Action in Libya Took the Right Course -- but Isn't a New Roadmap

Aug 29, 2011Reese Neader

The U.S. aid to rebels in Libya was necessary, but it can't necessarily be replicated across the Arab region.

The U.S. aid to rebels in Libya was necessary, but it can't necessarily be replicated across the Arab region.

Col. Muammar Gaddafi ruled over Libya with an iron fist for 42 years. During that time he went from an international pariah and state terrorist to Western darling and finally to an overthrown tyrant targeted by the international community. His rise and fall help illustrate the complexities of our global system and how the changing power dynamics of that system affect U.S. national security. Ultimately, it was the right call for the U.S. and the international community to end the humanitarian crisis in Libya by supporting opposition forces. But the strategy specific to this situation doesn't necessarily signal a new era in U.S. foreign policy.

A little background:

In the early 2000s, Gaddafi abandoned his nuclear and chemical weapons programs in exchange for international acceptance from Western powers and access to lucrative oil, development, and trade contracts. For several years he was embraced by Western foreign policymakers; as president of the African Union, he showed them that global "bad guys" could "turn good." And then, with the birth of the Arab Spring, his house of cards fell.

Libya ignited in February 2011 as Gaddafi ordered the violent suppression of pro-democracy protests across the country. The battle between government soldiers and protesters quickly escalated into a humanitarian crisis as an armed revolt broke out. Thousands died as under-equipped rebels battled Gaddafi's forces. The international community recognized that genocide in Libya was imminent. In March, the United Nations sanctioned de-facto intervention in the conflict by passing resolution 1973, establishing a no-fly/no-drive zone within the country. The Arab League strongly supported this measure, and several Middle Eastern states have been aggressive in their support for the revolutionary government, the Transitional National Council (TNC). This provided legal cover for NATO to strike at Gaddafi's military assets, disabling the regime's ability to wage war against the Libyan people and empowering the TNC to build a new, democratic Libyan state.

Making a case for Just War:

Arguments that U.S. intervention in Libya was warranted because the conflict became a humanitarian crisis are well founded, but do not represent a coherent trend in U.S. foreign policymaking. If supporting democracy and human rights abroad is a national security goal for the U.S. (and the international community), then every global humanitarian crisis represents a "Right to Protect" (R2P) and requires international intervention. However, current U.S. and NATO military commitments make R2P an unrealistic strategy for policymakers. As critics of the war have noted, the US is currently bogged down in a five-front foreign war, and any expansion of military engagement should not be taken lightly.  The current revolt in Syria also illustrates the divide between ideology and reality. Many rogue governments (such as Syria's Baath regime) are too well protected to be legitimate targets for decapitation by foreign intervention.

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Selective engagement is also not a coherent U.S. strategy and intervention in Libya does not signal a change in any long-term U.S. policy toward genocide. Selective engagement is a tactical effort to promote global stability and is not a sound policy for advancing our national security interests. In other words, we didn't support the rebels just because the people of Libya were suffering. We supported the rebels in Libya because removing Gaddafi was good for global order. The Arab Spring is much too far along for the United States to sit on the fence and continue supporting regional dictators. The consequences of the Arab Spring are still unpredictable, but whatever unfolds, it is in the United States' interest to be on the side of change. Supporting the Arab Spring is the only position the U.S. can take if we want the results to strengthen global stability.

Global instability is a threat to U.S. national security because many nation-states we brand as "rogue nations" and "failed states" are run by unstable, undemocratic regimes that control access to deadly weapons of mass destruction, a relic from the Cold War. In the 21st century, the U.S. and its allies continue a costly hunt to secure these weapons, but emerging threats (such as cyber attacks, transnational criminal organizations, and non-state terrorism) make these operations difficult to execute. Libya is therefore a security concern for the U.S. because the regime has stockpiles of deadly weapons: shoulder-held rocket launchers and stores of poison gas. While it is not a security goal to occupy Libya (or pay for the occupation of Libya), it is a security goal for the United States (and the international community) to ensure that the deadly weapons in Libya are secured.

If intervention in Libya represented an opportunity for the U.S. to support regime change (which would support human rights and promote democracy), then involvement in the war should have been framed in that context and the president should have sought approval from Congress immediately after deploying U.S. forces to the region. This would have allowed them to use more kinetic force against Gaddafi's military command and communications infrastructure. It is unfortunate that what took NATO six months of action could have taken the U.S. several weeks. But this is the price we will pay for a more balanced foreign policy. The upside to this approach is that our government saves a lot of money and American families will save many sons and daughters.

