National Security Experts


Eric Farnsworth

Biography provided by participant

Eric Farnsworth is Vice President of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society, heading the Washington office since 2003. He is a recognized expert on hemispheric affairs and US foreign and trade policy, having given Congressional testimony numerous times. He is a frequent commentator in print, visual, and new media, and has authored or co-authored articles in American Interest, Americas Quarterly, Current History, Journal of Democracy, and Latin American Policy, and is a columnist for PODER magazine and a blogger for Huffington Post, National Journal, and AQ Online. His opinion pieces have appeared in Barron's, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Folha de Sao Paulo, and numerous others. Prior to joining the Council, Mr. Farnsworth was Managing Director of Manatt Jones Global Strategies LLC, a Washington and Los Angeles-based strategic advisory and business facilitation firm. From 1995-98, he oversaw policy and message development for the White House Office of the Special Envoy for the Americas. He served at the US Department of State beginning in 1990, and was awarded the Superior Honor Award three times and the Meritorious Honor Award once. Mr. Farnsworth holds an MPA in International Relations from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He is a Truman Scholar and an alumnus of the Leadership America, Young Leaders of the (NATO) Alliance, and the US-Spain Young Leaders programs.

Recent Responses

May 21, 2012 10:26 AM

There should be no hesitation by the military to investigate the use of all energy sources in terms of cost, reliability, performance, and externalities be they related to national security or the environment. Generations of US policy-makers and political leaders have recognized the strategic vulnerabilities to the United States of an over-reliance on energy, primarily oil, from geopolitically-sensitive regions. (It's not "foriegn" oil that is the inherent problem; Canada, after all, is our top supplier.) Biofuels can play a role, although they will continue to be a niche product for some time. The real story is natural gas--important changes in technology have dramatically increased the ability to access domestic natural gas resources, at a very low cost. While not renewable, natural gas is a cleaner fuel without the same geopolitical issues as one finds with the Middle East, Venezuela, or Africa, because we have sufficient resources at home. It'd be up to the experts to determine whether natural gas can substitute for oil to fuel the multitude of machines on whi

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April 4, 2012 05:31 PM

Note the piece in today's NYT by Bernie Aronson, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, who suggests a new and potentially ground breaking role for Brazil in global non-proliferation efforts, should they seek to play such a role and should the Obama Admnistration encourage them to do so when Dilma Rousseff visits Washington on Monday April 9. The truth is, we needs partners in order to make non-proliferation work, and in a G20 vice G7/8 world we need to look further afield than Europe and Japan. Despite previouis missteps, Brazil has an important potential role to play.

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January 25, 2012 03:26 PM

While I much appreciate the professor's interest in my post, I think he misunderstands the nature of what I was saying. I argue that the long term budget issues for the United States have national strategic implications. We cannot pursue our national interests however defined if we are broke. The two main drivers of US debt in the out years are spending on healthcare and social security. To get our budget under control we must get spending in these areas under control. From that perspective, it's important, yes, to take a hard look at the defense budget and pare where appropriate and necessary. But doing so without a broader effort to promote budget discipline will be short-sighted at best.

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January 24, 2012 10:07 AM

It's the revenge of Jim Carville. Unless and until we get our long term budget crisis under control, our defense capabilities and therefore our national security interests will be at risk. No, maybe not in the immediate term, but over time, the defense budget is the one area that is a constant target of budget cutters during difficult economic times. That pressure will intensify dramatically unless the anticipated explosion in entitlement spending is curtailed. That is not to say that the defense budget cannot be cut appropriately, prioritized more effectively, or brought more in line with anticipated US defense needs. The Secretary of Defense has made this point publicly. Rather, cuts will of necessity be more draconian than they otherwise might have been, impacting core national interests, unless entitlement reform becomes a reality. Thus the question: the so-called Greatest Generation saved our country; what will their children, the baby boomers, choose to do?

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November 7, 2011 10:59 AM

The debate must get beyond Afghanistan and Iraq to be of any real utility. Why? Not because these are unimportant issues, obviously, but because each candidate already has their stock, poll-tested answers on these questions and anything they say will have been repeatedly rehearsed and unrevealing. At the same time, there should be little room for gotcha questions in a serious debate.

Rather, the moderators should focus on open ended questions that will reveal the candidates instincts as to how they would propose to deal with the issues that confront us. Circumstances change, personal instincts in dealing with crises generally do not. What will be their priorities? Will they act unilaterally or not? Do we/should we care what the United Nations says or does? What are the primary threats that will face the United States during your time as president and how do we address them? When is the right time to use force? Are you prepared to deal with a major cyber attack? How should we envision the relationship with China evolving, and what should be our endgame? What wou

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October 17, 2011 06:47 AM

The administration is right to consider additional steps against Iran, but they need to continue to be out front on the issues or else Congress, which is already posturing, will take the lead. When that happens, nuance and the ability to target sanctions is generally lost, as is the flexibility that all administrations require in order to conduct foreign affairs effectively. It seems that further restrictions on financial flows to Iran, particularly with the Central Bank, could impact the regime’s ability to finance its provocative activities, but a determined regime, sitting on a pile of oil, will inevitably find ways to make mischief. Whatever we end up doing should be closely coordinated with our allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, whose representative in Washington appears to have been the intended target of the foiled attack. That, of course, goes to the strength of the US-Saudi relationship, which has had to weather perceptions among some in the Middle East that US support for popular transitions during the Arab Spring could serve as a precedent for the popular

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June 20, 2011 02:22 PM

The time for Congress to have asserted itself was in the run-up to the Libya operation, but better late then never.

