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December 22, 2012 | Economist's View
Barney Frank argues that, when it comes to defense spending, we should "spend less, and liberals should not flinch from that position." The essential point, I think, is that "the major trade-off in putting together a total deficit reduction package is between the military and health care," and, though he does note this in a couple of places, I wish that point had been stressed more in the article (the essay is much, much longer):The New Mandate on Defense, by Barney Frank, Democracy: There were so many encouraging signs for liberals in the election results this year that one of the most significant has been overlooked. For the first time in my memory, a Democratic candidate for President argued for less military spending against a Republican candidate who called for great increases—and the Democrat won. ...
Because so much of that spending stems from overreach advocated by those who believe that America should be the enforcer of order everywhere in the world—and because we subsidize our wealthy European and Asian allies by providing a defense for them...—there has been increasing conservative support for reining in the military budget. Ron Paul, who goes far beyond most liberals in his eagerness to impose severe military cuts, was a popular figure with a significant base of GOP support not despite taking this position but in part because of it.
Earlier this year, for the first time that I can recall, a majority of the House of Representatives voted to reduce the military appropriation recommended by the House Appropriations Committee. The cut was only $1.1 billion—less than it should have been—but it ... passed... with the support of ... a significant minority of Republicans...
A realistic reassessment of our true national security needs would mean a military budget significantly lower... That is, by next year, we no longer should be forced to spend additional funds—close to $200 billion a year at their peak—in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, we can reduce the base budget by approximately $1 trillion over a ten-year period ... while maintaining more than enough military strength...
Even with the revenue increase we can achieve by raising taxes on the wealthy, serious deficit reduction must come in part from reducing military spending beyond what the President proposes, unless we make very deep cuts in the nonmilitary parts of the budget. ... Given the numbers involved, the major trade-off in putting together a total deficit reduction package is between the military and health care...
To be clear, this is not an argument against America continuing to be the strongest nation in the world. ... That said, being the strongest nation in the world can be achieved much less expensively than at current levels. Obama ... underestimates the extent to which the public is willing to support even further reductions, and I believe that he may appear to be overly influenced by being told that as President, he has the duty to continue to lead the indispensable nation.
The United States was indispensable in 1945 and for many years thereafter... But things have changed. We can no longer afford ... extending a military umbrella over many allies on whom it is not raining—and who can well afford their own protective gear if it does. ...
This all means that a major political task going forward for liberals is pushing for further reductions in military spending, an objective that we now know is not only socially and economically necessary but also politically achievable.
Important social services versus tax cuts for the rich and military spending. Those with unmet needs and little social/economic power versus the wealthy and the military. I suppose in some sense, given who's in this battle, it's remarkable there's been any headway at all. But there needs to be more progress on protecting the vulnerable.anneanne
January 31, 2012
Defense spending was 66.7% of federal government consumption and investment from July through September 2012.
Defense spending was 27.0% of all government consumption and investment from July through September 2012.
834.5 / 3093.3 = 27.0%
Defense spending was 67.2% of federal government consumption and investment in 2011.
820.8 / 1222.1 = 67.2%
Defense spending was 26.8% of all government consumption and investment in 2011.
820.8 / 3059.8 = 26.8%Reply Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 11:05 AMto anne...Charles Peterson
Defense spending was 66.7% of federal government consumption and investment from July through September 2012.
834.5 / 1241.4 = 66.7%to anne...anne
Does this include items not in defense budget per se, including the dark" budget of clandestine activities, actual war spending, state department, defense programs in the DOE, military aid, building and site construction, maintenance and security, foreign rents?
I think I've heard you get about $1T total defense-related if you look beyond the official defense dept authorization, which like all such, is written to meet political needs.
And then there are VA, retirement, etc., but I'd class those as human service or (i hate this word) entitlement since not related to current activity, though some analysts do include them in defense-rellated because in obvious way they are.to Charles Peterson...anne
Spending for the Central Intelligence Agency is released only every 10 years, so we have no real sense of what such spending amounts to after 2007 when it was evidently $47.5 billion. * The CIA budget was 26.7 billion in 1997.
Also, spending for maintaining the nuclear arsenal is separated from basic military spending and comes from the budget of the Energy Department. The budget for maintaining the nuclear arsenal for the coming year is about $17 billion. *
* http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/22/us/senate-approves-military-spending-bill.htmlto Charles Peterson...Michael Pettengill
"I've heard you get about $1T total defense-related if you look beyond the official defense dept authorization, which like all such, is written to meet political needs...."
What is necessary is that we try to be exact and authoritative, since the exact figures should be revealing enough. Figures on military spending are repeatedly understated by reporters, since military spending is set by Congress in a number of proposals. Also, as with spending for the CIA, part of the total cannot be precisely known.
So we can and should rely on the Bureau of Economic Analysis data on basic military spending above all.to anne...anne
Except for the Saudi oil bought and the foriegn contractors, all the war department spending is the biggest jobs program we have that has decent pay.
The other jobs program, the Medicare and Medicaid does pay doctors high wages, but the rest of the jobs are pretty crappy jobs, either low wages or crappy benefits or both. But they are jobs.
Both sectors are really bloated and are mostly the stereotypical "government jobs" jobs but in the private sector with the bloat expanding the profits which are a fixed percentage of all the billing to the government, so the higher the billing, the higher the profits, thus no incentive to be efficient.to anne...anne
January 30, 2012
National Defense Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment, 2000-2012
(Billions of dollars)
2000 ( 371.0)
2001 ( 393.0) Bush
2002 ( 437.7)
2003 ( 497.9)
2004 ( 550.8)
2005 ( 589.0)
2006 ( 624.9)
2007 ( 662.3)
2008 ( 737.8)
2009 ( 776.0) Obama
2010 ( 817.7)
2011 ( 820.8)
Qtr1 ( 806.4)
Qtr2 ( 807.8)
Qtr3 ( 834.5)
* Quarterly at annual rates, seasonally adjustedto anne...anne
January 15, 2012
Share of Gross Domestic Product of Federal Government Defense Spending, 2000-2012
Percent of GDP of Defense Spending
2000 ( 3.7)
2001 ( 3.8) Bush
2002 ( 4.1)
2003 ( 4.5)
2004 ( 4.6)
2005 ( 4.7)
2006 ( 4.7)
2007 ( 4.7)
2008 ( 5.2)
2009 ( 5.6) Obama
2010 ( 5.6)
2011 ( 5.4)
Qtr3 ( 5.3)to anne...tom
January 31, 2012
Defense spending was 67.2% of federal government consumption and investment in 2011.
$820.8 billion / $1222.1 billion = 67.2%
Defense spending was 26.8% of all government consumption and investment in 2011.
$820.8 billion / $3059.8 billion = 26.8%
Basic military spending in 2011 was $820.8 billion while basic military spending from July through September 2012 was running at a yearly level of $834.5 billion.ilsm
You could cut defense by $2 trillion over 10 years while maintaining more than enough military.to tom...Mark A. Sadowski
$2T would be from $7.8T and 4 times what the sequestration would cut.
However, that would keep the US spending 4% of GDP down from 5% plus.
4% of GDP is more than twice the share of GDP any other "first world country" devotes to searching for solutions to insecurity with more violence.
A $5T cut over the next 10 years would be proper.
It could be done by killing the weapons which fail their tests, and the older stuff that never did work, that would get rid of the inepts who are bascially corporate welfare queens.to ilsm...DrDick
According to the CBO nominal GDP will be just over $200 trillion from FY2013-2022.
Reducing defense spending to 2.0% of GDP in accordance with NATO target will save $2.7 trillion off of the $6.7 trillion in estimated defense spending over 2013-2022 under the Baseline Scenario (Table 1-3).
(Please correct me if I'm wrong.)to tom...Mark A. Sadowski
You could cut defense spending by 2/3 and still outspend anyone else by a factor of three. we should also cut DHS spending, most of which is wasted on useless security theater tactics and stings targeting aspirational deadenders who could not tie their own shoes without the FBI.to DrDick...anne
The US spends a lot, but not that much. According to SIPRI, US defense spending totalled $711 billion in 2011, compared to $143 billion for China in exchange rate terms, or $228 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms:
So, given these numbers, it would be correct to say that the US defense budget could be cut by 2/3 and and still outspend any other country.to Mark A. Sadowski...anne
The US spends a lot, but not that much. According to SIPRI, US defense spending totalled $711 billion in 2011, compared to $143 billion for China in exchange rate terms....
[ Rubbish, simply rubbish. I am offended by reporters who cannot be bothered to or who are wildly militarist and will not properly report basic American military spending:
January 30, 2012
National Defense Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment, 2000-2011
(Billions of dollars)
2000 ( 371.0)
2001 ( 393.0) Bush
2002 ( 437.7)
2003 ( 497.9)
2004 ( 550.8)
2005 ( 589.0)
2006 ( 624.9)
2007 ( 662.3)
2008 ( 737.8)
2009 ( 776.0) Obama
2010 ( 817.7)
2011 ( 820.8) ]to Mark A. Sadowski...Mark A. Sadowski
According to SIPRI, US defense spending totalled $711 billion in 2011....
[ Basic military spending in 2011 was $820.8 billion, and basic military spending does not include spending on the nuclear arsenal or spending on the Central Intelligence Agency which come to tens of billions of dollar more.
To report that military spending in 2011 was $711 billion when the amount was $820.8 billion for basic military spending is intolerable. ]to anne...anne
The BEA figure for federal Defense Gross Investment and Consumption is not comparable with the federal defense budget figure and hence is probably not comparable to the international figures that SIPRI estimates.
A detailed breakdown of the BEA figure is here:
I suspect the major reason for the difference between the BEA figure and the defense budget is line 8, or consumption of general government fixed capital. This item totaled $95.8 billion in 2011.
A detailed description of the government transactions section of the NIPA accounts is here:
Section II page 33 is where it discusses federal defense spending.to Mark A. Sadowski...Mark A. Sadowski
The BEA figure for federal Defense Gross Investment and Consumption is not comparable with the federal defense budget figure and hence is probably not comparable to the international figures that SIPRI estimates....
[ This is all evidently designed to obscure what basic military spending comes to:
Basic military spending in 2011 was $820.8 billion, * and basic military spending does not include spending on the nuclear arsenal or spending on the Central Intelligence Agency which come to tens of billions of dollar more.
* http://www.bea.gov/iTable/iTableHtml.cfm?reqid=9&step=3&isuri=1&910=X&911=0&903=5&904=1992&905=2011&906=A ]
So I take it you are claiming that the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
is a biased source of information?to Mark A. Sadowski...Mark A. Sadowski
Blah, blah, blah.
I could care less about any Swedes, peaceful or war-like, in this regard. The Bureau of Economic Analysis is of course correct:
Basic military spending in 2011 was $820.8 billion *
* http://www.bea.gov/iTable/iTableHtml.cfm?reqid=9&step=3&isuri=1&910=X&911=0&903=5&904=1992&905=2011&906=A .to anne...anne
The BEA figure is a NIPA measure of defense gross investment and consumption and is in no way comparable to the available international measures of defense spending.to Mark A. Sadowski...Mark A. Sadowski
What nonsense, but do keep on obscuring what military spending actually comes to in America for whatever reason. As for international this and international that, the heck with that. I am setting down American military spending and the heck with the NIPA TIPPA SIPPA Flippa (no offense to dolphins) nonsense meant to obscure what American military spending is.to anne...anne
"As for international this and international that, the heck with that."
But the comment that started this particular subthread (Dr Dick's on Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 12:56 PM) refers specifically to making international comparisons. The BEA's National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA)
are not appropriate since equivalent measures are not available for all of the largest spenders on national defense.
On the other hand SIPRI takes great care to make sure their numbers are comparable. As they note:
"There is no generally agreed definition of military expenditure worldwide. SIPRI seeks to include in its definition of military expenditure all costs incurred as a result of current military activities. The guideline definition used by SIPRI includes expenditure on the following actors and activities: (a) the armed forces, including peacekeeping forces; (b) defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects; (c) paramilitary forces, when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations; and (d) military space activities. It includes all current and capital expenditure on: (a) military and civil personnel, including retirement pensions of military personnel and social services for personnel; (b) operations and maintenance; (c) procurement; (d) military research and development; and (e) military aid (in the military expenditure of the donor country). It does not include civil defence and current expenditure for past military activities, such as for veterans' benefits, demobilization, conversion and weapon destruction."
And in fact these are the very numbers used by the World Bank:
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZSto Mark A. Sadowski...DrDick
According to SIPRI, US defense spending totalled $711 billion in 2011....
Basic military spending in 2011 was $820.8 billion. *
* http://www.bea.gov/iTable/iTableHtml.cfm?reqid=9&step=3&isuri=1&910=X&911=0&903=5&904=1992&905=2011&906=Ato Mark A. Sadowski...DrDick
Here are the numbers I was using: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expendituresto DrDick...Mark A. Sadowski
I see what I did there. It was a math error in the division.to DrDick...DrDick
Those numbers come from the same exact source that I cited above (SIPRI).
How do you get:
"You could cut defense spending by 2/3 and still outspend anyone else by a factor of three."
from those numbers?to Mark A. Sadowski...Mark A. Sadowski
Wrong divisor.to DrDick...ilsm
"...we should also cut DHS spending,..."
Civilian employment in the federal government averaged 2.759 million in FY2001. By FY2004 it had fallen to 2.729 million. In FY2011 it averaged 2.864 million. So from FY2001 to FY2011 a total of 105,000 jobs federal civilian government jobs were added.
(Incidentally civilian employment in the federal government peaked in FY1990 at 3.197 million.)
Employment figures for agencies other than the Coast Guard are hard to come by for the individual components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from before FY2004. Coast Guard employment was about 36,100 in FY2001 (Table 496):
The earliest complete record for employment by agency appears to be for FY2004 when there were 175,900 employees in DHS (Table 516):
of which 45,500 were Coast Guard.
By FY2011 this had increased to 220,500 (Table 526):
So between FY2004 and FY2011 alone, employment at DHS increased by 44,600 or 25.3%. For comparison overall federal civilian employment increased by 135,000 or 4.9%. Thus, although DHS accounted for only 6.4% of federal civilian employment in FY2004 it accounted for 33.0% of the increase in federal civilian employment from FY2004 through FY2011.
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) was the second largest employer after Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in DHS in FY2011, accounting for about 25% of all DHS employees. In FY2004, at 51,350 employees, it was the largest employer in the DHS. Prior to FY2002 it did not exist.
Excluding the TSA, total employment in the DHS was 124,500 in FY2004. Thus subtracting the increase in Coast Guard employment beween FY2001 and FY2004 (9400), I think it's reasonable to claim that total employment by the agencies that compose the DHS was probably less than 115,100 in FY2001.
This means that at least 105,400 of the 105,000 in increased federal civilian employment between FY2001 and FY2011 can be accounted for by the DHS, or essentially all of it.to Mark A. Sadowski...DrDick
DoD budget increased nearly 75% from 2001 to 2008.
Federal employment is a poor metric. Too much 'employment' growth has been replaced by contracted services, more profit (from buying services for profit) to buy "unwarranted influence".
The mess stewards in Afghanistan are all locals, or third country nationals.
Civilian employment in the US government is half for DoD.
The rise in DoD civilian employment was surpressed by contracting out.
In 2009 when Ashton Carter (USD AT&L) began thinking about controlling rising costs, he observed that DoD spent about $400B a year on contracts, by 2009 too much of it was for "services" (and not things) which used to be done by US civilians and soldiers.to Mark A. Sadowski...roger gathman
The point is not to eliminate the funding, but to divert it to more productive uses.to DrDick...DrDick
Exactly. If we want to spend money - and I think we do! - we should shift two thirds to spending on environmental defense - trillions for greening American homes, offices, factories, etc. It would be as wasteful as the space program, but it would work, I am sure.
However, it isn't going to happen under the current political and plutocratic order. So shelve it for the firty year retrospective: how the U.S. failed, and brought disaster on the world in the process. Should be a major tv show, I figure, in 2060.to roger gathman...dandelion
I think a large amount of that should also go to beefing up the social safety net programs. Things like lowering the eligibility age for SS and Medicare to 60, introducing a robust public healthcare option, increasing welfare payments and expanding eligibility to cover low income workers, and high quality public daycare for children would do a lot to spur the economy, as well as relieving a lot of unnecessary misery.Lafayette
What the people want doesn't matter.to dandelion...dandelion
How do we know "what the people want" when fully half the population stays away from the plling booths?
First, they must learn how to form an opinion, then they how to excercise that opinion in a political manner.
And we, as a nation, are very far from both of those requisites.
Democracy - use it or lose it...to Lafayette...Seth
People emailed and phoned congress to protest the bank bailouts by a margin of 700 to 1. That didn't matter.
People are overwhelmingly against cuts to Sicial Security and Medicare. I promise you that won't matter either. Just as they overwhelmingly support cuts to the defense budget and that won't matter either.
It's not that people don't form opinions or don't vote. It's that their opinions and votes aren't what instruct the legislators or the president.
Witness Obama first proposing to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and now proposing to cut Social Security despite the fact that only weeks ago he campaigned as the champion of the working poor and the middle class and as wearing the mantle of the new deal democratic legacyto dandelion...DrDick
What the people want doesn't matter [to those presently in power].to Seth...jonathan
That has generally been true in US history.ilsm
Cool. More money to post armed security guards at all our schools, churches, movie theaters and play spaces.to jonathan...Seth
Let the NRA pay for the armed police in the schools, then they won't need the lobbyists.
Oops, they can get it a lot cheaper using lobbyists and pillaging the tax payer.
Guards against gun nuts the US don't need health care and social security.
Only security US gets is from guns and nukes!to jonathan...Mark A. Sadowski
"... to post armed security guards ..."
The better to control us.
We are far down the rabbit-hole. The well-regulated militia clause will be used to create a well-regulating [ruling] militia.Lafayette
December 22, 2012
Number of the Week: Without Unemployment Extension, Millions to Lose Benefits
By Ben Casselman
"2.1 million: The number of Americans who will lose their jobless benefits on January 1 if Congress doesn’t extend emergency unemployment programs.
Most of the focus during the drawn-out (and apparently now stalled) negotiations over the “fiscal cliff” has been on taxes — who should pay more, who should be spared and how much additional revenue the government should raise. Less discussed has been the imminent expiration of nearly all federal emergency unemployment programs, which now provide benefits to 2.1 million job seekers.
Congress created the programs starting in 2008 as a temporary supplement to regular state-administered unemployment insurance, which in most states provides 26 weeks of payments. At their peak, federal programs provided up to 99 weeks of benefits to 6 million unemployed workers.
Congress has repeatedly extended the emergency benefits amid continued high unemployment, and the White House is pushing to do so again. But even before the cliff negotiations bogged down, the prospects of another extension was uncertain. The recent drop in the unemployment rate to 7.7% may have made the issue appear less pressing — although the jobless rate remains well above where it was when Congress first enacted the programs in 2008.
