Gaza Flotilla Ship Al Awda Violently Seized by Israelis; USS Liberty Survivor Amongst Those Captured Joe Lauria / Special to Consortium News
(July 30, 2018) — Israeli soldiers in international waters boarded the Al Awda ship headed to Gaza to deliver relief supplies on Sunday, detaining everyone on board, including a USS Liberty survivor, after beating and tasering some passengers, according to an eyewitness account.
Only two of the 22 passengers on the ship have been released, with the rest being held in Givon prison in Israel, the flotillaâ€™s organizers said on Monday.
One of those released, Zohar Chamberlain Regev, an Israeli citizen, contested an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) statement that the ship had been captured â€œwithout exceptional incident.â€
â€œPeople on board were tasered and hit by masked IOF soldiers. We did not get our passports or belongings before we got off the boat. Do not believe reports of peaceful interception,â€ Regev said in a statement to the organizers, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. Regev referred to the IDF derogatorily as the Israeli Occupation Force.
She said she saw â€œblood on the deck of the Al Awda as the last participants were being dragged off the ship,â€ according to the coalitionâ€™s statement. Regev and a second Israeli passenger, Yonatan Shapira, were charged with attempting to enter Gaza and conspiracy before being released.
Consortium News reported on July 9 that Joe Meadors, a survivor of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, joined the 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla as the delegate from the United States. He boarded the Al Awda in Palermo, Sicily for the final 1,000 miles to Gaza and is now in Israeli custody. Meadors pre-recorded this video message in the event that he was captured:
Meadors was a signalman on the bridge of the USS Liberty, a surveillance vessel operating in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea near Gaza during the 1967 Six-Day Arab-Israeli war when it was attacked by Israeli war planes and submarines, killing 34 US sailors.
Speaking of the seizure of the Al Awda, the flotilla organizers said: â€œA military attack on a civilian vessel is a violent act and a violation of international law. Taking 22 people from international waters to a country which is not their destination constitutes an act of kidnapping, which is also unlawful under the international Convention of the Law of Sea.â€
Consortium News has been following the progress of the flotilla in two reports by passenger Elizabeth Murray. Murray left the Al Awda (The Return) before it approached Gaza and was not onboard when it was seized by Israeli forces.
â€œWe call on national governments, civil society and international organizations to demand that Israeli authorities immediately release our boat so that we can deliver our much-needed medical supplies on Al Awda and the fishing boat itself to the rightful recipients in Gaza,â€ the Flotilla organizers said.
â€œOur second boat Freedom will follow Al Awda within a day or two, and the Freedom Flotilla will continue until the blockade ends and Palestinians of Gaza regain their full freedom of movement,â€ they said.
Besides delivering aid, the flotillaâ€™s aim has been to bring attention to the illegal blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza since 2007.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe.
July 10 Interview with Joe Meadors April Watters / Peoples Internet Radio
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(July 30, 2018) — The International Rescue Committee (IRC), known for its ongoing work to support migrants and refugees in conflict regions across the globe, is honoring BlackRock CEO Larry Fink with the John C. Whitehead Humanitarian Award — even though Fink and his investors reap huge profits from war and weapons.
Larry Fink stated that he would hold companies accountable for being responsible corporate citizens. However, under his watch, BlackRock maintains significant stakes in weapons companies such as General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon. The products made by these weapons manufacturers create refugees and internally displaced persons.
Weapons manufacturer General Dynamics is currently making a big profit from incarcerated migrant children at US detention camps. These companies do not promote a humane and compassionate world, which is why we have been calling on BlackRock to divest its assets from weapons and warfare.
The two leading contributors to the current global refugee crisis are climate change and war. It is through the work of the IRC that refugees are able to gain a foothold in their host countries. Honoring Mr. Fink with a humanitarian award directly contradicts the mission and vision of the International Rescue Committee.
Fink’s BlackRock props up weapons manufacturers, undermining diplomacy between countries and preventing the proper compassionate care of refugees and internally displaced persons.
We want to thank the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for its ongoing work to support migrants and refugees in conflict regions across the world. It is through the work of the International Rescue Committee that refugees are able to gain a foothold in their host countries. Today, we are our sharing our concern over this year’s John C. Whitehead Humanitarian Award Honoree Laurence D. Fink, CEO of BlackRock.
Larry Fink has stated that he would hold companies accountable for being responsible corporate citizens. His comments made waves in the business world. However, under his watch, BlackRock maintains significant stakes in weapons companies around the world.
The products made by weapons manufacturers create refugees and internally displaced persons. They do not promote a just and compassionate world, which is why we are calling on BlackRock to divest its assets from weapons and warfare.
Because Larry Fink continues to profit from war, weapons, and violence, we are asking you to reconsider honoring him with a humanitarian award. As you know, the two leading contributors to the current global refugee crisis are climate change and war.
Rewarding Mr. Fink’s profits from weapons and violence while you seek to assist the people impacted by these wars undermines the valuable work that IRC is doing around the world.
The military-industrial complex dominates US spending and spreads death and destruction at home and abroad. Investing in weapons of war means that we are making a killing on killing â€“ hardly the humanitarian way to run a business.
In 2016, the US dedicated over $700 billion of our tax dollars toward the Pentagon, which amounts to 64% of federal discretionary spending; and half of the Pentagon’s spending goes directly to weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics.
This money is being used to engage the US in seven active conflicts around the world, to give military support to the disastrous Saudi-led war on Yemen, and to support Israeli suppression of Palestinian human rights. As you have documented in your country file for Yemen, it is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
US weapons manufacturers have sold more than $650 million worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to support their war in Yemen. This includes small arms, precision-guided bombs, and so-called “dumb bomb” conversion kits. BlackRock and Mr. Fink own billions in shares of the companies who are arming Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which means he is actively profiting from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The massive profits these companies rake in are made on the backs of civilians in poor countries such as Yemen, who are paying the ultimate price of war. General Dynamics is a prime example of a company profiting from those who are suffering.
The military contractor has taken a government contract to provide “social services” to migrant children held at US detention camps. In the past, General Dynamics has provided weapons to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq, and Turkey, and directly benefited from the US invasion on Iraq.
IRC has condemned the actions at the border, and the separation of families. We are urging you to reconsider honoring Mr. Fink, as he profits from those displacements and gross human rights violations.
Honoring Mr. Fink with a humanitarian award directly contradicts the mission and vision of the International Rescue Committee. His company’s insistence on propping up weapons manufacturers undermines any possibility of diplomacy between countries and prevents the proper compassionate care of refugees and internally displaced persons.
We strongly urge you to reconsider your award to Laurence D. Fink.
For a better world for migrants and refugees,
Ann, Ariel, Brad, Brienne, Jodie, Katie, Kirsten, Mark, Medea, Nancy, Natasha, Paki, Rita, Sarah, and Tighe
Ron Dellums, Former Congressman
And Oakland Mayor, Dies at Age 82 Rachel Swan / The San Francisco Chronicle
Ron Dellums speaks truth about power. UC Berkeley speech, 2016.
BERKELEY, Calif. (July 30, 2018) — Ron Dellums, a Marine turned antiwar activist and feisty Democratic politician, was never one to walk away from a fight, no matter who started it.
Dellums, who died Monday at the age of 82, made that clear during his first run for Congress in 1970, when Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew, speaking for President Richard Nixon’s White House, pointedly branded the young Berkeley councilman as “an out and out radical” who needed to be “purged from the body politic” for his stance against the war in Vietnam and up-front fight against social ills.
The attack, like many others to come during his decades on the political battlefield, never fazed him.
“If it’s radical to oppose the insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War, if it’s radical to oppose racism and sexism and all other forms of oppression, if it’s radical to want to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, and other forms of human misery, then I’m proud to be called a radical,” he told a scrum of reporters at his campaign headquarters.
The unbridled passion behind that fiery rebuttal was characteristic of Dellums’ long political career, which included 27 years in Congress and a term as Oakland’s mayor.
Known for his trenchant speeches and unbending liberal views, Dellums started his adult life as a social worker and political organizer in Berkeley, and brought those sensibilities to Washington. He later used his connections on Capitol Hill to benefit Oakland, when he served four years as mayor.
Born Ronald Vernie Dellums on Nov. 24, 1935, he was raised in 1940s-era West Oakland, at that time a predominantly black district that teemed with barbershops, nightclubs, restaurants and stores.
Dellums was a fighter from his early childhood. He learned early not to take guff from anyone, including the well-off, sharply dressed white kids in North Oakland’s Westlake Junior High School, where Dellums was among only 14 black students.
Once during a study hall period in eighth grade, Dellums came to blows with a boy who called him a “dirty black African.” Recounting the incident in his autobiography, Lying Down with the Lions, Dellums said the boy was trying “to cut me down verbally, but all my neighborhood practice (of trading insults) was getting the best of him.”
When the boy hurled a racial slur, Dellums recalled feeling a sharp spasm of rage. He leaped up and pummeled his adversary, stopping only when other kids shouted that a teacher was coming. Later on he bragged about the fight to his mother, who chastened him for regarding the words “black” and “African” as insults.
“I think you should have fought only because he called you dirty, if that made you angry enough,” she chided. In the days that followed, Dellums wrote, she began bringing home books and magazines from the library to teach her children about their African heritage.
After graduating from Oakland Technical High School, Dellums joined the Marine Corps, served two years, attended San Francisco State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, then went to UC Berkeley and got a master’s degree in social work. In 1967, he won election to the Berkeley City Council, where he served three years before challenging incumbent House Rep. Jeffrey Cohelan in the 1970 Democratic primary.
Cohelan, a former union leader and Berkeley councilman, was a traditionally liberal labor Democrat, but that wasn’t enough for an East Bay district moving quickly to the left and becoming noisily antiwar. Dellums easily won the primary and the general election in November, becoming the first African American elected to Congress from Northern California.
