“If we take the first step of declaring the end of the Korean War, it could incentivize leaders of the Korean Peninsula to take action,” noted Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) at a virtual roundtable on Monday co-hosted by Women Cross DMZ, the American Conservative and the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft on how a permanent peace agreement can resolve the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula. “[President Barack] Obama never had a partner. Now there’s a partner in President Moon,” Congressman Khanna added.
The California Congressman went on to announce that he and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) plan to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in post-pandemic to support his diplomatic efforts.
Seventy years after the start of the Korean War, there are good reasons to doubt that this endless war will ever end. The parties involved in signing a peace agreement — United States, North Korea, and China — harbor deep mistrust and cynicism about each other’s intent. But as yesterday’s discussion showed, there is a growing transpartisan consensus that the United States needs to help end the Korean War.
As an anti-militarism think tank with a focus on democratizing the foreign policy conversation, the Quincy Institute had been calling for an updated U.S. foreign policy toward the Korean Peninsula since its launch last December. We advocate for a 21st century foreign policy that moves away from endless war toward a foreign policy based on diplomacy and engagement. That means treating U.S. allies as co-equal partners in pursuit of innovative solutions to North Korea’s growing nuclear threat and regional stability.
Our decision to partner with The American Conservative and Women Cross DMZ on the 67th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice was rooted in our belief that a strong intellectual and grassroots-based counterweight is needed to disrupt the foreign policy establishment’s mentality on the Korean War. Toward that goal, one attendee observed that the webinar’s content was rare by Washington’s standards, as speakers represented diverse viewpoints that reflect the Korean War’s complex impact on the two Koreas today. Experts with links to defense contractors have financial incentives to promote policies that create more dependency on U.S. defense and arms sales, and tend to dominate foreign policy conversations in Washington.
Among the key takeaways from Monday's conversation was the reassertion of congressional leadership on Korea policy, which is both welcome and needed. This is a significant development from the branch of government that has traditionally favored blunt instruments of war over negotiations. The “maximum pressure” campaign of the Trump administration has been a boon to the defense industry, as the myriad U.S. and U.N. sanctions against North Korea make diplomacy extremely difficult to navigate both politically and legally. Arbitrarily capping U.S. troop levels in South Korea is also unwise, as it leaves the U.S.’s over-extended military as a fixture on the peninsula, rather than a temporary solution.
Indeed, the fact that members of Congress are prioritizing hearing directly from South Koreans about Korean Peninsula issues should be encouraged and replicated by other members of Congress. As a former staff member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I saw firsthand how much in-person meetings can forge trust and mutual understanding. Done right, congressional visits provide an independent window into the impact of U.S. foreign policy on the ground as well as help our diplomats stationed in-country learn about the legislative branch’s perspectives and priorities. These visits should be conducted not just by members of national security committees in the House and Senate but by other members who have strong interest in war powers, authorization of the use of force, oversight of military spending, and veterans’ issues.
Reps. Khanna and Biggs’ upcoming visit to Seoul is also significant because it implies that South Korea is a co-equal partner with the United States and that lasting progress on the peninsula will need to be led by the Korean people. The planned visit comes at a time of extraordinary pressure on the U.S.-South Korea alliance, thanks in part to President Trump’s aggressive negotiation tactics on the Special Measures Agreement and disparaging remarks about South Korea. Their visit could include a meeting with lawmakers in the National Assembly, who have similar roles in overseeing the executive branch, setting budgetary agenda, and responding to constituent concerns.
The fact that a progressive voice who has called for an end to the Korean War and prohibition of an unconstitutional war against North Korea in Congress is willing to partner with the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus also demonstrates that the Korean War has become a transpartisan issue, where political affiliations do not matter as much as good ideas. Indeed, congressional involvement on matters of war and peace is exactly how our constitution envisioned its role to be. As Rep. Biggs noted at the Foreign Policy-Quincy Institute Forum in February, we need to restore “proper separation of powers between the branches of government,” whether it is through auditing the Defense Department or reining in our endless wars.
