Join NDN's MENA Initiative on June 6th for an exploration of how the growth of China is converging with changing global energy markets and decreasing U.S. import demand to remake the global politics of the Middle East.
U.S. oil imports have decreased sharply with a particular drop in imports from the Middle East and North Africa. A trend which is projected to continue over the next 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, analysts predict that by 2035 roughly 90% of MENA oil will flow to Asia -- as demand surges in China and India.
Join us for a discussion with two leading experts about the implications of greater Chinese involvement in the region and how the U.S. can craft effective Middle East policy in light of this changing reality.
Dr. Gawdat Bahgat is a professor at the National Defense University where he specializes in Middle East policy, strategy, and energy security.
I-wei Jennifer Chang joins us from the University of Maryland where her research focuses on tension between Chinese economic interests and U.S. policies in the Middle East.
Thursday, June 6th
12:00 noon - 1:30 PM
The NDN Event Space @ 729 15th NW
Lunch will be served at Noon, Program to Start at 12:15pm
Mexican Trade — and Tourists — Are Boon for U.S. Businesses As the recent NDN and NPI's 21st Century Border Initiative report "Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico" http://ndn.org/sites/default/files/blog_files/NPI%20U%20S%20-Mexico%20Trade%20Tourism%20POE%20Report_0.pdf states, U.S. trade with Mexico is at an all-time high, creating vital jobs on both sides of the border.
The Basic Math of Immigration Reform in the House True positions on immigration reform are difficult to determine as House Republicans negotiate district opinions, congressional politics, the future of their party, and the future of U.S. immigration. Jonathan Bernstein thinks it unlikely that the Republican-led House will attempt to pass an overly conservative immigration bill that would turn away all Democratic and some Republican support.
Critics Exaggerate Holes in Visa System Updated data shows that visa overstays have decreased in the last decade and suggests that alarm from immigration reform critics is overstated. Improved DHS records, as well as increased cooperation at the northern and southern borders, have made significant strides toward ensuring that people are not staying beyond their legal limit.
After 11 congressional hearings, an independent review and the release of 100 pages of relevant interagency emails about Benghazi, all serious questions about the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Libya have been answered. Only political grandstanding remains — and the stakes in the Middle East and North Africa are far too high for the American people to tolerate point-scoring in lieu of genuine action.
In his May address at the National Defense University, President Obama observed that moving forward in the region will require not only a new strategy, but also a new politics. Republican members of Congress have been doggedly focused on perceived shortcomings of U.S. policy in Middle East, but they should now apply that vigor to serious bipartisan efforts to aid the democratic transitions throughout the Arab world, protect American personnel abroad, secure US interests and give our government the tools it needs to plan and execute a real, long-term Middle East strategy. Congressional Republicans can show that they are serious about these goals by pursuing at least these three critical policies:
Pass the diplomatic security bill. The furor that erupted over canceled White House tours and airline delays reveals the truth — inconvenient to some — that the vast majority of federal money actually goes to providing valuable services to the American public. Cutting budgets to the bone has real consequences, and few priorities are more critical than ensuring the safety of American diplomats and personnel abroad. Congressional Republicans should join Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to pass S.B. 980, which would “properly fund embassy security and construction in our most high risk, high threat areas.”
This bill would fund the implementation of the independent review board’s recommendations in addition to helping our government ward off future attacks. Senate Republicans who were right to be deeply concerned about the loss of life in Benghazi should be eager to support the formation of a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center, to boost funding for the Arabic language training that can unlock better intelligence and to revise security contracting to ensure that our embassies have the best, rather than the cheapest, guards available. President Obama has made clear that “we need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world.” Acting quickly to pass the Menendez legislation should be a real priority for both parties.
Fully fund the MENA Incentive Fund. The president first proposed the $700 million fund in his 2012 budget, designed to be a potent and flexible tool to support the development of civil society organizations and non-sectarian forces throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The democratic revolutions that spread throughout the Arab world risk backsliding as the critical institutions of responsible self-governance struggle to get off the ground. The way to temper the more autocratic inclinations of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood is not by abandoning the region or by simply buying them off with blank checks; we must redouble our efforts to aid the development of modern civil society in these countries so that everyday people can express themselves constructively and powerfully in the public square.
