The Confusing State of the World

by PSA Staff | January 27th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine is former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, a former PSA Board of Directors member, and currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. This article was originally published in the Washington Times

Pseudo-states and Strange Bedfellows Blur Borderlines

Were it not so deadly serious, it would be satirical. The United States is losing its sense of geospatial positioning. We may be one of the few “countries” left in the world — replaced by a series of pseudo-states, groups and strange bedfellows.

Imagine having to teach geography in 2014, let alone understand it. That spinning globe we used to use, with color-coded countries and bright borders, national flags and easy-to-pronounce places hardly seems useful. We may need a 2014 Guide to Groups within Countries.


What are the Benefits of a CTBT?

by PSA Staff | January 22nd, 2014 | |Subscribe

Jenifer Mackby is a Senior Adviser at Partnership for a Secure America. She worked on the negotiations and implementation of the CTBT and has served in senior positions at a number of international organizations focusing on nuclear, biological, and conventional weapons issues. Mackby is the co-author of several books on these subjects and has appeared in The New York Times, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and National Defense University publications.

What are the Benefits of a CTBT?

While waves of generations in many countries have fought for a treaty to ban nuclear weapon test explosions, the U.S. Congress has been divided on the issue in recent decades. The Senate rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999 by a vote of 51-48, putting it on the same side of the street as those it finds most unsavory– North Korea, Iran, Pakistan. In a 2009 bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S., the CTBT was the only issue on which they could not agree. However, given new political realities and new scientific findings about verification capabilities, many in the national security community now support the treaty and believe it should be re-visited.


Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

by PSA Staff | January 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Sam Nunn is the Co-Chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and former US Senator from Georgia. Mr. Nunn is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors. This speech was originally published on NTI’s website.

Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

Thank you, Jim Rogers, for your introduction and for your outstanding leadership.  I particularly want to thank Jim and all gathered here today for the work of this Society – helping the world benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear science.

On this Veterans Day, I would also like to recognize one of our nation’s most outstanding public servants and veterans, former Senator Pete Domenici.

I am delighted to join George Shultz, who addresses every challenge with energy, optimism, keen intellect and wisdom.  He is always looking to the future – with one exception.  When George attended Henry Kissinger’s 90th birthday party, he reflected, “Ah, Henry — to be 90 again!”  I also thank Sid Drell for proving many times that a brilliant theoretical physicist can make a profound empirical difference in the security of his country and the world.

All Americans should be grateful for the remarkable work that the people in this room have done to improve and ensure safety and efficiency in the nuclear field.  Preventing accidents is absolutely essential.  The future of nuclear energy depends equally on security:  preventing the theft of weapons-usable materials—either highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium—that could lead to a terrorist nuclear attack.  Nuclear energy also depends on avoiding a dangerous future where a state acquires technology for peaceful purposes, then uses it for nuclear weapons.  Safety, security and nonproliferation are the three key links in the chain to assure the benefits of the atom for humanity.


The North American Global Powerhouse

by PSA Staff | July 22nd, 2013 | |Subscribe

George Shultz is a PSA Advisory Board Member and a former secretary of labor, Treasury and state, and is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. This article was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.

The North American Global Powerhouse

Discussions of rising economies usually focus on Asia, Africa and the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China. But what may well be the most important development of all is often overlooked: the arrival of North America as a global powerhouse. What’s going on?

The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas in 1992. It was ratified in the U.S. thanks to the leadership of President Bill Clinton in 1993. Since then, the integration of the three economies has proceeded at a sharp pace. Consider:

The three countries constitute around one-fourth of global GDP, and they have become each other’s largest trading partners. Particularly notable is the integration of trade. A 2010 NBER study shows that 24.7% of imports from Canada were U.S. value-added, and 39.8% of U.S. imports from Mexico were U.S. value-added. (By contrast, the U.S. value-added in imports from China was only 4.2%.) This phenomenon of tight integration of trade stands apart from other major trading blocks including the European Union or East Asian economies.


The War on Tusks

by PSA Staff | July 11th, 2013 | |Subscribe

Tara D. Sonenshine is the US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and a former PSA Board Member.  This article originally appeared in National Geographic.

The War on Tusks

Tusks up–in some parts of the world that means good luck; a saying full of irony considering the unfortunate plight of elephants today. Depending on your culture, elephants also convey strength, power, wisdom and patience. Whether in India, Africa or other lands, they are important and meaningful—and today they are receiving the global attention they deserve.

This month President Obama issued an executive order targeting the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks (and those of rhino horns and other products) promising a $10 million effort and a national presidential task force to increase anti-poaching efforts.  Building on what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began in 2012 as a global crackdown on illicit trade of wildlife, the President vowed to rein in the growing black market for illegal animal products, which experts estimate has reached an annual business of 7-10 billion dollars.

The threat posed by this lucrative trade is not only environmental. It is a security and counterterrorism issue for the United States and many other countries. There is mounting evidence of links between wildlife crime syndicates and terror groups, with traffickers bankrolling rebels and their militias, conducting military-style assaults on elephants and terrorists funding their violent agenda through the burgeoning market for luxury goods, religious articles, carvings and medicines.

The White House action came as new scientific research opens major possibilities for determining the age of elephant tusks—a key part of the poaching puzzle.  Reported by theProceedings of the National Academies of Science, the research on tracking the age of ivory uses atmospheric nuclear weapons testing residue from the 1950s and 1960s to connect the dots on the age of elephant tusks.  In what is akin to the DNA breakthrough on crime solving, this new research could help law enforcement and other agencies determine when the killing of an elephants occurred—a tool in citing violations of the 1989 ban on African elephant killing for tusks.  The mere fact that carbon footprints from radiation from nuclear testing can be linking to elephant footprints is an astonishing scientific leap that will also help in tracking the numbers of traffickers since estimates of poaching comes from examining elephant carcasses.

The world is waking up to the plain fact that we are losing elephants fast.  National Geographic’s  2012 cover story on “Blood Ivory” detailed a decade of poaching that hit a high in 2011, having the greatest impact in the central Africa region.  According to experts at Columbia University, we have only 400,000 elephants left in the wild.  30,000 elephants are killed each year. A public education awareness campaign must be waged worldwide to target the demand side of the elephant equation. Consumers have to understand that ivory comes from a dead elephant’s tusk and that without an end to the purchase of these products, we simply cannot win the war on trafficking.  Media campaigns like those spearheaded by National Geographic, WildAid, the World Wildlife Federation and hundreds of other conservation groups are critical.  The involvement of Hollywood figures like Jackie Chan have helped the wildlife trafficking issue to gain traction as has the work of athletes like Yao Ming.

In the end, this war will be won through changing hearts and minds—or in other words, public diplomacy.  We need education to reinforce the principle that killing animals is not cool and that the crime of poaching will lead to serious consequences.Whether it is good luck, wisdom or patience, elephants are vital to our planet and must stay front and center in the global mindset until their slaughter is stopped.

Complications in U.S. – Pakistan Relations

by PSA Staff | October 10th, 2012 | |Subscribe

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.

by Cordell Critchell | September 21st, 2012 | |Subscribe

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.


Remembering India’s Henry Kissinger

by Mark Nichols | February 16th, 2011 | |Subscribe

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.”


Drones: Unlawful Response to Unlawful Combatants?

by Volha Charnysh | June 9th, 2010 | |Subscribe

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…)

After Healthcare: U.S. – Muslim World Strategic Realignment in the time of Obama

by Raj Purohit | March 29th, 2010 | |Subscribe

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.


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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.