Mr. Lehman was secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and a member of the 9/11 Commission. He is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. This article was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.
John Lehman: More Bureaucrats, Fewer Jets and Ships
More than half of our active-duty servicemen and women serve in offices on staffs.
As we lament the lack of strategic direction in American foreign policy, it is useful to remember the classic aphorism that diplomatic power is the shadow cast by military power. The many failures and disappointments of American policy in recent years, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Russia and Iran are symptoms of the steady shrinkage of the shadow cast by American military power and the fading credibility and deterrence that depends on it.
Although current U.S. spending on defense adjusted for inflation has been higher than at the height of the Reagan administration, it has been producing less than half of the forces and capabilities of those years. Instead of a 600-ship Navy, we now have a 280-ship Navy, although the world’s seas have not shrunk and our global dependence has grown. Instead of Reagan’s 20-division Army, we have only 10-division equivalents. The Air Force has fewer than half the number of fighters and bombers it had 30 years ago.
Apologists for the shrinkage argue that today’s ships and aircraft are far more capable than those of the ’80s and ’90s. That is as true as “you can keep your health insurance.” (more…)
Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This article originally appeared in the Union-Bulletin.
Even in national security realm, dogged journalism a blessing, not a curse
Let’s start with the obvious: A democracy needs intelligence agencies. It needs to know what’s happening in the world — and understand the plans of allies and enemies — to keep the nation prepared and secure.
If intelligence work is going to be effective, much of it has to be done in secret. “National security” is not merely an excuse for keeping intelligence activity under wraps: often, the only way to protect our collective well-being is to pursue many national security activities, including intelligence-gathering, in the dark.
But that’s if they’re legitimately in the national interest. All too often, governments use secrecy to protect themselves politically or to shroud activities that, seen in the cold light of day, their citizens would reject. This is why secrecy in government can be dangerous, and should be subject to the checks and balances of our constitutional system.
However legitimate secrecy may be, though, there is a limit to how much a democracy can stand. As ordinary citizens, we need information about what our government is up to in order to make informed and discriminating choices about politicians and policies. Journalists and their media outlets are indispensable conveyors of this information. The work of the journalist, who often presses for a more open, accountable government, creates tensions with a government set upon guarding state secrets. But it’s a healthy, much-needed tension. (more…)
The author, Christina Vachon, is a graduate student at George Washington University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in International Security Studies. She is currently an intern at the Partnership for a Secure America and has a research interest in security policy in the Middle East.
When Iran Gets the Bomb
Even though a short term deal with Iran has been reached, the US should prepare for the chance that Iran will cheat. As talks continue toward a long term agreement, the US should assess what Iran, the Middle East, and the world will look like if Iran gets the bomb. There is a lack of consensus on what happens if and when Iran gets the bomb. Due to the uncertainty that exists about Iran and its program, continued diplomatic efforts are important in order to gain more information about the situation, to better relations, and to prepare for a nuclear Iran. It is important though that all options remain on the table in order to protect US interests.
George Pratt Shultz has had a distinguished career in government, in academia, and in the world of business. He is one of a handful of individuals who has held four different federal cabinet posts. Mr. Shultz is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It was co-authored with Frederick W. Smith.
Making the Most of the U.S. Energy Boom
Tuesday, November 4, 2013 – In November 1973, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries implemented an oil embargo against the United States that imperiled the nation’s prosperity and international influence. Forty years later, de-linking America’s economy and security from high and volatile global oil prices is even more essential to protecting our domestic and international interests. And the U.S. now has the means to achieve true energy independence.
Ryan McClure is an attorney, intern at Partnership for a Secure America, and foreign policy blogger focusing on U.S. foreign policy in East Asia. He can be followed on Twitter @The BambooC.
The Need for Bipartisanship on U.S.-Burma Policy
The United States’ relationship with Burma has greatly changed in a brief period of time. Just three years ago, Burma was a pariah state subject to severe American sanctions. Today, sanctions have been lessened and the Burmese president is welcomed at the White House. The reason for these changes is Burma’s quasi-military government’s decision to carry out political reform toward a more democratic system. However, political oppression and human rights violations continue.
The Obama Administration, while aware of these abuses, persists in rewarding the Burmese government for geo-strategic reasons. Because of this, Congress must press the Administration to institute a more deliberate policy that rewards Burma with economic and diplomatic engagement only when concrete, sustained benchmarks have been met. (more…)
Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This article originally appeared in the City Pulse.
Guest column: How to improve the road ahead
Wednesday, Oct. 23 — One of the more amazing spectacles in the days after the government shutdown ended was the obsession in Washington with who won and who lost in the showdown. Yes, the capital is focused on next year’s elections, but honestly! There was only one real loser, and that was the American people.
