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The Islamic State:

From al-Qaeda Affiliate to Caliphate

Ahmed S. Hashim

he dramatic victories in summer 2014 of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) over rival
groups fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad and over the government of Iraq and
Kurdish forces culminated in the declaration of a caliphate, or the Islamic State. The
international community became alarmed, and the lightning ISIS advance in Iraq was blunted
in mid-August by U.S. air power. Air strikes were ramped up in September and October in both Iraq
and Syria by the United States and an ad hoc coalition of Middle Eastern and European states.
There has been a scramble by policy makers, militaries, intelligence officials and journalists
from around the globe to understand the ISIS phenomenon, resulting in a profusion of unverified and
contradictory information. This study, drawing from a multitude of open sources, seeks to provide a
concise overview of the origins, ideology, goals and military operations of ISIS in Iraq and Syria from
2003 to the present in order to help governments understand and deal with this phenomenon.


ISIS/IS has its origins in an obscure militant group, Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ), that
was stood up in 2000 by a Jordanian one-time criminal-turned-Islamist named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
(AMZ). His intent was to fight the Jordanian government, but he failed to gain traction. Zarqawi then
traveled to Afghanistan to fight on the side of the mujahidin (resistance) in the jihad against the
Soviets. Having arrived after their departure, he soon returned to his homeland to fight the wellentrenched Jordanian monarchy. His efforts came to naught, and he eventually returned to
Afghanistan, where he ran an Islamic militant training camp near Herat. No evidence exists that he
had much interaction with Osama bin Laden or his organization, al-Qaeda. AMZ claimed he was
influenced by Abdullah Azzam, the Palestinian Jordanian Islamist thinker who exhorted Arabs to fight
the Soviets alongside the Afghan mujahidin: "We used to receive some audiocassettes recorded by
Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, may he rest in peace. He had a great influence on my decision to engage in
Following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, al-Zarqawi moved into Iraq. There he
developed extensive ties with Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam), a Kurdish Islamist group. In March
2003, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq. A brilliant conventional campaign led to the
erroneous belief on the part of the George W. Bush administration that Iraq would stabilize and
progress towards democracy. By summer 2003, the disgruntled Sunni minority toppled from
power with the downfall of Saddam Hussein launched a deadly insurgency. It consisted of five
distinct groups, four composed largely of Iraqis from the former regime, nationalists, tribal elements
and various Islamist fighters. The fifth group was AMZ's JTJ, consisting of a smattering of Iraqis and
many foreign fighters.
JTJ developed into a network aimed at resisting the coalition occupation forces and their
Iraqi allies. Its goals: to (i) force a withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq; (ii) topple the Iraqi interim
government; (iii) assassinate collaborators with the occupation regime; (iv) target the Shia population
and defeat its deadly militias; and (v) establish an Islamic state under sharia, God's law. AMZ
declared that the JTJ political platform was based on a saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed:
"I was sent to the world with a sword in my hand until all worship would be devoted to Allah alone."
AMZ elaborates his project:
We will fight in the cause of God until His shariah prevails. The first step is to expel the
enemy and establish the state of Islam. We would then go forth to reconquer the Muslim
lands and restore them to the Muslim nation.... I swear by God that even if the Americans
had not invaded our lands together with the Jews, the Muslims would still be required not to
refrain from jihad but go forth and seek the enemy until only God Almighty's shariah
prevailed everywhere in the world.... Our political project is to expel this marauding enemy.
This is the first step. Afterwards our goal is to establish God's shariah all over the globe....

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We will not be revealing a secret when we say that we seek to establish Islamic justice in the
entire world and crush the injustice of disbelief and the iniquity of other religions.
In pursuit of his goals, AMZ left a trail of death and destruction in Iraq. JTJ differed
considerably from the other Iraqi insurgent groups. Rather than using only guerrilla tactics
ambushes, raids and hit-and-run attacks against the U.S. forces it relied heavily on suicide
bombers. It targeted a wide variety of groups: the Iraqi security forces, Iraqi Shia and Kurdish political
and religious figures, Shia Muslim civilians, foreign civilian contractors, and UN and humanitarian
workers. AMZ reserved much of his ire for the Shia of Iraq. In February 2004, AMZ had called the
Shia the "insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying
enemy, and the penetrating venom." AMZ was very adept at using the Internet to promote his
message, recruit personnel and terrorize his enemies, posting his first communiqu on a jihadist
website in April 2004. Through creating a worldwide network, Zarqawi's volunteers posted messages
from their leader and videos of militant acts, like beheadings, on multiple servers. This avoided
delays in downloading and made it difficult for the material to be removed from the World Wide Web.


In late 2004, AMZ brought his group under the loose control of Osama bin Laden; the group
officially pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda network in a letter in October 2004. The new
organization, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn, or al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), provided alQaeda with a ready-made base from which to strike the United States and AMZ with prestige. He
was now part of a brand name that drew recruits and financial and logistical support.
In March 2005, AQI articulated a cohesive ideological vision its "creed and methodology"
in which it expressed its determination to promote and defend tawhid (monotheism) and eliminate
polytheism. It defined anyone who did not believe in the essential unity/oneness of God as an infidel
and subject to takfir (excommunication) and death. It expressed the belief that the Prophet
Mohammad is God's messenger for the entire human race and viewed secularism (ilmaniyah) and all
other isms nationalism, tribalism, communism and Baathism as "blatant violations of Islam."
Jihad was the duty of all Muslims if the infidels attacked. Waging jihad against the enemies of Islam
was next in importance to the profession of the shahada (faith). AQI argued that all Muslims
excluding the Shia constitute one nation. There is no differentiation between Arabs and nonArabs; piety is what counts.
In the words of Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, then the chief spokesman of AQI, the goals are

Remove the "aggressor" from Iraq.

Affirm tawhid, oneness of God among Muslims.
Propagate the message that "there is no god but God" to all the countries in which Islam is
Wage jihad to liberate Muslim territories from infidels and apostates.
Fight the taghut (illegitimate) rulers of Muslim lands.
"Establish a wise caliphate" in which the sharia rules supreme, as it did during the time of the
Prophet Mohammad.
"Spread monotheism on earth, cleanse it of polytheism, to govern according to the laws of
AMZ and al-Qaeda Central (AQC), the top leadership, saw eye to eye on ideology and
goals, but problems arose over AQI's modus operandi in Iraq. AMZ's tactic of engaging in mass
civilian casualties, earning him the sobriquet "sheikh of the slaughterers," aroused grave concern
from his mentor Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, a leading Salafist thinker based in Jordan, and among
al-Qaeda leaders, including second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. In July 2005, differences of
opinion between Al-Maqdisi and AMZ came out into the open. In his "Message of Support and
Advice," published on his website Minbar al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, Maqdisi advised AMZ to stop
targeting civilians, churches and Shia. The real enemy, added Maqdisi, was the American occupier.
AMZ responded that the advice was unfair; he viewed the Shia as rejectionists and apostates and
considered fighting them to be more important than fighting non-Muslims. 7 AMZ blamed the Shia for
the vicious sectarian conflict:
We did not initiate fighting with them, nor did we point our slings at them. It was they who
started liquidating the cadres of the Sunni people, rendering them homeless, and usurping
their mosques and houses.
Ayman al-Zawahiri apparently sent a letter to AMZ on July 9, 2005, that was intercepted by
U.S. military forces. In the letter, Zawahiri expresses total agreement with the goals of the jihadist

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military efforts in Iraq but expresses grave reservations with AMZ's tactics. The jihadists cannot win
without the hearts and minds of the (Sunni) Muslim masses and the ulema (scholars). More locals
Iraqis need to be the face of AQI. The Taliban in Afghanistan lacked popular support; hence they
succumbed. Zawahiri adds that the Shia are truly treacherous and cannot be trusted but questions
whether it is necessary to slaughter them in such a manner. It alienates Muslim opinion and distracts
the jihadists from fighting the Americans; the conflict with the Shia can wait. Finally, is it really
necessary, asks Zawahiri, to engage in public displays of brutality such as the beheadings of
hostages? This was not good public relations.


It is not clear what impact AQC's expression of concern had, but in January 2006, AQI
created an umbrella organization called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in an attempt to unify
Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Its efforts to recruit Iraqi Sunni nationalists and secular groups were
undermined by its violent tactics against civilians. When the U.S. military killed Zarqawi on June 7,
2006, a top AQ operative, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (aka Abu Ayub al-Masri), was promoted to be the
AQI representative in Iraq. Soon afterward, the organization announced the establishment of the
Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) under the leadership of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir
stated that the mujahidin have "reached the end of a stage of jihad and the start of a new one, in
which we lay the first cornerstone of the Islamic Caliphate project and revive the glory of religion."9
The creation of the first Islamic state was supported by some obscure jihadist thinkers. However, it
set off a storm of criticism among Iraqi insurgent groups, who considered the project a deviation from
the main task of fighting the American occupiers. Most of the groups made it clear that they were
interested in liberating Iraq and not in creating an Islamic state.
The first Islamic-state project was a failure. The jihadists simply did not have the resources
or personnel to rule over a territory and people. Furthermore, the death of AMZ did not lessen the
jihadists' reign of terror, accelerating the loss of support from the Sunni tribes and Iraqi insurgents.
This was made worse by its attempts to muscle in on Sunni economic enterprises, and its propensity
to insult Sunni tribal mores and customs accelerated. The falling out led to the emergence of the
Sahwa (Awakening) movement. The tribes and Sunni insurgents allied with their erstwhile enemy,
the United States, to fight ISI, in return for integration of the Sunni fighters into the Iraqi security
services and for economic largesse to majority-Sunni areas. The weight of force directed against
them proved too much for ISI. In 2008, it was describing itself as being in a state of "extraordinary
By the end of 2008, ISI was apparently defeated, and Iraq was on the path to stability and
security. In early 2009, U.S. forces began pulling out of cities across the country, turning over the
task of maintaining security to the vastly enlarged and American-trained Iraqi Security Forces. Later
that year, to the consternation of the U.S. and Iraqi governments, ISI rebounded and appeared to be
launching a concerted effort to cripple the Iraqi government. During August and October 2009, ISI
began to sabotage government infrastructure and launch terror attacks against civilians, killing
Nonetheless, ISI suffered a significant blow on April 18, 2010, when its top leadership, Abu
Ayub al-Masri and Abu Umar Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi, were both killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi
raid near Tikrit. By June 2010, 80 percent of the group's 42 leaders, including recruiters and
financers, had been killed or captured, with only eight remaining at large. The decapitation of the
leadership in 2010 set the stage for the emergence of the current and most successful leader,
Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai (aka Dr. Ibrahim, Abu Dua, and Abu Bakr alBaghdadi). It is difficult to pin down exactly who this elusive character is. It is said he is descended
from the Prophet Muhammad and that he hails from the al-Bu Badri tribe, which is primarily based in
Samarra and Diyala. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi helped create Jaysh
Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jamah (the Army of the Sunni People), an active jihadist group that operated in
Samarra, Diyala and Baghdad. U.S. forces arrested Abu Bakr in February 2004 and released him in
December that year because he was not deemed to be a High Value Target. The Jaysh Ahl alSunnah leadership pledged allegiance to AQI and joined the umbrella organization.

Between 2010 and 2013, four key factors contributed to the reemergence of ISI:
organizational restructuring coupled with the rebuilding of its military and administrative capacities;
the dysfunctional nature of the Iraqi state and its growing conflict with the Sunni population; the
fading away of al-Qaeda under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri; and the outbreak of the Syrian
civil war.
ISI goals became more nuanced and concisely articulated by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the
overthrow of illegitimate governments and the creation of an Islamic caliphate. This came out clearly

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once al-Baghdadi transformed his organization into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and
subsequently into the Islamic State. The focus on the caliphate has been elaborated in detail in the
Islamic State's glossy magazine, Dabiq, of which there have been four issues to date. The first dealt
with the importance of the declaration of the caliphate, among other matters. The caliphate
represents the onset of a new era of "might and dignity" for the Muslims. The focus on creating an
Islamic state is the defining element for ISIS, even if it was unable to gain the acclaim of the Islamic
world and even if the state proves short-lived. It differs from al-Qaeda in its superior abilities to
articulate an effective vision and a military strategy for implementing it. Even if ISIS fails, and there is
every indication of impending overreach, this vision is remarkable for its audacity.
Having an ideology and goals of breathtaking ambition is not sufficient. ISI was a moribund
mess when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took over; his revival of the organization began in 2010 and
culminated in the organizational structure we see today. Much of the success of ISIS is due to the
creation of a cohesive, disciplined and flexible organization by al-Baghdadi and other Iraqis that he
hired, including, it is alleged, a former senior Iraqi army officer known as "Hajji Bakr." First, Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi began by learning from and avoiding the mistakes of AMZ, such as spectacular and
provocative attacks. AMZ's successor, Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi, erred by focusing on the mindnumbing minutiae of the organization and micromanaging his subordinates. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
built a hierarchical and centralized organization that was flexible enough to allow subordinates wide
latitude in the field, as long as they stayed within the mission guidelines established by the leader.
Second, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi reduced the role of the Arab expatriates in leadership posts.
The presence of foreign Arabs at the top had irritated potential Iraqi supporters in the past. Instead
they are now in combat units, like most of the non-Arab foreign fighters, and in support roles such as
media outreach and propaganda, recruitment and collection of donations. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi thus
allowed Iraqis, mostly from the military and security establishments of the former Baathist regime, to
fill in the top layers of ISIS and then of the Islamic State.
Third, he divided the organization into the leadership al-imara or the executive,
composed of Abu Bakr and his top advisers and second in command. It is the policymaking and
governing body of the Islamic State. The rest of the organization is divided into first- and secondechelon structures. The first echelon consists of the Shura Council, the Military Council, and the
Security and Intelligence Council. Abu Bakr directly supervises these councils. The Shura Council
comes immediately below the leadership in importance; it consists of Abu Bakr himself and the
"cabinet," nine to 11 members who can theoretically dismiss the leader if he does not carry out his
duties as ordained by his office.
The Military Council consists of a head, chosen by al-Baghdadi, and three members. It
oversees the military commanders in the wilayats (provinces) that make up the various units of the
Islamic State. Careful observation of data suggests that the military contingents are distinct and
made up of Iraqis directly in IS battalions, associated local fighters from the former regime elements,
and foreign fighters mainly from Arab countries (the Westerners, including those of Middle Eastern
descent, are in IS units in Ar-Raqqa, Syria). An exception is the fearsome and combat-effective
Chechen fighters who, allegedly, played a key role in routing the Iraqi army in Mosul.
Intelligence and military personnel from Saddam Hussein's army and security services
helped set up and run the Security and Intelligence Council (SIC). It has a wide range of duties: (a)
providing protective security to Al-Baghdadi for his movements and engagements; (b) ensuring the
maintenance of communications between al-Baghdadi and the "provincial governors," who
implement the caliph's decisions; (c) overseeing the execution of court rulings and the execution of
penalties; (d) providing counterintelligence to prevent enemy infiltration of the state; (e) overseeing
the delivery of mail and the security of communications among the various IS branches; and (f)
maintaining special detachments for conducting assassinations, kidnappings and the collection of
funds (headed by former members of the Baathist security services such as a former officer known
as Abu Safwan al-Rifai.)
Of the second-echelon structure the most important deals with the finances of ISIS and the
Islamic State, especially pertaining to the funding of the war machine and the running costs of its
state-building process. Our knowledge of the finances of ISIS/IS is still a work in progress; there are
many unverified statements about the sources of its finances that continue to be issued uncritically
by governments and the media. In brief, the Islamic State gets its money from the export of oil from
fields under its control; it exports the oil to the Syrian government and the Iraqi Kurdish region and to
Turkish groups. It taxes the population under its control and engages in the time-honored tactic of
"extortion" from businesses.

ISI Grand Strategy

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The resilient and flexible organization that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi built enabled him to
formulate and implement a grand strategy in which goals are matched to operational plans for
achieving them. This grand strategy is based on lessons learned from the failures of its parent
organization, al-Qaeda, and from two key works: Idarat al-tawwahush: Akhtar marhala satamur biha
al-umma (The Management of Savagery: The Most Dangerous Period Through Which the Umma Is
Passing), written in 2009 by Abu Bakr Naji (aka Muhammad Abu Khalil al-Hakaymah), and Khouta
istrategiyah li taziz al-mawqif al-siyasi lil dawlah al-islamiyah fi al-Irak (Strategic Plan to Improve the
Political Position of the Islamic State in Iraq), written in 2010 by members of the Islamic State of Iraq
Management of Savagery argues that carrying out a campaign of constant violent attacks in
Muslim states will eventually exhaust these states' ability and will to enforce their authority and that,
as the writ of the state withers away, chaos or savagery (tawahhush) will ensue. Of course, if the
state is facing serious internal and external difficulties such as civil war, revolution or attack from
outside, the jihadists can take advantage of such situations to weaken the illegitimate regime even
more by attenuating its control over its territories. Jihadists can take advantage of this savagery to
win popular support, or at least acquiescence, by imposing security, providing social services and
implementing sharia. As these territories under control increase, they can become the nucleus of a
new caliphate.
ISI believed that Iraq could be returned to and maintained in a state of savagery, despite the
success of the Americans and their Iraqi allies in crushing the group in 2007-08. It is in this context
that Strategic Plan was written. It called for taking measures to improve the political and military
positions of ISI so that it would be ready to capture and control territory once the Americans left. It
would then be in position to create the caliphate. Operationally, the Strategic Plan calls on ISI to
coordinate its political and military efforts, execute an effective PSYOPS campaign against the Iraqi
security forces, and implement a jihadist equivalent of the "awakening" campaign.
ISI's military revival was on full display even before the events of 2014, and its attacks were
characterized by their sheer ferocity, frequency and lethality. Abu Bakr was responsible for managing
and directing large-scale operations. Between March and April 2011, ISI claimed 23 attacks south of
Baghdad. On May 5, 2011, al-Baghdadi claimed responsibility for an attack in Hilla that killed 24
policemen and wounded 72 others. On August 15, 2011, a wave of ISI attacks beginning in Mosul
resulted in 70 deaths. On December 22, 2011, a series of coordinated car bombings and IED attacks
struck over a dozen neighborhoods across Baghdad, killing at least 63 people and wounding 180.
The litany of death and destruction continued into 2012. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced a
campaign of "Breaking the Walls" in July 2012 that made freeing its members from prison a top
priority. The freed prisoners provided the organization with effective combat and administrative
leaders. This was followed by the July 2013 campaign entitled "Soldier's Harvest," which targeted
members of the Iraqi security forces. By the end of 2012, ISI had developed a solid military cadre
capable of waging a sustained terror campaign, conducting raids on government forces and
launching well-planned attacks on government infrastructure.


The growing dysfunction of the Iraqi state reflected in, among other things, the growing
chasm between the government of Nuri al-Maliki and the Sunni provinces of Salahuddin, al-Anbar
and Diyala enabled ISI to reenter the battle from which it had been ejected in 2008. From 2009
onwards, the western Sunni provinces witnessed large-scale, well-organized and well-managed
demonstrations for an improved standard of living, including better job opportunities. Maliki instituted
a policy of marginalizing the Sunnis politically. He went after Sunni politicians, seeking to eliminate
them from the political process and from the military and security services. A feeling of
marginalization drove many Sunnis back to the organization they had fought so fiercely during the

Al-Qaeda Eclipsed?
For the past four years, the fortunes of al-Qaeda have been the source of considerable
analysis. Some observers have argued that al-Qaeda is still effective and doing well as a terrorist
organization because of its adaptability. Others have argued that, with the killing of Osama bin Laden
in 2011, al-Qaeda has been in irretrievable decline. His successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been
unable to control the affiliates associated with the al-Qaeda brand name. Indeed, he has been
accused of allowing too many groups to come in under the umbrella of the organization. This chaotic
situation has caused problems for AQC.
AQC, which is made up of the leadership, does not have any military capacity; its
sustainability lies in the successes of its franchises and affiliates. However, these subgroups may not
feel the need to necessarily toe the line, particularly if AQC has not contributed in any way to the

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local successes of these groups. AQC simply does not know the conditions on the ground in many of
these places, and Al-Zawahiri cannot control the affiliates or franchises as if the organization were a
hierarchical entity with him in direct command. Naturally, the subgroups will do what is in their
interests. On the other hand, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which operates in Yemen,
has always had closer links with AQC because its leadership has interacted with and knows the top
echelon of al-Qaeda. This cannot be said of the former affiliate in Iraq going back to Zarqawi; it has
always been a black sheep of the jihadist family.
Finally, there seems to be a clear generational gap between the older veterans of AQC and
the more "toxic" younger generation being attracted to the likes of the Islamic State. Though it is
difficult to gather social data accurately under present circumstances, ISIS and its successor (IS)
have attracted a wide range of people from all economic strata and have done particularly well
among a younger group ranging from the self-radicalized to the committed to those seeking
adventure and for whom al-Qaeda no longer resonates. 9/11 happened a decade ago, while ISIS has
gone from success to success.

