National Security Network

From the War Room

Building a Strong Progressive National Security ... and Countering Conservative Spin

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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Military

After the Super-Committee: Putting the Sequester in Perspective

Report 21 November 2011
With the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction poised to close up shop with no recommendations, the discussion has turned to the sequester and what it will mean for military spending. Gordon Adams, former associate director for national security and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, tells NSN to "expect endless garment rending over the impact of a sequester, but do not expect a sequester. It is mostly for show. Managing a build down is still the issue, and it will be the issue after the election."  
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Iran

NSN Special Update: Military and Security Leaders, Public Reject Conservative Saber-Rattling On Iran

Report 18 November 2011
After intense back-and-forth at the GOP presidential primary debate, the past week has seen an outpouring of commentary from military leaders, security experts and diplomats, rejecting a saber-rattling approach to Iran. Such analysis has been echoed by leading opinion writers, fact-checkers and public polling, including a CBS poll that shows a majority of Americans believe Iran can be dealt with without military action. Expert opinion stands in sharp contrast to the aggressive rhetoric coming from the conservative candidates for president. As Ambassador William Luers, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Jim Walsh write, "[I]ncreasingly grave warnings and hostile language are unlikely to change the policies of Tehran's nuclear program - but could bring the U.S. closer to military conflict." Here is a collection of top commentaries from the past week:
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Military

A Sober Look at Strategy, Savings

Report 17 November 2011
With a deadline looming for the Super Committee to agree to a deficit reduction plan, and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act headed to the Senate floor, questions loom large about the defense budget and what might happen if the Super Committee fails to reach an agreement. The warnings have been dire, and the facts have been loose. Instead, lawmakers and others should consider the actual magnitude of proposed reductions in growth and ask serious questions about strategy, missions and outdated Cold War capabilities. In many cases, the answers point the way toward future savings.
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Terrorism & National Security

Deal or No Deal?

Report 16 November 2011
Efforts to pass the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the comprehensive defense spending bill for the year, have been slowed by debate over controversial provisions moving most phases of terrorism prosecutions from law enforcement to the military. Yesterday, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced they had reached a deal to move the bill forward. Inexplicably, however, the deal did not address the concerns with the legislation that have been expressed by bipartisan national security experts, the Pentagon and other relevant security-related committees. Pentagon and outside leaders immediately noted that the "deal" fails to address ley legal and practical problems with the measure and suggested that it, in the words of NSN Senior Adviser Major General (ret.) Paul Eaton, "undermines the capabilities" of the executive branch to combat terrorism.
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Diplomacy

Penny Wise, Security Foolish

Report 15 November 2011
This year's congressional debate on the foreign aid budget has brought out an unprecedented coalition of former secretaries of state, senior military commanders and Pentagon officials to argue that, especially in tough economic times, investments in civilian foreign affairs capacity are among the most cost-effective we can make. As five former secretaries of state representing both parties wrote this week, and military leaders of all branches have emphasized, America should continue to fund foreign aid -- not just for the political, economic and moral benefits, but for the strategic and security benefits. Funding the civilian tools of power is not only necessary for winning today's wars, as General David Petraeus has noted; it also helps prevent future conflict and avoid the need for costly military action.
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Diplomacy

Misleading from South Carolina

Report 14 November 2011
As Republican candidates for president debated foreign policy in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) laid down lines of attack in the conservative National Review. Many of his attacks were echoed on Saturday by the candidates, who used the piece as a sort of playbook to fill in for a lack of experience and ideas in the field. Missing, in the debate and the article, was strategic thinking - China, for example, is mentioned only once in the piece, in relation to sanctions on Iran - as well as an understanding of the connection between the foundations of our strength at home and our power abroad. Also missing was awareness of how extreme conservative views clash with the advice of military leaders and nonpartisan national security experts. When Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), for example, was asked about her support for torture techniques that our military opposes, she said: "I'm on the same side as Vice President Cheney on this issue" and against Colin Powell and John McCain. Below, NSN explores how the topics covered in Graham's article stack up against expert advice. Graham's words are in italics.
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Diplomacy

Debating National Security

Report 10 November 2011
This Saturday, conservative candidates for president will debate national security and foreign policy in Spartanburg, South Carolina. So far those vying for the nomination have given few specifics about how they view the world beyond America's shores. As conservative columnist George Will wrote last week, "the candidates have some explaining to do." With two wars still winding down and the European economic crisis threatening the U.S., Americans need to know how the men and women who want to be America's commander-in-chief would deal with the rest of the world. Citizens need to know what they see as the chief external challenges to America and how they would shape our civilian, economic and military institutions to respond. The National Security Network has put together this list of questions for the eight contenders who will be taking the stage:
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Diplomacy

Ready to Lead? NSN Policy Paper Explores the 2012 Candidates and Foreign Policy

Report 9 November 2011
THE TUMULT OF THE LAST YEAR reminds us that the president is not only legislator-in-chief and chief executive. He or she is also commander-in-chief, head of state and lead diplomat. Those roles require a facility with the complexity of world affairs, a vision for America's role in the world that squares with global realities and a capacity to exert leadership that advances our national interest.
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Terrorism & National Security

Consensus Continues to Grow on Terrorism Legislation

Report 8 November 2011
Security experts, policymakers and observers continue to raise concerns about pending portions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would authorize indefinite detention, mandate military custody of terrorism suspects and impose stringent restrictions on transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay. A strong bipartisan consensus has formed among practitioners that, in the words of a former Bush administration official, these provisions "could actually weaken our counterterrorism efforts."
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