Saturday, February 14, 2009

US intel predicts Israel-Iran war in 2009
Sat, 14 Feb 2009 09:26:39 GMT
An Israeli F-16i fighter takes off in a demonstration of air power in November. The F-16i has become known as the backbone of the Israeli Air Force and may be employed in an attack on Iran.
The US intelligence chief reportedly expects Israel and Iran to engage in a major military confrontation before the end of the year.

Dennis Blair, the newly-appointed head of US intelligence, said Tel Aviv will eventually declare war on Tehran as a last-ditch effort to curb Iran's enrichment capabilities, Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported on Saturday.

Detailed military plans to bomb Iran's nuclear infrastructure have long been on the table in Tel Aviv.

Israel accuses Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of pursuing a military nuclear program.

Iran, however, says it enriches uranium for civilian applications and that it has a right to the technology already in the hands of many others.

In an annual threat assessment to Congress on Thursday, Blair reconfirmed the findings of a 2007 intelligence report, asserting once again that Iran is not currently working toward weaponization.

The retired admiral said that while Iran has made progress in enrichment, there is proof that Tehran "does not currently have a nuclear weapon, and does not have enough fissile material for one".

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) issued in November 2007 by sixteen US intelligence agencies has been an obstacle to Israeli efforts in building a case for war against the Islamic Republic.

In a Friday interview, former Israeli UN ambassador Dan Gillerman nevertheless revealed that Tel Aviv is preparing a military offensive against the country.

Gillerman explained that Israel could no longer afford to wait for international efforts to bring Iran's enrichment to an end.

Israeli legislator and weapons expert Isaac Ben-Israel has also called for Tel Aviv to attack Tehran in the coming year.

The Israeli calls against Tehran come at a time when prospects for direct US-Iran diplomacy have increased significantly in recent weeks.

Iran and the US have had no diplomatic ties for almost thirty years, but in an abrupt volte-face in the White House policy of isolating Iran, US President Barack Obama has vowed to break the ice and create conditions for the two sides to "start sitting across the table, face to face" in the coming months.

"I think there's the possibility, at least, of a relationship of mutual respect and progress," Obama said at his first prime time press conference on Monday.

"My expectation is, in the coming months, we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table face-to-face with diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our policy in the new direction," he added.

Israel fears US-Iran talks may lead to rapprochement between the two countries -- a development that may be able to slightly change the balance of power in the Middle East.

Iran has shown openness toward US calls for dialogue but insists that Washington should be seeking lasting 'change' and not a mere shift in tactics.


SL here. MUST WATCH. No mass activism? No "America." Naomi Wolf

No mass activism? No "America." Naomi Wolf



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Inhofe-Franks Introduce 4% Defense Resolution INCREASE!!!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009 4:14 PM CST

Increased Military Spending Will Spur Economic Growth and Keep Our Nation Safe


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senior Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today offered a Joint Resolution (S.JR10) that will keep this country safe, restore our military to the level of capability and readiness the people of this country demand of them, and provide jobs in almost every state in our country.


Senator Inhofe: "Today, Congressman Trent Franks and I are introducing a Joint Resolution that will keep this country safe, restore our military to the level of capability and readiness the people of this country demand of them, and provide jobs in almost every state in our country.  For the past few weeks, this Congress has debated economic stimulus legislation. Defense spending, along with infrastructure investment and tax cuts, have a greater stimulative impact on the economy than anything else the government can do.  Our level of defense spending must consider the resources needed to meet current and future threats. In order to provide this stability, Congress needs to guarantee a minimum baseline budget for defense funding, enabling the Pentagon to execute sustained multiyear program investments.  Guaranteeing a baseline budget, not including supplemental, that sets a floor based on our GDP is the best way to accomplish this.


"Passage of this Joint Resolution would a send clear signal to our military, our allies, and enemies alike that we are committed to the security of our nation and the preservation of freedom and democracy around the world.  Congress must provide the Department of Defense with the certainty and stability that comes with a long-term defense-spending plan. Our national security is the price we pay if we do not get this right.


"Importantly, this will allow our military to develop and build the next generation of weapons and equipment. These weapons and equipment will maintain national security for the next forty years or more, increase our military's capability to fight across the spectrum or warfare, and operate at higher readiness rates at lower costs.


"This legislation also has the benefit of creating jobs across America and sustains our military and industrial base.  Investing in our nation's defense provides thousands of sustainable American jobs and provides for our nation's security.  Experts estimate that $1B in procurement spending correlates to 6,500 jobs. Major defense procurement programs are all manufactured in the U.S., and our aerospace industry alone employs more than 655,000 workers spread across over most of the nation.  Establishing a minimum baseline defense budget will allow the Department of Defense and the Services to plan for and fund acquisition programs based on a minimum known budget through the Future Years Defense Program."



Congressman Franks: "A 'Four Percent for Defense of Freedom' pledge to our armed forces will send a clear message on the part of the American people that we are steadfast in our commitment to the security of this nation.


"Senior Democratic leaders are talking about cutting our defense budget because of our depressed economy. Our economy cannot afford NOT to secure a strong and stable defense. Right now we are all concerned about the freedom and flexibility of businessman to invent and invest. The American businessmen will always take into account the stability of the country before he invests. The American buyer will purchase, only if he or she has faith in the economy. The economy took a hit upwards of $1 trillion on the tragic day of September 11, 2001 and every time we have appeared militarily weak, the enemy has struck and cost us in blood and bounty. It is critical that we ensure a stable environment so our economy can flourish and we can consistently balance our budget.

"Only two decades ago, around 1980, it became widely accepted that the U.S. military had a "hollow force", meaning it looked functional but it was devastatingly under funded.


"It was not a coincidence when Ronald Reagan secured increases in defense spending that the morale of troops skyrocketed, training for warfighters improved, the Department of Defense recapitalized its platforms, America defeated the Soviet Union, and enjoyed peace and economic prosperity afterwards. 


"We must learn from history's lessons. As Ronald Reagan said, 'Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.'  The best way to propagate peace is through a coherent and principled foreign policy and a strong and robust military capability."


Former Senator Jim Talent, a top defense policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, reacted to the introduction of the joint resolution, saying, "Senator Inhofe and Representative Franks are doing America a tremendous service because the safety of America is literally at stake." To protect the country, he said, "Congress will have to maintain defense spending at the levels established in the Inhofe-Franks resolution."  Link to Heritage Release


Sen. Inhofe Remarks as Prepared for Delivery


Mr. President, I am introducing a Joint Resolution in the Senate with Congressman Trent Franks introducing the identical Joint Resolution in the House which sets a minimum baseline for defense spending.  By establishing a minimum defense base budget of 4%, this country can achieve two critical needs – national security and economic growth.


