SecDef Speaks Out

December 6, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Late last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta delivered remarks at the Saban Center, where he offered strong support for U.S. global leadership. Secretary Panetta said “National security is not just dependent on military power.  It’s dependent on diplomatic power.  It’s dependent on the State Department being able to provide foreign aid, being able to work with countries, being able to provide development money, being able to provide education money.” He also said “I believe security is dependent on a strong military, but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy.”

Must Reads

USGLC in the News

Foreign Aid (Frank Titus, Columbus Dispatch)

With high food prices and extreme weather events threatening millions around the world, now is not the time to cut the tiny sliver of funding that goes to programs that provide the world’s most at-risk people the tools they need to help lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. Foreign aid done in the right ways can help strengthen American leadership and showcase the goodwill of the American people, helping to advance our nation’s economic, foreign, and environmental policy priorities.  This is clearly one of the best examples of how an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Who’s in the News

An ‘iron hand’ is no substitute for democracy (Madeleine K. Albright, Financial Times)

It is essential to do everything possible to prevent the idea of democracy from being hijacked by those promising an easier way. The “iron hand” is an illusion, not a solution. One can readily imagine an Arab version of Mr Putin arising, offering a platform that exploits economic yearnings and cultural pride, and that uses democratic means to seize power but then refuses to relinquish it. Arab protestors have not raised the banner of democratic reform so that their countries may one day revert to autocracy. That danger exists, but so does the chance to build something far greater. Even at its best, democracy can be frustrating, and slow, but it remains the superior means for uniting disparate populations, resolving disputes, and generating prosperity. We can but hope Arab populations will learn – not repeat – the Russian experience.

Smart Power

At Conference, Afghans Say They’ll Need Aid for Years (Steven Lee Myers and Rod Nordland, New York Times)

While Mr. Karzai and others celebrated the strides made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban — 60 percent of Afghans now have cellphones, he said, compared with none in 2001 — the conference underscored the multiple challenges facing a government undermined by corruption and threatened by a tenacious insurgency. “We will need your steadfast support for at least another decade,” Mr. Karzai said, addressing leaders here at a conference held on the 10th anniversary, to the day, of talks in Bonn that established the political foundation for a new government in Afghanistan.

Challenges at the Cutting Edge of Fighting Global Poverty (Jeffrey Sachs, Huffington Post)

The core idea of the [Millennium Village]project is that poor rural communities can take on several initiatives simultaneously in a strategy that is sometimes called “integrated development.” In the case of the Millennium Villages, five areas of community life are prioritized: agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, and business development. By investing simultaneously across these sectors, the communities make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and the escape from poverty. Half way through the 10-year project, we have found that certain important things can be accomplished very quickly. Malaria deaths and disease can be reduced within a year or two. Access to other basic health interventions for mothers and children can be improved. Agriculture production can increase significantly. Hunger can be reduced, especially the kind of chronic hunger (resulting in “stunting” of growth) that can lead to a lifetime of disabilities.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Clinton starts “Foreign Affairs Policy Board” (Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy)

On Dec. 19, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will host the first-ever meeting of a panel made up of outside experts that will advise Clinton — and her successor — on the top priorities facing the State Department. Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state, is the chair of the new “Foreign Affairs Policy Board,” which is modeled after the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. He will work with Jake Sullivan, director of the policy planning office at State, to coordinate the board’s activities. The Dec. 19 meeting will focus on Clinton’s economic statecraft initiative, a State Department official said. The board members, who will serve two year terms, include a mix of Democrats and Republicans, former officials and experts from the military, diplomatic, and development fields.

America’s Second Chance and the Arab Spring (Kenneth M. Pollack, Foreign Policy)

Whether we like it or not, the changes sweeping the Middle East will affect America’s vital national interests as well. We hate to admit it, but we must face the fact that our economy — and the economy of the wider world, with which we are inextricably intertwined — is addicted to oil. And the price of oil, and thus the welfare of our economy and that of the rest of the world, is deeply affected by what happens in the Middle East.