POMED Notes: “Maintaining America’s Global Responsibilities in an Age of Austerity”
On Tuesday, the Foreign Policy Initiative hosted a series of foreign policy discussions with prominent policymakers and leaders. The forum asked, “Will our leaders make the difficult choices needed to sustain America’s pivotal role in global affairs—or will we accept the grave danger of retreating from the world?” Participants included Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
For full event notes, continue reading. Or, click here for the PDF.
The first discussion featured Senator Rubio, with Dan Senor of the Council on Foreign Relations moderating. Rubio suggested that no global issue can be solved without American involvement, and that nothing is more important in the context of global policy than the example set by the United States. Regarding Syria, Rubio said that we cannot ignore the calls of the Syrian people because it will undermine the message of American values, and the US must play a complementary role to hasten to fall of Assad. He acknowledged there is no guarantee that the entity that replaces Assad will share the United States’ worldview. Libyans, Rubio stated, understand that the US stood with them against Ghadafi, but stressed that protracted conflict will hurt Libya’s recovery. On foreign aid, Rubio said it represents a small portion of the US budget and can reap immense benefits for US interests. It can accelerate the rise of the middle class, leading to “free and prosperous” societies. Additionally, foreign aid grants the US additional leverage on various issues, and Rubio asserted that other countries will fill the void if we withdraw aid to developing states. The senator also mentioned his opposition to the proposed arms sale to Bahrain, acknowledging he was the sole Republican to ask the sale to be halted until the monarchy fixed its “unsustainable political situation.”
Governor Pawlenty then addressed the audience in a discussion led by Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution. Pawlenty, who served as an observer of Tunisia’s recent elections, called the polls “fair,” and indicated that Ennahda’s rhetoric has been encouraging, though it must follow up the talk with appropriate behavior. Regarding Egypt, he expressed concern about the Salafist success in recent elections, but stressed that the international community should have been more supportive of democracy during Mubarak’s time to ease the transition. Pawlenty said that establishing an alliance with a tyrannical leader is a “flawed premise” and that such alliances are unsustainable. Additionally, foreign aid should be reassessed, but should not be cut, he said. Finally, he discussed the SCAF’s relationship to the Egyptian economy, saying that parliamentary rule would eventually prevail over military interests.
Senator Ayotte then spoke with Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard on the status of cuts to the defense budget and the importance of defense spending.
Senator Lindsey Graham then discussed the costs of foreign policy with Robert Kagan. The senator conveyed that the fate of the Arab Spring is not the permanent takeover of Islamists, citing that former communists performed well in the first elections after the fall of the USSR. Additionally, Islamists succeeded because they have a strong voice against corruption and provided social services, Graham said. Regarding foreign aid, Graham said, “If we abandon the civilian side of what we can do to shape the world, then we will be in a worse position.” He recommended that Republican presidential candidates “talk about foreign aid as something that needs to be reformed. But don’t give the illusion that we can be safer by disengaging from the world.” On Iraq, Graham said the Obama administration “fumbled inside the 10 yard line,” expressing fear that oil disputes between sects will hurt the country once the US withdraws.
Representative Rogers offered his views regarding the war on terror, criticizing current detention policies and saying that President Obama “was right in keeping enhanced interrogation as part of his portfolio.”
Next, Senator Kirk and Congressman Kinzinger participated in a discussion about “The Path to Victory in Afghanistan.” Kirk said he looked for the US to ally with India to form sustained military cooperation with Afghanistan. Kinzinger said of the war, “The only way we can lose is through impatience.”
Campbell discussed the Obama Administration’s efforts in Asia, saying, “The most important thing for the United States is to ensure [a] strong position in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Finally, McCain spoke of the relationship between defense sequestration and national security. He asserted the Arab Spring sentiment had an influence on recent unrest in Russia, praising the general aims of the Arab uprisings as positive.