Foreign Policy

Some questions for Sen. Kerry to answer at confirmation hearing

Ten years ago this week, Sen. John Kerry said during a speech at Georgetown University: “America now stands as the world’s foremost power. We should be proud. Not since the age of the Romans have one people achieved such preeminence. But we are not Romans; we do not seek an empire. We are Americans, trustees of a vision and a heritage that commit us to the values of democracy and the universal cause of human rights.”
In the past ten years, the United States has seen three presidential elections, the surge and wind down of two wars, transformative protests in the Middle East, technology that has globalized the flow of information, including into repressive societies, and a new generation of human rights defenders who have confidence and vision that history is on their side. Kerry’s proposition on American leadership is as relevant today as it was when he posed it. As he prepares for his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State in the second Obama administration, Kerry should expand on that vision of America and articulate how he plans to assume its heritage and continue Secretary Clinton’s legacy that put U.S. leadership on human rights at the center of its diplomacy.


Unraveling the truth about Benghazi

A cloud of confusion, controversy and unanswered questions has surrounded the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed four American lives. It marked the first time since 1979 an American ambassador was killed in the line of duty. The tragic events have pulled back the curtain on the Obama administration’s questionable handling of our diplomatic missions overseas, spotlighting systematic failures at the State Department and raising concerns about similar attacks in the future.


Armenia and Azerbaijan: Arriving at a fair and honest discourse

I am writing in response to the article by Harry Semerdjian “Christian Armenia and Islamic Iran: An unusual partnership explained”. While I welcome the author’s intention to be unbiased and balanced in his explanation of geopolitics of the South Caucasus, I sense that his valiant attempt did not quite come off.
Of course, it’s every nation’s prerogative and sovereign right to choose its friends and allies. Countries are also free to house foreign military bases on their soil and choose to be called someone’s outpost in the Caucasus. Justifying why you choose your friends is also normal part of diplomatic or political discourse.


Why Obama's 'extended hand' is counter-productive

In the 19th century, U.S. abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison astutely observed, “With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.”
Garrison recognized something in the psyche of tyrants that withstands the test of time.


G-Global: A new forum to replace G-20 and G-8

In our rapidly changing world, old institutions often survive but are regularly supplemented with newer, larger groups that keep pace with progress. That’s certainly the case with the G-8 and G-20 meetings, which have an important place in diplomacy but also have limitations. As the world develops, dynamic nations clamor to have their voices heard.

One of those rising-star nations, Kazakhstan, has an idea for diplomatic expansion that has merit. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has publicly criticized the G-20 and G-8 as too inefficient to deal with global financial problems and has suggested creating a new format for communication called G-Global. The idea is to significantly widen the number of participants in diplomatic meetings in order to help forestall global financial meltdowns of the kind we’ve seen too often.


The problem with torture

This month marks the 11th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Coupled with the theatrical opening of the torture-justifying film, “Zero Dark Thirty,” the debate on torture has risen to the forefront, and this week, I join the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in its efforts to tell the truth about torture in opposition to the new film and to ensure that the public realizes that President Obama vowed to close the Guantanamo prison, but has reneged on his promise – leaving the United States in a moral lurch.
Like most people, much of my opinion on the matter is shaped by my personal experiences and values. Torture is a moral issue. As a person of faith, I was taught that all humans are created in His image. As a Christian, I know that Jesus was a victim himself of torture and informed his followers that “what you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.”


Why foreign aid should not end up a casualty of the Congressional budget battles

As an anti-hunger advocate, I am holding my breath. I am hopeful about the global change that President Obama could make in his second term, especially when it comes to reducing poverty, but I worry Congress might toss the hungry off the fiscal cliff.

During President Obama’s inaugural address four years ago, he pledged to work with the people of poor nations to reduce hunger. He also suggested that a nation like ours can no longer “consume the world's resources without regard to effect” on the world. Not only was President Obama spot-on at that time, he continues to be on the right path by keeping his word throughout the last four years.


Working our way back to prosperity through expanded free trade

According to the latest unemployment report, our country has once again failed to make any meaningful economic progress with the rate of joblessness at 7.8 percent. This rate is no better than it has been in the past four years, as unemployment has consistently been higher than 7.7 percent since President Barack Obama took office. These abysmal unemployment numbers are compounded by unmitigated government spending that is causing our national debt to rise to a staggering $16.5 trillion, defenestrating our nation’s consumer confidence in the process.


Foreign aid: A Beltway outsider perspective

As you were waiting for your bags at National Airport last weekend, you might have seen me. As you were rushing out of the Metro to make it to your meeting, you probably glanced at my face.
As one of the people featured in Oxfam America’s new ad campaign, I’m all over your town. I hope you stopped for a second to look in my eyes so you can see what I have seen. But perhaps you haven’t, which is why I am writing you this now.


Christian Armenia and Islamic Iran: An unusual partnership explained

While the West has recently tightened its sanctions against Iran, its only Christian neighbor has taken a different approach towards the Islamic Republic. Political constraints and lack of options have coerced landlocked Armenia to adopt a policy dissimilar to the West’s for one basic reason – survival.
Armenia is located in the South Caucasus - one of the most volatile regions in the world, where East meets West and North meets South. It lies at the crossroads of Islam and Christianity. This is where NATO and the USSR once drew their boundary, but where war and history have maintained closed borders even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This is also where expansive oil and gas pipelines traverse, supplying Europe with energy resources from the hydrocarbon-rich Caspian Sea.