The Veterans of the 99%

Nov 11, 2011Reese Neader

Our veterans fight for our country overseas. They shouldn't have to fight for a job when they come home.

It's Veterans Day 2011, and the Great Recession continues. Just as in years past, American veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home to a country that cannot provide them the basic dignity of having a job or a place to live. But this year something is different: they are marching for justice.

Our veterans fight for our country overseas. They shouldn't have to fight for a job when they come home.

It's Veterans Day 2011, and the Great Recession continues. Just as in years past, American veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home to a country that cannot provide them the basic dignity of having a job or a place to live. But this year something is different: they are marching for justice.

The status quo is grim. The unemployment rate among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is 12 percent, even higher than the unacceptable national average of 9 percent. In 2009, over 130,000 U.S. vets spent at least one night in a homeless shelter. Our veterans should be coming home to a country that honors and respects their sacrifice. Instead, our country's largest banks, including JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, have been accused of overcharging them on their mortgages.

Now veterans across the country are joining the Occupy movement to protest economic inequality, denounce corporate greed, and demand jobs. Many of these brave heroes have also challenged law enforcement in their local communities for attacking unarmed civilians. But some of these veterans have also been attacked by police for exercising their own freedom of speech.

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When Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran and Marine, demonstrated at an Occupy rally in Oakland, he was shot with a tear gas canister and sustained severe head injuries. In response, hundreds of veterans marched silently through lower Manhattan (from Vietnam Veterans Park to Zuccotti Park) to protest his mistreatment and show solidarity for the Occupy movement. Since then, another veteran has been hospitalized in Oakland, this time with a ruptured spleen from being beaten by the police. Despite this backlash, the Occupy Veterans movement is growing as men and women who have served in our armed forces continue their fight on behalf of American citizens and their constitutional rights.

Some progress has already been made. The Move Your Money campaign is taking money away from the multinational corporations that are putting our veterans out in the street and redirecting it to credit unions that will invest in our communities. A proposed Veterans Jobs Bill would provide tax breaks for companies that hire jobless veterans and veterans with service-oriented disabilities. But there is much more to be done. While we take today to honor veterans' service, we must remember that we cannot tolerate a financial and economic system that leaves them broke, homeless, and in debt.

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

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After Violence in Occupy Oakland, Remembering FDR's Engagement with Another Occupation

Oct 28, 2011David B. Woolner

FDR engaged with the Bonus Army instead of cracking down. Today's mayors should take note.

The violence that broke out in Oakland earlier this week and the wounding of Scott Olsen, a Marine veteran, recalls a similar "occupy movement" involving veterans that took place in Washington at the onset of the Great Depression.

FDR engaged with the Bonus Army instead of cracking down. Today's mayors should take note.

The violence that broke out in Oakland earlier this week and the wounding of Scott Olsen, a Marine veteran, recalls a similar "occupy movement" involving veterans that took place in Washington at the onset of the Great Depression.

In 1932, thousands of unemployed World War I veterans, desperate from lack of work, converged on Washington, mostly by riding the rails, in support of a bill that would have allowed them to receive immediate cash payment of the war service "bonus" they were due in 1945. The veterans called themselves the "Bonus Army" or "Bonus Expeditionary Force." By the end of May of that year, more than 20,000 had occupied a series of abandoned buildings near the Washington Mall and a sprawling shantytown they built on the Anacostia Flats not far from the Capitol. On June 15, 1932, the House of Representatives passed a bill in favor of the veteran payments, but as both President Hoover and a majority in the Senate opposed it, the "Bonus bill" went down to defeat two days later.

In the wake of this defeat, roughly 15,000 members of the Bonus Army decided that they would continue their occupation as a protest against the government's decision. By late July, President Hoover decided it was time to clear the city of the protesters, using four troops of cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Late in the afternoon of July 28, General MacArthur's troops -- with sabers drawn -- cleared the buildings near the Mall. They then fired tear gas among the men, women, and children encamped in Anacostia (many veterans were accompanied by their families); stormed the area on horseback, driving them out; and intentionally burned the shantytown to the ground in the process. More than 1,000 people were injured in the incident and two veterans and one child died.

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In attacking the shantytown, MacArthur had exceeded his orders, which were simply to clear the buildings and surround the camp so as to contain it. But this meant little to the public, who were outraged at the treatment the veterans had received at the hands of the government and furious at Hoover for ordering the operation. Hoover, nevertheless, remained publically unrepentant and refused to apologize to the veterans -- moves that contributed greatly to his massive loss to Franklin Roosevelt a few months later.

