Tara Sonenshine: A Fulbright Is Not a Political Football

by PSA Staff | October 1st, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine sits on the Partnership for a Secure America’s Board of Advisors. She is a former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and currently teaches at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

A Fulbright is Not a Political Football

Every now and then Congress shows wisdom as in the recent decision by the House and Senate to reject a request from the Obama administration to cut funding for the famous Fulbright program from $237 to $204 million.

What’s a Fulbright and why should you care?

The Fulbright is the most competitive and highly sought academic fellowship in the world. Think of it as trade — the trading of great minds in the stead of peace.

The Fulbright premise is tried and true — built on a simple, highly effective concept of international exchanges among scholars to foster better understanding and relations among nations. The Fulbright program provides small grants to help American students and teachers learn and work abroad and foreign students and scholars to visit the United States. As Senator J. William Fulbright, the program’s founder, said in 1945, “a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion… increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and fellowship.”

With over 355,000 alumni from over 155 countries, the Fulbright Program is important, symbolically and substantively for the United States at a time when we are trying to win more friends and fight more enemies. The Fulbright program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 US scholars, and 900 visiting scholars receive awards, in addition to several hundred teachers and professionals. In this exchange of knowledge comes the chance to build stronger civil societies based on common values and interests.

So why would anyone want to cut a program that builds and maintains robust educational, scientific, economic, and political partnerships; knowledge transfer; and competition in the global marketplace?

Well, in a world of economic choices there is always a temptation to save “cents” at the expense of “sense.” Mistakenly, some in the government thought of shifting resources from in-depth exchange programs like Fulbright — which last a full year and extend around the globe — to shorter programs targeted on regions like Africa or Asia. Taking an axe to a government program might sound appealing unless you know the facts:

Firstly, the Fulbright is not exclusively a U.S. government program. It uses cost-sharing and partnership agreements with other countries — some of which are America’s long-standing friends and most important allies in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, and in the Western Hemisphere. In many of the countries engaged in these exchanges, Fulbright Commissions administer the program. Their budgets come from multiple sources — the U.S. Department of State and other governments as well as private charitable donations. In many countries with Fulbright commissions, partner countries spend more funding Fulbright opportunities for U.S. students and scholars to go abroad and more for their own students and scholars to go to the United States than the U.S. government does. We should not undermine their confidence in the U.S. commitment to the program with $ 30 million cut that would jeopardize those revenue flows.

Geography matters. It is also important to keep the reach of Fulbright educational exchanges broad, not narrow. Shifting the diplomatic lens away from Europe, for example, during a period when we are building coalitions of the willing to fight ISIS, deal with the instability in Ukraine, and counter transnational threats makes no sense. This is a time when we need transatlantic cooperation through dialogue and exchange.

The Fulbright program yields some of the greatest peace dividends. Among its alumni are 29 former heads of state or government, 53 Nobel Prize winners, and 80 Pulitzer Prize winners from all regions of the world. Those who invest in the Fulbright program invest a full year because learning about another country takes time. Shorter programs that offer less substantive immersion for foreigners do not necessarily create lasting change. Cutting corners on education never quite works.

Lastly, there is an American economic imperative to invest in international education including bringing scholars from the around the world to the U.S. According to the Association of International Educators, international students contribute over $24 billion to the U.S. economy each year, and the Fulbright Program is one of the most respected programs among international educators in the United States and abroad.

The Fulbright program must stay fully funded. Stay tuned for more budget action as Congress makes final decisions on the FY15 appropriations bills although the way things are going, there may not be a final budget until the end of the year. In the meantime, America has to do it work to strengthen ties with other nations and promote international cooperation. Fulbright is one small way to maintain the world’s largest multilateral investment in public diplomacy.

Give Diplomacy With Russia a Chance

by PSA Staff | September 14th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Jack F. Matlock Jr. was the United States ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991. Thomas R. Pickering is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors and  was the United States ambassador to Russia from 1993 to 1996, and James F. Collins from 1997 to 2001.This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

Give Diplomacy With Russia a Chance

The crisis over Ukraine has all but frozen official communication between the United States and Russia. The Russian reaction to the political upheaval in Kiev — the absorption of Crimea, and the armed intervention in eastern Ukraine — and the American responses to those actions have brought about a near-complete breakdown in normal and regular dialogue between Washington and Moscow. Relations between the two capitals have descended into attempts by each side to pressure the other, tit-for-tat actions, shrill propaganda statements, and the steady diminution of engagement between the two governments and societies.

Reports from the NATO summit meeting that ended in Newport, Wales, on Friday indicate that the United States and its allies will respond to Russia’s intervention and violence in Ukraine with an escalation of their own — including further sanctions, enhanced military presence in front-line states, and possibly greater support for Ukraine’s armed forces. This amounts to more of the same, with little if any assurance of better outcomes.

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The Real Lesson of MH17

by PSA Staff | July 28th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Gary Hart was a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and is a member on PSA’s Advisory Board. This op-ed was originally found on National Interest.

The Real Lesson of MH17

Crossing Murphy’s Law with the law of unintended consequences produces this: If the worst possible thing can happen it will, and it will probably happen to you. When the Soviet Union was occupying Afghanistan, we armed the Taliban on the always-dubious theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the great sweep of human history, it did not take long for the enemy of our enemy to become our enemy. This seems to offer yet another law: Never replace an occupier whom you are trying to get rid of. (more…)

Bordering on surreal — live images of war

by PSA Staff | July 23rd, 2014 | |Subscribe

Bordering on surreal — live images of war

Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at George Washington University and former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in the The Hill Contributor’s Blog.

