A New Team

April 27, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Leon Panetta will succeed Robert Gates at Department of Defense (Jennifer Epstein, Politico)

The long-awaited shakeup of President Barack Obama’s national security advisers could be about to get under way, as reports indicate that he’ll announce picks to fill the top jobs at the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. CIA Director Leon Panetta, the long-rumored frontrunner to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is expected to be Obama’s pick, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to POLITICO Wednesday morning. The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, is Obama’s choice to replace Panetta at the CIA. The Obama administration is also expected to announce that Marine Gen. John Allen will replace Petraeus in Afghanistan, and that Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, will replace U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.

Major shake-up coming soon for top military officers (Kevin Baron, Stars and Stripes)

Within weeks, roughly a dozen of the U.S. military’s most popular and highest-ranking officers will begin rotating out of some of the highest-profile jobs in the armed forces. Those due for change this year include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the vice chairman, several service chiefs, NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe and other combatant commanders, as well as the Afghanistan War’s commanding general and his top two deputies. In the Pentagon, the musical chairs hinge on President Barack Obama’s selection of the next chairman. Adm. Mike Mullen is set to retire Oct. 1, after serving a second two-year term. Since last fall, the leading candidate to replace him has been the vice chairman, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, although he has not been asked.

Smart Power

AfPak Behind the Lines: Pakistani TV through the years (Luv Puri, Foreign Policy)

USAID recently announced that it is funding a remake of Sesame Street for Pakistan. How unique is this effort to bring American television to Pakistan, historically? Sesame Street was first aired in Pakistan in English in the late 1980s and early 1990s, though it was far from the only exposure Pakistanis got to American television and culture. Interestingly, Pakistan Television (PTV) became one of the key instruments through which the U.S.-Pakistan civil alliance during the Afghan jihad gained a popular acceptance at the civil society level in Pakistan.  On a lighter note, Pakistani viewers were also treated to episodes of Star Trek, as well as Full House, which for many gave a sense into the complex aspects of parenting in the West. There was no contradiction between the two parallel trends at the time, because of the political alignment between America and Pakistan and even with the Muslim world at large. There was instead a kind of acceptance of both, a feeling that the American value system and Islamic worlds view could live side by side.

Food aid report targets improvements (Paul Courson, CNN)

A report on the quality of food handed out during world disasters and famine has identified improvements experts hope will make relief campaigns more effective at fighting hunger.The report, delivered to the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID), also suggested changes in nutrition to match recipients’ dietary needs. USAID Director Rajiv Shah told the gathering the report is essential to national security as well as a way of “transmitting American moral values around the world.” Shah said harsh economic conditions make the findings even more essential. “We know that when kids are hungry and communities go without food, we see food riots,” he said, “and today as we are having this discussion and meeting, we know that these same processes are going on again; fuel and fuel prices are leading to greater hunger and insecurity around the world. And so your efforts as a community to make these reforms real are a critical part of keeping our country safe and secure.”

Here’s My Crazy Idea (and Video) for Fixing U.S. Development Policy (Todd Moss, Huffington Post)

1. Consolidate from 20+ departments, bureaus, and agencies involved in development to just 7. Most programs should sensibly fall under a bolstered USAID.  2. Prioritize objectives. Brainard listed at least 50 aims of U.S. foreign assistance, but all of these could be merged to three overarching objectives. 3. Clarify who leads and when. A clean interagency process would have the NSC designate a lead agency for each country strategy or major initiative based on the primary objective.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Haiti’s Second Revolution (Lesly Michelot, Forbes)

As with any successful revolution, the battle cry must come from the people and not from the outside world.  In other words, Haitians must lead the fight.  For decades Non-Governmental Organizations and donor nations have providing critical services to Haitian citizens. During that time Haitians have developed a dependency on humanitarian aid rather than relying on the Haitian government for even the most basic public services. Admittedly, changing the mission of the NGOs and donor nations would require a change in the mindset of those who believe their altruistic efforts have no negative impact on the society and its ability to sustain itself.  Nevertheless, this change is necessary if Haiti is to prosper.

Ros-Lehtinen Revamping Syria Sanction Legislation (Jonathan Broder, CQ )

As the Syrian government has stepped up its efforts to crush pro-democracy demonstrators, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is drafting legislation that would sharpen the unilateral sanctions enacted against Syria in 2004. Committee aides said that Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s focus is on “tightening and expanding” the Syria Accountability Act (PL 108-175), which was enacted a few months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq amid accusations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was allowing foreign fighters to transit Syria into Iraq to battle U.S. troops.

White House approves $25 million for Libyan rebels (Josh Rogin, the Cable blog)

The White House finally approved the $25 million in non-lethal aid to the Libya rebels that the State Department had notified Congress about on April 15. The White House released a memo late Tuesday from President Obama to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates officially authorizing them to “drawdown” up to $25 million of “non lethal aid and services” to give to the Libyan Transitional National Council “to support efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya.”

A Radical Plan for Cutting the Defense Budget and Reconfiguring the U.S. Military (Douglas MacGregor, Foreign Policy)

In the spirit of spending wisely, here is my plan to reconfigure the military for the demands and threats of the 21st-century world and, in doing so, dramatically cut the Pentagon budget: Estimated annualized savings resulting from withdrawals from overseas garrisons and restructuring the United States’ forward military presence: $239 billion. The place to start reducing defense spending is with U.S. overseas commitments, which are vast.