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March 2009 Archives
On April 3-4, world leaders will attend NATO's 60th anniversary summit, to be co-hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the French border city of Strasbourg and German counterpart of Kehl.
The summit prompts existential questions regarding NATO's future and its core purpose in the world, considering that its founding mission, to protect the original alliance members from the military threat posed by the Soviet Union, was accomplished with the demise of the USSR in the 1990s.
So, what is the raison d'etre for NATO in the 21st century? With so-called out-of-area jobs in places like Afghanistan as a case in point, is NATO in danger of becoming a two-tiered alliance, with the U.S. and a few others (namely, the U.K.) bearing the overwhelming burden of hard-power military operations and the rest of the members staying focused on soft-power peacekeeping and nation-building types of tasks? (The expectation, even in Washington, is that European members will not accede to the U.S. request to provide significant numbers of additional combat troops to Afghanistan.)
Regarding NATO's size, now at 26 members, does the consensus model of decision-making that has traditionally prevailed in Brussels need to be changed? Given Russia's firm opposition on the matter, is there a good reason to push, now or ever, for the expansion of NATO to include Georgia and Ukraine? Finally, is there an argument for reaching out to Moscow to strengthen ties between NATO and Russia -- perhaps even culminating in Russian membership?
-- Paul Starobin, NationalJournal.com
11 responses: Joseph J. Collins, Michael Vlahos, Dov S. Zakheim, Daniel Serwer, James Jay Carafano, Ron Marks, Kori Schake, Col. Robert Killebrew, Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, Col. Douglas Macgregor, Michael Vlahos
We hear a lot about the prospect that escalating drug-related violence in Mexico could spill over more to the United States; there are even warnings about a potential collapse of the country's government. In the just-passed omnibus spending bill, Congress included $300 million to fight drug cartels there, and some lawmakers now want to use U.S. military drones to aid Mexico in intelligence gathering. The Defense Department is drafting recommendations to provide more help, based on a trip that Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made to Mexico this month.
How dire is the situation south of the border, really? And what should the U.S. do about it, especially given Mexico's historic sensitivity about its often overbearing northern neighbor? What lessons have we learned from the fight against the cartels in Colombia that are applicable to Mexico?
-- James Kitfield, NationalJournal.com
The entire national security community has been roiled by the affair of Chas Freeman, whom the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, picked to lead the National Intelligence Council. The NIC advises Blair and vets the collective opinions of the intelligence community in the important National Intelligence Estimates.
Defenders of Freeman -- a man that many members of the foreign policy community and the press know and respect -- say he was unfairly maligned; some of his defenders, and Freeman himself, have said he became a target for the so-called "Israel Lobby," an amorphous collection of groups and individuals whose views on Israel tend to align with those of Israel's harder-line political parties. Other defenders have said he was targeted by a mob.
The moderators of this blog -- National Journal reporters and editors -- don't like, and try not to use, the term "Israel Lobby." It is our perception that it is not a useful shorthand, and it drifts toward something ugly. We try to avoid sloppy, loaded phrases like abortion lobby, gun lobby, Christian lobby or China lobby.
Many groups advocate on behalf of Israeli interests: AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Peace Now, The Israel Project and the new J-Street all push Washington's levers for Israel, but they rarely advocate the same positions. Still, the influence of these organizations is real, as is the influence of groups advocating on behalf of Wall Street, churches, unions, mosques, gun-owners and every other aspect of America's civic life.
The larger question is one Freeman pointed to in his withdrawal message: "It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends."
It seems that Washington cannot have a no holds-barred discussion of policy toward Israel and Palestine -- like Israel's politicians and press do domestically every hour of every day -- without someone here being labeled an anti-Semite terrorist sympathizer on the one hand, or a toadie for a brutal and apartheid-like system run by right wing nuts in Tel Aviv, on the other.
U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been frozen for years, maybe decades. It will fall to President Obama to make some hard decisions on Middle East policy. So our question to you, is what is the way forward?
What are the specific steps President Obama, leaders of Congress, the State Department and yes, those of us on this blog, can take to ensure that a rational discussion, and a possible consensus, can be reached on U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine?
-- Corine Hegland, NationalJournal.com
Note from NJ:
We apologize to our expert bloggers and to readers of this blog for a mistake we made on Monday. A longer version of this question was in fact sent to our experts on Monday via email for them to respond to. But because of a miscommunication among the NJ staff, it was considerably shortened from that original when it was placed at the top of the blog on Monday morning. The question that you now see here is the original we sent to our experts. We apologize for the confusion.
Patrick B. Pexton
Al Qaeda-led or -inspired terrorist attacks in Europe, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have all declined, but Al Qaeda still has significant capacity to launch attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and perhaps India. It also has a growing presence in Algeria and Yemen, and it has used the latter two countries and Pakistan as staging grounds for successful regional, but not international, attacks.
Does this signal a change in Al Qaeda's strategy from a global one to a regional one, or is it that their ability to carry out global plots has been effectively diminished by constant pressure from the U.S. and our allies? Or has there been, as the Director of National Intelligence's 2009 annual threat assessment says, "notable progress in Muslim opinion turning against terrorist groups like Al Qaeda" and consequently, Al Qaeda today is "less capable and effective than it was a year ago"?
-- Corine Hegland, NationalJournal.com
12 responses: Michael Vlahos, Michael Vlahos, Daniel Gouré, Michael F. Scheuer, Brian Michael Jenkins, Col. W. Patrick Lang, Ron Marks, Loren Thompson, James Jay Carafano, Col. Thomas X. Hammes, Bruce Hoffman, Daniel Byman
The new director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, recently told Congress that the worldwide economic crisis is the single greatest threat to the national security of the United States, trumping even global terrorism and the proliferation of doomsday weapons. If the economic crisis deepens, which areas of the world are most vulnerable to political turmoil and instability, and what form might that take? Is there any danger that the current economic crisis could unleash additional forces of violent extremism and upheaval above what we already face, and perhaps on a par with those spawned by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s?
-- Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., NationalJournal.com
18 responses: Amy Zegart, Adm. Thad Allen, James Jay Carafano, Ron Marks, Stewart Verdery, Dov S. Zakheim, Col. W. Patrick Lang, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., Rachel Kleinfeld, Michael F. Scheuer, Daniel Serwer, Loren Thompson, James Jay Carafano, Joseph J. Collins, Ron Marks, Michael Vlahos, Dick Kohn, Kori Schake