Defeating ISIL Requires US Leadership Now!

June 30, 2015

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

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I have written here before on Syria and radicalism in the Levant—once in September of 2013, and again in September of 2014. Nearly a year later, I am disheartened to see that US leadership continues to be timid in its struggle with ISIL and Syria, in spite of our warnings and prediction that if the US didn’t define and lead the effort in this fight, radical elements would take over against our interests. This didn’t have to be the case and doesn’t have to be in the future. However, the problem cannot be simply wished away and we can’t wait two long years for a new Administration to take action.

When the popular uprising in Syria began in 2011, the US had to confront just one threat: President Assad. Today, we have at least three others: ISIL threatening not only Syria, but Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with terrorist activities; a refugee problem that could overwhelm our friends in those countries; and finally, the Iranian arc of resistance which, stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and to Lebanon, is gaining ground as it firms up support in its fight against ISIL and its support for Syria.

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Mexico’s Midterm and Washington’s Gridlock

June 24, 2015

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s June 2015 newsletter.

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Just over a week ago, Mexican voters headed to the polls to cast their votes for federal, state, and municipal officials in the country’s midterm election. With roughly 48 percent of the eligible population making it to the polls, it was a higher than expected showing for an electorate weary of the traditional parties. In the short term, the results signal a continuation of the status quo. But take a longer view and they also reveal dramatic shifts in Mexico’s political landscape.

Most notably, the election ushered in a wave of new faces. For the first time in eighty years, voters in Nuevo Leon elected an independent candidate, Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez Calderón, as their state governor. Similarly, the MORENA party, a PRD spin-off led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, grabbed five out of the possible sixteen delegations across Mexico City. And in Jalisco, a candidate from the small Ciudadano Movimiento party snagged Guadalajara’s mayorship.

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War lessons from a replica French frigate

June 22, 2015

Jim Rosapepe (Ambassador to Romania, 1998-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Rosapepe’s June 18, 2015 op-ed in the Baltimore Sun.

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This week, the replica of the Hermione, the French tall ship which brought the Marquis de Lafeyette and French soldiers in 1780 to help Americans defeat the British at Yorktown, is visiting Baltimore. It’s also the week that Congress is debating whether to expand or contract U.S. aid to anti-Assad rebels in Syria’s civil war.

What do they have in common? They are both cases of big powers intervening in other people’s civil wars.

Given the moral ambiguity and unsatisfactory results of the U.S. interventions in Vietnam and elsewhere, many Americans understandably question even the concept of foreign intervention in civil wars. Can they serve America’s interests and our values? The Hermione’s visit to Baltimore, commemorating France’s military intervention in the American Revolution (a civil war between British subjects), reminds us of at least one time when such intervention served both. In fact, it may well have been decisive in creating our country and the modern era of democracy.

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Why Change in Nigeria Matters to the World

May 29, 2015

Madeleine Albright (Ambassador to the United Nations, 1993-1997)

Cross-posted from Secretary Albright’s May 28, 2015 special to Time Magazine. The article was co-authored by former Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson.

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This week, something unprecedented is happening in Africa’s most populous country, where groundbreaking political change is underway. Nigeria’s incumbent president will step down and a new president from another political party, Muhammadu Buhari, will be sworn in.

The March election that brought Mr. Buhari to office was a political triumph for Nigeria and a positive step for the future of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa. Few expected that the election would be peaceful or credible, but the Nigerian people demanded nothing less.

As one of us witnessed first-hand while serving on a National Democratic Institute election observer delegation, people across Nigeria waited in lines that stretched for hours simply to have their voices heard through the ballot box. Thousands were willing to risk the threat of election violence to volunteer as citizen observers, and the outcome was seen as legitimate thanks in large measure to the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission, which oversaw the rapid release of election results. A coalition of 400 civic organizations conducted a parallel vote tabulation that protected the integrity of the process and promoted confidence in the official results; other groups conducted a large-scale, and effective anti-violence campaign.

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U.S. and EU Brainstorm Ways to Support Innovative, High-Growth Firms

May 28, 2015

Anthony Luzzatto Gardner (Ambassador to the European Union, 2014-present)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gardner’s May 21, 2015 post on the US Mission to the EU Blog.

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On May 5, I had the pleasure of hosting a U.S.-Europe Dialogue on Making Ventures Grow together with Candace Johnson, the President of EBAN, the European Business Angel Network. The event brought together public policy and private sector experts to discuss ways to expand and accelerate financing of high-growth ventures as a mechanism to spur entrepreneurship, economic growth, and job creation in Europe.

Bruegel Senior Fellow Karen Wilson opened the dialogue, followed by two interactive discussion sessions moderated by Peter Spiegel of The Financial Times and Stephen Fidler of The Wall Street Journal.

