The Climate “Partnership” with India

Obama’s climate diplomacy with India is constructive, modest — and realistic.

At least that’s what the White House is calling it.  (Okay, okay: technically, the White House calls it the “Green Partnership to Address Energy Security, Climate Change, and Food Security.”). 

Does it mean anything?  Maybe.

Essentially, it provides for some technical assistance to improve governance capacity and scientific knowledge, and some new initiatives to foster R & D.  It also takes the sensible position that the developed countries will adopt emissions reductions targets while the developing countries will adopt “nationally appropriate mitigation measures.”  The White House press release states in boldface that both President Obama and Prime Minister Singh “resolved to take significant mitigation actions and to stand by these commitments.” In other words, neither side is going to insist on the other doing the politically impossible.

Perhaps the most intriguing initiative in the whole thing appears to be a series of bilateral institutions: the US-India Climate Dialogue, the US-India Energy Dialogue, and the US-India Agriculture Dialogue.  Who knows what these things mean. 

But they reflect a realism in the Obama Administration’s climate diplomacy, namely, that putting all their eggs in the Kyoto/UNFCC basket makes little sense.  These institutions might mean nothing, but one could have said the same thing about the UNFCC at the beginning.  They open up space for the two nations to start discussing ways to take reciprocal and constructive steps to reduce emissions.

Early jobs for the Climate Dialogue might be the discussion of international intellectual property rules that inhibit technology transfer.  Another role might be fostering the creation of international sectoral agreements in certain high-emissions industries such as aluminum, steel, and cement.

Obama likes to play a long game, a pattern that the media has proved itself completely incapable of recognizing.  And with climate, the game will have to be very long.  He has damped down expectations for Copenhagen, and is beginning to build more solid foundations.  I hope we have enough time.

Karma yoga and “realist” foreign policy

As ye sow, so shall ye reap. Ignoring that principle isn’t realistic.

The problem with foreign-policy “realism” – the kind that’s always searching for “our sunuvabitch” – is that it’s so damned unrealistic in its calm assurance that the Law of Karma has been repealed, and that therefore what goes around will never, ever come around.

John Burns illustrates from the history of Afghanistan, where Barack Obama has a crappy hand to play because of Ronald Reagan’s “realism” about working with what later got to be called Islamofascists.

George F. Will Cuts and Runs

George Will is going to call for a ground troop pullout from Afghanistan. Is he right?

According to Politico, George Will’s next column will call for a withdrawal of US ground troops from Afghanistan:

“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters,” Will writes in the column, scheduled for publication later this week.

So now it’s time for the real questions:

1) What do we know about this strategy’s ability to interdict Al Qaeda units? It sounds great and high-tech and sexy. Note: not just special forces units, but POTENT special forces units (as opposed to Limbaugh special forces units?). It relies on “intelligence”: do we have any human intelligence in Afghanistan? (Insert joke here: you know what I mean). But does it really mean anything?

2) In the pre-9/11 period, we would have loved to have done that, but could not get access to doing it. At times, Pakistan would allow flyovers, but the ISI is so infiltrated by Al-Qaeda sympathizers that it was pointless: Bin Laden would always be alerted. So that seems to imply a large presence in the participatory democracy of Uzbekistan. How confident are we of maintaining that presence?

3) And if the answers to these questions are 1) we don’t know; and 2) we don’t know, are we prepared to say, “yes, this will increase the chance of Al Qaeda reconstitution and the terrorism that would come with that, but that is a better deal than getting caught in quagmire”? The Republicans, who can reliably be counted to put party over country, will accuse Obama of selling out no matter what he does. So at least at some level the politics have to be considered.