“Ron was adamant about serving the community and making sure people received a response from their government,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who entered politics as graduate student intern for Dellums. “He would say that the only question we should ask when we made decisions about anything is: ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ Don’t ask about political expedience. That’s how he got his staff to think.”
Lee and others saw Dellums as a staunch supporter of three social movements that converged in the Bay Area during the 1960s: the free speech movement, the Black Panther Party movement, and the antiwar movement. It was a period of rowdy protests on college campuses and bloody standoffs between demonstrators and police.
“That was a tumultuous era,” said Lee Halterman, a longtime congressional staffer who was Dellums’ campaign manager in 1970. “What drew me? His idealism. He was a champion for issues that we as student activists were fighting for.”
As a congressman, Dellums is best remembered for his uncompromising opposition to the Vietnam War and compelling speeches on the House Floor.
“He really came to Congress as an activist,” Halterman said. “He would go to the floor and challenge his colleagues, and they would challenge him back. And that’s how he learned to work with them rather than just name-calling.”
In his autobiography, Dellums recounted many tense confrontations with other elected officials, some of whom saw the fiery, Oakland-raised peacenik as a political outlier — and even as an agitator.
Such perceptions sometimes led to insults. When Dellums went to the House Armed Services Committee in 1973, the committee’s chairman, Rep. F. Edward Hebert, left only one seat on the dais for Dellums to share with another antiwar Democrat, Rep. Pat Schroeder of Denver.
Recalling the incident in his autobiography, Dellums said he responded with poise. “Let’s not give these guys the luxury of knowing they can get under our skin,” he told Schroeder.
“He (Hebert) didn’t want this radical ‘bomb-thrower from Berkeley’ on his committee,” Halterman said. “The irony is that 20 years later Ron became chair, and people were saying, ‘If only people ran the committee as fairly as Ron does.'”
Dellums, Halterman recalled, said ‘Hey, I remember being locked out, I’m not going to shut others out.'”
Over the years, Dellums earned the respect of his peers. He embraced his radical left-wing status and used it strategically, presenting liberal policy ideas that would shift the debate farther left, even when he knew they were too extreme to win a majority vote.
“From Day One, he understood that he was the left-wing, pinko guy from Berkeley, and whatever he said demarcated the left end of the debate,” said longtime congressional staffer Dan Lindheim, who later served as Dellums’ city administrator in Oakland.
Dellums was also a consummate wheeler-dealer, willing to compromise at key moments. He had an uncanny talent for pulling people over to his side.
“When you think of the great speakers, the top four or five orators of the House of Representatives, Ron was on that list,” Halterman said. “People would come to the floor to listen to him. They would leave the back chambers. They would leave the caucus room.”
Dellums served 13 consecutive terms in Congress, chairing the House Committee on the District of Columbia — on which he successfully pushed for funding to combat infant mortality and develop affordable housing — and the Armed Services Committee, on which he led the fight to severely curtail production of B-2 bomber planes. In 1986, he sponsored comprehensive economic sanctions to protest the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
In 1997, Dellums announced his resignation from Congress, setting up a special election for fill out the remainder of his term. He endorsed Lee, a former member of his staff, who had served time in the state Assembly and was state senator at the time. When Lee formally announced her candidacy at a party at Oakland’s Lake Merritt Boathouse, Dellums was there to hand her a baton. She won easily.
For the next eight years, Dellums ran his own lobbying firm, representing such clients as AT&T, AC Transit and the military contractor Rolls-Royce.
At age 70, Dellums returned to politics, winning a race to succeed Jerry Brown as mayor of Oakland. He took office just as the city was trying to build more housing and encourage commercial development downtown, amid a bitter economic downturn.
Dellums term as mayor started off strong but ultimately led to complaints that he wasn’t managing the city. Initially, he brought the city’s police force up to 837 officers, a record high for the struggling department.
He also steered several important projects, including massive port development at the Oakland Army Base, and the automated connector train that shuttles passengers from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland Airport.
And he used his connections in the Obama administration to haul in more federal stimulus money than any other city, said Lindheim, the former city administrator.
But Dellums ran into problems mid-way through his term. He drew criticism for being frequently absent from City Hall, and his boost to the police force turned out to be unsustainable — in 2010, Oakland laid off 80 officers. Supporters who cheered him on in the beginning began to peel off toward the end, and in August 2010, he sent a written announcement saying he would not seek re-election.
Even so, some members of Dellums’ inner circle describe him as a calming force during a turbulent era for Oakland.
Margaretta Lin, who served as deputy city administrator under Dellums, recalled how the mayor stayed composed when riots broke out on January 7, 2009 — days after a 22-year-old black man, Oscar Grant, was fatally shot by a BART police officer.
“People were so angry, and so wounded, and because he was ‘the Man’ they took it out on him,” said Lin, who walked with Dellums through the streets of downtown Oakland the night they erupted in violence. “But he would stop and talk to people even as they were screaming at him,” she said. “That old social worker came out.”
On Dellums’ 80th birthday in 2015, Lee delivered a rousing speech in the House, characterizing her former boss as a man who stuck to his principles, even when they were politically unpopular.
“He exemplified the finest in public service and set a new standard for elected officials,” Lee said. “For that, we are deeply grateful.”
Noel Gallo, an Oakland city council member, was in grammar school when he first met Dellums, and the encounter served as an inspiration to get into public service.
“He was definitely one person I looked up to and motivated me to get into the political arena,” Gallo said. “Yes, he played a role in national politics, but at the same time he was very active at the neighborhood level. I still remember him walking down Fruitvale and talking with the local businesses.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called Dellums “a true American hero” on Monday.
“Ron Dellums governed from a place of morality and compassion, and his political activism shed light on injustices within our country and all over the world,” she said. “His progressive values set the bedrock for Oakland values, and his life of public service will continue to inspire all of us to fight for a more just and equitable society.”
Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter:@rachelswan
My Friend and Mentor Hon. Barbara Lee / US House of Representatives
(July 30, 2018) — I was lucky to call Congressman Ron Dellums not just my predecessor, but also my mentor and dear friend. Today, I share my deepest condolences with his family and remember the impactful legacy he left behind.
Congressman Dellums was the father of coalition politics. He co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, advocating for social and economic justice for his community and communities across the country.
His principles and values were evident in not just his policies, but also his actions. He was proud to be a feminist, way ahead of his time, ardently supporting women’s rights before it was the norm. His anti-apartheid work, anti-war efforts, civil rights advocacy and historic chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee improved countless lives.
He was a social worker, which was evident in the way he tackled challenges and fought for the most vulnerable among us. Congressman Dellums always said that when constituents came to his office asking for help, we must ask ourselves “Is this the right thing to do?” He said if the answer is yes, you help that person. No doubt about it.
Simply put, Congressman Dellums was a progressive warrior. A caring, courageous, and bold leader who gave it his all to truly represent and help the people of East Bay while fighting for peace and justice not just throughout the country but across the world. His legacy lives on in our hearts and in the lives he’s changed, forever.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
US Secret Wars in Africa
Rage on Despite Talk of Downsizing Nick Turse /The Intercept
(July 29, 2018) — Last October, four US soldiers — including two commandos — were killed in an ambush in Niger. Since then, talk of US special operations in Africa has centered on missions being curtailed and troop levels cut.
Press accounts have suggested that the number of special operators on the front lines has been reduced, with the head of US Special Operations forces in Africa directing his troops to take fewer risks. At the same time, a “sweeping Pentagon review” of special ops missions on the continent may result in drastic cuts in the number of commandos operating there.
US Africa Command has apparently been asked to consider the impact on counterterrorism operations of cutting the number of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other commandos by 25 percent over 18 months and 50 percent over three years.
Analysts have already stepped forward to question or criticize the proposed cuts. “Anybody that knows me knows that I would disagree with any downsizing in Africa,” Donald Bolduc, a former chief of US commandos on the continent, told Voice of America.
While the review was reportedly ordered this spring and troop reductions may be coming, there is no evidence yet of massive cuts, gradual reductions, or any downsizing whatsoever. In fact, the number of commandos operating on the continent has barely budged since 2017. Nearly 10 months after the debacle in Niger, the tally of special operators in Africa remains essentially unchanged.
According to figures provided to The Intercept by US Special Operations Command, 16.5 percent of commandos overseas are deployed in Africa. This is about the same percentage of special operators sent to the continent in 2017 and represents a major increase over deployments during the first decade of the post-9/11 war on terror.
In 2006, for example, just 1 percent of all US commandos deployed overseas were in Africa — fewer than in the Middle East, the Pacific, Europe, or Latin America. By 2010, the number had risen only slightly, to 3 percent.
Today, more US commandos are deployed to Africa than to any other region of the world except the Middle East. Back in 2006, there were only 70 special operators deployed across Africa. Just four years ago, there were still just 700 elite troops on the continent.
Given that an average of 8,300 commandos are deployed overseas in any given week, according to SOCOM spokesperson Ken McGraw, we can surmise that roughly 1,370 Green Berets, Navy SEALs, or other elite forces are currently operating in Africa.
The Pentagon won’t say how many commandos are still deployed in Niger, but the total number of troops operating there is roughly the same as in October 2017 when two Green Berets and two fellow soldiers were killed by Islamic State militants.
There are 800 Defense Department personnel currently deployed to the West African nation, according to Maj. Sheryll Klinkel, a Pentagon spokesperson. “I can’t give a breakdown of SOF there, but it’s a fraction of the overall force,” she told The Intercept. There are now also 500 American military personnel — including Special Operations forces — in Somalia. At the beginning of last year, AFRICOM told Stars and Stripes, there were only 100.
“None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem, while speaking about current troop levels in Niger during a May Pentagon press briefing on the investigation into the deadly October ambush.