This is why then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) heralded the MENA Incentive Fund as a “no-brainer” when it was first introduced, explaining that it would give the State Department “the flexibility to deal with unforeseen contingencies ... [and help to] empower moderates and reformers.” Effective U.S. policy in the region cannot be simply reactive. We must use every tool at our disposal to actively support the type of self-governance that millions of people in the Arab world demanded for themselves when they took to the streets during the Arab Spring. While fiscal politics have become nearly toxic, the president has correctly noted that “foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism.”
Convene serious hearings on a forward-looking Middle East strategy. House Republicans have been eager to use their oversight powers to convene hearing after hearing on issues surrounding Benghazi, Iran and Egypt. They could truly do a service to the country by applying that enthusiasm to convening a series of serious, substantive hearings on American grand strategy in the Middle East. Since 2009, the primary thrust of U.S. policy in the region has been to extricate ourselves from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to suppress the threat of terrorism. While speaking recently about the so-called war on terror, Obama correctly identified that policy as being at a crossroads. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us,” he warned. And “to define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom.”
The Middle East and North Africa remain one of the last places on earth to truly embrace modernity, and the Arab Spring proved that business as usual will no longer suffice. Instead of pivoting away from the region, American policymakers must recognize that the United States will continue to have vital economic, security and geo-strategic interests in the Middle East for decades to come. It is past time for us to update our long-term approach to those countries so that it reflects real vision and a holistic understanding of how our goals there fit into our larger set of global interests. Congress has shown that they are adept at calling hearings. They should gather the brightest minds and call a few on this topic.
Speaking nearly four years ago in Cairo, Obama recognized both the challenges and opportunities facing the Arab word. “I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash.” That is not the only path, however. If we are to secure American interests, act constructively in the world and see everyday people in the Middle East transcend the shackles of chaos and repression, we will need to move past petty division and find opportunities for bipartisanship, partnership, and productive engagement. Implementing these three policies can begin to forge that vital way forward.
Bosserman directs the MENA Initiative at NDN, formerly the New Democrat Network
In our new report we make recommendations on how to realize the extraordinary value of the deepening economic relationship between the US and Mexico. Simon recently sat down to chat with the McAllen Monitor to talk about thre report and the incredible power of our economic relationship with Mexico. The full story is below. Also be sure to read about Simons work in helping to draft a new border strategy in Brownsville, TX here
As the Congress debates immigration reform legislation, millions of tourists and billions of dollars continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in both directions.
A study released earlier this month by NDN, a center-left think-tank based in Washington, D.C., shows trade and tourism between the two countries is at an all-time high.
Trade between the two nations in 2012 was estimated at $535 billion. That number is up from $300 billion in 2009, a number that’s projected to double by this year, said Simon Rosenberg, the president of NDN.
Texas leads all states with almost $200 billion in imports and exports with Mexico.
Trade with Mexico sustains almost 6 million U.S. jobs, the NDN study said. In the Rio Grande Valley, tourists provide the biggest Mexican boost to the economy.
“We really rely heavily on the Mexican market,” said Nancy Millar, the director of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The economic downturn in 2008 — which coincided with a spike in cartel violence — hurt Mexican tourism to the Valley, Millar said. Prior to those phenomena, 35 percent of income to McAllen’s tourism industry came from Mexico, she said, and it remains a vital part of McAllen’s economy.
“There’s no doubt we have a much stronger economy than we would without them — 35 percent stronger,” she said.
The NDN report called on lawmakers to use the immigration reform bill to increase the number of ports of entry and staffing of Customs and Border Protection officers at the border to expedite travel from Mexico to the U.S.
“The customs department of (the Department of Homeland Security) is going to have to grow with trade and legal tourism,” Rosenberg said. “We’ve got to invest more in border infrastructure. We’ve got to cut down on wait times.”
Doing so would also help eliminate barriers to further trade between the two countries, said Shannon O’Neil, a senior policy fellow for Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. And further trade means growing economies on both sides of border, particularly in areas near the border.
