Graeme Bannerman: Libya, A Costly Victory

by PSA Staff | October 24th, 2011 | |Subscribe

Graeme Bannerman is a PSA Board Member and scholar at the Middle East Institute, where his work focuses on US-Arab relations, regional security, the peace process, and the history of the Middle East.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asserted recently that critics of the Libyan mission “have been proven wrong.” Now, with the death of dictator Muammar Qadhafi, the secretary’s view is supported by the overwhelming majority of Washington’s foreign policy establishment.

But this won’t be the first time that Washington may be proven wrong. Even conceding the unlikely outcome that the Libyans overcome their tribal, regional, and political differences to establish a democratic state, the long-term costs of U.S. involvement are likely to far outweigh the benefits.

The first negative fallout was seen in the Russian and Chinese veto of the U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria. The Russians and Chinese made it clear that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s abuse of the U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force in Libya to ”protect civilians” to justify a policy of regime change will make them reluctant to support future Security Council resolutions — which the United States and NATO could exploit to pursue an expanded agenda.

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William Cohen: What the U.S. Should Do About Iran

by PSA Staff | October 14th, 2011 | |Subscribe

Advisory Board Member and former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, discusses his recommendations for U.S. Policy in Iran. His recommendations include greater cooperation with the United Nations, collaboration with regional partners, and intelligence sharing in addition to many other points of leverage and influence the United States could use. The article originally appeared here on CNN.

 

Washington (CNN) — Longtime observers of the Middle East are baffled by allegations that high-ranking officials in the Iranian government approved a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabia Ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, and blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington. Commentators have described the plan as “brazen,” but “bizarre” and ‘bone-headed” might be more appropriate adjectives.

It’s difficult to comprehend either the motives or the means selected to carry out the plan outlined by the Justice Department in its criminal indictment of Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not new, but Iran has been both cautious and clever enough to restrain its ambitions for regional dominance.

If the allegations of the assassination and bombing plot are true, and the covert operation had proved successful, Iran’s leaders would have invited retaliation on a scale far more vigorous than any they might have contemplated. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that the Iranian landscape would likely have been substantially altered.

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The Value of Being There in Syria

by Jessie Daniels | October 5th, 2011 | |Subscribe

If there were Foreign Service action figures (and budding toddler foreign policy wonks out there, you know you would want one of these), then the Robert Ford one might well be the hot toy for this holiday season.  For the last six months, Ford, the US Ambassador to Syria, has brought increased attention to President Bashar al-Assad’s escalating campaign of violence against anti-regime demonstrators.  The toll has become harder and harder to ignore; to date, at least 2,700 have been killed and more than 20,000 have been detained.  But so have Ford’s actions, meeting with activists and documenting the unrest, all the while facing blowback (sometimes severe) from those loyal to the regime.  Until recently, though, he had been serving on a one-year recess appointment.  Now, in lieu of an action figure, Ford has gotten the next best thing: on Monday, he was finally confirmed by the Senate to serve a full term as the Ambassador in Damascus.

Ford’s actions certainly eased his road to Senate confirmation, but it is worth remembering that the idea of sending an Ambassador back to Syria was a contentious one only less than a year ago.  The post had been vacant since 2005 after Washington withdrew its ambassador following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and some contended that filling the post again was a bad move.  When President Obama appointed Ford to a recess appointment last December, incoming Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen argued that it sent the “wrong message” and that “making undeserved concessions to Syria tells the regime in Damascus that it can continue to pursue its dangerous agenda and not face any consequences from the US.”  Rather than a sign of strength, an American ambassador there was seen as a sign of weakness.

Can Panetta Cut DOD Spending Any Further?

by Bryan Bearden | October 3rd, 2011 | |Subscribe

Col Bryan Bearden, USAF, is an instructor of National Security, Joint Warfare and Leadership and Ethics at the Marine Corps War College.

The great debt-ceiling fight of 2011 produced partisan politics at its finest.  It also produced a congressional Super Committee tasked to identify $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by late 2011.  With this daunting task at hand, where does one think the Super Committee will go pursue budget cuts?   One answer is the U.S. government department that has a $680 billion budget.  Thus, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has his top captains scouring the department for cuts – anywhere.

Rather than addressing the Department of Defense (DOD) economic condition with relatively small budget cuts as it has done over the past several years, the DOD and the nation would better be served by going after first order assumptions.  Specifically, asking the hard question: Are the military Services really a joint force and, if so, can the DOD nix expensive duplication of the tools of warfare?  Can Secretary Panetta go beyond merely cutting programs that are deemed outdated or ineffective, and look deeper into the fundamental questions about Service core competencies, missions and responsibilities?

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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.