Thursday, July 10, 2014
For any security force to be effective, it needs to protect the people more than the state, as just seen in Iraq. After all, people have to want what you are offering. In Syria, for example, there is no definitive evidence that suggests a majority of Syrians wants to see President Bashar al-Assad replaced by an opposition faction, especially one associated with jihadists. Popular support for the opposition may have shrunk to as low as 10 percent of the Syrian public, according to NATO estimates. And yet, the Obama administration has asked Congress to fund a $500 million train-and-equip mission to help “vetted elements” of the Syrian armed opposition “defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement.”

But it should not be about us — it should be about them. In order to engender sustainable peace, what they want and need should come before what we want and need, at least in the short term, and that means focusing on human not national security. Seen this way, it becomes clear that security sector assistance is really a development challenge, which is why such programs should be led and managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, not the Defense Department.

People Power

The United States has the blueprint for a smarter way to make peace. Now it has to use it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013
The United States still engages in active diplomacy with both China and Russia and other governments that have rights practices at odds with Washington.

Rice acknowledged the United States sometimes must strike a difficult balance.

“We make tough choices,” she said. “When rights are violated, we continue to advocate for their protection. But we cannot, and I will not, pretend that some short-term tradeoffs do not exist.”
Senior Obama adviser criticizes human rights abuses in China, Russia
Thursday, March 22, 2012 Wednesday, March 21, 2012
It’s time for Washington to abandon the fiction that the cartels don’t operate in the United States. The U.S. government’s narcotics-flow maps show the drug trade as fat arrows coursing their way from Colombia through Central America and Mexico — but they all stop at the U.S. border. The National Drug Intelligence Center has published a list of 235 American cities reporting a Mexican cartel “presence,” and that just skims the surface. Ignoring the cartels’ vast networks won’t make them go away. Co-responsibility also means addressing “southbound” flows — the U.S. arms and cash that are the raison d’etre of the cartels — to Mexico, Central America and beyond.

Or if we’re unwilling the match the courage that the Mexicans have shown — and if we just want the Central Americans to follow the same failed strategy — we must launch a serious dialogue here on legalizing, or at least decriminalizing, the drugs. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than no solution at all.
End the Drug War by Fulton T. Armstrong
Friday, February 3, 2012 Thursday, November 10, 2011
In an interview with the New York Times last month, Mexican President Felipe Calderón warned that “many in the PRI” — the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, whose landslide victory this year in a key state-level election augurs its return to the presidency in July 2012 after more than a decade in the national politics wilderness — believe that cutting a deal with the cartels will provide a path out of the drug war for Mexico.

Lest Americans think Calderón is marrying electioneering to scaremongering, former president Vicente Fox — Mexico’s first from outside the PRI in 71 years — insisted there may be no alternative but to negotiate with the bosses. Perhaps this stark reminder of the limits of U.S. drug policy, at war or otherwise, will tempt American citizens and elites alike to consider legalizing at least some drugs — lest the United States find itself at war with Mexico’s cartels and the government that legalized them.
Gateway Interventions: Drones along the Mexican border, commandos in Central America — the war on drugs looks more than ever like a real war. But do Americans have any idea what they’re getting into?
Thursday, November 3, 2011 Wednesday, November 2, 2011 Monday, September 5, 2011 Thursday, July 14, 2011 Wednesday, May 18, 2011
What’s more, regional complexities highlight just how unique and problematic Syria is. While not a formal U.S. ally, the country does provide relative stability to the region, and it has a population—just over 21 million—that’s almost four times Libya’s. Signaling Syria’s regional importance, Nancy Pelosi visited with Assad in Damascus in 2007 when she was House speaker, despite protests from the Bush White House.

But Syria is also the strongest—perhaps the only—ally of Iran in a volatile area generally hostile to Persians, especially Shia Persians. Iran had begun to coordinate, with Damascus, construction of a naval base near the Syrian coast this year. If the Syrian government were toppled, the plan could be nixed—which would deepen Tehran’s anger toward the West. Intervening in Syria, one official explained earlier this week, could lead to a “much bigger commitment than we’re looking for.” Tony Badran, an analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told USA Today this week that any forceful action in Syria would be an admission that the longstanding policy of engagement with Syria as a means to rein in Iran has been a waste of time and money.
Obama’s Syria Tightrope
Thursday, February 24, 2011 Tuesday, February 22, 2011
But current and former officials said that American appeals are likely to have little effect on Gaddafi, a mercurial autocrat who for decades was regarded as a nemesis of U.S. presidents.

Although the United States has been able to leverage its deep ties with Egypt’s armed forces, it has no significant military-to-military relationship with Libya. It also has little economic leverage: For the past fiscal year, U.S. aid to Libya has been less than $1 million, and most of that has gone toward helping the country’s disarmament program.

There is not even a U.S. ambassador at the moment. Gene Cretz, the ambassador to Tripoli, was called back to Washington recently for extended “consultations” after WikiLeaks released cables in which he described Gaddafi’s eccentricities.

“We don’t have personal relations at a high level. As far as I know, President Obama has never even talked to Colonel Gaddafi,” said David Mack, a former senior U.S. diplomat who dealt with Libya.

Libya was a pariah state for much of the past three decades. In 2003, the George W. Bush administration convinced the nation to give up its nuclear- and chemical-weapons programs. Libya also renounced terrorism, leading the U.S. government to remove it from the list of “state sponsors of terrorism.”

But only in 2008 did the United States and Libya establish full diplomatic relations.
U.S. struggles with little leverage to restrain Libyan government
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In the context of the last several decades, American opposition to Council action is utterly unsurprising. The United States has repeatedly blocked Council resolutions critical of Israel and has consistently sought to avoid significant Council involvement in Middle East negotiations. The reasons are clear: the United States doesn’t like the balance of power in the Council, where it is surrounded by states less accomodating of Israel, and wants to preserve its privileged position as arbiter. Historically-minded Obama administration officials may also be mindful that the Carter administration paid a political price for allowing Council criticism of Israel, an incident that led to an embarrassing retreat.

It’s not yet clear that the United States will be forced into a corner on the settlements resolution. No doubt American diplomats are still working hard to avoid a vote. But it’s possible that a Council confrontation—and an American veto—will be unavoidable.
Obama shuns the Security Council
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