Despite this official policy, despite the deaths in Niger, and despite the supposed curbs on special operations in Africa, US commandos there keep finding themselves in situations that are indistinguishable from combat.
In December, for example, Green Berets fighting alongside local forces in Niger reportedly killed 11 ISIS militants in a firefight. And last month in Somalia, a member of the Special Operations forces, Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, was killed and four other Americans were wounded in an attack by members of the Islamist militant group Shabaab.
Conrad’s was the second death of a US special operator in Somalia in 13 months. Last May, a Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Petty Officer Kyle Milliken, was killed, and two other American troops were wounded while carrying out a mission there with local forces.
Between 2015 and 2017, there were also at least 10 previously unreported attacks on American troops in West Africa, the New York Times revealed in March. Meanwhile, Politico recently reported that, for at least five years, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other commandos — operating under a little-understood budgetary authority known as Section 127e that funds classified programs — have been involved in reconnaissance and “direct action” combat raids with local forces in Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, and Tunisia.
Indeed, in a 2015 briefing obtained by The Intercept, Bolduc, then the special ops chief in Africa, noted that America’s commandos were not only conducting “surrogate” and “combined” “counter violent extremist operations,” but also “unilateral” missions.
While media reports have focused on the possibility of imminent reductions, the number of commandos deployed in Africa is nonetheless up 96 percent since 2014 and remains fundamentally unchanged since the deadly 2017 ambush in Niger. And as the June death of Conrad in Somalia indicates, commandos are still operating in hazardous areas.
Indeed, at the May Pentagon briefing, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the chief of US Africa Command, drew attention to special operators’ “high-risk missions” under “extreme conditions” in Africa. America’s commandos, he said, “are doing a fantastic job across the continent.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
US Considering Attacking Iran,
With Saudi Forces Leading Strike Officials say strike would be a ‘long-term’ military effort Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(July 29, 2018) â€“ Is the United States preparing to attack Iran? On Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis dismissed this idea as “fiction,” back when the sources were in the Australian military. Yet other US officials have since been quoted as saying the attack is still being considered.
The pretext for this war appears to be the ongoing Yemen War. Last week, Saudi state media claimed that Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked and slightly damaged a Saudi oil tanker. The Saudis have previously alleged the Houthis are tied to Iran, and US media is treating this as some sort of transference, and reporting that Iran attacked the Saudi oil tanker, even though no one alleged that ever happened.
Since the US has spent years presenting oil security as a reason for war with Iran, they are considering using that excuse. Officials say that this would be mostly a Saudi-led attack, with Saudi Arabia and its allies doing the bulk of the fighting, and relying on the US for support.
Officials say this would require a “long-term military effort” against Iran. The US expectations that they might keep their involvement limited to a support role appears particularly unrealistic, given how much the same Saudi-led coalition has struggled to conquer Yemen.
The danger here is that both the US and what it envisions to be its proxy army are going to each go into a war with high expectations for one another, and each get into a much bigger war than they bargained for.
There are few specifics about what form this war would take, as US officials were insisting as recently as a few days ago that they are not interested in regime change in Iran. It is hard to imagine, however, that they could get the major Sunni Arab states to attack Shi’ite Iran with any hope of it being “limited.”
WASHINGTON (July 27, 2018) — The United States has not instituted a policy of regime change or collapse in Iran, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday, saying the goal was still to curb what Washington sees as Iran’s threatening behavior in the Middle East.
Mattis made his comments after days of back-and-forth bellicose rhetoric between Iranian and US officials, with President Donald Trump promising dire consequences for Iran if it continues to make threats toward the United States.
Asked at the Pentagon whether the Trump administration had instituted a policy of regime change or collapse toward Iran, Mattis said, “There’s none that’s been instituted.”
“We need them to change their behavior on a number of threats that they can pose with their military, with their secret services, with their surrogates and with their proxies,” Mattis told reporters during an off-camera briefing.
Mattis’ remarks were the most detailed by a senior administration official about US policy toward Iran following high-level discussions at the White House on Thursday that included the topic of Iran.
Since Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Tehran’s clerical establishment has been under increasing US pressure and the prospect of possible sanctions.
As the tensions simmered, an Australian media report appeared to suggest military action was imminent, saying Australian officials believed Washington was prepared to bomb Iran’s nuclear capability as early as next month.
Mattis on Friday dismissed the report as “fiction.”
“I’m confident that it’s not something that’s being considered right now,” Mattis told reporters, speaking at an on-camera event earlier in the day.
Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in the Middle East, where Iran is involved in proxy wars from Yemen to Syria.
While the United States is pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil beginning in November, Iran has warned of counter-measures and has threatened to block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.
The week of heated rhetoric between Washington and Tehran that was kicked off by a warning from Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday that hostile US policies could lead to “the mother of all wars.”
On Sunday night, Trump said in a Twitter posting written in all capital letters directed at Rouhani: “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence & death. Be cautious!”
The harsh words evoked memories of Trump’s warnings to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year over his nuclear weapons program, which raised fears of a major conflict. Those concerns have eased following a June summit between Trump and Kim.
Still, analysts warn that Iran is a far different challenge, and that stiff US rhetoric could harden Iranian resolve. Iran’s Guards commanders have threatened to destroy US military bases across the Middle East and target Israel, which Iran refuses to recognize, within minutes of being attacked.
On Thursday, Major-General Qassem Soleimani, who heads the Quds Force of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, warned Trump, “We are near you, where you can’t even imagine.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Forest Fire Outside Berlin Sets Off WWII Munitions Deutsche Welle
(JULY 29, 2018) — Firefighters in the northeastern German state of Brandenburg spent the whole of Thursday night subduing a forest fire near Potsdam outside Berlin.
“The danger has been allayed for now,” local counsellor Christian Stein told Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper, before adding that the 200 firefighters had successfully prevented the fire from endangering nearby homes — with the help of a foam carpet acting as a barrier and police and military helicopters.
The fire eventually got to within 500 meters (550 yards) of the village of Fichtenwalde, near Beelitz, a small Brandenburg town famous for its annual asparagus harvest.
An evacuation of around 200 to 300 people had already been prepared, with authorities asking locals to pack clothing, medication, and personal documents on Thursday afternoon, but proved unnecessary. Local authorities have banned grilling in public areas and smoking in or near forests.
Local counsellor Wolfgang Blasig told public broadcaster RBB that a disaster had been “narrowly averted,” while the state forest fire protection commissioner Raimund Engel said, “We’re well prepared, but if we have multiple fires we’ll have a problem.”
Setting Off Bombs
The operation was made more difficult by winds and World War II munition buried in the forest floor, which caused several explosions.
The current northern European heat wave has also triggered several fires in Sweden, Greece, and northern England in the past few weeks.
In Germany, the hot weather has caused shipping cargo on the River Rhine to be halved and threatened fish populations as water temperatures rise.
Meanwhile, urban police forces across Germany have taken to challenging each other via Twitter to use their riot control vehicles to water their cities’ greenery.
The Berlin police tweeted about its own efforts on Thursday in response to an initiative from colleagues in Hamburg and then challenged police forces in Frankfurt, Munich, and Vienna to follow suit.
EU States Join Forces
To Fight Deadly Wildfires Across Europe Deutsche Welle
(July 26, 20180 — In today’s turbulent political times, it is easy to give up on the idea of European Union solidarity. But the response to wildfires in Sweden and Greece is proof that unity is still possible. Who’s helping whom, and why?
The heart of the European Union’s disaster prevention apparatus is located in three plain offices along Rue Joseph II in Brussels, home to the Emergency Response Coordination Center, or ERCC. With the help of satellite data, five employees monitor existing or potential crises within the EU, around the clock.
This week, they’ve more than had their hands full. In Sweden, massive forest fires continue to blaze out of control. And in Greece, at least 74 people have been killed in fast-moving wildfires. More than 150 people have also been injured, including many children.
Efforts to fight the flames are ongoing — and the EU is presenting a united front. Sweden has had offers for assistance from Germany, Italy, France, Lithuania, Denmark, Portugal, Poland and Austria. Seven water bomber planes, seven helicopters, and more than 340 firefighters have been supporting the Swedish first responders. Germany alone has sent more than 50 firefighters, nine fire trucks and five helicopters to Sweden.
Biggest Firefighting Effort in EU History
The EU says that it is currently involved in the biggest joint mission to fight wildfires in the bloc’s history. “We’ve been working around the clock to help Sweden,” said Christos Stylianides, EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis prevention. “That is our duty in a Europe that protects its citizens.” The fires in Sweden show that “climate change is real and that no country is immune to natural disasters,” he added.
Greece is also getting assistance from other EU countries. Cyprus, Spain and Bulgaria are offering support in the form of airplanes, firefighters, doctors and vehicles.
Both Stockholm and Athens have activated the EU disaster prevention mechanism, coordinated by the ERCC since 2013. Founded in 2001, all 28 of the bloc’s member states plus six other countries take part in the program, which oversees aid missions in the event of both natural and man-made disasters — including outside of the EU.
Since 2010, it has been used to respond to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa, and the Syrian civil war, for example.
‘They Help as Best They Can’
When a government asks the EU for help, the ERCC passes the request on to the member states. If the disaster prevention mechanism is activated, the affected country tells the center what type of aid it needs. The participating countries in emergency missions depends mainly on each country’s resources and experience in dealing with the relevant scenario.
“The mechanism works on a voluntary basis,” said Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela, press spokesperson for the European Commission. “The countries are not obligated to help, but they do it anyway. They help as best they can, with the resources they have available to them.”
Germany, for example, may not have water bomber planes at the ready, but can offer other forms of support in the event of wildfires. As Sweden doesn’t have much experience with these sorts of fires, it makes sense for other countries to provide their resources and expertise.
