Spreading the Word

September 7, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

As Congress returns to work, leading voices inside and outside of Washington are making the case for U.S. global engagement. USGLC Board Members Dan Glickman and George Rupp wrote in Fox News Opinion that the tragedy unfolding in the Horn of Africa requires immediate American leadership and also an investment in prevention programs over the long term. They said “with a small, efficient investment in cutting-edge programs today, we can work towards a day when these devastating images are seen in history books rather than the evening news. That is an investment worthy of America.” In addition, USGLC Virginia Advisory Committee Members Anne Goddard, CEO of ChildFund International, and John Hager, former lieutenant governor of Virginia, penned an opinion editorial in the Richmond Times Dispatch, writing “Virginia has always been at the forefront of American leadership, and we hope Virginia’s delegation in Washington will do the right thing and support a strong and effective international affairs budget.”

Must Reads

USGLC In the News

Goddard & Hager: Engagement is good for Virginia’s economy (Anne Goddard and John Hager, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

As a humanitarian leader and a businessman, we come from different backgrounds, but on this issue we agree — investments in U.S. diplomacy and development overseas are good for our country and our commonwealth. Our investment in a strong and effective international affairs budget pays dividends in three critical categories: It develops our local economy, it helps to keep us safe, and it is a true reflection of who we are as Americans.  The current budget debates in Washington are dominating the airwaves and Internet, with many believing we can cut foreign assistance and the budget will be balanced. That’s a myth. The United States spends only 1 percent of its budget on international affairs programs, and 1 percent will not balance the budget. Plus, these programs provide a huge return on investment for our country.

Preventing the Next Famine In Africa (Dan Glickman and George Rupp, Fox News Opinion)

One difference about this response, though, is that we are beginning to employ initiatives to anticipate future famines and lessen the devastation. Through smart investments in efficient, innovative agriculture programs, we can put into practice a forward thinking plan to prevent future famines, saving lives and promoting stability at the same time. We know that such initiatives can work because similar actions in the past decade are a major reason why Ethiopia is not suffering devastation as massive as that now afflicting Somalia—and has afflicted Ethiopia in the past.

Obama’s “smart power” plan risks death of 1,000 cuts (Susan Cornwell and Andrew Quinn, Reuters)

President Barack Obama’s pledge to boost America’s global standing by ramping up U.S. diplomacy and development aid faces death by a thousand cuts as lawmakers prepare to carve huge chunks out of U.S. overseas spending to address budget shortfalls.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) could be chopped back significantly.  Food aid to hungry countries, training for political parties in young democracies, improved medical services for expectant mothers and the U.S. response to natural disasters such as earthquakes and droughts could be hit in a major scale-back of U.S. assistance.

Who’s in the News

Senator Kirk: Stop aid to Pakistan (Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun Times)

Following a two-week deployment to Afghanistan, Sen. Mark Kirk, a U.S. Naval intelligence officer, is offering a bold proposal to save the United States money and punish a disloyal ally: Cut off all aid to Pakistan. Furthermore, Kirk would invite Pakistan’s neighbor/nemesis India to take over the United States’ leadership role in rebuilding Afghanistan after the United States begins pulling out this year.

Digital Diplomacy (Sam Gustin, Time Magazine)

For decades, U.S. diplomacy was conducted behind closed doors along the corridors of power. That was before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — and Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Over the past two years, Ross, 39, has been incorporating those digital platforms into the daily lives of U.S. diplomats. Dozens of U.S. ambassadors around the world now use Facebook and Twitter, and the State Department boasts nine foreign-language Twitter accounts. These technologies, Ross argues, give the U.S. a new suite of tools for exerting “smart power” to advance its interests.

Smart Power

Somalia famine spreads to new region in south; warning issued on aid (Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor)

Famine has gripped another swath of southern Somalia, according to the United Nations, with more than 750,000 of the country’s nearly 8 million people now at risk of starvation. And with fewer Somalis every day possessing the energy or means to flee the famine’s extending reach, it is critical, some humanitarian experts say, that aid efforts no longer rely on affected populations getting to refugee camps that have mushroomed in neighboring countries, such as Kenya. Instead, food and other assistance must reach the starving in southern Somalia, they say.

World environment programs in budget crosshairs (Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters)

“We are very concerned,” said Todd Shelton of World Wildlife Fund, which works on conservation programs in 100 countries. “The international affairs budget and the international conservation programs that we are following also hangs in the balance.” Like others in the global environmental community, and some military experts, Shelton considers international environmental programs a relatively inexpensive hedge against geopolitical instability stemming from scarce resources. “For a very small investment up front, now, we are confident of the positives, not only to the security of the United States and the planet, but also to the American taxpayer’s pocketbook in the future,” Shelton said. A study in the journal Nature in August backed that up: researchers found that countries hit by the recurring dry heat of the El Nino global climate pattern — and the crop-killing droughts that often follow — doubled the risk of civil wars since 1950. U.S. military experts have repeatedly told Congress that this scenario, and pressure for U.S. intervention in these conflicts, is one reason to shore up environmental programs, especially those to mitigate climate change and encourage sustainable resources.

Politics/Foreign Policy

3-D budget feature opens in Congress (David Rogers, Politico)

To be sure, some jockeying remains, beginning in earnest Wednesday when Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) is slated to lay down his plan for dividing the $1.043 trillion among the 12 annual spending bills. Details are closely held, but to meet the $4 billion in cuts needed in security programs — scattered among the bills — Inouye is expected to begin by freezing Pentagon spending near 2011 levels, a reduction of at least $26 billion from Obama’s request. The State Department and foreign aid are expected to fare worse, facing cuts of close to $3.5 billion — a real concern for the chairman.

How have things changed? (The Economist)

The famine has prompted a shift in American foreign policy, for now at least. Robert Paarlberg, a food policy expert at Wellesley College, argues that the American administration has focused on counter-terrorism in Somalia at the expense of investing in agriculture or helping the people. Now the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, says America will not prosecute charities who deal with the al-Qaeda-linked Shabab militia as long as they are engaged in “good-faith” efforts to help the dying. Mr Paarlberg argues that the famine in the 1980s coincided with a drop in official American funding for farmers in Africa. Again, Mrs Clinton seems determined not to make the same mistake. She underlined the importance of spending on long-term recovery in the Horn of Africa during a visit to an agriculture think-tank in Washington. DC.