The Rise of ISIS

The second chapter of ISI's evolution begins in March 2011 with the outbreak of the Syrian
civil war and the transformation of the group into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), when its
leadership decided to join the war against the Assad regime. This was a logical move for alBaghdadi. According to his view, the secular Assad regime, dominated by the heterodox Alawite sect
that most in the Islamic world do not view as Muslim, was trying to crush Muslims. Furthermore,
Syria was a serious battle space in which ISI fighters could hone their skills and learn small-unit
tactics fighting against a real army.
The Syrian battle space was politically complex. On one side stood the Syrian regime and its
internal and external supporters; on the other, myriad opponents ranging from secular nationalists to
liberal democrats to various Islamists, including jihadists. Al-Baghdadi sent into Syria a number of
operatives mostly Syrian veterans of the Iraqi insurgency against the United States to prepare
for the entry of ISI. A group of these veterans emerged as Jabhat al-Nusra in 2012 under the
leadership of Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani (Jawlani in Arabic signifies that he hailed from the Israelioccupied Golan Heights). Al-Nusra did well against the forces of the Syrian regime. It increased its
popularity in war-torn Aleppo by establishing an efficient and well-disciplined structure for the
distribution of food and medicine. This stood in marked contrast to the undisciplined and brutal
behavior of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opponents of the Assad regime. ISI's leadership noticed this.
In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio statement announcing that Al-Nusra Front
(Jabhat al-Nusra) had been established, financed and supported by the Islamic State of Iraq. AlBaghdadi declared that the two groups were merging as the "Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham." The
leader of Al-Nusra Front, Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, issued a statement denying the merger and
complaining that neither he nor anyone else in Al-Nusra's leadership had been consulted about it.
There are significant differences between Al-Nusra and ISIS. Al-Nusra was willing to
cooperate with other jihadist groups to promote the goal of an Islamic state in Syria; ISIS was not so
pragmatic. While Al-Nusra has a large contingent of foreign fighters, many Syrians see it as Syrian;
by contrast, ISIS personnel are described as "foreign" occupiers. Al-Nusra actively fought for the
overthrow of the Assad government; ISIS was more focused on establishing its own rule over
territory and people and avoided fighting the Syrian Army. ISIS was far more ruthless in building an
Islamic state; setting up a proto-state in the Syrian city of Raqqa in the northeast, where it built "a
holistic system of governance that includes religious, educational, judicial, security, humanitarian and
infrastructure projects...."
In June 2013, Ayman al-Zawahiri, addressed both leaders in a letter, ruling against the
merger and appointing an emissary to oversee relations between them and put an end to tensions.
Zawahiri stipulated that al-Nusra would fight in Syria and ISI in Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released
an audio message rejecting Zawahiri's ruling and declaring that the merger would go ahead. In
October 2013, Zawahiri ordered the disbanding of ISIS, putting Al-Nusra Front in charge of jihadist
efforts in Syria. Baghdadi and others within ISIS contested Zawahiri's ruling on the basis of Islamic
jurisprudence and practical and logical grounds. It would be a sin to dissolve the union. Furthermore,
Islam did not recognize the "artificial" Sykes-Picot boundaries created in the aftermath of World War I
that had divided the Islamic umma into states. Finally, it made no sense for the jihadists to fight
disunited. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda disavowed relations with
ISIS. In May 2014, Zawahiri ordered Al-Nusra Front to stop attacking ISIS, but there was no

Shock and Awe

When ISIS returned to Iraq in June 2014 to seize large swaths of territory, the stage was
already set for an insurgent version of "shock and awe." ISIS concentrated its forces for a lightning
attack on the Iraqis and the capture of territory and cities. ISIS activated the operational links with
many former Baathist insurgents, many of whom were officers and intelligence personnel in the

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regime of Saddam Hussein. This included groups such as Rijal Jaysh al-Naqshbandiya and others
that had ensconced themselves in Mosul and ran a shadow administration. ISIS information
operations conducted by Shura Council leaders convinced several military and local leaders to resign
and flee their posts, eventually giving rise to "stab in the back" stories of betrayal. Remaining military
units and civilian leaders were isolated and targeted by suicide bombers or assassination squads or
murdered en masse when captured, to send a message to remaining government forces. Videos of
massacres were distributed widely, reaching the remaining Iraqi troops on the front lines. Many
Sunnis, in particular, had no reason to fight for the Maliki government and deserted in large numbers.
The statement of one Sunni security officer speaks volumes:
They [the Shia] don't even consider us Sunnis to be human beings. Only Shiites got
promoted to become officers, and it was only the Shiites who landed government contracts. We were
second-class citizens. Maliki asked Assad to bomb us Iraqis because he didn't have any aircraft of
his own [Syrian Air Force fighters bombed ISIS positions in Iraq]. What kind of a leader is that?
Upon seizing a city, ISIS personnel made straight for police and municipal buildings and
core infrastructure such as water and electricity, enabling them to completely control access to vital
The Iraqi security forces collapsed. Four army divisions simply disappeared and will not be
easily rebuilt. The Second Division was routed from Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, on June 9, and
its four brigades dissolved. The First Division lost two brigades in Anbar earlier in the year, then two
more during the ISIS advance in June, with one brigade totally destroyed in Diyala just northeast of
Baghdad. The same is true of Iraq's Third Division. The division's Sixth and Ninth Brigades fled the
Islamic State's advance in the north, and the Eleventh largely vanished. The Fourth Division also was
routed. Half its personnel vanished; most deserted, while hundreds may have been massacred. Iraqi
troops on the front line were short of food, water and ammunition. They survived because the ulema
and charities in Samarra provided food for them. ISIS captured an enormous amount of equipment,
including 1,500 armored Humvees and large numbers of mortars and heavy artillery pieces, among
them 52 GPS-guided 155mm M198 howitzers.
The size of the June 2014 debacle became clear shortly thereafter. American advisers
turning up to assess the situation and help rebuild the Iraqi security forces found an incompetent
military deeply infiltrated by Sunni militants and Shia militiamen, led by an unprofessional officer
corps incapable of meeting the logistics needs of its soldiers. The initial U.S. assessment, which
arrived at the Pentagon on July 14, was grim. The advisers concluded that Iraqi forces would be
unable to launch the kinds of offensive operations required to roll back ISIS.

The successes of ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq led it to view the situation as
opportune for the establishment of an Islamic state. On June 29, 2014, ISIS began to refer to itself as
the Islamic State, declaring its occupied territory a new caliphate and naming Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
as its ruler (caliph). Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami, spokesperson for ISIS, described
the establishment of the caliphate as "a dream that lives in the depths of every Muslim believer" and
"the neglected obligation of the era." He said that the group's ruling Shura Council had decided to
establish the caliphate formally and that Muslims around the world should now pledge their
allegiance to the new caliph.
The declaration of the caliphate resounded throughout the region and the Islamic world. On
the ground, there was an increase in surrenders by rebel brigades in Syria's Deir ez-Zour province.
Fearful of ISIS power in the wake of its successes, a number of local leaders and tribal elders in
Syria and Iraq sought to avoid confrontation and agreed to peaceful surrenders of their militias and
occupations of their towns and villages. These surrenders and accretions of territory provided the
Islamic State with territorial contiguity between the lands it seized in Syria and in Iraq, allowing it to
claim that it had erased the old colonial boundaries established by the Western powers after World
War I.
Second, the declaration of the caliphate created a stir in Islamist circles, not least within
AQC, which was taken aback by being upstaged. The event divided jihadist thinkers and religious
personalities as well as jihadist movements. AQC and its supporters who tended to be older and
veterans of past jihads argued that Baghdadi was an upstart who had no right to declare a
caliphate; the time was inopportune and the manner inappropriate. Al-Baghdadi and his supporters
frustrated by al-Qaeda's seeming lack of vigor and success in recent years declared that the
military successes of ISIS provided both the legitimacy and opportunity to declare a caliphate.
The resurgence of ISIS and its subsequent transformation into the Islamic State has come
as a shock to the Iraqi government, the region and the international community. The key question is
whether the group can reinforce its hold on the area it controls, or whether it will face factional
challenges or effective international push-back. The challenges are both internal and external.

Imploding from Within

The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

IS may sabotage itself without any help from the outside. It may overreach, even though its
leaders have cautioned its commanders on the ground to be prudent as they extended control over
territory and peoples. The first Islamic state experiment revealed that the jihadists were not very
effective at establishing and maintaining local alliances. It succumbed to hubris before it could
consolidate control and began acting as if it were the dominant group, opening the door to an antijihadist uprising among Sunni insurgents that was aided by the Americans.
The Islamic State of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has pursued two pathways to the construction of
the state, depending on circumstances and local conditions. It used violence against groups in Syria
and moved swiftly to control territory and population. In northern Iraq, especially around Mosul, it
sought to build and sustain alliances with local armed groups and slowly inserted itself within the
population. This required compromise and prudence in dealing with the heavily armed and wellembedded former Sunni insurgents, including Baathist and Islamist groups that had established
shadow financial networks. The Maliki government's unwillingness to meet Sunni demands for
greater political inclusion and more resources made ISIS's job of "seducing" the Sunni fighters an
easy task. Maliki's replacement, Haider al-Abadi, is seen as equally anti-Sunni. Furthermore, so
many Sunni groups have gone so far to the other side that neither sees any hope of reconciliation.
The longer the Islamic State can take advantage of this lack of Sunni options, the more likely it is to
transform itself into a socially embedded political, economic and military presence in the Sunni areas
of Iraq. Key Sunni leaders of the Sahwa movement who refused to see the merits of allying with ISIS
have either been assassinated or forced to "repent" in order to join the organization.
The ideology of IS and its horrific modus operandi may engender resistance; conflict with its
local partners is the most likely pathway to collapse in both Syria and Iraq. Moreover, strife with its
allies over resources and power sharing may emerge. Dependence on local Sunni networks made IS
vulnerable to abandonment by the groups that formed the Anbar Awakening. Resistance has
emerged in a number of areas in Syria. Groups affiliated with the main Syrian opposition group, the
FSA, issued statements rejecting IS and declaring their commitment to continue the struggle against
it. In Iraq, there are already strains between some of the former Baathist and nationalist elements,
who see IS and its leaders as "useful idiots" who can be used to exact revenge and overturn the
Shia-dominated system in Baghdad. However, there is every indication that IS and its command see
the local allies as the useful idiots to be exploited. Only time will tell whether IS will succeed in fully
incorporating the "allies."

Destroying IS from the Outside

The international community has deferred to the United States in the effort to thwart the IS,
but President Obama's six-point plan for the defeat of the Islamic State promises more than it can
likely deliver. On September 10, 2014, Obama laid out his strategy for significant expansion of the
aerial bombing campaign in Iraq. Since mid-August, airpower has blunted the forward momentum of
the lightning IS advance. It has even allowed the dispirited Iraqi army and the vastly overrated
Kurdish peshmerga to push IS back from some of the territories it had conquered.
There are problems, however, with overreliance on airpower. The militants have learned to
disperse, to tunnel, to use camouflage and to go to ground in the cities. Airpower can degrade but it
cannot uproot an entire system of control over territory, people and infrastructure. IS is capable of
regressing back to pure terrorism, a tactic in which it is thoroughly adept.
Second, the strategy calls for the training and equipping of the Iraqi army and the
peshmerga. The United States looks set to throw more good money after bad, as indicated by the
failures in summer 2014 of the Iraqi army on which the United States had already spent $24
billion. Two IS battalions with a total of 800-1,200 men took Mosul in June from two Iraqi divisions
with a combined strength of 30,000 men. The army is a victim of the failures of Iraq's body politic:
sectarian tensions; promotion on the basis of ethnosectarian kinship ties rather than professionalism;
corruption on a massive scale; and poor command, control and communications systems due to
the politician's mistrust of the officer corps. The best military equipment in the world will not make a
difference if societal problems are not addressed.
The peshmerga are better disciplined than the Iraqi army, though organizationally weak.
They have relied too much on their historical memory of being vaunted guerrilla fighters against
various Iraqi regimes. The word "peshmerga" (those who face death) was evocative of their courage
and tactical prowess. But they were defeated by IS in June as well. They are not a flexible or welltrained force able to deal with the wide range of military contingencies they recently faced, from
guerrilla tactics to mobile hybrid warfare. The peshmerga are split between the two Kurdish political
parties that dominate the region; there is no unified command and control. The peshmerga are more
likely than the Iraqi army to benefit quickly from U.S. largesse and training. However, political and
strategic considerations dictate that the United States cannot focus on making the Kurds combatcapable ahead of the central government in Baghdad.
Third, the strategy calls for bombing Syria, where the problems associated with bombing
Iraq also apply. They may be worse; IS has embedded itself more deeply in eastern Syria. Moreover,
it is unclear whether the proposed bombing campaign in Syria is about weakening IS or the Assad

International Affairs

regime. Many in the United States hope for the destruction of the regime, but this would be a
deviation of focus.
Fourth, the strategy calls for training and arming the Syrian rebels. Which ones? The United
States often uses the word moderates with respect to the Middle East. However, the Syrian rebels
are not moderate three years of savage civil war have seen to that and most are incapable of
dealing with IS.
Fifth, the strategy called for bringing a coalition of European and regional allies on board in
the fight. What will be the division of labor? It would seem that each country needs to be asked what
it can contribute to the struggle. The most capable U.S. allies Britain, France and Australia will
be at the "pointy end of the spear" alongside the United States.
Sixth, the United States says it will not put troops on the ground or see a modus vivendi with
the Syrian and Iranian regimes. Western air power and a reliance on weak local ground forces will,
however, not achieve even degradation of the IS system of control. What is likely required is the
presence of enough Western ground forces to plant a small footprint in both Iraq and Syria. The
United States and its Western allies have the most capable special operations forces in the world.
They devastated al-Qaeda. The decapitation of IS leadership and personnel, and those allied with it,
can be done most effectively by ground forces. They would enable the United States and its allies to
work to decouple the Sunni tribes and former insurgents from IS. This would require the United
States to put to use its recent experience of working with the Sunni community in their joint fight
against the jihadists between 2006 and 2009. The Islamic State was established as a result of ISIS
military successes in Syria in early 2014, when it kicked the other jihadist groups out of Raqqa, and
in Iraq in summer 2014, when it conquered Mosul and other areas. Ground forces would be able to
reduce the territories under IS control and thus work to delegitimize it.
Of course, IS cannot be defeated purely by military means. Political and diplomatic
engagement with the Kurds and the central government in Iraq will be necessary. Israel and the
Kurds are maneuvering to grant an independent "Kurdistan" as much Iraqi territory as possible.
While the Kurds should be rewarded for their cooperation in defeating IS, this will cause problems if it
comes at the territorial expense of what remains of Iraq. It will reinforce Sunni Arab grievances; they
stand to lose the most in the territorial carve-up in the north. Coaxing Baghdad to offer political
positions and economic equity in return for further military aid and training as well as to ensure
restraint by the Kurds can only be done by the United States.
There is considerable pressure on Washington to ignore or bypass Syria and Iran. Israel and
Saudi Arabia certainly want to keep these so-called "rogue states" weak. A parade of self-styled U.S.
experts on the region has been promoting the idea that the solution to this mess lies in the overthrow
of the Assad regime. It is strategically myopic, recalling the idea that the best way to deal with alQaeda was to overthrow Saddam Hussein, when the focus should have been on Afghanistan.
Engaging Iran does not mean appeasement. It means warning Tehran not to engage in machinations
that are at variance with U.S. efforts to rebuild the Iraqi body politic and military along national rather
than sectarian lines.
Syria cannot offer much help against IS; it is overstretched and untrustworthy. However, a
policy of supporting the opposition is fraught with danger. The "moderate" opposition will turn on
Assad and ignore IS; they have, in effect, been doing so. The non-IS jihadists, many affiliated with alQaeda, will watch as their two opponents fight each other and the United States deals with IS. These
non-IS jihadists should not emerge as the winners in this melee. This does, of course, create a
problem; the U.S. targeting of Jabhat al-Nusra in late September 2014 led that organization to issue
threats against the West and begin working with IS forces in Syria.
ISIS did not appear out of the blue. Much of its revival has been due to events such as the
Syrian civil war, but also to the fecklessness and monumental failures of the Iraqi government. Its
successes and continued existence were perpetuated by the inability of
regional governments and the United States to recognize it as a dire threat
until summer 2014. The chances for crushing the insurgent terrorist menace
are greatest when both the endogenous and exogenous challenges to the
Islamic State are maximized simultaneously. This will require a more
sophisticated approach than that currently being implemented by the United
States and its allies.

Obama Visit to New Delhi Stirs

Islamabads Scramble to Compete
Amy Calfas


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

bove the sounds of cheering during President Obamas recent visit to New Delhi for the 66th
Republic Day military parade, a chorus of discontent emerged across the international border
to the northwest. In the perennial regional competition between India and Pakistan, the U.S.
leaders second visit to one while again steering clear of the other could have serious
implications for strategic stability in South Asia.
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have tea at Hyderabad House
in New Delhi, Jan. 25, 2015. Obama swept aside past friction with India on Sunday to report
progress on climate change and civilian nuclear power cooperation as he sought to transform a
fraught relationship marked by suspicion into an enduring partnership linking the worlds oldest and
largest democracies. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
President Obama and Prime Minister Modi have tea at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Jan.
25, 2015. Photo Credit: The New York Times/Stephen Crowley
The Jan. 25-27 visit to India also marked the second meeting between Obama and Indian
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in less than six months, as the worlds two largest democracies seek
greater cooperation on defense, economic growth and energy. The summit occurred as the IndiaPakistan relationship becomes increasingly fragile following a swell of violence on the Line of Control
(LOC) dividing Kashmir between the two countries and Indias recent move to re-impose direct
control over the area it administers.
Join USIP on Feb. 9 for a discussion on possible ways to address the India-Pakistan rift. For
more details, see the event page.
Pakistans actions demonstrate its ire. Immediately following Obamas visit, Pakistans high
commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, was called to Islamabad for urgent consultations with Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif on the state of bilateral relations between the two countries. Meanwhile,
Pakistans foreign ministry spoke out against Indias bid for a permanent Security Council seat. And
Pakistan pursued its own bilateral outreach, sending Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and the
national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, to Beijing for a high-profile official visit with defense counterpart
General Qi Jianguo that coincided with Obamas visit to India.
In Beijing, Pakistans message to India and to its longtime ally the U.S. -- was clear: We
can always look to China. Pakistan's mainline media have similarly touted the ties with China; major
headlines cited Chinese officials referring to Pakistan as an "irreplaceable all-weather friend," a
phrase thats fast becoming a recurrent descriptor of the relationship by the two sides.
Meanwhile, New Delhis ties with Beijing have long been marred by economic competition,
border disputes and tensions over Chinas increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Not to be
left behind in the diplomatic contest, though, the Indian government sent Foreign Minister Sushma
Swaraj to Beijing on Feb. 1 for three-way talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Modi
subsequently announced his own maiden journey to Beijing this May to meet with Chinese President
Xi Jinping.
Indias and Pakistans efforts to court Beijing for strategic purposes are clear. Yet while
China sees Pakistan as one of its closest allies, particularly in the strategic sense, it approaches
India with reluctant pragmatism, viewing the subcontinent as both its biggest commercial partner and
most powerful competitor. Modis May trip is likely part of the contest for Beijings attention, even as
India seeks to secure its own dominance in Asia with the U.S. partnership.

Nuclear alliances
One of the most significant results of Obamas visit to New Delhi, in fact, was the
announcement of a long-delayed deal to implement an agreement on civilian nuclear energy signed
in 2008, in which the United States pledged to provide India with technology to reduce the
dependence of the nations 1.3 billion people on fossil fuels. A new insurance pool is intended to help
facilitate the entry of U.S. nuclear suppliers into India by indemnifying them against liabilities. A
White House joint statement also highlighted the commitment of the two leaders to continue work
towards Indias phased entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other export-control regimes.
But these latest arrangements remain more symbolic than concrete. Questions remain about
whether the insurance pool will address the concerns of American nuclear-equipment suppliers
enough to begin work in India. And Pakistan has consistently opposed India's bid for membership in
the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a non-proliferation regime that controls exports of
nuclear materials.
Pakistans Aziz used the Beijing meetings as a platform to reassert disapproval of Indias
induction to the group under a country-specific exemption. The joint Obama-Modi statement

International Affairs


suggests that the international community may be ready to usher India into the NSG as a de-facto
member in the near future.
Aziz insisted on Jan. 27 that such a move would further compound the already fragile
strategic stability environment in South Asia, according to the Times of India.
Mistrust between leaders in New Delhi and Islamabad has been further aggravated as the
U.S. and India have increased defense cooperation. Again during this summit, Obama and Modi
agreed to expand joint military exercises and continue bilateral cooperation on military technology
development in accordance with the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). That includes
joint production of parts and systems for the Lockheed C-130 and RQ-11 Raven drones, according
to news reports.

Arms deals
In a nod to Pakistan, the U.S. recently authorized $1 billion in aid to support that countrys
counterterrorism efforts. But with U.S.-Pakistan ties unsteady and political support for foreign
assistance expected to wane in Washington following the NATO troop drawdown in Afghanistan last
year, Pakistan has looked to Chinaits largest arms supplierfor some $4 billion in weapons and
weapons technology in the past nine years.
Pakistan also has sought ties with Moscow; Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigus visit
last November resulted in a new military cooperation agreement. The Washington Post reports that
Pakistan hopes to buy three dozen Russian Mi-35 helicopters from Russia and undertake joint efforts
on counterterrorism and narcotics.
So the U.S. faces distinct and serious challenges in balancing its relationships with leaders
in Islamabad and New Delhi. Among the signs to watch that might signal an easing or escalation of
tensions are the fate of long-dormant peace talks over Kashmir, the role of India and Pakistan in
Afghanistan and the advancement of India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
On Kashmir, when Obama informed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last November
of his upcoming visit to India, Sharif made a special appeal to the president to discuss the issue with
Modi. It is thus surprising that peace talks were not discussed during the U.S. presidents visit to
India, particularly given the recent uptick in shellings along the Line of Control that have displaced
thousands on both sides and the decision by New Delhi to take direct control in its area.
There are still possibilities for cooperation between India and Pakistan that could improve
diplomatic relations. Following the horrific Nov. 16 attack on the school in Peshawar, Pakistan has
resolved to crack down on insurgents and to continue to target Taliban safe havens in North
Waziristan. India has long called for Pakistan to get tougher with terrorist
groups that target the subcontinent as well. Likewise, regional trade
liberalization and economic development also offer space for enhanced ties.
As long as violent conflict between Pakistan and India can be
contained, their rivalry is most likely to play out in diplomatic maneuvering, at
least in the short term.

The Intersection of
Three Crises
Reva Bhalla

ithin the past two weeks, a temporary deal to keep Greece in the eurozone was reached
in Brussels, a cease-fire roadmap was agreed to in Minsk and Iranian negotiators
advanced a potential nuclear deal in Geneva. Squadrons of diplomats have forestalled
one geopolitical crisis after another. Yet it would be premature, even reckless, to assume
that the fault lines defining these issues are effectively stable. Understanding how these crises are
inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to

Germany and the Eurozone Crisis


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

Germany has once again become the victim of its own power. As Europe's largest creditor, it
has considerable political leverage over debtor nations such as Greece, whose entire livelihood now
depends on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to sign another bailout check. Lest
we forget, Germany is exporting more than half of its GDP, and most of those exports are consumed
within Europe. Thus, the institutions Germany relies on to protect its export markets are the very
institutions Berlin must battle to protect Germany's national wealth.
Many have characterized the recent Brussels deal as a victory for Berlin over Athens as
eurozone finance ministers, including the Portuguese, Spanish and French, stood behind Germany
in refusing Greece the right to circumvent its debt obligations. But Merkel is also not about to gamble
an unlimited amount of German taxpayer funds on flimsy Greek pledges to cut costs and impose
structural reforms on a population that, for now, still views the ruling Syriza party as its savior from
austerity. Within four months, Greece and Germany will be at loggerheads again, and Greece will
likely still lack the austerity credentials that Berlin needs to convince its own Euroskeptics that it has
the institutional heft and credibility to impose Germanic thriftiness on the rest of Europe. The more
time Germany buys, the more inflexible the German and Greek negotiating positions become, and
the more seriously traders, businessmen and politicians alike will have to take the threat of a socalled Grexit, the first in a chain of events that could shatter the eurozone.

The Role of the Crisis in Ukraine

In order to steer Germany through an escalating eurozone crisis, Merkel needs to calm her
eastern front. It is no wonder, then, that she committed herself to multiple sleepless nights and an
incessant travel schedule to put another Minsk agreement with Russia on paper. The deal was
flawed from the start because it avoided recognizing the ongoing attempts by Russian-backed
separatists to smooth out the demarcation line by bringing the pocket of Debaltseve under their zone
of control. After several more days of scuffling, the Germans (again leveraging their creditor status
this time, against Ukraine) quietly pushed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to accept the
battlefield reality and move along with the cease-fire agreement. But even if Germany on one side
and Russia on the other were able to bring about a relative calm in eastern Ukraine, it would do little
in the end to de-escalate the standoff between the United States and Russia.

The Connection Between Ukraine and Iran

Contrary to popular opinion in the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not driven by
crazed territorial ambitions. He is looking at the map, just as his predecessors have for centuries,
and grappling with the task of securing the Russian underbelly from a borderland state coming under
the wing of a much more formidable military power in the West. As the United States has reminded
Moscow repeatedly over the past several days, the White House retains the option to send lethal aid
to Ukraine. With heavier equipment comes trainers, and with trainers come boots on the ground.
From his perspective, Putin can already see the United States stretching beyond NATO
bounds to recruit and shore up allies along the Russian periphery. Even as short-term truces are
struck in eastern Ukraine, there is nothing precluding a much deeper U.S. probe in the region. That is
the assumption that will drive Russian actions in the coming months as Putin reviews his military
options, which include establishing a land bridge to Crimea (a move that would still, in effect, leave
Russia's border with Ukraine exposed), a more ambitious push westward to anchor at the Dnieper
River and probing actions in the Baltic states to test NATO's credibility.
The United States does not have the luxury of precluding any one of these possibilities, so it
must prepare accordingly. But focusing on the Eurasian theater entails first tying up loose ends in the
Middle East, starting with Iran. And so we come to Geneva, where U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met again Feb. 22 to work out the remaining points of
a nuclear deal before March 31, the date by which U.S. President Barack Obama is supposed to
demonstrate enough progress in negotiations to hold Congress back from imposing additional
sanctions on Iran. If the United States is to realistically game out scenarios in which U.S. military
forces confront Russia in Europe, it needs to be able to rapidly redeploy forces that have spent the
past dozen years putting out fires ignited by sprouting jihadist emirates and preparing for a potential
conflict in the Persian Gulf. To lighten its load in the Middle East, the United States will look to
regional powers with vested and often competing interests to shoulder more of the burden.
A U.S.-Iranian understanding goes well beyond agreeing on how much uranium Iran is
allowed to enrich and stockpile and how much sanctions relief Iran gets for limiting its nuclear
program. It will draw the regional contours of an Iranian sphere of influence and allow room for
Washington and Tehran to cooperate in areas where their interests align. We can already see this in
effect in Iraq and Syria, where the threat of the Islamic State has compelled the United States and
Iran to coordinate efforts to contain jihadist ambitions. Though the United States will understandably
be more cautious in its public statements while it tries to limit Israeli anxiety, U.S. officials have

International Affairs


allegedly made positive remarks about Hezbollah's role in fighting terrorism when speaking privately
with their Lebanese interlocutors in recent meetings. This may seem like a minor detail on the
surface, but Iran sees a rapprochement with the United States as an opportunity to seek recognition
for Hezbollah as a legitimate political actor.
A U.S.-Iranian rapprochement will not be complete by March, June or any other deadline
Washington sets for this year. Framework agreements on the nuclear issue and sanctions relief will
necessarily be implemented in phases to effectively extend the negotiations into 2016, when
Congress could allow the core sanctions act against Iran to expire after several months of testing
Iranian compliance and after Iran gets past its parliamentary elections. Arrestors could arise along
the way, such as the death of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but they will not deter
the White House from setting a course toward normalizing relations with Iran. The United States,
regardless of which party is controlling the White House, will rank the threat of a growing Eurasian
conflict well ahead of de-escalating the conflict with Iran. Even as a nuclear agreement establishes
the foundation for a U.S.-Iranian understanding, Washington will rely on regional powers like Turkey
and Saudi Arabia to eat away at the edges of Iran's sphere of influence, encouraging the natural
rivalries in the region to mold a relative balance of power over time.

