increased American presence and hostility toward further intervention. Doing so will largely depend on the attitude that both the administration and the soldiers themselves adopt. The Afghan people do not intrinsically loathe American soldiers. In fact, most prefer to interact with U.S. troops than with the Taliban. However, Afghans are tiring of failed promises and undue American aggression. Obama should therefore deploy Americans in tandem with local units and strengthen guidelines discouraging unnecessary loss of civilian life. Despite the growing quagmire, the fight in Afghanistan is not impossible to win. Karzai’s recent acquiescence to the Independent Election Commission’s call for a runoff election demonstrates that the Afghan government is responsive to third-party pressure. In his first speech since winning the election, President Karzai committed to “launch[ing] a campaign to clean the government of corruption.” Though unlikely to result in immediate reform, Karzai’s speech opens the door for guarded optimism. Obama must act decisively and approve a troop increase in Afghanistan. As McChrystal’s report confirms, “resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it.” Any inclusive approach requires more security and thus more resources. These commitments are a small price to pay compared to the potential dangers of a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan. Afp

David may be reached at


U.S. Foreign Policy

Vietnam Redux Avoiding Defeat in Afghanistan Alex Noriega ‘11


he war in Afghanistan, which flew under the radar after the quick and successful invasion by U.S. forces in 2001, has reappeared front and center on President Obama’s foreign agenda. The Vietnam-Afghanistan comparison has become a favorite topic of armchair politicians. Parallels between the conflicts certainly exist: the nature of warfare, the corrupt U.S.-backed regimes, and the wars’ unpopularity in the U.S. The question of whether Afghanistan is the new Vietnam, however, is irrelevant. The real challenge for policy makers is to examine the roots of their similarities in order to find a potential solution to the situation in Afghanistan. Two aspects of the Vietnam conflict are particularly relevant to Afghanistan today: American support for an unpopular regime and irresponsible reconstruction spending. A motivation for U.S. intervention in Vietnam was the desire to bolster America’s reputation as a champion of freedom and friend to democracy, yet the U.S. ended up sponsoring one of the most corrupt and authoritarian regimes in recent history. In 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem declared himself President of Vietnam after winning 600,000 out of 400,000 possible votes. He later won uncontested re-election after two candidates refused American bribes to stand in and create the appearance of legitimacy. Diem was eventually assassinated in a coup tacitly approved by the U.S. In sponsoring an authoritarian regime and later providing implicit support for a coup d’etat against it, the U.S. undermined the viability of subsequent governments and undercut the legitimacy of its intervention in Vietnam. Another U.S. goal, pacifying Vietnam through economic prosperity, also failed spectacularly. Billions of dollars were poured into Saigon at the expense of rural areas, the very places where American forces needed to win hearts and minds.


Traditional businesses were abandoned by Vietnamese civilians in favor of prostitution and drug trafficking. Key industries like agriculture were so woefully ignored by the administration that starting in 1965, South Vietnam actually became a rice importer. The situation in Afghanistan has similar characteristics. Both Afghanistan and Vietnam were distant, small, and impoverished nations that posed little external threat to the United States. The Karzai administration, like Diem’s, is plagued by corruption, fraudulent elections, and unpopularity. Both administrations depend-

“The U.S. should make a firm and credible threat to withdraw help in all forms if the Karzai administration continues to underperform.”

ed heavily on American aid, but openly defied American recommendations in order to avoid being branded puppet regimes. American airstrikes have killed many civilians in Afghanistan, in much the same way that Agent Orange devastated South Vietnam. Finally, like in Vietnam, narcotics production is a major industry in Afghanistan. After the 2001 invasion, Afghanistan quickly regained its status as the world’s largest opium producer. The main distinction between Vietnam and Afghanistan, one that is a bless-

American Foreign Policy

ing for the U.S., is the nature of the resistance. Ho Chi Minh was a charismatic figure fighting for national independence, a cause even his enemies found difficult to criticize. Had Diem not blocked the 1956 election out of fear of losing, Ho would have won by a landslide. The Taliban, however, do not enjoy similar support. Their tyrannical rule was widely unpopular, and their cruel treatment of women, bombing of public facilities, and use of schools as military barracks angered both ordinary Afghans and other extremist factions. The Obama administration can capitalize on the Taliban’s weakness and win the support of the Afghan people by delivering on nation-building promises. Economic and political failures are the main reasons that natives have turned to the Taliban. Afghanistan does not lack natural resources, foreign aid, or manpower. What it lacks is a competent government capable of using those resources. The U.S. should make a firm and credible threat to withdraw help in all forms if the Karzai administration continues to underperform. Critics may argue such a strategy will strengthen the Taliban, but history has shown that there is much more to be lost if the U.S. continues to be soft on the Afghan government. The Karzai administration, like that of Diem, could become completely dependent on the U.S., and yet remain unwilling to implement its advice. This would gradually give the Taliban even more momentum than they would gain from the U.S. cutting out Karzai today. Just as the Vietnamese frowned upon Kennedy’s “relief workers” program, Afghans will not trust nation-building efforts if every American is armed with an M16. In order to foster legitimacy for nationbuilding, the U.S. needs to focus on training Afghan forces to defend themselves. When Afghan forces are able to stabilize regions without significant American support, they will earn popular legitimacy and improve morale, both important developments for their long-term struggle with the Taliban. Training a primitive army like that of Afghanistan will be difficult, but this task is made easier by the Taliban’s unpopularity and the lessons the U.S. learned training the South Vietnamese security force. U.S. personnel must demonstrate respect, compassion, and a willingness to learn and understand the Afghan culture in order to succeed in their efforts. In hindsight, American foreign poli-

