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April 17, 2008

Thank you Mr. Berman
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

I love it when the soft power people get up in arms.

Today the House Foreign Affairs Committee took an important step into the national security debate with an official report on our non-strategy to strike at the terrorist's 9/11 center of gravity.

This is great news on a couple of levels.  First, to put this failure front and center in the 2008 election year national security debate in the hopes of getting potential leaders to come up with a real strategy. Second and equally important, the HFAC is jumping into a hard power issue feet first. It is the flip side of the strategy coin, where the hard power folks (the military esp. Army and Marines) have been doing soft power since the end of the Cold War, calling it everything from MOOTW (military missions other than war)  to  Formative Engagement to Irregular Warfare to Counter Insurgency.  This is a great evolutionary step toward the kind of holistic national security strategy that we're all waiting for and that, frankly, will save American lives.   Here's the press release:

The Government Accountability Office today released a report
showing that the Bush Administration does not have a coherent plan to destroy terrorist threats and safe havens in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The House Foreign Affairs Committee commissioned the report and received copies ahead of its release.

Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) said, “It is appalling that there is still no comprehensive, interagency strategy concerning this critical region, and this lack of foresight is harming U.S. national security. 

Even after the passage of congressional mandates and the Administration’s own directives, we’re still wandering around in a metaphorical desert rather than mapping out a coherent plan,” Berman noted.  “But with new civilian leadership in Pakistan, we have a new opportunity to overcome the current Administration’s failures and to work with the Pakistani people to come up with a plan for victory over the extremist elements that threaten Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the rest of the world.”

you can get the rest of the info here.  And sign up for these press releases, too.


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Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman: “It is appalling that there is still no comprehensive, interagency strategy concerning this critical region, and this lack of foresight is harming U.S. national security.

Lorelei: "Thank you Mr. Berman

I'm sorry, but there should be no thanks to Mr. Berman. Blaming the foreign policy failures of the US on the president is just wrong. There is a mistaken belief in the land that domestic policy comes from congress and foreign policy is a presidential responsibility. This is wrong. Nothing in the US Constitution gives the president foreign policy authority. The only mention of foreign affairs is in Article II where the president is given the power to make treaties WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE.

Unbounded executive authority, together with congressional compliance in same, is what has led to the kind of autocratic executive which previously resulted in US independence as well as to our current problems in a world which justifiably hates us.

Unbounded executive power in foreign affairs also has a deleterious domestic impact, for example "executive orders." Executive orders are the tools of autocracy and dictatorship. The US is currently under three continuing executive declarations of national emergency: Iran, terrorism and WMD. Three national emergencies, count 'em. And the president has determined that the Threat Level is "Elevated" -- so stated on the border control checkpoints I'm forced to stop at on the freeways. Baloney. The "threat level" is merely a pretext for domestic repression. The actual threat level to the American people from foreign sources is statistically miniscule; from an unbounded executive it is very real.

Looking to the next election:
Lorelei: in the hopes of getting potential leaders to come up with a real strategy.

See the problem? -- Our foreign policy has fallen and it can't get up without you, McCain/Obama/Clinton. We hope you can do the right thing. We hope that a new Decider will be more wise and benevolent than the present one, when we really don't need (or deserve) a decider at all. Let's put the "democracy" back in democracyarsenal.

Molly Ivins: We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders.

Senator Wayne Morse: It's up to the American people to formulate foreign policy. . .All the president is is the administrator of the people's foreign policy. video

Bottom line: Mr. Berman is shucking his responsibility. It's easier than actually doing the heavy lifting on foreign policy, but it's not right.

PS: Lorelei, I'm seventy years old and my peepers aren't what they used to be. Could you crank that font size up a notch?

This just in: To fill the world strategy vacuum, our beloved Pentagon is working on updating its National Military Strategy. The draft strategy highlights seven of the biggest “strategic challenges” facing the United States: transnational terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional instability, rising peer competitors, natural resource competition, pandemics and natural disasters, and cyber and space vulnerabilities.

Should we discuss these, or wait for the Pentagon to tell us what's what? They've never failed us in the past, right?

sorry about that font size. I thought it was just that small on typepad. i'll see if i can fix it. I couldn't agree with you more! I have been appalled at the lack of concerted action on Capitol Hill over the past 16 years (since the end of the Cold War) I worked there when the conservatives were in charge and so my expectations are frankly pretty low that the committee (it was IR committee at that time) would do anything except give air time to pet issues.... I write this because I would like to see MORE of this. I believe that the Congress should be a full co equal on foreign policy and national security....amen to your comments...

Thanks for the response and the agreement. Can we get a discussion going on the seven "strategic challenges?" It would be good to know what the DA contributors and readers think about these issues, and then perhaps you influential people could influence the congress. (I'm a dreamer.)

Oh -- I was with you up to "co equal." There is (another) mistaken belief in the land that the executive and the congress are co-equal branches. Senator Reid, for one, has been quoted as saying it. Au contraire -- there is nothing in the US Constitution that states or even implies that the two branches are co-equal. The fact is that Article I, Section 8, lists many powers of Congress whereas Article II includes only one important power of the president, commander of the military. In terms of foreign affairs there is the presidential treaty power mentioned above, which is really controlled by the senate.

That's the way it should be in a democracy. That's in fact the way it worked in the New England town I grew up in. The citizens attending the town meeting decided whether a new snow plow should be purchased, etc.

PS I knew I had you when I quoted Molly Ivins. Just kidding -- I know where you stand. Anyhow, let's do the right thing, in her memory.

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