Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I like Nancy Willing, but I'm not drinking the kool-aid on Obama's military expansion

Delaware Way is one of my daily reads. Even though I don't agree politically with Nancy on a lot of things, she (a) educates me from time to time, and (b) keeps me up to date on what Delaware's progressive brethren and cistern are up to.

That said, I got into the most interesting exchange with her over on Down With Absolutes (and the exchange had little or nothing to do with the overall thread, which is why I'm not continuing it there).

I raised this issue about Senator Obama's position on US military expansion:

Me: "I have read Obama's platform. There you will find his promise to INCREASE the size of the US military. Ask yourself why he would propose that when his first act is supposedly to pull out of Iraq."

Nancy: "We have to increase the military. Obviously. We have destroyed our standing army with constant redeployment, stop loss and demoralizing lack of care upon return (most recently please read about Fort Bragg conditions and last year's George Reed hospital). THIS IS NOT to SAY that pulling out of Iraq will not save us billions and billions of dollars now spent on war profiteers. You are smarter than this, dear. . .
."

Actually, Nancy, it's you who have fallen afoul of talking points rather than evidence. But before we go there, let's visit Senator Obama's web page and pick up two important items: his full policy on the military and then to You-Tube for his endorsement by a bunch of senior generals and admirals:

Building a 21st Century Military

The Problem: The excellence of our military is unmatched. But as a result of a misguided war in Iraq, our forces are under pressure as never before. Obama will make the investments we need so that the finest military in the world is best-prepared to meet 21st-century threats.

Rebuild Trust: Obama will rebuild trust with those who serve by ensuring that soldiers and Marines have sufficient training time before they are sent into battle.

Expand the Military: We have learned from Iraq that our military needs more men and women in uniform to reduce the strain on our active force. Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.

New Capabilities: Obama will give our troops new equipment, armor, training, and skills like language training. He will also strengthen our civilian capacity, so that our civilian agencies have the critical skills and equipment they need to integrate their efforts with our military.

Strengthen Guard and Reserve: Obama will restore the readiness of the National Guard and Reserves. He will permit them adequate time to train and rest between deployments, and provide the National Guard with the equipment they need for foreign and domestic emergencies. He will also give the Guard a seat at the table by making the Chief of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


And. . . .



Now let's break it down for you:

Our standing army (much less our standing armed forces) have not been destroyed by the Iraq and Afghani wars. Stressed yes, because contrary to our military doctrine (adopted during the Clinton years) of "fight one regional war while deterring another," we are attempting to fight two regional wars while deterring two others (Korea and Taiwan). But the problem is not some pie-in-the-sky need for "adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines," which at another point he admits is the manpower necessary for several additional Stryker brigades and a new Marine landing group.

Our real problem in the US military is the severe imbalance created after Desert Storm by the post-Cold-War draw-down. In order to look tough, please various constituencies, and placate a number of senior admirals and generals (as well as defense contractors), we conducted that draw-down by transferring most logistical and support functions from the active-duty components into the Reserves and National Guard. Engineering units, transport units, civil affairs units, water treatment units, things like that. Those are the reservists that have been making two and three tours to Iraq because we don't have sufficient support troops on active duty to fight a prolonged war.

In reality, for what our military should be able to do if we were not pursuing a course of active interventionism around the world, we have at least three too many active divisions, 1 or 2 too many carrier groups (yes, Duffy, I know you disagree with me), and about 400 too many bases in foreign countries (I really think we could get by with, say, 250 foreign bases, don't you?).

There are only two reasons for Senator Obama to take the position he has taken on new troops, new weapons systems, and the National Guard Bureau Chief on the Joint Chiefs:

First and foremost President Obama has absolutely no intention of bringing me any change I can believe in in terms of US military/foreign policy. His prescriptions for increasing the military are prescriptions for better preparing the US military for (a) interventions in foreign countries ala Afghanistan and Iraq; (b) paying off the military/industrial complex for its support of his campaign; and (c) involving the US in additional peace-keeping duties around the world, at least some of which will be under NATO command.

InterventionismThe force balance we currently have (and would expand under his plan) is a force-projection tool. Currently, unless one of our statutory allies is invaded (which has happened exactly one time in the past four decades), the only use for massive force projection is to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, either through direct involvement or our paid mercenary surrogates (Blackwater, MPRI, Airscan, etc.). Obama has said repeatedly that he will not hesitate to go after Al Qaeda bases in foreign countries with our military, and with respect to Iran he has refused to rule out invasion, blockade, or even carpet bombing. This is also the reason we maintain a world-wide infrastructure of hundreds upon hundreds of military bases, and have even (within the past year) organized and opened a military command for future operations in Africa.