FDR, for his part, was disgusted by the whole affair. When a smaller group of about 3,000 Bonus Marchers converged on Washington with the same demand a year later, FDR took quite a different approach. Where Hoover had refused to meet with the protesters, FDR invited a delegation to come to the White House. He also provided the marchers housing in an unused army fort, made sure that they were given three meals a day plus medical attention, and sent Eleanor Roosevelt to engage them in further discussions and check on their condition. Not wanting to single out any group for special treatment, in the end he refused to support their demand for the early payment of their pensions. But the men were offered work in the newly formed Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which 90 percent accepted. Shortly thereafter the Bonus Marchers voted to disperse, and those that opted to return home rather than join the CCC were given free rail passage.

Perhaps the municipal authorities in Oakland, New York, and elsewhere might learn something from FDR. They could use a lesson on the value of dialogue and the benefits a government that is responsive to the needs -- if not the demands -- of its citizens.

David Woolner is a Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian for the Roosevelt Institute. He is currently writing a book on U.S.-UK economic relations in the 1930s, entitled Cordell Hull, Anthony Eden and the Search for Anglo-American Cooperation, 1933-1938.

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What’s Next After DADT Repeal? Financial Equality for Gay Soldiers

Oct 20, 2011Jeffrey Raines

military-tank-150DADT is an important first step, but policies like DOMA mean that not all who serve their country get the same benefits.

military-tank-150DADT is an important first step, but policies like DOMA mean that not all who serve their country get the same benefits.

The repeal of DADT went into effect on September 20, but that is far from the last step toward full equality for the men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces. Yes, DADT has resulted in a legally safer environment for gay soldiers who come out, but that is, sadly, the extent of its impact.

There is no clause in the repeal bill that mentions legal action or legal protection to address and prevent acts of sexual orientation discrimination and prejudice. This means that gay men and women are not only at risk of public abuse, but that they are also at risk of discrimination that would hurt them financially. There are still laws in effect like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that prevent civil union partners and spouses of same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits of marriage (many of them financial) that heterosexual couples enjoy.

DOMA defines marriage for federal benefit purposes as a union between a man and woman:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

While DOMA doesn't explicitly outlaw gay marriage, it does discourage its existence by protecting states from having to recognize it. This adds hurdles for any gay couple, the biggest of which is getting state marriage benefits in a state that does not recognize its validity. Some of the benefits of marriage include joint IRS tax returns and spousal benefits and coverage from Social Security and Medicare. In states that do not recognize gay marriage, these lawfully married couples miss out on this assistance and must pay more out of pocket to cover such expenses on an individual basis. Marriage is supposed to help help family finances by mitigating certain essential life costs, not give a boost to one couple over another.

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But it hits our men and women in service in even more ways. DOMA means that even in states where gay marriage is legal, if one partner in a couple is in the military, the other same-sex civilian dependent does not receive the same benefits that a civilian dependent in a heterosexual couple would receive. These unequal benefits include not being considered an emergency contact. A spouse would be able to find out about his or her partner's death or accident, but not allowed to hear the details like immediate family would.

Same-sex military families also cannot receive the same housing allowances as families headed by heterosexual parents and they are not guaranteed that they will stay together if they are told to transfer bases. In order to actually stay together, the spouse must pay for his or her own move, whereas a heterosexual couple would receive some aid in that worst-case scenario.

If homosexual couples are not guaranteed the benefits that they deserve as members of the military, why should they risk their lives and the financial stability of their family back home? The answer is that they should not have to.

When Obama signed the repeal of DADT last December, he told the story of a WWII private who "knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today." Sexual orientation has again and again proven to be neither a work obstacle nor a performance-affecting measure, and it is a step in the right direction for the United States Armed Forces to recognize this as well.

Equality is not something gained by a single action, and thus it requires more than just one repeal to attain full equality between homosexual and heterosexual couples in the military. The next step is to repeal DOMA in order to give homosexual military families the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. The justification of this repeal can be based on the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which states that "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness." Today we live in a world where miscegenation laws are illegal, but the freedom to marry is still restrictive. That is an unacceptable, illogical, and economic fallacy.

Jeffrey Raines is a sophomore majoring in political science at American University where he is the Vice President of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network chapter and the DC-International Region's New Chapter Coordinator.

