Foreign Policy

A call for Congress to explain the Libya mission

For weeks, members of Congress, journalists and the general public have been struggling to comprehend the precise objective of U.S. military action in Libya.

The confusion is understandable: the goal of American forces is almost exactly the opposite of what President Obama and his administration say it is. By cloaking its endgame, the administration has been obscuring difficult policy choices that are coming up. It is time for Congress to participate more fully in determining what the United States will do in Libya.

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The real benefit of the death of bin Laden

As Americans woke up to the news that Osama bin Laden was dead on Monday, pundits were already discussing what was gained from the death of the al Qaeda leader.

Some said that bin Laden died a martyr and will inspire generations of future terrorists. Many are worried about reprisal attacks. Others are discussing his sea burial and whether or not it will invoke outrage for potentially violating Muslim norms. And others are debating the value of torture and abuse in collecting intelligence. But in this mix of discussions, the real value of bin Laden’s death is getting lost.

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We must act now on food security

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the following remarks at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy.
 
Good morning. Thank you very much, Director General, not only for that extremely kind introduction about the work that the United States, under the Obama Administration, is doing, but also for your leadership. It is a great privilege for me to be here to join with you and to discuss an issue that demands our attention from every corner of the world. I want to thank the director general and the staff and, of course, our ambassador, Ambassador Cousin.
 
I come to you today with appreciation for what you are taking on at this moment of challenge. Global food prices are once again on the rise. The FAO Food Price Index reached an all-time high in February.

Yesterday’s update showed little decrease. The World Bank estimates that 44 million people have been pushed into poverty since just last June because of rising food prices. I know that you have been working very hard around the world as a voice for market-based approaches to managing the impact of rising food prices. And the recent FAO-organized regional meetings have had a very positive effect.

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Obama kills Osama: An EU perspective

When US President Obama announced that a special unit of the US forces had killed Osama Bin Laden, reactions all over Europe were similar. EU Institution leaders in Brussels and Heads of EU Member States in the national capitals showed relief that one of the most dangerous terrorists of the last decades was not a threat anymore. 

Then something happened. In a press conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a statement for the EU's largest member state saying that she was “happy that Bin Laden had been shot”. This gave rise to an immediate discussion in all media which forced Merkel to withdraw her statement soon after, saying that what she meant was that she was happy about the fact that the danger had ceased to exists – not that she was happy about the death of Bin Laden and about the fact that he had been killed by the US government. 

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EU lobbying by third countries

All around the world national governments increasingly turn to external support to affect public perception, drop a hint to push interests or win audiences with policy leaders. The same happens in the EU. Third country governments increasingly try to position themselves not such much with the EU member states but with the EU institutions in Brussels.

But in the world of 24/7 media coverage and the growth of powerful technologies any wrong piece of information is being disclosed very fast. Thanks to Facebook, Google and Wikileaks, a "Wag the Dog" storyline does not work anymore. A lie is easily disclosed as a lie. And if this happens, the results are not only counterproductive - they are disasterous. The Americans have a nice way of putting this in Washington. They call such type of PR work "painting lipstick on a dictator." Propaganda comes close to it. Neither of it works in the long run nowadays. 

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Meeting the needs of the warfighter from the air

Over the past four years much has been written, debated and proposed about the need for a light attack turboprop aircraft that’s ideally suited for irregular warfare in Afghanistan. Yet here we are four years later without a deployable solution.

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Future impact of death of bin Laden

The news of Osama bin Laden’s death spread throughout the world like wildfire on Sunday night. Government officials from many different countries issued pronouncements of victory, while average citizens took to the streets in celebration. Images of Americans cheering in front of the White House were posted all over the Internet; many Facebook users changed their profile pictures to American flags and other symbols of national pride.

Very few will weep for the late terrorist; his indiscriminate campaign of violence against individuals of all races and faiths made him hundreds of millions of enemies across the world. However, the circumstances surrounding the killing of bin Laden say more about his role as the symbolic head of a terrorist organization rather than a general on the ground.

