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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Next National Security

By Jack d'Annibale and Richard Arthur

Last week, the USNS Mercy hospital ship completed its mission to Cambodia as part of the United States Navy's Pacific Partnership. Among the 29,000 patients treated by Navy doctors and Cambodian medical staff was a small boy who underwent a successful surgery. During pre-op, an attentive sailor spotted the boy's mother struggling to walk through a passageway on the ship. After a timely diagnosis and successful cataract surgery, mother joined son in post-op recovery with vision restored in both her eyes.

In spite of these stories, the Mercy's civic assistance mission did not generate prominent headlines. Granted, humanitarian work is far less sexy than, say, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan getting fired for mocking civilian officials in a magazine article. However, it's crucial to keep the Mercy in mind, as it illuminates what is sure to be a vital element of our national security posture for years to come. For centuries the U.S. Navy has practiced gunboat diplomacy; today it is adding a new skill set, "hospital ship diplomacy."

In the last days of 2004, the USS Lincoln Carrier Strike Group raced to tsunami-ravaged Indonesia. Round-the-clock relief missions saved tens of thousands of lives in the aftermath of the disaster. They also radically changed Indonesians' attitudes toward America. Polls revealed the people of Indonesia -- the world's largest Muslim country -- gave the United States a 90 percent approval rating -- a mighty step up from a traditional rating of 45 percent. Though it's hard to put a price tag on this sort of goodwill, it's surely a valuable possession in the fight against radicalized violent Islam.

Embracing the relief mission's impact, the Navy soon launched an ongoing program that would eventually fall under the umbrella of Pacific Partnership. In 2006, the Mercy steamed into the South China Sea -- the first proactive deployment of a U.S. Navy hospital ship in history. The vessel has been leading humanitarian missions in the Pacific sphere since, treating roughly 150,000 people in 10 partner nations. Similar training missions are now regularly conducted by the USNS Comfort in the Atlantic.

Last week, the passageways of the Mercy bustled with Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen, as well as personnel from the State Department and USAID, the United States Agency for International Development. Together, these Americans, working alongside Cambodian officials, foreign officers and NGO partners, fanned out across the countryside, treating and healing the sick, repairing and updating medical clinics, rebuilding local schools and drilling community water wells.

Each surgical procedure and engineering feat added to the expertise and skill of American and Cambodian doctors and community leaders. The surgeries on the Cambodian mother and son not only changed their lives for the better, but also prepared local doctors to restore and save other lives in the future. The impact of the Mercy's few days spent anchored in the coastal waters of Cambodia will be felt for a generation to come.

The successes of this diverse group of American emissaries speak to an underlying strategy championed by the Obama administration. In recent remarks at the Brookings Institution, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touted the administration's "whole of government approach" to foreign policy, that defense, diplomacy and development are part of an integrated mission to increase security and prosperity, both at home and abroad.

While the Pentagon and the State Department are usual suspects when it comes to advancing American interests, USAID is not so well known. Founded in 1961 by President Kennedy, USAID is the U.S. government's principal foreign aid agency. President Obama has put new emphasis on international development, calling it a "moral, strategic and economic imperative." In his recently released National Security Strategy, the President promises that USAID will promote security and economic growth by assaulting the conditions where criminal and terrorist activity thrive -- rampant poverty, hunger, illness, illiteracy and political unrest.

Building on this new, energized approach to development, USAID's administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, promises an entrepreneurial spirit and unprecedented level of transparency when it comes to agency spending. In short, Dr. Shah has promised the American people the biggest possible bang for their international aid buck.

However, there are some who believe that a dollar spent to improve conditions in a foreign land is mostly a dollar wasted, particularly in these times of financial constraint. Nothing could be further from the truth. International development amounts to less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Plus, when spent well, humanitarian dollars reap huge returns to the economic and security interests of the United States of America.

Consider South Korea. In 1953, postwar Korea was shell shocked and starving. Universal primary education was a dream, resources were scant, and the average income per person was a meager $890 per year. America's development dollars helped build that nation's infrastructure, school system and economy from the ground up. Today, primary education in Korea is at 100 percent, the average annual income is $17,000 and South Korea is one of America's strongest allies.

Consider the value of development aid for a U.S. soldier standing post in South Korea. How much more dangerous would his mission be today without a strong and free South Korea? Consider the electrical machinist in Minneapolis who is earning a good wage and providing for his family because his employer does business with South Korea's free market economy.

Yes, South Korea's success story has been decades in the making. Yes, development is a painstaking, long-term enterprise. But, as Secretary Clinton recently remarked, "It's the right thing to do and it's the smart thing to do."

In the coming weeks, the men and women of the Mercy will continue their mission, returning to Indonesia and Timor-Leste, doing their part to lay the groundwork for what could be a wave of 21st-century success stories like South Korea.

The risk and personal sacrifice of humanitarian and civil assistance missions are shared by our servicemen as well as USAID personnel and contractors. Their stories of service and sacrifice compose a larger vision of strong, principled, progressive American leadership writing a new chapter in world affairs -- a story of countless mothers and sons living in wellness not sickness, in prosperity not poverty, in triumph not tragedy.

Why do they believe in this vision? Why do we?

It's the smart thing to do. It's the right thing to do.


Jack d'Annibale is the Founder of R.W.L. Public Strategies and a Truman National Security Fellow.

Richard Arthur is a naval officer, filmmaker, television writer and fellow for the Truman National Security Project. His views do not necessarily represent those of the United States Navy.