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Palestine and the UN: An Inevitable Foreign Policy Disaster

Sep 23, 2011Bo Cutter

Opposing Palestine's bid to join the UN puts America on the wrong side of history, but a lack of domestic support forced the president's hand.

Yesterday, the Next American Economy breakfast series heard former Ambassador Frank Wisner on the topic of the "Arab Spring" -- where it is going, and what it means for the U.S. Wisner focused on the broad developments occurring across the Middle East, but it was hard not to think about President Obama's speech regarding Palestine's entry into the United Nations.

Opposing Palestine's bid to join the UN puts America on the wrong side of history, but a lack of domestic support forced the president's hand.

Yesterday, the Next American Economy breakfast series heard former Ambassador Frank Wisner on the topic of the "Arab Spring" -- where it is going, and what it means for the U.S. Wisner focused on the broad developments occurring across the Middle East, but it was hard not to think about President Obama's speech regarding Palestine's entry into the United Nations.

Opposing Palestinian membership in the UN, as President Obama found himself forced to do this week, is a disaster for American foreign policy that was probably inevitable.

It is often hard to explain how apparently abstract developments such as America's relative loss of position and power, the rise of other major players, the loss of the "glue" the Cold War provided for the West, and the sudden emergence of the Arab Spring affect American interests. Well, we've just seen a concrete example, and it will haunt us for a long, long time.

This is not a bash-President-Obama statement. The choice he made reflected the rawest kind of U.S. domestic politics. Given the president's current circumstances, it is impossible to imagine his going in the other direction. He lacks the political capital, and there are no major figures among Republicans or in the (nonexistent) American center who could be counted on to support him if he had chosen to back Palestinian membership. From where I sit, it seems blindingly obvious that Palestinian membership in the UN is not only completely consistent with a U.S. guarantee of Israel's security, but is arguably preferable. But I don't sit in the White House anymore, and Rufus Miles's famous principle -- where you stand depends on where you sit -- applies.

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But neither the inevitability of this decision nor the high probability that many would disagree with my sense of Israeli security issues make this decision's consequences any less dire. If you put lipstick on this pig, it's still just a pig with lipstick. We have firmly placed ourselves on the wrong side of history with this decision. We have for a while -- I fear a long while -- removed ourselves as broadly accepted players in Middle East issues. We have also accelerated our loss of position and power.

Three closing observations:

First, I wonder what plan "B" was for the White House and the State Department. Normally one would have a rough risk assessment, and one would have known -- weeks if not months ago -- that the odds of winning on this issue were very, very low. That does not mean you should not go ahead and try, but it does mean you should be able to answer the "and then what" question. I see no evidence of the answer to that, but you can't just sit there with the president having endured a significant personal rebuff and maintain that was the plan all along.

Second, the only way our current position can be rescued is with clear movement toward a peace plan. But we would have to throw ourselves into that issue, which would also be politically fraught, and we would have to receive some real help from Israel, for whom the President just took a huge hit. Are we going to try, or are we going to sit idle for 14 months while our election plays out?

Third, the world over the next generation will be a different and difficult place. It will be a kaleidoscope of different players: new semi-global powers; local, regional, and global issues and interests; and state and non-state players. Other nations will be the source of most of the world's growth. Our own economy -- unless things change -- will be weak, and our politics mean. America will continue to be the most influential single nation, but we will not be the acknowledged and accepted leader. We can function fine in this world, unless -- as this decision may portend -- our foreign policy becomes simply a bad reflection of our domestic politics.

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter is formerly a managing partner of Warburg Pincus, a major global private equity firm. Recently, he served as the leader of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) transition team. He has also served in senior roles in the White Houses of two Democratic presidents.

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The GOP Debate: Reality Keeps Intruding on the Tea Party's Alternate Universe

Sep 14, 2011Bo Cutter

There are real crises coming down the line -- such as an almost inevitable default in Europe -- but the Republicans refuse to deal with reality.

I'll start by acknowledging that I do not even remotely understand Republican party dynamics and can't read what happens in a Republican debate the way I think I can read Democratic party events.

There are real crises coming down the line -- such as an almost inevitable default in Europe -- but the Republicans refuse to deal with reality.

I'll start by acknowledging that I do not even remotely understand Republican party dynamics and can't read what happens in a Republican debate the way I think I can read Democratic party events.