Ultimately, Reps. Khanna and Biggs’s trip to Seoul could encourage more bipartisan involvement in U.S. foreign policy. Grassroots organizations such as Women Cross DMZ and conservative news organizations such as The American Conservative share QI’s vision for peace on the Korean Peninsula, and together we will work with like-minded leaders to challenge the deeply jaundiced view that war has to be a permanent feature of the Korean Peninsula.
Jessica J. Lee was formerly senior research fellow on East Asia at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. She is an expert in U.S. foreign policy toward East Asia, legislative affairs, and transpartisan coalition-building.Jessica’s analysis has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, USA Today, the Washington Times, The Nation, Arms Control Today, and Quincy Institute’s news platform Responsible Statecraft. She has testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and co-authored several Quincy Briefs and Reports, including Toward an Inclusive & Balanced Regional Order: A New U.S. Strategy in East Asia, Beyond Deterrence: A Peace Game Exercise for the Korean Peninsula,, The Folly of Pushing South Korea Toward a China Containment Strategy, and Active Denial: A Roadmap to a More Effective, Stabilizing, and Sustainable U.S. Defense Strategy in Asia.Jessica is a non-resident senior associate fellow at the Asia Pacific Leadership Network, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a member of the National Committee on North Korea, and a 2021-2022 Arms Control Negotiation Academy Fellow with the Negotiation Task Force at Harvard University. She serves on the board of the U.S. nonprofit exchange program between U.S. and East Asian college students called International Student Conferences.Previously, Jessica led the Council of Korean Americans, a national leadership organization for Americans of Korean descent. Prior to CKA, Jessica was a Resident Fellow at the Pacific Forum and a senior manager at The Asia Group, LLC. She began her career on Capitol Hill, where she served as a professional staff member handling the Asia region for the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and as a senior legislative assistant on international security and trade for a member of Congress on the Ways and Means Committee. Jessica holds a B.A. in Political Science from Wellesley College and an A.M. in Regional Studies-East Asia from Harvard University. She has advanced proficiency in Korean.
DOHA, QATAR — In remarks Sunday at the 21st Doha Forum in Qatar, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov seemed to revel in what is becoming a groundswell of international frustration with the United States over its policies in Israel. Despite Russia’s own near-isolated status after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Lavrov glibly characterized the U.S. as on the wrong side of history, the leader of the dying world order, and the purveyor of its own brand of “cancel culture.”
“I think everybody understands that this (Gaza war) did not happen in a vacuum that there were decades of unfulfilled promises that the Palestinians would get their own state,” and years of political and security hostilities that exploded on Oct. 7, he charged. “This is about the cancel culture, whatever you don’t like about events that led to the current situation you cancel. Everything that came before February 2022, including the bloody coup (in Ukraine) and the unconstitutional change of power … all this was canceled. The only thing that remains is that Russia invaded Ukraine.”
Lavrov, beamed in from Russia to the international audience in Doha, went fairly unchallenged, though his interviewer James Bays, diplomatic editor at Al Jazeera, attempted to corner him on accusations stemming from Russia’s own bloody record in Chechnya in the 1990s and and 2000s and its ongoing military campaign in Syria, which Lavrov noted was at the “behest” of the Syrian government.
On the issue of the failed ceasefire vote at the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent veto member, Lavrov said, “we strongly condemn the terrorist attack against Israel. At the same time we do not think it is acceptable to use this (terrorist) event for collective punishment of millions of Palestinian people.” Did he condemn the United States for vetoing the ceasefire measure? “It’s up to the regional countries and the other countries of the world to judge,” he declared.
When asked if there was a “stalemate” in the Russian war in Ukraine, and what the Russians may have gained from their invasion in 2022, he said simply, “it’s up to the Ukrainians to understand how deep a hole they are in and where the Americans have put them.”
On whether a ceasefire may be in the offing in that war Lavrov said, “a year and half ago (Zelensky) signed a decree prohibiting any negotiations with the Putin government. They had the chance in March and April 2022, very soon after the beginning of the special military operation, where in Istanbul the negotiators reached a deal with neutrality for Ukraine, no NATO, and security guarantees…it was canceled,” he added, because the Americans and Brits wanted to “exhaust (Ukrainians) more.”
