U.S. Ambassador to Libya Killed
How the debt will cripple national security, Dempsey heads to Turkey, and more.
Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Foreign Policy's Situation Report. Follow me @glubold or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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An anti-Islamic video sparked attacks against Americans. The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other embassy officials, were killed in an attack at the consulate in Benghazi overnight after storming the building. It was one of two attacks against Americans, the other in Cairo, that was sparked after an amateur, American-made video demeaning the Prophet Mohammed and Islam surfaced on the Internet. It was the first death of an American diplomat overseas in more than two decades. http://nyti.ms/PaZ71n
Crushing debt will kill the country’s ability to maintain national security and conduct smart foreign policy. That sentiment is one of the hardest messages to carry to the American people these days but it’s a must-read memo, say former senators Pete Domenici and Sam Nunn, a duo embarking on a campaign to tell anyone who will listen that getting its fiscal house in order is inextricably linked to American foreign policy and national security. With U.S. debt approaching unsustainable levels, America’s ability to solve problems overseas — before or after conflict arises — is reduced dramatically, Nunn told Situation Report. "We’re in a position to do some things, but we’re not in a position to do very much," he said.
The debt already restrains and will restrain further the ability of the Pentagon to send hospital ships to places like South America to do preventive care, or to offer aid to countries that need assistance as an alternative to settling their problems through violence, Nunn and Domenici said.
They are clearly not the first to sound the alarm. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen caused ripples two years ago when he said that the single biggest threat to national security wasn’t al-Qaida or Iran or North Korea, but a debt on which U.S. taxpayers will have to pay $600 billion in interest this year alone. The link between national security and the debt had been made before, even by those in uniform.
Nunn, the retired Democrat from Georgia, and Domenici, the retired Republican from New Mexico, are bringing together a bipartisan group for a series of discussions in Washington this month at CSIS that will include former senators Evan Bayh and Warren Rudman and feature James Baker III, Robert Rubin. The first event is today. Next week, the panel will hold a more specific discussion on national security with more "heavyweights" to be announced this morning.
Naturally, both men believe sequestration is not the way to go: "[It] is a very rotten way to legislate, and it is a real affront to the [defense] institution," Domenici said. But their beef isn’t with sequestration per se but with the country’s much larger fiscal problems overall. (Although Nunn believes that there are many areas in the defense budget to cut – including entitlements like healthcare and retirement benefits. But not too quickly. "You can’t jerk it out under those who are retired or about to retire. Those changes have to be made over the long-term, over five to 10 years," he said.)
"The reason Sam and I decided to do this is because it just seems that the current leadership at all levels is failing to tell the American people with the kind of strength and power that is necessary… that this great nation cannot have a fiscal policy that knows no limits of how much you can borrow," Domenici said.
Dempsey will visit Turkey, Syria. Kevin Baron of the E-Ring reports that Gen. Dempsey will visit the two countries this week to discuss Syrian instability, Afghanistan, and other issues. That includes things like safe zones, areas in which some of the 80,000-some Syrian refugees fleeing into Turkey could reside. But the safe zones would require no-fly zones to protect them, a major step to which no one is yet sure they want to take. http://bit.ly/OX1zJd
The state of secrecy. Under the Obama administration, FOIA requests increased by 5 percent while the backlog of responding to them grew by 20 percent; and of 229 federal Circuit Court whistleblower decisions, 226 were against whistleblowers. The fiscal 2012 caseload for whistleblowers is about 10 percent above fiscal 2011’s numbers. And whistleblower disclosures of waste, fraud, and abuse? The numbers are 32 percent over last year’s level. All this according to a report released this morning by OpenTheGovernment.org: http://bit.ly/NnTTS0
Tear down that cyber wall. Killer Apps’ John Reed says the Pentagon is responding to the staggering number of cyber attacks to its more than 15,000 networks by using more automated technologies to detect the kind of suspicious software that tries to slip into those systems every day. John: "This is all part of DoD’s effort to stop playing cyber defense by building a massive, imaginary wall around its online information — something that many cyber experts have said for years is a failing strategy since an enemy will always figure out how to breach a cyber wall." http://bit.ly/OSwCE7
The nun and the nukes. This summer, an 82-year-old nun and two other "peace activists" armed with "flashlights, binoculars, bolt cutters, bread, flowers, a Bible, and several hammers," breached security at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility outside Knoxville. Details from the Department of Energy’s IG report show just how easy it was for the group to penetrate what is supposed to be a "half-billion dollar vault" storing the fixins’ for about 15,000 nuclear bombs, R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity writes on FP. The facility was to be built underground as the best defense — all Iranian style — but at the last minute designers decided it should be built above ground, because…it would be "easier to defend." http://bit.ly/RJBXNX
A team from Disney helped design the NCTC Ops Center. In Amy Zegart’s piece on "spytainment" on FP, Zegart asks whether there is too much Hollywood in our intelligence policy. This is tantalizing: she notes that while the Langley building may look dated, the NCTC operations center, in contrast, was built with the help from a team from Disney the government flew to Washington. Zegart: "Today, the relationship between Hollywood and Washington is cozier than ever, with the CIA pitching movie storylines on its web site and the Pentagon forward-deploying to Los Angeles, setting up entertainment liaison offices there." She writes that twice as many of the top 25 universities this year offered courses on the history of rock n’ roll than intelligence, and also that since 9/11, of the 2,000 articles in the top three academic journals, only three examined intelligence issues. http://bit.ly/RJAVB
- Reuters: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, three other American officials, die during escape from consulate in Benghazi.http://reut.rs/PhIIXC
- Telegraph: A profile of Stevens. http://bit.ly/OpFrdD
- NYT: Netanyahu criticizes Obama for failing to set clear "red lines" on Iranian nukes, says U.S. has no "moral right" to restrain Israel. http://nyti.ms/P9XmSs <http://nyti.ms/P9XmSs>
- Haaretz: White House declines request to meet with Netanyahu in NY. http://bit.ly/ODYlJx <http://bit.ly/ODYlJx>
Nexus of politics and national security
- Romney makes national security, foreign policy pitch on 9/11 in Reno http://n.pr/RJvWRd <http://n.pr/RJvWRd>
- The Cable: Romney slams Obama on attack and failed Middle East policies
- CBS with Panetta: "We’re not going to accept this kind of behavior." http://cbsn.ws/QJJLz
- WaPo: Panetta sounds off on book, defense cuts. http://wapo.st/QbFuZc
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children. Twitter: @glubold
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