Foreign Policy

Colombia trade deal doesn’t pass the smell test

Thanks to a multimillion dollar lobbying campaign by the Chamber of Commerce and the Colombian Government, many in Congress erroneously believe that the human rights and labor rights situations in Colombia are improving.

The truth is that just in the past decade, 30,000 innocent civilians have died in the country’s bloody civil war. Another 3.3 million have been violently driven out of their homes and off of their land. The U.S.-backed Colombian state security forces themselves have been implicated in thousands of murders in recent years.

And again in 2010, more trade unionists were killed in Colombia for their union activities than in the rest of the world combined.

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Strange definitions of war and peace

Last week I joined six Republican and three Democrat colleagues to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its illegal war against Libya. Now that more than 90 days have passed since the president began bombing Libya, no one can seriously claim that the administration has complied with the clear requirements of the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

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Struggling to preserve our self-determination in the South Atlantic

Visiting the United States, with its bustling streets in Washington and Manhattan, is always a bit of a culture shock for a Falkland Islander. While we have much in common – a shared ancestry and language, and the democratic values that underpin our societies – we have a few differences too. 

With just over 3,000 inhabitants, our island is smaller than Connecticut, with a population less numerous than the staff of Georgetown University. You have skyscrapers on your streets; we have the occasional sea lion. It is always going to be a tale of contrasts when one of the world’s smallest democracies comes to call on the world’s most powerful one.

Many Americans will not know who we are; that is understandable. We live over 5,500 miles away, at the very southern tip of the Americas. Those who have heard of the Falkland Islands are most likely to know us from nearly 30 years ago, when Argentine forces invaded our country. We were saved by the heroic efforts of Britain’s armed forces, and remain grateful for their sacrifices. But we also continue to thank the U.S., for its discreet but vital support to restore our liberties.

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UN must sanction Al-Maliki over human rights abuses

Amnesty International recently issued a damning report detailing the various human rights abuses being committed by the Iraqi authorities in cracking down on protests against the Iraqi leadership. In the past week alone, over a dozen political activists have been arrested in Iraq to try and prevent further protests at the lack of reform inside the country. Unfortunately in the deluge of protests spreading across the Middle East the plight of the Iraqi people and the violent crackdown by Nuri Al-Maliki's forces against peaceful protests by the Iraqi population has been lost.

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It's time to shift strategy in Afghanistan

This week, I joined with 26 of my Senate colleagues in urging President Obama to shift our policy in Afghanistan and to begin an “accelerated” transition to Afghan security forces. While the President has said he would begin to reduce some U.S. troops in July, I believe he should use the July date as an opportunity to begin a “sizable and sustained” drawdown of troops that will lead toward the removal of all regular combat troops from the country.

Our objectives in Afghanistan have largely been met. We have removed the Taliban government that sheltered al-Qaida, we have tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden, we have disrupted the terrorist networks allied with al-Qaida, and we have hunted down those who planned the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It’s time to shift course in Afghanistan and speed up the withdrawal process and save American lives.

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The war is not over

Leon Panetta will face a number of daunting tasks as the country's first Democratic Secretary of Defense in more than 14 years — from leading the Department of Defense in a time of war to managing the defense budget in a time of fiscal constraint. In taking on these important tasks, it is vital that the former director of central intelligence not lose sight of one fact: the war against al Qaeda and its allies is not over.

In fact, the story of the "War on Terror" over the last 15 months is one of stalemate.

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Sharing the burden within NATO

Contrast President Obama’s comments during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s state visit on June 7th with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ June 10th address at NATO and it might appear that transatlantic relations melted down in the middle of last week. Obama and Merkel were effusive in a day that was all about celebrating the relationship. But Gates was searing, warning of “collective military irrelevance.”

Rather than confounding the alliance with such manic displays, now should be a time of reflection for the U.S., Germany, and NATO’s other members. Elevating symbols over substance has become their norm, allowing major differences to fester in how allies view their security interests and their militaries’ missions. Direct talk absolutely is needed – but it must be balanced with an appreciation of these perspectives and a plan to unite them.

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Determining America's foreign policy priorities

Next month, two major foreign policy decisions will be decidedly clearer. 

On Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s July withdrawal plans will either be “sizeable and significant," as the Democratic National Committee resolution, which I helped push as vice-chair, called for earlier this year, or it will be minimal and meaningless.

On Libya, the 60-day limit stipulated by the War Powers Resolution will have long expired and we will either be drawing down our presence – as a growing majority of my House colleagues are demanding – or ramping up a regime change effort that started as a mere responsibility to protect. On this, my hope is that we pursue the former.

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Senators push for July withdrawal date in Afghanistan

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.

In 2001 the United States rightfully and successfully intervened in Afghanistan with the goals of destroying al Qaeda's safe haven, removing the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursuing those who planned the September 11 attacks on the United States. Those original goals have been largely met and today, as CIA Director Leon Panetta noted last June, "I think at most, we're looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less" al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan.

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Deepening U.S.-Mongolian ties

In 1206, Mongols, under the leadership of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, rode out from the Mongolian steppe and, using military tactics (speed and maneuver) still in use today, and technology (a short re-curved bow easily used on horseback) the Great Khan and his successors conquered roughly 22 percent of the world’s total land area. At its zenith, the Mongol empire stretched from the Sea of Japan in the east to present day Hungary, and from Siberia in the north into Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Middle East. It was, and remains, the greatest empire the world has ever known.  

Over time, Mongol influence receded. It would take more than 600 years for my country to re-emerge on the world stage — in a far more benevolent manner.


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