The F-22 Raptor Suffers Friendly Fire July 21, 2009Posted by Sean Varner in China, Iran, Politics, Russia, U.S. Budget, U.S. Government.
Tags: Defense Budget, deterrence, F-22
Perhaps you were not aware of it, but today was a great day for Russia and China. The party elites and defense establishments in Moscow and Beijing surely looked on with glee as the Senate voted 58-40 in favor of the McCain-Levin amendment to halt production of the F-22 Raptor at 187 planes. This contrasted with the House defense authorization bill which allotted funding for an additional 7 of the $150 million planes. The bill will now have to go to conference committee for the House and Senate to work out their differences between the bills.
The opponents of the F-22 make three main charges – that the jet costs too much, is not being used in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the money could be better spent on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Though the pricetag of the jet is significant (around $150 million), it is a lot of bang for the buck. It is literally the only fifth-generation fighter that is operational and ready-for-use today. Its capabilities are through the roof – stealth that reduces its radar signature substantially, the ability to cruise at high speeds and high altitudes, and a maneuverability and advanced avionics that allow it to outfight any jet in the world. Though the $1.5 billion for the additional jets may seem like a lot in a time of deficit spending (but compare it to the stimulus or auto bailout for some perspective), it is necessary to keep the expertise and suppliers available for future fighter production. If the F-22 assembly line is shut down, valuable engineering skills and unique material suppliers will scatter to different employers or go out of business, making a reversal of this decision very difficult. Given the long amount of lead time in government defense contracts (the F-22 was 20 years in the works), shutting down production would spell the end of the quick replacement ability necessary for unforeseen contingencies.
The charge that the Raptor is not being used in Iraq or Afghanistan, made especially by Senator McCain, is true but misleading. McCain is suffering from this-war-itis as he charges defense contractors with “next-war-itis.” The F-22 is designed primarily for air superiority missions. Obviously insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have no air force or contested airspace. But Iran, thanks to Russian suppliers, is equipped both with Russian-modified jets and surface-to-air missiles. If a strike was deemed necessary to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, a jet like the F-22 would be necessary to supress enemy air forces and destroy anti-aircraft installations before the strike fighters would fly in. Beyond that, the F-22 chiefly serves to deter conventional aggression by China and Russia. Since those nations may be at least a decade away from fielding their own fifth-generation fighters, the American Raptor force serves as a reminder that they would be denied air superiority in any future conflicts over Eastern Europe or Taiwan.
Many F-22 detractors also claim that the money for additional planes would be better spent on funding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which every branch of the military will field, as well as many U.S. allies. The F-35, though also a fifth generation stealth jet, is not designed for air superiority missions and is not as maneuverable or able to travel at the same speeds or altitudes as the F-22. Moreover, the F-35 will not be operational on a significant scale for at least a couple of years (once the assembly lines reach full capacity, they will be able to produce approximately 350 planes a year). The F-22 and F-35 are a great “team” due to synergy – by having a mix of both planes, they are more effective and less are needed overall. Emphasizing the F-35 too much while the F-22 is kept at a small force (less than half what the Air Force deems necessary) will reduce the overall potential effectiveness of the U.S. Air Force. For further analysis on the distinction between the F-22 and F-35, see David Centofante’s column here.
The F-22, a perennial punching bag, was beaten today, not by enemy air forces, but by a misguided United States Senate. Part of it may be a lack of public understanding about the Raptor’s importance, as a highlighted in this earlier post. Part of it is surely a knee-jerk distrust of big government contracts and expensive defense systems (witness the recent fate of missile defense). But most of it is a lack of leadership on the part of U.S. politicians. Too concerned with spending money that will benefit them (or their districts) immediately, they are neglecting the long-term health and vitality of the country. Also, they are far too negligent about the capabilities and intentions of our adversaries in Moscow and Beijing. After all, if a defense amendment is going to benefit Russians and Chinese, shouldn’t a good leader question its prudence?
America’s Nuclear Deterrent 64 Years After Trinity July 16, 2009Posted by Sean Varner in China, History, Iran, North Korea, Nuclear Proliferation, President Obama, Russia, Science, U.S. Government.
