Undiplomatic Banner
17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:45 pm

Beyond November: David Sandalow

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

The series took a brief hiatus during the conventions, but it’s back and will continue from now until the election.  Today, we’ll hear from David Sandalow.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

The dependence of our cars and trucks on oil weakens the United States and constrains our foreign policy.  The buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere threatens our national security and imperils the planet.  The next President has an unprecedented opportunity to tackle both problems.

Today, 96 percent of the energy in our cars and trucks comes from oil.  That dependence lies at the heart of many problems.  Oil dependence empowers our enemies, endangers our men and women in uniform and undermines democracy around the world.  It plays a central role in global warming. It strains family budgets when world oil prices rise.

(”Drill here, drill now” is not the answer.  The nonpartisan Energy Information Agency says drilling in new areas offshore would add roughly 0.3% to global oil supplies in 10 years, with little if any impact on price. Does anyone think Ahmadinejad and Chavez are quaking in their boots at the thought of the US drilling in additional areas offshore?  Offshore drilling is weak.  It’s like walking an extra 20 feet per day to lose weight.  Let’s hope our leaders have the courage to take more powerful steps to help keep the United States strong.)

And we face an even more epic problem.  Today, concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere are at their highest level in human history — and rising sharply.  Unless we change course, rising sea levels, more frequent storms, more severe droughts and floods, the spread of tropical disease and forest loss will threaten lives and livelihoods around the world.  In the words of a dozen retired US military commanders including General Anthony Zinni (USMC-Ret.), “Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world and presents significant national security challenges for the United States.”


There’s good news.  Solving these problems is the economic opportunity of the century.

From China to northern Europe to Silicon Valley, fortunes are already being made in renewable energy.  Thousands of companies are cutting emissions while increasing profits by improving energy efficiency and ending energy waste.  “Green collar jobs” are beginning to revitalize US cities.  Plug-in electric vehicles could revitalize the US car industry.

What should the next President do?  First, launch a crash program to end the utter dependence of our cars and trucks on oil.  Tax incentives, federal procurement and federal research and development funding should be marshaled to put millions of plug-in electric vehicles on the road soon.  The same tools should be used for advanced biofuels, dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency, natural gas vehicles and mass transit.

For decades, the U.S. government has heavily subsidized oil consumption.  (How does one value the subsidy to a commodity from having the US President fly to Saudi Arabia to try to talk the down its price?  Although the most recent effort by a US President to do this was unsuccessful, it has been a priority of Presidents and Cabinet secretaries of both parties for generations to promote the free flow of cheap oil around the world.)  The cost of programs to help break our oil addiction will be small in comparison.

In launching these programs, we should work closely with other oil-consuming nations.  Traditional oil diplomacy means securing adequate and reliable supplies.  21st century oil diplomacy should have an additional objective: reducing dependence in all nations.

At the same, the US must immediately take comprehensive steps to fight global warming.  In the past several years, dozens of States and hundreds of US cities have passed laws to control emissions of heat-trapping gases.  It is long past time for the federal government to do the same.  The next President should work with Congress to pass such legislation as a top priority, giving the US the strength to participate credibly in international global warming negotiations.

Neither oil dependence nor global warming can be solved overnight.  But dramatic progress is possible.  The unusually broad consensus concerning the national security threats from oil dependence, growing awareness of global warming, sharp rise in public attention as a result of high oil prices, and breakthroughs in clean energy technologies such as solar power and lithium ion batteries - in combination - create an unprecedented opportunity for change.

The transition to a clean energy economy will shape the first part of this century.  The next President can make history by setting the United States on the right course.

David Sandalow is Energy & Environment Scholar and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.  He is a former assistant secretary of state and senior director on the National Security Council staff.  He is the author of Freedom from Oil (McGraw-Hill 2007).

