A few days ago I suggested that President Obama was in a position to prioritize a true transformation of U.S.-Muslim world relations.
If pursued, such a realignment would be based on tackling a raft of critical matters ranging from resolving the Afghan conflict to addressing the security crisis in Sudan (I will endeavor to unpack each of these in the weeks and months ahead).
A related question I have been wrestling with is when, and how, the administration should address structural challenges within the Muslim world that may not directly involve the U.S. but still impact global stability. These include challenges such as those facing the education and employment sector in the Arab world and government service delivery in Pakistan. If the Obama administration embraces a true realignment strategy will it have the bandwidth to also tackle these other intra-Muslim world matters? Should it? (more…)
Increasingly one can’t go a day without reading more news about private military and security contractors. Actually, private military and security contractors (PMSC), a catch all phrase encompassing, broadly speaking, two categories – logistics workers and armed guards – is a bit of a misnomer, as in the United States context it generally refers to just those working under State or Defense Department contracts. But that excludes contractors working for the intelligence community, or Department of Homeland Security or numerous other departments and agencies. But for the sake of convenience, as it is such a widely sued and recognized phrase, I’ll continue to use it.
Whether one likes the idea of using PMSC or not the inescapable fact is that U.S. reliance on them has grown so much in the past few decades that trying to stop using them is literally impossible. They are now far too intertwined with the clients they work for to be removed. To attempt to do so would like the scene in the first Alien movie, where the crew of the Nostradamus attempt to remove the Alien creature from Executive Officer Kane after it attaches itself to its face. And no, I’m not saying that PMCS are parasites.
But until that magical day comes when the country actually has a serious soul-searching discussion on whether it is in the U.S. interest to maintain a global military presence contractors are here to stay. Put another way, to paraphrase the classic Spencer Tracy movie, it’s a mad, mad, contracting world now.
Amid the intense domestic coverage of the health care debate came a reminder of the hope that even hardened global figures have for the Obama Presidency and its ability to transform global affairs.
In the hours after Congress acted last Sunday, the White House announced that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was one of the first two global leaders to call and congratulate Obama on his domestic victory.
Now, it is reasonable to assume that the Saudi leader was not particularly concerned about health care reform itself but recognized that its passage would strengthen Obama domestically and perhaps reignite his desire to be remembered as a transformative President not simply at home but also abroad.
In 2008 Obama ran a campaign that, in part, portrayed his very election as a step towards resetting U.S. relations with the international community. Further more, by illustrating his understanding of specific hot button issues ranging from Indo-Pakistani disagreements in Kashmir to the harm caused by the Bush administrations “war on terror”, Obama suggested that he would prioritize tackling the policy matters that had corroded relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world and thus undermined U.S. national security.
His early actions as President, from the appointment of Middle East envoy Mitchell to his historic Cairo speech, collectively suggested that Obama was looking to move beyond simply the reset offered by his election and was seeking a fundamental realignment between the U.S. and the Muslim world that would transform the international arena.
Partnership for a Secure America is pleased to announce the participants of its Congressional Fellowship Program Spring 2010 Session. These 25 Fellows are drawn from the personal offices or Committees of 12 Senators and 13 Representatives from across the political spectrum.
The Fellows come to the Congressional Fellowship Program from diverse educational and professional backgrounds including military, political campaigns, think tanks, journalism, the legal practice and international service organizations. To view the full list of Fellows, click here.
PSA would like to congratulate Ambassador Anthony Lake on his appointment as the Executive Director of UNICEF. We firmly believe that Amb. Lake will bring both wisdom and compassion to the challenge of protecting vulnerable children, while also helping to stabilize and support societies around the world. Unfortunately, Amb. Lake’s new position at UNICEF necessitates that he stepped down from his position as a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. While we will miss Amb. Lake’s leadership and support, we are encouraged to see his formidable experience and ability at work at UNICEF.
After over a year of rollercoaster US-Russia talks on a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), it appears the two sides have finally reached a deal. Securing a new US-Russia nuclear agreement has been central to the Administration’s broader nuclear nonproliferation and arms control agenda from day one, and has, over the past year, become a key litmus test of Obama’s ability to deliver on big promises, especially the US-Russia “reset” policy, and its implications for forging a united front against Iranian nuclear proliferation.
