Today’s Headlines

August 5, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

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Ending starvation in the Horn of Africa, and worldwide (Ritu Sharma, The Hill Blogs)

In this tight economic climate, there is no doubt that cuts have to be made. But the House State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee has passed a bill that would cut spending on long-term investments in international development by over 20 percent compared to 2010: a huge amount to be taking out of something that amounts to one-half of one percent of our nation’s budget and focuses on the most vulnerable people on the planet. If we simply turn our backs on sustainable interventions in these times of economic hardship, we run the risk of continually responding to disasters. This is ultimately more costly both in terms of money and human life: we’ve already committed almost half as much to this crisis as we would commit to agricultural development in an entire year, and we’re only just beginning to see the human cost of this tragedy.

Security Spending in the Deficit Agreement (Jack Lew, Office of Management and Budget)

In the President’s view, security encompasses not only the Department of Defense, but also funding that is used to protect America at the Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, State and other international programs, and parts of the Department of Energy. In fact, “security” is a category that has been used in all the Administration’s budgets because it is important when allocating resources to recognize the roles that civilian and military agencies play and to be able to assess and balance all the national security tools they provide through one lens.

Smart Power

House Panel Warns of Humanitarian Disaster in Sudan (Eugene Mulero, CQ)

Key members on the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday urged the Obama administration to lead a humanitarian mission this month in Sudan to help thousands of displaced people in that country’s southern region who are said to be without sufficient food and water. Ranking Democrat Donald M. Payne of New Jersey warned that the violence in Southern Kordofan also could threaten the stability of the newly formed Republic of South Sudan. But Payne said he was disappointed last month when his colleagues on the committee rejected, 17-21, his proposal to add $60 million to the fiscal 2012 State Department authorization bill (HR 2583) for peacekeeping operations in Sudan. “The proposed foreign aid budget cuts would greatly hinder our ability to provide relief to these affected areas and to help bring stability to the region,” Payne said.

U.S. aid plan for Pakistan becomes new flash point in ties (Karin Brulliard, Washington Post)

In 2009, Congress passed with fanfare a five-year, $7.5 billion aid plan intended to prove Washington’s long-term commitment to Pakistan’s weak civilian government. Both countries touted the package as a way to reset relations long centered on military ties. But two years later, only $500 million has been spent as the program has run into bureaucratic delays, disagreements over priorities and fears about corruption. Now the remainder of the funding is under scrutiny in the Republican-led House, where two panels have approved broad cuts in foreign aid and stringent conditions on assistance to a number of countries, including Pakistan.

Senators Question U.S. Aid to China Amid Belt-Tightening (Kerry Young, CQ)

A bipartisan group of a dozen senators is trying to block federal aid to China, arguing that the United States is in no condition to provide financial assistance to an increasingly powerful rival. “We continue to believe foreign aid is a critical tool to promote both our foreign policy and our values, but given current fiscal realities at home, we need to be smarter and more strategic in allocating our resources,” the senators wrote in a letter Thursday to Appropriations Chairman Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, and the committee’s ranking Republican, Thad Cochran of Mississippi. They added that the United Kingdom and Australia have announced they will no longer provide direct foreign assistance to China.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Look to the cold war to chill fresh calls for American isolationism (David Kramer and Arch Puddington, CSM Op-Ed)

The debate about America’s world role recently has taken a disturbing direction. Prominent figures in both parties – including a number of the announced Republican presidential hopefuls – have anchored their rhetoric on demands for American withdrawal from various conflict zones and from international engagement generally. The isolationism that is gaining momentum is especially pernicious given the prospects for political change in the greater Middle East. If there is an issue where vigorous American leadership and American interests are organically related, it is the contemporary struggle for democracy in the Arab world. Here it is worth recalling just how much the United States benefited from the revolutions of 1989-91 that swept the Soviet empire.

The Right Way to Trim (Joseph Nye Jr., New York Times Op-Ed)

Americans like to promote universal values. But rather than succumbing to the temptation to intervene on the side of “the good,” we can do it best by being what Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill.”  The alternatives we face today are not an untouchable defense budget or isolationism. A smart strategy for preserving America’s power and global role will depend on wisely tailoring our foreign policy to fit the cloth we have.

Senate leaders in agreement on trade deal votes (Felicia Sonmez and Zachary Goldfarb, Washington Post)

Three long-delayed trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia are moving closer to a vote after the Senate’s leaders announced that they had reached an agreement to bring the pacts up for consideration when Congress returns from recess in September. Congressional approval is by no means guaranteed, but passage of the deals would fulfill a plank of President Obama’s economic policy. Obama, who expressed skepticism as a candidate about free trade, has hailed the agreements as crucial to increasing U.S. sales overseas. Obama has called for a doubling of U.S. exports by 2015.