Jeffrey Stacey

jstacey3@jhu.edu

Dr. Jeffrey A. Stacey is currently Managing Partner of Geopolicity USA, an overseas development firm. Formerly he was Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS, before which he served in the Obama Administration as a State Department official specializing in NATO and EU relations at the Bureau for Conflict Stabilization Operations. At State he founded and managed the International Stabilization and Peacebuilding Initiative (ISPI), which has over 20 government and international organization partners. Dr. Stacey is the author of "Integrating Europe" by Oxford University Press and is currently working on a follow-up book entitled "End of the West, Rise of the East?" He has been a guest blogger at The Washington Note and Democracy Arsenal, a professor of U.S. foreign policy at Tulane University and Fordham University, a consultant at the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Institute of Peace, and a visiting scholar at George Washington, Georgetown, and the University of California. He received his PhD from Columbia University.

Preventing Further Russian Aggression

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 “The hour is getting late…all along the watchtower, princes kept the view…two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.”

Bob Dylan

America and Russia are not engaged in a new Cold War, but Russia is playing the global menace du jour. The U.S. and Europe need to take more aggressive action to prevent the annexation of eastern Ukraine, and time is short. Beyond this crisis the West needs an updated defense posture, but for now the road ahead is clear.

Russia will take as much of Ukraine as the West allows, nothing more, nothing less. Yet few in Washington and Brussels seem to understand this. In recent weeks the view among the cognoscenti was that the crisis over Ukraine was largely over.  Yet little in the U.S.-European response has changed. Hence, the incentive structure that failed to prevent the Crimea annexation is not likely to prevent further dismemberment. President Putin views the West as weak, which has kept him emboldened. Continue reading

Russia, Ukraine, and a New Era of International Relations

 

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The U.S. and Russia are not engaged in a new Cold War, but Russia is clearly playing the geopolitical menace du jour. The U.S. and Europe are going to need to up their game to keep Vladimir Putin’s hands off the rest of Ukraine. Beyond this crisis the West needs a new defense posture, as the world just entered a new era of international relations.

Just weeks ago numerous observers dubbed the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi “Putin’s Triumph,” when it was anything but that. Russia may have barely edged the U.S. in total medals, but the price for Putin’s orderly Olympics was serious repression, severe environmental damage, and seismic corruption. Then came Ukraine. Continue reading

The Pivot to Asia: Some Tough Questions

thCAV0Z60KThe so-called Pivot to Asia, or “rebalance” in official parlance, has been one of the Obama Administration’s signature strategic moves on the global chessboard. But for all the serious engagement of the Pacific Rim countries, the core of the pivot has always been about China and responding to its rise as a regional and proto global power. U.S. intentions aside, China has accused the U.S. of using the pivot as a form of neo-containment of itself. The containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War ultimately proved to be a stabilizing strategic move by the U.S. and its western allies. Whether the pivot ends up bringing about a similar outcome in the Pacific Rim in essence constitutes the strategy’s ultimate test. Continue reading

France’s Re-Emergence as a Major Power

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If there is an Obama Doctrine in the realm of foreign affairs, it comprises robust multilateralism—being multilateral when the U.S. can, unilateral when it must. Subjected to scrutiny, however, the Obama Doctrine can only work if the U.S. has capable and willing partners. Yet under conditions of widespread fiscal austerity among western allies—and the political austerity of skeptical western citizens—meeting the challenge of securing their joint interests is formidable. While the U.S. has begun to shore up the security of its allies in Southeast Asia via its rebalance to Asia, despite potentially threatening China in the process, forging renewed partnerships with long-standing European allies is even more essential.

Many commentators in the U.S. have written off its European allies, but a nascent trend to the contrary is now detectable. Britain, France, and others have begun recalculating their own willingness to act in light of the U.S. rebalance to Asia. Contrary to conventional wisdom in Washington, a shift toward greater European military activism may be underway. Indeed, the prominent role played by British and French forces inter alia in Libya and Mali are not isolated events; instead, they may be signs of things to come. In reality, top officials in the U.S. and Europe are making progress on beginning to find ways to usefully partner in order to deal with recurrent threats and unchanged security interests particularly pertaining to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Despite a serious and ongoing financial crisis cum recession in Europe that in economic terms EU leaders have barely muddled through, on the security side our European counterparts by and large have not reduced their defense spending as much as has been widely assumed. On the contrary, certain potential U.S. partners have actually maintained and/or slightly increased defense spending. More importantly, military capability is a more telling indicator than crude measures of aggregate spending. Even where cuts are underway, as the Libya and Mali operations indicate, there is a growing propensity among certain European allies to act when their interests demand it—even on occasion largely without the U.S. In this regard the debate over intervening in Syria was little more than a sizable red herring, caught up in the faulty intelligence legacy of the Bush-Blair years. The one country that remained ready to act was France.

