December 7, 2018
Former Secretary of State James Baker gives eulogy at George H.W. Bush’s funeral in Houston
December 7, 2018
December 3, 2018
Bush -1 was kind, decent, fair, open-minded, considerate, lacking in prejudice, modest, principled, and loyal. He valued public service and saw himself as simply the latest in the long line of US presidents, another temporary occupant of the Oval Office and custodian of American democracy.”–Richard Haass
What happens in this world is the result of what people choose to do and choose not to do when presented with challenges and opportunities. The 41st US president didn’t always make the right choices, but his administration’s foreign policy record compares favorably with that of any other modern leader.
CAMBRIDGE – I have worked for four US presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike, and perhaps the most important thing I have learned along the way is that little of what we call history is inevitable. What happens in this world is the result of what people choose to do and choose not to do when presented with challenges and opportunities.
I worked for and often with Bush for all four years of his presidency. I was the National Security Council member responsible for overseeing the development and execution of policy toward the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. I was also brought into a good many other policy deliberations.
Bush was kind, decent, fair, open-minded, considerate, lacking in prejudice, modest, principled, and loyal. He valued public service and saw himself as simply the latest in the long line of US presidents, another temporary occupant of the Oval Office and custodian of American democracy.
His foreign policy achievements were many and significant, starting with the ending of the Cold War. To be sure, that it ended when it did had a great deal to do with four decades of concerted Western effort in every region of the world, the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan, the deep-seated flaws within the Soviet system, and the words and deeds of Mikhail Gorbachev. But none of this meant that the Cold War was preordained to end quickly or peacefully.
It did, in part, because Bush was sensitive to Gorbachev’s and later Boris Yeltsin’s predicament and avoided making a difficult situation humiliating. He was careful not to gloat or to indulge in the rhetoric of triumphalism. He was widely criticized for this restraint, but he managed not to trigger just the sort of nationalist reaction that we are now seeing in Russia.
He also got what he wanted. No one should confuse Bush’s caution with timidity. He overcame the reluctance, and at times objections, of many of his European counterparts and fostered Germany’s unification – and brought it about within NATO. This was statecraft at its finest.
Bush’s other great foreign policy achievement was the Gulf War. He viewed Saddam Hussein’s invasion and conquest of Kuwait as a threat not just to the region’s critical oil supplies, but also to the emerging post-Cold War world. Bush feared that if this act of war went unanswered, it would encourage further mayhem.
Days into the crisis, Bush declared that Saddam’s aggression would not stand. He then marshaled an unprecedented international coalition that backed sanctions and the threat of force, sent a half-million US troops halfway around the world to join hundreds of thousands from other countries, and, when diplomacy failed to bring about a complete and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal, liberated Kuwait in a matter of weeks with remarkably few US and coalition casualties. It was a textbook case of how multilateralism could work.
Two other points are worth noting here. First, Congress was reluctant to act on Saddam’s aggression. The vote in the Senate authorizing military action nearly failed. Bush, however, was prepared to order what became Operation Desert Storm even without congressional approval, given that he already had international law and the United Nations Security Council on his side. He was that determined and that principled.
Second, Bush refused to allow himself to get caught up in events. The mission was to liberate Kuwait, not Iraq. Fully aware of what happened some four decades earlier when the US and UN forces expanded their strategic objective in Korea and tried to unify the peninsula by force, Bush resisted pressures to expand the war’s aims. He worried about losing the trust of world leaders he had brought along and the loss of life that would likely result. He also wanted to keep Arab governments on his side to improve prospects for the Middle East peace effort that was to begin in Madrid less than a year later. Again, he was strong enough to stand up to the mood of the moment.
None of this is to say that Bush always got it right. The end of the Gulf War was messy, as Saddam managed to hang onto power in Iraq with a brutal crackdown on Kurds in the north and Shi’a in the south. A year later, the Bush administration was slow to respond to violence in the Balkans. It might have done more to help Russia in its early post-Soviet days. Overall, however, the administration’s foreign policy record compares favorably with that of any other modern US president or, for that matter, any other contemporary world leader.
One last thing. Bush assembled what was arguably the best national security team the US has ever had. Brent Scowcroft was the gold standard in national security advisers. James Baker was arguably the most successful secretary of state since Henry Kissinger. And with them were Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Robert Gates, Larry Eagleburger, William Webster, and others of standing and experience.
All of which brings us back to George H.W. Bush. He chose the people. He set the tone and the expectations. He listened. He insisted on a formal process. And he led.
If, as the saying goes, a fish rots from the head, it also flourishes because of the head. The US flourished as a result of the many contributions of its 41st president. Many people around the world benefited as well. We owe him our collective thanks. May his well-deserved rest be peaceful.
Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He is the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.
November 24, 2018
So what’s so significant about last week’s verdict?
First and foremost is the crimes that were considered as part of Case 002/02. The first conviction against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan had related primarily to the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975 and to a specific instance (at Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat province) where members of the previous government’s military were killed. This second part of the case considered a much broader range of crimes, and crimes that reflect the experiences of many more Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge regime.
Case 002/02 included crimes related to the appalling conditions in cooperatives and worksites, torture and killings at security centres, discrimination against the Vietnamese, ethnic Cham minority, and Buddhists, and forced marriage. In a survey conducted in 2008, when Cambodians were asked which crimes Khmer Rouge leaders should be held accountable for, only 4.9% of them mentioned forced evacuation, which had been the focus of Case 002/01. On the other hand, 80% listed killing, 63% listed starvation, 56% listed forced labour, and 33% referred to torture. Trials such as those before the ECCC are meant to do more than just sentence perpetrators; they are tasked with contributing to a sense of substantive justice, and with helping to find the truth about what happened. So, although these two defendants had already been convicted and sentenced, it had not yet been for what were considered to be the right crimes.
There are two particular crimes worth drawing attention to: forced marriage and genocide.
The Khmer Rouge’s policy of forced marriage, and the rape that occurred within those forced marriages, was not well known before the ECCC, despite estimates now that 400,000 people were forcibly married under the Khmer Rouge. It is largely through the testimony of civil parties (victims who have become parties to the proceedings before the ECCC) and through the advocacy of their lawyers that this issue was brought into the spotlight.
In harrowing testimony, victims recounted how they were too scared to refuse to be married but that they “could see that some people shed their tears quietly”. Couples would be monitored in their homes the night of their marriage by Khmer Rouge cadre to ensure they consummated the marriage. Another victim recalled, “I had to sleep with my husband because I would be in danger if I did not sleep with my husband. Because there was a militiaman eavesdropping, I submitted myself to be a wife. I could not avoid, so I tried to take this”. Women who refused to have sex with their new husband were sometimes raped by local Khmer Rouge leaders.
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were convicted of crimes against humanity for both forced marriages and the rapes that occurred with them. This conviction is significant from an international law perspective for recognising forced marriage as a gendered crime that was committed against both male and female victims, and for addressing it at a national scale. It is also highly significant to those victims who came forward after decades of silence. However, the ECCC has also been criticised for not addressing sexual violence that occurred under the Khmer Rouge in contexts other than forced marriage.
Undoubtedly, the genocide conviction issued by the ECCC received the greatest attention from the Case 002/02 verdict.
Nuon Chea was found guilty of genocide against the Vietnamese and the Cham, and Khieu Samphan was found guilty of genocide against the Vietnamese (but not the Cham, with the Trial Chamber finding that “the evidence did not rise to the level of proving that Khieu Samphan actively assisted or facilitated the execution of the genocidal policy against the Cham”). Curiously, the summary of the judgement notes that “Judge YOU Ottara appends a separate opinion on genocide to the Judgement”. This is the first separate opinion issued by a single Cambodian judge, but its contents are not yet known.
There is immense power in the label of genocide. The actions covered by the conviction for crimes against humanity are just as horrific, yet it is those considered genocide that often attract far more attention. This is just as true in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge period is referred to as a genocide in Khmer (ប្រល័យពូជសាសន៍).
Legally, however, genocide only refers to the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. This has led to divisive debates amongst scholars of Cambodia over whether some or all of the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge could be considered genocide. It also means that the experiences of ethnically-Khmer Cambodians (the vast majority of the population) are not covered by the definition, and the ECCC has not found the crimes committed against them to be genocide.
Here is where the verdict is ripe for misinterpretation. News headlines are very carefully crafted to engage readers by referring to genocide without explicitly misrepresenting the verdict (for example, the New York Times said “Khmer Rouge’s Slaughter in Cambodia is Ruled a Genocide”). For most people, Cambodian and foreigners alike, the details of this verdict will have little to no impact compared to the overarching label of genocide. However, there is a longstanding concern that if it enters into public consciousness in Cambodia that the ECCC found the treatment of the Vietnamese was a genocide but that the treatment of the Khmer was not, that this could further inflame anti-Vietnamese sentiment.
The final question to ask about the ECCC and Case 002/02 is: where to from here?
Last week, a summary of the judgement was read out before the Trial Chamber and released online. However, the full judgement is not yet available, with the only information given is that it will be released “in due course”. This decision has been criticised in a report from Stanford University’s WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice noting that Cambodia’s (notoriously weak) judiciary often relies on summary judgements without full reasoning, and that the ECCC had a chance to leave a different legacy.
