Many commentators have recently noted the United States’ failure to anticipate the ongoing “Arab Spring” and, more importantly, seeming inability to shape events on the ground. The United States, critics claim, has lost much of its influence in the Middle East and been reduced to spectator status as events unfold.
While the validity of this criticism is debatable, there is no doubt that the United States will have to engage new and unfamiliar Middle Eastern actors. Secular political parties, Islamist groups, military leaders and technologically-savvy youth will all try to define their visions for the future and shape post-revolutionary states. The process is likely to be chaotic, even violent, with no guarantee that the end result will match U.S. interests.
Now is the time for the United States to assert its leadership. President Obama needs to take the initiative and harness the power of the entire free world. The United States, the European Union, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, India and all other democratic powers should quickly forge a common declaration to present to Arab revolutionaries. (more…)
An article in last Sunday’s Washington Post profiled the recently formed National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona, which was founded in the wake of the January 8th attack in Tucson. The institute’s mission is to serve as a “national, nonpartisan center for debate, research, education and policy generation regarding civic engagement and civility in public discourse consistent with First Amendment principles.” Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have agreed to serve as honorary chairs, and the institute’s board features a distinguished bipartisan group of leaders, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a PSA Advisory Board member. Among the institute’s main goals is “to connect people with diverse viewpoints and to offer a venue for vigorous and respectful debate.” For more information, click here to visit the institute’s website.
In 1848 popular revolution broke out in one European land after another, from the Netherlands to Serbia, Poland to Prussia. Monarchies tottered and the old social order appeared destined to the dustbin of history with the advent of new movements for an old continent; democracy and socialism.
Yet the “Spring of the Peoples” that dawned in Europe in 1848 was slowly reversed through a rolling counterrevolution that capitalized on the inability of revolutionary forces to quickly coalesce into governing majorities. The passing of months and years without stability and clear direction allowed the former interests aligned with the status quo to counter attack against the revolutionaries of 1848. The masses that had supported democratic change in the revolution of 1848 became generally disillusioned fairly quickly and were not there to resist the counter attack of the old order. (more…)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday that PSA Advisory Board member Marc Grossman has been appointed the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Grossman assumes the post recently left vacant by the passing of former PSA Advisory Board member, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Secretary Clinton made the announcement during a speech delivered in Ambassador Holbrooke’s honor at the Asia Society in New York, during which she noted Grossman “knows our allies and understands how to mobilize common action to meet shared challenges.” From 2001-2005, Ambassador Grossman served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the State Department’s third-ranking official. Throughout a distinguished career in public service spanning 29 years, Ambassador Grossman also served as the Director General of the US Foreign Service, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.
This month, on February 2, 2011, India lost one of its greatest strategic thinkers, K Subrahmanyam.
Known affectionately to many people as “Subbu,” K Subrahmanyam was considered the father of strategic studies in India. Over four decades, he helped to shape Indian foreign and defense policy in critical ways, both inside and outside of government. He was Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Defense from 1962-65; Secretary of Defense Production from 1979-80; and Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from 1977-79. He built India’s first and foremost defense policy think tank, the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) and served as its director from 1966 to 1975 and again from 1980 to 1989. He was the principle author of India’s nuclear doctrine and strongly backed the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement. After the Kargil war, he headed the Kargil Review Committee, which recommended an overhaul of India’s national security apparatus and led to the creation of several new agencies, including the National Security Advisory Board, which he chaired. After leaving government, Subrahmanyam became a contributing editor to The Economic Times and The Times of India and taught as a visiting professor at Cambridge University. Whether you agreed with him or not, he was a giant of the Indian national security establishment. Stephen Cohen of The Brookings Institution and a long time friend of Subrahmanyam said, “Subbu was a guru to me and many others, but he did not insist that I share his views, and his most endearing quality was his love of argument and debate, which irritated some, but which on balance made him a great teacher.”
Recently, Obama Administration officials, including Secretary Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice, and even President Barack Obama himself, have spoken in support of ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The treaty also enjoys support from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Naturally renewed talk of CEDAW, combined with a Senate hearing held on the treaty in November 2010, has activist groups gearing up for an epic inside-the-beltway battle should President Obama transmit the treaty to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for its advice and consent.