Lavrov gleefully piggybacked on themes from an earlier forum panel on the Global South. He accused “the United States and its allies” of building “the model of globalization, which they thought would serve them well.” But now, Lavrov contends, the unaligned are using “the principles and instruments of globalization to beat the West on their own terms.” As for Russia, Lavrov deployed a little “cancel culture” of his own, cherry picking the high points of his country's history over the last 200 years to project a nation that he boasts will emerge unscathed by Western assaults today.
“In the beginning of the 19th century Napoleon (rose European armies) against Russia and we defeated him; in the 20th century Hitler did the same. We defeated him and became stronger after that as well,” he said. With the Ukraine war, the West will find “that Russia has already become much stronger than it was before this.”
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks in opening session of the Doha Forum in Qatar, December 10. (vlahos)
DOHA, QATAR — The U.S. veto of the UN Security Council vote for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza is being met with widespread anger and frustration by the international community and especially in the Arab world, as reflected in opening remarks at the 21st Doha Forum in Qatar on Sunday.
Addressing the forum, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the vote was “regrettable…that does not make it less necessary. I can promise that I will not give up.” He said since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel and the ensuing Israeli retaliation in Gaza, “the Council’s authority and credibility were seriously undermined” by a succession of failed votes to respond to ongoing civilian carnage on the Strip.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, foreign minister of Qatar, said the current crisis and the U.S. reaction to it, including its thwarting of the ceasefire call (it was the only vote of disapproval; the UK abstained) was exposing the “great gap between East and West ... and double standards in the international community.” He pointed to those drawing attention to war crimes in “other contexts” (no doubt referring to Russia in Ukraine ) “hesitating to call for the end of these crimes in the Gaza strip.”
He repeatedly called for the creation of new multipolar world order that "respects justice and equality between the people where no people are more powerful than the other."
The U.S. said it did not approve the ceasefire resolution Friday because of the lack of condemnation of Hamas in the language, and that it not include a declaration of Israel’s right to defend itself. U.S. ambassador Robert Wood said halting Israel’s military action would “only plant the seeds for the next war.”
The result is that people here at the forum say they are more convinced than ever that U.S. policy is reflexively and intimately intertwined with Israel's activities in Gaza. As Mohammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of Palestine, charged, Washington has given the “greenest of green lights” to what Israel is doing on the ground. This was exacerbated this weekend with news that the Biden Administration is bypassing Congressional review to send 13,000 tank rounds to Israel. This, despite efforts by Democrats in his own party to condition the transfer of offensive weapons to prevent their use against civilians.
Meanwhile, humanitarian advocates repeatedly called the situation on the ground “unprecedented.” In an interview with Al Jazeera reporter Stefanie Dekker on the dais, Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said his own organization is “on the brink of collapse.” They have lost 134 relief workers in Gaza since Israeli operations began. He described staff in silent stupefaction over the loss of homes, families. “There is no doubt a ceasefire is needed; we want to put an end to hell on earth right now in Gaza.”
Khaled Saffuri, executive director of the National Interest Foundation in Washington, told RS he was struck by the backlash against American brands in his own travels in Kuwait and Qatar over the last week, citing customer and restaurant boycotts of Coke, Pepsi, MacDonald’s, and Starbucks. “It’s horrible,” he said of the lopsided UN vote. “America is losing a lot in the Muslim world.”
Dear RS readers: It has been an extraordinary year and our editing team has been working overtime to make sure that we are covering the current conflicts with quality, fresh analysis that doesn’t cleave to the mainstream orthodoxy or take official Washington and the commentariat at face value. Our staff reporters, experts, and outside writers offer top-notch, independent work, daily. Please consider making a tax-exempt, year-end contribution to Responsible Statecraft so that we can continue this quality coverage — which you will find nowhere else — into 2024. Happy Holidays!
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Journalists in the press room watch as Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and fellow candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy discuss an issue during the fourth Republican candidates' debate of the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign hosted by NewsNation at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, U.S., December 6, 2023. REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer
It's as if the Ukraine War has all but ended — at least for American politics.