But if targeting Gaddafi was our goal, and I believe that it was after he failed to reconcile with the TNC, it was smart, although we should have been more honest about it. In every global conflict there are still "good guys" and "bad guys." The people of Libya were being oppressed by a tyrant and they protested fearlessly for freedom. The United States possesses vast military superiority over the global system and has the ability to save millions of people across the world from suffering. We were right to intervene for humanitarian reasons and to assist with overthrowing the Gaddafi regime.

Ultimately, President Obama took the right approach to the war in Libya. He decisively engaged U.S. forces in a just and limited war at very low cost in lives and spending, and he kept his campaign promise to respect international law and work more closely with our allies to secure democracy and human rights abroad. Unfortunately, you don't always get rewarded for doing the right thing.

Reese Neader is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network’s Policy Director.

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Hamptons Institute Takes on the Unfolding Story in the Middle East

Aug 10, 2011

The Roosevelt Institute recently teamed up with Guild Hall to present the third installment of the Hamptons Institute, a symposium that brings political, economic, and cultural thought leaders together to let the intellectual sparks fly. Karen Greenberg lead a discussion about the various issues plaguing the Middle East with Jane Harman, CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Canter, Daniel Yerkin, Chairman of Cambridge Energy Resource Association, and Hisham Melhem, Washington Bureau Chief for Al Arabiy.

The Roosevelt Institute recently teamed up with Guild Hall to present the third installment of the Hamptons Institute, a symposium that brings political, economic, and cultural thought leaders together to let the intellectual sparks fly. Karen Greenberg lead a discussion about the various issues plaguing the Middle East with Jane Harman, CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Canter, Daniel Yerkin, Chairman of Cambridge Energy Resource Association, and Hisham Melhem, Washington Bureau Chief for Al Arabiy.

While the U.S. has been preoccupied with our financial disaster, there have been a lot of changes taking place in the Middle East. The word on the street is no longer "terrorist" but rather "Arab Spring." While the Middle East is still caught up in almost any conversation about U.S. national security, it appears that there are a host of other issues that are relevant to our future security concerns as well as the region's prosperity.

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The panel acted as a primer for anyone who hasn't been closely following new trends in the region. The discussion ranged from Hisham Melhem's pessimistic commentary on the future of the Arab Spring movements, to Daniel Yerkin's stark description of the resource challenges facing the Middle East, to Jane Harman's explanation of the different ways in which the U.S. could be more strategic in our Middle East policy. Harmon pointed out that an internal "counter Jihad" could be influencing the hearts and minds of people in Middle Eastern countries against the radical terrorists that we often talk about in the U.S. They all agreed that the Middle East is an unfolding story with an uncertain future.

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Hamptons Institute Serves Up Menu of Fresh Ideas

Jul 18, 2011Lynn Parramore

idea 150The Hamptons Institute is the best beach brainfood the East End has ever seen.

idea 150The Hamptons Institute is the best beach brainfood the East End has ever seen.

On a pinch-me perfect summer weekend, people hungry for fresh ideas and discussion bypassed the beach and gathered in East Hampton for the 3rd installment of the Hamptons Institute, a symposium put on by the Roosevelt Institute in collaboration with Guild Hall, the East End's premier cultural center. Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chesler worked with Guild Hall to create a smorgasbord of intellectual nourishment, with panels topics ranging from lighter fare, like how to produce a Broadway show, to the most thorny economic and political issues of the moment.

On Saturday, two panels delved into subjects fit to challenge the most pointy-headed of pundits.

The morning panel, “The Outlook for the Middle East,” was moderated by the brilliant Karen Greenberg, executive director of NYU's Center on Law and Security. Thought leaders Daniel Yergin, Jane Harman, and Hisham Melhem joined her in a discussion of the ever-changing situation in the Middle East.

Melhem, a Lebanese journalist, offered one of the weekend's most memorable (and sobering) lines: "The Arab Spring is morphing into a Hot Summer and a Dark Winter." He reminded us of the complexity of the region and the nuance required for discussion and framing of issues. For example, he suggested that the US would have been better served by framing the response to 9/11 as war on Al-Qaeda, rather than a war on terror or an implied battle against Islam. Melhem noted that politics informed by religious values is not necessarily bad. What you don't want, he observed, were theocracies. Melhem suggested that US should push societies in the Middle East to open the space for various parts to compete and debate, citing the examples of Egypt and Tunisia, whose relatively open societies permit robust public discussion in contrast to countries like Bahrain which currently make this untenable. He expressed grave concern that the Arab world is currently bereft of strong leaders with vision.

