NDN Blog

US-China Reach Deal Over Blind Human Rights Activist

Longtime Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng entered the US Embassy in Beijing last week, requesting temporary asylum, and sparking a harried trilateral negotiation between Chen, the U.S. government, and Chinese officials. Chen-who is a blind self trained lawyer and dissident-sought medical attention, but explicitly did not seek to emigrate out of China. He apparently wanted guarantees from the Chinese government that he would be allowed to live, study, work, and speak freely in the country-an ambitious request from a regime known for its active repression of political expression.

The political demands of one blind Chinese lawyer would normally go largely unreported, but the fact that Chen was seeking refuge in the American Embassy escalated his request to the level of high diplomacy. The timing of the incident was also acute, as hundreds of American and Chinese officials prepare for an annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue; a conversation already widely anticipated to be tense as Washington planned to confront Beijing over ongoing currency manipulation. The National Security Network summarized the complicated mix of issues involved: "The Chen case underscores a triple challenge for U.S. policy: standing firmly on the side of human rights; supporting the preferences of activists on the ground; and progressing on some issues while pressing disagreements on others. The Chen case, which comes on the heels of the fall of a high-level Communist Party official, represents something of a political crossroads for China."

The situation was seemingly resolved on Wednesday afternoon as a deal was struck that resulted in Chen being escorted out of the Embassy and to a local hospital for further medical care. A Senior State Department Official released some specifics about the arrangement:

Mr. Chen decided to depart the Embassy today and traveled to a hospital in Beijing. He did so on the basis of a number of understandings. China acknowledged that Mr. Chen will be treated humanely while he remains in China. During his stay at the hospital over the coming days, U.S. doctors and other visitors, including those from the U.S. Embassy, will have access to him. He has been reunited with his family, his wife and two children, at the hospital, and they will remain together with him as a family. He had not seen his son in a few years, and his wife had not seen him either, so this was a family reunification after a long and difficult separation.

When he leaves the hospital, the Chinese authorities have stated that Mr. Chen and his family will be relocated to a safe environment so that he may attend a university to pursue a course of study. I think many of you know that he is a self-taught lawyer, but he has long sought the opportunity to study in university. He will have several university options from which to choose. We understand that there are no remaining legal issues directed at Mr. Chen and that he will be treated like any other student in China. Chinese officials have further stated that they will investigate reported extralegal activities committed by local Shandong authorities against Mr. Chen and his family.

Though the State Department claims Chen's decision to leave the Embassy was un-coerced and made under his own free will, some sources are reporting that Chinese officials had back-channeled threats either explicitly or implicitly suggesting that Chen's wife and family would be in grave danger if he remained in the American Embassy. Full details about the exact nature of the negotiations and agreement are unlikely to come to light any time soon, but the most interesting part of the State Department's description of events is the continued roll of the US in Chen's case:

The United States will take a continuing interest in the well-being of Mr. Chen and his family, including seeking periodic welfare visits and raising his case with the appropriate authorities. We will look to confirm at regular intervals that the commitments he has received are carried out. We have conveyed to the Chinese Government the concerns he's expressed about friends who helped him travel to Beijing and have urged authorities to take no retribution against them.

The deal that is coming into focus appears to secure for Chen a number of promises from the Chinese government, but few guarantees. It's unclear what process or mechanism could even exist to ensure Beijing's compliance with an agreement between the Communist Party of China and a private Chinese citizen. This open-ended commitment by the United States to take some kind of responsibility for Chen, however, seems ripe for creating a new diplomatic crisis down the road if the Chinese government fails to uphold their end of the bargain. 

Update: It appears the deal that was reached on Wednesday has fallen apart as of Thursday Morning. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has said that "They as a family have had a change of heart about whether they want to stay in China," It's unclear whether Chen and his family would qualify for emergency assylum in the United States, but this latest development certainly escalates diplomatic tensions between China and the U.S.

Foreign Policy Chat - Obama Kills Osama, One Year Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Special Forces operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.  This was one of the many accomplishments during President Obama's tenure as Commander and Chief that has helped dislodge the persistent GOP characterization that Democrats are weak on national security. The Obama campaign released a video to mark the occasion and used a quote from Romney wherein he expressed his view that capturing or killing bin Laden would likely not be worth the investment of resources. This fairly run-of-the-mill argument prompted the Romney campaign and their surrogates to accuse the President of "politicizing" the raid. It's unclear to me, though, how an incumbent president is supposed to run for re-election without politicizing their previous 3-plus years of activity. That's pretty much what a campaign is.