Indeed, even before the year-and deadline, the federal programs have been shrinking. The Extended Benefits program, the final step in the multi-tiered structure, once provided benefits to more than a million job seekers; after a major cut back earlier this year, it now serves fewer than 45,000. The more widely available Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, known as EUC, has seen its rolls fall to about 2 million from nearly 6 million at its peak. Part of the drop is due to the improving labor market, but the programs have also become less generous: No state now offers more than 73 weeks of benefits, and in some states the clock runs out after less than a year.
Still, that doesn’t mean the programs’ disappearance would be insignificant. Unlike past deadlines, this one is a hard stop — benefits won’t roll off gradually but rather will expire all at once overnight. That has economic implications that go beyond the impact on the recipients themselves. The average EUC beneficiary receives about $284 a week, making the program the equivalent of a $2.4 billion monthly stimulus. Credit Suisse estimates that allowing the program to expire would be enough to shave two tenths of a percentage point off GDP growth next year.
Economic research has shown that unemployment benefits can lead to higher joblessness by discouraging beneficiaries from accepting jobs they might otherwise have taken. Various economists have attempted to quantify the impact of the federal emergency programs on the unemployment rate during the recent recession; their conclusions vary, but in general, most of found the programs boosted the unemployment rate by somewhere between 0.5 and one percentage point at the peak of the crisis. The effect is almost certainly smaller now the benefits [have] become less generous.
Long-term unemployment, meanwhile, remains high. Some 4.8 million Americans had been out of work for more than six months in November, more than two fifths of all job seekers, and the average unemployed worker has been out of work for over nine months."ilsm
We've been here (in this context) before many a time. After WW1, then after WW2, then after Vietnam, etc., etc.
And we elect some dunderhead of a PotUS from the Right who thinks we must become "kick ass" in order to defend our vested interests ... and off we go again. Inevitably lamenting our dead who come home to us in body-bags.
Until the people show clearly that they are against all military intervention of any kind and insist that the UN assumes its rightful role to intervene in conflicts, then the past will repeat itself far into the future.
And we shall never tame our budget, thus burdening future generations with the pain of supporting financially our past mistakes.to Lafayette...anne
The US military exists to protect the 1%'s property (empire) around the world, while plundering the butter of the 99%.
Like the Queen Empress' Tommies in Inja and Africa whom Kipling sung whiling away his time.
"Tommy sees.............."to ilsm...Darryl FKA Ron
I went into a public-’ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ’e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ’adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-’alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ’ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ’eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ’is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
-- Rudyard Kplingto anne...ilsm
Some things don't change. When I returned from Viet Nam then I was shown disrespect and then treated down right dirty. I don't see that things have really changed much at all for our veterans today. They are now shown symbolic respect, just lip service, that Viet Nam veterans did not get. THen they are still treated down right dirty. Well, I really never cared much about the symbolic disrespect that I recieved since it dissipated as quickly as my hair grew back out. The change in this symbolic attitude is mostly for the benefit of the civilians as it lessens their guilt and self-loathing for the paultry care given for PTSD and other veterans health and economic adjustment benefits.
Tommy was written in part to show the plight of retired British soldiers and their heirs/assigns.
Particular issues were seen in Crimean war veterans.
Kipling is a favorite of mine, especially Gunga Din.to ilsm...Darryl FKA Ron
You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.
Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental *bhisti*, Gunga Din. [water carrier]to anne...ilsm
I would think that Gunga Din and Mowgli (Jungle Book) and even The Man That Would Be King clearly provide a nuance to Kipling about courage, honor, and character among native people and the arrogance of Englishmen ("King" Danny my boy Dravot) well beyond the imperialist bigot that he is often considered to be by modern liberals. THen there those damned awful slave owners, Washington and Jefferson.to Darryl FKA Ron...Justin Cidertrades
Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!to ilsm...anne
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
You're a better shadow of your former self than I am, Gunga Din!
Defense is a chain of unbroken links. When one of such links breaks we all suddenly become the slaves of our enemy. Each month in our short life is one of the links. Do you see what is happening?
Each month Department of Defense needs to spend certain amount on the current link but hold the residual funds in reserve. The reserve regiment is our largest unit by necessity. Fishing within the economic sea for funding to fatten our reserve unit and current link is like overfishing in the sea. When you deplete the spawning stock then you need to wait for literally years for fish to reappear. Tell me something!
Has DOD been overfishing for economic fish? Is DOD treading thin ice? Our economy needs lot more spawning for more critical future links when our military advantage is more tenuous. Should DOD gals/guys go to bat for economists who are now protesting against the banksters, lobbyists, and rogue politicians who are trashing our economy for fun and personal profit? Should our Admirals and General Officers put more pressure on the malefactors who have looted our corporations and government agencies at the risk of downgrading present and future operational efficiency of those units. Should the sleeping giant awaken?
Wake up, Great
!to Darryl FKA Ron...anne
I noticed in the last week that Kipling "dedicated" "White Man's Burden" to the war in the Philippines that was going on in 1899 and that has suggested a whole new reading of the poem to me and perhaps a different understanding of Kipling than I have taken from secondary sources:
(The United States and the Philippine Islands)
The White Man's Burden
By Rudyard Kipling
to anne...Darryl FKA Ron
(The United States and the Philippine Islands)
The White Man's Burden
By Rudyard Kipling
Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.
Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
"Kipling is a favorite of mine, especially Gunga Din."
Mine too as a story teller, which is what he did even if was written in verse.to Darryl FKA Ron...ilsm
A better reference for Gunga Din:
Here area couple of further readings on cutting war.
The WaPost article in particular shows the impending cuts leave the pentagon with 25% more than the troughs after Vietnam and Cold War reductions.P. Lee
If we restricted ourselves to a coast guard and a national guard -- in keeping with the traditions of most of our history -- then maybe, just maybe, the strategic geniuses who infest the Beltway might have to develop some imagination. Maybe they'd have to learn that sending out the aircraft carriers isn't the only way to react to events on the other side of the world. Maybe they'd even begin to suspect that most events happening on the other side of the world don't require any reaction from us at all.Narwhal
"Go ahead and cut defense spending," speaks the oil/commodities trader, "I will make profit one way or another."PJR
I think the Draft should be reinstated. There should be required service for EVERYONE (no discrimination against women); military or civilian service! The elimination of the draft has created a separate and self sustaining Military Class. Dot the one-percenters volunteer? The "Citizen Soldiers" that returned from WWII, Korea and Viet Nam saw war first hand, up close and personal and didn't like it. We need this kind of Citizen Soldiers in the general population.
If we have to use Military Force in the future all the should sacrifice; not just our 'voluteer' force. War is much more serious than just a line in the national budget.
BTW: I know my grandfather, a retired Coast Guard officer, has been rolling-over in his grave since it became a part of Homeland Stupidity.roger gathman
Let it be stipulated that we spend too much on defense and, as a country, too much for the health care that we receive. That said, Frank falls into the trap of saying "we can't afford it." BS. The only thing we can't afford is allowing our economy to perform far below capacity, with millions of unemployed people watching our infrastructure crumble. In other words, we cannot afford to continue the policies that we've pursued for the past three-plus decades and at the same time waste vast amounts of our resources.to PJR...run75441
Yeah, distrust that "we". Who, after all, is it?Is it the "we" who profits from extending Pharma IP? The "we" whose income has stagnated since the late nineties, or the "we" whose income soared? The 'we' who owes as much as it has in assets, or the "we" who is a net creditor?
That hegemonic we. It does amazing tricks. It divides itself into two persons and both debate to be elected president. It divides itself into Wall Street and Congress and in general is as happy with its situation as pigs in a wallow. But that we doesn't go beyond the gated community, for that is the strange America, which baffled the respectable by voting for the wrong we this time - Obama - in the feeble hope that he wouldn't piss on them from -- wheeee! -- on high. Well, of course, he must - that is what the "we" does.
I don't share a we with the politicians.kievite
Kind of close to my thinking.
"we cannot afford to continue the policies that we've pursued for the past three-plus decades and at the same time waste vast amounts of our resources."
Has anyone looked at defense spending as a percentage of GDP? If we are outstripping GDP growth; then we are sacrificing domestic productivity. No country has remained a Tier 1 country by doing so for a long period of time since the QIN Dynasty. Each has found itself surpassed and relegated to much lower tiers.to run75441...kievite
There is another side effect (aka externality) of huge defense spending -- growth of external debt. Total government debt is more then 16 trillions which means that interest (at 2%) is 320 billions a year or so. Or around a billion a day.
I wonder how much of then it external debt. Contrary to Krugman-style thinking deficits are dangerous because of debt snowballing, and at some level of debt (let's say over 30% of GDP), the quantity turns into quality. And further depresses domestic productivity.
So far printing of money was the solution, but this is a Japan-style solution. Like in saying "If something can't go forever, it will eventually stop." Then what ?
The biggest danger is that if the current level of energy prices are at the foundation of all troubles, then the return to steady above 3% growth on which people like Krugman count as the solution, will always be short-lived, even if it can be temporary achieved.
In a way we can even count defense spending as additional energy costs.
...Although the OCS must report the costs of all military operations abroad, the Pentagon omits $550 million for counter-narcotics operations and $108 million for humanitarian and civic aid. Both have, as a budget document explains about humanitarian aid, helped "maintain a robust overseas presence", while the military "obtains access to regions important to US interests". The Pentagon also spent $24 million on environmental projects abroad to monitor and reduce on-base pollution, dispose of hazardous and other waste, and for "initiatives... in support of global basing/operations." So the bill now grows by $682 million for counternarcotics, humanitarian, and environmental programs.
The Pentagon tally of the price of occupying the planet also ignores the costs of secret bases and classified programs overseas. Out of a total Pentagon classified budget of $51 billion for 2012, I conservatively use only the estimated overseas portion of operations and maintenance spending, which adds $2.4 billion. Then there's the $15.7 billion Military Intelligence Program. Given that US law generally bars the military from engaging in domestic spying, I estimate that half this spending, $7.9 billion, took place overseas.
Next, we have to add in the CIA's paramilitary budget, funding activities including secret bases in places like Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and its drone assassination program, which has grown precipitously since the onset of the war on terror. With thousands dead (including hundreds of civilians), how can we not consider these military costs? In an e-mail, John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, told me that "possibly a third" of the CIA's estimated budget of $10 billion may now go to paramilitary costs, yielding $13.6 billion for classified programs, military intelligence, and CIA paramilitary activities.
Last but certainly not least comes the real biggie: the costs of the 550 bases the US built in Afghanistan, as well as the last three months of life for our bases in Iraq, which once numbered 505 before the US pullout from that country (that is, the first three months of fiscal year 2012). While the Pentagon and congress exclude these costs, that's like calculating the New York Yankees' payroll while excluding salaries for each year's huge free-agent signings.
Conservatively following the OCS methodology used for other countries, but including costs for healthcare, military pay in the base budget, rent, and "other programs," we add an estimated: $104.9 billion for bases and military presence in Afghanistan and other war zones.
Having started with the OCS figure of $22.1 billion, the grand total now has reached: $168 billion ($169,963,153,283 to be exact).
That's nearly an extra $150 billion. Even if you exclude war costs - and I think the Yankees show why that's a bad idea - the total still reaches $65.1 billion, or nearly three times the Pentagon's calculation.
But don't for a second think that that's the end of our garrisoning costs. In addition to spending likely hidden in the nooks and crannies of its budget, there are other irregularities in the Pentagon's accounting. Costs for 16 countries hosting US bases but left out of the OCS entirely, including Colombia, El Salvador, and Norway, may total more than $350 million.
The costs of the military presence in Colombia alone could reach into the tens of millions in the context of more than $8.5 billion in Plan Colombia funding since 2000. The Pentagon also reports costs of less than $5 million each for Yemen, Israel, Uganda, and the Seychelles Islands, which seems unlikely and could add millions more.
When it comes to the general US presence abroad, other costs are too difficult to estimate reliably, including the price of Pentagon offices in the United States, embassies, and other government agencies that support bases and troops overseas. So, too, US training facilities, depots, hospitals, and even cemeteries allow overseas bases to function.
Other spending includes currency-exchange costs, attorneys' fees and damages won in lawsuits against military personnel abroad, short-term "temporary duty assignments", US-based troops participating in exercises overseas, and perhaps even some of NASA's military functions, space-based weapons, a percentage of recruiting costs required to staff bases abroad, interest paid on the debt attributable to the past costs of overseas bases, and Veterans Administration costs and other retirement spending for military personnel who served abroad.
Beyond my conservative estimate, the true bill for garrisoning the planet might be closer to $200 billion a year.
Those, by the way, are just the costs in the US government's budget. The total economic costs to the US economy are higher still. Consider where the taxpayer-funded salaries of the troops at those bases go when they eat or drink at a local restaurant or bar, shop for clothing, rent a local home, or pay local sales taxes in Germany, Italy, or Japan. These are what economists call "spillover" or "multiplier effects". When I visited Okinawa in 2010, for example, Marine Corps representatives bragged about how their presence contributes $1.9 billion annually to the local economy through base contracts, jobs, local purchases, and other spending. Although the figures may be overstated, it's no wonder members of congress like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have called for a new "Build in America" policy to protect "the fiscal health of our nation".
And the costs are still broader when one considers the trade-offs, or opportunity costs, involved. Military spending creates fewer jobs per million dollars expended than the same million invested in education, healthcare, or energy efficiency - barely half as many as investing in schools.
Even worse, while military spending clearly provides direct benefits to the Lockheed Martins and KBRs of the military-industrial complex, these investments don't, as economist James Heintz says, boost the "long-run productivity of the rest of the private sector" the way infrastructure investments do.
To adapt a famous line from president Dwight Eisenhower: every base that is built signifies in the final sense a theft. Indeed, think about what Dal Molin's half a billion dollars in infrastructure could have done if put to civilian uses. Again echoing Ike, the cost of one modern base is this: 260,000 low-income children getting healthcare for one year or 65,000 going to a year of Head Start or 65,000 veterans receiving VA care for a year.
A different kind of 'spillover'
Bases also create a different "spillover" in the financial and non-financial costs host countries bear. In 2004, for example, on top of direct "burden sharing" payments, host countries made in-kind contributions of $4.3 billion to support US bases. In addition to agreeing to spend billions of dollars to move thousands of US Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, the Japanese government has paid nearly $1 billion to soundproof civilian homes near US air bases on Okinawa and millions in damages for successful noise pollution lawsuits.
Similarly, as base expert Mark Gillem reports, between 1992 and 2003, the Korean and US governments paid $27.3 million in damages because of crimes committed by US troops stationed in Korea. In a single three-year period, US personnel "committed 1,246 criminal acts, from misdemeanors to felonies".
As these crimes indicate, costs for local communities extend far beyond the economic. Okinawans have recently been outraged by what appears to be another in a long series of rapes committed by US troops. Which is just one example of how, from Japan to Italy, there are what Anita Dancs calls the "costs of rising hostility" over bases. Environmental damage pushes the financial and non-financial toll even higher. The creation of a base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean sent all of the local Chagossian people into exile.
So, too, US troops and their families bear some of those non-financial costs due to frequent moves and separation during unaccompanied tours abroad, along with attendant high rates of divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual assault, and suicide.
"No one, no one likes it," a stubbly-faced old man told me as I was leaving the construction site. He remembered the Americans arriving in 1955 and now lives within sight of the Dal Molin base. "If it were for the good of the people, okay, but it's not for the good of the people."
"Who pays? Who pays?" he asked. "Noi," he said. We do.
Indeed, from that $170 billion to the costs we can't quantify, we all do.
David Vine, a Tom Dispatch regular, is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 US military bases located outside the United States. To read a detailed description of the calculations described in this article and view a chart of the costs of the US military presence abroad, visit www.davidvine.net.
the Documentary Film Free Online SnagFilmsEric SiversonIf we study Hitlers propaganda and compare it to NATO propaganda now. We see NATO is using the same tactics with even less opposition. Now the most sensible opposition is just deemed silly. It worked in Yugoslavia in the 90s even better than in Chechoslavoka. The Hague courts lies have not even been discovered yet to be a totally false court. the fast majority of the world people believe this is a legitimate justice institution.
09-06-2012 | Sherdog Mixed Martial Arts Forums
Son of Jamin
Quote: Originally Posted by Dies Irae Hahahahahah...cough cough....HAHAHAHAHAH
Hilariously hackneyed equivocation.
I'm glad that my post amused you to such degree. Sadly I don't think the victims of the attack on the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory or the countless victims in Afghanistan would laugh as much as you.
Originally Posted by Possum Jenkins And Bush I, Reagan (holy shit), Carter, Ford, Nixon, Kennedy... every American president since Truman, really.
Since WWII, becoming a war criminal is an almost unavoidable part of being the president of the US. That's what happens when you seek world domination- you gotta crack a few eggs.
So there's almost no point in talking about it. We're better off discussing to what degree they violate international law. And on this issue it's no question that Republicans completely take the cake. In the last 30 years alone Dubya and Reagan are on par with the biggest murderers in the world.
Exactly, America are almost in a perpetual state of war and it's viewed as something normal and just.
Grover Norquist, the influential conservative activist, recently made some very frank and sobering remarks about the U.S. military budget. Unlike many conservatives, Mr. Norquist understands that American national security interests are not served by the interventionist foreign policy mindset that has dominated both political parties in recent decades. He also understands that there is nothing “conservative” about incurring trillions of dollars in debt to engage in hopeless nation-building exercises overseas.
Speaking at the Center for the National Interest last week, Norquist stated,
“We can afford to have an adequate national defense which keeps us free and safe and keeps everybody afraid to throw a punch at us, as long as we don’t make some of the decisions that previous administrations have, which is to overextend ourselves overseas and think we can run foreign governments.”
“Bush decided to be the mayor of Baghdad rather than the president of the United States. He decided to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan rather than reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That had tremendous consequences…. Richard Nixon said that America’s national defense needs are set in Moscow, meaning that we wouldn’t have to spend so much if they weren’t shooting at us.
The guys who followed didn’t notice that the Soviet Union disappeared.”
When a prominent D.C. conservative like Grover Norquist makes such bold statements, it shows that public support for a truly conservative foreign policy is growing. The American people simply cannot stomach more wars and more debt, especially with our domestic economy in tatters.
The American people should reject the hype about so-called defense cuts from both side of the political spectrum. When the Obama administration calls for an 18% increase in 2013 military spending, those who propose a 20% increase portray this as a reduction!
Even the supposedly draconian cuts called for in the “sequestration” budget bill would keep military spending at 2006 levels when adjusted for inflation, which is about as high in terms of GDP as during World War II. It’s also more than the top 13 foreign countries spend on defense combined. Furthermore, sequestration only cuts military spending for one year after taking effect. In future years, Congress is free to reinstate higher military spending levels — so under sequestration the most drastic case would mean spending $5.2 trillion instead of $5.7 trillion over the next decade.
Is there any amount of money that would satisfy the Pentagon hawks? Even if we were to slash our military budget in half, America easily would remain the world’s dominant military power. Our problems don’t result from a lack of spending. They result from a lack of vision and a profound misunderstanding of the single biggest threat to every American man, woman, and child: the federal debt.
