Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 17, 2011

What to Do with States on the Verge of Bankruptcy

What to do about states in fiscal trouble — should they opt for bankruptcy, bailout, or default? — is a matter of great public consequence. If you’d like to hear an intelligent and thoroughgoing discussion on it, here’s a video from an e21 and Manhattan Institute event from earlier this week.

What to do about states in fiscal trouble — should they opt for bankruptcy, bailout, or default? — is a matter of great public consequence. If you’d like to hear an intelligent and thoroughgoing discussion on it, here’s a video from an e21 and Manhattan Institute event from earlier this week.

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Re: Re: U.S. Offering to Join in Israel Condemnation at UN

Hillary Clinton’s Tuesday schedule showed her going twice to the White House — first for a 3:30 p.m. meeting with the president and then again for a 5:15 p.m. meeting. Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg also had two meetings there — at 12:30 p.m. and again at 5:15 p.m. In light of Omri Ceren’s post — and Steinberg’s testimony last week before the House Foreign Affairs Committee — it seems clear what they were meeting about: the commitment to prevent a UN Security Council condemnation of Israeli settlements.

At the House hearing, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) told Steinberg he was irked because “the Palestinians are refusing to sit down with the Israelis and negotiate without all these ridiculous preconditions, which actually shouldn’t be preconditions at all. That’s what you negotiate about.” Engel argued that a UN resolution would reward the Palestinians for intransigence and urged the administration to indicate “unequivocally” it would veto it.

In his response, Steinberg said the Security Council was not the place to address the issue; the U.S. would “employ [its] tools” to make sure that did not happen; and the “only way” to resolve the issue was through negotiations: Read More

Hillary Clinton’s Tuesday schedule showed her going twice to the White House — first for a 3:30 p.m. meeting with the president and then again for a 5:15 p.m. meeting. Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg also had two meetings there — at 12:30 p.m. and again at 5:15 p.m. In light of Omri Ceren’s post — and Steinberg’s testimony last week before the House Foreign Affairs Committee — it seems clear what they were meeting about: the commitment to prevent a UN Security Council condemnation of Israeli settlements.

At the House hearing, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) told Steinberg he was irked because “the Palestinians are refusing to sit down with the Israelis and negotiate without all these ridiculous preconditions, which actually shouldn’t be preconditions at all. That’s what you negotiate about.” Engel argued that a UN resolution would reward the Palestinians for intransigence and urged the administration to indicate “unequivocally” it would veto it.

In his response, Steinberg said the Security Council was not the place to address the issue; the U.S. would “employ [its] tools” to make sure that did not happen; and the “only way” to resolve the issue was through negotiations:

[W]e have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues, and I have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that arise there. And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen, and we made clear both to the Palestinians and to our key partners that there are other venues to discuss these issues. But the most important one of which is the one that you identified, which is the only way that this is going to be resolved is through engagement through the parties, and that is our clear and consistent position. [emphasis added]

According to last night’s Foreign Policy report, the U.S. told Arab governments Tuesday that if the UN resolution were withdrawn, the U.S. would support a Security Council presidential statement stating that the Council “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process” — with an even stronger Quartet statement to follow at its scheduled March meeting. The offer was reportedly rejected yesterday, with the Arabs asking for a Security Council vote tomorrow, with a possibility of further last-minute negotiations on an alternative.

There is no practical difference between a resolution and a statement — not if words matter. The administration committed unequivocally last week to keep the issue out of the Security Council, where it does not belong, and the U.S. has the tools necessary to do that. One can only hope that the flurry of meetings Tuesday was about how to meet that commitment, not how to avoid it.

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The Nuclear Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Arab revolutions have overthrown autocrats, but whether they bring democracy, theocracy, or simply a new face to military dictatorship remains an open question. The only certainty is uncertainty. Against the backdrop of this revolutionary upheaval, it is time the Obama administration revisit one of the George W. Bush administration’s more misguided initiatives: the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). In 2006, the State Department announced that the program was designed “to envision a future where we can bring the benefits of nuclear power to the developing world.” Amongst those developing countries to which the Departments of State and Energy sought to transfer nuclear technology were Egypt and Yemen.

The logic behind GNEP transfers was that provision of “safe” nuclear technology might tie these countries to the United States and make their energy programs reliant on proliferation-proof technologies. The problem was, however, that proliferation experts did not agree that the technology supplied was proliferation-proof, only proliferation-resistant. When I attended a small group discussion with Hosni Mubarak’s son and presumed successor Gamal Mubarak in 2006, he said, literally with a wink, that Egypt sought to have a civilian nuclear energy program “just like Iran.”

In 2008, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman met Hosni Mubarak to trumpet Egypt’s GNEP participation. Partners, observers, and invitees include Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Congress has dragged its feet on funding GNEP but hasn’t eliminated funding all together. Perhaps the Republicans are waiting to be in the majority in the House of Representatives?  Nor has the Obama administration abandoned its own efforts to supply these regimes with nuclear material. Perhaps the lesson of the 2011 revolutions is that it is never wise to encourage nuclear development in any dictatorship or radical state. Then again, if Obama’s intelligence chief believes the Muslim Brotherhood is a secular organization, why not give the group that spawned Hamas and al-Qaeda nuclear technology, and at American taxpayer expense no less?

The Arab revolutions have overthrown autocrats, but whether they bring democracy, theocracy, or simply a new face to military dictatorship remains an open question. The only certainty is uncertainty. Against the backdrop of this revolutionary upheaval, it is time the Obama administration revisit one of the George W. Bush administration’s more misguided initiatives: the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). In 2006, the State Department announced that the program was designed “to envision a future where we can bring the benefits of nuclear power to the developing world.” Amongst those developing countries to which the Departments of State and Energy sought to transfer nuclear technology were Egypt and Yemen.

The logic behind GNEP transfers was that provision of “safe” nuclear technology might tie these countries to the United States and make their energy programs reliant on proliferation-proof technologies. The problem was, however, that proliferation experts did not agree that the technology supplied was proliferation-proof, only proliferation-resistant. When I attended a small group discussion with Hosni Mubarak’s son and presumed successor Gamal Mubarak in 2006, he said, literally with a wink, that Egypt sought to have a civilian nuclear energy program “just like Iran.”

In 2008, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman met Hosni Mubarak to trumpet Egypt’s GNEP participation. Partners, observers, and invitees include Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Congress has dragged its feet on funding GNEP but hasn’t eliminated funding all together. Perhaps the Republicans are waiting to be in the majority in the House of Representatives?  Nor has the Obama administration abandoned its own efforts to supply these regimes with nuclear material. Perhaps the lesson of the 2011 revolutions is that it is never wise to encourage nuclear development in any dictatorship or radical state. Then again, if Obama’s intelligence chief believes the Muslim Brotherhood is a secular organization, why not give the group that spawned Hamas and al-Qaeda nuclear technology, and at American taxpayer expense no less?

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