Today’s Headlines

February 6, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

When Streamlined Isn’t Better (Robert Mosbacher Jr., Politico)

Smart consolidation is vital as the government prepares for tighter budgets. However, Obama’s team should not mistake slight reductions in personnel and budgets for the creation of more effective and responsive government institutions. The former is a great talking point — the latter helps us to do more with less.  The various agencies involved now come to the table with divergent missions.  For example, OPIC and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency are committed to advancing U.S. foreign policy by driving economic growth in developing countries. But the Commerce Department, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Export-Import Bank are explicitly charged with promoting exports from the U.S., opening markets overseas, negotiating trade agreements and enforcing laws and regulations. These are very different missions.

Smart Power

Foreign students improve Virginia’s schools (Nancy A. Bagranoff, Richmond Times Dispatch Letter to the Editor)

Right now more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S., and if we are going to grow our economy, we must look beyond our borders. Creating business relationships with tomorrow’s global business partners will benefit our nation for generations to come.  Investing in international education is not just in our long term interests. The almost 15,000 international students enrolled in Virginia colleges and universities contribute more than $350 million to our state’s economy. Programs like these supported by the U.S. International Affairs Budget show why American engagement around the world is essential.

Politics/Foreign Policy

U.S. Steps Up Pressure to Oust Assad (Charles Levinson, Wall Street Journal)

The U.S. called for a new international coalition to drive Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power and end an 11-month uprising that looks poised to enter its bloodiest phase yet.  Syria’s opposition on Sunday said it had little choice left but an all-out armed struggle against the regime after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations resolution calling on Mr. Assad to step aside.  The veto left Washington, European and Arab states grappling for an alternate plan, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday called the failure to pass the U.N. resolution a “travesty” and predicted it “will actually increase the chances for a brutal civil war.”

Egypt Defies U.S. by Setting Trial for 19 Americans on Criminal Charges (David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times)

Egypt’s military-led government said Sunday that it would put 19 Americans and two dozen others on trial in a politically charged criminal investigation into the foreign financing of nonprofit groups that has shaken the 30-year alliance between the United States and Egypt.  The criminal prosecution is a rebuke to Washington in the face of increasingly stern warnings to Egypt’s ruling generals from President Obama, cabinet officials and senior Congressional leaders that it could jeopardize $1.55 billion in expected American aid this year, including $1.3 billion for the military.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had personally warned the Egyptian foreign minister, Mohammed Amr, at a security conference in Munich on Saturday that the continuing investigation of the nonprofit groups cast new doubt on the aid. “We are very clear that there are problems that arise from this situation that can impact all the rest of our relationship with Egypt,” she told reporters there.

Obama Administrations Half-Hearted Push for Mideast Democracy (Thomas Carothers, Washington Post)

A stark division underlies U.S. policy in the Middle East. Serious efforts to bolster democratic transitions in parts of the region are carried out alongside firm support for most of the remaining non-democratic governments. This two-faced stance, little remarked on in Washington but glaringly evident in the region, badly undercuts the persuasiveness of our democracy promotion efforts.  The realpolitik logic that drives the continuing attachment to friendly Arab monarchies is clear enough. The interests at stake — from oil to counterterrorism to containing Iran — are weighty. Yet the logic is so clear precisely because it is so familiar. It is exactly the same logic that we hurriedly disavowed last year after it suddenly looked terribly hollow in country after country.

U.N. Says Somalia Famine Has Ended, but Warns That Crisis Isn’t Over (Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times)

The United Nations said on Friday that the famine that has killed tens of thousands of people in Somalia this past year has ended, thanks to a bumper harvest and a surge in emergency food deliveries.  But conditions are still precarious, United Nations officials warned, with many Somalis dying of hunger and more than two million still needing emergency rations to survive.   “The crisis is not over,” said José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, who just returned from Somalia.   Aid organizations are now focusing on recovery efforts, such as distributing seeds and digging irrigation canals.