U.S. Foreign Policy

AFP Quiz Multiple Choice Monthly Dan May ’11 1. According to a recent Washington Post poll, what percentage of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan has been worth the cost? A. 10% B. 36% C 44% D. 53% 2. How much did the Spanish government pay Somali pirates for the release of a fishing ship and its 36 crew members in early November? A. $1.5 million B. $3.3 million C. $4.2 million D. $100 million

Photo from Flickr

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ed Franco plays with local refugee children in Dar Ul Aman, Kabul, Afghanistan, April 8, 2007, in support of a volunteer community outreach program. Photo from flickr

cies in Vietnam were incoherent and lacked a well thought-out strategy. The U.S. limped into Vietnam hoping for a quick victory, but as soon as that proved impossible, its entire agenda collapsed. Where the U.S. had clear goals, like winning hearts and minds, shoddy execution and an ignorance of local culture derailed them. The U.S. was fighting with scare tactics and hypocritical policies, which were exposed by a tough-minded and risk-tolerant opposition. For years, policy makers scrambled for quick fixes and honorable exits. President Obama must avoid these pitfalls by crafting a feasible long-term strategy in Afghanistan. Deploying more troops seems unsustainable. The U.S. will have to fight a war of attrition with the American public as its own worst enemy. The North Vietnamese were willing to risk an inordinate amount of casualties in order to achieve their objective, and the Taliban’s suicide bombings show that they are capable of the same. In contrast, Americans’ casualty aversion is simply too great for the U.S. military to play the same kind of game.

Deploying additional troops, even for security purposes, will merely lead to a vicious cycle of resistance and reinforcement. Consider that in order to protect ground troops, the U.S. relies heavily on air strikes from high altitude that inevitably affect civilians. Rising civilian hostility coupled with failed nation-building efforts strengthen the Taliban and embolden them to stage attacks against American installations, which then precipitate further troop increases and perpetuate the cycle. President Obama inherited a mess in Afghanistan but also an opportunity to right the course. He should reject the temptation to deploy more troops and instead focus on rebuilding the economic and political infrastructure of Afghanistan. Building a free and prosperous Afghanistan will undermine the reason for the Taliban’s existence and hopefully conclude the conflict with minimal loss of life. Afp

Alex may be reached at

November 2009

3. The White House recently expressed “dismay” over new settlement construction near which Israeli city? A. Jerusalem B. Tel Aviv C. Eilat D. Haifa 4. How many people did Iran’s government sentence to death this month for their role in the country’s post-election unrest? A. 0 B. 5 C. 25 D. 30 5. Conservatives criticized President Obama for bowing to which world leader early this month? A. The Dalai Lama B. Chinese President Hu Jintao C. U.S. Senator John McCain D. Japanese Emperor Akihito

Answers on page 19


U.S. Foreign Policy

The Long War Learning from the Parallels Jamie LaMontagne ‘11


fter months of deliberation and delay, the Iraqi Parliament has finally passed a new national electoral law, easing concerns that the United States might be forced to push back its intended August 2010 military withdrawal. With this final major obstacle to an American pullout dismissed, it is time for the U.S. to begin to make the most difficult of post-war ideological leaps: viewing Iraq as a normal state in its Near East policy calculations and not as a zone of conflict prioritized above all others. Moving forward, the U.S. should seek

to maintain a special relationship with the Iraqi government, but only to an extent that does not cloud perceptions of Iraq’s autonomy. There is real potential for an independent Iraq to help develop a more secure and stable Persian Gulf. To this end, the U.S. should adopt a policy of respectful support, steering Iraq towards general objectives, but ultimately remaining well above the fray of Iraqi national politics. Traditionally, the Persian Gulf had been a region of realpolitik power balancing, with Iraq, Iran, and the Arabian Peninsula dominating a tripolar sys-

tem. The U.S. invasion of Iraq destroyed this arrangement, and the continued U.S. military presence in a number of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations makes its return unlikely. A resurgent Iraq, however, could do much to reduce regional tensions, especially between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both of these nations have treated Iraq as somewhat of a proxy battlefield in recent years, supporting the Sunni and Shiite factions respectively in an effort to gain a friendly, rather than inimical, national neighbor. This contestation continues to destabilize the Persian Gulf and is detrimental to America’s broader regional agenda. Iraq’s great strategic value is its potential to mediate this tension; its strong religious ties with Iran and cultural ties with Saudi Arabia grant it a presence in both camps unmatched by any other country. To maximize this potential, the U.S. must begin to play a nuanced balancing game, allowing Iraq sufficient freedom to assert itself as an autonomous regional player, but remaining

An Iraqi army soldier poses for a picture with his weapon during a mission in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. Photo from flickr


