Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Containment Confusion

Oh, it's true!
If and when (most likely the same), Iran's Preacher Command develops and deploys new clear missiles, don't fret - just lay back and enjoy it!

Containment actually
"Containment assumes that if China and Russia changed over decades, so might Iran. And nuclear weapons can handcuff a nation as easily as they can empower it. Last week, at the University of Oklahoma, Mr. Brzezinski argued that either an Iranian bomb or an attack on Iran would be “a calamity, a disaster.”

"Containment could work because Iran “may be dangerous, assertive and duplicitous, but there is nothing in their history to suggest they are suicidal.”

Hold up Dr B!

Containment bist kaput, nicht wahr?
Some would argue that Great Satan still follows a strategy of containment. When some policy analysts conclude America is trying to contain China with its "pivot" or "rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific, or when economic sanctions crafted to "contain" Iran's nuclear aspirations, one could see why containment is still on people's minds.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but containment died more than twenty years ago. While once an immensely successful policy, sticking with containment promises certain foreign policy failure.

Why, then, do states adhere to containment?

The answer is simple: policymakers and societies find comfort in following familiar policies that once produced results. Even when they no longer make sense, familiar, well-established ideas are reassuring to the public, particularly in unsettling times.

Containment was a highly effective strategy for decades, but its irrelevance was foreordained when Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Today, containment is intellectually bankrupt, but it endures as the jargon, the 'gold standard', for American grand strategy. Strangely, many continue to embrace a strategy totally unsuited to dealing with the modern world.

The central problem facing policymakers is that containment no longer “fits” the present geostrategic order. Great Satan"s reaction was muted and slow to move beyond containment because its erosion was so gradual – it was practically imperceptible to practitioners attuned to the daily, tactical minutiae of foreign policy. By the early 1990s, containment made no strategic sense for Washington because its core principles were irrelevant once Soviet Union ceased to exist.

 Policymakers, scholars, and journalists continue to worship at the altar of containment, despite the fact that America faces foreign policy challenges that are beyond what we can “contain.” Several examples highlight this fundamental disconnect between containment and the modern world.

The first is China. With its economy now the second largest after the United States and growing military prowess, China is too deeply and tightly integrated into the global economy for containment to make any sense, much less succeed. While some policymakers talk about containing China – or to reassure China that we do not intend to contain it – its economic and military power are so significant that containment seems almost silly. Simply put, there is nothing about China in political or economic terms that is containable.

The second case is Iran. Its radical ideology, marked by extremist strains, is stridently and virulently hostile to both Great and Little Satan. Such reckless rhetoric, when combined with what many increasingly believe are its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, should make Iran a prime candidate for containment. However, Iran is so tightly enmeshed in an economic and technological web of global connectedness that containment is an obsolete strategy doomed to fail.

States cannot contain Iran’s economic power, derived largely from its oil and gas exports, because Russia and China work diligently to undermine U.N. efforts to impose sanctions. We cannot contain Iran’s nuclear program because Russia actively supports it. Sanctions, once an integral element of containment, continue to fail while Iran accelerates its nuclear program.

The third case is Russia. Under Putin, Moscow uses increasingly strident rhetoric against the West, employs energy as a foreign policy weapon, threatens to attack the West preemptively over missile defenses, dismantles its democracy and drifts toward authoritarianism, and supports such authoritarian regimes as Iran, Syria, and North Korea. If the strategy of containment still worked, Russia would be an ideal target.

Russia, lacking a politically coherent ideology, is governed by an authoritarian ethos. However, it does not pose a threat to the West principally because it is not a serious economic power, lacks significant military capabilities (other than nuclear weapons), and is so far behind the West in advanced technology that few states truly fear Russia militarily. States do worry about Moscow’s willingness to use energy as a foreign policy weapon.

In the end, the West cannot contain states and the problems they cause, but it is well within our capacity to limit or restrain their more dangerous and destabilizing policies rather than relying on the obsolete strategy of trying to contain these states.

Pic - "Containment, the Art of, the Cost of and the Myth of Self Containment "