A Historic Moment

May 2, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Congress returns this week for intense debate over the future course of spending and budgets. The debt limit will be reached no later than May 16 and the Treasury Department says it will only be able to avoid default until early July. Republicans continue to insist on additional spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit, while Democrats prefer debate over those issues to occur along a parallel track. The newly created budget working group, consisting of members of both parties from the House and Senate and chaired by Vice President Biden, will hold its first meeting on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Six” continues to work toward its own comprehensive debt reduction agreement, with Senate action on an FY12 budget resolution on hold in the hopes that an agreement can be reached. Over in the House, which already passed an FY12 budget resolution, the appropriations process is expected to get underway soon with Subcommittee markups on tap later this month. Last night, the President announced to the nation and the world that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Pakistan. Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen made clear that this operation was successful thanks to be the military and civilian sides of our national security, saying “This outcome is a testament to the commitment and determination of our military, intelligence, and diplomatic personnel who continue to use all available resources to defeat our enemies and protect our homeland.”

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

World Leaders React to bin Laden’s Death (VOA)

World leaders are reacting to the news of the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Former U.S. president George W. Bush called bin Laden’s death a “momentous achievement.”  Bush was president when when al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has called bin Laden’s death a “profoundly important moment.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai said bin Laden’s death in neighboring Pakistan proves Kabul’s long-standing position that the war on terror was not rooted in Afghanistan.  Karzai also urged the Afghan Taliban to refrain from fighting.

National security chief keeps a low profile (Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons, LA Times)

Not a grand strategist, Thomas Donilon is a master of process, keeping White House procedures punctual and orderly even in the face of global chaos. With changes taking place atop the CIA, the Pentagon and in key overseas posts, Donilon, who has held the national security advisor’s post for six months after two years as No. 2, is expected to see his sway over U.S. foreign policymaking grow. But his influence differs from that of many of his predecessors.

Smart Power

Washington After bin Laden’s Death: Voices from the Crowd on Development Aid (Rolf Rosenkranz, DEVEX)

I asked several people what their wish was for the Mideast and Far East – the birthplace of al-Qaida and one of the world’s development hot spots. Their responses ran the gamut; they illustrate to a degree the mix of trepidation and idealism that has for the past 10 years guided U.S. public opinion on the issue. There was a recurring theme in these interviews, though: Development aid for Afghanistan, Pakistan and countries in the Middle East and North Africa currently engulfed in political changes was seen as necessary by all of them. “I hope that they get the aid that they need,” a young woman named Casey told me, while locking up her bike on Lafayette Square in the heart of the U.S. capital. “Peace isn’t won by bombs, it’s won by development and aid, and creating sustainable development.”

Cuts to U.S. health funding will bring pain without end (Ben Barber, Kansas City Star)

Private, religious and government aid agencies have brought medicine and treatment to millions. The U.S. government alone has spent billions to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB; and to train midwives and health workers. In addition, most people in poor countries now live in urban areas close to government or missionary hospitals. Buying medicine is another issue entirely. Yet even as countries from Egypt to Indonesia to Nepal struggle to train nurses and doctors, the brain drain lures them to Europe and America for a better life.

Women Key to Successful Peace And Security (Stephenie Foster, the Huffington Post)

Women are critical to peace building and conflict resolution. While war affects everyone, women are especially affected. War and conflict tear away the social fabric that supports women and families, creating instability. When men go to war — voluntarily or not — women are either left behind in shattered economies struggling to keep families intact or on the run from violence. Increasingly rape is deliberately used as a weapon to humiliate the enemy, fracture communities, and inflict lasting trauma.

Politics/Foreign Policy

U.S. Aid Plan for Pakistan Is Foundering (Jane Perlez, NYT)

A multibillion-dollar aid plan that the Obama administration hoped would win over Pakistanis and buttress the weak civilian government is foundering because Washington’s fears of Pakistani corruption and incompetence has slowed disbursal of the money, undermining a fundamental goal of the United States in Pakistan, officials from both nations say.

Panetta’s Challenge (Gordon Adams, the Will and the Wallet)

When the President announced his new national security team last week most of the attention focused on David Petraeus at CIA and the problem of winding down the war in Afghanistan.  Leon Panetta’s nomination as Secretary of Defense went almost unnoticed, by comparison. But Panetta has the bigger challenge: how to manage a build down in defense, as the Afghan war comes to a (way too slow) close.  End, the war will, but the challenge of disciplining the Pentagon will last far past the end of the war.

Declare victory, wind down the war, and turn to real interests (Steve LeVine, FP)

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to make war on al Qaeda, but ended up in a fight to keep the Taliban from overrunning Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The question now is whether there is more that the United States can accomplish in Afghanistan or Pakistan. If the answer is yes, what is that more? And if it is no, is it time to wind down?