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, politics | 0 Comments

8 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:45 pm

Beyond November: Ruben E. Brigety

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

The series took a brief hiatus during the conventions, but it’s back and will continue from now until the election.  Today, we’ll hear from Rube E. Brigety.  Future posts in the series will appears every Thursday.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

Regardless of who wins the Presidential election in November, America will face challenges around the world that are arguably unprecedented in their complexity and scope. The list of urgent issues is well known – two active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the quest for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, resurgent powers in China and Russia, a weakened U.S. dollar, the need for energy independence, and the effects of climate change, just to name a few.

A common thread connecting all of these problems is that they cannot be solved with the approaches that have dominated U.S. foreign policy for the last eight years. For much of the last decade, particularly since 9/11, our government has resorted to unilateral methods to solve multilateral problems, and resorted to the use or threat of force to advance our interests abroad. Time and again, this has contributed to America’s declining popularity in the world even as it strains our military, marginalizes our alliances, and leaves crucial problems to fester. All of this can be traced to a zero-sum world view which does not tangibly link the security and prosperity of the United States with needs and aspirations of most of the world.

Our country needs more than new policies to confront the foreign policy challenges of the next decade. It needs a new worldview. It needs a framework for understanding the limits of unilateralism and military might, and the potential in cooperation and non-military methods of influence.

At the Center for American Progress, we have advanced an idea called “Sustainable Security.” An amalgamation of national security, collective security and human security, the Sustainable Security paradigm recognizes the importance of improving the lives of other people around the world as a critical security concerns for the United States. Rather than seeing foreign assistance as charity best relegated to the periphery of our statecraft, sustainable security emphasizes investing in social and economic development in countries around the world as a means of countering various threats – from the growth of radical extremism to the ravages of climate change. Furthermore, it posits that true “security” for the United States and other countries can only happen when development assistance is pursued in a cooperative manner with other countries and when it is closely coordinated with our other diplomatic and defense priorities. While there will always be a place for use of force, sustainable security argues that we have as much to gain from investing in the welfare of others as we do from investing in weapons systems to advance our nation’s security interests.

From this worldview, a few important foreign policy priorities follow. First, the United States should adopt a National Development Strategy. Despite the fact that we spend more on development assistance than any other country in the world, we do not have an articulated strategy to guide its distribution or to relate it to other aspects of American foreign policy. Promulgating a National Development Strategy from the White House that is applicable to every federal agency involved in delivering assistance would be a major statement of the important of foreign aid to our national security and provide crucial guidance for this important instrument of policy.

Second, we will have to reform the structures that deliver foreign assistance. The most important reforms should include the creation of a cabinet level development agency and a recapitalization our development infrastructure. Most of our allies that are major donors of development assistance have a cabinet agency to direct that activity. We are in the distinct minority in this regard. Elevating development assistance to a cabinet level status will not only show how important it is for us, but it will also ensure that development considerations are appropriately accounted for in our foreign policy. The next time we are forced to go to war with another country, we would be much more likely to take into account post-conflict considerations about economic reconstruction and rule of law if we have a powerful agency whose job it was to think about it and to perform the required tasks. Also, we cannot make development a major part of our foreign policy as long as there are more drummers in military bands than there are development professionals in the employ of our government. With less than one-thousand Foreign Service officers assigned to the U.S. Agency for International Development, our ability to do vital development projects, and to support our defense and diplomatic initiatives, is imperiled. This is a situation which must be reversed.

With great risk comes great opportunity, and this is particularly true for the next Presidential administration. Changing how we approach the problems of the world is vital to achieving durable solutions for ourselves and our allies. Let’s hope our next President take on the challenge.