Tags: Cold War, CTBT, nuclear test, Nuclear Weapons, RRW
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Today, July 16th 2009, marked the 64th anniversary of the Trinity nuclear test in Alamagordo, New Mexico. That test brought the world unambiguously into the Atomic Age. Since that day nuclear weapons have played a critical role in U.S. defense policy, first as the ultimate tool with which to win the Second World War and almost immediately thereafter as a critical tool to deter aggression against the United States and its allies. This mission became of even greater importance with the Soviet testing of an atomic bomb in August of 1949.
Despite serving as the most powerful deterrent against threats to the U.S. homeland and its allies, and by preventing a massively destructive conventional (or nuclear) war between the major powers, the nuclear deterrent of 2009 is atrophying and declining in reliability and safety. As the Congressionally-mandated Strategic Posture Commission pointed out in its final report, the current nuclear weapons complex suffers from a lack of funding, a lack of emphasis on maintaining the intellectual base, and an almost hostile attitude by policymakers. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Senator Jon Kyl and former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle charged the president with neglecting to support a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent as well as endorsing the unverifiable Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the Senate rejected in 1999.
As the U.S. nuclear inventory continues to age, life-extension or stockpile stewardship programs continue in their attempt to increase the weapons’ service lives. However, with each further modification, the weapon design is taken farther from the actual model that was proven successful through testing. Also, each passing year sees more scientists who had experience with nuclear testing retiring. Therefore the hands on expertise that was produced through a rigorous and scientific development and testing process is declining precipitously. Crucial skills and knowledge, some of which may only be understood through testing, are being lost.
Though the proponents of a CTBT argue that it will strengthen Washington’s hand in promoting nonproliferation and tougher sanctions toward Iran and North Korea, there is little evidence to support this. No matter if every other third-party nation suddenly endorsed U.S. nonproliferation efforts, as long as Russia and China continue to block effective measures, which have been within their interests, no amount of political good-will generated by CTBT ratification will stop proliferation. Therefore, the CTBT could only bring into question more the reliability of America’s nuclear deterrent. If the U.S. is to deter aggression and assure its allies (so that they do not develop their own weapons), it will eventually have to test a new, modern, safe nuclear warhead design to replace the Cold War-era stockpile.
If one wants to reach a compromise position, I would suggest following the French example. France conducted its last nuclear test in 1995, providing it with a modern, reliable, and proven warhead design that would serve French purposes for decades to come. Within the next year it signed and ratified the CTBT. The U.S. could develop a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) that would have a service life of decades, test it to verify its reliability and effectiveness, and then ratify the CTBT. Though a skeptic or pessimist may still argue that the U.S. may need to test a new or different design in the future, there is a “supreme national interest” clause in the CTBT that would allow the U.S. to withdraw if it served to further U.S. national security. International agreements, after all, should only be abided to in order to further the national interest.
Alamagordo brought the world, willing or not, into the Atomic Age, which we remain in. The Trinity test was the epitome of the scientific process. Theorize, hypothesize, predict, and finally test. Testing, as with any military weapon system, is a crucial option to have available. Theory with testing is science. Theory without testing is theology.
Tags: Defense Budget, F-22, Future Weapons Systems, Global War on Terrorism, Moscow Treaty, Nuclear Weapons, US Military
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The New York Times ran an op-ed recently (“How to Pay for a 21st-Century Military”) that erroneously recommends how to modernize the US military. The NYT uses the Global War on Terror as the basis for its suggestions of how to cut costs and increase effectiveness in the military. To do so is to repeat the error made by Francis Fukuyama in the 1990s of suggesting we had reached “the end of history” with the fall of the Soviet Union. GWOT is a temporary divergence from the norm of warfare, and the military must remain prepared to engage in inter-state war if America is to remain the strongest power.
Why the New York Times article is wrong (it would be beneficial to read the original op-ed):
1. Great power war is still a possibility. The recommendations to halt production of the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, cancel the DD-G 1000 Zumwalt class destroyer, and stop churning out Virginia class submarines are all naive in the extreme. These weapons systems have critical roles to play in the contingencies of great power conflict.