American Foreign Policy

close enough to the country to influence and direct the repercussions of Iraq’s resurgence. Such a policy will be defined by three primary characteristics: the absence of U.S. involvement in Iraqi national politics, increased cooperation with the Iraqi government on a normalized international level, and American efforts to develop a strong relationship between Iraq and the GCC. It would be wise for the U.S. to avoid involvement in Iraqi national politics for two reasons. First, for Iraq to balance relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, both of those nations will have to trust in Iraq’s stability; unless those nations consider Iraq a credible threat and a credible ally, they will not enter a security framework dependent on it. Iraq can best prove its self-sufficiency by demonstrating an ability to solve its own domestic problems without foreign assistance. This will require the U.S. to sit responsibly on the sidelines of Iraqi politics. At times, doing so will be painful, but so long as a U.S. hand is seen to be steering Iraq, the rest of the region, especially Iran, will consider it an arm of the U.S. rather than an independent nation. For the U.S. to realize the potential benefits of a strong, internationally responsible Iraq, it must allow that nation to set and follow its own course. Second, staying out of Iraqi politics is a wise strategy in consideration of America’s broader diplomatic agenda. The U.S. needs credibility to deal effectively with Near Eastern governments, and even appearing to intervene in Iraqi politics would damage America’s ability to act as an honest broker. A perception of America as a hypocritical, imperialist hegemon that pursues its own interests in the Near East already exists among some in the Arab world. Future American attempts to re-involve itself in Iraqi politics would only exacerbate fears that the U.S. is the second coming of the British Empire. Such a development would undermine the American capacity to constructively support reform-minded political factions across the Near East. It would also enhance the credibility of the anti-American narratives propagated by Islamic extremist groups and terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda. Conversely, minimizing U.S. involvement in Iraq improves our credibility and strengthens our ability to promote peace and stability in the Near East. Detractors will argue that Iraq’s currently

U.S. Foreign Policy

weakened state makes its ascension to regional power a distant hope, and consequently, makes a hands-off American approach unwise. The U.S., however, is in the Persian Gulf for the long haul, and its Iraq policy needs to reflect a complementary level of strategic patience. At the same time, it is not in the interest of the U.S. to give Iraq free reign. To maintain the ability to indirectly influence Iraq, America should work to increase political, economic, and social ties between the two nations. Importantly, it should pursue these aims at a level of normalized international relations, just as the U.S. would with Germany, India, or Brazil. The benefits of such an approach are twofold, bringing Iraq and the U.S. closer,

“There is real potential for an independent Iraq to help develop a more secure and stable Persian Gulf...the U.S. should adopt a policy of respectful support.” while also improving Iraq’s international reputation. Strengthening economic and political ties with Iraq, the U.S. gains important leverage, giving it the ability to pressure the country outside of a military context. Social and cultural exchange programs, like encouraging Iraqi students to study in America, will also improve relations between the two nations. Strong ties between the U.S. and Iraq will allow American leaders to help shape future Gulf security relationships. They will also provide the U.S. with the option to call for Iraqi support on critical diplomatic issues, like slowing Iran’s quest for nuclear technology. It might seem logical at this point to contend that if the U.S. wants to manipulate Iraq in the future, it should simply remain as intimately tied to it as possible. Such an arrangement, however, would ul-

November 2009

timately limit Iraq’s value to the U.S., not increase it. Although American leaders could heavily employ Iraqi support on a few choice issues, Iraq’s ability to be a significant diplomatic actor on the regional and global stage would be severely diminished. The U.S. needs an Iraq that can lobby for it, but with the credibility of independence, not of a proxy. In the pursuit of such a future relationship, America should begin to afford Iraq the same respect that it would any responsible nation. Doing so offers a second benefit: when the U.S. treats Iraq as such the Iraqi government gains international prestige and the respect of other countries. This could do much to convince Iran and the GCC of Iraq’s autonomy and stability. Finally, in the case that Iraq returns successfully to the regional stage, but is prevented from playing a balancing role by an uncooperative Iran, the U.S. should work to ensure that Iraq aligns itself with the American-allied nations of the GCC. To this end, the U.S. should encourage its Arabian Peninsula allies to foster economic and political ties with Iraq, especially in areas of mutual interest, like counterterrorism. At the same time, however, the U.S. should not deter Iraq from developing a relationship with Iran. Currently, without a diplomatic presence, American Tehran-watchers are essentially blind; even if Iraq can offer the U.S. only a small and cloudy window into the Iranian mentality, it will still be a marked improvement on the status quo. The day is swiftly approaching when the U.S. will no longer be responsible for the day-to-day governing of Iraq. In consideration of this impending cleavage, it is time for American policymakers to begin considering the structure of a post-Iraq War Near East. The unique relationship the U.S. has developed with Iraq during its reconstruction will serve America well in the future, but the benefits of such a relationship can only be maximized if the U.S. is willing to treat Iraq as an autonomous international equal. If American leaders can smartly and efficiently make that transition, enduring peace in the Persian Gulf just may be attainable. Afp

Jamie may be reached at



Rio de Janeiro in BRAZIL wins the bid for the 2016 Olympics, defeating, among others, Chicago, when it will become the first South American city to host the games.

B: A series of retaliatory terrorist C: Abdullah Abdullah withattacks are launched by the Taliban in PAKISTAN leading to over 300 deaths. These attacks closely coincide with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit.

draws from the presidential election in AFGHANISTAN prior to the second round of run-offs citing concerns that the election could not be made fair. Consequentially, Hamid Karzai will begin his next 5-year term in December.