Reuben E. Brigety, II is Director of the Sustainable Security Program at The Center for American Progress. Prior to joining CAP, he served as a Special Assistant in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Brigety is also an Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University. He is the author of Ethics, Technology and the American Way of War (Routledge, 2007) and a variety of other articles and book chapters. Before entering academia, Brigety was a researcher with the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. He served on HRW research missions in Afghanistan in March 2002 and in Iraq in April and May of 2003. He also served as HRW’s coordinator for crisis management during the Iraq war and as an HRW delegate to the Convention on Conventional Weapons negotiations in Geneva. Before joining HRW, Brigety was an active duty U.S. naval officer and held several staff positions in the Pentagon and in fleet support units.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

21 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:00 pm

Beyond November: Christopher Paine

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Today, we’ll hear from Christopher Paine.  Posts in the series will appears every Thursday from now to the election.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

If we are actually to overcome the security challenges facing the U.S. and the world in the coming decades – rather than merely tinkering with them – the next President will need to constitute a dramatically new paradigm for U.S. foreign policy. This new paradigm rests on four pillars:

(1) Restoration of the UN Charter and increasing adherence of the force of law – not the law of force – as the ultimate arbiter of behavior between and within nation states. This means an end to the era of badmouthing and underfunding the UN system, and the beginning of serious efforts to reform and strengthen it capabilities for preventing and terminating international and civil conflicts, especially those that jeopardize the lives of large numbers of civilians.

(2) Sustainable human development, not “global economic growth,” must become the fundamental objective that the United States shares, and promotes in its relations with other nations and international institutions. That means that the actual conditions of life on the ground for human beings, and for the natural ecosystems they inhabit and will pass on to their children, must become the essential benchmarks of “progress” in our foreign policy.

(3) Renewable energy development and energy efficiency at home and abroad should be made the foremost priority of any new sustainable human development strategy. In fact, the multiple beneficial roles that renewable energy and efficiency technologies can play—in averting climate change, fostering sustainable economic development overseas, minimizing future proliferation risks, and creating good domestic jobs—illustrate the way that the traditionally sharp but often artificial distinctions between “domestic” and “foreign” policy are eroding, and none too soon.

(4) At a minimum, the next President will have to dismantle the Bush legacy in National Security Policy, but real progress against 21st century threats will require him to go further, and dismantle the longstanding political-industrial-bureaucratic nexus that observers of our politics have long dubbed the “U.S. National Security State.” For decades the United States has been locked into a pattern of dysfunctional defense spending that has impoverished virtually every public space, park, transit system, library, school, and health clinic in America. Successive administrations have pursued such costly technological idiocies as missile defenses, airborne lasers, and killer satellites, while maintaining huge nuclear forces to no discernible purpose, and developing a vast and unaffordable array of new conventional weapons to defeat the massed formations of an enemy that has faded into history.  A major rethinking of U.S. military defense requirements is urgently needed that would free resources for achieving the indispensable sustainable development objectives outlined above.

Christopher E. Paine directs the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC, which he joined in June 1991 after five years with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he assisted successful efforts to end US production of plutonium for weapons and underground nuclear test explosions. From 1985-1987, Paine was a consultant to Princeton University’s Project on Nuclear Policy Alternatives, a Research Fellow-in-residence at the Federation of American Scientists, Washington, D.C.  and a staff consultant for nuclear nonproliferation policy with the Subcommittee on Energy, Conservation & Power, U.S. House of Representatives.  He is the author or co-author of numerous NRDC reports, as well as some 70 articles on proliferation, energy, and national security policy in such publications as Scientific American, Nature, Arms Control Today, Science, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  He is a 1974 graduate of Harvard University.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

14 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:55 pm

Beyond November: Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Today, we’ll hear from Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr..  Posts in the series will appears every Thursday from now to the convention.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

The Hip Hop Caucus has always seen the Hip Hop Generation, those born after 1964,  as representative of what we like to call the “Dream Generation,” or the generation Dr. King prophesized, in which all people regardless of race, economic level, religion, or sexual preference, stood together to stand for Justice and Peace.

Throughout the world we find young people from diverse backgrounds who identify with Hip Hop culture and have similar local-to-global issues yet feel alienated or disenfranchised by political systems who do not address their issues.

