Good afternoon, and welcome to week four of “The Rundown,” your source for foreign and defense policy

events and analysis from the American Enterprise Institute. Did we mention we tweet? We’re @AEIfdp, and we’re coming up on 4,000 followers. Could you be lucky number 4,000? The winner gets lunch with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, Moscow, Quito, jail a strong sense of hipness about foreign and defense policy. Complaints? Recommendations? You know where to find us. Danielle Pletka Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, Vice President dpletka@aei.org Alexandra Della Rocchetta Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, Program Manager adr@aei.org Stephan Burklin Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, Communications Assistant stephan.burklin@aei.org

Tweet of the Week
Ahmad Majidyar @majidyar @majidyar: Taliban leader Mullah Omar vowed to take Kabul 'within one week' of US pullout fxn.ws/146K2Eo

In the News
Defense
Reuters reported that budget cuts are forcing the Pentagon to suspend most routine investigations used to update security clearances for defense contractor employees. ICYMI: Mackenzie Eaglen's latest piece for Time's Battleland tackles the unchecked boost in Pentagon civilian manpower, which remarkably has occurred since the US economic crisis in 2008. Eaglen writes, "If Secretary Chuck Hagel really wants to lead by example — and demonstrate a commitment to long-overdue internal reform — there is no smarter place to start than with his own over-populated staff." This July will mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, no doubt the highlight of our Civil War observances this year. Please join us as we host Allen Guelzo, the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, for a lecture and reception at AEI. Gettysburg at 150: The battle and a nation reborn will tackle the significance of what proved to be a turning point in the American experience.

Syria

In the latest sign that the Syrian conflict is spreading, the Lebanese military has dispatched a tank to battle followers of a hardline Sunni cleric taking refuge in a mosque in Sidon. Danielle Pletka's recent op-ed in Foreign Policy responds to the news that that President Barack Obama has decided to arm the rebels in Syria. Perhaps. Maybe small arms, maybe not. Pletka writes, "The news slipped out much in the way that foreign policy has been conducted throughout the Obama administration -- in whispers and asides that bear little imprimatur from the commander in chief himself." Read more here.

Asia
Indications by US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the Fed would begin reining in its monetary stimulus program roiled Asian markets last week. Free trade agreements are driving a period of economic change in Asia. Just a few days before the June 7 –9 summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, the Chinese commerce department announced that China is studying the possibility of joining Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. What are the benefits of and obstacles to Asian integration, and what are the implications for America’s economic recovery? AEI's Dan Blumenthal will host a discussion on these issues and more at AEI on June 28, Asia's economic future: What's the outlook for trade and integration?

Afghanistan
Following a diplomatic kerfuffle over a recently opened Taliban office in Doha, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US would like to see proposed peace talks with the Taliban resume. Check out Marc Thiessen's Washington Post column this week on the folly of negotiating with the Taliban.

Miscellaneous
In his speech in Berlin last week, President Obama defended the data-mining programs of the US government and pledged to cut America’s strategic nuclear weapons by one-third if Russia agrees to do the same. For a primer on President Obama's new nuclear strategy, check out AEI's Jon Kyl's op-ed in Time, "Obama's nuke cut proposal: Unilateral and risky." He writes, "The Administration has spoken with different voices on whether it will even commit to abide by the established, and bipartisan, tradition of seeking Senate ratification for nuclear reductions. . . . The President would be well suited to follow the counsel of his Vice President, and assure the Senate that he will not attempt to make these reductions without its concurrence."

Best of the Blogs
Marc Thiessen takes inventory of the best of what AEI's foreign and defense policy scholars are reading this week: Max Boot at Commentary Magazine on "A poor argument against Syria intervention" Michael Singh at The Washington Post writes, "Iranian actions speak louder than election results" Amartya Sen at The New York Times explores "Why India trails China" Joshua Mitnick at The Christian Science Monitor writes, "Israel has struck energy gold offshore"

Mark Dubowitz at The Atlantic explains "Why you shouldn't get too excited about Rouhani" Bill Gertz at The Washington Free Beacon writes, "Al-Qaeda terrorist threat is growing" Joseph Hammond at The Diplomat discusses "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's African safari" Lee Smith at The Weekly Standard writes, "Obama's Syria policy a mess" Khaled Hosseini at USA Today urges, "Afghanistan gains must not be lost" Anna Neistat at CNN's GPS blog writes, "Welcome to Russia's Syria doublespeak" Michaela Dodge at Fox News on "Obama's misguided magical thinking about nuclear weapons" Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg writes, "Pentagon shoots down Kerry's Syria airstrike plan"
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