Letter to House and Senate Leadership on the International Affairs Budget

The following is a letter signed by the Center for International Policy and various civil society organizations.

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May 26th, 2011

The Hon Speaker Boehner Minority Leader Pelosi
Majority Leader Reid
Minority Leader McConnell
Chairman Rogers
Chairman Inouye

Dear Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Chairman Rogers and Chairman Inouye,

On behalf of our supporters, we are writing to urge you to fully fund President Obama’s request for the international affairs budget in your top line numbers for the fiscal year 2012 budget.

There is recognition across parties and military and civilian leadership that funding critical State Department and USAID programs is in the best interest of the United States. As CentCom Commander General James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of this year, “Of course, we cannot achieve our broader objectives in the region through military means alone. Our efforts require coordination and a spirit of collaboration between highly integrated civilian military teams. Our civilian colleagues need your full support even in this difficult fiscal environment to undertake their essential role in today’s complex environment.” Continue reading

Defense Budget Passed; Afghanistan Exit Ammendment Defeated

As expected, the House passed a $690 billion defense bill for the 2012 fiscal year on Thursday, fully funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

More notably, a bill that would have required the Obama administration to set a definitive timeline on accelerating the transfer of military operations in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities was barely defeated. The closeness of the vote indicates that war fatigue is higher than ever among members of Congress and their constituents. Though it was defeated, the vote sends a strong signal that support for the Afghanistan war is dwindling in both parties, as 26 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. The Obama administration will need to take a significant step at its appointed troop reduction deadline in July, or risk facing a popular outcry.

Here is a transcript of Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-MA) speech on the House floor, in which he argues that we need to “re-think our policy” on Afghanistan: Continue reading

Full Transcript of the Last Policy Speech of Defense Secretary Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is retiring from his post this summer, to be replaced by current CIA director Leon Panetta. On Tuesday, he delivered his last major policy speech as Defense Secretary. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, Gates outlined his analysis of the future of the U.S. defense budget. Gates predicted that there are likely to be significant cuts in the defense budget in the near future, both because of economic difficulties and a reduction of the U.S. military role in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Gates warned that defense budget cuts would mean a reduced capability of the U.S. to influence world events, he did not go so far as to say that this would necessarily be a bad thing. He did express concerns, however, that cutting the budget too steeply could reduce the national security of the United States.

The full text of Secretary Gates’ speech is below. We welcome your comments!

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Rethinking the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

It has been nearly 15 years since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed and ratified by over 2/3 of the United Nations General Assembly. There continue to be several holdouts, but the only state with nuclear potential west of Egypt that has not ratified the treaty is the United States. The last time the CTBT was brought to to a vote in the United States Senate was 1999. As new technology makes it increasingly obvious that the treaty would be beneficial to U.S. national security, the time has come for U.S. policymakers to rethink American participation in the CTBT.

There is one particularly powerful national security argument for ratifying the CTBT. The marginal benefit that the U.S. could gain from further nuclear testing is significantly less than the benefit that  potential military rivals such as China and Iran could accrue. The U.S. conducted over 1000 nuclear tests between its first in 1945 and its last in 1992, and the only reason to ever do so again is to ensure that the weapons are still working properly. However, technological advancements since the Senate rejection of the CTBT in 1999 have rendered nuclear testing obsolete as a means for ensuring the effectiveness of a nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile, other states could steadily approach the U.S.’s level of nuclear capabilities through further testing. Since nuclear capability is close to a zero-sum game, a slight decrease in U.S. capabilities–which most likely would not even occur–is easily worth a significant decrease in the potential capabilities of others. Continue reading

Full Transcript of Benjamin Netanyahu’s May 24 Speech to the U.S. Congress

After a tense May 20 meeting with President Barack Obama about the Israel-Palestine peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to a joint meeting of Congress Tuesday morning. Like Obama’s May 19 Middle East address, Netanyahu’s speech placed him firmly in support of the revolutionary movements of the Arab Spring. However, Netanyahu reiterated his rejection of Obama’s proposal that peace talks begin with borders based on the pre-1967 lines. Netanyahu’s position was received much more warmly in Congress than it had been in the White House.

The full text of Netanyahu’s speech is below. We welcome your comments and encourage you to join the debate on this highly contentious issue. Continue reading

What’s Next for Libya?

That was the question that a panel of experts organized by the Middle East Institute endeavored to answer as Barack Obama was delivering his landmark Middle East speech Thursday. Panelists, including Paul Pillar, Jeffrey White, and U.S. Representative of the Transitional National Council of Libya and former Libyan ambassador to the U.S. Ali Suleiman Aujali, discussed the progress of Libya’s civil war to date and the challenges that must be overcome if it is to be brought to a peaceful and desirable resolution.

In Mr. White’s presentation, he outlined four possible outcomes to the civil war. They are:

  1. The forces of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime steadily weaken and eventually dissolve, leading to victory for the rebels. This process would take several more weeks if not months.
  2. The regime collapses suddenly and without warning, causing an immediate rebel victory.
  3. The war becomes a true stalemate. In this outcome, any peace would likely involve a partition of the country along East-West geographic lines.
  4. The regime makes a comeback, gaining a military advantage and ultimately crushing the rebellion. Continue reading

Full Transcript of President Barack Obama’s May 19 Speech on the Middle East

Barack Obama gave his most significant address on the Middle East since his 2009 Cairo speech on Thursday. Emphasizing values over the strategic interests of the United States, the President expressed his support for all the Arab Spring movements and their cause of liberty and democracy. He also laid out in concrete terms what U.S. policy will be towards each of the crisis areas of the Middle East. The speech strongly condemned not only Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but also Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the government of Bahrain. Obama’s most ambitious new policy proposal was a concrete plan for the Arab-Israeli peace process: a demilitarized but sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. 

The full text of President Obama’s speech is below, with the most crucial and relevant sections bolded. We welcome your comments on the speech.

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