Today’s Headlines

September 26, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Who’s in the News

A conservative lobbies to save foreign aid (Mary Beth Sheridan, The Washington Post)

An unusual figure joined the do-gooders working the halls of Congress this week to lobby against deep cuts in foreign aid: Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s conservative minister for international development. Mitchell, while in town for World Bank meetings, visited several key lawmakers on the Hill. His message: “Real conservatives do not cut aid.” Mitchell’s pitch was that providing international aid was not only the “right thing to do” but was in Britain’s–and America’s–interest. “Our security is not just determined by guns and bullets,” he said in an interview in his SUV as it plowed through rainy Washington streets.

The GOP’s new love for Amb. To Syria Robert Ford (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s once unlikely bid for Senate confirmation gained traction this week, as multiple GOP senators and a host of conservative foreign policy leaders changed their tune toward his nomination. Placed in his post via a recess appointment last year, Ford would have to return to Washington at the end of December if the Senate does not vote to confirm him. Over the summer, Ford has actively engaged with Syrian opposition groups and has put himself at personal risk by attending meetings of opposition leaders and funerals of Syrian activists. These efforts have convinced a large portion of the GOP, which stymied his confirmation last year, that his presence in Damascus is a useful way of confronting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and not a concession to the brutal dictator.

Smart Power

Obama faces hurdles in aiding Arab Spring countries (Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post)

In his U.N. speech this week, President Obama vowed to support the democratic transitions in the Arab world with greater trade and investment, “so that freedom is followed by opportunity.” But his effort to back up that promise has run into hurdles in Washington and the Middle East.  Congress still hasn’t passed two programs Obama announced in May to help the emerging Arab democracies: economic development funds and a $1 billion debt relief package for Egypt. While they got partial approval from a key Senate committee this week, the plans have gotten a cool reception in the House.

Time to get real about the future in Afghanistan (Anthony H. Cordesman, Washington Post)

Finally, if we do decide to stay, it must be with the understanding that the Afghan government will need a decade of aid to deal with an economy that will suffer a massive depression if U.S. and other outside funding is suddenly reduced. Outside aid is some 14 times higher than the Kabul government’s revenue-generating capability, and U.S. and outside military expenditures are as much as 30 times higher. If we are to stay in Afghanistan and have any hope of real victory, we need a transition plan, civil and military advisers, and aid programs to deal with these issues. Afghan forces may be ready to take up much of the security burden in 2014, but the nation cannot survive without very substantial U.S. aid beyond 2020.

Imran Khan calls for Britian to cut aid to Pakistan (Editorial, BBC News)

Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan has urged the UK to cut aid to his country, saying it fuels corruption.  The former cricketer told BBC Radio 4 that Pakistan was more poverty-stricken than ever but little international aid money reached its intended target. The UK plans to increase its annual aid from £140m to £350m over the next few years. But Mr Khan said: “If we don’t have aid we will be forced to make reforms and stand on our own feet.”

Knowledge, not food, best foreign aid, visitor says (Mikel Livingston, Journal and Courier)

Representing the International Needs Network, Karanja, of Nairobi, Kenya, visited Lafayette Christian and Wea Ridge Elementary schools last week to share a bit of wisdom and African culture with students and staff.  Eighth-graders at Lafayette Christian were surprised when Karanja gave them a glimpse of how different their lives would be if they attended school in Kenya…”The best help you can offer to those that are hurting is not to give them relief but to empower them with skills, knowledge and attitudes to develop their own potential,” Karanja said. “It’s really about education.”

World Bank increases drought aid to Horn of Africa (Editorial, BBC News Africa)
The World Bank has announced it is increasing funding for the drought in the Horn of Africa to nearly $2bn. It says that the funds are needed to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of people. The World Bank says countries across the region face one of the worst droughts in more than half a century. The conditions, it says, are causing increasing malnutrition and food insecurity, and are displacing large numbers of people. Over the coming years, the body will provide $1.8bn (£1.2bn) in assistance – nearly four times the amount originally pledged in July.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Cheney to GOP: Defunding The U.N. Because of Palestinian Statehood is Not “The Right Response” (Tanya Somanader, Think Progress)

[Friday], Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally asked that Palestine become a full member of the United Nations despite staunch opposition from Israel and the U.S. On cue, Republicans are attacking the U.N. for even considering such a request. Joining House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reissued his call to pass his bill — the Solidarity with Israel Act — which would eliminate U.S. Funding for the U.N. if the Security Council or the General Assembly changes Palestine’s current status, and thus “votes to harm our trusted ally,” he said. But in a somewhat surprising turn, former Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed such measures.

Shutdown looms: Spotlight now on Senate after Boehner wrangled House GOP votes (Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Kane, Washington Post)

With time running out, Congress returns Monday to try to pass a short-term funding measure to avert a government shutdown and avoid yet another market-rattling showdown over the federal budget.  The Democratic-led Senate, which on Friday blocked a GOP House measure to fund the government through Nov. 18, will vote late Monday on its own version of the bill.

The Rwanda Experiment (Anne Applebaum, Slate)
Development economists and aid mavens know very well the story of Rwanda’s remarkable recovery. But I don’t think the country’s achievements are appreciated by the wider public. Seventeen years after more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were murdered within a few months by their Hutu neighbors, Rwanda has 7 percent economic growth, near-universal health insurance and fierce anti-corruption laws. Kigali, the capital, is remarkably clean and relatively safe. Some 40 percent of Rwandans own cell phones. National identity cards now identify people as “Rwandan,” not Hutu or Tutsi. It is the ambition of Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president—and former leader of the Tutsi exile army which conquered the country in the genocide’s wake—to go much further.

The real threat in Egypt: Delayed democracy (Jackson Diehl, Washington Post)
Is Egypt imploding? A lot of people in Washington seem to think so, though they are talking about it quietly so far. Their fears are specific: that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalist parties will take power when Egypt’s first democratic elections are held later this year; and that peace with Israel — the foundation of a 30-year, American-backed order in the Middle East — is “hanging by a thread,” as Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy put it.