France has mostly been in the headlines of late for the personal peccadilloes of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and more recently President Francois Hollande, but credit goes to the French public for not being as squeamish as Americans—not only about the personal affairs of their leaders, but more importantly about the increasing propensity of France to project foreign policy power and intervene in a series of recent global crises in both MENA and Africa proper. Continue reading

Avoiding the Joint Security Trap (and Countering Conventional Wisdom)

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The diplomatic dustup over Syria brought Russia in from the cold but simultaneously froze any notion that western allies were getting their strategic act together. Nonetheless, although the mistakes in the U.S. and UK’s approach to building support at home and abroad for an intervention in Syria confused leaders and citizens alike, these mistakes should not be interpreted as an abrupt turn-around in their and their allies’ strategic thinking.

In fact the Europeans, even under a prolonged condition of austerity, are making progress filling in the capability gaps made clear in the course of the Libyan operation. Recent history has demonstrated that arguing the U.S. should keep its security blanket in place despite the end of the Cold War—out of fear that Europeans would not increase their own defense capabilities in kind—was mistaken. Still, austerity has prevented sufficient progress to avoid the joint security trap.

Were the Arab Awakening to go awry and were an al-Qaeda affiliate to begin setting up training camps and operating somewhere such as Yemen, the U.S. or possibly NATO would no doubt heed the call once more to deal with the threat.  But any future crisis in Europe’s direct neighborhood, somewhere like Tunisia, will require Europe to take the lead as the U.S. is likely to take a pass.  It is therefore in the joint interests of the U.S. and Europe not to reduce their mutual security at this critical juncture.

However Europe has yet to develop its own integrated, deployable, expeditionary military capability; instead a number of European allies à la the U.S. have been slashing their defense budgets under austerity.  But akin to the classic prisoner’s dilemma, if the U.S. and European allies do not coordinate their cuts and agree to begin “combining” what is left, both will become worse off and experience a mutual loss of security in lieu of cooperating.  In fact, at this juncture western allies are actually on the verge of becoming ensnared in the joint security trap. Continue reading

“Breaking Bad”: Through a Literary Lens

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Breaking Bad” has achieved something akin to artistic immortality, crowned by critics near and far as the finest television show in history. Such is its outsized achievement that it has taken up its perch in that rarefied stratosphere where only giants roam and even the creative gods bow down. Once Breaking Bad reached such heights it could no longer be evaluated in mere entertainment art terms. Just as Dylan is now revered with the poets, Breaking Bad began to get lionized alongside the likes if not of Bellow, Hemmingway, Morrison, and Faulkner then at least Mailer, Roth, Styron, and Carver. But something happened just shy of the mountain top. For although it went out with a bang, the final episode may have rendered it a mere mortal once again—albeit still the Muhammad Ali of TV.

“Breaking Bad” glowed on the verge of the literary pantheon by achieving something rare for a television production, elevation to a higher genre…it achieved this with perhaps the most complex and creative plot in television history…its unmistakably epic quality…its deep inquiry into the human condition…to the degree it had one, its not so trustworthy narrator…the shifting moral centers of its characters, and not only the protagonist…the movie-making quality of its filming and production…in particular those first ten minutes before the credits rolled, tantalizing and beguiling…at times abstract, and almost always foreshadowing or deeply symbolic…its layered commentary on the darker parts of American society (and the darker parts of ourselves)…and it limned the place by the way in which the suburban wasteland of Albuquerque became for all intents and purposes one of the central characters on the show. Continue reading

The Complexities of Intervening in Syria

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Well into the Syrian civil war the Assad regime has made a costly miscalculation by staging a significant chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and its allies have been wary of a full-scale military operation in Syria, but spurred by this attack they are now preparing to intervene. To succeed western allies must be focused not only on degrading Syrian capabilities but also on avoiding mistakes beyond the short term that they made in Libya and Iraq.

The U.S. needs to intervene with as much legitimacy as it can muster, which appears to have a fighting chance in Congress (though Congressional leaders would be unwise to hold any votes ahead of the impending report from UN weapons inspectors). But the Bush Administration’s legacy continues to take a toll when it comes to the credibility of the U.S., not only at home but around the world. David Cameron seriously miscalculated in this respect already, although odds are the House of Commons will back British involvement in a second attempt at authorization once the UN issues what is likely to be a game changing report. Despite Russia’s prevention of authorization from the UN Security Council, the growing certainty about Syria’s multi WMD use is sufficient justification in the eyes of numerous American allies starting with the French (a list that will grow with the declassification of additional evidence and the weight of the UN’s moral authority, if not in a UNSC resolution at least in a clarifying report).