Former Congresswoman Jane Harman, who now runs a D.C.-based think thank, discussed whether the US government was prepared or caught off guard by the Arab Spring. She deplored America's "incredible ignorance about Arab societies" which pervades Congress, the administration, and the American public. Harman pointed out that "Yemen is ground zero for threats against us" and commented on the potential instability of a region where people are running out of oil and water, and increasingly driven to hopelessness. But she also put faith in the idea of a "counter-jihad" happening throughout the region -- a trend in which Muslims are thought to be rising up against Al-Qaeda, hard-lined types.  Referring to Iran as the 'Big Enchilada" of the Middle East, she gave the view that economic sanctions are working, as evidenced by the fact that Ahmadinejad is in trouble. Harman further noted that there are good opportunities "to change Iranian policy without military intervention."  She added that the "clock is ticking against Israel as a Jewish state," noting the decreasing number of reliable friends not only in the neighborhood but in Europe as well.

Author Dan Yergin discussed the role of the resources in the region, noting that oil and natural gas issues loom very large.  He observed that the interplay between countries that have oil and natural gas and those that don't will become increasingly important, and warned that food prices in the region are also huge problem. "Anger is not just about lack of participation," said Yergin, "but economic hardship." He saw the future of the region as one in which ossified systems become dynamic. But he noted that economic challenges were of tremendous concern.

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The afternoon panel, "Perspectives on the Obama Presidency" was moderated by Lynn Sherr and focused on questions that have been plaguing everyone: Has Obama been an effective president? Will he be reelected?

Author Bob Caro, a biographer of Lyndon Johnson, reminded the audience of how LBJ got things done, in contrast to Obama: He did whatever it took to get votes, from bribing to cajoling to threatening.  Caro saw Obama's biggest challenge for reelection as the fact that there are really only 4 or 5 states in play -- the Rust Belt and Florida -- and that they happened to be areas especially hard hit by unemployment. He gave the view that Obama would have a "tremendous problem even being elected by default" because of those states.

The New Yorker's George Packer mused on the oft-cited difference between Obama the Candidate and Obama the President.  Observing that Obama was not like Roosevelt or a figure who would fit the New Deal era, Packer wondered how he might have flourished in an earlier, progressive time when moralizing and lofty speeches were in vogue, and "when an appeal to civic-mindedness and political reform had a real audience in the middle classes". Packer observed that Obama is "a reasonable man speaking into a hurricane",  characterizing the President as both behind and ahead of his time. Introducing a little-discussed theme, Packer made the point that Obama likely saw his job as managing an America in decline. On the challenges of reelection, Packer agreed that unemployment was a doozy, along with Obama's failure to connect to the public. "How many phrases can you remember from his presidency?" asked Packer. Nevertheless, Packer predicted that Obama will win in 2012 by default. He gave the opinion that health care was the best thing about Obama's first term.

Historian HW Brands was the most inclined to see the bright side of Obama's presidency, maintaining that he was doing about as well as any president could under the circumstances. But in discussing the hopes that Obama would usher  in a New Deal, he observed that "it wasn't going to happen because things were bad, but not bad enough." Talking about the stimulus, he reminded the audience that in politics, "you don't get credit for what didn't happen".  Brands was clear that Obama's would not be a transformational  presidency. But he proposed that after the debt ceiling debate, Obama would be able to move from governing to campaigning, which is his forte. In Brands' view, the best thing this President did was to "focus the country on long-term issues like the deficit."

All this sounds like a lot to have on your plate on a summer Saturday. But judging from the lively conversations that bubbled up among attendees, this year's Hamptons Institute only whetted appetites for more.

Lynn Parramore is the editor of New Deal 2.0, Media Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, co-founder of Recessionwire, and the author of Reading the Sphinx.

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Pyramid Song: Youth Engagement in Egypt

Jul 15, 2011Reese Neader

egypt-flag-wall-150Reese Neader shares his thoughts about his upcoming trip to Egypt and the importance of grassroots youth networking.

egypt-flag-wall-150Reese Neader shares his thoughts about his upcoming trip to Egypt and the importance of grassroots youth networking.

Today I'm boarding a plane at JFK Airport to travel to Egypt. In Cairo and Alexandria I'll be training youth opposition leaders in civic engagement and grassroots policy making, convening discussions with young people that are seeking to build political coalitions and gain representation in the Egyptian government. In my role as the policy director for the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network I've been selected as a grant recipient by the State Department U.S. Speaker & Specialist program.

The timing of this trip coincides with renewed protests in Tahir Square, where protesters have returned in response to government inaction since popular protests deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak in February. Egypt is the cultural center of the Middle East and the return of protesters to Tahir Square is a signal that the Arab Spring is not complete. In Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Morocco pro-democracy protests continue to pulse. Elsewhere in the region, Iraq is continuing its shaky transition to democracy as US troops continue their gradual withdraw and NATO is engaged in a bombing campaign to oust Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

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Will the Arab Spring transform the Middle East into a prosperous democratic region? If the voices of the youth in the Middle East can be transformed into political action, the answer will be "yes."