The F-22 is the top of the line fighter that can achieve air supremacy and defeat an enemy air force more quickly and efficiently than the slightly-less capable F-35. As the F-16s age and grow increasingly less effective for counterinsurgency and inter-state operations, the F-22 is needed to maintain the Air Force’s comparative advantage over a host of possible rivals.
The Zumwalt class destroyer, which the Navy is only getting two of, would play a vital role in a conflict in which the US had long sea-lines of communication (i.e., in the Middle East or Asia). The Navy’s current program seeks to maintain a fleet of 313 ships, close to an all-time low. To cut it even further risks stretching it too thin to respond to a range of possible crises.
The writers’ recommendation to cancel production of the Virginia class attack submarine also reflects their lack of understanding of future conflict. Though they rightly point out that it is a public works project and designed for operations against China, they neglect why these are positive aspects. After a US nuclear submarine sunk with crew and engineers on board, after the US had stopped building submarines regularly, it was decided that we needed to continuously build subs so that the technical experience, facilities, and infrastructure were not lost. Also, subs would play a pivotal role in a conflict with China, and more are needed if that contingency would occur.
Regarding their criticism of “premature deployment of missile defenses,” see my post on “Defanging Deterrence.” The Marine Corps’ V-22 Osprey, though there is almost no comparable aircraft, could likely be cut without impacting the Corps’ overall effectiveness. It has had 25 years to be perfected, and still has safety and reliability issues.
2. Reducing nuclear weapons further would contribute to proliferation. After the Moscow Treaty of 2002 that set the number of nuclear warheads for the US and Russia at 1700-2200, there were opposing calls to cut the numbers further or to stop cutting them. Though it is fashionable to believe nuclear weapons no longer have a role to play, they are essential to deterrence and non-proliferation.
Cutting the inventory further would undermine deterrence because without a diverse and robust arsenal, other nations may not find our deterrent as credible as it once was. Also, reducing the reserve stockpile could be disastrous. Since the US has not tested any of its nuclear weapons since the early 1990s, if a problem were discovered with one of the few types of warheads, the reserve would have to temporarily fill-in on the missiles until the error were fixed. Cutting the reserve requires an end to talks of a comprehensive test ban treaty, something the NYT is unwilling to discuss.
Reducing the number of nuclear warheads in the US arsenal is also something many of our allies will not tolerate. Under the “deal,” the US would retain nuclear weapons so that they would not need to. If the US cuts its numbers further, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Egypt, Germany, and Poland may decide to acquire a nuclear capability. Many of these allies were upset with the Moscow Treaty, and do not want the US to cut its inventory further. To stop proliferation of nuclear weapon states, the US needs a large arsenal.
3. The Global War on Terrorism is not the defining model of warfare for the 21st-century. Though it has dominated the first decade, the GWOT will likely remain a low-intensity, long-term action that will not warrant drastic changes in the military.
Increasing the size of the Army and Marines is a good step towards modernizing the US military, but not at the cost of the Navy or Air Force. All services play an important and interconnected role in conducting operations. Like a three (or four)-legged stool, if one of the legs is shortened or lengthened while the others are not, it will not remain efficiently functioning.
The editors’ calls to expand the Navy’s littoral combat ships and resupply the National Guard and Reserves are all important actions, but they cannot expect to cut vital weapons programs to meet those goals. America still has very dangerous potential enemies in the world, and terrorists, while a considerable threat, are not an existential threat.
In conclusion, the writers of this op-ed are still stuck in the “end of history” thesis. They believe that because most of these weapons systems were designed for conflict with the Soviet Union, they are now obsolete. They ignore the peril posed by aggressive states like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and potential adversaries like Venezuela or Pakistan. If they want to cut costs or make the military more effective, they need to focus their attention on bloated bureaucracies, red tape around weapons development, and cutting select programs like the Osprey, airborne-laser, etc.
Warfare for thousands of years has normally been between states or nations. To suggest that this notion is obsolete in the 21st-century is to neglect the lessons of history. Similar feelings were the rage in Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, after WWII in 1945, and with the fall of the Soviet Union. Even President Jefferson believed in the future states would wage war solely through economic means. History has not come to an end, and neither has traditional warfare, therefore the United States should be prepared to fight and win any conflict that erupts, whether counterterrorism or inter-state.
