On Monday, September 19th, Partnership for a Secure America along with the Stanley Foundation and the Hudson Institute hosted Ambassador Linton Brooks in a series of events at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center, which focused on the nuclear challenges facing the United States. Ambassador Brooks, currently a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was the lead US negotiator on the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and also served as Director of Arms Control for the National Security Council and as an administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Last week, the highest level extra-governmental group ever convened to address any public policy challenge met in Washington, D.C. to announce the launch of their new organization – the United States Energy Security Council – formed to advance American energy security. This bipartisan group of 20 influential former cabinet officials, military personnel, retired Senators, and prominent business leaders, includes three PSA Advisory Board members – Robert C. McFarlane, former National Security Advisor, John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy, and Gary Hart, former Senator (D – Colo.).
At their launch event, USESC founders emphasized the importance of finding solutions to the nation’s current energy dilemma and described the risk associated with America’s reliance on oil as a sole transportation fuel. Across the bipartisan panel, members agreed that, in the interest of national and economic security, America must pursue strategies to diversify the fuel sources used in transportation – eliminating the decades old monopoly that oil has enjoyed in the U.S. transportation sector and diminishing the strategic importance of this resource. McFarlane was certain to point out, however, that the group is not “anti-oil,” but more accurately “pro-fuel choice.”
William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense under Clinton and PSA Advisory Board member, recently wrote an opinion article in Politico discussing the use of drones in modern warfare. Cohen has always supported bipartisan action on issues of national security and as a member of Congress (R-Maine) took a nonpartisan stance on security policy. Since leaving the pentagon, Cohen has penned numerous articles and books and even appeared on the Daily Show. In his most recent article, Cohen focuses on the critical role drones have played in Afghanistan and their place at the center of counter-insurgency vs. counter-terrorism debate.
Among the many issues that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta must ponder in the coming months will likely be whether to recommend shifting U.S. strategy in Afghanistan from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism.
Some critics argue that our current policy of deploying large numbers of ground troops puts more of our men and women at risk for questionable gain and even encourages more Afghans to join the Taliban, fighting against what they claim is an invasion force. Yet the recent gains in clearing out Taliban strongholds and helping to build schools, medical facilities and other civic institutions argue, instead, for staying the course for several more years.
Brian J. Davis served in the Canadian Foreign Service for 37 years, including postings at 8 missions abroad and in a range of senior assignments in Ottawa. His career in the Foreign Service culminated in his posting as the Canadian Ambassador to Syria from 2003 to 2006. Since leaving the foreign service in 2007, Davis has worked on several projects related to the Middle East Peace Process, written and published articles focusing on the Levant, and has undertaken speaking engagements related to the Middle East.
SYRIA – What do we do now?
The situation in Syria is unfolding as many experienced observers expected when the protests began last March. The Assad regime is attempting to crush the protesters with force, not only to destroy them but to intimidate the rest of the population. Assad has promised reforms, while continuing to warn Syrians and the international community that if he goes down, sectarian violence will follow and Islamists may assume power. The reality, as many Syrians realize, is that any political reforms by Assad would be illusory. He will only introduce them after he has found a way to keep the controls in his hands.
It is surprising that the protesters have continued to demonstrate, despite suffering deaths, injuries and detentions. Average Syrians have not dared to speak out for decades, despite the frustration and despair many have felt due to their deteriorating economic circumstances and lack of freedoms. Now, however, they have been encouraged by the success of similar insurrections during the “Arab Spring” and by Assad’s mishandling of the protests.
Bud McFarlane, former national security advisor and PSA Board Member, along with James Woolsey, former director of central intelligence, authored this Op-ed in The New York Times about their new bi-partisan effort, the United States Energy Security Council, encouraging the introduction of flex-fuel cars into the US market to foster better competition and put America on the path to energy independence. The article can also be read here.
OUR country has just gone through a sober national retrospective on the 9/11 attacks. Apart from the heartfelt honoring of those lost — on that day and since — what seemed most striking is our seeming passivity and indifference toward the well from which our enemies draw their political strength and financial power: the strategic importance of oil, which provides the wherewithal for a generational war against us, as we mutter diplomatic niceties.
Oil’s strategic importance stems from its virtual monopoly as a transportation fuel. Today, 97 percent of all air, sea and land transportation systems in the United States have only one option: petroleum-based products. For more than 35 years we have engaged in self-delusion, saying either that we have reserves here at home large enough to meet our needs, or that the OPEC cartel will keep prices affordable out of self-interest. Neither assumption has proved valid. While the Western Hemisphere’s reserves are substantial and growing, they pale in the face of OPEC’s, which are substantial enough to effectively determine global supply and thus the global price.
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.