Room for Improvement
But the mechanism doesn’t always work without a hitch. “In the cases of Sweden and Greece, we were able to answer the calls. But we have to admit that this isn’t always the case, especially if you look at last year,” said Ruiz de Gordejuela.
In 2017, the mechanism was activated 17 times for wildfires, according to the EU. But in seven cases, the call could not be answered.
“When we get a call because of a fire, then there are usually fires burning in other places as well, which can mean that the needed resources aren’t available,” said Ruiz de Gordejuela.
However, there are plans in the works to improve the service, especially with regard to financing. Currently, around half of the transport costs come out of the EU budget, while the expenses for the mission are borne exclusively by the member states. Initially, the donor state covers the cost, but the recipient state can reimburse the donors. In future, the EU may share in the costs of the missions as well.
Another suggestion for improving the disaster prevention mechanism is the strategic positioning of EU emergency personnel, who can quickly be in the affected area in the event of a disaster. Additionally, there are plans for further training and improvements to the exchange of information. This doesn’t mean that the EU member states will have any less responsibility in future, however.
“They will remain the key actors when it comes to managing crisis situations,” said Ruiz de Gordejuela.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Weaponized Keynesianism in Washington Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch
The Air Force is presently buying $10,000 toilet seats
for its Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport planes.
Waste on a scale that should make any American proud!
(July 1, 2018) — Who could forget it? There were the $37 screws (no need to say who was getting screwed), the $2,043 nut (McDonnell Douglas made it specially for the US Navy), the $7,622 coffee pot, the $74,165 aluminum ladder, and the $640 plastic toilet seats for the Air Force.
All of those examples of Pentagon waste were from ancient times, the 1970s and 1980s when such revelations still generated literally hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. These days, in the age of America’s never-ending credit-card wars and a Pentagon budget eternally going through the roof, stories of that sort are surprisingly rare.
It’s as if that budget and the waste that goes with it has, by now, become such a strikingly bipartisan Washington phenomenon that the details hardly matter. Who’s going to be shocked? Who’s going to complain? Who would possibly contest anything the Pentagon did or spent for American “safety” and “security”?
So I recently felt a wave of almost Trumpian nostalgia for those long-gone days of American “greatness,” or at least well-publicized great wastefulness, when I stumbled across an obscure piece about the $10,000 toilet seats the Air Force is presently buying for its Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport planes. Admit it: even taking inflation into account, that’s impressive! That’s waste on a scale that should make any American proud!
Now, imagine that, as TomDispatch regular William Hartung points out today, when it comes to government investment in the American economy and our disintegrating infrastructure, there really is nothing much left but the Pentagon and its $10,000 toilet seats. It should make your heart beat faster to know that if anything is going to lift the economy long term, it’s going to be Pentagon spending. If that isn’t MAGA, what is?
Trump’s “Infrastructure” Plan
Pump Up the Pentagon William D. Hartung / TomDispatch
Other than shouting about building a wall on the US-Mexico border, one of Donald Trump’s most frequently proclaimed promises on the 2016 campaign trail was the launching of a half-trillion-dollar plan to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure (employing large numbers of workers in the process).
Eighteen months into his administration, no credible proposal for anything near that scale has been made. To the extent that the Trump administration has a plan at all for public investment, it involves pumping up Pentagon spending, not investing in roads, bridges, transportation, better Internet access, or other pressing needs of the civilian economy.
Not that President Trump hasn’t talked about investing in infrastructure. Last February, he even proposed a scheme that, he claimed, would boost the country’s infrastructure with $1.5 trillion in spending over the next decade. With a typical dose of hyperbole, he described it as “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.”
Analysts from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania — Trump’s alma mater — beg to differ. They note that the plan actually involves only $200 billion in direct federal investment, less than one-seventh of the total promised. According to Wharton’s experts, much of the extra spending, supposedly leveraged from the private sector as well as state and local governments, will never materialize.
In addition, were such a plan launched, it would, they suggest, fall short of its goal by a cool trillion dollars. In the end, the spending levels Trump is proposing would have “little to no impact” on the nation’s gross domestic product. To add insult to injury, the president has exerted next to no effort to get even this anemic proposal through Congress, where it’s now dead in the water.
There is, however, one area of federal investment on which Trump and the Congress have worked overtime with remarkable unanimity to increase spending: the Pentagon, which is slated to receive more than $6 trillion over the next decade.
This year alone, increases will bring total spending on the Pentagon and related agencies (like the Department of Energy where work on nuclear warheads takes place) to $716 billion. That $6-trillion, 10-year figure represents more than 30 times as much direct spending as the president’s $200 billion infrastructure plan.
In reality, Pentagon spending is the Trump administration’s substitute for a true infrastructure program and it’s guaranteed to deliver public investments, but neglect just about every area of greatest civilian need from roads to water treatment facilities.
The Pentagon’s Covert Industrial Policy
One reason the Trump administration has chosen to pump money into the Pentagon is that it’s the path of least political resistance in Washington. A combination of fear, ideology, and influence peddling radically skews “debate” there in favor of military outlays above all else.
Fear — whether of terrorism, Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea — provides one pillar of support for the habitual overfunding of the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state (which in these years has had a combined trillion-dollarannual budget). In addition, it’s generally accepted in Washington that being tagged “soft on defense” is the equivalent of political suicide, particularly for Democrats.
Add to that the millions of dollars spent by the weapons industry on lobbying and campaign contributions, its routine practice of hiring former Pentagon and military officials, and the way it strategically places defense-related jobs in key states and districts, and it’s easy to see how the president and Congress might turn to arms spending as the basis for a covert industrial policy.
The Trump plan builds on the Pentagon’s already prominent role in the economy. By now, it’s the largest landowner in the country, the biggestinstitutional consumer of fossil fuels, the most significant source of funds for advanced government research and development, and a major investor in the manufacturing sector. As it happens, though, expanding the Pentagon’s economic role is the least efficient way to boost jobs, innovation, and economic growth.
Unfortunately, there is no organized lobby or accepted bipartisan rationale for domestic funding that can come close to matching the levers of influence that the Pentagon and the arms industry have at their command. This only increases the difficulty Congress has when it comes to investing in infrastructure, clean energy, education, or other direct paths toward increasing employment and economic growth.
Former congressman Barney Frank once labeled the penchant for using the Pentagon as the government’s main economic tool “weaponized Keynesianism” after economist John Maynard Keynes’s theory that government spending should pick up the slack in investment when private-sector spending is insufficient to support full employment.
Currently, of course, the official unemployment rate is low by historical standards. However, key localities and constituencies, including the industrial Midwest, rural areas, and urban ones with significant numbers of black and Hispanic workers, have largely been left behind.
In addition, millions of “discouraged workers” who want a job but have given up actively looking for one aren’t even counted in the official unemployment figures, wage growth has been stagnant for years, and the inequality gap between the 1% and the rest of America is already in Gilded Age territory.
Such economic distress was crucial to Donald Trump’s rise to power. In campaign 2016, of course, he endlessly denounced unfair trade agreements, immigrants, and corporate flight as key factors in the plight of what became a significant part of his political base: downwardly mobile and displaced industrial workers (or those who feared that this might be their future fate).
The Trump Difference
Although insufficient, increases in defense manufacturing and construction can help areas where employment in civilian manufacturing has been lagging. Even as it’s expanded, however, defense spending has come to play an ever-smaller role in the US economy, falling from 8%-10% of the gross domestic product in the 1950s and 1960s to under 4% today.
Still, it remains crucial to the economic base in defense-dependent locales like southern California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington state. Such places, in turn, play an outsized political role in Washington because their congressional representatives tend to cluster on the armed services, defense appropriations, and other key committees, and because of their significance on the electoral map.
A long-awaited Trump administration “defense industrial base” study should be considered a tip-off that the president and his key officials see Pentagon spending as the way to economincally prime the pump. Note, as a start, that the study was overseen not by a defense official but by the president’s economics and trade czar, Peter Navarro, whose formal title is White House director of trade and industrial policy. A main aim of the study is to find a way to bolster smaller defense firms that subcontract to giants like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin.
Although Trump touted the study as a way to “rebuild” the US military when he ordered it in May 2017, economic motives were clearly a crucial factor. Navarro typically cited the importance of a “healthy, growing economy and a resilient industrial base,” identifying weapons spending as a key element in achieving such goals.
The CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, one of the defense lobby’s most powerful trade groups, underscored Navarro’s point when, in July 2017, he insisted that “our industry’s contributions to US national security and economic well-being can’t be taken for granted.” (He failed to explain how an industry that absorbs more than $300 billion per year in Pentagon contracts could ever be “taken for granted.”)
Trump’s defense-industrial-base policy tracks closely with proposals put forward by Daniel Goure of the military-contractor-funded Lexington Institute in a December 2016 article titled “How Trump Can Invest in Infrastructure and Make America Great Again.” Goure’s main point: that Trump should make military investments — like building naval shipyards and ammunition plants — part and parcel of his infrastructure plan. In doing so, he caught the essence of the arms industry’s case regarding the salutary effects of defense spending on the economy:
“Every major military activity, whether production of a new weapons system, sustainment of an existing one or support for the troops, is imbedded in a web of economic activities and supports an array of businesses. These include not only major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, but a host of middle-tier and even mom-and-pop businesses. Money spent at the top ripples through the economy. Most of it is spent not on unique defense items, but on products and services that have commercial markets too.”
What Goure’s analysis neglects, however, is not just that every government investment stimulates multiple sectors of the economy, but that virtually any other kind would have a greater ripple effect on employment and economic growth than military spending does. Underwritten by the defense industry, his analysis is yet another example of how the arms lobby has distorted economic policy and debate in this country.
These days, it seems as if there’s nothing the military won’t get involved in. Take another recent set of “security” expenditures in what has already become a billion-dollar-plus business: building and maintaining detention centers for children, mainly unaccompanied minors from Central America, caught up in the Trump administration’s brutal security crackdown on the US-Mexico border.
