To Win the War on Terror, We Must Win the War of Ideas

by PSA Staff | February 24th, 2015 | |Subscribe

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.

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Welcome to the Money Primary

by PSA Staff | February 18th, 2015 | |Subscribe

Gary Hart is a former US Senator and current Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America. The article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Welcome to the Money Primary

The first presidential primary is underway, not simply because the political press cannot wait but because he or she who signs up the most megabucks wins that primary and is well on the way to a nomination. Step right up and participate–that is if you can write a very large check.

This is the saddest commentary on the state of American “democracy” a concerned citizen can think of. Campaigns cost money, a lot of money. Somewhere between 75% and 90% of that money goes to media advertising, even as media commentators (whose salaries it pays) deplore how mercantile campaigns have become. What’s left over goes to compensate increasingly highly paid “strategists”, consultants, media advisors, time buyers, professional organizers, and so forth.

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Russia should be prosecuted for its crimes against humanity

by PSA Staff | February 18th, 2015 | |Subscribe
Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs from 2001 to 2009, is a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The article originally appeared in the Washington Post.
Russia should be prosecuted for its crimes against humanity

An enduring diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis has eluded negotiators. But even if the Minsk peace talks’ newly announced cease-firewere to hold, there is widespread agreement in the West that Russia has engaged in a quasi-war in Ukraine. Moscow has acted with some circumspection, employing intelligence agents and plainclothes special forces (the so-called little green men), but in the past several months, it has become much more brazen, deploying thousands of regular troops, backed up by artillery and armor. There is also consensus that Russian activities in Ukraine are destabilizing European security and have violated numerous international legal norms.

Unfortunately, a robust, punitive Western response, deterring Moscow from future misconduct, has been lacking. Even worse is that the West has proven unable to distinguish different types of Russian misconduct, much less to deal with them in a differentiated fashion.

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SPECIAL REPORT: Did Maridia Conduct a Nuclear Test Explosion? On-Site Inspection and the CTBT

by PSA Staff | February 12th, 2015 | |Subscribe

Jenifer Mackby is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and a senior adviser to the Partnership for a Secure America. She was a technical observer in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission’s Integrated Field Exercise 2014. She previously served as secretary of the negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in Geneva and secretary of the Working Group on Verification at the Preparatory Commission in Vienna. The article originally appeared in Arms Control Today.

SPECIAL REPORT: Did Maridia Conduct a Nuclear Test Explosion? On-Site Inspection and the CTBT

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Preparatory Commission launched a large-scale simulation of an on-site inspection in Jordan on November 3, 2014, to test the organization’s ability to find a nuclear test explosion site. The exercise, involving two fictitious countries, lasted for five weeks and used 150 tons of equipment to comb a large swath of land next to the Dead Sea.

The inspection area encompassed 1,000 square kilometers, the maximum area allowed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), although the 30-day inspection period for the exercise was much less than the potential 130 days that the treaty allows. Searching for clues of a nuclear explosion in such an expanse and in such a shortened time period was a daunting task. It required the international teams, comprising 200 scientists and experts in on-site inspection technologies from 44 countries, to focus on their respective tasks for 12- to 14-hour days.

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Lee H. Hamilton: Can we have a regular Congress?

by PSA Staff | February 5th, 2015 | |Subscribe

PSA Advisory Board member 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. The article originally appeared in the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Lee H. Hamilton: Can we have a regular Congress?

You probably didn’t notice, but the Senate passed a milestone a couple of weeks back. Before 2015 was a month old, senators had already had a chance to vote up-or-down on more amendments than they did in all of 2014.

This is a promising sign that new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might have meant it when he declared last year that he wants the Senate to return to the “regular order” of debate and amendments. For the last few weeks, a favorite inside-the-Beltway guessing game has been whether he’d be willing to stick with it in the face of demands, sure to come, to reduce debate and amendments and expedite approval of bills.