As far as determining whether Romney would have made the same call, it's clearly a counter-factual that's impossible to prove. Just like Romney arguing that the economy would be better now had the President made different decisions. But David Corn has a new book that can shed some light on the question. It reveals, in part, that Obama seems to have played an active and ultimately crucial role in the planning and execution of the operation. Hat tip to Kevin Drum for the excerpt:

Five months into his presidency, he sent a memo to Leon Panetta, then the new CIA chief, signaling that he considered finding bin Laden a high-priority task. He requested a detailed operation plan for locating and "bringing to justice" the mass-murderer. Yet for a year, Panetta did not have much to report to Obama on this front. Then in the summer of 2010, the agency informed Obama there was a lead: bin Laden might be in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 35 miles north of Islamabad. He could be within Obama's reach.

....As the planning meetings proceeded-the president and his aides often had a model of the compound before them-a critical point about a unilateral U.S. assault caught Obama's attention: How would these covert warriors return safely from the compound, especially if they were to encounter hostile Pakistani military forces?....McRaven had based the planning on an assumption that if his commandos were confronted by the Pakistanis, they would protect themselves without attempting to defeat the Pakistani forces, while waiting for the politicians in Washington and Islamabad to sort things out. He calculated that his team could hold off any Pakistani assault for one or two hours.

Obama nixed the idea of commandos hunkering down to await diplomatic rescue. He worried that the Navy SEALs conducting the mission could end up as hostages of the Pakistanis, and he told McRaven to ensure that the U.S. forces could escape the compound and return to safety, whether or not they encountered Pakistani resistance.

"Don't worry about keeping things calm with Pakistan," Obama said to McRaven. "Worry about getting out."

The quote from Romney that is used by the ad is that "It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” Would hypothetical President Romney have made the decision to get Osama if presented with it? Perhaps. But it seems unlikely that he would have made the seek-and-find portion of the mission a priority, and that’s the work that put President Obama in the position to make the final call. That portion of the Romney quote, however, is the least troubling thing that he said in that interview. Immediately prior to his comments about not moving heaven and earth, Romney characterizes Osama as “one of many, many people who are involved in this global Jihadist effort. He’s by no means the only leader. It’s a very diverse group—Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and of course different names throughout the world.” The fact that he sees no relevant distinction between these very, very different groups is terrifying. It’s that statement that reveals a real lack of basic comprehension concerning the Middle East and the threats facing America. 

Foreign Policy Chat - Marines Move Out Of Japan And A Despot Gets His Just Deserts

Marines Moving Out Of Japan

The U.S. and Japanese governments today finally released an agreement they had reached on redeploying thousands of US Marines currently stationed in Okinawa. The Japanese have long resented the base - which is located in a densely populated urban area - but negotiations over the details of its relocation have consistently stalled for nearly a decade. As the details of this accord come to light, it appears that some 5,000 Marines will be permanently moved to Guam while another 5,000 or so will get split between Australia and Hawaii. Japan has agreed to keep 10,000 US Marines on the Island of Okinawa, though negotiations over where exactly they'll be based are still ongoing.  Key members of Congress responded to the plan by insisting that any such action would require Legislative approval, which has proved a sticking point in the past. This current realignment plan, though, is substantially cheaper than previous iterations, making Congressional support more likely. $3.1 billion of the total $8.6 billion cost will be picked up by the Japanese government; making it far less expense than the $27 billion price tag of the last failed attempt.

Liberian Despot Found Guilty of Atrocities

Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, was found guilty of contributing to war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone. The rebel groups that Taylor supported committed truly horrifying acts for years -- recruiting child soldiers, hacking off limbs, mass rape, and terrorizing the population. Many analysts and Africans were heartened by the decision, hoping that it provides closure to a terribly dark saga, while also standing as a powerful signal against impunity and injustice. The LA Times describes some critics arguing that the prosecution could be counter-productive, discouraging future despots from voluntarily surrendering power, as Taylor did in 2003. This is an argument I'm sympathetic to, especially for some countries caught up in the Arab Spring, where there is a strong incentive to build and maintain momentum toward peaceful transitions. This argument, though, falls flat when real crimes against humanity - rather than merely corrupt and autocratic governance- - have occurred. The international community cannot and should not set a permissive standard that allows the commission of genocide, systemic rape, and other atrocities.  These distinctions can be complicated, but they must be made. Encouraging unsavory but largely benign dictators to step down from power is one thing, but we must also fight for policies guaranteeing that "if you commit crimes that shock the conscience of all humanity ... in the end there is no safe haven."