G: In talks with the United States H: In INDONESIA, just weeks

and other parties, IRAN agrees to permit inspection of a previouslyunknown nuclear facility near Qom. Further, it agrees in principle to a Russo-French proposal including fuel exchange provisions.


after 60 die in a magnitude-7.1 earthquake in Java, another 7.6-magnitude earthquake rocks the island of Sumatra, killing over 1100, and injuring at least another 1000.

American Foreign Policy

I: At Fort Hood, a UNITED

STATES Army post in Texas, Major Nidal Malik Hassan opens fire in a shooting. In this mass murder, Hassan kills 13 and wounds 30 before being gunned down. Notably, he survives.


Parliamentary elections in GERMANY result in victory for the traditional CDU/FDP coalition, resulting in the formation of a center-right government, which will continue to be headed by Angela Merkel as Chancellor.

E: In Baghdad, two successive

suicide bombings kill over 150 and injure over 700 people. The attacks are the deadliest to hit IRAQ in at least two years.

F: Barack Obama, the President of

the UNITED STATES, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The award is viewed with surprise by Obama and garners mixed reactions from observers.



becomes the last European Union member state to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon. The treaty will take effect on December 1st. Among its changes, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will become legally binding and the European Parliament gains increased power.

K: Amidst heightened tensions,

Hugo Chavez of VENEZUELA orders his country’s troops to prepare for war with neighboring COLOMBIA. Shortly before this announcement, 15,000 Venezuelan troops are moved to amass at the border.

November 2009

L: In BURMA, senior Foreign

Ministry official Min Lwin announces the existence of plans to release Nobel-laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, where she has spent 14 of the last 20 years. Despite this, no specifics or details are made known.


A sia

A New Japan Building Ties with the DPJ


ith an abundance of foreign events to capture our attention, Americans have largely overlooked the earth-shattering results of Japan’s August election. For only the second time since World War II, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost control of Japan’s Diet. Instead, 42.4% of the public chose to rally behind the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. His pledge to reverse Japan’s economic decline and reevaluate its longstanding partnership with the United States represents a dramatic shift from his staunchly pro-U.S. predecessors. Japan is an economically strong and politically valuable ally in East Asia because it shares U.S. interests in advancing human rights and disarming North Korea. Washington should therefore improve its relationship with Tokyo by cooperating on the countries’ shared policy goals, maintaining its commitment negotiate the presence of the U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, and supporting Japan’s aspirations to join the UN Security Council. At first glance, the DPJ victory would appear to put the U.S. at risk of losing one of its most reliable allies. Hatoyama advocates detaching Japan from the U.S. and its foreign conflicts, while remedying injured relations with neighboring countries. Realistically, the U.S. should expect less cooperation from Tokyo on a few key issues such as the Japanese Navy’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and maintaining a U.S. airfield on the island of Okinawa. Nonetheless, new directions in Japan’s foreign policy could prove beneficial for both countries in the long run. Under new leadership, Japan could assume a more active role in fostering sta-


Sam Norton ‘12 bility in East Asia by cultivating closer ties with other East Asian nations. According to Gilbert Rozman, a professor of sociology at Princeton University and an expert on Japan, Japan’s postwar foreign policy goals have been threefold. It has focused on maintaining the alliance with the U.S., developing positive relations with its neighbors, and acquiring a more significant role in international institutions such as the United Nations. In

“Under new leadership, Japan could assume a more active role in fostering stability in East Asia by cultivating closer ties with other East Asian nations.” the past, these policy goals tended to conflict, with one improving at the expense of the others. Such was the case over the last decade. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi prioritized strengthening ties to the U.S. by cultivating a close personal friendship with the former President George W. Bush and offering nonmilitary assistance to the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush reciprocated this friendship in 2006 by pledging support for Japan’s (ultimately unsuccessful) bid to acquire a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

American Foreign Policy

Japan pursued its relationship with the U.S. and a stronger role in the UN at the expense of distancing itself from its East Asian neighbors. Koizumi’s provocative acts, including visiting the Yasukuni Shrine—home to the graves of many leaders who have been judged as war criminals—angered China and South Korea. Growing Chinese nationalism spawned widespread anti-Japanese protests, fanned in part by a campaign undertaken by Koizumi and his successor that appeared to whitewash the Japanese army’s atrocities during World War II. It is in light of this troubled history that Hatoyama hopes to regain the favor of its East Asian neighbors. Japan’s neighbors welcomed his announcement that he will not visit Yasukuni. In light of Japan’s history and its important geopolitical position, President Obama should send a clear signal that Japan’s new focus on strengthening ties with its neighbors need not dent the friendship between the U.S. and Japan. That means reassuring Japan that the U.S. remains committed to disarming North Korea whose nuclear arsenal is a direct threat to Japan’s security. Hatoyama, along with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts, have recently urged the resumption of the Six Party Talks with North Korea, which also involve the U.S. and Russia. Obama, for his part, has levied sanctions against North Korea in response to its missile tests in April and has made continuation of the Six Party Talks a precondition for further bilateral negotiations. When it comes to political conflicts between the U.S and Japan, Obama will have to pick his battles. With the possibility of a troop surge in Afghanistan, the Japanese refueling mission is likely to remain an essential component of American military expeditions in the Middle East. The Okinawa base, on the other hand, is not as crucial to foreign missions. The nearby U.S.-controlled island of Guam offers a convenient alternative location that both serves U.S. purposes and satisfies the Japanese government. Recognizing the possibility for compromise, the military already has plans to shift some of its forces there beginning in 2014. Reaching

agreement on Okinawa may allow the U.S. to bargain for Japan’s continued commitment to assist the U.S.-led war on terror. Hatoyama’s recent pledge of $5 billion in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan suggests that he is willing to support the global security objectives of the U.S. Obama and Hatoyama can also strengthen their relationship by working together on international issues,

“A more assertive and neutral Japan can be positive for the U.S. as well as Japan.”


