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…)
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…)
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…)
By Former Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) Domenici is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Nunn serves as a PSA Advisory Board Member and co-chairman of The Concord Coalition. This Op-Ed originally appeared in The Hill.
Congress’s budget process broken because it’s ignored
After trying private negotiations, bipartisan commissions, informal “gangs” and a supercommittee, the search for a long-term federal fiscal plan has come full circle back to where it started — regular order under the budget process in Congress.
Or has it?
We hope it has, because regular order ensures that every member of Congress gets to participate in the final form of any fiscal agreement, grand or otherwise. (more…)
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years, and PSA Advisory Board member. This article was originally published in the Alexandria Echo Press
Commentary: Tired of budget shenanigans? Here’s an answer
With the formal release of President Obama’s budget, the pieces are finally in place for a reprise of the Washington drama we’ve all come to know. There will be high-stakes negotiations, lines in the sand, and enough intrigue to keep Beltway insiders riveted by every piece of breaking news.
The rest of us, though, are already worn out. In repeated conversations with ordinary people, I’ve been struck by the immense frustration I’ve encountered. They’re tired of brinksmanship and constant fiscal crisis. They’re fed up with accusations, spin, fear mongering, and intransigence. They’ve had it with a complex, opaque process when the outline of a solution — controlling spending and entitlements, raising revenues to meet the country’s obligations, and investing in economic growth — seems evident. Above all, they’re weary of a government that appears addicted to crisis. Why, they wonder, can we not pass a budget in an orderly, rational way?
Samuel R. Berger, former national security advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001, is a PSA Advisory Board Member.
March 19, 2013|Foreign Policy
What Obama Must Do In Israel
This week, when Air Force One lands in Tel Aviv, the newly reelected American president and the Israeli prime minister with a new government will turn the page on a new chapter in their relationship. And they will discuss how to manage the strategic challenges we both face in ways that protect our respective interests.
Much has been made and said about the personal relationship between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Some of it is even true: It has been far from tension-free, and is very much in need of a reboot. But I also think that too much has been said about it, as if the bilateral relationship could be reduced to their personal rapport — as if the strategic dimension of the two countries’ ties were either anecdotal or purely a function of personal chemistry.
Don’t look now, but foreign policy is back on this year’s election agenda.
While Election 2012 is still very much about the economy, foreign policy issues are increasingly making a comeback. And as the conversation focuses more on Iran, foreign policy is emerging not because of a lack of news about the economy, but rather because of the increasing connection between the two topics.
The tensions between the U.S. and Iran illustrate the linkage. In response to the European oil boycott, Iran recently announced that it was cutting off exports to Britain and France, which, in part, drove oil benchmarks to a nine-month high of nearly $123 a barrel. This, in turn, “could prove worrisome for U.S. drivers since many U.S. refineries use imported oil to produce gas”. Gas prices are already rising across the country – currently the national average is above $3.50 a gallon – and many worry that gas prices could rise beyond $4 a gallon by the summer. There are even concerns that gas could spike to $5 a gallon if tensions surge.
Col Bryan Bearden, USAF, is an instructor of National Security, Joint Warfare and Leadership and Ethics at the Marine Corps War College.
The great debt-ceiling fight of 2011 produced partisan politics at its finest. It also produced a congressional Super Committee tasked to identify $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by late 2011. With this daunting task at hand, where does one think the Super Committee will go pursue budget cuts? One answer is the U.S. government department that has a $680 billion budget. Thus, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has his top captains scouring the department for cuts – anywhere.
Rather than addressing the Department of Defense (DOD) economic condition with relatively small budget cuts as it has done over the past several years, the DOD and the nation would better be served by going after first order assumptions. Specifically, asking the hard question: Are the military Services really a joint force and, if so, can the DOD nix expensive duplication of the tools of warfare? Can Secretary Panetta go beyond merely cutting programs that are deemed outdated or ineffective, and look deeper into the fundamental questions about Service core competencies, missions and responsibilities?
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Many commentators have recently noted the United States’ failure to anticipate the ongoing “Arab Spring” and, more importantly, seeming inability to shape events on the ground. The United States, critics claim, has lost much of its influence in the Middle East and been reduced to spectator status as events unfold.
While the validity of this criticism is debatable, there is no doubt that the United States will have to engage new and unfamiliar Middle Eastern actors. Secular political parties, Islamist groups, military leaders and technologically-savvy youth will all try to define their visions for the future and shape post-revolutionary states. The process is likely to be chaotic, even violent, with no guarantee that the end result will match U.S. interests.
Now is the time for the United States to assert its leadership. President Obama needs to take the initiative and harness the power of the entire free world. The United States, the European Union, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, India and all other democratic powers should quickly forge a common declaration to present to Arab revolutionaries. (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.