If the Republican debates had occurred last year, they would have been consumed with talk over whether Vladimir Putin was readying to roll across Europe and how weak President Biden was for not giving Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky our best tanks, our most powerful fighter aircraft, the longest range missiles we had — maybe even access to nukes.
But Zelensky wasn’t anywhere near the debate stage in Alabama last night, his name not even invoked. Fitting, we guess, since the Senate failed to pass an aid package yesterday that would have sent another $60 billion to Ukraine. This, despite administration claims that the war effort is literally running out of money. Biden even took to the airwaves Wednesday to warn of a NATO war if the funding wasn’t approved.
Republicans have been souring on the aid for months now, which might account for Ukraine’s diminished importance in the conversation. It was outweighed last night by the conflict in Israel, which in itself only drew three questions: Do we send in special forces to get the eight remaining American hostages back from Hamas? What kind of punishment could be slapped on university presidents who allow “pro Hamas” protests on campus? And how do we “get” Iran for purportedly being behind it all?
Ukraine was wielded, albeit briefly, as a blunt instrument. At the very least it gave us the tiniest of glimpses into the competing world views of the hawks on the dais (Chris Christie and Nikki Haley) and their chief agitant, Vivek Ramaswamy.
Haley raised the issue (without being asked about it) by fitting it into her usual stream of Domino Theory conciousness:
“The problem is, you have to see that all of these are related. If you look at the fact Russia was losing that war with Ukraine, Putin had hit rock bottom, they had raised the draft age to 65. He was getting drones and missiles — drones from Iran, missiles from North Korea. And so what happened when he hit rock bottom, all of a sudden his other friend, Iran, Hamas goes and invades Israel and butchers those people on Putin's birthday. There is no one happier right now than Putin because all of the attention America had on Ukraine suddenly went to Israel. And that's what they were hoping is going to happen. We need to make sure that we have full clarity, that there is a reason again that Taiwanese want to help Ukrainians because they know if Ukraine wins China won't invade Taiwan. There's a reason the Ukrainians want to help Israelis because they know that if Iran wins, Russia wins. These are all connected. But what wins all of that is a strong America, not a weak America. And that's what Joe Biden has given us.”
Vivek Ramaswamy responds:
“I want to say one thing about that tie to Ukraine. Foreign policy experience is not the same as foreign policy wisdom. I was the first person to say we need a reasonable peace deal in Ukraine. Now a lot of the neocons are quietly coming along to that position with the exceptions of Nikki Haley and Joe Biden, who still support this, what I believe, is pointless war in Ukraine. …One thing that Joe Biden and Nikki Haley have in common is that neither of them could even state for you three provinces in eastern Ukraine that they want to send our troops to actually fight for. … So reject this myth that they've been selling you that somebody had a cup of coffee stint at the UN and then makes eight million bucks after has real foreign policy experience. It takes an outsider to see this through.”
To which Chris Christie retorted:
“Let me just say something here, you know, his (Ramaswamy’s) reasonable peace deal in Ukraine. He made it clear. Give them all the land they've already stolen. Promise Putin you'll never put Ukraine in Russia, and then trust Putin not to have a relationship with China.” (Christie then essentially calls Ramaswamy a liar for suggesting he never said that.)
"These people are lying. These are the same people who told you about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify that invasion didn't know the first thing about it if they send thousands of our sons and daughters to go die. The same people who told you the same in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is still in charge. Twenty years later, seven trillion of our national debt due to these toxic neocons. You can put lipstick on a Dick Cheney, it is still a fascist neocon today."
That was basically it. After $130 billion in U.S. taxpayer money since 2022, most of which we are being told has been spent in Ukraine. After hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians dead and maimed, Ukraine’s economy in such a state that the West has to prop it up, and NATO pledging more troops and weapons it doesn’t even seem to have, the issue was afforded a scant few minutes, and used only in the broadest of ways to pound each other. Gone was even the ghost of the old argument that the free world was at stake or that our obligation to Ukrainians was a moral imperative. It’s been reduced to a political cudgel, which is the first step to being memory holed in Washington. It happened to Iraq and Afghanistan in prior president debates 2012 and 2016.
The gist seems to be, maybe if we ignore it, it will just go away?