For the past few weeks, this Congress has debated economic stimulus legislation.  Defense spending, along with infrastructure investment and tax cuts, have a greater stimulative impact on the economy than anything else the government can do.


The greatest trust placed upon Congress by the American people is to provide for their security by maintaining a strong national defense.


It is a trust we cannot betray.


However, we have reached a crossroad…a nexus that will determine America's security for the next several decades. 


The historic pattern of this nation has been one of a small professional military in peacetime, rapidly supplemented by a mobilization of civilians during war, followed by a rapid demobilization with the war's end. This demobilization or downsizing takes place within a context of balancing risks and threats. The trick is to retain and fund a force of sufficient size and capability to deter or dissuade, and, if necessary, fight and win.


In the late 1970s, the military of the United States was a hollow force – low morale, low pay, outdated equipment, and unable to maintain the equipment it possessed.


In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan expanded the military budget, increased troops size, re-energized weapons procurement, and revived our intelligence capabilities…returning this country back to its superpower status.


The Cold War officially ended in 1990.


Much of this nation's firepower is a legacy of the Reagan years. With the demise of the Soviet Union, our military was downsized to counter a 'perceived' diminished world threat. However, our crystal ball proved once again cloudy as the global strategic environment became increasingly complex, dynamic, lethal and uncertain.


Many of us here in the Senate and in the House repeated spoke on the floor during the 1990s, warning about the dangers of the massive cuts in personal and procurement that were taking shape.


During this period, our country concluded, as Secretary Gates put it, "that the nature of man and the world had changed for the better, and turned inward, unilaterally disarming and dismantling institutions important to our national security – in the process, giving ourselves a so-called "peace" dividend…"


We were wrong.


During a hearing to the House Armed Services Committee 17 years ago, I was told by a panel member that we would not need a standing army.


He was wrong.


Today, our military is fighting with equipment that is decades old and a force structure that is 40% less than what it was in the 1980s. 

The Air Force has 2,500 fewer aircraft, the Navy cut its fleet size in half, and the Army reduced its force to half the number of divisions it had during the first Gulf War. 


For the past 17 years, our military has been asked to do more with much less and much older equipment. It is taking a toll on our people and our equipment at sea, on land and in the air.


The United States must build and sustain military capabilities required to respond to possible future threats across the spectrum of conflict.


The next war will not be like the past one or even the one we are in now – history has taught us this. On February 1, 2009, in the Washington Post, there was an article about a note Marine Maj. Gen. Larry Taylor, now in Iraq, wrote to a young Marine, warning him against assuming that the country's next war will be like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.


He wrote, "You say the next conflict will be a guerrilla conflict. I say, it depends. In my lifetime, we have been in 5 big fights and a bunch of little ones. In only one of those 5 big ones (Desert Storm) had we prepared for the type of war we wound up having to fight. It is one thing to say that a certain type of fight is more or less likely; it is quite another to say it is certain to be one or the other. In war, the only thing certain is uncertainty."


He goes on to say, "It may be that nobody can beat us in a conventional fight today, but what we buy today is what we will have to fight with in 2020. Furthermore, advertising that our focus of effort is on the low-to-mid intensity fights of the future reduces the deterrence that powerful conventional capabilities demonstrate to traditional state actors. Non-state actors, guerrillas, terrorists are not likely to be deterred by our capabilities. Nation-states are. We had better well have the capability to fight the guerrilla and the nation-state, regardless of which of these is more or less likely."


We weren't able to predict the fall of the Soviet Union, the rapid growth of ballistic missile capability of North Korea, or the rise in asymmetric warfare that we are currently engaged in.

It doesn't matter how great our military leaders or intelligence is, our strategic thinking will always be imperfect. Like Maj Gen Taylor correctly stated, there will always be unknowns.


In order to provide stability, America must be able to deter or defeat any threat be it an insurgency or a challenge from a near-peer competitor.


We can no longer afford to kid ourselves that we are still sending our sons and daughters out with the best equipment available. In some cases, we simply can't match the quality of our competitors. In other cases, while we may have developed a superior system, we have restricted the quantity to a point where many of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are forced into battle with the older, inferior equipment. Many other countries are able to buy avionics, airframes, and weapons (often mixed and matched together) to create aircraft that rival our current F-15, F-16, or Navy and Marine F-18, such as Russian Su-30s and 35s, or upgraded MiG-21s and MiG-29s.


We can solve this problem if we decide to make the investment in our F-22 and F-35 programs, and buy the number needed to ensure American air superiority in the future. Some systems in the Army are overmatched by systems sold by other countries. Four other countries have better artillery systems than the US.


The British AS90, the Russian 2S19, the South African G6 and the German PzH 2000 are all superior in rate of fire and range to our Paladin. This will change when we field the Non-Line of Sight Cannon, the first of the FCS Man Ground Vehicles.


Our Navy and Marine Corps are being challenged by a variety of threats ranging from near-peer competitors, to non-state and transnational actors, to rogue nations and pirates. While trying to sustain and recapitalize their ships, submarines, aircraft and ground equipment, they are being challenged across the globe. Russia and China submarines continue to be a threat to our forces with China operating over 60 submarines. China, Japan, Australia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Bangladesh and South and North Korea either now have or are planning to acquire submarines. While most do not pose much of a threat to our more advanced fleet, that dynamic is changing. It is simply unacceptable that we let this country get into this predicament.


Our level of defense spending must consider the resources needed to meet current and future threats.


In order to provide this stability, Congress needs to guarantee a baseline budget in defense funding, enabling the Pentagon to execute sustained multiyear program investments.


Guaranteeing a baseline budget, not including supplemental, that sets a floor based on our GDP is the best way to accomplish this.


Historically, defense spending was 4.6% in 1991 during the Gulf War; 9.5% in 1968 during Vietnam; and 14.2% in 1953 during the Korean War. During the Cold War, 1947 through 1991, defense spending averaged 6.70%. From 1992 through the attacks on 9/11, it averaged 3.46%. Since we began the war on terror, defense spending averaged 3.75%. The FY09 defense base budget include military construction is $513.0 bil lion – approximately 3.6 % of GDP.


There are some who think by cutting unnecessary weapons systems along with reforming DoD's procurement process, we can reduce defense spending and still maintain a military able to engage across the spectrum of warfare.


I agree with them, we must reform our acquisition processes.


Overall budget delays and overruns are staggering - overall we are 8 years late on projects and 150% over budget…and we need to field our systems quicker and on budget. However, this alone will not rebuild our military.