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Kean-Hamilton: How to halt next terror generation

by PSA Staff | February 2nd, 2015 | |Subscribe

PSA Advisory Board members Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton are the former chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission and are co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Program. Originally appeared in USA Today

Kean-Hamilton: How to halt next terror generation

Ideas are not easily destroyed. Bullets could not extinguish the irreverence of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper recently targeted by terrorists. Nor can increased counterterrorism efforts alone eradicate the radical Islamist incitement to violence that inspired recent atrocities in Ottawa,Sydney, Paris and Peshawar. Such policies help prevent the next terrorist attack but cannot stop the cultivation of the next generation of terrorists. For that, we must defeat and discredit this extremist ideology.

Until 2001, terrorism was perceived mostly as a law enforcement problem. The 9/11 attacks made clear that terrorism was a grave national security threat, requiring the use of all instruments of national power. Since then, America and its allies have hardened their defenses, greatly improved intelligence-sharing, increased counterterrorism cooperation and decimated the centralized leadership of the “core” al-Qaeda organization.

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The United States and Russia must repair their partnership on nuclear security

by PSA Staff | January 27th, 2015 | |Subscribe

Sam Nunn is co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a former U.S. senator from Georgia and member of PSA’s Advisory Board. Richard Lugar is president of the Lugar Center and a former U.S. senator from Indiana. The article originally appeared in The Washington Post.

The United States and Russia must repair their partnership on nuclear security

For more than two decades, the United States and Russia partnered to secure and eliminate dangerous nuclear materials — not as a favor to one another but as a common-sense commitment, born of mutual self-interest, to prevent catastrophic nuclear terrorism. The world’s two largest nuclear powers repeatedly set aside their political differences to cooperate on nuclear security to ensure that terrorists would not be able to detonate a nuclear bomb in New York, Moscow, Paris, Tel Aviv or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, this common-sense cooperation has become the latest casualty of the spiraling crisis in relations among the United States, Europe and Russia.

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Children of war need help

by PSA Staff | January 20th, 2015 | |Subscribe

Anthony Lake is executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund and former member of PSA’s Advisory Board. The article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian.

Children of war need help

Innocent children, women and elderly people – who cannot protect themselves – were massacred. Village after village has been burned to the ground. And three young girls were sent to their deaths with explosives strapped to their bodies in so-called suicide bombings that killed scores of civilians.

Over the past week I hope you saw these news reports from northern Nigeria. And I hope you did not flip or click away to the next article – horrified, yes, but hoping these were only isolated incidents happening in some difficult-to-reach place in some other African country.

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It’s Time to End Torture

by PSA Staff | January 16th, 2015 | |Subscribe

Lee H. Hamilton is the Co-Chair of PSA’s Advisory Board and 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. This article originally appeared in Huffington Post.

It’s Time to End Torture

It’s been more than a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a 500-page summary of its report into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, which provided a detailed and disturbing glimpse into a dark period in our nation’s history.

The full report, which took over five years to complete, is more than 6,500 pages. It’s been widely documented just how much opposition it had to overcome, including the CIA’s interfering with Senate computers, to see the light of day.

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Andrew Semmel: How to Negotiate Anything- Lessons Learned From the Capitol Leaders Program

by PSA Staff | December 8th, 2014 | |Subscribe

PSA Executive Director Dr. Andrew Semmel discusses PSA’s Harvard Negotiation Program and its potential for building bipartisanship. Article written by Rebecca Gale and published by  Roll Call.

Capitol Leaders Program

Forty House and Senate foreign affairs and national security staffers came together recently at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs to learn the necessary skills to overcome gridlock in Congress. The program was organized by the Partnership for a Secure America and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. The bridge to bipartisanship, it seems, will be built by cooperative staffers.

The bridge to bipartisanship, it seems, will be built by cooperative staffers.

But can such teamwork lessons be applied more broadly outside of a Harvard-sanctioned setting and in the halls of Congress? Yes, says Andrew Semmel, executive director of the Partnership for a Secure America. He shared his insights with Roll Call in a lightly edited Q and A.

