Erica Fein is currently working with Women’s Action for New Directions as a nuclear weapons policy officer. She is an alumnus of PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. This piece originally appeared on WAND’s tumblr page.
Still No Sanity in Nuclear Budgeting
The President’s budget release is a perfect time to think about our national priorities over the coming years: Do we want to invest in programs to keep America vibrant, well-educated, and healthy, or do we want a hollowed-out America where spending on expensive and unworkable weapons systems take precedent?
Paula J. Dobriansky, a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, was under secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration. She is also a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article was co-authored by David Rivkin. The article was originally published in USAToday.
Ukraine Must Wish it Had Kept its Nukes
The world seems to have forgotten that Ukraine began its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 as a major nuclear power, possessing the world’s third largest nuclear force, more powerful than Chinese, British and French forces combined. That capability gave Ukraine great foreign policy leverage with Russia and other countries.
No doubt, Ukraine probably wishes that leverage was still available today to resist the aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Thomas Pickering is a retired ambassador and former Under Secretary of State. He is currently a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. This article was co-authored by Nicholas Kralev. The article originally appeared in USA Today.
Take Politics Out of Diplomacy
Diplomacy is easy and anyone can do it. This is the message U.S. presidents of both parties have been sending the American people and the world for decades. They have done so not verbally, but through their actions, giving away ambassadorial posts as rewards to unqualified people only because they were top fundraisers during the presidents’ election campaigns.
As old as that issue is, it has received renewed and greater attention recently, following last month’s embarrassing Senate confirmation hearing of President Obama’s nominees as ambassadors to Norway and Hungary. Sen. John McCain’s public shaming of those nominees, hotel magnate George Tsunis and soap opera producer Colleen Bell, for not knowing basic facts about the country where they are supposed to serve or about U.S. interests in that country, has sparked important media commentary.
Frank G. Wisner is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors as well as a former Under Secretary of State and of Defense and a former Ambassador to Zambia, Egypt, the Philippines, and India. The article was co-authored by Leslie H. Gelb, a former New York Times columnist and senior government official. Original article posted at the Daily Beast.
Face the Assad Reality In Syria
U.S. policy is going down the drain in Syria diplomatically and militarily. The choice: deal with Assad or fail.
The Syria conference underway in Geneva to transition from the rule of President Assad will fail, and the Obama team knows it. There is no incentive now in the Assad or rebel camps for diplomatic compromise, and the U.S. knows that. Nothing the U.S. and its allies are doing or planning on the military front will compel President Assad to step aside, and the White House understands that full well. The reality on the ground today is that American-helped moderate rebels continue to flounder, while Assad’s forces and those of the jihadi extremists prosper. Obama officials see this as well and realize that nothing they are doing or are likely to do will alter those facts.
So, if President Obama understands what he is doing will fail, why is he doing it?
Thomas Pickering is former US ambassador to Venezuela and Czechoslovakia; and former US Under Secretary of State and ambassador to Israel, Russia, India, the UN and Jordan. Mr. Pickering is a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. William Luers, director of the Iran Project, co-authored the article. The article was originally published in the Financial Times.
Diplomatic Success Always Trumps a Military Victory
Diplomatic negotiations with Iran strike many Americans as an oxymoron. How could serious negotiations be conducted with a nation we have distrusted for decades, that has persisted in developing a nuclear programme, has threatened Israel and is involved in terrorist activities?
Yet the same Americans are quick to oppose a military solution. So the conclusion is that diplomacy must be tried. To help Americans understand that diplomacy can be used to manage some of the toughest problems, former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have written an article endorsing diplomacy. It is hard to disagree.
The author, Alessandria Dey, is an undergraduate student of Hamilton College and a current participant of Hamilton’s DC Program. She is an intern at Partnership for a Secure America.
Are We Fighting a “War on Terror” in 2013?
In 2001, following the events of September 11th, former President Bush declared a “war on terror.” What followed was a military invasion into Afghanistan, marking the beginning of this long war. Now, after more than a decade of active U.S. military presence, many are questioning our nation’s future intentions in the Middle East. In addition to the continuation of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, U.S. involvement in counterinsurgencies and nation building has led to more skepticism of our foreign policy goals. The main question is: are we fighting a “war on terror” in 2013? The answer is yes.
A “war on terror” is defined beyond direct altercations with terrorist groups. In addition to combating terrorist groups and affiliates, the “war on terror” is a crusade against potential security threats against the U.S. In 2013, a “war on terror” includes the repression of terrorist groups, democratization of the Middle East, and continued nation-building – essential objectives for protecting the homeland in the long term.
