Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This article originally appeared in the Union-Bulletin.
Even in national security realm, dogged journalism a blessing, not a curse
Let’s start with the obvious: A democracy needs intelligence agencies. It needs to know what’s happening in the world — and understand the plans of allies and enemies — to keep the nation prepared and secure.
If intelligence work is going to be effective, much of it has to be done in secret. “National security” is not merely an excuse for keeping intelligence activity under wraps: often, the only way to protect our collective well-being is to pursue many national security activities, including intelligence-gathering, in the dark.
But that’s if they’re legitimately in the national interest. All too often, governments use secrecy to protect themselves politically or to shroud activities that, seen in the cold light of day, their citizens would reject. This is why secrecy in government can be dangerous, and should be subject to the checks and balances of our constitutional system.
However legitimate secrecy may be, though, there is a limit to how much a democracy can stand. As ordinary citizens, we need information about what our government is up to in order to make informed and discriminating choices about politicians and policies. Journalists and their media outlets are indispensable conveyors of this information. The work of the journalist, who often presses for a more open, accountable government, creates tensions with a government set upon guarding state secrets. But it’s a healthy, much-needed tension. (more…)
Tara D. Sonenshine is the US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, a former PSA Board Member. This article originally appeared in the Daily Monitor, an independent daily newspaper in Uganda.
We should protect freedom of expression in all media
World Press Freedom Day is celebrated every May 3 to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and to honour journalists who have lost their lives in pursuit of their profession.
But as many human rights activists and journalists and people of conscience often ruefully declare, every day should be World Press Freedom Day. That’s because – as I write this – almost 250 journalists languish in prisons worldwide. Many more are harassed, intimidated and even murdered. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, throughout the world nearly 600 journalists have been murdered with impunity since 1992 – and last year was the deadliest of all for journalists.
What are their purported crimes? Doing what journalists should in any free society: reporting to all of us what is going on in their communities and in their countries. (more…)
Jamie Metzl served on the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration and is Co-Chairman of Partnership for a Secure America and a former Executive Vice President of the Asia Society. This article first appeared on Project Syndicate.
NEW YORK — The compelling drama of former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai’s ouster amid allegations of corruption and murder, and of blind Chinese human-rights advocate Chen Guangcheng’s dash to safety in the US Embassy in Beijing, are more than just fascinating narratives of venality and courage. Unless China can purge the thousands of corrupt Party leaders like Bo, and empower people – like those Chen represents – who have been left behind or harmed by rapid growth, its economy will increasingly suffer.
Anthony Scavone is a recent graduate of Boston University where he studied International Relations focusing specifically on International Development and Sub-Saharan Africa. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali from October until they were evacuated in mid-April. You can read more about his personal experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in his personal blog, Anthony in Africa. This is the first post in a two-post series about the motivations and impact of the recent military coup in Mali.
To boil down all the implications of recent events in Mali into a single post would not give justice to the true breadth of what has happened. Instead I will split this into two separate pieces: part one will focus on what this coup means for Mali and Malians. The second will focus more on what this means for me, the Peace Corps, and the international community at large.
Part 1: Mali and Malians
It’s become relatively common knowledge that the main grievance that drove the military to overthrow Amadou Toumani Toure (Better known as ATT) was the belief that ATT was strangling the military effort to maintain security in the vast northern regions of the country. Lack of food and supplies, while facing a Tuareg rebellion recently augmented by the fall of Gaddafi and the return of arms and trained Malian Tuaregs from Libya, drove mid-ranking military leaders to try to take matters into their own hands.
Graeme Bannerman, a scholar at the Middle East Institute, served as staff director on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He is also a member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in Politico and can be found here.
Alliance with Egypt is Key for U.S.
As a result of foreign policy miscalculations, the United States may lose its historical leadership in the Middle East. While the unfolding tragedy in Syria, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the war on terrorists absorb U.S. attention and resources, the unnecessary decline of U.S.-Egyptian relations could do the most damage to our national interests. Just as Britain’s domination of the region ended on the banks of the Suez Canal in 1956, Washington now appears determined to end our 30 years of regional dominance in a confrontation with the Egyptian people.
U.S. pre-eminence in the region since the 1970s was built on the strategic cooperation between Washington and Cairo. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter strove to create this relationship, for they realized that the preceding 20 years of predominant Soviet influence in the region was due to the Egyptian-Soviet partnership.
Lee Hamilton, Co-Chair of the PSA Advisory Board, is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Indianna for 34 years. The original article appeared in the South Bend Tribune and can be found here.
There’s a Better Way to Gauge Congress
I suspect that most members of Congress will want to forget the year that just ended.
The institution that symbolizes our democracy finished 2011 plumbing depths of unpopularity it has never experienced before. Its low approval ratings set records — suggesting, as Gallup put it, “that 2011 will be remembered as the year in which the American public lost much of any remaining faith in the men and women they elect and send off to Washington to represent them.”
The poor jobs picture, the lurching from one brink-of-disaster deadline to the next, the polarization that keeps the parties from working together, the widespread sense that Congress is so dysfunctional it cannot meet the nation’s challenges — all play a role.
Ms Albright is former US secretary of state and a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. Mr. Kohut is president of the Pew Research Center. The original editorial appeared in the Financial Times, you can find the article here.
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.
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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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.
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.