When Lee Kuan Yew speaks, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, and CEOs listen. Lee, the founding father of modern Singapore and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, has honed his wisdom during more than fifty years on the world stage. Almost single-handedly responsible for transforming Singapore into a Western-style economic success, he offers a unique perspective on the geopolitics of East and West. American presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama have welcomed him to the White House; British prime ministers from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair have recognized his wisdom; and business leaders from Rupert Murdoch to Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, have praised his accomplishments. This book gathers key insights from interviews, speeches, and Lee's voluminous published writings and presents them in an engaging question and answer format.
Lee offers his assessment of China's future, asserting, among other things, that "China will want to share this century as co-equals with the US." He affirms the United States' position as the world's sole superpower but expresses dismay at the vagaries of its political system. He offers strategic advice for dealing with China and goes on to discuss India's future, Islamic terrorism, economic growth, geopolitics and globalization, and democracy. Lee does not pull his punches, offering his unvarnished opinions on multiculturalism, the welfare state, education, and the free market. This little book belongs on the reading list of every world leader—including the one who takes the oath of office on January 20, 2013.
What do the recent events in Egypt mean for the US? The answer is a lot more complicated than it might seem. Egypt is important to the US for a number of reasons. Topping the list is oil, and the flow of oil, for which the Suez Canal is an important transit conduit. There is no reason to believe that a successor to the Mubarak government would interrupt the flow of oil, but you could imagine events in the area that could interrupt the flow, and we’re seeing this concern reflected in the markets.
There is also the concern that what is happening in Egypt is contagious, and that it could lead to instability in other, seemingly analogous states—the most important of which is Saudi Arabia. There are regions in which the governments seem very sclerotic, the people running them seem old, the youth vote seems large, and the number of educated citizens who don’t seem adequately challenged seems to be growing. Such elements characterize quite a number of states in the region, including those that are important to the US for various reasons.
Egypt has been a major ally of the US when it comes to relations with Israel, where the resulting peace, though cold, has created a stable border, and is thus considered one of the great achievements of the last many decades. In the role of counterterrorism, Egypt has been a significant and cooperative ally on questions about Hamas, al-Qaida, or Hezbollah.
Finally, with respect to governance, Egypt is dealing with an autocratic regime that significantly restricts the political rights of the population. This has been a problem for the US, as it directly conflicts with American objectives and rhetoric. Nevertheless, such issues are of a lesser concern in the hierarchy of interests, as things like oil attract greater attention.
I suspect that peaceful relations between Egypt and Israel would be sustained. A new Egyptian government of any stripe will have so much to do that it will not want to take on any additional problems. On the other hand, Egypt’s current mix finds organized groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s recent statements have been more internationally acceptable, but traditionally they have had quite strong and different views with respect to Israel. As you can imagine, if a Muslim Brotherhood group emerges after whatever process of transition Egypt undergoes, such a group might maintain a contrary view.
The best way to think about the issue is to consider alternative futures. One possibility is that Mubarak and the current regime will survive. I’d say this is very unlikely, though, with only about a five to ten percent chance of happening.
A second possibility is that a transitional process will take place, resulting in an emerging democratic government. I’d say that this second alternative is the most hopeful, but not the most likely scenario.
Another scenario features a tumultuous process in which a more or less participatory and democratic system emerges. If this scenario were to play out, I would bet on the most organized groups emerging as leaders. In this case, the most organized group is the military, which means that we would see the emergence of a military-dominated regime with a civilian face. That would be a good outcome as far as the US is concerned. A variation of that scenario is the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood could step up to take control of the government, an outcome that would present its own opportunities and risks.
The key idea that we should take away from this is that future developments are uncertain, and that it is entirely possible to describe an outcome that looks more like Iran —though I don’t think such an outcome is likely. Think about Ayatollah Khomeini in Paris until the Iranian revolution, Lenin going home to Russia in a single-carriage train. True, those situations weren’t exactly like the one happening now, but history reminds us that outcomes are often quite different from the ones people anticipate—and that looking at the aspirations that have spurred a revolution is hardly a good way to predict what the outcomes will actually be.
America's last 10 years might be called “The Decade the Locusts Ate.’’ A nation that started with a credible claim to lead a second American century lost its way after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Whether the nation will continue on a path of decline, or, alternatively, find our way to recovery and renewal, is uncertain.
The nation began the decade with a growing fiscal surplus and ended with a deficit so uncontrolled that its AAA credit rating was downgraded for the first time in its history. Ten years on, Americans’ confidence in our country and the promise of the American Dream is lower than at any point in memory. The indispensable superpower that entered the decade as the most respected nation in the world has seen its standing plummet. Seven out of every 10 Americans say that the United States is worse off today than it was a decade ago. While many of the factors that contributed to these developments were evident before 9/11, this unprecedented reversal pivots on that tragic day - and the choices made in response to it. Those choices had costs: the inescapable costs of the attack, the chosen costs, and the opportunity costs.
Inescapable costs of 9/11 must be counted first in the 3,000 innocent lives extinguished that morning. In addition, the collapse of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon destroyed $30 billion of property. The Dow plunged, erasing $1.2 trillion in value. Psychologically, the assault punctured the “security bubble’’ in which most Americans imagined they lived securely. Today, 80 percent of Americans expect another major terrorist attack on the homeland in the next decade.
Were this the sum of the matter, 9/11 would stand as a day of infamy, but not as an historic turning point. Huge as these directs costs are, they pale in comparison to costs of choices the United States made in response to 9/11: about how to defend America; where to fight Al Qaeda; whether to attack Iraq (or Iran or North Korea) on grounds that they had chemical or biological weapons that could be transferred to Al Qaeda; and whether to pay for these choices by taxing the current generation, or borrowing from China and other lenders, leaving the bills to the next generation.