Plain and simple: when it comes to military operations and expenditures, would-be President Obama has no intention of changing the imperialistic and interventionist military policy that has existed since the early days of the Cold War. Nor is he looking to spend any less on our steroidal military budget, which already accounts for over half the military spending in the entire world. Read that last sentence again, and let it sink in.

Given his social agenda and his liberal outlook, one would have to ask (as I can find no one doing) why?

Because Senator Obama is paying off his debt to the military-industrial establishment that--like the NRA and to a much greater extent--funds the campaigns of pliant politicians.

Go back to that video of admirals and generals endorsing Barack Obama.

Here are the main players:

General (ret.) Merrill McPeak. Here's his Forbes profile (note that even Forbes could not pry loose his multi-million dollar salary package for publication):

General Merrill A. McPeak has been a member of the Company's [Del Global Technologies] Board of Directors since April 27, 2005. General McPeak is the President of McPeak and Associates, a management-consulting firm he founded in 1995. General McPeak was Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force from November 1990 to October 1994, when he retired from active military service. General McPeak was for several years Chairman of ECC, International, a Florida-based simulation and training company. He has served as a director of several other public companies, including Tektronix and TWA. Currently, General McPeak is Chairman of the board of directors of Ethicspoint, Inc., a company providing confidential corporate governance compliance and whistleblower reporting services. He is a director of Sensis Corp., a privately held manufacturer of military radars and civilian air traffic control systems. He is an investor in and director of several public and private companies in the early development stage, including: Gigabeam (NASDAQ: GGBM), a supplier of high performance, high availability fiber-speed wireless communications; MathStar (NasdaqGM: MATH), a designer and marketer of specialized semiconductor integrated circuits; and Quintessence Photonics (OTC BB: QPCI.OB), a designer and manufacturer of high performance semiconductor laser diodes.


All of the companies I have highlighted in bold are either multi-million or multi-billion dollar defense contractors. If McPeak held all of these positions from a civilian background, Barack Obama wouldn't have him within a country mile, because he would be the poster child for the fat cat corporate leech that the Senator plans to go after.

But McPeak is a retired general and therefore useful to give Barack street cred from the military, even though he is generally despised within the Air Force by officers and enlisted alike, and has been repeatedly implicated in anti-Israel remarks that border on truly anti-Semitic.

Admiral (Ret.) John B. Nathman: He's now a bigshot at defense giant Curtiss-Wright, about whom the company gushes:

"John's long and distinguished U.S. Navy career will enable him to bring to the Curtiss-Wright Board a wealth of experience in the procurement and operations of one of our most important customers," said Martin R. Benante, Chairman and CEO of Curtiss-Wright Corporation. "We welcome his seasoned perspective and look forward to his contributions to our corporate strategy.


That "most important customer" is the US military, and "his contributions" will be to lobby and twist arms for ever larger weapons contracts. Obviously another disinterested military professional who just happens to support Barack Obama out of pure patriotism.

Major General (ret.) Hugh Robinson: He's now a Director at Carmax, and Forbes notes (again without being able to specify his multi-million-dollar compensation package):

Major General Hugh G. Robinson, (U.S.A., Ret.), Director since 2002. Chief Executive Officer of Global Building Systems, Inc., a firm that develops and constructs low- and moderate-income residential housing. From 2003 to 2005, he was the chairman and chief executive officer of Granville Construction & Development Co., Inc., a housing development and construction firm. From 1989 to 2003, he was chairman and chief executive officer of the Tetra Group, a construction management and building services firm. He also is a former chairman and board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. He is a retired Major General from the United States Army. He is a director of Newmarket Technology, Inc.


This one's not so obvious: you have to look really hard to discover that what all these construction companies have in common is that they are all government contractors or sub-contractors for military base housing. Newmarket Technology is a $50 million rising defense contractor.

In other words: another defense industry lobbyist.