Circling Back
Germany needs a deal with Russia to be able to manage an existential crisis for the
eurozone; Russia needs a deal with the United States to limit U.S. encroachment on its sphere of
influence; and the United States needs a deal with Iran to refocus its attention on Russia. No conflict
is divorced from the other, though each may be of a different scale. Germany and Russia can find
ways to settle their differences, as can Iran and the United States. But a
prolonged eurozone crisis cannot be avoided, nor can a deep Russian
mistrust of U.S. intentions for its periphery.
Both issues bring the United States back to Eurasia. A distracted
Germany will compel the United States to go beyond NATO boundaries to
encircle Russia. Rest assured, Russia even under severe economic
stress will find the means to respond.

Shale oil and its

Impact on World
M Imtiaz Shahid

hale oil is an unconventional oil produced from oil shale rock fragments by pyrolysis,
hydrogenation, or thermal dissolution. These processes convert the organic matter within the
rock (kerogen) into synthetic oil and gas. The resulting oil can be used immediately as a fuel
or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications by adding hydrogen and removing
impurities such as sulfur and nitrogen. The refined products can be used for the same purposes as
those derived from crude oil.
The term shale oil is interchangeable, as it is used as well for crude oil produced from
shales of other very low permeability formations. However, for avoiding the risk of confusion of shale
oil produced from oil shale with crude oil in oil-bearing shales, the International Energy Agency
recommends to use the term light tight oil and World Energy Resources 2013 report by the World
Energy Council uses the term tight oil for the latter. A sedimentary rock, oil shale is found all over
the world, including China, Israel, and Russia. The United States, however, has the most shale
Extracting Shale Oil: Obtaining shale oil from oil shale involves heating kerogen in a process called
pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is a form of heating without the use of oxygen. At about 60-160 degrees Celsius
(140-320 degrees Fahrenheit), kerogen reaches its natural oil window. At 120-225 degrees Celsius
(248-437 degrees Fahrenheit), kerogen reaches its natural gas window. For production of oil shale,
the temperatures are much higher.


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

Pyrolysis can either be done ex situ (above ground) or in situ (below ground).
Ex Situ: During the ex situ process, oil shale is first extracted from the earth by surface or
underground mining. The rock is crushed, and then retorted (heated) to release the shale oil. The
shale oil is then refined of impurities, such as sulfur.
In Situ: In situ is a new, experimental method of extracting shale oil.
During the in situ process, oil shale is not mined or crushed. Instead, the rock is heated to its
oil window while it is still underground.
One technology used for in situ oil extraction is known as volumetric heating. In this process,
the rock is heated directly with an electric current. The heating element is injected either directly in a
horizontal well or into a fractured area of the rock, until the oil shale begins producing shale oil. The
oil could then be pumped directly from underground.
Combined Technologies: Some methods are designed for both in situ and ex situ extraction.
The internal combustion process uses a combination of gas, steam and spent shale
produced by ex situ processing. These compounds are burned for pyrolysis. The hot gas is
continually cycled through the oil shale, pyrolyzing the rock and releasing oil.
Unfortunately, substances in the oil shale, such as sulfides, react with water to form toxic
compounds that are harmful to the environment and to us. Sulfides can cause effects from eye
irritation to suffocation. Water containing toxic substances is unusable, and expensive to
The process also produces heaps of ash. This ash can pollute ground, air, and water
Another method that can be used either in situ or ex situ involves chemically reactive fluids.
The fluids are injected directly into the retort zone (where the rock is being heated). High-pressure
hydrogen is one of the most common chemically reactive fluids. It simultaneously heats the rock,
removes sulfur, and upgrades the quality of the extracted oil. Environmental Effects: Mining for oil
shale can have damaging effects on the environment. When shale oil is combusted (heated), it
releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas; it absorbs and
retains heat in Earths atmosphere, a process called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect
is essential to life on Earth because it helps insulate Earth and keep it at a warm, livable
The greenhouse effect helps maintain Earths carbon budget. Carbon is constantly being
exchanged between the ocean, the atmosphere, and the Earth itself. Carbon on the earth is
contained in plants, soil, fossil fuels, and all living thingsincluding us!
The carbon in fossil fuels (including coal, petroleum, natural gas, and oil shale) has been
sequestered, or stored, underground for millions of years. By removing this sequestered carbon from
the earth and releasing it into the atmosphere, Earths carbon budget is put out of balance. Burning
fossil fuels releases carbon into the atmosphere at a much quicker rate than the trees, water, and
ground can reabsorb it. More carbon retains more heat in Earths atmosphere, and contributes to
rising temperaturesglobal warming, the current period of climate change. Sometimes, climates can
rise faster than organisms can adapt.
Another environmental disadvantage to extracting shale oil is the enormous amounts of
freshwater required. Water is necessary for drilling, mining, refining, and generating power. Some
experts estimate that three litres (.8 gallon) of water are required to produce just one litre (.3 gallon)
of shale oil. Some of this water is contaminated by toxic compounds, and is costly to decontaminate.
Mining can also contaminate groundwater. During in situ processing, toxic byproducts are
left underground. They can leach into other sources of water, making them unsafe for drinking,
hygiene, or development.

Shale oil (light tight oil) is rapidly emerging as a significant and relatively low cost new
unconventional resource in the US. There is potential for shale oil production to spread
globally over the next couple of decades. If it does, it would revolutionise global energy
markets, providing greater long term energy security at lower cost for many countries.
Analysis suggests that global shale oil production has the potential to reach up to 14 million
barrels of oil per day by 2035; this amounts to 12% of the worlds total oil supply.
It is estimated that this increase could reduce oil prices in 2035 by around 25%-40% ($83$100/ barrel in real terms) relative to the current baseline EIA projection of $133/barrel in
2035, which assumes low levels of shale oil production.
In turn, it is estimated this could increase the level of global GDP in 2035 by around 2.3%-

International Affairs


3.7% (which equates to around $1.7-$2.7 trillion at todays global GDP values).
However, the benefits of such oil price reductions will vary significantly by country. Large net
oil importers such as India and Japan might see their GDP boosted by around 4%-7% by
2035, while the US, China, the Eurozone and the UK might gain by 2%-5% of GDP.
Conversely, major oil exporters such as Russia and the Middle East could see a significant
worsening of their trade balances by around 4%-10% of GDP in the long run if they fail to
develop their own shale oil resources.
The potential emergence of shale oil presents major strategic opportunities and challenges
for the oil and gas industry and for governments worldwide. It could also influence the
dynamics of geopolitics as it increases energy independence for many countries and
reduces the influence of OPEC.
There are significant strategic implications along the value chain. Oil producers, for example,
will have carefully to assess their current portfolios and planned projects against lower oil
price scenarios.
National and international oil producers will also need to review their business models and
skills in light of the very different demands of producing shale oil onshore rather than
developing complex frontier projects on which most operations and new investment is
currently focused.
Lower than expected oil prices could also create long-term benefits for a wide range of
businesses with products that use oil or oil-related products as inputs (e.g. petrochemicals
and plastics, airlines, road hauliers, automotive manufacturers and heavy industry more
The potential environmental consequences of an increase in shale
oil production are complex and appropriate regulation will be
needed to meet local and national environmental concerns. Shale
oil could have adverse environmental effects by making
alternative lower carbon transport fuels less attractive, but might
also displace production from higher cost and more
environmentally sensitive plays.

The Shale Oil Revolution

is in Danger
Shawn Tully

il producers and Wall Street analysts claim the setback in the fracking industry brought on by the
collapse in oil prices will be brief and minor. Dont believe them.
The shale oil revolution is providing a great gusher of profit, jobs, and swaggering
entrepreneurship. It epitomizes the optimism surrounding Americas economic recovery.
Indeed, the rise of hydraulic fracking from Montana to Texas to Pennsylvania has lifted U.S.
oil production mightily, from 5.6 million barrels a day in 2010, to a current rate of 9.3 million. And until
late last year, it was widely accepted that our output would keep rising in 1 million barrel-plus annual
leaps for years to come.
The recent drop in oil prices poses a major challenge to the frackers. But oil producers, Wall
Street analysts, and most industry experts claim the setback will be brief and minor.

Dont believe them.

The basic economics of frackingwhat it costs to drill versus what oil now sells forspells
big trouble for the shale boom. At best, todays producers may be able to hold production close to
current levels. Whats gravely endangered is the advertised bonanza that virtually everyone deemed
inevitable just a few short months ago.
Shale oil production is totally unlike drilling in any other part of the global market. In
conventional wells, whether in the Middle East, the Gulf of Mexico, or the North Sea, the wells
operate on extremely long cycles. Typically, the amount of crude oil they produce declines at
between 2% and 5% per year. Hence, a well that generates 2,000 barrels a day in the first year will
yield between 95% and 98% of that quantity in year two. Since the output falls so gradually, wells
typically keep pumping for 20 years or longer.
The wells long lives help account for the extreme volatility in oil prices. Naturally, producers
plan their projects expecting to recoup the upfront investment required to find the oil and install the
welltheir fixed costsand the variable or marginal costs of extracting the oil year after year,


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

notably labor and electricity. In a business where the risks stand as tall as the rigs, companies only
invest when they forecast future prices far above the total outlay of fixed and variable costs, in hopes
of pocketing big profits. The rub is that energy prices frequently fall far below whats required to
return their full costs, let alone make a decent return. That was the scenario from the mid-1980s until
early 2002, when oil prices averaged $20 a barrel.
When prices drop, however, almost all conventional wells keep pumping. Thats because the
variable cost of lifting the crude is still far lower than the prices it fetches on the world market. Tenyear old wells often have variable costs of just $20 to $30 a barrel, so their owners keep on
producing at prices of $60 or $80, even though it would require $100 oil to generate a good return on
their total investment. In other words, what they spent to drill the well becomes irrelevant. All that
matters is the cash they can generate over and above whats required to suck out the crude every
day. What drives the business is the marginal cost, not the total cost, says Ronald Ripple, a finance
and energy business professor at the University of Tulsa. Even at low prices, the production is still
contributing something to cover the upfront investment.
As a result, the global supply of oil is what economists call inelastic. Even if prices crater,
the oil majors and sheiks keep pumping more or less the same quantities. Theyll only stop when
prices drop below the variable costand for most wells, they seldom sink that far.
So, the primary determinant of oil prices, especially right now, is demand. Since supply wont
typically drop with a fall in the worlds thirst for oil, a decline in demand generates big, exaggerated
downdrafts in prices. Naturally, wars and upheavals in oil producing countries can cause temporary
shortages that mask falling consumption, but when production inevitably returns to normal levels,
weak demand takes charge and prices crater.
Thats what is going on today. Oil consumption in the U.S. has fallen by over 8% since 2010,
and the shrinkage in Europe is far greater than that. Meanwhile, China and India have not proven
nearly as voracious as forecast. The drop in oil prices from over $100 in May to $48 has not, and will
not, cause a major or even minor drop in production. Thats true even in high-cost areas such as the
tar sands of Canada. In those forbidding fields, major energy companies have invested billions on
plans to produce for 50 years, and even though theyre losing money on their total investment,
theyre more than recouping their variable costs. So, as prices wobble, drilling will proceed smoothly.
Except for fracking. Unlike conventional projects, shale wells enjoy an extremely short life. In the
Bakken region straddling Montana and North Dakota, a well that starts out pumping 1,000 barrels a
day will decline to just 280 barrels by the start of year two, a shrinkage of 72%. By the beginning of
year three, more than half the reserves of that well will be depleted, and annual production will fall to
a trickle. To generate constant or increasing revenue, producers need to constantly drill new wells,
since their existing wells span a mere half-life by industry standards.
In fact, fracking is a lot more like mining than conventional oil production. Mining companies
need to dig new holes, year after year, to extract reserves of copper or iron ore. In fracking, there is
intense pressure to keep replacing the production you lost last year.
On average, the all-in, breakeven cost for U.S. hydraulic shale is $65 per barrel, according
to a study by Rystad Energy and Morgan Stanley Commodity Research. So, with the current price at
$48, the industry is under siege. To be sure, the frackers will continue to operate older wells so long
as they generate revenues in excess of their variable costs. But the older wellsunlike those in the
Middle East or the North Seaproduce only tiny quantities. To keep the boom going, the shale gang
must keep doing what theyve been doing to thrive; they need to drill many, many new wells.
Right now, all signs are pointing to retreat. The count of rotary rigs in usea proxy for new
drillinghas fallen from 1,930 to 1,881 since October, after soaring during most of 2014. Continental
Resources, a major force in shale, has announced that it will lower its drilling budget by 40% in 2015.
Because of the constant need to drill, frackers are always raising more and more money by selling
equity, securing bank loans, and selling junk bonds. Many are already heavily indebted. Its unclear if
banks and investors will keep the capital flowing at these prices.
Still, the future of fracking is extremely hard to predict. Continental, for example, pledges to
raise production in 2015 despite the fall in its drilling budget. It would be a mistake to underestimate
the ingenuity of the entrepreneurs who led the shale revolution. They will exploit new technologies
that combine vertical and horizontal drilling to lower their costs. In the boom times, equipment rental,
trucking, and labor were all priced at huge premiums; at $100 a barrel oil, producers put sinking the
next well far ahead of fretting over their fat payrolls. Now, those costs are falling.
So its difficult to know where all-in costs will settle. If oil stays at around $50, a group of
super-efficient producers may still be able to make money. Bruce Everett, who teaches petroleum
economics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, is optimistic. There will undoubtedly be some

International Affairs


tailing off in U.S. drilling activity, he says, but I expect continued development drilling in major new
areas, particularly the Bakken, even at $50.
If demand reboundsand it mayprices may very well rise above $60 once again, and
fracking will once again become extremely profitable. But its not clear if the famous foe of fracking,
Saudi Arabia, will let that happen. The Saudis have invested heavily to gain extra capacity of 2
million barrels a day. The Saudis may use that cushion to hold prices around $50, just out of range
at least todayfor most shale oil producers.
Then again, the shale industrys ability to hike production quickly could put a cap of $50 or
$60 on oil prices. If prices rise much higher, either the Saudis will intervene, or more shale supplies
will flood the market, stabilizing the price. Because shale wells have short lives, allowing production
to come on and off more quickly, fracking could moderate price fluctuations so theyre less volatile
than in the past, says David Kreutzer, an economist at the Heritage Foundation.
But the numbers are still daunting. Its easy to get financing when
your costs are $65 and youre selling at $100. But when the price is $50,
where will the producers find the funds to keep sinking those new wells? It
will take a lot of new drilling just to keep production where it is now. A steady
but no-growth shale industry is not what America has been counting on. The
spread of rigs and jobs that seemed such a certainty, and such a staple of
our recovery, may be a fading vision.

Five Bad Options

for Gaza

Daniel Byman

he latest war in Gazafrom the beginning of July to the end of August 2014is over, but
both Israelis and Palestinians believe it will not be the last one. Israelis believe they must
deter Hamas from conducting additional attacks and keep it weak should a conflict occur. This
is an approach that more pro-Western Palestinian leaders and Arab states like Saudi Arabia,
fearing the political threat Hamas poses, often quietly applaud. For their part, Hamas leaders remain
hostile to Israel and feel politically trapped by the extensive blockade of Gazaand all the while,
Gaza lies in ruins. The combination is explosive. Israeli security analyst Yossi Alpher put it succinctly:
It is increasingly clear that the Gaza war that ended in August will soon produceanother Gaza
war. The Economist also gloomily predicted that war will probably begin all over again, sooner or
Since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, the United States always subordinated its
Gaza policy to the peace process in the hope that a comprehensive deal would transform the IsraelHamas dynamic. This approach was always questionable: since Hamas took over Gaza, there were
three major rounds of negotiations but also three major wars. And in April 2014, the peace talks,
always a weak structure, collapsed yet again; renewed talks are not in sight. Both Israeli prime
minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the moderate Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who heads
the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) and rules on the West
Bank, loathe each other, and ordinary Israelis and Palestinians are intensely skeptical that the other
side is serious about peace.
The peace process is no longer a plausible way out, but the 50 days of war in 2014 also
show a window of opportunity. Although Hamas claimed victory Gaza forced the enemy to
retreat, claimed Hamas' spokesmanits rocket arsenal is diminished and it is weaker than at any
time since the Second Intifada. At the same time, it is poised to grow far more dangerous in the
coming years. Its rival, the Palestinian Authoritywith its aging leadership, reliance on international
donor largesse, and support for both peace negotiations and cooperation with Israel on West Bank
security looking bankrupt to many Palestinianslacks broad legitimacy, while Hamas is gaining
popularity on the West Bank for having stood up to Israel. Israel too claimed victory, with Netanyahu
calling it a major military achievement. However, polls show Israelis are skeptical and feel no one
really won.6 Israel even accepted that Hamas would be part of a Palestinian unity arrangement, a
huge shift from its pre-war position, when it vehemently rejected any Palestinian government that
included Hamas.
Now is a good time to consider alternatives that would break us out of the cycle of
provocation, response, and war. On one end, Israel could reoccupy Gaza, either ruling it directly or
trying to bring in moderates like Abbas to rule there on the back of an Israeli tank. On the other
extreme, a deal could be arranged that gives Hamas far more freedom to govern Gaza and have the
area prosper in exchange for some form of disarmament. Israel might also try to bring the PA back to


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

Gaza or even try to arrange a separate ceasefire with Hamas. These, along with the current
approach, all have their strengths and weaknesses, but all deserve a more careful look as the peace
process solution lacks credibility. Any alternative would probably involve a mix of measures from the
different approaches, but for purposes of analysis, each is treated here as an ideal type.
In the end, several steps are necessary if Israel is to gain more lasting security and Gazans
are to gain better lives. First, almost all the options require moderate Palestinians to govern more
competently and be politically stronger: currently they are on the path to political irrelevance. Second,
the world should encourage pragmatists in Hamas to work with Palestinian moderates. Finally,
options that offer small changes in the status quo deserve consideration. Such steps would, over
time, enable Israel to take more risks and allow everyone to move beyond the current stalemate.

What's At Stake in Gaza?

Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 war and governed it directly for over 25 years before
surrendering control over much of the Strip to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
Israel did not reoccupy all of Gaza when the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, instead relying
heavily on a security barrier, which it completed along the Gaza border in 2001. In 2005, Israel
withdrew completely, this time even from the small Jewish settlements on the Stripa wrenching
move for Israelis that was bitterly controversial. Israelis hoped that this withdrawal would put Gaza
and its problems behind them, removing it from the political equation, but instead it led to rocket and
mortar fire. At times the attacks were just a brief disruption, at others a threat to daily life, and at all
times intolerable. As Hamas's arsenal advanced from primitive, short-range Qassam rockets to
advanced Iranian- and Syrian-supplied long-range rockets, almost all of Israel came under threat.
The rocket fire and other problems led to regular clashes, particularly in 20082009, again in
2012, and most recently in 2014. These clashes as well as several smaller ones led to over 90
deaths on the Israeli side, 71 of which occurred in the 2014 war. UN figures show almost 4,000 total
Palestinian deaths in these three wars, among them at least 2,500 civilians, including roughly 900
children. (Palestinian deaths are harder to measure, and Israelis hotly challenge UN claims that
many among the dead are civilians). Although Israel's Iron Dome missile-defense system has
intercepted many rockets headed toward population centers, rockets have still forced Israelis to
huddle in shelters, disrupted Israel's economy (especially tourism), and otherwise interrupted the
daily lives of its citizens. In 2014, rocket fire led the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and
several airlines to briefly suspend flights to Israel. In contrast to the 2012 conflict, Hamas was able to
sustain rocket attacks throughout the most recent war, firing large salvos even as the ceasefire
approached. Hamas also fired large numbers of mortarsshort-range systems that cannot be
intercepted by Iron Domeleading many Israelis to leave areas near Gaza. Part of the reason Israel
sent forces into Gaza was to stop the mortar threat.
Israelis also fear the tunnels Hamas has constructed in Gaza. In 2006, Hamas forces raided
Israel via a tunnel and captured Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Gilad Shalit, whose captivity only
ended after five years and the exchange of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. During Operation
Protective Edge in 2014, Israel discovered over 30 tunnels, almost half of which went into Israel
proper. Israeli officials fear Hamas could repeat the Shalit operation or simply send operatives into
Israel to kill and sow mayhem. Tunnels within Gaza itself greatly complicate Israeli military operations
into the Strip. During the 2014 fighting, Hamas fighters emerged from a tunnel and surprised Israeli
soldiers at the Nahal Oz border post: they did not capture a soldier, but they did kill five while taking
only one casualty of their own. The tunnels also hide rockets, making it hard for Israel to destroy
Hamas has also trained an army of several thousand fighters, some of whom are embedded
within Gaza's civilian population. The result is what military analyst Jeffrey White calls a human
dome, enabling Hamas fighters to avoid the full brunt of Israel's military response. These fighters
lack the skill and firepower of the IDF, but they are tenacious, and the 2014 fighting showed them to
be more capable than Hamas forces had been in previous rounds.
For Palestinians, the Gaza problem is less about repeated warsthough these are tough
enoughand more about the grinding misery of day-to-day life. Israel has made life difficult in Gaza
as part of a policy designed to avoid a full-out humanitarian crisis but to discredit Hamas by
preventing economic development in Gaza. U.S. government officials privately referred to this as
keeping Gaza's economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge. Food
security is low, electricity sporadic, and unemployment high. Making a bad situation worse for
Hamas, the 2013 coup against the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt transformed a
potential friend into a bitter enemy. Egypt has since clamped down on cross-border tunnels that are
used to smuggle everything from diapers to rockets, devastating the Gazan economyto the point
that some Israeli security officials feared the pressure would backfire and lead to a complete collapse
of order in Gaza or the empowerment of even more radical voices. Potential funders in the Gulf have

International Affairs


also turned against Hamas, sharing Egypt's fear of the Brotherhood, and Iran and Hamas split when
they picked opposite sides in the Syria conflict. War with Israel compounds all these problems.
The Gaza conflict is troubling not just for Israelis and Gazans but for the region as a whole
and for U.S. interests as well. Israelis look at their 2005 withdrawal from Gaza as a questionable
precedent for the West Bank: why would withdrawal in the West Bank lead to peace when the
withdrawal from Gaza failed to do so? Israelis are skeptical that talks with Abbas on the West Bank
will really mean peace if rockets continue from Gaza, while the back and forth between Israel and
Hamas, and the resulting heavy Palestinian casualties, inflame Palestinian anger against Israel and
damage the standing of moderate Palestinian leaders. As long as the conflict festers, it is difficult for
the peace process to resume and gain traction, and as long as the peace process ignores Gaza, the
conflict festers. Conflict in Gaza also bleeds over into neighboring Sinai, contributing to the growing
terrorism problem in Egypt. For the United States, which has more than enough problems in the
Middle East, close ties to Israel become a millstone when Israel is perceived as slaughtering
innocent Muslims.