We could eliminate weapons systems that are called 'low hanging fruit.' Sadly, most of the fruit from that tree was picked a decade ago when we took a holiday from procuring new weapons and modernizing many weapons systems. We have been trying to get past a bow wave created in the 1990s when the military budget was cut $313 billion dollars and we push acquisition programs and R&D to the right…right into where we are today. The Pentagon now faces a $100 billion annual shortfall in its procurement and modernization accounts.


I believe we should spend only as much as we need to ensure our national defense -- no more and no less. This Joint Resolution sets minimum baseline for defense spending. By establishing a minimum defense base budget of 4%, this country can achieve two critical needs – national security and economic growth.


Importantly, this will allow our military to develop and build the next generation of weapons and equipment. These weapons and equipment will maintain national security for the next forty years or more, increase our military's capability to fight across the spectrum or warfare, and operate at higher readiness rates at lower costs.


Second, it will create and maintain jobs across America and sustain our military and industrial base. Investing in our nation's defense provides thousands of sustainable American jobs and provides for our nation's security. Experts estimate that $1B in procurement spending correlates to 6,500 jobs. Major defense procurement programs are all manufactured in the US with our aerospace industry alone employing more than 655,000 workers spread across 44 states. The US shipbuilding industry supports more than 400,000 workers in 47 states. Establishing a minimum baseline defense budget will allow the Department of Defense and the Services to plan for and fund acquisition programs based on a minimum known budget through the Future Years Defense Program.


We are no longer able to complete purchases of large acquisition programs in 3 to 5 years…the KC-X will take over 30 years to complete once a contract is actually awarded.


Programming from a known minimum budget for the out years will translate to less reprogramming and more stability for thousands of businesses throughout the United States at decreased costs.


This week I voted against a massive government-spending bill that provided plenty in the way of more wasteful government spending and little in the way of real stimulative opportunities like defense spending.


I offered an amendment that would have increased defense procurement spending to manufacture or acquire vehicles, equipment, ammunition, and materials required to reconstitute military units.


Procurement that would have keep existing jobs going, generate new jobs and enable the Department of Defense to reconstitute military units to an acceptable level of readiness. This funding would have procured aircraft, tracked and non-tracked combat vehicles, missiles, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, maintenance equipment, naval ships and boats, salvage equipment, riverine equipment, expeditionary material handling equipment, and other expeditionary items.


Today, Congressman Trent Franks and I are simultaneously offering a Joint Resolution that will keep this country safe, restore our military to the level of capability and readiness the people of this country demand of them, and provide sustainable jobs in almost every state in our country.


By voting for this Joint Resolution, you send a clear signal to our military, our allies, and enemies alike that we are committed to the security of our nation and the preservation of freedom and democracy around the world. Congress must provide the Department of Defense with the certainty and stability that comes with a long-term defense-spending plan. Our national security is the price we pay if we do not get this right.

BEGGING FOR MORE DOD $$$ (& human bood): 44 SENATE, 200 CONGRESS


"In January, 44 senators sent Obama a letter urging him to continue production of the F-22. The letter argues that the program could provide thousands of jobs at a time when manufacturers are shedding factory jobs at a rapid clip because of the recession. Roughly 200 House members also wrote to Obama asking him to build more planes."

You know that each of these traitors have subassembly plants in their districts, right?

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pentagon spokesman said Friday the military must tighten its budget belt by looking at ways to share equipment and services instead of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines each paying for its own.

To that end, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell signaled that requests to build more F-22 fighter jets could be one area facing cuts.

The Obama administration is expected to decide by March 1 whether to spend $523 million on 20 more of the radar-evading stealth planes beyond 183 that are already planned — one of the first major defense spending decisions of the new presidency.

Lawmakers fear that ending F-22 spending would result in thousands of lost jobs during the global recession that began last year.

But Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have expressed doubt that more F-22s are needed, especially since the military plans to buy several thousand F-35s, a much cheaper plane.

Morrell said the issue of F-22s was being weighed amid ongoing Pentagon budget talks "both financially and in terms of balancing capabilities and risk."

"We need to make hard choices in this economic climate, particularly with regards to programs that are having trouble being executed," Morrell told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Friday. "We need to look for cost efficiencies."

Earlier this week, Gates said the Pentagon has not yet decided on the F-22 spending, calling it "one of the programs that, along with a number of others — many others — that we will be looking at."

Lockheed Martin Corp., the defense contractor building the F-22, has warned that thousands of jobs would be lost if President Barack Obama decides to end funding for the advanced but costly plane. Lockheed estimates about 95,000 people, at 1,000 suppliers, are working on the F-22 contract.

In January, 44 senators sent Obama a letter urging him to continue production of the F-22. The letter argues that the program could provide thousands of jobs at a time when manufacturers are shedding factory jobs at a rapid clip because of the recession. Roughly 200 House members also wrote to Obama asking him to build more planes.

Additionally, the Air Force has pushed for production of F-22s to reach 381 total aircraft. Lockheed says the F-22 is needed for aerial combat and would be used for potential future threats from nations like China and Russia.

Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, said Congress already cut the military's budget request in a $787 billion economic recovery package from $10 billion to $7.4 billion. Gates met Friday with his top military commanders from around the world to discuss the 2010 budget.

Hold the Line on Defense Spending

Another Federal budget season approaches and once again, pundits are attempting use it as an excuse to paint Democrats as weak on national security. In fact, reports that the White House has decided to cut the defense budget in Fiscal Year 2010 are nonsense. If the reports are accurate, the White House has actually proposed increasing defense spending by about 3%, which would represent budget discipline at Defense that has been sorely absent for the past 8 years.

The Pentagon is playing a standard budget game and the Defense "cut" claim being made is simply false. It is true that the purportedly proposed $527 billion will be less than the "wish list" the Pentagon put together last year. But the plan had no formal standing, and was clearly intended as a setup for the incoming administration, no matter who won the 2008 election. If the military "bid high," then anything the White House did to provide less growth could be called a cut.

Despite instructions by the Bush White House that they would not send a federal budget to Congress before they left office, DOD went ahead and prepared one anyway. The resulting document was an unconstrained effort, driven by the military services, to lay out the maximum amount of funding they desired. It created an appetite for more than $580 billion in FY 2010, or roughly 14% more than the base defense budget Congress provided for this year.

This phony "cut" debate conceals an underlying reality: there has basically been no discipline in defense budgeting for the last eight years. In FY2001, the defense appropriation was $315 billion, including supplemental funding. In FY 2009, including the supplementals, defense will actually receive nearly $650 billion, or more than twice as much as it did eight budgets ago.

