Will and Peter have raised important points about the Obama administration's policy failings with regard to Syria. The President's approach combines the worst of moral negligence ("If he drops sarin on his own people, what's that got to do with us?") with casually adopted "red lines" whose terms and intelligence they litigate when the bluffs are called. All this while Hezbollah is openly participating, Assad's forces begin to regain ground, Turkey and Israel are being drawn in to the fight, and countries in the region plead for American leadership.
Peter may be right that the President is committed to stay out of the fight -- that Rwanda is the right historical parallel. It's entirely likely they will subject any and every possible policy to evidentiary standards intelligence work in the real world cannot attain or delays that string along journalists with the “Administration considering...” storyline. But those of us who believe for reasons of both interests and values the United States should have a much more active involvement in preventing the Assad government from remaining in power ought to be turning policy keys in the administration's locks to see if we can devise interventions consistent with the commander in chief's limitations and incentivized by engaging their ideological proclivities.
An intervention focusing on the plight of refugees might provide that key, allowing a humanitarian motivation, supported by the United Nations and the Arab League, with narrow involvement by U.S. military forces operating as one small part of a broad coalition, and heavy emphasis on "smart power" diplomacy to bring Russia into participation and growing governance capacity among the Syrian opposition.
Syria's civil war has displaced 4,250,000 Syrians from their homes to other parts of the country, and another 1,400,000 have fled outside the country to reside in neighboring states. Jordan alone is giving shelter to 524,000. One of the refugee camps constitutes Jordan's fifth largest city; this in a country without the largesse to provide much assistance and whose political structure has never come to terms with the long-term residence of Palestinians who left Israel in 1948. Jordan is tottering under the weight of providing for refugees and fear they may become permanent. President Obama acknowledged the burden on Jordan during his recent visit, pledging additional U.S. aid.
Turkey is in an even more parlous situation, with refugees fanning tensions between Turkish Sunni and Kurds and threatening to derail the Erdogan government's important progress in reconciliation on the Kurdish issue. The Erdogan government has so far held sectarian unity, but just barely, and violence is escalating. Turkey's turn from "zero problems with neighbors" to a foreign policy much more closely aligned with ours has been a real boon to the Obama administration. Moreover, constraining Turkey from shaming NATO into a much more activist military role -- invoking the mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty, for example -- is a significant component of the Obama administration being able to limit U.S. involvement.
An intervention that seeks to create refugee camps within Syrian territory would take the pressure off neighboring countries. The United Nations estimates that six million Syrians are in need of urgent assistance, a full third of the population. Establishing camps in Syria at which civilians can safely receive that assistance would be the objective of the intervention.
Focusing on refugees would be the path of least international resistance, something important to this administration, and could even conceivably produce an international "legal" basis. Whether the UN will actually support invoking the Responsibility to Protect is worth testing, but it needn't be the only means by which the UN could be brought in. The Obama administration could lead from behind by orchestrating an appeal to the Security Council led by Turkey, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia -- perhaps even Israel could be included to show the breadth of regional support, and Iraq lured by Sunni emboldenment and the status of inclusion to abandon Iranian objectives. The Arab League would need to be jostled into unity, given its division over "awakening," but that's an ideal role for John Kerry's State Department. Isolating Iran and exposing its involvement in Syria would provide a unifying element. The Gulf countries could be prompted to advise China of its long-term oil needs, as produced some effect in Iran negotiations.
Secretary Kerry could be tasked with bringing Russia into the fold. The Russians have a genuine fear of stoking Islamist violence in the Caucasus; Kerry should persuade them their current policy in Syria will foster precisely what they're seeking to avoid and encourage their participation in the UN mission as a way of resetting how they are perceived by protecting Muslims in Syria. Giving Russia responsibility for refugee assistance in the area of their Tartus base would perhaps tempt them to support a UN role.
The "realist" pretensions of the Obama administration could be engaged in crafting an exit strategy for Assad -- promising he will not be remanded to the International Criminal Court if he chooses a coddled retirement in the UAE or London.
A UN mission could provide aid directly in the camps, rather than through the government, as it is now doing, taking that lever from Assad -- or perhaps leaving it with Assad to incentivize his agreement to establish the camps -- but giving NGOs latitude to work directly in the camps in addition to UN efforts.
The primary responsibility for protecting refugee camps inside Syria would in theory rest with the Assad government and in practice migrate to the rebels. A UN mission would hold the Syrian government responsible for any government attacks because it is the sovereign. The rebels have demonstrated the ability to take and hold territory from the government, even with the government's military advantages. If refugee camps were set up in the border areas north and east of the country, where the refugees currently are, they would be in rebel-controlled areas. Facilitating refugee return and providing governance in the camps would provide a governance training ground for Syrian opposition leaders. Working with them will increase our understanding and help us help the opposition gain control over militia that will eventually need to be demobilized.
Whatever one thinks of the efficacy of our intelligence work in Syria -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey testified that we know less now than we did a year ago about Syrian rebels -- that our intelligence and military communities are so concerned about the prospect of providing them the kinds of weapons that would neutralize Assad's advantages ought to give us pause. General Salim Idris, our preferred leader of the opposition, has acknowledged he has little influence over what the rebels do and no direct authority over the largest factions. So caution is in order where arming the rebels is concerned.
It is still the case that the Assad government's advantage in the fight is air superiority and heavy weaponry. That is changing as Hezbollah and Iran both train and participate with the Assad forces, but preventing the Assad government from using airpower, artillery and missiles would shift the balance significantly in favor of the rebels. If we will not entrust rebels with the weapons to undertake that work, it falls to us. This need not entail a Northern Watch-style no fly zone, or even a preemptive destruction of Syrian air forces: coalition military operations could be restricted to preventing the use of aircraft, and retaliating against the use of artillery or missiles by the government. For all the talk of Syrian air defenses being five times as good as Libya's, the Israeli air force seems to slice through them pretty easily. Missiles fired from outside Syrian airspace, either from seaborne platforms or NATO batteries already based in Turkey could take much of the responsibility. Countering Syrian missiles may be too demanding in real time, but retaliating against units that fire them would diminish the government's advantage with time.
