Note: The conference is now over. Check back again soon for a full video. In the meantime, you can access the segments that have aired on C-SPAN here.
This morning, The American Conservative, in conjunction with The American Prospect and the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at George Washington University, is convening many of the best foreign policy minds to sketch out a new foreign policy consensus, one fit to the challenges of the post-9/11, post-Afghanistan and Iraq wars world. For those unable to join the discussion in person at George Washington University, please join us on this thread, which I will updating throughout the conference. As the conference unfolds in the stream embedded above, please also join us in the comments below. For those on Twitter, please use the hashtag #newconsensus to participate in the conversation there.
8:30am Introduction: Charles L. Glaser, George Washington University Institute for Security and Conflict Studies and Daniel McCarthy, The American Conservative
8:45am Threats and Responses: How the U.S. can maintain stability in the long term without war.
- Daniel Drezner, Washington Post and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
- William S. Lind, The American Conservative
- Matthew Duss, Center for American Progress and The American Prospect
- Daniel Larison, The American Conservative
9:45am The Case for Restraint: Barry R. Posen, MIT Security Studies Program, author of Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy.
11:15am National Security State Overreach and Reform: Reclaiming civil liberties in the aftermath of the War on Terror.
- Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
- Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel
- Adam Serwer, MSNBC.com
- Samuel Goldman, The American Conservative and George Washington University
12:15pm Political Realities: Prospects for realism and reform in the Republican and Democratic parties.
- John B. Judis, The New Republic
- Michael Cohen, Century Foundation
- Christopher A. Preble, Cato Institute
- Robert W. Merry, The National Interest
1:15pm Closing remarks: Maisie Allison, The American Conservative
The conversation will continue in the coming weeks thanks to our partners at Bloggingheads. Join us!
8:39: Charles Glazer opens the conference, noting that this conference “could not have come at a better time.”
8:44: TAC editor Daniel McCarthy takes the stage, declares this “a moment of profound reorientation in our country,” on the political and policy level. The past weeks have seen the foreign policy establishment hold conferences echoing their same consensus. This conference forges a new consensus that is wiser, more realistic, and better suited to the challenges of the day. Read More…
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, has recently overtaken the major Iraqi city of Mosul, causing an exodus of more than 500,000 that took some of Iraq’s last remaining Christians with it. The city itself, mentioned in the Bible as Nineveh, has harbored Christianity since the very dawn of its tradition and was one of the last havens for Iraqi Christian communities.
Despite these deep roots, past U.S. policy has ignored the vulnerable position of Christians in the Middle East. Andrew Doran wrote a strikingly prescient piece for TAC almost exactly one year ago, saying:
[D]emocracy in the Middle East is proving less tolerant than the regimes it has succeeded. Unless swift action is taken, these democracies will evolve into bastions of intolerance and violence beyond our comprehension. These democracies will not march ineluctably toward liberty and pluralism, as some naïve optimists continue to forecast despite the evidence, but will end in the ordered barbarism of Saudi Arabia, where punishments include beheading and crucifixion[.]
As it so happens, ISIS is the jihadist organization renounced by al-Qaeda for its brutality. Maliki’s abusive government, propped up by $20 billion in American aid, allowed Mosul to be claimed with alarming ease. One CNN article reports that “[p]olice and soldiers ran form their posts rather than put up a fight, abandoning their weapons as they went. The militants took their place in the city’s boulevards and buildings.” Marc Lynch of the Washington Post argues that the Iraqi military isn’t resisting is because Maliki has lost its loyalty:
The most important answers lie inside Iraqi politics. Maliki lost Sunni Iraq through his sectarian and authoritarian policies. His repeated refusal over long years to strike an urgently needed political accord with the Sunni minority, his construction of corrupt, ineffective and sectarian state institutions, and his heavy-handed military repression in those areas are the key factors in the long-developing disintegration of Iraq.
