Just three deep smarts for this Friday (blame the kitchen and work), with two coming straight from the NYTimes Op-Ed page (revealing a dismal lack of breadth in my reading this week).
First, Senator Rubio’s foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution, a speech heralded for its bipartisanship and a speaker heralded for making a prominent foreign policy address despite his relative youth. I hate to say this, because I’d welcome a deep thinking, sane foreign policy Republican right now, but I’d give the speech a C-, at best. Any international relations graduate student could have written it, but I am positive my own UVa professors would have bled ink all over it:
- I know some here might disagree, and certainly the President would, but I feel like we’ve gotten precious little from Russia in return for its concessions on nuclear weapons. The reason is because Russia’s domestic politics shape its foreign policies.
After some elementary boilerplate on Iran (pressure is good, but don’t negotiate just to negotiate; everyone in the region would be better off with a tamed Iran; Israel’s security is important to the US), Rubio says,
- “Finally, the nations in the region see Syria as a test of our continued willingness to lead in the Middle East. If we prove unwilling to provide leadership, they will conclude that we are no longer a reliable security partner and they will decide to take matters into their own hands, and that means a regional arms race, the constant threat of armed conflict, and crippling fuel prices here at home due to the instability.”
That led me to search the speech for a country I hadn’t heard mentioned yet: Iraq. Senator Rubio gives a lengthy speech on foreign policy, including a call for US leadership in the region, and doesn’t mention Iraq. Not a nod, a mention, nothing, even when talking about freedoms in the region and/or the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Read the following and try to figure out why Rubio left out any mention of Iraq:
- “And even in our military engagements, the lasting impact of our influence on the world is hard to ignore. Millions of people have emerged from poverty around the world in part because our Navy protects the freedom of the seas, allowing the ever-increasing flow of goods between nations. And long after the last American soldier has left Afghanistan, God willing, there will be a millions-strong and productive and independent Afghan women, because today, they are the first girls in generations to attend school, thanks to the generosity of the American people.”
For the gentlemanly effort of speaking on foreign policy issues, Senator Rubio gets a gentlemanly C, dropped down a half-grade for bringing nothing new to the discussion while leaving out any lessons learned from the last decade.
- “What does it tell us that a country that had a democratic revolution is jailing democracy workers and a country that has a peace treaty with Israel wants to sack its mufti for even praying in a Jerusalem mosque?…This is going to take a long time to sort out. America’s job is to let whoever wins know that their relations with us will depend on their commitment to free elections, an independent judiciary, free press, open trade, religious pluralism and the rule of law.”
Thoughtful and observant and raises the question: would a US administration ally with an Egypt led by Islamists if the Egyptian government allowed and protected the freedoms and rule of law Friedman mentions? Could a US administration withstand the domestic political pressure of an Islamist Egypt receiving US military aid? Should it matter if Egypt’s parliament is dominanted by Salafists and Egypt’s President is a Muslim Brotherhood member, but the law and the freedoms are adhered to and protected? That is maybe more a US domestic politics question (see Rubio above), but worth considering now, before the chorus begins, “who lost Egypt?”
Lastly, Patrick Cronin weighs in on China and the US in the ever-testy Asian waters. I’ll admit that as I read this, I was fully expecting a broadside against China’s naval policies and a warning shot to complacent Americans who had forgotten about the perils of the South China Sea.
- “It’s easy to see the standoff as an act of quasi-aggression, but it’s not. Because China is looking for influence rather than spoiling for a fight, it will seek a minimal show of force, as it did in the Scarborough incident by sending surveillance vessels instead of warships. Drawing attention to its rapid military modernization or its intensifying nationalist sentiment, after all, could undermine China’s core interests. The key take-away from the recent showdown is that the United States needs to remain coolheaded. Not only are such skirmishes at sea inevitable, but they are also of minor consequence — assuming they are managed shrewdly…And we would do well to remember that for all their differences, China and the United States are not the cold war ideological adversaries of old. They both benefit enormously from an open global maritime commons.”