Unquestionably, much of what was done to protect citizens at home and to fight Al Qaeda abroad has made America safer. It is no accident that the United States has not suffered further megaterrorist attacks. The remarkable intelligence and Special Forces capabilities demonstrated in the operation that killed Osama bin Laden suggest how far we have come.
But the central storyline of the decade focuses on two choices made by President George W. Bush - his decision to go to war with Iraq and his commitment to cut taxes, especially for wealthy Americans, and thus not to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The cost of his decision to go to war with Iraq is measured in 4,478 American deaths, 40,000 Americans gravely wounded, and a monetary cost of $2 trillion.
Bush justified his decision to attack Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein might arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, arguing that “19 hijackers armed by Saddam Hussein…could bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.’’ In retrospect, even Bush supporters agree that we went to war on false premises—since we now know that Saddam had no chemical or biological weapons.
Suppose, however, that chemical weapons had been found in Iraq. Would that have made Bush’s choice a wise decision? What about the many other states that had chemical or biological weapons that could have been transferred to Al Qaeda, for example Libya, or Syria, or Iran? What about the state that unquestionably had an advanced nuclear weapons program, North Korea, which took advantage of the US preoccupation with Iraq to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons and conduct its first nuclear weapons test?
As for cutting taxes for the wealthy, Bush’s decision left the nation with a widening gap between government revenues and its expenditures. Brute facts are hard to ignore: having entered office with a budgetary surplus that the CBO projected would total $3.5 trillion through 2008, Bush left office with an annual deficit of over $1 trillion that the CBO projected would grow to $3 trillion over the next decade.
Finally, and most difficult to assess, are opportunity costs, what could be Robert Frost’s “road not taken.’’ In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the United States was the object of overwhelming international sympathy and solidarity. The leading French newspaper declared: “We are all Americans.’’ Citizens united behind their commander in chief, giving him license to do virtually anything he could plausibly argue would defend us against future attacks.
This rare combination of readiness to sacrifice at home plus solidarity abroad sparked imagination. Would Americans have willingly paid a “terrorist tax’’ on gas that could kick what Bush rightly called America’s “oil addiction’’? Could an international campaign against nuclear terrorism or megaterrorism have bent trend lines that leave Americans and the world increasingly vulnerable to future biological or nuclear terrorist attacks? What impact could $2 trillion invested in new technologies have had on American competitiveness?
That such a decade leaves Americans increasingly pessimistic about ourselves and our future is not surprising. American history, however, is a story of recurring, impending catastrophes from which there is no apparent escape—followed by miraculous recoveries. At one of our darkest hours in 1776 when defeat at the hands of the British occupying Boston seemed almost certain, the general commanding American forces, George Washington, observed: “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.’’
President Obama should take a page from Ronald Reagan’s playbook in winning the final inning of the Cold War. Obama can challenge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to put his enriched uranium where his mouth is—by stopping all Iranian enrichment of uranium beyond the 5 percent level.
A quarter-century ago, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was touting a new “glasnost”: openness. President Reagan went to Berlin and called on Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Two years later, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and, shortly thereafter, the Soviet “evil empire” fell as well.
While in New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly in September, Ahmadinejad on three occasions made an unambiguous offer: He said Iran would stop all enrichment of uranium beyond the levels used in civilian power plants—if his country is able to buy specialized fuel enriched at 20 percent, for use in its research reactor that produces medical isotopes to treat cancer patients.
Obama should seize this proposal and send negotiators straightaway to hammer out specifics. Iran has been enriching uranium since 2006, and it has accumulated a stockpile of uranium enriched at up to 5 percent, sufficient after further enrichment for several nuclear bombs. Iran is also producing 20 percent material every day, and it announced in June that it planned to triple its output. Halting Iran’s current production of 20 percent material and its projected growth would be significant.
A stockpile of uranium enriched at 20 percent shrinks the potential timeline for breaking out to bomb material from months to weeks. In effect, having uranium enriched at 20 percent takes Iran 90 yards along the football field to bomb-grade material. Pushing it back below 5 percent would effectively move Tehran back to the 30-yard line - much farther from the goal of bomb-grade material. Even more important, extracting from Iran a commitment to a bright red line capping enrichment at 5 percent would stop the Islamic Republic from advancing on its current path to 60 percent enrichment and then 90 percent.
Stopping Iran from enriching beyond 5 percent is not, in itself, a “solution” to its nuclear threat. Nor was Reagan’s proposal to Gorbachev. The question for Reagan was whether we would be better off with the Berlin Wall or without it.
Iran today is the most sanctioned member of the United Nations; it has been the target of five Security Council resolutions since 2006 demanding that it suspend all uranium enrichment. The United States and Europe have organized their own, tougher economic sanctions forbidding businesses from trading with Iranian companies and limiting Iran’s access to financial markets.
But Iran does not require the permission of the United Nations or, for that matter, the United States to advance its nuclear program within its borders. Nor are current or future sanctions likely to dissuade Iran from progressing steadily toward a nuclear weapon.
So far, Obama has essentially continued the Bush administration’s policy toward Iran with one addition: an authentic offer from the start of his administration to begin negotiations. Negotiations, however, have not been feasible because of sharp divisions within Iran. Those rifts were exacerbated after the June 2009 elections, in which Iran’s ruling powers (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard) rigged the presidential vote and then moved to suppress the opposition Green Movement protests. In the last two years, they have tightened control over their society.
Enter Ahmadinejad’s proposal to stop all enrichment at the 5 percent level—without preconditions. Although differences between Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader have become evident, the United States should pay attention to the president’s offer.
Arguments against testing the offer are easy to make. An embattled Ahmadinejad may not be able to deliver. Iran will use negotiations to seek to relax or escape current sanctions. If a deal were reached, it would be more difficult to win international support for the next round of sanctions. An agreement that stops only the 20 percent enrichment could imply a degree of acceptance of Iran’s ongoing enrichment up to 5 percent.
