Ari Fridman is Counsel for Oversight and Investigations on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. His portfolio includes the range of regional and functional areas within the Committee’s jurisdiction, such as oversight of foreign aid and embassy security. Ari has worked on multiple committee investigations, hearings, and legislation.
Previously, Ari was named a member of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s Future Leaders Program and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ National Security Fellows Program.
Ari graduated magna cum laude from Yeshiva University in 2006, and with a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2010.
Describe the impact on foreign policy you have made in your current/past positions.
Implementing the agenda of two chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has had a tangible impact on and off Capitol Hill. Whether conducting highly visible investigations, such as the ongoing investigation into the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, or quietly probing foreign assistance packages to war theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan, the Committee’s oversight work shapes the Obama Administration’s day-to-day execution of the nation’s foreign policy.
What personal contribution to foreign policy are you most proud of?
Working on the ongoing investigation into the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya has been the most fascinating and complex assignment of my Congressional career. The investigation involves overlapping strands of policy and politics. Ultimately, we are trying to understand exactly what happened before, during, and after the attacks to improve security for our diplomats.
What is your vision of foreign policy in the 21st Century?
After wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America must reassess her strategic priorities abroad. In some respects, the Obama Administration’s pivot to Asia is recognition that global events are not limited to the Middle East. Yet our foreign policy establishment should consider deeper, more fundamental questions. Nation-building, in particular, should garner more skepticism from our policymakers. While isolationism is neither a moral or strategic option for the United States, a more modest approach to the world may be in order, particularly as we sort out profound fiscal challenges at home.
What challenges need to be overcome to create better foreign policy? What leadership traits are needed for this?
Our foreign policy establishment often operates by inertia. Republican and Democrat administrations alike prefer continuity of agendas to wholesale reexaminations of policy decisions in the first place. Admittedly, the latter is difficult work, yet the default mode of groupthink is no substitute for sound policymaking. Like most issues in Washington, foreign policy is driven to a significant degree by policy prescriptions made in the White House and implemented by the bureaucracies of the relevant agencies. Cabinet secretaries need to be empowered by the President to foster cultures of reflection within the Departments of State, Defense, and USAID. If not, the results are clear: good money is thrown after bad, well after the reality of a wasteful project in Afghanistan has run its course.
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