One company, Southwest Key, has already received a $955 million government contract to work on such facilities. Among the other beneficiaries is the major defense contractor General Dynamics, normally known for making tanks, ballistic-missile-firing submarines, and the like, not ordinarily ideal qualifications for taking care of children.
Last but not least, President Trump has worked overtime to tout his promotion of US arms sales as a jobs program. In a May 2018 meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House (with reporters in attendance), he typically brandished a map that laid out just where US jobs from Saudi arms sales would be located.
Not coincidentally, many of them would be in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida that had provided him with his margin of victory in the 2016 elections. Trump had already crowed about such Saudi deals as a source of “jobs, jobs, jobs” during his May 2017 visit to Riyadh, that country’s capital. And he claimed on one occasion — against all evidence — that his deals with the Saudi regime for arms and other equipment could create “millions of jobs.”
The Trump administration’s decision to blatantly put jobs and economic benefits for US corporations above human rights considerations and strategic concerns is likely to have disastrous consequences. Its continued sales of bombs and other weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for example, allows them to go on prosecuting a brutal war in Yemen that has already killed thousands of civilians and put millions more at risk of death from famine and disease.
In addition to being morally reprehensible, such an approach could turn untold numbers of Yemenis and others across the Middle East into US enemies — a high price to pay for a few thousand jobs in the arms sector.
Pentagon Spending Versus a Real Infrastructure Plan
While the Trump administration’s Pentagon spending will infuse new money into the economy, it’s certainly a misguided way to spur economic growth. As University of Massachusetts economist Heidi Garrett-Peltier has demonstrated, when it comes to creating jobs, military spending lags far behind investment in civilian infrastructure, clean energy, health care, or education. Nonetheless, the administration is moving full speed ahead with its military-driven planning.
In addition, Trump’s approach will prove hopeless when it comes to addressing the fast-multiplying problems of the country’s ailing infrastructure. The $683 billion extra that the administration proposes putting into Pentagon spending over the next 10 years pales in comparison to the trillions of dollars the American Society of Civil Engineers claims are needed to modernize US infrastructure.
Nor will all of that Pentagon increase even be directed toward construction or manufacturing activities (not to speak of basic infrastructural needs like roads and bridges). A significant chunk of it will, for instance, be dedicated to paying the salaries of the military’s massive cadre of civilian and military personnel or health care and other benefits.
In their study, the civil engineers suggest that failing to engage in a major infrastructure program could cost the economy $4 trillion and 2.5 million jobs by 2025, something no Pentagon pump-priming could begin to offset. In other words, using the Pentagon as America’s main conduit for public investment will prove a woeful approach when it comes to the health of the larger society.
One era in which government spending did directly stimulate increased growth, infrastructural development, and the creation of well-paying jobs was the 1950s, a period for which Donald Trump is visibly nostalgic.
For him, those years were evidently the last in which America was truly “great.” Many things were deeply wrong with the country in the fifties — from rampant racism, sexism, and the denial of basic human rights to McCarthyite witch hunts — but on the economic front the government did indeed play a positive role.
In those years, public investment went far beyond Pentagon spending, which President Dwight Eisenhower (of “military-industrial complex” fame) actually tried to rein in. It was civilian investments — from the G.I. Bill to increased incentives for housing construction to the building of an interstate highway system — that contributed in crucial ways to the economic boom of that era.
Whatever its failures and drawbacks, including the ways in which African-Americans and other minorities were grossly under-represented when it came to sharing the benefits, the Eisenhower investment strategy did boost the overall economy in a fashion the Trump plan never will.
The notion that the Pentagon can play a primary role in boosting employment to any significant degree is largely a myth that serves the needs of the military-industrial complex, not American workers or Donald Trump’s base.
Until the political gridlock in Washington that prevents large-scale new civilian investments of just about any sort is broken, however, the Pentagon will continue to seem like the only game in town. And we will all pay a price for those skewed priorities, in both blood and treasure.
William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Follow TomDispatch on Twitter Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, and John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands.
Copyright 2018 William D. Hartung
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Plague Of Military Keynesianism
And The Obsolescence Of War It’s become obsolete,
the days of conquest are behind us,
yet the military-industrial complex grinds on all the same Tom Streithorst / The American Conservative
(July 19, 2018) — America spends more on its military than all its enemies put together yet it still can’t win wars. Failed adventures in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan have drained America’s power and diminished its prestige. The bloated Pentagon budget actually makes us weaker.
Here’s the weird bit: nobody seems to care. If any other government department spent as much and accomplished as little, the populace would be in arms, complaining about wasteful government spending. Instead we mumble “Thank you for your service” and increase defense appropriations.
War has always been brutal and destructive, but once upon a time it had a purpose. William of Normandy invaded Britain knowing victory would make him rich beyond dreams of avarice. Soldiers followed Genghis Khan, Hernan Cortes, and Napoleon Bonaparte for the opportunity to steal gold, land, or slaves from their defeated enemies. Loot captured in war could transform a man’s life, give him the money he needed to buy land or start a business.
For thousands of years, the opportunities inherent in battle gave many men their only chance to escape their impoverished origins. Success in war could turn a brigand into a king.
At least in the developed West, conquest is profitable no more. This has been true for over a century. Back in 1910, Norman Angell wrote “The Great Illusion,” a pamphlet proclaiming that war was obsolete. He noted that the intertwined nature of the global economy made war almost as destructive to the victor as the vanquished.
Should they go to war, Angell observed, Germany and England would be slaughtering potential clients, not capturing prospective slaves. And victory in the Franco-Prussian War hadn’t made Germany richer: “When Germany annexed Alsatia, no individual German secured Alsatian property as the spoils of war.”
Angell decided that since war was no longer cost effective, it was obsolete. Of course, World War I proved him wrong and generations of history teachers have mocked his mistimed prophecy. But maybe he was just ahead of the curve. Today, for America, war is nothing but expensive spectacle.
A few months ago, the United States government determined that Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons on his own citizens. That is a war crime, so pundits clamored for a response. Several days later, the United States, Britain, and France launched airstrikes against regime targets, firing 105 missiles.
A Tomahawk cruise missile costs almost $2 million, which suggests the expense of the entire operation was probably north of $250 million. It’s hard to believe the Syrian infrastructure we blew up cost nearly as much.
The effect of the well-publicized strike has been negligible. Most likely, that was intentional. Assad is closer than ever to winning the war in Syria so encouraging the rebels would do nothing but prolong the agony. In order to forestall escalation, we gave enough warning to Russia and Iran to get their men out of the way.
The purpose of the strike wasn’t to make a difference on the battlefield, but to “send a message.” We spent a quarter of a billion dollars, blew up some buildings, killed a handful of soldiers, accomplished nothing, and most journalists applauded.
The firepower contained in those multimillion-dollar missiles would have crushed the Carthaginians at Cannae, wiped out Wellington at Waterloo and smashed the Soviets at Stalingrad, but today all they did was generate a few headlines, which by now everyone has forgotten. It all seems pointless, stupid. Do we really spend trillions of dollars just so our leaders can posture and armchair warriors can feel butch?
Maybe there’s a better explanation.
Maybe the extravagant expense of the Pentagon budget is a feature, not a bug. Maybe no one objects when we spend a quarter of a billion dollars ineffectually bombing Syria or several trillion ineffectually invading Iraq because these days war profiteers make their money not by looting their enemies’ cities, stealing their land, and selling their women into slavery, but from their own governments’ spending.
My own life confirms this intuition. The invasion of Iraq has been a disaster for the United States, for the Middle East, and for the long-suffering people of Iraq, but for many of us, it was a cash cow. For a decade, I earned a solid middle-class living working just four months a year as a news cameraman in Iraq. The war on terror bought me my house.
Thousands of Americans (perhaps not coincidentally mostly from red states) worked as contractors for the US military and pulled down salaries much higher than they would have earned in the private sector back home. A truck driver from Mississippi made over $100,000-a-year hauling in supplies from Kuwait. It is shocking how little of the money America spent in that misbegotten conflict ever trickled into the Iraqi economy.
Had our goal been to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis (or even to steal their oil), we would have hired locals to drive the trucks instead of Americans and thus garnered their loyalty. Remember, Saddam Hussein was not popular in 2003, and at least at first, Iraqis were open-minded about the American invasion.
By shoveling money towards ordinary Iraqi citizens, America would have created a local constituency with solid financial reasons to support the occupation. Instead, Iraqis saw little benefit as the trillions spent on the war went straight into American pockets. The Iraqi economy was destroyed between 2003 and 2008. Halliburton’s stock price quintupled.
The Pentagon budget creates jobs in almost every congressional district, giving congressmen solid reasons to support budget increases. Military Keynesianism is the only fiscal stimulus habitually favored by both Democrats and Republicans.
Today the primary purpose of the military is not to win wars but to stimulate the domestic economy and make our leaders look manly. These are pathetic reasons to put our sons and daughters into harm’s way, not to mention slaughter the children of strangers.
Don’t get me wrong: I have huge respect for American soldiers. The military may well be the most meritocratic and least racist large institution in America today. In fixed battle, our soldiers (and their awesome firepower) almost always emerge victorious. There is truth in the jarhead saying “Marines win battles. Politicians lose wars.”
But victory in war doesn’t consist of killing lots of enemy soldiers; it lies in bending their leaders to our will, and that we have not achieved since 1945. Even the bloodthirstiest among us cannot think the wars of the past 50 years have made America stronger.
America doesn’t need a huge army. With Canada to the north, Mexico to the south, and oceans east and west, the United States is more geographically secure than any nation in history. Britain defeated Hitler because it is an island. Russia defeated Hitler because it is a continent. America is both. Our enormous military is unnecessary to protect our homeland.
