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Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

Rep. Donald M. Payne

Congressman Don Payne, who represented Newark, New Jersey, in the House of Representatives for more than 20 years, died March 6 of colon cancer. His death represents the passing of yet another member of a unique generation of members of Congress who respected the institution and sought election to it because they took policy seriously and saw it as a means of doing good for people both in America and abroad.

I had the privilege of knowing Don when I worked for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He served on the Africa subcommittee for most, if not all, of his tenure in the House, and was deeply engaged in the defense and promotion of human rights in Africa. But although Africa was his focus, his involvement was broader. The Washington Office on Latin America, on whose Board of Directors I have the honor to serve, issued a statement describing Don as “a long-time champion of peace and justice around the world,” and lauding his efforts to advance human rights in Colombia:  “He systematically took action to protect the lives of Afro-Colombian activists, human rights defenders, and internally displaced leaders.”

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I was pleased to recently co-author an opinion piece with Asa Hutchinson, the first under secretary for border and transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security, on the subject of national security ten years after 9/11. You can read the piece below, or download a copy on the NAFSA Web site: “Examining Lessons Learned: Security and Openness in Post-9/11 America.” I look forward to your comments and hope you will join us in this important national conversation.


Examining Lessons Learned: Security and Openness in Post-9/11 America
By Asa Hutchinson and Marlene M. Johnson

Asa Hutchinson served as the first under secretary for border and transportation security in the newly created Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005 and represented Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1997 and 2001. Marlene M. Johnson is executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Mark Twain said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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Last week in a Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed titled “No Better Export: Higher Education,” Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez described his experience of leading the first-ever Commerce Department education trade mission to Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam. Recruiters and admissions counselors from 56 U.S. colleges and universities joined him on the trip (which was supported by NAFSA), and it appears to have been a great success. Thousands of students attended education fairs in the three cities, eager for information on studying in the United States. Indonesia and Vietnam were selected for this first-ever mission due to their emerging economies and burgeoning middle classes. The Obama Administration also has pledged to double the number of Indonesian students studying in the United States by 2014.

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If we are able to observe in the afterlife the accuracy of the statements that we made while on Earth, there must be no one more blessed with eternal happiness than the Spanish philosopher George Santayana, whose famous observation, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is confirmed every day.

Right now, Santayana must be particularly delighted with our colleagues at the Heritage Foundation, who, it appears, have forgotten yet again how important educational and cultural exchanges have been for America’s security, public diplomacy, and international leadership. The foundation’s October 28, 2010, Backgrounder on Budget and Spending proposes eliminating these programs entirely (along with many other worthy international programs). This is particularly dismaying because, only a few years ago, NAFSA cosponsored an event with the Heritage Foundation and others at which leading experts made a strong case for placing international education and exchange at the heart of America’s public diplomacy efforts. In 2008, when NAFSA released International Education: The Neglected Dimension of Public Diplomacy, which advocated more resources and a strengthened role for exchanges, Heritage’s Jim Carafano wrote: “The association has to be commended for bringing attention to a vital issue impacting on national competitiveness. Americans need to pay attention.”

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Greg Mortenson
Image courtesy Central Asia Institute

Last night at the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington, DC, I had the privilege of listening to Greg Mortenson speak passionately about his life’s work of building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. You may know him as the author of the bestsellers Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at A Time and Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is also co-founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute and founder of Pennies for Peace.

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President Obama announced this week that the administration will take action soon to overhaul U.S. export control policy to, as the president put it, “focus our resources on the threats that matter most, and help us work more effectively with our allies in the field.” We applaud this move – the need for change is long overdue.

The administration’s plan to review and overhaul the system was first outlined in a speech delivered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the spring. Last updated in 1979, the current system is ill-suited to the pace of modern research and development. Gates describes it as a “byzantine amalgam of authorities, roles, and missions” – prone to creating confusion and increasing the likelihood of mistakes and duplication, even jeopardizing the ability of the U.S. military and other agencies to protect American citizens.

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President ObamaAs President Obama addressed the American people last night, he highlighted how the United States will be turning the page from combat operations to soft power and public diplomacy in Iraq. He said, “What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.”

Expanding international education and exchange partnerships is one clear way to fulfill this promise, and it is already happening on campuses across the country as part of the Iraq Education Initiative. The Initiative is a program that aims to rebuild Iraq’s higher-education system by providing scholarships at foreign universities for students who will later return to Iraq and take part in the revitalization of the country.

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Washington is awash in rumors that the administration is about to make another move on Cuba in response to Cuba’s announcement that it will release all remaining political prisoners who were detained in 2003. If these rumors prove to be true, it would be welcome news indeed. It is particularly important that the administration exercise its authority to restore options for Americans to travel to Cuba that were available before 2003, when former President George W. Bush began to curtail travel severely. These travel restrictions have had no positive effect in Cuba, but they have certainly had negative effects for the United States by limiting the ability of Americans to engage with the Cuban people at this time of historic transition. People-to-people contacts have historically been one of our most important tools in opening up closed societies; it is highly counterproductive to drop this tool from the toolkit with respect to Cuba.

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By Kyle D’Souza
In remarks delivered at her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock highlighted the positive impact that educational exchanges can have on participants and on U.S. foreign policy. Noting that “in the last six weeks alone, six of our program alumni have become heads of state or heads of government,” Stock went on to say that “through our ongoing contacts with these ‘alumni,’ we foster relationships with new generations and fuel an engine for change that is perhaps unprecedented in American diplomacy.” Next month, a seventh alumnus will become president of Colombia. These seven alumni and the programs they participated in include:
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We received good news this week when we learned that the U.S. State Department reversed its decision in the Hollman Morris visa denial case. Mr. Morris, a prominent Colombian journalist, was previously denied permission to travel to the United States to participate in the prestigious Nieman Fellowship program at Harvard University. This decision was reversed on Monday after NAFSA: Association of International Educators and many other organizations committed to educational exchange and academic freedom raised the case with the State Department.

NAFSA continues to urge Secretary Clinton to end all State Department policies and practices pertaining to ideological exclusion. Ideological exclusion hampers the advancement of academic and political debate in the United States and undermines this country’s ability to support voices of dissent and reform in other countries. Ideological exclusion also deprives U.S. citizens of their First Amendment right to “hear, speak, and debate with” foreign scholars face‐to‐face. Visa policies should be based on security threats, not ideology.

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