Climate of Change?

In a recent NYTimes article entitled “Climate of Change” Paul Krugman wrote:

    Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

Baloney. from a recent news report:

    Obama Budget to Boost Military Spending $20.4B
    President Barack Obama wants to increase spending on the U.S. military by $20.4 billion in 2010. . .
    The president unveiled a federal budget for 2010 that would increase defense spending to $533.7 billion. This year the military is receiving $513.3. The difference is a 4 percent increase, the White House said Feb. 26.
    The $533.7 billion does not include money for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or about $20 billion that is to be spent on nuclear weapons and other military items outside the Defense Department.
    Obama wants $130 billion for the wars – down from $144 billion being spent this year.
    The three elements combined – the “base” budget, war funding and nuclear weapons – would push 2010 spending to about $683.7 billion. Spending for 2009 is about $681 billion.

Robert Gates, the Secretary of “Defense”, George’s Bush’s war czar who was retained by Barack Obama, is happy with that:

    “I’m confident that this funding level will allow the department to meet its long-term institutional priorities of taking care of the troops and their families, rebalancing our capabilities for conventional and irregular warfare, completing the growth of the Army and Marine Corps and preserving essential modernization programs,” Gates told Pentagon reporters at a news conference here today.
    Gates added that the $75.5 billion left from the fiscal 2009 war cost is enough for the Pentagon to continue supporting efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan through the year.
    “We will be making tough choices to ensure that this department’s budget priorities best position our military to deal with the most pressing threats and security challenges facing America today and tomorrow,” he said.

What the heck, the US can afford it, right? It isn’t like the government can’t borrow the money. from the NYTimes:

    Having inherited an economy in recession and reeling from interrelated credit and housing crises, Mr. Obama starts off from a stunning deficit for 2009 that is projected to reach $1.75 trillion when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, or nearly four times last year’s shortfall. That would represent 12.3 percent of the gross domestic product, a deficit level that is larger than any since the end of World War II.
    By the last year of his term, in the 2013 fiscal year, Mr. Obama projects a deficit of $533 billion, or 3 percent of the overall economy, a level that economists consider sustainable. Even so, he foresees the level of the nation’s debt held by the public rising from 58.7 percent in the current year to 67.2 percent in a decade, a level not seen since 1951.

How about that, “a stunning deficit for 2009 that is projected to reach $1.75 trillion” The US has never had a deficit of over $500 billion, and now $1.75 trillion, and that’s probably understated. Less than two months ago the Congressional Budget Office predicted that the federal deficit would balloon to $1.2 trillion this year. That’s a $550 billion increase in two months!
In the meantime the Pentagon honey pot continues to spend money we don’t have. On February 26th it was announced that the Air Force is awarding a firm fixed price contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, Calif., for $168,372,886. This action will provide all program management, urgent repairs and services, logistics support, configuration management, technical manual and software maintenance, engineering technical services, contractor inventory control point and spares management, depot repair, flight operations support, reliability/maintenance enhancements, data collection/entry and numbered periodic depot maintenance for the Predator/Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System program.
Over $168 million for the Predators which are the Pakistani-killers which have created the US’s major terrorist threat, which exists in the UK according to the CIA. So it’s a self-perpetuating war racket.
In other news, four US soldiers died Feb. 24 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. Killed were: Capt. Brian M. Bunting, 29, of Potomac, Md., Sgt. Schuyler B. Patch, 25, of Owasso Okla.,
Sgt. Scott B. Stream, 39, of Mattoon, Ill. and Sgt. Daniel J. Thompson, 24, of Madison, Wis.
Don Bacon is a retired army oficer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket.

10 thoughts on “Climate of Change?”