Upcoming Essays November 12, 2008Posted by Adam Nowland in Democracy, Election 2008, Politically Incorrect Blog, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Government.
Tags: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Economy, President Bush, President Obama, President-elect Obama
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I’ve been extremely busy this week, but over the next few days I’ll be posting several more essays. You can look forward to the following topics:
Why I’m Glad I’m Not the Next President: The Overwhelming Crises Facing Barack Obama
Leader, Warrior, President: How Future Generations Will View Bush’s Legacy
The Days After: The Economic Realities of an Obama Presidency
President v. Party: How Barack Obama’s Election Bodes Ill for the Democratic Party
While they should all be interesting to those following the recent election and the end of the Bush presidency, I’m particularly excited about the latter two. Hopefully it’ll be good stuff. I’ll keep everyone posted.
Obamania the Day After November 6, 2008Posted by Adam Nowland in Election 2008, Politics, President Bush, President Obama, Republican Party, U.S. Government.
Tags: Democratic Party, economic crisis, Election 2008, Ginsburg, GOP, Great Society, John Paul Stevens, President Bush, President Obama, President-elect Obama, Republican Party, Scalia, Supreme Court, War on Terror
Congratulations, Democrats. After eight years, you and your party have seized control of the White House with Senator Barack Obama’s victory over Republican Senator John McCain on Tuesday. Throw this in with your increased majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and you must feel like you are flying on top of the world. In fact, with all the outpouring of love for America expressed since the election, you may very well be doing just that. Just think of the circumstances. The first black American President? Check. A sweeping endorsement of liberal control of the country? Check. Your biggest opponent, the hated GOP, reeling and searching for answers? Check.
So break out the glasses and pop open the bubbly – after all, nothing can stand in your way now, right? Now is the time to push for social equality, increase taxes on the rich and give generously to the poor. Pack the Supreme Court with liberal-minded judges who will uphold Roe v. Wade and stop pesky Justices like Scalia and Roberts in their tracks. Now that Bush is gone, we can bring home the soldiers to well-earned confetti and parades, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in one fell swoop. After all, if we’re not over there, the problem should take care of itself, right? Now is the time for Obama to start implementing all those wonderful promises he made while crisscrossing the nation over the last few months, correct?
There are a number of reasons why Democrats and other liberals will be disappointed during Obama’s initial work in the Oval Office. (more…)
Tags: Democrats, GOP, President Bush, President Obama, President-elect Obama, Republicans
As Americans wake on the morning of November 5th, they awake in a country on the verge of a new era. With the landslide victory of President-elect Barack Obama, who enters office with significant majorities in both the House and the Senate, Americans have spoken, and spoken loudly. The Republican administration of lame-duck President George W. Bush has been swept from office as U.S. citizens voiced their concerns that the GOP was no longer in touch with the average American.
However, despite the humiliating defeat, the Republican Party is far from dead. Indeed, in the long run, a crushing defeat at the hands of Obama and his allies may be exactly what the GOP needs to spring back into national power. Although the defeat and future power seem contradictory, one realizes that the idea isn’t so far-fetched when we recall how far astray from its “roots” the Republican leadership has gone over the last eight years. Abandoning the old mainstays of fiscal responsibility, small government, and increased rights to private individuals, the GOP in many respects had become the thing it feared most – the Democratic Party. For all intents and purposes, the parties, at least in Congress, had become indistinguishable. By assuming power, the Republicans in Congress and the White House permitted absolute power, especially in the wake of broad support following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, to transform them into big government, drunk on power and unlimited funding. By forsaking their roots, the Republicans set the stage for the major upsets in the last two elections.