If we need to stimulate the economy, we can do it better by investing in infrastructure, education, or providing a better safety net. We certainly don’t need a huge military so that our leaders can posture and Beltway strategists can feel macho. War doesn’t make sense anymore. It is time we recognized that. War in America today is nothing but a sorry combination of show business and fiscal stimulus. No wonder we can’t seem to win.
Tom Streithorst covered the Iraq war as a cameraman for Fox News. These days he writes about economics and foreign policy.
(July 9, 2018) — The upcoming summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is an overdue opportunity for the American president’s next bold peace initiative. It is time for the US to stop its wasteful wars, and Russia can be a constructive partner to this end.
The mainstream press on both sides of the Atlantic will howl against any agreement between Trump and Putin — no matter what’s in it. So why not take steps that the American public will instinctively understand and that will provide the support for Trump to end America’s failed interventions?
Besides what are his opponents going to do? Vilify him for seeking peace and starting the process of healing the many wounds of the wars? The American people are not fooled by false claims that Trump is soft on terrorism; they are aware that US military interventions oftentimes can — and do — fuel terrorism.
President Trump should propose a drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan in exchange for a drawdown of Russian troops in Syria (along with a pledge that America has no interest in reengaging in the Syrian Civil War). This would be consistent with Trump’s oft-stated observation that America’s wars (declared and undeclared) in the Middle East have been a waste.
Trump need not “recognize” the Russian annexation of Crimea but he should assert that a resolution to the situation on the ground in Ukraine is a European matter — to be settled by bilateral negotiations between Russia and Europe.
Understanding of this magnitude would obviate the main pretext for the senseless escalation of pecuniary diplomatic sanctions — the defenestration of embassy and consulate staff — on the parts of both Russia and the United States.
The return of the possibility of civilian travel between the two nations would do wonders to lower tensions. (Remember, even at the height of the Cold War, President Eisenhower argued that populations denied contact with each other would tend to be suspicious of each other — and prone to minor conflicts that could escalate into larger wars.)
The American public is not interested in diplomatic and media theater. They know two things to be true: the failing “Trump-Russia collusion” hysteria is proving baseless (and distracting from concerns over economic growth and jobs); and whatever America’s international security interests are in the Middle East, we are all better protected with allies that face similar threats.
Russia has more reason to be concerned over Islamic terrorism than America. Their southern border touches on several Islamic countries: Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan.
The instability created by America’s misguided military adventures has, for years, been unsettling to Russia. According to a friend who has long studied Russia, America’s post-Cold War military aggression, starting in the Balkans, began the ascension to power of Russian military hardliners who were skeptical of America’s intentions for peace.
Russia has a significantly better understanding of and influence over most of those countries, including Iran. America’s relationship with Iran has long been hostile due to years of interference and mistreatment. The relationship was seriously complicated in 1953 when our CIA and British intelligence overthrew their democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and placed the brutal Shah in power. The Washington keyboard warriors never mention this sad chapter in our history. Imagine how we would feel towards a country that interfered with us to that extent.
How much smarter would it be for Russia to work with its neighbor Iran to limit the civil war in Yemen, than for America to continue to provide military support to Saudi Arabia to perpetuate a colossal human tragedy?
The naysayers ridiculed Trump’s peace initiative with North Korea, and yet his denuclearization and pacification of the Korean Peninsula advances (in contrast to the efforts of four previous American presidential administrations). Given that Trump and Kim could sit together, what stands in the way of progress with Putin?
The past year and a half of Russophobia have been driven by the “bitter clingers” of Hillary’s failed national political ambitions, the military-industrial complex, corporate interests, corporate media, the Washington/New York/Hollywood commentariat, and foreign lobbyists. Too many of them profit from an endless state of war — throughout the world and, in particular, with Russia.
Washington and its clients are terrified that the war gravy train will be slowed or stopped. Our NATO clients are afraid of carrying their own national defense burdens. Washington neocons are perfectly willing to continue to waste the lives of our devoted military to protect both their funding and a world order that the West’s victory in the Cold War has rendered moot.
Again, the American people share no such delusions and are overwhelmingly tired of the wars they cannot explain or even locate on a globe. These wars have damaged and destroyed American families. War proponents’ repeated incantations about “supporting the troops” instead of keeping them home to protect their families and our country has worn thin.
We hear stories about parents being separated from their children at our borders, but not a peep about the American children being separated from their soldier parents and parents being separated from their soldier sons and daughters abroad.
The July 16 Trump-Putin summit is an opportunity for the president to act boldly in the face of near-total establishment opposition and work to bring peace to a war-weary world. If he works to reduce America’s involvement in its wars, the Russo-American disagreements will fade.
George D. O’Neill, Jr., an artist, is the founder of The Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy and a board member of The American Ideas Institute, the parent of The American Conservative.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
NATO: The Unexamined Alliance Conn Hallinan / Dispatches from the Edge & The Berkeley Daily Planet
(July 24, 2018) — The outcome of the July11-12 NATO meeting in Brussels got lost amid the media’s obsession with President Donald Trump’s bombast, but the “Summit Declaration” makes for sober reading. The media reported that the 28-page document “upgraded military readiness,” and was “harshly critical of Russia,” but there was not much detail beyond that.
But details matter, because that is where the Devil hides.
One such detail is NATO’s “Readiness Initiative” that will beef up naval, air and ground forces in “the eastern portion of the Alliance.” NATO is moving to base troops in Latvia, Estonia Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Poland. Since Georgia and Ukraine have been invited to join the Alliance, some of those forces could end up deployed on Moscow’s western and southern borders.
And that should give us pause.
A recent European Leadership’s Network’s (ELN) study titled “Envisioning a Russia-NATO Conflict” concludes, “The current Russia-NATO deterrence relationship is unstable and dangerously so.” The ELN is an independent think tank of military, diplomatic and political leaders that fosters “collaborative” solutions to defense and security issues.
High on the study’s list of dangers is “inadvertent conflict,” which ELN concludes “may be the most likely scenario for a breakout” of hostilities. “The close proximity of Russian and NATO forces” is a major concern, argues the study, “but also the fact that Russia and NATO have been adapting their military postures towards early reaction, thus making rapid escalation more likely to happen.”
With armed forces nose-to-nose, “a passage from crisis to conflict might be sparked by the actions of regional commanders or military commanders at local levels or come as a consequence of an unexpected incident or accident.” A
ccording to the European Leadership Council, there have been more than 60 such incidents in the last year.
The NATO document is, indeed, hard on Russia, which it blasts for the “illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea,” its “provocative military activities, including near NATO borders,” and its “significant investments in the modernization of its strategic [nuclear] forces.”
Unpacking all that requires a little history, not the media’s strong suit.
The story goes back more than three decades to the fall of the Berlin Wall and eventual re-unification of Germany. At the time, the Soviet Union had some 380,000 troops in what was then the German Democratic Republic. Those forces were there as part of the treaty ending World War II, and the Soviets were concerned that removing them could end up threatening the USSR’s borders. The Russians have been invaded — at terrible cost — three times in a little more than a century.
So West German Chancellor Helmet Kohl, US Secretary of State James Baker, and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev cut a deal. The Soviets agreed to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe as long as NATO did not fill the vacuum, or recruit members of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact. Baker promised Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch east.”
The agreement was never written down, but it was followed in practice. NATO stayed west of the Oder and Neisse rivers, and Soviet troops returned to Russia. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991.
But President Bill Clinton blew that all up in 1999 when the US and NATO intervened in the civil war between Serbs and Albanians over the Serbian province of Kosovo. Behind the new American doctrine of “responsibility to protect,” NATO opened a massive 11-week bombing campaign against Serbia.
From Moscow’s point of view the war was unnecessary. The Serbs were willing to withdraw their troops and restore Kosovo’s autonomous status. But NATO demanded a large occupation force that would be immune from Serbian law, something the nationalist-minded Serbs would never agree to. It was virtually the same provocative language the Austrian-Hungarian Empire had presented to the Serbs in 1914, language that set off World War I.
In the end, NATO lopped off part of Serbia to create Kosovo and re-drew the post World War II map of Europe, exactly what the Alliance charges that Russia has done with its seizure of the Crimea.
But NATO did not stop there. In 1999 the Alliance recruited former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, adding Bulgaria and Romania four years later.
By the end of 2004, Moscow was confronted with NATO in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to the north, Poland to the west, and Bulgaria and Turkey to the south. Since then, the Alliance has added Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. It has invited Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to apply as well.
When the NATO document chastises Russia for “provocative” military activities near the NATO border, it is referring to maneuvers within its own border or one of its few allies, Belarus.
As author and foreign policy analyst Anatol Lieven points out, “Even a child” can look at a 1988 map of Europe and see “which side has advanced in which direction.”
NATO also accuses Russia of “continuing a military buildup in Crimea,” without a hint that those actions might be in response to what the Alliance document calls its “substantial increase in NATO’s presence and maritime activity in the Black Sea.” Russia’s largest naval port on the Black Sea is Sevastopol in the Crimea.
One does not expect even-handedness in such a document, but there are disconnects in this one that are worrisome.
Yes, the Russians are modernizing their nuclear forces, but the Obama administration was first out of that gate in 2009 with its $1.5 trillion program to upgrade the US’s nuclear weapons systems. Both programs are a bad idea.
Some of the document’s language about Russia is aimed at loosening purse strings at home. NATO members agreed to cough up more money, but that decision preceded Trump’s Brussels tantrum on spending.
There is some wishful thinking on Afghanistan — “Our Resolute Support Mission is achieving success” — when in fact things have seldom been worse. There are vague references to the Middle East and North Africa, nothing specific, but a reminder that NATO is no longer confining its mission to what it was supposedly set up to do: Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.