  1. I, too, want to see America’s ruinous Warfare Welfare and Makwork Miltiarism drastically downsized. Yet while demanding that necessary dismantling of the Lunatic Leviathan, I’ll take President Obama’s speech at Camp Lejeune as at least a good starting point after only about a month in office. To wit:
    “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.” …
    and …
    “under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”
    From the reaction of the “troops” at Camp Lejeune, I’d say that President Obama got them on board for the Iraq withdrawal rather skillfully (without dressing up in a ludicrous “Top Gun” flightsuit) — something he absolutely had to do in order to forestall an open rebellion by the senior military officer corps who never miss a chance to collude with the Republican Party in trashing any Democratic Party president as “anti-war” and “anti-military.”
    Yes, I want it all done faster, better, cheaper, and so forth. And I want a similar drawdown and withdrawal of America’s blundering military from Afghanistan, as well. However, with the essential committments regarding Iraq now made and on the record, I think we can start pressuring President Obama (along with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid) to just accelerate the whole process so that our General Motors generals can actually FINISH something ahead of schedule and under budget; something that we had no business starting in the first place; something that we had no sane reason for continuing this long.
    From my own personal experiences as an “advisor” and “trainer” of the now defunct Republic of South Vietnam, I can state without fear of contradiction that once these withdrawals from quagmire begin, they build up a momentum that no government can reverse — no matter what happens to the local puppet regime afterwards. Once Americans stop giving a shit about the stupid, sanity does tend to make something of a comeback. Unfortunately, it will take a long time for President Obama and the Democratic Congress — and perhaps even America’s somnolent Courts — to even begin reversing half a century of Imperial Military Adventurism; but with persistent pressure applied by the American people, perhaps President Obama and the government he now heads can get the long-delayed process of adjustment underway.
    I regret President Obama’s seeming belief that he has to throw a big boondoggle bone at our entrenched military careerists and their handmaiden crony weapons contractors in order to get the withdrawal from Iraq past their reactionary resistance. But he has to make that determination based on everything else he has on his heaping plate right now, and we will not know the sucess or failure of his policy until we see how he comes back later to cut unnecessary weapons systems as the Pentagram’s share of our national “sacrifice.”
    As the Chinese like to say: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So, OK. Iraq: Step One. Now for Afghanistan: Step Two …

  2. Pie in the sky, I would say. Cutbacks can be made, and will have to be.
    In the meantime, Obama’s speech about Iraq at Camp Lejeune sounds a note of realism. He says clearly that he will obey the SOFA/Withdrawal Agreement. A clear commitment, and difficult to withdraw from. A bit of a surprise for me (I thought it would take a couple of years longer), much more so for some others, who have insisted upon cynicism.
    Actually, a generals’ revolt is still possible, but I doubt it would succeed.
    Realism here means that there may be realism elsewhere. Difficult to predict precisely how. But I would say that the knell is being sounded for a lot of the wilder schemes. One may say that no US troops in Iraq means that a US/Israel scheme to attack Iran will be free to go ahead, but I doubt it.
    I’ve always thought of the US invasion of Iraq as the ‘point’ operation of the attack on Islam. If it were rolled back, as it is being here, then in the future Israel would be in a weaker position, and the uselessness of the Afghan war would be more obvious, and that war itself isolated.
    Those effects are still far away in the future, and could be disputed. We will see how things shape up.

  3. I can state without fear of contradiction that once these withdrawals from quagmire begin, they build up a momentum that no government can reverse
    Too right, Michael Murry.

  4. Michael, with all due respect, your Vietnam experience is irrelevant to Iraq. The entire situation is different.
    And let’s get the Camp Lejeune story straight:
    WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 – U.S. combat troops will redeploy from Iraq by August 2010, leaving about 35,000 to 50,000 American forces there to attend to Iraqi troop and police training, counterterrorism and other duties, President Barack Obama told servicemembers at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., today.
    So apparently it depends on what one’s definition of “combat troops” is. I would hazard a guess that right off the top “combat troops” does not include air force or navy, nor any of the other categories listed in the news report including “counterterrorism duties.”
    Regarding Obama’s 2011 intentions, I expect him to exempt the above categories, with “combat troops” morphing into “US troops.” The momentum is to increase the Empire, not contract it. Why else does Obama need more ground forces? Are they going to sit around the barracks playing Texas Hold ‘Em?