The Current Approach: Mowing the Grass

Any solution must take into account the goals of the parties involved and the politics on all
sides. For Israel, the immediate requirement is security: no rocket or other attacks from Gaza. This
applies both to Hamas and to other militant groups in Gaza, like the Iran-linked Palestine Islamic
Jihad and Salafi-jihadists (who have an ideology akin to that of al-Qaeda). Some of these are
Hamas's enemies or rivals, but some Israeli leaders contend Hamas could suppress them if it wanted
to and that Hamas allows them to strike Israel as a way to continue applying pressure while avoiding
direct responsibility. (The truth is somewhere in between: Hamas cannot prevent every attack, and
most of the attacks after 2012 were from Palestine Islamic Jihad, but Hamas can certainly do more
than it has done to stop them.) Israel also worries about the development of Hamas's military
potential, be it by building up rocket arsenals, restoring its tunnel complex, or otherwise being able to
challenge Israel more successfully. Israel believes that Hamas did not honor the terms of the
ceasefire after the previous clash in 2012: Hamas placed explosives on the border, built tunnels,
manufactured weapons, and did not fully prevent rocket fire from Gaza.
Hamas, in turn, has multiple and conflicting goals. On one hand, Hamas seeks Israel's
destruction. On the other hand, some, though not all, of Hamas's leaders recognize Israel's
overwhelming military superiority and know they must temper their goals, with some calling for
ceasefiresthough these same leaders at times use violent rhetoric, and precisely where Hamas
stands regarding even a de facto recognition of Israel has never been fully tested.
Hamas also must maintain its internal cohesion. Hamas tries to represent the vast
Palestinian refugee population in Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Arab world and globally;
Palestinians in the West Bank; and of course Gazans; but the three groups have different goals. A
more peaceful path threatens Hamas's internal cohesion. Having cultivated an ethos of violence for
decades, and having come to power in part by denouncing the Palestinian Authority and using
terrorism to undermine its efforts at peace, conciliatory steps might anger militants within the
movement, particularly in the military wing, as well as members of smaller rival groups. This would
give them an opportunity to slam more pragmatic Hamas leaders for appeasement and cowardice. In
general, Hamas has managed overall cohesion well, but it remains a delicate balancing act. Finally,
Hamas wants to govern. It rules Gaza, and its own philosophy stresses creating a successful Islamic
governmenta difficult if not impossible goal if Gaza is always at war with Israel and is under nearconstant blockade. Governing well also enables Hamas to win over Palestinians and make a more
credible claim to overall leadership. Hamas believes that Israel did not honor the terms of the 2012
ceasefire, did not stop targeting Hamas members, did not end restrictions on people and goods in
Gaza, and otherwise kept up the same policies that led to war in the past.
Both sides have a complex attitude toward an important third player: Abbas and the
Palestinian Authority. Israel relies on Abbas to help police the West Bank, and many Israelis
recognize that Abbas is as conciliatory a leader as Israel can reasonably expect. Israelis, however,
are skeptical of the peace processa skepticism that runs deep within the Netanyahu government
so they are reluctant to make advancing the peace process part of the equation in Gaza. In addition,
they regard Abbas as a weak leader whose political and physical longevity is uncertain. Indeed,
before the 2014 war, Israel rejected the government of national consensus between Hamas and
Abbas, fearing that it would be the foot in the door for Hamas to take control of more Palestinian
Hamas, for its part, sees Abbas and his Fatah party as a rival for leadership of the
Palestinian national movement. Part of the reason Hamas foments terrorist attacks against Israel in
the West Bank is to draw a harsh Israeli response against Abbas and the PA there and thereby
undermine their popularity. In addition, when Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, it had a short but


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

bloody fight with PA security forces, complete with torture and executions (perpetrated by both
sides). However, because Palestinian public opinion strongly favors unity, it is hard for Hamas to
make its competition overtit must appear conciliatory. Moreover, Hamas at times uses the PA as a
backstop. Part of why Hamas joined the unity arrangement was that it felt unable to govern Gaza
effectively due to the blockade and was happy to hand the mess over to the PA.
Both Israel and Hamas also fear Hamas could become too weak. For Hamas, a loss of
power would undermine its credibility. For Israel, the perceived alternatives to Hamas are not just the
moderate Abbas and the PA, but also more radical elements of Hamas, terrorists with an ideology
more akin to that of al-Qaeda, or just chaos where the worst are full of passionate intensity. Thus, as
one senior Israeli military official admitted, I see no alternative to control being exercised by Hamas.
With these goals in mind, the logic behind the latest war is clearer. Hamas, weakened by the
blockade, battered by Egypt, and having lost much of its support from important donors like Iran,
initially tried to restore its legitimacy by entering into a unity deal with Abbas. Israel vociferously
opposed this, even though the terms of the agreement overwhelmingly favored Abbas: the unity
government's senior figures were all from the PA, and Hamas allowed several thousand PA security
forces back into Gaza with no reciprocity for Hamas in the West Bank. Abbas also made clear that
the PA would continue to negotiate with Israel. All of these were painful concessions for Hamas
though Hamas did claim, to itself at least, that joining with the PA did not mean embracing a peace
process (Hamas leaders justified this concession rather lamely by arguing that it allowed the
organization to focus on fighting Israel, as opposed to governing Gaza). Israel maintained tight
restrictions on what went into and out of Gaza and refused to allow the tens of thousands of civil
servants in Gaza to be paid. As the International Crisis Group's Nathan Thrall points out, this made
the agreement of little value to the people in Gaza, where electricity is sporadic, sewage at times
floods the streets, and medical care is often lacking.
Israel particularly feared that the agreement would allow Hamas to reestablish itself on the
West Bank, a security nightmare for Israel. When three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and
murdered on the West Bank by Hamas members in June 2014, Israel responded by trying to uproot
the Hamas infrastructure there, arresting several hundred Hamas members and leaders, including
many who had earlier been freed as part of the prisoner-release deal involving Shalit. Hamas
responded with rocketsthe first time it admitted to launching rockets itself since 2012and Israel
responded with air strikes on Gaza. In the past, Hamas backed away from the brink; this time,
however, Hamas had little to lose and felt that a broader conflict was the only way to restore its
credibility and bring publicity to the situation in Gaza, which the world was ignoring. It didn't back
down and instead increased the rocket attacks; Israel responded with more air strikes and eventually
a limited ground invasion.
Now that the war is over, one can look back and see how Israel's current approach to Gaza
reflects its competing goals: it doesn't solve the Jewish state's problems, but it limits them while
giving Hamas enough to survive (though not prosper). In part, Israel's approach is classic
deterrence: it seeks to convince Hamas's leaders that any aggression or unwanted behavior will
result in a severe response. But Israel's approach also involves continual efforts to keep Hamas
weak and off- balancethough not enough to cause Gaza to collapse completely or allow even more
radical rivals to gain strength.
Israel's approach is often considered part of a strategy labeled mowing the grass. As the
label suggests, Israel considers Hamas and other terrorist groups a constant danger, but one that is
almost impossible to uproot. The approach, then, is to strike regularly to keep the danger limited (or
the grass mowed), recognizing that, on a regular basis, additional strikes will need to be carried out.
The current approach limits the threat Hamas poses to an acceptable cost to Israel, at
least. Fewer Israelis have died fighting Hamas since it took power in Gaza in 2007 than died in
Lebanon fighting Hezbollah and other foes between 1985 and 2000, when Israel abandoned its
security zone in Lebanon. Israel does not need to maintain troops in Gaza as it does in the West
Bank, and because Hamas administers the Strip, Israel is not administratively or politically
responsible for Palestinians there.
Hamas has also proven it can be deterred, at least temporarily, particularly if it is hit hard
and feels it has gained concessions in exchange, such as a reduction of the impact of the blockade.
After major clashes such as those in 20082009, 2012, and 2014, the number of rockets launched
from Gaza fell precipitously. After the 2012 war, for example, Israeli intelligence found there was only
one attack in the three months after the ceasefire, and 2013 was the quietest year in a decade.
Hamas has at times called on groups to refrain from rocket attacks and even created a special
security force to prevent unauthorized strikes. In essence, it acted as Israel's policeman, though of
course the Islamist group would vigorously deny this claim.

International Affairs


Perhaps most important, containing and deterring Hamas is politically the easiest option for
Israel. It does not bring the costs or opprobrium of a new occupation, allows political leaders to show
they are strongvital in Israel's political cultureand avoids reliance on the international community,
which is widely viewed with suspicion among Israelis (often justifiablejust look at Hamas's use of
UN Relief and Works Agency buildings in Gaza to hide rockets).
Yet, Israel's current approach has many hidden costs. Deterrence works at best fitfully, and
Hamas rockets have longer ranges than in the past. The casualties Hamas has inflicted are a high
number for a small state, especially one as casualty-sensitive as Israel. In addition, the rocket
attacks, and the constant risk of them, impose a psychological burden. Some Israelis living near
Gaza are reluctant to return, and rates of trauma are high.
Israel also pays a cost internationally. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is deeply
unpopular around the world and is even causing growing skepticism among some supporters of
Israel in the United States. Ironically, this opprobrium shows up with regard to Gazaeven though
Israel withdrew from Gaza completely because of a conflation of Gaza with the Palestinians;
thus, violence there is viewed in the context of Israel's broader occupation. In addition, the repeated
wars that are part of mowing the grass create a different kind of opprobrium, fostering the
impression that Israel deliberately kills Palestinian civilians.
Mowing the grass also hurts more moderate Palestinians. Whenever Israel attacks Gaza,
the cooperation of moderate Palestinians with Israel, and their dislike of Hamas, are on full display.
When PA security forces help Israelis disrupt Hamas in the West Bank, they look like collaborators.
The attacks highlight the ineffectiveness and irrelevance of the moderate leadership, which has no
influence over the actors and no way to protect Palestinians in Gaza. In addition, because Hamas is
neither destroyed nor committed to peace, Hamas has the ability to disrupt peace talks, should they
ever get on track.
The current approach also increases Hamas's reliance on Iran. Although Syria remains a
bone of contention, Iran still needs allies in the anti-Israel struggle, particularly a leading Sunni group
like Hamas, and Hamas has few other choices if it wants to maintain its ability to use violence and
gain access to external funding. Finally, the current approach puts the conflict in stasis: Hamas is
weak and off balance, but politically and militarily still a potent force.

Four Alternatives
If the status quo is deficient for both Israelis and Gazans, what are the alternatives? This
section reviews four possibilities: crushing Hamas and reoccupying Gaza; a ceasefire deal with a
unity government that leads the PA to return to Gaza; a deal where Hamas disarms in exchange for
aid; and an extended ceasefire negotiated directly with Hamas.

Option One: Crush and Occupy

Israel has the military power to reoccupy Gaza and subdue Hamas there, an approach that
conservative Israeli leaders like Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman have suggested. Once in
charge, Israel could rule directly or try to install its preferred proxy and, as it did in the West Bank
after retaking territory there in 2002, gather the intelligence and develop the security presence
necessary to identify and arrest the Hamas cadre. The task would take months, as Hamas has a vast
administrative and military infrastructure. However, Israeli intelligence is quite skilled, and over time
Israel would crush Hamas and largely end the rocket threat. The timing for such a move in some
ways is ideal given Hamas' international isolation.
The costs of occupation, however, are considerableto the point that even conservative
Israeli governments like Netanyahu's have shied away. Although Israel could devastate Hamas, the
organization's roots in Gaza are deep, and it has spent decades as a clandestine terrorist group.
Hamas would be able to run a low-level insurgency from Gaza, using guns and bombs to inflict a
steady, if limited, flow of casualties on the Israeli military. An Israeli military assessment found that
assuming control would cost hundreds of soldiers' lives and billions of dollars each year: we would
long for southern Lebanon, said an Israeli military official, referring to Israel's security zone there
that experienced constant clashes with Hezbollah. All factions in Gaza would almost certainly join
Hamas in opposing Israel, and massive unrest could erupt in the West Bank in sympathy.
Israel would also pay heavy political costs. Israel would have to run Gaza, and in the eyes of
the world the occupation would be growing, not shrinking. All of Gaza's myriad problems, ranging
from sewage to crime, would be Israel's to solve. Occupation would also strengthen the Hamas
narrative that Israel is committed to controlling all of Palestine and does not want a negotiated peace,
destroying the credibility of moderate Palestinians as well as voices within Hamas calling for a


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

pragmatic deal with Israel. Even if Israel handed off power to Abbas and the PA, they would (rightly)
be seen as Israeli puppets, reducing what little legitimacy they have left.
Over time, it is also possible that Egypt would become less supportive, given the
unpopularity of Israel among the Egyptian public. Israel relies on Egypt to police its border with Gaza,
preventing arms from entering and militants from moving in and out to train and develop connections
with Iran and other radical forces. If Egypt became more sympathetic to Hamas, Hamas' ability to
arm and otherwise become more deadly would grow dramatically.

Option Two: Bring the PA Back to Gaza

Instead of attempting to impose a government on Gaza, Israel could try to help or at least
not hindera return of the PA to Gaza through peaceful means, particularly as part of a unity deal
between Hamas and the PA. Since 2007, Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip while the PA
(controlled by Fatah, the largest party in the PA) has controlled the West Bank. Fatah and Hamas
have fought bitterly over the years, but agreed to a unity deal in April 2014 in which they would share
power. Hamas accepted this deal out of weakness, but Israel refused to negotiate with a Palestinian
government that had any Hamas role. After the summer 2014 war, however, Israel proved more
willing to accept some reintegration of the two parts of the Palestinian Authority and to deal, at least
indirectly, with a unity arrangement in which Hamas has no direct rolea complete fiction, but one
both Israel and Hamas prefer.
Under such an arrangement, the PA would assume responsibility for Gaza's border
crossings with Israel and Egypt as well as aspects of the economy and overall administration of the
Strip; in reality, though, Hamas would continue to run much of the show. Israel's extensive
cooperation with the PA in the West Bank on security issues would be applied in Gaza to prevent the
smuggling of weapons into Gaza (and especially to get Egypt to work with the PA on the Rafah
crossing) and to conduct inspections to ensure Hamas is not secretly stockpiling weapons, building
tunnels, or otherwise becoming more dangerous militarily.
From Hamas's point of view, the unity agreement would allow it to continue to play a political
role, yet free it somewhat from the burden of Gaza's failing economy and isolation. A unity
government is also politically popular, as both Hamas and Fatah supporters see themselves as one
people and do not want Gaza and the West Bank to go their separate ways. For different reasons,
both Fatah and Hamas need this legitimacy.
However, bringing the PA back is only the first step. The PA would have to consolidate its
power in Gaza for this approach to reap its full benefits. To gain politically, the PA would need to
ensure that Gaza has electricity as well as building materials, and that Gazans can go to Egypt when
necessary. This could prove somewhat easier for the PA than for Hamas: with the PA back in charge,
when Israel supplied electricity and other services and goods to Gaza, it would be to bolster the PA,
not aid an enemy government. Ultimately, for the PA to succeed, Gaza would have to succeed, at
least modestly; if not, Hamas's gambit of shrugging off responsibility for Gaza to the PA would
succeed, dragging down Abbas by making him look like an Israeli puppet and making Hamas look
good by comparison.
The eventual goal would be for the PA to be strong enough to compel Hamas to disarm, or
at least make it hard for the organization to resume violence. We're a long way from that. In the
meantime, and perhaps surprisingly, for this approach to work, Hamas must also gain politically.
Hamas is not defeatedit retains its arms and thus some military capacity and could resume fighting
should it choose to do so and so to avoid further violence, it must know that it has a chance of
triumphing politically. The unity agreement also gives Hamas more room to compete politically on the
West Bank with Abbas and his supporters, and it is unclear who would win. Hamas has already
gained ground politically in the latest war simply by standing up to Israel, and with peace talks in
shambles, the PA has no credible path to independence that can counter Hamas's argument that
Israel only understands force.

Option Three: Exchange Aid for Disarmament

Another option Israelis are bruiting about is to combine two extremes: Hamas would make
the ultimate sacrifice and disarm, effectively ending its self-styled role as a resistance organization,
and in exchange Israel would provide Gazans with a massive aid package that would greatly improve
their standard of living. Former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz proposed an initiative in which, in
exchange for the demilitarization of Gaza, Israel would offer a significant, economic aid package for
the Palestinian population that would include a budget of $50 billion over five years for infrastructure,
welfare, healthcare, education, and employment, as well as easing restrictions on border crossings.
Other leading Israelis, such as former intelligence chief Yuval Diskin, have proposed less sweeping
trades, with a more gradual demilitarization that focuses on particular types of weapons, such as

International Affairs


long-range rockets, in exchange for implementation of an international plan to rebuild the Gaza
Strip, among other concessions.
Such offers put Hamas in a bind: it must choose between advancing the welfare of Gazans
and its own military power. For Hamas, disarming is a huge risk. Most Palestinians would see
disarming under duress, and without significant Israeli concessions, as surrender. Most Gazans
accept Hamas's view that it is military capacity, not goodwill gestures, that will lead Israel to make
concessions. They point to the prisoner exchange after the Shalit kidnapping and the 2005 Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza and contrast them to the failure of negotiations by the PA. Hamas also fears
that once it demilitarized, the PA security forces would exact revenge for Hamas's bloody takeover of
the Strip in 2007. In addition, while Hamas might agree to disarm, other groups like Palestine Islamic
Jihad or Salafi-jihadist fighters would notand many within Hamas's military wing might choose to
join them rather than give up the fight. That would leave a situation in which the most extreme
individuals committed to violence are heavily armed while the relatively more pragmatic elements of
Hamas lack any capacity to police them.
Nor is it clear who would provide the aid to Gazans should Hamas agree to disarm. The $50
billion proposed by Mofaz would be a huge sum for Israel, and skeptical Israelis would prove
reluctant to give any money to Hamas even if it agreed to disarm, as Hamas would surely not end its
hate-filled incitement against Israel. Hamas is not popular in the West, and the figures discussed are
large for Turkey and even Qatar, Hamas's key allies. Several states in the latest donor conference on
Gaza questioned the wisdom of sinking billions more dollars into rebuilding Gaza yet again, only to
see their work undone in the next round of conflict.
Hamas might also gain politically. Part of the West's failed strategy so far has been to make
the West Bank more attractive than Gaza economically in the hopes of enhancing the PA's stature;
now the opposite could be true. So success of this option would mean a less violent Hamas, but one
that is a more influential voice among Palestinians.

Option Four: Negotiate a Lasting Ceasefire

Although Hamas is a seemingly implacable opponent of Israel and the PA embraces peace,
a limited deal with Hamas over Gaza is in some ways simpler than a comprehensive one with
moderate Palestinians. Emotional issues in contention in negotiations with Abbas, such as the status
of Jerusalem or the fate of Israeli settlements, are not present in Gaza. And Hamas is a stronger
organization than the PA: if it makes a deal, it is better able to stick to it.
A limited like for like ceasefire, in which Hamas ends rocket attacks and polices the Strip
while Israel eases the economic vise on Gazabut neither side goes much furtheris more
plausible. Hamas could claim that its long- term goals remain expansive, but that it is accepting a
lasting ceasefire due to its current weakness; in fact, Hamas's current approach has elements of this
logic. Israel would have to ensure a modicum of basic economic activity in Gaza, and Egypt would
have to allow Gazans some freedom to travel to and from the Strip (admittedly a difficult requirement
given Cairo's hostility to Hamas). Such a ceasefire would also help the people of Gaza, as any deal
would involve lifting economic restrictions and otherwise making life easier. This approach could
even potentially shift the debate within Hamas over how much to emphasize governance versus
resistance: a lasting ceasefire combined with economic rewards that would allow Hamas to govern
more effectively would bolster its political position with Palestinians through non-violent means and
strengthen more pragmatic voices within Hamas, making further moderation more likely.
Although the Hamas leadership is strong, a long-term ceasefire would be opposed by
militants in its own military wing, along with groups like Palestine Islamic Jihad and even more radical
al-Qaeda types. Much of Hamas also opposes this ideologically andperhaps more important
believes it has gained the support of many Palestinians by positioning itself in opposition to Abbas
and the PA, denouncing them for their willingness to sell Palestinian patrimony. For its part, Israel
would find it hard to commit to a long-term ceasefire without a bold gesture by Hamas to show it has
changed its stripes.
Hamas' pragmatism is uncertainand there's the rub, for this option as for so many of these
options. Hamas does have pragmatic voices, but it also has radical ones. So even if Hamas leaders
are genuine now, there is no certainty that its leaders would not return to violence in five years, or
even five months. Indeed, if there are not economic restrictions on Gaza, then Hamas might be able
to smuggle in even more weapons and otherwise bolster its military capacity, making the next conflict
even bloodier. And if the situation stagnates but Hamas continues to stop violence emanating from
Gaza against Israel, it could find itself in the same situation the PA has been for the last 20 years:
accused of being Israel's subcontractor while failing to end the occupation. Hamas thus worries that
any move toward peace would lead to violent splinters and the growth of radical rivals, developments
that would greatly weaken Hamas.


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There would be one clear loser from this deal: Abbas and other moderate Palestinian
leaders. In essence, Israel would be bypassing them, sending a message that Hamas's violence is
what commands Israel's attention, not an offer of negotiations.

The problem with the current Israeli and international policy toward Gaza is that there is no
end state beyond repeated conflict. The problem with all the alternatives is that they are often costly,
infeasible, or uncertain. For now, it is not realistic to expect change, but as the stagnation of the
status quo becomes clearer, circumstances might shift.
Any long-term strategy depends on the strength of moderate Palestinians as well as
moderate Israelis. Even if Israel were to pursue the most muscular policy reoccupying Gaza
Israel would eventually want to hand off power to moderate Palestinians. Any approach involving
negotiations similarly requires moderate Palestinians to be able to triumph politically and, when
negotiations end, to be the voice of the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, Hamas remains strong
politically among Palestinians.
The United States should seek to strengthen voices within Hamas that favor governance
over violence. There should be no illusions: Hamas as an organization remains committed to
violence, including violence against civilians. But Hamas has pragmatic as well as zealous voices,
and it knows when it is in a tight spotas it is now. For pragmatic voices to win politically, Hamas
needs political options. As such, it should be encouraged to work with moderate Palestinians, and
the siege of Gaza should be eased as long as Hamas stops violence.
Finally, the suffering of Gazans is real and constant, and there is no end in sight. Diskin's
idea of limited disarmament in exchange for greater aid will satisfy no oneHamas will want more,
and Israeli hawks will protest that Hamas remains armedbut it would reduce the threat to Israel
while making life better for ordinary Gazans. Similarly, efforts to increase the PA presence in Gaza,
and especially to bolster it once it is there, are small steps that might have a long-term payoff. Such
specific trades that are more politically feasible should be pursued in the absence of a broader peace
Gaza lacks an optimal solution, so it is not surprising that short-term approaches dominate
policy. Yet short-term logics have led to war after war, with victory always elusive. Taking small steps
to end the impasse while exploring new approaches will not guarantee peace, but the alternative is to
continue stumbling into clash after clash in the years to come.