Foreign Policy Chat - GOP Demands The Pentagon Help Manufacture Attacks On Obama

Four members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, all Republicans (I'll include Joe Lieberman under that heading), wrote a letter to the White House demanding that the military commanders publish a list of "unfunded requirements." Pentagon planners furnishing a wish-list of items that didn't make the cut for the defense budget has been customary for a number of years, though its purpose is pretty dubious. The Defense guidance and actual budget represent months of calculated and systematic work analyzing plans, strategies, inputs, force structure, and the capabilities needed to respond to present and future challenges. Capabilities, personnel, and line-items that didn't make the cut were left out for a reason; because the Pentagon decided that resources were better spent elsewhere. Congress, however, has traditionally used these unfunded priorities lists for almost entirely political or parochial purposes.

This process is not, as they claim, about Congress being able to make sound decisions, but instead it is about institutionalizing pork. CQ explains that the "existence of the lists had given lawmakers license to add spending to the defense budget under the cover of military utility. The absence of those lists will make it harder for members to shift money toward such projects." Pentagon officials have said that no one at DoD or in the Administration placed any restriction on the Service Chiefs submitting lists this year, and the Commanders made clear that their decision not to do so was entirely rational. General Amos responded to the request by saying that "Given the zero-sum nature of the Budget Control Act, we have no unfunded requirement that exceeds the importance of those in the submitted budget request." Isn't that how the budget process is supposed to work?

For Senate Republicans, though, this isn't merely about garnering official cover for pet projects in their home States. It's also about scoring political points. Congressman Paul Ryan made this clear last month when he baselessly accused the Pentagon of secretly not supporting the President's budget request. He was quickly disabused of this notion publically by the Joint Chiefs and the Congressman issued a formal apology. The GOP remains intent, however, on promulgating this notion that President Obama is somehow endangering America's national security by placing any constraints whatsoever on the defense budget process. Within moments of the Service Chiefs handing down their wish-lists, John Boehner would be marching in front of a bank of cameras waving these unfunded priorities over his head and insisting that the President is in league with al Qaida for not asking Congress to purchase whatever rocket, jeep, or rifle was on the list.  The Joint Chiefs have repeatedly told Congressional Republicans that they support the existing budget and are very capable of keeping America safe while functioning within its confines. If that was what the GOP actually cared about, they would stop asking the same question again and again. But everyone knows that's not what they care about. Republican Senators are simply trying to demand that the Pentagon help them manufacture attacks on the President during the run-up to an election, and the Service Chiefs are right not to indulge them. It's as simple as that.

Foreign Policy Chat - US in Afghanistan For 10 More Years & New Policies On Genocide

US-Afghan Agreement Is Completed

The United States and Afghanistan have finally concluded a long-term security cooperation agreement that will ensure a continued, though very limited, US presence in that country for 10 years following the troop withdrawal in 2014.  Obstacles to this agreement have been night raids by US Special Forces and the treatment and transfer of detainees. Independent and detailed negotiations on those two topics have paved the way for this larger agreement which formalizes Afghanistan's relationship with NATO, designating them as a "major non-NATO Ally." The Agreement will ensure financial support for Afghan security forces for the next 10 years in exchange for a continued military presence.

Zalmay Khalilzad took to the pages of FP earlier today arguing that this agreement has the potential to bring a number of major benefits. It creates a framework for President Obama and President Karzai to rebuild a working relationship around shared interests. It should bolster confidence in the Afghan government, helping curtail the sense of impending door which has fueled rampant corruption and capital flight. The agreement should also make it possible - though certainly not easy - to deal with the Taliban, as a continued US presence destroys their "wait it out" strategy. This assurance of ongoing American security may also bring Pakistan around to actually dealing with their insurgent-breeding tribal areas. The future success of Afghan governance, security, and civil society is far from assured, but this agreement was an important step forward.

Update: Spencer Ackerman has culled through congressional testimony, reports, and other sources to sketch out the likely details of the agreement and he frames the accord as being much less about Afghanistan than it is about the US shadow war in Pakistan. Interesting analysis.