  5. I regret President Obama’s seeming belief that he has to throw a big boondoggle bone at our entrenched military careerists and their handmaiden crony weapons contractors in order to get the withdrawal from Iraq past their reactionary resistance.
    Obama doesn’t need his generals to behave like a militarist. He behaves like a militarist because he is one himself (and never made a secret of it, by the way).
    To illustrate this some excerpts from Obama’s “A 21st Century Military For America”, his plan to create an even more deadly US army than the present one:
    Expand to Meet Military Needs on the Ground: A major stress on our troops comes from insufficient ground forces. Barack Obama supports plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops. Increasing our end strength will help units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments and decrease the strain on military families.
    Rebuild the Military for 21st-Century Tasks: As we rebuild our armed forces, we must meet the fullspectrum needs of the new century, not simply recreate the military of the Cold War era. In particular, we must focus on strengthening the ground force units and skills that military officers have dubbed “High Demand/Low Density.” The U.S. military must:
    • Build up our special operations forces, civil affairs, information operations, engineers, foreign area officers,
    and other units and capabilities that remain in chronic short supply.
    • Invest in foreign language training, cultural awareness, and human intelligence and other needed counterinsurgency and stabilization skillsets.
    • Create a specialized military advisors corps, which will enable us to better build up local allies’ capacities to take on mutual threats.
    Guarantee Our Ground Forces Have the Proper Training for New Challenges: Obama is a co-sponsor of the Webb-Hagel plan to ensure that Soldiers and Marines have sufficient training time before they are sent into battle. This is not the case at the moment, where American forces are being rushed to Iraq and Afghanistan, often with less individual and unit training than is required.”
    5) Build Defense Capabilities for the 21st Century
    “We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future.” Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs magazine, July 2007
    For all the “transformation,” our budgeting for military hardware remains focused on weapons systems that deal with threats from the past, inadequately addressing current needs and the changing security environment. Even worse, many of these multi-billion systems will not be available for decades, when our troops need support oday. An Obama administration will:
    Fully Equip Our Troops for the Missions They Face: We must listen to our ground commanders when they tell us what kinds of technology and skills they need to fight most effectively. We cannot repeat the failure to swiftly deploy up-armored vehicles in response to insurgent tactics. We must prioritize getting vitally needed equipment to our Soldiers and Marines before lives are lost.
    Review Weapons Programs: Each major defense program will be reevaluated in light of current needs, gaps in the field, and likely future threat scenarios in the post 9-11 world. We must rebalance our capabilities to ensure that our forces can succeed in both conventional war-fighting and in stabilization and counter-insurgency operations.”

  6. Good work menno hert. All that information was available for more than a year before the magical “changeling” was elected by a landslide of good ‘ole Americans who wanted “Change” without changing.
    Capt. Brian M. Bunting, 29, of Potomac,
    Md., Sgt. Schuyler B. Patch, 25, of Owasso Okla.,
    Sgt. Scott B. Stream, 39, of Mattoon, Ill. and
    Sgt. Daniel J. Thompson, 24, of Madison, Wis.
    Four more Americans murdered in service to the Bush/Obama campaign against the world.
    How many more Iraqis? Afghans? Pakistanis? Iranians? Palestinians? will be murdered.
    And for what? To hasten our collapse as a nation! Nothing devours a nation’s resources like war and an obese standing military. A military standing in more than 700 bases around the world.
    Close them. Bring the troops home. Sell a few of the 12 Aircraft Carrier groups to the Chinese.
    No rational choices will be made, can be made in Washington DC until we make them ourselves. The political class is as hopelessly corrupt as the military.
    The only question is will we stir ourselves to make the effort, or go down “enjoying” TV.