If ISIS succeeds, the regnant regime will be the “ordered barbarism” Doran foretold. In the hierarchy of a new caliphate, there will be no room for diversity or religious tolerance; there will no longer be any room for Christianity. According to a World magazine report, most of the Christians, so long a presence in Mosul, have already been driven out:
“Ninety-nine percent of the Christians have left Mosul,” pastor Haitham Jazrawi said today following the takeover of Iraq’s second largest city—and its ancient Christian homeland—by al-Qaeda-linked jihadist militants.
Catholic Archbishop Amil Shamaaoun Nona is reported to have said that the decline has been occurring since the U.S.-led campaign began. “In 2003 there were still 35,000 faithful living in Mosul,” Nona said. “Three thousand were still there in early 2014. Now probably not one is left here, and that is tragic[.]” According to Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute notes that, once the Christians are gone, they may not be coming back:
When the army does eventually succeed in reversing jihadi control in Mosul, it may be too late for the Christians. Once Middle Eastern Christians flee to the West, they don’t return.
Of course it isn’t yet clear what Eric Cantor’s stunning and decisive defeat at the hands of an unknown challenger with one twentieth the campaign funds means for the direction of the House GOP. On domestic issues, including immigration, Cantor has been a chameleon—an establishment figure, a reformer, a “young gun,” a Tea Party insurgent with legislative tactician skills, a supporter of immigration reform (aka amnesty), and then a professed opponent of the same immigration reform. (I should note there was a time, in the 1990s, when immigration “reform” meant tightening the borders and tinkering with the legal immigration system so it was more skills-based, less based on “your brother’s wife got in a few years ago, so you are now eligible for a visa.”) The only ads I’ve seen from David Brat, the surprising victor, attacked Cantor’s readiness to hang out with big-money immigration boosters (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) while ignoring the labor market and wage impact large-scale immigration has for voters in his district.
One issue wasn’t talked about, though I wonder if it subliminally registered with some anti-Cantor voters. Cantor in 2010 more or less presented himself as Bibi Netanyahu’s congressman. Newly elevated by the GOP House takeover as the incoming majority leader, he held a private meeting with the Likud leader at the New York Regency. No other Americans were present; Netanyahu was joined by Israel’s ambassador and national security advisor.
It was a tense time in American-Israeli relations: the Obama administration was pushing hard for progress on peace talks and trying to get Israel to stop expanding settlements on the West Bank during the negotiations, an idea vigorously resisted by Israel’s government. During the meeting, Cantor gave Netanyahu assurances that the House would have his back in any showdown with the Obama administration. The Republicans, he told Bibi, “understand the special relationship” and would obstruct American initiatives which made Israel uncomfortable. Ron Kampeas, a veteran and centrist observer of U.S.-Israeli relations, said he could not “remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.” So Cantor was, in his way, making history.
The ties to Israel made Cantor popular in the GOP caucus. Cantor could raise money more easily than other southern congressmen—from pro-Israel billionaires, for example—and spread it around. Sheldon Adelson poured millions into his PAC. Cantor knew his way around the Regency.
More recently, Cantor has spearheaded House opposition to Obama’s negotiations with Iran, speaking frequently of Iran in terms that echo Netanyahu. His Mideast positions track completely with Likud’s, whether it be aid to the Syrian rebels or aid to Egypt after the Sisi coup. He may be hard to pin down domestic issues, one day a moderate, another a hard rightist, but he is always a hawk—whether it be Ukraine or Syria or Iran, he will be a force pushing the most belligerent policies.
I wonder if this registered in the district in some ways. Pat Lang, of the interesting Sic Semper Tyrannis blog, meditated on Cantor (his congressmen) several years ago, wondering whether this sophisticated Richmond lawyer was a natural fit for a district that trends barbecue. Some have pointed to an ethnic angle, which could well be a factor. But it may be simply that conservative southern Republicans are beginning to get tired of neocons telling them they have to prepare to fight another war. Antiwar Republican Walter Jones won his North Carolina primary earlier this spring, standing strong against a major media assault by Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel. Now, in an election result that stunned political observers more than anything that happened in their lifetime, Cantor goes down before an underfunded Tea Party candidate.
We’ll see what happens with David Brat, but he’s already made history.
