Too Important to Fail: The Least Bad Call on Afghanistan

by Dr. Tammy S. Schultz | June 23rd, 2011 | |Subscribe

President Obama’s address Wednesday night regarding U.S. troop withdrawals in Afghanistan will make few people happy. Many in the military wanted a smaller withdrawal than the 10,000 he announced will come out this year, with another 23,000 out by the end 2012, and all troops gone by 2014. For the far left and increasingly some on the right, who want nothing short of a full scale withdrawal now, the President’s announcement disappointed at best and represented a betrayal at worst. For many Americans, 56% according to a recent Pew poll, the war’s cost no longer seems worth the effort, where every service member deployed in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $1 million per year. Many have said it is time to stop rebuilding Afghanistan and start rebuilding America.

One can understand the frustration on all sides of this, the longest war in America’s history. However, the United States cannot afford to turn its back on what is right – either in terms of national security or our values. And on both counts, President Obama’s modest withdrawal is the right call.

In terms of national security, Osama bin Laden’s assassination scored a huge foreign policy victory for the Obama administration as well for all peoples who oppose the hatred and violence that bin Laden espoused. Yet the sole justification for the Afghan campaign was not bin Laden’s death or capture. It is true that only about 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives remain in Afghanistan. Recall, however, that only 19 hijackers were needed for the September 11th attacks. Furthermore, so few al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan, in part, because many have fled to the ungoverned tribal areas in Pakistan. If the United States leaves Afghanistan an ungoverned mess, al Qaeda will have more places from which to train to kill Americans and our allies. (more…)

A High-Risk, Low Reward Strategy Could Lose the Future

by Jessie Daniels | June 17th, 2011 | |Subscribe

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut the President’s 2012 Department of Energy (DoE) budget request by $5.9 billion.  One particular victim was the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy – better known by its acronym “ARPA-E” – which supports and sustains many high-risk, high reward projects that the private sector cannot or will not fund on its own.  It is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that helped develop things like the precursor to the Internet, GPS, and predator drones.  Yet the House proposal includes only $100 million for ARPA-E, $450 million less than the President’s request and nearly $80 million less than current funding.

Unfortunately, ARPA-E may now also become known as the acronym for “A Reckless and Paltry Approach Endangers” when it comes to our national security. (more…)

James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton Op-Ed: Breaking the War Powers Stalemate

by PSA Staff | June 13th, 2011 | |Subscribe

PSA Advisory Board Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State James Baker III authored the following Washington Post op-ed calling on lawmakers to resolve the Executive and Legislative branch conflict over war-making authorities, an issue most recently highlighted by US involvement in Libya, and propose the War Powers Consultation Act as a possible means to do so.

With our country engaged in three critical military conflicts, the last thing that Congress and the White House should be doing is squabbling over which branch of government has the final authority to send American troops to war. But that is exactly what has been happening, culminating with the House’s rebuke of the Obama administration last Friday for the way it has gone about the war in Libya.

On one hand is a bipartisan group of House members who argue that President Obama overreached because he failed to seek congressional approval for the military action in Libya within 60 days of the time the war started, as required by the War Powers Resolution. The lawmakers are particularly upset because the administration sought, and received, support from the United Nations — but not from them.

On the other hand is the White House, which argues that history is on its side. The 1999 NATO-led bombing over Kosovo lasted 18 days longer than the resolution’s 60-day requirement before the Serbian regime relented.

Stuck in the middle are the American people, particularly our soldiers in arms. They would be best served if our leaders debated the substantive issues regarding the conflict in Libya — and those of Afghanistan and Iraq — rather than engaging in turf battles about who has ultimate authority concerning the nation’s war powers.

(more…)

Former Senator Danforth: Why the U.S. should keep the U.N. in business

by PSA Staff | June 7th, 2011 | |Subscribe

Former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO), the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2004-05 and a signatory of Partnership for a Secure America’s 2008 statement on renewing the U.S.-U.N. relationship, authored the following op-ed in USA Today on how cutting U.N. funding will actually limit U.S. policy options while simultaneously increasing costs.

Congress has been debating United Nations reform and whether to limit U.S. contributions to hasten this reform in line with U.S. wishes. There is no debate over the need for reform. Particularly at a time of serious economic constraints, the United States must be judicious with its funding and maximize its impact. Accountability, transparency, and efficiency are essential requirements for the U.N., and the U.S. must not ease up on pressing for this needed change.

Rather, the real question underlying the debate is how we can best influence the institution to accelerate the adoption of reforms while not shutting down the organization’s work, decreasing U.S. influence, and costing American taxpayers more money.

Recent polling shows that Americans recognize the reality of today’s interconnected world. We can neither turn inward nor deal with the long list of national security challenges alone. Rather, U.S. taxpayers want our national security engagements to be right-sized, rightly timed, and rightly resourced. Policymakers need to have options to share foreign policy and national security challenges, and the U.N. gives us real tools to do so.

Why the U.N. still matters

A truly unique global body, the U.N. offers us the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with nearly 200 countries on a breadth of vital issues. Although imperfect, no other organization can provide the amount of global reach and influence offered by the U.N. (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.