  7. Don,
    As for the irrelevance of my experience in Vietnam as regards Iraq — i.e, Vietnam II in the Bay of Goats — I’ll just repeat what my fellow Vietnam Veteran Daniel Ellsberg had to say about dialectical distinctions without a difference: namely, that “Yeah, in Iraq it’s a dry heat, and the language our military and diplomatic personnel don’t speak is Arabic instead of Vietnamese.” Or, as I wrote in only a few stanzas of my poem “The Tunnel at the End of the Light”:
    “Vietnam and Iraq look so different
    As any deep thinker can see
    Why, Iraq begins with the letter “I;”
    Vietnam, with the letter “V.”
    And these differences go even deeper
    As any sage pundit will say.
    Vietnam has its jungles so shiny and green
    And Iraq has it deserts of gray.
    And the ex-pats who’ve hijacked the nation
    Have such different names don’t you see?
    In Vietnam we had us a Ngo Dinh Diem
    In Iraq, it’s Ahmed Chalabi.
    And the Asians don’t look like the Arabs,
    And the Buddhists don’t look like Imams.
    Yet the loathsome invader looks strangely the same
    Flying over and dropping his bombs.” …
    No offense intended, but ostensible differences between Vietnam (as with China previously) and Iraq completely miss the point. Only the timeless similarities that animate the Lunatic Leviathan — i.e., American Military Imperialism — really matter. America did not invade and destroy Vietnam due to anything having to do with Vietnam or the Vietnamese. Similarly, America did not invade and destroy Iraq becuase of anything having to do with Iraq or the Iraqis. The impetus for American military blundering abroad originates in America for reasons that H. L. Menken called “the strife of the parties at Washington” and that Barbara Tuchman called “intimidation by the rabid right at home” and that President Dwight Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex.” I spent a full year studying Vietnamese (Southern Dialect) and Counter Insurgency Doctrine before doing eighteen months in-country as a translator/interpreter/advisor — two and a half years total in the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent — and the experience taught me more about my own browbeaten country, its paralyzed politicians, and its ticket-punching, fuck-up-and-move-up military brass than anything of importance that I ever learned about Vietnam and the Vietnamese. Ditto, I suspect, for many returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
    President Obama, due to his youth and inexperience, hasn’t yet learned what President (and former Army General) Eisenhower meant when he said in the Oval Office: “I pity any president siting at this desk who doesn’t understand the American military like I do.” Even back during the most desultory doldrums of America’s doomed War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), the career military lifers would say: “Don’t knock the war, it’s the only one we’ve got.” I don’t see much difference in their attitude today. Always more excuses for why they can’t ever FINISH anything. Always more demands for more troops, more time, more money, more weapons, more bases and billets, more rotations, more medals, etc., etc. I don’t often place much faith in Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when it comes to “just saying no” to endless Pentagram waste, fraud, and abuse; but I hope this time they can force America’s current commander-in-brief to get by with a lot less and just complete the job more quickly and cheaply than our foot-dragging military (who, after all, have had six years to get out of Iraq) appear willing to accept.
    Yes, I agree with you about the Orwellian Doublethink, Crimestop, and Newspeak that our military so much adores: like my favorite, “Force Oriented Zone Reconnaissance” instead of “patrolling” or “picking a fight.” General Odierno, for example, has already tried brazenly relabeling “combat” troops as something other than that — like “trainers — but I don’t think this transparent linguistic fraud will work anymore. Deputy Dubya Bush and Sheriff Dick Cheney, et al, have already used up that gullibility quota. Anyway, I think we have to separate lies and leaks coming from the Pentagram and its propagandists from statements officially made by President Obama. I don’t think we should just assume an equivalence between them.
    Anyway, in order to succeed with his primary domestic economic agenda — upon the success or failure of which the American people will judge him come re-election time — President Obama will have to find a way to get around the rampant Pentagram careerism, inter-service budgetary collusion (everybody always gets the same and more), corporate-contractor camp followers, and so on and so forth. I learned all about this sort of thing during my seemingly endless six years of enlisted indentured penury/servitude in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club (a.k.a., the United States Navy) — and the last year-and-a-half in Vietnam taught these lessons to me for a lifetime. Consequently, I easily understood and vociferously opposed the twin debacles of Afghanistan and Iraq from their very inception. My experiences in Vietnam taught me everything I ever needed to know about the Lunatic Leviathan, which doesn’t give much of damn about whom or what it tramples over in its blind belligerence. I learned long ago about what the Vietnamese, Afghans, and Iraqis — indeed most of the intelligent world — know about America and its Lunatic Leviathan military, expressed best to me by a former ambassador to America and France from Sri Lanka. Said this distinguished gentleman: “If the Americans come, they will draw an arbitrary line through a temporary problem and make both permanent.”
    I claim that Vietnam, Iraq, and Aghanistan perfectly illustrate this truism, no matter what superficial differences one can discern among the various victims from place to place and time to time. Like I’ve heard many another veteran say after surviving service in the American military: “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience, but I also wouldn’t pay two cents to live one minute of it over again.” Thus, I (properly) never wanted to live Vietnam over again in Iraq and Afghanistan. Too bad so many of my countrymen never lived through the first disaster so they eagerly fell prey to the second and third ones.
    I never learned anything in my sixty-one years life as well or as usefully as I learned the lessons of Vietnam. So I understand Iraq and Afghanistan perfectly well — as far as such understanding concerns my own country, America. I understand that America has to get the hell out of these countries where America doesn’t belong. I can only hope that our new President Obama, who otherwise shows such great promise, can somehow arrive at this same understanding. He seems to have gotten the message on Iraq. Now, we have to teach it to him again regarding Afghanistan. He seems bright enough. Given enough input from those who know better, he just might learn.