Such an approach would not prevent all Syrian attacks. But it would protect more Syrians and it would diminish the Assad government's military advantage over time. And it just might be limited enough, and contain enough elements of the kind of policies the Obama administration favors, for the commander in chief to consider it.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
I have been thinking a lot about military mistakes lately.
This is partly triggered by the series of Iraq-related ten-year anniversaries, which will lead us to replay through our rear-view mirror the unraveling of Phase IV operations in Iraq over the coming years.
But it is even more triggered by some unrelated reading and "active learning" exercises I am doing with my Duke students. A few weeks ago, my students did a virtual staff ride of Operation Anaconda, courtesy of Tom Donnelly and the fine team at the Marilyn Ware Center at AEI. It was an extraordinary experience for the students, who prepared to role-play different key figures in the battle. As is usually the case with such staff rides, a fair bit of time is spent on dissecting what went wrong, and the students usually turn in some of their finest work in role-playing someone explaining/excusing his/her own character's errors whilst blaming someone else.
What made this event extra special, however, was the participation of several Special Operations Force representatives from Ft. Bragg, two of whom had actually been in the battle we were studying. Their perspective was invaluable, and their contributions to the discussion had a profound effect on my students. Yet even they would admit that there were quite a number of things that went poorly for the U.S.-led coalition in that battle, and not all of them can be dismissed as "bad luck."
Similarly, a different group of students are preparing for an actual staff ride to Gettysburg later this week, and that of course is one of the most famous of mistake-riddled battles in American history.
And, for good measure, I have started to read Army at Dawn, the first volume in Rick Atkinson's magisterial trilogy about World War II. This volume covers the U.S-British invasion of North Africa, and so far in my reading it is a cavalcade of errors and bone-headed decisions by the U.S. and especially the British commanders.
The costs of the mistakes are hard to calculate precisely. Arguably, the mistakes at Gettysburg resulted in tens of thousands of casualties (dead and wounded) that might otherwise have been avoided. The casualties-by-mistake-tally for Operation Torch probably is in the thousands. Anaconda produced roughly 100 dead and wounded on the U.S. side, so the casualties-by-mistake number would be some fraction of that.
All of these are a grim reminder that in war mistakes happen and, when they do, people pay for those mistakes with their lives. However, as the daily headlines out of Syria demonstrate, not-intervening can also produce a grim tally of death and destruction.
This is the tragedy of power, one that must surely gnaw at the Obama administration. They know that to act is to risk painful consequences, but they are also discovering that to not act is also producing painful consequences. Does there come a point when the bigger military mistake is not acting?
Pool Photo/Getty Images
As I write this, the news is still fragmentary and unfolding concerning the Algerian hostage situation following France's military intervention in Mali and effort to arrest the territorial gains made by the jihadists. However this latest crisis plays out, events thus far seem to expose several of the Obama administration's strategic deficiencies, including:
Premature declaration of victory over al Qaeda. As if we needed yet another reminder, the White House's past declarations of looming victory against "core al Qaeda" were woefully premature. This is most costly not as a public relations blunder but as a strategic blunder; when an administration's leadership signals a change in strategic priorities, the rest of the national security apparatus shifts accordingly. Such a premature spiking of the ball seems to have influenced the administration's mishandling of the Benghazi consulate attack, and now seems to have caused a corresponding neglect of Mali. Yet Mali may be emerging as just the latest front in the war, as Peter Chilson points out the bracing fact that "Northern Mali is currently the largest al Qaeda-controlled space in the world."
The shifting fissures and fusions of various jihadist groups, a kaleidoscopic combination of local grievances and global aspirations, should not obscure that in the minds of the terrorists there is in part an international and universal dimension to their campaign. Terrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar's reported demand that the U.S. release the "blind sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman, imprisoned for his role in masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is just one example of their grievances towards America. Whether or not the al Qaeda branch in northern Mali is ever able to stage an attack against the continental United States, its hostage operation against the Algerian gas field installation shows a capability and willingness to target U.S. interests and allies (such as the French, British, and Japanese employees). That alone should justify a more vigorous American response than the Obama administration has thus far marshaled.
Leading from behind. An Obama administration official first proudly described the White House's multilateral strategy as "leading from behind" in the context of the Libya intervention. What might have sounded good then does not sound so good now, as unfortunately the Mali chaos emanates directly from the Libya spillover, and the corresponding failure to engage in an effective post-conflict stabilization operation. Now the latest chapter of "leading from behind" has the French intervening in Mali while the U.S. sits on the sidelines. This has the effect of further annoying important NATO allies while ceding leverage and initiative to the jihadists. The U.S. admittedly has limited resources and bandwidth to bring to bear here, so I am not making the simplistic argument that an earlier full-scale American intervention would have been easy or solved the problems besetting Mali. But while the downsides of excessive involvement are well-known, the ongoing crisis shows in turn the downsides of dogmatic passivity.
Anemic religious freedom policy. Six months ago I wrote about Mali and made the point that violations of religious freedom are often a leading indicator of a looming security threat (an argument later elaborated here). As I said at the time:
"One worrisome indicator is the jihadists' destruction of traditional Muslim burial grounds and other iconic sites, a sign of the vicious religious intolerance that militant Islamists show towards other Muslims, let alone believers in non-Islamic faiths ... This campaign of religious intolerance may be an early warning indicator of a looming security threat, particularly if northern Mali becomes a terrorist safe-haven and magnet for jihadists planning attacks on the West ... at a minimum, American counterterrorism and religious-freedom policymakers should be watching Mali closely, and talking to each other. In the case of Mali, their concerns may be more aligned then they realize."
Unfortunately the Mali situation is just the latest indicator that the Obama administration still has not made religious freedom policy a priority, either as a value in its own right or as a strategic interest. From that time six months ago, conditions only worsened in Mali as the jihadists began imposing their perverse version of Islamic law. If the Obama administration had been paying more attention to religious liberty deteriorations, it would not have been as surprised at Mali's perilous straits.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
Watching the nightmare in Syria unfold, you have to ask yourself: Could the Obama administration have made a worse hash out of the situation if it had tried?
