New Article in The Hill – Assad Must Go

The HillBradley Bosserman published an article in The Hill this morning analyzing the implications of the proposed agreement over Syrian chemical weapons. The piece argues that the seemingly contradictory aims of securing chemical weapons and ushering in a transitional government can best be achieved by focusing US policy toward the goal of quickly ending the conflict.

Effectively securing these weapons in the midst of a civil war will be functionally impossible and setting the precedent that gassing your citizens can be a strategy for extracting powerful concessions would weaken norms against chemical weapons use, not strengthen them. The stated policy of the United States is to aid the opposition, support the transition to a post-Assad government, and secure the country’s vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. The only way to reconcile these objectives is to actively seek an end to the conflict and usher in a more responsible, transitional government. As the White House has said, Assad must go.

Read the full article here.

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Policy Brief – Intervention in Syria Needs to be Tied to a Larger Strategy

Image: Handout of U.S. President Obama meeting with national security staff to discuss Syria in White HouseToday we have released a new Policy Brief analyzing some of the problems with the Administration’s current approach to winning support for Syria authorization and laying out a framework for a more convincing and strategy-led argument. We believe that:

The U.S. has already rightfully chosen sides in this conflict, sending aid, training, weapons, and logistical support to the rebels. Decoupling this latest action from these ongoing efforts to support the opposition and from the stated policy aim of regime change simply makes no sense. If the administration is going to convince the Congress, the country, and the world that military intervention is now the proper response, they must address this fundamental dissonance by articulating a cogent vision of American involvement in the region that ties the ongoing – and proposed – actions in Syria to American values and concrete U.S. interests. Only then will the President be able to make a compelling case for not only his Syria policy, but also a broader agenda of engagement. There should be at least three components to this argument:

  • Preventing  nuclear weaponization of Iran and constraining its foreign policy adventurism is a legitimate aim of U.S. policy.
  • We need to encourage more constructive engagement from our Gulf partners.
  • We need to help empower more modern and pluralistic forces vis-a-vis violent and radical groups who seek to destroy the emergence of open, tolerant, and prosperous societies.

Download the full Syria Policy Brief.

Update: This report is also available En Español

Quoted in The Hill — President Obama takes flak over Egypt

The Hill

“Where we missed an opportunity over the past year and a half in dealing with Egypt is not that we supported the wrong people, but that we missed an opportunity to support institutions and to really apply pressure where we had it,” said Bradley Bosserman, director of the Middle East and North Africa initiative at the New Policy Institute.

“We need be much more outspoken going forward to make sure that there’s actual, legitimate processes and institutions for people to voice their opinion. We can do all of that while recognizing that the Egyptian people are going to vote for who they want,” he said.

Bosserman said Congress is part of the problem. He said Obama laid out a path forward for the Middle East in his 2009 Cairo speech but failed to follow through with specific incentives, in part because Congress has blocked efforts to approve his $770 million incentive fund designed to advance democratic and economic reforms in Arab Spring countries.

Read the full article here

OpEd in The Hill: Time for GOP to Move Beyond Benghazi

The Hill


Time for GOP to Move Beyond Benghazi

by Bradley Bosserman

After 11 congressional hearings, an independent review and the release of 100 pages of relevant interagency emails about Benghazi, all serious questions about the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Libya have been answered. Only political grandstanding remains — and the stakes in the Middle East and North Africa are far too high for the American people to tolerate point-scoring in lieu of genuine action.

In his May address at the National Defense University, President Obama observed that moving forward in the region will require not only a new strategy, but also a new politics. Republican members of Congress have been doggedly focused on perceived shortcomings of U.S. policy in Middle East, but they should now apply that vigor to serious bipartisan efforts to aid the democratic transitions throughout the Arab world, protect American personnel abroad, secure US interests and give our government the tools it needs to plan and execute a real, long-term Middle East strategy. Congressional Republicans can show that they are serious about these goals by pursuing at least these three critical policies:

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A Clintonian Foreign Policy in Obama’s Second Term

Obama and Bill ClintonDuring his fifth State of the Union, President Obama articulated a foreign policy vision that can pretty accurately be described as modest. On nearly all fronts he displayed a preference for restraint and moderation, rather than bold engagement abroad. There was one notable exception, however: Trade. The President outlined a second-term trade agenda that is as ambitious as anything we’ve seen since the 1990’s. Completing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and launching a new round of US-EU FTA talks holds the potential to bring about the broadest and most robust expansion of economic liberalization, harmonization, and engagement since the Uraguay round. For a President who has spent four years trying to constrain the scale and scope of traditional hard power, he appears much more comfortable allowing economic statecraft to be the face of American leadership overseas. In that way, Obama’s second term foreign policy may end up looking very Clintonian, and no I don’t mean Hillary.

Romney Stands Ready to Abandon the Middle East

In a window of a few short days, both Mitt Romney and Defense Secretary Panetta have descended on the Middle East, and the differences in the policy visions put forth by the two men could not be more stark. Romney has been consistently suspicious of the democracy movements throughout the Middle East and North Africa, going so far as to suggest that the Arab Spring has become an “Arab Winter.” If he does not support working with the region’s bourgeoning democratic institutions, then what underlies his strategy for a 21st century Middle East? One of his top foreign policy advisors suggested to the press that he would not oppose a unilateral (or perhaps U.S.-assisted) military strike on Iran. Never mind that a move like that would certainly send energy prices through the roof and cause a shock-wave of destabilizing ripple effects throughout the region. And as far as his approach to economic growth for these nations? He and members of his party have been highly critical of aid and financial support to the transition countries, and when he spoke to an audience at a fundraiser in Jerusalem he observed that the strength of the Israeli economy was based on their “culture” and “the hand of providence.” Policymakers in Tunisia struggling to consolidate democratic gains in the face of economic stagnation are unlikely to be inspired by the Governor’s suggestion that hope lies in simply appropriating Jewish culture and getting on God’s good side.

Secretary Panetta, in sharp contrast, ventured to Tunisia in order to develop a collaborative strategy “to support the Tunisian government’s efforts to strengthen the capacity of their defense institutions,” and help them defend their fragile democracy against al Qaeda and al Shabab. This defense support is in addition to an economic engagement program highlighted last month when Under Secretary of State Hormats visited Tunis. He explained that in addition to lobbying for the creation of a flexible Middle East and North African Incentive Fund to support moderates and democratic institutions, under President Obama’s leadership the “United States is helping stabilize the Tunisian economy by extending a guarantee that will enable the central bank to issue bonds worth several hundred million dollars to international investors…The United States provided a $100 million cash transfer to the Government of Tunisia for near-term debt relief…accelerating economic growth and job creation.”

While the President’s team offers support for these nascent democracies by aiding the development of their economies, institutions, and  counter-terrorism capacity—Mitt Romney appears perfectly happy to write-off the entire region as just another unlucky, uncultured, place that is best viewed through a rifle scope or the cockpit of a fighter jet.