Why? Because nothing got resolved. The agreement leaves the government open only until mid-January, and gives the Treasury the ability to borrow through early February. All that effort secured us the barest minimum that we needed. Tax reform, spending, entitlements, jobs and economic growth: we’re no better off than we were before a small faction in Congress brought us to the brink of an unnecessary disaster. So the question is, can we avoid a similar crisis down the road?
The record of the recent past gives no ground for optimism, though members of Congress may now recognize the enormous economic costs to the nation of a shutdown and near-default. To avoid repeating their recent sorry spectacle, however, they will have to confront three challenges.
First, Congress has to break its habit of governing by crisis. Second, its members need to take a leaf from this most recent experience and remember that the essence of legislating is negotiation. Finally, they need to recognize that every time Congress fails to assert itself, other institutions gain more power at its expense. (more…)
Tara Sonenshine is former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.She is a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in CNN Opinion.
A global challenge: aiding those with disabilities
Imagine not being able to hear a siren during an emergency or to see a warning sign to evacuate. Imagine navigating knee-high mud in a wheelchair or trying to explain to a child with Down syndrome why he or she must seek higher ground. Those are just some of the challenges facing those with physical and cognitive disabilities — people often least prepared to face a natural disaster.
A largely overlooked report issued this month by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction found that the crucial needs of about 1 billion people living with physical and mental disabilities around the world are not woven into the disaster planning and emergency response plans of governments and civil society groups.
The result is that a disproportionate number of disabled persons suffer and die in disasters because of a lack of attention to their needs. Emergency response systems and shelters are poorly designed to handle their requirements. According to the report, 70% of those with disabilities who responded to the survey in over 100 countries said they did not know how to tap into any existing emergency response system in their communities. They become largely dependent on the good will of families and neighbors. (more…)
This article was co-authored by Tara Sonenshine. Tara D. Sonenshine is former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is currently a Distinguished Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She is a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.
Donald Steinberg is president and chief executive officer of World Learning, which works in 60 countries to empower a new generation of global leaders.
Globally, ‘girl power’ should be much more than a slogan
Investing in the education and health of girls pays huge dividends. Now is the time to recommit to empowering girls and ending child marriage and human trafficking, not just because it is morally right but because it is the smartest way to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.
If you want to change the world, invest in a girl.
Today marks the second anniversary of International Day of the Girl, instituted by the United Nations General Assembly to promote the rights of girls, highlight the unique challenges they face around the world, and reaffirm a global commitment to protect and empower them. Given worldwide violence, extremism, poverty, and injustice, we cannot afford to cast aside the contributions that 850 million girls can make to build a safer, more prosperous, and equitable world.
Studies show that if a girl stays in school, receives health care, gains skills, and is safe from sexual and other physical abuse, she will very likely marry later, have fewer but healthier children, earn a higher income, invest in her family, and break the cycle of poverty at home and in her community. She will be more likely to use her education to increase agricultural production, improve health conditions for her family, and serve as a leader to resolve conflicts. (more…)
Tara D. Sonenshine is former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is currently a Distinguished Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She is a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in the National Geographic .
Opinion: Amid Shutdown, U.S. Government Should Learn From Apple
Branding America just got a bit harder.
A government shutdown is not the ideal way to convey U.S. values and interests overseas. Closing the federal government—especially our national parks, America’s signature attractions—undercuts the basic narrative that America is an open society, a tolerant nation, and a good partner in the world.
(See “National Parks: Shutting Down America’s Best Idea.”)
Now some might argue that a government shutdown, because it is a nonviolent act, reinforces U.S. values such as diversity of opinion, checks and balances, governing by a majority, and the right of individuals to disagree.
I don’t buy it. In the branding business, whether you are a country or a corporation, you have to be visible and active to maintain your image and to advance, economically and politically.
That’s because citizens are consumers—and citizen-consumers, increasingly, exercise power in today’s economy.
Congress might study corporate America for a few lessons. (more…)
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Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This article originally appeared in the Montgomery Advertiser.
Guest column – Lee H. Hamilton: Intrusive government needs to be better watchdog over Americans’ privacy
Washington is beginning to debate the proper extent of government eavesdropping powers in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA. It’s hardly as robust a discussion as it should be, but it’s a desperately needed start.
The colossal effort to monitor Americans’ communications has been going on for at least seven years, under two presidents. It constitutes an expansion of government power without precedent in the modern era. Yet while some members of Congress were informed about it — and all had the opportunity to learn — none saw an urgent need for public discussion. This is astounding. It took the actions of a leaker to spur any real airing of the matter on Capitol Hill.
Even now, it seems unlikely that Congress will make significant policy changes. That’s because all the nation’s key actors and institutions appear to approve of the surveillance programs. By its silence, Congress clearly supported them. Presidents Bush and Obama backed them. The intelligence community, a powerful voice on national security issues, has resolutely defended them. The courts that are supposed to keep them in line with the Constitution have been deferential to national security authorities, raising a few questions from time to time, but in the end approving all but a handful of tens of thousands of data-gathering requests. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.