Short of an outright Iranian victory that saw the Assad regime's power fully restored, it's hard to imagine a more dire set of circumstances for U.S. interests. The Syrian state is well on its way to imploding. A multiplicity of increasingly well-armed militias are rushing to fill the vacuum. At the forefront of the fight are a growing number of radical Islamist groups, including some affiliated with al Qaeda. The prospect that Assad' s demise will be accompanied by the use (and/or proliferation) of chemical weapons and massive communal bloodletting gets higher by the day. Libya on steroids is what we're looking at, only this time not on the distant periphery of the Middle East but in its heartland, a gaping strategic wound that is likely to threaten the stability and wellbeing of Syria's five neighbors -- critical American partners all -- for years to come.
Does it require saying that it need not have been this way? That with sustained American leadership over the past 21 months the most threatening aspects of this crisis could not only have been seriously mitigated, but U.S. interests significantly advanced?
This isn't simply a case of Monday-morning quarterbacking. The number of articles written since March 2011 urging the administration to action to hasten Assad's end -- short of ground troops, but including a wide menu of coordinated diplomatic, economic, security, and intelligence steps -- would fill volumes. Ditto the number of analysts who repeatedly warned that left to its own internal logic, the Syrian crisis would veer increasingly toward disaster. Abandoned to face Assad's slaughterhouse alone, it was entirely predictable that those masses of average Syrians who week after week, month after month, literally begged for Western intervention to help topple the tyrant and shape a post-Assad future would eventually be eclipsed by jihadism's black flag.
The administration dismissed it all with so much disdain. Reckless. Simplistic. Pouring fuel on the fire, they charged. Down that way, they insisted, was only a parade of horribles: sectarian conflict, civil war, al Qaeda's empowerment, a failed state, loose WMD, and international spillover. Sound familiar? Indeed. Virtually every risk the administration warned might be triggered by U.S. intervention has been made all-too-real in the absence of U.S. intervention.
This was abdication masquerading as serious foreign policy; a flight from leadership gussied up to appear as thoughtful restraint, prudence, realism.
How else to characterize a strategy that repeatedly put its faith in Vladimir Putin of all people -- the arsenal of Syria's dictatorship -- to deliver an acceptable political solution just as Assad's savagery was getting into gear, and after the U.S. had sworn up and down that it had no intention of providing meaningful assistance to the regime's foes? Likewise the subsequent indulgence for months on end of Kofi Annan's well-meaning, but quintessentially toothless diplomacy on behalf of the UN.
Again, there was no shortage of observers at the time highlighting the fact that absent American leadership to help Syria's opposition alter the correlation of forces on the ground, these maneuvers were doomed to fail, and even worse to provide international cover for Assad to massacre thousands more. It would be an insult to their intelligence to say U.S. officials were not cognizant of this reality. This was something more cynical, something more calculated. Not diplomacy as solution, but diplomacy as excuse, a rationale for avoiding the kind of muscular action that the administration was loathe to take -- especially in an election year, especially in a benighted Middle East that in the eyes of most Americans long ago exceeded its allotment of U.S. attention, treasure and sacrifice.
All of which has left us here, confronting an oncoming train wreck of well-armed Islamists, battle-hardened and thirsty for power and revenge on the one hand, and a crumbling, desperate dictatorship on the other, its hands drenched in the blood of its own people and sitting on top of the Middle East's largest arsenal of chemical weapons.
Belatedly, it seems to have dawned on the administration that simply sitting on the sidelines, allowing events to play out while hoping for the best might not accrue to U.S. interests, and could well prove catastrophic. But having waited so long to act, the window of opportunity that was once available for shaping an outcome consistent with U.S. concerns has narrowed considerably, if not closed. A popular movement whose core once clamored for Western leadership and intervention has grown increasingly embittered and resentful at what they perceive to be their near total abandonment by Washington. With more than 40,000 corpses underfoot, frantic 11th-hour moves by the U.S. to mobilize a coherent political opposition, establish influence with armed groups, and marginalize extremist militias like Jabhat al-Nusra that have carried a major brunt of the fighting are widely viewed with a mixture of suspicion and contempt -- not just too little too late, but part of some larger conspiracy to abort the revolution's victory over Assad just as it comes into view.
What to do when no good options remain? If rebel advances have finally convinced the Russians that Assad's days are indeed numbered, a very slim chance may still exist for some form of last-ditch diplomacy that salvages the core structures of a functioning state and averts the black hole of uncontrolled collapse and chaos. The starting point would have to be the rapid exit from power of Assad and his immediate clique, either via voluntary exile abroad or some version of a palace coup. A UN-brokered negotiation on a political transition would then ensue between a remnant of the Alawite regime and the internationally-backed opposition, leading hopefully to a ceasefire, some form of national unity government, and eventually a new constitution with credible guarantees for Syria's minority communities, followed by free and fair elections.
No doubt this is a very tall order. What the Russians could actually deliver with respect to Assad, even if they wanted to, is a major question mark. More importantly, why the armed opposition, especially its most radical elements, would ever agree at this point to stop short of an outright military victory that ended with the storming of Assad's palace is not at all apparent. Convincing them and the Syrian people otherwise would require a unified, full-court diplomatic press by all Syria's major outside stakeholders, equipped with a powerful panoply of both pressures and inducements.
Short of that kind of diplomatic miracle, the outlook is extremely bleak. Battening down the hatches and riding out the storm as Syria fractures may be the best we can do. Working as closely as we can with our key partners in the region and internationally, we should identify those armed groups that are prepared to work with us and have no truck with the most extreme Islamists. Strengthen political and military alliances between them. Provide the humanitarian aid and resources they need to consolidate and expand their popular support, as well as defensive weaponry and training to provide local security and fend off both the jihadists and Iran in the post-Assad era. Critically, we need a viable plan for securing and/or neutralizing Syria's chemical weapons, either in conjunction with these local forces or on our own.
Also vital will be a concerted strategy to buttress our key regional allies and contain the dangerous spillover effects of Syria's implosion. Jordan in particular is under enormous internal strain and requires urgent international support that the U.S. should immediately help mobilize, especially financially from the Persian Gulf states.
It was less than two years ago that the uprising in Syria presented the United States with a historic opportunity to weaken Iran and advance our own regional interests. Today, Syria looms as a potential strategic disaster, where America's options for positively shaping outcomes have all but vanished, and frantic efforts at damage limitation are all that remain. In the arc of that transformation from hope to despair lies the tale of a colossal policy blunder, perhaps the Obama administration's most serious to date, one whose consequences will almost surely haunt us long after the president leaves office.
FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images
If you were Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, how worried would you be about President Obama's threats regarding a U.S. response to any use of Syrian's chemical weapons? A series of recent news pieces (here, here, and here) seem to suggest a depressing answer: not very much.
Ever since the civil war started, the nightmare scenario has been the prospect that the conflict would escalate to a point where Syria's vast chemical arsenal was in play -- either through a deliberate use or through a loss of custody. That nightmare seems ever more plausible as the civil war grinds on, particularly as the tide seems to be favoring the rebels. It is not impossible to imagine a rapid collapse of the Assad regime and, for that very reason, it is not impossible to imagine circumstances under which Assad would be tempted to gamble with a game-changer like chemical weapons.
President Obama has consistently warned that the use of chemical weapons would be a game-changer for American involvement, as well. The Administration has hitherto resisted calls to intervene more directly in the conflict, but it has also indicated that the United States would act militarily if chemical weapons were used.
How might Assad interpret that vague threat?
One can divide up the continuum of military response into five main categories, listed below in order of escalating involvement:
1. Symbolic punitive strike: a military response designed to indicate sharp disapproval, but otherwise not tilting the balance in the civil-war and not securing the WMD.
2. Game-changing military operation that topples Assad regime: some combination of sustained strikes and other action (e.g., no fly zones) that tilts the military balance decisively in the rebels favor, hastening the fall of the Assad regime.
3. Destroying the chemical arsenal: conducting enough airstrikes to render the arsenal unusable by Assad or by terrorists and militia groups.
4. Invading to secure the WMD arsenal: deploying enough ground troops to secure the many chemical depots and to hunt down any weapons that may have slipped away.
5. Invading to guarantee a favorable political transition: deploying enough ground troops to guarantee the toppling of the Assad regime and assure a transition to a new political order more favorable to U.S. interests.
None of these is an attractive option.
Option 1 is trivially easy to do but will not accomplish much beyond its symbolism -- even its symbolic message may be undone, since a response like this signals weakness as loudly as it signals disapproval.
Option 2 is a bit more challenging -- but compared to the other options quite doable. However, it will not address our biggest concern about the chemical weapons. It will implicate the United States in the civil war without giving us much leverage over the political outcome or the disposition of the chemical weapons.
Option 3 may not be doable and would involve tremendous collateral damage. The arsenal is vast, and widely dispersed, and destroying all of it from air would require a very lengthy sustained bombardment. In the process, the air strikes would result in extensive contamination and casualties in communities near the depots. Even then we could not be certain that all of the weapons were destroyed before terrorists got their hands on some.
Option 4 would be a daunting military operation, and depending on the state of Syrian forces could approximate another Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF, the invasion of Iraq in 2003). Once in Syria, the pressure for mission-creep to expand to policing a political resolution to the civil war would be nearly irresistible. Also, this would take a long time to assemble (think how long it took to build up to OIF) and some chemical weapons could go missing in the delay.
Option 5 would be tantamount to another OIF -- all of the downsides of Option 4 plus an indefinite commitment to a hostile occupation.
The Obama Administration has assiduously avoided spelling out with any clarity what the President might be contemplating, but some things are clear. Obama has built his entire regional strategy around the "no more Iraqs" objective. There is a double meaning: "no more Iraq" in the sense of leaving Iraq regardless of consequences and taking a hands-off approach to the unraveling situation there, and "no more Iraqs" in the sense of not making any military commitments that involve substantial U.S. ground troops.
Perhaps the prospect of Syrian chemical weapons landing in the hands of terrorist groups would cause the President to change his regional strategy, but a change of that magnitude would require substantial political preparation of the American public. The uncertain and vague comments so far from the Administration are far from adequate to the task. My inference, and likely the inference of Assad, too, is that Options 4 and 5 are effectively off the table.
I can well imagine that the Administration would be tempted to try Option 3, but it is far from clear that it is militarily feasible. And is there anything in the past four years that would suggest this Administration is willing to risk the substantial collateral damage that would ensue?
Option 2 is more likely and, given the fecklessness that would be signaled in Option 1, might be where the Administration ends up. But the Administration has been very wary about getting on other slippery slopes and, despite its boasts about leading from behind in Libya, the Administration understands that doing "another Libya" is a dangerous business. Indeed, the Administration has resisted pressure to do just that up until now when there was more upside potential and so why would they change their mind now when the upside looks far more bleak. It is not at all clear that the use of chemical weapons on Syrian rebel groups would be enough to change Obama's calculus.
If Assad reasons the same way I have just done, he may conclude that what Obama means by military warnings about chemical red lines is simply Option 1: punitive strikes that don't otherwise change the game. In other words, Assad may conclude that Obama's threats are the least of his worries, given how desperate his situation is.
Ironically, then, if the Obama administration really does want to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, it may have to threaten more credibly than it has so far a level of military intervention the President manifestly wants to avoid.
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
Vice-President Biden may have fired up his base with his sneering condescension last night, but I wonder whether he may have unintentionally fired up others as well.
Before the debate had reached the 10 minute mark, FP.com's own Josh Rogin pointed out that Biden told a whopper on Benghazi security. This is not a trivial matter, and when even mainstream reporters are saying that Biden has some "clean up of his own to do today on Libya," Biden must know he made a grave mistake.
Moreover, as this careful reconstruction makes clear, the administration faces very serious and troubling questions about the way they have misled the public on what happened in Libya.
The administration desperately needs a scapegoat to keep this scandal as far from the White House as possible. And that is why I think that, beyond Biden's fact-challenged statements, the more consequential thing he did last night was to try to make the intelligence community (IC) the scapegoat (and I am not the only one who picked up on this). Based on this interview with Obama's deputy campaign manager, the fingering of the IC appears to be a deliberate, coordinated strategy by the politicos -- and it is very risky.
First, as numerous fact-checkers have already pointed out, the administration did not merely go with whatever the IC told them. They went with whatever was the most politically useful story at the time. The Obama campaign keeps complaining about how Romney-Ryan have politicized this issue, but in fact the Obama campaign has played this as a political issue from the very start.
Second, the IC can fight back. Frustration has been mounting for years within the IC over the way the administration has politicized intelligence. At some point, that frustration could bubble over into retaliatory leaks and damaging revelations.
