"Learning the Lessons of Iraq" (The Hill - October 23, 2018)
Once again, the United States is paving a dangerous road toward regime change – and this time, the president might not seek congressional approval before ordering military action.
"It's Long Past Time to Tie the President's Hands" (The Hill - September 17, 2018)
In the end, Congress must be the one to tie the president’s hands. For as America’s founders knew, resistance is too important a job to be left to all the president’s men.
"UN Vote Buying: A Bad Idea That Never Dies" (LobeLog - August 1, 2018)
Using aid to buy votes—and its flip side, using the withdrawal (or threat of withdrawal) of aid as a bludgeon against those who fail to fall in line—is morally repugnant and counterproductive.
"The NATO We Have and the NATO We Seek" (LobeLog - July 25, 2018)
If NATO is to achieve its purpose of “guaranteeing the freedom and security of its members through political and military means,” it should invest more not in preparing for war, but in waging peace.
"Mattis, Pompeo, Kelly, Bolton, Coats: Resign Now" (LobeLog - July 17, 2018)
By acquiescing to the Russian attack—whether or not he and his campaign actually had a hand in its direction and execution—Trump is now, in effect, the agent of a foreign power.
"Stabilization of Afghanistan: The Little Engine That Couldn't" (LobeLog - July 6, 2018)
The U.S. government continues its military-led engagement in the world’s hot spots, privileging the transfer of arms, advice, and training to foreign security forces over the transfer of knowledge, skills, tools and opportunities to civilians.
"Who is This Woman Standing Next to Trump?" (Washington Post - June 9, 2018)
Naming the two men in the photo but leaving out the woman, who is equally prominent in the picture, was pure and raw sexism.
"Narcissus on the World Stage" (LobeLog - June 4, 2018)
It’s not just the president himself, but the entire foreign policy apparatus that seems to suffer from a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
"State Department Reform: How to Avoid a Train Wreck" (LobeLog - September 28, 2017)
Far more attention has been paid to reform’s destination than to the landmines strewn across its path.
"Loving USAID to Death" (LobeLog - September 19, 2017)
In this environment, humanitarian and development advocates should focus on making USAID better at what it does rather than on giving it more to do."
And the Foreign Affairs Reorganization Fight is On" (LobeLog - August 10, 2017)
Development and humanitarian advocates ought to focus on shoring up, not carving up, embattled agencies.
"A Bevy of Good Ideas on Foreign Aid Reform...If Anyone is Listening" (LobeLog - August 8, 2017)
In today’s chaotic and polarized political environment, continuous improvement of our foreign aid programs may be a more viable and less perilous path than comprehensive redesign.
"Where is the Opening for Aid Reform?" (LobeLog - August 4, 2017)
Ultimately, the CSIS task force report lacks not in good intentions, bold ideas, or wise principles, but in political pragmatism.
"Redesigning the Foreign Aid Architecture" (LobeLog - July 25, 2017)
The MFAN draft is intended to open a conversation around the value that a more robust and streamlined development agency would bring to U.S. foreign policy and national security.
"Good News, Bad News in Trump's International Affairs Budget" (LobeLog - June 5, 2017)
Yet alongside these immoral, reckless, and misguided cuts, the administration’s foreign affairs budget contains a few sound and reasonable reforms.
"Foreign Aid Reform: Opportunity or Threat?" (LobeLog - May 4, 2017)
Obstructing reform of the foreign aid system is far preferable to being complicit in its destruction.
"Disparaging Diplomacy" (LobeLog - May 1, 2017)
But make no mistake: the purpose of this effort, and its likely result, is not to achieve greater efficiency or effectiveness. It is to sow chaos and destroy Americans’ faith in government.
"Dismantling USAID" (LobeLog - April 26, 2017)
To put it simply: consolidation of USAID into the State Department is, and always has been, a power play, not a cost-cutting measure. It’s not about making aid more efficient or effective. It’s about making aid more political.
"US Diplomacy and Development Aid: Death by a Thousand Cuts" (LobeLog - April 24, 2017)
Resorting instead to willy-nilly cuts uninformed by facts and evidence, or defaulting to deep across-the-board reductions, will only erode U.S. national security, escalate costs to U.S. taxpayers, and contravene American values.