The western operation, however, needs to go beyond a mere “shot across the bow.” To reestablish a deterrent effect for rogue regimes like Assad’s, the operation will need to be more decisive. Yet it is even more important for the West to degrade Syrian military capabilities enough to turn the tide in the war. Doing less would allow Assad to appear to be standing up to the West yet again. And whatever deterrent effect were regained, it would slowly fade as the civil war grinds on indecisively. Moreover the war has already spilled over the Turkish, Jordanian, and Lebanese borders, and is rapidly on its way to becoming a sectarian regional war that would harm the security interests of a long list of countries including the U.S.

Notwithstanding some high placed naysaying U.S. and western credibility are in fact at stake, not only in Tehran and Pyongyang but also in the redoubts of al-Qaeda’s increasingly active affiliates and Hezbollah–not to mention Moscow and Beijing. Most of all, the U.S.-led intervention as currently designed would be a missed opportunity to tilt events on the ground toward what is already a stated western aim: the removal of the Assad regime. The mass bloodshed and destabilization of a critical region need to be stopped, and the authority of the international community restored. Continue reading

Syria: Intervening Not Now But Later

Syria2 A full-scale US military intervention in Syria is off the table, as is a no-fly zone. The US decision to provide arms to Syrian opposition forces is nonetheless intended to shift the military initiative away from Assad regime. But the opposition is splintered, which has allowed the Hezbollah-backed government forces to level the playing field. Although the outcome remains unclear, it may be time for Western governments to begin serious planning for potential post-conflict stabilization operations.

At this stage it appears the Assad regime has the momentum, aided in particular by Hezbollah but also Iran and Russia.  US and European efforts to provide direct military aid to the Syrian opposition have been slow to take shape, which in combination with regime gains on the ground have fed the new conventional wisdom that Assad is on course to hold on to power.

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Democracy: de facto vs. de jure

EgyptAgain

For the ultimate outcome of the Arab Spring and the prospects of moderate Islamic influence of politics….  Continue reading

Time to Wind Up a Long-Standing Debate?

In the vein of recent graduations everywhere and the exams students had to take to get there, and thinking there is now ample evidence out there to get closer to winding up a debate that has raged in both policy and academic circles, let’s keep in succinct: “Fukuyama was right. Huntington was wrong. Discuss” Continue reading

The End of Austerity…It’s Death is No Great Exaggeration

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Something extraordinary happened in Europe this week.  Enrico Letta, Italy’s Prime Minister nominee, upon being tapped to form the next government made a bold press conference announcement that his primary objective upon taking office will be to end Italy’s austerity program and join other leaders calling for an end to austerity across Europe.  Presto!  The bond markets did not go berserk.  Contrary to wide expectations, instead of punishing Italy investors remained calm and did not proceed to increase its borrowing costs.  And voila, the euro crisis has come to an end.

News also spread like wildfire this week about the notorious austerity paper scandal.  An academic paper by the well regarded economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, which has been used by policymakers far and wide to justify their fiscal retrenchment, has been discredited.  Among other high profile examples, EU Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn gave several prominent speeches in the early stages of the crisis explicitly basing European austerity programs on their work.

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The Syria Endgame: A Way Forward

syrian-flag  Russia

With the increased likelihood that Assad will fall, even were he to hang on until a Gaddafi-style bitter end, pressure is mounting on the U.S., Europe, and Turkey inter alia to come up with a game plan for the post-endgame.   The good news is progress is rapidly being made:  stepped up aid from the U.S., aid from Europe, intelligence sharing among Turkey-Jordan-US-Europe, and direct training of Syrian opposition forces.

All of this may be enough to tip the balance against the Assad regime, leading to its end sooner rather than later.  But it is not nearly enough to handle the widely expected chaos once the endgame is reached.  What about playing the Russia card?  The greatest fear is that extremist al-Qaeda affiliated groups will get their hands on a variety of weapons caches in the capital and elsewhere, let alone a full-blown civil war that would seriously destabilize the entire region.  Special forces from the aforementioned countries will be needed, but they will likely be operating in an incredibly volatile if not thoroughly unstable environment.

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Renaming the Arab Spring

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I’ve learned to limit consumption of Tom Friedman, except when he talks about the Middle East…yesterday his column suggested that the Arab Spring should be renamed in light of recent events…I think he is on to something, but I doubt his suggestion of “The Arab Quarter Century” will fly…my suggestion is the “The Arab Turn”, which connotes both the significance of current events in the region and recognition of some kind of new era in the making, but leaves open the outcome…what do you think?

