Friday, March 29, 2013

Why We Have No Funds for Clean and Green Energy Jobs

America’s Staggering Defense Budget, in Charts

By Brad Plumer
Beaver County Peace Links via Washington Post
Jan 7, 2013 - On Monday afternoon, President Obama will nominate former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel (R) as secretary of defense. The confirmation hearings are likely to focus on Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran. Yet the biggest headache likely to face the next defense secretary will almost certainly be the U.S. military budget.
The United States spends far more than any other country on defense and security. Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But now that those wars are ending and austerity is back in vogue, the Pentagon will have to start tightening its belt in 2013 and beyond. If Hagel gets confirmed as secretary of defense, he’ll have to figure out how best to do that.
Below, we’ve provided an overview of the U.S. defense budget — to get a better sense for what we spend on, and where Hagel might have to cut:
1) The United States spent 20 percent of the federal budget on defense in 2011.

All told, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance in 2011 — more than it spent on Medicare. That includes all of the Pentagon’s underlying costs as well as the price tag for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to $159 billion in 2011. It also includes arms transfers to foreign governments.
(Note that this figure does not, however, include benefits for veterans, which came to $127 billion in 2011, or about 3.5 percent of the federal budget. If you count those benefits as “defense spending,” then the number goes up significantly.)
U.S. defense spending is expected to have risen in 2012, to about $729 billion, and then is set to fall in 2013 to $716 billion, as spending caps start kicking in.
2) Defense spending has risen dramatically since 9/11.

Here’s a historical chart of U.S. defense spending since World War II in inflation-adjusted dollars. There’s a big spike for the Korean and Vietnam wars. There’s another big ramp-up during the 1980s under President Reagan. Then defense spending got cut significantly during the Clinton years until soaring to historically unprecedented levels after 9/11.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iraq: 10 Years After, Have We Learned a Thing?

By Michael S Lofgren
Beaver County Peace Links via Huffington Post

March 18, 2013 - On the decennial of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the persons responsible have shown remarkably little guilt over launching an unprovoked war of aggression, even when the lamentable results might be expected to give one pause to rethink the enterprise. Marveling at the complacency about Iraq of America's foreign policy elite as they are fawningly interviewed on the Sunday talk shows, columnist Alex Pareene says that "[p]eople who were integral in the decision to wage that war sat there and opined on what the United States should do about Iran and China and North Korea and no one laughed them out of the room. It was disgusting." Disgusting, but hardly surprising here in the United States of Amnesia.

Are there any lessons to be drawn from the debacle? Here are three tentative conclusions:

American Exceptionalism is a more pernicious drug than crack cocaine.  Almost 50 years ago, J. William Fulbright described American Exceptionalism extremely well in his book The Arrogance of Power:

The causes of the malady are not entirely clear but its recurrence is one of the uniformities of history: power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations -- to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image.

Whatever grubby calculations of realpolitik our political classes harbor -- access to cheap oil, strategic military advantage, appeasement of political lobbies -- they invariably mask them in the doctrines of American Exceptionalism, the idea that a war has a higher moral purpose when the United States is involved in it. The invasion of Iraq was a marquee example of this deception, because the aggression was so naked. What looked like an ordinary cynical land-grab was actually (according to American Exceptionalism) a selfless duty, rather like Rudyard Kipling's white man's burden.

American Exceptionalism's appeal to what H.L. Mencken called the bilge of American idealism was crucial to getting the Iraq war started on a bipartisan basis. That said, the humanitarian arguments of neoconservatives in the Bush administration always struck me as a bit of a pose: while they could weep over Saddam's brutality "to his own people," they were remarkably cynical when the C-Span cameras were turned off (as the insurgency got going, these were the folks who would privately say things like "the only thing Arabs understand is force").

Where the pseudo-idealism of American Exceptionalism really came in handy was in corralling the liberals. It was a convenient escape hatch for tender-minded souls of the New Republic set whose consciences were stricken by the notion of a war for oil or strategic advantage. Their war fever was an expression of a fundamental lack of confidence and a need to impress Republicans and the media with their "political seriousness." From what I witnessed on Capitol Hill, I suspect that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and other Democratic luminaries who voted for war did so less because a plausible case had been presented than to prove they were tough [i.e., bellicose] enough to be respected by the American people.

