Yet Another Sleazy U.S. Foreign Client

Published December 31st, 2010 by tcarpenter

If honorable Americans haven’t squirmed enough about their government crawling into bed with numerous unsavory regimes and political movements around the world during the Cold War (including the Shah of Iran, African tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko, and the Saudi royal family), we now have evidence of a more recent relationship that may top them all.  Since the mid-1990s, Washington has backed the independence of Serbia’s province of Kosovo, a secessionist movement led by the Kosovo Liberation Army, a motley collection of Islamic militants, strident Albanian nationalists, and mafia chieftans.  The United States and its NATO allies have helped bring the KLA to power through an air war in 1999 and an ongoing military “peacekeeping mission.”

There was always ample evidence about the odious nature of the KLA, but U.S. officials in both the Clinton and Bush administrations repeatedly downplayed or dismissed that evidence.  Now, though, a damning new investigative report commissioned by the Council of Europe presents evidence that the KLA, including Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, systematically killed Serbian prisoners to harvest their organs and sell them on the black market–a horrific war crime by any definition of the term.  I discuss that report and its policy implications in greater detail in a new article published in The National Interest.

This episode is a real test for the Obama administration, which constantly touts the importance of moral values in U.S. foreign policy.  Let’s see if President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are willing to disown Washington’s ghoulish client in the Balkans.  I won’t hold my breath.

NATO’s Sop to Obama

Published April 12th, 2009 by tcarpenter

President Obama came away from last week’s NATO summit in Strasbourg hailing the outcome as a great victory for U.S. foreign policy.  He professed to be especially pleased with promises made by the allies regarding the mission in Afghanistan.  Yet the European members of NATO gave him next to nothing.  He asked for a substantial number of additional combat troops to supplement the surge of American troops he announced last month.  Instead, the European allies agreed to send a mere 5,000 personnel, none of whom will be combat forces.  Moreover, the bulk of that number (3,000) will be sent just temporarily to assist the Afghan government in the upcoming elections.  The rest consist mainly of police and military trainers and wannabe nation-building bureaucrats.

These anemic gestures continue the lack of seriousness on the part of the NATO allies that I’ve written about here and here.  During the Cold War, NATO was a credible security organization–although even then the Europeans underinvested in defense and liked to have the U.S. bear a disproportionate amount of the burdens.  Now, though, the alliance has become a bad joke.  NATO has just celebrated its 60th birthday, and Washington should take stepts to make sure that it’s the last birthday.  NATO has become a very bad bargain for America, and we should terminate our involvement in this increasingly disfunctional alliance.

The NATO Dinosaur

Published October 21st, 2008 by tcarpenter

Check out the excellent article by Doug Bandow of the American Conservative Defense Alliance on Washington’s policy of expanding the NATO alliance to include more useless security dependents in Eastern Europe.  When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, NATO outlived whatever usefulness it might have had during the Cold War.  But the alliance is not merely an institutional dinosaur, it increases the danger of a needless military clash with a nuclear-armed Russia.  Several of the new NATO members have extremely unfriendly relations with Moscow.  Washington’s current proposal to add Ukraine and Georgia to the alliance would increase the danger even more.  The new administration would be wise to heed Bandow’s analysis.

Time for Serious Spending Cuts

Published October 11th, 2008 by tcarpenter

The price tag for the government’s attempted rescue of the nation’s financial system, which has been a spectacular flop so far, is likely to run into trillions of dollars.  Yet very few participants in the policy debate (with the exception of Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr) have talked about making even modest cuts in federal spending to offset this vast new expenditure.  That is nothing short of irresponsible–and both major political parties are guilty.

It is imperative to jettison nonessential expenditures.  There are certainly plenty of candidates among domestic programs, starting with agricultural subsidies–a great reverse wealth-transfer mechanism in which taxpayers of even modest means are forced to fatten the bank accounts of even wealthy farmers.  I’m not an expert on wasteful and unnecessary domestic programs, so I will leave it to others to suggest additional cuts in what is clearly a target-rich environment.

If many of Washington’s domestic spending programs are luxuries we can no longer afford, that is doubly true of our military and foreign policy expenditures.  Foreign aid programs are obvious candidates for elimination.  America has spent nearly a trillion dollars (measured in 2008 dollars) over the past 60 years, and all too much of that money has simply gone into the coffers of corrupt politicians and their cronies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. 

But the wasteful spending goes far beyond foreign aid.  The United States spends roughly as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.  Promptly terminating the ill-advised crusade in Iraq would save $120 billion a year, but that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Our current annual military budget is nearly $700 billion.  Advocates of such a vast sum should explain why we need to have not one but two expensive new jet fighter programs when the U.S. already has overwhelming superiority in air power and there is no serious military competitor on the horizon for the next two decades–and perhaps longer.  At least one of those programs should be terminated.  The same is true of the program to build the Virginia class submarine, a weapon system that was designed to counter a Soviet system that was never built.

And someone ought to explain why the United States needs to keep nearly 100,000 troops in Europe to guard wealthy allies more than 6 decades after the end of World War II and nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Our trusty NATO allies, who have used the U.S. defense guarantee as an excuse to underinvest in their own defenses for decades, are now citing the global financial crisis as a reason to cut their already paltry military expenditures even further.  But at the same time, they don’t want us to cut our military budget.

A similar situation exists on the other side of the world.  The United States continues to subsidize the defense of South Korea, even though that country now has a population twice the size of its only adversary, communist North Korea, and an economy some 40 times larger.

It is time to expel the international military welfare queens in Europe and East Asia from the U.S. dole.  We should have done that years ago, but the current financial squeeze makes that move not just desirable, but essential.

U.S. Pot Calls Russian Kettle Black

Published August 16th, 2008 by tcarpenter

John McCain blisters Russia for its military intervention in Georgia, saying “in the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.”  Excuse me??  What does the good senator think the United States did in Afghanistan and Iraq?  And the last time I looked, both 2001 and 2003 were years in the 21st century.  The man has apparently no sense of irony, or he is elevating hypocrisy to a whole new level.

Similarly, President Bush accuses the Russians of “bullying” behavior.  Now, I certainly don’t like what the Russians are doing in Georgia–even though the Georgian government is not exactly the poor democratic victim of unprovoked aggression as it it typically portrayed in the Western media.  But even if Moscow’s actions do constitute bullying, consider the number of occasions since the end of the Cold War that the United States has initiated military force against small, weak countries.  Panama, 1989, Iraq 1991, Somalia, 1992, Haiti, 1994, the Bosnian Serb republic, 1995, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq (again), 2003.  Only the invasion of Afghanistan was truly justified on the basis of self-defense.

Before Bush, McCain, and their warhawk allies start lecturing Russia about improper use of military force, they need to acquire one crucial foreign policy tool that they apparently lack.  A mirror.