Foreign Policy and Domestic Constraints:

A Conceptual Account
Mubeen Adnan

Foreign policy is an endless dialogue between the powers of continuity and the powers of change. It
begins at frontiers. One cannot ignore the domestic inputs/actors role towards making foreign policy
of any country. It is shaped by the internal needs of the country and projection of internal policies.
Differences in states capabilities to act are constrained by the characteristics of states, or national
attributes. The domestic constraints and challenges add much more complexity and unpredictability
to the foreign policy process. Problems or constraints and challenges come out when a single
individual or agency bypass the domestic interests of a state. The task of formulating foreign policy
for developing states is more filled with constraints as compared to a developed and sovereign state.
A Great number of social, economic, technological and political factors constrain the rate and kind of
interaction of one state with another state. As these factors affecting the mobilization and the use of
state capabilities. State is constrained not only by its own capabilities, interests, policies and actions
but also by those of the state with which it interacts. One countrys constraint may be the source of
power for an-other country.
Key Words: Foreign Policy, Concept, Objectives, Domestic, Environment, Implementation,

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Foreign Policy: Conceptual Concerns

o understand the words foreign policy, one needs to break them down into foreign and policy.
Policy is a decision or a guide of choosing actions to achieve ones goals. Foreign means
anything beyond the state, to areas where state has no authority over territory and people.
When combined these words, mean a guide of choosing actions outside the state boundary
for achieving goals. Foreign policy means, goals, values and different instruments which the
government uses in making relations with different countries. Some things are important to take into
account like, environment (international and domestic), available choices and resources before
making foreign policy. Foreign policy comes out from the interaction of domestic and international
systems. Roscoe Pound explains that domestic policy is social through law and foreign policy is the
use of political influence in order to induce other states to exercise their law-making power in a
manner desired by the state concerned(Northedge, (Ed.),1974: 11) States use political power for
converting law making power in favour of them. Foreign policy can never be more than an
undertaking to negotiate with other states. Force of unpredictability is there and does not always
achieve or moves on direct lines. Effectiveness of policy depends upon changes which occur
internally and externally in international relations. Foreign policy debate is generally about the
interests whom are to be defended and which are sacrificed if needed in dealing with other states.
Foreign policy is independent, meaning that the relative freedom of a country from interference in
what it regards as its internal affairs and some degree of power to express and implement an
independent viewpoint on external affairs.(Northedge, (Ed.), 1974 : 19). It is not dependent on other
states view point regarding foreign policy but it is possible to change or regulate the behaviour of
other states with the view of serving their national interests.
Hugh Gibson has defined foreign policy as a well-rounded, comprehensive plan, based on
knowledge and experience, for conducting the business of government with the rest of the world. It is
aimed at promoting and protecting the interests of the nation.(Khana,2005: 1)Basically foreign policy
is framed for the protection and promotion of the national interest of a state which is based on
information, knowledge, experience and planning for making relations with other states of the world.
According to Mahendra Kumar, foreign policy is a thought out course of action for achieving
objectives in foreign relations as dictated by the ideology of national interest.(Chandra and Arora,
2008: 68).The National interest of a state guide its goals and through making relations with other
countries, the state achieves those planned goals some times in short time or sometimes in long
time. Every state decides its own course of action in foreign policy in the light of its own means. The
formulation of foreign policy is essentially an exercise in the choice of ends and means on the part of
a nation- state in an international setting(Shahid, 2006: 66). The choice of means and ends varies
on issues of the particular state at particular time periods. It is also important to note where the state
stands in the hierarchy of world politics. Cecil V Crab, Jr. defined foreign policy as reduced to its
most fundamental ingredients, foreign policy consists of two elements: national objectives to be
achieved and means for achieving them. The interaction between national goals and the resources
for attaining them is the perennial subject of the state craft. In its ingredients the foreign policy of all
nations, great or small, is the same.(Khana, 2005:2)National objectives can be achieved through
using the successful means. Large and small states all work on foreign policy. Foreign policy is a
continuous changing process where states co- operated with other states on its own grounds or
some times modified policies regarding the international environment or pressures.
Hartman has described the foreign policy as a systematic statement of deliberately selected
national interests.(Khana, 2005:2).Foreign policy may be defined as an integrated plan to secure
and enhance national interest of a state. Scholars like Rosenau (1969), Frankel (1970) and
Sondermann (1977) emphasized the concept of national interest, as it is playing its role in making
policy choices and decisions. It is necessary for each and every state to judge the success in foreign
policy in the form of the achievements, prestige abroad and the protection of its interests. Failures in
foreign policy must also be defined. Foreign policy can achieve its aims if it is based on accurate
assessment of the facts, secondly if it is timely, thirdly if it is self-consistent, fourthly if understood and
backed by relevant domestic social forces and lastly supported by appropriate resources.
(Northedge,(Ed.), 1974:40).Foreign Policy is the output of the state into the global system, the
outcome of whatever foreign policy process exists within that state. Foreign policy is to affect the
behavior of another actor from how it trades, to how it votes, to how it uses its weapons.(Russet and
Starr, 1981:88). It is a link between what goes on inside a state and the world outside of that state.
A state may interact with other states for so many reasons: for economic resources, natural
resources, military armaments, political, trade, cooperation or alliance and so forth. Foreign policy
finds the ways beneficial to each state. It is also a continuous process; it did not end with any
government, its never ending. K.J. Holsti explains foreign policy objectives, as an image of a future
state of affairs and future conditions that governments through individual policy makers aspire to
bring by wielding influence abroad and by changing or sustaining the behavior to other


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states.(Holsti, 1997:139). Its a direct link between domestic and international situations. He comes
up with 3 categories of objectives,
1. Core objectives
2. Middle range objectives
3. Long range objectives
Core objectives: - These must be achieved all times. Sovereignty, autonomy, national
interest, territorial integrity, well being of people. Every state wants full autonomy and sovereignty of
its own territory in order to plan out domestic and foreign policies. These objectives keep a state
away from influence, coercion and the rule by other states. Acquisition of power provides influence
on other states. Protection and promotion of national interest is important. These are more
permanent in character. Compromise on any one of them will lead towards weakening of foreign
Middle range objectives: - These are less immediate and they require cooperation from
other states like economic and social development. Economic conditions determine the status of a
state in the international arena. Economically developed states play more effective roles. Economic
prosperity can be achieved through an effective foreign policy. Social development is also important.
Through a successful foreign policy, states acquire economic prosperity and economic development
leads towards the development of society. Not permanent, at one time co-operation with different
states may not be co-operation forever.
3. Long range objectives: - These are least immediate; plans, dreams, political vision and ideology.
Decision makers have enough time to think and develop and achieve these objectives. Time is no
constraint, there is enough time to think, plan and implement the policy.

Domestic Factor (Environment)

The foreign policy implementation phase is one in which actors confront their environment
and in return the environment confronts actors. Social and political actors pushed a course of action
and through these actions states succeed in acquiring their foreign policy objectives. Clashes
between actors and their environment also erupted. For having every states own way in the world
system is not always possible. (Smith,(Ed.), 2008: 118)

To formulate a dialogue with neighbours, the state is restricted by pressures originating

within the country. The political condition of a country, will determine how forcibly a government can
play its role, what it cannot do for losing support at home. What it must do for the people of its
country. Organized pressure groups acting as lobbies in parliament or congress or as opinion

International Affairs


forming agencies and press, radio and television will all have their roles to play. It is necessary to
handle all these domestic actors.
Norman Kogan an eminent scholar of foreign policy believes that the influence of the
domestic system on the process of foreign policy is so dominant that it becomes difficult to make a
distinction between the domestic and foreign policies. All policies are essentially domestic in the
sense that they seek to attain domestic goal(Kogan, 1963:vii).F.S Northedge emphasized that,
countrys political or diplomatic style the projection, the processes, the consensus building on political
issues and the sources of internal conflict on foreign policy are highlighted in the domestic
background of foreign policy.
Political style is the established manner of conducting public affairs in a given country, the
political mental habits and inarticulate major premises of a nation coloured by tradition and
reflected in government policies, its method of attending to the arrangements of society.
Style helps to make certain policies sensible in terms of the political setting in which they are
framed, style too provides the observer with clues as to how a given country will react in a
particular set of circumstances. The experienced diplomat may be able to say how this or
that country will respond to this or that move of his own country, because he is familiar with
the habitual manner in which it reacts to situation of this kind.(Russet and Starr, 1981:23)
Style leads to the formulation of consensus on partial terms we see certain consensus which
is basically artificial for example in USA two views generally arises on many world affairs and an
imperfect consensus comes out in the form of attack or intervention in different countries. Thus it is
clear that in the formulation of foreign policy, domestic sources play their role in the forms of
adjustments and compromises between social structure and elements of government. Role of
domestic factors may vary from one country to another country mainly depending upon political,
social, economic, cultural and many other variables. By controlling domestic constraints next step is
about its implementation through skilful manner or by sticks and carrots.(Russet and Starr, 1981:30).
For making foreign policy, internal political situation, opposition role, the constitutional channels
through which the decision making process works, public opinion, pressure groups acting as lobbies,
media all have their part to play in the decision making process. On the domestic front, foreign policy
is a series of adjustments and compromises between different actors of government and social
system. Foreign and domestic policy issues are related things of the same political system. The
ability of a nation to exert military strength in the pursuit of its foreign policy objectives in turn
depends upon a diversified and sound domestic industrial structure or help from allies that possess
that resources. (Padelford,1976: 213). With the help of available resources, state is able to shape its
relations with different countries.
While foreign policy choices affect domestic interests, domestic policies may also affect a
nations relationship with other states.(Russet and Starr, 1981:214).
Domestic issues may have a bad effect on a nations foreign policy position. For example in
1998 Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in response to Indian tests. USA and Japan immediately
imposed sanctions on Pakistan. But these days Pakistan has joined hands with the U.S against
terrorism and relations are friendly. Robert Putnam has pointed out that foreign policy is at least a
two level game, but the diverse manifestations of domestic society make interaction much more than
a game.(Putnam,42, 1998:427-60).The domestic and foreign are two ends of a continuum rather
than being sharply demarcated There is no hard and fast rule for demarcation.(Rosenau,1997: 142145). Its a two way flow, foreign policy has its domestic sources and domestic policy has its foreign
influences.(Rosenau, 1967: 70) States own structures, developments and political structure
represents a link between domestic inputs and foreign outputs.
The foreign policy is the way in which political action in international relations occurs along
with its benefits on its problems and citizens demands protection, change and development. The
domestic environment provides both inputs and constraints to foreign policy. The interest of French
farmers, inhibiting any wish a Paris government might have to reform the common Agricultural policy
of the EU is a good example of constraint. Christopher Hill pointed out that four Ps i.e. Parliament,
Public opinion, Pressure groups and Press (including other media) as well as social classes and
regime type as the major problems in executing foreign policy.(Hill,2003:224-225) Thus domestic
processes produce a set of positions and attitudes which amount together to a foreign policy
tradition. Domestic policy provides the key starting point in understanding the states foreign policy.
There is interplay between the domestic sources or inputs and the international relations. The
Domestic dimension directs the question of choice that is how far a people can control their own
foreign policy executive and how much influence it will put on foreign policy making.(Hill,
2003:249).Foreign policy starts in the state but does not finish there. The relationship between
foreign policy making and its domestic environment is unpredictable and can erupt in ways which
disturb both the governing elite and the pattern of international relations. Domestic policy is an
interior to foreign policy and through success in the former may lead success in foreign policy but the


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

reverse is not necessarily the case.(Younus, 2003: 110).It is necessary for every state to set its
house in order and then hope for positive results from foreign policies.

Domestic Constraints
According to Oxford Dictionary, Constrain means to restrict severely as regards action,
behavior etc, bring about by compulsion.
Constraint means something that constrains, a limitation on motion or action. According to Accurate
and Reliable Dictionary on line,

Constraint means the act of constraining, or the state of being constrained; that which compels
to, or restrains from, action, compulsion; restraint; necessity.

The act of constraining; the threat or use of force to control the thoughts or behavior of others.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines constraint as something which controls what you do by
keeping you within particular limits.
Farlex Dictionary defines it as

The threat or use of force to prevent, restrict or dictate the action or thought of others.
The state of being restricted or confined within prescribed bounds.
One that restricts, limits, or regulates a check.
Something that limits a persons freedom of action.
Constraint basically limits the choices and options rather than a large, random collection of
State is constrained not only by its own capabilities, interests, policies and actions but also
by those of the state with which it interacts. Relationships between states can be seen as how two
states stand in terms of resources, capabilities, size, politics, location and so forth. Governments
have to choose between those constraints in which they might make a difference and those where
their involvement might prove counterproductive. State requires that it maintains political, social, and
economic structures that will allow it to mobilize or to use, the resources that exist within its
borders.(Younus, 2003: 154). All these systems should be under the command and control system
as designed by the state. Here the question is how one can mobilize the resources in order to get the
state goals. Certain information about the world must be obtained before making relations with
states. How well a state collects and uses the information will affect the utility of all its other
capabilities. It also affects the goals and interests of the state and how it seeks to get or fulfill them.
Foreign policy decision makers influence other states in order to achieve their goals through the
implementation of foreign policy decisions.
Harold & Margaret Sprout discuss three elements which are the basis of this world, first, an
actor of some sort, second, an environment that surrounds the actor and third, the actor-environment
relationship. When we discuss foreign policy, the decision maker in the foreign policy making is the
most important actor who operates in a very complex environment.(Harold and Margaret, in
Rosenau, (Ed.),1969:41-56). There are different kinds of environments which surround the policy
maker, it effects and also constrains the foreign policy decisions. The Psychological & physical
environment must be checked for the true functioning of decision makers. The decision maker works
in an environment created by his role within a governmental organization, the environment created
by government or by the society in which he is operating and world system.(Russet and Starr,
1981:19). The condition under which the decision maker is working always affects his functions and it
varies from state to state. Following are some of the constraints which act as hurdles for formulating
foreign policies of different states. One countrys constraint may be the source of power for an-other
A nation-state exists within the context of many other states. Some are large and some are
small, some are developed some are poor; some have vast natural resources and so on. The
physical location of states also means that some states are located in areas that have historically
been very busy such as Egypt and Afghanistan and some states are far away from the centers of
world activity for example Australia. States are also concerned with the fact who are their neighbours,
how close or how far, how big and how small, how many they are and also with the features of land
and sea. Being an island, or at the centre of continent or at the end, land locked or having rivers,
mountains, deserts etc.
All these conditions limit one states action towards an-other. The choices or options
provided to states, what is possible to states and what is not are all influenced by the location of the
state. It is clear that the location of a state constraints interaction with other states. Afghanistan and
all Central Asian States are land locked which is a great hurdle for its interaction with other states.
The State should be most concerned with its immediate neighbours and less with those far away.
(Starr and Most, quarterly 20, 1976:581-620).The greater an interaction with the neighbour state the

International Affairs


more would be the chances of war with it. Nepal is always bullied by India. India is also a major
threat to Pakistan.

Size of the state

The most relevant measure of size may be population, area, wealth, economic capacity,
military capabilities, some other or some combination of these.(Russet and Starr, 1981:75). Large
size which is enough to provide an adequate standard of living for a population and to maintain an
adequate conventional military capability. Each of these factors may be an advantage, a constraint or
have no effect. Sheer size has positive advantage of depth for military advantage or distant from
hostile neighbours. It provides longer borders but if it does not have rivers, swamps, mountains as
natural barriers then size is a negative feature. A Large size would permit a large population,
industrial bases and domestic resources of food and natural resources, without these features it is
not enough to become a super power. The USSR in World War II showed both features of size. Its
long border was an invitation to a successful armored attack from Germany but its vast size provided
it with depth to absorb the Nazi invasion, regroup and rearm for a victorious Soviet counter offensive.
(Russet and Starr, 1981:140)As for India and Pakistan, India had the benefit of its large size in 1965
as well as in the 1971 war.
A large population can be an asset or a liability; it requires enough talented people, man
power and technical people while making relations with different states. Population must be taken in
many ways, like age and sex distribution, density, population growth, health, education and morale
etc. It must also include the capabilities of the people which could be used towards the development
of a state. The Greater the number of the skilled population, the higher the development rate.

Natural Resources
Natural resources such as oil, gas, petroleum, coal, uranium, nuclear power, material and
metal are very important sources of every state. States with greater needs are most vulnerable to
influence from other states that control or affect the resources that satisfy those needs.(Russet and
Starr, 1981:142). If a state can be self-sufficient, it reduces its vulnerability to influence others. All the
powers of the world depend more on resources found elsewhere. Natural resources along with
skilled population and level of technology determine the states level of development. A uniform
climate is also an ideal situation for a state. Natural barriers such as forests, mountains, oceans,
rivers also determine foreign policy of a state.


Military Capabilities
One more common thought, when investigating the constraints on foreign policy is military
capabilities. It varies from defense armaments to the number of air crafts, tanks, submarines, nuclear
weapons, missiles, defense budget. Soldiers in a developing state may be poorly equipped and less
effective in battlefield as compared to trained and heavily equipped soldiers of developed states. The
Greater the military capabilities of a state the more its influence in foreign policy decisions. The
effectiveness of military power increases with small distances like India is better able than Pakistan
to put forces on Kashmir. And also India is having large number of troops and supplies there. Military
capabilities could be constrained due to dependence on wealth, industry, scientific and technological
facilities, peoples health, education, morale and politics, etc.

Economic System
Does the economic system and structure reduce loss? Is it efficient in the use of the states
resources? How does the economic system affect the foreign policy output of the state? Marxist
theory explains that capitalist countries have more aggressive foreign policies as compared to
socialist countries. Foreign investors or the military-industrial complex may have an interest in an
aggressive or expansionist foreign policy that produces benefits for them. J.A. Hobson, the English
economist explains that unequal distribution of income and wealth in capitalist states, especially
England, as leaving the poor unable to consume much, forced capitalists to invest their capital
abroad and to compete with others to control foreign markets.(Hobson,1902:41-42).The gap between
the rich and poor is widening in the developing states and the states economic capabilities
deteriorating and these states are becoming dependent on the developed states in all respects
especially regarding foreign policy issues. Harvey Starr and Bruce Russet pointed out that,
Individual capitalists may have genuinely desired peace at any particular time and place; it
still may be that economic expansion (under a capitalist economic and social system)
produced political pressures that led to war inducing crises. It is essential in this kind of
thinking to distinguish a capitalists desire for peace from the perception that the national
economy must expand with access to markets and resources. If war then looms, no one
may want it but in crisis, decision makers may find their menu so constrained that they must
take actions they would prefer to avoid. (Russet and Starr, 1981:217).
Industrially advanced states have good relations with other states as they import different raw
materials and commodities to them. Their trade relations are sound, they also have technical


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knowledge. As a result these states have great influence on foreign policy. Economic development
could be checked by trade, investment, industry, imports and exports of any state.

Social System
National morale and homogeneous society makes strong national unity. Social integration,
social cohesion and stable political institutions shapes the successful foreign policy of a state.
Does the social system, its structure, its values promote a united national effort for foreign
policy? Is the society ready to cooperate or coordinate with the governmental policies? Is the society
oriented towards fairness or a privilege system? How the societal constraints affect the foreign policy
output? All these questions affect how much society is concerned or united with the government for
its foreign policies. This leads towards the national morale, like what the nation is thinking and their
commitment of people for any policy of the government. Shifts in national morale occurred in both
France and United States during their respective involvements in Indo-china. In each country as the
war progressed support for military involvement decreased and general governmental policy was
more and more subjected to challenge.(Russet and Starr, 1981:156).
Characteristics of a society will be more influential in effecting foreign policy in open or
democratic societies. In authoritarian, closed societies, public opinion and political interests are less
likely to have an impact on foreign policy. Through its influence on the government, societies affect
foreign policy in many ways.
Society affects the amount of resources available to government. Then leaders decide which
societal group or official will use these resources. In a developed state Society through public opinion
and interest groups constrain who will use the resources and how much resource should be used.

According to Margaret Sprout, technology is the application of human skills or techniques to
accomplish human purposes.(Harold and Sprout, 1 971:72).Due to technologies, man has
overcome space and time, made computers, airplanes, radio, TV and mobiles. Technology has
overcome the obstacles and limitations imposed on states by the natural resources available to
them. Technologies in the system of government at any time are an important factor in the
constraints on what is possible. Technology affects the bases of a states power, the scope of that
power, and the areas in which the state is interested in using that power.(Harold and Sprout,
1971:73). Technology indirectly influences the foreign policy making. Technologically advanced
states are able to dominate the less advanced states. The emergences of new technologies of
satellite broadcasting and inter-net have transformed the relationship among people, media and
state. The governments who are the architects of foreign policy are less able to manipulate
information due to the explosion of communication technology. An example being Dr. Aafia who is
imprisoned in United States, her case is open to the whole world due to the technological
advancement of media. Many more cases are now open in front of the whole world.

Political System
Democracies behave differently from authoritarian systems. There are theories that
democracies are more likely to form alliances with other democracies than with authoritarian states
and democracies go to war with authoritarian states. It is important to see which system provides for
efficient administration of the nation- states resources. That is, what is the performance of political
leadership at all levels? Whats the people and government relationship? Are people ready to
sacrifice in order to increase military or economic capabilities? To check leadership loyalty towards
the state and nation. These issues involve the manner in which resources may be molded into
economic and political capabilities and how to use them in order to achieve the goals of the
Thus the structure of the political system of a state is one aspect of the mobilization of
resources but leadership itself is very important. Leaders abilities like diplomacy and negotiation are
important in order to influence other states. Democracy or authoritarian system, which form of
government, will provide highest quality of life to citizen? Which government is best in dealing with
other states? A flexible government is or a rigid one while dealing with other states? No one has firm
answers to these questions but these questions should be kept in mind while studying foreign policy.
Bureaucracys skills and efficiency must be checked for having good relations. Their
education, training, devotion, expertise and dependence on political leaders influence one states
dealing with other states. The Reputation of a government determines its dealing with other states. A
States capabilities and potential are directly related to its reputation. A States leadership, political
system and bureaucracy all are responsible for creating good or bad relations with other states.
Openness of the political system is necessary; it means the extent to which a government is open to

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influence from society, accountability of government, it must satisfy people, where the opposition is
free to express its view regarding state policies. In America, the President shares foreign policy
powers with Congress.
In France the President has full control over the parliamentary system and foreign policy
process. There is no authentic evidence available about which system shapes foreign policy more
appropriately. Some observers say that authoritarian governments act more quickly and efficiently,
others argue that democracy works slowly, and gets accurate information from society and it better
produces foreign policy issues. Thus it all depends on its handling by individual decision makers.
They produce their own constraints on foreign policy.

Historical Experiences
The past plays an important role for making futuristic policies. The Past is stored in the
historical experiences of states while interacting with other states. Foreign policy is a changing
process but it carries the past and provides limited alternatives from which the policy maker or
decision maker has to choose. Chinas history shows that its foreign policy is based on the peaceful
co-existence and its policy of self-reliance. Pakistans past and historical experience regarding its
relations with India is full of hostility and animosity. Muhammand Younus pointed that repetition of a
policy is then taken for granted and tends to stop scrutiny in the light of experience for example when
Marx predicted that capitalism will collapse and this expectation was taken for granted and policies
were made accordingly.
The worst historical experiences of the past pulled states towards confrontation rather than
for compromise. This is the case of India-Pakistan relations. Their defense budget is increasing in
order to show readiness in a competitive relationship with the enemy. Since this is done on both
sides, neither can stop it for fear of attack. The policy maker allocating national resources to the
defense budget cannot take a chance for there would be no explanation for not being ready if the
attack did in fact materialize. The role of the past in foreign policy is fundamental. No decision maker
can start with a clean slate. Changes of policy have to be slow and gradual and the past cannot be
discarded altogether. (Younus,2003:183). Kissinger changed U.S policies over a period of time when
U.S was trapped in Vietnam but it took time.