So far, the Obama campaign has been careful not to finger a specific person as the scapegoat.Last night, Biden kept it vague. But the talking points Biden was hiding behind were CIA talking points and the head of the CIA is David Petraeus, undoubtedly the person in the administration the American people trust most on national security -- and yet, paradoxically, perhaps the person the hardened partisans in the Obama White House trust the least. I have been surprised that Petraeus has not personally been drawn into the fight thus far, but I wonder if he heard Biden calling him out last night.
The CIA was not the only national security institution Biden took aim at last night. Even more troubling was the damage he did to civil-military relations, which I will take up in a later post.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
I have been cautious about predicting the longer-term strategic implications of the massive earthquakes and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. To begin with, years ago I lived for a summer in the part of Japan that has born the brunt of this disaster, interviewing farmers and politicians for a column I struggled to write each week in Japanese for the local Iwate Nippo Newspaper. The images of death and destruction, especially to the beautiful Sanriku Coast, have been heartbreaking for me to watch. A second reason for caution is the lesson many of us learned trying to anticipate the longer-term impact of the December 2004 Asian Tsunami. Most of us in government at the time expected that the civil war in Sri Lanka would end because the tsunami had destroyed the Tamil Tigers' fleet and coastal bases, but that the insurgency in Aceh, Indonesia would grow worse because the tsunami had destroyed the Indonesian Army's bases and lines of supply. The exact opposite occurred -- the Sri Lankan civil war dragged violently on for five more years, but Indonesian President Susilu Bambang Yudyuhono managed to sign a peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) within six months of the disaster. A final reason for caution is that the scope of the disaster is not yet clear -- particularly at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where a few dozen engineers bravely remain to cool the reactor cores.
Yet as Japanese scholars and citizens themselves begin considering the future -- and as American rating agencies and pundits hit a drumbeat of negative and often ill-informed predictions -- it seems both appropriate and necessary to at least frame the possibilities of what comes next for Japan.
The first thing that can be said about the disaster is that it has highlighted both the traditional strengths and the adaptability of Japanese society. The world press has marveled at the stoic resolve and orderliness of the Japanese public as they queue for hours for scarce supplies without breaking the rules or complaining. This is precisely the national character that allowed Japan to rebound from even greater disasters such as the Edo fire of 1657, the Kanto earthquake of 1923, and the aftermath of the Pacific War's end in 1945, when the Emperor announced that the Japanese people would have to "endure the unendurable"... and they did. The response has also highlighted the adaptability of Japan. After studying shortcomings in the response to the 1995 Kobe Earthquake, the Japanese government strengthened coordination with the Self-Defense Forces and created crisis management centers across central and local government. This preparation has saved countless lives, even as the government struggles on multiple fronts because of the scale of the disaster. Even more impressive has been the activism of Japanese civil society and especially of Japanese youth; frequently dismissed in recent press analysis as self-obsessed "herbivores," they have mobilized spontaneously through Facebook and other social media and have been shown carrying elderly citizens to high ground on their backs.
The disaster will likely have at least some impact on Japanese security and foreign policy. The government's poor response to the 1995 Kobe earthquake was seized upon by national security realists to argue for changes in emergency legislation and greater acceptance of the Self Defense Forces as an instrument of national power. Fiscal realities may keep defense spending below 1 percent of GDP, but the disaster will reinforce calls to remove impediments to the SDF's rules of engagement and for greater interoperability with the United States (Operation "Tomodachi" -- the relief effort by the 50,000 U.S. personnel in Japan -- is the largest joint and combined operation between the United States and Japan ever). Japan's relations with China and Russia, which were abysmal before the crisis, may thaw somewhat now. Beijing's 15-man rescue team could take some of the edge off of the Sino-Japanese tensions -- 86 percent of Japanese said in recent polls that they do not trust China -- though the root cause of the tensions, PLA operations around Japan, are unlikely to change. Putin's decision to set aside differences over the Northern Territories for now in order to help a "good neighbor" may have a more lasting effect, since the root causes of friction between Tokyo and Moscow were always more political than structural or strategic. Finally, many Japanese friends are telling me that the world's outpouring of support and assistance is reminding average citizens in Japan how important it is for Japan to also make its own "international contributions" in terms of ODA and security. Of course, this impulse will be in competition with the understandable desire to focus on reconstruction at home over the coming years.
Japanese economic production will definitely recover from the disaster. The damage estimates are generally well above US $150 billion, and Japanese business surveys are expecting a big hit on manufacturing output over the coming months. However, the economy is still expected to grow overall in JFY 2011 (April 2011-March 2012) once corporations adjust their supply chains and reconstruction spending begins. Moody's Investors Service is warning that the huge financing needs may erode investor confidence in the country's ability to repay its debts, but this underestimates the likelihood that Japanese citizens will buy reconstruction bonds (over 90 percent of Japanese debt is already domestically held) and ignores the huge amounts of cash Japanese banks and corporations have been sitting on the past year. (Moody's also downgraded South Korea's sovereign debt rating when Roh Moo Hyun came to power in 2003on the dubious logic that relations with the United States would deteriorate.) However, even if production recovers, that still leaves the question of whether Japan will revitalize its basic economic growth strategy. Phil Levy rightly pointed out in his post that the Japanese political classes could become addicted again to Keynesian approaches to growing the economy. On the other hand, Prime Minister Kan had already begun to embrace measures that would unleash greater competition in the Japanese economy, including participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations. That specific debate will probably be on hold for a few months, but the economic reformers behind it will seize on the reconstruction strategy to argue for even bolder measures to revitalize economic growth. Decisions about how to raise money for reconstruction -- for example, whether to include incentives for private equity and not just rely on debt -- will reveal the prevailing direction of the economic strategy debate in the coming months.
Numerous Japanese commentators had recently argued that the nation needed a shock to accelerate the kind of opening, reform and revitalization that Japan embraced after Commodore Perry's ships landed in Edo Bay on July 8, 1853 and the war ended in August, 1945. While no one could have anticipated or called for the enormity of the heart-wrenching human tragedy of March 11, the nation again finds itself at an important turning point. And history would strongly suggest that Japan will emerge stronger.