Recognizing all of these negatives, however, the policy question remains: Would the United States be better off with Iran enriching its uranium to 20 percent or without it?
President Obama should act now to test Ahmadinejad’s word.
America's last 10 years might be called “The Decade the Locusts Ate.’’ A nation
that started with a credible claim to lead a second American century
lost its way after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Whether the
nation will continue on a path of decline, or, alternatively, find our
way to recovery and renewal, is uncertain.
The nation began the
decade with a growing fiscal surplus and ended with a deficit so
uncontrolled that its AAA credit rating was downgraded for the first
time in its history. Ten years on, Americans’ confidence in our country
and the promise of the American Dream is lower than at any point in
memory. The indispensable superpower that entered the decade as the most
respected nation in the world has seen its standing plummet. Seven out
of every 10 Americans say that the United States is worse off today than
it was a decade ago. While many of the factors that contributed to
these developments were evident before 9/11, this unprecedented reversal
pivots on that tragic day - and the choices made in response to it.
Those choices had costs: the inescapable costs of the attack, the chosen
costs, and the opportunity costs.
costs of 9/11 must be counted first in the 3,000 innocent lives
extinguished that morning. In addition, the collapse of the World Trade
Center and part of the Pentagon destroyed $30 billion of property. The
Dow plunged, erasing $1.2 trillion in value. Psychologically, the
assault punctured the “security bubble’’ in which most Americans
imagined they lived securely. Today, 80 percent of Americans expect
another major terrorist attack on the homeland in the next decade.
this the sum of the matter, 9/11 would stand as a day of infamy, but
not as an historic turning point. Huge as these directs costs are, they
pale in comparison to costs of choices the United States made in
response to 9/11: about how to defend America; where to fight Al Qaeda;
whether to attack Iraq (or Iran or North Korea) on grounds that they had
chemical or biological weapons that could be transferred to Al Qaeda;
and whether to pay for these choices by taxing the current generation,
or borrowing from China and other lenders, leaving the bills to the next
Unquestionably, much of what was done to protect
citizens at home and to fight Al Qaeda abroad has made America safer. It
is no accident that the United States has not suffered further
megaterrorist attacks. The remarkable intelligence and Special Forces
capabilities demonstrated in the operation that killed Osama bin Laden
suggest how far we have come.
the central storyline of the decade focuses on two choices made
by President George W. Bush—his decision to go to war with Iraq and his
commitment to cut taxes, especially for wealthy Americans, and thus not
to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The cost of his
decision to go to war with Iraq is measured in 4,478 American deaths,
40,000 Americans gravely wounded, and a monetary cost of $2 trillion.
justified his decision to attack Iraq on the grounds that Saddam
Hussein might arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, arguing
that “19 hijackers armed by Saddam Hussein… could bring a day of horror
like none we have ever known.’’ In retrospect, even Bush supporters
agree that we went to war on false premises—since we now know that
Saddam had no chemical or biological weapons.
however, that chemical weapons had been found in Iraq. Would that have
made Bush’s choice a wise decision? What about the many other states
that had chemical or biological weapons that could have been transferred
to Al Qaeda, for example Libya, or Syria, or Iran? What about the state
that unquestionably had an advanced nuclear weapons program, North
Korea, which took advantage of the US preoccupation with Iraq to develop
an arsenal of nuclear weapons and conduct its first nuclear weapons
As for cutting taxes for the wealthy, Bush’s decision left
the nation with a widening gap between government revenues and its
expenditures. Brute facts are hard to ignore: having entered office with
a budgetary surplus that the CBO projected would total $3.5 trillion
through 2008, Bush left office with an annual deficit of over $1
trillion that the CBO projected would grow to $3 trillion over the next
Finally, and most difficult to assess, are opportunity
costs, what could be Robert Frost’s “road not taken.’’ In the immediate
aftermath of 9/11, the United States was the object of overwhelming
international sympathy and solidarity. The leading French newspaper
declared: “We are all Americans.’’ Citizens united behind their
commander in chief, giving him license to do virtually anything he could
plausibly argue would defend us against future attacks.
combination of readiness to sacrifice at home plus solidarity abroad
sparked imagination. Would Americans have willingly paid a “terrorist
tax’’ on gas that could kick what Bush rightly called America’s “oil
addiction’’? Could an international campaign against nuclear terrorism
or megaterrorism have bent trend lines that leave Americans and the
world increasingly vulnerable to future biological or nuclear terrorist
attacks? What impact could $2 trillion invested in new technologies have
had on American competitiveness?
That such a decade leaves
Americans increasingly pessimistic about ourselves and our future is not
surprising. American history, however, is a story of recurring,
impending catastrophes from which there is no apparent escape—followed
by miraculous recoveries. At one of our darkest hours in 1776 when
defeat at the hands of the British occupying Boston seemed almost
certain, the general commanding American forces, George Washington,
observed: “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.’’
A founding dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government,
Allison applies a long, distinguished career in government and academia
to this sobering—indeed frightening—presentation of U.S. vulnerability
to a terrorist nuclear attack. While he begins by asserting such an
attack is preventable, the balance of his text is anything but
reassuring. Allison begins by describing the broad spectrum of groups
who could intend a nuclear strike against the U.S. They range from an
al-Qaeda with its own Manhattan Project to small and determined doomsday
cults. Their tools can include a broad spectrum of weapons, either
stolen or homemade from raw materials increasingly available worldwide.
