Who’s In the News
Who Will Stand Between Obama and the World (Josh Rogin – Foreign Policy)
Congress may not be in charge of making foreign policy, but it sure can influence its implementation. Since taking office in January 2009, members of Congress — drawn primarily but not exclusively from the ranks of the GOP — have slowed the Obama administration’s efforts to advance its strategy when dealing with Russia, Syria, Israel, Cuba, and a host of other relationships. And the midterm elections won’t be making things any easier for President Barack Obama. GOP lawmakers stand to play a huge role in the upcoming debates next year over the promised July 2011 drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, whether to maintain or increase U.S. foreign assistance packages, and how strongly to press countries such as Russia and China to implement new sanctions against Iran. If current polls hold, Republicans will make significant gains in the Senate and likely take the House of Representatives, elevating a set of lawmakers to new heights of power and complicating Obama’s efforts to execute his foreign-policy agenda.
Lowey hits back at Cantor over foreign aid funding (Josh Rogin – Foreign Policy)
The Democratic chairwoman of the subcommittee tasked with drawing up U.S. foreign assistance bills rejected Monday calls from a member of the Republican leadership to separate funding designated for Israel from the rest of the foreign aid budget, in the event that the foreign operations budget explodes into a war next year. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the current House minority whip who could become majority leader if Republicans take control next year, told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that a GOP-led Congress would seek to defund aid to countries that don’t share U.S. interests. If that means rejecting the State Department and Foreign Operations funding bill altogether, so be it, Cantor said. However, he added that he would separate out funding for Israel, so that alone could move forward unimpeded.
Amid Cholera Outbreak in Haiti, Fear and Misery (Deborah Sontag – New York Times)
International health officials stressed that the pattern of the outbreak was almost impossible to predict. But Monday was a relatively good day: only six cholera deaths were registered in a 24-hour period. More than 200 died of the acute bacterial infection in the epidemic’s first few days. The known death toll stands at 259, with more than 3,000 cases, all but 450 or so in the Artibonite area. Despite its central role in this epidemic, despite the new banner at the town’s entrance that says “Wash your hands!” St.-Marc is not a ghost town, with residents shuttered in their homes. Girls in school uniforms, their hair in bows, skip through the streets, and vendors hawk their wares as boisterously as always. At the entrance to St. Nicholas Hospital, an anti-cholera message, set to a festive compas beat — “There’s no life without health and no health without hygiene” — blares discordantly from a loudspeaker.
Bethesda-based development firm gets Kyrgyzstan contract (Walter Pincus – Washington Post)
The U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded a $3.25 million contract to Bethesda-based Development Alternatives Inc. to assist the newly elected Kyrgyzstan parliament, an illustration of the government’s growing – and often troubled – reliance on outside contractors to promote democratic institutions abroad. DAI, which has been in business for almost 40 years, has 87 projects in 60 countries and employs 2,000 “development professionals.” Its revenue in 2009 was $409 million, with its largest client being USAID. It also does work for the Departments of State, Defense and Labor. USAID selected DAI to run its Kyrgyzstan “Parliamentary Strengthening Program” without competitive bidding because of what the agency described as the urgent need “to ensure from the outset that the new parliament and its members understand their representative roles and functions.”
Karzai again blasts security firms’ role in Afghanistan (Joshua Partlow and Rajiv Chandrasekaran – Washington Post)
The confrontation between President Hamid Karzai and the NATO coalition over the fate of private security companies accelerated Monday as Karzai lashed out again about the damaging role the hired guns play in Afghanistan. Karzai has come under intense pressure to back down from his intention to ban private guards from protecting development projects in Afghanistan, including a call from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, as U.S. officials have warned that the ban could shut down billions of dollars in programs and put thousands of Afghans out of work. Behind the scenes, foreign diplomats have been working furiously to forge some face-saving compromise that allows Karzai to phase out the private security companies over time while not jeopardizing a key component of NATO’s counter-insurgency strategy.
Geithner’s Global Central Planning (John Cochrane – Wall Street Journal)
Economists are full of bad ideas. Terrible ideas seem to emerge when the gurus get together to talk about coordinating their bad ideas. Last week’s public letter from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to the G-20 finance ministers is a great example. Mr. Geithner starts with a dramatic proposal: “G-20 countries should commit to undertake policies consistent with reducing external imbalances below a specified share of GDP [later reported to be 4%] over the next few years.”