The Americans are still in — one should take Trump’s threat of withdrawal with a boulder size piece of salt — there is no serious evidence the Russians ever planned to come in, and the Germans have been up since they joined NATO in 1955. Indeed, it was the addition of Germany that sparked the formation of the Warsaw Pact.
While Moscow is depicted as an aggressive adversary, NATO surrounds Russia on three sides, has deployed anti-missile systems in Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the Black Sea, and has a 12 to 1 advantage in military spending. With opposing forces now toe-to-toe, it would not take much to set off a chain reaction that could end in a nuclear exchange.
Yet instead of inviting a dialogue, the document boasts that the Alliance has “suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia.”
The solution seems obvious. First, a return to the 1998 military deployment. While it is unlikely that former members of the Warsaw Pact would drop their NATO membership, a withdrawal of non-national troops from NATO members that border Russia would cool things off.
Second, the removal of anti-missile systems that should never have been deployed in the first place. In turn, Russia could remove the middle range Iskander missiles NATO is complaining about and agree to talks aimed at reducing nuclear stockpiles.
But long range, it is finally time to re-think alliances. NATO was a child of the Cold War, when the West believed that the Soviets were a threat. But Russia today is not the Soviet Union, and there is no way Moscow would be stupid enough to attack a superior military force. It is time NATO went the way of the Warsaw Pact and recognize that the old ways of thinking are not only outdated but also dangerous.
Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries,wordpress.com
(May 4, 2016) — “Aggressive,” “revanchist,” “swaggering”: These are just some of the adjectives the mainstream press and leading US and European political figures are routinely inserting before the words “Russia,” or “Vladimir Putin.” It is a vocabulary most Americans have not seen or heard since the height of the Cold War.
The question is, why?
Is Russia really a military threat to the United States and its neighbors? Is it seriously trying to “revenge” itself for the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union? Is it actively trying to rebuild the old Soviet empire? The answers to these questions are critical, because, for the first time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, several nuclear-armed powers are on the edge of a military conflict with fewer safeguards than existed 50 years ago.
Consider the following events:
* NATO member Turkey shoots down a Russian warplane.
* Russian fighter-bombers come within 30 feet of a US guided missile destroyer, and a Russian fighter does a barrel roll over a US surveillance plane. Several US Senators call for a military response to such encounters in the future.
* NATO and the US begin deploying three combat brigades — about 14,000 troops and their equipment — in several countries that border Russia, and Washington has more than quadrupled its military spending in the region.
* US State Department officials accuse Russia of “dismantling” arms control agreements, while Moscow charges that Washington is pursuing several destabilizing weapons programs.
* Both NATO and the Russians have carried out large war games on one another’s borders and plan more in the future, in spite of the fact that the highly respected European Leadership Network (ELN) warns that the maneuvers are creating “mistrust.”
In the scary aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis, the major nuclear powers established some ground rules to avoid the possibility of nuclear war, including the so-called “hot line” between Washington and Moscow. But, as the threat of a nuclear holocaust faded, many of those safeguards have been allowed to lapse, creating what the ELN calls a “dangerous situation.”
According to a recent report by the ELN, since March of last year there have been over 60 incidents that had “the potential to trigger a major crisis between a nuclear armed state and a nuclear armed alliance.” The report warns that, “There is today no agreement between NATO and Russia on how to manage close military encounters.”
Such agreements do exist, but they are bilateral and don’t include most alliance members. Out of 28 NATO members, 11 have memorandums on how to avoid military escalation at sea, but only the US, Canada and Greece have what is called “Preventing Dangerous Military Activities” (DMA) agreements that cover land and air as well. In any case, there are no such agreements with the NATO alliance as a whole.
The lack of such agreements was starkly demonstrated in the encounter between Russian aircraft and the US The incident took place less than 70 miles off Baltiysk, home of Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet, and led to an alarming exchange in the Senate Armed Services Committee among Republican John McCain, Democrat Joe Donnelly, and US Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, soon to assume command of US forces in Europe.
McCain: “This may sound a little tough, but should we make an announcement to the Russians that if they place the men and women on board Navy ships in danger, that we will take appropriate action?”
Scaparrotti: “That should be known, yes.”
Donnelly: “Is there a point . . . where we tell them in advance enough, the next time it doesn’t end well for you?”
Scaparrotti: “We should engage them and make clear what is acceptable. Once we make that known we have to enforce it.”
For the Americans, the Russian flyby was “aggressive.” For the Russians, US military forces getting within spitting range of their Baltic Fleet is the very definition of “aggressive.” What if someone on the destroyer panicked and shot down the plane? Would the Russians have responded with an anti-ship missile? Would the US have retaliated and invoked Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, bringing the other 27 members into the fray?
Faced by the combined power of NATO, would the Russians — feeling their survival at stake — consider using a short-range nuclear weapon? Would the US then attempt to take out Moscow’s nuclear missiles with its new hypersonic glide vehicle? Would that, in turn, kick in the chilling logic of thermonuclear war: use your nukes or lose them?
Far-fetched? Unfortunately, not at all. The world came within minutes of a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis and, as researcher Eric Schlosser demonstrated in his book “Command and Control,” the US came distressingly close at least twice more by accident.
One of the problems about nuclear war is that it is almost impossible to envision. The destructive powers of today’s weapons have nothing in common with the tiny bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so experience is not much of a guide. Suffice it to say that just a small portion of world’s nukes would end civilization as we know it, and a general exchange could possibly extinguish human life.
With such an outcome at least in the realm of possibility, it becomes essential to step back and try to see the world through another’s eyes.
Is Russia really a danger to the US and its neighbors? NATO points to Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia and its 2014 intervention in eastern Ukraine as examples of “Russian aggression.”
But from Moscow, the view is very different.
In 1990, US Secretary of State James Baker and German Chancellor Helmet Kohl pledged to then Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move eastward, nor recruit former members of the East bloc military alliance, the Warsaw Pact.
By 1995, NATO had enlisted Pact members Romania, Hungry, Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and signed on Montenegro this year. Georgia is currently being considered, and there is a push to bring Ukraine aboard. From Moscow’s perspective NATO is not only moving east, but encircling Russia.
“I don’t think many people understand the visceral way Russia views NATO and the European Union as an existential threat,” says US Admiral Mark Ferguson, commander of US naval forces in Europe.
Most NATO members have no interest in starting a fight with Russia, but others sound like they think it wouldn’t be a bad idea. On April 15, Witold Waszczykowski, the foreign minister of Poland’s rightwing government, told reporters that Russia is “more dangerous than the Islamic State,” because Moscow is an “existential threat to Europe.” The minister made his comments at a NATO conference discussing the deployment of a US armored brigade on Poland’s eastern border.
Is Russia reneging on arms control agreements? The charge springs from the fact that Moscow has refused to consider cutting more of its nuclear weapons, is boycotting nuclear talks, deploying intermediate range nuclear missiles, and backing off a conventional weapons agreement. But again, Moscow sees all that very differently.
From Moscow’s point of view, the US is continuing to spread its network of anti-missile systems in Europe and Asia, which the Russians see as a threat to their nuclear force (as does China). And as far as “reneging” goes, it was the US that dumped the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, not Russia,
The US is also pouring billions of dollars into “modernizing” its nuclear weapons. It also proposes using ICBMs to carry conventional warheads (if you see one coming, how do you know it’s not a nuke?), and is planning to deploy high velocity glide vehicles that will allow the US to strike targets worldwide with devastating accuracy. And since NATO is beefing up its forces and marching east, why should the Russians tie themselves to a conventional weapons treaty?
What about Russia’s seizure of the Crimea? According to the US State Department, redrawing European boundaries is not acceptable in the 21st century — unless you are Kosovo breaking away from Serbia under an umbrella of NATO air power, in which case it’s fine. Residents of both regions voted overwhelmingly to secede.
Georgia? The Georgians stupidly started it.
But if Russia is not a threat, then why the campaign of vilification, the damaging economic sanctions, and the provocative military actions?
First, it is the silly season — American elections — and bear baiting is an easy way to look “tough.” It is also a tried and true tactic of the US armaments industry to keep their production lines humming and their bottom lines rising. The Islamic State is scary but you don’t need big-ticket weapons systems to fight it. The $1.5 trillion F-35s are for the Russkies, not terrorists.
There are also those who still dream of regime change in Russia. Certainly that was in the minds of the neo-cons when they used The National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House to engineer — at the cost of $5 billion — the coup that toppled Ukraine into NATO’s camp. The New American Century gang and their think tanks — who brought you Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria — would to leverage Russia out of Central Asia.
The most frightening aspect of current East-West tension is that there is virtually no discussion of the subject, and when there is it consists largely of distorted history and gratuitous insults. Vladimir Putin might not be a nice guy, but the evidence he is trying to re-establish some Russian empire, and is a threat to his neighbors or the US, is thin to non-existent. His 2014 speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club is more common sense than bombast.
Expansionist? Russia has two bases in the Middle East and a handful in Central Asia. The US has 662 bases around the world and Special Forces (SOF) deployed in between 70 and 90 countries at any moment. Last year SOFs were active in 147 countries. The US is actively engaged in five wars and is considering a sixth in Libya. Russian military spending will fall next year, and the US will out-spend Moscow by a factor of 10. Who in this comparison looks threatening?
There are a number of areas where cooperation with Russia could pay dividends. Without Moscow there would be no nuclear agreement with Iran, and the Russians can play a valuable role in resolving the Syrian civil war. That, in turn, would have a dramatic effect on the numbers of migrants trying to crowd into Europe.
Instead, an April 20 meeting between NATO ministers and Russia ended in “profound disagreements” according to alliance head Jens Stoltenberg. Russian ambassador to NATO, Alexander Garushko said that the continued deployment of armed forces on its borders makes it impossible to have a “meaningful dialogue.”
We are baiting the bear, not a sport that ever ends well.