And is it in the interest of the United States to promote democracy and human rights in the Middle East? If the voices of America's Millennial Generation can be transformed into political action, then the answer will also be "yes."

In our Blueprint for Millennial America and Budget for Millennial America, the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network supports a positive vision for US global leadership in the 21st century.

During the Cold War, there was a clear overarching goal for US foreign policy: contain and defeat communism. But since its end, when the US became the world's only superpower, we have operated without a coherent long-term strategy that defines our position in the international system, outlines our goals for engagement with other countries, and provides a plan for ensuring that our foreign policy builds our national prosperity. We need a 'Grand Strategy' to ensure that America wins the 21st century. My generation wants to keep America safe. And we recognize that we need new models of foreign policy strategy to address 21st century threats.

The Millennial Generation, and especially Roosevelt's network of 10,000 students at over 100 chapters across the country, are prepared to meet that challenge and provide policymakers with a vision for the future of American global leadership. Roosevelt Campus Network students have engaged on the cutting edge of the national security debate with our student research projects, speaking events hosted by the World Bank (among others) and hosted conferences that have been attended by generals, diplomats, White House officials, and United Nations representatives. And we're ready to keep working to win the future.

On August 1st, friends from across the Campus Network will join me in kicking off "Operation Rising Tide", a New Deal 2.0 blog series that outlines our Millennial Grand Strategy. We will use this series as a platform to educate the public, engage the national security community, and to promote upcoming projects and media events related to our projects. On my return to New York City I'll share my experiences in Egypt and their relation to events happening across the Middle East and to the ongoing national security debate in Washington. I will see you on the other side.

Reese Neader is the Roosevelt Campus Network’s Policy Director.

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Troops Fighting Wars Abroad, Fighting Banks at Home

Jul 13, 2011Bryce Covert

Protecting service members from predatory lending at home is the least we can do to thank them for protecting our interests overseas.

This week's credit check: Most service members make less than $31,000 a year. Payday lending can cost military families over $80 million in fees each year.

Protecting service members from predatory lending at home is the least we can do to thank them for protecting our interests overseas.

This week's credit check: Most service members make less than $31,000 a year. Payday lending can cost military families over $80 million in fees each year.

Our military takes good care of its troops. As Nicholas Kristof pointed out in a recent column, it gives them access to excellent health care, provides superb child care to enlisted parents, and invests in service members' education. "[I]t does more to provide equal opportunity to working-class families -- especially to blacks -- than just about any social program," he says. "It has been an escalator of social mobility in American society because it invests in soldiers and gives them skills and opportunities." Those risking their lives in the line of duty deserve such treatment. They also deserve support once they return home.

But that's not what awaits them. Instead, they often find themselves victim to predatory lending. Service members, in fact, rate financial stresses as second only to work and career.

The most egregious case surfaced earlier this year when it was revealed that JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America had violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by improperly foreclosing on almost 50 active duty military families. Under the SCRA, active duty troops are protected from suits such as foreclosure so that they don't have to worry about financial troubles at home while serving their country. On top of this, it was revealed that JP Morgan overcharged 4,000 military families on their mortgages. Troops can have their mortgage interest rates lowered to 6% under the SCRA, but Marine Capt. Jonathan Rowles brought to light the fact that his family was being overcharged at rates above 9 or 10 percent and then hounded by debt collectors for the extra amount they didn't owe, up to $15,000.

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But these aren't the only abuses they face. A 2006 report by the Department of Defense found, "Predatory lending practices are prevalent and target military personnel, either through proximity and prevalence around military installations, or through the use of affinity marketing techniques, particularly on-line," including payday loans, car title loans, tax refund anticipation loans, and rent-to-own operations. The report describes how military personnel are perfect targets for predatory lenders, who make loans based on income but not on the long-term ability to pay. In fact, 48% of enlisted service members are under 25, making them less experienced and less likely to have savings; they are away from any family that might be able to help out with financial troubles; they're paid regularly and aren't likely to lose their jobs; they're geographically concentrated; and there's even a military policy explicitly stating that they must pay their debts. On top of this, their pay isn't very high: most make less than $31,000 a year. It may be little wonder, then, that in 2005 active-duty military personnel were three times more likely than civilians to take out a payday loan. In fact, payday lending cost military families over $80 million in fees each year.

