Foreign Policy

Avoiding a US-China confrontation

China is not a military ally of the United States and should be considered a military competitor. Three key factors show that China should be considered a military competitor of the United States. These factors include China’s rhetoric and intentions remain ambiguous, there is competition between foreign policy and strategic military objectives, and China having conflicting relations with many United States regional allies.


First Colombia, Now Afghanistan

Afghanistan is at a critical transition point. As the Middle East boils, the United States hopes for a successful hand-off of internal security to Afghans. On the success of this hand-off, and future deterrence in that country, all else rests. Buffeted by violent extremism, drug-related crime, endemic poverty and minimal infrastructure, Afghanistan will likely remain a dangerous country and isolated market with very limited economic growth potential for some years ahead. But it does not have to be that way forever. Where is the model for success in this challenging environment? Surprisingly, one exists: Colombia of 15 years ago.


Getting smart about our security

Throughout my career in public life and even before, nothing has motivated me more than a desire for an end to wars and violent conflict. When I was a small girl saying my bedtime prayers, I would pray for world peace.
A decade ago, I opposed the Iraq war before it even started. I was appalled that we would invade a nation that hadn’t provoked us; had nothing to do with 9/11; and did not have weapons of mass destruction.


Crisis in Syria calls for Obama's leadership

On Tuesday, the U.S. took a critical step forward in addressing the Syrian crisis, as Obama announced his decision to recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Yet, this recognition of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is not enough – the announcement is merely an attempt to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Al-Assad has already made clear that he will respond to threats against him with an “iron hand.” Obama’s statement did not come with commitments to an establishment of a no-fly zone or support of rebel forces with airstrikes or provision of arms. Nor did it extend legal authority of a state to the coalition. Yesterday’s statement did little more than follow on the heels of Britain, France, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, who have already recognized the Syrian opposition coalition.


EU will stand firm on human rights

The annual celebration of human rights on 10 December falls on the same day that the EU will receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The coincidence is serendipitous. The EU is being honored for promoting democracy, human rights, and reconciliation, and for spreading peace and stability across the continent. This is a great recognition of our past achievements. Yet it  also focuses the spotlight on all of us -- EU Institutions, Member States, and 500 million citizens -- to work together and redouble our efforts to promote and protect human rights not just within our borders, but worldwide.


Kazakhstan's appointment to UNHCR

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can lay claim to be one of history’s great progressive advances. Appalled by the depravity of war and distorted ideology, the international community came together sixty four years ago to agree protections and freedoms to which every person, solely by virtue of their humanity, was entitled.
Human Rights Day, on the anniversary of the Declaration’s adoption by the United Nations, is a celebration of this achievement and ambition. But it is also a reminder that, despite the hopes of the Declaration’s architects, hundreds of millions of people still live in abject misery and fear with their most basic human rights ignored.


What a Senate vote for Disabilities Treaty would really mean

Any post-mortem on the failure of the U.S. Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on December 4 will point to the efforts of people like Rick Santorum to keep enough Senators from voting in favor of the treaty to miss the requirement for two-thirds approval.
Santorum expressed several concerns with the treaty language, including a clause protecting the “best interests of the child.” Before the vote, Santorum wrote a column headlined “This Treaty Crushes U.S. Sovereignty” in which he raised what he saw as the potential  impact of the treaty on his daughter: “In the case of our 4-year-old daughter, Bella, who has Trisomy 18, a condition that the medical literature says is ‘incompatible with life,’ would her ‘best interest’ be that she be allowed to die? Some would undoubtedly say so.”


Window closing on two-state solution and US involvement in peace process

On November 29, 2012, a resolution enhancing the status of Palestine to Observer State passed with an overwhelming majority in the United Nations General Assembly. For the 138 countries who voted ‘yes,’ this resolution not only accorded the Palestinians the long overdue recognition of their right to self-determination, but also took a vital step towards salvaging the internationally endorsed two-state solution. Unfortunately, despite professing support for the two-state solution, the U.S. and Israel were not among this majority.

More than simply opposing this resolution, it is acknowledged that the U.S. has considered a number of punitive measures in response to the enhancement of Palestine’s status. The concept of punishing the Palestinians for a peaceful diplomatic step, aimed at injecting life back into the peace process, is illogical and unreasonable. Meanwhile, not holding Israel accountable for its numerous unilateral, provocative and illegal actions, including its settlement enterprise, annexation of East Jerusalem and siege of Gaza is equally damaging for the prospects of a just and lasting peace.


US pivoting to the Pacific in a new century

Last month, when Barack Obama made his first foreign trip following his re-election as president of the United States, the country he chose to visit first was Thailand. The president’s choice was a welcome one. It reinforced both a long-standing friendship and a strategic relationship of increasing value in a new era that is now dawning.
Thailand is America’s oldest ally in Asia. In 2013, our countries will celebrate 180 years of diplomatic relations – ties that were established when Thailand was still an exotic far-off kingdom known as Siam. In this new century, as the U.S. pivots toward the Pacific, our partnerships in economic, security and development matters will serve as a strong foundation for America’s expanding engagement in the region.


Guantánamo 55

As President Obama’s first term wore on, a signature plank of his 2008 campaign – his pledge to close Guantánamo – went from policy pillar to policy pariah. The political and popular hurdles to closure – legislation, funding restrictions, outcry in some quarters over terrorist trials – multiplied. The President’s bold act on his first day of office -- an executive order requiring closure of the detention center within the year -- gave way to the ratification of military commissions as an alternative to trials in federal courts, detention without charge was embraced, and transfers from the facility slowed to a trickle.  

After going mum on the topic for most of his 2012 campaign, Obama finally renewed his pledge to close Guantánamo during an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart show in late October. This pledge will be put to the test even before his second term begins. The reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act, soon due for a final vote in Congress, will either offer the president more leeway to restart the machinery of Guantánamo closure, or offer another excuse to maintain the current paralysis. If the president’s campaign pledge means more this time around than it did in 2008, he must use the mandate he won in early November to veto this year’s NDAA if it hinders progress on Guantánamo.

Like a hard calculus equation, the conundrum of what to do with the 166 detainees still housed at Guantánamo is best addressed by breaking the problem into parts and solving them one by one. The obvious starting point is the 55 Guantánamo detainees who the administration named this September as cleared for transfer. Many of these men have been held in the facility for a decade or more where there are no grounds for continued detention. These are the relatively easy cases, men who the administration has no intent to charge with any crime. While the details of many of the cases remain secret, some Guantánamo experts assert that many if not all of these men may be cleared for release entirely, meaning that they are entitled to their freedom yet remain captive.

One well-known example in this group is Shaker Amer. He is a U.K. citizen, and the British government has repeatedly requested his transfer to be reunited with his wife and children in London. He remains held without charge. He said back in November 2005 that, "I am dying here every day, mentally and physically... We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean for four years."

Three elements are critical right now to advance the transfer of the Guantánamo 55 and help close Guantánamo.