But now that they are removed from power, the Republican Party and its leaders can return to what made them popular in the first place. The environment for a victory in two years in the next national election is perfect for conservatives, who, if they play their cards right and get a little help from the Democrats, could provide a stunning comeback. Let’s take a look at the opportunities:
- An inexperienced, untested President taking office with enormous expectations. Republicans must exploit any mistakes by Obama in his first months in office. If Obama opens negotiations with Iran, or backpedals in the face of pressure from North Korea, China, Russia, or Venezuela, the GOP has a fantastic opportunity to show that Obama is weak when it comes to foreign policy. Likewise, the domestic decisions that Obama makes in his first two years as president could have significant ramifications for the economy, the health system, and social policy, and he must tread lightly and ignore the obvious mistake of liberalizing too much too quickly, or he and his party will quickly burn through the political currency they gained yesterday.
- A faltering economy. The overwhelming focus of voters, the economy continues to struggle while the government seems helpless to solve the credit crunch, the enormous (and crippling) housing mortgage crisis, and a slipping dollar. The country may be on the verge of significant inflation, yet the government continues to find new ways to pour money into the economy. Obama plans sweeping tax changes and has promised to pour upwards of sixty billion dollars into the nation’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, the United States probably can’t afford such action, at least not now.
- Increasing domestic divisiveness. Socially, conservatives and liberals in the United States continue to go their separate ways. Obama takes office with a significant portion of the country extremely distrustful of his motives and potential (which is nothing new for any president). However, he will have to be careful not to offend large segments of voters, or, like the 2006 national elections, citizens will treat him as they treated President Bush and his unpopular Iraq War.
- A global security nightmare. War in the Congo. Continued crisis in Dafur. An aggressive Russia unresponsive to global scrutiny. A war going well in Iraq. A war not going well in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden still unaccounted for. Mr. Obama must find ways to protect Americans from a second 9/11. However, he must also judiciously approach foreign crises as well. The United States is uniquely prepared to go into other countries to stop calamities like genocide or famine. Obama must continue the United State’s role as a global policeman while still avoiding getting mired in another long war in a country that doesn’t fully support our own end goals.
All these issues point clearly to opportunities for the Republican Party to seize on mistakes by the Obama administration and his supporters in Congress. A major mishandling of a crisis by Obama would go a long way to bringing the GOP back into power. However, Republicans must also reinvent their image as a party of the people, rather than a party of the government. If they can project a new understanding of responsibility and empathy, they should be poised, at the very least, to take back some of the lost seats of Congress. I suggest three ways to help the Republicans get back on track.
First, the Republican Party must recreate themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility. This is a no-brainer. The Bush administration has become famous for its liberal spending policies, which inevitably led to increased government debt and certainly did not help the country avoid the recession that even now wracks the economy. This spending is not reminiscent of your grandparents’ Republican party. With nearly every state struggling economically, schools scrambling to make ends meet, and individuals watching their savings dissolve, it is shocking that Americans have so little faith in Republicans that they turn to a party that is known for its spending excess. The GOP CANNOT miss this golden opportunity to push towards decreased government. People don’t want to spend more money on taxes – they want to save and have the government help provide things like education, energy, and infrastructure. Resume the push for small government and fiscal responsibility, and the Republicans will have taken a major step towards success.
Second, the GOP must begin rebuilding bridges with the media. Yes, everyone knows that the media is indeed biased (except, it seems, the media itself), but news outlets continue to hold enormous sway over voters. Indeed, it is a testament that President Bush was able to be elected despite extreme negative treatment by the media. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was incredibly popular with news organizations, and he used those ties to his advantage. While pandering to the media is not an activity the GOP would like to do, it cannot escape the fact that it will not be successful unless it can somehow gain respect, if not love, from media outlets. There is no doubt that Barack Obama was a media darling during the 2008 elections. Republicans must pull a page from the Democrats’ book and use the media as a tool to achieve success, rather than battle reporters and cameras at every outlet.
Finally, and most importantly, the GOP must show that it is a party of and for the people. Too many people criticize Republicans for being aloof and “above” the average citizen. Democrats got involved with the people who would vote for them and got their hands dirty campaigning. Republicans recently have failed to engage voters on a personal level, showing that they understand the economic and social woes of the everyday family. Without this personal engagement and a clear understanding of what most people are going through, or knowing what the goals and beliefs of the average citizen are, the Republicans cannot gain the support of voters. Rectifying this problem would be a significant achievement.