Brigadier General (ret.) Lawrence R. Gillespie: This one's really cool:

CIVILIAN OCCUPATION: Director, Washington marketing, Hughes Training, Inc., Hughes Aircraft Co., Washington, DC

NATURE, SCOPE AND EXTENT OF RESPONSIBLITITIES:

Directs to overall Hughes Training, Inc. (HTI) marketing activity in the Washington, DC area. Requires a broad-base understanding of the complexities involved with government budgeting, planning and acquisition. Responsible for the development of markets within major Department of Defense and other government agencies for HTI products, programs, technology and services. Coordinates the Washington marketing activities of all market areas (Army, Navy/USMC, USAF/Space, Federal/Commercial/Industrial, International and others) within HTI. Responsible for the gathering of legal marketing intelligence such as planning requirements and funding information; business trends and technical progress; and, activity of competitors and other legal business planning information. Recommend marketing strategies based on marketing intelligence. Participates in the preparation of proposals and the negotiations of contracts. Monitors contract performance and endeavors to resolve difficulties and disputes to the mutual satisfaction of the customer and HTI. Determines and monitors budgets and fiscal policies for governmental marketing activities.


Yeah, he's disinterested in who becomes President and what their military procurement strategy might be.

And finally, my favorite:

Brigadier General (ret.) David McGinnis: McGinnis is a career politician-general out of the New York National Guard, who now functions as a paid lobbyist for (among other things) the National Guard Association, which is lobbying for the National Guard to (a) be enlarged and (b) for the Guard bureau chief to get a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff [note the Obama promise above].

McGinnis is also--pure and simple--a longtime Democrat shil. He organized (ineptly, because you never heard of it) Citizens for Honest Fighter Pilots as John Kerry's attempt to Swift Boat Dubya back. He worked Judie Woodruff on CNN as often as possible, because he was the architect of Kerry's military plan for Iraq. Then, in 2006, because he somehow believed the Iraq war was about to end (such a great military mind), McGinnis then pimped for the Bush administration plan to (illegally in the opinion of many Constitutional scholars) send the National Guard to the Mexican border to reinforce the Border Patrol.

McGinnis (and this have directly from dozens of officers who have worked with him) is pure and simply a megalomaniac egotist, who actually believes in his own military genius. Funny thing, nobody else ever did while he was on active duty. His job is to make sure that the National Guard political appointee bureau chief gets that seat on the Joint Chiefs. Virtually any officer worth his or her salt will tell you that this is a mistake. The Joint Chiefs is a place for service heads. The National Guard is a subordinate entity to the Army and Air Force. It neither needs nor deserves such a position.

I could do the other five men in the room that day, but the results would be the same. Obama has purchased the endorsement of these officers--every one of which is a lobbyist or defense contractor of some sort--by, well, we'll leave you to make that call.

I see two possible choices for interpretation here:

1) Barack Obama is such a military and foreign policy neophyte (and his ghastly performance in the Texas debate talking about captured enemy weapons in Afghanistan would suggest that) that he actually believes what our military/industrial complex lobby is telling him. So when they applaud his judgment while signing sweetheart contracts with the Pentagon, he's dumb enough to take it at face value.

2) Barack Obama is not some new kind of politician, but a very orthodox one, who has made his deal with the military in order to solidify his electoral chances. I have not looked, but would love to see the list of Obama donors from the defense industry.

Either way, as far as US military spending and American military interventionism, Obama's Change we can believe in is pure bullshit.

Nancy, I hate to tell you this, but you've been sold a BIG pitcher of kool-aid.

8 comments:

Dominique said...

Talk about shock and awe. That's what I experienced (in that order) reading this remarkable piece of journalism. Cronkite, Murrow, Woodward and Bernstein would be proud. Why isn't the MSM covering this?

Steve Newton said...

"Why isn't the MSM covering this?"

Because all three major candidates are in the employ of Big Defense. The same could be done with Hillary or McCain lobbyist/supporters.

Like the NRA the defense lobby supports anyone from either party (often both in the same election) as long as they don't seriously campaign on changing American military policy.

Candidates who toe the line get millions in cash and in kind. Candidates who don't get nothing.

Virtually every admiral or general in that group stood in the same rank order behind John Kerry in 2004. Most of them retired before Barack Obama became a Senator. So just exactly how would they know anything about his competence?

The only difference with Obama is that he's trying to pass himself off as a new kind of politician.

In some respects that's legitimate. I particularly like his stands on gay rights and some of his work on education. But in most respects (ala the gigantic raise his wife got from her employer after that employer benefited from an Obama earmark) signify that he is nothing in some ways but Bill Clinton repackaged for the next decade.

kavips said...

Intrigued:

In order to provide objectivity towards this campaign, I would wish that someone like Steve provide for our perusal, a list of negatives that are attached to Obama. Steve has mentioned a couple so far.

