Foreign Policy

Blacklisted contractor continues receiving government money through Haiti contracts

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, the U.S. launched an unprecedented relief effort, eventually totaling over one billion dollars. But the lead agency in the immediate aftermath was not the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as is typically the case when our nation provides humanitarian assistance, but the military.  Just after the earthquake, the U.S. had over 20,000 troops in Haiti. Of the $1.1 billion in humanitarian funding from the U.S. in 2010, nearly half was channeled to the Department of Defense.

As has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, relief efforts have relied heavily on contractors, a number of which have a history of waste, fraud and abuse. An analysis of federal contracts has revealed that Kuwait-based Agility Logistics (formerly PWC Logistics) -- currently under indictment for overcharging the U.S. military by up to $1 billion -- has benefited from over $16 million in funding awarded in the aftermath of the earthquake.

With so much on the line, the U.S government, across the board, must step up its oversight of contractors to ensure taxpayer dollars are not wasted on companies with poor track records.


Gingrich, Romney, and Perry must stand by Israel's foreign aid

The Jewish State of Israel and the United States have always been strong allies. We have shared democratic and cultural values, and many Americans share a religious bond to the ancient and current homeland of the Jewish people. This is a bond based on the holiest texts of the Christian and Jewish faiths. However, the unbreakable and intimate nature of the U..S-Israel alliance runs much deeper than history and religion. Our foreign aid to Israel is essential to US national security interests and is a strategic investment in keeping America safe.
Since the U.S. under President Harry Truman recognized the Jewish State of Israel 11 minutes after its declaration of independence in 1948, every single U.S. president has supported foreign aid to Israel. Most recently, the U.S. and Israel signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid by 2018, which has been fully and completely supported by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. More than 70 percent of this aid must be used by Israel to purchase American military equipment.


U.S. continues to fight global disease

Fifty years from now, we will look back at this period in U.S. history as a time when the U.S. government, private industry, foundations, and universities, combined forces to effectively fight killer diseases that have plagued civilization for centuries.

Some of the groundbreaking work is easy to pinpoint now. For instance, as we approach World AIDS Day, it is heartening to report on exciting advances in AIDS vaccine research and the development of more than two dozen drugs in the last 15 years to fight the virus, turning the disease from a death sentence to a manageable chronic illness.

Using a host of new tools, we have been able to greatly reduce deaths due to malaria, measles, and meningitis, to name a few diseases, in the developing world. All of these advances have happened in just the last few years.


Why the United States must freeze funding for UNESCO

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is asking UN bodies to grant state status to “Palestine”—so Palestinians can enjoy the prerogatives of statehood without making painful compromises with Israel.  Now that the Palestinian bid has failed to gain Security Council support, its efforts within individual UN entities take on added significance. 

The United States must continue opposing this gambit, which undermines U.S. peace efforts and challenges U.S. leadership.
Last month UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) became the first UN body to accept the Palestinian bid for full state membership.  UNESCO disregarded U.S. objections that Palestinians can achieve statehood only by negotiating and compromising with Israel.


Down the rabbit hole

How often these days the world feels like we’ve fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole! To paraphrase Alice, nothing is what it is because everything is what it isn’t. We're told waterboarding isn’t torture and that to make the United States safe we have to violate our own laws and standards and reinstitute secret prisons and torture, policies we were wrong to use in the first place.
But that’s exactly the argument being made by most of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, as well as what is embodied in a shocking amendment offered by Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire on the Defense Authorization bill.  It appears that Ayotte won’t get a vote this time on bringing back secret, illegal interrogations that amount to torture, but chances are, the senator will find another opportunity to offer her amendment.  Furthermore, the issue continues to come up on the presidential campaign trail, so it’s one we cannot be satisfied to think is over.


Spain's Rajoy era opens

Despite a long-predicted landslide victory for Spain’s center-right and pro-business Popular Party, international markets are not joining festivities nor offering a temporary reprieve.  The short-term requires an immediate economic road-map for structural reform.  The long-term necessitates a two-pronged top-down and bottom-up approach for implementation of reform.

The top-down approach entails essential public outreach for transformation.  The new prime minister Mariano Rajoy, and his ministers, must effectively communicate and connect with ordinary Spaniards.  It is essential to explain austerity within the context of global realities and as a collective struggle.  After all, the people are direct stakeholders in the process.  Achieving a broad national consensus is critical.  Responsible leadership must emanate from the top.   

The bottom-up approach involves gradual transformation of the public psyche. Citizens’ economic rights, responsibilities and expectations and the state’s obligations and purpose must adapt to new world realities.  Curbing generous labor laws and pension schemes are just the beginning.  Outdated Western illusions of endless prosperity, instant gratification and the almighty state’s endless resources still prevail.  The cradle-to-grave state security system is over. 

Rajoy can claim technically a popular mandate but considerable votes were also against the status quo and the Socialist party’s failings.  His broad message for reform was unambiguous throughout the campaign. Most Spaniards accept tough times lie ahead. 


Shortchanging our security

In the coming weeks, Congress may well downsize the portion of the U.S. budget that is the least costly and most effective way of ensuring our security both at home and abroad.  Against the advice of our nation’s top military and civilian leadership, the US Senate appears ready to once again cut our meager foreign aid budget, including the State Department and the non-partisan United States Institute for Peace. 

At a time that we are withdrawing our troops from Iraq and working to take advantage of historic events in the Middle East, the threatened cuts to these agencies are strategic mistakes that endanger our nation’s security.  Many of the proposed cuts, especially to agencies like USIP, whose budget has already been dramatically cut, are also ineffective cost-cutting measures.

In the 21st century there is broad consensus that our foreign policy must be premised on the three D’s: defense, diplomacy, and development. Diplomacy and development are the prerogatives of the State Department, USAID, the United States Institute for Peace and institutions which they call on to support our foreign policy objectives. These agencies not only enhance our influence and image abroad, they have saved lives and avoided expensive military engagement in conflict zones around the globe.


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.