Saturday, March 28, 2009

Recent foreign policy developments

Cristina y Joe

The big foreign policy news of this past week was the Obama administration's announced plans for escalating the Afghanistan War. I've blogged quite a bit about why I think escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a really bad idea. I'll be blogging more about it. And, sadly, it looks like we'll have a long time yet where we have an Afghanistan-Pakistan War to blog about. And for our soldiers and lots of Afghans and Pakistanis to die in.

The rhetoric sounds good: no purely military solutions, working to end corruption, promote development, get close to the people there, get better cooperation from Pakistan, target terrorists, concentrate on the Taliban and Al Qa'ida, and yadda, yadda, yadda. The problem is you can find virtually identical statement from the years of the Vietnam War and from pretty much any time during the Iraq War. One of the lessons that the officer corps and many of our politicians and diplomats (mis)learned from the Vietnam War was that if you could just do slicker PR on the home front, everything would work much better. Many of them have simply never given up the illusion that the US can beat any enemy, any time, anywhere, as long as the Will of the civilians and politicians on the home front holds firm.

Obama is scheduled to sign a joint declaration with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev setting up a framework for new negotiations over nuclear arms reduction. Estados Unidos y Rusia firmarán un acuerdo para reducir sus arsenales nucleares El País 28.03.2009.


Obama has also scheduled a meeting with Spanish President (prime minister) José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero on April 5 in the Czech Republic while Obama is there for the G-20 summit: Obama y Zapatero se reunirá el próximo día 5 en la República Checa por Miguel González 28.03.2009. Joe Biden has just met with Zapatero at the Cumbre de Líderes Progresistas conference in Viña del Mar, Chile and expressed full understanding for Spain's decision to withdraw its troops from Kosovo this year.

Biden is on the road in Latin America in preparation for a Latin American "Summit of the Americas" for April 17-19 in Trinidad and Tobago.: Biden seeks 'new day' in Latin America ties AFP 03/27/09:

The US vice president was due to meet bilaterally with the leaders of Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, as well as Britain, during a Progressive Governance conference in Vina del Mar on Chile's coast, before consulting with Central American presidents in Costa Rica at a gathering hosted by President Oscar Arias.
Biden's visit represents another opportunity for Argentine President Cristina Fernández to raise her country's and her own international profile: Cristina reclamó un rol más activo del Estado y que se estimule la demanda global Clarín 28.03.2009. Fernández, whose "Kirchnerism" represents a distinctly social-democratic variety of the complex Peronism of her Partido Justicialista (PJ), explictly denounced the Washington Consensus which dominated the widely-discredited policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. One of her predecessors, representing what we might call the Washington Consensus wing of the PJ, Carlos Menem, implemented a drastic version of it with major deregulation and privitizations, which led to massive corruption and a new economic and political crisis in 2001, two years after Menem left office, which wound up with Fernández' husband Néstor Kirchner being elected President in 2003. Fernández on the Washington Consensus this week:

Esta crisis de carácter global y mundial revelan que estamos ante una situación de cambio inédito en el mundo y Argentina fue el lugar que experimentó con mayor crudeza la privatización de todos los recursos del Estado y la demonización del Estado como mal administrador y terminó con una implosión de todo el sistema financiero argentino similar al que hoy se vive en las principales economías del mundo.

[This crisis of a general and worldwide character revealed that were face a situation of change new to the world, and Argentina was the place that experimented in a very crude way with privitization of all the resources of the state and the demonization of the state as a bad administrator, and wound up with the implosion of the whole Argentine financial system [in the crisis of 2001] similar to that through which the principle economies of the world are living today.]
The heads of government attending the Cumbre de Líderes Progresistas include Biden, Zapatero, Fernández, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Uruguaian President Tabaré Vázquez,British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the conference hosted by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Fernández also raised the still-unsettled issue of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands with Gordon Brown: Aún con la mira en el G-20, la Argentina reiteró el reclamo por Malvinas Clarín 28.03.2009; Malvinas, el tema que siempre está Clarín 28.03.2009. Britain took the island in 1833 - actually the Americans seized it and turned it over to Britain - and was the point of contention in Malvinas War of 1982.

Yes, Señor Prime Minister, we're getting back our islands one of these days: Argentine President Cristina Fernández and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Britain officially refuses to discuss the sovereignty of the islands. Of course, there are many shades of "refusing to discuss" in diplomacy. In a 1990 agreement between the two countries, Argentina officially recognized that Britain is exercising a custodianship of the disputed islands. Oil is invoved, too. Well into the 18th century, possession of the islands was disputed among Spain, Britain, France, even the Netherlands. Spain based its claim back to 1520 on the legendary voyage of Fernando de Magallanes. Britain's claim dates to 1690.

Spain bought France's portion of the island in 1770 and kicked the British out in 1774. Argentina's formal independence from Spain dates to 1816 and Argentina claimed the Malvinas in 1820. Britain took the islands in 1833 and declared the Falkland Islands a colony in 1890.

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