While Republicans are (and should be) disappointed by the results of the 2008 election, there is hope on the horizon. The GOP must seize on Democratic mistakes and effectively take the place of the Democratic Party as the political entity most in touch with voters. By taking advantage of knowing WHY they lost this election, the Republican Party can set itself up to avoid another failure in 2010.
President Obama – Senator Barack Obama Takes White House November 4, 2008Posted by Adam Nowland in Election 2008, Politics, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Government.
Tags: Barack Obama, Election, Joe Biden, John McCain, President Obama, Vice-President Biden
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To the exuberant celebration of Democrats and liberals across the United States, and to the dismay of conservatives around the country, Senator Barack Obama (D – Illinois), the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, swept into power November 4th, defeating his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain (R – Arizona). As polls around the country closed Tuesday evening, the major news networks wasted no time declaring state after state for Obama and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden (D – Delaware). Preliminary data indicated that President-elect Obama would have no problem reaching the number of electoral votes required to seal his victory, a result which likely surprised very few of the pundits and analysts deciphering polls and results.
After eight tumultuous years under the administration of President George W. Bush, many Americans were ready for a new direction, and eagerly snapped up Obama’s campaign slogan “Change We Can Believe In,” hoping that electing a liberal Democrat would help stem the tide of anti-American sentiment sweeping the globe and help solve a myriad of other problems ravaging the country. Bush’s administration oversaw two seemingly endless and unpopular wars in Asia, watched as the global economy entered its worst struggle in years, and angered many millions of people around the globe by taking what was regarded as a unilateral approach in American foreign policy, taking significant action in other parts of the globe without seeking the consultation or assistance of other nations.
The result was a President with the lowest approval rating of his time in office, and indeed one of the worst approval ratings of any recent Commander-in-Chief. Similarly, the U.S. Congress has been saddled with an approval rating of barely half of that of the President, shocking when one considers the unpopularity of President Bush, and even more shocking when one remembers that it is controlled not by the Republicans, but Democrats. Even the most casual observer of the American government can conclude that voters are fed up with the way the government is being run. Regardless of one’s views of the effectiveness of the current administration and Congress, it is clear that those men and women entering office in 2009 face substantial, if not overwhelming, challenges.
Indeed, it is a significant show of faith on the part of voters to elect a President who has yet to complete even a single term of office as a senator, and one who brings a considerable lack of experience as well as tremendous expectations with him to the Oval Office. Obama holds the distinction of becoming the first African-American to ever hold the country’s highest office, a major step forwards for minorities in the United States, but he will be under close scrutiny from both those who voted for him and those who opposed him. Obama must demonstrate that he can effectively do the job of leading the world’s greatest nation, and prove that he was justifiably elected because of his abilities and not just because people saw his race as a chance to vote for something different. Obama is smart enough to put race behind him all together, but there are still enormous numbers of Americans who voted for him simply because he was black, or against him for the same reason. Each of those votes for or against was a form of racism in and of themselves, and Obama must rise above such a dangerous idea.
In addition to his achievement of being the first black man to be elected President, Obama will also have to face the challenging problems of the economy, the national deficit, America’s declining status in global policy-making and popularity, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, problems with the national health system, Social Security, and the all-encompassing “War on Terror.” Each of these problems is significant, and most cannot be controlled singularly from the White House. Obama has the support of a heavily Democratic Congress, which will enable him to accomplish a great deal for at least two years, if not more, but such power is also a curse. The President-elect will have no excuses if he cannot find solutions for many of these problems. In fact, Obama runs the risk of making some of these problems worse by tampering with plans that are already in the works. For example, then-Senator Obama strongly opposed the Iraq “surge” when more American troops were sent to the Middle East to help secure the new Iraqi government. Mr. Obama’s fears proved to be false when the surge was decidedly effective, but if he chooses to immediately draw down American forces to appease his electors upon taking office, the situation in the tentatively quiet region could again spiral out of control. Obama will need to tread cautiously, as American voters give their elected officials short leashes, and could very easily vote Mr. Obama out in four years if his proposed plans don’t create visible results.