Individual/ Leadership Role

Individuals, groups, a class and the elite will always differ on beliefs, attitudes and policy
selection for making foreign policy according to their own interests. All these would have different
views on what is in the national interest of a state. Leadership has the responsibility to shape,
organize, and implement the states foreign policy in the best possible way. In less developed states
the leaders role is greater as compared to developed states. Authoritarian governments also revolve
around an individual mostly the leader of a state. Hitler is the individual national leader who had a
great influence on world politics. The personality trait of the leader has an impact on the foreign
policy.(Ray, 1992:172). The goals, experiences, capabilities and decision making of each
leader/individual differ with the other.
The personal characteristics, personality, experience and leadership style matters in
determining what choices such a leader will make. Leadership relationship with subordinates and
advisers, who provide information; help in decision making are also important decision carrier. The
individual foreign policy decision maker is surrounded by both external and domestic environments
which constrain him in a number of ways for doing this or not doing that. From an individual or the
leaders, a number of constraints come in the way of foreign policy process. The Individuals position
within the government is important because it determines its role within the foreign policy making
machinery. An Individual or leader is involved in decision making. Decision making focuses on the
people involved in the foreign policy process and on the part of the process that deals with choosing
among alternatives courses of action.(Russet and Starr, 1981:267).
The Decision making body is important and its selection of actions shows the worth of the
decision makers. An Individual can make a difference in the foreign policy process of a State. It
means that foreign policy making process permits a single individual to have an impact on it. An
individual behavior is made up of values, personality, political style, intellect and past experiences
Margaret G. Herman explains the condition under which an individual is expected to affect
foreign policy behavior.
Table 1.2Nature of Situation

Has wide decision latitude

Personal Characteristics


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Is forced to define situation Governments foreign policy behavior

Is likely to participate in F.P.
decision making

Source: Hermann, Margaret G. (1978).Effects of Personal Characteristics of Political

on Foreign Policy in East, Maurice. et al., (Eds.), Why Nations Act. Theoretical
comparative Foreign Policy studies, London, Sage Publications, (2), 54.
The figure indicates how the nature of the situation involved affects the decision maker,
his/her choices, values and finally his status or level in foreign policy making machinery.

Political Parties
A party is defined as a group, a community or an association. It works within a larger society
having meaningful and patterned activities. Political parties developed in Europe in the 19th century.
They have shaped representative democracies. Political parties are generally based on four types of
cleavages i.e. urban/rural, religion, language and class. The issue of foreign policy was then
absorbed into the cleavages. In European states like Finland, Ireland and Federal Republics, foreign
policy had been structured into the party system.(Paterson, 7(4), 1981:228-229). In the case of
Pakistan, major political parties are against Pakistans alliance with U.S.A on the war against
terrorism and on the other foreign policy issues of the state.
In authoritarian systems, there is only one political party which has a prominent role in the
decision making hierarchy. But in a democratic system political parties are more than one and their
role is limited in the foreign policy. The role of the governing political party for selecting choices of
foreign policy is extensive. In Britain, the role of the political party depends upon the judgment of
government leaders who are advised by the bureaucracy. (Paterson,7(4), 1981:192). Jensen in his
book Explaining foreign policy pointed out that political partys role in foreign policy is less as
compared to the executive and bureaucracy.(Jensen,1982:135). It varies from state to state. When
time is a constraint then bureaucracy usually by passed the political parties and the bureaucracy
alone made decisions.

Interest Groups
Interest group is a group of people, who are joined together by more or less common
interests in order to influence the decision makers with regard to specific policies for safe guarding
their interests. Jensen agreed with the view point that interest groups do not directly influence the
foreign policy objectives. Their pressure would be felt by the decision makers to the extent they
manipulate public opinion, including the role of news media in their own interest/ side. International
political economy explains that there is a direct link between economic interest groups and foreign
policy formulation. In democratic as well as in authoritarian societies, the role of economic interest
groups has been increased in the foreign policy formulation. USAs domestic economic policy and
politics are driven by the implication of managing foreign capital flows and the exchange rate of the
U.S Dollar.(Younus,2003:193). In the age of globalization, economic interest groups play their role for
making relations with different countries. Computerization and standardization of financial economic
and commercial information provides a mechanism that makes policy coordination between
competent decisional units and economic interest groups possible.(Younus,2003:193-194).These
domestic decisions sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly effect foreign policy of any state.

Public Opinion
Does public opinion really have influence over policy makers or it is a constraint on
governmental decision makers. Leaders have their own interests but it is also in the interest of the
government to seek public support in order to implement their policies. When all information is
controlled by government in any kind of political system, then public opinion plays a supporting
function but in a democracy considerable attention is given to public opinion. Leaders must hear and
fulfill the demands and needs of the people e.g. to provide subsidy on electricity, high tariff for
protection of certain industries. Sometimes public opinion limits the leaders attributes. For example
in early 1960s President Kennedy of America showed the desire of friendly relation with China but it
was supposed at that time that public opinion was against it. Sometimes people constrain
governmental leaders as the desire their leader must win the election. Leaders gain the support
needed to remain in the government.
Jensen highlighted the following points regarding public opinion,(Jensen,1982:140-147).

Public opinion is ill informed and not interested in foreign policy matters.

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Public opinion can be easily manipulated and it could be used as a bargaining chip between
Manipulation of mass opinion may backfire on decision makers.
Only organized public opinion has an effect on foreign policy.

Some interests of the people are taken into account for the formulation and implementation
of foreign policy. If public support for a particular government is lacking then it stops a government
from pursuing different policies then the worth of that government decreases in front of other states.
At what extent in democracies, do the foreign policy decisions accept the public opinion?Does public
opinion constrain the government performance? Does public opinion matter to leadership?
It is very important to note that in Pakistan mostly the people have little or no interest in or
information about foreign affairs. They are unaware of most international events, only the matters of
major importance to the state or as a whole are known. The people who are aware of many major
events, but not deeply informed about them are called attentive public. The public who have
knowledge about foreign affairs have their own opinion. They discusses foreign policy with other
people and communicate their view point are called opinion leaders like teachers, scholars, civil
servants etc. There exist other types within the opinion leaders called mobilizables, who give time to
political activities and communicate their opinion to general public.(Hughes,1978:23). Under certain
circumstances, public opinion plays a greater or lesser role in foreign policy. Over all, the range of
positions on questions of public opinion and its influence upon foreign policy seems contradictory. In
the 2003 Iraq war, public polls showed opposition to the war among the UK public but the
government proceeded with the war. But on the other side those who think that public opinion has an
influence could say that the governments of UK and US had lost in the elections.
America had lost public support regarding its war policy in Iraq. It is important to note that
public opinion is shaped or controlled by elites who command public attention and media. Decision
makers depend on sub ordinates and subordinates act as a constraint on policy execution as they
will change policies which they do not like. The longer the issue stays alive, the more public attitudes
are likely to matter as in the case of the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. On the issue of
the recognition of Israel, Pakistani public opinion is very much against it. Different governments tried
to build a consensus but people are strongly against it, they are against Israels atrocities on
Palestinian people. In previous time periods America had public support for stopping communism
from its spread. U.S troops fought in Vietnam in the name of democracy and ended by creating
alienation among the American people that forced policy change. So it could be said that public
opinion might act as an internal constraint on foreign policy. Over all, public opinion is a complex
phenomenon that depends on different issues, circumstances and types of government. There is no
clear evidence that in any type of government, public opinion has more effect on foreign policy.
Leaders themselves shape opinion through television, newspapers. Public opinion has few
opportunities to get to grip with the substance of foreign policy.

Media is supposed to provide complete and open debate on important domestic as well as
on international issues. Media influences the public opinion as well as it keeps an eye on
government. News media help to inform, educate and facilitates debates on different issues. It
includes newspapers, television news, current affairs programmes etc. It is considered as a
watchdog, who watches government as well as the public. Media should be free and independent.
The Importance of media is increasing day by day but not much work is seen in the relationship
between media and foreign policy. Some scholars believe that media helps in shaping foreign policy.
But others believe that many journalists exaggerate their importance; politicians make wrong
statements due to media pressure and so on.
There is a diverse array of argument concerning the relationship between media and foreign
policy and between media and public opinion.
The pluralist model believes that public opinion and media have had a great impact on
foreign policy but the other elite model argue that media and public opinion are subservient to the
government and do not have an impact on foreign policy. Like these, the realist school of thought
accounts that public opinion and media should be mobilized in favour of the government but on the
other side the liberal school of thought believes that media and public opinion provide an input to
foreign policy decision making body and can change international relations. Daily newspapers are
considered as important instruments of providing information and mobilizing the public whether for
constructive or manipulative purposes. Politicians use newspapers in order to express their viewpoint
/ strategy regarding domestic politics as well as for making relations with other states.
The successful lawyers movement against the president Musharafs 3rd Nov. 2007s
emergency and overthrow of Chief Justice Iftekhar Chaudhary from his office was supported and
promoted through media. Television is used to express the views of analysts, politicians, the masses


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

and journalists on states relations with other states. For example many programs on Pakistani
Television are broadcast in which Pakistans relations with India, America, and China are discussed
very often.
Sometimes media influence over foreign policy is positive and sometimes its exaggerated or
constraints the foreign policy decisions. Media can easily be manipulated by policy makers. In times
of war, disinformation is frequently reported faithfully by the media. Many foreign trips by high level
officials are basically media events, designed to use media (radio, press, television) as instruments
of projection at home and abroad.(Dickie,1992:84). Some critics claim that media persons are part of
the government and are not presenting the true picture. Media on foreign policy issues can put
pressure on the government but its a process of hit and miss. Media creates hype on any foreign
policy issue but as time passes by pressures merely cancel out, leaving governments free to go their
own way.

Generated by the researcher

This figure shows that different domestic constraints limit the foreign policy choices which
further limit the foreign policy decisions and finally all these constraints limit the capacity for action.

Concluding all of the above discussion, some important factors can be highlighted. The
description of foreign policy as a concept and the description of domestic constraints on foreign
policy have been described. In the beginning, the concept of foreign policy and its objectives has
been the focus of the discussion. In the foreign policy implementation phase, various domestic
constraints have been discussed.
The various aspects of the domestic setting limit the foreign policy like location of a state,
size, technology, economy, political system, social system, public opinion, media, historical
experiences, interest groups etc. There are the constraints on foreign policy decision makers, as they
expand or contract the alternatives open to leaders.
In the light of the whole discussion an effort has been made to
formulate a theoretical frame work for the present study. Each of the various
constraints blends into others that sandwich it. There are number of
connections between government and social system, which play its role in
the development and execution of foreign policy.

The Post-Responsible Power
Yong Deng

omething profound seems to have occurred in Chinese foreign policy since the global
financial crisis starting in 200708. Many have noted an assertive and nationalist Chinese
shift, as most dramatically demonstrated in its high-profile global diplomacy to promote its
agenda and maritime disputes with its neighbors to defend its core interest. But how to
characterize the change remains unclear. Even the assertive label, an innocuous term in
international relations, is contested. More common is the pessimism regarding China and East Asia,
as expressed by strategist Robert Kaplan when he said, The 21st century map of the Pacific Basin,
clogged as it is with warships, is like a map of conflict-prone Europe from previous centuries. Does
this signal the start of a wholesale Chinese reversal of a formerly placid, cooperative strategy? What
does the recent turn of events mean for the SinoU.S. relationship, the East Asian order, and global

International Affairs


The story of China's rise is long, consequential, and global. The maritime disputes in East
Asia, while important, hardly tell the whole story of China's international trajectory. While vague and
contested, for much of the post-Cold War era the idea of international responsibility gave China a
sense of direction for its domestic and international transitions. As an idea, it embodied the best
practices as well as the international norms and institutions that had informed and inspired Chinese
reformers. The idea of being a responsible power reined in nationalist impulse and realpolitik
calculations, which helped contribute to its successful rise. Equally important, integrating the
reforming socialist country into the international community set the terms of Western engagement
with China.
But for the last decade or so, China has abandoned that global frame of reference. The fall
of responsible power represents a remarkable break from the original spirit of Deng Xiaoping's
reform and opening up as well as China's peaceful rise. Domestically, the new turn has
galvanized a quest for a distinctive Chinese political model in order to reject Western-style
democracy. Fueled by traditional security concerns, such as maritime territorial disputes, and
emerging unconventional issues, including cybersecurity, heightened fear and uncertainty have crept
into China's foreign relations with the United States, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
Without a self-identification that aligns China with the global status quo and an anchor for
Western engagement, post-responsible China has become a lot more revisionist. But China is not
isolationist; in fact, in the words of the former president of the International Studies Association, Etel
Solingen, its internalizing leaders have anchored their political survival to the global political
economy. Yet, China's economic globalization could also blunt our sensitivity to the gravity of the
rising power's revisionist challenge. Lacking a shared sense of common responsibility with the major
powers in the international system, mistrust fuels competitive dynamicseven in areas where
compelling logic would seem to dictate a partnership between China and the United States. And
therein lies the challenge: if engaged in the global system but not as a responsible power, on what
terms will China now seek to reengage the international community and redistribute global power
and authority?

The Rise of Responsible Power

The idea of responsible power began to take hold in Chinese thinking roughly in the mid1990s, and Chinese scholars seem to agree that it became China's national self-identification in
1997. While the birth of this refrain has a rough date, no individual leader is credited for its origin.
Jiang Zemin, being the leader at the time, would seem to serve as a natural source for the concept,
but he was not. In a comprehensive review of the diplomatic record under Jiang, published in 2002,
then China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan listed Jiang's twelve far- sighted international strategic
thoughts and policies, but they did not include China as a responsible great power.
Instead, the concept has a more unusual origin, in that it likely came from the United States
but well before then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick's famous responsible stakeholder
speech in 2005. President Bill Clinton, presumably at a meeting on the sidelines of the 1995 UN
gathering marking the organization's 50th anniversary, allegedly reassured President Jiang that the
United States welcome[s] China to the great power table. But great powers also have great
responsibilities. The U.S. stand, reiterated elsewhere by administration officials, represented the
logic of its engagement policy to transform the beleaguered post-Tiananmen China into a
responsible great power. Responding to the positive message from the United States, Chinese
media and official commentary openly adopted the idea. While other concepts had come from
Chinese leaders, responsible power resulted from Chinese appropriating the language of the
Clinton administration. Such idea diffusion was extraordinary, particularly in the context of the Sino
U.S. relationship.
Scholars have emphasized that certain ideas acquire their appeal because of their utility as
road maps in guiding policy. But sometimes ambiguity explains their attractiveness as well. In the
case of responsible power, its meaning was never officially spelled out. U.S. politicians never
clarified specific yardsticks on specific issues, although this did not prevent academics from trying to
make explicit the U.S. conditions on its China policy. In fact, demand on Chinese responsibility
marked a retreat from Clinton's earlier linkage policy, explicitly listing concrete Chinese concessions
for renewal of its most-favored nation (MFN) status. Apart from academic exercises in clarifying what
China had to do, the United States never specified a set of a priori obligations expected of China.
Its ambiguity notwithstanding, expectations, both domestic and international, for self-change
in Chinese foreign policy in line with international standards were loud and clear. For instance,
domestic institutional reforms were a requirement for membership in the World Trade Organization
(WTO). Reformist leaders led by Premier Zhu Rongji had to restructure China's state- owned
enterprises, many functions of the state, and the domestic legal framework in order to both comply
with the international trade regime and compete in the global marketplace. Improving China's image


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

as a trusted regional player in Asia and as an international citizen was imperative if China was to
shed some of the fear and suspicion gathering toward it from the outside world. To credibly project a
peaceful and constructive image, as Harvard professor Iain Johnston argues, China needed to show
it cared about its international standing and played by the rules. Thus, the `responsible major power'
identity discourse has had a distinctively multilateralist and status quo content to it. Indeed, the most
visible manifestation lay in China's attitude toward multilateralismthe swift turnabout from anti- to
pro-multilateralism in the late 1990s was one of the few radical shifts in contemporary Chinese
foreign policy.
The 199798 Asian financial crisis became a seminal event. It crystallized for the Chinese
leadership what responsibility meant in terms of expectations and benefits. Amidst extreme volatility
in currency values in East Asia, the right thing for Beijing to do was to not devalue the Renminbi
(RMB), even if this meant acting against its own immediate interest in keeping its export sectors
competitive. And it did exactly thatdid not devalue the RMBthereby helping stabilize the regional
economy. Moreover, unprecedentedly, China offered its share of financial support for struggling
neighboring countries in tandem with international rescue efforts. Because the crisis concerned
neighboring economies, the idea of responsibility became more real and pertinent to China than
other seemingly remote global concerns. The fact that Chinese acts were a response to its
distressed neighbors also internationalized responsibility beyond a call from the United States. In
this case, responsibility ultimately served China's interest, earned it praise, and enhanced its regional
influence. As a result, the idea spawned a whole spate of concepts and refrains reflecting not only a
fresh spirit of multilateralism but also a new worldview befitting its deepening globalization.
So, the Chinese did not just passively accept a role assigned by the reigning Western
powers. Instead, China took responsible power as a calling to act as an active participant in world
affairs, challenging the long-standing self-portrayal as a victim of the strong. The idea also suggested
that the threats to China transcended nation-states, and so did solutions to them. This effectively
eroded its traditional notion of rigid sovereignty. Reflecting the tremendous inroads the idea had
made into China's worldview, the liberal scholar Wang Yizhou openly advocated that China's national
interest should include attentiveness to international responsibilities, in addition to domestic selfstrengthening reforms and defense of territorial integrity.
Around the mid-1990s, China officially identified itself as a responsible power because of
U.S. power and pressure. When Europe, Japan, and the rest of Asia immediately joined the call in
their engagement policies toward China, it effectively turned the U.S. objective into a collectivized
international demand. The Asian financial crisis and the requirements for China's impending WTO
membership, which it eventually obtained in 2001, crystallized for the Chinese leadership that
China's domestic fate was deeply tied to the world.
China's self-identification as a responsible power was, ironically, simultaneously clear and
ambiguous. It was clear in the sense that China had to make changes in order to clean up its
tarnished international image after the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, and reforms in
line with international expectations represented the best opportunity to do that. Domestically, people
like Premier Zhu Rongji leveraged China's bid for WTO membership in order to push for painful
economic restructuring and institutional reforms. But the responsibility moniker also left much room
for the Chinese leadership to interpret the concept to suit its own agenda, thus the ambiguity.
In dealing with the outside world, leaders separated responsibility from domestic politics.
Acting as a responsible power gave no license for international interferences on China's human
rights practice, nor did it suggest the Chinese government's tolerance with the slightest inkling of a
color revolution in the country. It contained no risk of jeopardizing the legitimacy of the Communist
Party-state. Rather, international responsibility could potentially compensate for political differences
with the West, differences that historically were a major source of strategic fissure between great
powers. To the extent that responsibility involved China's restraint and compliance within the
international status quo, it became both a credible signal and a new launch pad for China's peaceful
All in all, during the first phase from about 19891998, Chinese conception of national
interest turned open and porous enough to seamlessly incorporate international responsibility as its
new identity. Responsibility facilitated China's ascent in status. It suited the reformist leadership's
agenda of reforms and economic globalization. Striving to become a responsible power helped
deepen China's globalization, reduce fear of Chinese power, and steer active participation in the
existing world order as the overriding objective in Chinese foreign policy. International responsibility
might have started out as a foreign import. The terms of responsibility were never spelled out by
established powers or the Chinese. As Yongjin Zhang and Greg Austin point out, Great Power
responsibility is politically as well as morally postulated implicitly rather than explicitly. Through
political acumen and internalization, reformist Chinese leaders were able to adapt the international

International Affairs


responsibility idea to serve Chinese needs and help navigate the significant confusion and
uncertainty it faced in both domestic and international politics during this tumultuous time.
As such, it became self-identification and a choice rather than surrendering to foreign
demands. But, to the extent that the idea put a premium on compliance with international norms,
embracing it did represent arguably the most liberal moment in Chinese foreign policy. Chinese
officials took for granted that prevailing global institutions and norms were a critical part of the frame
of reference, if not the guide, for Chinese domestic reform and its ongoing transition. Chinese
leaders and analysts, conversely, often openly resented and resisted the unfairness of the Westerndominated international hierarchy. But they also believed a multipolar world could only slowly
evolve from the existing order. And for the foreseeable future at the turn of the century, being a better
citizen of the international society served its agenda at home and abroad.

The Fall of Responsible Power

Up to around 2005, international responsibility was embraced with some enthusiasm, but
afterward it became problematic in China's international identity. The change coincided with thenDeputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick's famous September 2005 speech calling on China to
become a responsible stakeholder. Amidst uncertainties in the George W. Bush administration's
strategy toward China and fear of containment, Zoellick's speechmuch like Clinton's responsible
major power statement had a reassuring message. But there were significantly different objectives
between the Clinton and Bush policy eras. Made on the heels of official Chinese proclamation of
peaceful rise, Zoellick's message was a targeted response after the September 11 attacks
designed for a sustained pattern of interaction with China.
Demand on Chinese responsibility in the aftermath of Tiananmen during the Clinton era
stemmed from reformist Chinese leaders using external stimuli for their domestic agenda, on one
hand (while still guarding against excessive interference in China's internal affairs), and genuine
pressure from the United States and its allies for China to reform, on the other. Identifying with
international responsibility both served the Chinese elite's domestic interest and pointed to overall
liberalization in Chinese politics.
A decade later, however, the U.S. initiative to encourage responsibility was no longer about
China itself or Chinese reforms. For the United States, enlisting China to play the role of responsible
stakeholder was mainly about strategic interaction in the post-9/11 era in combating common global
security challenges. Chinese analysts indeed interpreted Zoellick's speech as signaling the U.S.
abandonment of containment for the sake of securing China's contribution in order to manage an
increasingly interdependent world. More importantly, as influential Shanghai-based scholar Shen
Dingli noted, this marked the first official U.S. recognition that China has stakes and privileges to
share and can expand its stakes through taking up more responsibilities. But in this formula,
Chinese analysts complained, the onus of international contribution still lay solely with China. The
United States was not held accountable for its part, nor was there equitable reciprocity in benefit
sharing and status recognition.
The responsible stakeholder term came amidst important events transforming the
international system. The Iraq war started to drag down U.S. power and image. Meanwhile, China
and other emerging economies continued robust growth and began to carry increasing weight in
global affairs, having been christened in 2001 as part of the emerging powers of the BRIC
economies. Good economic fortunes conferred confidence in the Chinese leadership about its own
path of domestic political economy. The stigmatized post-Tiananmen regime began to receive
international admiration from the West, as demonstrated in the rise of the Beijing Consensus or the
idea that an authoritarian political system with a market economy might be better suited than
democracies to the quick decisions required by an integrated, globalized economic system in the
Information Age. The Six-Party Talks, which Beijing hosted beginning in 2003, earned China
significant credit, but they also began to underscore the limits of its responsibilityChina attaches
supreme value to North Korea as a political and strategic buffer, and was only willing to go so far to
induce it to change.
Consequently, suspicion and cynicism heightened in Chinese reactions to Western calls for
greater international contribution on these issues and others such as climate change. As such,
Beijing's sense of responsibility fell behind its growing global profile. While China was quickly
emerging as the largest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions, it rejected a leading role in
addressing climate change lest doing so would compromise its sovereignty and growth while
exonerating the earlier industrial polluters of the Western economies. China turned into a vocal critic,
questioning whether Western countries took to heart their own advice for others or whether some
policies by the United States and its allies were appropriate in the first place in addressing issues
such as global economic imbalance, humanitarian interventionism, and weapons proliferations.


