News in Brief

February 21, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Who’s in the News

Using diplomacy to create jobs (Thomas R. Nides, Politico)

Here’s why we, as diplomats, care about economics: We live in an era when the size of a country’s economy is every bit as important to exercising global leadership as the size of its military. Meanwhile, our investment in development prevents conflict and cultivates future allies and consumers of American goods. We’re working at the highest levels with our partners in Europe and Asia to stabilize and balance the global economy. And closer to home, the American people are hungry for an economic recovery that depends on reaching beyond our borders to find new customers and new markets. That means the State Department — which manages our relationships around the world — is essential to exercising our economic influence, keeping Americans prosperous, and creating jobs here at home.  America’s economic strength and our global leadership are a package deal.

Smart Power

“Smart Power”: The U.S. Government’s Role in Promoting Financial Inclusion (Under Sec. Maria Otero, CGAP)

When Secretary Clinton first laid out her vision of foreign policy, she described the need for “Smart Power.” Not just the hard power of our military forces, nor just the soft power of our diplomatic and development efforts.  Smart Power is about addressing the basic necessities of people’s lives, understanding their challenges and empowering them to help themselves—much like we have been doing for decades through microfinance.  This concept of Smart Power is at the heart of what proponents of financial inclusion are doing as we create more inclusive environments for growth and prosperity.

Obama Says Export Aid Will Help U.S. Companies Compete (Business Week)

President Barack Obama promised to boost support for U.S. manufacturers such as Boeing Co. that face subsidized foreign competition as part of his drive to increase exports.  Expanding on proposals he outlined in his State of the Union address last month, Obama announced plans for Export- Import Bank financing for U.S. companies for domestic as well as overseas sales to match foreign competitors’ sources of official funding.  The bank will give “American companies a fair shot by matching the unfair export financing that their competitors receive from other countries,” Obama said (Friday) at Boeing’s jet factory in Everett, Washington, which has more than 35,000 employees.  Boeing has 85 percent of its $296 billion jetliner backlog from buyers outside the U.S., making the Chicago-based company pivotal to Obama’s plan to double exports by the end of 2014.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Foreign Aid and American Priorities (Shoshana Bryen, American Thinker)

It is a struggle to decide who, if anyone, has a claim to US foreign aid dollars.  It is, after all, money earned by American taxpayers and sent to people who didn’t earn it, at least not in the traditional sense.  Should it be used to encourage countries to accept American requirements — or to reward countries that have done so?  Should it be only for people who like Americans?  That would be a small group.  James Lindsay, senior vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, reminds us, “Gratitude isn’t the primary objective of U.S. foreign aid… Washington doles out aid primarily based on calculations about how to advance U.S. strategic interests.”  If the minimal condition is that American money should advance American interests, it is worth considering money spent on the Palestinian Authority and on Egypt, as well as in support of what remains of the “Arab Spring.”

U.S., Egypt Look to Settle Nerves Over Aid, Trial (Matt Bradley, Wall Street Journal)

Egyptian government officials are working to resolve an escalating diplomatic feud over U.S. civil-society organizations, Sen. John McCain said during a visit to Egypt, signaling a detente only days before 16 Americans face trial on charges of having violated Egyptian laws on foreign funding for nongovernmental organizations.  Mr. McCain (R., Ariz.) and his delegation of four other senators, three of them Republicans, also hinted at warming relations between conservative American lawmakers and the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group whose triumphant performance in parliamentary elections rattled U.S. nerves among U.S. policy makers.  The warm comments mark a climbdown from previous threats by congressmen from both parties that the prosecution of American NGO staff will endanger the $1.3 billion in aid that Washington has given Egypt’s military each year since 1987.  Canceling the aid would rupture Washington’s alliance with one of its strongest security partners in the Middle East—a relationship that has buttressed Egypt’s peace with

Hamza Kashgari is a Test for Saudi Arabia (Richard Cohen, The Washington Post)

“Kashgari may be something of a jerk for the way he taunted the religious authorities — and picking the Muslim nation of Malaysia for a stopover wasn’t too smart, either — but nothing he did remotely resembles a capital crime. In almost any other nation he would have been ignored, or given a shot on talk radio. In his new book, “Saudi Arabia on the Edge: The Uncertain Future of an American Ally,” my former Washington Post colleague Thomas W. Lippman writes that Saudi Arabia could choose to become another Norway, an oil-rich nation transforming an abundant natural resource into a knowledge-based economy. This is what Saudi Arabia says it wants to do. Its Web sites bristle with news about business, about investment opportunities and the great advances the kingdom has made in just about everything. In a certain sense, this is all true.”