General Petraeus on Smart Power

March 15, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Today, the House is scheduled to vote on a three-week extension of the current Continuing Resolution that cuts an additional $6 billion in discretionary spending.  An increasing number of Republicans have said they will oppose the extension, including Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee.  The extension cuts $17 million from the International Affairs Budget, all from the International Fund for Ireland.  General David Petraeus will testify before the Senate this morning, as he provides his first official assessment of the war in Afghanistan in nine months. In testimony prepared for the Armed Services Committee, General Petraeus stressed the critical national security implications of the International Affairs Budget, saying “I am concerned that levels of funding for our State Department and USAID partners will not sufficiently enable them to build on the hard-fought security achievements of our men and women in uniform.”

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Who’s In the News

Petraeus urges non-military funding for Afghan war (Miami Herald via AP)

He is warning, however, that the substantial military gains there could be jeopardized unless Congress provides adequate funding to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide economic development, governance, and other civilian assistance. “I am concerned that levels of funding for our State Department and USAID partners will not sufficiently enable them to build on the hard-fought security achievements of our men and women in uniform,” he said.

Clinton to tell Egyptians democracy takes time (Arshad Mohammed, Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Egypt on Tuesday to urge its military rulers to lay the ground for a genuine transition to democracy and offer support to the citizens that toppled Hosni Mubarak from power. The highest U.S. official to visit the country since the February 11 ouster of the former president, who had been a close U.S. ally, Clinton’s visit is less a victory lap about the virtues of democracy than a cautionary tale about its challenges.

Smart Power

America’s Foreign Affairs Budget Faces Congressional Chopping Block (Rachel Bade, Anna Gawel, the Washington Diplomat)

Smart power — the combination of hard and soft power — has been touted by experts for years. But what matters is not lip service — it’s the purse strings. Advocates will have to persuade Americans and the penny-pinching keepers of the federal purse to weigh the price they pay for assistance now with the costs they might incur tomorrow if cuts to the international affairs budget inadvertently diminish American power and security abroad.

US bishops, CRS declare ‘national day of action’ against foreign aid cuts (Catholic Culture)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are urging Catholics to contact members of Congress on March 15 “to stop careless cuts to poverty-focused international assistance that cost lives.”

Politics/Foreign Policy

Yohannes and Shah Head to the Hill: Duet or Competition? (Sarah Staats, CGD)

MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will testify together before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. This is the first time since MCC was created that the two agencies will testify together and the first time since 2005 that MCC will appear before the full House authorizing committee.

How to Protect Foreign Aid? Improve It (Tina Rosenberg, NYT)

A Bloomberg National Poll says that more than 7 in 10 Americans think that Congress can find major savings in the federal budget by slashing foreign aid.  It’s a new poll, but this is old news. Americans have always vastly overestimated how much we spend on foreign aid.   A 2010 survey asked Americans what percentage of the federal budget went to foreign aid.  The median response was 25 percent.

Senator Graham takes on transnational terrorism (Joel Smith, the Will and the Wallet)

To address transnational terrorism, the Senator stressed the need for both US military and non-military force, emphasizing the vital role US civilian institutions play in frontline states such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. “How it ends in Iraq and Afghanistan depends on what we do on the civilian side,” said Graham.

Eric Cantor Defends Foreign Aid Cuts In Aftermath Of Japan Earthquake, Tsunami (Elsie Foley, the Huffington Post)

With Japan reeling from last week’s magnitude-8.9 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, leading House Republicans on Monday defended cuts to foreign aid and ocean safety in their budget proposals, arguing the cuts are necessary to shrinking the nation’s deficit.