In the 1980s, Washington began funneling aid to mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan as part of a US proxy war against the Soviet Union. It was, in the minds of America's Cold War leaders, a rare chance to bloody the Soviets, to give them a taste of the sort of defeat the Vietnamese, with Soviet help, had inflicted on Washington the decade before. In 1989, after years of bloody combat, the Red Army did indeed limp out of Afghanistan in defeat.
Since late 2001, the United States has been fighting its former Afghan proxies and their progeny. Now, after years of bloody combat, it's the US that's looking to withdraw the bulk of its forces and once again employ proxies to secure its interests there.
From Asia and Africa to the Middle East and the Americas, the administration of US President Barack Obama is increasingly embracing a multifaceted, light-footprint brand of warfare. Gone, for the moment at least, are the days of full-scale invasions of the Eurasian mainland. Instead, Washington is now planning to rely ever more heavily on drones and special-operations forces to fight scattered global enemies on the cheap. A centerpiece of this new American way of war is the outsourcing of fighting duties to local proxies around the world.
While the United States is currently engaged in just one outright proxy war, backing a multi-nation African force to battle Islamist militants in Somalia, it's laying the groundwork for the extensive use of surrogate forces in the future, training "native" troops to carry out missions - up to and including outright warfare. With this in mind and under the auspices of the Pentagon and the State Department, US military personnel now take part in near-constant joint exercises and training missions around the world aimed at fostering alliances, building coalitions, and whipping surrogate forces into shape to support US national-security objectives.
While using slightly different methods in different regions, the basic strategy is a global one in which the US will train, equip and advise indigenous forces - generally from poor, underdeveloped nations - to do the fighting (and dying) it doesn't want to do. In the process, as small an American force as possible, including special-forces operatives and air support, will be brought to bear to aid those surrogates.
Like drones, proxy warfare appears to offer an easy solution to complex problems. But as Washington's 30-year debacle in Afghanistan indicates, the ultimate costs may prove both unimaginable and unimaginably high.
Start with Afghanistan itself. For more than a decade, the US and its coalition partners have been training Afghan security forces in the hopes that they would take over the war there, defending US and allied interests as the American-led international force draws down. Yet despite an expenditure of almost US$50 billion on bringing it up to speed, the Afghan National Army and other security forces have drastically underperformed any and all expectations, year after year.
One track of the US plan has been a little-talked-about proxy army run by the Central Intelligence Agency. For years, the CIA has trained and employed six clandestine militias that operate near the cities of Kandahar, Kabul and Jalalabad as well as in Khost, Kunar and Paktika provinces. Working with US special forces and controlled by Americans, these "Counter-Terror Pursuit Teams" evidently operate free of any Afghan governmental supervision and have reportedly carried out cross-border raids into Pakistan, offering their American patrons a classic benefit of proxy warfare: plausible deniability.
This clandestine effort has also been supplemented by the creation of a massive conventional indigenous security force. While officially under Afghan government control, these military and police forces are almost entirely dependent on the financial support of the US and allied governments for their continued existence.
Today, the Afghan National Security Forces officially number more than 343,000, but only 7% of their army units and 9% of their police units are rated at the highest level of effectiveness. By contrast, even after more than a decade of large-scale Western aid, 95% of the forces' recruits are still functionally illiterate.
Not surprisingly, this massive force, trained by high-priced private contractors, Western European militaries and the United States, and backed by US and coalition forces and their advanced weapons systems, has been unable to stamp out a lightly armed, modest-sized, less-than-popular, rag-tag insurgency. One of the few tasks this proxy force seems skilled at is shooting American and allied forces, quite often their own trainers, in increasingly common "green-on-blue" attacks.
Adding insult to injury, this poor-performing, coalition-killing force is expensive. Bought and paid for by the United States and its coalition partners, it costs between $10 billion and $12 billion each year to sustain in a country whose gross domestic product is just $18 billion. Over the long term, such a situation is untenable.
Back to the future
Utilizing foreign surrogates is nothing new. Since ancient times, empires and nation-states have employed foreign troops and indigenous forces to wage war or have backed them when it suited their policy aims. By the 19th and 20th centuries, the tactic had become de rigueur for colonial powers like the French who employed Senegalese, Moroccan and other African forces in Indochina and elsewhere, and the British who regularly used Nepalese Gurkhas to wage counterinsurgencies in places ranging from Iraq and Malaya to Borneo.
By the time the United States began backing the mujahideen in Afghanistan, it already had significant experience with proxy warfare and its perils. After World War II, the US eagerly embraced foreign surrogates, generally in poor and underdeveloped countries, in the name of the Cold War. These efforts included the attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro via a proxy Cuban force that crashed and burned at the Bay of Pigs; the building of a Hmong army in Laos that ultimately lost to Communist forces there; and the bankrolling of a French war in Vietnam that failed in 1954, and then the creation of a massive army in South Vietnam that crumbled in 1975, to name just a few unsuccessful efforts.
A more recent proxy failure occurred in Iraq. For years after the 2003 invasion, American policymakers uttered a standard mantra: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Last year, those Iraqis basically walked off.
Between 2003 and 2011, the United States pumped tens of billions of dollars into "reconstructing" the country, with about $20 billion of it going to build the Iraqi security forces. This mega-force of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police was created from scratch to prop up the successors to the government that the United States overthrew. It was trained by and fought with the Americans and their coalition partners, but that all came to an end last December.
Despite Obama administration efforts to base thousands or tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for years to come, the Iraqi government spurned Washington's overtures and sent the US military packing. Today, the Iraqi government supports the Assad regime in Syria, and has a warm and increasingly close relationship with longtime US enemy Iran. According to Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency, the two countries have even discussed expanding their military ties.
African shadow wars
Despite a history of sinking billions into proxy armies that collapsed, walked away, or morphed into enemies, Washington is currently pursuing plans for proxy warfare across the globe, perhaps nowhere more aggressively than in Africa.
Under President Obama, operations in Africa have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions under his predecessor George W Bush. These include last year's war in Libya; the expansion of a growing network of supply depots, small camps, and airfields; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a massive influx of cash for counter-terrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; and a special-ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders. (This mission against Kony is seen by some experts as a cover for a developing proxy war between the US and the Islamist government of Sudan - which is accused of helping to support the LRA - and Islamists more generally.) And this only begins to scratch the surface of Washington's fast-expanding plans and activities in the region.
In Somalia, Washington has already involved itself in a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against Islamist al-Shabaab militants that includes intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, a secret prison, helicopter attacks and commando raids. Now, it is also backing a classic proxy war using African surrogates. The United States has become, as the Los Angeles Times put it recently, "the driving force behind the fighting in Somalia", as it trains and equips African foot soldiers to battle Shabaab militants, so US forces won't have to. In a country where more than 90 Americans were killed and wounded in a 1993 debacle now known by the shorthand "Black Hawk Down", today's fighting and dying have been outsourced to African soldiers.
This year, for example, elite Force Recon marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (or, as a mouthful of an abbreviation, SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers from the Uganda People's Defense Force. It, in turn, supplies the majority of the troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) currently protecting the US-supported government in that country's capital, Mogadishu.
This spring, marines from SPMAGTF-12 also trained soldiers from the Burundi National Defense Force (BNDF), the second-largest contingent in Somalia. In April and May, members of Task Force Raptor, 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment of the Texas National Guard took part in a separate training mission with the BNDF in Mudubugu, Burundi. SPMAGTF-12 has also sent its trainers to Djibouti, another nation involved in the Somali mission, to work with an elite army unit there.
At the same time, US Army troops have taken part in training members of Sierra Leone's military in preparation for their deployment to Somalia later this year. In June, US Army Africa commander Major-General David Hogg spoke encouragingly of the future of Sierra Leone's forces in conjunction with another US ally, Kenya, which invaded Somalia last autumn (and just recently joined the African Union mission there). "You will join the Kenyan forces in southern Somalia to continue to push al-Shabaab and other miscreants from Somalia so it can be free of tyranny and terrorism and all the evil that comes with it," he said. "We know that you are ready and trained. You will be equipped and you will accomplish this mission with honor and dignity."
Readying allied militaries for deployment to Somalia is, however, just a fraction of the story when it comes to training indigenous forces in Africa. This year, for example, marines traveled to Liberia to focus on teaching riot-control techniques to that country's military as part of what is otherwise a State Department-directed effort to rebuild its security forces.
In fact, Colonel Tom Davis of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) recently told TomDispatch that his command had held or planned 14 major joint training exercises for 2012 and a similar number were scheduled for 2013. This year's efforts include operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal and Nigeria, including, for example, Western Accord 2012, a multilateral exercise involving the armed forces of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Gambia and France.
Even this, however, doesn't encompass the full breadth of US training and advising missions in Africa. "We ... conduct some type of military training or military-to-military engagement or activity with nearly every country on the African continent," Davis wrote.
Our American proxies
Africa may, at present, be the prime location for the development of proxy warfare, American-style, but it's hardly the only locale where the United States is training indigenous forces to aid US foreign-policy aims. This year, the Pentagon has also ramped up operations in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.
In Honduras, for example, small teams of US troops are working with local forces to escalate the drug war there. Working out of Forward Operating Base Mocoron and other remote camps, the US military is supporting Honduran operations by way of the methods it honed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
US forces have also taken part in joint operations with Honduran troops as part of a training mission dubbed Beyond the Horizon 2012, while Green Berets have been assisting Honduran special-operations forces in anti-smuggling operations.
Additionally, an increasingly militarized US Drug Enforcement Administration sent a Foreign-Deployed Advisory Support Team, originally created to disrupt the poppy trade in Afghanistan, to aid Honduras' Tactical Response Team, that country's elite counter-narcotics unit.
The militarization and foreign deployment of US law-enforcement operatives was also evident in Tradewinds 2012, a training exercise held in Barbados in June. There, members of the US military and civilian law-enforcement agencies joined with counterparts from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago to improve cooperation for "complex multinational security operations".
Far less visible have been training efforts by US special-operations forces in Guyana, Uruguay and Paraguay. In June, special-ops troops also took part in Fuerzas Comando, an eight-day "competition" in which the elite forces from 21 countries, including the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay, faced off in tests of physical fitness, marksmanship and tactical capabilities.
This year, the US military has also conducted training exercises in Guatemala, sponsored "partnership-building" missions in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru and Panama, and reached an agreement to carry out 19 "activities" with the Colombian army over the next year, including joint military exercises.
The proxy pivot
Coverage of the Obama administration's much-publicized strategic "pivot" to Asia has focused on the creation of yet more bases and new naval deployments to the region. The military (which has dropped the word "pivot" for "rebalancing") is, however, also planning and carrying out numerous exercises and training missions with regional allies. In fact, the US Navy and Marines Corps alone already reportedly engage in more than 170 bilateral and multilateral exercises with Asia-Pacific nations each year.
One of the largest of these efforts took place in and around the Hawaiian Islands from late June through early August. Dubbed RIMPAC 2012, the exercise brought together more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel from 22 nations, including Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Tonga.
Almost 7,000 American troops also joined about 3,400 Thai forces, as well as military personnel from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, as part of Cobra Gold 2012. In addition, US marines took part in Hamel 2012, a multinational training exercise involving members of the Australian and New Zealand militaries, while other American troops joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines for Exercise Balikatan.
The effects of the "pivot" are also evident in the fact that once-neutralist India now holds more than 50 military exercises with the United States each year - more than any other country in the world.
"Our partnership with India is a key part of our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and, we believe, to the broader security and prosperity of the 21st century," said US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on a recent trip to the subcontinent.
Just how broad is evident in the fact that India is taking part in America's proxy effort in Somalia. In recent years, the Indian Navy has emerged as an "important contributor" to the international counter-piracy effort off that African country's coast, according to Andrew Shapiro of the US State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Peace by proxy
India's neighbor Bangladesh offers a further window into US efforts to build proxy forces to serve American interests.
This year, US and Bangladeshi forces took part in an exercise focused on logistics, planning and tactical training, codenamed Shanti Doot-3. The mission was notable in that it was part of a US State Department program, supported and executed by the Pentagon, known as the Global Peace Operations Initiative.
First implemented under George W Bush, GPOI provides cash-strapped nations funds, equipment, logistical assistance and training to enable their militaries to become "peacekeepers" around the world. Under Bush, from the time the program was established in 2004 through 2008, more than $374 million was spent to train and equip foreign troops. Under President Obama, Congress has funded the program to the tune of $393 million, according to figures provided to TomDispatch by the State Department.
In a speech this year, the State Department's Andrew Shapiro told a Washington, DC, audience that "GPOI is particularly focusing a great deal of its efforts to support the training and equipping of peacekeepers deploying to ... Somalia" and had provided "tens of millions of dollars' worth of equipment" for countries deploying there.
In a weblog post he went into more detail, lauding US efforts to train Djiboutian troops to serve as peacekeepers in Somalia and noting that the US had also provided impoverished Djibouti with radar equipment and patrol boats for offshore activities.
"Djibouti is also central to our efforts to combat piracy," he wrote, "as it is on the front line of maritime threats including piracy in the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters."
Djibouti and Bangladesh are hardly unique. Under the auspices of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, the US has partnered with 62 nations around the globe, according to statistics provided by the State Department. These proxies-in-training are, not surprisingly, some of the poorest nations in their respective regions, if not the entire planet. They include Benin, Ethiopia, Malawi and Togo in Africa, Nepal and Pakistan in Asia, and Guatemala and Nicaragua in the Americas.
The changing face of empire
With ongoing military operations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, the Obama administration has embraced a six-point program for light-footprint warfare relying heavily on special-operations forces, drones, spies, civilian partners, cyber-warfare and proxy fighters. Of all the facets of this new way of war, the training and employment of proxies has generally been the least noticed, even though reliance on foreign forces is considered one of its prime selling points.
As Shapiro put it: "The importance of these missions to the security of the United States is often little appreciated ... To put it clearly: When these peacekeepers deploy, it means that US forces are less likely to be called on to intervene."
In other words, to put it even more clearly, more dead locals, fewer dead Americans.
The evidence for this conventional wisdom, however, is lacking. And failures to learn from history in this regard have been ruinous. The training, advising and outfitting of a proxy force in Vietnam drew the United States deeper and deeper into that doomed conflict, leading to tens of thousands of dead Americans and millions of dead Vietnamese. Support for Afghan proxies during their decade-long battle against the Soviet Union led directly to the current disastrous decade-plus US war in Afghanistan.
Right now, the US is once again training, advising and conducting joint exercises all over the world with proxy war on its mind and the concept of "unintended consequences" nowhere in sight in Washington. Whether today's proxies end up working for or against Washington's interests or even become tomorrow's enemies remains to be seen. But with so much training going on in so many destabilized regions, and so many proxy forces being armed in so many places, the chances of blowback grow greater by the day.
Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, in The Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author/editor of several books, including the recently published Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt). This piece is the latest article in his new series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Tumblr.
Used with permission TomDispatch .
July 12, 2012 | guardian.co.uk,
The media have been too passive when it comes to Syrian opposition sources, without scrutinizing their backgrounds and their political connections. Time for a closer look …Comments: 269
A nightmare is unfolding across Syria, in the homes of al-Heffa and the streets of Houla. And we all know how the story ends: with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed, towns and families destroyed, and President Assad beaten to death in a ditch.
This is the story of the Syrian war, but there is another story to be told. A tale less bloody, but nevertheless important. This is a story about the storytellers: the spokespeople, the "experts on Syria", the "democracy activists". The statement makers. The people who "urge" and "warn" and "call for action".
It's a tale about some of the most quoted members of the Syrian opposition and their connection to the Anglo-American opposition creation business. The mainstream news media have, in the main, been remarkably passive when it comes to Syrian sources: billing them simply as "official spokesmen" or "pro-democracy campaigners" without, for the most part, scrutinising their statements, their backgrounds or their political connections.
It's important to stress: to investigate the background of a Syrian spokesperson is not to doubt the sincerity of his or her opposition to Assad. But a passionate hatred of the Assad regime is no guarantee of independence. Indeed, a number of key figures in the Syrian opposition movement are long-term exiles who were receiving US government funding to undermine the Assad government long before the Arab spring broke out.
Though it is not yet stated US government policy to oust Assad by force, these spokespeople are vocal advocates of foreign military intervention in Syria and thus natural allies of well-known US neoconservatives who supported Bush's invasion of Iraq and are now pressuring the Obama administration to intervene. As we will see, several of these spokespeople have found support, and in some cases developed long and lucrative relationships with advocates of military intervention on both sides of the Atlantic.
"The sand is running out of the hour glass," said Hillary Clinton on Sunday. So, as the fighting in Syria intensifies, and Russian warships set sail for Tartus, it's high time to take a closer look at those who are speaking out on behalf of the Syrian people.
The Syrian National Council
The most quoted of the opposition spokespeople are the official representatives of the Syrian National Council. The SNC is not the only Syrian opposition group – but it is generally recognised as "the main opposition coalition" (BBC). The Washington Times describes it as "an umbrella group of rival factions based outside Syria". Certainly the SNC is the opposition group that's had the closest dealings with western powers – and has called for foreign intervention from the early stages of the uprising. In February of this year, at the opening of the Friends of Syria summit in Tunisia, William Hague declared: "I will meet leaders of the Syrian National Council in a few minutes' time … We, in common with other nations, will now treat them and recognise them as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people."
The most senior of the SNC's official spokespeople is the Paris-based Syrian academic Bassma Kodmani.
Kodmani is a member of the executive bureau and head of foreign affairs, Syrian National Council. Kodmani is close to the centre of the SNC power structure, and one of the council's most vocal spokespeople. "No dialogue with the ruling regime is possible. We can only discuss how to move on to a different political system," she declared this week. And here she is, quoted by the newswire AFP: "The next step needs to be a resolution under Chapter VII, which allows for the use of all legitimate means, coercive means, embargo on arms, as well as the use of force to oblige the regime to comply."
This statement translates into the headline "Syrians call for armed peacekeepers" (Australia's Herald Sun). When large-scale international military action is being called for, it seems only reasonable to ask: who exactly is calling for it? We can say, simply, "an official SNC spokesperson," or we can look a little closer.
This year was Kodmani's second Bilderberg. At the 2008 conference, Kodmani was listed as French; by 2012, her Frenchness had fallen away and she was listed simply as "international" – her homeland had become the world of international relations.
Back a few years, in 2005, Kodmani was working for the Ford Foundation in Cairo, where she was director of their governance and international co-operation programme. The Ford Foundation is a vast organisation, headquartered in New York, and Kodmani was already fairly senior. But she was about to jump up a league.
Around this time, in February 2005, US-Syrian relations collapsed, and President Bush recalled his ambassador from Damascus. A lot of opposition projects date from this period. "The US money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005," says the Washington Post.