Once terrorists acquire a nuclear bomb, Allison argues, its delivery to
an American target may be almost impossible to stop under current
security measures. The Bush administration, correct in waging war
against nuclear terrorism, has not, he says, yet developed a
comprehensive counter strategy. Arguing that the only way to eliminate
nuclear terrorism's threat is to lock down the weapons at the source,
Allison recommends nothing less than a new international order based on
no insecure nuclear material, no new facilities for processing uranium
or enriching plutonium and no new nuclear states. Those policies,
Allison believes, do not stretch beyond the achievable, if pursued by a
combination of quid pro quos and intimidation in an international
context of negotiation and a U.S. foreign policy he describes as "humble." A humble policy in turn will facilitate building a world
alliance against nuclear terrorism and acquiring the intelligence
necessary for success against prospective nuclear terrorists. It will
also require time, money and effort. Like the Cold War, the war on
nuclear terrorism will probably be a long struggle in the twilight. But
no student of the fact, Allison asserts, doubts that another major
terrorist attack is in the offing. "We do not have the luxury," he
declares, "of hoping the beast will simply go away."
PRESIDENT OBAMA confronts the most fateful foreign policy decision
so far of his administration. Rapidly deteriorating security in
Afghanistan, the post-election political crisis in Kabul, highlighted
by Abdullah Abdullah’s decision to drop out of the runoff vote, and
General Stanley McChrystal’s request for 44,000 troops rightly spurred
Obama to call a timeout for reflection. Over the past eight weeks, in a
process with little precedent in American presidential decision-making,
the president and his advisers have held more than a half-dozen
no-holds-barred seminars examining and reexamining every dimension of
Reduced to a single bottom line, Obama must decide whether to accept
the recommendation of his chosen military commander in the field to
Americanize this war. McChrystal’s call for more troops would expand US
forces in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 in order to execute what he
terms a “classic counterinsurgency campaign.’’
Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, delivered a major speech last week summarizing his
own analysis of the issue and offering advice about the president’s
choices. The judgments are nuanced, but no more so than the realities.
On the bottom line question - yes or no on McChrystal’s
request—Kerry says no. He argues that McChrystal reaches “too far, too
fast.’’ Kerry recommends that further troop increases must meet three
conditions: reliable Afghan troops to partner with American forces,
local political leaders, and civilian advisers to speed development.
Truth be told, none of these three will be in place soon.
Kerry’s analysis begins with the most important consideration: US
national interests. What should Americans care about here? What matters
more than other things that matter? Kerry says: Pakistan—not
Afghanistan. His focal question about Afghanistan is how developments
there impact Pakistan. Over the past months he has led efforts to
spotlight the anomaly that allocates 30 times more American time and
resources to Afghanistan when our much larger interests lie in
Pakistan. Thanks to his efforts with Senator Richard Lugar, the United
States has committed $7½ billion over five years to help stabilize this
nuclear-armed nation at risk of becoming the “epicenter of extremism in
Second, what are America’s vital interests in Afghanistan? Kerry
answers that it is to “prevent the Taliban—with their long-standing
ties to Al Qaeda—from once again providing terrorists with an
unfettered Afghan safe haven.’’ Period. Note what this sparse summary
does not include: nation-building of a stable centrally-governed
Afghanistan. Like all Americans, Kerry applauds the progress
Afghanistan has made in becoming more democratic, expanding rights for
women, building schools. None of these, however, is included in his
minimum essentials for success.
Third, he defines success as “the ability to empower and transfer
responsibility to Afghans as rapidly as possible and achieve a
sufficient level of stability to ensure that we can leave behind an
Afghanistan that is not controlled by Al Qaeda or the Taliban.’’ He
does not say an Afghanistan in which some Taliban are not ruling in
Fourth, he rejects “all-in’’ counterinsurgency. In its place he
recommends “smart counterinsurgency,’’ the crux of which is “limited
geographic area…as narrowly focused as possible.’’ Counterinsurgency’s
central objective is to “foster development of effective governance by
a legitimate government.’’ In contrast, the strategy Kerry recommends
could be achieved by “good enough’’ stability in Kabul and the major
population centers of a minimalist state cooperative enough to rent
bases and supply lines, provide an operating environment for attacks
against Al Qaeda, and assist with intelligence gathering.
Kerry’ advances the argument by distinguishing between the vivid and
the vital, lowering ambitions to “what is achievable, measured against
the legitimate interests of the United States’’ and outlining a
strategy to that end. It is a speech that the president should, and no
doubt will, examine closely.
Graham Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government
and author of “Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable
IN A SPEECH this week, Iran's supreme leader found himself in rare agreement with President Bush. Echoing Bush's judgment that nuclear terrorism is "the single most serious threat to American national security," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that, "sooner or later, international terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weapons and bring the security of the world…to an end."
Bush has insisted that "for the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." Unfortunately, however, as a result of the failure of the Bush administration's strategy toward Iran, today Tehran stands seven years further down its path to nuclear weapons than it did on Jan. 20, 2001. Specifically, when Bush entered office, Iran had no operational uranium enrichment facilities. Today, as last month's International Atomic Energy Agency report documents, Iran is operating 3,492 centrifuges in a cascade that has produced 500 pounds of low-enriched uranium. This is one-third of what is required for Iran's first nuclear bomb.
The Bush administration's strategy to prevent Iran's mastering technology for enriching uranium and producing nuclear weapons has been characterized as a "diplomatic slow squeeze." The administration has hoped that UN Security Council resolutions isolating Iran, enforced by sanctions, would persuade Tehran to suspend enrichment activity. Ironically, the IAEA chose Memorial Day to inform its member governments that for the third time, Iran has stiffed the demands of the Security Council resolution.
In baseball, it's three strikes and you're out. After the undeniable failure of the third Security Council resolution imposing sanctions to slow Iran's nuclear program, Bush's Iran strategists should recognize that they have struck out.