New Presidential Policy on Atrocities and Technology

The President today rolled out a new Executive Order allowing the US to sanction and pursue foreign nationals who use technology to perpetrate human rights abuses. This came in conjunction with the announcement of a new Atrocities Prevention Board, headed by senior NSC staffer and vocal genocide scholar Samantha Power. It's unclear what effect these new policies will have on the ongoing conflict in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. 

Foreign Policy Chat - Shuttle Flys Home, Argentina's New Toy, & Prize Winning Images From The Arab Spring

Shuttle Discovery Flies Home

For anyone living in the Washington, DC area today, there was really only one story: Shuttle Discovery hitched a ride on the back of a 747 to make its final trip out to Dulles, in preparation for it becoming the newest edition to the Air and Space Museum. For anyone who wasn't outside on the Mall at 10am, photos of the shuttle piggy-backing through the DC skyline were plastered all over Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. With this, the final conclusion of the US shuttle program, Americans have really given up on manned spaceflight for the near future. Some even argue that we've largely given up on space all together. For the first time ever, in 2011 China sent more rockets into orbit than the US - joining Russia in the club of nations beating America in number of space launches.  While the US government still maintains a significant financial and technological edge over any other space competitor, it's hard to look at NASA these days and get inspired.

The conservative drive for budget austerity has eroded funding for space exploration and basic research, while Democrats have been focused on solving more concrete and earth-based problems. Say what you will about the tragicomic Newt Gingrich campaign, it was pretty exciting to think about a moon colony. While many Washingtonians gazed in awe at the shuttle soaring through the sky, I was thinking about how absurd it is that this remains the pinnacle of US manned space flight. Discovery was still in active service until March of last year despite being a piece of early 1980's technology. When compared to the amazing speed at which progress is being made in medicine and computing technology, the pace of major space advances seems downright glacial. If cellular phone technology can go from non-existence all the way to the iPhone in a mere 34 years, NASA should be out there folding space rather than flying around in museum relics.

Argentina Steals A Spanish Oil Company

The President of Argentina announced her intention to nationalize YPF, the largest energy company operating in her country. This is big deal for a couple of reasons. With real global trade liberalization creeping back onto the national and international agenda, those inclined to read the tea-leaves are suggesting this move could represent reversal of momentum. YPF was originally a state-owned enterprise until it was privatized in the 1990s as markets began to open up around the globe. The Obama Administration has finally shown some stomach for challenging potential free-trade partners on the prevalence of publically held firms, so this latest development in Argentina doesn't help. The second reason this story has legs is because the YPF isn't actually owned by Argentina; the majority of shares are controlled by the Spanish company Repsol. That means that Argentina is in the midst of precipitating an international incident as they functionally appropriate billions of dollars in foreign assets with the stroke of a presidential pen. The Spanish government is taking the position that "the most appropriate response to defend national interests and Spanish interests ...is to defend the interest of Spanish companies in Argentina." Many eyes will be on those two countries as the nature of that defense becomes clearer.

Pulitzers Announced

This year's Pulitzer prizes were announced with much fanfare. Of note to FoPoChat readers should be the award for International Reporting that went to the New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman. The Times has a round-up available here of his winning reportage covering the conflicts in East Africa.

Also, John Moore, Peter Madiarmid, and Chris Hondros were all finalists for Breaking News Photography. FP has compiled a powerful slideshow of the gorgeous, iconic images they took - courageously -- documenting the Arab Spring. 

Foreign Policy Chat - A New World Bank President And Deadly Attacks in Kabul

Jim Yong Kim to Head the World Bank

The World Bank today officially selected Jim Yong Kim to take over the helm of the international development bank. The Harvard-educated, Korean-American, global health specialist, was President Obama's nominee. Traditional convention maintains that the US gets to choose the leader of the World Bank the Europeans get to select the head of the IMF. Normally, this means that whoever the President selects becomes the only nominee. This year, though, was different. Strong and public campaigns were waged on editorial pages from New York to Abuja in defense of two international candidates, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia. In the end, however, the drama gave way to inevitability as Kim was tapped by the Bank's Executive Directors.