Never trust so-called national security experts.  The Beltway national security expert, whether in or out of government, is usually a huckster trying to scare up the next foundation grant, Pentagon contract, or resume-building TV appearance by selling the next scary threat. Ten years on, it is hardly worth the effort of denouncing the deceitfulness of Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and the rest of the tub-thumpers. They have been thoroughly discredited, even if they never paid a price for their malfeasance in office.

What is possibly more insidious is the way that Colin Powell, a key figure in putting over the case for war, was able to reinvent himself as a martyr who had somehow been victimized by the administration he served. It was his address before the United Nations on February 5, 2003, which galvanized the movement to war, and it was his credibility that sold the goods. Hearing it, I thought some of his purported findings were patently ridiculous. The idea that a nation could have a serious bio-warfare research and production program operating from trucks scurrying around the desert to avoid surveillance by U.S. aircraft which had a free run of Iraqi airspace, was a stretcher worthy of Baron von Münchhausen. But the editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post swooned. Much of Powell's evidence was later shown to have derived from a plagiarized university research paper.

The experts are still at it ten years later, continuing to obfuscate the causes and consequences of the Iraq war and whitewashing their own role. Beltway fixture Michael O'Hanlon, who does his non-combatting from the offices of the Brookings Institution, is typical of the blame-dodging by national security experts who were erstwhile cheerleaders of the war. Five years after the beginning, he claimed to have been "generally proven right" about Iraq. On the eve of the tenth anniversary, on the March 18, 2013 CBS Radio News, O'Hanlon ruefully hoped the "angry edge about the debate will recede." Yes, one supposes there are people angry at having been sold a bill of goods.

The political establishment never learns. Aside from its inordinate fiscal and human cost, deposing Saddam Hussein and installing a Shia-led government has had the effect of strengthening the regional position of Iran. But having built up the Iranian bogey through its own stupidity, the U.S. political establishment is now contemplating how to coerce Teheran. This refusal to see the consequences of one's actions, and then using the disastrous result as an excuse to do the same thing again, is a recurring pattern of American statecraft.

One can hypothesize that our leaders see world events as discrete and unconnected with anything that happened before; like infants, they live in a continuous present. This is nowhere truer than when looking at political reaction to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that cost the lives of four U.S. personnel. Dismal as the incident was, congressional Republicans contrived to make it worse, and in a manner that ignored their own partial responsibility for the train of events that led to the attack in the first place. For months after the incident, Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham kept up a drumbeat about the horror of the attack and the incompetence of the administration. Yet the year before, they were among the most vociferous proponents of an armed intervention to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi: an action bound to lead to the kind of chaos that would make something like Benghazi not only possible, but probable. And now the insurgents involved in the Libyan fighting, as well as the weapons they seized from Gaddafi's armories, have made their way outside of Libya's borders and are a factor in the insurgency in Mali.

But this kind of myopia can be bipartisan. At a February 7, 2013 Senate hearing on Benghazi, McCain paused from berating the witnesses on that subject long enough to ask why the administration hadn't intervened in the Syrian civil war. One witness, outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, an erstwhile liberal who discovered his hawkish manhood late in his career, actually went out of his way to say he had recommended to the president that the U.S. supply arms to Syrian rebels. Obama didn't take the advice. From his manner, it appeared Panetta took the rare opportunity to publicly expose an internal deliberation in the president's office, and even reveal his disagreement with the president, in order to appease and score points with his Senate interrogators. Essentially, he signaled he was one of them in his desire to intervene in the Middle East. Never mind that his recommendation was fraught with peril, for the same reason overthrowing Gaddafi was fraught with peril, and just as invading Iraq was fraught with peril.

But since most of our policymakers can ignore their own past mistakes, "this time is different."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We Need To Educate Ourselves on the Danger of War with Iran

Iran War Weekly/ March 12, 2013

By Frank Brodhead

United for Peace and Justice

There is no indication coming from Washington that lifting significant sanctions from Iran will be on the agenda soon. The most important question, in my view, is whether the United States is willing and – given its domestic politics – capable of achieving a settlement with Iran that would allow Iran to develop its nuclear program and achieve mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle, even under the most stringent IAEA monitoring conditions. President Obama’s new national security team – centered here in John Kerry and Chuck Hagel – gives no sign of deviating from the well-established line of military threats and economic sanctions. The US Senate (as noted in articles linked below) appears willing to outsource to Israel the decision of whether or not to declare war against Iran; and the House of Representatives is preparing yet another round of economic sanctions. As in so many areas of policy, it may be that President Obama simply wants to kick the nuclear-Iran can down the road for a while and hope, like Dickens’ Mr. Micawber, “that something will turn up.”