Hoping to divert attention from this record, the Bush administration has further confused the issue with exaggerated rhetorical attacks on those who advocate an alternative strategy of direct diplomacy including negotiations. Speaking to the Israeli Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation, Bush accused proponents of negotiations with unfriendly regimes of "appeasement." More diplomatically, but equally pointedly, in addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for another dose of the same medicine the administration has been prescribing, and sought to shift the blame to Iran, asserting that "The real question is: Why won't Tehran talk to us?"
Facts are only obliquely relevant to political debate. But for the record, the charge of appeasement leveled against British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain focused not on his willingness to talk, but on his unwillingness to act. In the run-up to World War II, negotiation was not the issue. The question was whether Britain and France would act when Adolf Hitler violated Germany's Versailles Treaty commitments.
Winston Churchill criticized the governments for capitulating when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, arguing that if they had responded, "There is no doubt that Hitler would have been compelled by his own General Staff to withdraw.…They had only to act to win." Instead, a confident Hitler went on to absorb Austria, and after Munich, Czechoslovakia.
If Bush recognized the fact that his diplomatic squeeze has failed, and asked what he could do in his final eight months to advance US interests in relations with Iran, he would not have to look beyond his own Cabinet.
In a 2004 report titled "Iran: Now is the Time for a New Approach," Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged that "the United States deal with the current regime rather than wait for it to fall." When asked about this recommendation during recent testimony on the Hill, Gates noted that he had been "in a happier place" then.
But it is clear that Gates remains convinced that direct negotiations are imperative for solving the nuclear standoff. As he told the Academy of American Diplomacy last month, "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage…and then sit down and talk with them."
Negotiations are never certain to yield results. The alternative, a world of nuclear anarchy, is of great concern to both nations. Having seen the results of seven years of nonengagement, Bush could do his successor—whether Democrat or Republican—a great favor by proposing to negotiate with Iran now.
Graham Allison is a Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Presdent Pervez Musharraf's stunning defeat in Monday's elections in Pakistan represents a decisive rejection of what his opponents called his policies of "subservience" to the United States. An American press that has been virtually unanimous in opposing Musharraf will now predictably call for his resignation in favor of "genuine democracy." Since this outcome is a possibility, it is essential to ask where a government that accurately reflects the views of Pakistani citizens would stand on issues that matter most to America.
Would such a government follow Musharraf's lead as a grudging shot-gun ally? Recall that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as Musharraf tells the story, the United States gave him the choice of becoming an ally or being "bombed back to the Stone Age."
How vigorously would a new democratic government support the US-led war on terrorism in which Pakistan's army is now fighting Al Qaeda and its affiliates headquartered in Pakistan's ungoverned Northwest Territories? Would such a government be more likely to cooperate with the United States and NATO in the ongoing but faltering war against the Taliban in Afghanistan? Recall again that the rise of the Taliban took place during the term of Musharraf's civilian predecessors, including Nawaz Sharif, the leader of one of the parties that won in Monday's election.
The answer to each of these questions is as unambiguous as it is uncomfortable. A Pakistani government whose actions align with its citizens' views on these issues would be at loggerheads with the United States. Over the past year, polls have highlighted the sharp decline in Musharraf's popularity, with his approval ratings dropping to 15 percent in December. Several recent polls, including ones from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the International Republican Institute, and Terror Free Tomorrow echo those sentiments, with one showing that 70 percent of Pakistanis "want Musharraf to immediately resign."
But what most American commentators have missed is that however much Pakistanis dislike Musharraf, they are more hostile toward the United States. When asked to name the "single greatest threat" to their country, 64 percent of Pakistanis named the United States. Historic archrival India, with whom Pakistan has fought five bloody wars, was second, well behind America.
Eighty-nine percent of Pakistanis said they disapprove of the US war on terrorism. Eight in 10 Pakistanis oppose allowing the United States to pursue Al Qaeda terrorists in their country. A similar percentage rejects US pursuit of Taliban forces into Pakistan. In opposing Musharraf, opposition parties called him "Busharraf" and accused him of being a "lackey" of the United States in the "so-called war on terrorism," which they say is a US-led war on Islam.
The US military presence in Afghanistan, where earlier Pakistani governments were the primary sponsors of the Taliban, is opposed by 83 percent of Pakistanis. Critics of Musharraf's limited cooperation with the US-NATO campaign should recognize that a government that more closely followed the wishes of its people would be less cooperative in combating the Taliban.
The United States has two vital national interests in Pakistan: first, to prevent any of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and bomb-making materials from being stolen, sold or transferred to terrorists; second, to destroy Al Qaeda's leadership, sanctuary, and training camps. Neither interest will be advanced by a transition from the devil we know to the new democratic Pakistani government.
Fortunately, Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secured by its army, the country's most effective national institution. Unless the army were destabilized or became substantially disaffected because of extended political instability, it will fulfill its custodial responsibilities. In contrast, a government that truly reflects the current views of the Pakistani people is more likely to be an unspoken opponent than an ambiguous ally in the US war against Al Qaeda and other terrorists in the region.Hard as it is to believe, Osama bin Laden is four times as popular among Pakistanis as President Bush, whose approval rating is 7.7 percent.
That leading US opinion pages generally critical of Bush's democracy crusade in Iraq should now so uncritically promote democratic shock-therapy as a panacea for Pakistan's problems is puzzling. The inconvenient, painful truth is that a truly democratic Pakistan would be, at least in the foreseeable future, less inclined to act in ways that advance urgent American interests.
Advocates of instant democracy should be careful what they wish for.
Graham Allison Faculty Associate; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
President George W. Bush's decision to award President Vladimir Putin the unique distinction of a weekend in Kennebunkport with two American presidents flummoxed supporters and critics alike. Over the past year, no international leader has been more critical of the president than his Russian guest.
From his January State of the Union reference to “Comrade Wolf,” to his recent comparison of Bush's America to Hitler's Third Reich, Putin has many chattering about a new Cold War. Moreover, in preparing for election of a new parliament in December and new president next March, Putin has tightened Kremlin's grip on all instruments of power, from the economy to the press. Why then did Bush decide to reward what most American opinion leaders believe he should be condemning? Senator John McCain, for example, has called for Russia to be evicted from the G-8 club of leading industrial democracies.
Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made the right decision in inviting Putin on the basis of a sound assessment of how best to advance American national interests. Four considerations informed their judgment.
First, hysterics aside, Russia is not the Soviet Union, and the United States is not entering a new Cold War.
For four decades the Soviet Union was America's focal enemy. A Communist totalitarian government consumed 40 percent of its gross national product in a military-dominated state whose troops occupied what Ronald Reagan rightly called an “evil empire.”
Today, Russia's borders have shrunk back to territory controlled by Catherine the Great 200 years ago. Russia now spends $1 on defense for every $11 in the American defense budget. In short, this is not his father's Soviet Union.
Second, President Bush understands that Russia is a former superpower struggling to recover its balance.
For Russia, the 1990s were a traumatic roller coaster ride that turned the society upside-down and inside out. Over the decade, the Soviet Union disappeared to be replaced by Russia and 14 newly independent states; a centrally commanded and controlled economy was destroyed in an economic depression worse than the great American depression; and Communism was buried.
A superpower rival of the United States became a supplicant, groveling for economic assistance. Under Putin, Russia's economy has grown at 7 percent per year; Russia's debt has been repaid; Russia has emerged as a petro-power.
Third, as a fellow politician, Bush understands the power of public symbols.
In both countries, baiting the former Cold War adversary is politically productive. Especially in a society that felt humiliated and thus craves to be proud of their country, Putin's readiness to stand up to the world's sole superpower has given him the highest approval rating among his fellow citizens of any leader in the world today. Thus especially when cooperating, Putin is always at pains to describe this in his own term—not as concessions to the United States.
Fourth and most important, as the president stated bluntly at the Kennebunkport press conference, the United States needs Russia.
Success in combating the greatest threats to Americans' security and well-being requires Russia's active cooperation. Iran is only the most urgent illustration of the central proposition: Without deep Russian cooperation, the United States has no hope of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, nuclear terrorism, and nuclear war.
Words aside, Putin's hidden hand has been extremely helpful in the current bargaining with Iran: delaying completion of the civilian nuclear reactor at Bushehr, refusing to supply nuclear fuel to Iran, and urging Iran to accept an arrangement in which fuel for its civilian nuclear reactors would be produced by an international consortium outside Iran.
Russia has joined the United States in three UN resolutions calling on Iran to suspend enrichment of uranium and enter negotiations. As Bush underlined at the press conference, when the United States and Russia stand together, Iran takes note.
Bush was right to host Putin in a setting conducive to serious conversation about how they can block Iran's acquisition of nuclear bombs.
In the weeks ahead, expect the two countries to move directly to conduct a joint assessment of the Iranian threat on the basis of which they produce a joint strategy for stopping Iran. The unnecessary controversy over missile defenses against nuclear warheads delivered by Iranian missiles can readily be resolved in that context since such defenses would be required only if the United States and Russia fail to prevent Iran's acquiring nuclear bombs.
The proof of what was achieved at this “lobster summit” will be in Russian and American actions in the months ahead. But if by this invitation, Bush solidified Putin's cooperation as a real partner in stopping Iran, Kennebunkport will be noted by historians as an accomplishment of which two soon-to-be former presidents can be proud.
Graham Allison is a Faculty Associate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. He is also Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, and Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
President George W. Bush has complained that opponents tend to “misunderestimate” him. Could he be misunderestimating his North Korean opponent, Kim Jong Il?
At his recent press conference, President Bush's exchange with CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux left observers scratching their heads.
Malveaux: “Four years ago you labeled North Korea a member of the ‘axis of evil.’ Since then it's increased its nuclear arsenal, it's abandoned six-party talks, and now these missile launches…”
Bush: “That's an interesting statement: ‘North Korea has increased its nuclear arsenal.’ Can you verify that?”
Malveaux: “Well, intelligence sources say—if you'd like to dispute that, that's fine.”
Bush: “No, I'm not going to dispute, I'm just curious.”
Malveaux: “It's increased its nuclear capabilities. It's abandoned six-party talks, and it's launched these missiles.”
Malveaux: “Why shouldn't Americans see the US policy regarding North Korea as a failed one?”
Unquestionably, Bush is familiar with the basic facts about North Korea's expansion of its arsenal of plutonium during his presidency. However, his response suggests an extreme case of cognitive dissonance. Given his image of Kim Jong Il, the score in the face-off between the leader of the world's most powerful nation and one of the weakest states on the globe does not compute.
This discrepancy is enhanced by Bush's personal distaste for North Korea's “Dear Leader,” in Pyongyang-speak. Calling him “a pygmy,” whom he “loathes,” the president views him as “irrational” and “strange.” How then is it possible that in the contest to prevent North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons, the score today is Kim Jong Il 8, Bush 0?
Unpalatable as they are, the brute facts cannot be denied. When Bush entered office in 2001, North Korea had one to two bombs' worth of plutonium, according to CIA estimates. That material had been diverted from its Yongbyon research reactor during the presidency of George H.W. Bush and reprocessed to extract the plutonium in 1991.
Today, according to American intelligence estimates, Kim Jong Il has acquired an additional eight bombs' worth of plutonium and thus has an arsenal of as many as 10 weapons. Furthermore, he has restarted his operational production line, making two additional bombs of plutonium every year.
If one widens the lens to the broader US objectives in its policy toward North Korea, the bottom line is even worse. After taking office in 2001, the Bush administration rejected the Clinton approach to North Korea as a “flagrant failure” and trumpeted a new approach. The essence of the Bush administration's North Korean policy was: no North Korean nuclear weapons; no ambiguity about violations of the terms of the 1994 Agreed Framework; no more missile tests; and no rewards to induce better behavior on Pyongyang's part. Before the end of the first year in office, this policy had taken the further step to “regime change.”
