Foreign Policy

US’ fiscal and security needs demand swift withdrawal beginning in July

As we approach the planned drawdown of military forces beginning in July 2011, it is clear that large majorities of the American people have endorsed a new way forward in Afghanistan. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans now say the war is no longer worth fighting and three-quarters of Americans believe that the President should withdraw a “substantial number” of combat troops this summer. 

The American people understand that our country’s fiscal state renders the continued funding of a war that costs over $2 billion a week unsustainable. A substantial withdrawal of troops later this year will go a long way towards rebalancing our domestic and overseas priorities and reduce government spending by billions of dollars. 


Arm Libya’s rebels

In endorsing a no fly zone over Libya, the Arab League has taken the extraordinary step of urging western intervention in the Middle East. Nonetheless, we should resist the invitation to make America the lead actor in the Libyan drama. Our task is to help Libyans win their own freedom, not to win it for them. 

We may be running out of time. Over the past week, the tide of battle has turned decisively in favor of forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi, who have dislodged rebels from several towns, opening the road to their Benghazi stronghold. By the time the ponderous machinery of United Nations consensus-building gets around to authorizing a no fly zone, if it ever does, the rebellion could be quashed.

The world needs to help the rebels check Qaddafi’s momentum now, not next month or the one after. It’s hard to see how that can be done without supplying the rebels with intelligence and the heavy arms -- rockets, artillery and tanks -- they need to match Qaddafi’s better equipped and organized forces. The rebels, a mélange of military defectors and valiant but inexperienced civilians, also need weapons and tactical training.


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.