Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University and current Advisory Board Co-Chair to the Partnership for a Secure America. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. The article originally appeared in The Huffington Post.
Middle East Continues to Dominate U.S. Foreign Policy, but Our Strategy in Region Remains Largely Unclear
Like every U.S. president of the last half-century, I find it nearly impossible to avoid focusing most of my foreign policy attention on the continuingly chaotic and confusing region of the world that is the Middle East.
I have now spent five decades working on foreign policy in government, and I’m still struggling to make sense of the Middle East. It’s an extremely turbulent area, where tensions flare up regularly. Its economic growth has been tepid at best, and its overall governance is feeble. The region is currently flooded with refugees. And city after city is fraught with danger, destruction and devastation.
Lee H. Hamilton is Professor of Practice, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; Director, Center on Congress at Indiana University. He served as U.S. Representative from Indiana’s 9th Congressional District from 1965-1999 and is a current Advisory board member for the Partnership for a Secure America. The article originally appeared in the Huffington Post
To Win the War on Terror, We Must Win the War of Ideas
What is ISIS?
This time a year ago, most Americans wouldn’t have been able to answer that question. Today, the Islamic State group dominates the news headlines through its terrorist actions across the Middle East and in European countries such as France and Denmark.
The sudden ascendancy of a group that, 12 months ago, had yet to pervade the nation’s subconscious offers a chilling reminder of just how rapidly threats to our national security can change. It also signals just how challenging it can be to develop a coherent, comprehensive and, most importantly, effective counterterrorism strategy that ensures the safety of Americans and stays a step ahead of those who wish to do us terrible harm.
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.
Alyson Brozovich is an intern at PSA and a graduate of Whitman College where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in History.
Situation in Syria: Why the U.S. Needs to Move Beyond Iraq
Mark Twain said, “History never repeats itself, but it does rhyme.” Senator Angus King (D-ME) reiterated this notion during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month on the situation in Syria. Twain’s quote illuminates the core of the Obama administration’s reluctance to get involved in Syria— the points of similarity between the current Syrian state and the Iraq War. Many aspects of the situation in Syria mimic Saddam Hussein’s Iraq— a minority ruled the majority, Iran’s interest in the nation’s future, and the menace of chemical weapons. However, the Syrian conflict has the potential to destabilize its neighbors, posing a potential threat to broader U.S. national security interests in the region. This distinction between the two situations delineates why Obama should recognize that Syria is only an echo—not a repeat—of Iraq. In order to respond to the circumstances appropriately, the administration must get beyond the foreign policy missteps of the preceding presidency. (more…)
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 article was written by two Fall 2011 Fellows in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CFP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows that were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
For the vast majority of Americans, watching the last American boot leave Iraqi soil is nothing short of good riddance. The numbers have become seared in Americans minds: Nearly nine years. Nearly a trillion dollars spent. Nearly 35,000 US soldiers wounded. Nearly 4,500 US soldiers dead.
The long-term effect of the Iraq War is pretty obvious—a national sentiment for retrenchment—a streak of isolationism that is being espoused by both sides of the political spectrum. It’s hard not to watch Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry warn against “military adventurism” without comparing him to his predecessor.
But despite the desire to go inward, the simple fact is that if there was any hope for the US to go on the sidelines, that’s changed forever with the onset of the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring has reminded the world of the danger of failed states. With long-time dictators losing power, militant Salafists (not solely Al Qaeda) are looking to fill the vacuum.
But the Arab Spring also comes with a new challenge—a new type of interventionism.
William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense under Clinton and PSA Advisory Board member, recently wrote an opinion article in Politico discussing the use of drones in modern warfare. Cohen has always supported bipartisan action on issues of national security and as a member of Congress (R-Maine) took a nonpartisan stance on security policy. Since leaving the pentagon, Cohen has penned numerous articles and books and even appeared on the Daily Show. In his most recent article, Cohen focuses on the critical role drones have played in Afghanistan and their place at the center of counter-insurgency vs. counter-terrorism debate.
Among the many issues that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta must ponder in the coming months will likely be whether to recommend shifting U.S. strategy in Afghanistan from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism.
Some critics argue that our current policy of deploying large numbers of ground troops puts more of our men and women at risk for questionable gain and even encourages more Afghans to join the Taliban, fighting against what they claim is an invasion force. Yet the recent gains in clearing out Taliban strongholds and helping to build schools, medical facilities and other civic institutions argue, instead, for staying the course for several more years.
“Virtually all serious observers of national security affairs now recognize the current structure of the national security system militates against unified problem-solving when the problem is a multiagency issue. The question is what to do about it.”
Counter-proliferation, counterinsurgency, food security, energy policy – all examples of complex and multifaceted issues that increasingly dominate America’s security priorities and starkly highlight the chronic limitations of the U.S. national security structure. The Project on National Security Reform and others stress the critical need for a Goldwater-Nichols Act of national security to take on the colossal and outdated bureaucracy built around the security challenges of the post WWII period. (more…)
Can you hear that grinding noise? That’s the sound of an overused, overextended military breaking down. We seem to spend a lot of our time deliberately avoiding our gaze from obvious trouble signs. But for those who care to observe reality the warning signs are plentiful.
Consider just a few news reports in the past week.
New York Times
September 30, 2010
Four Suicides In A Week Take A Toll On Fort Hood
By James C. McKinley Jr.
HOUSTON — Four veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan died this week from what appeared to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds atFort Hood in central Texas, raising the toll of soldiers who died here at their own hands to a record level and alarming Army commanders.
So far this year, Army officials have confirmed that 14 soldiers at Fort Hood have committed suicide. Six others are believed to have taken their own lives but a final determination has yet to be made. The highest number of suicides at Fort Hood occurred in 2008, when 14 soldiers killed themselves, said Christopher Haug, a military spokesman.
About 46,000 to 50,000 active officers and soldiers work at the base at any given time, making this year’s suicide rate about four times the national average, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people. (more…)
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“This is what worries me most,” General Peter W. Chiarelli confided at a September 22, 2010, meeting at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative DC think tank. I had asked a question that I’ve posed to other high ranking generals, admirals, and policymakers with similar results. The Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, and, indeed, the nation is banking on the U.S. military’s operational tempo (the pace of deployments, which has been quite high since 2003) dropping, which should allow dwell time (the period that soldiers and Marines are not deployed) to increase.
The hope that operational tempo will drop, however, rests on at least three key strategic assumptions:
(1) Troop levels in Iraq will remain relatively low, which means that things will not hit the fan in Iraq and require redeployment to the area. Could we really stand by if Iraq implodes?
(2) Troop levels in Afghanistan will begin to come down next year, which means that we will begin to reap the rewards of that surge and can begin withdrawal. Alternatively, we see little payoff for the surge and begin leaving regardless. (more…)
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.