Categories
Regional Stability Diplomacy

Are Security and Energy Concerns Moving Turkey and Israel Toward Reconciliation?

German Patriot Missiles in Turkey, courtesy of Medien Bundeswehr/flickr

This article was originally published June 20, 2014 by IPI Global Observatory.

Earlier this month, about 3,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul in memory of the eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American killed by Israeli Defense Forces when the Mavi Marmara ship, known as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. The incident marked a nadir in Israel and Turkey’s strained relationship in recent years, and neither country’s ambassador has since returned to his former post.

Four years later, a possible reconciliation agreement between these former allies has fueled speculation of a normalization of relations between the two countries. The agreement would entail reparations for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families; a mechanism to rescind all legal claims against Israeli Defense Force officers implicated in the attack; and approval
to facilitate Turkish civilian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Categories
International Relations Government

The Obama Doctrine

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published by the Council on Foreign Relations on 29 May 2014

President Obama’s May 28 speech at West Point was long overdue. Chatter about America’s decline, the Pentagon’s budget crunch, deteriorating crises in Syria and Ukraine, and confusion over Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative—the Asia Rebalance—has left many questioning America’s ability or willingness to engage, much less lead, in the world.

Obama strongly refuted any notions of American decline, retrenchment, or timidity in the world, stating: “America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world;” “American isolationism is not an option;” and “ America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t no one else will.” These are reassuring statements for allies and partners, who will now be watching for actions to match the words.

Categories
International Relations Government Foreign policy

Secret Diplomacy and the “Dirty Hand” Problem

US President Nixon gives a speech on Cambodia, courtesy of Jack E Knightlinger/wikimedia commons

This article was originally published May 2 2014 by E-International Relations (E-IR)

The classical “dirty hand” problem in political theory, which involves the choice between two morally challenging “evils”, sums up well the ethical puzzle of secret diplomacy: the lesser evil choice (the practice of deception) remains morally disagreeable even if it is judged to be politically necessary for avoiding a greater evil (e.g., potential military conflict). Arguably, “dirty hand” decisions are much easier to make when the distinction between the two “evils” is clear-cut. However, such clarity of purpose is rarely available in practice. On the one hand, secret diplomacy, which I refer here as the method of conducting international negotiations without public scrutiny, may generate unwarranted suspicion and distrust between nations, or it can undermine domestic orders by undercutting public confidence in political leaders. It can also make negotiators overestimate what they can implement amid domestic opposition once the agreement enters the public domain. This argument has been often mentioned as an explanation for the failure of the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, secret diplomacy can create a conducive environment for constructive talks by insulating foreign policy makers against grandstanding and by granting them a minimum level of security, informality and autonomy. It also offers parties a much needed space for “saving face” in front of domestic constituencies or international partners. Protracted relations of enmity such as that between the US and Iran or Israel and its Arab neighbors require, for instance, significant political capital to break on both sides, which political leaders might not be willing to entertain unless the benefits are clear and tangible.

Categories
International Relations

Morgenthau, on Diplomacy

Diplomacy
Photo: Pat Guiney/flickr.

Since late January, I’ve had the privilege of teaching the introductory International Politics class at Haverford College just outside of Philadelphia. One of the benefits of teaching bright undergraduates (mainly freshmen and sophomores) is that they come to the study of international relations from such a different perspective than my own that classroom interactions are often interesting and thought-provoking. The other major benefit is the opportunity that it has provided for me to go back and re-read some international relations classics.

As WOTR [War On The Rocks] is a den of realists, I thought I would go back to the roots of modern realism and examine one aspect of Hans J. Morgenthau’s magnum opus Politics Among Nations: diplomacy.  For many, this book encapsulates and defines many of the core premises of realism. While dismissed as being too normatively prescriptive by some, it is still a useful primer. This is a particularly important topic today while the U.S. is recalibrating its instruments of power (mainly by decreasing them) and global commitments and particularly operating in a world that is teeming with geopoliticians such as Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad who seem quite willing to push back against America’s global interests.

For Morgenthau, diplomacy must:

Categories
Security Foreign policy

Science Diplomacy with North Korea

Kaesong
Kaesong, North Korea. Photo: http://www.asianews.it/

Just when nobody thought it could get worse, it did. Diplomatic relations with North Korea reached a proverbial low point early this year when Pyongyang followed a long-range rocket test with an underground nuclear explosion. Despite a perceived decline since then in North Korea’s belligerent rhetoric, and despite the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, political tensions between the two Koreas, and between North Korea and the United States, still remain high. Pyongyang, for example, has recently cancelled scheduled North-South family reunions and there are troubling signs that it may be resuming its plutonium program.

While the prospects for political engagement with the Kim Jong-un regime may indeed remain bleak, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other opportunities for increased dialogue. One of these is science diplomacy, which enables states to use academic collaborations and scholarly exchanges in politically helpful ways. The virtue of this type of diplomacy, which can focus on solving common environmental, health, energy, and security problems, is the ‘neutral’ political space it provides friends and foes alike. Instead of continuing to trap themselves in mutual competition, they can indeed use science to create shared interests and a common destiny.