While the Ducks Are Away — Can We Bridge the Gap When They Get Back?

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Practically the whole roster of Duck bloggers is out at the biggest IR conference of the year–the ISA Conference is in San Francisco this year–leaving this think tank Duck in DC alone and further pondering the divide between the policy and academic worlds.  In light of this cri de coeur from a high ranking Navy officer, I had a long conversation this weekend with a former high ranking Army officer who before recently joining the private sector spent two years back in higher education studying classics/philosophy/politics.

In my first and second post after joining this group blog–whose primary aim is to bridge the policy-academic divide–I attempted to highlight how an academic puzzle in search of an explanation is very much tantamount to a policy problem in search of a solution, and then threw out an idea for an Academic Policy Center as a real world device for making this happen.  We actually ran this up the pole at the 2010 G8 Summit in Canada, but after the proposal generated ample enthusiasm around the negotiating table, it got lost in the whole mini scandal that upended the summit at the time.

The now private consultant, who spent several tours in Afghanistan prior to her departure, was not wholly optimistic.  She concurred that both DOD and the State Department could really use such a Center, but knowing the culture she commented that it would take a philosopher king in order to make it happen.  I was forced to concur.  We agreed that the best shot we all have of this vast suspension bridge getting built would be, in very practical terms, having a Secretary of State and/or Defense who has a social science PhD and real experience in academia.  S/he would also have to be highly motivated to ensure over seveal years time that the products of the Center would get read and acted upon.

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Shakespeare, Cyprus, and the End of the Euro Crisis

Shylock. "Is that the law?"

Much ado.  Investors keep getting burned in betting on the exit of members of the Eurozone, let alone the breakup of the currency/monetary union of the EU.  And econ/business experts keep getting their predictions wrong.  The simple reason:  the EU, from its econ/financial area to the vast array of its other policy areas, at heart is a political project.  Events continue to show that despite the painful strains of major economic duress, this commitment remains intact.

Despite the messy manner in which its member state governments deal with crises–largely explained by institutional reasons, less so by incompetence–the EU and the euro are around for good.  The EU certainly has some major restructuring to do in terms of necessary banking and fiscal unions, and it rarely looks good in a crisis.  But it will carry on muddling through its challenges and in a wider historical perspective continue to provide its citizens with a considerable range of benefits.  Just as it has for decades, particularly since the advent of its single internal market nearly 30 years ago.

Nonetheless, the EU made major mistakes in the bailout of Cyrus and nearly botched the entire thing.  Even worse, the whole affair demonstrates a distinct inability to act strategically when the stakes are high.  Repercussions from this episode that haven’t been captured in the headlines will continue to reverberate for years.  Surprise, it was politics that accounted for bringing back the specter of crisis, not economics.

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10 Years On in Iraq: the Chance We Missed

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The debate is indeed on, and the Duck is paddling rapidly on this one with excellent posts from Robert, Jon, and Dan.  I take/took a slightly different tack.  I opposed the war at the time and like everyone else watched how President Bush–whose job ratings were so low on 9-10 that he was rapidly on his way to being a one-term president–relied on Karl Rove to use 9-11 to his supreme political advantage.  A la Jon’s post, it took the American people six more years to wake up to the (inter)national disaster that had been wrought.

But remember Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn rule?  Taking that as a departing premise at the time, I wrote a piece that analyzed what could realistically have been achieved long after the Bremer decisions that the Neocons are now blaming for their ill-conceived adventurism.  This piece was about Iraq, but in the present context its frame could be applied to Libya and Syria.  For example, if Assad were to use chemical weapons and force the West’s military hand in the process, pretty soon the assembled coalition would be in the position it was in prior to the surge in Iraq:  it would be an occupying force.  Let’s hope this doesn’t happen, but if it does…

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Cold War: Old or New?

In the aftermath of a long war, a new degree of suspicion ensues between two powerful countries that were nominally on the same side…one rattles its sabre, threatening small countries on its borders…the other shores up relations with the very same countries… a tit-for-tat arms race begins, waged with the advantages of recent technological advances…espionage takes the form of a new battleground as the stakes move progressively higher…for the most part the top leaders of each continue to say nice things about each other in public, but a new undertone of tension has become apparent…privately each frets about the other’s intentions, how far will they go?