There is some good news for our troops. In 2006, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act was passed, making it illegal for lenders to charge military members and their families interest rates above 36%, among other helpful provisions. The Justice Department settled with a JP Morgan unit and Bank of America for $22 million over the wrongful mortgage charges and foreclosures to provide relief to more than 170 active-duty personnel. And the new cop on the beat, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, just announced an agreement with the Judge Advocate Generals of all military branches "to provide stronger protections for service members and their families in connection with consumer financial products and services." Protecting our troops from predatory lending is almost literally the least we can do to thank them as they come home.

Bryce Covert is Assistant Editor at New Deal 2.0.

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Believe in Bilin: Palestine's Future Rests in Hands of Youth

Jun 27, 2011Caitlin Howarth

bilin-fence

Will Palestine's "Generation Oslo" be the game-changer in the West Bank?

bilin-fence

Will Palestine's "Generation Oslo" be the game-changer in the West Bank?

Last Friday, Muhammad Khatib walked down a long country road toward a security fence. For the last six years, he and a cadre of nonviolent protesters have made their way down the road every Friday. And every Friday, they have been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. Some protesters threw stones in response. Most would retreat, burned by the gas or hit by the bullets.

Last Friday, Khatib and his fellow protesters marched for the last time in Bilin.

The campaign to reclaim land in the small Palestinian village of Bilin was marching in victory: the security wall deemed illegal in 2007 by the Israeli Supreme Court is being rolled back. While organizers debate the next phase of their campaign, this nonviolent movement's success marks yet another victory for the Arab Spring.

Whether it will be a game changer in the West Bank depends on whether Khatib and the rest of Palestine's "Generation Oslo" become the face of Palestinian leadership. Frustration over years of legal battles in Israel's courts and at the International Court of Justice leave many convinced that Tel Aviv's 'wait it out' policy may ultimately prevail, giving settlers enough time to establish communities that will be difficult to unroot. The youthful leaders like those at the center of events in Tunis and Tahrir Square have little access to power in the Palestinian Authority or political parties. And the longstanding dispute over whether Hamas can join in any legitimate Palestinian government, let alone in peace negotiations with Israel, is a constant source of tension that threatens to unravel any progress.

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All the more reason, then, to believe in Bilin. Palestinians face a critical moment in the months ahead: namely, whether or not a third intifada (popular uprising) will take place in September, when Palestine approaches the UN to claim international recognition of its statehood. Whether that uprising will occur as it did it Tahrir -- and with as much call for fresh Palestinian leadership as for liberation from Israeli occupation -- depends largely on successful organizing among Palestine's well-educated, under-employed youth. Cut off from job opportunities, Generation Oslo spends its time studying; its literacy rate is estimated above 94%, more than 20 points higher than Egypt's. Brian drain from students leaving the territories in search of higher education and jobs has created a diaspora with precisely the kinds of diplomatic, financial, and organizational resources needed to help rebuild the West Bank and Gaza.

But jobs alone will not be enough to create a stable, thriving Palestine; nor will the old, hard-line leaders in Ramallah, Gaza, or Tel Aviv accomplish a lasting peace. The next generation, some of whom I was lucky to meet during a recent trip to the West Bank, understands both the tough game of politics and the power of hope. They, like so many young leaders I worked with in the States, are both deeply pragmatic and fundamentally driven by basic values. They aspire to nothing more -- and nothing less -- than human dignity. All they need is the opportunity to break free of an old and limited political paradigm.

For many, international recognition of Palestine could be a catalyst moment for the Oslo Generation to take charge. And despite all the complexities unique to Palestine and Israel, this next generation of leaders should hold one thing constant from the last year of revolution: a commitment to nonviolence. Leaders like Muhammah Khatib understand the uncompromising power that comes from walking toward walls with no protection other than their faith in each other. That is the power that makes everything else possible.

Let's hope the Oslo Generation believes in Bilin.

Caitlin Howarth is the former policy director of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. When not in class at the Harvard Kennedy School, she works on the human security documentation team at the Satellite Sentinel Project.

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A Leaner, Meaner Defense Strategy Can Reduce the Deficit

May 31, 2011Reese Neader

us-great-sealAs the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network releases its progressive, practical Budget for a Millennial America, those who helped craft it will explain their innovative ideas and tough choices in a series of posts.

us-great-sealAs the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network releases its progressive, practical Budget for a Millennial America, those who helped craft it will explain their innovative ideas and tough choices in a series of posts. Reese Neader outlines five key changes to defense that would make us safer while saving us money.

To achieve our long-term fiscal sustainability goals and win the 21st century, we need to rethink our approach to national defense. Any serious plan to address our long-term debt will include cuts to defense spending, not just because we spend too much on defense, but also because our current spending priorities do not address the changing threats to US national security.

The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network has released its Budget for Millennial America, a plan for fiscal sustainability that reflects the long-term values and priorities of the next American generation. A key piece of our budget is a defense spending plan that outlines a ‘Millennial Grand Strategy,' which cuts wasteful defense spending and makes investments to ensure our future security.

