Foreign Policy

Remaining engaged in Libya

As NATO officially ends its Libya mission, critical questions are emerging about Libya’s future and the international community's continued involvement. Despite the operation’s technical termination, engagement by NATO and regional allies must not cease.  


The Afghan talks: moving from semantics to substance

We have heard this story before. The “only solution” to the Afghan conflict is a political settlement with the Taliban. The adversary could be brought “home” under a national “reconciliation and reintegration” framework. There are “indications” that the Taliban are interested in dialogue. Allured by incentives, they would abandon their arms, and aims, and become constructive members of the society. They have always wanted to compromise but we never opened any doors. 

Yet, this pure reconciliation-based optimistic view of peace, like its opposite - the one that hinges solely on military successes - misses the point. It considers the two approaches – military and political - mutually exclusive. We however need to work on both approaches in tandem. This view also presupposes the primacy of approach over objectives. The approach should in fact be guided by our objectives and informed by the local context in Afghanistan.

The current approach towards bringing peace in Afghanistan is flawed in its design because of three fundamental reasons:


Sen. Wyden should hold Israel to same standard as Bahrain

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is admirably legislating against U.S. arms sales to Bahrain, the autocratic Gulf kingdom which has killed at least 30 protesters during the Arab Spring. To suppress protests, Bahrain has arrested more than 1,600 protesters, has fired 2,500 from their jobs, and is handing down harsh jail terms to medical personnel who treated injured protesters. This brutal repression of Bahraini human rights led Wyden to introduce a resolution to prohibit U.S. weapons sales to Bahrain until it meets stringent human rights criteria, helping to generate enough political pressure so that the Obama Administration has delayed implementation of its shameful decision last month to sell $53 million of weapons to Bahrain.

“Selling weapons to a regime that is violently suppressing peaceful civil dissent and violating human rights is antithetical to our foreign policy goals and the principle of basic rights for all that the U.S. has worked hard to promote,” Wyden argued.

While this principle should apply to all U.S. weapons sales, it should be even more strictly adhered to when U.S. taxpayers are funding weapons sales through military aid. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid, scheduled to receive $30 billion in taxpayer-financed weapons between 2009 and 2018, and also violently suppresses nonviolent Palestinian protest and commits grave human rights violations against Palestinians living under its illegal 44-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.


Foreign aid shouldn’t be first thing on the chopping block

In this fiscal climate, recent debates have brought a growing amount of attention and support to the notion that the U.S. foreign aid budget should be cut.  Many Americans, concerned that the government is spending their hard-earned tax dollars abroad when there are so many pressing issues at home, argue that we need to take care of ourselves before we take care of others. 

There is validity to the argument.  After all, how can someone help others if they themselves are bed-ridden?  Why should we as a country spend tens of billions on foreign aid when our infrastructure crumbles and the government is desperately seeking ways to reign in our spending?

The answer is: it is in our national interest to do so.


U.S. should abandon support of SCAF

As the United States government receives a delegation of Egypt’s ruling military junta, Egyptians mourn the tragic and heinous murder of 26 of their sons and daughters, most of whom are Coptic Christians, at the hands of that very junta.  On October 9, as peaceful protesters marched toward Egypt’s radio and television building known as Maspero to object to the latest in a long history and pattern of sectarian attacks targeting Egypt’s Christian minority, they were greeted with live ammunition and mowing by armored personnel carriers (AMC’s).

The New York Times reported that according to initial autopsy reports, at least seven of the dead were killed by live ammunition and 10 were crushed to death by vehicles.  As the massacre was ongoing, Egyptian state media was reporting that “Coptic sectors were attacking the military, and had killed three soldiers,” an allegation later refuted by media and unconfirmed by the military, which until now refuses to release the names of its alleged dead soldiers. 

State television further called upon “honorable citizens to come to the defense of Egypt’s military, which is facing attacks by the Copts,” in a manner, according to one anchorwoman, “not even the Israelis would dare.”  As a result, the tragedy was further exacerbated when roving mobs went searching for Christians to avenge the alleged attack on the military, and some Muslim extremists took to the streets with sectarian chants and threats against Christians, which played out in random acts of vigilante violence. 


A woman wronged

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko is no Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader.  She is no Yelena Bonner, the late human rights activist in Soviet Times. She is no Joan of Arc.

