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Good morning and welcome to The Rundown. If you haven't had a minute to scan the headlines, here's one of our faves: "Anonymous source tells reporters he's tired of being speaker of the House." Best, Your AEI Foreign and Defense Policy Studies team
Tweet of the Week
Sadanand Dhume @dhume Kaplan: “On the whole, Asian dictators have performed better than Middle Eastern ones.” http://bit.ly/1gNKL5D
In the News
In the first attack targeting Christians in Cairo since the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, gunmen killed three people when they opened fire on a wedding party outside a Coptic church. In response to Aaron David Miller’s recent claim that the Middle East is “not nearly as important as it used to be,” David Adesnik (a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in residence at AEI) retorts, “I have no idea how to summon the optimism necessary to suggest the al Qaeda threat is now minimal, whether in Syria or Iraq, that Egypt doesn’t have a problem with extremism, and that Hamas and Hezbollah are being contained.” Read Michael Rubin's reaction to the news that Turkey betrayed spies to Iran. (In short, “Turkey has become more an enemy than an ally.”) Check out Ahmad Majidyar's new Middle Eastern Outlook. His thesis: “The spillover effects of the Syrian civil war — a sectarian conflict between the Shi’ite Iran -Hezbollah-Assad axis and the opposition groups backed by regional Sunni governments — are threatening the Sunni-Shi’ite stability in the UAE, Qatar, and
to a lesser degree, Oman.”
Bracing for further cuts, senior officials at the US Department of Defense have announced that the Pentagon will slow spending in anticipation of spending caps remaining in place throughout 2014. Mackenzie Eaglen penned an op-ed for US News & World Report to reiterate the grave threat that sequestration represents for the US economy and the nation’s long-term fiscal health. She writes, “As Congress steps back from the brink yet again and prepares to enter the next round of budget talks, policymakers should be clear-eyed that sequestration is no victory for budget hawks. Indeed, the sequester fails to address the true driver of the national debt while needlessly sacrificing America's national security.” To address the areas of Pentagon spending that are crowding out critical investments, AEI invited John L. Kokulis to propose reforms to military health benefits. In “Preserving the military health care benefit: Needed steps for reform,” Kokulis argues, “It is unrealistic to expect that the status quo of military benefits can persist in a time of contracting budgets. Left unchecked, military health care costs will consume the defense budget, hindering vital modernization.” For an incisive critique of the government’s procurement practices, check out Bill Greenwalt's Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The lunacy of 'fairness' in government contracting .” Greenwalt argues, “If taxpayers are to get the most for the $500 billion in federal contracts awarded each year, the acquisition system must be reformed to allow ‘best value’ solutions like Amazon's without having to endure months of litigation. Until that time, the government will continue to keep getting ‘least value’ solutions.”
In a widely cited editorial published by China’s state news agency Xinhua, Beijing forcefully criticized American leadership and called for emerging economies to forge a new world order that would be insulated from the vagaries of America’s domestic politics. Fiscal constraints, war-weariness, and isolationism are eroding the American will to actively engage in the world. Does it matter that the bipartisan commitment to leadership is beginning to crumble? Bookmark AEI's YouTube page for answers in a forthcoming video from the cochairs of AEI’s American Internationalism Project, former Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). And circle back to AEI.org soon to read Kyl and Lieberman’s op-ed on the devastating economic consequences that mandated defense cuts will entail. Can America afford to turn a blind eye to the turmoil in the Middle East? Can it afford to, as Sarah Palin memorably put it, “let Allah sort it out?” Check out Phillip Lohaus's take on AEIdeas, “Rand Paul and the religious politics of isolationism.” For a timely conversation about the direction of US foreign policy, including an assessment of the Asia pivot and Afghanistan strategy post-2014, RSVP for the Foreign Policy Initiative’s October 22 forum titled “ Will America lead?” This year’s forum will feature remarks from Senator John McCain (R -AZ), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), David Ignatius, William Kristol, and AEI’s Frederick W. Kagan.
In a sign that slowing Asian demand is blunting the effectiveness of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s stimulus policies, Japan’s export growth fell well short of expectations in September. John Kerry took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times on Friday to reaffirm America’s commitment to the Asia pivot, but succeeded only in further calling into question the pivot’s seriousness. Here’s Michael Mazza's analysis of Kerry’s head-scratching op-ed. Reacting to the news that China has invested more than $45 billion (excluding bonds) in the first half of 2013 alone, Derek Scissors writes: “Some acquisitions make sense; others do not. ZhongRong wants to recreate London’s Crystal Palace, a 19th century wonder that burned down in 1936 and is missed by no one except ZhongRong’s chairman. . . . Is China wasting money on high-profile real estate assets as Japan did? The answer now appears to be yes, and it may bear on the health of the Chinese economy.” AEI’s Dan Blumenthal will weigh in on Asia policy this week at two different events in the DC area. RSVP for “Beyond rebalancing: Realizing security objectives in the Asia-Pacific region” (hosted by the Project 2049 and the US-ASEAN Business Council) here. RSVP for “Southeast Asia policy: Beyond the happy talk” (hosted by the Heritage Foundation) here.
Russian authorities are investigating a suicide bombing that tore through a bus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on Monday. In his recently published research report “Sowing the dragon's teeth: The Kremlin's reactionary policies,” Leon Aron argues that the Putin regime has chosen to address economic challenges with authoritarian consolidation, buying short-term stability at the expense of long-term prosperity and progress. He writes, “The Kremlin’s strategy is characterized by selective recovery of Soviet symbols and ideology, doctored history, patriotic education, anti-Westernism, and intolerance. . . .These policies will only encourage polarization, radicalism, and zero-sum politics of hatred, further complicating the post-Putin transition to long-term democratic stability.”
Best of Blogs
Here is the best of what AEI's foreign and defense policy scholars are reading this week: Ilan Berman in Forbes: The problem with making a nuclear deal with Iran David Ignatius in The Washington Post: Turkey blows Israel's cover for Iranian spy ring Nick Gray in The Commentator: Whatever happened to Hamas? Victor Davis Hanson in National Review: America is intervened out Sen. Marco Rubio in USA Today: Keep heat on Iran nuclear talks
Admiral Gary Roughead (ret.) in The Hill: Rebalancing the defense budget James Kirchick in New York Daily News: Give the Nobel to the US military Abhijit Singh in The Diplomat: The creeping militarization of the Arctic Damien Ma in Bloomberg View: Hey China, stop laughing at the US Ray Takeyh in The Washington Post: The world must tell Iran: No more half-steps
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