News in Brief

February 29, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Who’s in the News

Clinton Gets Tough Questions From All Sides in Appropriations Hearing (Emily Cadei, CQ Staff)

Senate appropriators across the ideological spectrum expressed deep reservations Tuesday with the State Department’s programs in the so-called “frontline” states of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, signaling that foreign aid funding for those countries will be at risk in fiscal 2013.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took pointed questions about the transitions under way in Afghanistan and Iraq at a hearing by the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee. Members of both parties voiced serious doubts about the trajectory for diplomatic and development programs in both countries.  On Pakistan, subcommittee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., warned in his opening statement that he is “less and less inclined” to provide the billions of dollars in assistance the United States has delivered to Islamabad in recent years, given the state of bilateral relations and Pakistan’s lack of progress in combating extremism and corruption.  To continue to ask for a similar level of funding for Pakistan in fiscal 2013 is, he said, “budgeting by inertia.”

Smart Power

The Conservative Case for Foreign Aid (Sen. John Kerry, The Wall Street Journal)

Cutting foreign aid has always been a guaranteed applause line on the political stump. There are no global Grover Norquists pushing a pledge not to slash the State Department budget, nor are there millions of AARP seniors rallying to protect America’s investments overseas. President Reagan once summed it up succinctly: “Foreign aid suffers from a lack of domestic constituency, in large part because the results of the programs are often not immediately visible and self-evident.” And today, with the national debt approaching $14.7 trillion, Americans rightly demand fiscal responsibility.  Yet efforts in Congress to cut billions from the president’s proposed budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are short-sighted. While it is true that our economic strength at home determines our strength in the world, it’s also vital to deal with our current fiscal challenge intelligently. After all, we can’t be strong at home if we aren’t strong in the world.  There’s nothing fiscally conservative about starving our foreign policy budget of a billion dollars today only to spend a trillion dollars years later in armed conflict.

Why foreign assistance is still important (Michael Magan, Shadow Government)

In the Secretary of State’s executive summary to Congress, she highlights the enormous changes we have seen in the Middle East and North Africa and the need for the U.S. to have a coordinated and strategic approach to foster (not control) peaceful democratic transitions. She states that the 2013 budget request provides a “blueprint of how diplomacy and development can sustain our country’s global leadership and deliver results for the American people.”  I note with some optimism, to this regard, The Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund; a new program within an austerity budget — but still a big idea.  The budget request includes $770,000,000 to address democratic, economic, and institutional reforms in MENA — the Middle East and North Africa. It also mentions how various bureaus within the Department of State and USAID will coordinate and provide incentives and conditions on how aid monies will be allocated and accounted for.  It is nice to have a big idea within an austerity budget.

Politics/Foreign Policy

The Global Health President: Why Rick Santorum would be great news for the AIDS fight in Africa (Jack C. Chow, Foreign Policy)

Before he became president, few expected George W. Bush to be a global health activist. But Bush astounded his critics and supporters alike by launching a train of multibillion-dollar health rescue programs for the developing world, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the President’s Malaria Initiative, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Bush, in launching PEPFAR in 2003, called it a “work of mercy” to save Africa and hailed what he called the “Lazarus effect” of anti-HIV drugs in saving AIDS patients from the brink of death and allowing them to lead more normal lives, quickly and inexpensively. PEPFAR and its associated programs, which have spent $39 billion to treat millions of people, have been recognized as a cornerstone of Bush’s presidency. And in many countries receiving PEPFAR and Global Fund support, Bush and America have become synonymous with global health.

U.S. and Egypt in Talks to End Prosecution of Americans (Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the United States and Egypt were engaged in “very intensive discussions” to end the criminal prosecution of staff members at four American-financed nonprofit organizations, a case that has strained relations between the countries.  Mrs. Clinton declined to discuss the details of the negotiations, but she suggested that a resolution could be found before the State Department is faced with a decision to withhold military assistance from Egypt.   “We’ve had a lot of very tough conversations,” Mrs. Clinton said at a Senate hearing on her department’s proposed budget, “and I think we’re moving toward a resolution.”  Under new legislation adopted by Congress late last year, American aid to Egypt cannot be delivered until certain requirements are met. Officials in Washington say the criminal case would almost certainly prevent that. In the case of $1.3 billion in military assistance, including arms sales, the aid can be delivered only if Mrs. Clinton and the State Department certify that Egypt is adopting basic democratic reforms, including freedom of speech and association.