Nevertheless, in approximately 45 years of reasonably close involvement in American politics, I have never seen more divergence from reality in what purports to be a serious discussion by men and women who actually think they might wind up being president of the United States. The Republican debate on Monday consisted of eight adults standing up for two hours and discussing an alternate universe.

This really is a "the emperor has no clothes" kind of moment. Unfortunately,  what is claimed and asserted in our current politics is always imperfectly related to reality. You can generally assume that any quote -- particularly from an opponent's book -- and any statistic (I've always thought that I have never, ever heard a complicated statistic used correctly by a major politician) is simply wrong. And therefore you have to "grok" what anyone would actually try to do when faced with the real world. So we become accustomed to the dissonance.

But isn't there a point when the divergence is just too great not to acknowledge? Michele Bachmann says President Obama "stole" $500 million from Medicare. She says President Obama embedded $105 billion in post-dated checks. Newt Gingrich says he "helped balance the budget for four straight years." The debate's moment of high drama and its aftermath involved vaccine inoculations, a moment that was prolonged the next day when Bachmann claimed that these inoculations caused retardation -- a problem no one else in the medical profession has ever heard of. The very real possibility of a lost American decade, the reality of 9 percent unemployment, or the potential for a complete European economic collapse never intruded on the fantasy world these people have spun for themselves.

So I think the answer to my question is "no." CNN cosponsored the debate (which makes it a profit center); serious adults such as David Gergen were commentators. Everyone was obsessed with the tactics. No one pointed out that this is one of the moments that shows we are beginning to go off the rails.

But we really are going off the rails, and it is time to change a basic assumption that I, and I would guess almost everyone, has always had about America and its leadership: that we have grownups in charge who have a reasonably firm grasp of reality and a sense of prudence about the risks they are willing to take. George W. Bush challenged this assumption, but this debate declared it null and void. That strange light in Michele Bachmann's eyes when she went into raptures over her willingness to risk an American default, or whenever she is about to try to foist a total mistruth on unsuspecting Americans, is a dead giveaway. I would guess that the odds are slightly better than even that one of these eight will be elected in 2012. This is like the shortstop who can't hit, but on the other hand can't field. Based on this debate, where there was almost no connection between what was said and the real world, the public doesn't have a clue what any of them would actually do as president, but on the other hand we can be sure that when they do it, it will scare the bejesus out of us.

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How could anyone see this debate and not see with blinding clarity the need for a movement from the radical center?

The harrowing thing is that there are real crises coming down the line that will require real leadership. As I was watching the debate, I was finishing Peter Boone and Simon Johnson's article "Europe on the Brink" published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. It begins, "Attempts to solve the problems in Europe are failing and the crisis is spreading... The euro crisis is not under control." Then it gets pessimistic. I finished the article, looked up some credit default swap numbers, talked to some friends, and concluded that there is a 60 percent chance of a Greek default -- an unplanned, messy default -- within six weeks.

This event will (1) lead directly to the bankruptcy of a number of European banks, and (2) put unsustainable pressure on Italy, Spain, and Portugal -- maybe even France.  There is no institution or process in Europe that can stop this; the IMF can't stop it and we damn sure aren't going to do anything. Nor is there a will to do anything. A European friend who would know said to me, "The French say Greece is the cradle of democracy, give them anything they want. The Germans say the Greeks are lazy liars, let them starve. And there is no voice in between."

As this process moves on, Italy, Spain, and Portugal will not be able to finance themselves at all from private markets and there are not enough other resources in Europe to step in. There will be more defaults, more bankruptcies, and a hair-raising recession in Europe.

What are we going to do?  In a normal country, say America 20 years ago, we would begin to anticipate these events, discuss them quietly in Washington between the leaders of both parties, and have a rough plan. But not now. If you judge by the Republican debate, we will do our damnedest to avoid thinking about any actual crises. Besides, this one involves foreigners, and what do they know anyway?

When asked what factors determined the success of a prime minister, Harold McMillan of Great Britain famously answered, "Events, dear boy, events." Inconveniences like complete economic and financial meltdowns in Europe constantly intrude on the otherwise well encapsulated lives of ideologues, and you actually do have to have a point of view about them.

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter is formerly a managing partner of Warburg Pincus, a major global private equity firm. Recently, he served as the leader of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) transition team. He has also served in senior roles in the White Houses of two Democratic presidents.

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How September 11 Called the Millennial Generation Into Action

Sep 9, 2011Reese Neader

The youngest generation is already working hard to transform the country in honor of those who lost their lives.

