Shut the Door on NATO Expansion

The Washington Times reports rather melodramatically about Lloyd Austin’s scheduled visits to Ukraine and Georgia this week:

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will stress this week that there is an “open door to NATO” for Ukraine and Georgia, the two nations on the front lines of Russian aggression, Pentagon officials said over the weekend.

Mr. Austin will visit those two countries and Romania in the coming days before traveling to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers. Pentagon officials cast the trip as a clear signal to Moscow that the U.S. and its NATO allies stand firmly behind Ukrainian and Georgian sovereignty in the face of Russian provocations and military expansion over the past decade.

Encouraging Ukraine and Georgia to believe that NATO membership is still in the cards for them is a serious mistake. It is not surprising that the Biden administration is maintaining the status quo on this issue, but it is a missed opportunity to reverse some of the damage that was done back in 2008 when this dangerous promise was first made to these aspirant states. Keeping the “door” open to NATO expansion antagonizes Russia, and it strings Ukraine and Georgia along for no good reason. Many European allies will not support bringing these states into the alliance, and there is no compelling reason to add them. Both countries would be extremely difficult if not impossible to defend in the event of a conflict, and they already have Russian or Russian-backed forces on their territory. Even if they were model democracies, which they most certainly are not, they would be poor candidates for the alliance.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

Intervention in Haiti Is Still the Wrong Answer

The Washington Post is still banging the drum for foreign intervention in Haiti:

Those who called for international intervention following Mr. Moïse’s killing, including this page, have been criticized for overlooking the checkered history of such attempts in the past, including the US Marine Corps’s 19-year occupation of Haiti a century ago, and the United Nations-authorized insertion of US troops by the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s. In this century, a U.N. stabilization force was deployed in Haiti for 13 years, until 2017.

Those interventions were problematic [bold mine-DL]. In the most recent instance, UN soldiers sent to Haiti from Nepal were the conduit for what became one of the world’s most severe cholera epidemics, and other UN troops fathered hundreds or more babies born to penniless local women and girls, amid credible allegations of rape and sexual exploitation.

Yet for all its unintended consequences, outside intervention could also establish a modicum of stability and order that would represent a major humanitarian improvement on the status quo, and with it, the prospect of lives saved and livelihoods enabled. In the cost-benefit analysis that would attend any fresh intervention, policymakers must be alert to the risks, but also to the enormous peril of continuing to do nothing.

Like their previous editorials calling for military intervention in Haiti, this one waves away the destructive consequences of previous interventions as if they don’t matter. They were “problematic”! I suppose that’s one way to describe an occupation that violently suppressed rebellions by committing atrocities against the civilian population and imposed a system of forced labor on the country, but it shows that the Post editors are so fixated on this idea of intervening in Haiti that they don’t mind minimizing and whitewashing one of the most shameful chapters in U.S.-Haitian relations. Even if we allow that a military intervention today would would not be as harmful as that one was, that doesn’t mean it would do much good or that it would be welcomed by the Haitian people.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

Nikki Haley’s Ridiculous Demand to Escalate Economic War Against Iran and China

Nikki Haley reminds us why we are fortunate that she is no longer representing our country at the U.N.:

Iran and China have recently taken their alliance a step further. Last year, they finalized a “strategic partnership” that commits Beijing to investing $400 billion in Iran over 25 years. In exchange, China will get long-term access to discounted Iranian crude supplies and deepen its presence in Iran’s ports, railways, telecommunications and elsewhere. The agreement also strengthens their military ties.

Haley is wrong to say that Iran and China have an “alliance.” The agreement she cites creates nothing of the kind, and China already has more significant economic relationships with Iran’s neighbors and rivals than it has with Iran. She credulously repeats a $400 billion figure that seems to be based on nothing. A few early reports included this bogus figure, and then it has been repeated despite the fact that it makes no sense. Bill Figueroa explained this last year:

Third, the terms of the document itself have been greatly exaggerated. The quoted figure, four hundred billion dollars, seems extraordinarily unlikely given China and Iran’s current economic capabilities and the impact of international sanctions. Claims that Chinese military personnel will be stationed in Iran are similarly dubious. Doing so would also be nearly impossible given the Iranian public’s long-standing hostility to the presence of foreign armies and the legacy of repeated British and Russian occupations. The Chinese and Iranian press have also been silent on the news, and Iran’s oil minister Bijan Zanganeh denied that such massive investment was incoming. According to Scita, the head of the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce, also referred to the report as “a joke.” It seems clear that no massive investment is forthcoming.

So much for the grand Sino-Iranian alliance. Haley and the other hawks at the misnamed United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) are not interested in accuracy. They will latch on to any claim, no matter how false, to bolster their fearmongering about Iran and China. Haley wants to exaggerate the significance of Iran-China ties to build support for taking a harder line against both, and in the process she confirms once again that Iran hawks in general and UANI in particular have no interest in resolving the nuclear issue. They prefer to keep it around so that they can demagogue it and use it as an excuse for more coercive policies.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

Misjudging the Balance of Interests in Taiwan

Matthew Kroenig cannot make a case that Taiwan matters more to the U.S. than it does to China, so he tries to make a war over Taiwan into being about something much broader than it would be:

I wouldn’t be so quick to cede the balance of interests to Beijing. The United States and its allies have built and defended a rules-based system over the past 75 years that has produced unprecedented peace, prosperity, and freedom globally. I don’t want to trade that in for a world in which Americans stand by as revisionist autocracies like China gobble up neighbors by military force – or, worse, lose a hegemonic war leading to the end of this order and the rise of a Chinese-led system.

