Foreign Policy

Nuclear weapons - Something we can all agree on

The future of U.S. nuclear weapons is being hotly contested in bitter Congressional debates over the budget. The result is serious uncertainty in defense planning, and that comes with a cost. When nuclear policy is left to be blown about by erratic political winds, there are frequent and sharp changes in direction—changes that are expensive for the American taxpayer, reduce the effectiveness of what we procure, confuse allies, and risk unnecessarily exacerbating tensions with potential foes.
 
We are two nuclear experts who disagree on a lot, including whether the United States should pursue the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. In spite of these differences, however, we both agree the U.S. nuclear enterprise must be modernized and additional arms control measures should be pursued. And what we can agree on, if implemented consistently, would provide some much needed stability in the U.S. approach to the weighty issues of nuclear weapons.

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For America, Law of the Sea Treaty is a loss of sovereignty

Between secret deals with Russia to weaken our missile defense, the relaxation of conditions on military aid to Egypt, and the granting of visas to the progeny of a dictatorial Cuban regime – just to name a few troubling actions – the current Administration’s flippant attitude toward America’s sovereignty and its role on the world stage is a major cause for concern. This concern is not eased by the Administration’s latest efforts: A push to ratify the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Treaty.
 
The Law of the Sea Treaty seeks to regulate and limit the use of the world’s oceans for commercial use and environmental management and would determine the extent to which national territory extends off a nation’s coasts. In doing so, the treaty ignores centuries of already established international practices regarding freedom of navigation on the seas and would empower multiple U.N.-established bureaucracies.

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NATO's failure to reopen Pakistani supply routes

Early in the morning on Nov. 24, 2011, two NATO Apache helicopters, an AC-130 gunship and two F-15 strike fighters entered the Mohmand Agency in Northwest Pakistan from Afghanistan and struck two Pakistani border patrol checkpoints, killing 24 soldiers. Pakistan officials protested about the strike, the Pakistani public remains up in arms about the deaths of 24 soldiers, and the Pakistani government canceled NATO access to the Shamsi Airfield (which used to host the flying Predator drones) and to vital Pakistani supply routes.

In the meantime, the United States had been building an alternative to Pakistan. Starting in 2008, the United States began inking deals with various countries in Central Asia and Europe, including Russia, to create a Northern Distribution Network (NDN) that would allow the United States to break its reliance on Pakistani territory to resupply the war effort. When Pakistan closed down its supply routes, it found, suddenly, that it didn’t have quite the same leverage over the United States it once did. The United States could still run the war, even if the northern resupply cost more than the old Pakistan-based routes.

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Defining Palestinian refugee status and the consequences

In what can be described as both a landmark bill for Middle East peace and a provocation that could stir the wrath of the whole Arab world, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has proposed legislation that could strip millions of Palestinians of their refugee status.

Kirk’s bill, which is being marked-up today, would amend the 2013 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to change the status of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Palestinian refugees. More than 4.9 million Palestinians currently claim refugee status, despite the fact that they were never personally displaced by the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars.

If left intact, Kirk’s proposal would require the U.S. government to confirm how many Palestinians currently served by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency are actually refugees.

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Confidence building is needed in upcoming P5-1 - Iran talks

The most promising summit in years is scheduled to take place this week between the P5+1 and Iran to discuss the enduring stalemateover the Iranian nuclear program. A number of factors – the threat of additional sanctions, a growing divide in Israel, and an Iranian willingness to discuss ideas – are coming together in a way that indicates a successful dialogue may be achievable. This meeting has the potential to actually accomplish something tangible and finally cross the threshold from talk to action.
 
Even agreements to discuss additional IAEA inspections or small confidence building measures would mark a successful conference. The Iranian nuclear issue is at a point where even a small but concrete agreement will tip the slide and start rolling the ball forward.
 
Going into the summit, the list of demands from the P5+1 include the removal of Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched Uranium, dismantling the Fordow enrichment site, and allowing IAEA inspectors into the Parchin military facility. But to achieve these goals the United States must allow for flexible and creative solutions thatincorporate Iranian political restraints.

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A new way of doing business on food security

Today, Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, home to seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies. In fact, just this week, the International Monetary Fund’s
 
Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa projected Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth to remain above 5 percent — faster than many newly industrialized Asian economies.
 
The major force behind this dramatic growth has been significant increases in private sector investment and trade in the region. Foreign direct investment flows to the continent now hover around $80 billion and trade has tripled over the last decade. But this private sector boom has largely missed Africa’s agricultural economy, favoring investments in resources like oil, gas and minerals.

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How to kill the nuclear triad

Thanks to weak enemies and economic austerity, the U.S. nuclear triad—the ability to deliver nuclear weapons with land and submarine based ballistic missiles and bomber aircraft— is getting wobbly. As Congress struggles to squeeze the defense budget under self-imposed caps, it should embrace proposals, like the one just offered by the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright, to scrap either the bomber leg or land missile leg of triad and reduce the others’ size. That would save billions annually without sacrificing security.

The triad grew from bureaucratic compromise, not strategic necessity. After World War II, nukes seemed like the weapon of the future. The Air Force saw their delivery as part of the strategic bombing mission that had just given their service independence. Their ownership of that mission, and eventually land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, won them budget share at the expense of other services. The Navy, eager to avoid a becoming something like a transoceanic bus service, found an ingenious way to get into the nuclear game: they put missiles on submarines.

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World leaders address global child malnutrition crisis

If you had $75 billion to spend on solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, where would you start? An expert panel of Nobel laureate economists known as the Copenhagen Consensus recently answered that question. After extensive research and consultation, they determined that the single best investment the world could make to advance health and prosperity would be to fight malnutrition in young children.

We have always known that tackling child malnutrition is the right thing to do. Perhaps now that it’s seen by experts as the smartest thing to do, we will be able to mobilize the investment needed to finally tackle a condition that plagues close to 200 million children, robbing them of their health and future potential.

Thankfully, we already know how to prevent the needless suffering and the nearly 3 million child deaths that result each year from malnutrition. Simple interventions such as breastfeeding and inexpensive treatments for diarrhea management in young children could save more than 1 million lives a year.

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Libya: A country in transition

Libya is at a crossroads. The countries that spent billions on the air campaign to destroy Gaddafi’s military from above should do more to support democracy on the ground. Little in terms of resources or time is being spent by NATO countries. At a minimum they could send advisors to help create new democratic institutions, implement transparency mechanisms, provide greater support for electoral systems and train and equip security forces.
 
Last week’s attack on the Prime Minister’s office should be a concern, but not for reasons you might think. Such incidents have been portrayed as evidence Libya is torn apart by violent militias, is divided by geographical and tribal loyalties, and is on the brink of establishing a Sharia law state. These depictions are inaccurate. In fact, since January 1 there have been fewer homicides per capita than in the United States.

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First, do no harm

This afternoon’s House mark-up of the State, Foreign Operations spending bill will show the world just how far and how fast some in the U.S. are willing to retreat from assuming America’s traditional leadership role in global affairs.

The House GOP leadership has allocated the State, Foreign Operations subcommittee 9 percent less funding than was appropriated for the same accounts last year. This puts the subcommittee in a challenging position. Cuts are inevitable.

The subcommittee has already telegraphed what it would like to do. Support for vulnerable countries in some of the world’s most volatile regions will be slashed; natural disaster preparedness and response capacity will be diminished; global health programs and American assistance to refugees will be drastically scaled back – at a time when the world’s most vulnerable people need it the most.

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