As we move forward a progressive agenda, it is paramount that we are able to recognize the potential for a global movement around similar issues people face using an inside out approach. We must 1) address local issues that fit into a larger global context and 2) educate (Hip) people on the similarities and affects between local and global issues, and 3) mobilize and move (Hop) people to action so they are active civic participants and hold their elected officials accountable. By working an inside-out approach we have the ability to engage new segments of our democracy, who have not traditionally been engaged in matters concerning US global engagement into this process.

This upcoming presidential election is a unique and timely opportunity to engage new segments of our population into the political process and educate them on foreign policy. We recently launched our voter registration, education and mobilization campaign, “Respect My Vote!” to capture the energy surrounding this election. We are engaging 18-29 year olds–targeting those that did not attend college– in the political process and ensuring we can maintain contact with them beyond the presidential elections, and mobilize them to the polls. Our campaign is unique because we place equal emphasis on election and post election work. We have chosen this group because only 67 percent of people in this age group feel they can make an impact on their communities and we want to show them they can have an impact on their communities as well as the world.

As part of our voter education campaign we have selected urgent foreign policy issues and will begin familiarizing with the issues for future campaigns.

Climate Change, Food Shortages, and a Green Economy

Our incoming President must address climate change in a very real and urgent manner. No longer can we ignore or thumb or noses at international policy, we must work with the international community to aggressively address climate change because if we do not act now in the 21st century, there might not be a 22nd century for Humanity on this planet.

Without drastic shifts in emissions of greenhouse gases, we will continue to see shifts in rain patterns and temperatures which will deepen the food shortages and drought which we are already beginning to see, especially in parts of Africa. We are also beginning to see a rise in food prices here in the US which have acute impacts on disadvantaged communities

To curb climate change and oil dependence we must find new and creative ways to embrace the green movement, and build a broader social base for our movement. There is also vast economic potential in a green economy which would make way for new technology and industry which can provide new “green collar” jobs. The Hip Hop Caucus is working with organizations such as Green for All to ensure that disadvantaged communities are at the forefront of the emerging green economy, allowing us to fight both poverty and pollution at the same time.

Proliferation of poverty, Iraq war, and the Iraqi refugee crisis

We must recognize the Iraqi refugee Crisis as both a humanitarian issue and a national security issue.  While we hemorrhage resources to the war in Iraq, a October 2007 CRS Report cited that  2.2 million people have been Internally Displaced in Iraq and there are now 2 million refugees in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. We spend upwards of $12 billion per month on this war which has caused a humanitarian crisis and proliferated poverty onto millions of people in Iraq, while our communities in the US continue to suffer from inadequate resources. Anti-US sentiment created by poverty, instability, and our treatment of people combine to provide a great environment for potential threats to US National Security.

Yes, there are policies which need to be addressed the incoming president and 111th Congress but without an engaged citizenry to hold the accountable for their words and rhetoric there will be little change. This is why it is so important to engage our citizenry in meaningful ways. This is why we must make the connections between spending in Iraq and spending in our communities, or the effects of climate change and soaring prices of food as well as the opportunity for our communities to be at the forefront of the Green Collar job movement.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., is a minister, community activist, and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. Firmly grounded in his Caribbean and Louisiana roots, Rev. Yearwood is a fierce advocate for the human and civil rights in the 21st century.  A powerful and fiery orator, Rev. Yearwood works diligently and tirelessly to encourage the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice.  He currently serves as President of the Hip Hop Caucus, a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan, organization that inspires and motivates those born after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Rev. Yearwood is known for his activist work as the National Director of the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign in which he organized a coalition of national organizations and grassroots organizations to advocate for the rights of Hurricane Katrina survivors.   Rev. Yearwood has become an important figure in the peace movement as an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration.  He was an Officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and led the “Make Hip Hop Not War” national tour to engage more young people in the movement for peace.  Rev. Yearwood was a co-creator of the 2004 campaign “Vote or Die” with Sean “Diddy” Combs.  He was also the Political and Grassroots Director for Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network in 2003 and 2004, and a Senior Consultant to Jay Z’s Voice Your Choice.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

8 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:54 am

Beyond November: Lora Lumpe

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Today, we’ll hear from Lora Lumpe.  The series will then resume next week and appear weekly from now to the convention.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz over at the Connect U.S. Fund for making the cross-postings happen.

