Saturday, January 28, 2023

The good old days


The secret side of me


Monday, October 31, 2022

The Biden Administration's National Security Strategy Hits the Right Note on Africa

Executive Summary

Insofar as Africa is concerned, the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy, echoes in large part its previously issued strategy towards Sub- Saharan Africa. Like the Africa strategy, the NSS recognizes Africa’s potential impact on world affairs now and in the future because of its youthfulness and level of education and technological expertise, and that the 54 countries of Africa comprise one of the largest voting blocs in the UN. Africa’s growing population and vital natural resources, when combined with the African Continental Free Trade Area, give Africa the potential to be a transformative driver of global economic growth. The U.S. commits to enhanced U.S.-Africa partnerships to address global issues such as climate change, pandemic preparedness, violent extremism and terrorism, and global health.

Acknowledging African Agency

The National Security Strategy does, however, go a step or two further than the Africa-specific strategy. It specifically mentions the importance of supporting women’s rights—albeit in connection with countering terrorism. The strategy underscores the importance of Africa in world affairs and commits to working with individual countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, as well as regional groupings like the Africa Union, civil society, and the diaspora, in a spirit of partnership, and in line with the goals of Africans themselves, while at the same time continuing to push for respect for human rights, curbing corruption, and addressing autocratic behavior. The strategy also promises support to African-led efforts to address ongoing conflicts, increasing terrorist activity, and humanitarian crises in places like Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, and the Sahel and to work with African and international partners to deal with the root causes of terrorism.

The administration commits to support for economic growth in Africa through private sector investment, including working with African governments to create business/investment friendly environments that are essential to attracting investors, and creating jobs across sectors. This also includes efforts to bolster U.S.-Africa trade and create new opportunities for U.S. businesses.

The Proof, However, is in the Implementation

Like the Africa strategy, though, the proof will be in the implementation. The issues of staffing of our embassies in Africa must be addressed, and the potential of economic programs like Prosper Africa, Feed the Future, and Power Africa have to be operationalized and implemented on the ground. The United States also needs to be acutely aware of how our actions are interpreted on the ground. For example, the statement in the NSS that the United States will continue to press partners about human rights, corruption, or authoritarian behavior and impose costs for coups and press for progress on civilian transitions, is weakened when we continue our close relationship with the autocratic leaders, such as the president of Equatorial Guinea in order to counter China’s moves in his country.

It’s too early to do more than say that the strategy says all the right things. Now, we wait and see if the administration does all the right things.

It's past time for Congress to properly fund the Department of State


The State Department Authorization Act, the law that provides the legal authority for the Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies is the most effective way for Congress to influence our nation’s foreign policy, which ensures the national security and prosperity of every American. Despite its importance to the lives of our citizens, a State Department Act has only passed Congress twice in the past two decades, once in 2002 and again in 2021. This means that for the better part of twenty years, Congress has passed up the opportunity to reorient our foreign policy, revitalize our diplomatic and development work force, and adequately represent the interests of their constituents in how the U.S. engages with the world. At the same time that it has abrogated its responsibility in this important area, Congress regularly passes annual legislation authorizing the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, further de-emphasizing the critical role diplomacy and development play in U.S. foreign and national security policy.

            Both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have signaled an interest in passing a State Department Authorization Act this year, and committee staffs are in the process of drafting legislative language for the 2023 bill.

            Failure to regularly pass this critical legislation harms our national security, weakens our ability to respond nimbly to new global threats and opportunities in a complex landscape, and handicaps the work of our U.S. diplomatic and development professionals by delaying or denying much needed reform and modernization efforts. It also contributes to the militarization of our foreign policy as more and more foreign policy decisions are made through the National Defense Authorization Act. This is an abdication of Congress’s critical job of representing the American people in the foreign policymaking process by providing regular and formal accountability and oversight by their duly elected officials, further divorcing the citizenry from critical questions of war, peace, and America’s role in the world.

            The last time Congress passed a State Department Authorization Act prior to 2021, Saddam Hussein was still in power in Iraq, the Euro was just coming into circulation, and Netflix was a mail order DVD service. The world is currently experiencing a moment of rapid, wide-ranging, and dangerous change that requires a robust and sustained response of all of the tools of our national security policy; defense, diplomacy, and development. We cannot afford to allow any of these tools to become obsolete.

            As a former official with 20 years of experience in the U.S. Army and 30 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, serving here at home and abroad, I implore the Congress to step up and do what we the people elected them to do. Pass the State Department Authorization Act without delay, this year and the years to come. That we’re already a month into the new fiscal year and yet again nothing has been done beyond introducing the bill in committee is a demonstration of why public confidence in the Congress is at an all time low.

I'm green but practical