For nuclear weapons watchers, the months since December 5, 2009, when the original START treaty expired but no new agreement was in sight, were especially tense. Yet it appears the deal has come in just under the wire before three (at least rhetorically) important 2010 milestones: First, the anniversary of Obama’s April 5, 2009 speech on nuclear disarmament in Prague; second, the April 12-13 nuclear materials security summit to be hosted by President Obama in Washington, DC; and third, the May 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which will convene 189 nations in New York. Each of these events presents a major opportunity for the Administration to make political hay in the glow of the new agreement, and potentially to add momentum to its broader nuclear policy agenda.
So is the new treaty a triumph for the Administration? Not yet. (more…)
If you had been watching the historic debate on health care reform this past weekend, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that bipartisanship was dead. The process could not have been more vitriolic. It degenerated to the point of racial and homophobic slurs being yelled at Congressmen. And that was before Congressman Randy Neugebauer yelled “baby killer” from the floor of the House. Fox News served as the mouthpiece of the Republican party as did MSNBC for the Democrats. There were protests and counter protests. The Chamber of Commerce attacked the bill arguing that it would cost jobs while Catholic nuns rose up in its defense.
In the end, it passed. And I’m glad it did. At the same time, I was deeply disappointed by how the debate sank to such a low level. However, I don’t think that this is a necessarily a harbinger of things to come, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. Here’s why: the health care debate was framed (incorrectly in my view) in terms of the deep philosophical differences between the parties. Republicans portrayed the bill as a government takeover of health care. Democrats portrayed the bill as addressing a fundamental human right – affordable health care for all Americans. At the root of this debate is one’s view of the role that government should have in society. Getting bipartisan agreement on such deep philosophical differences is going to be difficult indeed! Considering how the bill was framed by both sides, the intensity of the debate does not altogether surprise me. Democrats and Republicans clearly have very different philosophical views about the role of government and the health care debate was the framework in which that debate played out. What is most disconcerting is the name calling and deeply offensive language used by some in the process. (more…)
For the past four years, I have served on the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget for the United States, with specific responsibility for developing the homeland security component of the group’s annual report. That report attempts to bring together all of the major components of national security spending (including “offense,” mostly composed of Department of Defense military programs; “prevention,” primarily diplomatic, foreign assistance and non-proliferation activities; and “defense,” which is where homeland security efforts are placed) into one “budget,” where consideration can be given to the optimal mix of tools for achieving our national security goals.
In the homeland security arena, our attention has shifted over the years from primarily focusing on areas that we felt needed additional resources (for example, in the FY 2008 report, we recommended approximately $15 billion in additions to the Bush Administration’s request for homeland security programs, with most of the proposed additions coming in the areas of public health, first responder grants and rail and transit security) to, in our most recent analysis, calling for improvements in priority-setting and accountability. As was noted in the FY 2010 Unified Security Budget, “The consensus judgment on the country’s homeland security mission has been clear for several years: that this new, urgent priority, thrust upon the government and cobbled together in an atmosphere of post-9/11 anxiety has become a sprawling, poorly coordinated set of tasks and bureaucracies in dire need of clear priorities and targeted funding increases.” (more…)
It is a good thing that that Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, never tried to enlist in the U.S. military. Judging by her recent actions it appears she would never be able to say the oath of enlistment with a straight face. I mean the part where one swears to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, which includes little things like subsequent amendments, such as those in the Bill of Rights.
What I refer to is when she and Bill Kristol, via their “Keep America Safe” campaign, accused nine lawyers in the Justice Department, who had represented Guantanamo detainees of being the “al-Qaida Seven,” of working in the “Department of Jihad,” Perhaps Cheney and Kristol are simply exercising their First Amendment right to say anything that gets them on a talk show. After all, the right to cynically accuse someone of being a terrorist is protected under the Constitution. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, in so doing they trample underfoot other Constitutional rights that benefit all of us.
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Ordinary Americans are, by and large, pragmatists about legal matters. They tend to favor legal outcomes that deftly balance competing considerations. Outcomes that achieve this balance do not do a disservice to broad swaths of people but instead aim to enhance or at the minimum preserve meaningful social policies. Pragmatism about law, in other words, is really a product of thinking clearly about what the law is for: the law serves the American people, not the other way around.
Unfortunately, the currently constituted Supreme Court, led by that fearless foe of pragmatism, John G. Roberts, does not care that most Americans loathe the notion that judges ought to carry out their duties without the interests of the citizenry in mind. Constitutional law, as Roberts himself is keen to emphasize, has nothing to do with sound public policy and should not be tempered by any moral or social concerns, however relevant they may seem to the electorate. Constitutional law is a free-floating, self-sustaining set of rules that answers to no one, not even the American public.
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.