President Obama Delivers Responses in Defense of the International Affairs Budget

January 31, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Yesterday, President Obama delivered strong responses in defense of the International Affairs Budget during a Google+ Hangout, saying “We spend 1% of our total budget on foreign aid.  Some folks think it’s more like 25%.  I mean, it’s a very small portion. And most of the aid we provide goes to countries that are helping us with our national security.”

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President Obama Hangs Out with America (Google+ Hangout)

It’s important for folks to understand that we only spend about 1% of our budget on foreign aid, but it pays off in a lot of ways.  Because, if we are contributing to an improving economy in a country, if we’re giving more people opportunity, if we’re preventing a famine, that results in huge numbers of refugees, that’s prevents us from having to deal with some military crisis somewhere down the road that could be even more expensive.  So aside from it being the right thing to do as a very wealthy country, us trying to develop other countries, it’s also important for people to understand that it’s also a part of our security strategy.

Clinton to urge Security Council action on Syria (Voice of America)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to urge the U.N. Security Council to support an Arab League peace plan for Syria, after Washington strongly condemned escalating violence by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.  Clinton will join the foreign ministers of France and Britain at Tuesday’s Security Council session.  Western powers have been working on a draft resolution endorsing the Arab League plan, which calls for Assad to step aside as a way to resolve the crisis.  Syria has rejected the proposal as a violation of its sovereignty.  Clinton said in a statement Monday the Security Council “must act” by showing the international community views Syria’s crackdown on a 10-month opposition uprising as a threat to peace and security.

Smart Power

London Declaration: A tipping point for the world’s poor (Dr. Peter Hotez, Huffington Post)

In London today, global health leaders — the CEOs of major pharmaceutical companies, Bill Gates, WHO Director General Margaret Chan, senior government officials from endemic and donor countries, and others — announced an unprecedented commitment to control or eliminate 10 diseases by the end of this decade.  The neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, are the most common afflictions of the world’s poorest billion people. They are ancient scourges such as hookworm, elephantiasis, river blindness, schistosomiasis, trachoma and guinea worm.  The London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases serves as a new generation Marshall Plan for the bottom billion, but with a priority on girls and women living in poverty.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Up to 500,000 new refugees could flee to S. Sudan (Hereward Holland, Reuters)

Conflict and food shortages could push up to half a million Sudanese refugees to flee to South Sudan in the next couple months if Khartoum does not allow aid agencies more access to its restive border regions, the World Food Program said.  deputy executive director Ramiro Lopes Da Silva said more than 1,000 people per day have crossed into South Sudan over the last week, as many people as were crossing into Kenya from Somalia at the peak of the famine in the Horn of Africa last year.  “In a couple of months it is what is typically the hunger season both in Sudan and South Sudan and obviously the potential impact on those populations is very serious,” Da Silva told reporters.  “There is a sense of urgency that the window for an effective intervention with the populations where they are is narrowing.”

Tunisia navigates a democratic path tinged with religion (Anthony Shadid, New York Times)

The challenges before Tunisia’s year-old revolution are immense — righting an ailing economy, drafting a new constitution and recovering from decades of dictatorship that cauterized civic life. But in the first months of a coalition government led by the Ennahda Party, seen as one of the most pragmatic of the region’s Islamist movements, the most emotional of struggles has surged to the forefront: a fight over the identity of an Arab and Muslim society that its authoritarian leaders had always cast as adamantly secular.  The popular revolts that began to sweep across the Middle East one year ago have forced societies like Tunisia’s, removed from the grip of authoritarian leaders and celebrating an imagined unity, to confront their own complexity.

Rohrabacher slams Ambassador Crocker’s comments on Afghanistan rebuilding (Pete Kasperowicz, The Hill)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) last week criticized Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, for making comments that Rohrabacher said imply that Congress should not be holding open discussions about how best to structure Afghanistan’s fledgling government.  “Ambassador Crocker seems to want to stifle the debate on how to reform and improve the Afghan structure so as to leave behind a more sustainable and legitimate government in Kabul when the U.S. and its allies withdraw in 2014,” Rohrabacher said. “It is not a ‘lie’ that such a debate is in progress, nor is the debate a ‘dishonor’ to those who have died fighting enemies of the United States.”