This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
Complications in US – Pakistan Relations
Since September 11, 2001 no relationship has been more contentious, or more vexing, than the one shared between the United States and Pakistan. It is a relationship that despite obvious mutual benefits is often viewed through a lens of distrust by both countries. This consociation began during the regime of Muhammad Zia Al Huq as both nations stood side by side stemming off the Soviet invasion of the1980′s. Low points during the A.Q. Kahn and Raymond Davis affairs tested the limits of both nations; and of course, in the wake of the final reckoning of Osama Bin Laden relations took on a life of its own. Rather than being seen as testaments to the strong foundation of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship ideally working well together, each incident, in its time, has been construed by many pundits, in both nations, as the beginning of the end. The lowest watermark viewed by Pakistan as an infringement on sovereign territory, the bin Laden mission, sent tenuous diplomacy on a collision course with conflict and distrust. This dysfunctional juxtaposition between the U.S. and Pakistan has become more glaringly apparent this summer during the talks associated with the re-opening of NATO Supply Routes running through Pakistan.
Ambassador Crocker Speaks on Middle East Issues After Leaving State Dept.
On September 17, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, appearing in his first public event since his tour in Kabul. A small audience was given special insight into arguably the most experienced living U.S. Ambassador with assignments in the Middle East. Ambassador Crocker has served in Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and, most recently, Afghanistan. Having returned to civilian life, Crocker often stated to the audience that he was now a “free” man. As such, the audience was privileged to have this opportunity to hear from someone who has spent nearly 40 years abroad and could speak candidly and honestly about situations on the ground and the relationships between states in the region.
This month, on February 2, 2011, India lost one of its greatest strategic thinkers, K Subrahmanyam.
Known affectionately to many people as “Subbu,” K Subrahmanyam was considered the father of strategic studies in India. Over four decades, he helped to shape Indian foreign and defense policy in critical ways, both inside and outside of government. He was Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Defense from 1962-65; Secretary of Defense Production from 1979-80; and Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from 1977-79. He built India’s first and foremost defense policy think tank, the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) and served as its director from 1966 to 1975 and again from 1980 to 1989. He was the principle author of India’s nuclear doctrine and strongly backed the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement. After the Kargil war, he headed the Kargil Review Committee, which recommended an overhaul of India’s national security apparatus and led to the creation of several new agencies, including the National Security Advisory Board, which he chaired. After leaving government, Subrahmanyam became a contributing editor to The Economic Times and The Times of India and taught as a visiting professor at Cambridge University. Whether you agreed with him or not, he was a giant of the Indian national security establishment. Stephen Cohen of The Brookings Institution and a long time friend of Subrahmanyam said, “Subbu was a guru to me and many others, but he did not insist that I share his views, and his most endearing quality was his love of argument and debate, which irritated some, but which on balance made him a great teacher.”
In a room full of computer screens, a US civilian with a joystick on the console kills a man thousands of miles away. Having aced a course on drones with ferocious names like Reaper, Hunter, and Tigershark, he is competent to take down a target — a dangerous terrorist, a drug lord connected with the Taliban, a farmer planting IEDs, or, accidentally, an innocent civilian, as the drones are liable to targeting errors. The drones often save American lives and tax dollars at the expense of the lives of innocent civilians: just last month, an air strike mistake led to 23 civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
However, instead of addressing the targeting failures or keeping the drones in the combat zone, the United States sometimes dismisses problems by defining its enemies as “unlawful combatants” and keeping the drone operations secret. If Washington continues to excuse itself from the rule of law in this manner, the use of armed unmanned vehicles may create more problems than it solves.
Last week, a 29-page report to the United Nations Human Rights Council called on the United States to exercise greater restraint in its use of drones outside of war zones because the use of drones undermined global constraints on the use of military force. The report stressed that the drone technology is changing the rules of conflict and undermining the foundations of humanitarian behavior in war. Here are just some grounds on which the US use of drones could be challenged. (more…)
Amid the intense domestic coverage of the health care debate came a reminder of the hope that even hardened global figures have for the Obama Presidency and its ability to transform global affairs.
In the hours after Congress acted last Sunday, the White House announced that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was one of the first two global leaders to call and congratulate Obama on his domestic victory.
Now, it is reasonable to assume that the Saudi leader was not particularly concerned about health care reform itself but recognized that its passage would strengthen Obama domestically and perhaps reignite his desire to be remembered as a transformative President not simply at home but also abroad.
In 2008 Obama ran a campaign that, in part, portrayed his very election as a step towards resetting U.S. relations with the international community. Further more, by illustrating his understanding of specific hot button issues ranging from Indo-Pakistani disagreements in Kashmir to the harm caused by the Bush administrations “war on terror”, Obama suggested that he would prioritize tackling the policy matters that had corroded relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world and thus undermined U.S. national security.
His early actions as President, from the appointment of Middle East envoy Mitchell to his historic Cairo speech, collectively suggested that Obama was looking to move beyond simply the reset offered by his election and was seeking a fundamental realignment between the U.S. and the Muslim world that would transform the international arena.
This is my last post for 2009 I thought I would write about Afghanistan but on second thought I will, no doubt, be doing that quite a lot during 2010. Thanks to the Obama Administration’s surge strategy Afghanistan will, from a blogging viewpoint, be the gift that keeps on giving.
So, as we contemplate whether 2010 will be better or worse let’s take a moment to consider 2009. In the spirit of Dave Barry’s classic annual year in review column let’s acknowledge, albeit with some poetic license commentary by moi, a few of the significant events that made, however briefly, the headlines.