There is some confusion about the Obama administration's explanation for why they did not take a more forceful stand on Libya earlier in the crisis. The talking points delivered by Ben Rhodes, the White House official responsible for communications in the foreign policy arena, and relayed in Sunday's Washington Post emphasized administration concerns about the potential risk to American citizens. Whether or not the administration made the right call depends, I think, on which citizens they were seeking to protect.
Many critics read this as a general reference to all of the American expats living in Libya. If this were the case, as my friend and former colleague Pete Wehner outlines, the administration's position would be extraordinarily concessionary to Qaddafi and an ominous precedent for dealing with tyrants in the future. If the presence of any U.S. citizens in any country were enough to deter the United States from taking a clear stand, then the implications are deeply troubling. As Wehner argues, "The message sent to, and surely the message received by, despots around the world is this: If you want to neuter America, threaten to harm its citizens. Mr. Obama will bend like red-hot steel pulled from a furnace."
I read the administration's explanation a bit differently. I believe what they were primarily worried about was the safety of the embassy personnel. After all, there are doubtless still U.S. citizens in Libya today and yet the administration has taken fairly tough action on the economic sanctions front and has started to say the things that they were deterred from saying a week ago. Apparently, the U.S. embassy in Tripoli was uniquely vulnerable. According to the deputy Chief of Mission, the embassy lacked the customary security provided by U.S. Marines. With little or no protection from mob action, the embassy personnel were extraordinarily exposed. As bad as the situation in Libya is today, it would be far worse if Qaddafi had seized the embassy in an Iranian-hostage-type gambit. Perhaps the warnings that "certain kinds of messaging from the American government could endanger the security of American citizens..." were a veiled reference to threats directed at the U.S. embassy. Given Qaddafi's record of erratic behavior, I think an embassy hostage situation would have to be considered a realistic threat.
If the administration was simply worried about any potential harm to any American expat, then the critics' case is more compelling. U.S. citizens are everywhere and such a doctrine -- we will not speak out if U.S. citizens are in the country -- is not sustainable. Indeed, if that were the original motivation, the administration did not forbear for long and has put those expats at risk with the economic sanctions and talk of military options.
More plausibly, the administration was delaying certain actions until the embassy personnel could be evacuated. That strikes me as a tough but defensible call under the circumstances. It is tough because it still involves making concessions to virtual hostage takers, nevertheless defensible, because those concessions were only a temporary tactic.
This does not mean that the administration has gotten everything right on Libya. I hope someone presses the administration to explain why the embassy was so vulnerable, and why steps were not taken earlier to evacuate the personnel and thus restore our leverage sooner. And if the administration really wants to prove its critics wrong, it must exercise leadership on the Libyan file from here on out and avoid contradictory messaging.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
There are reports coming out of North Korea again that they are suffering from a severe shortfall in food supplies. North Korean emissaries have gone on a multi-national tour asking foreign governments to resume food assistance programs to feed their malnourished population.
This is not a new scenario for North Korea. The regime has continually struggled to feed its people since the famine of the mid 1990s when over one million lost their lives.
What is more shocking is the effect the many years of living on less than 1,700 calories a day have had on the general population. I saw this first hand in a Pyongyang park in 2008 where some elderly people were quietly harvesting grass so they could supplement a meal. Those in the NGO community with access to remote areas of the country have confirmed many in North Korea suffer from malnutrition and infection. In many cases, people outside of the capital are on the brink of starvation.
Today, a North Korean child can expect to be up to 7 inches shorter than his/her South Korean counterpart and 20 pounds lighter by adulthood.
A recent Washington Post article stated that the North Korean request has "put the United States and other Western countries in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether to ignore the pleas of a starving country or pump food into a corrupt distribution system that often gives food to those who need it least."
Not if the policy makers in Washington use the agreement reached in 2008, which remedied past problems of the regime diverting humanitarian food shipments to the military or for black market revenues.
IAN TIMBERLAKE/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of Defense Gates is right. It would be a tragic irony if, having come this far in Iraq, the United States faltered and failed to fund adequately the next phase of the mission. Even with adequate funding, the mission will be hard enough.
Congress is right to take a hard look at the Iraq situation. The security needs in Iraq exceed anything the U.S. State Department ever has dealt with in the past. The current plan, which will shift the burden almost entirely from the Department of Defense to State, is distinctly inferior to the original plan, which envisioned a renegotiation of the Status of Forces agreement to allow a modest U.S. military presence as a stabilizing factor. The administration fumbled the original plan and while Gates hints at the possibility of reviving it at the eleventh hour, it may be too late. The current plan relying on the U.S. State Department to do more than it ever has done before is a barely satisfactory Plan B. But it is manifestly superior to Plan C, which involves walking away from Iraq entirely and hoping for the best. I believe once Congress has looked at and thought about the situation carefully, it must conclude that funding the State Department plan is the only responsible course of action available at this point.
I understand the frustration of people who believe the Iraq war was a mistake from the start, but I do not understand their desire to compound what they believe to be one error with strategic blunders of comparable proportions: abandoning Iraq or failing to provide the resources necessary to keep Iraq on a successful trajectory.
Rod Lamkey Jr/Getty Images
It is right and natural that we devote a great deal of time deliberating about the foreign policy and other implications of the events unfolding in Egypt. For Egypt, these events constitute a national crisis; for the United States, a foreign-policy crisis. But for many individuals, these events also represent a personal crisis. These include first and foremost Egyptians themselves, of course, who amid jubilation and trepidation about the future of their country must also grapple with rapidly rising food prices, various shortages, looting, and a complete standstill in tourist spending. But the crisis has also affected Americans who live and work in Egypt or tourists who have found themselves unexpectedly stranded there.
While we debate the intentions of President Mubarak, the attitude of the military, and the likely place of various groups and figures in a successor government, many in Cairo worry about
sounds of gunfire outside their windows and reports of looters in their neighborhoods. Their friends and relatives inside and outside Egypt struggle to get information on their safety and whereabouts, frustrated by the interruption of email, mobile phones, and other means of communication.
Looking after the welfare of Americans abroad -- particularly during a crisis -- is one of the core missions of the State Department and a foremost responsibility of U.S. diplomats stationed overseas. U.S. diplomats are rarely noticed, much less celebrated, but their service and sacrifices deserve the American people's recognition.
