This Monday, the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report was released. My colleague, Mark Lagon, adjunct senior fellow for human rights at the Council on Foreign Relations, offers his assessment.
Despite some eschewing petulant partisanship in foreign policy, it is rampant. However, the June 27, 2011 release of the 11th annual U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report is a tribute to a bipartisan policy that works.
The report assesses efforts worldwide to combat human trafficking, which enslaves victims for labor or sexual exploitation. Sometimes victims are moved across borders (like guest workers in construction in the Persian Gulf, or undocumented agricultural workers in Washington State which I’ve discussed with State Attorney General Rob McKenna), and sometimes not (like the estimated 100,000 prostituted minors in the U.S., or the millions of Dalits in bonded labor in India).
Above the Fold. The reactions this week by proponents of the Afghanistan surge to President Obama’s decision to withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops over the next year bring to mind the advice supposedly given to lawyers about to try a case: If the facts are with you, pound the facts. If the facts are against you, pound the table. There is a lot of table pounding going on in Washington these days. Supporters of the surge are invoking the specter of rising isolationism. It’s easy to see why they are making this charge. “Isolationism” is a losing label in American politics, much like “liberal” or “reactionary.” No one wants to get stuck with it. But is the charge true? No. The percentage of Americans who think the United States should mind its own business overseas is actually down three percentage points over the past two years, according to Pew Research Center polls. Among Republicans the number is up a scant two percentage points over the same two-year-period—in the context of a poll, that difference is background noise. The fact is that supporters of the surge are losing the argument on the merits. What is rising isn’t isolationism but an understandable skepticism after ten years of promises that our policy in Afghanistan will work and be worth it if it does. To suggest otherwise is to engage in what someone I greatly admire calls “argument by epithet.” That’s a high brow way to say “pound the table.”
CFR Event of the Week. Judith McHale, undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department, stopped by CFR this week to speak with James Rubin, executive editor of Bloomberg View, about the future of U.S. public diplomacy in light of the Arab Spring. McHale highlighted the importance of reaching out to the majority of people rather than only to political leaders. CFR.org has made the audio and video of the event available, or if you prefer the traditional approach you can read the transcript.
Read of the Week. Al Gore provides a nice primer in the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine on the evidence that suggests that human activity is changing the global climate. The news media and the blogosphere have jumped all over the article because Gore argues that President Obama “has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change.” What gets lost in that framing of what Gore wrote is his broader analysis of how the strengths of our political system frustrate efforts to take the steps needed to avoid fundamentally altering the climate. Here’s something any economist or political scientist would be happy to explain: decisions that are rational for individuals to make can produce outcomes that are irrational for society as a whole.
Blog Post of the Week. David Rothkopf questions the assumption popular with many political candidates—and much of the American public—that presidents should take their lead on defense matters from “the generals.” (That formulation presumably includes admirals as well.) He rightly notes that “nothing teaches skepticism of the advice of military leaders like the experience of warfare. President Lincoln discovered it. Roosevelt did too. So did Truman, Kennedy and Johnson.”
Above the Fold. Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave a valedictory speech to NATO members last week in Brussels. His message was pointed: NATO faces “the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance.” Gates has despaired about NATO’s future before, so last week’s frustrations are neither new nor surprising. Reactions in Europe to Gates’s remarks have been mixed. Some Europeans found it ungenerous given that they “honourably joined the US after 9/11 in its costly Afghan war on the ‘all-for-one’ principle, although no other state had then been attacked.” Other Europeans believe that Gates “was far too nice about NATO’s failings.” The question of NATO’s relevance isn’t going to go away. Europe’s fiscal problems and demographics make it likely that European defense spending will fall rather than rise. Meanwhile, sentiment on this side of the Atlantic continues to grow that the United States needs to rethink how it does business overseas and with whom. (Check out Richard Haass’s piece in the Washington Post’s Outlook section this Sunday on this score.) It’s still too early to perform NATO’s last rites. But the alliance is in its old age, and not everyone thinks it should search for a fountain of youth.
CFR Event of the Week. CFR hosted a symposium this week to discuss next steps in immigration reform. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told CFR President Richard Haass that the United States risks “national suicide” if it doesn’t change course on immigration. If Mayor Bloomberg wanted to turn heads on this important topic, he succeeded. You can watch the video, read the full transcript, or embrace another Bloomberg policy priority and throw the audio of his remarks on your MP3 player before you hit the gym. In the clip below, Bloomberg addresses the issue of high-skill visas.
The Water’s Edge examines the political forces shaping American foreign policy, the sustainability of American power, and the ability of the United States to navigate a rapidly changing world.
In The Hacked World Order, CFR Senior Fellow Adam Segal shows how governments use the web to wage war and spy on, coerce, and damage each other. More
Red Team provides an in-depth investigation into the work of red teams, revealing the best practices, most common pitfalls, and most effective applications of these modern-day devil's advocates. More
Through insightful analysis and engaging graphics, How America Stacks Up explores how the United States can keep pace with global economic competition. More
India now matters to U.S. interests in virtually every dimension. This Independent Task Force report assesses the current situation in India and the U.S.-India relationship, and suggests a new model for partnership with a rising India.
Rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries are increasing faster than in wealthier countries. The report outlines a plan for collective action on this growing epidemic.
This report asserts that elevating and prioritizing the U.S.-Canada-Mexico relationship offers the best opportunity for strengthening the United States and its place in the world.
Williams argues that the status quo for peace operations in untenable and that greater U.S. involvement is necessary to enhance the quality and success of peacekeeping missions.
The authors argue that the United States has responded inadequately to the rise of Chinese power and recommend placing less strategic emphasis on the goal of integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.