In contrast, Kim Jong Il's overriding objective has been regime survival, including the survival of the dear leader himself and his family. In addition to sustaining the regime, he wanted money, oil, and food to keep his desperate economy afloat. And the extent that he could get away with it, he wanted to produce additional fissile material for additional nuclear weapons as well.
Measured against their respective objectives, which of the parties deserves higher marks? Kim Jong Il often seems crazy, but he may be crazy like a fox.
Graham Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a faculty associate of the Weatherhead Center. He is a former assistant secretary of defense and author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe.
As the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks become a more distant memory, many Americans comfort themselves with the thought that 9/11 was a freak accident or a 100-year flood. Yesterday's arrest of 21 suspected terrorists, who were in the operational stage of preparation to blow up airplanes en route from Britain to the United States, serves as another stark wake-up call to the brute fact that so many find so hard to believe: There are a large number of people in the world who seriously want to kill us.
As we applaud the diligence of British security services that unraveled this plot, there are deeper questions Americans should reflect on. Why are so many people prepared to give up their own lives to kill Americans? Why are there so many people in the world who support them? Why do so many people believe that their methods are justifiable?
A year into the war in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld posed a similar question to his four closest colleagues in the Pentagon in a memo that was subsequently leaked. About US strategy in the global war on terrorism, he asked: “Are we capturing, killing, or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training, and deploying against us?”
Assessing our adversaries' numbers dynamically and seeking to understand their motivation clinically is not to sympathize with them, but to attempt to design better strategies to defeat them. That requires understanding how our actions increase sympathy, support, and incentives for would-be killers. As commanders of US forces in Iraq have observed, if by calling down airstrikes on a house containing one terrorist and 10 innocents we subtract one terrorist but recruit 10 replacements, we move backward in our mission.
Nine months after 9/11, Al Qaeda announced its goal to kill four million Americans. As an affiliated website stated: “We have the right to kill four million Americans—two million of them children—and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands” to compensate for the Muslims killed by what Osama bin Laden called the “Jewish-Christian crusaders.”
One can only imagine how bin Laden's target number is growing as the war in Iraq continues, and now as Israel pursues its campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon.
The capture of the would-be plane bombers in London should cause us to reflect on our longer-run strategy for what the president has rightly called the “long war” on terrorism. In that war, there are today more people who see the United States as the major threat to themselves than there were on 9/11. In that war, the war in Iraq has caused more people around the world to support terrorists who want to kill us. Clearly, we must continue efforts at monitoring, disrupting, capturing, incarcerating, or eliminating determined killers. But a strategic reassessment of our longer-term strategy for the war on terrorism would highlight at least three areas that require substantial change on our part.
First, we must acknowledge that the surest way to generate terrorists is to occupy their territory. The French learned this in Algeria; the Israelis, in the occupation of Lebanon from 1978 to 2000. To the extent that US troops are seen as occupiers in Iraq or Israeli troops occupiers in Lebanon, history would predict we motivate terrorists. The quiet, unadvertised withdrawal of US forces from bases in Saudi Arabia removed one of bin Laden's raison d'etre: to force American and other “crusaders” to remove their troops from Arab lands.
Second, we must recognize that most of the actions required to discover and capture terrorist plotters like the “London 21” will be taken by other governments—or not at all. However great our effort, it cannot approach the extent and effectiveness of the British government in Britain, the Saudi government in Saudi Arabia, the Pakistani government in its country. But gaining their assistance will require greater sensitivity to these governments' and their citizens' concerns on issues at the top of their agendas. To Americans who ask why we care that majorities even in allied countries disapprove of the United States and especially the Bush administration and believe that America is the greatest threat to international security, the answer is that their cooperation in outing a jihadist in their midst may be essential to our security.
Finally, we must delegitimize terrorism—making it as internationally unacceptable as slavery or piracy.
As President Bush has rightly said, we live in a “dangerous world.” Effectively combating this threat will, however, require more imagination and harder choices in the long run.
Graham T. Alliston, Jr. is a Faculty Associate of the watherhead; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director,
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy
School of Government, Harvard University
Observing the second anniversary of Al Qaeda's assault on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, administration spokesmen sought to highlight progress in the war on terrorism to support President Bush's claim that we're getting safer every day. But if one stands back and asks whether Americans are actually safer from terrorist attacks than we were 12 months ago, a serious answer requires a net assessment. Our safety is a function not only of what our government does, but also of changes in our adversaries' capabilities and motivation.
Assessing that balance, I conclude that the threat of terrorist attacks on America in the year ahead remains at least as high as it was last year. Consider four fronts in this war: the international campaign against Al Qaeda; homeland security; preventing nuclear and biological terrorism; and Iraq.
In the first 12 months after the attack, America organized an extraordinary worldwide campaign against terrorism. Universal sympathy for American victims of 9/11 led governments and citizens around the world to proclaim solidarity under the banner, "We are all Americans." Through the UN, the United States enlisted more than 100 nations in a global effort to share intelligence information, enforce antiterrorist legislation in each local setting, and stop terrorists' flow of funds.
In the past year, this global coalition has frayed. America's standing in the world has fallen further and faster than at any time in the history of polling. When asked recently whom they trust to "do the right thing regarding world affairs," more Pakistanis, Indonesians, and Jordanians chose Osama bin Laden than President Bush.
Why does this matter? The essence of effective counter-terrorism is intelligence and police enforcement at the local level. The mastermind of Al Qaeda's Southeast Asian operations was captured in Thailand as a result of a tip from suspicious neighbors combined with active cooperation between local Thai agents and the CIA. The "hearts and minds" of governments and citizens provide either a sympathetic sea in which terrorists swim and hide, or alternatively, millions of eyes and ears from which terrorists cannot escape. Although the United States caught three of Al Qaeda's top leaders in the past year, bin Laden and his second-in-command are still on the lam and Al Qaeda recruitment is up.