"Reviving the Peace Movement for the 21st Century: Responses to Daniel May" (The Nation - March 22, 2017)
To open the conversation, progressives must first explain how they will keep Americans safe without maintaining a global military presence and the constant threat or use of force.
"8 Items on Trump's Foreign Policy Agenda That Make US Weaker" (The Hill - March 16, 2017)
His to-do list reads like a how-to manual for exacerbating global crises, eroding U.S. influence and squandering precious resources.
"Pentagon Will Finally Find Out If It Pays to Assist Foreign Armies" (The Hill - January 25, 2017)
Earlier this month, the Department of Defense (DOD) unveiled a new policy for assessing, monitoring and evaluating the assistance it provides to foreign militaries.
"Why Haven't We Defeated Al-Shabaab?" (LobeLog - January 18, 2017)
Despite spending roughly $20 billion a year assisting foreign military and police, the United States has precious little to show for it.
"4 Questions on Foreign Aid for Rex Tillerson" (Devex - January 10, 2017)
Unfortunately, senators may be called to choose between confirming someone whose views are unknown and malleable, and confirming someone whose views are known and unpalatable.
"Four Principles for a Progressive Foreign Policy in the Trump Era" (LobeLog - December 7, 2016)
Instead of asking how the globalization message can be sold or packaged better, its advocates need to consider whether their product delivers as advertised.
"5 Things the Trump Team Needs to Know About Foreign Aid" (The Hill - December 6, 2016)
Instead of swinging a wrecking ball, President-elect Trump's foreign policy team ought to build on the structures that are solidly serving U.S. national interests.
"How We Can Heal after the 2016 Election" (The Hill - November 8, 2016)
If either party blindly pursues its own agenda, the United States is in for four punishing years of hateful accusations, spurious investigations, legislative deadlock and growing fragmentation.
"From Policy to Practice: Institutionalizing Evaluations at USAID" (CSIS - November 2, 2016)
USAID should be commended for its painstaking work to institutionalize key policy advances by incorporating them into the ADS.
"Eight Lessons from Afghanistan" (LobeLog - October 18, 2016)
The United States may think it knows what is best for Afghanistan, but any strategy is doomed to failure unless Afghanistan’s leaders want it as much as the United States does, and are willing to make the hard choices needed to deliver on it.
"GOP Ignored Trump's Sins; Now the Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost" (The Hill - October 8, 2016)
Let's face it: Trump is an affront to human decency and a danger to the moral and social fabric of our nation.
"Congress' DIY Approach to Saudi Arabia" (LobeLog - September 26, 2016)
One of its sponsors called the legislation, which passed both houses over the administration’s objections, a “no-brainer.” But perhaps a more apt description would be “gutless,” because the measure is a shameful dereliction of congressional duty.
"Donald Trump, Here's The 'Extreme Vetting' That's Already Happening" (The Hill - September 2, 2016)
Do we recall the turning away of the MS St. Louis, filled with Jewish passengers driven out by the Third Reich, with pride and satisfaction?
"US Nuclear Policy Remains Dangerously Stuck In the Past" (The Hill - August 23, 2016)
Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy remains stuck on the same horrifying premise: that U.S. national security depends on its willingness to use nuclear weapons.
"Time to Retire the Nuclear Football" (LobeLog - August 8, 2016)
Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War,does it make sense to hold human existence hostage to the decision of one individual, acting alone, on a moment’s notice?
"Getting Good Things Done in a Dysfunctional Congress" (Turner4D Blog - July 13, 2016)
In spite of the growing partisan divide and shrinking appetite for compromise, there are three recent examples of successful cross-party cooperation in the foreign policy arena.
"3 Rays of Sunshine on Pentagon Foreign Aid" (The Hill - June 28, 2016)
The bills contain at least three solid victories for transparency and accountability of Pentagon-run foreign aid programs.
"Countering Violent Extremism: Palliative or Cure?" (LobeLog - June 9, 2016)
How can the one percent we invest in winning hearts and minds ever compete with the 99 percent we spend on destroying them?