President-elect Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of “change,” a tangible object or idea that Americans apparently desperately needed and wanted. Time will tell if Obama’s guarantees of something that breaks from “business as usual” in Washington are true, or if his words are just another fantasy in the land of fairy tales. Obama faces a difficult road ahead, and the margin of his victory and the amount of support he has as he takes office will only add to his struggles if he fails to produce. The American voters have spoken, and they have marched to the byword of “change.” Let us as citizens hope that this change isn’t just believable, but that it truly is necessary – and effective – as well.
Next Time, Don’t Choose Guns And Butter March 12, 2007Posted by Sean Varner in Democracy, Politics, U.S. Government.
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In the midst of the conflict in Iraq, it would seem to be a bad time to draw “conclusions” that the struggle has taught us. Looking from a historical perspective however, there are certain lessons that seem to have been ignored over the past couple decades. While they could be instructive for a future war (perhaps against Iran), it is most likely too late to implement the policy in Iraq, when the war has reached an all time low popularity.
The fact of the matter is that Americans as a whole have not been asked or have not made a significant sacrifice in the past several years to help the war effort (with the notable exception of soldiers and their families). Politicians’ infatuation with an all-volunteer army has led them to believe that there needs to be no unpleasantries during war, such as a draft, rationing, or mobilization. They couldn’t be more long. War is more than just a serious matter, it often dictates whether a nation will strengthen or weaken.
Lyndon Johnson pursued a policy in Vietnam that sought to fight a full-scale war while limiting the impact felt by most Americans. In fact, he attempted to pursue a great expansion of the welfare state in his Great Society program. In effect, he chose guns and butter, with the unfortunate effect that the American economy was still consumer oriented and the war dragged on another half-decade.
The same can be said of President Bush’s policy towards Iraq and the War on Terror in general. Rather than mobilize the American people and economy, the president has chosen to limit the impact to such an extent that people live just like it were peacetime, and in many cases better than it has been in recent decades of peacetime. Leaders pursue this policy because they believe the people will become restless or opposed to the war if it has an everyday impact on their lives. It has been demonstrated however, both in Vietnam and Iraq, that a war (even if it starts out popular), is never popular with the American people if it goes on for a long time and victory is not clear and tangible.
Had the United States been fully mobilized as the Iraq War began, it is likely victory would have been unquestionably achieved by now. However, the time for that has passed, but a possible conflict with Iran, North Korea, China, or any other host of potential nations would require that the American people mobilize for war. Such an effort, involving conversion of consumer industries to war material industries, rationing of gasoline/oil and other commodities, and voluntary expansion of the armed forces, could lead to victory in a tolerable amount of time.
So clearly the best course of action in the future is not to attempt to achieve the illusion of waging limited war while non-defense spending remains the same or grows (currently the defense budget of the GDP is 3.8%, compared to 38% at height of WWII). The lesson is to choose guns before and during a time of war, followed by butter in a time of peace.
The Civil Liberties Delusion January 16, 2007Posted by Sean Varner in Democracy, Homeland Security, Terrorism, U.S. Government.
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As a fan of the Fox series 24, I could not have been more impressed with the season 6 premiere the past two days. I could not help but take notice, however, that a character who plays a civil rights lawyer reiterated the familar mantra that “when we compromise on civil liberties then the terrorists have already won.” Nothing, in my opinion, could be much further from the truth.
Putting aside the fact that this statement has been ingrained in our culture, let us look at exactly what it says. By limiting or restricting certain civil liberties in a time of war or terrorist attacks, the terrorists win because we make compromises to ensure our security? When one looks at it for what it really means, it just is not logical. Terrorists have much more self-centered objectives, to significantly change the political order to better suit them, and they do not accomplish this when the President classifies certain people as enemy combatants. They do not win when suspects are interrogated roughly or detained without lawyer access, they win when buildings are destroyed, people killed, and the political system radically changes.
This is not even a trend that just applies to today’s principal terrorists, the Islamist Jihadists of al Qaeda and similar groups. In America in the 1960s, revolutionary groups such as the Weathermen had total objectives and did not consider tougher security measures to be to their benefit. In an interview with a Weathermen operative in the 27 March 1970 issue of Life, the man admits that “this is a technological society which is extremely vulnerable” and that their goals, wich may take 5 years to 50 years, are to complete “the successful conclusion of the first real American revolution” and topple the government and political system.