“When a Ford plant opens in Mexico, it increases employment in the U.S.,” O’Neil said. That is because manufacturing companies take advantage of the free-trade laws that allow easy passage between North American nations to produce different parts in different places for the same finished product.
“Up to 40 percent of a product that’s ‘made in Mexico’ actually comes from here originally,” she said. That’s a departure from just 10 to 20 years ago when most Mexican exports to the U.S. were natural resources like gas, she added.
But reducing waiting times for Mexican tourists to enter the country is only one part of a formula to further improve trade. Border violence has to be controlled.
“What’s been interesting is you’ve seen economic growth in Mexico even as security has worsened,” O’Neil said. But she doesn’t see that trend continuing.
“In the long term, I don’t see how prosperity and growth that people hope for can continue if you can’t guarantee safety,” she said. “Economic growth and security have to go hand in hand.”
Rosenberg believes economic growth can help bring security.
“Improving the economy on both sides of the border has to be seen as part of the strategy to weaken transnational criminal organizations,” he said. “One of the ways to attack the cartels is to show that Mexicans have good jobs.”
That the trade relationship has flourished in a period of heightened security risks “shows just how resilient and deep and broad this all is,” Rosenberg said.
“And it shows that if the security situation improves, my God, what is going to be possible?”
NDN’s MENA Initiative will host a luncheon event on June 6th with Dr. Yitzhak Shichor to discuss the changing geo-politics of the Middle East in light of surging oil demand in China and decreasing U.S. energy imports. Dr. Shichor is a renowned expert on Chinese energy as well as a professor at the University of Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He’ll be in Washington to testify before Congress and we look forward to an engaging discussion here at NDN. A formal invitation will be forthcoming.
NDN Fellows Mike Hais and Morley Winograd, millennial experts, recently wrote this op-ed that was published on Politix. The original can be found here.
"As we document in our newest book, Millennial Majority: How a New Coalition Is Remaking American Politics, whether by stratagem or sheer luck, the Democratic Party has become the beneficiary - at least at the presidential level - of a new, dominant coalition comprised primarily of Millennials, minorities and women. Less clear is if and when this coalition will return congressional majorities to the party that became accustomed to ruling Capitol Hill for much of the twentieth century.
Just as Democrats were able to hold onto their majority status in both houses of the Congress until 1994, even as Republicans became the dominant party at the presidential level after 1968, the GOP is in position to retain its current majority in the House and take back the Senate in 2014, two years after Barack Obama's sweeping re-election victory. But that future is less predestined than many pundits are currently predicting.
What ultimately happens is likely to depend on which party does a better job of turning out its vote in 2014. If the electorate next year looks like it did in the 2010 midterm election, with a far higher percentage of older and white voters than in 2012, the Republicans will likely be celebrating on Election Night. Certainly, that is what happened to the Democrats in 2010. For example, the contribution of Millennials dropped from 18 percent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2010, while that of seniors rose from 16 percent in 2008 to 21 percent two years later.
On the other hand if the Democrats are able to maintain their ground game advantage and build enthusiasm among their larger base of supporters to generate an electorate that represents the country's 21st century demographics, they should be able to hold their own in the Senate and at least cut into the Republicans' gerrymandered advantage in the House. For both parties, media and message will have more to do with their prospects in 2014 than most of the current debates in Washington.
Even Republicans admitted in their 2012 election post-mortem "Growth and Opportunity" report that they had failed miserably to maintain competitiveness with Democrats on the technology front. Advantages in campaign technology are notoriously short-lived, however. In 1960, it was the cool and crisp performance by the telegenic John Kennedy against the pale, sweaty, and haggard Richard Nixon in the first televised president debate in U.S. history that put Kennedy narrowly ahead for the first time in a closely-contested election. But by 1968, Nixon and the Republicans had become the masters of campaigning on television, an advantage that Ronald Reagan solidified.
