The debt default showdown in the U.S. is reaching new heights as the latest negotiating session yesterday evening ended in heightened tension. Meanwhile Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned yesterday of a “huge financial calamity” if the debt ceiling is not increased. And the Moody’s rating agency’s threat of a credit downgrade highlights the real consequences of failing to pay America’s bills. This is not only an economic issue. Republicans and Democrats, Bernanke, and America's credit rating agencies have all warned about the dire consequences of defaulting on our nation's debt. America’s power and role in the world is based off of its economic strength. Further, these dangerous games hardly serve as a good advertisement for the American model of democracy and effective governance as many countries around the world reconsider their models. We should not be playing games with American power.
As Congress’s role in war-making decisions is highlighted by the debate around Libya and the War Powers Act, today the Senate Armed Services Committee is working on legislation that would have drastic consequences for presidential power and national security. The committee is finishing the markup of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is meant to serves as the legislative blueprint for America’s defense policies. However, provisions reportedly being considered by the Senate committee include un-debated changes to America’s counterterrorism policies and presidential authority that run counter to security experts' views. An expansive Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) would give any president wide ranging authority without oversight from Congress, reference to world events, or an expiration date.
This week a nonpartisan group of retired generals and admirals wrote to Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, expressing their national security concerns. Additionally there are a number of other defense issues that have already been debated and decided upon but that the House version of the bill tries to override. These provisions do not represent a serious plan for America’s national defense.
This election season, Americans have been looking for pragmatic answers to their anxieties about security, the wars and the global economy. But with most national security issues flying below the campaign radar, too many candidates are offering extreme ideology and flat-out ignorance. After years of failed policy, America continues to face real challenges on the national security front that cannot be fixed overnight. Yet Tea Party and extreme conservatives have labeled the war in Afghanistan a "non-issue," called for privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs and suggested a sci-fi fantasy of lasers in space to address our security woes. At the same time, Tea Partiers and neocons are ready to be at each other's throats the day after the election. There are solutions to our national security challenges - but we need pragmatic leaders, not extreme ideologues, to implement them.
As President Obama's weekend remarks about freedom of religion unleashed a new storm of commentary over the Cordoba House - the proposed Islamic community center in lower Manhattan - another audience was listening. National security and terrorism experts point to specific efforts by al Qaeda propagandists to seize on hostile commentary and undermine American Muslims' feelings of safety and welcome in this country. The president's remarks drew an outpouring of support from mainstream centrist and conservative commentators. Yet, despite the warnings from our security professionals, some conservatives see a political advantage to this sort of divisive and damaging rhetoric. But at what cost in frayed social cohesion at home, and propaganda victory for our opponents abroad, does this come? Political commentator Mark Halperin writes today that the cost "is not worth whatever political gain your party might achieve."
The news is full of catastrophes brought on by our energy and climate troubles: a continued heat wave across America, news from NASA that 2010 is on course to be the hottest recorded year, continued destruction in the Gulf of Mexico, record flooding deaths in China and water now at the center of India and Pakistan's nuclear standoff. National security experts agree that these and other climate and energy issues are not theoretical or abstract, but real national security threats we face today. Yet the future of the Senate's energy and climate legislation remains in question. America's national security institutions, from the CIA to the Pentagon to the National Intelligence Council have all put in place mechanisms to monitor, respond and adapt to the changing climate. Experts agree that it is time for meaningful, comprehensive clean energy and climate action that reduces our dependence on oil, cuts pollution and creates millions of American jobs. Yet, conservatives have offered no ideas, only obstruction. On questions of our security and economic future, Americans can't take "no" for an answer.
Yesterday, President Obama made an aggressive pitch for comprehensive energy and climate legislation. With the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP oil spill as backdrop, the president said "If we refuse to take into account the full cost of our fossil fuel addiction - if we don't factor in the environmental costs and national security costs and true economic costs - we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future." Yet despite the urgency of the challenge that the president highlighted, which undermines America's security at home and abroad, and despite broad support from national security and military leaders, opponents of a clean energy future for the United States continue to delay, distract, and undermine attempts to address this issue.
Today, the White House is releasing the 2010 National Security Strategy. This document sets a coherent strategy and framework for the administration's national security objectives as well as a roadmap for how to attain them. The strategy's five pillars were first communicated by President Obama in his speech at the West Point commencement this past weekend. These are the very principles with which he has been governing since taking office. Rather than addressing such challenges through radical doctrines or ideologies, the President's pillars rest on what James Fallows described as a "return to the best and most sustainable tradition of post-World War II American foreign policy." While there remains work to be done, the administration has made concrete and meaningful progress towards addressing the security challenges of the 21st century.
Yesterday, for the second time this week, the Senate Republicans prevented a floor debate on the financial regulation bill. With the U.S. just beginning to recover from the financial sector meltdown that had the world teetering on the edge of an economic disaster, such actions prevent serious reform from taking place. This has direct implications for American national security, as economic crises at home weaken America's ability to project power and influence abroad. The financial regulation bill that has passed the House of Representatives and is being blocked in the Senate seeks to put in place a 21st century regulatory structure to prevent future financial meltdowns, in order to increase economic stability which will strengthen our security.