"3 Ways Clinton Can Convince Sanders Supporters and Undecideds" (The Hill - May 26, 2016)
You won't convince Trump supporters to change their minds, but you will need to convince Sanders supporters and undecideds to get off their couches.
"USAID Evaluations at Five: Known Unknowns and Unknown Knowns" (CSIS - April 26, 2016)
What happens to a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) evaluation after it has been completed?
"You've Come A Long Way, Baby: Evaluations at USAID" (MFAN - April 7, 2016)
To its credit, USAID has already begun identifying some of the obstacles to greater evaluation quality and use, and creating new procedures and capacities to overcome them.
"The Black Hole of Pentagon Foreign Aid" (The Hill - March 15, 2016)
It's time for Congress to stand up and do its job by demanding a full accounting of Pentagon spending on foreign aid.
"MCC: Taking Stock and Moving Forward" (MFAN - February 26, 2016)
This week’s release of MCC’s new five-year strategic plan – following on the ten-year anniversary of MCC’s creation – demonstrates all the qualities that make the agency a pioneer in development.
"What Sanders Should Say About National Security" (The Hill - February 25, 2016)
To get back on the offensive, Sanders needs to make clear that Clinton, like the Republicans, is proposing to double-down on an approach that simply isn't working. In fact, it has left us less safe.
"Shouldn't Security Rest on More than Blind Faith?" (The Hill - January 5, 2016)
For the safety of our own population as much as for the protection of innocents abroad, it's time to demand an evidence-driven approach to military aid.
"Glazing Eyes But Warming Hearts" (MFAN - December 22, 2015)
I’m not certain that the Foreign Assistance Data Review would have occurred without MFAN’s urging and encouragement. But it does appear that State’s heart is in this now, and that brings great comfort and cheer to all of us in the holiday season.
"Maternal Mortality is a Problem We Can Solve" (The Hill - November 10, 2015)
The world knows how to save 800 women a day from dying in pregnancy and childbirth. We simply choose not to.
"Getting the Most out of Foreign Aid" (The Hill - October 26, 2015)
There may not be much that Democrats and Republicans agree on these days, but making foreign assistance more effective ought to be one of them.
The Right to Safe Motherhood: Opportunities and Challenges for Advancing Global Maternal Health in U.S. Foreign Assistance (Center for Health and Gender Equity - October 14, 2015)
This report examines the causes of maternal death and disability, the obstacles to accessing proper care, the structures that keep women from exercising their rights, the global response, and the policy issues and challenges. A 1-page summary is also available.
"8 Things Congress (and Candidates) Should Know about the 2030 Goals" (The Hill - September 25, 2015)
Getting everyone to agree on a vision of the world we'd like to see 15 years from now is an accomplishment in and of itself. U.S. leadership will be needed to help make this vision a reality.
"Now Comes the Hard Part on Iran" (LobeLog - September 14, 2015)
One might assume that Democrats who voted in favor of the Iran agreement could be counted on to oppose the tightening of current non-nuclear sanctions or the imposition of new ones. But such confidence would be misplaced.
If there's one thing he does know, it's how to sell himself. And that's an area where Hillary Clinton, in particular, has fallen short.
"Don't Let Candidates Off the Hook on Iraq" (The Hill - August 21, 2015)
What Republicans seem incapable of admitting is that there are, in fact, limits on America's ability to impose its will on the rest of the world.
"With Iran Deal, Devil is Not in the Details" (The Hill - July 30, 2015)
Even if the Iran nuclear deal is not all that some hoped it would be, the risks of blocking it are far greater than those of giving it a chance to work.
"On Evaluations, State Steps Up to the Plate" (MFAN - July 30, 2015)
Last week marked a big step forward in the State Department’s commitment to evaluations and transparency.
"What Congress Needs to Know about the Addis Ababa Conference" (The Hill - July 21, 2015)
Even if the outcome wasn't all that observers hoped it would be, it was an important step toward changing the conversation around development finance.