When DOD's resources are fully counted, they reflect historically unprecedented growth. Going back to World War II, our annual defense spending now dwarfs any previous period in history. It is more than the defense spending of every other country in the world combined. It has provided new generations of aircraft, ships, missiles, military vehicles, led to significant growth in the projected costs of current and future weapons programs, providing an almost unprecedented fiscal boon to the manufacturers of military equipment.

And it has happened not just because of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but because funding ostensibly dedicated to those operations helped take the wheels off the normal scrutiny and discipline the defense budget undergoes. Those war funds are a big part of the problem. Emergency budget requests are not subject to the same internal Pentagon budget discipline. They have not been scrubbed by the White House in the same way as the base budget. And the Congress, lacking time and political will, tends to rubber stamp them.

Now the nation is faced with an unprecedented fiscal and economic crisis. The war in Iraq is about to wind down and in Afghanistan, operations are not yet winding up to the same degree. Neither are they part of the base budget.

Nobody, Democrat or Republican, will argue with the underlying proposition that our military forces should have the funding they require. But all programs, agencies and budgets are always fiscally constrained. It should be so at DOD, as well. And what is required should be driven by policy, not by service appetite. Policy is made in the White House. When the services drew up the "wish list" the White House had already abandoned policy-making and the new team is still shaping its policy.

It is appropriate to hold the line on defense, provide basic growth this year, and delve into the work of defining policy -- shaping the appropriate role for our civilian and military institutions in executing the new strategy for U.S. international engagement. The White House has to coordinate that review; the State Dept. needs to weigh in, and DOD needs to carry out its regular Quadrennial Defense Review. If there are genuine, policy-driven, defense requirements in the near term for an Iraq withdrawal and a deployment to Afghanistan, those need to be tightly defined and supplemental funding requested.

But the base budget for defense, and anything that was not truly emergency, needs to be disciplined. It is time for "regular order" in the way DOD does its budget. And the guidance the White House sent out is an excellent start.


Gordon Adams is a Professor of International Relations at the School of International Service, American University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center. From 1993-97, he was the senior White House official for national security budgeting.

Nato is deeper in its Afghan mire than Russia ever was

Two decades after the Soviet withdrawal, ever more resources are being poured into a war with scant chance of success

Twenty years ago tomorrow the last Soviet units left Afghanistan after a nine-year intervention that took 15,000 soldiers' lives. As they crossed the river Oxus I was in the air above them, the only foreign journalist to fly to Kabul that day.

Russian friends in Moscow, where I was this newspaper's correspondent, doubted my sanity, convinced a bloodbath was bound to follow the Soviet exodus. I disagreed. The secular regime under Mohammed Najibullah that the Kremlin left behind had a firmer base than many outsiders realised, thanks in part to support from Kabulis who feared chaos and blood-letting if the mujahideen won the civil war.

Two decades later the ironies of America's war in Afghanistan are telling. When Richard Holbrooke, the new US envoy to the region, visited the country this week he may not have been aware of the Soviet anniversary. But the US-led intervention is already almost as long. At this stage of their war the Russians were preparing to leave. Now the US and Nato want to get further in, and if Barack Obama's plans for 30,000 extra US troops are met, along with efforts to get more from Nato, coalition forces will almost equal the 115,000 troops the Russians had at their peak.

Western casualties are considerably less, but Nato has been no more successful. Like the Russians, the western alliance mainly occupies Kabul and provincial capitals. The countryside is vulnerable to attack or in the hands of the resistance - a mixture of Islamic fundamentalists, Pashtun nationalists, local tribal chiefs and mullahs, and Arab jihadis - just like the mujahideen who confronted the Russians. The difference is that the west and Pakistan supported and armed them in the 1980s. Now, using the profits of heroin-running, they are self-sustaining and harder to control.

Nato faces tougher challenges than the Russians. Twenty years ago the Taliban did not exist, suicide bombing was not in vogue, and the Afghan army and police were more effective. Kabul under Soviet rule was an oasis of calm, where girls went to school and unveiled young women attended university. The mujahideen fired occasional rockets into the city but caused too little damage to upset normal life. Note the contrast with today's siren-screaming armoured convoys and western offices hidden behind high walls and sandbags, and still the Taliban were able to attack three government buildings a few days ago.

The Soviet invasion violated international law and was condemned by the UN. But its goals were more modest than the US's in 2001. Moscow was not seeking regime change. It was trying to prop up a regime under threat from a mounting civil war. Although western hawks claimed the Kremlin planned to advance through Afghanistan to seize warm water ports in the Gulf, the true aim was limited. Moscow wanted to defend an allied government, contain the mujahideen (who were getting CIA support before Soviet troops invaded), and prevent Afghanistan becoming a pro-western bastion. This was shortly after the US was expelled from Iran and the Kremlin feared Washington wanted Afghanistan as its replacement.

Getting out was easier for Moscow than it will be for the US. International negotiations in Geneva gave the Kremlin the face-saver of "parallelism". The peace terms were that the Russians would leave when aid to the mujahideen ceased and an intra-Afghan dialogue was launched. This disguised any appearance of defeat. It even provided a good chance for the Afghan government to continue after Soviet troops withdrew. In fact, it lasted three more years.

The causes and consequences of the Soviet withdrawal and Najibullah's eventual fall have led to some of the phoniest myths of the cold war. Claims that US-provided Stinger missiles forced the Russians to give up and that this humiliation provoked the Soviet Union's collapse are nonsense. Moscow's ally Najibullah fell four months after the USSR died, when the Kremlin's new ruler, Boris Yeltsin, cut fuel supplies to the Afghan army and Abdul Rashid Dostum, the leading Uzbek commander, defected to the mujahideen. Until that moment, they had not captured and held a single city.

Another myth is that the west "walked away" after the Russians left. If only it had. Instead Washington and Pakistan broke the Geneva agreement by maintaining arms supplies to the mujahideen. They encouraged them to reject Najibullah's repeated efforts at national reconciliation. The mujahideen wanted all-out victory, which they eventually got, only to squander it in an orgy of artillery shelling that left Kabul in ruins and produced the anger that paved the way for the Taliban. If western governments are now paying a high price in Afghanistan, they have brought the disaster on themselves.

The Taliban will not drive Nato out militarily. The notion that Afghans always defeat foreigners is wrong. The real lesson of the Soviet war is that in Afghanistan political and cultural disunity can slide into massive and prolonged violence. Foreigners intervene at their peril.

Nato is in a cleft stick and the idea that, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is the "right war" is a self-deluding trap. A military "surge", the favoured Obama policy, may produce short-term local advances but no sustainable improvement, and as yesterday's Guardian reported, it will cost the US and Britain enormous sums. Pouring in aid will take too long to win hearts and minds, and if normal practice is followed, the money will mainly go to foreign consultants and corrupt officials. Talking to the Taliban makes sense under Najibullah-style national reconciliation. But the Taliban themselves are disunited, with a host of local leaders and generational divisions between "new" and "old" Taliban. Worse still, since the war spilt into Pakistan's frontier regions, there are now Pakistani Taliban.