Up until the disastrous performance of the Romney campaign, it appeared that the GOP had also closed the gap with Democrats in the use of internet-based social media campaigning that had first opened up in 2004. The determination of the RNC to spend tens of millions of dollars to catch up again, makes it unlikely that this advantage alone will be enough to given the Democrats a victory in 2014. Instead, to generate sufficient enthusiasm to ensure that demographic groups that favor Democrats turn out in sufficient numbers next year, the Democratic Party will have to hone its message to reflect the needs of the party's new Millennial majority.
However, outside of immigration reform, the issues that might generate real voter interest are not currently being debated in Washington. Although it is possible that GOP ideological rigidity on social issues like gay marriage and gun control will work to the advantage of Democrats in some senatorial contests and a few House seats, these issues are unlikely to be the key to many Democratic victories in 2014. Instead, Democrats will need to emphasize what Vice President Joe Biden likes to call "kitchen table" issues to inspire the components of their majority coalition and achieve major election victories next year.
One such issue, Obamacare will be a reality, not a plan, in 2014. Democrats will need to hit hard on its advantages for young people, and women and minorities, all of which favor the Affordable Care Act, rather than cower in fear of potential implementation hiccups.
For Millennials, specifically, no concern is greater than the enormous debt the nation is asking them to incur in order to finance the higher education that remains their best ticket to a good job. Never before in this country's history has a generation been asked to pay for the education the nation's changing economy needed. Democrats should embrace the cause of eliminating cost as a barrier to higher education in every congressional campaign in the country. One way to do that would be to follow the lead of one of the Democratic gubernatorial primary candidates in Arkansas, Lt. Governor Bill Halter, who is promising to provide every young person in the state enough money to pay for the cost of their instate college tuition.
By focusing on messages that speak to the new Millennial majority's economic needs, Democrats could alter the traditional fall off in turnout in midterm elections by the presidents' party and, in so doing, reshape American politics, not just at the presidential level but in congressional campaigns as well. However, if instead Democrats decide to play defense and duck the issues critical to their new Millennial majority, the natural tendencies of Democratic voters to pay less attention to midterm elections will likely result in Republican gains next year.
The Democratic Party has the choice of running toward or away from its new Millennial majority coalition. Which path it chooses to follow, more than anything that is going on now in Washington, will determine the outcome of the 2014 elections."
This Thursday from 6-7pm, Simon will participate in a Twitter Chat for the March for Innovation with Joe Trippi, Democratic strategist, and Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. The March for Innovation, using the hashtag #iMarch, is a virtual march on Washington to highlight and underscore the need for Congress to pass immigration reform.
Simon, @SimonWDC, will be sharing his thoughts on the vital importance of passing immigration reform, sharing some of our recent work on the subject, and responding to other participants during this event. Our particular event will be using the hashtag #NDN. Be sure to follow @MarchForInnov for more updates on this exciting effort!
For the first time since the 100-day mark of Obama’s first term, most say they are optimistic about the direction of the economy. More than half, 56 percent, say the economy is on the mend, the most to say so in polls since 2009.
Recent polling from Gallup also indicates that economic confidence is higher now than at any point since 2008. Note the trendline below:
Nate Silver believes the economic recovery is saving the President's approval ratings. This sentiment might raise eyebrows in some quarters, but Silver makes a compelling case.
A columnist at Forbes even asked if President Obama might be America's greatest economic president, recalling how bleak the economy looked at the height of the Great Recession in 2009.
Our analysis indicates that Americans measure the economy locally. In effect, the housing market, gas prices and knowing people who need a job are more reliable indicators of economic strength to most people than the national unemployment rate. A stabilizing housing market coupled with a steady chipping away at unemployment and less volatile gas prices is undoubtedly leading many Americans to feel more confident about the economic recovery - and that's showing up in polling.
President Obama should continue to talk about jobs because that's the main problem Americans think Washington needs to address. Continued investment in manufacturing and infrastructure are the best way to move the needle on jobs on a macro level - and keep his approval ratings headed in the right direction.
"After the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.755 with a strong bipartisan majority yesterday, we remain optimistic that Congress will be able to pass a good, comprehensive border and immigration bill this year.