I continue to be astounded at the lack of serious public discussion about Libya in advance of the launch of the first missiles and the look-the-other-way approach as the Administration readied for and now prosecutes the war. Are we all really that immune to military conflict at this point after a decade of post-9/11 military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq that we hardly debate these issues anymore? Think of the ink that was just spilled on Weiner, of all people--a shameless self-promoter who sent photos of his own groin around the world--and compare that to the amount of discourse on whether or not the United States should go to war against Gaddafi. Seriously? This is the best we can do as a nation? We get more of a public outcry when Facebook or Netflix goes offline for an hour than when we start bombing sovereign nations.

Of course, it's simply Orwellian to assert that an unprovoked attack and ongoing operations in Libya do not consitute

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May 2, 2011 10:32 AM

Washington loves winners. The takedown of OBL this weekend gives a significant boost to Leon Panetta and will provide a strong tailwind to him as he gets set to take on the reins of the Pentagon. Same with General Petraeus. Wonder if this was on the President's mind, knowing about the possibility of getting OBL since last August, when he recently named the two of them for their new positions?

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May 2, 2011 10:16 AM

Comes now the news on Sunday that Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, in a town not far from Islamabad that apparently caters to retired Pakistani military. Wherever the US relationship with Pakistan may have been headed last week, according to the commentators responding to this question, I suspect that public opinion, once it focuses on the fact that OBL was making a life in Pakistan, will demand a more robust response from the White House. The relationship is about to be tested significantly.

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March 18, 2011 04:12 PM

When the President is in Latin America over the next several days there is a strong likelihood that he will raise the idea that Latin America has much to contribute to the rapid changes ongoing in the Middle East.

Don't laugh, it's not as ludicrous as some might think.

In the first instance, both Colombia and Brazil are current members of the UN Security Council and Colombia just voted in favor of the no-fly resolution while Brazil abstained (putting Brasilia in the company of the other BRICs and also Germany).

More to the point, Chileans have already had a delegation in the Middle East discussing the transition process from authoritarianism to democracy, and Mexico initiated the effort to suspend Libya from the human rights commission.

What gives these or other Latin American countries any authority on the issues, and why would President Obama discuss these issues on this trip? Quite simply this: it was barely a generation ago when Latin America was seen as a region more receptive to "strong" leaders, be they from the left or the ri

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March 7, 2011 10:10 AM

Do American interests in Libya warrant military intervention in the current circumstances? No.

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February 22, 2011 02:31 PM

We faced exactly this question under admittedly different circumstances in the late 1970's and the 1980's as authoritarian dictatorships in Latin America and the Caribbean began to give way to democratically elected leaders. The process was messy and the US made a number of mistakes, and, as in Nicaragua, a close long-lasting relationship with bad guys like the Somozas could not be overcome no matter how nimble the post-revolutionary diplomacy became. Sometimes the process simply has to work itself out on the ground, and some countries will do better than others depending on their institutions and capacity for renewal. Latin America and the Caribbean are instructive. In general, the region is unrecognizable from the days of dictatorship and human rights abuse, although there are those that have so far resisted change or in some cases worked to reverse the democratic current.

The United States has been most effective as a partner in this regional transition when we have aligned ourselves with the idea of democracy rather than with any particular leaders, party, or fac

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January 3, 2011 12:41 PM

I was in China in November and surprised at the level of antagonism of Chinese officials and academics toward the United States. With President Obama in Asia at the same time and the Fed having just announced the QE2, the commentary I heard from Chinese observers was pointed and aggressive toward the United States. There was real anger and frustration at US actions, which were perceived as an effort to bottle up China and limit its ambitions. The efforts of the US Congress late last year to target China as a currency manipulator did not help. A meeting of the US and Chinese leaders will be timely. They are walking a tightrope and I suspect they know it. Realistically, both parties need each other in order to cooperate across a range of issues including the ones James Kitfield lists, but China's growing ambitions and existing US interests mean that both countries will continue to run into each other on issue after issue unless more appropriate cooperative mechanisms can be developed. A joint statement would be fine, so long as it can lay out the sort of roadmap that the for

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November 3, 2010 11:55 AM

Expect the new Congress when it is seated to press the Administration hard on foreign policy issues. Among them will be an effort to complicate the Administration's plans to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan next summer, in part to deny President Obama the opportunity to claim that he ended the war prior to the re-election effort in 2012. Second will be pressure to increase the heat on Iran and a sharper pro-Israel stance on Middle Eastern issues. Third, in our own hemisphere an effort will be made to reverse course on the slow-motion liberalization of Cuba policy and an effort to highlight as dangerous to US interests the Chavez regime in Venezuela and to label it a state supporter of terror. Ironically, the one area of national security that will not move very far with Republicans controlling the House will be the need to get a handle on the flow of weapons south to Mexico, weapons that contribute directly to the exploding violence there. Pending trade agreements may or may not be advanced; if House Republicans insist on an effort to overturn healthcare reform as their fir