Second, in defending the American homeland, the US government has taken many significant actions, most notably the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. In time, this will yield security dividends. But realism requires recognition that in the first year after such disruptive changes, capabilities are more likely to decline than increase. Former Senator Warren Rudman's recent Council on Foreign Relations report finds a shortfall of $98 billion in priority investments in homeland security over the next five years.
Third, the campaign to prevent a nuclear or biological 9/11 is failing. Despite lots of talk, North Korea is today producing plutonium that could be sold to terrorists for use in a nuclear attack. Russian and Pakistani nuclear weapons and materials remain as vulnerable to theft as they were last year. Orphaned research reactors in a dozen countries around the world, including Libya and Ghana, contain highly enriched uranium sufficient to make a number of nuclear weapons. And while Saddam no longer rules Iraq, he has gone missing, and with him a sophisticated smuggling network and whatever biological weapons Iraq had.
While the administration rightly recognized the threat of a bioterrorist attack with smallpox or other agents, the campaign to protect American citizens flopped. The announced goal of vaccinating 500,000 first responders against smallpox was recently disbanded after vaccinating fewer than 40,000. Long term, Project Bioshield will create new vaccines and therapeutics. Short term, the public health system's capacity to identify and respond to bioterrorism remains dangerously inadequate.
Iraq is the wild card. Analytically, Iraq was tangential to the immediate war on terrorism. The CIA found no links between Saddam and 9/11 and no evidence of Iraqi support for terrorist attacks on American targets since the early 1990s. But President Bush's decision to market war on Iraq as a centerpiece of the war on terrorism has now forged an inextricable link.
While the demonstration of America's military might has surely sobered regimes that wish America harm, the administration's incompetence in postwar Iraq has attracted both terrorists and jihadi wannabes in what now threatens to become a terrorist incubator akin to Afghanistan during Soviet occupation.
For the year ahead, Americans are at least as vulnerable to terrorist attacks as we were in the year past. After the next mega-terrorist attack, Americans will find our government's failure to mount a more effective war on terrorism as inexplicable as they found the failure to prevent 9/11.
Ranchers have learned painfully the wisdom of the maxim: when pursuing deadly rattlesnakes, don't provoke the fatal attack you are aiming to prevent. Does the Bush administration's chosen strategy of publicized preemption risk violating that prescription?
President George W. Bush believes not. In this week's address to the nation, the essence of his argument for acting now is that we must hit Saddam before he hits us. Unless we take preemptive action to disarm Iraq and eliminate Saddam, he argued "on any given morning," Saddam could surprise us with a chemical or biological 9/11.
The nation's best intelligence analysts disagree. As the latest National Intelligence Estimate, declassified this week, states unequivocally: in the absence of a US attack, the likelihood of Saddam attacking us with chemical and biological weapons in the foreseeable future is "low." On the other hand, if Saddam becomes convinced that we really are about to attack him to topple his regime, intelligence analysts conclude the likelihood that he would attack us with chemical or biological weapons is "high." In sum: to prevent an attack the likelihood of which is low, the US is taking action that makes the likelihood of that attack high.
Which of these conflicting judgments seems more likely to be correct: the president's or the intelligence community's? Since the competing bets are driven by strategic logic, not secret information, let us consider the question.
Bush presented the basic facts clearly in Monday's address. We know that Saddam has chemical and biological weapons including "anthrax and other deadly biological agents*mdash;capable of killing millions." We know that Iraq has "a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas." We know that he "is exploring ways of using these UAV's for missions targeting the United States." We know that "a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative could deliver" biological agents to an American city. We know that those who hate America would be "eager to use biological or chemical or nuclear weapons." Thus "we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring."
The issue remains how best to prevent the worst from occurring.
On the current path, for more than a year the Bush administration has broadcast its firm intention to change the regime in Iraq: to kill Saddam and everything he holds dear. Currently, the US is positioning military forces in the region in preparation for such an attack. A congressional resolution authorizing the president to take "all necessary means" has been passed. Shortly thereafter, a Security Council resolution authorizing intrusive inspections and, after Saddam stiffs inspectors, permitting a US-led military attack to disarm Iraq seems assured.
Given this picture, what do we imagine Saddam is now planning for us? Given Bush's summary of Saddam's character (evil), his history (homicidal), and his intentions (ruthlessly hostile), is he likely to go down with a whimper—or a bang? Will he attack Americans here at home? Has he already dispatched operatives to American cities with biological weapons like smallpox? Will he attack Israel with biological weapons? Will he infect bases in the region where American troops are preparing to launch an attack upon him? If Saddam's overriding objective is his own survival, as we launch, or finalize plans to launch, an attack that threatens to extinguish him, is there any reason to expect him to do less than his best to kill as many Americans as possible?
If the evidence the president cites is correct, the logic of the snake hunter's maxim would appear to lead inexorably to the National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion: "Conducting a WMD attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."
Therefore, what to do? If one finds a pair of rattlesnakes in his backyard, backing off and hoping they slink away is not the answer. Nonetheless, prudence requires that before attacking a coiled rattler that has no escape route, we are as prepared as we can be to blunt its strike.
President Bush asked: "Does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?" The answer is: it depends. Specifically, it depends on whether his offensive capabilities to harm us are growing faster than our capabilities to defend ourselves against the counterattack our action may provoke.
Before taking action that will likely provoke the very attack we seek to prevent, Bush should assure Americans that our troops in the field and citizens here at home are prepared for the biological and chemical attacks the country's best intelligence analysts judge to be "likely." Have you gotten your anthrax and smallpox vaccinations yet?