Betsy Baker at the Vermont Law School points out that the President's policy statement only included a general reference to icebreaking capability and that the short supplementary statement by the Coast Guard Commandant, didn't mention it at all: U.S. Coast Guard Statement on new Arctic Region Policy: Icebreakers, anyone?
The Coast Guard Commandant outlined a few of institutional implications of the statement for the Coast Guard in this statement on his weblog: New Presidential Arctic Region Policy.
Scott Borgerson (the author of a widely cited article on the Arctic in Foreign Affairs last year) thinks the New US Arctic Policy gets it mostly right. He notes that it doesn't specifically call for building new icebreakers, and faults it (a) for not giving the Arctic Council real power and (b) for unnecessarily giving the Canadians a poke in the eye over Arctic sovereignty (the reference to U.S. interests in navigation rights through the Northwest Passage). Hat tip to Arctic Mapping and the Law of the Sea for pointing out the Borgerson piece.
Note (Jan 18): In the first paragraph I originally indicated that Baker said the statement did not mention icebreakers - she comments below that it did include a general reference. The Borgerson paragraph originally claimed he said the document did not mention icebreakers; the revision is more accurate.
The World Wildlife Fund generally thought the directive had good elements, although they noted that it didn't include commitments on global warming policy: Bush Arctic Policy Should Be Obama’s Starting Point, Not End Point.
Some newspapers thought the directive was much more aggressive than I did. In the U.K. The Guardian put the headline "Bush urges US to stake claim to Arctic territory in last-gasp energy grab" on a story by Owen Bowcott. This headline turns out to refer to the directive's recommendation that the U.S. adhere to the U.S. Law of the Sea Treaty.
Betsy Baker has a post on the very important role that commitments to scientific research and international cooperation actually play in the statement: Law, Science and International Cooperation in the U.S. Arctic Region Policy:
The United States Arctic Region Policy... which President Bush signed last week revamping a 1994 policy, generated considerable media attention, but often for the wrong reasons. The policy’s laudable invocation of law, science and international cooperation was largely ignored (sometimes willfully, it seemed)...
The 2009 U.S. Arctic Region Policy (ARP) undergirds the fact that science and law – working together – are essential foundations to effective, considered, and visible U.S. participation in the arctic arena. Here it is worth recalling an obvious but occasionally overlooked fact: that the arctic arena implicates Alaskan, national, regional and international interests. The ARP grasps and conveys that fact clearly. Other arctic countries should welcome the policy’s dedication of a substantial segment to “Promoting International Scientific Cooperation” (Part III. E.) as well as the ARP’s multiple references to international and multinational cooperation...
Canadians are concerned about U.S. arguments for freedom of navigation through the Northwest Passage. A story in The Globe and Mail says that Prime Minister Harper plays down threat to Arctic sovereignty. Harper may have played down the threat, but Canadian security expert Rob Heubert certainly didn't:
Rob Huebert, an Arctic sovereignty expert and associate director of the University of Calgary's Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, said the Canadian government shouldn't ignore or play down these two documents.
He said Mr. Bush's directive has effectively "thrown a grenade into Canada-U.S. relations" and that it will be interesting to see what the new president does with it.
"This is a very blunt statement ... they didn't play any political niceties here."
As I noted yesterday, Mark Collins at the Canadian security blog The Torch ("National Security Presidential Directive and Homeland Security Presidential Directive--Arctic Region Policy") notes that "almost no-one accepts our (very shaky in my view) claim that the Northwest Passage is Canadian "internal waters"."
I'd like to thank commenter Caitlyn for pointing me to this Russia Today story: Fighting Over the Arctic. Caitlyn notes in the comments that the story:
...noted the the Russian Arctic _Development_ Policy (being drafted by the Ministry for Regional Development) would be released later this month. Russia's arctic policy was outlined in a security council statement last september, but it is turning up in strategy documents by the transportation ministry and by the development ministry.
This Congressional Research Service report on Presidential Directives: Background and Overview provides some "...background on the historical development, accounting, use, and effect of..." different types of Presidential directives. useful for context on the type of document this is. The blog Secrecy News cited the CRS paper in its post on the Arctic directive.
Michael Thomas at the blog Homeland Security Politics thinks the directive will have more impact on the State Department than on the Defense or Homeland Security Departments, and that the Coast Guard will be the agency in the Department of Homeland Security most affected by the directive: HSPD 25 & NSPD 66: Arctic Region Policy. He notes that that the statement isn't specific about funding sources.
The Washington Post has a short overview article with quotes from several sources: White House Directive Guides Policy on Arctic. Among other things, the authors describe the policy statement as a list lacking prioritization:
The new policy directive covers several key areas, including national security, energy exploration and the environment, but it does not specify whether any should take precedence over others.
That led Jeremy Rabkin, a professor at George Mason University Law School, to comment: "It's really a list of all the things we're concerned about; that's not policy. I don't see anything here that helps you decide what gets priority."
This post supplements my own post:The New U.S. Arctic Policy Directive. I'll keep an eye out for other interesting commentary and may update this post.
Edits January 18: note icebreaker correction, added Admiral Allen's webpost, Baker on role of science and cooperation in the directive, Thomas on institutional implications. Jan 19 - even more from Baker's second post. Jan 19 - added Washington Post story.