01 October, 2009

Tab dump

'Cause there's too much good stuff to write about in depth. If y'all haven't noticed, I'm trying to focus more exclusively on foreign affairs in a sustained way.

  • Iranian opposition leader Mousavi disagrees with yours truly, says sanctions will hurt the opposition. Turns out lots of people disagree with me. I guess my position is still that sanctions have had a marginal impact in Iran - although I would be open to the counterfactual that no sanctions would have us in a better overall position right now - but that the word "marginal" is the key. Sanctions by themselves won't achieve much of anything, but they can have a beneficial impact when presented as a suite of positive and negative incentives. Provided - and this is the key - that that suite of incentives lead to real negotiations. That remains to be seen. And it should be said, with regard to Mousavi's comments above, that bolstering the opposition is not our current first-order concern; halting or regulating Iran's nuclear program is. It has appeared for a long time that these goals would be complementary; it appears they might now be in tension.
  • Echoing an argument Eremita and I have had several times, Wen Liao argues that the Dalai Lama's political strategy is not advancing the cause of Tibetan rights or autonomy. Obama once again plays the cold-eyed realist by refusing to meet with His Holiness. If there's one thing he ain't, its naive.
  • Daniel Levy is bullish on Obama's long-term strategy for restarting meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Or, as he points out, the three parallel negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive deal: American-Israeli negotiations, American-Palestinian negotiations, and American-Arab negotiations. Levy is a smart, smart guy, but I think he is trying very hard to put a good face on things - Netanyahu's intrasigence, Palestinian intransigence/incoherence, American domestic crises, and the inherent mind-bending complexity of simultaneous, three-way parallel negotiations make me very depressed about Obama's chances. But hey, Yes We Can.
  • Another smart Zakaria column on the right's "phony realism": "There is a phony realism brandished on the right these days that says no one will ever cooperate with America. Russia and China have their own interests, and any attempt to find common ground is naive. We might as well all hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' Now, of course countries have their own interests, which are often in conflict. But they also often share some common interests. A central task of diplomacy is to explore those areas of agreement, build on them, and thus create a more stable world. That's why we have treaties on everything from trade to taxation, adhered to by most nations for their collective benefit." Exactly - this is great, simple explanation of why I think a realist outlook on international affairs (ie international relations is based on the interplay of national interests) leads, in a globalized age, to an embrace of a certain clear-eyed liberal internationalism - on pragmatic grounds.
  • Perhaps the least-talked about facet of our efforts in Afghanistan: the role of the India-Pakistan rivalry. The extent to which Pakistan sees everything through the lens of how it affects its position vis-a-vis India is, in general, not well understood enough when talking about "AfPak" strategy.
  • And finally, one piece of domestic news (albeit one that could affect our international negotiations): the EPA declares that, in the absence of a climate-change bill out of Congress, it will impose far harsher regulations on emitters of carbon than previously thought. Question of the day: is this socialism or fascism?

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