In Context Compiled by Tara Lewis ‘11

“This is not good, and very dangerous.”

-Bernard Kouchner, French foreign minister, commenting on f ailed meetings with Iran that rejected a deal to transfer a large part of Iran’s nuclear fuel to France and Russia to be refined.

“The United States does not seek to contain China, nor does a deeper relationship with China mean a weakening of our bilateral alliances.”

-President Obama during a town hall speech in Shanghai, trying to convince China that the U.S. is its supporter.

“We’ve put down our weapons and started building.”

-Ghulam Hohaiuddin, a farmer in Jurm, Afghanistan where residents are using grants available from the National Solidarity Program to increase the village’s access to clean water, healthcare and improve harvesting.

“Everyone should just shut up.”

- Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s President commenting on Afghanistan’s recent election.

such as human rights and climate change. The DPJ has vowed to slash Japan’s carbon emissions to 25% below 1990 levels in the next decade, a step up from previous targets. Such a cut could spur other developed nations to adopt similar measures, particularly the U.S., where Obama’s proposed cap and trade bill faces strong opposition in Congress. Collaborating on this initiative would reinforce the notion that Japan is a friend of the United States and thus alleviate the salience of anti-American sentiments espoused by the Japanese left. A more assertive and neutral Japan can be positive for the U.S. as well as Japan. The two states still have many historic, economic, and political connections, as well as shared policy outlooks regarding regional security threats, such as North Korea. The Obama administration should invest both the time and the political capital necessary to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance as part of its broader efforts to maintain East Asian stability and security. Afp

“If you want peace, you have to be ready for war.”

-Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan President, telling his military that if the U.S. provokes a conflict in Columbia, Venezuela must be prepared for war.

“I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he’s talking.”

-Alan Grayson, a Democratic Congressman from Florida on MSNBC, comparing former Vice President Cheney to a vampire after Cheney faulted President Obama for being indecisive about the war in Afghanistan.

“A nuclear bomb in the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and denies Israel the right to exist, is not acceptable.”

-Angela Merkel, newly reelected German Chancellor, speaking about issues of climate change, Iran, and Afghanistan during an address to the U.S. Congress in early November.

“We’re entitled to it.”

-T. Boone Pickens, financer and chair of BP Capital Management, commenting that U.S. energy companies deserve Iraqi oil contracts as reparation for the death of American troops in Iraq.

Sam may be reached at

November 2009


Middle East

Stopping the Settlements How U.S. Economic Leverage Can Help


eople have learned to live with it.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s recent statement regarding the violent conflict between Israel and Palestine alludes not only to the lack of progress from negotiations in recent months, but also to the partisan political moment into which President Obama’s administration has entered with regard to its policies in the Middle East. Lieberman’s comments suggest a lack of initiative within the Israeli government to work toward a lasting peace settlement; indeed, over the last few months, violent conflict surrounding the city of Jerusalem and the failure of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to articulate more than rhetorical support for a “two-state solution” have added to fears that the region has turned its back on negotiation. Most importantly, Israel’s continued settlement building in the West Bank has delegitimized its more conciliatory gestures and will impede negotiations until expansion is frozen. Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that President Obama and his Cabinet have shied away from addressing this ongoing crisis directly. The contradictory way in which the President has addressed Middle Eastern issues at various speaking engagements has led to a sense of confusion as to the extent to which he will support or reject recent Israeli stances. During his June 2008 appearance before the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group, then-Senator Obama assured the audience that his administration would continue to assist Israel to the tune of roughly $30 billion over the course of ten years – reaffirming a commitment from President George W. Bush. Furthermore, Obama insisted that the U.S. “must never force Israel to the negotiating table.” At his speech in Cairo a year later, however, President Obama condemned Israel’s continued expansion into the occupied territories, declaring that “it is


Christiana Renfro ‘13 time for these settlements to stop.” It is difficult to imagine how the president can expect settlement expansion to stop without pressing Israel to take part in any form of negotiations. President Obama’s relative reticence regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict presents him with an unprecedented opportunity to devise a specific and comprehensive policy in the coming months. Furthermore, two very recent events have left the Middle East a far more vulnerable region, which would make a resumption of active peace negotiations with an American presence all the more timely. First, in September, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued the

“If the U.S. really wants an end to settlement construction, it must be willing to withhold some material support from the Israeli government.”

so-called Goldstone Report, condemning Israeli actions within the Gaza strip during its offensive last winter. Although formally dismissed by both the Israeli government – Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to it as “a mockery of history” – and the United States Congress, its endorsement by the United Nations General Assembly suggests that the report will not be so easily set aside. Defenders of the report argue that it speaks to the extent of Israeli human rights violations in the Gaza strip, while its critics contend that it fails to fully address atrocities