In fact, it would be a mistake for the United States government to treat the recently sentenced Tymoshenko as more than she is.

She is a flawed but charismatic politician who – absent the current spurious charges—had some questionable dealings in the gas industry in the mid 1990s and was a relatively ineffective prime minister.

However, under any modern day rule of law, international court, or the court of public opinion, she is not guilty of anything other than seeking a gas price deal from Russia that, in retrospect, was probably the best she could do at the time.


Don’t cut lifesaving health assistance

Five years ago, Richard Sianeza was on his deathbed, dying of AIDS. A farmer in Zambia, he had spent seven months unable to work and unable to support his family. A World Vision community caregiver paid Richard a visit and encouraged him to be tested for HIV.

“This is why I am alive today,” he says. “Imagine what would have happened if I didn’t go for voluntary counseling and testing.” He speaks knowledgably about his illness. “My CD4 count was 120,” well below a normal count between 500 and 1200. “But after being on antiretroviral drugs for more three years now, my CD4 count has shot up to 1,368.”

Richard is now healthy enough to work his farm, earn extra income by fishing, and inspire others in his community to be tested for HIV. Because Richard is healthy and working, his children are in school rather than an orphanage, preparing for their role in Zambia’s future.

Richard is just one of the millions of people alive today because of American leadership. Yes, U.S. foreign assistance is a primary reason Richard is alive and healthy today.


Inspired by Cuba's pro-democracy leaders

What could be more pompous (and insulting) than the argument that American and foreign tourists can "inspire" the Cuban people to seek democracy? Not much.

Well, on second thought, maybe Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York calling their bill to sweep away all remaining restrictions on American travel to Cuba, the "Export Freedom to Cuba Act."

Or, the Obama Administration, which rejects American exceptionalism everywhere else in the world, arguing that American travelers (that have been carefully screened for entry by the Castro regime) are our best "Ambassadors of Freedom" to the Cuban people.


Looking back at Reykjavik

Twenty-five years ago, on October 11-12, 1986, Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavík, Iceland and came close to agreeing to eliminate their nuclear arsenals within 10 years.  The main sticking point was the US “Star Wars” missile defense technology.  Reagan wouldn’t give up its development and future deployment, and Gorbachev wouldn’t accept that.
The two men had the vision and the passion to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, but a difference of views about the role of missile defenses kept them from concluding an agreement.  For Reagan, these defenses were seen as protective and helpful.  For Gorbachev, these defenses upset the strategic balance between the two countries by making the possibility of US offensive attacks more likely.   
            The summit at Reykjavik was a stunning moment in Cold War history.  It was a moment when two men, leaders of their respective nuclear-armed countries, almost agreed to rid the world of its gravest danger.  Both were ready to take a major leap from arms control negotiations to nuclear disarmament.  Rather than seeking only to manage the nuclear arms race, they were ready to end it.  Their readiness to eliminate these weapons of annihilation caught their aides and the world by surprise.  Unfortunately, their passion for the goal of abolition could not be converted to taking the action that was necessary.


Korea: The starting line to America’s trade with Asia

In the sluggish, swamp-like heat of Washington this past summer, even progress on pro-growth policies with bipartisan support came grinding to a halt, leaving the pending trade agreement between South Korea and the United States in legislative purgatory for the fourth straight year.

Unfortunately, this summer was different than the previous four. Washington’s partisan bickering put America’s businesses and workers at a distinct competitive disadvantage as the European Union breezed past us and implemented a trade agreement with South Korea on July 1.

This shifted the discussion over trade agreements beyond a debate about creating jobs in America, and into a dispute over retaining America’s global competitiveness.  With the EU-South Korea agreement in effect, more than 90 percent of European goods are now entering the Korean market duty free.  In just July, this led to a 36 percent increase in exports for European companies over the year before. Meanwhile, U.S. exports to South Korea increased by just 3 percent in the same period.

It’s not just the EU that is beating the United States to reaching consumers in Asia.  The number of trade agreements worldwide is exploding, with more than 300 agreements in force and 150 more in various stages of completion. Korea, for example, has FTAs in force with 45 countries and more in the pipeline. By contrast, the United States has entered into just two FTAs with Asia-Pacific countries: Singapore and Australia.