Recently in National Interest Category

Telepresence and Visa Hassles

February 26, 2007 2:58 PM

visas.jpgI just absorbed some sobering statistics, courtesy of Fareed Zakaria's excellent column "Hassle and Humilation" in the February 26 issue of Newsweek magazine,  about the state of our International visitor visa process and the negative impact it is having on business travel and tourism.

Apparently, the situation is getting so bad that many important meetings scheduled to be held in America are being passed up by International business travelers due to an "increasingly demeaning process for visa applications."

Prepare to sober up: According to the piece, a group of Arab leaders recently landed at John F. Kennedy airport to attend a meeting of the Arab and American Action Forum, launched last September at the Clinton (as in Bill Clinton) Global Initiative meeting in New York: The idea: to bring together 100 young Arab leaders from all walks of life and introduce them to a similar group of Americans. The Arab backers are all pro-American, pro-business individuals who have attended American universities and who have spent extensive time in the U.S.

According to Fareed: "the first group of participants, mostly CEOs of large companies, were pulled out of the regular immigration lines...made to stand for two to five hours as Department of Homeland Security officials grilled them {about} why they had come to America, and whether they had any experience using weapons, what they thought of the Iraq war, and other such questions."

customs-inside.jpg And if you think this is just an Arab issue, when "Discover America, a group set up by the tourism industry to encourage travel to America, polled 2,000 randomly selected international travelers and asked them "'which one location on the map is the worst'" in terms of visa hassles and nasty immigration officials, the United States topped the list by far."  If you're thinking they were probably anti-American to begin with, 72% still had a overall favorable view of the United States when asked.

The impact of all this hassle: "Total international arrivals into the United States declined 10 percent between 2000 and 2004, and business travel has declined 10% in the last 2 years...Once No. 1, the United States has dropped to third as a travel destination."

What's more:  "Over the last 14 years, global tourism has been thriving, having increased by 52 percent. But America's share has been declining, down 36 percent in the same time frame...with travel and tourism...employing 17 million people and generating $105 billion in tax revenues."

DHS%20logo.jpg So, what are we to do while we wait and wait and wait for our State Department to significantly improve the situation? Continue Reading...

Iraq Study Group Report Released

December 6, 2006 2:36 PM

Please forgive this departure from the content of my regularly scheduled posts, but I felt it was of overriding importance to make note of the just released report on Iraq by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. I even created a new "National Interest"  blog category for this post, that's how important I feel this is right now.

The full report is now available for download, and the findings are refreshingly candid and unblinking -- It is an honest attempt to tell it like it is, and to not hide behind doubletalk and tired propaganda.

The key problems in Iraq, according to the report are as follows:
• The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating
• A slide toward chaos could topple Iraqi government and trigger humanitarian catastrophe
• Sectarian conflict is principal challenge to stability
• Iraqi elected government not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security or essential services

The report's key recommendations are also well considered:
• Change diplomatic and military missions
• Engage Iran and Syria to address border, insurgency and reconciliation issues
• Renew commitment to comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace and provide additional support to Afghanistan as part of regional approach
• Evolve U.S. military role to support Iraqi Army units as Iraq moves to take responsibility for security sooner
• Move all U.S. combat brigades not needed for protection out of Iraq by first quarter of 2008
• Make no open-ended commitment to Iraq to keep large numbers of U.S.
Continue Reading...

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