Foreign Policy

Defense strategy only charts America's decline

With his new defense strategy President Obama has charted another step on his road map for American decline. His inconsistent, lead-from-behind mentality has diminished our standing in the world. As our exit from Iraq last month demonstrated, the commander in chief is more concerned with political appearances than with well-thought-out strategy.
 
The men and women of the United States military do an extraordinary job of executing their orders. They have been stretched throughout the past decade, but their service has paved the way for freedom in Iraq, while keeping terrorists from using their familiar haunts in Afghanistan to plan and carry out attacks on innocent Americans. The sacrifices of our fallen and wounded reveal a legacy of courage that truly is the greatness of our nation.

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Middle East 'Marshall Plan' will sustain Arab Spring

Just over one year after a Tunisian fruit seller immolated himself and ignited a wave of popular revolts across the Arab world, the region remains poised between the promise of momentous transformation and the peril of failed revolutions. The Arab world—together with the international community—still lacks a coherent strategy to fulfill popular aspirations for dignity, democracy, and economic opportunity. Yet, a unique window exists to harness these powerful forces of change and ensure that the region embarks on a path toward peace and prosperity.
 
The dizzying pace of change would have been unimaginable just a year ago. To date, the Arab world has witnessed the overthrow of four leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. One other country—Syria—is embroiled in a bloody conflict that could end with its leader’s ouster. Bahrain’s uprising was brutally repressed, while Jordan and Morocco are promoting partial reforms in the hopes of pre-empting their own popular uprisings.

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Burma: Unraveling the paradox

Traveling in Burma last month, it wasn’t hard to see that things really are changing in this beautiful but troubled country. Posters of Aung San Suu Kyi filled market stalls and hung proudly in the offices of local civil society groups – a remarkable change from the past, when possessing just one was a cause for arrest. Activists of all backgrounds spoke openly about politics, even in public spaces, without the usual hushed tones and glances over the shoulder.
 
Sadly, however, human rights abuses and corruption also continue in this “new Burma”. In the ethnic areas we visited – Kachin in the north, and Karen and Mon in the east – the optimism we heard in Yangon was muted. In Kachin, we visited church compounds where women and children sheltered in crowded assembly halls after military attacks destroyed their homes. In the east, we met a Baptist pastor running aid programs for displaced communities, who had been ordered by authorities to give up part of the church’s land to a private company.

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Defense exports should be part of budget deliberations

With budgets shrinking, exports like the F-35 sale to Japan (and the recently announced F-16 sales to Iraq and Oman and F-15s to Saudi Arabia) save Americans money while increasing security at home and abroad—a true win-win. But contrary to conventional logic, Congressional action (or inaction!) is poised to damage the very foundations that make these sales possible.

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US Chamber of Commerce flirts with moral hazard in FCPA fight

The US Chamber of Commerce, Washington’s largest lobbying organization, spent more than $700,000 in 2011 in its quest to curb the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Is that really what’s best for American businesses?
 
Invoking the rhetoric of a populist manifesto, the Chamber is trying to make the case that increased enforcement of the FCPA has had a chilling effect on US businesses, causing them to avoid doing deals abroad for fear of setting off a FCPA investigation. But while this sentiment sounds pro-America, it is actually quite the opposite. Beneath the flag-waving sentiment, the Chamber is essentially asking for the US government to look the other way on bribery of foreign officials. That sets a dangerous precedent for a way of doing business that does not favor US corporations.

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It's worth putting Hamas to the test

The first Israeli-Palestinian face-to-face meeting in over a year just took place in Amman and another meeting is scheduled for next week.  Given the painfully low expectations on all sides particularly against Israel’s announcement—just hours before this week’s talks were to begin—of plans to construct 300 housing units beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem, one might ask why the exercise is even being attempted?
 
This month also marks the third anniversary of Israel’s devastating three-week war on Gaza and it appears that another attack may be brewing.  Recently, the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. General Benny Gantz, said that another strike on Gaza is not a matter of choice for Israel. The past few weeks have shown a clear statistical relationship between Israeli missile strikes against Gaza—one of which exploded on Gaza city’s main commercial street last month—and an increase in homemade rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza into Israel. Israel’s attack was reportedly the first on Gaza city since its 2008-09 war on the Strip.[1] Why would Israel attack Gaza city in December and engage in peace talks with Ramallah in January?

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A long-term strategy for US national security

The new U.S. Defense Strategy, personally released this morning by President Obama, marks a dramatic change for defense policy. Previous national security strategies have been defined, to a large degree, by the need to fight two major wars simultaneously. The new strategy, which also cuts ground forces to reorient the military on an air-sea battle in the Pacific, removes that old two-war requirement. What does this mean?

The old cliché that the military is always fighting the last war is truer than ever: the Obama administration thinks the limited intervention in Libya was a resounding success (even if the fate of Libya remains very much in doubt), and wants to replicate other successes with a sea-basedairpower conflict. The most obvious target for this goal is China, and in the new defense strategy there is a lot of language detailing the “threat” of a competition in the Pacific Ocean.

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Free trade can bring change to North Korea

The sudden death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has brought a new dimension of uncertainty and anxiety to the Korean peninsula and the adjacent region.  In the minds of policymakers from South Korea and other countries lies one critical question: what’s next? It is high time that these countries systematically reexamine their options on (and off) the table. They have to prepare for the long-term. Free trade is one of the cardinal considerations in this big picture.
 
This year both the South Korean Parliament and the U.S. Congress passed the long-stalled Korean – U.S. FreeTrade Agreement (KORUS FTA). Although this pact is expected to herald an era of mutual prosperity to both countries, little is known as to another potential for a bigger diplomatic-economic success: The KORUS FTA may offer North Korea powerful incentives to behave.
 
Unbeknownst to many outsiders, both Koreas are quietly conducting a small-scale capitalist experiment within the North Korean territory.

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Time has come for America to reconsider its position on the ICC

In the run-up to the debate in the Dutch Senate about the ban on ritual slaughter several American Congressmen published a letter in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, calling on the Dutch Parliament to reject an initiative bill banning ritual slaughter in the Netherlands, proposed by Marianne Thieme, member of the House of Representatives for the animal rights party. They argued that the Netherlands would breach international agreements, should Parliament adopt the bill. Notwithstanding the fact that a debate on this issue has to be held, the United States of America themselves ought to take their international responsibility by ratifying the 1998 Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Over the past year, the International Criminal Court has gained credibility. In a relatively short period of time, the UN Security Council managed to adopt far-reaching resolutions with regard to Libya and Ivory Coast. Resolutions 1973 and 1975 provided the international community with "all necessary means" to protect civilians against increasing violence. Moreover, in both cases the Security Council asked the International Criminal Court to investigate into reported acts of violence.

Given this development it is all the more embarrassing that a country such as the United States of America undermines the credibility of resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, by not recognising the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

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A “New START” for arms control

One year ago today, I watched from the Senate Gallery as Senators from both sides of the aisle gave their advice and consent to the New START Treaty. This great bipartisan effort is paying big dividends now in strengthening U.S. national security. 

The New START Treaty entered into force on February 5th of this year and immediately entered implementation. It is going very well. The process has been pragmatic, business-like, and productive – a continuation of the working relationship we established with our Russian colleagues during the negotiations in Geneva.

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