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September 20, 2010 10:17 AM

The tea party doesn’t appear to have anything like a coherent trade policy, but if Rand Paul is representative of at least some tea party thinking on the issue, the trade agenda could become even more complicated. Whereas in the recent past it was generally (but not always) Republicans who supported trade expansion agreements and generally (but not always) Democrats who did not, a more stridently populist Republican Party would further erode the support for trade agreements in Congress even if Republicans take back the House of Representatives November 2.

Even under the best of circumstances, it would take immense political capital for the White House to move the pending Korea, Colombia, and Panama trade agreements forward—to say nothing of prospects for additional trade expansion efforts. A Republican Party increasingly untethered to the free trade agenda would make passage of the agreements virtually impossible. But, while we are dithering over whether to expand trade with an economy the size of Panama’s, for example, we are being left in the

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September 7, 2010 09:35 AM

The sustainability of the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, however defined, are negatively correlated to US forces casualties and positively correlated to perceptions of progress. There is nothing inherently predetermined about the timeline or the number of troops that will remain--Korea, Germany, and Japan have hosted thousands of US troops continuously since wars ended there--but the politics change when men and women are being wounded and dying. At the same time, as violence and lack of governance increase, the public begins to wonder whether all the time and effort has been "worth it" and calls increase to wind down the effort. As in Korea, the effort becomes more sustainable when the public can plainly see what would happen if US troops were not present, while at the same time there are no US casualties. The main thing to understand is that, despite Washington's best efforts, the duration of conflicts and the effort required generally does not hew to the US electoral calendar. Decisions should not be made primarily on that basis.

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June 14, 2010 11:04 AM

Brazil has clearly set a course for greater global influence and sees a role for itself in a number of fora that have traditionally been dominated by others. Its efforts in the Middle East may be naive or misguided, depending on ones interpretation, but they stem from a desire to be taken seriously as a global power. Its difficult to make the case based on this, however, that this is fraying an alliance with the United States. While US policy-makers see partnership with Brazil to achieve common goals as the overriding aim, Brazilians have long seen the relationship with the United States, at least in the hemisphere, as zero sum and have often defined their policy in terms of what they are not (i.e. the United States) rather than what they are. This has put them into a pickle in the context of the recent UNSC vote on Iran, as it now appears that Brazil's opposition to the United States on this issue extends as far as to be willing to side with one of the world's most deplorable regimes against a global--not merely Western--consensus (even Lebanon abstained). Brazilians will g

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May 19, 2010 01:38 PM

It does appear as if North Korea was behind the sinking, according to the multi-state investigation that just concluded. As predicted, South Korea has determined to take the case to the UNSC, whereas the United States, occupied on so many other issues including Iran sanctions, is looking to keep the issue off boil. It's an interesting tightrope that must be walked: responding to an act of war in an appropriate manner, while at the same time refusing to allow a blatant provocation to blow up into something much larger and dangerous. The question is, how badly does North Korea want confrontation?

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April 19, 2010 10:41 AM

Even if and when it is conclusively shown that the attack was both deliberate and perpatrated by the North Korean regime, expect little in the way of military reprisal. These sorts of incidents can and do lead to conflict, but only when the aggrieved party seeks to use them for larger purposes. History is instructive. See, for example, the USS Maine sinking which launched the Spanish American war in 1898, and also the Maddox and the C. Turner Joy incidents in 1964 which led to escalation in Vietnam. When, however, the aggrieved party does not seek escalation, often because it is occupied militarily elsewhere or has different goals, the incident is de-emphasized. Examples include the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel in 1967, the USS Pueblo seizure by North Korea in 1968, and the attack by Iraq on the USS Stark in 1987. In the current circumstances, with US forces actively engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a global effort ongoing to isolate Iran, escalation of conflict with North Korea over an attack on the South Korean vessel is unlikely. Neither South Korea nor th

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March 31, 2010 11:58 AM

Putin is off to Venezuela this week, in a visit that will focus primarily on arms and energy. Russia is now the top weapons supplier to Latin America, an impressive feat, with Venezuela the primary though not sole arms purchaser. For Russia, the benefits are plain: cash for clunkers, and also the ability to project influence to a traditional US sphere of influence as a counterweight to US engagement with Central Asia. For Venezuela, the benefits are also obvious, including the ability to gain weapons including small arms and munitions it can brandish if not actually use against its neighbors like Colombia, the proliferation of arms that can find their way into the caches of non-state guerrilla actors such as the FARC, and a global patron that gives Venezuela recognition, if not necessarily credibility, in its quest for leadership of a rejectionist, anti-Western group of nations. There is no particular historical connection between the two countries, nor is there a particular affinity between their respective publics. Nonetheless, so long as both sides perceive

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