Q: So you got 40 staffers in a room, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. How easy was it to cut through the rancor and find consensus?

A: On day one, we focused on several exercises and case studies that challenged the idea of negotiation being a zero-sum game — the “you win-I lose” calculus. Dissecting successful historic deals based on a collaborative model — including German reunification, the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and various corporate negotiations — helped establish a mindset on how to approach complex negotiations.

We believed, from the start, that most staff were tired and frustrated by congressional gridlock and low productivity and were eager to learn new skills and ways to improve the legislative process. We’re convinced, from our observations and analysis, that our initial beliefs were correct.

Q: The 40 staffers all came with foreign affairs backgrounds. Do you think foreign affairs is an issue area where partisanship is rampant? Why?

A: Foreign affairs is an area where partisanship exists, but it is not as rampant as in other policy areas. Policymakers generally have more latitude on foreign affairs than in domestic policy because voters are more disengaged on these issues.

Q: What surprised you most about the program?

A: “Active listening” was a surprisingly dominant theme over the course of the program. Humility, too, goes a long way in generating trust and strong relationships among negotiators. Case studies of the best negotiators demonstrated this time and again.

The other biggest surprise was the consistency of participation by staffers recruited for the program. We maintained a strict attendance policy, and they continued to arrive prepared and eager to engage with instructors and each other.

Q: What do you think was the greatest takeaway from the program?

A: That it is possible to create value during a negotiation so all parties can walk away with more than they thought they could achieve. The goal should be to increase the “size of the pie” first, and then negotiate dividing up the pie second.

Q: Why staffers? Do you think the partisan divide is greater at the staff level than at the member level?

A: U.S. congressional staff are more influential than in any other national legislature. Staffers are the gateway to members and help shape members’ views, priorities, and votes. To tackle gridlock and improve the culture of Congress, it is as important to work at the staff level as the member level.

The partisan divide may be less at the staff level. Staffers often live in or around D.C., enjoying more opportunities to interact across the aisle outside of the office. Fortunately, this provides fertile ground for building bipartisan relationships.

Q: How did you find staffers for the program?

A: For this program*, we recruited staffers responsible for national security and foreign policy issues in committee and personal offices — half Democrats and half Republicans, half House and half Senate.

Q. What would you recommend for staffers who want to improve their negotiation skills?

Negotiation skills are like any other skill — they improve with use. A staffer who is interested in improving his or her skills should proactively and consciously engage in negotiations wherever they occur. Remember to actively listen to understand the other party’s underlying interests behind a position, offer ideas for “expanding the pie” in a deal, and prepare, prepare, prepare with research on the issue and the other party. Help those across the table reach an agreement that works for you and them. Finally, keep in mind the words of Italian diplomat Daniele Vare, who said negotiation is “the art of letting them have your way.”

Q: Did staffers explain their reasons for partisanship? What was a common theme that emerged?

A: Staffers are as frustrated as many Americans by meaningless partisanship that yields no results. Many staff follow the lead of their members, and there is hiring selectivity that reinforces prevailing views. Compromise has become a dirty word. Staff (and members) must realize that today’s adversary can be tomorrow’s ally, and building good relations is central to success.

Q: With the wave election ushering in new staffers this January, what is the best piece of advice you would give them on how to negotiate most effectively?

A: Forging strong relationships with staffers from other offices — especially across the aisle — will be absolutely essential. Ninety percent of the work of a successful negotiator is building good rapport, credibility and trust with your counterparts within and between parties. But don’t wait until you need something to reach out to people. Establish those connections and solidify relationships even before there’s a negotiation on the horizon. Find out who the important players on your issues are — what offices, what committees — and reach out just to introduce yourself. Make an effort to meet them in person. Lunch lines, staff trips and after-hour social activities all play a part. This is very time consuming, but you will make a great impression and position yourself well to become an influential Capitol Hill staffer.

*Staffers interested in participating in a future negotiation session should contact Nathan Sermonis at sermonis@psaonline.org.

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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.