Today’s Headlines

September 13, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

USAID Chief Shah Helps Wal-Mart Open Markets in Spending Shift (Michelle Jamrisko, Bloomberg)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives, who had success in Guatemala since 2007 channeling locally raised crops to their stores through a public-private partnership, were finding it hard to expand to other regional markets that couldn’t offer the same level of banking, transport and distribution channels.  Raj Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the U.S. government was ready to help. Shah, 38, wanted to dramatically increase the kind of public-private partnerships that were started under his predecessors.

Ryan Crocker’s ‘strategic patience’ in Afghanistan (Jackson Diehl, Washington Post)

Ryan Crocker sounds very far from Washington — and not only because he is talking over an uncertain phone line from Kabul.  The U.S. ambassador is one of the great protagonists of the post-9/11 era, serving more than half of the last 10 years in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Along with Gen. David Petraeus, he rescued the United States from catastrophe in Iraq four years ago; now he is trying to repeat the feat in Kabul. He finds himself repeating many of the same phrases: “It’s hard. It’s going to go on being hard. But it’s not hopeless,” he said in our conversation last week.

Tea Pary Favorite Bucks Isolationism (Emily Cadei, CQ)
Marco Rubio was the last in the current crop of freshman senators to deliver his maiden speech. When he finally took the floor, the Republican from South Florida sounded a very different note than the 12 GOP freshmen who spoke before him.  Where others focused exclusively on the domestic economy — the size of the U.S. debt, the need for a balanced-budget amendment, their opposition to raising taxes — Rubio chose a global theme, offering his vision for America’s role in the world in the 21st century.  This week, Rubio will expand on that theme with a speech at the Jesse Helms Center in North Carolina that is intended to be a full-throated defense of American engagement overseas, even at a time of belt tightening at home. Rubio says he believes its important to account to people why it is “essential” for the United States to “spend money and risk lives on foreign policy.”

Smart Power

State Department opens Middle East Trasitions office (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

The State Department has opened a brand-new office to manage U.S. policy toward countries attempting democratic transitions in the Middle East.William Taylor, senior vice president for conflict management at the U.S. Institute of Peace, has moved over to Foggy Bottom to lead the new office, called the Middle East Transitions office, which began operations this week. His deputy is Tamara Cofman Wittes, who is now dual hatted, also continuing on deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. Taylor’s chief of staff isKaren Volker, who is leaving her job as director of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) to join the new office. MEPI also falls under Wittes’ portfolio. Taylor reports up to Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

Sandwich Power and U.S. Foreign Policy (Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations)

Prominent thinkers have coined several terms to describe how the United States can influence global outcomes: hard power, soft power, smart power, “go-it-alone” power, and others. But none of them are relevant to the pervasive foreign policy shortcomings that result from communication problems within the U.S. government. While it is helpful to use heuristics to strategize about the future, it is essential to improve the one process that the U.S. government can control right now: foreign policymaking. Therefore, I would like to introduce the concept of Sandwich Power. Sandwich Power refers to the unparalleled ability of sandwiches and Diet Coke (always caffeinated) to bring together government officials, policymakers, and outside experts to debate and develop strategies for new or persistent foreign policy challenges.

Somalia’s Worsening Famine (New York Times)

East Africa is prone to famine, and the United States is working with Somalia and other countries to improve long-term food production and avert future crises. East African leaders, meeting last week in Kenya, agreed to invest in solutions to recurring droughts. That’s only a start. They will never end devastating famines and food aid dependence if they do not also make it a priority to improve governance, eradicate corruption and end conflict in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. Despite repeated failed efforts to develop a stable political system, Somali leaders last week took steps to create a permanent and more effective government.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Ron Paul draws boos for his foreign policy view (Aman Batheja, Star Telegram)

Texas Congressman Ron Paul briefly drew boos at tonight’s CNN/Tea Pary Express debate when the conversation focused on American’s foreign policy.  “I agree we are still in danger but most of the danger comes from our lack of wisdom in foreign policy,” Paul said. The Lake Jackson Republican explained that America could save money by cutting defense sepdning and removing US military presence from the rest of the world.

 Everything you ever wanted to know about foreign policy campaign promises (Daniel W. Dreszner, Foreign Policy)

Last night’s debate followed the same pattern as the other ones I’ve seen — the ratio of domestic policy to foreign policy questions was about 80:20 — maybe 70:30 if one considers immigration to be a foreign policy question.  International political economy is barely addressed at all, except in glancing references to China’s ownership of U.S. debt.

Ahmadinejad says he will pardon jailed Americans (David Kenner, Foreign Policy)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an interview with the Washington Postsaid that that he would issue a pardon for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, two Americans imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage. Ahmadinejad said that he would grant the release of the Americans in “a couple of days.” His decision, however, could be overturned by the clerics gathered around Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.