Foreign Policy

Palestinians are people, too

Every June 5 for the past 44 years of my life has brought back memories of being a 13-year-old facing life under Israeli occupation. Forty-four years ago I saw Israelis for the first time. It took my generation a very long and difficult time to come to terms with accepting the need for peace and compromise with our occupier. That compromise was the two-state solution. Our goal was to end occupation and achieve freedom, dignity, and self-determination.
Last month in the United States, it became clear to me that few Americans fully understand what it means to be under military occupation for 44 years. Imagine a situation where all universities are closed down by a foreign military power for a total of three years. That happened here in the eighties. Imagine a situation in which all elected local municipality councils are dismissed by the military and replaced by foreign officers. That happened to us in the seventies.


Impact of Bin Laden’s death on homeland security

When Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals, our nation achieved a critical victory in our fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorists who seek to harm our country. It took nearly ten years to capture America’s most wanted terrorist, and the brave and relentless actions of our military and intelligence professionals were nothing short of heroic. 

Unfortunately, the death of Osama bin Laden does not mean the end of al Qaeda or terrorist threats to the United States. Bin Laden’s death may have brought a form of closure Americans needed after that horrendous Tuesday morning in 2001, but it did not eliminate the terrorist threat at home and abroad. In fact, intelligence officials warn that the killing of the al Qaeda leader may lead to a surge in terrorist threats to U.S. interests. 


Herat: the human consequences

It’s my first time in Herat, a 2,500-year-old city in Afghanistan’s “wild west.” Compared to other Afghan cities, it certainly feels wealthier and is better organized with its tree-lined avenues and stoplights, which are actually respected by drivers and motorcyclists. Despite some semblance of order, criminality and the drug trade abounds and insecurity looms just outside the city limits. 

My colleague and I traveled to Guzara, about an hour outside Herat City, where forty displaced families arrived in February. They came from eastern Badghis, which has been the focus of military operations and airstrikes by coalition and Afghan forces against the Taliban over the past year. No humanitarian organizations have access to their area because of the insecurity.  


A straitjacket for American nuclear strategy

The New START treaty was a success story for American security, but highly politicized parts of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), recently passed in the House of Representatives, threaten to hamstring the American military’s ability to implement this vital agreement. 

The New START treaty was vigorously debated in the Senate, and was ratified with broad bipartisan support. This was because the treaty is in our national security interest, is supported by every former secretary of state, seven former Stratcom commanders and many other respected voices from both sides of the aisle.


Aid to women farmers could help alleviate global food crisis

As budget battles continue on Capitol Hill, some officials are calling for reductions in foreign aid and development programs. Before broadly slashing such assistance, it’s important to individually evaluate its effectiveness.

Constructive aid can do two important things: improve living conditions of women around the world and help alleviate the global food crisis.

On the other hand, poorly run or misguided assistance can actually be counterproductive in ameliorating the nutrition outlook of the 1 billion people worldwide who are already undernourished.


Our involvement in Libya should be limited

Today, I will propose an amendment that would prevent funds authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act from being used to fund any type of ground combat operations in Libyan territory. 

My amendment would simply codify the policy endorsed by President Obama and the international community, and thereby ensure that our involvement in Libya remains limited in scope. I am proud to report that my amendment enjoys bipartisan support, including the endorsement of my colleagues Ms. Clarke, Mr. Cohen, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Jones,  Mr. Farr, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. Honda, Mr. Kucinich, Mr. Johnson of Illinois, Ms. Lee, Mr. McClintock, Mr. George Miller, Mr. Stark, Mr. Tonko, Mr. Welch, and Ms. Woolsey.

Specifically, my amendment would prevent funds from being used to deploy, establish, or maintain a presence of members of the Armed Services or private security contractors on the ground in Libya. My amendment also contains an exception that would allow for the rescue of members of the Armed Forces participating in the NATO no fly zone operation. 


Netanyahu’s address to Congress is a recipe for disaster, not peace

Taking advantage of his New York accent while addressing Congress on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an eloquent speech offering only more obstacles to a lasting and just peace in the Middle East. He not only failed to provide a vision for the peace process in a changing Middle East, but also introduced new terms and phrases that will likely hamper any peace efforts in the future. 


No replay of Iraq and Afghanistan: No boots on the ground in Libya

We recently passed the two-month mark since the military air campaign against Libya began. This is significant because the War Powers Act requires that a president receive a congressional mandate for any military action within 60 days. 

The deadline came and went without any resolution being brought before the House or the Senate. 

It’s just another signal that our engagement in Libya is lingering on without much accountability, without a vigorous debate about the consequences of what we’re doing there.


Eliminating USIP is unwise and unsafe

From a national security standpoint, the decision made earlier this year by Republicans in the House of Representatives to eliminate the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) was not only wrong, but unwise. This week, however, is witnessing something far worse. Now, Congressman Cravaack (R-Minn.) is proposing an amendment to the NDAA (H.R. 1540) to repeal the USIP act. 

This goes far beyond the vote on H.R. 1 earlier this year to zero out USIP federal funding (a mere $42 million, or 3 hours of Afghanistan war funding). The Cravaack amendment would eliminate USIP entirely, repealing Title VXII of the Department of Defense Authorization Act, 1985, which authorized the establishment of the United States Institute of Peace.


Obama's European challenge

Contrary to his initial transatlantic tour, President Obama’s arrival in Europe is marked by caution, sober realism and unclear expectations. Uncertainty has replaced the euphoria of "hope."

From Afghanistan to the Middle East and North Africa, policy incoherence has caused much consternation among allies. As geo-political instability increases, determined U.S. leadership is desperately sought. Attempting to push another rhetorical re-start button through charismatic oratory will not work. Mutual pledges targeting realistically concrete results, and not mere aspirations, are essential.
Unlike much of America's traditional foreign policy establishment, Obama's worldview was not shaped within the transatlantic realm. He provides abundant public rhetoric to support the relationship, but certain actions often call his commitment into question.