What of the better option, a phased Nato withdrawal? It will not produce benefits as clear or immediate as the US pull-out from Iraq. Most Iraqis never wanted the US in the first place. They know the destruction the invasion brought, have stepped back from sectarian war, and now have a government which has pressed Washington to set a timetable to leave. In Afghanistan the risks of a collapse of central rule and a long civil war are far greater.

• This article was amended on Saturday February 14 2009. 'Western casualties are considerably less, but Nato has been more successful' should have said 'Western casualties are considerably less, but Nato has been no more successful'. This has been changed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Report Calls for End to Drug War, Obama Moves Toward Reform

Laura Carlsen

Laura Carlsen

Posted February 11, 2009 | 11:33 PM (EST)

The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy issued a report today that marks a turning point in drug policy in the hemisphere. Following a year's work, the report concludes that the "war on drugs" is a failure and recommends a "paradigm shift" centered on public health, reducing consumption and focusing resources on organized crime.

The report was drawn up by a prestigious 17-member commission, chaired by former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia and Fernando Enrique Cardoso of Brazil.

It's well worth it to read the full statement of the commission, "Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift." Here's a brief run-down.

The report begins with a flat-out denouncement of the war on drugs and its emphasis on criminal enforcement measures.

Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the expected results. We are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs.

On today's teleconference, members of the commission criticized the "prohibitionist policies" of the past and urged formation of a joint Latin American policy based on harm reduction and collaboration with the United States and European consumer countries to reduce demand.
The report lists three specific actions under the new paradigm: treat addicts as patients in the public health system, evaluate decriminalization of cannabis possession for personal use, and reduce consumption through public education campaigns primarily directed at youth.

The section on the expensive, bloody and largely ineffective U.S.-sponsored drug wars in the Americas is particularly damning:

Colombia, recipient of over $6 billion in U.S. drug war funds, illustrates drug policy failure:

Colombia is a clear example of the shortcomings of the repressive policies promoted at the global level by the United States. For decades, Colombia implemented all conceivable measures to fight the drug trade in a massive effort whose benefits were not proportional to the vast amount of resources invested and the human costs involved. Despite the country's significant achievements in fighting the drug cartels and lowering the levels of violence and crime, the areas of illegal cultivation are again expanding as well as the flow of drugs coming out of Colombia and the Andean region.

Mexico, which has just begun to receive drug war training and equipment from the U.S. government under the Merida Initiative, is seen as a chance to change course before it's too late:

Mexico has quickly become the other epicenter of the violent activities carried out by the criminal groups associated with the narcotics trade. This raises challenges for the Mexican government in its struggle against the drug cartels that have supplanted the Colombian traffickers as the main suppliers of illicit drugs to the United States market. Mexico is thus well positioned to ask the government and institutions of American society to engage in a dialogue about the policies currently pursued by the US as well as to call upon the countries of the European Union to undertake a greater effort aimed at reducing domestic drug consumption. The traumatic Colombian experience is a useful reference for countries not to make the mistake of adopting the US prohibitionist policies and to move forward in the search for innovative alternatives.

Although the report stops short of mentioning the Merida Initiative and Plan Colombia by name, it makes it clear that given the poor results, military/police programs like these that stress enforcement and interdiction should be seriously reevaluated and reoriented. The commission criticizes the high costs in violence, and corruption among police forces and politicians within countries employing the war and drugs strategy.

Referring to another aspect of the drug wars that has sparked controversy in Latin America, the report says this about efforts to eradicate cultivation of illicit drugs:

It is important to speak not only of alternative cultivation but to envision a wide range of options, including the social development of alternative forms of work, democratic education and the search for solutions in a participatory context. Such initiatives must also take into account the legal uses of plants, such as the coca leaf, in countries with a long-standing tradition of ancestral use previous to the phenomenon of their exploitation as an input for drug production. Accordingly measures must be taken to strictly adjust production to this kind of ancestral use.

The mere recognition of the legitimacy of ancestral use is a step forward. This time, the implicit reference is to the Bolivian government where President Evo Morales' "Coca sí, Cocaina no" policies collided with US DEA politicized eradication efforts--to the point where the DEA was barred from operating in the country. Here too the report opens up long-overdue debate on policies whose collateral damage to society and the environment cannot be justified by their poor results.

The goal of the commission report is to build a united Latin American platform on drug policy. When asked if they thought they could accomplish that by the time the Vienna conference is slated to reach an agreement on a new 10-year UN policy, Commission members noted that only the Colombian government has explicitly balked at the proposed paradigm shift.

But it also targets its message to the U.S. government, which in the past has tried to impose the drug war model on its Latin American allies:


The U.S.] policy of massive incarceration of drug users, questionable both in terms of respect for human rights and its efficiency, is hardly applicable to Latin America, given the penal system's overpopulation and material conditions. This repressive policy also facilitates consumer extortion and police corruption. The United States allocates a much larger proportion of resources to eradication and interdiction as well as to maintaining its legal and penal system than to investments in health, prevention, treatment and the rehabilitation of drug users.

The Commission's message coming at this time reflects the hope that the Obama administration will have a more open attitude toward re-evaluating the failed policies.

That hope is not unfounded. It's true that the new administration had a well-publicized false starts on drug policy reform, but these seem to reflect more the built-in inertia of Washington than its own policies. Earlier this month, the U.S. delegation reportedly blocked harm reduction measures at the talks toward a new UN strategy in Vienna. Then, a series of DEA raids on medical marijuana providers in California raised questions about Obama's commitment to respect state laws on the matter.

Those fears have been somewhat allayed over the past few days. On the international front, Obama broke publicly from the "zero-tolerance" line of the Bush administration and announced support for needle exchange, although a spokesperons still called harm reduction "ambiguous".

At home, Obama received criticism for the contradiction between campaign promises and a reality that looked a lot like no change regarding federal government repression of medical marijuana. White House spokesperson Nick Shapiro stated that the raids would not continue.

"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind."

Now the Seattle press is speculating that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, will be appointed national drug czar. This would be another important sign of a changing tide. Kerlikowske worked in law enforcement in Washington state, a state that permits medical marijuana use and in Seattle, a city that approved a measure to give marijuana "lowest enforcement priority". Drug policy reform groups have celebrated his probable nomination.