On June 17, The American Conservative will convene leading thinkers from across the political spectrum at George Washington University for a wide-ranging conversation about American foreign policy after the War on Terror.
The goal of the New Internationalism conference is to address America’s role in the world after Afghanistan and Iraq, and to discuss alternative visions for protecting America’s core security and economic interests in the new global framework.
The American Conservative and our co-sponsors The American Prospect and the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at GW will build on the emerging consensus that favors prudence, the rule of law, and diplomacy. We hope you can join us!
For more information and to register, visit theamericanconservative.com/newinternationalism. The event schedule is after the jump:
It’s conniption time on Capitol Hill, as the Obama administration is demonstrating quietly there will be at least some consequences for stonewalling the administration’s effort actually to forge, or at least begin to forge, a two-state peace settlement in Israel-Palestine. The first shoe to drop was a State Department spokesperson’s almost passive acknowledgement that no, the United States is not going to cut off all relations with the Palestinian Authority because of its efforts to heal its breach with Hamas by forming a unity “technocratic” government.
Israel has been complaining loudly, along with its allies in Congress. Its stated objections are two-fold: Hamas rejects the two state solution, and in many of its public statements, calls for the end of Israel; Hamas has committed terrorist acts against Israeli civilians, particularly in late 1990s as the Oslo process was winding down.
These are obviously serious issues: there won’t be a two-state solution if the Palestinian side doesn’t seek one, with all the recognition of Israel’s permanence that such a solution implies. But wait a second. The United States has obviously been willing to deal with Israel’s government—more than deal with it, subsidize it, treat it as a valued strategic ally, etc.—despite the fact that Israel’s Likud Charter calls for Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank, and Israel’s government includes ministers who themselves are sworn enemies of the two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s election platform called explicitly for there to be no Palestinian state on the West Bank and for exclusive Israeli control over Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s coalition partner Naftali Bennett has long called for Israeli annexation of most of the West Bank, perhaps leaving the Palestinian towns as “self-governed” bantustans. If the congressmen now jumping up and down about the inclusion of Hamas “technocrats” in a unity Palestinian government raised any objection when an Israeli government included ministers calling for annexation of the West Bank and no Palestinian state, they did so very quietly.
Terrorism is also a serious issue. But, sad to say, there are many leaders and factions in the Mideast who have engaged in terrorism, including, of course former Israeli prime ministers and Likud leaders Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Beyond the Mideast, IRA leaders are welcome in Washington, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. If they seek them, Palestinians can find numerous precedents for the evolution from terrorist to freedom fighter to venerated statesman.
We are left to acknowledge the beginnings of a real breach between American policies and those of Israel. American politicians will deny it: John Kerry has said again and again, there must be “no daylight” between Washington and Israel—Kerry reiterated the phrase just last year. But the phrase has begun to sound false, more and more like the ritualistic protests of a couple on the way to a break-up. Read More…
“We needed to get him out of there, essentially to save his life.” So said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, an Army sergeant in Vietnam, of Barack Obama’s trade of five hard-core Taliban leaders at Guantanamo for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a Taliban prisoner for five years. The trade speaks well of America’s resolve to leave no soldier behind. And the country surely shared the joy of Bergdahl’s family on learning their son was alive and coming home. But this secret swap, as well as the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture and captivity, are likely to further polarize our people and poison our politics.
First, the price the Taliban extorted from us is high. We could be seeing these killers again on a battlefield after their year’s detention in Qatar. Other Americans may have to suffer and perhaps die for our having freed these five from Guantanamo. Taliban leader Mullah Omar is proclaiming a “big victory” over the Americans, and it is a morale boost for the Taliban we are fighting. As for the Afghan government, it was kept in the dark. The message received in Kabul must be: The Americans are taking care of their own, cutting deals behind our back at our expense, packing up, going home. We cannot rely on them. We are on our own.