Although it started on Dec. 28 2008 the month of January saw massive Israeli air strikes and a ground force invasion of the Gaza Strip. Heavy ﬁghting took place in Gaza City between the Israeli forces and Hamas. At least 1300 Palestinians were killed. On Jan. 17 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral ceaseﬁre in the Gaza Strip, declaring that Israel has achieved the goals it set when launching the military operation. On Jan. 21 Israel completes its troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Also that month President Barack Obama signed executive orders closing the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; closing the CIA’s secret prisons; requiring a review of military trials for terror suspects; and requiring all interrogations to follow the non-coercive methods speciﬁed in the Army Field Manual.
Of course, nobody knew back then that the camp would end up in Illinois. One can only hope that the inmates are not too acclimated to the Caribbean climate to adjust to a midwest winter.
On Jan 27 Hama declared that it previously was just kidding and broke the ceaseﬁre by attacking an Israeli frontier patrol. Israel immediately responded that it lacks a sense of humor and renewed its air strikes on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt.
On Feb. 3 Iran launched its ﬁrst domestically built satellite into orbit. Iran stated that the satellite is meant for research and telecommunications purposes, but Western states express concern that the technology could be used in the development of ballistic missiles. The U.S. intelligence community, estimating that Iran will show the same swift progress with its missiles that it did with its nuclear program, predicted the next flight will be in 2040.
On Feb. 6, renewing their classic rivalry, a British and a French nuclear submarine collided in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Political leaders from both countries sighed in relief that it was merely submarines and not their respective football fans that collided. (more…)
Last week, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari surrendered control of the country’s nuclear weapons to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the Pakistani military. This occurred amid ongoing controversy ignited by a New Yorker article claiming that a “highly classified” US expert squad was prepared, if necessary, to enter Pakistan and secure vulnerable nuclear weapons components in case of a military coup by Islamists. While the Pakistani government insists that fears about its nuclear arsenal are “nothing more than a concoction to tarnish the image of Pakistan,” any risk that these weapons may fall into the wrong hands is too great. A coordinated “threat reduction” response, with US leadership, is now more urgently needed than ever.
A recent spate of violent attacks on Pakistani military and police targets, including a direct assault on Army headquarters in Rawalpindi that killed more than thirty people, emphasize the urgency of the threat. Because of their proximity to Taliban-held territory and to sites of previous successful attacks, Pakistan’s nuclear facilities at Wah Cantonment and Chashma Kundian appear especially vulnerable to large-scale terrorist assault.* Even hardened physical security measures at known nuclear sites cannot protect weapons and components from being stolen or sold by insiders, or from a pinpoint attack while in transit during an exercise or a crisis-driven redeployment.
During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to India last week, Indian environmental minister Jairam Ramesh expressed India’s views on climate change policy: “There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have been among the lowest emitters per capita, face to actually reduce emissions.” Other less-developed countries (LDCs) have similar, though perhaps less aggressive, attitudes. The problem is, developing countries now make up a significant portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (China emits the most carbon dioxide of any country, and India is fourth). While it’s true that LDCs still emit greenhouse gases at much lower per capita rates than developed nations, a successful policy to combat climate change will require their cooperation.
The arguments about whose responsibility it is to curb climate change are well-worn by this point, but they still threaten to thwart meaningful international collaboration. Developed nations point out that the LDCs will soon account for a large majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. LDCs shoot back that industrialized nations created the climate change problem and that it’s only fair that LDCs also get a chance to modernize their economies without environmental restrictions. Both sides have valid points. But the developing world’s unwillingness to address the problem will have devastating consequences that will harm LDCs far worse than the developed world.
I was pleased to see that Sen. Kerry has decided to hold hearings on Afghanistan in the late summer or early fall. We are in the middle of a pivotal summer in Afghanistan with the US troop surge taking place in the build up to to critical Afghan Presidential elections in August. I am currently trying to dig into different aspects of the Afghanistan situation including getting a better sense of the relationship between drugs, corruption and the Taliban. As part of that process I have just finished reading a terrific book by Gretchen Peters, journalist and friend of Ahmed Rashid, titled Seeds of Terror. Peters, who I have not met, makes a strong case that the drug trade is the key to the resurgence of the Taliban. I would like to see Sen. Kerry invite her, along with other smart regional experts like Ahmed Rashid, to ensure that the debate at the SFRC hearing is as wide ranging as possible.
Are there other experts, with recent on the ground South Asia experience, who you think would add to such a hearing?
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Obama and Shultz at the White House on May 19 (AP photo)
At a meeting Tuesday with former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, President Obama summed up the group’s deliberations on the goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons:
“This is a reminder of the long tradition of bipartisan foreign policy that has been the hallmark of America at moments of greatest need, and that’s the kind of spirit that we hope will be reflected in our administration.”
It’s great to hear this from the President who also made “bipartisanship and openness” an official plank in his campaign platform, and now identifies it as a key to effective US national security and foreign policy for his Administration.
You might think Obama’s commitment to bipartisan consultation and cooperation on national security would win nothing but plaudits from a group of former leaders obviously assembled not just for their substantive expertise, but for their bipartisan credibility. So then what are we to make of George Shultz’s reply, in the role of spokesman for the elder statesmen? Not once, but twice, the former Reagan administration official remarked that President Obama was wrong about nuclear disarmament being a “bipartisan issue,” because:
“It’s really nonpartisan. This is a subject that ought to somehow get up above trying to get a partisan advantage. And it’s of such importance that we need to take it on its own merits. And that’s the way we’ve proceeded. And that’s the way, at least it seems to us, you’ve proceeded.”
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.