Foreign Policy

Psychoanalysis of Kim Jong-il must end

How does Pyongyang claim to deserve respect when it won’t even begin to respect parties in the talks? If it wants to be taken seriously, then that means North Korea should begin taking seriously its own role and responsibility in these negotiations, not its shoot-ready-aim policies of the past.
Think of the precedent such behavior potentially establishes. If we succumb to the North’s demands, then what do we do with the Taliban? Iran? Let them attack anything and everyone because we don’t “respect” their right to negotiate better deals for their people, then we sheepishly come to the bargaining table? Such logic is rooted in naïve foreign relations.


Obama’s Middle East peace push was set up to fail

Was it only two months ago that President Obama launched Middle East peace talks to create a Palestinian state, at a White House ceremony in the presence of the president of Egypt and the king of Jordan?

I was prepared to give the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president the benefit of the doubt, given the official fanfare around the resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians for the first time in nearly two years. The fact that the wily Sen. George Mitchell, with his previous experience in the Middle East as well as leading the Northern Ireland talks, was shepherding the process gave more grounds for comfort.


'Congress, White House, Hollywood, Wall Street ... owned by the Zionists'

The WSJ’s James Taranto and blogger Robert Stacy McCain today published remarks in context from the legendary White House journalist Helen Thomas, who said Thursday: “Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where there mouth is.”

Thomas was accused of anti-Semetism in June when a rabbi asked her if she had any comments on Isreal. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she said. The Israelis should go home, said Thomas. When asked where home is, she replied, “Germany, Poland and America, and everywhere else.”


Government secrets — continued

WikiLeaks turned into whacky leaks as more diplomatic cables were disclosed containing unflattering portrayals of foreign officials. One leader is “feckless,” another “thin-skinned.” What has the attorney general so upset that he is conducting an investigation into possible law violations? Which laws? And why is much of the media—usually pushing for openness—so abashed?

The disclosures to date seem to portray the past and present administrations as genuinely at the work of foreign affairs — dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat and the closing of Guantánamo, along with wheeling and dealing with parochial matters. Shouldn’t the public know that Korea is selling missiles to Iran? And that, in Afghanistan, “bribery, extortion, and embezzlement are the norm”?


Putin's dirty washing

Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, is riding high on the success of his country’s bid for the 2018 soccer World Cup.

He has been scornful, however of the description by the U.S. cables of his country as a “virtual mafia state” — something that every Russian knows from personal experience. His response? To shoot the messenger. Putin, on CNN’s "Larry King Live," and his spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, on the BBC, both cast doubt over the authenticity of the cables.


Cablegate adds to pressure on Iran

Despite all the fuss from the State Department about the leaking of a quarter of a million U.S. diplomatic cables, the Obama administration should be grateful, because the body of evidence will add to the pressure on Iran by revealing that its neighbors have been pleading for military action over its nuclear program.

Since 2008, the Saudi monarch has privately urged the U.S. to go to war on Iran, telling President Bush to “cut off the head of the snake,” according to cables published by The Guardian on the U.K. newspaper’s website. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain do not believe Iran will back down and are also calling for military action, according to more recent cables.


No good options on North Korea

President Obama and the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, are between a rock and a hard place in responding to North Korea’s killing of two civilians and soldiers on the island of Yeonpyeong, which has undermined their policy of “strategic patience.”

The U.S. subcontracting to China of the North Korea conundrum has failed to produce any clear results. In South Korea, there are worries that China’s ultimate intention may be to annex North Korea, and Beijing seems to have little influence over Pyongyang despite its stated support for the transition in the “hermit state.”

The State Department says the U.S. will not respond “willy-nilly” to Tuesday’s “unprovoked” military attack via the six-party framework — grouping the U.S., the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan. The first sign of a concrete reaction came today with the dispatch of a U.S. aircraft carrier for a U.S.-South Korea drill — presumably over the objections of the Chinese. 


START and Reagan: My response to Tripp Baird of the Heritage Foundation

I appreciate the response to my Tuesday column, “Reagan Yes, START, Yes” by Tripp Baird of the Heritage Foundation.

I do want to correct one point in his rebuttal, right off the top. He suggests that the only reference I made to Republican concerns being addressed by treaty supporters was to state they were addressed, not to state how.


Withdrawal date poses problem for Obama's second-term aspirations

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is expected to formalize at its Lisbon summit tomorrow a new timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The beginning of the drawdown of the 100,000 U.S. troop surge is still 2011, in line with President Obama’s promise to the American people. But a new deadline is being set for the completion of the withdrawal in 2014 and a full transition to Afghan security forces. The significance of that date is that it takes us beyond the next U.S. presidential elections.

The Pentagon says 2014 is an “aspirational” date that could slip further depending on the situation on the ground. The NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told NPR this morning that NATO forces will remain for “as long as it takes.”

I can see this posing a political problem for Obama because he must have hoped that by the time November 2012 came along, Afghanistan would be forgotten as a campaign issue. The war certainly didn’t figure in the midterms and indeed foreign policy in general did not influence the result in any way.

But a presidential election is different. Obama will be under pressure from the Democratic base to stick to a withdrawal timetable, which the administration insists will be based on conditions on the ground.

What are those conditions now? NATO says its forces have regained the initiative, but there are signs that even in previously quiet zones such as Herat in western Afghanistan, violence and crime are on the rise.

In the meantime, the U.S. is escalating its military might in the battle against the Taliban in the southwest. The Washington Post reported today that M1 Abrams tanks have been deployed for the first time in the nine-year war. Yet these are the same aggressive tactics that have drawn protests from President Hamid Karzai, who angered U.S. officials with a recent interview with the same paper in which he complained that support for the war was being eroded.

Obama will have the chance to talk to Karzai in Lisbon about the strategy, which includes reaching out to the Taliban leadership to reach a political solution. But the president will return to Washington with a domestic problem of selling to his party the pursuit of this war over the horizon of his first term in office.


Chinese and U.S. deficit consequences

In conversations with the Chinese and Hong Kong banking and business community and through reading the Chinese English language press, the criticism of America’s fiscal and monetary policy is deafening. Hong Kong’s dollar and China’s RMB are tied to the U.S. dollar. The Chinese firmly believe the U.S. is using expansion of its dollar supply, euphemistically referred to as “quantitative easing” (QE II), to devalue the dollar in order to create jobs in the U.S. at the expense of emerging nations. They are also concerned the excess dollars will flow into Hong Kong, China and other countries with exchange rates tied to the dollar. This dollar inflow is expected to create commodity and real estate bubbles and generate inflation. This principal unintended consequence of QE II is agricultural inflation that will result in food shortages in the undeveloped world.
President Obama’s trip to Asia last week was a public relations disaster for U.S. economic leadership in the world. Obama is viewed by the Chinese and most of the finance ministers of the G-20 as a hypocrite who criticizes China for currency manipulation to fuel exports on the one hand while his administration justifies the Fed’s currency manipulation through QE II on the other.
The Chinese are very critical that the U.S. is using expansionary monetary policy as a substitute to deal with the government’s fiscal deficits and slow economic growth. They believe the U.S. has to address the root cause of the deficit which is unfunded government spending. They are also skeptical that unfunded government spending policy will create long-term jobs. The U.S. has to address issues of debt-financed consumer spending and government disincentives to private sector growth.
This criticism is especially interesting given that China is still very much a state controlled economy. Perhaps it takes a society with a history of state control to appreciate the limits of government intervention in, and manipulation of, the economy.

Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook-, and follow him on Twitter at