But as for the claim that we “never negotiate with terrorists,” it is not as though we have not been down this road before. During Korea, we negotiated for a truce and return of our POWs with the same Chinese Communists who had tortured and brainwashed them. During Vietnam we negotiated for the return of our POWs with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong who massacred 3,000 civilians in Hue in the Tet Offensive. Jimmy Carter negotiated with the Ayatollah’s regime to get our embassy hostages out of Iran. The Iran-Contra scandal was about Ronald Reagan’s decision to send TOW missiles secretly to Iran, for Iran’s aid in getting hostages released by Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Bibi Netanyahu today insists that America not recognize a new Palestinian government that includes Hamas, for Hamas is a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction. Yet Bibi released 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in 2011, many of them guilty of atrocities, in exchange for a single Israeli soldier held by Hamas in Gaza, Pvt. Gilad Shalit. Yasser Arafat, Menachem Begin, and Nelson Mandela were all once declared to be terrorists heading up terrorist organizations—the PLO, the Irgun, and the ANC. And all three have something else in common: All became winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.
One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Today’s terrorist may be tomorrow’s statesman. The remains of Lenin and Mao rest in honor in their capitals. Jomo Kenyatta, founding father of Kenya, was once the chieftain of the Mau Mau. When it comes to negotiating with domestic hostage-takers, do we not, along with training SWAT teams to take them out, train men to negotiate with them? How many of us, with a family member held by a vicious criminal demanding ransom, would refuse to negotiate? Yet, if those released Taliban are indeed “hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans … on their hands,” as John McCain charges, why were they not prosecuted and punished like the Nazis at Nuremberg?
America has sent a message to its enemies by trading five war criminals for Sergeant Bergdahl: The nation with a preponderance of the world’s hard power has a soft heart. And though America rejoiced with the parents of Sergeant Bergdahl this weekend, other troubling issues have begun to be raised. Read More…
With his address at West Point, President Obama succeeded where all his previous efforts had failed. He brought us together. Nobody seems to have liked the speech. A glance shows that the New York Times and Washington Times, the Financial Times and Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal were all disappointed with it. As was said of one of Harding’s addresses, it was “an army of pompous phrases marching across the landscape in search of an idea.” What Obama has is less a foreign policy doctrine than a foreign policy disposition. He is a reluctant interventionist.
He got us out of Iraq and is taking us out of Afghanistan. Yet he was pushed into a war on Libya that turned out disastrously and is now dipping his toe into what he has called “somebody else’s civil war” in Syria. Still, Obama’s foreign policy is not going to be judged on what he said, but what he did and failed to do. The same holds for the Beltway hawks, now so harsh on Obama, who once whooped it up for George W. Bush.Perhaps it is time to review the respective records.
After America backed him in going after al-Qaeda after 9/11, Bush, on a triumphal high, invaded Iraq. Soon we were mired in the two longest wars in our history. America responded by evicting Bush’s party from leadership of both houses of Congress and the White House in 2008. And what did we miss out on by not electing John McCain?
McCain would have put us into the Russo-Georgian war over South Ossetia. He would have bombed Iran’s nuclear sites. We would still have troops in Iraq. He would have bombed Syria. He would have sent weapons to Kiev to oust the Russians from Crimea and crush the pro-Russian militias in the Donbass. He would be pushing for membership in NATO for Ukraine and Georgia, so the next time there was a dust-up with Putin’s Russia, we could be right in the thick of it.
As for Obama’s foreign policy, while the think tanks and media elite regard it as vacillating and weak, the people who gave him two electoral victories seem generally to approve. Broadly speaking, Americans are delighted our soldiers are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. They were passionately opposed last August to U.S. action in Syria. They dislike Iran, but like that the president is negotiating with Iran. Thus, whoever persuaded Obama to send TOW antitank missiles to the Syrian rebels and train and arm them may end up responsible for his worst foreign policy blunder. For we are now extending and broadening a Syrian war that has left 150,000 dead. And we have become de facto allies of both the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the more extreme Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which is carving out a caliphate from Aleppo to Anbar.
