Foreign Policy

Day Two: Shousha transit camp, Ras Edjir border crossing

TUNISIA - We left Tunis in the early hours of the morning for the short flight to the town of Zarzis, on the Mediterranean Sea. In the summer months, Zarzis is a bustling tourist resort town. Today, it is playing host to myriad government and non-government organizations that have quickly mobilized to deal with the huge influx of people fleeing Libya just an hour’s drive away.

Upon our arrival, we drove to the Shousha transit camp near Tunisia’s Ras Edjir Border Crossing. Tens of thousands of people have passed through the camp. Today, it was playing host to about 17 000. The logistics of coping with such a large, fluctuating community are staggering. We arrived just as those in the camp stood waiting for food in queues that stretched as far as I could see. Talking to officials with the World Food Programme, we are told that in order to feed 17 000 people in a reasonable amount of time, they must serve an average of 50 people per minute.


Libya no-fly zone: Practical, necessary and the right thing

In three weeks of violence, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi has used air assets to attack unarmed protestors, import mercenaries and weapons and deny suffering civilians access to aid. Extensive discussion about the best way to protect civilians has centered mostly on whether or not the United States should implement a no-fly zone. We should – not only because it is logistically doable, but also because we have a moral obligation and an internationally recognized responsibility to protect.


Day One: Tunis

TUNISIA - We arrived in Tunisia yesterday (Sunday) evening – the place where it all started. It’s hard to imagine that the popular revolutions sweeping across the Arab world began with one Tunisian man and his modest fruit stand.

But driving in from the airport, you see signs that this country’s revolution is still fresh – military tanks and soldiers on the streets, barbed wire surrounding the central police station across from our hotel.


No-fly won’t fly constitutionally

Last week, we once again heard numerous voices calling for intervention in Libya. Most say the U.S. should establish a “no-fly” zone over Libya, pretending that it is a benign, virtually cost-free action, and the least we could do to assist those trying to oust the Gaddafi regime.

Let us be clear about one thing: for the U.S. to establish a “no fly” zone over all, or part, of Libya would constitute an act of war against Libya. Establishing any kind of military presence in the sovereign territory of Libya will require committing troops to engage in combat against the Libyan air force, as well as anti-aircraft systems.

The administration has stated that nothing is off the table as they discuss U.S. responses to the unrest. This sort of talk is alarming on so many levels. Does this mean a nuclear strike is on the table? Apparently so.


A fresh look for international engagement

As a proud fiscal conservative in the House of Representatives, I was scrupulous about every single dollar of taxpayer money that was spent. As Ambassador to Tanzania, I saw first-hand the critical importance of American engagement in the world today, and the tangible effect it has on our national security and economic growth here at home.

During this time when we need to tighten our belts, many wonder how we can be fiscally responsible and still make the critical investments we need in our International Affairs Budget. The answer is we need to modernize our International Affairs programs with a greater emphasis on transparency, accountability and effectiveness. 


Two myths about the Middle East the world should do without

PARIS - One collateral "damage" of recent events in the Middle East may be the crumbling of two widely-held myths: one speaks of the “Arab exception” and seeks to explain it through culturalist notions asserting that Arab and more broadly Muslim societies are inherently anti-democratic; the second claims that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

The popular uprisings originating in Sidi Bouzid last December and still spreading to other parts of the Arab world have surely knocked down the first myth.


Thinking past the no-fly zone debate: Charting a course for U.S. policy

Libya’s increasingly bloody conflict has inspired more calls for U.S. military intervention, with many clamoring for the imposition of a no-fly zone over the North African country.

Imposing a no-fly zone could raise the morale of “rebel” forces, back Colonel Muammar Qadhafi into a tighter corner politically, and fill a reflexive need felt by western powers to do something beyond rhetoric and economic sanctions in the wake of the unfolding three-week-old crisis.

However, while such a military operation would address some of the symptoms of Libya’s civil war, it would not address the cause: the continued repression meted out by Qadhafi’s dictatorship. Based on recent reporting, preventing Qadhafi’s air force from taking to the air may not be a game-changer. It would not halt the killing on the ground, where the pitched battles are being fought, or decisively tilt the balance of power against Qadhafi, who has a land power advantage over the rebels. Moreover, it could divert critical U.S. military assets from important missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Washington should resist the impulse to impose a no-fly zone just to do something. Washington and its allies should carefully consider options that will decisively impact the Libyan crisis.


The next phase of U.S. strategy on Iran

In an annual Washington rite on Thursday, the head of the U.S. intelligence community will publicly brief the Senate on the major threats facing the nation.

Amid carefully worded comments on everything from Libya to terrorism, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s most important remarks will focus on Iran’s nuclear program – namely, that diligent U.S. efforts have created both time and opportunity. Policymakers will have to decide how best to use both.


What would Churchill make of the Middle East?

I spent last week in the Midwest – traveling to Chicago, St Louis and then to Fulton, Mo., for events marking the 65th anniversary of Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College.  I used my speech in Fulton to reflect both on how much has changed in the world since Churchill’s day, and on some constants of international relations that he would well have recognized.

Despite the rise of new powers such as China and India, it is striking to see how much of today’s global security and prosperity still flows, as it did in Churchill’s day, from the transatlantic alliance, and particularly the US-UK relationship.  At Fulton, and in a separate speech in St Louis, I pointed to a relationship in defense, intelligence and counter-terrorism that is closer than any other and makes our countries and the world more secure; to an investment relationship that creates a million jobs in the US and the same number in the UK (indeed UK investment here is a staggering 570 times China’s); and to a partnership in science and innovation that remains the world’s strongest, with 50 percent of all science and all ten of the world’s top universities (and 26 of the top 30) in either the US or the UK.


Obama’s support of the international criminal court: Worrisome

The recent UN Security Council Resolution authorizing the International Criminal Court to investigate Libya’s Gadhafi boasted unprecedented U.S. support for such a potential prosecution. The United States is not a signatory to the ICC treaty.  In a similar vote in the past – when the Security Council referred Sudan’s Al-Bashir to the ICC – the United States abstained. That was during the administration of President George W. Bush.

President Obama’s positive support of ICC action in the Security Council on February 26 can have very important ramifications for the United States in terms of its standing and credibility within the world community. It could possibly even carry implications for our country’s national sovereignty.

The United States rejected the ICC treaty for reasons of vital national security interests. Given our significant military involvement overseas, the Pentagon would never want to place its soldiers at the mercy of a potential political witch hunt by ICC prosecutors.  It is to this effect that the Obama administration included a clause in the recent resolution exempting U.S. military in the Libya case – should they be drawn into the conflict there.