American Foreign Policy

committed by Hamas. Yet, in holding both Israeli and Palestinian leaders accountable, the Goldstone Report has helped shed critical and objective light on the seemingly endless regional violence. Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the report has hurt his standing among many Arab nations in which he is usually viewed favorably, or at least more favorably than President Bush. If Obama wishes to attract Arab support for peace negotiations, he must speak publicly about – and in doing so legitimize - the report, even if he temporally weakens him politically. In another significant regional development, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas recently announced that he will not seek re-election in January 2010. Although the U.S. has regarded Abbas as a moderate in the region, his performance has been dissatisfactory to the Israeli leadership and to many Palestinians, who now criticize his wavering commitment to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas, the dominant political player within Gaza, has opposed his decision to hold presidential and parliamentary elections next year. Obama’s presence in talks or negotiations could determine whether a moderate or militant leader replaces Abbas. Yet with the elections looming, time is not on the President’s side. The nature of President Obama’s early forays into the Middle East will no doubt set the tone for his entire tenure in office. If his goal is nothing more than to continue supporting Israel at all costs, then little shift in policy from that of the previous administration is needed. If, however, his goal is to negotiate a peace settlement that will protect Israel’s sovereignty and security while creating a truly autonomous nation for the Palestinians, a more nuanced strategy is essential. The Obama administration has continuously wavered between pressing for an end to settlement construction in the occupied territories and accepting a resumption of peace talks while allowing the Israelis to continue construction. Yet until all settlement building ceases, negotiation will remain a dead-end as the “facts on the ground” continue to compromise Palestinian hopes for a state. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, the administration “wants to see a stop to settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.” The United States, unfortunately, has a history of empty threats against the Israeli government. If the U.S. really wants

Middle East

Palestinian farmers whose land lies next to an Israeli settlement outpost argue with Israeli soldiers. Photo from flickr

an end to settlement construction, it must be willing to withhold some material support from the Israeli government. In 1990, during the first Intifada, the Israeli government began building settlements at an unprecedented rate. James Baker and others in the first Bush Administration perceived these settlements as an obstacle to muchpublicized peace negotiations going on in Madrid at that time. The U.S. threatened to withdraw some financial support if the Israel government did not desist. Again in 1992, the United States refused to approve a $10 billion loan viewed by Israel as essential to meeting their increasing infrastructure demands. While this resulted in temporary bilateral tensions, the Israelis soon rejected then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s approach and elected more moderate leadership. The settlements were temporarily frozen, the peace negotiations went on, and the loan was eventually granted. The strategy employed by the Senior Bush administration did not result in a total halt in settlement construction, but the U.S. won considerable concessions by exploiting Israel’s financial dependence as bargaining leverage.

Some might argue that the cessation of all terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, mostly perpetrated by Hamas and the militant Shiite group Hezbollah, is the first necessary step to achieving a formal compromise in the region. Yet particularly since January, Hamas leadership has signaled a willingness to negotiate a cease-fire treaty with Israel and went on record in 2006 as agreeing to participate in talks working toward a two-state solution. While their recent concessions in no way compensate for their violent actions, they are a necessity to the peace process, and they must be brought to the table for their to be any hope of a lasting peace. Others claim that pressuring Israel to accept compromise will deter it from participating in formal peace negotiations. Yet the U.S. managed to win a temporary settlement freeze in the early 1990s that coincided with a series of secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). These clandestine talks resulted in Oslo I, the first attempt to synthesize a plan for both Palestinian autonomy and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories.

November 2009

The events of 1990-92, therefore, provide a viable model for the way in which President Obama can negotiate successfully with a Likud-controlled Israeli government. While the President certainly should not discard our history of cooperation with Israel, he must also take into account the degree to which Israeli survival depends on American financial support and our nation’s interest in maintaining stability in the Middle East as a whole. If President Obama wishes to encourage moderate Palestinian leadership and the renewal of negotiations, he must spend his political capital in a manner that reflects the true urgency of the region’s political situation and does not assume, as Mr. Lieberman says, that the region has “learned to live with” violent conflict. Afp

Christiana may be reached at


Middle East

A Right to Self-Defense The U.S. Should Oppose the Goldstone Report


fter enduring 8 years of attacks by over 12,000 Hamas rockets fired indiscriminately into Israeli villages, Israel finally retaliated in December of 2008. The Israeli military’s operation “Cast-Lead” sought to target and eliminate key terrorist leaders of Hamas. Almost immediately, newspapers and governments around the world published claims that Israel was using “disproportionate force” in this operation. The unequal death toll from the fighting—1000 Palestinians to 13 Israelis—led those inclined to anti-Zionism to accuse Israel of targeting civilians and committing war crimes. These charges failed to consider Israel’s unprecedented efforts to avoid civilian casualties. Israel released thousands of flyers and text messages warning Gazans to leave targeted areas and even called people on their cell phones telling them to evacuate potential bombing sites. For those who stayed in the affected areas, Israel sent food and medical equipment and continued to supply water and electricity. The responsibility for the tragic Palestinian death toll lies not with the Israel Defense Force but with Hamas. Hamas fired from ambulances and hospitals. Hamas stockpiled weapons in civilian buildings. Hamas used human shields. While Israel took care to save

Raffi Grinberg ‘12 as many innocent lives as possible, Hamas is guilty of using terrorist tactics and infringing upon numerous internationally accepted laws of warfare. Because Israel was justified in its defensive military operations against Hamas and because it took such strong measures to avoid civilian casualties, the U.S. should continue to support its ally in the face of international backlash against the conflict.