If this frame fitted the spring of 1947, should we be getting concerned that increasingly we have a current goodness of fit? Mutual suspicions between the U.S. and China have risen to new heights based on the razor’s edge tension between Japan and China and the latter’s major espionage effort, probing among other things the American energy and infrastructure grid that is largely—and worryingly—in the hands of private companies whose defenses against Chinese hacking are too low. The newly installed President Xi has taken a mildly more strident tone compared to his predecessors, but this is less concerning compared to the rhetoric of the newly installed generals atop the Chinese armed forces. The rhetoric and world view of this younger and more bellicose cadre has the hair of analysts in the U.S. intelligence community beginning to stand up on the back of their necks. And although the U.S. has actually re-pivoted to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to Mali/Syria/Iran/Arab Spring, the pivot that has captivated elites around the world is the supposed U.S. pivot toward Asia (i.e. China). As such, the nascent Chinese leadership has become convinced the U.S. has an active policy of containment towards it.

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The Good Ol’ Cold War

In the aftermath of a long war, a new degree of suspicion ensues between two powerful countries that were nominally on the same side…one rattles its sabre, threatening small countries on its borders…the other shores up relations with the very same countries… a tit-for-tat arms race begins, waged with the advantages of recent technological advances…espionage takes the form of a new battleground as the stakes move progressively higher…for the most part the top leaders of each continue to say nice things about each other in public, but a new undertone of tension has become apparent…privately each frets about the other’s intentions, how far will they go?

If this frame fitted the spring of 1947, should we be getting concerned that increasingly we have a current goodness of fit? Mutual suspicions between the U.S. and China have risen to new heights based on the razor’s edge tension between Japan and China and the latter’s major espionage effort, probing among other things the American energy and infrastructure grid that is largely—and worryingly—in the hands of private companies whose defenses against Chinese hacking are too low. The newly installed President Xi has taken a mildly more strident tone compared to his predecessors, but this is less concerning compared to the rhetoric of the newly installed generals atop the Chinese armed forces. The rhetoric and world view of this younger and more bellicose cadre has the hair of analysts in the U.S. intelligence community beginning to stand up on the back of their necks. And although the U.S. has actually re-pivoted to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to Mali/Syria/Iran/Arab Spring, the pivot that has captivated elites around the world is the supposed U.S. pivot toward Asia (i.e. China). As such, the nascent Chinese leadership has become convinced the U.S. has an active policy of containment towards it.

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The Robama Doctrine

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Mitt Romney is back in the news with more than a little schadenfreude, talking about how he would be better not only to deal with sequestration but also with Iran.  Or so he claims.  But had he become president, it would have been interesting to see the Romney Doctrine in action—a foreign policy lodestar distinctly different from the Obama Doctrine.

Normally foreign policy experts talk in terms of grand strategies—sets of guiding principles for an administration’s foreign policy—but occasionally in the world of ideas a particular set of strategic principles gets defined as a doctrine.  Here, for example, is something I published a couple of elections ago on the Palin Doctrine.

But in reality there is no clear process by which this occurs, nor any specific criteria that a certain set of principles must meet to get deemed a “doctrine.”  A general rule of thumb holds that a leader’s strategic outlook must be a sizable departure from his or her predecessors’ and internally consistent.  Once someone in the media uses a term like “the Bush Doctrine,” thereafter a tipping point may be reached in the public sphere when, voila, the world has a new doctrine on its hands.

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Time to Redefine the Term “soft power”?

Mickey

The broad goal of this blog, to the credit of its founders, is to bridge the gap between foreign policy practitioners and foreign policy scholars.  Prior to joining it recently, I have known its reputation for doing just that.  While in government I kept a mental note every time I came across a policymaker who regularly followed the Duck, and frankly I lost count.  So in this vein I’d like to quibble with something I thoroughly digested as a student, regularly promulgated as a professor, and gradually began to question as a policymaker.  It seems high time to question the usefulness of how we define the term “soft power,” which has gained credence ever since the scholar Joseph Nye came up with it more than decade ago.

Nye’s classic definition of the term–the attractiveness of a country based on the legitimacy of its policies and the political and cultural values that underpin them–seemed reasonable enough when I first became familiar with it in the mid 1990s.  The notion that a country’s cultural power could influence other countries and cause their governments to either agree more with a country of cultural prowess or adopt similar values made a lot of sense.  The Cold War had recently come to an end, and the rush of East Central European governments to join the West in all ways seemed just the evidence one needed to subscribe not only to the concept, but also the view that the U.S. possessed a whole lot of soft power that was causing other countries to agree with or emulate it.  After all liberalism and openness of all kinds were being celebrated, and the new concept of globalization was further and futher in evidence while the third wave of democracy was spreading fast.

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