One of the most urgent foreign policy priorities for the next administration is to take on the MIPC.

That’s not a new South American Maoist group. Nor is it a fast spreading virus from Asia.  It’s President/General Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial-Complex, 50 years later and fully integrated into the political life of the nation.

Why would the next President want to touch that, you ask?!  Well, because there is near unanimity among America’s foreign policy thinkers of both parties that we have got to build up the atrophied non-military components of U.S. foreign policy-namely diplomacy and development.  The U.S. Global Leadership Campaign (which includes not only the development and humanitarian biggies, but also Boeing and LockMar), Secretary Gates, Chairman Mullen, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden and Ranking Republican Dick Lugar all agree.

I work for a Quaker lobby group, and we are definitely down with that!  We are all about preventing deadly conflict, and in fact we have had two full time lobbyists wandering the halls of Capitol Hill for the past 5 years trying to sell the idea that it’s cheaper-and better policy-to have adequate numbers of superbly trained diplomats and a cadre of technically skilled development specialists than it is to have wars.

Nevertheless, according to the State Department’s own recent estimate, there are still more than 1,500 diplomatic positions currently unfilled, and a vacancy rate of more than 13% in our embassies around the world.  At the same time, the DOD has issued directives and is moving forward with plans to enable it to carry out even more development functions, as a hedge against the (quite likely) inability of State Department to garner adequate resources from Congress to do the development jobs that need doing.*

But, as long as politics are in play, Members of Congress-9 times out of 10-are going to respond to pressures to give the Pentagon pretty much whatever it wants, in order to maintain bases, manufacturing jobs, etc. in state or in district.  They face zero negative political impact if they vote against funding State Department “bureaucrats” or “wasteful and inefficient” development programs.

Until the development and diplomatic community disperse across the country and can create political pressure (ie, jobs) in 435 Congressional districts-or at least in a dozen or so states-they will always be at a disadvantage when it comes time for Congress to vote on
the annual appropriations bills.

Relatedly, when I lobby on the Hill, I very often meet with military legislative aides who are “Fellows” on loan from one of the military services.  One such, an Air Force Fellow, told me that the USAF alone had 41 Fellows on the Hill this year, so there are probably nearly 200 in all.  These folks will return to the Pentagon and work “Leg. Affairs”-and do so with great savvy and with loads of personal connections. The result-of both the Fellows’ training and the dispersed jobs and military bases is that the DOD is the most effective lobby in town, bar none.

In the State Department, by comparison, Legislative Affairs is viewed as somewhere near the seventh circle, middle ring of the Inferno.  While there are a few offices and individuals who are quite effective at using the media and/or Hill contacts, in general State Department is woeful at advocating and advancing its legislative goals.

The next President needs to direct the State Department to study the Pentagon’s skillful approach, but he is also going to have to expend a good deal of political capital to persuade folks on Capitol Hill that they should ignore pork barrel prerogatives in favor of the good of the nation and the world and fully fund the diplomatic and development corps that everyone agrees we have let go to seed.

The second imperative for the next administration, in order for the republic to have a healthy-or healthier-foreign policy, is for the admin to encourage Congress to take back more power.  While it may seem paradoxical-even unlikely-that the admin should or would urge the Congress to exercise its prerogatives more fully, it is imperative that Congress get back into the practice of oversight.

During the past decade, you can count on half of one hand the Committees of  Congress-House or Senate-that engaged in oversight of U.S. foreign policy.  Instead, the body has largely become a rubberstamp-especially for the military aspects of foreign policy-which, as outlined below, encompass many previously civilian-led functions, like development, democracy-building, etc.