When a crisis such as this erupts, the local U.S. Embassy will scramble to understand and report to Washington on events and offer its advice on U.S. policy. But it will also initiate a massive effort to account for and care for American citizens, both those who wish to leave and those who remain behind. Right now at the Cairo airport, our Foreign Service officers and other U.S. personnel are putting in days-long shifts to assist Americans who want to leave Egypt. The same officers who are responding to Washington's demands for analysis of opposition figures and the latest reports on protests in Tahrir Square are also comforting weary travelers, serving them food and water, and packing them on to evacuation flights.
Among those the officers have seen off are their own families, whom the State Department yesterday ordered to depart Egypt. The farewells are hasty -- families must leave quickly once the order is given -- and sometimes do not take place at all if the employee is needed elsewhere. The families do not know when they will be able to return, if at all, and must make accommodations for housing and schools on the fly. When their families are long gone, the officers stay on to perform vital work to advance U.S. national security.
The experience of the officers in Cairo is hardly unique -- many diplomats are stationed at embassies and consulates overseas where conditions do not permit their families to
accompany them. Alongside other civilians and of course members of the military, they make daily sacrifices to serve their country. Few Americans are actually aware of what they do, and fewer still will ever have need to call upon their help. But they are there when Americans require, and for Americans stranded in Egypt, that is a deep relief.
ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images
It seems Congress wants to throw more money at Haiti. In May, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Robert Corker (R-TN) introduced an act to supply $3.5 billion in additional recovery aid to follow-up on the January 12 earthquake. While the measure may stall -- it triples the figure the Obama administration promised -- a slightly reduced amount may survive in supplemental spending.
For good security and geopolitical reasons, it's in America's interest to help this close Caribbean neighbor. Yet, in lean times and with a hazy strategy as a guide, one might ask how more spending would do any good.
In fairness, Washington's emergency response has managed to feed and house the displaced. And plans to rebuild damaged infrastructure in smarter ways seem generally well conceived. It's the longer-term social and civic strategy that needs clarification.
U.S. policy (articulated mostly in speeches and press statements) and Haiti's own National Recovery and Development Plan don't say how further assistance will make Haiti any more self-sustaining than before the quake. Few details spell out how to lay a social foundation for prosperity and stability such as improving education and local governance in ways that might develop native talent and foster communitarian spirit.
An Oval Office Address to the
Nation (OOAN -- to coin a new acronym) is a "big gun" presidential communication
tool -- perhaps only a special address to a joint session of Congress is bigger.
All administrations keep the OOAN powder dry for an emergency, but few
have husbanded it as carefully as has the Obama administration. This will be
the first Obama OOAN, but he has previously conducted at least three addresses
to a joint session of Congress, not counting the annual State of the Union
With the president's polling numbers falling and domestic and international problems mounting, the time is fairly ripe for Obama to deliver his first OOAN. Fairly ripe, but not fully ripe, because the usual peg for an OOAN is missing: either a) A recent tragedy or b) A recent potentially pivotal development in an ongoing challenge or c) an announcement of an abrupt change of course. (Technically, this last one was not an OOAN because it came not from the Oval but from the Library, so it was a LAN.)
By contrast, President Obama will deliver his OOAN: a) on day 57 of a slow motion crisis, that b) has not just had an on-the-ground pivot (on the contrary, the most recent development, a lightning strike igniting a fire on a recovery vessel seems like an almost Biblical piling-on of trouble), and c) apparently without any dramatic change of course to announce.
I could be wrong about a dramatic policy announcement, of course, but I don't think so because the pre-speech spinning by White House advisors has emphasized how President Obama, simply by virtue of giving his first address, can rhetorically deliver a pivot in the story. He will apparently use the address to reinforce some old talking points ("We have been on the job since Day One") that have not sold well and to refocus attention on old energy proposals that have been stuck in Congress. He will make news simply by giving the speech, but it seems unlikely that the news will be about new policies that will produce a pivot in the Gulf or on the shores.
All of this is domestic policy, of course, so why raise it in a blog devoted to foreign policy? Several reasons:
For our country's sake, I hope tonight's OOAN does represent a pivot point in this crisis. Obama has famously risen to the occasion, especially when the occasion is a "big speech." By rolling out their long-saved big gun, the White House has indicated they think this is the President's biggest speech thus far, so he may once again deliver on his promise.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
History does not repeat itself but it rhymes. I am
reminded of this cliché as I watch the Obama administration strive
mightily to build a rhetorical cordon to prevent the off-shore oil spill
from becoming their "Katrina Moment." The vigorous push-back was necessary
because the Obama administration's early reaction to the oil spill was uneven
-- as was the Bush administration's early reaction to Katrina -- and even pro-administration
media outlets were forced
to admit as much.
There is never a good time politically for an environmental disaster of this scope, but the timing is especially delicate for the administration. Not only does it come just a few weeks after the president made a much-ballyhooed compromise to allow off-shore drilling -- a move that dismayed this leftwing base -- but it is also comes in the same news cycle as two other bad stories: another near-miss attempted terrorist strike on U.S. soil and the visit to American soil of the Iranian troublemaker President Ahmadinejad. With all of this toxicity heading towards the U.S. homeland at the same time, the administration can be forgiven if their spin sounds a bit defensive.
Katrina arrived at a similarly bad time politically for the Bush administration. It came on the heels of a bruising political fight over Social Security reform culminating in August's cable news faux-crisis of Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside the president's ranch in Crawford. And shortly after Katrina, the administration got bogged down in a politically costly battle over a Supreme Court nomination (yet another eerie parallel to present day with Obama's next Supreme Court pick looming?). Many political veterans of the Bush administration view Katrina and the political damage that ensued as the pivot point in the presidency.
It is too soon to say whether the oil spill will be become Obama's "Katrina Moment." President Obama has advantages that President Bush did not have, the most important of which are competent state and local leaders. But these advantages will be sorely tested if the damage from the oil spill approximates the worst-case estimates. Likewise, as my new Shadow Government colleague Mary Habeck notes, it is scary to think what would have happened in Times Square if the President's luck had run out and the car bomb had detonated as the perpetrators had hoped. If the threats emanating from Hakimullah Mehsud, the terrorist who survived a U.S. drone strike several months ago, are credible, this is another sore test that will play out in the coming weeks and months. And Ahmadinejad's visit is an untimely reminder that the Iranian nuclear forecast remains bleak and getting bleaker by the day.
