Today’s Headlines

August 4, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Out of purgatory: Senate confirms multiple State Department officials (Josh Rogin, the Cable)

David Adams was confirmed as the replacement for Richard Verma as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. We had thought this one would be perfect hold bait, considering the contentious relationship between the legislative affairs bureau at State and some GOP offices, but apparently the appetite for a fight over him just wasn’t there. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs nominee Wendy Sherman’s confirmation hearing, which was supposed to be today, was cancelled because the Senate decided to end the session earlier than planned. Another State Department nomination we are watching is the nomination of Mike Hammer to be assistant secretary of state for public affairs. Hammer, a Foreign Service officer, previously served as the NSC’s press secretary.

Smart Power

A new strategy for solving America’s foreign aid problem (Robert Goodwin, Washington Post Op-Ed)

Many Americans would give a resounding yes to the question of financial support to our troops. They would give the same yes to the support of job creation. Yet, they would give a resounding no to keeping our foreign aid budget at current levels. The challenge is communicating to them the role that foreign aid can play in supporting our troops overseas and creating jobs here at home. As long as there is little understanding of the national security and economic implications of foreign aid, there will be little public support. A new framework is needed to pull the pieces together, and create a strategy that uses foreign aid as a catalyst to leverage all aspects of national power.  The current $50 billion of U.S. aid money can do great things, but can do even more when it helps bring together an even larger framework for private investment and giving.

Cuts May Reduce U.S. Influence (Sudeep Reddy, The Wall Street Journal)

An effort by House lawmakers to scale back U.S. funding for the World Bank and other development banks is raising doubts about U.S. influence at the international financial institutions. Amid the congressional battle over the debt ceiling, a House appropriations subcommittee last week moved to slash funding for the institutions as part of a broader effort by Republican lawmakers to rein in foreign aid. It also sought to withdraw a credit line that Congress extended to the International Monetary Fund in 2009 to respond to the global financial crisis, a move that seemed more symbolic given recent Senate resistance to such a move. The U.S. is the only nation with its own board seat at all the multilateral development banks, giving it outsize influence to shape their policies. At the World Bank, for instance, the U.S. maintains veto power over governance changes and has traditionally picked the institution’s president.

Could ‘Smart Power’ Curb Somali Piracy? (Raymond Gilpin, USIP Blogs)

The mosaic of political, ethnic, socio-economic and ideological challenges in Somalia presents a daunting, but not insurmountable conundrum.  Three broad lessons could be drawn from recent experience.  First, more attention should be devoted to conducting targeted conflict analyses that would identify key relationships among individuals and institutions. Thus, the focus of foreign interventions would be to dismantle illicit relationships, while focusing on strengthening potentially productive linkages using both diplomacy and development assistance.  Second, the Somali situation must be treated as a complex emergency, with sustained efforts to provide improved security and economic opportunity for all.  Military-led interventions are perceived (and treated) as having everything to do with foreign interests and little to do with progress and prosperity for Somalia’s citizens.  This must change.  Third, levels of information-sharing and coordination for diplomacy and development must mirror recent progress in the naval arena.

US budget cuts ‘could reverse USAID’s gains’ (Yojana Sharma, SciDev.Net)

Recent developments in the aid strategy of the United States — such as reversing a previous reduction in technical experts, and promoting more country-driven, outcome-oriented systems — have been endorsed by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The DAC’s peer review report of US aid efforts, released last week (28 July), suggested that the country should do more to incorporate and reflect the goals of the countries it assists, but it was generally positive about the reform efforts within the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Politics/Foreign Policy

Why defense spending should be cut (Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post Opinion)

The Pentagon’s budget has risen for 13 years, which is unprecedented…Since the Cold War, Congress has tended to fatten the Pentagon while starving foreign policy agencies. As former defense secretary Robert Gates pointed out, there are more members of military marching bands than make up the entire U.S. Foreign Service. Anyone who has ever watched American foreign policy on the ground has seen this imbalance play out. The result is a warped American foreign policy, ready to conceive of problems in military terms and present a ready military solution. Describing precisely this phenomenon, Eisenhower remarked that to a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. In his often-quoted farewell address, Eisenhower urged a balance between military and non-military spending. Unfortunately, it has become far more unbalanced in the decades since his speech.

Lawmakers Urge Increased Attention, Aid for African Famine (Emily Cadei, CQ)

Senators sought to raise awareness Wednesday of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Horn of Africa. But given the budget crunch, their colleagues have shown little inclination to support increases in funding that could limit the fallout of this and future famines. Delaware Democrat Chris Coons, chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, called the deadly drought and famine that has hit Somalia and its neighbors “one of the most critical issues in the world today.” However, with the debt ceiling debate and other international issues monopolizing media attention, “the broad public awareness of the crisis,” which has put 2.85 million people at risk in southern Somalia, according to United Nations estimates, “appears absent today despite the worsening humanitarian situation,” Coons said.

Budget cuts by hatchet or scalpel? (Joshua Foust, PBS Blogs)

By cutting assistance agencies like USAID, Congress can cut from development assistance programs and say it is reducing national security spending. This change in language is damaging in that it furthers the militarization of civilian aid programs…The challenge with the current debate in Washington about the defense and security budget is that it is lacking strategic context. There is no discussion about what America should do in the world, only what we should cut. That’s why, despite the outsized value development programs can bring when they’re run properly, the first agency on the chopping block is USAID. It is also why cutting the Defense Department is only spoken of in terms of dollar amounts and percentages, rather than a sober analysis of strategies, priorities and means.