The breakdown in oversight is related to the extreme partisan politics that has befallen the Capitol, but also to the infatuation that the U.S. public and policy world have with all things military.  The “can do” attitude of the military is mythologized, while billions in waste, fraud, and abuse are overlooked and the Pentagon is given more and more authorities with little or no examination of costs, benefits, or counterproductive repercussions.

Most Congressional committees gutted their investigations staffs in the late 1990s, as inquiries like Iran-Contra, BICC and others were considered pesky and partisan.  Oversight became, if not a dirty word at least a forgotten art, and external groups, like the Project on Government Oversight, now hold seminars for congressional staff who are
interested in learning how to do oversight….

While difficult to enact these changes, it will be impossible to revitalize America’s foreign policy tool kit without taking on these deeply rooted institutional and political problems.

*DOD Directive 3000.05 of 28 November 2005 states that some of the DOD’s core tasks, as part of its new “stability operations” mandate” include:
4.3.1.  Rebuild indigenous institutions including various types of security forces, correctional facilities, and judicial systems necessary to secure and stabilize the environment;
4.3.2.  Revive or rebuild the private sector, including encouraging citizen-driven, bottom-up economic activity and constructing necessary infrastructure; and
4.3.3.  Develop representative governmental institutions.”

As FCNL’s Legislative Representative for Conventional Weapons, Lora Lumpe lobbies and campaigns for more responsible U.S. arms export policies—including a ban on U.S. use and export of cluster bombs and anti-personnel landmines. She coordinates the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines on behalf of FCNL and represents FCNL on the steering committee of the global campaign to achieve a universal Arms Trade Treaty.
Before joining FCNL’s staff in September 2007, Lora served for six years as a consultant for Amnesty International USA. She also worked as a consultant in recent years for the Open Society Institute, Small Arms Survey, the United Nations, AFSC, Swiss Government, and numerous other organizations.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

7 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:50 am

Beyond November: J. Brian Atwood

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Yesterday we heard from Connect U.S. Fund executive director Eric Schwartz.  Today, it’s Brian Atwood’s turn.

Transitions are a time of great expectations in Washington. I had the great honor of leading the State Department transition team prior to the Clinton-Gore administration. I worked with an excellent team that included Connect U.S. Fund executive director Eric Schwartz.

The ‘92 transition was a move from a reasonably pragmatic administration of the center-right to a pragmatic administration of the center-left. This year’s transition will see the country moving away from an administration that broke a mold that had roughly accommodated the previous foreign policy spectrum, the “realists” and the “progressive internationalists.”  While there has been some effort in the second Bush term to move away from radical, neo-conservative policies, the residuum continues to influence the attitudes and behavior of much of the world towards the United States.

The first test of a new administration must be to demonstrate by action that our nation can listen and cooperate. Rhetoric to this effect will be well received, but active diplomacy on several fronts will be essential. These include: the Israeli-Palestinian issue; climate change; nuclear proliferation with an emphasis on Iran and North Korea, ratifying the NPT and negotiating with Russia to reduce and eliminate stockpiles; completing the DOHA round; engaging NATO and neighboring countries on our withdrawal from Iraq and our efforts to bolster the Afghan government; working with Pakistan on our common effort to contain Al Qaeda.; creating mature political and economic relations with India and China; and reestablishing American leadership in the effort to mitigate the poverty challenge in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These objectives are on the top of most people’s list. I would add two more general goals that are often difficult for administrations pre-occupied with crises: (1) we need to spend some political capital on reforming the United Nations; and (2) we need to create a “culture of prevention” within the U.S. government.