There has been a notable decrease in the activities of major terrorist groups after the initial invasion of Afghanistan. Despite the decrease in the activities of groups like al-Qaeda, their presence and the determination of insurgents remain a threat to the government in place. U.S. involvement in counterinsurgency campaigns is vital to the stability of Afghanistan. Insurgents are responsible for a considerable amount of damage and their relationship with al-Qaeda remains intact. They hinder economic development and improvement in governance needed for the long term stability of Afghanistan. Four thousand Afghan civilians in the first half of 2013 were victims of insurgents’ high profile attacks. Suicide attacks remain steady with 150 per year since 2009. Insurgents are now infiltrating the Afghan police and turning their weapons on Afghan and NATO forces. (more…)
Mr. Lehman was secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and a member of the 9/11 Commission. He is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. This article was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.
John Lehman: More Bureaucrats, Fewer Jets and Ships
More than half of our active-duty servicemen and women serve in offices on staffs.
As we lament the lack of strategic direction in American foreign policy, it is useful to remember the classic aphorism that diplomatic power is the shadow cast by military power. The many failures and disappointments of American policy in recent years, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Russia and Iran are symptoms of the steady shrinkage of the shadow cast by American military power and the fading credibility and deterrence that depends on it.
Although current U.S. spending on defense adjusted for inflation has been higher than at the height of the Reagan administration, it has been producing less than half of the forces and capabilities of those years. Instead of a 600-ship Navy, we now have a 280-ship Navy, although the world’s seas have not shrunk and our global dependence has grown. Instead of Reagan’s 20-division Army, we have only 10-division equivalents. The Air Force has fewer than half the number of fighters and bombers it had 30 years ago.
Apologists for the shrinkage argue that today’s ships and aircraft are far more capable than those of the ’80s and ’90s. That is as true as “you can keep your health insurance.” (more…)
The author, Christina Vachon, is a graduate student at George Washington University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in International Security Studies. She is currently an intern at the Partnership for a Secure America and has a research interest in security policy in the Middle East.
When Iran Gets the Bomb
Even though a short term deal with Iran has been reached, the US should prepare for the chance that Iran will cheat. As talks continue toward a long term agreement, the US should assess what Iran, the Middle East, and the world will look like if Iran gets the bomb. There is a lack of consensus on what happens if and when Iran gets the bomb. Due to the uncertainty that exists about Iran and its program, continued diplomatic efforts are important in order to gain more information about the situation, to better relations, and to prepare for a nuclear Iran. It is important though that all options remain on the table in order to protect US interests.
Ryan McClure is an attorney, intern at Partnership for a Secure America, and foreign policy blogger focusing on U.S. foreign policy in East Asia. He can be followed on Twitter @The BambooC.
The Need for Bipartisanship on U.S.-Burma Policy
The United States’ relationship with Burma has greatly changed in a brief period of time. Just three years ago, Burma was a pariah state subject to severe American sanctions. Today, sanctions have been lessened and the Burmese president is welcomed at the White House. The reason for these changes is Burma’s quasi-military government’s decision to carry out political reform toward a more democratic system. However, political oppression and human rights violations continue.
The Obama Administration, while aware of these abuses, persists in rewarding the Burmese government for geo-strategic reasons. Because of this, Congress must press the Administration to institute a more deliberate policy that rewards Burma with economic and diplomatic engagement only when concrete, sustained benchmarks have been met. (more…)
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Jayson Browder is a decorated Air Force and Iraq Veteran. A recent graduate of Fordham University, Jayson was named a National Finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2012 and was recently awarded the William J. Fulbright Scholarship for 2013 to Turkey. Currently Jayson holds a position as a Military Legislative Assistant for Congressman Beto O’Rourke in the United States House of Representatives. This article originally appeared on PolicyMic.
Congress’ Iran Policy: Short Sighted and Irrational
Clear thought, rational thinking, and innovative ideas are desperately needed in the 113th Congress. Unfortunately, a large number of members of the House of Representatives have let short-term priorities and easy political points cloud their judgment. This has made for some poor and unfortunate votes that, for some partial short-term gains, will have long-term repercussions for the United States and our allies abroad. Examples of this include the failure to pass a budget for four years, the failure to solve the sequester, the failure to solve the debt ceiling, and most recently, the votes to place more stringent sanctions than ever on Iran.
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.