During the Cold War, there was a clear overarching goal for US foreign policy: contain and defeat communism. But since its end, when the US became the world's only superpower, we have operated without a coherent long-term strategy that defines our position in the international system, outlines our goals for engagement with other countries, and provides a plan for ensuring that our foreign policy builds our national prosperity. We need a ‘Grand Strategy' to ensure that America wins the 21st century. Our plan includes five key components:

1. Confront New Threats
There are approximately 440,000 US troops stationed or deployed overseas, close to the number overseas at the close of the Cold War. The threats to US national security have changed dramatically since the fall of the Berlin Wall; rogue non-state actors, transnational criminal networks, and failing states that serve as safe havens for extremism are the new security threats. These new challenges demand a new strategic approach. By rebalancing the deployment of US forces overseas away from Cold War bases in Europe and East Asia, the US can be more responsive and agile in addressing global threats. And by ending costly wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, US forces can be redirected towards supporting small-scale counter-terrorism operations like the recent, successful campaign to eliminate Osama bin Laden.

2. Deploy New Tools
War is always the result of political failure. By investing in the infrastructure of developing countries and engaging in effective diplomacy with the international community, the US can save trillions of dollars by avoiding potential conflicts. There is strong bi-partisan consensus that 21st century threats need to be addressed with a mix of foreign policy tactics, placing a stronger emphasis on development and diplomacy as effective tools of statecraft, a concept commonly referred to as "smart power." The government needs to reform our foreign policy institutions to encourage cooperation and collaboration between networks. This approach will require rebalancing funding levels for the State Department and US foreign assistance programs. By mixing the use of defense, development, and diplomacy, the United States can reduce expenditures and work more effectively to ensure global stability.

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3. Share the Cost of Security
America can also fight more effectively by working closely with its partners to decrease the risk of polarization and militarization in the international system. Instead of always shouldering the burden to preserve global stability, the US can work as a "super-partner" with its allies, providing key assistance to regional powers. In effect, the U.S. will get more bang for its buck, reducing spending on intervention and increasing the impact of foreign aid by getting the same security results for less dollars spent.

4. Fix a Broken Procurement System
While the US military has made commendable strides towards modernizing its fighting force to address current threats to the international system, Congress has consistently refused to reform a broken weapons procurement system. Every year, billions of dollars are wasted in paying for weapons programs that the military doesn't want because defense contractors have close relationships with Congress. Instead of spending money in an efficient and transparent manner, Congress continues to support a system that operates like a corporate welfare giveaway. Our military needs the ability to more tightly control the arms procurement process and modernize its fighting forces to address 21st century threats.

5. Build Shared Prosperity on Renewable Energy
Our military also keeps our country safe by promoting American prosperity. Many major commercial innovations of the past 75 years have come, directly or indirectly, from military research: satellites, the microchip, the Internet. Right now, the innovations will need to come in building a new energy infrastructure. During the 20th century, American prosperity was ensured in large part by access to cheap and reliable oil. But in the 21st century, we will have to transition toward using renewable energy resources. Investing in renewable energy research now will help ensure America's global leadership, promote our continued prosperity, and save us money by diverting potential future conflicts over access to energy. The US military has correctly identified climate change and energy security as key threats to our national security. With increased funding channeled from other savings in our proposal, the Department of Defense can be positioned to lead our country's efforts towards achieving energy independence in the 21st century.

To achieve our long-term fiscal goals and win the 21st century, we need to rethink our approach to national defense. Not only does our ‘Millennial Grand Strategy,' part of the Budget for Millennial America, make sense given our budget and global resource constraints, but it also expresses sound policies that will save America money, restore our image abroad, and save American lives.

Reese Neader is the Roosevelt Campus Network’s Policy Director.

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Egypt's Fortunes Tied to the Fate of Women

May 27, 2011Lynn Parramore

Today, protesters gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand democratic reforms from military rulers. What will this 'Second Revolution" mean for women?

"Strong women will burn in afterlife!"

Today, protesters gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand democratic reforms from military rulers. What will this 'Second Revolution" mean for women?

"Strong women will burn in afterlife!"

Mohammad, my tour guide on an April trip to Egypt, said it with  a jovial smile. A college-educated guy in his late 30s, Mohammad sported stylish Western clothing and liked to hold forth on his religious tolerance and enthusiasm for a new era prosperity and freedom in his native land. He was kidding about women and the afterlife. Kind of.

The problem was his wife. She refused to do all of the cooking and cleaning. Somewhere along the way she had picked up 'crazy feminist ideas'. They mostly lived apart now. Mohammad felt cheated out of the kind of wife that was rightfully his. "Um, would you consider sharing some of the household duties?" I ventured. "Treating it like a partnership?"