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Remarks from the Senate floor

 

“Those watching around the world may not be able to see on their screens the scene here in the United States Senate." 

“We have all come to the floor in a way we rarely do. We have come here this afternoon to express with one voice our endless respect and admiration for the men and women of our military and intelligence organizations."

"‘Resolution’ is an appropriate name for this legislation. It honors the resolution to a problem that has lingered for nearly a decade – one whose weight has grown heavier each day on the shoulders of the families Osama bin Laden traumatized and the many more he terrorized. It honors the resolve with which our bravest stared down danger."


 

“The world is still absorbing America’s astounding accomplishment – a mission to bring bin Laden to justice, one that began more than nine-and-a-half years ago, and was accomplished just a little more than a day and a half ago. Nine-and-a-half years after the worst morning in our memory, we woke up yesterday morning to a world without Osama bin Laden, and with a palpable sense of justice."

“Our military and intelligence operatives are the best in the world at what they do. As they set out to kill or capture our most valuable target, they captivated us with their skill and expertise, their patriotism and their professionalism."

“A flood of thoughts and emotions and analyses has been shared over the past 36 hours. As I said from this desk yesterday, the end of his life is not the end of this fight. It is a victory, but not the victory. A lot has already been said about what bin Laden’s death means."

“So before we vote on this resolution, I want to speak only briefly about the American men and women who carried out this critical, successful mission – a mission that was historically significant and tactically stunning."

“Osama bin Laden was the most wanted and most hunted man in the world. His was the face of our enemy and the face of evil. There were few faces more recognizable to the American people and to citizens of the world."

“Those who carried out the Commander-in-Chief’s orders this weekend could not be more different. The world doesn’t know their names.  We wouldn’t recognize them if we passed them on the street. And that is exactly how they would want it."

“This is the newest proud page in the long story of the American hero – the unknown soldiers, the unsung saviors who sacrifice for our country’s flag and their countrymen’s freedom. They don’t ask for recognition and they don’t ask questions. They just answer their nation when it calls." 

“Today the Senate stands in awe of the countless men and women who have toiled in obscurity, in the field and in every corner of the world. Professionals who gather one small shred of evidence here, unearth one clue there, pursue another lead somewhere else."

“The men and women who, over the course of 10 long years, pieced together this most meaningful of puzzles so that a few dozen of their fellow heroes could execute an operation the world will never forget."

“These heroes confronted fear with brilliance and bravery. They met the worst of humanity with the best of America. The terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks did so with cowardice. The Americans who carried out this mission did so with unfailing courage."

“No one has asked how these men and women vote or what their politics are. And so we have come here to the floor to vote together on this resolution not as two parties – not even as 100 Senators – but as one body, representing one grateful country.”

 

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Bin Laden’s death is an opportunity to improve East-West relations

Everything that can be said about the short-term strategic implications of Bin Laden’s killing on al Qaeda, not to mention the domestic implications for President Obama’s popularity, has already been uttered in the last 48 hours. What is not clear, however, is what kind of an impact this event will have on East-West relations in the long run. I believe it is possible to fashion a momentous turning point, for the better, out of this killing, but only if we heed the lessons of history.

History teaches us that the elimination of the leader is one of the most effective ways to deal a strong blow to a terrorist organization, and this is especially true for those movements which rely heavily on the charisma of that leader to disseminate their message.  Neither the Shining Path nor the PKK were the same after the capture and imprisonment of their leaders.  The Tamil Tigers defeat in 2009 can be at least partly attributed to Prabharakan’s death. The Red Army Faction after the suicides of Baader and Meinhof (as well as other leaders of the group) was a ghost of its former self. Such examples give us much reason to believe that the murder of bin Laden may indeed have been a very painful blow to al Qaeda.

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What business and military already know

The International Affairs Budget always seems to be an easy target for politicians to aim their fire at. For one thing, most Americans think it makes up a huge part of our federal spending -- even though it’s really only about 1 percent of the budget.

Outside the political world, however, leader after leader appears to understand that International Affairs programs deserve support because they’re good for us, for America, for our national security, and for our economic future.

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