Blackwater: US security firm mired in Iraq controversy changes its name

Blackwater Worldwide renamed Xe as company tries to salvage its tarnished brand

Blackwater Worldwide is abandoning its tarnished brand name as it tries to shake a reputation battered by oft-criticised work in Iraq, renaming its family of two dozen businesses under the name Xe. The parent company's new name is pronounced like the letter z.

Blackwater Lodge & Training Centre — the subsidiary that conducts much of the company's overseas operations and domestic training — has been renamed US Training Centre Inc., the company said today.

The decision comes as part of an ongoing rebranding effort that grew more urgent following a September 2007 shooting in Iraq that left at least a dozen civilians dead. Blackwater president Gary Jackson said in a memo to employees the new name reflects the change in company focus away from the business of providing private security.

"The volume of changes over the past half-year have taken the company to an exciting place and we are now ready for two of the final, and most obvious changes," Jackson said in the note.

In his memo, Jackson indicated the company was not interested in actively pursuing new private security contracts. Jackson and other Blackwater executives said last year the company was shifting its focus away from such work to focus on training and providing logistics.

"This company will continue to provide personnel protective services for high-threat environments when needed by the US government, but its primary mission will be operating our training facilities around the world, including the flagship campus in North Carolina," Jackson said.

The company has operated under the Blackwater name since 1997, when chief executive Erik Prince and some of his former Navy Seal colleagues launched it in north-eastern North Carolina, naming their new endeavour for the area swamp streams that run black with murky water. But the name change underscores how badly the Moyock, North Carolina-based company's brand was damaged by its work in Iraq.

In 2004, four of its contractors were killed in an insurgent ambush in Fallujuah, with their bodies burned, mutilated and strung from a bridge. The incident triggered a US siege of the restive city.

The September 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square added to the damage. The incident infuriated politicians both in Baghdad in Washington, triggering congressional hearings and increasing calls that the company be banned from operating in Iraq.

Last month, Iraqi leaders said they would not renew Blackwater's license to operate there, citing the lingering outrage over the shooting in Nisoor Square, and the US state department said later it will not renew Blackwater's contract to protect diplomats when it expires in May.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said the company made the name change largely because of changes in its focus, but acknowledged the need for the company to shake its past in Iraq.

"It's not a direct result of a loss of contract, but certainly that is an aspect of our work that we feel we were defined by," Tyrrell said.

Cut the Military Budget (Make Levees, Not War)

Steve Cobble

Steve Cobble

Posted February 12, 2009 | 06:58 PM (EST)

HUF POST: An Open Letter to Our Congressional Leaders on Military Budget Cuts:

On the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, I'd like to call attention to the closing line from his Second Inaugural Address: " do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Given that the U.S. still accounts for nearly half the world's spending on war, and preparations for war--given that we lead the world in arms sales--given that we have far and away the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons--and given that the Federal government still spends half its discretionary budget on war, and preparations for war--can we honestly say that we are living up to Honest Abe's charge?
And if not, shouldn't we be discussing what we might do differently?
During this week's crucial stimulus battle, the newspapers have been filled with discussion of the "high cost" of the Democratic leadership's recovery package(s), with the usual pundit fear-mongering over the deficit, with editorial applause for last-minute cuts in weatherization/school reconstruction/health care, and with comments on the supposed need to find equivalent "savings" in other domestic programs, perhaps even Social Security and Medicare.
Yet there is one budget topic that is rarely discussed inside the D.C. Beltway--our massive, unstable, and unsustainable war economy. This seems like a huge oversight, since this is one of the few places remaining where real money can be found to fund the programs that President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership promised during the 2008 campaign, including a new "green jobs" economy, health care for everyone, and union jobs with good wages and benefits.
We know the military budget--plus the war spending--skyrocketed during the Bush/Cheney years.
So why don't we look across the Potomac River to the Department of Defense, which has enjoyed those massive Bush/Cheney funding increases? After all, it's been two decades since the Berlin Wall and the Cold War collapsed, and six years since everyone but Dick Cheney admitted that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq--so do we really still need all the entire, expensive DOD wish list?

We just cannot afford the many costly weapons systems our war economy now desires--first, because we need the money for domestic programs; and second, because military spending does not create nearly as many new jobs as does spending on weatherization, mass transit construction, education, or health care.
So, for example, if we need to find hundreds of billions of dollars to put America back to work, provide health care for those left out, and build a sustainable new "green economy" that makes Mideast oil obsolete, why would we ever continue down the F-35 runway, spending massive amounts on one of the most expensive weapons system ever? We should cancel the delayed, not-very-stealthy, way-over-budget F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, with its estimated hundreds and hundreds of billions--perhaps even one trillion--dollars cost!
Think about the F-35's cost for a minute. Over its life cycle, the Joint Strike Fighter is now expected to cost just about as much as the stimulus package deal announced yesterday. Does that make any sense, in a time of economic--not military--crisis?

Can we afford the next allotment of F22 Raptors, which still have no mission? Would Honest Abe Lincoln approve of the V-22 Osprey, which even Dick Cheney once tried to kill? Can anyone tell me the strategic purpose of either the DDG-1000 destroyer or the Virginia class submarine?
No, I didn't think so.

If we want to turn the page on the recent past, and show the world the new face of America, we must end the occupation of Iraq, as the President and the leadership in the Congress have promised. We should remember the tragedy of LBJ & Vietnam, and refuse to fall into the trap of a larger war in Afghanistan. We should release all documents from the Bush/Cheney secret files and let the legal chips fall where they may, in keeping with our new President's commitment to the U.S. Constitution and to transparency. We should shut off dangerous and costly efforts to militarize space. And we should not only close down the torture camp at Guantanamo, we should shut down several hundred other overseas bases. After all, America was founded in opposition to Empire, not to become one.

Since President Obama has made it clear that he is serious about keeping his promise to reverse the nuclear arms race, the Congress should help him negotiate big cuts in our nuclear stockpiles--it would make the world a much safer place.
And since we know the future depends on developing a sustainable green economy, why not convert our national weapons labs completely to anti-nuclear-proliferation work and to alternative energy R&D? Aren't "loose nukes" and climate change two of our true security threats?

Lincoln's message to us, near the end of a bloody civil war, was that America's leaders should do all that they could to "...achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace."
If Abe Lincoln took a look at our spending habits today, wouldn't he have to conclude that America has not heard his message? Wouldn't he be forced to conclude that our hearts and minds are not committed to a just and lasting peace, but instead to a growing and incendiary arms race?
I do not believe that the current Federal budget really reflects where most Americans' hearts are. Our people are not comfortable with spending half our treasure on a military/industrial/petroleum complex while millions of Americans suffer without health care, pensions, good schools, affordable housing, even bridges and levees...