In September 2005, Kodmani was made the executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) – a research programme initiated by the powerful US lobby group, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The CFR is an elite US foreign policy thinktank, and the Arab Reform Initiative is described on its website as a "CFR Project" . More specifically, the ARI was initiated by a group within the CFR called the "US/Middle East Project" – a body of senior diplomats, intelligence officers and financiers, the stated aim of which is to undertake regional "policy analysis" in order "to prevent conflict and promote stability". The US/Middle East Project pursues these goals under the guidance of an international board chaired by General (Ret.) Brent Scowcroft.
Brent Scowcroft (chairman emeritus) is a former national security adviser to the US president – he took over the role from Henry Kissinger. Sitting alongside Scowcroft of the international board is his fellow geo-strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who succeeded him as the national security adviser, and Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman Sachs International. So, as early as 2005, we've got a senior wing of the western intelligence/banking establishment selecting Kodmani to run a Middle East research project. In September of that year, Kodmani was made full-time director of the programme. Earlier in 2005, the CFR assigned "financial oversight" of the project to the Centre for European Reform (CER). In come the British.
The CER is overseen by Lord Kerr, the deputy chairman of Royal Dutch Shell. Kerr is a former head of the diplomatic service and is a senior adviser at Chatham House (a thinktank showcasing the best brains of the British diplomatic establishment).
In charge of the CER on a day-to-day basis is Charles Grant, former defence editor of the Economist, and these days a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a "pan-European thinktank" packed with diplomats, industrialists, professors and prime ministers. On its list of members you'll find the name: "Bassma Kodmani (France/Syria) – Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative".
Another name on the list: George Soros – the financier whose non-profit "Open Society Foundations" is a primary funding source of the ECFR. At this level, the worlds of banking, diplomacy, industry, intelligence and the various policy institutes and foundations all mesh together, and there, in the middle of it all, is Kodmani.
The point is, Kodmani is not some random "pro-democracy activist" who happens to have found herself in front of a microphone. She has impeccable international diplomacy credentials: she holds the position of research director at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale – "an independent and neutral institution dedicated to promoting modern diplomacy". The Académie is headed by Jean-Claude Cousseran, a former head of the DGSE – the French foreign intelligence service.
A picture is emerging of Kodmani as a trusted lieutenant of the Anglo-American democracy-promotion industry. Her "province of origin" (according to the SNC website) is Damascus, but she has close and long-standing professional relationships with precisely those powers she's calling upon to intervene in Syria.
And many of her spokesmen colleagues are equally well-connected.
Another often quoted SNC representative is Radwan Ziadeh – director of foreign relations at the Syrian National Council. Ziadeh has an impressive CV: he's a senior fellow at the federally funded Washington thinktank, the US Institute of Peace (the USIP Board of Directors is packed with alumni of the defence department and the national security council; its president is Richard Solomon, former adviser to Kissinger at the NSC).
In February this year, Ziadeh joined an elite bunch of Washington hawks to sign a letter calling upon Obama to intervene in Syria: his fellow signatories include James Woolsey (former CIA chief), Karl Rove (Bush Jr's handler), Clifford May (Committee on the Present Danger) and Elizabeth Cheney, former head of the Pentagon's Iran-Syria Operations Group.
Ziadeh is a relentless organiser, a blue-chip Washington insider with links to some of the most powerful establishment thinktanks. Ziadeh's connections extend all the way to London. In 2009 he became a visiting fellow at Chatham House, and in June of last year he featured on the panel at one of their events – "Envisioning Syria's Political Future" – sharing a platform with fellow SNC spokesman Ausama Monajed (more on Monajed below) and SNC member Najib Ghadbian.
Ghadbian was identified by the Wall Street Journal as an early intermediary between the US government and the Syrian opposition in exile: "An initial contact between the White House and NSF [National Salvation Front] was forged by Najib Ghadbian, a University of Arkansas political scientist." This was back in 2005. The watershed year.
These days, Ghadbian is a member of the general secretariat of the SNC, and is on the advisory board of a Washington-based policy body called the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS) – an organisation co-founded by Ziadeh.
Ziadeh has been making connections like this for years. Back in 2008, Ziadeh took part in a meeting of opposition figures in a Washington government building: a mini-conference called "Syria In-Transition". The meeting was co-sponsored by a US-based body called the Democracy Council and a UK-based organisation called the Movement for Justice and Development (MJD). It was a big day for the MJD – their chairman, Anas Al-Abdah, had travelled to Washington from Britain for the event, along with their director of public relations. Here, from the MJD's website, is a description of the day: "The conference saw an exceptional turn out as the allocated hall was packed with guests from the House of Representatives and the Senate, representatives of studies centres, journalists and Syrian expatriats [sic] in the USA."
The day opened with a keynote speech by James Prince, head of the Democracy Council. Ziadeh was on a panel chaired by Joshua Muravchik (the ultra-interventionist author of the 2006 op-ed "Bomb Iran"). The topic of the discussion was "The Emergence of Organized Opposition". Sitting beside Ziadeh on the panel was the public relations director of the MJD – a man who would later become his fellow SNC spokesperson – Ausama Monajed.
Along with Kodmani and Ziadeh, Ausama (or sometimes Osama) Monajed is one of the most important SNC spokespeople. There are others, of course – the SNC is a big beast and includes the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition to Assad is wide-ranging, but these are some of the key voices. There are other official spokespeople with long political careers, like George Sabra of the Syrian Democratic People's party – Sabra has suffered arrest and lengthy imprisonment in his fight against the "repressive and totalitarian regime in Syria". And there are other opposition voices outside the SNC, such as the writer Michel Kilo, who speaks eloquently of the violence tearing apart his country: "Syria is being destroyed – street after street, city after city, village after village. What kind of solution is that? In order for a small group of people to remain in power, the whole country is being destroyed."
But there's no doubt that the primary opposition body is the SNC, and Kodmani, Ziadeh and Monajed are often to be found representing it. Monajed frequently crops up as a commentator on TV news channels. Here he is on the BBC, speaking from their Washington bureau. Monajed doesn't sugar-coat his message: "We are watching civilians being slaughtered and kids being slaughtered and killed and women being raped on the TV screens every day."
Meanwhile, over on Al Jazeera, Monajed talks about "what's really happening, in reality, on the ground" – about "the militiamen of Assad" who "come and rape their women, slaughter their children, and kill their elderly".
Monajed turned up, just a few days ago, as a blogger on Huffington Post UK, where he explained, at length: "Why the World Must Intervene in Syria" – calling for "direct military assistance" and "foreign military aid". So, again, a fair question might be: who is this spokesman calling for military intervention?
Monajed is a member of the SNC, adviser to its president, and according to his SNC biography, "the Founder and Director of Barada Television", a pro-opposition satellite channel based in Vauxhall, south London. In 2008, a few months after attending Syria In-Transition conference, Monajed was back in Washington, invited to lunch with George W Bush, along with a handful of other favoured dissidents (you can see Monajed in the souvenir photo, third from the right, in the red tie, near Condoleezza Rice – up the other end from Garry Kasparov).
At this time, in 2008, the US state department knew Monajed as "director of public relations for the Movement for Justice and Development (MJD), which leads the struggle for peaceful and democratic change in Syria".
Let's look closer at the MJD. Last year, the Washington Post picked up a story from WikiLeaks, which had published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables. These cables appear to show a remarkable flow of money from the US state department to the British-based Movement for Justice and Development. According to the Washington Post's report: "Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified US diplomatic cables show that the state department has funnelled as much as $6m to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria."
A state department spokesman responded to this story by saying: "Trying to promote a transformation to a more democratic process in this society is not undermining necessarily the existing government." And they're right, it's not "necessarily" that.
When asked about the state department money, Monajed himself said that he "could not confirm" US state department funding for Barada TV, but said: "I didn't receive a penny myself." Malik al -Abdeh, until very recently Barada TV's editor-in-chief insisted: "we have had no direct dealings with the US state department". The meaning of the sentence turns on that word "direct". It is worth noting that Malik al Abdeh also happens to be one of the founders of the Movement for Justice and Development (the recipient of the state department $6m, according to the leaked cable). And he's the brother of the chairman, Anas Al-Abdah. He's also the co-holder of the MJD trademark: What Malik al Abdeh does admit is that Barada TV gets a large chunk of its funding from an American non-profit organisation: the Democracy Council. One of the co-sponsors (with the MJD) of Syria In-Transition mini-conference. So what we see, in 2008, at the same meeting, are the leaders of precisely those organisations identified in the Wiki:eaks cables as the conduit (the Democracy Council) and recipient (the MJD) of large amounts of state department money.
The Democracy Council (a US-based grant distributor) lists the state department as one of its sources of funding. How it works is this: the Democracy Council serves as a grant-administering intermediary between the state department's "Middle East Partnership Initiative" and "local partners" (such as Barada TV). As the Washington Post reports:
"Several US diplomatic cables from the embassy in Damascus reveal that the Syrian exiles received money from a State Department program called the Middle East Partnership Initiative. According to the cables, the State Department funnelled money to the exile group via the Democracy Council, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit."
The same report highlights a 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Syria that says that the Democracy Council received $6.3m from the state department to run a Syria-related programme, the "Civil Society Strengthening Initiative". The cable describes this as "a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners" aimed at producing, amongst other things, "various broadcast concepts." According to the Washington Post: "Other cables make clear that one of those concepts was Barada TV."
Until a few months ago, the state department's Middle East Partnership Initiative was overseen by Tamara Cofman Wittes (she's now at the Brookings Institution – an influential Washington thinktank). Of MEPI, she said that it "created a positive 'brand' for US democracy promotion efforts". While working there she declared: "There are a lot of organizations in Syria and other countries that are seeking changes from their government … That's an agenda that we believe in and we're going to support." And by support, she means bankroll.
This is nothing new. Go back a while to early 2006, and you have the state department announcing a new "funding opportunity" called the "Syria Democracy Program". On offer, grants worth "$5m in Federal Fiscal Year 2006". The aim of the grants? "To accelerate the work of reformers in Syria."
These days, the cash is flowing in faster than ever. At the beginning of June 2012, the Syrian Business Forum was launched in Doha by opposition leaders including Wael Merza (SNC secretary general). "This fund has been established to support all components of the revolution in Syria," said Merza. The size of the fund? Some $300m. It's by no means clear where the money has come from, although Merza "hinted at strong financial support from Gulf Arab states for the new fund" (Al Jazeera). At the launch, Merza said that about $150m had already been spent, in part on the Free Syrian Army.
Merza's group of Syrian businessmen made an appearance at a World Economic Forum conference titled the "Platform for International Co-operation" held in Istanbul in November 2011. All part of the process whereby the SNC has grown in reputation, to become, in the words of William Hague, "a legitimate representative of the Syrian people" – and able, openly, to handle this much funding.
Building legitimacy – of opposition, of representation, of intervention – is the essential propaganda battle.
In a USA Today op-ed written in February this year, Ambassador Dennis Ross declared: "It is time to raise the status of the Syrian National Council". What he wanted, urgently, is "to create an aura of inevitability about the SNC as the alternative to Assad." The aura of inevitability. Winning the battle in advance.
A key combatant in this battle for hearts and minds is the American journalist and Daily Telegraph blogger, Michael Weiss.
One of the most widely quoted western experts on Syria – and an enthusiast for western intervention – Michael Weiss echoes Ambassador Ross when he says: "Military intervention in Syria isn't so much a matter of preference as an inevitability."
Some of Weiss's interventionist writings can be found on a Beirut-based, Washington-friendly website called "NOW Lebanon" – whose "NOW Syria" section is an important source of Syrian updates. NOW Lebanon was set up in 2007 by Saatchi & Saatchi executive Eli Khoury. Khoury has been described by the advertising industry as a "strategic communications specialist, specialising in corporate and government image and brand development".
Weiss told NOW Lebanon, back in May, that thanks to the influx of weapons to Syrian rebels "we've already begun to see some results." He showed a similar approval of military developments a few months earlier, in a piece for the New Republic: "In the past several weeks, the Free Syrian Army and other independent rebel brigades have made great strides" – whereupon, as any blogger might, he laid out his "Blueprint for a Military Intervention in Syria".
But Weiss is not only a blogger. He's also the director of communications and public relations at the Henry Jackson Society, an ultra-ultra-hawkish foreign policy thinktank.
The Henry Jackson Society's international patrons include: James "ex-CIA boss" Woolsey, Michael "homeland security" Chertoff, William "PNAC" Kristol, Robert "PNAC" Kagan', Joshua "Bomb Iran" Muravchick, and Richard "Prince of Darkness" Perle. The Society is run by Alan Mendoza, chief adviser to the all-party parliamentary group on transatlantic and international security.
The Henry Jackson Society is uncompromising in its "forward strategy" towards democracy. And Weiss is in charge of the message. The Henry Jackson Society is proud of its PR chief's far-reaching influence: "He is the author of the influential report "Intervention in Syria? An Assessment of Legality, Logistics and Hazards", which was repurposed and endorsed by the Syrian National Council."
Weiss's original report was re-named "Safe Area for Syria" – and ended up on the official syriancouncil.org website, as part of their military bureau's strategic literature. The repurposing of the HJS report was undertaken by the founder and executive director of the Strategic Research and Communication Centre (SRCC) – one Ausama Monajed.
So, the founder of Barada TV, Ausama Monajed, edited Weiss's report, published it through his own organisation (the SRCC) and passed it on to the Syrian National Council, with the support of the Henry Jackson Society.
The relationship couldn't be closer. Monajed even ends up handling inquiries for "press interviews with Michael Weiss". Weiss is not the only strategist to have sketched out the roadmap to this war (many thinktanks have thought it out, many hawks have talked it up), but some of the sharpest detailing is his.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
The justification for the "inevitable" military intervention is the savagery of President Assad's regime: the atrocities, the shelling, the human rights abuses. Information is crucial here, and one source above all has been providing us with data about Syria. It is quoted at every turn: "The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA [Voice of America] that fighting and shelling killed at least 12 people in Homs province."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is commonly used as a standalone source for news and statistics. Just this week, news agency AFP carried this story: "Syrian forces pounded Aleppo and Deir Ezzor provinces as at least 35 people were killed on Sunday across the country, among them 17 civilians, a watchdog reported." Various atrocities and casualty numbers are listed, all from a single source: "Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by phone."
Statistic after horrific statistic pours from "the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" (AP). It's hard to find a news report about Syria that doesn't cite them. But who are they? "They" are Rami Abdulrahman (or Rami Abdel Rahman), who lives in Coventry.
According to a Reuters report in December of last year: "When he isn't fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife."
When the Guardian's Middle East live blog cited "Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" it also linked to a sceptical article in the Modern Tokyo Times – an article which suggested news outlets could be a bit "more objective about their sources" when quoting "this so-called entity", the SOHR.
That name, the "Syrian Observatory of Human Rights", sound so grand, so unimpeachable, so objective. And yet when Abdulrahman and his "Britain-based NGO" (AFP/NOW Lebanon) are the sole source for so many news stories about such an important subject, it would seem reasonable to submit this body to a little more scrutiny than it's had to date.
The Observatory is by no means the only Syrian news source to be quoted freely with little or no scrutiny …
The relationship between Ausama Monajed, the SNC, the Henry Jackson hawks and an unquestioning media can be seen in the case of Hamza Fakher. On 1 January, Nick Cohen wrote in the Observer: "To grasp the scale of the barbarism, listen to Hamza Fakher, a pro-democracy activist, who is one of the most reliable sources on the crimes the regime's news blackout hides."
He goes on to recount Fakher's horrific tales of torture and mass murder. Fakher tells Cohen of a new hot-plate torture technique that he's heard about: "imagine all the melting flesh reaching the bone before the detainee falls on the plate". The following day, Shamik Das, writing on "evidence-based" progressive blog Left Foot Forward, quotes the same source: "Hamza Fakher, a pro-democracy activist, describes the sickening reality …" – and the account of atrocities given to Cohen is repeated.
So, who exactly is this "pro-democracy activist", Hamza Fakher?
Fakher, it turns out, is the co-author of Revolution in Danger , a "Henry Jackson Society Strategic Briefing", published in February of this year. He co-wrote this briefing paper with the Henry Jackson Society's communications director, Michael Weiss. And when he's not co-writing Henry Jackson Society strategic briefings, Fakher is the communication manager of the London-based Strategic Research and Communication Centre (SRCC). According to their website, "He joined the centre in 2011 and has been in charge of the centre's communication strategy and products."
As you may recall, the SRCC is run by one Ausama Monajed: "Mr Monajed founded the centre in 2010. He is widely quoted and interviewed in international press and media outlets. He previously worked as communication consultant in Europe and the US and formerly served as the director of Barada Television …".
Monajed is Fakher's boss.
If this wasn't enough, for a final Washington twist, on the board of the Strategic Research and Communication Centre sits Murhaf Jouejati, a professor at the National Defence University in DC – "the premier center for Joint Professional Military Education (JPME)" which is "under the direction of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff."
If you happen to be planning a trip to Monajed's "Strategic Research and Communication Centre", you'll find it here: Strategic Research & Communication Centre, Office 36, 88-90 Hatton Garden, Holborn, London EC1N 8PN.
Office 36 at 88-90 Hatton Garden is also where you'll find the London headquarters of The Fake Tan Company, Supercar 4 U Limited, Moola loans (a "trusted loans company"), Ultimate Screeding (for all your screeding needs), and The London School of Attraction – "a London-based training company which helps men develop the skills and confidence to meet and attract women." And about a hundred other businesses besides. It's a virtual office. There's something oddly appropriate about this. A "communication centre" that doesn't even have a centre – a grand name but no physical substance.
That's the reality of Hamza Fakher. On 27 May, Shamik Das of Left Foot Forward quotes again from Fakher's account of atrocities, which he now describes as an "eyewitness account" (which Cohen never said it was) and which by now has hardened into "the record of the Assad regime".
So, a report of atrocities given by a Henry Jackson Society strategist, who is the communications manager of Mosafed's PR department, has acquired the gravitas of a historical "record".
This is not to suggest that the account of atrocities must be untrue, but how many of those who give it currency are scrutinising its origins?
And let's not forget, whatever destabilisation has been done in the realm of news and public opinion is being carried out twofold on the ground. We already know that (at the very least) "the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department … are helping the opposition Free Syrian Army develop logistical routes for moving supplies into Syria and providing communications training."
The bombs doors are open. The plans have been drawn up.
This has been brewing for a time. The sheer energy and meticulous planning that's gone into this change of regime – it's breathtaking. The soft power and political reach of the big foundations and policy bodies is vast, but scrutiny is no respecter of fancy titles and fellowships and "strategy briefings". Executive director of what, it asks. Having "democracy" or "human rights" in your job title doesn't give you a free pass.
And if you're a "communications director" it means your words should be weighed extra carefully. Weiss and Fakher, both communications directors – PR professionals. At the Chatham House event in June 2011, Monajed is listed as: "Ausama Monajed, director of communications, National Initiative for Change" and he was head of PR for the MJD. The creator of the news website NOW Lebanon, Eli Khoury, is a Saatchi advertising executive. These communications directors are working hard to create what Tamara Wittes called a "positive brand".