It is not Kroenig’s intention to do this, but this rhetorical move on his part illustrates how potentially dangerous a lot of the talk about a “rules-based order” can be. If you treat the defense of Taiwan as a test case of the US willingness to uphold the entire “rules-based system” of the last 75 years (no laughing, please), you are trying to rig the scales. Kroenig wants us to believe that the UShas to defend Taiwan or risk the collapse of the entire edifice of post-WWII institutions and alliances. This is the bogus credibility argument on methamphetamines.

The US doesn’t have vital interests in Taiwan, and it shouldn’t go to war to defend it. For that reason, the USshouldn’t make an explicit security commitment that would oblige the US to go to war. Kroenig tries to get around this by making Taiwan stand in for the entire global system when it does not. When hawks are forced to make an argument like this, it is always a good sign that the US doesn’t have enough interests in a place to justify going to war over it. One problem with Kroenig’s argument is that the Chinese government can probably see through the smokescreen to realize that US interests in Taiwan are not great enough to risk a war. He thinks that an explicit guarantee would be “helping them not to miscalculate,” but making an explicit commitment is bound to provoke a challenge rather than discourage one.

Half a century ago, hawks insisted that fighting in South Vietnam was critically important to containment worldwide, and they were horribly wrong. For the last twenty years, hawks have insisted that fighting in Afghanistan was essential to keeping the United States safe from international terrorism, and they were horribly wrong. Now China hawks want us to believe that the fate of the entire “rules-based system” hinges on whether the US gets into a war over Taiwan that it will probably lose. What are the odds that their judgment is any better this time? It is the same story every time: invest a peripheral theater with much more importance than it really has and bog the US down in an unwinnable war that it didn’t have to fight.

Read the rest of the article at SubStack

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

Breaking the Nation-Building Habit

Hal Brands makes a dubious assertion:

America may say that it’s done with nation-building, but don’t believe it.

Following a disillusioning war in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden declared an end to “an era of major military operations to remake other countries.” It’s a familiar pledge, and one that the US never sticks to for very long. For better or worse, nation-building is woven into America’s diplomatic DNA.

Whenever someone claims that something is woven into the nation’s DNA, you can pretty much guarantee that the thing he’s talking about is a bad policy that he supports and doesn’t want to abandon. Americans are not good at nation-building, at least when it comes to other nations, and we have conned ourselves into thinking that we know how to do because some nations have successfully rebuilt themselves after wars that the US fought. They did the work, and we claimed the credit. Then our government marched off to “repeat” these successes in countries we didn’t understand in the slightest.

Germany and Japan succeeded as much as they did because they had already been prosperous, unified nation-states long before the war and both had even had experience with their own democratic institutions. South Korea developed into the thriving democracy that it has become largely in spite of US backing for local dictators. It is laughable to think that we have the first clue how to reproduce the success of South Korea anywhere else. To the extent that the US gets any credit for these successes, it is that the US helped to keep these countries secure while they did the work of rebuilding and flourishing.

Because many interventionists bought into our own propaganda about how we rebuilt those countries, they mistakenly believed that “we” could do it again in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the total failure of the earlier attempt in Somalia, interventionists concluded that the problem was simply lack of political will and time. Given enough time and resources, they assumed that the US would be able to make it work. Now that these policies have once again proven to be costly failures after spending trillions over two decades, there are not many that still think the US can succeed at this.

Read the rest of the article at SubStack

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

A Win for Antiwar Activists on Yemen

Annelle Sheline comments on the passage of Rep. Ro Khanna’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would cut off all assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war on Yemen:

The House voted today to pass Rep. Ro Khanna’s amendment to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. The amendment passed with 11 Republicans voting in favor, and 11 Democrats voting against, with a final vote of 219 to 207. The passage of the amendment represents a win for those that have pushed to end American complicity in the war on Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began its aerial bombardment in 2015.

The passage of the amendment is good news, and it shows that the antiwar coalition that opposed the war under Trump is still intact and committed to ending US involvement. As Sheline mentions, Khanna’s amendment may end up being stripped from the final bill, but it is imperative that it remain part of the legislation.

The amendment, H. Amdt. 113, represents a significant tightening of restrictions on US assistance to the Saudi coalition. If it becomes law, it would block funding for intelligence-sharing, maintenance, and logistical support for Saudi coalition governments for carrying out strikes against targets in Yemen. The amendment includes a broad prohibition on funding for any involvement in the conflict inside Yemen. By adopting Khanna’s amendment, the House is finally using the power of the purse to try to rein in unauthorized US involvement in an atrocious war. Antiwar activists will need to keep the pressure on to make sure that this is included as part of the final bill, but this is an important step forward in ending the indefensible US role in the wrecking of Yemen.

Read the rest of the article at SubStack

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.