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an open admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and gave his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. So perhaps it's appropriate to end with a reminder that Dr. King also warned us about an immoral war and the growing nightmare of a permanent war economy.
He called for a "true revolution of values," and worried aloud whether the "giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

America's greatest prophet taught us: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
America's greatest President called on us to "...achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace."
So I ask you, the Honorable Majority Leader, Madame Speaker, and all the elected Members of the Senate & House--don't you agree that it's time to pay them some mind?
Thank you,
Steve Cobble

Obama seen likely to hedge on missile defense AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's go-slow approach to missile defenses in Europe is stirring speculation that he is planning either to deep-freeze the costly project he inherited from the Bush administration or use it as a bargaining chip in broader security talks with Russia.

It's a defense and diplomacy issue with important implications for American policy toward Europe, whose territory the anti-missile system would be meant to protect. And it complicates relations with Russia, which fiercely opposes the missile project, and Iran, whose development of long-range missiles is at the root of the U.S. rationale for pursuing the plan.

Obama has not said how he intends to proceed, stressing only that the system has to be cost-effective and proven and should not divert resources from other national security priorities. But leading defense and foreign policy experts are already taking Obama's constant repetition of those caveats as signals that he is not eager to plow ahead with the Europe leg of the Bush antimissile plan.

"I think it's on the back burner," said James F. Collins, director of Russia studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former ambassador to Moscow. He believes the administration is considering how the issue might fit in a broader set of arms and other negotiations with Moscow.

The Bush plan called for installing 10 silo-based missiles in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic at a cost of $4.5 billion, with a 2013 target date for having the system up and running. Construction has not yet begun at either site. Together they would provide a means of shooting down a small number of long-range missiles launched from the Middle East by intercepting them in flight outside the Earth's atmosphere — a so-called "hit-to-kill" technology that critics say needs more rigorous testing.

Senior Obama aides have suggested the planned antimissile system will be included in a lengthy review this year of defense policy and programs.

"I read the Obama and other statements more or less as tentative about this system in the sense that they aren't going to put huge investment in it unless they can figure out it's going to work," Collins said.

Dean Wilkening, a physicist and defense expert at Stanford University, said a money crunch caused by the economic crisis may be the most compelling reason for the Obama administration to lean against the European project. "They may opt to delay the site just because" of the cost and more urgent spending needs, Wilkening said.

Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Friday that Poland expects the United States to carry through with general promises of stronger military cooperation with Warsaw, even if the missile defense base doesn't work out.

"Poland is in favor of the United States remaining a European superpower," Sikorski said in a speech to Poland's Parliament. He said that Warsaw still is ready to do its part in hosting the missile interceptors, but acknowledged the new uncertainty.

"Regardless of what kind of decision the U.S. will take," he said, "we expect that the declaration on strategic cooperation will be fulfilled."

The Bush administration saw missile defense in Europe as a vital link in a broader U.S. effort to deter the use of long-range ballistic missiles by countries like North Korea and to discourage their development by nations like Iran. The European site would be linked to existing missile defense sites in Alaska and California, which the Pentagon says are capable of defending against a small-scale North Korean attack.

Robert Gates, the holdover Pentagon chief, has argued strongly for working out a deal with the Russians that would enable the project to go forward. His press secretary, Geoff Morrell, said Gates and his new boss, Obama, have yet to discuss the issue in depth.

Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton share the view that if Iran were persuaded to give up its nuclear ambitions and not develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, that would "obviate much of the need" for the European sites, Morrell said.

Clinton told reporters this week that money was not the overriding issue on missile defense. She said it was mainly a matter of resolving technical issues, while stressing that Iran's behavior could be a deciding factor.

"If we are able to see a change in behavior on the part of the Iranians with respect to what we believe to be their pursuit of nuclear weapons, you know, then we will reconsider where we stand," she said. "But we are a long, long way from seeing such evidence of any behavior change."

Clinton did not mention Russia's strong objections to the missile plan, but Moscow has been a central figure in the debate from the beginning. Although the Russians have objected on grounds that the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic pose a strategic threat, many in the United States believe the real problem is a Russian conviction that the bases are part of a broader effort by the U.S. to encroach on what the Russians consider their sphere of influence — territories that once were part of the Soviet Union.

John Rood, who was the State Department's chief arms control official for the final year and a half of the Bush administration, said in an interview that he would advise against bargaining away the European missile plan.

"Such a step would be ineffective and send a worrying signal to U.S. allies in Europe, who would question whether the U.S. lacked resolve and was recognizing a Russian sphere of influence in central Europe, which would be a strategic error," Rood said.

All agree there is currently no Iranian missile that threatens wider Europe; the disagreement is over projections of when Iran may have such a capability and how Europe, the U.S. and Russia should deal with it in the meantime.


February 13, 2009 Washington DC.  Start Loving announced the conclusion of a fast begun December 19th to redirect tax payer funds from war making to peace building (NewsBlaze Jan. 3, 2009).  Start Loving, a long time peace and social justice activist,  stated, "I'm asked all the time if hunger strikes make a difference?  I believe every action makes a difference.  Only the direction and degree are in question. Now would Barney Frank be taking as courageous a stand on cutting the military budget had his office not witnessed the Hunger Strike and my Occupation on Capitol Hill these last two months, ("Cut the Military Budget,," Barney Frank, The Nation 2/13/09)? That I'll never know." 

Diane Wilson, another activist who joined the hunger strike weeks later from her home in Texas after Start loving began the strike and  round the clock occupation of Capital Hill on December 19, said, "Our action is informed by what Gandhi called for, 'Be the change you wish to see.'  We cannot expect courageous action from others unless we citizens live it ourselves. This especially applies to Congress"

On day 35 of  the Hunger Strike and after many positive moves by the Obama administration came into view, Wilson and Loving went into "hold" mode - half rations. Today, Start said he was concluding the campaign because Congress, the target audience, was going home for a week and also positive moves continue come from the Obama administration, and from many Democrats on the Hill.

Loving stated, "With the Congress away we will use the time to regain strength for the next leg of the battle.  I expect, however, to spend  many more months on the Hill lobbying for sanity.  With the economy in shambles, it is insane for the US to spend $1 trillion on war-making.  Just yesterday, Russia announced they are cutting their  $45 billion budget by 15% due to their financial crisis. We should be doing the same. Now."

Your brother in Peace-Building,

Start Loving


**** "Cut the Military Budget !!" Barney Frank

Do you remember in the movie "Dances with Wolves," it opens with a pitched battle, the two sides dug in on opposite sides of a field - slowly bleeding each other to death. Our Hero, in a fit of "madness," leaps on a horse, rides suicidally across the field, along the entire length of the enemy line, miraculously escapes being shot, and inspires his forces to rout the opposition?