While I understand arguments against CEDAW, especially those concerning the unenforceable nature of human rights treaties, I find them unconvincing considering the promise CEDAW holds as a tool of diplomacy on a very sensitive and complicated issue. Treaties do not always need an enforcement mechanism to be useful. Human rights treaties can function as a means of establishing agreed upon norms and values that serve as a framework for dialogue to address worldwide problems. In this capacity, CEDAW has the potential to provide the United States with another tool to engage internationally and serve as a model on the rights of women. Even better, it can do so at little or no cost to U.S. sovereignty. (more…)
The announcement of the final result of the Referendum has marked the end of an era and today is the beginning of a new era in our history. Today is a glorious day for all the sons and daughters of Southern Sudan. It is a glorious day for the people of the Republic of the Sudan. It is a glorious day for Africa and the world. You have exercised your inalienable right to self-determination freely, fairly and peacefully. You have expressed your freewill over your future. By this official result of 98.83%, the whole world has heard your voice loud and clear!
-President Salva Kiir
Very few experience the kind of jubilation the Southern Sudanese felt when the results of the independence referendum were certified by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and President Omar al-Bashir this week. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, they went to the ballot box and at 98.83% of the vote walked away from a ruthless dictator with a knack for not only surviving, but thriving off his country’s misfortunes. The impromptu dance party in the capital of Juba said it all. On July 9th, 2011 Southern Sudan will become the 193rd country in the world and the 57th independent country in Africa. (more…)
In this populous Muslim majority nation, demonstrators were fed up with more than 30 years of authoritarian rule by a former general. The country’s economy was imploding. The military had become an enormous state apparatus that reached its tentacles into all aspects of society, including hundreds of businesses. The President called the shots that were rubber stamped by a compliant legislature. Although there were regular elections, the results were always a foregone conclusion. Opposition voices were stifled. Security forces were known for their brutal treatment of regime opponents.
An emerging middle class, led initially by student activists, demanded reforms. They were fed up with the crony capitalism that enriched the President and his associates while the rest of the country dealt with skyrocketing inflation. Protests spread throughout the country. Before long the President announced that he would not step down but that he would start a transition that would lead to new elections and he wouldn’t run. Unfortunately, after years of repression, there seemed to be dearth of viable opposition leaders.
As the world has watched transfixed on unfolding developments in Egypt, one would assume that the description above refers to the events of the past 14 days. It does not. It describes the 1998 democratic transition in Indonesia. It is remarkable how similar the events appear. Days after President Suharto announced that he would not run in a future election, he received word that he no longer had the support of the military, leading him to step down from the presidency and turn over power to his vice-president, B.J. Habibie. (more…)
“Virtually all serious observers of national security affairs now recognize the current structure of the national security system militates against unified problem-solving when the problem is a multiagency issue. The question is what to do about it.”
Counter-proliferation, counterinsurgency, food security, energy policy – all examples of complex and multifaceted issues that increasingly dominate America’s security priorities and starkly highlight the chronic limitations of the U.S. national security structure. The Project on National Security Reform and others stress the critical need for a Goldwater-Nichols Act of national security to take on the colossal and outdated bureaucracy built around the security challenges of the post WWII period. (more…)
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As we watch the current demonstrations in Egypt and Jordan, and as Tunisia moves to a new phase in its history, much is being made of American ties to these leaders. As the “Arab street” watches what is transpiring, it should note that the US and other western countries are letting these events play out even given real concerns over the impact this will have on geopolitics, global security and a shaky world economy.
Yet, as the governments and militaries of Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan show some restraint in handling these protests, one has to reflect on the fact that one of the most sophisticated populaces in the world, the Iranian people, were not shown the same courtesy by their regime. Rather, the Supreme Leader, his allies, and his loyal guardsman and militias used and continue to use every opportunity to shut down peaceful protests and threaten the opposition.
Let’s hope the Supreme Leader and his allies realize that what is transpiring in the region is a revolt against autocracies writ large. If Iran wants to become a real regional power and take what it believes is its rightful place in the international order, then it should unleash the greatest power it has – the power of its people. After all, it is this Persian power that has contributed so much to world civilization and continues to garner international respect today.
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.