"In Defense of Rachel Dolezal" (The Hill - June 23, 2015)
Is her deception really worth all the indignation and ridicule it has provoked?
"Republicans' Revisionist History on Iraq" (The Hill - June 5, 2015)
The fact that the Iraqi army isn't standing up to ISIS doesn't mean that the United States can or should do the job for them.
"The Little Development Engine That Could" (Devex - June 2, 2015)
Community foundations offer a way to attract private donations, build social capital, strengthen civil society, transform power relationships and spark inclusive growth."
"Success is in the Eye of the Beholder" (MFAN - May 21, 2015)
Program participants must be involved from the very start in defining what counts as success, as well as in monitoring program implementation and evaluating results.
"The 2015 #QDDR - in 6 Tweets" (Devex - May 5, 2015)
The real impact of the QDDR will only come once there are specific individuals tasked with leading the implementation of each policy change, and when detailed guidance is issued to put the changes into effect.
"Taking the Pork out of Food Aid" (The Hill - April 28, 2015)
It's high time that our outdated food aid and cargo preference laws — written more than half a century ago — were modernized to reflect today's realities.
"Want to Know What We Got for Our Money? MCC's Telling Us." (MFAN - April 24, 2015)
This is an extremely useful way to look at the big picture of MCC’s results.
"What Will Be Obama's Development Legacy?" (The Hill - March 23, 2015)
Obama could pledge to publish all contracts issued with U.S. taxpayer money and to support technology and systems that would allow developing countries to do the same.
"Foreign Aid Effectiveness: A Radical Re-think"(Devex - February 19-26, 2015)
Finding people with good ideas and facilitating their work makes a lot more sense than trying to come up with all the ideas ourselves and finding someone else to carry them out. A 7-part series.
While there are many small solutions, there is only one big solution: a demonstrated political commitment to open data.
"MCC: A Pat on the Back, and Then a Push" (MFAN - February 25, 2015)
Changes like these could not only improve the MCC’s own performance and outcomes, but raise the bar for everyone else.
"The Road to Forever War" (The Hill - February 24, 2015)
Let's have a real debate about whether "American exceptionalism" can be defined as something other than the right and the responsibility to make war wherever and whenever we choose."
This week one of the federal government’s youngest agencies, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), will once again demonstrate its leadership and forward thinking on accountability and transparency.
"The Frusen Glädjé Response to Torture" (The Hill - January 23, 2015)
How can we, with a straight face, expect others to take remedial action if we are unwilling or unable to do so ourselves?
"Magical Thinking on Terrorism" (The Hill - December 10, 2014)
News flash: The global war on terrorism isn't working.
Aid programs should be subjected to routine monitoring and rigorous evaluation.
Let's give credit where it's due: to the Dashboard team at the State Department for recognizing and successfully addressing this problem, and to Publish What You Fund for midwifing a solution.
President Obama has just stolen a page from the George W. Bush playbook. And Congress fell for it.
Quality data that is timely, comprehensible, accessible and usable is the currency of democratic accountability.
Without an ability to see the "who, what, when, where, why, and how" of a project, neither U.S. citizens nor the intended beneficiaries can hold their governments responsible for delivering on their promises.
The world would be better off if Speaker Boehner ignored the call for congressional authorization of the use of force. It’s the one inaction that a do-nothing Congress could be praised for.
At a time when so much is going wrong in the world and with no clear answer in sight, the MDGs are a good news story begging to be told.
Changing U.S. laws and policies that enable unscrupulous companies and individuals to pillage Africa’s vast economic wealth would be an important step in the right direction.
There are only two ways this can go: more troops and more drone strikes until we’re hopelessly entangled in a civil war, or watching as helicopters evacuate the last holdouts from the embassy rooftop. Or both.
Even, or especially, if we could do it successfully, building military capacity is a recipe for disaster in an environment where political institutions are weak and fragile, key ethnic and religious groups have been excluded from power and participation, and opportunities for corruption abound.
But if we’re ever to get beyond the third-class status accorded development and begin treating it as a national security and foreign policy imperative, we need to demonstrate exactly why that’s the case – including, but not exclusively, because it reflects our moral values. This is a job that the Global Development Council, as a public-private initiative, is uniquely positioned to perform.