He turned puzzled eyes to me. "I don't want a partner!" he insisted. "I want a wife."

In Egypt, attitudes toward women are historically complex and culturally loaded -- some represent a reaction to past domination of the country by Western imperial powers. Recent events, such as the sectarian violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims, have highlighted issues of women, sexuality, and marriage, while the forced "virginity checks" on female protesters by authorities who stripped, photographed, and groped Egyptian women have turned attention to issues of pervasive violence and harassment.

There have been hopeful signs that the status of women may improve in a new era. But there are also ominous indications that the path to equality will be long and rocky. The army in charge of the country since the Revolution has appointed just one woman to the new cabinet and zero female governors. Not a single female jurist has been named to be part of a committee formed to amend the constitution. The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) reports that a proposal is under consideration that would jettison the quota for women in the Egyptian parliament for the election that will decide the first post-Mubarak government. This quota, which has changed several times since its beginnings in 1983, was updated in 2010 to mandate that roughly 13 % of parliament seats go to women. Without it, female representation in government is likely to plummet. Contrast this state of affairs with Tunisia, where the transitional government has declared that for new elections in July, every political party must present equal numbers of male and female candidates.

As a tourist in Egypt traveling up the Nile, I was naturally immersed in Egypt's ancient history -- a world in which women enjoyed high status compared to the rest of the ancient world. They could manage property, resolve legal settlements, and marry and divorce as they pleased.  Herodotus, the world's first historian, traveled to Egypt and was astonished by the status of women in Egyptian society, remarking, perhaps with a bit of hyperbole, that "amongst them the women attend markets and traffic, but the men stay at home and weave". Fast-forward to the 21st century: As of 2005, the literacy rate for women in Egypt was 59.4 percent%, whereas men enjoyed an 83% rate. Women have unequal access to divorce and face restrictions on travel. Unless they are accompanied by a male relative, they may be refused service in a shop or a restaurant.

As we moved from Cairo to some of the smaller cities and villages along the Nile, Mohammad pointed out the women in voluminous black robes, some wearing the niqab, a veil which covers the face but for a tiny eye slit. "That's too much," he said, shaking his head. Mohammad had two daughters and did not require them to wear the more conservative veils.  He also had no intention of subjecting them to the genital mutilation that is still extremely common. As we discussed this practice -- which ranges from the excision of the clitoris to the removal of the outer labia and the sewing up of nearly the entire vaginal region -- I asked him how many of the women in Cairo had had some form of the procedure done. "About 75%," he said. And what about the rest of Egypt? "100%," he said. Statistics bear him out. The incidence is officially 78–97%, and though Egypt's Ministry of Health and Population banned the practice in 2007, it will be extremely difficult to eradicate.

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the more dramatic examples of the challenges Egyptian women face. It distorts their sexual sexual lives, impacts their psychology, and makes them vulnerable to a host of medical complications, some of them fatal. The economics are complex. In poorer regions, marriagability is a key consideration for families whose daughters may be rejected as potential wives without it.  Those who perform the rite, often women, may have few other options for supporting themselves. Beyond that, women facing the common and often chronic health complications can't perform the work that sustains their families and communities, particularly in agricultural regions. The entire economy suffers.

In his recent speech on the Middle East, President Obama drew a link between a country's prospects and its treatment of women:

History shows that countries are more prosperous and peaceful when women are  empowered. That is why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men – by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential.

The Egyptian Revolution captured the world's imagination by toppling a corrupt dictator. But the military regime has shown little interest in having women in leadership positions or in changing laws that negatively impact their lives. An Egyptian democratic structure and economy which fully empowers women is critical to progress in the entire region, where Egypt's influence is immense.

"Egypt is a very good place for men," observed Mohammad, lighting a cigarette as he described to me how Egyptian women are taught not argue with men and to defer to their authority.

Maybe so. But until Egypt is a good place for women, too, the country will never truly prosper.

Lynn Parramore is the editor of New Deal 2.0, Media Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, co-founder of Recessionwire, and the author of Reading the Sphinx.

**Follow Lynn Parramore on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/lynnparramore

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President Obama Reaffirms the "Special Relationship" with the UK

May 26, 2011David B. Woolner

The bond between the US and the UK runs deep, especially when it comes to their economies.

The bond between the US and the UK runs deep, especially when it comes to their economies.

In an historic speech before both houses of the British Parliament yesterday, President Obama reaffirmed the "special relationship" between Great Britain and the United States. He made reference to the joint sacrifices both countries have made on the battlefield in defense of freedom, taking special note of the wartime alliance and friendship between Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt that helped give birth to the relationship as the two nations fought "side by side to free a continent from the march of tyranny."