“Anti-Zionism and antiSemitism have been constant realities for Israel since its founding. Now more than ever is the time for the United States to stand firm in Israel’s defense.” Every country has a right to self-defense. In order for Israel to stop the barrage of rocket fire from the Gaza strip, it could not de-

fend itself on its own soil alone. Rather than risk massive Palestinian civilian casualties by firing its own rockets in response, Israel sent in ground troops to seek out terrorists within the Gaza Strip. Its force was the minimum necessary to defend itself. Unfortunately, because of Hamas’ human shield tactics, high numbers of Palestinians were killed. None of this evidence appears in United Nations Human Rights Council’s “Goldstone Report”, named for the South African head of the “Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.” The report accuses Israel of purposefully targeting civilians and of committing “crimes against humanity.” In addition to blatant fabrications (such as “there is no evidence that hospitals or ambulances were used for military activities” and “the amount of aid allowed into Gaza by Israel decreased after the end of the fighting”), the report ignores overwhelming evidence of the care Israel showed to Palestinian civilians. Instead, it accepts hearsay and anecdotal evidence from Palestinian eyewitnesses. The report does accuse Hamas of war conduct infractions, but these minor charges pale in comparison to the zeal with which the report criticizes Israel. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, “Although the report covers both sides of the conflict, it focuses overwhelmingly on Israel’s actions,” and Goldstone opted for “cookie-cutter conclusions about Israel’s actions, while keeping the deplorable actions of Hamas to generalized remarks.” Numerous publications, among them The Wall Street Journal and The Economist dismissed the report as strongly biased. The UN Human Rights Council, nevertheless, officially endorsed the report on October 16th. The Council includes representatives from such countries as China, Angola, Cuba, and other governments known for oppressive behavior. The vote to endorse the report passed by a margin of 25 to 6. The Israel must now acquiesce to “transparent” investigations of its military workings, and the Council has recommended that Israel face trial in the International Criminal Court. This decision has tremendous implications for Israel’s long-term self-defense. If the Council could find Israel guilty in this case, it could do so no matter how moral and civilian-conscious Israel’s campaigns to A Qassam rocket fired from a residential area in Gaza toward Southern Israel. Photo from flickr


American Foreign Policy

Middle East

The wreckage of an orphanage and mosque in Gaza after bombings by Israel. Photo by ISM Palestine / flickr

eliminate terrorists might be. Israel’s ability to defend itself from Hamas, Hezbollah, and other hostile neighbors will be severely diminished as long as the United Nations wields the threat to drag its generals in front of the International Criminal Court. Indeed, the greatest threat facing the United States’ strongest ally in the Middle East is being “pressured” out of the right to self-defense by the UN Human Rights Council. The Council’s decision displays transparent anti-Israeli bias. In response to an article in a widely read Swedish tabloid, which claimed that Israeli soldiers have been killing Palestinians in order to harvest and traffic their organs, the government-controlled press of many countries in the Middle East spent parts of the summer publishing cartoons depicting Jews killing Arabs to drink their blood. Among those countries on the blood libel bandwagon are Jordan and Qatar, who also serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council and voted for the Goldstone Report. Clearly, many of the countries

on the Council have an agenda other than the protection of human rights. This is not a sudden new international conspiracy to eliminate Israel and Middle Eastern Jewry; anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have been constant realities for Israel since its founding. Now more than ever is the time for the United States to stand firm in Israel’s defense. The United States’ permanent representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said, “We have long expressed our very serious concern with the mandate that was given by the Human Rights Council prior to our joining the council, which we viewed as unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.” The US was one of the six countries who voted against the Goldstone Report, and the House of Representatives recently passed a resolution denouncing the Report by an overwhelming margin of 344-36. Where has President Obama stood among all this? So far, he has reassured Israel that the Report’s impact will fade and

November 2009

requested that Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas drop his support for it. Abbas did, but then recanted due to pressure from the Palestinian people. Obama cannot afford another diplomatic failure like this in the Middle East. He needs to be clearer that when it comes to facing the threat against Israel, the United States is unwilling to compromise. He needs to rally worldwide support against the Goldstone Report—if enough countries cooperate, the Council’s influence will diminish. Obama needs to condemn the Human Rights Council and encourage the United Nations to better monitor it, if not shut it down altogether. Otherwise, the United States’ only stalwart ally and the only democracy in the Middle East may face further pressure from the Human Rights Council and other international anti-Zionists. Afp Raffi may be reached at


A sia

Obama and the Dalai Lama A New Turn in U.S.-China Relations?