“Realism about the Obama Doctrine” (Foreign Policy in Focus – May 22, 2014)
It’s time to give up on the notion that we can or should control the world. Instead we should focus on building a more effective and constructive model for engaging with it.
“What is it good for?” (The Hill - May 13, 2014)
War may be a fact of history, but let’s not condemn ourselves to repeating it.
“Globocop? No Thanks.” (Global Solutions – May 10, 2014)
States that enslave, occupy, and subjugate other nations rarely end up richer and more peaceful because of it. In fact, as Morris acknowledges, over the course of history every expansionist state has come to an inglorious end.
“A Ridiculous Argument for War” (Washington Post - April 30, 2014)
That humans have become less likely to die violently is because of the creation of larger, more organized societies and states that rule by the consent of the governed, not because of the ability or propensity of those states to make war or to rule by violence and intimidation.
“Getting Our Money’s Worth on Foreign Aid” (Politix - April 24, 2014)
While both the Obama administration and the Bush administration before it have taken important steps to push the ball forward, there are still a number of reforms that would make a big difference in getting the best value for our money and helping move more people out of poverty, more reliably.
“What the 2014 National Security Strategy Ought to Say, But Won’t” (CSIS - March 6, 2014)
We are finally starting to learn the lessons of 50 years of development assistance, such as the importance of data transparency, program monitoring and evaluation, clear strategies with measurable goals, country ownership, use of local systems, and harmonization with other donors. Let’s not abandon those lessons by attempting to leverage aid for short-term diplomatic gains – which doesn’t usually work, anyway.
“Think Before Casting the First Stone against Corruption” (CSIS - December 23, 2013)
Shady corporations and unscrupulous officials game the system and hide their stolen or undeclared assets overseas, often using the cover of an anonymous shell corporation registered in the United States or Europe. We must take care not to lay too much of the blame for this deplorable situation at the doorstep of the developing countries when our own laws and policies make us fully complicit in corruption on a grand scale.
“Terrorism, Inc.: How Shell Companies Aid Terrorism, Crime, and Corruption” (Open Society Foundations - October 2013)
Terrorists are creating fake companies in the United States and Europe to launder money and finance their activities. And it’s not just terrorists. Drug lords, human traffickers, sanctions busters, and corrupt officials also move their money around using shell companies that are registered in countries with highly developed legal and banking systems.
“The Fallacy of Aid Ineffectiveness” (CSIS - October 31, 2013)
What the aid skeptics (and aid supporters) ignore is that, even if every single dollar of aid were spent on well-designed, well-executed programs, the total volume of aid going in pales in comparison to the amounts being siphoned out.
“Lessons for the Next QDDR” (CSIS - July 29, 2013; The Lugar Center - July 29, 2013)
The National Security Strategy already sets out a grand vision for the United States role in the world; the QDDR would be a far better use of everyone’s time if it resulted in an agenda for change that was realistic and achievable.
Reforms to U.S. foreign assistance should be conducted jointly by Congress and the Administration — in consultation with the development community—and guided by these principles, a comprehensive review of U.S. efforts, and a coherent Global Development Strategy.
We urge you to vote to confirm Gayle Smith as soon as possible to sustain strong U.S. leadership on development programs and the accountability of our foreign assistance resources.
Letter to President Obama (MFAN - April 15, 2014)
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, urge you to act expeditiously to nominate a permanent Administrator to the United States Agency for International Development.
“What We Want to See in Mexico” (Publish What You Fund – April 7, 2014)
We, the undersigned agencies, networks, organizations and individuals ask for your support in ensuring that the development community accelerates and deepens commitments on transparency at the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico on April 15-16 2014.
“The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond” (MFAN – April 2014)
We cannot permit the promise of aid in relieving suffering and advancing human values to be undermined by ineffectiveness. As a global standard-bearer and the world’s largest single donor, the U.S. should lead reforms in policy and innovations in practice to catalyze change and achieve sustainable results.