The first discussion session on “Broadening Europe’s Capital Markets & Stimulating Alternative Financing” focused on what can be done at the EU level and by U.S. and European investors to broaden the financial instruments available to innovative, high-growth firms, facilitate the development of Europe’s debt and equity capital markets, and stimulate other forms of alternative financing. The second discussion session on “Facilitating the Growth of Ventures in Europe” centered on what can be done to support the scaling up of startups and innovative young firms, the further development of venture capital and angel investment, the role of U.S. and European corporations in facilitating the creation and scaling of startups, and what can be done to boost the flow of institutional investment into venture capital.

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Ambassador Bleich on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

May 26, 2015

Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich (Ambassador to Australia, 2009-2013)

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Why is passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) important for the United States? How would passing these trade agreements affect the country in which you served as Ambassador?

I will leave it to others to explain the many direct economic benefits of TPP and TTIP for opening markets to U.S. goods, expanding jobs for American workers, and leveling the playing field for American industries to compete. Instead, I’ll focus on a single – but vital – aspect of TPP: it will make us more secure.

The Asia-Pacific is rapidly becoming the center of economic gravity in the world. Of the 3 billion people who may be added to the middle class in the next 20 years, 2.5 billion of them live in the Asia-Pacific region. That is where our new consumers will live, where new income sources will be generated, where our business people will travel, and where we will compete economically. Today, however, the markets of that region lack a coherent economic order, and rule of law varies dramatically among the nations. Instead, protectionism, exploitation of land and laborers, corruption, and information barriers, all threaten to produce a race to the bottom that hurts U.S. industry and threatens to destabilize markets.

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We Can End the Illegal Sex Trade

May 15, 2015

Swanee Hunt (Ambassador to Austria, 1993-1997)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Hunt’s May 14, 2015 special to Politico. The article was coauthored by President Jimmy Carter.

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Too often, when we think of sex trafficking in America, we imagine women smuggled here from Asia or Latin America, when in fact we should be picturing everyday girls and women from our own neighborhoods, exploited by pimps and brothel owners in our own cities and towns.

We should think of women like one in Boston, who was abused by her addicted mother’s boyfriend, ran away over and over from foster homes and was recruited when only 13 by her first pimp, who promised to care for her. It took her years to break free.

Fortunately for our society, Washington is waking up. The Senate’s recent unanimous passage of the Joint Victims of Trafficking Act is one expression of this promising turn. Alongside the Congressional action, the White House, Department of Defense, Department of State and Department of Justice are issuing strict rules. And more mayors and governors are recognizing that the best response to a problem afflicting every city and state is to close brothels and persuade buyers to stop.

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North America: King of the road

May 5, 2015

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s May 2015 newsletter.

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When Americans think about Mexico’s economic ties with the United States, popular exports like tomatoes, avocados, and Mexican soccer may come to mind. But these products make up barely a drop in the export bucket. Instead the big dollars come from the back and forth in car parts and brand new cars.

Over the past weeks, global automotive giants Toyota, Ford, and Volkswagen all announced new factories or expansions in Mexico to the tune of a combined $4.5 billion. They add to the billions in foreign investments already scattered across eleven Mexican states, which have fostered a booming car industry south of the border. Just last year, the U.S. and Mexican trade in cars and their parts totaled $131 billion—that’s pretty much equal to the entire economies of Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Bolivia, combined.

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The Moral Imperatives of Food Security

May 4, 2015

Madeleine Albright (Ambassador to the United Nations, 1993-1997)

Cross-posted from Secretary Albright’s special to the May/June 2015 issue of the Aspen Journal of Ideas.

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It is peculiar to live in a world where hunger is an endemic problem for half the planet while diet books are best-sellers in the other half. This point is often lost in the broader bundle of jargon that now defines the conversation on food security in the twenty-first century, but it should not be.

A food security expert today will tell you that in order to feed the world’s population, projected to reach over 9 billion people by 2050, we must adopt a sophisticated strategy of “streamlining market efficiencies,” “scaling best practices,” and “leveraging disruptive technologies” to put food in the mouths of the poor and the hungry. True. But there is more to this story.

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Problem Solvers and the Czech Republic

May 1, 2015

Stuart W. Holliday (Ambassador for Special Political Affairs at the United Nations, 2003-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Holliday’s April 29, 2015 post to The Hill.

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It began with U.S. senators having lunch across the aisle, and now, problem solvers are having breakfast across the Atlantic.  Indeed, it seems the urgency to solve problems is truly universal.

The last few weeks have shown encouraging signs on Capitol Hill of teamwork between political parties.  A new but fragile trend seems to have taken hold, and our government has been bucking partisan politics in favor of collaboration, creating substantial gains through compromise and partnership.

Last week, the No Labels Problem Solvers were joined by its newest member: Andrej Babis, a prominent and innovative political leader in the Czech Republic.  At a breakfast with Problem Solvers in D.C., Babis took an interest in the new tone in Washington.  Perhaps that’s because he’s also motivated to the need for change and cooperation.  In addition to serving as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to the Czech Republic, Babis is credited with creating a fast-growing and widely received political movement in Czech politics.

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