I don't think I could do as well as he, and ask only because remembering the blank check that Bush got in 2000 from the press, I think it would be quite helpful to all: both supporters and detractors.....to look at their candidates in the cold light of truth.

Dominique said...

It's so sad that our country can't seem to move forward with public financing of elections. Nothing will ever change until that happens. I'm no fan of Obama's (mostly because I consider him a fraud for trying to represent himself as being above politics as usual), but I know that Hillary is probably even more entrenched in this sort of thing than he is. Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil if you want to win an election because it simply can't be done without big money (corporate, PAC, military, etc). It's so disheartening.

Nancy Willing said...

This is a eye opener but I don't delude myself into thinking that any potential leader (except those who have gravitated to the libertarians Gravel and Paul) are going to be separate from influences.
I look at the Obama platform and it all makes sense to me. I like it.

Now, is there a direct quid pro quo to the $$ fed into his campaign? That would be a problem in the sense that Bushco gave no-bid contracts to GOPer friends and we know how that turned out, talk about fraud.

Steve Newton said...

Dominique
I do not favor public funding of elections, both out of general principle and because it will not eliminate the influence of corporate money, only drive it further underground and into different channels.

Nancy
I think you miss my point. The Defense Budget (in which I include several hundred billion bucks hidden in Homeland Security and R&D) comes close to 50% of our budget (if you exclude debt payments).

Barack Obama, under the influence of the military industrial lobby, intends to EXPAND this budget, while also raising taxes to fund myriad social programs. The mythical savings from pulling out of Iraq will not materialize, for a lot of process and political reasons. More to the point: pulling out of Iraq "because it was the wrong war" is not a repudiation of the world-spanning American empire of bases (now being extended to Africa with full Democratic support) that fuels a militarist, interventionist foreign policy.

And we're not talking about it. At all.

You say, "This is a eye opener but I don't delude myself into thinking that any potential leader (except those who have gravitated to the libertarians Gravel and Paul) are going to be separate from influences."

That's exactly why I have endorsed George Phillies of the Libertarian Party for President. I don't think he'll become President, but I think he has the chance to at least interject this into the public debate.

As for direct quid pro quos, I can't answer that yet. The problem there is that you have to link names with companies, and many of the names are not public record. Suffice it to say, however, the defense giants get their licks in no matter what.

And the Democrats are not innocent at all.

For example, it was Bill Clinton who began the practice of using mercenaries through State Department cut-out contracts. He primarily used MPRI, Vining, and Airscan. All of those companies have in common big Democratic leaning retired military officers on their boards. When Dubya came in, he ditched them in favor of Blackwater, Haliburton, and several others you have not heard of, because they had big GOP ties.

The dynamic with big weapons producers works somewhat differently, as there are only five US firms capable of meeting USAF aircraft specs, and they have farmed out most of the business between themselves. They maintain competition only over the biggest fighter jet and bomber contracts, but much of that is cosmetic. As with the automobile industry, the real money is not in production but in spare parts. A $60 million F-22 is expected to have a lifetime of one to two decade, through which time it will easily have expended another $100 million in replacement parts, which can only be had from a single source that essentially gets to set whatever price it wants.

If we keep giving all the mainstream candidates a pass on this issue, we're going to (a) continue to bankrupt the country no matter how high our taxes are raised (and without being able to provide the government services you want) and (b) continue to pursue a disastrous foreign policy course based on military intimidation.

(I did not even have space to get into some of the other dumb ideas they've talked Barack into, like an emphasis on training other countries' military forces, which has been a major human rights disaster since JFK opened the School of the Americas. Just ask the Indonesians.)

I sincerely believe, Nancy, that issues of the military industrial complex and our militaristic foreign policy are THE critical issues that will make or break the US over the next two decades.

As such, I will not give any candidate a pass (if you check you will see that I have been equally hard on Clinton and McCain) and I will not compromise by voting for anyone who trots out dozens of self-interested lobbyists in full daylight to testify to his good judgment while they have their hands in my pocket.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Nancy said...

Hum, are the extra-budget items presented in supplimental that goes to the mid-east effort included in your budget analysis?'
Are we going to have to pick the lesser of evils? yup. That is still Obama in any light, IMHO.

Here is a new look at what China's military is cooking up;

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/chinamilitarynuclearbase;_ylt=Al6V7aVbZHKO2vbDm7vUIMMZO7gF

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