Foreign Policy

Jamaica rising

What a difference a year makes!

One year ago, as I started my tour of duty as Jamaica’s tenth Ambassador to the United States, recognizing that in a post cold war world, Jamaica and the Caribbean’s importance to the USA was centered mainly around their concerns for their third border security and the ravaging impact of the transnational narcotic trade which used the Caribbean as a transshipment point.

Jamaica grappled with the effects of the severe global economic crisis which exacerbated the existing conditions of a declining economy and a crushing debt burden. The recession lessened the demand for exports, reduced remittances, decreased international travel and contributed to closures in the bauxite industry, all the major revenue earning areas of the country.

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Congress has a voice on human rights in Russia. Will it use it?

I was shocked at Samuel Charap’s amoral and ill reasoned blog earlier this week. I was Sergei Magnitsky's boss, a Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia and I still manage an American law firm in Moscow. After 18 years of real world experience representing American businesses in Russia, I can assure you that compromising American morals and ideals, as he shamelessly recommends, will only encourage Russia’s continued slide into lawlessness.

Sergei was a 37-year-old father of two and a senior partner in an American law firm. He discovered the largest ever theft of Russian state taxes. Following President Medvedev’s call, Sergei fought “legal nihilism” and tried to stop the crime. He took the brave step of testifying against the government officials involved in the crime, but instead of supporting Sergei, the Kremlin kept silent and allowed Sergei to be arrested, tortured, and killed by the same corrupt officials he had testified against.

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Going forward with U.S.-Pakistan relations

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, suspicion pervades U.S.-Pakistan relations. While Washington considers pulling aid packages, increases drone strikes in the tribal areas and moves American troops in Afghanistan eastward to the mountainous border with Pakistan, Islamabad arrests CIA informants this week allegedly responsible for aiding and abetting the U.S. spy agency in the weeks leading up to Osama’s death.

Since 9/11, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has always been a prickly one, but the level of current distrust has risen to an all-time high. This is dangerous, not least because it portends the possibility of a substantial ramp-up in U.S. military intervention. In the last ten years, U.S. involvement has been relatively masked from the Pakistani public eye. 

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Congressional reaction to troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made the following statements after President Obama's address on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan Wednesday evening.

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Compromising security in Afghanistan

In December 2009, President Barack Obama simultaneously announced a surge of 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan and its draw-down beginning in summer 2011. He kept his word but the premise of his decision is flawed and misleading.  His over-optimistic rhetoric that “progress” and “gains” have been made is only partially true. The situation is still reversible. 

Obama’s assertion that the U.S. is dealing “from a position of strength” is also inaccurate.  The reality is that the U.S. has been in the process of consolidating a position of strength since the surge’s start. The President’s troop reduction undermines this process. The surge’s full troop amount only arrived approximately one year ago. Permitting it less than two full fighting seasons is self-defeating. Launching such a massive initiative and then denying it the opportunity to realize its full potential is rash and short-sighted.

It places undue pressure on remaining ground troops, further complicates their existing responsibilities, and exponentially burdens their ability to confront mounting challenges. In brief, it makes a tough job even tougher. Contrary to his recent statements, the President is not “fulfilling his commitments”. Ultimately, his drawdown decision disincentivizes ordinary Afghans from collaborating with international forces for fear of future insurgent retribution. 

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Immediately end our war in Libya

The co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Taskforce call on Congress and the president to immediately end our war in Libya. The U.S. has been engaged in hostilities for over 90 days without congressional approval, which undermines not only the powers of the legislative branch but also the legal checks and balances put in place nearly 40 years ago to avoid abuse by any single branch of government.

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Stretching the shrinking foreign aid dollar

Despite the general misperception to the contrary, foreign aid is a miniscule slice of the overall federal spending pie -- comprising less than 1.5 percent of all federal spending, not the 10 percent or more that many believe it to be. 

Unfortunately, it may become even smaller in the current cost-cutting climate in Congress. But in today’s globalized economy, America must continue to promote development and democracy in countries that support our diplomatic interests. That will require applying tougher, results-oriented metrics to the delivery of foreign assistance to stretch those dollars.

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U.S. must withdraw troops from Afghanistan

On March 16, 2011, the four co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Task Force on Peace and Security and 76 other Members of Congress sent a letter to the President asking him to move swiftly to end America’s longest war, the war in Afghanistan.

Since then, the co-chairs have continued to call on the administration to move towards a significant, swift and sizeable reduction in our troops in Afghanistan, meeting or exceeding the number of troops on the ground before the escalation. Similarly, the Democratic National Committee called for a “sizeable and significant” drawdown beginning in July. This week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors called for an end to the Afghanistan war. In poll after poll, the majority of Americans are consistently calling for an end to this war.

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A voice for Iran’s freedom

The week of June 20 marks the second anniversary of the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26-year-old Iranian who was slain during demonstrations in Tehran against her country’s fraudulent June 12, 2009 presidential election.

Captured on video, Neda’s death sparked global revulsion against one of the world’s worst human rights abusers – the government of Iran. It also symbolized a democratic movement’s brave resistance to tyranny. Across the region, this resistance stirred hearts and minds, helping sow the seeds for the Arab Spring. 

The aftermath of the election and Neda’s murder also spurred the United States and the world community to take action against the abusers -- action that must continue if freedom is to prevail in Iran and the Middle East.

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Time to narrow and sharpen our goals in Afghanistan

What if we had never gone to war in Iraq? I wonder where our country might be today if we had never made that tragic mistake. Thousands of American families would never have stood before flag-draped coffins, grieving over young lives cut short. A trillion dollars in debt would not be burdening our economy, to be paid back by our children and grandchildren.

Our troops did all we asked of them and more. In the toll they paid, and in the burden laid upon the nation, the war in Iraq cost us dearly. I voted with 22 other senators against authorizing the Iraq War, believing then as I do today that the strategy of containment was keeping Saddam Hussein at bay. If he posed an imminent threat to anyone, it was to Iran, not to the United States.

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