They're selling the idea of military intervention and regime change, and the mainstream news is hungry to buy. Many of the "activists" and spokespeople representing the Syrian opposition are closely (and in many cases financially) interlinked with the US and London – the very people who would be doing the intervening. Which means information and statistics from these sources isn't necessarily pure news – it's a sales pitch, a PR campaign.
But it's never too late to ask questions, to scrutinise sources. Asking questions doesn't make you a cheerleader for Assad – that's a false argument. It just makes you less susceptible to spin. The good news is, there's a sceptic born every minute.
mcneilio 12 July 2012 4:01PMstewbarnes:
They're selling the idea of military intervention and regime change, and the mainstream news is hungry to buy. Many of the "activists" and spokespeople representing the Syrian opposition are closely (and in many cases financially) interlinked with the US and London – the very people who would be doing the intervening. Which means information and statistics from these sources isn't necessarily pure news – it's a sales pitch, a PR campaign.
In so many cases, newspapers make allegations that military intervention has ulterior motives, and often that probably is the case, but they allege this without presenting evidence to prove it.
This article offers a wealth of well researched proof which should make us all consider any possible intervention in Syria in a new light.
This is journalism at its best, bravo.Horhay1
You criticize others for quoting from sources without going into depth about those sources? I'd never heard of the Modern Tokyo Times, so I googled it and went to the homepage. The first story it presented me with was "Bosnia Connection: Bill Clinton and Islamist ratlines in Bosnia assisted September 11". Nice source...
http://moderntokyotimes.com/2012/07/12/bosnia-connection-bill-clinton-and-islamist-ratlines-in-bosnia-assisted-september-11/Response to stewbarnes, 12 July 2012 4:32PMRedMangos 12 July 2012 4:48PM
You criticize others for quoting from sources without going into depth about those sources? I'd never heard of the Modern Tokyo Times, so I googled it and went to the homepage. The first story it presented me with was "Bosnia Connection: Bill Clinton and Islamist ratlines in Bosnia assisted September 11". Nice source...
I had a read of the article and can see nothing with it myself. It is just going into the link with Islamists fighting in Bosnia and Kosovo and their links to the 9/11 attacks. They were obviously fighting on the same side as the west were and the west was not too bothered about that either just like in Afghanistan in the 1980's. The article is sourced at the bottom of the page from newsreports and youtube clips of other news reports from the like of CNN and Sky news amongst others.Looks like the Syrian opposition has some Ahmed Chalabi types. Remember him?nemossisterThe information in the above article provides a new way of viewing this one which was up earlier: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/jul/12/syria-crisis-ambassador-defects-live Because Al-Fares the 'defecting ambassador' could also be seen as an 'outsider' who would have come into contact with Anglo-American 'democracy promoters' during his time in Iraq. Even the Guardian have taken it from a 'headline piece' and replaced it with a different take.... http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/12/syria-punish-defect-nawaf-fares It's becoming more and more obvious that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes with regard to the war in Syria than is currently being presented in the mainstream press and tv reports. It's looking very sinister indeed.lacilirExcellent article. This has been brewing for a time. Yes it has as US General (ret.) Wesley Clerk said in 2007:HuggieBearSix weeks later, I saw the same officer, and asked: “Why haven’t we attacked Iraq? Are we still going to attack Iraq?” He said: “Sir, it’s worse than that. He said – he pulled up a piece of paper off his desk – he said: “I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office. It says we’re going to attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years – we’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.”http://www.salon.com/2011/11/26/wes_clark_and_the_neocon_dream/12 July 2012 5:08PM "But it's never too late to ask questions, to scrutinise sources." Afraid it is. The Neocon lie machine has built up too much momentum, with the connivance of the "liberal" press that includes the Guardian itself.
It's like watching a farm operation with the result of a new crop of coups. The farmer gets on his tractor to turn over last years straw, and fertilizing the soil, and planting new GM dictators for harvest.
A few weeks ago this article told us how Saudi Arabia plans to fund the rebel Free Syria Army:
So, who has been funding them since the uprising began on March 15, 2011? Through which channels have they been acquiring and purchasing military hardware and ammunition? I can't seem to find any decent sources for this information... can anyone here help?
One of the most widely quoted western experts on Syria – and an enthusiast for western intervention – Michael Weiss echoes Ambassador Ross when he says: "Military intervention in Syria isn't so much a matter of preference as an inevitability.” […]But Weiss is not only a blogger. He's also the director of communications and public relations at the Henry Jackson Society, an ultra-ultra-hawkish foreign policy thinktank.
The Henry Jackson Society also has close links with extreme pro-Zionist groups, such as Just Journalism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Journalism
Someone should tell these people to b*gger off. With their hidden (but not very hidden) agendas they do significant harm to pro-democracy movements in the Arab world.
I see the penny has finally dropped. The Guardian is now beginning to ask the questions the lazy media should have asked before the carnage in Libya ensued. The scary part of all this is that some of the so-called freedom fighters who are being supported by the very same western govts itching to remove Assad in Syria are viewed as terrorists in Afghanistan.Response to georgeat4, 12 July 2012 6:22PMbongoid
Because their editorial policy usually closely mirrors the desire of the Foreign Office and British geopolitical interests. In recent times the Syrian "opposition" has been quoted relentlessly and without question no matter how spurious the claims being made.This is corporate fascism, these coups are all about new markets and new resources, profit for the connected. They have infiltrated or usurped politics and manipulate geopolitics to achieve their own financial goals. This is truly insidious and evil.AnotherevertonianAt last, some real journalism in The Grauniad. More, please, preferably like this: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31791.htm Manufactured Realities The Truth About The Arab Spring, Occupy Movement And Anonymous By Bill Noxid
The National Interest
The sofa samurai and ivory-tower warriors are in full war cry over Syria. Washington should do something! It’s time to recreate the Lincoln Brigade so they can go to war without dragging America into yet another unnecessary conflict.
When the conventional wisdom takes over in Washington, the crescendo can swell to epic proportions. So it has over Syria.
For instance, the so-called Three Amigos—senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman, who have rarely found a country they didn’t want to bomb or invade—naturally wanted war early and often in Syria. Rising Republican star Senator Marco Rubio recently complained that the Obama administration’s demand that Assad go “has not been coupled with action.”
At the other side of the political spectrum, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen fulminated over America’s failure to act. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof expressed shock that a Nobel Peace Prize winner had not involved America in another war. Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution argued that pundits should concentrate on advocating war, not worrying about the details: “I’m pretty sure it’s not the job of civilian think tanks to prepare a full, detailed battle plan for Syria.”
Absent from this advocacy is any belief that practicality matters, that prudence should influence policy, that going to war should be based on something more than feelings. Who cares about the consequences of war? Just do it!
We went through a similar exercise less than a decade ago. In the run-up to the Iraq war, opposition was drowned out with a similar crescendo of outraged claims of imminent threats draped with humanitarian rhetoric. Opponents of war were accused of being pro-Saddam Hussein. Armchair generals promised a “cakewalk” that would drain the swamp, create a model democracy, extend U.S. influence and cause the lion to lie down with the lamb.
When reality intruded after the invasion, the American people felt duped and turned against a campaign they originally supported. In Syria, there is no public support for intervention to start with. Disappointment likely would begin immediately.
War advocates don’t argue that this time would be different. They act as if Iraq didn’t happen. There’s no danger of repeating history because there apparently is no history.
If experience won’t limit their enthusiasm for war, we need another way to channel their enthusiasm. Instead of letting them start another foolish, counterproductive conflict—with a potentially lengthy, costly and counterproductive occupation to follow—we should let them go directly to war themselves. We need a new Lincoln Brigade.
The Lincoln Brigade (actually a battalion) was part of the international forces that fought for the Republican government against Francisco Franco’s Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. Formed in 1937, the Lincoln Brigade later joined with the Washington Brigade. Some 2,800 Americans served in the two units, seven hundred of whom died either in combat or of disease before the foreign fighters were withdrawn in late 1938.
Members of the Lincoln Brigade viewed themselves as idealistic. Their courage was undeniable, as was their willingness to live what they preached. They believed in foreign intervention and they intervened—personally. No advocating grand crusades, ignoring the necessary planning and leaving the dirty work to others. This was hands-on foreign policy at its finest.
Such an approach would be particularly welcome today since so many zealous enthusiasts for war haven’t served in the active military. Nor have the leaders who took America into war.
President Bill Clinton famously avoided the draft while attempting to preserve his “political viability.” President George W. Bush joined the reserves when it was a favored vehicle for avoiding service in Vietnam. Vice President Richard Cheney famously explained that he had “other priorities” in using five deferments to stay out of the Vietnam War military. President Barack Obama never got close to a military uniform or base until he was president. All have more often deployed the military and started more wars than President Ronald Reagan, who was painted as a rabid cowboy during the 1980 campaign.
If “Lincoln Brigade” seems a bit dated or esoteric for the name, one could call it the “Second Chance Brigade,” for those who just didn’t get around to serving in the military when they were young. Or even the “Cheney Brigade,” for everyone who was just too busy when they were in their twenties.
This doesn’t mean military service should be the primary criterion for election to high political office. America is a republic in which the military serves the civilian society. The highest ideal is peace, not war. And at a time in which only a small percentage of people thankfully need don a uniform, the vast majority of political leaders will not have done so. Nor does this mean that those who have not served should not comment on international affairs. We all have a stake in our nation’s defense, whether we served in the military, were military brats (like me) or had no connection to the armed forces.
However, those who believe the military should be a tool of social engineering, that American lives should be risked to conduct foreign crusades without any vital or even merely serious U.S. security interests at stake, have a special responsibility to the country. The warrior wannabes have little credibility if they do not put their principles into action.
The National Interest
Drezner says that recently retired military officers are in a “slightly different category” from those still on active duty. “Slightly”? They are in a completely different category. There is none of the same restriction about contradicting or being insubordinate to the boss in government. We are talking about private citizens expressing views about public affairs. We should not make the mistake of assuming that because such a citizen once was in the military, the views being expressed are somehow views “of the military,” much less militaristic. Walt correctly notes that it was Dwight Eisenhower who warned us about a military-industrial complex and that on Iran our military leaders “seem a lot more sensible than the more hawkish civilians.” Those examples reflect a larger pattern.
Research has demonstrated that U.S. military veterans as well as serving officers are more reluctant to resort to force than are their civilian countrymen who have never served in the military. I certainly share Walt's concern about the tendency to think narrowly of the pursuit of U.S. interests abroad in terms of the use of military force. But that unfortunate tendency is not coming disproportionately from the views of those who have worn the uniform.
Beyond the naval shipyard in south-east Washington lies Fort McNair, America’s third-oldest continuous fort, which looks across the Potomac at the Ronald Reagan national airport. Sacked by the British in the war of 1812, the fort is today better known as the home of the National Defense University (NDU) – the descendant of the Army Industrial College that was set up in 1924 to prevent a recurrence of the procurement difficulties that had blighted the US military during the First World War. It was also supposed to act as a kind of internal think tank for the military.
NDU was the place where promising officers were sent to prepare their minds for leadership. Dwight Eisenhower, after whom its main redbrick building is named, graduated from here. By focusing on the resources needed to sustain the US military, these mid-career officers think differently to others: they grasp the importance of a robust economy. “Without it, we are nothing,” says Alpha, a thoughtful air force colonel, who, as is the custom, is known by his military nickname (a name I have changed to protect his identity). “People forget that America’s military strength is because of our power. It didn’t cause it.”
I got to know Alpha in peculiar circumstances. Unusually for a foreigner, particularly one whose forebears once trashed the place, I was invited by the NDU to judge the school’s annual exercise in national strategising. Along with two other “distinguished visitors” – a label that has never before, and is unlikely again, to be bestowed on me – I was invited to assess a ten-year national security plan for the US that the students had spent the previous two weeks thrashing out. The campus also conducts hi-tech war simulations in which outsiders with military or diplomatic expertise are invited to participate.
This was an exercise in much fuzzier geopolitics. In short, what should America do over the next decade to sustain its global pre-eminence? I was intrigued to hear what these soldiers thought. Would they focus on defeating al-Qaeda, pacifying Afghanistan and disarming Iran? Or would they concentrate more on containing China as the emerging challenger to American power? As the saying goes, give a man a hammer and all he sees are nails. These people (I reminded myself) are the product of by far the most powerful military machine the world has ever known. Which nails were they seeing?
In what will qualify as another first and last, when I entered the room all its occupants stood and then, even more excruciatingly, sought my permission to sit down again. I momentarily thought about making a run for it. Instead we made our introductions. Of the 16 members of the group, nine were in uniform and the remainder were mostly senior civilian officials from the Pentagon, the department of homeland security and the state department. To judge from their accents, at least half of them were from the south. Most had done combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I think you could still describe the US military as a bastion of Republicanism,” Alpha told me a few days later. “But it’s a different kind to what’s in fashion nowadays.”
Over the following three hours, this heavily be-medalled group laid out its blueprint. For the most part it was a highly articulate presentation. The only small exception was a tendency to stray into military jargon. Terms such as “off-ramp”, “kinetic” and “situational awareness” kept recurring. It reminded me of an American colleague at the Financial Times who, on his return from a briefing at the Pentagon was asked what he had picked up. “I learned that situational awareness is a force multiplier,” he said. “Which means if you know where you are, you don’t need so many people.” When I related this to Alpha he smiled. “We could have done with some more situational awareness when we went into Iraq,” he said.
The group’s premise was that the US still had enough power to help shape the kind of world it wanted to see. By 2021 that moment would have passed. The country needed to act very fast and very pragmatically. “The window on America’s hegemony is closing,” said the officer selected to provide the briefing. “We are at a point right now where we still have choices. A decade from now, we won’t.” The US, he continued, was way too dependent on its military. The country should sharply reduce its “global footprint” by winding up all wars, notably in Afghanistan, and by closing peacetime military bases in Germany, South Korea, the UK and elsewhere.
It should not to go to war with Iran. “We have to be able to learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran,” the briefer said. “The alternative [war] would impose far too high a cost on America.” In Asia, the US should recognise the inevitable and offer the green light to China’s military domination of the Taiwan Straits. In exchange for the US agreeing to stand down over Taiwan, China would push North Korea to unite with South Korea. Finally, the US should stop spending so much time and resources on the war against al-Qaeda (the exercise took place about three weeks before Osama Bin Laden was killed).
All this was a means to an end, which was to restore the US’s economic vitality. It would not be easy. It may not even be possible, they conceded. But it should be the priority. “The number one threat facing America is its rising debt burden,” said the briefing officer. “Our number one goal should be to restore American prosperity.” Intrigued by the boldness of their vision, I was unprepared for what followed. The briefer said they had all agreed on the need to shrink the Pentagon budget by at least a fifth, partly by closing overseas bases, partly by reducing the number of those in uniform by 100,000, but also by cutting the number of “battle groups” – aircraft carriers – below its current level of 11.
Most of the savings would be spent on civilian priorities such as infrastructure, education and foreign aid. None of this would be possible were the US at war, or even under threat of war, they said. It could be pulled off only if the country were, in effect, to cede – or “share” – its domination over large parts of the world. “We would need to persuade our friends on the Republican side that America has to share power if we want to free up resources to invest at home,” the briefer said. “We tried really hard to come up with alternatives. But we couldn’t find a better way to do this.”
Led by my two “co-judges”, we probed the 15 men and one woman for signs of hesitation. Expecting some kind of a reaction, I suggested that their plan would be seen as dangerous. Pull out of Europe? Accept nuclear parity with China? Embark on a Marshall-style plan to revive the US economy? The chances of anything like this happening were zero. “Nobody here thinks the politics in this town is going to change overnight,” said an army colonel from Tennessee with a classic military buzz cut. “All we are saying is that we’re in trouble if they don’t.” I heard his words and saw the person from whom they were issued. It was still a struggle to match them up.
Later it occurred to me that what the group had laid out was within the mainstream of Republican tradition. In the 1860s, Abraham Lincoln unleashed a series of investments that were to unify the continent into one national economy – from the railroads to the public universities. In the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt, another Republican, broke up the oil monopolies, introduced regulation of workplace conditions and set up the first national parks to preserve the wilderness. Dwight Eisenhower, their fellow alumnus, responded to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 with massive investments in public education, science and road-building. In a classic of unintended consequences, he also created the research agency that went on to develop the internet.
Even Ronald Reagan, the undisputed icon of today’s conservative movement, shepherded through an amnesty for illegal immigrants, closed down thousands of income-tax loopholes and set up a public-private partnership to defend the US’s embattled computer chipindustry. Reagan once said: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” Given the Republican Party’s instinct to equate virtually any taxes with socialism nowadays, it looks like Lincoln’s party has left the US military – or at least its upper reaches.
Even with my grasp of polling methodology, I knew a group of 16 officers was too small a sample from which to draw any big conclusions. So it was with particular interest, a few weeks after the session, that I came across an article in Foreign Policy on a report issued by the Pentagon, by the mysterious “Y”, entitled “A National Strategic Narrative”. The report made much the same arguments. It paid homage to the famous “long telegram” from Moscow by George Kennan, published under the byline “X” in Foreign Affairs in 1947, which argued for a strategy of “containment” of the Soviet Union. In an attempt to get more attention, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and therefore the head of all the US armed services, agreed to allow the names of the two “Y” authors to be revealed. These were Captain Wayne Porter of the US Navy and Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby of the US Marine Corps. Both were on loan to Admiral Mullen’s office when they wrote it.
The authors argued that the US could not hope to practise “smart power” abroad if it did not practise “smart growth” at home. Unlike Kennan’s intervention, the article written by “Y” generated little response. Barring a few bloggers, none of the major newspapers or television stations saw it as newsworthy. Kennan had been compelled to reveal that he was “X” after a mounting campaign of public speculation. The authors of “Y” elicited barely a shrug when they volunteered their identities. Yet their piece offered a key insight into the troubled mindset of the US senior military.
Much like the NDU group, Porter and Mykleby argued for a new spirit of “shared sacrifice” in America. It was Alpha who gave force to that phrase for me. Having patrolled the skies of Iraq – acting as the “unblinking eye” of the army – Alpha, like many of his colleagues, was disappointed with how the civilians managed that war. “In this country ‘shared sacrifice’ means putting a yellow ribbon around the oak tree and then going shopping,” he said, in reference to George W Bush’s infamous call for Americans to hit the ski slopes and the shopping malls after the 11 September 2001 attacks. The memory still bothered him. “Taxes are the price we pay for civilisation,” he said, in quotation of the jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes.
America’s ability to reverse her fortunes could come about only through being admired around the world, rather than feared, Alpha said. There was a thin line between being feared and being mocked. “Should we be seen as a hegemon that imposes its will on others, or as a beacon?” he said when I asked whether the US should regain its appetite to promote democracy overseas. “The best thing we can do for democracy around the world is to change our act here at home.”