On September 11, 2001, I stood up and walked out of class. I was studying international relations at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio and my class had been invited by our professor to discuss what just took place. What had happened and why? But more importantly, what did September 11 represent?

The youngest generation is already working hard to transform the country in honor of those who lost their lives.

On September 11, 2001, I stood up and walked out of class. I was studying international relations at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio and my class had been invited by our professor to discuss what just took place. What had happened and why? But more importantly, what did September 11 represent?

September 11 did not change our lives in the way the terrorists wanted. We are still the strongest country in the world and we are still the leaders of a global system that represents the American experiment in higher ideals of democracy, liberty, and shared prosperity.

Instead of destroying our country, September 11 roused a generation. The children who witnessed the fall of the towers have grown up through the Longest War, the Iraq War, two contested national elections, the housing crisis, the battle over climate change, a credit and student debt explosion, Hurricane Katrina, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and the Great Recession.

Our country is witnessing the long, slow breakdown of our systems. We are faced with an era marked by crises in energy, the economy, and national defense. As the world continues to look to America for global leadership, we find ourselves facing a crisis in leadership. Our government is paralyzed, our financial sector is rotten with corruption, and our corporate economy is choking under its own weight. Overseas, our soldiers continue to bravely fight the Longest War but are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs, facing 21st century enemies with 20th century weapons and rules.

But this is not the first time that America has faced down an existential challenge. We fought for our independence against the British Empire. We rooted out the disease of slavery. We built our way back from the Great Depression and defeated the Nazis. Our parents and grandparents marched together for Civil Rights. We have traveled to the moon and we ended the Cold War. Every one of these events was born from a generational struggle. On September 11, 2001, as Millennials saw our way of life being attacked, we dedicated ourselves to achieving the promise of America and building a country where everyone can speak with freedom, worship with freedom, achieve prosperity, and live in peace and security. Our generation will also meet the challenges of our time and we will do it by following in the our country's tradition of exploration and innovation. America has changed the world with its inventions and ideas, and we're not done yet.

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The Millennial Generation is rising to meet the challenges of our time.

We are designing the next generation of energy infrastructure in labs and offices across the country, developing cleaner fuels, smarter technologies, and new forms of transportation that will create jobs for millions of Americans and propel our country into a new era of prosperity.

In cities across the country, Millennials are designing job creation policies and financial services that invest in American workers and replenish local economies. Social entrepreneurs, green businesses, and technology specialists are building a new economy that will generate wealth for Wall Street and Main Street, while making it a priority that our profits are generated from social enterprise, energy savings, and conserving the environment, creating millions of American jobs for American workers in the process.

And always vigilant, our military is responding to national security threats by designing new fighting systems and making smart investments in renewable energy research and development.

America began a new chapter on September 11, 2001. Rest assured that our generation is fighting for our future by actively rebuilding our country from the inside out. We are changing the way we live, the ways that we make money, and the way we value money. The lack of security engendered by 9/11 has provided our generation with a strong resolve to overcome challenges.

In our time we will, as a country and as a world, hang together or hang separately. America needs leadership imbued with values and a long-term vision for the progress of our country. The Millennial Generation is busy at work while waiting for its turn to take control of the country. We will succeed in our mission to rebuild the United States and ignite a new era of national prosperity, and we will do it inspired by the men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. In the words of President Obama, in his inaugural speech in 2009, "We say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

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

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Preventative Action: Redirecting Post-9/11 Zeal Toward Our Health Care Crisis

Sep 9, 2011Rajiv Narayan

health-care-money-150We could redirect fervor and resources to prevent deaths through the health care system.

health-care-money-150We could redirect fervor and resources to prevent deaths through the health care system.

September 11th marked a political coming-of-age for many young Americans. Where we could once afford to be blissful in our policy ignorance, the realities of terrorism required a far more adult understanding of the issues. It's in the aftermath that I first began to notice the zeal for a particular brand of post-terror policy. It seemed as though every American, and their corresponding representatives in Washington, D.C., would do whatever it took, spend whatever was needed, to prevent the next attack. The commonsense perception dictated eliminating the threat before it could grow into a crisis. I like to imagine applying that standard to the problems I see in health care.

But consider first the extent to which preventing terror dominated the first resulting policy changes. A network of rules and regulations that encroach on civil liberties seek to prevent explosives and weapons from making it onto airplanes. A nation was controversially invaded to prevent its leader from using weapons of mass destruction. A broader war was declared to level Al Qaeda in another country to avenge the attacks and prevent future terror plots. An undisclosed, but certainly astronomical, amount of money was afforded to a top secret government agency to carry out unknown tasks to prevent potential terror threats.