The United Nations has been a whipping boy of the right because of its institutional weakness and because, periodically, the Security Council doesn’t support the U.S. position. Often even pro-UN Democratic administrations prefer to avoid the need to reform while regretting the lack of capacity to intervene for peace. The UN can be a useful tool as we pursue a new climate change treaty, the control of nuclear weapons, international cooperation against the terrorist threat and peaceful post-conflict transitions. It is past time that we invest the resources and influence in helping the Secretary General create a stronger organization.

I served on the Brahimi UN Peace Operations Panel. I was impressed by the potential of the UN and quite depressed that our own country, in lieu of supporting the needed reforms, expended its political capital by seeking to reduce our UN contributions. We helped pass many Security Council Resolutions that could not be implemented fully because of a lack of resources. U.S. leadership is capable of changing this vital organization for the better. Now is the time to exercise it.

Creating a culture of prevention within the U.S. government means an intelligence community that can anticipate future crises by better understanding the fault lines of impending disaster. It means having a diplomatic presence in more places. It means creating a new Department for International Development Cooperation capable of coordinating development assistance within the USG and possessing a strong voice on trade and finance decisions that effect development. It means working with the U.N. voluntary agencies, the international financial institutions and regional banks, and the bilateral donor community to help nations develop and avoid crises. It means using our understanding of development conditions, inter-ethnic or religious tensions, international criminal activity and the impact of all of the above on weak governance systems. If we mobilize U.S. government and international partners, we can prevent many of the crises that cause such pain and exhaust our resources today.

The next administration has much to overcome if it is to recover the reputation of a nation that once stood on a “shining hill.” Our foreign policy in the past seven years has been influenced more by fear than by the grandest aspirations of our past. We need to restore our image by stopping torture, closing Guantanamo and standing tall for the principles of human rights and democracy. Those who argue that we cannot be both tough in the battle with terrorists and be true to our most important principles have been proven wrong. It may not have been their intention, but they strengthened our avowed enemies and turned allies into skeptics and opponents. It is time to get back on the right track.

J. Brian Atwood is the dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Atwood served for six years as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Administration of President William Clinton. Atwood also led the 1992 transition team at the State Department and was Under Secretary of State for Management prior to his appointment as head of USAID. In 2001, Atwood served on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Panel on Peace Operations. He joined the Foreign Service in 1966 and served in the American Embassies in Cote d’Ivoire and Spain. He served as legislative advisor for foreign and defense policy to Senator Thomas F. Eagleton (D-MO) from 1972 to 1977. During the Carter Administration, Atwood served as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations. He was Dean of Professional Studies and Academic Affairs at the Foreign Service Institute in 1981-82. Atwood was the first President of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) from 1986 to 1993. Atwood received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award in 1999.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

6 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:56 pm

Beyond November: Eric Schwartz

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

To kick things off, here’s Connect U.S. Fund executive director Eric Schwartz.

I’m delighted to help inaugurate both the new Connect U.S. Fund website, and the web-based component of our two-year effort to impact the public debate around the presidential transition.  Through the inauguration, we’re planning to ask some key leaders in the foreign policy advocacy and think-tank communities to blog on our site, offering their thoughts on the top two or three national foreign policy and national security priorities for a new administration.  And we’ll ask members of foreign policy community to offer reactions.  Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in foreign policy, politics, world at home | 0 Comments

5 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
01:36 pm

Beyond November: A New U.S. Foreign Policy

Two weeks ago, the Connect U.S. Fund began inviting leading experts to post on the Connect U.S. website their thoughts on what should be the next president’s foreign policy priorities.  They have kindly agreed to allow us to cross-post the results.  We’ll be calling this series Beyond November:  A New U.S. Foreign Policy.

It will start tomorrow (Wednesday) and appear periodically — a few times over the first week and then once a week.  I have been asked to contribute to this discussion at some point as well.

I can take absolutely no credit for making this happen — the good folks over at Connect U.S. are responsible.  I am delighted, however, to be able to play a role in disseminating their important ideas.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts as well.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

  • Podcast Player

  • Podcast Feeds

    • View in iTunes
    • Any Podcatcher

  • Archive