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Responsible China had provided a useful perspective to counter the fear of China's rise,
but now some Chinese commentators saw it as a continuation of the China collapse and China
threat theory that had been viewed as ways to belittle and contain China. The fear was that owning
the responsibility label risked admitting guilt in manipulating the RMB exchange rate and, even
worse, in causing the global economic imbalance, which some believe was the root cause of the
financial crisis and U.S. economic woes in general. Chinese fear was not fully unfounded, as the
country's easy money from the vast trade surpluses that its undervalued currency had helped
create could easily be blamed as a culprit for the financial crisis. In this milieu, mainstream Chinese
commentators were suspicious of any Western attempt to trap China into overburdening itself with
unfairly imposed international responsibilities. Chinese discourse indicated satisfaction that the new
limelight reflected China's achievements, buttoeing the official lineChinese analysts all insisted
on their nation's developing country status, which by definition made the country unsuitable for
managing too many troubles beyond its border.
Chinese officials also began to turn the tables and justify their national objectives in the
name of global responsibilities. In economics and finance, for instance, they defended some
practices of neo-mercantilism by saying that not only should China rightfully be attentive to its own
interests, but that stable growth at home ultimately was in itself a contribution to the world. In the
military realm, Chinese officials and scholars argued that their country's fast- growing defense
capacities are necessary to combat piracy and other threats at the high seas, as well as to contribute
to UN peacekeeping operations.
Finally, the period also has marked an open and assertive Chinese disagreement with the
United States and the West over the definition of responsibility. As the Beijing-based think tank
analyst Yuan Peng declares, China, for its part, does not base its notion of international
responsibility on U.S. expectations. He and many of his colleagues question the fairness and
authority of international demands. China also has turned the table on the West, criticizing the latter's
international failings. For instance, Chinese commentators cast blame on U.S. financial
mismanagement for causing the global financial crisis. They hail what China has done in supporting
developing countries, while criticizing Western countries for not doing their part in meeting the UN
Millennium Development Goals.
During the Libya crisis and Arab Spring in 2011, Chinese commentators had harsh words
for NATO's military intervention. Besides the usual argument about intervention as a breach of
sovereignty, some now attacked Western humanitarian interventionism for using the name of UNsanctioned international responsibility to impose their views on other countries. China stiffened its
resistance to the emerging humanitarian norm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) during the
subsequent Syrian crisis beginning in 2011, as it allied with Russia to block any UN resolution to
sanction the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on its own people. Under no circumstances would
China condone such interventionism, as doing so, according to a Shanghai- based scholar, would
backfire on China's interests and surrender China's moral commanding height in the international
In the past decade or so, we have witnessed a steady decline of the Chinese selfidentification as a responsible power. What was once embraced as an antidote to the negative image
of China is now suspected as the latest incarnation of a malicious attempt to harm China. China is
now less willing to obey, but more willing to demand globally. The Chinese government sees greater
opportunities to challenge the modus operandi in its post-Cold War foreign relations. DeWesternization in the quest for distinctive Chinese politics has stepped up at home as well, further
dissipating synergy in domestic reforms and upward mobility in international status. China uses
national core interests as a way to counter U.S. calls for international responsibilities. Gone are the
days of emphasizing inclusiveness of responsibilities in the national interest.
While realism and nationalism were key drivers of Chinese foreign policy after the Cold War,
so was the broad notion of international compliance to achieve its international aspirations. But in the
past decade or so, Chinese discourse on national interest has shown a steady decline of openness
to self- restraint and liberalization. Now, Chinese analysts and officials concede no shortcomings and
often claim superiority in their nation's role as a responsible power. They spare no effort exposing the
double standards in Western practices. If in the past, international responsibility helped propel
China's great-power ascent, now it has become a central front of China's struggle over power,
authority, and representation in global politics.

China as a Post-Responsible Power

Recent Chinese diplomacy has given us a glimpse into emerging Chinese revisionism.
Domestically, Chinese politics has turned away from what the ruling elites call Western-style
multiparty democratic values. The Communist Party-state is now even more adamant than before
that it does not tolerate any organized opposition, much less a political party vying for its power.

International Affairs


Instead, China today is best characterized as a post-responsible power. Since taking over the
Chinese leadership in 2012, President Xi Jinping has purposely charted a new diplomatic course
designed to move away from the earlier overall pro-status quo orientation. The new strategy places a
premium on interests and interest-binding, is globally oriented but focused on Asia, and features a
robust geopolitical posture.
At a time when China has taken the center stage in world politics, the nation has hardly
shown a commensurate enthusiasm for global governance. In the post-responsibility era, the United
States has countered China's rising power with robust military deterrence, security alliances, and a
strategic shift to Asia. Either out of neglect, greater willingness to free ride, or as payback for the U.S.
pivot, Chinese diplomacy has shown less interest in cooperation on transnational issues such as
humanitarianism, cybersecurity, and proliferation. There is a much less hospitable milieu for the two
powers to even think about cooperating on these issues. Out of frustration, President Obama called
China an outright free rider in an interview with a U.S. journalist in August 2014; Beijing of course
rejected such criticism. But Chinese leaders do protest the unfairness of the global status quo and
demand implicitly or explicitly reform to it. They tend to see international responsibility as really U.S.
responsibility, and often equate calls for greater contributions as a self-serving Western scheme.
With the fall of the responsible power idea, China has resorted to measures of national
interest and power, trying to leverage economic globalization to reshape its international
environment, rather than the other way around. In the new diplomacy, interests are viewed as both
an end and a means. The former concerns China's core interests; the latter has to do with China's
use of interest-binding to build its own brand of security community.
Seeking to gain initiative in its foreign relations, the Chinese have enunciated core national
interests. These include the security of the Communist Party-state, the state's political and territorial
integrity, and sustained economic growth. The emphasis on regime security signals the ruling elite's
determination to conduct domestic politics on their own terms with minimal Western interference. On
the social-economic front, the Chinese government essentially gives itself a recharged role in
orchestrating the challenging phase of transition within an uncertain global economy.
While the political and economic changes are consequential, they focus on either domestic
politics or the marketplace. Core interests that involve territorial disputes are the ones that have
raised the most concerns. People generally understand that the Chinese leadership sees Taiwan and
Tibet as existential interests, but what about other territorial disputes? In March 2010, Chinese
officials reportedly told their U.S. counterparts in a closed-door meeting that they now considered the
South China Sea as China's core interest. Even though the Chinese officials did not actually use the
exact wording, their tone and subsequent behaviors showed greater assertiveness and urgency than
before in enforcing its claims on maritime disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
While its interests are an end in themselves, they are also means to transform China's
international environment. Zheng Bijian, the architect of the peaceful rise strategy, first introduced in
2004 the concept of interest community, designed to leverage access to Chinese economic benefits
in order to cultivate pro-China groupings of countries. Since then, China has shown a more
deliberate effort to link its own economic globalization with strategic purposes. In this way, economic
interdependence has a geopolitical string attached. Under Xi Jinping, China has gone furtherit
proposes to build various destiny communities [Mingyun Gongtongti] explicitly designed to turn
intertwined interests into impetus toward security and political communities. Capitalizing on its
seemingly unstoppable economic expansion, China seeks to create zones of friendly countries
beholden to China for its economic largesse.
While China's new diplomacy is globally oriented, it also contains a decisive return to Asia
specifically. Solicitous more about global interests than global revisionism, perhaps the only notable
international institutional initiative China undertook (together with India, Brazil, Russia, and South
Africa) is the creation in July 2014 of the $100 billion BRICS Development Bank, headquartered in
Shanghai. But it is the Silk Road program involving Central Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian
countries that showcases China's emerging diplomatic ambitions.
In October 2013, President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang personally chaired the first and only
multi-agency meeting on China's regional diplomacy with all Communist Party Standing Committee
members present. Around this time, the new XiLi leadership rolled out the Silk Road strategy,
which entails building a EuroAsian Silk Road economic belt to the west and a Maritime Silk Road
to Southeast and South Asia. Written into the Decisions of the Third Plenum of the 18th Chinese
Communist Party Congress, the Silk Road strategy is based on open networks in EuroAsia and
maritime Asia strung together through Chinese-financed infrastructure and transportation projects, as
well as trade and financial ties.
The strategy is a natural outgrowth of the central government's efforts to develop China's
western regions, while giving Chinese cooperation with Southeast Asia renewed purpose and


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momentum. In 2014, China took the lead to create the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure
Development Bank, starting with 21 member states and a capital of $50 billion. The program
received a significant boost when China unveiled a separate Silk Road Fund of $40 billion during the
November 2014 annual APEC meeting. These initiatives are hardly the kind of revisionism that led to
hegemonic war of the past. But they enhance China's influence and put pressures on such
established institutions as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
The Silk Road program is designed to infuse regional economic expansion with greater
strategic purpose. Promoted in tandem with policy concepts such as Asian security and the Asia
Pacific dream, which Xi expounded on at the 2014 APEC meeting in Beijing, the concept refers to
economic prosperity and a tightening of Asian relations. The Silk Road clearly reflects China's
ambitions to create a China-centric, albeit still open, Asian order.
China as a post-responsible power has also shown a more robust geopolitical posture,
departing from its earlier low-profile approach to become more of a mover and shaker in East Asia.
As analysts Michael Swaine and Ashley Tellis argue, for much of the post-Cold War era China was
more a consumer and not fully a producer of national security, dictating a strategy wherein
reassurance of others about its peaceful intent must outweigh coercion in order to harness for its
own sake the international forces of peace and development. However, with its growing power and
the U.S. pivot toward Asia, China's security strategy has become more proactive in trying to shape
the emerging security dynamics in Asia. And in particular, China has shown a new aggression in
dealing with its regional rival, Japan, and territorial disputants in South China Sea, Vietnam, and the
The new turn has also featured speedy Chinese military modernization with a focus on
combat readiness along its periphery regions. At the outset of the Xi administration, China
announced its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, increased its 2014
military expenditures by 12.2 percent, and created the National Security Commission chaired by Xi
himself. Xi Jinping is clearly much more willing than his predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, to
wield coercive power, military and economic, in regional diplomacy. While in the past, China
eschewed prolonged crisis lest it fuel foreign fear, now it is dogged in its territorial claims and crisis
Chinese leaders and strategists see all of its major foreign policy troubles as fomented by
the United States. As such, maritime disputes take on strategic significance. They feed into the logic
of military modernization. Diplomatically, China imposes punitive costs on regional states siding with
the United States while rewarding friendly states with economic benefits. Economic globalization
provides China with many tools of nonconventional statecraft. China's advantage in infrastructure
building, capital, trade, and even its energy need allows for interest-binding that could also advance
its strategic objectives.
China's transition to the post-responsible phase has destabilized the modus operandi with
the United States, unsettled the East Asian order, and further chipped away the global structure. The
country's military postures and territorial disputes do raise the specter of war associated with
historical power transitions. But the emerging Chinese revisionism also shows significant differences
from grievances that drove past rising powers to militarized conflict. Ultimately, China will remain a
globalized power. Its attempt to cultivate anew its interest and destiny community through the Silk
Road projects entails further embracing, rather than abandoning, the international marketplace. In
that sense, China and the world are the real destiny community.

Crisis in Great Power Politics

The dispute over responsibility reveals how much the world has shifted from the 1990s and
how much Chinese discontent with the international status quo has grown. China's troubles with
responsibility act as a symptom of crisis in great- power relations and global governance in general.
A world with an enervated sense of responsibility is one with diminished pressures for emerging
powers to comply, and reduced authority for established powers to lead. With no one willing to
concede any political or moral ground, the ensuing blame game only undermines global authority
Ultimately, responsibility is about the rules of the game, where states allow for selfrestraint, mutual obligations, managing interdependence, and contributing to global public goods. It is
the antidote to myopic self-interests and unmitigated power politics. Without it, fear and uncertainty
reign. Great power behavior risks succumbing to what Arnold Wolfers called the philosophy of
necessity, which tends to lead to resignation, irresponsibility or even the glorification of
amorality.40 Indeed in the past several years, whereas China's maritime claims and aggressiveness
have expanded, Beijing blames the United States and the U.S. pivot of being the spoiler of regional
stability. While China's economic expansion in EuroAsia and beyond could stimulate the global

International Affairs


economy and regional economic development in poorer countries, without some shared sense of
international responsibility it risks becoming a threat rather than a boon to global order. Similarly,
issues of new domains, such as cybersecurity and outer space management, could become a new
battleground for great-power rivalries. The turn of events defies China's peaceful rise, stable Sino
U.S. relations, sustained regional order in East Asia, and global governance.
With the loss of responsibility, U.S.China relations have lost their way. As a result, instead
of moving the relationship toward a new model of major power relations as proposed by Xi Jinping,
the bilateral relationship seems at times to be dictated by the logic of necessity about which Wolfers
warned. China and the United States need a resurrected framework of shared responsibility. That
would require each nation to confront the deeper crisis in rules and authority beyond simply a
power shift in world politicsand to reset the new terms of great-power relations.
China may say no to Western calls for it being a responsible power, but it has done more,
not less, than in the past on certain international duties through the United Nations. In contrast to the
earlier compliance phase, today China admits no moral deficit and insists on following its own
standards of proper behavior and moral compass. Yet as China strikes out on its own, its leaders
must realize that the solution to the global responsibility crisis is not simply to impose its own
interests and preferences on the rest of the world. After the 2009 Copenhagen debacle on climate
change, the United States and China finally reached an agreement with parallel plans to curb carbon
emissions during the Beijing APEC meeting in November 2014. What this shows is that the two can
be persuaded to join a partnership when their interests dictate such joint
Ultimately, China is both a post-responsible power and a globalized
power. Then the question is: How can China evolve into a pillar of global
governance with a refurbished and reenergized sense of international
responsibility? The answer may very well determine whether China will
become a new power in the 21st century, befitting a new model of major
power relations with the United States.

Obama's Libya Debacle

How a Well-Meaning Intervention Ended in Failure
Alan J. Kuperman

n March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973, spearheaded by the
administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, authorizing military intervention in Libya.
The goal, Obama explained, was to save the lives of peaceful, pro-democracy protesters
who found themselves the target of a crackdown by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.
Not only did Qaddafi endanger the momentum of the nascent Arab Spring, which had recently swept
away authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, but he also was poised to commit a bloodbath in
the Libyan city where the uprising had started, said the president. We knew that if we waited one
more day, Benghazia city nearly the size of Charlottecould suffer a massacre that would have
reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world, Obama declared. Two days
after the UN authorization, the United States and other NATO countries established a no-fly zone
throughout Libya and started bombing Qaddafis forces. Seven months later, in October 2011, after
an extended military campaign with sustained Western support, rebel forces conquered the country
and shot Qaddafi dead.
In the immediate wake of the military victory, U.S. officials were triumphant. Writing in these
pages in 2012, Ivo Daalder, then the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, and James Stavridis,
then supreme allied commander of Europe, declared, NATOs operation in Libya has rightly been
hailed as a model intervention. In the Rose Garden after Qaddafis death, Obama himself crowed,
Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives. Indeed,
the United States seemed to have scored a hat trick: nurturing the Arab Spring, averting a Rwandalike genocide, and eliminating Libya as a potential source of terrorism.
That verdict, however, turns out to have been premature. In retrospect, Obamas
intervention in Libya was an abject failure, judged even by its own standards. Libya has not only
failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths and other human


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rights abuses have increased severalfold. Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism,
as Qaddafi did during his last decade in power, Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias
affiliated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Libya intervention
has harmed other U.S. interests as well: undermining nuclear nonproliferation, chilling Russian
cooperation at the UN, and fueling Syrias civil war.
Despite what defenders of the mission claim, there was a better policy availablenot
intervening at all, because peaceful Libyan civilians were not actually being targeted. Had the United
States and its allies followed that course, they could have spared Libya from the resulting chaos and
given it a chance of progress under Qaddafis chosen successor: his relatively liberal, Westerneducated son Saif al-Islam. Instead, Libya today is riddled with vicious militias and anti-American
terroristsand thus serves as a cautionary tale of how humanitarian intervention can backfire for
both the intervener and those it is intended to help.

Optimism about Libya reached its apogee in July 2012, when democratic elections brought
to power a moderate, secular coalition governmenta stark change from Qaddafis four decades of
dictatorship. But the country quickly slid downhill. Its first elected prime minister, Mustafa Abu
Shagour, lasted less than one month in office. His quick ouster foreshadowed the trouble to come: as
of this writing, Libya has had seven prime ministers in less than four years. Islamists came to
dominate the first postwar parliament, the General National Congress. Meanwhile, the new
government failed to disarm dozens of militias that had arisen during NATOs seven-month
intervention, especially Islamist ones, leading to deadly turf battles between rival tribes and
commanders, which continue to this day. In October 2013, secessionists in eastern Libya, where
most of the countrys oil is located, declared their own government. That same month, Ali Zeidan,
then the countrys prime minister, was kidnapped and held hostage. In light of the growing Islamist
influence within Libyas government, in the spring of 2014, the United States postponed a plan to
train an armed force of 6,0008,000 Libyan troops.
By May 2014, Libya had come to the brink of a new civil warbetween liberals and
Islamists. That month, a renegade secular general named Khalifa Hifter seized control of the air force
to attack Islamist militias in Benghazi, later expanding his targets to include the Islamist-dominated
legislature in Tripoli. Elections last June did nothing to resolve the chaos. Most Libyans had already
given up on democracy, as voter turnout dropped from 1.7 million in the previous poll to just 630,000.
Secular parties declared victory and formed a new legislature, the House of Representatives, but the
Islamists refused to accept that outcome. The result was two competing parliaments, each claiming
to be the legitimate one.
In July, an Islamist militia from the city of Misurata responded to Hifters actions by attacking
Tripoli, prompting Western embassies to evacuate. After a six-week battle, the Islamists captured the
capital in August on behalf of the so-called Libya Dawn coalition, which, together with the defunct
legislature, formed what they labeled a national salvation government. In October, the newly
elected parliament, led by the secular Operation Dignity coalition, fled to the eastern city of Tobruk,
where it established a competing interim government, which Libyas Supreme Court later declared
unconstitutional. Libya thus finds itself with two warring governments, each controlling only a fraction
of the countrys territory and militias.
As bad as Libyas human rights situation was under Qaddafi, it has gotten worse since
NATO ousted him. Immediately after taking power, the rebels perpetrated scores of reprisal killings,
in addition to torturing, beating, and arbitrarily detaining thousands of suspected Qaddafi supporters.
The rebels also expelled 30,000 mostly black residents from the town of Tawergha and burned or
looted their homes and shops, on the grounds that some of them supposedly had been mercenaries.
Six months after the war, Human Rights Watch declared that the abuses appear to be so
widespread and systematic that they may amount to crimes against humanity.
Such massive violations persist. In October 2013, the UN Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights reported that the vast majority of the estimated 8,000 conflict-related detainees
are also being held without due process. More disturbing, Amnesty International issued a report last
year that revealed their savage mistreatment: Detainees were subjected to prolonged beatings with
plastic tubes, sticks, metal bars or cables. In some cases, they were subjected to electric shocks,
suspended in contorted positions for hours, kept continuously blindfolded and shackled with their
hands tied behind their backs or deprived of food and water. The report also noted some 93 attacks
on Libyan journalists in just the first nine months of 2014, including abductions, arbitrary arrests,
assassinations, assassination attempts and assaults. Ongoing attacks in western Libya, the report
concluded, amount to war crimes. As a consequence of such pervasive violence, the UN estimates
that roughly 400,000 Libyans have fled their homes, a quarter of whom have left the country

International Affairs


Libyas quality of life has been sharply degraded by an economic free fall. That is mainly
because the countrys production of oil, its lifeblood, remains severely depressed by the protracted
conflict. Prior to the revolution, Libya produced 1.65 million barrels of oil a day, a figure that dropped
to zero during NATOs intervention. Although production temporarily recovered to 85 percent of its
previous rate, ever since secessionists seized eastern oil ports in August 2013, output has averaged
only 30 percent of the prewar level. Ongoing fighting has closed airports and seaports in Libyas two
biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi. In many cities, residents are subjected to massive power
outagesup to 18 hours a day in Tripoli. The recent privation represents a stark descent for a
country that the UNs Human Development Index traditionally had ranked as having the highest
standard of living in all of Africa.


Although the White House justified its mission in Libya on humanitarian grounds, the
intervention in fact greatly magnified the death toll there. To begin with, Qaddafis crackdown turns
out to have been much less lethal than media reports indicated at the time. In eastern Libya, where
the uprising began as a mix of peaceful and violent protests, Human Rights Watch documented only
233 deaths in the first days of the fighting, not 10,000, as had been reported by the Saudi news
channel Al Arabiya. In fact, as I documented in a 2013 International Security article, from midFebruary 2011, when the rebellion started, to mid-March 2011, when NATO intervened, only about
1,000 Libyans died, including soldiers and rebels. Although an Al Jazeera article touted by Western
media in early 2011 alleged that Qaddafis air force had strafed and bombed civilians in Benghazi
and Tripoli, the story was untrue, revealed an exhaustive examination in the London Review of
Books by Hugh Roberts of Tufts University. Indeed, striving to minimize civilian casualties, Qaddafis
forces had refrained from indiscriminate violence.
The best statistical evidence of that comes from Misurata, Libyas third-largest city, where
the initial fighting raged most intensely. Human Rights Watch found that of the 949 people wounded
there in the rebellions first seven weeks, only 30 (just over three percent) were women or children,
which indicates that Qaddafis forces had narrowly targeted combatants, who were virtually all male.
During that same period in Misurata, only 257 people were killed, a tiny fraction of the citys 400,000
The same pattern of restraint was evident in Tripoli, where the government used significant
force for only two days prior to NATOs intervention, to beat back violent protesters who were burning
government buildings. Libyan doctors subsequently told a UN investigative commission that they
observed more than 200 corpses in the citys morgues on February 2021 but that only two of them
were female. These statistics refute the notion that Qaddafis forces fired indiscriminately at peaceful
Moreover, by the time NATO intervened, Libyas violence was on the verge of ending.
Qaddafis well-armed forces had routed the ragtag rebels, who were retreating home. By mid-March
2011, government forces were poised to recapture the last rebel stronghold of Benghazi, thereby
ending the one-month conflict at a total cost of just over 1,000 lives. Just then, however, Libyan
expatriates in Switzerland affiliated with the rebels issued warnings of an impending bloodbath in
Benghazi, which Western media duly reported but which in retrospect appear to have been
propaganda. In reality, on March 17, Qaddafi pledged to protect the civilians of Benghazi, as he had
those of other recaptured cities, adding that his forces had left the way open for the rebels to retreat
to Egypt. Simply put, the militants were about to lose the war, and so their overseas agents raised
the specter of genocide to attract a NATO interventionwhich worked like a charm. There is no
evidence or reason to believe that Qaddafi had planned or intended to perpetrate a killing campaign.
Admittedly, the government did attempt to intimidate the rebels, promising to pursue them
relentlessly. But Qaddafi never translated that rhetoric into targeting civilians. From March 5 to March
15, 2011, government forces recaptured all but one of the major rebel-held cities, and in none did
they kill civilians in revenge, let alone commit a bloodbath. Indeed, as his forces approached
Benghazi, Qaddafi issued public reassurances that they would harm neither civilians nor rebels who
disarmed. On March 17, he directly addressed the rebels of Benghazi: Throw away your weapons,
exactly like your brothers in Ajdabiya and other places did. They laid down their arms and they are
safe. We never pursued them at all.
Two days later, however, the NATO air campaign halted Qaddafis offensive. As a result,
Benghazi did not return to government control, the rebels did not flee, and the war did not end.
Instead, the militants reversed their retreat and went back on the offensive. Eventually, on October
20, 2011, the rebels found Qaddafi, tortured him, and then summarily executed him. The regimes
last remnants fell three days later. All told, the intervention extended Libyas civil war from less than
six weeks to more than eight months.
Claims of the number killed during the war have varied wildly. At a closed-door conference in
November 2011 organized by the Brookings Institution, one U.S. official characterized the final death
toll as around 8,000. By contrast, the rebels health minister asserted in September 2011, before
the war was even over, that 30,000 Libyans had already died. However, the postwar governments


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Ministry of Martyrs and Missing Persons sharply reduced that figure to 4,700 civilians and rebels,
plus an equal or lesser number of regime forces, and 2,100 people missing on both sidesfor a
high-end death estimate of 11,500.
Aggregate casualty statistics were not compiled during the subsequent two years of
persistent low-level conflict, but reports did emerge of several significant skirmishes, such as a
March 2012 fight between rival tribes in the southern city of Sabha that left 147 dead. In light of such
figures, it is reasonable to estimate that the conflict killed at least 500 people a year in 2012 and
2013. Better data are available for the renewed civil war of 2014. The website Libya Body Count,
which documents casualties daily, reports that the total number of Libyans killed last year was more
than 2,750. Moreover, unlike Qaddafis forces in 2011, the militias fighting in Libya today do use force
indiscriminately. In August 2014, for example, the Tripoli Medical Center reported that of the 100
killed in recent violence, 40 were women and at least nine were children. The following month, in a
blatant war crime, militants fired a multiple-rocket launcher at a medical facility.
This grim math leads to a depressing but unavoidable conclusion. Before NATOs
intervention, Libyas civil war was on the verge of ending, at the cost of barely 1,000 lives. Since
then, however, Libya has suffered at least 10,000 additional deaths from conflict. In other words,
NATOs intervention appears to have increased the violent death toll more than tenfold.