Alpha’s group had recommended lifting the foreign aid budget by $30bn a year, entirely at the expense of the Pentagon. “We know there’s no lobby in Washington for foreign aid,” he said. In a poll by World Public Opinion a few months earlier, the American public estimated that a quarter of the US federal budget was spent on foreign aid. In fact, Washington spends little more than a dollar on aid for every 99 dollars it spends on something else. The gap between perception and reality is occasionally stunning. In practice, and given the patchy record of the aid industry around the world, it is unlikely more money would buy the kind of goodwill that Alpha’s group would expect for the US – development is a complicated business. But that seemed beside the point. What I took from Alpha and his colleagues was a visceral concern about America’s future.
I picked up the same concern from Admiral Mullen in an interview that he gave me three months before retiring as head of the US military. Mullen was in a talkative mood. In 2010, in the midst of overseeing a 30,000 troop surge to Afghanistan, Mullen had vented alarm about growing US national debt, declaring that it was the country’s biggest threat – greater than that posed by terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and global warming. He had since repeated his point. We met amid the rolling high drama that led up to the last-minute decision in August 2011 to raise the US national debt limit by more than $2trn.
Perched at his utilitarian semi-circular desk, with a bank of television screens behind him, the admiral munched happily through two hot dogs, both of which he had drowned in mustard. It did not slow his word rate. “We are borrowing money from China to build weapons to face down China,” he said. “I mean, that’s a broken strategy. It may be OK now for a while, but it is a failed strategy from a national security perspective.”
Mullen spoke of the need for Washington to take more effective decisions at a time when the US is entering a lengthy phase of fiscal austerity. It was clear he did not think Washington was up to the task. It still hadn’t made a proper account about the events that led up to the September 2008 meltdown in the days that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Nor was there strong reason to be confident that such a meltdown would not recur. “Where were the overseers, as opposed to the finger pointers, which is what they became?” he asked. “Where was the oversight – the helpful, regulatory, legislative oversight to keep us in limits? Because it wasn’t there. It wasn’t there. Where the hell is the accountability for this?”
Mullen’s concerns reminded me of Eisenhower’s famous address in 1961, just before John F Kennedy was inaugurated as president, in which he warned of the dangers posed by the US’s emerging “military-industrial complex”. The world has turned at least half circle since then. Nowadays, those in Mullen’s position spend more time worrying about the foreign components that go into US military equipment. The global supply chain is a growing reality for the Pentagon. In such a hyper-integrated world, very little is made purely in America.
The world is changing rapidly, Mullen continued, and the US cannot be expected to do all the heavy lifting. Much of its industrial base, including the naval shipyards and certain kinds of missile-building systems, was now in a “critically fragile” state, he said. “Once you lose that capacity, it’s hard to get back. We’re going to have to have something like a global security strategy that involves our allies and our alliances, so that our industrial capacities are complementary.” In short, America’s allies should share much more of the economic burden. “There is not a country in the world that can do this alone any more,” Mullen told me.
A few weeks after the NDU course finished, Alpha went back to Afghanistan to a war in which he believes the US has again set its heights too high. “We should be more modest in what we think we can achieve,” he said. “The American military was never supposed to be an aid agency.” For Alpha, as for Mullen, American recent history offers a lesson in overreach. The US military has been asked to pull off the impossible in far away places. But whatever it has learned only reinforces its scepticism about what it can achieve. The real challenges are at home.
It is a mindset increasingly shared by the American people, more than seven out of ten of whom tell Gallup they believe their children will be worse off than they are – a strikingly un-American pessimism. Yet it is deeply rooted: a large chunk of the middle class is worse off, or the same, in real terms as their parents. Their contempt for Washington, which seems unable to grapple with the structural challenges facing US competitiveness, keeps growing, whoever is in office. Last year, just 9 per cent said they believed Congress was doing the right thing all or some of the time, which pretty much confined it to “blood relatives and paid staffers”, as the joke goes.
And while Washington prevaricates, the rest of the world keeps expanding its share. In 2000, the US had 31 per cent of world income, according to the IMF. That is now down to 23 per cent, heading towards 17 per cent in the next decade. Yet even Barack Obama, whom Mitt Romney likes to portray as the declinist-in-chief, says, “anyone who says America is in decline doesn’t know what they’re talking about”. To tackle a problem you must first recognise that it exists. That is what they are taught in officer school. For the most part, the US’s problems are not obscure. But the will to confront them appears to be missing in action.
For Alpha, the best illustration of Washington’s falling IQ – among a rich embarrassment of choices – is its reluctance to address the festering morass in the American immigration system. As a nation of immigrants, America is supposed to attract people. “We take the world’s smartest kids and we give them the best education available, and then we put them on a plane back home,” he said. “How smart is that?”
Edward Luce is the author of “Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline” (Little, Brown, £20
Apr 27, 2012 | Asia Times Online
Nevertheless, I still am going to say just a fact: the United States military-industrial complex has earned billions and billions of dollars as a result of 9/11. I think it would have been much more difficult to achieve those sums of money without 9/11. The US military expenditures are already equal in size of all of the rest combined. 9/11 surely helped that ideological support for such an incredibly large military.
LS: Do you think from an economist's point of view it has become reality what president [Dwight] Eisenhower warned about, that the military-industrial complex has become too large and too powerful, and is now calling the shots economically? 
PZ: The short answer is yes, but the more complicated answer is that my understanding of Eisenhower's statement is that it was long in preparation, it was kind of a year in the making. But, on the other hand, I mean, you can ask yourself the question: Well, why didn't he do it two years earlier than that? It was kind of something he threw out at the last minute and didn't have to take any responsibility for.
At the same time he was setting up the Bay of Pigs invasion [in Cuba] that he foisted on [president J F] Kennedy. So, yes, it's a great thing to quote what Eisenhower said; I like it and it turns out to be correct, but I don't fully understand his motivation when he waited to the last minute to say it and then afterwards couldn't do anything about it, and what he did do as president was consistent with the rest of the US foreign policy.
LS: Well, his successor John F Kennedy was dealing with the military-industrial complex a bit differently.
PZ: Yes, he was the one who really challenged it. There is a wonderful book on this that should be read by anybody: JFK and the Unspeakable by Jim Douglas. 
LS: Yes, it is just brilliant, I agree.
PZ: If people want to read something about JFK's challenge of the military-industrial complex this is definitely the book to read, no doubt about it.
LS: Thank you very much for taking your time, Professor Zarembka!
1. Paul Zarembka:, "Evidence of Insider Trading before September 11th Re-examined", International Hearings on the Events of September 11, 2001, September 8-11, 2011, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, online here, September 9, 2011.
2. Allen M Poteshman: "Unusual Option Market Activity and the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001," published in The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, 2006, Vol. 79, Edition 4, page 1703-1726.
3. Wing-Keung Wong, Howard E. Thompson und Kweehong Teh: "Was there Abnormal Trading in the S&P 500 Index Options Prior to the September 11 Attacks", Multinational Finance Journal, Vol. 15, no. 1/2, pp. 1- 46 online here.
4. Marc Chesney, Remo Crameri and Loriano Mancini: "Detecting Informed Trading Activities in the Option Markets", University of Zurich, April 2010, online here.
5. See Michael C Ruppert: "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age Of Oil", New Society Publishers, 2004.
6. See Commission Memorandum: "FBI Briefing on Trading", dated August 18, 2003, online here.
7. Bill Bergman: "A 9/11 Paper Trail: Benjamin Franklin, Rolling Over In His Grave", published March 23, 2012, see here.
8. See Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Farewell Address", delivered 17 January 1961, online here.
9. James Douglass: "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters", Orbis Books, 2008.
Lars Schall is a German financial journalist.
April 6, 2012 | The Baseline Scenario
Apparently the thing we need to keep ourselves safe is a fast, lightweight ship that can sweep mines, launch helicopters, fight submarines, and perform other assorted duties—but can’t withstand heavy combat. I don’t claim to know if we really need the Littoral Combat Ship to ensure our national security. According to an article in the Times, John McCain—the Republican Party’s last presidential nominees and one of the Navy’s more famous veterans—is critical, although other Republicans and the administration are in favor of it.
I do know that the Littoral Combat Ship is a classic example of why it’s so hard to reduce budget deficits. You have local politicians who want the jobs. You have a large group of representatives who are reflexively pro-military and will vote for anything the Pentagon wants, and even things the Pentagon doesn’t want. (You have Mitt Romney, who bemoans the fact that the Navy has only 285 ships, the fewest since 1917. Would he rather have the Royal Navy of 1812, which had 1,000 ships, or our navy, with eleven aircraft carrier groups—while no other country has more than one?) You have a procurement and development process that stretches on for years so that even when a weapons system turns out to be a dud, it has to be kept alive because it’s too big to fail—there is no other alternative. Both the Center for American Progress and the Project on Governmental Oversight have recommended cutbacks in the Littoral program. Yet there is no practical way to check its momentum.
An even better example is the V-22 Osprey vertical-takeoff plane, which the Times profiled late last year. Even renowned insider Dick Cheney opposed the Osprey when he was secretary of defense, to no avail. Not only CAP and the Project on Governmental Oversight called for Osprey cutbacks, but so did Simpson-Bowles and the arch-conservative (and generally principled) Senator Tom Coburn. In short, just about anyone who cares about the budget wants to cut back on the Osprey. Will it happen? Well, the Paul Ryan budget reverses the automatic defense spending cuts, so we know what he thinks about it. And I’m sure the Osprey has plenty of fans in the administration and the Democratic caucus as well.
In the end, defense spending plays out the same way as Social Security. If you want to reduce government spending, you obviously have to reduce defense spending: it’s basically the second biggest part of the budget after Social Security. But it’s almost impossible to cut any actual defense spending. Apparently politicians don’t realize that a whole is equal to the sum of its parts. Or they do realize it, and they hope that we don’t.
One of our core political problems, as we discuss in White House Burning, is that it pays for politicians to take noisy stands against the whole while protecting (or increasing) each individual part. It seems so easy to get away with it—why would they ever stop?
Mr Kwak has discovered the Military-Industrial Complex!
I recently learned that Eisenhower, who I am old enough
to remember, originally thought to call it the Military-Industrial-
Congressional Complex; maybe this name should be revived.
But there are still gaps in Mr Kwak’s learning. Does he
know that Social Security is not part of the Budget? Does
he know that Social Security pays for itself? Let’s
please keep Social Security out of considerations about
what to do about our present Crisis.
That we have a Crisis is beyond doubt. Yeats had it
at least half right, for the Worst are indeed Full of
Passionate Intensity. I don’t know where the Best
are, but the Educated shouldn’t I think simply shrug
Alan McConnell, in Silver Spring MD
edward ericsoncommon sense
Military spending since at least WWII has worked economically like an impossibly poorly-conceived “economic stimulus.” It’s all about the first-order defense contracting jobs, which pay well and seem stable. The fact that the products made have, in most cases, no productive use (see, for example, the Trident Submarine. If we use it for its intended function human life ceases) but the costs trickle into hundreds of needy local economies. Localities where workers hate “welfare” and those who live off it….
Can’t cut it? That’s been known.
Why not we start by calling it what it is: Military Keynesianism*
*and yeah, Keynes was not for it.Moses Herzog
is it just me, or is “a way to defend yourself” the last thing you want to cut when you’re facing cashflow issues paying your creditors????bayardwaterbury
The point Mr. Kwak makes above is a crucial one, and has been made by many others (Rachel Maddow makes this point pretty strongly in her book I “believe”, although to be honest I haven’t read Maddow’s book yet). Innumerable Republicans have been busted on this, and it basically goes back to “earmarks” and “earmarked” bills. The legislator says “no” to any individual bill until he gets his individual “pork barrel” project which goes to his state. He either wants to maintain jobs or add jobs, no matter how useless the jobs are to the overall defense of the country. A lot of times you hear about “Legacy” technologies or “Legacy” defense programs that Senators insist on continuing for their state or their district even though the Senator/legislator knows and is fully aware those defense systems/programs are useless for modern warfare. And they would insist those same defense programs are garbage or “pork” if located in another legislator’s voting district.
But here is the problem with Pres. Obama: First he says “we’re gonna have hope and change”. And what is one of the first things he does out of the starting gate?? Pres. Obama chooses a known TAXCHEAT, because Pres. Obama knows he’s thick as thieves with the boys at Citigroup and NYFRB (and a Robert Rubin crony). Then Pres. Obama says I’m not gonna take “special interest money” which Pres Obama knew was a damned lie from the moment it left his lips, and knew he would never follow through on, and had no intention of following through on.
Then we see Pres. Obama signs in the last couple days the “JOBS act” which is nothing of the kind, and Pres Obama knows it is nothing of the kind, but thinks that we (the electorate) are all so damned dumb that we are going to piss ourselves when we see him signing a law that has “jobs” in the title.
This is why those persons (including myself, the IDIOT that I was) who were so emotional (I am now ashamed to say I got swept up with emotion) when they saw an intelligent black man walk out on the stage in Chicago are severely disappointed now, and are going to have to drag their feet to the voting booth (I don’t think I’m gonna do it now). Because THIS IS NOT HOPE AND CHANGE.. These are the same bullsh*t lies we’ve been told time and time again. And LIES don’t sound any sweeter coming from a black President, than they do from old white Republican bast*rds. Maybe the lies are even worse, because that black man should know better.Woop
James, although I am sure that you have read it, I would strongly recoommend to you and your readers that you read “Washington Rules” by Andrew Bacevich. It is the best I have read on how the military industrial complex has continuously and cleverly morphed itself to stay on top of the US agenda ever since WWII. It is an amazing expose, brilliantly written and supported. The MIC is simply a behemoth of epic power that is unlikely to be tamed anytime soon. There have been opportunities in the past, especially since the disasterous adventure in South Vietnam, its massive unpopularity. However, just as example of how the MIC stayed on top after that is how they abandoned the draft quickly to assure that the only “painful” part of their existence was the cost, and we know the story of budgets and public apathy. Certainly, both Iraq and Afghanistan serve to testify to the power of this oligarchy. I have serious doubts that, until our economy totally collapses, nothing can possibly be done to change its overwhelming momentum and tame it.James W. Taylor
The entire gestalt disfavors substantial cuts in military spending.
This is true since USA won WW 2. Ike saw the peril, and made a special point of hammering it in his Farewell Address in 1961. Things have grown exponentially more entangled since that address.
When you raison d’etre as a nation is so intimately tied to war and war fighting, what follows is the insatiable lust of more military hardware and software.
If there isn’t an enemy, then, by geezus, we’ll need to invent one, whether it’s a yellow man in a rice paddy, or some bearded, exotic-looking foreigner who gets fingered for the part.
In any event, the gig has run its’ course. The US Navy could reduce to 4 carrier battle groups and still be the most formidable sea-going Navy on the seas.
Anyway, war brings TONS of promotions for the officer corp, with that comes meatier pensions, and chances of swinging into a corporate cushion on the way out.
And they won’t reduce voluntarily…..I call everyone’s attention to the period after the dissolution of the USSR and the next big thing, which, of course. we all know about.Annie
No, Social Security is nothing like the Defense Department problem. Allan McConnell pointed out some of the differences, but he missed the most important one. The Social Security “problem” could be solved in an instant by removing the earnings cap. Make any assumptions you want and do any math you like. It always comes out the same. No more Social Security problem forever!! That is clearly not the case with Defense spending.
What is the first thing that everyone says about the Middle East?
“….there’s never going to be peace there…”
Tada! Perpetual war…throw in *prophecy* and you’re good to go…
Old enough now to see the pattern – every 15 years, crank up unemployment and go get everybody’s last egg laying chicken – just takes a year or two…but this heist is a whopper, no? I mean 7 trillion?!!! Crazy. There’s seriously no country left! If we had bar codes on the paper bills, we’d see the map light up where that paper is….
Seven billion people – ENDLESS slave labor supply – no need for worrying about labor costs ever again, either.
Some religionists were arguing about how evil the Urantia Book is because it sez that God made no place such as Hell. Hell is a monkey brain’s creative imaginative thinking and we certainly have turned Spaceship Earth into hell. But that’s not as *evil* as a book that says that there is no *hell*. Get it? Creating hell is not as evil as saying that God never created such a thing as hell…moral high ground is the *authority* of the hell makers…
More misery for others = More $$$$ for ME ME ME!
January 25, 2012 | Alternet
Hastings, in his hard-hitting new book, discusses "politically correct imperialism," why the military is obsessed with its legacy, and why we're stuck in post-9/11 thinking.
... ... ...
Hastings' new book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan, draws on his extensive grounds-eye-view reporting from the decade-long conflict. Filmmaker Robert Greenwald, director of Rethink Afghanistan, caught up with Hastings to discuss his book and the ongoing war.
Robert Greenwald: Let me congratulate you on this book, it's an absolutely wonderful read. I felt like I was reading some combination of a detective story, a movie screenplay and Orson Welles all at the same time.
Michael Hastings: Thank you so much.
RG: One of the ideas that you talk about is that the “terrorist safe haven” is the “weapons of mass destruction” of the Afghanistan war. Why don't you explain how you came to that realization and why it's important.
MH: Well, I call it the "safe haven myth." And what that means is that this idea that the best way to protect ourselves from getting attacked in the United States by terrorists is to invade and occupy other countries – that's essentially what they mean when they say we can't accept terrorist safe havens. And the response to the safe havens has been to expend billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American troops to try to prevent something that is quite nebulous.
I mean, it's very clear a terrorist safe haven can be anywhere, and they are everywhere. So the notion that the best way to defeat them or to make yourself safer from a terrorist is by occupying countries always struck me as funny. How are 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan going to protect us from another terrorist attack? And the answer is they're not. That hasn't happened because all the other terrorist attacks we've seen, and attempted terrorist attacks, they're not coming from Afghanistan. The terrorists have moved.
Whether they're coming from Nigeria and Yemen or different parts of Pakistan or Connecticut, you know? The Times Square bomber, the foiled plot there, was hatched in Connecticut – is it a terrorist safe haven as well? No. And it gets to the larger point, which is that if you considered terrorism a law enforcement problem you were considered to be some sort of appeasing Neville Chamberlain type. But in fact, that's the way to defeat terrorists.
I mean, every study shows that the way to defeat terrorist networks is through law enforcement and intelligence gathering, it's not through invading and occupying.
RG: Yeah, I've read a lot of those studies and it couldn't be clearer that there are ways to get terrorists, and the way that's guaranteed to fail is to invade, occupy, kill lots of innocent people. So do you have a sense of how and why this theory came into being? I mean, is it completely driven by the politics of the Bush administration? The think tanks in DC? Some combination thereof? Because it's so far off the mark in terms of any rational notion about keeping us safer.
MH: I think it has to do with the original reaction to September 11. By going into Afghanistan where, at the time, Osama bin Laden was being given safe haven by the Taliban. It was a legitimate rationale -- "Okay, the Taliban government is protecting this terrorist and as a response to that we are going to punish this government for their actions."
And at that time, remember, there were warnings. In 2001 people were warning, oh, this could be a quagmire ... and again, they were laughed off the stage. So then, 10 years later when we were clearly in a quagmire, the military having kind of sunk their claws into the war find themselves in a situation where they need to justify all the tremendous outlay of resources.