The timeline for appeals will not start until this full judgement is released, although both defence teams have already flagged their intention to file appeals. In Case 002/01 the judgement was announced in August 2014 and the appeals proceedings concluded in November 2016. The current completion plan for the ECCC, foresees an appeal judgement in Case 002/02 in the third quarter of 2020.
As for trials against other suspects, myself and other New Mandala contributors have written about the reasons why it is highly unlikely these contentious cases will go ahead. In the aftermath of the Case 002/02 verdict, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said that since there are “no more” top Khmer Rouge leaders, the government’s policy is that “now this process has ended”. It is hardly surprising, but serves as additional evidence that once the Case 002/02 appeals conclude, so too will the ECCC.
November 2, 2018
Cambodia’s Foreign Policy stance is now more assertive after the formation of the new government in the Sixth legislature. Prime Minister Hun Sen is determined not to bend to international pressures and intervention, especially with regard to democracy and human rights.
Cambodia is building the foundation of democracy based on its own experiences and strengths. Recently, Prime Minister Hun Sen told Kyodo News in Tokyo that the Japanese model of democracy is more suitable in the a Cambodian context. Early this year, spokesperson of the Cambodian People Party (CPP), Mr Suos Yara, told media that the party’s interest was in pursuing a centrist democracy.
In his remarks at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in September, Mr Hun Sen stated, “human rights nowadays have become ‘a mission to impose civilisation’ for some powerful nations or, perhaps, as their operating standards as the pretext for the interference under the name of political rights protection”.
Moreover, during his talks with the Cambodian community, when he met them, in Tokyo early this month, the prime minister called upon Cambodians to stand up to defend their independence and sovereignty at any cost – even sacrificing foreign development assistance. He said, “If we Cambodians wish to be independent, we must be brave. I bow to no one”. So, what has made Cambodia more assertive?
At the global level the international system is becoming more uncertain, even anarchic, and the power shift from a unipolar to multi-polar world is in the making. There is no guarantee that a multi-polar world will be more stable. What we do know is that geopolitical risks and uncertainties are high.
In such an increasingly fluid international system – some analysts have argued that the world is entering a new Cold War – Cambodia is forced to be more cautious and determined to protect its independence and sovereignty especially under the framework of the non-aligned movement (NAM).
In his conversations with the Cambodian community in Brussels, Mr Hun Sen declared his intention to revive and lead NAM after getting re-elected in the seventh general election in 2023.
This signals that Cambodian ruling elites predict the world is moving towards a Cold War 2.0 and thus the need for Cambodia and other developing countries to stay independent and united to protect each other’s interests under the framework of NAM.
NAM, a group of independent states that do not want to align with any major power bloc, was formed in 1961 in the context of a heightening Cold War between the two opposing blocs led by United States and the Soviet Union. The then Prince Norodom Sihanouk was one of the founders of the movement. Now, NAM has more than 100 member countries.
At the regional level, ASEAN is thriving to stay neutral amidst a tug of war between China and the US. Some ASEAN member states are treaty allies and strategic allies of the US while other members have close strategic ties with China. ASEAN risks being divided if it cannot forge a united front and takea common stance on external relations.
Cambodian ruling elites are of the conviction that ASEAN is an important shield to ward off adverse impacts from geopolitical competition between major powers.
Aligning ASEAN with NAM will help ASEAN members become more resilient. ASEAN needs to expand and deepen its global networks particularly in strengthening its strategic partnership with global organisations such as the United Nations, NAM, and World Trade Organization to maintain and strengthen a rules-based international order.
At the national level, domestic politics is also evolving fast. In such a transitional period, the risks remain high for ruling elites to maintain the power status quo. The opposition or resistance movement remains active although some of them are quiet. The opposition movement is capable of organising a series of protests against the establishment if there is a leadership compounded with triggering factors. This in turn will lead to political and social instability.
Being aware of the risks, the Cambodian ruling elites have taken measures to counter and preempt future chaos that might be orchestrated by the opposition movement. Therefore, negotiations leading to political reconciliation and between the ruling party and the outlawed opposition party will be slow. Political trust is the main stumbling block of the national reconciliation process.
Within the context of rising uncertainties and risks at the global, regional and national levels, a strong, transformative political leadership is required. Whoever that can lead and navigate Cambodia through such uncertainties will earn public trust, confidence and support. Cambodia’s foreign policy will need to be more flexible and pragmatic in tactics and strategies but firm on core principles and values, which include independence, sovereignty, neutrality, and non-alignment.
Three foreign policy strategies that Cambodia should pursue are the promotion of a rules-based international system, smart implementation of a hedging strategy, and proactive strategic diversification. Building an international alliance against hegemonic power is one of the main objectives of Cambodia’s foreign policy in the new era.