President Obama declared years ago that Assad must go. But has he thought through who rises when Assad falls? Read More…
Oddly enough, I have few large professional regrets, things I really wish I had done differently. But there are many small ones. Here’s one. Sometime in TAC‘s first year, perhaps even before we published our first issue, I don’t recall exactly, I got a call from an associate of Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean Marie, leader of the French Front National. She would be in Washington in a day or two—was I free for lunch? As it happened, I wasn’t really. There were some complicated personal matters at home, I was commuting back and forth to New York, and hadn’t planned to be in DC that day.
But I also wasn’t that eager. I thought that Jean Marie Le Pen was getting a bit of bad rap by being labeled an anti-Semite, if not a fascist, all of the time. But I was aware of some of the things he had said which could well give that impression, and was also aware that I wasn’t paying much attention to France in those days, and that if I was, I might agree with the charge.
So did I want to have lunch? Not really. There might be some requests for favorable coverage, or overtures towards linking TAC to the general European populist (or far) right. I didn’t feel TAC was far right, and didn’t want to give anyone that impression. Much as I was curious to meet Marine Le Pen, there were good reasons (besides my personal ones) for not rearranging my schedule. I replied that regrettably, I would be out of town.
Marine Le Pen has for years now succeeded her father as head of the National Front, the party which has—in the limited but far from unimportant elections for the European Parliaments, scored higher than any party in France, besting the ruling socialists, besting the center-right parties. Marine Le Pen has changed the FN’s image, modernized it, softened it, without repudiating her garrulous father, whom she always refers to publicly as “Jean Marie Le Pen.” Generally speaking the Front National is the French anti-immigrant party—the one that worries about whether a multicultural society with an expanding and pious Muslim minority is really possible or desirable. I think this is a reasonable argument to make, though difficult to carry off without attracting racists and bigots and turning the party into something potentially worse than the perceived problem. I suspect that vast majorities of Frenchmen would agree with the FN’s premise: De Gaulle, who once said that trying to hold on to French Algeria would ensure that his village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises would become Colombey-les-Deux-Mosques, almost certainly would.
Marine Le Pen’s argument is buttressed by the fact that none of the “mainstream” French parties showed the slightest desire to protect the values and interests of the French who were troubled by mass immigration. The center-right of Sarkozy campaigned on a fierce law and order line, but failed to stem France’s rising crime rate. And mass immigration—if it produced some discomfiture about public prayer, or rising crime, or complicated governmental services—also was a symbol of the larger issue, loss of nationhood, loss of sovereignty over the French space. The steady rise in power of the Brussels bureaucracy and the European Union gave the FN another issue to campaign about—though it might have been essentially the same thing: globalization. The FN and Marine Le Pen were opposed. For France’s elites, membership in “Europe”, even at the expense of France’s currency and control of borders, was considered a closed question and certainly not one to be put before the French people. Read More…
Memorial Day will likely bring alarmist headlines in the elite media about a populist fever raging in Europe, and manifest in the shocking returns from the elections for the European Parliament. Marine Le Pen’s National Front may run first in France, and Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party first in Britain. What is happening in Europe?
In his unpublished Leviathan and Its Enemies, my late friend Sam Francis wrote of the coming crisis of the “soft managerial state,” of which the European Union is a textbook example. Oswald Spengler used the word “Civilization” to describe “the terminal phase of a cultural organism,” wrote Francis. In 1941, Pitirim Sorokin described the characteristics of a Spenglerian “Civilization”:
[C]osmopolitanism and the megalopolis vs. ‘home,’ ‘race,’ ‘blood group’ and ‘fatherland’; scientific irreligion or abstract dead metaphysics instead of the religion of the heart; ‘cold matter-of-factness’ vs. reverence and tradition and respect for age; internationalist ‘society’ instead of ‘my country’ and state (nation); money and abstract values in lieu of earth and real (living) values; ‘mass’ instead of ‘folk’; sex in lieu of motherhood … and so on.
