Last night, the Senate cleared a two-week extension of the Continuing Resolution (CR) through December 18.  The House had voted to extend the CR earlier this week.  This will give Congress more time to resolve the outstanding appropriations bills.  Democrats favor passing an omnibus package or a year-long CR, while Republicans favor a short-term CR extending into the spring.  The President will sign the extension measure today in order to avert a government shutdown as the CR was originally set to expire tonight.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

American Diplomacy Revealed — as Good (Roger Cohen – New York Times)

Let’s hear it for the men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service! They are, to judge from the WikiLeaks dump of a quarter-million of their private or secret cables, thoughtful, well-informed and dedicated servants of the American interest who write clear, declarative English sentences. I’ve not heard much in the torrent of Wiki-chatter about these admirable career diplomats whose diplomacy is now condemned to be unquiet. Overall, my longstanding admiration for America’s conscientious diplomats has been redoubled, not least for this underreported nugget on the turbulent Iranian election of 2009, contained in a cable of Jan. 12, 2010, from Dubai: “While we don’t know nor might not ever know the real June 12 vote count, it is clear that the turnout was at record high levels and that there was systematic vote count fraud (if in fact the votes were even counted) to ensure that Ahmadinejad ‘won big’ in the first round.”

Smart Power

A much needed shot in the arm for U.S. civilian power (G. William Anderson – The Hill)

Our war fighters believe that USAID and the State Department are better positioned to avert future crises through accelerated development and poverty reduction, capacity building in fragile states, and conflict prevention. A recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition found that nearly 90 percent of active duty and retired military officers believe that the tools of diplomacy and development are critical to achieving U.S. national security objectives. The wide range of reforms launched by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah are an excellent first step to maximizing efficiency, but they will require bipartisan political support to modernize, streamline and strengthen U.S. aid efforts. When effectively delivered, U.S. assistance will accelerate inclusive growth, reduce poverty, improve people’s lives, support stability and build democratic governance in fragile states. Those results support American security and contribute to our prosperity.

The Smart-Power Push (Sarah Babbage – The American Prospect)

“Smart power” — the combination of military and diplomatic power abroad — has become a popular buzzword in foreign-policy circles over the past decade. As David Axe chronicled in the December issue of TAP, it’s a strategy the U.S. is using in Congo to curb sexual violence. But what does the term really entail, and is it something the administration is using effectively?

Politics/Foreign Policy

British aid worker Norgrove killed accidentally by U.S. soldier, inquiry finds (Anthony Faiola – Washington Post)

U.S. soldiers have been disciplined for not disclosing details of an explosion that killed a British aid worker in Afghanistan in October, British and U.S. officials said Thursday, after the release of the results of a joint investigation into the woman’s death. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said investigators had concluded that Norgrove had died of injuries caused by a grenade. Speaking in Parliament, he said U.S. soldiers had been disciplined for not reporting details of the grenade explosion immediately after the failed mission. “Members of the rescue team have been disciplined for failing to provide a complete and full account of their actions in accordance with U.S. military procedure,” Hague said.

5 Lessons From Haiti’s Disaster (Paul Farmer – Foreign Policy)

What the earthquake taught us about foreign aid.

Senior official: “This has been a bad week for American diplomacy” (Josh Rogan – Foreign Policy)

The State Department is settling in for a rough period, putting forth a longer-term strategy for dealing with the damage done by the ongoing WikiLeaks disclosures and starting the repair work on hundreds of relationships. The timing of the diplomatic embarrassment comes just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is traveling around the globe. “This has been a bad week for American diplomacy,” a senior administration official lamented on a Wednesday evening conference call about the WikiLeaks crisis. The official emphasized that if there’s any American leader with the skills to handle such a crisis, it’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her stints as first lady and senator, her personal reputation, and her close relationships have given her the experience and skills needed to do what’s necessary to start putting the pieces back together, the official said.

Foreign policy and the Burmese balancing act (Ian Bremmer – Foreign Policy)

Western governments recently cheered Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, but don’t expect any major changes to their Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) policies in the near term. By contrast, Asian countries will probably increase their level of engagement, no matter what the country’s politics, because they want access to its natural resources. So what does this all mean for Myanmar’s relations with the East and West? The current U.S. administration, whose priorities in Asia lie elsewhere, will not expend much political capital on the country. Influential pro-democracy constituencies in Washington can easily find arguments for continued sanctions and against engaging with the country’s nominally “civilian” leadership. While the country held its first general election in 20 years on Nov. 7, it was not free, fair, nor credible.

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