The thoughtful and ambitious Gang of Eight Senate framework held through weeks of a spirited markup, and even improved in certain regards. The Schumer-Hatch Compromise Amendment which fixed some issues with the H1-B Visa was particularly important, making this part of our legal immigration system much more workable for those companies using these visas properly and as intended. We also celebrate the passage of Feinstein Amendment 10, which would establish a grant program “to construct transportation and support infrastructure improvements at existing and new international border crossings necessary to facilitate safe, secure, and efficient cross border movement of people, motor vehicles, and cargo." If realized, this addition could do a great deal to help create good paying jobs on both sides of the border in the years ahead.
The Senate has set a high bar for the House. If the House is to produce a different bill, or approach, it will have to justify why it rejected the well-negotiated, publicly tested and bipartisan approach of the Senate bill. Given the progress the Senate has made it is time for the House to get going, and start their process as soon as possible.
Finally, the thoughtful, bipartisan and very public nature of the Gang of Eight-led process which produced the Senate bill is one all in Washington should applaud. Let's hope it is a model for how we tackle future issues, finding common ground, working through tough problems, and producing a set of solutions equal to the challenge in front of us. The Senate Gang of Eight deserve commendation for both the ambition of their bill, and the integrity of the process which has driven us this far. "
With the first week of the Senate Judiciary Mark-Up behind us, it is clear the Senate Immigration Bill (S.744) retains significant bipartisan momentum. While there were many amendments offered to the Title I Border Enforcement section of the Senate legislation, the “Gang of Eight” was able to retain the balance of enforcement and investment in the critical needs of staffing at our ports of entry at the border. In the House, the Committee on Homeland Security, has quietly been marking up their own Border Enforcement legislation, and thus far has kept the balance of enforcement/investment at the border established by the Senate intact.
These developments can be attributed to a couple of very important developments at our southern border.
Border Communities Are Safer: Since 2008, the budget for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has grown from $9.3 billion to $11.8 billion in 2012. That is 2.5 billion dollars invested in the the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol alone. Within CBP, the amount of money allocated to the U.S. Border Patrol grew from $1.5 billion in FY 2003 to $3 billion in FY 2010 and continues to grow today. As a result of greater investment, cooperation with Mexico and better strategy has also resulted in an increase in apprehension rates in high traffic crossing areas. A December report from the Government Accountability Office reported that of the Border Patrol’s nine southwest-border sectors, five had more than 30,000 apprehensions in fiscal 2011, making them a “high traffic” corridor. Of these five, San Diego, CA had a 92 percent apprehension rate, El Centro, CA 91 percent, Tucson, AZ 87 percent, Laredo, TX 84 percent and the Rio Grande corridor in Texas was 71 percent. As such the Senate legislation acknowledges these gains in security by balancing enforcement and economic investment in the region.
The U.S.-Mexico relationship is essentially a commercial one: For years the U.S. has viewed our relationship through the prism, today while there are certainly security issues on the Mexico side of the border, there is now an equally compelling economic story to be told. In a new NDN/New Policy Institute report “Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico” we note: Six million U.S. jobs depend on our trade with Mexico. Mexico is our nation’s number two export market in the world and our number three trading partner overall. Mexico is our nation’s second most important foreign tourism market as well as the fourth-ranked in terms of spending by tourists.
The bipartisan “Gang of Eight’s” Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 proposes the addition of 3,500 additional Customs and Border Protection officers to staff the ports of entry on the southern border. Twenty-three states have Mexico as their number one or number two trading partner. As such it should come as no surprise that after the first week of markup the additional staffing has remained in the legislation and is likely to be included or enhanced in the House version of the bill.
Bottom line: there is fairly broad bipartisan agreement in Congress on the need to improve our land ports of entry with Mexico, which are responsible for screening and facilitating legitimate trade and travel. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is sponsoring a bill in the Senate that enables public-private partnerships at the ports of entry; in the House, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28) is sponsoring an identical bill.
This additional staffing is badly needed to relieve commercial, passenger and pedestrian congestion at our ports of entry with Mexico. A continued shift in attitude and approach, a bit of investment and some creative thinking on how to most efficiently and safely move people, goods and services between our two countries through our numerous, highly congested land ports of entry would greatly improve this already robust economic relationship.
A version of this piece was orginally published on VOXXI and can be read here