And so the way they came up to justify what they were doing was to adopt these counterinsurgency tactics. Now, this is where counterinsurgency relates to the terrorist safe havens because General David Petraeus said, and I found this during the research, he said counterinsurgency is the framework we should view counterterrorism through. And that's not true, and everyone knows that's not true. But they had to come up with a justification to continue to pursue the policies that they wanted to pursue.
A general told me recently that the military is risk-averse and legacy obsessed. And I think that's interesting. Especially the legacy-obsessed part. Because once they started in Iraq, and once they sort of started on this project in Afghanistan, it's much less risky to keep doing what you're doing. Leaving is a risk. Staying and doing what you're doing, you know what the outcome is going to be because you've been doing it for 10 years.
And legacy-obsessed means they don't want to have a repeat of Vietnam. They want to be able to say -- the Pentagon wants to be able to say, General Petraeus and General McChrystal want to be able to say that they won. And so that's why they're going to keep doing what they're doing until they can convince everyone that they won.
RG: Now, I underlined so many things in your book that it would take a day to just quote them all. But one quote that stuck with me summed up the essential flaws in the thinking, the safe haven flaw, if you will: “Marja must be controlled in order to eventually control Kandahar. Kandahar must be controlled to control Afghanistan. Afghanistan must be controlled to control Pakistan. Pakistan must be controlled to prevent Saudi Arabia terrorists from getting on a flight at J.F.K. Airport in Jamaica, Queens.”
Did that revelation all come to you at the same time? Or how were you able to put that together and make it so crystal clear?
MH: Well, to me this was apparent in Iraq, but it's also apparent in Afghanistan: that nothing that we're doing on a daily basis -- by "we" I mean NATO and U.S. forces -- has anything to do with preventing another September 11. I mean, 99 percent of the people we killed over these past 10 years would never have posed a threat to the United States. I mean, that's a devastating indictment of our endeavors -- it's devastating.
RG: Well, when we began our work on Afghanistan, we did it at a time when the war was incredibly popular -- it was the right war – but a cursory look made it clear that the fundamentals made no sense. Iraq, you could argue -- obviously we were opposed to it – but you could argue they had weapons of mass destruction and therefore you should do something. It was a wrong but rational argument. In Afghanistan, I cannot find rational, logical arguments for doing what we're doing.
MH: In 2008, after my first trip to Afghanistan, I came back and did a story for GQ, and my editor said something -- and it's a line I've stolen from him – he said we're stuck in post-9/11 thinking. There was this whole period of time where you could be accused of pre-9/11 thinking, but what's happened is we're stuck in post-9/11 thinking. And these misconceptions that I think took hold quite early have become institutionalized. And institutionalized in a way that is meant to shut down debate.
Because you may say, well, we should get out of Afghanistan, and then the answer is, well, what about the terrorist safe havens? Grover Norquist actually made the argument that there's a reason why there's not a robust debate from the other side about Afghanistan – it's because they know how flimsy their argument is.
And we haven't even gotten to the fact that by being in these places – and with the trauma that we're inflicting on these societies while we're there – that's the way you create terrorists, it's not the way you defeat terrorists.
RG: Yes, well, with the exception of you and a few others we have allowed some of these folks to get away with outrageousness under the pretense that it's serious thinking. And I think the so-called liberal hawks have also done us an extraordinary disservice for which they have paid no public price. And you had a really good name for it -- "politically correct imperialism." And I just love that.
MH: It's really amazing to see. And the sort of liberal human-rights pro-war community, they only use these sort of human rights issues when it's to their advantage. The great argument is we can't leave Afghanistan because what about the Afghan women?
And the problem with that line of thinking is not that, oh, you know, I'm not concerned with the fate of Afghan women, it's that the U.S. government and the Pentagon is never going to be concerned with the fate of Afghan women. And the only reason these arguments are used is to put forth these sort of plans for constant war.
But I should rephrase that. It's not that they don't care, it's just not a priority. And all these human rights issues that get put out there as reasons to stay, are just, in my mind, again, it becomes a strange form of this politically correct imperialism. If the U.S. government were actually concerned about the fate of these native populations, then you clearly wouldn't want to invade them and raid their houses and detain tens of thousands of their citizens. Does anyone really think that we have any concern at all for the fate of Afghan women?
But again, that's taken as a serious argument. You know, people at the Council on Foreign Relations will argue strenuously that's why we have to be in Afghanistan.
RG: I want to move to a Colbert quote and talk about the Pentagon and the media. There's a great quote of his from the White House Correspondents dinner, whenever that was, 2006: “Let's review the rules, here's how it works. The President makes decisions, he's the decider. The press secretary announces the decisions, and you people of the press type these decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put them through a spell check and go home.”
It's common knowledge about Iraq, but I think the price that we've paid for the press being stenographers, or as you call it, the “media military industrial complex,” is significant. And I do not think it's a question of just sort of attacking some bad journalists, although that can be done, but I'd like you to talk about the institutional way that Pentagon approaches this.
MH: Well, one point on Stephen Colbert's speech: it's now considered sort of this amazing speech because it was, but at the time a lot of journalists panned it. Oh, they hated it because it hit too close.
I mean, look, there are a lot of excellent journalists doing great, great work. But the reason I called it the “media military industrial complex,” and one of the sort of insights that I have had is that they call it the Pentagon Press Corps, right? And you sort of think, oh, well it means the people who kind of watch over the Pentagon and perform the media's watchdog function, but no, it's an extension of the Pentagon. For the most part.
I mean, when was the last time anyone at the Pentagon broke a story that wasn't pre-approved? It's very, very rare. And the reason why it's so difficult -- and this gets to the information operations and the public affairs -- it's a very difficult story to tell because you're lifting up the curtain on what have become very common practices for journalists to do.
And I noticed this first in Iraq when things were going horribly -- this is in 2005, 2006, 2007 when I was there. And the spokespeople in the military public relations apparatus would just lie to your face. Every day they would lie. It was general Caldwell who was one of the spokes people there who I would sit next to at these briefings and he would say everything's fine, you know? And there might have been four car bombs that morning.
And what's been scary is that these sort of information operations tactics ... most journalists consider them no big deal. And when you try to point out, 'hey, this isn't right.' you get your head chopped off.
I did a story about this information operations team trained in psychological operations that was being asked to spin and influence visiting senators. Did the media respond by saying, 'let's launch an investigation, let's make sure we don't do this?' No, they responded by attacking the whistle blower and then at the same time saying, 'oh, it's no big deal, this is fine. Of course generals use their information operations psy-ops guys to put together material, it's not a big deal, it's just normal public relations.'
But wait a second here. This is not just normal public relations -- there are entire operations in the Pentagon whose goal is not just to influence the enemy's population but in fact the more important goal is to influence the U.S. population. And the line that used to be, or was supposed to have been the red line between public relations and information operations, meaning one you use on Americans and one you use on the enemy, they are tearing that firewall down. So you have generals with public media handlers and they have these contracting companies that are collecting data on who's tweeting what and they have different Twitter “sock-puppets” that they've put up to try to manipulate all these different social media.
And at some point they're essentially waging this global information war against their own citizens. So that, to me, is the most disturbing trend of it all. And General Petraeus at one point said the most important thing about Iraq was information operations, information operations, information operations. And in the context he was saying it, he meant in terms of convincing the Iraqi people that things were going well. But the real people he was convincing were back in Washington. That's who the target of all the spin really is.
RG: And when you said the people of Washington ... so you are talking about the decision-makers who get impacted by this, right?
MH: Yeah. I think there's a lot of really good reporting that's come out on the ground while you're over there. But you look at the reporting that comes out of Washington on some of this stuff and it's bonkers, it's just so far off base.
I haven't ever really looked at the numbers, but you count up the budget of every major news organization in Afghanistan, and I would guess American news organizations spend maybe 10 million a year, maybe 20 million to cover Afghanistan. The Pentagon itself is spending 5 million just to have one information operations unit there, and they have hundreds of them. So the actual military in Afghanistan is putting hundreds of millions of dollars of resources into manipulating the media. And the media is spending $10 -20million to try to find, in theory, the truth. So it's this huge power imbalance that you're always fighting against.
And God forbid you step outside the packet, as some journalists have done, and point this out. Yeah, we all know they're lying but you're not supposed to say it, you know? We know we're getting bullshit every day, but come on, man, don't point it out -- that's not classy.
RG: Right. So I know that it's systemic, but are there individual reporters whom you want to call out publicly for their sort of following the Pentagon line and not doing their job?
MH: Yeah. I saw a pretty egregious example with the New York Times Pentagon correspondent who literally just published the Pentagon spokesperson's anonymous quotes when he was reporting on my stories. And he didn't bother to call Rolling Stone for a comment, of course, because, well, he's got the official line from the Pentagon.
But I would also call out a group of very influential national security reporters who work at most of the major media outlets. And if you look closely at their resumes, they all belong or have been paid by, or have worked for very influential think tanks. Now again, what's the big deal? These think tanks -- Center for New American Security is sort of the most egregious example -- are funded by defense contractors. These think-tanks also employ a lot of retired generals. And,, more importantly, they are promoting very specific pro-war policies.
And so they put the guys on their payroll whose job it is to cover the policies they're promoting. And you go through the list, all of them – the New York Times, the Washington Post -- have had their guys on the payroll of these major influential think attention, again, funded by defense contractors, and then we expect them to cover their friends and colleagues very critically? They haven't.
One guy said to me, “I don't think that just the fact that they had a job or had a stipend or had an office space at these places impacts their coverage.” I said, “I don't know about that. They're all on the same team, you know, in this atmosphere.” And CNAS, amazingly enough, brags about the influence it peddles. They brag about all the big time journalists they have on their payroll and the influence that that brings.
And you can call it soft influence peddling, but I think it's more than that. Look, if you're a police reporter but you're working for a police officer association's policy network which is funded by the police groups, you would be called out for it. If you were a golf reporter and you're being paid by the PGA but writing for a national publication, you would be called out for it.
So the fact that they haven't ... well, they have been but it just doesn't stick because they're all complicit. I mean, that's the rub. And I understand that it's tough to make a living as a writer, and these institutions give you an office space, they give you time, they give you money to do more interesting projects, but what's the price of that? The price is that you have to pull a lot of punches. And you may not even be realizing you're doing it. But I think they do, I think they're just playing the game.
RG: Right, the club. Moving from that to the final question I wanted to ask you about. When you exposed what was going on with McChrystal and his team over there, you said you learned by going out in the field not at the K Street cocktail parties …
MH: Yeah, and that was a comment that endeared me to many of my friends in Washington, I'm sure.
RG: I'm sure it did. But an important one because it's a very clear dividing line, and a very clear perspective. You got quite viciously attacked. Was it organized? Was it the club? And how did you respond to those attacks? And have they had any lasting effect?
MH: Well, look, at first I was perplexed and thought, 'oh, these guys just don't get what I'm doing or they're confused.' But then I realized it was a little more pernicious than that. I'm trying to think of exactly how I should put this. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by it. But I was. I got a horrible review in the Wall Street Journal which was comical in many ways because it was written by a defense contractor, it was written by a guy who worked for General Petreaus and general Caldwell, and they didn't disclose that.
But this reviewer says, you know, 'Hastings is a fuck up because he follows in the tradition of Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, and not reporters who work for the New Yorker or The New York Times.' And why that was interesting to me was because, I agree, I totally agree with that analysis, but it's because Neil Sheehan and Dave Halberstam, their experiences were forged while they were in their 20s in Vietnam, you know? They were young reporters covering this stuff. So they saw the war not working first-hand. And that had a very profound impact on how they viewed everything.
And there's a number of journalists, of my contemporaries, who I would name but I don't want to get them in trouble, who also have seen these sort of same sort of things unravel in our 20s. And that's the most formative kind of experience for us. Now on the other hand, you have these kind of liberal hawks guys who their first big war was Iraq, and they were dead wrong about it, you know? They're these foreign policy experts who were just dead wrong.
And so how do you deal with that? How do you come to terms with that? And my answer to that would be I don't think they came to terms with it well. As you see when they lash out.
And you can't ever forget the impact of the complete failure of many of the top names in the media when it comes to the Iraq war. And we've never come to terms with it. They just can't. The guys who were the worst offenders cannot come to terms with their moral responsibility in terms of waging the war in Iraq. And in fact, again, you see them making statements today like, 'oh, well I didn't really support that,' or 'I was ambivalent,' or 'well, I didn't publicly support it.' And you think they would have learned with Afghanistan to question more and to not just cheerlead the whole thing.
The fact that every journalist in the Pentagon Press Corps wasn't standing up when they were going to escalate in Afghanistan and saying, 'are you guys fucking kidding me? We're going to escalate in Afghanistan? Are you guys nuts? Have you all gone mad?' But the majority just reported that some unnamed military official says McCrystal wants more troops, and Obama better give them to him. You know? It was pathetic. It was really, really pathetic.
RG: Which was worse: the reporting on Iraq or the reporting on Afghanistan?
MH: I don't know. I trash the media but in many ways you can actually be quite well informed if you read The New York Times and the Washington Post and all these places – again, I want to make the distinction between the reporting out in the field and the reporting that happens in Washington ... you can get a pretty good sense of what's going on, you know, from reporters in the field.
But unfortunately, in this warped Beltway view of the world, what happens on the ground matters much less than what happens in Washington. I mean, the great catalyst -- and this I write about extensively in the book – the great catalyst for the Afghanistan debate was not what was happening in Afghanistan, it was the fact that Bob Woodward published a report in Washington. It was the leak. That was the great catalyst of the Afghanistan debate in the first year of President Obama's administration.
Which is really incredible because it's not like Afghanistan was that much worse than it was six months or a year or two years earlier. I mean, it was a little bit worse but not, you know, not entirely noticeably worse. But it was the fact that it became a political issue in Washington that actually impacted the debate.
RG: Yes. Well, I think that's an important, and a good distinction. And we found that in our work also -- that talking to the reporters who were there in the war zones on the ground is like speaking a totally different language than those who were only at the cocktail parties.
I want to thank you for the book, and the work you've done, Michael, and encourage anybody reading this to get a copy. It's an important book, and it's a great read. And I keep pretty well informed, but there's all kinds of stuff that I didn't know about until I read your book.
Robert Greenwald is the director/producer of "Rethink Afghanistan," "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," and many other films. He is a board member of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet's parent organization. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
The American Scholar
A couple of months ago, I published an article in The New York Times about a phenomenon I referred to as the cult of the uniform: the ritualistic piety, mainly on the part of those with no personal connection to the military, about the “heroes” who “keep us safe” and the way that piety makes it harder for us to have an honest debate about our empire, our wars, and our defense budget. I thought I’d be hanged from a lamp post. In fact, the response was much more positive than I expected. Sure, I got some hate mail (“sorry piece of human crap”; “pseudo-liberal fascist asshole”; “I’m quite sure that Obama will just love your article. Did you write it for him?”), a few brickbats from right-wing websites, and an invitation (declined) to play the piñata on Fox and Friends.
But mostly the response was good, and much of it came from military people themselves. One correspondent, a retired Navy captain, observed that our lionization of the military leads the country to charge the Armed Forces with missions—nation-building, broadly speaking—that it isn’t trained to carry out. Another, a Vietnam vet, remarked that the support in “support the troops” is really “a mile wide and an inch deep.” A third pointed out that “saluting the troops” is good business and included a link to this truly nauseating ad. Quite a few people insisted that only a draft can bring us back to reality.
What I had the good sense (or cowardice) to refrain from saying in the original article is that the language of heroism also distorts the reasons people enlist, as well as the things a lot of them do in uniform. Some people do indeed join the military for idealistic reasons. But most do it because they need a job, or to get money for college, or to get away from the place they live. Some just like the idea—let’s be honest about it—of hurting people. Every officer knows that soldiers fight to protect their buddies, not to keep the country safe.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter why you joined or why you’re fighting if you’re now exposed to mortal danger (as well as the moral danger of taking a life). But far from everyone in uniform is. Most people in the Air Force, as one of my respondents noted, have desk jobs. Sailors at sea are extremely unlikely, the way our wars now go, to find themselves in peril. There’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is throwing a blanket of “heroes” over a couple of million people and thinking that you’re honoring them by doing so.
But the hardest thing to say is this: the people who fight for us, who die for us or have their minds or bodies shattered for us, are not keeping us safe or “preserving our freedom.” They, and we, may certainly like to think they are, but how many of the wars that we’ve fought in the last 50 years, major or minor, have done that? Vietnam and Iraq are not the Revolution and the Second World War. Mainly, we fight to preserve our empire—which means, to enrich the people who run our empire—and to help politicians get reelected. In other words, our servicemembers don’t fight “for us” at all. I’m not a pacifist. I believe we need a military. But I’m sickened by the way we use it now. What I mainly feel for our people in uniform is not veneration (or contempt), it’s pity—it’s sadness. Such a criminal waste of life.William Deresiewicz is an essayist and critic. His book, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, was published in April. To read all the posts from his weekly blog, “All Points,” click here.
Viz the theory that newspapers having been taken over by the intelligence services or at least heavily influenced by them is one that many people hold (including people who have discused it with me whose identities might surprise you) but it is not something that is widely talked about for fairly obvious reasons or which can be easily proved. There was however an interesting article some months ago in the Independent, which mentioned that newspaper editors have regular meetings with the intelligence services over afternoon tea. The article was buried in the inside pages and of course attracted no attention but the author seemed to know what he was saying. I did wonder what the purpose of the article was. Possibly a signal to someone? I discussed the article at the time on the Craig Murray blog and drew the attention of a commentator who was either a fantasist or someone from the intelligence services (not impossible by the way) who appeared so well informed about the matter that in the end I found him quite sinister.
Anyway the strongest indicator that of some sort of coordination of news management takes place particularly over foreign news (eg. Russia, Libya, Syria etc) is when newspapers simultaneously publish identical stories sometimes using the same or very similar words and quite often making the same identical misquotes or mistakes, However that is not conclusive. The media world is quite small and journalists regularly exchange gossip and stories so it is not surprising if they end up writing and saying the same things.
One of the most bizarre articles I ever read about Russia in the Daily Telegraph was in the 1980s which alleged that the Gagarin flight was a hoax. That at least was written during the Cold War, Imagine my astonishment when a few months ago at the time of the Gagarin anniversary I read another article in the Daily Telegraph which came close to saying the same thing.
As for the story of the Black Widow, what it shows is that the Barclay brothers who own the Daily Telegraph are followers of the teachings of William Randolph Hearst, who instructed journalists working for his newspapers to “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.
General Wesley Clark ... said the aim of this plot [to "destroy the governments in ... Iraq, ... Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran”] was this: “They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.”
He then recounted a conversation he had had ten years earlier with Paul Wolfowitz — back in 1991 — in which the then-number-3-Pentagon-official, after criticizing Bush 41 for not toppling Saddam, told Clark: “But one thing we did learn [from the Persian Gulf War] is that we can use our military in the region – in the Middle East – and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet regimes – Syria, Iran [sic], Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.”
