Foreign Policy

GOP presidential candidates pledge to zero out foreign aid

My apologies to Marie Antoinette.  The much-maligned queen may never have actually dismissed her starving people with the callous phrase that they “eat cake,” but the leading Republican candidates for president did tell the world live on television to expect nothing further from the United States of America.  Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and their fellow candidates racing to the bottom of American generosity have declared that eliminating foreign aid – “starting from zero” – will be the central tenet of their foreign policy.
In addition to leaving hundreds of millions of people without lifesaving humanitarian assistance, “zeroing out” foreign assistance betrays some of our key allies like Israel, with whom we have existing agreements and essential partnerships.  Far from plying the world with expensive cake, American foreign assistance is vital to our national security, essential to our moral standing in the world, and greatly enhances our power and influence.  At less than one percent of the federal budget foreign aid costs far less than the outlandish tax cuts for the wealthy proposed by these same candidates. 


Reagan & Reykjavik

The world recently marked the 25th anniversary of the historic Reykjavik summit, when President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met in a simple clapboard house in Iceland to candidly explore an idea: Was it possible, within their lifetimes, to eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of this earth?
The Senate will soon have the chance to advance that vision when it considers the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for ratification. Our leaders should take this next step toward limiting the nuclear threat.
A year before the Reykjavik summit, in Geneva, Switzerland, Reagan and Gorbachev announced to the world "that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." Now, in Reykjavik, decades of Cold War hostility were thawing faster than anyone could have anticipated.


Creating jobs at home through leadership abroad

Around the world, economic forces are shaping global politics, from Arab youth demanding economic opportunity to financial crises toppling governments.  And while our friends in Europe face their most severe economic test since World War II, we continue to have our own economic challenges here at home.  As Harry Truman wisely said, “our relations, foreign and economic, are indivisible.”

That’s why Secretary Clinton has placed economic statecraft at the center of our foreign policy.  As she put it: “America’s economic strength and our global leadership are a package deal.  A strong economy…gives us the leverage we need to exert influence and advance our interests.  It gives other countries the confidence in our leadership and a greater stake in partnering with us.” 

At the same time, our global leadership – from the allure of our values to the network of American diplomatic posts to our unmatched ability to marshal international cooperation – is essential to our economic renewal.  In these tough times, we must not forget that our presence in the world’s most dynamic regions supports job creation at home. 


Bloated nuclear weapons budget ignored at GOP debate

U.S. nuclear weapons received decidedly short shrift in Saturday’s Republican Presidential Debates – especially given the billions of dollars spent each year to maintain a vast arsenal and their formerly preeminent role in American power. Which begs the question - why do we continue to pour billions into programs whose role is so clearly diminished?

Over ninety minutes of debate, there was one only question on the topic, aimed at Governor Rick Perry. In an attempt to recover from his previous “oops” moment, Perry confirmed that the Department of Energy (DOE) was number three on the list of federal agencies he’d like to abolish. In his response, however, he indicated that some other government agency could look after the oversight of energy and seemed either unaware or unconcerned about what would happen to the nuclear weapons that are under DOE’s care.  


Using existing funding, programs and social media to get young people jobs in the Middle East and end unrest

During a major address last week on the challenges facing U.S. foreign policy toward the Arab Spring, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared, “The real choice is between reform and unrest."  
She made these remarks as Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were continuing to kill protestors (3,500 since March), as rockets were being fired (again) by terrorists from Gaza into Israel, Israeli forces were firing back (again), and a few weeks after Palestinians who murdered Israelis returned to Gaza, were hailed as heroes.

The United States can do something now — fairly easy and inexpensive — to help bring reform to this region, end violence and a culture that worships jihad, and replace feelings of hate and despair with those of hope. We can use existing funding and programs to create jobs by tapping into the skyrocketing popularity of social media and the Internet in the Middle East.


Will Congress take Iran diplomacy off the table?

Eighty-percent of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on to the “Iran Threat Reduction Act” (HR 1905, sec 601) which would prohibit U.S. government employees in any “official or unofficial capacity” from contacting anyone who is affiliated with the Iranian government and who “presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations.”
As New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote, “loony schemes like the Orwellian ‘Iran Threat Reduction Act’ before Congress that would make contact with Iranian officials illegal only foment a dangerous jingoism.”  The bill would heighten the threat of war by decreasing the likelihood of a diplomatic resolution of the conflict with Iran, which would give hardliners in Iran greater incentive to race for a nuclear weapon in an effort to deter a U.S. attack.


Ross’s departure

Dennis Ross has finally left the building. Since the Carter administration, Ross has played a crucial role in crafting Middle East policies that have prolonged and exacerbated the more than six-decade conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. His efforts contributed significantly to the growth in the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories from well under 200,000 in the 1980s to nearly 600,000 today. It is in no small measure due to him that the two-state solution is all but dead.
Ross’s tenure during the administrations of five presidents over parts of five decades was marked by a litany of failures. And yet he went from success to bureaucratic success in Washington. His ability to flourish despite these failures reflects the degree to which obsequious support for Israel has become the norm in American politics, even when it contradicts U.S. national interests.


In the aftermath of Libya: al-Qaeda and refugees

The shocking kidnapping of European aid workers on October 23 from a Polisario camp in southwest Algeria is a grim reminder that the latest repercussions of the unrest in Libya are not limited to cries for reconciliation, justice, and greater economic equality. The unfinished regional agenda must include resolving the fate of refugees sequestered in camps in the area as well as enhancing regional security cooperation—critical elements affecting stability throughout North Africa.
As North African countries struggle to respond to domestic demands for reform, refugees from the conflict in the Western Sahara have been largely overlooked. The lack of resolution of their future status provides opportunities for exploitation by terrorist and criminal organizations. In this context, the kidnappings further eroded the already deteriorating security situation in North Africa when ten of al-Qaeda’s local operatives slipped into the Polisario camp in Rabouni, Algeria and kidnapped two Spanish and one Italian aid worker.


McCain’s responsibility for the fake Chinese military parts crisis

U.S. Senators like John McCain understandably have been alarmed to discover that at least one million counterfeit parts – most coming from China – now permeate American weapons and other military systems.  And commendably, they have pledged to deal with a threat that’s been a matter of public record for more than a year and a half, when the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security issued a detailed report on the subject.

But if McCain in particular wants to understand why the armed forces have become so dangerously compromised, he should start by looking in the mirror.  For McCain has long been a major obstacle to Congressional efforts to require that U.S. military products be made mainly of American-manufactured parts, components, and other inputs. 

Moreover, for even longer, McCain has enthusiastically supported the U.S. trade policies that have encouraged the American electronics industry and other high-value U.S. manufacturers to offshore so much production, so many jobs, and lately so much research and development to geopolitically unreliable countries – principally China.


The domino theory of the European economic crisis

A new economic domino theory is hitting Europe. During the cold war, the U.S. was concerned that if one country in a region turned to communism, others in the region would follow. Today, a new domino theory is here and it may be even more dangerous.