The current Russia-NATO deterrence relationship is unstable, and dangerously so. Part of the problem is the deterrence and defence postures, which have been developed by Russia and NATO. While they are meant to prevent war, some elements in the deterrence postures currently make this adversarial relationship unnecessarily prone to crises:
* Russia’s “integrated strategic deterrence” envisages taking significant pre-emptive actions in all domains with an aim of dominating the early stages of any conflict. Russia seems to rely on creating a sense of unpredictability, and on keeping the opponent off-balance through statements and actions that come across as assertive or aggressive.
* NATO’s “modern deterrence” remains work in progress. As a consequence, NATO’s posture remains torn between the aspiration of projecting restraint and the concern that the current posture is too weak to deter Russia. That results in an often-confusing deterrence signalling.
* The negative ‘interplay’ between the two deterrence concepts and postures and the danger of misunderstanding the other side’s deterrence signalling can cause rapid and uncontrollable escalation during a Russia-NATO crisis.
* The Russia – NATO deterrence relationship is at an in ection point. Between 2014 and 2018, both sides focused their attention on demonstrating their deterrence resolve and improving their ability to defend against an attack. They should now focus on making their existing deterrence postures fail-safe against the risks of incidents, accidents and inadvertent con ict in two areas:
1. Addressing the perceived hostile intentions and minimising the likelihood of military coercion or surprise attack.
* Russia should review its current deterrence posture, initiate early practical changes towards a less destabilising posture.
* At the July Summit, NATO should launch a review to assess the effectiveness of its existing deterrence posture and inform any further decisions about its modification.
* Both sides should work to re-introduce restraint into conventional deterrence postures through reviving the restraint pledges made in the 1990s, developing additional measures of restraint, and utilizing better the existing toolbox of con dence-building measures.
* Both sides should avoid increasing the role of nuclear forces in their deterrence postures.
* Both sides need to minimise the risk of cross-domain escalation from cyber and space operations.
2. Creating space for crisis management diplomacy and avoiding rapid escalation.
* Both sides should build crisis-management procedures into their deterrence postures. The need for rapid reaction cannot become an over-riding imperative for Russia and NATO.
* Russia and NATO ought to maintain multiple channels for routine and crisis communication. Effective crisis management cannot depend on the NATO-Russia Council in its present shape, nor on ad hoc emergency communication channels.
The current relationship is unstable, and dangerously so. Part of the problem is the deterrence and defence constructs which have been developed by Russia and NATO. This paper offers ways to minimize the risk factors and modify the postures in order to move the two sides towards a more stable deterrence relationship.1
Russia and NATO maintain deterrence postures to prevent the other side from initiating moves that could lead to a direct conflict. In case deterrence fails, these postures enable the conduct of defensive and offensive operations. At its core, a deterrence posture is about convincing the other side that taking an aggressive course of action would result in an unacceptable outcome. Deterrence is supposed to prevent war.
However, as the report will show, there are elements in the deterrence posture of Russia, but also of NATO, which currently make this adversarial relationship unnecessarily unstable and prone to sudden and acute crises. Some of these features were introduced into the postures by design, some appear to be a by-product of the developments of recent years. The presence of these elements creates friction which can make a Russia-NATO clash more likely. They also hinder the opportunities for a meaningful dialogue on crisis management and de-escalation.
Even though this report looks at both postures, the basic asymmetry of making comparisons involving Russia and NATO needs to be highlighted. At the political level, they subscribe to different values and norms of international behaviour. At the practical level, Russia is a single entity with considerable freedom of manoeuvre.
NATO is a collective alliance of sovereign member states governed by consensus, grouping countries with different strategic cultures and interests. These differences have implications for all levels of NATO’s and Russia’s deterrence constructs from formulating policy goals, through decision- making procedures and force disposition, to the practical ability to move forces.
Another fundamental problem is the difficulty of assessing what credible deterrence really means. The judgment here depends not only on the military means and force ratios but also on the perceptions of those doing the deterring, and those who are to be deterred.
The inevitable differences in perception by either side of what is credible or not result in an endless search for enhanced security. It is this dynamic of deterrence relationship and differences in perception that this report aims to identify and make better understood.
* Some may argue that Russia alone is the source of instability in the current standoff as it is deliberately using a range of instruments which increase the danger of a conflict. According to this logic, there is no Russia- NATO deterrence instability problem, just a problem with Russia. This report treats such arguments seriously.
It does not suggest NATO and Russia are both to be blamed for the present situation. It identifies the Russian approach to deterrence as much more dangerous with significantly higher escalation potential. But it argues that both sides would benefit from re-thinking the potentially dangerous elements of their own respective deterrence approaches and their interplay.
* This paper starts by providing a critical assessment of the deterrence thinking and postures of Russia and NATO. It then proceeds to identify areas of friction and sources of instability in the mutual deterrence relationship, focusing on the risks of escalation during a NATO-Russia crisis. Finally, it recommends measures for modifying the deterrence postures of both sides and moving towards a more stable deterrence relationship.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
US House Passes Defense Bill
Restricting Drawdown of Troops in S. Korea Yonhap News Agency
WASHINGTON (July 26, 2018) — The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a defense authorization bill that restricts any drawdown of American troops in South Korea.
The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, which approves US$716 billion for defense in fiscal year 2019, passed the House by a vote of 359-54. Upon Senate approval, it will be sent to US President Donald Trump to sign into law.
The bill notes that about 28,500 American troops are currently stationed in South Korea as a demonstration of the US commitment to the bilateral alliance.
Their “significant removal” is “a non-negotiable item as it relates to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” of North Korea, the bill says under a section describing the Sense of Senate on US military forces on the Korean Peninsula.
In a conference report accompanying the legislation, Congress also prohibits the use of the funds to reduce the troops’ number below 22,000 without certification from the secretary of defense that “such a reduction is in the national security interest of the United States and will not significantly undermine the security of United States allies in the region.”
The defense secretary would also be required to certify that he has “appropriately consulted with allies of the United States, including the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Japan, regarding such a reduction.”
The restriction comes as Trump has repeatedly indicated a willingness to eventually pull out American forces from South Korea. Critics say such a move would play into the hands of China and North Korea, which wish to see US troops removed from near their border.
WASHINGTON, DC (July 26, 2018) — Today, Congressman DeSaulnier (CA-11) released the following statement in response to the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), which passed the US House of Representatives by a vote of 359-to-54.
“The NDAA would give an additional $717 billion to the Department of Defense. For context, that is almost four times the entire budget for the State of California. Instead of giving funding unchecked to the Pentagon, where $125 billion in bureaucratic waste has already been identified, we should be spending on only the essentials while demanding a completed audit.
“I have not voted in favor of any of the annual bills to authorize defense spending and will continue to oppose the measure until the DoD has completed a full audit and I am confident taxpayers’ hard earned money is spent in an open, transparent, and efficient manner that also ensures our troops’ safety.”
Last year, Congressman DeSaulnier authored the Department of Defense Waste Reduction Act (H.R. 2367) to address reckless spending at the Department of Defense (DoD) and prevent it from receiving any additional funding until wasteful spending practices within the Department are addressed.
Yays: 46 Republicans, 38 Democrats, and 1 Independent
Nays: 2 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 1 Independent
Among those Voting Nay: Democrats Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Ron Wyden, Kirsten Gilibrand, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren; Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee. Independent: Bernie Sanders.
Raul Grijalva (AZ 3rd)
Jared Huffman (CA 2nd)
Mike Thompson (CA 5th)
Doris Matsui (CA 6th)
Mark DeCaulnier (CA 11th)
Barbara Lee (CA 13th)
Eric Swalwell (CA 15th)
Ro Khanna (CA 17th)
Anna Eschoo (CA 18th)
Zoe Lofgren (CA 19th)
Judy Chu (CA 27th)
Grace Napolitano (CA 32nd)
Jimmy Gomez (CA 34th)
Karen Bass (CA 37th)
Lindo Sanchez (CA 38th)
Mark Takano (CA 41st)
Maxine Waters (CA 43rd)
Nanette Barragan (CA 44th)
Alan Lowenthal (CA 47th)
Diana DeGette (CO 1st)
Jared Polis (CO 2nd)
Frederica Wilson (FL 24th)
Hank Johnson (GA 4th)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI 2nd)
Luis Guitierrez (IL 4th)
Jan Schakowsky (IL 9th)
John Yamuth (KY 3rd)
Jamie Raskin (MD 8th)
Jim McGovern (MA 2nd)
Joseph Kennedy (MA 4th)
Katherine Clark (MA 5th)
Michael Capuano (MA 7th)
Daniel Kildee (MI 5th)
Keith Ellison (MN 5th)
Richard Nolan (MN 8th)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO 5th)
Frank Pallone (NJ 6th)
Donald Payne (NJ 10th)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ 12th)
Nydia Velazquez (NY 7th)
Hakeem Jerffries (NY 8th)
Yvette Clarke (NY 9th)
Jerrold Nadler (NY 10th)
Carolyn Maloney (NY 12th)
Adriano Espaillat (NY 13th)
Joe Crowley (NY 14th)
Jose Serrano (NY 15th)
Joyce Beatty (OH 3th)
Suzanne Bonamici (OR 1st)
Earl Blumenauer (OR 3rd)
Peter DeFazio (OR 4th)
Mike Doyle (PA 14th)
David Cicilline (RI 1st)
Steve Cohen (TN 9th)
Peter Welch (VT)
Priamila Jayapal (WA 7th)
Mark Pocan (WI 2nd)
Gwen Moore (WI 4th)
Ken Buck (CO 4th)
Thomas Massie *KY 4th)
Raul Labrador (ID 1st)
Justin Amash (MI 3rd)
Walter Jones (NC 3rd)
John Duncan (TN 2nd)
Morgan Griffith (VA 9th)