Terrorists, both the old Marxist revolutionaries and today’s Islamist Jihadists, are the only beneficiaries when we refuse to enact tougher security measures. While we are debating the merits of suspending a suspect’s privacy or gaining access to financial records, the terrorists are metaphorically laughing all the way to the bus stop before they self-detonate. I am by no means suggesting that debate is unnecessary or unwarranted, only that it should be kept to a lower key and tempered in a time of war. Such debate is a key component of democracy, but it is certainly better to err on the side of safety.
It is easy to criticize the actions of Lincoln or FDR in hindsight and realize that suspension of habeus corpus was in clear violation of the Constitution, and that internment of Japanese Americans was an overreaction. But what if one who was suspended in the Civil War had been released and had gone on to commit an act of sabotage? What if there were somem Japanese Americans who would have tried to aid and abet the Empire’s war cause? We will obviously never know, and we have to judge those actions by placing ourselves in their shoes and studying the times they lived in.
In conclusion, we must realize that the delusional argument that a temporary compromise on some civil liberties “means the terrorists win” is a complete falsity. The terrorists only goal is to radically alter the political situation, and in the case of the current Islamist Jihadists, to make “a lot of people dead.” If we adopt tougher security measures that may infringe on certain (yet invaluable) civil liberites, it is certainly worth the cost if it brings about a more rapid defeat of the insurgents and destroys their network. They don’t care if we compromise on civil protections one way or the other, but if it helps lead directly to their destruction or dismantlement, they’ll realize that we have won.
Barack Obama for President? December 10, 2006Posted by Adam Nowland in Politics, U.S. Government.
1 comment so far
I saw an Associated Press article today talking about how Barack Obama, the junior Illinois senator, was visiting New Hampshire to sign his book as well as test the waters for a potential 2008 presidential run. Now, I don’t know about you, but I was somewhat suprised by the annoucement of the latter fact, regarding the presidential election. I had heard rumors in the past regarding a potential Obama presidential run, but I had dismissed such rumors as fanatical supporters getting overeager regarding a favorite political son. Now that I’m hearing Obama himself is considering running, I’m rather shocked. You see, this is why I’m confused. I’m not opposed to his run based on ideology or party affiliation or any of the normal things that a voter would oppose a political candidate, but rather I am unsure of the wiseness of potentially electing someone with so little national political experience. Obama’s young, he’s handsome, he’s vocal and a compromiser, and these things make him popular with voters. However, he’s also in his first term as a senator, which is hardly enough to give him the experience he needs. If, perhaps, he had served as governor for two terms, or had more experience at the national level, I’d be happy to see him run against Democratic heavyweights such as Hillary Clinton. But I still can’t believe the amount of support Obama has recieved regarding a presidential run in 2008. Can voters truly think it would be a good idea to instill someone with only a few years as a senator (for which he acts in the interest of Illinois, not the country) as the most powerful political and military leader in the world? This honestly worries me. He’s called the junior senator for a reason, because he’s INEXPERIENCED in comparison to the other senator. And this isn’t just a matter of him having been elected a term after the other senator, he was barely elected and people were already clamoring for a run for president.
On the one hand, I guess I understand…he’s popular for the reasons I stated above; young, handsome, vocal, etc. But I hope that his popularity is just fleeting for the time being. People see him as one of the few politicians who has gotten something good done in Congress over the last two years (and those politicians are few and far between) and he has been caught up in the wave of pro-Democract (or more correctly, anti-Republican) reform sweeping the nation right now. Eventually, his popularity will flag some and more seasoned political campaigners will secure spots after primaries. At least, thats what I hope. If not, and Obama is selected as the Democratic candidate for president, or is actually elected, all those rabid supporters he has may not have to wait long to realize they’ve made an error. A president with no international and limited national experience would be in for a long four year term in today’s world. Please, if you support Obama yet you still love the United States, elect him senator again, not president. It helps everyone – it gives Obama more experience, and we get someone who is ready to lead an entire nation. Obama for President in 2008? I hope not.