I'm on record in the belief that the US should nominate the most qualified candidate, regardless of nationality, but I don't have any particular gripe against Jim Yong Kim. By all accounts he's very bright and well respected. Heather Hurlburt made a strong case last month that he'll be a strong and innovative president. At the end of the day, though, it seems unlikely that an organization as large as the World Bank - with deeply entrenched bureaucracies and vested interests - will be steered very far in any direction by the person sitting in the big chair. As the West struggles to bring the benefits of globalization to the developing world, the mission of the Bank is more important than ever.  And for that reason, I hope that Hurlburt is right.

High Profile Attack in Afghanistan

A coordinated attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul over the weekend is causing some pessimism about the fate of that central-Asian country once international forces head home. The 18-hour assault appears to be the work of the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network, and demonstrates a level of coordination and tactical reach that had been successfully suppressed up until this point. President Karzai blamed the attack on NATO intelligence failures, but attempted to find a silver lining, declaring that "As brazen as it looked, it was not a failure from our perspective, because our security forces responded immediately and quite efficiently." This attack comes as the Afghan and US governments are negotiating an agreement around the specifics of the long-term US presence there, and it's unclear if this weekend's events will influence those discussions. 

America Resurgent - Some Post-Conference Thoughts

I had the opportunity to speak on a panel over the weekend on the US Role in The Global Economy. Americans for Informed Democracy did a great job organizing the two-day conference and George Washington University was a fantastic venue. It's always nice to speak with bright, engaged people about some of the most pressing issues of the day. After digesting the conversations and discussions, I'm actually left feeling fairly optimistic, though I fear I may be the only one.

As I see it, one of the most serious issues at the nexus between national security and the global economy is successfully confronting the realities of globalization and meeting the challenges of spreading the potential benefits of globalization - broadly shared prosperity, rising real living standards, democratic and accessible institutions, and more open societies - to the bulk of the world's population who have yet to experience them. This is not a challenge that can be effectively addressed by intellectual silos of "defense policy," "development policy," "domestic economics," "agriculture policy," etc. These things are all interconnected and need to be leveraged together in a cogent grand strategy that has a real forward-looking vision and aligns our institutions, incentives, and policy making around a common goal. I was very pleased that Patrick Doherety, one of my co-panelists and the head of the Smart Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation, spoke very eloquently about this. 

Unlike some analysts, I don't believe that America is some kind of sinking ship, slipping beneath the waves of a global system soon to be dominated by China. In fact, I don't think there is any other country in the world better positioned for leadership in the 21st century. That being said, we should expect that leadership to be expressed differently over the next 50 years than it was over the last 50.  US GDP will continue to make up a smaller percentage of the global economy as middle income countries continue to develop. As more and more nations succeed in bringing the bulk of their populations into the middle class, they'll expect to have a real voice in regional and global affairs. And increasingly affluent international consumers will mean that the American market will have to compete for a privileged share of exports and investment.

These realities, though, should not lead to fatalism. The real source of American power and influence lies not in the sheer size of our population or relative wealth, but in our forward engagement in the world, investments in our human capital, and stability and openness of our institutions. We can and should take a leading role in ensuring that the international regimes and institutions, that Americans have largely created, remain strong and relevant. By leading this renewal and expansion we will gain, not loose, global relevance. We must enhance, rather than shrink from, multilateral relationships and build the capacity of our allies. By doing that we can become a super partner instead of simply a super power. And we need to do the hard work at home to reshape and reform our domestic institutions, government structures, and economic policy so that we are once again able to make real investments in our people, govern effectively, and advance  a real and holistic grand strategy.  

There are those that are pessimistic about America's ability to make the changes necessary to put us on a track toward resurgent and smart global leadership, and there are certainly myriad problems in the status quo. But I was watching a documentary last night on industrial agriculture that ended with an observation from a farmer nearing retirement. He observed that the counter-productive practices that now seem so entrenched and intractable have only come about in the last 40 years. It was within his professional lifetime that things became completely remade. And it was that fact that heartened him. By simply making the right decisions instead of the wrong ones, we can remake our systems again, in remarkable ways. 

Foreign Policy Chat - The DPRK Blows Up A Rocket And Nuclear Talks Kick Off In Turkey

North Korean Blast Falls Flat

North Korea test-fired their newest long-range rocket this morning, but instead of sending a shiny new satellite into orbit, it blew up and fell into the sea. Despite its embarrassing failure, the international community was quick to denounce the launch, with the UN issuing a statement decrying the DPRK's violation of two Security Council resolutions. Spencer Ackerman at Wired pulled together some interesting analysis on why North Korea seems to be so bad at developing and testing rocket technology. This makes them zero for four in as many years. Apparently developing rockets is actually really hard, requires long-term investments in lots of smart, highly skilled people, in addition to plenty of practice and the ability to learn from your mistakes. As it turns out, those aren't strong suits for the Hermit Kingdom.