“Security & Development: A Transatlantic Civil Society Dialogue” (TSCD – April 2014)
Without inclusive and responsive political, social and economic processes, a society can hardly achieve the social cohesion and healthy state-society relations it needs for lasting peace and stability.
Quoted, Seen and Heard
“There’s increasing evidence to suggest that unconditional cash transfers to ordinary citizens are one of the fairest, most cost-effective and most impactful ways to alleviate poverty and stimulate economic growth,” said Diana Ohlbaum, a former U.S.A.I.D. official.
Featured on panel discussing proposals for reorganization of USAID and other development agencies.
Diana Ohlbaum, an independent consultant and U.S. development expert, predicted that the Trump administration will push a policy agenda to strip USAID of its independence and relocate development within other departments.
As Diana Ohlbaum, an independent consultant and former congressional staffer, put it, “We don’t really know what Donald Trump thinks about foreign aid or development, who he would choose to advise him … or whether he would listen to his advisers.”
Particularly egregious in Ohlbaum’s eyes is a restriction in the law that prohibits any U.S. aid going to a nation that is “controlled by the international Communist conspiracy.”
Global Action Summit (Nashville - November 17, 2015)
Spoke on panel, "Beyond Aid: A New Paradigm for Global Development". Featured in video interview and summit highlights.
"Dealing with Disaster" (USAID Alumni Association - October 23, 2015)
Moderated panel discussion featuring Andrew Natsios, William Garvelink, and Jeremy Konyndyk.
Citation of February 2015 Devex.com series, "The Illusion of Control," by Diana Ohlbaum.
"Who Will Determine Aid Spending in the Next 10 Years?" by Anna Patricia Valerio (Devex - July 6, 2015)
“If those governments who are cracking down on civil society would instead commit themselves to greater transparency, openness and accountability, I think this dynamic would shift considerably and they’d be trusted with more donor resources and decision-making power,” Ohlbaum said.
"Diana Ohlbaum, independent consultant and author of the Devex “radical rethink” series on foreign aid effectiveness, worried the QDDR added to a growing list of things U.S. development programs should do, without clarifying what they would not do in order to make room for new priorities."
"An excellent set of articles published recently on Devex by Diana Ohlbaum offer a critique of USAID in particular, as well as some thoughts on how it could do business differently."
In the words of foreign policy expert Diana Ohlbaum, the index “ranks major international donor agencies on the degree to which they share aid information in a way that is timely, comprehensive, comparable, and accessible.”
"USAID: Rajiv Shah's Legacy" by Samuel Loewenberg (The Lancet - February 21, 2015)
“He has had a huge number of visionary ideas and grand policy proposals and initiatives, but has found it much more difficult to get them implemented and institutionalised”, said Diana Ohlbaum, a former Congressional staff member. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60273-2/fulltext
"Diana Ohlbaum helped guide development of the recommendations, notably in analyzing the U.S. Global Change Research Program and proposing practical approaches for internalizing analysis into U.S. government operations. Her understanding of the internal workings of government proved critical in framing our recommendations."
Defense News' daily clips include "Fool Me Twice on Iraq", Diana Ohlbaum's article in TheHill.com.
Lorelei Kelly and Diana Ohlbaum discuss how data and technology can be used to improve legislative branch accountability.
But as our colleague Diana Ohlbaum at Open Society Foundations recently wrote, ‘Fear of public accountability is not a legitimate excuse for allowing corporations to remain secret.’
“Non-Kinetic Power and the 2014 National Security Strategy” (CSIS – February 25, 2014)
Join us for a panel discussion with expert practitioners from both security and development backgrounds as they discuss ways to emphasize non-kinetic power within the 2014 National Security Strategy. Panelists: Peter Feaver, Matthew Goodman, Diana Ohlbaum
“Audio: Diana Ohlbaum on Modernizing Foreign Aid” (CSIS – June 30, 2013)
Dr. Ohlbaum discusses her past experiences, the current political climate on foreign aid, obstacles foreign aid legislation faces on Capitol Hill, and her suggestions for reforming the U.S. foreign aid framework.
Please contact us if you'd like to be notified of new publications.
STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABLE HUMAN SECURITY