Foreign Policy

McCain’s responsibility for the fake Chinese military parts crisis

U.S. Senators like John McCain understandably have been alarmed to discover that at least one million counterfeit parts – most coming from China – now permeate American weapons and other military systems.  And commendably, they have pledged to deal with a threat that’s been a matter of public record for more than a year and a half, when the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security issued a detailed report on the subject.

But if McCain in particular wants to understand why the armed forces have become so dangerously compromised, he should start by looking in the mirror.  For McCain has long been a major obstacle to Congressional efforts to require that U.S. military products be made mainly of American-manufactured parts, components, and other inputs. 

Moreover, for even longer, McCain has enthusiastically supported the U.S. trade policies that have encouraged the American electronics industry and other high-value U.S. manufacturers to offshore so much production, so many jobs, and lately so much research and development to geopolitically unreliable countries – principally China.


The domino theory of the European economic crisis

A new economic domino theory is hitting Europe. During the cold war, the U.S. was concerned that if one country in a region turned to communism, others in the region would follow. Today, a new domino theory is here and it may be even more dangerous. 


Responsibility to protect in North Korea

Recently released images from Reuters Alertnet corroborate the testimonies of tens of thousands of North Korean refugees and the United Nations – innumerable people are dying of starvation in North Korea at this moment. So what must be done?
In order to faithfully answer this question, it is necessary first to understand the genocidal nature of the DPRK system.
Blaming poverty or natural disasters for the DPRK's humanitarian catastrophe is a dangerous misnomer. Former Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn stated unequivocally in his sixth and final report to the General Assembly that North Korea, which has the largest per capita army and the highest military expenditures according to Gross Domestic Product in the world, was by no means poor.

He made clear that the country has the means at its disposal to feed the people and that the real issue is not lack of resources but the military-first policy and misappropriation of funds by the DPRK authorities.


For global sake, Greek officials must grow up

Despite agreeing to a coalition government, Greece’s current political establishment remains unprepared to lead it into the 21st century. A generational change alone will not suffice.  A political culture in which public officials’ short-term personal gain undermines the long-term collective national interest must be reversed. Failure to do so will only contribute to increased cynicism and disillusionment and continue driving most of Greece’s best talent abroad. It risks relegating Greece to a museum for foreign tourists.

It is time for Greek officials to grow up. It is long overdue.  Rhetoric for a national unity government is inadequate. A government of national salvation is needed. Any further political gambling must not go unrewarded. In particular, Germany must tighten the screws when necessary to pre-empt erratic behavior, which can only accelerate Greece’s bankruptcy and route to the euro exit door. After all, it is difficult for any European leader, or international financial institution, to invest further resources into Greece. The German Chancellor and French President broke protocol and for the first time publicly raised the prospect of Greece leaving the eurozone.


Foreign Policy issues for the 2012 Presidential Election

One year before the 2012 General Election, Americans should keep an eye out for some of the key issues characterizing the debate over foreign policy. Recognizing the various challenges the United States faces overseas, here is a list of 8 issues that require careful consideration by the 2012 presidential candidates:


Remaining engaged in Libya

As NATO officially ends its Libya mission, critical questions are emerging about Libya’s future and the international community's continued involvement. Despite the operation’s technical termination, engagement by NATO and regional allies must not cease.  


The Afghan talks: moving from semantics to substance

We have heard this story before. The “only solution” to the Afghan conflict is a political settlement with the Taliban. The adversary could be brought “home” under a national “reconciliation and reintegration” framework. There are “indications” that the Taliban are interested in dialogue. Allured by incentives, they would abandon their arms, and aims, and become constructive members of the society. They have always wanted to compromise but we never opened any doors. 

Yet, this pure reconciliation-based optimistic view of peace, like its opposite - the one that hinges solely on military successes - misses the point. It considers the two approaches – military and political - mutually exclusive. We however need to work on both approaches in tandem. This view also presupposes the primacy of approach over objectives. The approach should in fact be guided by our objectives and informed by the local context in Afghanistan.

The current approach towards bringing peace in Afghanistan is flawed in its design because of three fundamental reasons:


Sen. Wyden should hold Israel to same standard as Bahrain

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is admirably legislating against U.S. arms sales to Bahrain, the autocratic Gulf kingdom which has killed at least 30 protesters during the Arab Spring. To suppress protests, Bahrain has arrested more than 1,600 protesters, has fired 2,500 from their jobs, and is handing down harsh jail terms to medical personnel who treated injured protesters. This brutal repression of Bahraini human rights led Wyden to introduce a resolution to prohibit U.S. weapons sales to Bahrain until it meets stringent human rights criteria, helping to generate enough political pressure so that the Obama Administration has delayed implementation of its shameful decision last month to sell $53 million of weapons to Bahrain.

“Selling weapons to a regime that is violently suppressing peaceful civil dissent and violating human rights is antithetical to our foreign policy goals and the principle of basic rights for all that the U.S. has worked hard to promote,” Wyden argued.

While this principle should apply to all U.S. weapons sales, it should be even more strictly adhered to when U.S. taxpayers are funding weapons sales through military aid. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid, scheduled to receive $30 billion in taxpayer-financed weapons between 2009 and 2018, and also violently suppresses nonviolent Palestinian protest and commits grave human rights violations against Palestinians living under its illegal 44-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.


Foreign aid shouldn’t be first thing on the chopping block

In this fiscal climate, recent debates have brought a growing amount of attention and support to the notion that the U.S. foreign aid budget should be cut.  Many Americans, concerned that the government is spending their hard-earned tax dollars abroad when there are so many pressing issues at home, argue that we need to take care of ourselves before we take care of others. 

There is validity to the argument.  After all, how can someone help others if they themselves are bed-ridden?  Why should we as a country spend tens of billions on foreign aid when our infrastructure crumbles and the government is desperately seeking ways to reign in our spending?

The answer is: it is in our national interest to do so.


U.S. should abandon support of SCAF

As the United States government receives a delegation of Egypt’s ruling military junta, Egyptians mourn the tragic and heinous murder of 26 of their sons and daughters, most of whom are Coptic Christians, at the hands of that very junta.  On October 9, as peaceful protesters marched toward Egypt’s radio and television building known as Maspero to object to the latest in a long history and pattern of sectarian attacks targeting Egypt’s Christian minority, they were greeted with live ammunition and mowing by armored personnel carriers (AMC’s).

The New York Times reported that according to initial autopsy reports, at least seven of the dead were killed by live ammunition and 10 were crushed to death by vehicles.  As the massacre was ongoing, Egyptian state media was reporting that “Coptic sectors were attacking the military, and had killed three soldiers,” an allegation later refuted by media and unconfirmed by the military, which until now refuses to release the names of its alleged dead soldiers. 

State television further called upon “honorable citizens to come to the defense of Egypt’s military, which is facing attacks by the Copts,” in a manner, according to one anchorwoman, “not even the Israelis would dare.”  As a result, the tragedy was further exacerbated when roving mobs went searching for Christians to avenge the alleged attack on the military, and some Muslim extremists took to the streets with sectarian chants and threats against Christians, which played out in random acts of vigilante violence.