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Make Royals the Nation’s Ambassadors: Prince

Members of the royal family should be appointed to ambassadorial positions, where their political neutrality and high educations can serve Cambodia, an outspoken prince says.

The royalists have diminished rapidly as a political force in recent years. But members of the royal family still have “high knowledge” in the constitutional monarchy, said Sisowath Thomico, chief of cabinet for retired king Norodom Sihanouk.

The royal family currently has just one ambassador; Norodom Arunrasmy, the former king’s daughter, is ambassador to Malaysia.

Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment, but Cheam Yiep, a National Assembly lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said he personally supports the idea.

“These are the high officials of our Kingdom of Cambodia,” he said.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said in other countries, royal families work on social issues, charity or justice. Positioning royals as ambassadors would not be politically neutral, as those appointments would come through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The royal family has gradually lost political power. Sihanouk stepped down in 2004, ending a long career of statesmanship, and in subsequent years, the royalist parties have lost support.

Around 30 members within the royal bloodlines have ceased politics, Sisowath Thomico said. The royal family has sometimes feuded, or members have opposed each other in politics. But that’s in the past, he said.

“Royal family members almost all have stopped doing politics and have come to serve the king, serve the throne and serve the nation in a different way,” he said.

Ambassadorships could be one way they might contribute, he said.

Sisowath Seryroth, second vice president of the Funcinpec party, said royalists should not leave politics, not “until there is a law stipulated by the National Assembly and Senate that bans royal family members from doing politics.”
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Decades after genocide, is justice even possible?

By Matthew D. LaPlante
The Salt Lake Tribune

Sath Prum was just a boy when the Khmer Rouge came to take away his father. But he was old enough to know that he would never see his dad again.

“I knew that they would execute him,” Prum said. “They tied him up and put a blindfold on him. I didn’t know where they were going to take him. I didn’t know how it would be done. I just knew that he would be killed.”

Prum’s sister, two brothers and a brother-in-law were also killed during Pol Pot’s four-year reign of terror in Cambodia, when about 1.7 million people died of hunger, disease and execution.
On July 26, Cambodians scattered across the world will gather around computers, television sets and radios to hear the verdict in the case of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as “Comrade Duch,” who oversaw a Khmer Rouge prison system in which thousands of Cambodians were tortured and executed between 1975 and 1979.

Three decades have passed, but Duch is the only Khmer Rouge leader who has been tried for crimes against humanity. Pol Pot died in 1998. The trials of four additional defendants are expected to begin later this year. But it is uncertain if the U.N.-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia will indict many others — if anyone at all.

And that has left many Cambodians, like Prum, feeling as though the tribunal has failed to achieve anything resembling justice.

“It’s too late to save anyone,” said Prum, a 49-year-old assembly line worker who lives in West Valley City. “They cannot give me my father back.”

The handful of indicted leaders “are very old now,” Prum said. “They’re going to die soon anyway. So what is the point?”

Donor countries have poured more than $100 million into the tribunal, but on the eve of the Duch verdict, Japan sent an emergency payment of $2.26 million to keep the cash-strapped court solvent.

Prum doesn’t think that’s a good investment — particularly not given the small number of people the court has managed to indict. He believes the money could have been better spent in a nation that continues to suffer from the economic legacy of decades of war and political strife.

Markus Zimmer, who recently returned home to Utah after an assignment as a judicial systems consultant to the Cambodian court, understands the criticism. Zimmer noted that Duch was a cooperative and contrite defendant. The next trial will likely be more complicated, with the defendants mounting “vigorous defenses with international defense teams.”

Those cases could take years to complete.

“There’s kind of a race going on,” he said. “They’re trying to get these cases processed before people die or before they become mentally incompetent.”

But Zimmer, who has served as an advisor in 27 nations, also sees promise in tribunals like the one in Cambodia, which have the potential to leave the legacy of a better functioning justice system. After all, he said, a nation that can handle the complexities of decades-old war crimes cases should be better situated, in the future, for simpler criminal prosecutions.

What the courts can’t do is promise even justice for every offender and every victim. They also set a standard that some believe is unsustainable for nations with few legal resources and little experience.

The justice provided in U.N.-backed tribunals “is a standard of justice that would be justice in a really good world,” said University of Utah philosophy professor Leslie Francis, who lectures on the intersection of international law and ethics. “But that’s not the world we live in.”

“That’s not to say you should abandon due process and other types of guarantees,” Francis said, “but one of the things that needs to be thought about is how to institution build. If you don’t ever punish anybody, how do you build institutions of justice that work?”

She questioned whether building courts capable of handling “big fish” is the best way of creating institutions of justice that work for everyone else.

Among other failings, war crimes courts don’t generally address the individual perpetrators of war crimes — the soldiers who actually arrested and executed Phum’s father, for instance.

Utah lawyer David Schwendiman, the former head of the Special Department of War Crimes for the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, lamented the impossibility of achieving a standard of justice that satisfies everyone touched by crimes of war.

“Ask someone what justice is and you will get as many definitions as there are people,” he said.

During his time in Bosnia, Schwendiman helped develop an elaborate system to prioritize crimes for prosecution. “Our goal was to do as much as possible with the amount of time we were given and the amount of resources we had available,” he said.

The system rated the level of the atrocity, the number of victims, status of the perpetrator, geography of the event and time span in which the crime occurred.

Even still, he said, it was a largely subjective exercise and not everyone agreed with the results.
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