Cambodia will chair the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in 2020 and ASEAN again, in 2022 in a rotating chairmanship. These are the two main occasions when Cambodia can play its international role. In addition, in early 2019, Cambodia will launch the Asian Cultural Council, an affiliate body of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, to promote its soft power through cultural diplomacy.
Members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces ready for deployment on peacekeeping missions. KT/Mai Vireak
There is an urgent need to create a new world order, not dictated by either the US or the European Union or one global policeman. Cambodia can pave the way for a new world that is non-aligned and joined together in the deepest feelings of fraternity and brotherhood.
October 13, 2018
by John Cassidy
As Brett Kavanaugh was listening to his first legal arguments as a Justice on the Supreme Court, on Tuesday morning, and liberal America was getting even more angry and depressed, Nikki Haley popped up to announce that she’s resigning at the end of the year as the U.S. representative at the United Nations.
Sitting next to Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Haley said that it had been “an honor of a lifetime” to hold the U.N. job, which comes with a plush suite at the Waldorf Towers. Preëmpting the obvious question about why she is leaving the Administration at this juncture, she added, “No, I am not running for 2020.”
That didn’t prevent the publication of a slew of pieces speculating about Haley’s motivations, including one from my colleague Eric Lach. On Wednesday morning, one of the most-read pieces on the Washington Post’s Web site was headlined, “ ‘A rising star’: Haley poses a potential threat to Trump even if she doesn’t run in 2020.”
All this interest in Haley’s intentions is understandable. As an Indian-American woman, the daughter of immigrants, she stands out from the sea of white men at the helm of the Republican Party. That itself makes her a “story”—one that, someday, could threaten to knock Trump off the home pages. But Haley isn’t just a G.O.P. oddity. She’s a canny and ambitious politician who has the ability to shape-shift seamlessly.
In getting elected Governor of South Carolina as part of the Tea Party wave, in 2010, she campaigned against the “good old boys” who dominated politics in the Palmetto State. Then she worked alongside them.
In February, 2016, she called Trump “everything a governor doesn’t want in a President.” Four months later, she endorsed him. At the U.N., she enthusiastically defended some of the most brazenly reactionary and isolationist foreign policies that any modern-day U.S. Administration has put forward, and now, as her tenure comes to a end, an editorial in the Times says that she will be missed. Anybody who can simultaneously retain the support of Trump and the Times’s editorial board should never be underestimated.
Perhaps to quell some of the speculation about Haley’s political ambitions, people close to her leaked the suggestion that she’s looking to make money in the private sector. That may well be true (her most recent federal ethics report listed debts of up to a million dollars), but it doesn’t detract from the main takeaway from her resignation, which should provide some succor for anybody eager to see the back of Trump: he won’t be President forever, and some politically astute people, Haley included, are already looking ahead. Rather than waiting for the dénouement of the Trump story, which is unlikely to be pretty, she’s getting out while the getting is good.
That’s a smart move. A month from now, if the opinion polls are correct, Trump will be facing a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and an inability to get any legislation passed without making concessions. To be sure, even if the midterms go the House Democrats’ way, they might overplay their hand, as the House Republicans did during the second term of the Clinton Administration, rushing to impeach the President and generating a backlash from voters. But that doesn’t have to happen. If Democratic leaders get their way, they will wait for Robert Mueller to file his report on the Russia investigation, and, in the meantime, torment the White House with subpoenas demanding the release of Trump’s financial records, including his tax returns.
Another potential danger to Trump is the economy, which is currently in the category of “as good as it gets.” Going into 2019, the fiscal stimulus from the December, 2017, tax-cut bill and the February, 2018, bipartisan spending deal will start to wear off, and G.D.P. growth will probably fall back. In addition, as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, the stock market, which has enjoyed a record-breaking run in the past ten years, could take a sustained dive at any moment. With the unemployment rate at 3.7 per cent and the Dow trading above twenty-five thousand, Trump’s approval rating is in the low forties. Where will it be if the market crashes and the economy falters? (The eight-hundred-point fall in the market on Wednesday could be an augur of things to come.)
Rather than languishing in depression, people opposed to Trump should follow Haley’s example and look forward. Handicapped by an antiquated and blatantly inequitable electoral system, the Democratic Party desperately needs to reverse at least part of the gains that Republicans have made away from the coasts, and outside of big cities, in the past thirty years.
There is another huge challenge in the nation’s courts, where Kavanaugh’s confirmation marked the culmination of a multi-decade conservative campaign to wrest control from moderate and liberal judges. But in democracies things can change. Things do change. And, in fewer than four weeks, there will be an invaluable opportunity to start the process.
This post has been updated to account for Wednesday’s stock-market decline.