Today’s headlines

May 20, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

President Obama’s speech yesterday discussed the importance of global engagement and our civilian efforts, focusing on economic initiatives that can help the U.S. achieve foreign policy goals in the Middle East and North Africa. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton amplified this message in her introduction to the President’s remarks, where she said “Alongside our colleagues in the Defense Department, America’s diplomats and development experts of the State Department and USAID are on the front lines of protecting America’s security, advancing America’s interests, and projecting America’s values.” On Capitol Hill yesterday, Senate Budget  Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced he will “defer” a markup on a fiscal 2012 budget resolution “because of the high-level bipartisan leadership negotiations that are currently underway.”

Must Reads
Who’s In the News

Senator Bill Nelson Interview (MSNBC’s Daily Rundown)

Senator Bill Nelson discusses the importance of the International Affairs Budget to American foreign policy.

America’s Freedom Opportunity in the Middle East (Jim Jones—Wall Street Journal-Subscription Required)

This is a chance for America to be viewed once again as the unique nation: The country most identified with the cause of helping average people, including Muslims, gain freedom and self-determination. As America confronts these developments, renewed engagement with the political and personal aspirations of those in the developing world becomes more clearly in our interest. Engagement is likely the most ethical and economically efficient way for America to exert positive influence around the world while embracing our core values. Done right, this approach can diminish the potential for new military entanglements and reduce our long- and near-term commitments of money and lives.

General Cartwright Has Bipartisan Senate Support Despite Whisper Campaign (Josh Rogin – The Cable blog)

President Barack Obama’s favorite general , Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman James Cartwright, appears to be successfully fighting off a whisper campaign about his suspect personal behavior, as several senators offered praise this week for his service. In the event that Cartwright is nominated to succeed Adm. Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this bipartisan support bodes well for his eventual confirmation.

Smart Power

Ties that bind Defense, State (Michael Clauser – Politico)

House Republicans are poised to make deeper cuts in fiscal year 2012 discretionary spending legislation than they did for 2011 — which almost triggered a government shutdown.  On the other side of the Potomac, the Pentagon is under intense White House pressure to find another $400 billion in savings, at which defense hawks have (rightly) balked. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, an arch-proponent of strengthening the use of soft power, will depart in late June — depriving the diplomatic and development community of one of its most credible allies.

The strings attached to Pakistan aid may not lead where you think (Nancy Birdsall – Rethinking US Foreign Assistance blog)

Many of the loudest voices in Congress have been for attaching strings to the aid (or enforcing the conditions already in place)—usually demanding that Pakistan do more to root out militant groups within its borders. But it’s worth distinguishing more carefully between military aid and economic aid. The same conditions are not right for each. The obvious example: Withholding aid that supports Pakistan’s civilian democratic government because the military or intelligence services aren’t behaving is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Development Coalition Looks to Aid North Africa (Jack Ewing, New York Times)

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, long focused on promoting democracy in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union through loans to business, is likely to extend its mandate to North Africa as part of a push by Europe and the United States to help countries in the region.
Politics/Foreign Policy
Not perfect, but a long way from W (David J. Rothkopf – Foreign Policy)

Few speeches capture as completely the character of a president or a presidency as did Barack Obama’s thoughtful, important address on the Middle East delivered today at the State Department.   It was a speech that revealed his strengths and weaknesses, his aspirations and his frustrations. It was the speech of an intelligent, ambitious president buffeted by two kinds of events in the world’s most volatile region: those beyond his control and those over which he has only a modest amount of influence.

A foreign policy opening for Huntsman? (Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner – the Washington Post)

While the election in 2012 will almost certainly be decided on the economy and other domestic issues, the current foreign policy focus presents peril for a Republican field that lacks any significant international experience. But it also might give former Utah governor Jon Huntsman an opening to distinguish himself to voters in the early days of the campaign.