Previous “issues” of the Iran War Weekly are posted at If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at



Iran Crisis is More Stable Than it Seems

By Nader Mousavizadeh, Financial Times [March 10, 2013]

---- The long-running crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme has met its moment of truth. This is the year when war or peace will break out – or so at least a remarkable global consensus seems to suggest.

Far more likely, however, is a 2013 defined by another period of sustained stalemate, one driven by an unspoken preference on the part of all the key participants for a pragmatic equilibrium that excludes both war and peace. The see-saw of threats and talks, escalation and negotiation continues, inevitably leading to warnings of showdowns. This is mostly all theatre. The reality is that for each of the principal parties, the status quo – Iran isolated diplomatically, crippled economically, boxed in militarily – is preferable to the available alternatives. An all-out war including weeks of strikes on suspected nuclear installations and widespread Iranian retaliation through conventional and unconventional means is, for most, anathema. It is also true, though unacknowledged by the west, that a genuine peace with Tehran is equally unattractive.

Iran and the United States—What Really Matters to Middle Eastern Publics?

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett Huffington Post March 8, 2013

[FB – Here the Leveretts comment on James Zogy’s new book, Looking at Iran:  How 20 Arab and Muslim Nations View Iran and Its Policies.]

---- While Zogby highlights data from his 2012 survey showing that a majority of respondents now think that Iran’s nuclear program “makes the region less secure” and that there should be a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, he fails to put regional attitudes about Iran’s nuclear activities in a comparative context.  If he had, he might well have gotten results like those obtained by the University of Maryland’s annual Arab Public Opinion Surveys, showing that, by orders of magnitude, Arabs identify Israel and the United States as much bigger threats to them than Iran.  He might also have gotten results like those obtained by Arab researchers, showing that support for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East is driven by concern over Israel’s nuclear arsenal and that, until Israel foreswears nuclear weapons, regional publics think other countries have the right to pursue them, too.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Light Footprints: The Future of American Military Intervention

Following is an EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of a longer think-piece outlining a new Pentagon policy for the future. It is worth studying by the peace and justice movement, so we know what’s on the rise. The full 44-page document can be downloaded HERE.

By Major Fernando M. Luján, USA

Center for a New American Security

Looming budget cuts, ground forces worn down by years of repeated deployments, and a range of ever evolving security challenges from Mali to Libya and Yemen are quickly making “light footprint” military interventions a central part of American strategy.

Instead of “nation building” with large, traditional military formations, civilian policy- makers are increasingly opting for a combination of air power, special operators, intelligence agents, indigenous armed groups and contractors, often leveraging relationships with allies and enabling partner militaries to take more active roles. Despite the relative appeal of these less costly forms of military intervention, the light footprint is no panacea. Like any policy option, the strategy has risks, costs and benefits that make it ideally suited for certain security challenges and disastrous for others. Moreover, recent media coverage of drone strikes and SEAL raids may also distort public perceptions, creating a “bin Laden effect” – the notion of military action as sterile, instantaneous and pinprick accurate. Yet for these smaller-scale interventions to be an effective instrument of national policy, civilian and military leaders at all levels should make a concerted effort to understand not only their strategic uses and limitations, but also the ways the current defense bureaucracy can undermine their success.

Drones and commando raids are the 'tip of the iceberg.'

Surgical strikes are only the most visible (and extreme) part of a deeper, longer- term strategy that takes many years to develop, cannot be grown after a crisis and relies heavily on human intelligence networks, the training of indigenous forces and close collaboration with civilian diplomats and development workers. While direct, unilateral action can be very effective in the short term, it is best when undertaken sparingly and judiciously, balanced with civilian- led initiatives such as political reconciliation, reintegration or influence campaigns, and phased out over time by efforts undertaken by local police or military units. These indigenous partners are the strategic lynchpin and the only means of producing lasting security outcomes.