n October 6th, President Barack Obama decided to put off a meeting with the Dalai Lama, who spent a week in Washington late last month. The occasion would have marked the first meeting between President Obama and the Tibetan spiritual leader. Instead, for the first time in eighteen years, the Dalai Lama visited Washington and did not meet with the President. Analysts in Washington were surprised that Obama deferred meeting with the spiritual leader, and his critics on the right harshly criticized him for doing so. President Obama’s decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama indicates a broader shift in U.S. foreign policy in East Asia. After successfully hosting the Olympics last summer and improving its relationship with Taiwan, China is gaining power and influence and is now a member of the honorary “G2”—the ever-shrinking elite group of superpowers whose only other member is the United States. The Obama administration is working with a new—and potentially more dangerous—China and has calculated that the best way to maintain strong ties with the emerging power is to downplay the issue of Tibet and human rights concerns more generally. As part of this broader policy, Obama put off his visit with the Dalai Lama at least until after he meets with Chinese President, Hu Jintao. The China-Tibet conflict has been a critical human rights and international relations issue for decades. China claims that Tibet has been part of its territory for four centuries, while Tibetans argue that they have been effectively independent for most of their history and possess their own distinct culture and ethnicity. These contentions turned into violent conflict last year during the Beijing Olympics, when a series of anti-Chinese protests broke out in Tibet. The issue even led to worldwide confrontations between pro-Tibetan and proChinese demonstrators in Paris, London, and San Francisco. The U.S. government, as the leading advocate for human rights in the international community, responded to this incident by urging China to respect “the fun-


Hyun Sun Suh ‘12 damental and universally recognized rights” set out in the Geneva Conventions. The United States has generally taken a strong stance against violations of human rights in China. Former President George W.

“As long as the U.S. reamins beholden to China to finance its large national debt, China will have strong leverage over the U.S. on other crucial issues like human rights.” Bush awarded the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal in the face of repeated warnings from China, making clear the United States’ support for the ideals of autonomy

and freedom. But while Bush unwaveringly supported the expansion of democracy and human rights across the globe, Obama has proven willing to subordinate these ideals to shorter-term concerns. So given China’s meteoric rise to world power, Obama sees a more practical need to win China’s support for crucial economic and environmental policies. But many in the U.S. rightly oppose this controversial policy shift. Indeed, Obama’s choice to avoid a meeting with the Dalai Lama was harshly criticized at home, especially on the right. Commentators have argued that the Dalai Lama’s visit symbolizes the U.S. influence in the realm of human rights. They claim that by shunning the spiritual leader Obama has demonstrated a lack of concerns for human rights issues, particularly in powerful states like China. More generally, critics claim that the United States has become too economically dependent on China, and therefore too susceptible to China’s demands. In the current economic climate, this criticism may be the most salient. The economic downturn has created a delicate situation in which the U.S. struggles with national recession while China funds large fiscal deficits by buying U.S. treasury bills. As long as the U.S. remains beholden to China to finance its large national debt, China will have strong leverage over the U.S. on other crucial issues like human rights. Unsurprisingly, the postponement of Obama’s visit has done nothing to ease tensions between the Chinese government and the Tibetan leader. Chinese foreign ministry

The Dalai Lama speaks at Geelong Arena in Australia on June 11, 2007. Photo from flickr

American Foreign Policy

Asia spokeswoman Jiang Yu said recently that the White House should not allow the Dalai Lama to engage in separatist activities in the U.S. and called the Dalai Lama a “wolf in monk’s robe.” In response, the Dalai Lama accused China of “acting like a child” and claimed his visits are anything but political. He added that he only sought genuine autonomy for Tibetans in China. Compromises are an inevitable aspect of policymaking. In choosing to put off his meeting with Dalai Lama, Obama had to decide which foreign policy agenda was more important: pursuing human rights or cultivating a stronger relationship with Beijing. From a realist outlook, a nation acts rationally in pursuit of relative power; if China is steadfast in its policies toward human rights, pandering to them will not change their stance. Furthermore, if the U.S. yields to China’s demands it could give an unwarranted impression in the long-term as kowtowing to both U.S. voters and China itself. President Obama is known for his diplomacy and commitment to peace. He should have used this skill for diplomacy to convince Chinese officials that the Dalai Lama’s visit

was irrelevant to U.S.-China relations or perhaps even beneficial in resolving China’s conflict with Tibet. The Dalai Lama has historically maintained his role as a religious figure and not assumed a political position during his visits to the White House. The Dalai Lama has visited Washington ten times over the past eighteen years with no adverse affects on U.S.China relations. President Obama should have pointed this out in defending the visit rather than acceding to Chinese interests on the issue. China now has a powerful voice in international affairs that U.S. should not ignore. And though prudence is a desirable approach in politics sticking to the one’s belief and ideals is equally important. In the wake of his postponed visit with the Dalai Lama, Obama must maintain a balance between these two competing goals. He must not be afraid to stand on principle, even when it has short-term costs in international politics. Afp Hyun may be reached at

AFP Quiz Answers Multiple Choice Monthly 1. According to a recent Washington Post poll, what percentage of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan has been worth the cost? C. 44% 2. How much did the Spanish government pay Somali pirates for the release of a fishing ship and its 36 crew members in early November? B. $3.3 million 3. The White House recently expressed “dismay” over new settlement construction near which Israeli city? A. Jerusalem 4. How many people did Iran’s government sentence to death this month for their role in the country’s post-election unrest? B. 5 5. Conservatives criticized President Obama for bowing to which world leader early this month? D. Japanese Emperor Akihito

The Dalai Lama makes an appearance in Berlin, Germany. Photo from flickr

November 2009


Grasping at Straws?

Get a hold of the issues at

AFP November 2009  

AFP's November 2009 Issue focuses on Afghanistan and the President's new strategy for the long persistent insurgency.

AFP November 2009  

AFP's November 2009 Issue focuses on Afghanistan and the President's new strategy for the long persistent insurgency.