As Washington works to avoid going over the fiscal cliff, it is imperative that policymakers not lose sight of other issues that will have just as much impact on the future of our nation’s economy. Lost in the shuffle of all the noise is a trade deal that’s currently being negotiated that will have wide ranging implications for America’s ability to compete and succeed in the global economy.
As the U.S. Congress begins to focus on trimming the defense budget it should take a close look at how NATO is organized. Its outdated structure has become a costly anachronism for Americans and Europeans. It is time to update NATO to make it fit today’s realities, not those prevailing at the end of World War 2.
It helps to recall that it was the North Atlantic Treaty signed in 1949, that committed the allies to each other’s defense. The Alliance’s military structure (the “O” in NATO) was designed over the next year to overcome the inability of shattered European states to defend themselves. Because American military power was all that stood between a potential invasion of Europe by the Soviet Union, America slid naturally into the position of assuming the Alliance’s leadership.
Though the country is focused on partisan gridlock over the fiscal cliff, bipartisanship still exists in Washington. President Obama has signed into law the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal Act of 2012, a bill that demonstrates that the national interest is served when members of both parties work together. With this measure – which promotes freer trade with Russia while holding accountable Russian officials that violate human rights –both parties have found common ground on the need to encourage a strong, vibrant, and more open Russia.
The murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues in Benghazi highlights the dangers and hardships our Foreign Service personnel face every day as America’s first line of defense. Our nation’s diplomatic and development personnel are present overseas before the U.S. military is deployed, supports them if they are engaged in combat, and remains in place when the military returns to the United States. The degree of danger, naturally, varies with locale. But the threat is ever present. Because of Benghazi, questions about the security of Foreign Serve Officers will be high on the national agenda in the near future – and properly so.
China is not a military ally of the United States and should be considered a military competitor. Three key factors show that China should be considered a military competitor of the United States. These factors include China’s rhetoric and intentions remain ambiguous, there is competition between foreign policy and strategic military objectives, and China having conflicting relations with many United States regional allies.
Afghanistan is at a critical transition point. As the Middle East boils, the United States hopes for a successful hand-off of internal security to Afghans. On the success of this hand-off, and future deterrence in that country, all else rests. Buffeted by violent extremism, drug-related crime, endemic poverty and minimal infrastructure, Afghanistan will likely remain a dangerous country and isolated market with very limited economic growth potential for some years ahead. But it does not have to be that way forever. Where is the model for success in this challenging environment? Surprisingly, one exists: Colombia of 15 years ago.
Throughout my career in public life and even before, nothing has motivated me more than a desire for an end to wars and violent conflict. When I was a small girl saying my bedtime prayers, I would pray for world peace.
A decade ago, I opposed the Iraq war before it even started. I was appalled that we would invade a nation that hadn’t provoked us; had nothing to do with 9/11; and did not have weapons of mass destruction.
On Tuesday, the U.S. took a critical step forward in addressing the Syrian crisis, as Obama announced his decision to recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Yet, this recognition of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is not enough – the announcement is merely an attempt to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Al-Assad has already made clear that he will respond to threats against him with an “iron hand.” Obama’s statement did not come with commitments to an establishment of a no-fly zone or support of rebel forces with airstrikes or provision of arms. Nor did it extend legal authority of a state to the coalition. Yesterday’s statement did little more than follow on the heels of Britain, France, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, who have already recognized the Syrian opposition coalition.
The annual celebration of human rights on 10 December falls on the same day that the EU will receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The coincidence is serendipitous. The EU is being honored for promoting democracy, human rights, and reconciliation, and for spreading peace and stability across the continent. This is a great recognition of our past achievements. Yet it also focuses the spotlight on all of us -- EU Institutions, Member States, and 500 million citizens -- to work together and redouble our efforts to promote and protect human rights not just within our borders, but worldwide.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can lay claim to be one of history’s great progressive advances. Appalled by the depravity of war and distorted ideology, the international community came together sixty four years ago to agree protections and freedoms to which every person, solely by virtue of their humanity, was entitled.
Human Rights Day, on the anniversary of the Declaration’s adoption by the United Nations, is a celebration of this achievement and ambition. But it is also a reminder that, despite the hopes of the Declaration’s architects, hundreds of millions of people still live in abject misery and fear with their most basic human rights ignored.