This would be a lot to handle even for Jack Bauer who can count on his scriptwriters to rescue him at just the right moment. President Obama, however, is writing his own script and so these next several months may prove to be pivotal ones for his presidency.
YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images
By Thomas Mahnken
John Barry, one of the nation's most insightful defense reporters, has posted a piece for Newsweek arguing that the Pentagon should be put in charge of the Haiti relief effort. As he notes, the only institution capable of meeting the demands of the Haiti crisis is not the United Nations, but the U.S. military.
As in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. armed forces have once again become the responder of first resort. In this case, the U.S. Navy is front and center: the USS Carl Vinson's heavy-lift helicopter and the USS Bataan and USS Ft McHenry's air cushioned landing craft are bringing needed supplies to the people of Haiti.
There are three lessons here. First, for all the talk of whole-of-government solutions, the U.S. military remains the most competent national security institution we have. In recent years, the men and women of the U.S. armed forces have time and time again responded admirably when called upon to conduct missions far beyond those for which they were trained.
Second, the very competence of the military has become a sort of trap. Time and time again, the military has taken up the slack when other national security institutions do not perform as well as they can or should. Tasks better performed by the State Department or U.S. Agency for International Development, state or local governments, or non-governmental organizations too often wind up being performed by soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.
Third, when the American taxpayer bought today's Navy, he got a lot more than he thought he was getting. He not only got a force capable of defending American interests on the high seas, but also one possessing the flexibility to respond rapidly to contingencies across the spectrum of conflict. Let's hope that the Obama administration's Quadrennial Defense Review, to be released next month, reflects this reality.
The Obama administration has two choices. First, it can continue to hope that, with more funding and some presidential leadership, the other parts of the national security community will finally rise to the occasion. Both Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Clinton (both at Foggy Bottom and before that in the Senate) have been articulate advocates for whole-of-government approaches. I very much hope they succeed.
If not, the logical alternative is to do what John Barry says and give missions like Haiti to the Pentagon. Such an approach would, however, be undesirable; it would further dilute U.S. military capabilities while also delegitimizing those institutions that should be bringing their unique talents to bear on crisis situations.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
By Peter Feaver
The horrible tragedy in Haiti is an opportunity to put the Obama administration's mantra -- "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste" -- to the test. Reasonable people can debate whether the administration has wasted opportunities at home (the domestic economic crisis) or abroad (Iran political crisis). But in Haiti they get a fresh chance to apply that mantra.
Of course, the primary focus should be on getting aid as quickly as possible to the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who are suffering. The Obama administration's initial response has been adequate but hopefully is just a down-payment. More can and should be done and, I expect, will be done.
But I also expect that there are more opportunities in this crisis than merely rushing in humanitarian aid (as important as that is). While the first-responders in the administration are straining every nerve to ramp up their efforts, I hope the strategic planners in the administration (who do not have operational responsibility for responding) are also busy thinking of ways to have the response to the crisis address more fundamental concerns.
The Bush administration's response to the late 2004 tsunami is instructive in this regard. Beyond meeting the initial humanitarian goals of helping alleviate the suffering, the Bush administration was able to have the U.S. response address three other goals:
(1) to reinforce a powerful counter-narrative to al Qaeda's propaganda that the United States was at war with Muslims. Al Qaeda's charge was never true -- no country has done more to defend and assist Muslims in recent decades than the United States -- but it resonated nonetheless. The irrefutable evidence of the United States taking the lead in helping the tsunami victims, many of whom were Muslim, and of doing more, faster than others were able to do (and doing it with military assets) still stands as the single greatest success in the ongoing war of ideas with what President Obama calls the network of violence and hatred.
(2) to demonstrate the utility of action-based multilateralism rather than deliberation-based multilateralism. Now that the label "coalitions of the willing" has been replaced with a more politically correct label of "minilateralism," the fashionable set of foreign policy pundits has finally embraced it. But, of course, this is precisely the kind of multilateralism that the Bush administration pursued all along, whether the issue was Iraq (the original coalition of the willing), Iran (P5+1), North Korea (6 Party Talks), Middle East Peace (the Quartet), WMD proliferation (Proliferation Security Initiative), or tsunami relief. It must be said, however, that no Bush effort at minilateralism worked as well as did the Regional Core Group, the ad hoc coalition created to lead the tsunami response and especially to provide the early bridge response before the older established agencies could get on the scene to do what they did best. The Regional Core Group is the best example of the action-oriented international cooperation the administration sought, often unsuccessfully, to promulgate.
(3) to help the Indonesian government reestablish responsible governance over regions, especially Aceh, that posed serious security problems before they were devastated by the tsunami. This goal has not been fully met, but the situation is better than what it had been and was an important opportunity that would otherwise not have been available.
I do not know what the similar opportunities are in the Haitian crisis, but I am confident that they exist. Haiti has been the victim of mismanagement and malgovernance for decades, producing misery no less profound than the dramatic pictures that we see today. Perhaps the earthquake has so broken the government that a whole new structure, one that will more closely approximate the goal of effective democracy -- human liberty, protected by democratic institutions -- can be established. Whatever the opportunities are, it should be the urgent priority of the strategic planners in the Obama administration to identify them and to sketch out ways of meeting them in the weeks and months to come.
Let us do everything we can to help Haiti, but let us not waste this serious crisis to do more than just meet the immediate first-aid needs.
UPDATE: Already, President Obama has made a good down-payment on the mantra by asking his two immediate predecessors to lead the bipartisan fundraising efforts for Haitian relief. This takes a page from Bush’s playbook -- he similarly asked his two predecessors (Clinton and Bush 41) to lead the disaster relief fundraising. More importantly, it is an excellent use of the crisis to get past the Anything But Bush syndrome that has afflicted the Obama Team this first year. President Bush’s decision to tap President Clinton for tsunami relief paved the way for the more intensive outreach across the aisle on foreign policy matters that characterized Bush’s second term (compared to the first). Perhaps Obama’s action will likewise pave the way for more intensive outreach to Republicans in Obama’s second year.
THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images
Shadow Government is a blog about U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration, written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition and curated by Peter D. Feaver and William Inboden.