Friday, September 25, 2009

Show, Not Tell

The title is something we've all heard. Probably in third grade when we start learning how to write stories. It's kinda funny though how such a simple phraze can also help in creating foreign policy.

We already have big news coming out of the UN Summit in Pittsburgh: Iran has a secret (or tried to have) nuclear plant where it can develop the material it needs to build a nuclear weapon. Should we really be surprised though?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been trying to build up the countries nuclear proficiency since he's taken office. While he claims it is for the development of nuclear fuel for his own country, most people are a little skeptic. I mean, he is a denier of the holocaust, has been called one of the leading sponsors of terrorism around the world, and (as we have seen with his recent "re-election" Iran's human rights record isn't too great either.

This is all known, but what concerns me most is what could lead if Iran does become capable of creating a nuclear weapon. Carlos Pascual and Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution wrote in a column that:

Over 30 countries have declared an intent to develop new nuclear programs – 14 in the Middle East and North Africa. Should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon, there is little doubt that others in the region will follow suit. Now is the time for the United States and Russia to revitalize the framework for nuclear security, not after countries acquire a nuclear weapon.

President Obama has made very clear, and did so again at his speech at the U.N., that this is a time for action and America is willing to lead. When Obama first met with Russian President Demitri Medvedev the two men set the ground work for re-establishing talks and signing a new Non-Proliferation Treaty. This was a important step on two fronts. The first (and yes, obvious point) is that it will cease the creation of new nuclear weapons which have the potential to destroy the Earth. The second is that by taking these steps, Iran and other countries that are trying to build a nuclear weapon will have less of an incentive to do so. If the two leading countries start to take apart their weapons, other countries won't have a reason to build there's because they will not see themselves vulnerable by not having one.

Former Russian President Mihhail Gorbachev wrote an op-ed in today's New York Times. He promotes nuclear non-proliferation for similar reasons and writes:

Unless they show the world they are serious, the two major nuclear powers will be accused, again and again, of not keeping their word and told that if it is acceptable for 5 or 10 countries to have nuclear weapons as their “ultimate security guarantee,” why should it not be the case for 20 or 30 others?

It is vital that the two presidents themselves monitor the negotiations closely, sometimes plunging into minute details. I know from experience how difficult it is to deal with such technical details on top of constant political pressures, but it is necessary to avoid misunderstandings that could undermine trust.
No one wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon. It's in no one's interest except Iran.

There has been talk of puting more sanctions on Iran, but what good would that do? This is a country whose unemployment rate was 12.5% in 2008. It's important to note that officials don't believe Iran has the materials to actually make a nuclear bomb. That's exactly why it's important to show Iran, not tell, that it dosen't need one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Think Of The Future

Between the start of the football season, Serena Williams, healthcare, and the economy, there are so many things to write about I really didn't know where to start.

So thank you Senator Levin for giving a speech about sending more U.S. troops to the middle east. If you remember though, the United States already has been using UAV's to attack the terrorists hiding on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also, if President Obama does choose to send more troops to the region I highly dought (if history has anything to say about it) Congress will not give him the money.

While most members of Congress have come out against another troop surge, Senators Lieberman, Graham, and McCain wrote an Op-Ed in today's WSJ about why they think President Obama should send more troops. They say:

We went to war there because the 9/11 attacks were a direct consequence of the safe haven given to al Qaeda in that country under the Taliban. We remain at war because a resurgent Taliban, still allied with al Qaeda, is trying to restore its brutal regime and re-establish that country as a terrorist safe haven.

It remains a clear, vital national interest of the United States to prevent this from happening. Yet an increasing number of commentators, including some of the very same individuals who opposed the surge in Iraq and called for withdrawal there, now declare Afghanistan essentially unwinnable. Had their view prevailed with respect to Iraq in 2006 and 2007, the consequences of our failure there would have been catastrophic.

There's an important difference though between Iraq and Afghanistan. The Taliban relies on Afghanistan for funding its operation through the poppy fields growing in the country and are willing to defend it at any cost. We have already seen the intensity of the fighting increase over the months since President Obama originally sent additional troops to Afghanistan. The Taliban are also in areas where they have an advantage because of those tall poppy plants and mud walls in the area which can be used for defense and surprise attacks.

The New York Times reported today that Zbigniew Brezinki said American and allied forces are being preceived as invaders (not liberators) which give more political capitol to the Taliban and enable the organization to recruit more members.

Some people are arguing that there is no reason for American forces to be their anymore. But the fact remains America went in their with a declaration that we would help the Afghan people recover from the regime America and its allies took out. Leaving them now would be irresponsible and only create more terrorists in the future. Since the Taliban is so reliant on Afghanistan there's a realy good chance to do important damage to its infrastructure.

The fact still remains though if the terrorists are going to be defeated, it will not only be won on the military front but also the political. It's starting to look like the elections were tampered with in favor of President Karzai.

The best thing the allied forces can do right now is put pressure on the Afghan government to take care of its people, or the troops will be pulled out. Also, to show (not tell) the Afghans we are on their side, the State Department should help them build schools and other facilities that are needed for their society to thrive.

So as healthcare is something that needs to be reformed for America's future, so does the war in Afghanistan. People remember how you treat them, and if we leave the Afghans stranded, there will be consequences in the future.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stay In School

With the recent town hall meetings that were broadcast on TV, some people might think that people had always listened to politicians. Let me tell you, I’ve been to enough political debates, forums and what have you, to know that’s not the case. Usually people are talking, eating, basically doing anything except listen to their elected official. It’s sad but true.

What’s worse right now is the uproar over President Obama talking to schoolchildren.
Let’s be clear, it’s a back to school speech. He’s going to tell these children to stay in school because education is important to succeed. I like this message, and who knows, the children may actually pay attention.

Apparently, some parent’s are afraid that the President will try to influence their children into believing in his political ideology. But this is not a policy speech, and as I’m sure most people know (and will hopefully be watching) he will be giving one Wednesday night. If staying in school is a controversial issue in this country, we have some serious issues.

My friend (a Republican) sent me a link to the Heritage Foundation explaining why having the President talk to school children is a bad idea. Apparently it’s not just because parent’s don’t like the President, it’s also because there are lesson plans being released by the Department of Education which asks questions about the speech the President will give. Heritage believes this goes over the mandate by the Education Department and the federal government is getting too involved in local schools. But while the release makes it seem like the lesson is mandatory, it’s not.

As I recall though, there was a little bill called No Child Left Behind which required all States to make sure their schools were being held accountable. And I know it was a long time ago, but I believe it was signed by Republican President George W. Bush.

No Child Left Behind was passed on bipartisan consensus. We don’t get a whole lot of that today and unfortunately it makes it harder for politicians to get good things done for the American people. The debate on health care is so heated that it has become hard for even the non-controversial parts of the plan to come to a vote.

I guess what I am trying to say is: get a grip. Relax. It’s Labor Day weekend. Go to the beach, spend time with family and friends. The last thing anyone has to worry about is the President giving a speech talking about the importance in education.