Foreign Policy

Playing word games while Iran builds bombs

Politicians sometimes use word games and bureaucratic trickery to stop initiatives they disagree with. The most recent example: Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) June 6 letter to the head of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).


Workable way forward for Guantanamo

The House of Representatives will debate as early as this evening, June 13, whether to adopt an amendment introduced by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) to enact a comprehensive framework for closing Guantanamo as part of the annual defense bill.  Regardless of the final vote on this particular measure, the fact that Congress is finally having a serious debate about Guantanamo and that the president has pledged to work with Congress on the solution is a step in the right direction.


Time to fix the AUMF

During the past decade, the United States has taken extraordinary measures in fighting terrorism all across the globe. Although the threats we face change continuously, the legal authority and framework the executive branch has relied on has remained the same for nearly twelve years.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks, was a declaration of war against the people who attacked us. It gives the president immense power, including over the lives and liberties of American citizens, and doesn’t create much accountability. Since we now face a terror threat that is fundamentally different from the one we faced on 9/11, we must assess the AUMF’s continuing application and relevance, and whether it’s still necessary to fight terrorism.


Trust this administration with immigration reform? Really?

In recent days, Senator Rubio has expressed Americans' doubt in the Obama Administration's commitment to secure the border and faithfully enforce immigration pending reform legislation.  These concerns are inevitable given the administration's willingness to serially sacrifice immigration policy to politics.
The Department of Homeland Security has not only lost public confidence, but that of its own employees.  The union representing ICE agents issued a unanimous vote of no confidence in ICE Director John Morton and deemed DHS's immigration strategy a "law enforcement nightmare developed by the Administration to win votes at the expense of sound and responsible law enforcement policy."  ICE union president Chris Crane testified that DHS leadership inflates deportation totals and ordered ICE agents not to apprehend previously deported fugitives or aliens who illegally re-enter the United States.


President Obama, national security, and human rights: A good speech does not make good policy

On May 21, President Obama gave a national security speech at the National Defense University.  In his speech, President Obama essentially reserved what he sees as a legal and moral right to continue to wage his preferred means of warfare without geographic or temporal limits.

President Obama wants the world to know that the deaths of innocent civilians are tragedies that will haunt him for the rest of his life. It is certainly reassuring to know that deaths of innocent people, killed by the President’s targeted killing program, make it more difficult for him to sleep at night.


The long and winding road to nuclear security

Fifty years ago on June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy in this landmark American University commencement address, surprised the world by announcing the U.S. suspension of above-ground nuclear weapons testing. By the fall of 1963, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) which prohibits nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, underwater, or in space was signed and ratified by the U.S., Soviet Union and Great Britain.  Remarkably, this treaty followed immediately on the heels of the Cuban missile crisis where the U.S. and Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war.

For many of its supporters, the LTBT was a timely compromise but not the best long-term solution. The LTBT prevented the further dispersion of nuclear fallout caused by U.S. and Soviet atmospheric nuclear tests. Well before Kennedy’s June commencement address, measurable and significant levels of radioactive isotopes had been accumulating in the food chain, and subsequently, in human bodies across the globe.  Kennedy was facing increasing public pressure at home to end nuclear testing to eliminate further environmental contamination.


'Strategy for Peace' redux: JFK's speech after 50 years.

Fifty years ago today, a young White House speechwriter took a seat out on American University's baseball field and listened, thrilled, as John F. Kennedy, delivered the commencement speech he had—mostly— written.

What thrilled Ted Sorensen? Hearing " "principles so fully consistent with my own ... primarily on peace."

That speech, “Strategies for Peace,” has become famous, deservedly, and over the last few months, amply celebrated for its "boldness." But on today’s anniversary are we celebrating just eloquence and vision?

No. The speech contains both, especially during the passage everyone has noted: JFK’s astounding and graceful refusal to demonize the enemy.

But we wouldn't remember the rhetoric of “Strategy for Peace” if it weren't for its result: a treaty banning above-ground nuclear tests. To focus exclusively on what Kennedy said is like praising a winning coach for the locker-room speech and ignoring the game plan. The whole truth is more complicated—and in 2013 more valuable.


The danger of politicized foreign investment reviews

At their Sunnylands summit this week, President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping are sure to discuss American attitudes toward Chinese investment in the United States.  The announced takeover of U.S. pork producer Smithfield by China’s Shuanghui has stirred a public debate about foreign takeovers in the United States. Not surprisingly, many Americans have squealed at the idea of a Chinese firm with its hands on their morning bacon. And some experts are calling for an expansion of foreign investment reviews beyond just national security to include a wide range of public policy goals including food safety or labor rights. However, such an expansion of US investment screening would do little to address existing concerns while opening the door to protectionist abuse.


A mass grave on the National Mall

Standing at the heart of the National Mall is the World War II Memorial. Blocks away, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum is honoring its twentieth year. The horrors of World War II, the Holocaust and the heroism of those who fought for freedom and liberated the concentration camps still haunt our collective consciousness. 

The setting of the National Mall inspires us to reflect on our identity as part of human history.

On June 8th, the Mall will cradle one million handmade bones made by well over 100,000 students, artists and activists, genocide scholars and survivors of the many mass atrocities in Congo and Sudan, Syria and Burma, and beyond.  Tens of thousands of our children, from all 50 states and more than 30 countries, have created these bones and many will be laying them out, building a symbolic mass grave to remind us that despite what we promised after Rwanda in 1994,  how often "Never Again" becomes “yet again” and again.


In defense of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus

According to press reports, the Indian government has “concerns” about the creation of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, such that it has “warned” the U.S. government about its very existence. These concerns appear to be grounded in the suspicion that the caucus is a front for an effectively defunct movement for a separate Sikh homeland called “Khalistan.” The concerns are without merit, and the caucus itself stands firmly on bedrock American principles and traditions.