A civilian aircraft is shot down over the border between Russia and Ukraine, wreckage burning on the ground. Two hundred ninety-eight innocent souls lost. In another quadrant of your screen, outgoing rockets from Gaza meet incoming missiles from Israel along the border as Israeli ground troops seek to destroy tunnels connecting the areas. Cut to the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of people are streaming across to escape life in Latin America, facing uncertain conditions. Pause before watching scenes of insurgents marching toward Baghdad. They came over porous borders with Syria.

Everywhere you look, a boundary is in dispute at a time when we supposedly live in a virtual e-everything world with no borders. The question arises — what role do borders serve? (more…)

Albright: D-Day about national service

by PSA Staff | June 11th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Madeleine Albright served as secretary of State in the Clinton administration. She is chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and a member of the Leadership Council of the Franklin Project. This post is originally from sheboyganpress.com Madeleine Albright is also a member of PSA’s Advisory Board.

Albright: D-Day about national service

Like many Americans of a certain age, I have always felt a direct connection to the events of D-Day, 70 years ago Friday. I was 7 years old, living in London, when the liberation of Europe – and eventually the liberation of my parents’ home – began in the early morning of June 6, 1944. My family had fled from Czechoslovakia following the Munich Agreement, which legitimized Adolf Hitler’s dismemberment of a neighboring nation and became a symbol of the West’s impotence and division.

D-Day was the opposite historical pole to Munich. It was not only the decisive battle in a great war, it also was the demonstration that a great alliance, led by America, could achieve unprecedented strategic, technical and moral purposes. The first wave of Operation Overlord carried150,000 men and 1,500 tanks to the French coast, essentially transporting a small city across the English Channel through a hail of artillery and machine gun fire. This achievement set the tone for a generation, in which the task of saving the world became a normal, expected part of Americans’ calling.

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After Ukraine, Obama Keeps an Eye on the Baltics

by PSA Staff | June 11th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine is distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She is also a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in Defense One.

After Ukraine, Obama Keeps an Eye on the Baltics

In the wake of the Ukraine election, all eyes are on Russia and President Vladimir Putin for signs of a full withdrawal of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border or an escalation of tensions in and around Kiev.

But there is another related hotspot to be watching:  the Baltics. While political analysts are busy imagining a new Ukraine with quasi-independent states or neutral, federated regions and political power-sharing arrangements, the Obama administration is rightly considering beefing up its military presence in Europe, perhaps going so far as granting a Baltic request for permanent NATO military bases. Having been somewhat blindsided by Ukraine, neither this administration nor European leaders want to take any chances.

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I Spy, You Spy: Limiting Government Surveillance of Private Citizens

by PSA Staff | May 9th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Morton Halperin is a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors and is currently a senior adviser at the Open Society Institute. This article was originally published on Huffington Post Blog .

I Spy, You Spy: Limiting Government Surveillance of Private Citizens

During their visit last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not succeed in resolving their disagreement about American spying on German officials and private citizens.

It appears that Germany still wants a “no spy” agreement with the United States, meaning that the two countries would cease and desist from spying on each other’s government officials and citizens.

But such an agreement was never a real possibility. No two nations have ever had a total ban on spying on each other. All governments seek to read the diplomatic traffic of all other governments, friend or foe. And all spy in some circumstances on residents of other countries as well as their own citizens.

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Ukraine a Victim of Weak Western Allies

by PSA Staff | March 7th, 2014 | |Subscribe

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.

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Aphrodite’s possibility: Everyone wins in the eastern Mediterranean

by PSA Staff | June 3rd, 2013 | |Subscribe

Marc Grossman is a Vice Chairman of The Cohen Group, a Henry Kissinger Senior fellow at Yale University and a former US Ambassador to Turkey.  Tom Miller is a member of the PSA Board of Directors, President of the International Executive Service Corps, a former US Ambassador to Greece, and US Special Cyprus Coordinator. This article originally ran May 31, 2013, in FuelFix (A Houston Chronicle Publication).

Aphrodite’s possibility: Everyone wins in the eastern Mediterranean

With the violence spilling over the border into Turkey in the form of car bombs, the crisis in Syria surely topped the agenda when President Obama met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week.

We hope they also took a few minutes to discuss the opportunity to make progress on one of the world’s most intractable problems  – the division of Cyprus — by harnessing  the discovery of a natural gas field about 100 miles south of Cyprus called Aphrodite.  Getting that gas to market could revive the Cypriot economy, enhance Turkey’s relations with Israel and lay the foundations to end Cyprus’ division, a requirement for Turkey’s long-sought membership in the European Union.

Because of the collapse of Cyprus’s banking sector, experts estimate its GDP could shrink by 15% this year and another 15% in 2014.  The EU’s first bailout plan initially created more controversy than confidence; it will take years for Cyprus’s GDP recover.

The Aphrodite field could change the trajectory of that recovery.  There are press reports that Houston-based Noble Energy, the company that found Aphrodite in 2011, estimates that the field contains 142 billion to 227 billion cubic meters of gas worth $45 billion at current prices. (more…)

The Greek Elections and the Future of Greece

by PSA Staff | May 15th, 2012 | |Subscribe

Thomas Miller is the previous Ambassador to Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Special Coordinator for Cyprus. He is also the current President/CEO of International Executive Service Corps, a non-profit that furnishes expertise to the developing world to train in best business practices. You can read more about his impressive career here.

The Greek Elections and the Future of Greece

Author: Ambassador Thomas Miller

As of now it looks virtually certain that Greeks will return to the polls on either June 10 or 17—just a few weeks after the last inconclusive election. On May 6, Greeks resoundingly turned out the two parties that had alternated power for nearly the last four decades when 70% of them voted for parties that rejected the austerity plan these two mainstream parties had signed with the European Union, IMF, and the European Central Bank (ECB).

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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.