Between the managerial state and the civilization and culture that preceded it, the polarities are stark. Yet they mirror the clashes of today as the European Union of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s vision exhibits unmistakable symptoms of disintegration and decay. In a way, this is remarkable. For undeniably the rise of the EU has coincided with an unprecedented rise in the standard of living for the hundreds of millions from the Atlantic to the Baltic and from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. Still, though Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Parliament of man” and “Federation of the world” captured the imagination of 19th-and 20th-century one-worlders, the dream has proven incapable of capturing the hearts of European peoples. Who would die for the Brussels bureaucracy?
What are the identifying marks of these populist parties that have sprouted up now in almost every European country? There is first the rejection of universalism and transnationalism, and a reversion to patriotism and its songs, symbols, holidays, history, myths, and legends. To peoples such as these, the preservation of the separate and unique ethnic and cultural identity of the nation supersedes all claims of supranational organizations, be it the EU or UN. This sentiment is reflected not only in fierce resistance to further integration within the EU, but in visceral hostility to further immigration from the Third World, Islamic world, or Eastern Europe. These people want to remain who and what they are. Even the Swiss last winter voted for an initiative of the People’s Party calling for reintroduction of quotas for immigrants from the EU.
A second telltale sign of the new populism is traditionalism and cultural conservatism, reverence for the religious and cultural history and heritage of the nation and its indigenous people. That victory in the recent Eurovision contest of Conchita, the bearded transvestite drag queen who performed in a gown, though celebrated by much of the European press, sent a message to millions of traditionalists that this is no longer their culture. Read More…
A self-provoked crisis in Ukraine (if the United States hadn’t sponsored a coup there, there wouldn’t be a crisis), a horrific civil war in Syria with no sign of ending soon, kidnapped girls in Nigeria, anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam. These all falling within a span of glorious late spring days on eastern Long Island, where bright sunlight begins to peep under and around the shades at 5:30 in the morning. It feels almost ominous, this contrast between the almost unspeakable natural beauty here and horrors abroad.
The Iran negotiations, a critical subject of the late fall and early winter, are reaching a pivotal point. The Obama administration won a major victory in January, with an assist from grassroots peace and arms-control groups, gaining the right to negotiate with Iran on terms which could conceivably succeed—i.e. terms which acknowledged that some part of Iran’s nuclear enrichment cycle would be retained. AIPAC backed off from legislation designed to scuttle the negotiations.
But of course the negotiations themselves, even without pro-Israel senators trying to ensure their failure, are fraught with difficulties. Iran may not want to have a nuclear weapon, but it pretty clearly wants to be a nuclear threshold state, with the ability to build a nuclear weapon if it felt seriously threatened. It has been invaded by Iraq and is constantly menaced by Israel and America, and it is hard to see why any Iranian foreign policy analyst would think that the potential for building a bomb wouldn’t give it a deterrence it might someday need. On the other hand, Obama and John Kerry would surely find it easier to sell to Congress and the American people a deal where Iran has no more than a symbolic uranium enrichment capacity. I suspect that a common ground can be found, but it is difficult. Iran has its own hardliners, reluctant to negotiate away any of Iran’s nuclear program. It also has vested interests who would welcome intensified confrontation with the West, which would help them domestically. The latest round of talks in Geneva, where some hoped that progress towards drafting a comprehensive agreement would begin, showed very large gaps remaining.
Meanwhile, there are outside actors, both positive and negative. On the negative side, Washington-based foes of any Iran deal were only provisionally set back in January. Israel continues to oppose any deal that will give Iran enrichment capacity, and Republicans will oppose any deal that gives Obama a meaningful foreign affairs accomplishment. That’s a potent combination on Capitol Hill, which is why the progress of the Corker amendment—originally attached to the kind of pro-Israel legislation that Congress passes without debate—bears watching. If it is brought to the Senate floor and voted on (which by some accounts may happen this week), it will give Congress the right to hold a “vote of disapproval” within days of any signed agreement with Iran. The purpose, it would seem, is to give the Israeli government power to weigh in on the negotiations, which it has always strongly disapproved of. A snap vote that the combined forces of the Israel lobby and the GOP would certainly win, generating national headlines like “Iran deal DOA in Congress” and the like, even though the amendment is constructed to not give Congress the power to block the deal formally. Read More…