References to the alliance between Great Britain and the United States in World War II are of course entirely appropriate, as the "special relationship" as we know it began in the dark days of 1939-40. But the President also made reference to the two countries' strong economic ties and the fact that today we "live in a global economy that is largely of our own making."

Here, too, the President is correct. Yet most Americans remain largely unaware of this economic aspect of the "special relationship." Much of the global economy we operate in today does indeed have its origins not in the 1980s or 90s, but the 1940s, as Great Britain and the United States struggled to defeat fascism in Europe and Asia.

To understand this, let's take a look at the link between the Great Depression and World War II -- especially from the American perspective. For Franklin Roosevelt and his Secretary of State Cordell Hull, this link was not only obvious, but tragic. The two men, in fact, were absolutely convinced that the cause of the Second World War lay in the economic depravity and dislocation of trade and commerce that were the hallmarks of the Great Depression. Near the end of the war, for example, in his State of the Union address of January 1944, FDR observed that we "had come to a clear realization...that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made." And as early as the early 1930s, Cordell Hull was frequently quoted as saying, "If goods cannot cross borders, armies will."

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As a consequence of these beliefs, the Roosevelt administration committed itself to the concept of freer trade, beginning with the passage of Hull's Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act in 1934 and continuing right up through the war. Hull's policies took the United States in a new direction away from the high tariff policies of the Hoover years, and in many respects laid the foundation for the opening up of the world's trade immediately after the end of the Second World War. This was best exemplified by the establishment of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) in 1947.

Ironically, in response to the high tariffs of the Hoover administration, the British had established an intra-Empire trading system called "Imperial Preference" in 1932 that allowed most goods within the British Commonwealth to be traded with little or no tariff while keeping US goods out. This was an anathema to Hull, and during the war he used the leverage of Lend-Lease aid to try to get the British to drop it. Hull was never able to get the sort of rock solid commitment to ending Imperial Preference he would have liked, but under Article VII of the 1942 Lend Lease Consideration Agreement (governing Lend-Lease aid), the British did agree to take "joint action directed towards the creation of a liberalized international economic order in the postwar world."

By 1944, US military and economic preponderance was such that there was little doubt the Roosevelt administration had the upper hand in the "special relationship." As such, the agreements that were negotiated and signed at Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks that year (establishing the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and laying the groundwork for the United Nations) largely reflected the American, as opposed to the British, negotiating positions. The same was true a few years later when the GATT was signed in Geneva.

Viewed from this perspective, the Second World War was as much about the re-ordering of the world's economic system along American -- and away from British -- lines as it was about defeating fascism in Europe and Asia. Still, there is no question that during these years the United States considered British cooperation in this effort not only vital, but essential, for without it they doubted their plans for a new world order could succeed. While it may true that Great Britain has always been America's junior in the transatlantic partnership, President Obama is correct when he says that the Anglo-American relationship is not merely "special" but "essential" to the development of "a world that is more peaceful, more prosperous, and more just."

David Woolner is a Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian for the Roosevelt Institute.

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Lynn Parramore: Solitary Confinement is "a Mark of Shame on Our Society"

May 18, 2011

ND2.0 editor Lynn Parramore appeared on RTAmerica this week to discuss the use of solitary confinement, a subject she first tackled in a post on the treatment of Bradley Manning. Isolation remains popular in supermax prisons throughout the country, where the trend of privatization brings human rights and economics into conflict. As a practical matter, Lynn notes that it often makes prisoners more deranged and thus more dangerous. It's even more troubling from an ethical perspective, as she argues that "putting a mentally ill prisoner in solitary confinement is like putting somebody with pneumonia out on an Arctic tundra" and "turns doctors into participants" in their patients' abuse -- a concern shared by Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal. Check out the interview below for more of Lynn's thoughts on why solitary confinement is a form of torture and "a mark of shame on our society."

ND20 editor Lynn Parramore appeared on RTAmerica this week to discuss the use of solitary confinement, a subject she first tackled in a post on the treatment of Bradley Manning. Isolation remains popular in supermax prisons throughout the country, where the trend of privatization brings human rights and economics into conflict. As a practical matter, Lynn notes that it often makes prisoners more violent and dangerous. It's even more troubling from an ethical perspective, as she argues that "putting a mentally ill prisoner in solitary confinement is like putting somebody with pneumonia out on an Arctic tundra" and "turns doctors into participants" in their patients' abuse -- a concern shared by Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal. Check out the interview below for more of Lynn's thoughts on why solitary confinement is a form of torture and a "mark of shame" that our society will be judged for in the future.

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