Most analysts are viewing this launch as an attempt by the North Koreans to use a civilian satellite program as a Trojan horse allowing them to master the technology needed for long-range missiles. James Clay Moltz - who recently published a book on the subject - argues though, that Pyongynag's rocket ambitions should be understood firmly within the context of an escalating Asian space race. Viewed in through this lens may sound less serious than the a nascent ICBM program, by Moltz makes the case these types of  "space activities are likely to increase regional tensions and exacerbate international threats unless new mechanisms are developed for fostering space restraint, preventing new space weapons tests, and managing conflict."

The Security Council is still debating the specific repercussions that the North Koreans will face for their violation of international law, but it's not entirely clear how much more pain the international community can or should impose. The US suspended its food aid program last month and the North Korean economy is already more isolated than any country on earth. American policy makers certainly have a strong interest in maintaining and strengthening the international arms control regime, and a credible response to violations is an important part of that system. But it's simply not obvious what more the West can do to punish the country's leadership, and there has to be some way to balance the moral issue of further isolating a population of desperate, starving people - 150,000 of which are apparently imprisoned in nightmarish gulags. 

Day One of Nuclear Negotiations

Nuclear negations between Iran and the West kicked off today in Istanbul. The Iranians have come back to the table hoping that they might be able to negotiate some relief from the latest round of international sanctions which continue to contribute to that country's economic woes.  Earlier in the week, the Iranians floated the idea of offering to cease the enrichment of 20% uranium as a way to extract what the Russian government has called "real incentives." The mere existence of these talks is evidence of Iran's weakened position and should reaffirm the Obama Administration's policy on this front. Most experts, however, believe that there is little chance the negotiations will result in an agreement.

Economic Engagement Is The Key To Supporting The Arab Spring

In May of 2011, the President wisely argued that “energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishment of the street. For just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.” Empirical evidence has borne out what we logically know to be true. Those countries that are able to build successful, open, and stable democratic societies, do so in large part by building strong economies with robust markets, expanded trade, and broadly-shared economic benefits.

US policy should be directed intensely toward the development of human capital, democratic institutions, broad-based economic opportunities, and the entrepreneurial culture needed to support a vibrant and democratic political life through out the Middle East and North Africa. Elections are not enough. Not by a long shot. The UN’s Arab Development Report makes clear that the economic changes needed to support these democracies are, in fact, quite revolutionary themselves. Before the Arab Spring, the “dominant form of the social contract in the region [was] one where the population resigns itself to lack of political freedom in exchange for provision of certain services and exemption from or low taxation.” The hard work of changing this culture will be done in large part by local stakeholders, but needs to be supported by a holistic strategy of US economic engagement.

Currently, Oil and gas account for over 90% of US imports from the region and US investment has been largely confined to the energy sector. Growing that economic relationship will be essential for addressing the fact that the next generation of Arab leaders and citizens have yet to realize the gains of globalization. Over 50% of the population in Arab countries is under the age of 30, yet they suffer the highest unemployment rate in the world, breeding discontent and frustration. Their energy needs to be channeled into productive economic opportunities so that they can support their families and develop a real stake is building and maintaining liberal, democratic societies.

Aid, like elections, is not enough. We must support a robust program of economic engagement that increases trade and develops strong, properly regulated markets. We should work to lower and eliminate barriers to trade, reduce corruption, create training and exchange opportunities for government officials, and provide the technical assistance needed to expand the opportunities for economic development. We must also work with these transitional countries to create a climate of openness and rule-of-law that fuels foreign and domestic investment, entrepreneurism, and popular civic engagement. At the same time, we will need to demonstrate patience with these young democracies. We should expect occasional road bumps and be prepared for their governments to reflect their diverse and particular societies and cultures. But we will need to resist calls to withdraw and disengage in response to setbacks like the NGO detentions in Egypt. If we desire to see the Arab Spring lead to long-term democratization and liberalization, we must become fully committed to implementing the economic policies that will make that possible.  

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