Answering Walt’s Questions

I like Stephen M. Walt.  I don’t know why but I do.  He’s not a socialist by any stretch of the imagination but most of the time, I think to myself, Now that makes sense, when I read his blog on Foreign Policy‘s website.  So I came across the post entitled 5 Big Questions.  So after taking all of his questions and adding a few of my own, here is a list of 10 interesting questions and my answers.

1. Where is the EU project headed?

The EU will become more and more integrated.  There will be caution for the foreseeable future because of the problems with Greece.  But I think in the long run, Europe will move closer and closer together.  There will be hiccups and bumps along the road, but I think the EU is here to stay.

2. If China’s power continues to rise, how easy will it be to get Asian states to balance against it?

This may be the most important question of all the questions here.  Clearly, China is a rising superpower in the world.  And the US, while still the only real superpower, is in decline, it will be difficult for the US to stop a rising China alone.  Clearly, the states around China are worried about it becoming too powerful since that could put them at risk.  Unless of course they join China instead of try to act against it.  I really doubt that countries like Japan or South Korea would choose China over the US.  And let us not forget that the EU will be a bigger and bigger player on the world stage.  So its possible that some states would side with the EU over either China or the US.

3. What’s the relationship between US defense spending, the deficit, and America’s economic health and well-being?

I am no economist, but I think that there is a clear relationship between the three.

It used to be that defense was the number two or three item in the budget pie, but alas, it is now number one.  Of course if you add up the spending on Social Security and Medicare, then that becomes number one by far, but separately, defense beats them both.

Defense spending needs to reigned in if we are to have any chance of halting the runaway budget deficit.  Also, the cap on Social Security needs to be removed completely (but that’s a discussion for another time perhaps).  Obama’s budget for FY 2010 has $663.8 billion for defense (that is including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).  But it is not just the money that is important, but what that money signifies.  It is a matter of priorities.  When we prioritize war over education or health or infrastructure then the US loses and so does the rest of the world since they will end up on the other end of our barrels.

4. If the US disengaged from key areas in the Muslim world – most notably Iraq and Afghanistan – would the threat of anti-American terrorism rise or fall?

Some will call it capitulation, but I think that the less we mess with the Middle East, the less we will have to worry about terrorism.  But of course, that means that we need to stop supporting Israel.  This will not happen, but if we are truly going to leave the Middle East alone, then this needs to be on the list.  I think that the Islamic terrorists are attacking us for what we have done in that part of the world (whether it was supporting Israel or deposing the Shah).  We have been meddling with that part of the world for decades now.  So it would be extremely difficult for us to actually disentangle ourselves from it but in order to have clean hands, that is what we need to do.  Islamic terrorists are not attacking countries at random or because “they hate our freedom.”  They attack with a specific intent – to hurt those who have done harm to them in the past.

5. Is the era of US primacy over?  How will the end of post-Cold War primacy affect its grand strategy and foreign policy?

No.  The era of US primacy is clearly not over.  But it is certainly waning.

If nothing else, the end of its Cold-War primacy bolsters the US into thinking that they are truly exceptional and their primacy will continue forever (as if ordained by God).

6. How serious is the threat of nuclear terrorism?

I hate to say it… but I don’t think it is very much of a threat at all.  I think there are many safeguards in place and it is extremely difficult to build a nuclear bomb.  This is not to say that we don’t need to be vigilant about nuclear weapons or terrorism.  I just don’t think it is as big of a deal as some people make it out to be.

7. How will climate change affect global politics?

I hate to say it, but I’m not that optimistic that it will affect it at all.  Obviously I am concerned about global climate change, but I don’t think most of the world leaders really care all that much.  Some of them pay lip service to it, but I don’t think they really care about it.  In the US it is clear that the members of the ruling class only care about the wealthiest among us and the corporations they run.  Since most of the corporations don’t want anything done about climate change, nothing will happen.

8. Will Iraq settle down or fall apart after the US withdraws?  The same question could be asked of Afghanistan but we will leave Iraq sooner.

Iraq will not be “stable” for quite some time, regardless of whether we are in the country or not.  Even today there are bombings that continue between the Sunnis and the Shiites.  So until Iraq has a leader that can reign in the two religious factions, there will be turmoil and killings, but it may be some time before that happens.

9. Will Iran be allowed to continue its nuclear (weapons) program?

Yes.  Unless Israel does something about it.  The US is too stretched thin to do anything but complain.  Israel might do what it did to Iraq and attack their nuclear facilities.  But because Iran knows what Israel did to Iraq (whenever that was), it has brought everything underground (literally).

10. How serious of a threat is North Korea?

This is the foreign policy question that really needs a lot of attention.  North Korea is headed by someone who is clearly crazy and there is no telling what he will do next.  And he has a nuclear bomb.  We need to keep a very watchful eye on North Korea.  And I think we need to get help from China in talking Kim Jong Ill down from the crazy tree.  He needs to give up the nukes and we need to be able to offer assistance in whatever form that might take.

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