Or will we just watch him get shot
from the safety of our homes and offices?

Cut the Military Budget--II


By Barney Frank

This article appeared in the March 2, 2009 edition of The Nation.

February 11, 2009

I am a great believer in freedom of expression and am proud of those times when I have been one of a few members of Congress to oppose censorship. I still hold close to an absolutist position, but I have been tempted recently to make an exception, not by banning speech but by requiring it. I would be very happy if there was some way to make it a misdemeanor for people to talk about reducing the budget deficit without including a recommendation that we substantially cut military spending.
Sadly, self-described centrist and even liberal organizations often talk about the need to curtail deficits by cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that have a benign social purpose, but they fail to talk about one area where substantial budget reductions would have the doubly beneficial effect of cutting the deficit and diminishing expenditures that often do more harm than good. Obviously people should be concerned about the $700 billion Congress voted for this past fall to deal with the credit crisis. But even if none of that money were to be paid back--and most of it will be--it would involve a smaller drain on taxpayer dollars than the Iraq War will have cost us by the time it is concluded, and it is roughly equivalent to the $651 billion we will spend on all defense in this fiscal year.

When I am challenged by people--not all of them conservative--who tell me that they agree, for example, that we should enact comprehensive universal healthcare but wonder how to pay for it, my answer is that I do not know immediately where to get the funding but I know whom I should ask. I was in Congress on September 10, 2001, and I know there was no money in the budget at that time for a war in Iraq. So my answer is that I will go to the people who found the money for that war and ask them if they could find some for healthcare.

It is particularly inexplicable that so many self-styled moderates ignore the extraordinary increase in military spending. After all, George W. Bush himself has acknowledged its importance. As the December 20 Wall Street Journal notes, "The president remains adamant his budget troubles were the result of a ramp-up in defense spending." Bush then ends this rare burst of intellectual honesty by blaming all this "ramp-up" on the need to fight the war in Iraq.

Current plans call for us not only to spend hundreds of billions more in Iraq but to continue to spend even more over the next few years producing new weapons that might have been useful against the Soviet Union. Many of these weapons are technological marvels, but they have a central flaw: no conceivable enemy. It ought to be a requirement in spending all this money for a weapon that there be some need for it. In some cases we are developing weapons--in part because of nothing more than momentum--that lack not only a current military need but even a plausible use in any foreseeable future.

It is possible to debate how strong America should be militarily in relation to the rest of the world. But that is not a debate that needs to be entered into to reduce the military budget by a large amount. If, beginning one year from now, we were to cut military spending by 25 percent from its projected levels, we would still be immeasurably stronger than any combination of nations with whom we might be engaged.

Implicitly, some advocates of continued largesse for the Pentagon concede that the case cannot be made fully in terms of our need to be safe from physical attack. Ironically--even hypocritically, since many of those who make the case are in other contexts anti-government spending conservatives--they argue for a kind of weaponized Keynesianism that says military spending is important because it provides jobs and boosts the economy. Spending on military hardware does produce some jobs, but it is one of the most inefficient ways to deploy public funds to stimulate the economy. When I asked him years ago what he thought about military spending as stimulus, Alan Greenspan, to his credit, noted that from an economic standpoint military spending was like insurance: if necessary to meet its primary need, it had to be done, but it was not good for the economy; and to the extent that it could be reduced, the economy would benefit.

The math is compelling: if we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity even with a repeal of Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy.

I am working with a variety of thoughtful analysts to show how we can make very substantial cuts in the military budget without in any way diminishing the security we need. I do not think it will be hard to make it clear to Americans that their well-being is far more endangered by a proposal for substantial reductions in Medicare, Social Security or other important domestic areas than it would be by canceling weapons systems that have no justification from any threat we are likely to face.

So those organizations, editorial boards and individuals who talk about the need for fiscal responsibility should be challenged to begin with the area where our spending has been the most irresponsible and has produced the least good for the dollars expended--our military budget. Both parties have for too long indulged the implicit notion that military spending is somehow irrelevant to reducing the deficit and have resisted applying to military spending the standards of efficiency that are applied to other programs. If we do not reduce the military budget, either we accustom ourselves to unending and increasing budget deficits, or we do severe harm to our ability to improve the quality of our lives through sensible public policy.


Your brother in Peace-Building,


Thursday, February 12, 2009


INSUBORDINATION - U.S. commanders favour slower Iraq pullout

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Sun Feb 8, 2009 7:54am GMT

By Andrew Gray

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. military planners have drawn up three options to allow President Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq, with senior commanders favouring the slowest of the three, officials said on Saturday.

The timelines under discussion are 16 months, proposed by Obama as a centrepiece of his presidential campaign, 19 months and 23 months, the officials said.

"The focus of the effort is on those three options," said a U.S. official familiar with the process.

A U.S. defence official said U.S. Army generals Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, favoured the 23-month option.

"Odierno and Petraeus have said that we really need 23 months to do this without jeopardizing the security gains that we've secured," the official said.

Both officials, who spokes on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said they did not believe the options had been presented to Obama yet.

Obama made opposition to the Iraq war a central plank of his campaign platform.

He suggested all U.S. combat troops would be out of the country in the first 16 months of his administration. But he has also pledged to listen to the advice of commanders.

Obama has said the war in Afghanistan should be the U.S. military's priority and promised to add to the 36,000-strong U.S. force there battling a growing insurgency.

The United States has around 144,000 troops in Iraq, where violence has declined dramatically in the past year and a half, following several years of heavy bloodshed that brought the country to the brink of all-out civil war.

U.S. commanders have repeatedly cautioned against withdrawing troops from Iraq too quickly, arguing that the country remains fragile.

A senior White House official played down any differences between the president and military commanders.

"There's been a very good back and forth in a very logical process that has allowed the president to hear from commanders and forces at all levels," the official said.

"Fact is that they are coming to a meeting of the minds on troops and on the need for a diplomatic and political strategy to end the war in Iraq and ease the strain on the troops and their families," the official added.

Even once all U.S. forces designated as combat troops leave Iraq, Obama has said a residual force would remain to train Iraqi security personnel, protect U.S. diplomats and conduct counterterrorism missions.

That force is likely to consist of tens of thousands of troops, military officials and analysts say.

Under a pact between Washington and Baghdad sealed late last year as the Bush administration prepared to leave office, all U.S. forces are to leave the country by the end of 2011.

U.S. officials have raised the prospect, however, that U.S. troops could remain longer with the agreement of Iraqi authorities to support the country's own security forces.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Eric Beech)

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