Today’s headlines

December 2, 2011 By Mac Stoddard

Yesterday the Truman National Security Project released a new video as part of their “Make Us Strong” campaign touting the important national security benefits of U.S. development efforts.  Using a veteran named Joe from World War II, and one named Chris from the Afghan War, the video details how development assistance has made the U.S. safer from the Marshall Plan, to the Peace Corps, to programs in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Why Pakistan still needs U.S. assistance (Jane Harman and Robert M. Hathaway, Washington Post)

Pakistan will soon have the fifth-largest population in the world. It already has the seventh-largest army and is close to overtaking Britain as the fifth-largest nuclear power. The country’s location, demographic heft, military might, nuclear weapons capability and links to Islamist terrorists ensure that it will remain central to U.S. interests even after NATO forces depart Afghanistan.  In other words, as much as some might like it to be otherwise, writing Pakistan out of the U.S. foreign policy script is not an option. This is true even in the aftermath of last weekend’s NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, triggering yet another crisis in the tortured U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

Improving the Quality and Effectiveness of International Development Aid (Dr. Rajiv Shah, The White House Blog)

South Korea’s economic miracle—from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the most advanced —serves as a powerful example of how effective foreign assistance can be, if delivered well and used wisely to catalyze growth. With a focus on transparency, mutual accountability, strong private sector engagement and meaningful results, development assistance can help developing countries thrive.   President Obama, Secretary Clinton, CEO Yohannes, and I have worked hard to reform the way America delivers assistance abroad. As part of our nation’s first ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, we’ve made our assistance more transparent, accountable and effective.

What Afghans Need to Hear From Bonn (John Kerry, New York Times)

Next week in Bonn, Germany, we have another chance to try to move forward. The Bonn conference, at which leaders from NATO, Afghanistan and its neighboring countries are to discuss the future of Afghanistan after U.S. troops withdraw, will not be a panacea for the region’s problems, but it is an opportunity for all parties with a vested interest in Afghanistan’s future to engage.  We should all seize this moment — including Pakistan, whose role is key in making any kind of peace last. If Pakistan does not attend Bonn, it will send a dangerous message that it is not serious about working with Afghanistan and the international community to promote stability.

Smart Power

Foreign Aid Under Fire—An interview with Tom Nides (Christiane Amanpour, ABC News Around the World)

Advocates point out that foreign aid makes up only 1% of the United States annual budget and what we get out of that investment is critical to our own national security and economy.  Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney do not necessarily speak for the entire GOP either. Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice, along with three other former Secretaries of State, have signed an appeal of support for foreign aid, calling it “a strategic investment in our nation’s security and prosperity”.

Foreign assistance vital (Humberto Esteve, Sun Sentinel)

About 30,000 Americans work for international development companies, supporting U.S. foreign policy by providing development assistance to our allies abroad. Even more important, U.S. foreign assistance cultivates new overseas markets for made-in-America goods, promoting jobs here in the United States. Eleven of America’s top 15 trading partners are graduates of U.S. foreign assistance programs, and one in five American jobs depends on exports.  Our development assistance also fosters stability and democracy in volatile parts of the world, curbing extremism and contributing to America’s homeland security.  Furthermore, if America cuts back its assistance, other countries will fill the space we vacate. China recognizes the importance of wielding influence in developing countries and is boosting its foreign assistance spending; America must stay in the game.

‘Sesame Street’ comes to Afghanistan (AFP, New York Post)

US children’s TV favorite “Sesame Street” came to Afghanistan this week with the launch of a new series featuring familiar characters like Elmo and Big Bird.  “Baghch-e-Simsim” made its debut on a local TV channel Thursday and aims to improve education for children in the desperately poor, war-torn country.  Its initial run is for 26 half-hour episodes featuring “Sesame Street’s” typical mix of Jim Henson’s Muppets and short educational films.

It is not the first time that the “Sesame Street” format has been exported.

Foreign-aid funding vital in global battle against AIDS (Christine Leon, Orlando Sentinel)

As an epidemiologist working for the medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders in Mozambique — far away from my family, friends and elected officials in Central Florida — I see firsthand, every day, the lifesaving impact of our nation’s leadership in fighting the global AIDS epidemic.  As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared recently, we have reached a historic moment where the latest scientific and medical innovations make it possible, for the first time, to defeat AIDS on a global scale. But Clinton’s call for an AIDS-free generation is already under threat in Congress.  As Sen. Marco Rubio and his colleagues debate the federal budget in the coming weeks, global-health funding is on the chopping block.

Politics/Foreign Policy

State Department’s Top Lawyer Addresses Obama-Clinton Foreign Policy (Mike Scarcella, Legal Times)

The U.S. State Department’s top lawyer today in a speech defended the military action in Libya, calling it a “smart power approach to a very difficult problem.”  Harold Koh, the State Department legal adviser, said the nature of mission was not one of occupation but a targeted approach that employed a range of sanctions, including an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban.  Koh, the keynote speaker this afternoon at an American Bar Association national security conference in Washington, said the war powers resolution – which requires the withdrawal of forces in 60 days if Congress has nto approved the action—did not apply to the situation in Libya.

Official Says U.S. Needs Time to Assess Aid to North Korea (Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times)

The United States needs more time to decide on possible aid for North Korea because it is not sure humanitarian assistance would reach the people in need, the top American aid official said on Thursday.  Rajiv Shah, the head of the United States Agency for International Development, made the comment amid growing appeals from American and United Nations relief agencies, which have recently called for urgent aid for the most vulnerable of the North Korean population, especially its children.

AP Interview: Palestinian PM hopes to reduce reliance on foreign aid (AP, Washington Post)

The Palestinian prime minister said Thursday he wants to reduce his people’s reliance on foreign aid drastically in the coming year and hopes to be able to pay for all day-to-day operations of his government by 2013.  Salam Fayyad told The Associated Press that the decision was spurred, in part, by what he described as the Palestinian Authority’s worst financial crisis since its inception in the mid-1990s. The crisis was triggered by a 2011 shortfall of millions of dollars in foreign aid and Israel’s decision last month to suspend the transfer of about $100 million a month in tax funds to the Palestinians.