National Security Network

Diplomacy

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Diplomacy

Politics Follow Success on National Security

Report 20 December 2011
Political attitudes are beginning to catch up to a quiet sea change in American foreign policy: progressive policy success is earning public trust, while conservative overreach is facing a backlash from voters and our military leadership. As The Washington Post's David Ignatius notes, among other things, alliances are stronger, Iran is weaker and al Qaeda is on the run. Lacking a substantive counterattack, conservatives have resorted to undermining the ideal of civilian leadership enshrined in our Constitution -- attacks that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey calls "offensive." Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke commented that conservative candidates' attacks "are telling voters in advance that there is an important part of the president's job that they are unwilling to perform."
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Diplomacy

North Korea After Kim Jong-il: Keep Calm and Carry On

Report 19 December 2011

Yesterday, North Korea's official state news agency reported the death of the country's leader, Kim Jong-il. He apparently died of heart failure, leaving behind his twenty-something son, Kim Jong-un, as his chosen successor. While experts expect some turbulence as Kim Jong-un takes power, they also note that the transition to the younger Kim has been underway for nearly three years. The leadership change carries the possibility of destabilization but also the possibility for a renewed diplomatic engagement as North Korea's leadership looks for ways to reinvigorate the country's failing economy. Veterans of both Republican and Democratic administrations are speaking out today to insist that negotiating with North Korea may be unpleasant, but it is also essential. The U.S. response demands a steady hand, calm instead of hyperbole and close coordination with regional partners - most importantly China and ally South Korea.

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Diplomacy

NSN Middle East Update

Report 15 December 2011

 

As Iraq and the United States mark the departure of American forces, this weekend marks one year since Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire, launching protests that took down dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ignited the region-wide political movement known as the Arab Spring. After a year of tragedy, triumph, peaceful change and bloodshed, it seems the region's biggest changes may yet be to come. Egypt has begun its first post-Mubarak election and faces challenges in civil-military and sectarian relations and economic and political reform - even as Israel returned its ambassador, marking an improvement in relations.  Conflict in Syria, which has already claimed 5,000 civilian lives, continues. President Saleh is stepping down in Yemen, yet the situation on the ground remains tense.  Libya's new government is bringing oil production back online while dealing with the difficulty of transitioning and dismantling militias. One year later, the Middle East's transition is, perhaps, at the end of the beginning.

As Iraq and the United States mark the departure of American forces, this weekend marks one year since Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire, launching protests that took down dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ignited the region-wide political movement known as the Arab Spring. After a year of tragedy, triumph, peaceful change and bloodshed, it seems the region's biggest changes may yet be to come. Egypt has begun its first post-Mubarak election and faces challenges in civil-military and sectarian relations and economic and political reform - even as Israel returned its ambassador, marking an improvement in relations.  Conflict in Syria, which has already claimed 5,000 civilian lives, continues. President Saleh is stepping down in Yemen, yet the situation on the ground remains tense.  Libya's new government is bringing oil production back online while dealing with the difficulty of transitioning and dismantling militias. One year later, the Middle East's transition is, perhaps, at the end of the beginning.

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Diplomacy

Egyptians Take to the Polls

Report 28 November 2011
Today, Egyptians went to the polls for the first time since the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak in February. Reports suggest high turn-out and few problems. Elections will continue in two rounds for the next four months. The complex process is only one of the challenges on Egypt's path towards democratization highlighted by last week's violence and controversy over the extent and length of the interim military government's rule.  Political Islam, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, is expected to do very well in the election - as has been the case in Tunisia and Morocco. The United States and the West face a twin challenge:  learning to work with political Islam, as we have in Turkey and Iraq, while holding such parties to their secular, democratic commitments and affirming our own.
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Diplomacy

NSN Middle East Update

Report 23 November 2011
Last night's debaters gave the ongoing events in the Middle East short shrift. But major developments offer both testimony to citizens' desire for freedom and dignity and the need for strong, unified diplomacy in service of U.S. interests and values. In recent weeks, we've seen a violent military crackdown on demonstrations in Egypt, new censure of Syria's President Bashar Assad and a new report on violence in Bahrain. The Arab League, U.S. and other partners succeeded in passing a UN resolution calling for an end to violence in Syria. Regional player Turkey called for Assad to step down. In Egypt, the military government's pledge to step down next summer failed to quell protests in Tahrir Square, which raged into a fifth day. In Bahrain, clashes between protestors and security forces preceded a report on last year's violence. The report, written by the Bahrain Independent Commission, details torture and excessive force but tamps down claims about Iranian meddling. And in Yemen, longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to a plan negotiated by Gulf countries to step down from power.
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Diplomacy

GOP Foreign Policy Debate: Dime-Store Neo-Cons

News Huffington Post 23 November 2011
Diplomacy

Leader of the Free World?

Report 22 November 2011
Tonight the 2012 presidential hopefuls convene again to debate foreign policy and national security issues.  Democracy in Egypt, defense spending, financial meltdown in Europe - the news is full of challenges to U.S. interests and to governments' very ability to meet their citizens' basic needs.  But, as commentators from conservatives Marc Thiessen and George Will to the New York Times Editorial Board have noted, the debate is unlikely to produce new wisdom on  America's role in the world or how to best keep Americans safe and prosperous in the 21st century. Following recent patterns, we can expect instead reflexive attacks on the Obama administration as well as a return to the neoconservative framework that defined the Bush administration, thanks to the presences of many of its architects among the candidates' advisors.
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