Another unintended consequence of the Libya intervention has been to amplify the threat of
terrorism from the country. Although Qaddafi supported terrorism decades agoas witnessed by his
regimes later paying reparations for the Lockerbie airplane bombing of 1988the Libyan leader had
evolved into a U.S. ally against global terrorism even before 9/11. He did so partly because he faced
a domestic threat from al Qaedaaffiliated militants, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Qaddafis
external security chief, Moussa Koussa, met multiple times with senior CIA officials to provide
intelligence about Libyan fighters in Afghanistan and about the Pakistani nuclear peddler A. Q. Khan.
In 2009, General William Ward, who headed U.S. Africa Command, praised Libya as a top partner in
combating transnational terrorism.
Since NATOs intervention in 2011, however, Libya and its neighbor Mali have turned into
terrorist havens. Radical Islamist groups, which Qaddafi had suppressed, emerged under NATO air
cover as some of the most competent fighters of the rebellion. Supplied with weapons by
sympathetic countries such as Qatar, the militias refused to disarm after Qaddafi fell. Their persistent
threat was highlighted in September 2012 when jihadists, including from the group Ansar al-Sharia,
attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, killing Christopher Stevens, the U.S.
ambassador to Libya, and three of his colleagues. Last year, the UN formally declared Ansar alSharia a terrorist organization because of its affiliation with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Libyas Islamist militants are now fighting for control of the entire country, and they are
making headway. In April 2014, they captured a secret military base near Tripoli that, ironically, U.S.
special operations forces had established in the summer of 2012 to train Libyan counterterrorist
forces. Qatar and Sudan have flown weapons to the Islamists as recently as September 2014. In
response, the more secular governments of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt launched air strikes
against Islamist militants in Tripoli and Benghazi in August and October of last year. Libyas jihadists
now include more than just al Qaeda affiliates; as of January 2015, factions aligned with ISIS, also
known as the Islamic State, have perpetrated killings or kidnappings in all three of Libyas traditional
administrative zones.
NATOs intervention also fostered Islamist terrorism elsewhere in the region. When Qaddafi
fell, the ethnic Tuaregs of Mali within his security forces fled home with their weapons to launch their
own rebellion. That uprising was quickly hijacked by local Islamist forces and al Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb, which declared an independent Islamic state in Malis northern half. By December 2012,
this zone of Mali had become the largest territory controlled by Islamic extremists in the world,
according to Senator Christopher Coons, chair of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Africa. The
danger was elaborated by The New York Times, which reported that al Qaedas affiliate in North
Africa is operating terrorist training camps in northern Mali and providing arms, explosives and
financing to a militant Islamist organization in northern Nigeria. But the spillover from Libya did not
stop there, also spurring deadly ethnic conflict in Burkina Faso and the growth of radical Islam in
Niger. To contain this threat, in early 2013, France was compelled to deploy thousands of troops to
Mali, some of whom continue to fight jihadists in the countrys north.
The terrorism problem was exacerbated by the leakage of sensitive weapons from Qaddafis
arsenal to radical Islamists across North Africa and the Middle East. Peter Bouckaert of Human
Rights Watch estimates that ten times as many weapons went loose in Libya as in Somalia,
Afghanistan, or Iraq. Perhaps the greatest concern is man-portable air defense systems, known as
MANPADs, which in capable hands can be used to shoot down both civilian airliners and military
aircraft. Up to 15,000 such missiles were unaccounted for as of February 2012, according to a U.S.
State Department official cited in a Washington Post column; a $40 million buyback effort had
secured only 5,000 of them. The column added that hundreds of these weapons were still on the

International Affairs


loose, including in Niger, where some had been obtained by Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group
across the border in northern Nigeria. Another few dozen have been found in Algeria and Egypt.
The missiles have even made their way through Egypt to the Gaza Strip. In October 2012,
militants there fired one for the first time, just missing an Israeli army helicopter, and Israeli officials
said that the weapons originated in Libya. More recently, in early 2014, Islamists in Egypt used
another such missile to shoot down a military helicopter. Libyan MANPADs and sea mines have even
surfaced in West African arms markets, where Somali buyers have snapped them up for Islamist
rebels and pirates far away in northeastern Africa.


The harm from the intervention in Libya extends well beyond the immediate neighborhood.
For one thing, by helping overthrow Qaddafi, the United States undercut its own nuclear
nonproliferation objectives. In 2003, Qaddafi had voluntarily halted his nuclear and chemical
weapons programs and surrendered his arsenals to the United States. His reward, eight years later,
was a U.S.-led regime change that culminated in his violent death. That experience has greatly
complicated the task of persuading other states to halt or reverse their nuclear programs. Shortly
after the air campaign began, North Korea released a statement from an unnamed Foreign Ministry
official saying that the Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson and that
North Korea would not fall for the same U.S. tactic to disarm the country. Irans supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, likewise noted that Qaddafi had wrapped up all his nuclear facilities, packed
them on a ship, and delivered them to the West. Another well-connected Iranian, Abbas Abdi,
observed: When Qaddafi was faced with an uprising, all Western leaders dropped him like a brick.
Judging from that, our leaders assess that compromise is not helpful.
The intervention in Libya may also have fostered violence in Syria. In March 2011, Syrias
uprising was still largely nonviolent, and the Assad governments response, although criminally
disproportionate, was relatively circumscribed, claiming the lives of fewer than 100 Syrians per week.
After NATO gave Libyas rebels the upper hand, however, Syrias revolutionaries turned to violence
in the summer of 2011, perhaps expecting to attract a similar intervention. Its similar to Benghazi, a
Syrian rebel told The Washington Post at the time, adding, We need a no-fly zone. The result was a
massive escalation of the Syrian conflict, leading to at least 1,500 deaths per week by early 2013, a
15-fold increase.
NATOs mission in Libya also hindered peacemaking efforts in Syria by greatly antagonizing
Russia. With Moscows acquiescence, the UN Security Council had approved the establishment of a
no-fly zone in Libya and other measures to protect civilians. But NATO exceeded that mandate to
pursue regime change. The coalition targeted Qaddafis forces for seven monthseven as they
retreated, posing no threat to civiliansand armed and trained rebels who rejected peace talks. As
Russian President Vladimir Putin complained, NATO forces frankly violated the UN Security Council
resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing
it too. His foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, explained that as a result, in Syria, Russia would never
allow the Security Council to authorize anything similar to what happened in Libya.
Early in the Arab Spring, proponents of intervening in Libya had claimed that this course
would sustain the momentum of the relatively peaceful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. In reality,
NATOs action not only failed to spread peaceful revolution but also encouraged the militarization of
the uprising in Syria and impeded the prospect of UN intervention there. For Syria and its neighbors,
the consequence has been the tragic exacerbation of three pathologies: humanitarian suffering,
sectarianism, and radical Islam.


Despite the massive turmoil caused by the intervention, some of its unrepentant supporters
claim that the alternativeleaving Qaddafi in powerwould have been even worse. But Qaddafi was
not Libyas future in any case. Sixty-nine years old and in ill health, he was laying the groundwork for
a transition to his son Saif, who for many years had been preparing a reform agenda. I will not
accept any position unless there is a new constitution, new laws, and transparent elections, Saif
declared in 2010. Everyone should have access to public office. We should not have a monopoly on
power. Saif also convinced his father that the regime should admit culpability for a notorious 1996
prison massacre and pay compensation to the families of hundreds of victims. In addition, in 2008,
Saif published testimony from former prisoners alleging torture by revolutionary committeesthe
regimes zealous but unofficial watchdogswhom he demanded be disarmed.
From 2009 to 2010, Saif persuaded his father to release nearly all of Libyas political
prisoners, creating a deradicalization program for Islamists that Western experts cited as a model.
He also advocated abolishing Libyas Information Ministry in favor of private media. He even flew in
renowned American scholarsincluding Francis Fukuyama, Robert Putnam, and Cass Sunsteinto
lecture on civil society and democracy. Perhaps the clearest indication of Saifs reform credentials is
that in 2011, the revolutions top political leaders turned out to be officials whom he had brought into
the government earlier. Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister of the rebels National Transitional Council


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

during the war, had led Saifs National Economic Development Board. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chair of
the National Transitional Council, was selected by Saif in 2007 to promote judicial reform as Libyas
justice minister, which he did until defecting to the rebels.
Of course, it is impossible to know if Saif would have proved willing or able to transform
Libya. He faced opposition from entrenched interests, as even his father did when attempting reform.
In 2010, conservatives temporarily closed the media outlets that Saif owned because one of his
newspapers had published an op-ed critical of the government. By late 2010, however, the elder
Qaddafi had sacked his more hard-line son Mutassim, a move that appeared to pave the way for Saif
and his reformist agenda. Although Saif was not going to turn Libya into a Jeffersonian democracy
overnight, he did appear intent on eliminating the most egregious inefficiencies and inequities of his
fathers regime.
Even after the war began, respected observers voiced confidence in Saif. In a New York
Times op-ed, Curt Weldon, a former ten-term Republican U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania,
wrote that Saif could play a constructive role as a member of the committee to devise a new
government structure or Constitution. Instead, NATO-supported militants captured and imprisoned
Qaddafis son. In an October 2014 jailhouse interview with the journalist Franklin Lamb, Saif voiced
his regrets: We were in the process of making broad reforms, and my father gave me the
responsibility to see them through. Unfortunately, the revolt happened, and both sides made
mistakes that are now allowing extreme Islamist groups like Daish [ISIS] to pick up the pieces and
turn Libya into an extreme fundamentalist entity.


Obama also acknowledges regrets about Libya, but unfortunately, he has drawn the wrong
lesson. I think we underestimated . . . the need to come in full force, the president told the New York
Times columnist Thomas Friedman in August 2014. If youre gonna do this, he elaborated, there
has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies.
But that is exactly the wrong take-away. The error in Libya was not an inadequate postintervention effort; it was the decision to intervene in the first place. In cases such as Libya, where a
government is quashing a rebellion, military intervention is very likely to backfire by fostering
violence, state failure, and terrorism. The prospect of intervention also creates perverse incentives
for militants to provoke government retaliation and then cry genocide to attract foreign assistance
the moral hazard of humanitarian intervention.
The real lesson of Libya is that when a state is narrowly targeting rebels, the international
community needs to refrain from launching a military campaign on humanitarian grounds to help the
militants. Western audiences should also beware cynical rebels who exaggerate not only the states
violence but their own popular support, too. Even where a regime is highly flawed, as Qaddafis was,
chances are that intervention will only fuel civil wardestabilizing the country, endangering civilians,
and paving the way for extremists. The prudent path is to promote peaceful reform of the type that
Qaddafis son Saif was pursuing.
Humanitarian intervention should be reserved for the rare instances
in which civilians are being targeted and military action can do more good
than harm, such as Rwanda in 1994, where I have estimated that a timely
operation could have saved over 100,000 lives. Of course, great powers
sometimes may want to use force abroad for other reasonsto fight
terrorism, avert nuclear proliferation, or overthrow a noxious dictator. But
they should not pretend the resulting war is humanitarian, or be surprised
when it gets a lot of innocent civilians killed.

The Geopolitics of
U.S.-Cuba Relations
George Friedman

International Affairs


ast week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an
exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana
agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two
countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that
requires congressional approval.
It was a modest agreement, striking only because there was any agreement at all. U.S.Cuba relations had been frozen for decades, with neither side prepared to make significant
concessions or even first moves. The cause was partly the domestic politics of each country that
made it easier to leave the relationship frozen. On the American side, a coalition of CubanAmericans, conservatives and human rights advocates decrying Cuba's record of human rights
violations blocked the effort. On the Cuban side, enmity with the United States plays a pivotal role in
legitimizing the communist regime. Not only was the government born out of opposition to American
imperialism, but Havana also uses the ongoing U.S. embargo to explain Cuban economic failures.
There was no external pressure compelling either side to accommodate the other, and there were
substantial internal reasons to let the situation stay as it is.
The Cubans are now under some pressure to shift their policies. They have managed to
survive the fall of the Soviet Union with some difficulty. They now face a more immediate problem:
uncertainty in Venezuela. Caracas supplies oil to Cuba at deeply discounted prices. It is hard to tell
just how close Cuba's economy is to the edge, but there is no question that Venezuelan oil makes a
significant difference. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government is facing mounting unrest
over economic failures. If the Venezuelan government falls, Cuba would lose one of its structural
supports. Venezuela's fate is far from certain, but Cuba must face the possibility of a worst-case
scenario and shape openings. Opening to the United States makes sense in terms of regime
The U.S. reason for the shift is less clear. It makes political sense from Obama's standpoint.
First, ideologically, ending the embargo appeals to him. Second, he has few foreign policy successes
to his credit. Normalizing relations with Cuba is something he might be able to achieve, since groups
like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor normalization and will provide political cover in the
Republican Party. But finally, and perhaps most important, the geopolitical foundations behind the
American obsession with Cuba have for the most part evaporated, if not permanently than at least for
the foreseeable future. Normalization of relations with Cuba no longer poses a strategic threat. To
understand the U.S. response to Cuba in the past half century, understanding Cuba's geopolitical
challenge to the United States is important.

Cuba's Strategic Value

The challenge dates back to the completion of the Louisiana Purchase by President Thomas
Jefferson in 1803. The Territory of Louisiana had been owned by Spain for most of its history until it
was ceded to France a few years before Napoleon sold it to the United States to help fund his war
with the British. Jefferson saw Louisiana as essential to American national security in two ways: First,
the U.S. population at the time was located primarily east of the Appalachians in a long strip running
from New England to the Georgia-Florida border. It was extremely vulnerable to invasion with little
room to retreat, as became evident in the War of 1812. Second, Jefferson had a vision of American
prosperity built around farmers owning their own land, living as entrepreneurs rather than as serfs.
Louisiana's rich land, in the hands of immigrants to the United States, would generate the wealth that
would build the country and provide the strategic depth to secure it.
What made Louisiana valuable was its river structure that would allow Midwestern farmers
to ship their produce in barges to the Mississippi River and onward down to New Orleans. There the
grain would be transferred to oceangoing vessels and shipped to Europe. This grain would make the
Industrial Revolution possible in Britain, because the imports of mass quantities of food freed British
farmers to work in urban industries.
In order for this to work, the United States needed to control the Ohio-Missouri-Mississippi
river complex (including numerous other rivers), the mouth of the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and
the exits into the Atlantic that ran between Cuba and Florida and between Cuba and Mexico. If this
supply chain were broken at any point, the global consequences and particularly the
consequences for the United States would be substantial. New Orleans remains the largest port
for bulk shipments in the United States, still shipping grain to Europe and importing steel for
American production.
For the Spaniards, the Louisiana Territory was a shield against U.S. incursions into Mexico
and its rich silver mines, which provided a substantial portion of Spanish wealth. With Louisiana in
American hands, these critical holdings were threatened. From the American point of view, Spain's
concern raised the possibility of Spanish interference with American trade. With Florida, Cuba and
the Yucatan in Spanish hands, the Spaniards had the potential to interdict the flow of produce down
the Mississippi.


The Advanced Contemporary Affairs (Book 92)

Former President Andrew Jackson played the key role in Jeffersonian strategy. As a general,
he waged the wars against the Seminole Indians in Florida and seized the territory from Spanish rule
and from the Seminoles. He defended New Orleans from British attack in 1814. When he became
president, he saw that Mexico, now independent from Spain, represented the primary threat to the
entire enterprise of mid-America. The border of Mexican Texas was on the Sabine River, only 193
kilometers (120 miles) from the Mississippi. Jackson, through his agent Sam Houston, encouraged a
rising in Texas against the Mexicans that set the stage for annexation.
But Spanish Cuba remained the thorn in the side of the United States. The Florida and
Yucatan straits were narrow. Although the Spaniards, even in their weakened state, might have been
able to block U.S. trade routes, it was the British who worried the Americans most. Based in the
Bahamas, near Cuba, the British, of many conflicting minds on the United States, could seize Cuba
and impose an almost impregnable blockade, crippling the U.S. economy. The British depended on
American grain, and it couldn't be ruled out that they would seek to gain control over exports from the
Midwest in order to guarantee their own economic security. The fear of British power helped define
the Civil War and the decades afterward.
Cuba was the key. In the hands of a hostile foreign power, it was as effective a plug to the
Mississippi as taking New Orleans. The weakness of the Spaniards frightened the Americans. Any
powerful European power the British or, after 1871, the Germans could easily knock the
Spaniards out of Cuba. And the United States, lacking a powerful navy, would not be able to cope.
Seizing Cuba became an imperative of U.S. strategy. Theodore Roosevelt, who as president would
oversee America's emergence as a major naval power and who helped ensure the construction of
the Panama Canal, which was critical to a two-ocean navy became the symbol of the U.S. seizure
of Cuba in the Spanish-American War of 1898-1900.
With that seizure, New Orleans-Atlantic transit was secured. The United States maintained
effective control over Cuba until the rise of Fidel Castro. But the United States remained anxious
about Cuba's security. By itself, the island could not threaten the supply lines. In the hands of a
significant hostile power, however, Cuba could become a base for strangling the United States.
Before World War II, when there were some rumblings of German influence in Cuba, the United
States did what it could to assure the rise of former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, considered an
American ally or puppet, depending on how you looked at it. But this is the key: Whenever a major
foreign power showed interest in Cuba, the United States had to react, which it did effectively until
Castro seized power in 1959.

The Soviet Influence

If the Soviets were looking for a single point from which they could threaten American
interests, they would find no place more attractive than Cuba. Therefore, whether Fidel Castro was a
communist prior to seizing power, it would seem that he would wind up a communist ally of the
Soviets in the end. I suspect he had become a communist years before he took power but wisely hid
this, knowing that an openly communist ruler in Cuba would revive America's old fears. Alternatively,
he might not have been a communist but turned to the Soviets out of fear of U.S. intervention. The
United States, unable to read the revolution, automatically moved toward increasing its control.
Castro, as a communist or agrarian reformer or whatever he was, needed an ally against U.S.
involvement. Whether the arrangement was planned for years, as I suspect, or in a sudden rush, the
Soviets saw it as a marriage made in heaven.
Had the Soviets never placed nuclear weapons in Cuba, the United States still would have
opposed a Soviet ally in control of Cuba during the Cold War. This was hardwired into American
geopolitics. But the Soviets did place missiles there, which is a story that must be touched on as well.
The Soviet air force lacked long-range strategic bombardment aircraft. In World War II, they
had focused on shorter range, close air support aircraft to assist ground operations. The United
States, engaging both Germany and Japan from the air at long range, had extensive experience with
long-range bombing. Therefore, during the 1950s, the United States based aircraft in Europe, and
then, with the B-52 in the continental United States, was able to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear
weapons. The Soviets, lacking a long-range bomber fleet, could not retaliate against the United
States. The balance of power completely favored the United States.
The Soviets planned to leapfrog the difficult construction of a manned bomber fleet by
moving to intercontinental ballistic missiles. By the early 1960s, the design of these missiles had
advanced, but their deployment had not. The Soviets had no effective deterrent against a U.S.
nuclear attack except for their still-underdeveloped submarine fleet. The atmosphere between the
United States and the Soviet Union was venomous, and Moscow could not assume that Washington
would not use its dwindling window of opportunity to strike safely against the Soviets.
The Soviets did have effective intermediate range ballistic missiles. Though they could not
reach the United States from the Soviet Union, they could cover almost all of the United States from
Cuba. The Russians needed to buy just a little time to deploy a massive intercontinental ballistic
missile and submarine force. Cuba was the perfect spot from which to deploy it. Had they
succeeded, the Soviets would have closed the U.S. window of opportunity by placing a deterrent

International Affairs


force in Cuba. They were caught before they were ready. The United States threatened invasion, and
the Soviets had to assume that the Americans also were threatening an overwhelming nuclear attack
on the Soviet Union. They had to back down. As it happened, the United States intended no such
attack, but the Soviets could not know that.
Cuba was seared into the U.S. strategic mentality in two layers. It was never a threat by
itself. Under the control of a foreign naval power, it could strangle the United States. After the Soviet
Union tried to deploy intermediate range ballistic missiles there, a new layer was created in which
Cuba was a potential threat to the American mainland, as well as to trade routes. The agreement
between the United States and the Soviet Union included American guarantees not to invade Cuba
and Soviet guarantees not to base nuclear weapons there. But Cuba remained a problem for the
United States. If there were a war in Europe, Cuba would be a base from which to threaten American
control of the Caribbean, and with it, the ability to transit ships from the U.S. Pacific Fleet to the
Atlantic. The United States never relieved pressure on Cuba, the Soviets used it as a base for many
things aside from nuclear weapons (we assume), and the Castro regime clung to the Soviets for
security while supporting wars of national liberation, as they were called, in Latin America and Africa
that served Soviet strategic interests.

Post-Soviet Cuba
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro lost his patron and strategic guarantor. On the
other hand, Cuba no longer threatened the United States. There was an implicit compromise. Since
Cuba was no longer a threat to the United States but could still theoretically become one,
Washington would not end its hostility toward Havana but would not actively try to overthrow it. The
Cuban government, for its part, promised not to do what it could not truly do anyway: become a
strategic threat to the United States. Cuba remained a nuisance in places like Venezuela, but a
nuisance is not a strategic threat. Thus, the relationship remained frozen.
Since the Louisiana Purchase, Cuba has been a potential threat to the United States when
held by or aligned with a major European power. The United States therefore constantly tried to
shape Cuba's policies, and therefore, its internal politics. Fidel Castro's goal was to end American
influence, but he could only achieve that by aligning with a major power: the Soviets. Cuban
independence from the United States required a dependence on the Soviets. And that, like all
relationships, carried a price.
The exchange of prisoners is interesting. The opening of embassies is important. But the
major question remains unanswered. For the moment, there are no major powers able to exploit
Cuba's geographical location (including China, for now). There are, therefore, no critical issues. But
no one knows the future. Cuba wants to preserve its government and is seeking a release of
pressure from the United States. At the moment, Cuba really does not matter. But moments pass,
and no one can guarantee that it will not become important again. Therefore, the U.S. policy has
been to insist on regime change before releasing pressure. With Cuba set on regime survival, what
do the Cubans have to offer? They can promise permanent neutrality, but such pledges are of limited
Cuba needs better relations with the United States, particularly if the Venezuelan
government falls. Venezuela's poor economy could, theoretically, force regime change in Cuba from
internal pressure. Moreover, Raul Castro is old and Fidel Castro is very old. If the Cuban government
is to be preserved, it must be secured now, because it is not clear what will succeed the Castros. But
the United States has time, and its concern about Cuba is part of its DNA. Having no interest now,
maintaining pressure makes no sense. But neither is there an urgency for Washington to let up on
Havana. Obama may want a legacy, but the logic of the situation is that the
Cubans need this more than the Americans, and the American price for
normalization will be higher than it appears at this moment, whether set by
Obama or his successor.
We are far from settling a strategic dispute rooted in Cuba's location
and the fact that its location could threaten U.S. interests. Therefore, opening
moves are opening moves. There is a long way to go on this issue.