PSA Advisory Board Co-Chair Lee Hamilton directs the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. The article originally appeared in The Times Herald.
Budget: President is the one who calls the shots
It may not be obvious from the news coverage, but a good bit of Congress’s 2015 agenda just landed on Capitol Hill with a thud. I mean this literally. The federal budget President Barack Obama submitted runs to 2,000 pages.
This is the most important government document produced each year, so its heft is more than physical. The budget is how we decide what share of this country’s economic resources we should devote to government — and how we should spend them. It’s where we set out our national priorities, sorting out how to allocate money among defense, the environment, education, medical research, food safety, public works … You get the idea. (more…)
PSA Board Director and former Clinton administration National Security Council official Jamie Metzl weighs in on the changing calculus for the North Korean leadership. For further information about Kim Jong Un, check Dr. Metzl’s CNN commentary.
North Korea’s Changing Calculus
It is no coincidence in my opinion that American detainees Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller were released by North Korea just as President Obama is arriving in Beijing for the APEC Summit. With North Korea-China relations more strained than they have been in years, the US moving towards a potential deal with Iran, the North Korean economy in shambles, and a resolution just being introduced to the UN General Assembly calling for North Korea’s leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, Kim Jong Un and his cabal are being squeezed as never before. Absolute terror remains a very effective means for North Korea’s leaders to maintain control of their population, but it’s hard to see how the status quo can be maintained for too long. It may be that North Korea sees this too, and has come to realize both that the costs of its global pariah status is increasing and that an Iran-like deal (where they negotiate over a long time and ultimately give up enough of their nuclear program to make the world happier and secure aid but not enough to limit deterrence) could be to their advantage. Don’t expect a Burma-like about face any time soon, but a lot seems to happening in North Korea and Asia more generally (including the new Xi Jinping-Vladimir Putin alliance) that will pose new challenges to America and our allies, but could also create new opportunities.
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…)
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.
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.
Lee Hamilton is a member of PSA’s Advisory Board and the director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This article was originally published on Huffington Post.
Achieving Long-term Stability in Ukraine Is Key to Navigating Watershed Moment in East-West Relations
In recent days, there has been no shortage of opinions about Ukraine, the escalating crisis over that country’s future and the international community’s response to Russia’s bold takeover of Crimea.
The conversation thus far has largely centered on how the U.S. and its European allies can ease the standoff over Ukraine, convince Russia to scale back the tens of thousands of troops it has reportedly amassed near Ukraine’s border and prevent a prolonged crisis in this important part of the world.
Missing from much of the discussion, though, is a frank assessment of what exactly the U.S. and its European allies seek to accomplish outside the more immediate aim of keeping the Russians out of Ukraine. That is, what is our long-term objective with regard to this troubled nation and, if there is one, is it attainable?
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?
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…)
Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He is a member of the PSA Advisory Board. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This was originally published in the News-Sentinel.
Investigations get to the bottom of things and how to fix them for future
By my count, 11 separate Washington investigations are looking into the three big issues besetting the Obama administration right now: Benghazi, IRS targeting of tea party groups and the Justice Department’s pursuit of national security leaks to Associated Press reporters. That’s a lot of scrutinizing by any measure.
Don’t get me wrong. Each case raises important questions, and the investigations offer Americans the chance to find out what went wrong and to fix the problem. But that will only happen if the investigators — on Capitol Hill and within the executive branch — do it right.
I’ve done my share of digging into complex matters — as co-chair of the Iran-Contra Special Committee, of the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group — and what I know is this: An investigation ought to be forward-looking and constructive, focused on a key question that is important to the country and to the American people.
What does it take to keep our U.S. missions secure? That’s what the Benghazi inquiry is really about. How do we make sure the IRS remains rigorously non-partisan and competently managed? In the AP case, how should the government balance respect for freedom of the media against the need to safeguard national security? These are matters of national interest, and the investigations give us a chance to pursue each. (more…)
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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…)
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.