Let's check in on these change: Individuals have found ways to bring weapons and explosives anyway. It is still unclear what threats, precisely, were prevented by invading and then occupying Iraq. Al Qaeda is largely decimated, but the conditions prevailing in Afghanistan can foster a new generation of radicalized anti-American sentiment. And we continue to chase terror plots to this day.

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Now consider a similar zeal for preventative policy, this time applied to health care. A network of rules and regulations could seek to eliminate a growing epidemic of obesity already affecting a third of Americans. We could go into Africa instead of Afghanistan, this time with $3 billion a year in targeted aid (what the Pentagon spends in two days) to end malaria and save those at risk. A disclosed and comparably lesser sum of money could task the federal government with reorienting our health care system around preventative medicine to stop the 900,000 American deaths each year from preventable causes.

A decade later, the results of these initiatives would be a little different. Ending obesity could save $147 billion each year in its associated costs. Our invasion of good will in Africa could save more than a million lives a year, the results of which would be met with a markedly higher level of international admiration, respect, and cooperation. Of course, some will still regrettably fall victim to preventable health problems. But we would know for certain where our dollars are going -- to our health.

There are many legacies and takeaways from 9/11. What I've learned is the power and reach of passionately driven policy. I've also learned that It should not take an attack, or any catastrophe, to ignite zealous action where it is needed.

Rajiv Narayan is a Senior Health Policy Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and a student at the University of California, Davis.

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Libya Shows How the U.S. Can be a Super-Partner, not a Superpower

Sep 1, 2011Reese Neader

The Libyan conflict proves that by working with international allies, the U.S. can keep the peace without breaking the bank.

The Libyan conflict proves that by working with international allies, the U.S. can keep the peace without breaking the bank.

Operation Odyssey Dawn was a coming out party for NATO. Our European allies, especially France, led a successful air campaign and funneled special operations advisers and intelligence operatives behind enemy lines to help Libya's rebels topple the Gaddafi regime. This strategy of engagement was a big change from a decade of international military campaigns defined by unilateral, or heavy dependence on, U.S. action.

The U.S. took a different approach in Libya. Our limited, cost-effective campaign supported an organic, indigenous uprising. We strictly followed a United Nations mandate as our tactical guide for the conflict, and U.S. forces played a supporting role for a legitimate multinational force. The U.S. acted as a "super-partner," not a "superpower," and the results so far have been very positive.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO had been struggling to find an identity. The Long War stalemate in Afghanistan has ground the alliance down and left policymakers asking if it is the organization's role to play global super-cop. Intervention in Libya followed a new game plan and served as a challenge, and an opportunity, for our allies to lead their own military campaign.

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It was clear from the outset of Odyssey Dawn that NATO's European forces were not prepared to shoulder the burden of the Libyan air campaign. The U.S. war machine has been fine-tuned from a decade of coordinating high-intensity, precision air strikes across multiple theaters. It took months for European and Arab forces to put together a well coordinated plan of action, and increased kinetic action from U.S. assets in the final weeks of the conflict was still the game changer in the air campaign. President Obama ordered a well executed, heavy strike operation by U.S. naval and air forces that delivered a decapitating blow to the Gaddafi regime's infrastructure.

Hopefully intervention in Libya did not exhaust the European appetite for warfighting. Europe needs to shoulder its burden of global security. If our European allies want continued access to cheap energy and trade security, they will have to strengthen their armed forces and continue to work with more coordination between NATO and the U.S.

It is also important to note that other U.S. allies besides Europe played a crucial role in the execution of Operation Odyssey Dawn. Turkey was the wild card in this conflict. It led a strong push for support of the operation in the Middle East and has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and weapons to the Libyan rebels. Qatar also led the charge by participating in air strikes and funding the rebel's oil export operations.

The conditions that opened the door for an unprecedented international military campaign are not certain to exist in every future American national security theater, but the success of the revolution in Libya might be illustrative of what U.S. wars will look like in the 21st century. While the U.S. continues to struggle with a massive jobs crisis, crumbling infrastructure, and nationwide cuts in social services, we need a leaner, meaner approach to national defense that shares the cost of global security with our allies. Our approach in Libya is a good example of how the U.S. can achieve its national security goals while practicing fiscal restraint.

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

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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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