Clark said he was shocked by Wolfowitz’s desires because, as Clark put it: “the purpose of the military is to start wars and change governments? It’s not to deter conflicts?”
[I]n the aftermath of military-caused regime change in Iraq and Libya ... with concerted regime change efforts now underway aimed at Syria and Iran, with active and escalating proxy fighting in Somalia, with a modest military deployment to South Sudan, and the active use of drones in six — count ‘em: six — different Muslim countries, it is worth asking whether the neocon dream as laid out by Clark is dead or is being actively pursued and fulfilled, albeit with means more subtle and multilateral than full-on military invasions (it’s worth remembering that neocons specialized in dressing up their wars in humanitarian packaging: Saddam’s rape rooms! Gassed his own people!). As Jonathan Schwarz ... put it about the supposedly contentious national security factions:
As far as I can tell, there’s barely any difference in goals within the foreign policy establishment. They just disagree on the best methods to achieve the goals. My guess is that everyone agrees we have to continue defending the mideast from outside interference (I love that Hillary line), and the [Democrats] just think that best path is four overt wars and three covert actions, while the neocons want to jump straight to seven wars.
The neocon end as Clark reported them — regime change in those seven countries — seems as vibrant as ever. It’s just striking to listen to Clark describe those 7 countries in which the neocons plotted to have regime change back in 2001, and then compare that to what the U.S. Government did and continues to do since then with regard to those precise countries.
Note: The so-called "war on terror" has also weakened our national security and created many more terrorists than it has killed, imprisoned or otherwise stopped. It is also destroying our economy.
How Private Warmongers and the US Military Infiltrated American Universities Monday 28 November 2011 by: Steve Horn and Allen Ruff, Truthout | News Analysis
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout) This article is part 1 of a two-part series on the military's influence on academia. Part 2 will be available later this week.
A matrix of closely tied university-based strategic studies ventures, the so-called Grand Strategy Programs (GSP), have cropped up on a number of elite campuses around the country, where they function to serve the national security warfare state.
In tandem with allied institutes and think tanks across the country, these programs, centered at Yale University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University, Temple University and, until recently, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, illustrate the increasingly influential role of a new breed of warrior academics in the post-9/11 United States. The network marks the ascent and influence of what might be called the "Long War University."
Ostensibly created to train an up-and-coming elite to see a global "big picture," this grand strategy network has brought together scores of foreign policy wonks heavily invested - literally and figuratively - in an unending quest to maintain US global supremacy, a campaign which they increasingly refer to as the Long War.
He Who Pays the Piper ...
The network of grand strategy programs integral to the Long War University came about through the financial backing of Roger Hertog, the multimillionaire financial manager, man of the right and a key patron of the contemporary conservative movement. Hertog is a chairman emeritus of the conservative social policy think tank the Manhattan Institute, and a board member of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, and the Club for Growth.
Hertog additionally served on the executive committee of the influential, neoconservative and pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), and has been a major financial contributor to Taglit-Birthright Israel.
Respected in various circles as a patron of the arts and culture, of libraries and archives, Hertog was awarded a National Humanities Medal by then-president George W. Bush in November 2007. The ceremonial citation praised him as one, "[whose] wisdom and generosity have rejuvenated institutions that are keepers of American memory."
More recently, Hertog introduced Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker at a Manhattan Institute conference on "A New Social Contract: Reforming the Terms of Public Employment in America." Embracing the controversial Republican state executive, Hertog praised him as a figure that would someday be looked upon as someone who "helped save the country."
As a man in the business of shaping intellectual environments, Hertog has been described as the "the epitome of the conservative benefactor who bases his politics on conservative intellectualism and moves patiently and strategically to create, support and distribute his ideas." Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, said of his longtime friend that, "Roger thinks of philanthropic endeavors as investments. The return he expects is long range."
Hertog has been a staunch advocate of a conservative, results-based "new philanthropy" - the replacement of open-ended funding for endowed university chairs with money for selected projects, made available on a two- or three-year basis. He makes little distinction between the nonprofit and for-profit ventures that he funds, and has spoken of "retail" and "strategic philanthropy" as "leverage" to transform American universities.
The Long War Men at Yale
The Grand Strategy network originally started at Yale University, alma mater for a long line of US strategic planners and intelligence operatives.
Its founders were the influential conservative "dean of cold war historians," John Lewis Gaddis, global historian Paul Kennedy and "diplomat-in-residence" Charles Hill, the former State Department careerist forced into retirement for concealing the role of his boss, then-secretary of state George Schultz, during the Reagan-era Iran-contra scandal.
Yale's GSP became the centerpiece of International Securities Studies (ISS), "a center for teaching and research in grand strategy," founded in 1988. Kennedy was the ISS's first director. It was initially funded, in the main, by the John M. Olin and Smith Richardson Foundations, two major financial backers of numerous conservative and right-wing public and foreign policy causes.
The plans for the Yale GSP evolved out of a series of discussions between Kennedy, Hill, Gaddis and others, including the New York Times' Thomas Friedman, in early 1999. Central to their thinking, according to Gaddis, was their shared concern "to deliberately ... train the next generation of world leaders."
According to Gaddis, the original ideas shaping the program's curriculum were drawn from the efforts of an earlier generation of strategic planners, such as Henry Kissinger, and stemmed from his experience as a mid-1970s faculty member at the US Naval War College.
The New Haven program became known as the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy in 2007, in recognition of a $17.5 million, 15-year endowment.
The first, Nicholas Brady, had been US secretary of the Treasury under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and was a former director of the Mitre Corporation, the privately contracted manager of federally funded research and development projects for the Department of Defense (DoD) and other agencies.
The other benefactor, Brady's billionaire business associate, Charles B. Johnson, is a part-owner of the San Francisco Giants and an "overseer" of the conservative Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, among other things.
Both Brady and Johnson sit on the board of directors of Darby Private Equity alongside Milwaukee, Wisconsin's philanthropist and venture capitalist Sheldon Lubar, member of the board of directors of the University of Wisconsin Foundation and supporter of what had been the University of Wisconsin Madison's GSP.
Increasingly well-endowed over time, the Yale GSP continued to acquire new associates, among them an additional "diplomat-at-large," John Negroponte, the former national security adviser, US envoy to the United Nations (UN) and controversial US ambassador to Honduras during the 1980s contra war against Nicaragua.
While the identities of those associated with the Yale program certainly speak volumes, the actual program these people devised is far more revealing, especially since it provided the prototype for future efforts elsewhere.
Aspiring Grand Strategy students are required to write application essays, and the cross-discipline pool of graduate students and undergraduates is carefully vetted. The year-long program comprises a focus on "real world practice" and includes the study of "classics" in strategic thinking, from ancient Chinese general and "The Art of War" author Sun Tzu and Greek historian Thucydides to Prussian military strategist Karl von Clausewitz and Kissinger himself.
In addition to their formal studies, students are required to complete summer projects that have included internships at the European Union's (EU) Institute for Security Studies and the National Security Agency (NSA). Students completing the program have gone on to careers with the US Department of State, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the DoD's subcontracted Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA).
The year-long GSP course concludes with a "crisis simulation" session, in which teams of students prepare "emergency rapid response" scenarios as if preparing for a "real time" meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) and the president. Role-playing the president and other administration officials, the presenters are then grilled by program faculty who critique their work.
The simulations and seminars have included numbers of exclusive "outside guests." CIA head David Petraeus, at the time general in command of the US military operations in the Middle East, paid an unpublicized visit to the Yale GSP's students and faculty in March 2010.
Other visitors included the likes of Kissinger and George W. Bush's hardline ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. Observers from the CIA and cadets from West Point also sat in on the seminars.
In February 2009, US Marine Corps officers met with GSP faculty and students. The representatives from the "Combat Development Command and the Corp Commandant's Strategic Initiatives Group" briefed the Yalies and other invited guests on the Marine's "Vision and Strategy 2025," a planning document describing "how the Marine Corps' role and posture in national defense will change in the future global environment."
Gaddis, in fact, told Yale Alumni Magazine in 2003 that, " ... We now offer workshops in grand strategy at the war colleges and service academies, recreating a connection with the highest levels of the military ... And Washington has taken notice."
Perhaps most significantly, a core of Gaddis and Kennedy students have gone on to become either directors of Grand Strategy projects and related institutes, or to work as closely connected faculty associates elsewhere.
Such students have included historian Matthew Connelly, head of the Hertog Global Strategy Initiative at Columbia University; William Hitchcock, now at the University of Virginia, who helped create the Grand Strategy Program at Temple University; Mark Lawrence of the University of Texas at Austin; Jeremi Suri, currently at the University of Texas at Austin, who created the now-defunct GSP at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Hal Brands, formerly with the IDA and now the American grand strategy assistant professor of public policy at Duke University.
Grand Strategy's Launch
In September, 2008, some 20 historians and political scientists from around the country gathered at an unpublicized location, a private club nearby Yale. The participants, carefully chosen by the university's GSP directors, had been invited to meet with Hertog.
The financial management mogul told those at the Yale meet-up that he was willing to spend as much as $10 million over the coming years to fund scholars interested in inaugurating GSPs at their respective campuses. He requested short, three-page proposals from the professors-on-the-rise detailing how they would use his seed money.
He urged them to think about how to connect their projects with others around the country to leverage their collective impact, and cautioned that he did not necessarily want exact replicas of Yale's venture. The subsequent GSPs and allied programs evolved with his financial assistance.
Long War at Duke
One of the recipients of Hertog "strategic philanthropy" has been the Program in American Grand Strategy at Duke University, headed by Peter D. Feaver, a significant figure in strategic planning circles and an important player within the Long War University. A political scientist with a Harvard PhD, he also is the director of Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS), the well-established strategic policy consortium with affiliates at Duke, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.
An expert on the relationship between civil society and the military, Feaver served under the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1994 as director for defense policy and arms control on the NSC. He then worked as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform on the NSC staff during the Bush years, from June 2005 to July 2007. Feaver is also an affiliate of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the increasingly influential liberal hawk think tank presided over by the warrior intellectual John Nagl, the former career military man who helped write the influential Counterinsurgency Field Manual under the command of former general Petraeus.
The homepage for the Duke GSP reads, "American grand strategy is the collection of plans and policies by which the leadership of the United States mobilizes and deploys the country's resources and capabilities, both military and non-military, to achieve its national goals."
In fulfillment of its mission, Feaver has brought in a number of national security state notables, among them, in September 2010, then-secretary of defense Robert Gates, who gave a public address on the all-volunteer military in an age of the Long War and also taught a session of Feaver's Grand Strategy class.
The Duke GSP and TISS co-sponsored a talk a year earlier by Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster on "Counterinsurgency and the War in Afghanistan." McMaster served in both Iraq wars and worked on the team that designed the Iraq "surge," and, at the time of his talk, directed a key division of the Army's warfare planning center at Ft. Monroe, Virginia.
Other guests of the Duke GSP have included Gaddis and Kennedy from Yale; Michael Doran, the Roger Hertog senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center; and former Bush administration hawks, Stephen Hadley, John Bolton and Douglas Feith.
The Warriors' Temple
A Hertog Program In Grand Strategy was launched at Temple University in spring 2009, with the assistance of a three-year, $225,000 grant from the Hertog Foundation arranged through two foreign policy historians, the Yale alumnus Hitchcock and Richard Immerman, current director of the university's Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy (CENFAD)
A CENFAD newsletter stated that Temple had been chosen "as a site for replicating Yale University's 'Grand Strategy' course - a yearlong seminar on military strategy taught by Charles Hill, John Lewis Gaddis, and Paul Kennedy ... "
The same article pointed out that Hertog did not believe in making unrestricted gifts to academe, but rather believed in setting benchmarks to ensure the goals he envisioned. It went on to state, "that CENFAD, its associates, and students will expend every effort to meet this challenge to make sure that the Hertog Seminar in Grand Strategy remains at Temple."
Housed at Temple's History Department, CENFAD was founded in 1993 and "fosters interdisciplinary faculty and student research on the historic and contemporary use of force and diplomacy in a global context."
CENFAD is currently directed by Immerman, best known in scholarly circles for his historical writing on the CIA. Immerman served from 2007 to 2008 as assistant deputy director of national intelligence, analytic integrity and standards, and analytic ombudsman at the office of the director of national intelligence, an oversight position created to ensure the standards and accuracy of national intelligence documents.
Columbia University's Long War
Columbia University's variant of the Hertog-funded strategic studies program, the aforementioned Hertog Global Strategy Initiative had its start in 2010 under the direction of the Yale alumnus and former Gaddis student, the historian Connelly.
Varying from the GSPs elsewhere, Columbia's is a summer program only. The first year's session, in 2010, focused on "Nuclear Proliferation and the Future of World Power" and was co-taught by Connelly and University of Texas at Austin's Francis Gavin. The summer 2011 session focused on "The History and Future Pandemic Threats and Global Public Health." The projected session for summer 2012 will focus on "Religious Violence and Apocalyptic Movements."
In many ways, the program clearly resembles that developed by Gaddis at Yale. Students spend the first three weeks of the summer in "total immersion," training in the methods of international history. Eight weeks are then spent conducting independent and team projects, followed by a final week where the students present their research, develop future scenarios and participate in a crisis simulation exercise
Visitors to Columbia's GSP have included the likes of Kissinger, former Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg (also the former dean of the University of Texas-Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, under whose auspices sits the Robert S. Strauss Center of International Security and Law), and Philip Zelikow, a senior foreign policy official in the Bush administration and former director of the 9/11 Commission.
For their final week's simulation exercise in summer 2010, seminar students were led by Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, a leading expert in "future forecasting" and the guiding force behind Shell Oil's Global Scenarios, a much emulated standard for corporate and government scenario projects including the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends Reports.
The Longhorn Long Warriors
In May 2010, Suri, the man behind the now-defunct GSP at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, announced that he was taking a job offer for a joint appointment at the University of Texas-Austin, including a position at the prestigious Strauss Center. A brief survey of the roster there suggests that Suri's move to Austin was the perfect decision for Madison's former wunderkind and "rising star."
The Center has been home for two other Long War intellectuals with high-level national security state ties. One is Philip Bobbitt, concurrently with the Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security at the Columbia University Law School and a senior fellow at the Strauss Center. The other is Bobby Ray Inman, who recently became the head of the board of directors of Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater USA), the transnational private military and security firm. He formerly served two terms as dean of the aforementioned home of the Strauss Center, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Bobbitt, once described by Henry Kissinger as "the outstanding political philosopher of our time," and by London's Independent as the "president's brain," formerly served as the counselor for international law at the State Department during the George H. W. Bush administration, and at the NSC, where he was director for intelligence programs. He also was senior director for critical infrastructure and senior director for strategic planning under President Bill Clinton.
Inman wore multiple hats before joining Xe's board. He was a member of the board of directors of the infamous coal company Massey Energy; deputy director of the CIA; director of the NSA; director of naval intelligence; vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and former director of Wackenhut Corporation, another transnational security firm and mercenary contractor. He had also been slated to become President Bill Clinton's Secretary of Defense before withdrawing his name from nomination in 1994.
In 2006, the Strauss Center served as a key backer, along with Columbia University's American Assembly program, for "The Next Generation Project on US Global Policy and the Future of International Institutions," a multiyear national effort to solicit new ideas from a geographically diverse range of strategic thinkers outside the traditional East Coast corridors of power.
Directed by Gavin, another important figure in Long War University circles, the project issued a 2010 report on "US Global Policy: Challenges to Building a 21st Century Grand Strategy." The report was sponsored by the Strauss Center and CNAS.
Long War University Homecoming
In August, 2010 key members of the Long War grand strategist fraternity gathered for a "Workshop on the Teaching of Grand Strategy" at the Naval War College (NWC) at Newport, Rhode Island. It was only logical that they meet there rather than at some university.
The NWC, with its long history of strategic planning dating back to an earlier age of global naval power, had earlier developed the curriculum that became the model for the grand strategies discipline employed at Yale and subsequently elsewhere. For some attendees, such as Gaddis, who spent part of his early teaching career there, the summer return to Newport must have seemed like a homecoming.
The conclave was designed to bring together "some of the nation's most influential thinkers to explore how they design courses on grand strategy." The meet-up's list of attendees read like an abbreviated "who's who" of warrior academics and national security state intellectuals.
Those in attendance included Gaddis, Hill and Kennedy, as well as their Yale disciples, Columbia's Connelly, Duke's Hal Brands, and then-UW-Madison's Suri.
Among the others were Middle East expert Michael Doran, a Roger Hertog senior fellow at the Saban Center, former deputy assistant secretary of defense under George W. Bush and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Also present was Peter Mansoor, the current chair of military history at Ohio State University and a former Army colonel who served as an assistant to then- general Petraeus while he was commander of the US occupation forces in Iraq. Also in the mix was Aaron Friedberg, who served as national security adviser to then-vice president Dick Cheney, and Georgetown's Robert J. Lieber, member of the ultraconservative Committee on the Present Danger.
A follow-up thank-you email from the NWC's lead organizer spoke of his "hope that we will stay connected and assist each other in our common enterprise." The same note addressed to the workshop's participants contained an e-mail address likely belonging to Lewis "Scooter" Libby, senior vice president of the Hudson Institute and a past frequent volunteer at the NWC. As Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Libby was convicted in connection with the federal investigation into the "PlameGate" affair.
The NWC conclave might best be described as an imperial war hawk's "how-to" teach-in. Geared to instruction on how to teach grand strategy to military men, government officials and university students, its sessions included "'Great Books' on Strategy," "Economics and Grand Strategy," "Strategic Leadership," which explored "the relationship of political and military leadership in strategic decision making" and "Great Power Wars," which discussed how to teach "the strategic significance of the commons - maritime, aerospace, and information."
The closing session looked at "how to stay connected with each other," the "sharing of information about courses," "ways to promote cooperation and break down barriers," and "how to promote courses in the professional military and the universities."
The Long War on Campus
The so-called "Grand Strategy Programs" represent but one small component of a proliferating Long War University complex. The number of university programs connected to the national security state, the imperial foreign policy establishment and military planners is vast; so, too, are the numbers of campus-based think tanks and related institutes - well funded by foundations, individual "philanthropy" or federal spending - in service to empire.
"Grand strategy" is little more than imperial doctrine, a "soft" public relations term for strategic studies, a growing academic discipline with origins in the war ministries of an earlier era's imperial powers.
US warfare doctrine in the post-9/11 era has returned to a focus on counterinsurgency, or COIN, on fighting limited "asymmetric" wars against unconventional enemies defined as "terrorists" or insurgents. Not just low-intensity combat, but an increasingly sophisticated spectrum of intervention - of "nation building" and the "reconstruction" of other societies - is now included in COIN doctrine.
That more robust notion of COIN has come to occupy a central place in the thinking of those semi-warrior intellectuals informing one another and an upcoming generation of their students. Sharing a broad consensus on America's role in the world and imbued with a sense of American "exceptionalism," the Long War intellectuals at the national warfare state universities have joined in preparation for permanent war.
Because some of the primary source material gathered for this two-part series was obtained via the Wisconsin Open Records Law, the materials are available upon request.
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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