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.
This article originally appeared in The Hill. The author, Secretary William Cohen, is a member of PSA’s Advisory Board.
Simpson-Bowles provides fiscal fix
Recently, television networks ran footage of a car speeding at 70 miles per hour down the wrong side of a divided highway. The man who captured the event on his camera could see that catastrophe was inevitable. The collision was horrific.
The crash is a perfect metaphor for what is taking place on Capitol Hill. Barring congressional action, the automatic spending cuts to both federal civil and defense programs known as sequestration will go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013. These cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will eliminate approximately $111 billion from defense, domestic and Medicare accounts in fiscal 2013, and $984 billion over the next nine years.
Sequestration was part of the agreement that temporarily resolved the debate over raising the debt ceiling, a debate that almost forced the United States to default on its debt last fall and succeeded only in reducing our nation’s credit rating. Sequestration was originally intended to provide a doomsday scenario that would force Democrats and Republicans to come together to find $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years. Ideological rigidity trumped the fear of failure.
This article was written by Sen. Gary Hart and Sen. Warren Rudman, members of PSA’s Advisory Board. The article originally appeared in The New York Times.
For Political Closure, We Need Disclosure
Since the beginning of the current election cycle, extremely wealthy individuals, corporations and trade unions — all of them determined to influence who is in the White House next year — have spent more than $160 million (excluding party expenditures). That’s an incredible amount of money.
To put it in perspective, at this point in 2008, about $36 million had been spent on independent expenditures (independent meaning independent of a candidate’s campaign). In all of 2008, in fact, only $156 million was spent this way. In other words, we’ve already surpassed 2008, and it’s July.
This article, co-authored by PSA Advisory Board member and former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering and William Luers, former U.S. Ambassador and President of the United Nations Foundation from 1999 to 2009, originally appeared in the New York Times.
Envisioning a Deal With Iran
IF you deal in camels, make the doors high,” an Afghan proverb cautions. As the dangers mount in the confrontation between the United States and Iran, both sides will have to raise the doors high for diplomacy to work, and to avoid conflict.
A diplomatic strategy must begin with the United States’ setting its priorities and then defining a practical path to achieve them. To achieve its top priorities, it will have to learn what Iran needs. Since the United States will not get total surrender from Iran, it must decide what it can put on the table to assure that both sides can reach a deal that will be durable.
PSA Advisory Board Co-Chair Lee Hamilton discusses why Americans have come to regard Congress so poorly, arguing that this mood is a result of a dysfunctional Washington mired in partisanship, secrecy, and a lack of accountability. This op-ed originally appeared in The Star Press.
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll had bad news for Congress, whose support is down to single digits. But it had even worse news for the Republic. Americans’ distrust of government, the pollsters found, is “at its highest level ever.”
A lot of this ire is focused on Congress, which an overwhelming majority believe is incapable of acting on behalf of the nation as a whole, but it has come to take in all of Washington. The poll’s findings can be summed up in the words of one respondent, a small-businesswoman from Arizona. “Probably the government in Washington could be trusted at one time,” she told the Times, “but now it seems like it’s all a game of who wins rather than what’s best for the people.”
Last week, the highest level extra-governmental group ever convened to address any public policy challenge met in Washington, D.C. to announce the launch of their new organization – the United States Energy Security Council – formed to advance American energy security. This bipartisan group of 20 influential former cabinet officials, military personnel, retired Senators, and prominent business leaders, includes three PSA Advisory Board members – Robert C. McFarlane, former National Security Advisor, John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy, and Gary Hart, former Senator (D – Colo.).
At their launch event, USESC founders emphasized the importance of finding solutions to the nation’s current energy dilemma and described the risk associated with America’s reliance on oil as a sole transportation fuel. Across the bipartisan panel, members agreed that, in the interest of national and economic security, America must pursue strategies to diversify the fuel sources used in transportation – eliminating the decades old monopoly that oil has enjoyed in the U.S. transportation sector and diminishing the strategic importance of this resource. McFarlane was certain to point out, however, that the group is not “anti-oil,” but more accurately “pro-fuel choice.”
The announcement of the final result of the Referendum has marked the end of an era and today is the beginning of a new era in our history. Today is a glorious day for all the sons and daughters of Southern Sudan. It is a glorious day for the people of the Republic of the Sudan. It is a glorious day for Africa and the world. You have exercised your inalienable right to self-determination freely, fairly and peacefully. You have expressed your freewill over your future. By this official result of 98.83%, the whole world has heard your voice loud and clear!
-President Salva Kiir
Very few experience the kind of jubilation the Southern Sudanese felt when the results of the independence referendum were certified by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and President Omar al-Bashir this week. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, they went to the ballot box and at 98.83% of the vote walked away from a ruthless dictator with a knack for not only surviving, but thriving off his country’s misfortunes. The impromptu dance party in the capital of Juba said it all. On July 9th, 2011 Southern Sudan will become the 193rd country in the world and the 57th independent country in Africa. (more…)
“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…)
I have written before on this blog about the dangerous assumptions that currently haunt thinking in the beltway, and the State of the Union address made this apparition rise again. Specifically, that we will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July, by the end of this year we will leave a stable Iraq, and all troops will be home by 2015.
Wars are remarkably costly – about $1 trillion between Iraq and Afghanistan thus far, to say nothing of the human costs. And those costs continue once everyone is home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Equipment will have to be repaired, replaced, or modernized. Health care costs don’t end for the wounded, including those with post traumatic stress or traumatic brain injuries, nor should our obligation to these heroes. And the U.S. military will still be deployed around the world engaging partners, and even potentially engaged in wars unknown (when has the world ever stopped for us to catch our breath?). (more…)
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It is highly fashionable to assume that the United States is in a period of rapid and irreversible decline. The evidence, after all, is ubiquitous and impossible to ignore. After a band of committed extremists were able to wage an attack on domestic soil that sent shock waves through the American psyche that can still be felt today, we lashed out against the Muslim world in ways that have been counterproductive to our long-term national security interests. The global financial crisis brought America to its knees. Beholden as we are to cutting-edge financial instruments and lifestyles we cannot afford, our fiscal sanity has long played second fiddle to decidedly decadent priorities. And, lest we forget, that nebulous thing called “American culture” is receiving a surprisingly cold reception these days in much of the world.
So, if we are incapable of efficiently protecting our own national security interests, if our economic system is in tatters, and if our cultural practices and values are degrading in the eyes of the rest of the world, isn’t the thesis of decline more fact than assumption?
The answer, as it happens, depends on what one means by decline. On the one hand, our relative standing to other players on the global stage appears to be changing at a brisk pace. The economic rise of China and India both provide sound reasons to think that America must do more to maintain its standing relative to its peers. In a comparative sense, then, we are in decline relative to the newfound growth of other members of the world community. (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.