Partnership for a Secure America mourns the passing of Warren Christopher, the Secretary of State during President Bill Clinton’s first term and an esteemed member of PSA’s Advisory Board. From the hostage crisis during the Carter administration to the ethnic conflict in the Balkans during the Clinton administration, Christopher was a major presence in U.S. foreign policy for nearly four decades. Known for his patient and diligent style of diplomacy, President Carter called him “the best public servant I ever knew.”
Mr. Christopher also served as Deputy Attorney General and as Deputy Secretary of State, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981. PSA is honored to have had Mr. Christopher as a signatory on eleven of PSA’s past statements, and joins his family in celebrating his distinguished career in public service.
In light of the historic uprisings across the Middle East and the success of protests in Egypt and Tunisia, many wonder about the potential for democratic change elsewhere in the world, especially considering the role technology played in the most recent revolutions and the continuing spread of this type of technology around the world.
Some have pointed to Asia, with its fair share of oppressive governments, as the next continent to watch. Small protests in Vietnam and China, and whispers of dissent in Burma have governments on edge and censors working overtime. However, just as outcomes vary in the Middle East, protests in Asia will not guarantee a regime change.
Burma is regularly mentioned as a country with potential for a fresh democratic uprising, and for obvious reasons. The people of Burma showed a willingness to rise up against their government in both 1988 and 2007, even without inspiration from outside forces. Also, like Egypt, Burma has a large population of young people with little economic opportunity, although access to quality education is more widely available for young people in Egypt than it is in Burma. Furthermore, Burma has the potential to be one of the wealthiest countries in Asia because of its rich natural resources; however, the average person in Burma lives in poverty. In 1988, students protested a rise in prices and state mismanagement of resources. In 2007, an abrupt rise in fuel prices sparked additional protests and the Saffron Revolution. Now, there are reports that commodity prices in Burma are set to rise along with fuel prices. If the price hikes are severe enough, it wouldn’t be out of the question or unprecedented for people in Burma to take to the streets, especially if activists inside and outside of Burma are inspired by similar movements in the Middle East.
From Cairo: The Arab consensus for international sanction against the Gadhafi regime is not surprising. The Arab monarchs no doubt see the opportunity to animate the long-term enmity with the Libyan dictator. This personal feud does indeed have a moral or humanitarian basis. Libyan planes bombing civilian and non-civilian rebels should not be labeled genocide but the morality of leveling the boxing ring by instituting a no-fly zone can be rationalized on a political as well as human rights basis.
The idea of another American or NATO – led military intervention is fraught with diplomatic and military landmines. First and foremost, the U.S. administration must have the emblematic, or symbolic, political cover of international law. This may not be as easy as first reported. Russia may come around quicker. However, the other security council veto possibility, China, continues to resist Western–led interventions on principal if nothing else.
Second, lets take to heart hard lessons from the two Gulf wars. International legal mandates and political demarches do not endure as long as American and NATO soldiers are alone left to not only vanquish the tyrant but also to pick up the pieces, as during the ten years of the no-fly zones over Iraq following the first Gulf war and in Iraq and Afghanistan today. The regional stakeholders need to not only help offset the financial cost and issue sanctioning resolutions from the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council but also get in the game, so to speak. GCC countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, have quite an arsenal of nice untested fighter planes. Although they may need some logistical support from NATO in order to project air power into Libya, the military capability is there. The question is of political will.
Interestingly, the idea of Arabs flying sorties over southern Libya while showing cohesive political resolve will probably do the most to convince China not to veto UNSC resolutions. The massive Chinese economic and diplomatic presence on the Arabian Peninsula and throughout the region militates against Beijing being in a position of opposing Arab leaders. The Arab people have begun to express themselves and take responsibility for their own destiny. The Arab leaders should take heed for themselves. Time to step up.
President Obama should impress upon our regional allies that they should share the risks as well as the rewards of being part of the world community. To do otherwise risks putting Western countries to do the dirty work after the dust settles and, thus, further exacerbating anti-American attitudes in the long-term.
In the famous Greek myth, the god Dionysus granted King Midas one wish. Midas knew just what he wanted: anything he touched should turn to gold. Dionysus warned Midas he would come to regret this wish, but the king insisted and Dionysus relented. At first, Midas was thrilled with this new power as he turned his bed, a carpet, and even a flower into his obsession. His elation, however, soon turned to dismay when he tried to eat, only to have his food turn to gold as well. He fully realized the depth of his mistake when he embraced his beloved daughter, killing her by transforming her into a golden statuette.
The moral of the story is clear – beware the future costs of immediate gain. This is a lesson that that Senators should heed this week as the they consider alternatives to the House budget bill.
The House of Representatives proposed drastic cuts to the 2011 foreign aid budget. If the House gets its way, international food aid will be cut by 40 percent, assistance to refugees will be cut by 45 percent, contributions to a global fund to combat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis will be cut by 40 percent. International disaster assistance would be down by more than 60 percent.
Not only will these cuts lead to preventable deaths around the world, but they will also harm our long-term security interests. This is a classic case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. The victims of this short-sightedness are not just the famished and diseased overseas, but the members of our very own military here at home.
America’s military is charged with responding to conflict, while our development assistance often targets its root causes: poverty, injustice, and desperation. Left unaddressed, these conditions fuel anger and alienation, and provide fertile recruiting grounds for violent extremists. (more…)
Last week, as the unrest in the Middle East raged on, Iran and Senegal broke up. At the heart of the matter was the seizure of a shipment of weapons from Iran allegedly headed to the separatist Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) movement, which has engaged in a low-level insurgency against the Senegalese government for three decades. Outraged, Senegal ended diplomatic ties with Iran, a move that Iran labeled “illogical.”
Regardless of the logic involved, the split could significantly set back Iranian efforts to push into Africa – efforts which Senegal, a 95 percent Muslim majority country with friendly ties to the United States, had been central to. In the last several years, Iran, keen to spread its influence into Africa as it faced increased diplomatic pressure from the West, proposed major economic projects in the West African nation, ranging from infrastructure modernization to plans for a car plant that would sell the Iranian Khodro car. In return, Senegal expressed support for the Iranian nuclear program.
But last fall the Iranian soft power story turned on its head when it morphed into a weapons caper. (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.