  8. Michael,
    Even at your age, with your experience and your wisdom, you can still hope. That is a marvelous thing.
    I can only hope that our new President Obama, who otherwise shows such great promise, can somehow arrive at this same understanding.
    But as the masthead states: Just World News is a proud member of the reality-based community since Feb. 2003. (re: Obama, see other comments above)

  9. Don,
    If I didn’t think that criticizing President Obama might make him change his policies when necessary, then I wouldn’t bother with him. And since you apparently consider him beyond persuasion — after a little more than a month in office — then I have to wonder why you continue wasting your time berating a lost cause like him. If you consider a horse already dead, then you can stop beating it.
    I voted for President Obama in both the primary and general elections principally because I did not want to reward with my vote ANY CANDIDATE (like Senators You-Know-Her and Mad Dog John McBomb) stupid enough to enable Deputy Dubya Bush’s reckless stud-hamster vendetta against the toothless tinpot Saddam Hussein — among other crimes to numerous to list here. (As my daughter-in-law in New York put it a few years ago: “How could they have forgotten Vietnam, Dad? Like, it only happened thirty years ago!) At any rate, that non-promotion of the pernicious perpetrators accomplished (first things first), I now turn my attention to schooling President Obama on continually re-evaluating and appropriately rejecting failed policies (like Afghanistan and extra-judicial “renditions,” et cetera) that can only lead him and our country further astray. I understand that he has no grunt-level experience with the American military as it actually operates to perpetuate its bloated, platinum-plated self at ruinous cost to both America and much of the world generally; and I know that he still hasn’t gotten beyond feeling defensive about Republican canards attacking Democratic Party “liberals” and their supposed lack of “patriotism” for favoring domestic civilian concerns over mindless foreign adventurism; but I think that he can get over and past these handicaps with more thought about, and experience at, his new job. If he doesn’t, then the Democratic Congress will have to get tough on him to start and continue downsizing the Lunatic Leviathan to something approximating manageable proportions. As the old saying goes: “The president proposes and Congress disposes.” In the real world, however, enormous undertakings like this normally take considerably longer than a month.
    Personally, I favor cutting the War Department (as my mother’s generation called it) by 25% annually until the Pentagram locates and hires enough accountants to actually itemize where all the lost billions of dollars go to die every year. Therefore, I agree completely with those who demand a reduction in ALL military spending — accross the board — starting immediately, if not sooner. This currently puts me at odds with President Obama who, as I noted above, still hasn’t learned the bureaucratic ropes in dealing with the recalcitrant military/”intelligence”/crony-contractor opposition that he really must learn to vanquish if he hopes to succeed with his necessary domestic economic priorities (Paul Krugman’s essential concern). So, he needs our help in learning to deal with America’s entrenched — and wildly overrated — mililtary fetishism (which includes the ridiculous Ronald Reagan saluting by civilian presidents of active-duty military personnel in uniform, et cetera).
    I tend to agree with Chalmers Johnson (see his excellent “Blowback” trilogy) that America’s debilitating military imperialism seems probably too far advanced to hope for its curtailment. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if President Obama has no more luck shackling the monster than any of his predecessors over the past half century. But, in all fairness to the new guy on the job, I think he deserves a chance to do things his way for just a little while longer. I don’t consider this minor honeymoon period at all polyanna or naive. Just temporarily observant and willing to see evolution occur over time from some bad ideas to some better ones. We will see what we will see.

  10. Michael,
    We are in some very special times, times which call for criticism of weak, poor performance. It is not a time to congratulate the President for avoiding any fictitious possible revolt of the generals, nor a time merely to hope that the President does the right thing.
    There have been Presidents, Democratic Presidents, who have been up to a challenge similar to the current situation. Perhaps not as dire, but similar. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, to name two, had visions of what they wanted to do and used their power to make serious attempts to implement their visions. Obama doesn’t measure up.
    One didn’t have to hope that Harry Truman wouldn’t pass the buck. One knew that if a General MacArthur, an American icon, failed the President then he (MacArthur) was gone, which in fact happened (and Truman wasn’t that popular). There could never be any revolt of the generals in the US Army. That is a red herring. US military officers will always do whatever they’re told to do, or they know they’re gone. Always.
    Obama has given every indication in his senate career, as a nominee and now as President that it is business as usual in regard to military matters. That’s the point of this thread. There is no climate of change in this regard.
    Of course since you voted for the man than you have to justify your action and cut him some slack. I understand that. But you should understand exactly what you voted for because now you’re getting it, in spades. Higher Pentagon budget, attacks on Pakistanis, more troops to Afghanistan, and waffling on Iraq — that’s the ticket. And all you want is better accounting.

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